San Diego Essential Guide


Hike the Pacific Crest Trail

The 2,650-mile-long Pacific Crest Trail runs from Mexico to Canada – and its first 133 miles meander through San Diego’s backyard. The PCT begins in Campo, at the U.S./Mexico border fence, about 50 miles east of downtown San Diego. From there it traverses a range of topography and climate zones – from the sizzling Anza Borrego Desert (to be avoided in summer) to the mountains of the Cleveland National Forest, where trails can sometimes be snowbound in winter. There are dozens of sections of the trail accessible to day-hikers. (Download free trail maps at Get great views of the desert floor and 17 surrounding peaks from the Mount Laguna section of the trail near Foster Point.  Follow the trail as it wends its way along golden hillsides studded with live oak and chaparral near Warner Springs.  (You’ll see the 100-mile PCT trail marker here.)  The trail crosses into Riverside County at mile 133, just north of Warner Springs. The PCT is open only to hikers, equestrians and dogs on leashes. Leave your dirt bike at home. Be sure to carry lots of water. And keep an eye out for rattlesnakes and poison oak. Parking permits are required in some areas. Get them at San Diego area outdoor stores such as...

Posted by on Dec 23, 2014

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San Diegans enjoy free summer concerts

Free twilight concerts have become summertime traditions in neighborhoods throughout San Diego County. They’re an opportunity for visitors, locals and their families to socialize, picnic, enjoy music together – and maybe even dance as the sun sets on another perfect San Diego summer day. Here’s a sampling of what will be staged during the summer of 2014: •    The Point Loma Summer Concert Series opens July 11 with the Mighty Untouchables and continues on consecutive Fridays through Aug. 8 when Detroit Underground takes the stage. Shows run 5:30-8:30 PM.  Pack a picnic or buy food at the venue. Bring blankets, lawn chairs and Frisbees to Point Loma Park, 1049 Catalina Blvd. •    Pacific Beach Concerts on the Green are set for Sundays July 20 through Aug. 10.  Shows run from 4-6:30 PM at Kate Sessions Park (Lamont Street, just north of Beryl).  Bring your own food and drink. •    Mission Hills’ Concerts in the Park series opens June 20 at Pioneer Park and continues on consecutive Fridays through Aug. 22. Pioneer Park is at 1425 Washington Place. •    Balboa Park’s Twilight in the Park concert series kicks off at 6:15 PM June 17 and continues on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays through Aug. 28 at the park’s Spreckels Organ Pavilion. The hour-long shows feature everything from classical music to R&B. •    Enjoy organ music? The International Summer Organ Festival features top organists from around the world. Showtime is 7:30 – 9:30 PM on Mondays, June 23 through Aug. 25, at Balboa Park’s Spreckels Organ Pavilion. •   The Bird Park Concert Series in North Park opens June 14 with the Bill Magee Blues Band. More concerts are scheduled June 28 (folk), July 12 (indie rock), July 26 (country) and Aug. 9 (Zydeco). All shows run 5:30-7:30 PM. Bird Park is at 28th and Thorn streets. •    Coronado’s Concerts in the Park series is set for 6 PM on Sundays, through Sept. 7, at Spreckels Park, 7th and Orange. Families (but no dogs) are welcome to picnic during the 90-minute shows. •    Del Mar’s Summer Twilight Concerts  are set for Powerhouse Park, overlooking the Pacific, at 1600 Coast Blvd.  The series begins June 17 with Rockola, followed by Back to the Garden on July 1, the Heroes on July 22, Haute Chile on Aug. 12 and   Sully and the Blue Eyed Soul Band on Sept. 7. Show time is 7 PM, with pre-show entertainment beginning at 6 PM. •    Carlsbad’s TGIF Jazz in the Park is staged at four community parks. The 29th season opens at Stagecoach Park (3420 Camino de los Coches), with concerts on June 27, July 4. The party moves to Alga Norte Community Park (6565 Alicante Road) for concerts on July 11 and 18. Then it’s on to Poinsettia Park (6600 Hidden Valley Road) for concerts on July 25, Aug. 1 and 8.  The season closes at Calavera Hills Park (2997 Glasgow Drive) with concerts on Aug. 15 and 22.  Showtime is 6-8 PM.  Wear your dancing shoes. •    El Cajon’s Dinner & a Concert series is set for 6-8 PM Fridays through Sept. 26 on the Prescott Promenade near East Main Street and Rea Avenue in downtown El Cajon. The family oriented venue...

Posted by on Sep 2, 2014

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Festivals, What's New?

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Deals for frugal fair-goers

Adult admission to the San Diego County Fair costs $14 – but deals abound. For super fans, the “Best Pass Ever” can’t be beat. It includes daily admission – from June 7 to July 6, every single day of the fair – for just $24. You’ll need a school or government-issued photo ID to use the pass. Tuesdays June 24 and July 1 are the magic day for kids 6-12 years old. They get in free. (Kids 5 and younger get in free everyday.) Youngsters 12 and younger can get in free any day through July 5, if they read 10 books and have it verified by their teacher or librarian. The certificate you’ll need to get signed can be downloaded in English or Spanish. Get Fair admission for just $4 on June 7 or 11, with a ticket available with any $10 purchase at Albertsons/SavOn stores. (Tickets must be purchased in advance; none will be available at the fair.) County auto dealers are in on the action this year.  Visit a Toyota dealership to get a coupon valid for two adult admissions for the price of one. Visit a Ford dealership to get a 4-tickets-for-$32 coupon. Once you’re inside, there are tons of free things to enjoy – including concerts by big name artists. Get free unreserved seats at performances by top artists including the Smokey Robinson, REO Speedwagon, Huey Lewis and the News, Taylor Hicks and Grand Funk Railroad. Love the rides?  On  “Pepsi Pay-One-Price” days, spend $35 for a wristband that allows unlimited access to Fun Zone and Kid Zone rides from noon until 8 PM.  The deal is valid June 7-8, 11-15, 18-19 and 25-26.  On valid Wednesdays or Thursdays wristbands are for sale at the fair; on other valid days, they must be purchased online. (You’ll buy and print out your Pay-One-Price voucher online; there’s an additional $2.50 fee for online purchases.) Food? On Tuesdays, June 24 and July 1, until 5 p.m., more than 100 food vendors offer smaller portions for $2. Or bring your own picnic; there are six designated picnic areas. (No alcohol, glass containers or metal utensils.) Avoid the fair’s $10 parking fee by opting for free parking at Horsepark, about 2 miles east of the fairgrounds, at 14550 El Camino Real; a free shuttle will get you to the front gate.  On weekends and July 4 there’s additional free parking (with shuttle service) at Torrey Pines High and Mira Costa College’s San Elijo campus. Taking public transportation to the fair is a super deal. For $15, travel roundtrip on the Coaster and get free fair admission. The “Fair Tripper” is valid for any age, but those 62 and older save more by buying fair admission and Coaster tickets separately. Kids 5 and younger ride the Coaster free and get free fair...

Posted by on Jun 7, 2014

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Festivals, North County

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Former NTC thrives as Liberty Station

San Diego’s Naval Training Center was dedicated in 1923. Over the years, it turned nearly 2 million boys into men — sailors who made San Diego the home base for the Navy’s Pacific Fleet. When the Navy closed the base in 1997, a master developer went to work transforming the 361-acre site into a massive mixed-use neighborhood.  While the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it remains a work in progress. More than 50 of NTC’s original Spanish Colonial Revival buildings have been restored and transformed into performance spaces, artists’ studios, galleries, fitness salons, shops, grocery stores and restaurants.  The neighborhood also includes a residential district, office space, schools, churches, two hotels (Homewood Suites and Courtyard by Marriott), and nearly 50 acres of park/open space along a boat channel that leads to San Diego Bay.  The community’s parks have become a popular venue for special events and ethnic festivals. Seasonal kayak and paddleboard rentals are offered. One of the best ways to experience Liberty Station is with a free audio tour. Stop by the visitor center (the former Command Center) to pick up a map. Then call 619-342-8021 on your cell phone, enter a number from the map and hit the # key. Another great option: Attend Friday Night Liberty, beginning at 5 PM on the first Friday of each month. It’s an opportunity to visit galleries and performance venues for free and meet artists at work in their studios. There’s plenty of free parking throughout the...

Posted by on Jun 3, 2014

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Point Loma, What's New?

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Newest Fig Tree Cafe is choice pick

The original Fig Tree Café opened in 2008 in an old Pacific Beach cottage with a lush garden patio. The second restaurant opened in trendy Hillcrest, drawing hip locals to its open kitchen. The baby sister opened just five months ago at Liberty Station on Point Loma. It’s the restaurant we focus on here. The place bills itself “a California eatery. “ But after dark, it has the feel of a cozy French bistro: warm, and woodsy, with really good food and an excellent wine list (3 dozen choices by the glass) – all at neighborhood-friendly prices. And service beats the French bistro mode: It’s attentive and helpful here. The Fig Tree franchise is known for its breakfasts – and the newest family member doesn’t disappoint.  (Eggs come from a family farm in Ramona.)  Daily 4-6 PM happy hours are another hot draw: with  $3 beers, $4 wines and $5 appetizers. At dinner, some dishes are works are art. (Don’t miss the beet salad.) The bruschettas are in a league of their own – delish. Mains include interesting options you won’t find on many other menus, such as Oxtail Cavatelli with Portobello mushrooms. Locals’ favorites include the Tequila Lobster Ravioli, and Pappardelle Braised Duck Ragu with arugula and goat cheese. Portions are generous – often enough to share. The restaurant is at 2400 Historic Decatur Road, just back of Luna Grill. It’s open daily for breakfast and lunch from 7 AM until 3 PM. Open for dinner from 4 until 10 PM daily....

Posted by on Feb 6, 2014

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Eats, What's New?

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