Robert Arends

5 to Try: Holiday Happenings in San Diego’s East County

SoCal's largest ice skating rink at Viejas Outlet Center!

SoCal’s largest ice skating rink at Viejas Outlet Center!

“Oh the weather outside is frightful…” everywhere else but here, in sunny San Diego! With temps in the high 60s, winter is a wonderful time of year to check out the city sights, as well as activities in our East County region where ’tis the season to see charming foothill, mountain and desert communities decked in holiday splendor.

Following are 5 Holiday Festivities to Try – sure to have families humming “fa la la la la” all season long:

1. Christmas in the Village

La Mesa Christmas in the Village

It’s a winter wonderland at La Mesa Christmas in the Village

The delightful downtown of La Mesa transforms into an old-fashioned Christmas in the Village. There’s fun for the whole family: horse-drawn carriages, Santa Claus, carolers, carnival rides, live music stages and an outdoor market to shop for one-of-a-kind gifts.

Where: La Mesa Blvd & Spring Street, La Mesa, CA 91941
When: December 13-14, 2013
Time: 5:00 to 10:00 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about La Mesa’s Christmas in the Village

2. Annual Christmas Caroling Sing Along

Holiday Fun at Mt. Helix Annual Christmas Caroling in San Diego's East County

Join Santa’s Elves for a night of holiday merriment and Christmas caroling

Just up the hill on La Mesa’s majestic Mt. Helix – featuring spectacular 360 degree views of San Diego – the Annual Christmas Caroling Sing Along. Join Santa Claus, a choir of carolers and concert bands in musical merriment. There will also be free baked goods, hot drinks, and a raffle for prizes.

Where: 4901 Mt. Helix Drive, La Mesa, California 91941
When: December 15, 2013
Time: 6:30 to 8:00 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about Mt. Helix’s Annual Christmas Caroling Sing Along

3. Handel’s Messiah

In the historic Gold Rush mountain town of Julian, enjoy a rousing rendition of Handel’s Messiah by the Julian Community Choir in the Town Hall. While you’re there, be sure to sample Julian’s famous apple pies with a cup of hot cocoa. Our local U-T San Diego paper recently touted their top Julian pie shop picks.

Where: Julian Town Hall – 2129 Main Street, Julian, CA 92036
When: December 15, 2013
Time: Starts at 7:00 PM
> Find more events in Julian

4. Ice Skating

Viejas Outlet Center Ice Skating

Viejas Ice Skating Rink

Grab your scarf and mittens and head to Viejas Outlet Center in Alpine to practice figure 8s on the largest outdoor ice skating rink in Southern California!

Where: 5005 Willows Rd Suite 229, Alpine, CA 91901
When: Through January 5, 2014
Time:
– Monday-Friday: 5:00 to 10:00 PM
– Saturday-Sunday: 12:00 to 10:00 PM
Cost: $12-$14
> Find out more about the Viejas Outlet Center Ice Rink

5. Barona’s North Pole Gingerbread Village

Barona's North Pole Gingerbread Village

Barona’s North Pole Gingerbread Village

Look but don’t eat the incredible Barona’s North Pole Gingerbread Village at Barona Casino in Lakeside. This 50-foot culinary wonder – which took 900 hours to create! – features a snow-covered village complete with Santa’s workshop, an elf tavern and train station made entirely of gingerbread! It’s located at the entrance to the bustling Season’s Fresh Buffet and will be on display through Dec. 30. Yum! 😉

Where: 1932 Wildcat Canyon Rd, Lakeside, CA 92040
When: Through December 30, 2013

> Discover more holiday cheer in San Diego

Ho ho ho from East County!

Robert Arends

Fun East County Finds for Father’s Day Weekend

Father’s Day is just around the corner! If you’re just making plans and hankering for adventure, I’ve got a few fun ideas in San Diego’s wild and wonderful East County region:

Beer Pairing Dinner

Chef Jeremy to serve Beer Pairing Dinner fit for a king!

Chef Jeremy to serve Beer Pairing Dinner fit for a king!

Hop to it and take dad for out for a Beer Pairing Dinner at Jeremy’s on the Hill, located down the road from our famous Gold Rush mountain town of Julian. Partnering with Julian Brewing Company and Baileys BBQ Pit, Cordon Bleu-trained Chef Jeremy will serve a mouthwatering farm-to-table dinner dad won’t soon forget!

Where: Jeremy’s on the Hill – 4354 Highway 78 , Wynola, CA 92070
When: June 14, 2013
Reservations: 760.765.1587
Cost: $37 person/$68 for two

San Diego’s Gaudi – Hubbell/Ilan-Lael Open House

Architectural wonders at the Hubbell Open House

Architectural wonders at the Hubbell Open House

In nearby Santa Ysabel, famed architect/artist James Hubbell – “San Diego’s Gaudi” – opens up his fantastical art compound to the general public on Father’s Day, June 16. This 30th annual Open House sells out, so buy tix soon! This year, Hubbell debuts a new gallery building as dazzling as his art!

Where: 930 Orchard Lane, Santa Ysabel, CA 92070
When: June 16, 2013
Time: 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Cost: $30-$75. Kids 12 and under – Free.
> Find out more about the Hubbell/Ilan-Lael Open House

Feed-a-Cat…a Big Cat!

Feed-a-cat at Lions, Tigers & Bears!

Feed-a-cat at Lions, Tigers & Bears!

Grrrrrreat! Does your dad love Animal Planet and Discovery Channel? In the rolling hills of Alpine, he can experience wildlife up close and Feed-a-Cat – as in a tiger, lion or leopard (his choice!) at Lions, Tigers & Bears, a big cat and exotic animal rescue sanctuary. I’ve done it once and Thrilling is an understatement! If you bring the kids, they must be 16 or older.

Where: Lions, Tigers & Bears
Cost: $75
Book by calling: 619-659-8078

Borrego Springs

Galleta Meadows' Giant Sloth in Borrego Springs!

Galleta Meadows’ Giant Sloth in Borrego Springs!

Borrego Springs, San Diego’s desert oasis, is piping hot right now but don’t let the triple digits deter you. Summer means NO crowds and hours of poolside respite. I suggest staying at the swanky new La Casa del Zorro Resort (casitas with spas!). On the edge of town, check out the wild Galleta Meadows sculpture garden (free viewing!), featuring a cuddly new Giant Sloth. Book an off-road adventure with California Overland to take dad and the whole family to Fonts Point, “California’s Grand Canyon” – a contender for Virtual Tourist’s 8th Wonder of the World!

Happy Father’s Day and I’ll see you in East County! 🙂

Robert Arends

Winning! Chic New Viejas Hotel Opens in East County

Viejas Casino and Resort
Viejas Casino and Resort

Viejas Casino & Resort

Yours truly was invited to the grand opening of the new Viejas Hotel, located in the rolling foothills of Alpine next door to Viejas Casino and across the street from the popular Viejas Outlets.

Their new name is Viejas Casino & Resort. Did you know: the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians becomes San Diego’s fifth tribe to open a hotel connected to its casino.

The shindig will include a ribbon cutting, traditional Kumeyaay songs and a Native American blessing, and sneak peek of “Rise,” a dramatic new Cirque-style show that premieres at the hotel this Saturday, followed by a spectacular fireworks display. I can’t wait!

What to Expect at the New Viejas Hotel

Rendering of chic new Viejas Hotel

Rendering of chic new Viejas Hotel

The sophisticatedly modern $36 million hotel is 5 stories high and features 128 rooms (including 29 suites), a pool and hot tub with cabanas (SO SoCal!), state-of-the-art fitness center, free Internet/WiFi, and an expanded all-you-can-eat buffet next door. Each room has 40″ Samsung TVs, locally made furniture and art, nightly turn down service, his and her robes (nice touch!), iPod clock radios and Gilchrist & Soames bath and body products. Some suites even include fireplaces, tubs with whirlpool jets (just say ahhh!) and wet bars (I’ll toast to that 😉 ).

Rendering of Presidential Suite at Viejas Hotel

Rendering of Presidential Suite at Viejas Hotel

A few months back I explored the model guestrooms and I’ve got to say, they’re swanky, warm and inviting, with a metropolitan touch that reminds me of chic boutique hotels in Manhattan. There’s nothing else like it in these parts!

More to do near Viejas Casino & Resort

This spring as you explore the wildflowers of East County, stop by Viejas Casino & Resort to play the slots, shop 60 name-brand outlet stores, indulge at the buffet and rest your head for a memorable overnight stay amidst the beautiful backdrop of Alpine’s rural setting.

Insider tip: While you’re there, pick up a $5 bag of fresh avocados or oranges from one of the roadside vendors!

Sage & Songbirds Festival - Butterflies

Butterfly releases at Sage & Songbirds Festival.

And planning ahead… Time your visit to also check out Alpine’s 16th Annual Sage & Songbirds Garden Tour on May 3-5, featuring a free festival at Viejas Outlets that includes a live butterfly exhibit and daily butterfly releases, plus an outdoor plant and art sale. There will also be garden tours of local bird- and butterfly-friendly home gardens and the Sky Hunters raptor rehabilitation facility, home to magnificent hawks, owls and other bird of prey. Cost for the gardens/Sky Hunters tour is $15 per person before April 1.

Robert Arends

5 to Try: Sparkling East County Holiday Delights!

Skiers at the Viejas Outdoor Skating Rink
Skiers at the Viejas Outdoor Skating Rink in San Diego's East County

SoCal’s largest outdoor ice skating rink at Viejas!

OK, I know it’s only a few days after Halloween and Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away, but the winter holidays will be here before you know it!

So gather up the family, grab your gift list, Santa hat and mittens (yep, there’s a 55 degree chill her in the air at night – brrrr! 😉 ) and join me on a jolly jaunt to San Diego’s charming East County communities. They really know how to make some merry.

Following are 5 to Try East County Holiday Delights:

1. 66th Annual Mother Goose Parade

Goose Float at the Mother Goose Parade in San Diego's East County

El Cajon’s Mother Goose Parade!

The colorful Mother Goose Parade in El Cajon is San Diego’s traditional holiday kick-off, featuring thousands of spectators, colorful floats, marching bands, equestrians and celebrity appearances – fun for the whole family!

Location: Begin at Magnolia and Main, head down Main St. to N. Second Street, turn North then end at Madison.
Date: November 18, 2012
Time: 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM, Parade starts at 10:00 AM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about the 66th Annual Mother Goose Parade

2. Julian’s Country Christmas Celebration & Tree Lighting

Julian Country Christmas & Tree Lighting.

The historic, Norman Rockwell-esque mountain town of Julian kicks off the holidays with a Country Christmas celebration & Tree Lighting, complete with costumed carolers, Santa Claus and, of course, their famous apple pies and piping hot apple cider!

Location: Julian’s Pioneer Park (map)
Date: November 24, 2012
Time: Starts at 4:00 PM. Lighting around 6:00 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about Julian’s Country Christmas Celebration & Tree Lighting

3. Santa Train North Pole Limited

Santa on the North Pole Limited

Make tracks for the Santa Train North Pole Limited!

All aboard the Santa Train North Pole Limited, a Christmas vintage train ride through our rustic backcountry, departing from the Campo Depot. The adventure features Santa and his elves, cookies and hot cocoa, plus a reading of the famous holiday story, The Polar Express. Reserve seats now for this sell-out holiday favorite!

Location: State Highway 94 & Forrest Gate Road, Campo, CA (map)
Dates: Fridays and Saturdays, November 23 – December 22
Times: Trains at 5:00 PM and 7:00 PM (depending on the date)
Cost: $20-$50, Toddlers under 2 are free
> Find out more about Santa Train North Pole Limited

4. Ice Skating at the Viejas Outlet Center

Ice Skaters at the Viejas Outlet Center in San Diego's East County

There’s plenty of room at the largest outdoor skating rink in Southern California.

The Peanuts Christmas special always comes to mind at the Viejas Outlet Center, home of the largest outdoor ice skating rink in Southern California!

Location: 5005 Willows Rd Suite 229, Alpine, CA 91901 (map)
Dates: November 16 – January 6, 2012
Time: TBD
Cost: TBD
> Find out more about Ice Skating at the Viejas Outlet Center 

5. Alpine Village Christmas Parade of Lights & Snow Festival

Santa Claus at the Alpine Christmas Parade!

The quaint town of Alpine kicks off the season with its Alpine Village Christmas Parade of Lights & Snow Festival, featuring a parade, Santa and his elves, caroling and a big snow mountain for sledding. Snow in San Diego… who knew?!

Location: 1347 Tavern Road, Alpine, CA (map)
Date: December 7, 2012
Time: Starts at 6:30 PM
> Find out more about the Alpine Village Christmas Parade of Lights & Festival

A hearty happy (early) “Ho ho ho” from San Diego! 🙂 Know of any other great East County Holiday events? Let us and other’s know in the comments below.

Robert Arends

3 For Free: Spring Flings in San Diego!

Julian Daffodils

Spring is in full swing in San Diego. With sun shiny days and pleasantly warm temperatures in the 70s, now is a perfect time to head outdoors and explore some great upcoming spring and garden festivals.

Following are three fun spring flings to check out this May:

Sage & Songbirds Festival - Butterflies

Butterfly releases at Sage & Songbirds Festival.

1. Sage & Songbirds Festival

This weekend, May 4-6, the popular annual Sage & Songbirds Festivalflutters into the Viejas Outlet Center in Alpine – celebrating Alpine’s recognition by the National Wildlife Federation as “America’s 1st Community Wildlife Habitat.”  There’s a live butterfly exhibit and daily butterfly releases (Way Cool!), plus a plant and art sale. Admission is free.

Julian Daffodils

Beautiful Julian wildflowers.

2. Julian Wild Flower Show

Head to the historic Gold Rush mountain town of Julian on May 10-13 for the spectacular annual Julian Wild Flower Show. The Julian Woman’s Club gathers colorful wildflowers from in and around Julian, beautifully displaying them in Town Hall from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm each day. Also on view: an exhibit of Native American uses for wildflowers. Admission is free.

Mission Trails Pony Rides

Pony rides at Mission Trails Day.

3. Mission Trails Day

Showcasing the natural wonders of Mission Trails Regional Park (one of the largest urban parks in the U.S.!), Mission Trails Day takes over the park on May 19. Enjoy guided nature walks, pony rides, a special program on coyotes by Ms. Fizzle & The Magic Schoolbus, a climbing wall, bird watching, raptor encounters and a Star Party at night. Admission is free.

Coronado House

Coronado Historic Home Tour.

Bonus.  Coronado Historic Home Tour

Another big annual event that springs 😉 to mind this month…If you’ve ever wanted to take a sneak peek at the gorgeous homes and gardens on charming Coronado Island, now you can at the Coronado Historic Home Tour on May 13. Tour several historic homes of different time periods and architecture, while learning stories of World War II’s effect on Coronado life. Tickets: $30 for Coronado Historical Association members and $35 for nonmembers.

Sandra

A Season of Savings at Viejas Outlet Center in San Diego’s East County

Viejas Outlet Center

Holiday Fun at the Viejas Casino & Outlet Center

Being in the throes of this holiday season, people are always searching for one-stop-shopping opportunities to not only find the perfect gift but an outing the whole family can enjoy. One of the many festive shopping destinations in San Diego is the award-winning Viejas Outlet Center. Approximately 30 minutes from Downtown near the quaint town of Alpine, this outlet center features some fabulous go-to brands in a picturesque park-like setting creating the perfect place to conquer your holiday shopping list while you relax! During this holiday season, you can save up to 70% on already unbelievable prices on popular brands like Brooks Brothers, Chico’s Jones New York, Coach, Nine West, Tommy Hilfiger, Rue 21, Gap, Guess, Polo Ralph Lauren, Levi’s, Nike, Carter’s Children’s Wear, Vans, and Sunglass Hut, just to name a few!

Southern California's Largest Outdoor Ice Skating Rink

Once you master your holiday shopping list then maybe spend some time enjoying a magical experience of skating outdoors with the entire family on Southern California’s largest outdoor skating rink. This will be sure to get you in the holiday spirit. Once off the ice, stick around to see the enchanting water show called Together, A Holiday Spectacular! You will be dazzled with this 360 degree experience with water fountains, lasers, fire cannons, pyrotechnics, and state-of-the-art special effects, all choreographed to the best known and loved holiday music!

If the lighting, special effects and music does not get you in the holiday spirit, you might need to re-fuel yourself with a specialty coffee at Robin’s Coffee Nest or with a few pieces of chocolate from the Rocky Mt. Chocolate Factory. If you need a little bit more to energize your shopping goals then be sure to partake in the many choices of dining options at the outlet center. Two of my favorites are Nori Sushi Bar & Grill or Adriano’s Pizza.

No matter what your shopping list entails, Viejas Outlet Center will certainly fulfill your holiday shopping goals all while having fun with the whole family!

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

Three “Wild” Adventures in East County

Paws up! Make treks to San Diego’s rustic East County for up-close encounters of the wild animal kind.

Three one-of-a-kind animal sanctuaries top my must-see list – each sure to become as synonymous with San Diego as our world-famous Zoo and Safari Park.

Harris Hawk at Sky Hunters!

1. I recently discovered Sky Hunters, a preserve for our fine-feathered friends near Alpine, dedicated to teaching folks about raptors/birds of prey and caring for and rehabilitating sick, injured and orphaned raptors. Owner Nancy Conney (also an instructor at the San Diego Natural History Museum) and her team look after 20 non-releasable raptors, including hawks and owls. They also work with as many as 300 “rehab raptors” each year, including barn owl babies that fall out of their owl boxes and palm trees.

Barn owl at Sky Hunters.

Sky Hunters is open to the public for tours on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 noon until 4:00 pm. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 619-445-6565 or emailing skyhunters@juno.com. Visitor safety tip: Stay at least three feet back from the cages.

Roaring good times at Lions, Tigers & Bears!

2. Also located in Alpine is Lions, Tigers & Bears (oh my! Couldn’t resist…), a safe haven for lions, tigers, bears and other abandoned and unwanted exotic animals. BIG news: They’re adding two new black bears named Delilah and Blossom (become a Bear BFF!) to their family of 13 big cats and a black bear named Liberty. Two fall events coming up include a Wild Nights Camp Over with the Cats on September 23-24 and Wine Tasting Dinner under the stars on October 1. You can also spend a safari-themed overnight at their luxe bed & breakfast inn, White Oak Wild Nights.

Call 619-659-8078 to make a reservation to visit LTB; visiting hours are twice a week and just about every Saturday.

Howling good times at the California Wolf Center!

3. The California Wolf Center, located near Julian, offers visitors a thrilling opportunity to view packs of Alaskan gray wolves and endangered Mexican gray wolves while learning about their history, biology and behavior. They’re magnificent creatures and surprisingly timid and inquisitive. You could spend a couple hours just watching them play and explore their enclosures. Visitor tip: Schedule a visit in the morning when they’re most active. Click here for a public tour; private tours available too.

For REALLY up-close encounters inside the wolf enclosures(!), schedule an exciting Photo Tour.

Now that’s something to howl about!

Robert Arends

5 To Try on the Wild Side!

Lions and tigers and bears – Oh my!

But I’m not talkin’ about animal encounters at the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park.

Rather, wild and mighty creatures (plus one of the most mysterious kind) can be found in East County – an expansive rural area we refer to as San Diego’s backyard. Here the great outdoors beckons and inspires folks to not only embrace, but also give back to nature by caring for and giving a home to animals great and (very) small.

Following are 5 to try:

  1. Howl!…The California Wolf Center, located just south of Julian, is dedicated to increasing public awareness and understanding of the history, biology and behavior of gray wolves which once roamed North America in countless numbers.  The center offers a thrilling opportunity to view packs of Alaskan gray wolves and highly endangered Mexican gray wolves. Travel tip: Visit in the morning when they’re most active. Click here for a public tour; private tours available too!

    Who let the wolves out - woof!

  2. Roar!…Lions, Tigers & Bears (LTB) animal preserve in Alpine provides a safe haven for abandoned and unwanted exotic animals, including 13 big cats like lions, tigers and a leopard, plus a cute black bear cub named Liberty who was rescued and brought to the habitat on July 4, 2010. LTB gives animals the opportunity to live in a safe and caring environment while educating the public about nature’s most magnificent wildlife. Word of advice: DON’T turn your back on the lions (yikes!). Click here to schedule a visit.

    They're grrreat! Feeding the tigers at Lions, Tigers & Bears.

  3. Stomp!.. The tiny high-desert town of Ranchita is home to the Rancheti Bigfoot statue, a monstrous 11 foot, 300-pound white yeti sculpture built by local resident Joe Rauh which keeps watch over the Ranchita Country Store. For years, the beast has supposedly been spotted in the region. Make tracks to the souvenir shop for a memento or two to remember your abominably-cool encounter.

    Ranchita + Yeti = Rancheti!

  4. Fish fry…As in native fish that call our scorching desert home. At Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitor Center, keep your eyes peeled for a palm-lined pond full of tiny desert pupfish. The little guys are hard to spot at first. They look like mini minnows camouflaged to match the murky waters. These “extreme” fish are tough for their size, as they thrive in fresh or salty water and can survive temps from near freezing to 108 degrees! {whew!}
  5. Oink!…Bate’s Nut Farm in Valley Center is not only chock full of nuts, candies and dried fruits, but also a menagerie of animals you can feed: pigs, goats, geese, sheep – OH, and even ostriches! During big events, they also offer pony rides for the kids. It’s charming and quaint in a Norman Rockwell kind of way, but that’s why we love it. They put the fun in farm!
Robert Arends

5 To Try: East County’s Quirky Roadside Attractions

From quaint and quirky to weird and wonderful, San Diego has numerous backcountry marvels that dot the expansive East County region. Roadside attractions have always fascinated me because they meld America’s love affair with the road with a creative entrepreneurial spirit that makes drivers do a double take.

Following are five fun ones to try. Get your motor running!

A sweet tart of roadside attractions in Lemon Grove.

  1. The “World’s Largest Lemon” in Lemon Grove (located off Historic Highway 94, alongside the San Diego Trolley tracks at Broadway & Main Street). This gigantic fiberglass lemon is a nod to the area’s citrus boom of the early 1900s and commemorates the town’s incorporation in 1977. The lemons are long gone except for a small grove adjacent to this tart 10-foot wide wonder. The base of the sculpture reads, “Best climate on earth.”

    Ranchita's roadside Rancheti!

  2. “Rancheti” Bigfoot statue in Ranchita (along County Highway S22, 9 mi. SW of Borrego Springs): This 11 foot, 300-pound white yeti statue – built by Ranchita resident/realtor Joe Rauh to bring attention to his tiny desert town  – keeps watch over the parking lot by the Ranchita Country Store. A must-see for “snowbirds” and other desert visitors; stop by, take photos and pick up a souvenir T-shirt or tote bag.
  3. Desert View Tower in Jacumba (located on Historic Highway 80): This 70-foot, San Diego historic landmark – commissioned in 1922 as a tribute to early pioneers – is renowned for its incredible panoramic views of the desert floor below (views stretching from the Salton Sea to Mexico!) and a wonderfully weird Americana museum and boulder garden filled with whimsical painted animal rock carvings. Admission: $3. Ensuing laughter from this offbeat roadside attraction: priceless. 
  4. I’ve mentioned them before, but the “Sky Art” Sculptures in Borrego Springs (Galleta Meadows Estate along Borrego Springs Road) – a magical metallic menagerie of dozens of freestanding life-size sculptures of creatures that roamed the valley millions of years ago – are well worth repeating.

    All that's left of Dinosaur Land in Alpine is this friendly fellow.

  5. Speaking of dinos, there’s a little known find of the prehistoric kind called Dinosaur Land in Alpine (located in Alpine Mobile Home Estates along historic Highway 80). There’s not much left of this nifty amusement park from yesteryear (1960s) and its 10 ancient inhabitants, except this curious creature that was too massive to move when the mobile home park was built. Stop by and say hi – we promise it won’t bite 😉