Nov. 10 2010 04:12 PM

The best leisure activities in San Diego


In his greatness and generosity, the Supreme Leader has declared that all laborers will receive two days off for every five in service. However, an idle body not only wastes itself, but deprives our comrades in the leisure industry of the livelihood that depends on maintaining a lively 'hood. This guide, written in conjunction with the Department of Natural Resources, aims to help you find that utopia away from utopia in the wilderness.

Best way to fly without leaving the ground

Good news, comrades. Technology has changed many things since you were a pup, not the least of which includes kiting. No longer must you pump your spindly legs across an open field, trying to catch a breeze, much like Edwin Decker does when he spots a happy-hour plate of wings. While the old-school kites certainly still exist, in these modern times, the key is to use a parafoil kite, which uses cells of stitched nylon to catch the air and wind and pull itself along, guided by your capable hands.
The biggest of these can often be found flying at the very south point of Seaport Village, where Kite Man Mark Mueller regularly puts a 65-foot-long, 12-foot-wide kite, big enough to be seen from Coronado, into the air. Yes, you have to brave the tourists and the sword swallowers, but the location is on the water, has fairly consistent wind, and you have to see the size of this kite to believe it.

Mueller demos kites from various manufacturers and offers brief lessons with two- and four-line stunt kites. If that hooks you, ideally you'll stroll a few hundred yards down to Kite Flite (, one of San Diego's best kite shops, which will offer up loaners to curious individuals and also sells multi-line stunt kites such as parafoils (which will give you a very Zen workout on a windy day), deltas and the Revolution, the precision stunt kite that marks the biggest development in kite design in decades.
—Anders Wright

Best place to stretch in a groovy yurt

I'm no new-agey, crystal-wearing hippie, thank you very much, but I want a yoga studio that focuses not just on fitness, but also on the meditative aspects of yoga. Too many places focus on how good you look in your outfit, or how awesome your poses are. I like my yoga teachers a little kooky and my studios super-groovy. If that resonates with your third eye, then Yoga Swami in Encinitas might just be the place for you to get your stretch on.

Tucked in the heart of Swami-happy Encinitas (912 S. Coast Hwy. 101,, Yoga Swami offers classes of all types from beginner to advanced. If you're new to yoga, definitely hit up a beginner's class first. Some of the regular Vinyasa flow classes do some pretty intense sequences, including hand, head and shoulder stands, challenging for even moderately experienced yoga practitioners.

At Yoga Swami, you're going to get an intense but non-intimidating practice, with ample focus on breathing and flow. If you're lucky, your instructor will say things like “Your breath is like a multitude of galaxies” and might even play the harmonium to accompany your end-of-class “Om” chants.

Step behind Yoga Swami's fence and you'll forget you're steps from a major county thoroughfare. The quiet garden, burbling with a small fountain and dotted with seating, puts you in a Zen state-of-mind before you even step into the studio—a cozy and inviting yurt. Though its peaceful footprint in a very urban environment is small, the land is certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a “mini-refuge” for local wildlife.

What's especially great about Yoga Swami is that it's donation-based, part of its mission to provide “a place of nonexclusive community involvement.” Set an intention, throw in a 10-spot and start working your asanas off.
—Jenny Montgomery

Best way to get pasty urban dwellers back to nature

You won't need hiking boots, a backpack or compass or anything—just sneakers, a bottle of water, some sun block and you're set. Ready? Let's get away from the freaking noise!

Drive north on Interstate 15, exit at Rancho Bernardo Road and head east (right) for a while. Look for Blue Sky Ecological Reserve ( Park there and walk to the trailhead. turn your phone to vibrate and head down the dirt road into the shady oak forest that leads to a lush riparian streambed. It's jungley and cool for a mile through this awesome forest. Pretend you're in the Amazon. Listen to the tweeting of birds, scurrying of lizards and breezes through the trees. When you come out of the forest, keep on the dirt road until you see the Lake Poway sign and follow that trail. Take a water break in the shade of the oak trees before the dam. Now hike up the trail beside the dam (yeah, it's five minutes of exercise—deal with it). Walk down to the dock, rent a pedal boat and pedal around the little man-made lake ( Reward: a can of cold beer and fries at the lakeside snack bar. Ah, civilization!

Now, head back the way you came, Tarzan, through a little jungley paradise in your own deserty backyard.
—D.A. Kolodenko

Best place to see—or not—majestic gray wolves

There's way too much talk of cougars in San Diego. Plus, it's the Year of the Wolf (in some region of the world), so we're celebrating the majestic beings. Myth No. 1: They howl at the moon. OK, that's as far as we got with fables, but there's so much to be learned about these furry friends and nowhere better to do it than the California Wolf Center in Julian.

Far off Apple Country's beaten path exists the magical sanctuary, open since 1980 and home of the endangered Mexican and Alaskan gray wolves. The mission? To stoke an appreciation of wildlife and wildlife conservation by focusing on these two species. If you're lucky, you'll see one hanging out in its habitat. But nobody makes these players play. They're shy and sometimes remain hidden. Out of sight, out of mind? Not so. This canine predator makes a real impact on its environment.

Before wolves were released in riparian areas of Yellowstone Park, vegetation was becoming depleted by smaller animals running rampant. Wolves forced them to shift their patterns. Ain't nobody gonna break their stride but, in a nutshell, they had to keep on moving.

In a county dominated by SeaWorld and the zoo, it's nice to have a more organic, more educational go-to for the animal lover in all of us. And, as part of a consortium of facilities in the U.S. and Mexico that breeds endangered Mexican gray wolves and releases them in the southwestern U.S., they're a bunch of do-gooders you can feel good about supporting.
Private tours take place Monday through Friday by appointment and cost $25 per person. For a list of pre-scheduled programs and to see photos of the beautiful wolves that make their home on the property, visit
—Brook Larios

Best shining example of community pride

There's something to be said for the full-sensory book experience. I'm not a Kindle or a Nook owner. And though I appreciate the convenience and amazing technology those devices offer and respect the passion they've invoked in their owners, I still delight in the tactile sensation of actual books. And that includes being physically surrounded by thousands of books at a time. The unique cover art, the smell of paper, the crack of binding. I envision libraries as pantheons to the written word—gathering places for communities to learn, imagine, escape and grow. The Encinitas Public Library is just such a place, and would that every corner of San Diego County had such a treasure.

Perched high above the ocean and the railroad tracks (at 540 cornish Drive), nearly the whole back wall of the library is made up of windows overlooking an expansive view of the Pacific. It would be hard to find a more breathtaking place to get lost in stories of naval battles, great whales, pirates and more.

Like any library worth its salt, the Encinitas Library has plenty of events to bring the community together, including a monthly open-mic series and a recent book fair featuring actor and North County resident Richard Dreyfuss.

Little kids will delight in the snuggly reading nook in the children's section. All ages can enjoy the large outdoor patio on the backside of the building. For usually pasty bookworms, nothing could be lovelier than enjoying a good story while being kissed by sunshine and sea breezes.
—Jenny Montgomery

The best way to get free outdoor exercise

Yoga is boring. Gyms are weird. For me, living in San Diego is all about taking advantage of year-round outdoor access. But when a walk in the park isn't enough, it's time to head to Morley Field.

Tuat the intersection of Arnold Avenue and Upas Street in North Park and park in the eastern-most lot in front of the Morley Field Sports Complex. From there, you can easily find station No. 1 of the Morley Field Parcourse Fitness Circuit.

When I say “station,” what I mean is a wooden sign with a 1970s-style graphic of a dude in a workout outfit demonstrating how to do a specific exercise. Sometimes there are props; other times it's just the sign.

The first one's simple. It's called the “Achilles Stretch” and all you have to do is grab your ankles. There are three levels of intensity—Starting, Sporting and Championship—and if you're feeling a little lazy, you just have to do a few reps before jogging (or walking) to the next station.

From the fun “Sit & Reach” and “Jumping Jack” stops to the more challenging “Log Hop” and “Chin Up” challenge, pretty much anyone can find exercises they love and hate in Parcourse.

But the best part is that it's free. And you get to be outside. By the way, if you successfully find station No. 7, I'll give you a dollar.
—Kinsee Morlan

Best place to feel like a kid but with no kids in sight

Sometimes I wish that Chuck E. Cheese's would have an adults-only night and let us play in that big pool of multi-colored balls (yes, laugh if you want, but I'm more than aware that I just said “big pool of multi-colored balls”). Yet, until Dave & Buster's gets one, it'll have to remain a fantasy.

However, if you're feeling limber and desire some innocent fun without all the kid germs and crying, may I suggest Adult Skate Night at Skateworld (6907 Linda Vista Road in Linda Vista, From 7:30 p.m. on, you can spin, skate backward or just fall flat on your ass without having to worry about some pre-pubescent tween cutting you off or judging you. There's also a DJ spinning old-school jams and crappy video games at the last remaining skate rink in San Diego.

You might want to go soon, however. There is an effort afoot to shut the place down after 35 years (more info at, so get it while the getting's good.

Personally, I like to make fun of the in-line skaters (aka roller-bladers). Ah, shit-talking and dangerous activities where there's a realistic chance of getting injured. It's just like being a kid again.
—Seth Combs

A list of ways the Leader spends his limited leisure time

Before the Leader was, well, the Leader, a friend gave him some advice: Never take a long walk off a short pier. He's stuck to that advice, regularly taking walks on piers that never exceed the length of the pier. From Imperial Beach to Oceanside, few slats of pier have not supported His Excellency's feet.

But aside from the chance to enjoy the ocean, sand, sun and sea (and a Black Forest shake at Ruby's on the end of the Oceanside Pier followed by a Detoxitini martini at 333 Pacific at the base of the pier), the Leader likes to spend his leisure time biking the Strand (and capping it off with a refreshing Orange Ave Wit at Coronado Brewing Company), caravanning around Tijuana with hip alt-tour outfit Turista Libre ( or sauntering among the historic homes of Sherman Heights ( And, at dusk, you might find him strolling the Balboa Park promenade with his blind Pomeranian, Prince Pepe, admiring the way the lights illuminate the Spanish Colonial Revival-style architecture.   


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