Sunrise at the Balboa Park rose garden.

Early yesterday morning I took photographs of the sunrise from Balboa Park’s beautiful Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden.

This world-class rose garden overlooks Florida Canyon and offers views of San Diego’s mountains in East County.

Should you ever visit Balboa Park, look for the many flowers next to Park Boulevard. This small bit of heaven can be enjoyed south of the pedestrian bridge at the east end of El Prado.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

The colorful Catrinas of Old Town San Diego!

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is coming up on Sunday. This popular Mexican holiday is a special time to remember and pray for loved ones who’ve passed on from this world.

Día de los Muertos has many rich traditions that have evolved over time, and one is the Catrina. Elegantly dressed skeletons with sugar skulls symbolize death. In Mexico, Day of the Dead is a time for the celebration of past lives, not mourning.

This year, celebrations of Día de los Muertos will be limited because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In Old Town San Diego State Historic Park the annual procession and festival have been cancelled.

But I did notice during a walk through Old Town late this afternoon that many very colorful Catrinas are on display in the large outdoor courtyard of Fiesta de Reyes!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Firefighters descend pole outside fire station!

Yesterday I observed two firefighters sliding down a fire pole outside San Diego Fire-Rescue Station 44 in Mira Mesa.

Yes, I said outside!

Strangely, the two rapidly descending firefighters never reached the ground. Why? Because they’re life-size bronze figures and part of an extremely cool sculpture titled Firefighters at 44.

Firefighters at 44 debuted at the new fire station back in 2002. The monumental sculpture was created by artists T.J. Dixon and James Nelson, whose work can be enjoyed all over San Diego.

(You can see more of their amazing sculptures by checking out certain old blog posts. To do that, click here.)

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Fun street art along Black Mountain Road!

During my walk along a stretch of Black Mountain Road in Mira Mesa yesterday I came upon a lot of fun street art!

I found artwork both old and new. I found colorful works of imagination painted by many hands.

Why have we always needed art?

To connect with this great big world, and attempt with eyes and hands to more fully understand it?

To be engaged in the world? To feel productive and alive? To feel pleasure and a sense of personal accomplishment?

To search ourselves? Expand ourselves? Challenge ourselves? Express our desires?

To discover true things about life?

We have always needed art.
We have always needed art.
Electrical box painted with art that seems prehistoric.
Electrical box painted with art that seems prehistoric.
Street art that resembles a Rubik's Cube!
Street art that resembles a Rubik’s Cube!
A very colorful peacock.
A very colorful peacock.
Flowers in a vase.
Flowers in a vase.
Peace on a fence.
Peace on a fence.
Stay fresh.
Stay fresh.
A happy angel.
A happy angel.
Football player runs with the ball.
Football player runs with the ball.
Three parrots.
Three parrots.
Three colorful reptilian creatures.
Three colorful reptilian creatures.
A space station of the future.
A space station of the future.
An enchanted castle, perhaps.
An enchanted castle, perhaps.
Rocket on the gantry, or perhaps a futuristic building.
Rocket on the gantry, or perhaps a futuristic building.
Space monkey eats a banana!
Space monkey eats a banana!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Walking by the Miramar College Vernal Pools.

Today I walked through a small section of Mira Mesa. I was on a mission to check out a cool sculpture I’d read about that stands in front of a fire station.

As I walked west along Hillery Drive from the Miramar College Transit Station, I observed what at first glance appeared like a scrubby vacant lot behind a fence. When I came to the corner of Hillery Drive and Black Mountain Road, a sign on the fence informed me that I was looking at an area of special environmental importance–a unique nature preserve!

I was walking right next to the Miramar College Vernal Pools.

Here’s a little information provided by three signs that I read:

This plot of land was originally leased to the Navy in 1931 and called Linda Vista Mesa Field, or Hourglass Field because of its distinctive shape. It was part of Camp Kearny, which was located on the site of the current Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. This field was used by the Army and Navy for dive bombing practice and emergency landings.

From 1957 to 1959, the field was used as a sports car racecourse, and from the 1970’s to 2008 what remained of the old runway was used for law enforcement training and nicknamed The Grinder.

The protected field now contains many seasonal vernal pools–a very rare type of wetland. Shallow vernal pools are wet during the rainy season–particularly in spring–then quickly turn to mud and dry out. Because of this unusual environment, a number of rare and endemic species live in vernal pool areas. In addition to teeming microscopic life and small crustaceans like the fairy shrimp, there are frogs, snakes, birds and mammals. More than 200 plant species thrive in and around vernal pools, including annual wildflowers.

One sign indicates the Miramar College Vernal Pools’ interpretive trails are open Monday through Friday from 7 am to 10:30 pm. Unfortunately, I walked by on a Saturday and had to observe this natural area from behind the surrounding fence.

If you want to read the signs, click my photos and they will enlarge.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

San Diego students create posters against drugs!

The students at Wangenheim Middle School in Mira Mesa have created posters that tell the truth about the destructive nature of drugs.

I was fortunate today to be walking nearby as members of the Associated Student Body were hanging these very creative anti-drug posters on the school fence facing Black Mountain Road!

And they were happy to pose for a group photo!

It’s Red Ribbon Week, when students in schools across San Diego and the United States engage in an annual drug and violence prevention awareness campaign.

Wangenheim Middle School students and members of the Associated Student Body are involved in all sorts of positive community activities, such as a Thanksgiving food drive. It’s encouraging to know the youth you see in the next photograph are some of our future leaders!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Mysterious art at Caltrans Otay Station.

Here’s another San Diego mystery to solve! I can find nothing whatsoever about this very unique public art when I search the internet.

A flock of white sculpted seagulls rises at one corner of the parking lot at the Caltrans Otay Landscape Maintenance Station. (A sign at the facility entrance reads Caltrans Otay City Landscape Station.)

This prominent artwork has three different sides and can be observed when driving along Beyer Boulevard near Dairy Mart Road, or when exiting California State Route 905 onto Beyer Boulevard. The flying gulls appear to be individually attached to canvas, plastic or some other flexible stretched material of light blue color.

What is it?

Who created it?

When was it created?

Does the art conceal an antenna (my assumption) or have some other special purpose?

If you happen to know anything that would shed light on this mystery, please leave a comment!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Cool murals in the heart of Oceanside!

Cool mural in Oceanside at Bubbles by the Beach by Nicholas Danger.
Cool surfer mural in Oceanside at Bubbles by the Beach, by Nicholas Danger.

During my walk around downtown Oceanside last weekend, I came upon a variety of great murals!

In addition to the artwork of Artist Alley, which I shared here, I found these cool murals painted on buildings within a block or two of the Oceanside Civic Center.

Because my walk was somewhat random, I probably missed other murals in the heart of Oceanside. If I did, perhaps I’ll spot them on a future adventure!

Large mural behind building at Pier View Way and North Coast Highway depicts Oceanside attractions as postcards.
Large mural behind building at Pier View Way and North Coast Highway depicts Oceanside attractions as postcards.
Oceanside Harbor and a surfboard.
Oceanside Harbor and a surfboard.
Mission San Luis Rey and a windsurfer.
Mission San Luis Rey and a windsurfer.
Oceanside Pier and a beach ball, blanket and umbrella. Wish you were here!
Oceanside Pier and a beach ball, blanket and umbrella. Wish you were here!
Mural painted at Johnny Mananas on Mission Avenue features tropical flowers and birds.
Mural painted at Johnny Mananas on Mission Avenue features tropical flowers and birds.
More of the very colorful tropical mural.
More of the very colorful tropical mural.
The beauty of Oceanside enhanced by a cool mural.
The beauty of Oceanside enhanced by a cool mural.
Large colorful mural on Civic Center Drive at the Star Theatre.
Large colorful mural on Civic Center Drive at the Star Theatre.
The beauty of the sea will always be with me. By artist Skye Walker.
The beauty of the sea will always be with me. By artist Skye Walker.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Monument in Otay Mesa to aviation pioneer Montgomery.

It seems few in San Diego know of the historically important hill in Otay Mesa West. From the top of this hill, which overlooks San Diego’s South Bay cities, aviation pioneer John J. Montgomery made the world’s first “controlled” winged glider flights in the late 19th century.

A monument to Montgomery’s achievements stands on the hilltop in the form of a vertical aircraft wing, erected in 1950. Words engraved on a black marble tablet near the wing include:

JOHN J. MONTGOMERY MADE MAN’S FIRST CONTROLLED WINGED FLIGHTS FROM THIS HILLTOP IN AUGUST 1883

HE OPENED FOR ALL MANKIND THE GREAT HIGHWAY OF THE SKY

Erected by the San Diego Junior Chamber of Commerce Montgomery Memorial Committee. Dedicated May 21, 1950

When I researched the early heavier-than-air flights of Montgomery, I noticed there’s a lot of debate about who in the world actually achieved various flying firsts. Some historians assert he made the world’s first “controlled” glider flights. Such as here. “Montgomery should be credited for the invention and demonstration of the 1st controlled glider flight, and patented hinged surfaces at the rear of the wing and a patent for the parabolic wing…

According to Wikipedia: “In the early 1880s Montgomery began studying the anatomy of a variety of large soaring birds to determine their basic characteristics, like wing area, total weight and curved surfaces. He made detailed observations of birds in flight, especially large soaring birds such as eagles, hawks, vultures and pelicans which soared on thermals near San Diego Bay…In the 1880s Montgomery…made manned flight experiments in a series of gliders in the United States in Otay Mesa near San Diego, California. Although not publicized in the 1880s, these early flights were first described by Montgomery as part of a lecture delivered at the International Conference on Aerial Navigation at Chicago, 1893. These independent advances came after gliding flights by European pioneers such as George Cayley’s coachman in England (1853) and Jean-Marie Le Bris in France (1856). Although Montgomery never claimed firsts, his gliding experiments of the 1880s are considered by some historians and organizations to have been the first controlled flights of a heavier-than-air flying machine in America or in the Western Hemisphere, depending on source.

Today, the Montgomery Memorial‘s 93-foot airplane wing juts vertically into the sky at Montgomery-Waller Community Park, which is located at the northeast corner of Coronado Avenue and Beyer Boulevard in Otay Mesa West. The silver wing is from a World War II Consolidated Aircraft B-32 Dominator heavy bomber. It’s an impressive albeit somewhat peculiar reminder of how aviation technology continues to progress.

Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in San Diego, one of the busiest airports in the United States for small aircraft, was once called Montgomery Field, named after the aviation pioneer.

When humans eventually land on Mars, and spread outward into the Solar System, it should be remembered that we made one of our first flights from a hilltop in San Diego.

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Riding the world’s first outdoor glass elevator!

If you’re familiar with the history of the El Cortez in downtown San Diego, you probably know it featured the world’s very first outdoor glass elevator. (Although I’ve also seen information that says it was the first such elevator in the United States, second in the world.)

Based on an idea suggested by a hotel bellboy, an outdoor glass elevator, called the Starlight Express, was installed in 1956 on the side of the El Cortez Hotel, then the highest building in San Diego. People from all around Southern California would converge on the elegant hotel to be swept dizzily skyward to the chic Starlight Room restaurant on the twelfth floor.

Today I came across a black and white 1956 newsreel that has been released by Universal City Studios into the public domain. It shows thrilled passengers going up and down what was then the brand new, incredible, jaw-dropping Starlight Express!

Check out the “futuristic” costume (uniform?) of the smiling elevator operator! And check out how downtown San Diego appeared in the 1950s. A bit different than today, right?

I snipped sequential images from the old newsreel so you can enjoy a fun look!

By the way, the El Cortez Hotel also featured the world’s first moving sidewalk! You know–the sort of thing you might stand on in an airport terminal or at an amusement park. It was called the Travolator. Both the Starlight Express and Travolator were removed many years ago.

Read much more about the El Cortez and its extraordinary history in this detailed Wikipedia article. Among other things, you’ll learn how this Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style landmark was built on property once owned by a son of President Ulysses S. Grant, how a third of San Diego’s population showed up for the hotel’s opening day, and how it had an anti-aircraft battery on its roof during World War II!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!