Tag Archive | Balboa Park

San Diego 2016: The Del and the NAT

The last day of my San Diego vacation I was on my own. Angela and Allysa had departed the previous day, and Renée left that morning to attend her conference at the hotel. I had several hours until my 5 pm flight, so I packed up and took off for a bit of solo touristing.

First up, I decided to head over to the Hotel del Coronado. I have ogled it on websites and friends’ travel albums for years, so I didn’t want to leave San Diego without seeing it in person! It is a big hotel; actually it is the second largest wooden structure in the United States, (second only to the Tillamook Air Museum in Tillamook, Oregon – which I still totally want to visit, by the way). It was built during the Victorian Age of Grand Hotels; when it opened in 1888 it was the largest resort in the world.

The beach side of the Hotel del Coronado

The beach side of the Hotel del Coronado

The Del, as it is often called, is famous for its round pavilion tower. It was a construction marvel, requiring fresh water to be piped under the bay from San Diego, and lumber to be shipped from Eureka, California. It had electricity right from the beginning, although the builders ran the electrical wiring through gas piping, just in case that new-fangled electricity thing didn’t work out… The hotel is right off the beach, with gorgeous views of the water.

The street side of the Hotel del Coronado

The street side of the Hotel del Coronado

I wandered around the outside and checked it out; there are some areas that are only open to guests though. Inside, on the bottom floor, there are shops and a little coffee shop café. This is where it really gives itself away as someplace where the other half lives… The shops are super ritzy, and drip coffee costs $5!

I would love to have a spot here on a hot summer day.

I would love to have a spot here on a hot summer day.

The Hotel del Coronado has hosted its share of famous people, including Rudolph Valentino, Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable and Mae West, as well, as several Presidents. McKinley, Taft, and Wilson, all stayed there, and so has Barack Obama. Although it is out of my price range right now, I hope to be able to stay there one day, but an outdoor selfie will have to do for now! Hopefully it will be a famous landmark for another hundred years!

My attempt at a selfie with The Del - sort of a fail...

My attempt at a selfie with The Del – sort of a fail…

 

I love the Historical Landmark signs...

I love the Historical Landmark signs…

After checking out The Del, I decided to spend a bit more time at Balboa Park. I wanted to visit the NAT, short for the Natural History Museum. They had a couple of movies on whales that were included in the price of admission, one in 3D! I watched Ocean Oasis, about Baja California and the islands off of it, and the phenomenon that allows this area to team with ocean life. And I also watched Whales in 3D, which had the most incredible underwater footage of several whale species. What majestic creatures!

A reproduction mammoth skeleton at the NAT

A reproduction mammoth skeleton at the NAT

I also had time to see the exhibits, including one on the fossils in the San Diego area – it was very interesting. They also had a whole collection of skulls; rodents, birds and larger mammals. It was fascinating to be able to compare the different shapes and sizes of skulls. I know, I am a little morbid, but I found it very fascinating!

Ammonite Fossils at the NAT - I loved these!

Ammonite Fossils at the NAT – I loved these!

It was the perfect amount of time at the NAT – I was just finishing up with the exhibits when it was time to head out to return to the airport. I did get a bit freaked out though on the drive back to the airport. The rental car return is very poorly marked, and I circled around the streets near the airport for a while before I found it. ARGH! Luckily, I managed to find it in time, and checked in and made it through security with enough time to spare.

What a wonderful trip!  I can’t wait to return to San Diego!

San Diego 2016: Balboa Park Afternoon

Our server at The Prado gave us a really good tip. She told us about the Imax movie, National Parks Adventure, that was playing at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. We managed to rush over there and get our tickets just in time for the next showing, and tucked into our seats just as they were starting the movie. It is narrated by Robert Redford and features Conrad Anker, one of the most famous mountain climbers and adventurers alive today. It is totally full of spectacular scenery of our National Treasures. The Prairie Dogs are adorable, and the aerial photography is amazing. It is worth seeing if it is playing someplace you’ll be!

After the movie, we checked out a little shop for some souvenirs, then made our way over to the Japanese Garden. The Japanese Friendship Garden was founded during the 1915-1916 Panama-California Exposition, and has several Koi ponds, Bonsai trees, a Zen garden for meditation, and a tea house (separate admission fee for the tea house). I was a bit disappointed that you could only see the Zen Garden from inside.  I would have liked to sit out in the open air to enjoy it.  We wandered up and down the paths of the two acre garden, and found some cute ducks chillin’ in the lower stream. We just did the garden, but it would be fun to visit a Japanese Tea House at some point in my life!

Angela checking out the Koi at the Japanese Garden

Angela checking out the Koi at the Japanese Garden

 

Some of the Koi at the Japanese Garden

Some of the Koi at the Japanese Garden

 

A view of the Japanese Friendship Garden at Balboa Park

A view of the Japanese Friendship Garden at Balboa Park

The Koi were amazing – big and beautiful and they swam right up to you. I’m sure they were expecting their dinner… I started naming them, because of course I’m just like that. And the bonsai trees were pretty. It takes such talent to train them in those tiny, pretty shapes! We even found a couple of lizards hanging out on the paths. One of them was not impressed that Renée touched him!

My lizard friend at the Japanese Garden. He liked us until Renée touched him...

My lizard friend at the Japanese Garden. He liked us until Renée touched him…

 

My girls at the Japanese Garden. Aren't they adorable?

My girls at the Japanese Garden. Aren’t they adorable?

 

Me at the Japanese Garden at Balboa Park

Me at the Japanese Garden at Balboa Park

After we left the Japanese Garden, there was talk of finding a restaurant that had karaoke (this was NOT my idea). I have to admit that I was a bit relieved that we couldn’t find any place, as I am an absolutely terrible singer… Instead we went back to the resort and walked down to the beach, to a restaurant called Draft. We ordered beers – they have close to a gazillion on tap from all over the country. I had the Bell’s Brewery Amber Ale. And the grilled watermelon salad was to die for. It was so delicious! I hate to admit that I loved it so much that I didn’t even offer to share. I hope you can understand and forgive me… My friends ordered chorizo flatbread, which was also very good, but spicy!

My scrumptious grilled watermelon salad at Draft

My scrumptious grilled watermelon salad at Draft

 

Chorizo Flatbread and Bell's Amber Ale at Draft

Chorizo Flatbread and Bell’s Amber Ale at Draft

Unfortunately, it was cloudy and cold that evening, so the sunset was barely visible, and it was really too cold to sit out on the beach to watch it anyway! So we enjoyed our beer and food at the bar, and caught the tail end of one of the Stanley Cup Finals games.  Hockey isn’t really on my usual list of activities, but I enjoyed it with my friends.  And Draft was a great ending to a good day!

 

San Diego 2016: Balboa Park Morning

Our third day in San Diego was spent at San Diego’s premier park, Balboa Park. Balboa Park has a long history in San Diego, with land originally set aside in 1835 to be preserved in a natural state. Nothing was done with the land for a while, but in 1868 a park was created out of 1400 acres.

 

Improvements weren’t started until 1902 when a development plan was created, and then movement picked up when city leaders decided to host the 1915 Panama–California Exposition there to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal; 1910 – 1915 were a flurry of building activity. Much of the current aesthetic of the park was created during this period, and the Spanish Colonial Revival Style of most of the buildings was determined at this time.

The Bell Tower at Balboa Park

The Bell Tower at Balboa Park

 

The park is beautiful, but has had its fair share of controversy over the years. There have been the usual debates about whether to demolish or restore old buildings that were probably never intended to be long-term structures, the park went through a period where crime was commonplace, and there were several rapes and murders, and the usual issues with determining who would be responsible for funding special events and renovations.

 

But despite all this, Balboa Park is unique in that it contains several dozen museums and gardens within its borders, many of which are free for visitors. It is truly a spectacular place to spend some time – you could be here for days and still not see it all. On my trip, although I visited twice, I only saw a tiny slice of what the park has to offer…

 

We began our visit at the Visitor’s Center to get a map of the park and figure out the lay of the land (donation appreciated). We started out near the Museum of Art, checking out the outdoor sculptures – a good time was had looking at the art and becoming a part of it!

Allysa almost got eaten by a dinosaur...

Allysa almost got eaten by a dinosaur…

If you know what year this sculpture was made, you know what year these lovely ladies were born!

If you know what year this sculpture was made, you know what year these lovely ladies were born!

 

Then we visited the Botanical Building and checked out all the beautiful plants growing inside. There were many varieties of orchids, a million kinds of ferns, including staghorn ferns, and many other plants.  We lingered there, taking photos and pointing things out to one another.  Outside of the Botanical Building is a Koi Pond, with lily pads and ducks swimming around.  It is a popular attraction for children and adults alike.  Angela befriended a busker who was attending the local college; his musical talent will hopefully ensure that his dreams of being a professional musician.  Then we can say we knew him when…

The Botanical Building, with the pond in front.

The Botanical Building, with the pond in front.

 

The Botanical Building with a cool figural fountain in the front.

The Botanical Building with a cool figural fountain in the front.

 

Palms and ferns inside the Botanical Building

Palms and ferns inside the Botanical Building

 

Orchids at the Botanical Building

Orchids at the Botanical Building

For lunch we went to The Prado, apparently one of the more well known restaurants in San Diego. We all indulged in lunch time cocktails – because isn’t that what you do when you are on vacation!? I had a Passion Caipiriñha – it was fabulous! I had the steak tacos, there was still plenty of food, even after I shared with everybody! It was a great meal – with fantastic service!  And our day was only half done!

Renée got a little excited about her cocktails!

Renée got a little excited about her cocktails!

 

My steak tacos at The Prado. Amazing!

My steak tacos at The Prado. Amazing!