Top Things to Do in San Diego: Oct. 24-27, 2013

dia de los muertos mission san luis rey oceanside san diego

The weekend weather forecast calls for 70-degree days, but fall is in full swing in San Diego, thanks to these upcoming festivities.

6th Annual Fall Fest on Avenida de la Playa

La Jolla Shores Fall Festival 2013 San Diego

Join the fun at the Fall Fest along La Jolla Shores

Dubbed “Party on the Playa,” bring the kids and costumes for this super fun block party near La Jolla Shores, one of San Diego’s most iconic beaches. The fun festivities feature local restaurant tastings, a costume contest, bouncy house, live music from Hullabaloo, giveaways, and super spooktacular prizes from local merchants.

Where: 2160 Avenida de la Playa, La Jolla, 92037
When: Thursday, October 24, 2013
Time:  4 – 7 p.m.
Cost: $5 in advance, $10 day of event
For more information, call (619) 840-3482 or email

Halloween Dinner & Party Cruise

San Diego Flagship Cruises and Events Haunted Halloween Dinner Party Cruise 2013

Break out your costumes for Flagship Cruises & Events’ Halloween Cruise (Photo by David Veit for Flagship Cruises & Events)

It’s going to be a scary good time aboard Flagship Cruises & Events’ special Halloween dinner cruise. Dig up your most ghoulish friends and best Halloween costume, and come out for a night full of screams out on the water! Your ticket includes a 2.5 hour cruise around San Diego Bay, dining, dancing, musical entertainment, a complimentary boarding cocktail, and the chance to win a great costume contest prize.

Where: 990 N. Harbor Dr., San Diego, 92101
When: Saturday, October 26, 2013
Time:  7 – 10 p.m.
Cost: $54.50 – $80.50
> Find out more about Flagship Cruises’ Halloween Dinner & Party Cruise

Family Fun at Old Town San Diego’s Fall Festival

Old Town Fall Festival San Diego 2013

History comes alive in Old Town San Diego

Hop on the San Diego Trolley’s Green Line to get to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park for its annual Fall Festival, which features tons of unique merchants and artisans peddling one-of-a-kind creations. Kids will get to experience craft making and activities like never before – organizers let their creative juices flow recreating old-fashioned activities that families enjoyed back in 1872. Be sure to check out the nearby Mormon Battalion site where kids can participate in an interactive tour that is educational, state-of-the-art and, most importantly, tons of fun.

Where: Old Town State Historic Park 4002 Wallace St, San Diego CA 92110
When: Saturday, October 26, 2013
Time: 12 – 4 p.m.
Cost: Free
> Find out more about the Old Town Fall Festival

12th Annual Dia de los Muertos Festival at Old Mission San Luis Rey

dia de los muertos mission san luis rey oceanside san diego

The culture and traditions of Mexico shine at Mission San Luis Rey’s Dia de los Muertos Festival

Dubbed the “King of the Missions,” Oceanside’s Mission San Luis Rey celebrates the Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muertos. In addition to elaborate and beautiful altars and offerings to departed loved ones, the celebration includes 75 vendors, traditional food, a chalk cemetery, plus a carnival for the kids. The event even includes a creative car show, where classic car and lowriders become makeshift alters to the departed.

Where: 4050 Mission Ave., Oceanside, 92057
When: Sunday, October 27, 2013
Time:  10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Cost: Free ($5 parking fee)
> Find out more about Mission San Luis Rey’s Dia de los Muertos Festival

More Top Things to Do in San Diego

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Benjamin Eastman

Beach Nightlife in San Diego

Club Tremors

As I’ve mentioned many times in the past, the beauty of San Diego’s nightlife scene is that there is something for everyone. Whether you’re wearing your best Sean John outfit or would rather party it up in your boardshorts and a t-shirt, San Diego has a place for you to wile the night away. Looking specifically at the more relaxed, beach nightlife of Ocean Beach, Mission Beach and Pacific Beach, there are a number of great options.

Pacific Beach

Referred to by locals as PB, Pacific Beach is known as the premier hangout region for the under 25-crowd. PB is full of bars, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, bars….did I mention bars?

Club Tremors

Club Tremors

Probably the most well-known venue in PB is the PB Bar & Grill/Club Tremors. Part bar/restaurant, part nightclub, PB Bar & Grill caters to all aspects of a great nightlife experience – food, drinks and dancing. With an incredibly active weekly lineup, you can go to PBB&G any night of the week for a good time (Monday Karaoke, Taco Tuesday, Thirsty Thursdays, etc.)


For those looking for a more upscale option in PB, head over to the Tower 23 Hotel and their JRDN restaurant/bar. Located along the PB boardwalk, JRDN has an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean with a relaxed but upbeat atmosphere.  On a warm, beautiful evening (and let’s be honest, that describes most evenings in San Diego) you’ll find locals and tourists alike lounging on JRDN’s outdoor patio enjoying the restaurant’s upbeat music, fantastic decor (think color changing wall wave-like mosaic) and amazing sunset views.

Mission Beach

More of a residential area, Mission Beach does have a few great spots for those seeking a more relaxed night of entertainment including the notable Belmont Park. The historic wooden roller coaster, easily seen from afar, is Belmont Park’s iconic centerpiece, however the fun carnival-style games and rides are really what make the night a blast (think bumper cars, rides that flip you around/upside down, mirror mazes and big pretzels). Scream your lungs out as you ride the Giant Dipper roller coaster or my personal favorites – the Octotron and Beach Blaster.

Concert at the Wavehouse

After bringing out your inner child at Belmont Park, pop on over to the Wavehouse right next door to find several flowboarding areas – including Bruticus Maximus, which produces 10-foot waves via 100,000 gallons of water being pumped into the ride per minute. Try your hand out at flowboarding or just watch some of the local pros flip, twist and amaze the audience. With an awesome music scene, firepits, hammocks, picnic tables and awesome views of the Mission Beach boardwalk and the Pacific Ocean, Wavehouse has a great casual vibe, especially enjoyable during the summer months.

Ocean Beach

Referred to by locals as OB, Ocean Beach is known for its hippy culture. OB prides itself on not taking itself too seriously and the nightlife definitely maintains a cool, relaxed state at a handful of dive bars, restaurants and hole-in-the-wall music venues.

Winston's OB

Winston's OB

Personal favorites for a night of fun dining are OB Noodle House, Bo-beau Kitchen + Bar (great french fusion cuisine), the fish tacos at South Beach (which is just steps from the beach) and the beer lover’s favorite, Pizza Port. For those craving some tunes, head over to Winston’s – a dive bar/club featuring live music, DJs or comedy just about every night of the week.


San Diego’s Fashion Originals

Rose Rags

Local California clothing designer, Jessica Delee, had pretty much known she had a talent for creating “looks” ever since stapling fabrics together in kindergarten and making her own Halloween costumes at 9 years old! When Jessica met the owner of Cecilia Boutique, a must-shop boutique in Mission Hills, she knew it was a perfect match to help sell her eco-friendly designs “RoseRags.” San Diego’s laid back beach atmosphere has inspired her to create a mesh of California beach, meets shabby chic, meets vintage clothing. Jessica uses recycled fabrics with new fabrics and one-of-a-kind vintage extras. She is known for creating a blend of patterns, solids and textures to create a bohemian-chic look for the everyday California-inspired girl. “RoseRags” is for the classy girl that is not afraid to stand out and make a statement! You can check out Jessica’s designs at Cecilia Boutique located at 928 Fort Stockton Drive, #115, San Diego.

Studio 12.20

San Diego is home to a fabulous series of boutiques called Studio 12.20. In 1996 the original boutique opened in the heart of the lively community of downtown Hillcrest. Over the years the owners Heather Payne and Song Bledsoe have been committed to offering a multitude of refreshing styles for all ages and at great price points. Their boutiques are known for carrying the most coveted looks by having just the right mix of daytime chic to evening sophistication with an edge. Their eye for contemporary fashion for both women and men have created a go-to shopping experience that all must see. Since the original boutique opened, five other locations have been added creating one of the most successful series of boutiques here in San Diego. Studio 12.20 has become the retailer to watch in Southern California!


Summertime in San Diego is Picnic Time

San Diego's Ultimate Picnic

Ask five locals to name their favorite picnic spot and you’ll get five different answers.  Got kids and want a playground? Prefer a romantic oceanfront perch? How about a great spot for watching fireworks? Want music with your bread and cheese? San Diego has so many great spots for picnicking that choosing a site is purely subjective. Given that, here are several suggestions:

  • My favorite spot is on the grassy bluff overlooking the surf at Coast Boulevard Park, just south of the backside of the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla. My husband and I picnic there year round; it’s where he proposed all those years ago – and where we opt to renew our contract each year on the anniversary of that date. At low tide, some take their picnics to a wide patch of bluff closer to the surf. From any vantage point, the view is breathtaking.
  • For a more serene Pacific view, consider spreading picnic fixings in the bunker just beyond the lighthouse at Cabrillo National Monument. Take beach chairs to enjoy comfy views of the wide Pacific. And don’t forget a jacket; it’s breezy out there. (Admission to the monument costs $5 per car.)
  • Want entertainment with your picnic? Check out parks throughout the county where free concerts will be staged this summer. We blogged about them last month.
  • Prime spots for picnics with fireworks viewing include Rose Marie Starns South Shores Park on Mission Bay. The sandy beach has fire rings – and a perfect sight-line for watching SeaWorld fireworks.
  • For music and fireworks, spread a picnic blanket at the tip of Embarcadero Marina Park North when Summer Pops is on stage at the tip of Embarcadero Marina Park South.
  • Balboa Park is filled with great picnic spots. After visiting a museum or two, generations of local families have picnicked at Pepper Grove, south of The Fleet along Park Boulevard. The big draping pepper trees remain – and there’s a large playground and 15 picnic tables.
  • In East County, Santee Lakes is a 190-acre recreation preserve with seven lakes, a 300-space RV campground, cabins for rent – and plenty of fun for picnickers. Go fishing. Rent a pedal boat, rowboat, canoe or kayak  ($11-$15 per hour). Kiddies can romp at five playgrounds (each geared for specific ages). The “Sprayground” is wet and wild fun for kids up to 13 years old. (Pay $2 at the front gate for a wristband and get soaked all day long.) Technically admission to the park is free, but parking costs $5 on weekends, $3 weekdays.
    Want to extend your picnic? The park has 10 new cabins for rent – including three floating units.  Each has an equipped kitchen and can accommodate up to six – but you’ll have to bring your own linens. Rates start at $100 per night midweek for lakefront units and go to $145 a night for a floating cabin on weekends and holidays. There are two swimming pools and a whirlpool spa exclusively for overnighters – including the many snowbirds who rent RV spaces by the month.

Santee Lake's Sprayground

You have a favorite picnic spot we haven’t included here? Please tell us about it.


5 to Try in Mission Valley/ Old Town this Summer

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 centrally-located Mission Valley and historic Old Town.

The cast of "Our Town." Photo by Daren Scott

1. “Our Town” at Cygnet Theatre – “Our Town,” the iconic Thornton Wilder play about life, love and death, is running now to July 10th. Cygnet Theatre’s color-blind and age-blind rendition of this Pulitzer Prize-winning tome will not disappoint.

Mission San Diego de Alcala

2. Festival of the Bells – Festival of the Bells celebrates the anniversary of the Mission San Diego de Alcalá, the Mother of California’s 21 Missions, from July 15-17. Events and activities for the whole family include the blessing of the bells, Mariachi performances, and a pancake breakfast.

Celebrate the culture of early Southern California at Stagecoch Days

3. Stagecoach Days – Giddy on down to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park for Stagecoach Days this summer. Taking place every Saturday in July and August, Stagecoach days celebrates life in San Diego in the 1860s through demonstrations and living history activities.

4. San Diego Beer-ConThe first-ever San Diego Beer-Con, a conference by and for craft beer lovers, is taking place August 27 at the Handlery Hotel. Attendees will mingle with beer pros including Greg Koch (Stone Brewing Co.) and Anat Baron (filmmaker, “Beer Wars”), and will get exclusive insider access to the world of craft beer.

Handmade wares from the Latin American Festival

5. Latin American Festival – From August 5-7, the annual Latin American Festival at Bazaar del Mundo presents one of the nation’s most extensive collections of authentic Mexican folk art, traditional clothing and textiles, colorful collectibles and dazzling jewelry, plus entertainment and Mexican cuisine.

Brent Bernasconi

Mission Beach Boardwalk is a Top 10

Mission Beach/Bay is getting a lot of attention lately. I am guessing it is the upcoming beach weather. Recently Family Vacation Critic ranked Mission Beach’s Boardwalks as one of the top ten in the nation. Below is what they had to say:

Ride on the Mission Beach Boardwalk

Mission Beach — Pacific Boardwalk, San Diego
Like the city of San Diego, Ocean Front caters to outdoorsy people with Hamel’s Surf Shop offering kayaks, surfboards, bikes and beach toys. Surfers have an alternative at FlowRider, a man-made wave generator machine that is easier for beginners to learn on. FlowBarrel also creates 10-foot waves for pros. A few minutes from the boardwalk, Belmont Park is an amusement park with The Giant Dipper roller coaster, a carousel and arcades. Sometimes, after most of the day at the beach, you just want to get out of the sun! This is where The Plunge, an Olympic-size indoor pool, comes in handy.

You can see the complete list here.


5 to Try This Weekend in Mission Bay

Mission French Toast. Photo by Brevin Blach

1.  Start your day off right with breakfast or brunch in Mission Bay. Put The Mission’s reputation of “best beach breakfast” to the test, or check out The Boardwalk Mission Bay (formerly The Boardwalk Bistro) where breakfast is served all day.

Sail Bay Boardwalk

2.  There are close to 14 miles of boardwalk along Mission Bay, giving you and your family ample room to play. Whether walking, jogging, biking, or skating, Mission Bay’s stunning views will not disappoint. Bring your own gear or rent equipment for a few hours.

SUP Lesson at OEX Mission Bay

3.  This weekend, get off the sand and onto the water to explore the bay’s thousands of acres of waterways. One of the most popular watersport activities in Mission Bay is SUP, or stand up paddleboard. Mission Bay’s flat waters make it the ideal spot to learn how to stand up paddle board. Rentals and lessons available at OEX Mission Bay.

The Bahia Belle

4.  Take in the bay from another vantage point: from the deck of the Bahia Belle. The Bahia Belle— a “Turn of the Century” Mississippi-style sternwheeler – offers Friday and Saturday evening cruises in April and May. Cruises depart from the Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa dock.  Non-hotel guests may purchase tickets for $10.00 for adults and $3.00 for children 12 years old and under.

Wells Fargo Outrigger Challenge & Luau

5.  The Wells Fargo Outrigger Challenge & Luau returns to Crown Point Shores this Saturday, April 30th for the tenth consecutive year.  Teams of all skill-levels will compete in equipment provided by the Hanohano Outrigger Canoe Club. After the race, participants will be treated to the tastes and sounds of the Hawaiian Islands.

Have you entered the Mission Bay Getaway sweepstakes yet? Enter now for your chance to win a 3-night stay in Mission Bay. The sweepstakes ends on April 30th.


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.