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San Diego's Diverse Arts and Culture
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San Diego's Diverse Arts and Culture
  San Diego Travel News ( Press Release )

Travelocity.com named San Diego "the newest cultural mecca in the United States." And for good reason. Each year thousands of visitors flock to America's finest city to enjoy a captivating arts and culture scene showcased in one of the nation's largest urban cultural institutions, Balboa Park, and on local theatre stages that have launched some of the most popular and award-winning productions to grace the Great White Way.
San Diego's world-class arts and cultural offerings are the perfect way to enhance a visit to this sun-kissed paradise in the southwestern United States. Following are highlights of San Diego's kaleidoscope of cultural attractions.
Balboa Park is the crown jewel of San Diego's arts and culture community. As early as 1789, Spain's King Carlos III ordered the present-day site of Balboa Park to be reserved for "pasturage or for recreational purposes." Today its 1,200 acres, within walking distance of downtown San Diego, are home to 85 cultural attractions, including 16 museums, art galleries and the Tony (r) Award-winning Old Globe theatres. Balboa Park is the largest urban cultural park in the United States and it is often referred to as the "Smithsonian of the West" for its impressive collection of cultural institutions.
Architecturally, Balboa Park is an ornate masterpiece. It so inspired filmmaker Orson Wells that the Park's California Tower (San Diego Museum of Man) was shot for the opening scenes to represent Xanadu, the gothic residence of Citizen Kane. The museums along the Park's El Prado walkway are housed in strikingly-beautiful Spanish Colonial Revival-style buildings that were originally built during the Panama-California Exposition of 1915-1916. However, it is the wealth of culture, history and visual and performing arts within these walls that is the real allure of Balboa Park.
Balboa Park's museums include the following:
* American Indian Culture Center and Museum, honoring San Diego's Native American Indians; opens in 2004. www.aiccm.net
* Marston House, a historic Craftsman period mansion. www.sandiegohistory.org
* Mingei International Museum, showcasing folk art from around the world. www.mingei.org
* Museum of Photographic Arts, featuring photography and film; includes film programs and screenings in its own movie theater. www.mopa.org
* Museum of San Diego History and Research Library. www.sandiegohistory.org
* Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, featuring science exhibits, the world's first IMAX theatre and a motion simulator ride. www.rhfleet.org
* San Diego Aerospace Museum, presenting aviation history from first flights to space travel. www.aerospacemuseum.org
* San Diego Automotive Museum, displaying classic automobiles and motorcycles from yesteryear. www.sdautomuseum.org
* San Diego Hall of Champions, honoring San Diegans' athletic achievements. www.sandiegosports.org
* San Diego Model Railroad Museum. www.sdmodelrailroadm.com
* San Diego Museum of Art, displaying Old Masters, Asian art, 19th century European paintings, 20th century paintings and sculpture, and contemporary California Art; hosts prominent national touring exhibits such as the upcoming "Saint Peter and the Vatican: The Legacy of the Popes" (May 15-September 5, 2004), the largest collection of objects from the Vatican ever to tour North America. www.sdmart.org
* San Diego Museum of Man, featuring anthropology discoveries from around the world; includes Egyptian mummies. www.museumofman.org
* San Diego Natural History Museum, highlighting regional environments; includes a giant-screen theater. www.sdnhm.org
* San Diego Art Institute's Museum of the Living Artist, displaying works by San Diego artists. www.sandiego-art.org
* Timken Museum of Art, displaying European and American masterworks; includes Russian icons. www.timkenmuseum.org
* Veteran's Memorial Center Museum. www.sdvmc.org
Visitors to Balboa Park's museums can purchase a Passport to Balboa Park, offering substantial discounts to 13 museums. Valid for one week, the Passport's cost is $30 (a $70 value) and is available at the Park's Visitor Center, located in the House of Hospitality, and participating museums.
Visitors can also purchase the Best of Balboa Park Combo, which includes entrance to 13 museums and Deluxe admission to the world-famous San Diego Zoo; cost is $55 (a value of more than $100).
Balboa Park's theatre and performing arts offerings include the following:
* The Tony(r) Award-winning Old Globe theatres, featuring Shakespeare classics and contemporary plays and musicals on three stages; renowned for world-premieres such as "The Full Monty" (2000) and "Imaginary Friends" (2003) which went on to Broadway. www.theoldglobe.org
* The popular Starlight Musical Theatre at the open-air Starlight Bowl, featuring fun family musicals. www.starlighttheatre.org
* San Diego Junior Theater in the Casa del Prado, featuring children's productions. www.juniortheatre.com
* Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater, delighting children with its entertaining puppet shows. www.balboaparkpuppets.com
* The historic Spreckels Organ Pavilion, featuring the world's largest outdoor pipe organ, free year-round organ concerts every Sunday at 2 p.m. and a summer organ festival. www.serve.com/sosorgan
The ethnic diversity of the San Diego region is reflected in the following Balboa Park attractions:
* Centro Cultural de la Raza, showcasing the art and culture of Mexicans, Chicanos and Native Americans. www.centroraza.com
* House of Pacific Relations, representing 30 different nations in 17 cottages; enjoy open houses and special lawn programs on Sundays, February through mid-November. www.sdhpr.org
* Japanese Friendship Garden, featuring tranquil stolling paths, a koi pond, tea pavilion, Zen garden and activity center. www.niwa.org
* WorldBeat Center, celebrating cultures of African origins. www.worldbeatcenter.org
Art lovers can shop for unique creations from around the world at most of Balboa Park's museum stores, as well as the Spanish Village Art Center, where more than 50 local artists create, display and sell their works in a charming Spanish-style village.
Balboa Park is also a botanical paradise, featuring a dozen lush gardens and 350 different species of trees. Horticulturalist Kate O. Sessions, "the mother of Balboa Park," introduced many exotic plants into the Park, including hundreds of trees which fulfilled her pledge to plant 100 trees every year for 10 years (beginning in 1892). The Park's landmark Botanical Building contains more than 2,000 tropical plants, along with changing seasonal flowers.
For more information on Balboa Park, including special events, visit www.balboapark.org.
San Diego's museums engage visitors through a myriad of dramatic themes and juxtapositions of styles-everything from traditional classic art and thought-provoking contemporary works to entertaining interactive exhibits featuring computers, the making of music and nautical exploration. San Diego's museums can take visitors on cultural journeys of the most imaginative kind.
Following are just some of the many notable museums and outdoor sculpture collections located throughout San Diego County:
* Children's Discovery Museum of North San Diego, featuring interactive exploration areas for children. www.museumforchildren.org
* Children's Museum/Museo de los Ninos San Diego, presenting fun interactive exhibits for children. Note: The museum is currently undergoing a renovation and expansion at its downtown San Diego location that is slated to open in spring 2005. www.sdchildrensmuseum.org
Culture's Edge
* California Surf Museum in Oceanside, preserving the legacy of pioneering legends of the surfing world. www.surfmuseum.org
* Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, displaying modern masterpieces, including multi-media exhibits in two locations, downtown and La Jolla. www.mcasd.org
* Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, featuring more than 450 musical instrument displays and interactive areas to listen to music ranging from ragtime to rock 'n' roll. www.museumofmakingmusic.org Heroes/Military
* The Firehouse Museum in downtown San Diego, featuring antique fire engines, firefighting equipment and memorabilia in San Diego's oldest firehouse. www.sdfirehousemuseum.org
* The Flying Leathernecks Aviation Museum at MCAS Miramar, presenting U.S. Marine aviation history and aircraft tours. www.flyingleathernecks.org
* MCRD Museum Historical Society, celebrating historical traditions of the U.S. Marine Corps. www.usmchistory.com
* Midway Magic/San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum, a decommissioned aircraft carrier museum with aircraft displays and interactive exhibits honoring the U.S. military. San Diego's newest major museum opens to the public in Spring 2004. www.midway.org
* San Diego Sheriff's Museum, honoring local law enforcement, includes a real jail cell, courtroom, helicopter and motorcycle. www.sheriffmuseum.org
* Cabrillo National Monument, the birthplace of California, commemorating Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo's 1542 discovery of San Diego and exploration of the California coast, features the Point Loma Lighthouse and tidepools teeming with aquatic life. www.nps.gov/cabr
* Mission San Diego de Alcala, the first of a chain of 21 missions along the California coast, in Mission Valley. www.missionsandiego.com
* Mission San Luis Rey, California's largest mission, in Oceanside. www.sanluisrey.org
* Mormon Battalion Visitors' Center in Old Town, commemorating the longest overland infantry march (2,000 miles) in U.S. history. www.ldssocal.org/vc/mbvc.htm
* Museum of History and Art, Coronado, exploring Coronado's early days, including the U.S. Navy and Army presence and the Hotel del Coronado. www.coronadohistory.org
* San Diego Chinese Historical Museum, showcasing the history of San Diego's old Chinatown-part of the downtown Gaslamp Quarter, features an Asian garden with a stream and fish pond. www.sdchm.org
* Serra Museum in Old Town, interpreting San Diego history during Native American, Spanish and Mexican periods. www.sandiegohistory.org
* Villa Montezuma, a historic grand Victorian mansion near downtown San Diego. www.sandiegohistory.org
* The Whaley House, a historic Greek Revival home in Old Town, referred to as "the most haunted house in America." www.sohosandiego.org
* William Heath Davis House Museum, a Victorian saltbox-style home and the oldest structure in downtown San Diego. www.gaslampquarter.org
* Birch Aquarium at Scripps, displaying more than 3,000 fish in the country's largest oceanographic museum. www.aquarium.ucsd.edu
* The Computer Museum of America, dedicated to preserving and displaying the evolution of computers. www.computer-museum.org
* Queen Califia's Magical Circle, Niki de Saint Phalle's last major international project and her only American sculpture garden, is the largest American collection of de Saint Phalle's whimsical work with nine large-scale structures; located in Kit Carson Park, Escondido. www.queencalifia.org
* Stuart Collection at UCSD in La Jolla, acclaimed contemporary outdoor art installations, with self-guided walking tour maps available at the Gilman Drive campus entrance. http://stuartcollection.ucsd.edu Transportation
* Maritime Museum of San Diego, one of the world's finest collections of historic ships, including the famous Star of India-the world's oldest active tall ship. www.sdmaritime.com
* Pacific Southwest Railway Museum, displaying railroad history of the Pacific Southwest and featuring train excursions from East County's Campo depot. www.sdrm.org
San Diego is a leading theater producing town with local productions making it to the Great White Way nearly annually. Broadway shows that originated in San Diego include the 2002 Tony Award Winner for Best Musical, "Thoroughly Modern Millie," "Into the Woods," "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," "Jane Eyre," "Damn Yankees," and "The Who's Tommy." The Old Globe Theatres' artistic director Jack O'Brien won the 2003 Tony Award for directing the hit musical "Hairspray" and is the current toast of the theater world.
Following are just some of San Diego's many acclaimed theatre companies:
Traditional Theater
* Broadway/San Diego, presenting national touring Broadway shows year-round at the downtown San Diego Civic Theatre. Their 2004 season includes "Chicago" with Patrick Swayze (December 30, 2003-January 4, 2004), "Hairspray," directed by San Diego's own Jack O'Brien (July 6-18, 2004), "Thoroughly Modern Millie," a San Diego original and winner of six 2002 Tony Awards (August 3-8, 2004), and "The Producers" (August 24-September 5, 2004). www.broadwaysd.com
* California Center for the Arts, Escondido, state-of-the-art theatre presenting a diverse annual schedule of shows ranging from music, theater and dance productions to comedy and celebrity acts. www.artcenter.org * Christian Community Theater, presenting family-oriented classic and contemporary plays at Mt. Helix amphitheater in La Mesa. www.cctcyt.org
* La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego's other Tony (r) Award-winning theatre, presenting bold and innovative productions from May through November on the UCSD campus. www.lajollaplayhouse.com
* Lamb's Players Theatre, producing timeless classics and lesser known gems of the theatre year-round at their resident stage in Coronado. www.lambsplayers.org
* North Coast Repertory Theatre, featuring seven top-notch productions year-round in an intimate setting in Solana Beach. www.northcoastrep.org
* San Diego Repertory Theatre, presenting six contemporary productions and four annual festivals (September-June) in the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza in downtown San Diego. www.sandiegorep.com
* Theatre in Old Town, presenting crowd-pleasing musicals and comedies year-round. www.theatreinoldtown.com
* Triple Espresso at the Horton Grand Theatre, San Diego's long-running, highly-caffeinated comedy that has kept audiences laughing for five years and counting. www.tripleespresso.com/sandiego
* Welk Resort Theatre in Escondido, presenting classic Broadway musicals throughout the year. www.welkresort.com/sandiego
Alternative Theater
* Cygnet Theatre, San Diego's newest avant-garde theatre company, featuring an intimate performance space in the SDSU college area. www.cygnettheatre.com
* Diversionary Theatre, one of the oldest gay and lesbian theatres in the country, producing edgy dramatic productions and playful musicals with gay, lesbian and bisexual themes, located in University Heights. www.diversionary.org
* 6th @ Penn Theatre in Hillcrest, producing theatrical pieces of the most distinctive, sometimes unusual, and entertaining kind. www.sixthatpenn.com
* Sledgehammer Theatre, presenting intense and provocative productions in a resident space as original as its performances, in Saint Cecilia's Playhouse downtown (a former church). www.sledgehammer.org
From sweet and soulful to grand and commanding, the beautiful symphonic sounds of San Diego's orchestras fill the air on any given night. Major musical offerings include the following:
* La Jolla Music Society, showcasing a dazzling array of the world's most distinguished orchestras, soloists and ensembles in five series, including the popular SummerFest in La Jolla. www.ljcms.org
* Mainly Mozart, one of the most critically acclaimed classical music festivals in the United States and Mexico, featuring an all-star orchestra playing year-round chamber music concerts and an annual June festival. www.mainlymozart.org
* San Diego Symphony Orchestra, presenting world-class orchestral works year-round, including a popular outdoor Summer Pops series; the symphony performs in Copley Symphony Hall, downtown San Diego. www.sandiegosymphony.com
The moving, universal art of dance can be enjoyed at the Annual Nations of San Diego International Dance Festival, the largest ethnic dance event in Southern California, January 17-18, 2004 at the Mandeville Auditorium on the UCSD campus in La Jolla; the festival showcases 250 dancers representing different cultures. www.sandiegodance.org
Notable local dance companies that leap upon the stage and entertain audiences throughout the year include the following:
* California Ballet Company, presenting a full season of professional ballet. www.californiaballet.org
* Eveoke Dance Theatre, performing an annual season of compassionate dance theatre works throughout San Diego, including the Celebrate Dance Festival in Balboa Park (August 2004, exact dates TBA). www.eveoke.org
* Malashock Dance, one of California's premiere dance companies, founded by John Malashock, a former principal dancer with Twyla Tharp. www.malashockdance.org
* San Diego Ballet, presenting an imaginative repertoire of classical and contemporary ballet, features professional local artists. www.sandiegoballet.org
San Diego's operatic offerings are a stunning, world-class feast for the senses. San Diego's major opera companies are the following:
* Lyric Opera San Diego, featuring innovative productions where audiences can experience the joy of music, from Mozart to Gershwin, and the delight of laughter. www.lyricoperasandiego.com
* San Diego Opera, Southern California's longest established opera company, presenting the world's finest talent in lavish productions at the San Diego Civic Theatre in downtown. Acclaimed costume/set designer Zandra Rhodes creates a sensuous Nirvana in "The Pearl Fishers," February 14-22, 2004. www.sdopera.net
Film buffs can enjoy classic and independent cinematic masterpieces at the following San Diego venues:
* The Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) in Balboa Park has become a leading venue for film buffs to enjoy one-of-a-kind film screenings ranging from film noir to sci-fi. MOPA features an intimate modern theater showcasing classic American films and hard-to-find foreign works selected by the museum's film curator, as well as personal appearances by prominent filmmakers and actors. Visitors can purchase a "10 Pack of Movies" card for $50 (a $70 value). www.mopa.org.
* The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego presents ongoing screenings of film classics and animation at its La Jolla location. www.mcasd.org.
Each year new stars shine on the silver screen during San Diego's diverse film festivals, which include the including:
* The 5th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival, celebrating motion pictures, shorts and animation of Asian artists from around the world. October 2004 dates TBA. www.SDAFF.org.
* The 11th Annual San Diego Latino Film Festival, featuring screenings of short and feature length films from across Latin America and the United States by Latinos and about the Latino experience, March 11-24, 2004. www.sdlatinofilm.com
* The 14th Annual Jewish Film Festival, showcasing American and international feature films, documentaries and short films that explore the Jewish experience, February 5-15, 2004. 858-362-1348.
* The Annual San Diego Film Festival in downtown's Gaslamp Quarter, showcasing the best in American and international full-length films, documentaries and short films, features Q & A sessions with directors and guest appearances by film artists. September 2004 dates TBA. www.sdff.org
* OUTFEST San Diego Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, highlighting the year's best gay and lesbian films with special appearances by filmmakers and actors. September 2004 dates TBA. www.outfest.org
* Nationally known, Spike and Mike's Classic Festival of Animation laughs its way into the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego each spring and summer with crowd-pleasing animated shorts from around the world, April 1-May 31, 2004. www.spikeandmike.com
For half-price day of performance and full-price advance sale tickets to theater, music and dance events, guests can visit the convenient ARTS TIX booth at downtown's Horton Plaza, a public service of the San Diego Performing Arts League. Guests can also visit www.sandiegoperforms.com to view daily listings of half-price tickets. Additionally, the League produces the bimonthly "What's Playing on Stage in San Diego?" performing arts guide which lists current performances for over 140 performing arts members. The guide is available at various restaurants, theatres, coffeehouses and other locations throughout San Diego County.
The San Diego Art + Sol magazine is the complete guide to a guest's enchanted artistic and cultural journey to San Diego. The bi-annual magazine includes a seasonal calendar of arts and culture events, including dance, festivals, film, museums, music and theater, and select cultural itineraries. Visitors can obtain the new full-color guide by visiting www.sandiegoartandsol.com.
The San Diego Art + Sol Web site also includes updated listings of arts and culture events throughout San Diego County, as well as fun and interactive travel itineraries that reflect the rich cultural diversity of the region. Itineraries range from "Art and Architecture" and "Literary San Diego" to "San Diego on the Edge" and "Public Art in Offbeat Places."
San Diego Art + Sol's newest offering is a Dine/Shop/Arts travel package which includes theater and museum tickets, hotels, restaurants and shopping coupons. Packages can be customized to a guest's individual arts and cultural interests. To book, visitors can call toll free, 877-SUN-N-ART.
For more information on San Diego's exciting and sophisticated arts scene, visitors can contact the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau, 401 B Street, Ste. 1400, Dept. 700, San Diego, CA 92101-4237, or call (619) 236-1212. In San Diego, visit the International Visitor Information Center, 1040-1/3 West Broadway at Harbor Drive in downtown San Diego, and the La Jolla Visitor Center, located at the corner of Herschel Avenue and Prospect Street in La Jolla. Internet users can visit www.sandiego.org

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