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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

Cosmos Blog, Ask Cosmos, BJ and DieselBJ and Diesel write: Our family’s 2016 New Year’s resolution was to sniff out one new activity each week of the year. However, having both been around since the turn of the century, we feel like we’ve already done everything there is to do in Balboa Park. We double dog dare you to think of something we could have possibly missed.

Cosmos: Since I, in all honesty, have yet to do everything there is to do in Balboa Park, I should have no problem digging up five things your pack has yet to experience. When scouting out new areas in Balboa Park, I’ve discovered it’s important to not be a fraidy cat and look behind and underneath places you are already familiar with. What may appear to be an off-limits area for park maintenance vehicles and staff could very well be an awesome new discovery (though please don’t go into areas that in fact say “off limits”).

Here are a few examples:

Balboa Park Old Cactus Garden blooming succulentsOld Cactus Garden — Because the Desert Garden is so prominently situated on Park Boulevard across from the Zoo’s carousel, it’s easy to oversniff Balboa Park’s original cactus garden nestled behind the Balboa Park Club, off of Pan American Plaza. Originally designed by Kate Sessions for the 1935 Exposition, the garden’s dense succulents will be in full bloom in the coming months.

Gold Gulch Trail — Even intrepid tracking dogs can miss this “road less traveled” that starts toward the back of the Zoro Garden. Winding past the Japanese Friendship Garden’s cherry tree grove, it leads all the way down(under) to the Australian Garden, which may be the least photographed garden in all of Balboa Park in spite of its many beautiful trees.

Garden Court — If you were to ask anyone, other than a Park Ranger, “Where is the Garden Court?” you would likely get a blank stare. Why? Because most people don’t even realize there’s anything for visitors to explore behind the Balboa Park Administration Building, let alone a manicured garden with fountains, gazebos, and colonnades.

Bridle Path — You’ve probably walked right past the access trail to the Bridle Path during one of your many visits to Nate’s Point Dog Park but weren’t sure if any old mutt was allowed to venture under the Cabrillo Bridge. The Bridle Path runs along the 163 highway from the Pine Grove Picnic Area to the Marston House, offering a scenic alternative path along the Park’s west side.

Grape Street Dog Park — Speaking of dog parks, unless you live in the South Park/Golden Hill neighborhoods, there’s a very good chance you’ve completely missed this little slice of heaven on earth. The Grape Street Dog Park not only boasts excellent views of the downtown skyline, and even more areas awaiting discovery thanks to a couple of trails branching out from the off-leash area, but there’s plenty of free parking!

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One of the best things about being a dog is being part of a pack that accepts all canines regardless of breed or breeding. My human companions are lucky dogs in their own way — they are part of a global pack. And thanks to international travel, social media, mobile apps, and a cluster of world-class cultural attractions in Balboa Park, they are interconnected in ways pooches can only dream of.

But sometimes it takes a gentle reminder for bipeds to fully appreciate the inherent advantages of being part of such a diverse species. Fortunately, three unique activities in Balboa Park this weekend will offer an ideal opportunity for bipeds to reconnect with their global tribe in honor of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

27th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration

The leader of the pack when it comes to free Martin Luther King. Jr. Day events in San Diego is at Balboa Park’s own World Beat Center. Musicians from around the world will promote harmony and unity through the diverse sounds of reggae, West African drumming, hip hop, and Native American performances for the whole family. The festivities kick off at 12 noon on Monday, January 18. And yes, there will be an equally diverse selection of food.

Jerusalem IMAX Film

Set on the other side of the planet, this visually stunning IMAX film at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center is an immersive exploration of how three different religious groups share one of the most famous and visited holy sites in the world. The film follows the stories of a Jewish, Christian, and Muslim family that each call Jerusalem home and digs deep underground to uncover the city’s oldest mysteries.

Family Sunday at the Mingei

Pups of all ages can experience a wide range of world cultures through hands-on art projects, interactive treasure hunts, and guided tours at the Mingei International Museum on Sunday, January 17, 12 noon–5pm. A special kite-making activity will highlight the newly opened Japanese toys display in the Toys and Dolls Gallery. Families can also connect with 50 diverse cultural traditions through the Craft Icons of the 50 States exhibition. Admission is only $5 for the entire pack.

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Most pups are under the impression that whenever it’s raining cats and dogs, they have a license to stay indoors and play video games all day. While there is certainly ample time for them to dog their opponent in a virtual game of cat and mouse, San Diego’s El Niño weather patterns are also a great time to be inspired, invent, and explore the real world — past, present, and future.

When conditions are less than ideal for visiting Balboa Park’s lush gardens or a favorite dog park or play area, I recommend readers get creative and try something new. Here are just a few places to get started:

San Diego Air & Space Museum, Da Vinci exhibition, mechanical drummerDa Vinci: The Ultimate Innovator — Your pups may be surprised to learn that the basic concepts behind many of their mechanical and robotic toys were invented by a famous artist over 500 years ago. This unique interactive exhibition at the San Diego Air & Space Museum lets kids explore one-of-a-kind re-creations that bring Da Vinci’s remarkable inventions to life, including his bicycle, spring-powered car, hang glider, helicopter, and for the first time, his robotic drummer.

Balboa Park: The Future — Tikes can also sniff out what inventors today are creating in the world of automobiles and transportation at the San Diego Automotive Museum. From plug-in electric vehicles to flying cars, this exhibition reveals the latest in car concepts and designs, giving pups a first look at what they may be driving in 10-20 years (they grow up so fast, don’t they?).

San Diego Junior Theatre — Rainy days are also an ideal time to take your brood to see a matinee — and I don’t mean that new Star Wars movie everyone is barking about. I’m talking about real live theater, featuring talented kids performing fun family-friendly adventure stories. San Diego’s Junior Theatre is now featuring two such plays: Ivy + Bean, the Musical and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day — which means it’s good.

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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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