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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

With the pups out of school and airlines charging outrageous fees to bring a change of clothes for everyone, I’m always quick to remind my loyal readers that there’s nothing wrong with a “staycation” when you live in San Diego. Our fair city is a top dog tourist destination this time of year for a reason—and one of those reasons is of course Balboa Park.

Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park, Grossology exhibition, Reuben H. Fleet Science CenterYou could spend a whole week in Balboa Park and still not see and do everything. To help pack leaders get the most bang for their bones, here are, in no particular order, five exhibitions worth sniffing out:

Grossology — Humans have such an odd sense of what’s “gross” when it comes to bodily functions and secretions. Fortunately, this family-friendly interactive exhibition at the Reuben H. Fleet helps folks get over their hang-ups by teaching the science behind all of them.

Ramp It Up: Skateboard Culture in Native America — You don’t need to be a skate dog like me to appreciate the essential contributions Native Americans have made to the development of skateboarding, but you’ll certainly need to be one to take advantage of the half-pipe in the exhibition galleries.

The Horse — I highlighted this fine steed of an exhibition at the Natural History Museum in my last post. Whether you consider yourself a horse lover or not, there is something for everyone here. (Since you’re reading my blog, I hope you’re at least an animal lover.)

Steampunk — If you know what the term means, you’ll definitely want to check out this exhibition of vehicles, gadgets, and graphics at the Automotive Museum. If you don’t know what it is, then that’s why you need to go — to learn about this growing artistic form.

TUNA! Celebrating San Diego’s Famous Fishing Industry — An entire exhibition about a vital and yummy food source is of course a no-brainer in my book. Just be sure to visit the San Diego History Center on a full stomach, or you’ll come away with a very strong craving for a tuna melt.

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Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park, The Horse, San Diego Natural History MuseumIf there’s one animal that has meant more to humans throughout their history than dogs, it’s the horse, of course (sorry cats). In fact, according to a new exhibition at the San Diego Natural History Museum, simply titled The Horse, no animal can match the contributions that horses have made to human civilization.

Even hearing that, I was still a bit dubious, knowing how invaluable my canine kind has been to bipeds for eons. But as this exhibition clearly shows, the horse, which is also easily domesticated because of its follow-the-leader instinct, has played a major role in pushing (and pulling) the advancement of humankind forward.

For example, without the Pony Express, early pioneers of the West wouldn’t have been able to communicate as quickly and easily with family members east of the Mississippi (admittedly, a Puppy Express just wouldn’t have worked out).

I also don’t care for the sound of a “hound-drawn carriage.” Sure, some of my kind can pull a sled across slippery ice, but I can’t imagine a team of two dogs pulling hundreds of pounds of cargo over bumpy roads across vast distances. Nor do I like the idea of being ridden into battle with an armored knight on my back!

And that’s just a small pawfull of examples this comprehensive exhibition explores. Through a variety of interactive and multimedia displays, models, and original artifacts, The Horse reveals the wide scope of culturally significant functions horses have played, including in sports and recreation, warfare, religious practices, hunting, farming, transportation, and even therapy.

Therapy — now there’s a role I think dogs can give horses a run for their money!

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Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park, Blue Star Museums program, California TowerNot only will troops returning this summer from overseas deployment be greeted by their loving family and loyal pets, but museums throughout San Diego County will once again express their appreciation by extending free admission to them and their immediate families through Labor Day (September 3).

For the third year in a row, select Balboa Park museums will participate in the Blue Star Museums initiative — a collaboration of the National Endowment of the Arts, Blue Star Families (a military family support organization), the Department of Defense, and over 1,500 museums across the country.

The eight participating museums in Balboa Park that will be free this summer to any active duty military and their family members are

Not only does this offer provide a great opportunity to get reacquainted with all your pack mates, but you can also reacquaint yourself with some of the treasures buried in your own backyard. Not to mention, you can see — for free — some of this summer’s biggest exhibitions: Ramp It Up: Skateboard Culture in Native America, The Human Beast: German Expressionism at the San Diego Museum of Art, TUNA! Celebrating San Diego’s Famous Fishing Industry, and The Jazz Loft Project: W. Eugene Smith in NYC, 1957-1965 to name a few.

I only ask that between museum visits you be sure to take your faithful hound(s) to Balboa Park’s leash-free dog parks frequently and often.

Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona.
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Though there won’t be a shortage of things to do in Balboa Park this Memorial Day weekend, any event that serves food, food, and more food certainly tops my “To Do” list. And this isn’t just any event; I'm barking about the Ethnic Food Fair on Sunday, May 27, where, for the 32nd year in a row, 32 different cultures prepare and serve native delicacies (for a nominal fee per dish) from 10am to 5pm.

The first few food stations I’ll be hovering near for scraps include the House of Norway for lefse (potato pancakes) and vafler (waffles); the House of Lebanon for traditional Mediterranean fare like hummus, tabouli, spinach pies, falafel, and stuffed grape leaves; the House of Germany for their mouth-watering bratwurst, sauerkraut, and potato salad; the House of China for some tasty Asian dishes like barbeque beef skewers, egg rolls, rice, and noodles; and the House of Columbia to fill my dish with tamales, plantanos (fried bananas), and empanadas (meat-filled turnovers).

And those are just five cultures out of 32, so at this point I’m really only scarfing the surface!

Fortunately, to help pass the time as I eat my way around the world will be a full schedule of colorful performances of costumed singers, dancers, and musicians representing the same 32 different cultures. Among the highlights are Sohaila & the Shining Stars belly dancers; the Sabor Andaluz flamenco dancers; the child prodigies, the Pizzaro Brothers, on duo pianos; and Julie Sigala, who performs Polish and Latino songs.

Since you may not have anything better on your plate this weekend, I urge you and your pack join me for this annual chow down.

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BJ and Diesel write: Dear Cosmos, With the Dancing with the Stars finale just around the corner, my family wants to know if there’s someplace they can go in Balboa Park to learn how to execute their own flawless paw-so-doble.

Cosmos writes: Though the dancers on that show spend hours and hours practicing each week so they can perform at such a high level, it’s certainly possible to transform two left paws through the many dance classes offered in the Park.

Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park, Dance ClassesWhile canines are naturals when it comes to the four-legged foxtrot, most other dances don’t come so easily to either us or our human companions. Thankfully, the Balboa Park Dancers holds lessons two nights a week, Fridays and Sundays, for any level of ballroom dance experience—and aptitude—in the historic Balboa Park Club.

Each month the lessons, taught by highly trained professionals, focus on one smooth, or ballroom, style of dance and one Latin, or rhythm, style of dance. There’s also a monthly “Party Night” event the second Friday of the month for really getting your freak on.

The Cabrillo Folk Dancers, who meet in the Balboa Park Club on Tuesdays, are a good alternative for us dead hoofers or anyone else seeking more informal dance styles. They offer line dances and partner dances from around the world that are easy and fun to learn for all ages. Other ethnic dance styles are taught regularly at the World Beat Center, so be sure to check their website for a schedule.

If you prefer your folk dance American style, the New Square Dance Beginners is probably more your “thang.” They meet in the Casa del Prado on Sunday evenings, with the next new session commencing on June 3 and 10.

If your pack members still feel intimidated by taking a dance class, just let them know that the motto for most of these organizations is “If you can walk, you can dance.”

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