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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

There seems to be a common misconception that folks without pups should avoid Balboa Park during the free annual Halloween Family Day taking place this Saturday, October 29, from 11am to 4pm. Though it is true empty nesters, lone wolves, and other adults who are still pups at heart won’t be able to get in on all the action, there are still plenty of ways to take part in San Diego’s primary public Halloween celebration.

Doggie Costume Contest, Spanish Village, courtesy of Bella the Dog blogWatch a Doggie Costume Parade — Each year one of the pup-friendliest venues in Balboa Park, the Spanish Village Art Center, has presented a Doggie Costume Contest and Parade. If your kids are your pets, this is a perfect opportunity to get in on the dress-up fun and let Fido or Fifi strut their stuff for prizes. The canine costuming gets underway at 1pm!

Live Entertainment — It’s hard to imagine a park-wide event in Balboa Park without live music in the Plaza de Panama anymore. Adults of all ages can enjoy howling good tunes from the Save the Starlight Band while waiting to have their photo taken in the nearby Fab Trailers Photo Booth.

Food Trucks! — It’s even harder to imagine a park-wide event without gourmet meals on wheels. On the menu this Saturday will be such Food Truck Friday favorites as Tacos La Mezcla, Two for the Road, PIZZA PAZZA, Super Q, Currywurst Frankfurt, Caribbean Escape, Marcel Belgian Waffle, Beachin' Boba, and Sushi Uno. Trucks will be parked along Village Place.

Carnival Games for Prizes — Tired of getting beat by 8-year-olds in online video games? Now’s your chance to show them who’s top dog at real-life, in-the-flesh carnival games, presented by the City of San Diego Park and Recreation Department.

Live Zoo Animals Booth — A number of park organizations and community partners will be hosting special info and activity booths in the Plaza de Panama and on the El Prado walkway. They offer everything from tips for removing energy vampires from your home (SDG&E) to opportunities to get up close to some of my fury friends at the San Diego Zoo.


Halloween Family Day is presented by the Balboa Park Conservancy in collaboration with the City of San Diego Park and Recreation Department. Photo courtesy of Bella the Dog's blog.

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Face of Eddie the Dog, Cosmos's friendEddie writes: Dear Cosmos, With all the negativity surrounding this election season, my pack is looking like a bunch of downward dogs. Are there any fun or uplifting activities in the park that you can recommend to get our tails wagging again?

Cosmos: Great question, Eddie! Spending a lot of time in Balboa Park, I can personally attest to what every pooch already knows: being in a natural environment surrounded by lots and lots (and lots) of trees is very beneficial to anyone’s mental and physical well-being. Studies are just catching up with centuries of canine wisdom to prove that walks in nature have a positive impact on the brain.

So just the simple activity of strolling through any part of Balboa Park’s 15 gardens, 65 miles of trails, and hundreds of acres of open space filled with over 15,000 trees should put a smile back on anyone’s snout. But for those pack members who especially need to unplug from watching too much cable news programming these past few weeks, here are a few more uplifting exhibitions and activities in Balboa Park to sniff out:

Dish filled with cute heads from Kawaii exhibition at Japanese Friendship GardenThe Art of the Brick: This fall season’s true “blockbuster” exhibition at the Fleet Science Center is the world's largest display of LEGO art ever. Your inner pup will marvel at the limitless possibilities of playing with an unlimited number of LEGO bricks.

Cute, Cute Kawaii — Japan’s Pop Culture Movement: If shifting your pack mentality requires extreme measures, then I suggest immersing everyone in this celebration of cuteness in Japanese pop culture at the Japanese Friendship Garden.

60th Annual Massing of the Colors and Service of Remembrance: Even Yellow Dog Democrats should be able to set aside partisan politics to help honor service members as part of this uplifting family-friendly event, featuring a parade of color guards inside the Organ Pavilion.

The Polka Dot Ghost: The life-sized puppet show at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater will have pups of all ages in stitches as they learn that, unlike some politicians, not all ghosts are born scary.

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Given Balboa Park’s top-dog reputation as San Diego’s favorite place to celebrate holidays and other special events, it’s no wonder that one of the biggest holiday celebrations in India has also found a home here.

Rows of ornate Diwali lamps lit up in Balboa ParkFor centuries across the Indian subcontinent, Diwali, the Festival of Lights, has celebrated the universal theme that light trumps dark. Now in its ninth year, Balboa Park’s Diwali Festival joins such heavyweights as December Nights, the Halloween Family Day, and Earth Fair as a multi-venue holiday party in Balboa Park for party animals of all species and sizes.

The festivities kick off at noon on Saturday, October 15, and continue all the way into the night — the best time to see 1,008 lighted lamps. For a small admission fee of only five bones, attendees will have access to Diwali-related programs inside the Mingei Museum, The San Diego Museum of Art, Organ Pavilion, and Balboa Park Recital Hall.

Diwali Festival highlights include

  • The Navaratri Festival of Dolls at the Mingei Museum (12noon–5pm)
  • A lecture on The San Diego Museum of Art’s famous collection of paintings from India (2pm); galleries open until 5pm
  • An India Fair inside the Recital Hall (11am–6pm)
  • Performance by singer Aditya Rao in the Organ Pavilion (4–5:30pm)
  • A cultural program and lighting of 1,008 lamps in the Organ Pavilion (6:15–8:00pm)
  • A participatory Bhangra dance in the Organ Pavilion (8:00pm)

Did I mention there will be food — lots of food? An Indian food court, featuring dishes from all over the Indian subcontinent, will be centrally located in the parking lot behind the Organ Pavilion. Note, however, drive-through services will not be available — doggone it!

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Timken Museum of Art front entrance at duskIt’s “Kids Free in October” month and once again families have a perfect opportunity to introduce their litter to all the great arts and culture attractions in San Diego. Over a dozen museums in Balboa Park are offering free admission for pups 12 and under (in human years) through October 31 as part of the San Diego Museum Council’s Kids Free in October program. To participate, pack leaders need to register on the Museum Council’s website and print out a coupon for each museum they wish to visit (dozens of other museums across San Diego County are part of the program as well, but we won’t talk about those here).

For parents who are just happy to remember to bring their cell phone when they leave the house, or simply don’t have pockets, like me, to carry around a wad of coupons for the entire month, I have good news: There are several coupon-free ways to take advantage of kids free month in October.

Halloween Family Day — As part of the spooktacular park-wide annual Family Day on October 29, kids 12 and under are admitted free with a paying adult at participating Balboa Park museums — no coupon required! There will also be plenty of creepy crafts and other activities, both inside and outside of the museums, and food trucks from 11am to 4pm that day.

San Diego Zoo — Still looking for ways to celebrate the San Diego Zoo’s 100-year anniversary? You’re in luck! Several centennial-themed programs and activities for kids are planned throughout October, during which kids 12 and under are admitted free to the Zoo without a special coupon.

Where Kids Are Always Free (at least for the foreseeable future) — Though most Balboa Park museums let kids five and under, or two and under, in for free, there are several museums that are truly free for kids year round (not just in October). The San Diego Museum of Art is free for anyone 17 and under; and the Timken Museum of Art is always free for everyone. Meanwhile, kids 12 and under are admitted free at the Museum of Photographic Arts, the Veterans Museum, and the San Diego Art Institute.

So wherever you can, please save a tree or two (because I really love trees), and take advantage of these free opportunities for kids that don’t require a coupon!

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Maker Faire space module with California Tower in backgroundMakers are a curious breed — and I mean that both literally and figuratively. They represent a wide range of backgrounds and interests: tech enthusiasts, gardeners, engineers, artists, scientists, crafters, and even cosplayers. But one common trait these DIYers all share is a drive to make their innovative ideas a reality, usually on their own time and in their own backyards (where I myself do some of my best work).

This weekend (October 1-2) pups of all ages can get their paws on “crazy contraptions” created by over 200 Makers from all over the country at the 2nd Annual San Diego Maker Faire. Among the featured exhibits will be drivable Cupcake Cars in the South Palisades lot; the mysterious Temple for Youtopia near the Lily Pond; an interactive virtual reality experience; the San Diego Made jewelry and craft bazaar in the South Palisades lot; the Maker Faire’s unofficial mascot, Russell, the giant electric giraffe, complete with new upgrades; and an opportunity to adopt a fairy and play with puppets in the Spanish Village Art Center.

One-of-a-kind Maker exhibits will be scattered throughout a dozen Balboa Park institutions and various outdoor exhibit areas in Balboa Park. Access to all Maker-themed activities this weekend (including admission to 10 different museums) is included in either a single-day or weekend Maker Faire pass. Families looking to save a few bones should buy their passes online by September 30.

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