<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Worth the Trip]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcsandiego.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.comen-usSat, 22 Jul 2017 17:55:37 -0700Sat, 22 Jul 2017 17:55:37 -0700NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Lobsterfest: Newport Beach Party]]> Sat, 22 Jul 2017 14:01:24 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/LobsterNewport1.jpg

THE FIRST WEEKEND IN AUGUST? That's when things start to get mighty serious about the mighty serious topic of making some summer-style fun. Back-to-school ads are popping up on the air and in the paper, pencil cases are lining the store shelves, and you realize that the double-dose of joyful "J" months — June and July, both — have flown on by with the speed of a dancing kite. If you're going to sit by some shimmery blue water, and dine upon seafood, and do that whole basking-in-the-rays thing, it has to step up when August arrives on the doorstep. And water, dining, and rays come into focus each year at the beginning of the eighth month when...

LOBSTERFEST AT NEWPORT BEACH... returns. Note, first off, that this is a one-day affair, an afternoon-into-evening soiree, which is a good thing to keep in mind, as some of the other Southern California lobster parties, both in July and September, run into full weekend territory. Two? The Sunday, Aug. 6 to-do a fundraiser hosted by Leadership Tomorrow for Make-A-Wish Orange County and Inland Empire, so your ticket will help a wonderful organization. And three? The address, 101 N. Bayside Drive, says it all: You'll be doing the whole bibs 'n butter thing in the presence of water, which always ups the general seafood-focused atmosphere. If you dig red potatoes, corn on the cob, and other complementary sides, those'll be part of the feasting, along with the whole Maine lobster.

YOUR TICKET? It's sixty bucks to attend Lobsterfest at Newport Beach, with kid tickets coming in at $20 and VIP admission at $150. To see what entry works for you, eye all, but don't wait too long. August is on the horizon, and one of Orange County's lobster-iest larks is ready to butter people on the search for summer fun up.

Photo Credit: Lobsterfest]]>
<![CDATA[Mammoth Lift + Lodging Deal: Wintry Savings]]> Fri, 21 Jul 2017 14:02:23 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/2017-02-22_NEW_SNOW_KW_090.jpg

YOU MAY MOP YOUR BROW... often around the middle of summer, and apply a bit more sunblock, and inch a little closer to the oscillating fan, all while wondering when cooler days will once again reign. When, you fervently ponder, will the slopes be open for skiing again? When can I schuss, and savor a few chilly runs, and feel that frosty feeling? Here's the not-so-breaking news on that frigid front: The summer of 2017 has been a little offbeat, in that regard, since the winter of 2016-2017 was just so incredibly snow-tastic up in the Sierra Nevada. It so happens, as we enter those ol' Dog Days o' Summer, that skiing is still happening, up at Mammoth Mountain, and will be into August, though how long into August is still a delightful mystery. So as you dream of the slopes, your usual summer reverie, people are still grabbing their poles and gloves at the higher elevations. But check it out: Once Mammoth shutters in August, all eyes will be on...

NOV. 9, 2017, the expected opening day of the 2017-2018 season. If you can't make it up the big hill over the next few weeks for last-of-the-summer skiing, you can book at Lift + Lodging package at a Mammoth property before Monday, Sept. 18 and save, save, save on a visit next season. Why did we type three saves in a row there? Because this package kicks off at $119 per night, a bit of a song as far as ski fun goes. You'll need to stay two nights, or more, and lift tickets are included for everyone in the party with "every night booked." Are you and your board-loving buds already talking about a trip later in autumn? Between Thanksgiving and New Year's, perhaps? This might be your next topic of conversation. For while the summer skiing continues, many a Mammoth maven is already keeping watching down the road, on all of the wintry fun, and cost-saving opportunities, to come.

Photo Credit: Kevin Westenbarger/MMSA]]>
<![CDATA[Sip of Julian: Mountain Libations]]> Fri, 21 Jul 2017 14:13:30 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/212*120/cider223-horz.jpg

APPLE, GRAPE, REFRESHMENT, FUN: Truly, even if it isn't the annual apple-themed time around Julian, which happens around late September each year, you can count on the shiny, stem-rocking fruit to make a cameo, regardless of the celebration. And so it shall flavorfully be at Sip of Julian, the yearly festival devoted to the beverages that hail from the delightful mountain burg. As you might expect, there's plenty of vino producers on the participant list, but cider, too, will make a fruit-forward cameo, as will craft beers. In other words? Whatever your libation pleasure, whether it hail from hops, grapes, or a tree-growing fruit, you're likely to find it at the August-lovely event. You'll want to head up into the hills on the first Saturday in August, so Aug. 5, and plan to get up on your local drinks from 11 in the morning through to 5 in the afternoon. First things first, you'll likely want to check out...

A PLACE TO STAY FOR THE NIGHT, like the Julian Gold Rush Hotel Bed & Breakfast or Apple Tree Inn, so best examine all of your bed-down hospitality choices for the night before even procuring your Sip of Julian ticket. Step two? Get to know the octet of beverageries on the list. Julian CiderWorks, Julian Hard Cider, Menghini Winery, and Nickel Beer Company are all setting out the drinkware and meeting new fans on Aug. 5, so here's your chance to find a new mountain-based sip staple. (And, for sure, "small bites" will be served, too, during the course of the day). Step three? Purchase your $25 ticket. Finally, step fa, la, la four? Know that this all supports a holiday classic, Julian's Annual Country Christmas and Tree Lighting Celebration, which will happen in 2017 on Saturday, Nov. 25, just a couple of days after Thanksgiving. Find your designated-driving friend, book a hotel, and get to knowing what spirits, liquids, and sippables are being made up, up, up in Julian these days.

Photo Credit: Cider + Apples]]>
<![CDATA[Inn Town Campground Celebrates 1st Year]]> Wed, 19 Jul 2017 12:24:34 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/outdoormovie_InnTownCampground.jpg

NEITHER EITHER/OR BUT BOTH? That can be a tad tricky to find in this world, and it matters not what the theme or topic might be. For we humans so often long for a combo experience, something that's a bit sweet and a bit salty, something that has a dash of the sun as well as moonlight. Our choice, though, typically falls in the either/or section of choice-makery, and we must make do with one side of the fuller picture we long to know. Take camping, which is often a true in-the-woods happening. Then take an in-town visit, where one that has access to restaurants, shops, and theater. The two don't usually intersect, due to the nature of how far the woods stand from our citified lives, but a new intersection began up, in the summer of 2016, in Nevada City, with the combo, you-can-have-it-both-ways name of the...

INN TOWN CAMPGROUND: The trees-y, glamp-it-up destination just marked its first anniversary, and it continues to flicker on, like a campfire might, into its second year. You can arrive with your own tent or caravan, or you can book a glamping tent, a space that's fully set up with a bed. The social aspects include cornhole, movies, a swimming pool, a camp store, and a place to do laundry (as well as a kitchen), while the quieter aspects include the chance to keep close to your tent and commune with the trees towering above you. And as for the pleasures of funky Nevada City? The eateries of Broad Street are about a five-minute drive, as is the also-funky Outside Inn, a themed-room stay-over spot helmed by the founders of the Inn Town Campground. If you want trees, stars, and some chillness, and you also want access to a bookstore, a coffeehouse, and a tavern, there are few places to find both, and in such accessible fashion, but the Inn Town Campground is your town-woods middle meeting point.

Photo Credit: Erin Thiem]]>
<![CDATA[Taste of Yosemite 2018]]> Tue, 18 Jul 2017 11:50:14 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/DEstesJStewart+demo.jpg+%281%29.jpg

THE HOLIDAYS... aren't just about the foods we eat, like the cheese-filled dates and the ginger cookies and the chocolate cocktails and the posole and the 12-layer casseroles. It's about the foods we would like to eat, one day, down the road, perhaps during the next holiday season though probably far sooner. Which means that, if you're a devoted practitioner of the kitchen arts, you might just find yourself unwrapping a nifty new spatula or mixer near the end of the year. But foodie gifts, at the holidays, don't always come wrapped or topped with a traditional bow; they can also be experiences, and times of learning, and one of the loveliest, and national-park-iest, arrives just a few days into the new year. It's Taste of Yosemite, at the Majestic Hotel, and the roster is live for the 2018 sessions, which start to sizzle/sauté/bake/simmer on...

JAN. 7: That's a four-day session, with Brian Streeter of Cakebread Cellars, Ryan Scott of Ryan Scott 2 Go, and David Bazirgan of Bambara in Massachusetts leading the tantalizing and informative gourmet presentations. Other sessions will follow throughout the first month, with some running for two days, some for three or four, and the talented line-up will change with each (Duskie Estes & John Stewart of Sebastopol's Zazu, Peggy Smith & Sue Conley of Cowgirl Creamery, and several other toque-rocking stars'll appear). Want to do a Session & Lodging Package? Those are available. How about just Dinner Only? That's a possibility, too. Plan on supping in stellar fashion, picking up tips, and feeling that perfect crisp chill of a Yosemite January, every time you step outdoors for an appetite-stoking constitutional.

Photo Credit: Taste of Yosemite]]>
<![CDATA[Ojai Storytelling Festival: Thrilling Tales]]> Mon, 17 Jul 2017 15:47:26 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/OSF-Cover-2017-Hot-Air-Balloon.jpg

WHEN YOU HEARD A BOOK READ ALOUD, back when you were just a wee tot, maybe from your vantage point of the library floor (one of the very best spots for storytime) or while cuddled up with your stuffed animals, just before night-night, you likely, somewhere deep in your noggin, realized you'd live a life loving stories of all sorts. Those stories, as we grow older, can take on many fabulous and memorable forms, from movies to games, but we still connect to the experience of sitting before a right-there storyteller as they place their hands in the air, and widen their eyes, the better to convey mystical valleys or strange characters or outlandish legends or a bit of all of the above. Storytelling isn't a lost art form, and to say we enjoy it less frequently as adults isn't correct, given the surge of live storytelling events at bars and restaurants in recent years and the many public radio shows and podcasts that celebrate all sorts of story-sharing. To dig in even deeper, though, consider a visit to the...

OJAI STORYTELLING FESTIVAL, which will once again feature talented performers who are able to put together fantastical imagery and plots and character through their words and ability to connect with the audience members sitting before them. The four-day festival runs from Thursday, Sept. 7 through Sunday, Sept. 10, and a host of events, from "High Energy Tales" to "Music and Stories" are on the rundown. Most of the sessions are open to both adults and kids, though there is the adults-only "Naughty Tales Under the Stars on the Patio" on Saturday, Sept. 9. And if you're hoping to pick up pointers on your own style of storytelling, and burnish your excite-a-crowd abilities, there shall be workshops, too. Just check out the tickets, prices, times, and locations — the Ojai Art Center and the Libbey Bowl are the two main spots — and see what you're drawn to, in terms of listening and learning. If you've been yearning to get up on a stage to spin out a yarn, or try your hand at a story podcast, let this venerable festival, which is now in its 17th year, be your carry-you-higher wind. For a listing of all of the fabulous tellers, begin your journey here.

Photo Credit: Ojai Storyteling Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Vintage Flair: Queen Mary Art Deco Weekend]]> Sat, 15 Jul 2017 10:48:44 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/QMDecoDancers.jpg

SPECIALTY SHOPS... brim with beautiful, decades-old items, from beaded sateen gloves, the kind that go up to the elbows, to waistcoats embroidered with all sorts of shimmery threads. We can of course, wear all of the vintage treasures we discover whenever we please, and should, for saving the good hat, or the good gloves, or the good anything for a special day is generally not advised. (Every day is a special day, is the upbeat takeaway there.) But while many people who regularly rock the gorgeous '40s-era togs, complete with seamed stockings and perky fascinators, are a-okay with being the only gussied-up individual in the room, it is kind of a gas to mingle among other gussy-uppers also sporting some sort of bygone style. One place to do just that? On the Queen Mary, in Long Beach, during the forever-moored ship's annual...

ART DECO WEEKEND: This is the summer affair that's very much about architecture, and history, yes, but also socializing, and the sartorial pleasures, too. The 2017 festival, which is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 19 and Sunday, Aug. 20, will once include elements of both architecture (of the ship) and architecture (of clothing) in goodly proportion. A lecture spotlighting MGM costume designer Adrian is on the roster, as a look at absinthe. If you're into the styles of bathrooms from 80 or so years ago? That, too, will be discussed. A Swingin' Sunday Tea Dance, a Vintage Bazaar, and other time-travel-y, zap-to-the-past events will all roll out, too, as grandly as a carpet across a glittery ballroom. Have been aboard the time machine that is the Queen Mary? It's a slice of early-'30s-dom, with Scottish roots, ghostly tales, and grandeur to spare.

Photo Credit: Queen Mary]]>
<![CDATA[Winchester Mystery House: Explore More Tour]]> Fri, 14 Jul 2017 11:23:57 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/FrontofHouseSunsetwinchester.jpg

IN YOUR IMAGINATIVE MIND, the Winchester Mystery House is as big as a city, even if you've been to the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, or you've seen it on a cable show, or you read about it in a book about the supernatural. For so much lore swirls around its wending hallways and doors to nowhere and the former lady of the mansion herself, Sarah Winchester, that it can be hard to fathom that it is an abode that isn't, in fact, endless. There are distinct spots where the exterior walls come to a close, or a turn, on the property, though, admittedly, the historical gem is ginormous, flat-out gargantuan, end of story. Which means this: There's probably stuff inside you haven't seen, even if you've personally been winsome over the Winchester for most of your life. Front-and-centering fans with some of those rarely seen corners of the rambling manse is what the recently started Explore More tour does, a walk-around that just happens to be the "...first all-new tour to be offered at Winchester Mystery House in more than 20 years..."

WHAT'S ON IT? Count on spying "areas of the house never-before open to the public," and count on a top-to-bottom visit, from the earthiest reaches of the mansion to the rooftops. And will there be some history woven through? You can count on it, since the Explore More tour "is presented in combination with the Mansion Tour," which delves into the life of Sarah Winchester and how all of those rooms for all of those spirits first came into being. One final question from the phantomists out there might be whether the spaces that are seen on the tour are finished or not. There are "unfinished" areas of the house to be viewed, which lends a time-folding, no-decades-have-gone-by feel to the adventure. Need even more adventure, beyond rooftops and unfinished spaces? Hold on tight: The Halloween season candlelight tours are just ahead.

Photo Credit: Winchester Mystery House]]>
<![CDATA[L'Auberge Del Mar: Win, Place, Show Package]]> Fri, 14 Jul 2017 21:25:18 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/aubergedelmar02932323.jpg

A SOLID NIGHT OF EXCELLENT SLEEP, the kind where you tuck into a number of plump pillows while lounging upon a freshly made bed, will always prepare you for whatever you have going on the following day. Yes, we went with "always" there, very firmly and with no apologies, for you've likely read a dozen articles in recent months suggesting, advising, and all-out cajoling people to commit to more and better sleep for a better next day. ("All-out cajoling" isn't advisable for many things in this life, but, in the realm of sleep, it kind of works.). And if you intend to root for a particular horse the following day, at an historic race track, complete with cheering that horse and jockey on, all while craning your neck for a better glimpse, and holding up a pair of binoculars to your eyes, and leaping up and down as your duo crosses the finish line, a sweet snooze at a place not too far from the track sounds like just the ticket. Take...

L'AUBERGE DEL MAR... for example, a luxe-lively, ocean-adjacent resort that's a few minutes drive from Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. You can bet that during the club's summertime season the hotel is hopping with mane mavens, those horsey hullabaloo seekers who want a few sound zzzs near the oval. To welcome those pony people, the hotel is once again offering a package called Win, Place, Show. Book it and enjoy a swanky room for two, for one night, plus a pair of cocktails called Off to the Races. Will you also get a lift to the track and back? Giddy up (translation: you got it). And if you jumped up and down a bit too much at the club, all in support of your pony, would a $150 credit at the spa come in handy? Those aches could use a little TLC. The price kicks off — or hoofs off? — at $456, and you'll want to have a bit extra for tax and tips, too. Ready to saddle up for a sweet snooze in clip-clopping distance, or nearly, of Del Mar Thoroughbred Club? Then clip-clop to the L'Auberge Del Mar site for more information on the July 20 through Sept. 4 special.

Photo Credit: L'Auberge del Mar]]>
<![CDATA[Magnifique: Santa Barbara French Festival]]> Thu, 13 Jul 2017 13:43:56 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/WestCoastBalletCanCanStephenSherrill.jpg

CABARET, CAN-CAN, AND PIAF? Enjoying a weekend reveling in all of those classic, audience-pleasing traditions is something quite high on both the dedicated Francophile's must-do list, as well as anyone who adores the performing arts. But you don't need to find yourself Seineside, or in your favorite arrondissement, to revel in the magnifique marvels of France, though both ideas are beyond pleasing. If you do find yourself in California, and not across the Atlantic, and it is the right in the middle of July, near Bastille Day, all you need to do is drive your Citroen, or your Peugeot, or whatever conveyance you might have available, and make for the American Riviera, where the long-running and oh-so-free...

SANTA BARBARA FRENCH FESTIVAL... will be celebrating la vie de France via a number of buoyant activities. The dates are Saturday, July 15 and Sunday, July 16, the location is Oak Park, and organizers are spreading the word that the area wildfires will not impact the 2017 festival going forward. So stop by to lend some love to Santa Barbara and savor a delightful day of dance, of classic French eats (think pastries, crepes, and more), and the French Conversation Booth, if you want to hone your skills. Oh, and the cute Canine Cavalcade, which, long ago, centered on Poodle cuteness but now encompasses chiens from every corner of dogdom, will take place on both Saturday and Sunday at 6 in the evening (a cooler time for pups in costumes). And is that a gentleman wearing a Napoleon outfit carrying a French bulldog at the parade's lead? Why ouí, it is (that's Jellie Beanz in his arms, by the by, the dignified mascot of the merry affair). For a sense of the Seine-close life, be in Santa Barbara, on July 15 and 16, with crepes, can-can, and Jellie Beanz will all spread some beaucoup charme.

Photo Credit: Stephen Sherrill]]>
<![CDATA[Del Mar Opening Day: Hat Contest]]> Tue, 11 Jul 2017 13:36:51 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-71486146-horz.jpg

THE OPENING DAY AT A FABLED OVAL? There are always specific traditions to enjoy, from sipping celebratory glasses of bubbly to poring over the ponies' names on the board ahead of watching them take to the track. One of the most visual traditions, however, involves what guests choose to wear to mark the not-so-solemn, oh-so-buoyant occasion. Seersucker suits may make a showing, or a lucky necktie, but the sartorial end of the spectrum belongs to what sits upon the heads of many attendees. Hats, in short, hold high court at some of our country's most fabled mane events, but not just the sorts of chapeaux you'd grab off a rack at the local department store. Many of the hats are custom-made just for the day, and several include a horsey theme of some sort. This isn't just for show, though that's a fun, look-at-that-hat part of it, but for prizes, too, at least at the...

DEL MAR THOROUGHBRED CLUB: Opening day is clip-clopping this way, on Wednesday, July 19, and the head-topping fashion show'll be out in full, festive force at the Plaza de Mexico. There are a quintet of categories to enter, including Best Racing Theme, Most Outrageous, Most Glamorous, Best Fascinator, and Flowers (which is a bit of a catch-all category, as it'll encompass anything that doesn't fit into the first four). The prizes? Think cash or a grand goodie like a one-night stay-over at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar (plus a luxe dinner at Addison Restaurant). Best begin brainstorming the pony-iest of playful hats, the tallest of brim-boasting accessories, and how you'll catch some eyes at the historic horse-loving landmark. Before you make for the club, though, read over the finer points, and eye some past photographs for over-the-top inspiration.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Unusual Plant Chandeliers Find a Garden Home]]> Mon, 10 Jul 2017 13:41:08 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/plantchandelierDSCF6270.jpg

EVEN IF YOU'RE NOT AN ARBORIST, and even if you didn't delve too deeply into horticulture while in school, you surely dote upon trees. And you've likely noticed the impact of the drought on our branch-bearing friends, whether that's the liquidambar in your backyard or an oak tree you pass on the way to the office. And while many of our state's trees have weathered on through the last few years, other trees assuredly have not, including some handsome Catalpa trees in Campo in San Diego's East County. But the deceased trees, found on Dehesa Road, will soon find a different kind of life, and a fresh chapter, in an expansive place synonymous with blooming possibilities, and blooming shrubs, and flowering buds, and all manner of gorgeous treedom: San Diego Botanic Garden.

THE NATUREFUL ENCINITAS DESTINATION... partnered with Weldon Exhibits of the Bay Area to create "beautiful 'plant chandeliers'" for the Dickinson Family Education Pavilion. Other smaller plants, like bromeliads and orchids, will be planted along the Catalpa branches, creating a living, up-in-the-air garden. The pavilion, which is still being built at the 37-acre garden, will be both a display place for the "massive" and unusual branch-twisty fixtures, while also serving as a reminder of the cycle of plantdom and the dramatic impact the drought can have on a tree. "Catalpa wood is very decay resistant and the trees have a very graceful branching structure making them perfect for planting them with the wonderful diversity of plants from the tropical forest canopy," said Julian Duval, President & CEO of the SDBG.

IT ISN'T OFTEN... that a tree taken down by drought gets another twist in its story, one that involves public education, museum-like display, and the chance to serve as the beautiful base for several smaller, very-much-alive plants. Want to admire these truly one-of-a-kind plant chandeliers when the pavilion debuts? Watch the San Diego Botanic Garden social media pages for updates and openings.

Photo Credit: SDBG]]>
<![CDATA[California Pacifica Hotels: Summer of Love Deal]]> Sat, 08 Jul 2017 13:22:32 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/pacifica6G8A9554.jpg

SUMMER OF LOVE: The 50th anniversary of that major moment in time is in full and glorious flow, and a student of history, of society, of music and of seismic changes, can journey to a host of museums, amphitheatres, and tours to find stories of 1967. If you want to go deeper into all of that 1967ness, though, doing a bit of traveling to get there is key (after all, that's one of the woven-through tenets of the Summer of Love: Meeting people, connecting with others, experiencing new things, and not being confined to any one path). How to make the journey, though? That can be done in many different ways, but saving a bit of money, in order to have a bit more dough when you're at your destination, is always a keen notion. Pacifica Hotels is embracing the whole remember-the-Summer-of-Love vibe that's flowing around the Golden State right now, and to facilitate people getting out, relaxing, seeing, and meeting others, there's savings in the air, at all 24 California properties. Think...

20% OFF, through Sept. 30, 2017, and think this special code when you book: LOVE17. You'll need to book through the web site, do note, and do note you'll have a plethora of places to choose from, from spectacular spots closer to some of the Summer of Love's biggest memory-making occurrences (think Cambria, just a pleasant toodle down from Monterey), and San Francisco, to destinations always rocking that sunny, it's-all-good vibe (hello, Santa Monica and San Diego). Where will you land for a night, a weekend, or a full week of connecting with a few waves, a few nice strangers you meet around the lobby, and the big ideas of comity, harmony, and peace that the Summer of Love sent out so strongly? You can begin to ponder that delightful question here.

Photo Credit: Pacific Hotels]]>
<![CDATA[Insect Fair: Encinitas Abuzz]]> Sat, 08 Jul 2017 13:21:48 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/cobb_7-14_6826rachelcobb.JPG

(MORE THAN) ONE COOL THING: If we have one cool thing happen in a day, well, that's a very good day, indeed. We might find that a kind co-worker left us a hefty slice of cake in the work fridge or that our neighbor signed for a package for us, the one we've been waiting on. But, if you're at the San Diego Botanic Garden on Saturday, July 22 and Sunday, July 23, and you are all about multi-legged, multi-eyed, wing-rocking critters of the buggy sort, you're pretty much assured of two cool things — at least — occurring. For the annual Insect Fair isn't just about trucking out a couple of skittering beetles or bugs for fans to admire, no siree; it is about putting those fans in contact with the wee creatures, and even giving them a chance to try their hand at insect-based arts, critter-cool crafts, and, if they're up for it, a taste of mealworm larva (cooked, of course, if you're curious). The nifty to-knows aren't over, yet, about the weekend-long insectiana affair, for...

SAM, THE GIANT GALAPAGOS TORTOISE... will also make a cameo at the festival, which is presented by K&M Pest Solutions. True, a Galapagos tortoise is rather larger than a ladybug, but we'll state, with some confidence, that fans of one will be fans of the other. In fact, other reptiles will make a showing at the Encinitas spread, including lizards and snakes, so if insects and lizards are two of your faves, you are absolutely going to score a "More Than One Cool Thing" kind of day. How to get in and get to all of this lavish lizardness and lively ladybug-a-tude? Just pay admission to the 37-acre garden, or be a member. Now, time to decide if you want to taste cooked mealworm larva. Or, if you're so curious about it, the cooking station'll be your very first stop.

Photo Credit: Rachel Cobb]]>
<![CDATA[Gold Rush Days: Old Sactown's Historical Bash]]> Thu, 06 Jul 2017 14:14:23 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GoldRushDaysFireBrigade.jpg

THAT SUDDEN SHIMMER: We may never have the experience of gazing down at a metal pan brimming with river water and rocks, only to see something at the bottom suddenly shimmer, but we can experience the liveliness of the Gold Rush by venturing to Old Sacramento. The district is rife with the vintage buildings, rollicking tales, and important artifacts of the mid-1800s all year long, but, come Labor Day, the Gold Rush vibe really gets going. That's because the first Monday in September, and the weekend that precedes it, traditionally is the time for Gold Rush Days along the storied stretch of picturesque blocks, and 2017 will hold to that. The dates are...

SEPT. 1 THROUGH 4, so give a rousing "yee haw" that, with four days of fun, you'll be able to fit in all you'd like to see and participate in, if that's your bag. There are wagon rides, train rides, and river cruises to take, and Tent City to visit (yep, you'll see up-close how everyday life was lived among miners panning along the waterways of the Sierra foothills). "Old West theatrics and family-friendly melodramas" are once again on the schedule, as are live performances of yarns and ditties that'll hearken back to another century. Some of the doings during Gold Rush Days take a light-hearted approach, while other goings-on cleave to a more authentic, history-as-it-was look-back. And, indeed, it's a weekend that is open to both adults and kids (who just may be at that point in their schooling where the Gold Rush is on the lesson plan). 

IS 2017 THE YEAR... you ten-gallon up and stride into Old Sacramento, the better to dig deeper into the Gold Rush via a host of performances and re-enactments? No hat is required, but an interest in what happened nearly 17 decades ago, and how it forever altered not just our capital city and California but the world, is a great thing to pack in your suitcase.

Photo Credit: Old Sacramento]]>
<![CDATA[Sunshine on Sale: Indian Wells Getaway]]> Tue, 04 Jul 2017 09:19:04 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sunshineonsale029232.jpg

HOW MANY DAYS... does it take you to fully, 100%, feelin'-like-butter unwind on a desert vacation? Do you hit that lovely, relaxed, sigh-aloud state at 4:45 p.m. on the afternoon you check in? Are you there the moment you step into your hotel room, or the second you put on your swimsuit, or when your big toe finally dips into the nearest pool? Or are you the sort of person who can't truly let go before a night or two has gone by? If you're more likely to put yourself in this second grouping — in other words, if your head is still back home, and at work, even after you've slept for a night — then the "third night free" deal is right up your gotta-unwind alley. There is such a deal on now, and the name is a big, star-shaped clue as to where it might be: Sunshine on Sale. Yep, you'll find it in the spectacular California desert, at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells, which is currently giving guests a complimentary third night when two consecutive nights are booked.

ALSO INCLUDED IN THE DEAL? A wake-up, start-the-day meal at Lantana Restaurant, for two people, for free. As for what the rates are, or, rather, what they average? You're looking at $119 per night. As for finding the pursuits that'll help you shake off whatever cares you wanted to put on hold for a few days? Take a sweeping glance around the property, with a look into Agua Serena Spa, the DesertPipe water ride, the Agave Sunset weekly music shows, and fitness classes like Vino and Vinyasa. Those'll be additional to your stay-over fee, but, after saving on a night, perhaps you can go for a little spa downtime or a cocktail. How long will the sunshine shine upon the Sunshine on Sale package, though? Be sure to book your stay ahead of the deal's final day of Sept. 30, 2017.

Photo Credit: Hyatt Regency Indian Wells]]>
<![CDATA[Dance + Dine: Oxnard Salsa Festival]]> Wed, 05 Jul 2017 07:29:14 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/salsadancefood0293423-horz.jpg

A FOOD IS A FOOD IS A FOOD, it isn't often said, but while it might not be often said, it is, for the most part, 100% true. Unless, of course, on that rare occasion that the popular moniker for a major meal ingredient also serves as the name for another non-food related pastime. "Garlic" doesn't work here, sad to say, because though many of us do adore the fragrant bulb, we don't go out and "garlic" as in... play a game or mow the lawn. Same with "spinach," which is a leafy treat but not an activity (you won't find "to spinach" in the dictionary). But salsa? Ah yes, now we're talking. It's both a spicy, delectable, dip-another-chip edible and a beautiful, move-intensive style of dance. But finding the foodstuff, and the fabulous flourishes of the art form, all in the same place, can be rather challenging, as most festivals tend to highlight one or the other. One of the excellent exceptions is just ahead, at the close of July. It's the...

OXNARD SALSA FESTIVAL, a two-day fiesta at Plaza Park downtown. Live Latin jazz bands, and acts lending flavor to salsa-dancing classics, will give the get-out-and-spin part of the weekend much of its musical oomph, while a salsa-tasting tent will keep lovers of cilantro-tomato-onion combos dipping and trying, dipping and trying, again and again. Will hot sauces, a cousin to salsa but its own distinct thing, make a caliente cameo? It wouldn't seem like a salsa celebration without it. Is there a salsa recipe showdown? Oh, you bet. And is the whole thing free to check out, free in terms of admission and free in terms of parking? Both of those are yeses. The dates are Saturday, July 29 and Sunday, July 30, which, fingers crossed, will be on the warm side, to suit the salsa-riffic theme of the weekend. Is salsa dance your favorite dance? Is salsa your favorite food? Hello, Oxnard.

Photo Credit: Oxnard Salsa Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Gilroy Garlic Festival: Gourmet Alley Peek]]> Sun, 02 Jul 2017 15:26:09 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GGF_2016_LS_Garlic_Bread_Couple.jpg

LET'S BE HONEST: You're going to have the garlic ice cream. In fact, you might have two scoops, if it is an especially warm day, the kind of day that the end of July traditionally delivers to much of the state. But the question is this: Will you go directly to the booth selling garlic ice cream the moment you stride through the gates at the festival grounds, or will you save it for dessert, in the way that ice cream is often (but not always) saved for dessert? These things do take planning, and pre-huddling with foodie friends, for you're going to have a lot of vivaciously flavored, sweet-of-sting vittles to get through at...

GOURMET ALLEY: We are, of course, talking about the Gourmet Alley at the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival, which fills out three fiery days near the very end of July (though not the end-end, for the festival cooks from Friday, July 28 through Sunday, July 30). And while the cooking demonstrations and contests may understandably draw your attention, you'll want to call upon Gourmet Alley once, twice, or thrice, just to make sure you've had a bit of every garlicky noshable you'd hope to try.

ON THE 2017 RUNDOWN? Garlic bread, natch, and zesty fried garlic calamari, stuffed mushrooms, pasta con pesto, garlic popcorn, and, fresh for the '17 scene, Gilroy garlic shrimp. If you're the sort of person who claims there can never be enough clove-y goodness in your meals, a swing-through Gourmet Alley should finally alleviate that understandable complaint. There's plenty of garlic to be had, in a variety of dishes, and whether you get to that garlic ice cream before, after, during, or throughout your festival visit is 100% up to your spicy-lovin' self.

Photo Credit: Lora Schraft/Gilroy Garlic Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Park Hyatt Aviara Resort: Aviara Wellness Academy]]> Sun, 02 Jul 2017 11:26:34 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/parkhyattaviaracarlsbad123.jpg

WHAT ARE YOUR GO-TO SKILLS? Like, the talents you consistently work at, year in, year out, the sort of show-off abilities you might pull out at a party or barbecue or work conference, if the conference is getting a little stale? Would you juggle? Whistle? Or do something else that might astound onlookers but, moreover, impress yourself? We all have certain areas we rock, to varying degrees, but the ability to pick up a fresh skill, or burnish a long-standing one, doesn't come along all that often, and almost never while you're on a getaway. You might be lounging in your hotel room, or alongside a pool, but you're probably not out there trying something cool that's completely new to you, or something you haven't attempted in awhile. The Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf Club & Spa wants to change that, for guests, via a host of outdoors, memory-making activities that fall under the umbrella of the...

AVIARA WELLNESS ACADEMY: No, there's no separate campus from the beautiful, 200-acre property, but there are classes of sorts, the sort of classes that take you out onto the waves and greens and tennis court. Sign up for one of the "dynamic, multi-day retreats," retreats that put the emphasis both on health and wellness as well as "...some of Southern California's most iconic experiences," and find yourself surfing with Executive Chef Pierre Albaladejo, or golfing on the course that's the home of the LPGA Kia Classic. You can join a top-notch coach on the tennis court, to improve your backhand, or find your way to VeraVia, "the resort's signature wellness facility," to jump into a guided meditation or invigorating hike. The Aviara Wellness Academy activities are add-ons for guests, so be sure to book your spot at Tennis Camp or Next Wave of Surfing with the Chef before you arrive at the Carlsbad destination. A destination, do note, that sits near the ocean, adding a bracing, briny, beautiful layer to all of that glorious get-outside-ness.

Photo Credit: Park Hyatt Aviara Resort]]>
<![CDATA[LotusFest: Ganna Walska Gloriousness]]> Sat, 01 Jul 2017 15:23:29 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/215*120/lotus2017lotusland.jpg

LATELY, WITH THESE TOASTY TEMPS, you can start to believe that the blooming run for 2017 is over, finished, and no more. That, of course, holds little water, for the Golden State is awash with fresh flowers for much of the year (true story: Some of the high slopes of the Sierra haven't even dipped a toe in wildflower season yet). One of the most mythical, and rhapsodized-over, and deeply pondered of petal-makers is the lotus, and it is a blossom that doesn't truly hit peak showiness before July, at least around Southern California. There are places to lavish love upon the soft-hued superstar, from The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens to Echo Park. Every spot lucky enough to be be-lotus'd is a good spot to be, in the early days of the seventh month, but consider heading to Santa Barbara, and the historic estate of Ganna Walska, for...

LOTUSFEST 2017: The beloved summer-quintessential gathering isn't simply about sighing over the pinky-white H2O lovers but, also, the tasting of vinos "from Santa Barbara's premier vintners," as well as fancy foams and a host of small bites, too. This makes the Santa Barbara-based to-do, which is on from 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 15, a sublime supping and quaffing event, in addition to a lotus-viewing moment, too. A ticket? It's $115, and a bit less if you're a Lotusland member. If July 15 is a busy one for you, and you can't be there, be gladdened by this tidbit: The lotuses are busy opening now, as of the final week in June, so a stop-by in the next couple of weeks should give you some prime lotus sightings, or, shall we say, sigh-tings.

Photo Credit: LotusLand]]>
<![CDATA[Tioga Pass to Open: Hello, Summer]]> Wed, 28 Jun 2017 17:53:54 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/monocountytioga12345.jpg

LOOK, honestly, we're going to eventually get to the whole rhapsodizing part of the Tioga Pass, because not absolutely going full gush over the marvelous meadows and sky-reaching peaks and vistas worthy of an Ansel Adams print isn't the way things are done, no sirree. We're all first-time visitors to the Tioga Pass, in terms of awe, wonder, and delight, even if we roll along its wending way each and every summer. But before the gushery, let's chew on some dates and numbers. The big, blinking sign of a date that everyone who digs spending time in the Sierra Nevada, the Eastern Sierra, and Yosemite National Park will be talking about as June wraps? Thursday, June 29, for that's the day that, after a major snow-removal effort, the Tioga Pass will fully open, promptly at 8 a.m., meaning you can admire Mono Lake in the morning and hike the Cook's Meadow Loop in Yosemite Valley in the afternoon, no sweat (well, maybe a little, but that's good). 

AS FOR THE NUMBERS PART? You can see all of the recent opening dates for the high-elevation Highway 120 pass here, and the percentage of snowpack, so, if you think June 29 is a pretty late opening, it is, but not as late as it was in 1995, when Tioga Pass opened on June 30. The snowpack as of April 1 for 2017 stood at 177% and the 1995 percentage just eeked that number out, coming in at 178%. And check it out: The pass even opened in late April, in 1988. All very cool stuff, if you like to pore over years and snowfall amounts and opening dates. Closing dates, too: The pass has been closed, this last go-around, since Nov. 16, 2016.

THREE THINGS: The June 29 opening is a "conditions permitting" deal, so checking one more time before you head out, that morning, just to be sure everything is copacetic, is wise. Also, Yosemite National Park shared some wisdom on what hikers and campers can expect regarding conditions upon opening. Two? Gratitude to all of the people who work so hard to clear the mountain passes, for, surely and factually, they faced some epic snow scenes after the winter of 2016-2017. And three? Here comes the gushing: Meadows and waterfalls and critters and trees and rocky granite outcroppings and the sun glinting on lakes and all sorts of creeks, oh my. The Tioga Pass takes nature lovers to all of that beauty, each summer, and that is something deserving of a classic, no-holds-barred, tumble-over-ourselves gush-a-thon. Few roads deliver people to such mythical, get-happy places, anywhere.

Photo Credit: Mono County Tourism]]>
<![CDATA[Now Open: Sculpture in the Garden]]> Tue, 27 Jun 2017 14:29:49 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/cobb_5-17_01401.jpg

COMING ACROSS A COLORFUL BUD... inside an expansive garden? It happens, especially if you keep your eyes attuned to the shrubs, trees, and beds that line whatever walkway you're strolling down. You can also expect to see a number of interest leaves, and twisty branches, and the other details and touches found within a nature-plentiful spot. What you don't always encounter is art, at least art made by human hands. Gardens are given over to bushes, succulents, and flowers, mostly, but sometimes, especially when summer arrives, distinctive artworks have a way of blooming in a garden, at least temporarily. That's what's happening right now at the San Diego Botanic Garden, a 37-acre Encinitas-based property known for a number of distinctive plots, from the Bamboo Garden to the Canary Islands Garden. The garden invited 31 from-the-area artists to submit a piece, one that can weather the outdoors and live among the leafy things, for...

SCULPTURE IN THE GARDEN: The annual presentation just opened, and it will run through April 2018. There's no additional fee to see it — just your garden admission — and there are 49 works in all, which means you can make a full day of finding, and admiring, each one. Are they for sale? Yes, they are. Is there a map that will lead you to each one? There is, which is so very helpful. What kind of art should you expect? "Ranging from the whimsical to the abstract, each piece has been carefully placed to help guest visualize these stunning works of art in their own gardens," reads a statement on the SDBG site. If the interplay between coleus and creativity intrigues you, and shrubbery and sculpture, wend your way through the multi-garden expanse before the end of April next year.

Photo Credit: Rachel Cobb]]>
<![CDATA[Fiery Fun: California Hot Sauce Expo]]> Mon, 03 Jul 2017 22:12:09 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/2016+california+Hot+Sauce+Expo+ShoshieAborn.JPG

ASK ANY PEPPER-OBSESSED PERSON... what the perfect time of year and/or the month and/or day it is to consume a potent amount of capsaicin-based deliciousness, and you can just bet they'll glance at their watch and quip "right now" (or something equally as sassy). For it matters not if there's a chill wind blowing outside, or if the mercury has pushed into the 100s, people who dig spicy eats are going to consume spicy eats. In fact, several summery classics, from picnic salsas to spicy-saucy grilled meats, shimmer with heat in the heat of the year, further proving that there is no downtime taken when you're devoted to the kickiest of cuisines. If the mere thought of this all has you reaching for your nearly empty hot sauce bottle, well, feel free to empty it, if that's your preference, for you'll soon have another place to stock up: The 3rd Annual California Hot Sauce Expo, which will bring the tongue-testing foods to City National Grove of Anaheim on Saturday, Aug. 19 and Sunday, Aug. 20.

TICKETS ARE NOW ON SALE... for the fiery festival, so secure your entry should you want to witness The Guinness Book of World Records Reaper Pepper Eating Contest or The Spicy Pizza of Doom. There's a craft cocktail showdown (yep, bet those are not, repeat, are not cool-down libations) and a burrito competition, too. As for purchasing the piquant stuff to take home? You'll be able to shop among 40-plus vendors who have all taken a creative road to their zestful condiments. If summer is absolutely your prime time for kicky, ratchet-up-the-heat eats, then be in Anaheim for some hot-sauce'd high jinks over what's traditionally one of the toastiest weekends of the SoCal summer.

Photo Credit: Shoshie Aborn]]>
<![CDATA[Newport Beach Wine & Food: Tickets on Sale]]> Wed, 05 Jul 2017 18:33:45 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/newportfood3043_NBWFF_D2N_1630.jpg

STROLLING INTO A NEW RESTAURANT, at least an eatery you personally haven't yet tried, can summon a fizzy feeling of discovery. For sure, many of the ingredients found within will be familiar to you, but how they're composed, and allowed to sing together, will lend a fresh element to your dine-out experience. Now multiple that single restaurant by, well, 40, at least, and you have an even fizzier sense that you're about to embark on some true culinary discovery. That's the delight that comes with a top-notch, top-toque'd gourmet gathering like the Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival. The festival, which dips a toe in both September and October in 2017 — the dates are Friday, Sept. 29 through Sunday, Oct. 1 — will feature over three dozen Orange County dining favorites, and then some. Those include Hook & Spear, Filomena's Italian Kitchen, Michael's on Naples Ristorante, and Five Crowns, among the many, meal-lovely others. Attendees at the fest will be able to try a haute host of tastes from each place, making for over 40 flavorful experiences in all. And on the beverage side of the celebration? Prepare for...

HUNDREDS OF ACCOLADED LIBATIONS, drinks that'll run the gamut from perfect wines to spirits to a line-up of craft brews. Will there be demonstrations hosted by well-known chefs? That's been a part of the festival since its beginning nearly a half decade back, so count on spying the likes of Hubert Keller, Nobu Matsuhisa, Shirley Chung, and other pros who are eager to share the finer points of fine cookery. Will other special happenings pop up during the three-day run, like a just-introduced Havana Nights party? You can count on it. But don't count on tickets staying around forever: They're on sale now but they do go as quickly as a table lined with savory, just-set-out appetizers and desserts. If the first part of your autumn could use the zing of a swanky food fest, best start here.

Photo Credit: Pencilbox Studios]]>
<![CDATA[LA Stay: Original Farmers Market Package]]> Fri, 23 Jun 2017 10:30:46 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/2016-03-01fm.jpg

FOOD HALLS... are on the up and up and up these days, but the concept has been around basically since the dawn of A) food and B) halls. Well, perhaps not quite that long, but the notion of gathering together a host of gourmet goodies, and stick-to-the-ribs classics, and some non-edible shopping, too, all in one spot, has history in this country and around the globe. Lately food halls, and their airy cousins, the alfresco public market, are springing up in more spots, but you only need to look to some of the delicious doyens of the field to get a feel for the cuisine-nice concept's roots and gravitas. And few California spots wears gravitas as grandly, and as congenially, as the Original Farmers Market in Los Angeles. Make that the plunk-middle of Los Angeles, meaning loads of locals, and visitors, make it their frequent hangout. The market has been around since 1934, but is as fresh today as the pineapples set out at the fruit stand. Want to see for yourself? Check into the nearby...

ÉLAN HOTEL, down Beverly Boulevard in the direction of Beverly Hills, and select the Farmers Market Package. The deal includes your parking validation — it's covered all day at the Third & Fairfax landmark — and a gift certificate for twenty bucks to use at the market. What will you buy? A stack of postcards? A caramel apple? Perhaps a coffee, a croissant, and the paper, in order to sit, linger, and people-watch? It's a primo place for just that pastime. A tote bag (you can use it more than once) and other treats related to the beloved market are also folded into your stay-over package. If you're a devoted food-hall-ist, and you need to know the public market scene in every city you visit, get acquainted with the Original Farmers Market, its starry character, its homespun vibe, and do it all while staying just a five-minute drive to the west, at the Élan Hotel.

Photo Credit: Original Farmers Market]]>
<![CDATA[Palm Springs Tram: Free Admission Military Days]]> Tue, 27 Jun 2017 21:35:47 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/pstramway1234.jpg

VENTURING TO MOUNTAIN STATION? It's on the minds of many people when the thermometer reads 110 degrees, or more, around Palm Springs. But a short drive to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, and then a ride up, up, up to Mountain Station, which is notably cooler than the toasty valley floor below, is just the ticket when summer, and those summery temperatures, arrive. But there's another reason that should invite visitors up to Mount San Jacinto State Park when July arrives, and it is this: Members of the United States Armed Forces, be they active, or former members, or now retired, are invited to board the famous, view-laden tram for free. And that's not on just one day alone, but for...

THE ENTIRE MONTH OF JULY: "For over a decade, Military Days has been our way of saving 'Thank you' to the dedicated men and women of the United States Armed Forces — along with their friends and family," said Nancy Nichols, the VP for Sales & Marketing. "We are delighted to welcome them back again this July." Do note that "(s)pouses of deployed military members, as well as widows," may also take part in the Military Days promotion. As for the "friends and family" part of the deal? The tram'll give up to six of your guests 25% off their tram ticket. As for what you can do once you reach Mountain Station? There's food for sale, and beverages, and those truly sweeping views of Palm Springs, and opportunities to join natures walks, for free, with a guide at the helm, every weekend day through Labor Day Weekend. Plus? That cooler clime at the top is a lovely change of pace from the hottest of afternoons below. Just be sure to bring your military identification for your free admission.

Photo Credit: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway]]>
<![CDATA[Disney's Grand Californian: Swimming Hole Refresh]]> Wed, 21 Jun 2017 14:25:29 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/grandcalifornianpools293982.jpg

WHERE CAN YOU SEE A BEAR... in California? If you answered "the state flag," well, high fives and gold stars to you, for you are completely correct. If you said "on a hike, from a distance, in the Sierra Nevada," that's sometimes the case, as many outdoors fans can attest to, with anecdotes. And if you claimed that you've seen a bear at Storytellers Café, at Disney's Grand Californian Resort, dancing and clapping his hands, you'd be right again, for Kenai of the film "Brother Bear" is a frequent visitor to the restaurant's popular Character Breakfast. In fact, a lot of Disney's Grand Californian Resort is mighty bear-a-riffic, thanks to its woodsy, Craftsman theme, so it makes sense that there are a few watering holes nearby. Of course, these special watering holes don't host any bears, clapping or otherwise, but they are made for human-style swimming and frolicking. And if you've longed to frolic in this woodsiest of Disneyland Resort hotels, like a bear might, here comes the dance-worthy news: 

THE POOL DECK... at the elegant Anaheim resort just underwent a big refresh, complete with "...natural stones and brick to create a warm and welcoming environment..." Master stone masons were behind the placement of the stones, and the look dovetails, or beartails, if you prefer, with the grander theme of the grand hotel: outdoors, trees, and the woods. There's a new fountain shaped like an urn in the Fountain Pool, and cabanas like the chilled-out Mariposa Pool (and, yep, there's a curved, 90-foot-slide at the Redwood Pool). Are these renovations part of the large-scale, multi-month refurbishments happening around the sizable property? You bet: The Grand Californian is getting some TLC, "...the most extensive refurbishment since the hotel's 2001 opening." It's rather bigger than a bear's den, so the touch-ups take time, but you can already see the fruits of the renovation over at the hotel's swimming holes.

Photo Credit: Disney Resorts]]>
<![CDATA[New: Locally Focused Hotel Book Programs]]> Wed, 21 Jun 2017 21:19:43 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Laurel-Inn-Model-Room-037-horz.jpg

PAGE AND PLACE: Few beds are made for lounging like a hotel bed, with its plush assortment of pillows, and few activities go as well with languorous lounging as reading. This double pursuit, lounging and literary enjoyment, sits at the top of many a favorites list, though how often we do both at home is up for debate given our forever busy, on-the-go days. That's why we look to vacations, and overnight getaways, as prime reading time, a sort of stepping-out-of-routine route to jumping into a story or a work of nonfiction. Two hotels are upping that literary longing, and they're doing so by highlighting those bookly works that focus upon the area or area's authors. San Francisco's The Laurel Inn and The Inn Above Tide in Sausalito recently introduced book programs for guests, and while each are a bit different, both share a love of story, of local texture and tales, and of providing a relaxing respite for guests.

A BOOK BUTLER PROGRAM... is available at The Inn Above Tide, thanks to Book Passage Sausalito, which is but a pleasant stroll away. A quartet of hardcover titles is chosen bimonthly, and guests can purchase one of these titles for a cool 25% off and have it delivered to their room. An alternative, just as nifty? Inn guests can nab 10% off anything at Book Passage Sausalito, should another title catch their fancy. And at Joie de Vivre's The Laurel Inn in Presidio Heights? Books Inc. Laurel Village is the page-fabulous partner, which means a 20% discount on books for guests of the Inn (or the chance to read a book, and return it, during their stay). Like any great tome, there's more to these tales, like an online book discussion group via The Lauren Inn stay. The exciting epilogue? If reading is a passion, and lounging and lit love your favorite pursuit, you've got two stay-over spots who want to connect you with characters, bookstores, other readers, and the concept of thrilling escape, both in hotel form and in page form, simultaneously.

Photo Credit: The Laurel Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Yosemite: Moonlight Valley Floor Tour]]> Tue, 20 Jun 2017 22:06:29 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/yosemitechrisfalkenstein.jpg

MANY FABULOUS PHOTOGRAPHS, the kind that are regularly included in calendars and on postcards, depict Yosemite Valley at its sunniest, wowsiest best. There are the snapshots showing El Capitan at high noon, and the Merced River doing the glinty, glorious burbly thing that it does so well, and the meadows awash in soft, golden rays. Of course, the fact that the waterfall-laden, granite-glorious stretch rocks its daytime look so ravishingly doesn't at all diminish how nighttime is, for many Yosemite visitors, the ultimate time to enjoy the celebrated valley's views, landmarks, and beyond-real beauty. A full moon keeping Half Dome company and a waterfall-created moonbow are just two of the 5,928 different delights of night in Yosemite National Park. Is that number far too low? Then best book a spot on a...

MOONLIGHT VALLEY FLOOR TOUR, now that warmer evenings are here, and spend some time finding more wonders in the wonderful, wonder-filled place. The two-hour open-air tram tour departs from Yosemite Valley Lodge after sundown, then toodles out to take in a whole spectacular swath of valley hits, from Tunnel View to Bridal Veil Fall. And, of course, the full moon's BFF, Half Dome, though surely our planet's ancient satellite also fancies the epic El Cap, too (the moon is even more picturesque than usual when it appears near either). Note that this is not an early-in-the-evening outing, no siree; trams leave at 10 p.m. on many of the nights on the schedule, giving the sun plenty of room to make a full exit before the tour begins. But do note that the Moonlight Valley Floor Tour isn't on every night of the summer, but rather a few select nights each month, so plan your valley visit accordingly. The final month of the tours? September, right around the time when a nighttime open-air tram starts to get a mite chilly.

Photo Credit: Chris Falkenstein]]>
<![CDATA[Mammoth Mountain: Ski, Bike & Golf in a Day]]> Sun, 18 Jun 2017 08:45:33 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/212*120/skibikegolfmammoth2017.jpg

VENTURE INTO THE MOUNTAINS... and you're bound to come across a couple of streams that intersect, and walking trails that dovetail, and roads that meet up, here and there, as they wend along passes. But streams and roads and trails aren't the only mountain staples that find connection points along the way. Happenings can, too, as in those events we normally think of as only existing during a single time of the year. Skiing is for winter, golf is for spring, summer, and fall, and biking? As long as the trails are mostly clear of snow, you and your wheels can roll. Up on Mammoth Mountain, however, there is a tradition that sidles up to the Fourth of July, typically, and it is all about the intersection of those three popular pursuits. For sure, biking and golfing are standard must-dos when summer revs up, but a snowy slope? That can happen, too, in 2017, for the winter that just wrapped up boasted a whole bunch of flakeage (as did early June, even). So if you're looking to Ski, Bike & Golf at Mammoth over the pre-holiday weekend, best get your...

99 BUCKS... ready, for that is all it will take to sign up for all three activities, as long as you do all three over the course of a single day. What are the asterisks and should-knows with this money-saver of a deal? You'll need to start your golf game after 3 in the afternoon at "California's highest golf course," the Sierra Star. So, yep, think of your 9-holer as your last activity of your brimming-to-full day. Mammoth Bike Park, and skiing, though, are open to you throughout your $99 day, so start at either early, and work your way through the trio of to-dos. Have you ever schussed, swung, and caught air, wheels-wise, within a few hours? In July, no less? This could qualify for something mighty bucket-list-y, if you're a fan of those three things. And if you didn't get enough skiing in, fear not: Mammoth Mountain is planning on staying open into August 2017, which hasn't happened since 1995. The Ski, Bike & Golf package? That's on from July 2-4, 2017.

Photo Credit: Mammoth Mountain]]>
<![CDATA[Canary Hotel: Sip & Swirl Wine Series]]> Fri, 16 Jun 2017 10:50:34 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/SipSwirlcanary12345.jpeg

WHICH WORDS... best signify the spirit of summertime? It's a subjective question, one that'll inspire a range of answers, for sure, but we can all agree that things like "warmth" and "ocean" and "sunshine" and "melons" do ably rock a certain summery cred. Let us also add "rooftop," if we might, to that lovely list, for while many rooftops aren't created to cater to social situations, those that are truly bloom when June rolls into town. And one of the prettiest rooftops, which happens to be in a very pretty city, belongs to the Kimpton Canary Hotel. Head up to the Canary's couch-lined, pool-cool rooftop and you'll be in a red-tile'd dream, one that includes the sort of not-intense, only pleasant rays a person can readily find around the American Riviera. As the sun's rays give way to evening's stars, that particular hotel rooftop is a prime place to be, for optimal twilight enjoyment. That's your sublime setting for the...

SIP & SWIRL SERIES, a once-a-month gathering that will run right through to the end of summer, on Sept. 20, 2017. Prepare to sample lively libations from "...some of the region's best wineries set to stunning views from downtown's only rooftop terrace." For the July 19 happening, expect to try vinos from Larner, Babcock Winery, and more fab vineyards. How to sign up? A ticket is $35, and you can purchase your entry through NightOut.com. Are you ready to soak in a quintessential Santa Barbara twilight? That instant between a summer-warm afternoon and summer-sparkly evening? All with a glass of stellar wine in hand? There's a way, among the red tiles and soft sun rays, at the Canary Hotel.

Photo Credit: Canary Hotel]]>
<![CDATA[Wet Woofers: Surf Dog Lessons Begin]]> Thu, 15 Jun 2017 13:20:58 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/surfdoglessons2017.jpg

IF YOU'VE "AWWED"... over the Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon, the annual, end-of-summer fundraiser in Del Mar, you've likely pondered about how, and when, those talented pups first learned to handle a surfboard. Those Goldens and Dalmations don't head out onto the waves with no training; they receive loving and safe instruction, during the summer, via SoCal Surf Dogs and the Helen Woodward Animal Center. That's right, there are surfing lessons available, for your pup, at Dog Beach in Del Mar, as well as stand-up paddle boarding lessons, too. Think your H2O-obsessed hound would be into picking up a few fresh skills? Then mark...

SUNDAY, JUNE 18... on the calendar. That's when the first lesson takes place, at 8:30 in the morning. The $45 class includes safety gear for your woofer, including a life vest, as well as a board or paddleboard, too. And, if all goes well, you'll get 20% off future lessons, down the road a pinch, if your pooch seems to totally take to it. However, if your dog isn't down with the notion of surfing? The organizers understand. "(W)e're more than happy to send them back to dry land for more traditional beach romping," says a representative, so the pressure is not on, in any sense, for your pup to become a star surfer.

BUT IF THEY LOVE IT? Maybe they'll compete in the Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon, which is on Sunday, Sept. 10. It helps out the critter-loving programs at the Helen Woodward Animal Center, as do the class fees. Oh, and as for classes coming up? There are four more to come, with two in July and two in August. Woof woof, to all those pups out there ready to hang ten. Or is it hang twenty? 

Photo Credit: Helen Woodward Animal Center]]>
<![CDATA[Loews California Hotels: A 'Wander'-ful Deal]]> Wed, 14 Jun 2017 14:35:19 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/LSMBH+-+Fire+Pitsloews.jpg

A HOTEL... often boasts something a little intriguing, or tempting, or special, in terms of activities or picturesque settings or fabulous beverages and tastes. Finding that something special takes some looking around, or some "wandering," if you will, a pursuit many guests are keen to do, especially after they've booked a stay in a spot that already rocks a lot of character. A quartet of places with such character — San Francisco, Hollywood, Santa Monica Beach, and Coronado Bay — happen to all be home to Loews Hotels, which you likely know, if you're up on your stay-over scene. And to encourage that delightful sense of wander-ability, and to provide guests with a to-do or experience that will weave into their stay as a whole, Loews is introducing a new concept, or idea, if you will, at all four of its Golden State properties. It's called "A Wonderful Place to Wander," and, to celebrate its start, the hotels are offering...

20% OFF... "...on bookings of two nights or more made from June 14-30, 2017, for stays through 2017." Starting price for a room? That's $209 a night. All of that is straight-forward enough, but here comes the zazzy bit: The pursuits and libations and memory-making happenings being offered by each hotel, as a part of "A Wonderful Place to Wander." You can take on a stand up paddleboard lesson at Loews Coronado Bay Resort, or a sunrise or sunset yoga lesson on the way, way up there helipad at Loews Hollywood Hotel (it's an additional $19 for guests), or sip from the new Spirit in the Sky cocktail menu at Loews San Francisco, or head out to a pier-overlooking, Muscle Beach-adjacent fire pit at Loews Santa Monica Beach. Surely you're getting the whole "wander" theme from this fresh Loews outlook? Book those two nights, save 20%, then figure out just what you'll try, take on, savor, and remember while exploring A Wonderful Place to Wander.

Photo Credit: Loews]]>
<![CDATA[July Flavor: World's Largest Salmon BBQ]]> Tue, 13 Jun 2017 14:13:56 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/salmonbbqnoyo.jpg

YOU JUST CAN'T PREDICT... how a longtime salmon fan will describe their favorite fish, in terms of flavor, texture, and such. Sure, "meaty" gets trucked out quite a bit, and "flaky," too, as well as hundreds of other descriptive terms that eventually all lead back to "salmon-y," which is, without quibble, the thing that salmon mostly is, without fail. And if you get into a passionate discussion about cedar planks, and the presence of rosemary sprigs, and toppings like chimichurri and maple drizzles? You could spend the better part of an afternoon drilling down into what is the optimal way to prepare the popular piscine staple, and what is the perfect addition, once it is on the plate and ready to serve. But we spotlight the word "popular" in that sentence, and the fact that salmon populations along our state's northern coast line do face some thorny problems, so much so that organizations like the Salmon Restoration Association stay involved and committed to "salmon population issues, both in streams and the ocean." An annual summertime fundraiser called the...

WORLD'S LARGEST SALMON BBQ... highlights the group's work, while gathering together a bunch of salmon fans for an old-school cookout, one that takes place close to the water. The 2017 feast will happen on Saturday, July 1, and an adult ticket is $25, plus an additional service fee. How will that money be used? It will "...fund actual restoration of legacy logging and development scarred streams and rivers, as well as community education." Summoning back salmon is an important goal, and while discussions of baking methods and complementary sides are popular among fish-minded chefs, caring for the fish population from the outset takes the front seat. For more info, on both the Fort Bragg barbecue and what the organization does, swim over here.

Photo Credit: World's Largest Salmon BBQ]]>
<![CDATA[Death Valley Landmark: New Name]]> Mon, 12 Jun 2017 13:30:14 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/InnDuskdvcopy2.jpg

THE DESERT MAY ROCK... an eternal, always unchanging energy, but lovers of our vast, drier, and incredibly stunning stretches know that there's always movement, even if it, at times, that movement seems to remain unseen. Death Valley National Park is a fine example of this concept, on several fronts, for while its crags and open spaces are almost as quiet as space itself, shifts are forever happening, like the return of the pupfish in spring and the can't-be-detected inching of the stones at the mysterious Racetrack Playa. One major shift, however, will be highly detectable in the months to come, and it is happening around Furnace Creek, the decades-old popular stay-over spot in the national park. It was revealed on Monday, June 5 that both the Ranch and Inn that make up Furnace Creek Resort would get a fresh handle in the months to come, one that's more specifically about the larger place in which both properties reside. The resort area will now be known as...

THE OASIS AT DEATH VALLEY, with the Inn going by The Inn at Death Valley and the Ranch taking on The Ranch at Death Valley moniker. The Inn will "...undergo a massive renaissance" that follows "...a year of planning and months of permits, plans, and efforts," efforts that will add 11 two-room casitas to the current 66 rooms that fill the 1927 structure. The restaurant and bar, too, will receive a refurbishment, one that will include wooden floors and banquette seating. Oh, and above diners' heads: a new turquoise ceiling meant to "represent the sky of Death Valley." As for what's ahead at The Ranch? The public spaces will receive a burnishing, all in order to fashion more of a "town square"-type feel. Numerous other touches, both large and of the detail variety, will be applied at both Inn and Ranch, with Xanterra Parks & Resorts at the helm of the transformation.

AS FOR OPENINGS AND SUCH? The Inn is now closed and will re-open near the end of October 2017, while The Ranch is open for the summer and, as is tradition, throughout the calendar. Work will be completed on The Ranch, it is expected, around April 2018. As for the golf course at The Oasis at Death Valley? That remains in place, with its newer mechanism aimed at "reducing water consumption," and should be ready for golfers in the spring of 2018. To follow along with the renovation, and to keep up on one of the American desert's great historic spreads, keep tabs on the new site for The Oasis at Death Valley.

Photo Credit: The Oasis at Death Valley]]>
<![CDATA[Wellness Retreat: Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles]]> Sat, 10 Jun 2017 09:02:53 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/RCYoga6Lo.jpg

TAKING A LONG VIEW... of your road to good health choices, daily exercise, and the other components that make up the larger picture of overall wellness is frequently recommended, though keeping tabs on the day-to-day details is a smart idea, too. If you've been longing to take such a long view, and you wouldn't mind some actual, traditional views thrown in to enhance to experience, then look up, up, up, at the private rooftop retreat at The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Los Angeles. The downtown hotel spa makes for a relaxing, muscles-unknotting getaway for guests and locals alike, throughout the calendar, but sometimes something a little special pops up. In early June, that something "a little special" happens to be Global Wellness Day, a fine occasion to take a yoga class, snack upon delicious, energy-enhancing meals, and meditate. The spa will be observing the day on Sunday, June 11, and there's still time to sign up for eventful day, which will include happenings like...

POOLSIDE YOGA, and meditation, too, a 90-minute session led by ERYT 500 Yoga Alliance certified teacher Rachel Jackson. Lunch is a bento box, straight from WP24, and the goodies within will align with the healthy vibe of the occasion. A Garden to Glamorous class puts the focus on the hotel's rooftop herb garden, while a 50-minute treatment at the Spa Sanctuary focuses on those spots you'd like to focus upon (the treatment is your choice). It's $295 per person, for everything, including, as the cherry on top (very on top, as in 26 floors up), those downtown views. Want to reserve a spot at the 9 a.m. to 4 o'clock health-conscious happening? Ring the spa at 213-743-8800.

Photo Credit: Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles]]>
<![CDATA[Bernardus Lodge: A Honey of an Experience]]> Sat, 10 Jun 2017 09:03:22 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/BernardusCVHoney-0040-horz.jpg

IF YOU'RE ENJOYING HONEY... in a hotel setting, chances are great that you're pouring a touch into your morning tea or spreading some golden sweetness on a slice of toast. You might even savor a honeyed sunset, if the property has a memorable natural setting, the kind that's made for observing twilight, if you want to spread the proverbial honey a little further and a little thicker. But you're not likely learning, at least while staying at a hotel, about the wondrous world of honey's BFF, the industrious, amazing, here-there-everywhere bee. But bees are the A Game when you visit the memorable natural setting found at Bernardus Lodge & Spa, a 28-acre spread that's tucked into Carmel Valley, a place that is known for its lushly wild side, as well as a perfectly honeyed evening sky. There's a fresh-as-dew apiculture program on the elegant destination's to-do roster, and it is fully focused on connecting we humans with those fuzzy jacket'd, honey-mastering marvels of wind and air.

"BUZZED AT BERNARDUS"... is a new experience includes a host of bee-autiful happenings, from spa treatments (the Honeybee & Sunshine Massage is luxe, all righty, and if you're looking for a wild honey face mask, followed by a "delicious" honey nectar serum for the skin, you've found it) to a "Colony Cocktails" (the Queen Bee boasts honeycomb bitters, as well as Darjeeling gin and fresh lemon, and is served on the bocce ball lawn, by a butler no less). If an invigorating constitutional is more your style, look into a complimentary noontime Hive Walk, which happens each summer Saturday. Some 180,000 Italian honeybees call the flowery, fresh-of-air stretch home, and you'll discover more about them, with either Chef Cal Stamenov or beekeeper Jake Reisdorf at the lead (Mr. Reisdorf is the owner of Carmel Honey Company). And a number of dishes at Lucia, the lodge's upscale dining room, rock a "Hive-to-Table" vibe, meaning that organic honey — make that honey that's both organic and raw — will star in a flurry of foodie temptations like Chilled Bing Cherry Soup with Honey Ginger Ice Cream. "Bee"-n there, done that? Not many hotel-loving travelers can claim that they communed with the bees, and all manner of marvelous honey, while relaxing at a tucked-away bucolic, and bee-colic, resort.

Photo Credit: Omar Photos/Bernardus Lodge]]>
<![CDATA[Fairies Flit: Enchantment in Encinitas]]> Mon, 12 Jun 2017 11:57:07 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/SDBotanicFairy.jpg

Update: There will be a small additional fee for some craft activities at the festival.

IN YOUR KID'S CLOSET, how does the order of hooks go? You know the little hooks that line the wall closest to the closet door, the ones that typically hold a backpack or a light jacket or a jump rope or all of the above. Most young-uns keep those hooks stacked with stuff, of the clothing and hanging toy assortment, which is no surprise, since we grown-ups tend to do the same with our own storage spaces. But if one of your kid's closet hooks always sports a pair of sparkly wings, as in the gossamer, fairy tale-like wings that come with the stretchy, wearable elastic, then you likely have a tot who is quite taken with whimsy and magic and tender-hearted tales of sprites flitting about various forests. Those wings are clearly at the ready, but if your child hasn't donned them in awhile, or hasn't had a reason to, beyond all-important backyard play, there is a place where young fairies shall frolic on Saturday, June 17. It's the...

SAN DIEGO BOTANIC GARDEN, which is once again hosting its much-loved Fairy Festival. This is a chance for kids and adults to enjoy a host of fairy-sweet activities, and while younger fairies are invited to dress for the enchanted occasion, grown-ups are asked to not gussy up. A magic wishing bush'll be on the pretty grounds (yes, wishes may be left there), official fairy princesses Violette, Juniper, and Blue Bell will make cute cameos (snapshots will be part of the fun), and wands shall be assembled. Other crafts, including the painting of wooden treasure chests and the making of enchanted swings fit for a fairy doll, are also on the delightful docket. Are those wings ready to come off the hook for a imagination-fueled festival in a garden? A fairy's favorite place, as everyone knows? Fly for Encinitas on June 17, and pay garden admission, but no extra fee beyond that, to join the annual festival.

Photo Credit: San Diego Botanic Garden]]>
<![CDATA[Mono County: Hot Springs Ahoy]]> Fri, 09 Jun 2017 17:20:09 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/TravertineHotSpringscreditLifeOntheOpenRoadDianaTolerico.JPG

RELAXING ON A ROAD TRIP... can take on many forms, but total, put-the-feet-up wind-down time typically comes at the end of each day, and not in the middle, when you're busy sightseeing/driving/going/doing. Whether that feet-putting-up happens on your friend's couch, or in a hotel room, or outside, in a park, at your last destination of the day, just depends, but a lot of travelers can agree on one thing: A soak, one with body-easing warm water, can be a pleasurable thing, indeed. And if it happens outdoors? Under the sky? In a hot tub? Lovely. But what if you could make your way to a hot spring, the kind with vast vistas, in a county known for plenty of road-tripping sights? Well, you don't need to daydream this fantasy out of thin air, for it actually exists, in Mono County, home to Mono Lake, and Devils Postpile National Monument, and the other road-trip must-sees. Call upon...

BUCKEYE HOT SPRING, located near Bridgeport (on the west side), or Travertine Hot Springs, which is "(o)n the eastern edge of the valley," or Benton Hot Springs, to get your H2O on. Each has a different vibe — the road to Travertine "can be bumpy," and low clearance vehicles are probably not the way to go, while Benton Hot Springs is described as "...a more refined hot spring experience." As for Buckeye Hot Spring? There's a stream nearby, giving soakers the chance to dip hot, then dip cool, then dip hot again. Because there's never a one-size-fits-all approach to hot springs, and all have their own character, you'll want to study up, and get directions, before foreplanning that relaxing, end-of-the-road-trip soak. Or at least the end of a single day of the road trip, for after an afternoon in a hot spring, you'll likely feel invigorated and ready to roll again the next day, in search of fresh adventure.

Photo Credit: Life on the Open Road/Diana Tolerico]]>
<![CDATA[Microbrew & Chili Fest: Pechanga Celebration]]> Tue, 06 Jun 2017 17:51:24 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/pechanga123chilibeer-horz.jpg

CRAFT COUNTIES: Roll out any map that contains a large swath of Southern California counties, both of the inland and coastal varieties, and you'll find places where really well-made, seasonal, quirky, and soon-to-be-classic craft beers are made. There are strong showings on the suds-perfecting scene not just in the cities, and not just the college towns, but throughout the land, from Riverside to San Diego and up into Los Angeles County. So where does a person fell-swoop 'em, or at least several of them, in a place they could bed down for the night? Beer festivals are plentiful, yes, but they don't always include such a sizable stretch of breweries, nor do they take place in a hotel-based situation. But the 9th Annual Microbrew Festival & Chili Cook-Off rocks both of those important points. It will feature a bevy of brews from a quintet of California counties, including the three named above as well as Orange and San Bernardino. And it all takes place at...

PECHANGA RESORT & CASINO, in Temecula, on a Saturday, so booking a room for the night, in addition to your ticket, is a snap. As for what Saturday? It's on the near horizon, June 10, so don't dally if this intrigues. As for the beneficiary? It's Habitat for Humanity Inland Valley. Safety Orange and the Black Crystal Wolf Kids are providing the tunes for the afternoon-long festival, and eight chefs'll be part of the fiery, bean-beautiful, pepper-tastic chili showdown. A general admission is fifty bucks, and all the info you need for the flavorful fundraiser is over at Pechanga's online HQ. Will you be a regional brew expert after calling upon the savory give-back gathering? Line up your ride home, or book your bed for the night, then dig into a bevy of chilis and area foams.

Photo Credit: Pechanga Resort & Casino]]>
<![CDATA[Joie de Vivre Hotels: Sip of Summer Offer]]> Tue, 06 Jun 2017 13:31:04 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/MontereyTidesOcean+View+King_PhotoJoiedeViveHotels.jpg

30TH BIRTHDAYS, on the whole, tend to be pretty big deals, what with that whole new decade thing coming into play. Sometimes trips are planned, with multiple friends on board, or a lively supper at home, or something a bit extraordinary, which feels right, since the next decade-starter is some ten years away (spoiler alert not required on that one). But how does a company, one that's become well-known for...

STYLISH, NOT-TOO-SERIOUS HOTELS, approach such an auspicious occasion? A group of hotels can't up and take a trip or host a supper, given their size and permanence, but the people behind the stay-over structures can do something pretty darn sweet for guests. And that's just what Joie de Vivre Hotels is doing over the summer of '17. The San Francisco-started outfit does indeed have roots in 1987, and it has grown from there, alighting in Illinois, New York, Washington, DC, as well as a host of other spots. And, of course, California, the home to several hotels from Laguna Beach to South Lake Tahoe. So what about that "pretty darn sweet" deal for guests that was mentioned earlier? Oh, it just involves...

UP TO 30% OFF... your room, courtesy of The Sip of Summer offer, which is on through Sunday, Sept. 10 (yep, the Sunday after Labor Day). This deal includes newly opened hotels, across the country, do note, so you can consider this an "all across the board" special, one that embraces every Joie de Vivre on the list. Are there blackout dates and asterisks? Yes, so pore over everything. A beverage bonus? You and your traveling BFF will receive a welcome summer spritzer to sip — well, not to share, but one for each of you — via this offer. The code you'll need to secure that reservation? SPRITZ, which has a summery vibe to it. Finding inspiration for your own 30th birthday, or in celebrating the 30th birthdays of people in your life, if yours has happened already? There's a lovely ring to turning the occasion into something that benefits many people, and during the lightest, most buoyant time of year, too. Helloooo, summer, and happy 30th, Joie de Vivre.

Photo Credit: Joie de Vivre Hotels]]>
<![CDATA[The Living Desert: Early Hours Start]]> Sat, 03 Jun 2017 11:49:46 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/livingdesertsummer2017.jpg

MORNING PERSON, EVENING PERSON, or the sort of person who likes the afternoons best, as long as there's a cup of strong coffee nearby and a few cookies? We all align with particular points in the day, in terms of how energetic, awake, and generally vibrant we feel. But you don't have to dig too deeply into desert weather to know that, come the early days of June, temperatures are heating up. This fact suits many of the arid area's resident beasties just fine, of course, as they and their ancestors have lived with the sunshine and toasty summer heat for eons. But this also means that you're more likely to find the scaly, furry, beautiful animals of the desert...

A BIT MORE BUSHY-TAILED... before high noon, when life gets a mite sleepy and a nice patch of shade, and a bowl of water, is in order. With this in mind, The Living Desert, like many animal parks in drier, warmer places, has again launched its summer hours, which simply means this: You can commune with the Mexican wolves and giraffes and Mojave Maxine, the desert tortoise, beginning at 8 o'clock in the morning. It's also worth nothing that the final admission of the day will be sold at the Palm Desert-based destination at 1 p.m., so earlier definitely is better during the June 1 through Sept. 30 stretch.

THE LATER HOURS... will return, in the autumn, and The Living Desert's popular hiking trails will again open, after staying shuttered for the summer. Haven't spied the superstars of this place-specific animal park? This summer could be your moment.

Photo Credit: The Living Desert]]>
<![CDATA['Disneyland Encyclopedia': Third Edition Debuts]]> Fri, 02 Jun 2017 13:13:33 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/dpfireworksGettyImages-52760648.jpg

YOUR MAGICAL 411: There are two types of Disneyland-lovin' trivia-obsessed smarties in this world. The first? You'll find them saving up all of their fascinating tidbits — what year the Haunted Mansion debuted, the first time Walt Disney visited Anaheim — for when they walk inside the park. They're a fun font of fizzy fact-a-tudes, and they'll share all they know about each and every ride, snack, and character with their buds. The other type of trivia person? Golly, they don't even wait to hit Katella Avenue. They're talking Disneyland trivia at home, at work, on the bus, to the neighbors, because the ginormous world of names, dates, and stories absolutely fills their well. And speaking of wells, did you know Snow White's Grotto, which boasts a beloved well, opened in 1961? If this all floats your (Storybook Land Canal) boat, best pick up a new copy of...

"THE DISNEYLAND ENCYCLOPEDIA": The hefty tome just debuted this spring, in its lovely and meaty third edition form, with author and Disneyland-everything expert Chris Strodder at the helm. A peek inside the review copy Santa Monica Press, the encyclopedia's publisher, sent our way reveals that it is for the Disneyland completest in addition to the new fan who is looking to dip their toes into the theme park for the first time ever. For the first-timer, the big attractions are well-covered, from Matterhorn Mountain ("The finished mountain, its landscaped grounds, and its alpine-themed queue area created a circular park footprint of about one and a half acres," says the book") to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (yep, that's the old Mine Train buildings you see at Rainbow Ridge). But if you're into deep, new, and quirky information, there's that too, from...

THE OMNIMOVER, a "vehicle system that debuted at the park in 1967" to the Parasol Cart. You've seen it in New Orleans Square, but do you know it opened in 1990? This is the stuff that Disneyland tidbit mavens build their brain files on, admirably, the dates and lands and long-ago rides that give The Happiest Place on Earth so much of its charm and quintessential oomph. There are over 600 Disneyland-themed topics in the book, a jump from the 502 entries that appeared in the first edition back in 2008. And are there "Star Wars" nods, too, given all the galactic construction that's happening at Disneyland Park? You bet: "Season of the Force" makes a cameo. Some elements of the park experience now have new entries, too, in this edition, including Mouse Ears, Fort Wilderness, and more.

ARE YOU READY FOR SUMMER? A season you'll devote to at least one or two or eight Disneyland visits? Best peruse a few dozen entries, each day, in the new "Disneyland Encyclopedia," to prepare. After all, are you the sort of fan who saves your trivia knowledge for when you're inside the Anaheim destination, or do you bestow it upon the world each and every day? High fives if it's the latter. (Of course it is.)

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[37 Cloves: Gilroy Eating Contest]]> Thu, 01 Jun 2017 21:32:53 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/garlic+cloves.jpg

IF YOU'RE A HOT FOODS FAN, there is literally a .000001 chance that you've never been charmingly challenged, by a friend or family member, to eat a pepper or a bowl of fiery salsa or a clove of garlic while they look on in sheer wonder. It may, in fact, be your go-to signature party trick, the wowza foodie feat you pull out while standing in a pal's kitchen or sitting at the head of the table at a restaurant. But riddle yourself this: If you can indeed devour a whole clove of raw garlic without flinching, even after thoroughly chewing it and letting its garlicky fire shine through, can you chow down on two in a row? How about a half dozen? While we're at it, can you eat 37 cloves of garlic? In a minute or less?

HOO BOY: We'll just pause here, to gather our wits, and take a long sip of H2O, and say "hooooo boy" yet again. Because that is something else, 37 cloves of garlic in a minute, though competitors will attempt to reach that record at The Great Gilroy Garlic Eating Contest on Friday, July 28. No ifs, ands, or bulbs about it: This is going to be one of the most-watched showdowns of the 2017 Gilroy Garlic Festival, as those who know what they're in for attempt to break the previous record of 36 cloves consumed in under a minute. (Hats off to Patrick Bertoletti, who bested past records in East Dundee, Illinois back in 2012.)

HOW TO ENTER? You'll need to start with a video, taken of you, consuming not one, not two, but five cloves. You'll need to post it in certain spots, by June 23, 2017, and include some hashtaggery. What's the ultimate prize? The victor'll snap a pair of VIP entries to the 2018 festival, plus, of course, "ultimate bragging rights." Can we say it again? Hooooooo boy, my goodness, and do we ever need another sip of ice water, right about now.

Photo Credit: Garlic ]]>
<![CDATA[Los Angeles: New Immersive App Launches]]> Fri, 02 Jun 2017 21:00:47 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/209*120/discoverlaIMG_1145-horz.jpg

THE LOVELY CITY OF LOS ANGELES, it doesn't need to be said, but it shall be said, is a colossal, ginormous, event-plentiful, restaurant-packed, everything-all-the-time kind of place. The size has scope, the number of options in every sector is positively prismatic, and alighting upon a single to-do, while on a short trip as a traveler or short outing as a local, can be choice-overwhelming. Discover Los Angeles, the Tourism & Convention Board, knows all of this is (wonderfully) true. With that in mind the organization set out to develop a "...sleekly designed" immersive app that was "...exclusively made for those looking to optimize their experience in the City of Angels." It just launched, at the end of May 2017, a timely entrance with summer's many LA-mazing pleasures on the fast-approaching horizon. Is the iOS app, which came about via important support from the LA County Arts Commission, for you? Well, if you plan a visit to Culver City or Venice or one of the dozens upon dozens of neighborhoods, districts, and pockets that fill LA, you should consider downloading...

THE FREE APP: How nifty is it? It's "(t)hematically synced to deliver personalized content based on weather, time and distance," so that is handy. Daily events get play, as do movie and TV locations. And if you need to spend the night, lodging is there for the perusing, and you can look by neighborhood. How'd this all come together? Metro assisted the app's development via a "transportation improvement project grant." Speaking of the rail system, ways to zip around by Metro, as well as bike and car, are also suggested in the Discover L.A. app. Need it for Android? Hang tight; that's coming up. Need to peer deeper into the marvelous megaregion, past its freeways, into its clubs and eateries, and all around its nice natural destinations, funky landmarks, and moving historical sites? This'll be a way-big, totally awesome start.

Photo Credit: Discover L.A.]]>
<![CDATA[Avalon Ball 2018: Early Bird Tickets]]> Wed, 31 May 2017 13:45:14 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/avalonballcatalina029342903232.jpg

LET'S GET DOWN TO BRASS TACKS, and the nitty gritty, and the jelly at the center of this particular doughnut: Balls are too few in this world. Oh, maybe they're plentiful in fairy tales, and in novels, and on movie screens, but sailing to an enchanted, storied island for an evening of dancing, an evening in a beautiful building that overlooks the moonlit waves? Nope. Nuh uh. That's the stuff of happily-ever-after'd-out yarns, and not the real world. Except, and here comes the big, shiny, star-like, glittery asterisk, you're talking about Catalina Island, which is pretty darn storied, and the Casino Building, which practically owns the patent on charm, and the annual Avalon Ball, a springtime soiree that sees a caboodle of festive joy-makers dressed to the vintage nines (and tens and sixteens and beyond). It's outta-the-past party is a once-a-year thing, and it is much-loved, and... it just passed, as of this typing. But don't dab at your eyes, hankie holders, for the...

EARLY BIRD TICKETS... for the 2018 revelry are now available, further proving how sweet people are on this shindig. "The most spectacular Jazz Age ball anywhere" will return to the ballroom at the Casino Building on Saturday, May 19, 2018, which means you have loads of time to start poring over hotel rooms and dinners out and who you'll want to be your ball date. If you nab that ticket before June 30, 2017, it is $55. Nab it after? It's $70, and, yep, those are general admission prices (tickets are rather less for members of the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles, which helms the whole song-filled shebang). Did you not go this year, but vow to correct that in 2018? Best make right, and make a big night of it, next May on that most bygone of here-today beauties, Catalina Island.

Photo Credit: ADSLA]]>
<![CDATA[Desert Sublime: Korakia Pensione]]> Tue, 30 May 2017 15:11:18 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/korakia+pensione.palm+springs0293232.jpg

A NOT-SO-SECRET SECRET SPACE: Those who claim the desert, unlike a thickly wooded area or a foggy seashore, can hold no secrets, clearly are not acquainted with enough arid-amazing landscapes. True, when you're in the desert the vistas tend to be huge, and the flora can be on the sparser side, a scene that only makes the whole uncluttered sweep all the more spectacular. But the desert does hold a number of mysteries, if you know which corners to peek around and where, exactly, to go in search of something a bit esoteric. One of the not-so-secret secrets of the desert resorts happens to be a stay-over property that stands, with elegance and funkiness, both, just a few blocks from Palm Canyon Drive, the bustling thoroughfare at the haute heart of the Palm Springs dining scene. It's...

KORAKIA PENSIONE, a "hidden Mediterranean Oasis in the heart of Palm Springs" that remains busy throughout the calendar (and definitely during the big music and architecture festivals of winter and springtime). That said, summertime does have its specials in the desert, and the snapshot-lovely, fountain-cooling hideaway is featuring a number of enticing add-on packages in the weeks to come. Find your paramour, cuddle together, and pore over the offerings, like...

THE ROMANTIC GETAWAY, which includes strawberries and bubbly, plus a pair of 50-minute massages. Shall there also be rose petals filling your room? That's part of the amour-laden loveliness, yes. The add-on price? It's $300. Other add-ons include a Honeymoon Welcome for $79 (think Champagne and rose petals) and the Escape & Celebrate for $550 (a massage a deux, a private candlelit dinner created by Le Vallauris, and an "oversize bouquet of flowers"). Do note these are add-on treats, in addition to the fee for your room. And do note that you may feel away-away, in a secret nook of a hotel, even though you're only a few walkable blocks from the bars and shops of Palm Canyon Drive. Can the desert have secrets? Can Korakia Pensione boast a few festive add-on specials? Yes and yes, are the definitive answers.

Photo Credit: Korakia Pensione]]>
<![CDATA[Lotusland: The Season's First Lotus Bloom]]> Mon, 29 May 2017 09:16:23 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/215*120/lotus2017lotusland.jpg

THE FIRST FLOWER: Even if you're not a through-and-through nature watcher, and you only notice the jasmine blooms or purple jacaranda trees a week or two after they've gone into full and fabulous flower, you can grok to the notion that the first of anything is pretty darn exciting. Especially, of course, when it comes to those fore-tellers and prognosticators of the seasons, the plants and shrubs and buds of our wild and cultivated world. And a first has happened, for the 2017 season, at Ganna Walska Lotusland, a serene Santa Barbara spot that's so synonymous with a particular flower that the flower in question appears in the place's very name. We do speak of...

THE LOTUS... here, and while LotusFest!, the property's annual celebration of the water-loving specimen, happens in July, you can see lotuses begin to pop up, here and there, a number of weeks ahead of the summertime gathering. In fact, lotus lookie-loos, you'll likely see more lotus action in the weeks ahead, for the first lotus has been spied on the grounds. The poster-worthy photograph was posted on Tuesday, May 23, meaning that, into June, some solid petal action shall be seen. But if you want to wait for LotusFest! to really find your flower-based bliss, put...

SATURDAY, JULY 15... on your calendar. It's a special day at Lotusland, with vinos, tunes, bites, and more. Detail? Follow a lotus-lined pathway to all you need to know.

Photo Credit: Lotusland]]>
<![CDATA[Animals for Armed Forces Weekend]]> Sat, 27 May 2017 08:10:54 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/helenwoodwardanimalcentermemorialday.jpg

PAYING RESPECT... and honoring those who have served on Memorial Day Weekend may be done in numerous ways, from attending a parade to visiting a site rife with historical import to thanking a veteran. But sometimes organizations that aren't necessarily historic landmarks or associated with the observance want to find a way to also commemorate the occasion, and do so in a way with meaning, emotion, and a long glance at the future. The Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe will be doing just that from Friday, May 26 through Monday, May 29 through a kind-of-heart promotion called Animals for Armed Forces Weekend.

"PATRIOTIC PAWS SALUTE THE U.S. MILITARY" is the theme behind the drive, which hopes to pair up "orphan animals with United States military heroes!" The Animals for Armed Forces Foundation is a partner with the Woodward on the four-day happening, a happening that will see adoption fees waived for "approved military families" hoping to welcome a new furry sweetheart into their lives. A message of gratitude is at the heart of the weekend, with the knowledge that the "...unconditional love of a pet provides years of comfort, laughter, joy, and devotion — crucial elements to assist military members and their families whose lives have been dedicated to dangerous careers and necessary bravery."

THE CENTER's... ongoing Pet Encounter Therapy program brings therapeutic animals into the lives of some 60 to 70 veterans a month. So even if you and your family choose not to adopt over Memorial Day Weekend, you can support the organization in its role of supporting those who serve in numerous, animal-sweet ways.

Photo Credit: Helen Woodward Animal Center]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Barbara Car-Free: All Aboard!]]> Fri, 26 May 2017 08:38:37 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/SantaBarbaratrainstation123.jpg

WHEN WE TRAVEL TO A PLACE, we're often told to keep certain things handy, from a helpful app to a trusted guidebook to the phone number of a friend of a cousin of a co-worker. We want these items at the ready, in case we need to find a restaurant or a tour or a little local friendship, so we stow them in our phone or in our bag or in our noggin. But there's something a little special to keep close, in a pocket, perhaps, should you call upon the American Riviera before the final day in 2017. It's your Amtrak train ticket, for once you arrive in Santa Barbara via the train, you'll find that a number of deals will suddenly flower up, like so much bougainvillea up a red-tiled building, out of the seeming blue. But those deals aren't from nowhere: They're a part of the Santa Barbara Car Free 2017 program called "Take the Train," which gives travelers a host of perks when they show that "I arrived by the tracks" ticket. The ticket can be...

ON PAPER, A MOBILE DEVICE, OR AN E-TICKET, and the money-savers or sweet extras? Look to several hotels, from Beach House Inn to Cheshire Cat Inn, for "special offers," or the attractions and fun-dos around town, such as whale watching with the CONDOR Express and cycling wine-oriented tours with I Bike Santa Barbara. But will you hop onto the Coast Starlight to choo-choo into the stunner of a city or the Pacific Surfliner? That all depends upon the direction you're heading in from and the train you booked. Both bear romantic names, making an ultimate destination of Santa Barbara, one of our state's best-known romantic burgs, feel right. Even righter? Saving cash while you're there on some of the area's best, get-to-know-us stuff.

Photo Credit: Santa Barbara Car-Free]]>