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! 🙂
Well, after WWII, American soldiers and sailors returned home from the South Pacific with stories, souvenirs, music and more from these tropical islands, to the delight of the American public who romanticized exotic island cultures. A bit later (in 1959) Hawaii became a state, further fueling the popularity of all things Polynesian.
Being a big Navy town on the Pacific, San Diego was a prime spot to celebrate and recreate tiki culture. Sadly, by the 1980s, Polynesian influences around town began to disappear as contemporary tastes and design took hold. But, lucky for us, fun tiki finds remain if you know where to look.
Following are my top 5:
1. Bali Hai Restaurant
Mr. Bali Hai tiki at Bali Hai Restaurant, Shelter Island
Bali Hai Restaurant, opened in 1954 on Shelter Island, is a local “tiki temple” of sorts with hand-carved tiki sculptures – including Mr. Bali Hai, shown here, and the “Goof on the Roof” – and genuine Polynesian artifacts filling every nook and cranny. You can even take home your very own souvenir tiki mug!
Tiki Oasis art at Crown Plaza Hotel, Mission Valley
Also opened in 1954, the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Mission Valley (formerly Hanalei Hotel) is a slice of paradise on the San Diego River. It has retained much of its Hawaiian-themed luster from yesteryear; tikis and Polynesian art can be found in the lobby, restaurant and around the tropical pool area. It’s also the site of the big annual Tiki Oasis convention, the “biggest Tiki Weekender on the planet.” I’ll be there!
A little bit of Hawaii at Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn, Shelter Island
Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn & Suites (built-in 1959) on Shelter Island is a landmark Tiki Modern resort with a soaring lobby roof that extends out like a giant Polynesian fishing canoe complete with a lantern used to attract fish. This is as real as it gets!
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.
Scrape away the years and years of fishing experiences from most old salts and you’ll probably find a pier or barge fisherman under all those tales of whoppers and the ones that got away.
Pier fishing is how many fishermen started out. It’s a blue-collar way to enjoy the sport. Anglers don’t need a fishing license to fish a public pier, so there’s that, but it’s also a great place to take kids because there’s always something for them to do.
San Diego is blessed with some of the best fishing piers in the state, including two that are nearly 2,000 feet long.
Pier Fishing Gear
Let’s start with the gear you’ll need. It’s better to keep it simple for the walk from your vehicle to where you plan to fish on the pier. Some of the avid pier rats have carts to carry all their gear, but to get started, you can get away with a good, medium-action to stout 7- to 9-foot rod, a saltwater spinning reel (bit larger than your lake model, with the reel loaded with at least 20- to 25-pound test line or a second outfit with 10- to 15-pound line for fishing closer to shore), bait in the form of frozen squid, bloodworms, mussels, sardines or anchovies, terminal tackle should include an assortment of saltwater hooks 9 (size 2-8) and sinkers (1 to 4 ounces). Lures are good, too, with jigs and spoons being the best options. Be sure and pack sunscreen, a good hat, sunglasses and wear comfortable shoes or Crocs. Other essentials include pliers, a fillet knife and a cooler with drinks and snacks, especially for piers with no food for sale.
Here’s a rundown on San Diego’s fishing piers and some tips for fishing them. In the summer, these piers can offer really good fishing when the grunion are running around the full moon. The beach-spawning grunion attract bigger fish like halibut, bass and other fish, and that means good action for inshore fishermen.
Imperial Beach Pier
Imperial Beach Pier
Imperial Beach Pier, San Diego’s southernmost pier, extends out 1,491 feet into water 20 feet or more deep. As with most San Diego piers, the closer to shore you are the lighter gear you want to use for inshore fish like barred surfperch, California corbina or yellowfin croaker. Halibut can lurk there, especially on nights when grunion are running. Sand bass also may be biting, too. At the end of the pier, anglers target bonito, mackerel and small barracuda, with an occasional yellowtail or white seabass.
Amenities: Restaurant, Restrooms, Fish-cleaning stations
Directions: To reach the pier, take I-5 south to Palm Avenue (Highway 75); follow Palm Avenue to where it divides with Highway 75, stay on Palm Avenue to Seacoast Drive, turn right to the pier. Hours: 24/7
Coronado Ferry Landing Pier
The Coronado Ferry Landing Pier is one of the area’s secret fishing spots. It’s tucked behind the Old Ferry Landing Shopping Complex over on Coronado Island, so many don’t know it’s there. It’s only 377 feet long, but can be an excellent fishing spot for sand bass, spotted bay bass, mackerel and bonito. There’s also good action for perch, croakers, rays and sharks. You’ll need lighter tackle here because the water is very clear and shallow. There’s no bait or food for sale on the pier, but the shopping center has some options. The restrooms are a short walk from the pier.
Amenities: Restaurants, shops and bathrooms with walking distance
Directions: To reach it, take the Coronado Bridge over to Coronado. Once there, you’re on 3rd Street, follow it to B Avenue, turn right and follow it to the front of the Old Ferry Landing at the intersection of B Avenue and First Street. The pier is behind the shops. Hours: 24/7
Embarcadero Marina Park Pier
Embarcadero Marina Park Pier is another of the lesser-known fishing spots, but it can be very good. It’s southwest of the San Diego Convention Center and stretches out just 95 feet, but it has a T-shaped end and is 300 feet wide. There’s an artificial reef nearby that draws some quality fish like schools of bonito, mackerel, jack mackerel and small barracuda. But there’s usually always good fishing for calico bass, sand bass and spotted bay bass.
Directions: Take I-5 to the Market Street exit, follow Market Street west to Harbor Drive, turn left on Harbor Drive and go to 8th Avenue, turn right onto Convention Way. Follow that a short block to 5th Avenue and the pier.
Ocean Beach Pier
Ocean Beach Pier
The Ocean Beach Pier is the longest pier in San Diego County at 1,971 feet. It’s a great place to fish and sight-see. There’s a stocked bait and tackle store and the Ocean Beach Pier Café offers good chow all day long. The T-shaped design gives this pier nearly one mile of railing for anglers, so fishing options are many. Most go to the end of the T to fish the deeper water for bass, perch, mackerel and even California spiny lobster (but only in-season, October to March).
Amenities: Restaurant: Pier Café, Bait and Tackle Shop
Directions: Take I-5 north of San Diego to the Sea World Drive exit. Follow Sea World Drive to Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, take Sunset Cliffs Boulevard to Newport Avenue, turn right on Newport Avenue and follow it to the end and the pier parking lot. Hours: 24/7
Crystal Pier is one of the great spots in San Diego because it offers stay-on-the-pier and over-the-ocean cottages and some good fishing off Pacific Beach. It’s a private pier at night, but anglers may fish it during the day, and the fishing can be very good for barred surfperch, corbina, walleye surfperch, shovelnose guitarfish and even an occasional halibut. There’s also fair fishing for sand bass and calico bass at the end of the pier, mostly. It’s a great lobster spot, too, and a tradition for some on the opening night of lobster season. The Crystal Pier Hotel offers great lodging, but make sure you make your reservations well ahead of time.
Amenities: Crystal Pier Hotel
Directions: Take I-5 to Garnet Avenue and follow Garnet to the foot of the pier. Hours: 7:00 AM to 7 PM for visitors, 24 hours for motel guests.
Shelter Island Pier
Shelter Island Pier is located near the most vibrant fishing community in San Diego. The Marlin Club is down the street, the Shelter Island Launch Ramp is east of the pier and the boardwalk is a great place to take a nice, long walk along the waterfront. It’s also a short drive from the San Diego-based sport fleet, four landings landings that offer every kind of fishing trip, from half-day to multi-day runs into Mexican waters. There are lots of quality restaurants like Fiddler’s Green. But here on the pier, you’ll see the fleet’s sport boats and private boats, and even a Navy ship or two, cruise by as you relax on the 200-foot pier with a T-shaped end that stretches 500 feet. There is lots of room to fish for mackerel, yellowfin croaker, calico and sand bass and an occasional halibut. Also lots of shovelnose sharks and bat rays.
Amenities: Restaurant, Bait and Tackle Shop
Directions: Take I-5 or I-8 to Rosecrans (Highway 209) and go west, turn left at Shelter Island Drive and follow the road until you see the pier and entrance to the parking lot on the left. Hours: 6:00 AM to 10:30 PM
Oceanside Pier is another of the area’s top tourist spots, located near a thriving harbor and marina area, a very active beach and surfing spot and even has a restaurant at the end of the pier, Ruby’s Diner, where you can enjoy a cold drink and a killer burger over the water. There’s also a very good bait and tackle shop. The pier is 1,942 feet long and offers a wide range of fish, from the inshore species like corbina, perch and croaker to the more pelagic species like bonito, mackerel, barracuda and even an occasional white seabass or yellowtail. Halibut also show here, so be ready.
Amenities: Restaurant: Ruby’s Diner, Bait and Tackle Shop
Directions: To reach the pier take I-5 to Mission Boulevard, go west to Pacific and turn left. Follow it to the pier. Hours: 24/7
Tell us in the comments below, which pier is your favorite fishing pier?
Ever wanted to know what it would be like to walk through the wondrous world of a Dr. Seuss book, with all of its quirky colorful shapes and landscapes? Well now you can at the Open House of the James Hubbell House and Studios in the East County community of Santa Ysabel (near Julian) on Father’s Day, June 19.
If you’re not familiar with Hubbell and his art or architectural creations, he is considered a “national treasure” known for his organic structures steeped in nature. The San Diego Union-Tribune even called Hubbell House & Studios one of the “Masterpieces in Our Midst.”
In addition to eight fantastical structures at his 40-acre artists complex, Hubbell has a few other stunning sculptural works sprinkled throughout San Diego County.
Following are five fun ones to try:
Big/Main Studio at the Hubble House. Notice it’s resemblance to whale bones!
Big Studio at Hubbell House and Studios.
Boy’s House at Hubble House and Studios. This one is especially playful with its pools of colorful glass and mosaic tile flowing throughout.
Boy's House, Hubbel House and Studios.
Volcan Mountain Preserve entrance gate and sculpture in Julian. There’s something kind of sci-fi about this piece, like a space portal into nature!
Beam me up, to Volcan Mountain!
Sea Passage fountain and sculpture on Glorietta Bay in Coronado. This piece is very San Diego and fits perfectly with the beachy island vibe of Coronado.
Hang 10 at Coronado's Sea Passage!
Pacific Portal sculpture on Shelter Island, San Diego Bay. I collect seashells, and if I could I’d pocket this one! OK never mind, it’s kind of ginormous.
Giant Pacific Portal seashell-like sculpture.
Oh, and for you history buffs, Hubbell did a life-size clay sculpture of Father Junipero Serra in front of Mission San Diego de Alcala – California’s first mission – in Mission Valley. Talk about prolific!
I’m checking out the Hubbell House & Studios open house on my way back from a weekend staycation in Borrego Springs – can’t wait! I’ll be sure to take lots of photos and share them with you later this month.
Hunt for Easter eggs in the gardens of Stone World Bistro!
Spring’s most decadent dining holiday is just around the corner and maybe you’re wondering where to get your eat on this Easter. Never fear my hungry little bunnies, this Easter Sunday San Diego restaurants are turning out egg-cellent brunches to tempt your taste buds. Hippity hop around town for these Easter day deals:
Champagne buffet brunch in the Oceanfront Ballroom and Crown Room at the Hotel del Coronado from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. $78.50 for adults, $34 for kids ages 6-10 and kids 5 and under eat free.
Buffet brunch with complimentary champagne at Arterra Restaurant in the Del Mar Marriott from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. $49 for adults, $15 for kids age 12 and under, kids 5 and under eat free.
A la carte brunch with bottomless mimosas at Pacifica Del Mar served until 2:00 pm. Entrees priced from $10.50 to $21.
Buffet brunch on the Ocean and Sunset Terraces or à la carte brunch in Kitchen 1540 at L’Auberge Del Mar from 10 :00 am to 2:30 pm.
Prix fixe brunch with bottomless champagne at Urban Bar & Grill from 10:30 am to 4:00 pm. $30 for adults, $12 for kids.
Prix fixe brunch at Chianti from 11:00 am. $30 for adults, $12 for kids.
Everybody delights in a great Happy Hour – especially those that include yummy bargain eats along with their drink specials. An increasing number of budget-conscious travelers (and locals, too) are turning Happy Hours into dinner dates. So, when considering San Diego lodging options, it makes savvy sense to investigate your hotel’s HH scene. Here’s a sampling of what’s available:
Andaz San Diego, in the heart of Gaslamp Quarter, calls its HH “Happier Hour.” Ranch & Coast recently named it San Diego’s very best HH – for good reason. Enjoy the party from 5 until 8 PM Mondays through Fridays in three hotel venues: Quarter Kitchen, Ivy Rooftop, and the Ivy Wine Lounge. Specialty cocktails, usually priced at $15, go for $5. In the Wine Bar, taste five select wines for $5. Food offerings, half-off regular prices, include fresh burrata in a jar, with mint walnut pesto, heirloom tomatoes and grilled country bread – for $7. Chow down on a short rib and roasted tomato pizza for $7 – or a blackened salmon sandwich for $8. Sushi-grade ahi/Alaskan king crab tartare runs $7.
At Odysea, the stylin’ dim-sum lounge at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, get half off well drinks, draft beer and food offerings during twice daily HHours from 4-6 PM and 10-Midnight. Snack on steamed shrimp shumai or beef picadillo dumplings for $3. Or opt for an oven-roasted turkey panini, layered with Gruyere, avocado, bacon, tomato, lettuce and served with fries – all for $6. The “Vela Tasting Board,” for $8, includes artisanal cheeses, air-dried meats, olives, hummus and rustic bread. Late night HH offerings include the tasting board, a club sandwich with chips for $5.50 and either a grilled chicken/feta wrap or a chicken Caesar salad for $6.
On Shelter Island, Humphreys Half Moon Inn & Suites stages a fab HH from 5 until 7 PM daily in its Backstage Lounge. Get full portions of offerings on the bar menu – at half price: Choose lemon pepper calamari with sweet chili dipping sauces for $4.75; jumbo shrimp skewers or a toothsome BLTA with fries for $5; a half-pound burger layered with horseradish-havarti and grilled onions, with fries or coleslaw for $5.50, or a warm shrimp and scallop salad made with spinach, avocado, mango and pickled ginger – for $7.50. (There’s no HH on Concerts by the Bay nights.)
At the new Cosmopolitan Hotel and Restaurant, smack in the heart of Old Town State Historic Park, HH is offered from 3 until 6 PM seven days a week. Visitors can sip draft beers or house wines for $3.50 each; cocktails for $4.50. The “Drunken Pescador” includes a fish taco and margarita for $6.95; for two bucks more, get a “Steer & Beer” – a draft with a half-pound Angus burger.
In North County, Arterra at the Del Mar Marriott stages HH every day from 4 until 7 PM. Along with $6 premium drafts, $7 glasses of wine and specialty cocktails for $8, enjoy extra-crispy roasted garlic parmesan fries for $5, pizza-like tomato/mozzarella flatbread or a “cold pizza” (smoked salmon, grapefruit sections, slices of avocado, watercress and crème fraiche on flatbread) for $9 each. HH calorie counters can sip 50-calorie Cosmos or “No-jitos,” for $8 – and add a big bowl of lightly sauteed and seasoned edamame for $3. After 5:30 PM, there’s a selection of bargain-priced fresh sushi ($4-$11). There’s indoor and outdoor seating.
Last week I was lucky enough to attend Kona Kai Resort’s first luau of the summer. Having only experienced a luau in Hawaii when I was all of 11 years old, I had no idea what I was in for. Was I supposed to bring my own hula skirt? Did you have to eat the luau pig in the pit? And if you’re a vegetarian, is there a pit-roasted tofu pig? These are things I was eager to find out.
The luau was completely sold-out, and for good reason. The setting was directly on the beach in Shelter Island, and the weather was gorgeous. My husband and I were greeted with leis and escorted to our tables, where we had a direct view of the water, the stage, and were in close proximity to the buffet table. After grabbing some Mai Tai’s, we were set. I was happy to have left my grass skirt at home, as I would have been the only one besides the dancers wearing one.
Is the view from your dinner table this gorgeous?
The sunset over the water was gorgeous, and truly added to the tropical atmosphere. The Hawaiian band was the perfect touch to the evening, and we were able to enjoy a dinner show of music and Polynesian dances while chowing down on our food. No one made me eat the luau pig or judged my plate of delicious salad, sticky rice, Hawaiian rolls, coconut creme brulee, and additional macadamia nut cookies. Hey, I was there to tell you about my experience, and I needed to experience two desserts.
The Kona Kai summer luaus will continue on Friday evenings on July 17, 24, 31, and August 14. It’s a great idea for a date or a night out with friends and family, and if you’re there for a special occasion they announce it on stage. So if you’re looking to score points with your in-laws in town celebrating their anniversary, I’d suggest you make reservations for the next luau ASAP.