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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

I’m pleased to report we received another excellent batch of submissions for this year’s Top Dog Photo Contest. But who will replace Copper as the new champ? That’s of course for you to decide, by voting from the selection of 25 finalists!

On behalf of my fellow packmates at Balboa Park Central, I would like to thank everyone who submitted a photo to this year’s contest. As always, some agonizing decisions had to be made by our jury of dog lovers and park experts to come up with the top 25.

As you’ll see from the group of finalists, there is not a single junkyard dog in the bunch. In fact, this year’s entries featured some particularly creative ways of posing pooches in the Park, which included locales stretching from the Rose Garden to Sefton Plaza on the West Mesa. One finalist was even shot in my home away from home, Nate’s Point Dog Park.

Now, my dear reader, it’s time for you to exercise your right to vote in the most important race before November, for you will not only determine the Park’s new alpha, but which lucky dog will receive a night’s stay and an exclusiveSu’ruff Camp package from Loews Coronado Bay Resort.

Please note there is only one vote per email address, and all votes must be received by midnight, August 22. The judges will announce the winner on August 23.

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Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park, Botanical Building, 20 Fun and Affordable Things to DoPlease 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.

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Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park, Morley Field, VelodromeIf you’re like me, then watching the Olympic Games on TV makes you want to go out and play some of these sports yourself. But until fetch, chasing one’s tail, or digging up the garden are officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee, I’ll have to settle for watching my bipedal friends begin their training regimen right here in Balboa Park.

For example, the Morley Field Sports Complex on the Park’s east mesa is home to the Bud Kearns Memorial Pool, a 20 x 40 meter swimming pool with 14 lanes, perfect for free-stylers and dog-paddlers alike. There are also 25 hardcourt tennis courts managed by the Balboa Park Tennis Club, which offers day rates for nonmembers—lights on for evening play included!

Bow and arrow enthusiasts will be happy to know that the last two remaining public field archery ranges in Southern California are located in Morley Field and on Balboa Park’s west mesa, by the Museum of Man.

In addition, Morley Field also houses a banked 333.3-meter concrete velodrome for the next generation of Olympic cyclists, miles of running trails for marathoners, and a fitness parcourse for anyone just trying to get in shape. And for those still pining for the day that baseball and softball return as Olympic sports, or when disc golf finally gets its due consideration, there are facilities for those sports here as well.

While Morley Field is the place to go for outdoor sports, two other venues in Balboa Park have the indoor sports covered. For instance, net-heads will want to head over to the Balboa Park Activity Center, a first-class facility built to accommodate 15 badminton courts, up to 50 table tennis tables, and 6 volleyball courts. More volleyball is also available at the Municipal Gymnasium, where you can also start your training to be on the next U.S. Olympic Basketball Dream Team.

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Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park, Bird Park Summer ConcertsIt’s been such a busy summer here at Balboa Park Central, I’ve neglected to highlight one of the pack-friendliest events going on this time of year. If you follow this blog or live in the North Park area, then you probably already know what I’m barking about — that of course being the Bird Park Summer Concert Series.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary of presenting free Saturday evening concerts in the Bird Park section of Morley Field, the series is all about fostering a great community vibe that welcomes young and old, humans, and pets, while showcasing local bands who perform danceable original music.

Though to be perfectly honest, I was a wee bit nervous attending a recent concert featuring the indie rock band Kitten with a Whip. Thankfully though, despite its ominous name, the band came through in delivering a spirited performance in keeping with the family-friendly atmosphere—even if I missed the first few songs hiding under a picnic blanket.

But you’d better hurry if you’d like to experience this popular event for yourself, as there are only two more concerts in this summer’s line up. The next one, this Saturday, July 28, presents 2012 San Diego Music Award nominees and country band Folding Mr. Lincoln. The series concludes on August 11 with the unique vocal stylings of blues/swing artist Whitney Shay and the Shakedowns.

All concerts begin at 5:30 p.m. There is free street parking in the neighborhood, which can fill up fast. And all seating is on the grassy lawn, so bring lawn chairs and blankets if you don’t plan to spend the entire time dancing your tail off.

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Sparky writes: Yo, Cosmos! I couldn’t help noticing while chewing on this morning’s newspaper that there are a bunch of outdoor film venues around town right now. Can you give me the deets on the one in Balboa Park?

Cosmos: I saw that article too and couldn’t help wondering how many of those outdoor summer film series were around when The San Diego Museum of Art’s annual Screen on the Green film festival debuted over a decade ago. I also couldn’t help choking on my kibbles when I saw one venue charging as much as 22 bones for admission!

Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park, Screen on the Green outdoor films, the San Diego Museum of ArtJust to give you a little background, Screen on the Green started in the summer of 2000 with a single film projected on the side of the museum’s east wing. The series quickly grew into a Balboa Park phenomenon, as its lineup expanded and hundreds of residents packed the lawn in front of the Botanical Building each week—many arriving hours early to get the best spot. Films are now projected on a giant inflatable screen.

Fast forward to 2012, and Screen on the Green still stands as the most scenic outdoor cinema venue in San Diego County. Still being free of charge, it’s also one of the most affordable and pet friendly!

As in years past, this season’s lineup includes critically acclaimed films that complement exhibitions in SDMA’s galleries. For example, the classic films Ivanhoe on July 21 and Beat the Devil on July 28 are presented in conjunction with the exhibition The Invention of Glory. And the Bollywood film Love Aaj Kal on August 8 highlights the museum’s internationally renowned collection of Indian art.

All films begin at 8:00pm, but you’ll need to arrive much earlier than that to mark the best seating for your pack.

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