Robert Arends

About Robert Arends

I’m a native San Diegan and man of many hats: PR, roadside America traveler/backyard tourist (especially our mountains and Anza-Borrego Desert), photographer (motto: capture the moment!), music fan, sci-fi buff, tiki collector and constant gardener. What would you do on your ideal San Diego day? I would spend the day snorkeling in La Jolla Cove. It’s like swimming in a huge aquarium – Garibaldi fish, lobsters, sea lions, oh my! If you were invisible, where would you go? I’d go surfing in Coronado. I’ve never surfed, but have always wanted to. If I was invisible no one would see me fall (again and again! – LOL). What is your favorite San Diego outdoor activity? Walking the Prado in Balboa Park; feels like I’m in Spain. The architecture is amazing!  I also enjoy hiking Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to see the annual wildflowers and exploring the tidepools at Cabrillo National Monument. Do you prefer burgers and beer or linguine and red wine? Linguine and red wine (wine list, please!), with tableside views of San Diego Bay. Latest music purchases for my iPod/MP3 player are… Magic Man: Paris, Bear Hands: Giants, Capital Cities: I Sold My Bed, But Not My Stereo, Man Man: Head On, London Grammar: Nightcall (Freemasons Remix). Follow Robert on Twitter @groovestar
Robert Arends

Make Waves on Mission Bay During Kids Free Month!

Have you heard? It’s Kids Free month in San Diego! Nope, that doesn’t mean San Diego is free from kids. But rather, just about everything for a kid’s visit (with their family) to San Diego is Free – as in free admission to all the major attractions, museums and so much more.

Kids Free month deals abound in Mission Bay!

Kids Free month deals abound in Mission Bay!

One area that was made for play is Mission Bay, a 4,600-acre aquatic wonderland of beaches, walking/bicycling trails, family-friendly resorts, water activities and famous attractions like SeaWorld.

Following are some of the coolest free offerings I scoped out around Mission Bay:

Play!

SeaWorld San Diego

Dolphin Encounter - SeaWorld San Diego in Mission Bay

Kids can enjoy the Dolphin Interaction Program at SeaWorld for free!

SeaWorld San Diego offers kids 3-9 years old free admission (1 child per paid adult), free Dine With Shamu (1 child per paid adult) and free Dolphin and Beluga Interaction Programs (1 child 10-13 years old per paid adult).

Belmont Park

Free kids rides on the Giant Dipper roller coaster by Mission Bay!

Free kids rides on the Giant Dipper roller coaster by Mission Bay!

At nearby Belmont Park, home of the thrilling Giant Dipper roller coaster, kids can enjoy unlimited free rides and laser tag (1 child per paid adult). They also ride for free (1 child per 2 paid riders) on FlowRider or FlowBarrel.

Paradise Point Resort

The tropical Paradise Point Resort offers kids free bike rentals to cruise the bayside plus free kayak and standup paddleboard rentals.

Bahia Belle Sternwheeler

Bahia Belle on Mission Bay

Kids ride free on the Bahia Belle sternwheeler!

Ahoy! Kids ride for free (1 child per paid adult) on the Bahia Belle sternwheeler cruise at the Bahia Resort Hotel.

Eat!

Kids eat free (with each adult purchase) at the Bahia Resort, Catamaran Resort (The Atoll restaurant) and The Dana on Mission Bay (Blue Pearl restaurant). They also get free breakfast at Hyatt Regency Mission Bay.

At Belmont Park, get your grub on with free kids’ meals (1 kids meal per paid adult meal) at Wavehouse Beach Club, South Mission Draft and North Shore Café.

Gifts!

Upon check in, Hilton San Diego Resort is giving out a free welcome gift to kids who check in. At the hip Tower 23 Hotel, each kids receives free milk and cookies plus a movie rental!

Free Animal Encounters in Mission Bay

Meet a parrot named Cornell at Catamaran Resort!

Meet a parrot named Cornell at Catamaran Resort!

You’ll also want to check out these awesome free animal encounters on Mission Bay!

> Browse even more Kids Free Offers in San Diego

Who knew there was so much to see and do for free?! 🙂

Robert Arends

Mission Valley is Full of Family Fun During October’s Kids Free in San Diego

Kids rule during Kids Free San Diego month!

Kids rule during Kids Free San Diego month!

The Kidvasion has begun! The 3rd annual Kids Free San Diego month kicks off today and continues through Halloween. Kids are sure to get a kick out of being VIPs (or should we say, VIKs – Very Important Kids 😉 ) all month long.

As you and your family are in town exploring the sights or planning a fun-filled fall visit to San Diego, be sure to check out these kids free deals in Mission Valley, conveniently located in the middle of it all just minutes from many major attractions.

Play!

Mission Trails Regional Park

Old Mission Dam - Mission Trails Regional Park

Enjoy the sound of the San Diego river rushing through the Old Mission Dam with a free hike through Mission Trails

Mission Trails Regional Park, one of the nation’s largest urban natural parks, is free for the whole family to explore, bike and hike 42 miles of scenic trails, including paths to the historic Old Mission Dam/San Diego River and to the top of Cowles Mountain, famous for its spectacular 360-degre views. The interactive Visitor Center is cool too, as are free guided nature walks every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 9:30 AM.

Mission San Diego de Alcala

Take a trip back in time at Mission San Diego

Take a trip back in time at Mission San Diego

Take a trip back to the time of the Spanish explorers and Franciscan friars who discovered San Diego at Mission San Diego de Alcala, the first mission in California (founded in 1769 and relocated to its present site in 1774). Children under 6 are free to tour the little museum (kids 6 to 12 are only $2). The Mission church and grounds, including a cool excavation site out back, are free for all to explore.

Junipero Serra Museum

Junipero Serra Museum on Presidio Hill

Junipero Serra Museum on Presidio Hill

Kids under 6 are also free at Junipero Serra Museum on Presidio Hill overlooking Mission Valley and Old Town. It was here in 1769 that the Spanish friar Junípero Serra and a group of soldiers built California’s first mission and a fort (called “presidio” in Spanish). The original buildings are gone, but an impressive Spanish-style museum sits on the site today.

Eat!

Lots of restaurants in Mission Valley’s hotels and resorts are rolling out the red carpet for children 12 and under. Kids eat free (with purchase of an adult entrée) at:

Crowne Plaza Hotel in Mission Valley

Kids eat free at the tiki-tastic Crowne Plaza Hotel!

At Doubletree by Hilton-Mission Valley, kids (up to two per room) can choose a free entrée from the children’s menu at the Fountain Café and Windows Lounge. Kids’ breakfasts are free at Ramada Conference Center plus free eats for kids at Sheraton Mission Valley!

Gifts!

Upon check in, Comfort Inn & Suites Hotel Circle is giving out a free welcome gift to each kid who checks in. WAY cool!

> Discover more of San Diego’s Mission Valley

As you can see, there are money-saving deals galore! See you in Mission Valley 🙂

Robert Arends

San Diego’s Maritime History Comes Alive this Weekend at the Cabrillo Festival

Cabrillo National Monument - the Plymouth Rock of the West

Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma – the Plymouth Rock of the West

In 1542, Cabrillo sailed the ocean blue and not only discovered San Diego Bay for Spain, but California and the U.S. West Coast as well. Yep, that’s right…San Diego is the Plymouth Rock of the West!

Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed into the harbor on September 28 – almost exactly 472 years ago! – aboard the San Salvador, a magnificent Spanish galleon ship. He landed on Point Loma, home of Cabrillo National Monument (San Diego’s only national park, BTW).

Cabrillo Festival

Historic reenactment of Cabrillo landing on the shores of San Diego Bay

Historic reenactment of Cabrillo’s landing on Point Loma, San Diego Bay

This Sunday, September 28, 2014, the big 51st annual Cabrillo Festival at Ballast Point on Naval Base Point Loma (located on the south end of Rosecrans Street) celebrates Europe’s first steps onto our shores. Admission is Free! There will be music, dancing, children’s activities and authentic foods of Native Americans, Mexico, Portugal and Spain (yum!). There will also be Native American Kumeyaay basket making, knot tying and a 16th century Spanish soldiers living history encampment.

Folkloric dancers at the Cabrillo Festival

Folkloric dancers bring history alive

The photo-worthy festival highlight is the re-enactment of Cabrillo’s landing on the shores of San Diego Bay. The captain, his soldiers and a priest will sail into the bay on The Californian (a stand-in for the San Salvador) and once again claim the land for Spain (don’t worry, Spain will quickly give San Diego back to us 😉

The re-enactment begins at 1:00 PM, but arrive a little early to get the best views.

Cabrillo National Monument

Impressive statue of Cabrillo at Cabrillo National Monument

Impressive statue of Cabrillo at Cabrillo National Monument

Just up the street, stop by Cabrillo National Monument to check out a commanding statue of Cabrillo on the cliffs of Point Loma overlooking San Diego, a cool video dramatization about his discovery and birds eye views of the bustling harbor, downtown skyline and the U.S. Navy in action on Coronado Island.

San Salvador Village

Replica of Cabrillo's flagship, the San Salvador

Replica of the San Salvador. Photo courtesy of Jerry Soto

I also recommend visiting the build site of a full-size, historically accurate replica of Cabrillo’s flagship San Salvador at San Salvador Village at Spanish Landing (near Harbor Island). The ship is incredibly cool, like how I imagined the Mayflower looked! It’ll be completed in the next few months – with her maiden voyage scheduled for January 2015 – and will become part of the permanent fleet of the Maritime Museum of San Diego.

San Salvador Village is open daily, featuring costumed docents, shipbuilding demonstrations, sail making and Native American Kumeyaay demos such as tulle boats, baskets and pottery making. This is as historically real as it gets! 😉

See you on the “Big Bay”!

Robert Arends

Escape to the Tropics of San Diego’s Mission Bay

Mission Bay Aquatic Park, a tropical escape!

Tropical Mission Bay Aquatic Park

You don’t have to fly hours to the South Pacific to feel warm ocean breezes, see swaying palm trees and wiggle your toes in soft white sand beaches while enjoying spectacular crimson sunsets.

Mission Bay, a 4,600-acre aquatic playground just north of downtown San Diego, features all that and much more: SeaWorld San Diego (celebrating its 50th anniversary), beachside resorts and restaurants, boating and recreational facilities…even luaus!

Mission Bay was first discovered in 1542 by explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who named it “False Bay” because of its shallow lagoons and saltwater marshes. Dredging in the late 1940s through the ’60s created what we see today: the largest man-made aquatic park in the United States!

An early historian envisioned Mission Bay would become the Venice of America. Well, it didn’t quite become a gondolier’s dream, but rather a tropical retreat better suited to its sparkling location on the Pacific.

[Tweet “Experience a little slice of vacation paradise in #SanDiego at these scenic spots on #MissionBay:”]

To experience a little slice of vacation paradise, look no further than these scenic spots on Mission Bay:

Paradise Point Resort & Spa

Paradise Point Resort, a tropical oasis on Mission Bay!

Paradise Point Resort, a tropical oasis on Mission Bay!

The name says it all! For over half a century this oasis on a private peninsula has lured travelers looking for a dreamy island escape.

> Find out more about the Paradise Point Resort & Spa

Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa

Fun summer luau at Catamaran Resort, Mission Bay

Fun summer luau at Catamaran Resort, Mission Bay

The Catamaran Resort is as Hawaiian as it gets, with lava-like fountains, tropical landscaping, live parrots and entertaining summer luaus!

> Find out more about the Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa

Bahia Resort Hotel

Bahia Resort Hotel

Live like your own your own island at the Bahia Resort Hotel

The Brazilian-themed Bahia Resort, located on a secluded 14-acre peninsula, surrounds guests with island-inspired beauty from exotic palms and a rainbow of colorful flowers to splashing streams.

> Find out more about the Bahia Resort Hotel

Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa

Poolside at the tropical Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa

Poolside at the tropical Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa

The luxe and lovely Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa is a romantic paradise of lush, tropical surroundings.

> Find out more about the Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa

The Dana on Mission Bay

Cool tiki at The Dana on Mission Bay!

Cool tiki at The Dana on Mission Bay!

The Dana on Mission Bay is also pretty as a postcard with its 10 tropically landscaped acres – tikis and all! (for tiki fans, check out my list of fun San Diego tiki finds)

> Find out more about The Dana on Mission Bay

> Discover even more Tropical Fun in Mission Bay

Bring your leis and grass skirts and ease into the island vibe you’ll find on Mission Bay! 🙂

Robert Arends

Dr. Seuss on the Loose in La Jolla

The_Art_of_Dr_SeussThere’s a tale of a Cat, so cool in a Hat, that…did you hear…was created right here! 🙂

Yep Dr. Seuss, that master smith of rhyming words for kids, lived atop a hill called Mt. Soledad in La Jolla (north of downtown San Diego) where his fantastical world of Cat in the Hat and other memorable characters came to life for readers of all ages.

I’ve always been a big fan of Dr. Seuss whose real name BTW is Theodore (Ted) Seuss Geisel. His widow Audrey still lives in lovely seaside La Jolla.

On the heels of Dr. Seuss’ recently released new book, Horton and the Kwuggerbug and more Lost Stories, me thinks with my thinker that a fun way to tinker would be an incredibly fun linker to a few Seussian sights and events in La Jolla:

Wish Dr. Suess at Happy Birthday at UCSD

Dr. Seuss birthday celebration at Geisel Library, UCSD in La Jolla

Dr. Seuss birthday celebration at Geisel Library, UCSD in La Jolla

Every year in celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday on March 2, the aptly named Geisel Library at University of California at San Diego (UCSD) in La Jolla exhibits selections from their Dr. Seuss Collection of over 10,000 items(!), including his drawings, rough drafts, notebooks and other cool memorabilia. It’s the world’s largest repository of original works by Seuss. Last year Mrs. Geisel substantially added to the collection, donating an additional 1,500 items from his personal archive!

Look for an announcement of next year’s big b-day bash on Geisel Library’s news page after New Year’s.

7 ½ foot Cat in the Hat

Dr. Seuss and Cat in the Hat sculpture at Geisel Library, UCSD in La Jolla

Dr. Seuss and Cat in the Hat sculpture at Geisel Library, UCSD in La Jolla

In the meantime, next time you’re in La Jolla, check out the life-size bronze sculpture of Dr. Seuss and a towering 7 ½ foot Cat in the Hat in front at the library. Seuss selfies are encouraged!

Secret Art of Dr. Seuss

Secret Art of Dr. Seuss at Legends Gallery, La Jolla includes Unorthodox Taxidermy

The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss includes Unorthodox Taxidermy

In the charming Village of La Jolla, the Legends Gallery displays some wonderful imaginings in its “Secret Art of Dr. Seuss” exhibit. Visitors can view the sophisticated, technically accomplished and unrestrained side of Seuss’ talent, including lesser-known paintings, illustrations and sculptures from his Unorthodox Taxidermy collection (a fun fav!).

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! at the Old Globe

"Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" at the Old Globe in Balboa Park

“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” at the Old Globe in Balboa Park

And though it’s not in La Jolla, I should mention the whimsical annual Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! musical that takes place each holiday season at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. It’s a magical must see for the whole family!

See you in San Diego, Dr. Seuss fans!

Robert Arends

Catch of the Day: Tuna Harbor Dockside Market on San Diego Bay!

Posing with a big box crab at Tuna harbor Dockside Market!

Posing with a big box crab at Tuna Harbor Dockside Market!

If you”ve ever been to Pike Place Market in Seattle or Fisherman”s Wharf in San Francisco, you know what a delight it is to see seafood as fresh as it gets from local waters.

San Diego now has its very own open-air seafood market called the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market, located on Fish Harbor Pier on picturesque San Diego Bay between Seaport Village and Ruocco Park (across the street from the chic new Headquarters at Seaport District).

Folks checking out the new Tuna Harbor Dockside Market

Folks checking out the new Tuna Harbor Dockside Market

I didn”t know what to expect when I ventured to the market a recent Saturday morning with my camera at the ready. Some fish on ice…perhaps an unusual sea creature or two. But when I saw spiky crabs clawing for attention and a massive 5-foot octopus wriggling for a close-up, I knew I was in for a treat!

Fresh catches of the day at Tuna Harbor Dockside Market

Fresh catches of the day at Tuna Harbor Dockside Market

Hours are from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM and folks line up early for the best seafood picks online casino to purchase before they”re sold out. I opted to arrive a bit later (around 9:30 AM) and though the line was a few dozen people deep, it moved along at a nice steady pace.

For shutterbugs like me, there”s no line to wait in. Just aim your camera between folks as they shuffle by, zoom in on the bountiful sea life and click away!

What I saw was amazing! Albacore and skipjack tuna, yellow tail, blue fin, lots of bright red-colored rock fish, black cod, Mahi Mahi, halibut, sea urchin (San Diego”s known for delectably fresh sea urchin/uni – yum!)…

Sea urchin/uni, a local San Diego seafood delicacy!

Sea urchin/uni, a local San Diego seafood delicacy!

…three varieties of crab, including rock crab…

Rock crab at Tuna Harbor Dockside Market

Rock crab at Tuna Harbor Dockside Market

…and my favorite, the feisty box crab; check out this cool video I took!

The weekly catch is posted here. The fisherman and women are very friendly and more than happy to pose with their catches and fishing boats anchored in the background!

If you”re looking for a fun, photo-worthy San Diego experience second-to-none, head downtown to the Big Bay on Saturdays and dive into the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market. San Diego”s legendary commercial fishing and maritime heritage come alive before your eyes! 🙂

Robert Arends

5 Retro Dining Spots in San Diego’s Mission Valley

Sir Wafflelot welcomes diners for some retro dining at the Waffle Spot

Conveniently located in the center of it all, Mission Valley is just minutes away from some of San Diego’s major attractions and even closer to some classic, old school-style restaurants that still retain the cool look and feel of yesteryear with delectable retro dining.

Following are my top 5 tasty and intriguing culinary nods to the retro dining spots in Mission Valley:

1. Albie’s Beef Inn

Lounge-tastic Albie's Beef Inn and Adam's Steak & Eggs

Lounge-tastic Albie’s Beef Inn and Adam’s Steak & Eggs

Albie’s Beef Inn at Travelodge Mission Valley has been serving up prime steaks, seafood and cocktails since 1962. Guests love the retro-lounge look and feel, complete with tufted black leather booths, wood paneling, a piano bar and all-too-suggestive paintings of women adorning the walls. Albie’s is where I imagine the cast of Mad Men hang out for happy hour, and three-martini lunches. 🙂

Where: 1201 Hotel Circle South, San Diego, California 92108
> Find out more about Albie’s Beef Inn

2. Adam’s Steak & Eggs

Next door to Albie’s, Adam’s Steak & Eggs is where folks have noshed on hearty steak ‘n eggs breakfasts since 1962. It has a welcoming, old-school diner vibe with chairs that look suspiciously like the ones my mom had around our dining room table in the 1970s.

Where: 1201 Hotel Circle South, San Diego, California 92108
> Find out more about Adam’s Steak & Eggs

3. Waffle Spot

Sir Wafflelot welcomes diners for some retro dining at the Waffle Spot

Sir Wafflelot welcomes diners for some retro dining at the Waffle Spot

The family friendly, whimsical Waffle Spot at the Kings Inn has been a local favorite for 20 years. The “Home of San Diego’s Best Waffles” has its very own mascot, Sir Wafflelot who welcomes kids on Saturdays and Sundays, 10:00 AM to 12 noon. Children (and adults!) get a kick out of coloring the Kids Menus. This is the spot to get your nostalgia on while enjoying delicious waffles and other classic breakfast fare.

Where: 1333 Hotel Circle South, San Diego, CA 92108
> Find out more about the Waffle Spot

4. Hunter Steakhouse

Hunter Steakhouse has the best prime rib in town!

Hunter Steakhouse has the best prime rib in town!

Hunter Steakhouse, a 40+ year tradition in the valley, serves the “Best Prime Rib in Town” – with whiskey peppercorn sauce! The exterior resembles a rustic mountain cabin with a cozy interior to match: rich wood furnishings, dim lighting and a stone fireplace; a nice romantic dinner joint to take that someone special.

Where: 2445 Hotel Circle Place, San Diego, CA 92108
> Find out more about Hunter Steakhouse

5. Trellises Garden Grille

Trellises Garden Grille at Town & Country Resort

Trellises Garden Grille at Town & Country Resort

Trellises Garden Grille at the Town and Country Resort Hotel & Convention Center is an eclectic mix of floral and retro lounge design, with a lovely garden patio filled with flowers. It’s timeless and old-fashioned, serving a menu of “California Fresh” cuisine, including seafood and steaks. Jane Austen would sup here for sure! 😉

Where: 500 Hotel Circle North, San Diego, CA 92108
> Find out more about Trellises Garden Grille

For a unique retro dining experiences from yesteryear, Mission Valley has some pretty memorable spots to check out!

Robert Arends

Aloha – 5 Fun Tiki Finds Throughout San Diego!

Mr. Bali Hai tiki at Bali Hai Restaurant, Shelter Island

Aloha from San Diego! 😉

Yep, some really cool Hawaiian and South Seas influences, architecture and tikis (my favorite!) can be found throughout San Diego, particularly Shelter Island on San Diego Bay, Point Loma, Mission Valley and Mission Bay.

Why, you ask?

Well, after WWII, American soldiers and sailors returned home from the South Pacific with stories, souvenirs, music and more from these tropical islands, to the delight of the American public who romanticized exotic island cultures. A bit later (in 1959) Hawaii became a state, further fueling the popularity of all things Polynesian.

Being a big Navy town on the Pacific, San Diego was a prime spot to celebrate and recreate tiki culture. Sadly, by the 1980s, Polynesian influences around town began to disappear as contemporary tastes and design took hold. But, lucky for us, fun tiki finds remain if you know where to look.

Following are my top 5:

1. Bali Hai Restaurant

Mr. Bali Hai tiki at Bali Hai Restaurant, Shelter Island

Mr. Bali Hai tiki at Bali Hai Restaurant, Shelter Island

Bali Hai Restaurant, opened in 1954 on Shelter Island, is a local “tiki temple” of sorts with hand-carved tiki sculptures – including Mr. Bali Hai, shown here, and the “Goof on the Roof” – and genuine Polynesian artifacts filling every nook and cranny. You can even take home your very own souvenir tiki mug!

Where: 2230 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106
> Find out more about the Bali Hai Restaurant

2. Crowne Plaza Hotel

Tiki Oasis art at Crown Plaza Hotel, Mission Valley

Tiki Oasis art at Crown Plaza Hotel, Mission Valley

Also opened in 1954, the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Mission Valley (formerly Hanalei Hotel) is a slice of paradise on the San Diego River. It has retained much of its Hawaiian-themed luster from yesteryear; tikis and Polynesian art can be found in the lobby, restaurant and around the tropical pool area. It’s also the site of the big annual Tiki Oasis convention, the “biggest Tiki Weekender on the planet.” I’ll be there!

Where: 2270 Hotel Circle N, San Diego, CA 92108
> Find out more about the Crowne Plaza Hotel

3. Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn & Suites

A little bit of Hawaii at Humphrey's Half Moon Inn, Shelter Island

A little bit of Hawaii at Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn, Shelter Island

Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn & Suites (built-in 1959) on Shelter Island is a landmark Tiki Modern resort with a soaring lobby roof that extends out like a giant Polynesian fishing canoe complete with a lantern used to attract fish. This is as real as it gets!

Where: 2303 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106
> Find out more about Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn & Suites

4.  Trader Mort’s Liquor Store

Playful tiki at Trader Mort's Liquor Store, Point Loma

Playful tiki at Trader Mort’s Liquor Store, Point Loma

Nearby Trader Mort’s Liquor Store in Point Loma (originally named the Hooch Hut – love it!) is famous for its tiki hut design and tongue-wagging tiki god out front.

Where: 2904 Shelter Island Dr, San DiegoCA 92106
> Find out more about Trader Mort’s Liquor Store

5. The Dana Hotel on Mission Bay

Tiki at The Dana hotel on Mission Bay

Tiki at The Dana hotel on Mission Bay

Amongst the lush gardens at The Dana Hotel on Mission Bay there’s a mighty tiki warrior sculpture greeting guests; one of my fav tiki finds!

Where: 1710 W Mission Bay Dr, San Diego, CA 92109
> Find out more about The Dana Hotel on Mission Bay

Get into the Tiki Spirit with a Guided Tour

You can also get into the “spirit of aloha” in San Diego by taking a two-hour Surf and Tiki Tour of 20 local tiki statues and other hidden spots you won’t find in guidebooks.

Your tiki-inspired escape to paradise awaits… in San Diego! 🙂

Robert Arends

Amazing Animal Encounters on San Diego’s Mission Bay!

Located just minutes from downtown San Diego, Mission Bay Park is the largest park of its kind in the world, spread out over 4,200 sparkling acres. Something you may not know about this aquatic playground is that there are some really cool and surprising animal encounters along its 27 miles of beaches.

A recent visit to the Bahia Resort piqued my interest in Mission Bay’s wildlife when I spotted a friendly seal named Gracie frolicking in a pool out front of the resort. I couldn’t believe my eyes. What a fun and memorable way to welcome visitors!

I soon discovered that other creatures great and small call Mission Bay home and make for some great photo opps, if you know where to look. And the best part: viewing is free.

Here’s the inside scoop on Mission Bay’s amazing menagerie of animal encounters and where to find them:

Gracie the Seal at the Bahia Resort

Gracie the seal basking in the sun at Bahia Resort

Gracie the seal basking in the sun at Bahia Resort

Gracie the seal, a rescue from La Jolla Cove, first called Bahia Resort home in 2006. She’s curious, outgoing and well-loved by all. When she’s not swimming around her spacious pool with her best friend Billy, she can be found sunbathing on the rocks. A great time to visit is during feeding time: 9:00 AM and 2:00 PM daily.

Parrots, Macaws and Cockatoos at the Catamaran

A talkative parrot named Cornell and more animal encounters at Catamaran Resort

Meet the the talkative parrot named Cornell and enjoy even more animal encounters at Catamaran Resort

Colorful parrots, macaws and cockatoos can be found at the Catamaran Resort, located outside behind the main lobby. The bright – and talkative! – birds are on display daily from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Check out the cool Bird Cam. You can call each of them by name; feathered pics of who’s who (including Cornell the parrot, above) can be found on the resort’s exotic wildlife page.

Catamaran also has two ponds with koi fish, ducks and turtles that love to bask in the sun.

Animal Encounters at Paradise Point

...leopard sharks!

…leopard sharks!

When it comes to fascinating fauna on land, sea and air, Paradise Point Resort has it all! Swimming beneath the surface of the large lagoon next to Barefoot Bar & Grill are spotted leopard sharks, stingrays and guitar fish! The resort’s network of gardens and lagoons is also home to ducks, red-eared slider turtles, frogs, hummingbirds, herons and egrets…oh my!

See you in Mission Bay for some close encounters of the animal kind! 🙂

Robert Arends

Filipino Dining Delights in National City

National City has a vibrant Filipino community known for its delicious cuisine

National City has a vibrant Filipino community known for its delicious cuisine

Mabuhay! That’s Tagalog for “cheers” or “welcome.” When you visit National City, south of downtown San Diego, you’ll indeed feel welcome to this tight-knit community that celebrates its rich Filipino heritage.

There’s no better way to experience San Diego’s Filipino culture than through its mouthwatering food. Following are a few of my favorite, tried and true restaurants to try, plus a couple bakeries to satisfy those sweet cravings.

National City’s main thoroughfare for Filipino restaurants is Plaza Blvd., located just off Interstate 5 or 805 South.

A Few Filipino Restaurant Options

Pancit malabon - a yummy specialty at Manila Sunset!

Pancit malabon – a yummy specialty at Manila Sunset!

First stop, for delicious made-to-order breakfast or lunch fare, is Manila Sunset (925 E. Plaza Blvd.) which resembles a charming Filipino village inside. My fav dish is Lansilog, consisting of longganisa (Fillipino-style chorizo grilled to perfection), egg and rice drizzled with a vinegar/cucumber dip. The fresh lumpia and pancit malabon with thick rice noodles, shrimp, egg, veggies and chicharon are also delish!

Vast array of Filipino food at Manila Sunset

Vast array of Filipino food at Manila Sunset

Another great sit-down restaurant for Lansilog and other traditional Filipino breakfast combinations is Point-Point Joint (916 E. 8th St)

Tita’s Kitchenette (2720 E. Plaza Blvd.) is all about the two-item combos. For just $7 you can pick from a vast array of Filipino staples like chicken adobo, sisig (seasoned chopped pork with onions, green peppers and special seasoning), kare kare (traditional Filipino stew of ox tail, tripe and pork with a savory peanut sauce) and finger-licking good BBQ chicken skewers – the best in town!

Tasty chicken skewers at Tita's Kitchenette!

Tasty chicken skewers at Tita’s Kitchenette!

Nearby Karihan Filipino Food (2220 E. Plaza Blvd., Suite B) is also a great go-to for BBQ chicken and pork, whole(!) fried fish and piping hot sinigang (tangy tamarind soup with veggies).

Sweet! Red Ribbon mango cake

Sweet! Red Ribbon mango cake

Don’t forget dessert! Goldilocks and Red Ribbon, two bakeshops from the Phillipines, have shelves of sweet fresh-baked yumminess to choose from. Must-trys are the mango cake, ube (sweet purple yam) cake, and mamon special, a fluffy French sponge cake brushed with butter and sprinkled with cheese (yep) and sugar. Trust me, your taste buds will thank you! 😉