Someone recently pointed me toward an NBC article which reported San Diego as the fourth most expensive U.S. city. I’m going there to visit my brother next year, so I started bugging him about this. He told me what his mortgage is, and I was shocked. “How do you and your family afford to do anything?” I asked. “There are a lot of free and cheap things to do in San Diego,” he assured me. “Not everything costs a fortune.”

Free Fun In San Diego: A Travel Guide

I talked to him, did some research, and found some of the most eye grabbing free fun I could in America’s Finest City. There are plenty of super cool things you can do in San Diego on the cheap , but here are just five of the best.

University of San Diego Art Galleries

There are a lot of free art viewing opportunities in San Diego. The one place I want to highlight, however, is the University of San Diego. They have multiple free art exhibits relating to different times of history. You can dig deep into a lot of history by going there, and then you could come back six months later and dig into different history. This is truly one of the most diverse and coolest ways to view art in all of California.

Mission Beach

The beach is to California as bread is to sandwich — implied. Mission Beach in San Diego is known for being a great community spot smack dab between the Mission Bay and the Pacific Ocean. But swimming, tanning, and other typical beach activities aren’t the only appeals to Mission Beach. Take a stroll down the boardwalk. There is space for rollerblading, skateboarding, and bicycling, or just taking a walk to people watch. Its free of cost and there’s no community quite like it.

Old Town State Historic Park

San Diego has a pretty interesting multicultural past, and if you’re interested in learning more I recommend visiting the Old Town State Historic Park in San Diego. It’s a state protected park residing in Old Town San Diego. As Wikipedia puts it, “Old Town San Diego State Historic Park preserves and recreates Old Town as it extended during the Mexican and early American periods, from its settlement in 1821, through 1872 when it lost its dominant position to Downtown.” While the Old Town Historic Park has many restaurants, there are historic museums and older buildings preserved there as well. For instance, Old Town State Historic Park has the Mason Street School, which was the first public schoolhouse in San Diego! That’s one historic museum out of ten or more. History buffs would be doing themselves a disservice by not going to visit.

Summer (Free) Concerts

San Diego as a city is home to more free concerts than I’ve ever seen anywhere else, besides maybe New Orleans. For instance, in San Diego there’s CityFest every August, the Adams Ave Street Fair, Spreckels Park free concerts — and those are only three. The city’s own website has a section for free music — that’s how popular these concerts are and frequently they happen! Currently, the Coronado Promenade Summer Concert Series is going on, from May to September. That may be the most commonly known one outside of San Diego, but there are plenty more concert series extravaganzas going on for most of the summer.

Chicano Park

Chicano Park is another place that multicultural history and art intersect. I want to particularly highlight their murals. There are some really beautiful art pieces here that explain the multiculturalism of San Diego just in the things they celebrate. For instance, you have the Founding of Mexico City mural, explaining the foundation myth of Tenochtitlan/Mexico City. Indian Dancer is fairly new and has a lot of hidden meaning behind it. Women With a Flag is a sign of unity and pride. The list goes on, but it’s definitely a worthwhile visit, especially if you do your homework on it.

The above are just a handful of free things to do in San Diego. What are your favorite things to do in San Diego? Let me know in the comments below.