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4 things to do right now in San Diego

An illustrated giant pink shark added to a photo of kayakers floating above sharks.
Kayakers above a group of leopard sharks in the waters of La Jolla Shores.
(Photo by K.C. Alfred; illustration by Ashley Cai / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, fellow Escapists. August is here and the end of summer is looming — at least for kids and parents of the LAUSD, with school starting in less than two weeks.

There’s just enough time to hit the road and pack in a few last-minute summer adventures.

In this edition of Escapes, you’ll find some great reasons to visit San Diego right now. (Hint: They involve houseplants, art and sea life.)

Have you discovered any travel gems this summer? As always, my inbox is open to all of your recommendations.

Reader Karen Axelton shared one of her favorite summer spots: the Eastern Sierra Ice Cream Co. in Independence, Calif. “We visited them last year on a road trip and the ice cream was so good, we planned this summer’s trip around being able to stop there again,” she wrote in an email.

Now, let’s start our road trip.

Visit a houseplant wonderland in Encinitas

A large greenhouse interior filled with plants and two illustrated dinosaurs with long necks.
(Photo by SDBG; illustration by Ashley Cai / Los Angeles Times)
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Maybe you’re a longtime lover of houseplants, unable to resist picking up a new peace lily or ponytail palm when you pass by a plant shop. Or maybe you’re like me — a wannabe plant parent who failed to inherit her grandfather’s green thumb.

Either way, you won’t want to miss one of the San Diego Botanic Garden’s latest exhibitions: “World of Houseplants,” a crash course in collecting and caring for houseplants.

The exhibition’s hundreds of plants — air plants, carnivorous greenery, wax plants and beyond — are displayed in the garden’s Dickinson Family Education Conservatory.

Inspired by the exhibition? On select weekends, visitors can purchase houseplants to take home, plus potting materials and other plant products. Check out the vendor schedule here.

The exhibition runs through Sept. 5. Tickets cost $18 for adults.

One more thing: For a truly magical experience, consider visiting during one of the garden’s special “Summer Nights” events, held Aug. 11 and 25 and Sept. 8.

Guests have the chance to walk the garden as the sun sets, enjoy music and other entertainment and purchase snacks including charcuterie and cheese to munch on around the garden’s fire pits. Preorder tickets and food ahead of time.

Pick up art in Liberty Station

Have a drab, blank space on your living room wall that’s in need of a colorful print? You’re in luck: On Saturday and Sunday, the ArtWalk fine art festival is taking over Ingram Plaza at San Diego’s Liberty Station.

Paintings, ceramics, jewelry and other artworks created by more than 180 artists from the U.S. and Mexico will be on display and for sale during the event. Here’s a sneak peak of some of the art you’ll see at the festival.

Tacos, pizza, ice cream and other bites will be available for purchase during the event, and visitors are free to sip beer, wine and other beverages as they peruse the art and listen to live music.

Children are welcome too, with kid-focused arts education programming organized by ArtReach, the Monart School of Art and the San Diego Watercolor Society.

The event is free and runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Can’t make it this weekend? Mark your calendar for ArtWalk Carlsbad, which will be held Sept. 24 and 25.

Explore the murals of Chicano Park

A person stands among murals painted on the supports of a concrete bridge. One says "Hasta la Bahia!"
An illustrated ribbon traces a path through murals at Chicano Park in San Diego.
(Photo by Allen J. Schaben; illustration by Ashley Cai / Los Angeles Times)

Speaking of art, less than seven miles away lies Chicano Park, the site of about 80 vibrant murals and plenty of history.

“When state and local officials expanded Interstate 5 through San Diego and built the Coronado Bridge in the 1960s, they split the long-standing blue-collar neighborhood of Barrio Logan,” explains Times writer Christopher Reynolds, who included Chicano Park on his list of the 101 best experiences in California. “Then in 1970, when the California Highway Patrol started building an office where a park was expected, the largely Mexican American neighborhood rose up, occupied the site for 12 days and at last got a 7-acre park built.”

Today, this park is said to be home to the largest grouping of Chicano murals worldwide, surrounded by galleries, restaurants and other developments. You can find a preview of the murals, as well as a map of the park, here.

Barrio Logan, however, is no stranger to stressors such as rising rents, pollution and the physical and financial hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ll have Times columnist Jean Guerrero, who grew up southeast of the neighborhood, tell you about these challenges — as well as her hopes for the future.

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Swim with sharks in La Jolla

Small sharks are seen amid clear shallow water, with several people paddling above.
Three people swim above leopard sharks in La Jolla Cove.
(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Swimming with sharks is high atop many adrenaline seekers’ bucket lists — typically sandwiched somewhere between skydiving and running a marathon. The excitement of cage diving takes travelers to far-flung places such as the Maldives, South Africa, Fiji and beyond.

But did you know you can swim with sharks — on purpose — along the shores of San Diego County?

Thousands of leopard sharks congregate during the summer in the shallow waters off La Jolla. According to the Birch Aquarium, snorkeling is a great way to observe these animals in their natural habitat.

And since you might be wondering, experts say leopard sharks are virtually harmless to humans.

A handful of water sport outfitters offer snorkeling rentals and tours that allow travelers to swim in the same waters as leopard sharks. With HBK Adventure Tours, guests can learn snorkeling basics at the La Jolla Ecological Reserve. It’s $65 per person; mask, snorkel, fins and wetsuit are included.

Enjoy the sight of leopard sharks swimming, but don’t touch or chase after them (this is a good rule of thumb for wildlife generally, of course).

Unable to or not interested in snorkeling? You can still get a glimpse of the sharks by visiting the outdoor “Shark Shores” exhibit at the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla.

📰🎸 Road song

"Summer Renaissance” by Beyoncé. Play it while watching paragliders soar from Torrey Pines.


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