San Diego Essential Guide


San Diegans celebrate December Nights in Balboa Park

Balboa Park’s December Nights – the city’s annual two-day holiday gift to the community – promises to be bigger and better than ever this year. It’s the city’s largest free festival, expected to draw at least 300,000 in this its 35th year. The two-day celebration of entertainment, food and fun, is set for Friday, Dec. 6, from 3 until 11 pm, and Saturday, Dec. 7, sfrom noon-11pm. December Nights is as close as San Diego gets to becoming a winter wonderland. Balboa Park is decked in twinkling lights and silvery garlands. Fanciful Christmas trees abound – and the aromas of multi-cultural holiday treats waft through the air. In the spirit of the season, participating park museums open their doors to the public, free of charge, from 5 until 9 PM both evenings. Many present special holiday programs.  (Kids will be awed by the elaborate gingerbread constructions at the Mingei Museum – and can join in holiday-inspired craft projects at the Air & Space Museum. All ages will be enthralled by the amazing handbell ringers who perform at the San Diego History Center – and don’t miss the San Diego Floral Association’s exhibit at the House of Hospitality of 30 beautifully decorated holiday trees.) Festivities are family friendly, multi-cultural and staged throughout the park.  The San Diego Civic Youth Ballet will perform excerpts from “The Nutcracker” on the Casa del Prado Stage. Steps away, on the California Quadrangle near the Museum of Man, revelers can see the Santa Lucia Procession and children’s choir performances. The San Diego Civic Dance Company will present Rockettes-style routines – while a puppet-version of “The Christmas Carol” will be presented at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater. African drumming and dance performances – and Reggae music performances are planned at the WorldBeat Center. Dozens of singers, dancers and musicians will take to the stage at the Organ Pavilion. Youngsters will have the opportunity to visit with roving Santas – and they can pose for a photo in the Old Globe courtyard with Dr. Seuss’s Grinch who stole Christmas.  Kids of all ages can join with Junior Theatre students singing holiday songs. A series of children’s holiday movies will run nonstop both evenings in the theater at the Hall of Champions. There also are plenty of carnival rides to keep the younger set entertained. Hungry?  December Nights is known for its mouth-watering range of food and drink offerings. The International Cottages of the House of Pacific Relations offer traditional holiday foods from a smorgasbord of nations: Think empanadas, eggrolls, shepherd’s pie, pasties, pancit, samosas, plantains, pierogi, bourekas, baklava, paella, even blueberry soup.   Many museums offer tasty treats: Find roasted chestnuts at the San Diego Art Institute, yakisoba at the Japanese Friendship Garden, hot toddies at the Hall of Champions. In addition, numerous food vendors sell an array of yummy holiday delights – from melted Swiss raclette to fresh-baked gingerbread cookies.  The 21+ set can sip a locally crafted brew at one of several beer gardens. December Nights are prime time for holiday shopping.  Find great gifts at museum stores, from Spanish Village artisans and at a wide range of arts and crafts booths.  For $300 or less, buy a piece of original...

Posted by on Dec 5, 2013

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Attractions, Eats, Festivals, Museums

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Free use of beach wheelchairs for disabled

The City of San Diego’s Park & Recreation Department provides a number of services for the disabled – including free use of motorized beach wheelchairs that allow those with mobility disabilities to propel independently along the sand at Mission Beach. There’s also a non-motorized chair that allows users to roll right in to the ocean.   Chairs can be reserved for one hour at a time. (Identification is required and will be held as security.) Maximum weight capacity on the motorized chair is 250 pounds; it’s 500 pounds on the water-going chair.  (Only one rider at a time is permitted on either vehicle.)   Find the chairs just outside the lifeguard station at Ventura and Ocean Front Walk, near the lifeguard station behind Belmont Park.  Through October, the chairs are available from 11: 30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. weekdays (closed Tuesdays), until 5:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.  In November and December, get chairs from 11:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. No chairs are available in January or February. In March and April, get them from 11:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Starting in May (through October), they’re available from 11:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. weekdays (except Tuesdays), until 5:30 p.m. weekends.   Reservations are highly recommended; phone...

Posted by on Nov 17, 2013

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Get Physical, Mission Beach, What's New?

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Kids get in free in October

During the entire month of October, kids eat, stay and play free at more than 100 spots throughout the county. San Diego hotels, restaurants, museums, attractions and transportation companies are offering everything from free meals and admissions, to special amenities at hotels.  Kids can even learn to surf or play golf for free, with a paying adult. Most deals are available to youngsters between the ages of 2 and 12 – but age limits and other restrictions vary by venue. The county’s headliner family attractions – the Zoo, Sea World and Legoland – are participating. All kids 11 and younger get free admission at the Zoo and Safari Park. With each paid adult admission, SeaWorld is giving free admission to a child between the ages of 3 and 9. At Legoland, one child 12 or younger gets a free Hopper ticket, when an adult buys a Hopper ticket. Up close to sharks at Living Coast Discovery Center Nearly 40 county museums are participating. Kids 12 and younger get in free everywhere from the Birch Aquarium and the Fleet Science Center to the  USS Midway Museum and the Living Coast Discovery Center.  Go to to print out a free coupon. (Two youngsters admitted per paying adult.)  Two kids can cruise free with each paying adult on one- and two-hour Hornblower cruises.   Every adult who buys an Old Town Trolley Tours ticket can take along a youngster between 4 and 12 for free. Same thing goes aboard Seal Tours. Even Amtrak has joined the fun, providing one free fare for a rider 2-15 years old with each paid adult fare aboard Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner between here and Oceanside.  Learn more at Some venues require coupons available on the...

Posted by on Oct 23, 2013

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It’s festival time at Cabrillo National Monument

The annual Cabrillo Festival, Sept. 28-29, will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year – and next month the monument itself celebrates its 100th birthday. A centennial weekend celebration is set for Oct. 12-14.   The Cabrillo Festival commemorates the day in 1542 when Portuguese navigator Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo landed on the shore of what is now known as San Diego Bay. (He had christened it San Miguel.) Sailing under the flag of Spain, he was the first European to land on the west coast of what is now the United States. A highlight of the festival is the re-enactment of Cabrillo’s landing. “Cabrillo,” his soldiers and a priest sail into the bay on the San Salvador (The Californian) and once again claim the land for Spain.   Cabrillo Festival activities begin with a commemorative ceremony at 4 p.m. on Sept. 28 at the monument. That evening there’s a dinner/dance at the SES Portuguese Hall. (Tickets cost $50; phone 619-426-0769.)   The big day is Sunday Sept. 29 at Ballast Point– one of the few times the Navy’s nuclear sub base at the end of Rosecrans on Point Loma is open to the public. (Admission is free, but you’ll need valid photo ID to get in.) Festivities, which run from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., will include music, dancing and activities for children. There will be demonstrations of Kumeyaay basket making and knot tying. Visitors can view a 16th Century Spanish soldiers living history encampment.  Vendors will native-American foods as well as foods from Mexico, Spain and Portugal.  (Cabrillo’s landing is set for around 1 p.m.)   Next month’s Cabrillo Centennial celebration will include living history tours to the top of the lighthouse (from 10 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 12), bayside trail hikes, food vendors and entertainment. On Sunday, Oct. 13, an exhibitor fair is planned at the Visitors Center Complex – and actors portraying World War II soldiers will offer tours of newly restored military bunkers. The fun concludes on Monday, Oct. 14, with an 11 a.m. centennial commemoration ceremony.   Admission to Cabrillo National Monument costs $5 per car. Get more info on the Cabrillo Festival at Learn more about centennial celebration at...

Posted by on Sep 22, 2013

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Attractions, Festivals, Museums, Point Loma, What's New?

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San Diego Restaurant Week

Eager to try one of San Diego’s new top-tier restaurants? Or to get back to one of your revered special-occasion favorites? But aren’t so sure your  budget can handle the hit?  No worries. San Diego Restaurant Week runs Sunday, Sept. 15 through Friday the 20th.   It’s a great opportunity to try someplace new or extra special at a discounted price.  More than 180 restaurants, including many award winners, are participating in this year’s event . Restaurants are offering two- or three-course fixed-price lunches for $10, $15, or $20 and/or three-course fixed-price dinners for $20, $30, or $40. Go to to search by cuisine, neighborhood, price or by restaurant name. Reservations, especially at top restaurants, are a must. But don’t despair if your favorite place is already sold out. Many restaurants plan to extend their participation an extra week. Among new eateries joining the fun this year: Fogo de Chao, the Brazilian churrascaria in Gaslamp Quarter. Special-occasion favorites include Bertrand at Mister A’s, The Marine Room in La Jolla, Mille Fleurs Restaurant in Rancho Santa Fe and downtown’s Grant...

Posted by on Sep 20, 2013

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