San Diego has year-round sunshine, making the port city a great place for outdoorsy people. Some of the best things to do in San Diego include paddling through waves at Coronado Beach, hiking on the sandstone cliffs at Torrey Pines State Reserve, watching sea lions at La Jolla Cove, playing golf at Torrey Pines, and treating your taste buds at the San Diego Brew and Food Festival.
But, like much of California, San Diego is also a very expensive city to explore. The good news is that adventuring through the San Diego area doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Here are 10 suggestions of where to visit in San Diego on a budget.
MIssion Bay Park
Mission Bay Park spans more than 4,200 acres. The well-traveled city park has 27 miles of shoreline, 19 of which are sandy beaches ripe to romp through. The park also has marinas, a horseshoe court, sand volleyball courts, beachside fire rings, picnic areas, children’s play areas, and several winding paths for cycling and jogging.
Mission Bay Park also has a great birdwatching atmosphere thanks to its several wildlife preserves. Plus, thanks to San Diego’s abundant sunshine and calm weather, Mission Parks has plenty of spots for surfing, snorkeling and ocean kayaking.
The Children’s Pool
Wildlife lovers who want a more natural experience than what Sea World provides should visit the Children’s Pool, a beach in La Jolla where seal sightings are common. The destination was originally meant to be a public swimming with a seawall to protect kids, but sand made maintaining the area a challenge. However, seals flop to the pool for relaxation and play.
Balboa Park is the epicenter of San Diego’s immersive cultural scene. The top exhibits are the Botanical Building, San Diego Museum of Art, the San Diego Zoo, the Museum of Photographic Arts, the Fleet Science Center, and the Museum of Man. The entirety of Balboa Park has more than 85 cultural and recreational facilities, most of which are inexpensive or free.
Coronado Municipal Beach
Coronado is often considered to be one of the top ten beaches in the United States. The beaches are wide, easily accessible and exceptionally clean. Plus, the northern end is dog-friendly and a popular spot for surfing. Most of the waters around Coronado are relatively calm.
The Botanical Gardens at Balboa Park
The botanical gardens in Balboa park have an impressive claim to fame: it’s the only greenhouse in the world built with no glass. The gardens were constructed from wood lath for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, and it remains one of the largest lath structures ever created.
The gardens are home to more than 2,100 permanent plants. Some of the species collections include: ferns, orchids, cycads, palms, and seasonal flower displays.
San Diego Zoo
In the heart of Balboa park is the San Diego Zoo, which is often rated as one of the most influential zoos in the nation. As one of San Diego’s most popular attractions, the zoo houses more than 3,700 animals and 650 species. The zoo also pioneered open-air, cageless exhibits that recreate the animal’s natural habitats. The San Diego Zoo also has some of the world’s largest free-flight aviaries. Most of the avian exhibits look natural and contain pools, open-air moats and darkened blinds.
Beer is popular in San Diego, really, really popular. The city has more than a dozen microbreweries, many of which distribute beer nationwide. Exploring these breweries takes a while, but there are several companies that offer brewery hopping tours. The tours are relatively low cost and offer guided walkthroughs at several breweries around the city. A few must-visits for craft beer aficionados are White Labs, Stone Brewing, The Lost Abbey, and Abnormal Beer Company.
Petco Park is a baseball park in downtown San Diego and home to the San Diego Padres. The park has more than 41,100 seats, and is home to several events throughout the year. The costs can be a bit expensive, but thrifty shoppers can easily find ticket discounts.
Petco Park also features guided tours, where visitors explore the press box, much of the building itself, and sit behind the dugout to watch the Padres practice.
The Old Globe
The Old Globe is one of the most celebrated, award-winning American theatres in Southern California. The Globe has three stages house 15 plays. The performances range in style, content and periods, ranging from Shakespeare’s plays to the development and full production of new works. The annual Shakespeare festival is by far the most popular event.
Take a Scenic Drive
Our last recommendation for things to do in San Diego on a budget, is to take the 59-Mile Scenic Drive. The afternoon excursion winds through cute, charming neighborhoods and along the stunning coastline to showcase San Diego’s often-unseen beauty.
Jayson is a writer from Phoenix, Arizona that is passionate about traveling on a budget. Being a broke writer, Jayson soon learned that if he wants to travel he needs to find the best deals. He loves sharing his experiences and tips in hopes of helping people travel the world.
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