Belmont Park, Mission Beach

Belmont Park is an amusement park built steps away from the sand and boardwalk in Mission Beach, California.

Its claim to fame is the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster which stands tall for all to see as you approach the entrance to the park.    Built in 1925 this icon is a part of San Diego’s history and has been restored to give riders the thrills of an old- fashioned roller coaster with its steep drops and fast turns.  I didn’t ride it on the day we visited but our crew said it was actually pretty fast and a lot of fun.  It doesn’t match up to the coasters of today with their elaborate twists and turns and their sole purpose to outdo each other.  This is just a plain old fun coaster that is worth a try.

Bel--Roller coaste rwith flags Bel--Roller coaster showing cart

The amusement park has other adult thrill rides as well as old favorites such as the Tilt O’ Whirl.  There is something for everyone including bumper cars, carousel, rock climbing, zip line, and a sizable arcade.

Bel-Looking down by games

The arcade had all of the newest games with the exception of a few Pac Man and Skee Ball machines scattered about for you nostalgic types.  It also houses the Lazer Tag room.

Bel--Lazer Tag
Lazer tag didn’t sound that appealing to me especially since I was under the weather and didn’t have much energy.  So I choose to sit that one out.  However, my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to give it a try at the last minute. We entered into a room where you picked out a vest with a name on it like Ultra, Lightning, Atlas, etc.

We formed two opposing teams and were led into the room to begin play.  All of a sudden my adrenaline kicked in making me feel like a middle aged Rambo.  I stayed on the lower level and proceeded to dominate a Mom and her two small girls.  I ran around the room hiding behind pillars until my prey came in sight, I’d shoot and then run off to the next area.

Once in a while my vest squawked and I could feel myself being hit but no worries, I was getting in a lot of hits myself. Never mind if it was against the two young girls and Mom who were really just standing around and not doing much of anything.   As the game wound to an end, I circled around a pillar and there they were again, the two kids just standing there!   I pelted them with my imaginary laser power one last time and took off feeling like I was really good.

Stepping out the door the results are posted for all to see. To my dismay, I came in last on my team. I guess I wasn’t that good after all.   Laser tag was surprisingly fun and I would definitely do it again.  This time I would aim a little better. Buy their unlimited pass so you can go in all day and at any time. One time just wasn’t enough to get the feel for it.  Also, watch out for sneaky 7 year olds, obviously they shot me more times than I thought.

The climbing wall, I left to my Nephew who attempted the hardest wall first. As he made his way up at least three quarters to the top I think it occurred to him that it was really hard.

With only a few foot holds, you really had to work hard on that expert course.   There were other levels that had more frequent holds and one that had huge round holds for the smaller kids.  The zip line hovered above and traversed over a small area.  It seemed like a good chance to at least try it before attempting the larger and scarier ones that are popping up all across the state.

Arlo Rock Climbing

Outside in the center of the park were your typical carnival skill games. I challenged my nephew to the water squirt game where you shoot water from a gun into a clown’s mouth to see who pops the balloon first.  Again I thought I was dominating but the pop came from my nephew’s side, not mine.   It must be my eyesight, yeah that’s it.

There were a few sit down restaurants as well as your typical sweets and snack bars along the way.

On one side of the park sits a sizable parking lot with a smaller one on the other side. Be careful, it can get packed in the summer so you might want to start off early.

I was impressed by the Wave House Beach club located just behind the park and nestled right up to the sidewalk and beach.    Each table actually sits on sand giving you the ultimate beach bar and restaurant experience.  Your view is that of the boardwalk, sand, and ocean beyond.

Bel--Wavehouse cafe
Bel--Wavehouse sign

Wavehouse cafe -1

The Wave House is home to the Flowrider stationary wave which is a must see.  This free standing wave breaks just like an ocean wave with one small exception, the water is only a few feet deep and when you wipe-out you fall on padded cement.  Unlike the soft landing you receive on an ocean wave, riding this wave can come with injuries and the reason you have to sign a waiver to ride.


One of two standing waves at the park, the larger wave has a built in lip where the water hits and gives the form of a breaking wave.  On this day it was not in operation but I have seen it many times and you can sit for hours watching the skilled prone and stand up riders perform.  This is not for the faint of heart as you do not want to try this one without some experience.   The Wavehouse did develop a smaller wave that sits at the other end of the restaurant for beginners as well as advanced riders wanting to hone their skills.

Bel--Snall wave

We walked the boardwalk for awhile and only imagined how busy it must be on a summer day.   Nearby you can find other restaurants as well as a rental shop where you rent bikes, bodyboards, surfboards, etc.


If you stay for the weekend, Mission Bay is close and Sea World is only a few miles away.

This qualifies for one of our weekend getaways because beside Belmont Park, there is so much more to do around the area.

Bel--View towards La Jolla

If you are looking for something to do just for the day consider Belmont Park.  The entrance and parking are free and you can also view the Flowrider wave for free.

Sounds like a perfect day.  Oh and by the way, try the laser tag and see if you can beat my last place.

Again, Faces have been blurred out to protect privacy.


San Clemente Pier

San Clemente Pier 2

Growing up in the Newport Beach area of Southern California, I had access to 3 piers within a 10-mile radius of each other. With the exception of Balboa, the Newport and Huntington Beach Piers were and still are hubs of activity. In the summer and on the weekends scores of people flock to the piers and beaches making them a very popular destination. Huntington Pier is the most famous of the three as it is the site of the highly attended U.S Open of Surfing every summer.

SAn Clem--On the pier

Some forty miles down the coast and away from the hustle and bustle of those more frenetic beach cities sits the sleepy town of San Clemente. Exiting the I-5 freeway, you wind your way around side streets and hills to finally arrive at the base of the San Clemente Pier and its surrounding beach area. This makes it more of a hidden jewel as it is a little more challenging to find.

San Clemente Beach looing north

San Clem Beach looking south

At 1,296 feet in length, it isn’t one of the longest piers in California nor is it one of the smallest.


Originally built in 1928, it has needed its share of reconstruction through the years due to an occasional Pacific storm. At the entrance you will find a bait and tackle shop, a restaurant with indoor/outdoor seating, and plenty of restrooms. As with all California piers, fishing is a big part of the daily activity with local anglers enjoying their hobby on any given day.

Near the pier, there are a few paid parking lots and some metered parking along the street; however, beware that spots fill up very quickly during the summer and weekends. I have often taken a drive up the coast for a sunset stroll only to turn back due to lack of parking.

Like Huntington, surfing is popular along the pier as well as down the beach. With plenty of sand and waves, this is a perfect place to enjoy a warm summer day. For relaxing dining, the Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar provides a great view of the Pacific and I hear serves up some amazing food.

SC Pier
San Clem-Restuarant

During the summer, the city hosts an annual festival called Seafest. This event features a chowder cook-off, a surfing contest, arts and crafts, entertainment, rescue demos, as well as many other activities.

One summer day a miracle happened and I was able to find parking in one of the lots. As I meandered along the pier I was amazed on how emerald green the water was. It seemed like a different color than the bluer hues down south. I never did find out if this was the norm for San Clemente but I do know in certain parts of California the ocean colors are different. A lone seal was swimming beside the pier and you could see it clearly with the help of the clarity of the water.

San Clem--Seal 1
San Clem Seal 2

As the sun was setting quietly across the horizon I became lost in my thoughts while admiring the soft pastel colors of the afternoon sky. My revelry was soon interrupted by the distinct sound of an Amtrak’s horn. It was the first time I noticed that the train actually runs adjacent to the beach and stops nearby. This could be a perfect solution for those who want to avoid the parking woes and just step out of the train right onto the beach.

San Clem--Railroad
San Clem--Shops by the pier

San Clemente pier like all piers is a great place to stroll, eat, fish, people watch, play on the beach, or simply just watch the sunset. Hotels are nearby for those who want to stay longer.

San Clem--Hotel
San Clem looking from end towards hills

This is recommended by California Staycations as a fun half or full-day excursion. Leave your worries at home and go play for the day. If your peacefulness is disturbed by the horn of an Amtrak, rest assured that it will soon be back on its way taking its passengers to another wonderful California destination.

San Clem--T-street

Story and Photo: D. Colwell








Happy New Year


A few things coming up in 2015

Staycations California Picks:

The Renaissance Pleasure Faire: A themed festival features more than 1,000 costumed actors re-creating a small 16th-century-style English village, complete with Queen Elizabeth’s court, jousting and sword battles. Visit

Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival:  This festival features more than 50 hot-air balloons,  wine tastings from the local wineries, top-name country and rock entertainment, vendor booths, and plenty of family activities  Visit

Pageant of the Masters: Can’t even describe this one, it is a must see. Actors  dress up and become a part of a famous painting or sculpture.

Comic-Con:   This has become one of the most popular events in Southern California.. All at the San Diego Convention Center. International film stars and illustrators mingle with some 200,000 fans at this four-day event.  Visit

MCAS Miramar Air Show:   You have to see this at least once in your life. More than 500,000 spectators turn out each year for this free three-day celebration.. Entertainment includes stunt planes, helicopters, rescue demonstrations, air drops and wing-walkers, with the highlight being the  Blue Angels precision flying team.

Zap Wine festival in San Francisco: Head over to the Presidio on January 29 – 31, 2015 for the all new Zinfandel Experience Wine Tasting event! – See more at:

Martin Luther Celebration and Parade in San Francisco: This weekend long festival celebrates the life and work of MLK. It features a parade, film festival, arts festival, health & wellness festival, and more.

Mendocino Wine and Crab Days
Rated one of America’s Top 10 Seafood & Wine Festivals by Coastal Living Magazine!