Summer vacation is here! And I know a lot of parents are thinking to themselves, “How am I supposed to entertain my child all summer?” No worries, friends. I’ve got your summer covered with a ton of free and cheap things to do in San Diego with kids this summer.
First off, here are some ongoing cheap things to do in San Diego with kids this summer:
Waterfront Park in Little Italy offers plenty of free water fun with a splash pad, water fountain and slide. Fountain runs from 11am-7pm.
Santee Lakes has a Sprayground lets kids enjoy playing in the sprinklers only yards away from the beautiful lake. After all your wet fun, why not feed the ducks and have a picnic? Cost $2-$5
Hilton Head Park ($3) has lots of open sunny space (read: bring an umbrella!) and a pirate-themed splash park. Ahoy, Matey!
Best beaches for kids (day use parking may apply):
Moonlight Beach in Encinitas has easy access from the parking lot, a playground, restrooms, showers, and a snack shack.
Silver Strand State Beach just south of Coronado Beach is a little less crowded, plus it has a shower and restrooms!
La Jolla Shores has parking access and restrooms, plus an amazing coastal landscape.
South Ponto Beach in Carlsbad has parking access, restrooms, and wide open stretches of warm California sand.
San Diego County Fair (June 3-July 4) Cost $8-$14 (kids 5 and under are free)
Kids 14 and Under Bowl Free All Summer at All 4 Tavern+Bowl Locations ($4 shoe rental not included)
Chula Vista South Bay Drive-In ($9 adults $1 children) plays popular summer flicks under the stars.
Visit the first of 21 Missions in California, Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala (free).
Open Cockpit Days: Select weekends during the summer, visit the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and sit in the cockpit of some historical aircraft. See website for dates.
Wacky Science: Miss Frizzle and the Magic Schoolbus are coming to San Diego for Wacky Science Sundays. Explore the wild and wacky worlds of mysterious creatures, fascinating habitats, and phenomenal science—hands-on! (Free with museum admission)
Friday Night Splash: The Wave Waterpark in Vista is open late select Friday nights during the summer for extended fun, games, prizes, and discounted food. $8.95 or a $3 upgrade on your same-day ticket.
Dollar Admission at the San Diego New Children’s Museum every second Sunday of the month.
Thursday Family Fun Nights at San Diego Botanical Garden: Thursdays through August 25, extended hours and family-friendly entertainment.
TGIF Concerts in the Parks: Friday nights, June 24-August 19, enjoy live music and free hands-on art making activities for the kids at various parks in Carlsbad.
Stagecoach Days: Celebrating the Wild West in San Diego: Saturdays from July 9-August 27. This free event in Old Town San Diego features a different theme each Saturday such as Days of the Vaqueros, Women of the West, Soldiers and Citizens, TwainFest and Taste of the Past.
Free and Cheap Things to do in San Diego in June:
June 11, 12pm-9pm San Marcos Summer Music Fest: Enjoy bands, BBQ, local craft beers, and family lawn games. Adults $20, kids are free.
June 11, 5pm-9pm Splash into Summer: At Carlsbad’s Alga Norte Aquatics Center, enjoy floating obstacles, giant water balls, splash pad, and diving boards followed by a showing of A Bug’s Life on the giant outdoor movie screen. See website for pricing and information.
June 11, 11:30am-5pm Flag Day Celebration at the USS Midway: Enjoy a musket gun salute, live music, and special speakers. (free when you wear red, white, and blue)
June 11, 10am and 11am Curious George workshop presented by KPBS kids: Make a special Father’s Day project and visit with a special costume character. $6
June 18, 1pm-4pm Westfield Family Summer-Meet Bob the Builder: Come meet Bob the Builder and enjoy an interactive performance plus crafts, prizes, and special offers and meal deals.
June 18 and 19, 11am-4pm Pacific Electric Weekend and Father’s Day BBQ: At the Orange Empire Railway Museum, explore the West’s largest collection of railway locomotives, passenger and freight cars, streetcars, interurban electric cars, buildings and other artifacts dating from the 1870’s. Ride streetcars, interurban cars and trains on the museum railway. (free admission, see website for train ride pricing)
June 25, 10am-3pm Mass Creativity Day at the New Children’s Museum: A free all-day celebration of art and creativity
June 25, 8am-12pm Kaiser Permanente Youth Football Clinic (free) Former NFL players run a football clinic for boys and girls ages 6-14 on the fields of Qualcomm stadium.
June 25 and 26, 9am-5pm San Diego Scottish Highland Games: Celtic food, entertainment, sheep herding, highland dancing and more. Fun for all ages. Tickets $5-$13
Free and Cheap Things to do in San Diego in July:
July 9 and 10, 11am-6pm Fiesta del Sol San Diego: A focus on tobacco-free and alcohol-free family fun, this 2-day street festival celebrates the history and diverse cultures of the people of San Diego.
July 16, 7am-5pm Imperial Beach Sun & Sea Festival: World-class sandcastle builders, activities and games for kids, Farmer’s Market and International Food Fair.
July 23, 1pm-4pm Westfield Family Summer-Little People Live!: Come meet Eddie and Sofie and enjoy an interactive performance plus crafts, prizes, and special offers and meal deals.
July 30, 9am-3pm Unleashed by Petco Surf Dog Competition: Yes, you read that right: A doggy surf competition! With a kids zone, dog food garden, free photo booth, beginners agility course, beer garden, and food trucks, you’ll find something fun for everyone!
Free and Cheap Things to do in San Diego in August:
August 7, 10am-5pm Chula Vista Lemon Festival: Live bands, hundreds of vendor booths, a Festival Fun Zone and everything lemon!
July 19, 1pm-4pm Westfield Family Summer-Meet Bob the Builder: Come meet Barbie and enjoy an interactive performance plus crafts, prizes, and special offers and meal deals.
Do you have anything that should be on this list? I’d like to keep adding to it, so please share your ideas for fun, free and cheap things to do in San Diego!