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TinyFest in San Diego: Make Sure You Go!

TinyFest in San Diego: Make Sure You Go!

Ever feel stuck paying rent or a mortgage on a space that you don’t fully use because all your time is spent working to pay for it?  Go to TinyFest in San Diego to glimpse another way of life – via tiny houses!

If you look at your budget and you’re spending too much income on housing…maybe it’s time to think tiny.  Tiny houses can increase your savings and reduce your environmental impact

Whether you’re merely curious or you’re ready to dive straight in, TinyFest California will help you along your journey.  You can see professional builders and DIYers right next to each other.

In this tiny house festival, you can see converted vans, buses, ambulances, cargo trailers, and tiny homes on wheels (THOWs).  Here, you can go inside tiny homes and see how much space there really is.  And, you can talk to the owners about their lifestyles while doing it!

If this interests you, read on and come along for the ride! 🙂

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TinyFest in San Diego in a Nutshell: The Facts

View from across the water of TinyFest in San Diego, both the indoor expo and nomad village shown.
View of Indoor and Outdoor Expos

📅 TinyFest California in San Diego 2024 will be on March 16th & 17th and the location will be the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

🎟️ Tickets cost $20/person and parking costs $20 for the whole event (you can get $5 off/day of parking by clicking here).

🕙 The hours are from 10 am – 5 pm both days.

📋 The tiny house festival will have both indoor and outdoor event areas.  A complete schedule will come out closer to the event, usually in February.  Trust that the organizers will do a great job and have fascinating speakers!

🍔 You can purchase food for lunch from the vendors or eat your food in your vehicle in the parking lot.

➡️ ➡️ For those looking to get into a tiny lifestyle…TinyFest in San Diego offers unparalleled opportunities to explore as many options as possible and physically be in those spaces.

➡️ ➡️ For those already in the tiny lifestyle…it’s a great opportunity to connect with other nomads! I’ve met some great friends who I might not have otherwise met because we have different styles of tiny.

Getting to & Staying Near TinyFest in San Diego with Map

Above, you can see the general location of TinyFest California at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. You can zoom in or out to get your bearings.

🏠 Accommodation: You can stay at numerous nearby hotels in Del Mar. The closest two hotels are the Hilton San Diego/Del Mar and the Winner’s Circle Resort.

Alternatively, you could pay to camp at the RV campground immediately next to the event. However, the RV campground does not have tent pads.

If you live in your rig and want to be in Nomad Village, you need to contact TinyFest early (not the week of). Want to get close enough to make the drive last minute? Check out these 6 van life winter locations within a day’s drive of San Diego.

🚗 Driving: It’s roughly 22 minutes with no traffic from the center of San Diego. From the center of Los Angeles, it’s roughly a 1 hour, 40-minute drive.

What Happens at a Tiny House Festival

My FAVORITE part of tiny house festivals is that you can physically get into tiny homes to feel the space.

That’s right.  Whether it’s a professional van build or DIY skoolie, you can go inside (respectfully) and see what it feels like in those spaces. 🚌

Maybe you’ve watched van life videos on YouTube. 📺 Maybe you’ve read blogs about tiny homes on wheels.  Most of the photos and videos in tiny spaces use a wide-angle lens.  This gives the perception of more space.  At TinyFest in San Diego, you can go inside and see what it really feels like.

Moreover, you can talk to the people who have built their own tiny homes or how they chose their builders.  You can get firsthand knowledge about what went well and what they would do differently.

🎤 While you explore all these options, you can also go to two different stages to hear speeches and panel discussions where you can ask questions!

Just about any resource you need to look into going tiny will be at TinyFest California.  And, if that one resource isn’t there, someone else will have helpful knowledge to get you there. 📚

There are so many small moving parts that you won’t get bored…there’s always something to see.  The breakdown of the smaller moving parts is below.

See Professionally Built Tiny Homes on Wheels (THOW)

Overview of TinyFest in San Diego
THOWs are mostly on the left.

If you want to explore tiny living that’s not fully nomadic, you should definitely check out Tiny Homes on Wheels or THOW for short.

🛻 A THOW is a tiny home built on a sturdy trailer that can be pulled by a large truck.  However, they’re not meant to be moved often. 

THOWs are perfect for those of you who have land or have access to land that can have essentially an RV on it. 

For example, say you have aging parents who have some land, and you want to live near them.  You could place a THOW on their property and because it’s technically moveable, you can bypass many regulations.

📺 You’ve probably seen them frequently on the YouTube channel Living Big in a Tiny House.

THOWs range drastically in size and design depending on what the owners or builders find important.  Some THOWs have huge kitchens for those who cook.  Others have lots of lounge space or multiple desks for remote working. 💻

It’s hard to know how small you can go without feeling how you can move in the space.  That’s what’s special about TinyFest in San Diego.

Professional Van Builds & Their Creators

Professional Van Builds and DIY Nomad Village at TinyFest in San Diego.
Professional Builds on the right, DIY on the left.

Everyone interested in a tiny house festival is at least somewhat familiar with the van life phenomenon.

However, not every van lifer has the skills or the time to build out their own van.  TinyFest in San Diego brings in some major players in the world of professional van builds. 🛠️

With these companies, you don’t have to worry about shoddy electrical work or cheap materials being used. 💡 Some have template-like builds and others can go as custom as you want.

🚐 You can walk through professionally built vans and open cabinets, check out their electrical system, and even ask about possible customizations for your own build.

These professional van builders know what’s up and can often help you with a full or partial van build. 

As with most things, professional van builds vary in price based on the bells and whistles you add to them.

Nomad Village & The DIY Vans, Buses, Ambulances, & Cargo Trailers

The back of our DIY van build in Nomad Village
Our DIY Van Build in Nomad Village

Nomad Village is my favorite place at TinyFest in San Diego! 🚐 🚌 🚑 🚙

If you’re thinking about doing your own DIY build, Nomad Village will give you an incredible amount of inspiration. 

🛠️ Not everyone in Nomad Village has a DIY build, but the majority do.  Here, you can ask them anything about their van build processes.

💡 While a lot of vans have similar layouts, the idea pool is widening.  Van builders are getting more inventive and trying new things.  For example, when we built our van, I think we only saw one YouTuber with a Murphy bed.  Now, there are several examples!

As a van lifer who found it hard to meet other van lifers, Nomad Village is a great way to get to know new people.  We went to our first TinyFest as participants but ended up hanging out with new friends in Nomad Village.  After the event, we ended up camping with many from the Nomad Village in the desert for a week. 🏜️

In 2023, we parked our van in Nomad Village and showed our DIY build.  We had a BLAST.  As far as van meet-ups go, this one is fantastic if you want to meet a smaller group of nomads and promote anything you need to the public at large. Unlike Skooliepalooza, you’re showing off your rig and meeting others when the eventgoers leave.

If you’re interested in showing your rig in Nomad Village, contact TinyFest California sooner rather than later. 👩‍💻

Two Stages of Speakers with Panel Discussions

TinyFest in San Diego has a main stage and a community stage at the event.  The schedule of these stages gets announced closer to the event, usually in February.

🎤 The main stage consists mostly of keynote speakers.  These folks will often discuss a subject for 30-45 minutes, then take a Q&A afterward.  Sometimes you can find the likes of the popular Bob Wells or other big names in the Tiny Living World.

🗣️ In contrast, the community stage is a lot more freeform.  This is where you can find panel discussions and get your questions answered by nomads currently on the road from Nomad Village. 

DON’T MISS Alaska’s talk! As a former real estate agent, she knows the ins and outs of everything you’d want to know about buying or selling tiny houses. This year, she’ll be talking about tiny home resale value. Make sure you save some questions for her Q&A and you can visit her website here for more information.

The community stage varies from year to year.  However, you can usually find discussions like “Professional vs DIY builds,” “How to Get Internet on the Road,” “How to Make Money on the Road,” or even “Finding Free Camping.” You might also catch Jarrod Tocci.

Take a look at the schedule ahead of time and make sure you bring some questions for the panels.  Likely, if you have a question, someone else will also benefit from it!

Live Music at TinyFest in San Diego

While you roam around Nomad Village and the Expo, you can often hear live music! 🎶

A small stage will be set up, usually by the food vendors and you can hear music from nomads.  Often, you can see quite a few different sets.  Some artists play covers, some play originals and some play a fun mix of both.

If you ever have a moment of “I don’t know what to do,” go head to the live music area and take a break.

DON’T MISS Fort Vine playing at TinyFest in San Diego! You can listen to their music on Spotify!  Go check them out…they play a super fun live show.

Indoor Expo for Things that Help with Tiny Living

Indoor expo for tiny house festival and the outdoor space as well.
Indoor expo (left) Outdoor (right)

The large indoor area houses most vendors, some professional van builds, and more.  Usually, the main stage is also indoors.

TinyFest in San Diego hosts both vendors for entire tiny homes as well as vendors that sell small items that make tiny living easier.  All these booths are inside. 

It’s always good to walk a few laps inside, especially between speeches on the two stages.  You can get some great ideas that you can implement in your current living situation here.

Food Vendors

🍔 You can find multiple food vendors outside at TinyFest in San Diego.  However, they may not cater to all dietary restrictions. 

If you’re not sure if there will be something you like, you’re always able to exit the event and picnic in your car. 🧺 Then, you can re-enter the event afterward with your wristband.

The food vendors will reside near picnic tables for you to eat at or sit if you get tired.  TinyFest California usually places these conveniently near the live music as well! 🎶

Why YOU Should Go to TinyFest in San Diego

Collection of nomad vehicles parked together to display their different builds to the public
Nomad Village

You should go to TinyFest in San Diego whether you currently live tiny or have any interest in living tiny.  It really has something for everyone along that spectrum. 🤗

There’s nothing like walking inside a THOW or a van to see for yourself precisely how much space you’d have. 

If you’ve ever wondered things like:

  • What’s the difference between a medium-wheelbase van and an extended one?
  • Do I really need the high roof or can I work with a mid-roof van?
  • How many layouts can you really put into a Tiny Home on Wheels?
  • Where are all the resources to find out if this is even legal where I want to live?
  • How do you find free camping as a nomad?

All this and so much more occurs at TinyFest Califronia. 

At the very least, you’re likely to meet a few cool people during the event.  So go and explore tiny living!

Questions?  Drop them below!