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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Vacationing in San Diego WITHOUT spending all your money!

Summer is officially here and sunny Southern California calls to a lot of us here in Las Vegas. My girls and I are in in So Cal right now. The downside however is CA is a very expensive state and while a city like beautiful San Diego is awesome to vacation in it can possibly really hurt our bank accounts. But...GUESS WHAT....? IT DOESN'T HAVE TO!!

I grew up in San Diego county (from the time I was a tiny baby until I was 18 and went off to college) and my Mom and Dad still live in Northern San Diego County today. As I've gotten older I've come to realize that my Mom was an entertainment genius with my brother and I in San Diego. She knew how to keep us busy doing fun things for really cheap or free just by knowing the city we lived in and because she did I learned how to also. I LOVE San Diego and all that it has to offer so I thought I'd share with you how to enjoy the city that truly has my heart and do it without spending a ton of money!

Lets start with great things to do for FREE in San Diego:
*Cabrillo National Monument: One of my favorite places as a kid. It offers coastal walking trails, the old Point Loma light house to tour (that was my favorite), free movies on coastal life and whales. At the actual Cabrillo monument are look out points for San Diego bay and my favorite thing to watch the naval ship yards!
*Tide Pools: Right by Cabrillo National Monument one of the coolest places to explore for free are the tide pools. I can still spend hours exploring the tide pools and all the fun sea life in them!
*Balboa Park: Located right next to the San Diego Zoo Balboa park is a beautiful place to walk around view gardens, sculptures, amazing architecture. There is a big amphitheater that over the summer has free concerts and demonstrations of the world's largest outdoor pipe organ. There are museums in Balboa Park too. My favorites are the Ruben H. Fleet Science museum and the Air plane museum (I can't remember its official name) I don't know if this applies to non San Diego residents but the first 4 Tuesday's of every month a few of Balboa Parks museums offer free entrance. I don't remember ever having to show id but they might have changed their policies in the last few years. Some little shops line a path that leads to the Zoo and and a cute little train (that you can pay to ride) or an old wooden merry go round (also requires you to pay to ride). In the shops is a glass blowing store that is fun to watch in the windows because they blow glass right there in the shop. There are also HUGE parks and playgrounds around Balboa Park.
*Old Town: A fun place to walk around and experience some of San Diego's History. On the weekends and over the summer places like the black smith shop and other buildings offer free tours and demonstrations. One of my favorites is the Mormon Battalion Visitor's Center. The tour guides talk about the Mormon Battalion's long march to CA and how they helped build San Diego and show a short movie about it as well. Right across the road from the Battalion visitor center are some old Victorian style homes that I always called the doll shops (because there are doll shops in some of them and I loved porcelain dolls as a little girl)
*The Beach: obviously San Diego along with the rest of CA coastal regions have access to something we can only dream of here... the beach. The beach is a great FREE thing to experience. I loved going for walks on the piers in high school (or just a long the beach at any point) and watching the sunset. (there is a reason why a sun set on the beach is mentioned as romantic fantasies they are BREATH TAKING!) If you are looking for a little bit calmer place to enjoy the ocean I'd highly recommend La Jolla Cove. There are lots of little coves along the shore line and La Jolla Cove offers some relief from the breaking waves and is also a great place to go snorkel to see some AMAZING Garibaldi fish. I know the seals used to really like going there too.
*Sea Port Village and Mission Bay: Were and still are today my favorite spots to go for walks, fly kites, ride bikes, roast hot dogs and play. Fiesta Island is directly across from mission bay and offers campgrounds and places for people to put in boats and jet skies as well. (I believe there is a charge for camping there) If you walk far enough through Sea Port village you will end up where the boat museums and ferries are. I always loved just walking by and looking at the old boats and naval boats (like a retired air craft carrier). To go and tour the boats does cost money but to walk along the docks and look is free. If you go to Mission Bay over the summer and stay and play until Sea World shoots off their fire works (about 9 or 9:30) you can see the fire works really well from the cove shore.

*Carlsbad Flower Fields: BEAUTIFUL. I could walk for hours on their hill side looking at all the pretty flowers.
*Whether you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints or not it is very worth while to go for a walk on the San Diego Temple grounds. The building is beautiful and has become a land mark in San Diego

Cheap things to do in San Diego:
*Ride the ferry across San Diego Harbor to Coronado Island: for just a couple dollars this is a fun relaxing thing to do. The ferry ride is 20-30 minute and takes you to a little resort with cute shops, and a nicely groomed beach. There are often street performers there too.
*Tour the Star of India (on the docks right next to the ferry)

*Coronado Bay Bridge: Go for a drive over the Coronado Bay Bridge. The bridge is huge and crosses over all of San Diego Bay. It is a great view and leads to some fabulous beaches on Coronado Island. There is a small toll for crossing and staying on the island.

*Go to a Pardres game at Petco Park. If you are vacationing with kids I LOVE the sand box seats behind right field. ($10 a person) The kids love playing in the sand and home runs are occasional hit into this area so they can try and get a ball. Park passes to the field are VERY cheap ($7 a person). Go on a night when they do fire works take a blanket sit on the grass, watch the game and fire works after wards. For normal seats you can find great deals on-line and craigs list too!
* Del Mar Fair (San Diego County Fair): Summer time in Northern San Diego means Del Mar Fair time! Admission is realatively inexpensive and once inside there are tons of things to see and do for no additional cost. (Like watch rodeo events, pig racing, see farm animals, art exhibits etc.) If you are up for more there are also rides you can go on for extra $$. I know a lot of people go to the fair exclusively for the great food. So many options and it is definately an all day event.

*Rite Aid Thirfty Ice Cream: Sadly we don't have Rite Aid here in Las Vegas but CA does. A fun cheap activity is to find a Rite Aid and go order Thrifty ice cream cones. Even today with how expensive things are a double scope cone at Rite Aid is only around $1. A family tradition is to go get ice cream and go for a walk. (In Caralsbad there is a Rite Aid very close to the ocean so you could get ice cream and then go for a walk on the beach)

*Ride the Coaster or Trolley: We loved riding the coaster and trolley. It was fun and can be an inexpensive way to travel from Southern San Diego to Northern San Diego on the coaster (or farther) and the trolley works well for down town San Diego.

Big San Diego Attractions:
There are some amazing attractions to visit in San Diego county but these are typically NOT cheap things. The BIG attractions in San Diego are: Sea World, Lego Land, Wild Animal Park, and the San Diego Zoo. I'd recommend maybe picking one or two if you are going to San Diego to visit. I have a post coming out on Thursday with tips on how to tour CA big attractions for less money.

Come back tomorrow for my post on how to Eat Budget Smart on Vacation in Southern CA.


Laura H said...

Those are all fun things. I grew up with Thrifty ice cream too. Did you know that Baskin Robbins has a soft serve cone for 80 cents. They also have sprinkles that turn colors when you eat them. My kids loved it.

Lesley said...

I love Thrifty ice cream!! It is the best! Good to know they still have it in CA! Next time we are there we will have to stop and get some :)