Robert Arends

5 to Try: Sparkling East County Holiday Delights!

Skiers at the Viejas Outdoor Skating Rink
Skiers at the Viejas Outdoor Skating Rink in San Diego's East County

SoCal’s largest outdoor ice skating rink at Viejas!

OK, I know it’s only a few days after Halloween and Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away, but the winter holidays will be here before you know it!

So gather up the family, grab your gift list, Santa hat and mittens (yep, there’s a 55 degree chill her in the air at night – brrrr! 😉 ) and join me on a jolly jaunt to San Diego’s charming East County communities. They really know how to make some merry.

Following are 5 to Try East County Holiday Delights:

1. 66th Annual Mother Goose Parade

Goose Float at the Mother Goose Parade in San Diego's East County

El Cajon’s Mother Goose Parade!

The colorful Mother Goose Parade in El Cajon is San Diego’s traditional holiday kick-off, featuring thousands of spectators, colorful floats, marching bands, equestrians and celebrity appearances – fun for the whole family!

Location: Begin at Magnolia and Main, head down Main St. to N. Second Street, turn North then end at Madison.
Date: November 18, 2012
Time: 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM, Parade starts at 10:00 AM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about the 66th Annual Mother Goose Parade

2. Julian’s Country Christmas Celebration & Tree Lighting

Julian Country Christmas & Tree Lighting.

The historic, Norman Rockwell-esque mountain town of Julian kicks off the holidays with a Country Christmas celebration & Tree Lighting, complete with costumed carolers, Santa Claus and, of course, their famous apple pies and piping hot apple cider!

Location: Julian’s Pioneer Park (map)
Date: November 24, 2012
Time: Starts at 4:00 PM. Lighting around 6:00 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about Julian’s Country Christmas Celebration & Tree Lighting

3. Santa Train North Pole Limited

Santa on the North Pole Limited

Make tracks for the Santa Train North Pole Limited!

All aboard the Santa Train North Pole Limited, a Christmas vintage train ride through our rustic backcountry, departing from the Campo Depot. The adventure features Santa and his elves, cookies and hot cocoa, plus a reading of the famous holiday story, The Polar Express. Reserve seats now for this sell-out holiday favorite!

Location: State Highway 94 & Forrest Gate Road, Campo, CA (map)
Dates: Fridays and Saturdays, November 23 – December 22
Times: Trains at 5:00 PM and 7:00 PM (depending on the date)
Cost: $20-$50, Toddlers under 2 are free
> Find out more about Santa Train North Pole Limited

4. Ice Skating at the Viejas Outlet Center

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.

The Peanuts Christmas special always comes to mind at the Viejas Outlet Center, home of the largest outdoor ice skating rink in Southern California!

Location: 5005 Willows Rd Suite 229, Alpine, CA 91901 (map)
Dates: November 16 – January 6, 2012
Time: TBD
Cost: TBD
> Find out more about Ice Skating at the Viejas Outlet Center 

5. Alpine Village Christmas Parade of Lights & Snow Festival

Santa Claus at the Alpine Christmas Parade!

The quaint town of Alpine kicks off the season with its Alpine Village Christmas Parade of Lights & Snow Festival, featuring a parade, Santa and his elves, caroling and a big snow mountain for sledding. Snow in San Diego… who knew?!

Location: 1347 Tavern Road, Alpine, CA (map)
Date: December 7, 2012
Time: Starts at 6:30 PM
> Find out more about the Alpine Village Christmas Parade of Lights & Festival

A hearty happy (early) “Ho ho ho” from San Diego! 🙂 Know of any other great East County Holiday events? Let us and other’s know in the comments below.

Robert Arends

Historic Highways 80 and 94 Road Trip this Saturday!

Mountain views along Historic Highways 80 and 94.

Road trip! If you’re up for adventure this weekend and looking to hit the open road, I’ve got the trip for you: the 6th Annual Passport Through Time Road Trip on Historic Highways 80 & 94.

For those not familiar with Highways 80 and 94, they’re like San Diego’s very own Route 66 – a slice of Americana traversing a scenic rural landscape leading to some fun and surprising roadside treasures.

The caravan of cars and motorcycles will cruise through San Diego’s “backyard’s backyard,” covering a distance of about 100 miles! It’s so leisurely paced though, with a dozen plus pit stops along the way, that you’ll hardly notice the miles fly by.

Speaking of pit stops, following are my Top 3 favorites on each historic highway…

Highway 94:

  • Barrett Junction Café is a favorite back road stop. Opened in 1946, the cafe is famous for its family-style fish fry. Check out the funky collection of antiques and historic photos lining the café’s walls and counters. A vintage ice box and antique phone (that still works) add to the country charm. 
  • Step back in time at the Potrero General Storewhich dates to the stagecoach era of the mid-1800s and has a friendly, small- town feel.  Café 94, a popular local diner connected to the general store, is the place for home-style comfort food.

    Motor Transport Museum.

  • The Motor Transport Museum in Campo one of my favorite backcountry attractions – home to 200+ antique trucks and other motor transport vehicles, plus an eclectic collection of photos/memorabilia related to automotive pioneers. It’s housed in the historic Campo Feldspar Mill, built in 1929.

Highway 80:

Wisteria Candy Cottage - delish!

  • The famous Wisteria Candy Cottage in Boulevard a family-run sweet shop housed in a one-room schoolhouse from 1921, is famous for its hand-dipped chocolates and other old-fashioned candies. Yum!

    Live Oak Springs' cozy cabins.

  • Live Oak Springs Resort, also in Boulevard, is a cozy and romantic mountain getaway known for its picturesque, two-story A-frame cabins. Nestled amongst the giant oak trees, they look like something right out a children’s storybook.

    Colorful Tryyn Gallery.

  • The Tryyn Gallery in Guatay a little-known artistic jewel, featuring a collection of handcrafted wooden cooking utensils and other unique wood carvings by craftsman Bill Chappelow, whose fine-wood designs are part of the Smithsonian collection in Washington, D.C.!

The Passport Road Trip begins at 9 a.m. at Simpson’s Nursery in Jamul (registration $20 per car) and ends at the Downtown Café in El Cajon at 3 p.m. with a sumptuous no host buffet, live entertainment and auctions to win some fab prizes.

Get your motor running and discover the delightfully diverse communities of San Diego’s East County!

Robert Arends

5 to Try: Hot Highway 94 Finds

The Big Apple recently took a bite out of San Diego’s East County in an in-depth New York Post travel article, “Good times in San Diego.” Though they didn’t get to sample Julian’s famous apple pies (Big Apple & apple pies – how almost apropos), the travel editor DID get a taste of some lesser-known, but unequivocally cool finds along Historic Highway 94. In his own words, “EAST IS IT” – and I couldn’t agree more!

Following are “5 to Try” along Historic Highway 94 – New York-certified and sure to put visitors in a Mountain Empire state-of-mind:

Gloriosa Vineyards - good to the last drop!

  1. Gloriosa Vineyards, “California’s southernmost winery,” also in Campo – just a stone’s throw from the international border. Personal wine tastings by appointment only.  The Post enjoyed “their crisp, dry Zinfandel and pleasantly plummy Cab.”
  2. Vroom! - Motor Transport Museum

  3. Get your motor running at the Motor Transport Museum in Campo.  As the Post puts it, the perfect place for “transportation nuts” with its “decommissioned bits of automotive history.”  From milk trucks to Mack trucks, this place is a hoot and a half!
  4. Pacific Southwest Railway Museum's trestle bridge over Highway 94.

  5. Choo choo down to Campo’s Pacific Southwest Railway Museum, bringing “a slice of the past to life with hour-long train rides down to the border.” While you’re there, trek off the tracks and walk over to Tecate – what the Post calls, “one of the friendliest towns on the US/Mexico border.” Also, the highway goes right under their giant trestle bridge! Continue reading