Have you been searching far and wide for a water park the entire family will enjoy? If so, Aquatica San Diego (by SeaWorld) should be your top choice. From thrilling water slides to private cabanas, this water park has it all. Before you go, read our Aquatica San Diego tips to guarantee your family has the time of their lives.

Aquatica San Diego Tips

 

1. Arrive as Early as Possible

To ensure a safe and exciting experience for all guests, Aquatica San Diego has a limited per-day capacity. Arriving as early as possible will confirm your family’s entrance to the water park. Otherwise, you may be faced with a full water park and some unhappy family members.

While Aquatica San Diego’s hours of operation vary per day, the park opens daily at 10:00 am.

2. Bring Extra Money for Parking

A day at a water park can add up quickly between tickets, food, and other extraneous expenses. When visiting Aquatica San Diego, always make sure you have extra money for parking. The parking fees are as follows:

  • $15 for Cars
  • $20 for RVs
  • $10 for Motorcycles

 

Remember, arriving early will also help you claim the best parking spots!

Aquatica San Diego Tips

Image via Aquatica San Diego / Facebook

3. Know What to Bring

When visiting a popular water park such as Aquatica San Diego, it is best to be prepared. Make sure you bring the following items for your trip:

  • Appropriate swim attire
  • Towels
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses

 

If you wish to bring a personal life vest, it must be in good condition and clearly marked with a USCG – Type II or Type III approval. Life vests must also be approved and tagged by Aquatica San Diego staff in order to be worn. Also, note that the park does offer life vests free of charge for guests.

4. Know What Not to Bring

Listen up! This is one of the most important Aquatica San Diego tips.

To provide a safe environment for all guests, Aquatica San Diego does not allow the following items into the park:

  • Flotation devices such as noodles, swimmies, in-suit flotation devices, personal swim rings, and boogie boards
  • Swim masks
  • Coolers of any kind
  • Umbrellas
  • Wagons for carrying children/items
  • Furniture such as folding chairs

 

As a family-friendly water park, Aquatica San Diego offers a world of amenities for guests. Many of the services and items you need are already offered within the park.

5. Don’t Bring Outside Food

Aquatica San Diego does not allow guests to bring outside food or beverages into the water park. However, for frugal individuals like myself, there are a few ways to navigate around this rule:

  • Empty refillable water bottles may be brought into the park.
  • Have a picnic in the designated area outside the park before entering.
  • To purchase more affordable food outside the park and return, remember to have your hand stamped.

 

I highly recommend bringing in a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated throughout the day. Just remember to empty all liquid before you pass through the water park entrance.

6. Know What Your Family Can/Cannot Eat

Speaking of food…

Aquatica San Diego understands that guests may have specific food allergies or dietary restrictions. To accommodate this, the park has created “Allergen Cards” that detail what guests can and cannot eat. Simply visit Guest Services or any of the meal areas throughout the park to request your card. If you have questions, ask to speak with a supervisor about your particular restrictions. The staff is happy to help you find something tasty and safe to eat!

Aquatica San Diego Tips

Image via Aquatica San Diego / Facebook

7. Reserve a Private Cabana

As one of my personal favorite Aquatica San Diego tips, I suggest reserving a private cabana for your family. When you reserve a cabana, you can choose from Standard, Premium, or Ultimate cabanas which each offer a wide variety of amenities including:

  • Wi-Fi
  • A private area for your family to relax
  • A welcome basket
  • Mini-fridge
  • Bottled water
  • And more

 

Considering the limited capacity of the park, these reservations fill up fast! Be sure to book yours well in advance.

8. Rent a Locker

Carrying your bags and items around the water park is not ideal. Instead, rent the locker size that suits your family and enjoy a carefree day at Aquatica San Diego. Standard lockers are available for $12, large lockers for $15, and jumbo lockers for $20.

9. Take Advantage of the Cashless Wristband

Remember the days when you’d have to carry a plastic Ziploc bag with your cash/credit cards and other personal items around the park and on rides? Say goodbye to that pesky plastic bag and “Hello!” to cashless wristbands at Aquatica San Diego.

Cashless wristbands allow families to splash, swim, and play to their heart’s desire without worrying about or carrying their monetary belongings. When you arrive, present your credit card to pre-authorize $50 for your wristband. When you use up this amount, the system will automatically pre-authorize another $50 to your wristband.

To pay, all you have to do is scan your wristband at any meal service or gift shop register.

Tips for Aquatica San Diego

Use Quick Queue to head to the front of the line!

10. Use the Quick Queue

Considering this park is quite popular, one of the ultimate Aquatica San Diego tips is to use the Quick Queue option. By purchasing this additional experience, you’ll receive priority (and speedy) boarding on some of the top water park rides including:

  • Kiwi Curl
  • Walhalla Wave®
  • Whanau Way
  • Tassie’s Twister
  • Woohoo Falls®

 

Instead of spending the majority of your days waiting in line, you’ll already be speeding down the waterslides you love most!

Use These Aquatica San Diego Tips for a Memorable Experience

For a smooth and enjoyable day at the water park for all, be sure to follow our Aquatica San Diego tips.

Bonus tip: don’t forget to purchase your Aquatica San Diego tickets from Reserve San Diego for exceptional savings and to skip the ticket line!

We can all agree that the most stressful part of a vacation is sticking to a budget. Everything from attraction tickets to hotel rooms can eat through a travel budget in seconds, especially in a top travel destination such as sunny San Diego. To stay within budget, start by determining where to stay in San Diego on a budget.

When to Visit San Diego

For the ultimate savings, it is best to travel during the off-season. However, in San Diego, the off-season comes with a caveat. The winter months draw the lowest number of visitors to the area and for a good reason — lots of rain. If you’re willing to forgo the beach and deal with several rainstorms, you’ll find extraordinary prices on San Diego hotels during the winter.

If you’re like me and can’t pass up an opportunity for a beach vacation, you’ll want to visit either in the spring or fall. While summer is perfect beach weather, it’s also when San Diego is the busiest. Locals and frequent San Diego visitors agree that March through May and September through November are the best times to visit.

Where to Stay in San Diego on a Budget

Once you’ve decided when you’ll travel to San Diego, you can begin to research the hotels that will fit your budget. For an affordable vacation, I recommend staying at these San Diego hotels.

*The hotels listed below show pricing based on the spring season. Prices will vary by season.

Where to stay in San Diego on a budget

Best Western Oceanside Inn

Standard Room, 2 double beds – $84.68 per night

Whether you’re planning a family vacation to LEGOLAND® or visiting on business, the Best Western Oceanside Inn offers a convenient location. With attractions such as SeaWorld® and the San Diego Zoo® nearby, you’re in the middle of it all (and at a great price).

This affordable hotel offers comfortable accommodations and amenities such as a complimentary continental breakfast and an outdoor pool. The Best Western Oceanside Inn is an excellent choice for travelers deciding where to stay in San Diego on a budget.

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Good Nite Inn San Diego Near SeaWorld

Standard Room, 2 Queen Beds (Newly Renovated) – $108.00 per night

The Good Nite Inn is also conveniently located near San Diego’s top attractions such as SeaWorld®. This budget-friendly hotel is perfect for the traveler who only needs a place to sleep and recharge after a long day of exploration and attractions.

In addition to the recently renovated rooms, the hotel also offers complimentary coffee and tea in the lobby each morning. For renowned hospitality and comfortable accommodations at a price you’ll love, the Good Nite Inn San Diego is your top choice.

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Knott’s Berry Hotel

Standard Room, 2 Queen Beds – $119.00 per night

No family vacation to San Diego is complete without visiting Knott’s Berry Farm. For families looking to maximize their vacation time and budget, Knott’s Berry Hotel is the perfect hotel solution. This family-friendly hotel is seconds away from the theme park and water park and offers amenities such as an onsite restaurant and pool. Plus, just for the kids, the hotel features an entire Snoopy themed wing known as Camp Snoopy!

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Western Inn Old Town

2 Queen Beds (Non-Smoking) – $129.00 per night

The Western Inn Old Town is situated right in the heart of San Diego, minutes away from the airport, the San Diego Zoo®, and other top attractions. Determining where to stay in San Diego on a budget isn’t difficult once you look into this hotel.

Get a good night’s sleep with the hotel’s comfortable room accommodations and recharge the next day with a free continental breakfast. Visitors should note that the hotel requires self-parking, in-room safe, and other additional fees.

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Best Western Plus Hacienda Hotel Old Town

Deluxe 1 King Bed or 2 Queen Beds – $131.71 per night

For a budget-conscious hotel with superior decor, book your stay at Best Western Plus Hacienda Hotel Old Town. The 200-room hotel features decor inspired by the Spanish mission and is surrounded by gorgeous ocean and city views. While at the hotel, guests can dine at the Old Town Tequila Factory Restaurant and Cantina, or go for a swim in the outdoor pool.

While the hotel does offer a free airport shuttle, guests should be aware of the self-parking and pet fees that apply.

best-western-mission-bay

Best Western Mission Bay

Double Queen – $139.00

If you’re trying to decide where to stay in San Diego on a budget and are hoping to procure a hotel room near Mission Beach, you’ve come to the right place. Best Western Mission Bay is pet-friendly, near the beach, and only 4.5 miles away from SeaWorld® and others points of interest.

Amenities provided by the hotel include a free breakfast, outdoor pool and whirlpool spa, a fitness room, and complimentary Wi-Fi.

sheraton-san-diego

Sheraton San Diego Hotel, Mission Valley

Traditional Room, 2 Queen Beds – $139.18 per night

Those searching for upscale accommodations at an affordable price will be pleased with their stay at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel, Mission Valley. With a prime location, guests enjoy easy access to the San Diego Zoo, Mission Valley, SeaWorld®, and more.

The hotel offers a variety of rooms as well as top amenities such as a 24/7 health club, Internet access, and an outdoor pool. This 4-star San Diego hotel also features modern decor and an onsite restaurant. Do note that several fees are in place, including:

  • Breakfast fees
  • Parking fees
  • Pet-friendly fees

wyndham-san-diego

Wyndham Garden San Diego Near SeaWorld

Family Suite, Multiple Beds (1 King Bed and Bunk Bed) – $139.45 per night

The Wyndham Garden San Diego hotel is ideal for families who need spacious and convenient accommodations. Located around the corner from the airport and SeaWorld®, families can reserve suites or rooms that suit their needs.

From complimentary WiFi to an onsite restaurant, this hotel has everything families need for an exciting and budget-conscious vacation in San Diego. Like other San Diego hotels, the Wyndham Garden does have an overnight parking fee.

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Hilton San Diego Mission Valley

Room, 2 Queen Beds – $149.21 per night

Located minutes away from San Diego’s top attractions, the Hilton San Diego Mission Valley hotel rounds out the best budget-friendly hotels in the area. Featuring contemporary decor, various room types, and premium amenities, guests have everything at their fingertips here.

With hotels such as this, multiple fees are in place such as parking fees, pet fees, breakfast fees, and more. If you’re fine with flexing your budget a bit for top-notch accommodations in San Diego, choose this hotel.

Book Your San Diego Hotel Today

Now that you know where to stay in San Diego on a budget, what are you waiting for? Book your room through Reserve San Diego today for the best value.

 

When you think of San Diego, what comes to mind? The sunny beaches? The culture? The price tag? People often believe that a vacation in San Diego will cost an unimaginable amount. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

You and your family can enjoy a memorable San Diego vacation without going over budget by using these tips.

Vacation in San Diego on a Budget

A vacation in San Diego doesn’t have to break the bank.

Where to Stay in San Diego on a Budget

First and foremost, you need to figure out where you’ll stay during your time in San Diego. Depending on a number of different factors, room rates can range from affordable to astronomical. To save money on lodging in San Diego, consider the following:

Location
Most travelers prefer to stay in hotels with a convenient location, which means finding a hotel in downtown San Diego. However, these hotels can charge premium rates due to their prime real estate downtown. If you don’t have a location preference, consider staying at a hotel just outside of downtown San Diego for lower rates.

Amenities
Do you need a hotel room to sleep in after a long day of exploring, or do you prefer a suite decked out to the nines? As you know, hotels with premium amenities have a larger price tag. If you don’t need luxury amenities, look for value hotels that offer cozy accommodations for a price within your budget.

Make your reservation at one of these low cost, comfortable hotels around San Diego:

Look for Hotel Deals
Remember to check resources such as Reserve San Diego for exclusive hotel and attraction packages as well as other savings. You never know what discounts you’ll find when planning your vacation in San Diego!

Travel Off Season
Hotel rates spike during peak tourist seasons and lower during off-peak seasons. To avoid crowds and surge pricing, visit San Diego from March through May or September through November.

Save money and see the sights by taking the Old Town Trolley.

Save money and see the sights by taking the Old Town Trolley.

Getting Around San Diego For Cheap

Even if you plan to drive to your vacation in San Diego, getting around San Diego can be expensive. Save money by using one of these transportation options in San Diego:

The San Diego Trolley
Instead of spending money on gas and a rental car, rely on the San Diego Trolley to get you around the greater San Diego area. The San Diego Trolley covers approximately 50+ miles of the city and stops nearby large attractions and destinations, from Gaslamp Quarter to Little Italy.

For even more savings, combine your sightseeing adventures with trolley transportation on the Old Town Trolley Tours. You’ll learn about San Diego’s history, landmarks, and more while heading to your next attraction or destination. Purchase a 1 or 2-day hop-on, hop-off pass to make the most of your vacation in San Diego.

Consider the Cost of Parking
Parking in San Diego can be tricky to find and expensive, especially downtown. To keep a few more dollars in your wallet, consider taking public transportation or an Uber/Lyft around San Diego instead of a rental car. Should you require your own car, be prepared for high parking prices and limited space.

A trip to the San Diego Air and Space Museum is affordable with a Go San Diego Card.

A trip to the San Diego Air and Space Museum is affordable with a Go San Diego Card.

Affordable (and Free) Attractions in San Diego

With several notable attractions located nearby, it is easy to understand why people think a vacation in San Diego costs a fortune. Actually, there are plenty of affordable (and even free) activities throughout the greater San Diego area.

Take advantage of these low-cost activities and attractions while in San Diego.

Purchase a Go San Diego Card

Did you know there’s a way to experience San Diego’s most popular sites such as SeaWorld San Diego, the San Diego Zoo, and LEGOLAND® California and save money?

The Go San Diego Card is a must for every vacation in San Diego. With this exclusive pass, you receive admission to all 44 San Diego area attractions for one discounted price. The Go San Diego Card includes admission to attractions and activities such as:

With 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7-day passes, the Go San Diego Card is the best way to experience San Diego’s greatest attractions at a price you can afford. Simply present your card at any of the 44 attractions during operating hours and enjoy!

The Balboa Park Explorer Pass

Balboa Park is a beautiful park in San Diego that houses 17 captivating museums. Of course, visiting 17 museums with multiple people can deplete a vacation budget in a matter of seconds. To help guests save money and experience all the park has to offer, Balboa Park offers an Explorer Pass.

By purchasing an Explorer Pass, you gain access to all of the museums for one low price. When on a vacation in San Diego with multiple people, this pass is the perfect way to save money and see it all.

However, if strolling through a museum isn’t your style, you can visit the park itself completely free of charge. Balboa Park includes various gardens, 65 miles of hiking trails, and more for guests to discover.

Whether you decide to purchase an Explorer Pass or roam the park, visiting Balboa Park is an affordable way to spend your vacation in San Diego.

Visit San Diego with Kids in October

Will you be traveling to San Diego with your children? If so, visit during the month of October when San Diego offers more than 100 free activities and attractions exclusively for kids. From free theme park admission to free events, your family can save money without skipping out on the best attractions and experiences.

Go on a Sightseeing Tour

When you travel to San Diego, sightseeing needs to be on your list of things to do. From the monuments to the iconic neighborhoods, there is so much to see. Traveling to and from all of these destinations over the course of a vacation can quickly become expensive. Instead, reserve your spot on the San Diego tour of your choice.

From drool worthy food tours (my favorite, naturally) to landmark sightseeing tours, San Diego is bursting with fantastic tours that cater to every type of traveler. You’ll experience all of the top sites, maximize your time in San Diego, and keep a few dollars in your wallet all at the same time.

A trip to one of San Diego's many beaches is nearly free!

A trip to one of San Diego’s many beaches is nearly free!

Lounge on the Beach

You know a day at the beach is practically free, right? Plus, a vacation in San Diego isn’t complete without at least one day by the ocean. Visit these sunny San Diego beaches (for free) during your trip:

  • Bonita Cove
  • Pacific Beach
  • Ocean Beach
  • Mission Beach
  • La Jolla Cove

Explore a State Park

Travelers who prefer to explore the great outdoors will have a fantastic vacation in San Diego. From Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, you can enjoy the San Diego landscape and nature for the low cost of free.

Walk Around Gaslamp Quarter

No matter when you visit, a stroll through Gaslamp Quarter is magical and doesn’t cost a thing. From the architecture to the shops, there’s always something to see and experience in Gaslamp Quarter. Don’t forget to bring your camera and capture your memories of the Victorian buildings and vibrant decor for years to come.

See the Sea Lions at Scripps Park

Those who know me know I can’t pass up an opportunity to see sea lions! One of the best places to spot these lovable marine mammals is at Scripps Park at La Jolla Cove. Why pay for aquarium admission when you’ve got one sitting right in front of you?

See? A vacation in San Diego can be inexpensive and fun!

See? A vacation in San Diego can be inexpensive and fun!

Start Planning Your Vacation in San Diego

Now that you know how to vacation in San Diego on a budget, it’s time to start planning. Don’t forget to visit Reserve San Diego to take advantage of savings that will help you stay within your vacation budget!

Visiting San Diego soon? If so, SeaWorld is most likely at the top of your vacation itinerary. As the premier aquatic park on the West Coast, it welcomes millions of visitors each year. Not only can you get up close and personal with amazing marine life, you can also experience incredible shows and attractions designed with families in mind.  To make the most of your day at the park, be sure to use these SeaWorld San Diego tips.

SeaWorld San Diego Tips: An Insider’s Secrets

1. Buy your tickets in advance
Not only will get to save (Reserve San Diego currently has discounts of $20!) but you can skip the will-call lines and go straight to the turnstiles. Instant access to the park guaranteed!

seaworld San Diego tips

2. Make Time for Feedings and Shows
One of the most helpful SeaWorld San Diego tips is to schedule your activities around the shows. After all, these are some of the best ways to discover more about the marine life at the park. Pick up a show schedule when you arrive at the park or browse the offerings before you arrive. I also recommend stopping by Pacific Point and Manta to get a feedings schedule, so you can feed sea lions and bat rays by hand during your day at the park.

3. Bring a Waterproof Camera
Let’s face it – you’re at an aquatic park and might get splashed a time or two.  Especially at live shows at Shamu Stadium, where the Splash Zone makes the performance even more fun.  Watching the reactions of your kids is a better memory than trying to keep a fancy camera dry. Even at other aquatic attractions a waterproof camera, disposable or otherwise, comes in handy.  You never know when the animals you’re viewing might make a splash! Note:  The splash zone of shows is the first 13 rows at Shamu Stadium.

4. Meet and Greet the Shamu and Crew Characters
They are easiest to catch between 9am-Noon near the front entrance of the park. In addition, you can meet the Sesame Street characters in the Bay of Play after each Sunny Days show. Be sure to grab a park map to get a full list of the park’s character encounter times during the day of your visit.

5. Prepare Properly for Water Rides
Riding Journey of Atlantis?  Choose your seats carefully as the front seat of the ride will get you soaked! You’ll also get wet on Shipwrecked Rapids, but that should come as no surprise considering the name. I suggest bringing some expensive ponchos with you as you’ll fork over a lot for the plastic protectors at the park.

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6. Beat the Heat at Cool Zones
It can get hot during sunny California days.  Cool off at attractions like Wild Arctic, Penguin Encounter, Turtle Reef, Shark Encounter and one of three indoor aquariums.

7. Eat Breakfast Before You Arrive
There are delicious breakfast spots located in neighboring Mission Beach.  The Mission Café is a bustling, friendly option with exceptional French toast.   With a full belly, you can start your day off right and save lunch for later in the day.

8. Slather on the Sunscreen
SeaWorld San Diego tips aren’t just about saving money or skipping lines. They’re also about keeping you safe! Be sure to pack sunscreen in your bag so you can reapply as needed throughout the day.  There are shade spots at the park, but most of it is open and sunny.  Which means, you’ll want to avoid a sunburn – the worst vacation companion!

9. Save on Drinks
SeaWorld doesn’t allow outside food, but you can bring in outside water bottles.  Freeze some the night before to drink throughout the day.  If you’re a soda drinker, invest in a $7.99 cup you can refill throughout the day for $1.

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10. Arrive Early for the Shows
To get the best seats, arrive 30 minutes early for the shows.  Especially at productions like Sea Lions Live, where Clyde and Seamore perform hilarious pre-show antics.

11. Get your Hand Stamped
Do this when you arrive at the park to ensure you can come and go from the park as you please.  The more flexibility you have with your day, the more enjoyable it will be.

12. Purchase a Quick Queue Pass
If you’re visiting the park during it’s peak times, such as summer or the holiday season, purchasing a Quick Queue pass is a good idea. Why? Because it allows you front-of-the-line access to Journey to Atlantis, Wild Arctic, Shipwreck Rapids, Bayside Sky Ride and Manta. Upgrade to the Premier Pass for reserved seating at SeaWorld shows (excluding Madagascar LIVE).

Keep these SeaWorld San Diego tips in mind to have the best day ever at this amazing aquatic park. With these helpful hints and tricks, you can stay focused on the fun at SeaWorld San Diego CA, knowing you’ve got the inside track on what to do, where to go and what to see.

Find out more about visiting SeaWorld »
Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

San Diego offers visitors a tremendous amount of things to see and do. Home to stunning scenery, miles of sandy beaches, and an abundance of attractions for all ages, like SeaWorld and San Diego Zoo, this Southern California destination is teeming with activities for visitors. Plus, there are plenty of free things to do in San Diego that are fun for those of all ages. In San Diego, visitors can have fun without spending a fortune to do so.

The Best Free Things to Do in San Diego

 

IMG_6367_RSZ free things to do in San Diego

Coronado Beach

1) The Beach

There are over 30 beaches open to the public in San Diego—all of which are free to visit. So, suit up, grab your beach bag and towel, and make a day of it by sunning, surfing, searching for seashells and building sandcastles. A few recommendations include Coronado Beach, Pacific Beach and La Jolla Shores.

 

 

La Jolla Cove free things to do in San Diego

La Jolla Cove

2) La Jolla Cove

For an up-close look at local sea life, La Jolla Cove is ideal. Sea lions frolic along the shoreline and nap in nearby rock and sand embankments, putting some serious cuteness on display. Watching these sea lions in their natural habitat is a first-hand look at the natural side of San Diego.

 

 

Gaslamp Quarter free things to do in San Diego

Gaslamp Quarter

3) Gaslamp Quarter

The Gaslamp Quarter, 16-block historic district in downtown, has a distinct turn-of-the-century Victorian vibe and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Originally built in the 1860s, the name of the area comes from the gas lamps used to light the streets. These still adorn the walkways and streets of the area, now home to over 100 shops, restaurants and bars.

 

 

Oceanside Municipal Pier CC 6758823059_12f710b128_z free things to do in San Diego

Oceanside Municipal Pier: Flickr/Ted

4) Oceanside Municipal Pier

When you walk along the 1,942-feet of the Oceanside Municipal Pier, you’re walking on a landmark. This pier is the oldest wooden pier on the West Coast, and is great of fishing and wave watching.

 

 

Stone Brewing Co.: Flickr/Bernt Rostad free things to do in San Diego

Stone Brewing Co.: Flickr/Bernt Rostad

5) Brewery Tours

San Diego is the home of America’s craft beer scene, so where better to go on a brewery tour? The Green Flash Brewing Co., Karl Strauss Brewery, Stone Brewing Company and Lo Jolla Brewing Company all have free tours. Sample free beers while getting a behind-the-scenes look at suds making.

 

 

IMG_5675_RSZ free things to do in San Diego

Cowles Mountain

6) Cowles Mountain

Hike to the top of Cowles Mountain for prime panoramic views of San Diego County. At 1,593-feet the summit is the highest peak in all of San Diego. The hike is a rather strenuous switchback-style uphill hike, but the views are worth the effort. Arrive early for the best views.

 

 

Point Loma free things to do in San Diego

Point Loma

7) Point Loma & Cabrillo National Monument

The Cabrillo National Monument, located on Point Loma, commemorates the landing of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo at San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542. Along with the monument, there is a historic lighthouse, with views all the way to Mexico, a veterans memorial, sea cliffs and tide pools to explore.

 

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve free things to do in San Diego

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

8) Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Hiking at Torrey Pines is one of the best ways to see the natural beauty of San Diego. Trails curve around sandy mountains, with views of the bright blue coast, jagged sea cliffs and rare Torrey pine trees dotting the way. Plus, you can swim at the base of the Torrey Pines cliffs.

 

 

old_town_sodiego_1 free things to do in San Diego

Old Town

9) Old Town State Historic Park

Trek through the history of California’s birthplace at Old Town, San Diego’s first downtown. There is a distinct feeling of Old Mexico within this 6-block, 12-acre park, with historical sites covering shops, restaurants, museums, preserved adobe buildings and more. It’s easily one of the most authentic free things to do in San Diego.

 

 

Balboa Park's Casa de Balboa Building in San Diego, California free things to do in San Diego

Balboa Park

10) Balboa Park

Balboa Park is teeming with free things to do in San Diego. There are over 65 miles of walking trails at Balboa Park, the largest urban cultural park in America. In addition, there are gorgeous gardens, botanical gardens and spectacular Spanish Colonial Revival architecture to see. Don’t miss the Spreckles Organ Pavilion which hosts free outdoor organ concerts on Sundays at 2pm.

 

California Surf Museum FB free things to do in San Diego

California Surf Museum/Facebook

11) California Surf Museum

Surf’s up at this museum, home to a permanent collection of historic boards, photographs and videos. Located in Oceanside on Highway 101, tour through the displays on Tuesdays for free admission.

 

 

 

Summer concerts in San Diego free things to do in San Diego

Summer concerts in San Diego

12) Summer Concerts

During the summer season, a variety of venues host free concerts. From the Coronado Summer Concerts in the Park to the La Jolla Concert by the Sea, there is an event planned for every week of the summer. Click here for a comprehensive list of free summer entertainment.

 

 

Seaport Village free things to do in San Diego

Seaport Village

13) Seaport Village

Stop by lively Seaport Village for a leisurely stroll along the bayfront, where window shopping, free entertainment and affordable cafes await. Seaport Village hosts the annual Busker Festival each spring, and offers over 75 stores and restaurants. Pop-up concerts and strolling entertainment featured on the weekends.

 

 

Sunset Cliffs free things to do in San Diego

Sunset Cliffs

14) Sunset Cliffs

The rugged Sunset Cliffs are juxtaposed with modern highways and homes. Truly lovely during the day, the cliffs are made even better in the evening. Watch the sun sink into the ocean horizon and witness an array of pinks and oranges painting the sky.

 

 

Mt. Soledad free things to do in San Diego

Mt. Soledad: Flickr/Oleg

15) Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial

Located in La Jolla, Mt. Soledad is an easy-to-access peak with 360-degree views on San Diego. While you enjoy the views, be sure to pay your respects to the brave men and women of America’s armed forces at the Veterans Memorial. Black granite stones tell the stories of those lost, encircling a massive cross honor those who served faithfully.

 

 

As you can see, it’s easy to find free things to do in San Diego. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, history buff or entertainment junkie, you can’t go wrong with these absolutely free options. Visitors can experience a fun and unforgettable vacation experience without breaking the budget.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

If you’re searching for a place to vacation with the kids, stop! You’ve found it in San Diego, California. With weather that’s wonderful year-round, engaging entertainment options and a family-friendly vibe, this vacation destination does not disappoint. Accordingly, it’s a favorite city for parents and kids to play. Use this list to hop, skip and jump your way around SoCal experiencing the best things to do in San Diego for families.

Plan your vacation around these things to do in San Diego for families.

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Beach days are the best!

1) The Beach

This one’s kind of a given, right? San Diego has miles of sunny and sandy coastline just begging to be visited. Parents like the fact several San Diego beaches are super family-friendly, too. With that in mind, here are a few kid-approved beaches:

  • Silver Strand State Park
  • La Jolla Shores
  • Oceanside

 

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San Diego Zoo is one of the only zoos in the world with pandas

2) San Diego Zoo

One of America’s best zoos is located here. And it’s can’t miss! With world-class animal exhibits, including rare pandas, parents will enjoy this outing just as much as the kids. Be sure to go on the guided bus tour, great for getting an overview of this 100-acre zoo. To learn even more expert tips for visiting San Diego Zoo, watch our insider video.

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Balboa Park is one of the prettiest in America

3) Balboa Park

San Diego Zoo is technically located within Balboa Park, but there’s a whole lot more to see here. Home to 14 museums and gorgeous gardens, you can easily spend a whole day exploring with your family. Highlights for families include:

  • San Diego Natural History Museum: animatronic dinosaurs
  • Reuben H. Fleet Science Center: hands on science exhibits
  • San Diego Air & Space Museum: Dress up like an astronaut

 

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View seals in their natural environment at La Jolla Cove

4) La Jolla Cove

Upscale home and shops surround La Jolla Cove, but the real gem of the area is its cove. The picturesque cove, and its surrounding sea cliffs, have a large population of sea lions. Get out and mingle with them. Your kids will flip! And you’ll probably take about 100 photos. I know I did!

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Cabrillo National Monumnet: By Ctorbann, via Wikimedia Commons

5) Cabrillo National Monument

The Cabrillo National Monument is a fun way to give your kids a hands-on history lesson. Tour the museum highlighting the first expedition to San Diego as well as Point Loma Lighthouse. In addition, the Point Loma Tide Pools are nearby. Kids love checking out the scenery and the sea life there.

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Hand up for fun!

6) LEGOLAND California

If you’re kids are young, and love LEGOs, you’ve got to go to this theme park. It was created with them in mind, with everything from hands-on exhibits to kid-sized rides. Moreover, there’s an on-site water park perfect for those hot San Diego days.

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Up close experiences are a signature of SeaWorld

7) SeaWorld San Diego

You’re near the ocean, so why not learn about it at SeaWorld San Diego? This marine park has immersive exhibits dedicated to sea life. Thus, you can explore penguins, sea lions, dolphins, sea turtles and more. Combine this with exciting shows and rides and you’ve got one of the top things to do in San Diego for families.

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Kids can’t get enough of the Birch Aquarium: Birch Aquarium/Facebook

8) Birch Aquarium at Scripps

This La Jolla aquarium is another way to get an ocean education in San Diego. There are touch pools and tanks with up-close views of moon jellies, sharks, lion fish and more. All of this means families with babies and toddlers will especially enjoy Birch Aquarium.

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The beach and sea cliffs of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

9) Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Torrey Pines is stunningly beautiful and one of the best showcases of the natural beauty of San Diego. For this reason, it’s one of the best places to get outdoors in SoCal. There are eight trails to trek, with the Beach Trail and Razor Point trail two favorites. You can easily make a beach day of it here, too, as the Beach Trail has beach access.

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The USS Midway is educational yet fun for kids

10) USS Midway

Located along Navy Pier in downtown San Diego, USS Midway Museum features the longest-serving U.S. Navy aircraft carrier of the 20th century. Kids will get a kick being aboard this real life carrier, where they can engage in activities like listening to real pilot conversations during Desert Storm, climbing in bunks, and more.

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Bonus: Catch a Game

If your family are baseball fans, why not catch a game in San Diego? Petco Stadium, home to the San Diego Padres, does a top notch job of creating a unique atmosphere for ball games. Not only is weather pretty much always optimal, the stadium serves food key to the San Diego culinary scene. Think burritos, barbeque and pizza. Couple that with a better-than-most craft beer selection and you’ve got an activity sure to please every member of the family.

Which Things to Do in San Diego for Families Are For You?

With this list of the top 10 things to do in San Diego for families you’ve surely found a few perfect for your vacation. Did we miss a favorite San Diego activity? Let us know what your family loves to do here and we’ll be sure to include it in our list.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

As the first park to fuse amusements with marine life, SeaWorld San Diego has long been a staple of the San Diego vacation scene. It’s easy to see why as the park manages to create real, amazing experiences through shows, encounters and rides. If you’re planning a trip to SeaWorld San Diego, use this complete list of must-do SeaWorld attractions as a check-list. It’s an easy-to-follow guide detailing the best SeaWorld has to offer.

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Clyde gets in the groove at Sea Lions LIVE

10 Must-Do SeaWorld Attractions

1) Sea Lions LIVE
Of all the sea life at SeaWorld, the Sea Lions are my favorite. They have such personality. This show is a riot, with the stars – Clyde and SeaMore – giving a whole new meaning to slapstick comedy.

2) Wild Arctic
Right here in sunny San Diego you can experience the chill of the Wild Arctic. It starts with a perilous, motion-simulated helicopter ride before landing at base camp. There, you’re surrounded by real life arctic animals like polar bears, walruses and beluga whales. Totally cool.

3) Dolphin Point
Dolphins are seriously smart, which in turn makes them seriously fun to watch. They easily take commands from trainers, almost yearning to please (and get that fish!). Watch as they whirl, twirl and spin through the lagoon pools at Dolphin Point. Then, stick around for a presentations by trainers where you might even get to touch a dolphin!

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Manta features wild-but-mild thrills

4) Manta
To get your coaster fix, be sure to ride Manta. It’s the park’s signature coaster, winning over guests with its wild-but-mild thrills families can enjoy together. Top speeds are a smooth 43mph. Likewise, there are twists, turns, and drops, but no upside down loops. Bonus: You can touch, and even feed, a sting ray in the area surrounding the ride.

5) Journey to Atlantis
Part coaster, part water ride, Journey to Atlantis has long been a favorite of mine. Why? Well, you get two thrills for the ride wait time of one. The first part is a daring log flume drop. Then, barrel down a twisting track as the roller coaster curves kick in. After, view stingrays and leopard sharks in the adjoining aquarium.

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Turtle Reef really amazes

6) Turtle Reef
Sea turtles are mesmerizing to watch. These graceful, ancient creatures are on full display at Turtle Reef. In total, there are over 60 swimming amongst other tropical fish and sea creatures.

7) Penguin Encounter
If you didn’t get enough of the Arctic before, you can double down at the Penguin Encounter. There are over 300 penguins, and over seven species at the Encounter. This is due to a successful captive breeding program, one of the only in the world.

8) Dolphin Days
After visiting Dolphin Point, you probably fell in love with dolphins. SeaWorld attractions excel at connecting people with their ocean environments. This is epecially true at the Dolphin Days shows. Watch as they glide through the water and jump through the air, alongside trainers and pilot whales. Once the show is over, you can enhance the experience by adding a dolphin encounter.

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Go ahead a touch a ray!

9) Explorer’s Reef
Kids and adults alike will say “Wow!” at Explorer’s Reef. Immersive and engaging, the Reef provides real hands-on experiences with stingrays, brown-banded and white-spotted bamboo sharks. I also recommend visiting the Tide Pools. There, you can touch star fish and sea urchins.

10) Bayside Skyride
Unique to the San Diego Park, the Bayside Skyride is a gondola ride that doesn’t get as much love as it should. The 6-minute ride over Mission Bay is a scenic route worth the detour.

You’re all set! Pack these 10 SeaWorld attractions into one day at the park to experience the best of SeaWorld San Diego.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Kids love San Diego! If it’s not for the world famous attractions such as the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld or LEGOLAND, it’s for the beaches, parks and activities throughout the county. San Diego has a lot to offer tiny travelers. Here is my guide on how to keep your beautiful children happy and smiling. Add these things to do with kids in San Diego to experience family fun at its finest.

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Birch Aquarium/Facebook

1. Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Learn about the curious land under the sea as your kids explore exhibits and activities led by professional oceanographers. The Birch Aquarium sits on the La Jolla coast, and offers kids various experiences such as think tank interactive projects, animal feeding times, and animal interactions. In October, kids 12 and under enter free at many San Diego Museum Council destinations.

2. Waterfront Park
This new park sits at the Embarcadero in Downtown, San Diego and offers kids many swings, jungle gyms, and fountains. Parents can hang out of the benches as the kids monkey around on the gym, or hang out on the lawn as the kids splash in the fountain that is specially designed for the amphibious type.

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Belmont Park

3. Belmont Park
This historic amusement park was meticulously built on the beachfront, and offers kids rides, games, an artificial wave for surfing, and lots and lots of pizza, ice cream and burgers. Get your kids an unlimited fun wristband as you lay out by the beach, or enjoy drinks and food at The Wavehouse, home to the only artificial wave machine in San Diego.

4. Balboa Park
San Diego’s main urban park is sprinkled with museums, gardens, and theaters. There are many kid-friendly activities offered throughout the year. The Ruben H. Fleet Science Center is home to America’s first IMAX Theater that shows educational programs every day. Buy a ticket to the theater, and you and the kids can play in the interactive exhibits within the museum. On Sundays at 2pm, the World Beat Center offers kids a free African Dance class, and the San Diego Junior Theater has relatable shows for kids at the Casa del Prado Theater.

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Corvette Diner

5. Corvette Diner
For an unforgettable dining experience, make sure to take the kids to the Corvette Diner, a restaurant suitable for all ages. Guests are transported to a time of poodle skirts, Elvis, and HUGE beehive hair. Several times throughout dinner, the staff will stop what they are doing, and dance in synch to the 50’s jams played by a live DJ.

As I reminisce back to when we went on family vacations, I couldn’t thank my parents enough for all of the fun activities and learning experiences they offered to me. Traveling has since been such a huge part of my life, and I know how important it is to explore the world, its people, and new and interesting experiences. Have fun at these things to do with kids in San Diego, and cherish the enthusiasm and thirst for exploration of a child.


Bianca is a San Diego native, and prides herself on her knowledge of her city. As a professional tour guide, she offers food and drink tasting tours through her company: So Diego Tours. With 8 years in the tourism industry, she brings you updates on how to make the most out of your time, money and energy in her city.

Planning on visiting SeaWorld during your San Diego vacation? I recently went to the park and discovered an educationally entertaining attraction full of aquatic amazements. In addition, I learned some of the best ways to see the park and the top things to do during a day at San Diego SeaWorld. Let’s dive in!

DSCF2184Situated along the mission bay area, San Diego SeaWorld blends the discovery of aquatic life with a natural, coastal environment.   Pick up a map when you enter, taking note of the shows performing and which you plan to see. Shows are a definite must, so be sure not to miss these. Depending on the day of your visit, the shows operating will change.   However, One Ocean and Sea Lions LIVE are my two personal favorites. If you’re traveling with children, the Madagascar: Operation Vacation stage show should be on your show list too. Your kids won’t forget partying it up with Alex the Lion!

DSCN1200To get a true 360 degree overview of San Diego SeaWorld hop aboard the SkyTower. I think this is a great way to start the day as you gain perspective of the entire park, and then can take off to your next attraction with a good layout in mind. This is SeaWorld, so the aquatic attractions are the real highlight and I visited those first.   To get a feel for the north, Wild Arctic is your ticket. Home to beluga whales and polar bears, the exhibit was designed very well with ample viewing areas and the detailed workings of an arctic research station on display throughout. There is a simulator ride here, but it’s an optional addition. Continuing the northern exposure is Penguin Encounter. A glided walkway and viewing gallery lets you view almost 300 penguins of species like Emperor penguins, and smaller Adelie, Gentoo and Macaroni penguins. Some are located outside too, so you can get even closer to these adorable birds.

DSCN1242Dolphins are marvelous creatures you can’t help but be in awe of, which is why I stayed at this area of the park for a while. Watch them swim, play with trainers and eat lots of fish! You’ll get up-close, unobstructed views ideal for picture taking and memory making. Pacific Point teaches the difference between Sea Lions and Seals, and home to one of the most camera-ready sea lions ever. Posting on his rock, soaking up the California sun, he was a sight to see! Aquariums at Sea World San Diego display exotic creatures like sea turtles, sharks, tropical fishes and an array of other sea life. Stroll through these and delight at the underwater views. Of course, I had to see Shamu and you will too! The underwater viewing area is expansive, but try not to tour this area right after or before a show as its very busy then.

DSCF2301Rides are yet another aspect of a day at SeaWorld. With Manta being their biggest thrill, it was top priority. The fast speed, swooping twists and turns, and quick dives simulate the moves of a sting ray. After the ride, I stop by to touch a manta – slippery but friendly! A trip aboard the Bayside Skyride is recommended as you get stunning views of Mission Bay. Vast blue ocean stretches out before you as you gain perspective on the park and its coastal setting. If you’re up for a splash, water rides like Journey to Atlantis and Shipwreck Rapids are for you. Speeding roller coaster inspired water flumes and runaway rafts create adventures you’ll want to have during summer days at the park.

DSCF2190A couple of more tips to keep in mind: Order your tickets in advance. Reserve San Diego SeaWorld tickets are kiosk ready, with a bar code ready to scan at the entrance of the park. No waiting in the ticket line for you. If you dine at the park, pick Shipwreck Reef Café. The fun, castaway flair of the café makes it a favorite, as does the better-than-normal theme park food. And one more thing, bring a waterproof camera so you can get those wonderful aquatic shots with nor worry of splash.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

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Check out these San Diego events happening April 2016:

April 2-3: San Diego Crew Classic
Athletes from more than 100 programs from across the United States will participate in San Diego Crew Classic’s two-day premier rowing event in San Diego.

April 2-May 1: SeaWorld’s Magic Weekends
Come be amazed at SeaWorld’s Magic Weekends. Each weekend will feature different illusionists that are sure to delight and astound. Headliner talent will perform a 20-25 minute illusion show in Mission Bay Theater, while all guests can experience magic every 30 minutes at Explorer’s Reef.

April 3: Chocolate Festival
Held at the Maritime Museum of San Diego, this festival focuses on chocolate edibles, fun & crafts for kids including making their own chocolate pizza, demonstrations and many other interesting activities.

April 9-10: San Diego Botanic Garden ArtFest
Featuring over 20 artists who will be showing and selling their work including sculptors, painters, glass artists, potters, and gourd and fiber artists. Many of the artists will be providing interesting demonstrations of their craft.

April 16-17: Coronado Flower Show
The nation’s largest flower show under a tent takes place in Spreckels Park, with flower exhibits, live entertainment and trophy presentations.