<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Worth the Trip]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcsandiego.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.com en-us Tue, 28 Jul 2015 01:49:06 -0700 Tue, 28 Jul 2015 01:49:06 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Stargaze Amaze: Eye Planets Above Glacier Point]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 14:04:47 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/226*120/Header-Stargazing-Tourglacier.jpg

DARK SKY FESTIVALS... at some of California's national parks are on the horizon, and fans of enjoying nature and an evening free of electric light are turning their attentions to Lassen Volcanic National Park and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, which will host a pair of Dark Sky Festivals in August and September, respectively. But looking up into the giant twinkle-filled plane above us -- call it "velvety" if you wish or the always poetic "bowl full of stars" -- while sitting in a national park isn't something that needs to wait for a Dark Sky Festival, as lovely and important as those are. You can appreciate the low-lit, planets-aglow atmosphere of the concave above us any time, from any national park, if cloud cover is on your side. Yosemite National Park makes it a bit easier, too, to find the picture-perfect location in which to sit down and gaze up: Glacier Point. For sure, you could step out of your tent or lodge in Yosemite Valley and see plenty, or you could hop aboard a bus near Yosemite Lodge at the Falls and wend up out of the valley to one of its most photographed vantage points. Stargazing at Glacier Point doesn't happen every night, so don't go searching for the bus, but the summertime favorite happens regularly enough that you can make it happen for yourself.

BOOK AHEAD: "Advanced registration is required," so purchase your ticket -- forty one bucks, for an adult -- for the four-hour program well ahead of time. The four-hour event, which includes the ride up, down, and the time at Glacier Point, kicks off at 7 p.m., so you'll get that rich darkness one loves from the sky, when one is looking for Venus or Jupiter or the Big Dipper. Will there be "astronomy-related stories"? Oh yeah there will be, totally. Will you have a hard time not staring at Half Dome, which vies with the sky for sheer supernatural (but ultimately completely natural) beauty? That's going to be the battle within your heart: Admire the constellations or the hunk of granite out across the open air, the one that's been anchoring Yosemite Valley over millions of nights. Is honoring the night, after a busy, bustling, recreation-heavy national park day an excellent and educational wind-down? It is, but we can't promise that Half Dome and the moon and Venus seen from glorious Glacier Point will act like a warm cup of milk to your spirits. You might find your heart is even the slightest bit poundy.

Photo Credit: Yosemite National Park]]>
<![CDATA[Epiphany Hotel: A Fresh Twist on the Mini Bar]]> Sun, 26 Jul 2015 11:13:19 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/207*120/EPI_PremiumJrSuite-600x400212.jpg

THE HAPPY FLOP-DOWN: If you've ever stayed in a hotel, particular for a convention or business meeting or interview or social engagement that required your daylong attendance, you know all about the happy flop-down once you reach your room at the end of a long afternoon and evening. You're done talking, brainstorming, making chitchat; now is the time for the mini bar and now is the time to flop-down, with shoes off, to see what's on the telly (fingers crossed a movie you've only seen 19 times, and adore, is just ten minutes in). The mini bar is mentioned because it is an important component in the happy flop-down. You're likely beat, and needing a little pick-me-up, or even craving something sweet, and the idea of noshing upon it as you relax and watch a film feels right. But if you've spent the day at a conference, eating one too many boardroom pastries, you do often wish that your mini bar choices bore a healthier vibe. That's not to say that the energy-giving nuts found on some mini bars, nor the fruit bars, don't do that, but if you could pick and choose your good food choices for your hotel room, would you? You could, at The Epiphany in Palo Alto, if you sign up for the Joie de Vivre hotel's newly introduced Fresh Fridge.

THE FRESH FRIDGE... is pretty much the same as the mini bar concept, or at least it is nice food in your hotel room for you to enjoy. The modern update is that guests do the selecting, where their snacks are concerned, so everything in the Fresh Fridge is there at the room occupant's request. Choices include full biotic yogurt with blueberry crumble and goji berry and "seasonal housemade salads" with quality ingredients and add-ins like Tomatero Farm heirloom tomatoes and 9-grain tabbouleh. Look also for fresh fruit and veg straight from the Palo Alto Farmer's Market (meaning the goodies will be very much in season and highly local). You'll need to pay a flat fee to get going on this -- ninety five bucks, which is all-inclusive -- and you'll need to let The Epiphany know at least five days in advance. But if you're kicking around Palo Alto for work, and you're looking forward to your nightly happy flop-down, without the typical foods you've consumed in the past, the Fresh Fridge could be your energy-restorative answer. Whether your favorite movie will be playing on the TV, as you walk in from your last meeting, is something we'll have to put down to luck.

Photo Credit: Epiphany Hotel]]>
<![CDATA[New: Sip of Julian]]> Fri, 24 Jul 2015 08:17:20 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/219*120/wine+country.jpg

APPLE TOWN, GRAPE TOWN, TOO: There are so many toothsome tastes and ridiculously flavorful recipes that possess, at the center of their identity, two fruits that work very well together in concert. We speak of the apple, any kind of apple, really, and we refer to the grape. Think of the last delicious chicken salad sandwich you downed, or the summer-fresh fruit salad at the block party in June. Both dishes likely contained juicy chunks of both globe-shaped goodies, with the apple's pearly white flesh providing a crunchy counterpoint to the grape's soft give. It isn't any surprise, then, that a town can do both fruits very well, and by "do" we mean present them in the town's best-known products and meals and festivals. Julian, the Gold Rush burg that's still one of the sparkly jewels of the Cuyamuca Mountains, is rather known for its apple goodies. "Rather known," of course, is an understatement. Fall is fully given over to apple adorations around the town, and pie shops stuff the core-centered fruit under seemingly countless crusts. But grapes give Julian's apples a friendly run for their money, in the form of area wineries. Both fruits fit the region well, and if you've been wanting to get to know the graper side of things, your chance is ahead: Sip of Julian, on Saturday, Aug. 8, is all about vinos made in the area.

WELL, AND HARD CIDER, TOO... so apples may not be all that far out of the equation. Menghini Winery, Witch Creek Winery, and Julian Hard Cider are just three stops on the self-guided tour. Tickets are twenty five dollars each, and whether you have a sip or not at the spots you land, it is a fine way to see their locations, their spreads, and what they're making. For "making" is an important concept in the mountain town, and whether an apple or a grape or both is in the final product is up to the talented maker. It's a pleasure to drive up the hill and appreciate both.

GRAPE FANS... take note: Another fruit-forward fest is coming down the Julian pike, on Sept. 5, in the form of the Julian Grape Stomp Festa.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Pup-Putt: Resort Welcomes Dogs on Golf Course]]> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 08:55:19 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/doggolf9293929322.jpg

GOLDEN RETRIEVER ON THE GREEN: Golf courses, for the most part, are in nature (we say "for the most part" because we must acknowledge those glow-in-the-dark, rock 'n roll indoor mini golf courses, the ones where a lot of us first learned to play as tots). And when something is in nature, well, spoiler alert, nature very often intercedes, or at least makes a cameo.

It might be a squirrel dashing along the fairway or a gull circling the green upon which you stand or the sight of a raccoon seeing if there is anything of interest in your cart. As for dogs? Well, they count among animalia, of course, but you're more likely to see a woodland creature out on a green than your pug or mastiff. That's because the only swinging traditionally done on a course is by a club and not by a wagging tail; dogs can bark or jump on their human at an inopportune time or run off with the ball, if they're fleet of foot enough. But dog devotees know that all of these wagger-based worries are rare, and that the pleasures of having a pup at your side as you golf far outweigh any minor hiccups. The Chalet View Lodge, in fact, welcomes on-leash, well-behaved Fidos on its course, which means you don't have to leave your Lassie back in your hotel room, to get lonely and bored and yowly. They can be out in the sunshine with you as you enjoy the verdant course at the Portola-close lodge.

THE NINE-HOLE COURSE... is welcoming to canines and their people if the greens aren't especially bustling and there's a lot of play-through room. Also note that the hotel sits at the edge of a vast amount of Forest Service land, 1.2 million acres, in fact, so hiking and exploring with your fluffy one is another outdoorsy choice. Pets are also welcome to join their people as they dine at the hotel's restaurant (on the terrace), and there's a hello biscuit at check-in. Fee for one to two dogs to stay? An additional twenty five bucks a night. A chance to soak up mountain-sweet summer air near Graeagle and have your Golden Retriever near, on the course, to enjoy the rays with you? It's pretty unusual, and worth jumping at, if golf and pooches are your twin passions. And seeing how much time people spend on both, they really should meet up, from time to time, in a picturesque spot.

Photo Credit: Chalet View Lodge]]>
<![CDATA[On Sale: Winchester House Fall Flashlight Tours]]> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 06:41:03 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/204*120/WinchesterMysteryHouse_crWMH_1.jpg

DO TRY THIS AT HOME: Know where your flashlight might be? We all should, since when we really, really need it our house tends to be rather dark. Turn the torch on, then point the beam at various objects: a plant, the television, the ceiling fan. How creepy do those rather innocuous items become when they're caught in a stream of pointed light? The answer: pretty darn creepy. Now imagine yourself in a huge and rambling house, a house that's said to be haunted, an abode that is, by far, one of the most eerie locations in all of the Golden State, if not the country. It's the Winchester Mystery House, and while tours are offered throughout the year, there are only a few times on the calendar when visitor enter the house by nightfall -- meaning a flashlight will be in use, spooky-ing objects and corners right up along the way. (Ohhh, those empty corners become triply terrifying when viewed by the beam of a flashlight.) The San Jose mansion's famous Flashlight Tours only ever happen on nights that coincide with Friday the 13th -- double eek -- and during the most bewitchingest season of all, the days running up to Halloween. For while the homes in your neighborhood might dress up for the screamy night, Sarah Winchester's tale-filled casa really does bring the authentic creepy, which is no surprise: It was seance central, back in her day. And while we can't "spirit" you to that day, the late 1800s and early 20th century, we can tell you that...

TICKETS ARE THIS WAY... for some "select" 2015 October evenings. A souvenir flashlight is yours to remember your guided wanderings by, and, of course, the memory of any ghosts you might spy. Even if you don't come across anything chill-worthy, it is still mighty cool to be in a storied structure when the moon is out. But what if you can't make it on one of the October evenings when the Flashlight Tours are happening? Shriek not; the next Friday the 13th follows fast, in November, and, yep, there is a nighttime tour afoot. By the by, did you know that lady of the house Sarah Winchester was partial to the number 13? It all lends further texture to a house with more backstory than some towns. 

Photo Credit: Winchester Mystery House]]>
<![CDATA[A Day at Oasis Camel Dairy]]> Wed, 22 Jul 2015 13:10:39 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/oasiscameldairy22832.jpg

CAMEL CUTE: All of us, as very young tots, learned some important early lessons about the animals that share our planet. We discovered that when one pets a cat, we stroke it gently, head to tail, never pulling at the fur. We learn that overfeeding a dog tasty treats is not recommended (same goes for goldfish and fish food). And the whole camel-hump mystery, too, was likely introduced to us just as we were picking up our very first storybooks. And the mystery is this: Does a camel have one hump or two? The answer, of course, is both; the one-hump camels are dromedaries and the two-hump camels the bactrian. "Dromedary" might have been one of the first long words you learned to say, even, if you had a special animal obsession when you were a kid (and didn't we all). But how many dromedaries have you seen in person in your life? Have you been able to admire the camel's majesty and beauty and sweet face from close-up? And not just in a documentary or film or book? There's a way to get that knowledge, and have a fun, beastie-sweet time doing it, too. The Oasis Camel Dairy in Ramona welcomes visitors "once a month for public tours." But you don't have to wait to long for a special way to interact with the tall, tall residents of the sizable spread. You only have to pen...

JULY 31-AUG. 2... on your camel calendar. That's the weekend when the annual Watermelon Days return to the dairy, a special weekend when, wait for it, visitors get to feed watermelon to the camels. Really now... Do you need to know more? Will everything to come in your life, ever after, pale just a little bit, once you've lovingly held up a watermelon before a watermelon-craving camel? It's a beautiful thing, indeed, and a rare chance to interact with a camel on a culinary, yum-yum basis. A bird show and farm animals out and about are on the weekend schedule, too. Tickets? They're fifteen bucks per adult, and a ride on a camel is extra. The money will help out agriculture-focused youth to-dos in the area. As for that photo of you feeding a happy camel some juicy melon? That'll likely be your profile picture, on all your various social media sites, by the following Monday morning, we expect.

Photo Credit: Oasis Camel Dairy]]>
<![CDATA[On the Horizon: Sunset Savor the Central Coast]]> Tue, 21 Jul 2015 21:35:01 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/savorthecentralbrittanyapp123.jpg

REMEMBER WHEN YOU WERE A TEEN... and you had your favorite soccer star or rock band or actor or fictional character immortalized on a poster over your twin bed? Or maybe it was on the ceiling or the back of your door but, wherever the poster was thumbtacked, you had to have it nearby because you needed to see your FAVORITE PERSON/PEOPLE IN THE WORLD, all caps, every single day, exclamation points!!! That fire never really dies down in us, as adults, or fully goes away. In fact it's still a-ok to have such posters about, if you want to, but, very often, as we stack on the years, we start to long for a few new posters for our bedroom walls. Big lush photos of wineries we return to, again and again, and beloved beaches. And, for many Californians, Santa Margarita Ranch would qualify as bedroom poster material, since it is so dang picturesque and so well situated in the heart of the Central Coast and it is the central hub of one of the fall's most feastable soirees. It's Sunset Savor the Central Coast, as presented by Volvo, and the tour/talk/taste summit is soon to have its sixth outing from Thursday, Sept. 24 through Sunday, Sept. 27 at Rancho Santa Margarita and a host of ocean-close, vine-tastic destinations in the area.

THE MAIN EVENT is, well, handily enough called "The Main Event" (no forgetting that). It spreads out at the ranch on Sept. 26 and 27 and involves regional wines, meeting winemakers, a Farm to Table Stage, local brews and live tunes, and all sorts of alfresco-fun, foodie-delicious doings over a mellow early-fall day, the kind that the Central Coast seems to do really well. As for getting out/about? There are Adventure Tours that fill up -- a Clydesdale-focused jaunt to Cambria looks particularly bewitching -- and special dinners, too. Event tickets can be purchased a la carte, so if you simply want to dip into the four-dayer for an afternoon, and a single thing, that's totally jake. Truly, though: Would you have a poster of Santa Margarita Ranch in your bedroom? Like you would a favorite singer? Any Central Coast-obsessed food lover might pull out a tape measure and start measuring their wall.

Photo Credit: Brittany App]]>
<![CDATA[Wine Tasting at the Winchester Mystery House]]> Mon, 20 Jul 2015 22:34:00 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/217*120/winewinchester1234.jpg

LIBATIONS THAT LEVITATE: It's impossible to not summon the phrase "spirits with spirits" when one is imbibing a glass of something grown-up and bubbly/foamy/potent in a spooky spot. The catchy line has long been used by the Ghost Hunters of Urban Los Angeles, in fact, whenever they planned an event involving cocktails in a rumored-to-be-haunted place (an event currently on hiatus, as of this typing, but charming nonetheless). Finding an eerie location in which to sip and socialize around California is not difficult, though, since our state is rife with storied structures, from hotels to train stations to historic restaurants. But one of the most storied of all was once a private home, lived in by one person, and is today visited by thousands each year. You know where we're about to land with this: It's the Winchester Mystery House, in San Jose, and along with San Diego's Whaley House, it's regularly billed as rife with spirits. Those spirits, however, don't just arrive in an ethereal form; beverages of the wine and beer and liquor variety are also served on the property. 

WINE TASTINGS... can be found in "a renovated original out-building with a unique wooden floor made from repurposed wine barrels." Where's this out-building? In the pretty, strollable courtyard of the mansion, just steps away from the main house's rambling corridors and staircases leading to nowhere. It's open seasonally, so if the idea of soaking up the Victorian-flavored tales and twists of Sarah Winchester's medium-influenced home, then following up with a merlot and chardonnay, appeal, check with the attraction before planning a day of house-touring and vino-tasting.

BUT IF YOU WANT TO PEEK... at the tasting menu now, you can. There are Winchester Estate wines, made in the Santa Clara Valley, and some local beers from San Jose's own Strike Brewing Company. Is wine tasting at the Winchester Mystery House the most unusual place to pursue this oh-so-California tradition? There are some funky wineries out there, for sure, but few sit on the grounds of a haunted home, one that has windows in the floors and doors opening to brick walls. Eek.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/WinchesterMysteryHouse]]>
<![CDATA[New: Wine Country Clean Air Express]]> Sun, 19 Jul 2015 09:00:38 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/cleanairlaurakath.jpg

A LUCKY REGION... is fortunate to have one city or town or valley or destination that draws weekenders, those day-trippers who want to soak in the sights and/or have a glass of wine and/or a great plate of pasta and/or some pastries and enjoy art, people-watching, architecture, and maybe some nature, too (beach, hills, vineyards qualify). But what to do when you have a stretch of the state absolutely teeming with terrific weekend-y places, the kind of villages that burst with pleasant ways to spend an afternoon? Well, you preen a little, of course, but if those villages are a bit further apart, you preen less and brainstorm on ways for visitors to enjoy several of the region's treasures without driving. The Santa Ynez Valley has been at the forefront of the whole park-your-car idea in recent years, finding ways either through specific businesses or municipalities to truck visitors around in a see-more-of-the-area way (without paying a bundle to do so). The latest entry has just arrived, in early July, and it will please people who want to do both Santa Barbara and some of the Santa Ynez -- say, Los Olivos or Buellton or Solvang -- all in a day without making the driving between the American Riviera and wine country towns on their own. Meet the Clean Air Express, a bus that's been running between particular places in the area, but never between Santa Barbara and a trio of Santa Ynez villages.

ON A SATURDAY... we should add. But that changed on Saturday, July 11 with the debut of this new line of the Clean Air Express. This route is Saturday-specific, we should note, and the motor coach ride each way is seven bucks, meaning you'll have more cash for that glass of pinot in Los Olivos or an aebleskivver in Solvang. Is there Wi-Fi on the bus? Yes, so there's no reason for you not to tell all your pals the jealousy-making things you're up to while you ride. Are there a few start and leave times? There are, including, in case you're wondering, one at Andersen's Pea Soup in Buellton. Is this the way you fill up your Saturday with two not-so-close areas of a region brimming with beautiful spots? This is a great way to do that, if you want to lessen your own driving (and pump up gazing at pretty vistas through bus windows). For more info on your motor coach Saturday get-to-know-this-area outing, beep-beep your bus in this direction.

Photo Credit: Laura Kath]]>
<![CDATA[La Jolla in Flight: Falconry Lessons]]> Sun, 19 Jul 2015 09:01:13 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/196*120/falconrylajolla12232.jpg

LOOK HIGH INTO THE SKY: Staring upwards, towards the clouds, while standing the Torrey Pines Gliderport is not all that unusual. After all, "Gliderport" is in the name, which gives a rather major hint to what is done there, or at least from there, before visitors leave terra firma and head for the air. Hang gliding and paragliding are two popular pursuits at the Gliderpoint, but, on occasion, something else rather wonderful makes a cameo, and it arrives with its own flying apparatus. That apparatus is not humanmade, nor anything that needs to be worn or gripped; we speak of wings, and falcons, and beautiful birds that can leap into the sky, and stay there for as long as they like, summoning humans on the ground below to gaze up in admiration. A lot of that gazing up will be going down on Sunday, Aug. 2 when Obscura Society LA calls upon the beautiful bluff for a morning of falconry lessons, and falconry enjoyment, with along with Sky Falconry instructors. These knowledgeable bird buffs will show those feather fans who've signed up for a lesson the basics of holding out a gloved arm and bidding a falcon adieu as he heads to the sky (or welcoming him back from the sky, which is part of the ancient pursuit, too). Game to try? Then sign up for...

FALCONRY LESSONS... or falconry observation. "(Y)ou'll learn to hold a Harris's Hawk, cast it from your glove, and call it back again." It's a beautiful cycle, and one often seen in movies filled with castles and knights and ye olde drama. But falconry thrives today, and isn't simply a relic of the past or a part of fiction. To learn more about raptors, what they eat, and what we bipeds can do to lend a hand -- gloved if they need a perch or "a hand" in the larger sense, with their conservation and care -- take a look at the Obscura Society LA page or flap your wings straight for Sky Falconry. Whether you're learning or looking on Aug. 2, though, tickets and spaces are quite limited. The views, however, from the Torrey Pines Gliderport are more of the limitless, epic variety, the perfect spot to watch falcons ride the wind.

Photo Credit: Sky Falconry]]>
<![CDATA[Insects Are Cool: San Diego Botanic Garden's Abuzz]]> Wed, 15 Jul 2015 11:23:20 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sdbgbugjuly.jpg

BUZZ CRAWL SQUEAK FLY: When we venture out into a vast, leafy, tree-dotted garden, our eyes are on first alert, seeking out the bright buds and colorful petal and interesting limb shapes and other features that fill out the lush vista. But our ears, too, should be on a watch of sorts. Wilder places aren't just about the visuals, but the aural component, too. And if you hear a buzz deep in the center of a cactus bloom or you detect a soft scurrying in the underbrush, you become more aware that gardens just aren't about the greenery but also the many bugs who call the place home (some for a moment, some for longer). The San Diego Botanic Garden pauses each summer to pay tribute to insects and all of their incredibly important functions, from pollination and beyond. Nope, there's no "eeking" here. Bug buffs know that a multi-legged, multi-eyed, tentacle-sweet creature has beauty and intrigue to spare. If you don't mind holding your palm open to gently receive a winged or wormy beastie, the better to hold it and study it for a moment or two.

BUT THERE'S TASTING, TOO: The Insect Festival isn't all leaning in and gazing a bit closer at butterflies and beetles and centipedes and their brethren. There shall be bug cookery, so if you're up for snacking on cooled mealworm larva "in various flavors such as mesquite, teriyaki, and barbecue!" Yummity yum yum. If dining on miniature scurriers isn't your bag, but learning from experts is, there shall be plenty of that; over 20 booths filled with bug-knowledgeable people will dot the grounds of the gardens. Oh, and there are the gardens themselves to stroll, which you can, since your paid admission to the main venue gets you into the Insect Festival. Will you admire the bugs and then saunter along the paths, keeping a keener ear out for buzzing and chirring and whirring and the sounds of those plentiful co-earthlings, the insect family? They're out there, under leaves and roots, keeping balance.

JULY 25 AND 26: The San Diego Botanic Garden's 2015 Insect Festival takes wing over the final weekend in July, in Encinitas.

Photo Credit: San Diego Botanic Garden]]>
<![CDATA[Early Summer Mornings Up San Jacinto]]> Sun, 19 Jul 2015 09:01:46 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/pstramway1234.jpg

RISE, SHINE, AND CHANGE ELEVATION: The suggestion that we "rise and shine" is often depicted by an illustration of a cheery-faced person stretching happily in bed. Perhaps their hair is a bit messy, perhaps there's a slice of toast or glass of orange juice on the nightstand, perhaps a pretty songbird is at the window. But rarely does the concept of "rise and shine" get paired with a celebrated trip up the side of a mountain in a small, window-laden, revolving car. Still, though, does this not seem like an adventure that might help the whole rising and shining thing far more than a slice of toast or glass of orange juice? An early morning ascension up the steep and dramatic side of a tall peak? Sorry, toast, orange juice, and songbird at the window -- a tram ride in the wee smalls of the A.M. might do a bit more to shake off the sleepy cobwebs. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway agrees that a fresh-part-of-the-day journey from the desert floor into the San Jacinto wilderness is a stupendous way to greet a summer Friday. So every Friday, through the Friday before Labor Day Weekend (that's Sept. 4), the famous tram'll set off up Jacinto at 8 o'clock in the morning, along about the time other people are thinking about getting a bowl of cereal and checking their email through bleary eyes.

YES, ABSOLUTELY, DEFINITELY... you should be wide awake when you drive to the base-of-the-mountain attraction, but will you get an extra jolt of adrenaline on the ride? It's hard not to, considering how many feet you rise. Valley Station, where you start, is at 2,643 feet, and Mountain Station, where you stop, is 8,516 feet. No cup of coffee, and we don't care how strong it is, will take you, at least energy-wise, up some 6,000 feet in the air. The tramway normally opens at 10 a.m., save weekends in the summer (which start earlier, too), so consider your 8 o'clock Friday morning ride a real jump on the day's summer desert heat. It's cooler up the mountain, that's for sure. And if you need another coffee or juice, you can find it when you disembark; there are snack bars on both ends of the tram's track.

Photo Credit: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway]]>
<![CDATA[Tickets on Sale: Gilroy Garlic Festival]]> Wed, 15 Jul 2015 11:25:27 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/garlicicecreamfest12345.jpg

A VERY CALIENTE CONUNDRUM: The garlic-obsessed cook who finds himself making a spicy pasta or pad thai or pizza for a group of guests typically faces a conundrum of a very caliente sort about halfway into the whole dinner-making process. When the head of garlic makes its debut, from the net hanging over the sink, does the cook smash or chop a few cloves for the pan and return the remainder, or does he sneak a raw clove to enjoy while he makes the food? While some might recoil at the idea of popping an uncooked hunk of garlic in one's mouth, there are other fans out there -- garlicists, if you will -- who get the temptation. Nothing is quite as hot nor as powerful nor as, well, lasting, as a bit of raw garlic enjoyed without any other ingredients to temper its bite. But if there are guests due at the door, the cook has to decide: Will the pungent breath be worth it? If the answer is "yes" -- and the answer is typically "yes" among garlicists -- we expect that we'll see you in Gilroy over the last weekend in July, where hundreds of other gourmets who go gaga over a good clove of naked, uncooked garlic will be, living it up and feeling the burn. Tickets are now on sale for the...

THE 37TH ANNUAL GILROY GARLIC FESTIVAL... which brings the live entertainment, the vendors, the cooking demos, the wine and beer tastings, and the many, many booths of Gourmet Alley, which whip up everything from chewy-moist deep-fried garlic to cooling garlic ice cream to mussels swimming in garlicky goodness to garlic salmon. Oh! And garlic bread, of course, that carb-tastic stalwart at the soft, celebrated hub from which all other garlic-laden foods spin. The cook-off contest brings the amateur chefs, the showdown the pros, and a Sunday afternoon will see a dream wedding starring two serious garlic-lovin' lovers. The festival is called "the ultimate summer food fair" and that it all happens in the Garlic Capital of the World should lock it down for garlicists, those lovers of blisteringly hot bulbs that come sheathed in papery, easy-to-remove covering.

OH GARLIC, there's no food that's anything like you, in flavor, in fire quotient, in how you look or how you're handled. You really do deserve one of the biggest parties of the summer. We'll see you July 24 through 26.

Photo Credit: Gilroy Garlic Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Fall Fab: Palm Springs Modernism Bash]]> Thu, 16 Jul 2015 11:55:02 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ModernistsatSunnylands8732.jpeg

IT'S PRETTY EASY... to don flannels and knit caps around Seattle and feel as though you're part of the rainy-coffee-fir-fabulous scene, and dressing in beach wear, around Key West, can slip you right into the no-worries-no-hurry vibe (where bare feet tend to be a-ok). But there's only one true monarch among mavens of mid-century-ism these days, the must-go location where you can still play at being in 1962, complete with your Pucci-like scarves and skinny ties and bouffants and indoor-outdoor houses. It's Palm Springs, of course, which welcomes you and your mid-century daydreams throughout the year. But the retro looks go way up come the middle of February when thousands of style fans descend upon the desert resort for Modernism Week, a packed-schedule spectacular devoted to gorgeous architecture of the bygone era and all of its satellite styles (cars, trailers, sunglasses, shoes, dishware). Modernism Week is so popular and well-attended that there is a little Modernism Week, of sorts, in the fall. It's called the Modernism Week Fall Preview, and while it isn't the hefty eleven days of the February confab, it does fill out four full days in the middle of October. That's...

OCT. 9-12... to be exact, and the 2015 autumn event has some good/groovy stuff going. The "extended weekend" shall spotlight an array of the "best events from the annual February festival." Look for a Rat Pack Experience Party at the Palm Springs Art Museum, the double decker bus architectural tours, walk-arounds inside house-designing legend Albert Frey's Aluminaire House, and a Modernism Show & Sale at the Palm Springs Air Museum (about 40 dealers in all will turn up with era-awesome items). Walking tours and other gatherings of an info-sharing, social-making nature dot the roster. As for tickets? They go on sale on Aug. 1.

OF COURSE... you can play at being a member of the Rat Pack, dress-wise, any day of the year in Palm Springs, and locals and tourists alike'll go with it. But come the Modernism Week Fall Preview, and Modernism Week itself, your chance to go total mid-century in your look and with your interests blooms like a glorious cactus flower.

Photo Credit: Modernism Week]]>
<![CDATA[Sandtastic Fundraiser: Switchfoot Bro-Am]]> Thu, 09 Jul 2015 13:02:06 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/switchfootbroam122332.jpg

ENCINITAS EASY: If you've spent some time around Swami's or Moonlight or noshing on fish tacos at one of the town's supreme fish taco shops, you know that the nature of Encinitas is both easy and breezy. No rush, no muss, let's enjoy life and I'll take some extra cabbage in my taco, please. But what makes this approach rather trickier is when a famous fundraiser arrives on the scene, bringing with it thousands of fans and surfers and a gold-of-heart plan to get some money to some great local causes. How does one approach the whole shebang without losing that all-important Encinitas Easy? You plan your party around the beach, with tunes and waves and an act with a bunch of local cred. That band is Switchfoot, and the annual Bro-Am they helm helps several local charities in addition to giving wave-seeking hang-tenners and tune mavens a fine day out on the sand.

THAT ROCKIN', SURFIN' DAY IS... Saturday, July 11, and it shall be a full one. That's the Beach Day Concert, where pro surfers and rockers and lovers of both will be out in socializing force. The soiree is free and wetsuits are de rigeur, so, again that easy-breezy good-time-having will be the name of the game. The 4th Annual Rob Machado Bro Junior -- yep, as in icon-of-the-waves Rob Machado -- is out on the Big Blue from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and young riders'll be out on their boards (alongside "band members and pro surfers," so that's way cool). A quartet of bands shall keep the live music alive all afternoon, with Switchfoot rounding out the bill. By the by, 2015 marks the first-ever Restaurant Week leading up to the Bro-Am, so if you're in the area ahead of time, be sure to find a participating eatery.

AS FOR THE MANY ORGANIZATIONS... who will be on the receiving end of the donation love? StandUp for Kids, Feeding American San Diego, Encinitas Youth Scholarship Fund, and several others are on the list. Even if you can't make the show and the surf, you can donate to the Switchfoot Bro-Am Foundation and see your dollars help out around North County and San Diego.

Photo Credit: Switchfoot Bro-Am]]>
<![CDATA[Desert Spa Twist: La Casa del Zorro's Cool Stones]]> Fri, 24 Jul 2015 08:17:46 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/coolcomfortzorro.jpg

A CHILL SPIN ON A BODYWORK CLASSIC: If you asked a resort maven, the sort of traveler who has a penchant for spots with lots of sunshine and three-digit temperatures come summertime, where to best keep cool, they'd offer up some excellent answers. "The pool" would probably be the first thing they'd suggest, or "your suite for a nap" (ahhh, a fine way to meet a toasty July day) or "enjoying a cocktail with extra ice in the lobby" might be another response. But few experienced hotel guests would proffer the on-site spa's stone massage, because, well, stone massages are very not-cold, by nature. Even if you've never had one, you know the words that are used to describe the experiencing: warming, warmth, heat, melt. The smooth stones are placed along the guest's back and bingo: muscle relief. But taking a different tack when you're a resort in one of California's famous deserts is a quirky, fun, and, yes, even sensible plan, which is just what La Casa del Zorro is doing for the summer of 2015. Rather than placing stones of a caliente nature on clients, they're chilling the rocks for the Cool Comfort experience. Same idea of stones delivering some temperature-based soothing, but rather than your personal mercury heading upwards, you'll chill right out, in body (your busy mind, fingers crossed, will soon follow).

COOL COMFORT... involves a few tantalizing components. Clients receive "a customized, 50-minute facial with an aloe mask and a soothing 50-minute massage incorporating chilled natural stones." The "limited addition" to the spa's menu is priced at $185. Other warm-weather-perfect choices, from a Summer Mani/Pedi (look for a green tea soak) and a Replenish and Refresh multi-part experience, are discounted for the season. If you're doing the desert when the sun is high and the afternoons bring a few beads of sweat, gorgeous clouds, and promises of great sunsets, consider your resort cool-offs: cocktails, pools, naps, and a cooling stone massage. But will you ever head back to the city? (Probably, yes, of course, but with dreams of your next visit.)

Photo Credit: Casa del Zorro]]>
<![CDATA[To Catalina Island, by Water Skis]]> Tue, 07 Jul 2015 14:10:23 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Brady-Hoggins-UpsCatalina.jpg

HOW MANY WAYS... are there to get to Catalina Island from mainland Southern California? "A boat" is a fine initial answer, as that's how most people do it. "A helicopter" or "a plane" are both on the list, so feel free to hit the buzzer and shout it out, because you'll get a gold star. "Swimming"? Well, yes, there are many people who've donned a bathing suit and championed the Catalina Channel, but no day-tripper to Avalon would likely go this route, as a channel swim requires a team of supporters, lots of training, and the incredibly impressive ability to plow, hand over hand, through open ocean waves. As for other ways to get to the island that's a famous 22 miles from the coast? Nope, as much as you wish for it a Catalina bison won't swim over and pick you up. Nope, there's not an under-the-Pacific Chunnel of sorts from Los Angeles to Catalina (not yet, anyway).

BUT WATER SKIS? Ah yes: You can reach Catalina Island by being pulled, at a high speed, by a speedy vessel. In fact, several bold water skiers do just this, each summer, and have for well over a half century. The annual Catalina Ski Race has been zooming for 67 years, in fact, which puts it in the "venerable" category in terms of long-running California competitions. Even if you don't feel like taking a very fast trip to Avalon, and back to Long Beach, while hanging fast to a rope and handle, you can still head out to the Queen Mary on the morning of Saturday, July 18 to cheer the hardy adventurers on who shall make the much-photographed yearly run.

MAKE THAT VERY EARLY MORNING: The legendary Long Beach ocean-liner is opening a viewing area to the starting line, and spectators can sip upon Bloody Marys and mimosas as the competitors don their helmets and sunscreen. Start time at the ship is 7 a.m., and if you're wondering how many miles total the water ski brigade'll cover, 62 is the answer. It's a rousing morning full of old-fashioned sport and derring-do, but one that is fun to watch and ponder, too. And it is quite charming how there are not that many ways to reach Avalon in our now super-accessible world, and it is charming that "water skis" is one of the principal ways come a very special summer morning. Though we still wish we could ride over, once, like some mythical character on the back of a bison, but we're pretty sure those ol' Catalina bison are doing just fine sticking to the island's hillsides far above the Pacific Ocean.

Photo Credit: Catalina Ski Race/Brady Hoggins]]>
<![CDATA[PAWmicon: Find a Superhero BFF in San Diego]]> Thu, 02 Jul 2015 13:49:41 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Pawmicon2012HWACdogPawmiconPrincess.jpg

PERFECT SUPERHERO PET: If you woke up tomorrow and found out that a meteorite had passed over your house or a radioactive flea had bit you or your home was located on a mine filled with magical glow stones, would your first thought be A) I wonder what cool powers I'll get or B) I wonder what my awesome canine or feline super-companion will be.

BECAUSE... while transforming into a cape-rocking, mask-mysterious, bold-'n-brave superhero is frankly fantabulous, finding out you have a Fido who can fly or talk or go completely invisible is even better. We're not sure what amazing attributes the woofers and meowers who'll be up for adoption at PAWmicon will bring, but we can bet that some of their superpowers including napping and purring and rolling over and licking your face and loving everybody ever.

AS SUPERPOWERS GO, those are pretty terrific, so plan on alighting at the Stone Company Store in San Diego on Wednesday, July 8 to have a look at the cuties who need a home. The date, you'll notice, happens to be the day before Comic-Con International -- Comic-Con Eve, if you will -- so plenty of superheroes will already be in town but not yet too busy with convention-y doings. This means you have plenty of time to go cuddle, and potentially spark with, a sweetie at PAWmicon.

OR SHOW WITH YOUR OWN... superhero pet. There is a "comic-themed photo booth" and a costume contest (your pup could win a prize she'll like) and Doggy Beer Bones. Also good to know? The Rancho Santa Fe-based Helen Woodward Animal Center'll net ten percent of the bar's take, so you'll sip knowing future orphaned animals will get the TLC they need from the always busy animal safehouse. That's pretty dang heroic, helping out lovable buddies in need. Now, need an idea for how to cosplay with your canine? Look to the many famous superhero beasties populating the comics shelf, from Ace the Bat Hound to Rex the Wonder Dog. So sweet, so brave, so colorful, so able to dash after dastardly robots and dinosaurs and outer space visitors. Yep, it is certainly time we all pay superhero dogs -- both on the page and on our lap -- their due.

Photo Credit: Helen Woodward Animal Center]]>
<![CDATA[Catalina Beach Parties: Descanso's Summer Scene]]> Wed, 08 Jul 2015 21:56:03 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/descansobeachcatalinachamber1234.jpg

A BEACH IS A BEACH IS A BEACH: It's true that a sandy stretch of land that fronts a large body of water could accurately be defined as "a beach," but every ocean aficionado knows that not every beach is the same, In fact, one could say that the grain-laden gamut on this topic is as wide as the Pacific. (Well, maybe not that wide, but pretty dang big.) There are pink sand beaches and rocky beaches and beaches boasting clusters of coves and those pretty shoreline areas flush with flora (or none at all). There is also the matter of the mainland beach vs. an island beach. Nope, we're not pitting them, head to head -- they're both good -- but beach buffs might categorize the emotions and experiences of each as a little different. On the mainland you're a bit more accessible, the bigger cities are nearby, and unwinding takes perhaps a moment or two longer. But on an island? You're away. Sure, you may get fine cell reception, but you ultimately can't be really reached, because you're on a small pocket of land surrounded by lots and lots water. It's a fine and rare feeling, and one that can be experienced by SoCalers without even hopping onto a plane. We speak, of course, of Catalina Island, a boat-reachable (and plane- and helicopter-reachable) place that's home to Descanso Beach Club, which truly revs up come summertime.

WHAT DOES "REVS UP" MEAN? The picturesque spot, which is in sight of the iconic Casino Building, is "one of the last private beaches in California with public access." There are cabanas and chaises to rent, Saturday and Sunday afternoon summer beach parties (complete with DJ-spinning sounds and live tunes), happy hour specials, and "alcohol-infused ice cream treats." Yep, that's a grown-up vacation you see on the horizon, no passport or plane reservations required. But what happens when you share the photos with friends later? Will they think you traveled to an island across the planet? Perhaps, but if they see the Casino in the background they'll know you went Catalina for a quick and not-too-dear weekend respite. And then they'll be rather jealous, so the only solution is to plan another boat ride together, back to Avalon, for some chillax-packed time on an island beach. 

Photo Credit: Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce]]>
<![CDATA[Newport Dunes Fetes a "Groovy" Fourth of July]]> Wed, 01 Jul 2015 10:22:51 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/newportdunesgroovyfourth.jpg

THAT FOURTH OF JULY FEEL: Some towns always boast a hint of a particular time of year, regardless of what the actual date might say. Solvang always feels as though the autumn solstice is just days away, thanks to its cozy spread of pastries and old-timey buildings, the kind of sweet structures one sees on the September photo on a wall calendar. The desert always holds a visual trace of summer, even in January when nighttime temperatures dip. And Newport Dunes? The expansive vacation destination always seems as though it might break out the Fourth of July sparklers, no matter if it is March or October or any other time of the year beyond the early part of the seventh month. But when the early part of the seventh month arrives, trust the waterfront marina to go all-out on the theme front. And the 2015 theme is "A Star-Spangled Groovy Fest," which means live bands playing a whole funky caboodle of tunes from the 1960s and '70s. Should you don your tie-dye and fringe? Well, July 4 may be on the toastier side, even near the water, but a little bit of vintage Fourth of July fashion would be in the spirit of the day.

AND IT IS A BIG DAY: The 57th Newport Dunes Fourth of July revs up in the early part of the afternoon, music-wise, and at Moe B's Aquatic Park, where those famous giant inflatables reign, and, yes, a water trampoline. A big floating spaceship? Or iceberg? You can climb it, in your swimsuit, if you feel up to the challenge. Paddleboats and kayaks are also out on the water, a classic sight at the Dunes. And food shall also be a major part of the merrymaking, with the Back Bay Bistro Buffet offering two seatings beginning in the late afternoon. (Hello ceviche, California rolls, and, of course, apple pie.) The over-the-agua fireworks show arrives after the sun goes way down and the sparkling sky show has its perfectly dark background. Need info on parking fees, watersport rentals, and such? Find 'em here. Can't make the Fourth festivities but want to do the Dunes soon? As mentioned, this Newport nook always has a bit of the holiday about, regardless of the time of year. Those water inflatables and paddleboats and watery views do help.

Photo Credit: Newport Dunes]]>
<![CDATA[Julian's Jumping: Gold Rush Days + Fourth of July]]> Fri, 26 Jun 2015 17:16:51 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/julianfourthpony.jpg

RED, WHITE, BLUE, AND GOLD: "Homespun" is a word we hear a lot around Thanksgiving and Christmas, two holidays when nostalgia and a wayback feeling reign. We want the same pecan pie Grandma made and to warble the same carols by the piano and to see the same TV specials, again and again. But the Fourth of July has a lot of that time-travel-y connection, too. Consider how songs like "You're a Grand Old Flag" and "America the Beautiful" and the other classics we revisit on Independence Day were likely sung in our grade school classrooms, and the grade school classrooms of our parents and grandparents, too.

Likewise, a parade that has a few sweet horses and a few floats and a few vintage cars, the kind with the funny horn honks and great grills, also can take us back to the patriotic celebrations of decades past, the ones we attended or heard about from our mom or grandfather. Finding those festivities of yore, the ones that are a bit smaller in scale but brimming with authentic sweetness, isn't that hard, though, if you know where to look. One of the most colorful spots for a hometown Fourth procession is Julian, but that's not the only history-tinged party the mountain town has on the horizon.

GOLD RUSH DAYS... clip-clops like a pretty pony, into view, over the final weekend in June. San Diego's "first and only gold rush" happened in this higher elevation town, a town that saw many lively characters pass through in the late 1800s. Some of those prospectors will return, and the spirit of the search, on Saturday, June 27 and Sunday, June 28. Historical happenings, gold-panning, and various windows on the not-so-long-ago past will fill the still-atmospheric byways of the burg.

FOURTH OF JULY PARADE: The bunting and flags will be out along Main Street and the marching bands and handsome horses, too. The 2014 parade was canceled due to a July 3 fire, and organizers promise an extra-celebratory scene for the 2015 gathering. Want to grab some curb and enjoy Julian apple pie post-parade, a dish that's quintessentially American? This is your happy, homespun scene.

Photo Credit: Julian]]>
<![CDATA[D23 Expo: Advance Ticket Sale Ending]]> Sun, 28 Jun 2015 09:50:49 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/rapunzeld23.jpg

AS BIG AS SLEEPING BEAUTY'S CASTLE: While there are numerous small 'n sweet things to be found at Disneyland -- the pennies at the bottom of the wishing well in Snow White's Grotto, the cards delivered by the fortune telling machine at the Penny Arcade, the jewels inside Pirates of the Caribbean, the stars twinkling inside Space Mountain -- it is a destination that famously thinks big. Sleeping Beauty's Castle is stare-up-in-wonder big, as is the Matterhorn. And that final drop at Splash Mountain? Imagineers were not thinking small when they designed that one. And keeping with the go-bigger tradition is D23 Expo, the every-two-years Disney fan convention that will again alight, just a short walk from the world's most famous theme park, at the Anaheim Convention Center in August.

WHAT'S HAPPENING: This is the three-day weekend when movie stars of upcoming properties make cameos -- Johnny Depp has, in the past, and just about every other recent movie headliner -- and reveals and/or peeks are made at projects in the works. The "Silly Symphonies" will get a special concert, complete with live orchestra, if you want to take an animated trip back to the '30s. Pixar aficionados are out in force, and "Star Wars" mavens, too, and those who dig the history of Walt Disney's dream visit the archive exhibit, which shall include "(m)ore than 300 classic and contemporary objects celebrating the 60th anniversary of Walt's first theme park." Ah yes, it is also the 60th anniversary of Disneyland, so prepare for much merch and lots of love given to that.

ADVANCE TICKETS... at a discounted price have been available, but not for much longer. That all wraps on June 30, so if you want to score your adult one-day general admission for sixty seven dollars, rather than seventy four dollars, best do that before July kicks in. After all, if you've been sewing your Rapunzel costume or Captain Jack Sparrow outfit for the last few weeks, you want to make sure you have your ticket firmly in hand (and put the extra few bucks you've saved towards something needed for your look -- more hair flowers or beads, perhaps). Need ticket info for the Aug. 14-16 expo, Mouseketeers? The parade is this way.

Photo Credit: D23 EXPO]]>
<![CDATA[Go Soon: Mariposa Grove Closing for Restoration]]> Sun, 28 Jun 2015 09:49:23 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/mariposagrove293920930.jpg

BEAUTIFUL BEHEMOTHS: Few people are cavalier about the forests and canyons and rivers of California -- we all try to stay aware about the issues that impact our home planet and our rather glorious Golden State surroundings -- but we can grow a little complacent about being able to access our neighboring natural wonders. Surely Pinnacles National Park and Mount Shasta and the redwoods up around Klamath are just there, always open, any time we need to have some communing with nature, right? Well, yes, mostly, but, on occasion, a well-known nature spot shutters for various important reasons.

Mariposa Grove of Yosemite National Park will do just that, tentatively around July 6, when a 24-month restoration project begins. If you're recalling that recent changes have already arrived at the grove of giant sequoias that sits within the national park's boundaries, your memory is solid: The Big Tree Tram Tour ceased operation, forever, in autumn of 2014. Sequoia super-fans -- and surely that's all of us, right? -- weren't out of luck as far as making for Mariposa Grove, however; the area was set to stay open for some time following the tour's closure, as plans were made for its back-to-nature restoration.

THAT RESTORATION... is now upon us, as of early July, so visitors have late into June, and the Fourth of July weekend, to eye the grouping, which "contains about 500 mature giant sequoias." If the restoration proceeds as planned, you can visit again starting in a couple of years, but with an updated landscape to enjoy. Or, if you prefer to think of it in a different light, a "backdated" landscape, since the restoration seeks to return the grove to more of its natural, untouched state by stripping away some of the humanmade creations (hence the ending of the tram tour). It's a trend in many a natural area, and one that promises a positive impact on the natural processes of the plants and animals that call a much-visited wonder home. For more on the Mariposa Grove restoration, and to find your big-tree experience, venture this way, explorers.

photo: Yosemite National Park

Photo Credit: Yosemite National Park]]>
<![CDATA[Silent DJ Parties Rev Up Hyatt Palm Springs]]> Wed, 01 Jul 2015 21:28:50 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/HyattPalmSpringsP061Pool1DJ.jpg

CLASSIC POOL PARTY, LOW VOLUME: Never let it be said that social scenes are static entities with structures that remain stagnant and unchanging and resistant to change. Case in point: The silent DJ party. Just when you -- and everyone else who keeps a tab on trends -- might have thought that a DJ-led music bash was full of thump and volume an ever-so-cool, hotel-cool happening, one that the Palm Springs Hyatt is adopting over several summer Sundays, the first hotel in the region to do so. So what's a silent DJ party? It's where guests gather in an area -- the pool is a pretty chic choice -- over an evening -- Saturday is also chic, as days of the week go -- and don, in unison, wireless headsets.

THOSE HEADSETS... will be tuned into what the resident DJ is spinning live, just across the pool from you, but rather than sending those big, booming vibes into the nearby hotel rooms, they'll stay tucked within your ears, for you, and your fellow attendees, to enjoy. If you need a brief rest from what's happening at the turntables, you can switch over to another channel which includes "a different playlist available for party-goers." Dressing for a fabulous pool party in your warm-weather maxi-dress-board-shorts best? That won't change, even though the party's gone quieter; the feel is still kind of a fashion-fun, DJ-centered scene. Cocktails, misters, and cool towels are the scene-ready accouterments.

SATURDAY, JUNE 20...  was the first silent DJ of the season at the desert resort-based Hyatt, but there are a few more to come, on July 4, Aug. 8, and Sept. 5. The times? Be at the pool from 8 to 11 o'clock. The people-watching? Pretty great, especially if you slip your headset off and watching revelers dancing to the music they're hearing but you, for the moment, are not. The benefit for hotel guests not attending the get-together? Way more quiet than if a few big speakers lined the outdoor area. The benefit for party people? The chance to bond, via headset and a new, unusual experience, with other people digging the tunes and different scenario. If you've been to a booming pool bash, call the Palm Springs Hyatt's take a through-the-looking-glass version. 

Photo Credit: Palm Springs Hyatt/Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Botanic Garden Sweet: Fairy Festival]]> Mon, 15 Jun 2015 18:40:34 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/SDBGFairyQueen.jpg

MAGICAL CREATURES, THE NATURAL WORLD: Fairies, having wings, can fly just about anywhere they please or happen to be needed. This can include the tallest skyscrapers or restaurants or boats or homes, because if there is a window or a door or the smallest of cracks, the tiny winged things can find a way inside. But fairies, as every lover of children's literature and lore knows, adore nature best. That's where they find strength and inspiration and beauty and fun, so even if they must flit away from the trees and flowers for a day, to help a human in the city, they'll return to their plants and shrubs. The San Diego Botanic Garden, in fact, is just the kind of location that fairies favor; it is large, around 35 acres, and it is lush with coast scrub oaks and prickly pears and bush sunflowers and all sorts of native bloomy pretty plants. This makes the Encinitas wild place both the perfect year-round retreat for fairies and the ideal spot for aspiring fairies to try their wings on and get a grapple with magic wands and other forms of enchantments. And those aspiring fairies, youngsters who like to dress up in full fairy regalia, shall find their way to the flora-filled spot on the eve of the Summer Solstice, for a full day devoted to crafts, dress-up, and the ways of fairydom.

THE FAIRY FESTIVAL... sets gently down at the garden on Saturday, June 20. Kids are encouraged to show in their sparkliest outfits (the grown-ups, though, are asked to leave their fairy togs at home). A full spate of fairy crafts will flutter over the day, from the creating of treasure chests (think wooden boxes and rhinestones) to the fashioning of fairy dust bottles. If your tot has forgotten his or her magic wand, there's a workshop that'll help replace that all-important item, and there's an area devoted to the building of fairy houses, too. Does your at-home garden or yard have one? So essential. The spellbinding creatures may flit and float where the wind takes them, but they always like returning to a home base made from natural materials. The cost to attend? It's included with admission to the San Diego Botanic Garden, but stow some cash for material fees. Be sure that your little fairy gets a photo taken with the Fairy Princess, who shall be holding court at the glittery gathering.

Photo Credit: San Diego Botanic Garden Staff]]>
<![CDATA[Del Mar Village Summer Solstice]]> Wed, 10 Jun 2015 11:47:19 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/delmarvillagesummersolstice.jpg

LONGEST DAY, LANGUID TIMES: No one would sniff or look down at their nose or poo-poo how other places beyond California celebrate the planet's nearest star on the occasion of its biggest humanmade holiday, Summer Solstice. Loads of locations throw lovely parties in honor of the sun, and the warm weather, and the extra daylight, and the joy of being outside (since Summer Solstice trades very much in the pleasures of al fresco pursuits). But the Golden State does, after all, have "golden" in its very name, and while that's in large part due to the sparkly stuff in the ground, it also is because we're pretty ray-enriched 'round here. We've always got a touch of the Summer Solstice spirit, in short, regardless of the time of year (okay, maybe not on chilly, foggy February mornings, but we keep the sunshine in our hearts). So when an actual party rolls around near June 21, the official date of the solstice, and it has "Summer Solstice" in its name, and it takes place at  fine ocean-nice spot, which is perfect for watching a sunset, you almost have to grab it. And people do celebrate solsticely, from Santa Barbara's mondo parade to Del Mar, which is throwing a wine and food and music and social confab a few days ahead of the holiday. It's...

THE DEL MAR VILLAGE SUMMER SOLSTICE... and it brings the bash to Powerhouse Park, which is not all that far from the waves of another P-named thing, the Pacific. "California's best wineries and breweries" make a showing at the Thursday, June 18 confab, as well as regional makers of delicious foodstuffs including Bull Taco, Zel's Del Mar, Jake's Del Mar, Sbicca, and Ocean View Bar and Grill. The beneficiary is the Del Mar Village Association, and you benefit by getting in deeper with Del Mar's dining options. Only ever stick to one or two places while you're through town? This is your edible education night. Mostly, though, you should find a chilled glass of Chardonnay, that unofficial drink of a 21+ summer, and raise it to the big ball of fire setting to the west. For while a sunshiny holiday only officially comes around but once a year for most places, for we ocean-facing West Coasters acting like every day is the longest, most languid day of the year is sometimes a way of life.

Photo Credit: Del Mar Village]]>
<![CDATA[Miramonte Resort: Summer "Stay Free" Deal]]> Sat, 13 Jun 2015 12:02:54 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/MiramonteResortSpaOverall.jpg

WORTHY OF AN ODE: Nature is an endless source of wonder and amazement and inspiration and mind-widening experiences, but simply praising all of nature, as a whole, is sometimes not enough. We want specific moments and places to be enraptured by: The shore at sunrise, the mountains in autumn, the desert on a summer night. Summer evenings in an arid place, though, are quite unsung, compared to the other riches of the wilder planet, if only because we know the days are quite hot. But after sundown? The temp is ideal, the stars are looking spiffy, and one can linger outdoors, no wrap required. Lingering by a pool is the way to go, and saving a few -- or many -- bucks to do so is a total gas. Which is why all desert-night-loving SoCalers should look inland, to resortland, where interesting discounts have a way of flowering come the warmer days of June, July, and August. Miramonte Resort & Spa is one such getaway where this is now happening, for the summer of 2015, and the deal-saving, and the desert-night-good-time-having, is looking prime: The new Stay Free package "awards a complimentary third night and a $25 spa credit to guests booking a two-night stay" through Sept. 30, 2015.

SIGNATURE POOL UPDATES: The San Jacinto Mountains, which form the vista for the resort, aren't too new -- of course -- but fresh pool furniture and a "new state of the art sound system" are recent additions. There are cabanas, too, and a full menu, but if chillaxing and communing with the desert night is your bag, the Piedmont pool is described as the quieter choice (and it is for the grown-ups only). As for the spa credit? There are just-introduced treatments for summer, including an emollient Quench Massage. "Quench" anything sounds great in a drier climate. As for just soaking up the night? That can be done anywhere on the property, but preferably from a reclining position on a pool lounger. Summer, after all, isn't all about lots of heat in the desert; a full half of the day, when the sun bids goodbye, makes for ideal temps, ideal stargazing, ideal letting-the-city-go-ing.

Photo Credit: Miramonte Resort & Spa]]>
<![CDATA[Free Admission for Military: San Diego Botanic Garden]]> Wed, 03 Jun 2015 12:46:14 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sdbotanicgarden12982182.jpg

BLUE STAR AND SWEET BLOSSOMS: While the traditionally observed summer season runs from Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day Weekend, it isn't the only nice thing to occur within that stretch. The annual Blue Star Museums program also happens during that time frame, and it is a program enjoyed by thousands. Designed for active members of the military and their families, Blue Star, which waives admission for military families at over 2000 museums across the country, was formed in partnership with the Department of Defense and the National Endowment for the Arts. But it isn't just traditional museums that are part of the fun; cultural institutions, science museums, and public gardens made the roster, too.

ONE OF THOSE GARDENS... is the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas, which is welcoming military families with zero admission required through Monday, Sept. 7. There are big days ahead, including a Fairy Festival on the Saturday of Father's Day Weekend and an Insect Festival in late July, but you and the kids can show any day, really, to soak up 35 acres of winding paths, native plants, flowering shrubs, shady trees, and all sorts of nature-wonderful sights. Need details on how it works at the garden? Here's your page. Want to know the rest of the Blue Star spots in California? The list is lovely and long, so prepare.

THURSDAY FAMILY FUN NIGHT: While it isn't associated with the Blue Star Museums program, this San Diego Botanic Garden series is worth keeping in mind, if you're looking to get the excited-for-the-weekend family out of the house and into the fresh air. It's "free with paid admission" and happens every Thursday evening through Aug. 27. Oh, there's tot-pleasing entertainment, too, in addition to the chance to be in the gardens a bit late, as the sun sets, which is a rarer treat. 

Photo Credit: San Diego Botanic Garden]]>
<![CDATA[La Casa del Zorro: Swimming, Stars, Summer]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 12:17:02 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/zorropoolborrego.jpg

BEST-KEPT SECRET: There are so many phrases that pop up in brochures and guidebooks that can instantly bring a smile. The word "nestled" is charming, and oft-used for any building situated in a valley. And "best-kept secret" regularly shows up in reference to places more than a few people know about. These chestnuts can comfort a traveler, and we'd never want to see them truly go, but let's pause to put a spin on the whole "best-kept secret" idea when it comes to the desert in the summertime. That's not a secret that's been well-kept but rather well-shared; many people know that the days when temperatures top out in the three digits are some of the most excellent times of year to venture into our stark and arid and gorgeous landscapes. And this "well-shared secret" isn't about travelers heading into the desert for several hours but rather keeping close to a hotel pool, or spa, or heading out at night when temps have dropped. La Casa del Zorro is a prime place to do the desert in June, July, and into August. It's located in Borrego Springs, so you'll get your vast vista on, for sure, and it has a pool, so you'll get your water-close lounging in, and there are astronomy nights on the summer calendar, so you'll have your fill of Jupiter and Venus, too.

STARGAZING PARTIES: In fact, in the "well-shared secret" realm, the Anza-Borrego region and astronomy are a pretty longtime twosome. So hopping into a stargazing night at La Casa del Zorro is as sense-making as sunscreen before heading outdoors. June 18, July 23, and Aug. 13 are the nights, and the themes of each night, what can be seen far into the cosmos, shall differ depending what's happening above. If staying up and looking up isn't your bag -- and we're sure it is, but if it isn't all you like to do, you can snack poolside from the Fox Den Cantina, which offers specials to pool-lounging guests or stay into the night, on a Friday or Saturday night, for pool-close live tunes. Is the desert the place to be come summertime? We've long heard otherwise, but travelers in the know talk about this well-shared secret often: The off-season in the desert, when warm gets warmer, can make for some fine swimming and stargazery, without the wintertime bustle.

Photo Credit: Casa del Zorro]]>
<![CDATA[Julian Dance and Back Country BBQ]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 10:58:06 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ribstongs234horz.jpg

UP-THE-MOUNTAIN MERRIMENT: No one would ever take the beach to task, for stealing the thunder of mountain and desert towns on the whole start-the-summer party front. We do absolutely want to take our fun down to the water's edge come the end of May, to don our swimsuits and big hats and drink something flavored with watermelon or peach. But the hamlets located further inland throw their own summer-style shebangs, too, parties with a distinct and often traditional flavor, parties that serve as a nice complement to all of the beach-close bashes. Julian, that Gold Country burg known for its apple-y ways come autumn, is also a queen of summer fun. Look the late-in-June Gold Rush Days, and the soon-after-that Fourth of July parade, which is just about as sweetly small town as sweetly small town gets. But there's another quintessential hoedown that comes before those gatherings, on the summer calendar, and it only requires that you a) buy a ticket, of course and b) love to chow down on savory, saucy meatstuffs and c) dig dancing to twangy, guitar-laden, rootsy rockin' get-up-and-move music. It's the...

JULIAN DANCE AND BACK COUNTRY BBQ: Do you have boots that stomp well? And a crinoline and skirt made for swirling? Then make for Menghini Winery on Saturday, June 13 where three acts are set to make strummable music to swing by. Those bands? The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, Freight Shakers, and Shotgun Wedding. Tickets? They're twenty bucks in advance, with another fiver on top of that if you buy yours there. Are kids invited? Yep, it is described as family friendly, so if you have a young dancer in the family they should be on that dance floor. How long has this one been around? Nearly a decade. Call it a mountain-style -- or "back country," if you will -- way to get the summer going, with boot-raising tunes and meaty eats in the mix. Beach, you're still major in the warm weather department, but some merrymakers simply like taking the good times to a higher elevation.

Photo Credit: Ribs/Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Paint the Night: New Disneyland Parade Debuts]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 10:36:39 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/TinkerBellinPainttheNight.jpg

FERVENT FEELINGS: Ask any longtime Magic Kingdom maven to rhapsodize about a favorite element or ride or treat from the past, and you're likely to get a host of colorful answers. The PeopleMover, that wonder of Tomorrowland, will probably get a shout-out. Adventure Thru Inner Space, too (how did they make the riders so tiny?) often gets the love, too, as does the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train. But every serious Mouseketeer will, at some point in the nostalgia-laden conversation, say the words "Main Street Electrical Parade." The bulb-blinky, sweetly whimsical procession wended through the park after sundown, and its upbeat, hard-to-stop-humming theme song? Well, if you don't have it in your head, instantly, right now, we can only bet you're going to have to Google it at some point today.

SPARKLE SPECTACULAR: The glowtastic parade was retired at Disney California Adventure in 2010 -- well, before making its way to Walt Disney World -- but Orange County-based aficionados have been itching for a lively revisit. They're about to get it, though it is not the Electrical Parade from the past. It's Paint the Night, a "state-of-the-art" extravaganza "Honoring Disney's Electrical Parade Heritage." The introduction of the new evening spectacular is a big element in the theme park's big 60th anniversary celebrations, which officially kick off on May 22.

SPOT THE ROSETTE: Tinker Bell is one of the parade participants, and fans along the route are encouraged to keep an eye on her wand, which includes a pretty rosette straight from the Main Street Electrical Parade. A drum in Paint the Night also summons memories of an Electrical Parade component of yore. Want to see a behind-the-scenes-y peek before you head for the park and find your spot on the curb? Here's how a few details came together on the old-meets-new-meets-wow parade...

Photo Credit: Disneyland Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Myrtle Creek: Fairies + Princesses Rule]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 10:15:08 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/myrtlecreekbuilding1.jpg

SPRING AND WINGS: The ending of May is just about the sweetest slice of springtime, for those who love to be outdoors and love to daydream and love to make things, all with a side of warming sunshine. We're pulling into June, and the summer season, so afternoons with an al fresco twist aren't too chilly, and the coming of the summer season, that time for books and daydreams -- feelings leftover from childhood -- means we're ready to create something cool, or play at something cool, too. Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens & Nursery in Fallbrook is into this fantasy vibe, both for the grown-ups (the myriad plants and flowers feel magical to be around) and for the kids. For while there are plenty of adult-focused fun times to come later this summer, a few things going down, right at the end of May, are just right for younger people wrapping up the school year. Like the building of...

A FAIRY GARDEN: You've likely heard rumor of these heart-cheery sights, in magazines, or seen them in the yards of friends, but fashioning your own outdoor nook with your fairy-fascinated kid feels like the right thing to do at the start of summer, a long stretch where people are simply out under the sky more often. Myrtle Creek has daily workshops about fairy gardens, what to use and what to include (moss, geodes, succulents), so you can get the jump on yours before the warmest days of the year arrive. Rumor has it that small winged creatures rather like those days, so set up your whimsical garden now, the better to enjoy them. There is also...

A LITTLE PRINCESS EVENT, too, on Sunday, May 24. Note this is a one-day-only party -- the fairy garden workshops are daily -- and note that your wee royal should definitely dress in their castle-ready best. It's a photography-fun deal, so get the details. 

READY FOR GROWN-UP STUFF... as well? Pencil in Garden Yoga and an Artisan Fair, which are both ahead at Myrtle Creek during the warmer days of summer.

Photo Credit: Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens]]>
<![CDATA[New: Carter Estate Winery in Temecula]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 20:15:00 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/225*120/carterestatetemecula.jpg

FRESH SIPS: Every oenophile has their go-to winery, the one they know a lot about, from its beginnings to its big years to what it does best, bottle-wise. But there are, beyond everyone's favorite spots, those landmark winemakers that every vino fan knows a little something about, from a great glass of pinot noir they had their once to a lovely dinner enjoyed on a patio a few years back. South Coast Winery Resort & Spa is definitely one of those stalwarts 'round Temecula Valley, a favorite of many but known by all. So when news that South Coast owner Jim Carter would be unveiling Carter Estate Winery and Resort, a 119-acre spread in Temecula, was announced, wine tasters penciled in a visit on their next time through, knowing what they know of South Coast's history for making a very solid sip. That "next time through" Temecula Valley can now officially start whenever, for the newest winery made its grand "phase one" debut on...

FRIDAY, MAY 15: The "luxury lifestyle resort" will offer "more intimate tasting experiences" in addition to some swanky stay-over options: 42 bungalows dot the property, and there's a pool with cabanas to boot. As for the libations visitors to the tasting room shall try? Think sparkling wines, "classic cuvees" that shall include Blanc de Blanc, Blanc de Noir, and Brut, but the winery is producing swanky still varietals as well. 

TASTING ROOM: To experience the upscaleness that the new winery is embracing, there is, of course, the room de tasting, which shall keep daily hours of 11 a.m. to 5 o'clock. As for the deep-cellar, in-the-know cuvees that may one day nab the sorts of awards that South Coast gets on the regular? Word for the new winery says a "prestige Cuvee, which will take five or six years to obtain the desired quality ratings, will also be part of the production." Oenophiles, it could be time to add a new winery to your knowledge file, the one you like to pull out at tasting counters to impressive your pals (and, okay, yourself, too).

Photo Credit: Carter Estate Winery]]>
<![CDATA[Swim Chess: Vegas Pool Ups the Game]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 10:04:44 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/delanobeachvegaschess.jpg

THERE WAS ONCE A DAY... where poolside activities, or to-dos related to a hotel-adjacent body of water, could be listed on one hand. Perhaps you took some sun or read a book or played shuffleboard or gabbed with a friend and... that was about it. But water-close pursuits have flowered in recent decades in many ways. You can book a posh cabana in some spots (complete with a TV and mini fridge). You can raise a tiny flag on your lounger, which will summon a server to your side, and, moments later, a tropical cocktail of some sort. You can request a waterbottle spritzing, if the sunshine has proven too warm. And you can, if you're in the right location, wade into the H20 for a rousing game of water chess. Fear not -- you don't have to drag your favorite board into the pool to make this happen. You just need to find your way to Delano Beach Club in Las Vegas, which just revealed its new in-pool chess game, and just in time for the 2015 summer season.

DELANO LAS VEGAS... is the property, and the oversized chess set can be found on the wet deck. Will wearing your swimsuit assist you in plotting your next move? A bikini or swim trunks aren't the typical sartorial choices when one is sitting down to face off with a friend at home. If chess isn't your deal, there are, take heart, cabanas with both bottle service and big televisions ("big"=46 inches). Or perhaps a cabana is just what you need, a place to retreat to between matches, the better to suss out your next move.

ARIA RESORT & CASINO: If you book at this center-Strip property's Sky Suites, you now have exclusive dibs -- along with other Sky Suites guests, natch -- on the brand-new Sky Pool. "Complimentary refreshments" arrive every hour and a half, and if you're needing a chilled towel, a chilled towel you shall have. Daybeds and chaise lounges dot the pool deck and the cocktail menu? Craig Schoettler, the Property Mixologist, has created a menu just for Sky Pool. Yes, there is a Frozen Mudslide, made with top-shelf spirits, in case you're wondering. (You were wondering.)

Photo Credit: Delano Beach Club/Jim Decker]]>
<![CDATA[Vegas Legend: Golden Gate Shrimp Cocktail]]> Sun, 10 May 2015 13:46:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/shrimpgoldengatecloseup.jpg

THE TANGIEST TRADITION: When asked to name some potent, memorable, and long-running Las Vegas classics, answers may vary, delightfully. Some might say neon lights, though LED has taken the lead in the illumination race in recent years. Some might say over-the-top shows, the kind with feathery headdresses and sequins and aerialists swinging from the flying trapeze, and they'd be 100% correct. No argument there: Sin City brims with shiny splash. And those looking to the food end of things might cite pricey steaks, stiff gin & tonics, and shrimp cocktails at a steal.

SHRIMPTASTIC SUPERSTAR: Of course, that last category belongs, in Las Vegas legend, to one spot and one spot alone: The Golden Gate Hotel & Casino. The historic lodge at the corner of Fremont and Main Streets has been synonymous -- if "synonymous" is strong enough a word -- with the discounted appetizer since 1959 when Italo Ghelfi, a founder of the Golden Gate, "introduced the popular San Francisco recipe to the casino scene." Some long-timers might remember when the cocktail went for under a buck, then just under two, but the treat, which contains about 30 or so medium-sized shrimp, now goes for a penny under four dollars, still quite the bite-ready bargain. Will more fans show up on May 10, which happens to be National Shrimp Day, for that $3.99, cocktail sauce-laden, shellfishian favorite? Well, it also happens to be Mother's Day, so if you're doing downtown with Mom, you might want to swing through the Golden Gate and make for Du-Par's Restaurant & Bakery, where the shrimp cocktail is now served.

THE SUPPING OR THE SUNDAE GLASS? Fans of the famous Vegas appetizer have to answer this, however: Is the shrimp cocktail more famous, its low, low price, or the iconic sundae glass it is served, and always has been served in, along with some crackers and lemon? We think it all works, the glass, the deal, and the meal. Can't have one without the other, but you do have to make for the historic heart of Sin City to dig in.

Photo Credit: Biondo Photo]]>
<![CDATA[National Park Photos: "Share the Experience" Winners]]> Fri, 08 May 2015 12:46:42 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/169*120/zarcticnationawildliferefuge_cameronteller.jpg The amateur shutterbug contest brought out some stunning snapshots

Photo Credit: Cameron Teller]]>
<![CDATA["Phantom" Fun on Catalina Island]]> Sat, 09 May 2015 07:48:18 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/catalinaphantom1234567.jpg

A MATCH IN MOVIE LOVER HEAVEN: There isn't a cinephile on the planet who would turn her or his nose up at catching a famous silent era flick in a theater, any theater, especially if a fine fundraiser is behind it. But it is a rare day when a film from the 1920s is shown in a theater from the 1920s. Very often we see vintage works on screens in modern cinemas, and while we are definitely there to look straight ahead, at the action unfurling before us, we're aware, even in the dark, of the contemporary surroundings. Ah, but to see a deeply atmospheric treat like "The Phantom of the Opera," which was made in 1925, in the exquisite Avalon Casino Theatre, a venue that debuted in 1929, just a few years after "Phantom" opened. How's that for an era-ideal match between setting and cinema? It doesn't come along all that often. Add the fact that this is a one-night-only fundraiser to this most excellent pairing, a fundraiser for the history-important Catalina Island Museum, and you have another cherry atop the cake. 

SPEAKING OF CAKE... would it be wrong to call the Casino Building, which the Avalon Casino Theatre is a part of, a bit cake-like in its iconic appearance? Surely we can't be the first. Just about every Catalina Island aficionado knows the cinema is inside the burg's best-known building, but if you don't know that, you're in for a treat. The Phantom goes a-haunting on Saturday, May 16, there shall be live accompaniment by a 30-piece orchestra, and organist Dennis James shall be filling the air with ye olde sounds of the '20s. Lisa Vroman shall sing, too, adding further exquisiteness to an exquisite night.

WE KEEP SAYING "EXQUISITE"... but we must. The interior of this theater is not really a best-kept secret. It's not a secret at all. It brims with Art Deco murals by artist John Gabriel Beckman and the kind of style and dash and atmosphere that shall match all of the spooky Paris-based action on the big screen. Truly, we don't get that twosome often enough, a theater and movie born of the same time. That you get to do it all on Catalina Island, itself a place out of another decade, is frosting on the aforementioned cake. Want a ticket? Sweep your cape dramatically about your person and sail your subterranean boat this way.

Photo Credit: Catalina Island Museum]]>
<![CDATA[Puppy Prom: Rescue Dogs Party in Rancho Santa Fe]]> Tue, 05 May 2015 10:26:47 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/PuppyProm2015123.jpg

PROM TRADITIONS... very often center on the dresses and the tuxedos and the decorations and the music and the all-important "promposal," which has grown more elaborate, and more documented, over the years. But whether an attendee chooses to wear taffeta or a top hat or sits out the slow songs or keeps some confetti for a souvenir, one thing holds: Prom goers tend to reminisce about the experience for years to come with other members of their particular graduating class.

Consider the cute symmetry, if you will, of rescue centers, and how they, too, in a way, have graduating classes of sorts. We're talking about those dogs who head to their forever homes during a particular year, though whether the pups "graduate" or rather bound happily for the backseat of the car is up for discussion. What isn't really up for discussion is this: It's fun, and heartwarming, for a pup, and the pup's people, to return to the rescue center each year for a reunion of sorts. The Helen K. Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe does just this via its yearly Puppy Prom. But it isn't only the alumni of the Fido-sweet facility that are welcomed back to play under prom-cute banners. Any pup from "any other rescue facility" can join the Puppy Prom, too.

WILL YOU REMEMBER... the other pups from the year you adopted your furry one? Well, perhaps not, but the prom, which is scheduled for Saturday, May 9, is a good way to get reacquainted and find out the rest of their stories. Cats will be part of the celebrating, too -- Puppy Prom is not just puppies -- and a Kitty King and Queen will be crowned. And will there be a few bow ties and gowns on the hounds? You'll have to see it with your own marveling eyes. The puppy alumni enjoy romping during the promly happening, but the people like to connect, too. If you've adopted a rescue, consider how much you have in common with other canine-loving rescue families. Proms are famous for making memories. Could you, too, make a memory with a new human friend who also digs dogs? Better straighten that boutonniere and find out, prom partiers.

Photo Credit: Helen Woodward Animal Center]]>
<![CDATA[60th Anniversary: Spend 24 Hours at Disneyland]]> Fri, 01 May 2015 17:18:34 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/24hours2015dl.jpg

THE BIG 60TH (SANS SLEEP): Many people who consider themselves Magic Kingdom mavens but who have never attended an overnight, 24-hours-long Disneyland event often fill in the gaps of the experience by guessing that many visitors, on those special days, return to a nearby hotel room to catch 40 winks. Au contraire: Disneyland Resort's 24-hour events see throngs of park goers who push through the entire experience, only pausing to have a rest at the Plaza Inn or Red Rockett's Pizza Port when a rest is required. It's a rather amazing thing to see, and, yes, people get a little giddy around hour 20 or 21, but giddiness is expected and embraced, as a rule, at The Happiest Place on Earth. Which will soon, again, for 24 straight-through hours, become The Open-All-Night-iest Place on Earth, in honor of Disneyland's 60th anniversary.

MAY MERRIMENT: True, true, you know your trivia: The park debuted on July 17, 1955. But like all major Magic Kingdom celebrations, the anniversary fun will go on all summer, meaning that the summer celebrations start the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend. So get your stocking cap on, all-nighters, the kind Winnie the Pooh dons to head for bed, and plan to go major -- and Mickey -- from 6 a.m. on Friday, May 22 through 5:59 a.m. on Saturday, May 23.

WHAT'S ON TAP... for the daytime-nighttime-daytime to-do? "Special character encounters at locations in Disneyland and Disneyland California Adventure parks" are in the party plans, as is the debut of the new "Paint the Night" parade. A fresh "World of Color" will be unveiled on May 22 as well (listen for Neil Patrick Harris and Mickey Mouse, the co-hosts of the new presentation). And the "Disneyland Forever" fireworks take off that evening, too. Goodness, Mouseketeers, alllll of this new-new-new stuff, all unrolling over one long night. We do believe it'll be pretty easy for everyone to keep their eyes open with the just-revealed stuff to look at and enjoy. The only question left is this: Where will you be at midnight? (We vote the wishing well in Snow White Grotto, of course.)

Photo Credit: Disneyland Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Mother's Day Saturday: Chocolate Fest in Encinitas]]> Fri, 01 May 2015 13:56:38 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/173*120/chocolates.jpg

MOTHER'S DAY SATURDAY SWEETNESS: While some people quibble about Halloween decorations showing up on the store shelves in August and Christmas tinsel appearing before Halloween is even over, we can all agree that Mother's Day Saturday is a lovely development in the world of holiday extension. For Mother's Day, traditionally observed on the second Sunday of May, can pass too quickly all too often, especially if you only got to spend a few hours with your mom over omelets and mimosas. Planning an interesting out the day before frees your mom and you up to not be under the Sunday-morning meal pressure, though that, of course, can still be enjoyed, even if you do something on Mother's Day Eve.

THE SAN DIEGO BOTANIC GARDEN... has become one of the go-to spots in this realm, both because it is an expansive, 35-acre spread filled with plants and trees and flowers, an ideal sort of place to wander with Mom while you chat and bond. But the Encinitas destination sweetens the deal on Mother's Day Saturday with a Chocolate Festival, a gathering that summons the gourmet-iest of candymakers from the region. And Mother's Day Saturday shall again have some sugar sprinkled on top when the Chocolate Festival sets up shop on...

SATURDAY, MAY 9: Your paid admission to the garden gets you in, but bring some cash for tasting tickets (and your mom's tasting tickets, too, of course; we just know you're covering her in honor of her special day). The haute chocolate chefs will include David Bacco Chocolatier, Moo-less Chocolates, and Dallman Confections. As for what's in bloom in May around the grounds? Look for Orange Jubilee, Giant Birds of Paradise, and the Naked Coral Tree to be showing their petals and hues.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Carlsbad Package: Follow The Hops Highway]]> Thu, 30 Apr 2015 20:58:57 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/HOPS_HWY_PIC1.jpg

THE SUDS OF ROUTE 78: Wine-tasting routes, and someone to drive you along them, are such a part of Golden State tourism that they can seem as plentiful, and varied, as a shelf holding a hundred different vintages. Some tours involve a van, or bus, some only involve red wines, some focus solely on organic vineyards. But finding that same type of tour that focuses fully on craft breweries is a little trickier. That may be because bespoke-style brew-making is a newer industry, all told, at least in California, than the growing and creation of wine, or because breweries haven't clustered in the way that wineries do. There is crafty clustering going down along Route 78, however, from Oceanside to Julian, and Carlsbad's West Inn & Suites is making it easier for guests to take all of that foamy regional beer-mastery in in one sudsy swoop.

THE HOPS HIGHWAY PACKAGE: The get-better-acquainted-with-area-beers deal goes something like this... You'll check in, enjoy your room, and then meet a brew expert from Sterling Rose. Is that "luxury private vehicle" out in front of the inn your roll for the day? It is indeed. You'll set out along Route 78, stopping at a quartet of breweries to taste, talk about bitterness and depth and tone, and you'll meet some of the people working the big tanks, too. Peeks around the breweries -- touring is part of the deal -- and snacks plus water are part of the package as well. All in all, the day lasts about four hours, and you'll see one of California's Gold-Rush-iest roads (truly, not everything Gold Rush-y happened in the Sierra). 

COST AND DATES? This is a Saturday and Sunday kind of thing, and the price starts at $499 for two people (you can book more into your party, up to eight, if you wish). As for the four brewhouses you'll get to know? Stone Brewing, Ballast Point, The Lost Abbey, and Mother Earth Brew Co., too. Will you be an expert on their beverages by the end? That's up to the knowledge you soak in, but just enjoying the Saturday- or Sunday-style easy sipping is pretty choice, too.

Photo Credit: West Inn and Suites]]>
<![CDATA[Pedal Power: Nobody Walks in LA Package]]> Sat, 25 Apr 2015 07:51:55 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/farmersdaughter23212.jpg

FAIRFAX BY FOOT: The hoary notion that Los Angeles is a megalopolis obsessed with cars is... well, not really all that hoary nor dated nor wrong, really. You can't deny that it is a city crisscrossed by muscular, multi-lane freeways, nor that more than one regional museum is devoted to car culture. But LA is also a collection of neighborhoods, like all huge cities, and those snug clutches of restaurants and pubs and galleries are easily taken by foot. The Farmer's Daughter Hotel, which is smack dab in one of the city's thrivingest, liveliest neighborhoods, wants people to know that pedaling -- or pounding the pavement -- is an absolutely fine way to see Fairfax Avenue, The Grove shopping center, the historic Original Farmers Market, and The Miracle Mile, which is home to a few of the city's top museums. All of those sights can be reached from the colorful, farm-themed hotel by foot, though the group of bicycles out front all suggest that a couple of wheels and some leg power'll take you to where you need to be, too. The Nobody Walks in LA package is all about walking, and cycling, around this middle-of-LA neighborhood, an area that is best seen, and appreciated, from a close-up view on the sidewalk and not from the driver's seat. Bonus? There are swanky sneakers involved.

SEAVEES STANDARD COLLECTION... sneakers, in fact. It's an offbeat add-on for a hotel package, but a perfect one that matches both the hip-happy vibe of the Farmer's Daughter (check out the bright yellow rubber duckies in the pool) to the attraction-filled neighborhood. Book the Nobody Walks package and receive a pair of sneakers for your stay (and to take, too). Each guest booked gets a pair, in fact, and you'll also receive complimentary use of the retro bikes out front of the gingham-painted hotel and a Metro card, too (several bus lines go up and down Fairfax Avenue, which runs outside). And, yes, we did say "gingham-painted hotel." Haven't you ever stayed in one of those before? For all the info on the sneaker-swanky Nobody Walks in LA deal, and other stayover sweet spots, strut this way, city-loving pedestrians.

Photo Credit: Farmer's Daughter]]>
<![CDATA[Laguna Beach Passport to the Arts]]> Tue, 28 Apr 2015 07:15:17 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sawdustpathway13453.jpg

SUMMERTIME IN ART CENTRAL: Laguna Beach, come the days of warmer weather, can be many things. It is bustling, for sure. It hums with action of both a tourist and local sort. It is the social center of the art festival scene along this stretch of the coast. It is rife with things to look at, of the painting and sculpture and textile and jewelry variety. And it is beautiful, which anyone who has ever set toe one in the town assuredly knows. But let us also add to all of this that the historic culture-smart burg can overwhelm with choices in the whole "what to take in and enjoy" department. Which translates to this: You need some support from people who understand. Meet...

THE PASSPORT TO THE ARTS: The quickity, what-is-this, tell-me-now upshot about the passport, which has been connecting people with culture for seven years, is this: It's a "triple-value, unique season pass" that "provides unlimited entry to the three premier art festivals in Laguna Beach throughout the summer festival season, which runs June 26 through August 31, 2015." Ah, you guessed it -- the trio of festivals that make up that top tier are indeed the Festival of the Arts, Art-A-Fair, and the Sawdust Art Festival. The cost? Twenty three bucks, which, seriously. Should we retype that, but in italics this time? Seriously. If you're planning on visiting all three of these festivals even once, you're saving. Multiple times and you're sitting pretty, summer-style.

BUT WAIT... there are more savings, including play discounts, whale watching discounts, free museum visits, savings on purchases at various galleries, yep. We were right to italicize that "seriously" earlier, though do note: The Pageant of the Masters is not part of the passport's roster, so make your separate plans for that ticket. All in all it is very good stuff, especially if your summer visitors love Laguna Beach and want you to drive them there. Have more than one or two groups of out-of-towners and your schedule is set (and money-saving, thanks to the Passport). For the whole caboodle of save-money-heres, and pre-festival anticipation, saunter on over to the Passport HQ (like you might saunter down to the beach along Forest Avenue). (Really, Forest Avenue is one of the prettiest of street names, though it is rivaled by its neighbors Ocean and Mermaid and Mystic Walk and Cliff.)

Photo Credit: Sawdust Art Festival/Bob Torrez]]>
<![CDATA[Ponte Winery's Vineyard Bus Tour]]> Fri, 17 Apr 2015 13:47:03 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/pontetourbus123.jpg

EVERY VINO MAVEN... knows some of the basics of how a verdant plot of land grows vines, which in turn grows grapes, and how those grapes are picked and then turned into, ultimately, a really good Riesling. Even if you're well-schooled on the whole sip scene, and you've done your learning about libations over the years, some gaps might exist on the venerable process, a process that's taken some modern leaps in recent years but still feels time-honored in its traditions. So while we say words like "tannins" and "pressings" we wonder about the length of time a ripe grape can sit ripening further and what grape skins really bring to the flavor and tone of a particular wine. Enter the vineyard tour, the lookie-loo's way to dig deeper into the doings of a winery's business. Not every winery boasts such a tour, or, at least, tours are very informal. If the owner happens to be around, or the owner's getting-into-the-business kid, they might invite you for a short walk past the barrel room and among the vines. But Ponte Winery of Temecula Valley goes beyond, way beyond, that informal tour structure. There's a Vineyard Bus Tour, complete with an open-style carriage, which gives aficionados of wine and its ways a chance to look closer at the growing and making of their favorite drink.

ONE HOUR: Set aside sixty minutes for your look-about, which'll involve a ride on the ten-seater bus and a wine tasting as well (of course you'll want to try after you've seen and learned). You'll discover the winery's "grape growing philosophy" and the "art and science of winemaking." A trio of signature Ponte wines shall be there for the tasting, and you might be able to go straight to the cask to try another. Will you be a Shiraz smartie when the tour, which is thirty five dollars, concludes? We're just betting on it. At least you'll be able to fill in some of those gaps, gladly, on how what's on a vine is transformed to the golden elixir sitting at the center of your dinner table. Tours are once a day Wednesdays through Fridays and thrice daily on the weekends.

Photo Credit: Ponte Winery]]>
<![CDATA[Mom Getaway: A St. Regis Monarch Beach Treat]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 13:17:09 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/stregishotelpool1.jpg

THANKING MOM: Call it one of the sticky wickets of the parental holidays: How do we truly show our mother and father our gratitude, our deep appreciation, and some fun to boot? Striking that balance between meaning and merriment feels a little trickier come May and June, when we wrack our thoughts, idea files, and the opinions of friends as to how we can really show our mother and father a fine time for Mother's Day or Father's Day. Happily there are good-time-showing outfits who are meeting kids halfway on this front, and some of them are going the splashier route (so beyond a quick meal out and a card, lovely as those things can be). Look to some of the Golden State's shore-close resorts, like the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point, for a fuller menu of mom-oriented to-dos this 2015 springtime holiday season.

BRUNCH ABSOLUTELY MADE THE CUT... because, after all, what is the second Saturday in May without an omelet-extravagant, mimosa-sipping celebration? Well, yes, you're right: It is brunch-less, which is not how a doting grown-up child wants to find herself, or her mom, come Mother's Day. The property's Stonehill Tavern is serving up a three-courser on Sunday, May 10, and it includes cornflake-crusted brioche French toast, oysters, and lobster quiche, among other goodies. If you're looking for more of a traditional buffet style affair, take Mom to Motif, where the brunch boasts sushi, desserts aplenty and a pancake station. A. Pancake. Station.

MORE CELEBRATORY DOINGS: Spa Gaucin is offering a Perfectly Polished Mom package, which includes "coastal stone manicures and pedicures for two." Bubbly and other extras are part of the chillax-not-far-from-the-Pacific deal. But perhaps take your barefoot walk on the beach with Mom pre-pedicure? Or at least wait an hour? She'd love the extra time with you, of course. That's part of your gift of gratitude, too: Spending time together, which, truly, is on every mom's wishlist this year (and every year).

Photo Credit: St. Regis Monarch Beach]]>
<![CDATA[CHIchella Woofs in Rancho Santa Fe]]> Fri, 10 Apr 2015 06:54:34 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/chellawoodward1.jpg

COACHELLA RULES: If you're headed into one of the world's most famous music festivals, the one in the desert over the second and third weekends in April, you know that one of the major rules is the one that says no pets are permitted. This is completely understandable, given the heat and the crowds and the sounds and the fact that chew toys are not exactly plentiful, nor are snacky treats. But there will be a -chella experience for lovers of pooches, at the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, and it coincides with the opening of the festival in Indio on April 10. Nope, the hottest bands won't be strumming their guitars up on a mega stage, but "26 Chihuahua blends meeting, greeting, and catching some rays" is the order of the celebratory day. A day that's in fact called CHIchella, so you can guess who the star of this Fido-riffic festival is: wee Chis in all of their glorious forms.

THE CHIHUAHUAS... are adoptable and ready for their always-and-forever pad -- we're calling it a "pad" instead of "home" because that seems more in the hipster spirit of things -- and you can meet your new buddy at the "outdoor X-Pen Pavilion" (which boasts a name not unlike the pavilion names found at a lot of major festivals). There shall be PUParazzi, oh yes indeed, and the first 15 people to adopt a new friend will receive "framed photos of their CHIchella-styled pup." Pretty cute, and also nice: The ten-buck Amazon iTunes gift card also thrown in, and swag (also a staple of the coolest music happenings). 

WHAT SORT OF PUPS... will you find? The Chihuahuas at the center run from "super-sporty athletes to couch-potato cuddle-bugs," so, like seeing a bevy of bands, the dogs you shall meet will all have their distinct brand (read: personality, likes, temperament). So you're not going to rock out in Indio. Why not snuggle up at home with a hound you met at CHIchella? It's a great "how we met" story to tell all of your hipster wannabe pals.

Photo Credit: Helen Woodward Animal Center]]>
<![CDATA[Swashbuckling Ahead: Two Harbors Pirate Party]]> Thu, 09 Apr 2015 13:27:22 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/twoharborsAerialcatalinachamber.jpg

JOINING A TREASURE HUNT: Surely, at some point, as a grown-up, you've attended or thrown a tot's birthday party. The chances are good, given the popularity of adventure and pirate stories in pop culture, that the partiers were in tri-cornered hats and received goodie bags full of chocolate gold coins and got to go on a treasure hunt around the host's backyard. Were you jealous? Just a mite? Just a sliver? Probably, because the opportunities for adults to don tri-cornered hats and look for treasure are, let us say, notably few in this world. For sure, we're able to be a bit more outlandish on Oct. 31 each year, but Halloween is just one day, and, really, a few hours at that.

AHOY, SHIPWRECK: For people looking for full swashbuckling merriment, but with a definite grown-up vibe -- read adult libations and DJ tunes -- there is Shipwreck Weekend, a yearly bash thrown by the Santa Catalina Island Company. It's the 3rd annual in 2015, and music-y happenings of the live band sort and costume-y happenings of the breeches-and-vests sort and a treasure hunt of the look-around-with-your-friends-and-laugh sort are all going down in Two Harbors, the smaller of the two Catalina Island municipalities. Dates? Friday, April 10 through April 12. Dress-up opportunities? They're there, so think about your clothes before catching the boat (there are no malls, needless to say, in delightfully snug Two Harbors). The chance to Catalina-it-up, with a theme, for a day or two? Yep -- if you like getting your pirate on, in a novel-like, lore-pretty setting, this is your jam.

AS FOR OTHER CATALINA DOINGS? We're heading into the heart of flying fish season in just a matter of weeks, so ponder if this is the year you see one of the wonders of the Pacific (an ocean that contains approximately 9,097,826 wonders, give or take). Fish "flap" out of the water by night. That's it. That's the magic, and it is magic to see. Here's where you start.

Photo Credit: Catalina Chamber]]>
<![CDATA[Taste of Julian: Historic Town, Modern Grub]]> Thu, 09 Apr 2015 13:27:41 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/tasteofjulian14.jpg

MOUNTAIN-STYLE MEAL-MAKING: There's nothing wrong with being a bit of a know-it-all, if you're know-it-all-ness springs from a good place and the desire to enhance your pals' lives with your know-it-all-o-sity. A prime example is possessing, if not encyclopedic knowledge, than a good handle on nearby getaways and the must-try restaurants, hotels, and attractions. Then when your friend or co-worker says they're leaving town for the weekend, you can puff your chest and share all of the knowledge you have on the place in question. That place, more often than not 'round these parts, is Julian, a quaint-sweet mountain town known for desserts that contain a certain fruit that start with ap- and end in -ple.

AFTER THE APPLE: Everyone who visits the historic Gold Rush era burg has an opinion on where to get the best slice, and whether or not that slice should be enjoyed with a slice of cheese (sometimes) or milk (always) or another fruit should cameo on occasion (raspberries are a good partner to apples). But do the know-it-alls of California travel know their Julian chowing-down apart from the apple pie scene? For example, who serves the most solid sandwiches? Best appetizers? Is there a really crispy and tantalizing French fry along Main Street? 

TASTE OF JULIAN... can let seasoned know-it-alls and aspiring know-it-alls and people who just want to spend a sweet Saturday kicking around the picturesque town, trying stuff, in on a few supping secrets. The Saturday, April 11 happening will cover a wide swath of local eateries, so you'll get the hearty flavors as well as that all-important apple pie. Cost? It's twenty five bucks at the door ("the door"=Julian Town Hall) and local wineries and breweries are joining in, too, along with the restaurants. It's self-guided, but if you want to hop on a shuttle, you can, for extra cash. It's the 7th annual Taste of Julian, by the by, so count on this being one of the town's biggest to-dos outside of its autumn apple-pie-seeking traffic. So if you're a know-it-all, you'll know to get to Julian earlier in the day. And if you are a know-it-all, someone who constantly advises pals on great restaurants in nearby towns, well good on ya. That's a pretty good quirk to have, as far as know-it-alls go.

Photo Credit: Taste of Julian]]>
<![CDATA[Opening: First Orange County Dunkin' Donuts]]> Tue, 07 Apr 2015 10:43:32 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/dunkindonutslagunaoc1.jpg

THE 5 WITH A SIDE OF FROSTING: If you've ever been heading up or down the 5 Freeway juuuust before the sun starts to rise, perhaps to surprise a friend in Carlsbad for breakfast, or because you stayed in Encinitas or San Clemente the night before but you have an early appointment, or work start, in LA, you know the breakfasty thoughts that run through your brain. You're going over, in your head, all of the diners and all-night restaurants that do the whole cereal/eggs/pancakes thing, and how far they are from the 5, and what the off-ramp situation is, and, and, and... doughnuts. You start pondering the hole-centered, soft 'n chewy discs of morningtime pleasure, and you begin to scratch your chin -- briefly, since you should keep both hands on the steering wheel -- if there isn't somewhere to get a powdery cake filled with jelly. Hold onto that steering wheel, doughnut devotees: There are many great doughnuteriums around the OC, but as of Wednesday, April 8, a new one is joining the ranks, and it is something of an icon in doughnut circles. It's Dunkin' Donuts, the chain that Westerners long envied Easterners over, an envy that began to dissipate when the first Dunkin' Donuts debuted in Santa Monica last September. There are a few doughnut purveyors now, and the first of the Orange County outlets is just ahead.

YEP, APRIL 8... is the big day, and the place? Laguna Hills. This means all of your desires to find something breakfast-like and snacky near the 5 -- it is very, very near the 5 -- are coming true, whether your driving north or south. Opening time on opening day? It's 5 a.m. on the 8th. Will there be a queue already? You bet. Will the classic Dunkin' flavors be there? For sure. How about the raved-over coffee? So much of that coffee shall be percolating away, so hang tight. As for the address? Make for 25242 McIntyre Street in Laguna Hills. But will you go Maple Frosted or Sugar Glazed? You can think about it as you toodle along, before sunrise, up the freeway that sets many a driver to thinking of that first morning bite.

Photo Credit: Dunkin' Donuts]]>
<![CDATA[Beautifully Beastly: America's Family Pet Expo]]> Mon, 06 Apr 2015 12:32:04 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*120/pets-dog-cat-kitten-puppy.jpg

STOCKING UP (AND TAKING STOCK): Living with an animal means living with a series of questions you find yourself asking every single day. Like, "where did the chew bone go?" And "how have all the chew bones ended up wedged between the couch cushions?" And "why are the legs of my favorite chair more delightful to shred versus the scratch post which is right next to the shredded chair?" And most importantly of all: "Am I doing enough for this sweet animal in my charge?" It isn't merely buying our pets the mostest, bestest toys and treats; rather, it's being in touch with the needs of your pet and your little one's patterns, rhythms, and ultimate care.

BIG PET CONVENTION: Nope, we don't need to read too much into the chew bones hidden in the couch -- that's normal -- but if our pup is mopey, or pulling on walks, or needs some extra TLC and attention, some expertise, then insight, and inspiration may be in order. Enter America's Family Pet Expo, a pet-centered convention that's as big as a Great Dane is tall. It lands in Costa Mesa each springtime, at the OC Fair & Events Center, lands like a cat leaping from a kitchen counter (to keep the animal-sweet analogies going). As for the 2015 dates?

APRIL 10 THROUGH 12... is what you'll want to circle on your calendar -- a calendar we trust has kittens or turtles or koi on it. Billed as "The World's Largest Pet & Pet Products Expo," America's Family Pet Expo features a host of events and activities beyond the big (big BIG) booth scene. Look for K-9 Police Dog demos, a kid aquarium contest (yep, the participants put together that perfect set-up), a cat show, a bird show, Repticon, and a chance to meet pets who are ready for a permanent home. Also kind-of-heart: People are on hand to show you how to best groom your newly adopted animal. There's stuff for just about every family that lives with an animal, and by "stuff" we mean educational happenings, product buys, live shows, and sweet, coo-ready visits. It's not just about the cats and dogs, though they have a prominent presence. A good thing to know? The pets you have already should stay at home -- it's a rule. You go enjoy the expo and they can enjoy hiding yet another wet chew bone in the cushions of your couch. Everyone wins!

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>