Benjamin Eastman

Mardi Gras in San Diego – Carnival in Paradise!

Mardis Gras in the Gaslamp

Would it surprise you to know that San Diego is the city with the largest Mardi Gras festival west of the Mississippi River? I mean, you know San Diegan’s like a good party, right? The following are just a few of the debaucherous ways that you can celebrate on Fat Tuesday (February 12, 2013):

19th Annual Mardi Gras in the Gaslamp

Mardis Gras in the Gaslamp

It’s a carnival atmosphere in the Gaslamp during Mardi Gras. Photo Courtesy of Be Water Photo.

Featuring an electrifying talent lineup ranging from local, regional and national zydeco, blues and rock bands, electronic and House music DJs, dance crews, acrobats and visual artists on 4 stages – this celebration will be a wonderland of fun!

Location: 5th Avenue between Market & L Streets (Gaslamp Quarter)
Time: 5:00 to 11:00pm
Cost: In Advance – $40. Day of – $50.
> Find out more about Mardi Gras in the Gaslamp

Gaslamp Mardi Gras – The French Connection

Gaslamp Mardi Gras - The French Connection

Get into the Gaslamp’s hottest clubs during Mardi Gras with the French Connection VIP pass.

Rather celebrate the holiday inside a bar or nightclub? Check out Club VIP’s “The French Connection” passport which gets you VIP Access to a number of Gaslamp nightclub celebrations (including those at the Hard Rock, Belo, Onyx, McFadden’s and the Pussycat Dollhouse!) and runs until 4:00 in the morning! Your passport cost includes welcome shots at 10 different venues and food & drink discounts at all participating venues.

Location: 5th Avenue between E and G Streets (Gaslamp Quarter)
Time: 5:00 PM to 4:00 AM
Cost: $29 pre-sale
> Find out more about Gaslamp Mardi Gras – The French Connection

12th Annual Hillcrest Mardi Gras

HIllcrest Mardi Gras

HIllcrest Mardi Gras. Photo credit: Jim Winsor

The Hillcrest Street Party will feature live entertainment, special guest performers and food & drink options. Count on lots of beads and lots of fun! For an even more memorable event, check out their VIP options (an additional $50) which provides partiers with an express entry and private reception & bathrooms.

Location: University Avenue between First & Fourth Avenues (Hillcrest)
Time: 6:00 to 11:00 PM
Cost: $15-$75
> Find out more about Hillcrest Mardi Gras

More Mardi Gras in San Diego

And for those who want to start early, check out the Little Italy Carnavale and the San Diego Brazilian Mardi Gras Ball happening on February 9th!


Trick or Treating in San Diego, the Grown-Up Version

Smashing Pumpkin Martini

As little ghosts and goblins come out to play and traipse from house to house in their sugar-fueled quest on October 31, it’s hard for the grown-ups not to feel just a little bit envious. Just because we’ve grown older doesn’t mean we have outgrown our sweet tooths (well, some of us, anyway)!

If you’re looking for a little sweet indulgence this Halloween, fear not – San Diego offers some diabolically delicious holiday treats sure to delight those too old for trick or treating.


Smashing Pumpkin Martini

For pumpkin with a punch, try the Smashing Pumpkin Martini at the Grant Grill.

No trick here: Halloween cocktails have seized San Diego. This Halloween, adults can do some drink-or-treating around downtown by hopping between hot spots offering spooktacular cocktails.

At Whisky Girl, ghouls and guests can choose from the Wolfman, a chocolate martini with vanilla vodka, the Frankenstein with Malibu, melon, blue Curacao, pineapple juice and whipped cream, and the Dracula served with a single shot of rumplemintz, a splash of cream and grenadine.

At the Grant Grill in the US Grant Hotel, the Smashing Pumpkin martini is a delicious mix of pumpkin and star anise infused rum, Grand Marnier, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, saffron syrup, cardamom bitters and fresh meyer lemon.

If you’re not too squeamish, try the Femur Shot at Searsucker, a concoction of coconut, lime and vodka served in steer femur bones and designed to be sucked out, bone marrow style.

Crazy for Candy


Eclipse Chocolat truffles – a perfect addition to any grown-up trick-or-treat bag. Photo courtesy of Roger Tsen.

If liquid treats just won’t cut it and only the real thing will do, die-hard candy loving adults won’t be disappointed this Halloween.

Chocolate aficionados should head straight to Eclipse Chocolat in North Park. Exotic flavor combinations are offered daily, but seasonal specials include the Pumpkin Muscavado truffle and Spiced Pumpkin cupcake, a decadent chocolate cake filled with pumpkin butter and topped in a dark chocolate ganache and grains of paradise (said to taste like a mix between pepper, ginger and cardamom).

If waiting for Halloween to roll around each year is simply too long to wait to get your candy fix, at Alchemy of the Hearth in San Marcos, candy lovers can learn to make sweet treats at home with classes that teach the secrets to creating toffees, caramels, lollipops and even candy apples.

How will you indulge your sweet tooth this Halloween?


5 to Try This Weekend in San Diego

Break out the shades and flip flops, it”s officially summer season in San Diego. Here are our five to try for this 3-day weekend. What will you be doing?

Vista Strawberry Festival

1. Vista Strawberry Festival

The Annual Vista Strawberry Festival takes place in Vista”s historic downtown. Over 200 vendors will line the streets with arts, crafts, food, fun and more. Also, a beer garden will proudly display Vista”s own micro-breweries.


Manta is coming to SeaWorld San Diego

2. Manta at SeaWorld!

Head over to SeaWorld to experience Manta, which features a double-launch coaster and 100,000-gallon aquarium with rays and hundreds of fishes, opening May 26. Featuring a unique “launch station,” you will start your Manta experience enclosed in a tunnel with larger-than-life images of rays projected on a 270-degree enveloping screen. This stunning introduction to the world of the rays also will visually enhance the physical acceleration as Manta launches down the track. This online casino state-of-the-art projection system will be the first of its kind in the United States.

Reuben H. Fleet Science Center

3. Grossology

On May 26, the Science Center”s most popular exhibit ever returns to the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center! A fun, exciting and educationally stimulating exhibition based on the best-selling book Grossology by science teacher Sylvia Branzei. Designed for children ages 6 to 14, the exhibit features interactive stations which teach the good, the bad and the downright ugly about runny noses, body odor and much more.

Gaslamp Music & Arts Festival

Gaslamp Music & Arts Festival

4. Gaslamp Music and Arts Festival

From smooth beats to funky scats, the Gaslamp Music & Art Festival will celebrate live music this Memorial Day weekend. Various <a title=”San Diego”s Historic Gaslamp Quarter” href=”http://www.sandiego/gaslampquarter” target=”_blank”>Gaslamp Quarter businesses, along with the Gaslamp Quarter Association, are hosting the inaugural festival on Saturday, May 26th, 2012 from 1:00 – 9:00 pm. This electrifying program will feature live entertainment, dining and interactive art demonstrations hosted at more than 25 venues throughout the Gaslamp Quarter.

Spreckels Park, Coronado

5. Promenade Concert in the Park Series

Pack a picnic and bring the family for this free concert series kicking off May 27 and continuing through September 9, every Sunday at 6:00 pm in Spreckles Park. Performances will include Coronado”s Lamb”s Players Theatre and popular bands like the Coronado Community Concert Band, Navy Band Southwest Band and Coronado Big Band.

> Find More Great Memorial Day Weekend Goings-On on the San Diego Event Calendar

Tell us and others in the comments below, what should be #6?

Benjamin Eastman

Nightlife San Diego – Rooftop Lounges in the Gaslamp Quarter

Ivy Rooftop - Hotel Andaz San Diego

As I write this blog post I am in the process of planning my evening’s itinerary and have decided that tonight is a rooftop night. Not only does San Diego’s great climate allow for fantastic beach days, tons of water sports and plenty of outdoorsy activities, it also allows locals and visitors alike to enjoy the nightlife outside as well!

Rooftop bars, lounges and nightclubs abound in San Diego – where revelers often relax in front of fire pits, listening to the soft thump of lounge music and sipping on their favorite cocktails.

Many of these rooftop oases are spread throughout, though not limites to, the Gaslamp Quarter. Here are just a few options for an evening of lounging under the stars:

Altitude Sky Lounge

Altitude Sky Lounge atop the San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter

Altitude Sky Lounge

Located at the top of the San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter and overlooking PETCO Park, Altitude Sky Lounge enjoys amazing views of Padres’ games as well as downtown and the bay. A giant fire pit keeps those who may be a little chilly toasty warm and projection screens entertain with scenes to accompany their low key, lounge music.  Altitude is a great place to post up for a relaxed evening of chatting with friends over a few drinks and taking in views of the city.

Float Bar - Hard Rock Hotel San Diego

Float Bar atop the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego

Float Bar

Hard Rock Hotel’s Float Bar features multiple VIP seating areas and a number of fire pits giving of that Southern California vibe. Classic Hard Rock dance music plays throughout the area while guests enjoy time on Float’s dance floor. This area is also prime territory during Hard Rock’s Sunday Intervention pool parties during the late Spring/Summer months.

Ivy Rooftop - Hotel Andaz San Diego

Ivy Rooftop atop the Andaz San Diego

Ivy Rooftop

Andaz San Diego’s rooftop provides multiple areas for guests to enjoy an evening in San Diego. The massive firepit draws crowds on cooler nights, but it is the views of Downtown that truly impress.  And don’t be shocked when you walk into the bathroom area and see someone of the opposite sex at the sinks – the sink area is co-ed with separate rooms for your more private concerns.

Rooftop - Stingaree

Rooftop of Stingaree San Diego night club


As featured in our Gaslamp Quarter nightlife video, Stingaree is a mega entertainment venue with 3 floors of excitement. The nightclub’s rooftop features private, VIP cabanas, fire pits and often a completely different sound from the music playing on the dance floors within the building. For those wanting to take a break from the pounding beats of the DJ below, the rooftop oasis is the perfect place to catch up with friends and scope out your next dance partner.

Well now that I’ve thought about it, I think I just might have to rooftop hop to all of these spots tonight! The weather is going to be great and I could use a little time soaking up the San Diego scene. See you out there!


5 to Try in San Diego: St. Patrick’s Day Edition

San Diego offers something for everyone on St. Patrick’s Day. Make sure to set out your green threads the night before because here are your 5 to Try that will keep you moving from sun-up to well past sun-down.

Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Balboa Park

Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Balboa Park

1. Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival

Lads and lassies celebrate all things Irish at the Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival, held March 17 at the corner of 6th Avenue and Juniper Street near Balboa Park. The day includes a 10:30 am parade, an all-day Irish festival featuring food, beer gardens, musical entertainment and more.

Green ShamRock Sea in the Gaslamp Quarter

Green ShamRock Sea in the Gaslamp Quarter. Photo courtesy of The Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation

2. ShamROCK 2012

With 30,000 sq. ft. of Astroturf, downtown San Diego’s historic Gaslamp Quarter turns into the rolling hills of Ireland from noon to midnight on March 17 at ShamROCK 2012. This St. Patrick’s Day party includes Irish rock bands and pints of green beer; guests must be 21 years or older to attend the ticketed event.

La Jolla Wine Tours

St. Patrick's Day Wine Country Tour

3. St. Patrick’s Day Wine Country Tour

Enjoy beautiful, panoramic vineyard views as you delight in the tasting of superb local wines paired with custom-made gourmet pizza overlooking the wineries grounds with the St. Patrick’s Day Wine Country Tour by San Diego Beer and Wine Tours.

St. Patrick's Day Hike at the San Dieguito Lagoon Trail

St. Patrick's Day Hike at the San Dieguito Lagoon Trail

4. St. Patrick’s Day Hike at the San Dieguito Lagoon Trail

Get outdoors and go for a nature centered St. Patrick’s Day Hike at the San Dieguito Lagoon Trail in Del Mar. Walk, bike or trike at this family friendly event in support of one of San Diego’s most celebrated natural treasures – the 55-mile San Dieguito River Park. Reservations are recommended.

Kelly's Steakhouse Piano Bar with Joe Cromwell

St. Patrick's Day Celebration at Kelly's with Joe Cromwell

5. St. Patrick’s Day Celebration at Kelly’s

Sing-A-Long to your favorite Irish Songs at the Piano Bar with Joe Cromwell at Kelly’s inside the Town & Country Resort. Festivities began at 4:00 pm and run until midnight. with drink and food specials all night.

Tell us in the comments below, what do you have planned for the family on St. Patrick’s Day?

Benjamin Eastman

San Diego Mardi Gras Celebrations

HIllcrest Mardi Gras

What will you be doing the night of February 21st? While you may not be stumbling along the streets of Bourbon Street chucking strings of beads to wide-eyed revelers, hopefully you will be celebrating Mardi Gras right here in San Diego!

Mardi Gras in the Gaslamp - Photo by Nick Biliotti

Mardi Gras in the Gaslamp

Every year, San Diegans recreate the Bourbon Street experience downtown at the Mardi Gras in the Gaslamp event between E and K Streets. Last year’s event had an attendance of over 35,000 and this year they’re going bigger and better! With 4 stages of entertainment featuring internationally renowned DJs (the headlining DJ is Paul Oakenfold!) and an exciting Masquerade Parade down 5th Avenue, you know revelers will be channeling some of that Laissez le Bon Temp Rouler! The party runs from 6:00 pm – midnight and the parade starts at 9:30 pm.

HIllcrest Mardi Gras

Hillcrest Mardi Gras. Photo credit: Jim Winsor

11th Annual Absolut Hillcrest Mardi Gras Street Fair

Fat Tuesday revelers also head over to Hillcrest for another big Sand Diego Mardi Gras celebration. Taking place on University Ave between First & Fourth Avenues, the festival will feature live entertainment, guest performers and an exclusive VIP area. The event runs 6:00 – 11:00 pm and will feature dancing, food and lots of beads!

Come on people! Fat Tuesday is your last night of indulgence for 40 days (well for some at least…).  Even if you don’t observe Lent, you can still observe the party!


Listen Live in San Diego: When Every Day is Mardi Gras!

Officially, Fat Tuesday falls on February 21, 2012. And when Sir Simon Cowell himself says that “DJ’s are the new rock stars,” it is fair to pay homage in this blog to the 4 stages and rotating DJ’s of Mardi Gras in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego on Tuesday, February 21. But while I may give up carbs or cuss words for the Lenten season, I certainly am not giving up live music – which makes every day Mardi Gras for me! What will be your musical Mardi Gras this year?

House of Blues

Mardi Gras music starts at 3:00 pm on February 21 and is free for all revelers. Perfect. My office is a block away. Continue the party on February 29 with Indie pop-rock of the British persuasion. The Kooks will be performing their “catchy as hell” tunes for all of us who won’t see them at Bonnaroo this summer.

RaRaRiot coming to the BellyUp Tavern

RaRaRiot coming to the Belly Up Tavern

Belly Up Tavern

So the CAKE show is sold out, but the Belly Up delivers such consistent quality that this doesn’t concern me. If you have a predilection for plaid shirts and converse, enjoy the sweet Paul Simon-inspired falsetto of Indie rock Ra Ra Riot on Thursday, February 23. I support any band that jams with a cello. Of course, there is still a chance to see what 40-plus years of rocking out looks like with classic rock favorite, America, performing February 26.

Birch North Park Theatre

Birch North Park Theatre

Birch North Park Theatre

Probably not your first thought as a live music venue, but I love taking in a show at the beautifully refurbished Birch for the sheer proximity to the bars, restaurants and culture of North Park’s young, indie neighborhood. While they always have a full season of theater to enjoy, it is a great, old school venue for a variety of bands as well. For instance, on March 2, Girls, performing with Unknown Mortal Orchestra, will grace the stage with their contagious energy and a few more plaid shirts. 😉

Enjoy this next few weeks of music everyone! And have an awesome Mardi Gras! As always, let me know what shows you want to see!


12 Reasons to Visit San Diego in 2012

San Diego Skyline

San Diego Skyline

As we celebrate the start of 2012, I’ve put together my list of 12 reasons you should visit San Diego in 2012. In no particular order…

1. The Best: In Travel + Leisure’s recent America’s Favorite Cities Reader Poll, San Diego was voted the #1 Destination for Best Weather and Best Spring Break. We also scored #2 for Best Summer Vacation, Family Vacation, 4th of July Destination and Most Attractive People.

2. Fabulous Food: A slew of restaurants are slated to open or have recently opened to offer visitors amazing culinary choices. Hot on the radar is UnderBelly which recently opened in Little Italy, Saltbox inside the Palomar San Diego hotel, and Brian Malarkey’s latest venture, Gingham.

3. A Whale of a Time: Majestic California gray whales make their annual migration from the Arctic waters to the warm lagoons in the Gulf of California for breeding. These “peaceful giants of the sea” come within miles of San Diego’s coastline.

4. Worth the Money: Budget Travel Magazine came out with it’s Top 10 Budget Travel Destinations for 2012, and named San Diego among them. Be sure to check out our 25 free things to do in San Diego. One of my favorites…Mission Bay Park.

5. Attraction Action: This year, SeaWorld will debut their latest new coaster with sting ray interactive touch pool and observation windows called Manta. Swooping over sea and sky, Manta will not only inspire riders with amazing underwater animal habitats, but then take them on an exhilarating ride on a launch coaster shaped like a giant manta ray!

6. Craft Brew: San Diego is home to the nation’s best brew pubs including Pizza Port which just recently won Small Brewpub of the Year at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival.

7. The Beach…enough said: With over 70 miles of beaches, it’s no wonder that in June 2011, The Travel Channel’s famed “Dr. Beach” announced his annual picks for the Best Beaches in America and Coronado Beach was named No. 2.

8. San Diego Nightlife: San Diego’s nightlife scene has never been hotter. San Diego was among the top 10 hottest New Year’s Eve destinations according to a survey. Visitors can celebrate all year long in the Gaslamp Quarter with over 100 restaurants and clubs, it is the place to be any time of year.

9. Get Your Culture On: Be sure to visit Balboa Park and its 85 cultural and recreational organizations. My favorites are the San Diego Model Railroad Museum and The San Diego Museum of Art. Not to be missed this year is the new exhibit at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, Black Holes: Space Warps & Time Twists.

10. Surf Culture: San Diego is widely known for its laid back vibe with some of the best surfing spots in Southern California. To top it off, we are also home to the world’s first Center for Surf Research at San Diego State University (not a bad way to spend your college years!)

11. Walking with Art: Spend the days outside under the sun browsing local art at numerous sidewalk art shows including San Diego Artwalk, Artwalk on the Bay and the monthly Ray at Night and Kettner Nights.

12. The Great Outdoors: San Diego’s temperate weather allows for outdoor activities all year round. Go hiking along the water in Torrey Pines State Reserve or mountain biking through the natural landscapes of Mission Trails Regional Park. Here are a few more ideas to get outdoors. There is no reason you should stay inside while in San Diego!

What do you have planned for San Diego in 2012?


5 to Try This Weekend in San Diego

1. San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival: The region’s largest wine and culinary event takes place November 16-20. Held at venues throughout downtown San Diego, the festival includes gourmet food, celebrity chefs, wine tastings, an elegant reserve and new release tasting event and more.

2. America’s Cup World Series: the AC World Series is in full action this weekend. This regatta gives the public an opportunity to watch the world’s top sailors as they compete in the state-of-the-art AC45 wing-sailed catamarans. San Diego Bay’s natural sailing environment allows fans to get close to the action, offering spectator access along numerous points along the picturesque waterfront.

3. Annual Mother Goose Parade: San Diego East County’s annual holiday kick-off celebration features celebrity appearances, whimsical floats, clowns, bands, equestrians and more, Sunday, November 20.

4. Santa vs. the Snowman: Enjoy a holiday treat at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center’s IMAX theatre with the showing of Santa Vs. The Snowman. Starting November 18 and running through the holidays, visitors can catch the first-ever IMAX animated holiday feature film. The film tells the heartwarming story of a lonely Snowman who at first is swept away by the magical wonders of Santa’s village, only to ultimately wage war on Santa because he is jealous of all the attention that Santa gets during Christmas time.

5. FLUXX Nightclub with Sid Vicious & Ricky Rocks: On Saturday, November 19 hit up FLUXX in the Gaslamp. One of the coolest clubs in San Diego, this is a party you just can’t beat! Get ready to dance the night away.


San Diego’s Passion for Fashion: THREAD

New York, Los Angeles and…San Diego? Yup, you can add America’s Finest City to the list of top fashion destinations thanks to THREAD. The multi-city shopping event promoting emerging designers and artists comes to San Diego this Sunday, Oct. 9 from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm at the Horton Event Space in Horton Plaza shopping center. Those who know me know that I have been known to lose all sense of budgetary wisdom when it comes to fashion, so I can’t wait to stock up on clothing and accessories from our many talented local designers that will be showcasing their wares. And the best part is that in addition to the lively party atmosphere that makes the event so fun, the designers participating will be offering below retail pricing.

So much more than just a fashion trunk show, THREAD includes a slew of activities to keep you entertained all afternoon, including live music, a pop-up local art gallery, the Style Lounge, manicure and pedicure station, a photo booth, live screen printing stations, a special “man cave” for the guys and so much more. Plus, designers will be offering a variety of giveaways all day long.

Interested in attending THREAD? We’re giving away 3 sets of tickets for you and a guest to enjoy the celebration of all things fabulous this Sunday. Just leave a comment on this post before 10:00 am on Wednesday, Oct. 5 to be entered to win, and we’ll select three winners at random to receive THREAD tickets for you and a guest. See you at the show!