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Beyond books: 4 free activities for kids with a San Diego Public Library card

City of San Diego Public Library Clairemont Branch is shown in this photo. Nov. 17, 2021.
Jacob Aere
The City of San Diego Public Library Clairemont Branch is shown in this photo on Nov. 17, 2021.

Arthur was right — "having fun isn't hard when you have a library card!"

We all know that library cards allow you to borrow books, DVDs and CDs and access digital databases. But there are some other things you might not have thought of that are available for free.

To sign up for a San Diego Public Library (SDPL) card, you’ll need a photo ID and proof of current address. You can start the process online and then visit a local branch to get your card.

Some of the programs listed below are available at all of the 36 San Diego Public Library branches, but some aren’t. It’s worth double checking with your local branch if they offer the program you and your kids want to use.

Stream movies on Kanopy

You can rent DVDs from any SDPL branch, but there are also streaming options via Kanopy. Sign in with your SDPL library card number and create an account.

Kanopy is a streaming service that features movies, documentaries, foreign films, classic cinema, independent films and educational videos.

For children, there’s Kanopy Kids, which has both movies and shows. SDPL offers unlimited plays on that service, but with regular Kanopy you can watch up to 12 films per month.

Best of all, there are no ads on Kanopy.

Visit museums, attractions and state parks

Day passes to some museums and attractions in San Diego are available for free through the Discover & Go program. This provides free access to places such as New Children's Museum, Museum of Us, The San Diego Museum of Art, Children's Discovery Museum and Skateworld.

Residents 16 and older with an SDPL card can reserve a pass. Here’s how to make a reservation:

  • Reserve a pass of your choosing online. This can also be done in person at any SDPL branch. (You can only make two reservations at a time, and you can’t cancel the reservation once it has been made.)  
  • Print or download the pass to your phone to present at the museum or attraction you’re visiting. 
  • Present a photo ID that matches the name on the pass when visiting the museum or attraction.

If nature is more your thing, the Library Parks Pass program offers free parking passes to state parks in California. In San Diego County, the pass will get you into Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Border Field State Park, Torrey Pines State Natural Preserve and more. See a full list here.

To reserve, visit your local library and check out a pass. The passes are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Each branch sets its own number of days you can check a pass out for.


Borrow gear for exploring nature

If you’re going to check out a park pass, you might as well get some gear for exploring nature too.

The Check Out Nature Backpack Program offers backpacks with tools such as field guides, activity books, binoculars, water bottles, first-aid kits, compasses and more. Backpacks are available for kids to check out at these participating libraries. 

Backpacks can be checked out for up to three weeks at a time based on availability.


Check out toys

This opportunity is perfect for kids who tire easily of their toys. Packs filled with Lakeshore toys are available for check out as part of the Play Kits program at the North Park Library.

To get a kit, visit the North Park Library and see what’s available. Appropriate age ranges are listed on each kit so kids can get the best toys for their age. Play Kits are cleaned after each checkout.

Note: While some programs are available at multiple branches, this play kit program is only at the North Park Library. That means you can only borrow and return a kit to that branch.

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