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Kids Free San Diego in October for Budget Conscious Families

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San Diego is one of the most family friendly cities in the world. With plenty of beaches, museums and theme parks, there is something for kids of all ages to enjoy in this popular vacation destination. But it’s not a cheap place to visit. Hotels, admission tickets and food costs can really add up and make it tough for a family to take in all San Diego has to offer, especially during peak travel times like summer and spring break. If you want to visit San Diego with kids and stay within your travel budget, plan a trip during the month of October. The San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau devotes the entire month to making this SoCal city fun and affordable for families with its Kids Free San Diego Month each October.

Kids Free San Diego

Kids Free San Diego Month

More than 100 San Diego businesses and attractions offer free options for kids throughout San Diego County during Kids Free San Diego Month. Take advantage of complimentary admissions, meals and other goodies at restaurants, museums to even large theme parks like Sea World and Legoland California.

Purchase discounted LEGOLAND California tickets now.

Last year my kids and I took full advantage of Kids Free San Diego. Here is just a sampling of the great offers you can snap up while visiting San Diego in October.

The San Diego Zoo welcomes families during Kids Free San Diego

The San Diego Zoo welcomes families during Kids Free San Diego

San Diego Zoo

One of the most famous zoos in the world, the San Diego Zoo and its sister property, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, admit kids ages 11 and younger for free throughout October.

My family spent a full morning at the San Diego Zoo viewing pandas, giraffes, cheetahs and more. There are lots of add-on experiences at the zoo as well, such as bus tours and backstage passes to feed the giraffes. Our favorite experience of the day was getting to pet Galapagos turtles, some of which are more than 150 years old.

Be sure to stop by the newly opened Australian Outback exhibit, featuring all sorts of animals from Down Under. View cuddly koalas, bouncing wallabies and laughing kookaburras.

San Diego's beautiful Balboa Park

San Diego’s beautiful Balboa Park

Museums and Cultural Activities

More than 30 museums and cultural attractions open their doors to kids ages 12 and under during Kids Free San Diego. What a great chance for children to learn, explore and have fun! Participating museums include the USS Midway Museum and New Children’s Museum in downtown, the Children’s Discovery Museum in Escondido, and 14 museums located in Balboa Park.

My family opted to soak up some of the beauty at Balboa Park, the location of the first World’s Fair. Before we headed to the museums, we walked around the Spanish Village Art Center and marveled at some of the inspiring architecture within the park. It’s a great place to picnic and spend the day.

Learn by doing at San Diego's Reuben H. Fleet Science Center

My son learning by doing at Reuben H. Fleet Science Center

The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center with its hands-on activities aplenty is one of the most popular museums with kids at Balboa Park. It’s so relaxing to be able to walk into a museum and not yell “Kids! Don’t touch!” every five minutes! Here kids can learn all about inertia, gravity, sound, tornadoes, optical illusions and other scientific phenomena.

Kids Eat Free at numerous restaurants throughout San Diego County each Octobe

Kids Eat Free at numerous restaurants throughout San Diego County each October

San Diego Restaurants

One of the most costly parts of any family vacation is food. Even the most savvy travelers can get stung by high meal costs at theme parks and restaurants. This is where Kids Free San Diego can have a huge impact. Several restaurants throughout San Diego County offer Kids Eat Free throughout the month. Ranging from upscale dining to more casual fare, it is easy to save big on dining out during your San Diego vacation.

During our weekend stay, we sampled American cuisine at Croce’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar in the Gaslamp Quarter, ate al fresco at Acqua in the Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa, dined with Shamu at SeaWorld San Diego, enjoyed a delicious breakfast overlooking the beaches of La Jolla at The Shores Restaurant, and got some Polynesian flavor at the Catamaran Resort and Spa on Mission Bay. Every meal was divine and my 7-year-old daughter was delighted that each restaurant provided kid-friendly menus, crayons and activity books to keep her happy while we dined.

Kids ages 2-12 have a blast at Legoland California

Kids ages 2-12 have a blast at Legoland California

San Diego Theme Parks

What kid doesn’t love a good theme park? I was surprised to learn that big ticket attractions like SeaWorld San Diego and Legoland California participate in the Kids Free San Diego promotion. A family of four or five can easily fork out several hundred dollars to spend a day at a theme park, so taking advantage of this offer is another huge money-saver. Both Legoland and SeaWorld are decorated to the hilt for Halloween, making October a spooktacular time to visit these parks.

SeaWorld San Diego offers one child aged 3 to 10 free admission with the purchase of a full-paid adult admission. This special also includes free meals for kids who want to dine with Shamu! Even though we live in San Diego, this was our first time visiting SeaWorld. Our favorite moment of the day was feeding the seals, which were anxious to catch fish tossed their way and very willing to pose for photo opps!

Legoland California is designed for families with children ages 2 to 11, with thrill rides for the older kids and tons of fun for little ones. Legoland offers one free child park hopper ticket to kids ages 12 and under with the purchase of one full price adult park hopper ticket.

SeaWorld San Diego's animal attractions aplenty

SeaWorld San Diego’s animal attractions aplenty

San Diego Hotels

In addition to Kids Eat Free offers, many San Diego hotels offer special gifts or other family friendly activities during the month of October. Choose from such resorts as La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, Residence Inn San Diego Downtown/Gaslamp Quarter, and San Diego Marriott Del Mar. My family stayed at the Hilton San Diego and found it comfortable and fun for the whole family. (Read my review here!)

The beach is always free but you can save big on beach activities during Kids Free San Diego

The beach is always free but you can save big on beach activities during Kids Free San Diego

Beach Activities

Of course, no trip to San Diego would be complete without hitting the beach, which is ALWAYS free no matter what time of year you visit! Take advantage of free beach-time activities during Kids Free San Diego with surfing lessons, kayaking, or deep-sea fishing.

More to explore in San Diego in October

As local residents, my family plans to fully enjoy Kids Free San Diego again this year. If you’re not local to San Diego, definitely consider booking a trip in October! There’s even more to explore for free than what I’ve covered here. Check out the Kids Free San Diego website now to learn more!

A Note from Travel Mamas: Thank you to the San Diego Tourism Authority for sponsoring this trip. All photos by Gigi Ross.

About Gigi Ross, The Organized Travel Mama

Gigi Ross, The Organized Travel Mama, is a regular contributor to She is a tech-obsessed mom who’s lived in eight different cities in the last fifteen years. Her blog, KludgyMom is a sometimes-snappish, sometimes-heartfelt take on parenting and pop culture. Gigi’s writing has been featured at, BlogHer and Mamapedia. She currently lives in San Diego, California with her husband and two kids, who are all scheming to rid her of her fear of camping. Connect with Gigi on Twitter as @KludgyMom.

  1. Do you know if this is every October? We are planning to go to CA next October and wondered if this is an annual thing. Thank you for the great article

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Bowerbank – Kids Free San Diego is an annual promotion every October. I hope your family loves San Diego as much as mine does!

  2. How crowded is LEGOLAND during the free October Free Kids promotion?

  3. I cannot find any information on Kids Free October for 2014. The website’s page for Kid’s Free October lists nothing when you search based on 2014 dates. I found 2013’s Sea World coupon but nothing for 2014. is active but the videos don’t work on my mac, I’m not sure if that’s a sign that it’s outdated.

  4. Janny Thao says

    Is this valid for 2018?

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