Free Dates in San Diego (and elsewhere!)

Keep an eye on your account balance while keeping the romance alive.

Most of us in relationships know that dedicated date nights are a good idea, especially once the relationship becomes committed and settles a bit. But a nice dinner and a show can get a little pricey. Fortunately for you and your bank account, expense ≠ romance. A little creativity and planning can make all the difference and that thoughtfulness is what really translates to your partner. Without further ado, here are some ideas for free dates in San Diego. If you're not in our lovely city, no worries! Try looking for an equivalent locale for your area.

While you are together, take advantage of the opportunity to connect. Whether you are in the early dating phase or have been together for years, you probably already realize how the busyness of life can suck the romance out of a relationship.  For every suggestion for free dates in San Diego, we have also included a talking point to grease the conversation wheels. Do your best to focus your energy on one another and have fun! Loosen up, play, and if things don’t go as planned, there’s nothing wrong with a little Netflix and chill until next date night. 😉

1. Have a coffee date at the library.

Figure out which library location is closest to you or looks like the most fun. Make your drinks at home and put them in to-go cups or pick something up on the way. You can have a quiet reading date together or look through magazines or books for your next project. Maybe you’re dreaming of setting up a garden or getting a dog. Have a research date and dream big — after all, this is for fun! Even if the ideas don’t come to fruition in the immediate future, the real purpose is to give you two the opportunity to spend time together and enjoy the dreaming phase.

2. Check out the Sunny Jim Sea Cave.

Technically this isn’t free – but it’s only $5 each! You can explore a beautiful landmark with your lover. Enter through the Cave Store and check out the fossilized walls. Check out hours and more info on the Cave Store website. Fun fact: Frank Baum (author of Wizard of Oz) named the cave! As you explore underground or on the drive home, dig a little deeper in conversation. What is something you haven’t talked about in awhile or ever? Share a childhood memory or what you always wanted to be when you grew up.

3. Go for a harbor walk.

Head down to Seaport Village and hold hands while you enjoy the waves, gulls, and USS Midway. Go window shopping and grab a drink if you feel like it. Sometimes you can catch live music. There is a beautiful view of the ocean during the day or at sunset. At night there are lights from the harbor so it can be a romantic evening locale as well. There’s nothing wrong with a quiet walk, but if you’re looking for a talking point, think of something you love about your significant other that may surprise them, like their handwriting or the freckle on their ear.


Most of us in relationships know that dedicated dates are a good idea, especially once the relationship becomes committed and settles a bit. But a nice dinner and a show can get a little pricey. Fortunately for you and your bank account, expense ≠ romance. A little creativity and planning can make all the difference and that thoughtfulness is what really translates to your partner. | Free Dates Night Ideas via @EstesTherapy | #datenight #freedatenight #sandiego

4. Take a doggie date.

Are you or your significant other a pet person? If you have a pooch of your own, leash ’em up and take them to the dog-friendly Doggie Cafe. No pup? No problem. Take a walk through the humane society and check out their dogs, cats, rabbits, and whatever other animal they are currently rescuing. Maybe you’ll find a new friend, but you’ll definitely find yummy food and drinks at the cafe. This is a good place to have a conversation about volunteering; how can the two of you have a positive impact on the world around you? If you already have those habits, spend some time talking about how that is going and your plans for the future.

5. Have a sunset picnic at Sunset Cliffs.

Find out what time sunset is on your date day then pack sandwiches and water or get elevate the evening with take out. When it comes to free dates in San Diego, this is a popular spot but that doesn’t make it any less special! Get there earlier enough to find a great angle for sunset — there are eight miles of cliffs and almost no way to go wrong. Some people like to take a leap from the cliffs — but it’s not legal! Instead, have a conversation about your bucket list with your loved one so you can jump off the deep end another time.

5. Enjoy a free Tuesday at Balboa Park.

If you’re a San Diego resident, hopefully you already know all about this. But have you taken advantage of it yet? As a public service, Park organizations offer free admission on a rotating basis on the first four Tuesdays of the month to San Diego City & County residents (with ID), active military & their dependents.  You can find the details here. In the museums, go slow and absorb what you are seeing and feeling. Find your favorite exhibits and talk about how they impact you. It may seem silly sometimes, but who better to be goofy with than your favorite person!

6. Looking for free dates in San Diego’s Balboa Park not on a Tuesday?

Take the Estes Therapy Balboa Park scavenger hunt!

In the interest of supporting more free dates in San Diego, we made a list of fun things you can see throughout Balboa Park.  Download our FREE photo scavenger hunt sheet below and take your date on a photographic adventure. All you need is your smartphone – unless you’re feeling extra artsy then grab your camera, too. If you use our Balboa Park Scavenger Hunt sheet, please tag us @Estes_Therapy and use the hashtag #EstesTherapyBPSH so we can join in on the fun!


Keep in mind that dating should be fun so enjoy yourselves! Do what feels like you two and make fun time together a regular part of your routine. Whether you find opportunities for free dates in San Diego or invest a little more in a fancier experience, the whole point is to connect with your partner. Surprise, surprise: you may find that you like each other more and that affection flows more naturally at other times as well.

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Your turn!

Where are your favorite places to go on dates in San Diego or your city — free or otherwise?

About Jennine Estes, MFT

Think of me as your relationship consultant, I'm your neutral third party that can help you untangle the emotions and help you figure out what's really going on. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, CA. Certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples. Supervisor. I write relationship and self growth advice for my column Relationships in the Raw. Creator of #BeingLOVEDIs campaign. MFC#47653