Whether you’re looking to cool down for the day, send the kids to camp, or have some outdoor adventures together, we’ve got a great list for summer fun on a budget. If you call San Diego home, you may know about some of these, but chances are you may find some new favorites or rediscover old ones.
So grab the kids, your sunscreen, towels, hiking boots, and water bottles and prepare for lots of summer fun in the San Diego sunshine. We have dozens of places to explore and enjoy. Happy summer!
San Diego city pools are a great place to start when you want to cool off and steer clear of the sand. Or maybe you live a ways from the beach and you want to expend some of the kids’ energy–San Diego’s 13 pool locations are just the ticket. Cost is $4 for ages 16+ or $30 for 10 visits. $2 for ages 15 and under or $15 for 10 visits.
Carmel Valley Pool has an awesome waterslide. Tierrasanta pool offers great water play for little ones with a large pool just for them that’s only several inches deep combined with a small slide and play structure.
Poway Community Pool has giant inflatables that are well worth mentioning. Regular pool admission for residents is: $2.50 for adult residents and $5 for non-resident adults. $2 for kids 1-17 who are residents and $4 for non-residents. Inflatable days are Tuesdays and Thursdays all summer at 4:30 and 5:30. Cost is $5 for residents and $7 for non-residents for inflatable fun.
Alga Norte Pool in Carlsbad is a favorite in North County. This aquatic center offers an exceptional splash pad for little ones as well as two large pools and a hot tub. Cost is $3 for ages 17 and under, adults are $5 or $2 for keeping a watchful eye on the kids.
Tiki Town Adventure Golf in Mission Beach is a blast. You can golf 18 holes of putt putt for only $9 each or choose among several other reasonably priced activities. Try the climbing wall or rope climbing course each for $6 per person. They even have a zip line.
Old Poway Park and The Poway Midland Railroad offer a great day out of the house. The park is full of historical displays and museums as well as a farmer’s market and is a hit with train-loving kids everywhere. Enjoy a ride around the tracks on the Speeder each weekend (the exception being Quiet Sundays on the second Sunday of each month). Cost is $2.50 for adults and only $1 for kids. Check the train schedule before going.
The California Surf Museum in Oceanside has everything you ever wanted to know about surfing and its history. This is a great place to visit for your young surfing enthusiasts. Admission is FREE on the first Tuesday of the month. Cost is $5 for adults, $3 for students and under 12 is FREE.
The Tide Pools in Point Loma (part of Cabrillo National Monument Park) offer spectacular sea creature viewing at low tide. Check the website for low tide schedules. Bring flip-flops or water shoes for slippery surfaces near the pools. This is a great place for a camera. Cost is $10 for the day since it’s a national park.
Horizon Summer Camp is the bomb when it comes to affordability and fun for a two-week summer experience. Choose from several different options for various age ranges. Some options include: K-2nd Kids Club “Sea Life” theme. Cost is $285 for 2 weeks from 7am-6pm. That’s just $28.50 per day (less than $3 per hour). There is also a skate camp for ages 11-16. Cost is $385 for two weeks from 7am-6pm. That breaks down to $38.50 per day. There are also camps for young ones. Spy Kids and Swimming Minnows are both for ages 5-7. Cost is $335 for two weeks from 7am-6pm. That breaks down to $33.50 per day. Sign up for these camps early as they are the lowest price around for two full weeks of fun.
Best San Diego Playgrounds that are always FREE
Pepper Grove playground in Balboa Park can provide a full day of fun for really little ones as well as older kids. Enjoy two separate play areas. One for small children that is padded with a giant sandbox, slides, and swings. And the other area for older kids has large playground equipment, faux zipline, and spinning things. There are plenty of grassy picnic areas and lovely views.
The Sixth Avenue Playground at Sixth and Spruce, also in Balboa park, offers two separate play areas as well. The younger kids’ area has a fire engine theme and the bigger kids’ area looks like modern art with lots of climbing things and a slide.
Mission Bay Park has great play equipment and is suitable for little ones on up to the older kids in your tribe. This park offers plenty of open space for picnics and sports activities as well as great ocean views. There are restrooms and snack machines in the vicinity as well.
Old Trolley Barn Park is named for the historical trolley barn location that it once was. Located at 1900 Adams Avenue in San Diego, it has great play equipment on padded surfaces with several shade trees. It has a water fountain, but be aware that there is no bathroom on the premises. There are FREE concerts on Friday nights.
Chollas Lake Park offers a few playground areas for kids, a lake trail and hiking trails, and family barbeque areas. There is a 16 acre lake that offers FREE fishing to youth ages 15 and under. Restrooms are on the premises.
FREE summer fun for kids in San Diego
Skate Parks abound in San Diego which should be no surprise since it is home to the legendary Tony Hawk. Most of the dozens of skate parks in the city and surrounding areas are FREE. There are some fenced ones with killer equipment that are private and require knowing the proper people/owners.
San Diego Public Library summer reading program is always FREE to participate in and offers some stellar prizes for kids who finish the reading list. Some of the prizes include FREE tickets to Legoland, the San Diego Zoo and the Wildlife Park.
Kids Bowl Free Program for summertime. Register your kids for this summer program and they get two FREE bowling games every day all summer long. You can hardly beat that and there are dozens of participating San Diego bowling alleys that participate.
Free Fly Fishing lessons at Lake Murray in La Mesa. If you have kids who are outdoor/fishing enthusiasts, then this is a great opportunity for them to learn a new skill. Lessons are Sundays from 9am-12pm. They will even loan you equipment if you don’t own any.
View the skies at Balboa Park for FREE on the first Wednesday night of the month. Join the San Diego Astronomy Association for FREE telescope viewing with the option of a paid planetarium show beforehand.
Mission Trails Regional Park is over 7000 acres of developed and rugged terrain to explore. If your kids love outdoor time, hiking or climbing, this is the place. It is FREE to enjoy the park and there is also a lake to boat in as well as areas for camping. Take the 5 Peak- Challenge to test your fortitude and hiking skills. It’s FREE to participate and you and the kids will leave with a great sense of accomplishment. This one is on my bucket list for sure.
Snorkel at La Jolla Cove and be amazed at the underwater world. Bring your own snorkel equipment (or borrow some) and enjoy a day in the water for FREE. If you don’t own a wetsuit and want the warmer experience, you can rent a wetsuit nearby for $10.
Tidelands Park on Coronado Island is a massive park with ball fields, expansive grassy areas, playgrounds, and a beach area. There are restrooms and concessions available.
Old Town San Diego State Historic Park will take you and the kids back to San Diego’s beginnings. The park is FREE to explore and includes many historic buildings and early adobe structures as well as a working blacksmith shop. There are restrooms and concessions throughout.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of fun, FREE, and cheap things to do in San Diego, so feel free to share some of your favorites. We look forward to adding to our list. Enjoy your summer fun!