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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park, Kids, Family Day, Families, Geometry Playground, Reuben H. Fleet Science CenterWith the new school year just around the corner and many summer camps wrapping up, it may be tempting to park the pups in front of the flatscreen and fill their last few days of summer with video games and movies. But zapping the umpteenth alien robot is not the kind of summertime childhood memory that lasts a lifetime.

Luckily for parents, Balboa Park’s many cultural institutions continue to offer a full slate of kid-friendly activities and exhibitions that young pupsters will carry with them into the next grade and beyond.

Spend a Day at the Fleet

Exhibitions like Geometry Playground, Kid City, and Blockbusters at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center can easily provide a full day of immersion in fun, hands-on experiences that even the keenest kid won’t realize are actually educational.

Museum Family Days

Many museums in Balboa Park offer arts and crafts, storytelling, treasure hunts, and special tours on select weekends. In fact, this Sunday, August 21, both the Mingei International Museum and the San Diego Museum of Art are presenting their “third Sunday of the month” Family Day. Be sure to check your favorite museum’s schedule for other family day events.

See a Show

For families looking to chill out, various performing arts organizations specialize in entertainment for the younger set. This weekend, for instance, you can take your brood to a matinee performance of Cinderella, Hansel & Gretel, and other classic stories performed by the Civic Youth Ballet in Fairy Tales in the Park. Or, experience a unique shadow puppet presentation of Desire to Fly, inspired by Da Vinci’s flying machines, at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater.

And that’s not to mention the fresh memories you can create outdoors in Balboa Park—where you may just run into your favorite doggie blogger conducting research.

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Balboa Park Top Dog Photo Contest_2nd Place Winner 2010_AbbyCrenshaw’s reign as Balboa Park’s Top Dog draws to a close this fall when this year’s Top Dog Photo Contest crowns a new champ. And just as Crenshaw, Abby, and Kasey discovered last year, anypup can win one of three great prizes, including an exclusive overnight Su’ruff Camp package from Loews Coronado Bay Resort.

What’s the catch? Just sniff out a scenic backdrop anywhere in Balboa Park and have someone take and submit an extremely adorable and good quality photograph of you. Submissions must be made at www.balboapark.org/topdog between August 29 and September 16, 2011. A panel of pooch-loving judges will select the 25 best photos to post for an online public vote from September 21 to 30, 2011.

“What’s in it for me?” you ask. Well for starters, if the public chooses you to be this year’s #1 Top Dog, you will enjoy with your family a one-night stay in deluxe accommodations at Loews Coronado Bay Resort, doggie surfing lessons, and a variety of other canine amenities and treats.

The second top vote getter can have a fine art portrait of his or her award-winning mug painted by Valarie Duke of SoCal Pet Portraits and receive a 4-Pack of Balboa Park Passports for bipedal pack members.

And one third place winner receives a free pet wellness exam from K9 Care by Denise, a two-hour pet-friendly landscaping consultation by Judy Macomber, a $20 gift certificate for a Saturday Mexican Brunch at Baja Betty’s (doggie bag included), as well as a Family 4-Pack of Balboa Park Passports.

Be sure to stay tuned to this blog for updates and tips on how you can become Balboa Park’s Top Dog 2011.

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At the midpoint of the summer season, I’m already hearing many of my bipedal friends have crossed everything off their staycation “To Do” list. How is that even possible? Don’t they read my blog?

In the interests of resuscitating everyone’s summer, here’s my short list of things to do on a limited budget:

1.   Visit 5 museums of your choice with a Stay-for-the-Day Pass ($35).

2.   Take your best four-legged friend(s) to one of three dog parks (free).

3.   Explore the Park’s historic grounds at your own pace with an equally dog-friendly Walking Audio Tour ($5).

4.   Discover the wonders of trees—glorious trees!—during a Saturday morning Offshoot Tour (free).

5.   Pack your pack and a picnic basket and dine al fido in one of the Park’s many picnic areas (free).

6.   Bask in sunny outdoor organ concerts every Sunday afternoon (free).

7.   Or, hear talents from around the world at the International Summer Organ Festival each Monday evening through August 29 (free).

8.   Take your pooch on another guided tour—this one of the Park’s architectural wonders (free).

9.   Visit a selection of your favorite museums each Tuesday for free (county residents only).

10. Get within sniffing distance of everything from spectacular orchids to carnivorous plants in the Botanical Building.

11. Take your children off-leash in one of the many playground areas (free).

12. Rock out to everything from Rockabilly to Rachmaninoff at a Twilight in the Park concert, through August 25 (free).

13. Find out what’s fishy at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theatre ($5/$3).

14. Eat your way through 32 different cultures at the International Cottages’ Sunday Lawn Programs (free/nominal charge for food).

15. Blaze new trails as part of the Park’s recently designed marked trail system (free).

16. Rediscover your inner puppy by riding the Balboa Park Carousel and Miniature Railroad (prices vary).

17. See the stars under the stars at the Screen on the Green outdoor film fest (free).

18. Cool off while practicing your dog paddling technique at the Bud Kearns Memorial Swimming Pool ($4/$2).

19. Stop and smell the roses in the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden (free).

20. Experience a garden of otherworldly delights in the Desert Garden (free).

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Any other time of year, pretty much any green lawn will make me one happy pup—whether it’s in one of Balboa Park’s three dog parks, a lush picnic or playground area, or the lawns that dot the Central Mesa area. During the summer, however, especially on Sunday afternoons beginning at 2pm, only one lawn will do, and that’s the lawn playing host to the International Cottages’ Lawn Program.

From March through October, one of 32 different “Houses” that make up the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages presents an elaborate festival to introduce everyone to the distinctive sights, tastes, and sounds of their culture. And wouldn’t you know it, these Lawn Programs invariably involve food—lots of food. I mean like really good food.

Take this weekend’s Lawn Program served, er … I mean, presented by the House of Columbia on July 31. It will feature Colombian tamales, arepas (plum cake), plantanos (fried bananas) empanadas (meat-filled turnovers), fried pudding, and more. You won’t find those goodies at your typical hot dog stand. Nor will you be entertained while chowing down by traditional dances and music performed in colorful authentic costumes.

If that isn’t enough to whet your appetite, the following week’s cultural festival, courtesy of the House of Peru, treats two- and four-legged guests alike to such Peruvian delicacies as arroz con pollo (rice chicken), papa a la huancaina (potatoes with creamy-cheese sauce), and picarones (fluffy yucca-yam doughnuts served with molasses syrup).

As with any of these Lawn Programs, my motto is always “Go for the food; stay for the folkloric dances … and dessert!”

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ZsaZsa writes: Cosmos, dahling, if I have to spend another Friday night this summer cooling my heels in front of a noisy air conditioner while watching whatever movie comes out of that bright red envelop again, I don’t know what I’ll do. Any suggestions?

Cosmos: I know exactly how you feel. Thankfully the San Diego Museum of Art has moved its annual Screen on the Green outdoor film festival to Friday nights…one of the only nights on my calendar that isn’t already spent at a free concert event in the Park.

In case you’ve been in the dog house for the past decade, the San Diego Museum of Art has been screening free movies on their east lawn in front of the Botanical Building every summer since 2001. And though the films begin at sundown, 8:00pm, it’s best to arrive early to mark your territory for this popular community event.

The film selection is generally tied to the museum’s special exhibitions or collections. For instance, this Friday, July 22, Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead, starring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal, will be shown in conjunction with the current exhibition of Gustav Stickley’s Arts & Crafts-style furniture and décor.

On August 5, Burt Lancaster stars in The Train as a French train engineer attempting to stop the Nazis from leaving France with valuable works of art stolen from a museum. Wrapping up the series on August 19 will be the Akira Kurosawa classic, The Hidden Fortress, in collaboration with the San Diego Asian Film Foundation.

As much as Screen on the Green is a great opportunity to see some of the best art-related films ever made, it’s also the dog-friendliest gathering of movie hounds in San Diego. But please be sure to turn off your cell phone before the movie starts.

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