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Dispatches from the Road: Five Awesome Free or Cheap Things in San Diego

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While I haven’t lived in San Diego since 1999, I grew up there and go back to visit three to five times a year. My family still lives there, as do a ton of friends, so even though I’m not dialed in like I am in New York or San Francisco, I still have a pretty good grasp on the place. That said, you don’t have to be the hippest person in San Diego to take advantage of all the awesome free and cheap things that it has to offer. Below are five things I just thought of off the top of my head that make San Diego a great place to be a broke-ass.

Mexican Food

Oh good lord. Look at this magnificent bastard! I love you California Burrito

Holy hell bombs. I fucking love San Diego Mexican food. I’ll take a San Diego burrito over a Mission burrito any day of the week. Not only are they more delicious, they’re a whole lot cheaper as well. My personal favorite is the California burrito. All it is carne asada, cheese, guacamole, and french fries. Yes, you read that right. French fries! Fuck it if it’s not authentic to Mexico, it’s authentic to San Diego. Plus in San Diego you can get rolled tacos (read: taquitos) at all the taquerias which are super cheap as well. You can rock them as a snack or a full meal. I dream about rolled tacos…and fish tacos…and California burritos.

Pro tip: Any taqueria that ends in “-berto’s” is a usually a good bet. Things like Albertos’s, Rigoberto’s, Stuartberto’s…you get it. Also, many taquerias are 24 hours, which is another reason they are awesome.

The Beach

San Diego has 70 miles of beaches. Fucking 70! That’s a lot of sand that can end up in your buttcrack. Sandy cracks aside, the beach is an awesome place to be broke, mainly because you don’t have to spend any money to be there. It used to be that you could legally drink at the beaches in SD until a few years back when, on either 4th of July or Memorial Day or another beach holiday, a bunch of fucking douchebags in Tapout shirts decided to brawl and caused a riot at the beach. So, if you wanna booze it up you gotta be sneaky, but otherwise you can always bring your own food and puff a little weed as well. The cops may fuck with you about the weed, but I figure if you’re a big enough stoner, you probably already have your medical marijuana card anyways.


San Diego is basically just a collection of mesas and canyons. Most of the communities are on top of the mesas with the canyons surrounding them. This means that there’s tons of hiking trails throughout, and if you wanna get real intrepid, you can pretty much hike to any other neighborhood since the canyons are more or less all connected. One downside is that these canyons are also filled with homeless people, so you might wanna be heads up. There’s also a good chance you’ll run into teenagers smoking weed and/or making out. I know that’s exactly what I was doing when I was a teenager in San Diego.

People Watching

This is the kind of ridiculous shit I’m talking about

People in San Diego are really good looking. Something about the perfect weather year round attracts beautiful people from all over the world. That said, while the people become more attractive as you get closer to the water, they also get far less interesting and intelligent. It’s like all that time in the sun and on the sand debilitates their ability for critical thinking. Pacific Beach made me stop believing in god. Seriously, god can’t exist if you have such a high concentration of really hot people who are that fucking stupid.

Amazing View Points

San Diego is a beautiful city. And because of it’s terrain (remember the mesas and canyons and beach stuff I already talked about?) there are exquist view points all over town. Growing up my friends and I would drive around the random backroads of San Diego’s beach towns looking for cool places to (once again) smoke pot and make out. In fact that’s pretty much all we did back then. But we found some pretty incredible places including the cliffs above Black Beach, the top of Mount Soledad, the top of Mount Helix, and a whole bunch of other places I don’t wanna blow up for fear of ruining the few spots teenagers still have left to conduct their nefarious activities.


images from: wikimedia commons, Serious Eats, In a Resort, SD Canyonlands, PB Millionaire News, in e tours

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero":SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.