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

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.

Kathleen

Land, Ocean and Culture: Exploring San Diego Parks

Anza-Borrego Desert Wildflower Season

San Diego is a paradise of parks. The Trust for Public Land named San Diego one of the 10 best U.S. cities based on access to and size of our parks, which comprises close to a quarter of the city’s total area. But ratings aside, the best facet of San Diego’s many parks is the diversity. From water to grass, from culture to desert, San Diego has it all.

Balboa Park

balboa park san diego

Balboa Park is the nation’s largest cultural park.

Known as the Smithsonian of the West, Balboa Park is the largest urban cultural park in the United States and a must-stop on any San Diego vacation. Housing 14 museums including the San Diego Natural History Museum, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and the San Diego Air & Space Museum as well as the Old Globe theater, Balboa Park is the cultural heart of San Diego. The park is also home to the San Diego Zoo, Spanish Village Art Center and wonderful gardens including the Japanese Friendship Garden and the Botanical Building and Lily Pond. The park – which celebrates its centennial in 2015 – features a host of seasonal events and celebrations where you can mix and mingle with the locals.

Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo National Monument

The only National Park in San Diego, the Cabrillo National Monument celebrates the arrival of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who landed at San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542 and was the first European explorer to set foot on the west coast of the United States. At the highest point of the park stands the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, a San Diego icon since 1854, where visitors can enjoy spectacular views of San Diego Bay and skyline. The park features a visitor center and just below the park at the shoreline, some of the best tide pools in San Diego.

Mission Bay Aquatic Park

Mission Bay Aquatic Park

Mission Bay Aquatic Park is the largest park of its kind in the world.

The largest park of its kind in the world, the Mission Bay Aquatic Park is a 4,600 acre aquatic playground. Around the bay, 27 miles of shoreline is lined with grass playgrounds, picnic areas and fire pits, bike paths, boat launches and resorts. Bikes, boat and equipment rentals are readily available including sailing, waterskiing, wave runners and paddle boards. Mission Bay is one of the main hubs for San Diego sport fishing offering day and overnight trips as well as whale watching excursions. It is also home to SeaWorld San Diego and a host of great events including the annual Crew Classic.

Anza Borrego

Anza Borrego State Park gets colorful every spring thanks to wildflowers.

Anza Borrego State Park gets colorful every spring thanks to wildflowers.

Five hundred miles of dirt roads and 12 wilderness areas compose Anza Borrego, the largest state park in California. The park offers miles of hiking trails, including a leg of the Pacific Crest Trail, and camping can also be enjoyed with a quick stop by the visitor center. Yearly temperatures can range from near freezing to as high as 108 degrees Fahrenheit, and you might spy wildlife including roadrunners, kit foxes, mule deer, bighorn sheep, iguanas, rattlesnakes, hawks and golden eagles. Each spring, the park transforms in a blaze of color when the desert wildflowers bloom. There are also a number of outstanding Native American cultural preserves including archaeological sites, pictographs and rock formations.

Mission Trails Regional Park

Mission Trails Regional Park - Bikes

Discover natural San Diego beauty on the trails of Mission Trails Regional Park

Mission Trails Regional Park comprises nearly 5,800 acres and offers over 40 miles of trails, including the popular Cowles Mountain, whose summit is the highest in the city of San Diego. Beyond hiking, activities in the park include camping, mountain biking, boating and horseback riding. Mostly covered in chaparral, oak woodlands and sage scrub, it’s hard to imagine that you can get this deep into nature just an hour from downtown. The park features a great visitor and interpretive center offering nature walks and low cost children’s education classes on local wildlife including butterflies, hawks, owls, deer and coyotes.

Which of these San Diego parks will you visit next? Let us know in the comments below.

Stephenie

5 to Try This Weekend

For those of us who didn’t score tickets to see Kathy Griffin at the San Diego Civic Center this weekend (tear), here’s a list of other weekend happenings to keep us occupied:

  • Yes!! This Saturday and Sunday is the Adams Avenue Street Fair, California’s largest free music festival and one of my
    Adams Avenue here I come...

    Adams Avenue here I come...

    favorite annual events. Set along Adams Avenue (between 35th Avenue and Bancroft Street) in Normal Heights, the event features 70 musical acts on six different stages, carnival rides, over 300 arts and craft vendors, beer gardens and yummy food galore! The fun goes down from 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Sunday.  Insider Tip: I suggest pulling out some mullah because a lot of the vendors are “cash only.”

  • Beat the heat and catch a flick during the annual San Diego Film Festival this weekend at the Gaslamp Theater. Showcasing a number of American and international full-length films, documentaries and short films, you can also catch Q & A sessions with directors and maybe even a star sighting or two. Individual passes are available, but day passes are recommended. Plus, with the purchase of a day pass you can get into the special workshops, panels and fabulous after parties. Click here for a complete list of showings.
  • Long before there was a sponge that lived in a pineapple under the sea, there was a famous explorer that sailed the sea; in fact, that explorer, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, discovered San Diego in 1542. In honor of his discovery, we’re celebrating the annual Cabrillo Festival this Saturday and Sunday. This free event includes cultural festivities, educational activities, music, food, dancing and a wonderful reenactment of the famous explorer landing on the shores of San Diego Bay.
  • This Saturday, Smithsonian Magazine presents national Museum Day, which means a number of museums all over the country are providing free general admission. More than a dozen of San Diego’s museums are participating in this event, including San Diego Botanic Garden, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Birch Aquarium at Scripps and California Center for Arts, Escondido Museum. To take advantage of this offer, you must click here to register for and print out a Smithsonian Museum Day Card. I just registered for mine and it takes less than a minute!
  • Enjoy the cultures and customs of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia during the 15th Annual Pacific Islander Festival this Saturday and Sunday at Mission Bay’s Ski Beach. This free event will have continuous entertainment, food, music and unique crafts.
Guest Blogger

A National Monument at San Diego’s Gateway

The monument

The Monument

On August 15 and 16, the National Park Service, in an effort to get across to us that our national parks are awesome, offered free admission into more than 100 national parks across the nation, and it just so happens that we have one right here in San Diego.

Cabrillo National Monument sits above the Point Loma shore where it is generally agreed Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, leading the first European expedition to explore what is now the west coast of the United States, landed his flagship the San Salvador in 1542.  (Cabrillo must have known he was in the right place when he climbed to the top to find this statue.)

It was his expedition that produced the first written description of the west coast of North America.  It would be another sixty years before anybody else would pay any attention to the region and, in 1913, President Woodrow Wilson would commemorate Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo with the national monument we all know and love today.

From this elevated spot in Point Loma, you can see San Diego — all of San Diego — on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.  And what’s that landmass just to the south?  Why it’s Tijuana, Mexico!  How many national parks can show you a bay, an ocean, and a foreign country?  Take that, Yellowstone!

It is easy to stand on this spot and imagine yourself in Cabrillo’s shoes –- the ocean at your back, looking over that big bay to the land beyond, rich with mountains, coastal plains and promise.  Now imagine you’re wearing thigh-high boots and poofy shorts.  That’s what it is to be an explorer, near as I can figure.

The Intertidal Area

The Intertidal Area

Much more than a monument, here you can:

  • EXPLORE the tidepools and their unique ecosystem.
  • HIKE the two-mile Bayside Trail.
  • VISIT the historic Old Point Loma Lighthouse.
  • CHECK OUT the bookstore.
  • SEE the “Age of Exploration” exhibit in the visitor center.
  • LISTEN to Park Ranger talks on Point Loma’s military history.

ATTENTION, KIDS! You can earn your Junior Ranger badge from Cabrillo National Monument.  Just ask for a Junior Ranger activity at the visitor center.  After you have completed the program in the park, you will receive the Park Ranger badge and oath from an actual Park Ranger or volunteer.  If that’s not cool, I don’t wanna know what cool is!

Cabrillo National Monument is open every day of the year, from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.  Regular entrance fees are $5 per vehicle, and $3 per pedestrian, bicyclist or motorcyclist.