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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

Smokey the dog, Cosmos Blog, Balboa ParkSmokey writes: Dear Cosmos, It’s been a while since the Balboa Park Centennial Celebration has been in the news. Now that we’ve reached the final months of 2014, can you give us the latest scoop on what’s happening in 2015 and what my family needs to do to get ready?

Cosmos: To be honest, the activity updates from the various park institutions are dog piling on me to such a degree I’m having trouble digging out from under them. It seems every cultural organization in Balboa Park will be doing something special throughout 2015.

Mingei International Museum, In the Realm of Nature exhibitionIn fact, according to the 2015 Balboa Park Celebration Activities PDF, a few of these special somethings are already getting underway, including the Surf Craft and In the Realm of Nature exhibitions at the Mingei International Museum (now open), as well as next month’s Gauguin to Warhol blockbuster at The San Diego Museum of Art and The Discovery of King Tut exhibition at the Natural History Museum, to name a few. 

From what I’m seeing in this master calendar of events, more than simply putting on a dog and pony show to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the 1915 Panama-California Expo, Balboa Park cultural institutions are putting a lot of meat into various presentations to showcase the best that San Diego and the Park have to offer.

The San Diego History Center, Marston House, Model Railroad Museum, and Spreckels Organ Pavilion in particular will be highlighting the 1915 Expo’s legacy and impact on Balboa Park. My sources in the Park are also telling me that a number of high-profile signature events are still in the works and yet to be announced.

Regarding what your packmates can do to get ready, there’s really only one thing they should be doing: get their paws on a Balboa Park Explorer Pass!

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Florida Canyon Native Plant Preserve Trail, Balboa ParkThough I realize an extended period of drought won’t make my bipedal readers miss the smell of wet dog anytime soon, it may make them long for the kinds of greener open spaces we sometimes see in San Diego County after an especially wet winter.

Balboa Park’s landscaped and irrigated central areas are of course kept green 365 days a year. However, it’s impossible to keep the Park’s entire 1,200-acre campus watered year round, in spite of my best efforts during my morning walk.

Fortunately, Balboa Park’s gardeners have been putting a special emphasis on cultivating native plant species throughout the Park. And the payoff is particularly evident along the trails that snake through Florida Canyon, so much so the area is now referred to as the Florida Canyon Native Plant Preserve. (I guess they decided to use “Cosmos’s Favorite Nature Hiking Area” somewhere else.)

Several different trails that are part of the marked trail system traverse Florida Canyon, but if you’re not up for a 3 to 7-mile hike on an 88-degree day, it’s easiest to reach the Native Plant Preserve by following the zig-zagging paved walkway that descends from the Desert Garden on Park Blvd., where you can park on the street.

How deep you venture down into the canyon from there is entirely up to you, but bear in mind, as you admire the various species of succulents, coastal sage scrub, and other drought-resistant flora, getting back your car is all uphill.

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If summer vacations and back-to-school shopping have left you short on bones this month … join the club. More than any other month of the year (well, except for maybe January), September is when I especially like to sniff out inexpensive, if not free, activities in Balboa Park. However, unlike the other summer months, when there seems to be bottomless dish of free evening concert events in the Park, post-Labor Day weekend finds me digging even deeper or taking advantage of old standbys.

House of Hospitality International Cottages, Lawn Program, Balboa Park, House of ColumbiaHere are a few I’ve uncovered:

Timken Museum of Art is now open!

If it’s been a couple of years since you last visited Balboa Park in September, you probably don’t realize that the Timken Museum of Art is no longer closed for the entire month. And why do I bring this up? Because the Timken is always FREE!

Lawn Programs heat up!

As we approach fall’s cooler temperatures, the International Cottages are just getting warmed up with their Sunday afternoon cultural festivals. But while the entertainment is free for everyone, the food is only free for guests like me who don’t mind scavenging for ground-level scraps.

San Diego History Center is free after 3!

Bipedal visitors no longer have an excuse for not knowing everything worth knowing about San Diego’s rich history now that the History Center is granting free admission after 3pm on Thursdays this fall. And for those who have to work like a dog until 5pm on weekdays, Thursday hours are being extended to 7pm.

Residents Free Tuesdays!

With Labor Day behind us, it’s safe to venture into the Park on Residents Free Tuesdays once again when museum galleries aren’t completely clogged with the extra number of deal hounds the summer months bring to the Park.

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This is always a bittersweet time of year for me. On the one paw, sadly, I must bark adieu to outgoing Top Dog winner, Dietrich. And on the other, I get to welcome the newest member to Balboa Park’s Top Dog pack, Rayg’n, winner of the 2014 Top Dog Photo Contest.


What’s particularly notable about this year’s contest result is that Rayg’n has singlehandedly muzzled all the pundits who’ve been claiming that a small dog — and a dachshund no less! — can’t win this contest. Not only does Rayg’n get to proudly wear the Top Dog crown for the year, but this dapper doxie also receives an exclusive “Furry Kids Eat Free” overnight package from Loews Coronado Bay Resort.

I would also like to extend my barkfelt congratulations to first runner up, Pippa, who fetches a free professional photo session with Colleen’s Custom Pet Photography, a custom dichroic glass dog tag by Chris Stell, and a Family 4-Pack of Balboa Park Explorer Multi-Day Passes.

Congratulations are also in order for second runner up Good Ol’ Charlie Brown, who unfortunately continues to prove that a bulldog can’t take home the big prize. Just kidding. Regardless, Chuck gets the last howl, walking away with a Family 4-Pack of tickets to an upcoming show at San Diego Junior Theatre and another Family 4-Pack to the San Diego Air & Space Museum along with a museum gift bag.


Balboa Park Explorer Pass Named “Best of San Diego”

As long as I’m barking out congratulations this week, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the annual Balboa Park Explorer Pass was named “Best of San Diego” in San Diego Magazine’s 2014 August issue. Deemed “Big Bang for Your Buck” in the Arts & Entertainment category, the affordable pass for both individuals ($129) and families ($199) grants its bearer free admission to 17 different museums for one year (that’s ruffly seven dog years!).

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Cosmos Blog_Ask Cosmos_WexlerWexler writes: Dear Cosmos, a number of out-of-town packmates will be hounding me for things to do over the Labor Day weekend. What’s your take on this summer’s must-see closing exhibitions?

Cosmos: I can certainly relate to being hounded for things to do in Balboa Park. In fact, I pretty much make a living off of it. Although I’ve already sniffed out many of Balboa Park’s top dog shows in earlier blog posts, for the sake of our local procrastinators and out-of-town guests alike, I’ve dug up this list of summer’s biggest departing exhibitions.

San Diego Automotive Museum, Orphan Cars exhibition, Nash automobileSpanish Sojourns: Robert Henri and the Spirit of Spain

(closing Sept. 9)

Though Sorolla and America (closing Aug. 26) got most of the buzz, The San Diego Museum of Art’s other major summer exhibition, featuring over 40 portraits by famed American realist Robert Henri, comes with its own set of must-see credentials — in spite of the fact it does not feature a single painting of dogs playing poker.

Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ships

(closing Sept. 1)

Digging up backyard “treasure” is something any pooch worth his or her paws can do. Digging up over 200 artifacts from the bottom of the sea from a real life pirate ship is another order of business. This immersive exhibition at the San Diego Natural History Museum features treasure chests of gold coins, jewelry, cannons, pistols, and a life-size replica of the ship’s stern.

Orphan Cars: Gone but Not Forgotten

(closing Sept. 26)

I’ll never forget the first car I chased as a young pup. It was just begging for attention. Now 17 of the most memorable cars ever made by companies that no longer exist are getting their own attention in a unique showcase of “orphan cars,” ranging in date from the 1905 Tourist to 1981 DeLorean, at the San Diego Automotive Museum.

After Ansel Adams

(closing Sept. 28)

Since the scope of my nature photography portfolio doesn’t extend beyond Balboa Park’s 1,200-acre campus, I have a keen appreciation for photographers like Ansel Adams who captured America’s greatest vistas before most people knew they existed. This display at the Museum of Photographic Arts reveals Adams’s lasting impact on those who followed in his paw prints.

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