Robert Arends

Rock Out – Rock Climbing in Mission Valley and Beyond!

Nope, we’re not talking rock concerts, but rather rock climbing! Located in the center of San Diego, within easy reach of most major attractions and activities, Mission Valley is the gateway to some of the best rock climbing and bouldering in Southern California.

If you’re looking for some serious face climbing (ascending a vertical rock face using finger holds and edges), scaling the best new handcrafted rock climbing wall in San Diego or just hiking to amazing photo-worthy rock formations (bring your camera!), Mission Valley and environs has something for everyone.

Following are a few standouts:

Grotto Climbing & Yoga

Mission Valley's new Grotto Rock Climbing & Yoga

Mission Valley’s cool new Grotto Climbing & Yoga

The new Grotto Climbing & Yoga is perfect for all experience levels (translation: you don’t need to be a pro). This urban rock climber’s dream features a massive 7,000-square-foot climbing/bouldering wall with 13,000 handmade holds that mimics San Diego’s rocky climbing trails. This is the spot to hone your rock climbing skills before heading into our great outdoors. Afterward, relax your weary muscles and Zen out in their studio offering 11 types of yoga classes.

Check out this cool time-lapse video of the action at Grotto Climbing!

Mission Trails Regional Park’s Mission Gorge

Climber's Loop Trail along Mission Gorge in Mission Trails Regional Park

Climber’s Loop Trail along Mission Gorge in Mission Trails Regional Park

For climbers ready to ascend real rock walls, Mission Gorge, part of Mission Trails Regional Park – one of largest urban parks in the U.S. – is San Diego’s best and oldest established climbing area, encompassing over two miles of the San Diego River. The granite slopes here are steep (40 to 80 feet high) and slick, offering a mix of crack and face climbing.

Main Climbing Wall in popular Mission Gorge

Main Climbing Wall in Mission Gorge

The one-mile Climber’s Loop Trail leads to a great mix of rock climbing areas, including a popular Main Climbing Wall, The Thumb, Skyline Pinnacle, Lunch Rock, Limbo (full of granite towers) and Middle Earth (calling all J.R.R. Tolkien fans!).

Santee Boulders

A bouldering playground at Santee Boulders!

A bouldering playground at Santee Boulders!

East of Mission Valley, the Santee Boulders is San Diego’s most popular bouldering area. (Bouldering is the practice of climbing on large boulders vs. rock cliffs 😉

Potato Chip Rock

The popular Potato Chip Rock atop Mt. Woodson Trail

The popular Potato Chip Rock atop Mt. Woodson Trail

There’s also the famous Potato Chip Rock on the Mt. Woodson Trail in Poway, which attracts shutterbugs galore. Our friends at So San Diego Tours did a great write-up on the hike up to this aptly named, narrow strip of stone.

If you’re up for a rock solid adventure in San Diego, look no further than Mission Valley and a couple popular points to the east. 🙂

Candice

Discover the Hidden Gems of Mission Valley

Mission Basilica de Alcala

Mission Valley is frequented by San Diego locals, but even most locals have yet to discover the hidden cultural gems of this neighborhood. Check out a few of these spots, and impress a native San Diegan with your knowledge of a neighborhood best known for shopping!

Discover the Arts and Culture of Mission Valley

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Get Up Close to San Diego History

For history buffs, Mission Valley is a treasure trove waiting to be explored.

  • The area is called Mission Valley for a reason: this is where you’ll find Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala, the first Franciscan mission in California.
  • Step back in time at Old Town San Diego. The State Historic Park was the site of California’s first permanent settlement showcases what daily life was like for the earliest settlers.
  • To return to San Diego’s truly native history, visit Mission Trails Regional Park, where artifacts from the Kumeyaay Indians can be found in the Visitors Center as well as on their hiking trails.
Mission Basilica de Alcala

Explore the rich cultural and natural history of Mission Valley by starting at the Mission Basilica de Alcalá.

Entertainment in the Valley

Visitors to Mission Valley some unique options when it comes to entertainment on stage and screen.

  • Located in Old Town, the Cygnet Theater offers an eclectic array of theatrical performances throughout the year.
  • Every March, the San Diego Latino Film Festival takes over the UltraStar Mission Valley Cinemas at Hazard Center to showcase the best in films from Latino artists.
  • Even Mission Trails offers its own take on live entertainment, with concerts held throughout the year at the park’s outdoor amphitheater.

> Explore More of San Diego – Nine Arts Districts, One Vibrant City

Robert Arends

Mission Valley is Full of Family Fun During October’s Kids Free in San Diego

Kids rule during Kids Free San Diego month!

Kids rule during Kids Free San Diego month!

The Kidvasion has begun! The 3rd annual Kids Free San Diego month kicks off today and continues through Halloween. Kids are sure to get a kick out of being VIPs (or should we say, VIKs – Very Important Kids 😉 ) all month long.

As you and your family are in town exploring the sights or planning a fun-filled fall visit to San Diego, be sure to check out these kids free deals in Mission Valley, conveniently located in the middle of it all just minutes from many major attractions.

Play!

Mission Trails Regional Park

Old Mission Dam - Mission Trails Regional Park

Enjoy the sound of the San Diego river rushing through the Old Mission Dam with a free hike through Mission Trails

Mission Trails Regional Park, one of the nation’s largest urban natural parks, is free for the whole family to explore, bike and hike 42 miles of scenic trails, including paths to the historic Old Mission Dam/San Diego River and to the top of Cowles Mountain, famous for its spectacular 360-degre views. The interactive Visitor Center is cool too, as are free guided nature walks every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 9:30 AM.

Mission San Diego de Alcala

Take a trip back in time at Mission San Diego

Take a trip back in time at Mission San Diego

Take a trip back to the time of the Spanish explorers and Franciscan friars who discovered San Diego at Mission San Diego de Alcala, the first mission in California (founded in 1769 and relocated to its present site in 1774). Children under 6 are free to tour the little museum (kids 6 to 12 are only $2). The Mission church and grounds, including a cool excavation site out back, are free for all to explore.

Junipero Serra Museum

Junipero Serra Museum on Presidio Hill

Junipero Serra Museum on Presidio Hill

Kids under 6 are also free at Junipero Serra Museum on Presidio Hill overlooking Mission Valley and Old Town. It was here in 1769 that the Spanish friar Junípero Serra and a group of soldiers built California’s first mission and a fort (called “presidio” in Spanish). The original buildings are gone, but an impressive Spanish-style museum sits on the site today.

Eat!

Lots of restaurants in Mission Valley’s hotels and resorts are rolling out the red carpet for children 12 and under. Kids eat free (with purchase of an adult entrée) at:

Crowne Plaza Hotel in Mission Valley

Kids eat free at the tiki-tastic Crowne Plaza Hotel!

At Doubletree by Hilton-Mission Valley, kids (up to two per room) can choose a free entrée from the children’s menu at the Fountain Café and Windows Lounge. Kids’ breakfasts are free at Ramada Conference Center plus free eats for kids at Sheraton Mission Valley!

Gifts!

Upon check in, Comfort Inn & Suites Hotel Circle is giving out a free welcome gift to each kid who checks in. WAY cool!

> Discover more of San Diego’s Mission Valley

As you can see, there are money-saving deals galore! See you in Mission Valley 🙂

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

3 For Free: Spring Flings in San Diego!

Julian Daffodils

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

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

Sage & Songbirds Festival - Butterflies

Butterfly releases at Sage & Songbirds Festival.

1. Sage & Songbirds Festival

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

Julian Daffodils

Beautiful Julian wildflowers.

2. Julian Wild Flower Show

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

Mission Trails Pony Rides

Pony rides at Mission Trails Day.

3. Mission Trails Day

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

Coronado House

Coronado Historic Home Tour.

Bonus.  Coronado Historic Home Tour

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

Candice

New Year’s Resolution Time: Get Outdoors in San Diego

Whether you’re a staunch resolution keeper, dabble occasionally in making year-end self-improvement plans or you think resolutions are just a bunch of hooey, who among us wouldn’t agree that spending a little more time in the great outdoors is a noble goal for 2012?

San Diego is one the best places in the world for getting out and getting active. Even in January, daytime temperatures are mild enough so that a light jacket will be enough to shield you from the winter chill. And with landscapes that range from rolling desert hills to rocky seaside cliffs, hiking in San Diego is a great way to get some exercise that offers much better views than the treadmill at your local gym.

A scenic hike can be enjoyed year-round at one of these spectacular locations:

Hiking Mission Trails

Only a short drive from downtown, Mission Trails Regional Park offers miles of hiking trails that meander along the San Diego River. The park’s Cowles Mountain offers an impressive 3 mile round-trip hike that will have you feeling the burn as you take in the views from the mountain top.

Torrey Pines State Reserve provides eight miles of coastal hiking along four major beach trails. The differing paths intertwine under forested ground displaying diverse scenery of trees, ocean, wildflowers and sandstone formations. During winter, you might even see California Gray Whales migrating south to Mexico in the distanced ocean view. Throughout the year, lucky sightings of bottle nose dolphins make these hikes a truly memorable experience.

The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in San Diego’s East County community of Borrego Springs is an expansive outdoor playground, with routes that travel up rocky paths, along scenic streams and down steep hills. Three notable trails include Elephant Trees, a hike through desert flora and fauna and named after a rare type of tree covered with colorful flower blossoms; Ghost Mountain, a moderate uphill mountain hike ending at an abandoned stone house surrounded by breathtaking aerial views, and Pictograph Trail, a great family hike in which guests pass through an old Indian village to reach a 50-foot dry waterfall.

Looking for more ways to explore the outdoors in San Diego? Join me for a video tour of San Diego’s top outdoor recreation activities:

How do you plan to get active in San Diego this New Year?