Things to Do on a Rainy Day in San Diego- Balboa Park

On  a recent vacation to San Diego I found myself in an unusual predicament: what do you do if it’s raining? With so many activities geared towards the outdoors, what are your options if the weather actually isn’t its usual perfect?

Balboa Park seems to be the most obvious choice, with its collection of 15 museums, you could easily spend a rainy day at one or two of them. We started out at Fleet Science Center and even though it was a Tuesday, the place was packed. Apparently everyone else had the same idea.  Finding a parking spot took about 20 minutes and a lot of circling around.

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Balboa Park

First Stop:  Fleet Science Center

Fleet Science Center is a hands-on science museum with more than 100 exhibits. There are two floors and while the main floor was a mad house with kids running everywhere, there was an area we found to be much quieter, “Cellular Journey.” Here you could learn about human cells and cellular research.  My daughter enjoyed the virtual reality exhibit “Journey inside a Cell.” She enjoyed the main exhibit area as well despite how crowded it was. There are the usual displays such as using marbles to teach about physics and spinning discs on a moving surface. You can also learn about San Diego’s water sources or build structures with blocks.

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Fleet Science Center

We spent 2 and a half hours here with the basic admission which costs $19.95 for adults and $16.95 for children ages 3 -12 at the gate. If your child has received an “A” in science or math in the past 3 months, bring in their report card for free admission. For an extra $10 per person you can see the special exhibit, “The Art of the Brick,” with more than 100 sculptures made from Legos. This is at Fleet Science Center through January 2017 but we did not go. We also did not go to the Fit-a-Brick Build Zone, Tinkering Studio, or Kid City (for kids 5 and under), all of which would have extended our time there.

Second Stop (after lunch):  Museum of Man

After a delicious lunch at the nearby cafe Panama 66, we decided to go to the Museum of Man. We added on the special exhibit “Cannibals: Myth and Reality” for a total of $20 for adults and $12.50 for children up to age 12. The  Museum of Man is unlike any other museum I have been to and I really enjoyed it. There was a touring exhibit, Beerology, on the history of beer around the world that was fun and interesting. Race: Are We So Different is a unique perspective about the human race. Monsters is a display about real and make-believe monsters around the world. There are also pretty extensive Mayan and Egyptian galleries. Plus there is an anthropology exhibit “Footsteps through Time” that was nicely done.

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“Cannibals: Myth and Reality” were worth the extra price for tickets. The exhibit covered everything from cannibals in popular media such as movies and books to evidence of cannibalism in English royalty. There is information on how they used body parts for medicine and how the definition of cannibalism became misconstrued. We played the “Donner Trail” game to see what we would have done if we were one of the early travelers to Oregon and conditions became so poor we were stranded and starving.

We spent about 3 hours at the Museum of Man. You can also go up in the tower for an additional $22.50 for adults and $16 for children ages 6 to 12. If you take the California Tower Tour at the Museum of Man be prepared to climb 125 stairs in 40 minutes. In return you will have views of the rest of Balboa Park including the zoo, downtown San Diego and the bay, Coronado Peninsula, and as far as Baja California and Mexico.

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Museum of Man Tower

Money-Saving Tips:

If you plan on spending shorter periods of time in museums, you can buy the Balboa Park One Day Explorer pass for $45 for adults and $26 for children up to age 12. This gives you admission for up to 5 museums in one single day. Another alternative if you plan on going to several museums in Balboa Park is to buy the Multi-Day Explorer for $55 for adults and $29 for children up to age 12. This is good for one admission to each of the 17 museums for 7 days, and can save a considerable amount of money. Balboa Park Explorer Pass

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This place is so cool at night!

 

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I’m an Ambassador- Now What?

Not that kind of ambassador. Without even fully understanding what it would entail because I’ve never been an ambassador before, I submitted my request to be an ambassador for Nuun during 2017.  Guess what- I was selected!  For those of you not familiar with Nuun, it is a company famous for their hydration products.  You just add these little tablets made from plant-based ingredients to water and get tasty electrolytes to help fuel your activity whether it’s running, hiking, cycling, swimming, or whatever else you do where you’re sweating a lot.  There are 4 basic products:  nuun active, nuun energy (with caffeine), plus for nuun (with dextrose and sucrose for high intensity exercise), and nuun vitamins.

Most people that use Nuun products are very enthusiastic about them.  They are happy to promote them to other people and tell all of their friends and fellow athletes to give Nuun a try!  This is the backbone behind the Nuun ambassadorship, in my opinion.  I am happy to do this, but I am also unsure what is “expected” of me as an ambassador.

I know many of you out there are or once were Nuun ambassadors or ambassadors for other companies.  I’m asking you to help me out here.  I’m a newbie.  I didn’t even know such a thing existed for the average runner like me until I became a blogger.  I always thought companies only wanted people like elite runner Kara Goucher, who just happens to also be a Nuun ambassador this year, to tout their products.

So I ask all of you that either are currently or used to be ambassadors for products, what advice do you have for me?  Am I over-thinking this?  I’m certainly not trying to pretend like this is some huge sponsorship or anything over the top like that, for those of you not familiar with pretty much any of what I’m talking about.  I get discounts on the products and access to an online community but as far as what I’m seeing that’s pretty much it.  In return, I’m supposed to help promote their products.  Is that it in a nutshell?  For those of you that are or have been ambassadors for products, what’s been your favorite and why?

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Living Coast Discovery Center

Many people that visit San Diego will go to the world-famous zoo, SeaWorld, or San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I like to do things a little off the beaten path.  On our recent visit to San Diego, we chose instead to visit the Living Coast Discovery Center in Chula Vista, just south of San Diego.  This is not your typical zoo or aquarium.

Before we even walked into the building we were greeted by two turtles at Turtle Lagoon. These Eastern Pacific green sea turtles are endangered and native to the area.  Later in the day as we were leaving, someone just happened to be feeding these turtles some lettuce.  It may seem silly that we were entranced by such a simple act, but the turtles seemed to be doing an underwater act for us as they slowly enjoyed their dinner and floated by us. It was beautiful to watch.

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Inside is the Main Gallery where you can find tanks full of jellies, sea stars, sea horses, a multitude of fish, eels, snakes, lobsters, crabs, snakes, lizards, octopuses and more. There are educational placards around the center as well. While we were there we saw numerous school children on field trips but it wasn’t so crowded that it bothered us.

The center has an outdoor area with other animals such as in Raptor Row, Eagle Mesa, and Shorebirds Aviary. There is also a Native Plant Garden where they have a free compost workshop every Sunday at 1 p.m. Along with the other bird areas there is a Burrowing Owl Courtyard.

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Our favorite was the Shark and Ray Experience, a 21,000 gallon exhibit with multiple viewing areas. At 11:00 and 1:30 every day there is a feeding and interactive experience. You can touch the backs of bat rays, diamond rays, and round rays as they glide past you. There are also shovel-nose guitarfish in this tank, which I had never seen in person before. In an adjacent tank but not available for touching are grey smoothhound sharks, leopard sharks, horn sharks, and swelling sharks.

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Sapphire the loggerhead sea turtle also resides with the sharks here. Sapphire was hit by a boat twice in Florida, the first time in 2010 and again in 2013. She was sent to Living Coast Discovery Center for permanent residence in 2014 after it was determined she wasn’t able to survive on her own.

There are 1.5 miles of walking trails where you may see osprey, soaring harriers, and shorebirds. You can see downtown San Diego across the water. Be careful walking on the trails as there are warning signs about Rattlesnakes in the area so don’t venture off the trail.

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View from the walking trails

There is not a cafe on-site and since you have to take a shuttle from the parking area to the Center it would not be an easy task to pop out for a quick lunch and come back. The shuttle runs about every 15 minutes and it takes a few minutes to get from the parking area to the Center. We brought our own lunch and enjoyed it there. They have a decent seating area outside, some under shade. There is a gift shop where you can buy snacks among the usual gift shop items.

While this isn’t an incredibly large place, you can easily spend a couple of hours here especially if you have lunch here and walk around the trails. We spent most of our time at the Shark and Ray Experience, our favorite exhibit. Including eating lunch here, we spent about 2 1/2 hours here and saw everything at a leisurely pace.

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View of San Diego from the nature trail

If you have younger children or even older ones who enjoy animals and nature, I recommend checking this place out. It is a nice little gem just outside San Diego. You can also take the San Diego trolley to the Bayfront/E Street station and find the Living Coast bus stop. Call 619-409-5900 to request the shuttle to pick you up.

The mission of the Center is to:

  • Partner in collaborative research and restoration of coastal wetlands and bays.
  • Provide student-focused education through STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics.
  • Increase knowledge of coastal environments, climate change adaptation, and human coexistence with the natural resources of San Diego Bay

I always love combining science, nature, and education especially when I’m visiting a new area. Living Coast Discovery Center does this in a way that makes it fun for the whole family.  It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission for adults is $14; children 4-17 and seniors 65 and older are $9; children ages 3 and younger are free.

The Living Coast Discovery Center link

Female Runners

I was appalled when I listed to a Runner’s World podcast (episode 28) about female runners called “Running While Female.”  Here is a link to the article on the Runner’s World website.  According to the article, 43 percent of women at least sometimes experience harassment on the run, from the results of a recent RW survey, compared with just 4 percent of men. Even as a female runner, I was surprised to hear just how prevalent this problem is.  I’ve been running for much of my life and somehow I have escaped the true depths of this.

As a female runner, I have been catcalled by men while out running a few times. Fortunately for me, that’s the worst I’ve ever had to encounter but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to bring awareness to this problem. For many other women, they are harassed by men while running every single time they run. This is unacceptable and should be brought to an end.

When I wrote my post about running while traveling and being safe, 5 Tips How Runners Can Stay Safe and Healthy When Traveling, another blogger responded that she was almost attacked while on a run in Madrid.  Someone tried to grab her and luckily she was able to get away from him.  That’s scary stuff, though.  Women should not be yelled at, grabbed, touched, followed, or otherwise harassed when out for a run.

Running is supposed to be an escape, a time to get away from our problems, and de-stress. Women shouldn’t be stressed out about being harassed before they even get out the door or have to cut their run short after being harassed. Sadly, some women have even stopped running because of being harassed while out running.

What can we do?

Women and men both need to begin spreading the word about this.  I applaud Runner’s World for bringing attention to this.  We need to tell our husbands, boyfriends, friends, brothers, sons, co-workers, runner buddies and anyone else we can think of that this kind of behavior is not acceptable and must be stopped.  If you’re a male and are out with other males and one of them yells out something to a female runner or does something else that’s inappropriate, let them know it’s not OK to do that.

Several things were mentioned in the podcast that women can do to protect themselves while running.  These include carrying pepper spray, running with others, not running when it’s dark, altering your running route, and even getting a license to carry a small handgun.  I say do whatever makes you feel safe and whatever keeps you safe.

Harassment of women by men is a world-wide problem and goes beyond just running, but we can at least start to address this problem.  Baby steps.

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A Must Do in San Diego, Sunset Cliffs

On a recent vacation to San Diego, I discovered Sunset Cliffs.  A friend of my husband’s had mentioned that it was a good place to watch the sunset but he said it in passing, kind of like he was just throwing out random places to go.   I didn’t think much of it at the time. I also had read that Sunset Cliffs is a nice place for a hike. However neither of these raised my expectations much at all but after the second recommendation I thought maybe we should go and check it out.  I was floored when I actually saw this place.

We drove to Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, parked, and took a few steps from the car.  My daughter and I both stopped dead in our tracks, looked at each other, and exclaimed, “Wow!”  It was one of the most stunning scenes I have ever seen.  You hear the cliche all the time that a place is “breathtaking.”  If ever a place is breathtaking, it’s Sunset Cliffs. This is nature at its most beautiful.  The contrast between the Coastal bluff, rocks, and ocean are something you really have to see in person to fully appreciate.

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Sunset Cliffs by day

Here’s my best description of experiencing Sunset Cliffs:

As you’re looking at the beautiful blue shades of the water crash against the tan to brown bluffs, you can literally feel stress melt away.  You hear the waves crashing and the birds calling to each other and see the birds flying from rock to rock.  There’s a slight breeze that brushes against your face and you see the sun start to drop into the ocean.  The sky changes from blue to pink and yellow to orange.  Finally but quite suddenly, the sun drops into the ocean and disappears.

If I had just one recommendation for anyone going to San Diego it would be that they see Sunset Cliffs.  I can’t emphasize it enough because I wish others would have emphasized it more to me-if you do nothing else, go to Sunset Cliffs.  Get here well before the sun sets so you can find a parking spot and walk around to get multiple viewpoints.  Although some people call Sunset Cliffs a place to hike, it’s really a walk along a two lane road, but don’t let that deter you.

Although there is an area where you can get down to the beach, I didn’t feel comfortable going that route with my middle-school-aged daughter.  We watched locals and their dogs go down the rocks to the beach like it was nothing but we weren’t that brave.

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Sunset Cliffs at sunset

Besides the trail that runs along the road, there is Sunset Cliffs National Park,  68 acre park that borders Point Loma and runs along the Pacific Ocean, of which 50 acres contain conservation areas for multiples species.  If you time it right you may spot a California gray whale as they migrate from the Bering Sea to Baja California and back.

How to get to Sunset Cliffs:

Go down Sunset Cliffs Blvd. until you reach the end, and turn left onto Ladera Drive. Turn right onto a dirt road and you should see a parking lot.  If you get here an hour or more before sunset, you shouldn’t have any problems finding a spot.  If the parking lot is full, there should be plenty of off-street parking, as long as you arrive early.

Viewing Tips:

Don’t crowd around where everyone else is- find your own private space to enjoy the view in peace and quiet.  You’ll see pockets of people scattered along the cliffs but it’s a big enough area that you can still find your own little slice of heaven.  Also, stick around a while for the show.  It’s beautiful how the clouds and light change shapes and colors over time before sunset, during, and post-sunset.

Tips for New Athletes (Runners, Cyclists, Swimmers, etc.)

When I was on a run recently, I had an idea to jot down some of the things I’ve learned over the years as a runner when I got home. These tips can be applied to many other sports as well besides running. I often have ideas for blog posts when I’m out running- funny how that is, isn’t it?

My top tip would have to be listen to your body.  Learn to know the difference between normal soreness and pain that lingers. It’s not uncommon to be sore a day or two after exercising heavily but if the soreness lasts for a week or more or feels more like pain than soreness, you should seek help from a professional.  For most injuries, if you catch them early you can treat them and your body can begin to heal much quicker than if you let it linger.screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-9-23-40-am

Another tip if you are serious about running your first race, be it a 5k, marathon, or triathlon and you have a specific time goal in mind or if you’re a seasoned athlete and want to go big, say to qualify for Boston Marathon for example, seek the guidance of a coach.  Coaches can do anything from give you training plans and advice online to meeting you at a local track in person.  A good place to start looking for a coach is to ask at local running or cycling stores or at Road Runners Club of America (if you’re in the United States).  Road Runners Club link  At the very least, look up training plans online or check out a book on running or triathlons for beginners from your local library.

You should also have appropriate gear before you start out. If you will be running, go to a locally-owned running store and ask to be fitted for running shoes to figure out the best shoes for your body and running style. While not absolutely imperative, it’s a good idea to get some athletic clothes made of synthetic materials that will wick sweat away far better than cotton. If you shop off-season or even shoulder season you can find some great deals. I personally like Kelly’s Running WarehouseRunning Warehouse, and Swim Outlet for great online deals but if you’re new to a sport, it’s always a good idea to try on the attire in person at a local store, plus it’s nice to support local businesses when you can. If you’re buying a new bicycle, you definitely want to find a local cycling store and try out the bike before buying it.

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Credit quotesgram.com

My final piece of advice is don’t give up. Running, cycling, and swimming are all hard if you’re training for something or you’re racing. Don’t believe anyone that tells you it’s easy. Some days are certainly easier than others but if every day you go out for a run/bike ride/swim feels easy, you’re not pushing yourself to your full ability.

Believe me when I say you’re stronger than you think you are.  If you train your body properly by gradually increasing your intensity or your distance but not both at the same time, your body will adapt and get stronger.  Just tell yourself when you’re out of breath and feel like you can’t go any further, “I CAN do this and I WILL do this!” and I think you’ll be surprised to see that you truly can.

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Coronado, California- a Relaxing Beach Get-Away near San Diego

One thing comes to mind when I think of Coronado:  beaches. The beaches in Coronado are spectacular and among the best in the San Diego area, and some even say in the world. Coronado Central Beach runs along Ocean Boulevard and is flanked by beautiful mansions. The sand is powder white where it is dry but closer to the water it gets darker and has flecks of gold from tiny pieces of mica that sparkle. This is what they mean when people talk about the golden beaches of southern California.

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Coronado Central Beach is one of the widest beaches I’ve ever been to

Coronado has several nice beaches to choose from other than the larger aforementioned Coronado Central Beach, based on your preference and needs. North Beach is dog-friendly and is mostly visited by locals. Glorietta Bay Beach is family-friendly with its playground, restrooms, grassy area, and small sandy beach. Silver Strand State Beach has a Bayside beach, picnic areas, and access to Loews Coronado Beach Resort. Ferry Landing Marketplace has a pier, grassy area, and small beach with views of downtown San Diego.

Where to Stay

Coronado is an island across San Diego Bay in San Diego, California with a famous hotel, Hotel del Coronado and its iconic red roofs have been photographed many times. It is a beachfront resort with a spa and many dining options. Since it opened in 1888 the rich and famous from Thomas Edison to US presidents and a long list of actors have stayed here. An ocean view room with one king bed in mid-November is $787 per night plus $28 daily resort fee plus $37 to $47 per night for self or valet parking, respectively.

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Hotel del Coronado
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Unique Dragon Tree at Hotel del Coronado

“The Del” as it is affectionately known is a place well beyond my family’s budget. Instead we chose to stay at the much less expensive Cherokee Lodge Inn. Here, rooms in mid-November range from $145- $185 per night with free off-street parking, free wi-fi, and free vouchers for breakfast at Panera Bread, only one block away.  To help with minimalist packing, (see my post Never Check a Bag with an Airline Again) they offer free laundry in a common access area. Finally, Cherokee Lodge Inn is just 2 1/2 blocks from the beach and is an easy walk.

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Cherokee Lodge Inn

What to Do

There are many shops and restaurants along Orange Avenue, including Coronado Brewing Company, Leroy’s Kitchen + Lounge, and Bay Books. For the best ice cream in town, head over to Moo Time Creamery, also on Orange Avenue.  Lamb’s Players Theater and Coronado Theater are good places to see a concert or live show. During the summer months Spreckels Park is a fun place to enjoy free concerts and enjoy a picnic with your family.

There isn’t a lot of nightlife in Coronado; it’s more of a place to relax and unwind. After running my 40th half marathon in my 38th state, Silver Strand Half Marathon, California-38th state, Coronado was the perfect place to just hang out and spend time with my family. We went to the beach every day and did some leisurely shopping and went for walks enjoying the beautiful scenery. It was perfect before we began our adventure in San Diego.

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Imperial Beach pier

For more information on Coronado, see the city’s website Coronado.

Directions: Take I-5 South to the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge exit (California Highway 75). Cross the bay and drop down onto Coronado Island. The first stoplight is Orange Avenue. Turn right to the Ferry Landing or turn left to the central business district, the beach and the Hotel del Coronado.