San Diego Essential Guide

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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 PCTmap.net.) 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 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 SanDiegoRestaurantWeek.com 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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A Valentine farewell to Whaling Bar

The legendary Whaling Bar at La Jolla’s La Valencia will serve its last cocktail on Valentine’s Day. The venerable watering hole will be stripped of its dark, clubby maritime décor – to become part of an expanded Café La Rue.  Construction crews will remove the wall that separates the bar from the existing restaurant. The new look will be lighter, in a French Art Deco style. The beloved Whaling Bar mural depicting a whale hunt, along with model ships and scrimshaw, will be stored until they’re eventually installed in a new hotel boardroom, said Mark Dibella, the hotel’s managing director. Since the 1950s, the Whaling Bar has been a sanctuary for artists and writers.  Raymond Chandler was a regular; Gregory Peck frequented the place when he acted at La Jolla Playhouse.  Beloved local newspaper columnist Neil Morgan drank there with pals like Art Buchwald and Walter Cronkite.  Nearby bookstore owner Dennis Wills brought visiting authors, including Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, Christopher Hitchens, Maureen Dowd, Jill Abramson and Beat-era poet Michael McClure. Even Dr. Seuss (Ted Geisel) hung there. Writer Mary Duncan, who splits her time between La Jolla and Paris, is among those mourning the bar’s end:  “I think what I’ll miss most about the Whaling Bar, and bars like it, are the auras of those past occupants sitting at the bar lost in contemplation or immersed in interesting and diverse discussions. Those moments will now be lost forever....

Posted by on Feb 9, 2013

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What’s new at the Zoo?

The San Diego Zoo has opened fancy new digs for its slithering residents – including the longest gopher snake you’re likely to have ever seen. The Zoo’s new Reptile Walk opened on July 4.  In three separate structures, it houses turtles, amphibians and snakes native to California. “That San Diego gopher snake is at least four and a half feet long,” said Zoo herpetologist Ken Morgan, as he watched the wriggling reptile stretching out in its new glass enclosure. “It’s the largest one I’ve ever seen.” Reptiles live on all continents except Antarctica – and the Zoo’s new exhibit accommodates more than 50 species. Visitors can see a pair of critically endangered Chinese alligators meandering around an open-air pool.  They’re the smallest of alligator species – only about four feet long. They’re also among the rarest: Only about 100 are left in the wild, Morgan said. Check out an emerald tree boa from South America, a spiky giant horned lizard from Mexico and a Mexican giant tree frog. Search for mata–mata turtles that masquerade as leaves – and be wowed by others with long snake-like necks. San Diego has more biodiversity than any other county in North America – so plenty of slithering stars are exhibited in the California Native Species building. If you like the colorful banded San Diego mountain kingsnake, you’ll love the two-headed California kingsnake.  At feeding time, one head gets covered with a hood while the other is fed; it keeps the two heads from fighting and injuring each other. Visitors won’t find any venomous snakes in the new reptile exhibit.  To find rattlers, head to Elephant Odyssey; rattlesnakes are housed there, near the...

Posted by on Jul 17, 2012

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Attractions, Balboa Park, Uncategorized, What's New?

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Little Italy’s Sicilian Festival

Eat, drink and be Sicilian for a day when Little Italy celebrates its 19th annual Sicilian Festival on Sunday, May 20. India Street – from Ash to Grape – will be closed for the 10 AM to 6 PM celebration. Costumed dancers and musicians will set the mood, parading in the street at 11:30 AM, carrying flags from the different regions of Italy.  Food booths will sell Sicilian specialties – including Sicilian wines and premium imported Italian beer. Visitors can even test their skill at grape stomping. Entertainment, on four stages, will include something for everyone: New York City soprano Cristina Fontanelli will sing Italian opera while the Screamin’ Primas promise to keep the crowd moving.  The Roman Holiday Ensemble, perennial favorites, will perform as will Allesandra Belloni who’s best known for her traditional Italian folk dancing. The bambini can get their faces painted while mom and dad ogle sidewalk chalk art or slick Italian beauties at a car show featuring Ferraris, Maseratis and Lamborghinis . In the Sicilian cultural zone, locals can learn about Italian-Americans’ role in the rich history of San Diego’s tuna industry.  Learn more at...

Posted by on May 14, 2012

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Italian, Little Italy, Uncategorized, What's New?

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Half-price admission to SD museums in February

February is Museum Month in San Diego – and everybody gets a gift: half-price admission at 40 county museums and cultural attractions.  You’ll need a pass available in February at Macy’s stores throughout the county; they’re free as long as supplies last. Pass holders get half-price admission for up to four guests per visit at most of San Diego’s top museums – everything from downtown’s New Children’s Museum to the USS Midway aircraft carrier to the historic Marston House. It’s a chance for the family to visit La Jolla’s Birch Aquarium, the fascinating ships at the bayfront Maritime Museum and more than a dozen museums in Balboa Park, from The Fleet to the Museum of Photographic Arts to the San Diego Museum of Art – all for half price. The annual promotion was launched in 1989 by the San Diego Museum Council. Get a full list of participants at...

Posted by on Mar 1, 2012

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