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Arts & Culture

Free October activities for kids in San Diego County

Panca's "El Más Allá" installation at The New Children's Museum opens to the public Aug. 13, 2021.
Kim Valente / Courtesy of The New Children's Museum
The New Children's Museum is one of the museums kids 12 and under can attend for free. Panca's "El Más Allá" installation at the museum is seen here in August 2021.

October in San Diego means cooler weather, 12-foot skeleton decorations, and beloved pumpkin spice lattes. It’s also a time when young kids can get free admission to many of the county’s museums, aquariums, amusement parks and more. If you’re visiting San Diego County with kids, there’s also some deals on hotels.

This year, the Kids Free San Diego program includes free admission for children to more than 50 places for families. See a comprehensive list at the San Diego Museum Council’s website, or scroll down for KPBS’ top five picks.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps

The Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography has more than 5,000 marine creatures in its various exhibits, including some rare species like the weedy seadragon, and the adorable blue penguins. To get free tickets for kids, reserve your tickets online ahead of your visit to the aquarium. After adding all the tickets you want (including the kids’ tickets) use the coupon code KIDSFREE23. This is good for up to two free childrens’ passes per each paid qualifying adult.

aquarium.ucsd.edu. 2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla. $0-$24.95.

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Living Coast Discovery Center

Home to turtles, sharks, rays, birds of prey and marshland trails, the Living Coast Discovery Center introduces kids to fascinating animals and the importance of protecting local flora and fauna.

With each one full-priced adult ticket, one child 12 and under gets in free when this coupon is presented at the ticket counter. No more than two free kids per transaction and no combining with other promotions.

Children must be accompanied by an adult during the visit.

thelivingcoast.org. 1000 Gunpowder Point Dr., Chula Vista. $0-$20

New Children’s Museum

The New Children's Museum doesn't need much of an introduction for families, but if you haven't been in a while, be sure to check out a handful of new kid-friendly, play-based art installations by exciting contemporary artists: "Breathing Room" from Michelle Montjoy, "El Más Allá" from Panca and "Teatro Piñata" by David Israel Reynoso, to name a few. With one full-priced adult ticket, one kid gets in free at the museum’s downtown location. Present this coupon when you check in to take advantage of the deal. Note: This coupon is only valid weekdays (except Tuesdays because it’s closed) from 2-4 p.m.

thinkplaycreate.org. 200 W. Island Ave. San Diego. $0-$20.

San Diego Natural History Museum

San Diego Natural History Museum is a hit with curious minds of all ages. Don't miss the recently added "Expedition Baja" exhibit and their indoor play space, "The Backyard."

One full priced adult ticket gets you up to two free tickets for kids 12 and under. Present this coupon at the admissions desk to get the deal. Children need to be accompanied by an adult while at the Nat.

Films at the museum aren’t included but you can purchase tickets for $5 per person. The coupon can’t be used for specially-ticketed events, Nat at Night, special exhibitions, field trips or group visits.

sdnhm.org. 1788 El Prado, Balboa Park. $0-$24.

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park

The San Diego Zoo and Safari Park are world famous because of their conservation efforts and animal exhibits. While you can view the fauna year round, the parks have special seasonal events on the weekends.

There’s HalGLOWeen at the zoo and then Autumn Festival at the Safari Park. Both have Halloween and fall-themed activities, music, performances and food. All kids ages 11 and younger get free admission to the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park this month when accompanied by an adult with a valid form of admission or membership. HalGLOWeen and Autumn Festival are included but some of the premium experiences, like wildlife tours and safaris, require a reservation and additional fee.

sdzwa.org. San Diego Zoo: 2920 Zoo Dr, Balboa Park. Safari Park: 15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido. $69+.

Looking for more autumnal festivities? Check out KPBS' Halloween events calendar.

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