Robert Arends

Kids Free Deals Abound in Seaside La Jolla this October

Surf Diva Surf Lessons for Kids
La Jolla offers Kids Free offers all month long!

La Jolla offers Kids Free offers all month-long!

La Jolla, the sun-kissed “jewel” of San Diego, rolls out the red carpet for kids throughout October during Kids Free San Diego month.

Families can save a bundle with 10 terrific free kids offers around La Jolla, ranging from free meals and passes to cool museums and attractions to comp beach tours and surfing lessons.

Check these out:

Eat!

Kids love to eat and they get to eat for free (with each adult purchase) at Indulge restaurant at Embassy Suites San Diego-La Jolla, Torreyana Grille at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines (for lunch or dinner, up to 2 kids) and Humphrey’s La Jolla Grill at the Sheraton La Jolla (up to 2 kids).

Enjoy free kids meals at La Jolla Shores Hotel, located on the beach of La Jolla Shores

Enjoy free kids’ breakfast at La Jolla Shores Hotel, located right on the beach.

Kids also eat free at La Valencia Hotel, and kids 12 and younger can enjoy free breakfast at The Shores Restaurant at La Jolla Shores Hotel.

[Tweet “Save during your visit to #LaJolla this October with these amazing #KidsFreeSD offers!”]

Surf!

Surf Diva Surf Lessons for Kids

Kids hang 10 for free Surf Diva!

Wiggle your toes in the sand at La Jolla’s famous family friendly beaches and hang 10 with Surf Diva, offering kids free surfing lessons (a $71.50 value – wow!) with the purchase of an adult lesson.

Kids can hop aboard the Old Town Trolley Tours‘ new La Jolla & Mission Beach Tour for free (with the purchase of an adult ticket) or the splashy Seal Tours on San Diego Bay or narrated city tour to top tourist sites like Old Town and Coronado.

Sightsee!

Birch_Aquarium_children_viewing_fish_-Courtesy_Bir

Kids admitted free all month to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps!

Three of La Jolla’s popular attractions are free for kids, including admission to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego – La Jolla (1 child per paid adult), the La Jolla Historical Society museum at Wisteria Cottage (2 children per paid adult) and Birch Aquarium at Scripps (1 child per paid adult).

Birch Aquarium, nestled high on a bluff overlooking the Pacific, is one of my top “must-sees” with 60+ tanks of colorful marine life including coral reefs, a kelp forest (My fav! It’s like snorkeling without getting in the water 😉 ), sharks, jellyfish and three outdoor tide pools where you can touch sea anemones, starfish and more!

As you can see, there’s lots of fun for free in picture-perfect La Jolla! Bring the kids and make it a fall getaway to remember. 🙂

> Browse even more Kids Free Offers in San Diego

Robert Arends

5 Retro Dining Spots in San Diego’s Mission Valley

Sir Wafflelot welcomes diners for some retro dining at the Waffle Spot

Conveniently located in the center of it all, Mission Valley is just minutes away from some of San Diego’s major attractions and even closer to some classic, old school-style restaurants that still retain the cool look and feel of yesteryear with delectable retro dining.

Following are my top 5 tasty and intriguing culinary nods to the retro dining spots in Mission Valley:

1. Albie’s Beef Inn

Lounge-tastic Albie's Beef Inn and Adam's Steak & Eggs

Lounge-tastic Albie’s Beef Inn and Adam’s Steak & Eggs

Albie’s Beef Inn at Travelodge Mission Valley has been serving up prime steaks, seafood and cocktails since 1962. Guests love the retro-lounge look and feel, complete with tufted black leather booths, wood paneling, a piano bar and all-too-suggestive paintings of women adorning the walls. Albie’s is where I imagine the cast of Mad Men hang out for happy hour, and three-martini lunches. 🙂

Where: 1201 Hotel Circle South, San Diego, California 92108
> Find out more about Albie’s Beef Inn

2. Adam’s Steak & Eggs

Next door to Albie’s, Adam’s Steak & Eggs is where folks have noshed on hearty steak ‘n eggs breakfasts since 1962. It has a welcoming, old-school diner vibe with chairs that look suspiciously like the ones my mom had around our dining room table in the 1970s.

Where: 1201 Hotel Circle South, San Diego, California 92108
> Find out more about Adam’s Steak & Eggs

3. Waffle Spot

Sir Wafflelot welcomes diners for some retro dining at the Waffle Spot

Sir Wafflelot welcomes diners for some retro dining at the Waffle Spot

The family friendly, whimsical Waffle Spot at the Kings Inn has been a local favorite for 20 years. The “Home of San Diego’s Best Waffles” has its very own mascot, Sir Wafflelot who welcomes kids on Saturdays and Sundays, 10:00 AM to 12 noon. Children (and adults!) get a kick out of coloring the Kids Menus. This is the spot to get your nostalgia on while enjoying delicious waffles and other classic breakfast fare.

Where: 1333 Hotel Circle South, San Diego, CA 92108
> Find out more about the Waffle Spot

4. Hunter Steakhouse

Hunter Steakhouse has the best prime rib in town!

Hunter Steakhouse has the best prime rib in town!

Hunter Steakhouse, a 40+ year tradition in the valley, serves the “Best Prime Rib in Town” – with whiskey peppercorn sauce! The exterior resembles a rustic mountain cabin with a cozy interior to match: rich wood furnishings, dim lighting and a stone fireplace; a nice romantic dinner joint to take that someone special.

Where: 2445 Hotel Circle Place, San Diego, CA 92108
> Find out more about Hunter Steakhouse

5. Trellises Garden Grille

Trellises Garden Grille at Town & Country Resort

Trellises Garden Grille at Town & Country Resort

Trellises Garden Grille at the Town and Country Resort Hotel & Convention Center is an eclectic mix of floral and retro lounge design, with a lovely garden patio filled with flowers. It’s timeless and old-fashioned, serving a menu of “California Fresh” cuisine, including seafood and steaks. Jane Austen would sup here for sure! 😉

Where: 500 Hotel Circle North, San Diego, CA 92108
> Find out more about Trellises Garden Grille

For a unique retro dining experiences from yesteryear, Mission Valley has some pretty memorable spots to check out!

Robert Arends

Aloha – 5 Fun Tiki Finds Throughout San Diego!

Mr. Bali Hai tiki at Bali Hai Restaurant, Shelter Island

Aloha from San Diego! 😉

Yep, some really cool Hawaiian and South Seas influences, architecture and tikis (my favorite!) can be found throughout San Diego, particularly Shelter Island on San Diego Bay, Point Loma, Mission Valley and Mission Bay.

Why, you ask?

Well, after WWII, American soldiers and sailors returned home from the South Pacific with stories, souvenirs, music and more from these tropical islands, to the delight of the American public who romanticized exotic island cultures. A bit later (in 1959) Hawaii became a state, further fueling the popularity of all things Polynesian.

Being a big Navy town on the Pacific, San Diego was a prime spot to celebrate and recreate tiki culture. Sadly, by the 1980s, Polynesian influences around town began to disappear as contemporary tastes and design took hold. But, lucky for us, fun tiki finds remain if you know where to look.

Following are my top 5:

1. Bali Hai Restaurant

Mr. Bali Hai tiki at Bali Hai Restaurant, Shelter Island

Mr. Bali Hai tiki at Bali Hai Restaurant, Shelter Island

Bali Hai Restaurant, opened in 1954 on Shelter Island, is a local “tiki temple” of sorts with hand-carved tiki sculptures – including Mr. Bali Hai, shown here, and the “Goof on the Roof” – and genuine Polynesian artifacts filling every nook and cranny. You can even take home your very own souvenir tiki mug!

Where: 2230 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106
> Find out more about the Bali Hai Restaurant

2. Crowne Plaza Hotel

Tiki Oasis art at Crown Plaza Hotel, Mission Valley

Tiki Oasis art at Crown Plaza Hotel, Mission Valley

Also opened in 1954, the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Mission Valley (formerly Hanalei Hotel) is a slice of paradise on the San Diego River. It has retained much of its Hawaiian-themed luster from yesteryear; tikis and Polynesian art can be found in the lobby, restaurant and around the tropical pool area. It’s also the site of the big annual Tiki Oasis convention, the “biggest Tiki Weekender on the planet.” I’ll be there!

Where: 2270 Hotel Circle N, San Diego, CA 92108
> Find out more about the Crowne Plaza Hotel

3. Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn & Suites

A little bit of Hawaii at Humphrey's Half Moon Inn, Shelter Island

A little bit of Hawaii at Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn, Shelter Island

Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn & Suites (built-in 1959) on Shelter Island is a landmark Tiki Modern resort with a soaring lobby roof that extends out like a giant Polynesian fishing canoe complete with a lantern used to attract fish. This is as real as it gets!

Where: 2303 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106
> Find out more about Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn & Suites

4.  Trader Mort’s Liquor Store

Playful tiki at Trader Mort's Liquor Store, Point Loma

Playful tiki at Trader Mort’s Liquor Store, Point Loma

Nearby Trader Mort’s Liquor Store in Point Loma (originally named the Hooch Hut – love it!) is famous for its tiki hut design and tongue-wagging tiki god out front.

Where: 2904 Shelter Island Dr, San DiegoCA 92106
> Find out more about Trader Mort’s Liquor Store

5. The Dana Hotel on Mission Bay

Tiki at The Dana hotel on Mission Bay

Tiki at The Dana hotel on Mission Bay

Amongst the lush gardens at The Dana Hotel on Mission Bay there’s a mighty tiki warrior sculpture greeting guests; one of my fav tiki finds!

Where: 1710 W Mission Bay Dr, San Diego, CA 92109
> Find out more about The Dana Hotel on Mission Bay

Get into the Tiki Spirit with a Guided Tour

You can also get into the “spirit of aloha” in San Diego by taking a two-hour Surf and Tiki Tour of 20 local tiki statues and other hidden spots you won’t find in guidebooks.

Your tiki-inspired escape to paradise awaits… in San Diego! 🙂

Robert Arends

Filipino Dining Delights in National City

National City has a vibrant Filipino community known for its delicious cuisine

National City has a vibrant Filipino community known for its delicious cuisine

Mabuhay! That’s Tagalog for “cheers” or “welcome.” When you visit National City, south of downtown San Diego, you’ll indeed feel welcome to this tight-knit community that celebrates its rich Filipino heritage.

There’s no better way to experience San Diego’s Filipino culture than through its mouthwatering food. Following are a few of my favorite, tried and true restaurants to try, plus a couple bakeries to satisfy those sweet cravings.

National City’s main thoroughfare for Filipino restaurants is Plaza Blvd., located just off Interstate 5 or 805 South.

A Few Filipino Restaurant Options

Pancit malabon - a yummy specialty at Manila Sunset!

Pancit malabon – a yummy specialty at Manila Sunset!

First stop, for delicious made-to-order breakfast or lunch fare, is Manila Sunset (925 E. Plaza Blvd.) which resembles a charming Filipino village inside. My fav dish is Lansilog, consisting of longganisa (Fillipino-style chorizo grilled to perfection), egg and rice drizzled with a vinegar/cucumber dip. The fresh lumpia and pancit malabon with thick rice noodles, shrimp, egg, veggies and chicharon are also delish!

Vast array of Filipino food at Manila Sunset

Vast array of Filipino food at Manila Sunset

Another great sit-down restaurant for Lansilog and other traditional Filipino breakfast combinations is Point-Point Joint (916 E. 8th St)

Tita’s Kitchenette (2720 E. Plaza Blvd.) is all about the two-item combos. For just $7 you can pick from a vast array of Filipino staples like chicken adobo, sisig (seasoned chopped pork with onions, green peppers and special seasoning), kare kare (traditional Filipino stew of ox tail, tripe and pork with a savory peanut sauce) and finger-licking good BBQ chicken skewers – the best in town!

Tasty chicken skewers at Tita's Kitchenette!

Tasty chicken skewers at Tita’s Kitchenette!

Nearby Karihan Filipino Food (2220 E. Plaza Blvd., Suite B) is also a great go-to for BBQ chicken and pork, whole(!) fried fish and piping hot sinigang (tangy tamarind soup with veggies).

Sweet! Red Ribbon mango cake

Sweet! Red Ribbon mango cake

Don’t forget dessert! Goldilocks and Red Ribbon, two bakeshops from the Phillipines, have shelves of sweet fresh-baked yumminess to choose from. Must-trys are the mango cake, ube (sweet purple yam) cake, and mamon special, a fluffy French sponge cake brushed with butter and sprinkled with cheese (yep) and sugar. Trust me, your taste buds will thank you! 😉

Robert Arends

Affordable Mission Valley – Where to Play and Stay!

View From Cowles Mountain

I’m on a “mission” (pun intended 😉 ) to find the most affordable sights, bites and places to stay in Mission Valley and share them with you for when you visit San Diego.

Find out how to win a stay in San Diego when you finish reading this post!

Mission San Diego de Alcala

Did You Know - Mission San Diego Alcala is one of four missions in San Diego County

Mission San Diego de Alcala in Mission Valley

Mission San Diego de Alcala, the first in a chain of 21 Alta California missions, is our first stop. For only $3 you can visit a small museum brimming with artifacts from the mission’s early years. It’s pretty cool and surreal being able to step back into time to the 1770s – especially with so much modern development in the valley now. Also be sure to check out the quaint chapel, padre’s quarters and stroll through the beautiful gardens, including a cool archeological dig!

Where: 10818 San Diego Mission Rd., San Diego, CA 92108
> Find out more about the Mission San Diego de Alcala

Mission Trails Regional Park

Mission Trails Regional Park

Mission Trails Regional Park

Just down the road is Mission Trails Regional Park, one of the nation’s largest urban natural parks covering over 6,005 acres and featuring 42 miles of scenic trails for hiking, mountain biking, birding and rock climbing. Best of all: it’s Free – everything! – including free guided nature walks every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 9:30 AM. Stop by the Visitor Center to get the lay of the land.

View From Cowles Mountain

A fantastic view from the top of Cowles Mountain

My favorite spots are the historic Old Mission Dam on the San Diego River and Cowles Mountain where you’ll be rewarded with spectacular 360 degree views of all of San Diego from its 1,592 foot peak!

The San Diego River

San Diego River flowing through Mission Vallley

San Diego River flowing through Mission Valley

Running through Mission Valley is the picturesque San Diego River. It’s sometimes hard to find through all the condos and shopping centers, but it’s there. Pedestrian/bicycling paths can be found along the Mission Valley Greenway between Texas Street and Hazard Center. There’s also urban kayaking, for the more adventuresome!

Mission Valley Eats

If you’ve worked up an appetite, at Mission Valley Center the popular new Broken Yolk Café is perfect for breakfast or brunch (recommend the eggs benedict and hash browns). Nearby Pho’ Cali serves up some of the tastiest Vietnamese beef noodle soups. And for dinner, local favorite Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza is yummy, as is Oki Ton Japanese Bistro, one of the best sushi bars in town!

Tiki Oasis in the Heart of San Diego

Tiki Oasis art at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Mission Valley

Tiki Oasis art at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Mission Valley

If you’re looking for a place to rest your head at night, look no further than Hotel Circle North and South dotted with numerous affordable motels, hotels and resorts. My personal fav is the tiki oasis known as Crowne Plaza Hotel (formerly the Hanalei).

Back in the day it was much more tiki-fied, but remnants remain and it’s a hoot to spot Polynesian artifacts in the lobby and pool areas. The Crowne Plaza, BTW, is the site of 14th annual Tiki Oasis festival on August 14-17. I’ll be there! 🙂

Getting Around

Tip: To see all of Mission Valley in one fell swoop, catch a ride on the San Diego Trolley’s scenic Green Line which hugs the San Diego River. It only costs $2.50 ($5 for a day pass), with convenient stops at Mission Valley Center and Mission San Diego.

See you in Mission Valley – in the middle of it all!

Mission Possible: Stay and Play in San Diego Sweepstakes

Mission Possible: Stay and Play in San Diego Sweepstakes

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to stay and play in the heart of San Diego.

Enter for the chance to complete this mission with two nights at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley, two tickets to a San Diego Padres game, meals at DEN restaurant, and two San Diego Trolley passes.

Just steps from the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley’s central location, the Rio Vista Trolley Station makes it a breeze to visit some of the best of San Diego offerings including Petco Park, Old Town, Gaslamp Quarter and the Embarcadero.

The entry page will self destruct on Monday, 9 June 2014, at 10:00 AM.

> Enter Now

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

Hillcrest Neighborhood Spotlight – Home of San Diego’s LGBT community

Walking under Hillcrest Sign
Walking under Hillcrest Sign

Happening Hillcrest!

San Diego’s uptown neighborhood of Hillcrest, home of San Diego’s LGBT community, celebrates diversity year-round with a vibrant rainbow mix of accommodations, restaurants, bars and nightclubs, chic boutiques, vintage clothing stores, kitschy novelty shops and so much more.

With San Diego Pride coming up next month (July 12-14), now is the perfect time to spotlight a few of my favorite places worth checking out:

Where to Stay

The historic Inn at the Park, located right across the street from Balboa Park, is home to the best happy hour in Hillcrest: Top of the Park, a Friday night tradition where hundreds gather on the rooftop to soak up the sunset and kick-off the weekend over cocktails.

Stay at Ann Callahan’s Hillcrest House Bed & Breakfast for a relaxing escape in the heart of Hillcrest and still just a short walk away all the shops, restaurants and bars on University Avenue.

Bar Hop

Bar hopping in Hillcrest

Bar hopping in Hillcrest

Urban Mo’s is fun and boisterous with strong margaritas and booming dance music on a packed outdoor patio and indoor dance floor. Hillcrest Brewing Company, claiming to be the World’s First “Out and Proud LGBT Brewery”(wow!), has 9 tasty in-house craft brews on tap to quench your thirst. If crafty cocktails are more your thing, Martinis Above Fourth is a swanky go-to spot.

Gotta Dance

If you’ve got to get your groove on, Rich’s with its two dance floors and sexy go-go boys can’t be beat!

Java Joint

Filter Coffee House is the place to see and be seen while sipping espresso and “studying” the crowd for cuties, day or night.

Dinner & a Show

D Bar restaurant is my new fav with its sleek moderne design and delish dishes like Southern fried Belgian – a sweet waffle with fried chicken (yep!). Their macarons are also off the charts! Afterward, head to Diversionary Theatre for cutting edge theater at its finest.

Brunch ‘n Lunch

Colorful Café on Park with its deliciously imaginative breakfast dishes like egg scrambles, Captain Crunch pancakes (yep!) and crab cake benny, is sure to satisfy!

Shop till you drop

Shopping in Hillcrest

Shop-portuunities galore in Hillcrest

Stroll along Fifth Ave. and University Ave. for funky, one-of-a-kind finds. Park Blvd. is great for retro, mid-Century modern treasures.

> Discover more of San Diego’s Hillcrest

Robert Arends

Surprising 2013 Summer Finds in San Diego’s East County!

There’s no place as diverse and full of surprises as San Diego’s expansive East County. Visitors to this region, ranging from rolling foothills to alpine mountains and pristine deserts, can find some of the most incredible sights, especially this summer.

Following are 5 to Try, as you hit the open road this May and June:

1. Julian Wild & Scenic Film Festival

Julian Apple Pies in San Diego's East County

Julian – home of apple pies and the Wild & Scenic Film Festival!

The charming historic Gold Rush mining town of Julian, famous for its apple pies, hosts the 2nd Annual Julian Wild & Scenic Film Festival this weekend. The theme: “A Climate of Change,” featuring 44 inspiring films! While you’re there, explore the town, enjoy a slice of pie and take in the beauty of East County’s most famous mountain town.

Where: Various Julian Locations
When: May 17-19, 2013
Cost: $5-$60
> Find out more about the Julian Wild & Scenic Film Festival

2. Hubbell/Ilan-Lael Open House

Find your muse at the Hubbell Open House & Studio Tour!

Find your muse at the Hubbell Open House & Studio Tour!

Down the road in Santa Ysabel, on June 16 (Father’s Day) visitors can get an exclusive peek at the art-filled compound of James Hubbell, “San Diego’s Gaudi.” A beautiful new headquarters and amphitheater, featuring fantastical colorful mosaics, plaster of Paris reliefs, stained glass and iron work, debuts at this year’s Hubbell/Ilan-Lael Open House. Get your tickets now before they sell out!

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

3. A Magnificent Bald Eagle Nest

Bald Eagle and Chick - Wildlife Research Institute - East County

Bald eagle and chick at Ramona Grasslands Preserve.

Soar like an eagle to the Wildlife Research Institute in the Ramona Grasslands Preserve to see firsthand a magnificent bald eagle nest – with a single chick and two proud parents! – located 1 mile from the institute headquarters. Bring your binoculars; the best vantage point is from Rangeland Road. Also visit the institute’s family of wild bison!

Where: 18030 Highland Valley Road, Ramona, CA 92065
> Find out more about the Wildlife Research Institute

4. Wings Over Gillespie Air Show

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High-flying fun can also be had at the big annual Wings Over Gillespie Air Show in El Cajon. Aviation aficionados of all ages will love the displays of dozens of classic aircraft, as well as military re-enactors and mock battles overhead. New this year: Silver Wings Wingwalking!

Where: Gillespie Field – 1960 Joe Crosson Dr, El Cajon, CA 92020
When: June 1-2, 2013
Time: 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Cost: Starting at $8
> Find out more about Wings Over Gillespie Air Show

5. Giant Sloth Sculpture

Yours truly with Giant Sloth at Galleta Meadows, Borrego Springs!

Yours truly with Giant Sloth at Galleta Meadows, Borrego Springs!

In San Diego’s desert oasis of Borrego Springs, a new behemoth sculpture of a Giant Sloth – the last one in a collection of dozens of prehistoric beasts – was recently unveiled at Galleta Meadows. Photo ops abound in this “Land of the Lost” and people from all over the world have searched out these roadside wonders. The best thing: its Free!

> Find out more about Galleta Meadows

> Discover more of San Diego’s East County

Happy (early) summer from East County!

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

5 to Try Spook-tacular San Diego Halloween Haunts

Evil Ringmaster - Scream Zone

Sinister welcome to the Scream Zone!

BOO-yah! It’s the most wonderful time of the year… yep, Halloween! San Diego celebrates the season with creepy cool events and fun-filled spots to seriously get freaked out. Word of warning: A few of these are not for the faint of heart. Translation: not for the kiddies (best to take them to LEGOLAND’s Brick-or-Treat instead 😉

1.  The Scream Zone at the Del Mar Fairgrounds

Haunted Hayride passenger about to scare an unaware victim at the Scream Zone

Haunted Hayride hijinks in the Scream Zone.

The Scream Zone at the Del Mar Fairgrounds features a Haunted Hayride (creepy clowns, zombies and aliens, oh my!), House of Horror (beware the chainsaw-wielding maniac!) and Chamberlabyrinth (I almost lost my balance in the giant spinning tunnel!) all wrapped into one big scare fest.

2.  The Haunted Hotel

Haunted Hotel Sign

The Haunted Hotel is now open for guests! Photo courtesy of Mike Rollerson.

The Haunted Hotel in the downtown Gaslamp Quarter is where horror movies come to life; as in you WILL meet Freddie Krueger and Jason from Friday the 13th face to face! This is San Diego’s longest-running haunted house and one of the Top 13 haunted houses in the U.S.!

3. Ghosts & Gravestones

Grave Digger - Ghost and Gravestones

There’s a plot…I mean spot waiting for you on the tour.

Take a ride on the dark side on San Diego’s original “frightseeing” tour, Ghosts & Gravestones.  Hop on a trolley of the doomed to discover the El Campo Santo Cemetery in Old Town (bodies are actually buried under Old Town Ave. – zoinks!), The Whaley House, America’s most haunted house (The Travel Channel) located on a former gallows site (double zoinks!), and the Maritime Museum’s haunted Star of India tallship and Berkeley ferryboat (SciFi’s Ghost Hunters filmed here!).

4. Haunted Trail of Balboa Park

A crashed bus at the Haunted Trail of Balboa Park.

The driver never made it through the Haunted Trail! Photo courtesy of Mike Rollerson.

Fog-shrouded Balboa Park with its gnarled grove of 100-year-old trees towering overhead is the site of the wickedly fun, mile-long Haunted Trail. It’s the great outdoors gone awry – very Blair Witch Project! Also features a manic maze called “The eXperiment.”

5. Scary Maze at Cottonwood Golf Course

Scary Maze at Cottonwood Golf Course Logo

Cottonwood Golf Course in East County goes into fright mode with its 10,000 sq.-ft. Scary Maze. Truth be told, this one’s more family-friendly. The object: find your way out of the maze while encountering “dead” ends and creatures of the night. There’s also a beer garden, live music, dancing, devilishly-delectable food and scary movie showings outdoors.

Happy (early) Halloween!