Suzzanne

5 to Try This Weekend in San Diego

From whale watching to black holes, visitors can find the best events and things to do this weekend!

1. Black Holes: Space Warps & Time Twists: Starting February 4th and running through April 29, 2012, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center’s exhibit will allow visitors to learn about the great mystery of Black Holes. The exhibit is designed like a space mission. Visitors are briefed, issued a Black Holes Explorer ID Card, and then sent on a journey to the edge of these strange phenomena to discover how the latest research is turning science fiction into fact, challenging our notions of space and time in the process.

2. Museum Month: During the month of February, visitors can receive 1/2 off their admission to 40 of San Diego’s finest museums. Passes can be picked up at any Macy’s in San Diego County. With a pass, up to four visitors can gain admission to any of the 40 participating museums for half-price. Plus, you can use the pass all month-long!

3. Whale Watching..Kayak Style: Kayak out from La Jolla Shores and see Grey Whales up close during this three-hour kayaking tour. Grey Whales migrate January through April traveling from Alaska south to Baja to breed in the warm, shallow lagoons along the Mexican coast. Trained naturalist guides will accompany you and tell you all about the surrounding area of La Jolla Shores and Cove.

4. Woodies! Woodies!: Head over to the San Diego Automotive Museum starting February 3rd to see some of the finest examples of woodies through the years. From their beginnings as estate cars for the resort owners and transport vehicles, these cars have made a revival and are now once again popular with the surfing crowd. This exhibit features classic designs as well as a few surprises.

5. Tidepooling Adventures: For the kids out there that love to get their hands dirty, head over to The Birch Aquarium at Scripps in La Jolla on February 4th. Aquarium naturalists carefully guide participants into fragile tide-pool communities and highlight the inhabitants.

Suzzanne

12 Reasons to Visit San Diego in 2012

San Diego Skyline

San Diego Skyline

As we celebrate the start of 2012, I’ve put together my list of 12 reasons you should visit San Diego in 2012. In no particular order…

1. The Best: In Travel + Leisure’s recent America’s Favorite Cities Reader Poll, San Diego was voted the #1 Destination for Best Weather and Best Spring Break. We also scored #2 for Best Summer Vacation, Family Vacation, 4th of July Destination and Most Attractive People.

2. Fabulous Food: A slew of restaurants are slated to open or have recently opened to offer visitors amazing culinary choices. Hot on the radar is UnderBelly which recently opened in Little Italy, Saltbox inside the Palomar San Diego hotel, and Brian Malarkey’s latest venture, Gingham.

3. A Whale of a Time: Majestic California gray whales make their annual migration from the Arctic waters to the warm lagoons in the Gulf of California for breeding. These “peaceful giants of the sea” come within miles of San Diego’s coastline.

4. Worth the Money: Budget Travel Magazine came out with it’s Top 10 Budget Travel Destinations for 2012, and named San Diego among them. Be sure to check out our 25 free things to do in San Diego. One of my favorites…Mission Bay Park.

5. Attraction Action: This year, SeaWorld will debut their latest new coaster with sting ray interactive touch pool and observation windows called Manta. Swooping over sea and sky, Manta will not only inspire riders with amazing underwater animal habitats, but then take them on an exhilarating ride on a launch coaster shaped like a giant manta ray!

6. Craft Brew: San Diego is home to the nation’s best brew pubs including Pizza Port which just recently won Small Brewpub of the Year at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival.

7. The Beach…enough said: With over 70 miles of beaches, it’s no wonder that in June 2011, The Travel Channel’s famed “Dr. Beach” announced his annual picks for the Best Beaches in America and Coronado Beach was named No. 2.

8. San Diego Nightlife: San Diego’s nightlife scene has never been hotter. San Diego was among the top 10 hottest New Year’s Eve destinations according to a hotwire.com survey. Visitors can celebrate all year long in the Gaslamp Quarter with over 100 restaurants and clubs, it is the place to be any time of year.

9. Get Your Culture On: Be sure to visit Balboa Park and its 85 cultural and recreational organizations. My favorites are the San Diego Model Railroad Museum and The San Diego Museum of Art. Not to be missed this year is the new exhibit at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, Black Holes: Space Warps & Time Twists.

10. Surf Culture: San Diego is widely known for its laid back vibe with some of the best surfing spots in Southern California. To top it off, we are also home to the world’s first Center for Surf Research at San Diego State University (not a bad way to spend your college years!)

11. Walking with Art: Spend the days outside under the sun browsing local art at numerous sidewalk art shows including San Diego Artwalk, Artwalk on the Bay and the monthly Ray at Night and Kettner Nights.

12. The Great Outdoors: San Diego’s temperate weather allows for outdoor activities all year round. Go hiking along the water in Torrey Pines State Reserve or mountain biking through the natural landscapes of Mission Trails Regional Park. Here are a few more ideas to get outdoors. There is no reason you should stay inside while in San Diego!

What do you have planned for San Diego in 2012?

Robert Arends

Make some Merry in San Diego’s East County

Mt. Laguna - Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

If you’re looking for a few off-the-beaten-path adventures this holiday season, look no further than San Diego’s East County. With some serious holiday cheer in the forecast, plus snow levels dropping between 4 to 5,000 feet the next couple of days, parts of the County are beginning to look like a winter wonderland.

Following are my Top 3 picks of places to make some merry – and even snow angels! – this week:

Julian - a winter wonderland!

  1. Grab a sled, saucer, toboggan or boogie board (So SoCal) and trek up to our historic mountain town of Julian to go sledding on the hillsides, followed by a piping hot cup of apple cider – a local specialty! Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, located south of town, and Mt. Laguna Recreation Area are two other choice spots to “chill” when it snows in San Diego’s higher elevations.
  2. Remember that Peanuts’ Christmas TV special with Snoopy’s doghouse decked out in a festive explosion of colored lights and decorations? Well, multiply that by 100 and you have Jim Fairchild’s holly jolly house in La Mesa (8045 Stadler Street). Thousands of twinkling lights and inflatable Santas, snowmen and other winter characters fill every nook and cranny of the yard, including his prized light-up Grinch. If you’re looking for the gift of Christmas cheer, look no further than here!
  3. Looking ahead to New Year’s – and for those who may have missed last weekend’s spectacular lunar eclipse – the clear desert skies over Borrego Springs Resort will soon beckon star gazers and revelers alike. Make your reservation for the resort’s New Year’s Eve Dinner & Celebration, which includes a lavish buffet of prime rib and Cornish game hen, dancing starting at 8:00 pm and a champagne toast at midnight. Cost, $59.95 per person. $299 per couple includes a deluxe guestroom. Insider tip: after midnight, head outside to the golf course to marvel at the Milky Way in all its splendor – a memorable & magical way to welcome the New Year!
Candice

Video Tour: Outdoor Adventure in San Diego

With weather this perfect, it’s hard to stay indoors in San Diego. From hiking and biking to rockclimbing and horseback riding, there tons of outdoor adventures to be had. Join me on a video tour of some of my favorite ways to explore San Diego’s great outdoors.

Robert Arends

‘Tis the season: Holiday Festivities in East County!

SoCal's largest ice skating rink at Viejas Outlet Center

San Diego’s bucolic East County always beckons me this time of year. I don’t know if it’s the crispness in the air, change of color in the leaves or subtle scent of pine trees as you drive out into the backcountry that’s so enticing, but it’s absolutely wonderful and welcoming! It’s where locals and visitors alike go to experience winter in San Diego. And yes, we even get snow on occasion in the higher elevations. Our historic mountain town of Julian is particularly nice – like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life when the first snow falls.

With Thanksgiving and the official launch of the holiday season just around the corner, following are some fun and festive activities for folks to enjoy in East County:

El Cajon's Mother Goose Parade!

  • Make some merry at the 65th Annual Mother Goose Parade on Nov. 20. This very popular, local holiday tradition is the largest parade in San Diego County and largest of its type west of the Mississippi, attracting thousands of spectators to the streets of El Cajon. The free fete features marching bands, colorful floats, equestrians and this year’s Grand Marshal, Taylor Guitars.

    Carriage ride through Julian.

  • There’s nothing more charming than a good ol’ fashioned Christmas celebration. Jingle up to Julian on Nov. 26 for the Julian Country Christmas & Tree Lighting, featuring strolling carolers, horse-drawn carriages, the scent of freshly-baked apple pies (yum!) and Santa Claus’ arrival aboard a bright red fire engine for the tree lighting.
  • The delightful downtown of La Mesa is transformed into a Victorian wonderland on Dec. 9 & 10 during their family-friendly Christmas in the Village, featuring horse-drawn carriages, strolling minstrels, carolers, an outdoor market with gift ideas galore and jolly ol’ Saint Nick.

    Ice skating at Viejas Outlet Center

  • The quaint town of Alpine joins in the festivities on Dec. 9 with its 16th Annual Alpine Village Christmas Parade of Lights & Snow Festival, complete with a snow hill for sledding! Just down the road, Viejas Outlet Center (awesome holiday shopping deals!) is home to the largest outdoor ice-skating rink in Southern California – open now through New Year’s.

    Santa on the North Pole Limited train in Campo.

  • All aboard… the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum’s 8th Annual North Pole Limited! This popular Christmas vintage train ride through the backcountry to the “North Pole” takes place on Nov. 25-26, Dec. 2-3, 9-10 and 16-17.The one-hour adventure begins at the Campo Depot and features an on-board reading of a famous Christmas train story (hint: see photo above 😉 ), hot cocoa, holiday cookies and an appearance by Santa Claus and his elves. Reservations are required; sure to sell out! 

    Wintertime in Julian.

     Happy Holidays from East County!

Robert Arends

Coronado Sets Its Sights on America’s Cup World Series!

Ahoy! The America’s Cup World Series is just around the corner, sailing into San Diego Bay – and into the history books – starting this Saturday, November 12 through the 20th.What makes these races so exciting is that it’ll be the first time the incredibly swift, state-of-the-art AC45 wing-sailed catamarans will be seen in the United States! They were specially designed to slice through the water at speeds up to 30 knots, promising spectators some serious thrills as the world’s top sailors push their boats to the limit (Translation: Yes, a few of these fast boats might capsize.).

Since the Coast Guard is enforcing a Safety Zone taking up a large portion of the bay, viewing the races from the water will be limited. Organizers recommend fans catch the action from the shore.

America's Cup Word Series will race off Coronado.

Coronado, situated on San Diego Bay just across the bridge from downtown San Diego, is a perfect spot! The island offers the following scenic vantage points:

Coronado Ferry Landing.

  • Coronado Ferry Landing, a charming outdoor shopping and entertainment complex located within binocular view of the southernmost part of the race route, is a great way to start the racing day. Grab a quick bite to eat at one of the seven restaurants and do a little shopping before the races ramp up at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

    Ferry departs for downtown from Coronado Ferry Landing.

  • After lunch, head out to the Ferry Landing dock to catch a roundtrip ferry ride (just $8.50 per person) to the Broadway Pier or 5th Avenue Landing in downtown San Diego. This may be one of the best ways to see the races from the water! Check out the ferry schedule. Bring a pair of binoculars to zoom in on the boats as they race for the finish line.

Terrific bay views from Centennial Park.

  • Upon your return to the Coronado Ferry Landing, head north up First Street to one of three beautiful bay front parks: Centennial Park, SDG&E Park or Shoreline Park. From here you can continue to catch the boats racing round the route’s southern loop.
  • The bayside of Coronado’s NAS North Island, open only to active duty military personnel and their families, will also be a prime spot to see the sailing action up close.

Five days and counting until the America’s Cup World Series… “Isle” be seeing you in Coronado! 😉

Maren

Experience the Thrill of America’s Cup Racing in San Diego

Maren at the helm

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I’ll jibe starboard and leave the boom grinder to the men.” If you understood that, you’re a sailor. If you didn’t, read on. It turns out the list of sailing nomenclature is as extensive as it is useful, if you’re a top-notch sailor about to descend on San Diego Harbor for the third stop of the inaugural America’s Cup World Series. From November 12-20, 2011, be ready to witness a state-of-the-art AC45 wing-sailed catamarans FLY across the water at around 30 knots (read: FAST).

Luckily for those of us who are not world-class sailors, there are numerous vantage points around San Diego Bay, from Harbor Island to Coronado. The heart of the action and festivities will be at America’s Cup Village, dedicated to dry-land fun for the masses, located on Harbor Drive adjacent to the San Diego International Visitor’s Information Center. Bay front hotels are offering deals that equal their spectacular harbor views. And if you enjoy delicious seafood as much as I do, waterfront dining at Anthony’s Fish Grotto is the place to be. I also recommend putting on your Dennis Cooper cap with Next Level Sailing, as I did in this video. A trip around San Diego Bay in the competition-tested America’s Cup yacht, the Stars and Stripes is the perfect place to jibe and grind for yourself!

Maren

“Boo!” Tours: Take a Ghost Tour of San Diego’s most Haunted Haunts

There is no better time to take a ghost tour of San Diego’s haunted past. All Hallow’s Eve is just around the corner – a time when the veil between worlds is at its thinnest and spirits are feeling festive!

Do you dare continue…

Robert Arends

Historic Highways 80 and 94 Road Trip this Saturday!

Mountain views along Historic Highways 80 and 94.

Road trip! If you’re up for adventure this weekend and looking to hit the open road, I’ve got the trip for you: the 6th Annual Passport Through Time Road Trip on Historic Highways 80 & 94.

For those not familiar with Highways 80 and 94, they’re like San Diego’s very own Route 66 – a slice of Americana traversing a scenic rural landscape leading to some fun and surprising roadside treasures.

The caravan of cars and motorcycles will cruise through San Diego’s “backyard’s backyard,” covering a distance of about 100 miles! It’s so leisurely paced though, with a dozen plus pit stops along the way, that you’ll hardly notice the miles fly by.

Speaking of pit stops, following are my Top 3 favorites on each historic highway…

Highway 94:

  • Barrett Junction Café is a favorite back road stop. Opened in 1946, the cafe is famous for its family-style fish fry. Check out the funky collection of antiques and historic photos lining the café’s walls and counters. A vintage ice box and antique phone (that still works) add to the country charm. 
  • Step back in time at the Potrero General Storewhich dates to the stagecoach era of the mid-1800s and has a friendly, small- town feel.  Café 94, a popular local diner connected to the general store, is the place for home-style comfort food.

    Motor Transport Museum.

  • The Motor Transport Museum in Campo one of my favorite backcountry attractions – home to 200+ antique trucks and other motor transport vehicles, plus an eclectic collection of photos/memorabilia related to automotive pioneers. It’s housed in the historic Campo Feldspar Mill, built in 1929.

Highway 80:

Wisteria Candy Cottage - delish!

  • The famous Wisteria Candy Cottage in Boulevard a family-run sweet shop housed in a one-room schoolhouse from 1921, is famous for its hand-dipped chocolates and other old-fashioned candies. Yum!

    Live Oak Springs' cozy cabins.

  • Live Oak Springs Resort, also in Boulevard, is a cozy and romantic mountain getaway known for its picturesque, two-story A-frame cabins. Nestled amongst the giant oak trees, they look like something right out a children’s storybook.

    Colorful Tryyn Gallery.

  • The Tryyn Gallery in Guatay a little-known artistic jewel, featuring a collection of handcrafted wooden cooking utensils and other unique wood carvings by craftsman Bill Chappelow, whose fine-wood designs are part of the Smithsonian collection in Washington, D.C.!

The Passport Road Trip begins at 9 a.m. at Simpson’s Nursery in Jamul (registration $20 per car) and ends at the Downtown Café in El Cajon at 3 p.m. with a sumptuous no host buffet, live entertainment and auctions to win some fab prizes.

Get your motor running and discover the delightfully diverse communities of San Diego’s East County!

Robert Arends

20 Perfect Days to Play in Coronado!

Have you entered Loews Coronado Bay Resort’s 20 Days, Your Way” giveaway yet? If not, time is ticking… Last day for submissions is next Tuesday, October 25. Grand prize: 20 free room nights! It’s all to celebrate the resort’s big 20th Anniversary. Good luck!

So I was thinking, if I was eligible to enter and I WON, what would I do, not only at Loews’ resort, but around the picturesque island of Coronado? Fortunately, there’s a plethora of delightful and exciting activities to enjoy: arts & culture, fine dining, spas, outdoor recreation and much more.

Read on to see Robert’s 20 picks for 20 days on Coronado…