Free Things to See and Do in San Diego

On our second trip to San Diego I truly felt like I saw it all. We stayed at the Westin Gaslamp for a Microsoft conference Damion was attending for work and it was an excellent location. My parents came on this trip to keep me company while Damion was busy. We had a car and paid an insane amount for parking (50 dollars a night) but it would have been hard to see everything we did without one.

This is all of the noteworthy places we discovered, and the best part most of them are free.

Hike Cowles Mountain

Damion had one entire day to enjoy San Diego and of course we had to see San Diego from a mountain top.

Cowles Mountain is the tallest peak in the city of San Diego. The views include Mexico, and the hike is under 2 hours.

My parents and Damion agreed to hike 3 miles on their vacation to make me happy, but I am sure they enjoyed it as much as I did.

I was ecstatic when they decided to accend 1,593 feet for me, but these people would do anything and everything to make me happy. I am so incredibly lucky.

Pedestrian Suspension Bridge

We made this pit stop on our way to Cabrillo National Monument. I saw it on Google maps and it was on our way so why not.

When Damion and I were in Vancouver Canada we went over suspension bridge that moved and shook with every step.

We arrived in a residential neighborhood and it truely is a bridge just for pedestrians to get to another neighborhood quickly. Though it isn’t as large as other bridges we have been on it was quick, entertaining, and free.

Harbor Island

As a hairstylist when I travel I get many recommendations from my guests. This one I knew would be a perfect way to end a busy day.

Harbor Island is just off of downtown San Diego and is loaded with views of downtown and high end restaurants.

We went to Coasterra wanting some good Mexican food and hoping to get their 50 dollar Tuesday date night special (an appetizer, 2 entrees, and a dessert). Unfortunately, this restaurant is a part of the chain that runs that special, but doesn’t participate in it. Luckily, we arrived for happy hour and still got great prices on some delicious appetizers.

Old Town

Just like it’s name old town is a free state park that features a city from 1759. When we arrived we parked in one of the large free parking lots. As we entered the gates I immediately felt as if we were back in the 1700s with ancient houses and buildings to explore. The old hotel and bar inside was my favorite. Since San Diego is close to Mexico there is also an area off of the town with Mexican restaurants, decor and shops galore.

Mission Beach

After hiking Cowles mountain we decided to head to the beach. Just like many beach towns in California this one has a boardwalk that goes for miles. The boardwalk has shops, restaurants, and even some rides close by. When we arrived we decided to lay on the beach even though it was an extremely windy day.

Cabrillo National Monument State Park

(Not Free but Worth it)

Cabrillo National Monument State Park is at the southern tip of Fort Loma. We saw a seal splashing around in the tide pools, sea caves, a light house, an old bunker, and excellent views of San Diego.

Balboa Park

When we first arrived to Balboa Park there were tents with lines of people going to bunny fest. Though the bunny’s were adorable we decided to move on knowing there is more to see.

We walked through a cactus wonderland, down many stone stairs, and on a short path of nature in the city.

We went up the stairs taking us out of the nature and to a botanical garden, Japanese garden, Museum of Man and the California tower and the Spanish art center. We got to see blown glass in action. No wonder why this is the cultural hub.

Last but not least, this is where the famous San Diego zoo resides. Make sure you have at least a full day if you want to see it all.

Seeing all this for free was fantastic. If you want to go into some of the museums and the zoo of course there is an admission.

Boardwalk on Embarcadero

Many things are along the Boardwalk in San Diego. The USS Midway Naval ship is where we started our trek. The Embracing Peace (also known as the kissing statue) is just beyond the old ship. We ended at the Seaport Village where we did some window shopping and saw a historic carousel.

Coronado Island

Feeling the sand on my feet as I watched the waves roll in with a book in my hand was the perfect way to spend a day on vacation.

This year we have been on many wild travels with a ton of hikes and adventures. Since we have been to Coronado island before I did not feel as if I had to explore nearly as much. I finished my book, took in the lovely weather, and my personal favorite, took a nap.

We still enjoyed a couple slices of pizza and a scoop of gelato at Sundaes at the Del in the fabulous Del Coronado Hotel. We even came back the next day to enjoy the craft drafts at Coronado Brewing Co.

Eat San Diego

Sundaes at the Del

Casa De Reyes


Pacific Knots

Corner Bakery Cafe

Resident Brewing Company

Daniels Coffee

P05 Pizza Lounge

Coronado Brewing Co.

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