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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

cosmos-blog_december-nights_california-tower-viewIf you found this blog, you undoubtedly know San Diego’s official kick off to the holiday season, Balboa Park December Nights, is this weekend. But, you may be asking yourself, what’s all the fuss? Where do I go? What do I do?

 

To make the most of this grand tradition—that just keeps getting bigger—be sure to arrive early, either via public transportation or by parking in the free lots at the County Administration Building and San Diego City College and then taking a free shuttle into the Park. 

 

Once you’re in the Park, it won’t take you long to realize that this event is everywhere! (see map) So assuming you arrived early, head straight to your favorite museums, which are open free of charge beginning at 5:00pm on both Friday and Saturday nights.

 

December Nights is the perfect opportunity for you to dig into the Natural History Museum’s Fossil Mysteries exhibition, set to holiday music, the Reuben H. Fleet’s recently upgraded Kid City, and the Timken Museum’s annual Christmas tree, displaying artist-made ornaments.

 

After taking in a few museums you will likely be hungry—real hungry. Thankfully, food stations will be in as much supply as holiday cheer. But for something more than the usual hot dog-on-a-stick fare, check out the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages' Christmas Festival where over 30 distinct cultures will serve a diverse assortment of world cuisine.

 

Another hot spot for Cosmos-approved treats is the Holiday Spirit Lounge in the Plaza de Panama, featuring food stations provided by the Cohn Restaurant Group and Prado Restaurant. These gourmet-savvy folk will also debut their meals-on-wheels food truck, Chop Soo-ey, so keep an eye out for my new best friend, a cleaver-wielding samurai pig.

 

In between museum and food hopping, be sure to stop by the many stages that really make this holiday event sing. Performers from the San Diego Junior Theatre, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, and other talented groups will present lively sketches, music, and other holiday-themed entertainment throughout the night.

 

And, of course, what would an epic festival be without a family zone, conveniently located in the Palisades Midway in close proximity to the equally epic food zone at the aforementioned International Cottages.

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cosmos-blog_rh-fleet_earth-exposed_air-ringsIf driving around endlessly, looking for Zoo parking isn’t your idea of a good time, I suggest bringing your holiday weekend guests next door to San Diego’s largest cultural playground. While it would be impossible to list everything your family might enjoy in Balboa Park this weekend, my keen senses have honed in on the following venues:

 

The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center is open Thanksgiving Day! Youngsters can build up an appetite scurrying through the recently renovated Kid City exhibition, interacting with the forces of nature that shape the planet in Earth Exposed, or chilling out to the new IMAX film Galapagos.

 

The Spreckels Organ Pavilion officially inaugurates the holiday season on Saturday, November 27, with a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, complete with music. Speaking of holiday tunes, the following day San Diego’s Civic Organist Carol Williams introduces two young organists, who help her present a special Thanksgiving concert.

 

The Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater continues a Thanksgiving week tradition with multiple performances of Santa and the Ho Ho Thief. Kids can help Santa and Alfie Elf save Christmas from Wanda the witch, who wants to steal all the holiday attention for herself.

 

For bigger pups and art lovers, The San Diego Museum of Art digs deep into its own collection to feature nearly 100 works by the famed French artist Toulouse-Lautrec and 400 colorful Japanese woodblock prints spanning three centuries.

 

Lastly, for those looking to burn off their widening waistlines, I suggest touring Balboa Park’s many gardens, which will look particularly lush and green after all the recent rains.

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The San Diego Zoo is no longer the only place in Balboa Park to view live critters. And for once I’m not talking about our three dog parks either. For the next four months the San Diego Natural History Museum is hosting 60 live squamates in the exhibition Lizards & Snakes: Alive!

 

cosmos-blog_lizards-snakes-alive_sdnhm_rhinoceros-iguanaSuch a nice sounding word, squamate — seems more like a name for a warm-blooded fury friend than a slithery, cold-blooded, venomous reptile! I’m told the word squamate actually derives from the Latin word “scaled.”

 

But, believe it or not, some 8,000 different species of squamates (lizards and snakes) can be found scattered across five different continents, many in our own backyard, as I’ve often discovered and given chase to.

 

Thankfully, all squamates aren’t as scary looking as the 14-foot Burmese Python or the predatory Water Monitor Lizard, safely confined within the exhibition’s recreated habitats.

 

In fact, the exhibition gives you a chance to see just how diverse and cute real geckos are and what they sound like when they “talk” (they don’t have British accents!). Another adorable creature on display is the colorful Veiled Chameleon.

 

The exhibition’s displays also provide visitors with a wealth of interesting facts, such as how the Green Basilisk is able to sprint on water, why reptiles are always sticking their tongues out at you, and how the Red Spitting Cobra got its middle name (eww!).

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On the heels of the overwhelmingly successful Top Dog Photo Contest, two-legged pups will now get their share of the spotlight in Balboa Park’s Kid’s-Eye View of the Park Photo Contest.

 

cosmos-blog_california_building_from_copley_plaza_photo_by_brett_shoafBudding shutter bugs ages 6 to 17 have until November 30 to point and shoot their way through Balboa Park’s vast scenic playground and submit their best shot online. Any non-human subject is fair game, including the Park’s lush gardens and landscape, architecture, recreational facilities, and animals in the San Diego Zoo.

 

Each submission (one per child) should include a brief statement in the young photographer’s own words explaining the inspiration behind their winning shot.

 

Speaking of winning, what would a contest be without great prizes? The Kid’s-Eye View of the Park Photo Contest of course has many, awarded for the best three photos in two different age categories: 6–11 and 12–17.

 

First place prizes include a premium HP Photosmart Printer, a Behind-the-Scenes tour of the Museum of Photographic Arts, and four Balboa Park Passports. Second place wins an exclusive Backstage Pass tour at the San Diego Zoo that will allow a family of four to get up close with some of my exotic friends. And third place is awarded a Family 4-Pack of Gallery/IMAX admissions to the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and a $20 gift card to the Fleet’s museum store.

 

But before you run out and snap that once-in-a-lifetime shot, be sure to read the complete Contest Rules.

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cosmos-blog_ask-cosmos_camdenCamden writes: Dear Cosmos, My family loves the holidays, I mean really loves them, so believe it or not, they actually need more things to do to celebrate the season than Balboa Park December Nights provides. What do you suggest?

 

Cosmos: Surprisingly this is not an uncommon problem that is actually caused by December Nights itself. Let me explain: the excitement generated both before and after the event whips many folks into such a frenzy, they need more and more holiday-themed activities to keep them going the whole season long. And it’s never too early to start making plans.

 

cosmos-blog_holiday-events-in-the-park_grinch_the-old-globeIn the interests of full disclosure, let me say right from the start that I, too, experience this condition. Fortunately, us four-legged friends are always welcome at the many holiday concerts in the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. For instance, on Sunday, November 28, there will be a Thanksgiving concert featuring San Diego’s Civic Organist Carol Williams and two guest organists, followed by additional concerts with Dr. Williams and the San Diego Children’s Choir on December 5, and another with the Choir of St. Paul’s Cathedral of San Diego on December 12. The series will be capped off with a holiday sing/bark-along concert on December 19.

 

For the rest of your family, I suggest they check out the many indoor performances going on throughout the season, including the Old Globe’s annual presentation of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the San Diego Youth Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker, and a number of Christmas-themed shows at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater.

 

And if this still isn’t enough, a daily walk in Balboa Park, which will be decked out in all its holiday glory through New Year’s Day, should satisfy even the most hardcore holiday junkies of any species. I know it works for me.

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