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Arts & Culture

Fifteen Ideas For San Diego Summer Fun Under $15

Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park lit up for December Nights.
Ernese Gaal
Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park lit up for December Nights.

Enjoying a summer in San Diego should not be dampened by money woes. It is possible to spend little to none while still having lots of fun. Here is a list of 15 ways to enjoy the city for free and under $15.

  1. Watch all the summer blockbusters from the comfort of your car. Coronado’s South Bay Drive-In Theatres saves moviegoers major bucks. Watch back-to-back showings for $7 adult’s price, $1 children’s price. Unlike indoor theaters, outside food and pajama pants are welcome. Warning, this is a cash only venue.
  2. Discover where Olympians perfect their skills. The U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista lets visitors journey through its 155-acre complex for free. See the archery range, soccer fields, tracks and much more dedicated trainees used to hone their abilities. Self-guided tours to walk the mile-long “Olympic Path” are open daily. One-hour guided tours are available on Saturdays.
  3. Learn how beer is born and drink it for free. Stone Brewing Company offers complimentary, daily tours of their brewery in Escondido. At the end of each 45-mintue tour, guests are welcome to generous samples of Stone’s famous beer. Visitors can also stroll around Stone’s lush garden by their restaurant.
  4. Hike along San Diego’s scenic coastline. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve has 12 miles of trails, ranging from easy to challenging. Popular trails include the Guy Fleming Trail, a relaxing path overlooking the ocean, and the Beach Trail, a fairly steep hike that ends up at the beach. Parking at the reserve is $10, but you can try to snag a free spot by the beach.
  5. Explore the waters of Mission Bay in many ways. Mission Bay Sportcenter rents out surfboards ($5/hr), boogie boards ($3/hr), kayaks ($13/hr) and much more at affordable prices.
  6. Admire nearly five acres of garden displays. The Water Conservation Garden in El Cajon is a free opportunity to gain some gardening tips and tour the expansive greenery. Also, children can explore the educational, hands-on exhibit called the Discovery Trail.
  7. For wine lovers on a budget, Jake’s on 6th in Hillcrest is the place to be. Every Wednesday, they serve up wine flights for only $10. Enjoy four glasses of reds or whites while saving some green.
  8. Roast marshmallows at a beach bonfire. Gathering around a warm, crackling fire under the twinkling night sky is a cheap way to make summer memories. But remember, bonfires are only permitted on beaches equipped with fire rings.
  9. Let children’s imaginations run wild. The New Children’s Museum, located in downtown San Diego, creates an atmosphere of creativity for kids. For a $10 entrance fee, toddlers to grownups can participate in art-making activities and hands-on exhibits. Enjoy free admission on the second Sunday of every month. Active duty military personnel and their families get in free every day till September 3.
  10. Jam out to live music all summer long. Free concerts are taking over beaches, parks and outdoor amphitheaters across San Diego County. Listen to an array of music genres without paying a dime.
  11. Look at aquatic creatures for half price. The Birch Aquarium in La Jolla is celebrating its 20th anniversary by offering San Diego County residents half-off admission on the 20th of every month through September. Prices with the discount range from $4.75 to $7.
  12. Snorkel through calm, clear waters. La Jolla Cove is a popular cost-free destination for swimmers, divers, and families. The relatively small beachfront has sunbathing seals and a little cave to explore.
  13. Travel back in time and admire cars from the past. Every Thursday night, La Mesa Village hosts the Back to the 50’s Car Show. Feast your eyes on these vintage beauties from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. during the months of July and August.
  14. Skip the sand for a worthy “beach” alternative. The SDSU Aquaplex has diving boards, 50-meter lap lanes, and an area just to float around. San Diego residents can enjoy all these amenities and more for only $5.
  15. Brighten up the day with art and culture. Enjoy free admission to select museums in Balboa Park every Tuesday. This offer is available to San Diego City and County residents, active military members and their dependents.