<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Worth the Trip]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcsandiego.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.com en-us Fri, 06 Mar 2015 16:24:07 -0800 Fri, 06 Mar 2015 16:24:07 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Borrego Bliss: Warm Days, Spring Sun, and Wildflowers]]> Fri, 06 Mar 2015 09:50:10 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/borregomassagepool.jpg

MAKE YOUR PETAL PLANS: Plotting to eye, and admire, the too-brief, typically wowza (depending on when you show up) desert flower show is a combination of luck, timing, some more luck, a little moxie, and a dash of kismet. Buds pop in the far reaches of our state's driest regions, if the rain has been kind, and it is up to the petal peepers (spring's version of autumn's leaf peeper) to seek out where the show might be on what day, which can prove to be a wicket most sticky. What is the easy part of this equation, however? Booking your overnight accommodation that's adjacent to all of that floral, arid-awesome beauty. That only takes a phone call, or a web site visit, and it doesn't involve tracking down rumor of where a certain cactus flower is suddenly unfurling, or in which canyon a particular bush is now ablush with pink petals.

BORREGO SPRINGS RESORT & SPA... which is a location-nice launchpad for Anza-Borrego State Park, sees a profusion of petal peepers come March and April, so it is no surprise that the property has a package on for guests hoping to get a glimpse of one of the springtime's more unusual displays. The Wildflower Package is on -- you might have remembered it from a past visit, so, yep, it now is apparently a Borrego Springs Resort & Spa staple -- and you get overnight accommodations plus items to power your petal search.

BOX LUNCH, BUD BROCHURE: The extras include a box lunch -- chances are you won't find too many restaurants out in the deep desert spots where the flowers are showing -- and a brochure detailing desert flora. A map of prehistoric animal skyart structures is also yours, as well as a few other goodies. With warmer weather finally arriving, will you even go for a pre-swim before heading out on your search? The desert has many pluses in the spring, but the chance for a quick dip ahead of scouting for wildflowers is high among them.

Photo Credit: Borrego Springs Resort & Spa]]>
<![CDATA[Bacara Bev Bash: World of Pinot]]> Thu, 05 Mar 2015 07:03:53 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/231*120/WorldofPinotTenleyFohl.jpg

DIGGING -- OR SIPPING -- DEEPER: Participants approach a wine tasting in several different ways, ways that are as numerous as the wine tastees in attendance, and advising anyone on how to best enjoy the special day might run against their own style. Changing up the wine tasting itself, though, can shift how guests get into the wines. You've got your more social, gabby, chat-with-friends tastings, the kind where you breeze along a series of booths, sometimes going back for a second taste of the vino you like best. There are the tastings that are very much about the entertainment, or the beach, or a single winemaker. And then there are the deep-info happenings, that boast one focus, and while breezing booth-to-booth is not the name of the game, departing with a richer understanding of the wine is the hope. That's the educational-meets-funcational (totally a word when it comes to wine) vibe of World of Pinot, a Wine Tasting Seminar set at Bacara Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara.

IS PINOT YOUR GO-TO? Landing over the first Friday and Saturday in March, World of Pinot is, you guessed it, an exploration of pinot (as much as a celebration). Experts will be in the house, leading those who wish to understand the rich red better to greater knowledge, but not all of the pros will be pros in the field of wine: a mushroom expert will join the Food Frenzy Seminar Pairing on Saturday morning. Short films following "the 2014 vintage in real time, from bud breaking to barreling" shall be screened, and burgundy dinners are on the calendar. This isn't to say there won't be the breezy boothy fun of a light Saturday tasting -- wine-pairable appetizers made by the Bacara staff and the swank setting enhance the social aspects of the two-dayer. But if pinot is your go-to, and you don't know exactly why, except that you like it a whole lot, World of Pinot might be the next step in lending you some formidable knowledge.

PARTICIPANTS? Adelaida Cellars of Paso Robles, Alexander-Smith by Paraiso of Soledad, and Alta Maria Vineyards of Los Olivos are all pitching in. And while California indeed makes a strong showing, looking for winemakers from far beyond our state.

Photo Credit: Tenley Fohl Photography]]>
<![CDATA[Beer Camp: Go to Suds School at Sierra Nevada]]> Fri, 06 Mar 2015 09:53:25 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sierranevadahops293213.jpg

HOP TO IT: If you've ever strolled through Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico on a tour, and you're something of a home brewer, you've likely gazed about with envious eyes. The employees are so knowledgeable about the 36-year-old brewery's history, character, and many iconic releases, the facility is so spacious and state-of-the-art, and the room where tour attendees get to stop and rub the hops in their hands, the better to enjoy the aroma... it's a slice of nose-pungent heaven, if you're into strong hoppy scents. Even if you can't get a dream job at the famous brewhouse, you can try for three dreamy days of learning all about libations of the beery sort. It's called Beer Camp, and Sierra Nevada hosts those selected entrants who make a winning video about why they should attend. Can you, dear craft brew lover, create an impassioned and clever plea as to why you need to spend June 17 through 19 in Chico, getting all of the know-how you need to rise, foam-like, in the world of beer-based artistry.

VIDEOS TO PERUSE: There are already some videos up on the site, so you can check out the vibe of what your co-entrants are doing, while you plot your own individual video. "We are looking for creativity!" says the Sierra Nevada site, so go the distance, imaginative people. The deadline for your video is the last day of March 2015, and there are some things to do and things to avoid. Check it all out, sudsy cineastes.

IF YOU WIN... there's a tour of the brewery (be sure to eye all of those rooftop solar panels helping the beer inside rise to its best) and there are visits with the "mad beer scientists" behind the Quality Assurance and Packaging Labs. Fun fun, but the fun continues when you "learn the science behind beer storage and chemistry." Will you win? Can you go the zingy distance, and get picked, meaning you'll get the opportunity to discover how to make your ales and IPAs the very best they can be? Time to make that video, over-21-ers, and maybe, foamy fingers crossed, spend a few days deep within the not-so-secret, totally-wicked-awesome backrooms of Sierra Nevada Brewery. 

Photo Credit: Sierra Nevada Brewery]]>
<![CDATA[On Sale: West Coast BBQ Classic Tickets]]> Tue, 03 Mar 2015 07:40:41 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/209*120/queenmarybbq908.jpg

SPRINGTIME SPICY: Common wisdom among those who frequent foodie affairs where meats and grills and tongs reign says this: Follow the smoke. More than following the smoke, though, we should follow the scent of the smoke, which should, fingers cross, convey the spices and sauces and rubs of what is on the grill. It can be a bit overwhelming, true, in a situation where lots of grills are out, with lots of different meats and things topping the meats, but barbecue buffs kind of have the art form down. Is this an area you need to happily hone? And stoke your hunger ahead, just a little, to whet the appetite and prep your olfactory senses for smoke-following? Then you're in luck: Tickets are on sale for one of the spring's most savory smoky-smoker gatherings, a hoedown that is all about fans tasting what has just come off the grill and then picking their favorites. It's...

THE WEST COAST BBQ CLASSIC: And it celebrates its fourth annual at the Queen Mary on Saturday, May 9. That's the Saturday before Mother's Day, and we're a big believer that while brunch is fab, if your mom is a brunchist at heart, a lot of mothers out there would be very much all about jeans-ing-up and getting their hands a bit saucy at a mondo ribs-plus affair. The to-do brings together "Southern California's most accomplished Champion Pitmasters" for a day devoted to a variety of barbecue styles. The Classic is KCBS-sanctioned, so, for sure, Kansas City-style'll be in the house, or boat, but so will a bunch of other takes, all of which may be tried by attendees.

AS FOR THE OTHER HAPS? Tunes, "backyard games," stuff for kids to do, booths with merchants selling stuff, and other hang-out, chill-by-the-water doings will rule. Don't you love when May gets a jumpstart on summer eating? And you can treat your mom to a laidback day of food fun for her holiday, if that's her thing? And doesn't warm-weather grub just taste better when you're right up against an ocean? It's practically fact. Tickets? Point your tongs this way, BBQians.

Photo Credit: West Coast BBQ Classic]]>
<![CDATA[Desert Gem: Cabot's Pueblo Museum]]> Tue, 03 Mar 2015 07:42:23 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/cabotspueblomuseumagp.jpg

HOUSES OF MEMORY: The just-wrapped Modernism Week is the stylish centerpiece of the desert resorts' winter season, a social-strong celebration of mid-century architecture, and mid-century everything else, that draws fans from all across the world to Palm Springs. But just a bit north is a home that was already around when all of those mid-century abodes, complete with sparkling swimming pools, sprung up around the Springs. The abode is in a different Springs -- Desert Hot Springs -- and it is as storied as the man who built it: Cabot's Pueblo Museum. The sprawling structure, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was the vision of Cabot Yerxa, an adventuresome homesteader who took part in the Alaska Gold Rush before making for the region now occupied by the desert resorts (with a few other near-and-far stops along the way). Mr. Yerxa began to construct his now-famous pueblo in 1941, but to call the undertaking a multi-year project is to not give full credit to the many years the building took (the visionary passed away in 1965, and the pueblo's site says he was still working on his dream at the time of his death at age 81). If tales of buildings that took years to come together, via one man's vision, out in the desert, intrigue you, you're in luck: The museum offers info-rich tours for much of the year.

EXCEPT FOR SUMMER: It can get a mite toasty in Desert Hot Springs 'round about July, rumor has it, and the pueblo is not air-conditioned (though it boasts 150 non-matching windows, all of which were reclaimed by Mr. Yerxa from various sources). So visiting in the Springs in the spring is the way to go, before the museum shutters for the warm months. You'll walk through several rooms of the pueblo, though not all, but the nooks visited will give you a view to life in the home -- there are even a few delightfully incongruous sights, like a blue mid-century bathtub Mr. Yerxa installed for his wife. The grounds boast winding paths, artworks, and desert shrubs like the oh-so-odoriferous creosote bush, which is the very smell of the desert when it rains.

SO... does Cabot's Pueblo Museum have anything in common with the mid-century gems a half hour to the south, across the 10 Freeway? Well, in spirit, perhaps. Architecture that lasts does benefit from a visionary with spirit, a love of location, and can-do on its side. The desert has had such visionaries in plenitude, working in multiple building styles, which makes the area a stand-out, stylistically, on several levels. Plus, those mountains, sunsets, and the creosote -- Palm Springs to Desert Hot Springs, it is a place brimming with beauty, even beyond its interesting buildings.

Photo Credit: Cabot's Pueblo Museum]]>
<![CDATA[Drink of the Desert: Date Shake]]> Sat, 28 Feb 2015 06:40:51 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/189*120/hadleysdate12345.JPG

SUNNY SUPPING: What are the go-to eats of desert dining? Some might say various foods served inside other, cooler foods (cooler meaning temperature, of course). Think a scoop of cottage cheese nestled inside a grapefruit half or shrimp salad looking perfectly pink against a backdrop of creamy avocado. Drink-wise, fans of a more arid resort region will cite the Arnold Palmer as a seen-everywhere beverage, though whether it needs more lemonade, or more iced tea, to reach that perfect flavor note, is up to the individual Arnold Palmer fan. Mimosas are popular, and anything iced, too (coffee, lattes, chais), but let us pause and doff our sunhat to that king of desert -- and dessert -- creaminess, an unlikely candidate in the legion of libations that kind of trumps all other comers in the popular drinks category.

IT'S THE DATE SHAKE, a decades-old treat that rose with the Palm Springs-to-the-Salton-Sea popularity of the fruit, and the roadside stands of the early 20th century. To some the notion that a thicker drink, that doesn't have a refreshing component, might have the most local cred seems unlikely, but you can't stop the sweet-plus-fruit train that is a classic, sipped-through-a-straw date shake. Springtime might just be its best time, too, at least where visitors are concerned. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is about to take early spring by stylish, sound-laden storm, meaning many a highway traveler will toodle by...

HADLEY FRUIT ORCHARDS: The Cabazon, freeway-close stand that trumpets "since 1931" on its sign, a sign that can be seen from waaaay down the 10. The date shake, and date banana shake, can be enjoyed neat or with a sprinkle of cinnamon (the shaker is generally on the counter). And the cost? The largest of the Hadley's treats goes for just under a fiver, plus tax. Other stands throughout the region, like Shields in Indio, also do a mighty fine date shake, so be on the lookout for milkshake opportunities (always good advice). We're guessing that with the springtime desert hugely attended spectacles coming up, a few people might sample one for the first time, ever. Lucky them. Now, which beverage deserves the desert's crown: the date shake or the Arnold Palmer? Discuss as you drive, 10 Freewayers.

Photo Credit: Alysia Gray Painter]]>
<![CDATA[Indian Wells Idyll: Spring Break in the Desert]]> Sat, 28 Feb 2015 06:41:16 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/renaissanceindianwellspool1.jpg

YOU, A LOUNGE CHAIR, AND AN UMBRELLA: So many of us have the desire to purchase pencils and erasers and a lunchbox and a backpack each and every August, even if we're long past the pencil sharpener phase. (Though are we ever really truly past a really good pencil sharpener? No, is the answer.) And come March? We start hearing word of spring break destinations, and we imagine ourselves in a pool, or on a sandy shore, soaking in some rays and leaving our workaday world back where we left it. That we're all still on a semi-school schedule, in our brains, even if it has been awhile since we actually were in school, is a fact for many, but just because it is a quirk doesn't mean it won't work for us: We can go on a spring break, of sorts, if we just find the right balmy, sunny, pool-close spot.

THE RENAISSANCE INDIAN WELLS RESORT & SPA... is helping our spring-break-y longings with a special package made for spring-breakians and those who are just living spring break as a state of mind. It's called Spring Break in the Desert and, what luck, its dates extend far past the shorter window a typical spring break might follow. Which makes it easier to plan, and actually do, for those wanting to jump into a sunny spring getaway, at least for a couple of days.

MARCH 20 TO APRIL 9: Call it a nice, long, languorous stretch, as languorous as spring break should be. That's your window to book the package which starts at $299 per night and includes accommodations for the night, fifty bucks to spend around the resort, and "two ice cream treats" (score). As for where you'll likely be hanging out, spring-breakin' it up? Look for a trio of pools, a sandy beach, and waterfalls at what's billed as "the largest swimming pool complex in the region." Oh, and as for who may book? Nope, you don't to be be a true spring-breaker: Spring Break in the Desert is open to both grown-ups and families.

Photo Credit: Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa]]>
<![CDATA[OC Restaurant Week: "Ride. Dine. Stay."]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 11:06:18 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ocrestaurantweek23456789.jpg

EAT (AND DON'T BE OVERWHELMED): Ask anybody about any county in the United States, and inquire as to whether they can name the various cities and the distinct food styles and the cultural facets of each spot, and you might get a couple of answers, and then a shrug. But then there's Orange County, a region full of distinctive dining locations, locations that each have their own rep. Eating in Newport Beach? You might be enjoying some light seafood or other breezy, al fresco-fine fare. How about Anaheim? It could be a churro (though outside of the Magic Kingdom the choices are good, too). And Santa Ana? Downtown is flourishing with avant garde gastronomes and all of their gastronome-y, menu-pushing meals. With these many foodie facets in mind, how does one approach one of Orange County's biggest eat-out weeks? Stop one is perusing the...

ORANGE COUNTY RESTAURANT WEEK... site, which lists all of the participants and those need-to-know, don't-arrive-late-and-be-sad dates (Sunday, March 1 through Saturday, March 7). A handy feature? Rather than looking by restaurant name, or area of the county -- okay, both of those are handy, too -- you can click how much you want to spend. The $10 Lunch Menus listings'll hook you up with every business doing the prix-fixe-lunch-for-a-tenner thing, which includes Wild Goose Tavern and SLAPFISH. Want to visit the other end of the Restaurant Week price spectrum, and check out the $50 dinner menus? It's this way. And hello there, Fig & Olive, Five Crowns, and The North Left.

RIDE. DINE. STAY. One other way to approach the bigness of OC eats? The Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau has a Ride. Dine. Stay. program on during the event, which involves "hotel accommodations and transportation options" in addition to all of those eateries in the swing. There's a sweepstakes, too, if you like to think about winning as you sup. Want to know more? Point your fork this way, deal-loving diners.

Photo Credit: OC Restaurant Week]]>
<![CDATA[Bon App├ętit Fest: Vegas Uncork'd]]> Thu, 05 Mar 2015 07:37:22 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/vegasuncorkedcaesars.jpg

A QUIRKY FACT OF LAYOUT: Plenty of cities have well-known attractions and pursuits and destinations, the kind of things that appear on the fronts of the tourism brochures as well as along the walls of the local airport in poster form. But it isn't often that those attractions and pursuits, be they sports or something outdoors or an offbeat museum, are so close to world-famous cuisine. As in, steps-away close. The stand-out in this category, the lone example, is once again Las Vegas, a city that's a stand-out in so many unusual ways. Consider that its on-stage extravaganzas and casino floors are up against -- and that's right up against, as in sharing space -- restaurants helmed by household-name chefs. Meaning you can sashay from the city's most famous attractions and pursuits right to a dinner prepared by a cuisinaire with her own TV show. It's a funny bit of layout, and one that's oh-so-Las-Vegas, and it serves as further reason that one of the hottest of hot food festivals happens in Sin City each spring. It's Vegas Uncork'd, it is hosted by Bon Appétit, no less, and it lands at a number of Strip-snug properties, like MGM Grand, Caesars Palace, ARIA, and Bellagio. As for the chefs? We weren't joshing around in the whole household-name department.

MICHAEL MINA, GORDON RAMSAY, GIADA DE LAURENTIIS, and a host of other stove-focused smarties will be participating, as well as first-timer Emeril Lagasse (that name rings a bell, for sure). And, for sure, Mr. Lagasse will be one of the top draws for food fans and cook fans, people showing up for "the intimate dinners and interactive experiences." Look for happenings like The Chefs of Wolfgang Puck: A Lunch Across the Empire (you'll taste many Puckian plates) and an In Hell's Kitchen Dinner with Gordon Ramsay (both events happen at Caesars Palace). Can you buy your tickets a la carte, and just do what you want? Yes. Will tickets go? Yes -- this is the ninth annual, and Uncork'd grows each year in stature and gotta-go-ness. Will you find plenty to fill the April 23-26 weekend extravaganza? Plenty, yes. And will there ever be another place like Las Vegas, where the main attractions are located cheek-by-jowl with all of that celebrated food? Dream big, other places everywhere.

Photo Credit: Vegas Uncork'd]]>
<![CDATA[Disney Doings: D23 Visits Vineyards, Studios...]]> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 17:31:49 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/183*120/expod23mickey1.jpg

AN EVENT THAT'S EVERY TWO YEARS... can really put the happy heat on fans who want to do it all, but doing it all, where Disney is concerned, is as challenging as not singing along with the "Yo Ho" song at the start of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride (c'mon, everybody sings along). It's just hard to cover all the ground when D23 Expo, the mondo Disney fan convention, tra-la-las our way every other August. And while this is an "on" year for D23 -- it's on from Aug. 14 through 16, 2015 at the Anaheim Convention Center -- the people behind the fan club are filling out a full slate of mouse-ear'd happenings at locations around the country. They're happenings open to D23 members, and there are some different levels involved, so if you want to jump into something, make sure that membership is shiny and up-to-date (attending the D23 Expo is open to both members and non-members, though members have some unique ticket buying opportunities and such). 

SO WHAT'S AHEAD... ahead of D23 Expo? There's an early screening of "Cinderella" at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, lunches with Disney animator legends like Marty Sklar and Floyd Norman, member VIP studio tours (keep an eye out for the soundstage where "Mary Poppins" was filmed and Pluto's Corner), a lunch at Silverado Vineyards in Napa (the winery founded by Diane Disney Miller and her husband), and special peeks inside the Walt Disney Archives on the Burbank studio lot. Will that keep your devotion to all things Big D filled up before the August extravaganza? 

CHECK OUT... the full complement of fan-focused doings, and what's coming down the pike for D23 Expo. Really, it is a challenge to do everything you want to at any large-scale convention, but most conventions don't have a several-month-long run-up filled with related happenings of the Mouse-iest sort.

Photo Credit: D23 Expo]]>
<![CDATA[OC Egg Drop for National Engineer's Week]]> Mon, 23 Feb 2015 08:15:48 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/generic-eggs-food-generic.jpg

STEADY ON THE SPOON: Think back, if you will, to your best pal's birthday party, 'round about 3rd or 4th grade, when one of the main games involved guests running several yards while holding a spoon. Well, not any spoon, but a spoon holding a raw egg. Balance is everything, but so is speed; jog too slowly and your competitors will best you, and move too speedily and your egg will plop upon the ground in spectacular, yolky fashion. Did you win? Did you really want the prize at the end? (Probably a paddle ball or a balsa wood plane, if we were at the same party.) Then you got your egg, in one shell-covered piece, to the finish line.

NOW TAKE THAT BOLD SPIRIT... to the Discovery Cube OC, on the last day of February, where "tinkerers and builders of all ages" will pay big-brained homage to Engineer's Week with none other than a classic Egg Drop. Well, classic and yet so cerebral: Participants are being asked to "(d)esign and build an egg transport vehicle (ETV) to safely withstand the punishing effects of gravity and accurately land an uncooked large grade A egg traveling through vertical space of up to 7.62 meters." A total cinch, right? A snap? Especially after you totally won the egg-spoon race lo these many years ago? Then be in Santa Ana on...

SATURDAY, FEB. 28: There are some asterisks and to-knows before you construct your amazing, revolutionary, egg-awesome ETV, so get the info before plotting the air-lofty path of your protein-y, breakfast-foodian test subject. The Discovery Cube OC is marking the engineer-focused week with other smarty happenings, including parachute tests and a light workshop, so even if eggs aren't your bag something else might be. Are you longing for the Discovery Cube OC's autumntime pumpkin toss? Don't worry, that's only just over a half year away. For now, you can put an into-the-air spin on the ol' egg-spoon dash. Wishing you luck, and that's no yolk.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Feeding Frenzy Tour at Monterey Bay Aquarium]]> Sat, 21 Feb 2015 09:32:24 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/feedingfrenzytourmba.jpg

THE STOMACH KNOWS ALL: It seems as though there are about 37 different aphorisms and wink-wink sayings that end with the words "through the stomach." As for the implication of each and every one of these tried-and-true, oft-repeated chestnuts? That to know a person, an animal, a being, through and through, you have to be schooled in what they prefer to sup upon. If you want to bargain with them, have their favorite food ready. If you want them to sit up and speak, keep their treats near. And if you want to know what keeps that being ticking, talking, swimming, squeaking, barking, or some combination of all of the above, get educated in their eats. Turns out that decades-old sayings do have some footing, now and then, or, if you prefer in this case, finning. (We imagine "finning" is to fishes what "footing" is to we humans.) The Monterey Bay Aquarium wants to give devotees of The Deep a closer view as to what is fed to the denizens of the world-famous Cannery Row institution. Not just what is fed -- you can probably guess mollusks and critters of the sea are on the menu for many residents -- but how often those beasties dine, the nutrition, the crunch (or non-crunch -- slimey, to our human eyes, seems to be one of the most-sought-after consistencies), the everything. Food and fish -- and non-fish, like otters -- is a fascinating topic, one that is delved into during the Feeding Frenzy tour.

IT'S A SPECIAL TOUR... with a special time: before the aquarium opens to the general public on "most" Thursdays and Sundays. This means you'll be on "morning rounds" with staffers, who will take guests ages 8 and older around the building, and outside, to for a "private viewing of a sea otter feeding and training session." You'll also see the food prep area, which "rivals any restaurant," says the aquarium. Last of all? You'll feed those breakfasters that boast fins (they will be so happy to see you, and whatever goodies the bucket next to you contains). Again, this is all before opening, so you and your party will feel mighty special indeed as you see later guests stream in. Telling them about what you've done may halt the flow of their aquarium day, but bet that you'll regale your foodie friends, and nature-loving friends, with stories of your food-themed visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for a long time. Cost? It's sixty five dollars, plus admission.

Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium]]>
<![CDATA[Chocolate Decadence and Pechanga Wine Festival]]> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 21:49:48 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/173*120/chocolates.jpg

FEBRUARY'S TOO FAST: That the shortest of months also seems to pass in a flash is no headline, and yet we get taken by surprise each and every year. Perhaps only December passes faster -- so many obligations, so many social engagements, so many to-do lists piling up you need a separate lists that encapsulates ever list containing to-dos -- but February is sneaky. If you're planning for the middle-of-the-month celebrations, Valentine's and the long Presidents Day Weekend, you've only got a fortnight to jumpstart your plans once February arrives, and before you know it, March is in like a lamb (or is it a lion, or some curious combination of both?).

THE BEST WAY... to extend that Valentine's-February fun feeling is to keep an eye out for the month-long hotel deals and Hearts Day-type happenings that fill up the second month of the year, from the 1st to the 28th. One gathering that has some of the gooey charms of Valentine's -- literally -- has landed on the last two days of February, in Temecula, and if you didn't get enough candy or Cabernet on the 14th, then Friday, Feb. 27 and Saturday, Feb. 28 should take care of those cravings. It's Chocolate Decadence and Pechanga Wine Festival, and "over 150 wine competition award-winning varietals" will be part of the two-day sip party.

PLUS 15 RESTAURANTS... will be in the house, serving "gourmet food bites" as well as a "dizzying array of chocolate desserts." The festivals are separate, but a combo ticket is available at a hundred bucks. As for the beneficiary of both events? Habitat for Humanity Inland Valley's Brush with Kindness program. As for some of the participants? Look for the best of the region: Europa Village, South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, Treasury Wine Estates, and Callaway Vineyard and Winery 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Re-Opening April 1: The Wawona]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 12:25:37 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/WawonaYosemite.jpg

SPRINGTIME DEBUT: So many marvelous things begin to bud and flower and get leafy and get green come the early days of April. Walk through any garden or along any nature path and you're bound to see stems pushing through soft earth, awakened by the season for awakening and, just perhaps, a few rain showers and promising weather events, too. But other non-leafy, non-flowery things zing into spring, too, and some of them happen to be made of wood and brick and carpeting. We speak of those businesses that take the wintertime off, or rather shutter for the colder months. Some venues still do this, following the more old-fashioned tradition of observing a season for being open. It's quaint, it charms, and it doesn't follow the path of this get-it-all-any-time world (and that's okay; we must ask if we need it all all the time in this day and age).

ONE OF THE MAIN DESTINATIONS... to keep to a warm-weather schedule is the landmark Wawona Hotel, of Yosemite National Park. Yes, you're right -- Theodore Roosevelt did stay there, back in the day, and a host of nature-minded luminaries. And, yes, you're right again -- Mariposa Grove, that stately expanse dotted with sequoias, is the Wawona's nearby neighbor. So do you desire some history and some looking up -- way, way up -- when the white, porch-lined, multi-building hotel re-debuts? Then mark your calendar for...

APRIL 1: No fooling -- that's the opening date, which we love, because vacations should be lighthearted, or at least often are. There are a few packages to eye, like the Wawona's Make History Package (you'll definitely hear tales of Teddy Roosevelt and more greats who've stayed), or you can simply make for the sequoias. Or, further afield, of course, Yosemite Valley, which is apiece up the road ("apiece"=about an hour). Note that restoration projects are going on around Mariposa Grove, which may close partially or fully later in 2015. Want to take a peek before that? Get there before July 2015.

Photo Credit: DNC Parks & Resorts]]>
<![CDATA[40th Anniversary: OC's Famous Avila's El Ranchito]]> Fri, 20 Feb 2015 15:10:16 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/elranchitoannewatson123.jpg

THAT ONE RESTAURANT: We all have a pocket filled with restaurant recommendations that are at the ready when we're asked for them (and even when our opinion is not solicited but we want to give it). Our suggestions cover the grub-worthy gamut, from tacos near the beach to restaurants with fireplaces in the mountains to that one place your parents always want to go to when they visit (just in case your friend also has visiting parents, too). As for classic Mexican places of SoCal? Oh boy... Diners have their loves here, the places they'll drive to, or stop on the way to LA (or vice versa), and when they recommend them they tend to talk with their hands, mimicking the gooey cheese on top of an enchilada to how thick the table salsa is when you dip a chip. Avila's El Ranchito is one of those California classics. It's been a Newport Beach staple for four decades, weathering the closure of other eateries while staying true to the savory entrees that fans have come to expect (the gooey cheese, the hefty salsa). To celebrate those fans, those keep-on-truckin' dishes, and its big 40th anniversary, Avila's El Ranchito is devoting Thursday in April to celebrating the tasty touchstones. Celebrating, that is, with deals.

THROWBACK THURSDAYS, which kick off on Thursday, April 2, will offer "discount items" that have been centerpieces of the menu "for decades." Look for the kettle-cooked carnitas and Mama Avila's Soup, which comes topped with cilantro and avocado (seriously, any spicy chicken soup lacking in either should really reconsider its path, because that duo is strong). 

TO SEE ALL THE UPCOMING DEALS... keep an eye on the restaurant's Facebook page. And be grateful for the longtime places still doing old-school tamales and rellenos and carnitas and all of that comforting goodness we grubbed on as tots and still seek out today, when we want something filling and able to stand the test of time.

Photo Credit: Anne Watson]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Barbara's Lotusland]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 12:25:17 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/LotuslandMother.jpg

SUMMONING SPRINGTIME: The longing for the bloom-iest time of year typically begins around Valentine's Day, when roses and dahlias and lilies fill the floral sections of stores and our own shrubs and trees look as though they're considering undertaking the whole budding-early thing (especially when February temperatures have been warm). Poets would say that hearts are quickening or thumping or longing around this time, but those less poetical among us would simply say we like when it is lighter later and the natural world is going to town with bloomy beauty. One of the bellwethers of springtime, at least on the West Coast, is the re-opening of places that have been closed for the winter. Ganna Walska Lotusland, "a public garden in a private, residential neighborhood," is one such tree-filled spot. It takes a break in the wintertime from regular tours, shuttering from the middle of November to the middle of February. Which means the stroll-and-sniff-and-be-under-the-sky time is nigh for the Santa Barbara-based historic plot, which fills the former estate of early 20th-century singer Ganna Walska, to re-debut for the season. And so it did on Wednesday, Feb. 18.

TOURS, TALKS, MORE: While the fresh-air walk-arounds in the 37-acre garden are popular, there are talks on birds and plants and more throughout the warm-weather season. As to the foliage and flora strollers admire? There are thousands of different leafy, bud-pretty things at Lotusland, with an aloe garden, a cycad garden, a bevy of bromeliads, and a blue garden adding vibrant visuals (let us also swoon a bit over the topiary, the water garden, and the succulents). Tour reservations? You can make those. Special events? There's a calendar for that. Having that longing for springtime and blossoms and birds and soft sunshine finally fulfilled with a grand garden's re-opening? Oh so nice. When nature-filled outdoor places start to open the proverbial doors, that's almost a good a sign that spring is due as a new nest in the oak tree outside or camellias popping as they so nicely do come this time of year.

Photo Credit: Ganna Walska Lotusland]]>
<![CDATA[Cinematic Sartorial: Movie Costumes on Display in LA]]> Mon, 16 Feb 2015 12:06:28 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/fidmfeb2015alexjberliner.jpg

BIG-SCREEN TOGS BEFORE YOUR EYES: Many movie fans need a way to get closer to a favorite film. Maybe an aficionado will buy the screenplay or novelization when they're released, or perhaps the fan will pen a bit of fan fiction, or start a Tumblr blog that honors the characters and setting and themes. But one of the most immediate and visual ways a fan honors a film is to dress like its characters. We fans can't fly to Venus, should a film take place on another planet, and we can't return to 1519, because we lack time machines (or the writer of this post hasn't yet built one, at least), but we can don the jackets and dresses, or versions of them, that connect us more to characters we admire.

TRUTH TIME... Did you run out and buy a fedora after seeing Indiana Jones rock one in "Raiders of the Lost Ark"? Or a drop-waisted frock a la "The Great Gatsby"? Then you've been moved by movie fashion. And there's one place where emotion meets fandom meets fabric, style, buttons, and bows, and all for free: It's the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising's annual "Art of Motion Picture Costume Design" exhibit in downtown Los Angeles. A sartorial standard of awards season, the show rounds up over 100 costumes each and every year that all spring from films released in the previous year, with one exception: The film that won the Oscar for Best Costume Design the year before. 

"MALEFICENT" TO "THE FAULT IN OUR STARS": The just-opened show is on Tuesdays through Saturdays through April 25, and 20 films are covered, from "Inherent Vice" to "Into the Woods" to "Selma" to "Jersey Boys." Some of the most iconic outfits, including the dramatic "Maleficent" costume worn by Angelina Jolie and the fairytale blue gown Meryl Streep donned in "Into the Woods," are there for the looking. For sure, many people who design clothing for a living count this as a must-see, but so do film fans that long to know more about a film. And if you've taken fashion notes from the big screen before, for your own closet, we tip our hat to you (which we may have bought because we saw it in a movie). If Hollywood is indeed our collective dream factory, fashion can and does take note. What's in your closet now that you first saw at the cinema?

Photo Credit: FIDM/Alex J. Berliner]]>
<![CDATA[Winter Wonderlands Found: National Park Foundation Guide]]> Sat, 14 Feb 2015 09:15:51 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/winterwonderlands57060447.jpg

DEAR SNOW, WE MISS YOU: While many Golden Staters are experiencing frosty temperatures and flakes aplenty, there are hundreds of thousands of people who are rocking the tank top and shorts look, despite the calendar saying February. Mercury has crept skyward inside thermometers around Southern California, and beyond Southern California, too, but there are some truths. One? A heat wave during the second month of the year doesn't mean you should stow that parka, or parka-like jacket just yet, and two? Getting out to see some cold, white stuff in a gorgeous setting is a fine way to use a long weekend or some vacation days you've been meaning to use. Presidents Day Weekend is a free one around our national parks, which translates to you not paying the standard fee at the gate (at those parks that carry a fee). If you can go further afield, in Utah and Colorado, you can find national parks that are stand-outs come the coldest stretch of the year. The National Park Foundation is helping we snow-seeking park lovers out with a new guide to Winter Wonderlands. It's the sixth edition of the Owner's Guide series, and well, well, well, look at this: It's free. 

WHAT'S INSIDE: The guides consider what to do in "15 suggested destinations" during the bundle-up months, from "ice fishing and sledding, to stargazing and contra dancing." Get those ideas and destinations at the foundation's download center via this page. As for the National Park Foundation? You guessed right: It is indeed "the official charity of America's national parks." As for national parks with a little wintry goodness right here in the CA? Yosemite Falls has seen some frazil ice in recent days (an interesting event all winter buffs should bone up on). As for the aforementioned parka-like jackets? Unless a Californian resides in Truckee or Mammoth or Big Bear, our jackets are probably far more jacket-y than parka-esque. But that doesn't stop us from calling them "parkas" to feel a bit more into the swing of this winter thing. To really find snow + scenic vistas, though, best check out the Winter Wonderlands guide.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Festival of Whales: Dana Point's Blowhole-Big Bash]]> Fri, 13 Feb 2015 17:25:48 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/190*120/danapointparadewhales234.jpg

FISH STORIES: Ask anyone who has witnessed any nature while out on a whale-watching excursion to describe the nature they encountered and you're going to see some hands and arms and elbows tell a good deal of the story. If a guest aboard an afternoon sightseeing cruise spots an especially large gull, the human's arms serve as the beak. If dolphins are spied, the seer probably does a bit of leaping about, to mimic the dolphin's playfulness. As for a gray whale? Well, it is hard to encapsulate something much, much larger than you, but the raising of the shoulders and back is probably involved, and the witness may cup a hand at their head to simulate the blowhole. We're all charades people when it comes to the wonders seen at sea, wonders that go ashore each year at a few California towns. Nope, orcas don't waddle up to the beach, grunion-like, but places like Mendocino and Dana Point pause to recognize those mammalian giants that inspire humans to become mimes forever after spying them (c'mon, you're always going to do the hands-cupped blowhole when you retell your whale story, for the rest of your life). Want to give whales a big thanks for inspiring some of your best mime moves? And for being whales, which is really all that they must do (and they do it so well)? Then make for Dana Point...

OVER TWO MARCH WEEKENDS: The first two weekends, in fact: March 7 and 8 and March 14 and 15. It's the Festival of Whales, one of the West Coast's biggest parties for the biggest of mammals, and it covers the full fluke. There's a run, and a popular parade (look for the big whale-shaped balloon) and excursions out to look for whales, and a day of Polynesian dance and music, and water taxi trips, and historical walking tours, and a car show, and lectures about whales, and whale-themed art happenings. And and and -- the and-ing is plentiful with this fest, which is 44 this year. If you're a whale-ist, whether you can shape your back/shoulders/arms into a convincing whale or not, and you're around Southern California, we're sure this is a constant on your calendar. For even if you miss seeing a whale while out on a trip, being among those who love and support the whale communities strengthens the whales' on-shore team. That's all of us.

Photo Credit: Festival of Whales]]>
<![CDATA[First of the County Fairs: Riverside Opens]]> Thu, 12 Feb 2015 13:04:35 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/riversidecountyfairdatesunset1.jpg

TO STUFF OR NOT STUFF? Few fruits are as versatile, chewy, stuffable, diceable, spreadable, and identifiable as the date. It can be filled with nuts or other fruits or bits of chocolate, it can be mashed and spread on toast (mmm, with a layer of cream cheese lending a luscious note), and it can appear in small cube-like form, diced, atop a scoop of ice cream. Savory dish or sweet dish, the date does a-ok; it enhances its fellow flavors and elevates the foodstuff to something with that particular tang only a date delivers. True enough, you can have dates all year long, from the fresh ones found at farmers markets to bagged chewy delights at the grocery store. But making the trek to the desert for date shakes -- and, oh, those Medjools that hold walnuts so very nicely -- is the sticky-hearted key to a date devotee's affections. Date shakes can be found all year long at places like Cabazon's own Hadley Fruit Orchards and Shields of Indio, but the date-a-tude-ness of the desert really steps up come February, when the National Date Festival and the Riverside County Fair roll out the tasty treats, midway attractions, rodeo spectacle, and concerts.

COUNTY FAIR FIRST: While many county and state fairs around the United States dominate July, August, September, and October (we're looking at you on that last one, Arizona), Riverside gets the Ferris wheel wheeees going just weeks after the new year kicks off, in the middle of February. That means you can get your summer-style fun-having on way early, months ahead of time, from Feb. 13. through 22. It's year sixty nine for the fair, and, as always, there shall be demolition derbying, cotton candy devouring, pig petting, and riding of the towering Century Wheel.

AS FOR THE DATES? They're a big part of desert doings, too, which makes us think that more county fairs should have a major food festival accompanying it -- ups the festive feel. The Blessing of the Dates kicks things off on Friday, Feb. 13, and there shall be date-y treats in and around the fair. Can you think of another fair that is so very associated with one food? Beyond the pies and funnel cakes and fried pickles found at most every county fair? The date-Riverside County Fair is special, all righty. If you need summer now, summer begins in February in Indio. Snack on that, date-loving fair-enjoying revelers.

Photo Credit: Riverside County Fair and Date Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Vegas Big: Valentine's Speed-Date Record]]> Wed, 11 Feb 2015 22:35:55 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/212*120/heartsshutterstockcandy1234556.jpg

VALENTINE'S, OUT-SIZED: If you had to pick out a few themes that suit Las Vegas pretty well, what would you alight upon? Well, spectacle, for sure. The city does bigness, in all things, bigger than anywhere else. Probably romance, too, right? Cuddlesome booths in high-end restaurants are very much the way of things along The Strip, and sexy shows made to appeal to couples are the standard. How about holidays? And three-day weekends? The desert destination has both covered both in terms of special events and bustling crowds. Lastly, and oh-so-important to all of those mondo casinos, is the city's special relationship with numbers. Digits rule the day-to-day of Las Vegas, from the spinning numerals on a roulette wheel to numbers on the playing cards you hold in your hand. When all of those ideas -- spectacle, romance, a holiday weekend, and numbers -- dovetail together, you know you have a splashy Sin City to-do. Add in the local love of quick-a-tude -- quick as cherries spin on a slot machine -- and you've got a speed-dating happening to end all speed-dating happenings. It's Date-A-Thon, it is happening at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center on Saturday, Feb. 14.

WILL THE RECORD BE BROKEN? The venue went for the record number of participants in 2014, only to see a gathering in Calgary take the title with 651 people. More participants are expected this year, and there are giveaways, drink specials, and tunes to round things out. Each person'll have 24 dates, and the length of each? Three minutes, which is probably a bit longer than two hands of blackjack, or the time it takes to ride down in an elevator in one of the city's bigger tower hotels. Whoever finds love -- and let's send out some love, and luck, to all involved -- it is true-to-character to see Las Vegas going for this particular record. Oh, and there are two more things the city dotes on: luck and surpassing big numbers only to land on bigger numbers. If Sin City ever starts playing it small... Wait. That'll never happen, as long as cherries and lemons are spinning on the slots and couples are cuddling in the back booths of high-end Strip steakhouses.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Spring Prognosticator: Meet Mojave Maxine]]> Tue, 10 Feb 2015 14:22:58 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/livingdesertmojavemaxine.jpg

WHEN FEBRUARY 2 ENDS: Movie lore has it that Groundhog Day doesn't ever end -- at least for Bill Murray, for a good long time -- but we know that here, in the non-cinema world, that the second day of the second month has a way of wrapping up rather predictably, in 24 hours, which is how days tend to wrap up. That means that as much as we adore Punxsutawney Phil, his plump, toothy cute-a-tude, and impressive aptitude for noticing shadows, that merry moment, one of winter's sweetest traditions, is going to come to an ending all too soon. So what do February 3 and 4 bring if we're not scanning the channels and the sites for a sight of a certain furry meteorologist? A bit of a letdown, really, if you like animals and you like weather predictions. But hang tight, Phil fans, for there's another soothsayer of the seasons, and she's right here in California. Her name is Mojave Maxine, and as her moniker might suggest, the 38-year-old desert tortoise is based in one of our arid climes. Maxine's home happens to be at the lauded Living Desert in Palm Desert, though the tortoise isn't at home to visitors at the moment. She's in her burrow, where she always is during the cooler days of the year.

BUT LIKE PUNXSUTAWNEY PHIL ON FEB. 2... Mojave Maxine will make an appearance, eventually, when she's good and ready and spring, to Maxine's tortoise senses (which are just as awesome as Spidey senses), has sprung. So when will she poke her pretty face out of her burrow? That's anyone's guess, or, specifically, kindergarten through grade 12 students around Southern California. Our young scholars are invited to predict when the burrow's doors will open (well, to be poetic). The prize? A few nature-nice goodies, but, best of all, a visit from Mojave Maxine. She's a "spokestortoise" according to Joshua Tree National Park, an ambassador who regularly "travels around to teach others about her wild relatives, many of whom live in Joshua Tree." Sounds like busy Maxine's brumation -- which Joshua Tree explains is the tortoise take on hibernation -- is well-deserved. So, when will spring be here, weather buffs? Best keep eye on the sky, or, better yet, on a certain burrow Palm Desert.

Photo Credit: The Living Desert]]>
<![CDATA[Valentine's Day Among Our National Treasures]]> Mon, 09 Feb 2015 07:17:29 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/archesrobzabrowskishutterstock.jpg

NOT EVERY LOVEY-DOVEY DUO... walks the roses and bubbly and chocolate path. Some like to go far further than that, in the gourmet goodie department -- a room full of a sweetheart's favorite flower, for example -- while others prefer their flowers in a field. Or trees next to a meadow or grasses swaying by a brook. And they like to leave that natural beauty right where it is, untouched but not unadmired, and to share that moment with their One-and-Only. It's rather fortunate, then that our nearer-than-you-think national parks happen to be some of the most romantic places on the planet. Hike by a vista known for sunsets and you can just bet that a few hundred marriage proposals have gone down on that very spot. Stop in a timber-and-river-rock lodge for a pick-me-up and try to guess how many honeymoons have happened within the hotel's stout walls. (Answer: Very many.) And think of all the people who like flowers for Valentine's, but flowers that stay behind, growing on, when the day of hiking or picnicking is done.

THE NATIONAL PARK FOUNDATION, the organization that "enriches America's national parks and programs through private support, safeguarding our heritage and inspiring generations of national park enthusiasts" is all about Valentine's fun in our parks, and they've got ideas. Not just ideas, but tempting incentive, too: Admission is free to every park in the system on Feb. 14, 2015.

PRESIDENTS DAY WEEKEND: It just so happens that the hearts-filled day is happening over the traditional admission-waived days that mark our presidential holidays, so people looking to honor both, and save cash getting into Yosemite, Joshua Tree, the Grand Canyon, or beyond, are in some lovely luck. If you go further afield on Valentine's Day, the Foundation has loads of ideas about how to celebrate (think sledding together at Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve in Idaho and admiring migrating whales together from a vantage point in California's own Point Reyes National Seashore). Want Valentine's Day ideas? Click. Want to know more about the Free Entrance Days at all of our national parks? Click. Want to love our wild places forever, by visiting them, championing them, and showing you care? High fives all around.

Photo Credit: Rob Zabrowski/Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Tours Open at Friend's Ranches]]> Sat, 07 Feb 2015 06:58:44 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/toursfriendsranchesojai12345678.jpg

LIKE LITTLE SUNS ON THE TREES: The visual representation of February looks like something out of an Arctic travel brochure or weather-warning poster. Illustrated icicles hang from eaves, branches glisten with water droplets in mid-drop, and the snow is always hip-deep (or knee-deep, if the poster wants to represent a nicer February). But we Californians know that the one-size-fits-all notions behind the second month on the calendar never have quite fit us. Yes, our mountains are still getting the flakes, and we usually remember to grab a light jacket when walking out of our front doors in the morning. But February around the Golden State is, well, sorry to say this everywhere else, rather golden. Wildflowers are starting to make their first stands in our more arid desert regions and elsewhere?

THINGS ARE GROWING, TOO. Not just "things" but those things that very much represent the California dream, at least in terms of our state's classic visual representations: citrus. Come the middle of winter our groves and treeful expanses are looking mightily dotted with orange orbs and lemony spheres and tangerines and clementines of every stripe. It's like seeing little suns sprout among the leaves, as if to remind people that February isn't all icicles, or even any icicles, around here. Want to see the evidence for your own citrus-loving self? Friend's Ranches is kicking off its orchard tours.

YES, ORCHARD TOURS... in February. Friend's Ranches has been an Ojai Valley citrus staple for over a century, so they know how to grow, and how to explain, in interesting and lively terms, how a tangerine comes to be. While the first tour of 2015 was canceled, the next date is a go as of this typing, and look at what it is: Saturday, Feb. 14. Would that be a sweet Valentine's outing for your sweetheart? You'll get history, fruit-based knowledge, and you "pick a bag of fruit to take home with you." Friend's grows over "15 varieties of tangerines as well as blood oranges, minneolas, and more!" We were sold even before the "more" with exclamation point. Why? Because while we do like a frosty February, we like California's easier, breezier, tangerine-hued version of the month, too. If you do as well, sign up for your Friend's Ranches tour via a form found on this page.

Photo Credit: Friend's Ranches]]>
<![CDATA[Pre-Sale Passports: Temecula Valley's World of Wine]]> Mon, 09 Feb 2015 07:15:28 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/198*120/1653639_10152056828029011_1867497276_n.jpg

PLANNING BEFORE PINOT: Social-minded scholars are forever looking at how people approach the most desultory, everyday activities, from what they do right after leaving bed to how they organize their desks. But how people plan a vacation, even a daylong getaway, is an area that deserves more study, both to benefit the vacationee and the businesses and attractions that the vacationee shall patronize. One fine and fairly encapsulated area of study, and a good, not-overwhelming place to begin, is the Day Spent Out Tasting Wine. While such a day might only consist of an afternoon, or a few hours around lunchtime, or the whole enchilada (meaning ten hours or so of solid winery-visiting, courtesy of a drive service), there is some planning that must go into it. Do you book a van or car? (Always a fine idea, if the driver will be tasting, too.) Do you start at the known wineries on the list or work your way up from the most exotic of the bunch? (Being adventurous in the morning is probably better.) And do you have room in your trunk, and funds in your bank, to buy? (This shall be discussed, trust.) If you're a scholar of the wine-tasting plan-before notion, too, here's a most excellent place of study: Temecula Valley's own World of Wine, which is billed as "the first regional tasting event of the year."

MARCH 7 AND 8... are the dates, so count on everything looking a little greeny and bud-pretty around the vineyards. And in the tasting rooms? You can pick from "dozens of flights and bites at 30+ wineries along an easy circuitous route via Rancho California and DePortola Roads." The name World of Wine -- or WoW, if you prefer -- stems from the "more than 40 wine grapes grown and bottled in Temecula Valley." So is the gamut covered? Sparkling? Dry? Sweet? Yes and yes and yes.

PRE-SALE PASSPORTS AVAILABLE NOW: Here we go on talking, dreaming of grapes, when there is planning to be done. Seriously, how will you take this on? Maps? Brochures? The studying of websites? Or will you and your pals simply wing it on March 7 or 8? Whatever your getaway style might be, don't dally on purchasing a passport, if you're going to do so. The first big wine-tasting to-do of the year does have a way of bringing the bustle (read: wine-loving throngs).

Photo Credit: Temecula Valley Winegrowers]]>
<![CDATA[Taste of Solvang: The Whole Shebang Ticket]]> Mon, 09 Feb 2015 15:36:21 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/tenleyfohlphotographydessertssolvang.JPG

THE FULL FOOD EXPERIENCE: Cuisine-oriented events have evolved over the decades. Once a three- or four-course dinner would give a food fan a full-picture view of a restaurant or group of restaurants, it's true, but the full-picture view has grown even fuller. Now eatsy happenings take up two or three days, long days, and the gourmet goings-on are plentiful, diverse, and a mite overwhelming, in the best, choice-nice sense. The short of it is this: If you're a foodie heading for a long weekend of food-trying, you'll likely land on one or two to-dos. But then you have Solvang, that windmill-laden land of pastry and puff-cream-jam delights, a place that piles the pretty cookies as high as the local windmills. So how does a devotee of All Things Spun Sugar approach Taste of Solvang, the Marchtime meal-marvelous festival spotlighting all of the town's treats and eats? You naturally sign on for...

THE WHOLE SHEBANG: There's really a ticket called that, for the March 20 through 22 affair, and it really is about as shebangy as you'd hope. You get into everything on the schedule, from the Sips & Sweets on Friday night, March 20 to the Grand Tasting on Saturday and Sunday to the Wine Walk to the Bubbles & Brunch on Sunday. There's no dithering over choices, because all the picks are yours to pick from. The cost? The Whole Shebang clocks in at $245, and tickets are "(e)xtremely limited." We can only fathom one reason: Foodies want it all, to snack upon everything offered, and the notion that one event'll be passed over is too frustrating to manage. So go The Whole Shebang and get your fill of craft beers, Danish bites, and a smorgaasbord of sup-worthy choices. 

WANT OTHER TICKET CHOICES? You can de-shebang Taste of Solvang, too, if need be, and only do one or two events. That's okay. That's cool. In the land of windmills and spun sugar, let us fret not when it comes to foodie fun.

Photo Credit: Tenley Fohl Photography]]>
<![CDATA[Las Vegas Lavish: Lunar New Year]]> Sat, 07 Feb 2015 07:00:05 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/195*120/forumlunarnewyear123455.jpg

GRAND DISPLAYS: There are many ways to greet the Lunar New Year, and bevies of festivals and gatherings gearing up to celebrate, dance in, and embrace the Year of the Sheep. But few cities can top Las Vegas for grand, splashy, and glittery style when it comes to joyful displays and visual interpretations of the Lunar New Year. Bouquets and lanterns are common touches, and the animal that symbolizes the year on approach, too. And for very big, very picturesque, very free-to-see, and oh-so-beautiful representations of all that the year-to-come stands for, you'll want to slip off The Strip and into...

THE FORUM SHOPS AT CAESARS PALACE: A dragon symbolizing "power, strength, and good luck" can be found on the Fortuna Terrace. But this is no mere dragon: The "massive, 950-lb. dragon is covered in 30,000 red and amber LED lights, many of which flicker, giving the vibrant beast a vibrant look and dynamic feel." The majestic creature is 22 feet in length, six feet wide, and some 12 feet tall. There's a party in the dragon's honor, too, ahead: Students from a local school will "perform the traditional dragon parade throughout The Forum Shops" on Feb. 19 starting at 10 a.m.

BELLAGIO CONSERVATORY & BOTANICAL GARDENS: A 14-foot-tall "grassy mountain," incense diffusers, I-Ching coins, and some 22,000 flowers in shades of red and gold fill the glass-roofed nature space. The Year of the Yang is at the heart of the leafy, petal-filled display, which includes a traditional home complete with jade doorknobs, five animated goats, a 21-foot-tall lantern, and a pond full of Koi fish. While goats are the stars of the Bellagio display, look for rams to receive their Lunar New Year due "elsewhere around the resort."

Photo Credit: The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace]]>
<![CDATA[Birding Trip to Anacapa Island]]> Tue, 03 Feb 2015 17:41:19 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/anacapawideshot1234.JPG

FEATHERS AND BLOWHOLES: If you mention to a pal that you've got an Island Packers date coming down the pike, and you'll be out on the Santa Barbara Channel, on a boat, they're apt to think you'll be on the lookout for gray whales. They'll especially think that if you're taking your trip at the height of gray whale-watching season, which falls over the winter months. But the fleet of island-headed passenger-nice vessels, a fleet that is based both in Oxnard and Ventura, frequently carriers serious fans of the feather, too. There is much crossover, of course, between buffs of all things blowhole and people who want to see what birds are nesting where -- total and complete crossover, for the most part. (If we were to go out on a limb and say bird people and whale people are the very same nature-adoring people, we're fairly sure we'd get no quibble.) Best let your friend know, if you book a spot on the Saturday, Feb. 21 Birding Trip to Anacapa Island, that while you'll be on the watch for whales you'll also have the binocs out in hopes of catching sight of the Channel Islands's annual avian visitors. Which include...

BROWN AND BLUE-FOOTED BOOBIES... and American Oystercatchers, too. The Feb. 21 will be on the lookout for all of these beauties and "a Scrub-Jay or two," too. Plus Brown Pelicans, Double-Crested Cormorants, and "possibly local pairs of Peregrine Falcons and Bald Eagles" as well. Plus? Other beautiful winged creatures who are calling upon Anacapa during the late winter season. "Close-up views" of Anacapa Arch are part of the voyage, as is a sail through the Anacapa Passage. And, as always, "(s)ightings are not guaranteed but are highly likely." Will you finally see the feathery superstar you've longed to lay eyes on your whole bird-loving life? This could be your chance. Tickets are $80 and the Island Packers boat departs from Oxnard's Channel Island Harbor. And if you happen to spy a whale or three along the way? Call it the cherry on top of this particular Pacific Ocean adventure.

Photo Credit: Anacapa Island]]>
<![CDATA[Sunny Supping: Food + Wine Festival Palm Desert]]> Tue, 10 Feb 2015 21:24:11 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/foodandwinepalmdesert1234567.jpg

DINE IN THE DESERT: Eating in most environments is, well, consuming nutrients and liquids for health and enjoyment. Perhaps in the woods you might turn to easier-to-pack foods, and the beach might see more seafood-oriented meals. But desert dining is different, its own soft-evening, warm-air, al fresco foodie-tastic thing. It's toastier for much of the year, so dishes never feel heavy, only hearty, and an assortment of spices tend to be standard rather than special (though "standard" shouldn't rob them of their innate specialness, because spices rule). This vibe lends a desert-based gathering of food lovers, and those who make food and innovate the making of food, an extra-cool atmosphere. And "cool" is a fine word for the Food + Wine Festival Palm Desert happening, which is steaming and saucing and pouring and biting into its fifth outing over the final weekend in March.

OKAY... it might not exactly be "cool" around the El Paseo shopping district come that time of the year -- temps can and do flirt with the high 80s and up -- but the scene can be labeled as such, easily. Chefs like Cat Cora, Gale Gand, Lulu Powers, and Brooke Williamson will all be grabbing spatulas, or the cooking implements of their choice, as they lead fans through demos and talks. A Salute to Women luncheon opens things on Friday, March 27 -- it's a gourmet four-courser -- and a Grand Tasting goes big on Saturday, March 28 (look for "over 50 restaurants and 80 premium wineries and spirit purveyors" to both be chatting with attendees and feeding the attendees, too).

THE GRAND TASTING... continues on Sunday, to round the weekend out. Spatulas down, it is one of the desert's largest food happenings, a bigness that has been achieved in just a half decade. Perhaps that combo of lauded chefs and fine restaurants and fine sips and the chance to sup and socialize in the desert, one of the nicest places to dine, it may one day be proven, is the draw. Tickets? Better unhand your fan or mister and grab 'em soon.

Photo Credit: Food and Wine Palm Desert]]>
<![CDATA[Disneyland at 60: The Magic Kingdom Celebrates]]> Mon, 02 Feb 2015 19:27:00 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/dlat60disneyland.jpg

WHAT WERE YOU DOING... on July 17, 1955? You might have not been born yet, true, but if you had arrived on earth, and you happened to be Southern California, in the vicinity of Orange County, in the city of Anaheim, and you'd been anticipating a certain debut of a certain park for weeks and weeks and weeks (oh golly just open already), then you might have been one of the first kids to dash down Disneyland's Main Street. Even if you weren't there on that famously hot day, where the ladies had dresses and heels on and Ronald Reagan and Art Linklater wore suits, then you've seen the footage.

MANY DISNEYLAND DEVOTEES... have watched a clip of opening day, which is practically a rite of park passage. So ask yourself this: Can you describe the opening days of the other places you go? No? No memory of them? Never saw the film? Yep: Disneyland's 1955 bow was one for the books for many people, a day that's still celebrated with much fanfare every five to ten years around the resort. And if you've done the math, which we'll guess you have -- you've calculated wait times for Space Mountain in your head before, we're sure -- you've figured out that 2015 is Disneyland's 60th anniversary year, and the resort has a full 'n festive slate of celebratory happenings.

THE ANNIVERSARY LINE-UP... was rolled out over the last week in January, and includes handsome new "D" medallions for both Sleeping Beauty's Castle and Disney California Adventure's Carthay Circle Theatre (very large medallions, as you can imagine). World of Color, which is also in Disney California Adventure, gets an anniversary refresh, and the "entire resort will sparkle with Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration decor and festive banners in shades of Disneyland blue." Look also for the debuting "Paint the Night" parade and a new "Disneyland Forever" fireworks spectacular. So when does all of the newness launch? About two months ahead of its July 17 birthday: May 22 is the date when the Diamond to-dos begin. And what's this rumor of the beloved but long-gone Hatbox Ghost returning to the Haunted Mansion? Count on seeing a few surprises you may not expect. But will people be in dresses and suits much as they were on Opening Day back in 1955? Even if not, there's always Dapper Day.

Photo Credit: Disney Enterprises]]>
<![CDATA[On the Farm: Yuma Lettuce Days]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 12:53:09 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Lettuce+072214.jpg

LOVELY LETTUCE: There are certain foodstuffs that the majority of people almost never eat singly, without another ingredient or add-on involved. Lettuce has to be prominent on this list, for while we might consume it in a sandwich, or in a salad, it almost never arrives on our plate undressed by oil and vinegar or untouched by bread and cheese. Which is a bit unfortunate, really; ask any leaf lover about the crunchy complexities of that ubiquitous green and you are likely to be schooled in notes of bitterness, in notes of depth, in how the very deep-greenest end of a leaf can be a distant relative to the leaf's palest part in both flavor and mouth-feel. If you've been pondering how you can unleash lettuce and free it from its common placement in sandwiches and salads, here's a start: Yuma Lettuce Days. 

GO FARM: The Big Y is know as an agricultural powerhouse, and the fields full of bountiful fresh goodness bear this reputation out. The rep gets a big heft come late winter, though, when the town fetes one of its most famous exports with a full weekend of food-focused happenings and lettuce love. But here's the tasty twist on the Feb. 28 and March 1 party: While past Lettuce Days have landed closer to the historic downtown -- think Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park -- the 2015 feastival (yes, feastival) shall head for the "working research farm" at the University of Arizona's Yuma Agricultural Center. This is way cool (yes, way cool) because how many food festivals actually land at where the celebrated foodstuff grows? Very few, is the correct answer.

ON THE SCHEDULE: A Recipe Box tasting event, "Chop-Chop Challenge" cooking events, vegetable carving, and a "Toss It Up" salad bar. Call it as bountiful and a giant wooden salad bowl filled with all sorts of lettuces, and as flavorful, too. And if you're doing the healthy, new-year's-resolution-y eating thing, well, the star of this festival is where it is at. Seriously, who would dare cut down on lettuce at the start of a fresh year? It's what we all could use a little more of, outside of the sandwich and beyond the bowl.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[On the Horizon: Petals in the Desert]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 11:04:59 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/DESERTFLOWERS3514.jpg

IS JANUARY TOO SOON? Even as we SoCalers watch news reports of snow -- and more snow, and some more snow on top of that -- in places far from our warm-of-sand, sway-of-palms, blue-sky'd home, we can have trouble remembering that it is actually, truly and indeed and for real, winter. All of those aforementioned palms and the toasty beach sand and the soft blue skies can fool even a local longtimer's brain into thinking spring has arrived (and we're not alone; look at some of the shrubs in your neighborhood and try to tell us they're not toying with the idea of blooming). But January is firmly winter, in the Northern Hemisphere, though winter around Southern California is not the snowy epic it is back east.

EXHIBIT A? Our regional deserts, if all of the elements come together and the rain has rained enough and conditions are just so, can start delivering flowers in February -- heck, make that January, as flowers have been spied in the Anza-Borrego. True, the first month of the year is a mite early for the serious seeker of flowers in the desert, but don't doubt for a second that people who love petals aren't already planning their February and March excursions into Anza-Borrego Desert State Park -- and beyond. Need some news to get you excited, and get you searching for the maps and routes you stowed last year?

DESERT LAVENDER... has made a showing already in the A-B, per a posting on DesertUSA. Chuparosa also was bringing the buds as well. Does this mean the big ramp up is just down the pike? It can be tricky with flowers in arid climes, naming the exact week that those carpet-pretty sights show up, if they do show up, so keeping an eye come early February -- or even late January -- is key. As for the park's thoughts on the coming flower season? A statement from early January says staffers are "cautiously optimistic" about how the petal show will go for 2015. Keep watch here, and keep a bag near the door, in case a sudden spray of pink-topped hedgehog cactus or blue palo verde tree flowers make a surprise, and very welcome, showing.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Pups and Plants: 5K Paw Walk at SDBG]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 13:22:24 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/190*120/pawwalksdbgencinitas.jpg

TOTAL TRUTH TIME: We know. We don't even have to go looking hard for it, because it comes to us, via our Facebook feeds and Twitter and email forwards and we totally, totally know. And we awww and we coo and we love every last site that celebrates our pups doing funny human-type activities, from wearing eyeglasses to reading the paper. It's all pretty adorable, and we embrace it, and yet sometimes it is lovely and nice to just get outside with your four-footer, and leave the comical stylings of "our hounds are like humans" to another day. It's a pleasure to see our Pugs notice butterflies and our Labs sniff at flowers and our Pomeranians get their wee feet a bit muddy.

BEING WITH YOUR DOG IN NATURE... should be on the top of every top ten list that suggests "Ten Ways to Immediately Make Your Life Better, Period" (and if it is not, we kindly suggest the list authors reconsider its inclusion). The San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas and the Rancho Coastal Humane Society understand this straightforward concept, and they come together each year to give people and their pooches a chance to do the beautiful outdoors together, inside the garden. It's the one day of the year that dogs can walk the lush setting, and it is called...

THE 5K PAW WALK IN THE GARDEN: Tell your favorite furry one to pencil in Saturday, Feb. 21 on his tiny dog calendar and then make for the gorgeous, tree- and shrub-dotted expanse together. The day supports both the SDBG and the Rancho Coastal Humane Society, and participants will get to take in much of the beauty of the 37-acre plot via a route that "winds through some of the most spectacular areas of the Garden." You'll see plants native to the Golden State and flowers and more from points around the globe. And won't you enjoy seeing your woofer against this natural backdrop? You will. We're not saying we can't chuckle over dogs in sunglasses, because the internet will keep delivering such goodies, but being in the sunshine with your sweet one is just about as perfect a simple pleasure as simple pleasures get.

Photo Credit: San Diego Botanic Garden]]>
<![CDATA[Snowy Doings Among the Silent Giants]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 11:40:35 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/194*120/wuksachi12345.jpg

TOTAL SILENCE FOUND: A scenario that serves up perfect quiet and stillness for one person might be loud to another. While someone can read or write without distraction in a coffeehouse, someone else might find the clinking of dishware and hum of the cash register and whirring of the espresso machine to be a soundtrack as distracting as the beeping of a backing-up truck. If you count yourself among that second group, you can sometimes feel as if all places have been be-noised in this world, to some extent, in the way that supporters of the dark sky can sigh over how light our nights have become. But there are still spots that get pretty dang dark at night, and starry, too, and they are some of the same destinations that possess an epic quietness, depending on how deep and off-the-road you go. Yep, we're about to type the words "national park" here, specifically Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, which happen to rock both dark skies by nightfall and really quiet snow-crunchy days in wintertime, a time when fewer visitors venture up the mountain to behold the giants. If you need your dark sky, your silence, and a little snowtime activity, check out...

THE WINTER TO-DOS... that go on among and around the Largest Living Things on the Planet. (The sequoias have totally trademarked that, right? If not they should, because we'd be rocking that billing on all of our business cards and stationery.) Snowshoe outing, cross-country skiing, and snowplay are listed as three lively choices if you need some exertion. But if you want things quieter -- much quieter -- and you count yourself among "(f)it and experienced backcountry travelers" then consider booking the Pear Lake Winter Hut, which is very -- very, very -- off the beaten path, which, truth be told, isn't all the beaten regardless of where you head around the sequoias in the colder months. So, where's your quiet meter at? Are dishes clinking sending you to distraction, not to mention car horns, people chatting on their phone, and the usual hubbub of the day-to-day? There are some big trees and snowy pockets that will see you, and your quiet-seeking brain, now.

Photo Credit: Wuksachi Lodge]]>
<![CDATA[Peek Inside Modernism Week's Trailer Fest]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 11:05:56 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/atrailerps13.jpg You can spy the interiors of these retro gems.

Photo Credit: Modernism Week]]>
<![CDATA[Frosty Freebies: Mammoth Kids' Ski Deal]]> Sat, 24 Jan 2015 08:53:34 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/218*120/mammothwoolys123456.jpg

IF MOONS HAVE NAMES... such as Harvest Moon and Strawberry Moon, and seasons do, too, why shouldn't particular fortnights, or three-week spans, also get some sort of helpful handle to signify what part of the year they happen to cover? Some would be quite easy: Call the first two weeks of December "Holiday Run-Up" and the last week in August and first week in September "School Start" (prosaic names, both, but perhaps the poets among us can think of something as lyrical as "Harvest Moon"). But here's a small quandary: What would one call the very end of February and beginning of March? It's after Valentine's, but before the spring break rush, before the Final Four, and before St. Patrick's Day.

IT'S STILL WINTER, but late winter. It's a time that needs some love, or, at least, something fun to do, and for less money (given that we're saving for summer vacations). Why don't we call it Last Chance for Snow, and honor that by heading for the mountains to play in the cold stuff before crocuses bloom. Mammoth Mountain wants to help us there, even if that period is truly not the last chance (skiing, depending on the weather, can stretch into spring). The Sierra-based resort has a deal on from Feb. 22 through March 15 where "kids 12 and under ski and stay free at Mammoth Mountain." That's pretty dang clear.

ALSO CLEAR? That Woolly's Tube Park and SnowPlay Area is getting in on the frolicsome action by giving young midweek visitors an extra hour of free time swishing down snowpack. And, and, and... kids ages 5 to 12 can nab $35 lift tickets through the rest of the year (well beyond that late February into early March period). If you want to get the family into some snow, and still save for whatever you have brewing for the summer, take a peek at the mountainside deals. Snow's still snow, whether it arrives with the excitement of a November opening day or just before the start of spring. And a deal is a deal, always, and always welcome.

Photo Credit: Mammoth Mountain]]>
<![CDATA[Joshua Tree: Your Long Weekend Tips]]> Sat, 07 Feb 2015 06:59:37 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/joshuatree-geology-NPS.jpg

OBLIGATED TO THE DESERT: While we all adore the chummy get-togethers of the late fall and holiday season, there is a sense that They Will Happen Each Year, Like Clockwork, and us telling our family that we won't make it this year absolutely wouldn't stand. Our weekends are set in stone, over the last quarter of the year, what with tried-and-true rituals, visits, and gatherings of the celebratory season. But the new year has an open spirit, like the desert has an open spirit; wide vistas spread before us, long weekends without a must-do in sight. Matching that big anything-is-possible-a-tude is a feat best performed in a wide space, like the desert: A wide weekend and a wide setting make ideal partners after a busy, go-go-go, cheerful but cramped season.

IN THE SPIRIT OF THE NEW YEAR... and endless possibilities for our weekends, it might be worth stopping your camper along the National Park Foundation's most excellent list of tips for long-weekend-ing it in Joshua Tree National Park. Call Joshua Tree the perfect place to spend Presidents Weekend or Easter Weekend or even Memorial Day; that high desert cool, lemonade-y sunshine, and golden-at-sunset boulders are the exact tonic we need to start fresh in the first half of the year.

AND THOSE LONG WEEKEND TIPS INCLUDE... the 18-mile Geology Motor Tour, a look-see of the five oases associated with the park (the famous Oasis of Mara is indeed included), and the wildflowers of Black Rock Canyon which, lo and behold, bloom in springtime, just about the time of all of those delightful three-day weekends. "Desert sunflowers, Indian paintbrush, and wild hyacinth" are noted for their hues, as are the cacti that produce their iconic, full-petaled, waxy-nice buds come the warmer days of spring. For sure, our lives are all different, whether we were over-obligated around the holidays or not. But everyone has hope for an adventurous new year, and, for most people the calendar come January is a bit freer than it was during the previous month. You can make this boulder-filled national park for a long weekend, you can, and find an actual oasis or two in which to find some needed space.

Photo Credit: National Park Foundation]]>
<![CDATA[Big Bear Sweethearts: Your Frosty Valentine's Day]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 10:39:47 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/bigbearvday1.jpg

EVEN IF YOU DIDN'T GROW UP WITH SNOW... you know that the white cold stuff, when it is even and sparkly on the ground, makes a rather wonderful and stark canvas for any works of art, or expressions of love, you want to undertake. For sure, two snow people kissing can convey the true-hearted-ness of the couple that constructed them, and, yes, snow angels are sweet. But spelling out an "I Love You" below someone's window, on a vast bed of the chilly white stuff, with pine needles and pine cones for your materials, is also way up there in the annals of touching romance. Or a proposal, or any declaration of affection. Which all leads to this: Your fun and flirty getaway with Your Someone Special doesn't necessarily have to happen on some roasty beach (though, let's be honest: Sand makes a pretty spectacular canvas upon which to show someone your love).

YOU CAN GO... the snow route, even in Southern California, which happens to have a few mountaintops within shouting distance. ("Shouting distance" if you have a megaphone attached to a microphone, maybe, but close.) Big Bear is one of those spots, and there are a number of doings around the big lake dotting the Valentine's Weekend calendar. Oh yes, you know this, right? Valentine's Day in 2015 is on a Saturday, so if you don't start planning two minutes ago, it could be sad trombone time when the middle of February arrives.

THE KNICKERBOCKER MANSION... will present overnight Valentine's Day duos with a gratis bottle of bubbly, and Altitudes Massage is upping the couples massage game with the giving of a rose, some Champagne, some chocolates as a part of the 90-minute, two-in-one-room massage. And for those twosomes who schuss? Goldsmith's Boardshop has some rent-one-get-the-second-set-free deals going down over the middle of February. For all the Big Bear February haps, ski this way. For what you'll spell on the snow outside your honey's window, spell out of pine cones and pine needles, well... We suggest you start plotting that bit of heart-cheering whimsy, pronto.

Photo Credit: Big Bear]]>
<![CDATA[Vegas Astronomy: Star Party in the Neon Boneyard]]> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 10:26:58 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/203*120/starneonvegas12345.jpg

THE SEARCH FOR SIGNS: It's funny, but not too funny, how many business names in Las Vegas have incorporated "star" and starry themes. There's the Stardust, yes, but so many places bearing twinkly heavenly bodies or vintage starbursts as part of their iconography that a retro fan can lose count. Clearly the message is this: If you're in Sin City, even for a night, you get to play the part of a star, by dressing up, standing at a craps table, being catered to, enjoying that fine steak and martini. It's part of the vibe of one of the vibe-iest cities on the planet. But beyond that planet are actual stars, not simply neon starbursts, and it is possible to gaze up and find a few, even with all of that bright signage lining The Strip. The Neon Museum will do just that on Saturday, Jan. 24. It's a telescope bash in the famous Neon Boneyard -- "Stars and Stardust: Sidewalk Astronomy in the Neon Boneyard" is the name -- and, you guessed it, you'll be discerning very, very faraway objects while standing not to far from the very signs that have long made the night sky so bright in that particular area of Nevada. An unlikely pairing? For sure, but consider it a beautiful and unusual setting for a beautiful pursuit.

THE LAS VEGAS ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY... is at the helm of the event, which is free and open to every star lover of every age (but kids, please be with your grown-ups). And if you're concerned that the highly illuminated signs of the Boneyard will knock out any viewing-of-the-heavens pleasure, take comfort: The signs'll be dimmed in time for the telescope gazing.

IF YOU LIKE YOUR STARS... seen by darkness and your vintage Strip signs to stay extra twinkly, hang tight: The museum, which is headquartered at the quirky La Concha Motel, always covers a full complement of quirky to-dos throughout the year, including some choice nights out around the holidays. And as you gaze upon those starburst-filled signs, ponder if there's another city in the history of cities that has turned to the cosmos as often for its own iconography and symbolism. (Probably not.)

Photo Credit: Neon Boneyard]]>
<![CDATA[El Capitan's Big February Show]]> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 09:31:46 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*134/HorsetailFallYosemite.jpg

THAT HUNK O' GRANITE: El Capitan, one of the most known, beloved, and visited monoliths in the world, was around long before the internet and television and newspapers and books. But the internet and television and newspapers and, yes, soon books and movies, too, are and will make up for lost time covering the Yosemite National Park icon, thanks to the epic Dawn Wall climb completed by Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell on Wednesday, Jan. 14. It's big news, and for good reason: Many said that a hand-and-foot climb of one of the sheerest walls in the world couldn't be done. Now it has been, and while most people aren't plotting their own Dawn Wall ascent, many are pondering a Yosemite visit, the better to ponder El Cap and all of its marvelous mysteries. And one of those mysteries happens to be just ahead, though it is only mysterious on the surface (so, in other words, science explains the magic, as it often does, which doesn't deplete the thrill at all). We speak of Horsetail Fall, a waterfall located "on the shoulder of El Capitan" that seems to catch fire, courtesy of our planet's nearest star, each year for a few days come the middle to late February.

ACTUALLY, MAKE THAT A FEW HOURS... maybe. It's tricky to predict when the "firefall" effect will be seen, because so much of it depends on timing and the weather. But the promise of the stunner of a light show still draws people who love a good natural spectacle. You'll need to head for the El Capitan picnic area, around evening, because the day's "waning light" helps set the waterfall aglow. Keeping an eye on the forecast, to make sure cloud cover isn't too thick, is smart, and researching past experiences of people who've spied the non-fire firefall can inspire when you make for the park. Need more on this strange once-a-year phenomenon? Click. And hope that the sun and water and rock again come together in that perfect, photo-ready way. (They've been doing so for a few years now, so chances are good.)

Photo Credit: Horsetail Fall]]>
<![CDATA[Sup Among Stars: Santa Barbara Film Feast]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 21:52:39 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/212*120/sbfilmfeast2015.jpg

THAT LONGTIME TWOSOME: Claiming that food and movie-watching are forever entwined is akin to saying that day is bright and night is dark, and yet we still rhapsodize on the pairing at length. We ponder if it is better to eat during a film, or if that big bucket o' popcorn distracts from the action on screen. We wonder if a meal before a movie gives you the energy to stay peppy, or if it puts you to sleep. And we consider if having dinner after the credits wrap, on a first date, isn't the way to go, as you can discuss the movie you just saw together if the conversation in general lags. What is rarer, though, are large-scale cinematic events specifically built with a food component in mind. We're not talking about a lavish dinner for award show nominees, nope; we're talking about festivals where attendees have as many interesting cuisine choices as films to see. Napa Valley does each fall, and, of course you betcha, there's a strong wine component. And come winter? It is Santa Barbara's scene. So much so that the food part of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival arrives with its own unique identity: Santa Barbara Film Feast. 

JAN. 27-FEB. 7, 2015: The Film Feast runs concurrent with the film festival, offering "(s)pecial menus and hotel packages" for people in town to catch the celebrity tributes, industry panels, or opening and closing night screenings ("Desert Dancer" opens the fest and "McFarland, USA" closes it). Those menus includes a meatball sandwich Inspired by "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" at Belcampo Meat Company, "Wallace and Gromit"-inspired cheeses at C'est Cheese, and made-for-the-fest cocktails at Ty Lounge at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. A goodly number (think a dozen-ish) hotels in the area are offering packages tied to the festival, with discounts in the mix. If your movie-meal love goes well beyond licorice-snacking during a film's second act, Film Feast could be up your culinary alley. A plus? It spreads the party to places beyond the theaters, and pretty much anyone who has made the effort to attend a festival enjoys that fully immersive vibe. Go wider, film fests everywhere, is what we're blatantly saying, and look to Santa Barbara and Napa Valley for inspiration.

Photo Credit: Santa Barbara Film Feast]]>
<![CDATA[National Parks: First 2015 Fee-Free Day Ahead]]> Mon, 19 Jan 2015 06:46:28 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/yosemite452872754.jpg

133 OF 405: Not every national park under the National Park Service umbrella stops you at a gate to collect admission and tape a small piece of paper inside your windshield. Only 133 out of the just over 400 parks charge a fee, so far less than half, meaning many parks are there for you to enter, sans cash, or at least cash to get in, every day of the year. But Yosemite National Park does have a fee, and so does Joshua Tree National Park, so when the annual fee-free days roll around for the service, as they do each year, they're absolutely worth noting -- noting and applauding, that is. It's a way to get more people into the parks, in every season. And the first day on the national park fee-free calendar is always...

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY: The holiday is on Monday, Jan. 19 in 2015, so if you're in the neck of the Yosemite woods, or Joshua Tree, or further abroad around the United States, you don't have to pay anything to visit a place of quiet, tree- and/or rock-filled peace. It should be said that activities and concessions and stay-over sites within the parks will still charge, so let that be known.

OTHER FEE-FREE DAYS AHEAD... include Presidents Day Weekend, April 18 and 19 (the weekend that kicks off National Park Week), Aug. 25 (it's the National Park Service's birthday), Sept. 26 (where people pause to pitch in over National Public Lands Day), and Nov. 11 (Veterans Day). And while the NPS will be marking a pretty auspicious age in 2015 -- 99 -- stay tuned for 2016, when centennial events will abound. And abound they should, given that the service has helped protect many wild lands for nearly a century -- protect and, on occasion, make sure every last one of them is free to see.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Palms Casino Promotion: Win a Fantasy Suite Stay]]> Fri, 16 Jan 2015 13:02:34 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/palmscasinofantasysuitesvegas1.jpg

YOUR DASHING VEGAS SELF: We expect that you're still very you when you arrive in a flashy Las Vegas casino, because people should always be themselves, one of the first and truest lessons of life. That said, the general feeling that one should grow slightly sparklier, and ever so glittery, while visiting Sin City, is not only a mood transmitted by Vegas advertising: Walk into any Sin City venue and the flash/dash element is fairly high, from what people are wearing to what they're sipping to the big-o-sity of the stage shows and concerts. (Is "big-o-sity" a word that goes far enough, though, to describe a show rife with sequins, searing guitar solos, and props that descend from ceilings?) And when one ups their flash/dash, dress- or suit-wise, one tends to daydream of returning to one of the famous suites that one has seen on various cable shows detailing the glamorous life of high rollers. But how to get in? Must one visit the Baccarat table and win big? Should one book a private jet to arrive in, the better to nab a suite booking? It could be as simple as booking a room and, some time later, being chosen as the person who wins a night in such a suite. That's currently happening at the Palms Casino Resort where...

THE STAY TO WIN PROMOTION: The swanky upshot is this: Book at room at the Vegas hotel by the end of January and be automatically entered in a drawing. If you book a superior guestroom you could win an upgrade to a Celebrity Suite. If you reserve a premier guestroom or Palms Place Studio you could win a stay in the Crib Suite or Hot Pink Suite, among others (the Hot Pink Suite, by the by, has a Barbie theme). And if you reserve an ivory suite, grand suite, or Palms Place Studio one bedroom you may find yourself following a bellman and your luggage into the Kingpin Suite, which boasts two bowling lands.

SO IS THIS THE YEAR... that your Vegas room matches your on-the-casino-floor fashions? Where your personal dash is mirrored in the high-flying suite you return to later in the evening? For all of the promotion's details and asterisks, strut this way, snazzy players.

Photo Credit: Palms Casino]]>
<![CDATA[Back and Bright: Old-School Disneyland Fireworks]]> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 09:01:56 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/fantasycastlefireworksdisney12345.jpg

TO EVERYTHING, A STORY: Ask a serious maven of the Magic Kingdom about the names on the windows of Main Street or how Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room developed or the story behind the Sherman Brothers penning the theme to "it's a small world" and you're likely to get a full and colorful discourse on the topic. So it makes perfect sense that even those elements of Disneyland that don't seem to come bearing their own highly specific tale actually, in fact, very much do. For example? Well, if you've seen one fireworks show at the Anaheim theme park, you have not seen them all. The pyrotechnics pizzazz seen over Sleeping Beauty's Castle has its own variations and backstory, enough to fill a few fan blogs. So when a former fireworks show reappears, it is quite the huge deal among regular park attendees.

AND THAT HUGE DEAL... popped and fizzed like a sparkly flower in the sky when "Fantasy in the Sky" made a grand re-entrance on Jan. 9 after saying adieu in 2004 (and only showing up on various New Year's Eves). Yep, that means it is a fireworks show that has been very rarely seen at the world's most famous theme park, but its roots go even further back: It started in 1958, just a few years after Disneyland debuted, meaning it has some real cred. The soundtrack for the fireworks is "the most recent" (just in case you're listening for the sounds of 1958) and the sky show is on "for a limited time." Have you seen "Fantasy in the Sky" at Disneyland Paris or in Orlando? It has played there as well, but it has been a rarer sight in Anaheim, at least for the last decade.

AS FOR FINDING THAT PERFECT SPOT... to watch? Well, everyone has an opinion on that, from a curb along Main Street to Frontierland to as close as you can possibly get to the castle. But it serves as a reminder that the park is built on the business of nostalgia, very much so, so any element you've fretted over, thinking it might be gone, could one day make a dazzler of re-debut. Did you see this fireworks program in the 1950s? Wonder if any memories of a night spent at Disneyland during its first decade will pop up as the fireworks pop above you.

Photo Credit: Disneyland]]>
<![CDATA[Sin City's Tony Tally: Vegas by the Numbers]]> Wed, 14 Jan 2015 13:50:49 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/highroller495461239.jpg

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE NUMBERS: If you appeared on a quiz show and had to answer a question that asked what place was the most number-oriented, you might pause, scratch your chin, and consider. There are universities and institutes that are quite math-minded, so they'd qualify. There are towns that survive by watching the amount of rainfall received, down to the millimeter. And there's Las Vegas, a glittering casino-opolis that showers visitors in numbers and amounts from every angle, including the poker table, the roulette wheel, blackjack, and the slots. Thus when it is time to tally up a full year, Sin City naturally looks to a way to add it all up, since that's the route the desert destination tends to take the most. And the impressive numbers have been released: A lot of people go to Las Vegas to participate in a lot of out-of-the-ordinary things. For starters, how many $5,000 burgers were sold at Fleur during 2014? Scratch your chin and ponder for a moment. Okay, we'll 'fess up. The number was...

26 FLEURBURGERS: Yep, that happened. The numbers grow a lot in terms of margaritas served at the MGM Grand's Hecho en Vegas -- 46,363 -- and fountain shows at The Bellagio (if you guessed 11,336, you're absolutely correct). Speaking of MGM Grand, the estimate of how many pillows were fluffed over the course of 365 days astounds -- that's 7,982,550 -- and there were some 520 victories at Excalibur's Tournament of Kings. And as for those new lion cubs at Mirage? They're three of them. As for the pounds of caviar served at The Bellagio's buffet? About 360, so figure that guests are eating roughly a pound of caviar a day. And did you see the couples marrying on The Linq's High Roller on Dec. 13, 2014 (which was 12-13-14)? Almost 100 couples in all tied the knot on the mega Ferris wheel.

IT'S A REMINDER... that Las Vegas works both the posh, try-it-once angle, and the up-all-the-time corner, too, meaning its numbers push, push, push the limits. But then it is a city built on numbers pushing limits, so large amounts of swanky suppers sold and stay-overs enjoyed is not that strange. Surely the city'll try to out-do itself in 2015, the way that something that's forever trying to top the last amazing thing goes a little bit further? 

SO WHAT'S AHEAD? Here's a crystal ball for you.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Victorian High Jinks: Riverside Dickens Festival]]> Tue, 13 Jan 2015 18:36:49 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*120/DickensFestival1_crDickensFest.jpg

MORE SWEET THAN SOMBER: For sure, Charles Dickens and the other novelists of the Victorian era can get a bit of a serious reputation. This is for good reason, of course; the Industrial Revolution was full steam ahead (quite literally) and any manner of misfortunes clouded day-to-day life, with far too much frequency. But lighter vignettes appear in the work of the lauded author, and his peers, too, which reveal that the middle of the 19th century wasn't all widow's weeds and scowling villains and gloomy, cloud-heavy skies. Fezziwig of "A Christmas Carol" very much signifies the sweeter side of things, as do many of the characters behind the all-dominating Ebenezer Scrooge. It's a fine reminder that making merry is an a-ok, totally acceptable, and highly laudable thing to do, when it comes to feting the colorful era of Mr. Dickens. Riverside stops each February to spend a whole weekend doing just that, and the party is far more Fezziwig than Scrooge. Queen Victoria herself makes a cameo, and everyone is in their hoop-skirted, high-hatted finery, which lends a regal and costumey air to the party-nice proceedings.

FEBRUARY 21 AND 22... are the dates for the Riverside Dickens Festival, though there is a Friday night kick-off at Pickwick's Pub (Friday the 20th, natch). The featured book of the 2015 confab is "Little Dorrit" and Mr. Dickens will be at the festival himself (or make that performer Paul Jacques). Firing and drill demos, the Ten Bells Tavern, Mr. Fezziwig's Ball, Evensong (think "(a) beautiful program of readings and fine music) and more very-of-the-period convivialities fill the big weekend calendar. One of the most important bits of the bash takes place well before anyone turns their carriage for Riverside: The choosing of an era-perfect costume. If you're waving your hand dismissively and saying "people don't really dress for this fest" take a moment to look at photos from past years. Everybody but almost everybody likes to hoop-skirt-it up, not just Queen Vic. If you're going to be in character, and find that new friend to chat "Little Dorrit" with, best start planning your gentlemanly suit or celebratory frock now.

Photo Credit: Dickens Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Alabama Hills Adventure: Travel "The Movie Road"]]> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 09:30:59 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/alabamahillslonepinechamber.jpg

BEYOND THE BOULEVARD: If you had to pick the thoroughfare with the most movie connections, in your mind, what road would you land upon? Hollywood Boulevard? Maybe Sunset Boulevard? Or Mulholland or Melrose or one of the studio-dotted streets of Tinseltown? They're all good and true entries, but another movie road exists in California, and it has so much hallowed history that it is called The Movie Road, capital M and capital R. If you've seen "Gunga Din" or "Tremors" or a host of Western or wide-open-range-y films made over the last 90 or so years, give or take, you've seen this epic alien landscape, a gorgeous slice of wilderness that looks like a cross between a beautiful mountain painting and a faraway planet. There's nothing quite like the Alabama Hills, in appearance, which is why the location, which is a few hours up Highway 395 from Los Angeles, became such a draw for scouts looking for a cinematic place that would deliver a hefty amount of wow and wild beauty.

AND... while the movie sets have been dismantled, and there are no more cowboy hats nor lassos to be found in the vicinity, the hills have not changed, perceptibly, whatsoever, making a Movie Road road trip something of a drive back into the past of Western-themed filmmaking. Best of all? The drives are self-guided, and open all year, depending on weather.

WHAT YOU'LL SPY: Spots where films like 1963's "Showdown" took place, and the "Rawhide" grave site. Look also for a rocky outcropping that was very much part of the look of "The Gay Caballero" of 1940. The Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce has a link to the helpful, get-out-and-discover pdf, which includes maps to several cinema-famous sites. Take care that every road may not be made for every vehicle, and the usual precautions when heading into bumpier territory. Want to turn your pony towards the Roy Rogers Movie Flats, Lone Ranger Canyon, and the plaque that pays tribute to the silver-screen legacy of the Alabama Hills? Clip-clop this way, cowpokes.

Photo Credit: Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce]]>
<![CDATA[Flying for Del Mar: The Marvel Experience]]> Sat, 10 Jan 2015 17:19:04 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/219*120/marvelexperiencesd1.jpg

IF YOU WERE A SUPERHERO -- and we'll totally assume you are, because superheroes, by nature, do not go around touting their superherodom but rather read blog posts, stay current on newsy items, and go about their day-to-days, fully uncaped -- where would you go to present a mega splashy tech-of-tomorrow presentation of some of the most famous superheroes of all time? San Diego, is that place (we're sure you were also saying "San Diego" so forgive us if we interrupted you). The city, after all, is the shiny tights, shield-holding centerpoint of all things superhero, what with being the home of Comic-Con International. But given that so many superheroes are in town in July, for the pop culture convention, when would you make for the city? Well, maybe winter, and maybe you'd make for Del Mar, a smidge outside of the town, the better to present your superhero-y feats in full flower. That's just what The Marvel Experience shall do, in all of its out-sized, effects-impressive ways, when it flies its supersecret millionaire jet to the Del Mar Fairgrounds on Saturday, Feb. 7.

AND THERE IT SHALL STAY... for a fortnight, but just a fortnight, though it shall be a wowza two weeks. What's so wowza? It's a hyper-reality tour that has, as its centerpiece, "the world's only 360-degree Stereoscopic 3D Dome." (No joke: How do we get one for the den?) Other "interactive and immersive elements" fill out the attraction, which features a motion ride and dozens of Marvel icons. 

AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. IN TRAINING: That's how guests are designated, so, if you're game, you'll "swing with Spider-man, smash with Hulk, fly with Iron Man" and participate in a number of righteous and totally rad superhero-y activities. The cost? The starting point is $27.50. The final wrap-up say bye-bye to Cap and Black Widow and Hawkeye? Circle Feb. 22 on your supersecret invisible millionaire jet's calendar, the one that you hang by the controls to keep track of all the cool comics-y stuff that lands in San Diego.

Photo Credit: The Marvel Experience]]>
<![CDATA[Free Birthday Trips Extended: The Catalina Express]]> Sun, 11 Jan 2015 17:00:00 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*120/catalinaexpress12345.jpg

OVER THE WATER, FOR A SONG: Birthdays have long been tied to free things and giveaways and deals and business-oriented birthday goodies. The freebies and discounts depend a bit on where someone lives, but a stack of pancakes, a scoop of ice cream, a balloon, a coffee, and other you-were-born-this-day goodies are traditional, outside-your-home treats. But Southern California has an especially remarkable birthday freebie, one that is quite different from the desserts and drinks given away, and it involves whisking birthday-having people away to an island, in the Pacific Ocean, for zero dollars. We speak, of course, of the Catalina Express, which launched a Free Ride on Your Birthday program a few years back, a program that has done very well. How well? Well, the fourth year was just announced, meaning the ride-free-to-Avalon promotion will be extended into 2015. The ferry service made the announcement on Thursday, Jan. 8, so if you were fretting about your lack of birthday plans for this year, pin this one to the board.

ON THROUGH THURSDAY, DEC. 31, 2015: Have a birthday on March 8? How about Oct. 10? You could save up to $76.50 on a round trip to the island. There are a few asterisks, including this important one: The round trip must begin on your birthday, even if you're spending a night or two on the island (but you'll need to complete the trip within 30 days). Pre-registering, too, is essential, so make sure you have that t crossed and i dotted before making for a Catalina Express port. And a very nice extra superlicious thing? Hotels and restaurants and attractions on Catalina are in the birthday swing of things, so check to see what places have jumped into the "if it is your birthday, you get deals and free things" loop. (Think trail maps, free miniature golf, and such.) For the details on birthday island stuff, boat this way. 

Photo Credit: Catalina Express]]>
<![CDATA[A Desert Birthday: Happy 80th, Elvis]]> Thu, 08 Jan 2015 09:07:03 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/chancetinder123455.jpg

80 YEARS OF KINGLY COOL: What was music and style and fan worship and kitsch and utter cool like before Elvis Presley arrived on the sound and cinema scene, with his hips in full shake mode and his 'do fully pompadoured? We have to guess that the world was a little less razzmatazz-y, a little lacking in bravado, and a lot more in need of a man who could croon, smile, and honey-voice his way into a million hearts. Thank goodness one Elvis Aaron Presley debuted in 1935, bringing his song and gentlemanly swagger to stages and screens around the world. And while The King left the building too early for those million hearts -- make that millions and millions -- fans still remember him on his birthday each year, which is Jan. 8. That's what loyal devotees will do again, around the planet, but there's a special party planned for the Saturday following the anniversary of Mr. Presley's birth, and it just happens to be at his house. Nope, not his Memphis digs, but the California abode where he and Priscilla spent the days following their honeymoon back in May of 1967. The bash'll rage at the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway, in Palm Springs, where Elvis tribute artist Chance Tinder will sing in honor of 80 years of Elvisian magic.

SATURDAY, JAN. 10... is the date, and there's a bevy of guests scheduled to appear, from Jamie Nudie of Nudie's of Hollywood -- oh yes, the outfitters behind some of The King's most iconic clothing -- to Glen Glenn, who served as The King's Chief of Security once upon a time. Cake and house tours are part of the stylish '60s-era doings, so be sure to dress in your beehive-y, bell-bottom-y best (or, truly, come as you are, if coming as you are means you'll be able to relax and enjoy to scene more comfortably). Elvis was a great host, it was said, so a relaxed and easygoing 80th birthday party, at his house, will follow that form. What tickets, "Love Me Tender"-loving peeps? Blow a kiss this way.

Photo Credit: Chance Tinder]]>