<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Worth the Trip]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcsandiego.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.com en-us Tue, 29 Jul 2014 01:55:47 -0700 Tue, 29 Jul 2014 01:55:47 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Zip by Night: A Catalina Island Adventure]]> Mon, 28 Jul 2014 12:41:53 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/CatalinaIslandNightZip.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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


Photo Credit: Sideways]]>
<![CDATA[104 Celebrities: Sin City's "Star Trek" Con]]> Sat, 26 Jul 2014 11:49:34 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/borg71679832.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: California State Parks]]>
<![CDATA[Elvis Fest: Thank You, Thank You Very Much]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 06:57:00 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/192*120/elvisocviolin.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Pre-Bastille Day Bash: Santa Barbara French Fest]]> Mon, 07 Jul 2014 10:47:18 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*120/FrenchFestival1.jpg

STAYING POWER: Is it hard to keep a baguette around the house, especially when there's a hefty triangle of cheese in the ice box and some grapes to eat it with? Indeed, it is. How about a box of croissants or chocolates or pastries that hail from a favorite boulangerie? For sure, those tempt, too. Being adjacent to French-nice treats is often an exercise in "how long can this last?" And the answer is very often: "not very." Croissants are made for gobbling, and cheeses, too. But what has shown the ability to weather onward, even through the occasional cancellation and postponement, in the fantastique French Festival in Santa Barbara. It just can-can'd its way to its quarter-century birthday in 2013, meaning that it is one of those colorful gatherings that is just here to stay. But not stay put: People dance and they sing and there's the ever-popular Poodle Parade, which does, in fact, involve a slew of Fidos who don't happen to have an ounce of Poodle lineage in their background (though the non-Poodles are very often seen sporting berets). Tempted by this Bastille Day merriment? Then make for the city's Oak Park on...

JULY 12 AND 13: So, really, we're looking at pre-Bastille Day merriment, on the Saturday and Sunday ahead of the actually July 14 holiday. There shall be food and drink, but of course: cheeses, wines, pates, onion soups, crepes, and escargot are on the menu. There shall be entertainment, both of the can-can-y kind and the musical assortment (keep an ear out for all of the accordion). Crafts fill out the days, and art, too, and the dog strut? Things'll get very furry and very French-tastic on the Sunday evening. It's a beautiful and barky way to round out one of the state's largest French Festivals. Nope, you don't have to eat escargot or kick your can-can legs, but why wouldn't you? It isn't every day that Paris visits the American Riviera.

Photo Credit: Santa Barbara French Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Del Mar Racing: The Opening Day Hat Contest]]> Thu, 03 Jul 2014 11:24:46 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/205*120/delmarhats77jeremylyverse.jpg How over-the-top is your topper? Best make for Del Mar for Opening Day at the track.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Lyverse]]>
<![CDATA[Mountaintop Learning: Explore Mammoth]]> Tue, 01 Jul 2014 11:20:35 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/229*120/exploremammothphoto.jpg

A NEW "LEARNING ADVENTURE": Skiers know that a day spent on the slopes is, very often, given over to the slopes, fully. It's all about ski meeting snow, and crystal-sharp vistas, and letting go, and finding a little peace and a lot of physical exertion. True, there's the ever-present, always lively social aspect, too, but a ski weekend is very often a weekend of skiing, as it should be. But what of the chance to visit a ski destination in the summer for a different slice of things? A get-to-know-the-background kind of trip, complete with a gondola ride up the big mountain and a look at the area's geological history and its deep background? A new "learning adventure" at Mammoth is giving people a peek into a different side of the mountain, beyond the busy hub that many visitors get familiar with each winter. The adventure is called "Explore Mammoth" and it debuts, and the top of the big hill, over the Fourth of July weekend.

AREA EDUCATION: "Through a combination of guided hikes, a museum, and a movie theater, 'Explore Mammoth' will shed light on the region's explosive geological, natural, and human history." Volcanic history is considered, as well as the "unique weather patterns that produce the monster snowstorms' that has put the region on the map. And, yep, you'll get some pretty up-high, take-in-far-distances views of the Eastern Sierra. As for the price? You'll get into the learning stations and Eleven53 interpretative center when you purchase a Scenic Gondola ticket. It's a fine route to get acquainted with an area known as one of the Sierra's most bustling play places, and a nice way to spend a summer day in a higher elevation. Education, elevation, and views? Plus, plus, plus. Plus? You can brag it up, next winter, off the slopes, to your friends, people who will soon dub you a true Mammoth maven.

Photo Credit: Explore Mammoth]]>
<![CDATA[Skunk Train Fun: Camping on the Noyo]]> Mon, 30 Jun 2014 18:50:11 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/197*120/campnoyoskunk.jpg

SUMMERTIME ADVENTURE: There are industries, as in plural, as in multiple businesses, built around the notion of selling people "adventure" come summertime. Now, what adventure means to one person is not what it means to another, of course, but let's land on a common quality of all adventures had: They incorporate a new thing. Now, fingers crossed, that new thing enhances the fun, and adds something to the outing, and maybe gives the day a bit of charm and class, too. Take camping, which almost always arrives with the words "outdoor" and "adventure" attached, even if your intention with that new tent is to take it to the same spot you always visit. Spending the night in nature is adventuresome, and that doesn't need a ton of tweaking. But a nifty way to change up a favorite getaway is to change up how the getaway is gotten. In short, how do you reach that camp site? Your car, a friend's truck, or a historic fabled train that twists through the redwoods? Oh, did we just reference Fort Bragg's own Skunk Train there? Why yes we most certainly did. 

THE TRAIN TO CAMP NOYO: Not only is the much-loved Skunky known for taking daytrippers on a half-day trip into the woods, it also hauls campers up to Camp Noyo, a former logging camp that's some 17 miles east of the train's origin point in Fort Bragg. Here are the key words on this adventure: The camp is "only accessible by train." Really, do you need to know more? Well, probably. It's a full service tent campground, there are barbecue opportunities and campfire rings, and working restrooms with hot showers (okay, so, yeah, you don't have to get too adventuresome in the shower-taking arena). Call it a different way to approach your al fresco sleepover, if you're an intrepid camper, and call it an ideal way for people who happen to love trains and sleeping under the stars to pair their two interests. Really, where else can you camp that's only reachable by an ol' train rumbling down the tracks? That feels like a slice of wayback Americana, and just the sort of thing to further burnish an offbeat summer adventure.

Photo Credit: Skunk Train]]>
<![CDATA[Rancho Cucamonga Eeks: The Haunted Winery]]> Sat, 28 Jun 2014 06:16:12 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/shutterstock_139640624.jpg

SPIRITED ASSUMPTIONS: There are assumptions around every tradition and every location and every tradition's preferred location for, er, traditioning. For example? Ghostly tours and haunted walks solely fall under the spell of autumn and those visits solely happen at purported-to-be-haunted homes and, occasionally, hotels. But we live in Southern California, which does pretty big year-round business in both the fictional ghosting (see: movies and television and themed attractions) and the historical, on-location ghosting (tours pop up throughout the calendar for places like the Queen Mary in Long Beach and San Diego's Whaley House). Meaning this: We can have our haunted tours outside of autumn and they can be at some pretty offbeat places. Like? Well, we'd call a winery an unusual spot to go looking for things that go bump in the night. (Partially, of course, because nobody should be bumping about nice bottles of wine, even vaporous ghosts.) But Haunted Orange County, those spirit-seekers with a gusto for going into ghostly spots, have a winery in mind, and they're heading there in the height of summer.

THE HEIGHT OF SUMMER... meaning Saturday, July 12. The Haunted OC crew'll venture north to Rancho Cucamonga and the Joseph Filippi Winery, which has been at its current location for well over a century. "(U)nexplained activity" has taken place around the historic property, including "phantom footsteps" and "music playing in the tasting room." Intrigued? Love vino and vapor-cool stories of wraith-eerie doings? Two of your interests are about to dovetail in one offbeat summertime outing. Tickets and need-to-knows are this way, oenophiles and ghost-o-philes.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Woof: Dog Beach Surf Dog Lessons]]> Sat, 28 Jun 2014 13:48:58 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/surfdogclasses03984.jpg

BONE UP: If you've ever stood on the sand and watched the yearly Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon, that Septembertime waggers-on-the-waves fundraiser for the Helen Woodward Animal Center, you know the feeling of a Fido jealousy. Don't know Fido jealousy? It's not necessarily a bad thing, though it can be keenly felt: When you have Fido jealousy, you want your own pooch to have the fun experience, and you'll ferret out a way to make that happen. Here's a good first step: Sign up your favorite furry one for surf lessons ahead of the Saturday, Sept. 7 event. Way ahead: Lessons open at Del Mar's Dog Beach on Saturday, June 28. That's right, we did indeed say "open": They've proven so popular that the Rancho Santa Fe will hold lessons over several upcoming Saturdays, so all waggers who want to be on a board come the first Saturday in September will have their chance. (And we expect many dogs will, given that the Surf-A-Thon raises funds for the animal-helping center.)

FETCH YOUR LESSON: The classes come in two flavors, surfing or stand-up paddleboarding, and lesson number one costs forty five dollars. If you want to continue with more clinics down the road, you'll save money, too, so that's a nice thing. What Fido doesn't want to finesse his moves out on the water? And, be assured, if you go the stand-up paddleboarding route, that is "now part of the Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon"! There's some on-land time in the instruction, note, before you and your barker head out into the H2O. Call it a lively canine-nice project for summer, with a fun and photographable end: You and your pup hanging thirty together come the big day, and helping give back to other animals, too. That's right, hanging thirty? Instead of ten? Paws and feet? Good luck, surfers and surf dogs. You charm everyone with your wavey waves and big, totally rad hearts.

Photo Credit: dogscapes]]>
<![CDATA[Happy 55th, "Some Like It Hot"]]> Thu, 26 Jun 2014 12:38:22 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*120/SomeLikeItHot_UnitedArtists.jpg

ULTIMATE COMPLIMENT: Movie mavens have some funny ways of saying they like a film. "I liked it" is never simply enough; rather a fan "loooooves it" (with as many extra o's as possible) or it is "the best ever" (as opposed to the "best ever" film they saw the week before) or "it looks like it was made yesterday!" This last compliment is a quirky one, and there are some layers to it, but basically the buff is saying the plot, performances, directing and writing all feel as crisp as crisp can be. Not too many movies make that compliment cut but at the top of the happy heap, time and again? "Some Like It Hot." Director Billy Wilder is famous for feeling au courant -- watch "Sunset Boulevard" and its satiric skewering of Hollywood and say it wasn't made last month -- and his comedy opus sparkles with new dew on every repeat viewing. It is a film at the top of many happy heaps (it's #1 on AFI's "100 Years...100 Laughs" list) and at the top of many hearts in California. Specifically in Coronado Island, which served as a setting for the 1959 flick. The San Diego burg often fetes its most famous film, and will again, on Thursday, June 26 with a 55th anniversary screening of "Some Like It Hot."

THE SWANK AFFAIR... involves wines and appetizers at Hotel del Coronado -- of course the Del will be involved, given its starring role in the flick -- and a "red carpet screening" at the Village Theatre. Tickets are $150 to the Coronado Island Film Festival screening and include a book and DVD, too. And you'll want to wear your Marilyn Monroe best, too (or Tony Curtis or Jack Lemmon, if you prefer). Of course, if you can't make the 55th birthday bash, you can still visit the Del any day of the year. It looks pretty unchanged from when Mr. Wilder filmed there over a half century ago. It's almost as if "Some Like It Hot" was just filmed there, yesterday.

Photo Credit: United Artists]]>
<![CDATA[New Disney Tour: California Adventure]]> Sat, 05 Jul 2014 11:44:39 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/dcatour234.jpg

Photo Credit: Paul Hiffmeyer]]>
<![CDATA[Catalina Island Beach Parties]]> Tue, 24 Jun 2014 10:34:22 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/catalinadescansobeach243.jpg

CATALINA FAVORITES: What do people do when they head some 26 miles out to see, from Southern California, for a day spent on Catalina Island? There are a few iconic musts, from admiring the non-native buffalo to the nighttime-loving flying fish to the off-shore kelp forests (seen through a glass-bottomed boat, of course) to driving a golf cart to partying like a pirate at Two Harbors to dressing up in vintage wear and dancing until the wee smalls inside the iconic Casino Building. Catalina isn't all that big, as you might know, so that it has several famous touchstones and have-to-sees speaks to its rather sparkly and mysterious character. But here's something of a spoiler alert and a good reminder for those who stick to their tried-and-true gotta-dos on the water-surrounded hunk o' land, again and again: Catalina is an island. It is, in fact, in its very name, which means it boasts some great waterfront and beachy play places, spots where people gather to sun and play bingo and watch the occasional outdoor movie. And, yes, sometimes there's a beach party, too, complete with DJs and cocktails and the perfect stretch of sand. That's going down at the Descanso Beach Club over the summer of 2014, and there's a way to get in on it.

HOW? Pay a two-dollar beach access fee, then settle in for the afternoon and take in the tunes and scene. That's it. Well, you'll want to stash some cash in your swim trunks for drinks and bites, for sure. The Descanso parties are on every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, from 2 to 5 p.m., through the final Saturday in September (note that they move to just Saturdays in September). We would dare tell you not to go find a buffalo or drive a golf cart, but, really: If you're on an island, don't you kind of want a bit of a beach bash, complete with cocktails and happy hour specials and DJs doing the spinning thing? California has many great beaches, but very few island beaches. This is one to enjoy.

Photo Credit: Visit Catalina Island]]>
<![CDATA[Pop Rocks Donut: OC Fair Foods]]> Mon, 23 Jun 2014 13:25:00 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/192*120/poprockdonut12.jpg

WHEN YOU ENTER THE OC FAIR... where do you head for first? Do you go to the Midway to win a stuffed animal, followed by a fried treat? Do you visit the prized rabbits, followed by a fried treat? Do you wander by the artworks, to see which ones scored a blue ribbon, followed by a fried treat? See, we have this theory, and it goes like this: Even if eating isn't your first plan inside the gate at the annual Costa Mesa see-it-all spectacular, it probably is tacked onto the first thing you do. You probably have a general plan that you're going to pick up a cotton candy or hot dog after you ride that first coaster or play that first game, because the foods of the fair? They're superstars unto themselves with an allure that's hard to deny. And while all of the edibles are funky or street-food-y or easy-to-devour or all of the above, it is the annual parade of truly outlandish eats that catch the spotlight. Curious as to what's headed for the OC Fair & Event Center in 2014? 

LOOK FOR... the Cherry Pop Rocks Donut at Texas Donuts, for starters. Do you already feel the rocks a-poppin' as you chew down on all of that doughy yum? You do. There's also a new deep-fried Gansito this year at the stand, and a Peanut Butter Cup donut, too. 

PEANUT BUTTER CUP DONUT: We want to move on, here, to the next items, but those words are twirling around our brain. Ahem. Okay. Biggy's Meat Market is offering gluten-free buns this year, and that Big Rib is back. Goodness sakes. And Chicken Charlie's? The known-around-the-planet deep-fry innovators are going with Deep Fried Doritos as one of their major fair bites. Deep. Fried. Doritos.

ALL OF THIS... and more, more, more, more, more can be found at the OC Fair. It's on from July 11 through Aug. 10 in Costa Mesa.

Photo Credit: OC Fair]]>
<![CDATA[Golden State Purple: Lavender Days]]> Sat, 21 Jun 2014 10:52:36 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/butterflylav245.jpg

SCENT-FILLED SUMMER: California happens to be home to a few wine-growing regions -- you might have heard that, once or twice -- but wine-growing regions aren't simply, well, wine-growing regions. They're olive-growing regions, too, and sometimes they sport a citrus grove here and there, or purveyors of excellent and bespoke honey. And in the flowering plant department? For sure, one purple-pretty, oh-so-fragrant celebrity can dominate a vineyard-filled landscape. We speak of lavender, of course, that good-in-every-soap, wonderful-in-essential-oils addition. Visit Temecula or Ojai or Sonoma or Napa and you're bound to find lavender growing, in small or large plots. And, if not, you'll come across many products for sale in winery gift shops and such. (Seriously, is one permitted to depart a wine country vacation without a few lavender sachets tucked inside one's luggage? There must be a rule?)

BUT WHERE TO REVEL IN IT? There are a few spots that crop up, and events, too, when the weather growings toastier. June is one of lavender's big months, meaning that places like Paso Robles'll host the Central Coast Lavender Festival on Saturday, July 12 -- hellooooo, dipping sauces and lavender ice cream -- and the Ojai Lavender Festival purples up Libby Park on Saturday, June 28 (it's free and over 100 vendors'll be lavendering-up flower fans' lives). Say you just want a tour? Lots of lavender farms have them, either on the schedule or by appointment. Ring the Temecula Lavender Co. if you want a look-see around. Or is a "smell-sniff" more appropriate? And can anything be compared to the scent of lavender? We know, other wine country products, including wine itself, you smell really nice. But, c'mon. Lavender. The big Lav. The best, and so nice to celebrate come early summer.

Photo Credit: Butterfly]]>
<![CDATA[Laguna Lovely: Summertime Is Sawdust Time]]> Sat, 21 Jun 2014 11:15:40 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sawdustsign567.jpg

FINE WEATHER, FINE ART: It can be hard, come summertime, to not run into a painting in Laguna Beach. Not literally, of course -- please don't do that -- but the cottage-y ocean-close burg is pretty painting-packed throughout the entire year, what with the galleries and the museums and the shows and the artworks. But summertime brings more art in the forms of the Festival of the Arts, outside the Pageant of the Masters, and, just a pip down the road, the Sawdust Art Festival. Both art shows have their distinctive individual character (spoiler: one has sawdust on the ground, one does not) and both are much visited by warm-weather daytrippers looking to get a jump on some holiday shopping or just lookie-loo around. But one typically debuts just a smidge before the other, come late June and early July, and that's the Sawdust. Can you smell that fragrant ground covering now? The 2014 Summer Sawdust Art Festival debuts on Friday, June 27, a week ahead of the Festival of Arts.

AT THE SAWDUST: The winding-pathed, sunlight-twinkling space is beloved on its own for its elfin qualities and cottage-cute quaintness. It's outdoors, but the booth situation isn't like booths you might find at a temporary art fair, all here-today-and-not-tomorrow. Rather the Sawdust's woodsy structure stays up all year, lending it oodles of charm. There's an admission fee to get in, and small food court, and musicians are often playing on the ground. (Sometimes stilt walkers or other merry performers show up.) As for the necklaces and pottery and hair clips and garden ceramics and beach photos and everything for sale within? You'll usually, almost always, have a chat with the person who made it. It's one of our state's quintessential art festivals, and a quintessential slice of OC summerdom, too. How often do two quintessential qualities intersect? The answer: Not nearly enough.

DATES: The 2014 Sawdust Art Festival is on from Friday, June 27 through Sunday, Aug. 31.

Photo Credit: Sawdust Art Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Delish Discount: Garlic Fest Gourmet Alley]]> Thu, 19 Jun 2014 11:31:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/garlicfest0973.jpg

GOT YOUR FRIEND'S BACK: There doesn't have to be a lot of lead-up discussion and negotiation before attending a food festival with one of your edible-loving friends. You both just get in the car or hop the bus, get off, eat eat eat, comment comment comment, share share share, sip sip sip, rest rest rest, and then you leave. You probably like most of the stuff you sample, a few things not so much, goodnight, and thank you very much. But the Gilroy Garlic Festival? This kooky culinary favorite is a whole other ball of wax, or clove of garlic, if you prefer. There's got to be a lot of friend-type discussion in the days ahead of the late July food party, including questions such as "how stink-a-riffic do we want to get?" and "how many cloves can you consume?" and "is this the year for garlic ice cream?" The answers, in our good opinion? Yes, several, definitely. But it isn't a stretch to say that when it comes to consuming garlic -- a lot of garlic over a short period -- that everyone in a group should probably be on board and participating. And groups of garlicists shall descend upon the fragrant festival grounds from Friday, July 25 through Sunday, July 27 with the sole purpose of grubbin' it up on Gourmet Alley.

AH, GOURMET ALLEY: That food-packed festival favorite, the place to savor scampi and burgers and pasta and anything a clove of garlic can better (so, most things). If you want to try a little of everything and save a few bucks doing so, best jump on the Gourmet Alley Combo Plate. Nope, you don't have to wait to nab a ticket, either. They're currently priced at $31 -- a deal, for the goodly amount of garlicky eats you'll get -- but that price jumps to $35 at the fest. Why not put that saved four bucks toward a cold drink? You'll need it, and how. Fiery-bliss mouth is just one of the byproducts of a festival visit, and something you can brag about with friends on the way home. Yep, the Garlic Festival definitely has an air of friendly one-up-manship, in the eating department.

Photo Credit: Gilroy Garlic Festival]]>
<![CDATA[History Happy: Julian's Joyful Fourth of July]]> Mon, 23 Jun 2014 14:30:22 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/julian4th98732.jpg

YE OLDE INDEPENDENCE DAY: When you think of the Fourth of July, what's the initial image that pops into your head? Is it a fireworks show? That's probably what a lot of people land on. Maybe a baseball game? A barbecue? Whatever tradition your family observes, year in and year out? It's one of the most nostalgic holidays, Independence Day, but we often alight on modern things -- pyrotechnics or firing up the ol' gas grill -- when it is time to celebrate. Of course, Americans observed the Fourth of July back in the 19th century, and, you bet, it had a more homespun, small-town feel over all. The town of Julian captures that 1800s-y Fourth of July each summer via its Main Street parade. True, the vehicles in the parade are definitely not from the 19th century -- they tend to be rather of today -- but the costumed participants and banners and bunting and red, white, and blue touches everywhere take on an especially old-fashioned mien. In fact, the theme is "Grand Old Flag," so if you've been longing for a July holiday experience with a hefty dose of quaint-a-tude and charm, Julian delivers.

DATE AND DETAILS: Indeed, the Fourth of July parade in Julian really does happen on the Fourth of July, which is a Friday in 2014. The parade is at noon, but arrive by 10 a.m. for music, an Old West-style robbery, a quilt show, and a flyover, as well as remarks made by local leaders. Fiddling, a concert, mariachi music, and more celebratory convivialities follow the parade. It's free to see, of course, and even if you don't have a ten-gallon or chaps, you can still think about what folks might have worn to a sweet stroll up Main Street back in 1890 or thereabouts. Nothing wrong at all with the modern take on Independence Day -- big spectacle, big fireworks, big everything -- but sometimes one wants to sit on a curb, eating Julian apple pie, and waving a small flag. That works, too, and very well.

Photo Credit: Julian Fourth of July]]>
<![CDATA[Channel Islands Tall Ship Adventure]]> Tue, 17 Jun 2014 10:47:22 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/californiansdchannel1.jpg

TALL SHIP LOVE: If you've ever ventured onto a tall ship, those mast-mighty vessels that speak of grand sea voyages and dashing escapades, then you've likely taken a turn at the helm, learned a few knots, and peeked into the captain's quarters. But then? Your hour is over with and you head back to land, having enjoyed a taste of something rather historic and wonderful. But what if you could stay aboard such a cinematic ship, for a week? Not in port but rather out on the ocean, making your way to an island chain that still looks very much like it must have when the boats that the modern tall ships pay tribute to really did crisscross the earth? It would be a bit of a time machine of sorts, and a true, roustabout adventure. Such a sailing event is set to skim the water in late July when the tall ship Californian leaves San Diego with one beautiful destination in mind (and on the maps): Channel Islands National Park.

DATES, DETAILS, KAYAKS: "This voyage departs the Maritime Museum of San Diego on July 23 and returns July 29, 2014." Catalina Island, Santa Barbara Island, and Santa Rosa Island will all be shiply stops "among others." And will passengers, who'll "haul lines" and "stand watch" during the time cresting the waves, do some sea kayaking, into painted caves and such? You bet, and there'll be lessons on that as well. Call it the exact kind of daydream people have when they're sitting in traffic: the ocean, a big ship, mysterious island caves, sea-strong skills. And, again, it won't be an hour aboard, or even a day then home upon the islands. It's a week, full of new learning, sunshine, seagulls, and the occasional curious marine mammal. Yep, this is dang daydreamy. The cost is $995, and there's a special on through June 12.

Photo Credit: San Diego Maritime Museum]]>
<![CDATA[Rare Chance: See Bodie Ghost Town by Night]]> Mon, 16 Jun 2014 08:28:43 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/211*120/bodieelviralavell.jpg

THE WAYBACK TOWN: There aren't too many places in California where it feels as if time as not passed, not even an iota. Oh, natural places, for sure: The ancient bristlecone pine forest in the Inyo National Forest hasn't changed all that much in, well, centuries upon centuries.

But we speak of towns and cities here, spots with manmade structures. Anywhere with a store and some houses and roads tends to evolve with the years, in little and large ways, with the exception of a few treasured spots, principally among them Bodie, "the best example of an old west mining town in America." The Mono County-based state park has spent the last several decades in a state of "arrested decay," meaning that while rangers tend to structures, the town is very much preserved in its 1880-ish state.

It's a striking and silent place to be when the sun is high overhead, but come night? It must be positively ghostly, in all of the spooky and time-epic senses. Visitors don't get a chance to experience that, given the park's afternoon closing times, but happy news, history-loving night owls: There are three special nights a year when Bodie pushes into darkness.

EVENING IN BODIE: On June 28, July 26, and Aug. 15 the park will remain open through 10 p.m., meaning guests will get to experience sunset and twilight and some Milky Way-style star twinkle, too. The events are actually called Bodie Ghost Walk and Star Stories and, indeed, there shall be a chill-tale ghost tour. But if you want to just stare at the sky, and observe the outlines of the 19th century buildings as the color of the horizon deepens, you're okayed to do that, too. And an astronomer will be on hand, too, to talk all things cosmos (and, for sure, the sky'll be lit up in the way it was for denizens of the 1800s, given Bodie's remote setting).

Darkness and a ghost town and a rare chance to stroll it? And to support all causes Bodie, its preservation and protection, through your ten-dollar admission? It is a rather magical thing indeed.

HELLO, 1880s: Who says we need time machines, anyway? You'll feel pretty darn 1880, standing out on Green Street next to the old Red Barn and Saddle Room, when the sun finally dips down and goes bye-bye for the night.


Photo Credit: Elvira Lavell]]>
<![CDATA[Encinitas Sweet: Fairies Flit for Summer Solstice]]> Mon, 16 Jun 2014 08:29:31 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/ffencinitasbotanic.jpg

IF YOU WERE A LITTLE FAIRY... complete with silver-green wings and a glittery star crown, where would you choose to spend the very first day of summer? Would you do it catching up your DVR'd shows? Would you do laundry? Would you finally scrub out your cake pans and see why the coffeemaker keeps making that funny noise? Of course not. You'd put off workaday tasks for a few hours, the better to celebrate the longest day of the year (we're talking about fairies based in the Northern Hemisphere, natch). And where do fairies mark a sunshine-filled day of rays and light and clouds and fresh air? A grand garden, which one must refer to as Fairy HQ. There happens to be a rather grand garden in the general vicinity, in Encinitas, and that very plot is summon young fairies on Saturday, June 21 for some frolicsome happenings. It's the annual Fairy Festival at the San Diego Botanic Garden and admission is included with your garden get-in fee (though there is "a small fee for crafts").

WHAT TO EXPECT: It's definitely a soiree for the younger set -- no costumes on the grown-ups, please -- and will include plenty of delightful diversions for wee winged creatures. Like? Leaving "messages in the wishing bush" for one, or making a fairy house, or taking a photo with a Fairy Princess. If you've been wanting your tot to de-screen a bit more, a day out under the trees is a good answer, and having it be fairy-themed? Even better. Adults can enjoy the longest day of the year, and the sheer sweetness of glitter face-painting and shopping in a Fairyland market. Cute stuff, San Diego Botanic Garden. We do indeed believe in fairies.

Photo Credit: San Diego Botanic Garden]]>
<![CDATA[Summer Hiking on Catalina Island]]> Thu, 12 Jun 2014 05:52:06 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/CatalinaIslandWestisland.jpg

NOT A LITTLE-KNOWN FACT: Saying that people who visit islands like to see and admire the shoreline, and spend a good amount of time at the beach, is like saying some fish can fly and buffalo roam a land that was unknown to their buffalo ancestors. Wait, both of those things are totally true, at least around Catalina Island, so, yes, we're definitely saying that island visitors like to get their sand-and-waterfront time in. But islands like Catalina typically boast splendid interiors, rife with fauna and flora and, in the case of the burg in question, the occasional buffalo. Which means that visitors need to branch out more, into inner valleys and dells, and go beyond all of that lovely oceanside enjoyment. Hikers can, on Catalina, with the help of some maps from the Catalina Island Conservancy.

THERE ARE MANY TRAILS... to choose from, yes indeedy, from the dang epic Trans-Catalina Trail, "a 37.2-mile trail that transverses the entire Island" to the Airport Loop Trail, which reveals its main location in its name. (It's a "nice easy loop trail" at 2.3 miles.) And the even shorter Goat Whiskers Trail provides "(s)weeping views of the San Pedro Channel." The Conservancy site is an excellent place to start for hikers ready to go off-beach in Catalina and take in some new views. Of course, consider how you'll reach your desired trailhead, and, as always, pack safely and soundly for your day out.

ONE MORE EXCELLENT THING? That whole "ride free on your birthday" on the Catalina Express? Hello, it is still going. That's some major savings right there, to get you and your buds and your backpacks over to the island trails. Check out the details and start pocketing the cash for granola bars, island adventurers.

Photo Credit: Catalina Chamber of Commerce]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Barbara Summer Solstice]]> Thu, 12 Jun 2014 05:50:13 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/summersolstice136.jpg

THE LONGEST DAY OF THE YEAR: How do Northern Hemisphereans typically greet June 21, that sunshine-packed day of the year when there's lots of light and not too much night? They might gather on a hilltop to enjoy the dawn or head for a garden to watch flowers open or do something that puts them in touch with nature, the cosmos, and our nearest star. Or, if you're Santa Barbara, you host one of the nation's best-known Summer Solstice happenings, a three-day festival and one-time parade that is attended by over 100,000 people. That's what happens when you've been around for four decades -- word gets out, and how.

THE FESTIVAL: Make for Alameda Park on Friday, June 20, Saturday, June 21, and Sunday, June 22 for loads of tunes -- Raw Silk with Leslie Lembo, a local favorite, will play, as will the funky Area 51 and rock-loving Ambrosia, among others -- and loads of other beyond-tunes to-dos. A children's area filled with magicians and storytellers is one festival staple, as are the art projects kidlets jump into (at no cost to join). As for the other festy doings? A beer and wine garden, and arts and crafts boutique, and a look at the floats after the Saturday parade.

THE PARADE: And about that famous parade that shimmies up the heart of State Street... It's colorful. The costumes are downright outlandish. The spirit is vibrant and community-good. There are often inflatables and other eye-catching props. And the theme this year? Games. The floats are people-powered, as befits a city that takes its Earth Day heritage seriously, and no "commercial elements" -- words, logos, and such -- are permitted. The parade, which is on at noon on June 21, is outlandish and sweet and a great coming-together, year after year.

Photo Credit: Santa Barbara Summer Solstice]]>
<![CDATA[Golf with Dad: Grand Del Mar Packages]]> Wed, 11 Jun 2014 07:24:30 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/golfgranddelmar1.jpg

WHAT TO DO... on the parental holidays? What to do, what to do. It's a common question that adult children ask themselves, especially when they've repeatedly gone the lunch route, or the balloons route, or the greeting card route, or some combination of all three. And, of course, those are nice things -- keep on keepin' on with the whole taking-your-parent-out-for-a-nice-meal plan, because, yeah, they like it -- but tailoring a Mother's Day or Father's Day to the mother or father in question has become more of a priority both for kids and for companies that offer recreation and diversion. Which inspires this question: If your dad likes to drive go-carts or fly kites or play golf, have you ever pursued any of those activities together on the third Sunday in June? There couldn't be a primer time. And if golf is his game, you've got choices. One of the golfiest spots in all the land -- designing icon Tom Fazio oversaw the course creation -- has a couple of packages on, as well as a fun, let-loose Friday night golf glow contest. Yep, we are indeed speaking of...

THE GRAND DEL MAR: It couldn't be more golf-ready if "golf" appeared somewhere in its name. (Though Grand Del Mar works just fine how it is.) The resort currently has a Seasonal Golf Special on, through the end of June -- handy for Father's Day -- which includes an overnight and two rounds of golf at The Grand Golf Club. The swanked-up Grand Golf Getaway package includes a comp room upgrade, if that's your thing, but if you're looking for a little start-the-weekend fun with your pops? The Glow Golf Driving Contests are a Friday night thing for the summer, and their complimentary for resort guests. Whatever your fore-fun goal is with dad -- big golf, some golf, a day out together on the greens -- eye your choices here. 

Photo Credit: Grand Del Mar]]>
<![CDATA[Vegas Sparkle: 60 Signs Debut at Neon Boneyard]]> Wed, 11 Jun 2014 17:53:06 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/184*120/VegasNeon_1_MG_9631.JPG The museum's north gallery is reserved for special events.

Photo Credit: The Neon Museum Las Vegas]]>
<![CDATA[Irvine Eats: A Taste of Greece]]> Sat, 07 Jun 2014 07:37:02 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/211*120/ocgreek4656.jpg

THE EDIBLE APPROACH: How do you approach a day spent filled with Greek delicacies? Do you load up your plate -- or plates -- and dig in all at once? Or do you engage in a little eating, a little dancing, a little more eating, some eating after that, and, to finish it up, some dessert, then dancing, then eating? The enjoyment of Greek cuisine can be an experience you don't want to draw to a close too quickly. That's why a large-scale Greek festival, with entertainment and booths and other pursuits and fancies, is kind of the perfect way to go, for the person who wants to dine upon pretty much on offer. You can plan your day with a number of diversions between plates. And A Taste of Greece, an Irvine tradition for some 36 years, has those diversions down pat (and the making of delicious foodstuffs, too). The partying will roll over the last weekend in June -- that's all three days, from Friday the 27th to Sunday the 29th -- and the spot is Saint Paul's Greek Orthodox Church.

IT'S BIG: One of the biggest gatherings in SoCal, so arrive early on your chosen day to get the full flavor. The actual flavors, as in the eats, will include all the classics: pastitchio, saganaki, dolmathes, gyros, and souvlaki and calamari, too. All of those are so savory singly, but doubled up? Sweet satisfaction ending in a full belly. (We're thinking specifically of the cheesy saganaki and dolmathes here -- seriously, that is some duo.) Carnival rides and live performances are two to-dos on the busy schedule. Could you do every big Greek festival in Southern California? How about all of California? Eat a dolmathes in every county in the state? If you ever take on that epic challenge, make the Irvine party one of your must-stops.

Photo Credit: A Taste of Greece]]>
<![CDATA[Overnight Special: Summering in Death Valley]]> Wed, 11 Jun 2014 17:51:22 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/poolfurnace0456.jpg

NOPE... park rangers don't pull out a long chain, the kind with a hanging "closed" sign in the middle, and pull it across the entrance to Death Valley National Park come the summertime. We josh, only a little, because some state parks do close in extreme weather (Bodie State Historic Park, for one, in the wintertime). But that sizzlingly gorgeous expanse at the Nevada border, just north of the 15 and east of the 395? It's open all year long, even during the days when temps not only top three digits, but go deep into three digit territory, laughing all the way. And thank goodness, too. Death Valley has a lot of fans who wait for the summertime, skipping the winter and dreaming of days spent in a pool or sweating it up on a tennis court. That whole "dry heat" thing? It's true, and it has its backers. For sure, some of Death Valley slows down come June, July, August, and September -- the Inn at Furnace Creek takes the warm weather months off -- but the Ranch at Furnace Creek, just down the way from the Inn, keeps it open for summer. And lookie here: There's a Bed and Breakfast package on, through mid-September, for those dry heat fans who need a little blazing desert-type communion.

BED AND BREAKFAST PACKAGE: The to-knows? You can stay through Sept. 15 -- which is still plenty toasty around the D.V., trust -- and you'll need the BNB code to snag the deal. The deal itself? Pay $163 a night -- resort fee and taxes aren't included -- and get accomos, a crack at the breakfast buffet, use of the spring-fed pool, use of the sports courts -- hello, early morning tennis -- and other nice things. You'll be chillaxing at 214 below sea level, which is neat, and the Ranch is a full-service destination, complete with a snack-packing store on the grounds, which is neat. Could you spend the first day of summer in one of driest and lowest places anywhere? Would you Instagram the heck out of your tan, your feet in the water, the sweat beads on your brow? Yeah, everyone in your life would probably know you're summering in Death Valley. Because you're just that cool about being hot.

Photo Credit: Ranch at Furnace Creek]]>
<![CDATA[Free Santa Ynez Shuttle: The Valley Loop]]> Mon, 16 Jun 2014 08:30:24 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/190*120/valleyshuttle345.jpg

VALLEY HOPPING, SAFE AND EASY: Everybody who has ever planned a Saturday of wine or beer tasting around one of California's beverage-blessed regions knows that the first order of business isn't making sure your friends are all off work and can take the time, nor that you have your beer-drinking pants on, nor that you have a little cash for tastings and trinkets you might come across at various brewhouses and vineyards. You want to line up that designated driver, or car service, so you're not driving. Period. End of story. Right? That's number one. And Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. is making a day out trying the libations of the Santa Ynez Valley a safe adventure: They're introducing the Valley Loop shuttle. Yep, it is a shuttle, and yes indeed, it visits a number of breweries, wineries, and restaurants around the valley. Oh, and did we mention the "free" part? Should that have come at the beginning? It is free.

SO HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED... to know. It runs from Friday to Sunday, with the first pick-up happening at the Figureroa Mountain Buellton tap room at 11 a.m. Later pick-ups at that spot will go down at 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 p.m. (that's a good long day for a free shuttle). Other pick-up points include Avant Tapas & Wine, Andersen's Pea Soup, both of Buellton; the Figueroa Mountain tasting room in Los Olivos; Roblar Winery in Santa Ynez; and a few other stops. The shuttle visits six cities in all, so call that a wide swath of the valley. Arrive early, stay for the better part of the afternoon, and you'll see several of the ales and chardonnays and pea soups on offer. Pea soup! We want a bowl at the beginning and the end, to better fortify us.

TO GET THE FULL SKED... and all the good stuff before rounding up your friends and plotting your daytrip, read, read, read.

Photo Credit: Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.]]>
<![CDATA[Vegas New: Hershey's Chocolate World]]> Sat, 07 Jun 2014 07:31:25 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/hersheysvegas1.jpg

UNSUBTLY SWEET: Count on Sin City to go large-and-in-charge-y when it comes to its newest headlining addition. Nope, it isn't a hotel tower, nor a fountain, but it does include a 74-foot-tall chocolate bar "that visitors can walk through." Did you just picture a classic Hershey's treat? Yep, that's very often the go-to candy bar when people are trying to visualize something rectangular and delicious. And your visualization is right on the delicious money: The mega walk-through is from Hershey's, which just opened its West Coast flagship store in Las Vegas on Tuesday, June 3. Hershey's Chocolate World is the name, the 13,000-square-foot location is The Strip -- bet you guessed that -- and it is a part of New York-New York Hotel and Casino (again, this makes sense, as Hershey, Pennsylvania is not too far a drive from the Big Apple).

THIS MEANS... that there are some classic New York icons now done up in chocolate at the mega attraction. The Statue of Liberty, for one, which is "made of almost 800 lbs. of pure Hershey's Milk Chocolate" and the 1,800-bar Empire State Building. A milk chocolate skyscraper sounds very Vegas to us, given that the city is forever on the search for the next headline-making foodie-fun dish. The all-candy building is just for viewing, and taking many, many snapshots of, but Hershey's Chocolate World is also a store, meaning you can stock up on Jolly Ranchers, Twizzlers, and, yes, silver-shimmery Kisses while visiting. Aren't Kisses kind of the perfect Vegas food? Throw a few in your pocket -- not the pocket with your slot machine quarters -- and eat 'em as the night pushes into the wee smalls of the morning. For all the flavorful to-dos and buys, head over to the sweetest spot on The Strip.

Photo Credit: Hershey's Chocolate World]]>
<![CDATA[A Very Santa Cruz Summer]]> Tue, 03 Jun 2014 12:40:03 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/236*120/scbeachopens2014.jpg

ETERNAL AND ALL THAT: The rather charming thing about the beach, all beaches, for the most part, is they've been around for a long time and will continue to keep on that course, fingers crossed. That means that waves were doing their crashing thing well before you arrived on this planet, and they'll be crashing centuries from now, and seaweed and shells and tiny crabs'll be doing that thing they do where they festoon and frolic along the sand in all the enchanting, ocean-interesting ways. But while beaches are timeless, what goes down next to them tend to be pretty of the moment, and this is true most definitely where our amusement destinations are concerned. It makes for an exciting duo -- timeless ocean + passing boardwalk pleasures -- and few places have capitalized upon that excitement better than the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Yep, yep, the salty stretch boasts none other than The Giant Dipper, the boardwalk's legendary wooden roller coaster, and, indeed, the Dipper just celebrated its 90th birthday in the middle of May. But there are more fun timez to come in the summer of '14, in terms of to-dos. For sure, you can walk down to the water and commune with the ages, or you can keep tabs on the boardwalk's busy day-to-day summer schedule, which will include...

SEASON PASSES: You know you're in for a sunny summer of good-time-having if you've committed to buying a pass to the boardwalk, which gives you unlimited rides. ("Unlimited" is a nice word that pairs well with the hugeness of the nearby ocean, now that we think about it.) Free Friday night concerts and free movies on the beach are warm-weather staples (Smash Mouth is set to play the opener on June 13). And will 1987's "The Lost Boys" again screen, as it should, since the film used the boardwalk as a setting? It shall, on June 25. Want more on the carousel-y, Pacific-close high jinx? Swim this way, summer lovers.

Photo Credit: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk]]>
<![CDATA[Modesto's "American Graffiti" Summer]]> Mon, 02 Jun 2014 13:13:02 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/carlisle-shutterstock_39693721.jpg

LANDMARK MOVIE: Many films -- make that many, many films -- try and capture that easy, summertime, warm-night, teen-sweetness, young-angst feel of growing up, finding yourself, making a connection, making a friend. There's a new slew every year that runs for that particular cinematic crown, but few flicks have ever reached the upper stratosphere, the one where "American Graffiti" reigns. The George Lucas-directed movie, which starred Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfuss, Cindy Williams, and a cavalcade of young Hollywood hotshots, recently marked its 40th anniversary, but the spirit of the 1973 groundbreaker lives on in the director's hometown of Modesto, even to this day. For sure, it feels like the modern era in Modesto, but a sweet summer night or two summons the mid-century style of the movie via car shows, screenings, and people dressed up in their 1950s best. Even better? This isn't a one-off thing, on a single Saturday night. Modesto keeps the "American Graffiti" par-tay going for a good chunk of the summer, with a host of poodle-skirted to-dos.

ON TAP: A hangar-based sock shakes it on summer's eve eve -- that's Friday, June 20 -- and there is a sing-a-long "Grease" on June 14. (Yep, there's enough room in the "American Graffiti" universe for other 1950s-loving films to cameo.) Era-perfect concerts, hot rods on display, and other roll-up-your-jean-cuff happenings round out the rest of June. Honest? If we were super into '50s role play -- and, yep, a lot of people live the dream via their dress and design -- we'd probably just set up shop in the city for a good week or two each June. The hometown of George Lucas gets serious each summer about paying homage to one of the greatest of youth flicks in all the sweet and sentimental ways.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Fishing Along the High Sierra]]> Sat, 31 May 2014 11:20:21 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/FlethcherLakeHighsierracamp.JPG

HIGH SIERRA H2O: When you picture Yosemite National Park, and you picture yourself within it, what do you see? Do you see yourself hiking, admiring waterfalls, taking photos of rainbows in the spray? Maybe you're lounging at the Ahwahnee or taking an open-air tram tour or riding a bike or saddling up for a day on horseback? All are popular choices, and a few of them can be done all year long. But the pleasures of summer, if not fleeting, are temporary, and some of them take the outdoor enthusiast far from the more bustling areas of the park. One fine choice? Fishing, of course, because, well, fishing -- it's about as ancient a pursuit as pursuits get -- and fishing's beautiful settings. Much of the cast-a-line action around Yosemite happens in the park's High Country, and the opening of the Tioga Road means better access to great lake-close spots. Or stream-close, if that's more your bag. So you have your equipment, your fishing know-how, and a gloriously free day. Where shall you show up, up in the Sierra, with your rod and reel at your side?

LAKE AND STREAM: Yosemite Park has a handy blog post up featuring the recommendations of Harry Vanderburg, and employee at Yosemite Village's Sport Shop (so that's definitely who you want to turn to for recs). Mr. Vanderburg likes the Merced River near Housekeeping Camp and May Lake and Gaylor Lakes off the Tioga Road. And what will you be catching out there? (We'll just assume you'll have a great fishing day.) Brook trout are fishy favorites in the spots named. If you want to head even further afield, into the back country, make for Fletcher and Vogelsang Lakes. But wherever you head, with your tackle and vest and rubber boots, head there before fall hits its two-thirds marker; fishing season closes on Nov. 15.

Photo Credit: DNC Parks & Resorts]]>
<![CDATA[The Beers of Orange County (and Beyond)]]> Sun, 01 Jun 2014 11:24:07 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/190*120/ocbeerfestjune1.jpg

BARK-WORTHY BENEFIT: Beer festivals, those sip-focused, sunny-nice sprawls that are all about the taps and the socializing and the designated driving and the discovering of favorite new breweries, can exist simply unto themselves. That's how far the art of craft brewing has come along: A mega festival can be pretty unfettered and simply about the foams. But when there's a heart-warmer of an addition, say a sweet beneficiary, the day gets even better. And so there shall be at the OC Beer Festival, which lands at the Phoenix Club in Anaheim on Saturday, June 7. Noah's B-ark is the spotlight organization of the day, so, yep, funds from all of that served-up foam shall assist finding forever homes for rescue and shelter dogs (as well as vet bills, food, and such). Nice? Something you can raise a glass in toast to, during the event? For sure.

AS FOR THE BREWERIES? You bet a bunch of Orange County brewmakers'll be there, operating the suds-delivering spigots. The OC has been in full flowering mode in the craft brewing industry over the last several years, like many places around the Golden State, and regional crafters'll be there. Like? Oh, Bootlegger's Brewery of Fullerton, Old Orange Brewing Co., and Beach City Brewery of Huntington Beach. Plus a number of shops from around the state, including Riverside and the desert (yet another spot that has seized the fine beer-making reins in recent years). Cost? Forty bucks for general. Time? It's an afternoon thing. The Phoenix Club? Yeah, it is one of the places where Oktoberfest rules each fall, so they know the beer thing well. Tickets? They do sell out, so click here.

Photo Credit: OC Beer Festival]]>