<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Worth the Trip]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcsandiego.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.com en-us Sat, 30 Aug 2014 15:24:56 -0700 Sat, 30 Aug 2014 15:24:56 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Santa Barbara Bird Love: Vulture Day]]> Sat, 30 Aug 2014 09:38:25 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/212*120/vulturewidewingsb.jpg

BEYOND THE GLOWER: There are signs that you're watching a romantic comedy -- a sudden downpour, surprise meetings in elevators, a merry misunderstanding or two -- and signs that you're viewing a western (horses clip-clopping, cowpokes, saddles). But what are the tropes of the scary movie? Yes, eerie harpsichord-type music. Yes, an old house at the end of a remote road. And, most definitely, a vulture perched high above the crumbling manse. He's looking peevish and creepy and foul-tempered, and his wings seem to form some sort of foreboding cape. In short? You're in a horror flick, boy howdy, when you reach full-on vulture ville. But some birdists feel that relegating vultures to the creepier end of the cinematic or bookly spectrum isn't fair. After all, they can't see ghosts -- at least we don't think -- and they don't typically live outside enchanted castles or magical cottages. What vultures do do is delight we humans with their beauty and wingspan and grace, like the ones at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Three species of vulture call the American Riviera animal park home, including Ruppell's Griffon vultures, turkey vultures, and, you guessed it, the California condor. And the zoo is ready to fete some of its most famous feathery denizens with a special holiday.

IT'S VULTURE AWARENESS DAY... on Sunday, Aug. 31. Of course, to the vultures, and the keepers who care for them, every day is Vulture Day, but visitors will get a bundle of info from the keeper talks while engaging in vulture-focused activities and crafts. And will there be chat about conservation and helping the vulture, who helps the wider world maintain a "healthy ecosystem"? There shall be. You get into all of the vulture-y doings by paying zoo admission.

AND LOOK... if vultures like glowering from dead trees in fictional scare flicks, we're not going to harsh that particular mellow. But how come we never see a bluebird or cardinal whistling joyfully outside the crumbling castle? Storytellers, time to refresh your go-to avian associations.

Photo Credit: Santa Barbara Zoo]]>
<![CDATA[Wolf Awareness Week at the California Wolf Center]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 18:14:58 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/californiawolfcenterwolfweek.jpg

FURRY FUNDRAISING: Any animal devotee will make a stand on the claim that every beastie is mythic. True, some share our couches and our homes and paw at us for treats, and some we stroll by, not noticing they're in the trees above us or scurrying along the ground. But just because we see a certain animal often doesn't lessen their stature or animal-awesome-a-tude, which is pretty much the official measurement of all creatures, eensy or huge. There are those animals, though, that we do regularly deem as "mythic" because, in large part, they go unseen too often. Grizzlies might make the cut here, and certain whales, and, absolutely, the wolf. We people don't relish the "unseen" part of the mythic equation, though; we seek to help the conservation effort, in any way we can. The California Wolf Center outside Julian is at the furry forefront of the wolves' critical cause. Not only does the expansive preserve serve as a scrubby, rambling home to several beauties, but it regularly advocates for all things wolf. As it will again come late October, when Wolf Awareness Week again raises its shaggy head and lets out a joyful bay.

WOLF AWARENESS WEEK: Michael Sutton, President of the California Fish & Game Commission, will speak at an Oct. 25 fundraiser on "his insights into the history and future of wildlife conservation in California." There's an afternoon session and evening session, and both will include tours of the center and bites to nosh upon. Cost? Eighty dollars per adult.

THERE ARE MORE WAYS TO HELP... while admiring Inuk, an Alaskan gray wolf at the center, or Mexican gray wolf Chaco. Tours regularly set out and cover the topics of contemporary Wolf Recovery and the nature of the Wolf Pack. And your tour ticket? Why it helps the California Wolf Center and its mission, which is very much about education, conservation, and "wolf recovery in the wild." Mythic, yes, but of everyday importance, too.

Photo Credit: California Wolf Center]]>
<![CDATA[Sunset Soiree: Savor the Central Coast]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 11:34:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/brittanyapp13savor.jpg

NO COAXING REQUIRED: If you're a scholar of just-from-the-garden ingredients, and your hobby is trying offbeat herbs, or you have an opinion on decanting times and methods for wine, or you've eaten short ribs in a sandwich, in a pie, atop pasta, and completely plain, then taking the opportunity to visit a food-nice part of the state requires zero coaxing. None. You'll go, just to go, to enjoy the gardens and wine bars and outdoor dining patios, hooray and yay to all that. But if a major cuisine event is happening, with a venerable host, and the setting is a food-nice part of the state? Hoo boy, it is on, with bells on. The "venerable host" probably tipped our hand here, because Sunset Magazine is known far and farther for setting up its annual autumn eat-and-cook-and-sip-and-tour to-do, Savor the Central Coast. The long weekend of pleasurable pursuits of the palate is again scheduled for the last part of September, meaning it'll be the ideal time of year to be out at...

SANTA MARGARITA RANCH: Make that historic Santa Margarita Ranch, which has to be one of the Top 10 California Buildings That Looks As Though It Should Be in a Watercolor Painting (not the snappiest of titles, but true). Chefs shall demo, meals shall be served, and tours shall be taken around the Paso Robles region. Some highlights? The Main Event at the ranch is "an epicurean and adventure playground" featuring chefly doings, beer mavens, fishermen, and makers of artisanal eats. Adventure tours shall highlight everything from abalone to Hearst Castle to balsamic vinegar. And the special dinners? They happen hither and hitherer, from the aforementioned castle to local vineyards.

TICKETS? They can fly away for some of the events, so best land on the lovely respite you've got your eye, and possible your wine glass, on. Dates are Sept. 25 through Sept. 28. And will you wish you lived inside Santa Margarita Ranch? The chances are very good. Just prepare. That's a longing you'll leave with.

Photo Credit: Brittany App]]>
<![CDATA[Harvest, Humor, and Julian Wine: Grape Stomp]]> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 10:16:07 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/juliangrapestomp345.jpg

WINE'S WACKIER SIDE: Commercials and advertisements and some tonier films would have us believe that the art of wine enjoyment is about inhaling bouquets and swishing deeply and speaking solemnly to depth, tone, clarity, and character. But wine enjoyers -- so, anyone who drinks vino outside of an ad, basically -- know there are many laughs to be had over a stemmed glass full of sparkly liquid. Literally: It's very often near the end of dinner with friends when the giggles get a little louder and the toasts multiply and the smelling of corks, for comical effect, ensues. Grape stomping can fold into this sweet-soul'd category, though its roots are certainly very much about the making of wine (and grapes are stomped the world over). Still, put any two friends or newcomers to the art -- and it is an art -- inside an old-school barrel loaded with juicy orbs, and have them start to do the skirt-lifted, pants-rolled-up squishy dance, and the laughs are summoned. And the sweat, too: It is not easy work, grape stomping, even if the grapes popping under your heel is a little humorous.

NEVER TRIED IT? Here's your chance: The Julian Grape Stomp Festa'll invite visitors to remove their shoes and dig into the fruit, feet-wise, on Saturday, Sept. 6. Menghini Winery is the place, the fee is fifteen bucks for those over age 21 (and a little less for the little stompers), and there is a barrel for the grown-ups and one for the kids. Bocce ball, bites in the theme of the day, and crafts for sale round out the autumnal affair. The fundraiser for the Julian Chamber of Commerce is a biggie, with lots of attendees, meaning that you and your pals may draw a crowd with your simultaneous squishing and laughing. But isn't wine, above all, supposed to be fun? Or at least invoke real merriment and community? Done and done.

Photo Credit: Julian Grape Stomp]]>
<![CDATA[Last-Minute Labor Day: San Francisco Deal]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 11:12:52 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/hoteldelsoljoie1.jpg

LAST-MINUTE GETAWAYS, RE-CONSIDERED: If only the whole process of deciding to get out of town was as stylish as it is sometimes presented in stock photos or clips. Picture it: The laughing person runs out to their freshly washed, '50s-era convertible. They toss a designer suitcase in the backseat, don sunglasses, and, with a wink, they're off on a fabulous and spontaneous weekend. That's not how it goes for most of us -- we can't find our sunglasses and our bag has been through one too many trips to be camera-ready -- but our desire to do it up at the last-minute is strong, very strong, especially when a three-day weekend is on the horizon. Don't have a '50s convertible, either? No worries: Just get to your getaway however you can, and start saving cash, if possible. Joie de Vivre is making it easier to have that impromptu weekend away and save some good money, at least if you're headed to the Bay Area for Labor Day. The upshot? The boutique hotel group is shaving up to 20% from stays over the late-August holiday three-dayer for properties around San Francisco and its environs.

YEP, BEYOND ONE HOTEL: This is one reason we're feeling the jazz on this one: You have your pick of several places in which to stay and save. Hotel Del Sol, with its pop-y bright colors and family-nice vibe? If you like. Laurel Inn? The Pacific Heights spots is also going the up-to-20%-off route. And Oakland's Waterfront Hotel and The Epiphany Hotel in Palo Alto? Yes and yes. You don't need to stay right in San Francisco to score some money-saving-ness.

THE DATES? Oh, right. We keep saying "Labor Day Weekend" here but Joie de Vivre has a very generous sense of what Labor Day Weekend means. The good-times-20%-off-ing is on at nine Bay Area hotels from Aug. 28 through Sept. 7. That's one long Labor Day. And honest? If you want to do the laughing/convertible/fancy bag thing, as you set off on your getaway, no judgment. Roll how you will, happy traveler. We all should.

Photo Credit: Hotel del Sol]]>
<![CDATA[Fashion Up, Theme Parkers: Disneyland Dapper Day]]> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 10:12:28 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/206*120/dapperalbertsanchez1+-+Copy.jpg

REPEAT VIEWING: If you're a fan of a classic theme park attraction -- say, Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room -- then you likely know the feeling of wanting to repeat the experience of sitting under the singing birds (and flowers!) a few times during the day. Just once more, you think. That just-one-more-time line of thinking folds into a lot of Disney-type diversions very well, especially because you can feel that you missed something on the ride's first go-around. And Dapper Day? That very same principle applies. You know the event that comes around twice a year where people dress up, many in vintage togs, and visit Disneyland Resort? The outfits are so swanky and panache-filled and pretty that it can be difficult not to look at them all, once you land on the Dapper Day Instagram or Facebook accounts. There's something about seeing the perfect '70s necktie or 1940s shrug against the also-retro-y background of the park's carousel or Main Street that inspires you to keep clicking (and clicking and clicking) on photographs. In short? Dapper Day and the Magic Kingdom make for a match made in a fashion-setting daydream. Eager to participate in the retro spectacular? Be at the park on...

FRIDAY, SEPT. 12: That is Dapper Day for the fall -- or the "Fall Soiree," if you prefer -- and you'll just need to pay admission to the park, like you normally might. Only you'll be in heels and stockings or a vest and suspenders, and a lot of other people will be, too. There's also a new Dapper Day Expo at the Grand Californian Hotel on Friday, Sept. 12 and Saturday, Sept. 13. So should you forget an old-school hat, or you want to pick up some snazzy cufflinks, that's your sartorial spot. Nope, you don't have to dress in vintage gear -- contemporary classiness is a-ok -- for simply looking spiffy is the happy order of the day. Up to it?

THEN... get inspired by photos. Just note: You'll think "just one more" over and over as you look through these swanky snaps.

Photo Credit: Albert Sanchez]]>
<![CDATA[Hounds Hit the H20: Surf Dog]]> Sat, 23 Aug 2014 09:06:48 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/209*120/delmardogsurf12.jpg

DOGS HELPING DOGS: If you've lived for a day with a dog -- maybe even an afternoon -- you know at least a few of your pup's preferences. He doesn't like when the front door shuts to loudly, he'll eat his treat in one gulp (and only when he's standing in the kitchen, next to the sink, for whatever reason), he bays when the mail is delivered, and the ocean? Well, he is wild about it or wants to jump straight in or stick to the beach, a found wooden stick in his mouth. The shore seems to be one of the magic places where waggers come to life, or extra life, since pups are pretty dang exuberant at home, for the most part. Is it the wide-open-o-sity? The sounds of the waves breaking? That everyone there is in a recreational mood, which is, after all, a dog's main mode of living? Well... only a dog can answer. But the barker-beach connection has to be one of the reasons why the Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon gets soaked, all for doggie welfare, each year on the Sunday following Labor Day. The dogs on surfboards fundraiser, which is hangs ten (or twenty, if you prefer) on Sunday, Sept. 7, draws participants from across the region, humans and their dogs looking for fun and to help out hounds in need.

THE DAY'S BENEFICIARY... is the Helen Woodward Animal Center of Rancho Santa Fe, which assists animals in a plethora of ways. As for the surfers? A lot of the dogs, and their people, have been practicing at the surfing (and stand-up paddleboarding) classes that the center scheduled throughout the summer. Meaning? You'll likely see some impressive skills. Or... if the competitors are still new, there are other things to admire, like how sweet the pooches look in their vests. And will a few dogs likely romp on the beach to let off some surfing steam? Well, it's true: canines and the sand have a long and close relationship. The Surf-A-Thon truly is one of the annual California happenings that puts a spotlight on waggers, the waves, and giving a boost to barkers who need a home.

Photo Credit: Surf Dog Surf-a-thon]]>
<![CDATA[30+ Wineries: Temecula Valley CRUSH]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 14:37:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/temecula_crtemeculavalleysoutherncaliforniawinecountry.jpg

OUR FAVORITE UPDATES: There are posts and pictures that we scroll by, on our various social media go-to sites, without taking much care or notice to soak in what is being conveyed. Mostly we breeze on past with a "that's nice" thought in our heads before getting to the photographs we really need to see. And if you follow wine then you follow harvest time, and if you follow harvest time you are likely doing some heavy scrolling, then stopping, on your social media favorites these days. That's because many a winery is in the thick of it, at the moment, and by "thick of it" we mean that grapes are being reviewed and studied and perhaps picked and sorted and sugar content and other vino-cultural topics are in the air. It's the busiest of seasons, crush time, but that doesn't mean that our state's wine countries aren't going to silence the thrumming harvester and stow the bins for a weekend or two to celebrate. Temecula Valley takes that festive pause each year in September, the the weekend-long whoop-di-do has the oh-so-timely name of...

CRUSH: The yearly "Wine & Cuisine Showcase" returns on Saturday, Sept 13 with a few dozen wineries in tow. Grape growers and bespoke bottlers throughout the valley will participate in the "ONE and ONLY event showcasing 30+ member wineries," wineries who will box up and drive some of their liveliest new libations over to the Wiens Family Cellars, the host of the to-do. A general admission ticket is $85, Temecula Creek Inn has a related stay-over package on (yeah, you'll probably want to skip the drive and spend the night), and eat spots like Nothing Bundt Cakes and Temeku Grill shall cameo, in their own cuisine-rich ways, as well. Who says there's no time to party during the busy harvest? Temecula Valley has the cork-popping answer to not letting a hectic run undo the fun.

Photo Credit: Visit Temecula Valley]]>
<![CDATA[Happy 98th, National Park Service]]> Sat, 23 Aug 2014 09:16:01 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/joshuatree.jpg

TWO YEARS SHY OF A CENTURY: Any person or place or landmark or animal or event or special, treasured item that reaches its 98th year should just be automatically feted in all corners, even by those who aren't necessarily close acquaintances. We'll call 98 years the better part of a century -- we're not too off in that, we hope -- and we'd also call it deserving of a huge whoop-di-doo. Consider that parties can taper off a bit, around the 97th, 98th, and 99th birthdays, if only because the 100th is just ahead and everyone is sort of storing up for the mondo blowout. But, honestly? Anything that requires almost five packs of candles -- twenty to a pack -- deserves the streamers and balloons and songs. Wellll... with one major exception: the national parks. Nope, we don't want to see neon purple streamers and tinsel dangling between two Joshua Trees, but we do love seeing those delightful fee-free days that roll through the calendar every few months. Monday, Aug. 25 happens to be one, and, as you might be able to guess, it's a big, big 98th birthday.

NOPE... not of Yosemite or Channel Islands or Lassen Volcanic -- as physical places they're a few eons older than 98 -- but of the National Park Service itself. The parks that usually charge are going fee-free for the day (and "(o)nly 133 of our country's 401 national parks usually charge an entrance fee," says the site) so that's pretty dang festive indeed. Also? It's still summertime, yessirree, which means that park calendars are lush with lively ranger talks, walks and a few special to-dos in honor of the 98 candles on the proverbial NPS cake. Ready to bid the traditional summer season adieu, ahead of Labor Day, with some trees, canyon, ocean, and sky? Oh, and by warbling "Happy Birthday" in the middle of a huge meadow? Okay. You've got the when, the where, and the fact that you're saving money.

Photo Credit: David McNew/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[San Pedro Weekend: Tall Ships and Giant Ducks]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 11:46:35 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/duck181109370.jpg

QUIRKY MEETS HISTORY: We can't imagine, back when tall ships sailed the seas on a regular basis, and not just as elements in history-minded, bring-your-camera weekends, that there was ever much to challenge the boats' girth or largeness or prominence out on the waves. And if seafarers of the 18th century had turned to see a bright yellow duck the size of a portly vessel? Well, that would have been quite extraordinary, indeed (we can picture people in tri-cornered hats and breeches attempting to board the duck for further exploration, gangplank-style). No people in breeches, though, will attempt to climb the gargantuan rubber duck that's due for the Tall Ships Festival that's sailing near San Pedro through Sunday, Aug. 24. That's because the duck, a huge, pontoon-based inflatable by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, is invited to the festival. More than that, the quirky artwork is very much anticipated, given that this is its first West Coast appearance, and only its second appearance in the United States. This is a biggie, since the duck's appearances have become something of a worldwide phenomenon.

AS FOR THOSE TALL SHIPS? Yep, the weekend is absolutely about the boatly beauties, too. You can board one, watch from shore, participate in craft activities, and more. (About a dozen mores, actually -- it's all Tall Ships all the time 'round Pedro.) Wellll... and there are certain duckly elements in the mix, too. For example? The U.S.S. Iowa is handing out rubber ducks to kids until those lil' duckies run out. Yeah, for sure, a lot of people are going to this one, both for the stately vessels and contemporary quacker.

IF YOU CAN'T GET ENOUGH... of the Tall Ships, sit tight, matey: Many of the famous vessels'll be in Dana Point in September.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Vintage PJ Sleepover in Long Beach]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 10:05:00 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/pajamapartyJChristopherLauniPhotography1.jpg

SATEEN AND FINEST FLANNEL: If you're fond of dressing with wayback flair, a possibility of going to a soiree with a recommended vintage dress code can send you to your closet in search of your best double-breasted tuxedo, your finest sleeveless evening gown, the heels or shiny dress shoes that make you feel your best. Much rarer is the soiree that sends you to your drawers or your pajama armoire -- you have a pajama armoire, yes? -- to dig out a robe or socks or slippers or a public-ready nightie. The Art Deco Weekend aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, though, does just that. Sure, there are daytime to-dos that do suggest that the ladies and gentlemen in attendance slip into a nice frock or waistcoat-dress shirt-slacks combo, but one of the highlights of the Labor Day Weekend affair is the nighttime Friday night Deco Derby & Pajama Jam.

PAJAMAS ON, SWELL PEOPLE: The Art Deco Society of Los Angeles says "your best vintage loungewear" is the order of the night (think of the shiny robes Nick & Nora Charles might have worn in "The Thin Man") as is enjoying the ship's Queen Salon and the stylish tunes of Jim Ziegler's Band. The derby part? You'll try your hand at cheering on the ponies (think tabletop, not racetrack). Been to a whoop-di-doo in just your lovely loungies lately? It's time.

IT'S ALSO TIME... to attend a Prohibition tasting, to shop a vintage bazaar, to take a Strolling Art Tour of the fabled ship, and to attend a few dances, including a proper Sunday tea dance. Design and architecture of the Art-Deco-iest order are the themes, for sure, but fashion, conversation, food, and the aura of the era will be in full and fabulous effect.

Photo Credit: J. Christopher Launi Photography]]>
<![CDATA[Camping Cool: Santa Barbara Silver Safari]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 14:56:43 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/santabarbarasafari123.JPG

WONDERS OF THE ROAD: What do you and your companions notice when you're out on the highway? Perhaps some stunning bluffs in the distance? A grove of tall trees near a rest stop? Thunderheads high over the mountains? Yes, and yes, and yes. Nature often catches our eye, and our deepest affections, when we're out on the asphalt, but there are a few items made by humankind that capture our fancy and become the topic of conversation. Take a beautiful, old-school convertible, or, say, an Airstream. Can the gleaming loafian trailer -- Airstreams are rather loaf-shaped, yes, in their quintessential way? -- pass a car full of history or road-culture mavens and not garner enthusiastic comment? No, it cannot. "I want an Airstream!" is the common cry, but owning one of the mid-century gems, or even walking inside one, is a treat not known to many. But vacationers who like to recreate, and do so with vintage panache, have a chance to live that dream, if just for a night, and camp in a beautiful Airstream from Santa Barbara Silver Safari.

TOW-IN, TOW-OUT: The company isn't just about serving the camping fantasies of enthusiasts who want a retro sleep experience. They rent to commercials and weddings and photo shoots, too. But a segment of its customer does desire that getaway night, meaning falling into REM sleep, and having your morning cereal, inside the loafy curves of an old-school hitch-up is a possibility. You'll need to take care of a few things, including reserving a camp site "with full hook-up" in Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez, or Ventura. There are a few other to-knows, and, you guessed it, some glossy Instagram photos to pore over. Is this the year you cease oohing and aahing over trailers that pass you on the road and start bragging to pals that you've stayed in one? This is one daydream that could totally come true.

Photo Credit: Santa Barbara Silver Safari]]>
<![CDATA[Headed for SoCal: California Beer Festival]]> Sat, 16 Aug 2014 10:09:43 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/CaliforniaBeerFestival2010.jpg

LET'S ALL GET ALONG: As much as California-obsessed wags would love to pit San Francisco vs. Los Angeles, or NorCal against SoCal, it's a pastime that doesn't hold much water. Or beer, for the matter at hand, if you prefer. Angelenos are known to visit the City by the Bay with some frequency -- oh, how we love those hills, the fog, and ice cream around the Mission -- and NorCalers often make their way south (and not just for the great parking, though there is that). But when something tasty starts out in one section of the state, well... people in the other section can get a mite amped-up, and impatient, wanting to try it for themselves. Take the California Beer Festival, the summer-to-fall traveling suds spectacular which rounds up dozens upon dozens of regional beermakers -- and some beyond -- and sets them up in a wide space with plenty of room to sample, chitchat, dance, and enjoy the sunshine. It's already been to Marin and Santa Cruz this year (those lucky ducks) and it is making its way towards Southern California. San Dimas and Ventura, to be specific, and the dates? They're in that most perfect of beer-enjoyment months, September.

NO... we're not stoking any rivalries by saying that SoCal gets the best brew-trying month. Summer is excellent for that, but soft, late-summer-y sunshine? It's a setting that seems invented for smooth beer sipping. The San Dimas date is Saturday, Sept. 6 while Ventura kegs-it-up on Saturday, Sept. 20 and Sunday, Sept. 21. Who's there, label-wise? Oh, oodles of people who know their foams, including American Vintage Beverage Co., Kat Daddy Brewery, and Chaucer's Cellars. Yep, there's stay-over info, too, and you'll want to arrange your taxi or designated driver friend. Bring a friend, we say, the better to discuss all that you love about Northern California, and how you're not jealous at all that the California Beer Festival starts there and not here. Patience is a virtue in all things, but definitely in awaiting fine, thoughtfully crafted brews. Tickets? Here.

Photo Credit: California Beer Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Del Mar Mmm: Gourmet Food Truck Fest]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 12:16:23 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/deviliciousfoodtruck.jpg

ONE PLACE, ALL THE CHOICES: Even though we know it isn't exactly true, we can all have the same thought when facing a few dozen food trucks: All of the foods of the world are before me, right here, right now. Correct? Many of think this, or some version of it. Beholding 50 or so menus loaded with a diverse range of options, from French fries loaded with cheese curds to ahi tacos to Hawaiian pizza to coffee ice cream can fill our head with the food-based fantasy that every edible ever invented is before us. Not so, but are you seeing more supping than you can possibly take on in a year? Maybe even the better part of a lifetime? That's a closer assumption. And a fun one, too, when it becomes a reality, if only for a day. That day, in Del Mar, is Saturday, Aug. 16, and the place? The Seaside Concert Area, west of the Grandstand, at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. It's the Gourmet Food Truck Festival, and we tipped our hand earlier as to how many different mobile eateries are do: Fifty are expected, which'll make the winnowing of lunchy choices for you a very difficult winnowing, indeed.

HOW YOU GET TO THE FOOD: It won't be hard to find the fest, given that 50 or so food trucks are rather easy to spot. But you will need to get into the track first, and that's six bucks. Bring more bucks beyond that, because while the festival offers free admission, the eats'll be four bucks to eight bucks (ish). Seafoody goodness from Cousins Maine Lobster, swanky sandwiches from the Devilicious Food Truck, and Stuffed!'s "elevated comfort food" are three of your plate-filling possibilities. Will every edible in the world be in Del Mar? Not quite, but a mammothly full array of menu-packed choices await. Let's call a mondo food truck festival a place where a large, large fraction of the world's foods can be found. Don't get overwhelmed, eaters.

THE BENEFICIARY: The food-trucky goodness helps out Meals-on-Wheels Greater San Diego.

Photo Credit: Devilicious]]>
<![CDATA[A Year to Go: Disney D23 Expo Tickets Go on Sale]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 12:37:53 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/183*120/expod23mickey1.jpg

BUILDING ANTICIPATION: If there was every a group that was especially gifted at stoking a certain amount of anticipation before something delightful happened, it has to be the Disney Imagineers. They're the innovators who dream up the rides and attractions inside the theme parks, yes, and they also create the "line experience." Meaning the video, the art, the funny stuff you see while wending through the queue? It's all about revving up the guest's ultimate excitement for the roller coaster or spinning car that's to come. In short, Disney has this idea down-pat, and it extends to its other, outside-the-parks pursuits, too. Take D23 Expo, the every-other-year, mondo fan experience that spreads into every nook of the Anaheim Convention Center. Some conventions just post dates and leave it at that, but not D23; previews and videos and tidbits build the fervor among the fans, and the tickets? They go on sale a full year, to the day, before the event. Honest, what other happening looks a year out, in its ticket sales? It's a pretty rare thing, but then so is the art of anticipation. D23 Expo 2015 is set for Aug. 14-16, meaning that tickets went on sale on Thursday, Aug. 14.

M, I, C, K, E, Y: Indeed, it's billed as "the largest Disney fan event in the world," meaning that people arrive from all over (with mouse ears planted firmly atop their head). Many of them will have nabbed those tickets early, and with good reason: They're discounted for a "limited time." An adult early bid one-day admission is $61 from Aug. 14 through Dec. 31, and D23 members get 'em for a little bit less. As for what's at the expo? Just about everything under the (Disney) sun: movie previews, star appearances, games, and merch choices aplenty. There has to be a lot: Some 65,000 fans showed up for the 2013 D23 Expo. Consider the Disney bases covered on this one.


Photo Credit: D23 Expo]]>
<![CDATA[Posh Style: The Look of SLS Las Vegas]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 22:31:42 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/slsvegasdebut.jpg

FANTASY WITH A SIDE OF LUXE: Surely hotels and hostelries through the ages put their own light-to-intense spins on design themes and unifying looks. But no city in history ran with the idea, made it bigger, and covered it with lights in quite the way that Las Vegas has. Some of earliest stay-over spots carried something extra beyond the "hotel" sign out front (hello, historic Golden Gate Hotel), and its current mega-room palaces? Distinctive aesthetics rule. A full flowering of these principles, outlandishness + design + a dose of high posh-o-sity, can be seen in Sin City's newest hotel entry, the SLS Las Vegas. The Philippe Starck-imagined property is readying for a Saturday, Aug. 23, debut, but the hotel shared a peep inside at what's to come, room-wise, in its three towers.

LUX, Story, World: Each tower comes with its own handle -- tres Vegas, of course, especially since towers in other towns often are labeled "north" and "east" -- and its own tale. Those tales are spread over 1,613 guest rooms throughout the trio of towers. The rooms in the Story Tower comes with an "electric yellow vanity that doubles as a bar, the backlit ceiling mirror, and the polished chrome swivel minibar cabinet." The World tower rooms plug into business people and conventioneers, so look for up-to-date work spaces and fast tech. And LUX? It's got the "French influence" -- "oversized sofas" are one sumptuous detail -- a shower that looks out onto the room.

BEYOND THE TOWERS: The SLS Las Vegas, which sits where the Sahara reigned, brims with dining choices as thematic and as design-driven as its guest rooms. Restaurants include the gold-columned Katsuya by Starck to the lodge-y casual vibe of the buffet to the English manor-esque Monkey Bar.


Photo Credit: SLS Las Vegas]]>
<![CDATA[Westerns Rule the Lone Pine Film Festival]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 18:51:23 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/alabamalonepinefilm.jpg

TEN-GALLON WEEKEND: While director John Ford is very much associated with the cinematic expanses of Monument Valley, and a number of films have landed in spots like White Sands in New Mexico and Arizona's Sonoran Desert, California has its own entry in the Western movie mythology-making: the Alabama Hills and Lone Pine. Indeed, the glorious spot -- and "glorious" is not a word used lightly here -- has shown up as a craggy, epic, and highly distinctive background in hundreds of films, from "Gunga Din" to "Bad Day at Black Rock" to various iterations of the Lone Ranger. It's true that the Eastern Sierra-close spread of low hills has occasionally been seen in a non-traditional non-Western Western (think "Tremors") but saddle cinema has absolutely dominated the area. And Lone Pine, the snug and historic town straddling Highway 395, celebrates its movie past each year with an autumn celebration of Westerns, movie stars, and those picturesque Alabama Hills. The dates are set for 2014, so pencil in Oct. 10-12, buckaroos.

ON THE FESTIVAL SCHEDULE: It's year 25 for the Western-sweet party, meaning a lot of movie types'll be out for the big Silver Anniversary. Bruce Boxleitner, Donna Martell, and Johnny Crawford are three of the thespian guests, and special effects experts, authors, and stunt people will also make appearances. And "12 exciting location tours" shall go down throughout the weekend. Did we actually mean "go down" there? We meant head into the epic Alabama Hills and nearby environs. It's really one of the Golden State's most singular landscapes, one that early directors made known the world over via vintage Westerns. And it still looks pretty much the same, back in those hills, as it did when the first cinema cowpokes clip-clopped in nearly a century ago. Westerns lovers and those who adore the Eastern Sierra? Better saddle up for the second weekend in October.

Photo Credit: Lone Pine Film Festival]]>
<![CDATA[50+ Libations: Santa Barbara Tequila Harvest]]> Mon, 11 Aug 2014 07:54:34 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sbtequila234.jpg

EACH DRINK HAS ITS DAY... around the Golden State, but there are certain beverages that seem to get the lion's share -- or make that the whole animal park's share -- of attention when it comes to tasting events. Even very niche libations are getting their own parties -- think flavored beers or vintage soda-flavored paletas -- so if you like a particular sip, you only need to wait long enough for its annual, or bi-annual, celebration to come back around. And agave enthusiasts keep an eye on the late-summer calendar, and on the American Riviera, in anticipation of trying various iterations of their favorite spirit. It's the Santa Barbara Tequila Harvest we speak of, and it is hanging its half-decade banner in 2014.

SO... what have the last five years brought to tequila-ists who make the journey to sniff and swish and discuss and drink that deep and powerful beverage? Loads of new labels to try, experts to chat with, and maybe a new brand to add to the liquor cabinet. Eager to grow your mescal knowledge and to wile away the day with smarties who know this spirit very well? Then plan on spending the final Saturday in August in Elings Park.

THAT DAY WOULD BE... Aug. 30, and "over 50 hand-selected premium tequilas and mezcales" will be on the pour. Pepe Marquez & The Groove Line are providing the entertainment, the day's funds benefit the Elings Park Foundation, the Legal Aid Foundation, and the Pacific Pride Foundation, and is there a dress code? You bet: It's not too fussy but organizers are recommending that sun hats and khakis come under consideration as you gussy up for the classy, raise your glass event. Need cab information to a local hotel? That's incredibly important, too, and organizers have the info posted here.

A SPIRITED TIME: Will you leave Santa Barbara having found both a solid mixer and a fine sipping tequila? That's what the day is all about: appreciation, complex flavors, and an afternoon spent in the sunshine. Get your ticket info.

Photo Credit: Santa Barbara Tequila Harvest]]>
<![CDATA[Death Valley's "Cold" Day in Summer]]> Sat, 09 Aug 2014 09:27:52 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/deathvalleysanddunesfurnace.jpg

NO JOKE: Have you ever told your pal a lengthy rib-tickler, with a really hilarious punchline, but, when you get to the big finish, they sort of blink at you, several times in a row, as if they're trying to comprehend what they've just experienced? We joke-tellers have all been there, and we all know The Repeated Blink. That's essentially what's gone down, in many meteorological-minded quarters of the weather-watching world, since Death Valley National Park hit 89 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday, Aug. 3. That's a pretty acceptable, run-of-the-mill summer temperature for most places, it's true, but let's pause here to again consider where that high temperature occurred: Death Valley, "the hottest place on the planet." Hottest, driest, lowest -- these are terms frequently stuck all over the national park, like so many burrs on a cattleman's boots. Meaning this: 89 is pretty dang cool for that sometimes-cauldron-y spot. The National Weather Service Las Vegas noted that the "chilly" record breaker undid the "previous record low max of 104 deg set in 1945." And the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang blog observed that Missoula, Montana was hotter on Aug. 3 than Death Valley.

BLINK, BLINK: The unusual occurrence is rather stunning, though the park is no stranger to cold storms -- Furnace Creek Resort recently posted a photo to Facebook of historic Scotty's Castle frosted with snow a few winters back. So while the wet front of early August has moved on and temps have again climbed in Death Valley, a package is still on to stay on a summer's day. The Ranch at Furnace Creek is the destination, the price starts at $163, and breakfast is included. Oh, and, don't worry about keeping your own temperature down: There's a spring-fed pool on the property. Nope, there's no telling if an 89-degree day will come back around any time soon, but Death Valley is glorious regardless of the season, be that season less sweaty or as sweaty as condensation on a glass of lemonade.

Photo Credit: Ranch at Furnace Creek]]>
<![CDATA[Mmm, Smoky: Del Mar Grill Fest]]> Fri, 08 Aug 2014 13:14:26 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/196*120/81253599.jpg

FRAGRANT BREEZE: It's one of the telltale signs of summertime. Picture yourself walking through a neighborhood and imagining what people might be making for dinner within each home. Maybe quesadillas, maybe salad, maybe fried chicken. You can't tell, because there are no clues, but if someone is grilling hamburgers? Or ribs? You know. You know from a block away, and you have to fight the temptation to go knock on the back gate and introduce yourself and walk in for a hot dog or steak. (Honest question: How many people have done this? Followed their nose and met a new neighbor?) But what if you could go to a place, not far from the ocean, where it was all grilling, and you didn't need to knock upon any back gates or fences for a chance at a gooey cheeseburger? Such a place exists, it's the Seaside Concert area at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, and Grill Fest is landing there, in all of its tasty-good-smelling-ness, on Saturday, Aug. 9.

THE PROS AT THE GRILLS: Some "20 seasoned BBQ pros and restaurants" shall wield the sauce-covered brushes and tongs during the event, which puts the edible-nice emphasis on attendees wandering and sampling. You'll nab five "sample-sized portions" for a tenner and once the food is out, it is out (so get there around 1 p.m.). You'll get in by paying six bucks at the racetrack, too, so stash some cash for that. As for the grillers representing? Jo's Texas Brisket and Fargo's BBQ are two among the twenty. We're officially about to enter the second third of the third month of the summer season, or at least the observed summer season, meaning this: Time is waning. Have you smelled a good grill yet? No? How about some smoky goodness mingled with ocean air? Things'll get delicious at Del Mar.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Heritage Tour: Ye Olde Ghost Town Road Trip]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 17:19:21 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/bodieaurora112.jpg

ROAD TRIPS... may have not been invented for ghost town-type excursions, but the visiting of historic cities that are no longer occupied, at least by human beings, is very much a road trip staple. One may drive between San Francisco and Chicago, or Los Angeles and Albuquerque, but one may not pass up a sign that indicates there is a ghost town five miles off the main highway. But what of the road trip that hops from ghost town to ghost town? That's a rarer occurrence, except among serious ghost town aficionados (who are pretty legion). There are a few organized tours, too, with one of the biggies falling just ahead of fall. It's the Heritage Tour, a two-day ramble through two fascinating, ye-olde-wayback burgs and surrounding sites. Yep, you drive -- you can bring your oldster wheels if you like, that Model T, but note that "a higher clearance car is recommended" -- and, yep, Bodie, that most famous and perfectly preserved of ghost towns, is on the roster. And, yep, it is two days, so you'll need to book a place to spend the night somewhere nearby in Mono County. Terri Geissinger of the Bodie Foundation says "we recommend folks to stay at Virginia Creek Settlement or anywhere in Bridgeport." Easy? Peasy? Good.

DATES AND DETAILS: The touring kicks off on Saturday, Sept. 13 in Bodie, where "you'll receive an in-depth tour of the town, stamp mill, and cemetery." You'll then head over Geiger Grade to the Masonic and Chemung Mill. Day two, which is Sunday, Sept. 14? It's all about "traveling the historic stage route between Bodie and Aurora." Samuel Clemens once called the town home, and there are brick foundations and a cemetery to see. The tour is a popular one, says the Bodie Foundation, which any ghostie -- a buff of ghost towns -- can imagine. For it's one thing to swing by a yesteryear location for an hour, but quite another to build a weekend, with car-touring, around a few history-rich spots. Been to Bodie but want to go deeper? The Heritage Tour may be just your sepia-toned ticket.

Photo Credit: Bodie Foundation]]>
<![CDATA[Cosmic: Mountaintop Supermoon Party]]> Thu, 07 Aug 2014 11:55:04 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/206*120/supermoon_detail23.jpg

GET READY TO "WHOA": Regardless of how many times one beholds a Supermoon -- which is a full moon that occurs when our lunar satellite is closest in its orbit to our home turf -- it is always a wonder. We gather in dark spots and sky-big spots and spots where we can spread out a picnic blanket, gaze up, and simply soak in the cosmic show. And, yes, we "whoa" a whole bunch, especially as the big, big moon begins to peek over the far horizon. There's one due on Sunday, Aug. 10, but you can bet that the moon mavens'll be out on Saturday, Aug. 9 to admire the crater-laden orb in all of its Supermoon-o-sity. (Not a totally scientific term, of course, but one that sums up the appropriate hugeness of the event.) Mammoth Mountain will be celebrating the weekend's way-up-high show by inviting revelers to go way up high here on earth, terrestrial-style. How? The resort's gondola will run people up the mountain, where the vistas will be vast and the air especially clear and the stars appropriately twinkly. Oh yes, and Supermoon will be fully whoa-inducing.

GET THE DETAILS: As mentioned, the date is Aug. 9, which is Saturday, and not Sunday, which is the date tied to this Supermoon. The party is on from 6 to 10:30 p.m., admission is fifteen bucks and kids under 12 get in for free, and a "moonlit gondola ride to the summit" is a highlight. Look also for live tunes, a cash bar, and a "(l)ighted walk to the lakes basin overlook from the summit" which is called "an ideal location for moonrise photography." Oh, that's right: You can bet plenty of shutterbugs are eager to go up the mountain with their cameras. You should, too, but be sure to spend a few minutes simply whoa-ing with no other task at hand.

DOES THE MOON REALLY GET BIGGER? Giggle. Don't you wish there was a thrilling blockbuster out about the ever-expanding moon? Of course it doesn't grow, though it will seem notably closer and brighter to we earthlings. How can we not find a remoter place, be it a mountaintop or the desert, to whoa over that?

Photo Credit: Mammoth Mountain]]>
<![CDATA[Oh, It's On: Napa Valley Harvest 2014]]> Tue, 05 Aug 2014 12:30:13 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/grapes_vineyard_winefest.jpg

HARVEST IS NOW: While we wine lovers may be pretty knowledgeable, to the point of being charmingly unbearable, about how the collecting and pressing of grapes works, and how all of that delightful juice eventually becomes a sophisticated wine, many of us can be a little hazy on the facts and figures behind harvest time. We equate it with the autumn, and with days growing shorter and night temperatures dropping and a particularly picturesque mist that may or may not hang over the grapes before dawn (in our daydreams there is always a good amount of mist). But harvest isn't solely an autumn thing, not at all. It isn't even an August-September deal, either, for Napa Valley's 2014 Harvest officially kicked off on the morning of July 30. "The first of Napa's sparkling wine producers began picking grapes around 6 a.m. on Wednesday, July 30, just two days earlier than the start of last year's grape wine harvest," reads the Napa Vintners site. It continues with this cheery news: "Although this past winter was one of the driest on record, Napa's vintners and growers are predicting an abundant, high-quality harvest for the third year in a row."

WANT TO FOLLOW THE GRAPE-GOOD ACTION? The site has plenty of photos up, and Vines of the vines, and peeks at the first clusters of grapes picked, and such harvesty doings. Want to head up for some of the early hubbub? There are events, events, and, yes, more events. Rutherford Hill has a merlot blending to-do on Saturday, Aug. 2 and Napa Cellars hosts a Rockin' Food Truck Party on Saturday, Aug. 9. Look for more flavorful doings with "harvest" in their names to be working their way up the calendar in the coming weeks.

Photo Credit: grapes]]>
<![CDATA[Palm Springs Gem: Thursday Night VillageFest]]> Mon, 04 Aug 2014 07:13:11 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/202*120/villagefestpinksky.jpg

BOOTH-LINED ROADS... and flower-filled stalls and outdoor grills lined with smoked meats and spots to buy crusty loaves of bread are typically associated with the morning hours. That's because most farmers markets tend to take place from just after dawn until somewhere near noon, when the aforementioned flowers start to look a bit heated and the bread loaves have completely sold out (it was all of those free samples). So finding a similar market in the evening hours is a pretty special thing, even if it isn't a traditional farmers market, per se. You'd probably want to look in a warmer place, a location that knows it stays more temperate after sunset than it does mid-morning. You'll also want to search in a snug town with a vibrant tourist and local scene, one with a lot of restaurants in a walkable area, and a place with perfect evening skies, skies of pink and blue and gold. Oh, we wouldn't be talking about Palm Springs, would we? We most certainly would, and, indeed, the next two words we're about to type are these: VillageFest.

THURSDAY NIGHT FAVORITE: It's all year long -- hi, desert-nice not-too-rainy-nor-damp weather -- though it starts an hour later in the summer months (7 p.m. vs. 6 p.m.). It has everything, or a good chunk of everything: "fresh fruit and veggies, flowers, jewelry, snacks, and sweets," not to mention art, bags, windchimes, funky patio stuff (the Springs is very big on its patio decor, of course). It's on Palm Canyon Drive, as you might expect, it attracts a lot of visitors, as there are hotels within walking distance, as you might expect, but you'll see locals out with their dogs, too. (Palm Springs is just about the dog-friendliest town in the Golden State; we measure that statement by all the bowls of water the shopkeepers put out for visiting pups.)

NO... we wouldn't want traditional farmers markets to switch to evening hours, but the market takes on a happy hour feel in Palm Springs. Once a week, nice to people in town for a day or two, and you can pick up some fancy olive oil or a quick foot massage? VillageFest will surely be around as long as there are pink evening skies over the city, or just about.

Photo Credit: Ron Niebrugge/wildnatureimages]]>
<![CDATA[Palm Springs Modernism: Retro Yard Sale]]> Sat, 02 Aug 2014 09:36:35 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/RetroYardSaleModernism1.jpg

THEMED YARD SALE: If you've ever swung by a garage or sidewalk sale hosted by one family or a few, you know that the items on offer truly run a wide-ranging gamut. Old bar stools sit next to '80s VHS tapes which are nestled against some long-unused barbells. But finding a yard sale that truly focuses on a single period? And a stylish and swanky period at that? They're pretty rare, but one of the big ones unfurls in Palm Springs in the autumn. The location is a giveaway as to what kind of goods'll be for sale -- think mid-century -- and the fact that some excellent for-the-home buys shall be found. But the Retro Yard Sale isn't the only October highlight to land in the desert resort. It's just one component of Modernism Week's Fall Preview, the long holiday weekend devoted to design and sleek lines and shift dresses and cocktail glassware and everything vintage and '60s-era cool (and '50s, too, of course). That holiday weekend is Columbus Day Weekend and the bigger-than-last-year schedule was announced on Monday, July 28.

MODERNISM GALORE: The mid-century sale isn't the only treat to circle on the calendar. A poolside bash with a nod to The King'll roll out at the Hacienda Cantina & Beach Club, while the double-decker bus architectural tour makes its return. Look for tours of Frey House II, the always bustling Modernism Show & Sale, and a cocktail reception themed to photos of the nearby Salton Sea. Tickets for the Modernism Week Fall Preview go on sale at noon on Friday, Aug. 1.

WANT TO... hang tight for the mega February Modernism Week? Well, the Columbus Weekend to-do keeps on growing, so you'll get your fashion-y, domestic-cool fill. But the full-on wintertime extravaganza is scheduled for Feb. 12-22, 2015.

Photo Credit: Modernism Week]]>
<![CDATA[Newport Dunes: Massive Inflatables Rule]]> Fri, 01 Aug 2014 13:45:32 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/newportdunesplayinflatables.jpg

H2O WONDERLAND: Some people, when it comes to summertime swimming, simply favor a pool. Cool, blue, reflective of sky and cloud and not a thing in it but water and, of course, a set of stairs to enter. But many people? Maybe even the majority of poolside fans? They like a little something extra with their outdoor, splash-style recreating. Could be a set of waterwings or a floating tray for beverages. Could be a raft or rings or a volleyball net or a bouquet of colorful pool noodles. Or it could be that king among pool toys, the inflatable. Inflatables have grown in popularity over the years among pool owners, and they've grown in size, too. Remember the balls you bounced around as a tot back in the '70s? Yeah, they're bigger, as is everything that has air in it and sits in a backyard swimming pool. But where they're bigger -- much, much bigger -- is a place not all that far from your backyard. It's the Moe's B. Watersports Summer Playground area at the Newport Dunes.

TAKE YOUR PICK: Yep, it's a long sandy stretch of private prettiness -- 10 acres in all, and there are lifeguards. As for the out-in-water climbables? Look for "a wide range of massive, colorful inflatable amenities from giant icebergs and water trampolines to rock-climbing walls and massive teeter-totters." So how much is it to spend a couple of hours with some large-scale water-floaty sculpture thingamabobs? Twenty bucks for two hours or thirty for four hours. Yep, you'll get happily worn out, as you might in a pool with a much smaller inflatable. It's open every day through Labor Day and every weekend in September. Ready for what is traditionally our region's hottest period? Make for the water, inflatable aficionado.

WAIT ONE SEC... "massive teeter-totters"? Well now we feel covetous. Do they sell those down at the corner store?

Photo Credit: Newport Dunes]]>
<![CDATA[Happy 90th, Old Spanish Days]]> Fri, 01 Aug 2014 09:03:56 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/oldspanishdays90th.jpg

EVERY. SINGLE. EVENT: Can you, in one fell swoop (read: one busy five-day stretch) take part in every single happening at Old Spanish Days? You could make a go of it, for sure, but given that the historic, storied, and vibrantly venerable Santa Barbara festival is marking its 90th, you're going to find that the to-dos nearly out-number the hours. There are the major goings-on and destinations, from the mercados to the Fiesta Stock Horse & Rodeo Show to the docent-led mission tours to El Desfile de los Niños on Saturday morning (it's the family-sweet parade's 84th run this year). Rather than dashing from to-do to to-do, and only dipping a toe in where you can, the best bet is to choose a few hallmark events -- say, the Children's Parade and some lively horse show and bull-riding action -- and glide through the rest, when and where you can.

OF COURSE... visiting at least one mercado is key to Old Spanish Days. El Mercado de la Guerra is just across from City Hall and boasts "crafts and souvenirs" and Mexican-American and Spanish eats. El Mercado Del Norte has four neighborhoods full of shopping, a carnival, and the Crazy Horse Cantina.

FLOR Y CANTO: There's a lot of California past to Old Spanish Days, but perhaps no event is more emblematic for attendees than the evening of song and dance on Friday, Aug. 1. Want to feel transported to the 19th century? Make for the Santa Barbara Courthouse Sunken Gardens (it's free to see).

FOR MORE HISTORY... on the history-festive event, read on. Love the Lobero Theatre? Then you know that Old Spanish Days and the opening of the beloved venue share wayback ties.

Photo Credit: Old Spanish Days]]>
<![CDATA[Venice Cool: Hotel Erwin's Fresh Extras]]> Sat, 02 Aug 2014 09:37:38 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/hotelerwinsurf1.jpg

WHAT WAS IN YOUR LAST HOTEL ROOM? Do you recall? There was probably a television of some sort, a remote control, a chair or two, a bureau, some wall art. We'll wager that your just-for-the-night spot was pretty complete, overall, but it likely didn't come with its own DJ booth. We don't want to make assumptions, and if you spent the night in the new Red Bull Dogtown Suite at Hotel Erwin in Venice Beach, well then, you most certainly did have a DJ booth of your very own, not to mention funky art, a patio facing the water, and a very au courant atmosphere (or just "atmos" if you want to be particularly hip). The steps-from-the-boardwalk property has recently undergone a freshening-up, both on the rooms front and the extras front, and the suite is at the lead of the luxe touches.

THERE'S ALSO... the roaming Happy Hour cart, which will eventually find you. Typically a Happy Hour-type set-up means that the patron has to locate the bar, but sit tight and enjoy the sunset from your room: A cart may brimming with "handcrafted cocktails," vino, and brews may soon materialize at your door. A new menu at High, the restaurant offering sweeping, Pacific-pretty vistas, just debuted at the start of summer, and brunch at Barlo Kitchen + Cocktails? Look for old-school cartoons to screen and an "all-you-can-eat cereal bar with a buffet of vintage cereals plus lunch box milks." That's every Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m.

TOUR DE VENICE: That social media-happy contest is afoot through September, so if you're in a hashtagging type of mood, and you pay a visit to the hotel, you could post your snapshots and maybe win "an ultimate Venice vacation package." We'll raise a spoonful of vintage cereal and milk to that.

Photo Credit: Hotel Erwin]]>
<![CDATA[Magical Road Trip: Disney Fanniversary Celebration]]> Tue, 29 Jul 2014 07:17:59 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/192*120/Fanniversary-social-1d32.jpg

A GLAD GATHERING: Summertime is known as the season when some of the largest, most elaborate, and truly tidbit-packed pop culture conventions unfurl. Comic-Con International lands in San Diego in late July, and the official "Star Trek" convention in Las Vegas around early August, and then? It just might be time for D23 Expo, the mega Disney fan party that magically alights, Tinkerbell-style, at the Anaheim Convention Center. But like Tinkerbell often finds herself busy and off flitting about, sprinkling sparkles, the expo comes around every two years, with 2015 the next big date. So what's a California buff of All Things Magic Kingdom to do? They can make for the nearest D23 Disney Fanniversary Celebration, a traveling, treat-laden show that'll visit eleven cities around the U.S. from August to October. Three of those cities are in the Golden State, meaning that if you're near Burbank on Aug. 9, San Diego on Aug. 10, or San Francisco on Aug. 16 and 17, you can join the mouse-eared fun. And on the Disney-esque docket? A commemoration of the "dozens of magical Disney milestones celebrating landmark anniversaries this year."

"MARY POPPINS"... is absolutely one of those -- happy 50th, Mary! -- and her iconic hat will be part of the tour. As will a host of other goodies, and they'll be stellar: Disney archivists and the D23 team are behind the Fanniversary fun. Look and listen for artifacts and/or fresh excerpts from the 55-year-old "Sleeping Beauty," from "The Little Mermaid" (that's 25 this year), and the hinge-creakiest attraction of them all, the Haunted Mansion, which marks its 45th in August. Oh, and, you betcha, Donald Duck shall get plenty of accolades and attention, as the irascible, sailor hat-sporting character practically demands. General public tickets? They're forty dollars, and less for D23 members. Can and should you wear your mouse ears, your pirate hat, your Mr. Toad vest, your Space Mountain button? Yes, yes, yes, and you have one of those? Cool. Jealous, in a friendly, fan-like way.

Photo Credit: Disney Fanniversary]]>
<![CDATA[Zip by Night: A Catalina Island Adventure]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 17:22:41 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/CatalinaIslandNightZip.jpg

UP IN THE EVENING AIR: A committed zip-liner'll vow that each trip is a distinct and individual one. Maybe the sunlight looks rather different on the trees or distant water or a new bird is spied or perhaps you just laugh your head off the whole time (or make the appropriate exuberant noises). But those zip trips? They tend to happen in the daytime, when the land is well-lit and the air is warm. What might it be like at night? A fine question, though sometimes a fruitless one: Not every zip line operates after-hours. But, every so often, one ventures into evening runs, and when that zip happens to be nestled alongside the ocean, the atmospheric result can be pretty spectacular. We speak of the zip line operated by the Santa Catalina Island Company. Yes, it is indeed on Catalina, and, for sure, it is close enough to the ocean that you'll have some solid glimpses as you fly, and absolutely, you will be taking on beautiful Descanso Canyon at speeds of up to 45 mph. By night. We mentioned the night bit of this a few times, right? It's nifty and cool. Only bats and planes fly by night (well, okay, and a few other things, too, of course, like Catalina's famous flying fish). 

GET EDUCATED: The adventure isn't merely about sailing along, connected to a line, at some 300 feet off the ground in certain parts. "(G)uests will pause at several eco-stations along the way where they will be given a presentation on some of the unique and interesting aspects of Catalina Island, its wildlife, history, and local areas." Just be prepared for "minimal lighting" between the stations and get ready to be geared-up with head lamps and reflective strips. Call it a new way to zip line, if you've only ever done the daytime, and call it a mysterious but ultimately info-packed way to take in a slice of the wilder island. It happens Fridays through Sundays and costs $125 a person.

Photo Credit: Santa Catalina Island Company]]>
<![CDATA["Sideways" 10th Anniversary: Wine Country Celebrates]]> Sat, 26 Jul 2014 12:43:25 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/sideways_06.jpg

CINEMATIC SIP: There are some films and shows that are so associated with a particular libation that it's nearly impossible to mention the title without immediately naming its quintessential sip. Think "The Big Lebowski" and the White Russian or "Sex and the City" and Cosmopolitans or James Bond and his shaken, never stirred Martini. But what of the movie that takes a stand against a particular beverage? Will it, too, be forever linked to the beverage in question? "Yes," is the short answer, if you look to Alexander Payne's quirky and layered "Sideways." Paul Giamatti's wine-loving Miles rails against merlot in the film, memorably, and his viewpoint quickly caught on as one of the touchstones of the independent darling. So how does one celebrate the approaching 10th anniversary of the independent festival favorite, then? With chardonnay? Cabernet? Something else? Oh heck no: Merlot is the drink of choice at the upcoming "Sideways" celebration day, which flows on Saturday, Sept. 13. And there's only one spot such a glass-raising moment could happen...

SOLVANG: Of course. The windmilliest town in the West is featured prominently in the film, as is the Santa Ynez Valley. So you can bet that a party marking the anniversary of the release of "Sideways" -- which provided a tour bump for the region, complete with "Sideways" maps -- will land there. It will, in fact, take place at the Solvang Festival Theater, and serve as a fundraiser for the venue (which is celebrating its 40th). And joining the Merlot Taste-Off? It's $65, if you buy your ticket before Sept. 1.

AND, SURE... you can speak your mind about merlot, if you like, but, really: Miles grew as a character in the movie, meaning that, just perhaps, his feelings about merlot were a little ill-judged. One can love "Sideways" and still love merlot, too.


Photo Credit: Sideways]]>
<![CDATA[104 Celebrities: Sin City's "Star Trek" Con]]> Tue, 29 Jul 2014 07:16:30 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/borg71679832.jpg

SERIOUSLY, THOUGH: Really. How do the fans do it? We're talking about the mega "Star Trek" buffs who put in the time, the effort, and the costuming at Comic-Con International and then, almost immediately, turn around and do it all over again at the official convention for the sci-fi stalwart in Las Vegas. Do they pack the protein power bars and take regular naps? Do they have one costume for Comic-Con and a whole other outfit for Sin City? Really, should there be an instructional how-to video on this, for cosplayers who face two major events in two different states in the space of the week? There should be. Until then, we'll consider the fans who ably do both to be privy to some sort of Trekkian space-time technology. And they'll be glad that they made the effort to get to the Las Vegas convention, which, as mentioned, is the official "Star Trek" convention: Some 104 Trek-related celebrities are set to show. Make that 104 "and counting," as a release says. Yes, William Shatner will be in the house at the Rio Suites Hotel, as will Kate Mulgrew. And the extras? There as plentiful as twinkling stars in the sky. Let's start with...

THE TREK WEDDING: A pair of attendees met in a queue back at the 2012 convention, love bloomed, and now a full-on "Imzadi" wedding ceremony'll go down at the con. And, yes, fans are invited (fingers crossed everyone in attendance will be in costume). The "Star Trek" centerpiece contest returns, as do trivia contests and behind-the-scenes peeks and "two special panels" from NASA, a first-time participant in the long-running convention (it marks a decade this year). So how many Trekkers are expected to show for this cosmic convening, which is on from Thursday, July 31 through Sunday, Aug. 3? Oh, 15,000, give or take. Surely a few of those will have been at Comic-Con, and we do doff our hat -- or give the Vulcan salute, rather -- to your tireless tenacity and devotion to all things Starfleet.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Pool in the Middle of the Mojave]]> Thu, 24 Jul 2014 08:36:38 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/218*120/socialpoolalfredobarsuglia.jpg

SUN-BAKED STATEMENT: Finding a pool in the middle of a vast and arid landscape? Kind of a usual thing, right? You're driving down a two-laner through a small town, you see the fizzy-bright neon sign of a motel, and, there, underneath the sign, is a blue rectangle, complete with diving board or poolside lounge chairs. But finding that same pool less the diving board, the lounge chairs, the motel, and the entire town, not to mention the highway, is, well... less expected. Highly unusual, in fact. But artist Alfredo Barsuglia sees things rather differently. He didn't require all of those other details -- the motel, the town -- for his desert-based swimming pool, which is very far away from everything and not so easy to get to. Finding his "Social Pool," which is somewhere in the Mojave, requires a bit of time, some coordinates, some effort, the right day, and a visit to the MAK Center for Art and Architecture, which is providing a key to adventurers seeking the remote pool.

SEVEN DAYS A WEEK: The pool is out there, way out there, awaiting visitors, seven days a week through the end of September. "The GPS coordinates of 'Social Pool' as well as the key to open its mobile cover are provided by the MAK Center for Art and Architecture in West Hollywood." It will depend, of course, if the key is available that day, so, yep, there's the luck part. But if the fates are with you? Then you're spending the afternoon in what is surely the Golden State's most esoteric swimming hole of the moment.

BEHIND THE IDEA: The concept behind Mr. Barsuglia's desert-remote pool "embodies the massive socio-economic changes that have taken place in the last forty years." It "combines elements of the sublime and the ridiculous" and aims to have the visitor consider our "consumption and entertainment-driven lifestyle." For more on the artist's intent and the fluid ideas behind this hours-to-get-to slice of desert noir, hike this way.

Photo Credit: Alfredo Barsuglia]]>
<![CDATA[Horsey Getaway: Grand Del Mar Package]]> Thu, 24 Jul 2014 11:06:21 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/253*120/grandelmar204532.jpg

PERFECT DAY AT THE THOROUGHBRED CLUB: It really matters not, at a top-notch racetrack such as Del Mar, how you map out your day. We'll wager that most fans plot a different course, each as individual as the next. Yes, there shall be the admiring of the ponies at some point, but some people like to snack it up more and some like to call upon the paddocks and some like to soak in the sunshine and some like to raise a glass. But the one common activity that practically every saddle aficionado engages in at some point is the Official Jumping Up and Down. Certainly you know this? It happens in short bursts, during the heat of a run, and it is accompanied by the Fervent Shouting of Your Pony's Name, typically with the admonitions that they trot faster (or that they're doing swell). Both jumping and shouting can take the ticking out of even the most enthusiastic jumper and shouter, meaning that a restful night is key. Is there a place close to where the ponies run and that it has a pony-esque package on? Even better.

AND EVEN BETTER THAN THAT? It's the oh-so-posh Grand Del Mar resort. The Day at the Races Summer Racetrack package includes a night's stayover, two stretched reserve seats at the track, a ride to the track (and pick-up at the track later), and a copy of Racing Form and Racing Digest. Oh, and something sippable: Two mint juleps awaiting you and your best horse-following friend when you get back from the track. Cost? It starts at $645 (updated). Call it a treat for a track regular who has never done the overnight thing in the area but wants to make this season a little extra special. Some change is good, though we'd never recommend the jumping and shouting while your pony runs. That's classic, and here to stay as long as horses gallop at top speeds.

THE PACKAGE... is available through Sept. 3.

Photo Credit: Grand Del Mar]]>
<![CDATA[Watch the Perseids at Glacier Point]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 14:51:39 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/234*120/glacierperseidtenaya.jpg

METEOR SHOWER WOW: When a nighttime sky show comes along, there's much discussion among cosmos mavens as to the optimal place to watch it. At an observatory? Near the ocean? Far, far away from any major artificial light sources? While we can all agree, pretty much, on that final situation, landing on the ideal spot from where one may admire light streaks in the bowl above us can be a challenge. But what if something on earth, a terrestrial object, helped to form part of a spectacular frame for the sky? That's exactly what the granite mammoths of Yosemite National Park do. Ponder watching the Perseid Meteor Shower, which is due on Tuesday, Aug. 12, from practically anywhere. Now picture watching it from Glacier Point, with Half Dome giving your eye a rather epic resting place when your face is not turned toward the heavens. It's hard to top that setting for a sky show, given that Half Dome is one of the most recognizable hunks of rock on this planet or maybe any other. ("Hunks of rock" said with total love, of course.) Tempted by this rare opportunity? Then make your reservation at...

TENAYA LODGE: The grand property, which sits just south of the Yosemite gate, has a special on just for lovers of meteors and granite domes and mythical settings: Book a room at the hotel, for starters. Then, for an additional $99, you can secure a spot on the drive to Glacier Point. A night sky map, a Tenaya Blanket, and a glow stick -- oh yeah, scoring big time -- are part of your field trip package. "(E)xpert astronomy guides" will join, meaning it won't simply be about appreciating the Perseids but learning about them as well. Perhaps most fun of all? You meet at 8:30 p.m. for the jaunt into the park. Really, how many field trips of your youth began at 8:30? It's a rare treat. And we take that back: Most fun of all has to be seeing Half Dome and the other features of Yosemite framing the bottom part of the sky during a cosmic event.

Photo Credit: Tenaya Lodge]]>
<![CDATA[State Park Sweetness: I Love You CA Bear]]> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:24:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ilovebearca.jpg

STATE SYMBOL SHOUT-OUT: If you've ever participated in Flat Stanley, or something similar to the paper, globe-trotting boy that every school kid knows as well as her or his favorite cartoon, then you know the fun of seeing something that's easy to pack show up in a remote or faraway place. It is a unifying thing, in short, and when a particular Flat Stanley has made the rounds, the community that participated is pretty dang chuffed. With that come-together spirit in mind, and a spirited love for nature and protecting our wild places, the people behind the California State Parks are marking the parks' 150th anniversary with one very sweet project: The I Love You CA Bear. Yep, there's a furry fellow hugging our state and he's showing up in all the parks. He's made recent appearances at Hearst Castle, Huntington State Beach, and Sonoma State Historic Park via fans who've printed out the bear from the official web site. Are you and the family journeying to a state park this summer? Feel like printing out our venerable animal ambassador and snapping a few photos for Instagram or another social media corner of the web?

THEN RAISE A HAPPY ROAR... and print out your bear here. You may want to print out two, one for the front of the fridge, given that the illustration may raise some Golden State pride. And if you aren't traveling to a park in the next month or two, but want to see all the places the bear is making a colorful cameo, you can follow along on Facebook. Where will the I Love You CA Bear pop up next? Wherever there's a park that needs our love, our commitment to its future, and, yep, a little whimsy. That's all the state parks, right? We'll raise a roar to that.

Photo Credit: California State Parks]]>
<![CDATA[Elvis Fest: Thank You, Thank You Very Much]]> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 09:39:41 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/192*120/elvisocviolin.jpg

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, ALL SHOOK UP: It won't come as a surprise to anyone to learn that Graceland is not in Los Angeles. Nor are the famous Tennessee haunts of one Mr. Elvis Presley, nor the neighborhood restaurants and places he frequented while his star was rising. But does the Golden State possess a few very highly Presley-esque destinations and events? For sure. And the fans? They flock there, happily. "There" is typically Palm Springs, which is home to the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway (yep, the very spot the King and Priscilla retreated to following their 1967 Las Vegas nuptials). Our regional music destinations -- think the Grammy Museum in downtown Los Angeles -- very often pay tribute to the icon's legacy via exhibits and special happenings. And what of the OC Marketplace? That is a special place, indeed, for Elvis aficionados come August. The Costa Mesa venue hosts a full-on day full of Elvis tribute artists and Elvis music and hula dancers and tributes and specially themed activities that fit with the Presley legacy as snugly as a microphone fits inside a hand. Tempted to don your spangly jumpsuit and make for The Wonder of Elvis? Then clear your calendar on...

SUNDAY, AUG. 24: That's the big day. Arrive at 10 a.m. for treats like "Elvis Sings the Beatles" and Gary Anderson performing "Songs from the Aloha Concert" and a hula hoop contest and a "King-Size Bubble Gum Blowing Contest." Is there a charity fundraiser on at Bob's Old-Fashioned Ice Cream, for the Orangewood Children's Home? You bet. A car show, karaoke, and a Priscilla hair and Elvis hair competition are afoot. In fact, the full six hours will be as crammed as a jukebox brimming with 45s, so best plan on spending the day Elvising it up in Orange County. That's an actual real dictionary term, right? Elvising something up? We should us it more, when the words "cool" and "legend" just don't go the distance.

Photo Credit: The Wonder of Elvis]]>
<![CDATA[Mirage Roar: Three New Lion Cubs Debut]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 06:17:24 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/SiegfriedRoyLioncubs1.jpg

MAJESTIC BEAUTY: The terms "bright" and "blinking" and "neon" and "fast" tend to show up in a lot of copy dealing with Las Vegas, and not without reason. Sin City is very au courant, incredibly flashy, and if one sign isn't garnering your attention then another giant screen down the Strip is doing so, very well. Which means finding a place of respite, whether it is among the pink birds of The Flamingo or inside the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens can be an essential part of any trip spent along Las Vegas Boulevard. One of the biggest natural draws on the Strip is behind the manmade volcano at The Mirage. Nope, we speak not of the landscaping, as lush and as impressive though it is, but rather Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, which is home to some 30 endangered animals. Those beasties are getting three more residents, and residents truly don't come more roly, poly, or awww-worthy: A trio of lion cubs from Johannesburg, South Africa made their debut at the much-cooed-over habitat on Friday, July 18.

BRING ON THE FANS: We weren't employing too much poetic license on the "roly" nor the "poly" front: Freedom, Timba-Masai, and Madiba are just over 12 weeks old, which translates into paws that seem larger than they do and wee roars and all of those quintessential cub-like qualities. Roy spoke of the cubs, saying "These boys, our newest Lion Kings, are truly our Ambassadors of Conservation and Preservation... Millions of people each year visit the Secret Garden and are awed by these gentle creatures," continued Siegfried. "One by one, we are raising awareness for the plight of rare and endangered animals, our true mission." Want to have a peek at the cubs? You can see them daily from noon to 4 p.m. The habitat is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.

Photo Credit: Siegfried & Roy]]>
<![CDATA[The Pirates of Ventura Harbor]]> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 12:53:09 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/pirateventura1345.jpg

THERE ARE PEOPLE... who consider every day, to some extent, "Talk Like a Pirate Day." Maybe it is the guy in the cubicle next to you, or your cousin's wife, or perhaps it is you. Are you a person who feels that the day-to-day needs more dash, more history, and far more tri-cornered hats and breeches than a typical day normally sees? Then your calender likely brims with other celebrations beyond those that happen on Sept. 19 (which is, of course, Talk Like a Pirate Day). Next up on the sea-worthy schedule? Ventura Harbor's Pirate Days, which cozies up to the perfectly named Spinnaker Drive (so you KNOW you are steps from the water). It unfurls exactly two months ahead of Talk Like a Pirate Day on Saturday, July 19 and Sunday, July 20, so if you want to start practicing those "arrrrrs" and "mateys," that's your place.

PIRATE RE-ENACTORS, AHOY: WIll Jack Sparrow and Captain Hook be in the house, or, um, adjacent to the ocean on Spinnaker Drive in Ventura? Of course (you can't keep those two away from a party). Will there be a number of acts, like Ship of Fools, The Pirate Charles, and Pirates for Hire, sea-shantying up the weekend and providing numerous entertainment-style delights? You bet. Can people attending dress up in their own vests and boots and frocks of the ye olden era? That is expected and welcome. And shall there be a kidly treasure hunt? Wee pirates would be mightily bummed if there was not.

AS FOR ADMISSION? No doubloons are required: It's free, pirate people, as is the parking.


Photo Credit: Pirate Days Festival]]>
<![CDATA[TV Fans Flock to LA Costume Show]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 06:17:49 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/232*120/tvcostumedfidmliberace2.jpg

THAT DRESS: If you get obsessed with a television series -- and just about everybody who is in possession of a television has at one time or another -- certain elements draw you in, captivate you, and stay with you long after the show has left the air. Maybe it is an actor's particularly brooding performance, or the sparkly banter, or it could be a frock the star wore to the big ball in episode 5 of the third season. Do you admire the clothing worn by your favorite characters? Yeah, we watch television for fashion-based reasons, too, and often principally, given that the small screen has jump-started numerous sartorial trends over the decades. Enter the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in downtown Los Angeles. The school is famous for its innovative students and faculty, and for knowing what the mode of tomorrow might be. And it is known, and beloved, for two major exhibitions it stages each year. Make that free-to-see shows, which is rather remarkable, given that the exhibits brim with celebrated movie and television costumes. The film exhibit? That lands in the late winter and spring, around the Oscars. And television's time? 

IT'S HAPPENING: The Outstanding Art of Television Costume and Design grandly fills out the FIDM Gallery ahead of The Emmys each year. That means that any Tuesday through Saturday you can make for the school and see, for free, costumes from "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and "The Good Wife" and returning show "Downton Abbey." "Portlandia" and "True Detective" and "Pretty Little Liars" are in the round-up, too. Some 98 nominations are represented, and over 20 shows, and, yes, those are really the suits and skirts seen on the screen and not replicas. Opening date? Tuesday, July 22. Closing date? Saturday, Sept. 20. Between those two days? Loads of looking and admiring and a little dress envy (and inspiration, too).

Photo Credit: FIDM]]>
<![CDATA[On Sale: October Flashlight Tours at the Winchester]]> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 09:01:40 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/204*120/WinchesterMysteryHouse_crWMH_1.jpg

AGE-OLD ARGUMENT: Call it one of the most invigorating and, indeed, spirited debates you'll ever have with a good friend: Are ghosts real? Surely whatever side of the issue you stand on you've found yourself in a lively go-around with a group of pals who think differently (we're picturing the conversation happening over a bottle of wine or perhaps an atmospheric coffeehouse). Studies are cited and personal anecdotes, and, in the end, everyone likely walks away standing their ground -- and still friends, one hopes. But not up for argument? That the flashlight tours at San Jose's Winchester Mystery House are incredibly popular. This could be due, in part, to their relative scarcity. The wander-the-famous-manse-by-dark evenings only ever land on Friday the 13ths and during the month of October. And those Friday the 13th nights? Zip-zow-boom, those tickets fly like they've got little fairy wings attached to their edges. October's the more robust period for the flashlight walks, but, believe it (regardless of what you believe): They fill up. So, are you tempted to see the Other Side? Or at least ramble, by night, through the World's Most Notorious Rambling House? Then click for your ticket info.

AND TRUE: It was, in fact, announced that the Winchester would allow overnight stays on the grounds earlier this year. We suppose it is true what they say: Wraiths sleep in the daytime but come out to play by moonlight. No? That's not how the legend goes? Well, regardless, many fans have longed to stay from dusk through dawn at Sarah Winchester's stairways-to-nowhere labyrinth. What they see under the stars and in the shadows will depend on the guests' quick eyes, their sixth senses, and their devotion to the pursuits of fun and imagination, too.

AS FOR THOSE FRIDAY THE 13THS? There was only one in 2014, and it happened in June. But there are three ahead in 2015. Get ready, flashlight adventurers...

Photo Credit: Winchester Mystery House]]>
<![CDATA[Friends of Bodie Day]]> Mon, 14 Jul 2014 11:49:03 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/friendsofbodieday.jpg

QUESTION: What's the difference between a remote ghost town full of trash and modernisms and decay that isn't necessarily healthy decay and a remote ghost town that looks very much like it did back in its 1800s-era heyday? Nope, not luck, and not the heat of the sun or whether there's a good postcard/t-shirt shop nearby. It has to do with support, human support, with people lending their love and time to the preservation of the historic place. Mindful preservation, meaning that the structures are not fixed as to reflect contemporary tastes but rather are tended to in such a way that the natural decay is slow and authentic. There are many ghost towns around the U.S. that fit the former description and just a few that land within the latter. And at the top of that historic heap? Bodie State Historic Park, which has the support of thousands of fans, with the Bodie Foundation at the lead. The foundation looks after the vintage mining town, a town so authentic that you can still see old nails and cans in the streets (look but don't take; there's a curse associated with removing items from Bodie). And come summer? The foundation parties and raises money and spreads knowledge about their important mission.

FRIENDS OF BODIE DAY: Will there be living history presentations on Saturday, Aug. 9? You bet. Lots of activities to fill the daylight hours? For sure. And tours of the dozens of structures that have dotted this silent valley for the last century and a half, give or take? You betcha. Pack mule demos and horse-led buggies'll be on the grounds, too. And do we even need to mention this? That period dress is encouraged? You know to show in your bonnet and boots, right? Make it truly living history, all around. It's about the yippee-ki-yay-iest day in one of the country's, and world's, most loved-on and true-to-its-former-self places. Are you a friend to Bodie? Show your love by costuming up and partying like it is 1878.

Photo Credit: Friends of Bodie Day]]>
<![CDATA[Costa Mesa Comestible: The Bacon-Wrapped Jack Daniels Churro]]> Mon, 14 Jul 2014 06:52:27 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/182*120/fairjackdaniels2456.jpg

THE OBVIOUS WINNER: While cookies, donuts, and cupcakes have been deliciously duking it out for the ultimate dessert crown these last few years, the churro has been making its sweet stand. So much so that haute chefs and food trucks and county fairs have been blithely employing the sugar-coated pastry stick in all manner of dishes, treats that cover the rainbow of possibilities, from quirky to can-you-really-do-that-with-a-churro? But the Bacon-A-Fair might have trumped all churro-wielding competitors with its 2014 Orange County Fair offering: The Bacon-Wrapped Jack Daniels. That's the name, no "churro" in the title, but it is definitely built around churros as a base (the accompanying photo will bear that out). As for the tempting description? The fair calls it "a unique churro concoction with a little whiskey kick at the end (non-alcoholic, of course)." Do we even need to say there is more stuff going down on this one plate of food than on five other plates of food, put together? We probably don't need to.

IF... bacon and churros and Jack Daniels hand-in-hand-in-hand aren't your thing, Bacon-A-Fair also has a deep-fried bacon-wrapped turkey leg, which feels like it might be an instant fair classic. (C'mon, the turkey leg is just about the most symbolic foodstuff of any fair, alongside roasted corn.) As for more deep-fried all-out kookiness? Chicken Charlie is trying out Deep-Fried Doritos and Deep-Fried Chicken Skin.

WHAT'S NEXT... for the churro? Churro cocktails? Churros stuffed inside other churros? Deep-Friend Doritos crumbled atop a churro? For this sweet treat the sky really might be the limit.


Photo Credit: OC Fair]]>
<![CDATA[Donuts Day at Del Mar Race Track]]> Fri, 11 Jul 2014 12:28:27 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/doughnuts+.jpg

A HOST OF SPECIAL DAYS: Venerable? Long-running? Around for three-quarters of a century, plus two years? All apt descriptions of the Del Mar Race Track season, a summertime staple known for its grand opening day ceremonies and even grander hats and outfits. But enjoying the horsey scene isn't all about bringing the swankitude to the sea-close setting; the track has a host of come-casual days which are fun, informative, and occasionally food-laden. One of the most popular on the calendar, and possibly the most opposite of the grandeur and dressyness of Opening Day? Donuts Days. Yep, "days" is indeed plural there, meaning that equestrian fans who like their morning meal on the sweet side'll have two chances to attend. Day one is up right away, on Saturday, July 19 (so just 48 hours after Opening Day). And Donut Day #2? That falls on Saturday, Aug. 23.

DONUT DAY REVEALED: Yep, it is about the gratis donuts and juice and coffee, so yay times three, but the spotlight of the morning goes to the jockeys, who are front-and-center for some Q&A time as fans munch away on crullers and sip OJ. Track announcer Trevor Denman leads the early-in-the-day discussion.

BUT... if donuts aren't your bag, there's a whole raft of special days and events ahead at Del Mar. Jockey Photo Day is Sunday, July 20 -- yep, you can have a snapshot with your star jockey -- and there's Daybreak at Del Mar on Saturday, July 19 and Sunday, July 20, which gives fans a chance to track it up soon after sunrise. Concerts, cabana parties, and more await in Del Mar -- oh yes, and some of the most famous equine action around, too. Trot this way, pony people, for all of the 2014 special happenings.

Photo Credit: Shuttershock ]]>
<![CDATA[The Great Oxnard Salsa Challenge]]> Thu, 10 Jul 2014 09:52:48 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/salsaoxnardphoto1.jpg

CALIENTE CREATIONS: A lot of food festivals put the focus on attendees eating whatever is being offered on the festival grounds. Think avocado ice cream at our state's various avocado celebrations or ribs wherever ribs are on the grill or the other tasty wares sold by vendors who fit the foodly theme. But a salsa festival is a different matter, if only because a lot of the attendees -- dare we say the majority, or close? -- have likely made some sort of salsa in their lifetime. Whether it was chopping up some tomatoes and onions and cilantro or putting together a 12- or 15-ingredient pico de gallo, many SoCalers make their salsa a point of pride. Which means, of course, that the Oxnard Salsa Festival, which lines up the bowls on Saturday, July 26 and Sunday, July 27, is very much about giving festival guests their own day in the sun, or at the judging tables, rather, via the Great Oxnard Salsa Challenge.

YEP, IT'S A COOKING CONTEST... and a tasty one at that. Check out the categories: Best Green, Best Red, Best Specialty/Fruit, Best Mild or Medium or Hot and Judge's Choice (and those are just in the amateur division; there's a professional division as well). Past winners have gone home with a jar of official festival salsa and a thirty-dollar restaurant gift certificate, plus the glory of making magic out of an already magical dish.

PLUS? The festival is very much about salsa, as in dancing, meaning you'll shake it and watching people shaking it, too (this is an excellent chillaxing opportunity after consuming one too many tortilla chips). For all the info on the many, many types of salsa on display and the many, many salsa dancers who arrive in Oxnard to dazzle, dip your chip right here, salsa lover.

Photo Credit: Oxnard Salsa Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Even Bigger: Halloween Grows at Disneyland]]> Sat, 12 Jul 2014 09:23:01 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/dlhalloweenexpanded.jpg

OUT-SIZED OCTOBER: Back in the day -- so, lo about the 1960s and '70s, give or take -- you couldn't top summer for Disneyland's busiest season. Grad nights and date nights and concerts and special events filled out the warm weather months, and those oh-so-popular overnights, too (those still come up, when the park stays open for 24 hours, as it did just before Memorial Day Weekend). But other seasons grew in popularity at the World's Most Famous Theme Park, chiefly the holidays at the end of the year and Halloween.

HAUNTED MANSION AND BEYOND: Yep, "A Nightmare Before Christmas" cemented the witching season and Disneyland in many a mind, but so did Mickey's Halloween Party, that after-hours, kids-costume-up, trick-or-treat-on-Main-Street dealie that's got a separate ticket and one very popular reputation. So popular that it has been growing over the years, increasing in nights, and 2014 will see more ghoul-ready grown: The Halloween bash'll run for fourteen nights this coming fall.

COSTUMES ON, MOUSEKETEERS: Halloween Time will run from Sept. 12 through Oct. 31, and Mickey's Halloween Party? That'll land on select nights starting on Sept. 26 and ending on Oct. 31. Yep, adults can dress up as well, and, yep, even though it is a separate ticket, you're invited to show three hours ahead of the party to play in the park. Eager to secure your spooky date? The pre-sale begins July 16, with the general sale starting on July 30.

OH... and will Ghost Galaxy be back at Space Mountain? Are the cosmos cold? You betcha it will, boo buffs.

Photo Credit: Paul Hiffmeyer]]>
<![CDATA[New at El Capitan Canyon: Corral Cabins]]> Tue, 08 Jul 2014 11:44:21 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/corralcabinelcapitan.jpg

OPTIONS OUTDOORS: If you've ever joined your pals on a spontaneous camping trip, you know it is pretty much about you and your sleeping bag and Nature, capital N. Which is cool: It's so soft and plaid and nubbily and you like it, for options for ways to spend the night outdoors don't typically abound. That is not the case at El Capitan Canyon, which has become known for approaching the art of outdoor overnight enjoyment in a myriad of offbeat and whimsical ways. There are the posh tents that have been written up in every magazine from here to the furthest place from here, and the gorgeous yurts. The cedar cabins, too, get the love, as do the make-your-own-s'mores kits and the on-property llamas and the whole feeling of being one with nature but also having one's own private little slice of privatedom (not to be undervalued for the adventurer who wants to be very adjacent to the al fresco world but perhaps not in the middle of it). Now the Santa Barbara property has something new for the summer of '14, though, like other structures around the bucolic space, the new things fit snugly in, like a corral cabin next to a creek. Oh, did we just tip our hand there?

WE DID: El Capitan Canyon opened thirteen Corral Cabins in June. The "contemporary rustic" buildings are slightly set apart from the Safari Tents and yurts and Cedar Cabins, lending a little bit more quietude (though that abounds throughout the grounds). The cabins include separate living areas, and fireplaces and kitchenettes with full fridges. There are bathrooms, too, and Western decor to hee-yaw over (the cabins' name hails from a corral which was once in the area). If you stay in these luxe-y, larger spaces, you still have a crack at the gratis El Capitan bikes and the other good things the property offers (like the summer activities -- hello hikes, yoga, stargazing...). Want to know more? Grab your hiking stick and wend your way over here.

Photo Credit: El Capitan Canyon]]>
<![CDATA[Mountain Classic: Santa's Village to Re-Open in SkyPark]]> Mon, 07 Jul 2014 10:02:39 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/santasvillagemt.jpg

RETRO FAVORITE: Talk to many a SoCaler who grew up within driving distance of Lake Arrowhead and you're bound to get some gushy, childhood-sweet rhapsodizing over Santa's Village. Remember Santa's Village? It debuted in the middle of the decade that sat at the middle of the last century -- hello, 1955 -- and charmed families searching for some mountain air, chillier temps, and a peek inside the inner workings of how Christmas comes together. The charming little plot closed a couple of years shy of the turn of the millennium but has continue to exist, though dormant, in Skyforest at the edge of Arrowhead. But like holiday magic, the village will once again open, this time as part of SkyPark, a bike-riding and outdoorsy sports destination that'll fill out much of the 154-acre property. Developed by Bill Johnson of Mountain Country Realty, SkyPark is expected to debut in the spring of 2015.

WILL IT BE A MATTER OF TIME... before people who went as kids in the '60s, '70s, and '80s take their own kids and grandkids for a look-around? Before hitting the two-wheel trails and zip lines for some higher elevation adrenaline-raising sportage? Fingers crossed, outdoor-Santa-loving enthusiasts. Until then, Mr. Johnson offers a peek at what's to come...

Photo Credit: SkyPark]]>
<![CDATA[Crew for a Day: Join the Historic Sierra No. 3]]> Tue, 08 Jul 2014 22:20:38 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sierrano3_1.jpg

Photo Credit: Railtown 1897 State Historic Park ]]>
<![CDATA[Julian Starfest: Tour Palomar Observatory]]> Mon, 07 Jul 2014 06:46:02 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/palomar71737730.jpg

SKY-WATCHING LANDMARK: The stars are free, so the saying goes (and a thousand sayings like it). We can gaze up, any night of the year, and if clouds aren't doing their clouding-up thing, well... we're soaking in Ursa Major and Orion and deep space, all for the pleasure of it, the mystery, the science, and knowledge. But there's a special something in getting together with other looker-uppers, people who like to stare into the vastly voidness of it all and consider why planets and meteors and stars act in the ways they do. The Julian StarFest is one of the stellar astronomical gatherings on the California calendar, meaning that both professional astronomers and nebula-lovin' backyard-telescopers circle the summer date as a must-do. This year's dates are Thursday, Aug. 21 through Sunday, Aug. 24, the place is Menghini Winery in Julian, and there's a special field trip, of sorts, that'll require sooner-than-later reservations: a tour of Palomar Observatory.

IT'S TRUE... that you can visit the mountain observatory, which sits northwestish of Julian towards Temecula, most any day of the year in the daytime, but hopping on a Julian StarFest tour'll be a treat (and we can't imagine all the info that'll be shared and parsed regarding the observatory's magnificent and huge Hale 200" telescope). You will need to make reservations, though, ahead of time, which means soon. If you'd rather stick closer to the StarFest, you can: The free public star party is on Saturday night, Aug. 23. "(M)any telescopes" shall dot the grounds, meaning you'll get a thorough look at something far, far, far and away from Julian, and, well, earth. And you'll have plenty of astronomers on hand to tell you what you're looking at and answer questions. Cosmic knowledge and universe-cool good times, indeed.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>