Please help me reverse the negative association of the expression “the dog days of summer.” How it ever came about boggles my normally acute canine intellect — especially for anyone living in San Diego, home to one of the world’s largest cultural playgrounds, Balboa Park.
“But I spent all my extra cash taking the kids to Disneyland and on back-to-school shopping!”
While normally I would be tempted to say, “Not my problem,” I will instead offer you these 20 fun and affordable things to do with your family:
1. Kick up your paws at a free Twilight in the Park evening concert in the Spreckels Organ Pavilion through August 30.
2. Treat your four-legged packmates to a dog park visit— always free and three to choose from.
3. Start your weekend by getting back to nature with a guided, Saturday morning Offshoot Tour (free).
4. Or, be the leader of your own touring pack with a Walking Audio Tour ($5; coupon available).
5. Make the most of your day by visiting 5 museums of your choice with a Stay-for-the-Day Pass ($39).
6. Experience a weekly cultural festival, complete with gourmet treats, at the International Cottages’ Sunday Lawn Programs (free/nominal charge for food).
7. Enjoy another Sunday afternoon tradition in Balboa Park: a free outdoor organ concert.
8. Or, hear some of the world’s best perform at the International Summer Organ Festival each Monday evening through August 27 (free).
9. Visit each of Balboa Park’s museums for free on a rotating basis on Residents Free Tuesdays (county residents only).
10. Can’t make it on a Tuesday? See the stellar collection at the Timken Museum of Art, which is always free.
11. Also, see, and sniff, the Park’s own colorful collection of botanical treasures for free in the Botanical Building.
12. Watch your pups frolic in one of the many playground areas around Balboa Park (free).
13. Then, enjoy a picnic lunch in one of the Park’s picnic areas (free).
14. Cut new paths through the Park along 19 different marked trails (free).
15. Expose your pups to the performing arts at an early age at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theatre ($5).
16. Or, unleash your own inner puppy by riding the Balboa Park Carousel and Miniature Railroad (prices vary).
17. Be the coolest dawg in your pack by plunging your brood in the Bud Kearns Memorial Swimming Pool ($4/$2).
18. Discover why butterflies love to flutter about the Zoro Garden each summer (free).
19. And find out why I’m happy to restrain myself in the Trees for Health Garden.
20. While on the West Mesa, also be sure to sniff by the meticulously maintained Marston House Garden.