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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park, Passport Holiday CertificateNo sooner had my paw hit the “post” button on my last Ask Cosmos response to Randy, the finicky holiday shopper, when I realized a serious oversight on my part. (Yes, even Cosmos can make mistakes.)

By focusing on exclusive gift items available in Balboa Park gift stores that Randy’s family might enjoy, I neglected to mention the best way to give the gift of Balboa Park this holiday season. And that would of course be the Passport Holiday Certificate.

For only $45 for adults and $24 for pups 12 and under, the festively packaged certificate can be redeemed at the Balboa Park Visitors Center for a Balboa Park Passport. As many of you know, the Passport grants its bearer free one-time admission to 14 different Balboa Park museums over a one-week period at a savings of over 50%.

The certificate can be purchased at the Visitors Center next time you walk your favorite four-legged friend to the Park, or, in Randy’s case, it can be purchased online before December 16 (to ensure pre-Christmas Day delivery).

The certificate never expires, so whether this holiday season, spring break, or even next summer is the best time to use the Passport, your loved ones won’t have to stress about making the most of a relaxing week-long staycation in Balboa Park.

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Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park, Holiday Shopping 2011Randy writes: Dear Cosmos, with tablets, e-readers, and gift cards (yawn) being all the rage this holiday season, I’m hoping you can direct a finicky shopper like me to some distinctive gift ideas I can really sink my claws into this year.

Cosmos: While being able to surf the Internet with the tip of my nose on a touchscreen has certainly made life much easier for me, I completely understand where you are coming from. Fortunately, my favorite stomping grounds for daily garden strolls, cultural festivals, and leash-free exercise is also the best place in San Diego for one-of-a-kind holiday gifts.

Take the Museum of Photographic Arts, for instance. Sure you’ll find an ample assortment of calendars and coffee table photography books in their store. But where else are you also going to find a wide selection of retro camera bundles, complete with rolls of film, that let you take vintage-looking photos.

Keeping with the vintage theme, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center has a Candy Factory Kit that enables you to create a variety of classic treats the whole family, and family pets, can sink their teeth into. And speaking of sweet edibles the Balboa Park Visitors Center now carries locally handmade caramels and syrups.

Though I don’t recommend sinking your claws or teeth into these, the Air Swimmers (remote controlled helium-filled fish that swim through the air) at the San Diego Natural History Museum are perfect for holiday gatherings and kids parties.

Also often confused with cat toys in some homes are Christmas tree ornaments, and the San Diego Museum of Man’s gift store has a tree chocked full of unique ones from various cultures around the world.

Those are just a few highlights from only a few stores. To see and touch (claws retracted) everything that’s available, it’s best to put your laptop in cat nap mode and browse San Diego’s largest cultural mall in the flesh (or fur).

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Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park, Kid's Eye View of the Park Photo ContestWe all know that kids have their own special way of seeing the world, filled with wonder, curiosity, and imagination, making us old dogs feel … old. Thanks to modern digital cameras, pups can now easily share their unique views of the world with us, and what better place to get them started than in a place as filled with visual wonders as Balboa Park?

Throughout the month of November, housebroken shutterbugs aged 6-17 can win prizes by submitting their best photo taken in Balboa Park to the Kid’s-Eye View of the Park Photo Contest. At stake: an HP Photosmart printer, a week-long summer camp at the Museum of Photographic Arts, a Family 4-Pack to the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park, tickets to popular museums, and gift cards. Prizes will be awarded for the best three photos in two different age categories: 6-11 and 12-17.

Parents or guardians who can use a computer at least as well as their pups have until November 30 at 5pm to upload their kid’s photo online at Photos that include identifiable humans are not eligible, though fortunately there are a lot more interesting things to photograph in the Park anyway. Also, each submission (one per person) must be accompanied by an artist’s statement that explains the significance of the photo in 50 words or less.

Of course there are more contest rules than that, so it’s probably a good idea to read up on them beforehand to avoid having to explain to your child while his or her masterpiece was disqualified.

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Cosmos, Blog, Halloween Family Day 2011, Balboa Park, October 29,While Halloween weekend can be a very busy time for us party animals, the Balboa Park Family Day on October 29 may be the best opportunity to put all your pups (both two-legged and four-legged) in cute costumes, participate in dozens of spooky hands-on activities, and enjoy spine-tingling special tours of your favorite museums.

In addition, participating museums will be free to children 12 and under with paid adult and offer various free activities between 11am and 3pm.

Still not convinced? Here’s a list of some of the highlights:

  • Doggie costume contest and bag decorating at the Spanish Village Art Center
  • Zoo animals on display on the Prado
  • Costume parade and creepy critter cavern at the Natural History Museum
  • Bounce House and Halloween bag making at the Model Railroad Museum
  • Ballet folklorico performance and skull craft at the Mingei Museum
  • Pumpkin parachute making and drop (2:30pm) at the Air and Space Museum
  • Day of the Dead activities and mummy tour at the Museum of Man
  • Designing and coloring ghost cars at the Automotive Museum
  • Exploring local cemeteries and creating gravestones at the San Diego History Center
  • Chop Soo-ey food truck and scavenger hunt at the Japanese Friendship Garden
  • Reduced IMAX admission and Kid City activities at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
  • Free puppet-making activity at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theatre (11am, 1pm, and 2:30pm)
  • Ghostly giggles storytelling at the Timken Museum of Art (11am)
  • Free flag per family (while supplies last) at the UNA International Gift Shop
  • Mask-making and free vintage treat bags (while supplies last) at the Marston House booth on the Prado
  • Free cider station and candy at SDMA’s Café by Giuseppe (while supplies last)
  • One free gift to each child in costume accompanied by an adult at the Balboa Park Visitors Center (while supplies last); also register to win other great prizes

For a more detailed listing, visit the Halloween Family Day page and be sure to tell them Cosmos sent you.

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I don’t think you bipedal critters realize just how good you have it sometimes. Along with all the other great cultural festivals happening in the Park year-round, you now have another one, the Diwali Festival of Lights, vying to become one of the biggest multi-venue events on the Balboa Park annual calendar.

If last year’s Diwali Festival wasn’t spectacular enough, the fourth annual installment this Sunday, October 23, 4:00-8:00pm, adds the cultural resources of a third museum, the Museum of Man, to those of the Mingei Museum and the San Diego Museum of Art.

Celebrating India’s most important holiday, Balboa Park’s Diwali Festival combines food from San Diego’s finest Indian restaurants, music, dancing, arts and crafts, cultural stations along El Prado, and admission to three of Balboa Park’s most prominent museums from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Like last year's extravaganza, the evening will culminate with a massive cultural performance in the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, representing the traditions of various regions of India, a participatory folk dance, and the ceremonial lighting of 1,008 lamps.

And while this isn’t designed to be a pet-friendly event due to the activities inside the three museums, it’s certainly intended to be a family-friendly one, offering a special admission price of only $15 for a family of four, otherwise $5 for lone wolfs.

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