Robert Arends

5 to Try – Coronado’s Hidden Gems, Part II

A few months ago I revealed some little known places around the “Crown City” of Coronado that many folks hadn’t heard of. During a recent media tour I discovered a few more secret and not so obvious spots around the island worth checking out.

Following are my five hidden gems:

Glorietta Bay Inn's...

  1. Stare down… The stately Glorietta Bay Inn is a treasure trove of behind-the-scenes areas that guests rarely – or never – see. In addition to a basement and sub-basement (how low can you go?), there’s an inconspicuous door leading to a hidden passageway on the first floor. Within the secret alcove a three-story staircase spirals down from the top-floor Penthouse Suite. If these stairs could talk!
  2. ...secret spiral staircase.

  3. Safe bet… What’s better than a safe to stash your valuables? How about two safes! Last time I spotted Mrs. Spreckels personal safe in her former bedroom at the Glorietta Bay Inn, I thought that was the only one. But there’s another, much grander vault tucked inside a closet near the top of the grand staircase. No telling what’s inside, as nobody knows the combination.
  4. Kate "checks out" (of) The Del.

  5. Room with a boo… Many folks have heard of Kate Morgan, the Hotel del Coronado’s famous ghost who supposedly haunts the resort. But do you know the exact room she stayed in before her untimely demise? Room # 3327 on the third floor, where narrow hallways only add to the spine-tingling feeling you get when exploring the recesses of this Victorian marvel.

    Walk this way to...

  6. Follow the yellow brick road… Actually, follow Star Park Circle to a humble abode hiding in plain sight (see photo below), the home of acclaimed author L. Frank Baum. He wrote two of his famous children’s’ books here, The Road to Oz (1909) and The Emerald City of Oz (1910). It’s easy to see why he was so inspired by the “enchanted island” and The Del nearby.

    Historic home of L. Frank Baum, 1101 Star Park Circle.

  7. Fly boys… Did you know Coronado is an enclave for military retirees and home to some of San Diego’s original Navy heroes? This Sunday (11:00 am – 4:00 pm), in conjunction with the “Centennial of Naval Aviation”, the Coronado Historical Association spotlights six legendary naval aviators’ houses during the Annual Historic Home Tour. Decked out domiciles include Vice Admiral James Stockdale’s – one of the most highly decorated officers. Go Navy!
Robert Arends

Birds-eye Views of Saturday’s “Parade of Flight”-Centennial of Naval Aviation

My Saturday mission was simple: to view the once-in-a-lifetime Centennial of Naval Aviation (CONA) “Parade of Flight.” Despite warnings of historic crowds along San Diego Bay and gridlock, I ventured one spot I thought, “Hey I’m a local, no one will think of going there.”

Um, I was wrong… by a long shot! Thousands of folks figured as I had that Cabrillo National Monument high atop Point Loma would provide one of the best vantage points in the city to view 200 aircraft on parade – from vintage planes to the magnificent Blue Angels – zooming above the bay, hugging the shoreline of Coronado and NAS North Island and then out to the sparkling Pacific Ocean.

Helicopter squadron flying in the Parade of Flight above NAS North Island, Coronado.

As far as the eye could see, cars and people with binoculars and cameras lined the road – from Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery to the entrance of Cabrillo which was closed and filled to capacity. Luckily, as I made a u-turn at the ranger station, I snagged one of the last remaining parking spots on the shoulder. Alas, front-row seats were mine!

Four F-5 Tiger II jets zoom into view during the Parade of Flight.

For the next hour and a half I peered proudly into the crystal-clear blue skies as 100 years of naval aviation history flew into my birds-eye view.

KC-130 tanker plane followed by two CH-53 helicopters.

These are a few of the best pics I took, including the mile-wide, V-shape formation finale of 35+ planes from the USS Stennis aircraft carrier that flew right over our heads (and into the history books!). In a word: WOW!

Parade of Flight finale - massive V-formation of planes flying over Point Loma.

The Navy posted an awesome video highlighting the day’s festivities on Coronado, where an estimated 70,000 visitors packed NAS North Island! Equally impressive was the San Diego Union-Tribune’s report on the parade’s “masterful” aerial choreography.

Though the Parade of Flight is history, you can still earn your wings! CONA festivities continue with the impressive “Wings of Gold” exhibit  at the Coronado Museum of History & Art, plus “Project Home Front” spotlighting naval aviators’ homes on the island.

Robert Arends

5 To Try: Centennial of Naval Aviation in Coronado

History that literally flies off the pages is my kind of history! The spectacular Centennial of Naval Aviation (CONA) is coming to Coronado this Saturday. The ‘Crown City” is gearing up for thousands of expected spectators to view an historic “Parade of Flight,” featuring over 200 aircraft – from vintage planes to the famous Blue Angels. It’ll be the largest naval aircraft flyover since WWII… yep, you’ll be telling your grandkids about this one!

The Blue Angels to soar over Coronado!

Coronado is where naval aviation began, in 1911, when aviator/inventor Glenn Curtiss trained a Navy officer to fly a seaplane from the sandy, formerly scrub-covered isle.

Following are five fun – mostly free – things to do in (and just off) Coronado to celebrate this momentous occasion:  

  1. Flight of fancy… The US Navy is packing 100 years of naval aviation history into one day – February 12 – showcasing its rich and exciting aviation heritage. Most anticipated event: the colossal CONA Parade of Flight, starting at 1 p.m. and lasting approx. two hours. Prime viewing spots: Coronado Beach and the bayside Coronado Ferry Landing.

    Vintage planes to fly in historic Parade of Flight.

  2. Make waves… If you want to see the Parade of Flight nautical-style, reserve your seat for Hornblower Cruises & Eventsexclusive three-hour CONA Parade of Flight Spectator & Lunch Cruise on San Diego Bay. They promise the best views from the water, as planes fly high overhead. It includes a gourmet lunch and free-flowing champagne. Now that’s the way to toast the Centennial! Tickets: $54.95. ($30 sans lunch); discounts for children, seniors, and military.
  3. On the house… Before/during/after the parade, check out NAS North Island’s CONA Open House (event gate opens 9 a.m.). Festivities include aircraft carrier/ship tours, 75 static aircraft (my father, CAPT Ret., flew the classic H-3 Sea King helicopters), Leap Frogs parachute jump team demo, classic car show, stunt motorcycles, Centennial Historic Village, live entertainment and more. Best part: it’s all FREE! – Free admission, free parking and free blanket seating to watch the once-in-a-lifetime air show.

    Flying into the history books over Hotel del Coronado.

  4. Wing it… In conjunction with CONA, the Coronado Museum of History & Art opened a “Wings of Gold: Coronado and Naval Aviation” exhibit (continuing through Sept.), featuring “fly” artifacts from yesteryear, including a pilot license signed by Orville Wright(!), helmet of one of the first female naval aviators and scale model of the original seaplane designed/built by Curtiss and flown off Coronado’s shores.  Admission: free.

    Glenn Curtis trains first naval aviator in Coronado.

    The Coronado Historical Association also proudly presents “Home Front” Project – free self-guided driving tours of over 150 former naval aviators’ homes with a brochure/map and brief bios on each pilot.

  5. By the book… The Coronado Public Library has six high-flying CONA programs scheduled throughout 2011, including exhibits, talks and films, starting with the Emmy Award-winning documentary, “Glenn Curtiss: The Forgotten Eagle” on Feb. 18. John Wayne even makes an appearance – in “Flying Leathernecks” – on May 20. Cost: free. ‘nuff said.

See you Saturday in Coronado for the big Centennial of Naval Aviation launch!