Robert Arends

5 to Try: Summer Events in Coronado

Bay views from Coronado Island Marriott Resort.

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 Coronado.

Things are heating up this summer in Coronado, just a bridge away from downtown San Diego. Visitors with swim towels, beach umbrellas and boogie boards are finding their happy place on the island’s 28 miles of beaches on sparkling San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

In addition to fun under the sun, following are Five Summer Events to Try on San Diego’s enchanted island:

Picnic at Promenade Concerts in the Park.

1.  Sure, there’s the soothing sound of palm trees swaying in the breeze, but visitors can also hear the sweet sound of live music in Coronado. A beloved local tradition is the Promenade Concert in the Park Series, which takes place every Sunday at 6:00 pm, through mid-September, in Spreckels Park. A perfect activity for families and picnickers; admission is free.

Bayside concerts at Coronado Ferry Landing.

2.  Also music to your ears: the Summer Concert Series at Coronado Ferry Landing which takes place every Saturday and Sunday from 2:00 – 5:00 pm, through September 5, at the Coronado Ferry Landing shops on scenic San Diego Bay. Featured musicians include the Crown Island Jazz Band, Coronado Big Band and Teagan Taylor Trio. Continue reading


5 to Try:Historical Sites

I am a lover of many things; however, history is not one of them so when I heard that San Diego was the birthplace of California (I may have dozed off during that class… sorry Mom), I was surprised that many of the state’s beginnings took place right here in my stomping grounds. 

With a sudden new interest in the history of my town, I visited the following five places:

Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo National Monument: The birthplace of California
In 1542, Portuguese explorer, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, sailed into San Diego Bay and was the first European to discover California.  Commemorating this historic landing, a monument stands high atop the cliffs of Point Loma.  The surrounding area also provides picture-perfect, panoramic views of San Diego, a small museum and exhibit hall and nearby tide pools, hiking trails and the Old Point Loma Lighthouse.

Mission San Diego de Alcala: The first California mission
Out of Father Junipero Serra’s 21 missions, this was the first and thus was the beginning of Christianity in the western United States.  Originally located in Old Town San Diego, the mission was relocated to its present site in Mission Valley near the San Diego River in 1774.  Visitors can attend mass in the original chapel, visit the mission’s museum or take a tour and stroll through the mission grounds where the oldest known cemetery in California is located. 

Sunny Jim Cave: A Prohibition Cave
Located in La Jolla, this cave is the only known sea cave that is accessible from land.  This hand-dug tunnel was created in 1902 and was used to smuggle contraband Whisky during Prohibition.  To access this cave, you must visit the historical landmark, The Cave Store, where you then descend 145 steps underground.

The Whaley House: One of the most haunted houses in California
Since its construction in 1857 in Old Town State Historic Park, the Whaley House was once a gallows’ site, San Diego’s first theater, the county courthouse and home to the Whaley family who were early San Diego settlers. Throughout the property’s 153 year history, a number of deaths occurred on site and many people believe the spirits of those past still linger including a playmate of the Whaley children, a grand larcenist who fought to keep alive at the gallows and Mr. and Mrs. Whaley themselves.

William Heath Davis House: Home to downtown San Diego’s colorful past
The Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation operates out of this historic home, which was once the residence of William Heath Davis and Alonzo Horton, the founders of downtown San Diego.  The home is Gaslamp Quarter’s oldest surviving structure and documents fascinating stories about the famous inhabitants.  Guided downtown walking tours are also available and offer a vivid re-creation of the Gaslamp Quarter’s history from the late 1800s when the “red light” district flourished, the naughty ladies of the Stingaree roamed the streets and Wyatt Earp and his three gambling halls ruled the neighborhood.


What’s Your US GRANT Story?

Still gorgeous after all these years!

The grande dame of downtown hotels, THE US GRANT, is turning 100 this year and she’s looking better than ever. 

I know because one of my very favorite things to do is to walk down the the marble staircase in the lobby and back in time with the incredible collection of historic photos beautifully displayed on the lower level.  These moments, captured all throughout the last century, showcase the hotel and her sharply-dressed clientele in all their glory. 

From flirty flappers stepping out of Model-Ts to Betty Draper-style beauties in pearls and white gloves, it’s a visual feast for anyone who loves vintage style and a dash of history. 

That’s why I’m so excited the US GRANT is kicking off her celebration by giving everyone the chance to share their memories, past and present, online at What’s Your Story.

So far, my favorite submission is a postcard sent with a 1-cent stamp sent by a guest who stayed there in 1941 and exclaimed, “Boy, is this hotel ever keen!”

In the spirit of that postcard writer, a couple postscripts:

PS:  “Man, oh man,” it gets better.  Each month, beginning in February, a story will be chosen from the previous month’s submissions to win a two-night stay. 

PSS:  And even more “terrific!”  Monthly winners will be eligible for a grand prize package that includes  two round-trip airline tickets to San Diego within the Continental U.S., a three night stay in the Presidential Suite, a wine pairing dinner for two at the Grant Grill, and a 2.5 hour sailing adventure aboard Dennis Conner’s America’s Cup Experience complete with a picnic basket prepared by the hotel’s Executive Chef.  (The grand prize winner will be announced on October 15, 2010, the official birthday of the hotel.)

Guest Blogger

Fall Back in Time This Weekend

Halloween may be on Saturday, but that won’t stop the Gaslamp Quarter from “dressing up” in period costume the next day, Sunday, November 1, during the 9th annual Fall Back Festival.

The street fair includes “wild west” entertainment such as staged shootouts and rope tricks as three stages showing folk dancing, live bluegrass music and more.  Kids can participate in crafts and contests, pan for real gold, and learn about Caliornia history through puppet shows and live demonstrations of lost skills.

And, of course, there will be all the fun stuff you’d expect to find at any good street fair — food, face painting, caricature art, inflatable jumps and carnival games.


Fall Back Festival takes place on Island Avenue — between 4th and 5th Avenues — Sunday, November 1, from 11:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.  (Remember, our clocks fall back one hour that day, too.)  Admission is $5 for ages 3 and older.  For more information, visit or call (619) 233-4692.

Guest Blogger

A New Look At the Old Gaslamp Quarter

Downtown’s Gaslamp Quarter is well known as a nightlife destination as well as home to many of San Diego’s signature restaurants and boutiques, but those 16 square blocks south of Broadway also hold the key to the city’s fascinating history.

Like any Wild West town, the story of San Diego is rich with sensational stories of heroism and infamy – from its origins as “New Town” to its era as the red light district, through its time of decay into its renaissance – and you can relive it all through these unique and entertaining sightseeing tours.

Louis Bank of Commerce building

  • The Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation‘s historical walking tour leaves every Saturday at 11:00 A.M. from the William Heath Davis House on 4th & Island Ave.  The house itself is the oldest surviving structure in downtown San Diego – each of its rooms showcasing a unique period in San Diego’s history – and it only gets more interesting from there.  On this tour, you’ll get to see the Gaslamp Quarter with new eyes as you retrace the steps of many colorful residents (including former San Diego “capitalist” Wyatt Earp), visit historic Victorian-style buildings, and walk the streets of the former red light district.
    The tour costs $10.00 for adults, and $8.00 for seniors, students and military.  Kids’ tours and private group tours are also available.


  • Back Alley Tours focuses on the Gaslamp Quarter’s risqué history as our original red light district.  Here you will travel back in time to the more lawless days and nights of the “Stingaree,” as it was known then.  Owner and tour guide Melanie Young prepared this unique and unusual tour by spending a year digging through the archives at the Museum of San Diego History reading periodicals and journals, studying historic photographs and absorbing every bit of historical information she could get her hands on.  The result is a unique and thoroughly entertaining look at old San Diego.
    Back Alley Tours take place in the evenings Wednesdays through Saturdays.  Tickets cost $20 each, or $35 for a pair. Seniors, students and military tickets are $18.
  • Haunted San Diego Ghost Tours and Ghostly Tours In History provide a different kind of thrill after dark.  Hear macabre tales of San Diego’s history, explore its mysteries, and walk in the footsteps of some historical figures who met untimely or unjust demises in the streets of “New Town.”  Yup, they’re still hanging around, waiting for some resolution or perhaps just enjoying the San Diego weather.  Both tours also visit other historic districts of San Diego such as Old Town and Coronado. The tours are billed as “PG-13” but don’t worry – it’s an Edgar Allen Poe spooky, not a Rosemary’s Baby spooky.
    Tour pricing varies by type of tour.  Check out their websites for details.

Will you ever look at downtown San Diego the same way again?  I quote the raven: “Nevermore!”