<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Worth the Trip]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcsandiego.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.comen-usSat, 28 May 2016 09:10:14 -0700Sat, 28 May 2016 09:10:14 -0700NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[The Olives of Los Olivos]]> Sat, 28 May 2016 08:24:00 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/56908420.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Mission Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Buena Park: A Year of Milestone Anniversaries]]> Sat, 28 May 2016 08:22:29 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/buenaparkknottshistoric.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Merry Fishmas, Eastern Sierra]]> Sat, 30 Apr 2016 08:10:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/mammotheasternfishmas.jpg

NO TINSEL-DISPLAYING IS REQUIRED... when Fishmas arrives in the Eastern Sierra, and donning an elf hat or outlandish snowman sweater is not necessary (though we suppose if you want to do so, well then, go for it). Fishmas is, in fact, a springtime holiday, one that's celebrated around the lakes and streams near Mammoth and Bishop and Independence. That fact, that it is a water-based party, as well as its name, can easily clue anyone into what it is about: fishing. Specifically trout fishing, which tends to be pretty darn top-notch in the areas that sit adjacent to Highway 395. And a very merry Fishmas arrives on time, each and every year, on the final Saturday in April. In 2016 that's...

APRIL 30, and the festive Fishmasing will be going down around several water-wonderful spots, from Convict Lake (where there's a cash derby in honor of Opening Weekend) to a cast-your-line derby at Crowley Lake, where the "(f)ishing will commence one hour before sunrise." The Sierra Nevada Resort was the setting for a Fishmas Eve dinner, while Tom's Place Resort will also be honoring the big kick-off weekend. 

EVEN IF YOU DON'T HEAD UP... for Fishmas, count on seeing anglers aplenty in the weeks ahead, dotting the Eastern Sierra's lush, mountain-fed burblers. The peak-topping snow was solid over the past winter, which means the waters are running well. Dig out those waders and make for the 395, fish fans.

Photo Credit: Visit Mammoth]]>
<![CDATA[Take It Outside California!]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2016 17:45:17 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/beeflowers.jpg

BACK WHEN WE WERE KIDS... we sometimes had to be cajoled when the topic of "getting outside" came into play. It was just that our comic book was so thrilling, or the sitcom in front of us so hilarious, and we couldn't possibly spare five minutes to play tag on the lawn. (Of course, once we made our way to the lawn we majorly loved it and were slow to return inside for supper.) Nowadays, though, most people jump at the chance of spending a day under the sun, the better to enjoy leafy trees and sprouty shrubs and a touch of exercise and oodles of deep-in-the-lung breathing.

TAKE IT OUTSIDE CALIFORNIA... is encouraging all Golden Staters on just this front, and earnestly so, via a pledge. And the pledge simply says this at the top: Yes! I pledge to take it outside with my famiy and friends the first weekend in May. It's a clear reminder of all the wilderness-y beauty, park-tastic loveliness, and beach-sandy stunning-a-tude that surrounds Californians. Want to join the day, which is presented by both the California State Parks Foundation and the California Council of Land Trusts? Then take the pledge, or simply round up the fam for an outing on...

APRIL 30 AND/OR MAY 1: Take It Outside California's online HQ lists a caboodle of interesting choices going down, from a Save the Trees/Save the Bees weekend in Cambria to a Native Seed Farm jaunt in Irvine. Yoga, zumba, hiking, birding, dog walks, habitat restoration, and urban gardening are all on the roster, so, truly, picking your pleasure should be something of a cinch (or adjacent to a cinch). Ready to "Take It Outside"? Indoor pursuits can be so very compelling, but so can a fragrant spring breeze on the first day of May.

Photo Credit: Flowers]]>
<![CDATA[Universal Studios Hollywood: New Hotel Program]]> Sun, 08 May 2016 05:20:31 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/bghoteluniversal.jpg

HARRY'S IN THE HOUSE, or, rather, the theme park, and his robe-rocking, wand-wielding fans are making for Universal Studios Hollywood in happy droves. That's because The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a land brimming with enchanting shops, eats, and rides, debuted at the beginning of April 2016. And, as might be expected, wizards are broomsticking in from all manner of distant lands, which means they'll need a place to stow their Quidditch balls and Invisibility Cloaks for the night, as well as a spot with a comfy bed. In that sorcery-casting spirit, Universal Studios Hollywood has teamed up with over 20 hotels located around Los Angeles to create the Preferred Hotel program. 

AMENITIES AND EARLY HOURS: So what does it mean to be a Preferred Hotel with the theme park? You're an inn that's offering special amenities of some sort, whether it is a complimentary shuttle over to Universal Studios Hollywood or gratis parking at the hotel or something else as solid. Another big bonus? "When guests confirm their hotel package, which consists of hotel accomodations and tickets to the theme park, they will receive the added benefit of one hour early entry to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter," reveals the site. Oh yeah; there's some magic at work there, for sure.

THE HOTELS... participating in the program can be booked through a new section of the theme park's site. Peruse them all and ponder, as you go, what specific amenities you're hoping for and where exactly you'd like to be (super-close to Universal City, or somewhere further afield, perhaps on the way to the beach). The Garland, Mondrian Los Angeles, Sportsmen Lodge Hotel, and a bevy of other stay-overs are part of the Preferred Hotel slate. Best don your favorite Hogwarts uniform, summon your owl, and read all the details, fine print, and extra must-knows.

Photo Credit: The Garland]]>
<![CDATA[Spring Break All Year: Omni Splash & Stay]]> Sun, 01 May 2016 07:43:47 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/splashomnicosta123.jpg

TO EVERYTHING, A WINDOW: We often bandy about the word "window" when we're not speaking of the glass square in the wall, the one that lets in light. We use the word in reference to time, and a set amount of time, specifically. "That window has passed" means the opportunity to seize a moment is done, or "I'll have the window for that next week" is saying "don't ask me to do anything right now." Occasions, too, have windows -- the Christmas window seems to open around October nowadays -- but there is one annual event that can occupy pretty much any window it chooses, despite having a season in its name. We speak of spring break, which typically falls around March or April, and is usually associated with students taking a vacation. But if you're not into typical things, and you still like the notion of spring break, even beyond spring, and you want to treat the family, well, your window is wide open: Omni La Costa Resort & Spa's Splash & Stay package is on through the very end of 2016.

IN THE DEAL: Your tots will get two hours per day of fun times at Kidtopia Kids Club (so if you want to check out the adult pool, that would be a solid window). A s'mores kit is also part of the package, as is a daily breakfast for the family at Bistro 65. And as for dinner? Count on a $100 resort credit to use towards meals on the property (that's a hundred bucks "per room, per night"). The Carlsbad getaway experiences several fine weather days a year, well beyond spring, so plan some afternoons at the various pools, including the one geared to grown-ups and the waterslide-bedecked Splash Landing Pool (there's also the Sandy Beach Family Pool, for smaller tots). Ready to throw your own spring break, whenever you want to open that particular window? You've got through Dec. 31, 2016 to enjoy a time of year that's far too fleeting.  

Photo Credit: Omni La Costa Resort & Spa]]>
<![CDATA[Pick-Your-Own-Blueberries Time in Somis]]> Wed, 27 Apr 2016 14:02:04 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/181*120/16814164.jpg

GO TO ANY HEALTH SITE, or a blog dealing with nutrition, and search for the word "blueberries." You're likely to get several links to past posts all about the fabulous fruit, a wee orb that brings a lot of big benefits. The blueberry regularly stars on superfood lists, and recipes recommend how we can all get our daily dose, from topping our morning oatmeal to throwing some frozen berries in the afternoon smoothie. But for most of us a trip to pick up blueberries typically involves either visiting the market's produce section or the freezer aisle. Where we don't go all that often is to a blueberry bush to pick blueberries. We might want to -- characters from our favorite childhood books could often be found outside gathering berries for that night's cobbler -- but finding such a pickable place is another matter entirely. Stress not, fans of juicy berrydom, for Underwood Family Farms offers an annual chance to pick blueberries, during a certain window, and that window is opening up now in...

SOMIS: True, the farm-sweet company has two destinations, but note that the blueberry picking can be found at Somis and not Moorpark (which has other fruit-focused pick-your-own opportunities). Blueberry season opened on Saturday, April 23, and runs for several weeks. They're priced at $3.99 per pound, if you're wondering how many you can cart away for a ten or twenty bucks (a lot, is the short answer). Have you and the family ever done the pick-your-own thing? Or "PYO," to use the lingo? If you're all blueberry buffs, and you'd love to have a lot on a hand, for a couple of old-school cobblers or pies, get to Somis before spring fully flowers into summer. Details? Bite down on all the juicy good stuff here.

Photo Credit: Blueberries]]>
<![CDATA[Summer Suds: California Beer Festival]]> Tue, 26 Apr 2016 12:15:50 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/CaliforniaBeerFestival2010.jpg

THE VERY FIRST THING... to do, when you hear the large-scale California Beer Festival is gearing up for another summer season of visiting various Golden State towns with a whole caboodle of craft brewers in tow, is to find your stay for the night. That seems pretty straightforward, or, in lieu of finding a soft bed in the near vicinity, asking a bud to serve as a designated driver. Once those important tasks are done, you can get down to reviewing the wheres and the whos and the whats, as far as what top-notch brewhouses will be making the flavorful scene.

AS IS TRADITION, the festival will visit Marin County first in 2016, making a stop in Novato over the first weekend of June. Santa Cruz will follow, though not immediately -- Aug. 12 through 14 are the dates -- and San Dimas and Ventura are the September destinations. True, the organization behind the fest has expanded into the BBQ & Beer and Tequila & Taco realms, and those, too, have become well-known culinary gatherings. But the quartet of destinations has remained consistent for the CBF over the last several years, as have the fans in attendance, hundreds of brew buffs who line up their stays well in advance.

STAFFORD LAKE PARK... is the setting for the two-dayer in Novato, a happening which will give suds aficionados a chance to sample from the 85-plus craft brewers in attendance. There shall be food for purchase, and live tunes, and the second day -- "Sunday Funday" -- is new for the location in 2016. Just note that the beer sampling is solely a Saturday thing, though beer, along with the vittles, may be purchased on day #2. Ready to find your hotel and make your summer plans? If you can't do a brewery jaunt around California, this fest is a fine way to get acquainted with what our foam-focused masters are up to these days. Tickets, info, and more...

Photo Credit: California Beer Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Vintage Flair: Dapper Day at Disneyland]]> Tue, 26 Apr 2016 12:16:19 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/StephenieDapperDay2014nbc.jpg

SUSPENDERS, CORSAGE, BOATER, GO: It's not a secret that a particular desert-beautiful California destination is experiencing quite the fashionable happening over the second half of April 2016. No hints required: It's the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which has become the sunshiny spot to rock your trendiest togs, whether those togs involve denim, a sundress, a bathing suit, or all of the above. But the Fashion Time Machine -- that's probably really a thing, since fashion has a remarkable way of zipping around the decades with apparent ease -- will leave the future, and the clothing of tomorrow, and head back to the past, and only days after the mondo festival in Indio wraps for another year. The time machine will land next in Anaheim, a couple of hours to the west of the desert, and the era this time around? It won't be contemporary styles, for the most part, but rather the vintage looks of yore. It's Dapper Day at the Parks, the twice-a-year strut-and-socialize gathering that takes Anaheim, and Disneyland Resort, by sartorial storm. The spring outing is just ahead, on...

SUNDAY, MAY 1, and while '50s-era looks do tend to dominate, any stylish ensemble is welcome, whether it reaches 80 years into the past or it reaches to the 1980s. Small details, interesting accessories, lively hairdos, and other touches regularly complement what attendees wear. This isn't a Disneyland-organized event -- it is private -- and admission to the park will be required. A two-day expo will take place at the Disneyland Hotel Exhibit Hall, on April 30 and May 1, and a launch party is set for Friday, April 29 at The Jazz Kitchen. Dapper Day has been around for five years now, with a 2011 start, which means that thousands of retro-dressy fans make the journey to The Happiest Place on Earth for the photo-ready gathering. Pin your corsage on your lapel, or place your boater upon your noggin, and prepare for one of the longest runways around. Dapper Day, after all, is for people to admire your vintage get-up, and for you to do the same as park goers swan past you, delightfully, while rocking their Sunday best.

Photo Credit: DapperDay.com]]>
<![CDATA[Magical Mystery Tours Along the Wine Road]]> Sun, 24 Apr 2016 08:23:22 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/2010_Jordan_Vineyards_Fall_HR.jpg

FESTOONING A 40TH ANNIVERSARY... in all the ways it rightly should be festooned requires some thinking, some planning, and a few great events that make participants feel as something special is afoot. That's just what the Wine Road in Northern Sonoma County is doing throughout 2016, with a host of happenings. Many of those happenings involve the number 40 in some way, like The Art of Oak, which features 40 used barrels that have been transformed into something zingy, zazzy, and very art-lovely (transformed, of course, by 40 artists). There's also the Get in the Picture contest, which is on through the first of July. Look for selfie frames at 40 locations -- all Wine Road members -- and then snap away (and add to social media, too, for possible "prizes, tickets, and swag"). And as for the Ruby Affair Charity Auction, which will mark the big year in grand, giveback style? That's on Saturday, May 14, so find your fanciest frippery for a wine-themed night. Or just stay tuned for June 18, which is when the...

MAGICAL MYSTERY TOURS... will take to the Northern Sonoma County roads. If you sign up for the adventure, you will not, repeat not know all the places you and the luxury bus you're on are heading. You can know there shall be five wineries involved, with food and wine pairings at each, plus a goodie bag, plus "an entertaining tour captain" sweeping the whole thing along in wine-informative fashion. The cost? It's $100 a ticket, and that includes all of the to-dos just listed. One extra bonus of not knowing where you're headed, winery-wise, is you just may land at a new place, which can be a bit of a challenge for those wine country daytrippers who return, again and again, to their go-to vineyards. You can narrow it down, a bit, by deciding upon your chosen area: Dry Creek Valley, Anderson Valley, and other fertile nooks of NoSoCo are possibilities.

HOW WILL YOU... help the grape-glorious region mark its 40th? All of the various soirees are listed here.

Photo Credit: Jordon Vineyards]]>
<![CDATA[Trees of Mystery: Find Your Trail]]> Sat, 23 Apr 2016 06:36:20 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/treesofmysteryelephanttree.jpg

WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, PAUL AND BABE: When you hear of the Trees of Mystery, the retro-sweet, history-filled, redwoods-amazing attraction of Klamath, California, you're apt to first hear tales of the gigantic figures who hold famous sway over the parking area. We speak of Paul Bunyon and his faithful sidekick Babe the Blue Ox, an over-sized duo that have served as icons of the roadside destination for decades. They're eye-catching, is why, but Paul also chats up arriving visitors, in real time, commenting on a person's hat or the current weather conditions, just so you know that the whole thing is live and not on a playback machine hidden deep in the nearby gift shop. The duo is so well-known that a host of hosts have come to pay their respects, including the beloved Huell Howser of public television and Ira Glass of "This American Life." But while it is almost impossible to not talk about Paul and Babe after a day spent at the Northern California landmark, with mention also made of the treetop-besting trams of the Skytrail, there is a quieter force to be found within: the trails. These are the tried-and-true paths of the Trees of Mystery, the routes that people have walked for well over a half century, walked in both quiet contemplation and gentle amusement. The amusement stems from some of the names given to the unusual trees, and the fact that the Elephant Tree really does seem to have an impressive, pachyderm-style trunk. It's worth remembering, as the end of the school year draws near, with all of the busy hubbub that this time brings, that there is a family-cool spot that has a peaceful heart just made for powering down (and tuning into nature). Want to find your way through these ancient trees and into a more silent space? Then pick a trail, any trail, like...

THE KINGDOM OF TREES TRAIL, "which is dedicated to the majesty of nature and the natural resiliency of the Redwood and other tree species." Lots of lore-filled specimens can be found along this path, including the multi-tree wonder known as the Cathedral Tree. Octopus-armed trees, and the Candelabra Tree, are all astounding, but even the redwoods without names are what could accurately be described as "sci-fi big." (Though this is not science fiction, of course, what you're seeing, but actual science). A bit further on is the Forest Experience Trail, with the Brotherhood Tree, and a massive tree struck by lightning in the '90s. If you're looking for "an actual hike" and not a more leisurely ramble, work the Wilderness Trail into your visit. And, of course, the Skytrail is a trail, by name, but it is not on terra firma (look up and find it). It's not hard to believe the Trees of Mystery will mark its centennial in just a decade and a half, as there's still an air of yesteryear about it, in the sweetest, slow-down-and-look-around sense. And, of course, if you really want to talk about an air of yesteryear, ponder the age of the redwoods, which have seen a summer season or two (or two thousand). Is your summer road trip just ahead? Find a quiet moment off the road, on one of the trails of the Trees of Mystery.

Photo Credit: Alysia Gray Painter]]>
<![CDATA[Garlic Contest: Submit Your Top Dish]]> Fri, 22 Apr 2016 12:32:02 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/Garlic_edited-1.jpg

IT'S ALWAYS A DECISION, when peeling a head of garlic, if you'll take the time to de-paper the tiniest cloves, those little slivers that come in at about a tenth of the size of the most colossal cloves in the bunch. The smallest slivers can challenge even the deftest of peel-ready fingers, especially if the paper-like skin just won't give. But here's the truth of the matter, with any garlic-obsessed cook: The whole darn head is going to get peeled, mondo cloves and mini cloves alike. Because a garlicist would never waste a shred of hot garlicky flavor, not when there's chicken or pasta or dip to be made, and be made well. For here's the truth: These dedicated peelers of picayune cloves are some of the very people who enter their best recipes in Great Garlic Cook-Off, year after year. Is that you? Do you remove the skin from all the cloves, even the wee ones, before you cook? Then you are properly and admirably obsessed with this allium icon. Best find your favorite way to use it, and send your top-notch dish into the Gilroy Garlic Festival by...

MAY 1, 2016: That's the cut-off date for recipe consideration for the July festival. The big prize, as is tradition, is as eye-opening as biting down on a freshly peeled clove: It's five grand, as in $5,000, which'll buy wheelbarrows full of garlic (or anything else you please). The 2015 top dish was Shakshuka with Deep-Fried Garlic, by Jodi Taffel of Arizona. Mmm mmm, for sure, but don't "mmm mmm" for too long, if you want to throw your hat -- er, garlic head -- into the ring; you'll want to read the rules and perhaps eye other past winners, to get a feel for what home cooks are creating with the versatile bulb nowadays. You might even ponder doing a dessert, since garlic ice cream is one of the fest's headline treats.

NEED TO KNOW... about how the stages of the Great Garlic Cook-Off roll out, selection-wise, and how many finalists will be invited to show for the showdown on Saturday, July 30? Here's all the rule-based info (we've peeled away the papery skin so you can dig right in, right away).

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Solar Field Tour at Furnace Creek Ranch]]> Thu, 21 Apr 2016 22:10:15 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/dvsolarfurnace.jpg

IT ISN'T ALL THAT OFTEN... that guests at a hotel get to peek at what goes on behind the scenes, in terms of how the property is run. Oh, a manager might let some visitors see the kitchen, or maybe a ballroom undergoing refurbishment, but as far as digging deeper in to a hotel's nuts-and-bolts-y side... Well, that just doesn't happen all that often. But it is about to, at Furnace Creek Resort in Death Valley National Park, and just in time for Earth Day, too. The planet-minded holiday lends the resort's special tour its general theme, for tour attendees will be getting an up-close look at the desert property's solar panels. As you might expect, Death Valley enjoys a notable amount of sunshine, and solar power is an important centerpiece to the stay-over destination. Ready to take a tour of the 1.2 megawatt facility, a spread that covers four acres? Then join the...

EARTH DAY CELEBRATION... at Furnace Creek. Beyond the solar panels, you'll peek at the gravity-fed water system, as well as the golf course that also doubles as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. A biodiesel demo is also in the works, if that's your jam. Sustainable eats are part of the party -- free tastes are on the schedule -- as is some live music and kidly activities. The Amargosa Conservancy, the Death Valley Chamber of Commerce, and the National Park Service are all partners in the energy-minded party. Ready to go deeper into how a resort procures some of its power? April 23 is your day, and do note this: That falls within National Park Week, which means your entry into Death Valley is free.

Photo Credit: Furnace Creek Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Goodland Hotel: Lobby Record Store]]> Sun, 24 Apr 2016 08:41:59 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/vnylgoodlandhotel.jpg

HOTEL LOBBY HALLMARKS: When you roll your luggage in the entrance, and look around for the concierge or front desk, what do you see in a hotel lobby? Perhaps a few couches or chairs, and a bouquet of flowers, and some tables, and the bell stand, and an area where brochures for area attractions may be easily browsed. What you don't see as much, if ever, is a record store, the kind with old-school vinyl and listening stations. That is, however, just what people arriving at The Goodland Hotel in Goleta are seeing when they take an initial spin around the inn's stylish lobby.

A BRAND-NEW RECORD STORE... called VNYL just debuted in early April 2016, and it lends the 158-room Kimpton property some visual, aural, and hipsual cachet. (True, "hipsual" isn't actual a word, but it applies to the ocean-boho building and its design-centered details.) So how does a record store in a hotel lobby work? Well, there are a couple of different routes to enjoying VNYL, once you've stowed your suitcase in your room and headed back to the lobby for a libation and a look-around. There are...

"DOZENS OF TITLES"... at the shop which "can be enjoyed during one's stay and purchased for the road." Or, of course, you can visit a listening station to find a heart-beautiful ballad or rocking anthem, maybe one that can serve as the theme to your road trip to Goleta. VNYL, by the by, is a "music discovery subscription service" based in Los Angeles. Adding to the offbeat experience? The shop'll keep a 'round-the-clock schedule, so swing by at 3 a.m. if you can't fall asleep.

OPENING PARTY: A tune-filled happening on May 19 will summon several artists for live performances as well as a "surprise guest." If you can't make the party, book the package, which kicks off at $199 and is on through the end of the year. Positive Spin nabs you a night's stay, two cocktails when you arrive, and, you betcha, whatever album catches your fancy. For more vibes, more flow, and a peek at this new way of thinking about a hotel lobby, check out the album-laden spot now.

Photo Credit: Goodland Hotel]]>
<![CDATA['Star Trek': Live Orchestra Spectacular]]> Wed, 20 Apr 2016 11:55:02 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/StarTrekGallery02.jpg

IN SPACE, at least where movies and television series are concerned, time is fluid. It might be 2016 in one corner of the galaxy, but a visit to a handy wormhole, or the nearest fold in the fabric of the universe, and bingo: You're 200,000 years in the future (or past). We don't live in such an elastic time realm as of this moment -- a year is still 365 days, and those days have a rather predictable way of rolling out according to the calendar -- but we do live in the time of "Star Trek," and thank goodness for that.

FOR FEW POP CULTURE PHENOMS... have played with time and space as deftly as the Gene Roddenberry-created favorite, a favorite that just happens to be marking its 50th anniversary in 2016. There's no folding of cosmic fabric or wormhole locating necessary as far as this timeline is concerned: It's the big 50th for "Star Trek," and a host of to-dos, like "Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage," will pay stirring tribute to the various on-screen properties that have filled out Mr. Roddenberry's early dream. Best board your ship and zoom for...

THE SEGERSTROM CENTER FOR THE ARTS... for a Monday, May 2 concert celebrating the original series, "Next Generation," the shows that beamed onto our screens in the '90s and after, and all of those dazzling films. There shall be a live orchestra, yes, and clips played on a 40-foot screen. Expect to see visuals from "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan," "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," and other tent poles of the massive, and massively famous, franchise. It's a music-focused journey of the mind and heart, one that's bound to light up fans' imaginations as they recall their favorite episodes and movie scenes. Are you headed to the huge convention in Las Vegas in August? Let the Costa Mesa concert on May 2 kick off your Klingon-cool, Borg-big, Spock-stellar summer season, in swelling, string-plucking fashion. Tickets? Your wormhole to the box office is right over here.

Photo Credit: Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage]]>
<![CDATA[Sierra Summit: Pink Moon Party]]> Tue, 19 Apr 2016 06:52:10 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/pink-moon_headersierra.jpg

FULL MOONS... boast delightful names throughout the year, but one of the most floral, and liltiest, of all the monikers, has to be the one that arrives in April. That's the Pink Moon, a poetic handle that summons both music (Nick Drake's beloved "Pink Moon") and images of the flowering world below. The moon, of course, doesn't go a deep mauve come the fourth month of the year, but it does herald what's happening on our own planet, as in the arrival of the rosy-hued phlox. There are ways to mark this moon-marvelous moment -- sipping colorful tea, eating only pink foods, donning some chromatically appropriate clothing, or simply walking outside on the right night to admire it. Or, of course, you can go up a mountain, a very big mountain, in the Sierra Nevada, with the aim of joining a light-of-heart, get-closer-to-the-moon springtime soiree. Yes, we are talking about...

MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN, which has gained something of a reputation for sending its famous Panorama Gondola up, up, up to one of the Sierra's tippy-toppiest points for various evening parties. This one unfurls on Saturday, April 23 -- that's Pink Moon time, natch -- and best know it'll still be quite cold on the peak, which tops out at over 11,000 feet. And the Ezakimak Challenge's finish is part of the fun, so cheer on the competitors as you enjoy tunes spun by DJ Science, "a glow walk out at Dave's Run and Lake Basin Overlook," bites for sale, sips for sale, and stuff for the kids to take part in, too. Oh yes, and the shiny centerpiece to it all? The Pink Moonrise, as viewed from on top of the world (or at least nearly on top of California, with all due respect to the king of the hills, Mt. Whitney). It's a mountain party with a challenge-fun, moon-pretty theme, and music and eats to boot. Just don't forget your own boots, with the snow and all. The phlox may be blooming here and there, but high in the Sierra flakes are still keeping temps on the bundle-up side.

Photo Credit: Mammoth Mountain]]>
<![CDATA[Sequoia Parks Conservancy Challenge]]> Tue, 19 Apr 2016 23:04:42 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Sequoia-Park-1175929.jpg

WILDERNESS CHALLENGE: If you've been pondering membership with the Sequoia Parks Conservancy, thanks in large part to the amount of time you spend up among the big trees, this could possibly be the best moment ever to take the leap. The organization has just released its Summer Member Challenge 2016 list, a roster that covers a bevy of check-'em-off activities to engage in over the months ahead. Some involve social media -- "Share your favorite trail memory with us on Facebook" is number 19 -- while others are of a more personal, commune-with-nature nature. "Walk to Sunset Rock and watch a sunset" is a much-loved park must-do, while "(t)ake a photo with the General Sherman tree" is something just about every visitor does (whether they get alllll of the enormous specimen in the frame is another matter). Various landmarks, hikes, and programs are included on the roster, which encompasses 30 suggestions in all.

BUT HERE'S SOMETHING TO CONSIDER, if there's just no way, time- or life- or interest-wise, you can get to all 30 by Sept. 1, 2016, which is the deadline to submit your completed challenges: You don't need to do them all. There are prizes for topping out at twenty, or even ten, so you could absolutely cover that many over a long weekend (or a blissful week among the giants, if you're so lucky). There is one grand prize to claim, but ponder this: Haven't you already won if you've spent a summery afternoon at Zumwalt Meadow or Little Baldy or along Congress Trail? The answer is "heck yeah," for even one or two checked-off activities mean that you've spent some quality time in one of California's most superb stretches of tree-packed splendor. To join the conservancy, give those sequoias all the love they deserve, and jump into the 2016 challenge, turn your binocs in this direction.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[New Location: Sunset Celebration Weekend]]> Sat, 16 Apr 2016 07:09:40 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/wine-seminars-sunset123.jpg

A TRADITION WITH A TWIST: Sunset, the venerable and vivacious magazine that's loved upon stylish Western living for over a century, has long been known for embracing the new. That can involve a new way of displaying your favorite succulents, or a different method for grilling artichokes, or perhaps an innovative approach to campfire s'mores, the kind made with a few tony ingredients like local honey or homemade graham crackers. The next new step the publication is about to take will happen during its annual Sunset Celebration Weekend, but that step doesn't involve a futuristic-modern patio chair or gourmet kitchen layout; rather, the two-day happening will be in a new location. This is due to Sunset's semi-recent move from its longtime Menlo Park home, yes, but don't look for mid-May party to happen at its Oakland headquarters. Instead prepare to make for Sonoma, and wine country, where the magazine's second outpost is located. That's where the large test gardens are, and the creatively designed outdoor spaces that have become part of the magazine's identity. Ready to join "editors, celebrity chefs, vintners, craft beer brewers, and renowned lifestyle experts..." on May 14 and May 15? Then pack your sunhat, your walking shoes, and your sense of lifestyle-enhancing adventurism and make for...

CORNERSTONE: That's where Ludo Lefebvre, Tanya Holland, Andy Ricker, and a host of in-the-know gourmands and brewers and horticulturists will be to chat with the magazine's many fans, demo tasty/pretty techniques, and lend the inspiration that's found within Sunset's pages each month. Other highlights to be found around the cover-worthy nine-acre property include an Airstream village, the Backyard Orchard, the Flower Room, and the dream-making Outdoor Kitchen, which shall serve as the center of much of the meal-based demo-cool hubbub. Will you find fresh ways to cedar-plank-up your salmon? Or to coax your peonies to new heights? Is this the year you finally plant that tangelo tree? So much newness awaits at this century-plus publication's springtime jamboree including, for many attendees, a look at the new Sonoma wine country digs.

Photo Credit: Kimberley Navabpour]]>
<![CDATA[Opening: Housekeeping Camp]]> Fri, 15 Apr 2016 07:39:14 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/housekeepingcampopens2016.jpg

LOVING NATURE... means loving all of the timely, not-so-coincidental coincidences that pop up, seemingly at random. Take Yosemite National Park, a place where several Really Good Things -- capitalization required -- all dovetail right around April. There's the seasonal start of the open-air Valley Floor Tours, those informative, gaze-up-at-El-Capitan gadabouts that are full of awesome, ranger-delivered factoids about the famous park. There's National Park Week, a celebration of our nature-amazing system of parks that falls right around the middle of April (and gives every visitor free access to their favorite park for several days in a row). And as for those springtime waterfalls? They push it into high gear come April, thanks to all of that drippy/melty winter snowpack (a snowpack that's "heavy" thanks to all of those 2015-2016 mountain storms). It's the ideal time for another Yosemite favorite to say its hello, which is exactly what Housekeeping Camp shall do on Friday, April 15. As of that day the...

RUSTIC STAY-OVER... is open for the season, but to call it "rustic" doesn't tell the whole story. The middle-of-the-Valley, Merced River-close locale is described on the Yosemite online HQ as "perfect for those who love camping outdoors but without the hassle of setting up a tent." Does this mean your space is enclosed? Well, yes, the "three-sided concrete structures" are not a traditional tent, but a roof made of canvas lends the camp's sleep spots the aforementioned rustic feel. As for the closing date? That's the third day of October, with a big ol' "weather permitting" asterisk to consider. As for cost? That starts at $68 a night. Want to get an eyeful of those famous springtime gushers pouring over the sides of the valley? Best look into booking soon.

Photo Credit: Housekeeping Camp]]>
<![CDATA[Sailing Woofers Help Home-Needing Pets]]> Wed, 27 Apr 2016 12:43:35 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/couplepetdayhb1.jpg

SALTY AIR, SALTY DOGS: No pet person needs to be informed that canines are all about a warm and sunny day, the kind of day best spent catching some rays. If you've loved a dog, you likely know the experience of coaxing them off the patio, or in from the yard, or into the car after an hour at the dog park. Flatly put, they're not so keen to return to normal life. They want to stretch out on the grass for a bit longer, or the tile, soaking up the warmth. You can treat them, though, to such an sunshiny experience, one that has sunshine in its very heart. It's Pet Day on the Bay, the annual enjoy-a-boat fundraiser from the Helen Woodward Animal Center of Rancho Santa Fe. The 16th outing is on Saturday, April 30, and pups and their people are invited to book a spot on a Hornblower Pet Day cruise, all to help the many need-a-forever-home hounds cared for by the center. 

THERE ARE THREE TIMES... to choose from -- 9:30 a.m. if your pooch is a morning dog, 11:15 for the midday crowd, and 1 o'clock to round it out -- and an adult ticket is twenty four dollars. Can your pup accompany you with that ticket? Indeed; each adult ticket includes a gratis dog admission, too. Will your lil' pumpkin need to remain on her or his leash? Definitely. Can you bring a "gently used blanket or towel" for donation? That would be most appreciated. Can you gussy up your tail-wagger in a sea-sweet theme? Say a mermaid or something "Gilligan's Island"-esque? Many past participants of the event have gone the thematic dress-up route, so go for it if the notion tickles you. How often do dog costume to-dos come with a single theme? So often there's an "anything goes" feel to the festival, but you'll want to find inspiration from marine life or aquatic adventures. Reservations? You'll want to make them. Telling your pup that she can soak up all the sunshine He likes over a one-hour tour of the bay, plus all of those pleasant salty breezes? He'll be as happy as when she hears you open a new bag of treats.

Photo Credit: Hornblower]]>
<![CDATA[Dinner at the Millennium Barn]]> Wed, 13 Apr 2016 12:53:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/MillenniumBarnAtNightredbarn.jpg

THAT FAMOUS RED BARN: Many a county fair is beloved for its squealable piglets, and its fried treats on a stick, and its quilt competitions, and its blue-ribbon pies, but only a few spectaculars boast structures that are widely recognizable and even loved. The OC Fair is one of those events, for its Millennium Barn -- the large red barn at Centennial Farm, the very spot where the piglets and goats and horses keep house for the duration of the summer festival -- is a well-known, well-regarded symbol of the fair itself. To be able to visit the barn beyond the fair's run is a nice opportunity for its fans, but something a bit out-of-the-ordinary is up on the landmark's May calendar. It's a dinner, and a sumptuous one at that, "a farm to fork experience" that will involve multiple courses helmed by executive chef Cathy Pavlos. Chef Pavlos, who is known for her creative cuisine at both Lucca and Provenance, will be joined by the Orange County Wine Society for springtime supper of tasty, tony proportions. 

THE FOUR COURSES INCLUDE... a starter involving "locally grown clipped garden lettuces" and "spring peas" and more fresh goodies, with a second course that's centered around smoked Idaho trout and cured wild salmon. Course three? It's a porcetta feast, with several swanky trimmings, and the final course of the night has a shortcake + strawberries theme (plus balsamic reduction and Chantilly cream). A look at all of the top-notch ingredients and foodstuffs that shall go into the Saturday, May 14 affair is in order, so browse now. Cost? It's $150, which covers "dinner, wine, parking, tax, and gratuity." There'll be more dinners to come at the beautiful red barn, so stay tuned. And, of course, you can call upon it, just to say hello, when the OC Fair opens on July 15, 2016.

Photo Credit: OC Fair]]>
<![CDATA[Avocado Fest: Fallbrook's Creamy Dream]]> Tue, 12 Apr 2016 13:17:17 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/avocado4.jpg

WITH MANY FOODS, there is one standard, tried-and-true, everybody's-cool-with-it way of going about consuming it. The banana? You peel it from the top and eat until you reach the bottom of the peel. The strawberry? Grasp it by its greeny hair and start at the pointy bottom point. The avocado? Well, well, well. Here's where things start to get slightly controversial. There are a few ways to enjoy the alligator pear, and fresh methods are cropping up all the time. Guacamole has long held sway in the how-to-devour-it department, though people who like their green fruit neat would recommend pit-removable and a spoon, and nothing more. Those are two popular ways to eat an avocado, but recent years have given us not only a third, but a fourth. The rise (and rise and rise) of avocado toast at hip-casual restaurants has now broadened our avo-eating experiences, and the presence of the creamy fruit in smoothies has deepened it. Will there be even more standard ways of consuming the avocado in a decade or two? It clearly is a surprising fruit with a lot up its sleeve -- er, skin. It's worth exploring, and how better to do so than munching down on lots of guac-y good things at a full-on famous avocado festival. Yep, we're talking about...

FALLBROOK here, and its annual springtime celebration, the one that draws thousands of pit people. (Okay, yes, an avocado has a big ol' seed, not a pit, to be more accurate, so we'll own up to the correct terminology.) For sure, there are a variety of dip-delicious dishes to try, all with a guac-y theme, but other avo-awesomeness awaits. It isn't all about the cuisine, either; there's the Best Decorated Avocado Contest, too. Which makes sense when you think of the fruit's iconic shape and bumpily, beautiful skin and uniform hue. Is the avocado the perfect canvas to work with, at least where the produce aisle is concerned? Okay, pumpkins still may hold the crown here, but avocados seem pretty art-ready to us. Have to get your guac on? Then make for the 30th annual Fallbrook Avocado Festival on Sunday, April 17. And raise a smoothie, or a slab of toast, to all of the fine ways we enjoy this unusual, obsessed-over fruit.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ojai Icon: It's Pixie Month]]> Thu, 14 Apr 2016 16:19:11 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/pixiesmoira-tarmy-04+%282%29.jpg

STEP INTO ANY GROVE... in or around Ojai come the start of April and what you're sniffing is no April Fools' Day joke: The air is fragrant with blossoms, the kind that are symbolic, scent-wise, of the arts-and-nature enclave. Of course, other Golden State burgs can lay rightful claim to that same scent, seeing as how citrus-y spreads pop up all around California come the spring, but Ojai's singular association with the Pixie makes it a forerunner in the fragrant department. So much so that the Ventura County village pauses during the fourth month of the year to pay tribute to its tasty, sunshine-flavored, easily peelable symbol through a host of tangerine-tangy to-dos and deals. Are you proudly obsessed with tangerine juice, tangerine sweets, tangerine savory sauces, tangerine everything? And do you dig small, walkable towns with a strong gallery/winery vibe? Then you're probably already ensconced in Ojai, sipping something sweet, and enjoying all of the pleasures of a fruit-forward April celebration. Best put your citrus-peeling hands on deals like...

A PIXIE PASS, which gives the buyer a cool 20% off a pair of Ojai Music Concerts concerts when bought online with a special code. There are other happenings, like Pixie picking at Friends Ranch, a mixology demonstration (featuring Pixies, natch) at Azu, Cloud Climbers Jeep Tours that go above Ojai to admire the many groves in the area, and a Pixie Open House at Enhanced Day Spa (yep, Pixies play a part in some of the mini treatments). Cooking glasses, Pixie-perfect desserts, Pixie syrup, and Pixie mimosas -- hello there -- are also on the local-lovely menu. 

OF COURSE, you can't get far from the Pixie, regardless of the time of year, if you're calling upon Ojai. But April is the tangerine's moment on the throne, its star occasion, and lovers of the pocket-sized citrus go all out in admiring one of the Golden State's most celebrated sectional foodstuffs. Which inspires this question: Do you eat your Pixies by neat sections, juicy quarters, or mouth-messy-ing halves? (There's no wrong answer.)

Photo Credit: Moira Tarmy]]>
<![CDATA[Mountain Mmm: Taste of Julian]]> Sat, 09 Apr 2016 08:46:37 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/tasteofjulian14.jpg

WHERE IS IT, give or take a mile or two, that the chanting of "apple pie, apple pie, apple pie" begins? Do you start saying the words over and over, like a magical incantation, when you and your crew first get in the car for a mountain road trip? Do you begin to speak the enchanted phrase, again and again, when you're less than an hour away? How about when you get really close to Julian, like when you're driving through Santa Ysabel, if that's your route in? (Well, you're probably chanting "bread, bread, bread" while passing by Santa Ysabel's Dudley's Famous Bakery.) But the truth of the matter is this: Visitors to Julian sing out the praises of apple pie, both verbally and in their hearts, during the whole drive up to the higher elevation village. And with good reason: The fruit, and the delightful pastries it so deliciously fills, are true hallmarks of the handsome Gold Rush burg. There are other meals to smack your lips over, though, around Main Street and just beyond, and Taste of Julian, the annual snack-and-try walk-around, introduces pie people to a host of other local eats. The springtime sup fest is coming up on...

SATURDAY, APRIL 9... and a host of Julian and Julian-adjacent favorites are involved. Granny's Kitchen is on the roster, and Buffalo Bill's, and Mr. Manita's Taco Bar & Fruteria, and Witch Creek Winery, too. You'll just need to stop by Julian Town Hall to purchase a ticket -- they're $30 a pop -- and then proceed to wile away the hours between 1 and 5 o'clock dining on all of the tastes the village has to offer, which include wines and burgers and salads and such. Oh, yes, and pies, lots of pies and apple-y good things. You can't truly drive up to Julian without doing a little "pie, pie, pie" chanting; why should you forgo a slice or two, even if a larger food-forward event is about savory dining, too? So, ready to take "A Rural Dining Adventure!" The trip starts here.

Photo Credit: Taste of Julian]]>
<![CDATA[Outside Lands: 2016 Line-up Announced]]> Fri, 08 Apr 2016 09:36:26 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/olGettyImages-150243019.jpg

THE ART OF MUSIC FESTIVAL ATTENDANCE... can be a bit of a high-wire act, of sorts, though an enjoyable one. You need to plan each step just so on the taut crossing, to make sure you reach your destination (or else face the net below). Likewise, planning is key at a mondo music extravaganza, one that spreads out over three doozy days and nights, with multiple acts performing. Have your tutu and tights on? And the harness around your waist? Then prepare to step out onto the wire -- or, in this case, gaze upon the the Outside Lands 2016 line-up, which was revealed on Tuesday, April 5.

RADIOHEAD... leads the sonic charge at the top of the just-released bill, as does LCD Soundsystem. Lionel Richie will croon, too, perhaps visiting "All Night Long" and "Hello" for his legions of fans (fingers crossed). Lana del Rey will bring her languid-lovely balladry to the Golden Gate Park shindig, and Duran Duran will prove that the scene of a famous music festival is no "Ordinary World." Hoping Zedd will be on stage, too, at some point, and Grimes, and Sufjan Stevens, and Ryan Adams, and Beach House? Your hope is well-founded; all of these artists are on the plump-to-bursting roster.

FRIDAY, AUG. 5 THROUGH SUNDAY, AUG. 7... are the big dates, dates that will require some pre-poring over before you and your pals decide who to see, and when, and so forth, and so on. But don't so forth/so on the food and drink scene, which is a major component of the eight-year-old San Francisco extravaganza; big-name chefs, and brewhouses, and wineries set up culinary camp, too. As do comedians and artists and a host of makers/performers/doers who sit outside the realm of music (though very much adjacent to its spirit). Are you ready to step onto the proverbial wire, with the goal of reaching the other side? Planning your Outside Lands weekend is the important first part. Step out, gingerly, right here.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Left Coast Micro-Brew Fest]]> Fri, 22 Apr 2016 13:42:29 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/shutterstock_206456653.jpg

IT'S NOT QUITE SUMMERTIME... but to say that SoCalers aren't revving up their summer ways would not be true. The beaches saw plenty of spring break traffic, even on foggy mornings, and outdoor cinema festivals are getting an early start. Alongside all of the warm-weather staples come the brew bashes, those mega gatherings where regional craft brewing experts come together to talk with beer buffs and those just getting to know the ins/outs of why hops and barley lend a beverage its kick. One of the first out of the not-yet-summer gate is the Left Coast Brewing Micro-Brew Festival. It's a festival that attracts aficionados from San Diego, Los Angeles, and parts all over, as sippers want to get better acquainted with what some of Southern California's craftiest breweries are up to these days. There are 15 in all signed on for the festival's sixth outing, which will take place on...

SATURDAY, APRIL 23 in San Clemente. The afternoon-long to-do isn't just about the tastes, though those are definitely on the centerstage, but about seeing what a working brewery does. How to enjoy a tour of the brewery? Buy a VIP ticket. Other happenings, including food trucks and tunes are on the docket. And as for those area foam experts who'll be joining Left Coast for the libation-y lark? Ballast Point, Mission Brewery, Newport Beach Brewing Company, and several more sudsy stalwarts are on the rundown.

THE BENEFICIARY... of the festival? You'll help support and fund the "military welcome-home events" planned by the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce. For more info on that, and finding a place nearby to bed down for the night (best line up your transport, too), visit the Chamber's online HQ.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Nature by Night: Dark Sky Week]]> Thu, 07 Apr 2016 13:01:34 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/darkskiesGettyImages-483818682.jpg

STAR SHINE, STAR SPLENDOR: While Earth Hour typically arrives at the end of March, and close to the beginning of Daylight Saving Time, and the national park celebrations of the nighttime sky fall around the summer, there is an April span to keep on the annual calendar: International Dark Sky Week. It's on through Sunday, April 10, and it serves as a starry reminder that half of our day -- or half-ish, depending on the time of year -- is lived in a nighttime world. That world can sometimes be rather bright, which makes connecting with Venus or Jupiter or our moon or the Milky Way a bit of a challenge, or it can be spectacularly unlit, giving the viewer a full sweep of the cosmos above and all around. There are many ways for evening aficionados to mark the week, including just enjoying the after-dark sky in a reverential fashion, but one can also travel to a Dark Sky Place, as designated by the International Dark-Sky Association. There are two in California -- Borrego Springs and Death Valley National Park -- and several more throughout the Western U.S., including Natural Bridges National Monument and Chaco Culture National Historic Park. The association also offers many ways to get involved with their work, which is, at its heart, about cultivating a deep connection to our post-sunset world and all who occupy it, people and animals alike.

DARK SKY NATIONAL PARK: If you want to join a festival that gathers fans to appreciate our velvety heavens, look to some of the Golden State's national parks, which often hold stargazing weekends built around dark sky appreciation. A Dark Sky Festival in Sequoia and Kings Canyon will take place over the first weekend of August 2016 -- astronaut speakers, telescope peeks, and more are on the slate -- while the Lassen Dark Sky Festival follows in the middle of the month. Beautiful times in beautiful surroundings that make for a contemplative arena for considering the issues of our ever-receding evenings. Love low-light-a-tude and a story-filled night sky? Start here. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>