Fall is here and there’s no better time to visit scenic East County where the trees are starting to change into a kaleidoscope of autumn colors – a real treat for leaf peepers! Over the weekend I trekked to East County’s legendary Palomar Observatory to do some exploring and I’ve got to say, it was out of this world! (pun intended)
Half The Fun is Getting to the Palomar Observatory
Palomar Observatory amongst the changing leaves.
The drive there was half the fun. Take Highway 78 east from Ramona – where you’ll pass some excellent local wineries offering tastings – then fuel up with a quick bite of scrumptious apple pie at Dudley’s Bakery in Santa Ysabel. Just past the bakery, head north on Highway 79, then west on Highway 76 toward Lake Henshaw. After La Jolla Indian Reservation, turn right on South Grade Rd./S6 which begins a wonderfully winding adventure up Mt. Palomar with panoramic overlooks at every turn. You can see as far as the Pacific!
Atop the mountain, continue straight on Canfield Rd. and follow the signs to Palomar Observatory. Forests and fern meadows abound; don’t be surprised if you spot flocks of wild turkeys on the roadside! (Mmm…Thanksgiving! 😉 )
What To Do Once You’re There
Andromeda galaxy at the Palomar Observatory museum.
Seeing the observatory’s giant Art Deco-style white dome for the first time is jaw-dropping! Inside, a colossal 7-story Hale Telescope points toward the heavens. Tours are available Saturdays/Sundays at 11:00 AM and 1:30 PM at the low price of $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and children under 12 are free. Be sure to explore the free museum, spotlighting Palomar’s stellar discoveries, including the first brown dwarf and a planetoid called Sedna. My favorite cosmic find was a massive photo (above) of the twinkling Andromeda galaxy gracing the back wall.
Did You Know…
7-story dome at Palomar Observatory
Palomar Observatory houses the 8th largest telescope in the U.S. and weighing in at 14 ½ tons, the telescope’s main mirror is one of the heaviest pieces of glass in the world!
On The Way Back
Do a little birding at the Lake Henshaw Vista Point
Head down Mt. Palomar on East Grade Rd./S7. At the 1.8 mile marker, stop at Henshaw Vista Point for breathtaking views of Lake Henshaw. Keep your eyes peeled for hawks and eagles soaring high above Santa Ysabel Valley. If you close your eyes, you can imagine you too have taken flight over San Diego’s East County…Will wonders never cease! 🙂
Ah, sun-kissed Coronado, located a bridge away from downtown San Diego. Fall is one of the best times of year to visit the “Crown City,” as the beach crowds diminish, hotel rates dip ever so slightly and the days continue to be nice and warm, with an average autumn temp of 74!
If you’re headed to Coronado this season, following are some fun new things to see and do around the island:
1887 on the Bay
Coronado’s new 1887 on the Bay restaurant
The redesigned 1887 on The Bay – formerly the Coronado Boathouse, an iconic landmark on Glorietta Bay that looks just like the Hotel del Coronado’s main turret – introduces new Chef Jess Le Desma who instills a rich Asian/Hawaiian ethnicity into his Pacific Rim menu.
Just down the road, the elegant Mistral at Loews Coronado Bay Resort – featuring spectacular panoramic views of San Diego Bay – introduces an eclectic global-fusion menu by new Chef de Cuisine Adam Cho that highlights his penchant for tapas-style small plates, Mediterranean flavors and passion for seafood.
Joy in the Journey
Coronado Kayaking Tour, San Diego’s only urban kayaking tour
For landlubbers, hop aboard the new Coronado Beach Buggy for a fun 40-minute tour that uncovers all the treasures that make Coronado so special, including America’s Best Beach, historic homes, the charming Village and Naval Air Station North Island. The buggys makes daily stops at the Glorietta Bay Inn; cost is only $10.
Sail along with “100+ Years of Coronado yachting”
Set sail for the Coronado Museum of History & Art (1100 Orange Ave.) to check out their popular new exhibit, “100+ Years of Coronado Yachting,” spotlighting the island’s rich nautical past as a yachting hub. Admission is free.
A Fall Classic of a different sort, a family trip to the pumpkin patch is an absolute must. Bates Nut Farm is still the granddaddy in terms of size and scenery, but outfits like Pumpkin Station offer smaller scale versions scattered throughout the county. Colorful pumpkins, kiddie rides, petting zoos – here’s a chance to finally update your family photo on Facebook.
I like taking my kids to a San Diego Farmer’s Market in the fall to remind them there’s life beyond the frozen food section. Kids go ga-ga when they get to sample everything from plump juicy peaches to fresh popped kettle corn. Our favorites include: Hillcrest, Little Italy and Oceanside.
4. Get back to nature
With its serene setting and convenient location, the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve makes getting back out into nature a breeze. Serpentine through the estuary trails that offer amazing photo opportunities and just the right amount of exercise. Pack a lunch and sit up on the rooftop deck to enjoy a million dollar view of the Pacific.
5. Take a family bike ride on a surrey!
Your family will have a blast on these quirky, easy-to-ride four wheelers, whether you roll along the Embarcadero or navigate the trails of Coronado. Wheel Fun Rentals will provide the perfect surrey to fit your size family. They offer a 2nd hour free when you get there before noon and use their online coupon.
6. Unleash your creativity at ArtSplash Chalk Fest (Sep 28-29)
Your pint size Picasso will get a chance to create his or her own asphalt masterpiece on the streets of Carlsbad at ArtSplash, an annual chalk art festival which draws over 30,000 visitors.
7. Experience East Village’s brand-new, 21st Century Library
Officially opening September 30th, the $185M state-of-the-art Central Library downtown is destined for greatness with its 9-stories, panoramic bay views, own café, free wi-fi and an impressive 9,141 square foot children’s section.
8. Take a day trip to Julian for the Apple Harvest
A day trip to this colorful countryside setting for the Julian Apple Harvest (September-Mid-October) will silence anyone who’s ever said San Diego doesn’t have seasons. Plan your excursion around the Apple Days Festival on October 5-6, 2013, when this charming gold mining town turned-apple growing Mecca is the place to be when it comes to pie-eating contests, gold panning, tractor rides and good ole fashion apple picking.
9. Stroll the San Diego Botanic Garden
This Botanic Garden draws some serious plant lovers, but my kids and I continue to flock here to climb the giant tree house and frolic in the unique children’s garden.
10. Explore Living Coast Discovery Center
Your kids don’t have to be future ornithologists to appreciate bird watching or any of the 350 animal and plant species that call this 3.3 acre wildlife refuge home. The educational Discovery Center also gives your little ones the opportunity to get up close and personal with sea turtles, rays and leopard sharks. Pack a lunch.
Autumn is upon us, San Diego’s Kids Free October promotion is around the corner, and below are a few Fall Festivals that offer the best bargain around: free for the entire family!
Free Family Fall Festival in Balboa Park’s Organ Pavilion
Try something different and Hula Hoop to classic organ music
In addition to the free organ concerts at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park at 2:00 PM each Sunday in October and November, there’s a Family Festival in October, especially for kids. The 2:00 PM organ concert will feature Civic Organist Dr. Carol Williams along with guest young organists. Pre-concert activities start at 1:30 and include the San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, hula hoop artist William Huson of SpinYang Hoops, and more. Kids are invited to sit onstage for a portion of the performance. The public is also invited to tour the inside the organ building which include views of the pipes, shutters and installation. Fascinating for “kids of all ages” to see and hear the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ.
Dance, drink, eat, shop and more at the free La Mesa Oktoberfest
This 3-day fall festival patterned after the world-famous Munich Oktoberfest, offers an assortment of arts and crafts, children activities, entertainment, German brats and cold beer. Admission to the general festival is free and attendees have the option to visit the large Beer Garden at the event and listen to spirited oom-pah-pah bands, watch costumed folk dancers perform traditional waltzes and polkas, and get the whole family out on the dance floor and join in the fun.
Family Fun and the La Jolla Art and Wine Festival. Photo: Steve Simpson
The 5th Annual La Jolla Art & Wine Festival takes place in coastal village of downtown La Jolla and features the works of over 150 established artists from San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County, Baja and beyond. In addition to an eclectic mix of original artwork, the LJAWF offers an expansive wine and beer garden highlighting over 20 premier wineries from around the world including Baja’s flourishing Valle de Guadalupe region. A handful of San Diego’s renowned breweries will be pouring award-winning brews and a gourmet marketplace will offers attendees an eclectic taste featuring local favorites. Children have the opportunity to paint a car, take art or dance classes, participate in games, chalk art, crafts, edible art, cartooning, and even a family scavenger hunt. Other highlights include live music as well as roving entertainment by the San Diego Circus Center.
Enjoy the traditional Folklorico Dance in Old Town State Historic Park
Enjoy the history and charm of Old Town State Historic Park during two fall festivals: The Old Town San Diego Art Festival features contemporary artists, fine craft, fashion and home décor artisans along with the Flavors of Old Town international foods, a wine-tasting pavilion and continuous live entertainment. The Old Town’s Fall Festival provides fall crafts and children’s activities reflecting San Diego in the 1870s. The festival occurs in the central plaza at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park and many merchants surrounding the park will have activities as well.
Where: Old Town State Historic Park – 2415 San Diego Ave, San Diego, CA 92110
Step back in time in the Gaslamp Quarter at the annual Fall Back Festival
Don’t forget to set your clocks for the Fall Back Festival in the Gaslamp Quarter. The annual children’s street faire shows guests what life was like in the mid- to late- nineteenth century when San Diego was a bustling new town. Admission is free and, while supplies last, kids in attendance can receive a free hot dog at Dick’s Last Resort Hot Dog Stand, free ice cream sundae and chocolate squares at the Ghirardelli Chocolate Saloon and a free pony ride. In addition to pie-eating contests, there are historical recreations and demonstrations with a “nineteenth-century” blacksmith plying his trade, prospectors teaching children how to pan for gold, butter churning and candle dipping demonstrations, and a Wild West shoot-out. Carnival rides are offered for a fee.
Free Día de los Muertos – Day of the Dead in Sherman Heights
Embrace Mexican culture and experience a traditional Dia de los Muertos celebration at the Sherman Heights Festival
One of San Diego’s most authentic and longest standing Dia de los Muertos Celebration takes place in the heart of Sherman Heights! Embrace Mexican culture and experience a traditional celebration, honoring our departed loved ones with an official blessing of the community altars, followed by live performances, food, shopping, altar tours and Day of the Dead themed workshops!
Spend another warm autumn weekend enjoying one of these great events in San Diego.
1. Haunted Tales of our Seafaring Past
Do you dare board the Star of India when the lights go out?
During this time of year, spooky things start to happen on the Star of India at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Climb aboard for creepy treats, a hauntingly fun tour, ghostly tales and more. Your tiny ghouls and princesses are encouraged to come dressed up for a night of Halloween excitement on the water.
Learn about the importance of water during SEA Days.
Water is essential to life on our planet. Bring the whole family to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps to learn about urban runoff, water quality, and conservation concerns with hands-on exploration, special activities, and a chance to interact with Scripps Oceanography scientists.
Get your handmade holiday decorations at the Harvest Festival in Del Mar.
For more than 40 years, craft lovers have converged at the Del Mar Fairgrounds for the annual Harvest Festival Original Art & Craft Show. There will be food, music and plenty of unique handmade works from more than 300 arts and crafts people. It’s never too early to start your holiday shopping!
4. Oktoberfest Celebration at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Travel to Africa, Asia and Germany in one day at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park!
Spend the day exploring the exotic and wild animals for Africa and Asia before ending your adventures with a trip to Germany (while never actually leaving the park) during the Oktoberfest Celebration at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Enjoy live music, a delicious buffet of German-inspired specialties and a variety of German Beers (for those over 21).
Discover Ethiopian Injera (pancake-like bread) and Wat (stew) during San Diego African Restaurant Week. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
In its inaugural year, San Diego African Restaurant week invites everyone to experience African cuisine from Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea and Jamaica with a Prix Fixe menu including an appetizers, main course, and desserts at restaurants in the uptown neighborhoods. Throughout the week, there will also be cooking classes, traditional music and dance, and coffee ceremonies. Don’t miss the opening event at the WorldBeat Center on Friday, October 19 starting at 7:00 PM.
Find a great carving or cooking pumpkin at Pumpkin Palooza at Suzie’s farm.
With Halloween just around the corner, why not find the perfect pumpkin for carving or cooking at Suzie’s Farm’s Pumpkin Palooza (you can find plenty of other pumpkin patches here). The whole family can enjoy a day of pumpkin picking, music, organic food from popular food trucks and more.