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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

Coney the Cat, Ask Cosmos, Cosmos Blog, Balboa ParkConey the Cat writes: Dear Cosmos, My family is so fixated on what’s happening for 2015, I’m curious about the activities ending in 2014 they may be overlooking.

Cosmos: Since I’d hate for curiosity to kill the … you know, I’ve put together this list of exhibitions that are truly the cat’s meow for 2014 and not to be missed:

Ripley’s Believe It or Not (closes 1/4/15; San Diego Air & Space Museum): It’s time to stop pussyfooting around if you haven’t had a chance to see one of the weirdest and wackiest exhibitions ever to claw its way to San Diego. The popular interactive exhibition was held over through 2014, but will finally end its unbelievable run in early January.

Illusion exhibit, R. H. Fleet Science Center, Balboa ParkIllusion Nothing Is As It Seems (closes 1/11/15; Reuben H. Fleet Science Center): The other “you won’t believe your eyes” exhibition in Balboa Park will soon be vanishing before your very eyes as well. Over 20 different mind-bending exhibits demonstrate why humans should never trust their senses—providing all the more reason for them to adopt and take good care of their pets.

Presidio to Pacific Powerhouse: How the Military Shaped San Diego (closes 1/4/15; San Diego History Center, San Diego Air & Space Museum, Veteran’s Museum): The exhibition that was so big it took 10 different museums to tell its full story will permanently leave port soon. Fortunately, it’s not too late to pick up your Tour of Duty Passport and dog tag at the San Diego History Center and begin exploring the impact the military has had on our region since San Diego officially became a “military town” in 1774.

Surf Craft — Design and the Culture of Board Riding (closes 1/11/15; Mingei International Museum): Though officially part of Mingei’s 2015 exhibition series, American Icons, Surf Craft dog paddles off into the sunset early next month. The unique display explores the history and craft of surfboard design, from innovative board shapers and legendary riders to the copycats who followed in their wake.

Lead Sleds and Customs (closes 1/2/15; San Diego Automotive Museum): If Santa Claus had one of these “lead sleds” to deliver his presents in, he probably would’ve spent most of his toy budget on gas money. Since it’s no longer practical to have one of these curious-looking hot rods as the family car, we can fortunately still admire their cool lines in the context of a museum exhibition.


 

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Last weekend, over 350,000 of my closest friends got a leg up on the holidays during Balboa Park December Nights. It’s worth pointing out, however, that as the Park’s official kick off to the holidays, the two-day extravaganza merely marks the beginning of holiday fun in Balboa Park — albeit a particularly spectacular one.

Though you may no longer be able to jostle packs of people on the Prado or crowd around special outdoor holiday performances and food vendors, there are still ample opportunities to experience the holidays in the Park through the end of the year. Here is just a small sampling in no particular order:

The Nutcracker Ballet dancers, San Diego Civic Youth BalletPoinsettia Display — The Botanical Building’s artful arrangement of hundreds of holiday plants sets the tone for the season.

Puppet Theater — Different holiday-themed performances each week keep young pups begging for more.

Light Displays — New permanent lighting throughout the Park, courtesy of SDG&E, enhances the Park’s traditional seasonal light displays.

The Nutcracker — The fully staged production featuring 150 young ballet dancers will bring smiles to the faces of everyone in your litter.

Jungle Bells — The San Diego Zoo’s festive evenings are the closest most of us will get to celebrating the holidays in the wild.

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas — Though I understand Max the Dog steals the show every night, there’s a reason this show is returning for a 17th year at the Globe.

Holiday Organ Concert — Howl along to your favorite seasonal carols at the free Sunday afternoon concert in the Spreckels Organ Pavilion on December 21.

Unique Gift Shopping — Keep those gift cards for yourself and discover San Diego’s best one-stop shopping mall for thoughtful gift ideas. Many museum stores even carry pet toys!

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It should be as plain as the nose I’m about to lick on your face that I live for the holidays. Being a cute, cuddly four-legged mammal, I’m ideally positioned to be a frequent recipient of this time of year’s spirit of giving. And I’m more than happy to reciprocate by, well, licking your face, hands, or shoe (your preference).

Balboa Park December Nights, Christmas Story performance, Spreckels Organ PavilionThis dynamic of giving and receiving is nowhere more apparent than during the annual Balboa Park December Nights, when dozens of park organizations and the City of San Diego throw the biggest free public holiday party in the known universe for over 300,000 guests. This year’s kick off to both the holidays and the 2015 Centennial Celebrations is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 5, 3-11pm, and Saturday, Dec. 6, noon-11pm.

Thousands of volunteers will once again don their gay holiday apparel, tune up their singing voices, polish their brass bells, and serve up vats of holiday cheer. From traditional holiday performances and decorations to contemporary dance music and dazzling light displays, Balboa Park December Nights offers a little something for all creatures great and small.

In addition, every museum in the Park will be open free of charge from 5pm to 9pm on both Friday and Saturday nights. And believe me, it is no small matter for a museum that normally sees only a couple thousand or so visitors a week to be suddenly inundated with over a thousand visitors every hour!

In spite of this embarrassment of holiday richness thrown your way, you need not fret about the giving being a one-sided affair. With scores of vendors and food stations spread throughout the Park, including at the Spanish Village Art Center and the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages, there will be plenty of opportunities to show your appreciation. Most museum gift stores will be open as well, with proceeds from all sales supporting the respective museum’s mission. And, yes, they do take plastic — though not in the form of chewed up toys, I'm told.

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What an eventful year it’s been in Balboa Park! I feel like a dog with a bone watching the many preparations for the 2015 Centennial Celebrations. So rather than offering tips on where to send your out-of-town guests this Thanksgiving weekend as I normally do, I’ll review my top five changes in Balboa Park this year that we can all be thankful for (in no particular order):

  1. Cabrillo Bridge Restoration — The temporary closure of my main access route to Nate’s Point Dog Park has proven well worth the trouble. Not only has the iconic Cabrillo Bridge (a.k.a. the Laurel Street Bridge) been retrofitted to last another 100 years, it’s been totally repaved, restored, repainted, and relit.
  2. New Lighting — Speaking of lighting, my bipedal readers who rely more on sight than scent will be happy to see a vast number of improvements to the lighting in Balboa Park, thanks to a partnership with SDG&E. Not only will the Park be safer with more energy-efficient lighting, but new ornamental spotlights on the Park’s historic buildings will make an evening stroll with your four-legged best friend a picture-postcard event.
  3. Wi-Fi Expansion — As I increasingly rely more on social media than my keen sense of smell to gather information on Balboa Park, I’m especially thankful that Balboa Park is now the largest free contiguous Wi-Fi hotspot on the West Coast. It will now be easier to connect and share from my favorite hiding places.
  4. Rapid Bus Service — My bipedal readers should be especially grateful that it’s now easier to spend more time in Balboa Park and less time getting here thanks to the new Rapid 215 MTS bus line. Extended hours, fewer stops, better connections, and clean shiny vehicles take the stress out of hunting for parking on a busy weekend in the Park.
  5. Balboa Park Explorer Pass — Making its debut late last year, Balboa Park’s first annual pass is a dogsend to both individuals and families looking for the most affordable way to take in the many exhibitions and programs slated at all 17 museums in Balboa Park for 2015 and beyond.
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Peanut the hamster, Cosmos' friendPeanut the hamster writes: Dear Cosmos, I must admit, it even wears me out watching my family run around like a hamster on coffee to get all of their holiday shopping done. Can they really find everything they need right there in Balboa Park?

Cosmos: If they are looking for smart watches, tablets, video game consoles, or other run of the puppy mill electronics, then probably not. But that’s not to say Balboa Park museum gift stores don’t offer their own breed of top-of-the-line tech gear, along with hundreds of other unique gift ideas, including designer jewelry and accessories, home décor, posters, books, and toys.

Here is just a small sampling of exciting new tech gear available at select Balboa Park museum gift stores this holiday season.

 

Roboraptor X

San Diego Natural History Museum

$109.00

Roboraptor tech gift idea, San Diego Natural History Museum

If a shelter animal is too big of a responsibility for your child, you can bring home this friendly AI dinosaur pet that only eats batteries, perfect for developing motor skills of budding techies 8 years old and up.

 

3-in-One All-Terrain Robot

Reuben H. Fleet Science Center

$69.95

All Terrian robotic kit gift idea, Reuben H Fleet Science Center

Adolescent pups can take their robotic engineering skills to the next level with a versatile multi-function robotic kit. Transforming into a forklift, rover, or gripper, it proves there is more than one way to skin a cat (or at least push it off the furniture).

 

Lomo’Instant Camera

Museum of Photographic Arts

$119–$139

Lomo Instant camera gift idea, Museum of Photographic Arts

Take the stress out of remembering to email those digital photo files (or remembering anything) after an intoxicating holiday party by enjoying the instant gratification that only an instant film camera can offer. MOPA’s store also sells the film you’ll need.

 

Modern Mobiles

The San Diego Museum of Art

$39.95

Modern Mobiles Kit gift idea, The San Diego Museum of Art

Before there was mobile tech, there was, well, the mobile, a very modern kinetic art form invented by American artist Alexander Calder in the early 20th century. This is the only mobile kit that lets you build and rebuild your own mobile in a variety of ways, which you may be doing a lot if your cat can reach it.

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