Robert Arends

San Diego’s East County is Music to Our Ears!

Taylor Guitar Factory in San Diego's East County

See music in the making on a tour of Taylor Guitars’ factory floor

Bet you didn’t know that three of the world’s most renowned musical instrument companies are headquartered in San Diego’s picturesque East County – in the cities of El Cajon and Spring Valley and small town of Mount Laguna.

Join me for a fine tuned tour of East County to discover where world-class guitars, banjos and harps are made:

Taylor Guitar Company

Rockin'! Taylor Guitars Factory Tour

Rockin’! Taylor Guitars Factory Tour in El Cajon

Our first stop is Taylor Guitar Company in El Cajon, a world-famous designer of top-line acoustic and electric guitars celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Taylor Guitars are played by some of the top musicians in rock and country music, including Neil Young and San Diego’s very own Jason Mraz. Visitors can take a free guided tour of the Taylor factory Monday through Friday at 1:00 PM.

Did you know: Taylor made 130,000 guitars in 2013!

Where: 1980 Gillespie Way, El Cajon, CA 92020
> Find out more about the Taylor Guitar Company Factory

Deering – The Great American Banjo Company

Taylor Swift playing a Deering Banjo

Taylor Swift playing a Deering Banjo

Nearby Spring Valley is home to Deering – The Great American Banjo Company, played by contemporary musicians like Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Mumford & Sons and even Steve Martin (who’s collaborating with Edie Brickell BTW on the world-premiere musical “Bright Star” at  The Old Globe theater in Balboa Park). Deering is the largest banjo manufacturer in the U.S., producing 10,000 of the sweet twanged musical instruments last year. Visitors can take a free Deering factory tour Tuesday through Friday at 1:00 PM. Call/email in advance to schedule a tour date: 1.800.845.7791, carolinabridges@deeringbanjos.com.

Did you know: Deering produces more than 80 banjo models, including their basic Goodtime banjo that sells for $499.

Where: 3733 Kenora Dr., Spring Valley, CA 91977
> Find out more about Deering – The Great American Banjo Company

Janet, Greg and Jamie Deering, founders of Deering Banjo Company

Janet, Greg and Jamie Deering, owners of Deering Banjo Company

(American Profile magazine recently featured Deering in their March issue.)

Robinson’s Harp Shop

Tucked away, high atop East County’s Mount Laguna – popular for hiking, camping and frolicking in the snow during the winter – is a world-renowned music marvel most San Diegans don’t know about: Robinson’s Harp Shop. Since 1967 this harp string manufacturer, housed in a cabin near the town’s general store, has been sending custom-made strings to loyal customers around the world. There aren’t any visitor tours, as it’s a low-profile, five-person operation that makes the most of its time to produce 150,000 handmade harp strings per year. But Laguna is lovely to visit any time of year…Check out my camping blog, featuring Laguna’s pristine alpine wilderness.

Did you know: Robinson’s is one of only four such harp shops in the U.S., and three of those are related to each other!

> Find out more about Robinson’s Harp Shop

See you in East County where wonders like these never cease!

Robert Arends

Sun, Surf, Sand…and Snow! in San Diego

San Diego for the Holidays - Top Things to Do
From sand to snow - in San Diego!

From sand to snow – in San Diego!

It’s winter in San Diego – clear blue skies, sunshine, sparkling beaches for miles and temperatures today…wait for it…in the 80s! Just another beautiful day in paradise!

Sure we’ve got the perfect year-round climate. But did you know a few times each winter when it rains here, something magical and unexpected happens in San Diego’s East County region. A frosty blanket of snow covers the mountains, usually above four or 5,000 feet.

If you find yourself in San Diego during one of our winter storms, following is a quick guide to a few fun places in East County for sledding, snowballs and making snowmen:

Julian

Wintertime in Julian.

Wintertime in Julian.

The historic Gold Rush mountain town of Julian has numerous hills to sled down, including William Heise Park. Afterward, enjoy a piece of famous homemade apple pie with piping hot apple cider or cocoa. Nearby Mt. Cuyamaca/Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is another great spot for winter whimsy.

Sunrise Highway

Sledding on Mount Laguna, off the Sunrise Highway.

Sledding on Mount Laguna, off the Sunrise Highway.

Sunrise Highway (County Route S1) and the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area are popular with local families, featuring several sledding spots just off the road. Pick up your “Adventure Permit” for $5 at Laguna Mountain Lodge and directions to the best sledding areas. Word to the wise: Park your car completely off the road so as not to block traffic and don’t sled on private property (look for posted signs).

Palomar Mountain

Saucer sledding on Mount Laguna.

Saucer sledding on Mount Laguna.

Palomar Mountain, home of the world-famous Palomar Observatory, is another winter wonderland worth exploring, especially the meadows and hills of Palomar Mountain State Park. On the drive up, panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and San Diego’s backcountry below will take your breath away!

Winter tip – Snow Sledding San Diego-style

If you don’t have a sled or saucer, no problem. A boogie board with a slick plastic bottom makes for a great sled alternative. Inner tubes too! 🙂

From the coast to majestic inland mountains, San Diego can be a surprising winter wonderland.

See you in East County!