If you’re visiting San Diego on a budget, there are still plenty of things you can do that won’t impact your travel budget, but which will still provide entertainment and satisfaction for you and your entire family. This is a very historic area, and that fact is reflected in many of the museums and other buildings around the area. Old Town San Diego celebrates the region’s early days, when the first Europeans reached the state of California and established a settlement there.
Nowadays, there are tons of museums, restaurants, hotels, and attractions, all of which can be traveled to on foot, and free of charge. Old Town may be one of the best values on your trip to San Diego, but it is by no means the only place where you’ll get an awful lot of enjoyment for no monetary investment. Start your visit off in Old Town, and then branch out and catch some of the other free attractions listed below.
The 1,200 acres comprising this urban park area were first set aside in 1835 and protected by official legislation in 1870. Since that time, it has grown to include the world-famous San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Natural History Museum, and the San Diego Museum of Art. There is a miniature railroad within the park, as well as the famous Balboa Park Carousel, and 17 different well-landscaped gardens, where flora from all over the world can be seen and admired. There are also a number of amphitheaters in the park, and depending on when you visit, you just might catch an international entertainer in one of them.
Originally constructed for the 1915-1916 Panama-California Exposition, this impressive structure is home to over 2,100 permanent plants, including several types of orchids, ferns, palms, cycads, and a number of other tropical plants. Because of the stunning flora inside, this structure is one of the most photographed attractions in the entire San Diego area every year.
Coronado Municipal Beach
In 2012, this beach was voted the country’s #1 Beach, according to the annual survey conducted by Dr. Beach, an organization which ranks U.S. beachfront areas according to participant voting. Included under the umbrella of the overall park are Tidelands Park, Glorietta Bay Park, Centennial Park, and Coronado City Beach, and each of these individual areas offers picnic area access, water access, and playgrounds for children. Along with its glittering beaches, the area is also home to the renowned Hotel del Coronado, once guested by Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Chaplin.
San Diego Embarcadero
An enormous hub for cruise ships and a natural harbor, the Embarcadero is also home to a number of maritime-themed restaurants and attractions, which are popular all year round. The USS Midway is harbored here, and it has the distinction of being the longest serving aircraft carrier in our nation’s history. The Seaport Village retail complex houses more than 50 shops and restaurants, and there are numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation at the San Diego County Waterfront Park.
The Gaslamp Quarter
Spanning more than 16 blocks of the city’s downtown district, the Gaslamp Quarter routinely hosts a number of city festivals and celebrations, including the Mardi Gras Festival and the St. Patrick’s Day Celebration. There are nearly 100 buildings within this section which are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, attesting to the city’s rich history. You’ll also find some of the city’s hottest night life clubs here, as well as many theatrical and music venues, all of which are extremely popular.