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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

Cosmos Blog_Ask Cosmos_WexlerWexler writes: Dear Cosmos, a number of out-of-town packmates will be hounding me for things to do over the Labor Day weekend. What’s your take on this summer’s must-see closing exhibitions?

Cosmos: I can certainly relate to being hounded for things to do in Balboa Park. In fact, I pretty much make a living off of it. Although I’ve already sniffed out many of Balboa Park’s top dog shows in earlier blog posts, for the sake of our local procrastinators and out-of-town guests alike, I’ve dug up this list of summer’s biggest departing exhibitions.

San Diego Automotive Museum, Orphan Cars exhibition, Nash automobileSpanish Sojourns: Robert Henri and the Spirit of Spain

(closing Sept. 9)

Though Sorolla and America (closing Aug. 26) got most of the buzz, The San Diego Museum of Art’s other major summer exhibition, featuring over 40 portraits by famed American realist Robert Henri, comes with its own set of must-see credentials — in spite of the fact it does not feature a single painting of dogs playing poker.

Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ships

(closing Sept. 1)

Digging up backyard “treasure” is something any pooch worth his or her paws can do. Digging up over 200 artifacts from the bottom of the sea from a real life pirate ship is another order of business. This immersive exhibition at the San Diego Natural History Museum features treasure chests of gold coins, jewelry, cannons, pistols, and a life-size replica of the ship’s stern.

Orphan Cars: Gone but Not Forgotten

(closing Sept. 26)

I’ll never forget the first car I chased as a young pup. It was just begging for attention. Now 17 of the most memorable cars ever made by companies that no longer exist are getting their own attention in a unique showcase of “orphan cars,” ranging in date from the 1905 Tourist to 1981 DeLorean, at the San Diego Automotive Museum.

After Ansel Adams

(closing Sept. 28)

Since the scope of my nature photography portfolio doesn’t extend beyond Balboa Park’s 1,200-acre campus, I have a keen appreciation for photographers like Ansel Adams who captured America’s greatest vistas before most people knew they existed. This display at the Museum of Photographic Arts reveals Adams’s lasting impact on those who followed in his paw prints.

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The Prado Restaurant, Balboa Park, view of bar loungeIf you’ve ever read this blog (or visited this website), it should be no secret that Balboa Park is THE best place in San Diego for pups and their families on any given day, any time of year. But what does the Park offer thirsty pack leaders looking for an adult beverage (or two)?

Here are just a few places boozehounds can go to sample a tasty selection of beers, wines, and cocktails in a picturesque park setting:

Upcoming Special Events

Women in Brewing (August 14)

In conjunction with its intoxicating Beerology exhibition, the San Diego Museum of Man is presenting a regular series of evening craft beer-tasting events inside the museum, featuring local breweries, such as this week’s event highlighting women in the local craft brew and food industries.

History Happy Hour: At Ease in the History Center (August 22)

The San Diego History Center likewise offers its own evening series of History Happy Hours, featuring craft beers and cocktails. Next week’s installment salutes dog tag wearers of the U.S. military in conjunction with the Presidio and Pacific Powerhouse exhibition.

Restaurants & Cafés

The Prado Restaurant

Balboa Park’s top dog culinary attraction is home to Sangria Sundays ($12 pitchers of sangria) and happy hours featuring innovative drink specials and appetizers along with live music in the Prado Lounge from 8pm to 10pm, Tuesday–Thursday, and until 11pm, Friday and Saturday.

Panama 66

Though this pup is still in soft-opening mode, the San Diego Museum of Art’s newest café operator brings a high pedigree of experience in the local brewery pub scene, now serving craft beers and cocktails until 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays (hours likely to expand after official opening next month).

Home Plate Café

A nice alternative for families visiting the Park during daylight hours, the Hall of Champions sports-themed café serves affordable salads, sandwiches, and snacks alongside a selection bottled beer and wine from 10am to 4pm.

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 EamesWith congressional midterm elections still months away, there should only be one race on the electorate’s mind this week and that’s who will emerge as leader of the pack and be crowned Balboa Park’s Top Dog for 2014.

Being Balboa Park’s Top Doggie Blogger, I must recuse myself from the voting and from making any personal endorsements — which is just fine with me. I don’t envy voters who are asked to single out which of these 30 photogenic pooches deserves to not only serve as Balboa Park’s reigning Top Dog, but to receive an overnight stay at Loews Coronado Bay Resort.

Not to mention two runners up won’t be left out in the cold either, with the first runner up receiving a voucher to have a professional photo session with Colleen's Custom Pet Photography, a custom dichroic glass dog tag by Chris Stell, and a Family 4-Pack of Balboa Park Explorer Multi-Day Passes. The second runner up receives a Family 4-Pack of tickets to a San Diego Junior Theatre performance and a 4-Pack of tickets to the San Diego Air & Space Museum.

With so much at stake, please be sure to click on the second page of finalists to view four additional worthy contenders before placing your final vote. Winners will be announced on August 15. (Note: only one vote per person/email address is permitted.)

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Real Pirates, gold treasure, San Diego Natural History MuseumMore than any other time of year, mid-summer is when bipedal readers hound me the most for tips on things to do. Perhaps it’s because there is SO MUCH going on in Balboa Park right now, humans, who tend to overthink things rather than follow their instincts, have trouble deciding where to go. Or maybe the approaching “dog days of summer” naturally lead folks to turn to a dog for guidance.

Whatever the case, to get the ball rolling, here is my quick and dirty list of things to do in Balboa Park for those who need an app just to figure out where to go for dinner.

Real Pirates — If you’re like me and consider pirates, who dig up buried treasure for a living, to be kindred spirits, you’ll enjoy viewing over 200 authentic artifacts recovered from a real pirate shipwreck, on display at the Natural History Museum.

Free Weeknight Concerts — Give your house, and your pooch, a chance to cool down after work by enjoying a free evening concert in the Spreckels Organ Pavilion every weeknight, Monday through Thursday.

Take a Plunge — While I continue to lobby the International Olympic Committee to make dog-paddling an Olympic sport, my two-legged readers can practice their stroke at the Bud Kearns Pool during its extended summer hours.

Take a Hike — Extended daylight hours also give workaholics more time to explore over 65 miles of marked trails that crisscross Balboa Park.

Family-Friendly Theater — Whether your pups prefer going Into the Woods (the Old Globe) or In the Heights (San Diego Junior Theatre), or simply want to experience Fairy Tales in the Park (San Diego Civic Youth Ballet), Balboa Park’s performing arts venues can take them there.

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With all the activities going on throughout Balboa Park this time of year, I understand it may be possible for some folks to overlook that it’s also Top Dog Photo Contest season. Accordingly, I would like to use this blogspace to clear up some confusion and offer a few words of advice to my fellow shutterbugs participating in this year’s contest.

I’m seeing an awful lot of pooches right now running around Balboa Park with cameras and smart phones taking pictures of the Park’s lush scenery. And as much as I don’t want to discourage such activity, remember that the annual Top Dog Photo Contest awards the best photos taken in Balboa Park of a dog, not a photo taken of Balboa Park by a dog.

Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park Top Dog Photo Contest, Jedi, 2012 WinnerNow that I’ve gotten that important detail out of the way, here are a few other pointers to bear in mind:

Lighting — As tempting as it is to pose your puppy in a cool shaded area, make sure he or she is lit by adequate natural light – but not too much. For the best lighting, come to the Park in the early morning or early evening. No one, canine or human, looks particularly fetching in a photo taken in direct sunlight during the lunch hour.

Rule of Thirds — Though it may seem natural to perfectly center your pooch in the photo (and some prize-winning photos have done just that), you can create a more dynamic composition by pushing elements of interest to one-third of the picture grid, either top/bottom or left/right.

Frame Your Elements — You can also take advantage of lines in architectural or landscape features to lead the viewer’s gaze and establish a border in your picture.

Remove Background Distractions — Before snapping that winning shot, make sure a park visitor hasn’t wandered into the picture frame or there isn’t a corner of a blanket, camera bag, or trashcan in view that will catch the viewer’s eye.

Take a Variety of Shots — See what happens if you zoom in, step back, adjust the angle, take the shot from above or at ground level. It may take a little experimenting to find Fido’s or FiFi’s best side.

But don’t obsess too much.The submission deadline for the 2014 Balboa Park Top Dog Photo Contest is August 4, which will be followed by an online vote of the top 25 finalists.

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