<![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 Sat, 03 Oct 2015 20:19:15 -0700 Sat, 03 Oct 2015 20:19:15 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Searching for Ghost Towns in Death Valley]]> Sat, 03 Oct 2015 08:00:07 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/gtGettyImages-450422088.jpg

LIKE THE MOON, BUT WITH TOWNS: Death Valley National Park is often presented as a lunar landscape here on earth, and with fine reason: It kind of is. Granted, there's an atmosphere in Death Valley that doesn't require us to don giant, glass-front astronaut helmets, and the gravity in the national park is pretty much the same as the gravity on the outside of the national park (meaning no big, bouncy astronaut leaps are possible, not without a trampoline). But the valley's stark vistas and empty stretches can feel moon-like, especially by the light of the moon. That makes it a little ghostly come the autumn, when the sun starts to set at an earlier hour and the toasty air takes on a chill and the idea of being on another planet, via a national park, begins to intrigue. Furnace Creek Resort wants to help further that phantom-y feeling that fall brings to the desert, along with the reminder that Death Valley really isn't so devoid of signs of civilization, after all. Ghost towns remain, in various states of crumble and decay and photo-ready awesomeness, both around the park and near its borders, and autumn's cooler ways, and supernatural airs, make it the ideal time to go exploring. 

DAY OF THE DEAD PACKAGE: If you're trotting out to Furnace Creek over the most haunting weekend of the year -- think Oct. 30 through Nov. 2 -- you can book this stay-over special. You'll get either a cabin to retreat to or a room and a map to the ghost towns of the area (hello, Panamint City, hello Rhyolite, hello Leadfield, how're you doin', Skidoo). To keep in the Dia de los Muertos theme, a pretty tile, complete with the traditional calavas on the front, is also part of your package goodies. Think of this getaway as a quieter, more history-filled way to mark both Halloween and the Day of the Dead, without the mondo parades and costumed affairs. Finding yourself in a place that famously has a rather macabre moniker -- we're not referring to the "Valley" part of "Death Valley" -- over the most famously atmospheric of holidays, with lots of ghost towns within driving distance, has its offbeat pleasures. To wend your way back to Furnace Creek Resort, either the Inn or Ranch, for a night of rest, ups the pleasure part (just make sure you leave the ghosties behind in the towns you visit, lest your hotel room get a little crowded).

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Deal: Stay in Carlsbad, Go LEGOLAND]]> Fri, 02 Oct 2015 10:31:04 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/LEGOLAND_California_main_entrance123.jpg

UNSUNG OCTOBER: Is the tenth month of the year, the one that's typically depicted on calendars with bats and cats and glowing pumpkins and spooky trees, really the unsung sequel to summer family vacations? Consider that a growing sector of the travel industry, from hotels to parks, is breaking out the discounts and deals and free tickets and special packages after school has been back in session for a month or so. But this isn't to preclude families from enjoying the savings; very often just an afternoon or a single night, rather than a full week, is all that is required for a satisfying getaway. Look to the Hilton Garden Inn, which is just a hop from the sand in Carlsbad Beach, and look to their Kids Free LEGO Package, which is a fall (not summer) thing that's trucking all the way through Saturday, Oct. 31.

WONDERS (BRICKS AND BEASTIES): Yep, you get to stay at the inn and rest up for a full day of LEGO-ing, a day that'll be made more energetic via the breakfast for four people that's a part of the package's amenities and add-ons. As far as the ticket end of things go? You'll nab a pair of grown-up get-in passes, and two for kid attendees, too, to both LEGOLAND and Sea Life Aquarium. Could you take in Explorer Island, Castle Hill, and admire a giant octopus and an eel, all in a day? (You could, for sure, and, nope, the last two creatures are real, not LEGO'd, and are found at the aquarium.) Details and specifics are here, but the price for the package starts at $364.

KIDS FREE OCTOBER: There's a whole cityful of free deals going down around San Diego and its wider environs throughout the month, as museums and parks and zoos, numbering in the dozens, waive admission for children. If only every major metropolis started to go with the "summer's over, let's up the savings in October" plan, because a lot of people still long to travel and have adventure but not spend a bundle after the bundle spent over the summer. And we're not saying to not get your Halloween on, either; in fact, a stroll through LEGOLAND may jump-start some fanciful costume ideas. A LEGO person, perhaps?

Photo Credit: LEGOLAND]]>
<![CDATA[Urban-Close: National Parks Near Cities]]> Thu, 01 Oct 2015 23:36:23 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/alcatraz23-horznpfoundation.jpg

TREES, MOUNTAINS, WOOD, CAMPFIRE: Much of the iconic imagery we see around our national parks, be that imagery on a sign or t-shirt or hotel or all of the above, has to do with the Great Outdoors. Tall 'n proud fir trees and snow-capped mountains are favorite symbols of some of the parks within the National Park Service, and we've come to associate any visit to a national park as involving a few maps, a few road snacks, a few music mixes, and several hours on the road. And while leaving our big city home and heading for the snowy peaks and thick forests that are found in many national parks is a tradition that we'll forever adhere to, finding those historic and cultural and nature-filled sites closer to home, much closer, is rather wonderful, too. It means we don't have to block out a week or even a long weekend to get the national park experience; a jaunt of under an hour, a short boat ride, or perhaps a good stroll can take use there. The National Park Foundation is eager to pair people and parks, and that can mean both championing the city-distant parks as well as those NPS sites found within honking distance of our busy urban streets. Want to find what's near the metropolis you call home? Then check out...

THE 24+ NATIONAL PARKS... near 24 U.S. Cities Guide. It's called "Urban Playgrounds" -- cute and catchy, NPF -- and it details all of those wonderful, ranger-riffic locales that don't require a day's drive from your apartment or pad. Well, some of them will, if they're not near your city, but Alcatraz, which is on the list, is in San Francisco's sphere, and the lighthouse-lovely Cabrillo National Monument sits near San Diego. True, massive ranges full of silent valleys may be a bit scarce around the humming megatowns of America, but that doesn't mean city citizens are well out of the NPS loop. There are places nearby to enjoy, if only we look. Well, look and go; the "go" part is an essential part of the be-an-explorer-of-your-area equation. Want the full guide, for freesies? Yes, we said "freesies"; the "Playground" in the guide's name has us thinking cute and catchy, too. For all of the National Park Foundation's goodness, click. They help support the National Park Service in many ways, so staying up on all things NPF is a good thing to do.

Photo Credit: National Park Foundation]]>
<![CDATA[Avocado Aficionados Go Carpinteria]]> Thu, 01 Oct 2015 23:23:47 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/avocado4.jpg

IF YOU WERE TO REALLY DIG DEEP... in terms of your avocado affections, and we don't just mean with a spoon, you'd know the parts of the alligator pear as well as you know your own name. We don't just mean "skin" and "creamy inside scoopable stuff" and "pit," no sirree. Rather, you'd be tossing around terms like "exocarp" and "mesocarp" and "endocarp" for what we would normally deem the outer layer, the creamy inside scoopable stuff, and an area that's a little closer to the middle. As for the pit? Well, it is a seed, though pit, as a well-loved term, seems here to stay. And we'll wager that a whole lot of attendees at the annual California Avocado Festival know the official avocado terminology. Though, on second thought, with some 100,000 people showing up at the Carpinteria-based bash over a three-day weekend, just as many people, if not more, probably also affectionately describe an avocado's bits in ways that we all understand ("yummy middle" and "bumpily shell" and so forth). However you talk about the beloved fruit, count on having a lot of it, in all of its many forms, at the mega, not-too-far-from-the-beach celebration, which will grow, like an avocado pit -- er, seed -- from Friday, Oct. 2 through Sunday, Oct. 4.

BEING A LARGE AFFAIR... means there's lots beyond the famous pear in question, from live music to guacamole-making contests to a competition to brandish the largest avocado (we'll guess it is no match, in size, for those colossal pumpkins heading for weigh-in at Half Moon Bay in October, but still, a big avocado is to be applauded). There shall be many a vendor, too, selling both the avocado in its natural, just-plucked-from-the-branch form to ice creams and dips and more. How is your favorite way to take it? In an omelet, a club sandwich, in a burrito, or all of the above? The infinitely pleasing avo really can show up inside most any dish and the dish'll be elevated, instantly. This Carp party -- there's an avocado confab in Fallbrook, too, in the springtime -- is almost three decades along, which makes it venerable on the fruit festival scene. Of course, every avocado worshiper might describe his or her love for the foodstuff as long-lasting and true-blue -- er, true-green -- too. So keep on truckin', Avofest; your longevity suits your star food well.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LA Museum Season: Culture Deals Abound]]> Thu, 01 Oct 2015 23:24:13 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Urbanlightmuseumseason1.jpg

LOS ANGELES, it is safe to say, has had a rather major museum moment in recent years. That is, of course, if the concept of "a moment" could stretch out to cover an entire decade, a decade that's seen new world-class museums spring up, and other world-class museums waive their admission, and major installations like "Urban Light" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art make their way onto magazine covers and into movies. And while the city's cultural institutions keep trucking all year long, there is a special time period that revs up in the fall, the traditional time when operas and symphonies and other mind-broadening experiences open up their annual seasons. October begins LA Museum Season, and that's good news not just for locals but for travelers looking to get some stuff done in the City of Angels -- work, a wedding, a weekend away -- and see a cultural biggie or two. LA Museum Season stretches into the mid-point of November and it comes with its own appealing-to-out-of-towners deal: Stay two nights, or more, at a hotel booked through Hotels.com and score "a special voucher good for two complimentary adult admissions or gift store discounts at participating museums."

THOSE TOP-NOTCH MUSEUMS INCLUDE... the "Urban Light"-lovely Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Latin American Art, the Skirball Cultural Center, the Battleship IOWA Museum in San Pedro, and the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is also an elegant entry on the roster, a place where famous paintings like "Blue Boy" by Thomas Gainsborough can be enjoyed one minute and blue skies over The Huntington's iconic rose garden the next. As for the stay-over spots on the list? It's also lengthy, like the cultural and historic institutions on the discount list, so finding a bed-down spot near your work or wedding or the museum you want to see should be a cinch. Also a cinch? Making this all happen, between Oct. 5 and Nov. 15. It's a program overseen by the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, so, you bet, this is a big deal in a very big city. And it has had a few years to lay its come-have-fun foundations; LA Museum Season marks a half decade in 2016.

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board]]>
<![CDATA[Palm Springs Tram Contest: Snow Guess]]> Tue, 29 Sep 2015 13:15:11 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/snowguesstrammtsj.jpg

REALLY AND TRULY, and in full and total honesty, when it comes to the end of September 'round Southern California we practically can't draw what an ice cube looks like, much less put into descriptive detail the nature and coldness and crunchiness of snow. Sure we saw snow once, maybe, years ago, or decades, but the throbbing heat that settles over SoCal during the ninth month on the calendar has a way of making us, well, a little out-of-the-know regarding snow. Yes, it is factual that, within a couple of months, or even weeks, flakes could be frosting up our ski slopes in the central and southern parts of the state, but when you come to the end of September and you're still wearing your swimsuit around the house, snow is nearly a myth in your mind. Except when it comes to what happens, each and every year, around the first day of October. It's tradition, and it involves some crafty guessing (the best kind of guessing), and there's a free thing at the end, if your crafty guessing is the very best. We speak of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway's Snow Guessing Contest, which involves a little weather acumen, a sense of Mt. San Jacinto and the wilderness surrounding the tram, and a lot of luck. It opens on Oct. 1, 2015.

FOUR TRAM ADMISSIONS... are up for mitten-handed grabs for the winner, so all you need to do is this: Be correct in determining the exact day the first inch of snow will fall at the tram's Mountain Station. The elevation is a pinch over 8,500 feet, so, yes, dear doubters, there is snow at something called the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. It just happens very, very high up. So, when will the first inch of snow fall at that elevation? As in, the date? The good news is ten entries shall be selected -- well, ten entries that got the right date for the snowfall (and if the tram gets over ten entries, the postmarks will determine the victors). So, when will it happen? Nov. 15? Nov. 29? Dec. 2? You remember snow, surely? Then surely you'll want to throw your own estimate onto the icy pile. It could get you and three friends a trip up the big mountain on one of the desert's landmark attractions. So, c'mon, snow; we hear we're in for a wetter winter, so let's see if you'll deliver on that promise.

Photo Credit: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway]]>
<![CDATA[Great Wolf Lodge: Early Discount Available]]> Mon, 28 Sep 2015 18:04:18 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ExteriorWaterSlideGWL.jpg

SLIDE INTO SAVINGS: If you've driven along Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove lately, you've likely seen a building the size of a small mountain, an under-construction structure that comes complete with its own giant carved wolf, in full howl, and a bevy of waterslides that undulate along one side. The wolf and the waterslides are giveaways that this is a Great Wolf Lodge, an icon of family vacations in the Midwest. Of course, the company's long-anticipated arrival in Southern California has also made the headlines, so you likely knew all about what that mystery building might be way before you even drove by the colossal construction site. And while the pools-and-more property still has a springtime 2016 opening date, you can start your vacation planning now, courtesy of an early discount that's good through the last day of September 2015. Eager to be one of the first people to eye the 105,000-square-foot water park -- it's covered and under a roof, making it pretty unique for the region -- and the other kid-sweet details the Great Wolf Lodge has become known for both in the Midwest and in New England and the Northwest as well?

HERE'S THAT CODE: Enter the promo code SOCAL at the site before Wednesday, Sept. 30 and score "a special introductory offer of 25 percent off the best available rates." For sure, your reservation includes entry into the water park -- it is an all-access pass -- and, for sure, you'll be there soon after the lodge makes its Garden Grove debut. The dates included in the deal? Feb. 29 through Oct. 15, 2016. Best tell the young'uns what you're up to, too: The deal is for the family suite, which kicks off, in price at a nudge below $260. Or don't tell them, at all, and just throw their swimsuits into a suitcase the night before you make for the Orange County waterpark-meets-sleepover spot. Will they howl upon learning they'll be spending a day riding the slides? Well, wolves are part of the forest-sweet imagery of the hotel-plus company, so we'll guess you might hear a few wolf-like vocalizations from the backseat, on your way down Harbor Boulevard.

Photo Credit: Great Wolf Lodge]]>
<![CDATA[Eastern Sierra Fall: A Leaf-Peeper Deal]]> Sat, 26 Sep 2015 08:56:09 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/joshwraymammothfalleasternsierra.jpg

A LONG DAY OF LEAF-PEEPING... can challenge even the most practiced of fall fans. After all, even if you've been down a particularly colorful road before, where the cottonwoods go golden and the aspen shiver and shimmer, things can look a mite different than you remember them. Perhaps you're there slightly earlier, and everything is still lime-green, or perhaps a grove that didn't get too colorful in years past is sudden aflame with fabulous hue. In short, while it is a relaxing pursuit, the enjoyment of fall foliage, it is an active one as well, requiring the autumn-loving adventurer to forever keep her eyes well-peeled. Enter the idea of bedding down there the fall colors are, instead of making your way back home after a big day wending around back roads, and you have the leaf-peeper's ideal scenario. Look, look, point, sigh, look, drive, turn around, circle back, look some more, and then turn in early near all of those aspens and oaks. Look to the resorts around Mammoth Mountain, which sit rather close to the colors of Mammoth and Bishop and June Lake. Tamarack Lodge offers a leaf-peeping stay-over package each year, for those seeking some stunning vistas but not the long trek home. And the deal is on again for fall 2015, which means you could be staying...

NEAR A POSTCARD-PRETTY ALPINE LAKE... in just a matter of days or weeks. After all, the foliage season doesn't last all that long and the Eastern Sierra area is already showing its seasonal wow, tree-style. The Tamarack Lodge Fall Colors package has a choice between a boat rental (for two hours) or a 2-for-1 bike rental deal, plus a stay, plus Continental breakfast, plus a post-dinner sweet. The food part is the fortifying bit, after all of your time roaming the hillsides for color, and the boat or bikes provide a fresh-air way for visitors to come into closer contact with mountain-crisp autumn air. Need dates, details, and how to commune with the leafy loveliness of this fabled-in-fall (and-all-year-long) region? Point your oar or handlebars in this direction, foliage mavens.

Photo Credit: Josh Wray/Visit Mammoth]]>
<![CDATA[Disneyland Announces 'Season of the Force']]> Sat, 26 Sep 2015 08:55:48 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/seasonoftheforce_disneylucasfilm.jpg

AAAAAARRRLLL: Okay, so clearly our Wookiee needs some brushing up, but we wanted to express what "Star Wars" fans must be feeling upon hearing that a new experience is headed for Disneyland Resort starting on Monday, Nov. 16. Nope, this is not the mega 14-acre themed land area, with its rides and experiences and cantina -- that's a few years away, for sure, and no amount of wishing can bring it into being ahead of that time (Yoda might be able to, being very powerful, but, you know, he's always quite busy). But The Happiest Place on Earth will be pulling a bit of the cosmos down to this planet, for a time, far ahead of the opening of the new "Star Wars" area, during its special Season of the Force.

SEASON OF THE FORCE... features a few fun new things, including a "Star Wars" Launch Bay, where guests to the theme park can "visit with favorite 'Star Wars' characters" as well as eye special exhibits and nab "peeks at the upcoming 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens.'" Something a little fresh and Force-filled will alight upon the popular Jedi Training area in Tomorrowland come December, with "new characters and a new villain from the popular Disney XD series, 'Star Wars Rebels.'" And Space Mountain will get a temporary redo, with "Star Wars" theming, so polish your Xwing for Hyperspace Mountain.

OF COURSE, Star Tours, found at the entrance to Tomorrowland, is still doing brisk business, delivering guests into the furthest stretches of the galaxy every few minutes. The ride, which features a few shiny C-3PO cameos, is a classic topper to a day spent doing some new "Star Wars"-related things around the futuristic land. But will you wear your Han Solo vest? Maybe you should: The Anaheim park is about to get galactic during Season of the Force, a pre-cursor to the brand-new land that's one day to come.

Photo Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm]]>
<![CDATA[Death Valley Artifact Goes on the Road (Sort of)]]> Thu, 24 Sep 2015 21:30:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/olddinahfurnace1.jpg

A TIMELESS PLACE ENCOUNTERS CHANGE: The word "timeless" is often trotted out to sell certain styles of clothing and fragrances and houses and anything else that the seller wants to convey as having staying power, but, really, there is no timeless like a Death Valley type of timeless. Deep within the national park, where the only sound is often just the wind and waves of sand ripple into the horizon, one truly connects with a sense of timelessness. It could be a hundred years in the past, or a thousand years in the future, and the observer still wouldn't be sure; such is the nature of the remote and stark national park. But sometimes, on occasion, something does happen at Death Valley. Oh, for sure, people are forever entering the park, even in the toastier months, to swim and ride horses and bike, but a ripple in time happened in the middle of September, and it occurred to a piece of historic machinery called "Old Dinah." Just about everyone has heard of the 20 Mule Teams that once reigned large in the region's booming borax industry, but fewer know about the steam-driven tractors that retired the teams and went to work on the borax-delivery front. Old Dinah was one such device, a "massive" machine per Furnace Creek Resort, which stands not too far from where the tractor once sat. We say "once sat" because...

OLD DINAH HAS A NEW HOME: The resort reports that "...for the first time since 1932, it is believed, Old Dinah and one of the famed 20 Mule Team wagon trains were ever-so-gently moved out of the ancient flood plain and into Zabriskie Park at Furnace Creek Resort." The resort is "closer to the iconic Borax Museum," so both the train and tractor are nearer to a spot that has a lot of pull in terms of their histories. And it is a reminder that Death Valley isn't just an amazing recreational spot, but one rife with the early story of borax mining and how that was all made possible in a very long ago day. Want to see the tractor and the museum and feel that timelessness that still reigns in one of our state's most still and silent a national parks? You can. A half day exploring the park's borax roots fills out a lot of the background of this hot and historic area.

Photo Credit: Furnace Creek Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Kicking Off: Yosemite's 125th Anniversary]]> Sun, 27 Sep 2015 10:13:14 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/yosemiterainbownpsarchive.jpg

WALK AROUND ANY MEADOW... or along any ridge or through any valley or along any creek in Yosemite National Park and point at anything that isn't a squirrel or a pinecone or a leaf and proceed to guess the age of what you're pointing at. Rocks? They're old. Lakes? Ancient. Glacier Point? Hoo boy, we hope you have a powerful adding machine on that one, because that's going to take you back a few years. Yosemite has logged some years, is what we're saying, and you could easily add a few zeroes to pretty much a whole swath of the natural wonder, in the "how old?" department, and you still may not be journeying back to the correct point of origin. So to say that Yosemite National Park is about to mark its 125th birthday can make you drop your adding machine, and drop your jaw, in comical tandem. How can that be? Your own grandparents or great-grandparents may have been born before 1890. Surely a destination absolutely oozing (in the poetical sense) timeless cliff faces has a few more decades under its beautiful belt? Well, surely, yes, it does. But Yosemite officially gained lasting protections on Oct. 1, 1890, meaning a birthday celebration is in order. That celebration is kicking off on the first day of October with a remembrance of the man who did so much for the area: John Muir.

"SPECIAL FREE PERFORMANCE": Actor Lee Stetson, known for portraying Mr. Muir, will appear in the Yosemite Theater on Oct. 1 to bring us back to the time when the Yosemite advocate created positive change for the park-to-be. Other activities will be going on, if you find yourself there, but if you feel like a peaceful party, just pay the park and its history a kind thought during your high-country hike. If you prefer a more physical way to love on Yosemite, consider arriving on Sept. 26, National Public Lands Day, when entrance will be free. The physical part? You can join the Yosemite Facelift, when loads of park lovers pitch in to do a little clean up after the busy summer season. Think of this as cleaning up before the party, rather than after, as is tradition. Your host, which would be Yosemite itself, would very much appreciate your help on the pitching-in front. Do note that the Yosemite Facelift runs for a few days, and not just Sept. 26, if you can't make that exact day.

Photo Credit: NPS]]>
<![CDATA[Hello, Autumn: Big Horse Maze Fun Ahead]]> Fri, 25 Sep 2015 13:44:23 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/bighorsepumpkindisplay.jpg

THE FIRST DAY OF FALL... can make many feelings burble up, but count on nostalgic emotions to reign supreme. We think back to our childhoods, to starting school for the first time, to Halloweens long past and carving jack o'lanterns and haunted houses and the other sweet staples of September and October. Those aren't memories that need to be left in the long-ago past, however; there are still places that pop up with the express purpose of going Full Autumn, the better to serve our nostalgic, family-sweet longings. Big Horse Corn Maze & Harvest Festival in Temecula is one such spot, and not only does it have the maze seen in its name, but it offers a host of other tried-and-true to-dos that can easily fill out a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon.

CORN BOXES... are one such cute to-do -- yes, it is a box of corn that kids play in, which is about as opposite-y as one can get from our age of electronics -- but there are others like a corn cannon and pillow jump. Pig races, gem mining, gold panning, and a chance to churn butter are all on the docket, too, in addition to a host of outdoorsy, burn-off-some-happy-energy happenings (soccer kick, baseball swing).  

AS FOR THE PUMPKINS? There shall be pumpkins, many pumpkins, at the Pumpkin Patch. But to carve sooner than later? That's always the question, though we suspect "later" has a way of winning out. Lots of cameras are out as wee ones, toddlers and babies, get their snapshots taken in the bright orange sea of squashes. Opening date for Big Horse is Saturday, Oct. 3 and it all wraps up on Halloween day. Oh, and depending upon the weekend you go, if you go on a weekend day, there may be a themed event, like a car show or farm day. Want to know more? Follow the corn trail this way.

Photo Credit: Big Horse Corn Maze]]>
<![CDATA[Stripes Sensation: The Carlyle Inn]]> Tue, 22 Sep 2015 12:12:12 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/carlyleinn1.jpg The Beverly Hills hotel debuted a bold Art Deco look this past summer.

Photo Credit: Carlyle Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Island Cinema: Catalina Film Festival]]> Mon, 21 Sep 2015 12:06:43 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/catalinafilmfestfb.jpg

A PARTY SURROUNDED BY THE PACIFIC: Plenty of major film festivals have happenings that are unique to their history or setting. Some might do all-night bashes or ski competitions or special brunches or a 5K, outside of the usual bustling slate of Hollywood-big and indie-plucky fare. There is, however, one film festival that offers attendees the chance to join a treasure hunt, which should tip you off, immediately, as to the location. Yes, it is Catalina Island, where an early fall film festival has brought out actors and directors and writers and film fans and, indeed, the occasional treasure hunter, too. That treasure hunter might be a distributor sniffing out the next major hit upon its first-look debut or it could be the people who sign up for the actual Treasure Hunt, which is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 26. It's a fine way to see some of the island, if you pause during your fervent hunting, to look around. "Over $5,000 in prizes!" are on the docket, plus the chance to get to know other film fans like yourself. Not too many film parties happen on a fairly petite island, so once you're there, you're there to say hello to people, get involved in happenings, and enjoy one of the dozens of flicks. Flicks in 2015 include...

JIMMY COSTA'S "APPLETON"... and the WWI film "Battalion" and horror films "R U Awake?" and "Hush" and a host of documentaries and shorts and animated treats and more. There are entertainment options beyond what's up on the screens, too, which makes sense and is a tribute to organizers. After all, when people have ventured across a good amount of open ocean to be at your festival, you want them to live it up during their stay, and that includes the time when they're in the theater seat and when they're out and about during the Sept. 24 through 27 festival.

THAT OPEN OCEAN... means booking your stay and your passage across a chunk o' the Pacific is essential, as essential as lining up those passes and what you want to see. And, of course, booking your spot in the Treasure Hunt, too. Other film festivals have plenty of panache, but rarely does a fest's location so smoothly dovetail with a delightful to-do.

Photo Credit: Catalina Island Film Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Free Park Entrance: National Public Lands Day]]> Wed, 23 Sep 2015 07:18:14 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/deathvalleynationalpublicday1.jpg

THERE ARE TRAVELERS... who've been to every state, and there are planners who've visited every state capital, and there are those quirky globetrotters who've visited every city that has over a half million people and begins with the letter "T" (just to do something a bit different on the rack-up-the-sites front). And there are those adventurers who never, ever miss a fee-free day at the national parks. This is not too difficult to achieve, if you have your calendar out early in the year, since the entrance-vamoosed days cover eight or so days, spread throughout the year. There are various observances tied to the fee-free days -- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the National Park Service's birthday, Veterans Day -- and not all of the parks even charge a get-in fee (in fact, just 127 out of 408 parks do). It is, in the end, an achievable travel goal, not that visiting every "T"-starting metropolis isn't. But if you want to do a different national park, for free, on each of those days, in a single year, here's betting that that particular dream is in reach. And you can practice, on Saturday, Sept. 26, when the next fee-free day rolls around in honor of National Public Lands Day.

NATIONAL PUBLIC LANDS DAY... "is the nation's largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands." So if you want to scooch into Yosemite National Park or the redwoods and participate in a spiffy-up program, that's a fine way to spend the last Saturday in September. Of course, if you want to picnic or hike or camp or what-have-you, and you want to skip the gate fee, well, that is a-ok, too; the fees are waived for both recreational adventurers and volunteers alike. The annual Yosemite Facelift, by the by, will coincide with the day, but you can definitely find a volunteer meet-up near you, or fairly close, at least. And a lot are happening outside the national parks, too. So, are you ready to pocket the cash you'd give the ranger at the gate? And savor the first Saturday of autumn in nature? And maybe be a part of the roll-up-the-sleeves spirit of National Public Lands Day? The time is now. And congrats, dear adventurer, if you're trying to visit a park during every fee-free day of 2015. That is a good goal and not out of reach.

Photo Credit: NPS]]>
<![CDATA[South Coast: Vine-Blessing + Grape-Stomping]]> Fri, 18 Sep 2015 16:17:51 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/southcoastblessingstomp12345.jpg

IF WE COULD ONLY BE A LADYBUG... riding on the inside of a windshield of a car headed to Temecula Valley during the heat of crush. Harvest time in a wine-rich area presents the chance to have many unusual conversations with your wine-loving friends, such as "will you be trying a new wine this year or sticking with your go-to?" or "are you going to buy a case to give away as holiday gifts?" or "who is removing their shoes and stepping inside the barrel to squish grapes?" This last question isn't asked all that often, truth be told, but some wineries love to go the old-school, old-fashioned, old-tried-and-true grape-crushing route, for fun and to give their guests a taste of how wine production has truly changed over the years. South Coast Winery Resort & Spa throws such a squishy day, and we don't need to be a ladybug riding inside any cars to know that the conversation on the way to the winery holds a lot of laughs. In fact, is it impossible to not giggle before, during, and after your first -- or fifty -- inside-the-barrel grape-stomping experience? We say it is impossible. You will laugh, your pals will take a ton of snapshots, and you will retell the moment at a few dozen dinner parties to come.

SUNDAY, SEPT. 20... is the date for the vineyard-set soiree, which also includes the Temecula Valley staple's annual Blessing of the Grapes. It is a moving benediction in a sometimes unpredictable business, a business that relies on the earth and the ever-changeable weather in addition to human smarts. There shall be live tunes, there shall be chefly bites, there shall be face-painting for the wee (or grown-up) revelers, and, yes, there shall be showdowns where grape stompers go heel-to-heel for glory and giggles. Oh yes, a whole lot of juice, which spills out of a spigot attached to the barrel. If this has been a bucket-list-y sort of thing for you, but each fall finds you too busy with the usual into-fall things, well, enough of that: Do it already. You and your friend can laugh all the way up at the prospect, and all the way back home at the stories of what went down. Cost for the winery-winsome day? Fifty five bucks.

Photo Credit: South Coast Winery]]>
<![CDATA[Wacky and Local: Palm Desert Golf Cart Parade]]> Thu, 24 Sep 2015 21:30:44 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/165*120/pdgolfGardens2_2.jpg Daffy rolls are the delightful name of the game at this historic happening.

Photo Credit: Palm Desert Golf Cart Parade]]>
<![CDATA[Anaheim Eek: Hatbox Ghost Goes Holiday]]> Wed, 30 Sep 2015 23:54:29 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/hatboxghostxmas1.jpg

LA LA LA CAN'T HEAR YOU: We'll assume, if you're a Disneyland fan, the kind of person who knows the deep trivia about the windows along Main Street and how the Monorail works, that you know all about the re-introduction of the famous Hatbox Ghost into the Haunted Mansion earlier this spring. A longtime vintage favorite, the Hatbox Ghost had vaporized -- well, like a ghost -- early on in the spooky attraction's run, but fans clamored to see it again. And see they have, in honor of the 60th anniversary of the best-known theme park on the planet. But if you haven't yet been in the Haunted Mansion, since May of 2015, you may want to "la la la" and cover your eyes right now, for we're about to talk more about this impressive spirit and his exact location. (The eye-covering should begin now, if you don't want location info.) He's located just beyond the attic of the attraction, and you're bound to hear the word "attic" mentioned quite a bit while standing in the queue these days, as people advise their friends where to watch for him. The old ghost is, in a sense, very new, which is creating a different dimension for Halloween Time at Disneyland: What will the Hatbox Ghost be wearing?  

A VERY CHEERFUL HAT... that reflects the Mansion's Christmas-sweet themes. Well, "very cheerful" might be a stretch -- it's still a top hat, as befits the Hatbox Ghost, but check out the yuletide-themed sprig on the side. Of course, this isn't the only new sight in the attraction, which revealed its annual "Nightmare Before Christmas" decorations on Friday, Sept. 11. The gingerbread house in the ballroom changes each year, going with a fresh look (and scent). As for the 2015 gingerbread wonder? Cover your eyes and "la la la" if you don't want to know, but here it is: The pastry palace is "a towering house of cards," lending "Alice in Wonderland" overtones to the Haunted Mansion. (We do love a subtle crossover so.) Ready to see the new (old) ghost in his yuletide chapeau and this year's gingerbread creation? The "Nightmare" meets Haunted Mansion holiday extravaganza stays spooky through the beginning of 2016.

Photo Credit: Disneyland]]>
<![CDATA[Ahwahnee Autumn: Vintners' Holidays]]> Tue, 15 Sep 2015 12:20:39 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/TheAhwahneeinFall12345.jpg

A DRY YOSEMITE FALLS... is one of the most visual ways to tell that autumn is on its way to Yosemite National Park. August into November can bring a different vibe for the park's legendary waterfalls, which crash and sparkle and flow in the springtime with drama and flair. The autumn is quieter on the waterfall front, but that doesn't mean there isn't a show below. The oaks dotting the valley are starting to take on that honeyed hue, at least around the leaves, and the Pacific dogwoods are greeting the season with their own crimson touches. But one of the liveliest signs of the season doesn't arrive before November, and it takes place not in the out-of-doors, or under the sky, but rather inside The Ahwahnee. The historic and stately lodge does not have a grove of oaks dotting its capacious lobby; rather, November and December are the months when the Vintners' Holidays settle in for a long and learn-happy and supremely sippable sojourn. For sure, you guessed it, you're right on the money: Wine is the theme, but not just any wine gets to star. California labels are the front-and-center reasons for the holidays, and the people who make them and know a lot about them, and, of course...

THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE WINE: As any vino-ist can own up to, adoring all of the good that comes from the grape in the beverage realm is an ongoing education, one that can always be deepen and enhanced. That's what happens over the six sessions, which run in spurts of two or three days at a time from Nov. 8 through Dec. 3. Could you do them all? Well, gosh, that's a dream, isn't, but finding a favorite vineyard on the list, or a winemaker or expert you'd like to meet, is key when planning your dates. Also key? Looking at the packages offered (you can stay at The Ahwahnee or a few other nearby choices, like Curry Village). Inman Family Wines, Silver Oak Cellars, Justin Winery, and Benziger Family Winery will all be presenting and talking and swirling the beautiful reds and whites in 2015. It's a luxe learning experience that also doubles as a true signal that autumn has placed its golden cloak upon Yosemite Valley. And we do so like those tasty, tony events that also serve as a sign of the seasons.

Photo Credit: Yosemite National Park]]>
<![CDATA[Accordion 'N Ale Confab in Costa Mesa]]> Mon, 14 Sep 2015 08:31:53 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/BonneMusiqueZydeco2.jpg

IT'S OKTOBERFEST TIME... which means a few things. One? There shall be steins, many steins, holding a lot of German-style suds. Two? There shall be pretzels and schnitzels, many snacks, that pay homage to the savory spirit of the autumn celebration. And three? The accordion music will raise the rafters on numerous halls and banquet centers and taverns over several September and early October weekends. Accordions give oompah standards their oomph, but it seems, for however long they play, that an Oktoberfest aficionado is always left wanting a tad more. Maybe that's because the bellows + keys create a combo that gets down deep in your bones and under your skin and in other happy-making brain crevices that cause your fun centers to light up (read: you get up and dance). That's one reason what the OC Market Place always plans The Big Squeeze, an accordion-laden lark, right in the heart of the Oktoberfest run. Nope, the sound-filled celebration isn't simply about oompah and stein-adjacent melodies, though the Oktoberfest touches are plentiful. Zydeco gets its time on the stage, too, and Celtic and Tex Mex. In fact, there are few instruments that star in as many different and diverse musical genres as the accordion, so it is good and fitting that it gets its due each year. And its due arrives on...

SUNDAY, SEPT. 27... in Costa Mesa. Bonne Musique Zydeco is one of the headliners, and The Ploughboys, and Los Fabulocos, and the Doo Wah Riders, too. There shall be lessons in how to one-man-band yourself -- the accordion is always a key component to the one man band -- and there shall be a Samuel Adams beer tent, to give the day a sprinkling of Oktoberfest-type cheer (cheer that's further enhanced by the stein-holding contests). There are three stages in all, and a wide swath of accordion masters'll be bellowing the heck out of their squeezeboxes. Did you make the big party in Cotati in August? Where oodles of accordionists turn out? Call this your SoCal sound bath, with a giant dollop of autumn-style partying. 

Photo Credit: Peter Figen Photography]]>
<![CDATA[Dapper Day: Vintage Oomph Returns to Disneyland]]> Mon, 14 Sep 2015 08:30:50 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/dapperday15_5_dusticunningham.jpg Hats, gloves, heels: Gussy up and hang with Goofy, old-fashioned fashion fans.

Photo Credit: DapperDay.com]]>
<![CDATA[Apple Time: Julian's Star Fruit Shines]]> Sat, 12 Sep 2015 07:10:48 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*120/apple_seeds.jpg

SPEAK THE NAME... of some places and you're bound, within a few words, to say another word, a food-specific word, that is frequently associated with the location. Bring up Hatch, New Mexico in a conversation and the word "chile" will soon be uttered, you can count on it. A mention of Temecula may soon be followed by "wine" and Bodega Bay will surely inspire someone in the group to shout out "chowder!" (because chowder should always be shouted out, with much ebullience). So if we were to drop the name of Julian into this conversation, what is the edible item that first pops into your mind? Into all of our minds? Into the minds of people far from Southern California, who've perhaps aren't all that acquainted with the pert little township (as if not being acquainted with Julian's charms was a real thing)? Yep, you thought "apple," we all thought "apple," which is right and good and how it should be. Because the Gold Country burg is synonymous with the crunchy, tree-pretty fruit, all year long, in its various pies and jams and other take-home-and-enjoy treats. But come the fall? Hoo boy, the appleness of Julian grows to mammoth proportions, when everyone wanting an autumn day out, picking fruit or eating it, makes for the mountain-snug village.

SEPT. 26-27... is the official weekend for Julian's annual Apple Days, a two-day cores-and-more confab that'll branch out at Menghini Winery. Think fall-type to-dos -- antique tractors and gold panning and the eating of pie and the dancing to show your love of pie -- and think of all sorts of apple-y amazements. Of course, if you can't be up the hills over the final weekend in September, you can go apple picking around the town, at places like Apple Starr Orchard (where you can bag up the Jonagolds for later enjoyment). And, of course, if you like your crunch to already be bestowed with crust, there are several all-the-time, not-just-in-autumn pie shops in town, like Mom's and Julian Pie Company. So, can you say "Julian" and not immediately follow it up with a particular fruit? It's difficult, too difficult, so we'll just stick with keeping the charming town and tasty apples simpatico in our mind, for always.

Photo Credit: Apple]]>
<![CDATA[Golden Leaves: California Fall Blog]]> Thu, 10 Sep 2015 06:10:21 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/208*120/autumnsunshinegetty.jpg

THE DAYS AHEAD OF LABOR DAY... can be hot around the Golden State, even on the roasting side, even deep into triple digit territory, depending upon where you reside. And yet... things, they are a-changin', most definitely, at least in the very small, look-closer-to-notice ways. The shrubs along your street may still be green, but the tips of their leaves are going a bit pink, and yellow, and the whole plant vibes with the coming of autumn. Berries, too, start to appear, where once there were no berries, and the quality of light takes on a clearer hum. (If you know fall's dramatic arrival, you know just what we mean by that, the hum of the different light you feel in your fall-loving bones.) But beyond the pink-leafy shrubs of your street, how exactly do you know where to go to see the fall's finest foliage? You can keep tabs on the visitor bureau sites for the counties traditionally know for their brilliant October hues (Plumas County, you so know we're looking at you here). And, to complement that research, you can keep happy tabs on the California Fall Color blog, the seasonal must read for those who want to know what trees are changing where and if they've totally passed their peak.

RIGHT, THE PEAK: It's always something foliage fanatics dread a little, even as they love and anticipate it. A true-blue leaf peeper never wants to learn that an area hit its peak a week or two back; the leaf lover wants to learn that Bishop or Convict Lake or Truckee or Sonoma are all in the 75%-100% range and on their way to peak beauty. That means an autumn adventurer still has time to throw a weekend case in the trunk and get there to snap some pics or breathe in the crisp autumn air. The only way to know where the percentage is at, of course, is to follow along, week by week, as September turns into October turns into November. The blog is a fall-fun labor of love from writer John Poimiroo, who knows his leaf-peeping byways and colorful canyons. Is this the year you're doing Plumas? No, seriously, have you driven the State Scenic Highway portion of Route 70 right around Halloween? You're in for a picturesque treat. For all other places, and how the pink-pretty leaves are doing, day-by-day, keep an eye on California Fall Color.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Del Mar Delights: Taste & Artisan Stroll]]> Wed, 09 Sep 2015 09:41:53 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/delmarartisantaste1.jpg

BETTER THAN SUMMER: No one will give the side eye to a summertime, get-to-know-the-local-village walk. After all, summer guarantees that the day'll be longer, with the sun setting after the 8 o'clock hour, and pushing a downtown saunter into the evening is a pleasure of the season. But autumn has summer beat, in the village-stroll scene, even if it doesn't have the later sunset. The air is slightly crisper, and if temperatures haven't fully dropped into fall sweater territory, they're flirting with the downslope. Del Mar Village is all about this notion, and the ocean-close community is embracing its fall-fun socializing on Sunday, Oct. 4 with the Del Mar Taste and Artisan Stroll.

20+ RESTAURANTS... will hand out their best and/or most representative tidbits to ticket holders, so if you've been wanting to sample the savory wares at Pacifica Del Mar, Kitchen 1540, Bull Taco, Il Fornaio, or other spots around the central hub of the town, this is your moment to sink your teeth in, sans reservations. When you're not sinking your teeth into small bites and various appetizers, you can take in the art at the Art Stroll, which is completely free to see. Look for the boothy area, and then head through to eye paintings, textiles, leather goods, jewelry, and the artists themselves; several Del Mar favorites shall be showing. And if you're planning on staying the night in the area, there's a deal to be had. Bed down at one of several Del Mar hotels listed here and shave a fiver off your stroll entry.

GET YOUR TICKET: If you're looking for unlimited tastes, go for the twenty-five buck option, or spend $35 for unlimited tastes/sips. There will also be special areas and features devoted to the furry attendees, so feel free to throw the sparkly, bedazzled harness on your Boston Terrier or Bichon. It's an afternoon, community-sweet soiree that puts out the best of the best of a burg known for being pretty best-y, on all fronts, all year long. And figure that Del Mar has its hands fairly full during the summer, what with the county fair and horse racing. While other town strolls rock a summer eve, Del Mar's early fall affair feels well-timed and as relaxed as these things should be.

Photo Credit: Taste & Artisan Stroll]]>
<![CDATA[All Gumby, All Weekend Long: Glendora Fest]]> Tue, 08 Sep 2015 12:15:23 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/gumbyfansniccroce.jpg

ASK ANYBODY... to name a favorite plaything or toy or game from their youth and you're bound to get a reply that runs along the lines of "...from my youth?" Implying, of course, that what we loved at age 5 we'll probably love at 55, with a few more levels of understanding thrown in, about what that plaything has meant to pop culture and other people who loved it so. And while toys run the gamut of theme and cuddliness and hardiness and repeat-play-ability, there are a few superstars of the bedroom shelf that have weathered the decades, and, yes, even a couple of different centuries, too. Just about every person regardless of when they were born knows Gumby, even from a distance, and we're not even talking about simply spying his delightful forest-green hue. His head has an iconic, geometric shape, as does his bendy body, and his companion Pokey could say exactly the same (though Pokey is more the color of a tomato or ruby, not lettuce or a lime). He's about as famous as famous gets, and the mid-century wonder is about to get famouser, if that's possible, with a 60th birthday party in Glendora over the third weekend in September.

SEPT. 18-20... are the dates for this toy to-do, a happening that includes panels, collectibles, and Gumby sightings, too. Joe Clokey -- you know his dad Art Clokey, the creator of Gumby -- will be there, hosting a "Gumby Through the Years" presentation, and a bunch of stalwarts in the field of stop-motion and animation shall be giving talks on the charming and breezy (though not easy) art form, including a senior puppet builder from Jim Henson's Creature Shop. It isn't simply about applauding an icon, but also delving deep into the format that brought Gumby to life, first as a character on "Howdy Doody" and then as a fixture on toy shelves across the world (and across the decades). If you're a Gumbyian, or you're eager to know more about the creative calling that brought he and Pokey and their nemeses and their buddies to life, bend those limbs in the direction of the festival and make for Glendora. Don't be pokey about it, either (though feel free to be Pokey, when you arrive, if you have the get-up).

Photo Credit: Gumby Fest]]>
<![CDATA[Scarecrows: Figures of Fall to Dot Big Bear]]> Mon, 07 Sep 2015 21:07:22 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/bigbearscarecrow123.jpg

HAY, HATS, AND HAPPINESS: So say you're a village, or a town, or a quaint little burg that's in the mountains or near the ocean or located right in the middle of wine country. You do a humming business all year long with the visitors who want to be a part of the charm and the prettiness and whatever your local attractions happen to be (skiing, wine tasting, restaurants, the beach). What do you do when autumn arrives, and temperatures take a crisper turn, and the visitor flow keeps on keepin' on, unabated by the end of summer? Why you embrace all that is autumnal and picturesque, and that starts, of course, with that hat-topped icon of the season, the scarecrow. A number of Golden State burgs are placing the arms-out, hay-within figures around their plazas and central square, and the result out-cutes every other cute thing around. Cambria and Solvang both enjoy month-long scarecrow festivals, and so does Big Bear Lake, which is heading into year two of its scarecrow hoedown. So what happens at a scarecrow fest? The hay-happy figures do not spring to life, a la a certain famous scarecrow from a certain movie with a certain yellow brick road, but they do stand in front of shops and eateries, a sight that gives the foliage-fantastic season more color and oomph.

SEPT. 25 THROUGH NOV. 8... are the dates of the 2015 Scarecrow Festival, and you only need stroll through Big Bear Village to see "the dozens of scarecrows," some of which will rock that traditional scarecrow look. Others definitely do not, so if you like your fall favorites to be a little funkier, you'll be in the right spot. The scarecrows, or rather the merchants who created them, will compete in six categories, including "most traditional" and "spookiest" (there's also a category applauding recycled material use, so hooray that). Are you headed up the mountain to see some leaves in their golden dress? Saunter first through the village for a serious scarecrow-y soak-up of the season.

Photo Credit: Big Bear Lake]]>
<![CDATA[Dates Announced: Disneyland Holidays]]> Fri, 04 Sep 2015 11:41:45 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/dlholidays12345.jpg

JACK SKELLINGTON KNOWS: September through December -- or, let's be honest, early January -- is a whirl of bunting and lights and decorations and fresh costumes and special events at Disneyland Resort. But just because Halloween arrives before the December holidays on the calendar doesn't mean that The Happiest Place on Earth always sticks strictly to the order of things. Look to one of its most famous seasonal attractions, The Haunted Mansion, for further guidance on this calendar-twisting topic. The New Orleans Square attraction transmogrifies into Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas," a treat that salutes both the most haunting of holidays and Christmas, too. So it is no surprise then that Disneyland would draw back the curtain on its Holidays at Disneyland Resort dates a week ahead of Halloween Time making its official Sept. 11 debut.

NOV. 13, 2015... is the opening date for all things candy cane-y at both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, so, as is tradition, the entire week of Thanksgiving -- one of the busiest for the resort -- will be fully decked out in its shiny baubles and minty charms. And, as is tradition, the holiday celebration will extend a couple of weeks past Christmas Day, with a Jan. 6, 2016 wrap-up. There've been no reveals yet as to what treats are in store this year, but count on those famous handmade candy canes to pop up at the Candy Kitchen on Main Street, and count on seeing a few toy soldiers, and Santa, too, in the daily parade.

AS FOR HALLOWEEN? There's a lot going on, starting with the Sept. 11 kick-off. Mickey's Halloween Party, Ghost Galaxy at Space Mountain, Jack Skellington at The Haunted Mansion, and the giant pumpkin at Town Square are all tried-and-ghoulish hallmarks of the theme park's spookiest season. Ready for Halloween and then the holidays, one after the other? Well, since The Haunted Mansion smooshes them together to great success, we'll guess Disneyland will rock both distinct celebrations, even though they sit very close on the calendar. Still going on through it all? The park's 60th anniversary party, too. 

Photo Credit: Disneyland]]>
<![CDATA[California Wine Month: To-Dos by the Glassful]]> Thu, 03 Sep 2015 18:41:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/redgrapeclustersTeamSanJoseRobertHolmes.jpg

JUST ABOUT EVERY PLACE... that has entered our hearts and imaginations has a special pair-up that only arrives once or twice a year. It's the pairing that happens when both time and location align and something rather magical, or at least memorable, occurs. Think of the first snowfall in a quaint New England town. That couldn't happen in May and snow falling on a huge city, while pretty, doesn't necessarily boast that postcard-y charm. Picture the first spring flowers in a field or the corn at its very tallest in some field in the middle of the Great Plains. A patient person needs to wait for the right moment and spot for it all to come together, and that right moment, and spot, for those devoted to wine, is California in September. The ninth month of the year is, in fact, California Wine Month, that stretch of the year when vineyards are busy with crush and harvest activities. Many of those activities, and more beyond, are crafted just so the public can join in, making September, and California Wine Month, one very bustling period of time/place for the celebration-minded oenophile. So, where to go and when? Ah, that is the tricky, schedule-testing part. First take a look at the HQ for...

CALIFORNIA WINE MONTH: Thirty days, oodles of events, a whole swath of wineries in every wine-filled nook of the Golden State, and a wish to partake in everything. Some lovely possibilities include SIP Temecula, the valley's month-long tasting deal, and a Sample the Sierra Pop-Up Dinner on the Lake Tahoe Golf Course. Rutherford Ranch Winery is on the dinner-hosting act, too, and V. Sattui is throwing a grand Harvest Ball. Livermore's popular Front Porch Music Festival is on the roster, and the Preston Castle Tasting & Tour goes deep into a Gold Country landmark. Could you do everything? Nope, not all in one go, but with some planning and saving you could dip into several delights over the course of the month. And isn't it nice to have a time and place that so richly and visually and flavorfully fit together? California's vineyards and that late-summer-into-fall month, dear September, make a rather dashing duo, indeed.

Photo Credit: Robert Holmes]]>
<![CDATA[On Tour and Very Big: Harvest Festival]]> Mon, 14 Sep 2015 08:33:32 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/HFpainting2015.jpg

A HARVEST FESTIVAL, in many minds, is a fairly cozy small-town-y soiree. You have the baked goods table, the one that is raising money for a new flagpole, and you have the booth with the pumpkin bowling. Maybe there's a caramel apple stand, and perhaps there's a crafter or two on the grounds, selling spicy pot pourri and Christmas ornaments. Many of those same elements exist at the Harvest Festival Original Arts & Crafts Show, of course, but you'll need to multiply the amount of things you see/do/buy at your hometown craft show to reach an estimate of what this touring extravaganza holds. Dozens upon dozens of artisans journey to various destinations around the California and into Nevada, transporting shimmery jewelry and kid-cute tutus and framed nature photographs and specialty mustards and wooden gem boxes and beautiful handmade aprons. There's food to nosh on each time the fest pauses somewhere, and entertainment, too, from music and clowns and the occasional person on stilts. Call it autumn energized, and prepare to see it arrive where you live, or at least a short drive away from where you live, very soon. The Harvest Festival's multi-city, two-state tour kicks off in...

LAS VEGAS... over the second weekend in September. After that it'll visit a caboodle of California cities, from Del Mar to Pomona to Ventura to San Mateo and beyond. It has been around for 43 years, and it shows, both in the breadth of what's offered at the fest and the depth of the crafting roster. A ticket is nine bucks and it covers you for the three days that the fest is at a specific location, so if you buy for Ontario, you're good for three days at the Ontario show. So, will you shop for yourself, or will you get all of the homemade-y sweet treats that you need, to give away or to stuff stockings, during the holiday season? And will you devour any breads or cookies you purchase on the car ride home? Questions, so many questions. We're just happy another herald of fall is on the wind, and, with it, many cute and interesting items that brim with that charming small-town-esque touch. 

Photo Credit: Harvest Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Marvelous Music: Monterey Jazz Festival]]> Tue, 01 Sep 2015 16:26:58 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/WyntonMarsalis06playing_Clay+Mcbride_300.jpg

FAMOUS, FLOW-FILLED, FABULOUS: There's no doubt that particular days of the year carry more heft than others. Likewise, particular times of the year, and seasons, too, also tend to follow this rule. Take your birthday, which carries with it at least a little emotion, and your anniversary, too. Your favorite time of year does as well, like the holidays or spring. But everyone everywhere likely shares the heart-tug of a feeling that comes with the final weekend of summer. Weekends have a certain winsomeness, and summertime does, too, which makes the yearly timing of the Monterey Jazz Festival more than perfect. It unfolds over the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of that final summer weekend, a time that just naturally, and poetically, carries some extra beauty and bittersweetness. Add the world's best jazz sounds to those emotions, as their soundtrack, and you have a music-tacular that continues to draw fans from Monterey, California, the U.S., and points around the globe. And with fine reason, too; not only can they come together as a tune-loving community to bid summer farewell, they can do so while enjoying some of the most acclaimed artists around on eight stages.

OH YES, EIGHT STAGES: After nearly six decades of presenting the best of the best, Monterey Jazz has grown into quite the spectacular. And that octet of stagery stays busy throughout, with over 500 musicians keeping the flow going over a trio of very full days. Wynton Marsalis is set to play the 2015 festival, and the superb Dianne Reeves, and Chick Corea, and the amazing rockin' Ms. Nikki Hill. Chris Botti will bring the brass (a prominent sound/metal at the fest among many musicians, of course) and Pete Escovedo will have his drumsticks in hand (it's his 80th birthday, by the by, which will be celebrated at the fest). Vocals, instrumentals, jam-type sonic flights, and all things that fold into the large mind space that is jazz are welcome at Monterey, which has made its name, in part, for being one of the avant-garde-iest extravaganzas around. For sure, tradition is still embraced and loved upon, too, so when you think "is there something for everyone?" well, yes. Eight stages, 500 artists, hours and hours and percussion and trumpet and harmony. Oh goodness, there's more, places to shop, places to eat, places to chillax, art happenings, and such. Happy 58th, Monterey Jazz, and thanks for delivering the last official weekend of summer in such a heartfelt, flow-sweet manner. It raises the vibe of every music maven in attendance, and those fans who support from afar.

Photo Credit: Clay McBride]]>
<![CDATA[Modernism Show & Sale: Palm Springs Opener]]> Thu, 10 Sep 2015 06:09:10 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/openingnightmodernismshowsale1.jpg

THAT PAINTING, THAT CHAIR: When it comes to celebrations that explore and honor and fete and love upon all things mid-century, from homes to clothing to businesses to artworks to funky couches that look like they might have been made on the moon, there shall be no outshining Palm Springs. Absolutely, yes, you're right, other places do boast a nice mid-century vibe, from neighborhoods that stayed true to a single architect's singular vision to city halls and early malls that reflect the aesthetic. But the P.S. just wins the shiny trophy on this, in all the ways, year-round, but more so during Modernism Week. The February shindig is popular, hugely so, which led to a fall preview in October, to deal with some of the overflow. (But, let's be honest; so many people who can't get enough go in both the fall and winter.) And one of the centerpieces of the autumn hooha happens to be the Modernism Show & Sale. There's no mystery as to why this is, if you're curious: Attendees who stroll through elegantly appointed homes, cool casas filled with fine furnishings, want to bring a bit of that 1960s-style style back to their own pads, wherever those pads may be. A fine starting pointing, then, is to start at the start of the Modernism Show & Sale.

FRIDAY, OCT. 9... is the date, some "40 premier national and international dealers" showing sofas and paintings and vases and everything domestic'll be in the house, and tickets are seventy five bucks a pop (and you get to return any time you like, during opening hours, of course, during the remainder of the weekend). Are educational programs, and community grants, supported by your ticket price? You betcha. Shall there be bites and sips to bite and sip while you look at the nifty things made for mid-century homes? There shall be, yes. Will you get to hang out at the equally-as-nifty Palm Springs Air Museum? That's where the Modernism Show & Sale is taking place. There is a way, then, to admire the accouterments of mid-century homes and to maybe, just possible, find something neato to buy before you leave the desert. It doesn't have to be one or the other, at the Modernism Week Fall Preview.

Photo Credit: Palm Springs Modernism Show & Sale]]>
<![CDATA[Spring-Fed Pool: Death Valley Labor Day Splash]]> Sun, 30 Aug 2015 10:52:13 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/228*120/familyswimfurnaceresort.jpg

TOASTY DAYS, SPRING-FED WAVES: California and Arizona have been longtime neighbors -- no spoiler alert needed, we'll presume -- so it hurts us, just a tad, to borrow an Arizona-ism that is very much associated with the Grand Canyon State. "But it's a dry heat" is practically the official state motto, and if it one day starts to show up on license plates and letterhead, we won't be at all shocked. So Zonies -- and we call Arizonans by their zany nickname with all love -- might be a mite mad to see us using "but it's a dry heat" for some places based within the Golden State. "You don't know a hot day!" they may counter, thinking of our beaches and fog. Ah yes, but then we counter back "have you been to Death Valley National Park?" and then the discussion ends.

FURNACE FUN TIMES: For Zonies know, and Californians know, and everyone knows that Death Valley can lean towards the toasty end of the thermometer, and absolutely definitely during the summertime. But summertime doesn't mean the national park hangs the "See ya in winter!" sign. On the contrary, The Ranch at Furnace Creek stays open through June (warm), July (scorching), August (wowee it's hot), and into September and the rest of the year. One of its secrets? It has a spring-fed pool, one that is bound to see some fun family times come the long weekend of Labor Day.

OTHER ACTIVITIES ABOUND... beyond the pool's edges -- horseback riding, bike riding, and such -- but every guest wants to feel that spring-fed-a-tude that comes with a cooling dip. The natural springs help the resort with its admirable water conservation efforts, efforts that also apply to the Ranch's sister property, The Inn at Furnace Creek. The Inn keeps off-and-on hours in the summer, that are limited, but reservations are now being accepted for its early-October re-opening. The Inn, like The Ranch, also boasts a spring-fed pool, which sounds quite storybook-like, like an oasis, for such a stark desert setting. Summer isn't yet over, and you can still tell people "I'm going to Death Valley for Labor Day Weekend -- it's a dry heat!" If you tell them about your days spent in the spring-fed pool, though, in the middle of the arid landscape, they may just think you've read too many tall tales. But this one is true.

Photo Credit: Ranch at Furnace Creek]]>
<![CDATA[Temecula Fest: Green Chile Time]]> Fri, 28 Aug 2015 09:53:54 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/chilegettygreen1.jpg

A BITE WITH BURN: August may be dominated by back-to-school-ing, but a small contingent of cuisinaires are all about a single fruit with a singular hue coming out of a singular location: Hatch, New Mexico. We speak of green chile, the pow-packing pepper that is as much a part of daily cooking in the Land of Enchantment as salt and pepper. But the pepper's powerful reputation has traveled well beyond New Mexico's borders, which has led to great demand for the end-of-summer spicy icon. Trucks head west, to California, brimming with the good stuff, and a few special roasting days, and the occasional party, greet and/or celebrate the shipments. One such fiesta shall bring the fiery fun to Town Square Park in Temecula on Saturday, Aug. 29 and Sunday, Aug. 30. It's the Hatch Green Chile Festival, and while the procuring of peppers is at the hot heart of the hoedown, there shall be other lively happenings. Like... 

LIVE MARIACHI TUNES... and Ballet Folklorico and kid-focused fun times and a Mr. and Mrs. Chile Pepper contest. As far as the food end of the day goes? Wait for it: 10,000 pounds of Hatch chile'll pull into the park and the roasting is complimentary. Also complimentary? The smell. Oh, you know that smell, the one that no perfume or air-freshener could reproduce. It is fall on the air, deep and green and tinged with smoke, and it is a scene every New Mexican misses if they're not on their home turf in August. A ten-pound bag of the good stuff is twenty five bucks, and since people have already put some pre-orders in, you'll want to arrive early to make sure you get your goodies. If you're planning on doing any chile-wine dishes this autumn or winter, well, you'll be in the right spot. Pick up your peppers, get them roasted (mmm), and then make for your favorite winery for a bottle of something deep and red and tinged with fruitiness, an ideal match for your deep and green and tinged with smoke pepper haul.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cosmic Cocktails in the Neon Boneyard]]> Thu, 10 Sep 2015 20:31:47 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/neoncocktailsvegas92223.jpg

SIN CITY PAIR-UP: Las Vegas, like all iconic cities that are known the world over for a few incredibly distinct qualities and offerings, is a land of the pair-up. Oh, not just in weddings, although, rumor has it, the city has been known, on the pair-up scene, for one or two nuptials over the years. Rather, we mean how well two things go together in the land of roulette wheels and splashy stage shows. In fact, there's the first pair-up we had in mind: People waiting to enter a casino-based theater, to see a big-ticket extravaganza, have sometimes been known to put a few chips down on roulette, or play a hand or two of blackjack, before curtain time. Big breakfast buffets and Bloody Marys -- with spirits or straight tomato juice -- are another twosome often seen around town. And huge LED signs and star-level ventriloquists are a duo nearly as long-running as ventriloquist acts (and, of course, the invention of LED). Let us also add sleek, retro cocktails and neon lights to the twosome line-up. Many a Vegas reveler has enjoyed a beverage within the glow of a blinking hotel sign. Many a reveler has held up their drink to the sign, the better to see how a martini changes the sign's hues. And many a reveler will have a chance to sip and admire signs on Friday, Sept. 18 at The Neon Museum's Neon Boneyard. It's... 

COSMIC COCKTAILS... night at the sign-filled institution, and the Las Vegas Astronomical Society is joining in and hauling along a bevy of telescopes. First things first: Guests shall watch the sun set, and then, as the stars pop out, there shall be a lot of looking upward at various planets and stars. A DJ "spinning cosmic music" will be on hand, and food and drink options will be in-the-house and on-the-plates (and in-the-cups) as well. Tickets? They're seventy five bucks a person, and they help out the Neon Museum in all of its sign-saving, public program ways. Pairing up signage and sipping? It's a very Vegas tradition. If you have designs on calling upon Sin City over that weekend, a cocktail in the Neon Boneyard, with some astronomy love as the cherry on the cake, could be an offbeat to-do, and yet one with plenty of way-cool Vegas history, universe-inspired knowledge, and a flavorful bite/sip, too.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Neon Museum]]>
<![CDATA[A Fall-Fancy Stay Near The Winchester]]> Tue, 25 Aug 2015 17:13:18 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/hotelvalenciasantana.jpg

AN ATMOSPHERIC WALK IN THE DARK... is pretty much a staple of every spooky story told around Halloween. You heard it on the albums you grew up with, the ones that told scary (but fun) tales of exploring neighborhood haunted houses, the kind brimming with cobwebs. You saw it in the "Thriller" video, where a stroll in the dark summons a pack of fresh-from-the-grave dancers. And every fright film about a mansion on a hill has a main character who wanders up, through the trees, to explore. But if you're off to explore The Winchester Mystery House, one of the most famously phantom-y landmarks in all of California -- and, let's be frank, the planet -- then you know a stroll home, as in a scary story, isn't in the cards.

STAY CLOSE: The Winchester sits in the middle of bustling San Jose, and attending of the house's autumn-nifty flashlight nights means you'll probably arrive at the attraction by car. Unless, of course, you book at Hotel Valencia Santana Row, a posh property that's just a pip and hop (read: five-minute walk) from Sarah Winchester's infamous manse. You won't need to push through a forest of foreboding trees to reach Hotel Valencia following your Winchester visit, however, but you should plan on visiting one of the many restaurants or bars that dot Santana Row, for many'll keep the liveliness going well into the evening post-flashlight tour.

THE HOTEL... underwent a recent refurbishment that enhanced its "Mediterranean accents and Spanish Golden Age appeal." Warm woods, mood lighting, and rich fabrics lend the building further luxe-o-sity. While there are no packages with a Winchester theme, there is one that has a fall-y feel to it, a Wine Weekend Getaway deal. Cheeses and vino and picnicking and discounts at vineyards around the nearby Santa Cruz Mountain region await. And, truly, what's more autumn than A) wine and B) ghost tours? If you're fond of both, this could be your spot -- the Hotel Valencia Santana Row -- to combine both, in one flashlight-bright, merlot-tasty weekend. Just enjoy your walk from The Winchester Mystery House back to your hotel and keep your fingers crossed you won't meet up with a pack of dancing ghoulies.

Photo Credit: Hotel Valencia]]>
<![CDATA[Free Entry: Happy 99th, National Park Service!]]> Mon, 24 Aug 2015 13:30:40 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/joshuasunsetrobbhannawacker.jpg

YOUR PRESENCE REQUIRED: It is almost extremely certain that, if you've been invited to several birthday parties over the course of your lifetime, that your "presence" has been requested in lieu of physical, wrapped, bow-on-top "presents" (also, you've read a lot of "in lieu of" on a whole lot of invitations, for sure). It's a happy homophone situation, with "presents" and "presence," and the request of the latter simply means that the host wants to see you there, in the room. Nice, yes, but we'll take the word even further when it comes to visiting a famous organization on a pretty big birthday. The National Park Service is just about to mark its 99th -- it was founded in 1916, yessiree, on Aug. 25 -- and you definitely don't owe it any presents. (In fact, we're 100% sure you consider the motto "take only memories, leave only footprints" when bringing anything into a park.) Your presence, though, would be nice on Aug. 25, and by that we simply don't mean arriving in a national park and being there, but being there. Get us? We're talking about connecting with the place, the Joshua trees, the redwoods, the foamy surf, the quiet and the majesty and the nature and the wind. Anyone can offer presence, as in showing up, but embodying the quality takes a little extra oomph.

WHAT YOU WON'T REQUIRE... a little extra of, should you visit on the NPS birthday proper, is cash. Well, for sure, if you travel keep some clams handy, but paying them at the entrance gate to the park of your choice will be a no-go on Aug. 25. Your money shall be waved away, as the National Park Service is waiving get-in fees at those parks that charge them. (Way less than half do.) Do you need to hug a boulder? Stare at some cumulus action over a far ridge? What about saying hello to a waterfall? All of these activities vibe with the aforementioned presence. Head out to your favorite park, or a new one, on Tuesday, Aug. 25, and saunter in for free. Happy birthday, National Park Service! Already can't wait to see what you've got going for your big centennial.

Photo Credit: NPS/Robb Hannawacker]]>
<![CDATA[Central Coast Celebration(s): FigtoberFest]]> Fri, 04 Sep 2015 21:44:04 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/figtoberfest29292.jpg

A LOCAL BREW TAPROOM... can be a pleasurable place to stop by on a Saturday afternoon, especially in the mellow days of late summer. Autumn isn't yet in the house, but Oktoberfest is nigh, as it always is around the time summertime starts to pack its luggage and make its exit. But when that local taproom is part of a clutch of regional taprooms, all under the banner of a single regional beermaker, you can count on Oktoberfest taking on a convivial mood, at least for a day. For sure, you might find some of the out-sized wacky happenings associated with the holiday at village-wide Oktoberfests, the kind that last for a several weeks. But if you're at any of the Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. taprooms on Saturday, Sept. 12, you'll feel an Oktoberfestian breeze in the air, thanks to a day of lively games and cool contests and, yes, some savory, beer-perfect German vittles. It's FigtoberFest time around the Central Coast beermaker's vast map of brew rooms.

THERE SHALL ALSO BE LIVE MUSIC... at all of the FigtoberFest celebrations, save in Los Olivos. (A note on the site that size and acoustics play a factor there.) Will there be a special crafty brew for the day? Of course there shall be, and it shall be five bucks, so make sure you have a fiver, some tip money, and a designated driver (or a room in town for the night). A stein package is also available, lest holding a stein in your hand at an Oktoberfest-style party is essential to you.

MORE BREWERIES DO THE HOLIDAY: If you look at some of the Golden State's biggest suds emporiums, you'll see a batch of Oktoberfestian bashes, some for a day, some for a long weekend. Sierra Nevada Brewery is also going this revelry-laden route, over the first weekend in October, should you find yourself in its Chico neck of the woods.

Photo Credit: Figtoberfest]]>
<![CDATA[Miramonte's 'Free Cabana Rental' Deal]]> Mon, 24 Aug 2015 22:30:52 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/cabanamiramonte1.jpg

IF YOU'VE SPENT ANY TIME... in Southern California at all, or, for that matter, a wider swath of the Golden State, you know that September is not the end of summer. Oh, for sure, the autumnal equinox falls as it does around the third week of the month -- it's Sept. 23 in 2015 -- but that often doesn't add up to much, weather-wise, around the lower half of the state. Summer-style temperatures are still testing thermometers, and the occasional Santa Ana wind brings a dry and warm blast to the proceedings. In short, SoCalers do not immediately don plaid skirts and knee socks and oxfords come the fall; we're still in our shorts and tank tops and flip-flops. Miramonte Resort & Spa understands our quirky summer extension, thanks in large part to the continued action around the pool even after autumn's arrival. And the resort is looking to treat those guests who are playing poolside well into September, and those guests who call upon the Indian Wells property in the middle of the week, with a special cabana-themed deal.

OHHH, CABANAS: The clothe-tented, pool-adjacent space is the stuff of hotel legend, and booking one can be a bit prohibitive, depending on the hotel you're at. Still, it is easy to bob in the shallow end while admiring the cabana scene and wishing you had one of your own to lounge in, especially when the afternoon sun gets too toasty. The Miramonte's deal is this: Stay mid-week, "but 1 room, get 1 free cabana rental," and there you have it, swimmers/loungers/vacationers. This is of course "based on availability," as these things often are, but you'll have all of September to enjoy this nice offer, Sunday through Thursday. Could you be chillaxing in a cabana, in the desert, after a cooling soak, on the first day of autumn? Well, that is a Wednesday in 2015, so, yes, you could be, if you book sooner than later. It's true that chillier temps don't rev up before November 'round Southern California, deserts included, but that just means the summer-style specials stretch gloriously into the traditional fall season.

Photo Credit: Miramonte Resort & Spa]]>
<![CDATA[Month-Long Feast: Santa Barbara's epicure.sb]]> Tue, 08 Sep 2015 21:35:20 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/catcorasbepicure1.jpg

ONE TASTY DAYLONG PARTY... can keep a foodie sated for some time to come, but when several savory bashes of good size arrive all in a row? Well, it must be October in Santa Barbara. That's epicure.sb time, from the first day of the month to the last, and the major food festivals line up like fancy shrimp cocktails on a seafood buffet. The California Lemon Festival in Goleta gets juicy just ahead of October, a flavorful harbinger of things to come. A beer festival, a seafood festival, and more out-sized soirees dot the epicure.sb calendar, as do a host of chef appearances, cooking demos, and wine tastings. There are also the offbeat edibles in the mix, like the...

THYME & ENERGY BOURBON & JERKY PAIRING: This unusual duo'll make a cameo at Ty Lounge during the epicure.sb run, and we'll just go out on a limb -- or a strip of jerky, perhaps -- and guess that the dried meat doesn't always get to share the spotlight with a tony spirit. Maybe a new trend is afoot? A tamale and tequila tasting downtown gives those who like their masa 'n mescal to come in one beautiful forkful, sipful flow, and a Funk Zone wine tasting pairs well with a visit to the Santa Barbara Farmers Market. Chef Cat Cora will also helm the Quickfire Cooking Challenge at the Santa Barbara Public Market on Oct. 8.

CHOOSE YOUR CHOWDOWN: Truly, even those food-obsessives who call Santa Barbara home can't make every single to-do during the multi-day run, so for those out-of-towners calling upon the American Riviera during epicure.sb, some choosing is in order. Are you into wine? The Vintners Celebration over the second weekend in October is for you. About popcorn? There's a vino pair-up with the famous movie snack. Just check the dates, since everything is not every day of the month, and land upon the most luscious of foodie happenings in Santa Barbara's most luscious of foodie months.

Photo Credit: epicure.sb]]>
<![CDATA[SIP Passport: Temecula Valley Autumn]]> Fri, 21 Aug 2015 21:50:06 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/243*120/siptemeculafall29293.jpg

ANTSY IN AUGUST: We live in a world where theme parks and attractions and movies and theatrical extravaganzas can nearly replicate a wholly different experience or time of year or place from the one that we currently occupy, but no group has ever found a way to duplicate wine country in September. The busyness of harvest time, of crush, of fans journeying to tasting rooms to be part of the excitement belongs to the real deal, the actual happening, and creating a simulation of the soft September sunshine one feels while walking through the vines, or those slightly crisp breezes, just can't be done. The only thing for it is to wait, semi-patiently, for the ninth month of the year to come into view, and then to plan, plan, plan, making sure that you're in a favorite corner of wine country at some point during the 30-day stretch. 

TEMECULA VALLEY WINEGROWERS... make that plotting exceedingly easy by offering a SIP Passport each September. The freedom and flexibility to choose where you'll brandish your passport is built into the offer, as is a choice of days. Think you're going to toodle through the grape-rich region on a September weekday? The passport is forty bucks. Have a Friday in mind, or a weekend visit? You'll pay fifty. Either way, you'll get a chance to call upon a quartet of tasting rooms and you can choose your stops from over thirty winemakers in the area. Yep, if you're wondering, there's a souvenir glass in it for you, and, for sure, you'll get the usual flight of wine as if you were just walking into the tasting room fresh, with no passport in hand.

WILL YOU MAKE TIME, though, post tasting, to linger near the vines, and, if the winery has it, the patio or garden or fountain or outdoor area? That aforementioned soft sunshine comes but once a year, in September, and wine country seems to soak it in best. No place or creative endeavor has yet replicated it. Only an afternoon basking on a winery patio, post-pinot tasting, can do it.

Photo Credit: Temecula Valley Winegrowers]]>
<![CDATA[High Altitude Oompah: Big Bear Oktoberfest]]> Tue, 18 Aug 2015 17:42:49 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/206*120/bigbearokfest9323.jpg

MOUNTAIN AIR... is described in many ways, from "brisk" to "crisp" to "refreshing" to "clean," but however you label it, it is especially lovely come the fall. Thank the dropping temperatures for the fresh sense of brisk-a-tude on the breeze and thank the changing sunlight for lending a lovely look to the very atmosphere (a look that ups the general crispness of being outdoors). It is, in short, a prime time of year to do anything up at a higher elevation, but if your pursuit involves knee socks and chicken dancing and stein-holding contests and sauerkraut-laden dishes, well... You must be at Oktoberfest. The annual party benefits greatly from its autumn connection, for many people say fresh fall air increases the appetite and invigorates the blood, two nice things when you want to eat many sausages and pretzels and enjoy some traditional beer. Revelers attending the annual Oktoberfest in Big Bear will be enjoying many of those activities, and there shall be a full eight consecutive weekends in which to enjoy them. As with almost all Oktoberfests, the bash starts in September, and Big Bear gets the oompah music and lederhosen wearing going pretty early: Saturday, Sept. 12 is the opening date, and the not-far-from-the-lake good times last through Halloween day.

THERE SHALL BE SPECIAL DAYS, too, during the eight-weekend run, from an Official 45th Annual Celebration on Saturday, Sept. 19 to an "Unplugged" happening on Friday, Oct. 16 (think of this as a fine dining experience that will provide some background into the celebratory holiday). As for what's new in 2015? A German-Mexican fusion cantina'll be serving spicy-sauer bites and a bier garten will provide more outdoor seating. Perhaps you'll grab one of those outdoor seats, the better to soak in all of that brisk autumn air? It's an excellent time of year to be up the mountain, savoring fall, and enjoying dancing and beer and music and games and costumes, too. If ever a season and a celebration went together, along with a place, it is autumn and Oktoberfest and an alpine-y, or close-to-alpine, setting. No need to do all eight weekends, but one Saturday afternoon should give you the tangy taste of the trio: fall, mountain, celebration.

Photo Credit: Big Bear Oktoberfest]]>
<![CDATA[New: California Beer Fest San Dimas Grows]]> Mon, 17 Aug 2015 14:34:59 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/calbeerfestsandim.jpg

THE CRAFT BEER INDUSTRY, like all robust industries, forever seems to be on the up-and-up. New brewmakers arrive in town, new ways of making brew are tried out, new ingredients are introduced -- avocado, ginger, cinnamon -- and the whole roll-up-your-sleeves-and-make-fine-beer push pushes on a little further. This grow-on sentiment also applies to those foamy festivals spotlighting what Golden State sudsmakers are doing with their new releases and new ventures. Our state is pretty rife with weekend craft brew bashes and food 'n brew pairing parties, but those parties are, like the beer scene, ever-changing and ever-growing, too. Look to the California Beer Festival, one of the stalwarts on the annual beer calendar. It is an on-the-road celebration, a festival that begins in the Bay Area early in summer and moves down to Southern California in September, landing finally in San Dimas and Ventura. But while the end-of-the-road Ventura party has typically been a two-day thing for the California Beer Festival, San Dimas has traditionally filled a single day only, on the fest's calendar. That's changing in 2015, when the festival's San Dimas stop takes a full...

TWO DAYS... to introduce fans to dozens of labels made within California's borders and beyond. Saturday, Sept. 12 and Sunday, Sept. 13 are the dates, Frank G. Bonelli Park is the place, and when we say "dozens of labels" we mean over 85 in all. That means lining up your designated driver, or finding a local hotel to stay the night, is key before nabbing your ticket. The days aren't exactly the same, so take note before landing on which one you'll mark on your calendar. Saturday is "Craft Beer Heaven" and Sunday is all about "Hamburger & Hops" plus a lot of tunes, too. Want to see the scene without the suds? There's a designated driver ticket.

WANT TO GO VENTURA? That's happening the following weekend, and it is now a three-day affair. Dates are Sept. 18 through 20 and there's a stayover package at the nearby Marriott. Info? Here. List of to-dos and brewers? This way.

Photo Credit: California Beer Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Danish Days Delish: Aebleskiver-Eating Contest]]> Sun, 16 Aug 2015 09:05:37 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/arnesfamousaebleskiver.jpg

PLEASURE OF THE PASTRY: If you've spent a long and happy day in Solvang, and you're amenable to batter-licious balls of lightness and airiness, then you've likely spent a lazy twenty minutes enjoying forkful after forkful of an aebleskiver. For sure, the aebleskiver, an orb-like pancake-y creation that's the star sweet of Solvang -- the star food, really -- can be eaten in a more expedited manner. But if you've spent an afternoon wine tasting, or shopping for clogs and traditional Danish toys, you don't want to rush things in the aebleskiver-anticipation department. You're going to savor that little ball, jam and powdered sugar and all, as long as possible, while resting your tootsies.

PREPARE, SWEET EATERS: That, however, will not be the course of action for many eager aebleskiverers come Saturday, Sept. 19 and Sunday, Sept. 20. That's the weekend of Danish Days, the town's liveliest party (alongside the holiday-time Julefest and Taste of Solvang in the spring, of course), and one of the highlights of the weekend is the aebleskiver-eating contest. It is, in fact, such a highlight that it shows up twice on the schedule, though whether anyone attempts both contests in one weekend is a question. Because a lot of aebleskiver, chewed quickly, is filling, one can imagine. Though the time limit isn't too long. The contest lasts for five minutes. 

IF DEVOURING THE DOUGHY DELIGHTS... in fast fashion isn't your bag, you're in luck. There's an aebleskiver breakfast both mornings of the festival, at Copenhagen Drive & First Street, and for the price of seven bucks you can bite into the treat in a much more sedate and stately manner. Add a buck on and have some Danish sausage on the side, if you like (think sweet and savory, a twosome as tried-and-true as an aebleskiver and lingonberry or olallieberry jam).

NEED TIMES... on both the breakfast and the eating contest? They're a few hours apart on both Saturday and Sunday. Best wishes, aebleskiver aficionados, and a delightful Danish Days celebration to you, dear Town o' the Windmills and Wines.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Ball/Arne's Famous Aebleskiver]]>
<![CDATA[Happy 10 Years, Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon]]> Sun, 16 Aug 2015 09:05:19 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/surfdog5983903.JPG The Dog Beach Del Mar fundraiser'll feature Fidos and their humans riding the waves.

Photo Credit: Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon]]>
<![CDATA[Edible Education: Eating Ojai Tour]]> Sun, 13 Sep 2015 07:56:26 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/205*120/gazston-tower-daytimeojai.jpg

A PATENT ON AUTUMN ENJOYMENT: We wouldn't dare claim that any single California town owns a particular season outright, because every place has its charms, depending upon the time of the year. (Okay, heat waves maybe bring the charm down a notch most everywhere, granted.) But, come autumn, a number of more rustic villages, some close to mountains, some to the ocean, take on a mellowness and beauty that draw daytrippers from all points. Ojai is one such place, and while its citrus-growing ways can dominate the food lover's springtime visit, its ripening fruits and gold-turning leaves give its fall some distinct rustic-a-tude. Wanting a rustic day away, complete with the cuisine the foodie-nice area is known for, is thus a truly autumnal impulse, and one that can be fulfilled by joining a Ventura Food Tour. The easy-paced walk-around -- which leads to sampling, noshing, and the discussing of various dishes -- offers an Ojai Food Tour that takes on several shops and cafes through the main heart of the city. The upshot? You'll join your guide on a jaunt that includes "stopping at six different shops and restaurants for tastings and conversations with many of the shop owners and chefs that make Ojai the great dining destination that it is." 

CONVERSATION... is key to culinary enjoyment, so consider your Ojai eating adventure to be educational as well. Will you return home with a general sense of what locals like to sup on in the region? What grows well? What cooks who live there do best? You will, you will. A ticket is fifty four bucks, things rev up around 10:30 a.m. in downtown Ojai, and the walking and chowing down lasts for three hours. Call it lunch-plus, with some lively socializing and lookie-loo-ing thrown in. You can depart after that, for your home port, but if you're lingering in the area overnight, keep an eye out for the town's famous Pink Moment. It matters not if it is autumn or spring or summer or winter; the mountains surrounding the hamlet still take on a fruit-hued light come sundown. Could the Pink Moment be the visual dessert at the end of your Ojai Food Tour day? Try it and see if you don't feel sated upon seeing this one-of-a-kind sight.

Photo Credit: Gazston Gal]]>
<![CDATA[OC Offbeat: Recycled Fashion Show]]> Thu, 13 Aug 2015 13:35:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/foarunway02983023.jpg

IT'S NOT ALL THAT UNUSUAL... for a follower of fashion trends to spy a frock and think "hmm, I think I've seen that collar or belt somewhere before." Typically, though, the observer is trying to place the trend, or an earlier designer, who may have also used a similar shape or hue or cut. But that's not the couture-themed case at the annual fashion show that struts at the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach each August. If a fashion fan thinks "hmm, I think I've seen that collar before" they're remembering the time they used a coffee filter to make a pot of java or the can of beer they had last month. Because the runway model's collar may very well be made out of paper coffee filters or aluminum cans or old wire or a disregarded lampshade or any number of items that typically get tossed out. Those are the offbeat and alluring hallmarks of the Runway Fashion Show, which puts the emphasis on beautiful garments made out of traditionally recyclable materials. The models, decked out in gowns created by visionary designers, will once again strike a pose on the afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 15. 

IT'S YEAR SEVEN... for the show and there are four competition categories in all. Designers'll go for the top spot in Most Creative Concept, Most Glamorous & Elegant Red Carpet-Worthy Creation, Most Innovative Use of Materials, and Most Exciting Ensemble, and several celebrity judges, including fashion legend Cristina Ferrare, will make the ultimate call. Some of the get-ups may seem like standard fabric at first glance, but, upon a lean-in look, you're bound to see details and lines that reveal particular elements in the outfit hail from the recycle bin or a home's junk drawer. It's pretty heady stuff, and it works on two different fronts. The fashion front, of course, as the clothing is quite striking and covetable, but on the eco-nice front as well. Think of this annual show, which falls towards the end of the annual Festival of Arts calendar, as a visual reminder that things around the house, and in our lives, can achieve an excellent and creative and surprising second life. These pretty gowns prove it.

WANT TO ATTEND... the haute happening, which is hosted by model Melissa Biggs? Find info here. Want to see the Festival of Arts before it bids adieu for another year? Get to Laguna Beach by Aug. 31.

Photo Credit: Festival of Arts]]>
<![CDATA[Run, Ponies, Run: A Del Mar Stayover Deal]]> Wed, 12 Aug 2015 16:21:33 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/capereydelmar243232.jpg

THE DEL MAR THOROUGHBRED CLUB SEASON... vrooms as quickly as a well-primed thoroughbred at the front of the pack. One minute you're shopping for your fancy, over-the-top chapeau -- or even having a milliner make you an opening day hat to your specifications -- and the next minute the horses are heading off to the paddock for the last time of the season. We're just at about the halfway point, or a little past, and while classics like Donuts Day and the Food Truck Festival and great shows from bands like Steel Pulse are still to come, that ol' Labor Day Monday, when the club's light dim for the last time of the summer, will come as quickly as a speedy set of hooves. So what will you do? You can definitely head to the ocean-close landmark for a few hours, the better to jump up and down, excitedly, as your pick rounds the curve, or you can rest up, nearby, from all the excited jumping up and down at...

CAPE REY: The Carlsbad-based resort has several summer-nice packages on, but one is focused on its mane-magnificent neighbor. The Pony Package deal includes a pair of classic juleps ahead of the race you're off to see, or, if minty sips aren't your thing, then mimosas. You'll also score a picnic pack, too, so your vittles'll be lined up for race day. And, perhaps sweetest of all, you'll catch a ride from the Hilton property to the track and back, so finding parking won't even need cross your mind. Sunscreen, a racing form, and other "in-room amenities" await.

SADDLE UP: August is flapping away like reins dancing on a windy day, so finding some Del Mar Thoroughbred Club time, and a nice place to stay as part of the your trip to the track, should happen forthwith. No fancy hat is required, like opening day, but no one is going to stop you from donning old-school track wear, like seersucker or a breezy dress. It is, after all, a fabled and historic place to cheer on the ponies. Why not make the most of it?

Photo Credit: Cape Rey]]>
<![CDATA[Palm Springs Chic: High-Heeled Shoe Exhibit]]> Tue, 11 Aug 2015 15:29:21 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/psNicholasKirkwoodPump.jpg Fabulous footwear gets the museum treatment.

Photo Credit: Palm Springs Art Museum/Nicholas Kirkwood]]>
<![CDATA[Winning Wheels: Pebble Beach Concours D'Elegance]]> Mon, 10 Aug 2015 12:09:22 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/concours2008_RK_BestofShow_007.jpg The gleamingest glamour cars stop and show along the coast.

Photo Credit: Kimball Studios/Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance]]>
<![CDATA[Joshua Tree for Pet People]]> Sat, 08 Aug 2015 10:39:47 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/197*120/lorijeweljoshua.jpg

BIRDS OVERHEAD, LIZARDS BELOW... and all around nature and animalia and beauty and beasties. Where are you? Well, you could be in many spots around the Golden State, but we're picturing Joshua Tree National Park, a haven for winged, tail-sporting creatures who burrow and soar and lend so much life and color to the boulder-beautiful expanse. But inviting along our own furry friends to join us on a trip to the Joshua Tree region is more of a question mark. Will the place we stay welcome our four-footed pal? Where will we feel comfortable and welcome? 

THERE ARE ANIMAL-SWEET STAYOVERS... throughout the arid area. Look to the Thunderbird Lodge Retreat, which welcomes an array of animals onto the property, including horses. A sextet of cabins gives visitors a little more room to move about, and a visit with Jewel, the resident llama, is a must. The guest areas include "pet-safe fences," too, so your time on the property is a relaxing one.

OTHER HOTELS AND MOTELS... say hello to hounds, including Black Rock Campground of Yucca Valley, The Green Acres Ranch in Joshua Tree, Mojave Sands Motel in Joshua Tree, and the DogSpa Resort & Wellness Center in Desert Hot Springs (look for the swimming pool created just for pups). If you want to head into the park and need a place for your pet to chillax during the day, there are places to sit and board, too. Just check with your front desk.

AS FAR AS... the dogs-are-okay-here eateries around the area? Hangouts like Pie for the People in Joshua Tree and Sherman's Deli & Bakery say yes to pooches on the patio. As always, take the weather and temperature into consideration when traveling into the often toasty area, and make plans for your sweet mutt to stay near an interior A/C, with his dog bed or cooling floor at the ready, while you do any sightseeing. But no more does a jaunt into one of California's most spectacular stretches mean bidding your baby goodbye. Several area businesses want to make a good vacation happen for you both.

Photo Credit: Thunderbird Lodge/Angela Barker]]>