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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

Spanish Village Art Center, historical black and white photoI won’t be going out on a limb when I say Balboa Park’s Centennial year promises to offer ample opportunities to learn about the history of Balboa Park, its architecture, and many cultural attractions. But only a small pawful will be as colorful, tasty, and dog friendly as this weekend’s event in the Spanish Village Art Center, which was originally built for the 1935 Exposition to re-create an old village in Spain.

To kick off the year-long Spanish Village history exhibition in Gallery 21, Community Spirit: History of an Arts Village, the art center invites human and canine art lovers alike to an opening tea on Saturday and Sunday, January 17–18, from 11am to 4pm.

Period dancers will provide the entertainment from 1pm to 3pm, as guests enjoy old-fashioned tea and cookies. To really experience how it was done when it opened in 1935, the Spanish Village suggests attendees dress as they did in 1935 (assuming those old clothes still fit).

The exhibition itself explores the 80-year history and architecture of Spanish Village and will hopefully explain once and for all the who, how, and why behind the painted cobblestones in the courtyard.

A discovery tour will then put guests on the trail of clues to the past hidden throughout the Spanish Village (this is where being a tracking hound has its advantages). All the studios will be open, so visitors can poke their snouts in and see the artists at work in a variety of media, from glassblowing and jewelry making to metalwork and fiber art. I’ll personally be paying a visit to Studio 26 to meet my fellow doggie blogger, Bella … that is, after I’ve ensured all the cookies have found a good home.

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Balboa Park Visitors Center information counter after remodelWith such highly publicized improvements throughout Balboa Park to welcome visitors to 2015’s Centennial Celebrations, including those to the Cabrillo Bridge, the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, the Plaza de Panama, and the lighting throughout the Central Mesa, I wouldn’t blame the Balboa Park Visitors Center for feeling like the runt of the litter (I know I would).

But it doesn’t take a dog’s keen senses to immediately recognize the remarkable transformation that’s taken place right under everyone’s nose. The Balboa Park Visitors Center has gone from being one of the pet-friendliest venues in the Park to being the most human-friendly one as well.

Visitors will immediately notice that a much larger information counter has taken over the entire west end of the center, allowing more people to be helped by more volunteers at the same time. This will help ensure that visitors aren’t any later for the park tour they came in late looking for.

But this larger counter doesn’t mean everything else has been squished into a smaller space, like a Great Dane inside a Chihuahua’s pet carrier. Quite the contrary. The rest of the Visitors Center has a much more open and spacious feel, giving me hope that it will one day be named Balboa Park’s fourth leash-free dog park. At the very least, it's much easier for me to find what I came in for: candy bars, energy drinks, and potato chips.

Other enhancements to the Visitors Center include new cash register and jewelry counters, restored hardwood floors, new ceiling fans, and a fresh coat of paint.

Though it’s much quicker now for visitors to get in and out of the Visitors Center with the information or souvenir they came in looking for, they are just as likely to stay and chill out for a while.

Posted in Visitor Information | add a comment

Florida Canyon, Trail Runner, Balboa Park, Richard Benton photoThis time of year, the media is saturated with tips on keeping New Year’s fitness resolutions. But it shouldn’t take a dog with a blog to tell you that the best advice is to simply do something you enjoy in a place you enjoy doing it.

If my only exercise option was to run around a smelly (even for a dog) strip mall gym, with music blaring so loud I couldn’t hear my own iPaw, I don’t think I could maintain my fitness resolutions for a week. However, thanks to the 1,200-acre fitness facility I call home, Balboa Park, it’s impossible for me to miss a workout. And the best part: membership is always free and any activity fees are usually charged on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Since many big box gyms like to boast about their indoor lap pool, jogging track, or full-size basketball court, I thought I would put things in perspective by highlighting just some of Balboa Park’s fitness facilities and activities:

  • A 14-lane outdoor swimming pool
  • 24 hard court tennis courts
  • A par-72, 18-hole golf course, a 9-hole executive course, driving range, and practice putting greens
  • 65 miles of marked trails for jogging, hiking, and biking (bike rentals available)
  • Two public field archery ranges (the last remaining ones in Southern California)
  • A 30-acre disc golf course
  • A 333.3-meter banked velodrome track
  • Multiple baseball, softball, and soccer fields
  • Lawn bowling greens, leg ball courts, and petanque courts
  • Indoor facilities that offer, among other things, multiple full-size basketball courts, volleyball courts, badminton courts, table tennis, yoga classes, and ballroom and folk dancing lessons
  • And last but not least, three leash-free dog parks!

It might also be worth mentioning that all of the above is set in a historic cultural park with plenty of free parking.

Posted in Sports and Recreation | add a comment

Spreckels Organ Pavilion, Nighttime view, Centennial concertI feel like a kid with a new puppy on Christmas morning … or should I say, I feel like a puppy with a new kid?

At any rate, 2015 celebrations in Balboa Park officially launch on December 31 at 7pm with the most spectacular concert event to hit the Spreckels Organ Pavilion since it first opened on New Year’s Eve 1914!

If you weren’t able to make the 1914 opening event, don’t worry because the Spreckels Centennial Concert will feature a rededication ceremony complete with none other than John D. Spreckels himself (or at least a reasonable facsimile). And if you can’t attend this century’s event in the flesh (or hide), you can watch it from the comfort of your home live on Ustream.

What has my tail wagging so much? Here is a taste of what this once-in-a-lifetime event has in store:

  • A grand procession of banner-carrying local dignitaries to open the celebration, led by 50 bagpipers piping
  • Additional musical fanfare with Westwind Brass
  • A re-enactment of the original dedication ceremony
  • A big-screen display of historic images from Balboa Park’s 100-year history
  • A first sniff at the newly refurbished, sparkling gold mica pipe facade
  • An original organ composition commemorating the event by Dr. Carol Williams, highlighting the brand new Centennial Tuba pipe
  • Additional performances by an array of top-dog talent, including members of the Moonlight Serenade Orchestra; former civic organists Jared Jacobsen (1978–1984) and Robert Plimpton (1985–2000); harpist Karen Rokos, who is the great granddaughter of the organ’s original installer; and Gina Seashore, carillonist for Balboa Park’s California Tower
  • Choral selections by the 200-voice People’s Centennial Choir, culminating with Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus and a fireworks display

As with any Organ Pavilion event, be sure to bring along your leashed friends for an especially howling good time.

Posted in Concerts and Events | add a comment

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.


Posted in Ask Cosmos | add a comment
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