It is no secret that living in California, let alone San Diego, is expensive. It is also no secret that California is a beautiful state that abounds in beautiful scenery just about anywhere you go. The glorious coastline and spectacular mountains make California, and San Diego especially, wonderful vacation destinations. Although room and board may use up most of your vacation fund, there are many free activities available in San Diego.
My daughter and only grandchild live in San Diego so I try to visit as often as possible. There is a definite advantage having a “native” to show you the best free things to do in San Diego. Over the six years that my daughter has lived there, I have done a number of free activities and have chosen my favorites. I will share these with you now.
The beaches have to take top priority. There is an abundance of beaches surrounding San Diego and each one offers a different vista. It does not matter what season you visit, the beaches always are welcoming. I have been to San Diego in all four seasons and always fit in a visit to the beach. The beach closest to my daughter’s home is in the Ocean Beach part of San Diego. It is a child-friendly beach suitable for swimming and sand-playing. The swimming area has a very gradual descent which makes it fun to chase the waves. The beach itself is expansive and great for kite flying. There are also volleyball nets set up for everyone’s enjoyment.
The beach in the Mission Beach area has a long boardwalk for bikers, skaters, runners and strollers. One side of the boardwalk is lined with beach rentals of all shapes, sizes and designs, as well as restaurants and shopping kiosks. The other side of the boardwalk offers a continuing view of the ocean and bathers. It is a great beach to visit any time of the year.
Encinitas is north of the city of San Diego and also has a few beaches. The beaches here are great for surfing, swimming and sun-bathing. Here the views are spectacular because you have a bird’s eye view of the ocean. You have to descend quite a distance to get to the beach. In fact there are approximately 137 steps to reach Swami Beach in Encinitas. At another beach the descent is kinder in that it is a zigzag path that leads to the beach.
My husband and I have a tradition. We always make sure we are in Ocean Beach on a Wednesday. Wednesday is Farmers’ Market day. It begins around 2:00 and goes to around 7 or 8 depending on the time of year. Whether or not you purchase from the various food vendors, it is a great place to people watch. The smells and sights of the produce, cooked foods and flowers are pleasing to the senses. There are llama rides available for children at a cost and other vendors selling non food articles.
After spending time at the Farmers’ Market, you can go to Sunset Cliffs for the sunset. You can drive along Sunset Cliffs Blvd. for spectacular views of the ocean; or park yourself on a bench overlooking the ocean and watch the sun go down. Either way is a great finale to a busy day.
If you miss the Farmers’ Market on Wednesday, you can go into Old Town on Saturday for the Saturday Market. I was there in December one year and did some Christmas shopping. The vendors there sell original handicrafts. After strolling the Saturday Market you can wander through historic Old Town. The walk will take you past historic buildings including the oldest schoolhouse in San Diego.
Fiesta Island is a wonderful park not too far from Sea World in San Diego. My grandson’s favorite playground is there. He is especially fond of the large, climbable pirate ship. There are a variety of areas for children to climb, swing and expend energy. There are also pavilions for picnicking and party celebrations.
San Diego offers many other free options. I have mentioned ones I am familiar with and that are my favorites. The climate is just about perfect, so you can chose a time to visit when airfares are low. Even though it may be expensive to live there, San Diego is a delightful place to visit.