Augmented reality outside the Museum of Art!

The San Diego Museum of Art recently installed a unique new outdoor exhibit in Balboa Park’s central Plaza de Panama. The surprising exhibit is titled Augmented Reality al Fresco. Using your cell phone, you can bring seven works of fine art to life with augmented reality!

Download the SDMA app, select the AR feature, point your phone’s camera at any of the displayed artwork reproductions and suddenly they begin to move!

A painting of the Molo in Venice, Italy by Bernardo Bellotto suddenly comes to life! Gondolas drift dreamily across the water, and flocks of birds rise among moving clouds!

Kilauea Calder, Sandwich Islands, by artist Jules Tavernier, begins to bubble and fume! Lava erupts! My San Diego Museum of Art docent friend showed me how the painting comes to life a couple years ago inside the museum. This innovative use of augmented reality is very cool!

Most of Balboa Park’s museums have closed again due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a little culture–with an unexpected and delightful twist! Walk toward the Museum of Art’s front entrance and turn left. Then pull out your phone for a unique experience!

Now that most of Balboa Park’s museums have been forced to close their indoor galleries again, you can help them survive this difficult COVID-19 situation with a generous donation.

Earlier this year, I posted links to the donation pages of Balboa Park’s museums 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!

Starlight Bowl in Balboa Park unveils new plan!

A performance in the Ford Bowl (now the Starlight Bowl) during the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition in Balboa Park. No known copyright restrictions image from Flickr.
A performance in the Ford Bowl (now the Starlight Bowl) during the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition in Balboa Park.

I just learned that the Starlight Bowl in Balboa Park has announced big plans for their future!

The long-hoped-for renovation of Starlight is now moving ahead! You can see the phased plan, including several renderings, by visiting their website page concerning the project here.

The visionary plan includes multiple stages, enhanced seating, a concession stand with healthier food offerings, and a digital media center that will be used by students across the county. As they explain: “Our goal is to empower students with an interest in the creative arts. Through seminars and a hands-on experience with state-of-the-art technology, students gain the tools they need to pursue a future utilizing multimedia arts, and have the opportunity to connect with Balboa Park.”

I personally have very fond memories of the Starlight Bowl, which I’ve mentioned in the past. I remember that as a young man my family and I watched performances under the San Diego stars of several plays, including Kiss Me, Kate and The Pirates of Penzance. But that was decades ago, long before the San Diego Civic Light Opera went belly up in 2011.

For many years this large historic amphitheater in the Palisades area of Balboa Park has gone unused. Occasionally groups of volunteers have assembled to pull weeds between rows of seats.

Not only is the entire South Palisades area presently receiving a major upgrade (a new pedestrian plaza, the coming Comic-Con Museum and a beautified Automotive Museum with fantastic murals), but it appears that the Starlight Bowl is now set to enjoy a very bright and vibrant future!

Check out their amazing plans and perhaps become involved 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!

Monument in Otay Mesa to aviation pioneer Montgomery.

It seems few in San Diego know of the historically important hill in Otay Mesa West. From the top of this hill, which overlooks San Diego’s South Bay cities, aviation pioneer John J. Montgomery made the world’s first “controlled” winged glider flights in the late 19th century.

A monument to Montgomery’s achievements stands on the hilltop in the form of a vertical aircraft wing, erected in 1950. Words engraved on a black marble tablet near the wing include:

JOHN J. MONTGOMERY MADE MAN’S FIRST CONTROLLED WINGED FLIGHTS FROM THIS HILLTOP IN AUGUST 1883

HE OPENED FOR ALL MANKIND THE GREAT HIGHWAY OF THE SKY

Erected by the San Diego Junior Chamber of Commerce Montgomery Memorial Committee. Dedicated May 21, 1950

When I researched the early heavier-than-air flights of Montgomery, I noticed there’s a lot of debate about who in the world actually achieved various flying firsts. Some historians assert he made the world’s first “controlled” glider flights. Such as here. “Montgomery should be credited for the invention and demonstration of the 1st controlled glider flight, and patented hinged surfaces at the rear of the wing and a patent for the parabolic wing…

According to Wikipedia: “In the early 1880s Montgomery began studying the anatomy of a variety of large soaring birds to determine their basic characteristics, like wing area, total weight and curved surfaces. He made detailed observations of birds in flight, especially large soaring birds such as eagles, hawks, vultures and pelicans which soared on thermals near San Diego Bay…In the 1880s Montgomery…made manned flight experiments in a series of gliders in the United States in Otay Mesa near San Diego, California. Although not publicized in the 1880s, these early flights were first described by Montgomery as part of a lecture delivered at the International Conference on Aerial Navigation at Chicago, 1893. These independent advances came after gliding flights by European pioneers such as George Cayley’s coachman in England (1853) and Jean-Marie Le Bris in France (1856). Although Montgomery never claimed firsts, his gliding experiments of the 1880s are considered by some historians and organizations to have been the first controlled flights of a heavier-than-air flying machine in America or in the Western Hemisphere, depending on source.

Today, the Montgomery Memorial‘s 93-foot airplane wing juts vertically into the sky at Montgomery-Waller Community Park, which is located at the northeast corner of Coronado Avenue and Beyer Boulevard in Otay Mesa West. The silver wing is from a World War II Consolidated Aircraft B-32 Dominator heavy bomber. It’s an impressive albeit somewhat peculiar reminder of how aviation technology continues to progress.

Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in San Diego, one of the busiest airports in the United States for small aircraft, was once called Montgomery Field, named after the aviation pioneer.

When humans eventually land on Mars, and spread outward into the Solar System, it should be remembered that we made one of our first flights from a hilltop in San Diego.

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

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Riding the world’s first outdoor glass elevator!

If you’re familiar with the history of the El Cortez in downtown San Diego, you probably know it featured the world’s very first outdoor glass elevator. (Although I’ve also seen information that says it was the first such elevator in the United States, second in the world.)

Based on an idea suggested by a hotel bellboy, an outdoor glass elevator, called the Starlight Express, was installed in 1956 on the side of the El Cortez Hotel, then the highest building in San Diego. People from all around Southern California would converge on the elegant hotel to be swept dizzily skyward to the chic Starlight Room restaurant on the twelfth floor.

Today I came across a black and white 1956 newsreel that has been released by Universal City Studios into the public domain. It shows thrilled passengers going up and down what was then the brand new, incredible, jaw-dropping Starlight Express!

Check out the “futuristic” costume (uniform?) of the smiling elevator operator! And check out how downtown San Diego appeared in the 1950s. A bit different than today, right?

I snipped sequential images from the old newsreel so you can enjoy a fun look!

By the way, the El Cortez Hotel also featured the world’s first moving sidewalk! You know–the sort of thing you might stand on in an airport terminal or at an amusement park. It was called the Travolator. Both the Starlight Express and Travolator were removed many years ago.

Read much more about the El Cortez and its extraordinary history in this detailed Wikipedia article. Among other things, you’ll learn how this Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style landmark was built on property once owned by a son of President Ulysses S. Grant, how a third of San Diego’s population showed up for the hotel’s opening day, and how it had an anti-aircraft battery on its roof during World War II!

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 visit to the California Surf Museum!

On Saturday I enjoyed my first ever visit to the California Surf Museum in Oceanside.

This one-of-a-kind museum might be small, but WOW! Every inch of it is packed with cool exhibits that celebrate the history, art and technology of surfing!

I found myself deeply fascinated by everything I saw. Even though I’m not a surfer!

Most notable was the museum’s incredible array of historic surfboards, many of which are true works of art.

I could easily see why so many people love surf culture. I could see the poetry and the physical joy of surfing and its spiritual quality. I asked the friendly docent what he liked most about surfing, and he said it was being in the moment. Forgetting unimportant things, riding a wave, feeling alive.

If you are the least bit fascinated by this sport or the Southern California beach scene, definitely visit the California Surf Museum. To give you an idea of what you might see, check out my photographs, and read the captions!

Numerous exhibits fill the small but very cool California Surf Museum in Oceanside.
Numerous exhibits fill the small but very cool California Surf Museum in Oceanside.
One exhibit details the Anatomy of a Wave.
One exhibit details the Anatomy of a Wave.
A gun surfboard made of layered agave wood, created by local surfing and shaping legend Gary Linden.
A gun surfboard made of layered agave wood, created by local surfing and shaping legend Gary Linden.
Asymmetrical redwood surfboard made from the wood of a large wine barrel, created by Carl Ekstrom.
Asymmetrical redwood surfboard made from the wood of a large wine barrel, created by Carl Ekstrom.
Display case holds 1946 California Surfriders book by Doc Ball, his wood waterbox camera for surf photography, and the 1928 Tom Blake Perpetual Trophy.
Display case holds 1946 California Surfriders book by Doc Ball, his wood waterbox camera for surf photography, and the 1928 Tom Blake Perpetual Trophy.
Another exhibit celebrates the boogie board, invented by Tom Morey in 1971, and explores its history.
Another exhibit celebrates the boogie board, invented by Tom Morey in 1971, and explores its history.
Plastic Fantastic rounded pin surfboard, with cool artwork by Randall Kraemer.
Plastic Fantastic rounded pin surfboard, with cool artwork by Randall Kraemer.
A special, inspirational exhibit celebrates Bethany Hamilton, champion surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack.
A special, inspirational exhibit celebrates Bethany Hamilton, champion surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack. You can see her surfboard with a chunk missing.
Bethany Hamilton's inspiring story was told in the movie Soul Surfer. She has won multiple competitions after losing her left arm in a 2003 shark attack.
Bethany Hamilton’s inspiring story was told in the movie Soul Surfer. She has won multiple competitions after losing her left arm in a 2003 shark attack.
A very unique hydrofoil for kneeboard surfing, designed by oceanographer Dr. Tareah "Terry" Hendricks. A plaque in his honor can be found at Swami's in Encinitas.
A very unique hydrofoil for kneeboard surfing, designed by oceanographer Dr. Tareah “Terry” Hendricks. A plaque in his honor can be found at Swami’s in Encinitas.
Circa 1910 early California alaia made of Sugar Pine, built by Ralph Noisat. One of the oldest documented boards in the mainland United States.
Circa 1910 early California alaia made of Sugar Pine, built by Ralph Noisat. One of the oldest documented boards in the mainland United States.
Surfing toys, games and pop culture imagery in a display case at the California Surf Museum.
Toys, games, comic books and pop culture artifacts celebrate surfing in a display case at the California Surf Museum.
A museum display memorializes local surfers who've passed on.
A museum display memorializes local surfers who’ve passed on.
Various bodysurfing handplanes.
Various bodysurfing handplanes.
A cool art exhibit titled Abstractions in Symmetry by Russell Spencer features photographs created using light and rotating surfboard fins.
A cool surf art exhibit titled Abstractions in Symmetry by Russell Spencer features photographs created using light and rotating surfboard fins.
A redwood surfboard by Francis Todd II and Mary Krahn pays tribute to popular Southern California surfing destination Encinitas.
A redwood surfboard by Francis Todd II and Mary Krahn pays tribute to popular Southern California surfing destination Encinitas.
A small slice of heaven for surfing enthusiasts!

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!

The cool UC San Diego Solar Chill!

Here’s something cool that I discovered today during my walk through UC San Diego!

This tree-like, sculpture-like, raised solar panel thingy is called the UC San Diego Solar Chill. It stands next to Scholars Drive North directly across from the Rady School of Management building.

As you can see from the sign, Solar Chill was designed by UCSD students who call themselves Engineers for a Sustainable World. It’s an off-the-grid charging station that’s perfect for both stressed students and their electrical devices! Anyone can recharge while sitting on one of the nearby benches, and simply chill!

A great idea! Renewable solar energy, plus a sunny outdoor gathering place where students might set their phones and laptops down for a few minutes and perhaps talk eye to eye with each other!

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!

Amish in San Diego, postcards, and Mexico.

I learned something interesting yesterday.

I was downtown inside the Santa Fe Depot, waiting at the train station’s kiosk for my microwaved chicken burrito, when I noticed a stand containing postcards. I wondered, in this digital age of ubiquitous cell phone cameras, where anyone can instantly post photos to social media, who would buy postcards? I asked and received a surprising reply. Amish tourists love postcards!

Which makes sense. The Amish tend to live much more simple lives, remaining largely “in the past” and shunning many of the conveniences of modern technology. And it seems to me that in some respects this might be wise. Less distraction. More eye to eye human contact.

I’ve often wondered why I sometimes see Amish folk walking around downtown San Diego, gazing about in wonder at the tall buildings and hustle and bustle around them. It seems a very odd place for these people to be. One thinks of the Amish driving pony carts in the rural Midwest or Northeast, not walking about urban California in the extreme southwestern corner of the United States.

I was told by my friend at the kiosk that the Amish come to San Diego to seek medical treatments in Mexico. I did an internet search and found this page with some explanation.

I asked my friend what Amish “tourists” were like. He explained they tend to be very quiet, but if you initiate a conversation they are surprisingly friendly and open, and in many respects much like you or me.

Next time I see these plain-dressed folk walking about, I think I’ll smile and say hello.

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!

On The Map airport mural and aviation history.

Mural visible from Harbor Drive at San Diego International Airport.
Mural visible from Harbor Drive at San Diego International Airport.

Have you wondered about the large new colorful mural that was painted last year at San Diego International Airport? You know, that mural showing a guy in an old-fashioned hat holding a steering wheel, which is visible as you head up Harbor Drive?

The title of this impressive public art is On The Map, and it’s a tribute to the rich aviation history of San Diego. The design was created by Jari “WERC” Alvarez, the same artist who created the SAN mural at the same location in 2014. You can see a photo of that previous mural in one of my old blog posts here.

On The Map is the second of a three mural commission, and will be on display through 2022. The map-like artwork of Jari Alvarez incorporates images that pay tribute to San Diego aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss and early stunt pilot Lincoln Beachey. It also honors female flyers and engineers during the course of aviation history.

Early in the 20th century, before World War I, Glenn Curtiss operated a flying school on Coronado across San Diego Bay. His groundbreaking school was instrumental in making North Island the Birthplace of Naval Aviation.

Lincoln Beachey was a pioneer aviator and barnstormer, who broke world flying records and invented many daring aerial maneuvers. He was called by many The World’s Greatest Aviator.

You might remember that years ago the same building (now the administrative offices of the San Diego Airport Authority, once the commuter terminal) was home to a mural showing Charles Lindbergh holding a small model of his famous airplane Spirit of St. Louis. Before its historic 1927 transatlantic flight, the Spirit of St. Louis was built in San Diego by Ryan Airlines, near where the airport stands today.

San Diego’s deep links to aviation history are just another fascinating aspect of America’s Finest City!

On The Map, a tribute to the rich aviation history of San Diego, by muralist Jari “WERC” Alvarez.
On The Map, a tribute to the rich aviation history of San Diego, by muralist Jari “WERC” Alvarez.

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!

Amazing desktop wallpapers of San Diego!

An amazing photograph of Balboa Park, perfect for your computer desktop wallpaper, provided by the San Diego Tourism Authority.
A breathtaking photo of Balboa Park, perfect for your desktop computer wallpaper, courtesy of the San Diego Tourism Authority.

I just made the above photograph the wallpaper background on my desktop home computer. It’s one of seven stunning images that were made available today by the San Diego Tourism Authority. I learned about it because I subscribe to their email list.

The amazing photos were sized to be used as Zoom video communication virtual backgrounds, but the high quality .jpg images also work perfectly as wallpaper on a computer.

Anyone can freely download beautiful images of Balboa Park, Torrey Pines, Cabrillo National Monument and Windansea.

To download these wallpapers, visit the San Diego Tourism blog by clicking here!

Another recent post links to amazing virtual experiences from around San Diego, including many of the city’s most popular attractions. You can access live webcams at the San Diego Zoo and the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, go on a virtual tour of the USS Midway aircraft carrier and the San Diego Museum of Art, listen to world-class music by the San Diego Symphony, view clips from some of the Old Globe’s famous productions, and much more.

To check out these virtual San Diego experiences, click here!

Very cool, indeed!

Oil paintings of the iconic California Tower.

The California Tower in Balboa Park is probably the most iconic sight in all of San Diego. I’ve photographed it many, many times.

Built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, the 198 feet tall bell tower, a combination of various architectural styles, rises from the similarly ornate California Building, which is presently home to the Museum of Man. The California Tower invites those who love beauty to come visit one of the most amazing public parks in the entire world.

I’ve taken so many photos of the California Tower over the years, from different angles and during different occasions, that I thought I might have a little fun. Using the GIMP graphic software’s Oilify filter, I’ve transformed some of my images into digital oil paintings!

Here they are!

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!