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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

She pupped you and nursed you, nuzzled and cleaned you, faithfully taking you to obedience school every day. You know in your heart of hearts a lifetime of Mother’s Day greeting cards and flowers could not fully express the gratitude you feel. So what’s a fully weaned offspring to do?

Stone Lantern amid cherry blossoms in Japanese Friendship Garden, Balboa ParkA perfect Mother’s Day in Balboa Park would be a good place to start. Thanks to its numerous gardens and restaurants, world-class museums and performing arts venues, and miles of walkways through picturesque parkland, planning a Mother’s Day in Balboa Park may feel a bit daunting. To lend you a paw, I’ve come up with the following itinerary that your mother need never know came from a dog who writes a blog:

Champagne Buffet Brunch at the Prado – 10 a.m.

No Mother’s Day is Mother’s Day without a Mother’s Day Champagne Buffet Brunch. While the pancake station, chilled seafood station, dim sum station, carving station, whipped potato martini bar, and chocolate fountain may tempt families to spend the entire day at the Prado Restaurant, please note that brunch service ends at 2:30.

Art Glass Guild Show and Sale at Spanish Village – 12 p.m.

Immediately after brunch would be an ideal time to take a leash-free stroll through the Spanish Village Art Center’s courtyard to view a colorful diversity art glass made by local artists. There will also be live music and glass-making demonstrations in the patio.

Brueghel to Canaletto at The San Diego Museum of Art – 1:00 p.m.

Now’s the time to present her with that million dollar bouquet of flowers, this year in the form of exquisite still life paintings from the Golden Age of European art. Also on view as part of this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition are landscapes and other masterpieces of 17th century art.

Mother’s Day Organ Concert – 2:00 p.m.

Each year, the free Sunday organ concerts in Spreckels Organ Pavilion take on a special tone in honor of moms. This is also a great time for mom to rest her feet and show off her favorite hat.

Japanese Friendship Garden – 3:00 p.m.

No Mother’s Day visit to Balboa Park would be complete without sniffing through one of its most iconic gardens. Featuring winding paths, a Zen garden, koi pond, a bonsai exhibit, and other visual treats, the Japanese Friendship Garden presents a relaxing way to wrap up an eventful day.

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Youth actors in the Student Shakespeare Festival 2015 from Carlsbad High SchoolAs the Old Globe Theater has proven more times than anyone can count, Balboa Park offers the perfect backdrop to plays written by the world’s top-dog playwright, William Shakespeare. For those who missed last Saturday’s Bard Bash at the Globe in honor of Shakespeare’s birthday and 400-year anniversary of his passing, fear not! This Saturday, April 30, hundreds of pint-sized thespians will bring to life his greatest hits at the 11th Annual Student Shakespeare Festival.

As the flagship event of the San Diego Shakespeare Society, the Student Shakespeare Festival each year turns the spotlight on pups, K–12, in a lively competition to determine which San Diego City and County school theater group is leader of the pack when all the Prado’s a stage.

The day’s festivities begin at 12:30pm with opening ceremonies and a colorful parade of costumed participants in the Plaza de Panama. From 1 to 3:30pm, teams from various schools all over the county will “bring it” by performing bite-sized (10-minute) scenes from Shakespeare’s vast body of work, including plays, sonnets, and songs.

Two young actors perform in the Student Shakespeare Festival 2015 in Balboa ParkSeveral stages will be set up along the length of the Prado (with Balboa Park’s historic buildings providing the appropriate scenery) where families and leashed family friends can witness the Globe’s stars of tomorrow when “we knew them when.” At 3:30pm, the day’s best performances and performers will be awarded.

In an era when Shakespeare is losing ground as required reading for English majors at American colleges and universities, the Student Shakespeare Festival is a great way to expose pups of all ages to the English language’s alpha dog who is single-handedly responsible for coining thousands of words and phrases we still use today – even on Snapchat.

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Headshot of Shirley the dog, a white labradorShirley writes: Dear Cosmos, In spite of another year of below average rainfall in San Diego, I couldn’t help but notice while sniffing around recently that Balboa Park seems to stay green year round. What’s the secret?

Cosmos: There’s really no secret. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the City of San Diego Park & Recreation Department, the Balboa Park Conservancy, and the Friends of Balboa Park over the past few years, the Park has gotten a leg up on the drought by replacing water-hogging landscaping with water-wise plants and irrigation systems. And they’re just getting started. Three new projects are already underway or are shovel-ready to bring more green things to tickle your snout.

Section of the Park Boulevard Median project with drought tolerant flowering plantsPark Boulevard Median Project

The beginning of this month saw the completion of a major project to install drought-tolerant landscaping and more efficient irrigation along the Park Boulevard median. The thematic landscaping includes roses in the median near the Rose Garden, succulents near the Desert Garden, Down Under-themed flora near the Australian Garden, and African vegetation by the San Diego Zoo. The dramatic median makeover is designed to save over 500,000 gallons of water each year and 8–12 hours of maintenance labor each week.

Persian Water Carpet Garden

Though easy to oversniff, the shady garden nestled between the Casa de Balboa and House of Hospitality is getting a water-wise makeover of its own. Anchored by the elegant, low-flow “Persian Water Carpet” fountain, this garden will feature a new water-wise plant palette that includes myrtle, white rose bushes, and something you don’t see every day in the region’s public gardens, bulbs, which I have no desire to dig up now that I know they’re there. Scout’s honor.

Arbor Day Planting

Saving the best for last, I’m excited to announce the Friends of Balboa Park’s annual Arbor Day planting will bring new species of trees to the Park just west of the Pepper Grove Play Area. On April 29, with the help of second grade pups from Albert Einstein Academy Charter Elementary School, the Friends will plant 14 new California-friendly trees that follow a prehistoric theme, gingko and Wollemi pines.

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San Diego Earth Fair 2016 logo, Vote CoolWhen I was just a pup, I always appreciated how the annual San Diego Earth Fair in Balboa Park presented a great opportunity to celebrate our beautiful planet and learn how to protect endangered species, preserve natural habitats and resources, and reduce and clean up pollution.

Now an old dog, I continue to learn new tricks as the Earth Fair continues to present even more affordable and easy things I can do to personally reduce my carbon paw print, like taking public transportation to the Earth Fair! Given its ideal Balboa Park setting (in North America’s largest urban park), it’s no wonder that the San Diego Earth Fair remains the largest free environmental-themed festival in the world—hosting over 60,000 visitors.

On Sunday, April 17, the San Diego Earthworks Earth Fair will once again take over the Park with 300 exhibitors, ranging from conservation groups and pet adoption services to organic gardening experts and alternative health products. Attendees will be treated to a diversity of music styles, including acoustic, folk, pop, jazz, world, and contemporary, on five live entertainment stages. And this year’s children’s activity area will teach pups of all ages how to make paper, create gift cards from recycled materials, and how to visit wild areas without disturbing the environment.

Speaking of pups, the all-species Children’s Earth Parade will begin winding its way from Spanish Village to the Pan American Plaza at 10:30am, allowing kids to show off how much more adorable they are when dressed as their favorite endangered species and displaying important Earth-friendly messages. Another popular Earth Fair staple, the Cleaner Car Concourse will show off the latest and greatest in alternative fuel vehicles—ones that are actually being produced today as opposed to the “cars of the future” I would see as a pup.

Of course the highlight of any Earth Fair is the Food Pavilion, featuring so many tasty options you won’t even notice they are all vegetarian. New this year is a Beer & Mead Garden. And if you are like most bipeds living in Southern California in the 21st century, you probably have never tried mead, a honey-based alcoholic beverage made popular by Shakespeare and the Game of Thrones TV show.

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Girls sitting in airplane cockpit, Summer Camp, San Diego Air and Space MuseumBelieve it or not, the vast majority of what pups learn during their lifetime comes not from obedience school but from the world around them. For many, this world is becoming increasingly limited to digital forms of information and entertainment from tablets, smart phones, online videos, and computer games.

Not that I’m totally dogging digital forms of information — I make a pretty good living at it. But before I make my contribution to the Internet’s vast digital archive, I spend a fair amount of time sniffing around one of the world’s largest and most diverse cultural resources in the world: Balboa Park.

With Balboa Park’s Summer Camp program, pups from all over San Diego County can experience new ways of learning, creating, discovering, problem solving, exploring, and playing that don’t involve constantly staring at TV monitors and touch screens. Over a dozen world-class cultural organizations present a wide range of topics and activities in full-day or half-day camp format that can be mixed and matched week to week over the course of the summer.

Just to give you an idea of what I’m barking about, here is just a small selection of possible camp activities in Balboa Park:

·       An astronaut camp in a space station simulator at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center

·       Collecting natural objects in the Park to create walking sticks, animal masks, and more at the Spanish Village Art Center

·       Experiencing traditional life in Japan through crafts, gardening, games, food, and other activities at the Japanese Friendship Garden

·       Building rockets and launching hot air balloons at the San Diego Air & Space Museum

·       Discovering and practicing the art of ballet with the San Diego Civic Youth Ballet

·       Digging for artifacts and meeting archeologists at the San Diego Museum Man

Balboa Park Summer Camps are especially convenient for larger packs of finicky campers who need a variety of activities to hold their attention. Through a unique collaborative camp program, campers can spend the morning in one camp, enjoy a chaperoned lunch break in the Park, and then be escorted to a camp in another part of the Park.

The most popular camps are filling up quickly, so be sure to start contacting each institution separately to sign your pups up before it’s too late!

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