Robert Arends

Holiday Cheer and Lights on San Diego’s Big Bay!

San Diego Big Bay Holiday of Lights
San Diego Big Bay Holiday of Lights

From boats decorated with lights to a Big Balloon Parade, there plenty of Holiday Fun on San Diego’s Big Bay. Photo courtesy of Cook & Schmidt

For those of you making holiday plans to visit San Diego, following are a few fun and festive ways to make some merry on San Diego’s sparkling Big Bay.

43rd Annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

View more than 80 decorated boats at the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights!

View more than 80 decorated boats at the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights!

What’s better than a cool holiday boat parade? Two holiday boat parades! Yep, the 43rd Annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights takes place on two Sundays next month. More than 80 boats lavishly decorated from bow to keel with colorful twinkling lights and decorations will glide the waters of San Diego Bay.

It’s quite a spectacle and best part, it’s free! This year’s theme is “Children’s Stories” which is sure to be a hit with the kids. Check out the route map here. The procession starts at 5:30 PM, but head to the Bay early for prime viewing spots including the Embarcadero and Embarcadero Park (North & South), Seaport Village, Coronado Ferry Landing, Harbor Island and Shelter Island.

When: December 14 & 21, 2014
Time: 5:30 to 7:30 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

Port of San Diego’s Big Bay Balloon Parade

San Diego Big Bay Balloon Parade

Giant inflatable characters at Port of San Diego Big Bay Balloon Parade

Check out the Port of San Diego’s Big Bay Balloon Parade, “America’s Largest Balloon Parade” floating down Harbor Drive along the Embarcadero. And who knows, you might be on TV! The parade is televised nationally and on local Channel 4. You’ll see world-class marching bands, colorful floats, drill teams and of course, a procession of enormous balloons of familiar cartoon and pop culture characters. Over 100,000 spectators are expected!

The parade is part of our big annual National University Holiday Bowl festivities when the eyes of the nation are on San Diego for exciting gridiron action between two Pac-10 and Big 12 Conference teams.

Where: San Diego Embarcadero – W Cedar Street, San Diego, CA 92101
When: December 26, 2014
Time: Parade starts at 3:00 PM
Cost: Free. Grandstand Seats – $20
> Find out more about the Port of San Diego’s Big Bay Balloon Parade

Whale Watching

California gray whale breaching off the San Diego coast

California gray whale breaching off the San Diego coast

December is the launch of San Diego’s exciting whale watching season, when hundreds of majestic California gray whales are spotted of the coast making their annual migration from the Arctic to the warm lagoons of Baja California. These “peaceful giants of the sea” can be seen swimming our local waters through April. Hop aboard the HornblowerFlagship Cruises or one of the many other whale watching cruises departing daily from the Embarcadero on San Diego. The whales can also be seen from high atop Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma – bring your binoculars, though! 🙂

> Find out more about Whale Watching in San Diego

> Discover More Holiday Happenings in San Diego

Make some waves on San Diego Bay this holiday season!

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

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

Big Bay Boom – Star-Spangled 4th of July Fun on San Diego Bay!

San Diego's Big Bay Boom 4th of July Celebration
San Diego's Big Bay Boom 4th of July Celebration

Celebrate the birth of our nation with fireworks in San Diego including the Big Bay Boom 4th of July Extravaganza.

When it comes to 4th of July celebrations, three words that say it all: “Big Bay Boom” the biggest most spectacular fireworks show in San Diego!

This star-spangled extravaganza, impeccably choreographed to music (105.7 FM), takes place on San Diego Bay – “The Big Bay” – launching from barges strategically placed off Shelter Island, Harbor Island and the Embarcadero North and South.

Where to Watch Big Bay Boom

More than 850,000(!) people are expected to ring the bay throughout the day to claim a prime viewing spot. The best viewing is at the north Embarcadero (scope out the beautiful new Waterfront Park), Seaport Village, Embarcadero Marina Park North and South, Coronado Ferry Landing, Shelter Island and Harbor Island.

Waterfront Park - prime new spot to watch the Big Bay Boom (photo credit: County of San Diego)

Waterfront Park – prime new spot to watch the Big Bay Boom (photo credit: County of San Diego)

The Port of San Diego is offering a FREE shuttle service to/from Shelter and Harbor Islands starting at 6 PM, going until 11 PM. Shuttles depart from the Port’s Administration Building parking lot (3165 Pacific Highway) and near the West Marine parking lot (3717 Rosecrans St.).

What to Do on the Bay Before the Fireworks

Big Bay Boom begins at 9:00 PM and lasts about 17 minutes. Since you’ve got all day to play beforehand, check out the plethora of attractions and activities on the bay, including:

Make a Splash

Take a ride on an authentic U.S. Navy Swift Boat!

Take a ride on an authentic U.S. Navy Swift Boat!

Ahoy! Maritime Merriment

Fun for all ages on the USS Midway!

Fun for all ages on the USS Midway!

  • Cabrillo National Monument, the Plymouth Rock of the West where explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo discovered San Diego Bay in 1542; kids will love the tidepools!
  • Spanish Landing Village where you can view a life-size replica of Cabrillo’s flagship San Salvador taking shape (it’ll be set to sail this September)
  • Star of India, the world’s oldest active sailing ship (Arrr! 😉 )
  • USS Midway aircraft carrier, where San Diego’s rich Navy history comes to life on the world’s most visited ship museum!

Animal Attractions

See sea turtles up close at Living Coast Discovery Center.

See sea turtles up close at Living Coast Discovery Center.

Fine Dines and Shop-Portunities

Have fun on San Diego Bay and see you at the Big Bay Boom! 🙂

> Browse the Comprehensive list of 4th of July Fireworks and Celebrations in San Diego

P.S. Just for fun, check out 2012’s Big Bay Boom which went off accidentally in one big 15-second boom seen around the world.

Robert Arends

5 to Try for Big Fun on San Diego’s Big Bay!

San Diego's Big Bay
San Diego's Big Bay

Pick your adventure on San Diego’s Big Bay

Spring is here and there’s no better time to make a splash on San Diego Bay – also called the “Big Bay” –  with its treasure trove of attractions, tours, events and cool points of interest.

Following are my top 5 to Try:

1. The Port of San Diego’s Annual Day at the Docks

Kids fishing at the docks

Spend a day with the kids fishing.

The Port of San Diego’s Day at the Docks celebration in April is the West Coast’s largest public sportfishing celebration – and the official start of Southern California’s popular spring saltwater fishing season. Festivities at American’s Cup Harbor include over 200 maritime exhibits, live entertainment, a casting competition, captains’ dunk tank, free fishing and kids art areas. It’s fun and free!

2. The San Salvador

Rendering of how the San Salvador ship will look when completed.

Rendering of how the San Salvador ship will look when completed.

Did you know: in 1542 European explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed aboard his ship, the San Salvador, and reached “a very good enclosed port” naming it “San Miguel.” Today we call it San Diego Bay and visitors can step back in time to check out the Maritime Museum of San Diego’s building of a full-sized, fully functional, historically accurate replica of Cabrillo’s flagship, the San Salvador. The framing is nearly complete and it’s easy to imagine the ship that she will become. Ahoy!

3. The Living Coast Discovery Center

See sea turtles up close at Living Coast Discovery Center.

See sea turtles up close at Living Coast Discovery Center.

The South Bay city of Chula Vista is home to one of my favorite attractions for up-close animal encounters: the Living Coast Discovery Center. You can see endangered green sea turtles (tip: go during feeding time!), leopard sharks, friendly stingrays (minus the stingers so you can pet them!) and magnificent birds like falcons and burrowing owls. The observation tower and hiking trails afford picturesque views of the surrounding wetlands and bay.

4. Seeing the Big Bay…While on the Big Bay

Flagship Patriot Jet Boat Tour

Speed across San Diego’s Big Bay aboard a jet powered boat like Flagship’s Patriot

Water activities abound on the bay, from the affordable Coronado Ferry ride, to narrated harbor tours (on Flagship and Hornblower), SEAL Tours, whale watching excursions, kayak tours (including San Diego’s only urban kayak adventure), Jetpack America rides (you too can fly like a superhero!) and two new thrilling, turbo-charged boat rides (the Sea Rocket and Flagship Patriot). Let’s make some waves!

5. Headquarters at Seaport District

The Headquarters at Seaport District. on San Diego's Big Bay

The stylish new Headquarters at Seaport District

Foodies and shoppers are in for a treat at the new Headquarters at Seaport District, located in San Diego’s former Spanish-style police headquarters (pose for pix in an actual jail cell). Nosh on gourmet tacos at Puesto or grab a slice at Pizzeria Mozza, Chef Mario Batali’s first foray into San Diego’s dining scene. Shop-portunties include local surf photographer Aaron Chang’s Ocean Art Gallery and Kitson, a celebrity hot spot and go-to fashion boutique dedicated to pop culture.

Pick your own adventure and discover the many wonders of San Diego’s Big Bay this spring! 🙂

Suzzanne

25 Free Things to Do With Kids This Fall in San Diego

Enjoy A Bonfire with the Kids

Fall is a great time for the kids to explore many of San Diego’s free outdoor activities including the beach, hiking sports, sightseeing and more.

Below are just 25 of the free things kids can do this fall in San Diego:

  1. Head to one of San Diego’s 33 beaches, all open to the public, and perfect for body surfing, boogie boarding, building sandcastles, collecting seashells and basking in the sun.
  2. Catch a magnificent Pacific sunset and watch sea lions play along the shoreline at La Jolla Cove, one of the most spectacular natural settings in the world.
  3. Take free fly-fishing lessons from the San Diego Fly Fishers club on Sunday mornings from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM at Lake Murray, located in La Mesa. If you don’t have your own gear, arrive early for a free equipment loan.
  4. Sample some of the more than 200 varieties of fresh produce grown in San Diego at one of the region’s many Farmer’s Markets, held daily at locations throughout the county.
  5. Bike, walk or play along Mission Bay Park’s many trails. Bikers, walkers and joggers share more than 20 miles of scenic paths winding through sunlit and shade near the shoreline.
  6. Rollerblade, skateboard, or bicycle along the Mission Beach and Pacific Beach Boardwalk, a scenic three-mile boardwalk running along the coastline of these lively neighborhoods.
  7. Take a scenic drive to Mt. Laguna to hike, bike or picnic while enjoying the fresh mountain air whispering through the pines.
  8. Hike the trails of Torrey Pines State Reserve and see the rare and elegant Torrey pine trees, a number of animal species and miles of unspoiled beaches below.
  9. Visit Mission Trails Regional Park featuring a state-of-the-art Visitors Center where guests explore and learn about the wonders of nature and the native people who once lived on the land. The park also offers over 40 miles of natural and developed hiking and biking trails.
  10. Go scuba diving or snorkeling off San Diego’s shores to see spectacular creatures of the sea. La Jolla Shores and Cove offer some of the clearest waters on the California Coast, as well as miles of protected underwater preserve to explore.
  11. Walk along the downtown Embarcadero and view impressive public art sculptures, tributes, and memorials set along San Diego Bay. The artworks celebrate San Diego’s international ties, cultural diversity, military significance and unique oceanfront environment.
  12. Watch tail-waggin’, Frisbee-catchin’ and stick-fetchin’ dogs splash in the surf. Man’s best friend is permitted to roam leash-free at all hours of the day on designated dog beaches in Ocean Beach, Coronado and Del Mar.
  13. Talk a walk through Balboa Park, the largest urban cultural park in the United States, and discover its beautiful Spanish Colonial-Revival architecture and glorious gardens. Also, visitors can take advantage of the Park’s variety of other free offerings, including ranger-led walking tours at 11:00 AM on Tuesdays and Sundays.
  14. Gather friends, family and firewood for a cozy beach bonfire at one of San Diego County’s bonfire-friendly beaches, located in Coronado, Ocean Beach, Oceanside, Mission Beach and Pacific Beach.
  15. Go on a self-guided walking tour of The Stuart Collection, a display of contemporary sculptures scattered throughout the University of California, San Diego campus in La Jolla. Tour maps are available at the Gilman Drive campus entrance.
  16. Spend an afternoon at Tidelands Park in Coronado. The park’s 22 bayfront acres feature four baseball fields, a playground, skatepark, picnic tables, small beach with an exercise course, boat access, fishing pier and bike and pedestrian paths.
  17. Explore the clear shallow tide pools of La Jolla Cove and Point Loma when the tide is low and the pools are teeming with aquatic life.
  18. Visit Julian in San Diego’s East County and enjoy this quaint, historic mining town that grew into San Diego County’s second largest urban center during the Southern California gold rush of 1869.
  19. Take a drive to the top of Mt. Soledad in La Jolla, home of the Mt. Soledad Veterans War Memorial, for breathtaking, 360-degree views of San Diego. Spectacular views also await at the top of Mt. Helix in La Mesa, offering visitors a birds-eye glimpse of San Diego’s East County communities.
  20. Witness the living legacy of California’s birthplace in Old Town State Historic Park, San Diego’s first “downtown.” The six-block park features 12 acres of Mexican lore and historical sites presented in shops, restaurants, museums and several carefully preserved or restored adobe and wooden buildings.
  21. Visit the U.S. Olympic Training Center, the nation’s first warm-weather, year-round Olympic training facility, located in Chula Vista. Free guided tours of the 150-acre lakefront facility are offered at 11:00 AM on Saturday; tours begin at the Copley Visitor Center. Self-guided tours are also available 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Mondays – Saturdays.
  22. Visit downtown San Diego’s Seaport Village for hours of free entertainment, leisurely strolling and window shopping. Enjoy a laid-back day of hanging out in the grass and watching the many passing yachts and ships on picturesque San Diego Bay.
  23. Fly a kite along the grassy field in the Tecolote Shores of Mission Bay Park, a 4,600-acre aquatic park.
  24. Hang 10 at the California Surf Museum, which houses a permanent collection of historic boards, photographs and videos on Highway 101 in Oceanside. During free admission day on Tuesdays, visitors can explore its colorful and educational display on the sport of surfing and the legends who braved the waters over generations.
  25. Head over to La Mesa for the annual Oktoberfest. Traditional German celebration in San Diego’s East County featuring dancing, Bavarian bands, arts and crafts and more.

Even More Kids Free Fun this October

Visiting with the kids during October? After they have checked everything off the list above, save on other attractions, food and more with over a hundred kids free offers.

> Browse Over 100 Kids Free San Diego Offers for this October

Know of any other great free fall activities for kids? Tell us in the comments below.