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Budget-Friendly Family Activities in San Diego

My wife Sabrina and I have all recently travelled to San Diego, CA, for the first time with our children, Sarah and Anthony. We came across several family-friendly activities to partake in and enjoy without the worry of emptying our pocketbooks. Even though my kids don’t quite understand the meaning of a budget, it was something that my wife and me had to pay strict attention to.

As parents of highly energetic and exploratory children, we had to keep an eye on them at all times, especially in regards to delegating opportunities for fun things to do. Fortunately for us, this beautiful city has an extensive amount of fun-bearing possibilities for families and budgets of all types. We utilized my free Kamino walking tours app in order to find some of these cost-friendly fun things to do, which entailed:

Enjoying the Beaches

1.Mission Beach

This centrally located spot is the very epitome of a Southern California beach. Its boardwalk provides dozens of really fun things to do for families to take advantage of, especially in regards to its iconic wooden Giant Dipper roller coaster. Sarah decided not to go with me and stay with her mother, but Anthony and I strapped in for an awesome ride.


2.Moonlight Beach

Sabrina and Sarah loved the way this beach offered additional amenities, such as its grassy picnic areas, playgrounds, snack shops, volleyball courts and fire-pits. We all toasted some marshmallows and made some s’mores after some long swims and a couple of games of volleyball, which were all very fun things to do.

San Diego Walking Tours

Creating our own walking tours around the downtown area of San Diego was not only entertaining, but necessary in the end. This helped provide us with a better guide and path of what was available and reasonable within our budget. There were a few bakeries, restaurants and candy shops that were fun things to do for both my wife and the children. The ‘Kidz Garage’ was an excellent stop-off shop suggested by a few pedestrians, as we found a few rare toys for the children that were under our budget!


My wife and I are huge history buffs, so taking the children to see some museums throughout this city was not only desirable but also beneficially appealing to everyone in our family. Since we didn’t think that the kids would enjoy an adult contemporary art museum or an old fort, we decided to stop off at a few children-oriented museums as fun things to do:

  1. Reuben H. Fleet Science Center

The second we arrived, both Sarah and Anthony’s’ eyes immediately lit-up in interest. There were over 100 hands-on scientific experiments they could engage in. Sarah, who is 4 years old, was ecstatically engaged in their ‘Kid City’ activity; she now wants to be an architect and design buildings “for the world,” she says. Anthony, who is 7 years old, went directly to the ‘Block Busters’ activity, which allowed him to build free-form structures out of wooden planks. We may have a couple of future city engineers on our hands! We also caught an IMAX film on exploring the universe, in which Sabrina and I have always wanted to see! (Discounted prices for children 12 and under)

  1. San Diego Model Railroad Museum

Being that my son and I have always had an affinity for trains, it was only natural that we would stop here as soon as we could. As my wife and daughter decided to have an afternoon to themselves and visit the Children’s Discovery Museum, we had to blow the horn on this 27,000 square foot museum. From the moment we walked through the doors, I had to literally hold Anthony back from all the exhibits so I wouldn’t lose him. We checked out the ‘Motive Mac’s Kids Corner’ first and then we proceeded to their ‘Scales & Rails’ exhibit, which is where my interest peaked and Anthony had to hold me back. For a father-and-son-day with trains, it doesn’t get any more entertaining and engaging than this. I got to admit – I was quite the kid myself in this magical arena of model trains. (Free admission for kids 14 and under)


After visiting it previously in the day and being informed of what we can do at night, we went back to the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. Their telescopes were set up outside the building, giving Sarah and Anthony an opportunity to acquaint themselves with some of the most spectacular celestial bodies. This event usually begins with the Sky Tonight planetarium show that is held in the Space Theater. Both of these activities are available free of charge and on a clear night, you will see some of the planets and the brightest stars in the sky.

San Diego has numerous other free and family-friendly activities to offer to its visitors. Take a stroll through the Seaport Village, visit the Torrey Pines State Reserve for a bit of bird watching or visit the century-old gold mining town of Julian. Planning these fun things to do according to our family’s preferences was made easy by the suggestions we received from the people of the places we visited.


Matthew McMillan is a loving and caring husband and father of two beautiful children. He has travelled to countries around the world and has an affinity for exploring new cultures and experiencing different aspects of human life.

photo credit: mynameiscedric via photopin cc

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