Robert Arends

Star Sightings at the Julian StarFest This Weekend!

Woman Looking Through a Telescope
Woman Looking Through a Telescope

Aim for the stars at Julian StarFest!

Get ready to space out (I couldn’t resist 😉 ) this weekend at Julian StarFest, the second largest gathering of professional and amateur astronomers and stargazers in California. Visitors are in for some out-of-this-world encounters on August 16-19 as they peer through telescopes for an exciting glimpse of our galaxy and beyond.

Guests are welcome to bring their own telescopes too. Experts will be on hand to answer questions about the celestial opportunities and how to position their telescopes for optimal viewing.

Astronomy swap meet at Julian StarFest.

There will be exhibition areas, galactic guest speakers and a large swap meet selling astronomy equipment.

Where, do you ask, can visitors count their lucky stars at this four-day festival? On the grounds of Menghini Winery, located just three miles north of Julian in San Diego’s scenic East County. Visit for the day or camp out at the winery for all three nights!

Free Star Party

Julian StarFest admission is free for kids 12 and under!

There’s also a free Star Party on Saturday night, August 18 – the largest public star party on the West Coast (over 1,000 attendees!). Simply arrive between 7:00 and 9:00 PM and you can enter the StarFest grounds for free. Take a star tour of the heavens using numerous telescopes set up in the viewing area. Organizers suggest bringing a red light flashlight (if you don’t have one, red translucent film will be provided to cover a white light flashlight).

Starry starry night in Julian. photo credit: Š Dennis Mammana/

Explore Even More of San Diego’s East County

While in Julian be sure to sample the apple pies!

While you’re at StarFest, be sure to check out the historic Gold Rush mining town of Julian. The town’s famous apple pies and refreshing ciders are just down the road!

And for the most adventurous, who feel like braving triple digit temps, take a jaunt down the summit to Borrego Springs to discover the beauty of the clear desert skies at night. Surrounded by the vast and lightless Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs is one of only two certified Dark Sky Communities in the world; it is also designated by USA Today as one of the top 10 stargazing locations in the United States.

Aim for the stars! 🙂

Julian StarFest Information

Location: Menghini Winery
Address: 1150 Julian Orchards Drive, Julian, CA 92036 (map)
Dates: August 16-19, 2012
Day Time Admission: $5 for adults, $2.50 for teens and kids 12 and under are free
3-Night Camping: $30 per adult, $15 per teen and kids 12 and under are free

Robert Arends

Make some Merry in San Diego’s East County

Mt. Laguna - Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

If you’re looking for a few off-the-beaten-path adventures this holiday season, look no further than San Diego’s East County. With some serious holiday cheer in the forecast, plus snow levels dropping between 4 to 5,000 feet the next couple of days, parts of the County are beginning to look like a winter wonderland.

Following are my Top 3 picks of places to make some merry – and even snow angels! – this week:

Julian - a winter wonderland!

  1. Grab a sled, saucer, toboggan or boogie board (So SoCal) and trek up to our historic mountain town of Julian to go sledding on the hillsides, followed by a piping hot cup of apple cider – a local specialty! Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, located south of town, and Mt. Laguna Recreation Area are two other choice spots to “chill” when it snows in San Diego’s higher elevations.
  2. Remember that Peanuts’ Christmas TV special with Snoopy’s doghouse decked out in a festive explosion of colored lights and decorations? Well, multiply that by 100 and you have Jim Fairchild’s holly jolly house in La Mesa (8045 Stadler Street). Thousands of twinkling lights and inflatable Santas, snowmen and other winter characters fill every nook and cranny of the yard, including his prized light-up Grinch. If you’re looking for the gift of Christmas cheer, look no further than here!
  3. Looking ahead to New Year’s – and for those who may have missed last weekend’s spectacular lunar eclipse – the clear desert skies over Borrego Springs Resort will soon beckon star gazers and revelers alike. Make your reservation for the resort’s New Year’s Eve Dinner & Celebration, which includes a lavish buffet of prime rib and Cornish game hen, dancing starting at 8:00 pm and a champagne toast at midnight. Cost, $59.95 per person. $299 per couple includes a deluxe guestroom. Insider tip: after midnight, head outside to the golf course to marvel at the Milky Way in all its splendor – a memorable & magical way to welcome the New Year!
Guest Blogger

Seeing Stars in San Diego

“The Sky Tonight”

We all know about one star that everybody comes to San Diego to enjoy (the sun, folks) but what about the billions of other stars that get virtually no play here in the city where there are too many lights at night to allow us access to the heavens?  (I know it’s a burning question.)  For me, summer does not officially begin until I can get a good look at that Summer Triangle so, being a resident, I don’t think twice about making the half-hour drive east on Highway 8 — at least as far as Descanso, just east of Viejas Casino — for a proper night sky.  But once a month, a clear night sky is within anyone’s view right in the heart of the city.

On the first Wednesday of every month, Balboa Park’s Reuben H. Fleet Science Center presents “The Sky Tonight,” a 60-minute planetarium show in the newly updated IMAX theater.  There, you can sit back in comfort and see a truly unobstructed view of our cosmic neighborhood as one local astronomer or another leads you on a tour of the sky that night — presenting the season’s constellations as well as any number of fascinating astronomical topics.  (On Wednesday, September 2, get to know the fall constellations.)

Stargazing on the Prado courtesy of the SDAA (Flash photography is not a friend to stargazing!)

Stargazing on the Prado courtesy of the SDAA (Flash photography is not a friend to stargazing!)

And there is something here for everyone, including the astronomically illiterate (and I mean that affectionately).  Of course no one is astronomically illiterate after the show.  “The Sky Tonight” is generally recommended for ages 5 and up because of the material and the darkness required for a planetarium show, but you know your little stargazer better than anyone.  (My son was 2½ when he attended for the first time.  I was prepared to leave if things got out of hand, but it worked out all right.  Just use your best judgment, moms and dads.)

There are two shows on planetarium nights — one at 7:00 P.M. and one at 8:00 P.M. — and they do tend to fill up.  If I were you, I would arrive 30 minutes prior to showtime to buy tickets, or buy them online.  If you do happen to miss out on tickets, don’t worry — the San Diego Astronomy Association sets up a telescope outside on the Prado for free public viewing on planetarium show nights, weather permitting.

Want to spend more than a measly 60 minutes exploring the heavens?  How about three nights?

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