Our city is indisputably America’s Finest, but as rent prices soar and wages stagnate, you might find it difficult to indulge in every Taco Tuesday, beer festival, or TJ day-trip that comes your way. Instead of spending money to have fun, take comfort in our never-ending San Diego sunshine and the many free things to do to chase those empty-wallet blues away. From dancing under the stars to checking out new works of art, here’s a list of free things that'll keep you active, cultured, and entertained in the city of San Diego.
University students regularly display their works as part of their class projects, offering a free art-gazing opportunity that few people actually know to look for.
The Manny Cepeda Orchestra plays for free on select Friday nights at The Headquarters at Seaport Village. Grab a partner and make new friends as you dance the night away in the courtyard, under the stars.
The Timken features a collection of European and American masterpieces, and it's also the only museum in Balboa Park that has free admission all day, every day!
Stroll along this highly Instagrammable bridge at the edge of Spruce St in Bankers Hill. Built back in 1912, the bridge stretches across Kate Sessions Canyon at a height of 70ft, nestled among trees and connecting historic neighborhoods.
5. Chicano Park
Take in the beautiful murals and history of Chicano Park in Barrio Logan. Visit in April for Chicano Park Day: a free festival filled with food, art, musical performances, and a serious low-rider show.
Other than checking out books for your reading pleasure, the Public Library Downtown also offers a number of free events. From yoga to Zumba, and even special exhibits, the official calendar has a full roster of upcoming activities.
Learn how to calm your mind at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in North Park. Every Monday evening a free guided meditation takes place in the studio, and there are often free yoga classes as well; check their schedule for details.
From July through August, visit Downtown La Mesa on Thursday nights to catch a serious display of automotive nostalgia, featuring live music, an award ceremony, and the most colorful retro cars you'll find outside a Matchbox collector's set.
Grab a blanket and pick a spot at this serene park that overlooks Old Town San Diego, then crack open a bottle of Champagne -- if you're here between 8am and 8pm, it's totally legal.
Head to Imperial Beach in July for the Sun & Sea Festival, and get a view of world-class sand sculptors doing their thing. Stick around for a parade, live music, and food from a dozen different food trucks.
11. 33 beaches
San Diego has 17 miles of coastline. Swim, surf, play volleyball, toss around a frisbee, or just pick a spot, smear on some sun block and... lie there. It’s the beach; you know what to do.
The Big Bay Boom represents one of the largest fireworks shows in the country, with four barges shooting off explosives in San Diego Bay. Best seen from a rooftop that someone else paid for.
One of the lesser-known gems tucked away in Balboa Park is the Velodrome. Stop by at 6:30pm on Tuesdays to catch some serious fixed-gear bike races.
14. Botanic Garden
Whether you still call the place the "Quail Botanic Garden" or go with "The San Diego Botanic Gardens," admission is still free the first Tuesday of the month.
15. Mt Woodson
You can never have enough pictures of yourself standing on Potato Chip Rock. Ever.
Get schooled on the origins of surfing for free, every Tuesday.
Bring a blanket and pack a picnic for the free music at Spreckels Park on summer Sunday evenings.
18. Cruisin' Grand
There’s a free car show and street fair every Friday night on Grand in Escondido from April-September.
Hang by their vintage oyster-shaped swimming pool and catch a different flick every week.
20. Old Town
In case you couldn’t tell by the name, this historic area of San Diego is full of lots of old stuff like the Whaley House, the first SD courthouse/jail, and the El Campo Santo Cemetery -- all within a few blocks walking distance of each other.
Be at Lake Murray in La Mesa from 9am-noon for a free fly casting clinic. They even have free equipment for you to use, but get there early.
22. Free museum days
Peel yourself off the couch and soak up a little culture. Almost every museum in town offers a free day for SD residents.
23. Summer concerts
During the summer, San Diego offers free concerts all over the city for just about any kind of music lover.
24. Grunion Run
From March through August, when the tide is high during the full or new moon, you can catch the circle of life in action as thousands of Grunion take to the shore to spawn.
25. Seaport Village
Go eat some salt water taffy and check out what the tourists are up to.
You know the weather's going to be good.
27. NoLI Nights
Each quarter, there will be live entertainment on a center stage as the small businesses, galleries, and restaurants of Northern Little Italy open their doors to the public for this walkable event.
28. Rock Out Karaoke
Live out your rock 'n’ roll fantasy (or just embarrass yourself) with a live band backing you at Tin Roof, 710, and other venues around San Diego.
29. Mission Bay Park
Fiesta Island is one of only a few beaches in San Diego where you can have dogs off-leash. Take Fido out and let him run free with the other pups.
Every year, the historic Hotel del Coronado receives dozens of awards for best hotel, best beach, best dining, etc. It's free to stroll around the property and hang out on the beach, so take advantage.
With 6,800 acres of rec area, you ought to find something to entertain yourself.
32. Mt. Laguna
Climb 6,000ft above sea level, and check out the tiny little town while you’re at it.
Both the Downtown and La Jolla locations are free every third Thursday from 5-7pm, allowing you to act all cultured and whatnot.
Get up close and personal with South Park during this quarterly event. Businesses along the walking route will have their doors open, many with entertainment and refreshments.
35. Mt. Soledad
Take a hike up Mt. Soledad for a panoramic view of San Diego from 822ft above sea level. You can also check out the giant cross and pay your respects at the Veteran’s Memorial atop the mountain. After years of controversy and legal battles, the SD landmark may not be there much longer.
See everything worth seeing in San Diego on this three-hour driving tour.
37. Ray at Night
North Park’s art walk has been going on for 13 years, the second Saturday of every month, from 6-10pm.
The Science Center has free admission the first Tuesday of every month for local residents, local college students, and military. And PROBABLY Bill Nye.
Swimming in the Children’s Pool isn’t nearly as juvenile or completely creepy as it sounds. The cove has the perfect calm water conditions for snorkeling, and there are tons of sea lions and seals that hang out there as well.
You can set your watch by them every night of the summer, and they can be seen for miles around San Diego.
41. Have a bonfire
Fire pits are first-come-first-serve, so grab some wood, stake out a spot, and get ready for all the s’mores.
The last weekend of September, you can get your groove on in Normal Heights for two days of free music with 110 bands performing on eight stages.
CityFest celebrates the spirit of the Hillcrest community with food, music and art, this and every August.
During the summer, you can bet that just about any movie you’ve ever loved is playing in a park somewhere in San Diego. Unless you have terrible taste.
The festival takes over Fletcher Cove Park in Solana Beach for two days of music, food, and vendors by the beach.
46. Sunset Cliffs
Take in the beautiful scenery with a little hike along the cliffs, and then climb down to the beach for a less-touristy experience.
If you don’t have a board of your own, borrow one and paddle out.
2015 will be the 30th season for TGIF Concerts in the Parks in Carlsbad. Bring a blanket and post up to enjoy some tunes and the warm summer nights.
Three times a year, the Museum of Contemporary Art hosts a night of artist talks and performances, live music, cocktails, and exhibitions that is free to members.
The boardwalk is 3.5mi of rollerblading, biking, and people-watching right along the beach.
Along the shores of San Diego, you’ll find numerous rocky spots prime for tide pools full of little sea creatures.
52. Torrey Pines
8mi of trails await exploration with plenty of killer ocean views.
If you’ve ever wondered how a guitar is made, you should check out the tour at Taylor Guitars in El Cajon. It lasts about an hour and happens every Mon-Fri at 1pm.
54. Balboa Park
There are trails, historical sites, gardens, and much more. If you can’t find some free way to entertain yourself in this 1.875sqmi park, then you simply aren’t trying.
All you'll need for this one is a full gas tank: Julian is a quaint, gold-rush town nestled in the Cuyamaca Mountains, about an hour east of San Diego. Go for a hike, window shop, and if you can swing it, splurge on one of the town's famous apple pies.