San Diego is known throughout the United States as a great family vacation destination. Most of the major San Diego family attractions such as Sea World, Legoland, Safari Park and Zoo can cost a family hundreds of dollars apiece to visit. For families on a budget, San Diego also offers many low cost or free activities that children and adults will love and are not too far from Hotel Circle in San Diego . Some of the best include:
Located in Balboa Park, next to the famous San Diego Zoo, the Balboa Park Model Railroad is a true antique model G16 small train that takes delighted children on a ride through gardens, a tunnel and past old-fashioned "Burma Shave" styled signs. Adults love this as much as kids, and at only $3 a ride it is a bargain. Nearby is a classic carousel equipped with real brass rings for more retro amusement fun for the family.
At the end of Point Loma, in the middle of the Cabrillo National Monument, kids can get their hands wet in a diverse intertidal zone. At the tidepools families can expect to see sea stars, crabs, anemones, and even occasional octopus or lobster at low tide. During certain times of the year you can also see whales passing by the point. Your $5 a car admission also allows you access to the Point Loma Lighthouse and museum and a breathtaking view of downtown San Diego.
Just down the street from Sea World lies the Paradise Point Resort, where families can feed wild birds, fish and even sharks at the resort's pool. For just a couple dollars worth of change, your kids will get a close up wildlife experience without paying hundreds of dollars to go to Sea World. Adults will appreciate the nearby barefoot bar right on the beach. For a bonus free wildlife visit, stop by the Bahia Resort, also on Mission Bay, to visit their resident seals in their outdoor pool.
A short 45 mile drive from Downtown San Diego is Julian, a former gold mining town. Walking around town and visiting the historic shops is free.
Photo: phew_album/FlickrIn the fall, apple picking is a fun family activity for as little as $5 a bag. For more adventurous history buffs, try taking the Julian Train and Gold Mine Tour. Ride a real, working train down into a gold mine to learn the history of gold mining in the area. Adults are $15 and kids are only $12 for this fun and educational activity. Follow up with a slice of world-famous Julian Apple Pie.
Another of Balboa Park's best kept secrets is the International Houses of Hospitality. These small cottages were built for the Pan-American Exposition of 1915, but still retain their charm today. Every Sunday from 12-3, these cottages open and serve food and drink from their native countries. Everything is free, but a small donation is encouraged. Little ones will love going into all the little houses and learning about the countries they represent. Each week there is a rotating lawn program as well, with native singing and dancing that kids of all ages will love.