We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Free or inexpensive things to do in SoCal

Which San Diego hotels are on sale?
dd/mm/yyyy dd/mm/yyyy
See hotels
San Diego...
Level Contributor
61 posts
6 reviews
Save Topic
Free or inexpensive things to do in SoCal

I live in N. County San Diego, but haven't really spent much time exploring SoCal or San Diego since I moved her a few years ago. My kids (ages 10, 12, 14, 17) and my husband have the next few weeks off of work and school and we were looking for some fun things to do. We are interested in day trips, cool things to see, activities to do, etc. Looking for recommendations from those with more knowledge about the area than us. Thanks.

Santa Fe, New Mexico
Destination Expert
for Santa Fe, Mesa Verde National Park, Boulder, New Mexico
Level Contributor
20,860 posts
52 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Free or inexpensive things to do in SoCal

North in Orange County check out the tide pools at Dana Point behind the Ocean Institute which are free. You may be able to get very discounted Whale Watching tour tickets on http://anaheimoc.org/coupons

Chula Vista...
Level Contributor
2,617 posts
104 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Free or inexpensive things to do in SoCal

Hi,

The museums in Balboa Park offer free admission to SD County residents on Tuesdays, but they use a rotating schedule for which museums are free on which Tuesday:

http://www.balboapark.org/visit/tuesdays

Also in Balboa Park on Sunday afternoons from 2-3 PM is a free organ concert at the Spreckles Organ Pavillion:

http://sosorgan.com/

One of my favorite places is seeing the stunning views of San DIego Harbor and the Pacific Ocean from atop Point Loma and Cabrillo National Monument ($5 per car; park closes at 5 PM). This time of year you may see gray whales migrating south, or you could check out the tide pools at low tide.

http://www.nps.gov/cabr/index.htm

You could check out some of San Diego's early history at the Old Town State Historical Park or the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala:

http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=663

http://www.missionsandiego.com/

Or you could head to La Jolla Cove and look for seals:

http://www.lajollabythesea.com/la-jolla-cove

Or hang out and watch parasailers and hang gliders at the Torrey Pines Glider Port or hike in the Torrey Pines State Reserve:

http://sandiegofreeflight.com/jm170/

http://www.torreypine.org/

Or, perhaps closer to you, is the Mount Palomar Observatory with its 200-inch diameter telescope:

http://www.astro.caltech.edu/palomar/

That may keep you busy for a while... Enjoy!

San Diego...
Destination Expert
for San Diego
Level Contributor
22,164 posts
4 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Free or inexpensive things to do in SoCal

Belmont Park is free admission but you do have to pay to go on the rides.

https://tickets.belmontpark.com/mainstore.asp

Balboa Park already mentioned is free and has hiking / walking trails. The Timpkin Museum is always free but I don't know if that's something your family would be interested in.

balboapark.org/in-the-park/hiking-and-biking…

Mount Soledad like Cabrillo National Monument has incredible views and is very moving. If anyone is into photography and it's a clear day both places are great. Cabrillo has hiking trails and tidepools.

You could also take a beach drive along the coast and stop at various beach cities.

www.aaroads.com/california/us-101hb_ca.html

http://www.localwally.com/nocounty.html

Edited: 02 January 2013, 07:15
Oregon Coast
Destination Expert
for Crescent City, Oregon Coast, Oregon, Redwood National Park
Level Contributor
42,853 posts
1,049 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Free or inexpensive things to do in SoCal

Click on the blue link below and have a read through this thread. Although some may be too far for a day trip, there are lots and lots of ideas!

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g32655-i61-k587431…

San Diego...
Level Contributor
61 posts
6 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Free or inexpensive things to do in SoCal

Thanks everyone! Sounds like our week will be filled with fun! We are thinking of going to Julian (if there is snow), La Jolla to see the seals, The top of Mt Solidad, Belmont park and to which ever museum is free on the Tuesdays we can go. I knew there would be a ton of cheap or free things to do.. no need to spend money to have fun!

Chula Vista...
Level Contributor
2,617 posts
104 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Free or inexpensive things to do in SoCal

If there is snow near Julian, remember that you'll likely be required to put snow chains on your tires.

La Jolla, California
Destination Expert
for La Jolla
Level Contributor
2,771 posts
158 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Free or inexpensive things to do in SoCal

While you are in La Jolla, visit the UCSD campus and do the Stuart Collection art walk all across campus. Get a map at the visitor booth. Kids love to look for the art pieces that are sometimes hidden in plain view.

The newest, "Fallen Star," which is a crooked little house on top of the engineering building, can be visited on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

stuartcollection.ucsd.edu/artists/suh.shtml

La Jolla, California
Destination Expert
for La Jolla
Level Contributor
2,771 posts
158 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Free or inexpensive things to do in SoCal

I don't know where you are in the North County, but an earlier post on TA about Mt. Woodson made me think it would be perfect for your family. Bring along a backpack with a picnic, and do a 3 1/2 mile hike to the top and back. Along the way there are many boulders that are fun to climb.

If you are into hiking, Iron Mountain is a fun hike, but longer. Bring plenty water if you decide to go. Also, make sure to dress for the weather. It can get a bit chilly up on top in winter.

If your family likes bridges, consider a hike through Hillcrest and Banker's Hill in San Diego and hunt for the hidden bridges. The Spruce Street Bridge (between Fourth and Fifth Ave) is a pedestrian suspension bridge that your kids will love to walk across because it wiggles and is nicknamed the "wiggly bridge." The other pedestrian bridge that is a lot of fun is the Quince Street wooden trestle bridge (between Third and Fourth Ave). Do some hiking in the canyon underneath the bridge. There are a lot more cool bridges in San Diego, including one that supposedly makes music (I haven't been there yet).

Edited: 03 January 2013, 00:54
San Diego, CA
Level Contributor
575 posts
85 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Free or inexpensive things to do in SoCal

Self realization fellowship in Encinitas has a beautiful "garden of Eden" that's nice to stop by if you happen to be in the area.

Also, if you're at UCSD, take a walk to the cliffs off of La Jolla Farms Rd.

All for Free!

10. Re: Free or inexpensive things to do in SoCal

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This topic has been closed to new posts due to inactivity. We hope you'll join the conversation by posting to an open topic or starting a new one.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

We remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason.

Removed on: 07 January 2014, 01:16