Candice

San Diego’s Burger Bonanza

San Diego is crazy for burgers. The booming chain of organic burgers, Burger Lounge, got its start right here in San Diego and Hodad’s has been a local favorite for the beef filled buns for decades. Thanks to the recent openings of Smashburger and the soon-to-open Counter Burger, it’s nearly impossible to have a bad burger anywhere in San Diego. Here are three of San Diego’s newest, hot off the grill destinations:

An All-American Classic at Bunz

Bunz

Terra American Bistro chef and owner Jeff Rossman just opened up a new burger-centric venture in Mission Valley, bringing a much-needed infusion of farm-to-table freshness to the area’s culinary offerings. Enjoy a classic burger made from hormone and antibiotic free 100% premium Meyer Angus beef or try one of their unusual specialty burgers featuring toppings ranging from pulled pork to pickled jalapenos.

A sky-high burger at Elevation Burger

Elevation Burger

If you’re heading up to Legoland in Carlsbad, add Elevation Burger to your itinerary. The organic burger chain offers tasty creations made from 100% certified organic, grass-fed and free range beef. Plus, you can indulge without the guilt…at least when it comes to the environment. Elevation Burger is committed to environmentally friendly practices, including recycling waste – some of which becomes bio-diesel fuel – and using sustainable materials and energy-efficient equipment in the restaurants (all buildings are even LEED Certified).

BGR in Point Loma

BGR the Burger Joint

This December, the Point Loma neighborhood welcomed BGR the Burger Joint to town. Their prime, dry-aged, grain-fed beef sits between buttery soft brioche buns. If you’re looking for something a little unexpected, try a Cuban Burger with slow roasted pork, ham, sweet pickles, Dijon mustard and swiss cheese and served grill-pressed, or even a seasonal lobster roll. For the truly insatiable, BGR serves up a behemoth called the “9 Pounder,” though it actually weighs in at over 15 pounds. If a single person can eat it in one sitting, it’s free.

With all these options it can be hard to choose. Tell us about your favorite burger joint in the comments below.

Alison

San Diego is Home to Nation’s Best Brewpubs

Just a Selection of Beer Taps at Pizza Port OB
Just a Selection of Beer Taps at Pizza Port OB

Just a Selection of Beer Taps at Pizza Port OB

Any idea where you’ll find the best small brewpub in the country?

It’s right here in San Diego – in Ocean Beach (OB), to be more precise.  Pizza Port OB, which opened in May 2010, was tapped Small Brewpub of the Year at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival (PDF), the nation’s largest and most prestigious showcase for brewers and their brews. Head brewer, Yiga Miyashiro, was named Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year.

The OB location is the fourth link in the Pizza Port chain launched in Solana Beach in 1987 by Gina and Vince Marsaglia, a sister/brother team who are not brewers but have the Midas touch for finding top beer-making talent. (At that 2011 national beer fest, Pizza Port Carlsbad won Large Brewpub of the Year – for the third consecutive year.)

Delicious pizza goes great with a local beer

The chain began has a pizza-only restaurant – and chewy-crust designer pizzas are still a hot draw. Make sure to request the signature wholegrain beer crust. Salads are fresh, large and tasty.

Pizza Port Ocean Beach family Style Seating

Pizza Port Ocean Beach family style seating

Customers order at the counter and sit on benches at long picnic-style tables in the large, often packed, dining area. Ambiance is informal, friendly and noisy – a surprisingly strong family vibe (baby strollers are often parked alongside tables). There’s a small indoor bar and a sidewalk patio.

Delicious Pizza Port Beer

Delicious Pizza Port Beer

Choose from a wide selection of affordable high-quality beer on tap, including award-winning house-crafted brews as well as other locally crafted offerings covering a wide range of styles, flavors and punch. Can’t decide? For $4-$8, sample a four-brew tasting.

Pizza Port Ocean Beach is at the corner of Bacon and Santa Monica in OB.  It’s open from 11:00 am – 10:00 pm Sundays through Thursdays, till midnight Fridays and Saturdays.  Pints cost $3-$7; 10” pizzas run $7-$10.

Suzzanne

25 Free Things to Do This Winter in San Diego

Balboa Park December Nights in San Diego

From traditional holiday parades and festivals to the migration of California gray whales along the Pacific coast, a visit to San Diego during the winter offers a wealth of free, fun and festive experiences.

Balboa Park December Nights in San Diego

Balboa Park December Nights

  1. Join the festivities during Balboa Park December Nights, a two-day holiday celebration of food, entertainment and fun on December 2-3. The numerous museums and cultural institutions in Balboa Park open their doors free of charge, and festivities include carolers, live music, holiday light displays, theater and dance performances.

  2. Whale Watch from the shores and cliffs of Point Loma, as California gray whales migrate south to the warm water breeding grounds off the coast of Baja, California. Spectators can catch a spectacular show during December through April when these majestic mammals pass through the waters off San Diego”s coastline.

  3. Be part of a grand Holiday Celebration on December 2 in Coronado with a festive parade along Orange Avenue, the lighting of a 75-foot Christmas tree, holiday music and a firework show over Glorietta Bay.

  4. Enjoy free organ concerts at the Spreckles Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park beginning at 2:00 pm each Sunday. The Organ Pavilion features the world”s largest outdoor pipe organ, where organists resound holiday favorites.

  5. See Old Town State Historic Park decked out for the holidays during Holiday in the Park on December 10 and enjoy holiday treats, activities and extended shopping hours, along with strolling carolers.

  6. Head over to Seaport Village for the festive <a title=”Surfin” Santa Arrival at Seaport Village” href=”http://www.sandiego.org/event/Visitors/9852″ target=”_blank”>Surfing Santa at Seaport Village event on November 26. Hang-ten with Santa and enjoy a lively parade along the Seaport Village boardwalk, music, stilt walkers, and kids” crafts.

  7. Spread some holiday cheer at the La Jolla Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival on December 4 in downtown La Jolla. The event includes marching bands, floats, equestrian units, vintage automobiles and an appearance by Santa Claus.

  8. Drive to the mountain town of Julian for a warm mug of hot apple cider and a delicious slice of Julian”s legendary homemade apple pie. On Saturdays, stroll through the quaint neighborhood streets and enjoy the sounds of wandering Christmas carolers and best online casino a living nativity scene.

  9. Take a walk around Balboa Park and discover its beautiful architecture. Take advantage of the park”s variety of free offerings, including touring its spectacular gardens.

  10. Take a walk along one of San Diego”s 70 miles of beaches, all free and open to the public, and enjoy the beautiful sunsets.

  11. Visit the village of La Mesa on December 9 and 10 for Christmas in the Village. Enjoy street performers, carolers, carriage rides, entertainment for the whole family and more.

  12. Bring the family to the SoNo Park Holiday Fest on December 4 and celebrate with the restaurants and residents of South Park and North Park in a chili cook-off. Visitors can taste chili in hand-spun ceramic bowls, shop for holiday gifts from local artisans and enjoy live music, kid”s activities, gourmet food trucks, a beer garden featuring local and craft beer and more.

  13. Explore the tide pools in Point Loma, Ocean Beach and La Jolla when the tide is low to see some of the magnificent creatures of the sea.

  14. Enjoy the Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade on December 11 in downtown San Diego”s historic Gaslamp Quarter. Owners and their dressed-up pets march down the decorated streets of the neighborhood and end at a Pet Expo featuring an awards ceremony for best-dressed pups.

  15. Take a drive to the top of Mt. Soledad in La Jolla for a panoramic view of the city all spruced up in holiday decoration. Along the way, enjoy the beautifully decorated homes in this exclusive neighborhood.

  16. Drive to the 600,000-acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in San Diego”s East County to marvel at wildlife and a kaleidoscope of colorful flowers amidst the desert warmth.

  17. Gaze up at the massive balloons during the Big Bay Balloon Parade, the country”s largest balloon parade, on December 28.

  18. Enjoy the twinkling waters of San Diego Bay and more than 100 private boats decorated with holiday lights for the 40th Annual Port of San Diego Parade of Lights on December 11 and December 18.

  19. Get in the holiday spirit during Chula Vista”s 50th Annual Starlight Parade on December 3, featuring carolers, holiday cheer, floats, drill teams, marching bands, classic cars, a children”s event and visit from Santa.

  20. Experience a white Christmas in San Diego after making the scenic, one-hour drive to the top of Mount Laguna in San Diego”s rustic East County.

  21. Delight in the festive gatherings of the Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights on December 10. Over 100 brightly illuminated powerboats and sailboats parade along Mission Bay; the parade ends with a fantastic fireworks show at 9:00 pm above SeaWorld San Diego.

  22. Experience a magical evening of holiday celebrations December 3 at the California Center for the Arts Escondido during the annual Holiday Tree Lighting and Winter Wonderland. Enjoy seasonal music and Victorian carolers, a visit from Santa, free art activities and treats, a spectacular light show and real snow!

  23. Celebrate holiday cheer during Poway Winterfest on December 10. The event features a tree lighting ceremony, visits from Santa, train rides, live music, theatre performances, food, treats, crafts and more.

  24. Join the community of Carlsbad for their annual Tree Lighting Festivities, December 4 at the Village Faire Shopping Center. Enjoy children”s crafts, cookies and cider, entertainment and pictures with Santa.

  25. Rock out at the Poinsettia Bowl Gaslamp March on December 19. Held two days prior to the annual Poinsettia Bowl, bands representing the two Bowl football teams line up at opposite ends of Fifth Avenue in downtown”s Gaslamp Quarter and face-off in an old fashion battle of the bands.

Suzzanne

5 to Try This Weekend

1. Little Italy FESTA: Head down to Little Italy on Sunday, October 9 for the 17th Annual Little Italy FESTA. This colorful Italian celebration features music, fine food and “Gesso Italiano,” a traditional Italian street-painting festival.

2. Taste of North Park: On Saturday, October 8 from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. North Park will be the place to be as it welcomes local dining enthusiasts to partake in one of the best assortments of cuisine experiences in the city. This is a wonderful opportunity to taste original culinary specialties along North Park’s aptly named “Restaurant Row.”  Tickets to this event are $30 in advance and $35 at the door.

3. Ocean Beach Oktoberfest: OB will be rockin’ October 7th and 8th to the sounds of OB Oktoberfest. The Ocean Beach Oktoberfest – the uniquely Southern California salute to the celebration of German culture and fun – is back this year, with a second day added. In addition to the food and craft vendors and an all-ages stage on the grassy area at the foot of Newport Avenue, Saturday’s Oktoberfest will include performances by the Electric Waste Band, Tommy Cubs, The Heavy Guilt, the Naked Funk, Bateke Beat, Tribal Theory and the Bavarian Beer Garden Band.

4. 5th Avenue Auto Showcase: The historic Gaslamp Quarter invites car enthusiasts to stroll Fifth Avenue from K Street to E Street on Sunday, October 9 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. This free to view event will be open to the public and showcase high-performance automobiles ranging from the traditional classics to the lavish luxury modern vehicles of today.

5. LEGOLAND Brick or Treat Celebration: LEGOLAND California joins in the Halloween fun every Saturday in October with its annual Brick-or-Treat celebration, featuring a one-of-a-kind, 4-ft. tall LEGO jack-o-lantern. Children ages 12 and under can participate in fun-filled costume contests and trick-or-treat with a souvenir goodie bag along the park’s Brick-or-Treat Trail, a kid-sized cul-de-sac of spooky LEGO homes featuring fun and creepy creatures.

Maren

Southern California Beaches Present: The Bioluminescent Red Tide!

[iframe width=”500″ height=”281″ youtube src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/KZVvIWI2psU” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen]

Video Filmed by Franz Krachtus, Sept. 2011

Here in San Diego, Ca., we are often reminded that the most spectacular and awe-inspiring entertainment comes from Mother Earth herself. For a limited time – doing her best Vegas impression on Southern California beaches from Point Loma to Huntington Beach – the luminous, the electric, the dazzling…  Lingulodinium polyedrum!

During the day we simply call her “The Red Tide” however, by either moniker she is a show-stopping happening not to be missed. Every so often these tiny, miniscule algae “bloom” by the billions, giving the ocean a red sheen by day – hence the name “red tide”.

At night, the bioluminescent magic show (technically science show, however I’m sticking with the Vegas metaphor) begins as each cell gives off a flash of neon-blue light when jostled about. This means every wave, every outline of a fish, and every footstep on the sand glows like an unbelievable scene from ‘Avatar.’ A red tide is, literally, phenomenal.

Red Tide Bioluminescence. Photo courtesy of Kevin Baird.

For more info (but far fewer Vegas metaphors) on the current red tide occurring on San Diego and Orange County beaches, here is a great FAQ on the red tide from Scripps Professor Dr. Peter Franks that is chock full of fun suggestions too. (I think he enjoys his job.)

Please email marketing@sdcvb.org if you have taken any pictures or video and would like us to post them!

Courtney

Child’s Play: Plans for LEGOLAND Hotel Unveiled

Who's gonna clean up that mess? More than 28,000 thousand multi-colored DUPLO® bricks were poured out of a big front loader in celebration of the LEGOLAND Hotel announcement.

LEGOLAND California announced yesterday that plans for a three-story LEGOLAND Hotel are underway. Slated to open Summer 2013 on the site of the current LEGOLAND California Resort in Carlsbad, the LEGOLAND Hotel will be the first of its kind in North America.

Children invited from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Carlsbad wore pajamas to the press conference to get in the “hotel mood” and squealed with delight as the bricks came pouring down on to the bed.

Like LEGOLAND California and the SEA LIFE Carlsbad Aquarium, the hotel will be designed for families with young children and will feature rooms and suites themed after the most popular LEGOLAND areas. The 250-room LEGO-themed hotel will feature brightly colored LEGO décor, a pool, and restaurant.

Candice

5 to Try: Be a Beer Tourist (but drink like a local)

With a casual, relaxed atmosphere and locals who take good beer seriously (but without taking themselves too seriously), San Diego is the perfect place to escape for a libation vacation. Craft beer is so much a part of San Diego, that Mayor Jerry Sanders officially declared June “Craft Beer Month.”

San Diego boasts an enviable 38 breweries (many of them award-winning) and a wide variety of pubs and restaurants catering to those who enjoy unique, locally crafted beers. Whether you’re visiting San Diego during Craft Beer Month or any other month of the year, head to one of these places to sample a local brew and feel like a local while taking in the sites and attractions of San Diego at the same time.

Stone Brewing Co. photographed by Studio Schulz

  1. Stone Brewing Co. in Escondido is recognized as one of the best breweries in the United States by the two largest beer enthusiast websites, Ratebeer.com and BeerAdvocate.com. Brewing more than 50,000 barrels of beer annually, it is also one of the fastest growing breweries in the nation.  Guests can enjoy big character beers like Arrogant Bastard Ale with its high quality ingredients and high alcohol contents. The Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, a restaurant with a large outdoor patio and one-acre garden, serves a rotating organic menu. Keep an eye out for a Stone Brewing Hotel located directly across the street from their Escondido facility to open in 2013.
  2. The North Park neighborhood is bisected by 30th Street which locals like to call “the best street in the world for craft beer.”  More than a dozen restaurants and bars located along 30th Street proudly serve local craft brews including beer-havens like Hamilton’s Tavern, Toronado San Diego, The Linkery and Ritual Tavern. 30th Street is also a great place to find up-and-coming restaurants and hip boutiques.
  3. Pizza Port, a favorite San Diego North County restaurant with locations in Solana Beach, Carlsbad, and Ocean Beach, is a brewpub featuring hoppy Pizza Port beers and over 15 different pizzas served on the Port’s signature wholegrain beer crust. From their Solana Beach location, you can stroll the Cedros Design District’s funky shops and galleries or hop on the Historic Highway 101 for a coastal cruise through vintage surf culture.
  4. Head over to scenic Coronado to try family-owned Coronado Brewing Company. The brewpub features quality handcrafted beers and delicious food like woodfired pizzas and fresh seafood. Eight signature beers are brewed on-site including the popular Coronado Golden, the unfiltered Idiot IPA and the full-bodied Outlet Stout, Afterwards, take a stroll on the beach, try your hand at surfing or tour the historic Hotel del Coronado, famous for its appearance in the movie “Some Like It Hot” and possible ghostly resident.
  5. Enjoy a beer downtown. Karl Strauss Brewing Company is one of the largest craft breweries in San Diego, offering a core lineup of seven delicious beers, plus a variety of specialty seasonal beers, each perfectly paired with the restaurant’s menu of Southern inspired cuisine.  Karl Strauss also hosts monthly “firkin” parties in which kegs are tapped in the traditional way, by driving a spigot through the front of the keg with a wooden mallet. At their downtown brewpub, you’re just steps away from San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the San Diego Symphony and Balboa Park – with 15 different museums – is just a short jaunt up the road.
Candice

San Diego Spas Get Top Honors by Travel + Leisure

Between the year-round mild weather, gorgeous scenery and the easygoing attitude of the locals, it’s hard not to feel relaxed in San Diego. But if you’re looking for the ultimate rejuvenating escape, San Diego County is home to some of the best destination spas in the world. Just ask Travel + Leisure magazine: they recently recognized four San Diego area spas with their 2011 “Worlds Best” award for top destination spas!

Here’s a peak at what makes these spas four of the best in the world:

Cal-a-Vie Health Spa's scenic setting

Nestled on 200 private acres in the rustic community of Vista, located approximately 40 miles northeast of downtown San Diego, Cal-a-Vie health spa and resort offers an unparalleled level of personalized attention with a 4-to-1 staff-to-guest ratio.  The resort combines luxurious European spa philosophies with the California concepts of fitness, health and nutrition.  Three-, four- and seven-night packages include gourmet spa cuisine, fitness classes, golfing, hiking, beauty and spa treatments.  Guests stay in private, luxuriously appointed Mediterranean-style villas featuring breathtaking views from private balconies.

The Golden Door's serene accommodations

The Golden Door, located on a winding country road five miles north of Escondido in San Diego’s North County, greets guests with a  jewel-encrusted entrance gate flanked by camellias and fuchsia. The facilities include three guest lounges, a dining room, kitchen, indoor/outdoor exercise studios, the Dragon Tree Gym, two swimming pools, two tennis courts and a private hillside for hiking. The bathhouse contains a steam room, sauna, showers, fan-shaped therapy pool and sequestered rooms for body scrubs and herbal wraps.  With a clientele that includes the very famous and ultra-rich, the Golden Door has earned a reputation for exclusivity, luxury and unparalleled relaxation and rejuvenation.

A relaxing Shirodara treatment at the Chopra Center for Wellbeing

Located in the beautiful La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, the Chopra Center for Wellbeing was founded by the internationally renowned Dr. Deepak Chopra.  The Chopra Center explores new frontiers in the expansion of human consciousness through programs, products and services that integrate the mind, body and spirit.  Here, spa guests can relax with an exotic mix of body massages, treatments and facials.

Rancho La Puerta's world-class views

The #1 pick in Travel + Leisure‘s poll, Rancho la Puerta, located just an hour’s drive southeast of San Diego in Tecate, Baja, Mexico, is a fitness-spa showplace featuring 84 handsome casitas set amongst 3,000 beautiful acres.  Active endeavors include hiking, Pilates, yoga and tennis, while the more indulgent pursuits include massages, hydrotherapy, herbal facials and body wrap treatments.  The riches of the earth are also celebrated at the six-acre organic farm that serves the Rancho La Puerta kitchen.  The farm is a vibrant tapestry of orchards, raised vegetable beds and herbs where the flavors of freshly picked produce are available year-round, as are the homemade honey and extra virgin olive oil.

Out of the four listed, which one would you pick for a relaxing getaway?

Suzzanne

5 to Try This Weekend in San Diego

photo by Paul Nestor

1. San Diego’s original, Mission Federal ArtWalk is the largest art event in San Diego and is now in its 27th year. More than 300 visual artists from all over the world will show and sell their art April 30-May1. Seven music and dance stages, interactive art for children and the picturesque background of hip and historic Little Italy make this event a must-do every spring in San Diego.

2. At the San Diego Adams Avenue Roots & Folk Festival April 30-May 1, guests will enjoy vintage blues, folk, Appalachian, country, bluegrass and Celtic music performed by roots artists on seven outdoor stages. Held at Adams Park in University Heights, the free event also includes a beer garden, food and crafts.

Carlsbad Village Faire

3. Sunday, May 1st head over to one of the largest one-day street fairs in California. The Carlsbad Spring Village Faire features hundreds of exhibitors, international food and children’s rides in the downtown village of Carlsbad. Perfect for a family outing, kids can enjoy bounce houses, obstacle courses, street performers and more while you find the best in antiques and crafts from over 900 vendors. And of course there are lots of yummy eats like kettle corn, fried goods and international favorites.

4. Visitors can enjoy two full days of bluegrass and old-fashioned cowboy music, along with jam sessions and workshops for children, at the Ramona Bluegrass and Old West Festival April 30 and May 1. The event continues into the evening with jam sessions and fireside storytelling.

Old Town Mariachis

5. Get ready to celebrate Cinco de Mayo this weekend at the Annual Old Town Fiesta Cinco de Mayo celebration. This two-day fiesta in Old Town, is a celebration of Mexican spirit and culture and will feature music, food and drink, shopping, cultural exhibits and historical reenactments for the entire family.

Suzzanne

5 To Try: Earth Day Edition

For those looking to connect with the environment this weekend, we offer you our 5 to Try: Celebrating Earth Day in San Diego.

1. On Sunday, April 17th, head down to Balboa Park to the annual EarthFair. Each year, EarthFair draws around 70,000 earth loving visitors making it the largest free annual environmental fair in the world. Produced by over 400 volunteers, EarthFair features more than 350 exhibitors, special theme areas, a food pavilion, a special kids’ activity area, three entertainment venues, the Children’s Earth Parade, the eARTH Gallery Art Show, and the Cleaner Car Concourse. It can get crowded so here are some transportation options to help you get to the fair.

2. From coral reefs to kelp forests, celebrate Earth Day with the Birch Aquarium at Scripps. On Saturday, April 16, meet Scripps Oceanography scientists who are working to understand and preserve our oceans, make a recycled craft and learn new ways that you can help protect our ocean planet.

3. Looking to really help make San Diego green? Join the San Diego Surfrider Chapter for a beach cleanup Saturday morning at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas. This is a great opportunity to help make San Diego’s beaches free from unwanted trash. All you have to do is show up and wear comfortable clothing. Surfrider will provide bags (or you can bring one from home), latex gloves and hand sanitizer. Moonlight Beach will appreciate your help!

4. Earth Day may be April 22, but SEA LIFE Carlsbad Aquarium wants to inspire kids to do their part in caring for our seas every day. Throughout the month of April, SEA LIFE will feature an Earth Month-themed show daily at 11:00 am as well as special green learning activities and crafting activities every Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.

5. It might surprise some to know that San Diego is home to more than 6,000 farmers and #1 in the nation for small farms. While dining out this weekend, why not try a restaurant known that takes advantage of locally produced ingredients. A few of my favorites include Urban Solace and Cucina Urbana. Even better, stop by one of San Diego’s farmers markets this weekend and make your own farm to table meal!