Robert Arends

Amazing Animal Encounters on San Diego’s Mission Bay!

Located just minutes from downtown San Diego, Mission Bay Park is the largest park of its kind in the world, spread out over 4,200 sparkling acres. Something you may not know about this aquatic playground is that there are some really cool and surprising animal encounters along its 27 miles of beaches.

A recent visit to the Bahia Resort piqued my interest in Mission Bay’s wildlife when I spotted a friendly seal named Gracie frolicking in a pool out front of the resort. I couldn’t believe my eyes. What a fun and memorable way to welcome visitors!

I soon discovered that other creatures great and small call Mission Bay home and make for some great photo opps, if you know where to look. And the best part: viewing is free.

Here’s the inside scoop on Mission Bay’s amazing menagerie of animal encounters and where to find them:

Gracie the Seal at the Bahia Resort

Gracie the seal basking in the sun at Bahia Resort

Gracie the seal basking in the sun at Bahia Resort

Gracie the seal, a rescue from La Jolla Cove, first called Bahia Resort home in 2006. She’s curious, outgoing and well-loved by all. When she’s not swimming around her spacious pool with her best friend Billy, she can be found sunbathing on the rocks. A great time to visit is during feeding time: 9:00 AM and 2:00 PM daily.

Parrots, Macaws and Cockatoos at the Catamaran

A talkative parrot named Cornell and more animal encounters at Catamaran Resort

Meet the the talkative parrot named Cornell and enjoy even more animal encounters at Catamaran Resort

Colorful parrots, macaws and cockatoos can be found at the Catamaran Resort, located outside behind the main lobby. The bright – and talkative! – birds are on display daily from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Check out the cool Bird Cam. You can call each of them by name; feathered pics of who’s who (including Cornell the parrot, above) can be found on the resort’s exotic wildlife page.

Catamaran also has two ponds with koi fish, ducks and turtles that love to bask in the sun.

Animal Encounters at Paradise Point

...leopard sharks!

…leopard sharks!

When it comes to fascinating fauna on land, sea and air, Paradise Point Resort has it all! Swimming beneath the surface of the large lagoon next to Barefoot Bar & Grill are spotted leopard sharks, stingrays and guitar fish! The resort’s network of gardens and lagoons is also home to ducks, red-eared slider turtles, frogs, hummingbirds, herons and egrets…oh my!

See you in Mission Bay for some close encounters of the animal kind! 🙂

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.

Alison

Summertime in San Diego is Picnic Time

San Diego's Ultimate Picnic

Ask five locals to name their favorite picnic spot and you’ll get five different answers.  Got kids and want a playground? Prefer a romantic oceanfront perch? How about a great spot for watching fireworks? Want music with your bread and cheese? San Diego has so many great spots for picnicking that choosing a site is purely subjective. Given that, here are several suggestions:

  • My favorite spot is on the grassy bluff overlooking the surf at Coast Boulevard Park, just south of the backside of the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla. My husband and I picnic there year round; it’s where he proposed all those years ago – and where we opt to renew our contract each year on the anniversary of that date. At low tide, some take their picnics to a wide patch of bluff closer to the surf. From any vantage point, the view is breathtaking.
  • For a more serene Pacific view, consider spreading picnic fixings in the bunker just beyond the lighthouse at Cabrillo National Monument. Take beach chairs to enjoy comfy views of the wide Pacific. And don’t forget a jacket; it’s breezy out there. (Admission to the monument costs $5 per car.)
  • Want entertainment with your picnic? Check out parks throughout the county where free concerts will be staged this summer. We blogged about them last month.
  • Prime spots for picnics with fireworks viewing include Rose Marie Starns South Shores Park on Mission Bay. The sandy beach has fire rings – and a perfect sight-line for watching SeaWorld fireworks.
  • For music and fireworks, spread a picnic blanket at the tip of Embarcadero Marina Park North when Summer Pops is on stage at the tip of Embarcadero Marina Park South.
  • Balboa Park is filled with great picnic spots. After visiting a museum or two, generations of local families have picnicked at Pepper Grove, south of The Fleet along Park Boulevard. The big draping pepper trees remain – and there’s a large playground and 15 picnic tables.
  • In East County, Santee Lakes is a 190-acre recreation preserve with seven lakes, a 300-space RV campground, cabins for rent – and plenty of fun for picnickers. Go fishing. Rent a pedal boat, rowboat, canoe or kayak  ($11-$15 per hour). Kiddies can romp at five playgrounds (each geared for specific ages). The “Sprayground” is wet and wild fun for kids up to 13 years old. (Pay $2 at the front gate for a wristband and get soaked all day long.) Technically admission to the park is free, but parking costs $5 on weekends, $3 weekdays.
    Want to extend your picnic? The park has 10 new cabins for rent – including three floating units.  Each has an equipped kitchen and can accommodate up to six – but you’ll have to bring your own linens. Rates start at $100 per night midweek for lakefront units and go to $145 a night for a floating cabin on weekends and holidays. There are two swimming pools and a whirlpool spa exclusively for overnighters – including the many snowbirds who rent RV spaces by the month.

Santee Lake's Sprayground

You have a favorite picnic spot we haven’t included here? Please tell us about it.

Courtney

Neighborhood Spotlight: Mission Valley/ Old Town

Discover San Diego’s Neighborhoods with our Summer Sweepstakes. Join us every week as we showcase the best in what to do, where to eat, and where to stay in some of San Diego’s unique neighborhoods. Be sure to check back for exciting insider tips, giveaways, and more! This week’s spotlight is on Mission Valley/ Old Town.

Located in the San Diego River Valley, Old Town has historic significance as the birthplace of San Diego (and some argue of California), and Mission Valley is a centrally-located business and entertainment corridor with a slew of restaurants and outdoor shopping centers. Here’s a list of the top 10 things to do and see in Mission Valley/ Old Town.

Serra Museum located in Presidio Park

  1. Presidio ParkA 50-acre park offer more than two miles of hiking trails in the middle of urban San Diego and views from Mission Valley to the Pacific Ocean.
  2. Serra Museum Located in Presidio Park, the Serra Museum interprets San Diego history during Native American, Spanish and Mexican periods.
  3. Old Town San Diego State Historic Park – Features such historic sites as the main plaza, California’s first public school house, and an 1850 Catholic Cemetery.
  4. Whaley House Museum The number one most haunted house in the U.S., according to the Travel Channel’s “Most Haunted.”

    Heritage Park Village

  5. Heritage Park Village – Features seven restored Victorian homes built between 1887 and 1896.
  6. Old Town boasts two dining, shopping, and entertainment complexes specializing in authentic Mexican cuisine, one-of-a-kind treasures, and live performances: Fiesta de Reyes and Bazaar del Mundo.
  7. Old Town Trolley TourExplore the best of San Diego aboard an Old Town Trolley.  Experience more than 100 points of interest on this hop-on, hop-off tour equally as enjoyable for locals and tourists alike.
  8. Sheriff’s Museum – Captures more than 150 years of San Diego Sheriff’s Department history, providing visitors with a look into early communication, crime scene investigations, search and rescue, and the K-9 unit.

    Fashion Valley

  9. Fashion Valley – An upscale outdoor shopping center with high-end department stores (Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom), specialty retailers (Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton), and a variety of eateries (PF Chang’s, The Cheesecake Factory).
  10. Play a round of golf at one of Mission Valley’s courses, including: Riverwalk Golf Club (host to the PGA Tour in the 50’s and 60’s), Mission Trails Golf Course (a scenic course adjacent to Cowles Mt. and Lake Murray), and Presidio Hills Golf Course (one of the oldest par 3 courses in the nation).

We want you to explore San Diego’s greatest sights aboard the Old Town Trolley. Comment below by Wed. June 22nd at 10:00 am and get entered to win four Old Town Trolley Tour passes. Tell us, where are your favorite places to visit near Mission Valley/ Old Town?

Katie S.

The Dog Days of Summer

Ellie at Fiesta Island

Ellie at Fiesta Island

Summer is quickly approaching, and I can’t think of a better way to appreciate the long days and warm sunshine than a day on the beach with my best friend – my dog Eleanor.

Here are Eleanor’s top picks for dog-friendly beaches:

Fiesta Island: The best of both land and sea. An off-leash dog island in Mission Bay with tons of grassy areas to run around with new dog friends and its very own dog beach perfect for doggy paddling and playing fetch.  This is probably the least-crowded dog beach, even on weekends.

OB Dog Beach: Another off-leash dog beach located in Ocean Beach. One of the most popular San Diego dog beaches, there’s tons of space for both humans and dogs to run around, and even a dog wash across the street where you can clean off and pamper your pup. This place gets crowded in the summertime, so it’s best to come in the evening if you’re not looking to have a dog party.

Coronado Dog Beach: A great off-leash dog beach with stronger surf for dogs who have mastered the doggy paddle. This beach has lots of open space and water hoses for rinsing off or keeping hydrated on warm days.