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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

For those lucky dogs out there who got their first taste of Balboa Park at last weekend’s December Nights festival, I have some very good news: you actually didn’t experience everything Balboa Park has to offer during the holidays. As spectacular, eventful, and satisfying as one of the top holiday festivals in America is, there are just some activities, programs, and events that can only be properly savored on certain dates and at certain times of the day.

Botanical Building, Poinsettia Display 2015, Balboa ParkHere are just five worth barking about:

  1. Poinsettia Display (thru December) — If you attended December Nights during the evening hours only, you missed an excellent selfie opportunity inside the Botanical Building, where hundreds of multi-colored poinsettia plants form the perfect backdrop to any holiday e-card.
  2. Organ Pavilion Sing-Along Concert (Dec. 20, 2pm) — The Spreckels Organ Pavilion may be the primary performance stage for December Nights, but you probably didn’t get a chance to sing your favorite holiday carols with all your packmates while accompanied by one of the world’s largest outdoor organs. Just sayin’.
  3. The Nutcracker (thru Dec. 20) — If you were impressed by the San Diego Civic Youth Ballet’s presentation of excerpts of the classic holiday ballet during December Nights, imagine what they could do during a fully staged indoor production of “The Nutcracker”! It's a great way to instill an appreciation of this beautiful art form in your pups.
  4. Jerusalem IMAX film (now showing) — No one could blame you for not taking the time to watch a feature-length IMAX film during December Nights. But now that your pups are out of school and out-of-town guests are getting restless, there’s never been a better time to experience this visually stunning exploration of the world’s most sacred city on a giant domed screen at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center.
  5. Christmas Puppet Theater Shows (daily performances) — With so many dazzling distractions during December Nights, it’s likely the littlest members of your litter were in no state to sit through an entire performance at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater. Thankfully, three Christmas-themed shows over the next three weeks are guaranteed to keep squirrely preschoolers thoroughly enthralled.
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Balboa Park December Nights - California Tower and holiday lightsYou know it. I know it. Even most cats know it. But the rest of the country is still under the delusion that their rinky-dink local holiday festival is somehow better than Balboa Park December Nights.

Thanks to a USA Today online reader’s poll, you can now help set the record straight! Cast your vote today to let everyone from San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale know December Nights is leader of the pack when it comes to dispensing holiday cheer.

Why is Balboa Park December Nights the best of the best?

  • No other holiday festival takes place in the largest urban cultural park in North America.
  • No other holiday festival offers free admission to over a dozen world-class museums.
  • No other holiday festival features concerts on one of the world’s largest outdoor organs by an internationally recognized organist.

To put it another way, no other holiday festival greets over 300,000 guests with food from around the world, dozens of free music and dance performances, a kids activity zone, decorative light displays, unique holiday shopping opportunities, a giant interactive mural, and 18 award-winning local craft beers on tap in one historic setting.

Still need convincing? See for yourself this Friday, December 4, 3pm to 11pm, and Saturday, December 5, 12 noon to 11pm, when Balboa Park December Nights kicks off the holiday season in San Diego for the 38th consecutive year.

As of this posting, Balboa Park December Nights holds the seventh spot in the USA Today reader’s poll. Not too shabby. But do you really want to let your December Nights get beaten out by a holiday festival in Riverside, CA (currently in third place)? Vote now and once per day through December 21 to ensure December Nights doesn’t wind up in the doghouse!

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Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole ChristmasWEATHER ADVISORY: Forecasters are predicting your out-of-town guests will bring cooler temperatures and a chance of showers with them to San Diego over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Though it won’t necessarily be raining cats and dogs, it won’t exactly be beach weather either. This can make outdoor activity planning tricky, as no one wearing a tank top and shorts wants to be left out in the cold when weather patterns suddenly change.

So what’s a holiday host to do?

Answer: Take your friends and family to a beautiful outdoor environment, filled with colorful gardens, walking trails, and historic architecture, that offers ample reasons to duck into equally enjoyable indoor activities when the elements kick up.

Since you are reading this blog, you may not be surprised to learn there’s only one place in town that fits that description: Balboa Park.

But this isn’t just any year to treat your extended packmates to a day, or two, or three, in the largest urban cultural playground in North America. Marking the 100-year anniversary of the landmark Panama California Exposition that drew millions to San Diego in 1915, Balboa Park museums and attractions have ramped up their activities in celebration of the Centennial.

Indoor events range from pup-friendly exhibitions like Da Vinci: The Ultimate Innovator and Imaginate to holiday-themed shows at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theatre and Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas at the Old Globe. That’s in addition to the many exhibitions and programs at various museums that showcase the rich history and legacy of the 1915 Expo.

Don’t leave Aunt Millie out in the cold. Check out the Balboa Park Calendar to start planning your weather-proof Thanksgiving itinerary.

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Fergus the dogFergus writes: Dear Cosmos, Holiday shopping is easy when I know what everyone in my pack wants. I just go online and find the best deal with free shipping. But how do I shop for folks who haven’t given me their holiday gift wish list? Gift cards are so boring.

Cosmos: Online shopping was an incredible boon for us canines, who have difficulty getting out to the malls thanks to draconian laws that prevent dogs from getting a drivers license. But shopping on a computer has also curtailed those special moments when you turn around in a store and spot the perfect gift for a hard-to-shop-for loved one. I was reminded that these moments are the true joy of holiday shopping (and giving) while sniffing around some gift stores in Balboa Park recently. Here are a few gems I dug up…

Terrarium by Tend Living

For those looking to prevent pets from destroying their house plants, you might consider putting them under glass (the plants, not the pets). The Mingei International Museum’s store has added drought-tolerant terrariums by North Park’s own Tend Living to its diverse collection of hand-crafted jewelry, accessories, and home décor.

Sun Art Enthusiast Gift package, MOPA

If you have a photo hound on your holiday list, then be sure to check out the Museum of Photographic Arts’ wide selection of holiday gift packages, including the one-of-a-kind Sun Art Enthusiast Package. MOPA is offering 35 percent off all Lomography products during December Nights.

Giant Microbe, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center store

Teach your favorite germophobic there’s nothing to be afraid of with these cute “little” GIANTmicrobes, available at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. GIANTmicrobes are stuffed animals that look like tiny microbes — only a million times actual size! They’re humorous, educational, and pup-friendly.

Dr. Seuss themed Gifts at San Diego History Center

Put a smile on any Grinch’s face with something from the San Diego History Center store. In conjunction with the Ingenious Dr. Seuss exhibition, the History Center has a giant selection of Dr. Seuss-themed mugs, games, stuffed toys, holiday ornaments, and of course books, including the recently published What Pet Should I Get? (spoiler alert: get a dog)

Humming Bird Feeders, Balboa Park Visitors Center

Bird watchers will be the envy of their neighborhood with an environmentally friendly hummingbird feeder by Hummingbird Vineyard. Made of upcycled wine bottles, the unique feeder at the Balboa Park Visitors Center features NectorGuard non-drip technology that lets humming birds feed without creating an ant problem.

Balloon Dog Bookends, San Diego Museum of Art store

Book-lovers can never have enough bookends. And no one can ever have enough dog-themed home décor items. Thankfully, your pet- and book-loving friends can have the best of both worlds with a distinctive Big Top Balloon Dog Bookend, available at the San Diego Museum of Art store.

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For those who work like a dog every day, getting a day off in the middle of the work week is cause for celebration in itself. The opportunities seem endless: sleeping in, getting the car’s oil changed, holiday shopping, quality time with the pups, or simply clearing some space on the DVR. But for those sniffing around for an opportunity to actually do something holiday-related on Veterans Day, the choices are few and far between.

The good news is you’ve come to the right place. Your faithful Cosmos is here for you.

It just so happens that several Balboa Park institutions are featuring American-themed displays this week to help you remember those whose service made some of our cultural expressions possible.

Battle for Outpost Harry exhibition, Veterans Museum, Balboa ParkHold at All Costs: The Battle for Outpost Harry

If you’ve never been, or haven’t been lately, there’s probably no better time to visit Balboa Park’s Veterans Museum than on Veterans Day. Its current featured exhibition explores the valiant defense of Outpost Harry at the end of the Korean War. Dog tag-wearing active duty military, VMMC members, and children under 12 are always free!

Made in America: Craft Icons of the 50 States

This new exhibition at the Mingei surveys the contribution each of the US’s 50 states has made to our cultural heritage. Much more than a dog’s breakfast of regional artifacts, this cornucopia of Americana reminds visitors that the diversity of our traditions is what makes America so unique.

Centennial-Themed Exhibitions

To celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the 1915 Panama California Exposition, several major exhibitions throughout the Park are presenting a slice of the landmark event that put San Diego on the map before anyone ever heard of craft beer. Among those capturing what America looked like a century ago are San Diego Invites the World: The 1915 Expo and Masterworks of the Exposition Era at the San Diego History Center, Souvenirs & Keepsakes: Memorabilia of the 1915 & 1935 Expositions and Balboa Park Exposition Designers 1915-1935 at the Marston House and Gardens, and the Centennial Railway Garden at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum.

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