Top Things to Do in San Diego: August 9-12

Here’s our top picks for this weekend. What will you be doing?

1. Hillcrest Cityfest

Hillcrest’s Cityfest

Head over to the eclectic neighborhood of Hillcrest on Sunday, August 12th for the annual Hillcrest Cityfest. Arts, crafts, food and live entertainment are featured at this popular annual street festival, held along Fifth Avenue.

2. 2nd Annual San Diego Wine Country Festival

The Bernardo Winery, located in Rancho Bernardo, will be host on August 11, 2012 to the San Diego Wine Country Festival. Over 20 of San Diego’s local Wineries pouring their latest releases from 1:00 to 5:00 PM on August 11th. Attendees will have an opportunity to meet the winemakers and get the inside scoop into San Diego Winemaking while sampling wine under the olive trees on the picturesque grounds of the 120 year old Bernardo Winery.

3. Paul Mitchell Supergirl Pro

Catch the world’s top female surfers compete in Oceanside at the Paul Mitchell Supergirl Pro. This event will serve as the only ASP Star event on the 2012 ASP North America calendar. Twelve of the top sixteen ranked surfers in the world will be competing from August 9th through the 12th. Event is free.

4. Cardiff Dog Days of Summer

The fastest-growing street fair for dogs and dog lovers in Southern California is set for Saturday, August 11th, from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM on Aberdeen Drive and Newcastle Ave in Cardiff-by-the-Sea. Highlights of this year’s Cardiff Dog Days of Summer event include the Purina Pro Plan Rally to Rescue Ambassador Program, an obstacle course sponsored by K-9 Connection, a Kid Zone with a bird show and games, silent auction and contests such as, Cutest Puppy, Best Dressed Dog, Best Kisser to name a few.

5. Kettner Nights

Little Italy’s Kettner Boulevard comes alive as visitors mix and mingle their way through the many boutiques and galleries, August 10 from 6:00 to 9:00 PM between West Grape West Laurel Streets on Kettner.

Benjamin Eastman

Aloha San Diego!

I had the pleasure of taking a little mini-vacation for the evening last Friday.  The beauty of my “trip” was that I was transported to the islands of the South Pacific without having to drive more than 5 miles!  “How is this possible?” you ask?  Why, it’s possible at the Kona Kai Resort on Shelter Island – where they feature an authentic luau throughout the summer including buffet dinner, Mai Tais, Hula and Fire Dancers!

It’s been years since I was last in Hawaii to experience something like this in person, so I was super excited to have the opportunity to attend right here in my backyard!  Kona Kai has a great beach area on the marina that works perfectly for the luau and the setting is fantastic.  From the roasting pig in the sand, to the Conch Shell announcement, to the fire stick twirling dancers, I really did feel transported back to the islands!

The food was delicious – with entrees including mahi mahi, terriyaki steak and Kalua Pig (from the pig roasting in the ground!).   I was so full from eating the meal that I barely got a chance to touch the dessert table – but the pineapple upside down cake looked especially appealing!  A full bar is available for your drinking pleasure.  Whether you prefer to get tropical or go with your standard vodka tonic, they’ve got you covered.  (You get 2 Mai Tais included with your meal and additional drinks cost extra)

Fire dancer at the Kona Kai luau

The performances are done by the Motu Nehenehe Polynesian Dancers who do a fantastic job.  They’ve got a large group of dancers from all age ranges – the youngest looked to be about 6 years old, and the oldest dancer was probably in her late 60’s!  Dances are performed from many of the South Pacific islands with the MC explaining what the various poses and moves mean.  Luckily I escaped the “come up and dance with us on stage” experience, but not all my table-mates can say the same!  You definitely wouldn’t want to see me up on stage attempting to hula!

There are still a number of dates available to attend Kona’s luau this summer, so don’t miss out!  The program runs on Friday nights starting at 6:00pm through September 2nd.  Cost is $45.00/adult and $19.95 for kids 5-12 (kids under 5 are free) plus tax and service charge.  Since you’re getting both a delicious meal and a show, the cost is obviously well worth it!

** For those of you interested in going this Friday night (July 22nd), I’ve got at 20% off code for you.  Call to make your reservations at (800) 566-2524 and use code 7122 to get the 20% off.


5 to Try: Summer Events in La Jolla

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 beautiful La Jolla.

Poster for the 25th Annual La Jolla Festival of the Arts

1. 25th Annual La Jolla Festival of the Arts – The La Jolla Festival of the Arts, one of the top-rated art shows in the state, is taking place June 18 and 19 on the USCD east campus.  Showcasing nearly 200 award-winning local and national artists, live music, classic cars, celebrity chef food demonstrations, and a live street chalking exhibition, this event is not to be missed.

Fireworks at La Jolla Cove

2. July 4th in La Jolla – The La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation’s Fourth of July festivities kick off around 5:00 pm with a summer concert at Ellen Browning Scripps Park.  Then at 9:00 pm, the fireworks blast off from La Jolla Cove.  The best spots for watching the display are: Ellen Browning Scripps Park, La Jolla Shores, and Kellogg Park.

SummerFest returns to La Jolla this August

3. SummerFest 2011The La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest kicks off on August 3 with SummerFest Under the Stars, a free concert at La Jolla Cove.  Running through August 26, SummerFest will feature more than 70 world-class performances.

James Turrell, Stuck Red and Stuck Blue, 1970, construction materials and fluorescent lights. Copyright James Turrell. Photo by Philipp Scholz Rittermann. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Museum Purchase, Elizabeth W. Russell Foundation Funds.

4. Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface – On September 25, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego will open its most ambitious exhibition to date.  Phenomenal will be on view at both the La Jolla and downtown San Diego locations through January 22, 2012.

Boundless Energy at Scripps Aquarium Opening July 9

5. Boundless EnergyBirch Aquarium at Scripps’ newest exhibit, Boundless Energy, opens July 9. An outdoor, interactive exhibit exploring how we can use natural forces to power our lives, Boundless Energy features highly educational, interactive elements that encourage learning through play.

We want to send you to Birch Aquarium this summer.  Comment below by Thursday, June 16th at 10:00 am and get entered to win a family four-pack of tickets to Birch Aquarium at Scripps.


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 This Weekend in San Diego

From festivals to flowers to a tasting of some of the best restaurants in Hillcrest, there is plenty to do in San Diego this weekend!

Fallbrook Avocado Festival

1. Fallbrook Avocado Festival. Since the 1960’s, tens of thousands of avocado lovers converge in Fallbrook, located in San Diego’s North County, to sample avocados, check-out the crazy cooking contest entries, buy funky avocado-themed gifts and enjoy bands, live entertainment and friendly beer gardens. Avocado loving day is Sunday, April 17th.

Spring Busker Festival

2. Seaport Village comes with a celebration of street performers during the Spring Busker Festival, April 16-17. In a battle of entertainment, extraordinary, one-of-a-kind performers including jugglers, sword swallowers, comedic stuntmen and Didgeridoo players take to Seaport Village’s cobblestone streets for a weekend of outdoor family amusement.

Taste of Hillcrest

3. Get ready to experience this year’s most tantalizing taste event as you explore the Taste of Hillcrest taking place on Saturday, April 16th from noon to 4:00 pm. Enjoy a self-guided stroll that will take you around to some of the top chefs in San Diego. With samples created from over 40 of the area’s prominent restaurants, you are sure to find a new takeout favorite or dining hotspot.

Coronado Flower Show

4. The 86th Annual Coronado Flower Show, taking place in Spreckels Park, is the largest tented flower show in the West. This year’s theme is “Dig, Design and Dine.” Flower exhibits are displayed inside tents surrounding a central gazebo, which becomes the stage for live entertainment and trophy presentations. There are also flower sales and food vendors. Check out our Coronado Flower Show 5 to Try.

Lakeside Rodeo

5. Giddy up! During April 15-17, the Annual Lakeside Rodeo and Parade aspiring cowboys and cowgirls can see bareback bronco rides, calf roping and other traditional rodeo competitions along with food and crafts at the Lakeside Rodeo Grounds in San Diego’s East County.

Robert Arends

5 to Try: Hot Highway 94 Finds

The Big Apple recently took a bite out of San Diego’s East County in an in-depth New York Post travel article, “Good times in San Diego.” Though they didn’t get to sample Julian’s famous apple pies (Big Apple & apple pies – how almost apropos), the travel editor DID get a taste of some lesser-known, but unequivocally cool finds along Historic Highway 94. In his own words, “EAST IS IT” – and I couldn’t agree more!

Following are “5 to Try” along Historic Highway 94 – New York-certified and sure to put visitors in a Mountain Empire state-of-mind:

Gloriosa Vineyards - good to the last drop!

  1. Gloriosa Vineyards, “California’s southernmost winery,” also in Campo – just a stone’s throw from the international border. Personal wine tastings by appointment only.  The Post enjoyed “their crisp, dry Zinfandel and pleasantly plummy Cab.”
  2. Vroom! - Motor Transport Museum

  3. Get your motor running at the Motor Transport Museum in Campo.  As the Post puts it, the perfect place for “transportation nuts” with its “decommissioned bits of automotive history.”  From milk trucks to Mack trucks, this place is a hoot and a half!
  4. Pacific Southwest Railway Museum's trestle bridge over Highway 94.

  5. Choo choo down to Campo’s Pacific Southwest Railway Museum, bringing “a slice of the past to life with hour-long train rides down to the border.” While you’re there, trek off the tracks and walk over to Tecate – what the Post calls, “one of the friendliest towns on the US/Mexico border.” Also, the highway goes right under their giant trestle bridge! Continue reading

It’s a Whale of a Time

Every year from December through March, visitors to San Diego have an opportunity to watch the gray whales migrate from Alaska to Baja. One of the most unique ways to see these magnificent creatures is by kayak. Kayak you ask? Yes! OEX Dive & Kayak in La Jolla offers whale watching kayak tours from La Jolla’s Ecological Preserve, a marine sanctuary and home to the seven seas caves, Leopard Shark City and the La Jolla Sea Lion and Harbor Seal colonies. Whale watching from a kayak allows participants the opportunity to be one with the ocean and enjoy an incredible up-close view of the whales as well as provides a nice little workout. I should note: you aren’t always guaranteed a glimpse of the whales (they don’t always get the memo that we’ve just paddled out to see them), however according toMike at OEX, no one has ever been disappointed. Seals, dolphins and other marine life are almost always swimming around and are happy to oblige the kayakers.

Of course this isn’t the only way to get out and see the whales. From land to sea, check here for a complete round-up on whale watching in San Diego.

Interested in giving the kayak tour a try? Comment below on our blog and one lucky winner will win a pass for two to OEX Dive & Kayak’s whale watching tour. Must comment by Wednesday, January 26, 2011, 10:00 a.m.

OEX Dive & Kayak Center offers kayaking, scuba, stand-up paddleboard and snorkel tours and rentals from several locations throughout San Diego County. Check out their website to learn more!


5 to Try This Weekend: Free Holiday Events

Parade of Lights

  1. The 39th Annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights sets sail this Sunday from 5:30–9 p.m. More than 100 private boats covered with holiday lights and decorations will parade around San Diego Bay, followed by an extravagant firework show over the water. Great views are available on dry land from Shelter Island, Harbor Island, the Embarcadero, Seaport Village, Marina Park and Coronado’s Ferry Landing. 
  2. See Old Town State Historic Park decked out for the holidays during Holiday in the Park.  Learn how residents celebrated the holidays in the 1800s, enjoy candlelight tours, holiday singers, live performances and complimentary refreshments; Holiday in the Park takes place this Saturday from 6–8 p.m.
  3. Visit the Village of La Mesa and see it transform into a Victorian Wonderland for Christmas in the Village. Enjoy street performers, carolers, horse-drawn carriage rides, carnival rides, entertainment for the family and more; Christmas in the Village takes place from 5–10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.  
  4. Enjoy the Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade this Sunday in downtown San Diego’s historic Gaslamp Quarter. Owners and their dressed-up pets will march down the decorated streets of the neighborhood and end at a Pet Expo featuring an awards ceremony for best-dressed pups.  The parade starts at 3 p.m. and the Pet Expo will be open from 1–5 p.m.
  5. Celebrate holiday cheer during Christmas in the Park – Poway.  The event features a tree lighting ceremony, visits from Santa, train rides, live music, theatre performances, food, treats, crafts and more. The fun takes place this Saturday from 3:30–8:30 p.m.
Robert Arends

5 To Try – One-of-a-Kind Finds in Julian area

The Eagle & High Peak Gold Mines in Julian are a treasure trove of tall tales from Julian's gold rush days.

On a recent trek through San Diego’s East County mountain communities of Julian, Santa Ysabel and Wynola, I came upon five fabulous finds that I’m still telling friends and family about:

  1. Greatest thing since sliced bread – seriously! For over 45 years Dudley’s Famous Bakery in Santa Ysabel (just down the road from Julian) has been baking 43 varieties of mouthwatering breads, fruit bars, pies and pastries, much to the delight of visitors and locals alike. My find: their brand new pecan maple bread – sure to sweeten many upcoming holiday feasts!
  2. Sitting on a gold mine… Now I don’t believe in ghosts, but after hearing some startling tall tales on a tour of the historic Eagle and High Peak Gold Mines in Julian – and seeing some strange floating orbs in the tunnels! – I had goosebumps up and down my spine. Feeling fearless? Check out the mines’ new nighttime Ghost Hunt Tour.
  3. Speaking of specters… Julian’s colorful, golden history comes alive in – best online casino of all places – the Julian Cemetery. David Lewis’ Julian Historical Tours takes guests on an extraordinary journey back in time amongst graves that almost seem to speak from the great beyond. His encyclopedic knowledge of the town, its families and brave pioneers that made Julian so American to the core left me in awe.
  4. I’ll drink to that… Apple wine! OK, it’s actually called Julian Hard Cider, and they package and pitch it as apple ale, but I’ve got to say, one sip of this crisp light, refreshing libation during lunch at Jeremy’s on the Hill (a fine dining find I also highly recommend) was just like sipping chardonnay. Enjoy free tastes and meet owner Paul Thomas at their shop at Wynola Farms Marketplace.
  5. I heart art… Santa Ysabel Art Gallery (a charming jewel of a space just up the street from Dudley’s) has a new exhibit, “Stepping Stones-The Art of James Hubbell,” celebrating the wondrous works of James Hubbell – “San Diego’s Gaudi.” Alice would have very well found her wonderland here among his fantastical paintings, sculpture, stained glass and jewelry; on display through Jan. 9, 2011. Info: 760-765-1676.

Hiking with the Kids

The rock was fun to climb on and the view can't be beat!

Recently our friends from St. Louis came for a visit. One of our favorite stops when we have guests in town is Torrey Pines State Reserve.  The views are amazing and the trails are easy enough to navigate for a six year old.  We drove to the top and chose one of the trails that guide you down to the beach. The kids were all super excited to explore and find the next rock or hill to climb up to get a better view. Along our trail the kids came across a cute little cave to explore. 

What kid doesn't like a cave?

The kids all had a blast.  Once we reached the beach area, the kids could dip their feet in and cool off before the hard part – going back up. 

Look closely, in the distance there is a man on the rock who was diving into the water. Do not try this at home.

 I wasn’t sure how they would do given we hiked on what ended up being a warm day (for San Diego).  They did great! They had a lot of fun racing each other to the top.  Parents be warned; there are a lot of trails at Torrey Pines, and it was very easy for them to get off track; so keep them close.

See most them were still smiling on the way up!

San Diego has trails throughout the county for all fitness and experience levels.  For a complete guide to hiking in San Diego and tips to enjoying your day, read our guide.

Happy hiking!