Home » 2015 Yosemite Thanksgiving and San Diego

Campland on the Bay and San Diego Side Trips, CA

Tuesday, December 1, 2015 - 2:15pm by Lolo
452 miles and 8 hours from our last stop - 6 night stay


Bicycling around Mission BayBicycling around Mission BayAfter freezing our butts off in Yosemite for the last 5 days, we were very much looking forward to the warmth and the sun of San Diego. We had been to San Diego two Decembers ago, but it had rained practically the whole time. This time the forecast for the next week looked perfect.

We returned to Campland on the Bay, a premier RV resort right on beautiful Mission Bay, which we had discovered in 2013. The campground is huge – over 550 campsites, two pools and Jacuzzis, and a fitness room with top-notch exercise equipment. Plus, they have their own sandy beach on Mission Bay and a marina that rents powerboats, jet skis, and kayaks.

It was late afternoon when we arrived, but still early enough to hop on our bikes and set off counterclockwise on the 14-mile bike path that goes along the shores of Mission Bay. The bike path, which passes through several public parks and wildlife reserves, is an easy, flat ride with things to look at all along the way. My favorite part of the ride was looking at the beautiful beach houses along the bayside on Riviera Drive near Mission Beach.

Torrey Pines State Park – Black’s Beach

Herb over Black's BeachHerb over Black's BeachOur purpose for coming to San Diego was for Herb to soak up the sun he so craved, so we set off to spend the day at Black’s Beach, on the southern end of Torrey Pines State Park. While the beaches on the northern end of the park are accessible by car, this one required walking down a very steep and somewhat precarious trail that switchbacks its way down from the Glider Port parking lot to a beautiful 2.5-mile long sandy beach. The trail is only 1,000 feet long, but its 320 foot descent in that short distance, makes it feel much longer. However, the trail is well maintained and there are steps and handrails in the steeper sections.

There are basically two types that frequent this difficult-to-get-to-beach: surfers looking to enjoy the huge winter swells, and nudists looking to enjoy some privacy. The nudists tend to hang out north of the Glider Port, while the surfers head to the south. And then there is a third type – me, who doesn’t mind a hike to get to a spectacular beach at the base of a cliff.

Black's Beach at Torrey PinesBlack's Beach at Torrey PinesThe beach was lovely and not at all crowded, perhaps because it was a Wednesday. The sand, especially along the water' edge, was packed hard enough to run on, so while Herb relaxed and read, I put on my sneakers and set off on a run, going first as far north as I could before being blocked by rocks extending into the water, and then south as far as the pier. It was a perfect 5-mile run.

Having lived our entire lives on the East Coast, Herb and I couldn’t get over the fact that we were sitting comfortably on a beach in December. What made it even more amazing was that we had been playing in the snow just 3 days ago. That’s the way snow should be – a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there. I think West Coast life was going to suit us just fine.

Balboa Park

Museum of ManMuseum of ManIt was Herb’s 60th birthday! Wow, I couldn’t believe I was hanging out with a 60-year-old man. We decided to celebrate it visiting the museums in Balboa Park.

I think that one of the qualifications for being a great city is having a great park -- one that serves as an extended backyard for its residents and yet can still attract visitors from around the world. San Diego’s Balboa Park is such a park, right up there with Central Park in New York City and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

Everyone knows about the famous San Diego Zoo, but the park also has more than a dozen art, cultural, and science museums, as well as a replica of the Old Globe Theater where Shakespeare plays are performed.

The park was bustling with park staff and vendors busily setting up for December Nights, San Diego’s two-night holiday festival and Christmas Tree lighting, which started tomorrow night. The event attracts more than 350,000 visitors, so it was good that we got here a day earlier to have the park a little more to ourselves.

San Diego Museum of ArtSan Diego Museum of ArtThere is so much to see and do that we weren’t sure where to start, so we wisely made our first stop the Visitor Center on El Prado, the main avenue through the park, to get their advice on a plan of attack. We wound up buying the Multi-Day Explorer Zoo Combo for $92 each, which gave us admission to the Zoo plus 17 museums. This would keep us occupied for a few days.

One thing I will mention ahead of time that we didn’t think about when we bought the pass is that, you know all those big banners on the facades of museums announcing their Special Exhibits? – well they are not included in the Combo Pass, and each of them costs an additional $20 or more per person. However, we still felt that our passes were a very good value.

Ironically, after paying for our combo tickets, we started our tour at the “admission free” Timken Museum of Art, which housed a wonderful collection of paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, El Greco, Cezanne, Pissarro, Bierstadt, and more.

Botanical GardenBotanical GardenRight next to the Timken is the San Diego Museum of Art, the oldest and largest art museum in San Diego. We strolled through its galleries, admiring its collection of European old masters and 19th and 20th century American art. I was so glad that they charged admission, so that I could start amortizing my Combo Pass.

From there, we walked to the Botanical Garden, which were unfortunately closed for the day. However, the building itself, with its redwood lath-covered central dome and two wings was a worthy destination in itself. Built for the Panama-California Exposition of 1915-16, this building, with the Lily Pond and Lagoon in the foreground, is one of the most photographed scenes in the park.

Herb's Birthday lunch at the PradoHerb's Birthday lunch at the PradoWe were getting hungry, but decided to squeeze in just one more museum before lunch. I was going to get my money’s worth out of this Combo Pass, even if we had to starve in the process. Having been lucky enough to have visited the New York City Museum of Natural History on several occasions, we are a bit spoiled, but this is a very nice natural history museum with enough fossils, dinosaur bones, and taxidermied animals to keep any natural history fan happy.

I wanted Herb’s 60th birthday to be special, so we got a table on the Outdoor Terrace of The Prado Restaurant, overlooking the Japanese Friendship Garden, and had a delicious lunch. We were so tired already from our busy, museum-filled morning that we took our time lingering over our glasses of wine. I certainly was enjoying myself, and I am pretty sure Herb was as well.

Rejuvenated from our lunch, we charged on to two more museums. Our first stop was the Museum of Photographic Arts, which has a collection of more than 7,000 images, representing the entire history of photography, with a particular focus on photojournalism.

Herb Flying at the Fleet Science CenterHerb Flying at the Fleet Science CenterThe last museum of the day, and probably my favorite, was the Reuben H Fleet Space Theater & Science Center. It was fun because it had so many interactive exhibits to play with. At one exhibit, Herb donned a pair of condor wings and tried to see how fast he could flap. Let’s just say that he did not exactly soar. In another room we made paper airplanes and tried to fly them through hoops placed at various distances, which turned out to be a lot harder than we thought. Then there was an exhibit dedicated to illustrating and explaining the process of aging – I’m sure a real hoot for a man who had just turned 60. Based on the smile on his face, I don’t think Herb realized that I took his picture under an exhibit with the word “Aging” in large lettering above his head.

We were getting tired, and since we did have a multi-day pass, we decided to call it quits for the day and finish visiting the rest of the museums another day. As we walked back to the car, we passed the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, where park staff were busily running around, setting up for December Nights and the tree lighting ceremony scheduled for tomorrow night.

I absolutely love Christmas and was having a little trouble getting in the spirit when surrounded by palm trees and people in shorts. I think I might have peaked too early in snowy Yosemite last week. Herb agreed to come back tomorrow night for the tree lighting to help me kick start my holiday mood again.

Balboa Park – San Diego Zoo, more Museums, and December Nights

MandrillMandrillFrom everything we heard, December Nights, the two-night holiday celebration in the park, was going to be extremely crowded and parking would be next to impossible.

Since the holiday events didn’t start until evening, we decided to go to the Zoo in the morning, when there should be plenty of free parking, and then spend the entire day exploring the Zoo, some more museums, and watching the tree lighting that night.

We got to the Zoo just after it opened, and following the advice of the ranger in the Visitor Center yesterday, we immediately jumped on the line for the double-decker bus tour, which I was happy to see was included in our admission price. The 35-minute tour, narrated by a very informative and amusing guide, took us on a loop throughout the entire zoo, giving us a great overview of the various habitats and helping us determine where we wanted to focus our attention when we got off. I wanted to do it all, not a trivial goal, considering that the Zoo is home to more than 4,000 rare and endangered animals, representing more than 800 species.

Second piece of advice from the Visitor Center ranger – after you get off the double-decker bus, take the Skyfari aerial tram (also included in admission price) to get to the far side of the Zoo early, and then spend the day working your way back on foot. Also, it was fun peering down at the animals below from the tram.

Meerkats on GuardMeerkats on GuardWe saw so many beautiful and majestic animals -- tigers, polar bears, elephants, giraffes, pandas, koala beers, baboons, gorillas, and more, but the three that left the biggest impression on me were the meerkats, one particular hippo, and the orangutans.

The meerkats were probably the most sociable and gregarious of the animals we saw today – and also the cutest. We saw a whole group of them, many of which were nursing their young, while others stood up as high as they could on their hind leg tippy toes (if they have tippy toes), alertly gazing in all directions, keeping guard over the others. It was such a busy little community.

In stark contrast to the meerkats was the mighty hippo that I spent a good 20 minutes staring at through the glass of a water tank. I had no idea that hippos spent so much time underwater, which I later learned they do during the day to keep cool. The only movement I saw over the whole time I watched him was a slight upward tilt of his massive head to expose his tiny little nostrils above water to breath. I would hate to have been an unsuspecting passerby above.

OrangutanOrangutanAnd then there were the orangutans effortlessly using their long arms to swing from limb to limb through the trees. While males tend to be loners, the females are much more nurturing and stay with their young for as long as six or seven years. We watched one mother and its adorable toddler in action. The little one clutched onto its mother’s long hair while she went about her business of eating bananas, climbing trees, etc. All the while the mother clutched a piece of burlap with her toes. When we asked a park employee why she was doing that, she said they all do – it’s kind of like a security blanket. That was sad. Why should such a majestic beast need a security blanket if it felt secure in its home? This is not something they do in the wild, and that is not just due to a lack of burlap. It made me question whether it is really fair to keep large, wild animals like these in zoos, but I guess that in many cases that is the only way they can survive.

After the Zoo, we headed over to El Prado, where the December Nights activities were already under full swing. The streets were crowded with holiday revelers and vendors hawking their wares. What a difference from yesterday.

We walked over to the Museum of Man, where a large banner read, “Instruments of Torture.” That sounded like fun, but when I found out they wanted to charge another $20 on top of my Combo Pass, I said forget it. Instead we wandered around and enjoyed their free exhibits. In fact, pretty much everything was extra, except for a really cool exhibit called BEERology, where we learned how beer was pretty much the basis for civilization – well not quite, but almost. Apparently, craft brewing has been going on for millenniums, with such notable brewers as the Ancient Egyptians, Sumerians, Chinese, and even Amazon headhunters (which gives all new meaning to the concept of a head on your beer). It seems everyone enjoys a good beer.

December Nights PromenadeDecember Nights PromenadeIt was beginning to get dark, but still too early for the tree lighting, so we walked through the Panama International Plaza where an entire carnival, complete with rides and vendors selling such delicacies as bacon wrapped hot dogs, had been set up. We avoided the temptation of both and entered the Air and Space Museum, which for tonight was free for everyone. In fact, all the museums were free for both nights of December nights.

I can see why this is one of the most popular museums in the park. It has some very cool historic aircraft and spacecraft from all over the world, including a working flying replica of Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, the actual Apollo 9 Command Module spacecraft, and artifacts from the Wright Brothers, Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and other aviation and space pioneers.

It was still about an hour before tree lighting, but we walked back to the Spreckel’s Pavilion anyway to see if we had to grab seats yet. There were still plenty, so we went to the indoor fountain area right outside The Prado Restaurant, where they had set up a bar, bought two glasses of wine, and sat on a nearby bench watching the crowds go by.

December Nights Tree LightingDecember Nights Tree LightingAbout 15 minutes before the scheduled tree lighting, we went back to Spreckel’s and managed to find two seats in the back. I was really anxious to get back into the holiday spirit and thought this ceremony would be just the thing.

However, I am sorry to report that it just didn’t do it for me – maybe because I grew up watching the NYC Rockefeller Center Tree lighting.

I was hoping for some uplifting speeches and stirring Christmas carols, but instead it began with mundane speeches from the mayor and a councilman, followed by the tree lighting, and concluded with four people on stage singing jingle bells without any accompaniment. I had heard so much about the magnificent 4,725 pipe organ that was literally about 20 feet from the Christmas tree, but it made no appearance for this supposedly huge holiday event.

What finally put me over the top was the announcement that they hoped everyone would enjoy this beautiful tree, which would be up for another week. Why would they possibly take down the tree down before Christmas? It wasn’t as if this was a real tree cut in the pristine forests of northern Oregon that wouldn’t last through the New Year. I knew, because I walked around the side of the Pavilion and saw that the emperor had no clothes.

Plaza by The PradoPlaza by The PradoBut who am I to use my East Coast Christmas traditions and expectations to judge others? My apologies to the city of San Diego for not understanding your holiday customs.

It was dinner time, and although there were numerous tempting food vendors, we wanted to rest our feet and sit down somewhere, so we went to Panama 66, a restaurant that occupies the open-air setting of the San Diego Museum of Art’s Sculpture Garden. Although it was bustling, Herb managed to grab a table, while I got on line to order our food and some locally crafted beers.

The night should have been over – we were exhausted -- but we actually visited three more museums before going back to our car, which was parked in the Zoo parking lot. Visiting the Zoo seemed like days ago – hard to believe it was just this morning.

Right near Panama 66 was the Mingei International Museum, which is dedicated to contemporary folk art and crafts from all eras and cultures around the world. A bit closer to home, they had a special exhibit when we were there called “Craft Icons of the 50 States,” which celebrated the variety of craft found throughout America. Each state had a representative piece of art, which expressed its unique contribution to the richness of the American experience.

Mingei International MuseumMingei International MuseumWe walked back through Panama International Plaza to the Automotive Museum, where we saw more than 80 historic autos and motorcycles. I thought the most interesting exhibit was the one which traced the evolution of motorcycles from the motorized bicycles made by Indian Motorcycle Company and Harley Davidson in the early 1900s to the present day.

Our final stop on the way back to the car was the Model Railroad Museum, the largest operating model railroad museum in the world. I have fond memories of the model train set we had in our basement when I was a kid. I still remember putting a little white tablet in the chimney of the engine to make smoke come out as it circled the track. I thought that was so cool. The museum’s setup was a bit more impressive. They had four working models of actual Southern California railroads, which traveled through cute little towns and villages, both historical and contemporary.

Let’s just say that it had been a very fun and full day.

Back to Black’s Beach at Torrey Pines State Park

Climb up from Black's BeachClimb up from Black's BeachIt was another beautiful day in San Diego, as we headed once more down the steep steps to Black’s Beach. As I mentioned in my write-up from a few days ago, this beach is frequented by basically two types – surfers to the left and naturists to the right. Today I had some memorable contacts with both.

I was a bit slow going down the steps, so whenever I heard footsteps behind me, I would step aside to let faster people go by. Herb was way ahead of me, and practically at the beach already, when I stepped aside to let a young guy carrying a surfboard go by. He looked like he had just walked out of a model shoot for a surfing magazine. – the surfer that is, not Herb. “Thank you,” he said in an accent that sounded vaguely familiar from my past.

When I asked where he was from, he said Finland, but he was currently studying at UCSD, which is right nearby. “I’m part Finnish too” I piped up, which was technically true in that my grandparents came from a Swedish settlement in Finland. “Do you speak any?” he inquired. I tried to pull out something I remembered from my childhood and said, “Jag alskar dig.” Soon as the words left my mouth, I realized that I had just told a young beefcake that I loved him. Herb was going to love this story. That’s what he gets for leaving me behind.

House on South End of Black's BeachHouse on South End of Black's BeachOnce at the bottom of the steps, we headed north along the beach towards the clothing optional end, which leads me to my second story.

I had had such a nice run on this hard sandy beach the other day that I decided to go for another one. As I was running along, peacefully minding my own business, I saw something that boosted my Christmas spirit to new heights – five young, jacked college guys posing for what was obviously their Christmas photo, wearing nothing but Santa hats. Unfortunately, I do not have a photo to post that memorable experience.

I was having quite a day!

Back to Balboa Park and Indoor Rock Climbing at Mesa Rim

Despite having already spent two full days in the Park, we still hadn’t seen two of the major attractions – the Japanese Friendship Garden and the Botanical Garden. Also, every Sunday afternoon at 2 pm there is a free organ concert at the Spreckel’s Pavilion, so there was good reason to return to Balboa Park once more.

Japanese Friendship GardenJapanese Friendship GardenI had read that the Park has lots of hiking trails, some of which are quite wild and lead down into canyons. Well, on our walk through the park, we saw the trailhead for one and took it. It was amazing. It felt like we out in the wild rather than smack in the middle of an urban park.

We re-emerged from the wilds in time to take our seats at the Spreckel’s Pavilion Christmas concert. I was really excited about finally hearing this organ play and getting into the holiday spirit with some rousing carols. What I learned is that a 4,725-pipe organ is impressive, but not very conducive to singing along with. Plus the organist’s improvisational approach to the classics and rather interesting tempo made it difficult at times to even recognize what she was playing. Here I go again, passing judgment – the concert probably wasn’t meant for us to sing along to. However, it really did make me miss Andrew and Tommy and their Bluetooth speakers, blasting Bing Crosby and us singing along out of tune.

After three or four songs we politely got up and walked over to the nearby Japanese Friendship Garden, which was originally designed as a teahouse for the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition, as were so many other attractions in the Park. I love Japanese gardens. Just wandering along its winding paths was so very peaceful and serene – a very nice break from the somewhat frenetic schedule we had set for ourselves.

Koi in Japanese Friendship GardenKoi in Japanese Friendship GardenThe Japanese Friendship Garden is just one out of more than a dozen gardens in the Park, each reflecting a different horticultural style and environment. We could easily have spent the entire day just going from garden to garden, which is something I definitely like to do on a future trip to San Diego.

However, today we decided to do just one more – the fabulous Botanical Gardens, which, like the Japanese Friendship Garden, were also designed and built for the Panama-California Exposition.

When we were here the other day, it had been closed to prepare for December Nights, but today it was open for all to enjoy its marvelous collection of 2,100 tropical plans and palms. The beautiful redwood laths that cover the building and make it so aesthetically pleasing also serve the very important function of allowing natural light to filter into the building. I only wish I knew more about plants so that I could better appreciate what I was seeing.

Mesa Rim Rock Climbing GymMesa Rim Rock Climbing GymThis was our last full day in San Diego before heading back up north to our temporary home in the Petaluma KOA. Since the next two days would just be sitting in a car, we decided to get some physical activity in at the Mesa Rim Indoor Climbing Gym. I really love visiting new climbing gyms. Each of them has its own personality. I think was actually our 8th!

That pretty much wraps up our action-packed visit to beautiful San Diego.


Campland on the Bay

FlamingoFlamingoCampland on the Bay is one of the largest campgrounds in California, or for that matter, the entire country. Its popularity stems from its prime location on beautiful Mission Bay and its many water activities: power boating, jet skiing, kayaking, waterskiing, deep-sea fishing, and swimming on its private beach.

For those birding enthusiasts, Campland overlooks the Kendall Frost Wildlife Preserve–home to egrets, black-crowned night herons, least terns, and the endangered clapper rail.

Other amenities include: 2 swimming pools and jacuzzis, a world class fitness room, a 124-slip marina, power boat and kayak rentals, bike rentals, the Hungry Wolf BBQ and Ice Cream Parlor, and lots of planned activities on the weekends.

The campground has 558 sites, most with full or partial hookups. There is even one Super Site, complete with private patio, jacuzzi, and grill.

Side Trips from Campland on the Bay

The following is in no way intended to be a complete listing of sights to see in the San Diego area, but just those that we chose to visit during our all too short 2 day stay.

Torrey Pine State Beach

Black's Beach at Torrey PinesBlack's Beach at Torrey PinesTorrey Pines State Beach in La Jolla extends for three miles from Carmel Valley Road in the north to the Glider Port at Torrey Pines Scenic Drive.

The north section of the beach is more easily accessible by car and is the choice for families.

Black’s Beach on the southern end is only accessible via two steep trails from the top of the cliff, where the parking lots are. This difficult-to-get-to beach is mostly frequented by two types: surfers looking to enjoy the huge winter swells, and nudists looking to enjoy some privacy. The nudists tend to hang out north of the Glider Port, while the surfers head to the south.

The south trail, which begins just south of the Glider Port, is easier and better maintained than the north trail, in that it has steps and handrails in the steeper segments. The north trail is much steeper and should be avoided if you are subject to vertigo. Both trails are about 1,000 feet long and have an elevation loss of about 320 feet.

It’s also fun to watch the hang gliders and paragliders soar from the Glider Port, atop the cliffs above Black Beach.

Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo

GorillaGorillaBalboa Park is right up there with Central Park in New York City and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco as one of America’s great urban parks.

It is the place San Diegans go to play and visitors to the area can tour more than a dozen art, cultural, and science museums, take in a Shakespeare play at the Old Globe Theater, or say hello to the amazing animals at the world-famous San Diego Zoo.

The first stop in the park should be the Visitor Center at 1549 El Prado, where they can explain the various ticket options for visiting multiple attractions within the park. There are far too many to see in just one day.

The major attraction in the park is the Zoo, located in the northern part of Balboa Park. There is a large free parking lot, but visitors should plan to arrive in the morning, because the parking lot fills up early on weekends – plus, the animals are much more active in the earlier part of the day

Malay TapirMalay TapirThe San Diego Zoo is home to more than 4,000 rare and endangered animals representing more than 800 species in a beautifully landscaped setting that replicates their natural habitats. Some of the most popular animals include: koalas, giant pandas, elephants, tigers, hippos, and apes, just to name a few.

A great way to get an overview of the park is to take the 35-minute narrated double-decker bus tour, which is included with the admission price. Once you’ve made the loop, you’ll know where you want to go back to. The Skyfari aerial tram goes right across the park and can save some walking time, as well as provide an awesome view of the animals from above.

In addition to the Zoo, there are more than a dozen museums to visit, many of which are included as part of the various Combo tickets. Some of the more popular ones include:

  • Timken Museum of Art (admission free) – houses paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, El Greco, Cezanne, Pissarro, Bierstadt, and more
  • San Diego Museum of Art – the oldest and largest art museum in San Diego. renowned Its works include a fine selection of European old masters, 19th and 20th century American art, an encyclopedic Asian collection, and growing collections of contemporary and Latin American art.
  • Museum of Photographic Arts – collection of more than 7,000 images, representing the entire history of photography, its aesthetic movements, and technological advancements. The particular focus of the museum is social documentary photography and photojournalism.
  • Museum of Man – anthropological museum containing artifacts, folk art, and archaeological finds. The building was originally constructed for the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition.
  • Museum of Natural HistoryMuseum of Natural History

  • Natural History Museum – with a focus on the natural world, this museum houses .5 million speciments, including rocks, fossils, taxidermied animals, a dinosaur skeleton, and a California fault-line exhibit. There is also a giant 3D-screen theater showing films with a focus on the natural world.
  • Reuben H Fleet Space Theater & Science Center – hands-on science museum with over 100 interactive exhibits. The Fleet is also home to Southern California’s only IMAX Dome Theater.
  • Air and Space Museum - houses a collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft from all over the world, including a working flying replica of Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, the actual Apollo 9 Command Module spacecraft, and artifacts from the Wright Brothers, Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and other aviation and space pioneers.
  • Mingei International Museum - dedicated to art of the people (mingei) from all eras and cultures of the world, this museum features dynamic, changing exhibitions of historical and contemporary folk art, craft and design.
  • Automotive Museum - features more than 80 historic autos and motorcycles, including Frank Sinatra’s 1967 Austin Petrol Hire Car and Louie Mattar’s Fabulous $75,000 Car.
  • Model Railroad Museum - world's largest operating model railroad museum, with four landscaped working models of actual Souterhn California railroads, both historical and contemporary.

Balboa Park also has well over a dozen gardens, reflecting various horticultural styles and environments. Two of the more prominent ones we were fortunate to visit include:

  • The Japanese Friendship Garden – originally a teahouse during the 1915–16 Panama-California Exposition, today the two-acre garden contains winding paths that lead visitors past a Zen garden for meditation, an exhibit house, koi pond, bonsai exhibit, ceremonial gate, and a Fujidana (wisteria arbor).
  • The Botanical Garden – also built for the Panama-California Exposition of 1915-16, this building, with a Lily Pond and Lagoon in the foreground, is one of the most photographed scenes in the Park. The building’s central dome and two wings are covered with redwood laths, allowing natural sunlight to filter in on its collection of more than 2,100 tropical plants and palms.

Practice Tree Lighting at the Spreckels Organ PavilionPractice Tree Lighting at the Spreckels Organ PavilionAnother attraction in Balboa Park is the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, an ornate vaulted structure that houses one of the world’s largest outdoor pipe organs. It was donated to the city by John D. and Adolph Spreckels for the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition.

In 1915, Teddy Roosevelt gave a speech at the organ pavilion calling for world peace. He also requested that the people of San Diego keep the exposition’s temporary buildings up permanently.

This magnificent organ contains 4,725 pipes, ranging in length from the size of a pencil to 32 feet.

Free concerts are given each Sunday at 2 pm, sponsored by San Diego Parks and Recreation Department. The Pavilion is also the site of the annual December Nights Christmas Tree lighting.

Mission Bay

Mission Bay is the largest water park of its kind in the world, with 4,200 acres of land and water. The bay, which surrounded by 27 miles of meandering shoreline, is best explored by boat or bike.

The recommended bike route is a 12-mile paved path, which goes th past more than 10 public parks and two wildlife reserves. The route can be extended by biking around Fiesta Island, further along the San Diego River, or along the Mission Beach boardwalk.

Campland on the Bay and San Diego Side Trips location map in "high definition"

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