15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido
Soar like a California condor for 3677 feet over 32 animal species on Safari Park Flightline Safari. “Secure and comfortable in your harness,” you’ll practice taking off and landing on the “fledgling” line. Then launch from the height of a five-story building. Feel the wind in your hair as you glide over fields of exotic animals. If you want a second go (chances are you will), a subsequent ride is only $29. With helmet cams, you can film your adventure and take it home with you.
2005 South Pan American Plaza, Balboa Park
(No longer in business.)
Starlight Musical Theatre
Since 1946, the San Diego Civic Light Opera Association (one of the oldest of its kind in the country) has been producing “stars” under the stars in an outdoor amphitheater in Balboa Park (single tickets and three-show subscriptions available; check website for pricing). In addition to quality productions, Starlight offers theatergoers a feature as amazing as it is unique: “freeze-frame action.” Just before a plane enters its final approach to Lindbergh Field, every actor on stage freezes and goes silent; once the plane has passed, they pick up exactly where they left off, sometimes pitched perfectly in the middle of a high note.
3251 Camino de los Coches, Carlsbad
Float above the morning mist and catch the first glimpse of the sun casting its light across Temecula wine country. Sky’s the Limit Ballooning offers 45-minute to hourlong rides in one of their hot-air balloons, from which you can “explore the beautiful rolling hills and catch a glimpse of Lake Skinner.” Book a hotel in the area and wake up early for an exhilarating tour with champagne, 1000 feet off the ground. Once you’re back on solid ground, check out the landscape (and many wineries). Shared non-private baskets or private rides available. Check online for pricing.
2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Drive, La Jolla
Torrey Pines Gliderport
Those who have ridden the wind say it feels like “walking on air.” With paragliding, you can fly in lighter wind conditions than you can while hang-gliding and remain comfortably seated for the 20-plus-minute tandem journey ($150). “Get a bird’s-eye view” of the golf course, La Jolla mansions, and miles of coastline. Launch from a cliff that Charles Lindbergh once used as his training ground. It all depends on wind conditions, so no reservations — instead, call the morning you want to fly. Fortunately, this being San Diego, weather isn’t usually an issue.
Learn to move like a ninja
Parkour is more than just a viral video sensation. Parkour California meets every weekend in Balboa Park at 1:00 p.m. to practice their acrobatics. Look for the group of people leaping, climbing, rolling, and vaulting around the Butterfly Garden, and jump right in. Ask local traceurs (the accepted term for a Parkour practitioner) what’s going on; they’ll likely provide a rundown and tips for newcomers to the sport/activity/lifestyle that is Parkour. pkcali.com.
8690 Aero Drive #116, Kearny Mesa
Learn to fly a plane
From Cessnas to the Piper Seneca Twin, choose a cockpit and hop on in! At Learn to Fly San Diego, flight training is “broken down into easy-to-understand blocks of instruction.” Learn for fun or to embark on a new career. Courses cover the gamut, from Private Pilot to Airline Transport Pilot. Learn to Fly is “owned and operated by pilots for pilots.” You must be at least 17 and pass the FAA medical examination. Instruction is $50 per hour, plus plane rental ($99–$199).
6810 Curran Street, Imperial Valley
The excitement begins the moment the plane leaves the tarmac at Brown Field, the door open for that extra rush. Climb two miles high for 15 minutes and enjoy one of the best views available in San Diego — Imperial Beach, downtown, Coronado, Mexico, and the rich blue ocean. Then jump and free-fall at 120 mph for 45 seconds (you’ll be strapped safely to an instructor). Revel in the exhilaration as you parachute the rest of the way, up to seven minutes. If you order pics or a DVD of your adventure, it’s ready by the time you head home. Book online for $179.
839 West Harbor Drive, Downtown San Diego
Fly a kite
Kite Flite sells a 30-foot dragon kite along with models designed for entry flyers all the way to advanced “stunt” kites. You can purchase online — they ship throughout the U.S. — or in person at the Seaport Village store. That puts you right near Embarcadero Marina Park, a prime kite-flying spot. Prices range from $25 for a Penta kite to $170 for a Prism Micron 5 Stack.
120 Upas Street, Hillcrest
Channel your creativity through the element of fire at Glass Blowing San Diego (120 Upas Street). Whether your goal is to fashion a series of holiday salad bowls or an elaborate dichro smoking pipe, blowmaster Cary Slone, who’s worked with molten glass for ten years, can get you started with the melted medium in his Hillcrest “Glory Hole” (that’s the actual term). You’ll make a paperweight, a drinking cup, and a free-form sculpture, all in the first two-hour lesson ($170). Additional private lessons are $75 per hour (minimum two hours). First-time students must pay in advance with a credit card.
4832 Home Avenue, City Heights
Become an amateur entomologist: start your own monarch butterfly farm at City Farmers Nursery in City Heights. Wander around the place a bit first, then grab a Radio Flyer wagon and load it up with one-gallon pots of milkweed ($8.89). By the end of April, they’ll probably already be crawling with monarch caterpillars. Take ’em home, stick ’em in the ground, and start taking notes. If you check often enough, you’ll see butterflies laying eggs, caterpillars spinning their chrysalises, and damp adult butterflies hanging around while their wings get pumped full of butterfly blood. Along the way, the very hungry caterpillars will eat your milkweed to a nub, but it’ll bounce back, usually within a month. And so will the caterpillars.
31930 Highway 79, Warner Springs
Soar like an eagle
Without the noise and vibration of an engine, flight in a sailplane (or glider) is a quiet, relaxing, almost ethereal experience — unless you ask for an acrobatic flight. And the views…Lake Henshaw lies in the southwest corner of the grassy plain below; the Palomar Observatory gleams white to the west. To the east looms San Diego County’s highest peak, 6500-foot Hot Springs Mountain. While soaring upward on the rising pockets of air called thermals, one feels like the red-tailed hawks and golden eagles who ride those same thermals. Flights range from $125 for a 20-minute ride in a trainer to $240 for a 40–60 minute flight in a high-performance sailplane.
Explore more elements of America’s Finest:
Explore a Water Wonderland
Have Fun on Land
Stoke Your Creative Fire.