Western Trips

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Oldest Building in San Diego / The Cosmopolitan Hotel

The Cosmopolitan Hotel in historic Old Town San Diego is believed to be the oldest building in San Diego, CA. Today, the Cosmopolitan is a piece of history and a hotel with vintage luxury ambiance within the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.California State Parks owns and operates a number of original and reconstructed buildings as part of Old Town State Historic Park.

Cosmopolitan Hotel
Stay and Dine at the Cosmopolitan

Old Town recreates the setting of California life during the Mexican and early American periods, 1821-1872. This is where San Diego began. If you're looking for an historic and unique hotel, the Cosmopolitan Hotel is it. The structure received a three year renovation in 2010.

 The Cosmopolitan features a full-service restaurant and bar, open 7 days a week for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. The hotel is also a ten room B&B. All rooms are beautifully furnished with 1870's antiques and have private baths.

The History of San Diego's Earliest Building

What is today the Cosmopolitan Hotel was once a one story adobe structure and home to Don A. Bandini built during the early 1800's.Bandini arrived in California from Peru with his father who has a ship captain.  The adobe home was at one time headquarters for Commodore Robert F. Stockton in 1846.

In 1869, after the American Civil War, the structure was purchased by Alfred Seeley who operated the Seeley Stables. The building needed a lot of repair. It was Seeley who decided to built a second story in wood frame and opened the building as the Cosmopolitan Hotel. The hotel had a barber shop, a billiards room

Alfred Seeley eventually sold the hotel in 1888. After that time the building served many purposes. This included being a canning facility for olives. The building had become rundown but was purchased by a grandson of Bandini. The grandson renovated the building with new decor and installed modern conveniences such as electricity and gas.

During the 1950's the building operated as an upscale motel. The state of California purchased the property in 1969 when the state historic park was founded.

San Diego's Old Town State Historic Park

As mentioned above, the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park was registered in 1969. Admission to the park is free. There are five original adobe structures in the park including museums, restaurants and shops.

The site of Old Town San Diego was the center of town into the 1860's. The center of town started to switch to the site of present downtown San Diego. This new site was promoted by Alonzo Horton who pointed out his sites close proximity to the harbor area. Straight west of the present day downtown area is the Embarcadero with restaurants, shops and floating museums such as the USS Midway aircraft carrier.

old town san diego dining
Dining room
 You may also enjoy the Western Trips articles on the links below...

Visit the San Diego Automobile Museum in Balboa Park

Hiking in California's Joshua Tree National Park

Tour the Historic Menger Hotel / San Antonio, TX 

Our references and excellent books regarding Old Town San Diego State Historic Park includes... Old Town State Historic Park by author Alex Engstrand.....Old Town San Diego 1821-1874 by authors Iris W. and Ray Brandes Engstrand.

Old Town San Diego is often referred to as the birthplace of California. It was the first settlement in Alto California after Father Junipero Serra, traveling from today's Mexico in 1769, founded his mission. Discover Ol also see a working blacksmith shop, enjoy music, see or touch the park's burros, and take part in activities that represent early San Diego. A trips to Old Town makes a great family activity.
old town san diego attractions
Cosmopolitan's outdoor restaurant

Old Town San Diego features a lively, authentic atmosphere that boasts 17 museums and historical sites. San Diego tourist websites offer four tips to help with your visit to Old Town. 
  • Parking in Old Town can be a challenge, but there are a number of paid parking lots and many hotels offer visitor parking.
  • The Old Town Transit Center offers both Trolley and Coaster service for easy access around the county.
  • During Charger Games and morning and evening drive times, traffic in the Mission Valley area can become congested.  
  • Old Town offers seven hotels to choose from all within walking distance from the Trolley. 
The park is located on San Diego Avenue and Twiggs Street in San Diego, and is conveniently adjacent to the Old Town Transit Center, with Coaster, Trolley, and MTS Bus service. Also, website www.parks.ca.gov/

San Diego has many fine attractions. Old Town is one of these connecting you to the city's historic past. We know you'll enjoy spending time there.

(Article and photos copyright Western Trips)

Monday, February 23, 2015

The San Diego Automobile Museum / An Excellent Collection

Located in San Diego's beautiful Balboa Park is the San Diego Automobile Museum. This museum is a must see if you have any interest in classic and vintage cars.

san diego automobile museum
San Diego Automobile Museum
When Western Trips visited the museum we were very impressed with the rare automobiles featured there. The museum which is not real large has car exhibits are literally found wall to wall.

Also displayed was a fine exhibit of Indian and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Special exhibitions about every two or three months display other fine vehicles and famous autos. This is a museum to bring your cameras because you'll take some great photos.


Just to give you an idea of the type of automobile exhibits found at the San Diego Automobile Museum, we are listing a few of these on display during our visit.

One fascinating and unique exhibits is the 1947 Cadillac that was owned by Louis Mattar. This is called the $75,000 1947 Cadillac built by Louis Mattar. It is the highly modified car to say the least and attached flat trailer that offered all the comforts of home. Just to mention a few of the car's features was the shower, ironing board, washing machine and cocktail bar. This automobile could also inflate a tire while moving. The car and trailer made a record in it's 1952 non-stop journey between San Diego and New York. The car was refueled while moving along with a gas truck.

tourist automobile
1905 Tourist automobile
Another interesting exhibit is the 1973 Ferrari Dino 246 GT. This sleek sports car was produced by Ferrari from 1968 to 1976. After that time the car was built using only the Ferrari nameplate with it's prancing horse. This was a lower priced offering from Ferrari and began as a six cylinder vehicle with a 5 speed manual gearbox. The automobile is on loan from a European museum.

Another vintage automobile exhibited during our tour was a 1905 Tourist. During the very early auto years there were car companies located from the east coast to the west coast. The Tourist is considered to be the best known on the west coast and was built by the Auto Vehicle Company which also manufactured trucks..The Tourist automobile sold new for about $1,700.  The company was bought out by the California Automobile Company. The Tourist was produced until 1910. The California Automobile Company then focused on electric cars.

The vehicle photo shown at the bottom of this article is "Big Oly".The vehicle, a Bronco, was designed by Parnelli Jones, Bill Stroppe and Dick Russell to be an off road desert racer. The vehicle's sponsor was Olympic Beer. Among other events, Big Oly ran in the Mexican 1000.

ferrari dino
1973 Ferrari Dino 246 GT
The San Diego Automobile Museum also has a Kid's Spot which offers kids a chance to learn about vintage and classic cars. Check with the admissions desk to learn about the scavenger hunt for kids with  various prizes offered.


For special events and special displays you may also want to check out the museum's website at.....http://sdautomuseum.org/news.  The San Diego Automobile Museum at times may ask for cars to display during upcoming special exhibits and events.

You may also enjoy the Western Trips articles on the links below...

Visit the World Famous San Diego Zoo

Hiking Trails at Joshua Tree National Park

San Diego's Oldest Structure in Old Town San Diego 

See the Helicopters of the USS Midway

The Museum Library

The common definition of an automobile is a vehicle with wheels and a motor which can transport people. It's been said that about 100,000 patents created the modern automobile.  Just about anything you wish to know about an automobile can be found in the museum library.

The San Diego Automobile Museum features one of the finest automobile libraries found anywhere. There are almost 4,000 books available and automobile magazine titles that go back over 100 years. The magazine collection alone approaches 40,000.

big oly racer
Big Oly
You'll also find several editions of repair manuals and over 2,500 hardcover repair manuals. If you're looking for a repair manual for your vintage Packard or Studebaker or Hudson, you might find it at the museum library. Also, there are selected vintage automobile books and periodicals that are for sale.

The San Diego Automobile Museum website has a list of local car clubs and their phone numbers.

Balboa Park

As mentioned above, the San Diego Automobile Museum is located in historic and scenic Balboa Park. The museum is located in the southern part of the park and is adjacent to the Air and Space Museum which makes a good companion visit. There's a good size parking lot in front of the museum and the free park shuttle can transport you between the museum and the Visitors Center.

(Article and photos copyright Western Trips)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Visit the San Diego Zoo / A Must Stop in San Diego California

If you're looking for the best zoo to visit in the U.S., you've found it in the world famous San Diego Zoo. The zoo is famous for good reason, it's simply fantastic.The San Diego Zoo lives up to it's reputation.What's there not to love.

san diego zoo
San Diego Zoo entrance
Touring the Zoo

When visiting San Diego, a visit to the San Diego Zoo is a must. Located at the world-renowned Balboa Park, just minutes from downtown San Diego, the zoo covers a very large area including several hillsides. The Zoo offers a free bus-tour, covering a good part of the zoo. This tour helps you to plan exactly what exhibits you'd like to see later in more depth.

A zoo visit is a good opportunity to stroll around with the family. A trip to the San Diego Zoo can be for several hours or for a full day. Walking around can easily consume one day. In fact, you can spend days at this amazing zoo. A good thing to note is that parking is free. Visiting the zoo is a learning experience. During our visit we saw several children of young school age on outings.

 The guided bus tours are really informative and entertaining as each driver/tour guide has his or her own unique tales to tell about the animals as well as the history and features of the park, from conservation to research. In addition to the free bus tours, included with you ticket is a free aerial tram. This is a good way to have a birdseye view of the entire zoo. In addition, the San Diego Zoo has beautiful landscaping and a large variety of plants.

zoo exhibits san diego
The Exhibits

One would likely say that the main exhibits at the San Diego Zoo are the pandas, tigers and bears. According to the San Diego Zoo they have three giant pandas, including Xiao Liwu, born on July 2012. The pandas have large exhibit areas with trees, climbing structures, and air-conditioned bedrooms.

Two other animals we highlighted here are the monkey and the hippopotamus. The monkey shown in the photo left uses the rock seen here to crush the nut shells for eating. The rock is picked up with both hands and smashed against the nut shell.

The hippopotamus shown below naturally keeps most of it's body underwater to keep their bodies cool and only has it's nose and eyes above water for seeing and breathing.

The animals are essentially roaming free and are exhibited in their natural  habitat. Try this fun website to find your favorite animals at the San Diego Zoo.....http://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/animals

zoo giraffe photos
Giraffes, All zoos have to have these!
You'll want to visit the botanical gardens located at the zoo. San Diego's mild Mediterranean climate makes it possible to grow more different kinds of plants than almost anywhere else in the United States. There are over 1,900 acres at the Zoo and Safari Park. The Zoo and Park also act as "rescue centers" for rare and endangered plants.

There are several activities at the zoo which can be a lot of fun but do cost extra from your general admission ticket. These include the Jungle Ropes Safari, the Behind-The-Scenes Safari, the Caravan Safari and the Flightline Safari just to name a few. Check out the following site for more detailed information on these.....http://sdzsafaripark.org/view-all-safaris

san diego zoo animals
Hippos enjoying the cool water
Important Tips for Your Visit

1. Take along  walking shoes. This zoo is large. It's 100 acres and there's plenty to see. Also bring your shades and good sunscreen.
2. Obtain a zoo map and plan out your must see animals. For many people this could be the pandas, elephants, tigers, lions, polar bears, gorillas and monkeys. It's difficult to reach everything in one day.
3. Take the bus tour - It's a much easier way for you to get a taste of everything without having to walk the entire zoo.
4. When climbing aboard the bus tour, the best seats are on the right side of the vehicle towards the front.
5. If you're going with a group, obtain a curator pass because it comes with a free companion plus 4 one day guest passes.

You may also enjoy the Western Trips articles on the links below..... 

California Hiking Adventure at Joshua Tree National Park 

Visit an Old California School House in Indio

San Diego's Popular Gaslamp Quarter 

Things to See and Do in La Jolla California

The San Diego Zoo is a must see when visiting this city. The Zoo is on the northern end of Balboa Park. Balboa Park also is home to the San Diego Automobile Museum, the San Diego Air and Space Museum plus several other gear venues. Balboa Park features a free shuttle that will take you to the museums mentioned above, to parking areas and the Visitors Information Center which is adjacent to a very good restaurant.

(Article and photos copyright Western Trips)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Bighorn Mountain Country Adventure / Great Hiking

Located in both Wyoming and Montana, the Big Horns are one of America’s most scenic and pristine mountain regions. Big Horn Mountain Country has something for everyone–whether you’re an outdoor recreation enthusiast, sightseer, traveler or merely wish to kick back and relax. The scenery and the terrain, the pristine air, and natural mountain beauty of the Big Horns offer a place to leave back that hustle and bustle of the city.

Hunting, camping, fishing and boating are popular in the Bighorn Mountains.

Hiking Through the Bighorns 

bighorn lake wyoming
Bighorn Lake in the southern district
There are many hiking trails throughout the Big Horn Mountains and Bighorn National Forest. The location is also advantageous for your summer vacation itinerary as the mountains are about half way between Yellowstone National Park and Mount Rushmore. Mountain lakes, grassy pasture land and alpine meadows are all a part of this region.

Hike Bighorn Canyon

Bighorn Canyon is located northwest of Sheridan,Wyoming and south/southeast of Billings, Montana.

Billings is about 86 miles from the Bighorn Canyon Recreational Area. Sheridan, Wyoming is about 111 miles away. Both communities are just a few hours drive.

Bighorn Canyon is ideal for hiking.. These trails offer great  scenery and peaceful settings. They also offer a real natural way to explore this region. Some trails go through historic ranches while others take visitors to scenic vistas. The trail system offer hikers a great way to see this region as well as a way to make your visit here longer, and longer is good.

Bighorn Canyon Recreational Area offers over 27 miles of trails.There are thirteen trails long and short. Some of these will take you through historic ranches and others will treat you to scenic vistas. One thing to note is that the NPS does not allow dogs on the hiking trails in the Bighorn Canyon Recreational Area.

According to the NPS, Bighorn Canyon is home to bighorn sheep, mule deer, wild horses, mountain lions, black bears, and many other animals.

bighorn country scenery
The natural beauty of Bighorn Country
There are five campgrounds within this recreation area.....

They are the Afterbay Campground, the Black Canyon Campground, the Horseshoe Bend Campground, the Trail Creek Campground and the Medicine Creek Campground.

Hike Bighorn Lake 

The creation of Bighorn Lake goes back to 1965 when the Yellow Tail Dam was constructed. The lake spans an amazing 71 miles through the Bighorn Canyon. Here you'll see 1,000 foot high cliffs rising from the lake. The lake is beautiful and boating and fishing are popular activities. Boat rentals are offered.

You may also enjoy the Western Trips travel posts on the links below.....

Killdeer Mountain Four Bears Scenic Byway / North Dakota 

Follow the Old Butterfield Stagecoach Route Through Texas

Mountain Bike Riding in the Western U.S.

Travel to Bighorn Country  

scenic red rocks
Scenic Red Rocks in Bighorn Country
Bighorn Country is in both Wyoming and Montana, relatively close to both Sheridan, Wyoming and Billings, Montana. Both of these towns are known for their local events which brings in plenty of tourists.

Sheridan's Wyoming Rodeo, Wine Fest, Brew Fest and concerts are just some of the events. Look for the 3rd Thursday Summer Street Festivals.The festival is on Sheridan's historic Main Street and you'll enjoy music and food and the many unique shops in downtown Sheridan, Wyoming. Thousands attend these four summer festivals.

Billings is the largest city in Montana and draws thousands of tourists annually. Such attractions as Yellowstone National Park, the Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument, and Cody, Wyoming are not far from Billings. Also, don't miss the Yellowstone County Museum in Billings. The annual fall rodeo at the Metra in Billings draws big-time cowboys and cowgirls. Billings, Montana is also known for it's ArtWalk and it's galleries. For more information on Billings ArtWalk see website.....http://www.artwalkbillings.com/

Bighorn Country and it's beautiful Bighorn Mountains offer plenty of fun recreational and travel activities. From hiking, bicycling, boating, fishing, camping and the nearby festivals and events in Billings, Montana and Sheridan, Wyoming, your visit to this area should be a great time for the entire family.

Two good books regarding the Bighorn Mountains and hiking trails includes.....Hiking Wyoming's Cloud Peak Wilderness (Regional Hiking Series) by Erik Molvar and Hiking Montana: A Guide to the State's Greatest Hikes by Bill Schneider and Russ Schneider.

(Article copyright Western Trips. Photos in the public domain)