Our Fall 2021 Tour kept us mostly within California. It was refreshing not to have long days of driving. Although visiting family and friends was the main purpose of our trip, finding things to do and see still played a role in our plans.
We arrived at Sun Outdoors RV Resort in Chula Vista, California, on October 20, 2021, for a one-week stay. The Chula Vista RV Park where we stayed during our last visit to the San Diego area had closed permanently a week or two before our arrival. It was time to check out the new campground next to Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge.
The campsites had plenty of space and we liked the amenities and facilities. And the ticket for a complimentary frozen drink was a bonus. We missed being surrounded by the mature vegetation planted at the Chula Vista RV Park until we saw the view from our rig’s patio and out the back window. The view is what will keep bringing us back to Sun Outdoors.
Balboa Park is always a favorite activity of ours while in San Diego. I especially like the architecture, and with the vendors, musicians, galleries, and museums, we always enjoy exploring the nooks and crannies we find on our walks through the park.
Originally named the Commerce and Industries Building when built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, the Casa De Balboa on the El Prado feature caryatids (weight-bearing features carved as human figures) or hermes elements under the eaves. Except here they are more ornamental than functional. The hermes depict naked women with arms overhead as if their presence holds up the eaves. Some of the women are shown kneeling, while others are shown from the waist up. How many people walk under those eaves in a day and never bother to look up at the faces staring down on them?
We ducked into the Museum of Photographic Arts to view the Aaron Siskind: Mid Century Modern exhibit (through May 1, 2022) and the 15th Annual Juried Youth Exhibition (through April 10, 2022). While I enjoyed Aaron Siskind’s photographs, there were plenty of works in the youth exhibit that blew me away. The crowded display and lighting in the youth room was perfect for viewing in person. Unfortunately, taking photographs of the art didn’t work out, so I have no samples to share.
Another 1915 Exposition structure is the Botanical Building with the lily pond out front. Constructed with lath (thin, narrow strips of straight-grained wood), it is one of the largest lath-built structures in the world.
It’s a great place to wander through to look at, or photograph, the various ferns, orchids, cycads, and other tropical plants and palms.
Designed after the Globe Theatre in London, the Old Globe Theatre was built in 1935 for the California Pacific International Exposition. The theater produces the annual Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas? musical along with 15 other productions during the year, of which many have earned nominations and 13 received Tony Awards.
Heading west on El Prado toward Cabrillo Bridge, the California Building and Tower commands the attention of viewers with its intricately designed carvings, busts, and colorful tiles.
The building and tower were also built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition and display a mix of Baroque, Rococo Gothic, Spanish Colonial, Plateresque, and Churrigueresque architectural features. Somehow, those styles blend well together to create the imposing structure.
Once known as the Museum of Man, the Museum of Us has changed its focus to a more inclusive and respectful mission with recognition of the indigenous peoples who lived in San Diego before it became part of the United States.
On the day of our visit, Korean Day at Balboa Park was in full swing, including live music, at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Harrison Albright designed the Italian-Renaissance structure for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. The pavilion is noted for its semi-circular colonnades, leaf clusters, and shell designs.
So here’s a tip when visiting Balboa Park: Don’t forget to look up at the buildings and their ornamental details. What you find may be a whimsical surprise.
Next Up: The San Diego Zoo