Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Yo Adrian!

Did you know that Balboa Park - in beautiful San Diego, CA - is the largest urban cultural park in the nation, and one of the oldest spaces dedicated to public recreational use? Yep, 1400 acres of land was first set aside in 1835 and dubbed "City Park". It remained completely without landscaping or development until 1892. That is when a landscape architect and botanist named Kate Sessions offered to donate 100 trees per year to the park in exchange for 32 acres upon which to put her nursery. The city wisely agreed and the transformation of the park was set into motion. By 1915 the park had assumed much of the look it has today, and was set to host the Panama Exposition. But the name "City Park" was less than inspiring for a "world stage" event and, after a completion, was renamed "Balboa Park". And just FYI, it was not named after the underdog fighter from Philadelphia made famous by the Rocky movies. It was in fact named in honor of the Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa, who was the first European to spot the Pacific Ocean. That little tidbit is free of charge, and will save you the embarrassment it cost me in discovering it.

Today, Balboa Park totals 1200 acres and is home to 15 museums, multiple performing arts venues, extensive gardens, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. You could probably spend your entire vacation at Balboa Park, and still not see it all. I suggest starting with the zoo. If you are old enough to remember The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (Hi-yo!), you'll recall the frequent visits by the zoo's Joan Emberey and her furry friends (the bit with the laughing baby orangutan is about the funniest thing I've ever seen on TV). Today its 100 acres is home to over 4,000 rare and endangered animals and a collection of more than 700,000 exotic plants. I wonder if that orangutan from the Carson show is still here? They live about 50 years in captivity, so it's possible. I'll tell you one thing: the older they get, the cuter they 'aint. Although, they could say the same about us.

But if you're like me, and let's hope you're not, you'll have to hit the San Diego Model Railroad Museum. It is among the world's largest indoor displays of railroad models, and the only accredited railroad-themed museum in the country; 27,000 square feet of HO- and N-scale bliss. And if that last sentence doesn't mean anything to you, all I can say is check this place out and get back to me. Old and young alike will be mesmerized by the miniature worlds found within these walls. At only $7 (kids under 15 are free), it's a bargain to boot - unless of course you have a little problem with compulsively buying more and more trains, to the point where your spouse has threatened to put you out of the house and your kids stop visiting. In that case, you might want to just pass this one by. I'm just sayin'.

My timeshare rental at the Gaslamp Plaza Suites puts me right in the heart of this vibrant city, and very close to Balboa Park. Being a downtown location, the units here are smaller than some other timeshare resorts, but way bigger (and nicer) than a typical hotel. My unit is a 1-bedroom/1-bathroom that sleeps 4, and has amazing views of the city (I think I can see that monkey from here). Plus, there is a free continental breakfast served on the rooftop, fine dining at the Dakota Restaurant, and night club entertainment at Club 66, all onsite. It's no wonder RedWeek members give this place 4.5 stars.

Well, I am off the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater production of "The Three Pigs and Other Funny Stories". Sure Balboa Park is home to Tony Award-winning musicals, world-renowned Shakespeare, and even one of the world's largest outdoor pipe organs, but for my money (which is not much), there is nothing like a good puppet show, especially the "Three Little Pigs". Let's just hope this isn't one of those PC-productions where the first two pigs escape to the third pig's house after the wolf destroys theirs. The moral of the story is to do your best, or pay the consequences, and the wolf totally made prosciutto out of those two.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for visiting my home town, Seymour. Yes - you absolutely could spend your ENTIRE vacation just at Balboa Park there is that much to do.
    We just visited the zoo last weekend and there is a mini train out front you can ride if you are a train lover. My kids LOVE that model railroad museum, so, it is definitely a must see. I didn't realize it was one of the world's largest, so, I'm pretty lucky to live here I guess. Enjoy your stay!