Sliding through an enormous bunch of grapes!

I’ve seen people stomping on grapes. Now I’ve observed people happily sliding through them!

That’s because a while back I found myself near the Grape Day Park playground in Escondido. As I walked around taking photographs, I saw a couple of kids descending the Vinehenge slide!

Vinehenge was created by artists Valerie Salatino and Nancy Moran in 2004. It’s a very fun part of the City of Escondido’s public art collection!

According to a nearby information sign, city leaders launched the Grape Day Festival back in 1906. “Thousands of visitors, brought in by the Santa Fe Railroad, enjoyed free grapes, danced, socialized, and engaged in other festivities on these grounds.” Today a very wonderful Grape Day Park features the Escondido History Center Museum Complex, which I blogged about over a year ago here.

Check out these fun pics of Vinehenge and its unique grape slide!

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!

Two short stories about Christmas.

A bit later, Santa and Mrs. Claus read The Night Before Christmas to gathered children and the young-at-heart.

Would you like to read two very short stories about Christmas?

Both works of fiction might touch your heart.

The first short story is titled A Wise Man. It concerns how we all can become jaded over the years, and how one seemingly ordinary moment can renew our appreciation of life’s preciousness and beauty. Read it here.

The second short story is titled An Encounter With Santa Claus. It’s about the spirit of Christmas. About unselfishness, not rampant materialism. Read it here.

Fun photos from Social Distance Santa!

Social Distance Santa waves at passing cars during 2020 Taste of December Nights. Photo courtesy Bill Swank.

Santa Claus sent me a batch of fun photos!

Every year Santa travels down from the North Pole to greet the young at heart in Balboa Park during December Nights.

In 2020 the holiday event, however, turned into a socially-distanced Taste of December Nights. Families drove through Balboa Park’s Inspiration Point parking lot to partake of the offerings of food trucks. Everyone stayed in their car. Santa waved as they passed. During this year’s very serious, very contagious COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic we all are advised to avoid mingling.

Because a visiting Santa Claus wanted to provide a good example, he renamed himself Social Distance Santa. And his elves constructed a special six-foot ruler!

Bill Swank ordinarily greets all comers as Santa Claus in the Spreckels Organ Pavilion during December Nights. He has been Santa since 2002. This rather unusual year he had to adapt, as you can see!

As San Diego’s preeminent baseball historian, Bill Swank also brought along a photo of Shoeless Joe Jackson wearing a mask during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic.

Santa reports that he recognized many people that have visited him over the years, both young and old.

Fortunately, Santa Claus possesses strong magic. His smile beams directly through a face mask, and a friendly wave transmits his powerful love.

Social Distance Santa holds a six-foot ruler with a Balboa Park Ranger during Taste of December Nights. Photo courtesy Bill Swank.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer waved at Santa and Mrs. Claus from the first car to enter Taste of December Nights on December 4, 2020. Photo courtesy Bill Swank.
Social Distance Santa holding a picture of Shoeless Joe Jackson wearing a mask during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic. Photo courtesy Bill Swank.
Social Distance Santa cards were given to the first 500 cars each day during Taste of December Nights in Balboa Park. Santa’s Safety List is included.

This has been a challenging year for all of us, but Santa and the City of San Diego are thankful we can come together and celebrate in the special way with all of you!

If you want to learn more about the history of Christmas in San Diego and read a book concerning the subject written by Bill Swank, 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!

Bronze wildlife sculptures at Viejas outlet mall.

Many realistic bronze sculptures representing regional wildlife can be found all around the Viejas Outlet Center in Alpine, California. This unique shopping mall, filled with beautiful artwork inspired by Native American Kumeyaay life and culture, is operated by the Viejas Group of Capitan Grande Band of Mission Indians of the Viejas Reservation.

The wildlife sculptures are found throughout the mall, among trees, on pedestrian walkways, even lurking atop artificial rocks and waterfalls. Families turning corners might encounter a bear, mule deer, mountain lions, a rattlesnake, coyote, river otter, Canada geese, and even desert bighorn sheep. Adult animals are often accompanied by their young. The bronze sculptures depict the animals interacting with each other naturally in their small realistic settings.

The wildlife sculptures were created by award-winning El Cajon artist Robert G. Berry, who began as a taxidermist before turning animal sculptor. His work can also be enjoyed at the San Diego Zoo, Cypress Gardens in Tampa, Florida, and at the Mission Trails Regional Park Visitor and Interpretive Center, which is also in San Diego. To see a few examples of his half dozen bronze sculptures at Mission Trails, click here!

This blog now features thousands of photos around San Diego! Are you curious? There’s lots of cool stuff to check out!

Here’s the Cool San Diego Sights main page, where you can read the most current blog posts.  If you’re using a phone or small mobile device, click those three parallel lines up at the top–that opens up my website’s sidebar, where you’ll see the most popular posts, a search box, and more!

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Holiday scenes in Balboa Park before the lockdown.

Tomorrow another “stay at home” order goes into effect in Southern California. It’s late 2020, the year of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Today many people were enjoying Balboa Park one last time before the lockdown. As I walked through the park this afternoon, I saw a few holiday decorations, but nothing like you’d see during an ordinary year.

A few visitors were dressed for the occasion–I even saw Santa Grinch skating about in the Plaza de Panama! I also saw good old Santa wearing a face mask driving his sleigh between the plaza and Organ Pavilion; a big Santa Bear at the Japanese Friendship Garden; and lights, Christmas trees and ornaments in the Spanish Village Art Center.

I also walked past the Taste of December Nights event in the large Inspiration Point parking lots. All I saw were lines of cars pulled up to a couple dozen food trucks.

Speaking of trucks, see those two photos of a red vehicle parked in front of the San Diego Automotive Museum? That very cool old 1922 Mack Water Truck has returned to its old spot after a long restoration. I wrote a little about this antique water truck on my now dormant blog Beautiful Balboa Park. Read more about it here!

Even though everyone in San Diego is encouraged to exercise outdoors, now that we’re entering a stay-at-home period, my walking adventures might become less frequent for the time being. Fortunately, I have lots of interesting photos still in my computer, so stay tuned for many more surprising blog posts!

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!

Holidays arrive at Escondido’s old train depot!

I returned to Escondido yesterday because I wanted to check out an extraordinary mural I’d been told about. During my visit I walked around Grape Day Park, and admired the many holiday decorations that are part of the California Center for the Arts’ outdoor Northern Lights event every evening.

During my daytime stroll through the park, I saw strung lights and Christmas displays and suspended snowflakes and reindeer on the grass that would certainly be very beautiful at night. But my most favorite thing–probably because I like trains–was the historic Escondido Santa Fe Depot and its nearby Pullman Car #92. The holiday decorations at the old railroad station were very unique!

As you can read on one sign that I photographed, the 1888 depot in its heyday “was the nerve center of Escondido, a scene of commercial activity and a social gathering place…The Escondido History Center moved the Santa Fe Depot to Grape Day Park in 1984…”

While the wonderful old train station might no longer be a center for much commercial activity, it definitely remains a social gathering place when the lights come on during the holiday season!

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!

Hotel del Coronado’s Winter Wonderland!

A fun Winter Wonderland can be enjoyed freely during this holiday season outside the Hotel del Coronado!

A huge Christmas tree, a Santa’s sleigh, a Polar Express, and all sorts of fun decorations invite visitors to take photographs on the world-famous hotel’s beachfront Windsor Lawn.

From what I could see, groups of tourists love the Winter Wonderland just as much as families and kids.

It all must be quite amazing when lit up at night!

Before I entered the Winter Wonderland from the beach, I had to check out a cool sand sculpture created by the Sandcastle Man. I’ve seen many of his sculptures over the years. I asked how long he’s been building castles by the Hotel del Coronado. He said fourteen years!

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!

Colorful kites above Coronado Cays!

Colorful kites were filling the blue sky today above Coronado Cays Park!

I almost got a kink in my neck staring up at them!

They seemed like a flock of tropical birds taking flight above the palm trees. I walked along a winding pathway then over the grass, circling around the many kites and passing underneath them.

They were alive up there in the sunlight.

Many others had gathered in the park to observe the magic. And to fly their own kite.

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 walk down Escondido’s Grand Avenue.

On Sunday I returned to Escondido. I wanted to explore Grand Avenue–the heart of historic downtown Escondido–a little more thoroughly.

Earlier this year I visited Maple Street Plaza on a Sunday and took a quick look from its south end up and down Grand Avenue. What I glimpsed wasn’t encouraging. Few people. Inactive storefronts. But had I walked a block or two east I would have found a much more lively scene!

Grand Avenue resembles the historic old main streets of many American towns. What used to be the central business district is now home to a multitude of cozy eateries, specialty shops, salons and antique stores. There’s an old restored movie theater, a Rotary Club street clock, a gazebo in a small sunny park, and a friendly feeling of community. During my walk I saw many families just walking along like me, enjoying a late Sunday morning.

I don’t pretend to know a whole lot about Escondido. If you don’t either, enjoy these photos of Grand Avenue as if we are walking together.

I started at the big Escondido landmark sign at Centre City Parkway and headed east. To see some great mosaics in the sidewalk at the intersection, check out my earlier blog post here!

You see that unusual sculpture in the median? I know nothing about it!

I really enjoyed peering into the window of the Timekeepers Watch and Clock Shop and took several photos. Indeed, my walk felt a little like travelling back in time.

After I passed the south end of Maple Street Plaza, I enjoyed looking into the windows of more antique stores. I noticed more and more people sitting in front of various restaurants enjoying Sunday breakfast or an early lunch. (People are dining on sidewalks and streets this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.)

There’s a very cool display near the entrance to the restored The Ritz Theater, which originally opened in 1937. You can see old film reels and all sorts of interesting equipment that was used in this historic movie house. Unfortunately bright street reflections were impossible for my camera to overcome.

I turned around at Valley Boulevard and headed back west along the opposite sidewalk.

According to a nearby plaque, that great mural on the corner of a building is titled Escondido, the Hidden Valley. It’s by artist Daniel Hernandez.

Finally–you see that cool old car coming down the street near the end of my photos? Grand Avenue is probably best known for its popular Cruisin’ Grand vintage auto show event on Friday nights! (Something I haven’t experienced yet.)

Here we go…

This blog now features thousands of photos around San Diego! Are you curious? There’s lots of cool stuff to check out!

Here’s the Cool San Diego Sights main page, where you can read the most current blog posts.  If you’re using a phone or small mobile device, click those three parallel lines up at the top–that opens up my website’s sidebar, where you’ll see the most popular posts, a search box, and more!

To enjoy future posts, you can also “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

Mother and child sculpture on Escondido bench.

Today I enjoyed walk down Grand Avenue, through the heart of Escondido’s historic downtown. I have many colorful photographs coming up!

During my walk I was struck by a wonderful sculpture in front of Felipe’s Restaurant. Life-size cast bronze figures sit on a public bench. A mother holds a small child, who is reaching curiously into her purse. It’s a celebration of ordinary living.

This public art is by T.J. Dixon, whose many extraordinary sculptures can be viewed all around San Diego. Created in 1990, the piece’s title is Reflections on Downtown.

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!