Robert Arends

Catch of the Day: Tuna Harbor Dockside Market on San Diego Bay!

Posing with a big box crab at Tuna harbor Dockside Market!

Posing with a big box crab at Tuna Harbor Dockside Market!

If you”ve ever been to Pike Place Market in Seattle or Fisherman”s Wharf in San Francisco, you know what a delight it is to see seafood as fresh as it gets from local waters.

San Diego now has its very own open-air seafood market called the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market, located on Fish Harbor Pier on picturesque San Diego Bay between Seaport Village and Ruocco Park (across the street from the chic new Headquarters at Seaport District).

Folks checking out the new Tuna Harbor Dockside Market

Folks checking out the new Tuna Harbor Dockside Market

I didn”t know what to expect when I ventured to the market a recent Saturday morning with my camera at the ready. Some fish on ice…perhaps an unusual sea creature or two. But when I saw spiky crabs clawing for attention and a massive 5-foot octopus wriggling for a close-up, I knew I was in for a treat!

Fresh catches of the day at Tuna Harbor Dockside Market

Fresh catches of the day at Tuna Harbor Dockside Market

Hours are from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM and folks line up early for the best seafood picks online casino to purchase before they”re sold out. I opted to arrive a bit later (around 9:30 AM) and though the line was a few dozen people deep, it moved along at a nice steady pace.

For shutterbugs like me, there”s no line to wait in. Just aim your camera between folks as they shuffle by, zoom in on the bountiful sea life and click away!

What I saw was amazing! Albacore and skipjack tuna, yellow tail, blue fin, lots of bright red-colored rock fish, black cod, Mahi Mahi, halibut, sea urchin (San Diego”s known for delectably fresh sea urchin/uni – yum!)…

Sea urchin/uni, a local San Diego seafood delicacy!

Sea urchin/uni, a local San Diego seafood delicacy!

…three varieties of crab, including rock crab…

Rock crab at Tuna Harbor Dockside Market

Rock crab at Tuna Harbor Dockside Market

…and my favorite, the feisty box crab; check out this cool video I took!

The weekly catch is posted here. The fisherman and women are very friendly and more than happy to pose with their catches and fishing boats anchored in the background!

If you”re looking for a fun, photo-worthy San Diego experience second-to-none, head downtown to the Big Bay on Saturdays and dive into the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market. San Diego”s legendary commercial fishing and maritime heritage come alive before your eyes! 🙂

Sarah Weinberg

Cool Off at San Diego’s Wet and Wild Water Parks

From the newest public water park on the San Diego harbor to favorites at LEGOLAND and Aquatica, visiting San Diego splash zones offers ample opportunity for a soaking good time beyond the beach.

Here are some top choices for  San Diego non-salt-water adventures.

San Diego County Waterfront Park

Locals and visitors alike enjoy the harbor views and interactive fountains at San Diego County's new Waterfront Park.  Courtesy Stephen Whalen

Locals and visitors alike enjoy the harbor views and interactive fountains at San Diego County’s new Waterfront Park. Courtesy Stephen Whalen

The County of San Diego gave a great gift to locals and visitors alike with a free harborside water park. The park includes large civic greens, children’s play area, intimate garden rooms and expansive interactive fountains that kids and adults are allowed to run around and play in! Yes, you can tell the kids, it’s okay to jump in the fountain!

Where: 1600 Pacific Coast Highway, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about the County of San Diego Waterfront Park

Aquatica San Diego, SeaWorld’s Water Park

Hop aboard Aquatica's Loggerhead Lane lazy river, 1,250 feet of easy tubing the whole family can enjoy.

Hop aboard Aquatica’s Loggerhead Lane lazy river, 1,250 feet of easy tubing the whole family can enjoy.

This amazing conglomeration of twisty turning slides and long, lazy river rafting rides offers acres of water fun set amid gorgeous live tropical plants, flamingos and turtles. I was pretty wowed by the extensive offerings for every age group, from knee-deep pools with tiny slides for toddlers, to Tassie’s Twister, a waterslide in several parts that I dared only look at. At Aquatica, friends and families can race each other down six-lane slides on Taumata Racers or travel solo in complete darkness through a tube slide on the Kiwi Curl. The park knows how to make a visit enjoyable for guests with plenty of free lounge chairs, cabanas for rent, lockers throughout the park and a new “cashless wristband” connected to your credit card that lets you charge chicken tenders and margaritas without having to access your wallet.

Where: 2052 Entertainment Circle, Chula Vista, CA 91911
Open: Memorial Day through Labor Day
> Find out more about Aquatica SeaWorld Waterpark San Diego

LEGOLAND: Now Two Water Parks in One!

Children enjoy Cragger’s Splash at the new Legends of Chima Water Park. Courtesy LEGOLAND California Resort.

My family flipped when LEGOLAND opened its original water park in 2010, turning what was already a favorite theme park into a place with rides and a water park! What could be more fun than building your own LEGO raft and floating down the lazy river after spending a warm day riding roller coasters and propelling self-powered rides at LEGOLAND? There is something for all of us at the LEGOLAND water park, including my little toddler nephews (3 and 5) and my daring 12 year old. We all love the Orange Rush, a giant tube-boat that slips and slides down a wide waterslide way up high while mom shrieks at the top of her lungs (yes, I’m a wimp, but I love a water slide).

This spring, LEGOLAND debuted a Chima-themed water park, a connecting water world based on the popular toy line and Cartoon Network’s “Legends of Chima,” featuring more slides for all ages, a large wave pool and over 50 interactive water play opportunities for visitors.

Where: One Legoland Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92008
> Find out more about LEGOLAND California Resort

The Wave House in Mission Beach

Learning to surf the Flow Ride Wave Machine at Belmont Park is just one of the fun activities at Belmont Park in Mission Beach.

While I admit that I lack the nerve and coordination to try the two flow wave machines at The Wave House in Belmont Park, I have sat in the centrally located outside, beachy dining area and ordered sushi and watched those braver than I battle the fake sea. I love the setup here: real Pacific Ocean waves rolling in on one side (and the people watching of Mission Beach Boardwalk); on the other side is the amazing skill of the Flow Riders, experts tackling the Flow Barrel‘s consistent and unique waves while they practice surf board tricks. Nearby is the Flow Rider, a beginner friendly wave simulator where you can watch students eat it (a wave, that is) while you dine nearby.

Where: 3146 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109
> Find out more about The Wave House

Other Water Park Options in San Diego County

San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park has a small area for toddlers called the Savannah Cool Zone near Lion Camp. Small children are allowed to climb on three animal sculpture fountains that spout water.

The Wave Waterpark in Vista is a large water park in San Diego’s North County  with extensive camps, lessons and slides and more.

Sarah Weinberg

San Diego’s Newest Baby Animals – Both Great and Small

This spring and summer yielded a bumper crop of adorableness at San Diego’s attractions. Take a gander at the new baby animals and “toddlers” on display – or soon to be on display – at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park and SeaWorld San Diego.

Baby Animals – Warts and All at the San Diego Zoo

Two Visayan Warty Piglets

This critically endangered Visayan Warty piglet was born at San Diego Zoo in a successful breeding program that has produced 80 piglets since 2002. Courtesy Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo. - Baby Animals

This critically endangered Visayan Warty piglet was born at San Diego Zoo in a successful breeding program that has produced 80 piglets since 2002. Courtesy Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo.

In its effort to bring species back from the brink of extinction, the San Diego Zoo was delighted with the birth of two Visayan Warty piglets, born on June 26. The baby animals are just beginning to eat solid foods of vegetables and fruits. Keepers describe the piglet as extremely energetic and curious. Visayan warty pigs, endemic to the Visayan Islands in the central Philippines, are a critically endangered species due to loss of habitat, illegal hunting and hybridization

Southwest African Meerkat Pup

A Southwest African meerkat pup is carefully watched over by its mother. Photo courtesy Ken Bohn at the San Diego Zoo.

A Southwest African meerkat pup is carefully watched over by its mother. Photo courtesy Ken Bohn at the San Diego Zoo.

Such a punim! (Yiddish for “what a cute face”). This meerkat pup was six weeks old when it recently emerged from its burrow, and while it still spends most time below ground, it is beginning learning to forage for food and play above ground with its mother and other members of its mob, or family group.

Shadow – Grey Wolf Pup

Wolf pup is eager to play courtesy Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo.

Wolf pup is eager to play courtesy Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo.

The playful two-month-old 23-pound grey wolf pup pictured here is now three months old and just moved from the Children’s Zoo nursery at the San Diego Zoo. The pup, named Shadow, will live at Wegeforth Bowl and serve as an ambassador for his species.

Bundles of Joy at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

4 Lion Cubs

Lion cubs born June 22, 2014, courtesy Ken Bohn San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Lion cubs born June 22, 2014, peer out of the maternity den at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Photo courtesy Ken Bohn San Diego Zoo Safari Park

I had the pleasure of peeking at these kitty cuties in the nursery last week. Keepers report lioness mom Oshana is attentive and the cubs appear healthy – nursing, moving and vocalizing well. The cubs will continue to bond with their mother behind the scenes and when they are older and stronger, they will be able to explore a larger habitat and gradually be introduced to their father Izu, and the Safari Park’s other adult female, before going on public view at the Safari Park’s Lion Camp.

Joanne – Baby Gorilla

Baby gorilla at San Diego Zoo Safari Park enjoys the ride. Photo courtesy Ken Bohn.

Baby gorilla at San Diego Zoo Safari Park enjoys the ride. Photo courtesy Ken Bohn.

Now five-months old, baby gorilla Joanne has been growing and gaining independence, reaching milestones such as riding on her mother’s back and crawling. Joanne was born at the Safari Park on March 12 after a rare emergency C-section. This was the first baby for mother Imani and the 17th gorilla to be born at the Safari Park.

Black Rhino Calf

Black rhino baby takes charge at San Diego Zoo Safari Park courtesy Ken Bohn.

Black rhino baby takes charge at San Diego Zoo Safari Park courtesy Ken Bohn.

This male black rhino calf, born on July 12,  marks a significant achievement, since black rhinos are a critically endangered species with approximately 5,000 left in the wild. “Poaching is the main reason why the numbers of black rhinos are on the decline,” according to Julie Anderson, a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “Any birth here at the Park is an important birth, and we have been very fortunate to have a newborn baby here.”

Birds of a Feather Hatching Now at SeaWorld and the Safari Park


SeaWorld San Diego Caribbean flamingo chicks

SeaWorld San Diego is celebrating a successful Caribbean flamingo breeding season in 2014, with 18 chicks hatched so far.

SeaWorld’s latest flamboyance of Caribbean flamingo chicks range in age from two weeks old to two months old.  The birds are currently being raised by their parents (both mother and father play a role) in the flamingo habitat. The park’s bird keepers are on watch as additional eggs will hatch out in the coming days and weeks. SeaWorld San Diego has been caring for and breeding flamingos since the 1970s.

Three Magellanic Penguin Chicks

SeaWorld San Diego recently celebrated the hatching of three Magellanic penguin chicks, one of which was conceived through artificial insemination. Courtesy Mike Aguilere/SeaWorld San Diego.

SeaWorld San Diego recently celebrated the hatching of three Magellanic penguin chicks, Courtesy Mike Aguilere/SeaWorld San Diego.

Celebrating the marriage of science and conservation, one of these little guys was conceived through artificial insemination and a frozen sample, perhaps a milestone for preserving endangered species in the future. These baby animals just joined the adult colony of Magellanic penguins in an outdoor habitat outside the Penguin Encounter at SeaWorld San Diego. Since 1980, more than 600 penguin chicks have been hatched and raised at the marine park, including the first-ever chinstrap and emperor penguins. SeaWorld aviculturists have had a worldwide impact on pioneering techniques for rearing penguin chicks.

Two East African Crowned Crane Chicks

Crowned crane chicks take a walk, courtesy Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Crowned crane chicks take a walk, courtesy Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Two East African crowned crane chicks hatched in mid-June at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park get daily exercise to strengthen their feet and long legs and to gain balance before they can join the adult birds in the Safari Park’s African Plains habitat. East African crowned cranes are listed as an endangered species due to the loss, transformation and degradation of their habitat. These two baby animals represent the 62nd and 63rd hatchings of East African crowned cranes at the Safari Park.

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! 🙂

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


Family Friendly Tips to Enjoying 3 of San Diego’s World-Famous Attractions

San Diego Zoo Safari Park Family Friendly Tips
 San Diego Zoo Safari Park Family Friendly Tips

Make it the perfect day with your little ones with these family friendly tips

From the beaches to the parks to the friendly vibe of the people, San Diego is truly one of the greatest destinations in the world for children. To top it off, our amazing city has several fun attractions to choose from! As a local mom of five kids, here are some family friendly tips on how to make the most of three of my favorite places to visit, the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and LEGOLAND California.

1. The San Diego Zoo

Known as the World-Famous Zoo, it truly lives up to the hype as one of the greatest  family friendly destinations to see over 4,000 different animals! Trying to see them all in one day might be a tad ambitious, but here are my recommendations that maximize what you can fit in.

Start with a walking tour by heading down Center Street, checking out the bears along the way until it turns into Park Street and takes you to the pandas! Head there first as the viewing line for an up close look tends to get long. From there, continue the loop along to the polar bears, a truly fun exhibit where you can view the polar bears playing underwater! As your legs begin to tire, avoid the steep hill and hop on the Skyfari that takes you back toward the entrance of the park.

Disembark from your Skyfari bucket and head down Treetops Way to see the orangutan trail, making your way to the Treehouse Café to enjoy the views during lunch.

After fueling up, take Monkey Trail back to see gorillas and more, detouring through Scripps Aviary for some spectacular bird viewing. As you make your way back toward the main zoo entrance, catch the Hippo Trail as well.

By this point, the whole family will likely need a break, but you haven’t even gotten to the lions, tigers, giraffes and elephants! It’s at this time you can rest your feet on the bus tour catching several more great views of the animals.

Finally, if there is any ounce of energy left, head to the Children’s Zoo, truly a treat for the younger set. From hands on exhibits to the petting zoo, it’s a delight and the perfect way to end the day.

Stroller Tips

If you have tiny kids that need strollers, the Skyfari does not let strollers on board. I do recommend parking your stroller and enjoying the sky-high views round trip, then either walking some of the trails or heading straight for the bus tour.

2. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The closest you may come to feeling like you actually are in the wild, this park is not to be missed. Note that during spring and summer, temperatures can heat up so head there early to beat the summer heat. Head straight to the African Tram first thing as lines tend to get long later in the day and it is pretty much the only line to worry about. This tram takes your family on a tour of the park and offers a view of the animals in an atmosphere created to be like their natural habitat – a favorite for my kids and me. Once the tour is over, walk over to see the lions since they also tend to draw a crowd, for a can’t miss, up close view!

From there, follow the path to see the gorillas, keeping an eye on the various show times. A personal favorite has been the bird show for years and a great way to take a walking break.

As lunch time hits, choose the Samburu Terrace and grab one of the tables near the amazing view area!

Also, be sure to check the schedule for animal demonstrations for up close views (and even some petting!) of some spectacular creatures. Speaking of which, the petting zoo is always a fun time for the kids as well.

Grab your map and seek out the rest of your favorite animals, then cool off in the kid’s fun splash area. Note: bring swimsuits and towels.

As the day winds down, hit the carousel near the front entrance.

Family Friendly Hints

Remember, when traveling with kids, make sure to equip yourself with several snacks to keep hunger away and try to go during times when your child will be least tired. Just as you think you might be headed toward melt down city, let the younger kids sit back and relax in the stroller while you take a walking tour as each of my favorite attractions have plenty of areas to stroll! And when all else fails, remember my mantra: relax while watching one of the shows!

3. LEGOLAND California

For Lego fans young and old, this is must-stop destination while in town.

Bring your bricks! If your child has a Lego figurine they are ready to be rid of, they can trade it with any Legoland staff member and continue to keep trading throughout the day! And if you are ready to purchase more, be sure to hit the store early in the day as it can get pretty crowded.

Next stop is to head to the back of the park first to avoid the long lines later in the day.

Be prepared that the height requirements are very strict for the rides, so be sure to measure your child before waiting in long lines only to be turned away (and I have seen that happen to many a screaming child!).

During the warmer months, bring towels and a change of clothes as several rides and the Pirate Shores will get you very wet. Though they have dryers you can pay to use, it’s nice to have a cozy towel handy.

When hunger strikes, eat at the restaurants in the aquarium (get your hand stamped for park reentry) and Mini Town as both have delicious food.

If you run into a “survey taker” during your visit, be sure to participate as you usually get a cool prize.

Once you are ready for a breather, hit the shows. In particular, the “The Big Test,” a.k.a. the fireman show, is a family favorite as are the 3D movies, too.

> Plan your trip with these family friendly itineraries

Do you have any family friendly tips to share? Tell us in the comments below!


Meet Rick Schwartz – San Diego's Guide to Family Fun

Rick Schwartz - San Diego's Guide to family Fun
san diego zoo koala

Rick Schwartz and his koala friend, Burly, are your Guides to the Good Stuff.

If you caught this week”s episode of NPR”s Wait Wait…Don”t Tell Me!, you might already be familiar with <a title=”Rick Schwartz – San Diego”s Guide to Family Fun” href=”” target=”_blank”>Rick Schwartz, Animal Care Supervisor for the San Diego Zoo. As a member of the San Diego Zoo”s team for 13 years, Rick has more than a few good tips to share for exploring the grounds and beyond.

Let Rick Schwartz be your Guide to the Good Stuff in San Diego with his picks for the best animal (and people) watching!


Explore the San Diego Zoo Like an Insider

This animal care ambassador knows the zoo like no one else, so be sure to follow Rick”s suggestions when you visit the San Diego Zoo:

  • Be prepared to spend all day. The San Diego Zoo spans 100 acres and houses more than 3,700 animals.
  • During the summertime, the zoo is open for 12 hours, which allows you to see animals that are more active at night. See your favorite animals active in the morning, go take one of the bus tours, ride the Skyfari, check out a show, and then walk the zoo again in the evening time. You’ll see and hear many unique things you would miss otherwise.
  • Before you go, pick three animals that you absolutely must see. Rick suggests checking out casino the koalas at the zoo”s new Australian Outback.

Beyond the Zoo: Rick Schwartz”s Suggestions for the Rest of San Diego

The zoo is terrific, but there”s plenty more to explore in San Diego beyond the zoo”s grounds:

  • One of Rick”s favorite locations in San Diego is Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Park. In addition to the access to Torrey Pines State Beach, there are some beautiful paths that wind through the preserve. You can have some unique coastal wildlife sightings right from the trails.
  • If you’re into people watching, Mission Beach is another of Rick”s favorite spots. You”ll see a lot of great characters, both local and visiting.
  • In the evening, Rick suggests heading downtown to the Gaslamp Quarter for great restaurants and clubs. “You could just get a nice little table on the patio of a restaurant there on one of the main streets and people watch all evening long,” says Rick.
  • Another of Rick”s favorite neighborhoods is Pacific Beach. With lots of bars and a fun beach culture, “that”s the place to go when you are done with the wild animals and want to go hang out with the party animals!” Rick shares.

Check out more of Rick Schwartz”s favorite things about San Diego, including tips for exploring Balboa Park, at <a title=”Rick Schwartz – San Diego”s Guide to the Good Stuff” href=”” target=”_blank”>

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,

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!


Meet Aaron Chang – A San Diego Guide to the Good Stuff


For artist and surfer Aaron Chang, San Diego is perfect fit. With access to incredible waves all year-round, a vibrant and engaging art scene, and great family activities, as Aaron would say, “I would defy you to be bored in San Diego!”

Both a photographer and gallery owner, Aaron has enjoyed watching the art scene in San Diego evolve and grow and sees a bright future for the arts in San Diego. But that’s not the only reason why he loves San Diego. Check out Aaron’s picks for what makes San Diego paradise for art and surf lovers alike!

Aaron Chang Guides to the Good Stuff

Aaron Chang behind the scenes filming San Diego’s Guides to the Good Stuff

Aaron Chang’s Favorite Artsy Endeavors

  • Mission Federal ArtWalk: the largest art event in San Diego showcases fine art in many mediums alongside live musical performances, food and beverage booths and activities for kids and families.
  • Cedros Design District: running the length of Cedros Avenue in Solana Beach, this district is home to a bevy of luxury home décor and design boutiques as well as great art galleries and a live music venue.
  • Museum of Photographic Arts: dedicated to all forms of photography and film, this small but innovative museum has been bringing world-class photography to San Diego for more than 30 years.
  • The Headquarters at Seaport District: this former police station turned retail center offers tremendous restaurants and unique, shops. Plus, it’s home to one of Aaron’s gallery locations!

Aaron Chang’s Perfect Day

How would Aaron spend a perfect day in San Diego? Try a few of his favorite San Diego activities:

Check out more of Aaron’s tips for art lovers, from the best galleries to his favorite spots to snap photos in San Diego, at

Robert Arends

5 to Try for Big Fun on San Diego’s Big Bay!

San Diego's Big Bay
San Diego's Big Bay

Pick your adventure on San Diego’s Big Bay

Spring is here and there’s no better time to make a splash on San Diego Bay – also called the “Big Bay” –  with its treasure trove of attractions, tours, events and cool points of interest.

Following are my top 5 to Try:

1. The Port of San Diego’s Annual Day at the Docks

Kids fishing at the docks

Spend a day with the kids fishing.

The Port of San Diego’s Day at the Docks celebration in April is the West Coast’s largest public sportfishing celebration – and the official start of Southern California’s popular spring saltwater fishing season. Festivities at American’s Cup Harbor include over 200 maritime exhibits, live entertainment, a casting competition, captains’ dunk tank, free fishing and kids art areas. It’s fun and free!

2. The San Salvador

Rendering of how the San Salvador ship will look when completed.

Rendering of how the San Salvador ship will look when completed.

Did you know: in 1542 European explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed aboard his ship, the San Salvador, and reached “a very good enclosed port” naming it “San Miguel.” Today we call it San Diego Bay and visitors can step back in time to check out the Maritime Museum of San Diego’s building of a full-sized, fully functional, historically accurate replica of Cabrillo’s flagship, the San Salvador. The framing is nearly complete and it’s easy to imagine the ship that she will become. Ahoy!

3. The Living Coast Discovery Center

See sea turtles up close at Living Coast Discovery Center.

See sea turtles up close at Living Coast Discovery Center.

The South Bay city of Chula Vista is home to one of my favorite attractions for up-close animal encounters: the Living Coast Discovery Center. You can see endangered green sea turtles (tip: go during feeding time!), leopard sharks, friendly stingrays (minus the stingers so you can pet them!) and magnificent birds like falcons and burrowing owls. The observation tower and hiking trails afford picturesque views of the surrounding wetlands and bay.

4. Seeing the Big Bay…While on the Big Bay

Flagship Patriot Jet Boat Tour

Speed across San Diego’s Big Bay aboard a jet powered boat like Flagship’s Patriot

Water activities abound on the bay, from the affordable Coronado Ferry ride, to narrated harbor tours (on Flagship and Hornblower), SEAL Tours, whale watching excursions, kayak tours (including San Diego’s only urban kayak adventure), Jetpack America rides (you too can fly like a superhero!) and two new thrilling, turbo-charged boat rides (the Sea Rocket and Flagship Patriot). Let’s make some waves!

5. Headquarters at Seaport District

The Headquarters at Seaport District. on San Diego's Big Bay

The stylish new Headquarters at Seaport District

Foodies and shoppers are in for a treat at the new Headquarters at Seaport District, located in San Diego’s former Spanish-style police headquarters (pose for pix in an actual jail cell). Nosh on gourmet tacos at Puesto or grab a slice at Pizzeria Mozza, Chef Mario Batali’s first foray into San Diego’s dining scene. Shop-portunties include local surf photographer Aaron Chang’s Ocean Art Gallery and Kitson, a celebrity hot spot and go-to fashion boutique dedicated to pop culture.

Pick your own adventure and discover the many wonders of San Diego’s Big Bay this spring! 🙂