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Birch Aquarium – Little Blue Penguins
Coming this summer to Birch Aquarium at Scripps in La Jolla: Little Blue Penguins, which measure between 13 inches and 17 inches high and weigh about 3 pounds. Visitors will be able to watch them socialize and build nests. Courtesy photo
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Travel plans changed? There’s plenty to do in San Diego County

Happy New Year.

Since this is my first column of 2022, I feel as though I should talk about grand plans to visit faraway places, but I’m a bit gun-shy when it comes to the word “plan.” 

On my New Year’s Day walk with my long-time friend, Wanda, we agreed that we need to keep plans and expectations for this year in check – partly to protect from disappointment and partly to protect our wallets. We’ve both heard too many tales about people who booked vacations and lost large sums when plans were cancelled because of coronavirus. 

Recent announcements regarding cruises from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention are not encouraging, either.  On Dec. 30, the CDC advised avoiding cruise ships. Period.

I feel some sympathy for the cruise industry – it lost $10 billion last year because it was forced to a standstill by the pandemic, but cruising is the antithesis of safe travel now. And the daily news of thousands of cancelled airline flights does nothing to encourage making travel plans. 

What to do?

Perhaps for the foreseeable future we should stick close to home and explore San Diego County. Here are a few ideas from the San Diego Tourism Authority, a few recent emails and my photo library, and don’t forget your masks.

Dolphin at Oceanside Adventures
This is one of four species of dolphin that can be seen off North County’s coast by passengers aboard Oceanside Adventure’s 50-foot catamaran which leaves regularly from Oceanside Harbor. Photo by Carla Mitroff
  • Whale watching – See four types of dolphins and whales – grays, humpbacks, fins, minkes and even the ginormous blues – right off our coast by catching a ride on a 49-passenger catamaran with Oceanside Adventures. This month is peak season for the whale migration.
  • Sesame Place San Diego – The former site of Aquatica Water Park in Chula Vista had been transformed into a Sesame Street theme park that opens in March. It will still include water attractions as well as themed rides, popular-puppet parades and a stage production. It is operated by SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment and Sesame Workshop. 
  • Birch Aquarium at Scripps – Little Blue Penguins (that’s really their name) are coming this summer to the 2,900-square-foot exhibit designed just for them. Their habitat includes an 18,000-gallon pool and an amphitheater and “discovery cave” where guests can watch the penguins  socialize and build nests. Also at the aquarium:  behind-the-scenes tours of the caring, breeding and feeding of the seahorse collection. 
  • San Diego Zoo’s Explorers Basecamp Coming in February: Four acres of “wildlife adventure” where kids can climb, scramble and jump in areas designed to teach about habitats around the world. It also promises “one-of-a-kind experiences with animals” to help connect young visitors with the natural world and understand the importance of conserving wildlife. Also: Africa Rocks (six habitats of Africa), and Monkey Trails and Forest Tales, a multilevel forest with plenty of creatures.
  • Map of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park
    Map of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Courtesy graphic
  • lipay-Tipai Kumeyaay Mut Niihepok Exhibit (Land of the First People), Old Town San Diego State Historic Park – There’s something new in Old Town. Learn about indigenous people and the environment in San Diego before Europeans arrived. Because the project was finished during the pandemic, a digital and photo tour also are available. To add to the day’s fun, take the Coaster right to Old Town’s front door.