Free is Not the Best Value in San Diego

San Diego’s most prominent tourist attractions can be enjoyed for free.


Target Free Second Sunday at the New Children’s Museum

Free First Tuesday at the San Diego Botanic Garden

Residents Free Tuesdays every month and nearly every Tuesday in Balboa Park.

Kids Go Free October with Legoland, Seaworld, the San Diego Zoo and most museums offering free admission to children when accompanied by a paid adult.

These promotions can be a real blessing for many of us. On the other hand, free is not necessarily the best deal in town, especially when the whole world seems to be in the same place at the same time.

We never got to see Seaworld’s Madagascar Live show thanks to the kids-free-October crowds. We were turned away (but given free admission passes for another date) during the free grand opening of The New Children’s Museum. And it only took one trip to the RH Fleet Science Center for me to realize that, unless they can handle being trampled, Residents Free Tuesday is no place for toddlers.

Here are some of my favorite money-saving tips for visiting San Diego’s attractions…

Visit The New Children’s Museum and the RH Fleet Science Center for free by checking out a circulating membership at your local library. Both of these museum memberships are available through the San Diego Public Library System. The New Children’s Museum membership can also be found at San Diego’s County libraries.

Circulating membership cards can be “checked out” like a library book, just ask your librarian for help. The New Children’s Museum pass checks out for a period of 10 days and allows admission of up to 2 adults and 4 kids. The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center pass checks out for a period of 14 days and allows admission of up to 2 adults and 6 kids. Passes may be used for unlimited visits.

The San Diego Museum of Art has also just announced a circulating membership, giving San Diego Public Library patrons two weeks of free admission for two adults and four children under 18, 10% off at The Museum Store at The San Diego Museum of Art, and 10% off at The Sculpture Court Café.

The Escondido Library System has created a “check it out” program of its own, offering circulating membership cards to the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum.

Need a little more action with your outing? Even attractions like Seaworld and Legoland offer terrific deals.

You can purchase a Seaworld Fun Card today and go for free throughout 2014. Teachers can visit Legoland for free on select days, and their friends and family pay only $43.

Can you put a field trip together? We’ve enjoyed a full day at Legoland with our preschool friends for as little as $8 per student and $22 per sibling and accompanying adult. Are you part of a troop? We’ve gone with the Girl Scouts for as little as $25 per scout and $43 per adult.

If we lived closer, I’m sure we would purchase Legoland memberships, because memberships, in my opinion, are really the best deal you can find.

Too crowded? Leave and visit another day.

Cranky kids? Stay for an hour, and leave without feeling like you’ve wasted money.

Have visitors in town? Most memberships allow for purchasing additional tickets at a discount.

Free parking, gift shop and cafe discounts, sneak previews and admission to special events are other goodies that members often enjoy. Since the kids could walk our favorite membership has been to the Fleet Science Center. Kid City is amazing for kids under 5, the gallery exhibits are always being updated, the IMAX theater is super cool, and you can’t beat a day in Balboa Park.

Oh, and memberships make great holiday gifts. 🙂

2 thoughts on “Free is Not the Best Value in San Diego

  1. Sophia says:

    I never realized you could do so much for free! I tend to buy a city pass as it saves me quite a bit of money especially with a family for 4.

    The only thing I would be little worried about is the crowds on free days as I do have a little one.

  2. Elisa says:

    Homeschoolers love fieldtrips! We always get a group of friends and places 🙂 I a here that crowed places make. Is it’s less fun :/

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