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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

It should be as plain as the nose I’m about to lick on your face that I live for the holidays. Being a cute, cuddly four-legged mammal, I’m ideally positioned to be a frequent recipient of this time of year’s spirit of giving. And I’m more than happy to reciprocate by, well, licking your face, hands, or shoe (your preference).

Balboa Park December Nights, Christmas Story performance, Spreckels Organ PavilionThis dynamic of giving and receiving is nowhere more apparent than during the annual Balboa Park December Nights, when dozens of park organizations and the City of San Diego throw the biggest free public holiday party in the known universe for over 300,000 guests. This year’s kick off to both the holidays and the 2015 Centennial Celebrations is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 5, 3-11pm, and Saturday, Dec. 6, noon-11pm.

Thousands of volunteers will once again don their gay holiday apparel, tune up their singing voices, polish their brass bells, and serve up vats of holiday cheer. From traditional holiday performances and decorations to contemporary dance music and dazzling light displays, Balboa Park December Nights offers a little something for all creatures great and small.

In addition, every museum in the Park will be open free of charge from 5pm to 9pm on both Friday and Saturday nights. And believe me, it is no small matter for a museum that normally sees only a couple thousand or so visitors a week to be suddenly inundated with over a thousand visitors every hour!

In spite of this embarrassment of holiday richness thrown your way, you need not fret about the giving being a one-sided affair. With scores of vendors and food stations spread throughout the Park, including at the Spanish Village Art Center and the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages, there will be plenty of opportunities to show your appreciation. Most museum gift stores will be open as well, with proceeds from all sales supporting the respective museum’s mission. And, yes, they do take plastic — though not in the form of chewed up toys, I'm told.

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What an eventful year it’s been in Balboa Park! I feel like a dog with a bone watching the many preparations for the 2015 Centennial Celebrations. So rather than offering tips on where to send your out-of-town guests this Thanksgiving weekend as I normally do, I’ll review my top five changes in Balboa Park this year that we can all be thankful for (in no particular order):

  1. Cabrillo Bridge Restoration — The temporary closure of my main access route to Nate’s Point Dog Park has proven well worth the trouble. Not only has the iconic Cabrillo Bridge (a.k.a. the Laurel Street Bridge) been retrofitted to last another 100 years, it’s been totally repaved, restored, repainted, and relit.
  2. New Lighting — Speaking of lighting, my bipedal readers who rely more on sight than scent will be happy to see a vast number of improvements to the lighting in Balboa Park, thanks to a partnership with SDG&E. Not only will the Park be safer with more energy-efficient lighting, but new ornamental spotlights on the Park’s historic buildings will make an evening stroll with your four-legged best friend a picture-postcard event.
  3. Wi-Fi Expansion — As I increasingly rely more on social media than my keen sense of smell to gather information on Balboa Park, I’m especially thankful that Balboa Park is now the largest free contiguous Wi-Fi hotspot on the West Coast. It will now be easier to connect and share from my favorite hiding places.
  4. Rapid Bus Service — My bipedal readers should be especially grateful that it’s now easier to spend more time in Balboa Park and less time getting here thanks to the new Rapid 215 MTS bus line. Extended hours, fewer stops, better connections, and clean shiny vehicles take the stress out of hunting for parking on a busy weekend in the Park.
  5. Balboa Park Explorer Pass — Making its debut late last year, Balboa Park’s first annual pass is a dogsend to both individuals and families looking for the most affordable way to take in the many exhibitions and programs slated at all 17 museums in Balboa Park for 2015 and beyond.
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Peanut the hamster, Cosmos' friendPeanut the hamster writes: Dear Cosmos, I must admit, it even wears me out watching my family run around like a hamster on coffee to get all of their holiday shopping done. Can they really find everything they need right there in Balboa Park?

Cosmos: If they are looking for smart watches, tablets, video game consoles, or other run of the puppy mill electronics, then probably not. But that’s not to say Balboa Park museum gift stores don’t offer their own breed of top-of-the-line tech gear, along with hundreds of other unique gift ideas, including designer jewelry and accessories, home décor, posters, books, and toys.

Here is just a small sampling of exciting new tech gear available at select Balboa Park museum gift stores this holiday season.

 

Roboraptor X

San Diego Natural History Museum

$109.00

Roboraptor tech gift idea, San Diego Natural History Museum

If a shelter animal is too big of a responsibility for your child, you can bring home this friendly AI dinosaur pet that only eats batteries, perfect for developing motor skills of budding techies 8 years old and up.

 

3-in-One All-Terrain Robot

Reuben H. Fleet Science Center

$69.95

All Terrian robotic kit gift idea, Reuben H Fleet Science Center

Adolescent pups can take their robotic engineering skills to the next level with a versatile multi-function robotic kit. Transforming into a forklift, rover, or gripper, it proves there is more than one way to skin a cat (or at least push it off the furniture).

 

Lomo’Instant Camera

Museum of Photographic Arts

$119–$139

Lomo Instant camera gift idea, Museum of Photographic Arts

Take the stress out of remembering to email those digital photo files (or remembering anything) after an intoxicating holiday party by enjoying the instant gratification that only an instant film camera can offer. MOPA’s store also sells the film you’ll need.

 

Modern Mobiles

The San Diego Museum of Art

$39.95

Modern Mobiles Kit gift idea, The San Diego Museum of Art

Before there was mobile tech, there was, well, the mobile, a very modern kinetic art form invented by American artist Alexander Calder in the early 20th century. This is the only mobile kit that lets you build and rebuild your own mobile in a variety of ways, which you may be doing a lot if your cat can reach it.

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Woman uses tablet in Balboa Park to test free wi-fi networkBeing Balboa Park’s official doggie blogger just got a heck of a lot easier for me. Thanks to a massive 50% upgrade to Balboa Park’s Wi-Fi coverage, I will no longer be on a short leash when it comes to digging deeper into the Park’s nooks and crannies.

Not only can I stay better connected to my faithful readers, but I can stay on top of updates from all of the park institutions as I freely roam wherever my snout takes me. From Nate’s Point Dog Park to parking lots along Park Blvd., I can now post my blogs, check my social media accounts, and enjoy streaming media, like the San Diego Zoo’s new tiger cam or the Organ Pavilion’s webcasts, without losing my connection or eating up my data plan.

The new Wi-Fi network upgrade dogpiles on top of last year’s upgrade to create a whopping 250-acre hotspot (give or take), giving Balboa Park the largest contiguous Wi-Fi coverage on the West Coast. And the best part: the upgrade isn’t costing the City of San Diego a dime thanks to a $1 million dollar grant awarded to Balboa Park by the James Irvine Foundation for a number of tech projects (not just the Wi-Fi) that all visitors will benefit from in the near future.

Among these will be a self-guided tour smartphone app that allows you to create your own park tour and “play” tours created by other visitors and park organizations (keep an eye out for Cosmos’ official tour when the app launches).There will also be new self-service kiosks in museums and other park locations for purchasing or renewing your Balboa Park Explorer Pass.

But that’s just scratching the surface of what’s now possible as more park institutions move forward on their own projects that take advantage of the expanded Wi-Fi coverage, including during the upcoming December Nights celebrations.

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Only a select few top dogs continue to have their birthday celebrated nearly 75 years after they’ve gone to that great doghouse in the sky. In fact, I can’t think of anyone I would personally celebrate more than the woman responsible for planting hundreds, if not thousands, of trees (glorious trees!) throughout Balboa Park — Kate Sessions.

I mark November 8 in my iPaw calendar every year to make sure I at least pause for a few moments that day to remember the person who played a major role in creating the best urban sniffing grounds in Southern California, if not the entire country. Thanks to her foresight in planting scores of drought-tolerant trees, many of them are still alive today!

And I’m certainly not alone in recognizing the birthday of the “Mother of Balboa Park.” Once again, the annual Kate Sessions Birthday Celebration will take place at the Marston House Museum and Gardens from 2pm to 4pm on Saturday, November 8.

Guests can learn all about Kate’s prolific tree planting, not only in Balboa Park, but throughout San Diego. To get ready for next year’s Centennial Celebrations, the new version of the 1915 Electriquette vehicle will be on display, and there will be additional photo ops in front of Horseless Carriage cars.

Elementary school-age pups will also receive a free plant and directions for care to help keep the spirit of Kate alive. In addition, the Marston House will be offering discounted tours, and, perhaps more importantly for yours truly, there will be free birthday cake and punch!

Kate Sessions Fun Fact: The bronze statue of her in Sefton Plaza is the only full sculpture in the City of San Diego dedicated to a real-life woman.

 

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