Disney cartoons at the 805/52 interchange
Where two prominent San Diego highways meet are works of art known only to a few locals. Painted on the pilings that support the bridge is a slew of life-sized cartoon murals. From Daffy Duck to Snow White and all seven of her dwarfs, the display makes an ideal photo-snapping shot. The cartoons can be accessed on foot — walk through Marian Bear Memorial Park. Go east under the freeway and look for the giant patch of color under the bridge.
La Jolla Cave Store
1325 Coast Boulevard, La Jolla
Dazzling with shades of ruby iron oxide and pinkish purple iodine, Sunny Jay’s historic cave is a near-literal hidden gem in La Jolla. Perched on the seaside cliffs of California’s coastal elite, La Jolla’s oldest store rests atop the only ocean cave in California accessible by land. You can reach the cave by way of a 145-step stairway that was carved more than a century ago into one of La Jolla’s natural sea caves. The store at the top of the tunnel sells the usual hats, T-shirts, and postcards as well as handcrafted jewelry. Snorkel gear is rented year round for $20. Entrance is $4 for adults and $3 for children.
Rainbow Drum Circle
Whether you march to the beat of your own drum or just like to watch, the Rainbow Drum Circle is open to participants and observers every Sunday afternoon in Balboa Park. The group meets in the southwest section of the park, near Marston Point, just north of the old Fire Alarm building, on the east side of Balboa Drive as it turns north. The rhythmic banging usually begins between 2:30 and 3 p.m. The drummers lay out various percussion instruments in the center for anyone to explore and play with. Enter from Sixth Avenue by turning on El Prado. Turn right and go south. The Rainbow Drum Circle gathers on Balboa Drive.
Bald eagles in Ramona
18030 Highland Valley Road, Ramona
For the first time in Ramona’s recorded history they have nesting bald eagles. Head out to the Wildlife Research Center’s surrounding grasslands off of Rangeland Road to catch a glimpse of two adults and one baby bald eagle that have set up in a eucalyptus tree. The Ramona Grasslands and the Wildlife Research center are open year round for bird-watching. View golden eagles, wintering ferruginous hawks, red-tailed hawks, prairie falcons, and red-shouldered hawks, to name a few. Nineteen species of raptors have been sighted in the Ramona Grasslands. In January-February, the Wildlife Research center hosts a guided hawk tour with lectures and scopes for public viewing. Check their website for ongoing lecture series and upcoming events.
The Mushroom House
Secluded section of beach beneath the bluffs of Torrey Pines, La Jolla
Sun spotted flesh and flab aren’t the only surprises La Jolla’s clothing-optional Black’s Beach has to offer. Pedestrians wandering south along the shore’s jagged edges will find what looks like a house from The Jetsons. The Pavilion, also known as the Mushroom House because of its fungal shape, has been dubbed by This Old House magazine one of the world’s wildest houses. Built in 1968 at the bottom of a 300-foot cliff, the concrete abode was built to withstand earthquakes and high tides. Original owner Sam Bell wanted a unique guesthouse connected to his mansion. Although the 300-foot tramway connecting the house to the road is out of commission, the Mushroom House is reachable to curious trekkers.
Go Flying with the San Diego Kite Club
It’s like taking a dog for a walk: it gets you out. Aficionados call kite-flying “happiness on a string.” Psychologists say it forces you to “soak up the restorative power of blue space,” the sky we always forget to look at. People have been flying kites for 3000 years, but the big craze came in the 1300s, in Thailand. San Diego Kite Club meets every second Saturday of the month at Mission Bay Park (East Mission Bay Drive), off I-5, north of Sea World Drive. Funnest kite to buy: Balinese boat kite from World Market, $13 (small), $20 (large).
Make bongo gourds at Welburn Gourd Farm
40635 De Luz Road, Fallbrook
Just in time for the “Gourdstock” Festival (June 29th and 30th, Bates Nut Farm, 15954 Woods Valley Road, Valley Center), you’ll be wanting to perfect your gourd-transforming skills, right? So you can turn those funny squash-type shells into water containers, musical instruments like bongos, ukuleles, or just abstract art. You won’t be the first. Our ancestors have been using and carving them for about 11,000 years. For classes, you can’t do better than Welburn Gourd Farm. For $20 you can attend a starter class at the farm.
Nurture 1000 baby trees along the San Diego River
Alpine, sandiegoriver.org, 619-297-7380
Big news for river rats: on May 20th, the San Diego City Council approved a master plan for the San Diego River. Now they can start seriously bringing the globally-recognized diversity hotspot back to life. One project especially needs you: to help water 1000 young live oak trees they’ve planted in the Peutz Creek Preserve in the Alpine area near El Capitan Reservoir. Purpose: protect our drinking water and revive a vital wildlife corridor for the likes of rare native ringtailed cats. If you can carry a bucket, you can do this. Contact Rob Hutsel: firstname.lastname@example.org
Help keep the San Diego River mouth healthy
Ocean Beach, 619-297-7380, sandiegoriver.org/rivermouth
Can O.B. keep the San Diego River mouth from clogging up with weed, polluted storm water, and garbage? This is one of the few coastal wetlands still functioning in California (we have destroyed 95 percent of them). Friends of the River Mouth try. And have fun doing it. You can join them. They start with a cleanup every other month, collecting trash, planting native species, marking trails, and monitoring endangered coastal saltmarsh birds like the rare light-footed clapper rail. It’s a great way to meet soul mates. Think of it as a dating service for the eco-minded.
Visit the center of the Earth
1 Center of the World Drive, Felicity, California, 760-572-0100, felicity.us
Jacques-André Istel, the “father of sports parachuting,” made his money with parachute schools, then decided to spend it creating the “Center of the World” on this side of the river from Yuma. He has built a 21-foot pink granite pyramid over the bronze disc he swears is Earth’s center. Yes, eccentric. He wants this to become mankind’s “central point for memories,” and has plaques recording histories like the exploits of the French Foreign Legion. Check your time here at his sundial, which is a 15-foot bronze sculpture based on Michelangelo’s Arm of God on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Get married in the chapel he built. Only open in cool months, December through March.