Looking for a fall road trip with the kids? Head for San Diego.
SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo, Legoland California and other attractions offer free admission for kids in October.
The annual Kids Free San Diego promotion is designed to attract visitors after the peak summer season. More than 100 theme parks, museums, tours, activities, hotels and restaurants participate.
The savings are significant, as anyone who’s trotted a family through the turnstile at any of San Diego’s major attractions knows.
General admission to SeaWorld is $95 per person for age 3 and older at the gate. That’s nearly $400 for a family of four before parking, snacks and souvenirs.
(Cheaper tickets are available online in advance.)
Ready to plan your trip? Here’s our complete guide to the best of San Diego. It has info on hotels, restaurants, bars and things to do.
5 money-saving tips for San Diego’s ‘Kids Free’ month
1. The biggest savings are at the marquee attractions
- With the kids free promotion, adults pay $95 and kids ages 3-9 get in free at SeaWorld. (One free child per paying adult.)
- The San Diego Zoo has one of the most generous offers, allowing one adult to take in as many as 10 children age 11 and younger for free. Adults pay $52 per person; kids normally pay $42.
- The zoo, which unveiled its mammoth new Africa Rocks exhibit over the summer, also has special activities planned during Kids Free October.
Overwhelmed by the size of the zoo? These tips will help you decide what to see.
2. You don’t have to wait for October for free kids admission at some places.
Legoland and SeaWorld began offering free kids admission in mid-August and will offer it through Oct 31.
3. Rules — including eligible kids ages — vary by attraction.
Do your vacation homework in advance in case the deal is not offered at the gate or carries other restrictions. Some attractions only offer the deal on specific tickets, so do the math to make sure the offer is the best one for your budget.
4. Been there, done that with ‘the big four’?
Have you been to San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, Legoland and San Diego Zoo Safari Park too many times to count?
- Spend the day in luscious Balboa Park instead. Its museums — including the Fleet Science Center, San Diego Air & Space Museum and San Diego Model Railroad Museum — have free admission for kids.
- Or head to the harbor-front downtown and spend a few fascinating hours at the USS Midway Museum. Grab lunch at the new Carnitas’ Snack Shack at the Embarcadero, which is offering two free kids combo meals with the purchase of each adult meal in October. The restaurant’s original location in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood was featured on the Food Network and Travel Channel.
- Finish your downtown day with a harbor cruise. Hornblower and Flagship are offering free kids tickets.
- Another day, take a scenic drive up the coast and stop in La Jolla to visit the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, another participating attraction.
5. Don’t schedule too much in one day with young children.
I took my 4-year-old niece to San Diego a couple years ago and wore her out. Pick a small number of activities and build in time for naps and play.
All the Kids Free deals are posted on San Diego’s tourism website. You can search by area, activity, attraction, price, keyword and more.