Robert Arends

5 to Try: Holiday Happenings in San Diego’s East County

SoCal's largest ice skating rink at Viejas Outlet Center!

SoCal’s largest ice skating rink at Viejas Outlet Center!

“Oh the weather outside is frightful…” everywhere else but here, in sunny San Diego! With temps in the high 60s, winter is a wonderful time of year to check out the city sights, as well as activities in our East County region where ’tis the season to see charming foothill, mountain and desert communities decked in holiday splendor.

Following are 5 Holiday Festivities to Try – sure to have families humming “fa la la la la” all season long:

1. Christmas in the Village

La Mesa Christmas in the Village

It’s a winter wonderland at La Mesa Christmas in the Village

The delightful downtown of La Mesa transforms into an old-fashioned Christmas in the Village. There’s fun for the whole family: horse-drawn carriages, Santa Claus, carolers, carnival rides, live music stages and an outdoor market to shop for one-of-a-kind gifts.

Where: La Mesa Blvd & Spring Street, La Mesa, CA 91941
When: December 13-14, 2013
Time: 5:00 to 10:00 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about La Mesa’s Christmas in the Village

2. Annual Christmas Caroling Sing Along

Holiday Fun at Mt. Helix Annual Christmas Caroling in San Diego's East County

Join Santa’s Elves for a night of holiday merriment and Christmas caroling

Just up the hill on La Mesa’s majestic Mt. Helix – featuring spectacular 360 degree views of San Diego – the Annual Christmas Caroling Sing Along. Join Santa Claus, a choir of carolers and concert bands in musical merriment. There will also be free baked goods, hot drinks, and a raffle for prizes.

Where: 4901 Mt. Helix Drive, La Mesa, California 91941
When: December 15, 2013
Time: 6:30 to 8:00 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about Mt. Helix’s Annual Christmas Caroling Sing Along

3. Handel’s Messiah

In the historic Gold Rush mountain town of Julian, enjoy a rousing rendition of Handel’s Messiah by the Julian Community Choir in the Town Hall. While you’re there, be sure to sample Julian’s famous apple pies with a cup of hot cocoa. Our local U-T San Diego paper recently touted their top Julian pie shop picks.

Where: Julian Town Hall – 2129 Main Street, Julian, CA 92036
When: December 15, 2013
Time: Starts at 7:00 PM
> Find more events in Julian

4. Ice Skating

Viejas Outlet Center Ice Skating

Viejas Ice Skating Rink

Grab your scarf and mittens and head to Viejas Outlet Center in Alpine to practice figure 8s on the largest outdoor ice skating rink in Southern California!

Where: 5005 Willows Rd Suite 229, Alpine, CA 91901
When: Through January 5, 2014
Time:
– Monday-Friday: 5:00 to 10:00 PM
– Saturday-Sunday: 12:00 to 10:00 PM
Cost: $12-$14
> Find out more about the Viejas Outlet Center Ice Rink

5. Barona’s North Pole Gingerbread Village

Barona's North Pole Gingerbread Village

Barona’s North Pole Gingerbread Village

Look but don’t eat the incredible Barona’s North Pole Gingerbread Village at Barona Casino in Lakeside. This 50-foot culinary wonder – which took 900 hours to create! – features a snow-covered village complete with Santa’s workshop, an elf tavern and train station made entirely of gingerbread! It’s located at the entrance to the bustling Season’s Fresh Buffet and will be on display through Dec. 30. Yum! 😉

Where: 1932 Wildcat Canyon Rd, Lakeside, CA 92040
When: Through December 30, 2013

> Discover more holiday cheer in San Diego

Ho ho ho from East County!

Brent Bernasconi

Ice Skating This Winter Under the San Diego Stars

While lights wrapped around palm trees are much more common than snowmen with carrots for noses, San Diego gets into the winter spirit with a twist. Just throw on a pair of jeans and grab a light jacket before you and your loved one(s) head out for some outdoor ice skating under the warm San Diego sky.

Skating by the Sea – Coronado

Ice Skating by the Pacific Ocean at the Hotel Del Coronado

Skating by the Sea at the Del!

Imagine hearing the ocean waves crashing against the pristine white sand while you glide over the ice enjoying the winter sunshine…wait…why imagine when you can actually experience it during the Hotel del Coronado‘s Skating by the Sea? The oceanfront Windsor Lawn is transformed into a spectacular ice rink overlooking the Pacific Ocean creating a picturesque holiday in San Diego.

A portion of the skating proceeds will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of San Diego.

Location: Hotel del Coronado, 1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado, CA, 92118 (map)
Dates: November 21, 2012 – January 5, 2013
Times:
– Daily – 2:00 to 5:00 PM and 6:00 to 9:00 PM
– Matinee – 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM (Weekend and Holidays – November 21 – December 14, January 2-5 and Daily – December 15 – January 1)
Cost: Kids – $20; Adults – $25. Matinee Child -$15; Matinee Adult – $20
> Pre-purchase Skating by the Sea Tickets
> Save Time and Print out the Ice Skating Waiver (PDF)

Sycuan’s Fantasy on Ice – Gaslamp Quarter

Ice Skating in Horton Plaza - Sycuan's Fantasy on Ice

Ice skate in the heart of San Diego at Sycuan’s Fantasy on Ice.

Located in the center of Downtown San Diego, Sycuan’s Fantasy on Ice in the Gaslamp Quarter is a great place for a day or night out in San Diego. Stop by one of the many surrounding restaurants for a quick bite or sip on a warm drink from a cafe and then burn off those calories with a few laps around the ice rink. Stop by with that special someone on the weekend for one of the romantic night sessions complete with mood lighting and music while you skate.

A portion of the skating proceeds will benefit the Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego.

Location: Horton Plaza, 225 Broadway Circle, San Diego, CA 92101 (map)
Dates: November 15, 2012 – January 6, 2013 (Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Days)
Times:
– Monday-Thursday – 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM
– Friday-Sunday – 10:00 AM to 7:30 PM and 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM (Night Session)
– Christmas Eve and New Years Eve – 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Cost: Children (Under 12) – $12; Adults – $14; Season Pass – $35
> Pre-purchase Sycuan’s Fantasy on Ice Tickets

Ice Skating at Viejas – East County

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.

San Diego’s East County is known for its wide open spaces, so that’s why Viejas Outlet Center decided to go big and build the largest outdoor ice skating rink in Southern California. Gather up the whole family and some friends to enjoy a day of shopping, hot chocolate and, of course, ice skating under the stars!

Location: Viejas Outlet Center, 5000 Willow Road, Alpine, CA 91901 (map)
Dates: November 16, 2012 – January 6, 2013
Times: Click here for daily times
Cost: Children (12 and under) – $10; Adults – $12; Groups of 10 or more $2 off each person
> Save Time and Print out the Ice Skating Waiver (PDF)

Ice Skating Year Round

For those looking for some ice skating fun year-round in San Diego, check out the San Diego Ice Arena (North County Inland), Kroc Center Ice Arena (San Diego), Iceoplex Escondido (North County Inland) and the UTC Ice Sports Center (La Jolla).

What are you waiting for, get out there and skate like Brian Boitano would!

Know of any other outdoor ice skating opportunities in San Diego this winter? Let us and others 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.

Sandra

A Season of Savings at Viejas Outlet Center in San Diego’s East County

Viejas Outlet Center

Holiday Fun at the Viejas Casino & Outlet Center

Being in the throes of this holiday season, people are always searching for one-stop-shopping opportunities to not only find the perfect gift but an outing the whole family can enjoy. One of the many festive shopping destinations in San Diego is the award-winning Viejas Outlet Center. Approximately 30 minutes from Downtown near the quaint town of Alpine, this outlet center features some fabulous go-to brands in a picturesque park-like setting creating the perfect place to conquer your holiday shopping list while you relax! During this holiday season, you can save up to 70% on already unbelievable prices on popular brands like Brooks Brothers, Chico’s Jones New York, Coach, Nine West, Tommy Hilfiger, Rue 21, Gap, Guess, Polo Ralph Lauren, Levi’s, Nike, Carter’s Children’s Wear, Vans, and Sunglass Hut, just to name a few!

Southern California's Largest Outdoor Ice Skating Rink

Once you master your holiday shopping list then maybe spend some time enjoying a magical experience of skating outdoors with the entire family on Southern California’s largest outdoor skating rink. This will be sure to get you in the holiday spirit. Once off the ice, stick around to see the enchanting water show called Together, A Holiday Spectacular! You will be dazzled with this 360 degree experience with water fountains, lasers, fire cannons, pyrotechnics, and state-of-the-art special effects, all choreographed to the best known and loved holiday music!

If the lighting, special effects and music does not get you in the holiday spirit, you might need to re-fuel yourself with a specialty coffee at Robin’s Coffee Nest or with a few pieces of chocolate from the Rocky Mt. Chocolate Factory. If you need a little bit more to energize your shopping goals then be sure to partake in the many choices of dining options at the outlet center. Two of my favorites are Nori Sushi Bar & Grill or Adriano’s Pizza.

No matter what your shopping list entails, Viejas Outlet Center will certainly fulfill your holiday shopping goals all while having fun with the whole family!

Robert Arends

‘Tis the season: Holiday Festivities in East County!

SoCal's largest ice skating rink at Viejas Outlet Center

San Diego’s bucolic East County always beckons me this time of year. I don’t know if it’s the crispness in the air, change of color in the leaves or subtle scent of pine trees as you drive out into the backcountry that’s so enticing, but it’s absolutely wonderful and welcoming! It’s where locals and visitors alike go to experience winter in San Diego. And yes, we even get snow on occasion in the higher elevations. Our historic mountain town of Julian is particularly nice – like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life when the first snow falls.

With Thanksgiving and the official launch of the holiday season just around the corner, following are some fun and festive activities for folks to enjoy in East County:

El Cajon's Mother Goose Parade!

  • Make some merry at the 65th Annual Mother Goose Parade on Nov. 20. This very popular, local holiday tradition is the largest parade in San Diego County and largest of its type west of the Mississippi, attracting thousands of spectators to the streets of El Cajon. The free fete features marching bands, colorful floats, equestrians and this year’s Grand Marshal, Taylor Guitars.

    Carriage ride through Julian.

  • There’s nothing more charming than a good ol’ fashioned Christmas celebration. Jingle up to Julian on Nov. 26 for the Julian Country Christmas & Tree Lighting, featuring strolling carolers, horse-drawn carriages, the scent of freshly-baked apple pies (yum!) and Santa Claus’ arrival aboard a bright red fire engine for the tree lighting.
  • The delightful downtown of La Mesa is transformed into a Victorian wonderland on Dec. 9 & 10 during their family-friendly Christmas in the Village, featuring horse-drawn carriages, strolling minstrels, carolers, an outdoor market with gift ideas galore and jolly ol’ Saint Nick.

    Ice skating at Viejas Outlet Center

  • The quaint town of Alpine joins in the festivities on Dec. 9 with its 16th Annual Alpine Village Christmas Parade of Lights & Snow Festival, complete with a snow hill for sledding! Just down the road, Viejas Outlet Center (awesome holiday shopping deals!) is home to the largest outdoor ice-skating rink in Southern California – open now through New Year’s.

    Santa on the North Pole Limited train in Campo.

  • All aboard… the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum’s 8th Annual North Pole Limited! This popular Christmas vintage train ride through the backcountry to the “North Pole” takes place on Nov. 25-26, Dec. 2-3, 9-10 and 16-17.The one-hour adventure begins at the Campo Depot and features an on-board reading of a famous Christmas train story (hint: see photo above 😉 ), hot cocoa, holiday cookies and an appearance by Santa Claus and his elves. Reservations are required; sure to sell out! 

    Wintertime in Julian.

     Happy Holidays from East County!

Robert Arends

San Diego Restaurant Week: Fine Dines in Coronado and East County

Two of my favorite areas of San Diego are Coronado – our postcard-perfect slice of paradise just across the bridge from downtown – and East County which constantly surprises me with its cool backcountry finds.

Narrowing down my favorite restaurants in each region wasn’t easy, as there’s a plethora of mouth-watering options, from French, Italian and some of the finest Mexican food in the County to farm-to-fork and coastal cuisine.

Blessed with a spectacular bay and seaside setting and easygoing island vibe, Coronado is a diner’s delight! My top three choices in the “Crown City” for San Diego Restaurant Week are:

  1. Sheerwater at the Hotel del Coronado is a refined, yet casual oceanfront restaurant featuring a “Fish by the Sea” menu of classic bistro-style cuisine with a focus on fresh sustainable seafood. Just steps away, the beach beckons couples for romantic strolls.

    Mistral's panoramic views of San Diego Bay.

  2. With floor-to-ceiling panoramic views of San Diego Bay and the iconic San Diego-Coronado Bridge, Mistral at Loews Coronado Bay Resort offers an idyllic backdrop for modern French delicacies prepared by chefs Marc Erhler and Patrick Ponsaty.

    Coronado Boathouse 1887 on Glorietta Bay.

  3. Coronado Boathouse 1887, located on Glorietta Bay across the street from the Hotel del Coronado, serves gourmet steaks and seafood. This “diminutive Del” is celebrating 40 years in the restaurant business and is a favorite with locals and visitors alike!

My top three East County picks are:

  1. Terra American Bistro, located in the East College District, brings farm to table dining to East County. Chef Jeff Rossman’s New American cuisine focuses on the local bounty of sustainable, organic ingredients and preparation styles from North, South and Central America.  (Bring Terra home with the chef’s new cookbook, From Terra’s Table.)

    Enjoy farm to fork cuisine at Chef Rossman's Terra Restaurant.

  2. Every day is a fiesta at Casa de Pico in La Mesa, known for its award-winning “Best Mexican” cuisine, festive atmosphere and famous birdbath margaritas [just one, please 😉 ]. Enjoy dining on the patio with its colorful umbrellas, splashing fountain and strolling Mariachis – ole!

    Festive patio dining at Casa de Pico!

  3. A favorite with locals and critics alike, the Grove Steakhouse at Viejas Casino in Alpine serves a fabulous selection of steaks, seafood, chops and delectable desserts in a luxurious setting. Go a bit early to explore the casino and outlet shops. Viejas, by the way, is celebrating its 20th anniversary!

    The Grove Steakhouse at Viejas.

Robert Arends

“Royal-Tea” Toast at the California Welcome Center in Alpine

Even though the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge won’t be making a stop in San Diego during their three-day whirlwind tour of California, we decided to have some fun with a Royal-Tea toast at the California Welcome Center in Alpine (at Viejas Outlet Stores) to formally welcome them to the Golden State.

Royal-Tea for two!

Visitors were treated to complimentary cups of tea, provided by Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, sweet biscuits (translation: cookies), “tea” shirts and lovely British décor courtesy of the All Things Bright and British shop in La Mesa (8401 La Mesa Blvd.). Seven lucky guests received pink tiaras – how regal!

Tea setting and decor provided by All Things Bright and British.

Sue Mason, our Director of Visitor Services, even sported a replica wedding ring like the one Princess Kate wears (which was originally Lady Diana’s).

The media stopped by too, including San Diego’s NBC 7/39 who interviewed Jeanette Perez, director of the visitor center, plus a photographer from the East County Herald.

The Royal-Tea event continues until 4 p.m. today.

Jeanette Perez and Sue Mason toast the royal couple.

We raise our teacups to Prince William and Princess Kate. Cheerio!

Be sure to enter our “Live Like a Royal in San Diego’s Crown City” Sweepstakes.  The trip for two includes a 2-night stay at the Hotel del Coronado, a 1-hour surrey rental from Bikes & Beyond, and a Pasaporto Cruise from The Gondola Company.  Register to win here.  Contest ends July 15, 2011.

Katie S.

Skating Away in San Diego

Skating by the Sea

Skating by the Sea

When you think of San Diego you’re probably envisioning warm, sunny weather, beautiful beaches, hot nightlife scene and fun family attractions. What most likely doesn’t spring to mind immediately is ice skating.  Winter in San Diego transforms many of our attractions into snow bunny getaways.

The San Diego Zoo’s holiday Jungle Bells is a winter celebration throughout the park that runs through January 2nd. And what could be more fun that a whole day filled with wild animals and a skate around the Sabertooth Grill? The skate rink is open from 11 a.m. to closing, so you can enjoy a full day of sights and holiday lights and celebrations at night.

For the first year ever, SeaWorld opens an in-park skating rink during their Holiday Celebration. Come see their festive 30-foot Christmas tree lit up while you visit Shamu and friends and revel in the seasonal entertainment that includes carolers, the Night Before Christmas sea lion show and more.

Get your holiday shopping done at downtown’s Horton Plaza or the Viejas Outlet Center in north county and spend the rest of the day gliding along on ice. Both shopping havens are great for a holiday pick-me-up with family or friends, and a great way to enjoy a sunny day outside.

San Diego is also probably one of the only locations where you can literally ice skate on the beach. The Hotel del Coronado offers holiday Skating by the Sea through January 3rd, where you can go for a dip in the Pacific and then walk steps to the hotel for skating fun and hot chocolate.