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Free Things To Do In San Diego County - Oceanside

Updated on June 8, 2012

Oceanside is the northernmost city in San Diego County, just south of Camp Pendleton. It has all of the activities one might expect in a beach town plus more, and a lot of them are free. The Oceanside Harbor has a shopping village and marina and makes for a great perch from which to watch the people and watercraft pass. Several surfing competitions, including the Annual Oceanside Longboard Surfing Club Competition, take place throughout the year at the Harbor Beach or just south at The Jetties, where the San Luis Rey River meets the sea. A little further south is the Oceanside City Beach, otherwise known as The Strand, which has a (sometimes crowded) boardwalk for walking, skating or biking, and a great pier for fishing.

From the pier, follow Pier View Way inland a few blocks to check out the California Surf Museum (www.surfmuseum.org) and the Oceanside Museum of Art (http://www.oma-online.org), both of which are free to the public on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. The Oceanside Museum of Art also hosts several free family art sessions on Sundays from 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. On Thursdays, The Morning Farmer's Market takes place along this route at Pier View Way and Coast Highway from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m., while the Sunset Market is just down the street from 5 p.m. - 9 p.m. Additionally, the nearby Oceanside Public Library (http://www.ci.oceanside.ca.us/cals/) hosts a variety of free weekly story times, book clubs and arts and crafts sessions for people of all ages.

Oceanside hosts several free annual celebrations in this general vicinity as well. If you happen to be in town in during April, you may be able to catch Oceanside Days of Art, the annual street fair sponsored by the Oceanside Cultural Arts Foundation (http://www.ocaf.info/). Also during April, check out the Sunrise on the Shore Easter Service sponsored by New Venture Christian Fellowship (760-721-7777). In May, Oceanside hosts The Southern California Beach Soccer Championships, the largest beach soccer festival in the United States. And every year near the end of June or beginning of July, you can catch the Oceanside Freedom Days Parade, complete with music, food vendors and a street fair, followed by fireworks after sunset on the pier (http://www.oceansideparade.com). Later in July is the annual Christmas in July Artisan Fair, now held at the Old Mission Montessori School (http://omms.org/). Also during the summer, Oceanside's Rancho del Oro Park hosts a Free Summer Concert Series beginning in late June or early July (www.ci.oceanside.ca.us). Heading into fall, Oceanside Harbor Days usually takes place one of the last weekends in September and features food, arts, crafts, and family activities (http://www.oceansidechamber.com). Toward the end of October or beginning of November, the Mission San Luis Rey hosts the traditional Mexican Day of the Dead festival, which celebrates the lives of deceased ancestors (mslrdiadelosmuertos.com). In December, be sure to get down to the Harbor for the annual Oceanside Parade of Lights (http://visitoceanside.org/event/oceanside-parade-of-lights/).

Heading inland on Oceanside Blvd, The North County Model Railroad Society welcomes visitors on Thursdays from 3-5 and Saturdays 11-2, however it is advisable to arrange your visit ahead of time by phone 760-722-7366 or email info@ncmrs.org. Also heading east, on the San Luis Mission Expy (76), lies Guajome County Park, which has a few long hiking/jogging trails, a small lake for fishing or watching ducks, a picnic area and a playground. Camping is allowed here as well, but this part is not free. Neither is the parking lot ($3), although you can avoid this fee if you park on the road.

Heading south, on the way to Carlsbad, Oceanside's smallest beach is located across the street from Buccaneer Park, and has a picnic area, playground and public restrooms. Also, The Buena Vista Audubon Society Nature Center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 - 2 and Sunday from 1 - 4, offering free guided birding and nature tours in the area surrounding the Buena Vista Lagoon. They also offer a preschool story time. Visit the website (http://www.bvaudubon.org) or call (760-439-2473) for the current schedule.

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