Robert Arends

Sun, Surf, Sand…and Snow! in San Diego

San Diego for the Holidays - Top Things to Do
From sand to snow - in San Diego!

From sand to snow – in San Diego!

It’s winter in San Diego – clear blue skies, sunshine, sparkling beaches for miles and temperatures today…wait for it…in the 80s! Just another beautiful day in paradise!

Sure we’ve got the perfect year-round climate. But did you know a few times each winter when it rains here, something magical and unexpected happens in San Diego’s East County region. A frosty blanket of snow covers the mountains, usually above four or 5,000 feet.

If you find yourself in San Diego during one of our winter storms, following is a quick guide to a few fun places in East County for sledding, snowballs and making snowmen:

Julian

Wintertime in Julian.

Wintertime in Julian.

The historic Gold Rush mountain town of Julian has numerous hills to sled down, including William Heise Park. Afterward, enjoy a piece of famous homemade apple pie with piping hot apple cider or cocoa. Nearby Mt. Cuyamaca/Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is another great spot for winter whimsy.

Sunrise Highway

Sledding on Mount Laguna, off the Sunrise Highway.

Sledding on Mount Laguna, off the Sunrise Highway.

Sunrise Highway (County Route S1) and the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area are popular with local families, featuring several sledding spots just off the road. Pick up your “Adventure Permit” for $5 at Laguna Mountain Lodge and directions to the best sledding areas. Word to the wise: Park your car completely off the road so as not to block traffic and don’t sled on private property (look for posted signs).

Palomar Mountain

Saucer sledding on Mount Laguna.

Saucer sledding on Mount Laguna.

Palomar Mountain, home of the world-famous Palomar Observatory, is another winter wonderland worth exploring, especially the meadows and hills of Palomar Mountain State Park. On the drive up, panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and San Diego’s backcountry below will take your breath away!

Winter tip – Snow Sledding San Diego-style

If you don’t have a sled or saucer, no problem. A boogie board with a slick plastic bottom makes for a great sled alternative. Inner tubes too! 🙂

From the coast to majestic inland mountains, San Diego can be a surprising winter wonderland.

See you in East County!

Robert Arends

5 to Try: Holiday Happenings in San Diego’s East County

SoCal's largest ice skating rink at Viejas Outlet Center!

SoCal’s largest ice skating rink at Viejas Outlet Center!

“Oh the weather outside is frightful…” everywhere else but here, in sunny San Diego! With temps in the high 60s, winter is a wonderful time of year to check out the city sights, as well as activities in our East County region where ’tis the season to see charming foothill, mountain and desert communities decked in holiday splendor.

Following are 5 Holiday Festivities to Try – sure to have families humming “fa la la la la” all season long:

1. Christmas in the Village

La Mesa Christmas in the Village

It’s a winter wonderland at La Mesa Christmas in the Village

The delightful downtown of La Mesa transforms into an old-fashioned Christmas in the Village. There’s fun for the whole family: horse-drawn carriages, Santa Claus, carolers, carnival rides, live music stages and an outdoor market to shop for one-of-a-kind gifts.

Where: La Mesa Blvd & Spring Street, La Mesa, CA 91941
When: December 13-14, 2013
Time: 5:00 to 10:00 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about La Mesa’s Christmas in the Village

2. Annual Christmas Caroling Sing Along

Holiday Fun at Mt. Helix Annual Christmas Caroling in San Diego's East County

Join Santa’s Elves for a night of holiday merriment and Christmas caroling

Just up the hill on La Mesa’s majestic Mt. Helix – featuring spectacular 360 degree views of San Diego – the Annual Christmas Caroling Sing Along. Join Santa Claus, a choir of carolers and concert bands in musical merriment. There will also be free baked goods, hot drinks, and a raffle for prizes.

Where: 4901 Mt. Helix Drive, La Mesa, California 91941
When: December 15, 2013
Time: 6:30 to 8:00 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about Mt. Helix’s Annual Christmas Caroling Sing Along

3. Handel’s Messiah

In the historic Gold Rush mountain town of Julian, enjoy a rousing rendition of Handel’s Messiah by the Julian Community Choir in the Town Hall. While you’re there, be sure to sample Julian’s famous apple pies with a cup of hot cocoa. Our local U-T San Diego paper recently touted their top Julian pie shop picks.

Where: Julian Town Hall – 2129 Main Street, Julian, CA 92036
When: December 15, 2013
Time: Starts at 7:00 PM
> Find more events in Julian

4. Ice Skating

Viejas Outlet Center Ice Skating

Viejas Ice Skating Rink

Grab your scarf and mittens and head to Viejas Outlet Center in Alpine to practice figure 8s on the largest outdoor ice skating rink in Southern California!

Where: 5005 Willows Rd Suite 229, Alpine, CA 91901
When: Through January 5, 2014
Time:
– Monday-Friday: 5:00 to 10:00 PM
– Saturday-Sunday: 12:00 to 10:00 PM
Cost: $12-$14
> Find out more about the Viejas Outlet Center Ice Rink

5. Barona’s North Pole Gingerbread Village

Barona's North Pole Gingerbread Village

Barona’s North Pole Gingerbread Village

Look but don’t eat the incredible Barona’s North Pole Gingerbread Village at Barona Casino in Lakeside. This 50-foot culinary wonder – which took 900 hours to create! – features a snow-covered village complete with Santa’s workshop, an elf tavern and train station made entirely of gingerbread! It’s located at the entrance to the bustling Season’s Fresh Buffet and will be on display through Dec. 30. Yum! 😉

Where: 1932 Wildcat Canyon Rd, Lakeside, CA 92040
When: Through December 30, 2013

> Discover more holiday cheer in San Diego

Ho ho ho from East County!

Robert Arends

Fun East County Finds for Father’s Day Weekend

Father’s Day is just around the corner! If you’re just making plans and hankering for adventure, I’ve got a few fun ideas in San Diego’s wild and wonderful East County region:

Beer Pairing Dinner

Chef Jeremy to serve Beer Pairing Dinner fit for a king!

Chef Jeremy to serve Beer Pairing Dinner fit for a king!

Hop to it and take dad for out for a Beer Pairing Dinner at Jeremy’s on the Hill, located down the road from our famous Gold Rush mountain town of Julian. Partnering with Julian Brewing Company and Baileys BBQ Pit, Cordon Bleu-trained Chef Jeremy will serve a mouthwatering farm-to-table dinner dad won’t soon forget!

Where: Jeremy’s on the Hill – 4354 Highway 78 , Wynola, CA 92070
When: June 14, 2013
Reservations: 760.765.1587
Cost: $37 person/$68 for two

San Diego’s Gaudi – Hubbell/Ilan-Lael Open House

Architectural wonders at the Hubbell Open House

Architectural wonders at the Hubbell Open House

In nearby Santa Ysabel, famed architect/artist James Hubbell – “San Diego’s Gaudi” – opens up his fantastical art compound to the general public on Father’s Day, June 16. This 30th annual Open House sells out, so buy tix soon! This year, Hubbell debuts a new gallery building as dazzling as his art!

Where: 930 Orchard Lane, Santa Ysabel, CA 92070
When: June 16, 2013
Time: 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Cost: $30-$75. Kids 12 and under – Free.
> Find out more about the Hubbell/Ilan-Lael Open House

Feed-a-Cat…a Big Cat!

Feed-a-cat at Lions, Tigers & Bears!

Feed-a-cat at Lions, Tigers & Bears!

Grrrrrreat! Does your dad love Animal Planet and Discovery Channel? In the rolling hills of Alpine, he can experience wildlife up close and Feed-a-Cat – as in a tiger, lion or leopard (his choice!) at Lions, Tigers & Bears, a big cat and exotic animal rescue sanctuary. I’ve done it once and Thrilling is an understatement! If you bring the kids, they must be 16 or older.

Where: Lions, Tigers & Bears
Cost: $75
Book by calling: 619-659-8078

Borrego Springs

Galleta Meadows' Giant Sloth in Borrego Springs!

Galleta Meadows’ Giant Sloth in Borrego Springs!

Borrego Springs, San Diego’s desert oasis, is piping hot right now but don’t let the triple digits deter you. Summer means NO crowds and hours of poolside respite. I suggest staying at the swanky new La Casa del Zorro Resort (casitas with spas!). On the edge of town, check out the wild Galleta Meadows sculpture garden (free viewing!), featuring a cuddly new Giant Sloth. Book an off-road adventure with California Overland to take dad and the whole family to Fonts Point, “California’s Grand Canyon” – a contender for Virtual Tourist’s 8th Wonder of the World!

Happy Father’s Day and I’ll see you in East County! 🙂

Robert Arends

Surprising 2013 Summer Finds in San Diego’s East County!

There’s no place as diverse and full of surprises as San Diego’s expansive East County. Visitors to this region, ranging from rolling foothills to alpine mountains and pristine deserts, can find some of the most incredible sights, especially this summer.

Following are 5 to Try, as you hit the open road this May and June:

1. Julian Wild & Scenic Film Festival

Julian Apple Pies in San Diego's East County

Julian – home of apple pies and the Wild & Scenic Film Festival!

The charming historic Gold Rush mining town of Julian, famous for its apple pies, hosts the 2nd Annual Julian Wild & Scenic Film Festival this weekend. The theme: “A Climate of Change,” featuring 44 inspiring films! While you’re there, explore the town, enjoy a slice of pie and take in the beauty of East County’s most famous mountain town.

Where: Various Julian Locations
When: May 17-19, 2013
Cost: $5-$60
> Find out more about the Julian Wild & Scenic Film Festival

2. Hubbell/Ilan-Lael Open House

Find your muse at the Hubbell Open House & Studio Tour!

Find your muse at the Hubbell Open House & Studio Tour!

Down the road in Santa Ysabel, on June 16 (Father’s Day) visitors can get an exclusive peek at the art-filled compound of James Hubbell, “San Diego’s Gaudi.” A beautiful new headquarters and amphitheater, featuring fantastical colorful mosaics, plaster of Paris reliefs, stained glass and iron work, debuts at this year’s Hubbell/Ilan-Lael Open House. Get your tickets now before they sell out!

Where: 930 Orchard Lane, Santa Ysabel, CA 92070
When: June 16, 2013
Time: 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Cost: $30-$75. Kids 12 and under – Free.
> Find out more about the Hubbell/Ilan-Lael Open House

3. A Magnificent Bald Eagle Nest

Bald Eagle and Chick - Wildlife Research Institute - East County

Bald eagle and chick at Ramona Grasslands Preserve.

Soar like an eagle to the Wildlife Research Institute in the Ramona Grasslands Preserve to see firsthand a magnificent bald eagle nest – with a single chick and two proud parents! – located 1 mile from the institute headquarters. Bring your binoculars; the best vantage point is from Rangeland Road. Also visit the institute’s family of wild bison!

Where: 18030 Highland Valley Road, Ramona, CA 92065
> Find out more about the Wildlife Research Institute

4. Wings Over Gillespie Air Show

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High-flying fun can also be had at the big annual Wings Over Gillespie Air Show in El Cajon. Aviation aficionados of all ages will love the displays of dozens of classic aircraft, as well as military re-enactors and mock battles overhead. New this year: Silver Wings Wingwalking!

Where: Gillespie Field – 1960 Joe Crosson Dr, El Cajon, CA 92020
When: June 1-2, 2013
Time: 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Cost: Starting at $8
> Find out more about Wings Over Gillespie Air Show

5. Giant Sloth Sculpture

Yours truly with Giant Sloth at Galleta Meadows, Borrego Springs!

Yours truly with Giant Sloth at Galleta Meadows, Borrego Springs!

In San Diego’s desert oasis of Borrego Springs, a new behemoth sculpture of a Giant Sloth – the last one in a collection of dozens of prehistoric beasts – was recently unveiled at Galleta Meadows. Photo ops abound in this “Land of the Lost” and people from all over the world have searched out these roadside wonders. The best thing: its Free!

> Find out more about Galleta Meadows

> Discover more of San Diego’s East County

Happy (early) summer from East County!

Robert Arends

February Fun in San Diego’s East County!

Each winter, visitors – especially “snowbirds” – flock to San Diego’s East County to explore our desert oasis of Borrego Springs and charming mountain towns like Ramona and Julian, famous for its gold mines and apple pies.

February brings a few fun East County events and activities that are sure to make for a memorable backcountry visit.

Following are 3 that really piqued my interest:

1. Borrego Springs ARTWALK

Beautiful new Borrego Art Institute.

Beautiful new Borrego Art Institute.

Borrego Springs ARTWALK paints an eye-catching kaleidoscope of color over our desert landscape on February 1, 2013, from 5:00 to 8:00 PM.  Start your stroll at the beautiful *NEW* Borrego Art Institute, featuring their BIG. BOLD. BEAUTIFUL. exhibition of paintings, sculpture and other artworks. Then head up the street to check out other fantastic exhibits at Matson Gallery, Liesel Paris Arts Studio, Tumbleweed Gallery, The Galleria at The Palms at Indian Head and House of Borrego Springs.

2. Valentine’s Day in Julian

Loving the Orchard Hill Country Inn!

Loving the Orchard Hill Country Inn!

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Treat your sweetie to a gourmet, candlelit four-course dinner in the dining room of the Craftsman-style Orchard Hill Country Inn in Julian. As you swoon over the mountaintop views of the town below, your loved one also receives a box of chocolate truffles and a rose. Cost is $45 per person (and worth every dime! 😉 ).

3. HawkWatch

Harri Hawk -  one of the raptors you may spot at HawkWatch!

Harri Hawk – one of the raptors you might spot at HawkWatch!

Spread your wings and fly to the big annual (FREE) HawkWatch at the Wildlife Research Institute in Ramona, happening each Saturday, February 2, 9, 16 and 23 from 9:00 to 11:00 AM. Bring your binoculars and cameras to spot magnificent wintering and resident raptors, including Golden Eagles, Ferruginous Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Prairie Falcons and Red-shouldered Hawks, to name a few. While you’re there, say hello to the herd of bison that call this “raptor hotspot” home!

Happy exploring! 🙂

Robert Arends

Did You Know: Surprising San Diego Trivia!

Sunset at Oceanside Pier.

Three of my favorite words are “Did you know.”

As in did you know these surprisingly fun, eye-opening facts about San Diego? There are A LOT of factoids about America’s Finest City I’ve been collecting over the years, but following are five to start with and really impress your friends. 😉

Did you know…

1. SoCal’s Only Gold Rush

Family Panning for Gold - Julian Mining Company

Gold panning in Julian!

The only Gold Rush to take place in Southern California was in 1870 in San Diego’s historic East County mountain town of Julian. In March 1870, the richest SoCal gold mine, Stonewall Mine, was discovered.  Before it was abandoned in 1893, the mine produced $2 million in gold (valued today at $60 million).

2. The Most Missions

Did You Know - Mission San Diego Alcala is one of four missions in San Diego County

Mission San Diego de Alcala

San Diego County has the most missions in the state – four in all: Mission San Diego de Alcala, Mission San Luis Rey, Mission San Antonio de Pala and Mission Santa Ysabel near Julian. Mission San Antonio de Pala is the only California mission still used as a school and place of worship by Native Americans.

3. The Largest Collection of Outdoor Murals in the Country

Chicano Park, Barrio Logan.

Chicano Park, Barrio Logan.

Chicano Park, located beneath the San Diego-Coronado Bridge in the downtown neighborhood of Barrio Logan, is home to the largest collection of outdoor murals in the country. In the early 1970s, resident artist Salvador Torres envisioned local Chicano painters and sculptors turning the bridge’s pylons “into things of beauty, reflecting the Mexican-American culture.” There are 20 large, colorful outdoor murals within Chicano Park.

4. A Head Above Our Piers

Sunset at Oceanside Pier.

Sunset at Oceanside Pier.

The Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach is the only pier on the West Coast that provides lodging over the ocean. The Oceanside Pier in Oceanside is the longest (1,942 feet), wooden construction over water pier on the Pacific Coast.

5. The Largest State Park in the Continental US

Anza-Boreggo Desert State Park Wildflowers

Wildflowers in the Anza-Boreggo Desert State Park

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in San Diego’s East County is the largest state park in the continental United States, encompassing over 640,000 acres.  It was through the Borrego Springs Valley that Spanish soldier Juan Bautista de Anza discovered the first land route to California in 1774.

Robert Arends

5 to Try: Sparkling East County Holiday Delights!

Skiers at the Viejas Outdoor Skating Rink
Skiers at the Viejas Outdoor Skating Rink in San Diego's East County

SoCal’s largest outdoor ice skating rink at Viejas!

OK, I know it’s only a few days after Halloween and Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away, but the winter holidays will be here before you know it!

So gather up the family, grab your gift list, Santa hat and mittens (yep, there’s a 55 degree chill her in the air at night – brrrr! 😉 ) and join me on a jolly jaunt to San Diego’s charming East County communities. They really know how to make some merry.

Following are 5 to Try East County Holiday Delights:

1. 66th Annual Mother Goose Parade

Goose Float at the Mother Goose Parade in San Diego's East County

El Cajon’s Mother Goose Parade!

The colorful Mother Goose Parade in El Cajon is San Diego’s traditional holiday kick-off, featuring thousands of spectators, colorful floats, marching bands, equestrians and celebrity appearances – fun for the whole family!

Location: Begin at Magnolia and Main, head down Main St. to N. Second Street, turn North then end at Madison.
Date: November 18, 2012
Time: 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM, Parade starts at 10:00 AM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about the 66th Annual Mother Goose Parade

2. Julian’s Country Christmas Celebration & Tree Lighting

Julian Country Christmas & Tree Lighting.

The historic, Norman Rockwell-esque mountain town of Julian kicks off the holidays with a Country Christmas celebration & Tree Lighting, complete with costumed carolers, Santa Claus and, of course, their famous apple pies and piping hot apple cider!

Location: Julian’s Pioneer Park (map)
Date: November 24, 2012
Time: Starts at 4:00 PM. Lighting around 6:00 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about Julian’s Country Christmas Celebration & Tree Lighting

3. Santa Train North Pole Limited

Santa on the North Pole Limited

Make tracks for the Santa Train North Pole Limited!

All aboard the Santa Train North Pole Limited, a Christmas vintage train ride through our rustic backcountry, departing from the Campo Depot. The adventure features Santa and his elves, cookies and hot cocoa, plus a reading of the famous holiday story, The Polar Express. Reserve seats now for this sell-out holiday favorite!

Location: State Highway 94 & Forrest Gate Road, Campo, CA (map)
Dates: Fridays and Saturdays, November 23 – December 22
Times: Trains at 5:00 PM and 7:00 PM (depending on the date)
Cost: $20-$50, Toddlers under 2 are free
> Find out more about Santa Train North Pole Limited

4. Ice Skating at the Viejas Outlet Center

Ice Skaters at the Viejas Outlet Center in San Diego's East County

There’s plenty of room at the largest outdoor skating rink in Southern California.

The Peanuts Christmas special always comes to mind at the Viejas Outlet Center, home of the largest outdoor ice skating rink in Southern California!

Location: 5005 Willows Rd Suite 229, Alpine, CA 91901 (map)
Dates: November 16 – January 6, 2012
Time: TBD
Cost: TBD
> Find out more about Ice Skating at the Viejas Outlet Center 

5. Alpine Village Christmas Parade of Lights & Snow Festival

Santa Claus at the Alpine Christmas Parade!

The quaint town of Alpine kicks off the season with its Alpine Village Christmas Parade of Lights & Snow Festival, featuring a parade, Santa and his elves, caroling and a big snow mountain for sledding. Snow in San Diego… who knew?!

Location: 1347 Tavern Road, Alpine, CA (map)
Date: December 7, 2012
Time: Starts at 6:30 PM
> Find out more about the Alpine Village Christmas Parade of Lights & Festival

A hearty happy (early) “Ho ho ho” from San Diego! 🙂 Know of any other great East County Holiday events? Let us and other’s know in the comments below.

Robert Arends

Julian Ripe and Ready for Apple Days!

Visitors and locals alike are gearing up for a San Diego tradition as “American as apple pie:” Julian Apple Days, happening this weekend October 6-7!

Every year the historic Gold Rush mountain town of Julian rolls out the red (apple) carpet, celebrating its big annual harvest with apple picking and mouthwatering apple pies and ciders. The Apple Days fest takes place on the grounds of Menghini Winery (10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Saturday & Sunday), featuring music and dancing, children’s games, gold panning, a wine and beer garden, food, vendors, apple-related contests, the coronation of Mr. and Mrs. Apple Days and, of course, Julian’s famous apple pies.

While in Julian be sure to sample the apple pies!

It’s A LOT of fun for the whole family! Admission is only $5; free for children ages 12 and under. The first 250 guests receive a free souvenir pie server!

While you’re in town, following are my Top 5 to Try Julian activities that’ll have you smiling ear to ear this weekend:

1. Pick a Bushel of Apples at Raven Hill Orchard

Sculpture with a Raven at Raven Hill Orchard

Wild Raven Hill sculptures!

Next door to the Julian Apple Days fest is Raven Hill Orchard where you can pick your own apples among a vast orchard of 8,000 trees! Also check out the fantastical metal sculptures dotting the grounds – great photo opps!

2. Pan for Gold at the Julian Mining Company

Family Panning for Gold - Julian Mining Company

Gold panning in Julian!

New in town is the Julian Mining Company, featuring gold panning, pumpkin picking and even an Early American Farm-Life Tour where you can work a real apple cider press!

3. Take a Llama Trek from Wikiup B&B

Couple with two Llamas from the Wikiup Bed and Breakfast

Lovin’ the Wikiup llama treks!

Gidddyup on one of Wikiup B&B‘s exciting Llama Treks through Julian’s backcountry to the Menghini Winery and famous Eagle Gold Mine, where you can take a tour of one of Julian’s original gold mines!

4. Fresh Apple Pies

Julian Apple Pies

Mmmm…Apple pies!

Sure there’s delectable Dudley’s Famous Bakery, Mom’s Pies and Julian Pie Co… But for the most gourmet apple pie in town, nothing beats the Candied Apple Pastry Company‘s sour creamapple pie. It’s off the charts!

5. Spooky Tour of the Julian Cemetery

Yours truly at spooky Julian Cemetery!

Kids will get a kick out of Julian Historical Society’s classic 1888 one-room school house (2133 Fourth St.), open weekends throughout October. For an insider’s scoop on prospectors and pioneers who settled here, join local resident/historian David Lewis on fun guided walking tours that include the spooky Julian Haven of Rest Cemetery!

Quick sidebar: Our local newspaper, U-T San Diego, did a great story on Julian Apple Days weekend!

See you in Julian!

Suzzanne

25 Free Things to Do With Kids This Fall in San Diego

Enjoy A Bonfire with the Kids

Fall is a great time for the kids to explore many of San Diego’s free outdoor activities including the beach, hiking sports, sightseeing and more.

Below are just 25 of the free things kids can do this fall in San Diego:

  1. Head to one of San Diego’s 33 beaches, all open to the public, and perfect for body surfing, boogie boarding, building sandcastles, collecting seashells and basking in the sun.
  2. Catch a magnificent Pacific sunset and watch sea lions play along the shoreline at La Jolla Cove, one of the most spectacular natural settings in the world.
  3. Take free fly-fishing lessons from the San Diego Fly Fishers club on Sunday mornings from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM at Lake Murray, located in La Mesa. If you don’t have your own gear, arrive early for a free equipment loan.
  4. Sample some of the more than 200 varieties of fresh produce grown in San Diego at one of the region’s many Farmer’s Markets, held daily at locations throughout the county.
  5. Bike, walk or play along Mission Bay Park’s many trails. Bikers, walkers and joggers share more than 20 miles of scenic paths winding through sunlit and shade near the shoreline.
  6. Rollerblade, skateboard, or bicycle along the Mission Beach and Pacific Beach Boardwalk, a scenic three-mile boardwalk running along the coastline of these lively neighborhoods.
  7. Take a scenic drive to Mt. Laguna to hike, bike or picnic while enjoying the fresh mountain air whispering through the pines.
  8. Hike the trails of Torrey Pines State Reserve and see the rare and elegant Torrey pine trees, a number of animal species and miles of unspoiled beaches below.
  9. Visit Mission Trails Regional Park featuring a state-of-the-art Visitors Center where guests explore and learn about the wonders of nature and the native people who once lived on the land. The park also offers over 40 miles of natural and developed hiking and biking trails.
  10. Go scuba diving or snorkeling off San Diego’s shores to see spectacular creatures of the sea. La Jolla Shores and Cove offer some of the clearest waters on the California Coast, as well as miles of protected underwater preserve to explore.
  11. Walk along the downtown Embarcadero and view impressive public art sculptures, tributes, and memorials set along San Diego Bay. The artworks celebrate San Diego’s international ties, cultural diversity, military significance and unique oceanfront environment.
  12. Watch tail-waggin’, Frisbee-catchin’ and stick-fetchin’ dogs splash in the surf. Man’s best friend is permitted to roam leash-free at all hours of the day on designated dog beaches in Ocean Beach, Coronado and Del Mar.
  13. Talk a walk through Balboa Park, the largest urban cultural park in the United States, and discover its beautiful Spanish Colonial-Revival architecture and glorious gardens. Also, visitors can take advantage of the Park’s variety of other free offerings, including ranger-led walking tours at 11:00 AM on Tuesdays and Sundays.
  14. Gather friends, family and firewood for a cozy beach bonfire at one of San Diego County’s bonfire-friendly beaches, located in Coronado, Ocean Beach, Oceanside, Mission Beach and Pacific Beach.
  15. Go on a self-guided walking tour of The Stuart Collection, a display of contemporary sculptures scattered throughout the University of California, San Diego campus in La Jolla. Tour maps are available at the Gilman Drive campus entrance.
  16. Spend an afternoon at Tidelands Park in Coronado. The park’s 22 bayfront acres feature four baseball fields, a playground, skatepark, picnic tables, small beach with an exercise course, boat access, fishing pier and bike and pedestrian paths.
  17. Explore the clear shallow tide pools of La Jolla Cove and Point Loma when the tide is low and the pools are teeming with aquatic life.
  18. Visit Julian in San Diego’s East County and enjoy this quaint, historic mining town that grew into San Diego County’s second largest urban center during the Southern California gold rush of 1869.
  19. Take a drive to the top of Mt. Soledad in La Jolla, home of the Mt. Soledad Veterans War Memorial, for breathtaking, 360-degree views of San Diego. Spectacular views also await at the top of Mt. Helix in La Mesa, offering visitors a birds-eye glimpse of San Diego’s East County communities.
  20. Witness the living legacy of California’s birthplace in Old Town State Historic Park, San Diego’s first “downtown.” The six-block park features 12 acres of Mexican lore and historical sites presented in shops, restaurants, museums and several carefully preserved or restored adobe and wooden buildings.
  21. Visit the U.S. Olympic Training Center, the nation’s first warm-weather, year-round Olympic training facility, located in Chula Vista. Free guided tours of the 150-acre lakefront facility are offered at 11:00 AM on Saturday; tours begin at the Copley Visitor Center. Self-guided tours are also available 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Mondays – Saturdays.
  22. Visit downtown San Diego’s Seaport Village for hours of free entertainment, leisurely strolling and window shopping. Enjoy a laid-back day of hanging out in the grass and watching the many passing yachts and ships on picturesque San Diego Bay.
  23. Fly a kite along the grassy field in the Tecolote Shores of Mission Bay Park, a 4,600-acre aquatic park.
  24. Hang 10 at the California Surf Museum, which houses a permanent collection of historic boards, photographs and videos on Highway 101 in Oceanside. During free admission day on Tuesdays, visitors can explore its colorful and educational display on the sport of surfing and the legends who braved the waters over generations.
  25. Head over to La Mesa for the annual Oktoberfest. Traditional German celebration in San Diego’s East County featuring dancing, Bavarian bands, arts and crafts and more.

Even More Kids Free Fun this October

Visiting with the kids during October? After they have checked everything off the list above, save on other attractions, food and more with over a hundred kids free offers.

> Browse Over 100 Kids Free San Diego Offers for this October

Know of any other great free fall activities for kids? Tell us in the comments below.

Suzzanne

Top Things To Do In San Diego: September 13-16, 2012

It looks like another great weekend is ahead of us in San Diego. For those not headed to the Q for the Chargers game, here are our top picks for the weekend.

1. San Diego Bayfair

Head over to Mission Bay to witness San Diego’s World Series of Powerboat Racing, September 14-16. The boats, some racing at speeds over 225 miles per hour, come every year to San Diego because of the outstanding race course conditions and summer weather. But it’s the family festival, live entertainment, vendors, great food and beer gardens, fireworks, kid’s fun zone and other family activities, which set the event apart from others, all in San Diego’s jewel, Mission Bay Park.

2. Arts Month San Diego

This week’s highlight is La Jolla. La Jolla is home to the La Jolla Playhouse, The San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as UCSD’s Stuart Collection. Visitors can walk around the University of California, San Diego’s campus and enjoy the public art on display. One of my favorites is the “Bear.”

3. San Diego Restaurant Week

Indulge in a week of delicious dining during San Diego Restaurant Week. Restaurant Week kicks of Sunday, September 16 and runs through Friday, September 21. Foodies can eat their way through over 180 participating restaurants that will offer three-course prix-fixe dinner menus for just $20, $30, or $40 per person.

4. Haute La Jolla Nights

The Village of La Jolla comes alive, Saturday, September 15 from 6:00 to 9:00 PM with great bands playing throughout the Village, restaurants and bars preparing delicious tastings and drink specials as well as a sidewalk sale and other fun events.

5. Julian Apple Harvest

Delicious Apples Grown Locally in San Diego’s Julian

Take a drive to Julian to experience the annual Fall Apple Harvest. Activities include live music, arts and crafts shows, apple picking and more.

> Discover More Great Things to Do with San Diego’s Event Calendar

What do you have planned for the weekend?