Sarah Weinberg

Spring into Action with the Kids in San Diego

Surf Diva Surf Lessons for Kids
Surf Diva Surf Lessons for Kids

According to Surf Diva, “The best surfer in the water is the one having the most fun!” Photo courtesy Surf Diva

Spring is in the air and last Sunday the kids and I hit Ponto Beach in Encinitas for some boogie boarding since it felt more like summer 82 degrees. The ocean was definitely swimable without a wetsuit.

So with summer-like weather in mind, let’s start early: it’s time, don’t put it off, go surfing or learn how to surf as a family at either Surf Diva or Menehune Surf School. Both are located on La Jolla Shores, one of the most family friendly beaches in the county.

> Find out more about surfing in San Diego

In addition to our wonderful beaches, here are a few other fun things to do with the kiddos in San Diego now that Spring is here.

Family Discovery Days at San Elijo Lagoon

Bird watching, Lagoon, trail, nature

Father and son building a free bird house at San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center’s Family Discovery Day. Photo courtesy

For a day of free fun only steps from the beach, check out San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Preserve any time. For extra excitement, attend on one of the special event “Family Discovery Days,” also free, at the Nature Center on site.

The Lagoon’s Nature Center offers family days during spring that include free activities for kids that keep them active and educated about the birds and animals around them. We went to “Wings Over the Wetlands” and built free birdhouses, bird seed feeders, saw a presentation with live birds of prey, including beautiful owls, and walked the half-mile loop trail through the estuary. At our event, volunteers provided the children with a stamp book for the kids to stop at various stations along the trail and identify with binoculars the birds in the lagoon. They also have the birds and animals on display with taxidermy at the Nature Center, in case you are not lucky enough to spot the real thing on your visit. Warning: the free “prize” for identifying all the birds in the stamp book was a bird whistle.

Where: San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center – 2710 Manchester Avenue, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA 92007
When: First Sundays. Next Family Discovery Day, Spring Egg-Ucation is March 29-30
Cost: Free
> Find out more about San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center Family Days

Weekend “Art Shops” for All Ages at the Spanish Village Art Center

Weekly activities, art classes and art fairs make visiting the Spanish Village Art Center a fun time year round. Photo courtesy

Weekly activities, art classes and art fairs make visiting the Spanish Village Art Center a fun time year round. Photo courtesy

Discover a hidden talent, tap into your creativity, learn something new! Visit the quaint cottages housing cool art at the Spanish Village Art Center located between the San Diego Zoo and Natural History Museum in Balboa Park. Take the family before or after visiting one of Balboa Park’s 16 museums, so they can truly appreciate the process of being an artist. Build kaleidoscope cane out of polymer clay, creating an art pendant you can wear. Learn basic hand-building techniques for ceramics while crafting an animal, mask or candle lantern. Explore Chinese brush painting and more. All classes are open to adults and some classes are available for 6 year olds and up; others start at ages 8, 9 or 10 and up depending on the difficulty and materials used.

Where: Spanish Village Art Center – Balboa Park, 1770 Village Place, San Diego, 92101
When: April 5-6, 2014 (class times vary)
Cost: $35 per student
> Find out more about the Spanish Village Art Center classes

Westgate Hotel Easter Bunny Teas

Westgate Hotel Afternoon Tea

Tea for two and Easter Bunny too at the Westgate Hotel, downtown. Photo courtesy The Westgate Hotel.

The Westgate Hotel downtown has an old world elegance found in grand European properties. Switch out the flip-flops and tank top for some patent leather Mary Janes and a frilly dress with a visit to The Westgate for tea time. Easter Bunny Teas will feature kid-friendly petit fours and mini pastries paired with a traditional European afternoon tea. Families can partake in an Easter egg hunt located in the Riviera Terrace, watch a demonstration by a magician and meet the Easter Bunny.

Where: The Westgate Hotel – 1055 2nd Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
When: April 18-19
Time: 2:30 to 5:00 PM
Cost: Adults: $45; children 12 and under: $30, plus tax and gratuity
> Find out more about the Easter Bunny Teas

> Discover more to do in San Diego this spring


Birding in San Diego – Some of the Best Places to Birdwatch

Great Blue Heron - Famosa Slough Point Loma - Birding in San Diego
Great Blue Heron - Famosa Slough Point Loma - Birding in San Diego

See a Great Blue Heron while Birding in San Diego.

With most of California’s wetlands gone and developed, birding enthusiasts should know those wetlands remain here in the San Diego County region serve as the last refuge for many of the Western Flyway’s migrating birds on the way in or back from farther south.

That makes San Diego one of the premier destinations for birders from all over the world. As many as 480 bird species have been identified in San Diego County. In addition to this hot spot for birding, the Colorado River and the Salton Sea to the east also are prime bird-watching areas and within a day trip of San Diego.

From the shoreline along the coast to the mountains and into the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, birding areas are becoming more and more popular. In addition to the migratory route, our local mountains have become nesting areas for bald eagles, golden eagles and many other raptors. A bald eagle’s nest along Route 79 near Lake Henshaw a few years back attracted thousands of visitors who pulled off to get glimpses of the eaglets in the nest.

At Lake Miramar, a great horned owl’s nest also drew birders daily to see the progress of the owl chicks.

Each year in February the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge hosts the San Diego Bird Festival that features field trips to the three coastal San Diego National Wildlife Refuges. This is a great opportunity to join hundreds of other birders on guided trips to areas that hold rare birds like pied-billed grebes and black-vented shearwaters.

Birding Near Downtown

San Diego’s Mile of Birds

The San Diego flood channel, often called “San Diego’s Mile Of Birds,” attracts blue-winged teal, ruddy ducks, osprey, gulls, terns, black brant, and cormorants. The flood channel has plenty of access for hiking or biking.

Fomosa Slough

In Point Loma, at West Point Loma Boulevard and Famosa Boulevard, the Fomosa Slough is a small tidal marsh that has walking trails, benches and very good birding for waterfowl, shorebirds and other migrating species.

Cabrillo National Monument

Also in Point Loma (1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive), the 144-acre Cabrillo National Monument features an interpretive center, lighthouse and great views of San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The area’s tidepools and protected sage scrub habitat are home to many birds such as the wrentit, western scrub jay, California towhee and many more. Pelicans can be seen soaring above the shoreline. Seagulls and other shore birds dot the sand and rocks.

Shelter Island

Shelter Island is another great place to observe some of the rare species that frequent the area in the winter. Loons, grebes and ducks will raft in some areas of North San Diego Bay. At the western end, surf scooters, bufflehead, auklets and murres often can be spotted.

Northern Wildlife Preserve and Kendall Frost Marsh

At the Northern Wildlife Preserve and Kendall Frost Marsh in Mission Bay (Crown Point Shores Drive at Lamont), check for skimmers, clapper rails, brant and even the large-billed savannah sparrow. There’s 16 acres of salt marshes and open water that is home to two endangered species, the light-footed clapper rail and Belding’s savannah sparrow. In addition to those birds, there often are swallows, grebes, pelicans and herons. There’s an observation platform to set up for better birding.

Torrey Pines State Reserve

Farther up the coast off La Jolla (Coast Boulevard off of Prospect Street), the area’s rocky shoreline north of La Jolla cove holds shorebirds like gulls and terns. And the Torrey Pines State Reserve is a great place to visit to see the ancient Torrey pine. Look for peregrine falcons, osprey, swifts, thrashers, woodpeckers and wrentits.

Birding in San Diego’s South Bay

Tijuana Estuary and South Bay Refuge

At Imperial Beach (Fifth Street and Iris), the Tijuana Estuary and South Bay Refuge, maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, features an interpretive center and 2,500 acres of coastal wetlands. Over 370 species of birds have been documented here, and 320 of them are migratory. In addition to the rare Belding’s savannah sparrow there are the American peregrine falcon, white pelicans, egrets, plovers, sandpipers, jaegers, ospreys, short-eared owls, clapper rails and blue herons.

Dairy Mart Ponds Ecological Reserve

The Dairy Mart Ponds Ecological Reserve (take Interstate 5 South to Dairy Mart Road south) has freshwater ponds that were left by an old salt mining plant. Scan this area for the blue grosbeak, the common moorhen, white pelicans and common yellowthroats.

Birding in San Diego’s East County

If you don’t mind traveling farther inland, the Mission Trails Regional Park, all of the inland lakes like Lake Murray, Miramar, Lower and Upper Otay, Jennings, El Capitan and others offer great hiking and bird-watching.

If you visit Julian, be sure and stop by the Birdwatcher store in town. The store has lots of great birding information, feeders, gifts and books.