San Diego Museum Of Art
San Diego Museum of Art Free Tuesdays are on the 3rd Tuesday monthly for San Diego residents, active military, and their dependents. During February there are no admission fees for those folks. Visitors usually take about 1.5 hours to see all the artwork.
You wont see the latest bleeding edge artwork here. But they do have a wide variety of artworks from around the globe, ancient to Modern. Dont miss the paintings by Old European Masters like Goya and El Greco. I always stop by Georgia OKeeffes The White Flower before I leave this museum. I cant hang it in my living room, so I visit it here.
The guided docent tours are highly recommended because theyll show you what you didnt know you were looking at. I also suggest that you download their free museum app from the App Store or . It has maps and augmented reality features that overlay more information when you focus your mobile device on specific artworks.
Greatest Generation Walking Tour And Unconditional Surrender
The Greatest Generation self-guided walking tour along the Embarcardero. Artwork, plaques, and sculptures pay tribute to the men and women who helped shape American between WWII and the present day.
Right next to the USS Midway Museum, you might spy a gigantic sculpture of a man kissing a woman based on a famous Time magazine photo. Thats Unconditional Surrender, one of the many pieces on this short but meaningful walking tour.
San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park
Just east of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park youll find San Pasqual Battle State Historic Park. It honors the soldiers who fought on December 6, 1846, one of the only military encounters in California during the Mexican-American War.
The park normally hosts living history activities and you can also walk its Nature Trail.
Also Check: National Museum Of Natural History Dc
Free Things To Do In Balboa Park
One of the very best things about Balboa Park is that its free to enter. With grounds open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you can always walk in. Once inside, some exhibitions, museums and attractions do require a fee, but there are still plenty of things to do in the Jewel of San Diego without spending a dime.
An incredible 65 miles of paths snake through the park, and theres no charge for walking or running. For a short-but-memorable walk, try Palm Canyon. The path starts at a raised boardwalk accessible from the Mingei Museum and dips into a lush palm forest with a prehistoric feel. The Sixth and Upas Trails Gateway is the perfect place to start a longer walk. Maps and markings clearly outline circular routes that range from 1.5 to 6.6 miles long, taking explorers along oak-shaded paths.
While most of Balboas museums charge some kind of admission fee, there are a few notable exceptions. Dont miss, for instance, the Timken Museum of Art, which is home to a wide range of masterpieces, from Rembrandt to John Singleton Copley. The Botanical Building is also free: relax among the ferns and orchids, and see if you can find the turtle in the lily pond outside.
Read on to find out more about how to explore this park in full, from gardens and restaurants to tucked-away walks.
Insider tip:the Botanical Building offers free admission, but make sure you plan your visit: its open every day of the week from 10 am to 4 pm, except Thursdays.
Best For Toddlers 1 3 Year Olds
The Bird Park at Upas is otherwise known as the Tiny Tots playground. This is a small, simple playground. It has a simple ladder and slide structure within a low circular seating wall where you can rest and watch your toddler run wild. It also features a swing set and a couple of climbable animal sculptures. Soft rubber surfacing keeps tumbles from turning into tantrums.
Bathrooms are located close to the Bocce Ball courts near Jacaranda Street.
Discover more cheap fun for toddlers on my Sesame Place San Diego discount ticket deals for everyone page.
You May Like: The American Museum Of Natural History
May S Marcy Sculpture Court & Garden
The quality of the 6 works that you can see at no cost in this free balboa park sculpture garden is better than many art galleries that charge entrance fees. People usually take 30 minutes to view the artwork.
Watch The Watchers watching you. Or lie down on the green grass and try to outdo the chill relaxation of Henry Moores Reclining Figure: Arch Leg sculpture. This is a good spot to wait for your order to come up at Panama 66 cafe. And their beer and wine will get you into a reclining vibe in no time.
What Else Is There To Do In Balboa Park
While the free museums are the obvious draw, Balboa Park is full of fun things to do and see, many of which are free every day of the year.
Many museums have a portion of their collection in areas where the public can view them for free. For instance, the Mingei International Museum has a free exhibition gallery on the first floor. The San Diego Museum of Art has installed a number of sculptures for public viewing in the Plaza de Panama, as well as a sculpture garden behind Panama 66. The Museum of Photographic Arts has altered their admission to a pay what you can policy. Admission to the Timken Museum is always completely free.
Other Balboa Park attractions include the iconic Botanical Building which is currently closed for repair, but is free when it is open. Theres also no charge to enjoy the view of koi fish and beautiful water lilies in the adjacent Balboa Park Lily Pond.
Young visitors might like the challenge of seeing how many fountains they can count, or get excited for a scavenger to find all of Balboa Parks nineteen outdoor gardens.
For a break, you can bring your own blanket and lounge on the lawn by the Lily Pond or sit at a table to watch the roller skaters in the Palisades Plaza in front of the Air and Space Museum. The Spreckels Organ Pavilion can also be a nice spot to stop for a rest. You might even catch a free rehearsal concert of the famed Spreckels Organ.
Recommended Reading: New York University Museum Studies
Which Balboa Park Gardens Are Free
16 out of 17 gardens within Balboa Park are free for everyone always. The exception is the Japanese Friendship Garden which is only free on the 3rd Tuesday of the month for San Diego residents, active military, and their dependents.
Since this page of free things to do in Balboa Park is getting rather long, Im just going to give you the ranked list below for the highlights. I combined Google, Yelp, and Bing popularity rankings to come up with the list. Check out my Balboa Park Gardens page for more advice on which ones will appeal to you most.
San Diego Natural History Museum
San Diego Natural HistoryMuseum Free Tuesdays are on the 1st Tuesday monthly for San Diego residents, active military, and their dependents. Except for February when there are no entry fees charged for them for the whole month. People typically spend 2 4 hours here.
Live 70 million years in an afternoon. There are 4 stories of interactive exhibits on earths natural processes, historical displays. This museums home to more than 8 million specimens from across the globe. There are thousands of colorful, exotic-looking bugs that are a fantastic source of inspiration for creatives, as long as you can view them here rather than in your bathroom.
Watch the giant Foucault pendulum knock down a peg to show the earths rotation. Dig for dinosaur bones. Watch movies about earths history in the 300 seat giant screen theater. The one thing you dont want to do is skip it.
Don’t Miss: Parking Near Museum Of Fine Arts
San Diego Mineral & Gem Society Museum
San Diego Mineral And Gem Society Museumis the other Balboa Park museum that always has free entry. Visitors typically spend 30 minutes here.
This small institution is attached to the Spanish Village Art Center close to the Zoo. It has rocks, fossils, large crystals, and gems on display and sometimes youll see lapidarists working on shaping stones and making jewelry. They also offer classes. Go, and may the quartz be with you.
San Diego History Center
San Diego History Center Free Tuesdays are on the 2nd Tuesday monthly for San Diego residents, active military and their dependents. During February its free all month for these folks. Visitors typically spend 45 minutes/hours here.
The history Center doesnt have a fixed admission fee, but theres a suggested donation of $5 to help make San Diego history accessible to all. Its small, you can easily go through it in 30 minutes. But many stay an hour or more poking through the exhibits.
Dont miss the 30-minute movie on the construction and history of Balboa Park. Interesting fact it started out as an elaborate tourist trap and some of the buildings were just facades. Inside/Out features a rotating series of items from the Historical Societys archives of 17,000 objects, 2.5+ million photographs, and 45 million documents.
Recommended Reading: Stepping Stones Museum For Children
Fleet Science Center In Balboa Park
Fleet Science CenterFree Tuesdays are on the 1st Tuesday monthly for San Diego residents, active military and their dependents. Except for February when theres no cost entry for them all month. People typically spend 2 4 hours here.
Investigate the fundamental forces of the universe without blowing yourself up. At the Fleet there are over 100 interactive hand-on exhibits that introduce you to the power of science in our lives. Dont miss Kid City on the second floor if youve got children under 5. Then go see an IMAX movie. Get here early on free days. Its very popular.
How To Watch Movies Free At Balboa Park
Tired of the sameness of current pop culture movies? See more artsy, unique flicks at Screen on the Green on the lawn east of the San Diego Museum of Art.Thursdays at 8PM in August.
All the films are either owned by the museum or inspired by their collection. Bring a blanket, food, and beverages of your choice. You can bring alcoholic drinks, but youll have to finish them before the start of the movie. These events are dog-friendly, but keep your puppies leashed.
Also, check out SummerMoviesInThePark.com. That website lists no-cost movie screenings in Balboa Park and other San Diego city parks. Take the entire crew to past blockbusters and other flicks without spending a dime.
Don’t Miss: Whitney Museum Of American Art Nyc
Veterans Museum And Memorial Center
Veterans Museum and Memorial Center Free Tuesdays are on the 2nd Tuesday monthly for San Diego residents. During February theres no admission charge for them all month. Active duty military personnel are always welcome at no charge People typically spend 45 minutes here.
If you are a military history buff this is going to be your favorite Balboa Park free museum. Here youll find exhibits that focus more on individual stories and artifacts belonging to veterans rather than history lessons on specific wars and battles.
Dont miss The Battle for Outpost Harry display with full-size mock-ups of Korean War bunkers and trenches. The History of Women in the Military exhibit illustrates their evolving role since the Civil War. And seeing their heavy, itchy wool uniforms has made me eternally grateful to the inventor of polyester.
Centro Cultural De La Raza
Centro Cultural de la Raza entry is by donation. Free Tuesdays are on the 1st Tuesday monthly for San Diego residents, active military, and their dependents. Except for February when theres no charge for them for the whole month. Visitors usually take 30 minutes here unless theyre there for a class or a lecture.
The building is a former water tower thats covered inside and out with colorful murals. Its home to rotating exhibits, art, performances and classes featuring the history and culture of local indigenous, Chicano, Mexican and Latino people. And dont miss the Friday Night Market with more artists and food vendors.
Don’t Miss: Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Museum
Balboa Park Free Artists Village
Spanish Village Art Center is always free. Expect to spend a minimum of 1 hour here walking among the colorful shops in the painted courtyard. You could also easily spend an entire day talking with the artists about their process and products.
Spanish Village isnt an art museum, but it is where youll find artists creating art that you can buy. Every object for sale here has been created by the local artists youll meet working in their studios.
Arrive before 4:00 PM on Wednesdays thru Sundays to see artists shaping molten glass from a hot kiln. Theres also a no-cost historical tour of this artists colony thats worth taking. Read more about this attraction on my Top 7 Things to See & Do at Spanish Village in Balboa Park page.
Best Balboa Park Free Hiking Trail
All of Balboa Parks hiking trails are free. But my favorite Balboa Park hiking spot hideaway is in Palm Canyon. Its 2 acres of lush palm trees and blessed shade . There are 58 different species growing here, including some Mexican fan palms that were planted in 1912.
I love the winding paths and the wooden footbridge that goes from the Alcazar Gardens parking lot to across the street from Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Youll pass through Palm Canyon if youre following any of the three Balboa Park trails that come off of the Park Trails Gateway #31, #33, or #34.
Theres another page here on my website where Ive reviewed all the trails in Balboa Park. Youll find the best paths for families, dogs, running or hiking newbies
Also Check: Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift Shop
Best For 5 12 Year Olds
This medium-sized playground is ideal for those who love playing sports and families with dogs. There are slides, monkey bars, swings and a rock-climbing wall to enjoy. It is surrounded by fun places like a swimming pool, dog park and tennis courts. There are a few benches and picnic tables where you can have lunch or just sit and relax while watching the kids.
The closest public restrooms are visible from the playground by the baseball field.
Nature Exploration Area Build a Fort!
Kids can explore, build and play in a safe, natural environment. There arent any plastic climbing structures, shredded rubber surfacing and metal swing sets. But theres boulders to scramble on, logs for making lean-tos, soft wood chips and sand to build on. See what you can construct from imagination and natural materials. Expect to get dirty!
The nearest bathrooms are located close to the east side of the Tennis Stadium just south of the regular tennis courts.
House Of Pacific Relations International Cottages
House of Pacific Relations International Cottages offers free open houses on Saturdays and Sundays. The Hall of Nations has free gatherings on weekends and the 4th Tuesday of each month. There are also free Sunday lawn programs with music and dance at 2:00 PM.
Travel the globe in just a few steps at the International Cottages. Each of 32 houses showcases traditions of different cultural groups. Each Sunday Lawn programs feature songs, music, dance, costumes, arts, crafts, and ethnic foods from one or two of these groups.
To see all of the groups at once attend the Ethnic Food Fair which takes place on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. The Ethnic Market at December Nights also showcases every groups winter traditions and foods. The chows not free, but its delicious. Come hungry!
Also Check: Promotional Code Museum Of Natural History
What Are The Best Free Kids Activities In San Diego
There are many kid-friendly activities to do in San Diego at no cost. Taking a trip to one of the beautiful San Diego beaches should be at the top of your checklist.
Coronado Municipal Beach has relatively calm water that is perfect for kids, while La Jolla Shores Beach is one of San Diegos nicest beaches with a playground for young kids to enjoy.
Other free, kid-friendly spots include Childrens Pool, which is perfect for seal spotting, and Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, where kids will love to run around.
Guide To Balboa Park Museums Free Tuesday
If youve lived in San Diego long enough youve probably have heard of the Balboa Park Museums Free Tuesday.
Residents Free Tuesdaysas the Balboa Park free Tuesday is properly calledare a set of rotating Tuesdays that allow residents of the City and County of San Diego, and active military personnel to visit Balboa Park museums for free.
Balboa Park Free Tuesdays can be a great way to take in a little arts, culture, and education on a budget. It can be a fun opportunity for grandparents to take their grandkids on an adventure or for anybody to hit multiple museums in a day and avoid paying admission at each one.
Recommended Reading: Terry Redlin Museum In Watertown South Dakota
Second Tuesday Free Admission
- Museum of Photographic Arts: This is a “pay-what-you-wish” museum, which was started in 1972 as a museum without walls, and later moved into a custom-designed building in Balboa Park in 1983.
- San Diego History Center: Established in 1928 by local philanthropist George Marston, this museum is one of the oldest of its kind on the West Coast. It moved from its original home on Presidio Hill to Balboa Park in 1982.
- Veterans’ Museum and Memorial Center: This museum was formed in 1989 to honor military veterans.
- San Diego Air & Space Museum