DESTINATION EAST COUNTY: DEC. 20-JAN 11

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Photo: Winter solstice sunrise on Cowles Mountain

December 18, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)--This week’s Destination East County has some wonderful events, from winter solstice walks to  performances of holiday classics including the Nutcracker Ballet and Handel’s Messiah. Plus we’ll have a preview of coming attractions…from the Aztecs playing in the Poinsettia Bowl to the Trout Reopener at Santee Lakes.

So stay tuned for all of these events and much more, from East County Magazine.

COWLES MTN. WINTER SOLSTICE WALKS DEC. 20-22

Three winter solstice hikes to watch the sunrise atop Cowles Mountain will be held on December 20th, 21st and 22nd. Guides from Canyoneers and Mission Trails will lead you to a solstice observatory area. The hike begins before dawn, so bring a flashlight!  Meet at the Cowles Mountain trailhead at the corner of Golfcrest and Navajo for this two-hour round trip hike. 

The solstice site is about a mile up the trail and its age is unknown, though the Kumeyaay Indians used similar sites across Southern California.  A highlight of the solstice hike is seeing the rising sun split by a peak on the eastern horizon. But don’t stare directly at the sun, since this can cause eye damage.  You can observe the sunrise safely for a very few seconds through narrow slits, such as between your fingers held together, to enjoy this mid-winter spectacle.

NORTH POLE LIMTED TRAIN RIDE DEC. 19-20

Pacific Southwest Railway Museum in Campo invites you to ride the rails aboard its special North Pole Limited train, along with Santa and his elves.  Tickets are still available for December 19th and 20th.  The fun begins with good cheer at the Campo depot.  Aboard the train, Santa’s elves will serve cookies and hot chocolate, visiting with passengers as the North Pole Limited rockets toward the North Pole.

An on-board reading of a Christmas story leads up to the arrival at Santa’s Workshop, where Santa will board the train for the return trip, visiting with children aboard the train. Advance reservations are generally needed for this popular event. To reserve seats, visit the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum website at www.PSRM.org.

TRADITIONS OF CHRISTMAS DEC. 19-23

Christian Community Theatre’s annual production, Traditions of Christmas, will be held at the Don Powell Theater at San Diego State University from December 19th through the 23rd, as Christian Youth Theatre celebrates 21 years of Christmas memories.  This year’s production will feature scenes such as Christmas San Diego Style,  A Salute to the Military, White Christmas, exciting swing dances, tap numbers from a Rockette-style kickline and more. For information and tickets visit www.CCTSanDiego.org.  

CIDER UNDER THE STARS AT OAKOASIS DEC. 20

San Diego County Parks invites you to an evening of holiday-themed star gazing and hot cider at Oakoasis Preserve on Wildcat Canyon Road  in Lakeside on Saturday, December 20th from 5 to 8 p.m.  The San Diego Astronomy Association will be on hand with high-powered telescopes for up-close viewing of stars and planets.  The evening also features a campfire, sweet treats and live music. Bundle up and brink a blanket for this fun event, which is free for the whole family.

NUTCRACKER BALLET DEC. 20-21 AT POWAY PERFORMING ARTS CENTER

Southern California Ballet will present the Nutcracker at Poway Performing Arts Center on December 20th and 21st in performances featuring internationally renowned dancer Martha Leebolt as the Sugar Plum Fairy.  For tickets and details for this holiday favorite ballet, visit www.powaycenter.com

CHANUKAH CELEBRATION AT GROSSMONT CENTER DEC. 21

Chabad (Shah-Bod) of East County invites you to a Chanukah celebration at Grossmont Center in La Mesa on December 21st at 4 p.m. The event will feature lighting of a giant balloon menorah, music, hot latkes (lot-kehs) to savor, Chanukah crafts and more. For details visit www.jewishec.com.

HANDEL’S MESSIAH IN JULIAN DEC. 21

The Julian Community Choir will perform Handel's Messiah, a beloved holiday classic, on December 21st at 7 p.m.  The concert will take place in Julian’s historic Town Hall.

WINTER EXZTRAVAGANZA DEC. 21

The La Mesa  Kickboxing Academy invites the public to its Winter ExtravaJamba, described as a “Bohemian extravaganza like no other.” The owners have assembled an array of vendors and small business owners for those seeking holiday shopping and fun gifts on Sunday, December 21st from 12 to 6 p.m. at 8322 Parkway Drive, La Mesa.  Show Map. The event also includes live music, art, speakers and more. There is a small admission fee that’s waived if you bring a toy to donate to Toys for Tots.

EAST COUNTY MAGAZINE’S HOLIDAY PARTY DEC. 21

East County Magazine’s own annual holiday party will be held on December 21 from 3 to 6 p.m. at a private home on Mt. Helix.  Festivities include feasting and merrymaking, wine tasting, foods from local restaurants, music, prizes and surprises!  This event is open only to subscribers of East County Magazine and our staff. You can sign up for your free subscription – and your holiday party invitation--at www.EastCountyMagazine.org.

Now for a preview of coming attractions…

POINSETTIA BOWL DEC. 23

Football fans, heads up! The San Diego State Aztecs football team will be making its fifth consecutive Poinsettia Bowl appearance on Tuesday, December 23rd. This year, the Aztecs will be playing the Navy at Qualcomm Stadium with kick-off at 6:40 p.m.  For tickets, visit www.goaztecs.com

SAN DIEGO JAZZ TRIO DEC. 27 AT SAN PASQUAL WINERY

The SamDiego Jazz Trio will be performing at the San Pasqual Winery Tasting Room (8364 La Mesa Blvd., La Mesa) on Saturday, December 27th from 7 to 10 p.m.  The trio’s repertoire covers original songs as well as Latin tunes and familiar favorites in a bright and breezy style.

(There is no cover charge; though you can purchase wine by the glass, cheese crackers and desserts.)

JACUMBA HIKERS: INDIAN HILL DEC. 27

The Jacumba Hikers and Walkers will be hitting the trail on December 27th, hiking through desert terrain to Indian Hill west of Ocotillo. Rock caves, morteros and Native American pictographs can be seen on Indian Hill.  The hike will continue to an old railroad camp and gunpowder shack, then onward to a hilltop view with a spectacular view of Carrizo Gorge. 

This hike is rated hard and is approximately 10 miles roundtrip. Dogs are not allowed.  Hikers will meet at 8 a.m. at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum in Ocotillo for carpools. After the hike, the Jacumba Hot Springs Spa has offered free day use to hikers to soak away those aches and pains—so bring a swim suit and a towel. 

PROJECT WILDLIFE AT SANTEE LIBRARY DEC. 31

If you’re looking for a wild time for kids on New Year’s Eve day, you bring youngsters to meet local wildlife provided by Project Wildlife and learn about our animal neighbors at the Santee Library on December 31st at 1 p.m. It’s all part of the library’s Winter Boredom Break program. The Santee Library is located at 9225 Carlton Hills Boulevard in Santee.

ICE SKATING AT VIEJAS NOW THROUGH JAN. 4

The largest outdoor ice skating rink in Southern California is located at the Viejas Outlets Center in Alpine—and during the holidays, it’s open from noon to 10 pm. from December 20th through January 4th. Whether you’re an experienced skater looking for space for spins, twirls and jumps or a novice in need of rental skates, you’ll find ice available through January 4th at the Viejas Ice Rink, which is larger than the skating rink at Rockefeller Center!

TROUT REOPENER AT SANTEE LAKES JAN. 10-11

If you love to fish, you may want to mark your calendars for the Trout Reopener at Santee Lakes on January 10th and 11th, when the lakes will be stocked with two thousand pounds of rainbow trout! Prizes will be awarded for the five biggest fish caught. There will also be a breakfast sponsor by the Lion’s Club and prizes including fishing poles, tackles boxes, bicycles, camping gear and fishing passes.  For those lucky fishing folks who catch a five-pound trout or larger, you will also be entered in the Grand Prize drawing for a flat screen TV!  For details, visit www.SanteeLakes.com

That’s all for this week! You can find details on all of these events and more on our Calendar and in our Festivals and Events section online at http://www.eastcountymagazine.org.

If you have an event you’d like added to our calendar, or if you would like to sponsor the Destination East County column on our website, or the  Destination East County show on KNSJ radio, you can contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org .  Destination East County is the most-read feature on our website!

We’ll be back next week with more festivals, events and attractions in San Diego’s East County!!