<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Worth the Trip]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcsandiego.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.comen-usSun, 23 Oct 2016 07:49:46 -0700Sun, 23 Oct 2016 07:49:46 -0700NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[The 'Friendly Ghost' of the National Hotel]]> Sat, 22 Oct 2016 11:26:20 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ghostgetty2928323.jpg

VISIT ANY HISTORIC SITE... along Highway 49, or points near the famous Gold Country thoroughfare, and you'll immediately become familiar with the gentle creak of a built-long-ago plank sidewalk, or a mysterious breeze making a lace curtain move, or the flicker of a flame in a handblown oil lamp. There are many experiences that tickle the senses in a region that still has oodles of 1800s-ness to it, and while most experiences can be traced to an origin — the door was left open, creating the curtain-blowing breeze — a few moments do tend to astound visitors. That is, if you're visiting a location that not only boasts its own ghost, but a spirit that is described as "friendly" (a lovely thing for any entity to be, be they a phantom or of this human plane).

THE NATIONAL HOTEL & RESTAURANT... in Jamestown is home to one such storied resident, who even has a friendly, easy-to-remember handle: Flo. Whether Flo will make her presence known to a guest during their overnight at the 1859 inn is a big question mark, but visitors have shared tales of slamming doors and "clothing being dumped from suitcases onto the floor..." Fascinating stuff, and perhaps especially in October, when wraith-whimsical matters are on many a mind. And while a number of stay-over spots around the Golden State are rumored to have a spectral presence, Flo rightly has her very own page on the National's official site. 

EAGER TO SEE... if she'll pay you a visit? There are nine guest rooms in the antique-filled building, and a buffet breakfast is a part of your stay. A bonus? You're right on Main Street, which is highly walkable, so you and your BFF can take an after-dinner stroll and discuss what you might do, in the night, should you see the light in your private bath flicker on and/or off. Another bonus? Jamestown is but a 15-minute drive from Columbia State Historic Park, which is a vintage slice of ye olde California, through and through, if you want to up the historical end of your getaway (in addition to the potentially ghosty end). Ready to see if the phantom Flo crosses your Jamestown path? Your journey starts here, and that's in October or any time of the year, as ghosts, like people, don't always stick to the calendar.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Mammoth Opening: $50 Lift Ticket]]> Fri, 21 Oct 2016 21:58:42 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/2015-11-05_MammothsOpen_611.jpg

STORMS IN THE SIERRA... in October aren't the beautiful, piney-of-scent rains of mid-summer. Autumn-style blow-throughs can be hard, and dramatic, and they can show with a plus-one that hasn't been seen in several months: snow. That's been the case around Mammoth Mountain, which began to flirt with frosty ground-cover weeks in advance of the resort's scheduled November opening. But all of this early snowfall simply means that Thursday, Nov. 10 is going to be a big one on the big mountain, with fans getting stoked as they watch as pre-opening flakes create some good base action. Does all of this October snow make you want to be there from the get-go? Then getting going on this: Opening day lift tickets are...

FIFTY BUCKS: That's a solid deal, but also solid is the general festive atmosphere that opening day at major ski resort like Mammoth naturally exudes. That doesn't come with a price tag, so be up there early to be in the swing. Also free? The cocoa and coffee at Broadway Express on the morning of opening day, starting at 7 a.m. (people will already be there, for sure, count on it). And watching the annual banner breakthrough, which is scheduled for 8:30, is pretty darn stirring, if skiing is a major part of your cold-weather life. Stow some cash for the sip specials later in the day at Tusks Bar, and join in the beer toast at 11 a.m. on the sundeck at the Main Lodge. Are you ready for opening day? Clearly the clouds are, as they've already been bestowing the slopes with fall flakes. What will winter bring? More of the same, and lots of it, fingers, poles, and skis crossed.

Photo Credit: Mammoth Mountain]]>
<![CDATA[Opening Soon: Holidays at Disneyland Resort]]> Fri, 21 Oct 2016 21:58:08 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Cars-Land-Holiday-0029301.jpg

TWINKLY PLACE UPS THE TWINKLE: Saunter into Disneyland on a May morning and you're going to come across a notable amount of glitter, and sparkle, and shiny details, and an eye-pleasing assortment of spectacles. That's the way the world's best-known theme park likes it, and that's the way it appears to visitors on any day of the calendar. But along about early November, that overall twinkle gets upped, and if you can't imagine such a thing could be possible, well, consider that we're talking about a place with its own wishing well (in other words, true magic is afoot). Wreaths, and bows, and ornaments, and thousands of lights dot the already picturesque buildings and lampposts, lending The Happiest Place on Earth some seasonal sugar (and how). It isn't long between the close of Halloween at the resort, though, before the wreaths and lights are on full display: Holidays at the Disneyland Resort debuts less than two weeks after Oct. 31, on Thursday, Nov. 10.

THE 2016 EVENTS... have been released, and, as is tradition, the "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas" Skellington-esque decorations around the Haunted Mansion will serve as a blithe-laden bridge between the spooky season and the yuletide. "World of Color — Season of Light" is the awesome aquatic show over at Disney California Adventure (yep, it is opening just in time for the holidays), while Festival of Holidays, also at Disney California Adventure, will include 14 themed festival marketplaces and a host of musical performances that pay tribute to traditions near and far. Will Sleeping Beauty's Castle appear in its ice-lovely Winter Castle garb? You can count on it. Will it's a small world seemingly shimmer with all of the tiny bulbs to be found in Orange County? That's the impressive effect. And shall the Jingle Cruise return? It sure will. For more peeks into the Nov. 10, 2016-Jan. 8, 2017 Disneyland doings, don your mouse ears and make your merry way here.

Photo Credit: Paul Hiffmeyer]]>
<![CDATA[Mendo Mushrooms: Join a Foraging Trek]]> Thu, 20 Oct 2016 15:17:40 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/beer-wine-mushroom-train-26+%281%29.jpg

A STROLL IN THE FOREST... is always a multi-part gift, from the peaceful visuals of fluttering leaves to the earthy scents that greet the nose to the quiet unplug-a-tude found within. But there is another gift that woods can yield, if you know where to look (down) and who to look with (an expert mycologist). The "down" part was likely a giveaway, as this treat does spring from the forest floor (or, rather, beneath it), and that mycology is the study of mushrooms tells the rest of the story. We speak of the mushroom, a cap-wearing gem that can fill the most humble of dishes with a little straight-from-nature panache.

MENDOCINO COUNTY... knows this fungi-fabulous panache well, as mushrooms grow well in its moist-of-ground environs (the picturesque are "is home to over 3,000 types of mushrooms," in fact). And November happens to be a prime time for mushroom mania around the county, a fact that inspired the Mushroom, Wine, and Beer Festival, an eat-drink-walk-talk to-do that takes up a goodly chunk of the eleventh month on the calendar. That "goodly chunk" in 2016'll last from...

NOV. 4 THROUGH 13, and deciding what exactly you want to participate in — eating, eating and sipping, sipping and foraging — will dictate how you plan your coast-close getaway. A mushroom forage at Frey Winery (yep, there's a vino tasting, too), an Afternoon Tea at Glendeven Inn (the sandwiches are lush with mushroomry), and mushroom-themed art happenings are among the many highlights. Surely you cook with plenty of portobellos and oysters and cremini; but have you ever gone to the verdant, thick-of-pine-needles, below-the-trees source alongside a mushroom-knowledgeable pro? Here's your moment, mushroom mavens, to get the 411 on your produce drawer staple.

Photo Credit: Mushroom, Wine, and Beer Fest]]>
<![CDATA[Mission Inn's Fall-Sweet Pumpkin Stroll]]> Wed, 19 Oct 2016 12:40:03 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/TheMissionInnPumpkinStroll.jpg

WHEN WE PICTURE PLACES... in our mind's eye, we tend to associate a distinctive sensation with the location. Perhaps it is the feeling of sand beneath our tootsies at the beach, or the crunch-crunch of leaves when we ponder the Sierra in October. And when our musings turn to The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, the castle-like landmark in Riverside? Well, an eye-pleasing twinkle is apt to make our thoughts go sparkly. That's because the hotel hangs lots of lights — literally millions of them, as in four or so million — each holiday season, creating a full-scale glow show, something that's seen, via TV and magazines, far beyond its Inland Empire location. But mavens of The Mission Inn know that its arches and towers and courtyards are ready-made for other seasonal celebrations, too, including the one that arrives just ahead of the Festival of Lights: fall, and all of its pumpkin-y pleasures.

OH, DID WE SAY "PUMPKIN-Y"? Why yes, we most certainly did. That's because the structure, which has its early roots in the 1800s, has collected nearly 700 examples of autumn's star gourd and lined walkways around the historic hotel, all to enhance that quintessential fall feeling. If spying so many noble squashes on The Mission Inn grounds only furthers your fall feelings, look into the seasonal sips at the hotel's Presidential Lounge. And might there be a stay-over package that's tied to the crisp feel on the breeze? There is: It's called Fall at The Mission Inn and there's a luxe overnight room, $25 towards eating/sipping around the property, two cupcakes, and, wait for it fall people, a pair of hot apple ciders, the most autumnal libation on the planet (fact). To spy a storied structure with the icons of fall dotting its charming paths, make for Riverside while autumn hangs ever so happily in the air.

Photo Credit: The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa]]>
<![CDATA[Pinnacles National Park: Centennial Day of Service]]> Tue, 18 Oct 2016 13:43:47 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Pinnaclesseemontereydotcom.jpg

WHILE WE THINK OF SUMMERTIME... as that time of year when collective relaxation truly begins, there are physical places that grow more bustling, and even hectic, when June arrives: the national parks. Our magnificent stretches of wild beauty experience higher traffic when the weather warms up, but the season that follows traditionally dons a more relaxed and tranquil mantle. Autumn, then, is a most excellent time to call upon our parks, but there's an added dimension that's full of heart, too, where a fall visit is concerned. A number of parks host various clean-up days in September and October — The Yosemite Facelift is a famous September spiffy-up — and volunteers arrive to enjoy both the crisper temperatures and to lend a hand in helping the park repair a few things needing some attention following the high season. Pinnacles National Park, which received its monument designation in 1908 and its park status just a few years ago, in 2013, is hosting such a help-out day on Saturday, Oct. 22. It's the...

CENTENNIAL DAY OF SERVICE... at the middle-ish-of-California park, and a "variety of service projects" will take place. So make for the destination, a remote expanse known for its striking, rock-beautiful scenery, and pitch in on "litter abatement, non-native plant control, seed collection, and trail work." (Note that there are some asks in terms of what sort of clothes to wear, and what to bring, so read all.)

THE "MAKE A DIFFERENCE DAY"... will truly inspire positive and noticeable changes around the park, changes that will be enjoyed by future visitors looking for a nature-authentic experience. Consider that a late-October visit to Pinnacles may be further enhanced by a bat sighting, as "14 of California's 24 bat species make their home at Pinnacles National Park." For the beautiful bats, for the people who love the place, and for the place itself, roll up those sleeves and make a difference over the course of a day, all while getting out and getting acquainted with one of the state's most serene and spectacular stretches.

Photo Credit: © Tom O'Neal/SeeMonterey.com]]>
<![CDATA[Fall in Fallbrook: Scarecrow Days]]> Wed, 19 Oct 2016 21:36:13 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/fallbrookscarecrowdays15.jpg

NOT EVERY TOWN... is fortunate enough to have an actual, honest-to-calendar season in its name. There's Springerville in Arizona, and Summerville, South Carolina, and Florida's own Winter Park. California, of course, is home to Fallbrook, a place that's famous for the many flavorful things it brings to the plate (including, of course, the avocado). But the 15 Freeway-close burg also pays picturesque tribute to the season that starts its moniker via a festival and the camera-ready Scarecrow Days.

SCARECROW DAYS... run throughout the month of October, and if you swing by the Chamber of Commerce during your day out in Fallbrook you can pick-up a scarecrow-ready ballot. Should you find a figure that especially charms you, or tickles you, or makes you snap more than a photo or two, then consider casting your vote for that scarecrow. Look for the autumnal icons to dot businesses along Main Avenue and Mission Road and a number of other local thoroughfares (there's a helpful pdf to direct you to where they are). And should you be in town on...

SUNDAY, OCT. 16... look for the Fall Harvest Faire to further enhance the air of autumn-o-sity. There are a few California villages doing it up scarecrow-wise these days, from Cambria to Big Bear to the Santa Ynez Valley to Fallbrook, which has been setting up the hay-filled cuties for a half decade. Doing a day trip before the close of the month? You can see them, and you can vote, and you can soak up the season that's in the town's very name.

Photo Credit: Fallbrook Scarecrow Days]]>
<![CDATA[Nevada City: Where October Vacations]]> Sat, 15 Oct 2016 06:37:25 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/IMG_6393etoutsideinn.jpg

REAL-LIFE CANDY CORN GLOBE: Snow globes are understandably popular when the end-of-the-year holidays draw near. After all, they're just so darn cute, and they come in all sizes, and some are definitely affordable, and gift-givers find them to be seasonally appropriate gifts for a number of giftees. But the thing about snow globes is they tend to be focused on, well, snow, and the scenes presented under the domed glass often feature Santa and gingerbread houses and candy canes. Where, though, are the candy corn globes, the small, round giftables that rain orange-hued candy instead of faux snow on tiny spooky houses? Well, they do exist (though probably not with real falling candy corn per se, which can get goopy in water). And such environments exist in reality, too, if you know where to look. For example, if you turn your autumn-loving gaze upon Nevada City, in the northern part of Gold Country, you'll find a charming town that looks as though it sprung fully formed from a snow globe (or, rather, candy corn globe). And come October, its charms are enhanced by Halloween decor, trick-or-treating, and other not-too-terrifying to-dos that lend one of our state's most foliage-rich destinations a ton of quirky, camera-ready cred. So are you ready to October-it-up, or Halloween-it-up, or both, in dear...

NEVADA CITY? Best peruse everything on the October list, from trick-or-treating on picturesque (and 1800s-esque) Broad Street to a Fright Night party on Saturday, Oct. 29 at the historic Miners Foundry (soul music, dancing, and convivial details await). There are ghost tours, too, to ponder, which make spectral sense, as Nevada City's past is full and rumored to be phantom-y. And as for the fall color? It's definitely revving up, so find your booklet of Nevada City trees and get strolling. We're not saying that by visiting Nevada City you'll be stepping into a human-sized candy corn globe, but we are saying you might feel that way. It's a tad magical, is the thing, and that quality should never be in short supply during the autumntime of the year.

Photo Credit: Erin Thiem]]>
<![CDATA[Ojai Fall Getaways: Packages + Perks]]> Fri, 14 Oct 2016 10:20:57 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/emeraldojai29823232.jpg

THE PINK MOMENT GOES PUMPKIN: One might be forgiven for immediately sensing a whiff of springtime whenever Ojai pops into mind. After all, it is the place where the famous nightly "Pink Moment," that soft hue that seems to capture both hills and sky as the sun says its farewell for the day, holds colorful court. Look also to the local orchards and groves and fields, the verdant spreads that hold copious amounts of lavender and tangerines when the weather warms up, as well as all manner of growable goodies. This all does bring the springtime to mind, both the notion of "pink" and the taste of citrus, but Ojai has a secret: It rocks the whole autumn season exceedingly well, from its mellow afternoons to those crisp post-sundown breezes to the nearby pumpkin patches, like the one at Boccali Ranch. If pumpkin and pink are just about your favorite colors, and you adore Ojai-o-sity any time of the year, look to the artist enclave for fall packages and extras at the local inns. 

THE EMERALD IGUANA INN... and The Blue Iguana Inn both have a Fall Into Autumn Gift Basket & Package available (a "seasonal gift basket" that includes local wine is just one goodie) while The Oaks at Ojai is offering a Bring a Friend Discount over the first two thirds of November. The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa is doing it up with a midweek package through Nov. 26, 2016 (a $50 nightly resort credit is on the roster) while the Lavender Inn has a Foodie Package offering flavor to "select Sundays" through Dec. 16 (taking part in a cooking class will nab you $15 off a Sunday stay). Perhaps your favorite hotel in the area has something afoot (so best call and check). Ready to celebrate The Pink Moment at a time of year when pumpkin-y orange rules? Start here and plan your before-the-holidays sojourn to the captivating, pink-of-sky town now.

Photo Credit: Emerald Iguana]]>
<![CDATA[2016 Palomar Apple Festival]]> Fri, 14 Oct 2016 17:51:02 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/appleshinytreeleaf.jpg

WE OFTEN UTTER THE WORDS... "if these walls could talk" when we enter a building that has some history to it. We wonder who lived there over the decades or centuries, we ponder the parties and celebrations, we think about the future for the landmark structure and its days to come. But doing this for outdoor spaces, like gardens and orchards, is a bit less common, if only because we tend to associate growing things with the larger notion of wilderness and nature. But there are several historic patches of greenery around the Golden State, leafy locales that have weathered the years, and they, too, could share a story or two. One such spot is Palomar Mountain State Park, a destination that's "made up of old pioneer homesteads that included magnificent apple orchards," fruit-filled spreads that are "... still producing to delicious apples to this day..." To enjoy a setting with history that happens to have plenty of fresh air, too, and to savor a crisp autumn day, one where the temperatures aren't too toasty, make for...

PALOMAR MOUNTAIN STATE PARK... on Sunday, Oct. 16 for the 2016 Palomar Apple Festival. The four-hour party happens around the middle of the day — 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. — and entry includes free day use of the park. "No charge for apples, apple goodies or cider!" trumpets the site, and that's just about as sweet as the fine fall weather we're expecting. Chili and cornbread will be for sale, so bring a fiver if you want some hearty fare, and plan to take part in a few old-style games and crafty activities. There are no tours of the orchards in 2016, due to the drought, do note. And if you want to pay homage to the time when the first apples grew on these historic branches, wear something that looks like it might have been sewn in the 19th century, if you own such an outfit. Ready for some fall, mountainside sweetness with an element of wayback-a-tude? Oct. 16 is your day out at Palomar, apple aficionados.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Halloween Weekend in Spooky Solvang]]> Wed, 12 Oct 2016 13:11:27 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/pumpkinjackgetty123-horz.jpg

TRUE STORY: "Sleepy Hollow" was not set in Solvang, though its storybook appearance might cause a fan of Ichabod Crane to understandably think otherwise, given that many iterations of the Washington Irving tale feature a distinctive windmill in the distance. But Solvang does embrace the time of year most associated with "Sleepy Hollow," a little stretch known as late October, and more specifically Halloween. And while the town hosts a party that isn't Ichabod-themed, but rather takes on the general Halloween spirit, you might just feel that you've stepped a buckle-topped shoe into some sort of fairy tale if you visit the Santa Ynez Valley destination in the days before the holiday, or on the holiday itself. Why? Because the cozy, easy-to-walk burg does it up each year with a costume-cute Street Fair. That's scheduled in 2016 for...

SUNDAY, OCT. 30, so be there on All Hallow's Eve Eve when "food trucks, kid games, live entertainment," and more merrily macabre sights arrive in the Golden State's windmilliest location. And the pretty stem atop this pretty pumpkin? The Solvang Festival Theater will be staging "Fractured Fairy Tales" on the two nights surrounding the Street Fair (so Oct. 29 and 31). Enter "a dark forest" which will come alive with vignettes from "Goldilocks," "Hansel and Gretel," and more. It's the kind of walk-around, be-a-scared(-but-not-too-scared) small-town-y sweetness that we can grow nostalgic for come the holidays. You won't see Ichabod out in the neighboring vineyards, or his nemesis the Headless Horseman, but you will spy several delights of the hoots-and-howls holiday.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Solvang]]>
<![CDATA[Halloween 2016 in Death Valley]]> Tue, 11 Oct 2016 12:09:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-450422088+%281%29-horz.jpg

YOU DON'T NEED TO VISIT... a town named after one of Santa's reindeer or a type of holiday cookie to have an excellent Christmas, and landing in Lovetropolis, USA on February 14 isn't necessarily going to send your Valentine's Day into the couple-cute stratosphere. The truth of it: Alighting in a place that happens to have a name that happens to in some way correspond with the date or occasion isn't a guarantee that all the good things of a holiday will be in the bag. But what if that place not only had the interesting, relates-to-the-holiday name and offered up oodles of atmosphere that only enhanced your experience of the holiday? Look to the edge of California, the one near Nevada, and...

DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, a massive expanse which may have the most interesting (and most macabre) name of any park or monument. It seems a natural place to gravitate to come Halloween and Day of the Dead, save for the fact that it is fairly empty, without rows and rows of neighborhood streets offering trick-or-treat opportunities. But what Death Valley does have is its sublime lunar beauty, and lots of it, and the long shadows of late October only add a spooky ripple to the spirit of the season. A spirit that will be observed at...

FURNACE CREEK RANCH... from Friday, Oct. 28 through Sunday, Oct. 30. There shall be the carving of pumpkins, there shall be a costume to-do for the grown-ups, and trick-or-treating? Well, hold onto your costume hat: The traditional event will take place in Death Valley (at the ranch, which will put a different spin on the door-to-door pursuit of treats). And as things wrap the day before Halloween, you can still get back home in time for the big night. If you meet up with neighbors on the street, will you brag to them how you spent the weekend before Halloween soaking in the phantom-y fabulousness of Death Valley National Park? The name absolutely evokes the holiday, but so does its beautiful emptiness, its fascinating, mysterious rocks and dry lake beds, and its otherworldly vistas.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/KBSB]]>
<![CDATA[Langham Huntington's Teddy Bear Tea: Reserve Now]]> Mon, 10 Oct 2016 10:20:48 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/langhamimagine1234367.jpg

VELVET OUTFIT TIME: The chance to don something made of velvet or another not-often-worn fabric is a special opportunity, and one that seems to come around more often during the holidays. That's when we pose for photographs, and part our hair a bit more carefully, and shine the buckles on our shoes, and ponder nice, memory-making events, the kind that are anticipated for several weeks. That might be a trip to see "The Nutcracker" or a visit to an ice rink or it could be a family-cute tea at an historic hotel. Not every older inn offers the cute-as-a-bow-tie teddy bear-themed tea, but one of Southern California's grand destinations is all about teddy bears and pastries and snapshot-ready settings when winter draws near. We speak, of course, of the annual Teddy Bear Tea at...

THE LANGHAM HUNTINGTON, PASADENA, a gussy-up, kids + grown-ups good time that features "enchanting holiday decorations, a puppet show, storytelling by one of Santa's helpers, and pictures with Santa!" It's heartwarming stuff, and tasty, too, with sandwiches perfect for younger guests on the plates, as well as cookies and cocoa and milk. The first date for 2016 is...

THE SATURDAY FOLLOWING THANKSGIVING, so Nov. 26, while a few select dates follow, with the final Teddy Bear Tea happening on the morning of Christmas Eve. The price? It's $52, and $42 for guests under the age of 12 (you'll also want to keep in mind you'll need to cover gratuity and tax as well once you're there). One additional tinsel-and-holly happening at the hotel this year? A Holiday Kick-Off Reception on the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 27. You don't need to wear your velvet, or a plaid bow or belt, or even reindeer antlers, but arriving in a cloud of yuletide cheer is, of course, recommended. It's gratis, and you'll need to RSVP (oh yes, and there's a gingerbread house dimension to the doings, a staple of many historic hotels come November and December).

Photo Credit: The Langham Huntington, Pasadena]]>
<![CDATA[Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tours]]> Thu, 13 Oct 2016 16:15:30 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/jtGettyImages-51556352-horz.jpg

A NUMBER OF CALIFORNIA HIGHWAYS... have distinctive reputations, beyond the fact that they help drivers toodle from Point A to Point B. Mention the 101, for example, and a salty ocean breeze fills the mind, and visions of waves and gulls and rolling hills. Say "Highway 395" to a devotee of the Eastern Sierra and natural wonders like Devils Postpile and Mono Lake soon capture the fancy. And as for Highway 62, which skirts Joshua Tree National Park? It's an oasis of the arts, with a number of creative spaces and art studios filling out its arid and awesome edges. Coming across a chance to peek inside those studios and meet the artists who find inspiration in the glorious desert-amazing surroundings is a treat, for sure, and it comes back around each year in October (which is, of course, one of the most gorgeous, cool-of-evening times in the Morongo Basin). It's the Hwy 62 Open Studios Art Tour, and it grandly spreads out, like the prickly arms of the local cholla cactus, over two weekends. Be there on...

OCT. 15 AND 16... or Oct. 22 and 23 and pop by some 90 studios and spots on the self-guided ramble-about. Prepare to admire metal work, jewelry, woodwork, sculpture, painting, photography, and a host of other pieces fashioned from all sorts of materials. Prepare, too, to meet artists along the way (and if you have your heart set on meeting a person you admire, make sure that their studio is open the weekend you attend). And prepare to soak in those mega vistas, the kind of stretched-out views of land and sky that provide instant inspiration to the many makers who call the Morongo Basin home. The desert, after all, gives and gives, and inspiration, and magic, can strike at any time. To see this at work, call upon the Hwy 62 Open Studios Art Tour for a spirit-emboldening experience.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Half Moon Wow: Gourds of Gargantuan-o-sity]]> Fri, 07 Oct 2016 11:24:01 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/halfmoonGettyImages-457167502+%281%29.jpg

IF A PUMPKIN PIE... is in your fall baking plans, or perhaps some pumpkin spice cookies, you know that it takes rather more effort than simply waving a spatula, magic wand-style, over a cookie sheet or pan. You need to visit your pantry, see what you need to buy, then call upon the market, then line up the ingredients, and... you get the point. Same goes for growing some of the world's most colossal vine-born specimens, the kind of globular fruits that seem straight out of a fairy tale. You simply cannot wave a shovel or a rake over your pumpkin patch, magic wand-style, and produce a behemoth that crosses the 2,000-pound mark. You need to tend to it, over time, with water and care and sunlight and all that a pumpkin craves. To salute this sort of tenacity, and to eye some truly "that can't be real (but is)" pumpkinry, turn your gaze to Half Moon Bay, where The Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off will take to the scales on...

MONDAY, OCT. 10: And they say nothing whimsical or outstanding happens on the first day of the week. This always-on-a-Monday showdown happens a few days ahead of the town's huge Pumpkin Festival, and the big machinery is out, the better to forklift the competing stem-topped contestants. Will any of the super squashes best the set-in-Europe-in-2014 world record of 2,323, courtesy of pumpkin-growing pro Beni Meier of Switzerland? West Coast growers'll be out with their best picks of 2016, the kind of pumpkins that need to arrive in Half Moon Bay in the bed of a pick-up. You can eye the astounding numbers from 2015, including the chart-topping 1,969-pound "vanilla-colored whopper that clobbered the formidable field of gourd growing greats..." Truly, this is not an easy feat, neither the vine-tending, making-it-thrive part, nor the part where the grower gets it to Half Moon Bay in one smooth-of-skin, no-seedy-stringy-guts piece. To be astounded, charmed, and feel all that fall sparkle, be at the weigh-off or peek at the action here.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Scarecrow Festival at Big Bear Lake]]> Fri, 07 Oct 2016 17:31:39 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/bigbearscarecrow123.jpg

THAT FALL FEELING: There's good reason why both "anticipation" and "autumn" start with the same letter: People who crave cooler temperatures and leafy loveliness wait on the season all year long. But sometimes autumn has a slower start in the southern half of California, an area that often experiences a pronounced lingering of summer. That's okay, and while it is still handy to head outside without a jacket, one begins to long for the hallmarks of the season, like cider, and caramel treats, and that straw-filled symbol, the scarecrow. Finding a swath of scarecrows though can be tricky, especially if you aren't near a farm or an area that may call upon the figures to watch over the fields. You can, however, get your fill of fall's famous icons by heading up the mountain to Big Bear Lake Village, where a bevy of business-close scarecrows are now on display around the village. It's the...

SCARECROW FEST 2016, one of the photo-ready highlights of the village's annual saunter into autumn. The scarecrows run the gamut, from sweet to quirky to eerie, and you can vote on your favorite (with Halloween serving as the day when the winner will be revealed). This isn't the only autumnal happening going on around the picturesque, lake-close burg; the Big Bear Alpine Zoo is holding its spooky Flashlight Nights on select evenings while Oktoberfest is a weekend staple 'round the town. Enhancing it all, though, are those hat-rocking, overall-adorable scarecrows dotting the center of the walkable Big Bear action. Will a day spent in chillier temperatures among these legends of the October help you get your fall fill? A visit is surely a solid and snapshot-perfect start on your season.

Photo Credit: Big Bear Lake]]>
<![CDATA[Pumpkins Galore: Underwood Family Farms]]> Wed, 05 Oct 2016 09:57:04 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/underwoodfamilyfarmsfallfest_uff1.JPG

FALL DOESN'T TRULY BEGIN... for some autumnists before they've consumed an edible or beverage with "pumpkin spice" in the name. Other people wait to see that first leaf tumble from a tree branch before declaring that the season has truly arrived, while others have to don a pair of plastic Dracula chompers or perform a Frankenstein walk to the delight of their friends. But there are others among us, many others, who won't fully gather fall up in their arms, like a bouquet full of freshly fallen foliage, before they sit on a hay barrel, or something else made of hay. For hay and fall go together in many a mind, from the wee hay barrels sold at local craft stores to the hay rides, spooky or sweet, that clip-clop in more rustic parts of the region. And one of the hay-barrel-iest spots in all the land, or at least the land close to Los Angeles, is now in its autumn-big prime, as it shall be through Monday, Oct. 31. It's...

THE UNDERWOOD FAMILY FARMS... Fall Harvest Festival. You know this mondo Moorpark agricultural affair, the one with the themed weekends and the pig races and the corn cannons and the goats that saunter about on planks placed above the farm's hay-filled grounds. It appears in your social media feeds, again and again, as your friends post photos of their kids sitting among pumpkins at Underwood's sizable patch. The only question is this: Will you don some dungaree overalls for your festival visit? The better to enjoy all of that hay? Or is a summery sundress in order, since October can still be a mite warm? You choose, while you choose when you go. Weekdays are a little less bustling, but weekends have the themes, from the Antique Tractor Weekend on Oct. 15 and 16 to the All About Pumpkins Weekend on Oct. 29 and 30. Ready for all of those hay barrels? And roasted corn on the cob? And the corn maze? And finding your perfect gourd for purchase? Read all, from admission prices to special happenings. People, it is October, and time to hay it up, happily, in honor of the spirit of the season.

Photo Credit: Underwood Family Farms]]>
<![CDATA[Condors Fundraiser: Big Sur Bash]]> Tue, 04 Oct 2016 13:27:00 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/CondorObserve.jpg

BIG SUR... offers so many pleasures that are simultaneously ethereal and earthly it is hard to know where to begin making a list. There are those bluffs and cliffs, the ones made of terra firma, the ones that also look as though they sprung from some sort of fantasy novel. It has redwoods, trees that stand before you, and yet their skyward reach seems impossible. And the California condor, a common but uncommonly beautiful sight, is a known Big Sur resident. This bird, too, is of our planet, but condors, with their size, their soaring abilities, and how they've come back from dwindling numbers, also could be both of this plane and of some mythological land, too. Of course, just because condors now number well into the 400s doesn't give any supporter a sigh of relief (there were but 22 in the mid-'80s). There is still work to do on the preservation front, and via programs that help the condors thrive in the wild. That's where...

FEATHERS IN FLIGHT... comes in, the annual Ventana Wildlife Society condor fundraiser. It alights on the nearest branch — or, rather, at Rancho Grande in Big Sur — on Saturday, Oct. 8, with a live auction, tunes played there, and views that could easily earn the handle "sweeping." The afternoon event also features "(u)nique condor-themed gifts," so if you're a maven of these mega vultures, you'll find a few items you may want to purchase. Tickets are $90 and the auction goodies are plentiful, including an overnight at Post Ranch Inn (that includes breakfast at Sierra Mar, a spot with huge windows and frequent condor sightings). Can't make the feathery fundraiser? Ventana Wildlife Society regularly leads tours to spots where these noble beasties congregate. Or, rather, spots where they might be observed, from a respectful distance. Your tour ticket, too, helps the arc of the condors' shared story, one that is still being told by those who work on their behalf, the birds' many fans, and, of course, the condors themselves.

Photo Credit: Ventana Wildlife Society]]>
<![CDATA[History 'N Halloween: The Haunted Fort]]> Tue, 04 Oct 2016 09:34:02 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/SFHauntedFort201412345.jpg

OUR GHOSTS, at least around Halloween time, don't often appear in jeans or sandals or scrunchies or the accouterments of modern, or semi-recent, life. We like our wraiths to show up sporting top hats and hoop skirts and breeches and boots with buckles. And when those wraiths cameo at a very historic spot, rather than a contemporary location that's been transformed into something that has an older appearance, well... bring on the shivers. One of California's best-known historic destinations is a state park, one with ties to both our capital city's story and the story of the Gold Rush. It's Sutter's Fort State Historic Park, and a stroll around the walled landmark on the sunniest summer day can leave a person heady with history and maybe, just perhaps, the sense that its former residents never quite said their farewells. It's in this spirit — wink — that the historic gem stages its annual fall treat each year, a two-nighter called The Haunted Fort.

IT'S POPULAR, a "crowd-favorite" per the park, and that it is only scheduled for Friday, Oct. 28 and Saturday, Oct. 29 means that you and your history-loving, haunty-happy pals best get on your road-tripping plans. You may (will) encounter "weary pioneers" and "restless spirits" on the 1800s-esque spread, as well as a crackling campfire and campfire-creepy tales. "Based in fact — but with a decidedly creepy twist," The Haunted Fort is appropriate for the big-of-britches and older young'uns alike (just make sure they're at least age 8). But will you hear the sound of a wagon and horses in the distance, even beyond the actors and campfire and other Halloween-y touches? The park is full of the past, and even a pre-Halloween treat can't fully cloak its highly atmospheric character.

Photo Credit: Sutter's Fort State Historic Park]]>
<![CDATA[Re-Opening: Living Desert Hiking Trails]]> Sat, 01 Oct 2016 09:43:39 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/hikingtrailslivingdesert.jpg

A FALL OPENING: Modern conveniences like air-conditioning and heating units are often cited in the ability of attractions to keep a year-round schedule, but there are still places where the seasons, and their particular qualities, dominate. Think of hard-to-get-to mountain destinations, the kind of locations that receive several feet of snow before Thanksgiving, and think of arid expanses, where truly hot days are the norm for much of the summer. Desert-based spots sometimes observe an autumn-to-spring schedule, especially if such a schedule would make the visit an easier one for visitors. Look to the beautiful...

LIVING DESERT... of Palm Desert, which is both an animal park and a 1,200-acre spread that's full of hiking trails made for exploring (in fact, the bulk of The Living Desert is "undisturbed Sonoran Desert). Those trails are closed in the late spring, and they remain shuttered throughout the toasty summer days. But come the fall, when temperatures around the desert resort are beginning to dip, The Living Desert re-opens the rambling, vista-lush walkways to people who've paid entry. That opening date for 2016 is...

SATURDAY, OCT. 1: You'll want to read up on what to carry — water, yes, for sure — and what "loop" may suit you. The Inner Loop is the shorter one, at 15 minutes, but you can find longer outings in the Middle Loop and Wilderness Loop. Will you walk by an especially fragrant creosote bush? Will you spy a lizard or five? The desert flowers with delights, and autumn only enhances our peaceful, not-too-roasty experience there. Read all before setting out at The Living Desert, and make pre-hiking time to say hello to the the tortoises, and giraffes, and other inhabitants of the beloved park.

Photo Credit: The Living Desert]]>
<![CDATA[Carpinteria Luscious: Avocado Festival]]> Fri, 30 Sep 2016 11:22:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/tlmd_avocado_and_lemon_mask_111612_ew_380.jpg

IF THAT SMOOTHIE YOU'RE SIPPING... or that zucchini bread you're munching or that banana chocolate cookie you're enjoying feels a little more lush and flavor-deep, it could very well have an interesting ingredient of the green 'n creamy sort: avocado. We live in inventive times, and certainly on the culinary front, and guacamole's star fruit is no longer relegated to just a handful of delicious dishes. There was a day when avo-goodness was only seen in slices topping a sandwich, or as the heart of one of the world's superstar dips. Now? It can show up everywhere, from pastas to desserts, lending depth and a fullness that the dish didn't quite have pre-avocado. It's a pretty big deal, that oblong, bumpily-of-skin produce aisle favorite, and it has a few yearly parties on the calendar 'round the Golden State. One of the most mondo? It's the California Avocado Festival, and it will once again bring the chunky-creamy dream scene to pretty Carpinteria over a pretty fall weekend. That weekend in 2016 is...

FRIDAY, OCT. 7 THROUGH SUNDAY, OCT. 9, and, as you can correctly imagine, all sorts of avocado-based bites'll be out in full, try-'em-all force. This includes a bouquet of guacs, in all styles, yes, but also avocado dressings, avocado breads, and, yes, avocado ice cream, always a talked-about treat at the fest. There are a few contests, like World's Largest Avocado, and some guacamole-y action, but look for a couple of new competitions, including one that involves holding a big bag of avos for an extended period of time. Oh yeah, and avocado juggling, too. Can you do that? Or can you simply stroll around and snack upon all the guac you can take? Because most avocado aficionados, let's be frank, count guacamole as a daily, must-have foodstuff. And for fine reason: It's probably like the planet's best chip-dipper, and if that isn't in the official fact books it probably will be one day. Carp's your destination, avos are the reason, good-timing-having is the rule of the weekend.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA['90s-Era #FlashbackFridays: Kimpton Cool]]> Sun, 02 Oct 2016 09:54:52 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/kimptonflashbackfridays123.jpg

#FLASHBACKFRIDAY... and social media do that whole pea-in-a-pod thing each and every week, but let's get to the heart of it: Some of us live in a constant state of Flashback Friday-ing, from what's on our playlists (and even how we play them, thanks to the cassette players and hi-fis we love) to how we dress (hello, babydoll frocks and zipper-bottomed jeans). Call it a state of mind, or an approach to living, or some zazzy combo of the two, but know this: #Flashback Friday revelers don't wait for a single day of the week to show their times-gone-by devotions. And if the decade just before this century was your particular jam, and you have a sweet spot for the '90s, and you've been looking for an overnight in San Diego or Santa Barbara, find your favorite wine-hued lipstick or denim vest: The 1990s are back, courtesy of a new package at Kimpton Hotels.

YOU'LL NEED TO STAY ON A FRIDAY, or at least make a Friday part of your visit, when you book at Hotel Solamar, Hotel Palomar San Diego, or The Goodland in Santa Barbara. What's the savings part of the deal? You'll snag 15% "off the best rate." Where do the '90s waltz into the proceedings? Courtesy of the classic candy you'll be handed at check-in, sweets and treats that may take you back to a time when you snacked before watching your favorite family-funny sitcom or riding your bike. An "exclusive, specially curated" Spotify playlist filled with favorites of the day will send you into a '90s-flavored daydream, while guests at The Goodland will be able to watch a '90s-iconic flick on Fridays (yep, "Clueless" is one of the picks). Do you still have your chunky platforms, your velvet choker, your Empire-waist sundress? Don 'em and book a stay now, which kicks off at $259. Will your #FlashbackFriday game be upped post-check-out? There's always room to retro one's retro-lovin' life even further, especially when a great decade is the reason.

Photo Credit: Kimpton Hotels]]>
<![CDATA[Opening: Tanaka Farms Pumpkin Patch]]> Wed, 28 Sep 2016 12:22:46 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*120/LAgenerics+pumpkins.jpg

AROUND THE START OF FALL, pumpkin people begin to keep a keen eye out for patch-based potential. The season's beloved gourd is already the star of various coffee beverages, and pumpkin candles and candies are showing up in the stores. But as far as real, honest-to-jack-o-lantern pumpkins go? The corner lots and farm-sweet fields of orange-y goodness aren't yet making a robust showing when autumn kicks off, at least in many corners. That changes when September bids us goodbye, however; the pumpkin-growing farms and vine-vivacious rural destinations of Southern California line up the road-close signs, signs that advertise pumpkins for purchase. One of the best-known 'round Orange County is the venerable Tanaka Farms, which is the scene of a superb pumpkin patch each fall. And that patch is starting just as the ninth month takes its bow, on Thursday, Sept. 29.

"COME EARLY IN THE SEASON," recommends the site, "for the best pumpkins and photo ops available." "Acres of fun!" is part of the deal, as are farm animal sightings, wagon rides, and the occasional launching of pumpkins high into the sky. And will there be a maze? You bet. And is it open daily? You bet, though the weekend Harvest Festival events go even further into expanding the general autumn air. Admission is two bucks to the patch, while some of the activities, like the Pumpkin Cannon Blaster, are separately priced (and some are free). Best eye the day you want to go to make sure all of the fun falltime classics are happening, at least the classics you want to participate in. True story: Pumpkin patch time is really revving up, and, as always, Tanaka Farms in Irvine has the full complement of gourdly goings-on.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bright Bites: Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival]]> Tue, 27 Sep 2016 14:16:11 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/3043_NBWFF_D1A_2187crpencilboxphotodotcom.jpg

THE OL' TROPE... involving "two kinds of people in this world" will never in any shape, form, or flavor apply to the world of foodiedom, for those who approach artwork edibles do so in countless individual ways. There's the person who has to research the menu online before visiting a new restaurant, while another adventurer might choose to wing it upon arrival (or always pick the first dish on the list, just to stay consistent). And while some food lovers vow to visit eateries touted in top publications over time, others like to complete their cuisine-based education in one fell, weekend-long swoop. Such a swoop is headed for Newport Beach over the close of September and beginning of October, when the chef-packed, bites-packed, demo-packed Wine and Food Festival returns to offer tantalizing tastes to snack-arounders who are ready to get down to the business of eating very well. The 2016 dates are just ahead, so make for the breezy ocean-adjacent burg from...

THURSDAY, SEPT. 29-SUNDAY, OCT. 2: Prepare for several gourmet grand happenings, days full of "living cooking demonstrations with celebrity chefs, book signings, master sommelier panels..." and a host of other built-around-the-plate (-and-glass) goings-on. Rick Bayless, Nancy Silverton, Rick Moonen, and a caboodle of toque-wearing artists'll be chatting up fans, talking trends, making meals, and doing all the things foodies travel to festivals to see. For while we can visit an eatery wherever we live on any day of the week, having the spotlight cast upon top cuisine over several days in several ways is a rarer thing, but an occasion that does pop up, poshly, now and then. Newport Beach is next up, and cuisinaires'll be there to enjoy, and we don't even need to trot out the stale "two kinds of people" chestnut. Food fans like seeing chefs in person and eating beautifully made bites, and there's no further trite categorizing that needs to be done.

Photo Credit: Pencil Box Photo]]>
<![CDATA[Craft Celebration at The Lodge at Torrey Pines]]> Fri, 30 Sep 2016 22:08:20 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/torreycraft19382932.jpg

WHILE THE HOLIDAYS... tend to have definite dates, from Thanksgiving landing upon the fourth Thursday in November to the mid-February showing of Valentine's Day, the start of the holidays are a little looser, in general. Easter festivities might kick off around the time the first flower buds pop up, while the end-of-the-year observances have a way of entering just as Halloween ends. But there's a way, just ahead of the holiday kick-off, to enjoy an array of elegant edibles that aren't about the traditional recipes of the close of the year, but rather local and sustainable foodstuffs. It's...

CELEBRATE THE CRAFT, and it happens mere hours before the final two months of the year move to high gear, a time when every food event seemingly has a connection to the season at hand. But the La Jolla event, which is at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, spotlights excellent local chefs, thoughtful preparation, and the mission of the Slow Food Movement, a movement all food mavens might keep in mind during the hectic holidays to come.

SUNDAY, OCT. 30... is the 14th outing for this culinary adventure, and, once again, the pretty, ocean-close Arroyo Terrace of the historic hotel will set the scene. Slow Food Urban San Diego is the beneficiary (a portion of the proceeds will go to the group) and attendees are the sated winners of the day, thanks to the plentiful "food tastings, wine, craft beer, and complimentary valet parking." A ticket to the daytime to-do? It's $135, and tax and tip are included. If you want to stay over at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, there's a package kicking off at $449. The holidays, and all of those over-the-top eating opportunities, are just ahead, so ponder pausing for a moment for a Slow Food moment, one that spotlights not the bigness of eating but rather the curated localness of the pursuit. 

Photo Credit: The Lodge at Torrey Pines]]>
<![CDATA[Scenic Bash: Catalina Film Festival]]> Sat, 24 Sep 2016 06:47:31 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/PurpleHarborSunrisecatalina2983282432-horz.jpg

OCEAN + MOTION PICTURES: No one needs to be told that filmmakers are rather fond of the great bodies of water, specifically oceans, specifically the sorts of oceans that make for amazing opening and/or closing shots (the kind of shots where the audience feels as though they're zooming just over the waves, like a gull might). But actually viewing a film on an island is something that happens far less than seeing an island or the ocean on screen, and getting to do so at a starry and celebrated film festival is even rarer. That all changes every autumn, however, when actors and directors and fans hop a boat or copter and make for Avalon, the hub of the annual Catalina Film Festival. Running for five film-lush days, from Sept. 29 through Oct. 2, the festival will hail bright lights, dig into documentaries, throw a few parties, host a few talks, and enjoy a bouquet of features. Some of those features will unspool in one of the Golden State's grandest cinemas, the Art-Deco'd delight that is the...

AVALON THEATRE: "Beneficiary" will have its world premiere there, while other spots around Avalon, from Metropole Hall to Lancer Auditorium, will also host cineawesome doings. Eye all the 2016 picks, from shorts to animation, and plan your movie-watching, ocean-viewing getaway accordingly. And since you can't quite decide one afternoon to drive over to the local theater to join the festival fun, you'll need to plan in advance, especially if you want to bed down in an Avalon inn. For all the films, including "Sheep and Wolves" and "Desert," click. As always, the Catalina Film Institute will pay tribute to the memory of a longtime festival friend Wes Craven through a series of scary flicks.

Photo Credit: Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce/Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Big Bear Bevs: Fall Village Wine Walk]]> Fri, 23 Sep 2016 09:02:52 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/winetasting7.jpg

THE SOUNDS OF AUTUMN... are fairly memorable, especially near the beginning of the season when our ears are on the lookout, or rather hearout, for signs of fall. The biggest, perhaps, is the rustling of leaves, either up in a cottonwood or aspen tree (two of the "clickiest" of specimens, sound-wise) followed by tiny candy bars plunking into the bottom of a plastic pumpkin (and, truly, that only happens on one particular night of the fall). Let us add, though, to the aural autumn pleasures the particular pop of a cork and the clink-clink of glasses raised in celebration. The enjoyment of wine isn't solely an autumnal pursuit, but vinos can backseat it to brews and tropical cocktails during the summer. Winter has its toddies, but the chill of autumn's air means cabernets, merlots, and, yes, chardonnays, too. Enjoy those, plus the first Saturday of the season, at one of the most convivial to-dos on the Big Bear Lake calendar. It's... 

THE VILLAGE FALL WINE WALK, and it will spread out, in relaxed fashion, from the mid-afternoon to early evening on Saturday, Sept. 24. Be up the mountain, then, from 3:30 to 7 p.m., to savor "fine wines from around the world." You'll visit different business for your beverages, all the while raising funds for local education and regional community to-dos. Your ticket is $35 through Sept. 12, and then $45. Should you find a place to stay up the big hill? Definitely. Think how crisp those mountain mornings are in late September, when the merest rustle of a few aspen leaves can set you in a seasonally sweet state of mind.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Festival of Lights: Early Bird Package]]> Fri, 23 Sep 2016 09:17:36 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/missioninnspecial2015.jpg

THE FA, LA, LAS... aren't yet filling the air — we're still waiting on spooky spine-tingling sound effects — and the tinsel isn't shining from the store aisles (that's reserved for plastic pumpkins and bats, at the moment). But many a holiday-loving vacationer is turning at least partial attention to the close of the year, when the biggest spectacles and extravaganzas unfurl at some of California's best-known spots. One is that castle-stout structure, the one standing tall in the middle of Riverside, The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, a place that has a lot of pomp throughout the year but really does it up, pomp-wise, when the Friday after Thanksgiving arrives. That's when the...

FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS... opens, and if you're trying to remember if that's where like a zillion lights cover a single hotel, well, you're almost entirely correct. True, it isn't a "zillion" but the number of bulbs twinkling around The Mission Inn is impressively massive: "over 4 million dazzling holiday lights" is the count given by the historic destination. This means a lot of people want to see them, and a lot of people want to stay over, the better to enjoy the illumination later in the evening. If this is just your plan, best ponder booking soon, for the Festival of Lights...

EARLY BIRD PACKAGE... is now available. You'll need to plan your visit on a Sunday through Thursday during the lights run, which lasts from Nov. 27, 2016 through Jan. 7, 2017, and you'll need to reserve by Sept. 30. It all starts at $278 for your deluxe room and breakfast for two. Eager to see if you can count every bulb, up to 4,000,000? Best get early-birding now, yuletiders.

Photo Credit: Mission Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Ocean-Close Yoga at Terranea Resort]]> Fri, 23 Sep 2016 09:05:01 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/TerraneaResortSeasideYogaGathering.jpg

NATIONAL YOGA MONTH... has a number of different levels and prisms to it, much like the practice itself. A longtime devotee may vow to perfect a new pose, or at least give it another go, while someone who is new to downward dog may be inclined to try it out for the very first time, thanks to specials popping up at various studios come September. But the month isn't simply about one's own relationship with yoga (though of course that's central). It's about connecting with others who love it, in places that can inspire and bring quiet, reflective repose. Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes is such a place, with its expansive ocean views, and it pauses each year to host a yoga event that attracts around 300 practitioners, people looking for some satisfying stretches, some perfect Pacific breezes, and a way to bid the bustling world adieu for a few hours. It's...

THE SEASIDE YOGA GATHERING, and it takes place upon the 16,000-foot Palos Verdes Meadow (so everyone has a bit of elbow room). There's a Wellness Fair ahead of the Sunday, Oct. 2 to-do, and a chance to savor some "light bites and refreshments." Then at 4:30 p.m., just as the sun starts to say its farewells and deliver that ocean-y afternoon glow, the complimentary class will take its first pose. Ah yes, the class is gratis, so let that wash over you like a straight-off-the-waves breeze. 

TERRANEA RESORT... also has a different Sunday-focused happening afoot, one that expands beyond the first Sunday in October. It's Sunday Funday, and it includes "(f)ood and beverage vouchers to redeem throughout the resort's participating restaurants." (Think a "sunset cocktail" and "poolside snack" and such.) This summery offering is going well beyond the summer season, and heading straight past the middle of December. Details? Get your Sunday Funday information here, end-of-the-weekend-loving revelers.

Photo Credit: Terranea Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Howl-O-Ween at Great Wolf Lodge]]> Thu, 22 Sep 2016 20:43:51 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/howloween-greatwolf.jpg

WHILE HOTELS STAY OPEN... on Halloween, it isn't too likely you'll find much evidence of the haunted holiday within their walls. You mind find a candy bucket sitting on the front desk, or a pumpkin near the elevators, but, overall, the inn isn't going to go all out on the bats-and-cats decorating front. But, of course, Great Wolf Lodge doesn't offer up the standard hotel experience. The family-oriented, Wisconsin-started stay-over spots are all about out-sized child-fun experiences, from the huge waterparks that are synonymous with the company to the around-the-hotel activities catering to the kids on the property. This celebratory spirit naturally extends to the spookiest stretch of the year, and California's only Great Wolf Lodge, in Orange County, will go all out on the frightfully delightful front. "Go all out" means that Halloween is actually and technically known as...

HOWL-O-WEEN... 'round Great Wolf Lodge, and unlike the holiday itself, which is restricted to Oct. 31, Howl-O-Ween will last throughout the month. That means if you're at the Garden Grove hotel from Oct. 1 through 31, 2016, you may see a costume parade in the Grand Lobby (happening each and every night during October) or hear a Spooktacular tale during the evening Story Time event. A Trick-or-Treat Trail is also part of the proceedings, as are the Monster Bash Dance Parties, a weekend feature of the festivities. Nothing is too ghoulish or intense, meaning that if you have lil' Halloween buffs, this'll be more in line with what they love about the holiday. To make sure you land at the lodge during the events you and your family have an eye on, visit the main Howl-O-Ween page or call the Great Wolf Lodge in Garden Grove for all the details.

Photo Credit: Great Wolf Lodge]]>
<![CDATA[Kokanee Salmon Festival at South Lake Tahoe]]> Mon, 19 Sep 2016 08:20:37 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/KokaneeSalmon2.jpg

THE SYMBOLS OF AUTUMN... are as plentiful as leaves on an oak tree. You have your pumpkins, and their carved-cool cousins, the jack o'lanterns, and you have a variety of bats and cats and spiders, too. You have the candy corn, and a golden leaf, and pencils, which remind us that school has just begun. And, right around Lake Tahoe, specifically at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center, you have the Kokanee salmon. The silvery red fish is a local sight come early October, and it shows up in great profusion as the finned wonders make their annual run. "Great profusion" are truly the keywords here, for Taylor Creek is wall-to-wall, or rather bank-to-bank, with salmon, a sight that's solely tied to autumn, and specifically October. You can try and time your visit to when the salmon'll be at their spawn-centered busiest — a call to the center might give you some general dates, though early October is a fine bet — or you can simply put the Fall Fish Fest on your annual calendar. The 2016 festival is timed to the salmon run, as is tradition, and the upcoming dates are...

SATURDAY, OCT. 1 AND SUNDAY, OCT. 2: Beyond the show seen in the lake-connecting creek, get ready for a caboodle of nature-sweet happening at the festival, from kidly activities (including the walk-through inflatable fish) to tacos and ice cream. There are some pretty trail runs happening, too, if participating in an invigorating trot is one of your must-dos near the big lake. Above all, admiring this yearly migration is what it is all about, and learning how the Kokanee first arrived at Lake Tahoe, and all of the to-knows about this beautiful aquatic lake dweller. Ready to see a sight not many people experience? It's bucket-list-y, for sure. Watch the mondo fish run, and enjoy a weekend-long salmon-tacular, just a pop north of South Lake Tahoe.

Photo Credit: South Tahoe]]>
<![CDATA[Bernardus Lodge: 14 New Villas & Suites]]> Sat, 17 Sep 2016 06:50:08 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/bernardusRoom65.jpg

SOMETHING SPECIAL: Treating your nearest/dearest to a surprise weekend away for an anniversary or birthday or a just-because-ery takes some crafty planning, the ability to not spill the beans at inopportune moments, and a sparkly sense of the splurge. If you're going to do it up, you want to do it up on the fancy side, but if your flavor of fancy is more about a rustic setting, rather than city lights, look to a batch of new villas and suites in Carmel Valley.

THE 14 FRESH ADDITIONS... to Bernardus Lodge & Spa were unofficially unveiled in the early part of August 2016, following a renovation of the hotel's rooms and public spaces in 2015. This is property that rambles over 28 acres, acres that encompass wine-nice vines, fragrant lavender, and the sort tawny, hill-rolling loveliness the region is famous for. So to walk your sweetheart up to a "ranch-chic" suite in this singular setting could be accurately considered highly birthday-worthy.

THE OUT-IN-THE-CALIFORNIA-COUNTRY FEEL... of the roomy spaces include "alfresco fire pits" and "master baths featuring hammered copper free-standing soaking tubs" and heated floors, as well as views of the Santa Lucia Mountains (mountains that are often lit by the quintessential golden light that seems to belong solely to this particular valley). And while those design and detail touches qualify in anyone's book as tony, there are some truly tony touches on top of the room's stylish appointments. Those extra-mile details include...

BUTLER SERVICES... during your villa or suite stay, as well as use of a Mercedes Benz convertible (that's gratis, with no fee on top). Is there a private rain shower outside, the better to soak up some of that soft Carmel-y sunshine while you bath? There shall be. If you need anything for your room, or suggestions on sightseeing, or a dinner reservation, will that be difficult to obtain? The staff-to-guest ratio is an impressive 3-to-1. To get started on your sweetheart's surprise weekend, and to snag a peek at these pretty new spots dotting the property, begin here, luxe-minded road-trippers.

Photo Credit: Bernardus Lodge]]>
<![CDATA[Oktoberfest at the Madonna Inn]]> Fri, 16 Sep 2016 06:57:30 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/mioktoberfest1.jpg

WHILE A NUMBER OF PLACES... can hang bunting and flowers and posters that summon the spirit of Oktoberfest, only a few spots in California can claim an Oktoberfest-y feel all year long. Lake Arrowhead has such a vibe, and several spots in Lake Tahoe, and Old World in Huntington Beach keeps the oompah spirit regardless of the season. And while the Madonna Inn doesn't boast a strictly Bavarian design theme, it does possess carved wooden details and outlandishly festooned public spaces. In short? The San Luis Obispo hotel always feels as though singing might start up, or dancing, or the sipping of celebratory beverages, at any moment. With all of this in mind, it might not surprise any mavens of the Madonna Inn that the 101-close landmark pauses each autumn to raise a stein in the direction of Oktoberfest, and it does so with the help of a regional brew. That would be...

FIRESTONE WALKER BREWING COMPANY: The Paso Robles-headquartered brew house powerhouse will serve as the suds of the season-festive soiree, a soiree that will take place in the Madonna Inn Expo Center on Saturday, Oct. 1. Best be 21 or over if you wish to attend, and purchase a ticket sooner than later, if you wish (as this tends to get mighty sold-out as the day draws near). Awaiting you is "a unique German-style meal," "a commemorative Oktoberfest stein," two Firestone brews, music, and more. And, of course, all of those themed hotel rooms are right there, so best consider bedding down for the night after an evening spent rocking the lederhosen (you'll need to book your room separately). Will you choose to eat breakfast at the darling Copper Café the following morning? The restaurant's woodsy nooks and quaint crannies feel Oktoberfestian all year long, so ponder some eggs Benedict before bidding SLO auf wiedersehen.

Photo Credit: Madonna Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Hollywood Dine Around: Tasty Tinseltown Package]]> Tue, 20 Sep 2016 06:59:53 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/0797_Cleo_GroupUnderStairs.jpg

TINSELTOWN, it might be accurately and obviously stated, can prove a mite overwhelming, especially when it comes to the highly effervescent nightlife scene. A friend recommends one tony tavern, while another friend loves this other eatery, the one with the queue out front, that one café popping up in friends' photos over and over again. How, though, to take in a swath of the scene over the course of a single evening, the better to soak up some of the glitter and goings-on while getting a sense of what's au courant? Look to the Hollywood Dine Around, a September-long package that is built around an evening of trying out a few top-tier destinations, much like a progressive dinner, with, wait for it, both the gratuity and tax included (a rare thing, for sure). It's the...

HOLLYWOOD DINE AROUND, and it includes pop-bys at Katsuya Hollywood, Cleo, and possibly The Library (the very spots you're seeing in your friends' photos, perhaps). The night starts at Katsuya Hollywood, for appetizers, then makes its way over to Cleo for a lovely supper and a sweet to follow. There shall be a libation at The Library, the better to conclude the night, a night that should fall on a Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday (all grand evenings to spend in Hollywood, which can definitely bustle hard come the weekend). Cost? It's $79 dollars. And as for the "Cleo, and possibly The Library" bit mentioned before? Your final visit of the night, for your cocktail, will be at one or the other, adding some scintillating suspense to the posh proceedings. It's a not-too-pricey way to brush up on Hollywood's evening-fun spots, and the deal is on through the close of September 2016. Details? Over here, Tinsel-on-the-towners.

Photo Credit: Hollywood Dine Around]]>
<![CDATA[Big Bear Autumn: Flashlight Safaris]]> Wed, 14 Sep 2016 19:40:54 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/generic+flashlight+generic+shutterstock_12868789.jpg

STEP OUTSIDE... your Big Bear cabin on an October evening and you might experience a few things from the get-go. You'll likely detect a certain crispness in the air, and whether that inspires you to pull your scarf closer or not depends on just how cool it feels. You'll likely see some amazing stars, the kind that can't be detected in the brighter cities down the mountain. And you may, in the distance, beyond those Ponderosa pines over there, hear a critter or two scurrying off. The San Bernardino Mountains are home to a host of fascinating beasties, from black bears to grey foxes to hedgehogs and owls. Many of these furry, hooting, big-of-beak, rustling-among-the-leaves mountain residents also call the Big Bear Alpine Zoo home. And while the higher elevation animal park, which puts a focus on regional beasties, is open throughout the year, something rather special happens during the first full month of fall: nighttime tours. They're called...

FLASHLIGHT SAFARIS... and they happen each Friday and Saturday evening throughout October. Arrive with your light in tow and prepare to see the nocturnal doings of several of the zoo's animals as you get to know "the more active side of our animals during twilight and dusk." True, some zoos do host after-sundown events, but those can include bands or a dinner. The Flashlight Safaris are very much built around the nocturnal doings of the local critters. They're popular — the safaris and the critters alike — so consider choosing your date ahead of time. And ponder how the next time you step outside at night, in the mountains, and hear a hoot-hoot, you'll possess a deeper understanding of how mountain beasties comport themselves by the glow of the moon. 

Photo Credit: Murat Baysan, Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Queen Mary's Haunted Encounters]]> Sun, 18 Sep 2016 13:44:34 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/hauntedencountersqm12345.jpg

ASK A HALLOWEEN BUFF... how he is feeling just after Labor Day Weekend and you may be on the receiving end of a plaintive sigh. On the one hand all of the spooky stuff is juuuust about to rev up, from theme park mazes to neighborhood haunted houses to costume parties. And yet? Everything is still a week or more away, with October really jumpstarting the startle-based bashes. There's a way, though, in LA to find your gentle frights, or at least your ghosty go-outs at any time of the year, regardless of whether candy corn and plastic pumpkin buckets are lining the store shelves or not. It's at...

THE QUEEN MARY, one of California's phantomiest destinations, a place way, way up on oodles of "said to be haunted" lists. This translates into tours, both of the daytime assortment and the wraith-seeking after-sundown strolls. History of the labyrinth-like ship is discussed, and possible sightings, too, and choosing which to go with all depends upon how you like to take your goosebump-inducing ghost tours.

THE DAYTIME OFFERING, Haunted Encounters, is an atmospheric, eerie-but-not-too place to start. It happens four times each day, with the last tour starting at 6:30 p.m. (one of the prettiest times on the stack-topped landmark, what with twilight settling in and all). Will you discuss the rumored portal to another dimension near the First Class Swimming Pool? The spirit said to frequent the boiler area? The guests who never left their wood-lined sumptuous suites? The Queen Mary, with its 1001 Atlantic crossings and its role in World War II, has more than a few stories to tell. There are different ways to connect with the ship in this capacity, however, including nighttime treats like the Paranormal Spirit Walk and other spine-chilling happenings.

TO GET A JUMP... on the spookiest season, or to simply call upon the ship's eternal occupants at any time of the year, board the famous ocean-liner's Haunted Encounters experience, if you dare. (We're assuming you do.) (A wise choice, if ghost walks and famous destinations are two of your favorite things.) (No more parentheticals: Buy your passage here.)

Photo Credit: Queen Mary]]>
<![CDATA[Hollywood Roosevelt: Movie-Cool Cocktails]]> Mon, 12 Sep 2016 13:46:47 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/publicrooseveltoldhollywoodcocktail.jpg

LIBATIONS AND LORE: While there may or may not be a portal to the Hollywood of the 1940s somewhere near the Hollywood Sign, and you may or may not need to locate it on a moonlit night, you can always make contact with the Tinseltown of the past at a certain inn located at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard. It's an auspicious and notable address, in a town that does love its luck — see the "7" — and it's where the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel stands, and has stood, for nearly a century. This was the first home of the Academy Awards, and so many stars from the movie industry's Golden Age called it home, sometimes for months on end, that their names could nearly fill a sidewalk full of stars. In short? This is the portal to pure Hollywoodism, in style, cachet, and the occasional sip. Look to Public Kitchen & Bar, one of the property's on-site restaurants, and look to the recently debuted cocktail menu, which includes some drinks that pay homage to the twinkly titans of yore. Like...

THE LUMIÈRE, which recalls the visionary duo who coaxed the art of film into being at its very dawn. That sip includes Plymouth gin, green Chartreuse, Carpano Antica, and a dash of Regan's Bitters. If you know your comedy you know everything Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz have made, and you likely know that they once called the Hollywood Roosevelt their address for a bit. The Desi is a minty cocktail that boasts Cazadores Reposado, Crème de Cassis, cucumbers, lime, and simply syrup. As for the Pearamount Pictures? You got it, a pear liqueur is at its fruit-forward heart, along with Grey Goose La Poire and other tasty ingredients. For the full menu roster, get your most fabulous, Hollywood-esque togs on and make for the bar off Hollywood Boulevard. (And, truly, you can take a rest on looking for that time travel portal near the Hollywood Sign, for the hotel at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard is as portal-y as places come.)

Photo Credit: Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel]]>
<![CDATA[Haunted Mansion 2016 Gingerbread House]]> Sat, 10 Sep 2016 11:23:42 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/DLHMgingerbread123.jpg

WHILE HALLOWEEN TIME... at Disneyland Resort offers as many different sights and surprises as a plastic pumpkin holds pieces of candy, there's one particular thing that many visitors look forward to every year: the gingerbread house at the center of the Haunted Mansion. Indeed, the eerie New Orleans Square attraction, which turned 47 in August, takes on a full-scale re-theming built around "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas" every September, and the theme lasts into the early part of the new year. And it is just this theme that inspires the towering treat found atop the big table in the Haunted Mansion's ballroom scene.

"NIGHTMARE" NEW: For while you can find your favorite touches year after year in the same places — Zero the dog floating down a long hallway is one charming example — the gingerbread house in the ballroom goes through a transformation. So what did the Imagineers dream up for the 2016 go-around? There's still time to look away, to hum "What's This?" or another favorite "Nightmare" ditty, or to walk from the room before the theme is revealed. If you can't wait to see it in person, then read on below.

THE 2016 GINGERBREAD HOUSE... is themed to Sally, the kind-of-heart, brave-of-disposition heroine of the tale. Stitches, which are a Sally staple, and the hues of her dress figure prominently in the seen-from-above sweet, an edible wonder that includes 200 pounds of gingerbread, four gallons of egg whites, and more ingredients than you can probably pack into a Doom Buggy. If you long to see an illustration, you can click here, or you can make for the Anaheim theme park now. Halloween Time is on at Disneyland through Oct. 31, though Haunted Mansion Holiday will fa, la, la into the beginning of 2017, complete with its Sally-inspired gingerbread house.

Photo Credit: Paul Hiffmeyer]]>
<![CDATA[Celebrated Song Returns to Mission Inn]]> Fri, 09 Sep 2016 06:25:11 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/missioninnhistory1234.jpg

GRAND OLD HOTELS... have long been the source of creative inspiration. Some writers and musicians made permanent homes on the upper floors of their favorite inns, the better to experience the excitement of a building where the neighbors change each day. Some visionaries and artists have called upon a delightful destination for a week or more, the better to de-cobweb the ol' noggin and invite a few fresh ideas inside. And some people who wouldn't count themselves as creative types have found the bustle and beauty of a well-appointed building to be invigorating, and so photos are snapped of the lobby and a poem or two is jotted down on the hotel stationery.

CARRIE JACOBS-BOND, singer and penner of tenderly tempo'd songs, famously found much in this artistic realm at The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, Riverside's castle-iest structure (and, let's be honest, one of the castle-liest structures in California and the entire country). She came up with the lyrics to "A Perfect Day" during a 1909 stay at the hotel, and if you remember the sweet song, you may recall it from 1940's "Remember the Night" (none other than Barbara Stanwyck plays it on the piano). Or perhaps you remember The Mission Inn's bell-sweet carillon playing it for many years, an ode to a song born within the hotel's walls long ago.

THE SONG IS BACK AT THE HOTEL, twice nightly, if you want to experience this heart-sweet Mission Inn tradition. Keep an ear out for it at 8 p.m. in the Presidential Lounge and an hour later at Duane's (at 54 Degrees). Will you have just experienced your own perfect day at your getaway? Hum along then and ponder how this vintage tune was written in the very place you're staying. Artistic inspiration and hotels, a truly timeless pairing.

Photo Credit: Mission Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Big Corn Horse Maze: Just Ahead]]> Sun, 25 Sep 2016 10:37:27 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/corn-maze-2015123.jpg

THE CORN IS HIGH, or nearly, and the time to get a little lost, all in the name of adventure, is nearly here at one of California's best-known maze-and-more destinations. It's the Big Horse Corn Maze, a staple of the Temecula Valley autumn, and it will expand, with so many twists, and turns, and dead ends, every weekend from Oct. 1 through 30, 2016. But it isn't just about maze-ing around at the Temecula Parkway attraction. You'll want to take note of the...

THEME WEEKENDS, like the rock-and-roll-y weekend that kicks it all off (complete with a car show). There's also a costume contest a pinch before Halloween, for the young-uns and pets, too, and a chance to participate in some old-timey pursuits on Saturday, Oct. 22 and Sunday, Oct. 23. Ever tried a potato sack race? Or bobbing for apples? Or putting your pie-loving skills to the test via a full-on pie-eating contest? There shall be all of that, lovers of autumn-style to-dos of yore.

THE MAZE... is nine bucks to enter, plus a few bucks more if you want to jump into any of the on-site activities. Parking is five dollars, and if you want to go pumpkin shopping while you're there, post-maze, the better to find your ideal Halloween jack o'lantern, carve some time to browse the gourd-filled patch. (Yes, we said "carve" there.)

ALMOST TIME: Can autumn already be here? Well, not quite, but when the corn is growing, the time for maze merriment is definitely on its way.

Photo Credit: Big Horse Corn Maze]]>
<![CDATA[Autumn Tradition: Ojai Studio Artists Tour]]> Wed, 07 Sep 2016 10:45:33 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Richardamendojaitour.jpg

PAINTERS' PADS (AND MORE): So many burgs up and down the coast, and inland, too, can be called "art towns" that choosing some of California's most prominent is a difficult task (though a fun one). One town sure to make a lot of lists is the place that has a painterly moment famously built into the end of every day. It's Ojai, and that painterly moment, of course, is the Pink Moment, that instant around sundown when the mountains, and very air, seem to assume a rosy cloak. There's art in the town's very surroundings, its hills and environs, and there's absolutely a lot of art-making in the studios and homes of Ojai. That can be seen, in fabulous fullness, each autumn, when dozens of artists welcome visitors seeking to have a more personal encounter with how the creative community works, expresses its ideas, lives, and plays. It's the Ojai Studio Artsts Tour, and it will again take place over the second weekend of October. In 2016 that's...

FRIDAY, OCT. 8 THROUGH MONDAY, OCT. 10, and, yes, this is the first year that the long-running event has lasted for three days (it's the 33rd annual, in case you were trying to add up the times you've been). Some 50 artist studios will be on the map, and a dessert reception on Saturday is also included with your ticket. It won't be lookie-loo-ing, however, as demonstrations (think pot throwing, weaving, and such) will also pop up around town. As for the separately ticketed Saturday evening reception? No surprise about the name: It's The Pink Moment Gala, and there shall be prizes, and nibbles, and such. If you just want to stick to the tour, a ticket is thirty bucks in advance, and indeed covers all three days. You might just get to every studio you want to see in this, one of the Golden's States most art-forward, art-happy, and Pink-Moment-iest places.

Photo Credit: Ojai Studio Artists Tour]]>
<![CDATA[Pop-Up Traveller Bar at Loews Hollywood]]> Tue, 06 Sep 2016 14:13:02 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/travelerbarsm.jpg

WHILE BAR THEMES... can run the gamut, and new cocktails make cameos, and fresh looks are incorporated into a space, and specials rotate through the menu, this much is true: A bar has a way of staying put. Visit any hotel with a bar one year, and you can pretty much expect to find the bar in the same spot, just off the lobby, even if a few of the martinis has changed. But every so often something rather whimsical weaves through a hotel company, and The Traveller Bar at various Loews properties is just that out-of-the-ordinary occurrence. The destination's name isn't about catering to traveling guests, though of course it does that. Rather, this is a bar that travels — italics quite necessary — and it is currently passing through Southern California. After a sojourn at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel it is making for the Loews Hollywood Hotel from Sept. 7 through Oct. 4, 2016. So, how can a bar, a substantial walk-in space, go places? It's...

A VINTAGE ELEVATOR CAR, one that can be moved (with, of course, considerable effort). The stylish space offers a quartet of old-school stools, a zinc-topped bar, and a register from way back, the kind with the push-down buttons and window-encased numbers. There are eight drinks to choose from, and they spring, with some modern inspiration, from books that go way, wayyy back. Libations include a Gin Fix, a Daiquiri, a Revolving Door, and a few other fancy-pants sips from a century ago, give or take. Where will it go next? The Traveller Bar has a date at Loews properties in San Francisco and San Diego, followed by a stay in the Southwest. 

Photo Credit: Loews]]>
<![CDATA[Ponte Winery Party: Grape Stomp Time]]> Mon, 05 Sep 2016 12:25:34 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/grapestompseasonponte.jpg

THAT DECIDING MOMENT: Every positive first experience in our life arrives not on its own but accompanied by a "hmmm" moment that precedes it. We pause to decide if we're going to dance alone at the center of the circle at the wedding, and we take a few seconds before slurping our first oyster. Call it the "going for it" moment, or put whatever name to it you wish, but it absolutely occurs before your first-ever grape stomp.

THERE YOU ARE, without your shoes, ready to step into a barrel full of squishable and plump grapes, and you're deciding if you're really going to do this (which you've sworn to yourself you've wanted to try for years). Then, you're in the barrel, and laughing, and squish, squish, squishing away as your pal stands before the barrel, ready to fill a bottle with the resulting juice. If you're familiar with the fun of trying new things, and you don't mind de-shoe-ing for a few minutes to participate in the venerable act of wine-makery, put Ponte Winery on your fall schedule. For the Temecula Valley mainstay is once again hosting a...

GRAPE STOMP: The afternoon affair is on Sunday, Sept. 25, and there are other to-dos outside of the stomp, like a "gourmet dinner" and, of course, the sipping of excellent vinos. You can chill out, Sunday-style, to some jazz tunes, or you can feel a bit of adrenaline as you choose to go the grape-stomping route. The "option to stomp is included with ticket purchase," emphasis on "option," so join in or sit back and watch the lively show. Tickets? They're $89 to $99 for this autumn classic, so best decide soon if this is something your ready to cross off the bucket list. Squish, squish...

Photo Credit: Ponte Winery]]>
<![CDATA[Magical Mojave: A Full Moon Tour]]> Sat, 03 Sep 2016 07:40:49 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/CadizDunesWildernessArea.jpg

THE DESERT, is might be accurately stated, is lush with pure mystery and magic. One minute we're rambling along a clutch of creosote bushes, lost in reverie, when a darting catches our eye (a small bird, perhaps, or a lizard). Its wonders are plentiful and surprising, but we mostly experience them by the light of our planet's nearest star. To see someplace epic, like the Cadiz Dunes Wilderness Area, by the light of our lunar satellite is something pretty darn special, and if it is a full moon? Well, right there you have a walk to remember, even if you don't spy any lizards or birds along the way. A trio of magnificent Mojave Desert spots were named national monuments in the early part of 2016, including Mojave Trails, the home to the Cadiz Dunes Wilderness Area. Like all national monuments the Mojave Trails, and Cadiz Dunes, will host fascinating, fun, and fact-filled public events, and the very first one is up on Saturday, Sept. 17. It's a...

DUNE DISCOVERY TOUR, and it will take place under a full moon, but the sun'll play a part, too. Everything starts up at 4 in the afternoon, with a wrap time of 11 o'clock, with the Mojave Desert Land Trust on-hand to oversee the event. Participants are invited to show with picnics and snacks, the better to keep fortified for all the adventures and learning ahead. Prepare to get some background on "nighttime creatures and plants of the dunes ecosystem," meaning you may leave fully brushed up on your kit fox and bats-based info. There are a few things to know, such as the fact that this is a "remote location requiring 4WD high clearance" (there are opportunities for a ride in from the Mojave Desert Land Trust's Joshua Tree headquarters, so ask questions when you RSVP). Also? This is the land of "soft sand," with terrain that might prove challenging, so ponder this before RSVPing. Whether or not you can make this full moon gathering, stay excited that the Desert Monuments have a host of happenings ahead, all to honor their official protected designations. To keep up on the Cadiz Dunes, start here, or for all things Sand to Snow, Mojave Trails, and Castle Mountains, bone up here.

Photo Credit: Monica Mahoney]]>
<![CDATA[Hearst Castle: Tours Resume]]> Sat, 03 Sep 2016 07:40:10 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/hearstcastlesunset1.jpg

WILLIAM RANDOLPH HEARST'S ESTATE... may sit high above San Simeon, with views that are so sweeping the home could practically trademark the word "sweeping," but it is not so remote as we sometimes think it to be. The recent Chimney Fire grew quite close to the landmark, prompting staff to cancel tours and shutter the popular destination over a number of days. But as of Aug. 30 evacuation orders in nearby communities began to lift and the majority of the fire reached containment, thanks to the supreme efforts of the responders battling the blazes. And for the first time in a number of days, Hearst Castle opened, again, welcoming late-summer visitors ahead of the busy Labor Day Weekend. Yes, as of...

MONDAY, AUG. 29... "The Enchanted Hill" is again welcoming people eager to eye the publishing magnate's tapestries, statues, and paintings, as well as those two amazing pools (big props to the nearly supernaturally beautiful Neptune and Roman Pools). Of course, the estate's long Hollywood history also comes into play during the tours, and guests often inquire as to whether the likes of Charlie Chaplin or Gary Cooper came to call (the answer is yes). Architect Julia Morgan was the visionary behind the grand, ocean-viewing, everywhere-viewing spot, a place that will soon celebrate its first 100 years. Many fans, those devoted people who enjoy returning again and again, are ready to say hello to Hearst Castle, especially following along on social media as the National Historic Landmark (and California Historic Landmark) shuttered for an "unprecedented" nine days in the face of the sizable wildfire. Want to find your next tour? Your San Simeon idyll awaits.

Photo Credit: Hearst Castle]]>
<![CDATA[September Soiree: Temecula Valley Crush]]> Mon, 12 Sep 2016 21:29:39 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/TemeculaValleyCreditLeighCastelliPhotography.jpg

HELLO SEPTEMBER, that most harvest-happy of month. Hello again, late summer, and the beginning of fall, and all of the leafy, grape-nice, picnicky pleasures you bring. And hello to you, dear wine countries of California, places that are encountering one of the busiest, and most celebrated, periods of the vino-making year. It's a time that can't pass without a party or two, and once again Temecula Valley will do it up with a host of local vineyards in tow. The name of the celebration is one known to any oenophile who follows the almost-fall doings of grape-growing regions — it's called CRUSH — and it is scheduled for the final Saturday of summer, during that lovely meld-into-autumn time that suits wine country so very well. That's... 

SATURDAY, SEPT. 17... and Wiens Family Cellars is the place to be. The Temecula Valley Winegrowers is the outfit behind the extravaganza, one that fully spotlights over 30 members of the organization (Falkner Winery, Callaway Winery, and many more are on the convivial list). CRUSH is also about the cuisine, too, and a host of gourmands'll be at the party's HQ, doing up the cheese-yummy, oil-lush, fruits-and-veges snackables that only ever enhance a wine's inner character. Should you be at least 21? You should be, yes, to get your CRUSH on. Will you get to chat up a few of the people who make the eats and libations? They'll be there, so arrive with any queries you have (such as how a grape's juiciness or skin-thickness adds to the general flavor, or when they know that a grape is ready to be picked, or how vines weather the winter). September is here, lovers of beauteous beverages, and Temecula Valley's wineries are putting out the welcome sign, for wines and lovers of wines alike.

Photo Credit: Leigh Castelli Photography]]>
<![CDATA[Lompoc Lark: Mural in a Weekend]]> Wed, 31 Aug 2016 12:11:54 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/FeedingTime_MuralArtAlley_JasonReynolds.jpg

ANY TOWN WITH A MURAL... should be rightly chuffed, for having a large-scale piece of outdoor art, art that very often reflects the town's history, nature, or locals, is a nice thing, indeed. But there are a few special places around California where multiple murals dot the downtown area, lending flavor and back story in a different way (different as compared to how other places tell visitors the tale of the town). Lompoc, that flowery, not-too-far-from-the-ocean city in Santa Barbara County, is one of the Golden State's best-known mural-laden burgs, so much so that people regularly make it a point to tour the murals when visiting the area's famous flower fields.

TO SEE A HUGE ARTWORK... go up along a building wall is a treat that doesn't come around every day, as murals, by their nature, are rather limited in their canvas choices. But the public will see just that over the second weekend in October when Master Artist Art Mortimer puts brushes to bricks and creates a "Mural in a Weekend" at 100 So. H Street. That a whole mural'll come together in two days is thrilling, but the arty excitement doesn't end there. 

THE PUBLIC CAN JOIN IN, helping Mr. Mortimer "paint for an hour, a few hours, all day, or both days!" Those days are Saturday, Oct. 8 and Sunday, Oct. 9, and you'll want to pre-register, so the organizers know the sort of supplies needed. A few things to note? This'll be a big celebration for Lompoc, with a mural tour, a fall art show, history-themed open houses, and more happening concurrently to the mural going up. Also? This is Lompoc's first mural to "wrap around the corner of a building," so that's pretty nifty. If you're a mural maven, this could be the quirky getaway you've longed for, and a chance to contribute to something you can revisit, in Lompoc, for years to come, with pride. Details, registering, and such? Make for the Mural in a Weekend HQ.

Photo Credit: Jason Reynolds]]>
<![CDATA[The Return of Madonna Inn Pink Chocolate]]> Tue, 30 Aug 2016 09:06:45 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/MadonnaInnPinkChampagneCake.jpg

A DESSERT OF DISTINCTION: We wouldn't really be going out on any limbs here if we were to say that when one orders a treat called the Pink Champagne Cake, well, one anticipates that the dessert will be pink, at least in part. And that's the way it has been at the Madonna Inn for decades, the San Luis Obispo hotel famous for its themed rooms, its over-the-top restaurant decor, and its Pink Champagne Cake. The themed rooms are still quirky favorites, and the Gold Rush Steak House continues to shimmer with gold and red details, but the pink in the Pink Champagne Cake took some time off in the spring of 2016.

THIS WAS NO SMALL MATTER, as fans headed to social media to ask the 101-close stay-over what in the world might be up, and when to expect the return of the distinctive dessert. While fabled confectionary Guittard, the longtime maker of the Madonna Inn's signature pink chocolate worked on "an all-natural food coloring," the property's restaurants continued to serve the gateau in question, but without its rosy hue. Which leads us breathlessly, in our sweet-flavored saga, to the close of August 2016, and...

THE RETURN OF THE PINK CHAMPAGNE CAKE: Yes, the whimsical landmark sent out the good word that that most Madonna-Inn-y of colorful cakes is back after "a long summer vacation." Those becurled flakes of Guittard-created pink chocolate goodness, the pleasing row of pink cakes in the case, the pink of dessert that matches the pink decor found throughout the hotel... all have returned. Want to celebrate with a towering slice? Find the treat at the Copper Cafe or the Gold Rush Steak House, the two eateries inside the historic Madonna Inn.

Photo Credit: Madonna Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Ojai Illumination: A Tree-tastic Artwork]]> Mon, 29 Aug 2016 13:54:53 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/IllumeByPaulFerrante2.jpg

THAT ARBOREAL GLOW: Trees and lights have been a beautiful twosome since the dawn of electricity, and, of course, long before electric bulbs were invented (hello, candles). But finding pretty, light-up-the-night branches that go beyond the traditional glow of small string-based bulbs can be a little trickier. You may come across the occasional larger lantern gracing a tree in a yard, or, if you're at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa during the fall of 2016, you'll see a number of art-lovely light fixtures complementing the property's best-known oak tree. Those lanterns are the creations of artist Paul Ferrante, and the title of the work holds the mystery and allure of the piece itself: "Illume."

AUG. 26, 2016... was the launch date for the lantern-bedecked tree, and while no firm end date is currently on the hotel's schedule, count on the mood-enhancing lights to remain up "through the holidays." They'll be on each night, if you're curious, but Fridays will be something a bit special in the area of the 200-year-old oak: a pop-up lounge, complete with gratis glasses Veuve Clicquot. What will you chat about as you sip? The individual details on each of the 28 lanterns dotting the tree's lengthy branches? How some are hexagons and some are globes and all reflect the Spanish Revival feel of Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, which will celebrate its centennial in just a few years? Or perhaps the enchantment of the moment will call for silent reverie and peaceful enjoyment of the incandescent scene.

MAKING A DATE... with the Ojai Valley landmark? Start here, and decide if a Friday night, or any night, is going to be part of your lantern-communing getaway.

Photo Credit: Paul Ferrante]]>
<![CDATA[Julefest Wine Walk: Tickets on Sale]]> Sat, 27 Aug 2016 07:24:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/SolvangHolidayWineAbout.jpg

DECEMBER DOINGS: While we're not quite ready to see the end-of-the-year holidays hit the store shelves or airwaves, we also realize, even near the last days of summer, that booking our spots at popular seasonal soirees is something that should be planned well in advance. And it is just about August, and September, when many December doings begin to sound the call that tickets are available. Julefest, Solvang's annual multi-day feast- and shop- and dance- and eat-a-ganza, spreads out grandly over the beginning and middle of the final month of the year (spreads out like jam on a pastry, if you prefer to picture the dates in Solvangian terms). There's a lot to alight upon, party-wise, but if you're over 21, and you're a maven of the Santa Ynez Valley's plentiful wines and brews, then booking your spot at the Julefest Holiday Wine and Beer Walk seems like the right course of vacation-planning action, even if it is still summer. The 2016 taste-around-town is on...

SATURDAY, DEC. 10 AND SUNDAY, DEC. 11: You'll pocket a passport, a passport that'll lead you to 13 Solvang tasting rooms. For sure, you'll get a souvenir wine glass, and, you got it, the passport covers both days. The price? It's $45. The local knowledge gained? You'll talk tannins and microclimates with a host of staffers who have the 411 on the area's viticulture. Best decide on your hotel, though, as soon as you book your ticket, as Julefest keeps the region humming (humming with carols, yes, and with bustle-y busyness, too). It's true, the holidays are trotting down the highway, in this direction, at a clip, and while we don't need to hang the Christmas lights just yet, we can begin to decide what getaway-flavored delights our December will hold.

Photo Credit: Julefest]]>