From boats decorated with lights to a Big Balloon Parade, there plenty of Holiday Fun on San Diego’s Big Bay. Photo courtesy of Cook & Schmidt
For those of you making holiday plans to visit San Diego, following are a few fun and festive ways to make some merry on San Diego’s sparkling Big Bay.
43rd Annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
View more than 80 decorated boats at the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights!
What’s better than a cool holiday boat parade? Two holiday boat parades! Yep, the 43rd Annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights takes place on two Sundays next month. More than 80 boats lavishly decorated from bow to keel with colorful twinkling lights and decorations will glide the waters of San Diego Bay.
It’s quite a spectacle and best part, it’s free! This year’s theme is “Children’s Stories” which is sure to be a hit with the kids. Check out the route map here. The procession starts at 5:30 PM, but head to the Bay early for prime viewing spots including the Embarcadero and Embarcadero Park (North & South), Seaport Village, Coronado Ferry Landing, Harbor Island and Shelter Island.
Giant inflatable characters at Port of San Diego Big Bay Balloon Parade
Check out the Port of San Diego’s Big Bay Balloon Parade, “America’s Largest Balloon Parade” floating down Harbor Drive along the Embarcadero. And who knows, you might be on TV! The parade is televised nationally and on local Channel 4. You’ll see world-class marching bands, colorful floats, drill teams and of course, a procession of enormous balloons of familiar cartoon and pop culture characters. Over 100,000 spectators are expected!
The parade is part of our big annual National University Holiday Bowl festivities when the eyes of the nation are on San Diego for exciting gridiron action between two Pac-10 and Big 12 Conference teams.
California gray whale breaching off the San Diego coast
December is the launch of San Diego’s exciting whale watching season, when hundreds of majestic California gray whales are spotted of the coast making their annual migration from the Arctic to the warm lagoons of Baja California. These “peaceful giants of the sea” can be seen swimming our local waters through April. Hop aboard the Hornblower, Flagship Cruises or one of the many other whale watching cruises departing daily from the Embarcadero on San Diego. The whales can also be seen from high atop Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma – bring your binoculars, though! 🙂
Enjoy the water and more at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina
One of the cool things about being a San Diegan is that you don’t have to own a boat or even a surf board to get out on the water and have a real outdoor adventure. For a family fun getaway, I schedule some play time on San Diego Bay. The Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina is my home base. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, guests and locals can enjoy the hotel’s Summer Play offerings with free poolside activities for families, daily deals and discounts on boat charters, whale watching excursions, paddleboat or kayak rentals, and more.
Unwind at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina Spa
After a day out on the bay, you can cruise back into the marina and enjoy some pampering at the spa or full service salon at the Sheraton; this includes complimentary parking and use of the pool facilities, of which there are three! After a dip in the quieter Lanai pool area, I followed with an aromatherapy massage at the Sheraton’s Island Breeze Spa. The intimate facility offers workout room, men’s and women’s locker rooms and a variety of treatment rooms offering massage therapy, body wraps and cleansing treatments. Island Breeze Spa has expanded their spa services by offering single or couple massages at an outdoor pop-up cabana that overlooks the San Diego bay.
Beyond Four Walls – Outdoor Yoga
Find inner balance with cool ocean breezes and sunshine at Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina’s Outdoor Yoga
On my next visit, my daughter and I enjoyed the 10:00 AM Saturday outdoor yoga class courtesy of YogaOne ($17 adult, $12 child). Nothing starts off your weekend like doing a tree pose on a lawn surrounded by palm trees while gazing upon sailboats as they glide along the harbor.
Escape the summer heat with a dip in the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina’s cool pool
After yoga, we headed to the Marina Tower pool and my daughter enjoyed some of the kids’ activities planned by the staff. The Shoreline Restaurant, next to the pool, provides full service dining with delivery right to your lounge chair. Rose played pool games and ping-pong then dug into a burger and mango smoothie while I relaxed poolside with my mojito.
We’ve yet to try the family friendly Dive-in-Movie every Friday and Saturday night in the pool; so we might just have to book a room to fit it all in.
Where’s your favorite place to cool off and relax during a warm San Diego summer day?
Whether it’s sunrise, sunset or high noon, there is nothing like a leisurely stroll along one of these scenic waterfront walks in San Diego.
Each of these treks can be as easy as you want it to be, modified to a distance that works for you. Wear the right shoes, carry plenty of drinking water, use sunscreen and wear sunglasses. Take along a camera and enjoy the outdoors while being good to your body.
1. Mission Bay Park
Take a stroll around the largest aquatic park in the US, Mission Bay
There’s always plenty of parking at Rose Marie Starns South Shores park, so start there and head east. Along the way, you’ll see jet skiers whizzing around the bay, have the chance to watch dancers on roller skates, and will inhale whiffs of dozens of tantalizing ethnic family picnics. Make it all the way to the end of the walkway at De Anza Cove and back and you’ll have racked up about seven miles.
2. Mission Beach/PB Oceanfront
Enjoy the sunset with a scenic waterfront walk along Mission Beach
Park at the South Mission Beach jetty and head out on the paved walkway known to locals as the Mission Beach Boardwalk – or, at low tide, walk the beach. Either way, drink in great gulps of salty sea air – and savor the eye-candy. Continue past Belmont Park and its historic roller coaster, past luxury condos, aging beach cottages, funky shops, crowded beach bars and restaurants. Make it to the small park beyond Crystal Pier and back and you’ll have logged close to six miles.
3. Torrey Pines State Reserve
Walk among the famous Torrey Pines with the Pacific Ocean as your backdrop
The reserve spans 2,000 acres with eight miles of trails overlooking the Pacific. Pick up a trail map at the visitors center – or even better, join one of the free docent-led nature walks at 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM on weekends. Trekkers can count on seeing lots of the nation’s rarest pine tree, plus native chaparral, wildflowers, extraordinary sandstone formations, dozens of bird species, squirrels, cottontails, skittering lizards and butterflies. Keen observers may spot gray fox, mule deer or even bobcat tracks. On clear winter days, there’s even a chance you’ll catch a glimpse of migrating California Gray Whales.
Tip: Grab a parking space along the beach and walk up the hill to the reserve to add yardage to your walk – and save the $12-$15 it costs to park at the reserve.
4. Liberty Station/Harbor Island
Take time during an evening jaunt to sit down and enjoy the sunset
Park in the free public lot near Liberty Station’s Corvette Diner and head south along the bayside trail. For a better look at this ever-changing new neighborhood, meander up and down Liberty Station blocks. Or stick to the bayside trail, past Homewood Suites to the Halsey Road pedestrian bridge over the bay. On the other side, take a right on to a dirt trail that links with the Spanish Landing walkway. As you continue walking, check out the Maritime Museum’s ongoing efforts to build a replica of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s flagship, San Salvador. Then view modern-day adventure craft docked in the sheltered bay of Harbor Island. Walk past the Sheraton, cross Harbor Island Drive at the signal, then walk all along the pathway fronting San Diego Bay. If you make it a roundtrip back to Liberty Station, you’ve logged at least seven miles. (Or make it a one-way trip by walking with a friend who parks on Harbor Island.)
5. Shelter Island
Enjoy the calm waters and gorgeous views on Shelter Island
Park in the free public lot in front of the Bali Hai and start your walk on the northeast quadrant of the island at Shelter Cove Marina, part of America’s Cup Harbor, named for the international yacht races staged off our coast in 1988, 1992 and 1995. Walk the bayfront path that rounds the tip of Shelter Island, and leads past the concrete gazebo designed by James Hubbell. Continue past a sandy beach that has been a favorite of local toddlers since the man-made island (actually it’s more a peninsula) was built-in the 1950s. Walk out on the Shelter Island Fishing Pier to oogle the catch of the day. Back on the path, continue past the bronze Tunaman’s Memorial, a tribute to local commercial fishermen who lost their lives at sea. On the southwest tip of the island, find a mosaic fountain designed by Hubbell – and in the center of a roundabout, the Japanese Friendship Bell, a gift from San Diego’s sister city, Yokohama, in 1960. For a reminder that San Diego is an international yacht Mecca, continue walking the pathway that leads past hotels on the sheltered side of the bay. When the path ends, make a u-turn – or shorten your walk by cutting across a hotel parking lot to the path fronting San Diego Bay. The complete roundtrip stretches at least three miles.
Know of another great place not included in this list? Let us know in the comments below.
It's okay, go ahead and stare. Island Prime won't mind.
No two ways about it, San Diego is gorgeous. With coastline for miles and natural beauty that just doesn’t quit, this town is good looking. So, when San Diego Restaurant Week rolls around, you might as well opt for a restaurant where you can enjoy the view.
Here are a few that are pretty as a picture and have top-notch cuisine, too:
Nestled on Harbor Island, Island Prime looks across San Diego Bay toward the downtown skyline with a view is pretty all day long and particularly spectacular at night. Feast your eyes on the view but don’t let it distract you from chef Deborah Scott’s amazing Restaurant Week menu items like butternut squash soup with toasted pepitas, cedar plank roasted salmon and filet mignon with sea salt mashed potatoes. The menu is priced at $40 and the million dollar views are free.
Ride the elevator up to the 12th floor to Bertrand’s at Mister A’s for panoramic views of San Diego Bay, the downtown skyline and the lush green expanse of Balboa Park. This is where the city’s movers and shakers have gathered for decades and now , during restaurant week, you can enjoy the same upscale fare only at a fraction of the cost. The $40 Restaurant Week menu includes decadent options like Samanco Bay sea scallops, roasted leg of lamb Provencal and pan seared white seabass.
Getting to Mistral at Loews Coronado Bay Resort takes just minutes but you’ll feel a million miles away when you look across San Diego Bay at the Coronado Bridge and the glittering downtown skyline. With floor to ceiling windows as the backdrop, enjoy a $40 Restaurant Week menu with options like yellow frisee and duck prosciutto salad, organic salmon with French green lentils, or Brant beef with creamy potatoes and haricot vert.