<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Worth the Trip]]> Copyright 2015 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 Tue, 30 Jun 2015 07:35:57 -0700 Tue, 30 Jun 2015 07:35:57 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Julian's Jumping: Gold Rush Days + Fourth of July]]> Fri, 26 Jun 2015 17:16:51 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/julianfourthpony.jpg

RED, WHITE, BLUE, AND GOLD: "Homespun" is a word we hear a lot around Thanksgiving and Christmas, two holidays when nostalgia and a wayback feeling reign. We want the same pecan pie Grandma made and to warble the same carols by the piano and to see the same TV specials, again and again. But the Fourth of July has a lot of that time-travel-y connection, too. Consider how songs like "You're a Grand Old Flag" and "America the Beautiful" and the other classics we revisit on Independence Day were likely sung in our grade school classrooms, and the grade school classrooms of our parents and grandparents, too.

Likewise, a parade that has a few sweet horses and a few floats and a few vintage cars, the kind with the funny horn honks and great grills, also can take us back to the patriotic celebrations of decades past, the ones we attended or heard about from our mom or grandfather. Finding those festivities of yore, the ones that are a bit smaller in scale but brimming with authentic sweetness, isn't that hard, though, if you know where to look. One of the most colorful spots for a hometown Fourth procession is Julian, but that's not the only history-tinged party the mountain town has on the horizon.

GOLD RUSH DAYS... clip-clops like a pretty pony, into view, over the final weekend in June. San Diego's "first and only gold rush" happened in this higher elevation town, a town that saw many lively characters pass through in the late 1800s. Some of those prospectors will return, and the spirit of the search, on Saturday, June 27 and Sunday, June 28. Historical happenings, gold-panning, and various windows on the not-so-long-ago past will fill the still-atmospheric byways of the burg.

FOURTH OF JULY PARADE: The bunting and flags will be out along Main Street and the marching bands and handsome horses, too. The 2014 parade was canceled due to a July 3 fire, and organizers promise an extra-celebratory scene for the 2015 gathering. Want to grab some curb and enjoy Julian apple pie post-parade, a dish that's quintessentially American? This is your happy, homespun scene.

Photo Credit: Julian]]>
<![CDATA[D23 Expo: Advance Ticket Sale Ending]]> Sun, 28 Jun 2015 09:50:49 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/rapunzeld23.jpg

AS BIG AS SLEEPING BEAUTY'S CASTLE: While there are numerous small 'n sweet things to be found at Disneyland -- the pennies at the bottom of the wishing well in Snow White's Grotto, the cards delivered by the fortune telling machine at the Penny Arcade, the jewels inside Pirates of the Caribbean, the stars twinkling inside Space Mountain -- it is a destination that famously thinks big. Sleeping Beauty's Castle is stare-up-in-wonder big, as is the Matterhorn. And that final drop at Splash Mountain? Imagineers were not thinking small when they designed that one. And keeping with the go-bigger tradition is D23 Expo, the every-two-years Disney fan convention that will again alight, just a short walk from the world's most famous theme park, at the Anaheim Convention Center in August.

WHAT'S HAPPENING: This is the three-day weekend when movie stars of upcoming properties make cameos -- Johnny Depp has, in the past, and just about every other recent movie headliner -- and reveals and/or peeks are made at projects in the works. The "Silly Symphonies" will get a special concert, complete with live orchestra, if you want to take an animated trip back to the '30s. Pixar aficionados are out in force, and "Star Wars" mavens, too, and those who dig the history of Walt Disney's dream visit the archive exhibit, which shall include "(m)ore than 300 classic and contemporary objects celebrating the 60th anniversary of Walt's first theme park." Ah yes, it is also the 60th anniversary of Disneyland, so prepare for much merch and lots of love given to that.

ADVANCE TICKETS... at a discounted price have been available, but not for much longer. That all wraps on June 30, so if you want to score your adult one-day general admission for sixty seven dollars, rather than seventy four dollars, best do that before July kicks in. After all, if you've been sewing your Rapunzel costume or Captain Jack Sparrow outfit for the last few weeks, you want to make sure you have your ticket firmly in hand (and put the extra few bucks you've saved towards something needed for your look -- more hair flowers or beads, perhaps). Need ticket info for the Aug. 14-16 expo, Mouseketeers? The parade is this way.

Photo Credit: D23 EXPO]]>
<![CDATA[Go Soon: Mariposa Grove Closing for Restoration]]> Sun, 28 Jun 2015 09:49:23 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/mariposagrove293920930.jpg

BEAUTIFUL BEHEMOTHS: Few people are cavalier about the forests and canyons and rivers of California -- we all try to stay aware about the issues that impact our home planet and our rather glorious Golden State surroundings -- but we can grow a little complacent about being able to access our neighboring natural wonders. Surely Pinnacles National Park and Mount Shasta and the redwoods up around Klamath are just there, always open, any time we need to have some communing with nature, right? Well, yes, mostly, but, on occasion, a well-known nature spot shutters for various important reasons.

Mariposa Grove of Yosemite National Park will do just that, tentatively around July 6, when a 24-month restoration project begins. If you're recalling that recent changes have already arrived at the grove of giant sequoias that sits within the national park's boundaries, your memory is solid: The Big Tree Tram Tour ceased operation, forever, in autumn of 2014. Sequoia super-fans -- and surely that's all of us, right? -- weren't out of luck as far as making for Mariposa Grove, however; the area was set to stay open for some time following the tour's closure, as plans were made for its back-to-nature restoration.

THAT RESTORATION... is now upon us, as of early July, so visitors have late into June, and the Fourth of July weekend, to eye the grouping, which "contains about 500 mature giant sequoias." If the restoration proceeds as planned, you can visit again starting in a couple of years, but with an updated landscape to enjoy. Or, if you prefer to think of it in a different light, a "backdated" landscape, since the restoration seeks to return the grove to more of its natural, untouched state by stripping away some of the humanmade creations (hence the ending of the tram tour). It's a trend in many a natural area, and one that promises a positive impact on the natural processes of the plants and animals that call a much-visited wonder home. For more on the Mariposa Grove restoration, and to find your big-tree experience, venture this way, explorers.

photo: Yosemite National Park

Photo Credit: Yosemite National Park]]>
<![CDATA[Silent DJ Parties Rev Up Hyatt Palm Springs]]> Thu, 25 Jun 2015 16:56:04 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/HyattPalmSpringsP061Pool1DJ.jpg

CLASSIC POOL PARTY, LOW VOLUME: Never let it be said that social scenes are static entities with structures that remain stagnant and unchanging and resistant to change. Case in point: The silent DJ party. Just when you -- and everyone else who keeps a tab on trends -- might have thought that a DJ-led music bash was full of thump and volume an ever-so-cool, hotel-cool happening, one that the Palm Springs Hyatt is adopting over several summer Sundays, the first hotel in the region to do so. So what's a silent DJ party? It's where guests gather in an area -- the pool is a pretty chic choice -- over an evening -- Saturday is also chic, as days of the week go -- and don, in unison, wireless headsets.

THOSE HEADSETS... will be tuned into what the resident DJ is spinning live, just across the pool from you, but rather than sending those big, booming vibes into the nearby hotel rooms, they'll stay tucked within your ears, for you, and your fellow attendees, to enjoy. If you need a brief rest from what's happening at the turntables, you can switch over to another channel which includes "a different playlist available for party-goers." Dressing for a fabulous pool party in your warm-weather maxi-dress-board-shorts best? That won't change, even though the party's gone quieter; the feel is still kind of a fashion-fun, DJ-centered scene. Cocktails, misters, and cool towels are the scene-ready accouterments.

SATURDAY, JUNE 20...  was the first silent DJ of the season at the desert resort-based Hyatt, but there are a few more to come, on July 4, Aug. 8, and Sept. 5. The times? Be at the pool from 8 to 11 o'clock. The people-watching? Pretty great, especially if you slip your headset off and watching revelers dancing to the music they're hearing but you, for the moment, are not. The benefit for hotel guests not attending the get-together? Way more quiet than if a few big speakers lined the outdoor area. The benefit for party people? The chance to bond, via headset and a new, unusual experience, with other people digging the tunes and different scenario. If you've been to a booming pool bash, call the Palm Springs Hyatt's take a through-the-looking-glass version. 

Photo Credit: Palm Springs Hyatt/Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Botanic Garden Sweet: Fairy Festival]]> Mon, 15 Jun 2015 18:40:34 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/SDBGFairyQueen.jpg

MAGICAL CREATURES, THE NATURAL WORLD: Fairies, having wings, can fly just about anywhere they please or happen to be needed. This can include the tallest skyscrapers or restaurants or boats or homes, because if there is a window or a door or the smallest of cracks, the tiny winged things can find a way inside. But fairies, as every lover of children's literature and lore knows, adore nature best. That's where they find strength and inspiration and beauty and fun, so even if they must flit away from the trees and flowers for a day, to help a human in the city, they'll return to their plants and shrubs. The San Diego Botanic Garden, in fact, is just the kind of location that fairies favor; it is large, around 35 acres, and it is lush with coast scrub oaks and prickly pears and bush sunflowers and all sorts of native bloomy pretty plants. This makes the Encinitas wild place both the perfect year-round retreat for fairies and the ideal spot for aspiring fairies to try their wings on and get a grapple with magic wands and other forms of enchantments. And those aspiring fairies, youngsters who like to dress up in full fairy regalia, shall find their way to the flora-filled spot on the eve of the Summer Solstice, for a full day devoted to crafts, dress-up, and the ways of fairydom.

THE FAIRY FESTIVAL... sets gently down at the garden on Saturday, June 20. Kids are encouraged to show in their sparkliest outfits (the grown-ups, though, are asked to leave their fairy togs at home). A full spate of fairy crafts will flutter over the day, from the creating of treasure chests (think wooden boxes and rhinestones) to the fashioning of fairy dust bottles. If your tot has forgotten his or her magic wand, there's a workshop that'll help replace that all-important item, and there's an area devoted to the building of fairy houses, too. Does your at-home garden or yard have one? So essential. The spellbinding creatures may flit and float where the wind takes them, but they always like returning to a home base made from natural materials. The cost to attend? It's included with admission to the San Diego Botanic Garden, but stow some cash for material fees. Be sure that your little fairy gets a photo taken with the Fairy Princess, who shall be holding court at the glittery gathering.

Photo Credit: San Diego Botanic Garden Staff]]>
<![CDATA[Del Mar Village Summer Solstice]]> Wed, 10 Jun 2015 11:47:19 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/delmarvillagesummersolstice.jpg

LONGEST DAY, LANGUID TIMES: No one would sniff or look down at their nose or poo-poo how other places beyond California celebrate the planet's nearest star on the occasion of its biggest humanmade holiday, Summer Solstice. Loads of locations throw lovely parties in honor of the sun, and the warm weather, and the extra daylight, and the joy of being outside (since Summer Solstice trades very much in the pleasures of al fresco pursuits). But the Golden State does, after all, have "golden" in its very name, and while that's in large part due to the sparkly stuff in the ground, it also is because we're pretty ray-enriched 'round here. We've always got a touch of the Summer Solstice spirit, in short, regardless of the time of year (okay, maybe not on chilly, foggy February mornings, but we keep the sunshine in our hearts). So when an actual party rolls around near June 21, the official date of the solstice, and it has "Summer Solstice" in its name, and it takes place at  fine ocean-nice spot, which is perfect for watching a sunset, you almost have to grab it. And people do celebrate solsticely, from Santa Barbara's mondo parade to Del Mar, which is throwing a wine and food and music and social confab a few days ahead of the holiday. It's...

THE DEL MAR VILLAGE SUMMER SOLSTICE... and it brings the bash to Powerhouse Park, which is not all that far from the waves of another P-named thing, the Pacific. "California's best wineries and breweries" make a showing at the Thursday, June 18 confab, as well as regional makers of delicious foodstuffs including Bull Taco, Zel's Del Mar, Jake's Del Mar, Sbicca, and Ocean View Bar and Grill. The beneficiary is the Del Mar Village Association, and you benefit by getting in deeper with Del Mar's dining options. Only ever stick to one or two places while you're through town? This is your edible education night. Mostly, though, you should find a chilled glass of Chardonnay, that unofficial drink of a 21+ summer, and raise it to the big ball of fire setting to the west. For while a sunshiny holiday only officially comes around but once a year for most places, for we ocean-facing West Coasters acting like every day is the longest, most languid day of the year is sometimes a way of life.

Photo Credit: Del Mar Village]]>
<![CDATA[Miramonte Resort: Summer "Stay Free" Deal]]> Sat, 13 Jun 2015 12:02:54 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/MiramonteResortSpaOverall.jpg

WORTHY OF AN ODE: Nature is an endless source of wonder and amazement and inspiration and mind-widening experiences, but simply praising all of nature, as a whole, is sometimes not enough. We want specific moments and places to be enraptured by: The shore at sunrise, the mountains in autumn, the desert on a summer night. Summer evenings in an arid place, though, are quite unsung, compared to the other riches of the wilder planet, if only because we know the days are quite hot. But after sundown? The temp is ideal, the stars are looking spiffy, and one can linger outdoors, no wrap required. Lingering by a pool is the way to go, and saving a few -- or many -- bucks to do so is a total gas. Which is why all desert-night-loving SoCalers should look inland, to resortland, where interesting discounts have a way of flowering come the warmer days of June, July, and August. Miramonte Resort & Spa is one such getaway where this is now happening, for the summer of 2015, and the deal-saving, and the desert-night-good-time-having, is looking prime: The new Stay Free package "awards a complimentary third night and a $25 spa credit to guests booking a two-night stay" through Sept. 30, 2015.

SIGNATURE POOL UPDATES: The San Jacinto Mountains, which form the vista for the resort, aren't too new -- of course -- but fresh pool furniture and a "new state of the art sound system" are recent additions. There are cabanas, too, and a full menu, but if chillaxing and communing with the desert night is your bag, the Piedmont pool is described as the quieter choice (and it is for the grown-ups only). As for the spa credit? There are just-introduced treatments for summer, including an emollient Quench Massage. "Quench" anything sounds great in a drier climate. As for just soaking up the night? That can be done anywhere on the property, but preferably from a reclining position on a pool lounger. Summer, after all, isn't all about lots of heat in the desert; a full half of the day, when the sun bids goodbye, makes for ideal temps, ideal stargazing, ideal letting-the-city-go-ing.

Photo Credit: Miramonte Resort & Spa]]>
<![CDATA[Free Admission for Military: San Diego Botanic Garden]]> Wed, 03 Jun 2015 12:46:14 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sdbotanicgarden12982182.jpg

BLUE STAR AND SWEET BLOSSOMS: While the traditionally observed summer season runs from Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day Weekend, it isn't the only nice thing to occur within that stretch. The annual Blue Star Museums program also happens during that time frame, and it is a program enjoyed by thousands. Designed for active members of the military and their families, Blue Star, which waives admission for military families at over 2000 museums across the country, was formed in partnership with the Department of Defense and the National Endowment for the Arts. But it isn't just traditional museums that are part of the fun; cultural institutions, science museums, and public gardens made the roster, too.

ONE OF THOSE GARDENS... is the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas, which is welcoming military families with zero admission required through Monday, Sept. 7. There are big days ahead, including a Fairy Festival on the Saturday of Father's Day Weekend and an Insect Festival in late July, but you and the kids can show any day, really, to soak up 35 acres of winding paths, native plants, flowering shrubs, shady trees, and all sorts of nature-wonderful sights. Need details on how it works at the garden? Here's your page. Want to know the rest of the Blue Star spots in California? The list is lovely and long, so prepare.

THURSDAY FAMILY FUN NIGHT: While it isn't associated with the Blue Star Museums program, this San Diego Botanic Garden series is worth keeping in mind, if you're looking to get the excited-for-the-weekend family out of the house and into the fresh air. It's "free with paid admission" and happens every Thursday evening through Aug. 27. Oh, there's tot-pleasing entertainment, too, in addition to the chance to be in the gardens a bit late, as the sun sets, which is a rarer treat. 

Photo Credit: San Diego Botanic Garden]]>
<![CDATA[La Casa del Zorro: Swimming, Stars, Summer]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 12:17:02 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/zorropoolborrego.jpg

BEST-KEPT SECRET: There are so many phrases that pop up in brochures and guidebooks that can instantly bring a smile. The word "nestled" is charming, and oft-used for any building situated in a valley. And "best-kept secret" regularly shows up in reference to places more than a few people know about. These chestnuts can comfort a traveler, and we'd never want to see them truly go, but let's pause to put a spin on the whole "best-kept secret" idea when it comes to the desert in the summertime. That's not a secret that's been well-kept but rather well-shared; many people know that the days when temperatures top out in the three digits are some of the most excellent times of year to venture into our stark and arid and gorgeous landscapes. And this "well-shared secret" isn't about travelers heading into the desert for several hours but rather keeping close to a hotel pool, or spa, or heading out at night when temps have dropped. La Casa del Zorro is a prime place to do the desert in June, July, and into August. It's located in Borrego Springs, so you'll get your vast vista on, for sure, and it has a pool, so you'll get your water-close lounging in, and there are astronomy nights on the summer calendar, so you'll have your fill of Jupiter and Venus, too.

STARGAZING PARTIES: In fact, in the "well-shared secret" realm, the Anza-Borrego region and astronomy are a pretty longtime twosome. So hopping into a stargazing night at La Casa del Zorro is as sense-making as sunscreen before heading outdoors. June 18, July 23, and Aug. 13 are the nights, and the themes of each night, what can be seen far into the cosmos, shall differ depending what's happening above. If staying up and looking up isn't your bag -- and we're sure it is, but if it isn't all you like to do, you can snack poolside from the Fox Den Cantina, which offers specials to pool-lounging guests or stay into the night, on a Friday or Saturday night, for pool-close live tunes. Is the desert the place to be come summertime? We've long heard otherwise, but travelers in the know talk about this well-shared secret often: The off-season in the desert, when warm gets warmer, can make for some fine swimming and stargazery, without the wintertime bustle.

Photo Credit: Casa del Zorro]]>
<![CDATA[Julian Dance and Back Country BBQ]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 10:58:06 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ribstongs234horz.jpg

UP-THE-MOUNTAIN MERRIMENT: No one would ever take the beach to task, for stealing the thunder of mountain and desert towns on the whole start-the-summer party front. We do absolutely want to take our fun down to the water's edge come the end of May, to don our swimsuits and big hats and drink something flavored with watermelon or peach. But the hamlets located further inland throw their own summer-style shebangs, too, parties with a distinct and often traditional flavor, parties that serve as a nice complement to all of the beach-close bashes. Julian, that Gold Country burg known for its apple-y ways come autumn, is also a queen of summer fun. Look the late-in-June Gold Rush Days, and the soon-after-that Fourth of July parade, which is just about as sweetly small town as sweetly small town gets. But there's another quintessential hoedown that comes before those gatherings, on the summer calendar, and it only requires that you a) buy a ticket, of course and b) love to chow down on savory, saucy meatstuffs and c) dig dancing to twangy, guitar-laden, rootsy rockin' get-up-and-move music. It's the...

JULIAN DANCE AND BACK COUNTRY BBQ: Do you have boots that stomp well? And a crinoline and skirt made for swirling? Then make for Menghini Winery on Saturday, June 13 where three acts are set to make strummable music to swing by. Those bands? The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, Freight Shakers, and Shotgun Wedding. Tickets? They're twenty bucks in advance, with another fiver on top of that if you buy yours there. Are kids invited? Yep, it is described as family friendly, so if you have a young dancer in the family they should be on that dance floor. How long has this one been around? Nearly a decade. Call it a mountain-style -- or "back country," if you will -- way to get the summer going, with boot-raising tunes and meaty eats in the mix. Beach, you're still major in the warm weather department, but some merrymakers simply like taking the good times to a higher elevation.

Photo Credit: Ribs/Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Paint the Night: New Disneyland Parade Debuts]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 10:36:39 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/TinkerBellinPainttheNight.jpg

FERVENT FEELINGS: Ask any longtime Magic Kingdom maven to rhapsodize about a favorite element or ride or treat from the past, and you're likely to get a host of colorful answers. The PeopleMover, that wonder of Tomorrowland, will probably get a shout-out. Adventure Thru Inner Space, too (how did they make the riders so tiny?) often gets the love, too, as does the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train. But every serious Mouseketeer will, at some point in the nostalgia-laden conversation, say the words "Main Street Electrical Parade." The bulb-blinky, sweetly whimsical procession wended through the park after sundown, and its upbeat, hard-to-stop-humming theme song? Well, if you don't have it in your head, instantly, right now, we can only bet you're going to have to Google it at some point today.

SPARKLE SPECTACULAR: The glowtastic parade was retired at Disney California Adventure in 2010 -- well, before making its way to Walt Disney World -- but Orange County-based aficionados have been itching for a lively revisit. They're about to get it, though it is not the Electrical Parade from the past. It's Paint the Night, a "state-of-the-art" extravaganza "Honoring Disney's Electrical Parade Heritage." The introduction of the new evening spectacular is a big element in the theme park's big 60th anniversary celebrations, which officially kick off on May 22.

SPOT THE ROSETTE: Tinker Bell is one of the parade participants, and fans along the route are encouraged to keep an eye on her wand, which includes a pretty rosette straight from the Main Street Electrical Parade. A drum in Paint the Night also summons memories of an Electrical Parade component of yore. Want to see a behind-the-scenes-y peek before you head for the park and find your spot on the curb? Here's how a few details came together on the old-meets-new-meets-wow parade...

Photo Credit: Disneyland Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Myrtle Creek: Fairies + Princesses Rule]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 10:15:08 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/myrtlecreekbuilding1.jpg

SPRING AND WINGS: The ending of May is just about the sweetest slice of springtime, for those who love to be outdoors and love to daydream and love to make things, all with a side of warming sunshine. We're pulling into June, and the summer season, so afternoons with an al fresco twist aren't too chilly, and the coming of the summer season, that time for books and daydreams -- feelings leftover from childhood -- means we're ready to create something cool, or play at something cool, too. Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens & Nursery in Fallbrook is into this fantasy vibe, both for the grown-ups (the myriad plants and flowers feel magical to be around) and for the kids. For while there are plenty of adult-focused fun times to come later this summer, a few things going down, right at the end of May, are just right for younger people wrapping up the school year. Like the building of...

A FAIRY GARDEN: You've likely heard rumor of these heart-cheery sights, in magazines, or seen them in the yards of friends, but fashioning your own outdoor nook with your fairy-fascinated kid feels like the right thing to do at the start of summer, a long stretch where people are simply out under the sky more often. Myrtle Creek has daily workshops about fairy gardens, what to use and what to include (moss, geodes, succulents), so you can get the jump on yours before the warmest days of the year arrive. Rumor has it that small winged creatures rather like those days, so set up your whimsical garden now, the better to enjoy them. There is also...

A LITTLE PRINCESS EVENT, too, on Sunday, May 24. Note this is a one-day-only party -- the fairy garden workshops are daily -- and note that your wee royal should definitely dress in their castle-ready best. It's a photography-fun deal, so get the details. 

READY FOR GROWN-UP STUFF... as well? Pencil in Garden Yoga and an Artisan Fair, which are both ahead at Myrtle Creek during the warmer days of summer.

Photo Credit: Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens]]>
<![CDATA[New: Carter Estate Winery in Temecula]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 20:15:00 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/225*120/carterestatetemecula.jpg

FRESH SIPS: Every oenophile has their go-to winery, the one they know a lot about, from its beginnings to its big years to what it does best, bottle-wise. But there are, beyond everyone's favorite spots, those landmark winemakers that every vino fan knows a little something about, from a great glass of pinot noir they had their once to a lovely dinner enjoyed on a patio a few years back. South Coast Winery Resort & Spa is definitely one of those stalwarts 'round Temecula Valley, a favorite of many but known by all. So when news that South Coast owner Jim Carter would be unveiling Carter Estate Winery and Resort, a 119-acre spread in Temecula, was announced, wine tasters penciled in a visit on their next time through, knowing what they know of South Coast's history for making a very solid sip. That "next time through" Temecula Valley can now officially start whenever, for the newest winery made its grand "phase one" debut on...

FRIDAY, MAY 15: The "luxury lifestyle resort" will offer "more intimate tasting experiences" in addition to some swanky stay-over options: 42 bungalows dot the property, and there's a pool with cabanas to boot. As for the libations visitors to the tasting room shall try? Think sparkling wines, "classic cuvees" that shall include Blanc de Blanc, Blanc de Noir, and Brut, but the winery is producing swanky still varietals as well. 

TASTING ROOM: To experience the upscaleness that the new winery is embracing, there is, of course, the room de tasting, which shall keep daily hours of 11 a.m. to 5 o'clock. As for the deep-cellar, in-the-know cuvees that may one day nab the sorts of awards that South Coast gets on the regular? Word for the new winery says a "prestige Cuvee, which will take five or six years to obtain the desired quality ratings, will also be part of the production." Oenophiles, it could be time to add a new winery to your knowledge file, the one you like to pull out at tasting counters to impressive your pals (and, okay, yourself, too).

Photo Credit: Carter Estate Winery]]>
<![CDATA[Swim Chess: Vegas Pool Ups the Game]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 10:04:44 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/delanobeachvegaschess.jpg

THERE WAS ONCE A DAY... where poolside activities, or to-dos related to a hotel-adjacent body of water, could be listed on one hand. Perhaps you took some sun or read a book or played shuffleboard or gabbed with a friend and... that was about it. But water-close pursuits have flowered in recent decades in many ways. You can book a posh cabana in some spots (complete with a TV and mini fridge). You can raise a tiny flag on your lounger, which will summon a server to your side, and, moments later, a tropical cocktail of some sort. You can request a waterbottle spritzing, if the sunshine has proven too warm. And you can, if you're in the right location, wade into the H20 for a rousing game of water chess. Fear not -- you don't have to drag your favorite board into the pool to make this happen. You just need to find your way to Delano Beach Club in Las Vegas, which just revealed its new in-pool chess game, and just in time for the 2015 summer season.

DELANO LAS VEGAS... is the property, and the oversized chess set can be found on the wet deck. Will wearing your swimsuit assist you in plotting your next move? A bikini or swim trunks aren't the typical sartorial choices when one is sitting down to face off with a friend at home. If chess isn't your deal, there are, take heart, cabanas with both bottle service and big televisions ("big"=46 inches). Or perhaps a cabana is just what you need, a place to retreat to between matches, the better to suss out your next move.

ARIA RESORT & CASINO: If you book at this center-Strip property's Sky Suites, you now have exclusive dibs -- along with other Sky Suites guests, natch -- on the brand-new Sky Pool. "Complimentary refreshments" arrive every hour and a half, and if you're needing a chilled towel, a chilled towel you shall have. Daybeds and chaise lounges dot the pool deck and the cocktail menu? Craig Schoettler, the Property Mixologist, has created a menu just for Sky Pool. Yes, there is a Frozen Mudslide, made with top-shelf spirits, in case you're wondering. (You were wondering.)

Photo Credit: Delano Beach Club/Jim Decker]]>
<![CDATA[Vegas Legend: Golden Gate Shrimp Cocktail]]> Sun, 10 May 2015 13:46:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/shrimpgoldengatecloseup.jpg

THE TANGIEST TRADITION: When asked to name some potent, memorable, and long-running Las Vegas classics, answers may vary, delightfully. Some might say neon lights, though LED has taken the lead in the illumination race in recent years. Some might say over-the-top shows, the kind with feathery headdresses and sequins and aerialists swinging from the flying trapeze, and they'd be 100% correct. No argument there: Sin City brims with shiny splash. And those looking to the food end of things might cite pricey steaks, stiff gin & tonics, and shrimp cocktails at a steal.

SHRIMPTASTIC SUPERSTAR: Of course, that last category belongs, in Las Vegas legend, to one spot and one spot alone: The Golden Gate Hotel & Casino. The historic lodge at the corner of Fremont and Main Streets has been synonymous -- if "synonymous" is strong enough a word -- with the discounted appetizer since 1959 when Italo Ghelfi, a founder of the Golden Gate, "introduced the popular San Francisco recipe to the casino scene." Some long-timers might remember when the cocktail went for under a buck, then just under two, but the treat, which contains about 30 or so medium-sized shrimp, now goes for a penny under four dollars, still quite the bite-ready bargain. Will more fans show up on May 10, which happens to be National Shrimp Day, for that $3.99, cocktail sauce-laden, shellfishian favorite? Well, it also happens to be Mother's Day, so if you're doing downtown with Mom, you might want to swing through the Golden Gate and make for Du-Par's Restaurant & Bakery, where the shrimp cocktail is now served.

THE SUPPING OR THE SUNDAE GLASS? Fans of the famous Vegas appetizer have to answer this, however: Is the shrimp cocktail more famous, its low, low price, or the iconic sundae glass it is served, and always has been served in, along with some crackers and lemon? We think it all works, the glass, the deal, and the meal. Can't have one without the other, but you do have to make for the historic heart of Sin City to dig in.

Photo Credit: Biondo Photo]]>
<![CDATA[National Park Photos: "Share the Experience" Winners]]> Fri, 08 May 2015 12:46:42 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/169*120/zarcticnationawildliferefuge_cameronteller.jpg The amateur shutterbug contest brought out some stunning snapshots

Photo Credit: Cameron Teller]]>
<![CDATA["Phantom" Fun on Catalina Island]]> Sat, 09 May 2015 07:48:18 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/catalinaphantom1234567.jpg

A MATCH IN MOVIE LOVER HEAVEN: There isn't a cinephile on the planet who would turn her or his nose up at catching a famous silent era flick in a theater, any theater, especially if a fine fundraiser is behind it. But it is a rare day when a film from the 1920s is shown in a theater from the 1920s. Very often we see vintage works on screens in modern cinemas, and while we are definitely there to look straight ahead, at the action unfurling before us, we're aware, even in the dark, of the contemporary surroundings. Ah, but to see a deeply atmospheric treat like "The Phantom of the Opera," which was made in 1925, in the exquisite Avalon Casino Theatre, a venue that debuted in 1929, just a few years after "Phantom" opened. How's that for an era-ideal match between setting and cinema? It doesn't come along all that often. Add the fact that this is a one-night-only fundraiser to this most excellent pairing, a fundraiser for the history-important Catalina Island Museum, and you have another cherry atop the cake. 

SPEAKING OF CAKE... would it be wrong to call the Casino Building, which the Avalon Casino Theatre is a part of, a bit cake-like in its iconic appearance? Surely we can't be the first. Just about every Catalina Island aficionado knows the cinema is inside the burg's best-known building, but if you don't know that, you're in for a treat. The Phantom goes a-haunting on Saturday, May 16, there shall be live accompaniment by a 30-piece orchestra, and organist Dennis James shall be filling the air with ye olde sounds of the '20s. Lisa Vroman shall sing, too, adding further exquisiteness to an exquisite night.

WE KEEP SAYING "EXQUISITE"... but we must. The interior of this theater is not really a best-kept secret. It's not a secret at all. It brims with Art Deco murals by artist John Gabriel Beckman and the kind of style and dash and atmosphere that shall match all of the spooky Paris-based action on the big screen. Truly, we don't get that twosome often enough, a theater and movie born of the same time. That you get to do it all on Catalina Island, itself a place out of another decade, is frosting on the aforementioned cake. Want a ticket? Sweep your cape dramatically about your person and sail your subterranean boat this way.

Photo Credit: Catalina Island Museum]]>
<![CDATA[Puppy Prom: Rescue Dogs Party in Rancho Santa Fe]]> Tue, 05 May 2015 10:26:47 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/PuppyProm2015123.jpg

PROM TRADITIONS... very often center on the dresses and the tuxedos and the decorations and the music and the all-important "promposal," which has grown more elaborate, and more documented, over the years. But whether an attendee chooses to wear taffeta or a top hat or sits out the slow songs or keeps some confetti for a souvenir, one thing holds: Prom goers tend to reminisce about the experience for years to come with other members of their particular graduating class.

Consider the cute symmetry, if you will, of rescue centers, and how they, too, in a way, have graduating classes of sorts. We're talking about those dogs who head to their forever homes during a particular year, though whether the pups "graduate" or rather bound happily for the backseat of the car is up for discussion. What isn't really up for discussion is this: It's fun, and heartwarming, for a pup, and the pup's people, to return to the rescue center each year for a reunion of sorts. The Helen K. Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe does just this via its yearly Puppy Prom. But it isn't only the alumni of the Fido-sweet facility that are welcomed back to play under prom-cute banners. Any pup from "any other rescue facility" can join the Puppy Prom, too.

WILL YOU REMEMBER... the other pups from the year you adopted your furry one? Well, perhaps not, but the prom, which is scheduled for Saturday, May 9, is a good way to get reacquainted and find out the rest of their stories. Cats will be part of the celebrating, too -- Puppy Prom is not just puppies -- and a Kitty King and Queen will be crowned. And will there be a few bow ties and gowns on the hounds? You'll have to see it with your own marveling eyes. The puppy alumni enjoy romping during the promly happening, but the people like to connect, too. If you've adopted a rescue, consider how much you have in common with other canine-loving rescue families. Proms are famous for making memories. Could you, too, make a memory with a new human friend who also digs dogs? Better straighten that boutonniere and find out, prom partiers.

Photo Credit: Helen Woodward Animal Center]]>
<![CDATA[60th Anniversary: Spend 24 Hours at Disneyland]]> Fri, 01 May 2015 17:18:34 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/24hours2015dl.jpg

THE BIG 60TH (SANS SLEEP): Many people who consider themselves Magic Kingdom mavens but who have never attended an overnight, 24-hours-long Disneyland event often fill in the gaps of the experience by guessing that many visitors, on those special days, return to a nearby hotel room to catch 40 winks. Au contraire: Disneyland Resort's 24-hour events see throngs of park goers who push through the entire experience, only pausing to have a rest at the Plaza Inn or Red Rockett's Pizza Port when a rest is required. It's a rather amazing thing to see, and, yes, people get a little giddy around hour 20 or 21, but giddiness is expected and embraced, as a rule, at The Happiest Place on Earth. Which will soon, again, for 24 straight-through hours, become The Open-All-Night-iest Place on Earth, in honor of Disneyland's 60th anniversary.

MAY MERRIMENT: True, true, you know your trivia: The park debuted on July 17, 1955. But like all major Magic Kingdom celebrations, the anniversary fun will go on all summer, meaning that the summer celebrations start the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend. So get your stocking cap on, all-nighters, the kind Winnie the Pooh dons to head for bed, and plan to go major -- and Mickey -- from 6 a.m. on Friday, May 22 through 5:59 a.m. on Saturday, May 23.

WHAT'S ON TAP... for the daytime-nighttime-daytime to-do? "Special character encounters at locations in Disneyland and Disneyland California Adventure parks" are in the party plans, as is the debut of the new "Paint the Night" parade. A fresh "World of Color" will be unveiled on May 22 as well (listen for Neil Patrick Harris and Mickey Mouse, the co-hosts of the new presentation). And the "Disneyland Forever" fireworks take off that evening, too. Goodness, Mouseketeers, alllll of this new-new-new stuff, all unrolling over one long night. We do believe it'll be pretty easy for everyone to keep their eyes open with the just-revealed stuff to look at and enjoy. The only question left is this: Where will you be at midnight? (We vote the wishing well in Snow White Grotto, of course.)

Photo Credit: Disneyland Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Mother's Day Saturday: Chocolate Fest in Encinitas]]> Fri, 01 May 2015 13:56:38 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/173*120/chocolates.jpg

MOTHER'S DAY SATURDAY SWEETNESS: While some people quibble about Halloween decorations showing up on the store shelves in August and Christmas tinsel appearing before Halloween is even over, we can all agree that Mother's Day Saturday is a lovely development in the world of holiday extension. For Mother's Day, traditionally observed on the second Sunday of May, can pass too quickly all too often, especially if you only got to spend a few hours with your mom over omelets and mimosas. Planning an interesting out the day before frees your mom and you up to not be under the Sunday-morning meal pressure, though that, of course, can still be enjoyed, even if you do something on Mother's Day Eve.

THE SAN DIEGO BOTANIC GARDEN... has become one of the go-to spots in this realm, both because it is an expansive, 35-acre spread filled with plants and trees and flowers, an ideal sort of place to wander with Mom while you chat and bond. But the Encinitas destination sweetens the deal on Mother's Day Saturday with a Chocolate Festival, a gathering that summons the gourmet-iest of candymakers from the region. And Mother's Day Saturday shall again have some sugar sprinkled on top when the Chocolate Festival sets up shop on...

SATURDAY, MAY 9: Your paid admission to the garden gets you in, but bring some cash for tasting tickets (and your mom's tasting tickets, too, of course; we just know you're covering her in honor of her special day). The haute chocolate chefs will include David Bacco Chocolatier, Moo-less Chocolates, and Dallman Confections. As for what's in bloom in May around the grounds? Look for Orange Jubilee, Giant Birds of Paradise, and the Naked Coral Tree to be showing their petals and hues.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Carlsbad Package: Follow The Hops Highway]]> Thu, 30 Apr 2015 20:58:57 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/HOPS_HWY_PIC1.jpg

THE SUDS OF ROUTE 78: Wine-tasting routes, and someone to drive you along them, are such a part of Golden State tourism that they can seem as plentiful, and varied, as a shelf holding a hundred different vintages. Some tours involve a van, or bus, some only involve red wines, some focus solely on organic vineyards. But finding that same type of tour that focuses fully on craft breweries is a little trickier. That may be because bespoke-style brew-making is a newer industry, all told, at least in California, than the growing and creation of wine, or because breweries haven't clustered in the way that wineries do. There is crafty clustering going down along Route 78, however, from Oceanside to Julian, and Carlsbad's West Inn & Suites is making it easier for guests to take all of that foamy regional beer-mastery in in one sudsy swoop.

THE HOPS HIGHWAY PACKAGE: The get-better-acquainted-with-area-beers deal goes something like this... You'll check in, enjoy your room, and then meet a brew expert from Sterling Rose. Is that "luxury private vehicle" out in front of the inn your roll for the day? It is indeed. You'll set out along Route 78, stopping at a quartet of breweries to taste, talk about bitterness and depth and tone, and you'll meet some of the people working the big tanks, too. Peeks around the breweries -- touring is part of the deal -- and snacks plus water are part of the package as well. All in all, the day lasts about four hours, and you'll see one of California's Gold-Rush-iest roads (truly, not everything Gold Rush-y happened in the Sierra). 

COST AND DATES? This is a Saturday and Sunday kind of thing, and the price starts at $499 for two people (you can book more into your party, up to eight, if you wish). As for the four brewhouses you'll get to know? Stone Brewing, Ballast Point, The Lost Abbey, and Mother Earth Brew Co., too. Will you be an expert on their beverages by the end? That's up to the knowledge you soak in, but just enjoying the Saturday- or Sunday-style easy sipping is pretty choice, too.

Photo Credit: West Inn and Suites]]>
<![CDATA[Pedal Power: Nobody Walks in LA Package]]> Sat, 25 Apr 2015 07:51:55 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/farmersdaughter23212.jpg

FAIRFAX BY FOOT: The hoary notion that Los Angeles is a megalopolis obsessed with cars is... well, not really all that hoary nor dated nor wrong, really. You can't deny that it is a city crisscrossed by muscular, multi-lane freeways, nor that more than one regional museum is devoted to car culture. But LA is also a collection of neighborhoods, like all huge cities, and those snug clutches of restaurants and pubs and galleries are easily taken by foot. The Farmer's Daughter Hotel, which is smack dab in one of the city's thrivingest, liveliest neighborhoods, wants people to know that pedaling -- or pounding the pavement -- is an absolutely fine way to see Fairfax Avenue, The Grove shopping center, the historic Original Farmers Market, and The Miracle Mile, which is home to a few of the city's top museums. All of those sights can be reached from the colorful, farm-themed hotel by foot, though the group of bicycles out front all suggest that a couple of wheels and some leg power'll take you to where you need to be, too. The Nobody Walks in LA package is all about walking, and cycling, around this middle-of-LA neighborhood, an area that is best seen, and appreciated, from a close-up view on the sidewalk and not from the driver's seat. Bonus? There are swanky sneakers involved.

SEAVEES STANDARD COLLECTION... sneakers, in fact. It's an offbeat add-on for a hotel package, but a perfect one that matches both the hip-happy vibe of the Farmer's Daughter (check out the bright yellow rubber duckies in the pool) to the attraction-filled neighborhood. Book the Nobody Walks package and receive a pair of sneakers for your stay (and to take, too). Each guest booked gets a pair, in fact, and you'll also receive complimentary use of the retro bikes out front of the gingham-painted hotel and a Metro card, too (several bus lines go up and down Fairfax Avenue, which runs outside). And, yes, we did say "gingham-painted hotel." Haven't you ever stayed in one of those before? For all the info on the sneaker-swanky Nobody Walks in LA deal, and other stayover sweet spots, strut this way, city-loving pedestrians.

Photo Credit: Farmer's Daughter]]>
<![CDATA[Laguna Beach Passport to the Arts]]> Tue, 28 Apr 2015 07:15:17 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sawdustpathway13453.jpg

SUMMERTIME IN ART CENTRAL: Laguna Beach, come the days of warmer weather, can be many things. It is bustling, for sure. It hums with action of both a tourist and local sort. It is the social center of the art festival scene along this stretch of the coast. It is rife with things to look at, of the painting and sculpture and textile and jewelry variety. And it is beautiful, which anyone who has ever set toe one in the town assuredly knows. But let us also add to all of this that the historic culture-smart burg can overwhelm with choices in the whole "what to take in and enjoy" department. Which translates to this: You need some support from people who understand. Meet...

THE PASSPORT TO THE ARTS: The quickity, what-is-this, tell-me-now upshot about the passport, which has been connecting people with culture for seven years, is this: It's a "triple-value, unique season pass" that "provides unlimited entry to the three premier art festivals in Laguna Beach throughout the summer festival season, which runs June 26 through August 31, 2015." Ah, you guessed it -- the trio of festivals that make up that top tier are indeed the Festival of the Arts, Art-A-Fair, and the Sawdust Art Festival. The cost? Twenty three bucks, which, seriously. Should we retype that, but in italics this time? Seriously. If you're planning on visiting all three of these festivals even once, you're saving. Multiple times and you're sitting pretty, summer-style.

BUT WAIT... there are more savings, including play discounts, whale watching discounts, free museum visits, savings on purchases at various galleries, yep. We were right to italicize that "seriously" earlier, though do note: The Pageant of the Masters is not part of the passport's roster, so make your separate plans for that ticket. All in all it is very good stuff, especially if your summer visitors love Laguna Beach and want you to drive them there. Have more than one or two groups of out-of-towners and your schedule is set (and money-saving, thanks to the Passport). For the whole caboodle of save-money-heres, and pre-festival anticipation, saunter on over to the Passport HQ (like you might saunter down to the beach along Forest Avenue). (Really, Forest Avenue is one of the prettiest of street names, though it is rivaled by its neighbors Ocean and Mermaid and Mystic Walk and Cliff.)

Photo Credit: Sawdust Art Festival/Bob Torrez]]>
<![CDATA[Ponte Winery's Vineyard Bus Tour]]> Fri, 17 Apr 2015 13:47:03 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/pontetourbus123.jpg

EVERY VINO MAVEN... knows some of the basics of how a verdant plot of land grows vines, which in turn grows grapes, and how those grapes are picked and then turned into, ultimately, a really good Riesling. Even if you're well-schooled on the whole sip scene, and you've done your learning about libations over the years, some gaps might exist on the venerable process, a process that's taken some modern leaps in recent years but still feels time-honored in its traditions. So while we say words like "tannins" and "pressings" we wonder about the length of time a ripe grape can sit ripening further and what grape skins really bring to the flavor and tone of a particular wine. Enter the vineyard tour, the lookie-loo's way to dig deeper into the doings of a winery's business. Not every winery boasts such a tour, or, at least, tours are very informal. If the owner happens to be around, or the owner's getting-into-the-business kid, they might invite you for a short walk past the barrel room and among the vines. But Ponte Winery of Temecula Valley goes beyond, way beyond, that informal tour structure. There's a Vineyard Bus Tour, complete with an open-style carriage, which gives aficionados of wine and its ways a chance to look closer at the growing and making of their favorite drink.

ONE HOUR: Set aside sixty minutes for your look-about, which'll involve a ride on the ten-seater bus and a wine tasting as well (of course you'll want to try after you've seen and learned). You'll discover the winery's "grape growing philosophy" and the "art and science of winemaking." A trio of signature Ponte wines shall be there for the tasting, and you might be able to go straight to the cask to try another. Will you be a Shiraz smartie when the tour, which is thirty five dollars, concludes? We're just betting on it. At least you'll be able to fill in some of those gaps, gladly, on how what's on a vine is transformed to the golden elixir sitting at the center of your dinner table. Tours are once a day Wednesdays through Fridays and thrice daily on the weekends.

Photo Credit: Ponte Winery]]>
<![CDATA[Mom Getaway: A St. Regis Monarch Beach Treat]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 13:17:09 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/stregishotelpool1.jpg

THANKING MOM: Call it one of the sticky wickets of the parental holidays: How do we truly show our mother and father our gratitude, our deep appreciation, and some fun to boot? Striking that balance between meaning and merriment feels a little trickier come May and June, when we wrack our thoughts, idea files, and the opinions of friends as to how we can really show our mother and father a fine time for Mother's Day or Father's Day. Happily there are good-time-showing outfits who are meeting kids halfway on this front, and some of them are going the splashier route (so beyond a quick meal out and a card, lovely as those things can be). Look to some of the Golden State's shore-close resorts, like the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point, for a fuller menu of mom-oriented to-dos this 2015 springtime holiday season.

BRUNCH ABSOLUTELY MADE THE CUT... because, after all, what is the second Saturday in May without an omelet-extravagant, mimosa-sipping celebration? Well, yes, you're right: It is brunch-less, which is not how a doting grown-up child wants to find herself, or her mom, come Mother's Day. The property's Stonehill Tavern is serving up a three-courser on Sunday, May 10, and it includes cornflake-crusted brioche French toast, oysters, and lobster quiche, among other goodies. If you're looking for more of a traditional buffet style affair, take Mom to Motif, where the brunch boasts sushi, desserts aplenty and a pancake station. A. Pancake. Station.

MORE CELEBRATORY DOINGS: Spa Gaucin is offering a Perfectly Polished Mom package, which includes "coastal stone manicures and pedicures for two." Bubbly and other extras are part of the chillax-not-far-from-the-Pacific deal. But perhaps take your barefoot walk on the beach with Mom pre-pedicure? Or at least wait an hour? She'd love the extra time with you, of course. That's part of your gift of gratitude, too: Spending time together, which, truly, is on every mom's wishlist this year (and every year).

Photo Credit: St. Regis Monarch Beach]]>
<![CDATA[CHIchella Woofs in Rancho Santa Fe]]> Fri, 10 Apr 2015 06:54:34 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/chellawoodward1.jpg

COACHELLA RULES: If you're headed into one of the world's most famous music festivals, the one in the desert over the second and third weekends in April, you know that one of the major rules is the one that says no pets are permitted. This is completely understandable, given the heat and the crowds and the sounds and the fact that chew toys are not exactly plentiful, nor are snacky treats. But there will be a -chella experience for lovers of pooches, at the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, and it coincides with the opening of the festival in Indio on April 10. Nope, the hottest bands won't be strumming their guitars up on a mega stage, but "26 Chihuahua blends meeting, greeting, and catching some rays" is the order of the celebratory day. A day that's in fact called CHIchella, so you can guess who the star of this Fido-riffic festival is: wee Chis in all of their glorious forms.

THE CHIHUAHUAS... are adoptable and ready for their always-and-forever pad -- we're calling it a "pad" instead of "home" because that seems more in the hipster spirit of things -- and you can meet your new buddy at the "outdoor X-Pen Pavilion" (which boasts a name not unlike the pavilion names found at a lot of major festivals). There shall be PUParazzi, oh yes indeed, and the first 15 people to adopt a new friend will receive "framed photos of their CHIchella-styled pup." Pretty cute, and also nice: The ten-buck Amazon iTunes gift card also thrown in, and swag (also a staple of the coolest music happenings). 

WHAT SORT OF PUPS... will you find? The Chihuahuas at the center run from "super-sporty athletes to couch-potato cuddle-bugs," so, like seeing a bevy of bands, the dogs you shall meet will all have their distinct brand (read: personality, likes, temperament). So you're not going to rock out in Indio. Why not snuggle up at home with a hound you met at CHIchella? It's a great "how we met" story to tell all of your hipster wannabe pals.

Photo Credit: Helen Woodward Animal Center]]>
<![CDATA[Swashbuckling Ahead: Two Harbors Pirate Party]]> Thu, 09 Apr 2015 13:27:22 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/twoharborsAerialcatalinachamber.jpg

JOINING A TREASURE HUNT: Surely, at some point, as a grown-up, you've attended or thrown a tot's birthday party. The chances are good, given the popularity of adventure and pirate stories in pop culture, that the partiers were in tri-cornered hats and received goodie bags full of chocolate gold coins and got to go on a treasure hunt around the host's backyard. Were you jealous? Just a mite? Just a sliver? Probably, because the opportunities for adults to don tri-cornered hats and look for treasure are, let us say, notably few in this world. For sure, we're able to be a bit more outlandish on Oct. 31 each year, but Halloween is just one day, and, really, a few hours at that.

AHOY, SHIPWRECK: For people looking for full swashbuckling merriment, but with a definite grown-up vibe -- read adult libations and DJ tunes -- there is Shipwreck Weekend, a yearly bash thrown by the Santa Catalina Island Company. It's the 3rd annual in 2015, and music-y happenings of the live band sort and costume-y happenings of the breeches-and-vests sort and a treasure hunt of the look-around-with-your-friends-and-laugh sort are all going down in Two Harbors, the smaller of the two Catalina Island municipalities. Dates? Friday, April 10 through April 12. Dress-up opportunities? They're there, so think about your clothes before catching the boat (there are no malls, needless to say, in delightfully snug Two Harbors). The chance to Catalina-it-up, with a theme, for a day or two? Yep -- if you like getting your pirate on, in a novel-like, lore-pretty setting, this is your jam.

AS FOR OTHER CATALINA DOINGS? We're heading into the heart of flying fish season in just a matter of weeks, so ponder if this is the year you see one of the wonders of the Pacific (an ocean that contains approximately 9,097,826 wonders, give or take). Fish "flap" out of the water by night. That's it. That's the magic, and it is magic to see. Here's where you start.

Photo Credit: Catalina Chamber]]>
<![CDATA[Taste of Julian: Historic Town, Modern Grub]]> Thu, 09 Apr 2015 13:27:41 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/tasteofjulian14.jpg

MOUNTAIN-STYLE MEAL-MAKING: There's nothing wrong with being a bit of a know-it-all, if you're know-it-all-ness springs from a good place and the desire to enhance your pals' lives with your know-it-all-o-sity. A prime example is possessing, if not encyclopedic knowledge, than a good handle on nearby getaways and the must-try restaurants, hotels, and attractions. Then when your friend or co-worker says they're leaving town for the weekend, you can puff your chest and share all of the knowledge you have on the place in question. That place, more often than not 'round these parts, is Julian, a quaint-sweet mountain town known for desserts that contain a certain fruit that start with ap- and end in -ple.

AFTER THE APPLE: Everyone who visits the historic Gold Rush era burg has an opinion on where to get the best slice, and whether or not that slice should be enjoyed with a slice of cheese (sometimes) or milk (always) or another fruit should cameo on occasion (raspberries are a good partner to apples). But do the know-it-alls of California travel know their Julian chowing-down apart from the apple pie scene? For example, who serves the most solid sandwiches? Best appetizers? Is there a really crispy and tantalizing French fry along Main Street? 

TASTE OF JULIAN... can let seasoned know-it-alls and aspiring know-it-alls and people who just want to spend a sweet Saturday kicking around the picturesque town, trying stuff, in on a few supping secrets. The Saturday, April 11 happening will cover a wide swath of local eateries, so you'll get the hearty flavors as well as that all-important apple pie. Cost? It's twenty five bucks at the door ("the door"=Julian Town Hall) and local wineries and breweries are joining in, too, along with the restaurants. It's self-guided, but if you want to hop on a shuttle, you can, for extra cash. It's the 7th annual Taste of Julian, by the by, so count on this being one of the town's biggest to-dos outside of its autumn apple-pie-seeking traffic. So if you're a know-it-all, you'll know to get to Julian earlier in the day. And if you are a know-it-all, someone who constantly advises pals on great restaurants in nearby towns, well good on ya. That's a pretty good quirk to have, as far as know-it-alls go.

Photo Credit: Taste of Julian]]>
<![CDATA[Opening: First Orange County Dunkin' Donuts]]> Tue, 07 Apr 2015 10:43:32 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/dunkindonutslagunaoc1.jpg

THE 5 WITH A SIDE OF FROSTING: If you've ever been heading up or down the 5 Freeway juuuust before the sun starts to rise, perhaps to surprise a friend in Carlsbad for breakfast, or because you stayed in Encinitas or San Clemente the night before but you have an early appointment, or work start, in LA, you know the breakfasty thoughts that run through your brain. You're going over, in your head, all of the diners and all-night restaurants that do the whole cereal/eggs/pancakes thing, and how far they are from the 5, and what the off-ramp situation is, and, and, and... doughnuts. You start pondering the hole-centered, soft 'n chewy discs of morningtime pleasure, and you begin to scratch your chin -- briefly, since you should keep both hands on the steering wheel -- if there isn't somewhere to get a powdery cake filled with jelly. Hold onto that steering wheel, doughnut devotees: There are many great doughnuteriums around the OC, but as of Wednesday, April 8, a new one is joining the ranks, and it is something of an icon in doughnut circles. It's Dunkin' Donuts, the chain that Westerners long envied Easterners over, an envy that began to dissipate when the first Dunkin' Donuts debuted in Santa Monica last September. There are a few doughnut purveyors now, and the first of the Orange County outlets is just ahead.

YEP, APRIL 8... is the big day, and the place? Laguna Hills. This means all of your desires to find something breakfast-like and snacky near the 5 -- it is very, very near the 5 -- are coming true, whether your driving north or south. Opening time on opening day? It's 5 a.m. on the 8th. Will there be a queue already? You bet. Will the classic Dunkin' flavors be there? For sure. How about the raved-over coffee? So much of that coffee shall be percolating away, so hang tight. As for the address? Make for 25242 McIntyre Street in Laguna Hills. But will you go Maple Frosted or Sugar Glazed? You can think about it as you toodle along, before sunrise, up the freeway that sets many a driver to thinking of that first morning bite.

Photo Credit: Dunkin' Donuts]]>
<![CDATA[Beautifully Beastly: America's Family Pet Expo]]> Mon, 06 Apr 2015 12:32:04 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*120/pets-dog-cat-kitten-puppy.jpg

STOCKING UP (AND TAKING STOCK): Living with an animal means living with a series of questions you find yourself asking every single day. Like, "where did the chew bone go?" And "how have all the chew bones ended up wedged between the couch cushions?" And "why are the legs of my favorite chair more delightful to shred versus the scratch post which is right next to the shredded chair?" And most importantly of all: "Am I doing enough for this sweet animal in my charge?" It isn't merely buying our pets the mostest, bestest toys and treats; rather, it's being in touch with the needs of your pet and your little one's patterns, rhythms, and ultimate care.

BIG PET CONVENTION: Nope, we don't need to read too much into the chew bones hidden in the couch -- that's normal -- but if our pup is mopey, or pulling on walks, or needs some extra TLC and attention, some expertise, then insight, and inspiration may be in order. Enter America's Family Pet Expo, a pet-centered convention that's as big as a Great Dane is tall. It lands in Costa Mesa each springtime, at the OC Fair & Events Center, lands like a cat leaping from a kitchen counter (to keep the animal-sweet analogies going). As for the 2015 dates?

APRIL 10 THROUGH 12... is what you'll want to circle on your calendar -- a calendar we trust has kittens or turtles or koi on it. Billed as "The World's Largest Pet & Pet Products Expo," America's Family Pet Expo features a host of events and activities beyond the big (big BIG) booth scene. Look for K-9 Police Dog demos, a kid aquarium contest (yep, the participants put together that perfect set-up), a cat show, a bird show, Repticon, and a chance to meet pets who are ready for a permanent home. Also kind-of-heart: People are on hand to show you how to best groom your newly adopted animal. There's stuff for just about every family that lives with an animal, and by "stuff" we mean educational happenings, product buys, live shows, and sweet, coo-ready visits. It's not just about the cats and dogs, though they have a prominent presence. A good thing to know? The pets you have already should stay at home -- it's a rule. You go enjoy the expo and they can enjoy hiding yet another wet chew bone in the cushions of your couch. Everyone wins!

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Easter Treats for the Monterey Otters]]> Sat, 04 Apr 2015 09:03:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/187*120/amontereyotterseaster2.jpg Icy delights with a springtime theme made for a picture-ready moment.

Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium]]>
<![CDATA[Culture LA: Stay the Night, Get Fun Deals]]> Tue, 07 Apr 2015 21:11:12 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/freehammermuseum14.jpg

NO ONE WOULD DARE DISAGREE WITH YOU... if you were to call Los Angeles "overwhelming" or "colossal" or "a tremendous lot a town." It's on the rather impressive side of bigness, both in space and in stuff that goes on, and that sheer size-a-tude proves delightful and vexing even for those locals who know the city's boulevards and beats very well. What is helpful, when it comes to The Big Orange's many cultural and enjoyable events and happenings and destinations, is a deal. A deal, moreover, that is clear-cut, to the point, and places all the specifics before the interested party. Discover LA, the visitor-minded organization behind many of the city's clear-cut discount-finding cultural promotions, is hosting a new push into the deepest of spring (so, most of April and some of May). It's called Culture LA and the straightforward, let's-not-be-overwhelmed message is this: Book one of these participating hotels for a night and get a buy-one-get-one admission deal, or a discount in the bookstore, at a whole caboodle of LA landmarks and museums and animal parks and concert halls. 

THE HOTELS... include Hotel Wilshire (close to LACMA and the La Brea Tar Pits) and W Los Angeles in Westwood (just a short walk to the Hammer Museum) and The Los Angeles Athletic Club (pretty dang close to the Museum of Contemporary Art). The impressive to-do list includes Zimmer Children's Museum, USC Pacific Asia Museum, California Science Center, and Battleship IOWA. So what's the run time on this deal? Monday, April 6 through Tuesday, May 19. If a museum is already free, like The Hammer, will there be other discounts? You bet -- if it is on the list, it's a money-saver. Will you finally cover all of the bases in that colossal and magnificently overwhelming city? Proooobably not, if you're coming for but a night, but taking in one or two new places, or new to you places, will help you make progress on your lengthy LA bucket list. And given the city's ongoing cultural renaissance, isn't it time to take a good look at what is on that particular roster? And, moreover, cross must-dos and must-tries off? Culture LA can help.

Photo Credit: Hammer Museum]]>
<![CDATA[Desert Cool: Family Crafting Fest at The Ace]]> Thu, 02 Apr 2015 12:45:25 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/craftingace456.jpg The May gathering, called "a Coachella for families," is all about making cute stuff (and togetherness).

Photo Credit: Crafting Community]]>
<![CDATA[Springtime Indoors: Bellagio Garden Abloom]]> Thu, 02 Apr 2015 22:59:39 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/bellagiospring2015.jpg

LAS VEGAS ABLOOM: Sin City is called many things, and described in many ways, and all of them are correct, to a certain extent (falling on the whole "eye of the beholder" side of things). But one of the principal ways to define one of the world's most distinctive metropolises is to call it a city of extremes. You can go from an afternoon where it is 110 degrees to the chilliest of air-conditioned casinos, in a few seconds. You can go from having a lot of dollars to not very many dollars, fast (or, if fortune smiles, vice versa). And you can venture from a desert, a true arid clime with scrubby brush and craggy mountains, to the floral-fabulous mountainside in Japan, all by walking into the Bellagio. Make that the Bellagio's Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, which just debuted its "first Japanese-inspired display," a painting-like paean to the trees, blossoms, and landscapes of Japan.

82,000 FLOWERS: Sweeps of daffodils, snapdragons, and tulips dot the glass-roofed garden, which is adjacent to the hotel's reception area. Look for some of the famous landmarks of Japan, from the Golden Temple in Kyoto (the Bellagio replica is 26-feet tall) to Mount Fuji, which is capture, in spirit, via stone art. A tea house, 75 live Koi fish, a tsukabi waterfall, and a tribute to tea all dot the West and East gardens. As with past floral displays, there are topiary animals covered in buds and petals. Some 15,000 flowers cover a resident crane and turtle.

AS FOR LIVE MUSIC? Traditional Japanese harmonies will sound from a floating platform each afternoon from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Call it a respite from the hubbub of the always hubbub-y Strip, and call it a way to stroll a cool garden when temperatures are topping three digits outside. Las Vegas does go for the extremes, for sure, but interesting and often beautiful results show up on either end. Want to see one in the Bellagio? The Spring Conservatory display is open around the clock through May 11.

Photo Credit: Bellagio]]>
<![CDATA[Sunny Supping: Desert Restaurant Week]]> Wed, 01 Apr 2015 22:25:40 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/203*120/palmspringsrestaurant12344567.jpg

DON'T EVER CHANGE... Palm Springs. You either, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert and Indian Wells and all of the Desert Resort cities. We know that some of your biggest events arrive in the winter months -- The Palm Springs International Film Festival and Modernism Week follow each other chockablock, in January and February respectively -- and we know the cooler months see an uptick in touristy traffic (the kind of traffic that says "let me sit by a pool slathered in sunblock ASAP"). With this in mind, we food-loving fans, which makes all of us, really, keep an eye on your annual Restaurant Week. It comes right at the start of the traditional summer season, if not the actual summer season, meaning a Memorial Day Weekend start.

WARM AND WONDERFUL: And it has for over a half decade now, so that timing is clearly working out. So why do we keep an eye on the dates? Because the Palm Springs Desert Resorts Restaurant Week lands at just about the loveliest stretch of the year for the area. For sure, it's already on the far side of warm even at 8 o'clock in the morning, and high noon requires an iced tea and a handfan. But perfect evenings spent on pretty patios, before pretty plates of food made by award-winning chefs, feel just right, and May 29 through June 7 is just the time of year to deliver those. So get prepared for special deals and interesting dishes from...

ALICANTE OF PALM SPRINGS... and Castelli's Ristorante of Palm Desert and Cork & Fork of La Quinta and Jackalope Ranch of Indio. Nope, you don't have to sit on a patio to enjoy -- and it isn't the law that every restaurant in the desert requires an al fresco section, either -- but you should prepare to try a few courses, from a nice array of selected dishes, from every eatery on the list. The list is well-sized and covers a wide swath of DesertResortslandia. So, will you find a pool to sit by after you save some cash at a restaurant you've never tried? It will be late May and/or early June, and the nights, as everyone knows, are perfect 'round the P.S. and just beyond.

Photo Credit: Palm Springs Restaurant Week]]>
<![CDATA[New Book Features California's "Abroad" Places]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 21:32:47 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/TenleyFohlPhotographySolvangCaliforniaNatGeo.jpg

GO THE DISTANCE NEARBY: It is often said you can find the world inside California, or at least the flavors and sights of many countries found far from the Golden State's shores. San Diego's Little Italy, Little Ethiopia in Los Angeles, and the Italian traditions of San Francisco's North Beach spring to mind, as do many of the towns up the Central Coast and into Northern California. A new book from National Geographic celebrates those spots with international flair and deep, across-the-globe roots, and several California burgs receive special attention. "Abroad at Home" covers all of North America, with hundreds of suggestions regarding festivals, restaurants, and whole areas that reflect a specific heritage or outside-of-North-America locale, but to visit the state favorites mentioned in the book look to...

FREMONT: The Bay Area burg's Little Kabul throws a big party every spring when it welcomes the Afghan New Year, NowRoz. National Geographic also loves the savory eats of the area, from naan to kabob-e-gousfand -- lamb kebobs -- to onion-and-beef pastries called manto. Naan eating contests, by by the by, are a festive part of the festive New Year celebrations.

SOLVANG: It's no surprise that "the Danish capital of America" got a special shout-out. Rasmussen's boutique, Danish Days, and those hard-to-stop-eating aebleskivers all received the Nat Geo love (love enhanced by a warm, windmill-y photo from local photographer Tenley Fohl). 

GRASS VALLEY: The northern end of Gold Country is packed with storied ways from far-off shores, but Grass Valley's background is very much about the Cornish tin miners who settled in the region decades upon decades ago. On the book's rec list? Pasties at Cousin Jack and Marshall's and the annual Cornish Christmas celebrations.

LOS ANGELES: Several distinct neighborhoods are featured, from Koreatown to Boyle Heights to Chinatown. The other larger cities get shout-outs for their distinctive shop-lined streets and restaurants -- Sacramento, San Francisco, Anaheim, and San Diego all have vibrant presence in the book. Truly, it is the best to travel abroad, for many excellent reasons, but getting to know the world close to where you reside is a rather wonderful opportunity, too.

Photo Credit: Tenley Fohl Photography]]>
<![CDATA[Deals and Delights: Car-Free in the American Riviera]]> Sat, 28 Mar 2015 15:57:45 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sbcarfreesunset12345.jpg

EARTH DAY EVERY DAY: Santa Barbara's ties to Earth Day are historic -- the April mind-the-planet happening has early roots in the red-tiled city -- but its devotion to changing up habits that could help the environment extends well past a certain day that falls during the fourth month of the year. Santa Barbara Car Free is a coalition that keeps the discounts, deals, and specials coming via dozens of local businesses. That is, of course, if you've taken the train to the American Riviera and have a ticket to show for your ride. It's an ongoing good thing that is good-thing-ing up the remainder of 2015, through New Year's Eve. Once you have that ticket and you start waving it around town you'll find a whole bunch of discounted doings to enjoy, like free admission at Casa Dolores (eye thousands of ancient objects made of clay, wood, and more at the museum) and a 2-for-1 wine tasting. There are also discounts on things that move, from bikes to boats, so save a few bucks on Santa Barbara Trolley Tours, fifty bucks off per couple at Segway of Santa Barbara, and thirty percent off at Wheel Fun Rentals of Santa Barbara (those charming surreys are symbolic of playtime close to the shore). So, you train it into town, only to save on other stuff that moves? Wise, very wise. But you could also.

SAVE ON YOUR AMTRAK TICKET: There are ways to purchase your train trip to Santa Barbara, and arrive at several stations within the county when traveling from the south, if you make your journey by Dec. 18. The Pacific Surfliner and San Joaquin have the savings, as well as "associated thruway buses," and you can save 20 percent (15 percent when heading in from the north). This isn't the sort of dealie where you show up at the station to lay your cash down for a ticket -- you'll need to buy a few days in advance and bone up on all of the asterisks. But imagine saving dough on your train ticket, and then saving more dough, at businesses around town, once you reach Santa Barbara. We like when the Earth Day mindset lasts all year. Don't sweat it -- your car will be awaiting you back home as you train it, bike it, Segway it, yacht it...

Photo Credit: Santa Barbara Car-Free]]>
<![CDATA[Chino Swing: World War II Hangar Dance]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 10:45:32 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/189*120/planesoffamehangardance.jpg

THOSE ICONIC OPENING NOTES: Hearing a 75-year-old song isn't too unusual, but it is where we hear it that sets the stage of emotions. Take Glenn Miller's "In the Mood." The swing-tastic, dun-dun-dun-delightful Big Band ditty is recognized from its very first notes, three quarters of a century on, but we only ever seem to hear those notes played in movies and commercials and the occasional radio station. Enjoying them as people did in the late 1930s and early '40s, on a dance floor, is a much rarer pleasure, as is dancing to the tunes much associated with the first half of the 1940s. Being able to don the duds of the World War II era -- dresses with cinched waists, neat ties for men -- and move to the music of the time does happen on occasion, and sometimes, in quite the era-specific setting.

HISTORY ALL AROUND YOU: That will be the case when the second annual World War II Hangar Dance sways into the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino on Saturday, March 28. The "Hangar" part of the name is a giveaway that this shindig is not happening in a community center or traditional hall; it actually taps a foot feet away from "the many displays of aeronautic history among the warbirds collection at Planes of Fame Museum." You may attend many a dance in your lifetime -- and you absolutely should, what with dance serving as a fine way to ease stress and help health, oodles of studies show -- but you'll rarely dip and twirl in a space as distinctive.

ON THE STAGE: The Fabulous Esquires Big Band'll provide the top-tapping tuneage and food'll be for sale, too. As for the part you play? You can absolutely dress up in togs of the '40s, straight down to your seamed stockings or shiny wingtips, but period-specific dress is not mandatory. If you have a vintage vehicle, you can also drive it to Chino for admiring lookie-loos to fawn over. There's info on that. Tickets? They're thirty bucks at the door.

Photo Credit: Planes of Fame Air Museum]]>
<![CDATA[California State Parks: Earth Day Volunteering]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 10:39:07 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/215*120/SanOnofre2012.jpg

BUCKETS, SHOVELS, COMMITMENT: Ever arrived at a beach or a shore or a pond after a group of volunteers have swept through, determined to pick up every can and bag and random bit of plastic in sight? You can have the feeling that you're the first person ever to call upon the pond or shore, which is a magical and all-too-rare emotion to experience in these modern times. That isn't to be self-focused or selfish -- everybody should have that feeling when they go to nature. "Leave No Trace" is a prominent policy that lends love to this idea, an idea that we must travel with a light, light footstep.

EARTH DAY, as well as California Coastal Clean-Up Day in the fall, is a powerful way to provide our fellow humans that "Leave No Trace"-style experience in a wild place. But, of course, volunteers join Earth Day projects not solely so the spot in question can be enjoyed by people, but that it is more itself, cleaned up, tended to, and cared for by many. The Earth Day initiatives through the California State Parks aren't solely about clean-up, though that will be part of the Saturday, April 18 happening at some locations. It's about small painting projects and the planting of native trees and removing invasive plants and much more. Much.

LOCATIONS ACROSS CALIFORNIA... are looking for some elbow grease and enthusiasm on the third Saturday in April, so head for Hearst San Simeon State Park, where you may help prepare a shore whaling site or San Onofre State Beach to plant native plants (the sanding and painting of beach benches is on the docket as well). A few dozen state parks have sign-up needs, and a number of volunteers required, so make sure you pick the place you're going and let them know ahead of time to expect you. And, of course, you don't need to wait for April 18. California State Parks offers several ways to pitch in, both by restoring the benches and fences and human-helpful objects of our parks and by cleaning them up, too. 

Photo Credit: California State Parks]]>
<![CDATA[Rancho Santa Fe Sweet: Twin Foals' Fifth Birthday]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 16:09:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/192*120/sunnyangeltwinfoals.jpg

ANIMAL ATTACHMENT: For as much as we gently elbow our friends for getting obsessed with cute kitten videos and cute koala videos and cute salamander videos (those totally exist), the internet has some serious heart-tuggery behind all of the cute-a-tude. Stories of unlikely births and rare siblings capture our fancy and bring us closer our four-legged, beak-laden, scale-sweet co-earthlings. And you needn't act like you only ever elbow your pals about their online animal attachments -- we know you're probably attached, too, to the baby hippo or comical orangutan or platypus of the week. One of the biggest pairings to sweep through the land of online animal aficionados happened to have been born in California, and it was quite the big moment.

TWIN FOALS... Angel and Sunny were born a half decade ago to Lena and survived, which was pretty epic. Helen Woodward Animal Center's Equine Hospital, with Dr. Rodrigo Vazquez at the lead, cared for the infant horses, and their mother, and all three "thrived" (quite the huge deal, as the twins surviving their first two weeks of the lives had a 1-in-15,000 shot, per the center). It was a story for horse-loving people and all people who have affection for endearing animal stories, not to mention endearing animal photos and videos, too. The twins are now grown-up, a big 5 years old, and the center is inviting their fans to come see them, and mother Lena, on Saturday, March 28. It's a birthday party! (Animal birthday parties always deserve an exclamation point.)

WILL THERE BE CAKE? There will be, and party-style refreshments. Will there be a drawing for twin-foals-type items? You bet. Will you be able to coo as you watch the youngsters, who are now much bigger, of course, than when they made headlines, frolic with their mother? That will be one of the big takeaways of the day. How often, truly, do you get to see an animal you've loved online in person? Or in horse? It'll happen from noon to 2 p.m. on March 28 for many fans. And if you can't wait, you can see streaming video of Sunny and Angel right this very second.

Photo Credit: Helen Woodward Animal Center]]>
<![CDATA[Palm Springs Wheels: The Buzz Trolley]]> Tue, 24 Mar 2015 14:38:20 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/buzzpalmsprings123.jpg

SAFETY FIRST (AND THEN SAVINGS): The desert resort cities are about to get the biggest influx of visitors of their year. True, Modernism Week can deliver a lot of out-of-towners to the pools of Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage. And the warmer days of December and January draw those who want to celebrate the holidays without a few feet of snow. But the Coachella Music and Arts Festival is the biggest belle of the desert's ball, what with the huge amount of people it draws, not just from Los Angeles and San Diego but points around the world. That means that the hotels and inns of the region jump, restaurants stay full, and those visitors -- and locals -- who wish to partake in the many bars of downtown Palm Springs will need to think about transportation and designated drivers.

LATE-NIGHT HOP-ALONG: Thank goodness The Buzz is buzzing through the stylish, scene-swanky town. The just-a-few-months-old trolley doesn't run all the time but it does run when revelers have been out cocktailing-it-up at the tiki hangouts and music clubs of the area. And we do mean "area" in a quite large sense: The Buzz makes a 14-mile-loop every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. There are some 30 locations, so if you're at a tavern along East Palm Canyon Drive or North Indian Canyon, count on a Buzz pick-up stop being withing strolling distance of that barstool. You can get back to your hotel safely. The big bonus? The Buzz is free, free, free.

AND THERE ARE GOODIES... for getting a ride, like the Buzz Perks program. Carry the card and find savings at nearly three dozen businesses along the route, including The Hyatt's HooDoo Lounge, Brandini Toffee, and Bike Palm Springs. So, are you doing the whole check-in, see-a-night-of-Coachella, and enjoy-downtown-Palm-Springs thing? Best do it responsibly and build some Buzz while you're at it. For the map, perks, and other to-knows about the P.S. late-night weekend trolley, turn your wheels in this direction.

Photo Credit: The Buzz]]>
<![CDATA[Foamy Confab: California Beer Festival]]> Mon, 23 Mar 2015 12:20:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/CaliforniaBeerFestival2010.jpg

SET YOUR COOLER BY IT: People get a little bit prickly around Daylight Saving Time, especially if that hour lost was one that could have been spent reading or brunching or gardening or doing something grand. First off, we always bemoan that hour more than most others -- true? True. And second, think of it reappearing this autumn, when we fall back. What you can do, if you wish, is turn your clock-setting thoughts to one of the biggest beverage traveling shows in our state, an annual hop-around that makes a quartet of summertime or near-summertime stops starting in Marin and ending in Ventura. It's the California Beer Festival, and even if you don't set your clock by it you can set your cooler by it.

ACTUALLY, NO COOLERS ARE NECESSARY... because the California Beer Festival takes care of attendees with taste after taste, served up in small sips by the bespoke, every-last-bubble-and-fizz-considered brewhouses who are on the grounds. Representatives from the brewhouses are out meeting fans and talking up their product, while bands play, hobnobbing is plentiful, and the ursine mascot of the whole affair is often on the grounds, posing for photos.

MARCH 17... was the first on-sale date for the four-cities festival; the Marin festival is up first, so if you want to do the June 20th party, then nab your tickets now. The two Southern California festivals, San Dimas and Ventura, roll out over the second and third weekends of September. And the on-sale dates? They're one and the same: May 8th.

CALIFORNIA BEER FESTIVAL AT SEA: There's even a cruise, yep yep, if you need some waves with all of your suds. That sets sail in early April, if you can't wait for the terrestrial action of summertime. Details on the beer-themed boat? They're over this way, sudsy sailors.

Photo Credit: California Beer Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Bubblefest: Bubbles, Bubbles Everywhere]]> Sat, 21 Mar 2015 07:29:13 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/bubblefesteighteen.jpg

A LESSON THAT IS LIGHT AS AIR: Teacher told us often in school that science was constantly work all around us at all times. Gravity kept us in our desks, energy aided us in picking up our pencil, sound waves allowed us to hear the teacher's instructions. It's a lesson that's made livelier, and lighter than air, each and every spring in Santa Ana. That's when Bubblefest floats into the Discovery Cube OC, and that's when kids marvel at the fact that every time they do the dishes -- if they're sticking to the chore schedule posted on the refrigerator -- they're creating hundreds of tiny wonders in the sink. Bubbles are just things of beauty or whimsy or fun to blow at your sibling if they're near enough. But tension and molecules and light go a long, long way towards lending even the tiniest of iridescent orbs its science-strong nature, a nature that shines during the two weeks that Bubblefest takes over the institution. The Discovery Cube calls it "Our Most Popular Event!" and they've had a few years to suss that out: Bubblefest has been around for nearly two decades. It's a spring break staple for many Southern California families, and it is ready to drift again into the hearts, minds, and plastic, round-holed wands of bubble buffs from Saturday, March 28 through Sunday, April 12. 

BUBBLE SCIENTIST... Deni Yang is back in the house, and there shall be a Mega Bubble Laser Show!, which sounds like something everybody ever might request to have at their birthday party. The show includes "smoke bubbles, spinning bubbles, bouncing bubbles, and more," and if you don't try to bounce a bubble after seeing it... well, honest: You're probably going to blow a lot of bubbles from the back porch. A bubble zone is also part of the rainbow-light-catch-y high jinks, and cool water spheres, too. You'll need to snag a general admission ticket as well as a Bubblefest ticket (and the show is at certain times during the day, do note). The last thing to do? Wait for warm days when bubbles blown from the back porch take on a magical quality. We'd never tsk-tsk that magic, but, ultimately, it is science that rules these wee, gone-in-a-minute orbs. Want to see? Go OC.

Photo Credit: Discovery Cube]]>
<![CDATA[Swallows Day at Mission San Juan Capistrano]]> Sat, 21 Mar 2015 07:28:50 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/missionsanjuancapistrano12345.jpg

SOARING IN SPIRIT: It's absolutely true that you can visit Mission San Juan Capistrano and never see a swallow, the bird most associated with the historic Orange County burg. The swallow, however, goes beyond just "a bird tied to the town," though; it is the famous symbol of Capistrano and its 19th-century mission, appearing on postcards, tees, brochures, and other items aplenty. Which means a "bird-less streak" must be addressed by a bit of ingenuity. Officials have been pondering and trying, from broadcasting swallows calls to attract the avian superstars to the recent plan which involves a "15-foot-tall, movable arch with artificial nests built in in hopes of reminding them it's a good place to settle." It's important to San Juan Capistrano, to see the swallows return, as the tradition of swallows returning is very much tied to St. Joseph's Day, March 19, and the identity and character of the town.

THE SHOW GOES ON: But whether or not there are birds swooping above the other symbol of the town -- the mission's bells -- has never deterred San Juan Capistrano from celebrating its March holiday with a series of festivities capped by a sweet, hometown-small parade, where, yes, some of the kids sometimes dress as swallows, complete with large, cloth wings. So if you don't see any birds above just look on the streets.

PARADE AND FESTIVAL: The mission bells will ring out for the 57th annual Swallows Day Parade on Saturday, March 21. That's at 11 a.m., which is also the start time for the parade, a procession that's billed as "the largest non-motorized parade in the country." Mariachi music follows the parade, while the spirit of conviviality shall reign in the tucked-tight town center, with the mission at the center of the doings. So, swallows, what think you of this artificial nest? City officials hope you take a shine, as do people enamored by one of Orange County's, and truly California's, best-known legends.

Photo Credit: Mission San Juan Capistrano]]>
<![CDATA[Support Your Local Bison: Catalina Island Conservancy Ball]]> Tue, 24 Mar 2015 14:38:51 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/BisonCatalinaJackBaldelli.jpg

FOXTROT FOR THE FOXES: SoCalers who need an island getaway don't need to glance longingly at tropical spots half a world away; they don't even need to look to an airport. We know that Santa Catalina Island is just 22 miles, give or take, across the ocean, and a day spent on a history-laden, bison-o-riffic land mass that's completely surrounded by the Pacific is a day that can be had without a daylong flight. One of the best bits of Catalina is, of course, the Casino Building, which just happens to be its most iconic structure, the one you see pictured on the postcards and brochures. You can enter it, of course, on tours and special events and New Year's Eve, too, which makes it a slice of living history, a place that's still very robust and very much alive. So that it becomes a place that salutes, and holds dear, the robust life on the island every now and then charms and brings comfort. We speak of the Catalina Island Conservancy Ball, which will again take to the ballroom to waltz it, rumba it, and, yes, perhaps even foxtrot it, on Saturday, April 11. Yes, you got us, we *are* being slightly winky about the whole foxtrot-fox connection, but that's because the evening of dance and dressing up is all about supporting the island's foxes, and bison, and bald eagles, and the many beasties of wing and paw who make Catalina their roost and den.

TICKETS: A single ticket is $275, but if you move upward to some of the larger packages, which may include admission for multiple people and other goodies, you get to be a Southern Alligator Lizard Sponsor or Slender Garden Salamander Sponsor or such. Fun fun, to put on a fancy frock and know that just beyond the Casino Ballroom's grand balcony there are foxes and lizards and birds nearby, all of which are going to benefit from your Conservancy-directed money. It's a way to enjoy an iconic human-built structure while saluting those animals that give the island its nature magic. Few events build a bridge between the two as well as the Catalina Island Conservancy Ball. Can't make the party? You can still get involved with the organization and help out. We mean... the bison of Catalina Island. Aren't they forever splendid? Time will never dull the wonder, nor should it.

Photo Credit: Jack Baldelli]]>
<![CDATA[Mousequerade: Dress Up at D23 Expo]]> Sun, 22 Mar 2015 10:20:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/d23mousequerade1.jpg

HALLOWEEN AFTERNOON, THIS IS NOT: Remember when you are a kid, and it was just about 4 o'clock on Halloween afternoon, and you asked your mom what you should wear to go trick-or-treating? Because you hadn't quite put all of your costume ideas together quite yet? The major, mondo, and oh-so-very Mouse-o costume of D23 Expo, the every-two-years Disney fan convention, is the opposite of all that. Yes, for sure, there shall be people in amazing get-ups at the Anaheim Convention Center when it lands there over the third weekend in August, but those Disney devotees will not have decided the day before what they might wear. Not, that is, if they're involved in the Mousequerade.

MOUSEQUERADE: The convention's costume contest is big, big as Space Mountain, even, and this is, in large part, why: People who want to throw their hat into the ring, to participate, must enter their costume submission by April 30. That's a full three-and-a-half months ahead of D23 Expo, so the costumes you ultimately see there at the Friday, Aug. 14 Live Contest will have been worked on for well over a fourth of a year (and probably longer). There are five categories, including "Heroes Unmasked" and "Once Upon a Costume," and fifteen participants will be selected to compete in each (making for 75 participants in all come August). The winner and a guest get a trip to Disney's Aulani in Hawaii. That sounds like a prize that suits the bigness of the planning that will go into all of those Iron Mans, Cinderellas, Haunted Mansion ghosts... Want to try for it? April 30, as mentioned, is your mouseline. We mean, the time you have to enter by. 

D23 EXPO DESIGN CHALLENGE: If costuming isn't your thing but you do like to draw, there's also a contest focusing on Sleeping Beauty's Castle. Twenty three sketches will be selected to be displayed at the convention, and artists of all ages are welcome to try their hand at drawing the fairytale palace. The deadline to submit is also April 30 and the winner shall receive the sum of $2,300, a lovely amount that fits with the 23-y theme of the event. You know where the "D" comes from, but why does D23 have "23" in it, too? Because 1923 was the year Walt Disney arrived in Los Angeles, of course.

Photo Credit: D23 Expo]]>
<![CDATA[Re-Opened: Death Valley's Zabriskie Point]]> Tue, 17 Mar 2015 07:09:56 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/221*120/zabriskiedvnp.jpg

THAT SPECIAL PLACE: Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park is one of the special places for the thousands of hikers who trek about the stark landscape each year. You know what we mean by "special place" if you've ever spent a few minutes in a natural setting: That place that is timeless, and sometimes soundless, too, where the woes of the workaday world seem wee and the sky as vast as your thoughts. True, the rugged, crevice-y area has had its cinematic moments, including 1970's "Zabriskie Point," but many visitors think of it as a personal place rife with introspective possibilities (and some fine views, too). So when word arrived in the fall of 2014 that the badlands-y treasure would be shuttered for "major rehabilitation work" from the end of October into the spring, regulars needed to find their next "special place" and pretty darn quick. But fret not, Zabriskie devotees, and pine for it no longer: Death Valley National Park announced on its Facebook page that the work was completed ahead of schedule, on March 5, and the vista point was re-opened to one and all.

THIS ISN'T TO SAY... that Artist's Drive or Dante's View, which were visit-here-in-the-meantime recommendations from the park, should be dropped. Any true-hearted Death-Valley-ian would say see 'em all, and plan accordingly, since the big stretches seem bigger in that far-far-far-away world.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Well, warmer weather, for one. Much warmer weather, three-digit-y days, and fairly soon, too. But the Ranch at Furnace Creek stays open all summer long, while the Inn at Furnace Creek does close for some of it (but is open in July and August). If you want to make one of the world's most magnificent natural places before summer strikes, go for the spring wildflowers. You can follow their floral progress here.

AS FOR OUR CLAIM... that Death Valley National Park is "one of the world's most magnificent natural places"? Truly, we're worried we weren't quite hyperbolic enough. Have you seen that place? Other locations are lovely as anything, but there is only one Zabriskie Point on the third planet from the sun.

Photo Credit: Death Valley National Park]]>
<![CDATA[The Universe in Anaheim: "Star Wars" Convention]]> Mon, 16 Mar 2015 09:24:47 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/StormTrooper_84686005%281%29.jpg

THE FORCE BE WITH ANAHEIM: Every passion-filled devotee of "Star Wars" knows that timing is key in all battles, negotiations, and escapes. Luke Skywalker's fabled trench run at the Death Star required split-second decision-making, and Han and Chewie always had to act fast as they were piloting the Millennium Falcon in enemy territory (let us also acknowledge that Han Solo's sassy comebacks rely much on comedic timing, too). So let's call it great timing, the sort of timing that possesses force-like mystery, that a whole caboodle of "Star Wars" movie info was announced just a few weeks ahead of the mondo, galaxy-big Star Wars Celebration: The Ultimate Fan Experience. The mega fan convention shall set its Y-wing Starfighter gently down at the Anaheim Convention Center from Thursday, April 16 through Sunday, April 19.

TRUE-BLUE MAVENS... of the StarWarsverse don't require fun announcements to get super-stoked over a huge gathering of actors, fans, merch dealers, film producers, and other purveyors of StarWarsiana, of course, but hearing word of future film releases and plans can stoke an already stoked person even further. (This is pretty much fact in any fandom.) So while you think about watching "Star Wars: Episode VIII" on May 26, 2017, forty years and a day after the debut of Episode IV, you can polish on your Stormtrooper costume and get to planning all that you might want to see while visiting a galaxy far, faraway via Orange County.

J.J. ABRAMS AND KATHLEEN KENNEDY... will make an appearance, so those fans who are eager for peeks into the new films will want to catch that action. Billy Dee Williams, Mark Hamill, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker will all be in the force-cool flow of the proceedings, too. (Here we must pause to unleash several exclamation points over Lando, Luke, Chewbacca, and R2D2 being in the house: !!!!) Tech wizards, creative smarties, and so many people who had a hand in the complex and dynamic "Star Wars" world will join the jamboree, too. So will you? Really, you still have time to spiffy-up that Ewok outfit, comb it out, make sure it is looking its cuddly best. Now hold up a second: Don't be sore that we just called Ewoks "cuddly," okay? Fearsome warriors can have a softer side, too. Exhibit A: Yoda.

WE MAY ALL DREAM... of visiting outer space, but how often does outer space call upon Orange County? This is your chance to enter the "Star Wars" cosmos for a weekend. (All respect, Space Mountain; you've got the whole outer space-meets-Orange County thing down, too.) 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Wandering (and Snacking) Among the Windmills]]> Sat, 14 Mar 2015 16:23:38 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sweetsTenleyFohlPhotographyTasteofSolvang.jpg

THE LUSCIOUS LINE-UP: If you were to get into your car, right now, and make a day of eating just fish tacos around North County, or just sourdough and gelato in the San Francisco neighborhoods where bread and cold treats reign, or only pastries and chocolates around Solvang, well, no one would judge. That's because the big cities and tucked-away towns of California are known for their specific foods, and culinary themes, and to indulge for a meal (or two or three), only supping upon a single thing, is not unheard of. The aforementioned Solvang, which should probably have a person inside a squishing aebleskiver suit at the burg's border, waving and greeting people, is known for wine, for sure, and fine meats-and-more dining, yes, but pastries -- and more pastries, and pastries beyond those -- rule visitors' hearts when they're strolling the windmill-y byways of America's most Dutch-cool town. (The person in the aebleskiver suit should probably stand under a sign that says just that: "America's most Dutch-cool town.") But how to get a lot of Solvang in your tum over a few hours? If you're not spending the night but you want a vast variety? 

TASTE OF SOLVANG, which spreads out, like jam on a pastry, over a few days, is a fine notion, but hone in on the Grand Tasting for the dozens-plus dining options. It's on Saturday, March 21 in 2015, and "more than 40 taste stops at restaurants and retailers around the village" are on the route. Both "bites and beverages" will be featured, some bites, some bevs, at places like Danish Mill Bakery, Del Sol, and the Elverhoj Museum of History & Art. The ticket? It's $35, so if you taste a little something everywhere, you'll send less than a buck to do so, per bite or beverage. Getting the grub scene wrapped up in one fell swoop -- or one busy walking afternoon -- is something Californians do often, on the road, when they know they're in a town famous for a certain foodstuff. That Taste of Solvang's Grand Tasting makes it all the easier for us means we only park once. And we Californians do love only parking once, don't we though? It's like a shared goal and point of pride.

Photo Credit: Tenley Fohl Photography]]>
<![CDATA[Dream Wheels: La Jolla Concours d'Elegance]]> Tue, 17 Mar 2015 07:10:24 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/lajollaconcourstrees1.jpg

WARMER WEATHER, WOWZA WHEELS: There are many cute quotes and sayings and ol' chestnuts related to springtime, from the whole "in like a lion" bits of March to the "April showers bring May flowers" rhyme (or "Mayflowers," if you prefer), to the various chunks of wisdom that rightly says we long to be outdoors with the warm wind in our winter-tired hair. That warm wind in our winter-tired hair is easier to achieve if we're in a swanky vintage convertible, or standing next to the Pacific Ocean admiring swanky vintage convertibles while marine breezes play among our locks. That second dream is easy to achieve over the second weekend in April, when the La Jolla Concours d'Elegance turns its grills and hood ornaments towards La Jolla Cove and Ellen Browning Scripps Park. 

FRIDAY, APRIL 10 THROUGH SUNDAY, APRIL 12... are the 2015 dates, and the fender fabulousness starts off with a powerful engine roar: Rolls Royces are the stunning centerpieces of the opening night cocktail soiree. It's at La Valencia Hotel, and if you're trying to picture how all of that walnut and chrome shall look with the pink landmark in the back, well, daydream no longer: Tickets are still available (though they do go, go, go).

OTHER HAUTE HAPPENINGS... include the Tour d'Elegance, which has its starting point in Balboa Park and a 20-mile trip ahead (so if you're out and about in the San Diego area on Saturday, April 13 and you see a whole parade of museum-ready cars of lots of makes, that's what you're seeing). And Sunday, April 14 is when over three hundred of those tony, wheel-resplendent autos, from Bugattis to Cadillacs to Corvettes to Plymouth Fury convertibles line La Jolla Cove. Will you drive away in a vintage beauty with the April breeze in your hair? Well, if you arrived in one, you will. But there's nothing with a day of peeking at supple seats, glowing dashboards, and daydreaming about your future car find, a 1964 Ford Mustang or a 1934 Rolls Royce or...

Photo Credit: La Jolla Concours d'Elegance]]>