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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

Camden, Ask Cosmos, Cosmos BlogCamden writes: Dear Cosmos, I’m trying to get my family to check out some of the evening activities in Balboa Park with me this summer, but they keep dragging their tails about going. How do I convince them it’s worth the trip?

Cosmos: I know it can feel like you’re barking at the moon when trying to get a pack of couch potatoes out of the house – even on a nice summer evening. Sometimes, it takes a lot more than a gentle tug of the leash to overcome the call of streaming video services and pizza-ordering apps. Fortunately, Balboa Park’s evening offerings this summer are more than enough to get even the laziest of dogs off their haunches. Here’s a quick overview of this summer’s hottest programs.

San Diego Natural History Museum Facade at duskFood Truck Friday / Park After Dark

It was only a matter of time before someone realized the best way to get San Diegans to visit their local museums on a Friday night was to bring a dozen gourmet food trucks into the Park. Food Truck Friday becomes a weekly feeding frenzy beginning July 1.

Twilight in the Park

As I barked about at length in last week’s blog post, the free weekday (Tuesday–Thursday) concert series is not only the best entertainment value in town, but it redefines “social media.”

International Summer Organ Festival

Speaking of social media, how many of your virtual friends across the country can post a selfie in front of the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ as it’s being played by one of the world’s top organists? Exactly none … unless they live in San Diego.

Films in the Garden / Star Cars Film Series

The San Diego Museum of Art’s free showcase of art films in an artsy setting returns with a full slate every Monday night in August. The San Diego Automotive Museum gets into the act as well with a Friday night film series to complement the many “Star Cars” in its galleries.

Bird Park Concert Series

It should come as no surprise that one of the city’s best community park summer concert series is still technically in Balboa Park. Bird Park, near Morley Field, has been hosting top-dog talent at its family-friendly concert series for almost 15 years.

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As any of my readers over 40 can tell you, before there was social media there was actual social media as in media (music, art, film, theater, etc.) that created stimulating opportunities for social interaction. This is how packs would form, find new members, reconnect, and reestablish old bonds.

Twilight in the Park concert series performance, Organ Pavilion, Balboa ParkFor more than 35 years, Balboa Park’s Twilight in the Park concert series has continued that tradition every summer by bringing together bipeds and their leashed friends from throughout the community to experience free musical performances inside the historic Spreckels Organ Pavilion. The family-friendly events are designed to encourage singing (or barking) along, dancing, and reminiscing over old favorites being performed.

Beginning June 21, audiences will be treated to a different style or genre of music every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, from 6:30 to 7:30pm. The new faces (real faces, not just avatars or profile photos) that each type of music draws present a perfect opportunity to expand one’s social network.

The wide range of music styles coming up over the next few weeks includes contemporary blues by 145th Street (June 22); country rock from Emerald River (June 23); the cat’s meow of vintage rock and roll courtesy of the Cat-illacs (June 28); patriotic tunes and marches by the 300th Army Band (July 5); salsa, bolero, cha cha cha by Groupo Musical Relax de Tijuana (July 6); and more golden oldies from the Elvis Tribute band, Suspicious Minds (July 12).

Of course that’s not to say today’s electronic social media still doesn’t have its place (I would be one lost puppy without my iPaw!) — what better way to invite your entire network to join you for some after-work fun?

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There is so much going on at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion this summer that I’ve decided to pitch a pup tent inside the historic music venue so I don’t miss a single note. The steady stream of summer concerts at the home of “The World’s Largest Outdoor Pipe Organ” officially kicks off with the final installment of the Parkeology event series on Friday, June 10, from 8 to 10:15pm.

Spreckels Organ Pavilion, close up view of organ pipesTitled “Organ for the Senses: Feeling, Seeing & Sounding the Spreckels Pipe Organ,” the experimental music concert unleashes newly commissioned electro-acoustic compositions by local and nationally renowned musicians on all the senses. The 10-minute compositions are vibrationally driven (rather than melodic) to highlight the physical properties of the organ itself. A live seismograph projection will allow the audience to “see” the physical vibrations of the audio during each piece.

So for the first time in the 100-year history of the Spreckels Organ, audience members will not only be able to hear, but also to feel and see the vibrations that the organ’s massive pipes produce. Tickets for this once-in-lifetime concert start at FREE.

Launched in February 2016, Parkeology is an interactive public event series created by Art Ranger Kate Clark that digs up little-known aspects of Balboa Park. So far it has scratched the complex underbelly of the San Diego Model Railroad Museum and uncovered a theatrical nudist colony that once inhabited Zoro Garden. The unique five-part project also includes a TV series, podcast, and youth program in collaboration with the San Diego Art Institute.

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Humans aren’t so different from canines: they work like a dog all week long, come home on Friday evening dog tired, and want nothing more than to enjoy a gourmet meal without doing any additional work. I totally get that, speaking as a pooch who has never had to prepare her own gourmet meal.

Food Truck Friday logoThat’s why I’m very excited to report that the summer-long Food Truck Friday is officially here! Beginning June 3, the Balboa Park Conservancy is bringing 8-10 gourmet food trucks to the Plaza de Panama on Friday evenings from 4:30 to 8:30pm as part of a full evening of fun activities in conjunction with Park After Dark. The food trucks will be in the Plaza this Friday and then on June 17 before becoming a weekly occurrence every Friday from July 1 to September 2.

The participating food trucks have been hand selected for their quality and variety, and will rotate throughout the summer. The truck selection for June 3 includes the following mouthwatering options:

  • Beachin’ Boba
  • Caribbean Escape
  • Cousins Maine Lobster
  • Frida’s Cocina
  • Marcel Belgian Waffle
  • New Orleans Cuisine and Catering
  • New York on Rye
  • Sweet Treats Ice Cream Motorcycle Sidecar
  • Tacos y Mariscos El Jefe
  • Tabe BBQ

While enjoying their truck-fresh appetizers, main dishes, and desserts, foodies will be treated to a rotating selection of live musical entertainment at each Food Truck Friday event. This Friday’s entertainment features the talented pups of the School of Creative and Performing Arts Jazz Ensemble.

In between bites, visitors can check out what’s going on at the various Balboa Park museums, 10 of which will be open until 8pm as part of the new Park After Dark program. Most museums will be charging their normal admission rates; however, the nearby San Diego Museum of Art is offering special $5 admission rates after 5pm on Fridays.

Booze hounds will also be pleased to know that craft cocktails and beers will be available at the Panama 66 restaurant (right on the Plaza) and at the Prado Restaurant, though due to local liquor laws, you won’t be able to take said beverages outside of their place of purchase.

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Most folks don’t realize the amount of canine willpower required of me to work every day in North America’s largest urban park. With so many flower beds, tree planters, and freshly mulched landscaping everywhere I turn, it’s all I can do to resist the urge to dig, dig, and dig some more.

Balboa Park Garden Party poster - red wagon filled with flowers and plantsThankfully Balboa Park’s free annual Garden Party on May 28, will offer plenty of other family-friendly activities that I can “dig” instead, starting with a Kids Wagon Parade at 9am. Led by its Grand Marshal, Councilmember Todd Gloria, the Instagram-worthy parade down the El Prado walkway will feature dozens of pups towing wagons lushly decorated with floral items I suspect they dug up from their own gardens (but you didn’t hear that from me).

Later, at 10:45am, pups can enjoy a performance by the kid-friendly folk duo of Hullabaloo in the Zoro Garden, followed by more activities for kids and butterfly releases in the Zoro Garden on the half-hour, beginning at 11:30am.

Adults who can’t resist digging around in their own gardens will find plenty of age-appropriate activities as well, including a series of free horticultural lectures on the hour in the Plaza de Panama. At 10am renowned landscape designer Greg Rubin will discuss “California Native Gardening.” Tours of Balboa Park’s gardens will be led by park rangers at 10am and 1pm, and at 11am Conservancy President and CEO Tomas Herrera-Mishler will offer an insightful look inside the historic Botanical Building.

In addition, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet will present a paw de deux and other pack-friendly dances around the Bea Evenson Fountain (between the Reuben H. Fleet and Natural History Museum) at 12:45pm, 1:45pm, and 2:45pm.

And what would a park-wide festival in Balboa Park be without the participation of a dozen hand-picked food trucks? Among the trucks making the 2016 Garden Party a feast to remember will be American Flavors, Caribbean Escape, Currywurst Frankfurt, Marcel Belgian Waffle, Super Q, Simply Fresh, Tacos La Mezcla, and Tabe BBQ.

For a complete list of food trucks, lecturers, and other Garden Party happenings, be sure to sniff over to

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