Discover, Explore and Play at the San Diego Botanic Garden

San Diego Botanic Garden Hamilton Children's Garden Sign

During the entire month of October, kids can eat play and stay for free in San Diego with over 100 kids free offers from San Diego museums, restaurants, hotels and attractions. Participating attractions include all the kids’ favorites: SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo, LEGOLAND and the New Children’s Museum. But don’t overlook the opportunity to introduce youngsters to attraction they may not yet know – such as the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas, home of the largest interactive children’s garden on the West Coast.

San Diego Botanic Garden’s Hamilton Children’s Garden

San Diego Botanic Garden Hamilton Children's Garden Sign

The botanic garden’s 1-acre Hamilton Children’s Garden is fertile ground for growing young minds – a great place for nurturing a child’s love of nature. It includes 14 themed sites – ranging from a butterfly garden to a rhythm garden, where kids can make music playing nature’s instruments.

Flora at the San Diego Botanic Garden

Youngsters can make mud pottery in Art’s Garden,  practice their ABCs at the alphabetical Spell and Smell Garden and be awed by fruits, vegetables and flowers growing from bales of hay.

Kids Climbing a Tree at the San Diego Botanic Garden

A favorite destination is the massive kid-friendly tree house that combines a man-made trunk, with living trees that kids can explore from roots to canopy through tunnels, walkways and rope ladders.

Explore Even More With Over 36 Acres of Flora

Beyond the Children’s Garden there are 36 more acres for exploring – with plants and trees from 15 geographic regions, including Central and South America, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, the Canary Islands and Mediterranean regions. Visitors can wander everything from an “undersea” succulent garden that simulates a coral reef to a tropical rain forest. There are herb and topiary gardens – and of course, plenty of native plants and trees.

There’s also a small gift shop, a plant shop, a snack bar and the Children’s Garden has picnic tables.

Location: 230 Quail Drive, Encinitas, CA 92024 (map)
Hours: Daily – 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Cost: $12 for Adults. During October, each paid adult gets to bring along two kids, 12 or younger, for free – Click Here to Download the Kids Free CouponAdd $2 for parking (except cars with four or more passengers get in free).

Robert Arends

3 For Free: Spring Flings in San Diego!

Julian Daffodils

Spring is in full swing in San Diego. With sun shiny days and pleasantly warm temperatures in the 70s, now is a perfect time to head outdoors and explore some great upcoming spring and garden festivals.

Following are three fun spring flings to check out this May:

Sage & Songbirds Festival - Butterflies

Butterfly releases at Sage & Songbirds Festival.

1. Sage & Songbirds Festival

This weekend, May 4-6, the popular annual Sage & Songbirds Festivalflutters into the Viejas Outlet Center in Alpine – celebrating Alpine’s recognition by the National Wildlife Federation as “America’s 1st Community Wildlife Habitat.”  There’s a live butterfly exhibit and daily butterfly releases (Way Cool!), plus a plant and art sale. Admission is free.

Julian Daffodils

Beautiful Julian wildflowers.

2. Julian Wild Flower Show

Head to the historic Gold Rush mountain town of Julian on May 10-13 for the spectacular annual Julian Wild Flower Show. The Julian Woman’s Club gathers colorful wildflowers from in and around Julian, beautifully displaying them in Town Hall from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm each day. Also on view: an exhibit of Native American uses for wildflowers. Admission is free.

Mission Trails Pony Rides

Pony rides at Mission Trails Day.

3. Mission Trails Day

Showcasing the natural wonders of Mission Trails Regional Park (one of the largest urban parks in the U.S.!), Mission Trails Day takes over the park on May 19. Enjoy guided nature walks, pony rides, a special program on coyotes by Ms. Fizzle & The Magic Schoolbus, a climbing wall, bird watching, raptor encounters and a Star Party at night. Admission is free.

Coronado House

Coronado Historic Home Tour.

Bonus.  Coronado Historic Home Tour

Another big annual event that springs 😉 to mind this month…If you’ve ever wanted to take a sneak peek at the gorgeous homes and gardens on charming Coronado Island, now you can at the Coronado Historic Home Tour on May 13. Tour several historic homes of different time periods and architecture, while learning stories of World War II’s effect on Coronado life. Tickets: $30 for Coronado Historical Association members and $35 for nonmembers.


Art in Bloom at the San Diego Museum of Art’s Art Alive

Art Alive at the San Diego Museum of Art
Art Alive at the San Diego Museum of Art

Art Alive at the San Diego Museum of Art

One of the best smelling museum events in the country returns to San Diego this April. If you’ve never experienced the San Diego Museum of Art‘s “Art Alive,” prepare to have your senses overwhelmed. The museum is a treat for the eyes all year long, but the annual Art Alive event transforms the galleries into a floral explosion that’s a feast for eyes and nose alike.

At the heart of the event is a spectacular exhibition where floral designers are invited to interpret works from the museum’s collection in their medium. The beautiful floral creations are presented alongside the original works throughout the galleries from April 13 – 15. However, Art Alive is more than just a weekend exhibition of floral arrangements – it’s also a time to celebrate and learn. From the elegant Opening Reception to the hip Flowers After Hours to the educational events for both kids and adults, Art Alive features a variety of ways to get involved and have some fun with flowers.

Want a preview of what you can expect to see? Check out last year’s video preview of the event!

For a complete listing of Art Alive events, visit the San Diego Museum of Art’s website.


The Art of Flowers in Balboa Park

Art Alive

Garden lovers, now is the time to head to Balboa Park. The park is home to more than a dozen gorgeous gardens, from elegant rose gardens to exotic desert cacti. With Spring in full bloom, visitors can easily spend an entire day soaking up the color and beauty of Balboa Park’s botanical wonders.

The artistry of floral arranging takes on a whole new meaning at the San Diego Museum of Art’s annual “Art Alive” exhibition. Open to the public April 29 – May 1, Art Alive transforms the museum into an explosion of breathtaking floral arrangements.

Join me as we take a behind-the-scenes look at Art Alive and tour the different gardens of Balboa Park:

[iframe_youtube video=”hMEB8BguSYQ”]

Robert Arends

5 To Try: Bloomin’ Good Times in Coronado

Flowers, families and fun! (photo credit:

Spring has sprung – in Coronado! The enchanted island is gearing up for one of its most popular events of the year: the 86th Annual Coronado Flower Show, happening this weekend, April 16-17. A Coronado tradition since 1922(!), it’s the largest tented flower show in the West, drawing thousands of flower and gardening enthusiasts – locals and visitors alike – to Spreckels Park (600 block of Orange Ave.).

This year’s theme is “Dig, Design and Dine.” Hundreds of colorful flower exhibits will be displayed inside tents surrounding the park’s central gazebo, which becomes the stage for live entertainment and trophy presentations.

But did you know… Several other big community events coincide with this spectacular floral fete. Following are 5 to try:

1.  Dig it… The Coronado Flower Show – of course! Coronado is always pretty as a postcard, but when you add a kaleidoscope of colorful spring blossoms it becomes that much more beautiful! Other festivities include a flower/plant/rose marketplace, food pavilion and beer garden. Admission: $5 for adults, children 12 and under are free. Hours: 1:00 – 5:00 pm on Saturday and 10:00 am – 4:00 pm on Sunday. Don’t miss the trophy presentations on Sunday at 3:00 pm to see the best of the blooms!

Coronado's gorgeous gardens also take center stage this weekend.

2. Home grown… In addition to the bounty of blooms at the flower show, view gorgeous award-winning Home Front Gardens located throughout Coronado, designated by First (blue), Second (red), Third (yellow) and Honorable Mention (white) ribbons displayed in their yards or windows. You can get a list of winners with addresses at the flower show.

3. Wheel fun… MotorCars on MainStreet is a must-see on Sunday, April 17. Check out 300 or so hotrods, trucks, custom and classic cars along Orange Avenue. The best thing: it’s free to the public. That’ll get your motor running!

4.  Heart art… Art in the Park. Also in Spreckels Park, just outside the flower exhibit, will be dozens of artists from the Coronado Art Association displaying their works: paintings, photographs, wood and metal working, stained glass, ceramics and more. You’re sure to find a one-of-a-kind treasure or two!

5.  Book it… Just across the street from the Flower Show will be the Friends of the Coronado Library Book Fair, one of the best and biggest annual book fests in San Diego. Hours: 9am – 5pm on both Saturday and Sunday. Here you CAN judge a book by its cover and then take it home with you – cool!

See you in Coronado this weekend where the forecast is sun, fun and flowers! Also check out our San Diego-wide 5 to Try.


5 to Try This Weekend in San Diego

From festivals to flowers to a tasting of some of the best restaurants in Hillcrest, there is plenty to do in San Diego this weekend!

Fallbrook Avocado Festival

1. Fallbrook Avocado Festival. Since the 1960’s, tens of thousands of avocado lovers converge in Fallbrook, located in San Diego’s North County, to sample avocados, check-out the crazy cooking contest entries, buy funky avocado-themed gifts and enjoy bands, live entertainment and friendly beer gardens. Avocado loving day is Sunday, April 17th.

Spring Busker Festival

2. Seaport Village comes with a celebration of street performers during the Spring Busker Festival, April 16-17. In a battle of entertainment, extraordinary, one-of-a-kind performers including jugglers, sword swallowers, comedic stuntmen and Didgeridoo players take to Seaport Village’s cobblestone streets for a weekend of outdoor family amusement.

Taste of Hillcrest

3. Get ready to experience this year’s most tantalizing taste event as you explore the Taste of Hillcrest taking place on Saturday, April 16th from noon to 4:00 pm. Enjoy a self-guided stroll that will take you around to some of the top chefs in San Diego. With samples created from over 40 of the area’s prominent restaurants, you are sure to find a new takeout favorite or dining hotspot.

Coronado Flower Show

4. The 86th Annual Coronado Flower Show, taking place in Spreckels Park, is the largest tented flower show in the West. This year’s theme is “Dig, Design and Dine.” Flower exhibits are displayed inside tents surrounding a central gazebo, which becomes the stage for live entertainment and trophy presentations. There are also flower sales and food vendors. Check out our Coronado Flower Show 5 to Try.

Lakeside Rodeo

5. Giddy up! During April 15-17, the Annual Lakeside Rodeo and Parade aspiring cowboys and cowgirls can see bareback bronco rides, calf roping and other traditional rodeo competitions along with food and crafts at the Lakeside Rodeo Grounds in San Diego’s East County.


5 to Try This Weekend

courtesy of cheryl spelts photography

  1. Did you know that the city of Fallbrook in San Diego’s North County is dubbed THE avocado capital of the world?  Yup, it surely is and the city is celebrating their title this Sunday with the 24th Annual Fallbrook Avocado Festival from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. along Main Avenue in downtown Fallbrook.  Highlights of this FREE event will include 300 vendor booths, food, beer gardens, live music, a Guacamole Contest, activities for children and tons of avocados!  Please note, pets will not be permitted in the festival area but there will be a “Park your Pet” waiting area.
  2. This Sunday, Balboa Park hosts its 20th EarthFair celebration from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. throughout various locations in the Park.  The FREE event will feature 350 exhibitors, special theme areas, Food Pavilion, Kids’ Activity Area, three entertainment venues, Children’s Earth Parade, an eARTh Gallery art show and a Cleaner Car Concourse.  This popular event draws a big crowd and parking is very limited; click here for information on free shuttle services, public transportation options, carpooling and biking /walking routes (it is an Earth Day celebration you know, so think green!)
  3. Coronado presents the 85th annual Coronado Flower Show this Saturday and Sunday at Spreckels Park on Orange Avenue.  This is one of the largest flower shows on the West Coast and guests can view beautiful floral displays while enjoying flower sales, live entertainment, food and drinks and a trophy ceremony.  The event goes from 1 – 5 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Sunday; admission is $3 for adults, kids 12 and under get in free.
  4. Lux Art Institute in Encinitas is hosting a Free Saturday event from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. where you can stop by for studio tours, live music , refreshments, and a hands-on art project for all ages.  The Institute’s current artist-in-residence, Robert Lobe, will also be there so you can meet him and view his sculpture-in-progress.
  5. Mmm, this Saturday is the delicious Taste of Hillcrest event, a self-guided restaurant hop serving everything from appetizers to dessert. More than 50 restaurants and some of San Diego’s top chefs are participating in the event which goes from 12 – 4 p.m.; tickets are $35 per person but the event often sells out, so purchase your tickets asap.  Click here for the event map of participating restaurants and get a head start on planning your way to a food comma : )

5 to Try This Weekend

watch your busker, buster

  1. Caution: Ordinary Folks Beware!! Seaport Village’s Spring Busker Festival comes to San Diego this Saturday and Sunday with a dynamic line-up of over-the-top street performances from jugglers, sword swallowers, contortionists, stuntmen and more.  This is year, Seaport Village is celebrating its 30th anniversary and the FREE festival is expected to be the best yet!  The festival takes place on Seaport Village’s cobblestone streets from 12 – 5 p.m., but from 7 – 10 p.m., the performers will be let loose for Buskers After Dark, an untamed show of bizarre and extraordinary talents best suited for those18 years and older.
  2. If you’re in the mood for warm, fresh-baked apple pie then you need to mosey on over the Cuyamaca mountains to Julian for the 2nd annual Taste of Julian event.  This Saturday from 1 –  4 p.m., you can tour and taste menu specialties and local favorites at more than 10 restaurants.  Tickets are $20 per person and can be pick-up or purchased at the Town Hall in downtown Julian.
  3. Where are all my fashionistas and fashionistos? THREAD, a one-day retail extravaganza showcasing the trends to come in the fashion world will be in town this Sunday from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Horton Plaza Event Space in downtown San Diego.  Here, you can browse and buy discounted men, women and children’s clothing from tons of independent designers along with indie art, furniture, accessories and more.  Be sure to stop by the Style Lounge for free hair and makeup and enjoy drink specials in the stylish Martini Lounge.  Admission to this Godsent event is $10 and includes show entrance, fashion show admittance, music and a gift bag for the first 250 people in the door.
  4. This Saturday, the New Children’s Museum in downtown San Diego will host a day full of music just for kids during their Kidchella Music Festival from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Performances will take place inside the museum and outdoors in the park with multiple genres of music for kids to sing, clap and boogie.  Saturday also kicks-off a new museum series called “Explore AEC” in the museum’s Arts Education Center. Throughout the day, kids and families can take part in activities and crafts like Superhero Hideout, Play with Your Food and Flying Felt Bird; museum admission is $10 per person.
  5. This Saturday, the Carlsbad Flower Fields will be alive with the sound of music during Bluegrass Day – a toe-tapping concert of old-time jams and Bluegrass classics from 12 – 4 p.m.  Also on Saturday, and continuing on Sunday is The Flower Fields annual Arts & Culture Fair featuring painting, pottery, crafts and photographs from some of Southern California’s best artisans from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. both days. Admission to these events is included in the $10 Flower Field admission.

Springtime Flora and Fauna

Sniiiiiiiffffff…. Can you smell that?!  Spring is in the air and I’m bouncing-off-the-walls excited because it’s my favorite season of the year.  I know spring doesn’t technically begin until later this month, but San Diego and his dear friend Mother Nature are starting the party early with two must-see floral displays that you won’t want to miss:

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Desert Wildflowers

Next week, this 600,000-acre desert will burst with color for a limited time with the blooming of desert wildflowers. Because the blooming of the flowers depends upon timing, temperature and quantity of winter rains, the blossoms are usually at their peak for only two weeks. 

I advise you call the park’s 24-hour “Wildflower Hotline” at 760-767-4684 before planning a trip to the desert.  I made a call yesterday and they anticipate that the flowers will begin to sprout sometime next week, weather pending. 

Flower Fields of Carlsbad

A Sea of Flowers

Here, a sea of giant ranunculus flowers transforms 50-acres of hills into rows and rows of color.  During March through May, you can walk or take a wagon ride through these amazing flower fields, which includes a miniature rose garden, a sweet pea maze, red, white and blue flowers planted in the shape of a giant American flag and more. 

Currently, the flowers are just beginning to bloom so give it a couple more weeks; then it will be a sea of ranunculus ridiculocity (yes, I made that word up).  Keep checking the website for updates on the flowers.