Art, crafts and fun at December Nights!

I spotted a Santa Claus with a beard made of white yarn at 2018 December Nights!
I spotted a Santa Claus with a beard made of white yarn at 2018 December Nights!

Another year, another wonderful December Nights in Balboa Park!

I headed across the Cabrillo Bridge at noon today, just as the second day of San Diego’s big annual holiday event got underway.

I prefer to wander through December Nights in the early afternoon. The sun is out, the air is warm, and the feeling is unhurried and carefree. I miss the magical Christmas lights after dark, but I also avoid the hectic press of huge crowds.

I’ve blogged December Nights for so many years now, I thought I’d try for a new angle in 2018 and focus on all the holiday art and crafts one can see while walking around. As usual, however, I ended up taking photos of anything fun that happened to catch my eye.

Many fun holiday crafts and decorations can be enjoyed throughout Balboa Park during December Nights.
Many fun holiday crafts and decorations can be enjoyed throughout Balboa Park during December Nights.
Jeff, the super cool Spanish Village Art Center historian, holds a drum and greets visitors with a huge smile!
Jeff, the super cool Spanish Village Art Center historian, holds a drum and greets visitors with a huge smile!
I was taking a photo of glass Christmas ornaments in Spanish Village when I got photobombed!
I was taking a photo of glass Christmas ornaments in Spanish Village when I got photobombed!
A happy elf was lurking near one of the Spanish Village artist studios.
A happy elf was lurking near one of the Spanish Village artist studios.
Some of the carved wooden animals of the Balboa Park Carousel were wearing elf and Santa hats.
Some of the carved wooden animals of the historic Balboa Park Carousel were wearing elf and Santa hats.
I learned Santa Claus would be hanging out in front of the Starlight Bowl.
I learned Santa Claus would be hanging out in front of the Starlight Bowl.
I noticed The Old Globe Theatre's gift shop was well stocked with nasty green Grinches, and his adorable dog Max, too!
I noticed The Old Globe Theatre’s gift shop was well stocked with vile, nasty Grinches, and his adorable dog Max, too!
People take a break during December Nights by sitting near cheerful red poinsettias in the Botanical Building.
People take a break during December Nights by sitting near cheerful red poinsettias in the Botanical Building.
A big Santa hangs from the Point Loma Garden Club's colorful tree, one of many fantastic Christmas trees inside the Casa del Prado.
A big Santa hangs from the Point Loma Garden Club’s candy and cookie bedecked tree, one of many fantastic Christmas trees inside the Casa del Prado.
Another Christmas tree at the Festival of Trees was decorated by the Friends of Balboa Park with many happy dreams.
Another Christmas tree at the annual Festival of Trees was decorated by the Friends of Balboa Park with many happy dreams.
The San Diego Womens Chorus sings holiday music at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion during 2018 December Nights.
The San Diego Womens Chorus sings holiday music at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion during 2018 December Nights.
A group of children called Let's Dance for Fun! performs at the small December Nights stage near the Botanical Building.
A group of children called Let’s Dance for Fun! performs at the small December Nights stage near the Botanical Building.
Santa, a guest of the House of Finland, was checking to see if children have been good at Balboa Park's International Cottages.
Santa, a guest of the House of Finland, was checking his list to see if children have been naughty or nice at Balboa Park’s International Cottages.
Holiday traditions and music from around the world are celebrated at the International Cottages during December Nights.
Holiday traditions and music from around the world are celebrated at the International Cottages during December Nights.
The House of Sweden always has lots of Christmas crafts and fun holiday stuff on display.
The House of Sweden always has lots of Christmas crafts and fun holiday stuff on display.
I headed over to the Starlight Bowl and spotted a happy snowman atop the outdoor amphitheater's roof.
I headed over to the Starlight Bowl and spotted a happy snowman atop the outdoor amphitheater’s box office roof.
These friendly folks with Save Starlight are looking for people to help support the restoration of a cherished San Diego performance venue, Balboa Park's Starlight Bowl.
These friendly folks with Save Starlight are looking for people to help support the restoration of a cherished San Diego performance venue, Balboa Park’s Starlight Bowl.

If you love Balboa Park, and would like to help restore the beloved Starlight Bowl, please take a moment to visit the Save Starlight website here!

I poked my nose inside the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater and noticed there's going to be a fun Merry Christmas Show coming up!
I poked my nose inside the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater and noticed there’s going to be a fun Merry Christmas Show coming up!
I discovered lots of holiday art, crafts and fun at another wonderful December Nights!
I discovered lots of holiday art, crafts and fun at another wonderful December Nights!

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!

Happy memories, and the decline of Seaport Village.

I have many happy memories of Seaport Village.

Back in the 1980’s, when I was a young and Seaport Village was new, my family would occasionally head downtown to enjoy the place. We’d stroll around the meandering pathways, poke our noses inside the specialty shops, browse the shelves of the cool bookstore, and enjoy lunch at one of several restaurants.

I was always intrigued by the big selection of magic tricks in the magic shop. At the candy store I’d shovel dozens of different sweets into a small bag, then eat them during the rest of our walk. We’d watch kites soaring in the blue San Diego sky at the nearby grassy park, and sailboats out on the bay. We always tried to catch Kazoo, the Seaport Village mime, performing.

On Sunday I walked through Seaport Village and was saddened to see many of the old shops are now vacant. The east half of Seaport Village almost resembles a ghost town.

Yes, there are plans to redevelop this valuable part of downtown’s bayfront, to make it more attractive and dynamic. Seaport San Diego will feature an observation tower, hotels, even an aquarium. But I’ve been told that future is somewhat uncertain and is still years away.

I’ve also been told that with this uncertain future and a recent change to the Seaport Village management, many shop owners have chosen not to renew their leases.

And yet today I saw hundreds of families happily walking about Seaport Village, visiting those shops and eateries that remain open. Such is the place’s reputation.

Over the decades Seaport Village has been the source of pleasure for millions of people.

But time and progress march on…

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!

Sailing . . . kite boarding . . . racing on the bay!

Hydro-foiling GC32 catamarans race across San Diego Bay during the 2018 Extreme Sailing Series.
Hydro-foiling GC32 catamarans race across San Diego Bay during the 2018 Extreme Sailing Series.

What an amazing day out on San Diego Bay! Here come a bunch of cool photos!

I began my walk at the Maritime Museum of San Diego, where the Star of India sail crew was getting ready for their ocean journey next month. I then walked along San Diego Bay to Harbor Island to view a variety of events during this weekend’s 2018 Extreme Sailing Series.

As I arrived at Harbor Island, kids were racing O’pen BIC boats in an Un-Regatta. Next came an exhibition and race by world-class kite boarders. A lack of sufficient wind made the Element Sports Kite Boarding Invitational a real challenge for those great athletes.

At two o’clock the main event began. Seven hydro-foiling GC32 catamarans competed in the San Diego leg of this year’s Extreme Sailing Series. I watched the first race, then, while devouring a yummy quesadilla from a food truck, enjoyed a look around the Race Village and its US Sailing Education Zone.

To see lots of photos from the 2017 Extreme Sailing Series, including exhibits in the Race Village, and catamarans actually flying above the water under stronger wind conditions, click here!

The Star of India will sail next month upon the Pacific Ocean. The volunteer sail crew is busy preparing for the historic journey.
The Star of India will sail next month upon the Pacific Ocean. The volunteer sail crew is busy preparing for the historic journey.
The sail crew learns the ropes aboard Star of India, oldest active sailing ship in the world.
The sail crew learns the ropes aboard Star of India, oldest active sailing ship in the world.
Muscle, skill and coordination are required to sail a full-rigged iron-hulled windjammer.
Muscle, skill and coordination are required to sail a full-rigged iron-hulled windjammer.
Pulling ropes to manipulate the yards and sails.
Pulling ropes to manipulate the yards and sails.
Securing one rope tightly to a belaying pin on the ship's wooden pinrail.
Securing one rope tightly to a belaying pin on the ship’s wooden pinrail.
Walking along Harbor Island, where various exhibitions and races are enjoyed during the 2018 Extreme Sailing Series.
Walking along Harbor Island, where various exhibitions and races are enjoyed during the 2018 Extreme Sailing Series.
As I arrived, the O'pen BIC racing Un-Regatta was underway.
As I arrived, the O’pen BIC racing Un-Regatta was underway.
Kids as young as ten years old learn about sailing competitively on the fun little O'pen BIC sailboats.
Kids as young as ten years old learn about sailing competitively on the fun little O’pen BIC sailboats.
Kids love sailing on San Diego Bay in the October sunshine.
Kids love sailing on San Diego Bay in the October sunshine.
O'pen BICs in close competition off Harbor Island.
Lots of O’pen BICs in close competition off Harbor Island.
Spectators were sitting on the rocks along Harbor Island watching the free Extreme Sailing Series events.
Spectators were sitting on the rocks along Harbor Island watching the various Extreme Sailing Series events.
Magic in San Diego.
Magic in San Diego.
Next came a kite boarding exhibition and race, with downtown San Diego's skyline as the backdrop.
Next came a kite boarding exhibition and race, with downtown San Diego’s skyline as the backdrop.
A highly skilled kite boarder flies above the blue water of San Diego Bay.
A highly skilled kite boarder flies above the blue water of San Diego Bay.
World-class kite board athletes prepare to race during the Element Sports Kite Boarding Invitational.
World-class kite board athletes prepare to race during the Element Sports Kite Boarding Invitational.
The kite boarding race has begun!
The kite boarding race has begun!
By sheer chance the racing kite boarders produce a beautiful photograph.
By sheer chance the kite boarders produced this beautiful photograph.
More magic on San Diego Bay.
More magic on San Diego Bay.
Now to the main event, as the GC32 Stadium Racing will soon begin.
Now to the main event, as the GC32 Stadium Racing will soon begin.
The super fast, hydro-foiling GC32 catamarans begin to maneuver before the first race begins. Seven teams would participate this weekend on San Diego Bay.
The super fast, hydro-foiling GC32 catamarans begin to maneuver before the first race starts. Seven teams would participate this weekend on San Diego Bay.
The race has begun! One catamaran tips upward in the wind, as its crew tries to obtain maximum speed.
The first race has begun! One catamaran tips upward in the wind, as its crew tries to obtain maximum speed.
Team Mexico works hard to reach the finish line before the other competitors.
Team Mexico works hard to reach the finish line before the other competitors.
Element Spark Compass, the United States team, is a wild card entry for this weekend. The members raced really well, even though they have very limited GC32 experience.
Element Spark Compass, the United States team, is a wild card entry for this weekend. The members raced really well, even though they have very limited GC32 experience.
The fast catamarans maneuver up the course into the sun. The wind was a bit disappointing today due to the mild Santa Ana-like weather this weekend.
The fast catamarans maneuver up the course into the sun. The wind was a bit disappointing today due to the mild Santa Ana-like weather this weekend.
Someone on Harbor Island points toward one of the racing teams.
Someone on Harbor Island points toward one of the racing teams.
They've navigated around a race mark buoy and are coming back downwind.
They’ve navigated around a race mark buoy and are coming back downwind.
Here they come again! Alinghi, the Swiss team, seems to always be in front. Their crew members have won multiple America's Cup titles.
Here they come again! Alinghi, the Swiss team, seems to always be in front. Their crew members have won multiple America’s Cup titles.
Red Bull Sailing Team is turning on San Diego Bay.
Red Bull Sailing Team is tacking on San Diego Bay.
Here comes the Element Spark Compass catamaran! The crew works hard to capture every inch of wind.
Here comes the Element Spark Compass catamaran! The crew works hard to capture every inch of wind.
Action aboard Red Bull's GC32 catamaran.
Lots of action aboard Red Bull’s GC32 catamaran.
Sails of many types were spotted today out on beautiful San Diego Bay!
Sails of many types were spotted today out on beautiful San Diego Bay!

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!

Free lectures explain opera in San Diego!

19th Century engraving depicting Count Almaviva and Susanna in Act 3 of The Marriage of Figaro. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
19th century engraving depicting Count Almaviva and Susanna in Act 3 of The Marriage of Figaro. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

By sheer chance I stumbled upon a very cool event this afternoon. I was walking through the San Diego Central Library’s courtyard when I noticed a sign posted by the entrance to the Neil Morgan Auditorium. It announced that a free lecture was about to begin!

I hurried in, took a seat, and found myself quickly mesmerized by a talk about the San Diego Opera’s upcoming performance of The Marriage of Figaro!

Dr. Ron Shaheen, Adjunct Associate Professor in the Music Department at the University of San Diego, made the fascinating presentation. With the help of photographs, video clips and audio samples, he provided a wide range of information concerning Mozart’s famous opera. Even a complete opera novice like myself could appreciate the beautiful, timeless and amusing qualities of The Marriage of Figaro.

Many in the audience chuckled at the antics of its characters. The story, imbued by Mozart with deep emotional richness, turns upon all-too-common human weaknesses. The Marriage of Figaro is a mixture of crazy schemes, sudden surprises, human desire, selfishness, misunderstanding, love, jealousy, even more silliness . . . and concludes with a poignant scene of forgiveness.

Intrigued? Visit the San Diego Opera website here. The Marriage of Figaro will be performed in the next couple of weeks.

More free lectures in the Opera Insights Series will be coming to the Central Library. You can learn when and where by clicking here.

Dr. Ron Shaheen provides an entertaining lecture concerning The Marriage of Figaro during the San Diego Central Library 2018-2019 Opera Insights Series.
Dr. Ron Shaheen provides an entertaining lecture concerning The Marriage of Figaro during the San Diego Central Library 2018-2019 Opera Insights Series.
Information concerning music prodigy Mozart, his opera The Marriage of Figaro, and the San Diego Opera's upcoming performances.
Information concerning Mozart, his opera The Marriage of Figaro, and the San Diego Opera’s upcoming performances. (Click the image to enlarge it for easy reading.)
Mozart c. 1780, detail from portrait by Johann Nepomuk della Croce. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Detail from a portrait of Mozart, by Johann Nepomuk della Croce. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

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!

To read a few stories I’ve written, click Short Stories by Richard.

Solve Who, world’s first interactive crime scene simulator!

A crime scene at Solve Who titled Murder at PROstate Farm. A team of detectives gathers clues, watches video interrogations of three suspects, then deliberates to determine who the murderer is.
A crime scene at Solve Who titled Murder at PROstate Farm. A team of detectives gathers clues, watches video interrogations of three suspects, then attempts to determine who the murderer is.

A unique and very cool attraction recently opened in downtown San Diego. It’s called Solve Who!

Neither an escape room, nor murder mystery dinner theatre, Solve Who offers would-be detectives something far more immersive and realistic. Solve Who is the world’s first interactive crime scene simulator!

Enter the front door of Solve Who and you suddenly become a detective investigating a detailed crime scene using your wits, a notepad and pen, and a variety of forensic tools. Groups of up to ten people operate as a team, collecting clues, watching short video interrogations of three suspects, then deliberating to determine the identity of the murderer.

Questions one might ask during the investigation include: Was the crime premeditated? Who had the motive to commit murder? Was there a break-in? Was there a struggle? What was the murder weapon? Are any fingerprints that you find with an ultraviolet light relevant? What is the meaning of a series of emails that periodically appear on one computer? Is any object at the crime scene out of place?

I was given a little bit of a preview this evening and I must say this entertainment concept is absolutely unique and brilliant! The super friendly guys behind Solve Who have worked hard to make the experience very realistic–they have even worked with law enforcement experts to ensure this fully interactive crime scene simulator is very close to authentic. With some crazy humor injected for fun!

It seems to me that Solve Who would be an ideal place for corporate team building, having a night out with friends, or for simply meeting new people. Right now they offer one scenario titled Murder at PROstate Farm, with three new, completely unique crime scenes to appear in the future. Solve Who will also offer beer and wine to participants in the near future.

Check out the Solve Who website here and perhaps make a reservation. You’ll be one of very few people in the entire world to have experienced a realistic interactive crime scene simulator!

A brief video introduction explains how each team of detectives can work together to logically deduce which suspect is guilty of murder.
A brief video introduction explains how each team of detectives can work together to logically deduce which suspect is guilty of murder.
The funny, satirical brochure of PROstate Farm. The insurance agent was murdered, and his three employees are suspects.
The funny, satirical brochure of PROstate Farm. The insurance agent was murdered, and his three employees are suspects.
Inside the mock insurance office. PROstate Farm has policies to protect the insured against icebergs, apocalypse, zombies, talking apes and much more.
Inside the mock insurance office. PROstate Farm has policies to protect the insured against icebergs, apocalypse, zombies, talking apes and much more.
Some of the tools used by participants at Solve Who include forensic lights, magnifying lenses, string for trajectory pinpointing, and more.
Tools used by participants at Solve Who include forensic lights, magnifying lenses, string for trajectory pinpointing, evidence markers, and more.
The crime scene includes many clues--a few are critically important. Deductive reasoning and acute observation are required to identify the murderer.
The crime scene includes many clues–a few are critically important. Deductive reasoning and acute observation are required to identify the murderer.
An overturned chair and a big blood stain on the carpet.
An overturned chair and a big blood stain on the carpet.
Blood splattered on the wall!
Blood splattered on the wall!
Detectives at Solve Who will watch as three suspects are interrogated. It is important to listen to words and watch body language.
Detectives at Solve Who will watch as three suspects are interrogated. It is important to listen to words and watch body language.
Solve Who is a very cool new attraction in San Diego, located at 1570 Fifth Avenue. It is the world's first interactive crime scene simulator!
Solve Who is a very cool new attraction in San Diego, located downtown at 1570 Fifth Avenue. It is the world’s first interactive crime scene simulator!

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!

Dancers portray the homeless in San Diego.

Audience looks down with expectation as a dancer portrays a homeless person during the first stage of 2018 Trolley Dances at Hazard Center.
Audience looks down as a dancer portrays a homeless person during the first stage of 2018 Trolley Dances at Hazard Center.

This morning I watched the first dance of the 2018 Trolley Dances at Hazard Center shopping mall. This unique annual event is a production of the San Diego Dance Theater.

Arriving early, I stood a couple of floors above the outdoor performance, and let my eyes wander about as I took in the entire scene.

The first dance portrayed the homeless. As the invisible curtain rose, dancers, who sat alone among their scant possessions, rose and converged in a dizzy, tragic performance.

Two male dancers tussled over a shopping cart, but that seemed to be the extent of their malice. The twisting dance showed troubled souls coming together, having a moment of hope and happiness, raising each other up before departing to go their separate ways.

After the first dance ended, I followed the mobile audience as they were led west down the nearby San Diego River Trail to the next outdoor stage. Chairs were set up short of the place where Highway 163 crosses Mission Valley.

I continued walking. What I saw thereafter wasn’t part of the program.

As the audience gathers on the south side of the Hazard Center shopping mall, one performer appears be homeless, sitting alone.
As the audience gathers on the south side of the Hazard Center shopping mall, one performer appears be homeless, sitting alone.
The gathered audience awaits the first outdoor dance of 2018 Trolley Dances.
The gathered audience awaits the first outdoor dance of 2018 Trolley Dances.
The performance begins, and another dancer rushes on to the stage.
The performance begins, and another dancer rushes onto the stage.
Dancers converge in front of the audience. The dance portrays different people who are homeless.
Dancers converge in front of the audience. The raw, disturbing dance portrays the lives of different people who are homeless.
Dancers move about fluidly, showing a variety of emotions, including pain, loss, uncertainty, anger, hopelessness.
Dancers move about fluidly, showing a variety of emotions, including pain, loss, uncertainty, anger, hopelessness.
A shopping cart is a focal prop. Seen from above, it is actually empty.
A shopping cart is a focal prop. Seen from above, it is empty.
Performers tussle over the shopping cart, while a nearby couple dances.
Performers tussle briefly over the shopping cart, while a nearby couple dances.
The dancers spread out and face the audience.
The dancers spread out and face the audience.
The dancers move together, as if suddenly animated by a unifying energy.
The dancers move together, as if suddenly animated by a unifying energy.
One dancer is raised up by the others.
One dancer is raised up by the others.

The dancers exit the stage by struggling up two sets of stairs at Hazard Center.
The dancers finally exit the stage, struggling up sets of stairs at Hazard Center.
They return to take their bow. There is great applause.
They return to take their bow. There is great applause.
The dancers collapse and lie on the concrete.
The dancers collapse and lie on the concrete.
This performance is over.
This performance is over.
The audience will be led across the street and on to the next nearby dance location, on the path by the San Diego River.
The audience will be led across the street and on to the next nearby dance location, on the path by the San Diego River.
What the audience did not see. An empty drug baggie as the bottom of some stairs behind Hazard Center. Very few people use these particular stairs.
What the audience did not see. An empty drug baggie at the bottom of some stairs behind Hazard Center. Very few people use these particular stairs.
The audience heads west along the San Diego Trolley tracks.
The audience heads west along the San Diego Trolley tracks.
The mobile Trolley Dances audience is guided through a short stretch of Mission Valley along the San Diego River toward the next unique stage.
The mobile Trolley Dances audience is guided through a short stretch of Mission Valley along the San Diego River toward the next unique stage.
Empty chairs and graffiti on a construction wall await at the next Trolley Dance stage.
Empty chairs and graffiti on a construction wall await at the next Trolley Dances stage.
This is as far down the path the audience would venture.
That is as far down the path the audience would venture.
Had they proceeded farther, they would have reached a place where many homeless gather--in shadowy places beneath Highway 163.
Had they proceeded farther, they would have reached a place where many homeless gather and take shelter–in shadowy places beneath Highway 163.

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 virtual reality tour around San Diego!

Visitors to the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park prepare to enjoy a short virtual reality tour around San Diego.
Visitors to the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park prepare to enjoy a short virtual reality tour around San Diego.

During my random walk through Balboa Park today, I stumbled upon something that is unique and really fun! I wandered into the San Diego History Center and was immediately drawn to a sign at the entrance to one gallery that read: Experience San Diego, The Virtual Reality Adventure.

I wasn’t looking to blog anything after my walk today, but this short VR tour around San Diego is so cool, I definitely want to share it!

After having my VR headset strapped on, I suddenly found myself transported to a wide variety of places and events around San Diego. I was standing atop the California Tower in Balboa Park, turning my head to gaze in every direction . . .

Then suddenly I was floating over Oceanside in a hot air balloon . . . standing among hockey players during a San Diego Gulls game . . . riding a helicopter along our beautiful coast . . . right up close among the dolphins at SeaWorld . . . riding the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster at Belmont Park in Mission Beach . . . flying above the desert in Anza Borrego State Park . . . floating on a boat among sea lions on San Diego Bay . . . and much more–all in virtual reality!

The whole experience is made possible by 4DSCI. A ticket costs just five dollars and the virtual reality tour lasts for perhaps ten minutes. If you want to experience San Diego in a whole new way, head down to the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park and check it out!

Experience San Diego, The Virtual Reality Adventure. You will see many cool sights as if you were there in person!
Experience San Diego, The Virtual Reality Adventure. You will see many cool sights as if you were there in person!
Around the corner is the VR Theater...
Around the corner is the VR Theater…
The fun kid-friendly room where the experience is enjoyed. Chairs swivel so visitors can experience the virtual reality in every direction.
The fun, kid-friendly room where the experience is enjoyed. Chairs swivel so visitors can easily turn and experience the virtual reality in every direction.
Cabrillo National Monument is one of the places that will surround you--as if you are there!
Cabrillo National Monument is one of the beautiful places that will surround you–as if you are there!

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!