Patriach of the pantheon, feller of Titans, atop Olympus, you rule over everything in the domain below—and copulate with anything and everything with a pleasurable orifice. Our intention is not to diminish your power by deeming you the catch-all deity. Rather, we honor your omnipotence, Zeus, with these overflow winners, since all of creation, even the uncategorizable, comes under your jurisdiction.
Best unexplored area of the Wild Animal Park
Plenty of San Diegians visit the Wild Animal Park (15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, www.sandiegozoo.org/wap) every year, but most visitors spend their time looking at the animals, understandably. Few people realize the most northern area of the park consists mostly of gardens—one of the greatest native botanical parks in the county. The Baja & Old World Succulent Gardens are desert gardens with a wide variety of cacti and succulents, all natives of San Diego and Baja. When you walk through the desert realm, you'll eventually hit on a new patch, the 4-acre large Nativescapes Garden. This area has more than 500 plant species, all native to San Diego County. Although all of the plants are indigenous, you're sure to see quite a few you have seen before.
Best study café
ou might be thinking Gelato Vero's upstairs patio, or perhaps The Library near SDSU, or maybe even Twiggs in Normal Heights. Those would all be good choices, but the best, the quietest, the preeminently spacious, least crowded and best study café is—wait for it—Cream, the coffee bar in University Heights (4496 Park Blvd.). On a typical afternoon, when you need to get some stuff read, written or thought out, Cream is the place to go. It's roomy, light and airy and has lots of great table space. The café even has two column-like pillars, and although they're probably only there to hold up the ceiling, if you squint your eyes and tilt your head (and perhaps indulge in the wine that's available), you can imagine these as beautiful Corinthian columns and maybe even an elderly man dressed in a toga working on some ancient manuscript over in the corner by the restrooms. Well, maybe not, but a California Breakfast Sandwich and an iced café latte are an enchanting way to start an afternoon of studying.
Best cluster of Socrates wannabes
Normal Heights resident Jesse Karras is something like an undercover superhero. By day he works as a logo designer and at night he stages Socrates Café gatherings where reasoning and analytical skills are the weapons of choice. Now part of a worldwide phenomenon, Karras got the idea to stage his own bimonthly discussion forums (www.meetup.com/San-Diego-Socrates-Cafe-Meetup-Group) at Lestat's Coffee House (3343 Adams Ave. in Normal Heights) after attending one in Seattle, where he used to reside. “It was definitely one of the highlights of living there, so when I moved to San Diego, I knew I had to emulate the same formula.” Think of it as The View, but with civilized people.
At 375 feet long and the only one of its kind in San Diego, the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge remains a living
example of Hillcrest / Bankers Hill's past and a hidden destination. Because of its light weight, the bridge sways, flexes and rocks in response to walking and wind, which makes it an undesirable location for those afraid of heights. If visiting the bridge as part of a lunchtime walk, you'll typically find yourself alone and able to enjoy the canyon view. Built in 1912 to provide pedestrian access to Hillcrest for Bankers Hill residents, the narrow bridge spans Kate Sessions Canyon (aka Arroyo Canyon) and is located west of First Street where Spruce Street dead-ends. Judging from the amount of empty 12-pack and 18-pack containers on the canyon floor, the bridge and surrounding area is used as an outdoor, nighttime watering hole. This may explain why it's closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and is under 24-hour surveillance, according to posted signage.
Best park for legal drinking
Enjoying beers at the beach is a thing of the past, thanks to the city's booze ban. But fear not, fans of the tall can—there remains 21 city parks where drinking is permitted from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. If you live in or frequent Ocean Beach, then Collier Neighborhood Park is your spot. Located off Voltaire Street on Soto Street, the small, tucked-away park remains largely unknown to OB and Point Loma outdoor drinkers—I've rarely seen someone else enjoying an adult beverage there. Primarily a grassy, angled lawn, the park attracts locals and their dogs looking to escape the crowds at Dog Beach or Dusty Rhodes Dog Park. However, the park also features an old-school drinking game: horseshoes. Situated near the park's two picnic tables, the lone horseshoe pit is shaded by several trees, making it a chill location for a weekend barbecue. For fans of local nature, the back end of the park connects to the Point Loma Native Plant Garden.
Best puppy-friendly hotel
Kayak.com is a filthy, lying website. When I was preparing to move to San Diego from Santa Fe in mid-October, the popular travel-comparison hub presented me with a long list of Downtown hotels where my 8-pound terrier could also loll in the lap of three-star luxury—and not a single damned one was accurate. Eventually, I discovered that La Quinta Suites Mission Valley—not even listed on the site—would take the both of us. Sure enough, every other pooch-packing tourist was on my floor. For a dog-friendly hotel, the floors were noticeably free of piss stains and the landscaping clear of excremental landmines. The only thing the suites were missing was dog biscuits on the counter and complimentary crap bags, but I'm not going to whine about it, even if my dog did.
Best farm to see camel toe
The Reigler Family Farm in Ramona (www.cameldairy.com) is anything but normal, especially when you consider that its main staple is camel's milk. Yes, it does sound weird, but, apparently, there are a lot of health benefits in drinking camel's milk. According to some research, it's the most closely related milk to that of human milk. Double weird. This month, they're offering public tours, which also include photo ops with the camels, and if you're just not too sure about drinking camel's milk, you can try camel soap. Regardless, if you're up for an adventure or enjoy getting up close to some unique ungulates, it just might be worth the trip.
Best shady-liquor-store back entrance
An avid morning drinker, I recently went through what could have been my first panic attack when I couldn't find an available parking spot in front of Pacific Liquor (2931 El Cajon Blvd. in North Park). In a moment of genius—fueled by a relentless desire for André Spumante—I drove around and realized that not only do they have a secret backdoor entrance, but also, said ingress is through a narrow corridor whose walls are adorned by a Willy Wonka-esque Mickey's malt liquor mural to the right and an endless collection of beer-babe calendars and promotional posters to the left (think Oz, if the yellow brick road were replaced with uneven concrete and the Wizard was Larry Flynt). Notable hussies include those pictured on a war-torn Budweiser bikini-girl-trio placard, circa 1983, and Onlinebootycall.com's 2004 calendar, showcasing model Nicole with her sexy (yet classy), pre-Bumpits blonde-and-black-haired bouffant.
Best animal to survive extreme cruelty
Yes, the baby panda at the San Diego Zoo is cute. And, yes, the orcas at SeaWorld are magnificent. But the beast that truly earned our admiration this year was the Muscovy duck found skewered with five 8-inch crossbow bolts, including one through the head, in mid-October at Chollas Lake in Oak Park. Following surgery, Lt. Dan DeSousa of San Diego County's Department of Animal Services, explained that the bird immediately and unexpectedly regained its appetite, though it wouldn't eat duck food, just bread and more bread. At first, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported the bird-rehabilitation organization Sky Hunters plans to return the duck to Chollas Lake, which made us worry since the $3,000 bounty on the shooter has yet to produce a suspect (whoever the bastard is, he's made CityBeat's Worst of 2009). With similar concerns, Animal Services convinced Sky Hunter to keep the duck at its facility in Alpine.
Best people to play dress-up with
Short for costume play, cosplaying is basically play-acting in costumes. It's a growing trend among the Star Wars, Star Trek and Comic-Con set and, San Diego Cosplay's Brian Kruise says, with “just about anyone that likes to go to costume parties.” With a membership of more than 200 and employing the motto “be yourself by being someone else,” recent monthly gatherings have taken over such spots as the U.S.S. Midway with a sci-fi theme and the Escondido Renaissance Faire. Kruise's favorite outfit so far? “A colossal Predator made entirely out of latex…. It was amazing!” www.sdcosplay.org.
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