A Dream Day in Balboa Park and Bankers Hill
When people think of adventures in San Diego, what usually comes to mind is the beach, the bay and our swaying palm trees.
We’re always hearing people say how they need to escape and get away. We always wonder why. After all, there’s so much unexplored territory right here in our own backyard.
Most locals and visitors don’t even realize there are over 50 scenic canyons close to Downtown. The best canyons are in Balboa Park, Bankers Hill, Mission Hills and Hillcrest.
We recently made a list of affordable things to do that require minimal driving and we came up with an interesting list. And, we did it all by bike and on foot!
For us, a dream day is extra special if you can have breakfast twice in one day! We learned a long time ago that if you want an active lifestyle, you have to take care of yourself and eat good.
We love homemade baked goods so our first stop was Extraordinary Desserts on 2929 Fifth Avenue. On this particular Saturday at 11 a.m., there were four total customers there. Hours later, this place will be packed with people having dinner and desserts, so our tip – go early in the day. We split the coffee cake and then jumped on our bikes and rode a full loop around Balboa Park.
Our next stop was the World Beat Center to enjoy the cool art on their walls, as well as the gardens and the gift shop that’s filled with unusual items. This place is usually open during the day. Don’t forget to bring your camera.
Someday, we’ll sign up for their steel drum dass. They also hold on-going concerts and on February 3 and 5, there will be a special “Salute to Bob Marley” event.
After we got our fill of the calypso/reggae vibe, we rode out of the park along the canopy of trees leading toward the Marston House. We took some fun pictures in this historic home’s garden and then continued the relaxed spin down Sixth Avenue toward Hillcrest.
We were hungry and knew it was time to dig into a monster pancake at Hash House a Go Go, at 3628 Fifth Ave. The lines are quite long on weekend mornings but it was 2 p.m. – a great time to make the scene. This is one of our favorite local hangouts. The ambiance and staff have a “chill” vibe. Think of a colorful B&B with especially flavorful food!
After the banana pancake (yes, we ate just one) and side order of sausage, we rode our bikes into Maple Canyon to meander past huge palms, cactus, bamboo and other cool trees. We rode out of the canyon and back to Balboa Park to check out Spanish Village. First Avenue is a scenic route and right after we passed Robinson Street, we noticed a small home with multiple bronze colored animals in their front yard. There was a monkey, a giraffe and at least nine other creatures. Definitely worth checking out when you’re in the neighborhood.
Spanish Village Art Center is a hidden gem. If you ever need something to inspire your creative juices, go there and talk to the working artists. Our favorite stops are the Sculpture Guild, located at Studio #36, and also Doug Snider, aka “Doug Bug” in Studio #15. During our visit, we did a power walk through the Desert Garden and we spotted two of our favorite buskers, Sleeveless and Derek Ostovani. Both perform magic but in different parts of the park.
Since it was close to dinner time, we headed to Brick + Mortar on 820 Fifth Avenue for their Short Rib Pizza Pie. This is not only a favorite menu item, it’s a popular Happy Hour item between 4 – 7 p.m.
Our final adventure was back in Bankers Hill. We checked out a gallery opening party at Planet Rooth, a unique place that features wine barrel furniture created by Gustaf Rooth. It was an interesting scene because the crowd was incredibly diverse. Paintings from various tattoo artists adorned the walls and were incorporated throughout Rooth’s furniture pieces. We were pretty tired by this point in the evening so we kicked back on Rooth’s cool wooden rocking chairs while listening to a live band.
Marcia Booker was rocking out next to us on another one of the Planet Rooth chairs. “The furniture is the best thing here,” she said with grin. “For a rocking chair, Gustaf has done a great job. It kind of fits your body. This is my first time at one of his events. It’s been a fun night.”
Planet Rooth is at 3334 Fifth Ave, near Upas Street, and just a block away from Balboa Park. Rooth’s custom-designed chairs, tables and benches are created by disassembling oak wine and bourbon barrels. The spirits thus continue to move you and keep on rocking in the free world!
We want to hear from you!
Steph Johnson and Friends on Feb 9th: Jazzy vocalist Steph Johnson and other musicians will be grooving at 8 p.m. at 98 Bottles in Little Italy. Steph’s music is positive, fun and she’s great at getting the crowd out of their chairs and dancing. Get a photo of you and one other person doing a freeze frame high five or air guitar pose in front of the band. The most creative pose will win four tickets to a Saturday Urban Challenge/Scavenger Hunt. Email entries should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and must be received by March 2, 2013.
Marc & Darlynne Menkin are the co-owners of “Where You Want To Be Tours.” Many of their tours and team-building scavenger hunts feature secret Downtown areas. They can be reached at email@example.com. For more info about their walking, bicycle and bus tours of San Diego visit www.wheretours.com