House of Panama celebration in Balboa Park!

A big celebration brought many smiles and a joyful whirl of color to Balboa Park today! The House of Panama hosted a lawn program at the International Cottages!

A good crowd turned out to enjoy cultural entertainment, and to share excitement over the recent opening of the House of Panama’s new cottage.

Dance groups came down to San Diego all the way from Los Angeles and San Francisco. There were performances by Panamá Lindo; Panamá, Molas, Polleras y Tambores (the official House of Panama Dancers); Congo Istmeño; and Viva Panamá. Many local dignitaries also attended the event.

As I walked around Balboa Park, I swung by the International Cottages a few times to enjoy the lawn program. The next three photos were taken outside and inside the beautiful new House of Panama cottage…

On the lawn stage, there was a sea of colorful Panamanian folk dance costumes!

I caught the singing of National Anthems, then an emotional speech concerning the hard work done to open a new cottage in Balboa Park…

Then the dancing 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!

Life, death, joy and pessimism in La Jolla.

Art is often a stir of moods and strange contradictions, like life itself.

I saw this complexity during a fun visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla. A major exhibit in the recently reopened, beautifully renovated museum concerns the often experimental artwork of world-renowned artist Niki de Saint Phalle, who spent her last years living in La Jolla. The exhibition is titled Niki de Saint Phalle in the 1960s. It will be on view through July 17, 2022.

As I walked around several spacious gallery spaces, observing the artist’s sensuous sculptures, and fantastic drawings, and paintings created by shooting guns, I saw joyful, fertile, exuberant life displayed side-by-side with bleak, shattered, debris-filled pessimism. It seemed that positivity was associated with female experience, negativity with modernity. As if the two are absolutely separate.

Niki de Saint Phalle’s female sculpture Nanas dance everywhere one turns, bursting with life. Her large Tirs, or performance art “shooting paintings,” looked to my eye like dead junkyards: rigid, punctured, streaked, drained.

As I gazed at the various artworks, whose elements often seem primordial or mythical, I wondered how seemingly opposed ideas could tangle in the mind of an artist–how paint and gunshots could so easily coexist. Oh, wait. Life and death is the prime subject of art.

Go visit this amazing exhibition of rampant creativity and form your own conclusions!

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 sunny Easter walk in San Diego!

It’s Easter Sunday! The sun is shining in San Diego and it feels like Spring!

How perfect for a long, leisurely walk around downtown San Diego.

Enjoy these photographs!

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!

New Year’s Day photos from the Embarcadero.

Today is New Year’s Day. The sun was shining in San Diego.

Many people were out strolling beside San Diego Bay.

For some reason, walking along the Embarcadero is a thing I do almost every year on January 1. Maybe it’s the glittering water, cool breeze, sailboats, and a sense of renewal. Whatever it is, that’s what I did today.

And I took these photographs.

(The next photo is strange! I think he was playing for a special group about to board a harbor cruise.)

Happy New Year!

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 special message from Santa Claus for San Diego!

I’ve just been contacted by Santa Claus. He has an important message for all of San Diego!

Merry Christmas, San Diego.

I hope you have a safe and dry Christmas Day with family and loved ones. Omicron is worse than getting coal in your stocking. Get vaccinated and wear a mask.

Santa hopes the pandemic will end and we all can return to “December Nights in the Park” next year.

Santa held his COVID-19 Vaccination Card during 2021 “Taste of December Nights.” (Photo courtesy Bill Swank.)
After “Taste of December Nights,” Santa went to visit the Nativity scenes at the Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park. (Photo courtesy Bill Swank.)
A week later, a well-dressed Chihuahua sporting a stylish Mohawk posed with Santa at Harry’s Coffee Shop in La Jolla. (Photo courtesy Bill Swank.)
This cute little girl came to visit Santa while he was eating breakfast at Harry’s. (Photo courtesy Bill Swank.)
… and this little guy was impressed with Santa’s baseball card. We want the Padres to win the World Series in 2022. (Photo courtesy Bill Swank.)

Be good to one another. Have fun. Laugh and be joyous, but also remember the meaning of the season.

Your friend,

Santa Claus

Santa Claus sightings around San Diego!

Santa Claus parachutes from a helicopter onto the deck of the USS Midway!

Two days until Christmas!

Over the years, Santa Claus has been sighted countless times around San Diego. And I’ve captured (or received) some fun photographs of jolly old Saint Nick!

I’ve seen Santa jumping from a helicopter, flying above San Diego Bay using a water jetpack, in holiday parades, and, of course, magically granting Christmas wishes to good boys and girls.

Please enjoy this happy collection of Santa photos!

Santa and Mrs. Claus read a joyful story during Christmas on the Prado in Balboa Park.
Santa and Mrs. Claus ride a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer, during the Mother Goose Parade in El Cajon.
Jolly old Santa makes somebody laugh in front of Balboa Park’s Federal Building. Are those two guys naughty or nice?
Surfing Santa arrives at Seaport Village by flying a water jetpack.
Multiple bearded Santas at the Over-the-Line tournament on Fiesta Island. They encourage everyone to eat healthy! (Photo courtesy Bill Swank.)
Santa and Mrs. Claus smile for a photo during a Toys for Tots charity event on Navy Pier.
There’s Santa once again at Seaport Village! Looks like I took this photo during the summer of the MLB All-Star Game in San Diego.
Mrs. Claus poses with Santa during Christmas on the Prado. But he doesn’t appear like the real Santa to me.
Santa Claus waves from a fire truck during the North Park Toyland Parade.
Social Distance Santa waves at passing cars during Taste of December Nights in 2020. (Photo courtesy Bill Swank.)
Santa in Balboa Park once again. Like everyone else in San Diego, he must love the place.
And there’s Santa again! He’s now at the International Cottages in Balboa Park.
A smiling Santa Claus helps warm an elf nose during Christmas on the Prado. (Photo courtesy Bill Swank.)
Santa Claus brings joy to the brightly lit Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Christmas magic during December Nights in Balboa Park!

I wish everyone Happy Holidays!

I plan to take a little time off from blogging this week and next, just to relax and enjoy the season. But I’ll continue to walk, weather permitting, and take photos!

When I return in the New Year, be ready for many more Cool San Diego Sights!

Take care!


The storytelling blocks of artist James Watts!

One of the most wonderfully creative artists in San Diego has a little-known studio downtown. His name is James Watts.

I blogged about my first visit to his amazing studio several years ago here.

Today I was walking home after a long adventure (many blogs coming up) when I saw his studio door was open. And there he was working away! Hammering at flat pieces of printed aluminum, making colorful storytelling blocks!

What are storytelling blocks? They feature images from human experience on different sides–such as night on one side and day on the other. You can flip them any which way, then insert them into a wooden box with fixed compartments! These visual stories are like small treasures or keepsakes. Dreamlike, they are open to interpretation.

He also showed me his Box of Yes and No (that uses words from different languages and a couple of eyeballs) and a shelf full of storytelling cubes. Plus lots of other cool artwork!

His fantastic Frankenstein monster that debuted earlier this year is so cool it’s coming up separately on my next blog post!

I love the unlimited energy and joy of life that flows from James Watts’ hands. His art is primarily about storytelling. His studio is also filled with large sculptures based on Japanese kokeshi. The sculptures creatively depict Don Quixote, Prometheus, Jonah, Pandora, Joan of Arc, and a whole host of diverse characters from literature.

He told me some of his storytelling pieces will be in a future exhibition at the Oceanside Museum of Art. So you might be getting a little bit of a preview 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!

Joy on a Mission Bay bench.

There’s a bench on Mission Bay where one can find joy. It’s located on the mostly quiet pathway of South Shores Park, by a small beach directly south of Fiesta Island.

There is water and sky, sunshine, a pleasant breeze. And a plaque…






Sit a while on this bench, resume your journey down the path, and you will still be here.

That joy will remain with you.

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!

San Diego’s joyful Reopening Celebration Concert!

This evening San Diego is celebrating the reopening of our city after the long, very difficult lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. An epic Reopening Celebration Concert is underway at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park even as I type this!

I watched for about an hour and a half, while there was ample light to take photographs. What I saw on the stage was pure joy. Love of life.

Before the concert began, everyone in the audience grabbed a free ice cream treat courtesy of Forever Balboa Park (the recent merger of two organizations: Friends of Balboa Park and the Balboa Park Conservancy).

Then here came the first performance!

The Enchanted Tail was an operatic fairy tale for kids, by the awesome group Opera4Kids. The sweet, very funny opera featured a woodsman turned into a fox by a wicked witch, a lost voice, a crown, a cunning princess under a sleeping spell–and how a potentially tragic conflict is resolved happily through self-sacrifice and mutual compassion.

Then here came the San Diego Youth Ballet!

Then, to rousing cheers, here came Balboa Park’s own amazing, super energetic dance group, San Diego Civic Dance Arts!

After a wardrobe change, the group danced to Queen’s rock and roll classic Bohemian Rhapsody, played on the Spreckels Organ by San Diego Civic Organist Raul Prieto Ramírez!

A triumphant performance!

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!

The pure joy of Naruwan Taiko!

Pure joy.

Take a look at the faces of Naruwan Taiko. The San Diego taiko group performed yesterday afternoon in City Heights at Music en la Calle.

Imagine listening to these drums beating in unison. They shake you to the core with their thundering unabashed joy.

The unstoppable beats transmit a resounding Love of Life.

Diana, founder and director of the taiko group, wrote the final piece. It slowly rose, gained energy, soared. As it soared each member of Naruwan Taiko took a turn with their own unique drumming.

Diana explained how taiko awakens something big within you.

That big thing sounds like a heartbeat.

If you want to wear a smile that big, and get a good workout, too, why not join Naruwan Taiko? Here’s their website!

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!

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