Suzzanne

5 to Try This Weekend in San Diego

1. TRASH, The New Children’s Museum: Features the work of 12 artists from around the globe focused on the kid-friendly and timely topic of trash. The exhibition encompasses each work of art, hands on art-making projects, school curricula, artist lectures, family workshops and special events. The exhibition opens with a free community block party on October 15 and 16.

2. US Grant Prohibition Party: San Diego’s original 1930’s heyday speakeasy will be holding an inaugural modern-day Prohibition party. Held in the space that connects an underground tunnel from the original speakeasy to the Port of San Diego where booze was once illegally smuggled. The event will take place during the hotel’s 101st birthday, October 16. The event is open to the public and will feature jazzy live music from the era with various food and crafty beverage stations.

3. Halloween Spooktacular at SeaWorld: Discover an ocean of Halloween fun at SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular every weekend in October. Catch silly and spooky shows including the Pirates 4-D movie experience. Then join in The Search for Captain Lucky’s Treasure in a walk-through adventure. Enjoy photo ops with your favorite friends from Sesame Street and trick-or-treat alongside huggable SeaWorld characters.

photo by Mike Rollerson

4. Haunted Trail of Balboa Park: The Haunted Trail is a stroll through the park you will never forget. Enter the mile long Trail through the twisted grove of pines and gnarled oaks. Visitors watch your back, you’ll never know which way the terror will hit you. True to form, the Trail is not for children under 10 or the faint of heart. Experience an outdoor terror that is simply too big to house indoors. Runs through October 31 (except Mondays and Tuesdays.)

5. Spooky Science at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center: Fall into Spooky Science at the Fleet! Learn about all things scary from glow in the dark Flubber to spider webs and shocking activities. Special activities are only $2 with admission. Creep into the Discovery Lab if you dare; available Saturdays in October only.

Courtney

10 Great Ways to Beat the Heat in San Diego

With mild coastal temperatures in the 70s complemented by refreshing ocean and bay breezes, San Diego is the perfect place to beat the heat during this sweltering summer. Here is a list of 10 Great Ways to Beat to the Heat in San Diego.

Sunset on Coronado, rated the #2 beach in the country by Dr. Beach

1. Swim, snorkel, surf, kayak, paddleboard and build sandcastles along San Diego’s 70 miles of picturesque coastline. With refreshing Pacific waters, San Diego’s beaches offer a variety of unique settings, from the white sandy shores of Coronado Beach (rated the 2nd best beach in the country by Dr. Beach) to the Mediterranean-like coves of luxurious La Jolla.

SeaWorld San Diego's 25-degree Penguin Encounter is home is five species of Antarctic penguins

2. Chill out at the Penguin Encounter at SeaWorld San Diego and spend time with some of the park’s coolest inhabitants. Guests can watch the playful antics of nearly 300 penguins including regal emperor penguins and smaller Adelie, gentoo and macaroni penguins.

3. Sample chilly, creamy treats from San Diego’s top sweet shops. Guests of all ages can indulge with an exotic Pineapple Chili or Lavender Lemonade popsicle from Viva Pops in Normal Heights or blend their own custom creation at MooTime Creamery in Coronado.

4. Enjoy an entertaining outdoor Summer Pops concert by the world-class San Diego Symphony along San Diego Bay. During the summer, light jackets and blankets are often recommended after the sun sets above San Diego’s most beautiful outdoor music venue.

Splash Zoo at LEGOLAND California

5. Build a raft and float down a lazy river at the LEGOLAND Water Park in LEGOLAND California Resort. Visitors can enjoy a variety of splash-filled water activities including a wet-and-wild climbing structure, six-person raft slide, tube slides, body slides and much more.

6. Take a libation break with a frosty pint of some of San Diego’s award-winning craft beers. Rated the “#1 Beer City in the U.S.” by Men’s Journal magazine, San Diego’s 35 local breweries are sure to quench the thirst of the most parched beer lovers.

Tatqiq (left) and Kalluk (right) at Polar Bear Plunge. Photo by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo.

7. Embark on an expedition to the Conrad Prebys Polar Bear Plunge at the world-renowned San Diego Zoo and encounter the rulers of the frozen tundra: the mighty polar bears. Along the way, guests can also come across other northern neighbors like reindeer and Arctic diving ducks.

8. Let the wind blow through your hair as you take a thrilling ride on San Diego Bay with San Diego Speedboat Adventures. Guests sit in the captain’s seat and charter their own two-person mini speedboat around San Diego’s busy harbor, enjoying one-of-a-kind views of U.S. Navy ships, the sweeping San Diego-Coronado Bridge,  downtown skyline, USS Midway Museum and more.

The gentle waters of Mission Bay are ideal for SUP (standup paddleboarding)

9. Take a relaxing, carefree bicycle ride along the 27 miles of pathways on the shores of Mission Bay. After bike riding, guests can enjoy waterskiing, jet-skiing, windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, or SUP (stand-up paddleboarding) in this 4,600-acre water playground.

10. Feast on local fresh seafood and produce at one of San Diego’s many waterfront restaurants. Peohe’s on Coronado offers foodies award-winning meals along with spectacular downtown views, while George’s at the Cove in La Jolla offers a chic, modern dining experience with gorgeous views of La Jolla Cove and the Pacific.

Click the link below and enter the Thank a Million sweepstakes from Smart Destinations

Go San Diego Card (from Smart Destinations) is a  multi-attraction ticket that gives you access to many of these “cool” San Diego attactions and activities. Throughout the entire month of August, Smart Destinations is running a sweepstakes as part of their “Thanks A Million” promotion to celebrate the passing of their millionth customer. 

Click here and get entered to win one of the great prizes: a 3-day Go City Card for any destination (including San Diego) or an Explorer Pass for any 3 attractions in New York City or Las Vegas; plus the Grand Prize of a 4-day/3-night vacation for two to any Smart Destination locale, along with two 3-day passes for that destination!

Benjamin Eastman

Aloha San Diego!

I had the pleasure of taking a little mini-vacation for the evening last Friday.  The beauty of my “trip” was that I was transported to the islands of the South Pacific without having to drive more than 5 miles!  “How is this possible?” you ask?  Why, it’s possible at the Kona Kai Resort on Shelter Island – where they feature an authentic luau throughout the summer including buffet dinner, Mai Tais, Hula and Fire Dancers!

It’s been years since I was last in Hawaii to experience something like this in person, so I was super excited to have the opportunity to attend right here in my backyard!  Kona Kai has a great beach area on the marina that works perfectly for the luau and the setting is fantastic.  From the roasting pig in the sand, to the Conch Shell announcement, to the fire stick twirling dancers, I really did feel transported back to the islands!

The food was delicious – with entrees including mahi mahi, terriyaki steak and Kalua Pig (from the pig roasting in the ground!).   I was so full from eating the meal that I barely got a chance to touch the dessert table – but the pineapple upside down cake looked especially appealing!  A full bar is available for your drinking pleasure.  Whether you prefer to get tropical or go with your standard vodka tonic, they’ve got you covered.  (You get 2 Mai Tais included with your meal and additional drinks cost extra)

Fire dancer at the Kona Kai luau

The performances are done by the Motu Nehenehe Polynesian Dancers who do a fantastic job.  They’ve got a large group of dancers from all age ranges – the youngest looked to be about 6 years old, and the oldest dancer was probably in her late 60’s!  Dances are performed from many of the South Pacific islands with the MC explaining what the various poses and moves mean.  Luckily I escaped the “come up and dance with us on stage” experience, but not all my table-mates can say the same!  You definitely wouldn’t want to see me up on stage attempting to hula!

There are still a number of dates available to attend Kona’s luau this summer, so don’t miss out!  The program runs on Friday nights starting at 6:00pm through September 2nd.  Cost is $45.00/adult and $19.95 for kids 5-12 (kids under 5 are free) plus tax and service charge.  Since you’re getting both a delicious meal and a show, the cost is obviously well worth it!

** For those of you interested in going this Friday night (July 22nd), I’ve got at 20% off code for you.  Call to make your reservations at (800) 566-2524 and use code 7122 to get the 20% off.

Robert Arends

5 to Try: Camping in San Diego’s East County

Hiking at Cuyamaca's Paso Picacho campground.

Ready to go wild! Pack the tent, sleeping bag and all the s’mores fixins for a camping adventure in East County, San Diego’s massive “backyard” which stretches from the rolling foothills and mountains of Cleveland National Forest to the magnificent Anza-Borrego Desert.

I’ve gone camping throughout East County over the years and there’s nothing like the crisp mountain air and relaxing sound of nature to put you in vacation mode.

Following are Five Campgrounds to Try:

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park,  located south of San Diego’s historic mountain town of Julian, offers 110 miles of hiking trails, most open to horseback riders. Nearby Lake Cuyamaca offers boating and fishing. The park’s highest viewpoint is Cuyamaca Peak (6,512 feet) with panoramic views of Mexico, mountain ranges and the desert floor below. The park is home to lots of wildlife, including mule deer, coyotes, bobcats, an occasional mountain lion and more than 150 species of birds. Picturesque camping sites abound, nestled among meadows, oak and pine woodlands, creeks and the Sweetwater River headwaters.

Stonewall Peak.

  1. First on our list to try is Cuyamaca Rancho State Park’s Paso Picacho campground, which has some beautiful pristine meadows and two great mountain hikes, including a 2 mile trek up Stonewall Peak (elevation 5,700 feet), and 3.5 mile trek up Cuyamaca Peak. It might not exactly be “glamping,” but the park’s 12’ x 12’ cabins are pretty nice by camping standards, featuring full-size bunk beds (bring your own bedding), wood stove, picnic table, BBQ and fire ring. Each holds up to 4 people.

    Green Valley's refreshing Sweetwater River.

  2. Cuyamaca’s Green Valley campgroundis pretty as a postcard, situated on the Sweetwater River. There’s an easy hiking trail along the river with clear (and chilly!) pools and waterfalls to explore and swim. The perfect way to beat the heat!

    Lovely Laguna Meadow.

  3. Also located in the Cleveland National Forest, the pine-studded Laguna Mountains (approx. 6,000 feet) offer some great hiking, mountain biking and fishing for campers. There are seven major campgrounds. With 104 sites, each with a table and fire ring, Laguna Campground is the second-largest, located near the Sunset and Big Laguna trails which encircle the bucolic Laguna Meadow – a must see!

    Anza-Borrego Desert beauty.

  4. Just over the mountains, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a campers’ paradise where you’re sure to spot roadrunners, bighorn sheep (called “borrego” in Spanish), lizards and yes, even snakes (keep your hands and feet out of rock crevices!). As California’s largest state park it’s difficult to choose just one campground out of the 12, but my pick would be Borrego Palm Canyonwhere – as the name suggests – a lush palm oasis awaits hikers. Note:  Be sure to bring plenty of water for desert camping, as temps are 100+!

    Santee Lakes Cabins.

  5. If you want a cozy home away from home, the swanky new Santee Lakes Cabins provide a fun camping getaway for the entire family. There are 10 cabins to choose from; seven on the water’s edge and three that actually float ON the lake. How cool is that! Each cabin is furnished, decked out with full utilities, including AC, TV, and WiFi, and includes a kitchenette, master bedroom, living room, restroom with shower, porch and BBQ. If roughing it is not quite your thing, Santee Lakes is the place for you.

See you on the trails!

 

Suzzanne

Downtown Hot Spots for the Kids

So you are coming to San Diego for Comic Con and staying downtown (can anyone say – Gaslamp Quarter?). Oh wait, you’re coming with the kids. Don’t despair, there are actually quite a lot of things to do that entertain both parents and kids alike.

What to do:

Children's Museum at night

This museum is great for kids 10 and under. They do have a tween/teen area, but I have found kids under 10 get the most out of it. There are some really great interactive exhibits, and when the weather is nice, they open their doors and you can’t tell if you are inside or out. Be sure to make and take home your very own clay sculpture!

Seaport Village – With 54 specialty shops and over 15 restaurants (and not to mention the awesome bayside location) Seaport Village is a great stop downtown. There is a carousel and other fun activities for kids. On the weekends be sure to look out for the balloon artist. He has made some of the best balloon animals/objects we have ever seen! He is definitely worth the wait.

Embarcadero Marina Park – Located adjacent to Seaport Village, Embarcadero is a great spot to picnic and watch sailboats go by. You can also walk the length of the park, which extends all the way around, to the USS Midway Museum.

USS Midway Museum – This is actually one of my favorite spots for kids and adults of all ages. Visitors can experience “life at sea” by touring galleys, officer’s quarters, engine rooms as well as getting inside real planes and helicopters.

Horton Plaza – If you have any tweens/teens in your group, this mall will not disappoint. With a movie theatre and more than 100 shops and dining options, as well as a festive European open-air atmosphere, Horton Plaza is sure to please even the most discerning teens.

Gaslamp Quarter – Primarily known for its nightlife, the Gaslamp Quarter is a great place to take a stroll, people watch and do a little shopping during the day. There are grand Victorian-era buildings which are now home to more than 100 restaurants, 35 pubs and nightclubs and 100 retail shops, as well as theaters and art galleries.

Where to eat:

Below is a list of some of my favorite places to take the kids downtown – however with over 100 restaurants in Gaslamp alone, feel free to find a restaurant that is perfect for you. Most restaurants post their menus outside so that you can see what is right for you.

Brickyard Café – Located just a block from Children’s Museum and Seaport Village, this café is a great place to catch breakfast or lunch outside. You will find mostly locals here. My kids love it because the Trolley stops in front of the café which keeps them entertained. Our favorite is their chili and grilled cheese sandwich combo. They also have a great coffee bar.

Maryjane’s – Located in the Hard Rock Hotel, this is an ideal spot any time of day. When the weather is nice be sure to sit outside and people watch. The menu includes a lot of diner style options. Be sure to try the fish tacos – they are great!

Spaghetti Factory – Located right in Gaslamp, this restaurant is a popular spot, so expect a wait. The atmosphere is always festive and fun. On some days there is also a balloon artist out front to keep the kids entertained.

Filippi’s Pizza Grotto – A mainstay in San Diego for over 50 years, this is an awesome place to experience San Diego’s Little Italy. The restaurant, located behind the deli, offers some of the best pizza in San Diego. Be prepared for a wait, but it’s worth it!

Sweet Treats:

Pinkberry – If you haven’t tried Pinkberry, it’s worth the stop. Located in the Hard Rock Hotel, Pinkberry is my favorite yogurt shop in San Diego. Love the original with raspberries and chocolate chips!

Heavenly Cupcakes
– For some reason on Friday’s, I always find a reason to be in the area to pick up some cupcakes. My favorite is the black and white. My son loves the mint chocolate.

Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop
– Need I say more? This is for serious desert people. Located in the heart of the Gaslamp, it is open late and offers the best chocolate sundaes!

Suzzanne

5 to Try This Weekend

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

1. Summer Safari- An African Extravaganza at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park: Running from July 2 to August 21, visitors will be treated to entertainment, activities and animals that embrace the spirit of Africa. Just outside of the village, guests can also see the world’s fastest land animal, a cheetah, run right past them!

2. Ray at Night: One of the coolest ways to spend the weekend is in North Park on July 9. Art, music and culture lovers gather to mix and mingle in the plethora of galleries and businesses from 6:00 to 10:00 pm.

Over-the-Line Tournament

3. 58th Annual World Championship Over-the-Line Tournament: A San Diego original, this boisterous, fast-paced beach softball event is played at Fiesta Island on Mission Bay July 9-10 & 16-17 from 7:30 am to dusk.

4. Kettner Nights: On July 8th, head over to Little Italy to take in an evening walk among the galleries, artists, and artisans from 6:00 to 9:00 pm.

La Jolla Concerts by the Sea

5.La Jolla Concerts by the Sea: Every Sunday from July 10 through September 4, visitors can enjoy free concerts from 2:00 to 4:00 pm at Scripps Park, La Jolla Cove. This Sunday’s concert features The Heroes.

Courtney

Dining Spotlight: Mission Valley/Old Town

Discover San Diego’s Neighborhoods with our Summer Sweepstakes. Join us every week as we showcase the best in what to do, where to eat, and where to stay in some of San Diego’s unique neighborhoods. Be sure to check back for exciting insider tips, giveaways, and more! This week’s spotlight is on centrally-located Mission Valley and historic Old Town.

Mission Valley and Old Town are adjacent to each other, but they have two distinct dining communities. Mission Valley is a prime location for family-friendly fare and well-known restaurant chains. When it comes to authentic Mexican food in San Diego, there’s no better place than Old Town. Here are a few of our favorite restaurants in Mission Valley/Old Town:

Sammy's Caprese Pizza

Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza

An upscale casual family-friendly restaurant featuring gourmet pizzas, savory pastas, and tasty tapas.  Heralded as the “Best Gourmet Pizza” according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Sammy’s is a local favorite.

Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant

Serving handcrafted beer and bold made-from-scratch American cuisine, Gordon Biersch in Mission Valley offers something for the whole family.  Love a cold brewsky?  Gordon Biersch holds tasting events around their seasonal brews.

Outdoor dining at Casa de Reyes

Casa de Reyes

Just steps away from the Fiesta de Reyes stage, be entertained by energetic mariachis or traditional folklorico dancing while you dine at Casa de Reyes.  Watch out for the 58 oz. El Jeffe margarita and the Hot Licks Suicide Verde Pork Burrito, a dish so (spicy) hot that you have to sign a waiver to eat. Both items will knock you off your feet.

Café Coyote

A family restaurant with a festive atmosphere. Strolling Mariachis entertain while tortilla-makers prepare fresh tortillas the traditional way, a mano (by hand). Café Coyote also has an in-house Tequila Ambassador to guide guests through their selection of more than 100 tequilas.

Rockin' Baja's famous seafood bucket

Rockin’ Baja Coastal Cantina

A Puerto Nuevo-style restaurant known for big buckets of king crab, shrimp, and lobster available in eight different combinations, and all prepared Baja style. Rockin’ Baja features not one, but two Happy Hour menus: Mon. to Fri. from 3:00 to 6:00 pm in the bar, and Late Night from 9:00 pm to close, seven days a week.

We want you to enjoy Rockin’ Baja Coastal Cantina. Comment below by Monday, June 27, 2011 at 10:00 am and get entered to win a $50 gift certificate to Rockin’ Baja. Tell us, where do you love to dine in Mission Valley/ Old Town?

Courtney

5 to Try: Summer Events in La Jolla

Discover San Diego’s Neighborhoods with our Summer Sweepstakes. Join us every week as we showcase the best in what to do, where to eat, and where to stay in some of San Diego’s unique neighborhoods. Be sure to check back for exciting insider tips, giveaways, and more! This week’s spotlight is on beautiful La Jolla.

Poster for the 25th Annual La Jolla Festival of the Arts

1. 25th Annual La Jolla Festival of the Arts – The La Jolla Festival of the Arts, one of the top-rated art shows in the state, is taking place June 18 and 19 on the USCD east campus.  Showcasing nearly 200 award-winning local and national artists, live music, classic cars, celebrity chef food demonstrations, and a live street chalking exhibition, this event is not to be missed.

Fireworks at La Jolla Cove

2. July 4th in La Jolla – The La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation’s Fourth of July festivities kick off around 5:00 pm with a summer concert at Ellen Browning Scripps Park.  Then at 9:00 pm, the fireworks blast off from La Jolla Cove.  The best spots for watching the display are: Ellen Browning Scripps Park, La Jolla Shores, and Kellogg Park.

SummerFest returns to La Jolla this August

3. SummerFest 2011The La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest kicks off on August 3 with SummerFest Under the Stars, a free concert at La Jolla Cove.  Running through August 26, SummerFest will feature more than 70 world-class performances.

James Turrell, Stuck Red and Stuck Blue, 1970, construction materials and fluorescent lights. Copyright James Turrell. Photo by Philipp Scholz Rittermann. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Museum Purchase, Elizabeth W. Russell Foundation Funds.

4. Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface – On September 25, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego will open its most ambitious exhibition to date.  Phenomenal will be on view at both the La Jolla and downtown San Diego locations through January 22, 2012.

Boundless Energy at Scripps Aquarium Opening July 9

5. Boundless EnergyBirch Aquarium at Scripps’ newest exhibit, Boundless Energy, opens July 9. An outdoor, interactive exhibit exploring how we can use natural forces to power our lives, Boundless Energy features highly educational, interactive elements that encourage learning through play.

We want to send you to Birch Aquarium this summer.  Comment below by Thursday, June 16th at 10:00 am and get entered to win a family four-pack of tickets to Birch Aquarium at Scripps.

Suzzanne

5 Reasons to Visit San Diego’s Attractions This Summer

LEGOLAND California Star Wars Miniland

1.This past March, LEGOLAND California unveiled its newest exhibit, STAR WARS Miniland. Guests will be taken to a galaxy far, far away with six new live-action LEGO displays of memorable scenes from the classic Star Wars movies. Over 1.5 million LEGO bricks create life-size models and interactive features from famous Star Wars scenes including Tatooine, Endor, and the Millennium Falcon.

San Diego Zoo's Red Panda

2. This summer, the San Diego Zoo is unveiling Panda Trek. This giant panda reserve will include newly built homes for the red pandas, takins and pit vipers as well as feature six species of bamboo and other Chinese plants including camellias and azaleas.

Splash Zoo at LEGOLAND Water Park

3. Opening May 26, 2011, the new Splash Zoo, just for toddlers, will open over at the LEGOLAND Water Park. This brand-new area will feature zoo-themed animals, interactive spray pads, fountains and a teeter totter.

SeaWorld's Sea Turtle Bay

4. Scheduled to open in June 2011 is SeaWorld San Diego’s Sea Turtle Bay. This new attraction will offer an up-close look at more than 60 threatened or endangered sea turtles. The attraction’s highlight is Turtle Reef, a 300,000-gallon aquarium, with a massive, underwater viewing window where visitors can watch as many as 60 green and hawksbill sea turtles.

Cheeta Run San Diego Zoo Safari Park

5. Be part of a Summer Safari at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. From July 2 – August 21, 2011, visitors will be treated to entertainment, activities and animals that embrace the spirit of Africa in its Summer Safari-An African Extravaganza. Acrobats, artisans and Ethiopian circus performers will entertain in the Safari Park’s village. Guests can join African artisans to create beaded necklaces and decorate safari hats in the African Activities Plaza.

Guest Blogger

Hitting the Bricks at LEGOLAND

Rose and Angelo at LEGOLAND Driving School

LEGOS are part of the furniture at our house. I find them in the couch and some mornings wake to a coffee table topped with LEGO monuments from imaginary worlds.  So a visit to LEGOLAND, California in Carlsbad is a treat for my family. I ventured out with my six-year-old boy and two eight-year-old girls. We had the Park Hopper Pass that covers LEGOLAND, the new Water Park that is still adding on features (coming May 26, a Zoo-themed area for toddlers) and SEA LIFE Aquarium. There’s definitely more to see and do than a family can cover in a day.

My only request was that mom was able to start off at the Water Park renting a family size locker so I didn’t have to haul our beach towels, swimsuits and snacks all day through the park. Once relieved of my responsibilities thanks to a nifty, high-tech locker (no key to lose; it opens with a wave of a wristband), I gave the kids the map and let them plot out the day. Continue reading