Oil paintings of the iconic California Tower.

The California Tower in Balboa Park is probably the most iconic sight in all of San Diego. I’ve photographed it many, many times.

Built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, the 198 feet tall bell tower, a combination of various architectural styles, rises from the similarly ornate California Building, which is presently home to the Museum of Man. The California Tower invites those who love beauty to come visit one of the most amazing public parks in the entire world.

I’ve taken so many photos of the California Tower over the years, from different angles and during different occasions, that I thought I might have a little fun. Using the GIMP graphic software’s Oilify filter, I’ve transformed some of my images into digital oil paintings!

Here they are!

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!

Photos to remember beautiful Balboa Park.

Balboa Park is now temporarily closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. When it might reopen is anybody’s guess.

I didn’t go to Balboa Park this weekend, the way I usually do. I already miss it.

I miss the sunshine and smiles, the gardens and amazing architecture, the fountains and beautiful art, the dancing and music. Over the years, my Sunday visits to Balboa Park have become an important part of my life.

As the warming spring weather greens the grass and trees and opens bright new flowers everywhere, wouldn’t you love to walk through one of the world’s most beautiful parks?

Come along on a random walk back through time, and enjoy some of many colorful photographs that I’ve taken over the years.

The following photos are all new to Cool San Diego Sights. They were originally posted to one of my other blogging websites, which is titled Beautiful Balboa Park.

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!

Do you love Balboa Park? Check out my other website Beautiful Balboa Park!

A tour inside the San Diego Convention Center!

Beautiful.

To me, that’s the one word that best describes the San Diego Convention Center.

Yesterday I enjoyed a fantastic inside tour of our city’s world-class convention center, thanks to the annual Open House event put on by the San Diego Architectural Foundation.

During the whirlwind tour our group saw many areas throughout the convention center, in both the iconic original structure and the later Phase 2 addition. We poked our noses into a vast hall where a new technology convention was being set up (no photos allowed), headed up an escalator one level, walked through the Sails Pavilion and a large ballroom, then took a freight elevator down to one of two huge loading docks. We walked through service corridors, got to see the convention center’s kitchen, and we learned about the logistics required to smoothly run such a mind-boggling operation.

During the tour we learned about the San Diego Convention Center’s new carpeting, the new digital signage, the emphasis on sustainability with LED lighting and a comprehensive recycling program, and so much more!

The problem is, as we turned each new corner, my eyes were always busy looking for photographic opportunities and I took few notes. I was dazzled by the sheer beauty of the public spaces. I can’t imagine a more beautiful convention center exists anywhere in the world. There is abundant sunlight, complex, jewel-like patterns of glass, and stunning views of San Diego Bay and downtown.

I won’t even try to caption these upcoming photos. To those who follow Cool San Diego Sights due to my coverage of Comic-Con, here’s what the San Diego Convention Center looks like without swarming crowds!

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!

Photos inside the San Diego Civic Theatre.

Looking up at the impressive chandelier in the Grand Salon of the San Diego Civic Theatre.
Looking up at the impressive chandelier in the Grand Salon of the San Diego Civic Theatre.

I’ve lived in downtown San Diego for nearly 20 years. It’s sad to admit, but there are places of great interest within easy walking distance that I still haven’t visited. Until today, one of those places was the San Diego Civic Theatre.

This morning I took a guided tour behind the scenes at the San Diego Civic Theatre, courtesy of the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s big annual Open House event!

According to the event website: “The 2,967 seat San Diego Civic Theatre is the region’s largest and most attended performing arts venue. Owned by the City of San Diego, the theater hosts performances in opera, classical and contemporary music, dance and Broadway shows, in addition to serving as a community gathering place for inaugurations, governmental addresses and public meetings. Built at a cost of $4.1 million, the Grand Salon features back lit Italian onyx panels and an iconic $35,000 chandelier made of Bavarian crystal.”

Our group entered the lobby from Civic Center Plaza, ascended stairs and stood with heads tilted back as we took in the awesome beauty of the Grand Salon. Overhead, the impressive 2800 pound chandelier sparkled with its 186 lights and 52,000 crystals, casting magic about the elegant gathering place.

We then walked into the enormous theatre and stood for a moment “atop” the orchestra pit, the floor of which can be raised or lowered like an elevator. Then we went backstage to see the positively enormous space that is utilized to produce major shows of all sorts. In one corner of the dark stage, out of sight of the audience, there’s a very cool shrine to Elvis Presley!

It’s hard to describe the immense grandeur of this venerable theatre. The world’s biggest stars have performed here over the years, including Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Johnny Cash, Diana Ross, Tony Bennett, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and many others. Several United States Presidents have also attended events in the building. Today, the venue is the home of San Diego Opera, Broadway San Diego and California Ballet Company.

The lighting inside the building wasn’t ideal for my poor little camera, but during the tour I did manage to capture a few photos.

An outside view of the architecturally interesting San Diego Civic Theatre as I approached from the east down B Street.
An outside view of the architecturally interesting San Diego Civic Theatre as I approached from the east down B Street.
A poster outside the lobby entrance. The San Diego Civic Theatre is celebrating its 55 year anniversary.
A poster outside the lobby entrance. The San Diego Civic Theatre is celebrating its 55 year anniversary.
Waiting outside in Civic Center Plaza for the tour to begin.
Waiting outside in Civic Center Plaza for the tour to begin.
We enter the lobby, which as you can see is dimly lit.
We enter the building lobby, which as you can see is dimly lit.
Graphic shows the Civic Theatre under construction, before opening in 1965. It was designed by Lloyd Ruocco, one of San Diego’s most influential architects.
Graphic shows the Civic Theatre under construction, before opening in 1965. It was designed by Lloyd Ruocco, one of San Diego’s most influential architects.
Looking up inside the gorgeous Grand Salon, which is located on the building's second floor. The original design had the salon at ground level.
Looking up inside the gorgeous Grand Salon, which is located on the building’s second floor. The original design had the salon at ground level.
The sunbursts decorating the edges of each level were removed years ago.
The sunbursts decorating the edges of each level were removed years ago.
The amazing chandelier is the centerpiece of the Grand Salon.
The amazing chandelier is the centerpiece of the Grand Salon.
I believe this bust in the Grand Salon is of Giuseppe Verdi.
I believe this bust in the Grand Salon is of Giuseppe Verdi.
A glimpse of the gritty inner workings of a major theatre, tucked between the audience and the stage.
A glimpse of the gritty inner workings of a major theatre, tucked between the audience and the stage.
Now we are backstage, looking at dozens of ropes that might be used to lift or manipulate props, lighting, drop curtains--and perhaps even actors!
Now we are backstage, looking at dozens of ropes that might be used to lift or manipulate props, lighting, drop curtains–and perhaps even actors!
Looking up!
Looking up!
Here's the shrine to Elvis in a corner of backstage. I didn't catch the story behind it.
Here’s the shrine to Elvis in a corner of backstage. I didn’t catch the story behind it.
Old black and white photograph shows a packed house.
Old black and white photograph shows a packed house.
Looking out from the stage upon thousands of empty red seats!
Looking out from the stage upon thousands of empty red seats!

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!

Magic inside the San Diego Law Library!

Plaque outside the San Diego County Law Library, dedicated October 7, 1958. The building was renovated in 2011 with technological updates and multi-use spaces.
Plaque outside the San Diego County Law Library, dedicated October 7, 1958. The building was renovated in 2011 with technological updates and multi-use spaces.

Today I enjoyed guided tours of three notable downtown buildings. That’s because this is the weekend of the annual Open House event organized by the San Diego Architectural Foundation!

I’ve walked past the San Diego Law Library at Front Street and C Street numerous times over the years. The front of the building with its polished black granite and glass windows is attractive, but the effect is overshadowed by nearby buildings and a bit lost in the urban clutter. I always assumed the facility was for lawyers and people in the legal profession, so it never occurred to me to venture inside. When I stepped through the front door, I had no idea what to expect.

What I found was an inviting, spacious, light-filled law research library that is open free to the public!

During the tour I saw many functional spaces, including a reading room, a computer center, the jam-packed stacks, and a high tech meeting room–all designed to give the public access to vital legal information. For those who can’t make it downtown, educational programming and legal assistance are often beamed from a meeting room into far-flung San Diego County libraries.

Most of the spaces I saw are enlivened by displays of artwork. As you’ll see, at the end of the tour I was led through a surprising, magical door!

According to the Open House San Diego website: “When it was built in 1958, the county’s public law library was a state-of-the-art resource for people needing legal assistance. Over 50 years later, the building was completely renovated to bring back its original clean sight lines and mid-century modern design aesthetic. The building boasts an iconic floating staircase, black Escondido granite facings, floor-to-ceiling west-facing windows, white Carrara marble floors, a buried peek-a-boo time capsule, and one-of-a-kind spaces including a permanent hand-painted labyrinth and a Hogwarts-inspired lounge.”

Here are a few random photos that provide an idea of what you’ll find when you visit the San Diego Law Library. I was told anybody can use the library commons seating area, even if it’s simply to converse with friends or relax and read something you brought. They do ask that the limited computers are used exclusively for law related research.

A look at the comfy commons area, where anyone can lounge (and perhaps play chess) near the library's large front windows.
A look at the comfy commons area, where anyone can lounge (and perhaps play chess) near the library’s large front windows.
One display includes artwork concerning the Law Library's Topic of the Year: Tribal Law.
One display includes artwork concerning the Law Library’s Topic of the Year: Tribal Law.
The San Diego Law Library offers many sources of information, including their new Federal Indian Law and Tribal Law research guide.
The San Diego Law Library offers many sources of information, including their new Federal Indian Law and Tribal Law research guide.
Colorful art near the ceiling as I walk up some beautiful stairs.
Colorful art near the ceiling as I walk up some beautiful stairs.
Looking down at the commons lounge area and the adjacent computer center.
Looking down at the commons lounge area and the adjacent computer center.
Even this upstairs hallway is like an art gallery.
Even this upstairs hallway is like an art gallery.
Modern meeting rooms offer wi-fi and other technological capabilities.
Modern meeting rooms offer Wi-Fi and other technological capabilities.
What's that I see on the Break Room door? Flying books? Does this lead to Platform 9 3/4?
What’s that I see on the break room door? Are those flying books? Does this doorway lead to Platform 9 3/4?
The amazing break room offers those who work hard at the Law Library a welcoming retreat. It looks a lot like a student common room in the Harry Potter series!
The amazing break room offers those who work at the San Diego Law Library a welcoming retreat. It looks like a student common room in the Harry Potter series!
The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry can be seen from a window inside the San Diego Law Library!
The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry can be seen from a window inside the break room of the San Diego Law Library!

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!

A quiet Sunday morning walk before the parade.

Morning light and shadow on the historic Army-Navy YMCA building, now home to The Guild Hotel.
Morning light and shadow on the historic Army-Navy YMCA building, now home to The Guild Hotel.

Before the excitement of this afternoon’s MLK Day Parade, I took a quiet morning walk through downtown San Diego.

My photos begin a few blocks shy of the west end of Broadway. I headed south until I reached the water, where I found a perfect bench to sit on.

Come along and read the captions to experience a few Sunday morning sights.

A splash of light from windows across Kettner Boulevard.
A splash of light from windows of the Electra condo building across Kettner Boulevard.
Reflections in the glassy Pacific Gate building.
Downtown reflections in the glassy Pacific Gate building.
Walking south between the trolley tracks and the Pacific Gate building.
Walking south on the pathway between the trolley tracks and the Pacific Gate building.
The visually interesting entrance to the Pacific Gate building.
The visually interesting entrance to the Pacific Gate building.
Old train tracks, severed from those used today.
Old train tracks, severed from those used today.
The distinctive Park Place condo building appears through an archway.
The distinctive Park Place condo building appears through an archway of the Harborview Apartments.
Across Harbor Drive is The Headquarters and palm trees.
Across Harbor Drive is The Headquarters and palm trees.
An elegant entrance to the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego.
The elegant north entrance to the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego.
Looking back.
Looking back.
A cool photo as I walk past The Headquarters.
A cool photo as I walk past The Headquarters.
Ducks enjoy a swim in the Seaport Village pond.
Ducks enjoy a swim in the Seaport Village pond.
Someone performs a morning stretch on the grass at Embarcadero Marina Park North.
Someone performs a morning stretch on the grass at Embarcadero Marina Park North.
Beautiful luminous clouds above treetops.
Beautiful luminous clouds above treetops.
Someone else likes to quietly read.
Someone else likes to quietly read.
A tranquil Sunday morning beside San Diego Bay.
A tranquil Sunday morning beside San Diego Bay. The San Diego–Coronado Bridge stretches in the distance.

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!

Views of bright buildings from Pantoja Park.

On a clear morning, viewed from Pantoja Park, many of the highest buildings in downtown San Diego shine brightly. Particularly those that rise north and northwest of the park.

These photos that I took today provide a glimpse.

If you’d like to learn a little more about Pantoja Park and its statue of Benito Juarez, a gift from the Mexican government, you can visit one of my earlier blog posts 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!