In season, you can often see migrating whales while staring out to sea. The same is true for dolphins, especially in the Encinitas area. Harbor seals can be seen lazing around the Children’s Pool in La Jolla, for which the normal fee is waived on Tuesdays.
Explore the miles of hiking trails at the Mission Trails Regional Park (www.mtrp.org) and the Torrey Pines State Preserve. The latter is also prime bird-watching territory. All of San Diego’s beaches and parks are great for picnics.
1500 El Prado, Balboa Park • 619 239 5548 • www.timkenmuseum.org
Admittance is free to this impressive and important collection of Russian icons, Parisian tapestries, European Old Masters, American works, and other fine art. The permanent collection includes Bruegel, Rubens, Vermeer, and Saint Bartholomew – San Diego’s only Rembrandt painting.
Park for free and enter for free at the city’s glorious parks with year-round blossoms and playgrounds for the kids. Centerpiece Balboa Park is by far the urban favorite, while Old Town is full of history and aquatic Mission Bay Park is great for families. Ethereal skies and sands at Anza-Borrego are also free.
1549 El Prado, Balboa Park • 619 234 0739 • Open four hours between noon and 5pm Sunday • www.sdhpr.org
More than 30 countries are represented within the historic 1935 cottages of Balboa Park’s House of Hospitality. At 2pm, on a rotating basis, member houses epitomize their countries through song, dance, or other means.
Upstart Crow Bookstore & Coffee House, 835 West Harbor Drive, Suite C • 619 232 4855 • 6:45–8pm 1st Tue of the month • www.sandiegoshakespearesociety.org
Everyone is welcome to join the San Diego Shakespeare Society to participate in or listen with other aficionados to works by the Bard.
619 231 7463 • www.walkabout-int.org/wabt.html
Walkabout International leads free tours in and around San Diego. Some walks go through decorated neighborhoods, while others focus on architecture. Standard walks take place in Mission Bay, Shelter Island, Balboa Park, and Mission Hills.
View the night sky at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park. Visitors can stargaze for free on the first Wednesday of every month, starting at 8pm, through giant telescopes from the San Diego Astronomy Association.
Spreckels Organ Society: 619 702 8138; www.spreckelsorgan.org
There are gallery openings most weekends and a monthly art walk at Liberty Station. Free concerts are also held during the year; many take place at beaches and parks throughout summer, including performances by the renowned Spreckels Organ Society. For listings, check www.sandiego.org.
This three-hour drive winds through the city’s neighborhoods and offers a plethora of memorable views, from the coastline, the bay, and the downtown skyline, to the bordering mountains, and even Mexico. The drive can also be spread out over several days.
1. Ride Balboa Park’s free daily tram from Inspiration Point parking lot (www.balboapark.org/visit/parking) to El Prado attractions.
2. Purchase the Compass Card day or multiday pass (www.511sd.com/compass) for easy riding across buses and trolleys.
3. Save money and skip lots of lines at theme parks as well as zoos with CityPass (www.citypass.com/southern-california).
4. Visit many museums and San Diego Zoo with Balboa Park Explorer Pass (www.balboapark.org/explorer).
5. Parking is free on most city side streets, but check signs for time limits.
6. Both the downtown and the La Jolla locations of the Museum of Contemporary Art are free on the third Thursday of every month, from 5–7pm (www.mcasd.org).
7. Check online site Groupon (www.groupon.com/local/san-diego) for deals on dining, attractions, and tours.
8. Published weekly, San Diego Reader (www.sandiegoreader.com) lists free and cheap events and deals.
9. Pick up half-price theater tickets at the ArtsTix (www.sdartstix.com) kiosk in front of the Westfield Horton Plaza.
10. Join the Morley Field Sports Complex for free or inexpensive sports activities, from jogging and cycling, to archery, basketball, as well as boccie (www.balboapark.org/in-the-park/morley-field-sports-complex; www.sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/centers/recctr/morley).