Best Cheap Date Ideas San Diego
Credit: Flagship Cruises & Events

11 Cheap Date Ideas in San Diego That Won’t Hurt Your Wallet

Here’s How to Have Some Fun Without Breaking the Bank

While San Diego is home to an impressive mix of amazing restaurants—from award-winning steakhouses to sleek sushi spots—but sometimes the cost of dining out can feel like a major splurge. If you’re ready to save your hard-earned cash and start getting creative with your date nights, let us be your guide! After all, we want to maximize great experiences, not our tabs. Whether you’re looking to try new things with your partner or win over potential dating app suitors with unique ideas, you’re in the right place. We’ve rounded up 11 of the best date ideas in San Diego that won’t break the bank.

 

Explore the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park 

Price: $14 per person

Japanese Friendship Garden
Credit: Dominic Nepomuceno

It’s hard to believe you’re still in San Diego when you enter the sprawling, 12-acre zen oasis that is the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park. Just $14 to enter, you could spend all day peacefully meandering among koi ponds, waterfalls and bamboo groves. Symbolizing the friendship between San Diego and Yokohama, Japan, this garden weaves in elements of both—and it’s gorgeous. Hold hands with your date as you stroll across the Japanese-style bridge, or stop by a bench and bask in the sounds of trickling water. When you’re done, stop for some tea at the traditional tea house and just enjoy each other’s company (talk about romantic!). 

Location: Balboa Park

 

Hike to Cedar Creek Falls

Price: $6 per person

Cedar Creek Falls
Credit: Jacqueline Thornton

If you’re feeling adventurous (or want to test your date’s outdoor skills), head out to Ramona to hike Cedar Creek Falls. You’ll each need a permit and ID, so purchase online ahead of time (your date will love that you came prepared). You’ll hike around 6 miles out and back through beautiful woods, ending at an 80-foot waterfall with a swimming hole at the bottom. You know in “The Bachelor” how they’re always kissing under some gorgeous cascading waterfall? Yeah, that could be you.

Location: Ramona

 

Take the Coronado Ferry Across to Coronado

Price: $14 per person

Coronado Ferry
Credit: Flagship Cruises & Events

Nothing says romance like a boat ride on a sunny day. The ferry to Coronado leaves every hour starting at 9 a.m. from the Broadway Pier or every half hour from the Convention Center starting at 9:10 a.m. You can purchase your tickets there or save time by getting them online. For just $14 each, you can spend the day in Coronado visiting the famous Hotel Del, getting ice cream at MooTime Creamery or embarking on a gondola cruise through the Coronado Cays. Just make sure to catch the return ferry by 9:30 p.m. (10:30 on Fridays and Saturdays). Despite what they tell you, getting stuck on an island is not romantic.

Location: Coronado

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Browse at the Little Italy Mercato

Price: Free

Every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. (and Wednesdays from 9:30 to 1:30 too, if your schedule allows), Little Italy’s Mercato Farmers Market is in full swing. Known for being the largest farmers market in San Diego County, this one spans six city blocks with local vendors serving up farm-fresh produce, gorgeous plants, homemade treats and more. Beyond the food, you can find local artists and creatives selling jewelry, candles, clothing and unique items you can’t find anywhere else. Stroll down the street sampling fruits with your date or even pick ingredients to cook a gourmet meal together at home! Bonus points if he buys you flowers.

Location: Little Italy

 

Ride the Giant Dipper Rollercoaster at Belmont Park

Price: $8 per person

Coaster at Belmont Park
Credit: Mike Greening

Belmont Park is home to the Giant Dipper—San Diego’s famous, classic wooden roller coaster. It offers stunning views of the ocean and adrenaline-induced hand holding as an added bonus. For just $8 per person, you can twist, turn, dip and scream your way through this journey right alongside your date (trauma bonding, anyone?). At the end of your ride, you can cruise along the boardwalk for sunset views, grab a drink at a local bar, or hit the arcade for some competitive fun. If you’re lucky, maybe your date will even win you a prize (because nothing’s more charming than a hard-earned, giant teddy bear).

Location: Mission Beach

 

Kayak Through the La Jolla Sea Caves 

Price: $35-60 per per person (pricing varies)

Date Ideas San Diego
Credit: La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks

It takes two to tandem, and we’ve got the perfect place for that. At the La Jolla Sea Caves, you can rent a kayak for two for just $35 an hour and go paddle among the sea lions. Picture this: you’re sitting on the front of a kayak as your partner does all the work behind you. You feel the cool ocean breeze in your hair, smell the salt in the air and watch as seagulls glide overhead. The sun shines down on your face before you enter into a gorgeous sea cave. Just make sure you have some previous kayaking experience—otherwise, you may want to opt for a guided tour of the caves. Check their website for more details.

Location: La Jolla

 

Watch a Padres Game From the Lawn in Gallagher Square

Price: $25-35 per person (prices vary based on date, demand and quality of the Padres opponent)

Spring training for the 2024 MLB season starts in February and we couldn’t be more excited to catch a Padres game this year! Gallagher Square is also known as the “Park at the Park” because it’s a park inside of Petco Park. Because it’s inside, you do still need a ticket to watch the game, but they’re often a lot cheaper than regular seats (plus you get the cute picnic vibe). It’s all open lawn seating, so you can bring chairs or a blanket and get comfy. You’ll still have a view of the field with the added bonus of gorgeous palm trees and the city skyline (it’s arguably a better vibe, if we’re being honest). Grab some popcorn, cozy up and if you’re lucky, the Padres won’t be the only ones stealing bases tonight.

Location: Gaslamp Quarter

 

Catch a Flick at Rooftop Cinema Club

Price: Approx. $20 per person

You can’t go wrong with a good old-fashioned movie date. It’s tried and true. It’s romantic. It’s the perfect opportunity for some light cuddling, hand holding or sharing popcorn. But a regular movie theater can get boring, and you don’t want your date thinking you’re not creative. Enter the Rooftop Cinema Club in downtown San Diego. Here, you can watch an older movie in an Adirondack loveseat outdoors on a rooftop with views of the San Diego skyline. They show classics like “10 Things I Hate About You” and “500 Days of Summer” as well as newer favorites like “Barbie” and “The Dark Knight.” Hint: pick rom-com or horror for maximum cuddling.

Location: Downtown

 

Visit Oceanside’s Listening Bar, Sound by the Sea

Price: The cost of a couple cocktails

Date Ideas San Diego
Credit: Sound by the Sea

Have you ever been to a listening bar? Are you fancy enough to even know what that is? Brand new to Oceanside, Sound by the Sea is a bar specifically designed for an incredible music-listening experience. They use a vintage sound system and state-of-the-art technology to play uniquely curated music, drawing in music lovers from all over. They serve up fresh, seasonal Mediterranean small plates and hand-crafted cocktails to create the perfect vibe for your date. If you’re not big drinkers (or want to keep your first date sober), they also offer a wide selection of teas and fresh coffee. Groove away.

Location: Oceanside

 

Play a Game of Tappers Mini Golf at The Loma Club

Cost: $14 per person (for nine holes) or $21 (for 18 holes)

Right across from Corvette Diner in Liberty Station is The Loma Club, a historic gathering point that was once part of the San Diego Country Club way back in the early 1900s. You’d never guess it was that old, though, with its hip and modern mini golf course. You can grab drinks from the bar and head out to the course for a nine- or 18-hole round of putt-putt. It’s perfect for a date night because you still get that element of competitive fun without the grunge and jankiness of your typical mini-golf course. Plus, you can do that thing where you “learn” how to swing a golf club.

Location: Point Loma (in Liberty Station)

 

Sunset Picnic at Kate Sessions Park

Cost: Free

Kate Sessions Park is a San Diego favorite for a romantic picnic. Located at the top of Mount Soledad, it’s known for its beautiful views. Plan your date when the sky is clear, and you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of Mission Bay, downtown San Diego and (hopefully) a gorgeous pink and orange sunset. When you arrive, you’ll see lots of dogs running around and people playing games, drinking beers, having picnics or maybe even doing some acroyoga. Curl up on a blanket with a home-cooked meal, wine and charcuterie board, or some yummy takeout and you’ve got the perfect (budget-friendly) date setup. But be sure to bring extra blankets—it can get chilly up there!

Location: Pacific Beach

 

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Sara grew up in San Diego and recently moved back after living on the Central Coast and traveling around Latin America for a while. Passionate about wellness both personally and professionally, she's worked for brands like Mindbody, Classpass, and Headspace and is a 200-hour registered yoga teacher (come take her class at YogaSix North Carlsbad!). Through it all, she's always had a passion for writing and loves contributing to Locale Magazine.

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