<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Worth the Trip]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcsandiego.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.comen-usTue, 30 Aug 2016 06:08:50 -0700Tue, 30 Aug 2016 06:08:50 -0700NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Ojai Illumination: A Tree-tastic Artwork]]> Mon, 29 Aug 2016 13:54:53 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/IllumeByPaulFerrante2.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Julefest]]>
<![CDATA[Labor Day Splash at The Beverly Hilton]]> Fri, 26 Aug 2016 15:33:02 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/CurvesectionofbhPool.jpg

WHILE LABOR DAY WEEKEND... signals the end of the traditional summer season (even if that end officially arrives with the autumn equinox), it is also a beginning, of sorts, for the cinema-making industry. The big film festivals begin to rev up around the summer-into-fall stretch, from Telluride to Toronto, and studios and indie filmmakers alike begin to cast an eye on the coming awards season. One of the biggest of the industry accolades is, of course, the Golden Globe, and there's only one place that pops into mind when the Golden Globes are mentioned: The Beverly Hilton, the ceremony's longtime home. Thus it isn't too much of a screenplay-worthy stretch to say that Labor Day Weekend and the Sunday in January when the statuettes are handed out are connected in spirit, at least in local lore. If you've always wanted to stay at the lore-laden landmark, and haven't found a room come awards season, there's a deal available to HHonors guests over the final three-day holiday weekend of the summer.

20% OFF... your accommodations for the night is the specifics of the deal, meaning a room will start at $231 for the evening (there are bigger savings through the HHonors program's Big World Sale, if that appeals and you'd like to sign up). The dates that are part of the special? Friday, Sept. 2 through Monday, Sept. 5, and, for sure, you can take a dip in the Aqua Star Pool (the shimmery centerpiece of many a Golden Globes after-party). It's still warm and the first full month of winter is a ways off, but the season of awards-based hopefulness starts in early September. Toast it with a Trader Vic's mai tai, or a martini from CIRCA 55, and save some cash on your room, too, at one of the starriest of swanky SoCal stays.

Photo Credit: The Beverly Hilton]]>
<![CDATA[Apple Days: Julian's Juiciest Jamboree]]> Thu, 25 Aug 2016 15:17:02 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/applepie93828121.jpg

COUNTING ON THE THINGS WE LOVE... in life is of great comfort, no matter what time of year it happens to be. If you dig sourdough, you're going to find a great loaf at a San Francisco bakery (and it doesn't even have to be National Bread Day). If you like fish tacos, make for a stand near the sand in Encinitas or Huntington Beach or Ventura. And if apple pie rings your particular bell, you know that a slow drive up, up, up to Julian is going to be your crust-flaky, cinnamon-scented reward, even at the height of summer (or winter or spring). Of course, autumn and apple pies are woven together like two tightly braided things, and the town takes note of that each September with a weekend-long lark devoted to its famous fruit. And whether you like that fruit cider-ized, or on a stick, or folded into a oven-browned layer of pastry, you'll want to be at Menghini Winery in the Cuyamaca Mountains-based burg over the last weekend in September. That's...

SATURDAY, SEPT. 24 AND SUNDAY, SEPT. 25... in 2016, better known as Julian Apple Days Festival. So many fest-y things'll be afoot, from dancing to music to a beer garden to wine sipping, but you may want to head for the apple pie first. (Truly, Julian is one of the only places where pie as a starter is completely acceptable and expected.) A ticket is five bucks for adults, and kids ages 12 and under enter for free. Will you be one of the first 100 people there, in your quest for early-autumn pie-flavored joy? You'll be awarded a gratis pie server, an implement that's welcome in every dessert-loving kitchen. Fall and one of its best-loved, most-obsessed treats is nearly here, so get excited.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Laguna Art-A-Fair: Customer Appreciation Weekend]]> Wed, 24 Aug 2016 13:22:12 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/lagunaartaffairlateaug27.jpg

BITTERSWEET BYE-BYE: Bidding lovely things farewell is never an easy task, no matter what date the calendar reads. But there's something a bit more tender about letting go at the end of summertime, that season of longer, gadabout days. We know autumn is on the way — the morning light and brisker breezes tell us this is so — so we must wrap up all of those lovely outdoorsy festivals that are synonymous with the sunniest of stretches. One of the coast's best-known art-filled extravaganzas also is heeding the close of August, and the start of fall, and thus is saying "so long" for another year. It's Laguna Art-A-Fair, the famous fine art festival which just marked its first half century as an ultimate showcase for paintings, photography, sculpture, and more. So how is such an esteemed to-do sending another grand season off? By waiving admission for not one day, but a full Saturday and Sunday. It's...

CUSTOMER APPRECIATION WEEKEND, and it will lend liveliness to the Laguna Canyon Road location like so many brushstrokes on a canvas. (One has to be a bit florid when speaking of such a creatively minded spectacular.) Saturday, Aug. 27 and Sunday, Aug. 28 are the dates, so block out a few hours to enjoy the final run of this eminent festival while checking out the whimsical and sophisticated wares of some 125 artists. Are you ready to say goodbye to summer and California's major alfresco art happenings? The time has come, so enjoy them now, or what is still open and welcoming friends. That's Laguna Art-A-Fair, through Aug. 28, 2016.

Photo Credit: Laguna Art-A-Fair]]>
<![CDATA[Ready for Foliage: California Fall Color Blog]]> Tue, 23 Aug 2016 12:24:32 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/LundyFallAlicia+Vennos_Mono+County+Tourism.jpg

THE LIQUIDAMBAR... in your backyard may still be a bright green, and your oaks and maples look as though it could be the middle of June, appearance-wise. But the third week of August has a way of changing up some of the trees of the Golden State, at least in the subtlest of fashions and at the highest of elevations. And while the autumn equinox may officially be a month away, the go-to foliage-watching blog of our state, California Fall Color, is up and posting for 2016.

TRUE, there isn't much to report in the eighth month of the year, but the first few posts are showing a few small shifts, with the high elevations of the Eastern Sierra telegraphing that cooler nights are impacting deciduous trees up along the slopes and canyons. This doesn't mean that the whole leaf-peeping scene is ready for launch — that happens in late September and much of October around the lower parts of the Eastern Sierra and up into the Lake County and Plumas County regions — but it does say that those wishing for a weekend of road-tripping to see some picture-ready golds and reds should start to block off a few weekend dates.

GO NOW! That's the urgent call that the California Fall Color blog typically sounds, and it means that leaf-peeping in a particular region is at its 75-100% peak. That can be hard to predict, but if you keep an eye on the helpful foliage map, and what fans of the blog are submitting, photo-wise, you might be able to get a solid idea as to when your favorite spot will stage its annual autumn show. A show that isn't too far in the future, as of August, so keep an eye on the blog and keep your road-trip snacks and suitcase handy.

Photo Credit: Alicia Vennos]]>
<![CDATA[2016 Sunset Idea House Opens]]> Mon, 22 Aug 2016 09:52:54 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sunsetexteriorrender.jpg Eye "a celebration of local design" over six style-filled weekends.

Photo Credit: Sunset]]>
<![CDATA[NPS Centennial: Yosemite Celebrates]]> Mon, 22 Aug 2016 20:19:20 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/yosemitenpsdamonjoycefalls.jpg

IF YOU RECEIVE AN INVITATION... to an anniversary party, the address is usually printed somewhere on an envelope or the web site. But what should a ready-to-celebrate partier do when the anniversary in question encompasses thousands upon thousands of square miles in several places around the nation? Perhaps the best answer is to find the nearest national park and swing by during the National Park Service Birthday Weekend. Oh, by golly, we went and said what we were merely hinting at a few sentences earlier. It is the National Park Service that is having a big anniversary — a centennial, in fact — meaning there is no one address on the invitation to attend. But many parks and locations are doing it up from Thursday, Aug. 25 through Sunday, Aug. 28, including Yosemite National Park. How will the place known for waterfalls, Tuolumne Meadow, and Half Dome (among about a billion other wonders) "do it up" in honor of the 100th anniversary of the NPS? Let's start with the...

FREE DAYS... from Aug. 25 through 28. Granted, those are system-wide, but if you want to call upon Yosemite National Park over the final weekend of August 2016, you won't pay at the gate to do so. A caboodle of ranger walks and talks, all centered around the centennial in some fashion, fill the Thursday, Aug. 25 calendar, but look Aug. 23 through 27 for other special happenings (science, architecture, and more will all take on a birthday-ish bent for the run of Centennial Week). You probably certainly can't visit every park during the long weekend celebration, but you can say hello to those parks near you or the park you love the best. Happy 100th, NPS, and yay Yosemite, for "doing it up" in grand anniversary style.

Photo Credit: NPS/Damon Joyce]]>
<![CDATA[Apple Days Are Ahead, Autumnists]]> Fri, 19 Aug 2016 11:04:15 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/appletreegetty123456789.jpg

WHEN IT IS HOT OUT, as in don't touch anything that's metal hot, as in find the nearest ice tray and hug it hot, as in "the thermometer says what?!" hot, a person may be forgiven for doing a bit of daydreaming. Maybe they're picturing a glacier, or a polar bear, or a walk-in refrigerator, or some combination of all three. But daydreaming about devouring a steaming apple pie, or warm-to-the-touch cider doughnuts, probably does not score high on the warm-weather fantasy scale. Unless, of course, you are an autumn person, through and through, and the heat wave you're weathering happens in August, just about the time you can aaaaalmost spy fall on the horizon. You want to be wearing a cardigan and chowing down on some sort of apple-packed turnover and thinking about fall foliage and wreaths. If this is what you ponder during a heat wave — sorry glaciers and walk-in refrigerators — then get excited, for Oak Glen's Apple Season is on juicy, tangy approach.

SEPTEMBER-NOVEMBER... are the traditional months for the Yucaipa-close burg's autumn-tinged to-do, a to-do that is all about pies, and craft booths, and U-Pick Apples, and U-Press Apples, and the sipping of cider, and aforementioned doughnuts (find 'em at Snow-Line Orchard). You can get the full rundown on local eateries and what they serve here, and decide if you want to make your day trip about apple butter, or apple baked goods, or apple art, or all of the above. Do keep an eye on the main Oak Glen site for U-Pick info, as you'll want to arrive at a prime time for visiting the orchards. Can you make it through this heat, autumnists? Hang tight — your pie-perfect, cardigan-rocking days are just ahead.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Monarch Beach Resort: End-of-Summer Fun]]> Tue, 23 Aug 2016 20:41:13 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Green-Little-Mermaid-at-Beach-Medium-Web.jpg

SUMMER'S FINAL HURRAH: Bidding summer an exceedingly fond farewell doesn't actually have to happen before the autumnal equinox in the third week of September. But many people choose to do so over Labor Day Weekend, for summer's final three-day event is all about longing for one more dip in the pool and one more easy-breezy road trip. Finding such a spot isn't too hard around California, but a property that's brimming with special holiday weekend to-dos, the kind of to-dos that are summery through and through, is another matter. One getaway, in Dana Point, not only is on the other side of a renovation (one that just wrapped not too long ago), but it happens to be flush with fun family good-timing come the final three-dayer of summer. It's Monarch Beach Resort, and its roster of Labor Day Weekend happenings is as colorful as the swish of a mermaid's tail.

MERMAIDS IN THE HOUSE: You can see such tails at the resort, thanks to the Monarch Mermaid Spectacular, one of the special events over the holiday weekend. There's a mermaid Q&A, too, and mermaid photos, and a chance to take to the water with the mystic visitors, too. Other summer staples include a Kids Night Out pajama party, Family Cardio Drumming, a jazzy brunch on at AVEO Table + Bar, games on the Pacific Lawn, a movie at the Main Pool, and plenty more. You'll want to make sure your must-do events are happening on the days you're there — the jazz brunch is on Sunday, for example — so check in with the hotel on the full schedule. And plan on bidding goodbye to summer in splashy, cinematic, game-fun fashion, especially if you and your kin haven't had a chance to truly enjoy the season yet. There's still time, and Labor Day Weekend is still very much a part of the summery scene, least 'round Monarch Beach Resort.

Photo Credit: Sheroes Entertainment]]>
<![CDATA[Harvest Fest Goes on the Road]]> Wed, 17 Aug 2016 11:21:47 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/harvfest2016.jpg

TRYING TO GET YOUR FALL ON... can be a mite challenging when the hot weather refuses to budge. That's the case for a lot of California in September, a month which doesn't bring as many fall leaves as it delivers toasty days and afternoons that are more about iced tea than hot cider. There are ways, though, to tap into the spirit of the cool-off season, and it doesn't involve finding a large oscillating fan to stand near. The 44th season of the Harvest Festival Original Art & Craft Show is about to open, and there's a good chance that the famous on-the-road maker show will alight in a city that's not all that far from you. There are, in fact...

NINE CITIES... on the 2016 roster, with Las Vegas the first out of the gate over the second weekend in September, with Pleasanton and Ventura also landing in the ninth month. Following in October, November, and early December? Look for dates in Ontario, Del Mar, San Mateo, Sacramento, San Jose, and Pomona. Hundreds of artisans appear at each, presenting an array of handmade goods from wood-inlay bottle stops to carefully tooled leather bags to wooden toys to felted wool scarves. Food's a centerpiece, too, and a lot of it comes with a fall-y feel, from the jars of pumpkin jam to breads laden with nuts, seeds, and other tasties.

CAN YOU FIND HOLIDAY GIFTS... at the Harvest Festival? Indeed, and you can tell your giftee how you personally met the artist. Can you simply go to get into the craft-fairian spirit, the one that revs up in the autumn? It definitely has that, too, in an out-sized fashion. Plan to spend a few hours looking, chatting, snacking, and reveling in a leafier, wreathier, more cinnamon-sweet time of year.

Photo Credit: Harvest Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Disneyland Diamond Celebration Wrapping Up]]> Tue, 16 Aug 2016 12:11:14 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/PTNP379581diamondcelebration.jpg

ANNIVERSARY FAREWELL: A commonly voiced notion around one's birthday is how it is rather nice to see the whole celebratory shebang last beyond a single day. Perhaps your birthday festivities stretch out into a week, with a few lunches in the mix, and maybe you even go for a full month, if your friends are intent on keeping the cake-y goings-on alive. But what to do when you're a famous theme park — the world's most famous theme park, and the happiest place on earth, to boot — and you're marking your big 60th anniversary? That occasion isn't just a day, or a week, or a month, or even a year, no sirree. In fact, the Disneyland Diamond Celebration revved up at the end of May 2015, with an end date of early September 2016. That time is on the near horizon, which means that a few of the features and events that became hallmarks of the Diamond Celebration will soon wave their goodbyes and bid park goers farewell. That includes the diamond-cute decorations seen around the park, yes, and the special character clothing, and it also means...

PAINT THE NIGHT... will take its final brightly lit turn through Disneyland on Monday, Sept. 5 (yep, that's Labor Day). The popular procession, with its oodles of glowing bulbs and "When Can We Do This Again"-y soundtrack (a catchy ditty, indeed), is ending with the 60th anniversary observance, as is the special fireworks show. And over at Disney California Adventure? The World of Color Celebrate extravaganza will also say its early-September goodbyes (Fantasy in the Sky and the classic World of Color show "will return this fall," says the resort). And keep an eye on this: It was announced in July 2016 that the park's famous trains will again run on the Disneyland Railroad, and the boats on the Rivers of America, starting in the summer of 2017.

Photo Credit: Paul hiffmeyer]]>
<![CDATA[Summer in the Desert: Miramonte Deal]]> Mon, 15 Aug 2016 09:29:51 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/miramontemtssunset.jpg

AUGUST CAN BE HARD TO PIN DOWN, in the most delightful of ways. There are some hotter afternoons, for sure, but then the evenings do arrive earlier, and we savor the occasional breeze that says a different time of year is not only on its way, but its train is pulling into the station very soon. We're not revving up for summer sunny good times but beginning to bid them farewell, not with a bittersweet note but by doing those things that signify the warmest time of year. Swimming, or sitting under an umbrella near a pool, or taking a hike after sunrise are as June-July-August-ian as all get-out, but, come the final month of that stretch, the desire to pursue such relax-a-fiers intensifies a bit. Is your summer ever so slightly slipping away?

MIRAMONTE RESORT & SPA... has a solution for that, and a money-saving one, too. The Destination Hotel, which is based in Indian Wells, is offering a Labor Day Getaway deal through Labor Day. That's Monday, Sept. 5, so you have time to put in for a day or two, time you well know you'll spend wading in the shallow end of one of the resorts...

THREE POOLS: There's also the on-site spa and its bevy of chill-down treatments, a number of evening's-coming fire pits, borrowable resort bikes, wellness classes, and a bocce ball court. As for that deal price? Rates start at under a hundred bucks. Ninety seven dollars, to be precise, which is 25% off the standard Miramonte rate, and your package includes a $25 spa credit and twenty five dollars to use on dining (one-time uses, do note). Do you feel that fall-like breeze in the air, the one telling you that summer is about to pack its bags? Don't let the season leave before resort-ing it up, poolside, via a dive-in deal in the desert.

Photo Credit: Miramonte Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Creative Autumn: Santa Ynez Valley Scarecrows]]> Sat, 13 Aug 2016 07:50:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/tenleyfohlscarecrowsyv12345.jpg

SPYING A SINGLE SCARECROW... keeping watch over a field is something of a fall-sweet treat, the kind of sight that evokes cooler days and cider-scented beverages and October-y daydreams. Seeing 200 scarecrows dotting a pretty region, though, is a different story, and one that the Santa Ynez Valley tells each year come the autumn. In fact, the wine country's annual Scarecrow Fest is now such a thing around the valley that a host of businesses and groups and individuals participate in the month-long happening. That month in 2016 kicks off on Oct. 7, and wraps on Nov. 7, so you'll have a good amount of time to stroll around Buellton, and Solvang, and Los Olivos, and Ballard, and Los Alamos, and Santa Ynez to decide for yourself which figure is the most fall-like, the most fabulous, the most creative or witty. Procure a ballot, pick your favorite, and then go in search of a local glass of wine while feeling chuffed that you weighed in on a local fall tradition. Maybe the business you vote for will nab the 2016 Harvest Cup: Best in the Valley for their impressive scarecrow-building skills.

AND THOSE SCARECROWS... do run the gamut, design-wise. Some pay homage to the area's vineyard-related pursuits, some are Danish (hello, Solvang), some are pretty Halloween-oriented, and some are just as whimsical as all get-out. They add a colorful complement to the many doings of the season, including the Santa Barbara Vintners' Celebration of Wine Weekend and the Halloween street fairs and haunted houses that have become beloved go-tos for local ghost fans. Hundreds of scarecrows up the autumn-o-sity, in short, and we daytrippers to the area are invited to give our two cents on what makes a marvelous hay-filled, hat-wearing icon of fall.

Photo Credit: Tenley Fohl Photography]]>
<![CDATA[Swanky Scene: Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance]]> Fri, 12 Aug 2016 08:13:57 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/kimbelpebbleconcours23.jpg

FABULOUS YOU: There are some spectacular stretches of road that make you feel fully fabulous while you sit behind the steering wheel. You may only be in a tee and jeans, but toodle down 17 Mile Drive on a perfectly sunny Sunday afternoon and suddenly you're Cary Grant or Grace Kelly in "To Catch a Thief," at least in your own mind (it's a free fantasy, and a nice one, too). That cinematic spirit of sheer coolness paired with beautiful autos paired with an extraordinary location comes to life in Pebble Beach each August, when the Pebble Beach Tour d'Elegance visits the surf-close stretch. Bevies of rare autos'll make the coastal drive on Thursday, Aug. 18, lending an even more movie-esque quality to the famously picturesque area. But the cars won't bid their goodbyes after their 17 Mile Drive idyll. It's a week of vivacious vehicledom in Pebble Beach and beyond, and the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance is the swanky capper to it all. Make for The Lodge at Pebble Beach on...

SUNDAY, AUG. 21... for the showiest show of automobile fanciness. "The Concours is not a contest of speed, but elegance," says the event's HQ, and you you'll see that elegance aflow in categories covering Delahaye, Two-Man Indianapolis Race Cars 1930-1937, the BMW Centennial, and more. You got it, auto buffs: Best expect to see "200 of the most prized collector cars in the world" near the 18th hole at the Pebble Beach Golf Links. If soaking that all up, from the woodsy dashes to the silver-shiny hubcaps, isn't enough, there's plenty more to do in Pebble Beach and beyond over the third week of August. Eye hard-to-find collectibles at RetroAuto, jump into an auction, or find your car-fun go-out in Carmel or Monterey. Where's that engine of helpful information revving? Right over here, so vroom vroom.

Photo Credit: Kimball Studios]]>
<![CDATA[Sylmar Olive Festival]]> Thu, 11 Aug 2016 21:45:38 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/56908420.jpg

PEEK AND SEE: If you favor libations that arrive with a couple of olives on a colorful cocktail pick, do you pause, even before the first sip, to peek at what the stuffing of the olives might be? You might just see a red pimento inside the hollow orb, or a bit of blue cheese, or a lemon rind, or, with larger olives, a combo stuffing situation. It's a testament to the tastiness of this ancient and eternally loved edible, that regardless of what it is paired with drink-wise, or stuffed with cheese/fruit-wise, it has a lot of presence. Perhaps that's one reason that people adore it so, and sprinkle it liberally on just about everything, from salads to enchiladas to pizzas (and yes, in potent beverages, too). It's no surprise that California boasts a few olive-themed festivals, but they don't all flower at once come the spring and the summertime. Sylmar's olive-themed festival kicks off autumn with flavor and fun and an array of foodstuffs, landing on the last weekend of September. That's...

SEPT. 24 AND 25TH, and a host of makers and purveyors'll be out with soaps and oils and jars of gourmet bites that are both zesty and tangy (two requirements of an ideal olive). Kid to-dos, live music, and wine and beer on the pour also give the El Cariso Park party verve, and food for sale ups the fair-style eating choices (think tacos, kettle corn, funnel cake, and such). Best clear a spot on the cupboard shelf, though, before you go, so you can return with a few new finds, briny bites that'll up your next salad's game or add oomph to your calzones. And as for finding your next cocktail olive stuffed with something offbeat? That's the trend, and has been for awhile now, so count on the olive forever pair well with a host of interesting edibles, from goat cheese to jalapeños to oranges. The sky, or rather the olive shelf, is truly the limit.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Borrego Days: A Desert Festival]]> Fri, 12 Aug 2016 21:45:25 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/212*120/gallettaborrego123.jpg

OCTOBER'S ETHEREAL PLACE: The first full month of fall has gained a rep for boasting some mysterious qualities, thanks in large part to A) the days growing shorter and B) a certain spooky holiday on the final day of the month. But not every place immediately takes on a more mysterious mantle when October kicks in; in fact, plenty of cities and towns keep to business as usual, without any added ethereal-o-sity. But the desert always delivers on this front come the tenth month of the year. Those earlier nights, and longer shadows, and cooler afternoons are downright delicious, and it feels like the arid areas are reaching some sort of zenith for the year.

IT'S AN IDEAL TIME... to throw a party in the desert, and one of the California desert's most ideal spots is the one that's home to a spray of gorgeous ocotillos, and the noble big horn sheep, and the quirky legend of Peg Leg Smith, and a host of local artists and creators. It's Borrego Springs we not-so-slyly reference, of course, and its annual Borrego Days Desert Festival will bloom as pretty as an ocotillo blossom from...

OCT. 21 THROUGH 23: Oh yeah, it'll be a mite cooler for the Christmas Circle-based bash around that time, which is nice. Also nice? The parade, music, a flyover, beautiful horses, and more (think artist displays, wines to sip, and a car show). The 2016 theme is "Resort to Nature," which the area definitely does throughout the year, so hooray that.

READY FOR A... waterfall-seeking hike? An exploration of the famous Galleta Meadows sculptures? A visit to the nearby badlands? Listening for the howls of the local coyotes come sunrise? Or just soaking in a cool desert art fest, with parade, during its 51st annual outing? October in the desert is full of ethereal, adventurous charms.

Photo Credit: Alysia Gray Painter]]>
<![CDATA[Historic Honor for Mission Inn]]> Wed, 10 Aug 2016 11:15:23 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/183*120/missioninn.jpg

FINDING STORIES... at a spot you're staying for the night can sometimes be a tad frustrating. You'd love to hear about some of the luminaries who've called upon the hotel over the decades, and maybe a tale or two of how the building came into being. But not every hotel has such history, and even if a place has some deeper background, it doesn't always put it out into the public sphere in a robust way. Then there's the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, which has so many notable nooks and crannies that figuring out where to start is really the hard part. A new designation from USA Today's 10Best.com, though, should help history buffs get jazzed for taking on the Riverside landmark's many facets in one fell, info-laden swoop. The honor? The Mission Inn was just recognized as the country's Best Historic Hotel by 10Best.com readers. There are numerous reasons behind the property's top-of-the-list status, including all of the...

PRESIDENTS WHO'VE STAYED... at the castle-like inn. Ronald and Nancy Reagan honeymooned at the Mission Inn, and President Taft's chair is the most famous piece of furniture in the large-of-scale structure. It isn't the only vintage piece of note in the hotel; the Rayas Altar hails from the mid-1700s, and its 18-karat gold leaf still shines brightly in the modern age. Tiffany windows can also be spied at the Mission Inn, as well as as paintings, statues, and artworks from another age. The best way to see why the Mission Inn was named a 10Best.com Historic Hotel is to hop on a tour led by a docent. They're free, they happen every day, and go behind the nooks and crannies of one of California's, and the country's, nooksiest and crannyiest properties. Sometimes literally behind, too; expect to see fresh areas of the hotel you haven't peeked at before, even if you've overnighted there on multiple occasions.

Photo Credit: Mission Inn Hotel and Spa]]>
<![CDATA[Firs & Foams: Lake Arrowhead Brewfest]]> Tue, 09 Aug 2016 14:50:55 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Craft+beer.PNG

IF YOU'VE EVER HAD A BREW... while visiting one of the mountain towns of Southern California, there's a chance you participated in a "hold the stein" contest or danced the chicken dance prior to quaffing your drink. For Oktoberfests and the higher altitude towns of SoCal are a classic duo, and many a denizen of LA and San Diego and the surrounding cities looks forward to the falltime foam fun up the big hill. But you don't need to wait for late September or early October to sip something splashy and sudsy in Lake Arrowhead, for the water-close burg is hosting its seventh annual Brewfest plunk in the middle of August. So best mark...

SATURDAY, AUG. 13... on your craft beer calendar, then look into finding a place to bed down near the action. That action is going down in the Blue Jay Village Parking Lot, and local charities supported by the Chamber of Commerce are the festival's beneficiaries. Actor Andy Divoff is the event's Celebrity Guest Brewer, making the whole suds-sweet scene a bit more cinematic (you've seen him as Djinn in "Wishmaster" and many, many other TV shows and films). His Djinn's Hellabrew will "raise money for scholarships for Rim of the World students."

OTHER BREWHOUSES... pouring will include Mountain Brew of Big Bear Lake, Hangar 24 Craft Brewery out of Redlands, and Ballast Point. Will Jensen's be on hand, too? Of course, seeing as how the store is an area favorite, but look for other local touches aplenty. 

Photo Credit: Craft Beer]]>
<![CDATA[Gold Rush Days]]> Mon, 08 Aug 2016 12:10:13 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GoldRushDaysFireBrigade.jpg

CALIFORNIANS, it may be said with sunny confidence, can stow a lot of spectacular and unusual must-dos in their bucket lists, all must-dos that can be found within the Golden State. And if you look to the "gold" part of that moniker, then you know that many a bucket list brims with Gold Country sightseeing. A history buff may dream of toodling down Highway 49, with stops in some of the towns that boomed in the middle of the 19th century, or visiting a museum that tells the tale of how the discovery at Sutter's Mill quickly changed history. But finding characters from the Gold Rush, and the portraits of the era embued with life, or at least the spirit of a modern retelling, is a bit harder to locate. The time of picks and pans and shiny bits of glittery river-found rock come to life, however, each September, in one of the places most associated with the days of the '49ers. It's...

OLD SACRAMENTO... we speak of, and each Labor Day Weekend the whole district puts on its rootin, tootin'-est garb for four days of Gold Rush-style celebrating. Is there a Tent City, which delves into "daily life during the Gold Rush"? It's one of the staples of the holiday weekend event, so you can count on it. Will there be old-timey dramatics, the kind that might have been staged by a traveling troupe in a mining camp? That's a whole thing, for sure. And will the Gold Rush Fire Brigade be out in bells-a-ringin' force? It's part of the plan. Eats, dancing, stories, costumes, cannon firings, wagon rides, and a bunch of other from-way-back-when haps fill out the multi-block area, one that still carries its postcard-worthy architectural cred (the buildings recall the time when the area served as a terminus of the Pony Express). Need dates for all of your Gold Rush-themed festivities? This sepia-toned slice of Sactown is doing it up from Friday, Sept. 2 through Monday, Sept. 5, 2016.

Photo Credit: Gold Rush Days]]>
<![CDATA[Hotel Perk: Pajama Delivery]]> Sat, 06 Aug 2016 10:24:43 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/bedheadinroomorlando.jpg

THE PACKING PROCESS... is an individual one, through and through. Not everyone folds things in a particular order — and besides that, not everyone folds things (there's a large contingent of travelers who swear by rolling, not folding, when it comes to filling a suitcase). And whether your toothbrush goes in first, or last, or at all, is another matter. For some it is the most important item of the trip, while others vow to pick a fresh one up at an area store. It's all part of going somewhere, the packing for an overnight or two, but one part that is sometimes skipped over, especially when departing in a rush, is the...

PAJAMAS... portion of the packing. Perhaps you wore your only clean pair the night before your trip, perhaps you clean forgot to dig them out of the drawer. The Orlando Hotel on West Third Street in Los Angeles can help, along with its neighbor BedHead Pajamas. If you're a guest at the hotel, which is located near LA's bustling, shop-y, eatery-y Mid-City West area (and close to Beverly Hills), you can simply browse through an available BedHead catalog, pick the cute pair you like, order and pay and bingo: The PJs'll be delivered to your room. "In-room pajama deliveries" isn't a perk that's often seen on hotel rosters, but The Orlando and BedHead go one better: If you want to see the togs in person, you can ring for a selection to be delivered to your hotel room, the better to check out sizes and designs (which the LA company is known for).

NO NEED TO SWEAT... the packing before a trip, not when the chance to have prospective pajamas whisked to your room awaits. Just remember that toothbrush, and toothpaste, even if you forgo the PJs in the luggage. Squeaky chompers are essential, even if you wait to buy your pajamas when you get to your hotel.

Photo Credit: Bedhead Pajamas]]>
<![CDATA[New: Winchester Mystery House by Candlelight]]> Fri, 05 Aug 2016 08:07:06 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Candlelight-focus.jpg

CANDLELIGHT IS CENTRAL... to many celebrations, but Halloween has a lock on the illumination. Look to the jack o'lanterns that sit on our front porches, the ones lit from within by small flames. And look to our party tables, the ones full of freaky finger foods, and how we often make a candelabra the dramatic centerpiece. Candles, as a rule, though, aren't a part of haunted tours, tours that either rely on the lamps and sources of light within the structure or, more spine-tinglingly, flashlights. The Winchester Mystery House has gone the flashlight tour route for a number of years, and the after-dark delight has become a go-to for many a ghoul-loving guest. Those tours are returning, as they do each autumn and every Friday the 13th (regardless of season), but there's a fresh twist at the 132-year-old San Jose landmark: Halloween Candlelight Tours. It's a form of illumination that's much associated with...

THE LATE 19TH CENTURY, just before the widespread usage of electric lights. Thus it fits the rambling, 160-room manse, a home that's often said to be as ghostly as ghostly abodes come (thanks to the stories of Sarah Winchester and her medium-guided construction, construction undertaken to appease possibly restless souls). Rooms "frozen in a state of arrested decay" will be visited during the candlelight tour, a "touches of festive Halloween abound." But fear not if you already have fearsome plans for Halloween night: The tours by candlelight are scheduled for a number of October eves. True, the Winchester Mystery House is kitted-out for electricity, and was long ago, but figure how a wee flame, and its flicker, can change up how you view stairways to nowhere and doors that open to brick walls. Chilling stuff, just as long as that flame doesn't... go... out.

Photo Credit: Candlelight]]>
<![CDATA[Laguna Lovely: Recycled Fashion Show]]> Mon, 08 Aug 2016 21:06:20 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/08_13_FashionShow_01.jpg

DRESSING A BIT DASHINGLY... to attend the Pageant of the Masters or stroll through the Festival of Arts is a sartorial summertime thing. After all, a guest wants to rise to the creative occasion with their own look, and a fluttery hemmed dress or colorful pair of trousers can help the attendee complement the art (and vice versa). But the long-running Laguna Beach festival really revs into cool clothing gear come the middle of August, when one of the most offbeat events on the Festival of Arts calendar arrives. It's the Festival Runway Fashion event, a daytime fashion show that's full of fun and memorable togs. But those outfits worn by the models aren't simply off-the-rack creations, ones you can find in stores. They're made from...

"RECLAIMED, REUSED, AND RECYCLED MATERIALS": You just might see a shirt comprised of old CDs, or a top made from dry-cleaning bags, or wire hangers, or another object you'd never imagine seeing as part of an ensemble clothing piece. The fashion show, while fun, is also a potent visual reminder about not immediately chucking the stuff in our life, but perhaps finding a fresh role for it. And it is a tribute to the inventive designers who take part each year. The date for 2016? It's Saturday, Aug. 13, in the afternoon, with actor Joely Fisher hosting and model Kim Alexis serving as a celebrity judge. As for catching the Festival Art Show, or Pageant of the Masters, while calling upon the lovely beach-close burg? Both warm-weather classics wrap up on the final day in August.

Photo Credit: Festival of Art]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Barbara Tradition: Old Spanish Days]]> Wed, 03 Aug 2016 20:44:44 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/oldspanishdays90th.jpg

SANTA BARBARA... is truly a city of celebrating, from its weekend-long Earth Day Festival to its colorful, costume-filled Summer Solstice Parade. But one of its most venerable and esteemed multi-day doings is very much about the start of August, a time of year when the parades and mercados and dance presentations flower like so many many roses outside Mission Santa Barbara. It's Old Spanish Days, and it is heading into its 92nd annual outing on Wednesday, Aug. 3. Old Spanish Days is indeed a...

FIVE-DAY FIESTA, one that boasts a brimful list of must-sees and will-enjoys each day. La Fiesta Pequeña is the opening night welcome at mission, one that includes "traditional songs and dance from Californios, Flamenco, Spanish classical, and Mexican folklorico" (Santa Barbara will also stop by the proceedings, too). The Nights of Gaiety, or Las Noches de Ronda, is a free dance-and-more favorite at the courthouse's Sunken Gardens, while the merry mercados dot nearby locations. There's rodeo, a stock horse show, and the Children's Parade, and Casa Cantina, a go-to for beverages and eats. Docent tours of both the mission and the courthouse lend further historical dimension to one of the Golden State's most past-present parties.

WANT TO ATTEND... a fiesta so fabled and long-running it will soon mark its 100th before we know it? The schedule really is as pretty and full as a mission garden in bloom, so plan before catching your train to Santa Barbara.

Photo Credit: Old Spanish Days]]>
<![CDATA[Catalina Wine Mixer: Oh Yeah, It's Back]]> Tue, 02 Aug 2016 15:15:56 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/DescansoBeachCub_Overview_Jan2015_1.jpg

THERE ARE SCENES... that you and your friends regularly act out, line for line, should somebody in your party say a particular word or reference a certain location. For many comedy fans, a mention of "Catalina Island" often brings to mind 2008's "Step Brothers," starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. You know just the pivotal scene that the island played a memorable part in: The Catalina Wine Mixer. It's a moment that's moved into movie legend for a lot of fans, who've regularly incorporated the reference in their film lingo, or even ventured to host their own Catalina Wine Mixer at home (less the helicopter, we'll assume). If your dream, though, has been to actually go to Catalina Island and enjoy an actual wine mixer named the Catalina Wine Mixer, you're in luck. The fresh flick-inspired tradition kicked off, rousingly, in 2015, and it'll be back for more music, more vino, more fancy foodstuffs, and more argyle-wearing in September of 2016. The exact dates for the brotherly love are...

FRIDAY, SEPT. 23 THROUGH SUNDAY, SEPT. 25: As with the first year, the stars of the film are not expected to show, but revelers will be much in the spirit of the comedy. The Dan Band is the headliner, an outfit you surely know from films like "The Hangover" and "Old School." It's a long weekend of supreme relaxing at the Descanso Beach Club, but if you need a little more authentic movie magic in the mix, check it out: You can book a flight on an Island Express helicopter. But how are your drumming skills? And do you know all the lyrics to "Por Ti Volare"? Best start practicing now, as you go digging for your favorite sweater vest.

Photo Credit: Descanso Beach Club]]>
<![CDATA[Modernism Week Fall Preview 2016]]> Mon, 01 Aug 2016 09:44:58 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ModernistsatSunnylands8732.jpeg

WHEN YOU BOAST A BASH... so big that it practically takes up a full half of a month, what's the next step? Throwing a mini bash, of course, during a different time of the year, to fully capture all of the sparkle that your event contains. That's just what Modernism Week in Palm Springs has been doing the last few years, and to great acclaim. Look to the major event, the one that happens in February, the 11-day whoop-di-doo that covers all manner of mid-century-ism, from architecture to car design to interior design to music and style. Then look to the fall calling card, the one that comes a few months before the February gathering, the weekend-long party that promises all of the good things soon to come. It's the Modernism Week Fall Preview, and it will happen at points around P.S., and the Coachella Valley, from...

OCT. 21 THROUGH 23, 2016: An opening night party, a walking tour of the Sunnylands estate, double-decker architectural bus tours (including one helmed by pop culture wit Charles Phoenix), and a sale devoted to prime mid-century-iana are all on the three-day roster. Look also for a cocktail fundraiser spotlighting the architect E. Stewart Williams (the soiree will raise funds to support getting his buildings onto the National Register for Historic Places). Film screenings and talks round out the very full three-dayer. Is this your bag? And all that jazz? Are you mad for mid-century, and especially how it has been eye-poppingly expressed around Palm Springs? Best book your hotel room soon, for the party before the party, which is truly a whole shebang unto itself.

Photo Credit: Modernism Week]]>
<![CDATA[Ohh, Ahh: Perseid Showers on Approach]]> Mon, 01 Aug 2016 20:40:39 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/perseidGettyImages-483818682+%281%29.jpg

STARRY ANNUAL EVENTS, even those that come back around on a predictable and even somewhat punctual basis, can sometimes catch us by surprise. We know that the Harvest Moon is due, or that Venus will be especially bright, or there's a partial eclipse we should really step outside to admire. And yet we didn't plan that jaunt to a more remote location, the kind without street lamps or too much illumination (the better to see what's going on above our heads). So here's a reminder that summer is about to deliver one of its most cosmic delights, the Perseid Meteor Shower, which has a wonderful way of showing up again just before the middle of August. Thank the...

COMET SWIFT-TUTTLE, and its notable tail, for giving us this show each summer when our planet passes on through. We're making that pass-through again, but if you're looking for peak Perseids action, look to Aug. 13, which falls on a Saturday in 2016. Could you do a jaunt to Big Bear, or Lassen Volcanic National Park, or Borrego Springs, which is an official International Dark Sky Community, to admire the once-a-year spectacle? Some do catch some of the awesomeness from some of the brightest spots in California, but turn to Death Valley, or Pinnacles National Park, or another low-lit destination for a (fingers crossed) wowzier show. For more info on the Borrego Springs dark sky efforts, start on the Borrego Dark Sky Coalition page. Wherever you happen to be, though, over the second weekend of August, look up, after dark, and see if you don't see a shooting star, or several dozen, courtesy of one of the calendar's most cosmic displays.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Raise a Glass: California Wine Month]]> Sat, 30 Jul 2016 11:43:31 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/winetasting7.jpg

HARVEST IN WINE COUNTRY... isn't actually over in the blink of an eye, or a tick-tock of the clock, or whatever your preferred "time is fleeting" saying happens to be. The summer-into-fall period can last a good long while, as thousands upon thousands of grapes are plucked and destemmed and the whole crushing process kicks in, juicily. Vineyards, beyond staying busy, with a roster of must-dos to get done, often like to host visitors during this time. Those visitors include casual, wine-loving lookie-loos, as well as burgeoning oenophiles who want to eye wine-makery up close, and even, just maybe, fingers crossed, have a few tastes after all the learning is done. This all makes September a prime wine time around the Golden State, for sure. It is so prime, in fact, that the ninth month on the calendar has been designated "California Wine Month," which means that numerous winehouses will be staging special events, some educational, some solely sippable, during the upcoming 2016 harvest.

BE READY TO EXPLORE... "nearly 100 great wine events" around the state, from festivals to tastings. Deaver Vineyards has a special Labor Day happening, while the Calistoga Wine Experience takes place on Saturday, Sept. 10 at Pioneer Park. Lodi is on the cab-tastic action with its mid-month Grape Festival, while a Galante Library Wine Tasting features "a special selection" and backgrounds on what you're sipping. More events (and more and more) will pop up as September draws closer, so start dreaming about how you'll spend the busiest, bustliest, and bubbliest time of year around California's many wine countries.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Bodie or Bust: Friends of Bodie Day]]> Thu, 28 Jul 2016 22:03:53 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/224*120/fobAlexBrowne2.jpg

MOVIES MADE REAL: Old-Westy burgs, the kind with dusty streets and swing-door saloons and edge-of-town stables, are a common feature on television and in the cinema, too. So often though, at least nowadays, such fictional towns are created through a host of impressive effects, right down to adding a few hills in the background, or a trail, courtesy of CG. There is a place, however, where the only effects come from the sun, and rain, and clouds passing by, and maybe the caw of a bird overhead. It's all real, in short, and it can be found in Mono County, at Bodie State Historic Park, or just Bodie, if you prefer. We speak of the spot that's regularly called our country's best-preserved gold-mining town, a place that's a bit out of the way but firmly in the center of its supporters' hearts. Are you a Bodie buff? Then saddle up your pony (or load up the trunk of your car with snacks) and head for the Eastern Sierra spot on Saturday, Aug. 13. That's...

FRIENDS OF BODIE DAY, an annual whoop-di-doo that is very much about the whole "Period Attire Encouraged" vibe. Horses shall be trotting about, and there will be some ye olde buggies, too, plus a book signing, BBQ, family happenings, get-in-the-historic-mood tunes, and a host of stuff to whisk you back to a time when Bodie brimmed with residents, chatter, and day-to-day doings. If you've ever visited the town but wished you had a time machine to take you back, the Friends of Bodie Day is very much the next best thing. A bonus? If you're a member of the Bodie Foundation, which is presenting the event, there's a special evening gathering. Details? Read on, ghost town adventurers.

Photo Credit: Alex Browne]]>
<![CDATA[Burbank Getaway: Studio-Close Safari Inn]]> Thu, 28 Jul 2016 22:04:50 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/safariinnburbank1.jpg

SUMMER VACATIONS... come in many flavors, but a studio tour is a classic must-do for fans of classic television shows and films. Tours are available all year long at places like Warner Bros. Studios and Universal Studios Hollywood, which offers its famous backlot drive-around, but you're more likely to see families making the trip to Burbank and Universal City during the school break (not to mention those people who equate summertime with the ideal moment for a vacation).

IF DIGGING DEEP... into Tinseltown's working side is part of your getaway itinerary, and you're seeking a spot to stay that's A) close to both Universal and Warner Bros. and B) a television and movie star in its own right, look to the neon glow found just off Olive Avenue in the Media Capital of the World. It's that retro-nifty, pool-tastic local landmark, the Safari Inn, we speak of, and if you're thinking you've seen it before, you have, in shows like "Six Feet Under" and "The Partridge Family" and feature films like "Apollo 13." And to make it all a little simpler for the star-loving traveler, the motel has a partnership with Starline Tours, as well.

WHERE TO START? Your Warner Bros. tour is best booked in advance, but the Universal Studios Hollywood backlot tour is part of your ticket to the theme park (a park that's now home to the immensely popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter). The Safari Inn is a few minutes drive from both, and at the end of your touring days? You have that motel-perfect pool, some mountains in the distance, and the knowledge that you're staying in at a famous location setting, one that'll likely be used in many more productions to come.

Photo Credit: Safari Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Monterey Merry: Scottish Games & Festival]]> Wed, 27 Jul 2016 07:54:54 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ScottishFestival12343234.jpg

KILTS TO CABERS: Summer is irrefutably on the winding-down side of things, which means that any big trips you hoped to take before the school year got going, or other fall to-dos revved up, may not actually happen with the remaining window of time (spoiler alert). But what is happening within that window is something that summons the spirit of the Scottish Highlands, complete with the tossing of cabers, and the sounding of bagpipes, and the putting of stones, and the wearing of kilts. It's The Monterey Scottish Games & Celtic Festival, which return to the Monterey County Fair & Event Center on Saturday, Aug. 6 and Sunday, Aug. 7.

THE 49TH ANNUAL MONTEREY SCOT GAMES... will include the traditional heavy athletics that are as much a part of the Highlands as wild heather, so grab a spot and admire the skills needed for caber tossing, the sheaf toss, and the hammer & stone throw. Highland dancing, which may include over "150 jumps in a song," is also on the bill, as is a multitude of piping performances (and drumming, too). A whiskey tasting seminar, the always popular sheep dog demonstrations, Celtic handmade crafts, re-enactments that reach centuries back, and more Scotland-specific doings are on the very full weekend's very full roster.

CAN YOU MAKE SCOTLAND THIS SUMMER, STILL? You can enjoy a slice of it, in Monterey, over the bonny first weekend in August.

Photo Credit: Monterey Scottish Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Catalina Express: 35th Anniversary Fun]]> Tue, 26 Jul 2016 16:00:54 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*120/catalinaexpress12345.jpg

THE NUMBERS ADD UP: The Catalina Express, that zippity boat service that ferries people between the mainland and Catalina Island and back again, is celebrating its big 35th anniversary in 2016, it's true. It's also true that the island that is now home to the Casino Building and Avalon and Two Harbors and all of those buffalo is a mite older than 35 (the fascinating story of the formation of the islands off California goes back millions upon millions of years, in fact). And it is also true that nearly a million people a year call upon the Catalina Express for that famous 22-mile trip across the waves. It's a big history with impressive numbers, in short, for the boat line, and big histories are often celebrated in myriad ways. The ferry company is taking two different routes to marking its special occasion, including...

A 35TH ANNIVERSARY SITE... where you can enter the daily drawing. Cookies, books, parasailing, and kayaking are all possible prizes. It's a lively way to honor 35 years, and the many passengers that call upon the Catalina Express throughout its year-round schedule. Consider all of the transportation we use, and how few of those vehicles drop off us at an island. It's a service with fun built into its character, something reflected in the company's approach to its big 35th.

UPDATE: The board-and-scratch cards, a kick-off promotion for the anniversary, gave travelers on the boats free non-alcoholic beverages and other goodies on opening day, July 15. But more days are to come for the daily drawing, so check out the site now.

Photo Credit: Catalina Express]]>
<![CDATA[Dark Sky Wonder Among the Sequoias]]> Mon, 25 Jul 2016 12:11:37 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/215*120/sequoiaalison12345.jpeg

GAZE UP: If you've ever called upon a tall tree, as in one of the ginormous, touch-the-clouds specimens seen around particular parts of the Sierra Nevada, then you've likely spent a good amount of time gazing up. Perhaps you were attempting to discern the tree's tippy-top, highest-to-the-sky branch, or maybe you were making a general guess as to how long it would take to climb. It's a time-honored tradition, in short, to look up at the tops of some of the planet's sky-high-iest shrubs, but the annual Dark Sky Festival encourages participants to look even further, into the larger cosmos that are above the tops of the trees (or above from our human viewpoint, anyway). The festival is very much about astronomy, and the starry sky, and enjoying both without the lights we know and experience nightly in a city setting. Enjoying the sequoias, too, is part of the celebration, even as they stand as quiet, in-the-shadows sentinels after the sun goes down. Ready to commune with the universe, sans illumination?

AUG. 5 THROUGH 7, 2016... are your dates. The lengthy lists of happenings includes telescope viewings, an appearance by a NASA astronaut, nature walks, the constructing of model rockets, and more cosmic fun times. And it isn't all about looking up, but heading down, too, into Crystal Cave. Dark Sky Festivals are becoming a regular thing in our national parks, and beyond, as nature lovers and astronomy buffs and those who wish they could see the Milky Way in all of its near-fictional beauty gather in some of our country's most low-lit destinations. Read more, then grab your flashlight and begin plotting your happy path to the tall trees.

Photo Credit: Alison Taggart-Barone]]>
<![CDATA[Palomar, Julian, and the Universe]]> Sun, 24 Jul 2016 07:32:50 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/JulianStarfest_FB.jpg

EVEN IF WE DON'T UTTER IT... we can all think, from time to time, "it's just a bit too much." Whether it is the traffic, or a broken showerhead, or a looming deadline, or a little of everything, we humans have a pretty predictable tendancy to move into full-on overwhelmed mode when the day-to-day trips us up. There are ways to deal with that overwhelm-a-tude, from helping others to taking needed time outs, but surely one is to consider, for an hour or a day, our place in the larger fabric. Staring at incredibly distant stars, or our own moon, can help expediate that helpful process, for we are able to step back and take a wider view of the whole, vast, glorious picture. And while that whole cosmic stepping back can be done any night of the week by stepping outside and staring up, joining a weekend-fun event like the annual Julian StarFest gives the stargazer a plethora of to-dos to choose from, from consulting with astronomers about various nebula-nifty topics to touring Mount Palomar, a pinch and a scoot from the apple-sweet mountain town. The 2016 dates are...

THURSDAY, AUG. 4 THROUGH SATURDAY, AUG. 6: The Free Public Star Party, a centerpiece of the long-running event, is on Aug. 6, and there shall be "many telescopes set up in the viewing area." Also nearby? Astronomers from the San Diego Astronomy Association, the event's organizer. And while the Mount Palomar tour is a space-limited deal, the Saturday star party is a come-one-come-all scene, so arrive with your questions about galaxies and light years and how hot the sun is (or cold the moon is, if that's your preference). It's a lively, look-up affair, one that takes us out of our daily doings for a night and helps us feel inspired and/or joyful and/or part of the whole.

Photo Credit: Julian StarFest]]>
<![CDATA[Ventura's 'Ocean Air' County Fair]]> Fri, 22 Jul 2016 07:52:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/shutterstock_107289284.jpg

IF YOU'RE STANDING ON A MIDWAY... you tend to expect a few things. You'll hear some sort of calliope music, from a nearby ride, the sort of ride that spins in multiple directions while different bulbs blink in time. You'll smell some sort of caramel corn, or kettle corn, or another version of corn that was only just invented weeks before. And you may see sunshine, or clouds, or some combination, the sort of sky that is emblematic of summertime. What you likely won't feel, though, is an ocean breeze, the kind that is a bit ticklish, a bit damp, and nicely salty.

THERE IS A PROMINENT EXCEPTION, however, and it's the Ventura County Fair, a county fair that's about as close to the ocean as your average pier or stretch of sand. This placement lends the August spectacle some tang, and marine-sweet freshness, as you go about the rides and the eating of kettle corn and the visiting of animals. If a fair is your jam, and you're pretty enamored of the Pacific, then make for the Ventura County Fairgrounds from...

AUG. 3 THROUGH 14, 2016: "A Country Fair with Ocean Air" will fill out that stretch with motorsports and PRCA Rodeo and a bevy of concerts from acts like Styx, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and the great Patti LaBelle. Are there...

SPECIAL ADMISSION DAYS? You bet. Shall there be crafts and more to see? That's tradition. Will you admire a host of critters, from goats to pigs? Yes. And shall the ride scene and noshable fried treats complete the carnival tableau? Absolutely. The classics are all there, with a dollop of ocean breezery on top. How many county fairs can boast about that? (Hint: Very few, so high fives, Ventura.)

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Free Days: National Park Service's 100th Birthday]]> Sun, 24 Jul 2016 07:34:26 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/485215315-happy-birthday-candles-cake.jpg

A BIRTHDAY... can mean a number of nifty things, from delicious slices of cake being proffered to balloons appearing out of nowhere to the occasional surprise gift, the kind that comes with a giant bow on top. That special day can also translate into free things, as in a free short stack of pancakes or free car wash or another nice local benefit down at a treasured mom-and-pop-ery. The National Park Service is getting into that "birthdays + awesome free things" vibe, but for its own special day. And it is a very special one, indeed: The service overseeing our beloved parks, monuments, and important sites is turning 100 in 2016, something work raising a forkful of cake to, with cheer. If you want to feel that centennial magic, and have your entrance fee waived at a park that charges (not every national park does), mark...

AUG. 25 THROUGH 28, 2016... on your calendar. You can find out if your favorite waterfall-y, tree-laden, rock-pretty spot is a fee-asking spot — 127 of the 400+ NPS-overseen spots do charge a fee at the gate — and then you can go, go, go. Those four days do include a weekend, so making the most of the Saturday and Sunday might be in the cards for many. Another bonus? This is the weekend before Labor Day Weekend, and travelers will ponder a full week of road-tripping, with the initial weekend being one spent in a national park, for no admission. Nope, you don't need to get the NPS anything, but sharing your affection for the parks by taking nothing but photos, and posting such photos, if that's your jam, helps spread these wonders far and wide. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images/RooM RF, Illustration]]>
<![CDATA[Thomas the Tank Engine Visits California]]> Wed, 20 Jul 2016 21:51:56 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/3Thomas_SRR_Tracks.jpg

MEETING A FAVORITE CHARACTER... from a book or a film or a television series can often happen, if you just know where to look. If you love Snow White, you might travel to Anaheim or Florida. If you're a fan of Paul Bunyon and Babe the Blue Ox, trot for the Trees of Mystery, in the redwoods. But what to do when your go-to superstar tends to stick close to railroad tracks, on account of that superstar being a tank engine? Well, you'll need to wait for him to call on a local rail destination in your area, since he's apt to be a character on the move. "On the move" describes Thomas the Tank Engine to a T, but he does make a few stops each year, along with some of his friends, at some well-known train locales. Two California places are on his end-of-2016 schedule, with Roaring Camp Railroads in Felton up first in late July and early August, and the Orange Empire Railway in Perris in November. 

DAY OUT WITH THOMAS... is just that, a day for your kids to see the character in person and take a ride with Thomas, too. Also making the journey to Felton, and later on Perris, is Sir Topham Hatt, Controller of the Railway. You'll want to purchase your tickets well in advance, as the popular happening does draw the train buffs and Thomas mavens alike. It's been around for 21 years now, which means that some of the first riders are likely returning with their own young'uns. Train adoration can be a lifelong pursuit, and for many that adoration starts by reading a Thomas the Tank Engine book or seeing him on TV. To see him at a rail station, though? Exciting stuff, indeed.

Photo Credit: Day Out with Thomas]]>
<![CDATA[Yoga in the Neon Boneyard]]> Wed, 20 Jul 2016 21:53:10 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/neonboneyardvegas.jpg

LAS VEGAS... is a pretty far-fetched place, most (read: all) days of the year. You can take a front row seat and watch clowns do flips, or aerialists twirl, or magicians make people disappear (and reappear, fingers crossed). The food choices are as unlikely and lovely, from towering sugary creations to flaming drinks to one-of-a-kind dining events that push into the high hundreds, price-wise. But exercise, for the most part, still takes place in hotel gyms, and various hiker-nice canyons, and The Strip, too, if you awaken early enough for a not-too-crowded jog. There is a new place, filled with older gems, to get your workout on, specifically your yoga poses and stretches. It isn't a studio, or even a park, but rather the Neon Museum, which is home to some of the most iconic, bulb-laden signage to ever grace Sin City. That's right...

POP-UP HOT YOGA SESSIONS... near all of those famous hotel and restaurant artifacts is a Thing, with a capital T, over the summer of 2016, though the classes are not on daily. The final one is happening on the final day of August, if you're thinking of doing an early-Labor-Day-Weekend-y thing in Las Vegas, though there are other sessions still to come. Certified Instructor Eileen Lorraine will take beginners, intermediate practitioners, and advance enthusiasts through the moves during the one-hour class, a class that will be held "in the shaded portion of the Neon Boneyard." Ah yes, this is an early evening event, happening at 5:30 p.m., so those signs won't yet be lit. But consider how dramatic a backdrop they'll make for your downward dogs, and how all of the colors and swirls and details may inspire some new thinking paths as you pause and breathe deeply. Want to go? It's $18, and you'll want to find a date when it is happening.

Photo Credit: Neon Boneyard]]>
<![CDATA[Palo Alto/Carmel: Luxe Road Trip Package]]> Tue, 19 Jul 2016 15:46:03 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/epiphanyhotel2121-horz.jpg

TWO HOTELS, SWANKY WHEELS: It isn't unusual, of course, for a stay-over property to offer some sort of amenity-nice package, or a few of them, the sort of plans that give a guest a few delicious add-ons during their time at the hotel. What is unusual, though, is to see a pair of hotels dovetail on the same swanky package plan, and to find a way to connect the hotel locales via a memorable mode of transport. That's what The Epiphany Hotel in Palo Alto and Carmel Valley Ranch are doing, though, and that memorable transport? It's a BMW i8 hybrid car. Call it the...

ULTIMATE ROAD TRIP PACKAGE, one that is as much about your time wending from Palo Alto to Carmel Valley as your overnight at both spots. The road trip starts at The Epiphany, with a luxury suite (complete with private patio) and a tasting menu dinner at Lure + Till, one that comes with a private chef consultation. There are other goodies, like a Palo Alto walking guide and an in-room breakfast. Then you pick up that BMW i8 hybrid and make your way for...

CARMEL VALLEY RANCH, where you'll bed down for the night in a Vineyard Oak Studio Suite and enjoy a "Dine Like a Chef" meal that'll spotlight local bounty. There are other nice to-dos, like a spa treatment and a private tour of the hotel's well-known garden (as well as its vineyard and salt house). After your stay wraps, you'll be presented with a picnic and then you're back on the road, headed to The Epiphany to drop off your wheels (or the airports in San Jose or San Francisco, if you so choose). 

IT ISN'T OFTEN... that hotel-made packages send guests out on the road, so if luxe vehicles and perk-laden stays are your fancy, ponder trying out this rare package, one involving a sweet ride, two distinct properties, and the road between them.

Photo Credit: Epiphany Hotel/Carmel Valley Ranch]]>
<![CDATA[Sonoma Valley Crush: Tickets on Sale]]> Mon, 18 Jul 2016 09:24:58 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ticketsonsalesonomavalleycrush.jpg

WORDS CARRY WEIGHT... but "harvest" carries more than most. It's a word full of potency, and sunlight, and richness, and bounty, and it stirs something deep inside our noggins, the place that longs for nature and connection. Okay, that's all serious stuff, but few times of the year are as ripe as that moment when grapes are ready on the vine and other fruits have come into their fullness. It's almost like we're seeing the seasons move when harvest arrives, and taking a day to appreciate it can simply be marked down as part of the happy human experience. A number of wine country organizations honor harvest each year with some special happenings, and The Heart of Sonoma Valley joins this tradition annually via its Sonoma Valley Crush weekend. The three-day party is spreading out smack dab in the middle of September — Sept. 16 through 18, so we weren't ribbing you on the "smack dab" part — and...

TICKETS ARE ON SALE... for the sip-and-see-things festival. There are thirteen participating wineries in all, including Loxton Cellars, St. Francis Winery & Vineyards, and Mayo Family Winery, and the to-dos run the grapely gamut from grape tastings ("fresh off the vine," natch) to crush pad tours to the sipping of fermenting wine (a memorable experience) to the tasting of several of a winery's cab/chard/pinot/beyond offerings. Your three-day pass is $35, and your designated driver's pass is ten bucks. As for entering the world of harvestdom, that mellow time of year when grapes seem to glow and leaves are starting to think about turning and you can almost see the wheel of the seasons at work? You've got to take the moment when it comes around, and it comes around 'round these parts each September.

Photo Credit: Kim Carroll/Heart of Sonoma Valley]]>
<![CDATA[September Sup: Newport Beach Wine & Food]]> Sat, 16 Jul 2016 07:59:50 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/nbeachfoodwine16.jpg

ADVENTUROUS FOODIE-ING... is a pursuit that can be ably pursued at any point on the calendar, but it seems to cleave well with the start of autumn. That's when harvest is in full swing, and the holidays are on the horizon, with their big turkeys and succulent hams and savory sides, and other gourmet festivals are gearing for the party-filled end of the year. So how best to spend an early fall weekend, a four-dayer that flows from the end of September right into October? Getting to know gourmet grub sounds like an ideal thing to do, and doing so among other foodies, and well-known chefs, sounds like an ideal group in which to meet up with. All of that ideal stuff'll be going down in Newport Beach, which will again host the Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival at points around town. One of those points is the...

NEWPORT BEACH CIVIC CENTER, which will be the place to go for the mondo Daytime Festival on Saturday, Oct. 1 and Sunday, Oct. 2. Look for the Grand Tasting Pavilions, which "will showcase 20 different restaurants each day," and stop by the center of each for sips of over 200 wines. There are restaurant-based bashes, too, like at Nancy Silverton's Pizzeria Mozza on Friday, Sept. 30 (Chef Silverton will join). The opening night soiree of the festival, which is headed into its third year, will land at Ritz Prime Seafood. A private cooking/tasting demo with Chef Rick Bayless is part of the VIP ticket, and other chefly demos dot the schedule (so find the toque you follow or the type of cuisine you favor). 

LOOKING FOR TICKETS... to the tony, taste-laden affair? They went on sale in mid-June 2016. The start of fall, and a bevy of feastly doings led by this Newport Beach favorite, is less than a fourth of a year away.

Photo Credit: Newport Beach Food & Wine Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Monterey Bay Aquarium by Night]]> Fri, 15 Jul 2016 10:00:52 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/evenings-by-the-bay12345.jpg

PONDERING WHAT OCEAN DENIZENS... do after the sun drops behind the horizon has long been the whimsical province of poets and animation writers and people who simply love the mysteries of the sea. We know that eels don't wear nightcaps and groupers don't require lullabies, but the notion of a vast world of moon-glinty darkness, full of waves and wonder, will never not intrigue we landlubbers. It is a fun chance, then, to be able to visit an aquarium after the time it traditionally closes, or, if you prefer, just about the hour that the eels are donning their nightcaps. Okay, that is pure fantasy, but Evenings by the Bay at Monterey Bay Aquarium is very much a reality, and one that fans welcome back each summer. Why the warm hello? Well, you get to visit the...

WORLD-FAMOUS INSTITUTION... during "extended summer hours" on Saturdays and Sundays. ("Extended summer hours"=an 8 o'clock closing time.) Live music is part of the party — the Monterey Acoustic Project visits on July 16, while Victory Lane is there on Aug. 13 — and the food is a savory centerpiece of the warm-weather run, too. Look for "cafe selections" on Sunday nights and themed eats on Saturdays, Vegetarian BBQ to Cooking with Corn, depending upon when you visit. And as for singing any lullabies to the residents, like those iconic sardines? You won't need to, but a wander by an exhibit or two, during an hour when the aquarium is typically closed, may make you feel as though you're calling upon an ocean-amazing world that's not often seen by the public. Watching the sunset, too, while standing near the Great Tide Pool, is forever a treat.

FINAL DATE... of the 2016 run? Sunday, Sept. 4.

Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium]]>
<![CDATA[Nevada City Glamping Getaway Debuts]]> Fri, 15 Jul 2016 09:58:10 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/inntownbrandoneverett.jpg

HOSPITALITY TRENDS... always seem to be alighting upon the next good idea, whether it is a 4 p.m. Bloody Mary cart that's wheeled up to your hotel room (designation: a good idea) or warm chocolate chip cookies delivered to your suite at bedtime (designation: an incredibly good idea). Stylish stay-over spots place phonograph players in the lobby, while bicycles for rent and other fresh perks gives the classic away-from-overnight a special feeling. Glamping has been one of those on-the-rise hospitality trends in recent years, and it has proven its mettle, as people gravitate to tricked-out and sometimes tony tents that are already set up (and that have amenities to enhance the outdoor experience). Get ready for...

THE INN TOWN CAMPGROUND... to go one better on the glamping scene. Not only does the new Nevada City destination, which debuted on July 1, have the touchstones of relaxed glamp-a-tude, including tents with bedside tables and electricity, but it is, wait for it, in town, so campers only need to stroll a little ways to find restaurants, bars, and shops. In short, you won't need to drive out into the woods to get a taste of a pastoral getaway.

THE COMMONS, a sizable heated building at the heart of the campground, boasts a kitchen, a camp store, and a place to do your laundry, while the choices on where to bed down cover the pine-scented gamut, from places to pitch your own tent to glamp'd tents that are all set up and ready for you to plop down. RV hookups? They're there. A bathhouse with an indoor shower and flush toilets? Yep. Other gather spots, like a BBQ area? You can either find a place to hangout with other campers or stay cozy in your designated slice of campground. 

BY THE BY... if you know the town's funky Outside Inn, then you know the people who've created this bucolic bastion just a hop/skip away from Nevada City's Broad Street.

Photo Credit: Brandon Everett]]>
<![CDATA[Catalina Island: Unlimited Fun Day Pass]]> Wed, 13 Jul 2016 06:49:41 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AvalonAerial_2015_2.jpg

DECIDING WHAT TO DO FIRST... on a day trip to Catalina Island can be deliciously tricky. After all, when the island is viewed from the mainland — say, from Rancho Palos Verdes, or another point near Los Angeles — it can seem, through the light fog, as though you can do it all in a day. There's a big "au contraire" there, of course, because once you step off into Avalon you're presented with numerous choices, both on the water and up in the flora- and fauna-filled hills (and, indeed, in the city of Avalon itself, which boasts restaurants, spas, and the historic Casino Building). What might be helpful, on the planning end for you and your pals, and the cash-saving end, too, is to line up an Unlimited Fun Day Pass ahead of your isle-sweet adventure. The pass, which debuted early in June, covers a caboodle of to-dos, to-dos covered by a single price: $199. Those on-the-island pursuits include...

THE FAMOUS GLASS BOTTOM BOAT, and the Undersea Expedition, and the Ocean Runner, and the Behind-the-Scenes tour of the Casino, and a Flying Fish Trip, and an Inland Expedition, and the way-up-high Zip Line Eco Tour, and more, more, more. The only challenge is to A) cram in as much good-times-ing as you can over the course of a day and B) get your party to agree on all the stuff you want to do over the course of your Catalina sojourn. You'll need to book in advance, and there are a few asterisks and things not included (some rentals and such). Will you be far too bushed after all of your adventure-having? There are hotel packages, too, to ponder (and come to a group consensus on).

Photo Credit: Santa Catalina Island Company]]>
<![CDATA[Vintage Weekend at an Art Deco Gem]]> Thu, 14 Jul 2016 17:13:03 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/artdecofestqm9292322.jpg

GUSSY UP AND GO: Do you still get a little dressy-dressy when you're going someplace? Oh, we don't mean you do the dressy-dressy thing with your arrival point in mind. Rather, you don some pearls, or a stylish hat, or a houndstooth jacket, for the sake of the journey, in addition to the destination. Jaunting about the planet in the Golden Age of Travel was very much a fashion affair, among other things, and few vessels were as vivacious on this end of the sartorial spectrum as the Queen Mary. Glance back at photos from the '30s and you'll see stars in their elegant best, simply swanning about the decks of the grand ocean-liner. Those dressy-dressy days live on each year during the Art Deco Festival, a three-day gathering devoted to gussying up, yes, but also the splendid, unparalleled architecture and design of one of the world's great Art Deco landmarks. Slip into your velvet heels or two-toned pumps and strut for...

LONG BEACH... over the Aug. 19 to 21 weekend. A confetti horn full of to-dos is on the schedule for the celebration, from dancing to period-cool bands (hello there, Dean Mora Orchestra, and greetings, The Lindy Sisters) to tours of the nook/cranny-packed ship. There are stay-over packages on the purported-to-be-haunted Queen Mary, which should give you time for all the thorough exploring you desire. But you'll do the dressy-dressy thing before Nancy-Drew-ing for ghosts, yes? The weekend is about design, and architecture, but clothing and cultural touchstones of the time, too. Best wear your dance-ready duds, the ones that look as though they sprang from 1934, the very year the Queen Mary was constructed alongside the River Clyde in Scotland.

Photo Credit: Art Deco Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Can-Can Confab: Santa Barbara French Fest]]> Mon, 11 Jul 2016 10:20:40 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*120/FrenchFestival1.jpg

IF YOU "OOH LA LA"... with effervescent ease, and you break out "au revoir" instead of goodbye, and you can spread a hunk of Brie on a piece of baguette in one fluid movement, then clearly you should be spending the day in the French countryside, eating and strolling and daydreaming. If such a lovely plan is not currently in the works for you, but you still want to get your "ooh la la" on, and maybe eat something baguette-like, and perhaps even wear a beret or something that's Left Bank chic, you can sashay your way to the American Riviera over the middle weekend in July. That's when the Santa Barbara French Festival unfolds, a two-dayer of a delight that is très, très venerable (well, if you count starting the 1980s as venerable, which we so do, with respect). The sweet, coo-ready centerpiece of the grand soiree is the Sunday Poodles & Pals Parade, but you can arrive earlier in the weekend for a caboodle of to-dos, to-dos brimming with Paris-panache by way of...

OAK PARK: That's where l'action is happening, and by "l'action" we mean crepe enjoyment, wine sipping, French books for sale, artworks on display, and a travel pavilion sure to stoke those "I've got to get to the Continent" dreams. Cajun music, African drumming, a drag revue, and about 30 more performing groups will be on the stage, summoning joy, music, and the spirit of summertime. As it is summertime, perhaps a beret would be too warm a fashion choice, but a jaunty scarf tied at the neck would be right on. Ready to call upon some café close to the Seine, but via Santa Barbara? Ooh la la, your information is here.

Photo Credit: Santa Barbara French Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Summer at The Inn at Furnace Creek]]> Wed, 13 Jul 2016 06:47:57 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/julyaugfurnacecreek12345.jpg

A NATIONAL PARK TO YOURSELF: Even if you arrive in Yellowstone National Park in the snowiest part of January, or Death Valley National Park in the heat of July, you won't ever truly have a national park all to yourself. True, traffic is sure to be lighter — often a lot lighter — than a national park during its peak season, and hotel rooms likely easier to get (if the hotel you want is open). But having a place sort of to yourself, or at least to yourself in a time when fewer people visit, does feel rather special.

THE QUIET... can feel more clear, the views can seem longer, and you can locate a hike or vista that just might be empty, or mostly so. And while the hotels inside Death Valley do not close the shutters when the three-digit temperatures rev up, The Inn at Furnace Creek does move to a "limited basis" of operation in July and August. Yes, that includes a few restricted services — the hotel's dining room keeps dinner-only hours as well as gratis coffee in the mornings — and the gift shop will take the afternoons off. This can all feel, though, a little slower in pace, delightfully so, if that's just the tonic you've been longing for in your go-go-go day-to-day world.

DO NOTE... that The Ranch at Furnace Creek, a pop down the road, also has a small store and services, so if you need to slip away for a quick shopping trip, you can, even at the height of summer. It's a time when Death Valley is slight less hub-bub-ier, and even The Inn at Furnace Creek slows it down, a bit, in deference to the toasty time of year. For some travelers, though, that's a sunny slice of unhurried bliss.

Photo Credit: Furnace Creek Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Opening: The California State Fair]]> Fri, 08 Jul 2016 07:35:31 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/212*120/fairridenightwheeee.jpg

TO FLIT ABOUT... from county fair to county fair would be a nearly full-time pursuit for the Golden Stater. For our counties are numerous, and each fair has its own vibe, and the whole carnival-fun calendar starts early in the year, in February, in Riverside County. In short? You'd need to clear your schedule to truly get a feel for them all, or, if not clear your schedule, plan several road trips to know what a county has to offer via its yearly party. Then, of course, you have the state fair, a tradition that stretches back to nearly the founding year of California itself (okay, just a couple of years after, in 1852). If you're planning on doing your county's fair, or you've already enjoyed it in 2016, and you want to take in the state spectacular, too, best get your pony out and trot for Sacramento, as the midway-merry proceedings open on...

FRIDAY, JULY 8: You'll make for the Cal Expo (of course, as it is the iconic home to our state fair), and you'll jump into a colorful caboodle of to-dos, from the $2 Taste of the Fair to the Cornhole Championship to a Dwight Yoakum show to Chaka Khan in concert to the pie-eating contest to the beer and wine competitions, too. It will hardly leave you any time to get your hands all cotton-candy-y (almost mandatory at any fair) or ride the Dizzy Dragon or Gravitron. Is this the year you finally visit the state fair, in addition to all of those county parties you regularly call upon? It's as timeless as Golden State celebrations come, and as flavorful, and as musical, and as piglet-ical, and as corn dog-ical, and as Ferris wheel-ical...

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Idyllwild Classic: Jazz in the Pines]]> Sun, 17 Jul 2016 12:21:01 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/jazzinthepines.jpg

THAT WINNING WEND: The pleasures of wending up a mountain are plentiful, especially, it seems, in the middle of August. That's when thermometers around Southern California are doing their very darndest to test the outer limits of the mercury, and the sunshine we love is so plentiful that we're seeking a little shade at the height of the day. A weekend spent in a cooler clime, a higher elevation, is clearly the ticket, and if terrific music is involved, and a great arts organization, and some history, and some top-notch performers? The wend up the mountain becomes even more winsome. Such is the case with that classic of the summer music calendar, Jazz in the Pines. Idyllwild's annual weekend-long music-tacular has been a staple of the San Jacinto community for nearly a quarter century, and that the Idyllwild Arts Foundation is behind the whole shebang just lends the loveliness more cultural cred. We said "weekend" earlier, but best make that a long weekend if you plan on attending, for the 23rd outing of Jazz in the Pines is scheduled for...

AUG. 19-21, 2016: The roster is a full one, from a Patrons Dance ("Magic in the Forest" is the theme) to sets by Los Hermanos Arango, Diane Schuur featuring Ernie Watts, and Richie Cole Alto Madness with The Jazz Project Big Band. Tickets? You'll best want to line those up, and you can go with either a single-day pass or one for both Saturday and Sunday. Enjoying smooth tunes in an alfresco, big-of-tree setting? It's not got "in the Pines" in its name for no reason. This is one of the state's most flow-filled, breeze-nice music weekends, a cool happening in August anticipated by many a jazz-loving Californian. That you get to be atop a mountain, or nearly, while appreciating the vibes only ups the general cool-a-tude of this long-running fest.

Photo Credit: Jazz in the Pines]]>
<![CDATA[Water Skiing to Catalina Island]]> Thu, 14 Jul 2016 17:15:46 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Brady-Hoggins-UpsCatalina.jpg

POINT A TO POINT B: If you want to move through space, covering distance, whether that distance is made up of a few feet or a thousand miles, there are typically an array of transportation options to consider. For example, making the journey from Northern California to Southern California, or vice versa, might entail an automobile, a bicycle, some train/bus action, or, if you had some time and wanted to commune with the coast or Central Valley, your walking shoes. But when Point A to Point B is covered by a goodly amount of ocean water, transportation choices rather narrow. You've got your classic boat, or a plane, or a helicopter, but if you're one of the intrepid competitors participating in the LA-to-Avalon Catalina Ski Race on Saturday, July 16, you've got your water skis. 

TRUE, TRUE, the distance between the mainland and Catalina Island is a pinch under 30 miles of beautiful ocean, and, true, we landlubbers often associate water ski action with lakes or coast-close settings. But the 68-year-old race takes on the open Pacific, in all its powerful glory, offering 20 classes in which to sign up. Oh yes, and one more consideration: The race is there-and-back, so the total miles covered top out at around 62 miles. It's some truly epic stuff, in the truest meaning of the word, and about as California a pursuit as surfing and downhill skiing. Want to simply watch? The place to be is near the Queen Mary, in Long Beach, very early in the morning on July 16.

Photo Credit: Catalina Ski Race/Brady Hoggins]]>