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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, windmill building education programLet’s face it — most pups are more concerned with having fun NOW than what happened in Balboa Park 100 years ago. You can drag them by the leash to all the great exhibitions, performances, and special events taking place this year you want, but chances are they will mostly remember the fun times they had at the event — not the Balboa Park Centennial itself.

Perhaps the best way to help everyone in your litter appreciate that they are part of an epic 100-year anniversary of an Exposition that put the City of San Diego on the world map is to enroll them in a Balboa Park summer camp.

Over a dozen park institutions participate each year in the Balboa Park summer camp program, collectively offering a one-stop summer camp experience for kids of all ages all summer long. Full-day and half-day camps (which can be combined to make it a full day) are available in such a wide-range of subject areas that pups will be begging for more.

So instead of sitting around the house all-day connected to electronic devices and jumping on and chewing up the furniture, they can be learning how to dig up dinosaur fossils or ancient civilizations, launch a space rocket, sing and dance on stage, create an artistic masterpiece, care for endangered species, plan and build a railroad, or design the perfect automobile … to mention a just few possibilities.

Also, Balboa Park museums are making a special effort to mark the Centennial with a remarkable slate of special exhibitions this year. And since many summer camps are designed around specific exhibitions, pups will have unprecedented access to sniff around some of the biggest shows celebrating 2015, giving them even more memories to share with their own brood one day.

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Greta writes: Dear Cosmos, As much as I enjoy hearing about all the 2015 activities, with spring around the corner and Balboa Park being a park and all, can you give us the dirt on all the garden and floral-themed events over the next couple of months?

Cosmos: You are one lucky dog, because being named after a flower, I have as much interest in what grows above the soil as I do in what can be dug up from it. Not to mention, the 1915 Panama-California Exposition was often referred to as the "Garden Fair" thanks to the extensive landscaping it generated park-wide. Accordingly, there are so many garden-themed activities going on this year, 2015 could very well be called a “Garden Fair” itself. Here are just some of the highlights:

Historic Garden Tour: Gardens Then and Now (April 11) — If you’ve ever wanted to look over your neighbor’s fence when they are home, now is your chance to visit a dozen private historic gardens, many inspired by Balboa Park’s original landscaping.

Garden Party of the Century (April 24–May 9) Several park and community organizations collaborate to present a two-week horticultural extravaganza, including a floral show, garden tours, expert consultations, demonstrations, and entertainment.

Floral Show: Our Park – Our Treasure (May 8–10) — San Diego’s top dog floral designers (at least the ones who don’t eat their own arrangements) are showcased in the Balboa Park Club.

Botanical Building Centennial Tours (2nd & 4th Friday) — Bipeds are invited to sniff around Balboa Park’s most fragrant landmark while learning its flowery history during a free 45-minute tour.

Art Alive (April 24–26) — From the sublime and elegant to the fanciful and, well, bizarre, the San Diego Museum of Art’s art collection has been the inspiration for some of the most creative floral designs to have ever been conceived in a public space.

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Russell the electric talking giraffe at Balboa Park STEAM Family DayOkay, I know I can be like a dog with a bone when it comes to repeatedly announcing Balboa Park’s Centennial Celebrations are officially here. But please indulge me because not only does the STEAM Family Day on Sunday, March 15, mark the first major park-wide event of 2015, it also means Balboa Park’s Centennial Celebrations are officially here!

Now that I’ve said it (perhaps for the last time), let’s consider what makes this year’s installment of the annual spring Family Day a truly epic celebration of the 1915 Exposition’s 100-year anniversary.

  • A humongous assortment of fun STEAM* activities for families presented by over 30 Balboa Park and community organizations, including official Family Day sponsors Time Warner Cable and Whole Foods Market and transportation partner MTS.
  • Dozens of free activity booths and demos — that pups won’t even realize are educational — set up along the Prado walkway. Can you say quadcopters?
  • A personal appearance by my friend Russell, the 11-foot talking giraffe, who will be joined by many other innovative Maker exhibits throughout the Park. A giant talking giraffe!
  • Free admission for everyone in your litter age 12 and under with paid adult at participating museums, many featuring Centennial-themed exhibitions like the working scale model of the Panama Canal at the San Diego History Center.
  • Frank Favela, host of the colorful Spanish-language kids TV program Zona de Escape, presenting cool games and experiments.
  • Free children’s concert (2pm) and activities throughout the day in the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

Those are just a few choice highlights to chew on — while I go chew on my post-second breakfast late-morning snack. For the complete list of STEAM Family Day programs, activities, exhibits, and events, visit

*STEAM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math

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Is it my imagination or does daylight savings time begin earlier with each passing year? While most of my friends are still hibernating, my bipedal readers will be losing an hour of precious sleep this Saturday night. Since I can pretty much sleep whenever I’m not exploring Balboa Park, blogging, or of course eating, I feel it is my duty to alert folks to five things in Balboa Park they don’t want to be late for this Sunday, March 8.

10th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival

Though the Japanese Friendship Garden’s annual rite of spring opens on Saturday (March 7), Sunday’s hours are only 11am to 3pm, giving you that much less time to enjoy picnicking under 150 fragrant cherry trees, crafting, enjoying a variety of cultural entertainment, and chowing on authentic Japanese street foods.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Puppet Show

Caterpillars are no different from my hibernating friends when they wake up from their long sleep and emerge from their cocoon: they need to eat — a lot! Your preschool-aged pups will never forgive you if you oversleep (again) and miss this Sunday’s audience-participation puppet show at 11am, 1pm, and 2:30pm at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater.

Spreckels Organ Pavilion Concert

If you think these weekly concerts are the same every week and it doesn’t hurt to snooze through one, think again. This week’s 2pm performance brings back Civic Organist Emeritus Robert Plimpton who, along with mezzo-soprano accompanist Colette Thomas, will present such howling-good standards as “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” and “I Got Rhythm.”

House of Austria Lawn Program

Lawn Programs are back! The weekly multicultural smorgasbords that don’t discriminate based on pedigree (i.e., all dogs are welcome!) return for their March through October run of over 30 different cultural festivals, each starting at 2pm on Sunday afternoon. Trust me — the House of Austria’s Sachertorte (a dense chocolate cake) is worth losing sleep over.

Ranger-Led Park Tour

You’ll definitely need to set your alarm for this 11am tour. If you haven’t gone on a ranger-led tour of Balboa Park in a while, if ever, there is no better time than during this Centennial Celebration year. You can learn everything you need to know about the Park’s rich history while there’s still plenty of time to take in many of the special activities planned for the year. Not to mention, this pet-friendly tour can also double as your morning dog-walking duty.

Posted in Stuff to Do | add a comment

Humback Whales, mother and calf, IMAX film, Reuben H. Fleet Science CenterBiologically speaking, there are very few creatures in the animal kingdom that can actually sing, partly because for some reason the vocalizations that dogs and wolves make are incorrectly termed “howling.” Such is not the case for the seafaring humpback whale. Not only are these majestic creatures the largest mammals on the planet, but they are among the world’s most widely recorded singers who don’t collect royalty checks.

Since it’s impractical to hear them live in concert, a new IMAX film at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, appropriately titled Humpback Whales, enables audiences to see these prolific chanteurs up close in a life-size format.

Narrated by my favorite Jedi, Ewan McGregor, the immersive film follows humpback whales on their annual 6,000-plus mile round-trip journey, displaying not only their singing talents, but also revealing in rare footage how they feed, play, and take care of their pups.

In one unique behavior captured live on film, called bubble netting, the whales co-operatively trap a school of fish in a tunnel of air bubbles, signal to the others through “singing,” and then simultaneously swim up for the feeding frenzy. Now that’s what I call singing for your super! (though I personally find begging a much more effective means for getting a mouthful of fresh seafood.)

In addition to playing an important role in their feeding, playing, and mating habits, singing was largely responsible for bringing humpback whales back from the brink of extinction over 40 years ago. Beginning in 1970, the first recordings of their singing brought increased awareness to their plight and laid the foundation for an environmental movement to save the whales, making this IMAX film a tail-wagging feel-good story.

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