Signs of 2016 All-Star Game appear in San Diego.

Sign in window of downtown's Omni Hotel, across Tony Gwynn Drive from Petco Park, proclaims San Diego is America's All-Star City.
Sign at downtown’s Omni Hotel, across Tony Gwynn Drive from Petco Park, proclaims San Diego is America’s All-Star City.

Winter is a week away. Time to start dreaming of next summer!

To help you dream, here are some photos I snapped in the past few months. During my walks around Petco Park, I’ve noticed a variety of signs which anticipate the 2016 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. It will be held right here in San Diego!

Digital display on Western Metal Supply Co. building at Petco Park, the downtown stadium of the San Diego Padres, counts down the days and hours until the 2016 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
Digital display on Western Metal Supply Co. building at Petco Park, the downtown stadium of the San Diego Padres, counts down the days and hours until the 2016 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
One cool window of the Omni Hotel seems to offer a view into the future, as the 2016 All-Star Game is being played in San Diego.
One cool “window” of the Omni Hotel seems to offer a view into the future, as the 2016 All-Star Game is being played in San Diego.
Baseball's All-Star Game is coming next summer! A few signs have popped up around Petco Park many months in advance. It's going to be fun!
Baseball’s All-Star Game is coming next summer! A few signs have popped up around Petco Park many months in advance. It’s going to be fun!

UPDATE!

Look what I saw in mid-December 2015…

Just before Christmas, All-Star Santa has been painted on the window of the San Diego Padres Store in the Western Metal Supply Co. Building!
Just before Christmas, All-Star Santa has been painted on the window of the San Diego Padres Store in the Western Metal Supply Co. Building!

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Bocce Ball Tournament at Little Italy’s Festa.

Participants in Little Italy's Festa Bocce Ball Tournament at practice.
Participants in Little Italy’s Festa Bocce Ball Tournament at practice.

During last Sunday’s Festa event in San Diego’s Little Italy, an exciting bocce tournament was held at Amici Park, right next to all the glorious Gesso Italiano chalk art.

Bocce is similar to lawn bowling and dates back to the ancient Roman Empire. According to a plaque set in the concrete near one of Amici Park’s bocce courts, it’s the world’s oldest sport!

I captured a few pics of the action!

Two bocce courts are open to the public in Amici Park near sculptures of Italian food!
Two bocce courts are open to the public in Amici Park near sculptures of Italian food!
Man prepares to strategically send bocce ball down the long court.
Man prepares to strategically send bocce ball down the long court.
Watching the action on a lazy, perfect San Diego weekend.
Watching the action on a lazy, perfect San Diego weekend.
I saw a lot of stylish hats and calculating, cunning players.
I saw a lot of stylish hats and calculating, cunning players.
Gentleman leans against checkered tablecloth set with a plate of metal artichokes.
Gentleman leans against checkered tablecloth set with a plate of metal artichokes.
Rules of bocce on a plaque. The right way to play bocce is the way your dad plays!
Rules of bocce on a plaque. The right way to play bocce is the way your dad plays!

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Balboa Park Carousel provides fun nostalgia.

Lady twists balloon creations near the historic Balboa Park carousel.
Lady twists balloon creations near the historic Balboa Park Carousel.

Whenever I walk through Balboa Park, I almost always point my feet in the direction of the carousel.

There’s something just so innocent and joyful about the old merry-go-round. For generations it has faithfully awaited children of all ages at the north end of the park, right next to the San Diego Zoo. The whirling playful animals and marching organ music put a smile on my face and a lift in my spirit.

While the 1910 Herschell-Spillman carousel has been moved a few times, for one hundred years it has been located in San Diego. Today it is only one of two carousels west of the Mississippi that feature the nostalgic brass ring game. Lucky riders who grab a brass ring win a free ride!

People gaze at the 1910 Herschell-Spillman carousel on a summer day.
People gaze at the 1910 Herschell-Spillman carousel on a summer day.
The merry-go-round features 27 horses and 25 menagerie animals.
The merry-go-round features 27 horses and 25 menagerie animals.
A brightly painted carved wooden horse awaits a passenger.
A brightly painted carved wooden horse awaits a passenger.
The carousel has stood in Balboa Park for exactly one hundred years!
The carousel, built in New York, has stood in Balboa Park since 1922! It was previously located at Tent City in Coronado.
Old items in building include a rowboat.
Old items in building include a rowboat.
A brass ring game is still played today.
A fun brass ring game is still played today.
Many generations have enjoyed this cheerful San Diego attraction.
Many generations have enjoyed this cheerful San Diego attraction.
Another view past a ride for very young children.
Another view past a ride for very young children.

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Belmont Park’s fun Giant Dipper roller coaster!

Looking across Ventura Place at the Giant Dipper roller coaster.
Looking across Ventura Place at the Giant Dipper roller coaster.

Mission Beach is one of the most popular attractions in Southern California. One big reason: Belmont Park and the wonderful Giant Dipper roller coaster!

In my last blog post I walked south down the busy beach boardwalk to Hamel’s. Belmont Park stands just across the street. The historic amusement park was built in 1925 by wealthy sugar magnate John D. Spreckels, and was called the Mission Beach Amusement Center. The 2,600 foot Giant Dipper roller coaster, made entirely of wood, was built in less than two months. Over the ensuing years, the coaster fell into disrepair; it was then carefully restored in 1990 and became a huge success.

Entering Belmont Park beneath the wooden roller coaster.
Entering Belmont Park beneath the wooden roller coaster.
Looking up at tracks of the picturesque coaster.
Looking up at red tracks of the picturesque coaster.
Kid-friendly Belmont Park has thrilling rides and fun stuff.
Kid-friendly Belmont Park has thrilling rides and lots of fun stuff.
People wait to board the historic rollercoaster.
People wait to board the historic roller coaster.
The winding coaster tracks make for interesting photos.
The winding coaster tracks make for interesting photos.
Palm fronds, colorful track and clear blue sky.
Palm fronds, painted wood and clear blue sky.
A large indoor arcade features loads of classic games.
A large indoor arcade at Belmont Park features many classic games.
This small merry-go-round is a treat for kids of every age.
This small merry-go-round is a treat for kids of every age.
A carnival midway area has tests of skill and a food court.
A carnival midway area has tests of skill and a food court.
Riders whiz by as the cars rattle on wooden rails.
Riders whiz by as the cars rattle on wooden rails.
This yellow submarine requires no water!
This yellow submarine requires no water!
Wild and crazy Tilt-A-Whirl provides a big adrenaline rush.
Wild and crazy Tilt-A-Whirl provides a big adrenaline rush.
The Giant Dipper roller coaster swooshes by!
The Giant Dipper roller coaster swooshes by!
Peeking into the innards of a wooden roller coaster.
Peeking into the innards of a wooden roller coaster.

It’s interesting to walk around the perimeter of the Giant Dipper. You can peer beneath the rails and see the materials used to build and maintain the huge wooden construction.

The Plunge giant swimming pool is undergoing restoration.
The Plunge giant swimming pool is undergoing restoration.

Right next to Belmont Park’s amusement rides you’ll find The Plunge, originally called The Natatorium. The huge 12,000 square foot swimming pool originally contained salt water.  It was the largest such pool in the world with 400,000 gallons of water!

The Plunge has also become famous for its Orcas off Point Loma whaling wall, painted in 1989 by famous marine artist, Wyland.

Today the pool and surrounding structure are being repaired. It’s scheduled to reopen by the end of this summer.

I hoped to get pictures of Belmont Park’s relatively new FlowRider wave machine, which allows thrill-seekers continuous surfing without entering the ocean! Unfortunately, it was down for maintenance.

Photo mosaic on beach restroom shows bits of Belmont Park.
Photo mosaic on a nearby beach restroom shows bits of Belmont Park.
Playing football on the nearby sand at Mission Beach.
Playing football on the sand at Mission Beach.

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Lawn bowlers enjoy Sunday in Balboa Park.

san diego lawn bowling club in balboa park

Every weekend, folks dressed in white are out on the bowling green near the west end of Balboa Park. The San Diego Lawn Bowling Club must have a pretty good membership, because I’ve seen scores of players all out enjoying the sport at the same time.

I usually linger for a couple minutes to watch a game unfold. Excellent accuracy is required to win.

A game has ended and the scattered balls are collected.
A game has ended and the scattered balls are collected.
Keeping score on a lazy, sunny weekend day.
Keeping score on a lazy, sunny weekend day.
Sign provides info about free lawn bowl lessons.
Sign provides info about free lawn bowl lessons.

Stickball tournament players in Little Italy.

stickball player prepares while lineup is written

A stickball tournament was held Sunday in San Diego’s Little Italy, one block from the Festa event! The playing field was a city street in front of the Firehouse Museum. Lots of people watched from the sidewalk, sitting on lawn chairs and the curb.

Here’s a team wearing spiffy uniforms, getting ready to begin a game. A player practices his swing while the lineup is written with chalk on the street.

stickball batter swings away in little italy

Here’s a player from the opposing team swinging. If I recall correctly, he hit the rubber ball into a treetop, and it dropped for a single. Another player hit the ball onto the porch of a condo down the street. That guy was called out.

When I departed, the team in the spiffy uniforms was losing badly.

UPDATE!

Here are a couple more photos from a different Saturday morning in late summer…

A player misses and is called out to the dismay of his team.
A player misses and is called out to the dismay of his team.
Lady swings and crushes the ball a long distance down Columbia Street!
Lady swings and crushes the ball a long distance down Columbia Street!

Playing with giant chess pieces at Horton Plaza.

Chess and checkers games can include a small workout!
Chess and checkers games can include a small workout!

Here are three fun photos! I stood for a moment on an upper level at Horton Plaza, watching two guys play a game with giant chess pieces.

San Diego’s downtown Horton Plaza shopping mall is more than just typical retail stores and a food court. It’s a wonderland of colorful, whimsical, unexpected architecture, with cool discoveries around almost every corner, including this shady nook where you’ll find giant-sized chessboards and checker boards.

The Horton Plaza shopping mall contains fun surprises around almost every corner.
The Horton Plaza shopping mall contains fun surprises around almost every corner.
People enjoy a leisurely game of chess with gigantic chessboard and pieces at Horton Plaza.
People enjoy a leisurely game of chess with gigantic chessboard and pieces at Horton Plaza.

Here are a couple more photos I took during another visit…

Horton Plaza visitor watches two people playing chess on an ordinary-size chessboard.
Horton Plaza visitor watches two people playing chess on an ordinary-size chessboard.
People congregate in a Horton Plaza nook where giant chess pieces beckon.
People congregate in a Horton Plaza nook where giant chess pieces beckon.

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Chalk evidence of stickball in Little Italy.

chalk evidence of stickball in little italy

Several days ago while out on a walk I took this photo of chalk writing on Columbia Street. It appears games of stickball have recently taken place.

Occasionally over the years I’ve wandered into people in Little Italy playing this classic American game. While the game is most popular in the Northeastern United States, organized games are played in San Diego, with a handful of teams and a few laid-back spectators on lawn chairs.

UPDATE!

I caught some live stickball action on a Saturday morning in late summer, and here are a couple pics!

Players gather for some fun on a Saturday in downtown's Little Italy.
Players gather for some fun on a Saturday in downtown’s Little Italy.
Stickball action in front of the San Diego Firehouse Museum.
Stickball action in front of the San Diego Firehouse Museum.

The mostly forgotten San Diego Chess Club.

nearly forgotten san diego chess club

In 1961, the Balboa Club moved into a building near the southwest corner of Balboa Park. The building today is faded, padlocked, and seldom used. Few people now visit this once popular meeting place. It is the location of the San Diego Chess Club.

Taking a picture through a side window of empty chess club on a weekend morning.
Taking a picture through side window of empty chess club on a weekend morning.

Through a dirty window on the north side, rows of empty tables are visible. The place seems dead.

Most chess players now test their skills on virtual chessboards. Two flesh and blood players squaring off in a lively, tension-filled room across a common table has been replaced by isolated taps and clicks on small screens.

Passing years and neglect at San Diego Chess Club building in Balboa Park.
Years of neglect show at San Diego Chess Club building in Balboa Park.
Chessboard and other old images on side facing Sixth Avenue are very faded.
Chessboard and other images on side facing Sixth Avenue are faded.

Adjoining the building are numerous lonely horseshoes pits. The Balboa Park Horseshoe Club seems just as forgotten.

Unused horseshoes pits near San Diego Chess Club.
Unused horseshoes pits near San Diego Chess Club.

Walked past on a spring day… The game of horseshoes isn’t dead yet!

One fine Saturday afternoon, I finally saw folks playing horseshoes on one court!
One fine Saturday afternoon, I finally saw a handful of folks playing horseshoes!