<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Worth the Trip]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcsandiego.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.com en-us Fri, 04 Sep 2015 14:29:22 -0700 Fri, 04 Sep 2015 14:29:22 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Dates Announced: Disneyland Holidays]]> Fri, 04 Sep 2015 11:41:45 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/dlholidays12345.jpg

JACK SKELLINGTON KNOWS: September through December -- or, let's be honest, early January -- is a whirl of bunting and lights and decorations and fresh costumes and special events at Disneyland Resort. But just because Halloween arrives before the December holidays on the calendar doesn't mean that The Happiest Place on Earth always sticks strictly to the order of things. Look to one of its most famous seasonal attractions, The Haunted Mansion, for further guidance on this calendar-twisting topic. The New Orleans Square attraction transmogrifies into Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas," a treat that salutes both the most haunting of holidays and Christmas, too. So it is no surprise then that Disneyland would draw back the curtain on its Holidays at Disneyland Resort dates a week ahead of Halloween Time making its official Sept. 11 debut.

NOV. 13, 2015... is the opening date for all things candy cane-y at both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, so, as is tradition, the entire week of Thanksgiving -- one of the busiest for the resort -- will be fully decked out in its shiny baubles and minty charms. And, as is tradition, the holiday celebration will extend a couple of weeks past Christmas Day, with a Jan. 6, 2016 wrap-up. There've been no reveals yet as to what treats are in store this year, but count on those famous handmade candy canes to pop up at the Candy Kitchen on Main Street, and count on seeing a few toy soldiers, and Santa, too, in the daily parade.

AS FOR HALLOWEEN? There's a lot going on, starting with the Sept. 11 kick-off. Mickey's Halloween Party, Ghost Galaxy at Space Mountain, Jack Skellington at The Haunted Mansion, and the giant pumpkin at Town Square are all tried-and-ghoulish hallmarks of the theme park's spookiest season. Ready for Halloween and then the holidays, one after the other? Well, since The Haunted Mansion smooshes them together to great success, we'll guess Disneyland will rock both distinct celebrations, even though they sit very close on the calendar. Still going on through it all? The park's 60th anniversary party, too. 

Photo Credit: Disneyland]]>
<![CDATA[California Wine Month: To-Dos by the Glassful]]> Thu, 03 Sep 2015 18:41:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/redgrapeclustersTeamSanJoseRobertHolmes.jpg

JUST ABOUT EVERY PLACE... that has entered our hearts and imaginations has a special pair-up that only arrives once or twice a year. It's the pairing that happens when both time and location align and something rather magical, or at least memorable, occurs. Think of the first snowfall in a quaint New England town. That couldn't happen in May and snow falling on a huge city, while pretty, doesn't necessarily boast that postcard-y charm. Picture the first spring flowers in a field or the corn at its very tallest in some field in the middle of the Great Plains. A patient person needs to wait for the right moment and spot for it all to come together, and that right moment, and spot, for those devoted to wine, is California in September. The ninth month of the year is, in fact, California Wine Month, that stretch of the year when vineyards are busy with crush and harvest activities. Many of those activities, and more beyond, are crafted just so the public can join in, making September, and California Wine Month, one very bustling period of time/place for the celebration-minded oenophile. So, where to go and when? Ah, that is the tricky, schedule-testing part. First take a look at the HQ for...

CALIFORNIA WINE MONTH: Thirty days, oodles of events, a whole swath of wineries in every wine-filled nook of the Golden State, and a wish to partake in everything. Some lovely possibilities include SIP Temecula, the valley's month-long tasting deal, and a Sample the Sierra Pop-Up Dinner on the Lake Tahoe Golf Course. Rutherford Ranch Winery is on the dinner-hosting act, too, and V. Sattui is throwing a grand Harvest Ball. Livermore's popular Front Porch Music Festival is on the roster, and the Preston Castle Tasting & Tour goes deep into a Gold Country landmark. Could you do everything? Nope, not all in one go, but with some planning and saving you could dip into several delights over the course of the month. And isn't it nice to have a time and place that so richly and visually and flavorfully fit together? California's vineyards and that late-summer-into-fall month, dear September, make a rather dashing duo, indeed.

Photo Credit: Robert Holmes]]>
<![CDATA[On Tour and Very Big: Harvest Festival]]> Wed, 02 Sep 2015 14:28:28 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/HFpainting2015.jpg

A HARVEST FESTIVAL, in many minds, is a fairly cozy small-town-y soiree. You have the baked goods table, the one that is raising money for a new flagpole, and you have the booth with the pumpkin bowling. Maybe there's a caramel apple stand, and perhaps there's a crafter or two on the grounds, selling spicy pot pourri and Christmas ornaments. Many of those same elements exist at the Harvest Festival Original Arts & Crafts Show, of course, but you'll need to multiply the amount of things you see/do/buy at your hometown craft show to reach an estimate of what this touring extravaganza holds. Dozens upon dozens of artisans journey to various destinations around the California and into Nevada, transporting shimmery jewelry and kid-cute tutus and framed nature photographs and specialty mustards and wooden gem boxes and beautiful handmade aprons. There's food to nosh on each time the fest pauses somewhere, and entertainment, too, from music and clowns and the occasional person on stilts. Call it autumn energized, and prepare to see it arrive where you live, or at least a short drive away from where you live, very soon. The Harvest Festival's multi-city, two-state tour kicks off in...

LAS VEGAS... over the second weekend in September. After that it'll visit a caboodle of California cities, from Del Mar to Pomona to Ventura to San Mateo and beyond. It has been around for 43 years, and it shows, both in the breadth of what's offered at the fest and the depth of the crafting roster. A ticket is nine bucks and it covers you for the three days that the fest is at a specific location, so if you buy for Ontario, you're good for three days at the Ontario show. So, will you shop for yourself, or will you get all of the homemade-y sweet treats that you need, to give away or to stuff stockings, during the holiday season? And will you devour any breads or cookies you purchase on the car ride home? Questions, so many questions. We're just happy another herald of fall is on the wind, and, with it, many cute and interesting items that brim with that charming small-town-esque touch. 

Photo Credit: Harvest Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Marvelous Music: Monterey Jazz Festival]]> Tue, 01 Sep 2015 16:26:58 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/WyntonMarsalis06playing_Clay+Mcbride_300.jpg

FAMOUS, FLOW-FILLED, FABULOUS: There's no doubt that particular days of the year carry more heft than others. Likewise, particular times of the year, and seasons, too, also tend to follow this rule. Take your birthday, which carries with it at least a little emotion, and your anniversary, too. Your favorite time of year does as well, like the holidays or spring. But everyone everywhere likely shares the heart-tug of a feeling that comes with the final weekend of summer. Weekends have a certain winsomeness, and summertime does, too, which makes the yearly timing of the Monterey Jazz Festival more than perfect. It unfolds over the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of that final summer weekend, a time that just naturally, and poetically, carries some extra beauty and bittersweetness. Add the world's best jazz sounds to those emotions, as their soundtrack, and you have a music-tacular that continues to draw fans from Monterey, California, the U.S., and points around the globe. And with fine reason, too; not only can they come together as a tune-loving community to bid summer farewell, they can do so while enjoying some of the most acclaimed artists around on eight stages.

OH YES, EIGHT STAGES: After nearly six decades of presenting the best of the best, Monterey Jazz has grown into quite the spectacular. And that octet of stagery stays busy throughout, with over 500 musicians keeping the flow going over a trio of very full days. Wynton Marsalis is set to play the 2015 festival, and the superb Dianne Reeves, and Chick Corea, and the amazing rockin' Ms. Nikki Hill. Chris Botti will bring the brass (a prominent sound/metal at the fest among many musicians, of course) and Pete Escovedo will have his drumsticks in hand (it's his 80th birthday, by the by, which will be celebrated at the fest). Vocals, instrumentals, jam-type sonic flights, and all things that fold into the large mind space that is jazz are welcome at Monterey, which has made its name, in part, for being one of the avant-garde-iest extravaganzas around. For sure, tradition is still embraced and loved upon, too, so when you think "is there something for everyone?" well, yes. Eight stages, 500 artists, hours and hours and percussion and trumpet and harmony. Oh goodness, there's more, places to shop, places to eat, places to chillax, art happenings, and such. Happy 58th, Monterey Jazz, and thanks for delivering the last official weekend of summer in such a heartfelt, flow-sweet manner. It raises the vibe of every music maven in attendance, and those fans who support from afar.

Photo Credit: Clay McBride]]>
<![CDATA[Modernism Show & Sale: Palm Springs Opener]]> Mon, 31 Aug 2015 18:21:30 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/openingnightmodernismshowsale1.jpg

THAT PAINTING, THAT CHAIR: When it comes to celebrations that explore and honor and fete and love upon all things mid-century, from homes to clothing to businesses to artworks to funky couches that look like they might have been made on the moon, there shall be no outshining Palm Springs. Absolutely, yes, you're right, other places do boast a nice mid-century vibe, from neighborhoods that stayed true to a single architect's singular vision to city halls and early malls that reflect the aesthetic. But the P.S. just wins the shiny trophy on this, in all the ways, year-round, but more so during Modernism Week. The February shindig is popular, hugely so, which led to a fall preview in October, to deal with some of the overflow. (But, let's be honest; so many people who can't get enough go in both the fall and winter.) And one of the centerpieces of the autumn hooha happens to be the Modernism Show & Sale. There's no mystery as to why this is, if you're curious: Attendees who stroll through elegantly appointed homes, cool casas filled with fine furnishings, want to bring a bit of that 1960s-style style back to their own pads, wherever those pads may be. A fine starting pointing, then, is to start at the start of the Modernism Show & Sale.

FRIDAY, OCT. 9... is the date, some "40 premier national and international dealers" showing sofas and paintings and vases and everything domestic'll be in the house, and tickets are seventy five bucks a pop (and you get to return any time you like, during opening hours, of course, during the remainder of the weekend). Are educational programs, and community grants, supported by your ticket price? You betcha. Shall there be bites and sips to bite and sip while you look at the nifty things made for mid-century homes? There shall be, yes. Will you get to hang out at the equally-as-nifty Palm Springs Air Museum? That's where the Modernism Show & Sale is taking place. There is a way, then, to admire the accouterments of mid-century homes and to maybe, just possible, find something neato to buy before you leave the desert. It doesn't have to be one or the other, at the Modernism Week Fall Preview.

Photo Credit: Palm Springs Modernism Show & Sale]]>
<![CDATA[Spring-Fed Pool: Death Valley Labor Day Splash]]> Sun, 30 Aug 2015 10:52:13 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/228*120/familyswimfurnaceresort.jpg

TOASTY DAYS, SPRING-FED WAVES: California and Arizona have been longtime neighbors -- no spoiler alert needed, we'll presume -- so it hurts us, just a tad, to borrow an Arizona-ism that is very much associated with the Grand Canyon State. "But it's a dry heat" is practically the official state motto, and if it one day starts to show up on license plates and letterhead, we won't be at all shocked. So Zonies -- and we call Arizonans by their zany nickname with all love -- might be a mite mad to see us using "but it's a dry heat" for some places based within the Golden State. "You don't know a hot day!" they may counter, thinking of our beaches and fog. Ah yes, but then we counter back "have you been to Death Valley National Park?" and then the discussion ends.

FURNACE FUN TIMES: For Zonies know, and Californians know, and everyone knows that Death Valley can lean towards the toasty end of the thermometer, and absolutely definitely during the summertime. But summertime doesn't mean the national park hangs the "See ya in winter!" sign. On the contrary, The Ranch at Furnace Creek stays open through June (warm), July (scorching), August (wowee it's hot), and into September and the rest of the year. One of its secrets? It has a spring-fed pool, one that is bound to see some fun family times come the long weekend of Labor Day.

OTHER ACTIVITIES ABOUND... beyond the pool's edges -- horseback riding, bike riding, and such -- but every guest wants to feel that spring-fed-a-tude that comes with a cooling dip. The natural springs help the resort with its admirable water conservation efforts, efforts that also apply to the Ranch's sister property, The Inn at Furnace Creek. The Inn keeps off-and-on hours in the summer, that are limited, but reservations are now being accepted for its early-October re-opening. The Inn, like The Ranch, also boasts a spring-fed pool, which sounds quite storybook-like, like an oasis, for such a stark desert setting. Summer isn't yet over, and you can still tell people "I'm going to Death Valley for Labor Day Weekend -- it's a dry heat!" If you tell them about your days spent in the spring-fed pool, though, in the middle of the arid landscape, they may just think you've read too many tall tales. But this one is true.

Photo Credit: Ranch at Furnace Creek]]>
<![CDATA[Temecula Fest: Green Chile Time]]> Fri, 28 Aug 2015 09:53:54 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/chilegettygreen1.jpg

A BITE WITH BURN: August may be dominated by back-to-school-ing, but a small contingent of cuisinaires are all about a single fruit with a singular hue coming out of a singular location: Hatch, New Mexico. We speak of green chile, the pow-packing pepper that is as much a part of daily cooking in the Land of Enchantment as salt and pepper. But the pepper's powerful reputation has traveled well beyond New Mexico's borders, which has led to great demand for the end-of-summer spicy icon. Trucks head west, to California, brimming with the good stuff, and a few special roasting days, and the occasional party, greet and/or celebrate the shipments. One such fiesta shall bring the fiery fun to Town Square Park in Temecula on Saturday, Aug. 29 and Sunday, Aug. 30. It's the Hatch Green Chile Festival, and while the procuring of peppers is at the hot heart of the hoedown, there shall be other lively happenings. Like... 

LIVE MARIACHI TUNES... and Ballet Folklorico and kid-focused fun times and a Mr. and Mrs. Chile Pepper contest. As far as the food end of the day goes? Wait for it: 10,000 pounds of Hatch chile'll pull into the park and the roasting is complimentary. Also complimentary? The smell. Oh, you know that smell, the one that no perfume or air-freshener could reproduce. It is fall on the air, deep and green and tinged with smoke, and it is a scene every New Mexican misses if they're not on their home turf in August. A ten-pound bag of the good stuff is twenty five bucks, and since people have already put some pre-orders in, you'll want to arrive early to make sure you get your goodies. If you're planning on doing any chile-wine dishes this autumn or winter, well, you'll be in the right spot. Pick up your peppers, get them roasted (mmm), and then make for your favorite winery for a bottle of something deep and red and tinged with fruitiness, an ideal match for your deep and green and tinged with smoke pepper haul.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cosmic Cocktails in the Neon Boneyard]]> Wed, 26 Aug 2015 13:44:42 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/neoncocktailsvegas92223.jpg

SIN CITY PAIR-UP: Las Vegas, like all iconic cities that are known the world over for a few incredibly distinct qualities and offerings, is a land of the pair-up. Oh, not just in weddings, although, rumor has it, the city has been known, on the pair-up scene, for one or two nuptials over the years. Rather, we mean how well two things go together in the land of roulette wheels and splashy stage shows. In fact, there's the first pair-up we had in mind: People waiting to enter a casino-based theater, to see a big-ticket extravaganza, have sometimes been known to put a few chips down on roulette, or play a hand or two of blackjack, before curtain time. Big breakfast buffets and Bloody Marys -- with spirits or straight tomato juice -- are another twosome often seen around town. And huge LED signs and star-level ventriloquists are a duo nearly as long-running as ventriloquist acts (and, of course, the invention of LED). Let us also add sleek, retro cocktails and neon lights to the twosome line-up. Many a Vegas reveler has enjoyed a beverage within the glow of a blinking hotel sign. Many a reveler has held up their drink to the sign, the better to see how a martini changes the sign's hues. And many a reveler will have a chance to sip and admire signs on Friday, Sept. 18 at The Neon Museum's Neon Boneyard. It's... 

COSMIC COCKTAILS... night at the sign-filled institution, and the Las Vegas Astronomical Society is joining in and hauling along a bevy of telescopes. First things first: Guests shall watch the sun set, and then, as the stars pop out, there shall be a lot of looking upward at various planets and stars. A DJ "spinning cosmic music" will be on hand, and food and drink options will be in-the-house and on-the-plates (and in-the-cups) as well. Tickets? They're seventy five bucks a person, and they help out the Neon Museum in all of its sign-saving, public program ways. Pairing up signage and sipping? It's a very Vegas tradition. If you have designs on calling upon Sin City over that weekend, a cocktail in the Neon Boneyard, with some astronomy love as the cherry on the cake, could be an offbeat to-do, and yet one with plenty of way-cool Vegas history, universe-inspired knowledge, and a flavorful bite/sip, too.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Neon Museum]]>
<![CDATA[A Fall-Fancy Stay Near The Winchester]]> Tue, 25 Aug 2015 17:13:18 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/hotelvalenciasantana.jpg

AN ATMOSPHERIC WALK IN THE DARK... is pretty much a staple of every spooky story told around Halloween. You heard it on the albums you grew up with, the ones that told scary (but fun) tales of exploring neighborhood haunted houses, the kind brimming with cobwebs. You saw it in the "Thriller" video, where a stroll in the dark summons a pack of fresh-from-the-grave dancers. And every fright film about a mansion on a hill has a main character who wanders up, through the trees, to explore. But if you're off to explore The Winchester Mystery House, one of the most famously phantom-y landmarks in all of California -- and, let's be frank, the planet -- then you know a stroll home, as in a scary story, isn't in the cards.

STAY CLOSE: The Winchester sits in the middle of bustling San Jose, and attending of the house's autumn-nifty flashlight nights means you'll probably arrive at the attraction by car. Unless, of course, you book at Hotel Valencia Santana Row, a posh property that's just a pip and hop (read: five-minute walk) from Sarah Winchester's infamous manse. You won't need to push through a forest of foreboding trees to reach Hotel Valencia following your Winchester visit, however, but you should plan on visiting one of the many restaurants or bars that dot Santana Row, for many'll keep the liveliness going well into the evening post-flashlight tour.

THE HOTEL... underwent a recent refurbishment that enhanced its "Mediterranean accents and Spanish Golden Age appeal." Warm woods, mood lighting, and rich fabrics lend the building further luxe-o-sity. While there are no packages with a Winchester theme, there is one that has a fall-y feel to it, a Wine Weekend Getaway deal. Cheeses and vino and picnicking and discounts at vineyards around the nearby Santa Cruz Mountain region await. And, truly, what's more autumn than A) wine and B) ghost tours? If you're fond of both, this could be your spot -- the Hotel Valencia Santana Row -- to combine both, in one flashlight-bright, merlot-tasty weekend. Just enjoy your walk from The Winchester Mystery House back to your hotel and keep your fingers crossed you won't meet up with a pack of dancing ghoulies.

Photo Credit: Hotel Valencia]]>
<![CDATA[Free Entry: Happy 99th, National Park Service!]]> Mon, 24 Aug 2015 13:30:40 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/joshuasunsetrobbhannawacker.jpg

YOUR PRESENCE REQUIRED: It is almost extremely certain that, if you've been invited to several birthday parties over the course of your lifetime, that your "presence" has been requested in lieu of physical, wrapped, bow-on-top "presents" (also, you've read a lot of "in lieu of" on a whole lot of invitations, for sure). It's a happy homophone situation, with "presents" and "presence," and the request of the latter simply means that the host wants to see you there, in the room. Nice, yes, but we'll take the word even further when it comes to visiting a famous organization on a pretty big birthday. The National Park Service is just about to mark its 99th -- it was founded in 1916, yessiree, on Aug. 25 -- and you definitely don't owe it any presents. (In fact, we're 100% sure you consider the motto "take only memories, leave only footprints" when bringing anything into a park.) Your presence, though, would be nice on Aug. 25, and by that we simply don't mean arriving in a national park and being there, but being there. Get us? We're talking about connecting with the place, the Joshua trees, the redwoods, the foamy surf, the quiet and the majesty and the nature and the wind. Anyone can offer presence, as in showing up, but embodying the quality takes a little extra oomph.

WHAT YOU WON'T REQUIRE... a little extra of, should you visit on the NPS birthday proper, is cash. Well, for sure, if you travel keep some clams handy, but paying them at the entrance gate to the park of your choice will be a no-go on Aug. 25. Your money shall be waved away, as the National Park Service is waiving get-in fees at those parks that charge them. (Way less than half do.) Do you need to hug a boulder? Stare at some cumulus action over a far ridge? What about saying hello to a waterfall? All of these activities vibe with the aforementioned presence. Head out to your favorite park, or a new one, on Tuesday, Aug. 25, and saunter in for free. Happy birthday, National Park Service! Already can't wait to see what you've got going for your big centennial.

Photo Credit: NPS/Robb Hannawacker]]>
<![CDATA[Central Coast Celebration(s): FigtoberFest]]> Sat, 22 Aug 2015 11:15:42 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/figtoberfest29292.jpg

A LOCAL BREW TAPROOM... can be a pleasurable place to stop by on a Saturday afternoon, especially in the mellow days of late summer. Autumn isn't yet in the house, but Oktoberfest is nigh, as it always is around the time summertime starts to pack its luggage and make its exit. But when that local taproom is part of a clutch of regional taprooms, all under the banner of a single regional beermaker, you can count on Oktoberfest taking on a convivial mood, at least for a day. For sure, you might find some of the out-sized wacky happenings associated with the holiday at village-wide Oktoberfests, the kind that last for a several weeks. But if you're at any of the Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. taprooms on Saturday, Sept. 12, you'll feel an Oktoberfestian breeze in the air, thanks to a day of lively games and cool contests and, yes, some savory, beer-perfect German vittles. It's FigtoberFest time around the Central Coast beermaker's vast map of brew rooms.

THERE SHALL ALSO BE LIVE MUSIC... at all of the FigtoberFest celebrations, save in Los Olivos. (A note on the site that size and acoustics play a factor there.) Will there be a special crafty brew for the day? Of course there shall be, and it shall be five bucks, so make sure you have a fiver, some tip money, and a designated driver (or a room in town for the night). A stein package is also available, lest holding a stein in your hand at an Oktoberfest-style party is essential to you.

MORE BREWERIES DO THE HOLIDAY: If you look at some of the Golden State's biggest suds emporiums, you'll see a batch of Oktoberfestian bashes, some for a day, some for a long weekend. Sierra Nevada Brewery is also going this revelry-laden route, over the first weekend in October, should you find yourself in its Chico neck of the woods.

Photo Credit: Figtoberfest]]>
<![CDATA[Miramonte's 'Free Cabana Rental' Deal]]> Mon, 24 Aug 2015 22:30:52 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/cabanamiramonte1.jpg

IF YOU'VE SPENT ANY TIME... in Southern California at all, or, for that matter, a wider swath of the Golden State, you know that September is not the end of summer. Oh, for sure, the autumnal equinox falls as it does around the third week of the month -- it's Sept. 23 in 2015 -- but that often doesn't add up to much, weather-wise, around the lower half of the state. Summer-style temperatures are still testing thermometers, and the occasional Santa Ana wind brings a dry and warm blast to the proceedings. In short, SoCalers do not immediately don plaid skirts and knee socks and oxfords come the fall; we're still in our shorts and tank tops and flip-flops. Miramonte Resort & Spa understands our quirky summer extension, thanks in large part to the continued action around the pool even after autumn's arrival. And the resort is looking to treat those guests who are playing poolside well into September, and those guests who call upon the Indian Wells property in the middle of the week, with a special cabana-themed deal.

OHHH, CABANAS: The clothe-tented, pool-adjacent space is the stuff of hotel legend, and booking one can be a bit prohibitive, depending on the hotel you're at. Still, it is easy to bob in the shallow end while admiring the cabana scene and wishing you had one of your own to lounge in, especially when the afternoon sun gets too toasty. The Miramonte's deal is this: Stay mid-week, "but 1 room, get 1 free cabana rental," and there you have it, swimmers/loungers/vacationers. This is of course "based on availability," as these things often are, but you'll have all of September to enjoy this nice offer, Sunday through Thursday. Could you be chillaxing in a cabana, in the desert, after a cooling soak, on the first day of autumn? Well, that is a Wednesday in 2015, so, yes, you could be, if you book sooner than later. It's true that chillier temps don't rev up before November 'round Southern California, deserts included, but that just means the summer-style specials stretch gloriously into the traditional fall season.

Photo Credit: Miramonte Resort & Spa]]>
<![CDATA[Month-Long Feast: Santa Barbara's epicure.sb]]> Thu, 20 Aug 2015 22:16:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/catcorasbepicure1.jpg

ONE TASTY DAYLONG PARTY... can keep a foodie sated for some time to come, but when several savory bashes of good size arrive all in a row? Well, it must be October in Santa Barbara. That's epicure.sb time, from the first day of the month to the last, and the major food festivals line up like fancy shrimp cocktails on a seafood buffet. The California Lemon Festival in Goleta gets juicy just ahead of October, a flavorful harbinger of things to come. A beer festival, a seafood festival, and more out-sized soirees dot the epicure.sb calendar, as do a host of chef appearances, cooking demos, and wine tastings. There are also the offbeat edibles in the mix, like the...

THYME & ENERGY BOURBON & JERKY PAIRING: This unusual duo'll make a cameo at Ty Lounge during the epicure.sb run, and we'll just go out on a limb -- or a strip of jerky, perhaps -- and guess that the dried meat doesn't always get to share the spotlight with a tony spirit. Maybe a new trend is afoot? A tamale and tequila tasting downtown gives those who like their masa 'n mescal to come in one beautiful forkful, sipful flow, and a Funk Zone wine tasting pairs well with a visit to the Santa Barbara Farmers Market. Chef Cat Cora will also helm the Quickfire Cooking Challenge at the Santa Barbara Public Market on Oct. 8.

CHOOSE YOUR CHOWDOWN: Truly, even those food-obsessives who call Santa Barbara home can't make every single to-do during the multi-day run, so for those out-of-towners calling upon the American Riviera during epicure.sb, some choosing is in order. Are you into wine? The Vintners Celebration over the second weekend in October is for you. About popcorn? There's a vino pair-up with the famous movie snack. Just check the dates, since everything is not every day of the month, and land upon the most luscious of foodie happenings in Santa Barbara's most luscious of foodie months.

Photo Credit: epicure.sb]]>
<![CDATA[SIP Passport: Temecula Valley Autumn]]> Fri, 21 Aug 2015 21:50:06 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/243*120/siptemeculafall29293.jpg

ANTSY IN AUGUST: We live in a world where theme parks and attractions and movies and theatrical extravaganzas can nearly replicate a wholly different experience or time of year or place from the one that we currently occupy, but no group has ever found a way to duplicate wine country in September. The busyness of harvest time, of crush, of fans journeying to tasting rooms to be part of the excitement belongs to the real deal, the actual happening, and creating a simulation of the soft September sunshine one feels while walking through the vines, or those slightly crisp breezes, just can't be done. The only thing for it is to wait, semi-patiently, for the ninth month of the year to come into view, and then to plan, plan, plan, making sure that you're in a favorite corner of wine country at some point during the 30-day stretch. 

TEMECULA VALLEY WINEGROWERS... make that plotting exceedingly easy by offering a SIP Passport each September. The freedom and flexibility to choose where you'll brandish your passport is built into the offer, as is a choice of days. Think you're going to toodle through the grape-rich region on a September weekday? The passport is forty bucks. Have a Friday in mind, or a weekend visit? You'll pay fifty. Either way, you'll get a chance to call upon a quartet of tasting rooms and you can choose your stops from over thirty winemakers in the area. Yep, if you're wondering, there's a souvenir glass in it for you, and, for sure, you'll get the usual flight of wine as if you were just walking into the tasting room fresh, with no passport in hand.

WILL YOU MAKE TIME, though, post tasting, to linger near the vines, and, if the winery has it, the patio or garden or fountain or outdoor area? That aforementioned soft sunshine comes but once a year, in September, and wine country seems to soak it in best. No place or creative endeavor has yet replicated it. Only an afternoon basking on a winery patio, post-pinot tasting, can do it.

Photo Credit: Temecula Valley Winegrowers]]>
<![CDATA[High Altitude Oompah: Big Bear Oktoberfest]]> Tue, 18 Aug 2015 17:42:49 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/206*120/bigbearokfest9323.jpg

MOUNTAIN AIR... is described in many ways, from "brisk" to "crisp" to "refreshing" to "clean," but however you label it, it is especially lovely come the fall. Thank the dropping temperatures for the fresh sense of brisk-a-tude on the breeze and thank the changing sunlight for lending a lovely look to the very atmosphere (a look that ups the general crispness of being outdoors). It is, in short, a prime time of year to do anything up at a higher elevation, but if your pursuit involves knee socks and chicken dancing and stein-holding contests and sauerkraut-laden dishes, well... You must be at Oktoberfest. The annual party benefits greatly from its autumn connection, for many people say fresh fall air increases the appetite and invigorates the blood, two nice things when you want to eat many sausages and pretzels and enjoy some traditional beer. Revelers attending the annual Oktoberfest in Big Bear will be enjoying many of those activities, and there shall be a full eight consecutive weekends in which to enjoy them. As with almost all Oktoberfests, the bash starts in September, and Big Bear gets the oompah music and lederhosen wearing going pretty early: Saturday, Sept. 12 is the opening date, and the not-far-from-the-lake good times last through Halloween day.

THERE SHALL BE SPECIAL DAYS, too, during the eight-weekend run, from an Official 45th Annual Celebration on Saturday, Sept. 19 to an "Unplugged" happening on Friday, Oct. 16 (think of this as a fine dining experience that will provide some background into the celebratory holiday). As for what's new in 2015? A German-Mexican fusion cantina'll be serving spicy-sauer bites and a bier garten will provide more outdoor seating. Perhaps you'll grab one of those outdoor seats, the better to soak in all of that brisk autumn air? It's an excellent time of year to be up the mountain, savoring fall, and enjoying dancing and beer and music and games and costumes, too. If ever a season and a celebration went together, along with a place, it is autumn and Oktoberfest and an alpine-y, or close-to-alpine, setting. No need to do all eight weekends, but one Saturday afternoon should give you the tangy taste of the trio: fall, mountain, celebration.

Photo Credit: Big Bear Oktoberfest]]>
<![CDATA[New: California Beer Fest San Dimas Grows]]> Mon, 17 Aug 2015 14:34:59 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/calbeerfestsandim.jpg

THE CRAFT BEER INDUSTRY, like all robust industries, forever seems to be on the up-and-up. New brewmakers arrive in town, new ways of making brew are tried out, new ingredients are introduced -- avocado, ginger, cinnamon -- and the whole roll-up-your-sleeves-and-make-fine-beer push pushes on a little further. This grow-on sentiment also applies to those foamy festivals spotlighting what Golden State sudsmakers are doing with their new releases and new ventures. Our state is pretty rife with weekend craft brew bashes and food 'n brew pairing parties, but those parties are, like the beer scene, ever-changing and ever-growing, too. Look to the California Beer Festival, one of the stalwarts on the annual beer calendar. It is an on-the-road celebration, a festival that begins in the Bay Area early in summer and moves down to Southern California in September, landing finally in San Dimas and Ventura. But while the end-of-the-road Ventura party has typically been a two-day thing for the California Beer Festival, San Dimas has traditionally filled a single day only, on the fest's calendar. That's changing in 2015, when the festival's San Dimas stop takes a full...

TWO DAYS... to introduce fans to dozens of labels made within California's borders and beyond. Saturday, Sept. 12 and Sunday, Sept. 13 are the dates, Frank G. Bonelli Park is the place, and when we say "dozens of labels" we mean over 85 in all. That means lining up your designated driver, or finding a local hotel to stay the night, is key before nabbing your ticket. The days aren't exactly the same, so take note before landing on which one you'll mark on your calendar. Saturday is "Craft Beer Heaven" and Sunday is all about "Hamburger & Hops" plus a lot of tunes, too. Want to see the scene without the suds? There's a designated driver ticket.

WANT TO GO VENTURA? That's happening the following weekend, and it is now a three-day affair. Dates are Sept. 18 through 20 and there's a stayover package at the nearby Marriott. Info? Here. List of to-dos and brewers? This way.

Photo Credit: California Beer Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Danish Days Delish: Aebleskiver-Eating Contest]]> Sun, 16 Aug 2015 09:05:37 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/arnesfamousaebleskiver.jpg

PLEASURE OF THE PASTRY: If you've spent a long and happy day in Solvang, and you're amenable to batter-licious balls of lightness and airiness, then you've likely spent a lazy twenty minutes enjoying forkful after forkful of an aebleskiver. For sure, the aebleskiver, an orb-like pancake-y creation that's the star sweet of Solvang -- the star food, really -- can be eaten in a more expedited manner. But if you've spent an afternoon wine tasting, or shopping for clogs and traditional Danish toys, you don't want to rush things in the aebleskiver-anticipation department. You're going to savor that little ball, jam and powdered sugar and all, as long as possible, while resting your tootsies.

PREPARE, SWEET EATERS: That, however, will not be the course of action for many eager aebleskiverers come Saturday, Sept. 19 and Sunday, Sept. 20. That's the weekend of Danish Days, the town's liveliest party (alongside the holiday-time Julefest and Taste of Solvang in the spring, of course), and one of the highlights of the weekend is the aebleskiver-eating contest. It is, in fact, such a highlight that it shows up twice on the schedule, though whether anyone attempts both contests in one weekend is a question. Because a lot of aebleskiver, chewed quickly, is filling, one can imagine. Though the time limit isn't too long. The contest lasts for five minutes. 

IF DEVOURING THE DOUGHY DELIGHTS... in fast fashion isn't your bag, you're in luck. There's an aebleskiver breakfast both mornings of the festival, at Copenhagen Drive & First Street, and for the price of seven bucks you can bite into the treat in a much more sedate and stately manner. Add a buck on and have some Danish sausage on the side, if you like (think sweet and savory, a twosome as tried-and-true as an aebleskiver and lingonberry or olallieberry jam).

NEED TIMES... on both the breakfast and the eating contest? They're a few hours apart on both Saturday and Sunday. Best wishes, aebleskiver aficionados, and a delightful Danish Days celebration to you, dear Town o' the Windmills and Wines.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Ball/Arne's Famous Aebleskiver]]>
<![CDATA[Happy 10 Years, Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon]]> Sun, 16 Aug 2015 09:05:19 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/surfdog5983903.JPG The Dog Beach Del Mar fundraiser'll feature Fidos and their humans riding the waves.

Photo Credit: Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon]]>
<![CDATA[Edible Education: Eating Ojai Tour]]> Tue, 18 Aug 2015 22:00:27 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/205*120/gazston-tower-daytimeojai.jpg

A PATENT ON AUTUMN ENJOYMENT: We wouldn't dare claim that any single California town owns a particular season outright, because every place has its charms, depending upon the time of the year. (Okay, heat waves maybe bring the charm down a notch most everywhere, granted.) But, come autumn, a number of more rustic villages, some close to mountains, some to the ocean, take on a mellowness and beauty that draw daytrippers from all points. Ojai is one such place, and while its citrus-growing ways can dominate the food lover's springtime visit, its ripening fruits and gold-turning leaves give its fall some distinct rustic-a-tude. Wanting a rustic day away, complete with the cuisine the foodie-nice area is known for, is thus a truly autumnal impulse, and one that can be fulfilled by joining a Ventura Food Tour. The easy-paced walk-around -- which leads to sampling, noshing, and the discussing of various dishes -- offers an Ojai Food Tour that takes on several shops and cafes through the main heart of the city. The upshot? You'll join your guide on a jaunt that includes "stopping at six different shops and restaurants for tastings and conversations with many of the shop owners and chefs that make Ojai the great dining destination that it is." 

CONVERSATION... is key to culinary enjoyment, so consider your Ojai eating adventure to be educational as well. Will you return home with a general sense of what locals like to sup on in the region? What grows well? What cooks who live there do best? You will, you will. A ticket is fifty four bucks, things rev up around 10:30 a.m. in downtown Ojai, and the walking and chowing down lasts for three hours. Call it lunch-plus, with some lively socializing and lookie-loo-ing thrown in. You can depart after that, for your home port, but if you're lingering in the area overnight, keep an eye out for the town's famous Pink Moment. It matters not if it is autumn or spring or summer or winter; the mountains surrounding the hamlet still take on a fruit-hued light come sundown. Could the Pink Moment be the visual dessert at the end of your Ojai Food Tour day? Try it and see if you don't feel sated upon seeing this one-of-a-kind sight.

Photo Credit: Gazston Gal]]>
<![CDATA[OC Offbeat: Recycled Fashion Show]]> Thu, 13 Aug 2015 13:35:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/foarunway02983023.jpg

IT'S NOT ALL THAT UNUSUAL... for a follower of fashion trends to spy a frock and think "hmm, I think I've seen that collar or belt somewhere before." Typically, though, the observer is trying to place the trend, or an earlier designer, who may have also used a similar shape or hue or cut. But that's not the couture-themed case at the annual fashion show that struts at the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach each August. If a fashion fan thinks "hmm, I think I've seen that collar before" they're remembering the time they used a coffee filter to make a pot of java or the can of beer they had last month. Because the runway model's collar may very well be made out of paper coffee filters or aluminum cans or old wire or a disregarded lampshade or any number of items that typically get tossed out. Those are the offbeat and alluring hallmarks of the Runway Fashion Show, which puts the emphasis on beautiful garments made out of traditionally recyclable materials. The models, decked out in gowns created by visionary designers, will once again strike a pose on the afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 15. 

IT'S YEAR SEVEN... for the show and there are four competition categories in all. Designers'll go for the top spot in Most Creative Concept, Most Glamorous & Elegant Red Carpet-Worthy Creation, Most Innovative Use of Materials, and Most Exciting Ensemble, and several celebrity judges, including fashion legend Cristina Ferrare, will make the ultimate call. Some of the get-ups may seem like standard fabric at first glance, but, upon a lean-in look, you're bound to see details and lines that reveal particular elements in the outfit hail from the recycle bin or a home's junk drawer. It's pretty heady stuff, and it works on two different fronts. The fashion front, of course, as the clothing is quite striking and covetable, but on the eco-nice front as well. Think of this annual show, which falls towards the end of the annual Festival of Arts calendar, as a visual reminder that things around the house, and in our lives, can achieve an excellent and creative and surprising second life. These pretty gowns prove it.

WANT TO ATTEND... the haute happening, which is hosted by model Melissa Biggs? Find info here. Want to see the Festival of Arts before it bids adieu for another year? Get to Laguna Beach by Aug. 31.

Photo Credit: Festival of Arts]]>
<![CDATA[Run, Ponies, Run: A Del Mar Stayover Deal]]> Wed, 12 Aug 2015 16:21:33 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/capereydelmar243232.jpg

THE DEL MAR THOROUGHBRED CLUB SEASON... vrooms as quickly as a well-primed thoroughbred at the front of the pack. One minute you're shopping for your fancy, over-the-top chapeau -- or even having a milliner make you an opening day hat to your specifications -- and the next minute the horses are heading off to the paddock for the last time of the season. We're just at about the halfway point, or a little past, and while classics like Donuts Day and the Food Truck Festival and great shows from bands like Steel Pulse are still to come, that ol' Labor Day Monday, when the club's light dim for the last time of the summer, will come as quickly as a speedy set of hooves. So what will you do? You can definitely head to the ocean-close landmark for a few hours, the better to jump up and down, excitedly, as your pick rounds the curve, or you can rest up, nearby, from all the excited jumping up and down at...

CAPE REY: The Carlsbad-based resort has several summer-nice packages on, but one is focused on its mane-magnificent neighbor. The Pony Package deal includes a pair of classic juleps ahead of the race you're off to see, or, if minty sips aren't your thing, then mimosas. You'll also score a picnic pack, too, so your vittles'll be lined up for race day. And, perhaps sweetest of all, you'll catch a ride from the Hilton property to the track and back, so finding parking won't even need cross your mind. Sunscreen, a racing form, and other "in-room amenities" await.

SADDLE UP: August is flapping away like reins dancing on a windy day, so finding some Del Mar Thoroughbred Club time, and a nice place to stay as part of the your trip to the track, should happen forthwith. No fancy hat is required, like opening day, but no one is going to stop you from donning old-school track wear, like seersucker or a breezy dress. It is, after all, a fabled and historic place to cheer on the ponies. Why not make the most of it?

Photo Credit: Cape Rey]]>
<![CDATA[Palm Springs Chic: High-Heeled Shoe Exhibit]]> Tue, 11 Aug 2015 15:29:21 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/psNicholasKirkwoodPump.jpg Fabulous footwear gets the museum treatment.

Photo Credit: Palm Springs Art Museum/Nicholas Kirkwood]]>
<![CDATA[Winning Wheels: Pebble Beach Concours D'Elegance]]> Mon, 10 Aug 2015 12:09:22 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/concours2008_RK_BestofShow_007.jpg The gleamingest glamour cars stop and show along the coast.

Photo Credit: Kimball Studios/Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance]]>
<![CDATA[Joshua Tree for Pet People]]> Sat, 08 Aug 2015 10:39:47 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/197*120/lorijeweljoshua.jpg

BIRDS OVERHEAD, LIZARDS BELOW... and all around nature and animalia and beauty and beasties. Where are you? Well, you could be in many spots around the Golden State, but we're picturing Joshua Tree National Park, a haven for winged, tail-sporting creatures who burrow and soar and lend so much life and color to the boulder-beautiful expanse. But inviting along our own furry friends to join us on a trip to the Joshua Tree region is more of a question mark. Will the place we stay welcome our four-footed pal? Where will we feel comfortable and welcome? 

THERE ARE ANIMAL-SWEET STAYOVERS... throughout the arid area. Look to the Thunderbird Lodge Retreat, which welcomes an array of animals onto the property, including horses. A sextet of cabins gives visitors a little more room to move about, and a visit with Jewel, the resident llama, is a must. The guest areas include "pet-safe fences," too, so your time on the property is a relaxing one.

OTHER HOTELS AND MOTELS... say hello to hounds, including Black Rock Campground of Yucca Valley, The Green Acres Ranch in Joshua Tree, Mojave Sands Motel in Joshua Tree, and the DogSpa Resort & Wellness Center in Desert Hot Springs (look for the swimming pool created just for pups). If you want to head into the park and need a place for your pet to chillax during the day, there are places to sit and board, too. Just check with your front desk.

AS FAR AS... the dogs-are-okay-here eateries around the area? Hangouts like Pie for the People in Joshua Tree and Sherman's Deli & Bakery say yes to pooches on the patio. As always, take the weather and temperature into consideration when traveling into the often toasty area, and make plans for your sweet mutt to stay near an interior A/C, with his dog bed or cooling floor at the ready, while you do any sightseeing. But no more does a jaunt into one of California's most spectacular stretches mean bidding your baby goodbye. Several area businesses want to make a good vacation happen for you both.

Photo Credit: Thunderbird Lodge/Angela Barker]]>
<![CDATA[Julian & Temecula: Grape Stomp Time]]> Fri, 14 Aug 2015 13:25:30 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/grapesglossygetty.jpg

START THOSE FOOT STRETCHES: Go to any site that deals with prepping people for a 5K or marathon and you're bound to see a few tips for keeping the toesies and heel and ball of the foot in fine form ahead of the big event. And so a runner should: The place where your body is meeting the road should stay in top-notch shape. But few sites work with the notion of the annual grape stomp tradition in this regard. And while the feet employed in stomping fruit in the fall don't put in the serious workout that feet receive in a 5K, there is an art to the pressure and bending of the foot when that foot is connecting with several grapes at once. Maybe there is a business opportunity here? For someone to advise those who wish to give the ancient art form of grape stomping a go? Toe stretches to do beforehand and then after the event? Our feet are our friends, after all. Best start those stretches now, ahead of autumn's arrival, for several Southern California spots will be rolling out the barrels -- er, tubs -- and filling them with small, round fruits, the better to have guests give the stomp a not-so-serious (but always lively) go. Game to try? Then make for...

JULIAN... where the Julian Grape Stomp Festa shall turn grapes into juice at Menghini Winery on Saturday, Sept. 5. There's a large tub and a small tub, and, as with all stomp-themed soirees, you should consider clothing that can be hiked a bit above the ankles, lest you get your pants stained. A dress? Shorts? Think over the wardrobe before heading up the mountain for merry footwork and, just perhaps, a glass of wine when your turn is through.

TEMECULA VALLEY: South Coast Winery Resort & Spa pairs its annual grape stomp with the Blessing of the Vines. A ticket is $55 for the Sunday, Sept. 20 to-do, and there's a hearty meal involved, plus a complimentary toast. Tunes, games, and other "welcome fall" high jinks on the schedule for this bash. There's also some dancing to be done, too, so figure that your feet will get a pre-workout in the grape tub before hitting the dance floor (or vice versa). 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Del Mar Tradition: Free Donuts Day]]> Thu, 06 Aug 2015 07:02:10 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/doughnuts+.jpg

WHERE DO YOU EAT DONUTS? This isn't a "gotcha" question or a query meant to put you on the spot. Donut-eating -- or doughnut-eating, if you prefer to be a bit grander about it -- happens just about anywhere. Donut shops, for one, and diners, and on the couch, and in the kitchen, and, yes, more often than not in bed, especially if a cartoon marathon is on television. But where do you consume the morning icon while taking a tour and learning information? Perhaps on a walk through your kid's new classroom (teachers often kindly supply some sweets for visiting parents) or at your spouse's office. Rarely, though, do you munch on a cruller or Boston creme as you get to know the facts behind one of the most popular spectator sports in California (and well beyond the Golden State's borders, too). "Rarely" but not never, as evidence by the always buzzed-about Donuts Day, a free to-do that happens twice at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.

THE FIRST GO-AROUND... for the gratis goodies was over opening weekend, but some fans prefer to wait a couple of weeks for the second appearance of Donuts Day, when Opening Day hubbub has died down a bit and beautiful bites and pretty ponies can be enjoyed in a more relaxed atmosphere. The date is Saturday, Aug. 15, and as is so often the case with donuts, there's an early start: 8 a.m. to 10 o'clock. Trevor Denman, the announcer at Del Mar, is the host of the munchable morning, and there shall be "question and answer sessions with famous jockeys and trainers while watching the horses during their morning workouts." It's as big a tradition 'round the ocean-close landmark as traditions get, and very family-welcoming, too (there are kid-pleasing activities in addition to the Q&As). Perhaps you already did the first Donuts Day and you're back for another round. That's cool: There are few info-packed happenings that include pastries and ponies on this planet, and this is a major. Why miss it if you dig both?

Photo Credit: Shuttershock ]]>
<![CDATA[Hay Wine Country! It's Nearly Scarecrow Time]]> Tue, 04 Aug 2015 16:23:17 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/234*120/solvangscarecrowtenleyf.jpg

AUTUMN IN WINE COUNTRY: Vines and golden leaves and fully ripe grapes and crush-oriented happenings and mellow vineyard-close picnics are oft-cited symbols of October around wine country, and for fine reason: That's very often what one sees there during that soft-sunshine-y stretch of the year. But should you show up in the Santa Ynez Valley from the second week of October through the second week of November, a sight that's seen well beyond wine country may capture your fancy: scarecrows. Make that lots of scarecrows, in all the various shapes/sizes/states of dress, in front of all sorts of businesses, from Buellton to Solvang to Los Olivos. It's the Annual Santa Ynez Valley Scarecrow Fest, a picture-worthy, multi-week happening set to coincide "with the start of the Santa Barbara Wine Country's 'Celebration of Harvest Weekend' event." The list of participating towns is a who's who -- or a where's where, rather -- of the SYV: Ballard, Buellton, Los Alamos, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, and Solvang" will be scarecrowing up various streets and doorways during the fall-sweet run. And these aren't just traditional scarecrows, as seen in "The Wizard of Oz," but hat-topped figures of a humorous and topical and offbeat bent. There is, in fact, a contest on covering several scarecrow-themed categories, categories visitors can vote on. Everything kicks off on...

OCT. 9, 2015... and runs through Nov. 9. Yes, if you're in the area on Halloween, you'll see plenty of scarecrow action (always something that stokes the Halloween spirit), and, yes, you'll see many scarecrows. There shall be over 200 scarecrows dotting the valley, and they're all free to see. Further, each participating town does its own scarecrow party along the way, too. It's big times and quite serious stuff, all, of course, in good fun. Want to find out where to go and all of the voting, hay-filled haps? You can right here. Wondering if the scarecrows of the SYV have their own Instagram page? Why of course they do.

Photo Credit: Tenley Fohl]]>
<![CDATA[Mono County's Excited for Fall Travel]]> Mon, 03 Aug 2015 12:33:23 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/monocountysilverlakefb.jpg

AUTUMN ON THE WAY: Call it a sign of a possible El Niño, call it evidence of a quirky tree gone rogue, call it a beautiful and strange sight to see in summer, but a couple of liquidambars around Southern California are already going a bit red in the leaf department. This isn't necessarily a prediction that all trees will turn color ahead of schedule -- trees can be as individual as people in what they do -- but it is a reminder that fall isn't far-off. Look to the tourism people of Mono County and their general enthusiasm for foliage-seeking, an enthusiasm expressed via social media in July. Is July too early to start thinking about cooler temperatures and those bright gold cottonwood and aspen leaves seen around the Eastern Sierra? Probably not, since there as a surprise snowfall in the area on July 8 and 9, at the Tioga Pass. Getting autumn-excited is perfectly acceptable around the time kids start getting their school schedules and classroom assignments and fall fans start thinking that it might be nifty to see a mess of mountainside leaves in their full October glory. 

"ONLY TWO MONTHS AWAY!" The Mono County Tourism page recently trumpeted the fact that autumn aficionados can start dreaming of crisp days around June Lake or Silver Lake or Convict Lake or any of the little pockets up and around Bishop that get especially bold in the hue department come October. To help Golden Staters plan their trek into "one of America's Best Foliage Forests!" the Mono County crew has provided a link to the Fall Color Guide & Map, a pdf that also covers the trees and vistas of Inyo County. September and October annual events are included, too, so you can plan your Sierra-close jaunt to include doings like Ghosts of the Sagebrush Tour in Lee Vining and the Lone Pine Film Festival in Lone Pine. If you've had it with the heat and look forward to brisk mornings and aspens decked out in their golden coats, here's your guide, autumnists.

Photo Credit: Mono County Tourism]]>
<![CDATA[Julian + The Cosmos: Free Public Star Party]]> Fri, 31 Jul 2015 13:20:42 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/starfestjulian19329232.jpg

THE SUMMER OF PLUTO... has provided many a gift to those who pause each night to stare in the vast space over our heads. Those astounding photos from the way, way out there hunk of glorious rock and ice kept earthlings transfixed over several days, and many a maven of astronomy vowed to spend more evenings with the telescope. Pair Pluto's revelations with the Blue Moon on the final day of July and the nights when Jupiter and Venus nearly "touched" in the night sky and you have a cosmic feast for those who are fans of what's beyond this corner of the Solar System. Many of those fans will make for a certain Gold Rush town over the middle weekend of August, when astronomers gather to throw the Julian StarFest. It's a multi-day, look-up-and-learn to-do, but its big centerpiece is the public star party that goes down -- er, up -- on the Saturday night. That's when any lover of nebula and star fields may join in, for free. Aspiring astronomers can both chat up the scientists and passion astronomers about galactic topics as well as gaze through the many telescopes dotting the grounds. Oh, and those grounds? Find them at...

MENGHINI WINERY... in Julian. If you've been in this area after sundown, you know it stays very dark, which is pretty prime for star-watching. This means that getting from where you park to the clutch of telescopes requires some light, but you also don't want to introduce traditional flashlights into the realm of the astronomy party. "A red-light flashlight" is recommended, if you join the free bash, which is on from 7 to 9 o'clock on Saturday, Aug. 15.

WANT MORE WONDER? Get to know the San Diego Astronomy Association, which organizes this popular to-the-mountains, gaze-up-and-feel-thrills happening.

Photo Credit: Julian StarFest]]>
<![CDATA['Relax & Revive' at Omni La Costa]]> Thu, 30 Jul 2015 22:25:59 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/omnipoolsummer12.jpg

IT'S A FUNNY STUDY... in opposites when one considers the many pressures we put on a getaway. We want a short vacation to send all of our workaday stress running, to make us feel calmer, to allow us to be free of our worries and woes, if only for a few days (though, ideally, for weeks to come, thanks to all of that chillaxing we did). But finding a go-to spot that will take as much planning and getting-to as a plan that's a lot less fun can often up the stress factor of the calm-seeking getaway. One solution? Pick a place nearby, one that has a package on specifically focused on unwinding, enjoying, and not doing much at all. The Omni La Costa has embraced this take-it-easy idea with its "Relax & Revive" package, a credit-cool deal that invites guests to pursue leisure around the expansive property and save money by doing so. 

THE $75 CREDIT... that comes part-and-parcel with the package can be used at the on-site spa -- all of those knots obtained while you sit inside your cubicle or on the drive home are going, going, going away -- or elsewhere around the historic hotel. Maybe for a mimosa near the pool? With a little sunblock and an overly large hat, that sounds very much like the antidote to all of the ways we work ourselves into a tizzy back home.

INCLUDED IN THE PACKAGE... is the Villa experience which includes "upgraded amenities and a personal concierge." Are you already organizing for the start of school? Even if you don't have tots returning to the classroom, does the start of August make you think that more serious, nose-to-the-grindstone times are ahead? Relaxing is not faraway. It is, in fact, in Carlsbad, which is, all told, pretty darn close. Go pool and bid commute/cubicle issues goodbye (for a night or two, anyway).

Photo Credit: Omni La Costa]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Barbara Tradition: Old Spanish Days]]> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 22:46:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/OldSpanishDaysDancers.jpg

THAT AUGUST AUGUST FESTIVITY: One can't really trot out the word "august" as in "venerable" and "long-standing" when it comes to a lot of events happening in the eighth month of the year. For August, the month, is about carefree days and frippery-filled ways, of swimming pools and bike rides and frozen treats that'll melt in under a minute. Its pleasures are passing, in short, and rarely of the stately and storied variety. After all, one can't call frozen treats "long-standing" or "venerable" as they tend to disappear in minutes. There are rather wonderful exceptions when both the term august and the month August intersect in a regal and been-around-for-decades way.

SANTA BARBARA'S OLD SPANISH DAYS... is a prime and pretty example of this, having served as a summer celebration in the American Riviera for over nine decades (rather a longer time than it takes to eat a melting ice cream cone or play in a pool). Might it be August's most august gathering? Well, we don't want to imply it isn't a little cut-loose, too. The animals and the foods and the sweet Saturday Children's Parade, which is nearly as old as Spanish Days itself (91 and 85 years respectively). So to be stately and celebratory is a feat, but the famous fiesta pulls this off quite handily, thank you very much. So trot your pony to Santa Barbara from...

AUG. 5 THROUGH 9... for a shower of events. If you want to picture all of the confetti released by a cascarone, when the egg shell is broken, that works: The shower of confetti is a fine way to picture the many to-dos colorfully dotting the schedule. A bevy of merch-bountiful mercados featuring different wares are among the visitor favorites, and the flamenco performed in the Sunken Gardens at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. A Fiesta Stock Horse Show & Rodeo, a bouquet of tours spotlighting local history, and all of the pomp you can imagine roll out over five full days. Is this the most august August happening in all of the Golden State? That might be subjective, but what's not is this fiesta's ability to meet the years, decade after decade, with a surfeit of merriness.

Photo Credit: Old Spanish Days]]>
<![CDATA[Stargaze Amaze: Eye Planets Above Glacier Point]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 14:04:47 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/226*120/Header-Stargazing-Tourglacier.jpg

DARK SKY FESTIVALS... at some of California's national parks are on the horizon, and fans of enjoying nature and an evening free of electric light are turning their attentions to Lassen Volcanic National Park and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, which will host a pair of Dark Sky Festivals in August and September, respectively. But looking up into the giant twinkle-filled plane above us -- call it "velvety" if you wish or the always poetic "bowl full of stars" -- while sitting in a national park isn't something that needs to wait for a Dark Sky Festival, as lovely and important as those are. You can appreciate the low-lit, planets-aglow atmosphere of the concave above us any time, from any national park, if cloud cover is on your side. Yosemite National Park makes it a bit easier, too, to find the picture-perfect location in which to sit down and gaze up: Glacier Point. For sure, you could step out of your tent or lodge in Yosemite Valley and see plenty, or you could hop aboard a bus near Yosemite Lodge at the Falls and wend up out of the valley to one of its most photographed vantage points. Stargazing at Glacier Point doesn't happen every night, so don't go searching for the bus, but the summertime favorite happens regularly enough that you can make it happen for yourself.

BOOK AHEAD: "Advanced registration is required," so purchase your ticket -- forty one bucks, for an adult -- for the four-hour program well ahead of time. The four-hour event, which includes the ride up, down, and the time at Glacier Point, kicks off at 7 p.m., so you'll get that rich darkness one loves from the sky, when one is looking for Venus or Jupiter or the Big Dipper. Will there be "astronomy-related stories"? Oh yeah there will be, totally. Will you have a hard time not staring at Half Dome, which vies with the sky for sheer supernatural (but ultimately completely natural) beauty? That's going to be the battle within your heart: Admire the constellations or the hunk of granite out across the open air, the one that's been anchoring Yosemite Valley over millions of nights. Is honoring the night, after a busy, bustling, recreation-heavy national park day an excellent and educational wind-down? It is, but we can't promise that Half Dome and the moon and Venus seen from glorious Glacier Point will act like a warm cup of milk to your spirits. You might find your heart is even the slightest bit poundy.

Photo Credit: Yosemite National Park]]>
<![CDATA[Epiphany Hotel: A Fresh Twist on the Mini Bar]]> Sun, 26 Jul 2015 11:13:19 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/207*120/EPI_PremiumJrSuite-600x400212.jpg

THE HAPPY FLOP-DOWN: If you've ever stayed in a hotel, particular for a convention or business meeting or interview or social engagement that required your daylong attendance, you know all about the happy flop-down once you reach your room at the end of a long afternoon and evening. You're done talking, brainstorming, making chitchat; now is the time for the mini bar and now is the time to flop-down, with shoes off, to see what's on the telly (fingers crossed a movie you've only seen 19 times, and adore, is just ten minutes in). The mini bar is mentioned because it is an important component in the happy flop-down. You're likely beat, and needing a little pick-me-up, or even craving something sweet, and the idea of noshing upon it as you relax and watch a film feels right. But if you've spent the day at a conference, eating one too many boardroom pastries, you do often wish that your mini bar choices bore a healthier vibe. That's not to say that the energy-giving nuts found on some mini bars, nor the fruit bars, don't do that, but if you could pick and choose your good food choices for your hotel room, would you? You could, at The Epiphany in Palo Alto, if you sign up for the Joie de Vivre hotel's newly introduced Fresh Fridge.

THE FRESH FRIDGE... is pretty much the same as the mini bar concept, or at least it is nice food in your hotel room for you to enjoy. The modern update is that guests do the selecting, where their snacks are concerned, so everything in the Fresh Fridge is there at the room occupant's request. Choices include full biotic yogurt with blueberry crumble and goji berry and "seasonal housemade salads" with quality ingredients and add-ins like Tomatero Farm heirloom tomatoes and 9-grain tabbouleh. Look also for fresh fruit and veg straight from the Palo Alto Farmer's Market (meaning the goodies will be very much in season and highly local). You'll need to pay a flat fee to get going on this -- ninety five bucks, which is all-inclusive -- and you'll need to let The Epiphany know at least five days in advance. But if you're kicking around Palo Alto for work, and you're looking forward to your nightly happy flop-down, without the typical foods you've consumed in the past, the Fresh Fridge could be your energy-restorative answer. Whether your favorite movie will be playing on the TV, as you walk in from your last meeting, is something we'll have to put down to luck.

Photo Credit: Epiphany Hotel]]>
<![CDATA[New: Sip of Julian]]> Fri, 24 Jul 2015 08:17:20 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/219*120/wine+country.jpg

APPLE TOWN, GRAPE TOWN, TOO: There are so many toothsome tastes and ridiculously flavorful recipes that possess, at the center of their identity, two fruits that work very well together in concert. We speak of the apple, any kind of apple, really, and we refer to the grape. Think of the last delicious chicken salad sandwich you downed, or the summer-fresh fruit salad at the block party in June. Both dishes likely contained juicy chunks of both globe-shaped goodies, with the apple's pearly white flesh providing a crunchy counterpoint to the grape's soft give. It isn't any surprise, then, that a town can do both fruits very well, and by "do" we mean present them in the town's best-known products and meals and festivals. Julian, the Gold Rush burg that's still one of the sparkly jewels of the Cuyamuca Mountains, is rather known for its apple goodies. "Rather known," of course, is an understatement. Fall is fully given over to apple adorations around the town, and pie shops stuff the core-centered fruit under seemingly countless crusts. But grapes give Julian's apples a friendly run for their money, in the form of area wineries. Both fruits fit the region well, and if you've been wanting to get to know the graper side of things, your chance is ahead: Sip of Julian, on Saturday, Aug. 8, is all about vinos made in the area.

WELL, AND HARD CIDER, TOO... so apples may not be all that far out of the equation. Menghini Winery, Witch Creek Winery, and Julian Hard Cider are just three stops on the self-guided tour. Tickets are twenty five dollars each, and whether you have a sip or not at the spots you land, it is a fine way to see their locations, their spreads, and what they're making. For "making" is an important concept in the mountain town, and whether an apple or a grape or both is in the final product is up to the talented maker. It's a pleasure to drive up the hill and appreciate both.

GRAPE FANS... take note: Another fruit-forward fest is coming down the Julian pike, on Sept. 5, in the form of the Julian Grape Stomp Festa.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Pup-Putt: Resort Welcomes Dogs on Golf Course]]> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 14:55:49 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/doggolf9293929322.jpg

GOLDEN RETRIEVER ON THE GREEN: Golf courses, for the most part, are in nature (we say "for the most part" because we must acknowledge those glow-in-the-dark, rock 'n roll indoor mini golf courses, the ones where a lot of us first learned to play as tots). And when something is in nature, well, spoiler alert, nature very often intercedes, or at least makes a cameo.

It might be a squirrel dashing along the fairway or a gull circling the green upon which you stand or the sight of a raccoon seeing if there is anything of interest in your cart. As for dogs? Well, they count among animalia, of course, but you're more likely to see a woodland creature out on a green than your pug or mastiff. That's because the only swinging traditionally done on a course is by a club and not by a wagging tail; dogs can bark or jump on their human at an inopportune time or run off with the ball, if they're fleet of foot enough. But dog devotees know that all of these wagger-based worries are rare, and that the pleasures of having a pup at your side as you golf far outweigh any minor hiccups. The Chalet View Lodge, in fact, welcomes well-behaved Fidos (update: those well-behaved Fidos can be off-leash) on its course, which means you don't have to leave your Lassie back in your hotel room, to get lonely and bored and yowly. They can be out in the sunshine with you as you enjoy the verdant course at the Portola-close lodge.

THE NINE-HOLE COURSE... is welcoming to canines and their people if the greens aren't especially bustling and there's a lot of play-through room. Also note that the hotel sits at the edge of a vast amount of Forest Service land, 1.2 million acres, in fact, so hiking and exploring with your fluffy one is another outdoorsy choice. Pets are also welcome to join their people as they dine at the hotel's restaurant (on the terrace), and there's a hello biscuit at check-in. Fee for one to two dogs to stay? An additional twenty five bucks a night. A chance to soak up mountain-sweet summer air near Graeagle and have your Golden Retriever near, on the course, to enjoy the rays with you? It's pretty unusual, and worth jumping at, if golf and pooches are your twin passions. And seeing how much time people spend on both, they really should meet up, from time to time, in a picturesque spot.

Photo Credit: Chalet View Lodge]]>
<![CDATA[On Sale: Winchester House Fall Flashlight Tours]]> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 06:41:03 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/204*120/WinchesterMysteryHouse_crWMH_1.jpg

DO TRY THIS AT HOME: Know where your flashlight might be? We all should, since when we really, really need it our house tends to be rather dark. Turn the torch on, then point the beam at various objects: a plant, the television, the ceiling fan. How creepy do those rather innocuous items become when they're caught in a stream of pointed light? The answer: pretty darn creepy. Now imagine yourself in a huge and rambling house, a house that's said to be haunted, an abode that is, by far, one of the most eerie locations in all of the Golden State, if not the country. It's the Winchester Mystery House, and while tours are offered throughout the year, there are only a few times on the calendar when visitor enter the house by nightfall -- meaning a flashlight will be in use, spooky-ing objects and corners right up along the way. (Ohhh, those empty corners become triply terrifying when viewed by the beam of a flashlight.) The San Jose mansion's famous Flashlight Tours only ever happen on nights that coincide with Friday the 13th -- double eek -- and during the most bewitchingest season of all, the days running up to Halloween. For while the homes in your neighborhood might dress up for the screamy night, Sarah Winchester's tale-filled casa really does bring the authentic creepy, which is no surprise: It was seance central, back in her day. And while we can't "spirit" you to that day, the late 1800s and early 20th century, we can tell you that...

TICKETS ARE THIS WAY... for some "select" 2015 October evenings. A souvenir flashlight is yours to remember your guided wanderings by, and, of course, the memory of any ghosts you might spy. Even if you don't come across anything chill-worthy, it is still mighty cool to be in a storied structure when the moon is out. But what if you can't make it on one of the October evenings when the Flashlight Tours are happening? Shriek not; the next Friday the 13th follows fast, in November, and, yep, there is a nighttime tour afoot. By the by, did you know that lady of the house Sarah Winchester was partial to the number 13? It all lends further texture to a house with more backstory than some towns. 

Photo Credit: Winchester Mystery House]]>
<![CDATA[A Day at Oasis Camel Dairy]]> Wed, 22 Jul 2015 13:10:39 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/oasiscameldairy22832.jpg

CAMEL CUTE: All of us, as very young tots, learned some important early lessons about the animals that share our planet. We discovered that when one pets a cat, we stroke it gently, head to tail, never pulling at the fur. We learn that overfeeding a dog tasty treats is not recommended (same goes for goldfish and fish food). And the whole camel-hump mystery, too, was likely introduced to us just as we were picking up our very first storybooks. And the mystery is this: Does a camel have one hump or two? The answer, of course, is both; the one-hump camels are dromedaries and the two-hump camels the bactrian. "Dromedary" might have been one of the first long words you learned to say, even, if you had a special animal obsession when you were a kid (and didn't we all). But how many dromedaries have you seen in person in your life? Have you been able to admire the camel's majesty and beauty and sweet face from close-up? And not just in a documentary or film or book? There's a way to get that knowledge, and have a fun, beastie-sweet time doing it, too. The Oasis Camel Dairy in Ramona welcomes visitors "once a month for public tours." But you don't have to wait to long for a special way to interact with the tall, tall residents of the sizable spread. You only have to pen...

JULY 31-AUG. 2... on your camel calendar. That's the weekend when the annual Watermelon Days return to the dairy, a special weekend when, wait for it, visitors get to feed watermelon to the camels. Really now... Do you need to know more? Will everything to come in your life, ever after, pale just a little bit, once you've lovingly held up a watermelon before a watermelon-craving camel? It's a beautiful thing, indeed, and a rare chance to interact with a camel on a culinary, yum-yum basis. A bird show and farm animals out and about are on the weekend schedule, too. Tickets? They're fifteen bucks per adult, and a ride on a camel is extra. The money will help out agriculture-focused youth to-dos in the area. As for that photo of you feeding a happy camel some juicy melon? That'll likely be your profile picture, on all your various social media sites, by the following Monday morning, we expect.

Photo Credit: Oasis Camel Dairy]]>
<![CDATA[On the Horizon: Sunset Savor the Central Coast]]> Tue, 21 Jul 2015 21:35:01 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/savorthecentralbrittanyapp123.jpg

REMEMBER WHEN YOU WERE A TEEN... and you had your favorite soccer star or rock band or actor or fictional character immortalized on a poster over your twin bed? Or maybe it was on the ceiling or the back of your door but, wherever the poster was thumbtacked, you had to have it nearby because you needed to see your FAVORITE PERSON/PEOPLE IN THE WORLD, all caps, every single day, exclamation points!!! That fire never really dies down in us, as adults, or fully goes away. In fact it's still a-ok to have such posters about, if you want to, but, very often, as we stack on the years, we start to long for a few new posters for our bedroom walls. Big lush photos of wineries we return to, again and again, and beloved beaches. And, for many Californians, Santa Margarita Ranch would qualify as bedroom poster material, since it is so dang picturesque and so well situated in the heart of the Central Coast and it is the central hub of one of the fall's most feastable soirees. It's Sunset Savor the Central Coast, as presented by Volvo, and the tour/talk/taste summit is soon to have its sixth outing from Thursday, Sept. 24 through Sunday, Sept. 27 at Rancho Santa Margarita and a host of ocean-close, vine-tastic destinations in the area.

THE MAIN EVENT is, well, handily enough called "The Main Event" (no forgetting that). It spreads out at the ranch on Sept. 26 and 27 and involves regional wines, meeting winemakers, a Farm to Table Stage, local brews and live tunes, and all sorts of alfresco-fun, foodie-delicious doings over a mellow early-fall day, the kind that the Central Coast seems to do really well. As for getting out/about? There are Adventure Tours that fill up -- a Clydesdale-focused jaunt to Cambria looks particularly bewitching -- and special dinners, too. Event tickets can be purchased a la carte, so if you simply want to dip into the four-dayer for an afternoon, and a single thing, that's totally jake. Truly, though: Would you have a poster of Santa Margarita Ranch in your bedroom? Like you would a favorite singer? Any Central Coast-obsessed food lover might pull out a tape measure and start measuring their wall.

Photo Credit: Brittany App]]>
<![CDATA[Wine Tasting at the Winchester Mystery House]]> Mon, 20 Jul 2015 22:34:00 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/217*120/winewinchester1234.jpg

LIBATIONS THAT LEVITATE: It's impossible to not summon the phrase "spirits with spirits" when one is imbibing a glass of something grown-up and bubbly/foamy/potent in a spooky spot. The catchy line has long been used by the Ghost Hunters of Urban Los Angeles, in fact, whenever they planned an event involving cocktails in a rumored-to-be-haunted place (an event currently on hiatus, as of this typing, but charming nonetheless). Finding an eerie location in which to sip and socialize around California is not difficult, though, since our state is rife with storied structures, from hotels to train stations to historic restaurants. But one of the most storied of all was once a private home, lived in by one person, and is today visited by thousands each year. You know where we're about to land with this: It's the Winchester Mystery House, in San Jose, and along with San Diego's Whaley House, it's regularly billed as rife with spirits. Those spirits, however, don't just arrive in an ethereal form; beverages of the wine and beer and liquor variety are also served on the property. 

WINE TASTINGS... can be found in "a renovated original out-building with a unique wooden floor made from repurposed wine barrels." Where's this out-building? In the pretty, strollable courtyard of the mansion, just steps away from the main house's rambling corridors and staircases leading to nowhere. It's open seasonally, so if the idea of soaking up the Victorian-flavored tales and twists of Sarah Winchester's medium-influenced home, then following up with a merlot and chardonnay, appeal, check with the attraction before planning a day of house-touring and vino-tasting.

BUT IF YOU WANT TO PEEK... at the tasting menu now, you can. There are Winchester Estate wines, made in the Santa Clara Valley, and some local beers from San Jose's own Strike Brewing Company. Is wine tasting at the Winchester Mystery House the most unusual place to pursue this oh-so-California tradition? There are some funky wineries out there, for sure, but few sit on the grounds of a haunted home, one that has windows in the floors and doors opening to brick walls. Eek.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/WinchesterMysteryHouse]]>
<![CDATA[New: Wine Country Clean Air Express]]> Sun, 19 Jul 2015 09:00:38 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/cleanairlaurakath.jpg

A LUCKY REGION... is fortunate to have one city or town or valley or destination that draws weekenders, those day-trippers who want to soak in the sights and/or have a glass of wine and/or a great plate of pasta and/or some pastries and enjoy art, people-watching, architecture, and maybe some nature, too (beach, hills, vineyards qualify). But what to do when you have a stretch of the state absolutely teeming with terrific weekend-y places, the kind of villages that burst with pleasant ways to spend an afternoon? Well, you preen a little, of course, but if those villages are a bit further apart, you preen less and brainstorm on ways for visitors to enjoy several of the region's treasures without driving. The Santa Ynez Valley has been at the forefront of the whole park-your-car idea in recent years, finding ways either through specific businesses or municipalities to truck visitors around in a see-more-of-the-area way (without paying a bundle to do so). The latest entry has just arrived, in early July, and it will please people who want to do both Santa Barbara and some of the Santa Ynez -- say, Los Olivos or Buellton or Solvang -- all in a day without making the driving between the American Riviera and wine country towns on their own. Meet the Clean Air Express, a bus that's been running between particular places in the area, but never between Santa Barbara and a trio of Santa Ynez villages.

ON A SATURDAY... we should add. But that changed on Saturday, July 11 with the debut of this new line of the Clean Air Express. This route is Saturday-specific, we should note, and the motor coach ride each way is seven bucks, meaning you'll have more cash for that glass of pinot in Los Olivos or an aebleskivver in Solvang. Is there Wi-Fi on the bus? Yes, so there's no reason for you not to tell all your pals the jealousy-making things you're up to while you ride. Are there a few start and leave times? There are, including, in case you're wondering, one at Andersen's Pea Soup in Buellton. Is this the way you fill up your Saturday with two not-so-close areas of a region brimming with beautiful spots? This is a great way to do that, if you want to lessen your own driving (and pump up gazing at pretty vistas through bus windows). For more info on your motor coach Saturday get-to-know-this-area outing, beep-beep your bus in this direction.

Photo Credit: Laura Kath]]>
<![CDATA[La Jolla in Flight: Falconry Lessons]]> Sun, 19 Jul 2015 09:01:13 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/196*120/falconrylajolla12232.jpg

LOOK HIGH INTO THE SKY: Staring upwards, towards the clouds, while standing the Torrey Pines Gliderport is not all that unusual. After all, "Gliderport" is in the name, which gives a rather major hint to what is done there, or at least from there, before visitors leave terra firma and head for the air. Hang gliding and paragliding are two popular pursuits at the Gliderpoint, but, on occasion, something else rather wonderful makes a cameo, and it arrives with its own flying apparatus. That apparatus is not humanmade, nor anything that needs to be worn or gripped; we speak of wings, and falcons, and beautiful birds that can leap into the sky, and stay there for as long as they like, summoning humans on the ground below to gaze up in admiration. A lot of that gazing up will be going down on Sunday, Aug. 2 when Obscura Society LA calls upon the beautiful bluff for a morning of falconry lessons, and falconry enjoyment, with along with Sky Falconry instructors. These knowledgeable bird buffs will show those feather fans who've signed up for a lesson the basics of holding out a gloved arm and bidding a falcon adieu as he heads to the sky (or welcoming him back from the sky, which is part of the ancient pursuit, too). Game to try? Then sign up for...

FALCONRY LESSONS... or falconry observation. "(Y)ou'll learn to hold a Harris's Hawk, cast it from your glove, and call it back again." It's a beautiful cycle, and one often seen in movies filled with castles and knights and ye olde drama. But falconry thrives today, and isn't simply a relic of the past or a part of fiction. To learn more about raptors, what they eat, and what we bipeds can do to lend a hand -- gloved if they need a perch or "a hand" in the larger sense, with their conservation and care -- take a look at the Obscura Society LA page or flap your wings straight for Sky Falconry. Whether you're learning or looking on Aug. 2, though, tickets and spaces are quite limited. The views, however, from the Torrey Pines Gliderport are more of the limitless, epic variety, the perfect spot to watch falcons ride the wind.

Photo Credit: Sky Falconry]]>
<![CDATA[Insects Are Cool: San Diego Botanic Garden's Abuzz]]> Wed, 15 Jul 2015 11:23:20 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sdbgbugjuly.jpg

BUZZ CRAWL SQUEAK FLY: When we venture out into a vast, leafy, tree-dotted garden, our eyes are on first alert, seeking out the bright buds and colorful petal and interesting limb shapes and other features that fill out the lush vista. But our ears, too, should be on a watch of sorts. Wilder places aren't just about the visuals, but the aural component, too. And if you hear a buzz deep in the center of a cactus bloom or you detect a soft scurrying in the underbrush, you become more aware that gardens just aren't about the greenery but also the many bugs who call the place home (some for a moment, some for longer). The San Diego Botanic Garden pauses each summer to pay tribute to insects and all of their incredibly important functions, from pollination and beyond. Nope, there's no "eeking" here. Bug buffs know that a multi-legged, multi-eyed, tentacle-sweet creature has beauty and intrigue to spare. If you don't mind holding your palm open to gently receive a winged or wormy beastie, the better to hold it and study it for a moment or two.

BUT THERE'S TASTING, TOO: The Insect Festival isn't all leaning in and gazing a bit closer at butterflies and beetles and centipedes and their brethren. There shall be bug cookery, so if you're up for snacking on cooled mealworm larva "in various flavors such as mesquite, teriyaki, and barbecue!" Yummity yum yum. If dining on miniature scurriers isn't your bag, but learning from experts is, there shall be plenty of that; over 20 booths filled with bug-knowledgeable people will dot the grounds of the gardens. Oh, and there are the gardens themselves to stroll, which you can, since your paid admission to the main venue gets you into the Insect Festival. Will you admire the bugs and then saunter along the paths, keeping a keener ear out for buzzing and chirring and whirring and the sounds of those plentiful co-earthlings, the insect family? They're out there, under leaves and roots, keeping balance.

JULY 25 AND 26: The San Diego Botanic Garden's 2015 Insect Festival takes wing over the final weekend in July, in Encinitas.

Photo Credit: San Diego Botanic Garden]]>
<![CDATA[Early Summer Mornings Up San Jacinto]]> Sun, 19 Jul 2015 09:01:46 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/pstramway1234.jpg

RISE, SHINE, AND CHANGE ELEVATION: The suggestion that we "rise and shine" is often depicted by an illustration of a cheery-faced person stretching happily in bed. Perhaps their hair is a bit messy, perhaps there's a slice of toast or glass of orange juice on the nightstand, perhaps a pretty songbird is at the window. But rarely does the concept of "rise and shine" get paired with a celebrated trip up the side of a mountain in a small, window-laden, revolving car. Still, though, does this not seem like an adventure that might help the whole rising and shining thing far more than a slice of toast or glass of orange juice? An early morning ascension up the steep and dramatic side of a tall peak? Sorry, toast, orange juice, and songbird at the window -- a tram ride in the wee smalls of the A.M. might do a bit more to shake off the sleepy cobwebs. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway agrees that a fresh-part-of-the-day journey from the desert floor into the San Jacinto wilderness is a stupendous way to greet a summer Friday. So every Friday, through the Friday before Labor Day Weekend (that's Sept. 4), the famous tram'll set off up Jacinto at 8 o'clock in the morning, along about the time other people are thinking about getting a bowl of cereal and checking their email through bleary eyes.

YES, ABSOLUTELY, DEFINITELY... you should be wide awake when you drive to the base-of-the-mountain attraction, but will you get an extra jolt of adrenaline on the ride? It's hard not to, considering how many feet you rise. Valley Station, where you start, is at 2,643 feet, and Mountain Station, where you stop, is 8,516 feet. No cup of coffee, and we don't care how strong it is, will take you, at least energy-wise, up some 6,000 feet in the air. The tramway normally opens at 10 a.m., save weekends in the summer (which start earlier, too), so consider your 8 o'clock Friday morning ride a real jump on the day's summer desert heat. It's cooler up the mountain, that's for sure. And if you need another coffee or juice, you can find it when you disembark; there are snack bars on both ends of the tram's track.

Photo Credit: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway]]>
<![CDATA[Tickets on Sale: Gilroy Garlic Festival]]> Wed, 15 Jul 2015 11:25:27 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/garlicicecreamfest12345.jpg

A VERY CALIENTE CONUNDRUM: The garlic-obsessed cook who finds himself making a spicy pasta or pad thai or pizza for a group of guests typically faces a conundrum of a very caliente sort about halfway into the whole dinner-making process. When the head of garlic makes its debut, from the net hanging over the sink, does the cook smash or chop a few cloves for the pan and return the remainder, or does he sneak a raw clove to enjoy while he makes the food? While some might recoil at the idea of popping an uncooked hunk of garlic in one's mouth, there are other fans out there -- garlicists, if you will -- who get the temptation. Nothing is quite as hot nor as powerful nor as, well, lasting, as a bit of raw garlic enjoyed without any other ingredients to temper its bite. But if there are guests due at the door, the cook has to decide: Will the pungent breath be worth it? If the answer is "yes" -- and the answer is typically "yes" among garlicists -- we expect that we'll see you in Gilroy over the last weekend in July, where hundreds of other gourmets who go gaga over a good clove of naked, uncooked garlic will be, living it up and feeling the burn. Tickets are now on sale for the...

THE 37TH ANNUAL GILROY GARLIC FESTIVAL... which brings the live entertainment, the vendors, the cooking demos, the wine and beer tastings, and the many, many booths of Gourmet Alley, which whip up everything from chewy-moist deep-fried garlic to cooling garlic ice cream to mussels swimming in garlicky goodness to garlic salmon. Oh! And garlic bread, of course, that carb-tastic stalwart at the soft, celebrated hub from which all other garlic-laden foods spin. The cook-off contest brings the amateur chefs, the showdown the pros, and a Sunday afternoon will see a dream wedding starring two serious garlic-lovin' lovers. The festival is called "the ultimate summer food fair" and that it all happens in the Garlic Capital of the World should lock it down for garlicists, those lovers of blisteringly hot bulbs that come sheathed in papery, easy-to-remove covering.

OH GARLIC, there's no food that's anything like you, in flavor, in fire quotient, in how you look or how you're handled. You really do deserve one of the biggest parties of the summer. We'll see you July 24 through 26.

Photo Credit: Gilroy Garlic Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Fall Fab: Palm Springs Modernism Bash]]> Thu, 16 Jul 2015 11:55:02 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ModernistsatSunnylands8732.jpeg

IT'S PRETTY EASY... to don flannels and knit caps around Seattle and feel as though you're part of the rainy-coffee-fir-fabulous scene, and dressing in beach wear, around Key West, can slip you right into the no-worries-no-hurry vibe (where bare feet tend to be a-ok). But there's only one true monarch among mavens of mid-century-ism these days, the must-go location where you can still play at being in 1962, complete with your Pucci-like scarves and skinny ties and bouffants and indoor-outdoor houses. It's Palm Springs, of course, which welcomes you and your mid-century daydreams throughout the year. But the retro looks go way up come the middle of February when thousands of style fans descend upon the desert resort for Modernism Week, a packed-schedule spectacular devoted to gorgeous architecture of the bygone era and all of its satellite styles (cars, trailers, sunglasses, shoes, dishware). Modernism Week is so popular and well-attended that there is a little Modernism Week, of sorts, in the fall. It's called the Modernism Week Fall Preview, and while it isn't the hefty eleven days of the February confab, it does fill out four full days in the middle of October. That's...

OCT. 9-12... to be exact, and the 2015 autumn event has some good/groovy stuff going. The "extended weekend" shall spotlight an array of the "best events from the annual February festival." Look for a Rat Pack Experience Party at the Palm Springs Art Museum, the double decker bus architectural tours, walk-arounds inside house-designing legend Albert Frey's Aluminaire House, and a Modernism Show & Sale at the Palm Springs Air Museum (about 40 dealers in all will turn up with era-awesome items). Walking tours and other gatherings of an info-sharing, social-making nature dot the roster. As for tickets? They go on sale on Aug. 1.

OF COURSE... you can play at being a member of the Rat Pack, dress-wise, any day of the year in Palm Springs, and locals and tourists alike'll go with it. But come the Modernism Week Fall Preview, and Modernism Week itself, your chance to go total mid-century in your look and with your interests blooms like a glorious cactus flower.

Photo Credit: Modernism Week]]>
<![CDATA[Sandtastic Fundraiser: Switchfoot Bro-Am]]> Thu, 09 Jul 2015 13:02:06 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/switchfootbroam122332.jpg

ENCINITAS EASY: If you've spent some time around Swami's or Moonlight or noshing on fish tacos at one of the town's supreme fish taco shops, you know that the nature of Encinitas is both easy and breezy. No rush, no muss, let's enjoy life and I'll take some extra cabbage in my taco, please. But what makes this approach rather trickier is when a famous fundraiser arrives on the scene, bringing with it thousands of fans and surfers and a gold-of-heart plan to get some money to some great local causes. How does one approach the whole shebang without losing that all-important Encinitas Easy? You plan your party around the beach, with tunes and waves and an act with a bunch of local cred. That band is Switchfoot, and the annual Bro-Am they helm helps several local charities in addition to giving wave-seeking hang-tenners and tune mavens a fine day out on the sand.

THAT ROCKIN', SURFIN' DAY IS... Saturday, July 11, and it shall be a full one. That's the Beach Day Concert, where pro surfers and rockers and lovers of both will be out in socializing force. The soiree is free and wetsuits are de rigeur, so, again that easy-breezy good-time-having will be the name of the game. The 4th Annual Rob Machado Bro Junior -- yep, as in icon-of-the-waves Rob Machado -- is out on the Big Blue from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and young riders'll be out on their boards (alongside "band members and pro surfers," so that's way cool). A quartet of bands shall keep the live music alive all afternoon, with Switchfoot rounding out the bill. By the by, 2015 marks the first-ever Restaurant Week leading up to the Bro-Am, so if you're in the area ahead of time, be sure to find a participating eatery.

AS FOR THE MANY ORGANIZATIONS... who will be on the receiving end of the donation love? StandUp for Kids, Feeding American San Diego, Encinitas Youth Scholarship Fund, and several others are on the list. Even if you can't make the show and the surf, you can donate to the Switchfoot Bro-Am Foundation and see your dollars help out around North County and San Diego.

Photo Credit: Switchfoot Bro-Am]]>
<![CDATA[Desert Spa Twist: La Casa del Zorro's Cool Stones]]> Fri, 24 Jul 2015 08:17:46 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/coolcomfortzorro.jpg

A CHILL SPIN ON A BODYWORK CLASSIC: If you asked a resort maven, the sort of traveler who has a penchant for spots with lots of sunshine and three-digit temperatures come summertime, where to best keep cool, they'd offer up some excellent answers. "The pool" would probably be the first thing they'd suggest, or "your suite for a nap" (ahhh, a fine way to meet a toasty July day) or "enjoying a cocktail with extra ice in the lobby" might be another response. But few experienced hotel guests would proffer the on-site spa's stone massage, because, well, stone massages are very not-cold, by nature. Even if you've never had one, you know the words that are used to describe the experiencing: warming, warmth, heat, melt. The smooth stones are placed along the guest's back and bingo: muscle relief. But taking a different tack when you're a resort in one of California's famous deserts is a quirky, fun, and, yes, even sensible plan, which is just what La Casa del Zorro is doing for the summer of 2015. Rather than placing stones of a caliente nature on clients, they're chilling the rocks for the Cool Comfort experience. Same idea of stones delivering some temperature-based soothing, but rather than your personal mercury heading upwards, you'll chill right out, in body (your busy mind, fingers crossed, will soon follow).

COOL COMFORT... involves a few tantalizing components. Clients receive "a customized, 50-minute facial with an aloe mask and a soothing 50-minute massage incorporating chilled natural stones." The "limited addition" to the spa's menu is priced at $185. Other warm-weather-perfect choices, from a Summer Mani/Pedi (look for a green tea soak) and a Replenish and Refresh multi-part experience, are discounted for the season. If you're doing the desert when the sun is high and the afternoons bring a few beads of sweat, gorgeous clouds, and promises of great sunsets, consider your resort cool-offs: cocktails, pools, naps, and a cooling stone massage. But will you ever head back to the city? (Probably, yes, of course, but with dreams of your next visit.)

Photo Credit: Casa del Zorro]]>
<![CDATA[To Catalina Island, by Water Skis]]> Tue, 07 Jul 2015 14:10:23 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Brady-Hoggins-UpsCatalina.jpg

HOW MANY WAYS... are there to get to Catalina Island from mainland Southern California? "A boat" is a fine initial answer, as that's how most people do it. "A helicopter" or "a plane" are both on the list, so feel free to hit the buzzer and shout it out, because you'll get a gold star. "Swimming"? Well, yes, there are many people who've donned a bathing suit and championed the Catalina Channel, but no day-tripper to Avalon would likely go this route, as a channel swim requires a team of supporters, lots of training, and the incredibly impressive ability to plow, hand over hand, through open ocean waves. As for other ways to get to the island that's a famous 22 miles from the coast? Nope, as much as you wish for it a Catalina bison won't swim over and pick you up. Nope, there's not an under-the-Pacific Chunnel of sorts from Los Angeles to Catalina (not yet, anyway).

BUT WATER SKIS? Ah yes: You can reach Catalina Island by being pulled, at a high speed, by a speedy vessel. In fact, several bold water skiers do just this, each summer, and have for well over a half century. The annual Catalina Ski Race has been zooming for 67 years, in fact, which puts it in the "venerable" category in terms of long-running California competitions. Even if you don't feel like taking a very fast trip to Avalon, and back to Long Beach, while hanging fast to a rope and handle, you can still head out to the Queen Mary on the morning of Saturday, July 18 to cheer the hardy adventurers on who shall make the much-photographed yearly run.

MAKE THAT VERY EARLY MORNING: The legendary Long Beach ocean-liner is opening a viewing area to the starting line, and spectators can sip upon Bloody Marys and mimosas as the competitors don their helmets and sunscreen. Start time at the ship is 7 a.m., and if you're wondering how many miles total the water ski brigade'll cover, 62 is the answer. It's a rousing morning full of old-fashioned sport and derring-do, but one that is fun to watch and ponder, too. And it is quite charming how there are not that many ways to reach Avalon in our now super-accessible world, and it is charming that "water skis" is one of the principal ways come a very special summer morning. Though we still wish we could ride over, once, like some mythical character on the back of a bison, but we're pretty sure those ol' Catalina bison are doing just fine sticking to the island's hillsides far above the Pacific Ocean.

Photo Credit: Catalina Ski Race/Brady Hoggins]]>
<![CDATA[PAWmicon: Find a Superhero BFF in San Diego]]> Thu, 02 Jul 2015 13:49:41 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Pawmicon2012HWACdogPawmiconPrincess.jpg

PERFECT SUPERHERO PET: If you woke up tomorrow and found out that a meteorite had passed over your house or a radioactive flea had bit you or your home was located on a mine filled with magical glow stones, would your first thought be A) I wonder what cool powers I'll get or B) I wonder what my awesome canine or feline super-companion will be.

BECAUSE... while transforming into a cape-rocking, mask-mysterious, bold-'n-brave superhero is frankly fantabulous, finding out you have a Fido who can fly or talk or go completely invisible is even better. We're not sure what amazing attributes the woofers and meowers who'll be up for adoption at PAWmicon will bring, but we can bet that some of their superpowers including napping and purring and rolling over and licking your face and loving everybody ever.

AS SUPERPOWERS GO, those are pretty terrific, so plan on alighting at the Stone Company Store in San Diego on Wednesday, July 8 to have a look at the cuties who need a home. The date, you'll notice, happens to be the day before Comic-Con International -- Comic-Con Eve, if you will -- so plenty of superheroes will already be in town but not yet too busy with convention-y doings. This means you have plenty of time to go cuddle, and potentially spark with, a sweetie at PAWmicon.

OR SHOW WITH YOUR OWN... superhero pet. There is a "comic-themed photo booth" and a costume contest (your pup could win a prize she'll like) and Doggy Beer Bones. Also good to know? The Rancho Santa Fe-based Helen Woodward Animal Center'll net ten percent of the bar's take, so you'll sip knowing future orphaned animals will get the TLC they need from the always busy animal safehouse. That's pretty dang heroic, helping out lovable buddies in need. Now, need an idea for how to cosplay with your canine? Look to the many famous superhero beasties populating the comics shelf, from Ace the Bat Hound to Rex the Wonder Dog. So sweet, so brave, so colorful, so able to dash after dastardly robots and dinosaurs and outer space visitors. Yep, it is certainly time we all pay superhero dogs -- both on the page and on our lap -- their due.

Photo Credit: Helen Woodward Animal Center]]>
<![CDATA[Catalina Beach Parties: Descanso's Summer Scene]]> Wed, 08 Jul 2015 21:56:03 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/descansobeachcatalinachamber1234.jpg

A BEACH IS A BEACH IS A BEACH: It's true that a sandy stretch of land that fronts a large body of water could accurately be defined as "a beach," but every ocean aficionado knows that not every beach is the same, In fact, one could say that the grain-laden gamut on this topic is as wide as the Pacific. (Well, maybe not that wide, but pretty dang big.) There are pink sand beaches and rocky beaches and beaches boasting clusters of coves and those pretty shoreline areas flush with flora (or none at all). There is also the matter of the mainland beach vs. an island beach. Nope, we're not pitting them, head to head -- they're both good -- but beach buffs might categorize the emotions and experiences of each as a little different. On the mainland you're a bit more accessible, the bigger cities are nearby, and unwinding takes perhaps a moment or two longer. But on an island? You're away. Sure, you may get fine cell reception, but you ultimately can't be really reached, because you're on a small pocket of land surrounded by lots and lots water. It's a fine and rare feeling, and one that can be experienced by SoCalers without even hopping onto a plane. We speak, of course, of Catalina Island, a boat-reachable (and plane- and helicopter-reachable) place that's home to Descanso Beach Club, which truly revs up come summertime.

WHAT DOES "REVS UP" MEAN? The picturesque spot, which is in sight of the iconic Casino Building, is "one of the last private beaches in California with public access." There are cabanas and chaises to rent, Saturday and Sunday afternoon summer beach parties (complete with DJ-spinning sounds and live tunes), happy hour specials, and "alcohol-infused ice cream treats." Yep, that's a grown-up vacation you see on the horizon, no passport or plane reservations required. But what happens when you share the photos with friends later? Will they think you traveled to an island across the planet? Perhaps, but if they see the Casino in the background they'll know you went Catalina for a quick and not-too-dear weekend respite. And then they'll be rather jealous, so the only solution is to plan another boat ride together, back to Avalon, for some chillax-packed time on an island beach. 

Photo Credit: Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce]]>