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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

Logan and Roxy near the Lily Pond in Balboa ParkLogan and Roxy write: Dear Cosmos, In anticipation of spring break, our family is looking for quality off-leash entertainment that will appeal to pups of all ages and won’t break the piggy bank like a trip to “Pricey-land” would. What are the best options in Balboa Park this month?

Cosmos: Unlike another “happiest place on earth,” Balboa Park and its cultural attractions don’t charge extra bones to visit them on the most popular days, including weekends and spring break. In fact, many museums and performing arts organizations in Balboa Park are a downright steal compared to even going to the movies. After a little sniffing around, I’ve come up with a list of Balboa Park’s best-kept bargain secrets.

Free Outdoor Activities!

Balboa Park’s 1,200-acre campus is home to dozens of open-air experiences that are 100% free — every day. With five play areas with slides, swings, and picnic tables; over a dozen gardens, including the Botanical Building; and 65 miles of hiking trails, a family could visit Balboa Park for an entire week without digging into your eldest’s college fund.

San Diego Model Railroad Museum, Photo by Richard BentonBalboa Park Explorer Annual Pass for Families

Perhaps the best value in Southern California, the $229 Explorer Annual Pass offers general admission to two adults and up to four pups (3–17 in human years) to 17 different museums in the Park, including such kid favorites as the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, Natural History Museum, San Diego Air & Space Museum, and Museum of Man.

Museums with Family-Friendly Pricing and Exhibits

For out-of-towners or those not ready to commit to an annual pass, several museums feature a budget-friendly pricing structure. The San Diego Museum of Art, for example, charges $28 for a pack of two adults and two kids. The Museum of Photographic Arts is offering “Pay What You Wish” pricing through May 29. And the always pup-friendly San Diego History Center and Model Railroad Museum will also entertain a family of four for around $30.

Puppet Theater Shows Are Only $5!

The Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater is the only place in San Diego that features professional-quality puppet shows every day, year-round. Appropriate for everyone in your litter, this month’s performances include spring holiday favorites “Benito Bunny’s Great Easter Egg Hunt” and “Peter Rabbit.”

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I recently barked about an exciting development in my home away from home, Nate’s Point Dog Park. Last January, 18 glorious new trees were planted in Nate’s Point off-leash area thanks to a $20,000 grant from Beneful’s Dream Dog Park program. Coordinated by the Balboa Park Conservancy, City of San Diego Park & Rec, with the help of dozens of dog park-loving volunteers, installed jacaranda, tipuana tipu, and mahogany trees for future generations of pooches and their human companions to enjoy.

Nate's Point dog park, bench and plaque in honor of Kevin ChildreI am now both happy and sad to report another development in Nate’s Point enhancements. Last weekend, the Friends of Balboa Park helped install a new bench and plaque at the entrance to Nate’s Point in honor of Kevin Childre (aka “Father Tuck”) who regularly brought Tucker Doodle, an Instagram sensation and personal packmate of mine, to the dog park. Last May, Father Tuck went to doggie parent heaven after a tragic bicycling accident.

Kevin’s friends and family quickly raised the $5,500 bones needed through a GoFundMe campaign for the bench and plaque. The new cement bench was officially dedicated on March 6, Tucker’s birthday, much to the surprise and delight of Kevin’s wife Margaret.

Part of the inscription on the plaque reads, “All you need is love and a dog.” No truer words have ever been spoken.

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Anyone who follows my blog knows my love affair with the House of Pacific Relations (HPR) International Cottage’s Lawn Programs goes well beyond garden-variety puppy love. What’s not to love about a weekly mini-cultural festival that features paw-tapping music and dance performances, colorful costumes, traditional arts and crafts, and edible delicacies from many lands?

For those who have been hibernating too long, Lawn Program season generally runs from early March through October. During that time, nearly three dozen different member “Houses” each have a turn at highlighting their culture's unique offerings at a Sunday Lawn Program in the International Cottages’ courtyard.

While the Lawn Programs are known for being extremely pup friendly, many readers may not be aware there’s a pack of pups, aka the HPR Queens, that has a lot to do with that. In fact, the HPR Queens will once again kick off Lawn Program season with a diverse smorgasbord of food and entertainment from a variety of cultures this Sunday, March 6, from 12 noon to 4pm.

The HPR Queens is an organization of young ladies, aged 8 to 18, who represent each House of Pacific Relations. In addition to participating in the various activities of their respective House in Balboa Park, they also make their mark in the community through volunteer work for organizations like Mama’s Kitchen, MS Walk, and Father Joe’s Village. In the process, the HPR Queens (consisting of one queen and up to five princesses from each House) foster close relationships among the many packs represented in the House of Pacific Relations as well as a spirit of understanding, tolerance, and goodwill in their communities.

During Sunday’s Lawn Program, this year’s HPR Queens, Princesses, Junior Princesses, and Pee Wee Princesses will be introduced, and beginning at 2pm, they will perform in traditional costumes, promising many YouTube-worthy “aww” moments.

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Rodin, The Prodigal Son, overlooking the Plaza de Panama in Balboa ParkWith another week of record-breaking heat in the forecast, we are clearly in the midst of the dog days of winter. I probably don’t need to tell anyone weaned in San Diego how to make the most of this not-so-unusual weather pattern. But instead of dragging your sun umbrella across a crowded beach, might I suggest pulling up a chair under one of the many colorful umbrellas already adorning Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama.

Recently this popular gathering spot for canines and their leash-bearers became even more picturesque with the addition of seven sculptures from the collection of The San Diego Museum of Art. Titled Art of the Open Air, the display consists of seven large-scale weather-resistant sculptures that have not been on view in a dog’s age.

The works include August Rodin’s remarkable bronze The Prodigal Son, the surrealist Solar Bird by Joan Miró, the brightly painted abstract aluminum Odyssey III by Tony Rosenthal, and a monumental painted fiberglass work, titled Border Crossing, by Luis Jimenez. Missing, unfortunately, is a three-dimensional interpretation of the classic Dog’s Playing Poker painting (dare to dream).

Doggie water dish outside Panama 66 restaurant in Balboa ParkBe that as it may, complementing the sculptures in the Plaza de Panama is a refreshed installation of the art museum’s Sculpture Court and Garden, aka the Panama 66 restaurant and bar. For my furry friends lacking pockets to carry the proper ID for ordering an adult beverage, there is a handy water dish located just outside the Panama 66 entrance. Both the water and entry to the Sculpture Court are free to the public.

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Randy the cat, Cosmos Blog, Balboa ParkRandy the Cat writes: Dear Cosmos, I’m hoping to make the most of Leap Day by enjoying an extra 24 hours of catnapping this month. However, with my frisky family constantly underpaw, it won’t be easy. Help me come up with a list of “can’t miss” activities in Balboa Park during the last two weeks of February that will chase them out of the house.

Cosmos: Since I’m living proof of how easy it is to spend an entire day thinking of (instead of doing) all the things one can do in Balboa Park on any given day, I’ll try to give you enough to sink your claws into without overwhelming that sleepy little head of yours.

Journey Into Space, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, Balboa ParkMuseum Month

As I barked about in a previous blog post, Leap Day is the perfect time to pounce on 50% off regular admission prices at 13 different Balboa Park museums. Until February 29, area residents can retrieve a free Museum Month Pass at a Macy’s department store to receive discounted admission for up to four people. It’s a great way to get a leg up on new installations at many Balboa Park museums.

3D/4D and IMAX Films

February is also Hollywood awards season, which means most of the Oscar-nominated movies at the multiplex aren’t exactly pup friendly. Thankfully for pack leaders, Balboa Park boasts four state-of-the-art movie-viewing experiences. Through the end of the month, families can blast off into space or dive deep below the ocean surface at the Reuben H. Fleet’s domed IMAX theater, the San Diego Natural History Museum’s Giant-Screen 3D Theater, and the San Diego Air & Space’s 3D/4D Zable Theater.

Best in Show

Since your family obviously fancies the feline species, they won’t want to miss a new exhibition opening this month at the San Diego Art Institute. Best in Show is a multimedia display devoted to animalkind (dogs and cats specifically). They’ll also sleep like a kitten knowing that 10% of the proceeds from their $5 admission ticket will be donated to Four Paws Animal Rescue.

Of course I’m merely scratching the surface with these suggestions. To learn more, have them visit the Balboa Park event calendar.

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