<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Worth the Trip]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcsandiego.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.com en-us Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:38:14 -0700 Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:38:14 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Beachy Breezes: California Wine Festival]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:30:39 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/CWFestivalOC.jpg

CALIFORNIA LIVING: When people talk about the quintessential Golden State lifestyle, what exactly do they mean? Well, easy-breezy days and no-worry weekends are way up on the list, two things often symbolized by surfing, skiing, or a combination of both. Suntans are a popular symbol of the lifestyle, and sundresses, and shorts, and anything that connotes a good amount of outdoor living. And drinking wine by the beach near sunset? Please, that's practically California (TM). Truly, that's the image that kicks off the whole California lifestyle discussion, hands and wine glasses down. Throw some jazzy jazz or yacht rock or seagull cries into the mix and you've got the ideal state postcard. But that scene isn't just a dream: It happens every year, when the two-city, oh-so-mega California Wine Festival pulls into Dana Point. Pulls in with bottle after bottle after bottle from growers and award-nabbing vintners from across this lush, grape-producing land. And, yep, Dana Point indeed means that all of that wine tasting goes down very much adjacent to the beach. Dates? The last weekend in April, with the Beachside Wine Festival happening from 1 to 4 p.m.

SO, OKAY... you won't quite be at ocean-close Lantern Bay Park at sunset, but you'll be there at the perfect time to do the ray-catching thing (wear sunscreen). Tickets are $59 in advance and $80 at the gate and the labels on the tables? Niner Wine Estates, Klinker Brick Winery, and Tara Bella Winery are three of the dozens. (If you think "dozens" is merely poetic license, here's the hefty list.) Live tunes and other ease-through-the-afternoon amenities are afoot. Can't make the Orange County to-do on April 26? It heads for Santa Barbara in July, and, yep, many, many new wineries'll show. (If you think "many, many is merely poetic license, here's the hefty list.)

Photo Credit: California Wine Festival]]>
<![CDATA[The Flower Fields, by Tractor and Air]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 17:31:08 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/tractorflowerfields1.jpg

STROLLING THROUGH A BOUNTIFUL GARDEN... is the very tried-and-true activity that legendary Impressionist paintings have been built around. Picture the proper lady with her proper parasol, and perhaps a tiny dog, some soft rays of sunshine, and the grand and timeless act of the flower-admiring promenade. But sometimes we want to take to bud-bedecked plots of land in a fresh manner, one that isn't just about the saunter 'n sniff. The Flower Fields of Carlsbad, which have just about a month more to go -- they're open through Mother's Day, as is annual tradition -- have a few offbeat ways for petalists to get their fill of all that fabulous hue and eye-poppery.

THE FIRST METHOD? You can head out into the miles and miles of ranunculus via a tractor. Okay, nope, there aren't "miles and miles" of The Flower Fields's symbolic flower, but it just seems that way when you're chuggin, via an agricultural vehicle, through all the pink and yellow and red. You're actually on a wagon -- the tractor is at the lead -- giving you twist-around room to take in all of that flowerage. Doesn't that sound like a wholesome, picture-perfect, yee-haw-y kind of day out? We'd wear overalls, too, or gingham, to complete the scene.

SHOULD YOU BE LOOKING... for a different way to view the ranuculus, however, here's a way you can, right now: A video is giving fans the bird's eye view. While there are no daily helicopter rides over the Carlsbad destination, you can go on a flight, right now, right here:

Flower Fields, Carlsbad, CA 4/4/14 with DJI Phantom Vision 2 Quadracopter Pt.1 from D Lancaster on Vimeo.

Photo Credit: The Flower Fields]]>
<![CDATA[Mega Run: Badwater Goes Salton Sea]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 12:19:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Salton+Sea1.jpg

DRIVEN BY THE SALTON SEA? Then you know it, and the Anza-Borrego Desert to the west, have a quiet, big-sky'd vastness that seems to have arisen from a painter's brush or a poem about remote and epic spaces. You probably stick to your wheels, mostly, except to get out at vantage points and look across the water, or the scrubby hills, contemplating the earth and clouds and other Important Thoughts of Life. Have those Important Thoughts of Life, though, included what it might be like to hoof it over 81 miles, through the Anza-Borrego and to the crest of Palomar Mountain and along the shoreline of the Salton Sea? Maybe, maybe not. But that's just what several elite runners will do over the first Monday and Tuesday in May, when they tie on the running shoes and head out for a very warm -- very, very warm -- and memorable super-run through some of Southern California's most scenic wild places. It's Badwater Salton Sea

YEP... if you're thinking you've heard the term "Badwater" before, you have. It's a gorgeous and alien place in Death Valley, of course, where a summertime run, in a three-digit swelter, has challenged some of the top runners on the planet. The Salton Sea event isn't quite so middle-of-the-summer-y, but trust: legging it over 81 miles in two days is nothing to sniff at. The race begins in Salton City, which is 125 feet below sea level, and ends at Palomar Mountain, "almost the tallest mountain in San Diego County" (the finish line checks in at 5500 feet above sea level).

LOVE A GOOD RUNNING CHALLENGE? The Palm Springs Tram Road Challenge sends runners straight up, or nearly, for 3.7 miles of San Jacinto each autumn. That doesn't sound too hard, but picture climbing some 2000 feet in elevation. Yep. It's major.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Spring Flowers: Death Valley's "Wild Surprise"]]> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 12:38:52 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/179*120/dvflowers_6.jpg A bigger bloom than expected, given the dry winter, is popping in the desert.

Photo Credit: Furnace Creek Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Move Over, Hidden Mickeys: Disneyland Launches an Egg Search]]> Sat, 12 Apr 2014 10:09:51 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/181*120/disneyeggs2014.jpeg

IT'S A FACT... of pop culture that the iconic Disney characters fit well with practically any product, shape, or thing under the Anaheim sun. Stroll Disneyland's Main Street and you'll see Mickey-eared balloons, Minnie cups, jewelry that's both glamorous and Goofy. But few shapes fit the Disney dream team as well as the egg. Paint a Donald on an oblong orb and ta-da! You've got a Donald Duck egg. Super Disney fans do this at home, each Easter, putting in some painstaking hours on the colorful process, but a certain Orange County theme park is in on the holiday act, too. For the second time Disney California Adventure, and for the first time Disneyland, will "hide" character-cute eggs throughout the park for fans to find. The name? It's EGG-stravaganza 2014, you betcha.

IN ON THE YOLK: The deal on this limited-time map-o-rama? It runs through Easter -- that's Sunday, April 20 -- and you'll need to nab a special map (that's $4.95 and available at select retailers in both parks, like the Gag Factory in Toontown). Then you're off to spy the seasonal ornaments, sticking stickers on your map as you go. There are a dozen characters in all, so it won't take up your whole morning -- although it certainly could, if you want it to draw out the search -- and some new characters have been added for this year. And, yep: There's a surprise at the end that has to do with the hunt itself.

DOES THIS MEAN... that more people in the parks'll be on the lookout for eggs over Hidden Mickeys? Well, maybe not; those Mickeys are major. But think of EGG-stravaganza as an offbeat way to see the Disney sights, buildings, and landscape as you keep your eyes peeled. Yep, we said "peeled" there -- egg joke.


Photo Credit: Disneyland]]>
<![CDATA[Vegas New: SLS Debut, Neon Nights, Offbeat Sweets]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 14:54:15 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/slsvegas.jpg

YOU DON'T HAVE TO KNOW VEGAS... all that well to recognize it as the change-iest city in all the land. New towers rise; a few towers fall; and restaurants are forever reimagining themselves, their menus, their waitstaff uniforms, and, above all, their brand, look, and presentation.

Fresh things flow down The Strip like so many winds through the nearby canyon, for sure. The new stuff tempts regulars to come and see the new-new-new while tempting not-so-regulars with nifty ideas and outrageous takes on things we thought we knew already. Cadbury Creme Egg Souffle, anyone?

Here's what au courant around Sin City:

SLS Vegas Hotel & Casino:  The SLS in Beverly Hills in an artsy bon bon of a seen-and-be-seen-scene, with playful monkeys dominating the logo, fancy foaming cocktails, and the eye-poppingest decor around. Count on the Vegas property to be as swanky, cheeky, and foam-filled, at least on the beverage front. Is it due for a huge Labor Day Weekend opening? It is. Are reservations on first rooms being accepted now? They are. Can you actually stay *ahead* of the opening, starting on Aug. 25? Indeed. And is the hotel in the former Sahara, meaning some retro throwbackery'll be afoot? You just have to see for yourself.

The Chocolate Cadbury Egg Souffle: Now this one is just tickling us, for timeliness, Vegas-o-sity, and holiday cheek. Andre's Restaurant & Lounge at the Monte Carlo has an Easter dessert on built around what is basically the go-to indulgence of April: the Cadbury egg. Once we heard about it we thought about it for the next hour, we'll admit it. Tempted? It's there through Easter Sunday, for 15 bucks.

The Neon Sign Summit: One might view the neon sign through the window of time, as though the tube-bright icons are a thing of the past. But sign smarties of today will gather at Sin City's Neon Museum to talk signs -- past, present, and future -- and what lies ahead. Cool for the neon fan or anybody into the character of cities and how businesses present themselves. Date? Tuesday, April 22.

Photo Credit: SLS Vegas]]>
<![CDATA[Shadow of the Moon Star Party]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 14:58:06 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/shadowofthemoon_dennism.jpg

WHERE ARE YOU... on the night of a lunar event? Are you inside, re-watching the same funny animal video you've seen a dozen times? Are you washing your socks? Scrubbing your tub? Don't guffaw. Plenty of people hear a special sky moment is ahead, only to let it pass out of their ether while thinking "there'll be more of those." Well, indeed, but isn't nice to take the excited, non-jaded approach and build your evening around watching the cosmic event, rather than catching it later online? The tub can wait and your socks can, too, especially when there's a Blood Moon involved.

OH, DID WE SAY "BLOOD MOON"? We did indeed, for that's straight ahead on Monday, April 14-Tuesday, April 15. It's quite the dramatic moniker, which suits the dramatic and rare spectacle: A total eclipse of the moon, with a slight reddening, due to earthly light refraction (not the earth's light, of course, but our planet bouncing some sunlight the moon's way). If catching this later, online, after you fold your socks, sounds unsatisfactory, here's the far more meaningful route: Make for the desert, where astronomer Dennis Mammana will be setting up the big telescope and talking all things eclipse.

BORREGO SPRINGS RESORT & SPA... is the spot and April 14 is the night (the eclipse will start before midnight on the West Coast). Other "amateur astronomers" will be on hand to look up with hotel guests. Oh, yes, that's right: The hotel has a sleepover package on, paired with the eclipse watching, for $101, based on double occupancy. There's a way to attend the star party without staying at the hotel, too, but since you'll be there into the wee smalls, won't you want to retire to your hotel room, to snooze off all of the moon madness? There aren't many hotels in the world that bring in the telescopes when something spectacular happens in the sky, but Borrego Springs has one. Go, astronomy aficionados. The socks and tub-scrubbing can wait.

Photo Credit: Dennis Mammana]]>
<![CDATA[Great Museum Discounts: Discover the Arts LA]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 17:32:53 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/grammyphoto83886441.jpg

EVERY OTHER ARTICLE... these days is trumpeting the creative surge Los Angeles is currently experiencing. This is nothing new -- the articles started 'round the time that the Getty Center opened back in the late '90s -- but with Westwood's Hammer Museum dropping its admission and the Broad Contemporary Art Museum set to debut downtown later this year, the praise continues. But it isn't just the dropped-admission stuff and the new places getting the love; the region brims with interesting institutions, covering everything from photography to the history of modern music (hellooooo, Grammy Museum). Could you see all of the city's top cultural treats in two days? Not even. No way, no how. But could you pick two or three spots, even though that's a lot, and truly focus, soak it in, savor, learn, enjoy? All of those things, yes. If this tempts, and surely it does, check it out: Discover Los Angeles, the visitor-hello arm of LA, has a save-money-grow-minds deal on through May 18. Heading to LA? Planning on a hotel stay? You're in luck, museumist.

BECAUSE HERE'S THE DEAL: Reserve a room at a participating hotel and get a two-for-one dealie at places like the Grammy Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Getty Center, the Petersen Automotive Museum, and The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (which truly will be in top bloom during the promotion's springtime period, so good timing there). You'll also nab 50% off, museum gift shop-style. Yep. That's solid stuff. Can you do it? Headed to LA for a graduation? Mother's Day? Just for the heck? "Just for the heck" is so underrated, by the by. Find your hotel and cultural institution, and get planning before the middle of May blows through.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Historic Holiday: La Quinta Easter]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 13:12:42 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/193*120/ShirleyTempleEasterPhotoLaQuintaResort.jpg

EGG HUNT STANDARDS: What makes the perfect egg hunt? You can say "grass" as your first suggestion, but there are little ones who happily search for the color-pretty orbs of spring both in snow and in desert landscapes (and, very often, inside houses and apartments). You can say "flowers" next, but even those aren't totally essential. A basket? Yep, that's important -- gotta have somewhere to stow all of those eggs. And what about a cameo by the Big Bunny? If he's not too busy, we do love to see him hop on by a hunt.

SO... while it is true that none of those things are required to have an excellent Easter egg search, having all of them, plus a lot more, is pretty special. A few California resorts go all out on this front, including La Quinta Resort & Spa in the desert. Yep, it has flowers -- many, many blossoms come April -- and it has grass and it has over 40 pools. Wait, that doesn't have much to do with egg huntery, right? Right. Still, it is worth a mention, because, uh, that's a whole bunch of pools. But what La Quinta boasts the most is a long holiday history. Is that Miss Shirley Temple at the famous resort, a longtime playplace for Hollywood? And is she there on Easter? Why yes, indeed. It's sweet.

THE 2014 HIPPITY-HOPPING HAPS... will be as convivial as years gone by. Two egg hunts shall go down on the bud-filled grounds, and photos with the Easter Bunny, and face painting and Easter egg painting, too. Plus a bounce house, which you don't normally get at a hotel. (Question: When will the first bounce hotel open? Entrepreneurs, get on it, please.) It's just a sunny and warm and long-history'd spot to egg-hunt-it-up on Easter, so dig out the bonnets, bow ties, and camera. La Quinta is ready to take the wayback machine to all the Easters of yore, all in the name of traditional fun.

Photo Credit: La Quinta Resort & Club]]>
<![CDATA[Hot Clubs: Golfing in Death Valley]]> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 12:22:06 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/deathvalleygolfspringfling.jpg

CAN TEMPERATURES... already be pushing up in the desert? If it is springtime, the answer is a resounding you betcha. Even the Sierra getting an early April snow dump, and breezy winds are cooling the coast, the desert starts to feel the soft side of a sizzle, especially around high noon. This means many things -- pool time, bike time, horseback riding time -- but it definitely means golf, especially around Death Valley. Oh, didn't know the lowest and driest spot in all of North America came with a few places to putt? Indeed it does, and, yep, golfing is good pretty all year long. But the tourney come in the spring and summer, along with the rising Fahrenheit, which a number of golf aficionados find just fine. Want to jump into the competition? Or just find a great golf package, the better to swing on your own? Then check out...

SPRING FLING: It's the first of a trio of on-the-greens competition, and it is on the weekend before Easter. That's April 11 through 13, so maybe -- maybe? -- you'll catch a few Death Valley wildflowers on your trip in. Prefer things toastier? The famous Heatstroke swings in June, when temps are well into the three digits. And the Fall Kick-Off is in early October. Fall is the best time, for all pursuits, in the D.V. Right?

STAY & PLAY: If you'd rather not pull your bag into competition, you can still reserve a golf package at Furnace Creek. Upshot? A night at the Inn at Furnace Creek or Furnace Creek Ranch, a day of unlimited play, and other golfian goodies. And one bonus, if you don't mind the intense sun? Prices drop in the summertime. Truly, how many courses can say that? For the details on playing one of the world's most unusual golf courses, play through now.

Photo Credit: Furnace Creek]]>
<![CDATA[Two Harbors High Jinks: Shipwreck Weekend]]> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 18:30:29 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/shipwreckcatalina876.jpg

YOU MIGHT HAVE NOTICED... oh, over the last decade or so, that there have been a lively proliferation of pirate-themed festivals, costume contests, and to-dos. Thank, in large part, "The Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise -- we're all a little enamored with Captain Jack Sparrow -- and thank the growing industry of cosplay-themed fan conventions. And while most of these gatherings are cool and colorful and packed with the spirit of "arrrr" they're mostly... in convention halls or in parks or, yes, occasionally, in a harbor, near a boat. High fives all around to every last pirate party, though pirates high five to celebrate or do something wilder, like climb a mast? We have questions.

BUT... only a few gatherings dominated by tri-cornered hat- and breech-wearing crowds actually go down on actual islands, as in, places fully surrounded by water, as in, hunks of land located out in the ocean. One close to Southern California does, however. It's called Shipwreck Weekend, and while you might correctly guess it is on Catalina Island -- it is indeed -- your next guess should probably not be Avalon, the island's main hub.

INDEED... it is a Two Harbors party, which makes us want to give a hearty "matey" or fist pump. (Do pirates give fist pumps to celebrate or do something wilder, like dance on the plank?) Two Harbors, as island aficionados know, does not have the visitor traffic of bigger Avalon, meaning it is the ideal place to go all old-timey pirate. Though the party, which arrrrrs from Friday, April 11 through Sunday, April 13, isn't all old-timey -- live tunes and adult beverages shall dominate. Oh, and for color, a costume contest and a treasure hunt. People do dress up, they do get down, and they do enjoy the quaint burg over a pretty spring weekend. Will it make you feel as though you're a real ye olden pirate? Wellll... perhaps not, what with the electricity for the band's instruments and various drink mixers, but revelers do get into the high-seas spirit.

Photo Credit: Shipwreck Catalina]]>
<![CDATA[The Llamas of El Capitan Canyon]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 13:13:37 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/197*120/llamaelcap1.jpg

WHETHER... March is in like a lamb and out like a lion, or vice versa, can confound some people, even people who use the phrase, year after year, to describe the season's famous bluster. But whether you feel solid in your lion-lamb usage, one thing is for sure: 'Tis the season to admire furry animals of a sheeply, pasture-pretty sort. Spring demands it, really, by its very nature, given that the world is in a state of renewal, and alongside that renewal come the newborn beasties. But you don't need to visit with a brand new baby animal to savor this springly connection; walking among sheep and llamas and goats, in a gorgeous, not-too-far-from-the-beach setting, should do the trick. As should a rustic-type stayover in a cabin, tent, or yurt. Nope, you can't visit with llamas at most hotels in the Golden State, or even casual countrified inns, but you can at El Capitan Canyon of Santa Barbara. They've got beasties on the property, and a beastie-inclusive package on for spring: The Springtime Adventure Package.

THE PACKAGE... is on through most of the spring, wrapping up on June 12. The deal? Two nights in a Creekside Canyon Cabin, a guided hike -- make that privately guided -- out to see the property's llamas, sheep, and goats, a massage for two, and hot breakfast coupons. Call it rustic posh, with some spring-furry animal admiring thrown in, to keep you grounded as to the time of the year. It's a Sunday through Thursday thing and starts at $795, with some extras and asterisk. We're not going to demand that you have some lamb- or sheep-type interaction, but, please: It's spring. You can see the springtime animals on greeting cards and wrapping paper or you can get out and enjoy nature in a natural setting for a few days. (Choose the latter.)

Photo Credit: El Capitan Canyon]]>
<![CDATA[Happy 100th, Yuma!]]> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 09:35:00 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/YumaScenicRiver1.jpg

THERE'S NO DOUBT ABOUT IT: Yuma has been around for awhile, or the place that is now known as Yuma. But the city became citified, with a brand-new spankin' charter and all, back in 1914, which means that the Colorado River port -- we can call the famous desert city a port, right? -- is celebrating its centennial this year.

And, nope, the former rough-and-tumble Old-West-y town is not going to simply hand out fliers at city hall, reminding people of the auspicious occasion. Yuma is doing it up right, with a week-long affair, kicking off on Monday, April 7 with, what else...

ICE CREAM: Make that free ice cream. Is there a better way to commemorate one of the sunniest, and, you betcha, high-temperature-iest cities in all of the union than a frosty treat? Nope, it's gotta be a scoop of something cold. A new sign proclaiming Yuma as "Gateway of the Great Southwest" shall be unveiled, too. Mmm, ice cream and big signs reveals: You don't typically get either on a Monday.

THE REST OF THE CENTENNIAL WEEK... will have plenty of historic and celebratory happenings. Tuesday'll be a Western wear day, Thursday has fireworks, and Saturday, April 12? That's the Centennial Music Fest. Creedence Clearwater Revisited shall jam it out, as well as other bands. And to complement the tuneage? The Yuma Taco Festival. Ohhhh yeah. Tacos, songs, the big sky, West-wild history, sun, sun, sun, and a chance to admire the mighty Colorado River? That sounds like a happy 100th to us. Make it a good one, Yuma.

Photo Credit: Yuma]]>
<![CDATA[Fab Photo Contest: The Flower Fields]]> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 11:35:44 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/218*120/flowerfieldsphoto1345.jpg

COMMON SIGHT: What's the thing you're most apt to see at Carlsbad's famous Flower Fields come April? Nope, not bees, or other flitting flying creatures, although they're around (it's like they can read the sign outside that says "The Flower Fields" or something). Not sun hats, either, although they are plentiful. You're even apt to see the occasional parasol, out among the pretty ranunculus petals. Give up? You know the answer: cameras. Photographic equipment, whether it's a smart phone or a full-on, lens-heavy, serious tripod set-up, are common sights at the springtime-gorgeous destination. That's because the rows and rows (and rows and rows) of pink and yellow and red flowers, backed against the soft blue sky that the ocean-y community delivers, make for great pictures. But wait -- does "great" go far enough, really? When The Flower Fields are fully in bloom, as they tend to be come April, every picture is THE picture, or nearly. People frame them, share them, and submit them to contests. Wait. Did we say "contests" right then?

WE DID: It so happens that The Flower Fields and Canon have a photo contest on. The delightful deal? Upload a fab photo or video to Facebook, where a winner'll be chosen weekly by the community. Weekly winners nab two season passes for next year and the grand prize winner? Ohhh yeahhh, a $250 Canon gift card from Oceanside Photo & Telescope. That is nothing to sniff at (unless you're sniffing a pretty flower). The question is whether you'll keep sharing your spectacular photos of the fields with friend or whether you go for a bigger prize -- passes or a photo-nice gift card. Yep, you'll be back next year, snapping more pics when the ranunculus do their hue-amazing act, as they do each April.



Photo Credit: The Flower Fields]]>
<![CDATA[Sin City's Star Sips: UNLVino]]> Sat, 05 Apr 2014 09:40:09 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/bubbleliciousvolunteervegas.jpg

IS THERE ANY CITY... to compare to Las Vegas in terms of restaurant design and presentation? Walls swoop and fountains burble and entryways glow and giant walls of glass glimmer. That's just the frosting on the appearance cake, but the cake itself? It's very often how the wine is displayed. A restaurant's cellar may be a tower in the center of a room or take up a full wall, a vast cabinet where rare labels may be ogled over during dinner. There's no hiding the wine in Sin City, in short: It is front and centered and cooed over and trumpeted. And it is no surprise that the city's wine-oriented happenings take on the high sheen that's seen in restaurant presentations. The to-dos are splashy, the wine is fine, the big names are bigger. UNLVino is one of the top wine doings in Nevada, the state's "original wine event," and it pops its cork for year 40 from Wednesday, April 9 through Saturday, April 12.

CHARD OR CAB? Four days equal a whole mess of tastings, including Sip & Savor, which'll feature none other than Wolfgang Puck, the merry impresario of the modern fresh California cuisine movement. (Question: Do you automatically think Chardonnay when thinking of a Puck pizza, or is that just us?) But perhaps we should call the chef the wizard of Nevada noshes, too, given that he oversees a septet of local Sin City restaurants. Other events? A barbecue at the Caesars Palace Garden of the Gods pool is on the roster -- that sound pretty dang fun, ribbing it up amongst the elegant statuary -- and a bubbly-nice event at The Venetian's Doge's Palace Plaza. A Grand Tasting, too, is part of the glass-lifting. Events are priced a la carte-ly, so you can pick and choose should you want to fill your Vegas visit with a few non-wine excursions. But, seriously, you're probably going to walk into a restaurant, at some point, with a massive glittery wine wall. That's just the outlandish way of wine presentation 'round those parts, and thank goodness, too.

Photo Credit: a]]>
<![CDATA[Queen Mary Mmm: West Coast BBQ Classic]]> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 13:01:37 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/209*120/queenmarybbq908.jpg

PITMASTERS UNITE: When it comes to an outstanding barbecue confab, it is best to have a mix of contenders at the grills. You want the long-timers around, people who've held a sauce brush or twenty or a thousand, the kind of women and men who could dry rub a steak with their apron over their eyes. You want a few renegades in the batch, people who'll throw in the odd spice or two, and newcomers? They're wont to want to set their own path in the world of the 'Q, so innovation is not unusual. It's also a good to gather people from yonder and nearby, too, just to have some flavorful regional balance. That's one of the feathers in the cap of the West Coast BBQ Classic, which is set to get smoky for another year at the Queen Mary on Saturday, May 10. It's geo-diverse, and taste-diverse, too, so the "West Coast" designation is merely where it is set, and not its regional style. Every barbecue buff has to be behind that, because, truly, is any one fan strictly about Kansas City flavors or Texas sauces? Nope. We're all pretty across the board, and thank goodness, too.

DETAILS AND PRICES: The all-afternoon long eat-out kicks off at 11 a.m. Parking is twelve bucks, getting in is fifteen bucks (ten in advance), and tasting tickets? They're two dollars each. Chicken, ribs, pork, and brisket'll be the meats doing the smoking-saucing thing, and the chefs? They'll be going for big cash and a mondo title, so bet the bites will be in top, savory form. Music, watermelon, and cobbler-eating contests round things out. Uh, can we *start* with the cobbler and make for the meats second? That wouldn't be gauche or anything right? Because we'll want both, right away.

Photo Credit: Queen Mary]]>
<![CDATA[Rare Chance: Explore a New Channel Islands Spot]]> Mon, 31 Mar 2014 10:57:57 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/willowsanchorageislandpackers.jpg

CALLING ANY PART... of any island "fresh" or "new" or "now" is bound to summon a smile from most listeners. Hunks of ocean-surrounded land, for the most part, have been around for a few years, doing their whole growing-of-flora, supporting-of-fauna, spanning-the-eons thing while subtly eroding with the tides or changing due to volcanic activity. But? But. But saying there are newer beaches and coves that rarely receive visits from we humans is entirely correct. The travel magazine trade does very well on this idea, frequently putting a sultry shore on its cover with words "unspoiled" somewhere in the copy. Those sandy stretches, though, aren't all thousands of miles away from us. They're a morning's drive from Southern California. Well, Ventura is, and you can hop a boat there, and head out with Island Packers, and enjoy the glorious Channel Islands. Know 'em well? Then here's a twist: The boat company is heading to a new spot on Saturday, April 26.

PREPARE TO KNOW... Santa Cruz Island's Willow's Anchorage, which certainly bears a name straight from a 19th-century adventure novel. Calling it "one of the most picturesque anchorages on Santa Cruz," the area is indeed a pretty one. "Offshore rocks and sandstone bluffs accentuate a pristine white sand beach that sits at the mouth of one of the larger watersheds on the south side of the island." A naturalist will be on the trip, so you can head out and learn about the island's wild side, or you can show with snorkel or scuba gear and dive beneath the waves. "(R)are wildlife sightings" could happen, given that the "water is warmer on the south side" of the island. Want to book your spot? Best do so, new beach seeker. An adult ticket is $65, and there are things to know before digging out your mask and flippers.

Photo Credit: Island Packers]]>
<![CDATA[Catalina's Amazing Airborne Aquatic Stars]]> Sat, 29 Mar 2014 11:15:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/flyingfishfestival1.jpg

IF YOU'VE MADE IT ONTO A VINTAGE POSTCARD... you've made it, period. Isn't this true for most famous attractions found in California's best beloved getaways? Look at any old-school, hue-rich, linen-era postcard made 80 or 90 years ago, and see if an area's go-to symbols haven't pretty much remained intact and as ever popular. Exhibit A? Catalina Island. You're apt to find historic postcards featuring the Casino building, the buffalo, and, you betcha, the flying fish. Those seasonal superstars -- they rather like the summer months, you probably know -- are as sought-after now as they were in the 1930s, when tourists would head out onto nighttime boats starting in May, with the hope that something aquatic and be-gill'd would flap out of the water in the way a bird might. And lest you think the popularity of Catalina Island's flying fish would ever take a break or waver, fear not, fin fans: The Flying Fish Festival returns from May 29 through June 1, prime time for seeing these wonders of the deep.

ORRRR... not so deep, since the flying fish start their amazing "flight" from just below the water's surface. It truly is a wonder to see, but if you prefer to put some time in on shore, plenty'll be going down during the four-day festival. Taste Around of Avalon, Avalon Restaurant Week, sand sculptures, music, beach bingo, and the cardboard boat derby are just a handful of the doings. Call it old-school summer-greeting high jinks, with a wet and whimsical celebrity at its heart: the flying fish. Yep, they'll be back, as they always are. Nope, they don't have tiny calendars beneath the waves -- those would get soggy, after all -- but perhaps they know that they've been showing up as a postcard favorite 'round Catalina for the better part of a century. And you know what they say: If you make the early postcards, you're a local classic.

Photo Credit: Catalina Island]]>
<![CDATA[Posh Wheels: La Jolla Concours D'Elegance]]> Sat, 29 Mar 2014 11:14:29 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/jollaconcours234.JPG

IT CAN BE A SURPRISE... and a treat to come across a vintage, gleaming, and oh-so-loved-upon Bentley or Bugatti just down at the grocery store parking lot or the mall. You can't believe your eyes at first, but then you draw close, walking around it, circling, wanting to touch, wanting to get a nearer peep at the pristine dash and gears. If only? If only. But then, you're off to your errands, your noggin full of car dreams. But there is a place and weekend where daily errands are stowed and car dreams my flourish. The place? Ellen Browning Scripps Park in The Cove. The weekend? Friday, April 11 through Sunday, April 13. And the fender-fabulous happening? The La Jolla Concours D'Elegance.

HAPPY 10th: The fine automobile extravaganza crosses the decade threshold with this year's outing, and what a wallop of an outing it shall be. Bentleys and Bugattis'll be in the house, as mentioned, as well as a caboodle of Rolls Royces, Cadillacs, and a Duesenberg, too. "(H)orseless carriages, Italian marques, British marques, Woodies, '50s classics, American sports cars (with a salute to GM on their 50th anniversary), and the automobiles of Carroll Shelby" will also be featured. It isn't all about playing satellite to your favorite vehicles and peeking in a hundred windows; events and gatherings dot the three days, including a Rolls Royce cocktail party and a Bentley Exclusive VIP Saturday Evening Reception. Posh doings for people who love the history of style-packed cars, ahoy.

TICKETS: Each to-do is ticketed separately, but if you want to swing by the main, look-at-all-the-pretty-cars happening on Sunday, April 13, admission is forty dollars. Best of all? Lots and lots of autos, and, nope, you can spend hours enjoying. No glancing at a single surprise car in the mall parking lot as you dash inside, erranding. Just pure car-focused fun.

Photo Credit: La Jolla Historical Society]]>
<![CDATA[Beasties and Beauty: National Park Week]]> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 14:05:56 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/npsjoshua1.jpg

GRANDEUR AND GLORY: It deserves no spoiler alert, and we don't have to be hush-hush as we mention it, but here goes: The National Parks? They're always there. Always. The sequoias don't pack up and head to a warehouse each night at 10 p.m. and the boulders of Joshua Tree have a rather profound way of staying put, regardless if visitors are around to see them or not. So it would not be inaccurate to say that it is always National Park Week, Day, Night, Hour, Minute, as long as rivers are flowing and cliffs are, uh, cliffing and the wilderness is being its wonderfully wild self. But an actual scheduled National Park Week is something nice and indeed important for we humans to reflect upon. It gives us a chance to pay tribute to these epic destinations, many of which are at our proverbial doorstep here in California. And, indeed, it gives us a chance to slip in free, at least for a couple of days in April, and at least at a few of the parks that typically charge admission.

AND THOSE DAYS ARE... Saturday, April 19 and Sunday, April 20. That happens to be Easter weekend, as well, so a lot of families might be on the road and near a natural wonder that's ripe for the (free) visiting. But even if you can't make the fee-free days, National Park Week is, indeed, a week. That means it extends from April 19 through 27 and it is chock full of special doings. Point Reyes National Seashore will feature a gray whale-focused to-do during the week, and Junior Rangers get the spotlight in the Santa Monica Mountains. Wherever you go to experience nature, and however you do it -- by hiking, volunteering, bird-watching, rafting, or just chillaxing -- the week is a fine time to reflect on these natural gifts and all that they bring.

Photo Credit: NPS]]>
<![CDATA[Re-Debut: Ritz-Carlton at Rancho Mirage]]> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 14:05:32 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ranchoritzopening.jpg

POSH WITH A DESERT VIEW: A luxurious vacation is often presented as a time of cut-crystal flutes and ponderous chandeliers and baroque ballrooms and dressy-fussy nights. Advertising frequently tells us this, and pop culture, but we in Southern California know better. Oh, that swanky stuff is fine, and even fun, now and then, but we prefer our posh with a breeze and our upscale with the stars overhead. In short? Indoor-outdoor living can be luxurious, lavish, and a special treat, too (so there, heavily curtained, painting-filled ballrooms). At the forefront of this idea are the desert resorts, in and around Palm Springs, those places that do it up via fine dining, top-notch service, sumptuous spa treatments, and suites that are custom-made for a magazine cover. One of the grande dames of the desert swank scene is set for a re-debut in the middle of May, and you can bet that both indoor/outdoor aesthetics and plush touches shall be rife. The spot's name? Ritz-Carlton. The place? Rancho Mirage.

OPENING DAY... is May15, meaning that swim season shall be in full effect. (Though does that ever truly end in Rancho Mirage?) We should also refine that and say "re-opening day"; the property opened just over a quarter century back, morphing through a few parent companies, including Ritz-Carlton. The new hello brings 244 rooms and suites, a two-level spa, a casual California-y restaurant called State Fare -- nice handle -- and a steak- and seafood-themed spot called The Edge. And, of course, all of that breezy, open-air access to the wild-edged grounds, grounds set against a 650-foot bluff and the Santa Rosa Mountains. "Sweeping valley views" are the theme, meaning that, yes, indeed, a luxury vacation is about palms and sunsets, too. And is there a hello there, get to know us package? You bet. It's called the Opening Celebration Package, it's good through June 30, and it costs $379 a night (parking, breakfast at State Fare, and a few other additions are in the swirl).

Photo Credit: Ritz-Carlton]]>
<![CDATA[90th Birthday: Cypress Inn Celebrates Doris Day]]> Tue, 25 Mar 2014 15:52:33 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/182*120/dorisdaycarmel12.jpg

MAJOR MOVIE STARS... often become synonymous with particular film genres or eras or style of film-making. Certain fashion trends may be tied to them as well, and even fads, from time to time. Doris Day can check several of those things off her list, given that we love the actress for her sparkly turn in '50s charmers like "Pillow Talk," optimistic romantic comedies that stylishly led the way for all romcoms to come. But Ms. Day isn't just about those mid-century gems nor romantic banner; she's a co-owner of the Cypress Inn in Carmel and a longtime resident of the area. And, of course, a major animal advocate. Her Cypress Inn and her advocacy have dovetailed over the years, making her property extremely pet friendly and a place that California canine lovers and fans of Doris Day films vow to visit at least once. And if ever the time was ripe for such a visit, it's now: Ms. Day is turning 90, and there are a few treats in store 'round the historic pup-loving property.

LIKE... a Sentimental Journey weekend, from Thursday, April 3 through Saturday, April 5. A room, a welcome gift bag, and a spot on the wait list for her official birthday dinner are part of the package. But if you can't make the weekend, you can swing by the inn's bar and order a Bourbon & Bone, the cocktail created in honor of her birthday. Yep, your pup gets a chew toy and you get an adult beverage and best of all? The $9.90 you spend on the special drink -- "90" again being the theme -- goes to Ms. Day's work with animals, rescues, and spay and adoption efforts.

EVEN IF YOU CAN'T... be around Carmel on April 3, which is the legend's birthday proper, a trip to the Cypress Inn, with your hound at your side, is a quintessential overnight for those Golden Staters who love cinema history as well as their four-footed friends.

Photo Credit: a]]>
<![CDATA['Tis the Season for Subterranean Strolls]]> Mon, 24 Mar 2014 12:25:37 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/forestierestairs1.jpg

GO BELOW: It won't be a spoiler or anything to reveal this, so here it goes... whatever is beneath our feet tends to be beneath our feet regardless of season, weather, change or time of year. The land upon we stand doesn't take a hike each winter, given that the ground, save seismological events stays fairly constant. But subterranean spaces created by humans? Those are rather more dependent on the calendar, given that damper, cooler days can make for less-than-optimal walks below. Which means when spring comes a-callin', two of the Golden State's best-known below-the-ground spots open their doors -- or, um, ceilings? -- to welcome curious lookie-loos.

FORESTIERE UNDERGROUND GARDENS: It's a twisty, rock-bedecked labyrinth in Fresno, with trees and leafy shrubs dotting its more open spaces and an interesting, man-on-a-singular-mission history. (That man would, of course, be Baldassare Forestiere, who built his tucked-under-the-surface abode over four decades starting in 1906.) The shadowy space shutters come winter, but oh, summertime. It's a fine place to be when things are heating up, because the gardens stay plenty cool. The quirky destination opened for weekends in early March, while the Wednesday to Sunday schedule kicks off in April (and wraps in October).

OLD SACRAMENTO: Our capital's rough-and-scrabble historic outpost, once the fabled terminus of the Pony Express and play place of Gold-Rush-ers on break from the whole getting-rich-quick thing, has an underground that boasts a bevy of tales from long ago. Costumed guides tell the tales -- including some catered strictly to the grown-up set, on specialized tours -- over hour-long walks. Intrigued, subterraneania buff? They start up for the season on Saturday, April 5.


Photo Credit: Forestiere Underground Gardens]]>
<![CDATA[Announced: D23 Disney Fan Expo]]> Sat, 22 Mar 2014 07:50:42 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/183*120/expod23mickey1.jpg

DISNEY EVERYTHING: Going up against a through-and-through Disney fan in the trivia department can be an education in the company's vast backstory. Who's the Ghost Host inside The Haunted Mansion? (Answer: Paul Frees.) What animated short did Walt Disney try out his multiplane camera on? (Answer: "The Old Mill.") Which hotel served as an inspiration for The Grand Californian? (Answer: The Ahwahnee in Yosemite.) Disney love is a vast love, and it incorporates the worlds of Pixar and Marvel and Star Wars and The Muppets, too. So a convention encompassing all of these properties has to be big, three-day big, across-the-street-from-Disneyland big, and it has to come with oodles of booths and merch and presentations and talks and star appearances and sneak peeks. And so it does: D23 Expo is the convention's name, a convention so capacious and audaciously Mouse-mega that it only shows up every two years. The next go-around was expected to be 2015, since the third D23 Expo rolled in August of 2013, and so it shall be: The fourth D23 Expo has been announced for Friday, Aug. 14 through Sunday, Aug. 16 at the Anaheim Convention Center.

EARLY HIGHLIGHTS: The convention will gel over the next seventeen months, but the announcement revealed a few early highlights. There shall be a 2015 Disney Legends Ceremony, a display of pieces from the Walt Disney Archives, and the Collectors Forum, a favorite from past events. Count on clips of upcoming films, celebrity cameos, and more Disneyana, to admire, study, and purchase, than you can shake a Mary Poppins-style umbrella at. Yep, it is a ways away, but ticket-buying? That starts in 2014. Aug. 14, to be specific, so best keep a watch on the D23 Expo site. And start boning up on all of that Mickey-sweet trivia.




Photo Credit: D23 Expo]]>
<![CDATA[Delish: Inland Empire Restaurant Week]]> Sat, 22 Mar 2014 07:48:12 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/shutterstock_129765509.jpg

RESTAURANT WEEKS? They haven't been around forever. There was a day, not so long ago, when an individual or family stuck to a couple of taverns or diners in their general vicinity, only venturing out to somewhere special on a special occasion. But dining trends change, and people eating out, not just in their local area but over a wide spread, is far more common. Moreover, eat-outers are inclined toward adventure and sampling foods outside of their tried-and-beloved favorite cuisines. And so the phenomenon of Restaurant Weeks, those deal-laden week-long (or fortnight-long) runs that put the spotlight on local eateries, arose as well. But not ever city or county hosts one, so when a place starts, and starts in a major way, it is notable.

AND... the Inland Empire is doing just the big-way-starting we're talking about here. The first Inland Empire Restaurant Week is on from March 21 through 30, but it isn't dotting a single city or neighborhood, with the idea to keep things small since it is year one. Nope, it's rolling over two counties, San Bernardino and Riverside, and dozens of restaurants, from Ontario to Big Bear Lake to Claremont, have eateries on board. Eateries that will be doing the prix fixe, more-than-a-single-course deal, so you can get your fill, for a song, and try out good variety of what the place has to offer.

PARTICIPATING PLACES? Gram's Mission Bar-B-Q in Riverside, the Grand Oak Steakhouse & Bar, and Bin189 at Lake Arrowhead Resort are three of the on-boarders. What spot has been in the back of your brain for years, that you needed to try? See if they're on the list, because Restaurant Week is a fine time to dip a toe in. Or, rather, a fork.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Exploring the Selfie Phenomenon]]> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 15:00:50 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/selfie-generic-blurb-jeans.jpg

Selfiest City: Not only is this city the selfie capital of California, but it was ranked fourth in the world as the most popular spot to take one. Anaheim records 147 selfie takers per 100,000 according to the listing from TIME magazine. In comparison, San Francisco and San Diego can boast 91 and 35 selfie takers respectively.

Art of Selfies: Whether it’s Ellen DeGeneres at the Oscars or Van Gogh and his dozens of self-portraits, the concept is as old as the history of art. Dive into visual and written presentations of the self with a free seminar from The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art on Saturday, April 12 beginning at 1 p.m.

Winning Selfie: Posting your selfie can score some pretty interesting prizes. If you’re a fan of the Kalamazoo Growlers, you could get your mug on a player’s uniform. But if you don’t want to travel to Michigan you could score a gift certificate to the Best of Monterey County. By the looks of the entries, using one of the “best of” as your location and getting the weekly in the shot may help. Deadline April 3.

<![CDATA[High Elevation Yum: Taste of Julian]]> Sun, 23 Mar 2014 12:58:33 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/juliantasteof.jpg

COUNT THE NUMBER: We're curious about a question we may never get a satisfactory answer to, but we'll ask it. How many times do you think the word "pie" is spoken on the 79, from the time a car leaves the 8 and to the time that car arrives in Julian? Five times? A dozen? We'll lean toward the higher number, because practically every group of daytrippers heading into the Old West burg for a Saturday of strolling has a slice of something gooey and apple-filled on their minds. And they get it, with a frosty glass of milk or a wedge of cheddar cheese or straight-up neat. But do these daytrippers stay for more meals beyond those baked in a shallow pan? For sure, they do, given the fact that the historic spot has a number of sandwich-nice, entree-solid eateries. Dig both? Taste of Julian will celebrate the savory destinations of the town, and the pie places, too, on for Saturday, April 12.

"15+ RESTAURANTS": Over a dozen dine-out places are participating, meaning you can nosh on barbecue goodness at the Smokehouse to bites from the Julian Grille as well as offerings from local beermakers and wineries. And, fret not: A whole bevy of pie shops are the list, which is good and right and true. After all, what's a walk through Julian without a pie shop visit or two? Yes, it's pie-less, true, but it also means that one has not fully embraced the edible icon of the town. 

TASTE OF JULIAN... tickets are available now. Cost? Twenty bucks ahead of time, twenty five on April 12. And, truly, consider the date: The town'll be in perfect spring gorgeousness. If you only ever know it in autumn, when Julian bustles, why not see it in the spring? See it over a plate full of perfect pie, of course.

Photo Credit: Taste of Julian]]>
<![CDATA[Getting the Message in Laguna Beach]]> Wed, 26 Mar 2014 09:54:12 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/235*120/PHOTO110071051169958454477main.jpg

THE MUSIC: The Blue Water Music Festival wants to create the most positive event in the history of Orange County. The outdoor music festival is scheduled for March 29 and 30th in Laguna Beach and offers two full days of music and a chance to give back to the community.

THE MESSAGE: Described by organizers as “a nonprofit organization activating the power of music and the arts for the benefit of the community” this festival is unlike others in that its sole purpose it to give back to the community. When fans purchase their tickets, they can select a cause or artist to receive a portion of the revenue. A special referral code on the event’s website makes it happen.

THE DETAILS: General admission tickets run from $35.00 to $120.00 with VIP tickets available for $125-$250. VIPS get access to preferred seating, bar areas and a free drink ticket for alcohol and free unlimited non-alcoholic beverages as well as a swag bag. Early bird pricing ends March 21.

Photo Credit: Mahmood Homayounieh]]>
<![CDATA[Fallbrook Hearts the Alligator Pear]]> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 13:31:36 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/avocado4.jpg

WE ALL ADORE OUR FRIENDS: We do, we absolutely and truly do. But if we had to vote, from anecdotal admissions, of course, on what food is not quite split in halfsies between best pals, we'd probably land on a) ice cream scoops and b) ice cream hot fudge and c) avocado. Yes, one of those things is not like the other -- hint: the ice cream and hot fudge go together -- but the threesome have a way of bulking up on the server's plate versus all the other plate's at the table. Be honest with yourself: If you're in the kitchen composing the dinner salads, and everyone else is around the corner, waiting at the table, do you not slip yourself an extra slice of the creamy-delicious-pit-y green fruit? Two extra slices? You do, if you're avocado-mad, like so many of us are. This isn't to say you're selfish, because you're not. But if you have any lingering guilt about over-avocado-taking, there's a fine place to make it up to your pals: Take them to the Fallbrook Avocado Festival on Sunday, April 17.

GUAC AND BEYOND: It's one of Fallbrook's most major festivities, which is no surprise, given that it is coming up on its 30th anniversary. The better part of three decades is enough time to line up the food booths -- the many, many food booths -- and the entertainment and to draw upwards of 100,000 attendees. Yep, a lot of people love the avocado, and they'll take it in most any form, guac and beyond. (We know, there are some that find "guac" to be an overly cute nickname, but we think occasionally abbreviating the word helps us get to the eating of the guacamole faster.)

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Temecula Tradition: South Coast's Blessing of the Vines]]> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 19:54:17 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/198*120/blessingofthevinestemecula1.jpg

SPRINGTIME INVOCATION: When Easter Week appears on the horizon many blessings pop up, hither and thither, marking the passage to spring and fruitfulness and fine weather and general renewal. Some of the most famous seasonal blessings involve beasties. And while we've all admired the stories of horses queuing up next people holding snakes and cats and chinchillas, there are other blessing-sweet events we can get behind. One, in particular, is especially tempting, if you like wine, a vineyard on a beautiful early spring day, and wine. Oh, did we type "wine" twice? Well, darn it, we did. We speak of the annual Blessing of the Vines at South Coast Winery in the Temecula Valley. It's part of the warming-up season and a fine way to lend some inspirational words to the twisty branches that'll soon hold grapes again. Surely the vines hear and are so inspired to grow, grow, grow? You can see for yourself, if that's the case, on Sunday, March 30.

TOAST AND FESTIVITIES: The afternoon starts with a complimentary toast at 4 p.m. An officiant will head out into the surrounding vines about 25 minutes later, to say the fruitful words, and then the festivities begin. Festivities which are family-nice, by the by.  Jazzy tunes, a dinner featuring brisket and chicken breast, and at-the-winery fun, like tractor rides, fill out the schedule.

THE COST? It's $45 a person. Call it an excellent way to welcome spring among the vines, and to sip something frosty and pale as the sun sets over the gorgeous T.V. However you define blessing, that sounds like a mightily good spot to be in, wine, vines, and a spring evening.

Photo Credit: South Coast Winery]]>
<![CDATA[I Heart Parks: Get the Guide]]> Sat, 15 Mar 2014 07:12:42 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/iheartparksjoshua.jpg

IF YOU EVER WATCH... dreamy historic miniseries -- and they're rather popular, so we expect you have, at some point -- the most swoony moments never come in a stuffy drawing room or one of those long, looooong dining room tables that signify a family is terribly formal and stiff-upper-lippy. Rather, the swoon arrives under a leafy oak or in a garden overflowing with jasmine. Yep, nature is the prime setting for the sharing of feelings, and not simply because it is visual and camera-ready. Our emotions, when in love, are as big as the sky and land, so professing this, under the sky and in a big land, is the natural turn of things.

THIS MUST BE WHY... there's been a merry movement, of sorts, to talk about the national parks and where the most romantic, proposal-worthy spots are located. Waterfalls and magnificent rocks that overlook canyons are popular, yes, and meadows, and pools... Well, okay. There isn't a bad spot to talk tenderness within our parks. But should you need more assistance in this matter, the National Park Foundation can assist, via a new I Heart Parks guide.

THE GUIDE... details great date ideas within the parks system, and, nope, they're not all wild 'n natural ("Lady Liberty" is suggested as a fine go-out-together destination, and indeed she is). But places of "solitude and space" are recommended as well, in case you want the sky-big-as-your-feelings spot. And the easy-pease-iest end of this whole deal? The guide can be downloaded. Whether you've got proposin' on your mind or just a sweet weekend getaway -- and goodness knows we're all in need of those, all of the time -- stop one is downloading the I Heart Parks guide. It's free. 

Photo Credit: National Park Foundation]]>
<![CDATA[Vegas Exhibit: Da Vinci at the Venetian]]> Sat, 15 Mar 2014 14:25:01 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/202*120/venetiandavinci.jpg

THE MAN WHO COULD SEE TOMORROW: Leonardo Da Vinci famously drew many a whimsical invention that went on to predict, or become, the various realities of today. Flying machines? Yep. Armored cars? The inventor, artist, and visionary, who lived from 1452 to 1519, drew those as well. With all of these wonders to be found inside Da Vinci's notebooks, one wonders, or even daydreams, whether the man could have predicted a city of a billion lights, neon and LED and blinking bulbs. Could he have seen machines that spit out coins, machines of chance, and huge, street-close signs full of moving pictures? We're fairly sure that Las Vegas, as a concept, didn't show up in the master's illustrations, but we have to admit that the futuristic, tech-heavy land is a fine fit for a show devoted to one of history most beloved brains. And the brainy master gets his Sin City due, at, where else, The Venetian, a building he might have first gravitated to upon landing, through some time portal, on The Strip. (Did Da Vinci dream up time portals, too?)

DA VINCI SHOW: "Da Vinci The Exhibition" opened at the Italianate property on Wednesday, March 12. The Imagine Exhibitions Gallery experience "follows the Renaissance master, Leonardo da Vinci, on a journey of innovation, creativity, science, and wonder amid beautiful scenes of the Italian countryside." Over 65 "fully built, life-size inventions" and "more than 20 fine art studies" are on display, along with bunches of other da Vinci-ian delights. Beauty! Hydraulics! The man really did it all. An adult ticket is $27.50, and the show keeps later evening hours on Fridays and Saturday, through 9 p.m. Meaning you can take it in before you go catch some stage extravaganza, an extravaganza that will surely brim with inventions Da Vinci himself might have pondered over a half millennium ago.

Photo Credit: Da Vinci The Exhibition]]>
<![CDATA[Bubblefest: One POP-ular Show]]> Thu, 13 Mar 2014 13:16:12 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/bubblefesteighteen.jpg

IT'S NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE... to not weave the word "pop" into any discussion of the Discovery Science Center's hugely POPular mega POP culture-impacting spring treat, Bubblefest. See what we mean? The question is *how* many times will it be used in one write-up. We intend to limit ourselves, because bubbles don't need a lot of dressing up and joke-making. They're wonders, is why, total little treasures we can make ourselves, while standing over our kitchen sinks, at any time we'd like. But the bigger bubbles, and the shimmery orbs within shimmery orbs, are slightly trickier. Oh, sure, with some kitchen sink-close practice, you can probably get a little bubble inside a bigger one, but the beautiful thing, and difficult truth, about bubbles is they're brief. Your creation might not last long enough for family members to see it. Ah, but head for the Santa Ana science institution during its springtime bubbletastic exhibit and voila! You get your bubble practice in and you get to see masters of the form at work. Bubblefest XVIII opens on Saturday, March 29, and believe it: It is, indeed, the Discovery Science Center's "most popular event."

SOAPY DOINGS: The iridescent event runs from three weeks -- March 29 through April 20 -- and Bubble Scientist Deni Yang'll be back with his Mega Bubble Show. That's a separately ticketed event within Bubblefest, and way popular -- we mean, POPular -- so best get on your seats early. Also, the laser show falls at certain times during the day, too. When you're not wowing to that, head for the bubble-making stations and see if you can surround yourself only with walls made of pure airy soap. (Not too easy, but, wowza, what a sight if you can achieve it.) We do like an everyday object that can be created at home in seconds to get its bigger due. And the bubble? This is one of its splashiest shows anywhere. Yep, even a movie with popcorn -- we mean, POPcorn -- might not be as thrilling as a day standing inside a giant bubble, or trying to, at least.

Photo Credit: Discovery Science Center]]>
<![CDATA[Free Ways to Celebrate Science]]> Wed, 12 Mar 2014 13:42:30 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/183634746.jpg

WE HEART SCIENCE: Celebrate science with a full day of free activities in San Diego’s Balboa Park.Walk into an oversized camera obscura, explore the science of sound, test your skills at cleaning the ocean or try and detect the various odors of San Diego as part of STEAM Family Day on March 16.

HEAD GAMES: STEAM or (Science Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) is an annual event in the park and attracts thousands of families with a full-day of activities and exhibits. Families with kiddos can get inside some of the park’s amazing museums for a discount. Outside the museums, they’ll find a number of activities to enjoy and sneak in a little learning at the same time.

HANDS ON: Imagine dozens of children all creating and launching a paper airplane at the same time. Enjoy one of two 6-foot LEGO building areas, mobile making at the Timken or get up close and personal with the park’s famous organ.

PREPARE TO HOOF IT: Activities take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and are free with paid museum admission. Of course get that many people in the park for an event with the word “free” and you’ll be challenged to find parking. So leave early and be prepared to walk.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Re-Opening: The Wildest Ride in the Wilderness]]> Sat, 15 Mar 2014 07:12:14 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/BTMdisney1.jpg

MOST MEMORABLE NARRATION: If you were a tot in Southern California, or have called the area home for a half decade or longer, chances are you've visited a certain theme park in Anaheim. Hint: It's the theme park that began all theme parks, or at least the quintessential example of theme-park-ery in the modern area. Another hint? You can see a mountain or two, inside it, from the 5 Freeway. Yep, indeed, it is Disneyland of which we speak, and fans know the rides so well -- you probably just rattled off "Matterhorn" and "Space Mountain" when we brought up mountains, right? -- that they can recite along with some of the audio that plays inside the attractions. Ever stood inside the Haunted Mansion's stretching elevator with a bunch of serious DLers? Yeah, they're saying every single word.

BUT... we'd like to put forth that the most famous line of ride narration within the park is spoken at the beginning of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. It is, the prospector-y voice tells us, "the wildest ride in the wilderness," a line that a lot of riders say along. Which is all leading up to this darn-tootin' news: The runaway train coaster, which has been shuttered for renovations, will re-open on Monday, March 17.

WHAT'S NEW: The ride, which opened in 1979, now has "an upgraded track," "an enhanced audio system," and fresh paint for some of the peaks. Word has it that the tech'd-up audio will produce clearer sounds from the animatronic animals along the track. Does this mean you'll hear the rattlers rattling more distinctly, and that mountain goat with the dynamite stick in its mouth? Listen up. And listen for the start of the ride, when your fellow riders talk along with the narration, the better to prepare for "the wildest ride in the wilderness."

Photo Credit: Paul Hiffmeyer]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Barbara Spring Vintners Weekend]]> Tue, 11 Mar 2014 14:11:59 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sbvintners124.jpg

IF EVER... there was a time of year to dip in amber and put under a beautiful blown-glass bell jar, it's probably the second weekend of April. The March gusts have settled down, and the June Gloom -- and its BFF May Gray -- haven't quite started their journey into Southern California quite yet. So flowers pop and grass grows and trees sway and, for a few days, if everything works as Aprilishly as it should, the outside world is glorious. And if ever there was a place that could also sit in an art display, under a bell jar, it's the wine country around Santa Barbara. There isn't really a bad time of year in the area, but April gets especially lovely-of-flower and pretty-of-sun. So what else is there to do but throw one of the region's largest wine parties of the year, a celebration that comes with an educational side and music to boot?

IT'S CALLED... Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend, and over 100 of the area's wineries will be chatting with fans and talking vines and yes, pouring, pouring, pouring. Highlights? A Vineyard Hike with Wine at Baehnier Fournier Vineyards, a scavenger hunt at Buttonwood Farm, and Kalyra Winery's Food & Wine "Around the World"-themed food and wine pairing. Oh yes, and then there are two biggies: a Farm-to-Table Picnic Concert, featuring Americana rockers Jamestown Revival, and a Vintners Festival Grand Tasting. You probably can't do everything, but you can do both of those -- Grand Tasting's on Saturday and the picnic-concert is on Sunday -- and you can take in a hike or pairing or something else.

IF... that is, you can pull yourself away from the soft springtime sunshine. You'll probably stand outside marveling that you're in Santa Barbara wine country, in April and that is worth marveling about. If only life's harder to-dos could take place in wine country in April, we'd be all over them.

Photo Credit: Santa Barbara Vintners ]]>
<![CDATA[Tickets on Sale: California Beer Festival]]> Mon, 10 Mar 2014 13:25:49 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/shutterstock_145416532.jpg

THE GOLDEN STATE... is home to a fine brewhouse or two. Or make that two dozen, or even two hundred, given the fact that San Francisco and San Diego regularly rank in the top ten, and even top five, when the country's top craft beer cities are ranked. A lover of lofty libations would need to spend a couple of months zigzagging from Gold Country to Mendocino to Orange County and back up the coast to take in all of the IPAs and lagers that regularly win the big trophies, but there is a rather nifty, and easy-to-manage, solution: the California Beer Festival. Yep, it's the summertime soiree that brings the best of the Golden State's big brewhouse vats to the public in four different locations, two northerly, two to the south. The dates are out for the 2014 foam fete, and tickets for stop one went on sale on Tuesday, March 3. The place? Marin.

AND THE DATE IS... June 28. Santa Cruz, San Dimas, and Ventura follow -- Santa Cruz is the second weekend in August, San Dimas rolls on Saturday, Sept. 6, and Ventura lands over the first weekend of fall -- and the state's hoppy headliners'll make a strong showing. Some names on the taps? Firestone (look for the Union Jack IPA in Marin), Bear Republic Brewing Co., Altamont Beer Works, and Manzanita Brewing Co. Over 70s brews'll flow from the taps, each with their own crafty characteristics.

PLUS... food choices, barbecue, and bands complement the suds scene, so most people make a day of it, before catching a cab home or to their hotel. Consider it a daylong roadtrip to some of the state's buzziest brewhouses, all for one ticket. Now, we're in now way dissuading you and your buds from making such a roadtrip one day, but maybe the California Beer Festival can be the place where you pick the beermakers you must know better.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Line-Up Revealed: Pebble Beach Food & Wine]]> Sat, 08 Mar 2014 12:41:14 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/christopherkostowpebble.jpg

IT'S SO NICE... when a multi-day event built on perfect scenery and sumptuous dishes and perfect wines starts to stir the excitement pot just when we're longing for nicer days and later evenings. Pebble Beach Food & Wine stirred that particular pot on Tuesday, March 4, just days ahead of Daylight Saving Time, which is the unofficial week when people start to think that maybe, maaaaybe, linger-lovely evenings and weekend-y food events could once again come back around. They can, and shall, in the form of the Pebble Beach bash, which marks its seventh outing from April 10 through 13. In just over a half decade this chefly, food-fan gathering has become one of the ooh-aah-iest on the culinary circuit, summoning big toques and a host of tasty happenings.

THIS YEAR... shall bring more of that gourmandian goodness. "(A)n unprecedented line-up of more than 100 chefs and 250 winemakers" will appear at the four-day gathering. A tribute to chef Charlie Trotter is one of the event's meaning-filled gatherings; a "special meal" made in his memory is the centerpiece, and chefs who learned at his side will be present.

FOUR DAYS OF FOOD: Other happenings throughout the weekend include Dinner with the Stars of Los Angeles -- yep, SoCal cookery'll be in the house -- and an Andrew Zimmern Cooking Demo (so expect plenty of outlandish ingredients and flavors). And the Lexus Grand Tasting? That spreads out over a 60,000-square-foot tent on Saturday, April 12 and Sunday, April 13. Tickets are now on sale for all four days, and they do the gamut-running thing; spend a hundred for a few of the single events or go whole hog with a $4,750 VIP pass, which is good for everything, as well as some private hobnobbing with the chefs.


Photo Credit: Pebble Beach Food & Wine]]>
<![CDATA[TV Road Trip: LA's Starry PaleyFest]]> Tue, 11 Mar 2014 14:09:43 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/paley163786620.jpg

FAVORITE SHOW: Even if you only like television, just a smidge, chances are you've uttered the words "that's my favorite show" at some point in your life. Doesn't matter if it was Carol Burnett or "The Cosby Show" or "Friends" or a daytime drama or a late-night comedy fest, you likely took a shine to a particular televised property at some point in your lifetime. Or, if you're like many a modern person, you have several series you've followed, shows you put a bunch of emotional stake into (and let's not even start on those flirting characters who won't kiss after three seasons). It's a treat, then, a rare treat, when you get to see most of the cast members of your favorite show -- most or all -- gather in one place to discuss their roles, best lines, tricky episodes, and all of the work that goes into building a fictional world that's made for TV-style storytelling. That's what PaleyFest does, and has for a few decades now. It rounds up a dozen or so top casts and show creators and lines up the chairs on stage, and the little bottles of water, too. Then the fans buy tickets and voila! It's a magical night between actor and aficionado.

DATES AND DETAILS: The Paley Center for Media's mega TV spectacular is on at the Dolby Theatre from March 13 through 28 (yes, the very same venue the Oscars just occupied). "Veronica Mars" opens the festival, on March 13 -- a timely choice, given that a film is due -- and PaleyFest favorite "American Horror Story" rounds out the run on March 28 ("Coven," the latest series, gets the focus). And in the middle? "The Mindy Project," "Sleepy Hollow," and a 10th anniversary "Lost" gathering will get the love. Plus lots more. Will fans attend more than one night? You bet. Because while most of us have had a favorite show, plenty of people have multiple series running through their minds -- and on their DVRS -- at any one time.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Healthy Living Retreat at Tenaya Lodge]]> Fri, 07 Mar 2014 14:45:29 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/203*120/tenayawinter1.jpg

BREATHE DEEPLY: Practically every dance teacher or yoga instructor or meditation leader in the world has said to a client or student, at some point, "don't forget to breathe." It's a funny thing to be reminded of, and yet, to a person, we all kind of do forget from time to time, or at least we're not actively engaging in that sort of lung-expanding, moment-connecting breathwork that helps us slow down and reset. There is an exception here, and it has to do with place: Our breathing does very often deepen when we're in a beautiful spot or lovely land, and we want to enjoy the vista we're seeing and the friends we're with. It helps if it is mountain-y air we're taking in, crisp and cool. Which leads us to wonder if all healthy pursuits shouldn't have a woodsy, natural dimension, if only because people are apt to be in the "let's find wellness" mindset. One perfectly situation spot that's taken on this life-improving challenge? Tenaya Lodge, just outside Yosemite National Park, which was named one of the World's Best Wellness Destinations in USA Today in the fall. The Lodge is hosting a Yosemite Healthy Living Retreat at the end of March.

THOSE DATES ARE... March 28 through 30, specifically, and the get-centered, move-forward goings-on are plentiful. Workshops on topics such as gait -- so important -- and posture -- so totally important -- are on the schedule, as are speakers from publications like Women's Health Magazine. Nature walks, flavorfully light meals, spa treatments, and other wellness-y haps fill the Friday night to Sunday midday roster. Could this come under the heading of spring cleaning for you? Getting rid of some cobwebs gathered over the winter months, in a breathe-deeply mountain-y setting? Packages kick off at $699 for a single guest.


Photo Credit: Tenaya Lodge]]>
<![CDATA[Wildflowers of the Anza-Borrego]]> Mon, 10 Mar 2014 15:42:04 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/DESERTFLOWERS3514.jpg

A SIGHT WORTH SEEING: After you've seen a bit of azure poking through the sand in an arid land, the want, and even need, to experience the rare moment again can be a lifelong thing. Which means that long about late winter your mind turns to the California deserts and whether they're getting some good wildflower action. The short answer, at least following the droughty winter of 2013-2014, is no, the petal scene is not prime, but this is not shocker; predictions, and the lack of rain, said this was to be so. But of course flowers do make a showing, because they always do, if not in blanket form, then a peep here and a peep there. Dr. Ian Malcolm, as played by Jeff Goldblum, said in "Jurassic Park": "...life finds a way." It always does, each spring, and wildflowerians can take heart: Beautiful buds are making a showing around the Anza-Borrego as of late February.

THE REPORT: Pretty purple flowers popped up in Fish Creek near the end of last month, but the run isn't over yet. Following a good year of rain flowers should show into April, with buds atop cacti following the straight-up wildflowers. Want to know the when and where? There's a hotline to call, to get the flowery 411. (Though the number, of course, is not 411 -- it's 760-767-4684760-767-4684.)

BUT... if you just want some wildflowers, and the setting does not need to be desert-y, consider heading into the Sierra, where wildflower walks grow popular once spring arrives. The meadows of Yosemite make for some fine flower-searching, even when things have been on the drier side. Fingers and stems crossed for a wetter next-winter.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Juicy Gathering: Fancy Tomato Time]]> Wed, 05 Mar 2014 07:42:57 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/199*120/tomatoevinepretty.jpg

SUPERSTAR SEEDLINGS: Fruit has its fans, and specific fruit boasts buffs so hardcore that they'll journey to a small stand two towns over to purchase a specific crop from a specific grower, after much squeezing and tasting and testing. It's a great thing, given that we all should be looking closer at what's on our plates. Some fruit, of course, is so popular that it gets a festival, and the mega beloved avocado and strawberry? They enjoy multiple parties each year in different California cities. But what of the special juicy orb that's so mythologized in certain corners that it gets its own tour? Nope, it doesn't have amp-moving roadies or the guy who tests the guitars. What it does offer, though, are plentiful heirloom tomato seedlings and the people who know excellent tomatoes. Really excellent tomatoes, the kind that bring the flavor of whatever plot they flourished in straight through to the salad on your table. Tempted? Then you, dear tomatoist, are likely heading for Tomatomania! this spring.

YEP, THERE'S AN EXCLAMATION POINT... because there should be one. This is one of the ultimate spots for scoring excellent varieties of cherry tomatoes and vine-ripened beauties, and discovering how to coax your own plants in a way that they'll keep producing well throughout the warm season. (But tomato plants kind of have a genius for that, right?) The tour will make several Golden State stops, with a tasty round through Cornerstone Sonoma at the end of April. So, how will your salads be this summer? Full of heirloom magic? And forget salads; don't you just want to slice a tomato super thick, put a little mayo and salt between two crusty pieces of sourdough, and make that lunch? Yeah you do, because you're feeling the Tomatomania!, and that exclamation point to boot.

Photo Credit: Tomato]]>
<![CDATA[Zinfandel Rules: Paso's Spicy Weekend]]> Mon, 03 Mar 2014 10:12:39 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/197*120/pasozinglass.jpg

ZIPPY TO THE MAX: A lot of wines tend to get general descriptive words applied to their flavor, character, and forward-taste, again and again. "Light" is trotted out quite often, and works. "Full-bodied" is pretty good, too, though the speaker should qualify it with what makes it particularly full. And "delicious"? That's one every wine maker wants to hear. But zinfandel tends to, if not own certain terms, then be paired with them, time after time. "Zippy" is one, as is its cousin "zingy." Both work, right, zin fans? The red grape varietal doesn't lean toward the shy side of the sip scale. "Jammy" and "fruity" are two more that fit for the fruit-luscious libation. "Big," too, is very zin, though it might be too broad for a single type of wine to covet as its own. The short of it is this: Zinfandel is much beloved by the oenophile that likes a lot of pop in their purchase, and those pop-seeking people'll be making for Paso Robles, over the middle weekend of March, to discuss and savor all things zinfandel.

AND... other "wild wines." It's a three-day partay devoted to the extroverts of winedom, those tastes that refuse to lay low lest they bump up against, or even delightfully overpower, the food they're paired with. Tours of regional wineries'll go on throughout the weekend, alongside some special events (like a Spaghetti Western Night at August Ridge Vineyards. And Brochelle Vineyards? They're doing Zinfandel gelato on the final day. Hoo, that sounds zippy and zingy and jammy and fruity, all at once. The dates? Friday, March 14 through Sunday, March 16. The number of wineries zin-ing it up (as well as wine- and cheese-ing it up in general)? Oh, just 120. Yeah, zin lovers. We said things are "big" with this wine and we weren't pulling your vine.

Photo Credit: Paso Wine]]>
<![CDATA[What Time Is It? (Hint: Waterfall Time)]]> Sat, 01 Mar 2014 08:18:32 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/kennykarstupperyosemitefall.jpg

WATER MOVING DOWNWARD... is an act we can admire any time we turn on the tub or a sink or the garden hose. Gravity and flow play their parts, regardless of how large the amount of H20, and the general act of the wet stuff moving from Point A to Point B typically plays out in the same way. But our response tends to change when several thousands of gallons of water are moving at a rapid pace over a cliff face and falling hundreds of feet to a river or pool below. Gravity and flow are still at play, but we're witnessing a waterfall, one of nature's most beautiful sights. (A subjective category, but we'll just stand on the fact that waterfalls can and do show up inside nature calendars with frequency.) They're found all over California, even in small arroyos and washes, but Waterfall Planet (tm)? That's Yosemite National Park. And while some of the falls within the picturesque valley are known for keeping a fairly perky year-round schedule -- Bridalveil Fall, we're looking at you, with admiration -- springtime is when things truly pick up in the waterfall department. That's because, in much the same way that April showers bring May flowers, late winter snow melt fuels the running water needed to feed the falls. (Okay, not quite the catchy rhyme, but we'll stick with it.)

WANT TO SEE THE SPARKLY SIGHTS? There are so many of them, but if you go for the valley, you're set for some of the biggies, including Bridalveil, Yosemite, Vernal, and Nevada. Oh, and Horsetail, which puts on its own sunset-driven show for a brief window at the end of February and the beginning of March. For maximum waterfall enjoyment, April and May tend to be good viewing times, too, and you'll get the added benefit of wildflower action in some of the higher meadows. When we mentioned nature calendars before, we should have mentioned that all nature calendars everywhere likely look to Yosemite in the springtime, for inspiration and motivation, regardless of the calendar's particular subject. How could they not? The valley is a veritable sparkly-drop wonderland of gravity acting upon water in the most spectacular fashion.

Photo Credit: Kenny Karst]]>
<![CDATA[Warm Gourmet: Palm Springs Restaurant Week]]> Mon, 03 Mar 2014 10:15:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/190*120/psrestaurantnight1.jpg

LOOKING AHEAD: We're fans of being in the now and honoring the moment and savoring what's happening, but there can be a bit of daydreaming when it comes to weather-based pursuits. Indulging in such flights of fancy isn't suggesting you're disconnected to what's going down your world; rather, it's necessary if you're planning a vacation to a different clime, at a different time, with the requisite anticipation. So when it is too hot we think of a mountain drive, and when chillier days arrive? We daydream about eating by a pool in the desert by night. You, too? We're just assuming here that that daydream is a shared one, by many people. There are few pleasures to equal it -- good food + a great companion + sunset + candlelight + pool -- and there are few places that do it better than Palm Springs. Please, the city practically could TM the concept of pool-adjacent dining by moonlight. And while not every P.S. eatery boasts its own watery blue rectangle -- though quite a few do -- they still have sunset and those mountains. Eager for a little late-winter daydreaming in this direction? Feel free to indulge, because Palm Springs Restaurant Week is coming together.

COMING TOGETHER... at the end of May and beginning of June, which we rather love. We won't break out the word "audacious" in terms of scheduling a big eat-out event just when things are getting especially roasty around the desert resort destination, but we will say that when Palm Springs is hot it is kind of in its full-bloom prime, with every third person rocking a pair of swim trunks and the smell of coconut oil in the air. So heading out to any one of "over 100 restaurants, hotels & attractions" during its heat-up moment has definite allure. You'll find mondo deals, and some milder deals, depending on the cuisine and scene you're looking for, so keep an eye on Restaurant Week HQ for all of the updates. So, what are you doing May 30 through June 8? You could be daydreaming at home or actually enjoying a salad and glass of Chardonnay, in person, near a pool in the desert.

Photo Credit: Palm Springs Restaurant Week]]>
<![CDATA[Science, with a Side of Ick, in Santa Ana]]> Thu, 27 Feb 2014 15:13:15 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/dscocgrossology.jpg

ICK FACTOR: If you've ever put a bowl of yogurt or another squishy foodstuff in front of a child, you can bet that things are going to get a little messy, a little icky, and a little science-experimental before the snack break has wrapped. Heck, a lot of adults play with what's on their plates, and we can only imagine it stems from a widely shared human trait: Gross is great. So great that when we see sights and smell smells and squish our fingers into gooey things, we don't always recoil; we laugh. Okay, sure, we might recoil a little, but the allure of grossness is too strong and too appealing. That's why it makes an excellent learning tool -- nasty experiments tend to hold more attentions than a ho-hum and dryly told display -- and that's why the Discovery Science Center has jumped, gleefully, into its latest exhibit. It is indeed called Animal Grossology and it's on at the Santa Ana cube through April 20.

HAIRBALLS AND CATS: Yep, this exhibit goes there. "Why cats spit up hairballs" is under full consideration, and why cows boast a quartet of stomachs. (A ceaselessly fascinating topic for kidlets and adultlets alike.) And, indeed, "doo doo" -- the Center's polite term -- is also on the docket for scientific investigation. There's an area that explains blood-sucking beasties -- we're looking at you, mosquitoes -- and a display called "Vomit Munchers." Oh yes. Does it involve ruminant digestion and other hot topics of how certain animals consume their nutrients? Prepare yourself to be peppered by questions on the car ride home.

AND... if grossly creatures and their awesome gross ways don't appeal to the scientist in you, hang tight: Bubblefest, that oh-so-popular soapy spring spectacular, returns to the institution in March.

Photo Credit: Discovery Science Center]]>
<![CDATA[Strolling Among Strawberries at Tanaka Farms]]> Thu, 27 Feb 2014 13:58:45 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/219*120/strawberries1.jpg

FRUIT AS TIME-KEEPER: How do most places tell the day of the year? Well, there are phases of the moon, yep, and the changing leaves on the trees. A calendar on the office wall is pretty handy, too, if you remember to take down last year's and buy a new one before too many months have passed. And in Orange County, LA, and other parts of California? We have a million time-keepers, definitely around springtime, along about the time our produce starts to pop. A single strawberry growing ever redder is as trusty as an office calendar, and you can't eat an office calendar (well, we'll assume). Some Golden State farms offer fresh-foodie tours when the weather warms up, like the citrus walks of Ojai, and strawberries? They reign large at Tanaka Farms in Irvine, a place that offers strolls through the strawberry fields every weekend starting in March.

AND... the walks'll soon start. "A guide Wagon Ride around the farm" is part of the juicy outing, as is the sampling of fruits and vegetables beyond strawberries (this could be a fine opportunity to get a kid to try something outside of the four greens he's committed to eating). As for the sweet stars of the day? You can pick 'em, right there, and eat 'em, right there. Good and good and so very spring-perfect. Just save a pound of what you pick to take home.

THE TOUR... which indeed involves a tractor-pulled wagon, lasts from 45 minutes to an hour and fifteen minutes. Cost? Seventeen bucks, and kids under 2 get in for free. Figure you'll get a lot of healthy tasting in, some sunshine, and a day near the earth. It is spring, when we want to be fresh-air-ing it up but don't always take that opportunity. What better to lure us than the sireny-sweet song of the strawberry?

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sin Swanky: Vegas Welcomes The Cromwell]]> Thu, 27 Feb 2014 14:42:48 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/cromwellvegashotel.jpg

IF YOU'VE EVER BEEN TO LAS VEGAS... odds are very good that you paid a visit to Las Vegas Boulevard, or, if you prefer, The Strip. (You totally prefer, right? Who doesn't utter "The Strip" a hundred times while Sin-City-ing it up?) And if you've been to The Strip, there's a good chance you've been near the intersection with the Bellagio Fountains. That's where Las Vegas Boulevard meets Flamingo Road. And kattykorner from the fountains? A property you might have also passed through or called upon, if you've visited Sin City since the late '70s. What once was the Barbary Coast, and later Bill's Gamblin' Hall and Saloon, has gotten a luxe redo, and is now ready to debut as "the first stand-alone boutique hotel" on The Strip. It's name? The Cromwell. It's open date? Wednesday, May 21. And room reservations? They're now open.

INSIDE THE CROMWELL: The 188-room hotel could be described as intimate for The Strip, but that suits a boutiquery's style just fine. The casino will still be in place, all 40,000-square-feet of it, and restaurants and bars, too. But some mondo names'll be on the marquee, like Giada di Laurentiis. Her restaurant -- Giada -- will feature "fresh pastas made by hand daily and a signature antipasto bar." Drai's will still be in the house -- it was part of the Bill's Gamblin' Hall scene -- doing the late-night club experience. And shall there be suites? Please, it's Vegas. There'll be 19 on the property, including the 2,550-foot Cromwell Suite. All the rooms will boast a vintage-y touch, though, with "trunk-style furnishings" and hardwood floors.

Want to eye more renderings and the palm-adjacent rooftop pool? The Cromwell's Facebook page has all the action.


Photo Credit: The Cromwell]]>
<![CDATA[In Bloom: Santa Barbara Orchid Show]]> Thu, 27 Feb 2014 13:59:43 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/OrchidShowArthurPinkers.jpg

THERE ARE FLOWERS... that we stroll by, pleasantly, without a second or even first glance. They're just there, along a fence or median, being purple or yellow or pink and full of petals. They're nice, is what we're saying, and they add to the general beauty of the outdoors and the bring the spirit of nature to a neighbor's yard or an empty lot or a patch of dirt off a parking area. And then there are flowers that are so ka-bam, so noticeable, so instantly attention-drawing that one has to stop strolling and whistling or whatever else one was doing and observe the bud in question. And the ka-bam-iest flowers of all? Roses, you're up there, for sure, but we have to give it over to the orchid. It's the rarity of some specimens that up the wow factor, the strangeness and elegance of form, the orchid's somewhat haunting and haughty mien. It's no wonder that songs and books and documentaries have been built around this small and legendary bud, nor that the Santa Barbara International Orchid Show is just a year off its 70th birthday. The just-shy-of-springtime spectacular is, in fact, "the longest running orchid show in the nation," and it will be back at the Earl Warren Showgrounds from Friday, March 14 through Sunday, March 16.

DISPLAYS APLENTY: If one orchid is pretty pow-packing, picture many all in a snug space, for your viewing pleasure. All sorts of examples of the ethereal bud'll be on show, but there'll be many, many flowers for sale, too. Plus? Demos, expert chitchat, a corsage exhibition, arranging info, and everything to do with the mysterious flora. Orchid people are incredibly engaged with the beautiful plant, and they bring that sense of engagement to this three-day gathering, both in terms of knowledge shared and new flowering friendships. Oh, yes, and a few orchids go home with the attendees. Tempted, orchidian? A day's general admission is twelve bucks.

Photo Credit: Arthur Pinkers]]>
<![CDATA[Sequoia Stars: Staring Out the Night Sky]]> Mon, 24 Feb 2014 14:12:48 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/nightskysequoia.jpg

WHERE TO LOOK: There are national parks made for looking down -- think tide pools and caves -- and national parks for looking into great distances, like those with epic mountain ranges. But a handful of our protected wild places are very much about looking up. Nearly straight up, in some cases, because what you're admiring stretches several hundred feet straight into the sky. We are indeed thinking of the redwoods and sequoias here, and if you've ever spent a quiet hour with a big tree, you know that the sky itself, the area that frames the titan's very top branches, is different. It is framed differently for one, and how you watch clouds move, and stars come out, is impacted by the nearness of the treetops in your immediate vision. Which can make an evening of starwatching among the sequoias a true pleasure and a different pleasure, too. It is good and right, then, when a Night Sky package pops up, meaning you get to see the Milky Way with a wild, earthbound frame of sequoia goodness.

THE NIGHT SKY PACKAGE: Lodging is the first step in the deal, as you'll want to spend the night up the mountain, and you'll have two spots to choose from: The Wuksachi Lodge and the John Muir. Also included are "an astronomy wheel to help you locate and identify various constellations and celestial bodies, flashlight, a throw blanket to stay warm, and a recycled tote bag to carry everything." Ohhh, cozy. Rates start at $175 at the Wuksachi and $159 at the John Muir in wintertime. For sure, it'll be brisk outside, but you'll have that throw blanket, and plus? There is much to be said for a clear and snappy cold-weather sky. Perhaps all of those old-timey almanacs were right: Stars do seem to twinkle brighter when heat isn't around to haze things up. The only thing left to do is find the perfect frame of sequoia tops through which to admire the cosmos.

Photo Credit: Visit Sequoia]]>