San Diego Essential Guide



Hike the Pacific Crest Trail

Posted by on Dec 23, 2014 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on 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...

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San Diegans enjoy free summer concerts

Posted by on Sep 2, 2014 in Festivals, What's New? | Comments Off on 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 is smoke-, alcohol- and dog-free.  No need to pack a picnic; about a dozen restaurants...

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Deals for frugal fair-goers

Posted by on Jun 7, 2014 in Festivals, North County | Comments Off on 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...

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Former NTC thrives as Liberty Station

Posted by on Jun 3, 2014 in Point Loma, What's New? | Comments Off on 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...

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Newest Fig Tree Cafe is choice pick

Posted by on Feb 6, 2014 in Eats, What's New? | Comments Off on 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....

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San Diegans celebrate December Nights in Balboa Park

Posted by on Dec 5, 2013 in Attractions, Eats, Festivals, Museums | Comments Off on 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 art right off the walls at the San Diego Art Institute. And don’t forget to...

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Free use of beach wheelchairs for disabled

Posted by on Nov 17, 2013 in Get Physical, Mission Beach, What's New? | Comments Off on 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...

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Kids get in free in October

Posted by on Oct 23, 2013 in What's New? | Comments Off on 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...

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It’s festival time at Cabrillo National Monument

Posted by on Sep 22, 2013 in Attractions, Festivals, Museums, Point Loma, What's New? | Comments Off on 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...

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San Diego Restaurant Week

Posted by on Sep 20, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on 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...

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