Fascinating photos behind the scenes in San Diego.

Over the years I’ve taken photos “behind the scenes” at various interesting and historic places in San Diego. I thought it would be fun to revisit some of those blog posts, in case you’ve missed them.

Here are ten guided tours and curious walks that provided fascinating views of San Diego that many do not see.

Click the following links:

A tour inside the historic Spreckels Theatre.

A very cool tour of Petco Park in San Diego!

Get out of jail free at old police headquarters!

Photos behind the scenes at Copley Symphony Hall!

Photos aboard new Scripps research vessel Sally Ride!

Behind the scenes look at the Spreckels Organ.

Photos from Port of San Diego’s harbor tour.

History comes alive during tour of Spanish Village.

Photos: amazing tour of Spanish galleon build site!

Photos inside a World War II bunker on Point Loma.

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!

Help students learn about San Diego history!

Help our students discover the past.
Help our students discover the past.

Do you love San Diego? Your help is needed!

The Old Town San Diego Foundation is raising funds so that Fourth Grade students across San Diego County can continue taking educational field trips to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. The San Diego History Program helps kids learn about San Diego’s unique, culturally diverse early history. But financial assistance is urgently needed!

I found out about this program today while walking about Old Town’s Founders Day event. I learned thousands of students have been fortunate to enjoy these field trips in past years. Fourth graders visit Old Town’s interactive museums and enjoy special docent led tours.

The nice folks of the Old Town San Diego Foundation explained that without this program, many young people would probably never visit the birthplace of San Diego and California.

Often kids who participate are so amazed by what they discover, they bring their families back to Old Town! How cool is that?

But funds are now needed to continue this program.

Please visit the Old Town San Diego Foundation website here to learn more.

And please visit the “4th Graders Need Your Help” GoFundMe page here to make your contribution! Donations are 100% tax deductible.

(I know that some educators follow this blog. Spread the word!)

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!

A new flag is raised for San Diego’s 250th Anniversary!

Kumeyaay bird songs are performed on stage during the San Diego 250 Civic Commemoration Ceremony.
Kumeyaay traditional Bird Songs are performed during the San Diego 250 Civic Commemoration Ceremony.

This evening a very special event was held in San Diego.

A crowd gathered near the top of Presidio Hill, in the parking lot just below the Serra Museum, to take part in the San Diego 250 Civic Commemoration Ceremony.

The historic event was staged in the same spot overlooking San Diego Bay where a Spanish mission and presidio were built in 1769. It is where San Diego began 250 years ago.

The first part of the San Diego 250 Civic Commemoration Ceremony featured cultural entertainment representing our remarkably diverse city. Several colorful dances were followed by speeches by politicians, dignitaries and diplomats, plus several leaders of the Native American Kumeyaay people–those who have lived in this region many thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans. The audience experienced a Kumeyaay blessing and traditional Bird Songs. With sincere words past injustices and the suffering of the Kumeyaay were acknowledged, and optimism was expressed that our city’s future will be inclusive and bright.

For as long as I can remember, three flagpoles have stood at this place where the Spanish built their first outpost in California. Three banners have flown representing the history of San Diego: the flags of Spain, Mexico and the United States.

A fourth flagpole was recently installed. Today, at the close of the ceremony, a flag incorporating the different tribes of the Kumeyaay Nation was blessed with white sage smoke–to purify minds and hearts-and raised proudly, acknowledging and honoring San Diego’s first people.

I took some photographs of this important historical event.

Early arrivals for San Diego's big 250th Anniversary event claim a seat and await some cultural entertainment.
Early arrivals for San Diego’s big 250th Anniversary event claim a seat and await some cultural entertainment.
A variety of tents could be visited for food, drink and information about San Diego and its history.
A variety of tents could be visited for food, drink and information about San Diego and its history.
Kumeyaay tools and crafts are on display at one table.
Kumeyaay tools and crafts are on display at one table.
Map shows the different Kumeyaay villages of our region. The village of Cosoy was located near the base of Presidio Hill, where Old Town is located today.
Map shows the different Kumeyaay villages of our region. The village of Cosoy was located near the base of Presidio Hill, where Old Town is located today.
Prior to the ceremony, I walked a bit through Presidio Park. I took a photograph of VIPs arriving by Old Town Trolley at the Serra Museum.
Prior to the ceremony, I walked a bit through Presidio Park. I took a photograph of VIPs arriving by Old Town Trolley at the Serra Museum.
Performers lounge on grass behind the stage before the program begins.
Performers lounge on grass behind the stage before the program begins.
Someone takes a seat in the VIP section as Lion Dancers begin the multicultural entertainment.
Someone takes a seat in the VIP section as Lion Dancers begin the multicultural entertainment.

The ballet folklorico dancing that followed was enthusiastic, colorful and loudly applauded.
The ballet folklorico dancing that followed was enthusiastic, joyous and loudly applauded.

Dancers representing San Diego's Portuguese community take the stage.
Dancers representing San Diego’s Portuguese community take the stage.

A dance followed that represented San Diego's Vietnamese community.
A dance followed that represented San Diego’s Vietnamese community.

The VIPs take their seats as speeches are about to commence.
The VIPs take their seats as speeches are about to commence.
There are four flagpoles, but only three flags are flying.
There are four flagpoles, but only three flags are flying.
Mayor Faulconer addresses the crowd, urging unity and a positive future for all.
Mayor Faulconer addresses the crowd, urging unity and a positive future for all who live in San Diego.
A leader of the Kumeyaay Nation addresses those assembled.
A leader of the Kumeyaay Nation addresses those assembled.
Kumeyaay women sway in front of the stage as the men perform traditional bird songs.
Kumeyaay women sway in front of the stage as the men perform traditional Bird Songs.

A presentation is made to the San Diego History Center, which operates the Serra Museum and helped to arrange this special ceremony.
A presentation is made to the San Diego History Center, which operates the Junipero Serra Museum and helped to arrange this special ceremony.
Before the event concludes, everybody's attention turns to the flagpoles.
Before the event concludes, everyone’s attention is directed to the four flagpoles.
The Kumeyaay color guard stands ready.
The Kumeyaay color guard stands ready.
The flag of the Kumeyaay Nation is unfolded and blessed.
The flag of the Kumeyaay Nation is unfolded and blessed.
It is raised.
It is raised.
The Kumeyaay color guard poses proudly for a photograph.
The Kumeyaay color guard poses with pride for a photograph.
The flag of the Kumeyaay Nation now flies on historic Presidio Hill, in a place of honor.
The flag of the Kumeyaay Nation now flies on historic Presidio Hill, in a place of honor.

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!

Huge banner celebrates San Diego’s birthday!

The County Administration Building in downtown San Diego got a gigantic new banner today! It celebrates the 250th Anniversary of San Diego’s founding!

Those who look up at the banner from the Embarcadero are reminded that San Diego–which started very modestly back in 1769 with the construction of a Spanish mission and presidio–was California’s first port and first city!

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 of Queen Califia’s Magical Circle!

Come with me. We’re about to enter Queen Califia’s Magical Circle.

We will step from our day-to-day routine into a mysterious maze of fractured white and black, turns and mirrors. We will suddenly emerge into a strange spiritual realm. A dreamlike surreal somewhere beneath our ordinary experience. A secret cosmos.

We will move through a fertile landscape teeming with faces and essential forms and wildly dancing colors and true symbols. Alive with infinitely circling snakes and joyfully soaring birds. We will find ourselves in Queen Califia’s Magical Circle, where our eyes will perceive our own existence more clearly.

Where life is triumphant.

These are the hands of those who assembled the magic.

That is the hand of sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle, who envisioned this magical circle and breathed into it her life.

(Click the photos of signs and they will enlarge for easier reading.)

You will learn:

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle is the only American sculpture garden and the last major international project created by the renowned French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle.

Inspired by California’s mythic, historic and cultural roots, the garden consists of nine large-scale sculptures, a circular “snake wall” and maze entry way. The symbols and forms are freely drawn from Native American, Pre-Columbian and Mexican art as well as the artist’s own fantastic imagery.

Queen Califia and the Eagle Throne measures 24 x 22 x 20 feet. It is built of polystyrene encased in urethane skin with applied fiberglass coating over a steel armature.

Working from original clay maquettes, the eight totems were made in similar fashion. They are: Cathead Totem, Birdhead Totem, Yelling Man Totem, Bullhead Totem, Untitled Totem (Bird on a Square), Kingfisher Totem, Step Totem and Snake Totem.

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle uses a greater diversity of mosaic materials than seen in any of Niki de Saint Phalle’s other large-scale projects. For the first time she used polished and tumbled stones such as agates, quartzes and turquoise. The results are magical and ever changing.

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle is nestled in a natural landscape within Escondido’s Kit Carson Park.

Niki’s original inspiration for the garden came while she was reading Assembling California by geologist John McPhee. There he discusses the legend of Queen Califia, a beautiful and powerful black Amazon queen who ruled over the island of California, a paradise of gold and riches.

The information sign includes an article concerning the opening of Queen Califia’s Magical Circle in 2003. “The garden promises to become an instantaneous cultural landmark for the San Diego region–a place where visitors can roam at will, play, touch, dream…”

…a shimmering, virtuoso display of mosaic art…

A short biography of Niki de Saint Phalle. She was born in France in 1930 and raised in New York. She first came to international prominence in 1961 as part of the influential “New Realists,” a group that also included Christo, Yves Klein and Jean Tinguely (whom she married in 1971). In 1994 she moved to La Jolla, where she lived until her death in 2002.

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle was completed one year after her death.

Other works of Niki de Saint Phalle can be enjoyed around San Diego. (You can find photos of them by searching this blog.)

Life raises new life.

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!

Banner celebrates San Diego’s 250th Anniversary!

Huge banner on sail of Star of India celebrates the 250th Anniversary of San Diego!
Huge banner on sail of Star of India celebrates the 250th Anniversary of San Diego!

The City of San Diego has placed an enormous banner on a sail of the historic tall ship Star of India. Its bold message can be seen from many spots downtown. The banner celebrates San Diego’s 250th Anniversary!

In 1769, on the hill that overlooks what would eventually become Old Town, Spain began its settlement of the region by building El Presidio Reál de San Diego. Attached to the fort, the original Mission San Diego de Alcalá was established by Junípero Serra in the same year.

Back then the land was wide open and mostly wilderness. The mountains, hills, rivers and coast were home to the Native American Kumeyaay. European settlement brought about an abrupt change in the region’s history. For better or worse, 250 years later San Diego is quite a bit different!

What will San Diego look like in another 250 years? As our civilization evolves, and as technological breakthroughs accelerate, can anyone possibly imagine?

Together we sail into the future!

SAN DIEGO 250 - EST. 1769 - WHERE CALIFORNIA BEGAN
SAN DIEGO 250 – EST. 1769 – WHERE CALIFORNIA BEGAN

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!

Old Town State Park expansion coming!

The old Caltrans building at Taylor Street and Juan Street is being torn down, to make room for the expansion of the adjacent Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
The former Caltrans building at Taylor Street and Juan Street is being torn down, to make room for the expansion of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.

One of the most visited state parks in California will soon undergo a major expansion!

I noticed during a recent walk that the old Caltrans building, located at the corner of Taylor Street and Juan Street, is being demolished. A banner hanging at the construction site informs passersby that this land will be added to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, and will open to the public in Fall 2019!

I spoke to a state park employee and learned that initially the expansion will feature trees and benches. There are plans to eventually have interpretive exhibits or structures in this area that help visitors understand what life was like for the Native American Kumeyaay people, who inhabited this area for thousands of years before European explorers arrived. According to this informative web page, California State Parks is now working with tribal members representing the Kumeyaay Nation to “interpret their culture and their connections to the San Diego River and Old Town San Diego”.

I can’t wait to see the completed expansion!

Banner at demolition site. The former Caltrans District Office will be replaced with a new outdoor public space at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park in Fall 2019.
Banner at demolition site. The former Caltrans District Office will be replaced with a new outdoor public space for Old Town San Diego State Historic Park in Fall 2019.

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!