1600 Pacific Highway, Downtown San Diego
County Administration Center Waterfront Park
In 2014, 12 acres of former parking lots were converted into a public park facing San Diego Bay. Running both north and south of the county government headquarters established in 1938, large grass lawns, children’s play areas, and themed gardens featuring examples of drought-tolerant native landscaping provide an ideal spot for summer picnics with views of the bay and ships including the Star of India and others at the San Diego Maritime. Perhaps most popular are the water features at the south end of the park and fountains running the park’s length that provide a cool place for children and parents to splash around during summer months.
San Diego Derby Dolls
Established in 2005, the Derby Dolls compete in the world of professional women’s banked-track roller derby. The league consists of several local teams, with spectator bouts scheduled about once a month, usually on Friday or Saturday evenings. The group also offers coed recreation leagues and open skate sessions on both flat and banked tracks. Prices range from $5 for open skating to $20 for bleacher seating at organized bouts.
Habitat Restoration with San Diego Audubon
Fortuna Avenue and Crown Point Drive, Pacific Beach
Trips with the San Diego Audubon Society “are dedicated to the goal of introducing newer birders, visiting birders, and anyone else who is interested, to the varied habitats and avian inhabitants of San Diego County.” For more than a year, the group has been working to restore habitat for birds and other native species around Mission Bay as part of the ReWild Mission Bay project, with hopes of opening over 100 acres of recreational space. Restoration trips offer a rare glimpse of land generally off-limits to local visitors — excursions are free (as are other guided bird tours around the county), but reservations and a willingness to contribute to the project are a must.
Ocean Connectors Eco Tours
San Diego Bay, National City
Originally established as a nonprofit providing environmental education and field trips to National City elementary students, Ocean Connectors offers a modified version of their educational tours studying local wildlife such as turtles, birds, and whales. Travel around South Bay and beyond by bike, kayak, or aboard a harbor cruise while expert guides offer lectures on the bay’s native species and the challenges faced in preserving their natural habitat. Call 619-336-7744 for information on specific tours and dates.
— Dave Rice
Bite San Diego
Walk, eat, walk, drink, learn history. Walking food tours are all the rage. This group has come up with a good balance of exercise, history, and eats. Take a tour through cute corners like downtown/Little Italy, PB, North Park, Liberty Station, and Encinitas. Learn lots of historical nuggets (like, Encinitas inspired the Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ USA”?) while you pop into four or five eateries along the way. Get free sample choices from their menus. You have to pay the $47 tour fee first, of course. Allow around three hours. Most walks start at 2pm. Check for specific times and locations.
46th Annual Bighorn Sheep Count at Anza Borrego
200 Palm Canyon Drive, Borrego Springs
Unforgettable, if you can handle 110-degree temps over three days. Volunteers (you) sit out on a desert rock and, yes, count sheep. Endangered native bighorn (they’re down to 900). If you actually see one, you’ll be high-fiving and dancing around your rock for the next hour. (Silently. Noise’ll scare them away.) When? Fourth of July weekend. Why? Summer heat, thirst drive borrego to the arroyo below you for water. Helps counting. Downside: exhausting heat, endlessly repeated jokes. Upside: you’re helping a San Diego species in trouble. Orientation, probably June 20. The count: July 1, 2, 3. Contact ranger Steve Bier, 760-767-5311.
Harrison Serenity Ranch
18187 Nate Harrison Road, Palomar Mountain
You could take the paved S6 up Palomar Mountain. But why, when historic Nate Harrison Grade beckons? It’s one of the most spectacular unpaved roads in the county. Stop for the night near the top, at Harrison Serenity Ranch, once home to Nate, the ex-slave mountain man of the late 1800s. Listen to choruses of owls overnight, then drive next morning through oak and pine forests to the summit. Now you feel you’ve earned the county’s most spectacular views, at Boucher Hill forest fire lookout. For ranch stays, call Vicki, 619-884-9431. Or check Airbnb. Six-person guest house, $250 night.
Search for tourmalines at Oceanview Mine Site
In Fallbrook, gems are there for the taking. Seriously. Tourmalines, kunzites, morganites, others. Oceanview mine, the Pala Gem District’s only actively working underground mine, opens its tailings Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays (10:30am–3pm) to anybody willing to try. You supply $60, they supply screens, water, buckets, shovels, and a big pile of tailings that they have gone through already. You’re hoping they’ve missed a few gems. You keep what you find. Sixty bucks buys four hours to sluice out a few gemstone scraps, often a sore sacroiliac, and always a fever to come back and try again.
San Diego Sand Castles
4306 Ocean Boulevard, Pacific Beach
When J.T. Estrela got laid off as a math teacher, he started his own school: sandcastle-building school, unique in California. He uses Del Mar Beach (it has the finest sand, good for stickiness). For $140 (two people, up to $240 for seven), he’ll teach you over three hours to build anything from Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle to the Taj Mahal. “But mostly, people just want to learn to properly build their own fantasy with towers, arches, and always, for the kids anyway, a moat. Above all? It’s a real bonding experience.” Choose morning, afternoon, sunset.
— Bill Manson
2470 Melru Lane, Escondido
Fulfill your childhood circus dreams when you fly through the air at Trapeze High in Escondido. The Introductory Class teaches you the basics in “ground school,” you’ll then ascend the ladder to the trapeze, where you’ll learn to hang upside down by your knees and back flip into a safety net. Regular classes include attempting a “catch” with one of the coaches. There’s even a secret handshake! Ages seven and older can enroll online in the Introductory Class ($95) or single classes ($60). Multiple class packages, individual/group private classes, events, parties, EXTREME Airbag Trapeze and Traveling Rings classes are also available.