Out and About

600 Family Things to Do by Neighborhood

Be sure to check out the "uber" popular section, "Annual Events by Season," to search for things to do during a specific time of year. This is perfect when you're trying to make plans for school vacations or when Grandma comes to visit!
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North County Inland

San Diego Coastal

San Diego Uptown/Downtown

San Diego Central

Balboa Park    

East County

South Bay

Annual Events by Season

Parent's Night Out/Kids' Night Out

 

Updated: June 2016

 

 

 

 

Neighborhood Spotlight: National City

Chairs set out on the deck at pier 32 in National City.

Nestled between downtown San Diego and the U.S.-Mexico border, National City’s rich history and bayside landscape offer families a wealth of fun explorations. An excursion to San Diego’s second oldest community reveals a new waterfront marina, beautiful parks, interesting historical sites and architecture, and a surprisingly diverse dining scene. Don’t miss this often-overlooked gem!

Brick House in National City.

Brick Row on Heritage Square
History buffs enjoy visiting the renovated Heritage Square and Brick Row’s quaint Victorian-era houses, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s also a fun area to relax and explore cute shops, such as the hat shop, Hannah Lee’s Teahouse, a photo gallery and the Kimball Museum.
909 A Ave.

John's Incredible Pizza
Experience all-you-can-eat food and fun at this kid-favorite destination! Pizza and buffet-style dining offers something for everyone; an exciting game room hosts over 100 games, rides and attractions; and themed dining rooms provide a comfortable, personalized ambiance of your choosing.
3010 Plaza Bonita Rd.

Mariachi in National City.

Annual Mariachi Festival & Competition
A family-friendly event held every March, featuring live music and dancing from Mariachi groups based in the United States and Mexico.

Napoleone's Pizza House
Old-fashioned specialty pizza and pasta lovers, this one’s for you. For decades, this family-owned and operated establishment has offered casual, fun dining at moderate prices. Happy hour options and kids’ menu are available.
619 National City Blvd.

National City Depot Museum
Young train enthusiasts love visiting the oldest railroad-related structure in San Diego. Historically, the first local terminus of transcontinental travel; however, kids will simply love the model trains. Bring yours from home to run on the tracks! Open Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Corner of Bay Marina Dr. and Marina Way

Niederfrank's Ice Cream
This fabulous, all-natural ice creamery delights aficionados with dozens of decadent flavors. Some are even infused with local craft brews! Everything is made on-site, using “the most antique inefficient, outdated and expensive” methods in the world. The results? Homemade deliciousness.
726 A Ave.

Olivewood Gardens is a beutiful place to visit in National City.

Olivewood Gardens & Learning Center
Offering science-based, hands-on classes in gardening and cooking, this nonprofit organization works closely with National City’s school district to build healthy families and a healthy environment. To explore this organic garden and historic home, check the online calendar for public tours, open houses and weekend workshops.
2525 N Ave.

Pepper Park
Explore bay views, enjoy a picnic, relax while the kids climb the play structure, or cast a line from the fishing pier (night lighting available for a unique experience!) at this recently developed, 5 1/2 acre waterfront park, located along Sweetwater Channel.
3299 Tidelands Ave

Steal and Escape
Need some bonding time with your teens? This fun activity, offered to families with kids ages 13+, challenges small groups to work together and solve various puzzles, clues and riddles. Ultimately, the goal is to solve the mystery and “escape” the room within 60 minutes.
2602 Transportation Ave., Ste. B

Stein Family Farm
On the active Stein Family Farm, kids love meeting Petunia the Pig, bunnies, chickens and more. Visit the museum, Victorian farmhouse and historic barn; plant or harvest heirloom vegetables; and learn about organic, agricultural practices from the rural 1900–1920s. Open Saturdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
1808 F Ave.

Tita's Kitchenette
Rich flavors, huge portions and low prices make this a go-to destination for authentic, Filipino food. It was even featured on an episode of the Travel Channel’s Bizzare Foods! Be prepared to wait in line at this popular spot; cash only.
2720 E Plaza Blvd.


Lisa Pawlak is a contributing writer and Encinitas resident.


Published March 2017



Enjoy the Night Sky Stargazing at Palomar College Planetarium

The Planetarium at Palomar College offers the opportunity for fun and education about the stars.

Enjoy stargazing in San Diego with your family at the Palomar College Planetarium located approximately 30 minutes north of Downtown.

With its state-of-the-art digital technology, 50-foot Astrotec dome and 138-seat theater, the planetarium presents weekly Friday shows recreating the night sky and renewing that childhood sense of wonder in exploring the universe.

The first presentation of the evening, “The Sky Tonight,” is a live narrated show that highlights prominent objects visible from San Diego skies. As the lights dim, you can hear the “oohs” and “aahs” as the dome’s roof seemingly rolls back to expose the night’s sky. The narrator takes you on a tour of the current night sky exploring visible planets, clusters, constellation patterns and their mythology. You can practically feel your stomach drop from the gravitational pull as celestial bodies swirl past your seat.

The second show is a professionally produced Hollywood-quality feature that uses the entire dome of the digital theater to create an immersive and engaging experience. These productions explore astronomical topics that are educational and entertaining to kids of all ages.

Following the shows, you are invited to enjoy the real thing on the patio using high-powered telescopes provided by the planetarium. You can also bring your own and get expert help in finding your favorite stars and constellations.

“The best time of year to view the night sky is always the summertime,” says Mark Lane, director of the planetarium. “This is partly because the nights are warm and it’s easy to sit outside and enjoy the stars, but summertime is when the Milky Way looks its best. The Milky Way is visible all year long, but during the summer when the Earth is in its orbit at night, we face the center of the Milky Way, so it is most dramatic across the sky.”

As part of its outreach mission, the planetarium hosts local K-12 school groups each Tuesday and Thursday. “The kids are full of energy,” says Lane. “They want to learn. All at once there are a dozen hands in the air asking about the big bang theory, black holes and what happens when galaxies merge together.”

You can also support the planetarium by joining the Friends of the Planetarium organization. Members can participate in exclusive activities and enjoy perks at the public shows.

Stargazing at the planetarium is a fun, affordable and informative evening for your family (ages 5 and up). You’ll be inspired to camp out in your own backyard and watch this summer’s meteor showers. Best of all, you’ll rediscover the wonders of the night sky with your family.



Astronomy Fun for Families

Palomar College Planetarium
1140 West Mission Rd., San Marcos
760-744-1150 x2833
www.palomar.edu/planetarium

Planetarium Shows at Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
1875 El Prado, Balboa Park
619-238-1233
www.rhfleet.org/events/sky-tonight

Stargazing at Mission Trails Regional Park
619-668-3281
www.sdaa.org

Tours of the Palomar Observatory
760-742-2119
www.astro.caltech.edu/palomar






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Maureen Hudson is a freelance writer living in Vista.

Updated: May 2016




Get to Know the Little Free Library

Chances are, you’ve seen a Little Free Library in your neighborhood. It would be easy to mistake one for an elaborate birdhouse, if it weren’t for the crop of books tucked inside. These small wooden boxes are usually posted outdoors, and painted in a whimsical style. The concept is delightfully simple—leave a book, or take a book. The exchange is completely free. Visit www.littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap to locate 50,000 Little Free Libraries (LFL) worldwide, including more than 150 in San Diego County.Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing access to books and fostering connections between neighbors. Their goal is to double the number of libraries to 100,000 by the end of 2017.
Little Free Libraries in San Diego
Margaret's Little Free Library in La Mesa

How it Works
LFL, at its core, is a community-building endeavor. Libraries work best when neighbors come together to share high quality materials. The better the contributions, the more successful the library. Participants leave a book when they can, take a book when they please, and return books whenever they get the chance. It’s also perfectly acceptable to keep a book. The library operates on the honor system, and relies on neighbors using the library the way they’d like others to use it. Hopefully, donating as often as they take a book, and sharing desirable titles.

Finding Children’s Titles
There’s no way to know exactly what you’ll find inside your local Little Free Library, and that’s part of the fun! If you discover your neighborhood LFL lacks children’s material, encourage your kids to donate a few books they love, and see if that sparks an age-appropriate exchange. Remember, the LFL is only as good as the community makes it. You should donate the type and quality of materials you wish others to donate. Invite your neighbors to do the same.Search the online map for Little Free Libraries located on school grounds. They should be well stocked with children’s books. The map will also indicate who takes care of each library. Libraries maintained by scout troops and children’s organizations are likely to contain appropriate titles. Happy hunting!

Ready to Start Your Own Little Free Library?
“Anyone can participate, though it involves making or buying the library,” says La Mesa resident, Margaret Pesce, who became a LFL steward three years ago. Pesce is a book lover, who started her library to encourage neighborhood camaraderie. She reports that her library has been well utilized, especially by local children.Once construction is complete, a steward can visit the official Little Free Library website to register. A small fee is assessed, and the nonprofit sends an engraved sign with the library’s official charter number. If desired, the library can be added to the world map with a photo and a brief description. From there, it’s all about encouraging community engagement. Pesce hosted an open house to kick-off her library, and has seen many books passed along since then. And it’s not just locals who’ve stopped by. “I had a wonderful surprise one day,” she says. “A visitor from Canada left me a sweet note!”

Give Back
Is your group looking for a service project? Consider hosting a book drive to stock local Little Free Libraries with kids’ titles. Every community can benefit from more books in the hands of children.

Anne Malinoski is a freelance writer and mother of two boys. Her favorite reads include classic novels by John Steinbeck and contemporary fiction by Lauren Groff.
Visit San Diego Family’s Little Free Library board on Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/sandiegofamily

 

Published June 2017

 

 

Neighborhood Spotlight: Little Italy

The sign in little Italy, San Diego.

San Diego’s Little Italy is a lively area filled with rich culture, authentic Italian eateries, festive markets and piazzas, public art displays and galleries, and family-friendly events.
This district, founded in the 1920s, has evolved from an immigrant community developed around the tuna fishing industry, into today’s thriving urban neighborhood. In Little Italy families can enjoy gelato, play around European-style fountains, discover Waterfront Park and participate in seasonal events, such as the Annual Tree Lighting and Christmas Village in December.
Here are fun family-friendly things to do and places to eat when visiting Little Italy.


Tree in Little Italy.

Annual Tree Lighting & Christmas Village
Every December
Deck the halls with this magical, annual holiday event! Buone Feste!
www.littleitalysd.com/events/little-italy-tree-lighting


DISCOVER

Firehouse Museum
The former home of San Diego Fire Station No. 6 now displays a wealth of firefighting memorabilia, dating back to the late 1800s. Exhibits include La Jolla’s first fire engine, a horse drawn steamer and a piece of the World Trade Center. Closed Mon-Wed.
1572 Columbia St.
www.sandiegofirehousemuseum.com

History of Little Italy Tour
To learn about the neighborhood’s rich history, download the free Little Italy San Diego App to take a kid-friendly, video-guided tour. Kids will follow Danny Boy, an animated mascot, and enjoy videos, photos, augmented reality, games and quizzes. Parents can opt for the adult tour version.
www.littleitalysd.com/about/little-italy-san-diego-mobile-app


Farmers market in Little Italy.
Little Italy Mercato Farmers’ Market
Soak in the ambiance of this lively farmers’ market as you stroll through a huge selection of fresh farm produce, meats and seafood, flowers and plants, live music, crafts and more. It’s a kid-pleaser; corner musicians will even invite them over to dance! Held every Saturday, rain-or-shine, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
W. Cedar St. from Kettner Blvd. to Front St.
www.littleitalysd.com/events/mercato

Piazza della Famiglia
Coming Spring 2017! A new, central community gathering space, destined to become the heart of Little Italy, is currently under development. The 10,000 sq.ft. European-style piazza will offer shops, restaurants, markets, concerts, community events and more!
W. Date St. between India and Columbia
www.littleitalysd.com/explore/piazza-della-famiglia


PLAY

Piazza Basilone
Enjoy fantastic views, hang around the fountain, and relax to simply watch the world around you. This urban plaza, located in the center of Little Italy, is dedicated to John Basilone, U.S. Marine Gunnery Sergeant and Medal of Honor recipient.
Corner of Fir St. and India St.
www.littleitalysd.com/explore/piazza-basilone

San Diego County Waterfront Park
Kids have a “splash” playing in the interactive fountains and climbing on modern play structures of this park, located just a couple blocks from Little Italy. With lots of green spaces and beautiful views, it’s a great spot for families to take a picnic or spend a few hours.
1600 Pacific Highway
www.sdparks.org/content/sdparks/en/park-pages/Waterfront.html


EAT

Filippi’s Pizza Grotto
This authentic, family-owned and operated Italian eatery has been around since the mid-century, with no shortage of old school charm. Serves pizzas, pastas, salads and traditional recipes. Buon appetito!
1747 India St.
www.realcheesepizza.com

Crack Shack
If gourmet free-range fried chicken is your thing, stop at this fun outdoor restaurant for a chicken sandwich or salad in a casual, family-friendly setting. Everyone will love the tasty menu, pleasant patio dining, bocce ball court and giant chicken sculpture.
2266 Kettner Blvd.
www.crack-shack.com


INDULGE

Gelato is the best for this boy in little italy.iDessert
Create a delicious, customized gelato treat at one of iDessert’s iPad stations and it will be delivered in minutes! Don’t miss this fun, kid-friendly outing. Dairy-free options available.
1608 India St.
www.idessert.com

Pappalecco
A local favorite for freshly made, hand crafted, artisan developed, traditional Tuscan gelato (and pastries!). Need we say more?
1602 State St.
www.pappalecco.com



Lisa Pawlak is an award-winning contributing writer and Encinitas resident.



Published December 2016



Biking with Kids in San Diego

Riding bikes is a great exercise.

Riding bikes is a perfect family activity, especially in San Diego where the weather is awesome and there’s a plethora of family-friendly bike trails and resources for beginners.

Benefits

Bike riding provides a healthy dose of physical activity and it’s fun quality time with family. Biking helps kids grow strong and learn balance, and is an easy way for them to stay active all summer, which is critical for their health and wellness.

Know Before You Go

Know your kids' fitness levels before heading out and plan accordingly. Watch for signs of fatigue and know when it’s time to stop. Plan your turnaround point ahead of time and consider a “plan B" (like a car parked at a trail midpoint) in case your crew gets tired. Make sure everyone is fed and hydrated before departure. Bring at least one water bottle for each person and take sips every 10-15 minutes. Don’t forget sunscreen. Riding in the early morning or late afternoon is usually most comfortable.

Be sure to register your family for Bike It!, a summer biking initiative where you can log your rides and submit them at the end of each summer month for a chance to win cool prizes. Register at www.mycitybikes.org/bike-it.html.

Reinforce Good Traffic Safety Habits

Each of the paved bike paths below is mostly separated from vehicular traffic, but there are some traffic crossings, which can be used as teaching opportunities. Discuss the importance of coming to a complete stop at an intersection, looking both ways for oncoming traffic, using the pedestrian crosswalk, and listening for traffic beyond what you can see. Give one of the kids the official “crosswalk button pusher” job and ask her to report when the light changes.

Family-Friendly Bike Trails in San Diego

Bayshore Bikeway
Distance: 17.1 Miles
This paved coastal trail runs alongside the ocean from Coronado to National City. With connections to Tidelands Park and Silver Strand State Beach, rides around the Coronado Golf Course and under the Coronado Bridge—and plenty of trailside dining options—you can make a day of this trail. This trail is best to ride earlier in the day, as the wind tends to pick up in the afternoons.

Linear Park
Distance: 1.1 miles
Linear Park in downtown San Diego is short and sweet—a great option for families with kids who may not be able to ride longer distances. There is no shortage of detours accessible from the linear park, including the popular Gaslamp Quarter, Petco Park, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Promenade.

San Luis Rey River Trail
Distance: 9 miles
This popular Oceanside trail runs along the San Luis Rey River. It is mostly flat and is frequented by cyclists, walkers, joggers and inline skaters. It can get busy, especially on the weekends.

San Diego River Trail
Distance: 6 miles
This trail runs alongside the San Diego River channel and mud flats. It is a great path for viewing wildlife, especially bird watching.

Mission Bay Bike Path
Distance: 11.4 miles
This path loops around Mission Bay and runs through Mission Bay Park where there are ample amenities for taking a bathroom break or a playground detour. The path provides access to several other parks, two wildlife preserves and SeaWorld San Diego.

Visit family-friendly bike trails for more information.

Visit a Local Bike Shop

If you’re buying a new bike, visit a local bike shop, which has expert advisors, mechanics and trade-up programs. When it’s time for a bike tune up, a local cyclist and trained bike mechanic is the way to go. Most big box and online bikes are either pre-assembled at a factory or put together by employees who do not have experience with bike maintenance.

Visiting a bike shop with your kids can be a bit of a wonderland experience. When getting your bike serviced or purchasing a new bike, ask about learning how to change a bike tire. As long as the shop isn't busy, most mechanics will show you how it’s done. It's a fascinating and practical hands-on experience for kids, and can save you from having to pay for a repair in the future.

Ask an expert to teach your family proper bike prep: putting on a helmet properly, checking the air in your tires, and having plenty of water and snacks for the ride. Get the kids involved by making them responsible for getting bike gear ready for a family ride.

Bike Shops in San Diego

These family-friendly San Diego County bike shops are part of the My City Bikes Alliance and have pledged to provide an environment that is welcoming and informative for beginning bicyclists at every age.

Adams Avenue Bicycles
619-295-8500

B&L Bikes
858-481-4148

Bike Vault Bike Shop
760-741-0411

Moment Bicycles
619-523-2453

North County Family Bicycles
808-561-7256

Zumwalts Bicycle Center
619-582-6440

Did you know? The American Journal of Public Health reports that kids are more likely to gain weight during summer than during the school year. Your habits at home have the greatest influence on whether or not your kids remain active.





For more information, visit www.mycitybikes.org or download the free San Diego Bikes app from the App Store.


Published June 2016




10 Tips for Hiking with Kids

hiking kids with sticks.

Spring is the perfect time to hit San Diego hiking trails with kids—and hiking is free fun for families. Here are great tips for hiking with kids (ages 3 and older):

  1. Refer to hikes as “adventures.” Kids have an innate love of adventure and exploring new things. Start talking about your next adventure a day or two in advance, so the kids have something to look forward to.

  2. Create your own walking stick. Find a piece of bamboo (or a large stick) and cut it down to size for each child. Head to a local home improvement or craft store for wild Duck Tape colors and patterns. Let the kids choose how to wrap and design their own stick.

  3. Prepare for every scenario. Pack your backpack with plenty of water, snacks, a first aid kit, cell phone, sunscreen and pepper spray. Check the weather ahead of time and plan clothing accordingly. Lower temperatures are a little easier on younger hikers.

  4. Choose an urban hike with beautiful views. Try Lake Calavera (hug the trail closest to the lake and stop at the picnic table for snack) or Batiquitos Lagoon (flat and stroller-friendly) in Carlsbad or Torrey Pines Reserve in La Jolla (park at the top and take Guy Fleming Trail). All offer beginner level hikes with water views, and plenty of flora and fauna to investigate.

  5. Go at their pace. Don’t plan to get a great workout. Let the kids pick the pace. Teach them how to navigate rocky areas, scan for snakes on the trail and use their walking stick properly. And always stay on the trail.

  6. Enjoy nature. Point out hawks hunting overhead, interesting cloud formations, fish or dolphins jumping out of the water, animal tracks, and pretty leaves or rocks. Prompt the kids to listen to the sound of the wind in the trees and birds chirping. Teach them to develop a lifelong appreciation for the outdoors. It’s a great way to calm and relax kids that are over-stimulated by electronic devices.

  7. Stop to take a break or two. Let the kids know how far they have to hike before snack break (each of the hikes listed in #4 has benches or a picnic table). Emphasize how much fun hiking is, and what a special experience it is to be outdoors.

  8. Compliment them. Praise the kids for good things they’ve done so far. I tell my 3-year-old niece how strong her legs and lungs are, and how well she did walking up and down the hills with her stick. I praise my 5-year-old nephew for being a good leader and scanning for anything dangerous on the trail as we follow behind him. They beam proudly and tell me they can’t wait for their next hike!

  9. Celebrate the finish. Reward your tired hikers with a trip to their favorite frozen yogurt shop. They just burned a ton of calories and probably need to get their blood sugar back up.

  10. Share your experience, photos and/or favorite hiking spot on Instagram (@SDFamily) or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for possible publication in a future issue. 


Freelance writer Jenna Sampson lives in Carlsbad and is a former hiking guide.


Published April 2016



Let the Kids Get Dirty, Fun Places to Play Outdoors

Six places to let the kids get dirty.

6 Fun Places to Play Outdoors in San Diego

According to Children & Nature Network, playing outdoors can improve or prevent attention difficulties, obesity and mood disorders. It also provides a rich sensory experience that promotes learning and civic-mindedness. Ready to explore? Here are six fun places to play outdoors in San Diego.

Nature Exploration Area
2221 Morley Field Dr., Balboa Park
This unique outdoor space provides natural materials for open-ended play. You won’t find any swings or slides at this playground. Instead, the area offers an assortment of large logs, branches and tree stumps. Build a fort or create an obstacle course. Consider taking a family hike after playtime; there’s a trailhead nearby. The Nature Exploration Area is just south of the tennis courts and east of the dog park at Morley Field.

Tide Pools
Grab your non-skid, water-safe shoes and visit one of San Diego’s many tide pools. Kids will delight in an array of sea creatures like anemones, urchins, crabs and limpets. Take lots of pictures, but remind kids not to touch the delicate organisms.

Not sure where to start? Discover San Diego’s best spots to go tidepooling here.

Water Conservation Garden
12122 Cuyamaca College Dr. W., El Cajon
www.thegarden.org
East County boasts a beautiful, six-acre, water-saving landscape that is free and open to the public. Explore on your own or check out docent-led tours, available every Saturday at 10 a.m. Don’t miss the Butterfly Festival on April 29 at the Dorcas E. Utter Butterfly Pavilion. Butterflies will be available for viewing through the month of May.

San Diego Botanic Garden
230 Quail Gardens Dr., Encinitas
www.sdbgarden.org
Visit the Hamilton Children’s Garden for interactive family-friendly activities. Wander through a grass maze, plant succulents, and climb a treehouse. There’s an outdoor music area and a mountain stream with toy boats to race. Admission is $14 for adults and $8 for children.

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens
1270 Vale Terrace Dr., Vista
www.altavistagardens.org
Gorgeous plant life and artwork come together in this collection of diverse gardens. Check out the Earth Day Festival on April 15 from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Activities include planting, painting, recycled art and games. The event is free and open to the public. Monthly gardening classes for kids are fun, educational opportunities to play in the dirt.

SMARTS farm
1326 Broadway, Downtown
www.humanesmarts.org
Lease a planter box to grow your own urban garden at this downtown oasis. Mark Janz and Marcus Bollinger are members who maintain a children’s garden, which they’ve designed to promote sensory interaction with nature. One plant responds dramatically to touch—its leaves curl rapidly in response to pressure. Another plant smells like buttered popcorn! They also planted salvia to attract hummingbirds and flowers that attract butterflies. Check the website for public events.



Anne Malinoski is a freelance writer and mother of two boys. She’s been described as “indoorsy,” but she’s working on it.


We’d love to see your photos as you’re out exploring! Post photos on Instagram, mention @sandiegofamilymagazine in your post and use #sdoutandabout.


Published 2017



How to Start Birdwatching with Kids

Photo of a snowy white egret.

Bird watching is fun to do with kids and a great way to get familiar with birds in your backyard. If you don’t know a sparrow from a swallow, don’t worry. Part of the fun is learning—and your family can learn together. Here are tips to get started bird watching.

What, When and Where
You don’t need much to begin bird watching. Simply start spotting birds wherever you are. Name the ones you know. A field guide helps you identify and learn about the birds you see. Choose kid-sized binoculars to help see detail and use a small notebook to track the birds you find. Encourage kids to take photos, draw pictures or take notes about birds.

The best time for bird sighting is early morning or late afternoon. Start in your backyard or neighborhood, then branch out to ponds, marshes, meadows or a wildlife preserve. San Diego River Estuary, Santee Lakes and Kit Carson Park are good birding spots. Find more bird encounters in San Diego here or at www.SanDiegoAudubon.org.

Look and Listen
Pay attention to these characteristics to help determine what kind of bird it is:

  • Primary color and general shape of bird
  • Distinctive markings and wing color
  • Color of feet and beak
  • Unique features such as long legs, a long neck, or a large bill or beak
  • Shape of the wings (pointed or rounded) and tail (forked or not)
  • Size of the bird compared to other objects


Use your ears, too. Experienced birders can identify birds by sounds as well as sight. Listen to the calls of various birds at www.AllAboutBirds.org.

Using what you notice about the birds around you, start trying to identify them. Look them up in your field guide. Get tech-savvy kids engaged using apps like the Audubon Bird Guide: North America by National Audubon Society or Merlin Bird ID by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Both apps are free.

Feed the Birds
If you want to see a lot of birds, feed them. Providing food near a window brings birds into view, and food is helpful to birds during cold winter months. You can buy a bird feeder, build your own from a kit, or make a simple one from materials you already have on hand.

The San Diego Audubon Society suggests attracting orioles with orange halves, chickadees with peanut butter-covered pinecones and quail with seed on the ground. But, remember to place food in such a way that birds are safe from predators (like neighborhood cats).

Count Birds
Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society hold the Great Backyard Bird Count in February. Anyone can help gather data about birds in as little as 15 minutes a day. Visit the website {link http://gbbc.birdcount.org} for more details and to sign up.

Not sure you can identify the birds you see? Practice now and get ready for this annual event next year!

Watch from Afar
If your backyard isn’t teeming with birds—or if you’re curious about birds not native to your area—check out the web. Bird cams are a great way to get close-ups on birds, even those nesting or hatching eggs. Check out the Cornell Lab’s bird cams.

Take some time to get to know our feathered friends a little better. A new family hobby might take wing.

Sara Barry is a freelance writer who loves seeing the flash of a red cardinal dart across a winter sky.

Find a list of family-friendly bird encounters in San Diego here.

Neighborhood Spotlight: Point Loma

The lighthouse at Point loma in San Diego.
The picturesque, hilly peninsula borders San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean, offering modern explorers unparalleled seaside views, vivid military history, and a lively shopping, dining and events complex.

Cabrillo National Monument and Old Point Loma Lighthouse
1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr. at Catalina Blvd.
www.nps.gov/cabr/index.htm
Enjoy panoramic ocean and bay views, explore the historic lighthouse, hike the Bayside Trail or discover some of San Diego’s best tide pools Nov.–Feb. Look for migrating gray whales Dec.–April.  

Plan to go tidepooling? Discover helpful tips to know before you go by following this link.

Corvette Diner
2965 Historic Decatur Rd.
www.cohnrestaurants.com/corvettediner
Find 1950’s rock-and-roll, burgers, shakes and gaming entertainment at this family-favorite restaurant. Try dining in the Groovy Room where diners can use a flashlight app to draw glow-in-the-dark designs on its heat-sensitive tables. On Wednesdays, most games are half price and the live DJ on Fri./Sat. nights give fun shout-outs and take song requests.

Kid Ventures
2865 Sims Rd.
www.kidventuresplay.com/liberty-station
Founded by local parents, Kid Ventures offers opportunities to explore and imagine in their fun, indoor play centers. Great for all ages—even parents, who will love the café’s delicious Venetian Mocha. Join the Point Loma location grand opening on Jan. 8. Also, mention this article to receive $10 off spring camp 2016.

Kobey’s Swap Meet
3500 Sports Arena Blvd.
www.kobeyswap.com
Bargain hunters won’t want to miss this swap meet’s treasures on the way to Point Loma. Arrive early, bring cash and be ready to haggle for the best deals. Fri-Sun, 7 am–3 pm.

Liberty Station
Rosecrans St. between Lytton St. & Womble Rd.
www.libertystation.com
A former naval training center, this hub of activity is now filled with restaurants, shops, art studios, galleries, museums and fun community events. Check the website for schedule.  

Coming soon!

Liberty Public Market

2820 Historic Decatur Rd.
www.libertypublicmarket.com
Plan to do your specialty shopping at this gathering of artisans, which includes beer and wine bars, freshly baked bread and pastries, sustainable produce, local seafood, homemade pasta, organic meats and much more. Foodies will enjoy this new addition to Liberty Station! Relax in one of the comfortable outdoor living rooms.

NTC Park
2455 Cushing Rd.
www.ntclibertystation.com
Stroll along waterfront paths, smell the roses, watch planes take-off from the nearby airport and relax while kids climb on the playground’s structures.

Pachis Art Studio
2820 Roosevelt Rd., Bldg. 201, Ste. 102
www.mypachis.com
No need to make a mess at home! Ongoing afterschool activities and themed break camps are available for your 5-12 year-old budding Picassos, along with morning toddler classes. Try holiday and seasonal workshops, new this year.

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
1424 Sunset Cliffs Blvd.
www.sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/parks/regional/shoreline/sunset.shtml
Breathe in the San Diego coastline at this magnificent spot that also features phenomenal sunsets. During high tide, waves crash onto the sandstone cliffs, and tide pools are exposed at low tide. Whenever you go, don’t forget your camera! This is the perfect spot to bring out-of-town visitors.

The Hot Spot
2770 Historic Decatur Rd., Barracks 14
www.thehotspotstudio.com
Paint pottery for a fun, hands-on family experience. You can even B.Y.O.B. (Hint: grab a growler of beer from Stone Brewing Co. next door!) On Thursday evenings free appetizers are provided. Not feeling creative? Use the stencils, stamps and idea books for inspiration. Pottery is fired overnight and ready the next day.



Contributing writer Lisa Pawlak is a local resident and mother of two sons.


Published January 2016

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