ARGGH! It’s September!

Of course we mean, phew, the kids are back at school and everything, but, arrrrrgh, where has this year gone?

It’s that time of the year where you let out a big sigh over the total cost of summer entertainment and back to school prep. And then an even bigger sigh when you think about the calendar dates crammed in to the next few months- Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and then Christmas and New Year.

So ultimately it’s that time of year where FREE or low cost family fun ideas are most welcome.

Luckily for us, our year round sunshine and wealth of beautiful beaches means that we have a lot of free outdoor options for families, as well as indoor, (Buccaneer Beach and Moonlight Beach are the best aren’t they? We’re so lucky!). But beaches and sand filled cars aside, here are our top FIVE cash friendly favorite places in the County:



A little closer to our Vista home than the San Diego Botanic Gardens in Encinitas – and a little smaller – the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens is full of character and charm. And is still evolving. It’s beautiful, varied, peaceful (even with little ones in tow) and offers some striking views of the local area. While not all pathways are stroller friendly (some are steep and uneven!), you can work around the garden with wheels. It is very kid friendly – in no walking distance at all, right by the entrance, you will find a stroller friendly music garden for the kids (adorable!), play tunnels, a butterfly tepee and a picnic area. Best of all, the gardens are also bursting with sculptures – imagine your kid’s face as they turn a corner and discover a giant metal T-Rex, a Scorpion or a Giraffe (The metal artwork is by Ricardo Breceda).

Admission is $3 based on the honor system – bring your own lunch, walking shoes, hats and sunscreen and that’s a cheap and beautiful lunch date with the kids – plus a few dinosaurs here and there.

1270 Vale Terrace Dr, Vista.



Beyond visiting your local library to check out new bedtime tales, don’t forget to check out their events calendar too, either on site or online. We have some fantastic libraries in the County, offering regular story time, arts and crafts, kids’ yoga, family movie nights – even programs that will let your little ones read to cuddly dogs (awwwww!). All FREE of charge.

Various locations.



Once you hit the trail and are out of sight and sound of the I-5, this FREE ecological reserve is a gem. It is bursting with nature and bustling with hikers, dog walkers and families on an adventure stroll. Most of the trail is stroller friendly and there are plenty of little bench stops for tired little legs, or snack attack breaks. (Note, bicycles are not allowed). The public walking and hiking trail is about two miles long and you can pick up a pamphlet at the educational center which helps you know what animals and plants to look out for.

……And for those that might care, we’ve been told there is a bunch of Pokemon to pick up on the trail. So you could always make it a family Pokemon Go hunt. The older ‘littles’ will LOVE that!

7380 Gabbiano Lane, Carlsbad.



Bring a tent, hats, sunscreen, swimwear and a picnic and just spend an afternoon relaxing on the beautiful lawn in front of the water fountains and play area. Completely FREE. And if you want to avoid parking drama, you can always make it a real adventure and take the scenic Coaster train down to Santa Fe Station and simply walk to the park. It’s not far at all – and so much fun!

1600 Pacific Hwy, San Diego.



How many of us remember to take advantage of the free museum days? So many of the main city museums, including the New Children’s Museum and the Natural History Museum, offer San Diego and County residents FREE admission on select days each month – to find out which days are free, visit

And take note, this October, San Diego Museum Council invites kids to explore even more of San Diego’s diverse museums – for free! From October 1-31, children ages 12 and under receive free admission with a paid adult (limit 2) at more than 40 museums including Birch Aquarium at Scripps. For more info and to download the coupon, visit

Various locations.


So that’s our top five….but we’re also throwing in an extra one for you for free of charge. Number 6: LOCAL STORES! Like us. Keep your ear to the ground and follow your favorite family stores on Social Media to find out if and when they might be hosting some FREE in-store entertainment. We do regular events like complimentary baby and toddler story time for example, (check out our events calendar here for dates), while stores like Wild Birds Unlimited on El Camino Real host regular live animal presentations, which both the kids and parents will love!

Have fun out and about guys!