<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Worth the Trip]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcsandiego.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.comen-usTue, 06 Dec 2016 06:19:01 -0800Tue, 06 Dec 2016 06:19:01 -0800NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Leaves Hold On: Fall's Not Quite Done]]> Mon, 05 Dec 2016 14:26:15 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*120/%5BKNSD%5D+Fall_Leaves_generic_Image.jpg

DECEMBER'S SOFT CHANGES: When the final month of the year says its first hello, a person begins to think of the coldest season in earnest. After all, paper snowflakes are making appearances in school windows, and candy canes on store shelves, and animated snowmen are dancing on our television screens. December=wintertime in many minds, even if, technically, it is an autumnal month, primarily (or at least for the first three weeks). But December's take on fall is different from October's, and the biggest signs of the mellow stretch, colorful leaves, have mostly put on their annual show and bid us adieu (by, of course, gently and poetically drifting to the ground). Still, though, it is autumn, even in December, and russet leaves cling to some branches, and a few golden leaves and tawny berries, too. It reminds us to get one last eyeful of fall's finest foliage, if we can find it. And a solid place to look is the...

CALIFORNIA FALL COLOR BLOG: The annual tribute to the Golden State's golden-leafy look revs up in summer, when the tips of the first leaves are losing their green, right past Thanksgiving, though not by much. It's still going for the year, with looks at Yosemite and redwood color, and the lower elevations continue to put on a colorful show. Finding a botanical garden, or a spread with a vibrant variety of flora, is a good bet in early December, though, of course, it won't be quite the same visual as coming across a grove of aspen trees fluttering in the October wind. Call it a gentler approach to autumn, the one that arrives near the close, the graceful goodbye. For one last look at the 2016 show, call upon the photo- and tip-filled blog, which dutifully, and with a delight in nature's wonders, covers the whole state's leaf show for the second half of each year.

Photo Credit: Leaves]]>
<![CDATA[Solvang Sweet: Hotel Corque Gingerbread]]> Sat, 03 Dec 2016 09:44:29 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/HotelCorqueGiantGingerbreadHouseLobby.jpg

CORQUE FOR CHRISTMAS: When you're taking a joyful jump into the holiday season, the sort of run-up-and-say-"yippee" leap that sends you deep into caroling events and tree lightings and cocoa sippings and ornament admirings, you want the full spectrum of shiny, sparkly, cockles-warming experience. And that's an experience many a yuletide reveler desires when they turn their station wagon for the most Danish burg in all the land, Solvang. It's a town that regular makes Christmas-themed must-see lists, on the national and international level, thanks to its storybook buildings and annual Decembertime to-do, Julefest. But when one arrives for Julefest, one likely wants a bit more whimsy outside of the party. Maybe, even, a storybook-type sight in the lobby of the hotel they've booked. Look to...

HOTEL CORQUE, the well-appointed boutiquery, for tips on making the joyful days of Julefest extra, well, gingery. Baker Bent Olsen has again created another amazing gingerbread manor expressly for the elegant public space of this hotel, one that will give cheer through Julefest and into the end of the year. Perhaps you've been to Mr. Olsen's own Olsen's Danish Village Bakery, or maybe you've called upon Hotel Corque over the last 20 years and seen another of the baking artiste's handsome cookie-made homes. He has been creating gingerbread houses for the hotel for two decades, now, making it a true Solvang tradition. The photograph with this post is from 2012, so hightail it to Hotel Corque for a peek at the 2016 house, sure to be one of the beautiful, in-the-spirit touchstones of Solvang's Julefest celebrations.

Photo Credit: Hotel Corque]]>
<![CDATA[Furnace Creek's Pre-Holiday Deal]]> Fri, 02 Dec 2016 23:01:16 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/poolfurnacedecdeal.jpg

WHEN PUSH COMES TO...POOL: The notion of "bustle" gets a lot of prominent play come December. People bustle about, with bags and packages in hand, as they buy ribbons and bows and the 97 other accouterments that go into staging a present-filled festivity. But finding presence, as in a quiet moment to reflect upon the season and the year as a whole, is also a good thing, and no bustle is required. In fact, removing the bustle from the whole equation can be a plus, allowing the former bustlerer to take a day or two to de-whatever: de-stress, de-hurry, de-bustle, before jumping back in. That's where the early Decembertime hotel deals come in, those getaway eye-catchers that provide people with some desired downtime amid all of the hectic happenings. And few places qualify for the title of Downtime Central like Death Valley National Park, which happens to be where the...

FURNACE CREEK RESORT... is located. The historic desert-gorgeous spread, which includes both the root-and-toot-y Ranch at Furnace Creek and the elegant Inn at Furnace Creek, is offering 30-percent off stays on select December nights. The Inn's deal is on for Dec. 4, 6, and 9th through 18th, while The Ranch has lasso'd the cash-keeping special for Dec. 4 and 9. There are asterisks, just like there are stars over Death Valley at night, including the fact that resort fees and taxes aren't included. What is included? Removing yourself from the bustle for a day or two, the better to catch your breath before heading back into the fun and festiveness of the end of the year. Will a little desert time do you good? And will this deal smile upon your holidaytime budget? Saddle up and ride for the details.

Photo Credit: Furnace Creek Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Foxen Canyon: Christmas on the Trail]]> Fri, 02 Dec 2016 09:40:47 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/winechoctaw.jpg

DESCRIBING A PRETTY WINE COUNTRY VISTA... in December might inspire the describer to say things like "bare branches" and "the occasional golden leaf" and "crisp sunsets" and such. For while it is still autumn, at least for much of the month, the busyness of a wine country fall, at least in terms of harvest and crush time, is now in the rear-view mirror. Leaf-free vines and colder temperatures reign, giving the vineyards a quieter "winter is ahead" feel. But wait: It turns out there are more bustling moments to come, and they're focused on a particularly festive happening: the holidays. This is the moment when wineries put up their over-sized door wreaths, and break out the luscious ports and sparkling wines and deeper reds, and ask carol-playing string trios to sit in on the weekends. If this extra-December-y feel is just to your liking, and the final weeks of the year are the ultimate weeks to be in wine country (in your excellent opinion), best hop to Foxen Canyon Wine Trail over the second weekend of December for...

CHRISTMAS ON THE TRAIL: The two-dayer (Dec. 10 and 11 in 2016) connects a host of Santa Maria-, Los Alamos-adjacent wineries for a convivial to-do. Fess Parker Winery, Zaca Mesa Winery, and several other regional favorites will offer "small bites" along the 30-mile route, as well as other holiday-ready details (hello, cookies) and the all-important commemorative glass. It's a passport-type weekend, so if you want to try all 20 single-ounce pours (from a total of 13 destinations), best look into hopping onto a shuttle while savoring the celebration. Or find your designated driver, someone who also loves the sights/smells/wintery wonder of wine country when fall is saying its final adieu.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto]]>
<![CDATA[Desert Yuletide: La Quinta Resort & Club]]> Mon, 05 Dec 2016 11:24:07 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/Christmas_Frontlaquinta1.jpg

A SANTA-READY SKY: The nice thing, at Christmas, about waiting on the arrival of the Jolly Old Elf, is this hard-to-dispute fact: The sky is always above us, wherever we happen to be. It might be morningtime, and a pinky sunrise sky, or it might be evening, and lush with stars. But keeping an eye out, and moreover up, for Santa during his big month, means that a bigger, vaster sky, the sort of skyscape that one finds in the desert, may be the preferable way to go (should you want to see if you can see Mr. Claus on approach). In fact, the desert is a delight all-around at the yuletide, from crisp-but-not-cold daytime temperatures to even crisper, bring-a-sweater evening weather. That's exactly what La Quinta Resort & Club, in La Quinta, enjoys each December, mostly every day. And, yep, that big sky above just seems to have more sky to it than most other places' skies do, even with the mountains on the horizon. Ready to gaze to the stars and keep watch for Santa? Then eye the full...

2016 HOLIDAY SCHEDULE... at the resort, which was long famous as the favorite getaway for filmmaker Frank Capra, the man behind "It's a Wonderful Life." The '20s-era property, which has grown to incorporate over 40 pools, keeps that "Wonderful" whimsy high during the holidays with special seasonal dining, spa treatments geared to the merry moment, movie screenings, and, of course, the dramatic tree that stands near the main entrance plaza. And might there be "freshly roasted chestnuts" for snacking upon in the lobby? Well, that's the word. Best get some protein, and sustenance, the better to enjoy that seemingly limitless desert sky for the stars, the moon, and, who knows, a reindeer sighting or two.

Photo Credit: La Quinta Resort & Spa]]>
<![CDATA[Wintry Camping in Nevada City]]> Fri, 02 Dec 2016 23:00:48 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/nccampIMG_8200.jpg

CAMPGROUNDS + COOLER DAYS: Here's something true that can't be quibbled with: Even when snow arrives, and brisk breezes blow through, the summery places we love and adore still stand. Swimming pools don't simply pack up their luggage and make for sunnier climes, and beaches known for hot-weather vacationers don't roll up all of that sand and stick it in storage. Likewise, campgrounds, those play places of May, June, July, August, and beyond, absolutely don't get their goodbyes on when the first flakes start to fall. True, some may temporarily shutter, or keep a different schedule, but they're still right where summer lovers left them.

EVERY NOW AND AGAIN, though, a camptastic destination keeps on trucking right through the longest nights of the year, with a few tempting tweaks. Exhibit A? Look to the Inn Town Campground, the new Nevada City spread that is, as it says, very close to the pleasures of the funky, walk-around Gold Country village. It's keeping open hours through the winter of 2016-2017, which means getawayers can enjoy things like the...

WILD & SCENIC FILM FESTIVAL... in January, and Nevada City's charming Victorian Christmas (a December staple, on select afternoons and nights). The tents have been stowed at the Inn Town, do note, but if you have a motorhome or RV you can reserve a spot in the heart of January or February. The campground also has suggestions on where to rent an Airstream or Teardrop trailer, the kind of old-school roll you've been vowing to try out for years. And shall there be s'mores kits just in time for the yuletide, with artisanal marshmallows (think peppermint bark)? The campground owners want to bring some festiveness to their guests' goodie-based cravings. To check out all of the wintry haps in Nevada City, and how things change slightly at the campground over winter (though not too much), give the Inn Town a buzz. Then start packing some of your warmer, downier wear, for a summer-style adventure in the heart of the winter's beautiful brrrr.

Photo Credit: Erin Thiem]]>
<![CDATA[Winchester Mystery House: 'Spirit of Christmas']]> Tue, 29 Nov 2016 14:58:10 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/216*120/winchester92922-horz.jpg

MAKE NO BONES ABOUT IT: There isn't any quibble to be made, and arguing the point is pointless. This is the phantom-fun fact of the matter, when it comes to the famous Winchester Mystery House in San Jose: Autumn, October, and Halloween are major occasions at what is often described as one of the planet's most haunted homes. Fans arrive from afar to spy the windows placed in floors and doors opening onto solid walls, and to hear atmospheric tales of Sarah Winchester's mission to never let the hammers fall silent on her massive manse. And the nighttime tours flower during the fall, the tours involving flashlights and spooky tales, and those, too, are well-attended by mansion mavens who need more. But this home, which is an amazing and enormous and offbeat example of high Victorian style, also wears its yuletide finery quite well. The pine and the greens and the bows pair well with the Winchester's carved wood details, and Christmas trees lend the domestic scene a Noël-nice nostalgia. Want to spy the Winchester wearing its seasonal robes? The...

"SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS"... is just around the corner. The event, which includes "A Taste of the Holidays," will sparkle, like those vintage glass ornaments of yore, over nine nights in the final month of the year. There shall be celebratory snacking, and carols to hear, and some 20 Christmas trees to admire, and the general feeling that you've transported back to a bells-and-whistles celebration as seen at the turn of the (last) century. It's just under an hour, all of this conviviality, and tickets start at ten bucks for younger guests and end at $30. First night? It's Dec. 16, while it all rounds out on New Year's Eve Eve (yep, the 30th).

Photo Credit: Winchester Mystery House/Gazimal]]>
<![CDATA[Encinitas Wow: Botanic Garden to Glow]]> Tue, 29 Nov 2016 17:20:58 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sdbg_rachelcobb1.JPG

TREE DECORATION TIPS... tend to dominate lifestyle sites and publications just after Thanksgiving, for that's the moment when many people are turning their gazes to local corner lots and the storage room (where the faux fir has been sitting patiently since early January). We want to know a faster, non-tanglier way to weave a string of lights through various branches, and we want to have a tree-topper that comes with a lot of moxie and merriment. But consider what a snap it is to festoon your own at-home fir, a single tree, as opposed to decorating a truly big botanic garden, the kind that comes with towering trees and shrubs that can easily be described as sizable. It's a considerable undertaking, but one that staffers at the San Diego Botanic Garden perform each season, the better to get the glow going at the annual Garden of Lights.

THE MULTI-NIGHT SPECTACULAR... is very much about seeing the agave and olive trees and other flora native to our state in sparkly mode, whether that sparkle comes from brightly hued bulbs or simple white lights. But there are other holiday-ish happenings during the Dec. 3 to 30 run, including the roasting of marshmallows, horse-drawn wagons to hop aboard, and snow. Yes, these are all outdoorsy pursuits, so you can bet mulled wine will be for sale. Other sweet happenings, from stories to puppets to Santa cameos (on select dates) round out these Encinitas-based must-do. It's a classic combining of nature and the yuletide, one that brings dazzle to the plants with a few human-fun goings-on in tow. All the details? Wend along a glowing garden path now (and learn all).

Photo Credit: Rachel Cobb/San Diego Botanic Garden]]>
<![CDATA[Announced: Fee-Free 2017 NPS Days]]> Mon, 28 Nov 2016 15:01:30 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/feefreenpsGettyImages-450421924.jpg

CALENDAR SHOPPING, as a close-of-the-year pursuit, can be rather pleasurable on an aesthetic level. You know you'll be staring at it for the next twelve months, should you hang it somewhere prominent, like the refrigerator, so picking out the perfect theme is essential. Will you go with kittens in baskets for 2017? Or rainbows? Or ponies? Or some ultimate mythical calendar that features all three? So many delightful decisions. But you don't need to dither over the first dates you'll circle when you buy your date-keeper, beyond the birthdays and anniversaries you need to keep in mind. You'll want to promptly call out, via the thickest pen you have, all of the fee-free days coming up at the national parks. They're pretty special, and definitely money-saving, and there are but a handful each year, so heeding when they pop up is important. The 2017 dates were just revealed in the middle of November 2016, giving you time to circle away.

THE FIRST FEE-FREE DAY... of the new year is Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 16. Presidents Day follows, on Feb. 20, while two weekends pop up in April in honor of National Park Week. The National Park Service's birthday on Aug. 25 will be part of the celebratory, pay-nothing-to-enter batch, while National Public Lands Day on Sept. 30 and Veterans Day Weekend round out the calendar. Oh, and you're correct if you just remembered that not every national park charges an entrance fee; just over a fourth of all the parks, monuments, and sites do on a normal, everyday basis. But those 127 treasures will once again waive admission on select and special days in the new year. Better start circling when on your new refrigerator calendar.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Happy 39th, Victorian Christmas]]> Fri, 25 Nov 2016 10:28:14 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/vicchristmasnc9328213.jpg

THIS IS NOT A QUIZ, swearsies, but if we were to ask you when the true Victorian era kicked off, in terms of fashion and theater and society, what year would you cite? When Queen Vic herself was born? When the looks of London began reaching New York City and beyond? Or another year entirely? We'll guess that whatever time you suggest, you won't suggest 39 years ago, which happened to be, as of this typing, or just about, 1978. Top hats weren't really the look but disco outfits were, and while lace-up boots didn't make the scene, roller skates with glittery shoelaces very much did. Still, one must tip their aforementioned top hat to that particular year, and to Nevada City, for that's the moment when Victorian Christmas began. The jolly old street faire has evolved into a December staple around the Gold Country town, a multi-day and multi-night to-do that includings caroling, treats, and St. Nick himself in traditional 1800s regalia. Making your way to Victorian Christmas doesn't require a mysterious portal back to the era of carriages and muffs, though. You only need to get to Nevada City on...

DEC. 4, 11, 18... in the daytime or Dec. 14 and 21 at night. Those first three dates are Sundays, yes, while the latter two are Wednesday evenings. Do you need to wear a cape or fascinator or some other piece that's reminiscent of days of yore? No, though many people do. Do you need to arrive with some holiday shopping to get done, a love of chestnuts, an affection for carriage rides, and a desire to have an alfresco holiday experience with a charming, Dickens-like twist? They're all fine plans. It's an event that regularly makes the top ten lists around the close of the year, the lists that detail America's most Christmas-ready towns and their sparkly to-dos. Victorian Christmas, and Nevada City, both bring the charm, the holly, and the 1800s-ness to the party, a December must since that era of roller skates and mirrorballs back in (19)'78.

Photo Credit: Nevada City Chamber]]>
<![CDATA[Holidays High Up: Tram Tree]]> Thu, 24 Nov 2016 08:01:52 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/pstramxmastreeblue9022.jpg

WHERE TREES GROW: It wouldn't be very controversial to say, as a true and factual statement, that trees are often found rooted in the ground. Okay, granted, sometimes a wee fir will call a large pot a home, and there are those strange smaller trees that grow upwards from the large branches of the redwoods of the Trees of Mystery in Klamath. But, in general, if you're looking at a tree, you're probably seeing it at eye-level, and if it is far taller than you, you can spy its earthen base from where you stand. But there are some more offbeat specimens come the sparkly season, the sort of festive symbols that are placed on rooftops and in pickup beds and, on rarest occasion, very, very high up a mountain, on a restaurant reachable by tram. It turns out that there is such a magnificent wonder in California, and while it is a tree made of lights, it counts as one of the quirkiest pyramid-y symbols of the holidays. It's the bulb-tastic tree at...

THE PALM SPRINGS AERIAL TRAMWAY, and it will again glow beginning on the evening of Sunday, Dec. 4. The illuminated wonder sits at the Peaks Restaurant at Mountain Station, which is over 8,500 feet up Mt. San Jacinto, and you can spy it up close while you dine inside (after your thrilling tram ride up). Or if you have a keen eye, you might even see it from Palm Springs, where it appears as a glowing dot in the darkness of the state park. There are some sweet surprises at the tram beyond the tree's lighting (and the nightly sparkle show), like Santa visits, holiday choir performances, and more. But as far as really, really high elevation Christmas trees go? Well, for sure, there are trees higher than the tram's tree in our mountain-marvelous state, but only the tram tree's bright lines can be spied from great distances in the desert below. 

Photo Credit: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway]]>
<![CDATA[Greet 2017 on Catalina Island]]> Sat, 26 Nov 2016 07:34:54 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Casino_SCICo9898-horz.jpg

LET'S JUST GET ONE THING STRAIGHT: Fish, as a rule, don't dance. They may swim like champions, and occasionally gurgle, and they dart and dash when required, and they sometimes even fly, but doing the tango, or performing a waltz, is of little interest to them as they move around the Big Drink. But the ocean denizens don't mind a bit if human beings dance and waltz and tango just steps away from the water, inside a beautiful building that's overlooked the place where the fish live for well over 80 years. And dance people definitely do, inside the building, especially when a rather magical night pops up on the calendar: New Year's Eve. For some 44 years now the Casino Building, Catalina Island's stately symbol, has been the sight of an old-style celebration, the kind of party with a live band and bubbly and the other hallmarks of a grand hullabaloo. The fish outside may be swimming in the harbor, and in the kelp forest beyond, but, inside, on Dec. 31, 2016? 

THERE SHALL BE DANCING, and a buffet supper, and music performed by The Xceptional Music Company, and a split of Champagne for each 21-and-over reveler, and the essential (but still fairly uncommon) balloon drop at the stroke of midnight. Paper hats, sparkly noisemakers, and the kind of wave-it-toot-it accessories synonymous with the final day of the year are also provided. Good to know? You should make your reservation in advance, and secure passage to the island (by boat or by air), and find a hotel room in Avalon, as the whoop-di-do-ing will wrap after midnight. Will the fish be awake before you arise on New Year's Day? Well, yeah, because they didn't stay up late, awaiting 2017's entrance. But you can sleep in, after a grand night in a grand landmark. Of course, just make sure not to miss your boat, or you'll be running for the dock, possibly with your party hat still perched atop your head.

Photo Credit: Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce/Bubbly]]>
<![CDATA[WildLights: A Living Desert Tradition]]> Sat, 26 Nov 2016 07:31:42 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/WildlightsDesert11.jpg

THE DESERT IS ALIVE... with scurrying lizards and cooing birds and howling coyotes and any number of furry, scaly, feathery denizens, but the time of day a lot goes down is the question mark. Many critters who call warmer landscapes home tend to be more active after sundown, while some trundle along in the heat of the day from shady shrub to shady shrub. Discovering the day/night patterns of desert denizens is a worthwhile course of natural study, but you don't need to wonder what time of day or night that twinkly little bulbs lend a famous desert destination glow, for that's right on the destination's web site. It's The Living Desert we reference here, the Palm Desert animal preserve that's home to a caboodle of arid-awesome beasties, from tortoises to wolves to bighorn sheep to badgers to bobcats. And it is WildLights we also reference, the November-into-December dazzle-tacular that's all about lighting up the typically dark spaces of animal park. 

WILDLIGHTS... has been around for quite some time now — 2016 will be its 24th go-around — and both regional residents and those from around California call upon it to get a sense of how illumination enhances a space that isn't tree-filled so much as lush with the scrubbier (and always splendid) flora of the desert. Prepare to view "over a million twinkling lights" during the multi-night happening, which opens on Thanksgiving Eve and runs right through to Christmas Eve. Might you even arrive earlier in the day to see the animals, too? It's a good idea, especially since WildLights is about viewing the seasonal displays (a tunnel of lights, animal lanterns, and such) and not about saying hello to The Living Desert's denizens. Santa, by the by, will be around, too, at the seasonal staple. Consider a twinkle-lovely night spent in a place that typically is mostly lit by the moon, a place where wolves and tortoises and badgers rule the roost.

Photo Credit: The Living Desert]]>
<![CDATA[Fungi Face-Off: Big Sur Foragers Festival]]> Thu, 24 Nov 2016 08:07:36 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Mushroombigsur1931232.jpg

IT IS JUST ABOUT THANKSGIVING WEEK... when loads of lively articles and recipes begin to pop up, many detailing ways to incorporate more vegetables and fruits and such into the typically heavy meal. One earthy, non-meat staple always slides into the spotlight come late November, thanks to chefs and food bloggers recommending its inclusion in various stuffings and dressings and breads. It's the mushroom, and while it can rule any season of the year, its time to shine is truly in the damper fall and winter months, at least up around the Big Sur area and Mendocino County, too. Though "shine" isn't exactly the right word, since foragers typically make their fungi finds in shadowy forest groves (and, true, the fungi is beneath the ground, a place that isn't known for its shine). But take the spotlight the mushroom shall, and how, in the middle of January up around Big Sur and Carmel Valley. The flavorful festivity is the...

BIG SUR FORAGERS FESTIVAL, and it will start 2017 off with some yummy, memorable meals from Jan. 13 through 15 (a Friday through Sunday, yep). A number of eat-oriented, adventure-seeking happenings are on the roster, including the mondo Fungus Face-Off, a competition which'll see top-notch toque-wearers showing off their skills with locally sourced mushrooms. Serene Carmel Valley Ranch is the setting for the face-off, and that is, indeed, a place known for its lovely lavender and honey (in addition to its dedication to dining that honors sustainability). What else is on the calendar? A Grand Chef's Forager Dinner, a Local Artisan Market, and more to-dos built around the deep-of-tone taste-filled fungi will fill out the three-day cuisine-big gathering. Just eye the location of the to-do that interests you, to make sure you're in the right spot at the right time. And, really, if you're still pondering Thanksgiving dishes to make, a few mushrooms in the stuffing do pack some pow. Let that be a starter to your fungi-fun wintertime eating. 

Photo Credit: Big Sur Foragers Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Sacramento Seasonal: Free Theatre of Lights]]> Sat, 19 Nov 2016 12:51:41 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/TheatreofLightsbyCharrCrail.jpg

SETTING AND THE SEASON: When you finally pull the Christmas tree out of storage, and you visit the local lot down on the corner to pick out the most fragrant and handsome fir, you likely don't simply plop it up in the middle of the den, without any consideration to setting and surroundings. Perhaps you add a few plaid bows along a nearby curtain rod, and some twinkly lights to the potted palm in the corner, all with the intention of creating a really cool setting for your yuletide centerpiece. But cool settings that we don't construct at home can be a little harder to come by at the holidays, if only because cool settings, as a rule, aren't found on every block. But Old Sacramento, with its historic air, gaslamp-vibes, river-close beauty, and straight-from-the-1800s presence, has a setting that seems to be made for a major holiday. And the end-of-the-year celebrations find a home at the ye olde district each year via Macy's Theatre of Lights. The sparkly spectacle, which will happen on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, runs from...

NOV. 23 THROUGH CHRISTMAS EVE: Get ready for "state-of-the-art sound and lighting technology" that will help "transport the audience back in time with a reading of the famous poem 'The Night Before Christmas' by Clement Moore." The nifty light show dances across both the balconies of Old Sac's times-gone-by buildings as well as the structures' facades and rooftops. It's all free to see, but round up your kin early in the afternoon, as it can bustle after sundown. A few date change-ups? There's no show on Thanksgiving, and nightly shows are scheduled from Dec. 19 through Dec. 24. And while there are two 20-minute performances each night of the run, Christmas Eve has one, do note. Watch something, for free, that's full of cheery charms in one of California's most storied and distinctive settings. And isn't the season's distinctive look very much about a setting that rises to the occasion? Old Sac has that sepia-nostalgic vibe, a vibe it has been rocking in three distinctive centuries.

Photo Credit: Charr Crail]]>
<![CDATA[Earthy Eats: Napa Truffle Festival]]> Fri, 18 Nov 2016 12:13:00 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/trufflehands0928323.jpg

BITE INTO ANY RICH DISH, whether it is pasta or pizza or a burger or an omelet, and you'll likely make an observation about what strikes you first (that is, if you're dining with someone who might want to know such an observation). The pizza's chewy crust might be the first sensation the pie provides, while the most outstanding feature of a pasta could be its tangy sauce. As for the burger or omelet? A piquancy might stand out or a cheesy element, if cheese is present. But try any entrée that has the merest hint of a truffle, be it a slice or a shaving, and that's probably the part you'll talk about first (again, if someone is dining with you and has an ear to lend on such matters). Truffles are so distinctive, and so stand-out-y, that they'll be the first ingredient out of the gourmet-grand gate when it comes to greeting your senses. So what's it like to be at an all-truffle gathering, where the straight-from-underground wonders are fragranting-up foodstuffs aplenty? It's delicious, but you can see so for yourself at the...

NAPA TRUFFLE FESTIVAL: The mid-January jubilation is back, with three days packed with seminars, lunches, a "Wild Mushroom Foray," area vinos, vendors purveying in yummy tidbits, and a tour/dog-training demo (since our pup pals play a vital role in truffle-based discoveries). The 2017 dates are Jan. 13 through 16, and locations include Nickel & Nickel as well as Davis Estates. How does a sip of merlot enhance a truffle's salty I'm-here-ness? How do the fungi stars make a bread or quiche more itself? For sure, a truffle can be the most prominent of flavors, but it has a way of lifting the dish as a whole to something superb. Maybe even something that transcends the original idea of what the dish could be. (Plan on expressing such flights of fancy if you're eating truffles with someone who won't mind listening to such things.)

Photo Credit: Napa Truffle Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Monarch Beach Resort: Pet Photos with Santa]]> Wed, 23 Nov 2016 18:06:46 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/PetPhotosSanta33e.jpg

COAXING YOUR COCKER SPANIEL... to don a pair of felt reindeer antlers or an elf hat (complete with jingling bell on the end) can take a treat or two or five, with an added promise that you'll visit the park later. (Granted, your pup may not be able to piece together the whole sentence, but his ears will surely perk up upon hearing the word "park.") But hound-loving humans are not deterred when our dogs demur upon first seeing their brand-new Christmas costume. After all, canines typically wear their elf or reindeer costumes for a few minutes, and after the perfect photograph is captured, the antlers and bells are retired for another year. If you want your pup's holiday portrait to be especially special this year, considering all the preparation and coaxing that goes into it, consider making a visit to the Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, a place that knows how to put some extra sheen on the holiday sparkle. That includes the offbeat but sweet chance to queue up for...

PET PHOTOS WITH SANTA: Book a stay at the ocean-close destination and a heart-tugger of a pet pic, complete with St. Nick, shall be yours. The photo sessions are scheduled on Sundays "from Thanksgiving — Christmas" and donations to the Pet Rescue Center are most welcome. The pet photos, though, aren't the only treat on the resort's calendar: holiday teas, the lighting of the menorah, cookie decorating, and a host of relaxed activities with a gingerbread-scented spirit await. Do you have Fido's felt reindeer antlers yet? Well, he can arrive as is, no costume required, for his Monarch Beach Resort photograph with the Jolly Ol' Elf.

Photo Credit: Monarch Beach Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Condor Release at Redwood National Park]]> Sun, 27 Nov 2016 10:15:15 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Condor3redwood029823.jpg

CONDORS MAY BE ADMIRED... in a few special spots around California, including Big Sur and Pinnacles National Park. But soon a new place will be known for the giant-of-wingspan birds, an endangered species that saw its numbers drop way, way down only three decades ago due to issues like lead-poisoning ("an all-time low of 22 individuals," if you're curious as to how many condors were in the world in the 1980s, and you likely are). People mightily concerned with this drop have come together on numerous projects over the years, all with an eye to supporting a robust condor population and making sure their environments are safe and healthy and can continually provide a base for happy and continued condor furtherment. The news grows happier and healthier, for the condors' base is expanding in the years ahead, thanks to a multi-organization project that aims to "attain 'flight ready' status and release condors in Redwood National Park in Fall 2019."

A NUMBER OF ELEMENTS... are part of this huge undertaking, a project that has partners in the National Park Foundation, the Yurok Tribe, the National Park Service, and the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. Condors, which are important and sacred birds to the Yurok Tribe, will be released within the tribe's ancestral territory, which is located inside the tree-beautiful national park. But before that happens, several parts must slide into place, including the "(c)onstruction of a condor release facility at a site in Redwood National Park" and the "(d)esign of a remote tracking and monitoring system to better understand flight and habitat patterns." The funds helping the condor release stem from the $350 million Centennial Campaign for America's National Parks, but the public will also play a part via a series of upcoming meetings in January 2017 in Klamath, Eureka, Sacramento, and two Oregon cities, Medford and Portland. If you'd like to join this bird-amazing bridge-building for one of our state's most epic, in-the-air symbols, check out when and where you can join a meeting and learn how we can all help the condors.

Photo Credit: Chris West/Yurok Tribe]]>
<![CDATA[San Diego's Parade of Lights ]]> Tue, 15 Nov 2016 11:55:29 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Parade-of--Lights-1217.jpg

Holiday Parade of Lights: Get ready for this year’s Parade of Lights on San Diego Bay. The annual event is held on two weekends in December. Dozens of boats deck themselves out with lights and sail past the shoreline lined with San Diegans. This year it will be held on December 11 and December 18 beginning at 5 p.m. on Shelter Island. Follow the parade route to decide where you’ll set up your party. Boats will sail past Harbor Island, The Embarcadero, Seaport Village, Cesar Chavez Park and the Ferry Landing on Coronado.

It Began With a Roar: Participants can expect to see a "wilder side" of San Diego in the holiday light displays this year as the parade theme is a nod to the centennial celebration of the San Diego Zoo. The captain and crew that best displays the theme "It Began with a Roar – San Diego Zoo Celebrates 100 Years” will win the coveted "Best of Parade" award.

Special Seats: The Maritime Museum of San Diego makes a unique opportunity for families by offering a seat on an historic ferryboat. For a price, you can be near where parade judges are stationed (aboard the steam yacht Medea) so you’ll have a great vantage point to watch the captains do all they can to get top prize. A holiday buffet and a no-host bar will be offered from 5:00 p.m. –8:00 p.m. Tickets are $50 for adults and $25 for children ages 3-12 and can be purchased online through the museum’s website at www.sdmaritime.org or by calling 619-234-9153 ext 101. Children under 3 are free. As an added bonus, the ticket includes museum admission so you can go early and take a look around. There’s also the option just to watch the parade with a $10 museum admission after 6 p.m. Attendees are asked to bring a new, unwrapped toy for the Toys for Tots program.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Winter Arrives Early in Laguna Beach]]> Mon, 14 Nov 2016 12:45:07 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/SawdustLagunaXmas2012.jpg

THAT STORYBOOK SCENE: One way to call upon a darling little village, the sort of place that boasts twisting, walkable lanes and wee nooks filled with treasures, is to crack open the fairy tale-filled tome you loved as a kid. The pages will instantly transport you to such a locale, as they did when you were small, but once you close the cover you'll have to bid it goodbye as you acknowledge that such a spot probably doesn't exist on this particular plane. Oh, but it does, and it comes with a ho-ho-ho costume on in November and December, which ups the "fantasy" part of its name. It's the Winter Fantasy at the Sawdust Art & Craft Festival we quite obviously and on-the-nose-ly refer to, the colder weather outing of Laguna Beach's popular summertime handmade fair. The Winter Fantasy typically falls, like the most delicate of snowflakes, onto the calendar just around Thanksgiving, so shoppers can begin to shop as they cross loved ones' names off their lists. But you'll have just...

FIVE WEEKENDS... to browse all of the nifty earrings and pretty headbands and striking photographs and glass ornaments and hand-painted wearables among the many booths (and we do mean many, as some 175 artists show and sell at Sawdust). Santa makes a showing at the annual to-do, and carolers, too. First day? Crunch-crunch along the sawdust beginning on Nov. 19 (the Saturday before Thanksgiving). It all bids goodbye on Dec. 18, the Sunday before Christmas. And in that time period? Gifts to buy, music to hear, and storybook quaint-o-sity to soak up. It's charm-plus-plus-plus, all a short walk from the heart of Laguna Beach.

Photo Credit: Sawdust Winter Fantasy]]>
<![CDATA[Bodie State Historic Park: Winter Hours Begin]]> Sat, 12 Nov 2016 12:18:59 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/bodieBettySederquist.jpg

CLASSIC ROAD TRIPS, per movies and novels and documentaries and commercials and magazines, happen in one season and one season alone: summertime. Oh, there may be the occasional foray into fall, but then leaf-peepery somehow needs to be involved in the vacation. And if spring is the thing for a road trip, according to popular culture, somehow flower-viewing or a garden visit should play a part. Summer it is, for the most part, but road-trippers know that any day of the year that happens in one of the twelve months, beginning with Jan. 1 and ending on New Year's Eve, is a great time for a getaway. That includes winter, the most unsung of the tires-a-rolling stretches, though plenty of road-trippers understand that A) lots of out-of-the-way places remain open and B) seeing those places in snow can be a deep and even profound experience. Look to lovely Bodie State Historic Park, which just changed up its winter opening hours for the 2016-2017 season. Those hours are 9 a.m. to 4 in the afternoon, meaning you'll need to be back on the road...

WELL BEFORE SUNDOWN: That's okay, of course. If you're fortunate, and your visit follows some snowfall, you'll view the 1870s-authentic mining town, a place kept in "arrested decay," in a wholly new way, one that's apt to be both quiet and quite stunning. The details of the dozens of buildings that remain can be astonishingly pronounced when there are no snowflakes clinging to various eaves and windows, but the frosty stuff adds a photo-ready dimension in the colder months. Just remember, if you do want to head to the remote location with your camera and tripod, best call about road conditions first (the park's number is 760-647-6445) and skip State Route 270, which "closes in the winter due to snow," per Mono County Tourism. The final day of wintertime hours in the exquisite, kept-in-amber (but vibrantly so, and not literally, of course) destination? March 17, 2017 is the last pre-spring, shorter-hour'd date on the landmark town's cold-weather schedule.

Photo Credit: Betty Sederquist]]>
<![CDATA[Island Amazing: Avalon Home Tour]]> Fri, 18 Nov 2016 16:02:16 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AvalonEast12345678.jpg

IF YOU'VE EVER TOODLED AROUND... a particular land mass that sits about 22 miles west-ish from mainland Los Angeles, you probably didn't toodle at top speed. That's because golf carts rule Avalon, the handsome and hill-lovely town that serves as Catalina Island's main hub. The open-air carts and the water-close burg are truly synonymous, but it isn't just the residents who get to drive them: Visitors, too, can rent some wheels for the afternoon. That means you'll get to toodle, via your golf cart, by a number of pretty island hotels, and patio-pretty restaurants, and several houses, too, the kind of distinctive domiciles that can set an island-adoring day-tripper to daydreaming. If you've ever done the slow-roll by a few Catalina Island abodes, and had plenty of space through which to view them (as your golf cart was open), go a step further and go inside on Saturday, Dec. 10. That's the date for the...

AVALON HOME TOUR, an afternoon-long peek inside "some of Avalon's most memorable homes." The Catalina Island Medical Center Foundation is the event's beneficiary, and a quintet of houses are on the map. But you won't need to drive your golf cart to each, as transportation is provided. A ticket? It's sixty bucks. Finally getting to know what it is like to live on a gorgeous island all year long? We can ponder such things from our hotel room, as we gaze out at the local houses dotting the Avalon hills, or we can go a bit deeper and see what it is like to live full-time on this bison-beautiful, flying fish-fantastic, beachy-fun slice of olde California.

Photo Credit: Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce]]>
<![CDATA[Turkey Trot: Oceanside Stay-Over Deal]]> Thu, 10 Nov 2016 15:30:35 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/springoceanside0929832-horz.jpg

THANKSGIVING DAY... has long been one of the at-home-iest holidays on the calendar. True, we might travel to see a parent or a cousin or a brother or a friend, but once you land, or reach the train station, you'll be sticking pretty close to your host's abode, at least throughout the fourth Thursday in November. That's because there is gravy to make, and rolls to bake, and all of that pie to eat (probably after the gravy and rolls are done, but, really, the eating rules are rather lax on Thanksgiving). But in recent years there has been a bit of an up-ender on the "never leave the house on Thanksgiving" front, and it isn't just about the films that tend to do well in theaters on the holiday. We speak, of course, of the Turkey Trot, the 5K or 10K that takes to a few local streets on the morning of the nom-nom holiday. Trots are all about raising funds for a fine cause while working off the pre-calories. But if you're making for a trot, say, in Oceanside, and you live a number of miles away, what should you do on the day? Look to the...

SPRINGHILL SUITES MARRIOTT OCEANSIDE, "which overlooks the pier and Turkey Trot course," for your night-before sleep needs. It should be mentioned that this 11th annual run includes both a 5K and a 10K (something you don't always find) and a Senior Race on Nov. 23, the day before Thanksgiving (and the day of the PMCU Turkey Trot). You can eye the charities and funds the Turkey Trot is supporting, and you can peruse the fun haps on the day-of (a costume contest is just one of the to-dos during the morning). As for your Springhill Suites stay? Rates start at $149 a night. Happy trotting, fundraising runners. Enjoy those oceany Oceanside breezes while you spend an at-home holiday among other trotters giving back to the community, and having a memorable time while they do it.

Photo Credit: SpringHill Suites Marriott Oceanside/Oceanside Turkey Trot]]>
<![CDATA[Drakesbad Guest Ranch: Book Now for 2017]]> Thu, 10 Nov 2016 15:32:01 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/drakesbadguest1.jpg

WHEN YOU'RE A MEMBER OF THE CASCADES, and you've been around for eons, but one of your volcanic eruptions happened so recently it was caught on film, and, yes, 1915 is very recent in terms of volcanoes, you have true presence. You're there, you're solid, you're gigantatron, and you're not heading anywhere or doing anything for the time being except being an enormous peak that can be viewed from miles around. Which is all to say this: Lassen Peak, and its home turf, Lassen Volcanic National Park, will stay put, and stay open, for the winter season, a time of year that can and does see snowfall around the peak's Northern California environs. But Drakesbad Guest Ranch, the famous historic lodging within the park's borders, does take the winter off, what with the weather and all, for people are not peaks (spoiler alert) and getting to the location shouldn't be hampered by frosty conditions. So if you want to visit Lassen Volcanic in the winter? Do, just check road conditions. If you want to stay at the charming, electricity-free Drakesbad during its warm-weather run? Do, just...

BOOK NOW FOR 2017: Like with any lodging situation that only hangs out the "open" sign for part of the year, Drakesbad Guest Ranch's dance card fills up months ahead of its yearly debut. It's closed for the rest of 2016, but the prospective opening date in 2017, June 2, isn't too far on the horizon. That means you can reserve asap, and find your sweet cabin or room, and not worry about having to cobble together your summertime trip when the springtime rolls around (and many dates are booked up). Oh, and yes, we did say "electricity-free" earlier, for "(a)ll accommodations are rustic and quaint, most without electricity." Kerosene lamps are provided, giving guests a "welcome respite from the modern world." With the super-connected lives we all lead, one can easily see how such an opportunity would appeal, vastly. So book now, for 2017, but if you have a hankering to visit the Cascades this winter, you don't even need to leave the state to do so: Just say hello to Lassen Peak, or the not-too-far-off Medicine Lake Volcano, or dear Mount Shasta, also longtime members of the Cascades club, one of the most venerable societies in the state.

Photo Credit: Drakesbad Guest Ranch]]>
<![CDATA[Modernism Week 2017: Tickets on Sale]]> Sat, 12 Nov 2016 12:19:25 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/CalienteTropics2JakeHolt.jpg

THAT PALM SPRINGS SHIMMER: Try to describe Los Angeles on a June morning without saying the words "foggy" or "gloom" and, well, you almost can't do it. Likewise, calling the high Sierra "crisp" in September seems like an obvious given. As for the desert resort cities and the month of February? "Shimmery" feels quite right, thanks to the soft (but warm) sunshine and all of those swimming pools busily and beautifully living up to the California wintertime ideal. But it isn't only the pools that lend Palm Springs its distinctive shimmer in February, of course. That happens to be the month when Modernism Week unfurls, the everything-mid-century-ish extravaganza that covers houses and public buildings and bus tours and art sales and furniture sales and fashion and the occasional ready-to-roll vintage trailer, too. It's a feast for the eyes, and for the mind, for a mid-century celebration comes with a deep sense of fairly recent history, too. Ready to step into the shimmer and indulge in your adoration of mid-century style? Then make for the desert from...

FEB. 16 THROUGH 26, 2017: You're right, that is practically half of the whole shortest month, which is impressive. But don't stand in awe of Modernism Week's out-sized-ness for too long: Tickets are now on sale. If you want to be a part of the swirl, which includes a tour of Frank Sinatra's Twin Palms Estate, a Double Decker Architecture Bus Tour, and a mondo "Pinball Fever" party, get on the whole ticket and hotel and getting-to-Palm-Springs thing before the old year passes. For February is shimmering on the horizon, speaking of pools and sun and Elvis Presley's honeymoon pad and the iconic John Lautner's iconic legacy and a million other details that fill the larger mid-century mosaic.

Photo Credit: Jake Holt Photography]]>
<![CDATA[OC Christmas Train: Tickets on Sale]]> Mon, 07 Nov 2016 12:37:31 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/irvinechristmastraintix16.jpg

ONCE YOU BOARD A CHRISTMAS TRAIN... all sorts of minor seasonal stresses have a way of taking a few minutes off. You're not going over the various 39 lists you have going in your head (which, truth be told, could all be compiled in one mega giganto list, though that might overwhelm) and you're not fussing over that seasonal errand you meant to do last week but did not, because you had about a dozen other errands to do. It is just you, a light breeze, the movement of the train, and the general feeling of fa-la-la-ness in the air. That's because once a train goes, and you're on it, well, you're on it, and sitting back 'n savoring the ride is the only must-do to be done. But trains aren't too plentiful, and tot-sized trains are even less plentiful, except if you find yourself in Orange, at the Irvine Park Railroad, which is toot-tooting into its...

21ST CHRISTMAS TRAIN: Tickets are now on sale for the 2016 family-outing-ready to-do, a daily tradition that runs from the first day of December right through to Christmas Eve Eve (Dec. 23, of course). The "enchanting night ride" comes with a bevy of activities in its sweet satellite, from cookie decorating to ice fishing to carnival-type games, but meeting a certain Mr. Claus is the ho-ho-ho highlight for many visitors. Can you take your own photograph with the Jolly Old Elf? You sure can, or there will be snapshots for purchase taken by staffers. Will the snack bar on the grounds be serving up warm-up beverages like hot cocoa and coffee? Yes, for the final month of the year is known for being on the chilly side. For all the times choo-choo in this direction, but do keep in mind that this merry and long-running event can sell out well in advance. 

Photo Credit: Irvine Park Railroad]]>
<![CDATA[5 Hikes for 50 Years: Anza-Borrego Adventure]]> Fri, 11 Nov 2016 22:59:08 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/TopofIndianHeadanzaborrego.jpg

A BIG 50TH: If you already celebrated your first half century in grand style, your friends and loved ones likely asked you what you wanted to do for the important day. Perhaps you suggested cake, or a special gift, but chances are some sort of participatory experience was near the top of your list, the sort of life-enhancing outing that connects you with a memory-making day. The Anza-Borrego Foundation is marking its 50th anniversary, and just because it is a nature-minded outfit, and not an individual human being, doesn't mean it doesn't want to go the celebratory happening route. It is doing just that, and it is inviting all aficionados of arid and amazing places to join in with an intriguing challenge: 5 Hikes for 50 Years. The "intriguing" part (and, to be honest, the "challenge" part) comes from the fact that the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park happens to be...

"CALIFORNIA'S LARGEST STATE PARK": And the foundation has shared a quintet of hikes that ramble through the expanse, from the "popular and well-signed Borrego Palm Canyon Nature Trail" to "lesser-visited hikes in more remote areas of the Park, such as Mountain Palm Springs." If you're a desert devotee, and the notion of completing five hikes in celebration of a big anniversary appeals, but you wouldn't dream of taking them on all at once, breath a sigh: You have through June 1, 2017 to complete the challenge. A certificate and ABF sticker shall be yours when you finish, but you'll need to let the foundation know, either via some social media hashtaggery and a selfie or an email with photos of you and your pals enjoying the various hikes. You'll want to read/know all before accepting the 5 Hikes for 50 Years challenge, but know this: Wintertime is dream time in the Anza-Borrego, and spreading out some sunshiny strolls through the more temperate months is quite the balm to everyday life. Details? Tie on your boots and trek over here.

Photo Credit: Anza Borrego Foundation]]>
<![CDATA[Madonna Inn: Seasonal Celebratory Supping]]> Tue, 08 Nov 2016 20:26:01 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/madonnainnholiday234.jpg

EXPECTING VISITORS FOR DINNER: If you've ever "done it up" for a holiday get-together, from purchasing twinkly lights to frame the windows to berry-scented candles for the dining table to those little reindeer decorations made out of fancy twigs, you are a person who likes to set the merry mood (if we might be so bold and just come out and state it plainly). But there are places to find that merry mood already fully on display, and then some, all year long. One of the top spots in this state or any other may be found not far from the coast, and right next to the 101, at the Madonna Inn. It is...

ALEX MADONNA'S GOLD RUSH STEAK HOUSE... we unsubtly hint at here, a visual symphony of pink and red and gold and lights and flowers and more flowers and a doll on a swing. Even if you're in there on an April afternoon, the room, with its lines of undulating booths and bright vibe, still rocks a yuletide feel. So it is good to know that you can book Thanksgiving and/or Christmas dinner in that place, and skip the whole decorating thing back at home (if you long to take a year off).

SO WHAT'S ON THE 2016 MENU? The yum-yum rosters are up for the November and December occasions (as well as a separate one for Christmas Eve) and include Roast Turkey, Baked Honey Cured Ham, Roast Duck, and a bevy of other hearty mains, from Grilled Portabella to Pink Shrimp Dolce Vita (a hue-perfect entree for the setting). A number of pies, including pumpkin, are among the choices, and the famous Pink Champagne Cake may be ordered, too. And, worry not: The pink chocolate is back. If you're searching out an over-the-top setting for a holiday supper, look to the San Luis Obispo landmark, the one with the themed rooms and the famous steakery that's all pink, gold, mirrors, and, yes, the occasional doll.

Photo Credit: Madonna Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Temecula's 2016 Harvest Celebration]]> Fri, 04 Nov 2016 15:29:01 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/219*120/food+and+wine.jpg

AUTUMN AND "H": If you look at any wine country destination from August to December, you're bound to find a bevy of events that rock "H" as the first letter in the title. Earlier in late summer and early fall those events are going to be built around harvest, that time of crush and prep that brings an especially busy vibe to the already busy wineries. And come November? Those "H" events will move from harvest-themed to holiday happenings. That moment truly arrives around the start of the month, as harvest doings are winding down and Christmas and Thanksgiving parties are revving up, but lovers of the fall tradition still have a chance to harvest-it-up in 2016 at a special Temecula to-do. It's Temecula's 2016 Harvest Celebration, and the Sunday, Nov. 6 soiree is built around hopping aboard a Grapeline Wine Tour for a flavorful around-the-valley visit to an octet of wineries.

THOSE WINERIES INCLUDE... Bel Vino Winery, Danza Del Sol Winery, Palumbo Family Vineyards, and Robert Renzoni Vineyards. The "all-day deluxe transportation" is part of the deal, a deal that includes "(b)arrel samples, new releases, and popular favorites" will rule the day, and, more importantly, the glasses and plates, at the $149-per-person event. As for where your tour will collect you? Pick-up spots include "area hotels and Old Town Temecula," so best look into where you'll bed down for the night. And start preparing for that switch from the "harvest" H-type events in wine country to those arriving with a dose of fa, la, la (the "holiday" H-style events, natch).

Photo Credit: Wine]]>
<![CDATA[Death Valley Encampment Deal at Furnace Creek]]> Thu, 03 Nov 2016 14:20:36 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/prosdvfurnace.jpg

DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK... is often described as "empty," and that's just about right. Those long vistas and huge horizons and mega stretches of nothingness (which are actually full of everythingness, flora- and fauna-wise) can seem a mite lonely, and even like a place plucked from some distant, not-yet-settled planet. Of course, the wondrous desert area's oft-repeated reputation for empty-a-tude isn't quite accurate, and it definitely was not when prospectors and miners and settlers entered the scene back in the 1800s. They were on the search for a new life, and, yes, whatever shiny stuff the ground might yield, though why people poured into the Golden State is a tale with thousands of beginnings and a multitude of endings. Those tales are revisited each November via The Annual '49ers Encampment, a history-filled festivity that ponders the moment when people arrived on the search for gold, including those who first made their way through Death Valley.

A WESTERN ART SHOW, "gold panning lessons, poker games, fiddlers' contests" and more merry doings than you can fit inside a borax barrel are on the Nov. 9 through 13 horizon, and the nightly music shows are major highlights. If you book a package at The Ranch at Furnace Creek or The Inn at Furnace Creek — the two stays right in the Encampment's neck o' the woods (or desert, rather) — you'll nab a "(o)ne-year family membership in the Death Valley '49ers." Attending the events, and some other perks, are part of the package, so find your best gold-panning duds and suit up for a true, tale-packed slice of California's not-so-long-ago past.

Photo Credit: Resort at Furnace Creek]]>
<![CDATA[The 'Re-Imagined' Cambria Beach Lodge]]> Wed, 02 Nov 2016 20:16:53 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/cambriabeachlodge1234567.jpg

LOAD UP THE STATION WAGON... and head out for a getaway, and you might just toss the term "road trip" to your traveling companions. But not every destination deserves that lovely label, for while you may be on the road, having a trip, only a number of regions truly represent the spirit of road-trippery. Highway 1 absolutely does, and if you cruise through San Luis Obispo, and San Simeon, and even wee 'n wonderful Harmony, you don't even have to try to level up into the upper reaches of road-tripping: You're doing it, naturally, because the area is so ripe for easy driving, easy days, easy everything. It's a notion that Cambria Beach Lodge has very much folded into its refreshening in recent days, that road-tripping to Cambria is so sublime it just might top road-tripping anywhere else (it is absolutely in the aforementioned upper reaches, for sure). If staying at a small-ish but not wee — translation: 27 rooms — boutique hotel from the 1960s, one that had a major touch-up in 2016 that groks to its road-trip aesthetic, appeals, then check out the...

MOONSTONE BEACH GETAWAY: You're pretty dang close to the Pacific at the Cambria Beach Lodge, though pulling away from the hotel might be hard. The rooms boast "a beach-inspired theme" complete with sun-bleached wood floors and "turquoise accents throughout." Artwork from Iron & Resin, the SoCal collective, ups the beachiness, and the amenities are "inspired by the destination's community of adventurers, winemakers, and artists." There are suites with fireplaces, for those foggier Cambria morns, and Linus bikes give roamers a couple of wheels to roam by. And will you take an Adventure Kit down to the beach? The binoculars found within may help you spy a passing whale or two. For all the details, and some sharp snapshots of the lodge's luxe'd-up look, pull your station wagon over to the curb now.

Photo Credit: Cambria Beach Lodge]]>
<![CDATA[Redwoods Eek: Meet the Monster Tree]]> Mon, 31 Oct 2016 06:14:56 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/BerryGlenTrail.RichardStenger.jpg

HOW IS A CLOUD LIKE A TREE? Listing the differences between the amorphous water-holding vaporous stars of the sky and the bark-strong, limb-lovely stars of the forest could take someone the better part of the day, but here's one truth that cannot be quibbled with: Both occur in nature. Anyone? No argument? Then we're ready to put forth one more connection that should be low on the quibble scale: People see shapes and faces in clouds and trees alike. Clouds seems to get more cred on this one, but hikers regularly point out shrubs and branches that hold a certain eerie mien or facial expression that isn't normally found in the wild world. Look to Redwood National Park, which is rather known for its trees (and, yes, foggy clouds above, though those can be harder to discern thanks to all of the tall giants filling the space above our heads). And look to the so-called Monster Tree, which some think of as the Darth Vader Tree, a redwood of glowery gloriousness thanks to its recesses and patterns.

DO YOU SEE EITHER? It really is an eye-of-the-beholder thing, but if you want to marvel before the Monster Tree in person, make for the Berry Glen Trail, which happens to boast more beautiful and strange specimens of the giant (giant giant) plant. Look for the Scabby Tree, and the Twisted Snag, and discuss with your part whether the woodsy wonders do inspire a viewer to see things that aren't truly there. But we do that with clouds, right? And all sorts of things in nature and in the human-made world, too? Surely a redwood has a few magic properties beyond its epic ability to grow hundreds of feet over hundreds of years. Is that a dog shape in that one trunk? And, over there, a tomato or a rose? Find fantasy in the old forests at Halloween and all year long.

Photo Credit: Richard Stenger]]>
<![CDATA[Coastal Cuisine: Big Sur Food & Wine Fest]]> Sat, 29 Oct 2016 06:20:24 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/CTTC0911171529226.jpg

PLANNING A ROAD TRIP... along glorious, twisty, fog-luscious, views-forever, waves-foamy Highway 1 is one of Life's Greatest Pleasures, and while the pursuits included on the Life's Greatest Pleasures are plentiful, few can top anticipating a visit to one of the World's Best Road (a whole other list, entirely). But while road-trip preparation frequently involves the buying of granola bars and the making of sandwiches, the better to have sustenance nearby as one travels along, a Highway 1 food prep is a different thing. And this is why: If you know you're heading to Big Sur, chances are you'll want to stop at some of the beloved bite-making mainstays there, to get your fill of omelets and pastas and hearty whole grain fare, and all of those fresh coast-close cuisine that makes Big Sur a foodie favorite. Look to the Big Sur Food & Wine Festival, the yearly hoopla that loves upon the deliciousness that is part of life at the edge of the continent. The 2016 dates are...

NOV. 3 THROUGH 5, and a number of events will please avowed Big Sur-loving supperists. There's an opening day Magical Mystery Tour, which will call upon "three different private properties along the northern part of the Big Sur coast" with a host of eats and wines along the way. Hiking with Stemware takes guests out into nature, where condors just might be seen, for a picnic of posh-nice proportions. More Magical Mystery Tours will follow on the final day, each with a different vibe and itinerary, and a Walkabout Marketplace is scheduled for Nov. 5 (find it next to Big Sur Bakery). A Deetjen's Dinner, a Hoedown at the Library (Henry Miller Library, natch), and other gatherings dot the roster. So go ahead and pack those granola bars, for you'll need a nosh before you reach Big Sur. But once there? The eating opportunities are plentiful and pleasurable, and certainly from Nov. 3 through 5.

Photo Credit: Visit California]]>
<![CDATA[Gingerbread Joy at Resort at Squaw Creek]]> Thu, 03 Nov 2016 21:25:32 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/squawcreek_gingerbread_christmas.small.jpg

TRY TO DESCRIBE THE OUTDOOR AIR... at a mountain resort in the winter, and you may reach for words like "fireplace" and "pine" and "snow" and "a sort of general crispness" (okay, that's five words, but accurately assessing the particular snap found in higher elevation air is a task that has bested the best of wordsmiths in the past). But another scent arrives at some peak-pretty destinations 'round about Thanksgiving, and it is a bit spicy, and a bit cake-like, and it has "bread" in the name, though the sweet scent is more dessert-ish than the word "bread" might imply. It's gingerbread, yes, and if you arrive at the right spot at the right time, you're apt to find a festive gingerbread house, or, in the case of The Resort at Squaw Creek, A Destination Hotel, a number of festive gingerbread houses of notable size. They're all a part of...

MAGICAL MEMORIES 2016, a seasonal run of packages and events popping up around the Olympic Valley property, popping like so many delightful Christmas crackers. The gingerbread village will be grandly revealed, alongside a traditional tree lighting, on Friday, Nov. 25 (you got it, the day after Thanksgiving). In addition to these yuletide-y, snap-the-family-photo sights, look also for a bevy of happenings dotting the Nov. 24 through Jan. 3 schedule, from Breakfast with Santa to snowshoe tours (scheduled at the atmospheric hour of sunset) to movie nights for families to distinct New Year's Eve parties created just for kids and teenage guests (both get their own balloon drops, oh yeah, the most essential part of any great NYE celebration). To make sure you and your kin alight at Olympic Valley at the right moment, for the seasonal stuff you want to do, study all, as diligently as Santa studies his good/naughty list, at the Magical Memories HQ.

Photo Credit: Resort at Squaw Creek]]>
<![CDATA[Halloween + Wine: Temecula To-Dos]]> Fri, 28 Oct 2016 17:12:04 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/redwinegen123-horz.jpg

VINO AND A SCARY MOVIE: Just about everyone who celebrates Halloween approaches the occasion in a different way. Some revelers are all about the over-the-top parades, and the chance to go for the evening's top prize. Others like to visit a haunted house, the kind that comes complete with creepy monsters lurking in the passageways. And for some spooky seekers? It's all about a dinner filled with dastardly delights, from hot dogs shaped like bugs to a blood-red punch. But if you're the sort who prefers a perfect pinot, a vintage fright movie on TV, and a lights-out kind of night, there is a pre-Halloween outing that might suit your not-so-macabre leanings. The place is Temecula Valley, and the "pre-Halloween" part signifies the weekend ahead of Oct. 31, when many of the spooky doings'll be afoot. Look to...

EUROPA VILLAGE, which is hosting a Fright Night Costume Party with live tunes and a visit from the Cousins Maine Lobster Truck. That's on Friday, Oct. 28, so put together your most elegant vampire get-up and get to the Europe-like property, one that feels like it could be in some Hollywood movie of olde. Book a spot at Mount Palomar Winery on Sunday, Oct. 30 and paint a flower skull in honor of Dia de los Muertos (and sip some excellent Palomar libations). And is that a Haunted Wine Tour at South Coast Winery? Indeed it is, eek seekers. The atmospheric wander-arounds are on the schedule from Oct. 28 through 31. Will there be eats and beverages to stoke the appetite? Plan on it. Is your favorite winery doing something slightly dastardly and in the Halloween swing of things? Give them a jingle and see if the ghosts and ghoulies'll be out in the caves and among the casks.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Image Source]]>
<![CDATA[Little River Inn: Mushroom Mania Package]]> Wed, 26 Oct 2016 15:55:26 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/littleriverinnmushroom.jpg

MAYBE YOUR CHEFLY FRIEND... just invited you over for a heaping, steamy, oh-so-creamy pot of stroganoff, the kind made not with beef but with chanterelles. Or perhaps your mom suggested you both go out for a vegan burrito, the kind that's lush with lovely vegetables, and slivers of tofu, and the all-important portabello chunks. But maybe in both cases you suggested another outing or pursuit, apologizing as you did so, because you're saving up all of your mushroom-based desires for one of the most "cap"-tivating food festivals on the California calendar. (We won't even explain that "cap" joke, and we won't feel embarrassed over it, either.) It's the...

MENDOCINO COUNTY... Mushroom, Wine and Beer Festival, a eat-and-stroll-and-socialize affair that's so large it takes up just about a third of November. (And that makes total sense, as mushrooms should take up at least a third of any dish, from burritos to stroganoff, being the savory stars they are.) Are you holding off on your mushroom-y favorites, all in anticipation of going hog — er, mushroom — wild in Gualala and Fort Bragg and points along the coast? Then consider staying for more than a night during the Nov. 4 through 13, 2016 shebang.

LITTLE RIVER INN... is one of the stay-over destinations with a special rate on during the fest, and its name? Why Mushroom Mania, of course. Rates start at $165 for an Ocean View Fireplace Room, and go from there, and in the restaurant? You'll discover dishes that make the fungi of the moment the major star. That $165 rate, by the by, is a $30 savings, so hop to it, or discover all of the lodging specials that are springing up, like so many porcini, around the county during the early November festivities. And, really, if you want a mushroom pasta before making for Mendo, have it. You don't need to stave off the deliciousness, all for anticipation's sake. But start anticipating, because the food, and the art, and the libations, and the foraging treks are all as major as a stroganoff boasting an extra heaping helping of mushroom goodness.

Photo Credit: Little River Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Ventura Farm Day: Visit 20+ Farms]]> Tue, 25 Oct 2016 20:35:26 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/feedinggoatsventurafarmday.jpg

THAT BARN ACROSS THE WAY: If you've ever driven by a leafy field, or spied a barn in the distance, you've likely pondered what sort of vegetables or fruits are growing, and what sort of animals call the big building home. It's a rare opportunity, then, when we get to call upon the barn, or go beyond the field, but a special Farm Day changes all of that. A number of agriculturally robust areas host the "come and get to know us" events during the year, and one is just ahead on the calendar, in Ventura County. It's big, no doubt — over 20 regional farms will participate — and the whole kids-and-grown-up gathering is free to join. As for the many farm-centered doings on Saturday, Nov. 5? Look for opportunities to...

PICK ORGANIC STRAWBERRIES... at Camarillo's McGrath Family Farm, or get to know all things avocado during a Calavo Growers visit (that's in Santa Paula). And Ojai Olive Oil will offer samples of cold-pressed olive oil for the tasting, mmm, while some beautiful beasties will be the star of the day at Alpacas at Windy Hill in Somis. Other highlights of the big day out include a peek at the soap showroom at Chivas Skin Care in Fillmore (indeed, goat milk is the famous ingredient) and the squeezing of citrus juice at Friends Ranch in Ojai. Learning is at the center of it all, but chances to pet something sweet and furry, or to sip or nosh on something grown on a property, will be woven throughout.

WHERE'S THE HQ... of all of the agri-awesomeness? Oxnard Farm Park, where games, historic tours, live tunes, and beer and wine will add to the convivial fall festivity.

Photo Credit: Ventura Farm Day]]>
<![CDATA[Cinema Splashy: Napa Valley Film Festival]]> Mon, 24 Oct 2016 11:53:57 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/winegettyistockphoto-horz.jpg

THERE IS A DEFINITE HUM... in the air around April and May, and it repeats the word "blockbuster, blockbuster, blockbuster" over and over. That's because springtime is prime time for the big movie releases to roll out, something that used to happen after Memorial Day (but now begins closer to spring break). But there's another hum in the air come fall, and it is also related to the silver screen, but this hum isn't about mondo effects and mondo action and mondo everything: Awards season is the name of the game. Well, one of the names, anyway. Think of autumn as a time for some top-notch drama, the subtle comedic affairs, the kind of quirky works that wait for the temperature to cool down before they heat up and steal our collective hearts. The hum in the air also says it is film festival time, with tony happenings like Toronto getting the fall revved up. Taking it to another level, and adding an entire layer of local cuisine-a-tude, is the Napa Valley Film Festival, which is heading into its 6th annual outing from...

NOV. 9-13, 2016: The numbers tell the brimful tale of this five-day affair: Some 120 films will show, with 150 wineries making glass-filled cameos and 50 top toques creating scrumptious bites and bigger dishes. On the screen? "20th Century Women," "Lion," and "Captain Fantastic" are just three of the many majors set to have their time in the sun (or, yes, a low-lit theater). Shorts, documentaries, and other watchable fare add to the big grid while dinners, a pool party, a Movie Mogul Dinner, and more mingle-able gatherings await. It's just about one of the foodie-st of fun times on the larger film festival schedule, which makes sense, as the Napa Valley Film Festival does have "Napa Valley" in its name. Do you hear the cinematic hum, drawing you into awards season? Follow it to its source.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto]]>
<![CDATA[The 'Friendly Ghost' of the National Hotel]]> Sat, 22 Oct 2016 10:26:20 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ghostgetty2928323.jpg

VISIT ANY HISTORIC SITE... along Highway 49, or points near the famous Gold Country thoroughfare, and you'll immediately become familiar with the gentle creak of a built-long-ago plank sidewalk, or a mysterious breeze making a lace curtain move, or the flicker of a flame in a handblown oil lamp. There are many experiences that tickle the senses in a region that still has oodles of 1800s-ness to it, and while most experiences can be traced to an origin — the door was left open, creating the curtain-blowing breeze — a few moments do tend to astound visitors. That is, if you're visiting a location that not only boasts its own ghost, but a spirit that is described as "friendly" (a lovely thing for any entity to be, be they a phantom or of this human plane).

THE NATIONAL HOTEL & RESTAURANT... in Jamestown is home to one such storied resident, who even has a friendly, easy-to-remember handle: Flo. Whether Flo will make her presence known to a guest during their overnight at the 1859 inn is a big question mark, but visitors have shared tales of slamming doors and "clothing being dumped from suitcases onto the floor..." Fascinating stuff, and perhaps especially in October, when wraith-whimsical matters are on many a mind. And while a number of stay-over spots around the Golden State are rumored to have a spectral presence, Flo rightly has her very own page on the National's official site. 

EAGER TO SEE... if she'll pay you a visit? There are nine guest rooms in the antique-filled building, and a buffet breakfast is a part of your stay. A bonus? You're right on Main Street, which is highly walkable, so you and your BFF can take an after-dinner stroll and discuss what you might do, in the night, should you see the light in your private bath flicker on and/or off. Another bonus? Jamestown is but a 15-minute drive from Columbia State Historic Park, which is a vintage slice of ye olde California, through and through, if you want to up the historical end of your getaway (in addition to the potentially ghosty end). Ready to see if the phantom Flo crosses your Jamestown path? Your journey starts here, and that's in October or any time of the year, as ghosts, like people, don't always stick to the calendar.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Mammoth Opening: $50 Lift Ticket]]> Fri, 21 Oct 2016 20:58:42 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/2015-11-05_MammothsOpen_611.jpg

STORMS IN THE SIERRA... in October aren't the beautiful, piney-of-scent rains of mid-summer. Autumn-style blow-throughs can be hard, and dramatic, and they can show with a plus-one that hasn't been seen in several months: snow. That's been the case around Mammoth Mountain, which began to flirt with frosty ground-cover weeks in advance of the resort's scheduled November opening. But all of this early snowfall simply means that Thursday, Nov. 10 is going to be a big one on the big mountain, with fans getting stoked as they watch as pre-opening flakes create some good base action. Does all of this October snow make you want to be there from the get-go? Then getting going on this: Opening day lift tickets are...

FIFTY BUCKS: That's a solid deal, but also solid is the general festive atmosphere that opening day at major ski resort like Mammoth naturally exudes. That doesn't come with a price tag, so be up there early to be in the swing. Also free? The cocoa and coffee at Broadway Express on the morning of opening day, starting at 7 a.m. (people will already be there, for sure, count on it). And watching the annual banner breakthrough, which is scheduled for 8:30, is pretty darn stirring, if skiing is a major part of your cold-weather life. Stow some cash for the sip specials later in the day at Tusks Bar, and join in the beer toast at 11 a.m. on the sundeck at the Main Lodge. Are you ready for opening day? Clearly the clouds are, as they've already been bestowing the slopes with fall flakes. What will winter bring? More of the same, and lots of it, fingers, poles, and skis crossed.

Photo Credit: Mammoth Mountain]]>
<![CDATA[Opening Soon: Holidays at Disneyland Resort]]> Mon, 31 Oct 2016 06:14:11 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Cars-Land-Holiday-0029301.jpg

TWINKLY PLACE UPS THE TWINKLE: Saunter into Disneyland on a May morning and you're going to come across a notable amount of glitter, and sparkle, and shiny details, and an eye-pleasing assortment of spectacles. That's the way the world's best-known theme park likes it, and that's the way it appears to visitors on any day of the calendar. But along about early November, that overall twinkle gets upped, and if you can't imagine such a thing could be possible, well, consider that we're talking about a place with its own wishing well (in other words, true magic is afoot). Wreaths, and bows, and ornaments, and thousands of lights dot the already picturesque buildings and lampposts, lending The Happiest Place on Earth some seasonal sugar (and how). It isn't long between the close of Halloween at the resort, though, before the wreaths and lights are on full display: Holidays at the Disneyland Resort debuts less than two weeks after Oct. 31, on Thursday, Nov. 10.

THE 2016 EVENTS... have been released, and, as is tradition, the "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas" Skellington-esque decorations around the Haunted Mansion will serve as a blithe-laden bridge between the spooky season and the yuletide. "World of Color — Season of Light" is the awesome aquatic show over at Disney California Adventure (yep, it is opening just in time for the holidays), while Festival of Holidays, also at Disney California Adventure, will include 14 themed festival marketplaces and a host of musical performances that pay tribute to traditions near and far. Will Sleeping Beauty's Castle appear in its ice-lovely Winter Castle garb? You can count on it. Will it's a small world seemingly shimmer with all of the tiny bulbs to be found in Orange County? That's the impressive effect. And shall the Jingle Cruise return? It sure will. For more peeks into the Nov. 10, 2016-Jan. 8, 2017 Disneyland doings, don your mouse ears and make your merry way here.

Photo Credit: Paul Hiffmeyer]]>
<![CDATA[Mendo Mushrooms: Join a Foraging Trek]]> Thu, 20 Oct 2016 14:17:40 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/beer-wine-mushroom-train-26+%281%29.jpg

A STROLL IN THE FOREST... is always a multi-part gift, from the peaceful visuals of fluttering leaves to the earthy scents that greet the nose to the quiet unplug-a-tude found within. But there is another gift that woods can yield, if you know where to look (down) and who to look with (an expert mycologist). The "down" part was likely a giveaway, as this treat does spring from the forest floor (or, rather, beneath it), and that mycology is the study of mushrooms tells the rest of the story. We speak of the mushroom, a cap-wearing gem that can fill the most humble of dishes with a little straight-from-nature panache.

MENDOCINO COUNTY... knows this fungi-fabulous panache well, as mushrooms grow well in its moist-of-ground environs (the picturesque are "is home to over 3,000 types of mushrooms," in fact). And November happens to be a prime time for mushroom mania around the county, a fact that inspired the Mushroom, Wine, and Beer Festival, an eat-drink-walk-talk to-do that takes up a goodly chunk of the eleventh month on the calendar. That "goodly chunk" in 2016'll last from...

NOV. 4 THROUGH 13, and deciding what exactly you want to participate in — eating, eating and sipping, sipping and foraging — will dictate how you plan your coast-close getaway. A mushroom forage at Frey Winery (yep, there's a vino tasting, too), an Afternoon Tea at Glendeven Inn (the sandwiches are lush with mushroomry), and mushroom-themed art happenings are among the many highlights. Surely you cook with plenty of portobellos and oysters and cremini; but have you ever gone to the verdant, thick-of-pine-needles, below-the-trees source alongside a mushroom-knowledgeable pro? Here's your moment, mushroom mavens, to get the 411 on your produce drawer staple.

Photo Credit: Mushroom, Wine, and Beer Fest]]>
<![CDATA[Mission Inn's Fall-Sweet Pumpkin Stroll]]> Wed, 26 Oct 2016 16:03:52 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/TheMissionInnPumpkinStroll.jpg

WHEN WE PICTURE PLACES... in our mind's eye, we tend to associate a distinctive sensation with the location. Perhaps it is the feeling of sand beneath our tootsies at the beach, or the crunch-crunch of leaves when we ponder the Sierra in October. And when our musings turn to The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, the castle-like landmark in Riverside? Well, an eye-pleasing twinkle is apt to make our thoughts go sparkly. That's because the hotel hangs lots of lights — literally millions of them, as in four or so million — each holiday season, creating a full-scale glow show, something that's seen, via TV and magazines, far beyond its Inland Empire location. But mavens of The Mission Inn know that its arches and towers and courtyards are ready-made for other seasonal celebrations, too, including the one that arrives just ahead of the Festival of Lights: fall, and all of its pumpkin-y pleasures.

OH, DID WE SAY "PUMPKIN-Y"? Why yes, we most certainly did. That's because the structure, which has its early roots in the 1800s, has collected nearly 700 examples of autumn's star gourd and lined walkways around the historic hotel, all to enhance that quintessential fall feeling. If spying so many noble squashes on The Mission Inn grounds only furthers your fall feelings, look into the seasonal sips at the hotel's Presidential Lounge. And might there be a stay-over package that's tied to the crisp feel on the breeze? There is: It's called Fall at The Mission Inn and there's a luxe overnight room, $25 towards eating/sipping around the property, two cupcakes, and, wait for it fall people, a pair of hot apple ciders, the most autumnal libation on the planet (fact). To spy a storied structure with the icons of fall dotting its charming paths, make for Riverside while autumn hangs ever so happily in the air.

Photo Credit: The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa]]>
<![CDATA[Pinnacles National Park: Centennial Day of Service]]> Tue, 18 Oct 2016 12:43:47 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Pinnaclesseemontereydotcom.jpg

WHILE WE THINK OF SUMMERTIME... as that time of year when collective relaxation truly begins, there are physical places that grow more bustling, and even hectic, when June arrives: the national parks. Our magnificent stretches of wild beauty experience higher traffic when the weather warms up, but the season that follows traditionally dons a more relaxed and tranquil mantle. Autumn, then, is a most excellent time to call upon our parks, but there's an added dimension that's full of heart, too, where a fall visit is concerned. A number of parks host various clean-up days in September and October — The Yosemite Facelift is a famous September spiffy-up — and volunteers arrive to enjoy both the crisper temperatures and to lend a hand in helping the park repair a few things needing some attention following the high season. Pinnacles National Park, which received its monument designation in 1908 and its park status just a few years ago, in 2013, is hosting such a help-out day on Saturday, Oct. 22. It's the...

CENTENNIAL DAY OF SERVICE... at the middle-ish-of-California park, and a "variety of service projects" will take place. So make for the destination, a remote expanse known for its striking, rock-beautiful scenery, and pitch in on "litter abatement, non-native plant control, seed collection, and trail work." (Note that there are some asks in terms of what sort of clothes to wear, and what to bring, so read all.)

THE "MAKE A DIFFERENCE DAY"... will truly inspire positive and noticeable changes around the park, changes that will be enjoyed by future visitors looking for a nature-authentic experience. Consider that a late-October visit to Pinnacles may be further enhanced by a bat sighting, as "14 of California's 24 bat species make their home at Pinnacles National Park." For the beautiful bats, for the people who love the place, and for the place itself, roll up those sleeves and make a difference over the course of a day, all while getting out and getting acquainted with one of the state's most serene and spectacular stretches.

Photo Credit: © Tom O'Neal/SeeMonterey.com]]>
<![CDATA[Fall in Fallbrook: Scarecrow Days]]> Wed, 19 Oct 2016 20:36:13 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/fallbrookscarecrowdays15.jpg

NOT EVERY TOWN... is fortunate enough to have an actual, honest-to-calendar season in its name. There's Springerville in Arizona, and Summerville, South Carolina, and Florida's own Winter Park. California, of course, is home to Fallbrook, a place that's famous for the many flavorful things it brings to the plate (including, of course, the avocado). But the 15 Freeway-close burg also pays picturesque tribute to the season that starts its moniker via a festival and the camera-ready Scarecrow Days.

SCARECROW DAYS... run throughout the month of October, and if you swing by the Chamber of Commerce during your day out in Fallbrook you can pick-up a scarecrow-ready ballot. Should you find a figure that especially charms you, or tickles you, or makes you snap more than a photo or two, then consider casting your vote for that scarecrow. Look for the autumnal icons to dot businesses along Main Avenue and Mission Road and a number of other local thoroughfares (there's a helpful pdf to direct you to where they are). And should you be in town on...

SUNDAY, OCT. 16... look for the Fall Harvest Faire to further enhance the air of autumn-o-sity. There are a few California villages doing it up scarecrow-wise these days, from Cambria to Big Bear to the Santa Ynez Valley to Fallbrook, which has been setting up the hay-filled cuties for a half decade. Doing a day trip before the close of the month? You can see them, and you can vote, and you can soak up the season that's in the town's very name.

Photo Credit: Fallbrook Scarecrow Days]]>
<![CDATA[Nevada City: Where October Vacations]]> Sat, 15 Oct 2016 05:37:25 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/IMG_6393etoutsideinn.jpg

REAL-LIFE CANDY CORN GLOBE: Snow globes are understandably popular when the end-of-the-year holidays draw near. After all, they're just so darn cute, and they come in all sizes, and some are definitely affordable, and gift-givers find them to be seasonally appropriate gifts for a number of giftees. But the thing about snow globes is they tend to be focused on, well, snow, and the scenes presented under the domed glass often feature Santa and gingerbread houses and candy canes. Where, though, are the candy corn globes, the small, round giftables that rain orange-hued candy instead of faux snow on tiny spooky houses? Well, they do exist (though probably not with real falling candy corn per se, which can get goopy in water). And such environments exist in reality, too, if you know where to look. For example, if you turn your autumn-loving gaze upon Nevada City, in the northern part of Gold Country, you'll find a charming town that looks as though it sprung fully formed from a snow globe (or, rather, candy corn globe). And come October, its charms are enhanced by Halloween decor, trick-or-treating, and other not-too-terrifying to-dos that lend one of our state's most foliage-rich destinations a ton of quirky, camera-ready cred. So are you ready to October-it-up, or Halloween-it-up, or both, in dear...

NEVADA CITY? Best peruse everything on the October list, from trick-or-treating on picturesque (and 1800s-esque) Broad Street to a Fright Night party on Saturday, Oct. 29 at the historic Miners Foundry (soul music, dancing, and convivial details await). There are ghost tours, too, to ponder, which make spectral sense, as Nevada City's past is full and rumored to be phantom-y. And as for the fall color? It's definitely revving up, so find your booklet of Nevada City trees and get strolling. We're not saying that by visiting Nevada City you'll be stepping into a human-sized candy corn globe, but we are saying you might feel that way. It's a tad magical, is the thing, and that quality should never be in short supply during the autumntime of the year.

Photo Credit: Erin Thiem]]>
<![CDATA[Ojai Fall Getaways: Packages + Perks]]> Fri, 14 Oct 2016 09:20:57 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/emeraldojai29823232.jpg

THE PINK MOMENT GOES PUMPKIN: One might be forgiven for immediately sensing a whiff of springtime whenever Ojai pops into mind. After all, it is the place where the famous nightly "Pink Moment," that soft hue that seems to capture both hills and sky as the sun says its farewell for the day, holds colorful court. Look also to the local orchards and groves and fields, the verdant spreads that hold copious amounts of lavender and tangerines when the weather warms up, as well as all manner of growable goodies. This all does bring the springtime to mind, both the notion of "pink" and the taste of citrus, but Ojai has a secret: It rocks the whole autumn season exceedingly well, from its mellow afternoons to those crisp post-sundown breezes to the nearby pumpkin patches, like the one at Boccali Ranch. If pumpkin and pink are just about your favorite colors, and you adore Ojai-o-sity any time of the year, look to the artist enclave for fall packages and extras at the local inns. 

THE EMERALD IGUANA INN... and The Blue Iguana Inn both have a Fall Into Autumn Gift Basket & Package available (a "seasonal gift basket" that includes local wine is just one goodie) while The Oaks at Ojai is offering a Bring a Friend Discount over the first two thirds of November. The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa is doing it up with a midweek package through Nov. 26, 2016 (a $50 nightly resort credit is on the roster) while the Lavender Inn has a Foodie Package offering flavor to "select Sundays" through Dec. 16 (taking part in a cooking class will nab you $15 off a Sunday stay). Perhaps your favorite hotel in the area has something afoot (so best call and check). Ready to celebrate The Pink Moment at a time of year when pumpkin-y orange rules? Start here and plan your before-the-holidays sojourn to the captivating, pink-of-sky town now.

Photo Credit: Emerald Iguana]]>
<![CDATA[2016 Palomar Apple Festival]]> Fri, 14 Oct 2016 16:51:02 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/appleshinytreeleaf.jpg

WE OFTEN UTTER THE WORDS... "if these walls could talk" when we enter a building that has some history to it. We wonder who lived there over the decades or centuries, we ponder the parties and celebrations, we think about the future for the landmark structure and its days to come. But doing this for outdoor spaces, like gardens and orchards, is a bit less common, if only because we tend to associate growing things with the larger notion of wilderness and nature. But there are several historic patches of greenery around the Golden State, leafy locales that have weathered the years, and they, too, could share a story or two. One such spot is Palomar Mountain State Park, a destination that's "made up of old pioneer homesteads that included magnificent apple orchards," fruit-filled spreads that are "... still producing to delicious apples to this day..." To enjoy a setting with history that happens to have plenty of fresh air, too, and to savor a crisp autumn day, one where the temperatures aren't too toasty, make for...

PALOMAR MOUNTAIN STATE PARK... on Sunday, Oct. 16 for the 2016 Palomar Apple Festival. The four-hour party happens around the middle of the day — 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. — and entry includes free day use of the park. "No charge for apples, apple goodies or cider!" trumpets the site, and that's just about as sweet as the fine fall weather we're expecting. Chili and cornbread will be for sale, so bring a fiver if you want some hearty fare, and plan to take part in a few old-style games and crafty activities. There are no tours of the orchards in 2016, due to the drought, do note. And if you want to pay homage to the time when the first apples grew on these historic branches, wear something that looks like it might have been sewn in the 19th century, if you own such an outfit. Ready for some fall, mountainside sweetness with an element of wayback-a-tude? Oct. 16 is your day out at Palomar, apple aficionados.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Halloween Weekend in Spooky Solvang]]> Wed, 12 Oct 2016 12:11:27 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/pumpkinjackgetty123-horz.jpg

TRUE STORY: "Sleepy Hollow" was not set in Solvang, though its storybook appearance might cause a fan of Ichabod Crane to understandably think otherwise, given that many iterations of the Washington Irving tale feature a distinctive windmill in the distance. But Solvang does embrace the time of year most associated with "Sleepy Hollow," a little stretch known as late October, and more specifically Halloween. And while the town hosts a party that isn't Ichabod-themed, but rather takes on the general Halloween spirit, you might just feel that you've stepped a buckle-topped shoe into some sort of fairy tale if you visit the Santa Ynez Valley destination in the days before the holiday, or on the holiday itself. Why? Because the cozy, easy-to-walk burg does it up each year with a costume-cute Street Fair. That's scheduled in 2016 for...

SUNDAY, OCT. 30, so be there on All Hallow's Eve Eve when "food trucks, kid games, live entertainment," and more merrily macabre sights arrive in the Golden State's windmilliest location. And the pretty stem atop this pretty pumpkin? The Solvang Festival Theater will be staging "Fractured Fairy Tales" on the two nights surrounding the Street Fair (so Oct. 29 and 31). Enter "a dark forest" which will come alive with vignettes from "Goldilocks," "Hansel and Gretel," and more. It's the kind of walk-around, be-a-scared(-but-not-too-scared) small-town-y sweetness that we can grow nostalgic for come the holidays. You won't see Ichabod out in the neighboring vineyards, or his nemesis the Headless Horseman, but you will spy several delights of the hoots-and-howls holiday.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Solvang]]>
<![CDATA[Halloween 2016 in Death Valley]]> Tue, 11 Oct 2016 11:09:05 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-450422088+%281%29-horz.jpg

YOU DON'T NEED TO VISIT... a town named after one of Santa's reindeer or a type of holiday cookie to have an excellent Christmas, and landing in Lovetropolis, USA on February 14 isn't necessarily going to send your Valentine's Day into the couple-cute stratosphere. The truth of it: Alighting in a place that happens to have a name that happens to in some way correspond with the date or occasion isn't a guarantee that all the good things of a holiday will be in the bag. But what if that place not only had the interesting, relates-to-the-holiday name and offered up oodles of atmosphere that only enhanced your experience of the holiday? Look to the edge of California, the one near Nevada, and...

DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, a massive expanse which may have the most interesting (and most macabre) name of any park or monument. It seems a natural place to gravitate to come Halloween and Day of the Dead, save for the fact that it is fairly empty, without rows and rows of neighborhood streets offering trick-or-treat opportunities. But what Death Valley does have is its sublime lunar beauty, and lots of it, and the long shadows of late October only add a spooky ripple to the spirit of the season. A spirit that will be observed at...

FURNACE CREEK RANCH... from Friday, Oct. 28 through Sunday, Oct. 30. There shall be the carving of pumpkins, there shall be a costume to-do for the grown-ups, and trick-or-treating? Well, hold onto your costume hat: The traditional event will take place in Death Valley (at the ranch, which will put a different spin on the door-to-door pursuit of treats). And as things wrap the day before Halloween, you can still get back home in time for the big night. If you meet up with neighbors on the street, will you brag to them how you spent the weekend before Halloween soaking in the phantom-y fabulousness of Death Valley National Park? The name absolutely evokes the holiday, but so does its beautiful emptiness, its fascinating, mysterious rocks and dry lake beds, and its otherworldly vistas.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/KBSB]]>