<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Worth the Trip]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcsandiego.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.comen-usMon, 27 Jun 2016 08:13:58 -0700Mon, 27 Jun 2016 08:13:58 -0700NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Pony Party at L'Auberge Del Mar]]> Sat, 25 Jun 2016 16:32:27 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/LDM_OpeningDayAfterParty_poolcloseup.jpg

HORSES, THEN HOBNOBBING: When you're a summertime tradition that's stuck around, grandly and gaily, for the better part of a century, you likely can make some recommendations in the whole "throwing a fabulous time" category. And the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club could certainly do so, having roots with both the players of Hollywood's Golden Age (Bing Crosby played a pivotal role in its beginning) and the stunner of a seaside community it has long called home. "Long called home" here translates to "since 1937," and the major part of that longevity is due to the ponies who run during July and August. But another important part of the club's success story? The festive spirit of the summer meet. Parties, fancy dress opportunities, and other happenings festoon the multi-week equestrian event, and opening day, after the races, puts the whole socializing scene into a full trot. It's the...

OPENING DAY AFTER PARTY... at L'Auberge Del Mar, a luxe hotel that's about a five-minute drive from the Thoroughbred Club. As always, it will throw an opening night bash, one that includes "jockey-themed entertainment" as well as bites straight from the posh California cuisine annals. Will you discuss the ponies you rooted for during the Friday, July 15 soiree? Or how you decided on the design of your opening-day hat? Or what you might name a competitive horse if you ever had the opportunity? (That makes for a lively after-the-track topic.) Tickets are $229 apiece, but if you can't make the posh lark, note that L'Auberge Del Mar is one of the swanky local spots to bed down for the night after a day of cheering on the mane action at one of the Golden State's most hallowed pony palaces.

Photo Credit: L'Auberge Del Mar]]>
<![CDATA[Gilroy Delish: Garli-que BBQ Challenge]]> Fri, 24 Jun 2016 12:11:51 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP_154546494337.jpg

BARBECUE SAUCE INGREDIENTS... can run the gourmet gamut, from heirloom tomatoes to cinnamon powder to organic honey to pure maple syrup. It all depends on the tastes of the person helming the grill, and whether the cook's creation will rock a sweeter rub, or a fiery sauce, very much depends upon what got slathered upon the meat in the early stages of preparation. But whether you prefer to go sweet or spicy with your own barbecue, it isn't difficult to see how a garlic clove or two can transform most any barbecue dish. The zestful bulb has a way of enhancing a pulled pork sandwich or chicken breast, without going the overpowering route. If you've got a major way with both the grill and garlic, and you'd like to show off your stuff for glory and cash, best throw your oven mitt into the ring at the...

GILROY GARLIC FESTIVAL: The celebrated food festival, which heats it up over the final weekend in July, has sent out the call for barbecue buffs looking to compete. There's a pro category, and five categories in which the teams shall square off, savory-style. One of the categories indeed involves the superstar clove -- it's called "Anything Goes with Garlic" -- and the only ask is that the chefs incorporate a bulb of garlic. The event is overseen by the venerable Kansas City Barbecue Society, and comes with thousands in cash prizes and trophies. Want to compete as an amateur? Best look in to joining the Backyard BBQ Rib Throwdown, which takes place on Sunday, July 31.

TROPHY TIME: If you snagged such a trophy, for your Super Mondo Garlicky Baby Back Ribs, where would you proudly display it? We have to assume you'll have a shelf built, on the patio, just a few feet from your grill and favorite tongs.

Photo Credit: Whitney Curtis/Invision/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Champagne Dinner at the Mission Inn]]> Fri, 24 Jun 2016 12:51:34 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/missioninnbeautysunsetbubbly.jpg

A GLASS OF SOMETHING SPARKLY: There are many picturesque spots in which to quaff a glass of Champagne. You can do so among the vines where the grapes were grown, if you make your way to France. You can do so on a boat, or with the ocean as a backdrop, perhaps with sunset thrown in for good measure. And finding a stunner of a structure, one with lofty towers and grand colonnades and castle-like touches, definitely weaves well with most bubbly-based fantasies. If your daydream has long been to quaff French bubbles in a castle, you'll come pretty darn close in Riverside on Friday, July 8. Yes, that's Riverside, as in California, and the castle we speak of is, of course, the Mission Inn. The hotel is throwing an Under the Stars Champagne Dinner, and the "under the stars" part isn't simply poetic fancy. The swanky summer truly will be served under the night sky, at the landmark's International Rotunda. And while French sips will be a star, so will dishes from...

THE MISSION INN'S FOUR RESTAURANTS: Each course, and dessert, will feature "a signature dish" created by one of the hotel's four eateries. A Champagne reception starts off the $150 evening, and a docent-led talk about the hotel's history will add further flavor to the proceedings. There are five courses in all, plus bubbly, plus hotel stories, plus the general feel of dining in a multi-room castle, only a castle built in the citrus-y heart of the Inland Empire. Call it a Gallic Golden State kind of gala, one that has all the trimmings of a party on the Continent, with the closeness, and charm, of historic Riverside. For information call the hotel at 951-784-0300.

Photo Credit: Mission Inn/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Flower Fantasy: LotusFest! 2016]]> Wed, 22 Jun 2016 12:24:59 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/LotuslandMother.jpg

WHAT'S IN A NAME: Most public gardens, or private nature spreads, tend to have names that reflect an early proprietor of the garden, or an early owner of the estate, or a moniker that pays tribute to the general climate or larger area in which the garden exists. The occasional garden, however, incorporates a single plant or flower in its handle, which can only lead the potential visitor to one conclusion: You're going to see that flower or plant, in profusion, should you arrive at the right time of year. Case in point: Ganna Walska Lotusland, in Santa Barbara, indeed has "lotus" in its very name, but the mythical bloom only makes its magnificent presence known during particular times of the year. At Lotusland, that time of year falls during July and August, and so pretty are those pinky petals that the historic estate throws a party to welcome them. Lotusfest 2016 is that party, and will unfold its to-dos and activities, much like its namesake unfolds, on...

SATURDAY, JULY 9: There shall be wine from area vintners — this is Santa Barbara, after all — and there shall be savory bites, to keep your energy up for all of that lotus-directed appreciating you intend to do. It's an afternoon affair, with all the charms of a traditional garden soiree, and tickets are a pinch over a hundred bucks for non-members. As for the lotus love? You'll see 'em in their open-to-the-sky form. But here's a lotus fact to know, just in case you ever long to see the blossoms by moonlight: Like human beings, lotuses take a rest after dark. They don't tuck into bed, but they do tuck those petals away, an age-old rite that further lends the lotus its well-deserved aura of mystery.

Photo Credit: Ganna Walska Lotusland]]>
<![CDATA[Surfing with the Chef in Carlsbad]]> Tue, 21 Jun 2016 11:13:43 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Surfingwiththechef123.jpg

CHEF SIGHTING: When staying at a luxe hotel, where are some of the places you might run into the top toque on the property? The executive chef might stop by your table during dinner, to see if the lamb was to your liking, for sure. That's probably the way most guests encounter a chef, via an impromptu tableside conversation. What's rather rarer, though, is joining a fine hotel's executive chef on the beach for a bit of surfing, and then doing some cooking together. But Chef Pierre Albaladejo of Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad is just that rare chef. Raised in the South of France, Chef Albaladejo is an enthusiastic surfer, and it is a beloved pursuit that he is sharing with guests via the Surfing with the Chef program. You won't just be slipping into a wetsuit and wading into the nearby Pacific Ocean, however; there are several parts to the program, including starting the salty adventure with the most important meal of the day. Indeed...

WE'RE TALKING BREAKFAST... here, but you won't be waiting at a table for Chef to emerge from the kitchen, plates in hand. You'll join him at the stoves while you learn what techniques he employs, then, after a hearty meal, it is surf time at a Carlsbad stretch of sand. A beach meal follows — Chef Albaladejo will prepare it there —and you'll depart not only laden with tips of the surfing and cooking kind, but your own longboard, too. Will you need to find room in your car, or on the plane, for your new surfboard? Nope. The hotel will ship it to you. The only question that remains is this: How will future tableside chats with a chef live up to actually surfing with a chef? Well, they're still pretty cool, and nothing can dim that. But hanging ten with a gentleman typically rocking a toque is a pretty singular getaway experience, one that isn't easily replicated.

Photo Credit: Park Hyatta Aviara Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Palm Springs Tram: Military Days]]> Mon, 20 Jun 2016 12:31:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/pstramway1234.jpg

JULY GRATITUDE: When summer arrives, so do the three-digit temperatures around the Coachella Valley. Wait... what? Summer-style temps actually have a way of showing up in the springtime? You're absolutely correct. It doesn't suddenly become warmish as Independence Day grows nearer; rather, toastier days can begin in April. All that said, July really has a lock on roasty Palm Springs afternoons, the kind when a mister and a hand fan and a glass of iced tea are the three things many a glistening human is searching out. That's where the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway comes in, what with its admirable ability to whisk overly hot people to a location nearly 6,000 feet above where the tram leaves the valley. And to get through July, and to honor the meaning behind Independence Day, and to say "thank you" to those who serve, the tram is hosting "Military Days" through the entire month. Yes, that does mean...

FREE ADMISSION... for military personnel over the 31 days of July, and not just around Fourth of July weekend. You'll want to have your ID to show at the ticket counter, and you'll want to let any guests joining you that they'll get 25% off (and that's up to six guests, which is pretty dang great). So what can you do at the top? Explore Mount San Jacinto State Park via the 50-plus miles of trails, or have lunch at Mountain Station, which has both a quick-grab cafe as well as a sit-down restaurant (with incredible views of the Coachella Valley). And are summer hours a bit different at the tram? They are, with slightly later cars on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as an early start on Friday mornings. It's a lovely show of gratitude for the our military members and their loved ones and friends, and an easy route to staving off some of those thermometer-testing summer days. A mountain trip, one that can happen in mere minutes, is always kind of the solution come July, and for free? Even sweeter.

Photo Credit: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway]]>
<![CDATA[Bennett Juniper: 4,000-Year-Old Wonder]]> Sat, 18 Jun 2016 06:55:09 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/bennettjuniper123.jpg

TREE TREK: Planning a vacation solely around visiting a magnificent and stately shrub isn't unheard of; in fact, many an adventurer regularly plots to call upon the General Sherman, that superstar sequoia, or the Torrey Pines near La Jolla. And, yes, even trees that have been gussied up, as in the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, make it onto some vacationers' travel itineraries. But few leafy living things garner the attention of California's very (very very) old trees. For sure, the General Sherman and the Torrey Pines do qualify when it comes to being of an esteemed age, as do the redwoods and those Bristlecone Pines of the Inyo National Forest. One of the oldest trees around, however, in the Golden State or anywhere, can't be admired for much of the year, at least not in person. If you're patient, and you plan, you can call upon the Bennett Juniper when the time is right (in other words, when the road in is accessible). And the time is getting righter, for...

THE MIDDLE OF JUNE... is generally when Bennett buffs may visit the protected tree, a tree of some age. The beautiful juniper is "believed by some to be 4,000 years old," says the Save the Redwoods League, which oversees the Bennett Juniper Stewardship Project. Standing at some 8,400 feet, the Bennett Juniper was named for naturalist Clarence Bennett, and is only accessible by the public for just a little less than half the year. Best call first to make sure the route is open and read all the to-knows before packing the car (of course there's no climbing on the tree, which almost can go without saying, but we're repeating it).

THE BENNETT... isn't alone, as there are other ancient junipers in the area, and its ability to weather the weather, whether that means freeze or breeze, is impressive. It's a fine tree to know, or at least make the acquaintance of, and your window to do so is just ahead. The Bennett Juniper is patient; after all, it has grown, and thrived, in the Sierra about four millennia, which is nothing to shake a branch at, no sirree.

Photo Credit: Save the Redwoods League]]>
<![CDATA[Reds Meadow: 'Little Yosemite' to Open]]> Fri, 17 Jun 2016 07:04:07 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/RedsMeadowcourtesyofLaraKaylorVisitMammoth.JPG

FAREWELL, WINTER SNOW: It seems strange to finally bid the flakes of wintertime goodbye just days ahead of summer's official arrival, but that's what's happening around Reds Meadow and Devils Postpile National Monument. Tucked up high in the Sierra, and not all that far from Mammoth Mountain, the area sees a substantial amount of snowfall each year, so much so that its opening can happen in May or even June. The latter date is the case for 2016, thanks to the impressive and needed precipitation of the 2015-2016 winter season. But the snow clearing is just about done, and soon summer revelers can enjoy both the column-cool Devils Postpile and the waterfall-lush Reds Meadow region, which has been dubbed in some quarters as "Little Yosemite."

LITTLE YOSEMITE... is a sweet title to bear, and it feels natural, thanks to the "crystal-clear streams, sparkling lakes and majestic forests," per the Visit Mammoth people, not to mention a septet of campgrounds. As for Devils Postpile National Monument? It is among the most geometric of natural wonders, thanks to the spectacular columnar basalt (if you're picturing a bunch of drinking straws all lined up, only 60-foot drinking straws that aren't hollow but are made of hard, eons-old basalt, you're in the right visual territory). You won't want to miss Yosemite, as in the actual Yosemite National Park, if you're tooling around the Sierra, but swinging by Reds Meadow to love upon Little Yosemite, and those ancient basalt columns, is a recommended side trip. Or a main trip, if you don't have much time to spare.

OPENING DATE? We got swept away in alpine mountain dreams of streams and natural wonders, as one does, so apologies. Opening date for both destinations is Saturday, June 18.

Photo Credit: Lara Kaylor/Visit Mammoth]]>
<![CDATA[Mountain Sounds: Julian Blues Bash]]> Fri, 17 Jun 2016 11:13:54 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/guitar11.jpg

THE PERFECT RECIPE: While your local bookstore likely has a full shelf or two of cookbooks, tomes that detail all the various measurements for the ideal batch of cookies or lasagna, you probably won't find a book detailing the perfect recipe for a music show. And, true, tastes do vary in that department, but let's all warmly agree on this: If you take a winery in a mountain-sweet setting, and you throw in the last Saturday of springtime, and you add a daylong music lark that's been around for the better part of two decades, well, bingo: You're going to come up with a mighty savory dish. And that particular dish, with all of its delicious parts, will be served on Saturday, June 18 when the Julian Blues Bash breaks out the grooves and flows for its 18th year.

SO THAT'S A SNAP TO REMEMBER: 18th year, June 18, and while tickets are no longer available online, you can pick one up there, on the day-of, for forty bucks. Some of the artists on the line-up include The McCoy Brothers Band, The Alastair Greene Band, and Kim Simmonds & Savoy Brown. And for sure, there's an all-star jam session as evening falls (for what would a bluesy come-together be without a bit of jamming from the stage?). It's a summer's-just-ahead tradition for the higher-elevation area, one that is kind of the quintessential warm-weather sound party. It's a busy weekend for Julian, by the by; the open house at the Hubbell House, a local architectural gem, is scheduled for Sunday, June 19.

Photo Credit: Guitar]]>
<![CDATA[Terranea Resort: Music on the Meadows]]> Wed, 15 Jun 2016 15:51:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/TerraneaResortaerial.jpg

FATHER'S DAY WEEKEND... is frequently spent on a grassy or nature-lovely area, at least when it comes to traditional outings. There's the round of golf with your dad, or heading down to the batting cages, or setting up the barbecue to grill some burgers. But recent years have seen another trend tied to the holiday, one that also involves the outdoors but something else, too: live tunes. Alfresco concerts that are cool enough to invite your forever-cool dad to are springing up around the third weekend in June, and they're open to everyone who wants to buy a ticket, including those not marking the holiday. Whether that sounds like a pursuit made for your pops, or you just dig singer-songwriter Colin Hay and Pacific-bracing air, best pencil in Saturday, June 18. You've got a date with...

MUSIC ON THE MEADOWS... at Terranea Resort. That's right, this is the pretty events area at the Rancho Palos Verdes getaway, a stretch made for sound-listening, brew- or wine-sipping enjoyment. And, yep, we did say Colin Hay, of Men at Work (and an exception solo run, one filled with thought-provoking ditties of the most lyrical sort). He'll be playing the afternoon-long happening, along with other musical acts, so book your package, grab your Terranea blanket (this is a definite spread-the-blanket-out kind of outdoor bash), find a beverage, and dig into your gratis prepackaged lunch. Want to look into staying over? There's a code for that. Want to treat dad to something in an under-the-sky setting that's a bit different from golf and barbecuing, as time-honored as those are? An ocean-close afternoon concert, on Father's Day Eve, may just fit that bonding bill.

Photo Credit: Terranea Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Bellagio Gardens: Go Under the Sea]]> Tue, 14 Jun 2016 10:46:32 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Summer_Display_West_Garden.jpg

SIN CITY SPLASH: There's little quibble in saying that many a Las Vegas visitor is thinking about water. They're pondering a visit to the famous fountains of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, or they're thinking about lounging next to the pool at their resort, or they're in search of a bottle of water after a strenuous midday stroll along The Strip. But there's a new destination that's all about aqua, and it happens to be a short walk off Las Vegas Boulevard. And "new" it isn't, exactly, though a part of it definitely is, and how. But, like an ocean wave, it won't stay still for long before receding back into the horizon. It's the... 

TREASURES OF THE DEEP... display at the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Garden, and it is bubbling through Saturday, Sept. 10. As with all of the Bellagio garden spectaculars, Treasures of the Deep is elaborate, detailed, and brimming with several distinct, design-thorough parts. (If you're thinking back to past garden themes, like the autumn one, with its giant flowery rocking horse and personality-filled tree, you're on the right track.) The ocean-nifty features include a 35-foot "sunken" ship, a mermaid (made of carnations and sand), a coral reef, and a pair of arching aquariums that serve as the dramatic entryway to the garden space. A whale created from succulents — about 1,000 of 'em — stretches some 14 feet, while colorful jellies dot the display.

WATER IN THE DESERT: So, where's the water at? Yes, the Fountains at Bellagio contain H2O, and so does the pool at your hotel, but a certain garden inside the Bellagio will keep the cool waves flowing through the Saturday after Labor Day. One bonus, beyond its free-to-get-in price? The garden is open 24 hours a day, for those looking to cool it down at 3 in the morning.

Photo Credit: Kelly McKeon/Bellagio]]>
<![CDATA[Lavender of the Central Coast]]> Mon, 13 Jun 2016 13:16:17 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/lavfieldCredit_CentralCoastLavender2.jpg

THAT PEACEFUL PLACE: Few destinations are as tranquil as a bloom-laden field of lavishly purple lavender. Oh, there might be a bit of unruffledness, but those ruffles come from the breezes that play through the tall stalks. It is so sweet a sight that it regularly makes calendars and greeting cards, and travel shows frequently send mavens of summery smells out in search of lavender farms. There are a few of those around the Golden State, and some major lavender-themed larks, too. Ojai, being home to a number of purply places, hosts a lavender festival near the end of June, and Paso Robles? Why that is up in July. July 9, in fact, is 2016 date, the date of the 8th annual...

CENTRAL COAST LAVENDER FESTIVAL: As with many gourmet and nature-nice gatherings — think of the famous Olive Festival and tons of wine to-dos — the Lavender Festival will flower in City Park. Over 100 vendors are expected at the Saturday scene, vendors purveying in all manner of lavender loveliness. Need sachets, soaps, and such? You'll fill your trunk, or at least your passenger seat, with goodies made for the bathroom or linen shelf. Tunes and talks focused upon lavender and lavender lovers (hint: bees) are part of the daylong fun as well. Cost to attend? Free. Sniffing hue-happy herbs as you wander by tables? Also free. Daydreaming of standing in a calendar-worthy lavender field? Always free. Picking up a few vinegars for the kitchen or bubbles for the bath? That'll take some cash, so be sure to arrive ready to get your fill of the fragrant summertime wonder herb.

Photo Credit: Central Coast Lavender Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Glam New: Sheraton Grand Los Angeles]]> Sat, 11 Jun 2016 07:41:17 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sheratongranddowntown123.jpg

MAJOR RENOVATION: It's true that buds become full-fledged flowers in the springtime, but sometimes other things beyond the plants in our gardens can flower, and unfold, and become something new and rather spectacular. Look to the Sheraton Los Angeles Hotel, which, in April, that floweriest of months, spread its proverbial petals and became, officially, something else: a Sheraton Grand. Sheraton Hotels & Resorts bestowed the swanky designation after the property underwent a full-scale $75-million renovation, one that buffed up all 496 suites and guest rooms. The private spaces weren't the only spots to receive the tony makeover; the lobby and meeting rooms, too, were given a thorough rethinking and a signature hue: gold. Pillars and other details are flush with sparkle, or at least a metallic aesthetic, one that feels like a sophisticated take on chic '70s styling as seen through some future-forward prism.

THE DINING EXPERIENCE... features a coffee shop lobby by day and bar by night (look for signature sips in the "Paired" menu, a Sheraton Grand staple). District on the Bloc is the new restaurant on the Plaza Level, one that features sustainable ingredients in dishes like chile-miso cured beef carpaccio and purple potato gnocchi. "Plaza Level" might suggest there's a rooftop deck nearby, a deck made for lingering as one looks upon LA (and rhapsodizes about the sights seen, if the person wishes), and indeed, there is one. As for where the Sheraton Grand sits? It's part of The Bloc, the site of the downtown Macy's, which itself is undergoing a major re-imagining. The hotel's redo is a look at more redos to come in that immediate area, and one that came to full flower in, appropriately enough, the springtime.

Photo Credit: Sheraton Grand]]>
<![CDATA[Disneyland Plans to Open New Hotel]]> Fri, 10 Jun 2016 13:58:29 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/193*120/06.07.16_Disney-Proposed-Hotel-01.jpg

A new Disney-owned luxury hotel close to the Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks was proposed this week in Anaheim, California.

If approved, the 700-room hotel would be the first new hotel built on Disneyland property in almost two decades.

The planned hotel would be built on 10 acres at 1401 Disneyland Drive and its construction would coincide with the building of the new Star Wars section of the Disneyland theme park.

"This new flagship hotel would create thousands of jobs and benefit Anaheim with more than $750 million in additional tax revenue over the next four decades, while helping the city reach its stated goal of attracting more high-end visitors,"  Disney spokeswoman Suzi Brown said in a written statement.

The current plans include a rooftop restaurant, kids play area, pools and other amenities.

Disneyland currently operates the Disneyland Grand California Hotel & Spa, the Disneyland Hotel and the Disneyland Paradise Pier Hotel.

Building the hotel would remove 10 acres currently used for parking, the Los Angeles Times reports.

However, the news site added that Disney officials have plans for another parking structure and added transit center.

The hotel is slated to open in 2021.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Disneyland]]>
<![CDATA[New: Hotel Carmel Debuts]]> Fri, 10 Jun 2016 13:30:10 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Hotel_Carmel_Lobby_2_1253.jpg The 27-room boutique inn debuts after a refresh.

Photo Credit: Hotel Carmel]]>
<![CDATA[Indian Wells Getaway: Sunshine on Sale]]> Fri, 24 Jun 2016 12:52:14 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Hyatt-Regency-Indian-Wells-Adult-Pool.jpg

MEASURING SUNSHINE... doesn't just exist in the minds of sci-fi writers and artists who like to think about light in poetic terms. It can be done, at least in terms of calculating the kilowatt output of a solar panel or how much daylight we have over the course of any given day (just to name a few different regularly employed yardsticks). But how do you measure the quality and intensity of sunshine on vacation? That's a bit trickier, and more subjective, but pretty much anyone would vow that sunlight on a January day in snow country is rather more filtered than sunshine savored poolside in June in the desert. If the second version is more to your liking, and you adore short bouts of beautiful, lemony sunbeam-strong goodness (while wearing your SPF lotion and sunhat, of course), best make for Indian Wells and the new...

SUNSHINE ON SALE... package at Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa. Okay, yes, the sunshine is the free part — it is always free, no admission required, to do a little basking wherever you are — but the deal comes from snagging a third night after you pay for two. There's the recently introduced DesertPipe (a go-fast water slide) and seven pools to linger by, on the soak-up-the-rays front. On the how-much-is-it front? Nightly rates are starting at a hundred bucks. For all the details, don your swimsuit and slide over here, lovers of summertime heat created by our planet's nearest star. 

Photo Credit: Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa]]>
<![CDATA[Color Your Park Coloring Book]]> Thu, 09 Jun 2016 14:02:29 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/colorparknps12345.jpg

COLORING BOOKS... for adults have featured a multitude of subjects in the last year or two, from citified skyscrapers to flower-lush gardens to abstract shapes and forms. They're hugely popular, and the themes continue to widen into new territory. Here's one, and it dovetails nicely with an important anniversary: the Color Your Park Coloring Book. The "Park" part has to do with the national parks, places that inspired people to make art for decades (think of how often you see someone with a sketchpad while hiking through Yosemite National Park). And the anniversary? It's the centennial of the National Park Service, an occasion that will be honored in several ways during 2016. In the spirit of a momentous moment, and because coloring books are just so dang cool, the National Park Foundation has teamed up with Joseph Gordon-Levitt's hitRECords to offer a fresh way to explore parkly love: via coloring pencils. The...

COLOR YOUR PARK COLORING BOOK... is available online at the Find Your Park store, along with a host of other items developed by the actor's production company (think hip baby onesies, hats, and such). The coloring book is 96 pages, and features Bryce Canyon National Park, the Statue of Liberty, Half Dome, and dozens of other favorite places across the nationwide park system. The National Park Foundation, by the by, is the "Official Charity of the National Parks," so call it a fine group to support if you love supporting your go-to getaway. And if you know someone who is super-into their coloring books at the moment, and that same someone is a nature fan who digs a good park-themed road trip, you've just found the perfect gift. It's twenty bucks and easily orderable from this very page.

Photo Credit: National Park Foundation]]>
<![CDATA[Wine Walk: Solvang Third Wednesday]]> Tue, 07 Jun 2016 12:27:14 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/solvangwindmill09887.jpg

SUMMER STROLL: A trio of Solvang celebrations are so well-attended and widely known, and for fine reason. Taste of Solvang in March, Danish Days in September, and Julefest near Christmas also see an influx of visitors, as well as locals, enjoying special activities, special foodstuffs, and, of course, wine, which is very much a Solvang sort of sip. But the wine-focused festivals and to-dos don't fall quiet for the six-month stretch that connects March to September; rather, Solvang keeps up the wine walking straight through the summertime via its Third Wednesdays.

THIRD WEDNESDAYS... are easy to remember, date-wise -- they're the third Wednesday of the month -- and the Solvang Third Wednesday Beer & Wine Walk covers a host of spots serving some of the most interesting libations grown/made around the Santa Ynez Valley as well as vinos from abroad. Cost? It's twenty bucks, and it has a slightly earlier start than many evening wine walks. That start time is 3 p.m., with a wrap-up at 7, but you can dip in at any time you want, if you can't make Solvang before 4 or 5 on your chosen Third Wednesday. 

ADVANCE TICKETS? They're here. Not sure if you want advance tickets, because you can't quite land on a time to visit yet? Buy your same-day pass at the Wandering Dog Bar, Olive House, or Sort This Out Cellars. That's where you'll also get your glass, map, and vouchers, says the site.

MUSIC, TOO: Solvang Third Wednesdays will also coincide with the free concerts at Solvang Park. Those rev up on June 15, and they go an hour past when the Wine and Beer Walk ends, allowing sipping strollers to do a bit of both.

Photo Credit: Solvang]]>
<![CDATA[The Lavender of Ojai]]> Mon, 06 Jun 2016 11:18:50 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/lavGettyImages-89261459.jpg

PURPLE PRETTINESS: Loving lavender doesn't mean that you only have to stick to certain soaps on the store shelves or potpourris found in catalogs. You can go to places known for the growing of the pungent-lovely, purple-glorious herb, places that are right here in the Golden State. True, parts of Southern France are nearly synonymous with lavender fields, but an art town that's just a scoot away from Santa Barbara also holds its own on the lavender end of things. It's Ojai, and June just happens to be its most lavender-y month. Look to the...

OJAI VALLEY LAVENDER FESTIVAL... on Saturday, June 25, which offers the chance to stroll by over 100 vendors, many of them selling sachets and perfumes and vinegars and oils all scented with soft-scented lavender. One of the main events of the purple-hued party is the cooking class at The Lavender Inn, a class that will make goodies like blueberry lavender no-bake cheesecake and a posh salad accented by a lavender-scented olive-caper vinaigrette. Of course, the inn is open all year long, if you can't make the festival but still want a getaway with a touch of lavender to it. As for visiting a lavender farm?

FROG CREEK FARM is one of the biggest growers in the area. A bonus? It's open during lavender season, also known as June, on the weekends. Info? Point your lavender-loving sniffer in this direction.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Mammoth: Open Through Fourth of July]]> Sun, 05 Jun 2016 11:10:55 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/2016-06-01_UNBOUND_PIPE_GREG_BRETZ_4TH_JULY_PMM_2468.jpg

SUMMERTIME SKI TIME: While many peak-pretty resorts push on into Memorial Day Weekend, in terms of keeping the slopes open, there are some decisions to make when June is fast on approach. Is it time to wrap the whole shebang up for another season? Should the poles be stowed and the knit caps put away and should skiers and snowboarders enjoy their final run? Several factors are weighed, and then the party parties on, or, conversely, the light switch is flipped. Mammoth Mountain, which did stay open through Memorial Day, has determined that there shall be no switch-flipping on the 2015-2016 season: It will schuss on right to Fourth of July.

INDEPENDENCE DAY: This isn't the first Fourth that the Sierra destination has celebrated via snow -- let's pause to say summer activities like hiking and biking are big on the mountain, too -- but it has been rather touch-and-go the last few years, precipitation-wise, to see how deep into spring or summer the final date could go. That's Monday, July 4, 2016, a late date thanks to the 361" of snowfall at Mammoth Mountain. How's the summit doing in early June? It has a base of 130", which is nothing to shake a pole at (not that you'd even consider it). As for hours? The mountain is moving to a mostly morning schedule on Monday, June 6, with opening times from 7:30 a.m. to a pinch after lunch -- 1 o'clock -- each day.

<![CDATA[National Parks Centennial Bash]]> Fri, 03 Jun 2016 12:05:31 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/redwoodGettyImages-177068772.jpg

WHILE HYPERBOLE HAS A WAY... of reigning these days, you wouldn't be going too far by claiming that some of the tallest trees on the planet have seen a few birthdays. Not only that, you could go even further and rightly state that the redwoods of Northern California have passed several centuries, and quietly so, without a lot of fanfare or fuss or brightly wrapped gifts. They're trees, in short, that resonate with the power of time, which makes the Redwoods National and State Parks the ideal place to mark an important occasion.

THAT OCCASION... is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, an organization that has done much to protect these burl-dotted behemoths, and the beaches, and the mountains, and other wilder spots across the nation. But if you can't journey around the nation to attend all of the centennial parties for the NPS, you can, perhaps, make the one that is happening in the redwoods on the final Sunday of June (or the first Sunday of summer, if that feels more poetic). That's...

JUNE 26, and a whole plethora of celebration-sweet doings'll go down among the trees, from pony rides to live tunes to interesting forays led by rangers. But just saying "meet me at the redwoods" proooobably won't work, given that they cover a rather sizable amount of land. So head for the "former lumber mill at the junction of Highway 101 and Bald Hills Road just north of Orick" for the afternoon jamboree. A photography exhibit, a plaque unveiling, and more birthday-fun activities will fill the five-hour celebration.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Encinitas: A Garden Full of Fairies]]> Fri, 03 Jun 2016 12:21:12 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/SDBotanicFairy.jpg

GLITTERY GARDEN FLITTER: Winged mythical creatures have always had a place in nature, from tales told long ago to the picture books lining bookstore shelves today. But venturing into the yard to find a fairy, or perhaps to don your own pair of wings in celebration of that fairy spirit, isn't quite as common as listening to a story involving the light-of-air characters. The San Diego Botanic Garden is changing that, as seeing a caboodle of kids decked out in their fairy-style best at the Encinitas destination is now becoming a regular thing. Well, of course, if you happen to be at the nature-filled landmark on the right Saturday of the year. And that Saturday in 2016 is...

JUNE 18, which is just days ahead of the summer solstice, a perfect time of year for full fairydom to flower. The Fairy Festival is a party for the younger set, and children are invited to go the full wings-and-tutu route with their garden-ready fashion. Not that adults are asked to not costume-up, as this is a sweet kidly confab, one that is all about connecting childhood wonder with a magical mythos of the natural world. Helping that connection will be several sparkly to-dos, from a Wishing Bush (where you may place a wish) to the decorating of magic wands to the making of fairy chimes. Folk tunes, face painting, and numerous other enchanted craft-oriented happenings await.

THE COST? "(C)ertain activities" have an additional fee, but the whole Fairy Festival is included with your garden admission. If that fact doesn't make your wings flick just a bit, in happy anticipation, well... It likely already has.

Photo Credit: San Diego Botanic Garden]]>
<![CDATA[Vegas Neon Museum: New Early Mornings]]> Wed, 01 Jun 2016 12:18:08 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/neonvegasearlymorning123.jpg

MORNING IN LAS VEGAS... is very rarely pictured on the front of guidebooks and visitor magazines, truth be told. And with understandable reason, too, for when you are a city that is synonymous with nightlife, with lavish shows running into the wee smalls, with casinos and clubs that push past the hour when even devoted night owls begin to yawn, morningtime can take a backseat. Of course, it's a secret time of day for some visitors, beloved for the fact that a solid buffet, and an uncrowded, no-rush stroll along The Strip, are two major, easy-to-obtain benefits. If Sin City just after sunrise is your jam, and you're looking to fill some fun time between a wake-up hike out at Red Rock Canyon and your date with your hotel's pool later in the morning, look to the Neon Museum, which just announced early-in-the-day tours for the summer of '16. 

"EARLY IN THE DAY"... means different things in different places, but at the signage destination it means the first tour'll start at 8 o'clock (which, let's be honest, is still pretty dang early, if not crack-of-dawn-ish early). It's a fresh way to admire all of the Vegas-to-the-max over-sized artifacts, especially because the signs were originally built for nighttime wow . The morning tours of the Neon Boneyard -- there'll be five each morning, on the half hour, from 8 to 10:30 -- will take in some of these bulb-laden behemoths, all in the fresh light of day. The final date for the guide-led morning walks? Sept. 18, 2016. 

TRUE, the vintage signs of Las Vegas weren't solely meant to be seen by night, as they were perfectly readable in the daytime, too. So ponder how a morning tour will give a little love to that under-loved legacy, the neon sign's daytime duties. And maybe we should take it all back, that Sin City isn't a morning town. After all, many a reveler pushes through the moonlit hours with a vow to see the sun come up over the tops of all of those mega hotels, a sight that belongs to Vegas alone.

Photo Credit: Neon Museum]]>
<![CDATA[World Ocean Day in Monterey]]> Tue, 31 May 2016 09:42:13 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/worldoceandaymba16.jpg

HIYA, OCEAN: If you adhere to the notion that everything is connected, from the smallest jacaranda bud to the highest peaks in the Sierra Nevada, then you likely greet each natural wonder you encounter not just with reverence but with a spoken hello, or wave, or shout of acclaim. Think of the redwoods coming into view after a long drive -- do you yell "hooray, redwoods"? Do you let out a sigh when a cloud of birds passes suddenly overhead on a hike? And do you give the ocean some love, or at least a loving glance, when you see it? These are all sweet gestures, but, of course and as always, there are bigger gestures to make, when and where we can. World Ocean Day reminds us of this urgent calling each year, via the information it shares about our planet's Great Water and the earthlings that call it home. If you're a "hiya, ocean" kind of person, someone who regularly ponders the larger cycle of all ecosystems (and how humans can play a helpful role in their care), make for...

MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM... on Saturday, June 4 and Sunday, June 5. "You'll learn about the treasures of the ocean, the threats it faces and what we can do to keep it healthy," says the Cannery Row aquatic institution. Actor/producer Adrian Grenier will receive the Paul Walker Ocean Leadership Award, as will ocean advocate Meg Kikkeri. Crafts, tunes, and educational doings will fill out the weekend, wall-to-wall, giving those who adore the salty and sublime part of our planet their knowledge-packed fill. Are you ready to move a bit beyond greeting the ocean upon seeing it and learning how you can lend it support and stewardship? Make for Monterey over the first weekend in June.

Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium]]>
<![CDATA[Now Open: Crystal Cave]]> Mon, 30 May 2016 07:01:28 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/210*120/trailtocrystalcavenps.jpg

IF MAY WERE A CHARACTER... in a children's picture book, it might be depicted as a yawning, stretchy sleepyhead, the kind of person who dons an old-fashioned nightcap to catch a little shuteye. Why to we cast the fifth month of the calendar as such? Because so much of the world seems to awaken come May, after the thaw is thoroughly and completely through, and after the schoolbooks are stowed, and after the proverbial shutters are thrown wide on vacation exploration. Many of our natural wonders stretch and yawn come May, by the by, though, of course, they've been around all winter long.

WHO HASN'T BEEN AROUND THEM, though, is us, for a number of harder-to-reach spots take a cold-weather siesta from human visitors, including the famous Crystal Cave of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. Located in the Giant Forest, in Sequoia National Park, the stalactite-y destination is mighty loved, given that it is "the parks' only commercialized cave." That means summertime see-it spots do go, so if you want to secure a date with Crystal Cave over the summer of 2016, best get on it, as the subterranean favorite made its annual debut on...

SUNDAY, MAY 14: Ready to eye its "3 miles of passage"? Or what makes it a "complex, 'anastomotic' maze" of a cave? Here's where you start. Note that "(t)ickets are never sold at the cave," so lining your adventure up well in advance is as smart as a stalagmite is old. Once there, though, "a polished marble stream" and all sorts of ancient rock formations await your admiration, silently, eternally. We're not assuming your admiration is a given, but, please; caves are cool, through and through, and not just temperature-wise. Is this your summer to see a mid-California gem? Crystal Cave is waking up and stretching, just in time for its annual visitors, so hop to it.

Photo Credit: NPS]]>
<![CDATA[The Olives of Los Olivos]]> Sat, 28 May 2016 08:24:00 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/56908420.jpg

IT'S IN THE NAME: If you're a fan of food festivals, the kind of weekend-sweet gatherings that feature local chefs and regional wineries and the stroll-about, taste-about vibe that suits a Saturday well, you probably research directions online before heading out to the car (and your adventure). And as you pass the exits, and the off-ramps, you might start to ask your companion what the town was called, the one with the fest. For the most part, the food festival and the town that's hosting it won't share a similar name, but there is a juicy, oil-yummy, pit-tastic exception: The annual Los Olivos Jazz and Olive Festival. Nope, "olivos" doesn't mean jazz, but it does summon an olive tree to mind, which is good, since olives are one of the star eats at this just-after-Memorial-Day party. And if smooth sounds and smooth-skinned fruits are two of your favorite things, then clear your calendar for Saturday, June 4 and head for...

THE SANTA YNEZ VALLEY, which is the home spread of this pocket-sized, perfectly pretty, perfectly walkable wine burg. Ah yes, wine will naturally be on the pour, with some 30 or so vineyards making a presence at the town-wide celebration. Keep the "30" in mind as you search out olive-y goodness, for chefs'll create about 30 dishes that have olives as a theme. And local sudser Figueroa Brewing Company will also be in the house (or, rather, on the quaint streets of the quaint town). There are a few succulent olive to-dos around California, but this one's about as wine-country-licious as they come. That a breezy June Saturday is involved, and live tunes, and local vino, and a town with "olive" in its very name, serves to further the fun charm of the day. What's nearby? Solvang, Buellton, Los Alamos, and, across the hills, Santa Barbara, meaning there's a whole weekend to plan, in addition to the all-important eating of olives.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Roadshow Revival: The Hotel Package]]> Fri, 27 May 2016 14:02:01 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/219*120/Guitar-Generic.jpg

THE FIRST WEEKEND OF SUMMER... is honored in multiple ways, from an impromptu camping trip to a backyard cookout to eating ice cream for dinner (and perhaps breakfast and lunch, too). But for music fans who dig a twangful and stylish entry into the season, there is really just one way to go, at least if you're in the Ventura neck of the woods when the end of June dawns. That's the moment when Roadshow Revival vrooms into town, with all the power of some souped-up, flame-painted '62 Thunderbird. It's one of the country's most lauded American roots celebrations, and it is an annual tribute to the music and memory of Johnny Cash, too.

FOR YEARS... the revival landed around Father's Day, but the 2016 party'll happen just a few days beyond that, and for two full days, too (a fairly recent development). So are you hopping into your own hot rod and heading along the coast to see the likes of John Doe, The Paladins, Kings of the Wild Frontier, and The Vonettes? Then apply another layer of pomade, and break out your crispest denim trousers and book your...

HOTEL PACKAGE: That is, if you intend to enjoy the full weekend of to-dos, which also include several off-stage happenings as well (yep, an old-school auto show is part of the fun). The tune spectacular has a stay-over partner in the Ventura Crowne Plaza, which is offering a one-night stay -- Saturday night, natch -- and two tickets to the Roadshow Revival. Cost? It starts at $279. Want to spy some other nearby hotels? They're this way, rootsy rockers.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Mission Inn: Heroes' Welcome Package]]> Thu, 26 May 2016 21:09:01 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/missioninndomesky.jpg

HONORING THOSE WHO SERVE... can be done in many moving ways, from parades to picnics to concerts to ceremonies full of pomp. But if you're a hotel, and not a full-on town or community, how do you say "thank you" to military members and first responders? A bit of inn-spiration is in order, and the historic Mission Inn in Riverside has gone the distance for a Memorial Day Weekend special. This shouldn't surprise anyone who knows of the hotel's patriotic history, and the Commanders in Chief who have stayed there (yes, there's a President Taft chair in the lobby, and yes, the Reagans honeymooned at the castle-like property). And to honor its many fans who are active or retired military, or who serve as firefighters and police officers, the Mission Inn is taking Memorial Day -- and a day beyond -- to offer the Heroes' Welcome package. The package is on through...

TUESDAY, MAY 31, and it includes an overnight stay for two, plus a dinner for two at Bella Trattoria Italian Bistro (in the amount of $65), gratis valet parking, and a pair of treats from Casey's Cupcakes. The package price? It starts at $229 per night (just be sure to have your military ID at the ready). In addition, several Memorial Day Weekend buffets will be happening, and while they're not included in the package, feel free to make a reservation if the concept of a hotel buffet is your thing. What is a nice thing, for all businesses, is to find a way to show gratitude to heroes on Memorial Day and every day. The Mission Inn, with its presidential past, is on board.

Photo Credit: Mission Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Buena Park: A Year of Milestone Anniversaries]]> Sun, 29 May 2016 08:05:04 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/buenaparkknottshistoric.jpg

WHEN A FAMILY... or group of friends experiences a spate of major anniversaries -- a couple's 40th anniversary, a person's 10th year in a dream profession, the 15th anniversary of a big move -- the entire 12 months can turn into something of a celebration.

BUENA PARK... is experiencing just those very 12 months in 2016, with three of its famous attractions marking milestones. Milestones that come with special anniversary deals for the fans. The longest-running of the anniversary revelers? The Ghost Town at Knott's Berry Farm, which turns 75 in 2016. To honor the famous area of the theme park, which is rife with wooden buildings, old-timey tunes, and chaps-rocking, spurs-wearing actors, Knott's will host a summer full of yippee-ki-yay-style good times starting on Friday, May 27. There's a new interactive experience in Ghost Town, and GhostRider, the park's wooden coaster, will be back in early June after a refurbishment.

JUST A SKIP AWAY... from the world's most famous berry-stand-gone-big is Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament. Any guesses as to what anniversary the pony-laden, banners-waving spectacular is marking? Nope, it hasn't been around since ye olden 1400s, but it has been on Beach Boulevard knightly (joke) for 30 years.

ARRR: And the relative newcomer on the Buena Park block? The Pirate's Dinner Adventure, which is celebrating 10 years of arrr-ing and adventuring. If you plan to tip your hat at all three attractions, you could probably do so in a very full day. And where else, in a day, can you swing, at least in feel, from the Old West, to a tall ship, to a long ago court of some far-off castle? Here are your discounts to get started on that full and festive and oh-so-Buena-Park-y day.

Photo Credit: Buena Park]]>
<![CDATA[Free Concerts at North Lake Tahoe]]> Wed, 25 May 2016 08:47:52 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/DUSTBOWLCROWDJOY.jpg

SUMMER AT THE LAKE: The ideal June, July, or August getaway tends to change from individual to individual, but plenty of vacationers share some eternal, and eternally pleasing, goals. Finding a little fresh air is key for many of us, as is some time spent in or next to water. A few interesting and "fun" meals would also be lovely, and the time to sleep in without a care in the world (or at least the everyday cares we typically face).

AS FOR MUSIC, live and in person? We want it on our trip and, if possible, we'd like it for free. There are numerous summertime tune festivals, and weekend-long, band-packed extravaganzas, but finding a series that's all about A) solid bands and B) lake-close entertainment and C) absolutely zero admission is a bit trickier. Unless, of course, you're making for North Lake Tahoe, where Concerts at Commons Beach, "North Lake Tahoe's largest free live music event," rocks on for several get-happy weeks. It has a presence within four months, too, with a small push into early September, so whenever you're heading up to the mountains over the summer might just be the right time for a show. Shows like...

DUSTBOWL REVIVAL, a twang-tastic act that opens the 2016 series on June 19, along with Sweetwater String Band. Mumbo Gumbo, Jellybread, Midtown Social, and Joy & Madness are just a few of the other bands that will fill up the Sunday afternoons of a North Lake Tahoe summer with dance-able, chill-out-able tuneage. Picnics are a-okay, or you can buy your vittles from a food purveyor there. And where is "there," exactly? Tahoe City, natch. So plan your water-close time, your vacation-style sleeping in, and your gratis music enjoyment, up the mountains and with a dollop of summer sound-styling on the side.

Photo Credit: Dustbowl Revival]]>
<![CDATA[Temecula Tasty: Microbrew + Chili Fest]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 12:22:55 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/craftbeercheers1-horz.jpg

IF YOU DIG CHILI AND BEER, what intriguing sound, when heard from the other room, is going to summon you more quickly to the kitchen? The opening of the bottle and the glug-glug of the foam filling up a pilsner glass? Or the slice-slice of a knife against a cutting board, as a piquant pepper gets turned into something that can festively, and flavorfully, top a bowl of chili? It's a hard call, but most chili peeps, and beer sippers, would likely look for the box that says "both" before casting their vote. And the reason why both sounds would hold such sway? Because of this: A hearty, ingredient-excellent chili and a deep-toned craft brew are one of the most timeless, don't-mess-with-it pairings of the food/drink world. If you need to experience both together -- if a side of chips with a beer is only a chili substitute, and if a glass of iced tea with your chili is fine but not quite your jam -- head for Temecula, and the Pechanga Resort & Casino, on the second Saturday in June.

THAT'S JUNE 11, which is when The 8th Annual Pechanga Microbrew Festival and Chili Cook-off sets up appetite-stoking shop. There'll be an octet of homemade, meaty, beany, peppery chilis to sample, all created by chefs on staff at the wine country resort. And there shall be "craft and small production brews" hailing from the region (think Riverside, San Diego, and points dotting OC and LA). Are your chili tastes limitless? They are. Is there a designated driver ticket? For sure -- it's $30. Will there be live music? One practically needs live accompaniment when indulging in spicy, sudsy goodness. Is there a beneficiary? There is indeed: Habitat for Humanity Inland Valley.

Photo Credit: Beer/Lars Howlett]]>
<![CDATA[Lompoc: Flower Fields Abloom]]> Sat, 28 May 2016 08:23:25 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/LompocFlowerFields-PinkAndPurple.jpg

WHILE MAY IS THE SWEETEST OF MONTHS, what with all the graduations and the mom-honoring brunches and the weather warming and such, it can be a bit blue-making for those Californians who dig flowers. Specifically wildflowers, we'll add, from the wee yellow buds that make a showing in Death Valley in February to the Sierra stunners that rev up around late April. When May comes, wildflower season bids adieu, and while petals are still in profusion in certain spots right into fall, that feeling of newness, and discovery, and first-bloomage, has ended for another year.

THERE IS A PLACE, however, to get your petal-y fill, and while the specimens aren't wild, they're wonderful, and ready for their photo close-ups. We speak of the Lompoc Valley, one of the flower-growing hearts of the Golden State. And not just any flowers but some of the wowsiest: sweet peas and delphinium and stock rule the school, as do larkspur and other assorted buds. Any of these showy buds add grace to a tabletop bouquet, but when seen in multiples -- as in rows and rows -- well, the cameras shall be clicking. If you've never Lompoc'd, at least where the local flower fields are concerned, best get to the Santa Barbara-close area from...

MAY TO AUGUST: That's when the flower fields truly hit their top bloom, and the timing of the Lompoc Valley Flower Festival, which arrives juuuust at the start of summer, supports this notion. To find these feasts-for-the-eyes, head west of Old Town Lompoc, and use the handy map provided. The peak is described as "late June," so if you're going at any other time, you might check in with Explore Lompoc. Even if you don't time your trip to the biggest of shows, note that the town is also known for murals and wine, which are two rather nice things to be known for, as town-famous things go.

Photo Credit: Lompoc Flower Fields]]>
<![CDATA[On Vacation: Madonna Inn Pink Chocolate]]> Sat, 21 May 2016 10:24:13 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/pinkcakemadonnainn1.jpg

A STAPLE'S SUMMER RETURN: If all the pink in the world were to suddenly disappear overnight -- if every pink bow was drained of its brightness and every pink balloon lost its pink-a-tude -- one feels comforted by the sense that pink could still be found, in profusion, at a famous roadside landmark in San Luis Obispo. We speak, quite on-the-nose-ly, of the Madonna Inn, which doesn't own the idea of pink, but might be able to make a serious claim for it, given how its famous Gold Rush Steak House is awash in full-on, over-the-top pinkness. But even pinker than the restaurant's fine dining restaurant?

THE COLORFUL CAKE: Indeed, the pastries in the hotel's Copper Cafe cake case are incredibly pink. Think specifically of the Pink Champagne Cake, a towering confection covered in swirls so eye-popping they'd give any blue ribbon-winning flower a run for its colorful money. But even pink, apparently, takes a vacation come May and June, much like the loyal vacationers heading for an overnight at the 101-close classic: The pink cake coloring is on break, through "early summer," reports the historic hotel on its official blog. But there's...

A HAPPY ENDING... in that the pink cakes shall soon return, and just in time for the height of summertime travel. "(W)e promise the pink cake shall be back!" says the Madonna Inn blog in bold (for good measure). "Our vendor is currently working diligently to source an all-natural food coloring for our famous cakes." The Apple Spice Cake, in addition to the Pink Champagne, is another rosy favorite, one that has taken on a whiter shade through summer's start. If you're headed to SLO before the pink pastries make their anticipated return, just prepare to enjoy the same flavorful sweets but without the pop of color. If you do require a pop of color post-cake, you can, of course, find it by looking in most any direction around the whimsical, decor-laden, pink-everywhere hotel.

Photo Credit: Alysia Gray Painter]]>
<![CDATA[GoPro Fun at a Carlsbad Inn]]> Fri, 20 May 2016 12:21:03 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/hiltoncarlsbadexterior123.jpg

MAKE THAT MOVIE: Creating a watchable, share-able treat, possibly set to music, with a few bells and whistles thrown in, is something many a family ponders nowadays as they pack up the car for a weekend road trip. Photographs are nice, and text-centered observations about the trip will likely be posted in all of the usual places. But what of some stylish video? Taken in a beautiful spot? That is a key element for a number of travelers, people looking beyond the video capacity of their phones to something a bit more flash. It would be sweet to have a GoPro, if you could, to capture some vacation good-timing, but that typically isn't in the cards. Unless, of course, you book at the Hilton Garden Inn Carlsbad Beach, and you nab the new Ultimate Beach Rental Kit, which includes a GoPro Hero 4. The "beach" part of the kit's name reveals the other intriguing contents: "beach chairs, towels, an umbrella, and sunscreen," all good things to have when you make for...

CARLSBAD STATE BEACH: That's pretty dang close to the inn, and it is regularly cited as one of the loveliest sandy stretches in the area. So break out the GoPro and get to building a sand castle, or sand city, or sand universe, all with the knowledge that the footage you'll have to head home with will be snazzy, indeed. So how much is the Ultimate Beach Rental Kit to book? Sixty bucks a day. Will you post the video later for relatives and friends to enjoy? You probably will, we imagine, thanks to the nifty angles and dolly moves you'll incorporate during your time along the water. Are there other packages at the Carlsbad hotel, specifically oriented to the San Diego Zoo and LEGOLAND? There are, should you want a few more adventures after your GoPro beach day.

Photo Credit: Hilton Carlsbad Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Balloons + Wine at Temecula Valley Fest]]> Fri, 20 May 2016 16:37:29 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/223*120/balloons923892392-horz.jpg

THE SKY OVER WINE COUNTRY: What are the major attention-grabbers when visiting a place lauded for its grape-growing abilities? The beautiful winery architecture is a common favorite, as are the various fountains and gardens that have become frequently seen features of the larger estates. And, yes, all of those rows and rows of vines, whether they're slightly leafy or in full harvest mode, have a way of catching our eye. But there are the pretty skies over wine country, skies that only become more picturesque when a brightly hued balloon joins the picture. Balloons and wine country are a longtime duo, of course, but on a certain weekend in spring that friendship grows ever tighter. It's the Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival, one of the best-known, best-attended weekend parties in any wine country, north or south. The 2016 dates are...

MAY 20 THROUGH 22, and, as is tradition, a bevy of regional wineries will be out with bottles by the case. There's the wine tasting, and the reserve wine tasting, and beer tasting, too, so you'll want to nab a ticket to the to-do of your preference (and, of course, a designated driver and place to stay). The concert slate is brimming, per usual, with Phil Vassar, Just Dave Band, and Parmalee making the tunes for people to relax/dance/sip by. And shall there be food? There shall be, from barbecue to warm-weather desserts (think ice cream, which everyone knows is a fine follow-up to a crisp chardonnay). As for the balloons in the name? The Evening Balloon Glows are popular, but if you can wake with the birdies, get out to the Sunrise Morning Balloon Launches. We mean, 6:30 a.m. isn't too early, right? If you know hot dogs and merlot and live tunes await you later in the day? It's a full-to-the-top weekend, one that has its vine-y roots in 1983. That means lots of attendees, lots of wines, and lots of colorful fliers in the skies above wine country.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Desert Fare: Palm Springs Restaurant Week]]> Wed, 18 May 2016 10:17:31 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/EscenaGrill_signaturechips.jpg

IN SEARCH OF SHADE: While the concept of "shade" gets a lot of play online -- who's sending it and who's receiving it -- it takes on a wholly different meaning around the desert resort cities in June. For summer's official kick-off month is a mite warm around Palm Springs and Cathedral City and Rancho Mirage, you might have heard. That's where all of those wonderful pools come into play, and the misters that line outdoor bars and fire pit areas. As for the daytime? It's all about shade, as in the kind cast by an umbrella or an oasis of palms. But if you happen to be around Palm Springs in early June, or one of the surrounding burgs, you can pair some of that delightful shade-seeking with dining deals galore. For Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week is all about showing off some of the region's most varied vittles, from diner-hearty eats to top-notch gourmand fare. Not just showing off, of course, but showing off at a discount, thanks to an array of prix fixe, multi-course menus. The 2016 dates are... 

FRIDAY, JUNE 3 THROUGH SUNDAY, JUNE 12... and "(o)ver 100 hotels, restaurants & attractions across the Greater Palm Springs area will participate." Ah yes, this isn't just an eat-out thing, but a stay awhile/play awhile thing, too. As for the restaurants on the roster? Johnny Costa's Ristorante, Arnold Palmer's Restaurant, The Nest, Wally's Desert Turtle, and several more spots are part of the June nosh-about. As for finding some sweet shade after an ultra-sunny afternoon? Yep, you can retreat indoors, or find an umbrella on a patio at select spots. As for the P.S. area hosting its annual Restaurant Week just days before the start of summer? We've said it before: It rocks. For sure, winter and spring provide a flurry of fun times around the Coachella Valley, from Modernism Week to the mondo music festivals, but summer's slow down and its shade-seeking ways are primo. Oh yes, and all of those warm-weather, summer-style deals are a sweet as a tropical drink sipped poolside, for sure.

Photo Credit: Escena Grill]]>
<![CDATA[Mountain Trio: Ski/Bike/Golf Challenge]]> Tue, 17 May 2016 15:33:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/225*120/skibikegolfmammothmountain.jpg

THREE ACTIVITIES, ONE DAY: If you're visiting a high-altitude location in January, chances are very good that a pair of long fiberglass gliders are attached to your feet via some sturdy boots. If you're in that same high-altitude spot in August, you've probably got a nine iron in your hand, or perhaps a pair of handlebars. So is there ever a time of year when skiing, golfing, and cycling can dovetail, magically, all in basically the same general area? You'd have to look at the cusp of the summer and winter seasons to see, but there's no need to look too far: Mammoth Mountain traditionally offers a trio of alfresco activities over Memorial Day Weekend, when there's some snow still about but short sleeves are possible. It's the Ski/Bike/Golf Challenge, and it costs ninety bucks to experience all three activities in the course of a day.

THAT'S $99 TO SCHUSS... and club-swing and maybe pop a wheelie, if you feel like you can schedule your hours accordingly, and not get too enamored with any one pursuit (meaning you stay with that one pursuit all day long, which is kind of cool, too, if you're having a ball). Your ski lift ticket is included in that price (or board ticket, if that's your preference), as is your bike park pass and a 9-hole round at Sierra Star Golf Course. Can you do it all in a single day? You can, if you rise/shine in an early manner. Can you save money by doing this? Oh yes (think 50% off). Are there other times of the year where winter and summer pastimes weave together quite as neatly? This is the prime weekend, at least 'round Mammoth. Check out the full deal and start burnishing your golf/ski/cycle skillz, pronto. Offer is good from May 27 to May 30.

Photo Credit: Mammoth Mountain]]>
<![CDATA[Summer Kick-off: Sacramento Music Festival]]> Mon, 16 May 2016 11:59:12 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/leerockersactownfest.jpg

A STREET OF FESTS: We sometimes encounter a lane that has nothing but clothing shops, or a cul de sac that's mostly made up of restaurants, or a thoroughfare that's comprised of small comedy venues. All cool stuff, but it makes us long for the sort of avenue where summer music festivals could set up shop, one next to the other, so that fans may partake in all of the hundreds of acts, and dozens of chef appearances, and oodles of kid to-dos, and bunches of special events that go into making a mega sound-centered spectacular. Alas, some long-view entrepreneur has not yet developed such a street, where all warm-weather fests can live side-by-side, but we can venture out and visit some of the biggies, like the famous Sacramento Music Festival.

YOU'RE CORRECT, if you just said "isn't that a four-day Memorial Day Weekend happening?" It is indeed, meaning it is on the large-ish size-ish for a festival, a total plus considering all of the good things it folds in. Prepare for a "safe, four-day, all-day party featuring LIVE music, 100 unique performances, street dancing, animated parades, instruments booming, and great food and drink in an energetic atmosphere," so, yep, it has it all going on. On the tuneful side of things? Lee Rocker of The Stray Cats'll get the crowd hopping, as will Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Pablo Cruise, Dixie Company Jazz Company, and dozens of other summer's-on-the-way acts fill out the big (big big) bill. Need to kick off the warm/whimsical season with a large-scale festival full of festive moving parts? Look to Sactown for the sound party you crave.

Photo Credit: Lee Rocker]]>
<![CDATA[Road Trip Time: Indian Wells Package]]> Sat, 14 May 2016 08:09:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/renaissancepoolcrindianwells.jpg

HOW YOU GET THERE: It isn't always a common practice for a hotel or resort to inquire specifically how you arrived when you first stroll in the lobby. They might ask after your journey -- "did you have a nice trip?" -- but they're going to talk about your room and the amenities and the dining before asking for you to provide the make/model of your car and license plate (or inquiring about whether you'll need a van back to the airport, if you flew in). Sometimes, though, a package is built around how you got to a place. Look to the new Road Trip offer at the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa, which just revved its engines for the summer 2016 season. It's on through Sept. 10 -- that's a week beyond Labor Day -- and some of the extras and additions are charmingly geared for the car ride home. Yep, that's...

CAR BINGO... in your goody bag, the kind that back-seaters play to wile away the miles. Did you see a sign? A cow? A Beetle? Best record it all on your card. Souvenir sunglasses, too, are a stylish road trip fixture, and all the members of your family'll receive their own pair. Shall there be postcards, too, of the resort? Oh yes, and they're oh-so-handy in letting the friends back home know that you're swimming, relaxing, and savoring those quintessential desert nights by the pool. And will "welcome nachos" be part of your greeting? You bet. Nachos, after all, practically shout "road trip!" with every gooey cheesy bite. (Well, it's more of a "crunch," technically, but you get our meaning.)

TO BOOK THE ROAD TRIP... package at the Renaissance, you'll need the code SPU (and you'll want to check out the details and so forth). There's a lot happening during the toastier months 'round the desert resorts, so check out the kid-sweet club, pools, and dining choices. Ready to pack the trunk and unfold the map? Well, even if our maps are on our phones, the spirit of map-unfolding-ness, and the adventure of the open highway, truly lives on in road-trippers across California.

Photo Credit: Indian Wells]]>
<![CDATA[Art + Heart: Paint the Parks!]]> Fri, 13 May 2016 06:17:44 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/painttheparks_wasimmuklashy.jpg

EASEL, BRUSH, CANVAS, MOUNTAIN: Many visitors to our national and state parks arrive with a way to capture all the majesty they encounter. Maybe that's a camera around their neck, or a sketchbook in their bag, or a few watercolors, and brushes, to lend a spectacular sunset or copse of trees the colorful love they deserve.

If you love to paint nature, where do your paintings go? Perhaps you give them to grateful friends, or sell them to excited fans, or keep your favorites in your home. You can, via the Paint the Parks! program, do a little something else: Sell them, yes, but with the vow to donate 10% of the sale to "non-profit Park Associations" as well as an foundations or programs that benefit protected lands. 

PLEIN AIR OR STUDIO: If the idea of packing up your gear for a day of brush strokes under the sky isn't exactly your thing, and you prefer to work from memory, or photos, in your own studio, that's a-okay, too. There are a few guidelines, like only painting "places you have actually visited," the better to recall the full-flavored experience of standing before a redwood or Half Dome or a sea cave at Channel Islands National Park. Founder Karin H. Leonard, who grew up "wandering the fields" of her grandparents' farm in Germany, shares links to artists' web sites on the Paint the Parks! homepage, as well as announcements on paintings sold. Consider this a triply nice thing to do for nature, for people, and for you. You gain the enjoyment of painting, the person who buys your piece will love it for always, and the park foundation or organization of your choice receives a portion of the sale. Ready to wield a brush and recall that amazing day you spent at Pinnacles or the Salton Sea? Get painting, then, nature friend.

Pictured: China cove at Pt. Lobos State Reserve by Karin H. Leonard 

Photo Credit: Wasim Muklashy]]>
<![CDATA[Dippable Delish: Castroville Artichoke Fest]]> Fri, 13 May 2016 06:16:58 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/artichokes+produce+pete.jpg

DIP IT, BAKE IT, SPREAD IT: There's no denying that videos depicting puppies tumbling through flowery fields and kittens playing with tangly yarn capture our online affections. We'll hit "replay" again and again, thank you very much, and we're not even going to bother hashtagging "no regrets" when we do so. But adorable animal videos may have an unlikely challenger, one that comes straight from the thistle family and your local produce aisle: the artichoke. While just about every foodstuff that can be cooked/chopped/blended boasts oodles of video explanation, artichokes, being a tad unusual, have a way of regularly popping up on our feeds.

A PLETHORA OF RECIPES, how to get to the heart in a semi-neat fashion, and ways to douse the chokie in Parmesan are just some of the do-it-at-home videos in which artichokes currently reign. They also, of course, reign offline, and very much so in the town that's the celebrated Artichoke Capital of the World. Tuck in your oil/mayo-catching bib and prepare to make tracks for the...

CASTROVILLE ARTICHOKE FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL, which is actually happening at the capacious Monterey County Fair and Event Center. The 57th outing of the world-famous Artichoke Festival spreads out, like so many pointy green leaves, over the first weekend in June, with chef demos, artichoke field tours, and a host of ways to savor the globular green gem. It isn't all about the dippable delight, of course; a car show, art enjoyment, and live tunes are also part of the festivity. Can you never get enough of this thistle-awesome favorite? Does your videos-watched log reveal your artichoke obsession? Clearly you need to indulge in some leafy love on June 4 and 5, 2016.

<![CDATA[Luscious Stuff: California Strawberry Festival]]> Wed, 11 May 2016 10:16:06 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/csfhandholdingberryview.jpg

SAVE THE STRAWBERRIES: Anyone who has ever made anything involving fruit knows just how precious five or six really ripe, extra large strawberries can be. If you're putting together a spinach salad, maybe with some piñon nuts or blue cheese, you're going to slice up those berries as thinly as possible, to make sure they're evenly distributed. If you're blending a smoothie, same deal; you'll throw the melon and bananas into the mix, with abandon, but the strawberries are precious and must be measured out, just to make sure you have enough for breakfast tomorrow.

SO IMAGINE, if you will, attending a weekend-long spectacular where there's so much strawberry-mondo deliciousness that no measuring out or portioning or saving needs to be done. You won't need to stow the last two berries in the bin for tomorrow, for at the 33rd California Strawberry Festival, it is all strawberries all the time, from strawberry nachos to strawberry pie to strawberry crepes to fried strawberries (which sounds terrifically tangy and deeply savory all at once). You know the place where the strawberry reigns. It's...

STRAWBERRY MEADOWS, in College Park in Oxnard. The agricultural hub will again host the carnival-fun, recipe-intriguing shebang on Saturday, May 21 and Sunday, May 22. There's the "Berry Blast-off" recipe contest, which marks its 8th year in 2016, the ever-popular contests including the Tart Toss, a Pie-Eating showdown, and the Strawberry Build-Off. And as for consuming all of the green-topped, seed-mazing, bright-flavored strawberrynes you want to, without having to save a few in the produce drawer for tomorrow night's dessert? Check it out: "An estimated 1.5 million strawberries will be consumed over the weekend.." Good stuff, and even better: Many food booths are non-profits, so consider that your tasty strawberry dish, and the money you paid for it, is moving on to help someone else. Nothing, not even a strawberry, is as sweet as that.

Photo Credit: California Strawberry Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Quirky Cars: Nevada City Soapbox Derby]]> Tue, 10 May 2016 03:45:12 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ncsdoutsideinn123.jpg

JUNE JAUNT: April may bring spring showers, and various flowers, and Tax Day, and lighter evenings, but it also brings inspiration, at least in terms of us deciding to start planning our summer season getaways. Those warm-weather getaways not only involve us traveling to the spot we want to see, but also traveling while we're there. Sometimes we plan a kayak trip, or some snowboarding, or we plot a cycling course through some picturesque countryside, but however we go, we are going, going, going.

AND WHILE OUR GETAWAYS... often involve some sort of movement once we reach our chosen destination, that movement typically doesn't involve a nailed-together car that looks like a large dog. We'll just go out on a limb with that one, assumption-wise, though if your weekend getaway plans typically involve human-powered vehicles that look like large dogs, well, due respect. That said, there are a couple of weekend getaway spots that are alllll about stupendous soapbox cars, and one of the biggest dates on the California calendar is just ahead. It's on Sunday, June 5, and...

PIONEER PARK IN NEVADA CITY... is the place, of course ("of course" because Nevada City fully embraces all things quirky). The 6th Annual Nevada City Adult Soapbox Derby will once again toodle down Nimrod Street "at speeds exceeding 40 mph," with loads of hay bales separating onlookers from the lovingly made, creatively designed vehicles. Some of the vehicles are built to go fast, and some are built to be fabulous, and both types play an important role at the yearly showdown. If you want to eye these moving artworks while they're not moving, the pit area is open to the public. As for the budget capper on these cars? Teams can spend $500 bucks, and no more, though the braking budget is separate (gravity and soapbox racing go hand-in-hand, so braking is given a lot of love, natch).

THE DAY IS A TRIBUTE... to old-school, hands-on construction, with a deep streak of whimsy through the middle, making it both about engineering and art. That whimsy, of course, is not only seen in the cars ready to race but in the town at large, which busily marks the merry day with other lively events. No need to stow your bike or boat, either, while you're there; there are places around Northern Gold Country to enjoy both. But if you're in the heart of Nevada City on the first Sunday in June, the moving vehicles are all about those quaint 'n quirky soapbox cars, be they speed machines or cars built to look like large dogs.

Photo Credit: Outside Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Summer Concert Series on Catalina Island]]> Sat, 14 May 2016 08:10:37 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Santa+Catalina_Avalon_Aerial_4water.jpg

AN ISLAND, LIVE TUNES... and general balmy-weathered relaxing, all enjoyed simultaneously, seems like a combo that might hail from the "too good to be true" files. And yet such a combo is nigh, on the horizon, and in California, too. The island in question? It's Catalina, with its storied hills, beautiful buffalo, historic Casino building, and the delightful Descanso Beach Club, which really sits along the sand next to the Pacific Ocean. The live tunes in the equation? They'll be a summery centerpiece, over a series of special nights at the beach club, with Smash Mouth revving up the jam and rocking the wave-adjacent getaway on Saturday, May 28. (Indeed, that's the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, if you're pondering a three-day diversion to the famous isle.) And the general balmy-weathered relaxing bit? That comes par for the course on the golf cart-laden island, which sits about 22 miles from mainland Los Angeles. The beach club ups that feeling with cabanas, ocean-facing loungers, perfectly placed palms, and dining/drinking choices at the ready.

THE CONCERT CALENDAR... continues during the summer of '16, with Toad the Wet Sprocket & Rusted Root on July 8, Coleman Hell on Aug. 12, and The Wailers rounding out the series on Saturday, Sept. 3 (yep, Labor Day Weekend). The Santa Catalina Island Company is presenting the concerts, by the by, and, for sure, you'll need to book passage in addition to securing your show ticket ahead of time (you can also reserve a cabana, if that's your preference). So what will you like better? Seeing a favorite act, the ocean, the sand, being on an island in summer, or the whole shebang? We'll wager most people'll vote for the final pick on the list. Your sand-covered, shoes-off info is this way, buffalo buffs.

Photo Credit: Santa Catalina Island]]>
<![CDATA[Sun, Tunes, Vibes: Joshua Tree Music Festival]]> Fri, 06 May 2016 10:46:54 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GregPetersonLuminessencePhoto.jpg

'TIS THE SOUND-FILLED SEASON... for big desert tune to-dos, from the Coachella Music and Arts Festival to Stagecoach, which brings top country acts to Indio at the very end of April (and start of May). But if you're out enjoying the arid landscape, and you adore a large-scale -- but not too large -- lark that's all about songs plus yoga plus art-making, then best stick around, or return for, the Joshua Tree Music Festival. This is the twice-a-year festival that not only is very much about good vibes, and appreciating nature, and tunes inspired by global rhythms, and downward dogs, but it also has a distinctly family-esque feel. There are several activities for the tots in attendance, from Bubbles and Wands (cool) to Face Painting (neat) to a Kids Silent Disco Dance Party (awesome). A project involving Tie Dye Tiles, and an interactive mural, are also on the family-sweet docket. As for the concert side of the...

MAY 12 THROUGH 15 FESTIVAL? Look/listen for Desert Rhythm Project, Dhara World Music, All Good Funk Alliance, Greener Grounds, 3rd Ear Experience, and several more artists and acts. Other quintessential experiences around the sun-bright spread include the Positive Vibration Station, the Yoga & Healing area, and Astronomy Theater (the better to soak up all of that velvety night sky). The easy-breezy flow is strong with this bi-yearly party, one that's summed up nicely on the Frequently Given Answers page (which in itself is emblematic of the fest, as "answers" replaces the usual "questions"). One nice note to ponder from the page? "Dancing is not required, but virtually unavoidable." That says much about the JTMF, which marks its 14th spring outing in 2016.

Photo Credit: Greg Peterson/Luminessence Photo]]>
<![CDATA[Napa Valley: Do It For The Love Benefit]]> Fri, 06 May 2016 10:44:57 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/mfrantiGettyImages-485889423.jpg

SONGS ABOUT LOVE: There are, of course, thousands of emotional ballads about love, and sweetness, and caring, but not every passionate ditty deals with the notion of romance. Oftentimes the good feeling burbling behind a hit tune stems from the concept of community, and human-to-human concern, and the respect we show our fellow travelers on this lifely journey. Concerts, then, and music festivals, are fine places to meditate upon these tender topics, which find a lot of play within the themes of the music (and the spirit of the event itself). BottleRock Napa Valley, which will again strum it up over the Friday through Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, will feature a song or two or twenty dealing with these positive vibes, vibes that will get an early start, ahead of the festival, on Thursday, May 26. That's when the Do It For The Love dinner and concert is scheduled to raise the roof, and raise some funds, at Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford. If you know...

DO IT FOR THE LOVE, you know the organization's founder, Michael Franti, and his wife, ER nurse Sara Agah Franti, wanted to create a way the help bring "people living with life-threatening illnesses, children with severe challenges, and wounded veterans to live concerts." The foundation fundraiser is set at 150 guests, so Mr. Franti's alfresco live set should engender a feeling on draw-together intimacy for all who gather. Mercedes-Benz USA is presenting the food-fabulous evening, along with Do It For the Love, so count on cocktails, small bites, wines, and luxe eats at "an array of food stations" at the hotel's Michelin-starred eatery.

PACKAGE: Will there be an on-site afterparty? Indeed, so head for the Bubble Lounge, where sparkling wines are the theme. Is there a multi-night stay-over package you can book, if a longer stay at Auberge is your jam? There is, and it is called The Mercedes-Benz Rock & Ride Weekend (there shall be cars to test out at the hotel, in addition to several other vacation-ready perks). Will it be heart-embiggening to savor the songs at BottleRock Napa Valley, later in the weekend, knowing you started out your stay with some community-style love? So heart-embiggening. If you can't attend the dinner and concert, but want to help out Do It For The Love, you so totally can.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Taffeta and Tails: Puppy Prom]]> Thu, 05 May 2016 06:37:45 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/puppyprom15_ranchosantafe.jpg

A DANCE FOR DOGGIES: If you attended prom, you probably went through one or two or twelve outfit changes. The emerald cummerbund wasn't emerald enough; the bowtie was too big; the skirt of the cute gown didn't possess any proper twirl (a serious charge to levy, indeed). Prom, in short, is an intense time, one aswirl with feeling, drama, and high hopes. But the high hopes of many prom attendees in Rancho Santa Fe have already been met, and they didn't involve a perfectly sized bowtie or a twirlable skirt. The hopes were all about a forever home, which many pooches from the Helen Woodward Animal Center found after a tenure at the pet-sweet spot. To celebrate its alumni, and to honor a springtime tradition usually found at high school gyms and hotels, the center is hosting its annual Puppy Prom on Saturday, May 7.

IF YOU ADOPTED YOUR PUP... from the center, you're invited to "visit the old school" with your pumpkin in tow. Have something prom-y for your Boston Terrier or Greyhound to wear? That's the name of the glam'd-up game. A King and Queen will be crowned during the midday event, and kids can learn to make corsages at an activity area. And will there be "wallflower adoptables" hoping to be noticed? Puppy Prom is a sweet-of-heart adoption event, too, so keep your eyes peeled for those pooches not on the proverbial dance floor. But will your Bichon Frise rock a bowtie? Or will your Cairn Terrier don a cummerbund? It's all in fun, and alumni affection, with the hope to place a few more lovable pups.

Photo Credit: Helen Woodward Animal Center]]>
<![CDATA[Joshua Tree Funky: Spin and Margie's]]> Wed, 04 May 2016 14:20:17 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/frontentrancespinmargies.jpg

THE ARID OFFBEAT: Most every sort of destination, be it in the mountains or on the beach, has its own aesthetic vibe, a vibe that may or may not be followed by the denizens of the area. But hotels and inns often do observe the regional aesthetic, to varying degrees, if only because when travelers think of, say, the beach, they think of seashells or creams and blues or airy linens (conversely, for the mountains, visitors like logs and fireplaces and such). So what's the desert aesthetic, at least around California? That's a challenge to pin down, for the Anza Borrego is different from the Mojave is different from the eastern Salton Sea. But look to Spin and Margie's Desert Hide-a-Way, a funky stay-over right outside Joshua Tree National Park, for so deftly, and delightfully, incorporating the Arid Offbeat.

RETRO, COLORFUL, UNFUSSY: So what's Arid Offbeat? Think highly saturated hues, like rich reds and deep blues, to complement the earthy surrounding desert, and think retro-ish furniture that pays homage to all of the adventure novels and shows that used the cacti-dotted landscape as a setting. Spin and Margie's perfects the funky laid-back-a-tude that people seek around Joshua Tree, thanks in part to the natural but well-gardened property and mid-century metal garden chairs made for sitting and admiring the big sky. The five casitas, some sharing a wall, some not, have charming handles like The Mojave Wanderer and The Desert Rambler. And each boasts its own distinctive old-school artwork, furniture, and such, and a couple come with kitchens as well (for those longer sojourns, so needed when one requires some cosmic communing with the desert). Homey to the max, with the added benefit of a picnic and barbecue area outside on the grounds.

GATEWAY TO THE MOJAVE: Need to know what's happening in the area as far as hiking and adventuring goes? Co-owner Mindy Kaufman, who bought the property with Drew Reese in 2000, keeps a lively blog about nature outings in the area. Find your Arid Offbeat dreams here, before you load up the wagon and head for the boulderiest bastion in all of the Golden State.

Photo Credit: Drew Reese]]>
<![CDATA[Foxtrot in an Island Landmark]]> Wed, 04 May 2016 21:27:04 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Casino_7020catalinachamber.jpg

IT ISN'T ALL THAT UNUSUAL... to hope for a fox sighting while on the boat over to Catalina Island. After all, the Island Fox is a beloved inhabitant of the Channel Islands, and the chance to catch a momentary glimpse of these fleet-of-foot, furry-of-coat superstars doesn't come around every day. But if you're wishing for a fox sighting, and to also perform the foxtrot, all in the course of a single weekend, ah, well then: You're obviously on your way to the Avalon Ball, one of dressiest, danciest dates on the island calendar.

IF YOU KNOW... your Avalon architecture, then you'll likely know exactly where the Avalon Ball takes place: It's the Casino Building, the 1920s-era gem that sits grandly in the Pacific, or seemingly so, depending upon where you view it from (it is indeed connected to the island itself, and isn't on another smaller isle adjacent to Catalina). The ball is heading into its 14th year, which makes it rather easy to remember its 2016 date: Saturday, May 14. Hosted by the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles, the Avalon Ball is very much about looking your flapper-esque best and shimmying to big band tunes under the vintage ballroom's Tiffany chandeliers. 

RETRO-SMOOTH PERFORMER... Dean Mora will be at the mic, along with the Avalon Ball Dance Orchestra. Evening gloves, bow ties, dramatic fringe, and Brylcreemed locks are all part of the style, which is as time-machine-y as soirees come nowadays. Lending it further mystery is the fact that you're on an island that feels away from it all, especially come nighttime when the boat lights twinkle on the water of the harbor, just outside of the ballroom. Will you foxtrot during the ball? Here's hoping. Will you see a wee fox, out in the island's interior, during a hike the following day, should you choose to stay on Catalina a bit longer? Perhaps, though you'll probably spy a buffalo or three, even if the foxes are shy. It's a spectacular trip to the past, and to an island, all at once, and those two experiences typically arrive separately. Have fun in 1929, Art Deco devotees, and give our best to the foxes, and the buffalo, oh, and those Catalina-cool flying fishies...

Photo Credit: Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce]]>
<![CDATA[Chardonnay Symposium on the Central Coast]]> Mon, 02 May 2016 12:17:08 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/chardsympshutterstock.jpg

A SPRING IN YOUR SIP: Most of us are seeking to put a spring in our step, come the warmer days of May. But putting a spring in your sip is something else altogether, though the idea is clear enough. Springtime, and its soon-to-follow BFF summer, are all about lighter libations, the sorts of beverages that are best enjoyed with the temperature pushes upward and the setting is somewhere outdoors. The annual International Chardonnay Symposium in Pismo Beach and Avila Beach is timed quite well to this notion, arriving, as it does, just a couple of weeks ahead of Memorial Day Weekend. Chard fans, as a rule, are feeling rather jazzed about all of those outdoor soirees on the horizon, and the chance to taste some truly high quality labels, and meet experts on taste-worthy topic, is too delicious to pass up. If this sippable light white is your jam pretty much from May through September, best make a date to be in SLO on...

THURSDAY, MAY 12 THROUGH SATURDAY, MAY 14: "Chardonnay producers from around the world" will make for both Pismo and Avila, as well as Edna Valley, for "an in-depth exploration of the world's favorite grape and its impact on viticulture, tastemakers and the market." A sommelier challenge, involving 20 wine experts, will involve a double-blind tasting, and a day of tech discussion, followed by a barbecue, is also on the docket. Comparative tastings, an oyster-yummy gala, a discussion voted to the nooks and crannies of oak's role in fine chardonnay, and a look at various regional tastes of California dot the events calendar. As for vintners ready to show and socialize? Alpha Omega out of St. Helena, Foxen of Santa Maria Valley, and nearby Harmony Cellars are a few of the many (many x 10) wineries on board. Want to dig deeper into all the participants? You'll want to start here.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>