10 things to do in San Diego under $20

Travel March 31, 2014

Without a hint of false modesty, San Diegans call their home “America’s Finest City”. The weather is great, the lifestyle is relaxed and the scenery is spectacular, so maybe they have a point! Here are ten things to see and do in San Diego for under twenty bucks:

Beach Bonfires


San Diego has a number of bonfire-friendly beaches where you can invite all of your friends and burn late into the evening. Coronado, Ocean Beach, Oceanside, Mission Beach and Pacific Beach have dedicated “fire rings”.

Go Hiking

There are hikes around San Diego for all tastes. With well over 100km of beaches, you will find plenty of nice seafront walks, for example along the cliffs of La Jolla towards the forests of Torrey Pines. If you hike to Cabrillo monument you can check out the tidepools, which are home to starfish and a variety of other aquatic flora and fauna.


Another popular local hike is to the top of Mount Woodson, where a local rock that resembles a potato chip has become a popular destination for profile-photo hunters. Or hike Cowles Mountain at sunrise or sunset and enjoy panoramic views at their best.

A day in Balboa Park

A budget of $20 may not get you into San Diego Zoo, which is located in Balboa Park, but you can certainly have a mighty picnic within your budget. Take your picnic to any of the gardens within the park, find a nice spot in the shade and enjoy the warm weather. The colonial-revival architecture is another major attraction in the park.


You can get into any of the other attractions in the park, including the Natural History Museum, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and San Diego Museum of Man for under $20. Free, ranger-led walking tours run at 11:00 AM on Tuesdays and Sundays.

Horse racing at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club

The only activity on this list where you could potentially leave with more money than you start, a day at the races gives you a chance to get out of the city and into San Diego County. The season runs from mid-July until the start of September then starts again in November.

Californian –Mexican food


With a budget of $20, you can really get stuck into San Diego’s local specialities. The local cuisine resembles Tex-Mex but with a greater emphasis on fresh ingredients and fish. Expect classics like burritos, tamales and tacos, but with plenty of fresh vegetables and seafood. You will find the cuisine everywhere from upmarket restaurants to roadside trailers… be brave and you will be rewarded!

USS Midway


The Midway was the largest ship in the world until 1955. The USA’s flagship aircraft carrier saw action in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War, before retiring to life under the sunshine of Southern California. You can take a tour of the Midway and find out all about life in the US Navy. The ship also offers prime location for watching the July 4th fireworks.


La Jolla Shores is the ideal place to strap on a snorkel and some flippers. The protected waters are home to a huge variety of aquatic life, including leopard sharks, garibaldi, yellowtail and rays.

Ride the Coaster

The USA may not be renowned for its public transport, but a ride on the Coaster is highly recommended. The views from the train are dazzling, especially from Solona Beach to just past La Jolla, so be sure to get a window seat!

The train takes you along the San Diego coast, from Oceanside (in the north of the county) all the way down into the city.

Watch the gliders at Torrey Pines


Taking a tandem flight at the Torrey Pines Gliderport starts at $140, but you can sit and watch the paragliders and hang gliders for free. The location, overlooking La Jolla’s beaches, is very photogenic and the perfect place to set up for a lazy afternoon.

Coronado Summer Concert Series

Head down to Spreckels Park on Sunday evenings throughout the summer months and you can enjoy free concerts in the open air. Many different kinds of bands take to the stage of the bandstand and play as the sun sets.

Image credits: “I have called you friends…” by Sharon via cc, Potato Chip Rock by Bryan Miraflor via cc, colour in the dark @ Balboa Park by R.E. Barber Photography via cc, ceviche by stu_spivack via cc, USS Midway CV41 by Andre S. Ribeiro via cc, Torrey Pines Glider Port 110 by SD Dirk via cc.
By Alex Hammond

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