<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Worth the Trip]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcsandiego.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.comen-usSat, 23 Jul 2016 06:22:00 -0700Sat, 23 Jul 2016 06:22:00 -0700NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Ventura's 'Ocean Air' County Fair]]> Fri, 22 Jul 2016 07:52:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/shutterstock_107289284.jpg

IF YOU'RE STANDING ON A MIDWAY... you tend to expect a few things. You'll hear some sort of calliope music, from a nearby ride, the sort of ride that spins in multiple directions while different bulbs blink in time. You'll smell some sort of caramel corn, or kettle corn, or another version of corn that was only just invented weeks before. And you may see sunshine, or clouds, or some combination, the sort of sky that is emblematic of summertime. What you likely won't feel, though, is an ocean breeze, the kind that is a bit ticklish, a bit damp, and nicely salty.

THERE IS A PROMINENT EXCEPTION, however, and it's the Ventura County Fair, a county fair that's about as close to the ocean as your average pier or stretch of sand. This placement lends the August spectacle some tang, and marine-sweet freshness, as you go about the rides and the eating of kettle corn and the visiting of animals. If a fair is your jam, and you're pretty enamored of the Pacific, then make for the Ventura County Fairgrounds from...

AUG. 3 THROUGH 14, 2016: "A Country Fair with Ocean Air" will fill out that stretch with motorsports and PRCA Rodeo and a bevy of concerts from acts like Styx, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and the great Patti LaBelle. Are there...

SPECIAL ADMISSION DAYS? You bet. Shall there be crafts and more to see? That's tradition. Will you admire a host of critters, from goats to pigs? Yes. And shall the ride scene and noshable fried treats complete the carnival tableau? Absolutely. The classics are all there, with a dollop of ocean breezery on top. How many county fairs can boast about that? (Hint: Very few, so high fives, Ventura.)

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Free Days: National Park Service's 100th Birthday]]> Thu, 21 Jul 2016 16:21:32 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/485215315-happy-birthday-candles-cake.jpg

A BIRTHDAY... can mean a number of nifty things, from delicious slices of cake being proffered to balloons appearing out of nowhere to the occasional surprise gift, the kind that comes with a giant bow on top. That special day can also translate into free things, as in a free short stack of pancakes or free car wash or another nice local benefit down at a treasured mom-and-pop-ery. The National Park Service is getting into that "birthdays + awesome free things" vibe, but for its own special day. And it is a very special one, indeed: The service overseeing our beloved parks, monuments, and important sites is turning 100 in 2016, something work raising a forkful of cake to, with cheer. If you want to feel that centennial magic, and have your entrance fee waived at a park that charges (not every national park does), mark...

AUG. 25 THROUGH 28, 2016... on your calendar. You can find out if your favorite waterfall-y, tree-laden, rock-pretty spot is a fee-asking spot — 127 of the 400+ NPS-overseen spots do charge a fee at the gate — and then you can go, go, go. Those four days do include a weekend, so making the most of the Saturday and Sunday might be in the cards for many. Another bonus? This is the weekend before Labor Day Weekend, and travelers will ponder a full week of road-tripping, with the initial weekend being one spent in a national park, for no admission. Nope, you don't need to get the NPS anything, but sharing your affection for the parks by taking nothing but photos, and posting such photos, if that's your jam, helps spread these wonders far and wide. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images/RooM RF, Illustration]]>
<![CDATA[Thomas the Tank Engine Visits California]]> Wed, 20 Jul 2016 21:51:56 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/3Thomas_SRR_Tracks.jpg

MEETING A FAVORITE CHARACTER... from a book or a film or a television series can often happen, if you just know where to look. If you love Snow White, you might travel to Anaheim or Florida. If you're a fan of Paul Bunyon and Babe the Blue Ox, trot for the Trees of Mystery, in the redwoods. But what to do when your go-to superstar tends to stick close to railroad tracks, on account of that superstar being a tank engine? Well, you'll need to wait for him to call on a local rail destination in your area, since he's apt to be a character on the move. "On the move" describes Thomas the Tank Engine to a T, but he does make a few stops each year, along with some of his friends, at some well-known train locales. Two California places are on his end-of-2016 schedule, with Roaring Camp Railroads in Felton up first in late July and early August, and the Orange Empire Railway in Perris in November. 

DAY OUT WITH THOMAS... is just that, a day for your kids to see the character in person and take a ride with Thomas, too. Also making the journey to Felton, and later on Perris, is Sir Topham Hatt, Controller of the Railway. You'll want to purchase your tickets well in advance, as the popular happening does draw the train buffs and Thomas mavens alike. It's been around for 21 years now, which means that some of the first riders are likely returning with their own young'uns. Train adoration can be a lifelong pursuit, and for many that adoration starts by reading a Thomas the Tank Engine book or seeing him on TV. To see him at a rail station, though? Exciting stuff, indeed.

Photo Credit: Day Out with Thomas]]>
<![CDATA[Yoga in the Neon Boneyard]]> Wed, 20 Jul 2016 21:53:10 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/neonboneyardvegas.jpg

LAS VEGAS... is a pretty far-fetched place, most (read: all) days of the year. You can take a front row seat and watch clowns do flips, or aerialists twirl, or magicians make people disappear (and reappear, fingers crossed). The food choices are as unlikely and lovely, from towering sugary creations to flaming drinks to one-of-a-kind dining events that push into the high hundreds, price-wise. But exercise, for the most part, still takes place in hotel gyms, and various hiker-nice canyons, and The Strip, too, if you awaken early enough for a not-too-crowded jog. There is a new place, filled with older gems, to get your workout on, specifically your yoga poses and stretches. It isn't a studio, or even a park, but rather the Neon Museum, which is home to some of the most iconic, bulb-laden signage to ever grace Sin City. That's right...

POP-UP HOT YOGA SESSIONS... near all of those famous hotel and restaurant artifacts is a Thing, with a capital T, over the summer of 2016, though the classes are not on daily. The final one is happening on the final day of August, if you're thinking of doing an early-Labor-Day-Weekend-y thing in Las Vegas, though there are other sessions still to come. Certified Instructor Eileen Lorraine will take beginners, intermediate practitioners, and advance enthusiasts through the moves during the one-hour class, a class that will be held "in the shaded portion of the Neon Boneyard." Ah yes, this is an early evening event, happening at 5:30 p.m., so those signs won't yet be lit. But consider how dramatic a backdrop they'll make for your downward dogs, and how all of the colors and swirls and details may inspire some new thinking paths as you pause and breathe deeply. Want to go? It's $18, and you'll want to find a date when it is happening.

Photo Credit: Neon Boneyard]]>
<![CDATA[Palo Alto/Carmel: Luxe Road Trip Package]]> Tue, 19 Jul 2016 15:46:03 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/epiphanyhotel2121-horz.jpg

TWO HOTELS, SWANKY WHEELS: It isn't unusual, of course, for a stay-over property to offer some sort of amenity-nice package, or a few of them, the sort of plans that give a guest a few delicious add-ons during their time at the hotel. What is unusual, though, is to see a pair of hotels dovetail on the same swanky package plan, and to find a way to connect the hotel locales via a memorable mode of transport. That's what The Epiphany Hotel in Palo Alto and Carmel Valley Ranch are doing, though, and that memorable transport? It's a BMW i8 hybrid car. Call it the...

ULTIMATE ROAD TRIP PACKAGE, one that is as much about your time wending from Palo Alto to Carmel Valley as your overnight at both spots. The road trip starts at The Epiphany, with a luxury suite (complete with private patio) and a tasting menu dinner at Lure + Till, one that comes with a private chef consultation. There are other goodies, like a Palo Alto walking guide and an in-room breakfast. Then you pick up that BMW i8 hybrid and make your way for...

CARMEL VALLEY RANCH, where you'll bed down for the night in a Vineyard Oak Studio Suite and enjoy a "Dine Like a Chef" meal that'll spotlight local bounty. There are other nice to-dos, like a spa treatment and a private tour of the hotel's well-known garden (as well as its vineyard and salt house). After your stay wraps, you'll be presented with a picnic and then you're back on the road, headed to The Epiphany to drop off your wheels (or the airports in San Jose or San Francisco, if you so choose). 

IT ISN'T OFTEN... that hotel-made packages send guests out on the road, so if luxe vehicles and perk-laden stays are your fancy, ponder trying out this rare package, one involving a sweet ride, two distinct properties, and the road between them.

Photo Credit: Epiphany Hotel/Carmel Valley Ranch]]>
<![CDATA[Sonoma Valley Crush: Tickets on Sale]]> Mon, 18 Jul 2016 09:24:58 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ticketsonsalesonomavalleycrush.jpg

WORDS CARRY WEIGHT... but "harvest" carries more than most. It's a word full of potency, and sunlight, and richness, and bounty, and it stirs something deep inside our noggins, the place that longs for nature and connection. Okay, that's all serious stuff, but few times of the year are as ripe as that moment when grapes are ready on the vine and other fruits have come into their fullness. It's almost like we're seeing the seasons move when harvest arrives, and taking a day to appreciate it can simply be marked down as part of the happy human experience. A number of wine country organizations honor harvest each year with some special happenings, and The Heart of Sonoma Valley joins this tradition annually via its Sonoma Valley Crush weekend. The three-day party is spreading out smack dab in the middle of September — Sept. 16 through 18, so we weren't ribbing you on the "smack dab" part — and...

TICKETS ARE ON SALE... for the sip-and-see-things festival. There are thirteen participating wineries in all, including Loxton Cellars, St. Francis Winery & Vineyards, and Mayo Family Winery, and the to-dos run the grapely gamut from grape tastings ("fresh off the vine," natch) to crush pad tours to the sipping of fermenting wine (a memorable experience) to the tasting of several of a winery's cab/chard/pinot/beyond offerings. Your three-day pass is $35, and your designated driver's pass is ten bucks. As for entering the world of harvestdom, that mellow time of year when grapes seem to glow and leaves are starting to think about turning and you can almost see the wheel of the seasons at work? You've got to take the moment when it comes around, and it comes around 'round these parts each September.

Photo Credit: Kim Carroll/Heart of Sonoma Valley]]>
<![CDATA[September Sup: Newport Beach Wine & Food]]> Sat, 16 Jul 2016 07:59:50 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/nbeachfoodwine16.jpg

ADVENTUROUS FOODIE-ING... is a pursuit that can be ably pursued at any point on the calendar, but it seems to cleave well with the start of autumn. That's when harvest is in full swing, and the holidays are on the horizon, with their big turkeys and succulent hams and savory sides, and other gourmet festivals are gearing for the party-filled end of the year. So how best to spend an early fall weekend, a four-dayer that flows from the end of September right into October? Getting to know gourmet grub sounds like an ideal thing to do, and doing so among other foodies, and well-known chefs, sounds like an ideal group in which to meet up with. All of that ideal stuff'll be going down in Newport Beach, which will again host the Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival at points around town. One of those points is the...

NEWPORT BEACH CIVIC CENTER, which will be the place to go for the mondo Daytime Festival on Saturday, Oct. 1 and Sunday, Oct. 2. Look for the Grand Tasting Pavilions, which "will showcase 20 different restaurants each day," and stop by the center of each for sips of over 200 wines. There are restaurant-based bashes, too, like at Nancy Silverton's Pizzeria Mozza on Friday, Sept. 30 (Chef Silverton will join). The opening night soiree of the festival, which is headed into its third year, will land at Ritz Prime Seafood. A private cooking/tasting demo with Chef Rick Bayless is part of the VIP ticket, and other chefly demos dot the schedule (so find the toque you follow or the type of cuisine you favor). 

LOOKING FOR TICKETS... to the tony, taste-laden affair? They went on sale in mid-June 2016. The start of fall, and a bevy of feastly doings led by this Newport Beach favorite, is less than a fourth of a year away.

Photo Credit: Newport Beach Food & Wine Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Monterey Bay Aquarium by Night]]> Fri, 15 Jul 2016 10:00:52 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/evenings-by-the-bay12345.jpg

PONDERING WHAT OCEAN DENIZENS... do after the sun drops behind the horizon has long been the whimsical province of poets and animation writers and people who simply love the mysteries of the sea. We know that eels don't wear nightcaps and groupers don't require lullabies, but the notion of a vast world of moon-glinty darkness, full of waves and wonder, will never not intrigue we landlubbers. It is a fun chance, then, to be able to visit an aquarium after the time it traditionally closes, or, if you prefer, just about the hour that the eels are donning their nightcaps. Okay, that is pure fantasy, but Evenings by the Bay at Monterey Bay Aquarium is very much a reality, and one that fans welcome back each summer. Why the warm hello? Well, you get to visit the...

WORLD-FAMOUS INSTITUTION... during "extended summer hours" on Saturdays and Sundays. ("Extended summer hours"=an 8 o'clock closing time.) Live music is part of the party — the Monterey Acoustic Project visits on July 16, while Victory Lane is there on Aug. 13 — and the food is a savory centerpiece of the warm-weather run, too. Look for "cafe selections" on Sunday nights and themed eats on Saturdays, Vegetarian BBQ to Cooking with Corn, depending upon when you visit. And as for singing any lullabies to the residents, like those iconic sardines? You won't need to, but a wander by an exhibit or two, during an hour when the aquarium is typically closed, may make you feel as though you're calling upon an ocean-amazing world that's not often seen by the public. Watching the sunset, too, while standing near the Great Tide Pool, is forever a treat.

FINAL DATE... of the 2016 run? Sunday, Sept. 4.

Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium]]>
<![CDATA[Nevada City Glamping Getaway Debuts]]> Fri, 15 Jul 2016 09:58:10 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/inntownbrandoneverett.jpg

HOSPITALITY TRENDS... always seem to be alighting upon the next good idea, whether it is a 4 p.m. Bloody Mary cart that's wheeled up to your hotel room (designation: a good idea) or warm chocolate chip cookies delivered to your suite at bedtime (designation: an incredibly good idea). Stylish stay-over spots place phonograph players in the lobby, while bicycles for rent and other fresh perks gives the classic away-from-overnight a special feeling. Glamping has been one of those on-the-rise hospitality trends in recent years, and it has proven its mettle, as people gravitate to tricked-out and sometimes tony tents that are already set up (and that have amenities to enhance the outdoor experience). Get ready for...

THE INN TOWN CAMPGROUND... to go one better on the glamping scene. Not only does the new Nevada City destination, which debuted on July 1, have the touchstones of relaxed glamp-a-tude, including tents with bedside tables and electricity, but it is, wait for it, in town, so campers only need to stroll a little ways to find restaurants, bars, and shops. In short, you won't need to drive out into the woods to get a taste of a pastoral getaway.

THE COMMONS, a sizable heated building at the heart of the campground, boasts a kitchen, a camp store, and a place to do your laundry, while the choices on where to bed down cover the pine-scented gamut, from places to pitch your own tent to glamp'd tents that are all set up and ready for you to plop down. RV hookups? They're there. A bathhouse with an indoor shower and flush toilets? Yep. Other gather spots, like a BBQ area? You can either find a place to hangout with other campers or stay cozy in your designated slice of campground. 

BY THE BY... if you know the town's funky Outside Inn, then you know the people who've created this bucolic bastion just a hop/skip away from Nevada City's Broad Street.

Photo Credit: Brandon Everett]]>
<![CDATA[Catalina Island: Unlimited Fun Day Pass]]> Wed, 13 Jul 2016 06:49:41 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AvalonAerial_2015_2.jpg

DECIDING WHAT TO DO FIRST... on a day trip to Catalina Island can be deliciously tricky. After all, when the island is viewed from the mainland — say, from Rancho Palos Verdes, or another point near Los Angeles — it can seem, through the light fog, as though you can do it all in a day. There's a big "au contraire" there, of course, because once you step off into Avalon you're presented with numerous choices, both on the water and up in the flora- and fauna-filled hills (and, indeed, in the city of Avalon itself, which boasts restaurants, spas, and the historic Casino Building). What might be helpful, on the planning end for you and your pals, and the cash-saving end, too, is to line up an Unlimited Fun Day Pass ahead of your isle-sweet adventure. The pass, which debuted early in June, covers a caboodle of to-dos, to-dos covered by a single price: $199. Those on-the-island pursuits include...

THE FAMOUS GLASS BOTTOM BOAT, and the Undersea Expedition, and the Ocean Runner, and the Behind-the-Scenes tour of the Casino, and a Flying Fish Trip, and an Inland Expedition, and the way-up-high Zip Line Eco Tour, and more, more, more. The only challenge is to A) cram in as much good-times-ing as you can over the course of a day and B) get your party to agree on all the stuff you want to do over the course of your Catalina sojourn. You'll need to book in advance, and there are a few asterisks and things not included (some rentals and such). Will you be far too bushed after all of your adventure-having? There are hotel packages, too, to ponder (and come to a group consensus on).

Photo Credit: Santa Catalina Island Company]]>
<![CDATA[Vintage Weekend at an Art Deco Gem]]> Thu, 14 Jul 2016 17:13:03 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/artdecofestqm9292322.jpg

GUSSY UP AND GO: Do you still get a little dressy-dressy when you're going someplace? Oh, we don't mean you do the dressy-dressy thing with your arrival point in mind. Rather, you don some pearls, or a stylish hat, or a houndstooth jacket, for the sake of the journey, in addition to the destination. Jaunting about the planet in the Golden Age of Travel was very much a fashion affair, among other things, and few vessels were as vivacious on this end of the sartorial spectrum as the Queen Mary. Glance back at photos from the '30s and you'll see stars in their elegant best, simply swanning about the decks of the grand ocean-liner. Those dressy-dressy days live on each year during the Art Deco Festival, a three-day gathering devoted to gussying up, yes, but also the splendid, unparalleled architecture and design of one of the world's great Art Deco landmarks. Slip into your velvet heels or two-toned pumps and strut for...

LONG BEACH... over the Aug. 19 to 21 weekend. A confetti horn full of to-dos is on the schedule for the celebration, from dancing to period-cool bands (hello there, Dean Mora Orchestra, and greetings, The Lindy Sisters) to tours of the nook/cranny-packed ship. There are stay-over packages on the purported-to-be-haunted Queen Mary, which should give you time for all the thorough exploring you desire. But you'll do the dressy-dressy thing before Nancy-Drew-ing for ghosts, yes? The weekend is about design, and architecture, but clothing and cultural touchstones of the time, too. Best wear your dance-ready duds, the ones that look as though they sprang from 1934, the very year the Queen Mary was constructed alongside the River Clyde in Scotland.

Photo Credit: Art Deco Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Can-Can Confab: Santa Barbara French Fest]]> Mon, 11 Jul 2016 10:20:40 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*120/FrenchFestival1.jpg

IF YOU "OOH LA LA"... with effervescent ease, and you break out "au revoir" instead of goodbye, and you can spread a hunk of Brie on a piece of baguette in one fluid movement, then clearly you should be spending the day in the French countryside, eating and strolling and daydreaming. If such a lovely plan is not currently in the works for you, but you still want to get your "ooh la la" on, and maybe eat something baguette-like, and perhaps even wear a beret or something that's Left Bank chic, you can sashay your way to the American Riviera over the middle weekend in July. That's when the Santa Barbara French Festival unfolds, a two-dayer of a delight that is très, très venerable (well, if you count starting the 1980s as venerable, which we so do, with respect). The sweet, coo-ready centerpiece of the grand soiree is the Sunday Poodles & Pals Parade, but you can arrive earlier in the weekend for a caboodle of to-dos, to-dos brimming with Paris-panache by way of...

OAK PARK: That's where l'action is happening, and by "l'action" we mean crepe enjoyment, wine sipping, French books for sale, artworks on display, and a travel pavilion sure to stoke those "I've got to get to the Continent" dreams. Cajun music, African drumming, a drag revue, and about 30 more performing groups will be on the stage, summoning joy, music, and the spirit of summertime. As it is summertime, perhaps a beret would be too warm a fashion choice, but a jaunty scarf tied at the neck would be right on. Ready to call upon some café close to the Seine, but via Santa Barbara? Ooh la la, your information is here.

Photo Credit: Santa Barbara French Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Summer at The Inn at Furnace Creek]]> Wed, 13 Jul 2016 06:47:57 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/julyaugfurnacecreek12345.jpg

A NATIONAL PARK TO YOURSELF: Even if you arrive in Yellowstone National Park in the snowiest part of January, or Death Valley National Park in the heat of July, you won't ever truly have a national park all to yourself. True, traffic is sure to be lighter — often a lot lighter — than a national park during its peak season, and hotel rooms likely easier to get (if the hotel you want is open). But having a place sort of to yourself, or at least to yourself in a time when fewer people visit, does feel rather special.

THE QUIET... can feel more clear, the views can seem longer, and you can locate a hike or vista that just might be empty, or mostly so. And while the hotels inside Death Valley do not close the shutters when the three-digit temperatures rev up, The Inn at Furnace Creek does move to a "limited basis" of operation in July and August. Yes, that includes a few restricted services — the hotel's dining room keeps dinner-only hours as well as gratis coffee in the mornings — and the gift shop will take the afternoons off. This can all feel, though, a little slower in pace, delightfully so, if that's just the tonic you've been longing for in your go-go-go day-to-day world.

DO NOTE... that The Ranch at Furnace Creek, a pop down the road, also has a small store and services, so if you need to slip away for a quick shopping trip, you can, even at the height of summer. It's a time when Death Valley is slight less hub-bub-ier, and even The Inn at Furnace Creek slows it down, a bit, in deference to the toasty time of year. For some travelers, though, that's a sunny slice of unhurried bliss.

Photo Credit: Furnace Creek Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Opening: The California State Fair]]> Fri, 08 Jul 2016 07:35:31 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/212*120/fairridenightwheeee.jpg

TO FLIT ABOUT... from county fair to county fair would be a nearly full-time pursuit for the Golden Stater. For our counties are numerous, and each fair has its own vibe, and the whole carnival-fun calendar starts early in the year, in February, in Riverside County. In short? You'd need to clear your schedule to truly get a feel for them all, or, if not clear your schedule, plan several road trips to know what a county has to offer via its yearly party. Then, of course, you have the state fair, a tradition that stretches back to nearly the founding year of California itself (okay, just a couple of years after, in 1852). If you're planning on doing your county's fair, or you've already enjoyed it in 2016, and you want to take in the state spectacular, too, best get your pony out and trot for Sacramento, as the midway-merry proceedings open on...

FRIDAY, JULY 8: You'll make for the Cal Expo (of course, as it is the iconic home to our state fair), and you'll jump into a colorful caboodle of to-dos, from the $2 Taste of the Fair to the Cornhole Championship to a Dwight Yoakum show to Chaka Khan in concert to the pie-eating contest to the beer and wine competitions, too. It will hardly leave you any time to get your hands all cotton-candy-y (almost mandatory at any fair) or ride the Dizzy Dragon or Gravitron. Is this the year you finally visit the state fair, in addition to all of those county parties you regularly call upon? It's as timeless as Golden State celebrations come, and as flavorful, and as musical, and as piglet-ical, and as corn dog-ical, and as Ferris wheel-ical...

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Idyllwild Classic: Jazz in the Pines]]> Sun, 17 Jul 2016 12:21:01 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/jazzinthepines.jpg

THAT WINNING WEND: The pleasures of wending up a mountain are plentiful, especially, it seems, in the middle of August. That's when thermometers around Southern California are doing their very darndest to test the outer limits of the mercury, and the sunshine we love is so plentiful that we're seeking a little shade at the height of the day. A weekend spent in a cooler clime, a higher elevation, is clearly the ticket, and if terrific music is involved, and a great arts organization, and some history, and some top-notch performers? The wend up the mountain becomes even more winsome. Such is the case with that classic of the summer music calendar, Jazz in the Pines. Idyllwild's annual weekend-long music-tacular has been a staple of the San Jacinto community for nearly a quarter century, and that the Idyllwild Arts Foundation is behind the whole shebang just lends the loveliness more cultural cred. We said "weekend" earlier, but best make that a long weekend if you plan on attending, for the 23rd outing of Jazz in the Pines is scheduled for...

AUG. 19-21, 2016: The roster is a full one, from a Patrons Dance ("Magic in the Forest" is the theme) to sets by Los Hermanos Arango, Diane Schuur featuring Ernie Watts, and Richie Cole Alto Madness with The Jazz Project Big Band. Tickets? You'll best want to line those up, and you can go with either a single-day pass or one for both Saturday and Sunday. Enjoying smooth tunes in an alfresco, big-of-tree setting? It's not got "in the Pines" in its name for no reason. This is one of the state's most flow-filled, breeze-nice music weekends, a cool happening in August anticipated by many a jazz-loving Californian. That you get to be atop a mountain, or nearly, while appreciating the vibes only ups the general cool-a-tude of this long-running fest.

Photo Credit: Jazz in the Pines]]>
<![CDATA[Water Skiing to Catalina Island]]> Thu, 14 Jul 2016 17:15:46 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Brady-Hoggins-UpsCatalina.jpg

POINT A TO POINT B: If you want to move through space, covering distance, whether that distance is made up of a few feet or a thousand miles, there are typically an array of transportation options to consider. For example, making the journey from Northern California to Southern California, or vice versa, might entail an automobile, a bicycle, some train/bus action, or, if you had some time and wanted to commune with the coast or Central Valley, your walking shoes. But when Point A to Point B is covered by a goodly amount of ocean water, transportation choices rather narrow. You've got your classic boat, or a plane, or a helicopter, but if you're one of the intrepid competitors participating in the LA-to-Avalon Catalina Ski Race on Saturday, July 16, you've got your water skis. 

TRUE, TRUE, the distance between the mainland and Catalina Island is a pinch under 30 miles of beautiful ocean, and, true, we landlubbers often associate water ski action with lakes or coast-close settings. But the 68-year-old race takes on the open Pacific, in all its powerful glory, offering 20 classes in which to sign up. Oh yes, and one more consideration: The race is there-and-back, so the total miles covered top out at around 62 miles. It's some truly epic stuff, in the truest meaning of the word, and about as California a pursuit as surfing and downhill skiing. Want to simply watch? The place to be is near the Queen Mary, in Long Beach, very early in the morning on July 16.

Photo Credit: Catalina Ski Race/Brady Hoggins]]>
<![CDATA[Salty Snouts: Surf Dog Classes]]> Tue, 05 Jul 2016 22:11:10 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/2015SurfDogClassesLinzie2.jpg

A BEVY OF CANINE COURSES: Finding something instructional and life-enhancing to do with your furry BFF isn't too difficult. There are the classic training classes, the kind that help your pup know when to sit and know when to heel. There are dog-themed yoga seminars, which make sense, since every dog pretty much knows the downward dog pose like the back of their own paw. And dog dancing? It is definitely a delightful trend, one that is here to stay. But dog surfing just might be one of the more unusual pursuits to co-do alongside your barker, and finding someone to instruct you both isn't the easiest bone to wrestle from the toy box. Still, you only need look to one of the most famous surfing dog festivals in the world, the Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon, which takes place in Del Mar each September. The Boston Terriers and Bearded Collies don't simply take to the boards for the first time that day. There are...

LESSONS THROUGHOUT THE SUMMER, both of the surfing kind and those taking on stand-up paddleboarding. The GromMUTT Surf Dog Lessons begin with an on-the-land group class, and then a Fido-sweet foray into the waves with an instructor. The final class ahead of the big event is Aug. 28, and then, on Sunday, Sept. 11, the dogs'll be out, in their floaty vests, raising money for pets who need homes. The organization behind it all? The Helen Woodward Animal Center of Rancho Santa Fe. The chance to paddleboard with your ocean-loving pup? It doesn't come around all that often. This might just be the kind of bucket-list-y thing you've both been looking for, along the lines of dog yoga and dog dancing. Any recreation with your little lovey is time well spent, and spending it in service to other pooches? Yeah, that's way gnarly.

Photo Credit: Helen Woodward Animal Center]]>
<![CDATA[National Lighthouse Day at Point Cabrillo]]> Sun, 10 Jul 2016 10:29:50 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/pointcabrillovisitcalifornia.jpg

HAPPY NATIONAL LIGHTHOUSE DAY: One imagines, if lighthouses everywhere gathered together to mark their summertime holiday, they might request a cake in the shape of themselves. For a lighthouse, that classic building that sits on a bluff, casting illumination out onto the water, seems a fine template for a delicious dessert. But would the cake be towering in stature, like a lighthouse you might see on the east coast, or a bit shorter, as many lighthouses on our end of the country tend to be? We do hope that any celebrating lighthouses wouldn't quibble about the shape of their cake, for all have done, and do, important jobs, and should be so celebrated. Aug. 7 is the annual date, and a lighthouse near you may be doing something a bit special to honor the occasion. Point Cabrillo isn't letting the holiday slip by without casting its own light on the lovely day: There's a lens tour on Saturday, Aug. 6, which will provide lighthouse lovers a rare chance to see how the oh-so-powerful lamp works inside the historic building. It's an...

"OPERATIONAL FRESNEL LENS," and one that's been "beautifully restored," too. Your ticket — it's five bucks — helps the Mendocino Coast lighthouse stay shipshape (as lighthouses are rightly famous for being, generally). There's some info to know ahead of time, such as traveling with kids, and note this: This event only happens eight times each year. To make your visit on National Lighthouse Day Eve, though, feels just a little extra special. 

Photo Credit: Visit California]]>
<![CDATA[Seeing the Grand Tetons by Bike]]> Sat, 02 Jul 2016 14:14:30 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/1dee35f82d3c4f3db4b6446680790254.JPG.jpg

HIKING & BIKING: One of the most unique features of the Grand Tetons National Park - other than the majestic snow-capped peaks that rise straight from the valley floor - are the more than 100 miles of paved roads designed with cyclists in mind. Bring your own or rent for approximately $50 a day from nearby Jackson, Wyoming.

ALPINE ASCENT: While the majority of park visitors will enjoy the overlooks and hiking trails, the more adventurous will attempt to scale the higher elevations for a closeup view of the Teton Glacier. For those eyeing the latter, plan to train in advance and spend a little on a mountaineering guide company. There are several offering multi-day trips that will undoubtedly be memorable.

SNAKE RIVER: After your bike ride and rappelling, how about a little rafting? From late May through late September you can book a guided tour through a number of companies that will give you amazing views of the mountain range as well as some of the park's wildlife: bald eagle, moose or beavers.

Photo Credit: Becky Stickney
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<![CDATA[The Elusive Beehive Geyser]]> Sat, 02 Jul 2016 14:14:50 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/c2361097c8b5462cb5b009d50930eb11.JPG.jpg

GEYSERS & HOT SPRINGS: Ask any geyser gazer and he or she will tell you that the real reason for visiting Yellowstone National Park has less to do with the "bison jams" and more to do with the park's hydrothermal activity. Half of the world's geysers are located here and the sights and sounds of an eruption are breathtaking.

THE BEEHIVE: Sure, you've heard of Old Faithful and it's consistency but while you're at the Upper Geyser Basin, consider checking out Beehive Geyser. Located near the world-famous Old Faithful, this geyser only erupts once a day but as it does, it shoots water higher than its better-known cousin and for a longer duration. Also, visitors on the boardwalk near the Beehive will actually get wet. No benches here.

A SPRING OF MANY COLORS: Don't fill up your camera card until you've stopped at the Grand Prismatic Spring. One of the earliest discovered, it's also the park's largest. However, we'll guarantee the spring's colorful steam and its many hues will be what you remember most.

Photo Credit: Becky Stickney]]>
<![CDATA[Visiting Yellowstone National Park]]> Sat, 02 Jul 2016 11:49:38 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/cd9b2f4d6f7a41fcaef2ceb47c50b8e6.JPG.jpg Images of Yellowstone National Park in June 2016

Photo Credit: Becky Stickney]]>
<![CDATA[Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park]]> Tue, 05 Jul 2016 06:33:55 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/cd9b2f4d6f7a41fcaef2ceb47c50b8e6.JPG.jpg

INSPIRING VIEWS: From Artist Point to the base of the steps on Uncle Tom's Trail, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park is a must-see for any traveler. Sit on a wooden bench and take in what is arguably the best viewpoint of the entire area at Artist Point. Cutting through the peaks is the Yellowstone River flowing from the Lower Falls, described as twice the size of Niagara. You'll quickly realize why millions travel from around the world to sit at this very spot.

SEE IT ALL UP CLOSE: Once you've taken in the view from above, why not get closer to the 63,500 gallons per second (at peak) of roaring river water? Uncle Tom's Trail, with its 300 steps, will give you a viewpoint unlike any other in the park. First built by concessioner "Uncle Tom" Richardson in 1898, the path used rope ladders. Today, the trail involves a series of steep, wooden staircases that descend 500 feet into the canyon below.

MOOSE DROOL: When you're ready to eat, you won't find many high-end restaurants inside the park. Instead, plan ahead. Stop at one of the Xanterra deli's or grocery stores and grab some locally-brewed ale with a few of your favorite foods before you set out for the day's adventure. The YNP app offers a listing of picnic areas with each one undoubtedly offering a first-class view.

Photo Credit: Becky Stickney]]>
<![CDATA[Drakesbad: Old-Fashioned Ranch Charm]]> Thu, 07 Jul 2016 07:18:11 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/215*120/drakesbadlassennps.jpg

JUST ABOUT EVERY ARTICLE... detailing the pleasures of summer takes a sepia-toned nostalgic view of the past. Well, maybe not "sepia-toned" as much as "Polaroid-like," for the recent past of the '60s, '70s, and '80s is the past that many of today's adults pine for, with feeling. They recall looking for bugs into the twilight, and eating sticky ice cream treats next to a stream, and, most of all, not being so easily summoned via email or other messaging (save the timeless messaging of a parent standing on the porch and calling them inside at sundown). Where does one find such Polaroid-like larks nowadays, if we don't work to create them ourselves? Making for a vacation spot that is mostly without electricity has a way of doing the trick. There aren't many places that forgo power in their guest rooms, but Drakesbad Guest Ranch in Lassen Volcanic National Park is one. And it is open, for visitors...

THROUGH OCT. 10, 2016: "All accommodations are rustic and quaint, most without electricity," says the historic lodging, which has roots in the beginning of the last century. So how does a family fill the hours not spent with the usual at-home pastimes, several that likely involve being plugged in? Horseback riding, swimming, sing-alongs, the making of campfire s'mores, and all of this into-the-woods doings that we remember, or wish we did, reign at the national park spot. Oh yes, and then there's the fact that a leisurely drive will take you by mudpots and steam features and the other wonders of Lassen. It's almost as if you've jetted back to 1974, and you've got your knee socks on, and denim shorts, and you're planning a day exploring nature and perhaps putting on a skit after dinner. Feeling the nostalgia? It's a real thing at Drakesbad, a California classic with one hiking boot in the past.

Photo Credit: NPS]]>
<![CDATA[Julian's Joyful Fourth of July]]> Sun, 03 Jul 2016 16:12:52 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/julian4th98732.jpg

PARADE-STYLE WAVING: If you want to dig into facts, here's one fact that is fairly indisputable: You can wave at strangers all year long, if you so choose. But summertime is the prime time for raising your hand in friendly greeting, for that is the time of year we visit theme parks in greater numbers (it's fun to wave at people while riding a carousel) and throw some community-style parades. The Fourth of July is a major one, and the notion of grabbing some curb, and waving at people riding the fire engines and floats in a small-town-y spectacular has the ability to charm even the most committed non-wavers among us. There's something sweet about making a connection through a wave, and old-fashioned, too, and few Fourth of July events are as old-fashioned, at least 'round California, as the annual Julian Fourth of July parade. The step-off time is...

HIGH NOON, but the Old West history starts early, at 10 o'clock. Look for revelers in ye olde costumes to re-enact some of Julian's rootin', tootin' past, listen for a bagpipe presentation, and then look up as "vintage aircraft" fly overhead. Beyond the parade and pre-parade entertainment keep an eye out for a quilt show, drawings and prizes, barbecue for sale, and other holiday-esque touches. Few occasions on the calendar stir up our longing for nostalgia like Independence Day, and few days of the year inspire us to wave at people riding in parades. Best practice your wrist motion, and your smile, because few summer happenings encourage waving like the stars-and-stripes-laden Julian Fourth of July Parade.

Photo Credit: Julian Fourth of July]]>
<![CDATA[Laguna Beach Must: Festival of Arts]]> Thu, 07 Jul 2016 15:17:37 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/FOA_LookingAtArt_RonAzevedo.jpg

THE RITES OF SUMMER... so often revolve around A) food straight from the icebox and B) some sort of water, whether it is a lake or a stream or a sprinklerhead. But let us give love to the tradition of the grand and time-honored art festival, the kind of happening that takes place in a location esteemed for nurturing creativity of all sorts. Laguna Beach just happens to be such a destination, but it didn't come by this honor in the last year or two. Rather, it has been the home to The Pageant of the Masters for over eight decades, and the just-as-venerable Festival of Arts. That's thanks in large part to the artist enclaves that have popped up in the waves-adjacent burg over the year, as well as many locals working to create events that reflect the town's devotion to paint and clay and drama and photography. To dip into that delightfulness, and see hundreds of examples of local artworks, make for the famous...

FESTIVAL OF ARTS FINE ART SHOW: It opens for its 84th season on Tuesday, July 5, when it will host "140 of Orange County's most talented artists." Jewelry, ceramics, textiles, mixed media, and other forms of expression share the scene with watercolors and collages and paintings. It isn't all about artwork viewing, though, at the festival; wine and chocolate tastings, live jazz tuneage, classes for both adults and kids, and informative tours are also on the schedule. If Laguna Beach is on your road trip map from July 5 through the last day of August, a peek at what's on the easels, walls, and pottery wheels is a peek at what's happening now, on the art scene, and a peek long into the past. Soon this celebration will mark its centennial, a true stalwart on the Golden State arts scene. That the sand is only a few blocks away, and great restaurants, too, fills out the other traditions of summertime nicely.

Photo Credit: Ron Azevedo]]>
<![CDATA[Happy 50th, Robert Mondavi Winery]]> Tue, 05 Jul 2016 22:10:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/RobertMondaviWineryFront16.jpg

A NICE GLASS OF WINE, raised in a celebratory toast, has become symbolic of many occasions, but perhaps principally an anniversary. Spying a couple across a restaurant with a wine bucket nearby, or some long-stemmed glasses, is a common sight in restaurants where anniversary-sweet dinners are a nightly occurrence. But what happens when the winery behind the bottle in the bucket reaches an important milestone, like a golden anniversary? It probably wouldn't do to have all of the winery's fans crowd around a table-for-two in romantic restaurant, but those fans could easily attend an anniversary festivity upon the winery's expansive grounds. Such will be the case on Saturday, July 16 when Robert Mondavi Winery hosts a grand 50th anniversary party, one that honors the Oakville landmark's 1966 roots and all of the fine vinos that represent the winery nowadays. The centerpiece of the gathering is a...

MULTI-TIERED WINE CAKE, one that shall include "bottles from each vintage starting in 1966." If you're over 21, you'll also receive a keepsake glass, and a trio of wine pours (all gratis). Demos and seminars built around the art of turning grapes into liquid loveliness are also on the schedule, as are vineyard buggy rides, ballet folklorico presentations, and live tunes. As for the wine-complementing edibles? Chefs shall be demo-ing and food trucks shall be on the grounds, so come ready to nosh upon ice cream, cupcakes, barbecue, and pizza. 

FREE: Oh, and as for that admission price? You read it right: It's nothing to attend, but you'll want to arrive early on to make sure you get in. And on the topic of getting in: Parking spaces are not limitless, yet another reason to rise, shine, and start your Napa Valley adventure early. It's true that many wine-nice anniversaries are celebrated at nighttime, but the Mondavi 50th is very much about a noontime start.

Photo Credit: Robert Mondavi Winery]]>
<![CDATA[Fest Time: Music, Oysters, Avila Beach]]> Mon, 27 Jun 2016 15:52:03 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/219*120/oyster111.jpg

THE BEST SPOT... to slurp an oyster is wherever you come across the oyster, whether you're at a raw bar, or in a posh restaurant, or at a cookout not far from the shoreline. Oyster aficionados aren't going to get fussy about their favorite food, but if it can be well-prepared, and arrive with the traditional accouterments (horseradish, lemon), so much the better. Picture, though, actually learning how to shuck the briny gems, and perhaps even competing for an amateur or pro title, and cash, too. That's how serious — and seriously lighthearted — the Central Coast Oyster Festival is in its approach to the pop-it-open, slurp-it-down bivalve. The Avila Beach-based bash has been around for a half decade, and it is preparing to go into its 5th outing on Saturday, July 9 with bands, eats, local wines, and a...

SHUCKING CONTEST: How fast are you at getting to the good stuff? There could be a cash prize awaiting you. If you're more into the supping the salty icon, sample the glistening oysters from Grassy Bar Oyster Co. (you'll be dining upon finds from "the southern reaches of Morro Bay"). If oysters are only sort of your jam, but you dig brats and sandwiches and dessert, other sorts of edibles shall be available as well. And naturally there will be Central Coast-born libations from Castoro Cellars, Cypher Winery, and more, as well as live tunes by which to shuck and/or slurp and/or sip. As for the general sunny/breezy atmosphere that Avila Beach so deliciously delivers? That can't be packaged, of course, but it can be deftly delighted in, especially after a feast of briny bites and a locally made, oyster-enhancing beverage.

Photo Credit: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Pony Party at L'Auberge Del Mar]]> Tue, 05 Jul 2016 08:09:13 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/LDM_OpeningDayAfterParty_poolcloseup.jpg

HORSES, THEN HOBNOBBING: When you're a summertime tradition that's stuck around, grandly and gaily, for the better part of a century, you likely can make some recommendations in the whole "throwing a fabulous time" category. And the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club could certainly do so, having roots with both the players of Hollywood's Golden Age (Bing Crosby played a pivotal role in its beginning) and the stunner of a seaside community it has long called home. "Long called home" here translates to "since 1937," and the major part of that longevity is due to the ponies who run during July and August. But another important part of the club's success story? The festive spirit of the summer meet. Parties, fancy dress opportunities, and other happenings festoon the multi-week equestrian event, and opening day, after the races, puts the whole socializing scene into a full trot. It's the...

OPENING DAY AFTER PARTY... at L'Auberge Del Mar, a luxe hotel that's about a five-minute drive from the Thoroughbred Club. As always, it will throw an opening night bash, one that includes "jockey-themed entertainment" as well as bites straight from the posh California cuisine annals. Will you discuss the ponies you rooted for during the Friday, July 15 soiree? Or how you decided on the design of your opening-day hat? Or what you might name a competitive horse if you ever had the opportunity? (That makes for a lively after-the-track topic.) Tickets are $229 apiece, but if you can't make the posh lark, note that L'Auberge Del Mar is one of the swanky local spots to bed down for the night after a day of cheering on the mane action at one of the Golden State's most hallowed pony palaces.

Photo Credit: L'Auberge Del Mar]]>
<![CDATA[Gilroy Delish: Garli-que BBQ Challenge]]> Fri, 24 Jun 2016 12:11:51 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP_154546494337.jpg

BARBECUE SAUCE INGREDIENTS... can run the gourmet gamut, from heirloom tomatoes to cinnamon powder to organic honey to pure maple syrup. It all depends on the tastes of the person helming the grill, and whether the cook's creation will rock a sweeter rub, or a fiery sauce, very much depends upon what got slathered upon the meat in the early stages of preparation. But whether you prefer to go sweet or spicy with your own barbecue, it isn't difficult to see how a garlic clove or two can transform most any barbecue dish. The zestful bulb has a way of enhancing a pulled pork sandwich or chicken breast, without going the overpowering route. If you've got a major way with both the grill and garlic, and you'd like to show off your stuff for glory and cash, best throw your oven mitt into the ring at the...

GILROY GARLIC FESTIVAL: The celebrated food festival, which heats it up over the final weekend in July, has sent out the call for barbecue buffs looking to compete. There's a pro category, and five categories in which the teams shall square off, savory-style. One of the categories indeed involves the superstar clove -- it's called "Anything Goes with Garlic" -- and the only ask is that the chefs incorporate a bulb of garlic. The event is overseen by the venerable Kansas City Barbecue Society, and comes with thousands in cash prizes and trophies. Want to compete as an amateur? Best look in to joining the Backyard BBQ Rib Throwdown, which takes place on Sunday, July 31.

TROPHY TIME: If you snagged such a trophy, for your Super Mondo Garlicky Baby Back Ribs, where would you proudly display it? We have to assume you'll have a shelf built, on the patio, just a few feet from your grill and favorite tongs.

Photo Credit: Whitney Curtis/Invision/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Champagne Dinner at the Mission Inn]]> Wed, 06 Jul 2016 08:39:32 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/missioninnbeautysunsetbubbly.jpg

A GLASS OF SOMETHING SPARKLY: There are many picturesque spots in which to quaff a glass of Champagne. You can do so among the vines where the grapes were grown, if you make your way to France. You can do so on a boat, or with the ocean as a backdrop, perhaps with sunset thrown in for good measure. And finding a stunner of a structure, one with lofty towers and grand colonnades and castle-like touches, definitely weaves well with most bubbly-based fantasies. If your daydream has long been to quaff French bubbles in a castle, you'll come pretty darn close in Riverside on Friday, July 8. Yes, that's Riverside, as in California, and the castle we speak of is, of course, the Mission Inn. The hotel is throwing an Under the Stars Champagne Dinner, and the "under the stars" part isn't simply poetic fancy. The swanky summer truly will be served under the night sky, at the landmark's International Rotunda. And while French sips will be a star, so will dishes from...

THE MISSION INN'S FOUR RESTAURANTS: Each course, and dessert, will feature "a signature dish" created by one of the hotel's four eateries. A Champagne reception starts off the $150 evening, and a docent-led talk about the hotel's history will add further flavor to the proceedings. There are five courses in all, plus bubbly, plus hotel stories, plus the general feel of dining in a multi-room castle, only a castle built in the citrus-y heart of the Inland Empire. Call it a Gallic Golden State kind of gala, one that has all the trimmings of a party on the Continent, with the closeness, and charm, of historic Riverside. For information call the hotel at 951-784-0300.

Photo Credit: Mission Inn/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Flower Fantasy: LotusFest! 2016]]> Wed, 22 Jun 2016 12:24:59 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/LotuslandMother.jpg

WHAT'S IN A NAME: Most public gardens, or private nature spreads, tend to have names that reflect an early proprietor of the garden, or an early owner of the estate, or a moniker that pays tribute to the general climate or larger area in which the garden exists. The occasional garden, however, incorporates a single plant or flower in its handle, which can only lead the potential visitor to one conclusion: You're going to see that flower or plant, in profusion, should you arrive at the right time of year. Case in point: Ganna Walska Lotusland, in Santa Barbara, indeed has "lotus" in its very name, but the mythical bloom only makes its magnificent presence known during particular times of the year. At Lotusland, that time of year falls during July and August, and so pretty are those pinky petals that the historic estate throws a party to welcome them. Lotusfest 2016 is that party, and will unfold its to-dos and activities, much like its namesake unfolds, on...

SATURDAY, JULY 9: There shall be wine from area vintners — this is Santa Barbara, after all — and there shall be savory bites, to keep your energy up for all of that lotus-directed appreciating you intend to do. It's an afternoon affair, with all the charms of a traditional garden soiree, and tickets are a pinch over a hundred bucks for non-members. As for the lotus love? You'll see 'em in their open-to-the-sky form. But here's a lotus fact to know, just in case you ever long to see the blossoms by moonlight: Like human beings, lotuses take a rest after dark. They don't tuck into bed, but they do tuck those petals away, an age-old rite that further lends the lotus its well-deserved aura of mystery.

Photo Credit: Ganna Walska Lotusland]]>
<![CDATA[Surfing with the Chef in Carlsbad]]> Tue, 21 Jun 2016 11:13:43 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Surfingwiththechef123.jpg

CHEF SIGHTING: When staying at a luxe hotel, where are some of the places you might run into the top toque on the property? The executive chef might stop by your table during dinner, to see if the lamb was to your liking, for sure. That's probably the way most guests encounter a chef, via an impromptu tableside conversation. What's rather rarer, though, is joining a fine hotel's executive chef on the beach for a bit of surfing, and then doing some cooking together. But Chef Pierre Albaladejo of Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad is just that rare chef. Raised in the South of France, Chef Albaladejo is an enthusiastic surfer, and it is a beloved pursuit that he is sharing with guests via the Surfing with the Chef program. You won't just be slipping into a wetsuit and wading into the nearby Pacific Ocean, however; there are several parts to the program, including starting the salty adventure with the most important meal of the day. Indeed...

WE'RE TALKING BREAKFAST... here, but you won't be waiting at a table for Chef to emerge from the kitchen, plates in hand. You'll join him at the stoves while you learn what techniques he employs, then, after a hearty meal, it is surf time at a Carlsbad stretch of sand. A beach meal follows — Chef Albaladejo will prepare it there —and you'll depart not only laden with tips of the surfing and cooking kind, but your own longboard, too. Will you need to find room in your car, or on the plane, for your new surfboard? Nope. The hotel will ship it to you. The only question that remains is this: How will future tableside chats with a chef live up to actually surfing with a chef? Well, they're still pretty cool, and nothing can dim that. But hanging ten with a gentleman typically rocking a toque is a pretty singular getaway experience, one that isn't easily replicated.

Photo Credit: Park Hyatta Aviara Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Palm Springs Tram: Military Days]]> Mon, 20 Jun 2016 12:31:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/pstramway1234.jpg

JULY GRATITUDE: When summer arrives, so do the three-digit temperatures around the Coachella Valley. Wait... what? Summer-style temps actually have a way of showing up in the springtime? You're absolutely correct. It doesn't suddenly become warmish as Independence Day grows nearer; rather, toastier days can begin in April. All that said, July really has a lock on roasty Palm Springs afternoons, the kind when a mister and a hand fan and a glass of iced tea are the three things many a glistening human is searching out. That's where the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway comes in, what with its admirable ability to whisk overly hot people to a location nearly 6,000 feet above where the tram leaves the valley. And to get through July, and to honor the meaning behind Independence Day, and to say "thank you" to those who serve, the tram is hosting "Military Days" through the entire month. Yes, that does mean...

FREE ADMISSION... for military personnel over the 31 days of July, and not just around Fourth of July weekend. You'll want to have your ID to show at the ticket counter, and you'll want to let any guests joining you that they'll get 25% off (and that's up to six guests, which is pretty dang great). So what can you do at the top? Explore Mount San Jacinto State Park via the 50-plus miles of trails, or have lunch at Mountain Station, which has both a quick-grab cafe as well as a sit-down restaurant (with incredible views of the Coachella Valley). And are summer hours a bit different at the tram? They are, with slightly later cars on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as an early start on Friday mornings. It's a lovely show of gratitude for the our military members and their loved ones and friends, and an easy route to staving off some of those thermometer-testing summer days. A mountain trip, one that can happen in mere minutes, is always kind of the solution come July, and for free? Even sweeter.

Photo Credit: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway]]>
<![CDATA[Bennett Juniper: 4,000-Year-Old Wonder]]> Sat, 18 Jun 2016 06:55:09 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/bennettjuniper123.jpg

TREE TREK: Planning a vacation solely around visiting a magnificent and stately shrub isn't unheard of; in fact, many an adventurer regularly plots to call upon the General Sherman, that superstar sequoia, or the Torrey Pines near La Jolla. And, yes, even trees that have been gussied up, as in the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, make it onto some vacationers' travel itineraries. But few leafy living things garner the attention of California's very (very very) old trees. For sure, the General Sherman and the Torrey Pines do qualify when it comes to being of an esteemed age, as do the redwoods and those Bristlecone Pines of the Inyo National Forest. One of the oldest trees around, however, in the Golden State or anywhere, can't be admired for much of the year, at least not in person. If you're patient, and you plan, you can call upon the Bennett Juniper when the time is right (in other words, when the road in is accessible). And the time is getting righter, for...

THE MIDDLE OF JUNE... is generally when Bennett buffs may visit the protected tree, a tree of some age. The beautiful juniper is "believed by some to be 4,000 years old," says the Save the Redwoods League, which oversees the Bennett Juniper Stewardship Project. Standing at some 8,400 feet, the Bennett Juniper was named for naturalist Clarence Bennett, and is only accessible by the public for just a little less than half the year. Best call first to make sure the route is open and read all the to-knows before packing the car (of course there's no climbing on the tree, which almost can go without saying, but we're repeating it).

THE BENNETT... isn't alone, as there are other ancient junipers in the area, and its ability to weather the weather, whether that means freeze or breeze, is impressive. It's a fine tree to know, or at least make the acquaintance of, and your window to do so is just ahead. The Bennett Juniper is patient; after all, it has grown, and thrived, in the Sierra about four millennia, which is nothing to shake a branch at, no sirree.

Photo Credit: Save the Redwoods League]]>
<![CDATA[Reds Meadow: 'Little Yosemite' to Open]]> Fri, 17 Jun 2016 07:04:07 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/RedsMeadowcourtesyofLaraKaylorVisitMammoth.JPG

FAREWELL, WINTER SNOW: It seems strange to finally bid the flakes of wintertime goodbye just days ahead of summer's official arrival, but that's what's happening around Reds Meadow and Devils Postpile National Monument. Tucked up high in the Sierra, and not all that far from Mammoth Mountain, the area sees a substantial amount of snowfall each year, so much so that its opening can happen in May or even June. The latter date is the case for 2016, thanks to the impressive and needed precipitation of the 2015-2016 winter season. But the snow clearing is just about done, and soon summer revelers can enjoy both the column-cool Devils Postpile and the waterfall-lush Reds Meadow region, which has been dubbed in some quarters as "Little Yosemite."

LITTLE YOSEMITE... is a sweet title to bear, and it feels natural, thanks to the "crystal-clear streams, sparkling lakes and majestic forests," per the Visit Mammoth people, not to mention a septet of campgrounds. As for Devils Postpile National Monument? It is among the most geometric of natural wonders, thanks to the spectacular columnar basalt (if you're picturing a bunch of drinking straws all lined up, only 60-foot drinking straws that aren't hollow but are made of hard, eons-old basalt, you're in the right visual territory). You won't want to miss Yosemite, as in the actual Yosemite National Park, if you're tooling around the Sierra, but swinging by Reds Meadow to love upon Little Yosemite, and those ancient basalt columns, is a recommended side trip. Or a main trip, if you don't have much time to spare.

OPENING DATE? We got swept away in alpine mountain dreams of streams and natural wonders, as one does, so apologies. Opening date for both destinations is Saturday, June 18.

Photo Credit: Lara Kaylor/Visit Mammoth]]>
<![CDATA[Mountain Sounds: Julian Blues Bash]]> Fri, 17 Jun 2016 11:13:54 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/guitar11.jpg

THE PERFECT RECIPE: While your local bookstore likely has a full shelf or two of cookbooks, tomes that detail all the various measurements for the ideal batch of cookies or lasagna, you probably won't find a book detailing the perfect recipe for a music show. And, true, tastes do vary in that department, but let's all warmly agree on this: If you take a winery in a mountain-sweet setting, and you throw in the last Saturday of springtime, and you add a daylong music lark that's been around for the better part of two decades, well, bingo: You're going to come up with a mighty savory dish. And that particular dish, with all of its delicious parts, will be served on Saturday, June 18 when the Julian Blues Bash breaks out the grooves and flows for its 18th year.

SO THAT'S A SNAP TO REMEMBER: 18th year, June 18, and while tickets are no longer available online, you can pick one up there, on the day-of, for forty bucks. Some of the artists on the line-up include The McCoy Brothers Band, The Alastair Greene Band, and Kim Simmonds & Savoy Brown. And for sure, there's an all-star jam session as evening falls (for what would a bluesy come-together be without a bit of jamming from the stage?). It's a summer's-just-ahead tradition for the higher-elevation area, one that is kind of the quintessential warm-weather sound party. It's a busy weekend for Julian, by the by; the open house at the Hubbell House, a local architectural gem, is scheduled for Sunday, June 19.

Photo Credit: Guitar]]>
<![CDATA[Terranea Resort: Music on the Meadows]]> Wed, 15 Jun 2016 15:51:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/TerraneaResortaerial.jpg

FATHER'S DAY WEEKEND... is frequently spent on a grassy or nature-lovely area, at least when it comes to traditional outings. There's the round of golf with your dad, or heading down to the batting cages, or setting up the barbecue to grill some burgers. But recent years have seen another trend tied to the holiday, one that also involves the outdoors but something else, too: live tunes. Alfresco concerts that are cool enough to invite your forever-cool dad to are springing up around the third weekend in June, and they're open to everyone who wants to buy a ticket, including those not marking the holiday. Whether that sounds like a pursuit made for your pops, or you just dig singer-songwriter Colin Hay and Pacific-bracing air, best pencil in Saturday, June 18. You've got a date with...

MUSIC ON THE MEADOWS... at Terranea Resort. That's right, this is the pretty events area at the Rancho Palos Verdes getaway, a stretch made for sound-listening, brew- or wine-sipping enjoyment. And, yep, we did say Colin Hay, of Men at Work (and an exception solo run, one filled with thought-provoking ditties of the most lyrical sort). He'll be playing the afternoon-long happening, along with other musical acts, so book your package, grab your Terranea blanket (this is a definite spread-the-blanket-out kind of outdoor bash), find a beverage, and dig into your gratis prepackaged lunch. Want to look into staying over? There's a code for that. Want to treat dad to something in an under-the-sky setting that's a bit different from golf and barbecuing, as time-honored as those are? An ocean-close afternoon concert, on Father's Day Eve, may just fit that bonding bill.

Photo Credit: Terranea Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Bellagio Gardens: Go Under the Sea]]> Tue, 14 Jun 2016 10:46:32 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Summer_Display_West_Garden.jpg

SIN CITY SPLASH: There's little quibble in saying that many a Las Vegas visitor is thinking about water. They're pondering a visit to the famous fountains of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, or they're thinking about lounging next to the pool at their resort, or they're in search of a bottle of water after a strenuous midday stroll along The Strip. But there's a new destination that's all about aqua, and it happens to be a short walk off Las Vegas Boulevard. And "new" it isn't, exactly, though a part of it definitely is, and how. But, like an ocean wave, it won't stay still for long before receding back into the horizon. It's the... 

TREASURES OF THE DEEP... display at the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Garden, and it is bubbling through Saturday, Sept. 10. As with all of the Bellagio garden spectaculars, Treasures of the Deep is elaborate, detailed, and brimming with several distinct, design-thorough parts. (If you're thinking back to past garden themes, like the autumn one, with its giant flowery rocking horse and personality-filled tree, you're on the right track.) The ocean-nifty features include a 35-foot "sunken" ship, a mermaid (made of carnations and sand), a coral reef, and a pair of arching aquariums that serve as the dramatic entryway to the garden space. A whale created from succulents — about 1,000 of 'em — stretches some 14 feet, while colorful jellies dot the display.

WATER IN THE DESERT: So, where's the water at? Yes, the Fountains at Bellagio contain H2O, and so does the pool at your hotel, but a certain garden inside the Bellagio will keep the cool waves flowing through the Saturday after Labor Day. One bonus, beyond its free-to-get-in price? The garden is open 24 hours a day, for those looking to cool it down at 3 in the morning.

Photo Credit: Kelly McKeon/Bellagio]]>
<![CDATA[Lavender of the Central Coast]]> Mon, 13 Jun 2016 13:16:17 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/lavfieldCredit_CentralCoastLavender2.jpg

THAT PEACEFUL PLACE: Few destinations are as tranquil as a bloom-laden field of lavishly purple lavender. Oh, there might be a bit of unruffledness, but those ruffles come from the breezes that play through the tall stalks. It is so sweet a sight that it regularly makes calendars and greeting cards, and travel shows frequently send mavens of summery smells out in search of lavender farms. There are a few of those around the Golden State, and some major lavender-themed larks, too. Ojai, being home to a number of purply places, hosts a lavender festival near the end of June, and Paso Robles? Why that is up in July. July 9, in fact, is 2016 date, the date of the 8th annual...

CENTRAL COAST LAVENDER FESTIVAL: As with many gourmet and nature-nice gatherings — think of the famous Olive Festival and tons of wine to-dos — the Lavender Festival will flower in City Park. Over 100 vendors are expected at the Saturday scene, vendors purveying in all manner of lavender loveliness. Need sachets, soaps, and such? You'll fill your trunk, or at least your passenger seat, with goodies made for the bathroom or linen shelf. Tunes and talks focused upon lavender and lavender lovers (hint: bees) are part of the daylong fun as well. Cost to attend? Free. Sniffing hue-happy herbs as you wander by tables? Also free. Daydreaming of standing in a calendar-worthy lavender field? Always free. Picking up a few vinegars for the kitchen or bubbles for the bath? That'll take some cash, so be sure to arrive ready to get your fill of the fragrant summertime wonder herb.

Photo Credit: Central Coast Lavender Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Glam New: Sheraton Grand Los Angeles]]> Sat, 11 Jun 2016 07:41:17 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sheratongranddowntown123.jpg

MAJOR RENOVATION: It's true that buds become full-fledged flowers in the springtime, but sometimes other things beyond the plants in our gardens can flower, and unfold, and become something new and rather spectacular. Look to the Sheraton Los Angeles Hotel, which, in April, that floweriest of months, spread its proverbial petals and became, officially, something else: a Sheraton Grand. Sheraton Hotels & Resorts bestowed the swanky designation after the property underwent a full-scale $75-million renovation, one that buffed up all 496 suites and guest rooms. The private spaces weren't the only spots to receive the tony makeover; the lobby and meeting rooms, too, were given a thorough rethinking and a signature hue: gold. Pillars and other details are flush with sparkle, or at least a metallic aesthetic, one that feels like a sophisticated take on chic '70s styling as seen through some future-forward prism.

THE DINING EXPERIENCE... features a coffee shop lobby by day and bar by night (look for signature sips in the "Paired" menu, a Sheraton Grand staple). District on the Bloc is the new restaurant on the Plaza Level, one that features sustainable ingredients in dishes like chile-miso cured beef carpaccio and purple potato gnocchi. "Plaza Level" might suggest there's a rooftop deck nearby, a deck made for lingering as one looks upon LA (and rhapsodizes about the sights seen, if the person wishes), and indeed, there is one. As for where the Sheraton Grand sits? It's part of The Bloc, the site of the downtown Macy's, which itself is undergoing a major re-imagining. The hotel's redo is a look at more redos to come in that immediate area, and one that came to full flower in, appropriately enough, the springtime.

Photo Credit: Sheraton Grand]]>
<![CDATA[Disneyland Plans to Open New Hotel]]> Fri, 10 Jun 2016 13:58:29 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/193*120/06.07.16_Disney-Proposed-Hotel-01.jpg

A new Disney-owned luxury hotel close to the Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks was proposed this week in Anaheim, California.

If approved, the 700-room hotel would be the first new hotel built on Disneyland property in almost two decades.

The planned hotel would be built on 10 acres at 1401 Disneyland Drive and its construction would coincide with the building of the new Star Wars section of the Disneyland theme park.

"This new flagship hotel would create thousands of jobs and benefit Anaheim with more than $750 million in additional tax revenue over the next four decades, while helping the city reach its stated goal of attracting more high-end visitors,"  Disney spokeswoman Suzi Brown said in a written statement.

The current plans include a rooftop restaurant, kids play area, pools and other amenities.

Disneyland currently operates the Disneyland Grand California Hotel & Spa, the Disneyland Hotel and the Disneyland Paradise Pier Hotel.

Building the hotel would remove 10 acres currently used for parking, the Los Angeles Times reports.

However, the news site added that Disney officials have plans for another parking structure and added transit center.

The hotel is slated to open in 2021.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Disneyland]]>
<![CDATA[New: Hotel Carmel Debuts]]> Fri, 10 Jun 2016 13:30:10 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Hotel_Carmel_Lobby_2_1253.jpg The 27-room boutique inn debuts after a refresh.

Photo Credit: Hotel Carmel]]>
<![CDATA[Indian Wells Getaway: Sunshine on Sale]]> Fri, 24 Jun 2016 12:52:14 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Hyatt-Regency-Indian-Wells-Adult-Pool.jpg

MEASURING SUNSHINE... doesn't just exist in the minds of sci-fi writers and artists who like to think about light in poetic terms. It can be done, at least in terms of calculating the kilowatt output of a solar panel or how much daylight we have over the course of any given day (just to name a few different regularly employed yardsticks). But how do you measure the quality and intensity of sunshine on vacation? That's a bit trickier, and more subjective, but pretty much anyone would vow that sunlight on a January day in snow country is rather more filtered than sunshine savored poolside in June in the desert. If the second version is more to your liking, and you adore short bouts of beautiful, lemony sunbeam-strong goodness (while wearing your SPF lotion and sunhat, of course), best make for Indian Wells and the new...

SUNSHINE ON SALE... package at Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa. Okay, yes, the sunshine is the free part — it is always free, no admission required, to do a little basking wherever you are — but the deal comes from snagging a third night after you pay for two. There's the recently introduced DesertPipe (a go-fast water slide) and seven pools to linger by, on the soak-up-the-rays front. On the how-much-is-it front? Nightly rates are starting at a hundred bucks. For all the details, don your swimsuit and slide over here, lovers of summertime heat created by our planet's nearest star. 

Photo Credit: Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa]]>
<![CDATA[Color Your Park Coloring Book]]> Thu, 09 Jun 2016 14:02:29 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/colorparknps12345.jpg

COLORING BOOKS... for adults have featured a multitude of subjects in the last year or two, from citified skyscrapers to flower-lush gardens to abstract shapes and forms. They're hugely popular, and the themes continue to widen into new territory. Here's one, and it dovetails nicely with an important anniversary: the Color Your Park Coloring Book. The "Park" part has to do with the national parks, places that inspired people to make art for decades (think of how often you see someone with a sketchpad while hiking through Yosemite National Park). And the anniversary? It's the centennial of the National Park Service, an occasion that will be honored in several ways during 2016. In the spirit of a momentous moment, and because coloring books are just so dang cool, the National Park Foundation has teamed up with Joseph Gordon-Levitt's hitRECords to offer a fresh way to explore parkly love: via coloring pencils. The...

COLOR YOUR PARK COLORING BOOK... is available online at the Find Your Park store, along with a host of other items developed by the actor's production company (think hip baby onesies, hats, and such). The coloring book is 96 pages, and features Bryce Canyon National Park, the Statue of Liberty, Half Dome, and dozens of other favorite places across the nationwide park system. The National Park Foundation, by the by, is the "Official Charity of the National Parks," so call it a fine group to support if you love supporting your go-to getaway. And if you know someone who is super-into their coloring books at the moment, and that same someone is a nature fan who digs a good park-themed road trip, you've just found the perfect gift. It's twenty bucks and easily orderable from this very page.

Photo Credit: National Park Foundation]]>
<![CDATA[Wine Walk: Solvang Third Wednesday]]> Tue, 07 Jun 2016 12:27:14 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/solvangwindmill09887.jpg

SUMMER STROLL: A trio of Solvang celebrations are so well-attended and widely known, and for fine reason. Taste of Solvang in March, Danish Days in September, and Julefest near Christmas also see an influx of visitors, as well as locals, enjoying special activities, special foodstuffs, and, of course, wine, which is very much a Solvang sort of sip. But the wine-focused festivals and to-dos don't fall quiet for the six-month stretch that connects March to September; rather, Solvang keeps up the wine walking straight through the summertime via its Third Wednesdays.

THIRD WEDNESDAYS... are easy to remember, date-wise -- they're the third Wednesday of the month -- and the Solvang Third Wednesday Beer & Wine Walk covers a host of spots serving some of the most interesting libations grown/made around the Santa Ynez Valley as well as vinos from abroad. Cost? It's twenty bucks, and it has a slightly earlier start than many evening wine walks. That start time is 3 p.m., with a wrap-up at 7, but you can dip in at any time you want, if you can't make Solvang before 4 or 5 on your chosen Third Wednesday. 

ADVANCE TICKETS? They're here. Not sure if you want advance tickets, because you can't quite land on a time to visit yet? Buy your same-day pass at the Wandering Dog Bar, Olive House, or Sort This Out Cellars. That's where you'll also get your glass, map, and vouchers, says the site.

MUSIC, TOO: Solvang Third Wednesdays will also coincide with the free concerts at Solvang Park. Those rev up on June 15, and they go an hour past when the Wine and Beer Walk ends, allowing sipping strollers to do a bit of both.

Photo Credit: Solvang]]>
<![CDATA[The Lavender of Ojai]]> Mon, 06 Jun 2016 11:18:50 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/lavGettyImages-89261459.jpg

PURPLE PRETTINESS: Loving lavender doesn't mean that you only have to stick to certain soaps on the store shelves or potpourris found in catalogs. You can go to places known for the growing of the pungent-lovely, purple-glorious herb, places that are right here in the Golden State. True, parts of Southern France are nearly synonymous with lavender fields, but an art town that's just a scoot away from Santa Barbara also holds its own on the lavender end of things. It's Ojai, and June just happens to be its most lavender-y month. Look to the...

OJAI VALLEY LAVENDER FESTIVAL... on Saturday, June 25, which offers the chance to stroll by over 100 vendors, many of them selling sachets and perfumes and vinegars and oils all scented with soft-scented lavender. One of the main events of the purple-hued party is the cooking class at The Lavender Inn, a class that will make goodies like blueberry lavender no-bake cheesecake and a posh salad accented by a lavender-scented olive-caper vinaigrette. Of course, the inn is open all year long, if you can't make the festival but still want a getaway with a touch of lavender to it. As for visiting a lavender farm?

FROG CREEK FARM is one of the biggest growers in the area. A bonus? It's open during lavender season, also known as June, on the weekends. Info? Point your lavender-loving sniffer in this direction.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Mammoth: Open Through Fourth of July]]> Sun, 05 Jun 2016 11:10:55 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/2016-06-01_UNBOUND_PIPE_GREG_BRETZ_4TH_JULY_PMM_2468.jpg

SUMMERTIME SKI TIME: While many peak-pretty resorts push on into Memorial Day Weekend, in terms of keeping the slopes open, there are some decisions to make when June is fast on approach. Is it time to wrap the whole shebang up for another season? Should the poles be stowed and the knit caps put away and should skiers and snowboarders enjoy their final run? Several factors are weighed, and then the party parties on, or, conversely, the light switch is flipped. Mammoth Mountain, which did stay open through Memorial Day, has determined that there shall be no switch-flipping on the 2015-2016 season: It will schuss on right to Fourth of July.

INDEPENDENCE DAY: This isn't the first Fourth that the Sierra destination has celebrated via snow -- let's pause to say summer activities like hiking and biking are big on the mountain, too -- but it has been rather touch-and-go the last few years, precipitation-wise, to see how deep into spring or summer the final date could go. That's Monday, July 4, 2016, a late date thanks to the 361" of snowfall at Mammoth Mountain. How's the summit doing in early June? It has a base of 130", which is nothing to shake a pole at (not that you'd even consider it). As for hours? The mountain is moving to a mostly morning schedule on Monday, June 6, with opening times from 7:30 a.m. to a pinch after lunch -- 1 o'clock -- each day.

<![CDATA[National Parks Centennial Bash]]> Fri, 03 Jun 2016 12:05:31 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/redwoodGettyImages-177068772.jpg

WHILE HYPERBOLE HAS A WAY... of reigning these days, you wouldn't be going too far by claiming that some of the tallest trees on the planet have seen a few birthdays. Not only that, you could go even further and rightly state that the redwoods of Northern California have passed several centuries, and quietly so, without a lot of fanfare or fuss or brightly wrapped gifts. They're trees, in short, that resonate with the power of time, which makes the Redwoods National and State Parks the ideal place to mark an important occasion.

THAT OCCASION... is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, an organization that has done much to protect these burl-dotted behemoths, and the beaches, and the mountains, and other wilder spots across the nation. But if you can't journey around the nation to attend all of the centennial parties for the NPS, you can, perhaps, make the one that is happening in the redwoods on the final Sunday of June (or the first Sunday of summer, if that feels more poetic). That's...

JUNE 26, and a whole plethora of celebration-sweet doings'll go down among the trees, from pony rides to live tunes to interesting forays led by rangers. But just saying "meet me at the redwoods" proooobably won't work, given that they cover a rather sizable amount of land. So head for the "former lumber mill at the junction of Highway 101 and Bald Hills Road just north of Orick" for the afternoon jamboree. A photography exhibit, a plaque unveiling, and more birthday-fun activities will fill the five-hour celebration.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Encinitas: A Garden Full of Fairies]]> Fri, 03 Jun 2016 12:21:12 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/SDBotanicFairy.jpg

GLITTERY GARDEN FLITTER: Winged mythical creatures have always had a place in nature, from tales told long ago to the picture books lining bookstore shelves today. But venturing into the yard to find a fairy, or perhaps to don your own pair of wings in celebration of that fairy spirit, isn't quite as common as listening to a story involving the light-of-air characters. The San Diego Botanic Garden is changing that, as seeing a caboodle of kids decked out in their fairy-style best at the Encinitas destination is now becoming a regular thing. Well, of course, if you happen to be at the nature-filled landmark on the right Saturday of the year. And that Saturday in 2016 is...

JUNE 18, which is just days ahead of the summer solstice, a perfect time of year for full fairydom to flower. The Fairy Festival is a party for the younger set, and children are invited to go the full wings-and-tutu route with their garden-ready fashion. Not that adults are asked to not costume-up, as this is a sweet kidly confab, one that is all about connecting childhood wonder with a magical mythos of the natural world. Helping that connection will be several sparkly to-dos, from a Wishing Bush (where you may place a wish) to the decorating of magic wands to the making of fairy chimes. Folk tunes, face painting, and numerous other enchanted craft-oriented happenings await.

THE COST? "(C)ertain activities" have an additional fee, but the whole Fairy Festival is included with your garden admission. If that fact doesn't make your wings flick just a bit, in happy anticipation, well... It likely already has.

Photo Credit: San Diego Botanic Garden]]>
<![CDATA[Vegas Neon Museum: New Early Mornings]]> Wed, 01 Jun 2016 12:18:08 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/neonvegasearlymorning123.jpg

MORNING IN LAS VEGAS... is very rarely pictured on the front of guidebooks and visitor magazines, truth be told. And with understandable reason, too, for when you are a city that is synonymous with nightlife, with lavish shows running into the wee smalls, with casinos and clubs that push past the hour when even devoted night owls begin to yawn, morningtime can take a backseat. Of course, it's a secret time of day for some visitors, beloved for the fact that a solid buffet, and an uncrowded, no-rush stroll along The Strip, are two major, easy-to-obtain benefits. If Sin City just after sunrise is your jam, and you're looking to fill some fun time between a wake-up hike out at Red Rock Canyon and your date with your hotel's pool later in the morning, look to the Neon Museum, which just announced early-in-the-day tours for the summer of '16. 

"EARLY IN THE DAY"... means different things in different places, but at the signage destination it means the first tour'll start at 8 o'clock (which, let's be honest, is still pretty dang early, if not crack-of-dawn-ish early). It's a fresh way to admire all of the Vegas-to-the-max over-sized artifacts, especially because the signs were originally built for nighttime wow . The morning tours of the Neon Boneyard -- there'll be five each morning, on the half hour, from 8 to 10:30 -- will take in some of these bulb-laden behemoths, all in the fresh light of day. The final date for the guide-led morning walks? Sept. 18, 2016. 

TRUE, the vintage signs of Las Vegas weren't solely meant to be seen by night, as they were perfectly readable in the daytime, too. So ponder how a morning tour will give a little love to that under-loved legacy, the neon sign's daytime duties. And maybe we should take it all back, that Sin City isn't a morning town. After all, many a reveler pushes through the moonlit hours with a vow to see the sun come up over the tops of all of those mega hotels, a sight that belongs to Vegas alone.

Photo Credit: Neon Museum]]>