Brent Bernasconi

Top Things to do in San Diego: December 13-16, 2012

Jungle Bells Celebration at the San Diego Zoo

It’s never to early to start making your weekend plans. Here are top things to do this weekend in San Diego.

1. Hillcrest Taste n’ Tinis

Hillcrest Taste n' Tinis - Things to Do in San Diego

Start off the weekend with a walking tour through Hillcrest including delightful drinks, scrumptious eats and fabulous holiday shopping. Local chefs will be serving up scrumptious appetizers and sweet treats while boutiques along the tour will warm you up a holiday inspired martini. Event is 21 and up.

Date: December 13, 2012
Time: 5:00 to 9:00 PM
Cost: In Advance – $20. Day Of – $25
> Find out more about Hillcrest Taste n’ Tinis

2. Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo

Jungle Bells Celebration at the San Diego Zoo

Elves celebrating Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo

Starting this Saturday, the San Diego Zoo is transformed into a magical winter wonderland. Enjoy a nightly tree-lighting ceremony, lighted animal displays throughout the park, live animal shows, storytelling, bell ringers and, of course, Santa Claus.

> Find more Holiday fun at San Diego attractions

Location: 2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, CA 92101 (map)
Dates: December 15, 2012 – January 6, 2013
Cost: Included with admission
> Find out more about Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo

3. Old Town Holiday in the Park & Las Posadas

Las Posadas - Old Town State Historic Park

Take part in a traditional Las Posadas in Old Town State Historic Park

Celebrate the holidays over the weekend in the Old Town State Historic Park. Enjoy period decorations, carolers, warm beverages, holiday treats, activities, and extended shopping hours. Arrive early on Sunday for festivities at 2:00 PM and a traditional Las Posadas starting at 5:00 PM followed by a piñata party for the kids.

> Discover holiday excitement in San Diego

Location: 4002 Wallace Street, San Diego, CA (map)
Dates: December 15-16, 2012
Times: 6:00 to 9:00 PM. Las Posadas Parade starts at 5:00 PM on Sunday.
Cost: Free
> Find out more about Old Town Holiday in the Park & Las Posadas

4. The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker - Holiday Things to Do in San Diego

Catch a performance of the Nutcracker throughout San Diego.

Starting this weekend, there will be a myriad of Nutcracker princes dancing throughout San Diego County. Below is a list of performances:

California Ballet presents The Nutcracker
Dates: December 15-23, 2012
Cost: $25-$90
Location: San Diego Civic Theater – 1100 Third Ave, San Diego, CA 92101 (map)

City Ballet presents The Nutcracker
Dates: December 14-24, 2012
Cost: $29-$69
Location: Spreckels Theatre – 121 Broadway #600, San Diego, CA 92101 (map)

San Diego Ballet presents The Nutcracker
Dates: December 16-21, 2012
Cost: $20-$50
Location: Mandeville Center, UCSD – 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093 (map)

> More Holiday Theatre in San Diego

5. San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

Holiday Float - San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

Lights on the water at the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

This is the last Sunday to marvel at the spectacular Boat Parade of Lights featuring individually holiday decorated private crafts. The parade starts at the southwest end of Shelter Island, travels past Harbor Island, the Embarcadero, Seaport Village, the Convention Center, the Coronado Ferry Landing Marketplace and ends at the Navy Carrier turning basin.

> Find more Christmas light displays in San Diego

Dates: Sunday, December 16, 2012
Time: 5:30 to 7:30 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

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

Know of any other great events going on in San Diego this weekend? Let us and others know in the comments below.


5 to Try This Weekend in San Diego

1. California Ballet’s The Nutcracker with the San Diego Symphony: The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without a performance of The Nutcracker. A wonderful ballet for the entire family, The Nutcracker is the perfect way to introduce young children to the power and beauty of classical dance. Tchaikovsky’s magical score and Maxine Mahon’s dazzling theatrical staging combine to create a memorable event. Plays at the Civic Theatre through December 23, 2011.

2. Parade of Lights: This Sunday, December 18 will be your last chance to catch the 40th Annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights. This colorfully unique San Diego holiday tradition features more than 100 private boats decorated with holiday lights, sailing along the waters of San Diego Bay.

3. Taste ‘n Tinis: On Thursday, December 15 from 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm be sure to hit up the Hillcrest Taste ‘n Tinis celebration. Embark on a winter evening of house specialties from hors d’oeuvres and entrees to delightfully sweet treats. But it’s really about the peppermint martinis and candy cane cosmos that will get everyone in the holiday spirit. Revelers will enjoy the sampling, the shopping, and finding the perfect gift all in Hillcrest. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 on the day of the event.

4. Chula Vista Nature Center: It’s a great time of year to head over to the Chula Vista Nature Center. The Chula Vista Nature Center is an internationally recognized zoo/aquarium exhibiting native plants and animals. Visitors can see an up-close and personal visit with endangered Green Sea Turtles, shorebirds, hawks, sharks, stingrays, and jellyfish, to name a few!

5. Holiday Nights at the Bernardo Winery: From December 15-18th, the Bernardo Winery hosts its annual Holiday Nights. Step back in time and celebrate the joy of the holiday season with festivities for the whole family among the old world style buildings, olive trees and old fashioned hospitality of the Bernardo Winery.




5 to Try This Weekend in San Diego

1. San Diego Parade of Lights: Head over to San Diego Bay on December 11th and 18th for the 40th Annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights where hundreds of boats will be decorated for this dazzling holiday boat parade of lights.

2. La Mesa Christmas in the Village: This popular holiday event features horse-drawn carriages, carolers, marching bands and entertainers, all lined up along La Mesa Boulevard. Guests can also enjoy an outdoor market, food and special appearances by Santa Claus.

3. Holiday LEGO Train Exhibit: Through January 12, 2012, the San Diego Model Railroad Museum features its annual Holiday LEGO Train Exhibit. For any train and/or LEGO enthusiasts, this exhibit is not to be missed. Be sure to be on the lookout for Santa scaling one of the buildings!

4. Garden of Lights: From December 8 through the 30th, head up to the San Diego Botanical Garden for the Garden of Lights. The Garden is transformed into a dazzling winter wonderland with over 100,000 sparkling lights illuminating the Garden for a magical holiday experience. Many of these lights are LED, which are much brighter than regular lights. Numerous activities include horse-drawn-wagon rides, holiday crafts, marshmallow roasting, visits with Santa, live music, hot mulled wine and refreshments.

Photo: TJ Shimabukuro

5. Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade: If you own a pet, the Gaslamp Quarter on December 11th is the place to be. Once a year San Diego pets and owners are invited to dress up in their favorite costumes for a special promenade throughout the Gaslamp Quarter to celebrate the holiday season. You can only imagine the fun and excitement as downtown becomes filled with costumed pets & their handlers all vying for prizes and bragging rights including Best Costumed Duo, Cutest Critter, Best Pet Costume & Best of Show!


Summertime in San Diego is Picnic Time

San Diego's Ultimate Picnic

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

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

Santee Lake's Sprayground

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

Brent Bernasconi

Exploring San Diego Bay in a Speed Boat

Yesterday, San Diego Speed Boat Adventures invited a few ConVis folks to spend the afternoon jetting around and exploring San Diego bay in a speed boat. How can you say no to that?

After our guide Tommy gave us the safety speech and showed us the route, we boarded our speedboats (which can hold 2 comfortably and up to 3 if needed) and pushed off from Harbor Island. Once out in the open water, Tommy gave the signal and I threw the throttle forward to speed across the open waters.

Tommy led us throughout the bay all while telling us interesting tidbits as we sped by. We stop by a dock to check out the sunning and lazy sealions, explored the coasts of Coronado and Downtown, went under the front of the USS Midway (which looks even bigger when seen at water level), saw the Maritime Museum’s collection of ships and as a special bonus, went past the visiting Chilean tall-ship, the Esmeralda.

Of course one of the best parts was just being out on the water with the sun shining, the wind in my face and the occasional mist (hence not much footage of the boat at full speed, iPhones and water do not mix) from the boat settling on the water to cool me off. My hair was definitely wind-blown by the time we docked back on Harbor Island.

These speed boats are a great way to see San Diego’s waterfront from a whole different perspective. During the summer, San Diego Speed Boat Adventures offers tours starting at 9:00 am with the last one leaving at 5:00 pm. During the winter, the last tour leaves at 3:00 pm.

So what are you waiting for, book your speed boat adventure now at or call 619-294-5852.

Let me know in the comments your favorite way to get around on the water? Are you a sailboat, water ski, speed boat, kayak or other person?


Staying Green at Port of San Diego Hotels

The Port of San Diego recently launched its first ever Green Business Challenge. The program, launched through the Green Port Program, aims to increase the energy efficiency of businesses around the Bay and reduce environmental impacts. The ultimate goal of the Green Port Program is to achieve long-term environmental, societal and economic benefits through resource conservation, waste reduction and pollution prevention.

So far, nearly 60 businesses are participating including the USS Midway Museum, San Diego International Airport and General Dynamics NASSCO. Additionally, the hotels on the Port’s property are already making great strides in their efforts to reduce waste.

Highlights of their accomplishments include:

San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina
San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina: recently installed energy-efficient lighting in its front drive, lobby, pool area, guest rooms, and meeting space. In all, the project has saved the hotel 130,000 kWh per year.

Hilton San Diego Airport

Hilton San Diego Aiport:Retrofitted all exit signs to LED lights and vending misers for vending machines. Recycled paper is used for toilet paper as well as copy paper.

Hilton San Diego Bayfront

Hilton San Diego Bayfront: They recycle both commingled commodities recycling and food waste in conjunction with the City of San Diego with an overall diversion goal of 75%.

Manchester Grand Hyatt

Manchester Grand Hyatt:The Hyatt installed low flow faucets as well as utilizes solar heat for their pools and are in the process of purchasing a composting unit to compost on their property.

Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina

Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina:The hotel utilizes fuel cell energy and composts food waste on the property. Additionally, the Sheraton recently finished a lighting audit and completed a retro-commissioning of the HVAC system.

Be sure to check out the Port’s Green Business Challenge website for more information on all businesses participating.

Brent Bernasconi

Mission Beach Boardwalk is a Top 10

Mission Beach/Bay is getting a lot of attention lately. I am guessing it is the upcoming beach weather. Recently Family Vacation Critic ranked Mission Beach’s Boardwalks as one of the top ten in the nation. Below is what they had to say:

Ride on the Mission Beach Boardwalk

Mission Beach — Pacific Boardwalk, San Diego
Like the city of San Diego, Ocean Front caters to outdoorsy people with Hamel’s Surf Shop offering kayaks, surfboards, bikes and beach toys. Surfers have an alternative at FlowRider, a man-made wave generator machine that is easier for beginners to learn on. FlowBarrel also creates 10-foot waves for pros. A few minutes from the boardwalk, Belmont Park is an amusement park with The Giant Dipper roller coaster, a carousel and arcades. Sometimes, after most of the day at the beach, you just want to get out of the sun! This is where The Plunge, an Olympic-size indoor pool, comes in handy.

You can see the complete list here.


5 to Try This Weekend in Mission Bay

Mission French Toast. Photo by Brevin Blach

1.  Start your day off right with breakfast or brunch in Mission Bay. Put The Mission’s reputation of “best beach breakfast” to the test, or check out The Boardwalk Mission Bay (formerly The Boardwalk Bistro) where breakfast is served all day.

Sail Bay Boardwalk

2.  There are close to 14 miles of boardwalk along Mission Bay, giving you and your family ample room to play. Whether walking, jogging, biking, or skating, Mission Bay’s stunning views will not disappoint. Bring your own gear or rent equipment for a few hours.

SUP Lesson at OEX Mission Bay

3.  This weekend, get off the sand and onto the water to explore the bay’s thousands of acres of waterways. One of the most popular watersport activities in Mission Bay is SUP, or stand up paddleboard. Mission Bay’s flat waters make it the ideal spot to learn how to stand up paddle board. Rentals and lessons available at OEX Mission Bay.

The Bahia Belle

4.  Take in the bay from another vantage point: from the deck of the Bahia Belle. The Bahia Belle— a “Turn of the Century” Mississippi-style sternwheeler – offers Friday and Saturday evening cruises in April and May. Cruises depart from the Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa dock.  Non-hotel guests may purchase tickets for $10.00 for adults and $3.00 for children 12 years old and under.

Wells Fargo Outrigger Challenge & Luau

5.  The Wells Fargo Outrigger Challenge & Luau returns to Crown Point Shores this Saturday, April 30th for the tenth consecutive year.  Teams of all skill-levels will compete in equipment provided by the Hanohano Outrigger Canoe Club. After the race, participants will be treated to the tastes and sounds of the Hawaiian Islands.

Have you entered the Mission Bay Getaway sweepstakes yet? Enter now for your chance to win a 3-night stay in Mission Bay. The sweepstakes ends on April 30th.


4th of July Fireworks

The epic 20-minute Big Bay Boom fireworks display over San Diego Bay is the largest display in the region. At 9 p.m. on July 4th, fireworks are launched simultaneously from four barges placed around the bay and choreographed to music broadcast on 105.7 FM radio. Back for its 10th year, the Big Bay Boom fireworks display can be seen throughout downtown San Diego, neighboring Coronado, Point Loma and many communities throughout the city. Great viewing spots are all along the bay front and aboard popular harbor cruises. 

Coronado will celebrate a patriotic Independence Day with events on Saturday, July 3 including a morning rough water swim, two-hour American flag-waving parade along Orange Avenue, the community’s main thoroughfare, Art-in-the-Park and an afternoon concert in Spreckels Park.  The festivities culminate on July 4 with a spectacular fireworks display over Glorietta Bay that complements the Big Bay Boom fireworks show just across the water.

On July 4 at 9:30 p.m., SeaWorld San Diego will celebrate Independence Day with a special, patriotic Shamu’s Skysplash USA fireworks show over Mission Bay.  One of the most popular fireworks shows for locals, best viewing areas are from the shores of Mission Bay, Mission Beach and Pacific Beach.

After a spectacular fireworks show at 9 p.m. on July 4, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts take the stage at 9:30 p.m. at the annual San Diego County Fair at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.  The concert and fireworks are included with fair admission, and all the exhibits halls and rides stay open until midnight.

Farther up the coast in Carlsbad, LEGOLAND® California will present a star-spangled Red, White and BOOM! Celebration on July 4 with live musical performances by The Jumpitz at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. and festive fireworks at 8:30 p.m.   During the day, family favorite Uncle Sam will also be roaming LEGOLAND on stilts, as guests enjoy old fashioned lawn games including potato sack races  and LEGO Limbo.

Fireworks over San Diego Bay


5 to Try This Weekend

OB Chili Cook-off

  1. The 31st Annual Ocean Beach Street Fair & Chili Cook-off is this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Newport Avenue.  This FREE event will  feature more than 200 vendors, art, food, rides, a children’s area, a SkateJam, entertainment on five stages and of course, delicious chili!
  2. Tantalize your taste buds this weekend with a downtown dine around.  The 17th annual Taste of Gaslamp Quarter will be held both Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m., offering more than 30 food samples each day. This self-guided tour will introduce you to a number of downtown San Diego’s best restaurants so “come hungry and leave happy.”  Tickets are $30 per person.
  3. This Saturday and Sunday is the 24th Annual La Jolla Festival of Arts and Food Fair from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the UCSD campus.  This event will showcase amazing art from over 200 artists, live entertainment, celebrity chef demos, an amazing street chalking exhibition and more.  Admission is $10. 
  4. On Saturday, the San Diego Zoo will kick-off of its Nighttime Zoo summer celebration when guests get to stay late and explore the park until 9 p.m. As the sun sets, fun after-hours entertainment begins including an interactive show in with Dr. Zoolittle, high-energy animal art; amazing acrobats, tropical musical performances and a high-flying bird show.  Nighttime Zoo is included in park admission and will be offered until September 6.
  5. Celebrate 100 years with the San Diego Symphony’s Bridgepoint Education Summer Pops concerts.  The outdoor concert series will kick-off this Saturday with the Tux N’ Tennies Summer Bash, staring Toni Braxton. Concerts take place all summer long along San Diego Bay and feature food, fireworks and fantastic music. This year’s 100th anniversary pop series last through August and will includes performances by Gladys Knight, Marvin Hamlisch, LeAnn Rimes, and more. Click here for more concert information; ticket prices vary.

In other news: Don’t forget to cheer on the US soccer team this Saturday as they battle it out with Ghana.  You can catch the game at any of these places.