Robert Arends

Winning! Chic New Viejas Hotel Opens in East County

Viejas Casino and Resort
Viejas Casino and Resort

Viejas Casino & Resort

Yours truly was invited to the grand opening of the new Viejas Hotel, located in the rolling foothills of Alpine next door to Viejas Casino and across the street from the popular Viejas Outlets.

Their new name is Viejas Casino & Resort. Did you know: the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians becomes San Diego’s fifth tribe to open a hotel connected to its casino.

The shindig will include a ribbon cutting, traditional Kumeyaay songs and a Native American blessing, and sneak peek of “Rise,” a dramatic new Cirque-style show that premieres at the hotel this Saturday, followed by a spectacular fireworks display. I can’t wait!

What to Expect at the New Viejas Hotel

Rendering of chic new Viejas Hotel

Rendering of chic new Viejas Hotel

The sophisticatedly modern $36 million hotel is 5 stories high and features 128 rooms (including 29 suites), a pool and hot tub with cabanas (SO SoCal!), state-of-the-art fitness center, free Internet/WiFi, and an expanded all-you-can-eat buffet next door. Each room has 40″ Samsung TVs, locally made furniture and art, nightly turn down service, his and her robes (nice touch!), iPod clock radios and Gilchrist & Soames bath and body products. Some suites even include fireplaces, tubs with whirlpool jets (just say ahhh!) and wet bars (I’ll toast to that 😉 ).

Rendering of Presidential Suite at Viejas Hotel

Rendering of Presidential Suite at Viejas Hotel

A few months back I explored the model guestrooms and I’ve got to say, they’re swanky, warm and inviting, with a metropolitan touch that reminds me of chic boutique hotels in Manhattan. There’s nothing else like it in these parts!

More to do near Viejas Casino & Resort

This spring as you explore the wildflowers of East County, stop by Viejas Casino & Resort to play the slots, shop 60 name-brand outlet stores, indulge at the buffet and rest your head for a memorable overnight stay amidst the beautiful backdrop of Alpine’s rural setting.

Insider tip: While you’re there, pick up a $5 bag of fresh avocados or oranges from one of the roadside vendors!

Sage & Songbirds Festival - Butterflies

Butterfly releases at Sage & Songbirds Festival.

And planning ahead… Time your visit to also check out Alpine’s 16th Annual Sage & Songbirds Garden Tour on May 3-5, featuring a free festival at Viejas Outlets that includes a live butterfly exhibit and daily butterfly releases, plus an outdoor plant and art sale. There will also be garden tours of local bird- and butterfly-friendly home gardens and the Sky Hunters raptor rehabilitation facility, home to magnificent hawks, owls and other bird of prey. Cost for the gardens/Sky Hunters tour is $15 per person before April 1.

Maren

Top Things this Spring in San Diego

Coronado Beach
Coronado Beach

Spring into Coronado Beach, the #1 beach in America

Spring is a time of longer days, warmer temps and renewed energies – it is also the perfect time take your lightened heart and visit San Diego, where springtime activities abound. From desert blooms to Zoo babies, San Diego is certain to enliven your spirit this spring.

Spring Babies at the Attractions

Spring's New Babies at San Diego Attractions

Say hello to Xiao Liwu at the San Diego Zoo.

Come meet the newest and cutest additions at San Diego’s attractions, including the new baby killer whale at SeaWorld San Diego, the Chinese Giant Panda cub Xiao Liwu at the San Diego Zoo and Kayode, a southern white rhino at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

> See what else is going on at San Diego attractions this Spring

Let’s Go Padres!

San Diego Padres at PETCO Park

Catch the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park. Photo courtesy of Mark Whitt.

Root for the San Diego Padres this spring on April 9 when they play the Los Angeles Dodgers at the state-of-the-art downtown Petco Ballpark for the beginning of the six-month season of Major League Baseball. Make it a night and start or end the evening at one of the numerous bars and restaurants surrounding the park in downtown’s famous Gaslamp Quarter and East Village.

Warmer Waters

Kayakers in La Jolla

Take to San Diego’s waters this Spring

As the mercury rises, it’s time to get out to San Diego’s 70 miles of beach and enjoy any number of water activities. Learn how to surf through private or group lessons with Surf Diva Surf School, located on La Jolla Shores. Kayaking through La Jolla’s famous 7 caves is another great opportunity for spring. Choose from one of the many companies offering tours, including OEX La Jolla, La Jolla Kayak, or Hike Bike Kayak Sports La Jolla, or try out the newest craze in watersports, Stand Up Paddleboarding with OEX La Jolla or Surf Diva.

> Get outdoors in San Diego this Spring

Fields of Flowers

Anza-Borrego Desert Wildflower Season

Spectacular Anza-Borrego Desert wildflowers!

San Diego’s mild winters lend themselves to early and bountiful flower blooms around the county. Check out the wild flower blooms happening in San Diego’s Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, just east of San Diego, or head up to the sea of giant ranunculus flowers at the Flower Fields of Carlsbad California, open March 1 – May 5, 2013.

> See more Spring wildflowers in San Diego

What are you looking forward to doing in San Diego this Spring? Tell us in the comments below.

Brent Bernasconi

Top Things to Do in San Diego – March 20-24, 2013

San Diego Zoo Play Days - Top Things in San Diego

Escape to San Diego for the first weekend of Spring and bask in the warm sunshine while enjoying these fun top things to do:

San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering Expo Day

San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering Expo Day

Hands on edutainment and experiments at the San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering Expo Day

Join the largest single-day science and engineering event in Southern California at Expo Day at Petco Park. Future scientists can engage in hands-on activities, meet real scientists and engineers and learn how their discoveries and research affect our daily lives, the Festival is a unique opportunity to reach students of all ages and backgrounds, inspiring the next generation of innovators.

Where: Petco Park – 100 Park Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92101
When: March 23, 2013
Time: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about the San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering Expo Day

San Diego Zoo Play Days

San Diego Zoo Play Days - Top Things to Do in San Diego

Mark your calendar with Play Days at the San Diego Zoo

Starting this Saturday, the San Diego Zoo becomes one big playground – for visitors and animals alike! San Diego Zoo Play Days offers up-close encounters with our animal ambassadors, special activities and presentations at animal exhibits all around the Zoo, keeper talks, opportunities to see animals enjoying enrichment and munching on their favorite food treats, the Camp Critters live animal show, a digital Easter egg hunt around the Zoo using your smartphone, and even visits with the Easter Bunny himself.

Where: 2920 Zoo Drive, San Diego, CA 92101
When: March 23 – April 7, 2013
Cost: Included with admission
> Find out more about San Diego Zoo Play Days

Spring Busker Festival

Spring Busker Festival - Seaport Village

Step Right Up! See amazing feats of human strength at the Spring Busker Festival

The Spring Busker Celebration brings colorful street performers from across the country to perform their bizarre talents like sword swallowers, jugglers on unicycles, escape artists and comedic stuntmen to the cobblestone streets of downtown’s Seaport Village. The extraordinary and bizarre talents will provide outdoor amusement unlike any other festival in the region.

Where: Seaport Village – 849 W Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101
When: March 23-24, 2013
Time: 12:00 to 5:00 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about the Spring Busker Festival

Mission Valley Craft Beer & Food Fest

Mission Valley Craft Beer & Food Fest

Enjoy live music while sample beer from 30 local breweries and food from 20 local chefs

Come for the beer, stay for the food or come for the food, stay for the beer! The Mission Valley Craft Beer & Food Fest believes beer and food are natural partners and offers a wide variety of both with 30 breweries and 20 chefs. Add to that 3 fantastic bands and a partnership with Wounded Warrior Homes and you have a spectacular day of food, beer and fun for a great cause.

Where: Handlery Hotel San Diego – 950 Hotel Circle North, San Diego, CA 92108
When: March 24, 2013
Time: 1:00 to 5:00 PM
Cost: $25-$50
> Find out more about the Mission Valley Beer & Food Fest

The Second City’s Laughing Matter Tour

The Second City's Laughing Matter Tour

Legendary sketch comedy theatre, The Second City, returns with their Laughing Matters Tour, featuring some of the best sketches, songs and improvisations from the company’s 53-year history. Whether it’s ripped from the morning headlines or a classic gem from their archives, The Second City is always a laugh out loud hit.

Where: La Jolla Playhouse – 2910 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037
When: March 20-23, 2013
Cost: Starts at $30
> Find out more about The Second City’s Laughing Matter Tour

Menopause the Musical

Menopause the Musical - Historic Balboa Theatre

This hilarious musical parody staged to classic tunes from the 60s, 70s and 80s will have you cheering and dancing in the aisles. Set in a department store, four women with seemingly nothing in common but a black lace bra on sale, come to find they have more to share than ever imagined. The all-female cast makes fun of their woeful hot flashes, forgetfulness, mood swings, wrinkles, night sweats and chocolate binges.

Where: Historic Balboa Theatre – 868 Fourth Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101
When: March 22-23, 2013
Cost: $52.50-$67.50
> Find out more about Menopause the Musical

1st Annual Authentic Street Food Market

San Diego Market Presents the First Annual Authentic Street Food Market

The San Diego Public Market’s 1st Annual Authentic Street Food Market will celebrate the diversity of San Diego and its food scene with authentic and innovative takes on traditional street foods from many cultures, utilizing fram fresh, local ingredients and the imaginations of mare than 40 incredible chefs.

Where: 1735 National Avenue, San Diego, CA 92113
When: March 24, 2013
Time: 6:00 to 8:00 PM
Cost: $65-$85
> Find out more about the 1st Annual Authentic Street Food Market

> Browse more top things to do on the San Diego Event Calendar

Know of some other top things to do this weekend? Let everyone know in the comments below.

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.

Robert Arends

San Diego’s Coronado Blooms – and Zooms – this Weekend!

Blooomin' good times at Coronado Flower Show!

Spring has sprung! Big white tents are sprouting up like flowers in Spreckels Park, Coronado in preparation for the big 87th Annual Coronado Flower Show this weekend, April 21-22. The delightful kaleidoscope of colors, encompassing the 600 block of Orange Avenue, makes it the most popular springtime event on the island!

Did you know: Coronado’s grand floral fête is the largest tented flower show in the U.S.!

Flower Beautifulness! Photo credit: LevacyPhoto.com

This year’s theme, “A Floral Olympiad” celebrates the summer Olympic games in London with design categories incorporating iconic images like the Olympic rings, release of the doves and the Olympic flame. Trophies for best blooms are awarded on Sunday at 3:00 pm; definitely bring a camera!

Cost is only $5; children 12 and under are Free. Hours are 1:00 – 5:00 pm this Saturday and 10:00 am – 4:00 pm on Sunday.

Coronado Flower Show

Stop and smell the roses!

Oh, and if you think it’s just flowers, think again! There’s also a beer garden, flower/plant marketplace and huge Coronado Library Book Fair. And if you’re up for exploring Coronado, be sure to pick up a self-guided map to award-winning home gardens throughout the island. It’ll inspire any aspiring gardeners.

Motorcars on MainStreet in Coronado

Vroom! with a view - Motorcars on MainStreet

To top off the weekend, there’s more “wheel fun” to be had at the 22nd Annual MotorCars on MainStreet this Sunday, 10:00 am – 3:00 pm. Location: Isabella and Orange Avenues.

Check out 400 classic (pre-1973) cars, convertibles, roadsters, trucks, street rods and other cool custom rides that’ll get your motor running (my Chrysler PT Cruiser didn’t make the cut 😉 )

Rock to live entertainment all day by Tommy Price & The Stilettos and DJ Scooby spinning Solid Gold hits.

MotorCars on MainStreet in Coronado

Lookin' good under the hood! Motorcars on MainStreet

Admission is Free. There’s also a Free street trolley running all day to take visitors around the island: from Motorcars on MainStreet to the Hotel del Coronado, the Coronado Flower Show and down to Coronado Ferry Landing shops by the bay.

There are LOTS of good reasons to put you “petal” (hee hee!) to the metal and head over the bridge to Coronado this weekend. See you there!

(Coronado Flower Show photos courtesy of LevacyPhoto.com)

Brian

4 Reasons Why It’s Easy to Love Padres Baseball in San Diego

Major League Baseball returns to San Diego today when the Padres host the L.A. Dodgers in the season opener for both clubs.

An Entire Family of Padres Fans

An Entire Family of Padres Fans

That means the start of 81 home games in the East Village between April and September. With San Diego’s perfect weather, PETCO Park is the place I want to spend my summer evenings. Since I couldn’t wait for the season opener, I took my family for a preseason contest on Tuesday to get my baseball fix a little early. It reminded me why we love baseball so much as a great family experience.

Here are four reasons to get excited and book a San Diego baseball trip this spring:

Petco Park's Park at the Park

Catch the exciting Padres' Action from the Family Friendly Park at the Park

1. Park at the Park

Only in San Diego do you have a park within the stadium. For as little as $5, you can get into the game, throw down a blanket on the raised lawn and watch the game. There is a whiffle ball park where kids can play a game of their own, as they hit, run and throw until they tire themselves for bed. And with a prime view of the game on the jumbo screen, you won’t miss a minute of the action.

TaylorMade Simulator at PETCO Park

TaylorMade Simulator at PETCO Park

2. Two Sports, One Location

The new TaylorMade golf demo area allows visitors to swing golf clubs and try out their latest clubs. That’s like bacon dipped in chocolate; two of my favorite things combined.

San Diego's East Village

PETCO Park in the Heart of San Diego's East Village

3. East Village

The area around PETCO Park, known as East Village, really sprouted up since the park opened in 2004. That means most everything around the ballpark- restaurants, bars and hotels – is new and fresh. Be sure to check out great hotels like the Omni, Hard Rock Hotel San Diego, San Diego Marriott Gaslamp, Hotel Solamar and Hotel Indigo. They’re all great spots to enjoy pregame and postgame drinking and dining.

4. Get to know the Rookies

I’m a die-hard baseball fan, so I always look forward to April and a new season. ESPN.com says the Padres have the #1 ranked farm system in baseball, so I’m excited to see the young guns make their way this season.

What to know:

Parking
There are scores of lots around the park that range between $10-$20 depending on proximity. The trolley is also a great option if your hotel is near the line or if you don’t have a vehicle.

Tickets
The Padres have tickets that start at just $5. There is a new dynamic pricing model in place this year, so be sure to check out padres.com/tickets.

Follow this link for more details and upcoming Padres’ home games

Suzzanne

Spring Garden Festivals in San Diego

San Diego Zoo's Discovery Days: Garden Festival

It’s the middle of spring, and what better way to celebrate than with these festivals celebrating San Diego’s blooms and buds.

1. Guests will have a full day of activities at the San Diego Zoo’s Discovery Days: Garden Festival, May 5-8. Visitors can learn about the rare plants growing at the Zoo, which is a certified museum based on its rich horticulture, and partake in self-guided walking tours and botanical bus tours while enjoying special performances, scavenger hunts and more.

2. Starting today through Sunday, the Sage & Songbirds Festival takes place at the Viejas Outlet Center in Alpine. This annual celebration of Alpine’s recognition by the National Wildlife Federation as “America’s 1st Community Wildlife Habitat” features a plant and art sale, live butterfly exhibit and daily butterfly releases.

3. This one has my name all over it! The San Diego Botanical Garden is hosting a Chocolate Festival. This annual festival for chocolate fans features dozens of tasting, demonstrations, gifts and more. All in the beautiful setting of the Botanical Gardens. If you’re bringing the little ones, be sure to check out the West Coast’s largest interactive children’s garden, the Hamilton Children’s Garden.

Candice

The Art of Flowers in Balboa Park

Art Alive

Garden lovers, now is the time to head to Balboa Park. The park is home to more than a dozen gorgeous gardens, from elegant rose gardens to exotic desert cacti. With Spring in full bloom, visitors can easily spend an entire day soaking up the color and beauty of Balboa Park’s botanical wonders.

The artistry of floral arranging takes on a whole new meaning at the San Diego Museum of Art’s annual “Art Alive” exhibition. Open to the public April 29 – May 1, Art Alive transforms the museum into an explosion of breathtaking floral arrangements.

Join me as we take a behind-the-scenes look at Art Alive and tour the different gardens of Balboa Park:

[iframe_youtube video=”hMEB8BguSYQ”]

Candice

Tea Time in San Diego

Move over coffee shops, because San Diego’s tea times offer a welcome break from the usual afternoon pick-me-up.  What better complement to the spring flowers cropping up around the county than a nice cup of tea? If you’re in need of recharging, head to one of these charming tea spots for a relaxing respite.

Cafe Chloe offers Urban Tea daily

Urban Tea at  Café Chloe
The elegant yet relaxed French bistro in San Diego’s East Village offers a tea service to die for, including a selection of sandwiches, housemade cakes, cookies & sweets. The $29 per person service includes a pot of gourmet tea, or a glass of prosecco to accompany the tasty treats. Join them for a spot between 3:00 and 5:00 pm daily.

The Westgate Hotel's Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea at the Westgate Hotel
Tea time doesn’t get any more glamorous than at the Westgate Hotel. The Old-World European charm of this downtown hotel means that you’ll be sipping in truly refined style. Their traditional tea service on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 2:30 to 5 pm includes harp music serenading you as you sample delicious tea sandwiches, sweet pastries, scones and seasonal berries with your tea. Special upcoming tea services include Easter Bunny Teas for children on April 22 and 23, plus a tea time fashion show with Melero Boutique and Gallery on April 30.

Japanese Friendship Garden
Green teas, white teas, herbal tisanes, oolongs and more are available at the Tea Pavilion at Balboa Park’s Japanese Friendship Garden.  Try an exotic Darjeeling Badamtam or Fujian Oolong Ti Kuan Yin before wandering the peaceful gardens, where you’ll see the living sculpture of Bonsai, enchanting Koi ponds, and cascading flowers growing along the traditional Japanese architecture.

Selections from Halcyon Tea

Halcyon Tea
Looking to take a few teas home to recreate tea time in your own living room? Halcyon Tea in the neighborhood of South Park searches the globe to bring customers the finest teas they can find. The inviting shop also boasts all the accessories you will need to set up your own tea service, from porcelain pots to books on books on how to prepare the perfect cup. Teas can be sampled in-house, or purchase one of their tea service packages for enjoying wherever your travels take you.

Suzzanne

5 to Try This Weekend in San Diego

Del Mar Horse Show

1. Elegance, excitement, excellence — these are the hallmarks of the Del Mar National Horse Show, one of the oldest and most prestigious equestrian competitions in the Western United States. The show runs for three weeks starting April 21 and ending May 8. Western competition will be featured the first week, April 21-24; dressage follows April 28-May 1; and hunter/jumper classes conclude the show May 3-8. Each week will also have a featured Saturday night evening event.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps

2. Spring is an “eggs-tra” special time of year when many ocean animals are hatched or born. Visit the Birch Aquarium from April 21-24 as they offer Spring EGGStravaganza. Come face-to-face with egg-laying marine animals, including squids, fishes and sharks. Create a shark egg craft, listen to story times and participate in a daily activity throughout the aquarium.

SeaWorld's Journey to Atlantis

3. From the amazing Shamu show to the thrilling Atlantis ride, SeaWorld never disappoints. This Saturday, April 23rd, be sure to check out SeaWorld’s Spring Into Night. Spring into Night combines even more SeaWorld fun with amazing nighttime experiences when the park is open late – til 9:00 pm. Then in May, SeaWorld will bring back the popular Viva La Musica, a multi-weekend celebration of Hispanic heritage, complete with live concerts by today’s hottest acts, plus delicious Latin food.

Beach Soccer Jam

4. The Third Annual Beach Soccer Jam kicks off Saturday and Sunday at Fiesta Island. Played with a special ball meant for bare feet, beach soccer has its roots in Brazil but makes itself a happy home on Fiesta Island every year. Along with watching the stellar competition on the sand, one can enjoy other Brazilian imports such as Samba and Capoiera performances.

Stomp

5. From April 19 through the 24th, Broadway San Diego presents Stomp at the downtown Civic Theatre. This rhythm-centric production of music, comedy and talent will remind you that if the beat is alive in you, that’s the only instrument you need. Bring the whole family and enjoy the beat!