<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Worth the Trip]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcsandiego.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.com en-us Tue, 23 Sep 2014 09:35:47 -0700 Tue, 23 Sep 2014 09:35:47 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Lookie-Loo Weekend: Ojai Studio Artists Tour]]> Tue, 23 Sep 2014 08:39:08 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ojaiarts0928.jpg

THAT CREATIVE CITY: While many a California town has transformed into a destination for thinkers and innovators and painters and dreamers over the decades, Ojai has long held the easy vibe of doin' its own thing. That thing could be holistic studies or the writing of poems or grape-growing or beer-making or what-have-you, but Ojai has always been very "what-have-you" friendly. One could retreat to the Ojai Valley and ponder a next step, a big change, or pursuing a dream. That this is the Ojai way isn't to be taken lightly; the cities that welcome and encourage creativity and exploration as a core tenet of life are too few to take any for granted. It's also given Ojai a wealth of talented citizens, artists and creators who call the beautiful Ventura County town home. Maybe the nightly Pink Moment -- when the mountains turn the color of papaya, ever so briefly -- helps draw those in the visual arts, or the general natural beauty of the area. But the what-have-you-ness is strong in the city, which lends comfort to every creative person, truly. Over 50 of those creators will welcome visitors into their studios, where all of that sculpting and jewelry making and fashioning of prints goes down, over the second weekend in October.

OJAI STUDIO ARTISTS TOUR: The studios hang out the proverbial "Welcome" signs from Friday, Oct. 11 to Sunday, Oct. 13. A slide show and talk are part of the proceedings, or you can just leg it -- or drive it -- around, seeing what you'd like to see and chatting up the artists within. The glass and stone sculptures of Brian Berman, the face-fantastic sculptures of Ted Gall, and and the paintings of Ruth Farnham are three highlights. Plus? Getting to enter a space where clay and canvas become rather magical things. Too much? The use of the word "magical"? We don't think so. After all, this is Ojai, a pretty magical burg. Have you ever seen a Pink Moment? You, too, will start applying the word "magical" more liberally to the arts and people of the valley.

TICKET AND TOUR... info can be found this way.



Photo Credit: Cindy Pitou Burton]]>
<![CDATA[Bellagio Whimsy: Autumn Arrives in Sin City]]> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 20:06:09 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/bellagiohorsefall1234.jpg

TONY, WITH SOME TWINKLE: Anybody who has observed the hospitality industry, especially in a big, competitive market like Las Vegas, can absolutely understand why hotels would want to go the swanky route. People on vacation are seeking a bit of fantasy, some escapism, and perhaps the luxury they don't see as often as they'd like in their day-to-day lives. But the Bellagio in Las Vegas, while absolutely swankified, has a bit of twinkle to its tony ways. Any visitor who has ever strolled the massive property's Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, regardless of the season, understands that the giant animals and storybook touches fit right in with all that fancy, and pretty darn well. Oh, and come every autumn? Designers erect a talking tree, which, at first glance, seems like it might be something more akin to a children's theme park. But it is pure Bellagio, beautifully imagined and full of fictional fizz, and it only makes one wish that more hotels would take that whimsical plunge, rather than keeping only to the elegant side of things, far more often.

BELLAGIO, YOU'RE DOING IT RIGHT... with your 40-foot-tall windmill and your mega-sized floral apples, which each boast over 1,200 red carnations. The indoor, glass-roofed gardens feature a "28-foot-tall enchanted talking tree" and a pair of horses dotted with hydrangeas. Fall-hued flowers fill the nature-nice exhibit, over 51,000, in fact, and dancing waters, a baby bear, a harvest basket, colossal pumpkins, and "mystical wooden forest creatures" round out the picturesque wonder.

WHEN CAN YOU SEE IT? Be in Sin City through Nov. 30 for one of the desert's quintessential autumn experiences. True, it may be Vegas-bright out on the Strip, but a fall fantasy is tucked inside the Bellagio, in plain, photo-pretty sight.



Photo Credit: Bellagio]]>
<![CDATA[Joshua Tree Music Fest: Vibes Among the Boulders]]> Sat, 20 Sep 2014 14:44:29 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/joshua_samenglish.jpg

SPRING AND SUMMER... have a happy hold on giant-hearted, village-style, music-centered encampments that spread across the West. They can be very art-oriented -- howdy, Burning Man -- or more about the tunes -- high five, Coachella -- or they can incorporate a very complete cuisine scene into the proceedings (Outside Lands, we're looking at you). But some of the finest weather in the state happens in the deserts come fall, when the nights are getting brisker but aren't yet fully lunar and the daytimes possess a golden warmness that everyone on the coast has to envy just a pinch. This is when the fall version of the Joshua Music Tree Festival flowers like a waxy bud atop a cactus, and, nope, it isn't just about the music (though that serves as its beating, beat-filled heart). As befitting its connect-to-the-earth-and-everything location, the festival features a bouquet of beautiful, look-inward doings, from a Positive Vibration Station to Pop-Up Tea Parties to Yoga & Healing sessions to Kidsville (yep, if you show with the tots you can set up in a Family Camp, which not every festival boasts). And as for the tunes..?

THE LIST IS LONG... and includes Black Joe Lewis of Austin and Colombia's Bomba Estereo and Ribab Fusion of Morocco and a full complement of acts and singers and instrumentalists that represent a world sound of the flowingest, tune-in sort. Beyond the stages? There's more vibe-feeling to enjoy, from Random Acts of Mindfulness to the recording of your own songs to astronomy pursuits to t-shirt making. And, indeed, you'll be within shouting distance of the Joshua Tree boulders, though, really, they are not to be shouted at. Rather admiring those epic rock formations, and thinking nature-y, creative-cool thoughts, is the order of the weekend. Oh, and that weekend? The autumn Joshua Tree Music Festival goes down from Oct. 9 through 12.



Photo Credit: Sam English]]>
<![CDATA[Corn Maze Time: Big Horse on the Horizon]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 12:48:32 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/215*120/bighorsecornmaze23454.jpg

EVERY SEASON... has its wonderful and offbeat traditions, from lovey notes from secret admirers (that would be winter, and Valentine's Day) to the intrepid backyard search for hidden eggs (hello, sweet Easter) and the staring upwards in order to admire lights in the sky that aren't the sun, the stars, nor the moon (we speak of July and Independence Day, of course). But fall boasts some of the funniest, most endearing must-dos, from the asking neighbors for candy to the adding tiny marshmallows to the top of sweet potatoes to purposefully getting a little bit lost inside a few acres of corn. Ooookay; no one enters a corn maze intending to stay permanently unfound, but do some people, those who seem to be giggling more than others, take their time wending around corners and sorting out sudden dead ends? Yes, they do, and that's part of the lively fun of the maze: Knowing you'll reach the sign that says "EXIT" eventually (and preferably before sundown). One of the biggest corn mazes in all the land is busy a-growin' those ears, with an opening date of Saturday, Oct. 4 on the horizon. It's the Big Horn Corn Maze of Temecula, and if your first question is "is the corn box going to be back?" you'll be delighted by the answer: yes!

THE CORN BOX: It's a box of corn kids can play in, which is as homespun as all get-out, but there are other diversions beyond the impressive, takes-time-to-solve corn maze. Like? Oh, ducky races, corn cannons, pumpkin bowling, riding in hay wagons, the cheering on of piglet races. It's full-on fall, as potent a day as any pumpkin-flavored hot drink. And, for sure, there shall be pumpkins for purchase, if you want to take a touch of autumn home with you. Isn't that another quirky fall tradition, in addition to getting lost in corn? The carving of scary faces on gourds? We do love the whimsy so, and that places like Big Horse step in each October to jumpstart that particular seasonal joy.



Photo Credit: Big Horse Corn Maze]]>
<![CDATA[Dances, Beer, Pastries: Solvang's Danish Days]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 15:08:28 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/dancersdanishdayssolvang.jpg

A SOLVANG FAN... can be forgiven for thinking that every weekend is Danish Days 'round about the Santa Ynez Valley's windmilliest town. That's because the founded-by-Danish-settlers burg doesn't just truck out the color and the music and the pastries and the clogs for a few days each year; they live the lively, culture-celebratory dream every week of every month. But "California's #1 Danish Festival!" only comes but once a year, at the very end of summer, and it adds some bells and whistles to the already bell-and-whistle-packed destination. What could be described as bell-like and whistle-ish at Danish Days? Ohhhh, how about the famous...

VIKING BEER & WINE GARDEN: It's like a beer & wine garden you might find at another town-wide fair, but, well, vikings. Yep, people just might be rocking some helmets with horns, and even if they are not, you're bound to see some vikings in the parade or at the Living History Festival at the Elverhoj Museum of History & Art. The Torchlight Parade, on Friday, Sept. 19, is candle-y and nicely atmospheric, the Opening Ceremonies include traditional Danish dancing, and the Saturday, Sept. 20 parade includes floats, bands, beer wagons, and more photo-ready costume-y flair. As for the consuming of aebleskivers -- many, many aebleskivers? There are eating contests, as you might expect. And why not? It is, after all, the doughy and delicious symbol of the wine country town. (That is, really after wine itself, or perhaps the aebleskiver and the wine bottle are on even ground in this race.)

DANISH DAYS, HELLO: Solvang is a town that likes a party, and you can count on Julefest, the holiday celebrations, kicking up before we even believe Danish Days is packed away. But if a short trip to Europe, or somewhere like Europe but in California, is something tempting, don our clogs and go 'vang. (Or, you know, you can buy them there, too, just so you can brag about your Solvang clogs to everyone forever, which we would.)

DATES: The party is on from Friday, Sept. 19 through Sunday, Sept. 21.



Photo Credit: Danish Days]]>
<![CDATA[Catalina Island's Swashbuckling Weekend]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 23:03:11 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/catalinacaninebuccaneer1.jpg

AVALON AFICIONADO: Even if you regularly find yourself making for Santa Catalina Island's largest port-of-call, perhaps to attend the annual September film festival or a vintage ball at the Casino Building, you might occasionally ponder if you should venture beyond the town's borders a bit more. Sure, you might go on a few hikes, into the inland, or call upon the sweetest landing strip in existence, Airport in the Sky, but for many Avalon aficionados a boat trip to Catalina means dining, hoteling, snorkeling, and staying put within the snug city's confines. All of this can make Two Harbors, Catalina's other outpost, seem positively exotic. It's not on the mainland-facing side, it's smaller, and getting there? Well, it takes commitment. You might want to arrive by boat, in fact, which lends Two Harbors a rather wayback feel (something that locals rather like and cherish). So when buccaneers arrive over the first weekend in October, to whoop it up and speak pirate-talk, and raise a glass of grog (or beer, more likely), the smaller of Catalina's burgs bristles with colorful action. As it will again, from Thursday, Oct. 2 through Sunday, Oct. 5.

BUCCANEER DAYS: The Santa Catalina Island Company's matey-ist party marks its quarter century turn in 2014. There shall be live music and DJs every day of the big bash, and costume contests, and treasure hunts, and a deck's worth of revelers rocking tri-cornered hats. Camping packages, too, are part of the plan. There's definitely a party atmos, one that encourages the raising of the glasses, so call it the liveliest weekend on the Two Harbors calendar. But unlike other pirate-themed parties you've attended, in backyards and living rooms, this one has a major plus: It's in a scenic cove on the Pacific. That's an arrrrr-worthy setting, if there ever was one.



Photo Credit: Buccaneer Days]]>
<![CDATA[Snowy Mammoth Deal Starts Early]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 11:30:35 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/mammothpetermorningmmsa.jpg

WEATHER, TIMING, ANTICIPATION: SoCalers know that the middle of September can be the time of year most resembling a hot plate 'round the region. That warm-warm-warm desert air is rising, breezes feel as though they're at a standstill, or nearly, through city corridors, and temperature records are beat (or at least tested). It's just about then that some of our mountain resorts start looking a few months ahead, to late fall and to winter, and to snowier, cool-down thoughts. The timing is fortuitous; we want to anticipate days of mittens and sweating a little less (yep, a run down a ski hill isn't totally sweat-free). Mammoth Mountain is ready to stoke those anticipatory fires, or, if not fires, then dreams of colder days, with some just-announced deals.

LIFT TICKETS FOR A SONG: Every person with a pair of ski poles wants to find a sweet deal on getting up the hill, since they've personally got the "down the hill" part well-covered. Mammoth lift tickets are starting at sixty seven bucks a day, and that's "from opening all to closing day." That's when you purchase multiple days, but if you want to go up for just a Friday or Saturday? You're looking at $76. The resort reports being stoked by rumors of an El Niño year, which could bring a good amount of precipitation to the Sierra. Some good rain is the wish of many people, skiers and everybody, so let's all cross our fingers and ski poles on that one.

FOR ALL... those suh-weet up-the-mountain early season deals, schuss this way, winter-dreamers. And if you need more anticipation, grab a fat red marker and circle November 15 on the calendar: That is, for the time being, opening day.



Photo Credit: Peter Morning/MMSA]]>
<![CDATA[On the Search: Fullerton Phantoms]]> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 12:05:55 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/shutterstockghost123.jpg

BEYOND THE RICKETY MANSION: We're not sure how it started -- Victorian gothic literature, perhaps, or stories from even earlier ages -- but it has settled, most firmly, in our imaginations: Ghosts tend to frequent rickety, cobweb-laden mansions that perch high on hills or can be found at the end of shadowy streets lined in dead trees. The cinema has enhanced this particular mythos, a whole bunch, but, of course, one storyline is never the whole story. Meaning this: Spirit tales tend to pop up all over, and frequently in downtown areas and public places, spots that are regularly used by many people and cannot be described as chilling, in any sense of the word. A few towns around Southern California pause each autumn to explore those local ghosty stories, the spine-pricklers that have grown and flourished over the decades. At the forefront of the phantom tours? Fullerton, which, being quite historic, boasts a bevy of skin-tinglers that guides share each fall. And since fall is fast on approach, phantom fans are readying for another round of tingling skin: The Haunted Walking Tours of Fullerton kick off -- or float off, phantom-like, rather -- on Wednesday, Sept. 17.

BOO! The City of Fullerton Museum, the institution behind the evening strolls, advises "tours book up fast." They're on Wednesdays and Thursdays through Nov. 6, so, no doubt, those spooky spots are limited. Members of the North Orange County Paranormal Society will mingle at a meet-and-greet starting at 5 p.m. on tour days, and then the two-and-a-half-hour walk sets out at 6 p.m. Visited locations may change up over the autumn run, but you may hear wraith-creepy tales of Plummer Auditorium or the California Hotel. For sure, Fullerton has the layers of time going, so the sightings from beyond the veil reach back. And will there be a special Halloween tour? Indeed, even though Oct. 31 falls on a Friday in 2014. For all the eerie info, float this way, wraith seekers.



Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Happy 25 Years, Napa Valley Wine Train]]> Sat, 13 Sep 2014 18:13:31 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/napavalleytraindaylight.jpg

25 YEARS OF TOOT-TOOT-ING: Any business worth its "We're Open" sign knows that stirring up a loyal customer base, and the occasional curious-minded just-passing-througher, isn't as much a matter of charts and spreadsheets and graphs as waiting it out and being patient and allowing word of mouth to build. Then, maybe in a few years, or a few decades? You're set (if an innovative business ever truly wants to be set). But the Napa Valley Wine Train seemed to do a bit of time-and-space folding when it came to rising in the ranks of our general knowledge, our ability to pick it out of a train-based line-up, and the amount of adoration it got from both tourists and locals looking for a different day out. People talked about it from the get-go -- you're drinking wine! On a moving train! And you're visiting wineries! And eating! And it is all pretty dang cinematic! -- and people rode it, too, in droves, or whatever the fancier word for a throng of wine-loving train-riders might be. (A vinorailian? Yes, we think that's it.) Now the NVWT -- call it that if you want to be catchy -- is celebrating its big Silver Anniversary on Tuesday, Sept. 16, and longer than that, with a trio of fan-forward contests.

SELFIES AND WINE PHOTOS: The convivial competitions run throughout September and involve snapping selfies around Napa or anywhere else in the world and sharing them. There are some rules to know, and how points are earned on Instagram and Twitter, so read on before you and your camera set out. Not a selfie-taker? Try the Wine Train Photo contest. Submit your best NVWT pics and the train's crew'll post some of the best in a special Facebook album. The prizes? Ohhhh, you guessed it: Wine train tickets are up for grabs. There's a bouquet of things to know, as with all contests, so roll along the rails this way, vinorailians. And a happy 25 years to the train. It has helped "preserve the historic rail corridor" of the valley, and antique railcars, too, as well as brought many (many many many) wine buffs to vineyards snuggled up against its route. Would every business worth its "We're Open" sign be such a flowering source of good stuff for its community.



Photo Credit: Napa Valley Wine Train]]>
<![CDATA[Vroom and a Room: La Quinta Cool Car Package]]> Sat, 20 Sep 2014 14:43:17 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/quintacars123456.jpg

THAT GLEAM MACHINE: If you've ever pulled up to the front door of a rather grand and historic hotel or resort, you've likely passed a lovely car or two at the valet stand. A touch of envy can ensue, and some admiration, and you may find, for a moment, that your mind is less on finding the registration desk than strolling around the automobile while eyeing the dash, the wheels, the fenders. But what if, after registering and locating your room and sniffing all of the complimentary toiletries and hanging up your clothes lest they wrinkle (you do do that, right?), what if you could return to the hotel driveway and slide into the front seat of one of those amazingly shiny autos? That's just the plan La Quinta Resort & Club has in mind for motor mavens booking a stay at the desert destination from Wednesday, Oct. 15 through Monday, Oct. 20. The package's name? It's the Waldorf Astoria Driving Experience, and if you're crossing your fingers that you'll get a chance to tool around those wide, pretty streets of La Quinta in something fancy, well, uncross those fingers and slide on the posh driving gloves: That is exactly the case.

FERRARI, MCLAREN, PORSCHE: A trio of famous names are in the package's mix -- visualize a Ferrari 458 Italia Spider, a McLaren MP4-12C, and a Porsche 911 Turbo. The Experience pairs with pro race car driver Didier Theys of Belgium for a three-hour experience. The price? It kicks off at $1258/double plus fees and taxes, and, for sure, you'll get to eye the mega renovation the historic-and-newer property just underwent. Also, if you get knots in your shoulders, as drivers do, from time to time? Some special spa add-ons are available for an additional cost.

AS FOR THE CARS? You'll get an instruction lesson from Mr. Theys ahead of time, and you'll get to rotate cars, too. And, true true, you'll go beyond La Quinta, heading for picturesque turns in San Bernardino National Forrest. If you've ever wanted to drive one of these gems, with an accoladed fast-car smartie at your side, this is a fine moment. And it should, for the time being, alleviate the need to linger too long before any fancy cars in any fancy driveways. You'll get to try one -- or three, rather -- out for yourself.



Photo Credit: La Quinta]]>
<![CDATA[Harvest Fest: Mega Craft Fair Hits the Road]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 23:27:35 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/venturaharvestfest345.jpg

CRISPNESS AND CRAFTS: If something about mornings turning a bit crisper at their edges -- you know that feeling, that arrives just around 7 a.m., that says a new season is about to dosey-do this way at any moment -- and school fairs selling crafty goods gets your blood a-stirrin', then autumn must be your Official Favorite Time of the Year. (Don't feel guilty -- we all have one or two.) It is a time known for brisker mornings and scholastic fundraisers full of homemade treats and items, but only in a few places do those two elements reach their zenith. And at the top of that cinnamon-scented, calico-lined ladder? Harvest Festival Original Art & Craft Show. The traveling mega-vendor mega-everything show toodles around California and the West throughout the autumn months, landing in various centers and locations that are large enough to hold thousands and thousands of items. There will be well over 24,000 goods for sale in Ventura over the first weekend of October, meaning you'll want to spend a goodly chunk of your day eyeing each eyelet-frilled apron and jar of apple butter and hand-carved wooden jewelry box and walking stick and silver dangly gemstone earring. There are, in fact, hundreds of vendors, all with a craft-eye and artistic heart, so whether you find a holiday gift or several small goodies for yourself is up to you. (Our guess? Both.)

DATES AND CITIES: Pleasanton is the first of the California cities, over the last weekend of summer -- that's Sept. 19 through 21 -- and Pomona rounds it all out over the first weekend of December. Ventura is early October, San Jose is the Friday through Sunday following Thanksgiving, and everywhere it goes the fest'll have entertainment, tunes, kidly haps, and food-to-buy (for noshing on there, not the tied-up-in-ribbons munch mixes and cookies you'll see among the vendors). Are you feeling the autumn wave, the one that intersects with craft-cute, art-sophisticated shopping? Check out the schedule and many talented vendors and eye-and-palate-delighting categories the festival boasts.



Photo Credit: Harvest Festival Original Art & Craft Show]]>
<![CDATA[Julian's Juicy: Apple Days Festival]]> Fri, 12 Sep 2014 16:30:48 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/julianappledayschamber1.jpg

FLAKEY, PLAIN, OR DUMPLING? We mean... just. We don't want to be that person, but, really, if we think about it, we're all that person when faced with the deep and important matter of pie choosing. We're all the sorts of folks who queue up in a famous pie shop, say, like Mom's Pies of Julian, and stand there with their eyes wide, and mouth on the hangy side, gaping at the menu as the kind and patient employee asks us for our order, and then asks again. We know what we want, when we line up -- straight-up apple pie, of course, the classic -- but then we see alllll of the other apple-y choices. Apple Caramel Crumb Pie, Apple Cherry Flakey Pie, Apple Dumpling. It's always a delightful challenge landing on what apple-y goodie you'll happily gorge upon for the next fifteen minutes, but consider how that challenge grows ever more delightful during Julian's Apple Days Festival. It's an autumn-welcomer, typically happening around the start of October, and the seed-middled, stem-topped fruit favorite is seen and baked and considered and consumed, again and again, over the weekend. So, if we're all that person, the person who can't choose between the apple flakey pie and the dumpling, we best prepare for a full-on fruit-tastic onslaught.

AND THAT APPLE ONSLAUGHT... happens on Saturday, Oct. 4 and Sunday, Oct. 5. It isn't all about the pies, though they play a large part: "apple displays, music and dancing, an antique tractor display, children's games and activities, gold panning demonstrations, a beer and wine garden..." and food and contests round it out. But, please: Come ready to pie it up in all the flakey, cheddar-topped, milk-complementing ways. It's a homespun and whimsical weekend, complete with the choosing of Mr. and Mrs. Apple Days, so if your fall needs a fast jumpstart, we couldn't pick a better town or time. Now if only we could order faster when queued up at the pie shop... Nah, that'll never happen. Too. Many. Juicy. Choices.



Photo Credit: Julian Chamber of Commerce]]>
<![CDATA[Accordions of Orange County: The Big Squeeze]]> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 13:16:41 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/bigsqueezeaccordionoc1.jpg

THE SEASON OF THE ACCORDION: If instruments were tied to seasons, how would you pair 'em up? We'd probably place the piano with winter, given all of those deep and sonorous sonatas that can feel like a swirling snowstorm. The harp would be matched with spring -- all of those lilts and flourishes summoning the breaking open of buds -- and guitars? Totally summer, what with their laid-back, languorous chords. As for the accordion? It belongs to autumn. Think about the movies you've seen that take place among falling leaves and sweater-weathering characters, and think of the background music. Were there a few wheezes? Some slightly melancholy riffs? The feel of walking down a rain-wet sweet in a faraway country? Yep, accordions + autumn 4evr. That relationship will be on full seasonal display when a bevy of accordions, and their accordionists, head for the OC Market Place in Costa Mesa on the first Sunday of autumn. That's Sunday, Sept. 28, the day when bellows and keys shall sound at The Big Squeeze, one of the state's major accordion gatherings.

BRING YOUR SQUEEZEBOX... or just show up to hear the likes of Jim Gilman's Oktoberfest Band, The Ploughboys, or one of the strolling accordionists. (Question: Is there another instrument that pairs as often with "strolling"? We do believe that the accordion is king in this category.) There's also an open jam -- hence the reason you'll want to show with your own accordion -- and free lessons, too. Plus, gratis appraisals of instruments'll be going down from noon to 3 p.m. If you couldn't make Cotati in NorCal over the summer -- you know the weekend where a whole bunch of accordionists play "Lady of Spain" -- this is your spot. But The Big Squeeze, now in its sixth year, is a big bellows bash in its own right. Nope, a SoCal autumn day might not bring falling leaves or rained-on cobblestones, but the accordion music can summon that quintessential cinematic feeling.



Photo Credit: The Big Squeeze]]>
<![CDATA[Detective Dogs: Bodie Spotlights Canine Forensics Team]]> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 10:07:12 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/bodiedogs1234.jpg

HISTORIC-MINDED HOUNDS: While an hour spent at Bodie State Historic Park in Mono County might consist of taking a few pictures of buildings, admiring the craftsmanship of the town's early layout, and chatting with a park ranger about a few of the 19th-century mining hub's more prominent characters, there are people, and sometimes animals, hard at work to preserve the place, and to protect and further research. The people end of things we understand -- Bodie is a favorite for historians and Golden State-focused scholars -- but the animals? They hail from the Institute of Canine Forensics in Woodside, California, and they call upon the fabled settlement to seek out the historic unknown  gravesites that might slip the attention of those human stewards of the town. Those detective dogs, and their efforts, were spotlighted at the Bridgeport Founder's Day Dinner on Aug. 31.

OVER 400 UNMARKED GRAVES: It started a few years back when John Grebenkemper, an associate with the Institute, visited Bodie with pup Tali in tow. After meeting with Bodie Foundation historian Terri Geissinger, and explaining that "Tali was being trained to detect human historical remains" with the ICF, plans to invite more Institute-smart pups into the park began to form. The dogs would prove a big help to those attempting to know more about Bodie, since many burgs from the 1800s did not immediately establish cemeteries upon their founding, but rather chose random and unmarked places as final resting places for the local citizenry. Tali, Rhea, and more of ICF's four-footed detectives made for Bodie-close spots that were believed to be likely first burial areas for Bodie, and discovered, through their amazingly sharp canine senses, over 400 unmarked graves.

THE PUPS... of course aren't always in the park, but perhaps, on your next visit to the place that many consider America's best-preserved ghost town, you'll think of their work, their abilities, and how dogs can partner with people in the unfolding of history.

 

John Grebenkemper
John Grebenkemper


Photo Credit: Bodie Foundation]]>
<![CDATA[Free September Yoga at San Francisco Kimpton Hotels]]> Sat, 06 Sep 2014 15:49:43 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/219*120/yogaredshutterstock1.jpg

Photo Credit: Kimpton Hotels]]>
<![CDATA[Trees Are A-Turning: Mono County Fall]]> Sun, 07 Sep 2014 07:44:06 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/monocountyfallcolorsept.jpg

IF ONLY WE HAD SOME SORT OF GUIDE... People who "chase" certain events in nature know the value of on-the-ground or in-the-water information. We're talking about those who love to see a lightening storm in play, or find the most surfable waves, or admire hidden waterfalls during the couple of weeks a year they might run. Leaf-peeping, or the seeking of fall foliage, is not often paired with "chase" or any other breathless term, but that's a bit of what autumn aficionados do: They chase down rumors of what groves of aspens are turning yellow in what mountain-snug valleys and they act on the intel they've received. Because if you love brilliant leafage you know that a week can change things, drastically, especially if a wind swirl kicks up or early snow falls. Some of the more foliage-rich places in our state want to lend a hand in the intel department, though, which is a major help to the leaf chasers -- er, leaf peepers. Mono County is at the forefront of the foliage wave each late summer, posting photos of when and where crimson-bedecked branches are showing up and offering a link to its free downloadable foliage guide.

WALKER CANYON TO JUNE LAKE: All of the hot spots for autumn action are listed on both the guide's main page and in the guide itself, with percentage updates as to what's starting to turn where. As of early September everything is still looking green, green, green along Highway 395 and into the Eastern Sierra, but Mono County Tourism posted some snapshots from the Rock Creek area. For sure, emerald leaves still dominate, but in a week when much of the state is still rocking temperatures in the 80s and 90s, it is cooling to see those golden signs of fall peeking through.



Photo Credit: Mono County Tourism]]>
<![CDATA[New Vegas: Delano Hotel Debuts]]> Wed, 10 Sep 2014 11:39:26 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Delanopenthouse.jpg It's a "touch of South Beach on the Strip" next to Mandalay Bay.

Photo Credit: Delano Las Vegas]]>
<![CDATA[Tickets on Sale: 2015 Big Sur Foragers Festival]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 12:27:18 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/bigsurforagersplate.jpg

INVOLVED WITH YOUR EDIBLES: There are food-focused getaways that are all about the attendees relaxing with a glass of wine, making new friends (do people still trade cards or do they move directly to the sharing of @'s and Facebook handles?), and the strolling to a dinner table where an elaborate, trimming-filled feast awaits. There are eat-fun weekends that include a bit of hands-on participation, say, a chopping class or a demo of creating the lightest broth. Then there is the quirky cuisine-cool occasion where people don boots and trudge into the forest to locate part of what might be their next meal. Could this be called hands-, feet-, and entire body-on participation? Definitely. The Big Sur Foragers Festival is one of those rare treats where people do stroll out among the trees and undergrowth in search of the fungi with the flavor (led by experts in foraging, of course). And, of course, there are hallmarks of other types of food festivals, too; it isn't all walking and scanning terra firma. "Big Sur area restaurants will host the culinary expertise of notable chefs preparing unique fare from rustic to elegant, paired with the region's amazing selection of wines and beers." Rustic to elegant, yum and yum.

TICKETS ARE NOW ON SALE: The foragers'll set out -- and set in to dine upon some excellent dishes -- in the middle of January 2015. Jan. 16 through 18, to be specific, so if you've got a fungi fanatic on your holiday gift list, well... how timely are those dates? Very well-scheduled, indeed. Peruse the line-up of events, which include a "Fungus Face-off" at Ventana Inn & Spa, a Grand Celebrity Chef Dinner (at the same spot), and a foraging walk into Pfeiffer State Park and the Big Sur Wilderness (for beginning and intermediate foragers, respectively). To start daydreaming, peek back at the 2014 Fungus Face-Off. Mushroom-infused cannelloni, lemon pepper chowder, wild boar and truffled mushroom rilletes...



Photo Credit: Big Sur Foragers Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Prospector Rates Return to Furnace Creek]]> Sun, 07 Sep 2014 13:42:41 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/furnacepalmsdv.jpg

WHERE LEAVES ARE SCARCE: There's no argument to the statement that California gets a traditional fall season, and a vibrant one. Foliage fans keep watch for the aspens and oak that go golden around the Eastern Sierra and up near Shasta, spending weekends finding the most colorful copses of tree-spectacular goodness. But there's another way to mark autumn in the Golden State, and that's via a trip to the moon. Surely the moon is a little mysterious and autumnal and just right for October? Well, getting to our actual lunar neighbor is still pretty tricky, for the most part, but you can visit the next best moon-esque place: Death Valley National Park. Nope, it isn't pocked with craters in the way the moon is, but you also don't need head gear to draw oxygen, either. It's wonderfully atmospheric, in short, and an October or November trip makes creative counter-programming to all of fall's tree-focused doings. And deal-cravers are in luck: Both of the Furnace Creek properties are packed their saddlebags full of Prospector Rates, which are making a return appearance at the casual (Ranch) and deluxe (Inn) expressions of the historic Death Valley property.

YEEHAW: If you want to invoke classic prospector sayings and tropes -- such as "yeehaw!" -- while booking your room under the rate, we're pretty sure no one would mind. And the upshot on the special? The Prospector Rates feature "30 percent discounts on select rooms throughout the park's fall season." Those rates kick up their boots starting on Oct. 15 and ride straight through to Dec. 21 at the Ranch; the Inn's dates are Oct. 20 through Dec. 20.

AND... why not counter-program your fall? If you're a leaf peeper, usually? Badwater Basin sits just south of the properties, lending a lunar experience to a stay in the area. We'll call a trip to the moon, or the next most moon-like place, ideal for the time of year when shadows grow deeper and longer.



Photo Credit: Inn at Furnace Creek]]>
<![CDATA[Death Valley's Happening Nightlife Scene]]> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 12:41:43 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/furnacecreekevening1.jpg

HOW'S THE NIGHTLIFE? The term "nightlife" isn't exactly a portmanteau, though we'd dearly love to say it is, because "portmanteau" should come back into more common usage, but it could qualify as the less colorful (but highly accurate) compound word. And the fairly new word "nightlife" -- well, newish, since it came well after "night" and "life" -- means just one thing nowadays: entertainment, action, go-go-go. Okay, that was a few things, granted, but people generally take it to mean a city's bars, clubs, restaurants, the whole going-out scene. But why can't a remote area also boast a nightlife, especially if it, too, has a show to stage? Maybe not of the neon-bass thumping-swanky cocktail variety, but a show that is spectacular nonetheless. A show that may involve the universe, or at least the cosmos as viewed from earth, in all of its Milky-Way-esque glory.

IF WE CAN USE... that measuring stick, then Death Valley National Park has a MAJOR nightlife. Nope, the thumping bass and valet line is not to be found, but there are full moon guided hikes led by park rangers. There's a reason these after-dusk strolls are popular: The International Dark-Sky Association named Death Valley a Gold-Tier location. "With clear nights the norm and the exterior lights of the resort dim by design, the big sky of the desert shines with starscapes that can be experienced in few places in the U.S.," says a Furnace Creek rep.

OH, AND FURNACE CREEK? We know you've got some lovely nightlife in the form of restaurants and pools to swim in under star-twinkle. So we're not saying some touches of traditional nightlife don't show a little bit in the very nice lobby bar at the Inn at Furnace Creek. That exists. But if you're version of nightlife is more about the moon and quiet and scurrying lizards and actually seeing the streaky evidence of the galaxy in which we call home, then your night will take on life -- yep, we did that -- in D.V.



Photo Credit: Furnace Creek]]>
<![CDATA[Happy 10th: The "Sideways" Celebrations Grow]]> Mon, 01 Sep 2014 10:37:15 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/216*120/sideways10.jpg

BEYOND THAT ONE GLASS OF WINE: Just like there are numerous vinos sipped in the seminal wine-loving flick "Sideways," there must be numerous celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of its release. Yes, "must" is a strong word, but consider the lavished love the Alexander Payne flick bestowed upon the Santa Ynez Valley, where the film was memorably and picturesquely set. Maps to locations seen in the film, and wineries where Miles and Jack tasted everything but merlot, soon appeared on stands around Solvang and Buellton, and the already popular weekend-y region grew in further stature. So when a merlot taste-off sprung up to pay homage to the movie's 10th anniversary, well... like a single glass of wine, fans guessed more to-dos would soon follow.

AND SO THEY HAVE: That aforementioned merlot taste-off, which is a bit winky, given that Miles, the film's lead, was having no merlot nope nope nope, lands in Solvang on Saturday, Sept. 13, but there is a veritable bouquet of "Sideways" happenings flowering around the valley during the fall. Want to see stills from the movie? Head for the Elverhoj Museum in Solvang from Oct. 4 through Nov. 2. Kalyra Winery in Santa Ynez will screen the film on Oct. 10. And will Fiddlehead Cellars in Lompoc raise a toast to the film with the sauvignon blanc seen in the film? You bet, on Sept. 20.

THERE ARE MORE... more more "Sideways" happenings springing up all around the already famous wine country it helped to make super extra tremendously famous, but if you just want to snag a map and go where the film's characters went, you can do that, too, any ol' time.



Photo Credit: Sideways]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Barbara Bird Love: Vulture Day]]> Sat, 30 Aug 2014 09:38:25 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/212*120/vulturewidewingsb.jpg

BEYOND THE GLOWER: There are signs that you're watching a romantic comedy -- a sudden downpour, surprise meetings in elevators, a merry misunderstanding or two -- and signs that you're viewing a western (horses clip-clopping, cowpokes, saddles). But what are the tropes of the scary movie? Yes, eerie harpsichord-type music. Yes, an old house at the end of a remote road. And, most definitely, a vulture perched high above the crumbling manse. He's looking peevish and creepy and foul-tempered, and his wings seem to form some sort of foreboding cape. In short? You're in a horror flick, boy howdy, when you reach full-on vulture ville. But some birdists feel that relegating vultures to the creepier end of the cinematic or bookly spectrum isn't fair. After all, they can't see ghosts -- at least we don't think -- and they don't typically live outside enchanted castles or magical cottages. What vultures do do is delight we humans with their beauty and wingspan and grace, like the ones at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Three species of vulture call the American Riviera animal park home, including Ruppell's Griffon vultures, turkey vultures, and, you guessed it, the California condor. And the zoo is ready to fete some of its most famous feathery denizens with a special holiday.

IT'S VULTURE AWARENESS DAY... on Sunday, Aug. 31. Of course, to the vultures, and the keepers who care for them, every day is Vulture Day, but visitors will get a bundle of info from the keeper talks while engaging in vulture-focused activities and crafts. And will there be chat about conservation and helping the vulture, who helps the wider world maintain a "healthy ecosystem"? There shall be. You get into all of the vulture-y doings by paying zoo admission.

AND LOOK... if vultures like glowering from dead trees in fictional scare flicks, we're not going to harsh that particular mellow. But how come we never see a bluebird or cardinal whistling joyfully outside the crumbling castle? Storytellers, time to refresh your go-to avian associations.



Photo Credit: Santa Barbara Zoo]]>
<![CDATA[Wolf Awareness Week at the California Wolf Center]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 16:08:50 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/californiawolfcenterwolfweek.jpg

Photo Credit: California Wolf Center]]>
<![CDATA[Sunset Soiree: Savor the Central Coast]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 11:34:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/brittanyapp13savor.jpg

NO COAXING REQUIRED: If you're a scholar of just-from-the-garden ingredients, and your hobby is trying offbeat herbs, or you have an opinion on decanting times and methods for wine, or you've eaten short ribs in a sandwich, in a pie, atop pasta, and completely plain, then taking the opportunity to visit a food-nice part of the state requires zero coaxing. None. You'll go, just to go, to enjoy the gardens and wine bars and outdoor dining patios, hooray and yay to all that. But if a major cuisine event is happening, with a venerable host, and the setting is a food-nice part of the state? Hoo boy, it is on, with bells on. The "venerable host" probably tipped our hand here, because Sunset Magazine is known far and farther for setting up its annual autumn eat-and-cook-and-sip-and-tour to-do, Savor the Central Coast. The long weekend of pleasurable pursuits of the palate is again scheduled for the last part of September, meaning it'll be the ideal time of year to be out at...

SANTA MARGARITA RANCH: Make that historic Santa Margarita Ranch, which has to be one of the Top 10 California Buildings That Looks As Though It Should Be in a Watercolor Painting (not the snappiest of titles, but true). Chefs shall demo, meals shall be served, and tours shall be taken around the Paso Robles region. Some highlights? The Main Event at the ranch is "an epicurean and adventure playground" featuring chefly doings, beer mavens, fishermen, and makers of artisanal eats. Adventure tours shall highlight everything from abalone to Hearst Castle to balsamic vinegar. And the special dinners? They happen hither and hitherer, from the aforementioned castle to local vineyards.

TICKETS? They can fly away for some of the events, so best land on the lovely respite you've got your eye, and possible your wine glass, on. Dates are Sept. 25 through Sept. 28. And will you wish you lived inside Santa Margarita Ranch? The chances are very good. Just prepare. That's a longing you'll leave with.



Photo Credit: Brittany App]]>
<![CDATA[Harvest, Humor, and Julian Wine: Grape Stomp]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 06:45:46 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/juliangrapestomp345.jpg

WINE'S WACKIER SIDE: Commercials and advertisements and some tonier films would have us believe that the art of wine enjoyment is about inhaling bouquets and swishing deeply and speaking solemnly to depth, tone, clarity, and character. But wine enjoyers -- so, anyone who drinks vino outside of an ad, basically -- know there are many laughs to be had over a stemmed glass full of sparkly liquid. Literally: It's very often near the end of dinner with friends when the giggles get a little louder and the toasts multiply and the smelling of corks, for comical effect, ensues. Grape stomping can fold into this sweet-soul'd category, though its roots are certainly very much about the making of wine (and grapes are stomped the world over). Still, put any two friends or newcomers to the art -- and it is an art -- inside an old-school barrel loaded with juicy orbs, and have them start to do the skirt-lifted, pants-rolled-up squishy dance, and the laughs are summoned. And the sweat, too: It is not easy work, grape stomping, even if the grapes popping under your heel is a little humorous.

NEVER TRIED IT? Here's your chance: The Julian Grape Stomp Festa'll invite visitors to remove their shoes and dig into the fruit, feet-wise, on Saturday, Sept. 6. Menghini Winery is the place, the fee is fifteen bucks for those over age 21 (and a little less for the little stompers), and there is a barrel for the grown-ups and one for the kids. Bocce ball, bites in the theme of the day, and crafts for sale round out the autumnal affair. The fundraiser for the Julian Chamber of Commerce is a biggie, with lots of attendees, meaning that you and your pals may draw a crowd with your simultaneous squishing and laughing. But isn't wine, above all, supposed to be fun? Or at least invoke real merriment and community? Done and done.



Photo Credit: Julian Grape Stomp]]>
<![CDATA[Last-Minute Labor Day: San Francisco Deal]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 11:12:52 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/hoteldelsoljoie1.jpg

LAST-MINUTE GETAWAYS, RE-CONSIDERED: If only the whole process of deciding to get out of town was as stylish as it is sometimes presented in stock photos or clips. Picture it: The laughing person runs out to their freshly washed, '50s-era convertible. They toss a designer suitcase in the backseat, don sunglasses, and, with a wink, they're off on a fabulous and spontaneous weekend. That's not how it goes for most of us -- we can't find our sunglasses and our bag has been through one too many trips to be camera-ready -- but our desire to do it up at the last-minute is strong, very strong, especially when a three-day weekend is on the horizon. Don't have a '50s convertible, either? No worries: Just get to your getaway however you can, and start saving cash, if possible. Joie de Vivre is making it easier to have that impromptu weekend away and save some good money, at least if you're headed to the Bay Area for Labor Day. The upshot? The boutique hotel group is shaving up to 20% from stays over the late-August holiday three-dayer for properties around San Francisco and its environs.

YEP, BEYOND ONE HOTEL: This is one reason we're feeling the jazz on this one: You have your pick of several places in which to stay and save. Hotel Del Sol, with its pop-y bright colors and family-nice vibe? If you like. Laurel Inn? The Pacific Heights spots is also going the up-to-20%-off route. And Oakland's Waterfront Hotel and The Epiphany Hotel in Palo Alto? Yes and yes. You don't need to stay right in San Francisco to score some money-saving-ness.

THE DATES? Oh, right. We keep saying "Labor Day Weekend" here but Joie de Vivre has a very generous sense of what Labor Day Weekend means. The good-times-20%-off-ing is on at nine Bay Area hotels from Aug. 28 through Sept. 7. That's one long Labor Day. And honest? If you want to do the laughing/convertible/fancy bag thing, as you set off on your getaway, no judgment. Roll how you will, happy traveler. We all should.



Photo Credit: Hotel del Sol]]>
<![CDATA[Fashion Up, Theme Parkers: Disneyland Dapper Day]]> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 10:12:28 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/206*120/dapperalbertsanchez1+-+Copy.jpg

REPEAT VIEWING: If you're a fan of a classic theme park attraction -- say, Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room -- then you likely know the feeling of wanting to repeat the experience of sitting under the singing birds (and flowers!) a few times during the day. Just once more, you think. That just-one-more-time line of thinking folds into a lot of Disney-type diversions very well, especially because you can feel that you missed something on the ride's first go-around. And Dapper Day? That very same principle applies. You know the event that comes around twice a year where people dress up, many in vintage togs, and visit Disneyland Resort? The outfits are so swanky and panache-filled and pretty that it can be difficult not to look at them all, once you land on the Dapper Day Instagram or Facebook accounts. There's something about seeing the perfect '70s necktie or 1940s shrug against the also-retro-y background of the park's carousel or Main Street that inspires you to keep clicking (and clicking and clicking) on photographs. In short? Dapper Day and the Magic Kingdom make for a match made in a fashion-setting daydream. Eager to participate in the retro spectacular? Be at the park on...

FRIDAY, SEPT. 12: That is Dapper Day for the fall -- or the "Fall Soiree," if you prefer -- and you'll just need to pay admission to the park, like you normally might. Only you'll be in heels and stockings or a vest and suspenders, and a lot of other people will be, too. There's also a new Dapper Day Expo at the Grand Californian Hotel on Friday, Sept. 12 and Saturday, Sept. 13. So should you forget an old-school hat, or you want to pick up some snazzy cufflinks, that's your sartorial spot. Nope, you don't have to dress in vintage gear -- contemporary classiness is a-ok -- for simply looking spiffy is the happy order of the day. Up to it?

THEN... get inspired by photos. Just note: You'll think "just one more" over and over as you look through these swanky snaps.



Photo Credit: Albert Sanchez]]>
<![CDATA[Hounds Hit the H20: Surf Dog]]> Sat, 23 Aug 2014 09:06:48 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/209*120/delmardogsurf12.jpg

DOGS HELPING DOGS: If you've lived for a day with a dog -- maybe even an afternoon -- you know at least a few of your pup's preferences. He doesn't like when the front door shuts to loudly, he'll eat his treat in one gulp (and only when he's standing in the kitchen, next to the sink, for whatever reason), he bays when the mail is delivered, and the ocean? Well, he is wild about it or wants to jump straight in or stick to the beach, a found wooden stick in his mouth. The shore seems to be one of the magic places where waggers come to life, or extra life, since pups are pretty dang exuberant at home, for the most part. Is it the wide-open-o-sity? The sounds of the waves breaking? That everyone there is in a recreational mood, which is, after all, a dog's main mode of living? Well... only a dog can answer. But the barker-beach connection has to be one of the reasons why the Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon gets soaked, all for doggie welfare, each year on the Sunday following Labor Day. The dogs on surfboards fundraiser, which is hangs ten (or twenty, if you prefer) on Sunday, Sept. 7, draws participants from across the region, humans and their dogs looking for fun and to help out hounds in need.

THE DAY'S BENEFICIARY... is the Helen Woodward Animal Center of Rancho Santa Fe, which assists animals in a plethora of ways. As for the surfers? A lot of the dogs, and their people, have been practicing at the surfing (and stand-up paddleboarding) classes that the center scheduled throughout the summer. Meaning? You'll likely see some impressive skills. Or... if the competitors are still new, there are other things to admire, like how sweet the pooches look in their vests. And will a few dogs likely romp on the beach to let off some surfing steam? Well, it's true: canines and the sand have a long and close relationship. The Surf-A-Thon truly is one of the annual California happenings that puts a spotlight on waggers, the waves, and giving a boost to barkers who need a home.



Photo Credit: Surf Dog Surf-a-thon]]>
<![CDATA[30+ Wineries: Temecula Valley CRUSH]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 14:37:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/temecula_crtemeculavalleysoutherncaliforniawinecountry.jpg

OUR FAVORITE UPDATES: There are posts and pictures that we scroll by, on our various social media go-to sites, without taking much care or notice to soak in what is being conveyed. Mostly we breeze on past with a "that's nice" thought in our heads before getting to the photographs we really need to see. And if you follow wine then you follow harvest time, and if you follow harvest time you are likely doing some heavy scrolling, then stopping, on your social media favorites these days. That's because many a winery is in the thick of it, at the moment, and by "thick of it" we mean that grapes are being reviewed and studied and perhaps picked and sorted and sugar content and other vino-cultural topics are in the air. It's the busiest of seasons, crush time, but that doesn't mean that our state's wine countries aren't going to silence the thrumming harvester and stow the bins for a weekend or two to celebrate. Temecula Valley takes that festive pause each year in September, the the weekend-long whoop-di-do has the oh-so-timely name of...

CRUSH: The yearly "Wine & Cuisine Showcase" returns on Saturday, Sept 13 with a few dozen wineries in tow. Grape growers and bespoke bottlers throughout the valley will participate in the "ONE and ONLY event showcasing 30+ member wineries," wineries who will box up and drive some of their liveliest new libations over to the Wiens Family Cellars, the host of the to-do. A general admission ticket is $85, Temecula Creek Inn has a related stay-over package on (yeah, you'll probably want to skip the drive and spend the night), and eat spots like Nothing Bundt Cakes and Temeku Grill shall cameo, in their own cuisine-rich ways, as well. Who says there's no time to party during the busy harvest? Temecula Valley has the cork-popping answer to not letting a hectic run undo the fun.
 



Photo Credit: Visit Temecula Valley]]>
<![CDATA[Happy 98th, National Park Service]]> Sat, 23 Aug 2014 09:16:01 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/joshuatree.jpg

TWO YEARS SHY OF A CENTURY: Any person or place or landmark or animal or event or special, treasured item that reaches its 98th year should just be automatically feted in all corners, even by those who aren't necessarily close acquaintances. We'll call 98 years the better part of a century -- we're not too off in that, we hope -- and we'd also call it deserving of a huge whoop-di-doo. Consider that parties can taper off a bit, around the 97th, 98th, and 99th birthdays, if only because the 100th is just ahead and everyone is sort of storing up for the mondo blowout. But, honestly? Anything that requires almost five packs of candles -- twenty to a pack -- deserves the streamers and balloons and songs. Wellll... with one major exception: the national parks. Nope, we don't want to see neon purple streamers and tinsel dangling between two Joshua Trees, but we do love seeing those delightful fee-free days that roll through the calendar every few months. Monday, Aug. 25 happens to be one, and, as you might be able to guess, it's a big, big 98th birthday.

NOPE... not of Yosemite or Channel Islands or Lassen Volcanic -- as physical places they're a few eons older than 98 -- but of the National Park Service itself. The parks that usually charge are going fee-free for the day (and "(o)nly 133 of our country's 401 national parks usually charge an entrance fee," says the site) so that's pretty dang festive indeed. Also? It's still summertime, yessirree, which means that park calendars are lush with lively ranger talks, walks and a few special to-dos in honor of the 98 candles on the proverbial NPS cake. Ready to bid the traditional summer season adieu, ahead of Labor Day, with some trees, canyon, ocean, and sky? Oh, and by warbling "Happy Birthday" in the middle of a huge meadow? Okay. You've got the when, the where, and the fact that you're saving money.



Photo Credit: David McNew/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[San Pedro Weekend: Tall Ships and Giant Ducks]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 11:46:35 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/duck181109370.jpg

QUIRKY MEETS HISTORY: We can't imagine, back when tall ships sailed the seas on a regular basis, and not just as elements in history-minded, bring-your-camera weekends, that there was ever much to challenge the boats' girth or largeness or prominence out on the waves. And if seafarers of the 18th century had turned to see a bright yellow duck the size of a portly vessel? Well, that would have been quite extraordinary, indeed (we can picture people in tri-cornered hats and breeches attempting to board the duck for further exploration, gangplank-style). No people in breeches, though, will attempt to climb the gargantuan rubber duck that's due for the Tall Ships Festival that's sailing near San Pedro through Sunday, Aug. 24. That's because the duck, a huge, pontoon-based inflatable by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, is invited to the festival. More than that, the quirky artwork is very much anticipated, given that this is its first West Coast appearance, and only its second appearance in the United States. This is a biggie, since the duck's appearances have become something of a worldwide phenomenon.

AS FOR THOSE TALL SHIPS? Yep, the weekend is absolutely about the boatly beauties, too. You can board one, watch from shore, participate in craft activities, and more. (About a dozen mores, actually -- it's all Tall Ships all the time 'round Pedro.) Wellll... and there are certain duckly elements in the mix, too. For example? The U.S.S. Iowa is handing out rubber ducks to kids until those lil' duckies run out. Yeah, for sure, a lot of people are going to this one, both for the stately vessels and contemporary quacker.

IF YOU CAN'T GET ENOUGH... of the Tall Ships, sit tight, matey: Many of the famous vessels'll be in Dana Point in September.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Vintage PJ Sleepover in Long Beach]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 10:05:00 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/pajamapartyJChristopherLauniPhotography1.jpg

SATEEN AND FINEST FLANNEL: If you're fond of dressing with wayback flair, a possibility of going to a soiree with a recommended vintage dress code can send you to your closet in search of your best double-breasted tuxedo, your finest sleeveless evening gown, the heels or shiny dress shoes that make you feel your best. Much rarer is the soiree that sends you to your drawers or your pajama armoire -- you have a pajama armoire, yes? -- to dig out a robe or socks or slippers or a public-ready nightie. The Art Deco Weekend aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, though, does just that. Sure, there are daytime to-dos that do suggest that the ladies and gentlemen in attendance slip into a nice frock or waistcoat-dress shirt-slacks combo, but one of the highlights of the Labor Day Weekend affair is the nighttime Friday night Deco Derby & Pajama Jam.

PAJAMAS ON, SWELL PEOPLE: The Art Deco Society of Los Angeles says "your best vintage loungewear" is the order of the night (think of the shiny robes Nick & Nora Charles might have worn in "The Thin Man") as is enjoying the ship's Queen Salon and the stylish tunes of Jim Ziegler's Band. The derby part? You'll try your hand at cheering on the ponies (think tabletop, not racetrack). Been to a whoop-di-doo in just your lovely loungies lately? It's time.

IT'S ALSO TIME... to attend a Prohibition tasting, to shop a vintage bazaar, to take a Strolling Art Tour of the fabled ship, and to attend a few dances, including a proper Sunday tea dance. Design and architecture of the Art-Deco-iest order are the themes, for sure, but fashion, conversation, food, and the aura of the era will be in full and fabulous effect.



Photo Credit: J. Christopher Launi Photography]]>
<![CDATA[Camping Cool: Santa Barbara Silver Safari]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 14:56:43 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/santabarbarasafari123.JPG

WONDERS OF THE ROAD: What do you and your companions notice when you're out on the highway? Perhaps some stunning bluffs in the distance? A grove of tall trees near a rest stop? Thunderheads high over the mountains? Yes, and yes, and yes. Nature often catches our eye, and our deepest affections, when we're out on the asphalt, but there are a few items made by humankind that capture our fancy and become the topic of conversation. Take a beautiful, old-school convertible, or, say, an Airstream. Can the gleaming loafian trailer -- Airstreams are rather loaf-shaped, yes, in their quintessential way? -- pass a car full of history or road-culture mavens and not garner enthusiastic comment? No, it cannot. "I want an Airstream!" is the common cry, but owning one of the mid-century gems, or even walking inside one, is a treat not known to many. But vacationers who like to recreate, and do so with vintage panache, have a chance to live that dream, if just for a night, and camp in a beautiful Airstream from Santa Barbara Silver Safari.

TOW-IN, TOW-OUT: The company isn't just about serving the camping fantasies of enthusiasts who want a retro sleep experience. They rent to commercials and weddings and photo shoots, too. But a segment of its customer does desire that getaway night, meaning falling into REM sleep, and having your morning cereal, inside the loafy curves of an old-school hitch-up is a possibility. You'll need to take care of a few things, including reserving a camp site "with full hook-up" in Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez, or Ventura. There are a few other to-knows, and, you guessed it, some glossy Instagram photos to pore over. Is this the year you cease oohing and aahing over trailers that pass you on the road and start bragging to pals that you've stayed in one? This is one daydream that could totally come true.



Photo Credit: Santa Barbara Silver Safari]]>
<![CDATA[Headed for SoCal: California Beer Festival]]> Sat, 16 Aug 2014 10:09:43 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/CaliforniaBeerFestival2010.jpg

LET'S ALL GET ALONG: As much as California-obsessed wags would love to pit San Francisco vs. Los Angeles, or NorCal against SoCal, it's a pastime that doesn't hold much water. Or beer, for the matter at hand, if you prefer. Angelenos are known to visit the City by the Bay with some frequency -- oh, how we love those hills, the fog, and ice cream around the Mission -- and NorCalers often make their way south (and not just for the great parking, though there is that). But when something tasty starts out in one section of the state, well... people in the other section can get a mite amped-up, and impatient, wanting to try it for themselves. Take the California Beer Festival, the summer-to-fall traveling suds spectacular which rounds up dozens upon dozens of regional beermakers -- and some beyond -- and sets them up in a wide space with plenty of room to sample, chitchat, dance, and enjoy the sunshine. It's already been to Marin and Santa Cruz this year (those lucky ducks) and it is making its way towards Southern California. San Dimas and Ventura, to be specific, and the dates? They're in that most perfect of beer-enjoyment months, September.

NO... we're not stoking any rivalries by saying that SoCal gets the best brew-trying month. Summer is excellent for that, but soft, late-summer-y sunshine? It's a setting that seems invented for smooth beer sipping. The San Dimas date is Saturday, Sept. 6 while Ventura kegs-it-up on Saturday, Sept. 20 and Sunday, Sept. 21. Who's there, label-wise? Oh, oodles of people who know their foams, including American Vintage Beverage Co., Kat Daddy Brewery, and Chaucer's Cellars. Yep, there's stay-over info, too, and you'll want to arrange your taxi or designated driver friend. Bring a friend, we say, the better to discuss all that you love about Northern California, and how you're not jealous at all that the California Beer Festival starts there and not here. Patience is a virtue in all things, but definitely in awaiting fine, thoughtfully crafted brews. Tickets? Here.



Photo Credit: California Beer Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Del Mar Mmm: Gourmet Food Truck Fest]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 12:16:23 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/deviliciousfoodtruck.jpg

ONE PLACE, ALL THE CHOICES: Even though we know it isn't exactly true, we can all have the same thought when facing a few dozen food trucks: All of the foods of the world are before me, right here, right now. Correct? Many of think this, or some version of it. Beholding 50 or so menus loaded with a diverse range of options, from French fries loaded with cheese curds to ahi tacos to Hawaiian pizza to coffee ice cream can fill our head with the food-based fantasy that every edible ever invented is before us. Not so, but are you seeing more supping than you can possibly take on in a year? Maybe even the better part of a lifetime? That's a closer assumption. And a fun one, too, when it becomes a reality, if only for a day. That day, in Del Mar, is Saturday, Aug. 16, and the place? The Seaside Concert Area, west of the Grandstand, at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. It's the Gourmet Food Truck Festival, and we tipped our hand earlier as to how many different mobile eateries are do: Fifty are expected, which'll make the winnowing of lunchy choices for you a very difficult winnowing, indeed.

HOW YOU GET TO THE FOOD: It won't be hard to find the fest, given that 50 or so food trucks are rather easy to spot. But you will need to get into the track first, and that's six bucks. Bring more bucks beyond that, because while the festival offers free admission, the eats'll be four bucks to eight bucks (ish). Seafoody goodness from Cousins Maine Lobster, swanky sandwiches from the Devilicious Food Truck, and Stuffed!'s "elevated comfort food" are three of your plate-filling possibilities. Will every edible in the world be in Del Mar? Not quite, but a mammothly full array of menu-packed choices await. Let's call a mondo food truck festival a place where a large, large fraction of the world's foods can be found. Don't get overwhelmed, eaters.

THE BENEFICIARY: The food-trucky goodness helps out Meals-on-Wheels Greater San Diego.



Photo Credit: Devilicious]]>
<![CDATA[A Year to Go: Disney D23 Expo Tickets Go on Sale]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 12:37:53 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/183*120/expod23mickey1.jpg

BUILDING ANTICIPATION: If there was every a group that was especially gifted at stoking a certain amount of anticipation before something delightful happened, it has to be the Disney Imagineers. They're the innovators who dream up the rides and attractions inside the theme parks, yes, and they also create the "line experience." Meaning the video, the art, the funny stuff you see while wending through the queue? It's all about revving up the guest's ultimate excitement for the roller coaster or spinning car that's to come. In short, Disney has this idea down-pat, and it extends to its other, outside-the-parks pursuits, too. Take D23 Expo, the every-other-year, mondo fan experience that spreads into every nook of the Anaheim Convention Center. Some conventions just post dates and leave it at that, but not D23; previews and videos and tidbits build the fervor among the fans, and the tickets? They go on sale a full year, to the day, before the event. Honest, what other happening looks a year out, in its ticket sales? It's a pretty rare thing, but then so is the art of anticipation. D23 Expo 2015 is set for Aug. 14-16, meaning that tickets went on sale on Thursday, Aug. 14.

M, I, C, K, E, Y: Indeed, it's billed as "the largest Disney fan event in the world," meaning that people arrive from all over (with mouse ears planted firmly atop their head). Many of them will have nabbed those tickets early, and with good reason: They're discounted for a "limited time." An adult early bid one-day admission is $61 from Aug. 14 through Dec. 31, and D23 members get 'em for a little bit less. As for what's at the expo? Just about everything under the (Disney) sun: movie previews, star appearances, games, and merch choices aplenty. There has to be a lot: Some 65,000 fans showed up for the 2013 D23 Expo. Consider the Disney bases covered on this one.

 



Photo Credit: D23 Expo]]>
<![CDATA[Posh Style: The Look of SLS Las Vegas]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 22:31:42 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/slsvegasdebut.jpg

FANTASY WITH A SIDE OF LUXE: Surely hotels and hostelries through the ages put their own light-to-intense spins on design themes and unifying looks. But no city in history ran with the idea, made it bigger, and covered it with lights in quite the way that Las Vegas has. Some of earliest stay-over spots carried something extra beyond the "hotel" sign out front (hello, historic Golden Gate Hotel), and its current mega-room palaces? Distinctive aesthetics rule. A full flowering of these principles, outlandishness + design + a dose of high posh-o-sity, can be seen in Sin City's newest hotel entry, the SLS Las Vegas. The Philippe Starck-imagined property is readying for a Saturday, Aug. 23, debut, but the hotel shared a peep inside at what's to come, room-wise, in its three towers.

LUX, Story, World: Each tower comes with its own handle -- tres Vegas, of course, especially since towers in other towns often are labeled "north" and "east" -- and its own tale. Those tales are spread over 1,613 guest rooms throughout the trio of towers. The rooms in the Story Tower comes with an "electric yellow vanity that doubles as a bar, the backlit ceiling mirror, and the polished chrome swivel minibar cabinet." The World tower rooms plug into business people and conventioneers, so look for up-to-date work spaces and fast tech. And LUX? It's got the "French influence" -- "oversized sofas" are one sumptuous detail -- a shower that looks out onto the room.

BEYOND THE TOWERS: The SLS Las Vegas, which sits where the Sahara reigned, brims with dining choices as thematic and as design-driven as its guest rooms. Restaurants include the gold-columned Katsuya by Starck to the lodge-y casual vibe of the buffet to the English manor-esque Monkey Bar.

 



Photo Credit: SLS Las Vegas]]>
<![CDATA[Westerns Rule the Lone Pine Film Festival]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 18:51:23 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/alabamalonepinefilm.jpg

TEN-GALLON WEEKEND: While director John Ford is very much associated with the cinematic expanses of Monument Valley, and a number of films have landed in spots like White Sands in New Mexico and Arizona's Sonoran Desert, California has its own entry in the Western movie mythology-making: the Alabama Hills and Lone Pine. Indeed, the glorious spot -- and "glorious" is not a word used lightly here -- has shown up as a craggy, epic, and highly distinctive background in hundreds of films, from "Gunga Din" to "Bad Day at Black Rock" to various iterations of the Lone Ranger. It's true that the Eastern Sierra-close spread of low hills has occasionally been seen in a non-traditional non-Western Western (think "Tremors") but saddle cinema has absolutely dominated the area. And Lone Pine, the snug and historic town straddling Highway 395, celebrates its movie past each year with an autumn celebration of Westerns, movie stars, and those picturesque Alabama Hills. The dates are set for 2014, so pencil in Oct. 10-12, buckaroos.

ON THE FESTIVAL SCHEDULE: It's year 25 for the Western-sweet party, meaning a lot of movie types'll be out for the big Silver Anniversary. Bruce Boxleitner, Donna Martell, and Johnny Crawford are three of the thespian guests, and special effects experts, authors, and stunt people will also make appearances. And "12 exciting location tours" shall go down throughout the weekend. Did we actually mean "go down" there? We meant head into the epic Alabama Hills and nearby environs. It's really one of the Golden State's most singular landscapes, one that early directors made known the world over via vintage Westerns. And it still looks pretty much the same, back in those hills, as it did when the first cinema cowpokes clip-clopped in nearly a century ago. Westerns lovers and those who adore the Eastern Sierra? Better saddle up for the second weekend in October.



Photo Credit: Lone Pine Film Festival]]>
<![CDATA[50+ Libations: Santa Barbara Tequila Harvest]]> Mon, 11 Aug 2014 07:54:34 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sbtequila234.jpg

EACH DRINK HAS ITS DAY... around the Golden State, but there are certain beverages that seem to get the lion's share -- or make that the whole animal park's share -- of attention when it comes to tasting events. Even very niche libations are getting their own parties -- think flavored beers or vintage soda-flavored paletas -- so if you like a particular sip, you only need to wait long enough for its annual, or bi-annual, celebration to come back around. And agave enthusiasts keep an eye on the late-summer calendar, and on the American Riviera, in anticipation of trying various iterations of their favorite spirit. It's the Santa Barbara Tequila Harvest we speak of, and it is hanging its half-decade banner in 2014.

SO... what have the last five years brought to tequila-ists who make the journey to sniff and swish and discuss and drink that deep and powerful beverage? Loads of new labels to try, experts to chat with, and maybe a new brand to add to the liquor cabinet. Eager to grow your mescal knowledge and to wile away the day with smarties who know this spirit very well? Then plan on spending the final Saturday in August in Elings Park.

THAT DAY WOULD BE... Aug. 30, and "over 50 hand-selected premium tequilas and mezcales" will be on the pour. Pepe Marquez & The Groove Line are providing the entertainment, the day's funds benefit the Elings Park Foundation, the Legal Aid Foundation, and the Pacific Pride Foundation, and is there a dress code? You bet: It's not too fussy but organizers are recommending that sun hats and khakis come under consideration as you gussy up for the classy, raise your glass event. Need cab information to a local hotel? That's incredibly important, too, and organizers have the info posted here.

A SPIRITED TIME: Will you leave Santa Barbara having found both a solid mixer and a fine sipping tequila? That's what the day is all about: appreciation, complex flavors, and an afternoon spent in the sunshine. Get your ticket info.



Photo Credit: Santa Barbara Tequila Harvest]]>
<![CDATA[Death Valley's "Cold" Day in Summer]]> Sat, 09 Aug 2014 09:27:52 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/deathvalleysanddunesfurnace.jpg

NO JOKE: Have you ever told your pal a lengthy rib-tickler, with a really hilarious punchline, but, when you get to the big finish, they sort of blink at you, several times in a row, as if they're trying to comprehend what they've just experienced? We joke-tellers have all been there, and we all know The Repeated Blink. That's essentially what's gone down, in many meteorological-minded quarters of the weather-watching world, since Death Valley National Park hit 89 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday, Aug. 3. That's a pretty acceptable, run-of-the-mill summer temperature for most places, it's true, but let's pause here to again consider where that high temperature occurred: Death Valley, "the hottest place on the planet." Hottest, driest, lowest -- these are terms frequently stuck all over the national park, like so many burrs on a cattleman's boots. Meaning this: 89 is pretty dang cool for that sometimes-cauldron-y spot. The National Weather Service Las Vegas noted that the "chilly" record breaker undid the "previous record low max of 104 deg set in 1945." And the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang blog observed that Missoula, Montana was hotter on Aug. 3 than Death Valley.

BLINK, BLINK: The unusual occurrence is rather stunning, though the park is no stranger to cold storms -- Furnace Creek Resort recently posted a photo to Facebook of historic Scotty's Castle frosted with snow a few winters back. So while the wet front of early August has moved on and temps have again climbed in Death Valley, a package is still on to stay on a summer's day. The Ranch at Furnace Creek is the destination, the price starts at $163, and breakfast is included. Oh, and, don't worry about keeping your own temperature down: There's a spring-fed pool on the property. Nope, there's no telling if an 89-degree day will come back around any time soon, but Death Valley is glorious regardless of the season, be that season less sweaty or as sweaty as condensation on a glass of lemonade.



Photo Credit: Ranch at Furnace Creek]]>
<![CDATA[Mmm, Smoky: Del Mar Grill Fest]]> Fri, 08 Aug 2014 13:14:26 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/196*120/81253599.jpg

FRAGRANT BREEZE: It's one of the telltale signs of summertime. Picture yourself walking through a neighborhood and imagining what people might be making for dinner within each home. Maybe quesadillas, maybe salad, maybe fried chicken. You can't tell, because there are no clues, but if someone is grilling hamburgers? Or ribs? You know. You know from a block away, and you have to fight the temptation to go knock on the back gate and introduce yourself and walk in for a hot dog or steak. (Honest question: How many people have done this? Followed their nose and met a new neighbor?) But what if you could go to a place, not far from the ocean, where it was all grilling, and you didn't need to knock upon any back gates or fences for a chance at a gooey cheeseburger? Such a place exists, it's the Seaside Concert area at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, and Grill Fest is landing there, in all of its tasty-good-smelling-ness, on Saturday, Aug. 9.

THE PROS AT THE GRILLS: Some "20 seasoned BBQ pros and restaurants" shall wield the sauce-covered brushes and tongs during the event, which puts the edible-nice emphasis on attendees wandering and sampling. You'll nab five "sample-sized portions" for a tenner and once the food is out, it is out (so get there around 1 p.m.). You'll get in by paying six bucks at the racetrack, too, so stash some cash for that. As for the grillers representing? Jo's Texas Brisket and Fargo's BBQ are two among the twenty. We're officially about to enter the second third of the third month of the summer season, or at least the observed summer season, meaning this: Time is waning. Have you smelled a good grill yet? No? How about some smoky goodness mingled with ocean air? Things'll get delicious at Del Mar.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Heritage Tour: Ye Olde Ghost Town Road Trip]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 17:19:21 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/bodieaurora112.jpg

ROAD TRIPS... may have not been invented for ghost town-type excursions, but the visiting of historic cities that are no longer occupied, at least by human beings, is very much a road trip staple. One may drive between San Francisco and Chicago, or Los Angeles and Albuquerque, but one may not pass up a sign that indicates there is a ghost town five miles off the main highway. But what of the road trip that hops from ghost town to ghost town? That's a rarer occurrence, except among serious ghost town aficionados (who are pretty legion). There are a few organized tours, too, with one of the biggies falling just ahead of fall. It's the Heritage Tour, a two-day ramble through two fascinating, ye-olde-wayback burgs and surrounding sites. Yep, you drive -- you can bring your oldster wheels if you like, that Model T, but note that "a higher clearance car is recommended" -- and, yep, Bodie, that most famous and perfectly preserved of ghost towns, is on the roster. And, yep, it is two days, so you'll need to book a place to spend the night somewhere nearby in Mono County. Terri Geissinger of the Bodie Foundation says "we recommend folks to stay at Virginia Creek Settlement or anywhere in Bridgeport." Easy? Peasy? Good.

DATES AND DETAILS: The touring kicks off on Saturday, Sept. 13 in Bodie, where "you'll receive an in-depth tour of the town, stamp mill, and cemetery." You'll then head over Geiger Grade to the Masonic and Chemung Mill. Day two, which is Sunday, Sept. 14? It's all about "traveling the historic stage route between Bodie and Aurora." Samuel Clemens once called the town home, and there are brick foundations and a cemetery to see. The tour is a popular one, says the Bodie Foundation, which any ghostie -- a buff of ghost towns -- can imagine. For it's one thing to swing by a yesteryear location for an hour, but quite another to build a weekend, with car-touring, around a few history-rich spots. Been to Bodie but want to go deeper? The Heritage Tour may be just your sepia-toned ticket.



Photo Credit: Bodie Foundation]]>
<![CDATA[Cosmic: Mountaintop Supermoon Party]]> Thu, 07 Aug 2014 11:55:04 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/206*120/supermoon_detail23.jpg

GET READY TO "WHOA": Regardless of how many times one beholds a Supermoon -- which is a full moon that occurs when our lunar satellite is closest in its orbit to our home turf -- it is always a wonder. We gather in dark spots and sky-big spots and spots where we can spread out a picnic blanket, gaze up, and simply soak in the cosmic show. And, yes, we "whoa" a whole bunch, especially as the big, big moon begins to peek over the far horizon. There's one due on Sunday, Aug. 10, but you can bet that the moon mavens'll be out on Saturday, Aug. 9 to admire the crater-laden orb in all of its Supermoon-o-sity. (Not a totally scientific term, of course, but one that sums up the appropriate hugeness of the event.) Mammoth Mountain will be celebrating the weekend's way-up-high show by inviting revelers to go way up high here on earth, terrestrial-style. How? The resort's gondola will run people up the mountain, where the vistas will be vast and the air especially clear and the stars appropriately twinkly. Oh yes, and Supermoon will be fully whoa-inducing.

GET THE DETAILS: As mentioned, the date is Aug. 9, which is Saturday, and not Sunday, which is the date tied to this Supermoon. The party is on from 6 to 10:30 p.m., admission is fifteen bucks and kids under 12 get in for free, and a "moonlit gondola ride to the summit" is a highlight. Look also for live tunes, a cash bar, and a "(l)ighted walk to the lakes basin overlook from the summit" which is called "an ideal location for moonrise photography." Oh, that's right: You can bet plenty of shutterbugs are eager to go up the mountain with their cameras. You should, too, but be sure to spend a few minutes simply whoa-ing with no other task at hand.

DOES THE MOON REALLY GET BIGGER? Giggle. Don't you wish there was a thrilling blockbuster out about the ever-expanding moon? Of course it doesn't grow, though it will seem notably closer and brighter to we earthlings. How can we not find a remoter place, be it a mountaintop or the desert, to whoa over that?



Photo Credit: Mammoth Mountain]]>
<![CDATA[Oh, It's On: Napa Valley Harvest 2014]]> Tue, 05 Aug 2014 12:30:13 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/grapes_vineyard_winefest.jpg

HARVEST IS NOW: While we wine lovers may be pretty knowledgeable, to the point of being charmingly unbearable, about how the collecting and pressing of grapes works, and how all of that delightful juice eventually becomes a sophisticated wine, many of us can be a little hazy on the facts and figures behind harvest time. We equate it with the autumn, and with days growing shorter and night temperatures dropping and a particularly picturesque mist that may or may not hang over the grapes before dawn (in our daydreams there is always a good amount of mist). But harvest isn't solely an autumn thing, not at all. It isn't even an August-September deal, either, for Napa Valley's 2014 Harvest officially kicked off on the morning of July 30. "The first of Napa's sparkling wine producers began picking grapes around 6 a.m. on Wednesday, July 30, just two days earlier than the start of last year's grape wine harvest," reads the Napa Vintners site. It continues with this cheery news: "Although this past winter was one of the driest on record, Napa's vintners and growers are predicting an abundant, high-quality harvest for the third year in a row."

WANT TO FOLLOW THE GRAPE-GOOD ACTION? The site has plenty of photos up, and Vines of the vines, and peeks at the first clusters of grapes picked, and such harvesty doings. Want to head up for some of the early hubbub? There are events, events, and, yes, more events. Rutherford Hill has a merlot blending to-do on Saturday, Aug. 2 and Napa Cellars hosts a Rockin' Food Truck Party on Saturday, Aug. 9. Look for more flavorful doings with "harvest" in their names to be working their way up the calendar in the coming weeks.



Photo Credit: grapes]]>
<![CDATA[Palm Springs Gem: Thursday Night VillageFest]]> Mon, 04 Aug 2014 07:13:11 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/202*120/villagefestpinksky.jpg

BOOTH-LINED ROADS... and flower-filled stalls and outdoor grills lined with smoked meats and spots to buy crusty loaves of bread are typically associated with the morning hours. That's because most farmers markets tend to take place from just after dawn until somewhere near noon, when the aforementioned flowers start to look a bit heated and the bread loaves have completely sold out (it was all of those free samples). So finding a similar market in the evening hours is a pretty special thing, even if it isn't a traditional farmers market, per se. You'd probably want to look in a warmer place, a location that knows it stays more temperate after sunset than it does mid-morning. You'll also want to search in a snug town with a vibrant tourist and local scene, one with a lot of restaurants in a walkable area, and a place with perfect evening skies, skies of pink and blue and gold. Oh, we wouldn't be talking about Palm Springs, would we? We most certainly would, and, indeed, the next two words we're about to type are these: VillageFest.

THURSDAY NIGHT FAVORITE: It's all year long -- hi, desert-nice not-too-rainy-nor-damp weather -- though it starts an hour later in the summer months (7 p.m. vs. 6 p.m.). It has everything, or a good chunk of everything: "fresh fruit and veggies, flowers, jewelry, snacks, and sweets," not to mention art, bags, windchimes, funky patio stuff (the Springs is very big on its patio decor, of course). It's on Palm Canyon Drive, as you might expect, it attracts a lot of visitors, as there are hotels within walking distance, as you might expect, but you'll see locals out with their dogs, too. (Palm Springs is just about the dog-friendliest town in the Golden State; we measure that statement by all the bowls of water the shopkeepers put out for visiting pups.)

NO... we wouldn't want traditional farmers markets to switch to evening hours, but the market takes on a happy hour feel in Palm Springs. Once a week, nice to people in town for a day or two, and you can pick up some fancy olive oil or a quick foot massage? VillageFest will surely be around as long as there are pink evening skies over the city, or just about.



Photo Credit: Ron Niebrugge/wildnatureimages]]>
<![CDATA[Palm Springs Modernism: Retro Yard Sale]]> Sat, 02 Aug 2014 09:36:35 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/RetroYardSaleModernism1.jpg

THEMED YARD SALE: If you've ever swung by a garage or sidewalk sale hosted by one family or a few, you know that the items on offer truly run a wide-ranging gamut. Old bar stools sit next to '80s VHS tapes which are nestled against some long-unused barbells. But finding a yard sale that truly focuses on a single period? And a stylish and swanky period at that? They're pretty rare, but one of the big ones unfurls in Palm Springs in the autumn. The location is a giveaway as to what kind of goods'll be for sale -- think mid-century -- and the fact that some excellent for-the-home buys shall be found. But the Retro Yard Sale isn't the only October highlight to land in the desert resort. It's just one component of Modernism Week's Fall Preview, the long holiday weekend devoted to design and sleek lines and shift dresses and cocktail glassware and everything vintage and '60s-era cool (and '50s, too, of course). That holiday weekend is Columbus Day Weekend and the bigger-than-last-year schedule was announced on Monday, July 28.

MODERNISM GALORE: The mid-century sale isn't the only treat to circle on the calendar. A poolside bash with a nod to The King'll roll out at the Hacienda Cantina & Beach Club, while the double-decker bus architectural tour makes its return. Look for tours of Frey House II, the always bustling Modernism Show & Sale, and a cocktail reception themed to photos of the nearby Salton Sea. Tickets for the Modernism Week Fall Preview go on sale at noon on Friday, Aug. 1.

WANT TO... hang tight for the mega February Modernism Week? Well, the Columbus Weekend to-do keeps on growing, so you'll get your fashion-y, domestic-cool fill. But the full-on wintertime extravaganza is scheduled for Feb. 12-22, 2015.



Photo Credit: Modernism Week]]>
<![CDATA[Newport Dunes: Massive Inflatables Rule]]> Fri, 01 Aug 2014 13:45:32 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/newportdunesplayinflatables.jpg

H2O WONDERLAND: Some people, when it comes to summertime swimming, simply favor a pool. Cool, blue, reflective of sky and cloud and not a thing in it but water and, of course, a set of stairs to enter. But many people? Maybe even the majority of poolside fans? They like a little something extra with their outdoor, splash-style recreating. Could be a set of waterwings or a floating tray for beverages. Could be a raft or rings or a volleyball net or a bouquet of colorful pool noodles. Or it could be that king among pool toys, the inflatable. Inflatables have grown in popularity over the years among pool owners, and they've grown in size, too. Remember the balls you bounced around as a tot back in the '70s? Yeah, they're bigger, as is everything that has air in it and sits in a backyard swimming pool. But where they're bigger -- much, much bigger -- is a place not all that far from your backyard. It's the Moe's B. Watersports Summer Playground area at the Newport Dunes.

TAKE YOUR PICK: Yep, it's a long sandy stretch of private prettiness -- 10 acres in all, and there are lifeguards. As for the out-in-water climbables? Look for "a wide range of massive, colorful inflatable amenities from giant icebergs and water trampolines to rock-climbing walls and massive teeter-totters." So how much is it to spend a couple of hours with some large-scale water-floaty sculpture thingamabobs? Twenty bucks for two hours or thirty for four hours. Yep, you'll get happily worn out, as you might in a pool with a much smaller inflatable. It's open every day through Labor Day and every weekend in September. Ready for what is traditionally our region's hottest period? Make for the water, inflatable aficionado.

WAIT ONE SEC... "massive teeter-totters"? Well now we feel covetous. Do they sell those down at the corner store?



Photo Credit: Newport Dunes]]>
<![CDATA[Happy 90th, Old Spanish Days]]> Fri, 01 Aug 2014 09:03:56 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/oldspanishdays90th.jpg

EVERY. SINGLE. EVENT: Can you, in one fell swoop (read: one busy five-day stretch) take part in every single happening at Old Spanish Days? You could make a go of it, for sure, but given that the historic, storied, and vibrantly venerable Santa Barbara festival is marking its 90th, you're going to find that the to-dos nearly out-number the hours. There are the major goings-on and destinations, from the mercados to the Fiesta Stock Horse & Rodeo Show to the docent-led mission tours to El Desfile de los Niños on Saturday morning (it's the family-sweet parade's 84th run this year). Rather than dashing from to-do to to-do, and only dipping a toe in where you can, the best bet is to choose a few hallmark events -- say, the Children's Parade and some lively horse show and bull-riding action -- and glide through the rest, when and where you can.

OF COURSE... visiting at least one mercado is key to Old Spanish Days. El Mercado de la Guerra is just across from City Hall and boasts "crafts and souvenirs" and Mexican-American and Spanish eats. El Mercado Del Norte has four neighborhoods full of shopping, a carnival, and the Crazy Horse Cantina.

FLOR Y CANTO: There's a lot of California past to Old Spanish Days, but perhaps no event is more emblematic for attendees than the evening of song and dance on Friday, Aug. 1. Want to feel transported to the 19th century? Make for the Santa Barbara Courthouse Sunken Gardens (it's free to see).

FOR MORE HISTORY... on the history-festive event, read on. Love the Lobero Theatre? Then you know that Old Spanish Days and the opening of the beloved venue share wayback ties.



Photo Credit: Old Spanish Days]]>
<![CDATA[Venice Cool: Hotel Erwin's Fresh Extras]]> Sat, 02 Aug 2014 09:37:38 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/hotelerwinsurf1.jpg

WHAT WAS IN YOUR LAST HOTEL ROOM? Do you recall? There was probably a television of some sort, a remote control, a chair or two, a bureau, some wall art. We'll wager that your just-for-the-night spot was pretty complete, overall, but it likely didn't come with its own DJ booth. We don't want to make assumptions, and if you spent the night in the new Red Bull Dogtown Suite at Hotel Erwin in Venice Beach, well then, you most certainly did have a DJ booth of your very own, not to mention funky art, a patio facing the water, and a very au courant atmosphere (or just "atmos" if you want to be particularly hip). The steps-from-the-boardwalk property has recently undergone a freshening-up, both on the rooms front and the extras front, and the suite is at the lead of the luxe touches.

THERE'S ALSO... the roaming Happy Hour cart, which will eventually find you. Typically a Happy Hour-type set-up means that the patron has to locate the bar, but sit tight and enjoy the sunset from your room: A cart may brimming with "handcrafted cocktails," vino, and brews may soon materialize at your door. A new menu at High, the restaurant offering sweeping, Pacific-pretty vistas, just debuted at the start of summer, and brunch at Barlo Kitchen + Cocktails? Look for old-school cartoons to screen and an "all-you-can-eat cereal bar with a buffet of vintage cereals plus lunch box milks." That's every Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m.

TOUR DE VENICE: That social media-happy contest is afoot through September, so if you're in a hashtagging type of mood, and you pay a visit to the hotel, you could post your snapshots and maybe win "an ultimate Venice vacation package." We'll raise a spoonful of vintage cereal and milk to that.



Photo Credit: Hotel Erwin]]>
<![CDATA[Magical Road Trip: Disney Fanniversary Celebration]]> Tue, 29 Jul 2014 07:17:59 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/192*120/Fanniversary-social-1d32.jpg

A GLAD GATHERING: Summertime is known as the season when some of the largest, most elaborate, and truly tidbit-packed pop culture conventions unfurl. Comic-Con International lands in San Diego in late July, and the official "Star Trek" convention in Las Vegas around early August, and then? It just might be time for D23 Expo, the mega Disney fan party that magically alights, Tinkerbell-style, at the Anaheim Convention Center. But like Tinkerbell often finds herself busy and off flitting about, sprinkling sparkles, the expo comes around every two years, with 2015 the next big date. So what's a California buff of All Things Magic Kingdom to do? They can make for the nearest D23 Disney Fanniversary Celebration, a traveling, treat-laden show that'll visit eleven cities around the U.S. from August to October. Three of those cities are in the Golden State, meaning that if you're near Burbank on Aug. 9, San Diego on Aug. 10, or San Francisco on Aug. 16 and 17, you can join the mouse-eared fun. And on the Disney-esque docket? A commemoration of the "dozens of magical Disney milestones celebrating landmark anniversaries this year."

"MARY POPPINS"... is absolutely one of those -- happy 50th, Mary! -- and her iconic hat will be part of the tour. As will a host of other goodies, and they'll be stellar: Disney archivists and the D23 team are behind the Fanniversary fun. Look and listen for artifacts and/or fresh excerpts from the 55-year-old "Sleeping Beauty," from "The Little Mermaid" (that's 25 this year), and the hinge-creakiest attraction of them all, the Haunted Mansion, which marks its 45th in August. Oh, and, you betcha, Donald Duck shall get plenty of accolades and attention, as the irascible, sailor hat-sporting character practically demands. General public tickets? They're forty dollars, and less for D23 members. Can and should you wear your mouse ears, your pirate hat, your Mr. Toad vest, your Space Mountain button? Yes, yes, yes, and you have one of those? Cool. Jealous, in a friendly, fan-like way.



Photo Credit: Disney Fanniversary]]>