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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

As the clock winds down on 2015, I see many bipeds scrambling like Jack Russell terriers on a triple-shot Starbucks mocha to see and do everything there is to see and do to celebrate the Balboa Park Centennial before it’s too late.

With the week between Christmas and New Year’s already being the busiest of the year, it’s wise to have a game plan for visiting the Park and its many attractions this week. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Reuben H. Fleet Science center, children in main exhibition gallery1. Arrive Early
Unless you are a bloodhound trained in the fine art of finding parking spaces, plan to arrive by 10am when most museums and attractions open. Parking lots fill up by early afternoon, and you could spend a good part of your afternoon just driving around waiting for a spot to open—not exactly what your pups will consider fun.

2. Take Public Transportation
Another option, if you don’t live close enough to walk or ride a bike to the Park, is fetching a ride on MTS’s Rapid bus service. Balboa Park is one of the best served areas in San Diego when it comes to public transportation, whether you are coming from Tijuana or North County.

3. Check Museum Hours for New Year’s Eve and Day
Some museums have different hours this time of year, and some are even closed on New Year’s Day, including the San Diego Museum of Art and Mingei International Museum. The Botanical Building is always closed on Thursdays. Be sure to check the website of any museum you wish to visit for the latest information so you don’t get left out in the cold.

4. Know Which Exhibitions Are Closing
With so much to see and do and so little time, you’ll need to prioritize so your pack doesn’t miss out on this year’s biggest and best exhibitions. Note that the following exhibitions close on January 3: Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed at the San Diego Natural History Museum, Ingenious! The World of Dr. Seuss at the San Diego History Center, and Imaginate at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center.

5. Buy a Balboa Park Pass
Whether you plan to stay a day, a week, or a year, there is a budget-friendly Balboa Park Pass that will help you save quite a few bones if you are visiting multiple museums or have a large brood.

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Blue the dog, Cosmos Blog, Balboa ParkBlue writes: Dear Cosmos, With the 2015 Centennial festivities coming to a close, I am quite the downward dog these days. How do you maintain your cheerful disposition when such an eventful year and important chapter in the Park’s history is ending?

Cosmos: I admit, it’s often difficult to see the doggie dish half full when, let’s face it, our doggie dishes never stay half full for long. But the end of Balboa Park’s Centennial year is no reason to stay down in the dumps. Quite the contrary, just as the famous 1915 Panama California Exposition ushered in a new and thriving period in the Park’s history, 2015 promises to launch us into the next 100 years of exciting developments for the Park and its cultural institutions.

Here are just a few things to look forward to:

Organ Pavilion_Architectural Detail_Photo LangNate’s Point Enhancements — Everyone in our pack will soon be wagging our tails off over the upgrades and new trees coming to San Diego’s most scenic leash-free dog park. Keep an eye on this blogspace for details about all the booty Nate’s Point is receiving as winner of Beneful’s Dream Dog Park Contest.

100 New Trees — Speaking of new trees, as announced in November, the San Diego Foundation has donated 100 new trees to the Park, 40 of which were immediately planted on the West Mesa. Look for more prime sniffing spots in the coming year as Balboa Park continues to add sustainable landscaping across its 1,200-acre campus.

Organ Pavilion Upgrade — The Spreckels Organ Pavilion will soon reclaim its status as leader of the pack and world’s largest outdoor pipe organ. Thanks to the success of its Centennial year Drive for 5,000 campaign, the Spreckels Organ Society can finally add the Chrommorne and Humana Vox pipe ranks, turning that organ in Kufstein, Austria, into just another ankle-biter.

Botanical Building Renovations — Plans are underway for a massive restoration of one of the most visited and photographed structures in San Diego. Once complete, it will bring the iconic building back to its original splendor and help ensure it will survive another 100 years of selfie-snapping tourists.

International Cottages Additions — Also in the planning stages, nine of my favorite world cuisines are slated to get a permanent home in a new cottage space. Park visitors will eventually be greeted at open houses hosted by Mexico, India, the Philippines, Colombia, Lebanon, Palestine, Panama, Peru, and Turkey, alongside the 19 existing cottages.

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Most human companions are familiar with the many ways their pets express appreciation for taking care of them: tail wagging, a lick on the cheek, nuzzling, resisting every temptation to tear through the kitchen trash when left unattended, etc. Similarly, most bipeds are quite good at expressing gratitude to loved ones, thanks in part to the “Like” button.

But how do you show gratitude for all the fun times and great memories a free public park gives you over the course of the year?

Answer: By donating a few extra bones to the Balboa Park Conservancy.

I know what some of you are probably asking, “Don’t I pay for my visits to Balboa Park through the taxes I pay to the City of San Diego?”

Balboa Park Botanical Building, photo by Richard BentonWhile those funds do help pay for routine maintenance like mowing the grass, cleaning the restrooms, keeping the lights on, etc., it doesn’t cover the entire cost of renovating hundred-year-old buildings, replacing aging infrastructure, or making the Park’s landscaping more sustainable for future generations to enjoy.

Enhancing the beauty of Balboa Park’s award-winning gardens, historic buildings, and recreational facilities and ensuring the Park’s enduring legacy is no small task. It requires a pack of community and business leaders, charitable foundations, corporate sponsors, private donors, and community groups. But like any pack, the effort requires a pack leader to bring everyone together and keep them from going astray from its collective vision for the Park.

Since 2011, the Balboa Park Conservancy has been that pack leader. For example in this past year, the Conservancy has worked with the City of San Diego and various funders to

  • Activate the Plaza de Panama as a central gathering spot with regular free programming
  • Plant the first of 100 new trees on the Park’s West Mesa
  • Host hundreds of thousands of visitors at Balboa Park December Nights and two Family Day events
  • Restore the iconic Lady of Tehuantepec fountain in the House of Hospitality courtyard
  • Greet over 500,000 visitors at the Balboa Park Visitors Center
  • Initiate a major restoration of the historic Botanical Building

So if in the past year you

  • Enjoyed a nice stroll through one of the Park’s many well-maintained gardens
  • Connected to the Park’s free Wi-Fi while sitting at a table in the Plaza de Panama
  • Watched your kids monkey around on playground equipment from a nearby picnic table
  • Let your pooch run wild in an off-leash dog park, or
  • Attended a free outdoor concert in the Spreckels Organ Pavilion

You can help ensure those experiences continue for generations to come by donating to Balboa Park today.

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For those lucky dogs out there who got their first taste of Balboa Park at last weekend’s December Nights festival, I have some very good news: you actually didn’t experience everything Balboa Park has to offer during the holidays. As spectacular, eventful, and satisfying as one of the top holiday festivals in America is, there are just some activities, programs, and events that can only be properly savored on certain dates and at certain times of the day.

Botanical Building, Poinsettia Display 2015, Balboa ParkHere are just five worth barking about:

  1. Poinsettia Display (thru December) — If you attended December Nights during the evening hours only, you missed an excellent selfie opportunity inside the Botanical Building, where hundreds of multi-colored poinsettia plants form the perfect backdrop to any holiday e-card.
  2. Organ Pavilion Sing-Along Concert (Dec. 20, 2pm) — The Spreckels Organ Pavilion may be the primary performance stage for December Nights, but you probably didn’t get a chance to sing your favorite holiday carols with all your packmates while accompanied by one of the world’s largest outdoor organs. Just sayin’.
  3. The Nutcracker (thru Dec. 20) — If you were impressed by the San Diego Civic Youth Ballet’s presentation of excerpts of the classic holiday ballet during December Nights, imagine what they could do during a fully staged indoor production of “The Nutcracker”! It's a great way to instill an appreciation of this beautiful art form in your pups.
  4. Jerusalem IMAX film (now showing) — No one could blame you for not taking the time to watch a feature-length IMAX film during December Nights. But now that your pups are out of school and out-of-town guests are getting restless, there’s never been a better time to experience this visually stunning exploration of the world’s most sacred city on a giant domed screen at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center.
  5. Christmas Puppet Theater Shows (daily performances) — With so many dazzling distractions during December Nights, it’s likely the littlest members of your litter were in no state to sit through an entire performance at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater. Thankfully, three Christmas-themed shows over the next three weeks are guaranteed to keep squirrely preschoolers thoroughly enthralled.
Posted in Stuff to Do | add a comment

Balboa Park December Nights - California Tower and holiday lightsYou know it. I know it. Even most cats know it. But the rest of the country is still under the delusion that their rinky-dink local holiday festival is somehow better than Balboa Park December Nights.

Thanks to a USA Today online reader’s poll, you can now help set the record straight! Cast your vote today to let everyone from San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale know December Nights is leader of the pack when it comes to dispensing holiday cheer.

Why is Balboa Park December Nights the best of the best?

  • No other holiday festival takes place in the largest urban cultural park in North America.
  • No other holiday festival offers free admission to over a dozen world-class museums.
  • No other holiday festival features concerts on one of the world’s largest outdoor organs by an internationally recognized organist.

To put it another way, no other holiday festival greets over 300,000 guests with food from around the world, dozens of free music and dance performances, a kids activity zone, decorative light displays, unique holiday shopping opportunities, a giant interactive mural, and 18 award-winning local craft beers on tap in one historic setting.

Still need convincing? See for yourself this Friday, December 4, 3pm to 11pm, and Saturday, December 5, 12 noon to 11pm, when Balboa Park December Nights kicks off the holiday season in San Diego for the 38th consecutive year.

As of this posting, Balboa Park December Nights holds the seventh spot in the USA Today reader’s poll. Not too shabby. But do you really want to let your December Nights get beaten out by a holiday festival in Riverside, CA (currently in third place)? Vote now and once per day through December 21 to ensure December Nights doesn’t wind up in the doghouse!

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