<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Worth the Trip]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcbayarea.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.comen-usSun, 22 Jan 2017 04:25:28 -0800Sun, 22 Jan 2017 04:25:28 -0800NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Huge Heart: Valentine's Week in Oceanside]]> Sat, 21 Jan 2017 11:28:30 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/oceansideballoonvalday.jpg

13 DAYS OF LOVEY-DOVEY: While many places — think restaurants, zoos, hotels, and attractions — will give a day or two to the kissiest occasion on the calendar, there is a town that blocks off a half month, or nearly, to honor the moment. That town has several pluses, including a gorgeous ocean-snug setting, so filling out its schedule with heartsy happenings seems like the obvious course of action. It is Oceanside that we're not so subtly referring to here, and locals made the wise and rose-scented decision in 2016 to celebrate February's biggest day in multiple ways. The name of the multi-day doings? It's Oceanside Valentine's Week, which is actually nearly two weeks, giving Valentine's revelers plenty of time to do all that they'd like to do to mark the emotion-filled festivity. It all begins on...

THURSDAY, FEB. 2, and wraps up on Valentine's Day proper, Tuesday, Feb. 14. The huge, 25-footer of a heart-shaped balloon'll be back, but it won't be confined to just one location. It'll call on several places around Oceanside, a dozen in all, so keep those peepers peeled. Other goings-on include "Sweetheart Skydiving," a bike ride, a "Show the Love" run, tango fun at the Oceanside Museum of Art, a screening of "The Notebook" on the pier, and a host of lodging specials, if you want to nest-down for a few days in the area and savor more than one to-do. If the love holiday doesn't get quite enough love, in your estimation, this could be one route to savoring it for as long as you'd like, in outdoorsy, athletic, art-lovely, movie-nice ways. Yeah, and a traveling heart balloon of enormous size is pretty eye-catching, too.

Photo Credit: Oceanside]]>
<![CDATA[Bodie Calendar Contest: Send in Your Top Pics]]> Sat, 21 Jan 2017 11:25:40 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/bodiehouseagp.jpg

THE NEXT YEAR... is still a good distance away, but you can bet that people who make calendars already are thinking about 2018. And while most calendar companies have their on-staff photographers and artists, there are those treasured places that will, on occasion, turn to shutterbugs who happen to be devoted fans of the spot. Bodie Foundation, the organization that lends a lot of love to Bodie State Historic Park, holds a calendar contest each year, one that many mavens of the Mono County ghost town dig. Why? Because Bodie, as a general rule, is simply one of the most stunning spots to capture visually. That's subjective, of course, and "stunning" can't be quantified, but flip through a web site devoted to the 1800s-era mining town, a place kept in "arrested decay," and you can't help but marvel at how marvelous the buildings, mountains, and streets look. Calling them a similar to a movie set isn't quite accurate, though, for Bodie is a real place, once the home to thousands of hopeful, silver-seeking dreamers. But photographs of Bodie do possess a movie-like quality, making them ideal for a calendar.

READY TO SEE IF YOUR SNAPS HAVE THE STUFF? The deadline to enter is Saturday, Feb. 4. There's a "(n)ew maximum" of entry photos — you may submit five — and some other good-to-know details, so peruse the Bodie Foundation site before setting your sights on which ghost-town-y photos you'll send in. It would be mighty brag-worthy to have a picture you took of a hazy window or vintage rocking chair or the mountains beyond town in an honest-to-rootin'-tootin' calendar. If you are a Bodie buff, through and through, and consider it one of your favorite places to visit (and take pictures), enter now.

Photo Credit: Bodie]]>
<![CDATA[Desert Spring Show: Almost Flower Time]]> Sat, 21 Jan 2017 11:24:59 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/wildflowerfurnace929390232.jpg

IF YOU'VE EVER TENDED A GARDEN, or had a yard, or a little plot of soil and seeds on a windowsill, you know this: Flowers make surprise cameos. They don't send an announcement postcard well in advance, saying "save next weekend for my arrival," nor do they always have a predictable run up. One day there'll be a wee green shoot and the next? A taller flower, maybe even a bud, maybe even the first sign of petals. It's a life truism that applies to lots and lots of flowers, wildflowers, in particular, too. You can watch the skies, and the clouds, and the rainfall, all the while predicting when the first poppies or primroses will appear in the glens and valleys a few hours out of town. But, like the box on your windowsill, desert wildflowers also can be a little unpredictable, and they definitely don't mail postcards detailing specific dates and places. So taking a chance, and looking at the bloom times of past years, is recommended as you...

BOOK YOUR STAY... out in one of California's epic and arid stretches. It's worth considering an early booking, for it is an especially large bloom, hotels do fill up (one only need remember 2005's huge Death Valley wildflower show, and how difficult it was to find a room, to know this holds water). Furnace Creek Resort, both Inn and Ranch, serve as homebases for the Death Valley National Park flowers, where spots around Borrego Springs, like La Casa del Zorro Resort & Spa, are prime starting-out points for visitors to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Late January, though, has the scent of "go time" to it, as far as planning your desert blossom adventure slightly in advance. If you decide to wait, and see how the bloom does, well, hooray to that, too (that's another viable and popular avenue of flower fanship). Whether you get a hotel or not, here's to a big desert bloom, and all of the rain that continues to encourage such a stunner of a sight.

Photo Credit: Furnace Creek Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Monterey Bay: Marvel at Whale Majesty]]> Thu, 19 Jan 2017 11:56:09 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Montereybayorca123.jpg

THERE'S ALWAYS A BIT OF STRESS... when a friend invites you to a party but you simply can't make it. Life pressures, important errands, and other commitments keep you away from the fun-having, and all you can do is send your regrets. There is, however, no stress to be had over not making Whalefest Monterey, the last-weekend-in-January hoedown that's built around the behemoths of the sea. For here is a pretty widely known secret: The famous migrating mammals'll still be around, even after the last booth is packed and the last festival tour is done. They rather like the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and they'll still be in the house — er, ocean — should landlubbers want to swing by and see if they can catch a peek. Speaking of peeks, or, rather, peaks, it is currently...

"PEAK OF GRAY WHALE MIGRATION..." 'round the historic city, which also rocks a memorable nickname: "Whale Watching Capital of the World." The migrating action is on into April, with a change of direction due around the middle of February, when the baleen beasties make their way up north once again (like they've done, well, forever). You might see other whales beyond the iconic Grays, including Orcas, which have been known to frequent the area. Just find your boat, and company, and then stock up on sunscreen, sea sickness meds (should you need 'em), and those all-important layers, as it stays chilly out on the water, even into April. 

Photo Credit: SeeMonterey.com]]>
<![CDATA[Hollywood Roosevelt: Awards Season Packages]]> Thu, 19 Jan 2017 21:25:24 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Roosevelthotelawardsshow1234.jpg

YOU HAVE THE SNACKS... on the coffee table, and the beverages lined up just so, and your paper ballots are fanned out on the kitchen counter. You are, in short, ready for the Academy Awards, and the friends sitting on your couch are eager to see if their picks for cinematography or costumes are inside those fabled envelopes. You can almost pretend, for a moment, that you're all attending the Oscars, but, alas; somehow, this year, it wasn't to be. But what could be, if you want to be a bit splashy, and glittery, and find your inner hand-waver (the kind of inner hand-waver who waves so serenely to a stand of enthusiastic fans), there is a way to watch moviedom's biggest night in not just an lore-filled location, but, perhaps, one of the ultimate lore-lovely spots.

WE SPEAK OF... the Blossom Ballroom at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. It's where the first Academy Awards were held in 1929, and it was "recently restored to original grandeur." Want to see for yourself? And watch the 2017 Academy Awards ceremony, inside the very space the first statuettes were handed out? Then book the...

BEHIND THE VELVET ROPE PACKAGE... and find your way to the Blossom Ballroom to watch the 89th annual Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 26. You'll also spend two nights in a Studio King Suite, in case all of the excitement you experience while awaiting your favorite category to be announced tuckers you right out. There's a Red Carpet Rituals package, too, which includes the Blossom Ballroom viewing party in addition to an "in-suite make-up" session from The Glam Squad and some lovely hair color from celebrity stylist Lenny Strand of Sally Hershberger (plus the two nights in the Studio King Suite).

ONE MORE PACKAGE... on the 2017 line-up includes those fancy-pants things, less the viewing party, in case you've got your own bash to attend (it's called the Award Season Is Upon Us package). For all of your glam'd-out, get gussied-up options, the prices, and general Tinseltown history (history that's rooted oh-so-deeply at The Roosevelt), start here or give the Hollywood Boulevard a jingle on the telephone.

Photo Credit: Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel]]>
<![CDATA[Catalina Express: Two-for-One Birthday Deal]]> Thu, 19 Jan 2017 21:24:56 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AvalonPostcardcatexpress.jpg

IF YOU HAVE THAT FRIEND... who is forever imploring you to think bigger on your birthday, to reach beyond the bounds of the traditional meal or movie out, then best text that friend at once and tell her you've hatched an ultra-nifty, out-of-the-everyday plan. And that plan is this: You're both going to hop on the Catalina Express, when the actual day of your birthday arrives, and you're going to enjoy a two-for-one deal. This is a new program from the venerable get-to-Catalina-Island boat company, a fresh twist on the "ride free on your birthday" deal that's been a staple of the Catalina Express since 2011.

HOW IT WORKS? You and your island-lovin' bud will need to start your journey on the actual day of your birthday, and you'll both need to cover the full fare for one adult ticket (though you'll both get to ride). It is round trip, though daydreams of staying in Avalon forever are free. But you don't need to return to the mainland on that day, if you want to bed down in a local hotel and savor buffalo sightings and strolls along the town's historic thoroughfares; you'll just need to get back within 30 days.

THERE ARE SOME WHAT'S-WHATS... to observe, like pre-registering online, and age requirements, and birthday-revealing identification, and so forth. Once on Catalina Island, you will come across, with the help of this handy pdf, some snazzy birthday-related discounts and to-dos.

Photo Credit: Catalina Express]]>
<![CDATA[Wine Country Mmm: Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Week]]> Tue, 17 Jan 2017 22:50:19 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/shutterstock_74171587.jpg

VIVACIOUS VALLEY VITTLES: Sunshine seen through a glass of wine doesn't exactly cast a shadow, but more like a colorful liquid bit of hue. A merlot's shadow is going to be seen as a garnet-gorgeous red, while chardonnay is a shimmer of lemon-pretty loveliness. This ability of wine to make art, with a bit of light, speaks to its ability to be the dominate player at times, even over some of the other goodies on a table (it is hard to beat something that is both tasty and a work of art). But vino's shadow isn't so long that it obscures the fact that great food often arises in a popular valley that doubles as a lauded slice of wine country. Wine country vittles, too, have their own work-of-art-ness to display, even if they're not casting the same sort of liquid shadows on a table cloth that a glass of sauvignon blanc so easily can.

EXHIBIT A? Gaze upon the Santa Ynez Valley, if you will, and all of the eateries that complement the wine-driven scene and stand apart from it, doing their own distinct thing (while, of course, still offering wine on the menu). A solid chance to get to know both sips and sustenance is Santa Ynez Restaurant Week, which will roll out from Sunday, Jan. 22 through Saturday, Jan. 28. Bell Street Farm in Los Alamos, First & Oak in Solvang, and Alma Rosa Winery in Buellton are just three of the participants. A number of wineries will offer pairings of the "wine & cheese" or "wine & chocolate" assortment, so peek and see if there is a spot you've been wanting to check out (the chance to nibble cheese while trying the local libations is a pretty strong draw). What beautiful hues will your sip of chardonnay make when held up to the sun? For the full list of wine-country-y cuisine places and vineyards, peek here.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Snowy Outing at Lassen Volcanic]]> Wed, 18 Jan 2017 19:17:14 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/lassenvolcanic29382033923.JPG

VAST VISTAS: Check the weather these days in some of California's more remote, nature-exquisite locations and you're bound to see a single word, over and over, in an array of variations: snow. You might see "ice," too, or "sleet," or "flakes," but whatever terminology is used you know this: It is very cold and very drift-tastic in some of our national and state parks nowadays. That includes Lassen Volcanic National Park, which historically is home to some tremendous snow action when winter makes its parka-ready debut. True, the park, which is well over 106,000 acres, does have "volcanic" in its handle, meaning that it can get incredibly hot in parts (look to the famous fumaroles within the park's borders). But in...

JANUARY, FEBRUARY, AND MARCH, and even early April, Lassen Volcanic is all about mittens, knit caps, and... snowshoes. There are, in fact, a number of ranger-led snowshoe outings in the off-the-busy-track destination, which is located up in the northeast-y part of the state (not too far, all told, from Mt. Shasta and Medicine Lake, Lassen Peak's California-based Cascade siblings). They happen each weekend, Saturday and Sunday both, starting at the sun's-high hour of 1:30 p.m. and wrapping two hours later. There are some to-knows, like no poles allowed, and the all-important southwest entrance meet point. Oh, and your snowshoes are provided, too (so, yeah, if you don't happen to have a pair in the front closet, no sweat).

SERENE SCENE: While skiing and boarding are popular wintry pursuits, snowshoe fun also has its place in the national park scene. And definitely at one of the hottest, coldest, and out-of-the-way-iest spots in all of the Golden State. And, yes, "out-of-the-way-iest" is high praise, for if you're seeking a serene scene, with a general quiet-a-tude, but still want to be in a park setting, this could be your dream destination. It's spectacular, and brimming with snow, so check road conditions, chains, and such, before heading in.

Photo Credit: NPS]]>
<![CDATA[Main Street Electrical Parade: Disneyland Return]]> Tue, 17 Jan 2017 14:00:57 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/goofyDisneys-Electrical-Parade-9.jpg

SEMI-SERIOUS QUESTION: Which is greater, the number of blinking bulbs in the Main Street Electrical Parade at Disneyland Resort or the number of times the parade's synth-sweet theme song has looped through your brain since you first saw it, live, at the Anaheim theme park? It's might be difficult to pin down, for A) there are thousands upon thousand of sources of illumination covering the parade vehicles and B) the nighttime event's theme is a pop culture icon in large part for its ability to get charmingly stuck deep inside your head. You'll have a chance, though, to weigh both considerations again, for something rather special is blinking on the horizon: The return of the legendary after-sundown spectacle to the place where it started back in the early '70s. It was right in the middle of...

JUNE 1972... when the post-dark parade kicked off, and while it has popped up in Florida in the past, Golden State fans have been eager for its California comeback. It wrapped up at Disney California Adventure in April of 2010, but it is back, at Disneyland, starting on Friday, Jan. 20. All of the illumination, all of the characters, and that theme, an especially upbeat take on the upbeat "Baroque Hoedown," shall be a part of the Main Street party. But it is a party that has an end date, and an end date that'll approach faster than a lit-up dragon: June 18, 2017. You got it, that is the 45th anniversary, which'll make its farewell extra bittersweet. Best see it during its five-month stay in Orange County, and feel good, in your heart, that even after it wraps, you'll still be humming the delightful "da da da daaaa da daaaa" theme song. 

Photo Credit: Disney Enterprises, Inc.]]>
<![CDATA[Palm Springs Snazz: Cake & Cocktails]]> Mon, 16 Jan 2017 09:42:38 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/cakeslice9028932cocktail.jpg

THERE ARE PAIRINGS... in the world, beyond the oft-cited, right-on-the-money peanut butter and jelly, that just make sense. An ice cream and a hot day is an ideal twosome, and cozy slippers and a crackling fireplace are hand-in-hand BFFs. As for mid-century structures and Palm Springs? It would be a challenging task to find a place and an architectural style that meld together as well. Both are a pinch offbeat, and ever-so-slightly outlandish, giving homes from the '50s and early '60s, and the sunny desert city, loads of panache. Which means a party thrown during a mid-century event, in Palm Springs, should arrive with a panache-filled pairing, even if the pairing is a little bit quirky. If you're ready to indulge in cocktails and cake, then circle Saturday, Feb. 25 on the ol' getaway calendar. For that's the night that history-loving, retro-funny entertainer Charles Phoenix'll be master-of-ceremony-ing a party at the recently refurb'd Monkey Tree Hotel. If you know the...

MONKEY TREE, you can guess the theme colors of the night: yellow and turquoise. Guests at the Cake & Cocktail Party, which is happening during Modernism Week, are invited and encouraged to arrive wearing the hues, which are seen throughout the eye-wowza property. There shall be adult libations, as the name suggests, and one of Mr. Phoenix's famous and humorous "towering" cakes'll be the sweet on everyone's plate. Price? It's fifty bucks, and the Palm Springs Modern Committee is the organizer. Cake, cocktails, mid-century buildings, yellow and turquoise dress, snazzy attitudes, snazzy everything... if one or all of these things is your jam, and you're going to Modernism Week, best jump on that ticket as fast and as smoothly as peanut butter spreads on jelly.

Photo Credit: Cake/Cocktail]]>
<![CDATA[National Parks: First Fee-Free Day of 2017]]> Mon, 16 Jan 2017 11:58:23 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/dvsunriseGettyImages-450421924+%281%29.jpg

Every year sees its share of firsts, especially near the start of the 365-day run. That's when the tumble of "first day to..." moments occurs, as the new year is fresh.

There is, of course, the first day of the year (we're not even going to "spoiler alert" this one: It's Jan. 1).

There is the first federal holiday, the first day back to school, the first Wednesday, and a veritable waterfall of other first-y occasions.

And the first fee-free day at our national parks always arrives about two weeks into the calendar, as a way to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Which means that 120 fee-charging parks across the United States will waive admission on Monday, Jan. 16 to pay homage to the civil rights leader and his legacy.

You're right: There are far more than 120 parks around the country, by a lot, but the majority of the 400+ national parks, sites, and monuments go admission-free every day of the year.

Those that do have an admission fee at the entrance gate, like Yosemite National Park, honor the fee-free days each year by welcoming guests with no money required.

The next one after Jan. 16? That's on Presidents Day, and a full four days of admission-less park fun are up in April 2017, in tribute to National Park Week.

And speaking of Yosemite, and other wild-beautiful locations around California... Visitors would be well-advised to check road conditions, and closures, if heading out on Jan. 16. The recent dramatic snowstorms of early January have delivered a wallop to our state's higher elevations, giving them a frosty beauty, and needed precipitation, but, also, making the journey in a bit more of a challenge.

Call ahead, pack a lunch and your hiking boots, and enjoy the peace, solitude, and majesty.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Death Valley Valentine's: Romantic Getaway]]> Wed, 18 Jan 2017 12:09:39 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/FC-Inn-Room_DeluxeKing2romance.jpg

VALENTINE'S DAY IMAGERY... runs a glamorous gamut, from photographs of gussied-up couples doing it up on the town to lavish floral bouquets to pricey candies to yachts and beyond. Likewise, the terms that flutter around the holiday tend to be consistent each year, with "love" and "hearts" and "heat" and "hot" showing up in advertisements and articles alike. But "heat" has a few different expressions, from the warm 'n gooey fondue that's popular on the holiday to sizzle-up-your-relationship quick tips. But if you're seeking out a different sort of heat, the kind that is associated not with cooking, or canoodling, but an actual visit-ready place, look no further than one of the hottest spots in all the land: Death Valley National Park. Of course, when it is February, right around Valentine's Day, you're more apt to find jacket-ready days around the arid desert space, instead of the famous three-digit-y heat waves that arrive around late spring. Still, here's your heat-making plan for a (normally) hot place: Peruse the...

ROMANCE GETAWAY... suggestions at Furnace Creek Resort. The historic spread has a host of ways to spend "(t)hree idyllic days" while staying on the property, including watching the sun come up from Zabriskie Point, hiking at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, and spa-ing the afternoon away at The Inn at Furnace Creek. The suggested, self-guided itineraries are reminders that while Death Valley is famously vast, it isn't "empty" in any sense of the word, and building a lovey lark, with plenty of adventures, is a snap. Just be sure to pack a few layers, for those chillier February evenings, for while Valentine's Day is all about "hot" fun, one of the hottest and driest places on the planet won't be in its peak summer form. Eager to see what Furnace Creek Resort suggests for lovebirds, as far as outings around the national park go? Here are your hot tips. 

Photo Credit: Furnace Creek Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Queen Mary New: Local Band Hangout]]> Fri, 13 Jan 2017 11:16:42 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/QueenMary_52464388.jpg

MEET ME IN THE OBSERVATION BAR: There are many photo-ready rooms around Southern California, the kind that draw location scouts looking for the perfect real-world movie set. But when it comes to a space that A) has oodles of elegant Art Deco cred and B) has bunches of historic reference and C) has literally been around the world and D) neighbors no less than the Pacific Ocean, you'll have to look in one direction: the Queen Mary. The landmark ocean-liner, which rose in Scotland in the early '30s but has called Long Beach home since 1967, boasts the room we speak of, the gorgeous, multi-level, swanky-cocktail'd Observation Bar. Yes, this is where Barton Fink sipped a libation near the start of the Coen Bros. film, and this is where revelers stop by nowadays, for a Bloody Mary or sparkling wine. And on every third Thursday of the month, starting in January 2017, the celebrated space will play home to...

LOCAL BAND HANGOUT: The just-introduced event will see "top local artists and up-and-coming bands" play a spate of songs within the bar, starting with Halle Johnson and Black Noise on Thursday, Jan. 19. The time? It's 8 p.m., though Happy Hour at the bar is on from 5 to 7 o'clock. It's eight bucks to park, and a tenner to enter the bar for the bands, but note that ten bucks'll go towards drinks and bites at the bar or another Queen Mary restaurant. Have you daydreamed about taking a cruise and sitting back with a beverage while live music flows through a pretty room? You can have some of that dream, without leaving Long Beach, every third Thursday at Local Hangout.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[San Diego Sweet: Girl Scout Cookie Desserts]]> Thu, 12 Jan 2017 21:52:49 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/girlscoutcookies_722x406_2183406998.jpg

A THIN MINT, OR A SAMOA, or a Do-si-do, makes a perfect dessert, even on its own, no adjacent ice cream or cup of cocoa required. Of course, you can add a beverage to the iconic bites, and change up the whole devouring-a-sleeve experience. Pair a classic Girl Scout Cookie with a glass of milk (especially a glass of milk that's especially frosty) and you have the sort of meal-ending treat that feels both timeless and tasty. But restaurant chefs in recent years have discovered something a lot of home cooks have known through the decades: Those Thin Mints and Samoas don't always have to be enjoyed neat, or without adornment, or other ingredients added. Quite often a Girl Scout Cookie makes a stellar, more complex dessert or even drink, with just a bit of ingenuity and creativity and gourmet gumption.

SAN DIEGO RESTAURANT WEEK... is embracing this edible-yummy fact by making the iconic cookies the sweet stars of the Sunday, Jan. 15 through Sunday, Jan. 22 event. True, you'll still find great deals on savory dishes galore, from pastas to meats, but peruse the list of dine-out participants and you'll occasionally find an official Girl Scouts logo, which means this: That particular restaurant will feature a Tagalong or Trefoil in the meal-wrapping treat. 

BALI HAI... at Shelter Island is featuring a Samoa Bar, which includes vanilla shortbread, banana caramel mousse, coconut, chocolate crunch, toasted orange zest meringue." And the Marine Room in La Jolla is all about the Trefoil, so look for the cookie to be star in a chocolate panna cotta dish, as well as a pomegranate lemon tart as well as cactus pear sorbet. Where else will the cookies pop up during San Diego Restaurant Week? Cocktails, too? There are likely more participants than even the biggest Girl Scout Cookie maven can take on over eight days, so best study up as to what you want to try now.

Photo Credit: Girl Scout Cookies]]>
<![CDATA[Ski Fun at Yosemite National Park]]> Fri, 13 Jan 2017 21:00:09 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/YSSA645.jpg

CALIFORNIA WEATHER... has told a wild, gorgeous, dramatic, road-closing, and potentially drought-defeating story in the days since 2017 started, with the Sierra Nevada seeing several walloping storms pass through (with more still to come). It is welcoming news, all of this precipitation, and it means that resorts that are up in the mountains, or very hill-adjacent, are at full hum. It also means check roads and highways before setting out for a day of ski action, but that is step one for any winter sports enthusiast, even before making sure you have chains in the trunk (if you need them) and your favorite pair of goggles.

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK... has seen some aqua-lush days in 2017, with the valley closing just a few days after the new year, briefly, in advance of possible flooding (and some very stunning waterfall action). Next up on the Yosemite docket? Snow-centered fun, at the Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area, which debuts for the season on...

SATURDAY, JAN. 14: That means if you want to do some cross-country gliding through not just a stunner of a high-elevation setting but an actual national park, you can. Or ponder going the snowshoe route, which will be available for rent at Nordic Center (there are ranger-led snowshoe walks, so inquire at the Ranger A-Frame office if that option floats your particular boat). Do note that Terrain Park isn't quite open yet, nor is the snow-tubing scene in full gear, so best check back on start dates. Staying at a hotel in the valley and want to reach the ski area? There's a pay-nothing shuttle, every day, so that could be your way to get there and back, no sweat, no fuss, lots of looking out the shuttle window at winter scenery, hooray.

Photo Credit: Ryan Alonzo]]>
<![CDATA[Fire Pit Time: Lake Tahoe Cozy]]> Fri, 13 Jan 2017 11:18:20 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/215*120/firepitbythelaketahoehyatt.jpg

THERE HAS TO BE A MIDDLE PLACE, or a meeting point, if you prefer, when it comes to enjoying a winter-wonderful outdoors destination while being the sort of person who prefers sipping a hot toddy to schussing down an especially challenging slope. Just because you're not out there, with poles and gloves and goggles, doesn't mean that you don't want to be adjacent to all of the frosty-breath'd action, or that vistas of capped peaks don't thrill you. They do, and you might even want to visit such a locale with your ski-lovin' buds. So what's the middle point for travelers who dig an outdoorsy destination in the colder months but who want to stick closer to the indoors (though not exclusively indoors)? It's the fire pit, of course, that alfresco-fireplace-esque set-up that allows both the nearby sipping of hot toddies and the vistas and enjoyment of brisk air. Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino rocks the fire pit scene, with a few experience-enhancing perks, like...

S'MORES KITS, which are available from room service, as well as "Hot Chocolate/Cocktail Service" (that's where your longed-for hot toddy comes in, or a suggested Hot Buttered Rum). Of course, you might be a total fire pit person and love the ski scene, and that is jake. If you intend on hanging out by a lake-close pit after your day on the board, consider booking an Après Ski Boot Relief Massage at Stillwater Spa after you sign up for the Diamond Peak Ski and Stay Package. The package includes two "adult lift tickets to Diamond Peak Ski Resort with each paid night." You'll still have time to sit alongside a fire pit, at some point, or join your pals there, the ones who prefer winter with a touch of the outdoors, a Hot Buttered Rum, and lake views.

Photo Credit: Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Wild Valentine's at Lindsay Wildlife Experience]]> Wed, 11 Jan 2017 10:09:33 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/DSC_9906PaulHara.jpg

NO HEMMING, HAWING, or claiming that you've never done it, or that you're not aware that the practice exists: People tend to spoil their pets on holidays, including Valentine's Day. This means heart-shaped meat-filled cakes for pups, and cat-nippy Cupid toys for a favorite feline, and all of the other pet-ready doodads that symbolize the February holiday. But while we spoil our pets on the fourteenth day of the second month, we are not sending the love, as a rule, to the wilder critters who live beyond our yards and homes. Though, surely, we feel love for the hawks and owls and chuckwallas and bees and rabbits that call our forests and deserts and mountain slopes home. So, do we make that time-honored gesture of appreciate where our wilderness-based beasties are concerned? There's no need to drive out to the nearest copse or forested glen; we only need to load up the family in the station wagon and make for Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek. For the animal center, which includes a wildlife hospital, will feature Valentine's-type to-dos from...

FEB. 8 THROUGH 12, 2017: Your young'un can write a Valentine to her favorite Lindsay Wildlife animal ambassador, showing appreciation and fondness, during the "Wild Valentines" event. There will also be chances to pet real animals, too. As for the grown-up happening, "Kiss & Tail: An Evening of Wild Romance"? That's on Friday, Feb. 10 and is strictly for the 21-and-over crowd (think wine tasting, a raffle, and all sorts of fabulous facts detailing the intricacies of animal courtship). Ready to find a wildlife-lovely dimension to our most heartful holiday? Ever told an owl you live him? Here's your chance to take some of that affection expressed for our furry companions and share it with our wider, wilder world.

Photo Credit: Paul Hara]]>
<![CDATA[June Mountain: Kids Ski for Free]]> Tue, 10 Jan 2017 19:53:38 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/219*120/cafammtn3june.jpg

THE WHOLE SIERRA NEVADA STORM SCENE... kicked it up, way up, at the end of of 2016 and beginning of 2017. There was no wondering what might be happening on the slopes of the vast mountain range, because what was happening, and continues to happen, was all over the headlines: snow. Major snow, in fact, feet and feet, all the fresh powder that a skier's schussful heart could possibly desire. Which means that if a family trip for a day of flake-based outdoor enjoyment wasn't in the works, well, it just might be now, given the glorious slope-deepening state of things. But an impromptu family day out in the mountains doesn't always come with an impromptu — read: budget-like — price tag, even if it is only a day and even if it comes together at the last moment. Which makes finding budget-y ways to enjoy a high-elevation, cheek-flushing bit of fun where kids can play for free all the more essential. A ski-happy family only need look to...

JUNE MOUNTAIN... for that last-minute-y fun, fun that doesn't come with a scary string of dollar signs in tow. For kids ages 12 and under can "ski & ride" for nothing, nada, at the Mammoth-close destination. There are a few to-knows, like securing your tot's life ticket (they'll definitely need one) in person, on site, at the June Mountain Ticket Office. As for what you'll find at this wintery play spot? Prepare for "1,500 acres of skiable terrain" and Saturday cameos by Bucky the deer ("helmet decorating" is one of the activities, in case your young ski buff is looking to up his style). For all the June-y joyful doings, including how to get that gratis ski time for your young'un, schuss this way.

Photo Credit: June Mountain]]>
<![CDATA[Creekside Inn in Palo Alto: 2017 Package]]> Thu, 12 Jan 2017 21:52:00 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/creeksidepalo17.jpg

WHAT'S YOUR FANCY... when it comes to securing a "make life a bit easier" package during a hotel stay? If one were to be bold and surmise, one might guess that sustenance is at the heart of many of the most desired lodging deals. For supping is a necessity, and keeping the energy up while not at home is essential (especially if sightseeing or meetings are involved in your out-of-town experience). Thus finding a food add-on with one's room is typically a plus of the tastiest sort, a package perk that will actually be used. And if that package doesn't have an especially tight window, but is instead available through an entire year, so much the better. The Creekside Inn understands that its guests are either in town for business, or a little kick-around vacation-y fun. In that spirit, the downtown Palo Alto hotel has set up a 2017 package to get people fortified and out the door. It's the...

AMERICAN BREAKFAST PACKAGE, and it includes "Two American Breakfast Coupons for each night booked." It's good through Dec. 31, 2017 (far-off in the future, but, really, time flies and such), and you'll want to keep the GDS Code (PKG) and Promo Code (FBRK) in mind as you book at the special L.E. Hotels "Kick off the New Year" site. Pluses? No minimum stay, no deposit at booking, parking is gratis, and so is the wi-fi. More pluses? The boutique stay-over spot is a ten-minute drive to a clutch of local museums, including the Museum of American Heritage and The Cantor Arts Center. So best nosh on your morning fruit and toast and go learn cool stuff, or jump into your business trip, Palo Alto visitors.

Photo Credit: Creekside Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Riverside County Fair: Summer in Wintertime]]> Thu, 12 Jan 2017 12:32:32 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/fairride923929392.jpg

SALADS OR PIZZAS... or appetizers or casseroles or cookies or cakes: Everything is enhanced, in edible-incredible fashion, by the chewy-sweetness of a date. How many dates you sprinkle onto a dish is up to you, and whether they're fresh, or dried, or doused in some fine sugar, will also impact the impact that the dish delivers. But the fact of the meal-based matter is the date, like nuts, is a timeless addition that can bring song to both dessert-like treats and savory entrees. That's not an easy thing, nor can every fruit claim such a wide scope, which all leads to this: Of course the date deserves its own annual festival, and one with "national" in the name. And, of course, part deux, such a festival should also fold in with a major county fair, and an unusual county fair, given that it falls in the wintertime (something that's rare for this sort of summer-weather event). You're in luck, date devotees, if you dig both fruit and fair, for the Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival are both returning, as they do each year, in the middle of February. The 2017 dates are...

FEB. 17 THROUGH 26, and once again Indio will twinkle with a major midway, and food competitions, and rodeo action, and concerts (The Eli Young Band, Voz de Mando, Cheap Trick, and WAR are all on the 2017 schedule). A Superhero 5K Run/Walk will see a fluttering of capes, and a Presidents Day Parade will honor the holiday. As for date deliciousness? It's all around, so prepare to sip a shake, or snack upon some bread, if those are your pleasures. And if your pleasure is finding a slice of summertime weeks ahead of spring actually arriving, wending for Riverside over the second half of February is a time-honored way to locate the season, even when it is out of season.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Anza-Borrego Bloom: On the Near Horizon]]> Tue, 10 Jan 2017 08:38:37 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/DESERTFLOWER_3464.jpg

ALL OF THIS DAMPNESS... is prompting skiers to turn their goggles in the direction of the mountains, and their favorite slopes, with visions of morningtime runs and awesome fresh powder in view. For when a lot of precipitation arrives in early January, a lot of cold, flaky stuff has a way of falling in just the right spots (i.e. our state's mountain resorts). But there are other devotees of the damp who spend the early part of a new year not looking in the direction of the mountains but, rather, the deserts. These are the wildflower fans, the adventurers who can't wait for the very first substantial sighting of the desert dandelion or the chuparosa or beautiful brittlebush. True, the floweriest time of the year in California's more arid landscapes is still a ways out, but not by much, and wildflower-watching sites are active and, of course, making note of all the early-January rain (and what good that might do for the pretty February and March buds).

SO WHAT TO DO... in advance of the late-winter show, which can be a mite unpredictable, timing-wise? Have a few open weekends, or days, around the middle of February to the middle of March is a solid plan for the desert flower devotee, just in case your favorite flower suddenly springs up, carpet-like, in a canyon that's a few hours away. A bud buff might also consider booking a hotel or stay-over if going more than a couple of hours from home (especially in more remote spots where lodging is rare and can fill up). If you want to follow along with the upcoming 2017 reports about the amazing Anzo Borrego Desert State Park, which has a knack for putting on a notably petal-pretty show around the second month of the year, keep an eye on DesertUSA, the Anza-Borrego Foundation, and the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association, which has an early "here and there" flower report up as of Jan. 4, 2017. More rain, more blooms? There's snow for skiers up in the mountains, but, very soon, the desert'll welcome its annual colorful show.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Mendo Wine & Crab Fest]]> Fri, 13 Jan 2017 20:59:35 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ccco-4mendo.jpg

A CRAB CAKE... is a legendary delicacy, but how it is made, and how big or wee it should be, is up for heated and convivial debate. There is no "one size fits all" when it comes to the seafood staple, and determining how piquant you'd like your cake to be, or how breadcrumbful, is a delightful pursuit, should you be faced with the tasty task of making a fleet of crab cakes for company. All of this means that you can snack upon six or seven or seventeen different crab cakes, from as many restaurants, and enjoy a distinct experience each time. If this is you, and you put crab-cake-makery down to high art, then surely you know of the huge 'n crab-tastic soiree that shimmies sideways into Mendocino County each January. It's the Crab, Wine & Beer Festival, and it is back to delight in all things Dungeness, and the other pleasures of the plate and glass, from...

JAN. 20 THROUGH 29: So true, that is well over a week, which means the opportunities for cake consumption of the spiciest, tangiest sort will be plentiful. Also plentiful? The "dozens of events" on the roster, including family-style cioppino and crab feeds, gourmet crab inspired dinners, food and wine pairings, crabbing adventures, a Wine Competition showcasing local wines, and the ever popular Crab Cake Cook-Off on January 28 that highlights the talents of local chefs." You'll definitely get to dip into an array of cake-based savoriness at the party, one that will give any seafood maven a notable array of crab-caked amazingness. Can you steal away to marvelous Mendo for a night or two of buttery, bread-crumb-esque edible epiphanies? Late January is the time and the dramatic coast-facing county is the place to go full crab, full vino, and deeply into the hops-and-foam scene.

Photo Credit: a]]>
<![CDATA[Mondo Movie Fest in the American Riviera]]> Sat, 14 Jan 2017 11:30:10 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/sbifftheater928923.jpg

A SOLID CINEMA CELEBRATION... isn't just about placing people in seats, dimming the lights, and rolling the titles and credits. There should be a lot of moving parts, over multiple days, and a few movie star sightings, as well as some up-and-coming talent, to better round out the sense that fans have journeyed to become a part of something rather special. That specialness has been building, via screenings, award presentations, and other top-notch to-dos in the American Riviera for just over three decades now, courtesy of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival Presented by UGG. This is the fest that wraps just a fortnight (or so) ahead of the Academy Awards, making it one of the last stops for lauded actors and filmmakers on the wintertime Q&A circuit. What this means for movie mavens is this: You're experiencing contemporary film love at its near peak, with polished panels, awards-season-y fervor, and red-carpet-esque action in full flower. That flower comes to bloom from...

FEB. 1 THROUGH 11, 2017... at the 32nd annual SBIFF, and while the slate of screenings hasn't fully been revealed — look to mid-January for that action — some of the centerpiece parties and offerings have (update: eye the 2017 films here). Jeff Bridges, recently seen in "Hell or High Water," will receive the 2017 American Riviera Award, while the Maltin Modern Master Award will go to Denzel Washington (the artist's lauded "Fences" will surely be discussed). More award-themed nights are on the slate, as well as the ongoing Santa Barbara Film Feast, a concurrent happening that puts the flavorful focus on nearby restaurants. It's a packed run, one that feels like it is scooping up all of the cinema-y goodness that's been rolling out in one fell swoop (fell swoops, film-wise, tend to arrive with February and the approach of the Oscars). To be a part of this, and spend a pleasurable day or two in a highly pleasant, pleasure-packed place, brush up on your upcoming SBIFF 411.

Photo Credit: SBIFF]]>
<![CDATA[Cool: Dance Weekend in Monterey]]> Sun, 08 Jan 2017 15:09:41 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/219*120/swingdancers+use.jpg

IF YOU DANCED YOUR WAY... through the holiday season, from an impromptu night spent tapping a toe next to the local tavern's jukebox (the tavern you always visit while you're home at Christmas) to swanning about a ballroom on New Year's Eve, you can, with total accuracy, say that you're a fan of shaking your stuff. But shaking your stuff doesn't automatically wrap on the first day of the new year, even if opportunities to twirl in public are winding down, at least for a bit. For if you love to dance, you know that dance belongs to every single season, even January, when we're told to nest and de-clutter and re-think some goals (actually, all of those things are commendable, too). But if jumping, jiving, and performing the Lindy turn are still at the forefront of your dance-lovin' heart, be filled with cheer, and then fill your suitcase, and plan for a trip to Monterey. For the annual...

MONTEREY SWINGFEST... will once again bring joy, energy, and some truly classic steps to the historic city over a jubilant January weekend. The 2017 dates are Thursday, Jan. 12 through Sunday, Jan. 15, and West Coast Swing will indeed be a focal point. But Zumba is on the schedule, too, and Open Dancing, and the opportunitie to twirl, twirl, twirl through to dawn. Dancer Benji Schwimmer's Boot Camp is an add-on extra, if you want to brush up, and there's a free West Coast Swing Basics to-do if you're just learning. Above all, if you want to dance, with a lot of other swing-super revelers, this is going to be one of the scintillating spots to do so. Did you truly dance throughout the holidays? Keep those toes a-tappin', and hair a-flyin', at this finger-snapping celebration. A host of talented dancers'll be in the house, so check it all out now, cool cats.

Photo Credit: Dance]]>
<![CDATA[Ojai's Orange-Yummy Outings]]> Sat, 14 Jan 2017 11:32:34 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/edt-2012-tangerinetango-179806014.jpg

PERHAPS FOOD, and the making of food, and where your food comes from, has been on your mind since the beginning of the year. After all, edibles, and how they fortify us, and how they're grown and prepared before they reach the stores and markets, are incredibly important matters for human beings to ponder (and ponder in a consistent, be-aware manner). But getting out to locations where one's foodstuffs actually start can be a bit tricky. How to find a peek or a tour at a spot where the growing is done? Begin, perhaps, with those California places that regularly hold events that give visitors a behind-the-scenes tour of how good things start (long before they reach our kitchen counter). Friend's Ranch in Ojai has held orchard-interesting tours for years, tours that pop up, like a surprising winter flower, in January. True, April is traditionally Pixie Month around Ojai, with plenty of juicy jamboree-ing, but a look at the whole arc of the citrus-growing process begins long before springtime arrives. In fact, the first tour date for 2017 is coming up, on...

SATURDAY, JAN. 14: You'll get to eye what a packinghouse looks like, and what goes on, as well as an honest-to-minneola orchard, where some "15 varieties of tangerines" are grown, in addition to other flavorful fruits. "TOURS TEND TO FILL UP," says the Friend's Ranch online HQ, so gather with your fruit-loving friends soon to decide if you're making a day trip and on what Saturday (there are a couple of Wednesdays in the mix, too). And if you want to time your day at the orchard with a certain tangerine-y release, review the whole schedule to make sure your moment is perfect. So, how does a tangerine or orange grow, and how is it packed, and what goes into keeping all of those trees so healthy? Here's where you go to the source, in Ojai, from mid-January to mid-May.

Photo Credit: UIG via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Barbara Flavor: Winter Wine Classic]]> Fri, 13 Jan 2017 11:20:37 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/shutterstock_43667188.jpg

SPRING'S STILL ON THE FAR HORIZON, and summer is farther past even that, but awaiting the sort of lighter-of-days to-dos that are staples of those two seasons isn't all that necessary. Oh, we're not claiming the bulk of breezy festivals don't happen when temperatures grow warmer, but we are claiming that festivals that happen in California, regardless of what the calendar says, can pull of finding that summery party spirit (even if the breeziness is on the chill side). The American Riviera understands that summer's spirit can be found even in deepest winter, even if things wrap up a little more warmly and move indoors. If you have a hunch we're talking about the...

WINTER WINE CLASSIC, in Santa Barbara, well, the "American Riviera" part probably gave us away (though good guess on the wine part). It's one of the most vivacious vino gatherings on the sippable schedule, and that goes for winter, spring, summer, or fall. And it happens just a month after winter's official start, on Saturday, Jan. 21 at Fess Parker: A Doubletree by Hilton Resort.

"CALIFORNIA'S ELITE WINE-MAKING MASTERS": This event, top to stem to rim, is all about the top-flight labels being produced by Golden State vine-smart superstars. You'll encounter "nearly 100 classic California wines" during the evening, with mondo regional names like Ahnfeldt and Lieff Wines popping up. Local restaurants'll be on plate-filling, sustenance-lovely duty, and the beneficiary of the night is The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. Do you feel spring, or even summer, on the wind? Prepare for a little pocket of tannin-terrific sunshine'll pop up, near the ocean in Santa Barbara, on the third Saturday of January.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Mojave Maxine: Awaiting a Desert Superstar]]> Sat, 07 Jan 2017 11:30:28 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/livingdesertmojavemaxine.jpg

A NICE, SNUG BURROW: Much of California has experienced a host of chilly temperatures and damp days at the beginning of 2017, which tells us that wintertime is well and truly here. But when winter will actually end, beyond the easy-to-note arrival of the spring equinox in March, can be a bit of a head-scratcher. Does spring make a true showing when the jasmine blooms near the coast or when the desert ocotillos sprout little red flowers from their spiny limbs? Is spring a thing when the ski resorts move to shorter schedules or when the first pair of flip-flops are donned? Or is the warmer season semi-officially here when Mojave Maxine emerges from her subterranean burrow at The Living Desert? Let's just say that the famous desert tortoise, a beastie known well beyond her Palm Desert-based home, is highly regarded for her talents in the prognostication field. And when she finally does leave her burrow after her brumation ("reptilian hibernation," per The Living Desert), fans'll know that spring has sprung, at least in her more arid clime.

THE LIVING DESERT... holds a contest each year for Southern California students hailing from nine counties. The K-12 students submit a guess pinpointing the date and time Mojave Maxine will emerge, with the winner netting a bundle of cool things, including "gift certificates for themselves and their teachers, t-shirts for their class, and a visit from a live desert tortoise!" Nifty stuff, all around.

SO WHEN WILL MAXINE... make her 2017 hello? She appeared on Feb. 8 in 2016, but whether the year-starting cold snap will keep her brumating a bit longer will be up to the guessers to predict. As for when desert tortoises seek out their burrows for the winter? The Living Desert reports that this annual event happens "around Thanksgiving." Do note that you can visit the animal park, which spotlights fascinating desert critters like the tortoise, any time of the year, whether Maxine has bid her burrow goodbye yet or not.

Photo Credit: The Living Desert]]>
<![CDATA[Free Fun: Sacramento Museum Day]]> Thu, 05 Jan 2017 13:43:05 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/DiscoveryMuseumDayPlasmaBall2_22013.jpg

LEARN MORE: New Year's-style resolutions are about as gamut-y as all get-out. Some are incredibly small-scoped, which isn't a bad thing, as the resolution-maker will likely complete "use my new spatula every week" without fail. Some are vastly large and full of hope, like visit 42 countries, something that might be a tad difficult over the course of 12 months (but, you know, you gotta dream big sometimes). And then there are the general resolutions, like "learn more," an excellent goal, indeed. If you've already jump-started this particular plan, via some fresh textbooks, a couple of documentary series, or some other brain-builder, congrats. But if you are still seeking a get-started route to learning more in 2017, there's a fantabulous way to do so, in our Capital City, no less, and it won't cost a bundle (or even a bundle of time). It's Sacramento Museum Day, and it will spread out, among many institutions in the city, over the first Saturday in February. That's...

FEBRUARY 4... in 2017, and "(m)ost of the more than 25 museums will offer free admission..." around Sactown (with a couple of spots, like Fairytale Town and Sacramento Zoo, going halfsies on the get-in price). Not only can you enter, gratis-like, a number of idea-laden locales, but those locales will also have a plethora of activities and to-dos planned for the special day.

ON THE ROSTER? The Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum, the Maidu Museum & Historic Site, and The California Agriculture Museum are three of the participants, while the Sacramento Association of Museums and Visit Sacramento are the two partners behind all of this free-big, fact-amazing awesomeness. Awesomeness, we should add, that is pretty easy to access on foot or via public transport (so plan your day out by choosing cool museums that share neighborhoods, and since many do, this should be a snap of an itinerary to compose). Is "learn more" one of your resolutions for 2017, truly? Here's your fast-forward button to digging deeply into science, culture, and more wonders of the world. And that you get to do so in our fascinating Capital City adds a hefty dose of historic cred.

Photo Credit: Discovery Museum]]>
<![CDATA[Horsetail Fall: Yosemite's February Show]]> Wed, 11 Jan 2017 14:41:54 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/HorsetailFallChrisF.jpg

SUN THOUGHTS: A lot of people begin to turn their most pleasurable and idle thoughts to our nearest star when the new year commences. That's because the sun rocks a ton-load of positive symbolism for many people, and that days are getting longer around this hemisphere weaves into our goals of getting outside more and facing the bright side of more situations. But it isn't just the fact that daily darkness is arriving later and later that has some human beings meditating on the wonders of the sun; we're also contemplating when the annual Horsetail Fall show will begin. This isn't a show with traditional seating and tickets, though you will need to pay entry at a Yosemite National Park gate, as the waterfall is inside the nature-riffic destination. There are no curtains to draw back on the show, nor is there a concessions stand in the show's lobby. And there isn't an exact time or date for the presentation, meaning luck and timing and a lack of cloud cover will play a part. But if you do encounter the show, well, what lovely luck: You will have witnessed the setting sun give an epic waterfall an unreal, fire-like glow.

FEBRUARY... is the month for the setting sun to hit Horsetail Fall juuuust so, specifically later in the month. Travel Yosemite puts the length of time that the show could happen at "20 days" (with a start date around the second week of the second month). How to know you're in the right spot to see the light and water weave together in an enchanted fashion? The El Capitan picnic area is your go-to parking area, advises the site. Also, you're bound to see photographers out, and fall fans, so best gather near where they are. Here's hoping for a few cloud-free evenings come February, when an old, old, very old and long-running and impossible to duplicate sun-illuminated water show unfolds once again.

Photo Credit: Chris Falkenstein]]>
<![CDATA[Ski Resorts: Big Snowy Action]]> Tue, 03 Jan 2017 21:35:49 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/2016-12-24_ACTION_POWDER_PMM_1740.jpg

NO SPOILER ALERT REQUIRED: The holiday season, traditionally a bustling time at higher-elevation resorts, has now wrapped. But what hasn't packed its bags and left the mountains is some solid snow-falling goodness, the kind of snow that summons joyful January skiers up to the peaks. The wet stuff keeps arriving at lower-elevation California cities that don't see snow as a rule, so if you're hoping to spend some ski time up the hills during the first month of the year, you're in luck. For rain below equals snow above, quite often, and that's what's happening as 2017 begins.

MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN... fully opened a few days ahead of the new year, with "all lifts" and "all runs" in full go mode. The flakes are falling as of Tuesday, Jan. 3, with snow in the forecast for Jan. 4, 5, 7, 8, and 9. That's some slope-plumping forecast, as any skier who has seen a too-quick dumpage pass through in a matter of hours. 

SQUAW VALLEY... reports that the early January 2017 storm "has delivered 2.5 feet of snow and the forecast is calling for more than 4 feet of snow through Thursday." That's Thursday, Jan. 5, so if you can make it to Tahoe, and you didn't get a chance to do some schussing over the holiday season, now is your moment to commune with all of that deep, ski-ready cold stuff.

THE TIME TO SKI IS NIGH: Is your go-to slope or resort feeling the frosty love as 2017 kicks off? It's been a banner few days at multiple mountain resorts, with more snowflakes to fall (a lot of them). Don't dally if you plan to start the year with some peaks-style love and board-zoomy good times.

Photo Credit: Peter Morning]]>
<![CDATA[Wintertime Package: Escape to Catalina]]> Fri, 06 Jan 2017 10:09:21 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AvalonAerial_2015_423.jpg

ADVENTURING IN AVALON: Someone in California, right now, is telling a friend or a co-worker or a neighbor about an upcoming trip. As for the listener? Perhaps it is because of past experiences, or their own see-the-state inclinations, but they're likely half-expecting the vacationer to mention a popular spot, one that sees a lot of travel traffic. But there's a city that, when mentioned as a getaway spot, always feels slightly magical, slightly unexpected, and oh-so-bison-y (or at least bison-adjacent): Avalon. Put it down to the fact that you need to hop a boat or helicopter to get to this particular town (nope, you can't ride a flying fish, no matter how famous they are 'round Catalina Island), and the notion that Avalon still possesses the allure of a location that emerges from the morning fog, day after day. Thank the historic landmarks, like the Casino Building, and thank the buffalo (they're not in Avalon proper, granted, but up in the hills), and thank the easygoing, golf cart-charming lifestyle. It's a lifestyle that's open to visitors all year long, and not just in summer, and there's a package on to emphasize that fact. It's the...

SEASON OF ESCAPE... package, and it involves A) you getting to the Southern California-close island, and back and B) an overnight at Hotel Atwater, Mt. Ada, or Pavilion Hotel and C) twenty five bucks toward a nosh at Avalon Grille. There you have it: Three of the important components covered, and all starting at $106 per getawayer. Where you bed down depends on what your fancy is — chaise lounges at Descanso Beach Club can be booked should you choose Mt. Ada for your stay — so peek at each hotel and see if it floats your boat. And as for boat-floating? Your ride to Avalon, and back, will be on the Catalina Express from one of three mainland cities: Dana Point, San Pedro, or Long Beach. So go on and tell the co-workers you're off to Avalon, a place that instantly summons an air of enchantment.

Photo Credit: Santa Catalina Island Company]]>
<![CDATA[Migration Fest at Natural Bridges]]> Wed, 04 Jan 2017 20:16:49 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/NaturalBridgesStateBeach_CalStateParks.jpg

IT'S A REVELATION... that won't surprise you, or any earthling, at least if the earthling in question has had a look at a Pacific Gray whale, and, at another time, a Monarch butterfly, but here it is: The first being mentioned is rather larger than the second. We're not saying there isn't a whale-sized Monarch butterfly out there in the world, but... wait. Yes we are totally saying that. And that's just fine, for the colorful wing-rocking superstars are magnificent in their wee-amazing way and the colossal ocean-dwelling mammals are 100% perfect, just as they are (and, no, there are not butterfly-sized whales flitting around eucalyptus trees, either, even if our fancies want to believe it is so).

BUT EVEN THOUGH... they're quite different, in numerous ways, the whale and the butterfly share this important factor: They go on important migratory journeys, and while their trails don't exactly cross in the way we humans think of trails intersecting, they're pretty dang adjacent, with one major thruway found just off the California shore (whales) and the butterflies' trail wending along the tree-nice groves of the coastline. How better, than, to celebrate the Pacific Gray and Monarch and other migratory beasties than with a...

MIGRATION FESTIVAL? It's happening at the picturesque Natural Bridges State Beach on the second Saturday in February 2017 — that's Saturday, Feb. 11 — and "birds and the many creatures that travel" will be honored in addition to butterflies and whales. There shall be "migratory animal talks" at the Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks to-do as well as kid-nice activities and music and more to-dos that both up the general well-being-a-tude of the day out and help guests grok to what a migrating critter does, eats, goes through, and such. Showing with your own picnic for the 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. event? That's cool, or you can buy your vittles there. Knowing more about animals' journeys? It's just so essential to stay up on what other earthlings are up to, even as we go about our day-to-days.

Photo Credit: a]]>
<![CDATA[Happy Winter Trails Month]]> Mon, 09 Jan 2017 12:04:18 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/CTTC150420125730_007.jpg

THE SNOWIEST SPORTS... are, of course, quite spectacular and powerful and full of cold-breathed vim. But just because you long to try out a mountain-based pursuit, or a calling at a higher elevation, doesn't mean that you need to take zooming down a pro-level slope from the get-go. There are other ways to connect with the snowflake-laden larks of wintertime, ways that also involve poles and gear and bundling up against the elements. One only need visit a popular trail to see all manner of cross country skier and snowshoe-rockin' adventurer to understand that the byways of the coldest season aren't just about the boards and alpine skis.

WINTER TRAILS MONTH: If you long to try your hand at the vigorous, cheek-warming, and spirit-lifting trail sports of cross country and snowshoeing, a fine first place to start is the online center for Winter Trails Day, and Winter Trails Month, which encourages those who dig the outdoors to give a hearty, frosty-landscaped adventure a try. And, no surprise, Winter Trails Month coincides with...

JANUARY 2017, the first full month of winter. A number of states have participating locales, but if you're sticking close to California, look to Kirkwood or Eldorado County, which will both honor the invigorating day out. Even if you can't make either location (and check the specific dates), learning to snowshoe, or try cross country skiing, can be done at a number of mountain resorts around the Golden State. Check with the ski center at your favorite destination and see if there is an instructor-led intro, or guided walk/outing, that'll help you safely try a trail that's at its snowiest, winteriest best.

Photo Credit: Visit California/David Collier]]>
<![CDATA[Global Gathering: California Worldfest]]> Sun, 01 Jan 2017 10:03:14 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/guitarshutterstock29382232.jpg

SUMMER, DISTILLED: What is the exact middle date, or even middle hour, or even middle minute, of summertime? With the warmest, easy-going-est of seasons kicking off around June 21, and wrapping up three months later, at least 'round this hemisphere, one would only need to look at the first week in August, near the end, to land upon that summery centerpoint. But summer's middle spots, those places and times when things just couldn't get any summerier, can happen throughout the season (and, truly, the whole calendar year, if one looks). And one of the stalwarts of the sunny stretches just happens to be in July, around the middle of the month, right when people are absolutely settling into the pleasures of the doors-opened, breezes-a-blowin' time of year. It's California WorldFest, an alfresco treasure of a music festival that alights in Grass Valley each year. And in 2017 that alighting will take place from...

JULY 13 THROUGH 16: In fact, tickets are already on sale, with savings for early buyers, so comb through the stellar line-up of global-awesome, strings-and-harmonies outfits. Reggae star Etana will perform, and the horns-laden Federspiel, and the islands-tributing funky-rootsy Kanekoa. The family-nice happening boasts kid-ready activities away from the stages, and yoga, and vendors, and other deep-of-mind/heart diversions to keep guests moving/thinking/socializing when they're not enjoying the tunes. More info will flow from the festival as winter and spring roll out, but if this is a summer centerpoint for you, in spirit, then ponder securing your entry as soon as you're able. The place? It's at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Savor Sonoma Valley: Springtime Sips]]> Sun, 01 Jan 2017 10:03:39 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/kimcarroll.comsavor16.jpg

SENDING WINTER OUT THE DOOR... can be as simple as scrubbing the windows and shutters or doing a full-scale deep cleaning. Other people might bring a few flowery plants into the house, or stow the cookie sheets and heavy soup pots, or change out the ultra-thick duvet for a lighter coverlet. The rituals that bridge the chilliest stretch with the seasonal of renewal are plentiful and fascinating, but they very often center around our domestic lives.

STILL, THOUGH, there are beyond-the-home ways to leap from the colder time of the year to the time of new growth, from visits to public gardens to days spent at places where new growth is very much at the heart of what's happening: a vineyard. And it so happens that one of Sonoma Valley's most verdant events occurs right when wintertime is grabbing its hat and making for the door: Savor Sonoma Valley. It happens on the weekend that sits juuuust at the passageway between two seasons, meaning you can send winter off, and welcome spring, with your favorite sip.

MARCH 18 AND 19... are the 2017 dates, and you're 100% right if you just said that the 20th just happens to be the first day of spring. Nineteen wineries around Glen Ellen and Kenwood are on board for this auspicious weekend, with Orpheus Wines, St. Anne's Crossing Winery, and Loxton Cellars all on the participant list. An in-advance weekend pass? You'll pay $65, and your designated driver is free. Ponder calling upon vineyards, with all of their leafy, just-sprouted green, as a different way to welcome springtime, one that goes beyond our dearly cleaved-to domestic must-dos.

Photo Credit: KimCarroll.com]]>
<![CDATA[January Jaunt: Winter WINEland]]> Fri, 30 Dec 2016 21:04:50 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/winter9239232.jpg

AN ELEVEN-MONTH WAIT: Perhaps you have a pal who calls the Northern Sonoma Valley home. Or perhaps that friend frequents the region, whenever she or he can, because of its delish eats and pleasing wines and all of those memorable vistas, sunsets, cool stops, and such. Either way, chances are good that your NorSoCo aficionado has stopped by a vineyard or two in the previous 12 months, and, just maybe, if you were lucky, picked up a special vino, the kind of vino that seems to show up during special wine country events. If this is all the case, and we're hoping it is, you may have just sipped a wine, over the holidays, that was purchased at Winter WINEland, one of the region's big affairs. We say "big" because it is, thanks to numerous wine-making participants in three distinct spots: The Russian River, Dry Creek, and Alexander Valleys. Wineries in this trio of tasty locales offer up "limited production wines, new releases, and library wines" during Winter WINEland, which means fans of Northern Sonoma County libations tend to stock up during the event, or at least purchase a special bottle or two to save for the holidays some eleven months ahead. And the 2017...

WINTER WINELAND... is just on the horizon, spreading out over the middle weekend of January. That's Saturday, Jan. 14 and Sunday, Jan. 15, the 25th annual go-around for this glass-sparkling, beverage-posh to-do. Besides calling upon a bevy of wineries around the northern part of the county, you'll be able to eye the Winter Décor Competition, where the wineries go head-to-head on the pretty-lighting, baubles-and-more front. And, as you visit some of your favorite places, or try one or two new ones, keep in mind that the 2017 theme is "Vintages, Varietals, and Verticals." Will you chat up various winemakers? You will, if that floats your boat. Could you attend a special winemaker breakfast and Q&A? Absolutely, for a separate ticket. Will you discover a new cabernet that you'll save, for 11 happy months, to sip at the end of the year? It could happen. A weekend ticket is a pinch under $50, plus a fee, and that's good for both days of the sippable celebration.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Kilt Confab: Queen Mary's ScotsFestival]]> Tue, 03 Jan 2017 15:05:33 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/193*120/QueenMaryScottishFest_QM_14.jpg

A TARTAN-TASTIC TRIBUTE: If you had been in Scotland back in the early 1930s, somewhere along the River Clyde near Clydebank, you would have seen a colossal ship coming together, complete with wide decks and towering smokestacks and a royal name to proudly bear: RMS Queen Mary. The ocean-liner became a favorite of movie stars, and then Winston Churchill's office at sea during World War II, before sailing again as a passenger ship. The grand boat's final sail happened in 1967, when it arrived in Long Beach, where it remains to this day, a permanent hotel, attraction, and historic point. But how such a marvel came together on the banks of the River Clyde is well-remembered, as is the Queen Mary's country of birth. Not only can you find a notable amount of documentation on the ship about Scotland and the ship's beginnings, but you can delve into the delights of food and sport and style each February, when the ocean-liner celebrates...

SCOTSFESTIVAL: Don your tartan and prepare for a full two days of Scottish-style celebration, days that include traditional athletics, sheep-herding demonstrations, and the enjoyment of fine whiskys (enjoyment that's guided by "aged malt experts"). Bagpipes, drums, darts, Highland dancing, and vendors aplenty encourage the notion that you've somehow left the fair shores of California for the Clydebank of another era. If you've never witnessed a sheaf toss or hammer throw in person, the palpable, "how do they do it?" feeling among the spectators is worth getting to know. For Highland games excitement, tartan traditions, and some sweet sheeply doings, plan on making for the started-in-Scotland landmark on Saturday, Feb. 18 and Sunday, Feb. 19.

Photo Credit: Queen Mary]]>
<![CDATA['Peter Pan' to Visit Catalina Island]]> Thu, 29 Dec 2016 21:30:07 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Casino_SCICof323.jpg

PETER PAN AND ISLANDS... are a duo that most every fan of children's literature knows about, for the isle of Neverland is one of the best-known water-surrounded spots in all of bookdom. And while finding our way to Neverland nowadays might be a mite tricky (especially if one does not have the power to fly), locating a beautiful island nearby isn't quite as hard. And, nope, sticking one's arms out and flying to this island is not required but a trip on a boat is (though going by helicopter is another option). It's Catalina Island we speak of, and a certain Mr. Pan will be calling upon the Pacific-pretty destination in May, via the annual Silent Film Festival. He'll be on the screen, let us note, as the "film" in the name of the event suggests, and that screen will be showing the 1924 version of the J.M. Barrie tale (as the "silent" in the name reveals). If you know your cinematic "Peter Pan" versions, you'll definitely know that the 1924 movie was...

FILMED ON CATALINA ISLAND, making the place of the screening all the more meaningful. Many "Peter Pan" mavens and those who love the hilly, bison-beautiful island will be out for the Saturday, May 20, 2017 fundraiser, so alighting upon your ticket in advance is recommended. "Period dress is encouraged" for the Catalina Museum benefit, so whether you want to wear your best Tinkerbell wings or something that suits the 1920s, start dreaming sartorial dreams now. To see "Peter Pan" on an island feels a touch meta, and even magical, but when the opportunity comes along, well, you've got to fly with it.

Photo Credit: Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce]]>
<![CDATA[June Lake Winter Festival]]> Mon, 02 Jan 2017 13:09:39 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/snowshutterstock29323.jpg

IT'S "SNOW" JOKE... that the Sierra Nevada sees a flake or two or two majillion when wintertime plows into town. It's the ski-ready, board-a-licious, get-your-mittens white stuff that keeps the region's popular resorts a-hummin' over several cold-weather-y months, and it is the sweater-up conditions that draw those who want to find a fireplace, and the nearest hot toddy, for some old-school cabin-style enjoyment. But a few communities around California's epic mid-state mountain range push the teeth-chattery, snowman-sweet fun just a smidge further every year with special outside to-dos built around the celebration of snow and its parka-necessary pleasures. The...

"SWITZERLAND OF CALIFORNIA," pretty June Lake, has plenty of parka-wearable happenings each winter, but one of the biggest is one of the biggest bashes on the June Lake Loop: The June Lake Winter Festival. The 2017 outing isn't a January or February deal, though; the date is Saturday, March 4, which tells you that the area likes to even celebrate snow at the very end of the season (a commendable thing, indeed). So what's on the docket? The Triple Threat Winter Triathlon, the Snow Sculpture Contest, and a Snowmobile Poker Rally. And during the afternoon, best seek out the Family Fun Zone and Party, which is going down in the ski-ready region of June Mountain.

WINTER IS WONDERFUL... when the mountain-traditional pursuits are in full flower, and the June Lake Loop embraces this spirit each year. If you're longing to commune with some earmuffs and ice and full-body underwear and double-up socks, but can't really do so due to the balmier conditions of your immediate surroundings, look to our mountains and the way they love upon the snowflakiest season on the calendar.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Fromage Fest: California's Artisan Cheese]]> Wed, 28 Dec 2016 22:05:32 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/fonduecheese9283232.jpg

A CALENDAR OF CHEESES... would show some distinctive trends, depending upon the weather and temperature and time of year. One might imagine that fondue rocks the winter months, seeing as how the cheese is melty and heated and delicious (same goes for raclette, that gooey good stuff that makes a January night at the table even toastier). Grilled cheeses could see an uptick in September, with all of the back-to-school-ing going on, and the longing for some after-class comfort food (and, naturally, the grilled cheese should arrive alongside tomato soup). And what of March and cheese? That's up for spirited debate. Irish cheese consumption seems like the ideal way to mark St. Patrick's Day, and as for what happens in Petaluma each March? Well, let's just say the emphasis is on the best-of-the-best of Golden State cheesery. It's...

CALIFORNIA'S ARTISAN CHEESE FESTIVAL, and it is back for its 11th annual three-dayer of delightful, expertly made wheels and hunks and cubes and slices. The 2017 dates are Friday, March 24 through Sunday, March 26, and fans of all manner of fromage can expect a return of the Artisan Cheese Marketplace and Tasting, the Bubbles Brunch, and various learn-a-bunch seminars. New in 2017, or, shall we say, "NEW" according to the festival web site? The Cheesemaker Dinners. Also popular? The field trips, which give fans a chance to see how curds have a whey — er, way — of becoming the magical edibles we find on our market shelves. So when's the ticket on-sale date for this creamiest of get-togethers? No need to consult your official Calendar of Cheeses: It's Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley]]>
<![CDATA[Forks Ready: California Restaurant Month]]> Wed, 28 Dec 2016 22:06:52 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/shutterstock9204924323.jpg

PRIX FIXE TIME: If December has a cornucopia of cuisine-awesome choices, from homemade cookies to lavish holiday affairs, well... so does January. The first month of the year, when compared to the last, doesn't always get the fairest of shakes, because it doesn't boast the line-up of holidays that December can so readily call its own. But January, at least 'round the Golden State, has something that the twelfth month can't add to its already full line-up of pluses: Restaurant Weeks. In fact, there are so many Restaurant Weeks bubbling, like a hot pot of tasty soup on some huge stove, that a full-on Restaurant Month encompasses them all. And, of course, it comes with the sup-loving state name in its meal-oriented moniker. If California Restaurant Month piques your piquant-food-craving, plate-seeking, price-dropping-loving spirit, find out the eateries that are on board with the prix fixe packages, the discounts, and the get-'em-now gourmet treats that have become a savory staple of January. The dates are...

JAN. 1 THROUGH 31, 2017, but best check to see on the specific weeks in specific places. For example, San Diego Restaurant Week is on from Jan. 15 through 22, while Dine Downtown Sacramento is set for Jan. 12 through 22. The Sactown spectacular is listing $35 for a three-courser, but eye the restaurant you want to check out to see the specific price and whether two, or three, or four courses will be involved (and what your choices are). Nine-Ten in La Jolla is offering a three-course dinner for $50, and the selections include Hamachi Sashimi, Seared Local Tuna, and Half-Baked Chocolate Cake. That's right, dear eater-outers: January has a bit of a jump on all the other months, even food-filled December, in the dine-out, find-deals department. Where will you go for savings and supper? Plot your plate-lined course now.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Ocean Ornamental: Red Coco Worm Wallpaper]]> Thu, 29 Dec 2016 09:56:00 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/red-coco-worm-d-small.jpg

THE DAYS FOLLOWING A MAJOR HOLIDAY... are often about stowing various ribbons and bows and gewgaws and tags and paper decorations in a box for next year (and the year after that, and so on, far into the festive future). But not every bow-looking or ribbon-resembling beauty belongs on the top of a Christmas package. Gaze out to the vast ocean, if you will, and ponder the red coco worm, or Protula bispiralis, if you prefer. This wonderful wormie is not a staple seen under the tree, but, rather under the waves. Still, though, the red coco does come with its own "packaging," should you want to stretch the yuletide comparisons just a tad further. It can tuck into "a self-constructed carbonate tube," which again, will not appear on the seasonal gift table, but is still beyond nifty. Want to enjoy an ornamental sight for the rest of the season, even as you stow the ribbons and bows? Gaze up the...

MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM, and the ocean institute's December wallpaper. Those "feather-like rays" that the red coco worm rocks are radioles, which possess cilia, which "catch marine debris which they then spiral down to the base, funneling food into the worm's mouth and unwanted particles back into the water current." If only our human day-to-days, especially around the holidays, were as efficient. It's a pretty wallpaper, the red coco worm, and you don't even need to wade out into the Pacific to find this cheerful sight. It's available for free download at the Monterey Bay Aquarium's online HQ, a wallpaper-y wonder that reminds us that not all frilly ornamentation to be found on this planet is found atop boxes and branches.

Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium]]>
<![CDATA[Bird Fest: Soarers of the Central Coast]]> Mon, 26 Dec 2016 21:19:21 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/birdfestwintermorro1234.jpg

VENTURING TO A PLACE... that is famous for its feathery visitors? It can be just the sort of vacation-in-nature that a bird buff craves. But there's further craving beyond just reaching the spot that's known for its sky-soaring visitors: You want to find that one bird you haven't yet seen. It might be a California Condor or a Surf Scoter or a Cooper's Hawk or another flying wonder that has eluded you, and your all-important "Birds I've Seen" list, for some time now. That's why heading for a wing-wonderful festival, one that's at a beautiful location that's known for its beak-rocking, flight-soaring visitors, can help the birder who is eager to find that quail or hawk or duck they've longed to see. And as anyone who has ever kept a "gotta find it" list knows, the start of the calendar year can rev up the passions to finally fill out your finds (whatever the topic of your "gotta find it" passion list happens to be). Good thing, then, that the...

MORRO BAY WINTER BIRD FESTIVAL... alights upon the Central Coast just a couple of weeks into January. The 2017 dates are Friday, Jan. 13 through Monday, Jan. 16, and the schedule of go-outs, talks, and field trips covers all corners of birddom love. There's a Morro Bay State Park hike, a trip to a regional oyster farm, a talk on drawing birds to your garden, a workshop devoted to bird sounds, an owling field trip, bird photography tips, and kayaking opportunities. Could this be a return to a former hobby for you, a passion you loved but had to bid adieu due to life's busyness? Make a new year's resolution to return to it. Or, if you're deep into your devotion to all things with wings, consider a visit to Morro Bay the birdly burnishing of your skills and enjoyment. But will you finally find that one bird you've longed to see? The crisp-of-air January skies shall soon reveal all.

Photo Credit: Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Calistoga Passport: Winter in the Wineries]]> Sat, 31 Dec 2016 12:17:54 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/219*120/shutterstock_33492784.jpg

MUCH OF THE PLEASURE... to be found in wine isn't built around the taste or the fragrance or the potency or the hue. Rather, a glass of wine, slowly quaffed, has a way of slowing time down for the quaffee, at least in the sense that nothing too urgent needs to happen in the window the wine is enjoyed. Many an oenophile purposefully makes that window on the large side, the better to draw out the not-rushed feeling, the sit-back-and-talk vibe. Calistoga's yearly December-to-early-February festivity, Winter in the Wineries, is all about the larger window, too, a window constructed for easy, at-your-own-pace vino enjoyment. For rather than offering passport situation begins on one day and expires the next, Winter in the Wineries boasts a passport that's good for several weeks. That means you can drop in on Clos Pegase or Fairwinds Estate for a tasting on one Friday, and then call upon August Briggs or Tank Garage a couple of weeks later, when your schedule and/or fancy allows. That's right, it's an at-your-own-pace kind of thing, much like a drawn-out glass of cabernet.

15 WINERIES... in all are participating, and you only need complete your passport by Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017 (or, if not complete, then at least call upon all the wineries you wanted to see). The passport is fifty bucks, and a number of local lodgings and businesses are tied into the savings, so with 10 percent or 20 percent (or more) off a room or spa treatment, depending on a couple of asterisks like length of stay or the day of the week. Is a multi-month passport a solid reason for visiting a pretty part of wine country a few times to stave off the winter ho-hum-ery? That's up to you, but if you're the kind of person who does like to make a glass of wine last for the better part of an evening, you just might get into stretching a winery-winter passport out for a few weeks.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Winter's Night Adventure: Winchester Flashlight Tour]]> Sat, 24 Dec 2016 10:30:45 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/204*120/WinchesterMysteryHouse_crWMH_1.jpg

A FROSTIER FRIDAY THE 13TH: Fans of fright films and eeky books might claim that the best month for a Friday the 13th to fall is, well, October. That's not too surprising, as this happens every-so-often event is tied to eerie occurrences in many minds. But we don't control the calendar, nor can we choose how the days of the week and the dates of the month will fall, so matching up the 13th day of October with a Friday is out of all of our hands. But, there's good news, lovers of ghosty goings-on: October 2017 will have a Friday the 13th, which doesn't happen every year. It isn't the only Friday the 13th on the upcoming year's schedule, however: January has one, too. It feels like an unlikelier pairing, the first full month of winter and a Halloween-y happening, but happen it shall. And, as is tradition, the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose will note the occasion with a special nighttime event. It's the...

FLASHLIGHT TOUR, which includes a souvenir flashlight and a 55-minute opportunity to poke around Sarah Winchester's mega manse. It's a house that's full of phantoms, both of the historical sort and, maybe, according to legend, the vaporous, ether-light sort, too. And while the plentiful-of-room landmark is visitable during the daytime all year long, flashlight tours only happen during October and, as mentioned, every Friday the 13th. Do you think you'll have too much to do when October's Friday the 13th rolls around? Best get your Friday fright-y fun in on January 13 at the world-famous attraction.

Photo Credit: Winchester Mystery House]]>
<![CDATA[Ocean Astonishing: Whalefest Monterey]]> Wed, 28 Dec 2016 07:27:21 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/MontereyWhaleFest2012.jpg

MAMMOTH MAMMAL MAGIC: If only we could ask the migrating Pacific Gray whales to pause for a moment, as they pass by our shoreline on their important seasonal journey, well... we wouldn't. They've got places to be, those thousands of blowhole-boasting wonders who appear just off our beaches and bluffs in the wintertime, and dropping them a text or an email asking them to hold up for a day, so we can spend some time getting to know them, would not be the correct course of action. But we can take action on the land, near the water, should we want to know more about the magical world of these mammoth mammals, their migration patterns, their babies, what they eat, their everything, really. So whale-themed parties spring up to keep we humans in the know, while the whales swim on by out in the water, with no need to disrupt their vital schedules. Look to one of the most fabled of the free festivities, an informative weekend-long shindig called...

WHALEFEST MONTEREY: It's happening over the final weekend in January 2017 — that's the 28th and 29th — and once again "The Whale Watching Capital of the World" will have several whale-tastic doings to choose from. You can listen to a lecture or watch a documentary or browse the "educational displays" that let we landlubber sorts take a more thorough look into how a whale travels, thinks, lives, thrives. There are boats, too, that head out into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, in case you want to see a whale or dolphin or sea bird from a closer, camera-at-the-ready distance. That's for an additional cost, of course, and, of course, the whales may not be around, for they've got places to go (that said, the sanctuary is known as a nicely be-whale'd destination come winter). We would never halt a whale on her migration, for that would be rude, but we would find our way to Fisherman's Wharf, on a January weekend, to revel in all of the info and enchantment of whaledom. (All while finding out how we humans can help their future, too.)

Photo Credit: Whalefest Monterey]]>
<![CDATA[Tournament of Roses: Your Flowery 411]]> Mon, 26 Dec 2016 08:23:20 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/rpGettyImages-503125192.jpg

THE FIRST THING TO KNOW, beyond the indisputable fact that, yes, The Tournament of Roses will again take place in Pasadena, California, its famous location since the late 19th century, is this: The Rose Parade Presented by Honda isn't always on New Year's Day. We know, we know, the parade and game are totally synonymous and partnered forever with the first day of the year, except when they aren't, and that will be the case in 2017. For this is the longstanding rule, and one that the tourney well abides by: The Rose Parade will never, ever happen on a Sunday. And as the first day of the coming year just happens to be a Sunday, well... Look for all of the lavish, dressy, float-tastic festivities to happen the day after, on Monday, Jan. 2. Good? Solid? You won't show up and grab some curb on New Year's Day, on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, only to be disappointed there aren't any floats passing by? Aces. So plan for...

THE SECOND DAY IN JANUARY... for all of your float-based needs. As is tradition, though (and tradition is very, very big with this event), there are other to-dos, including a few just ahead of the Rose Parade. Look to the float decorating that goes down around town, both at the commercial float builders and the self-built floats. Many volunteers are required to carefully place petal after petal on the massive vehicles. Also? Bandfest will sound the trumpets in full, brassy form at Pasadena City College on Friday, Dec. 30 and Saturday, Dec. 31. This is your opportunity to see the bands that'll march in the parade in all of their musical glory (and to experience a full song in a single place, rather than hear it as it passes by in the parade). And while it isn't affiliated with the Tournament, look to The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, which is offering its first-ever New Year's Weekend brunches. The garden's beloved roses are a popular must-visit sight during all of the rosy doings, and the brunch adds a new and delightful dining dimension. And don't forget about the post-parade "A Showcase of Floats," where all of the floats may be eyed up-close. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Coastal Discovery & Stewardship Celebration]]> Thu, 22 Dec 2016 18:50:36 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/stewardshipcelebration129032.jpg

A WONDERFUL, ONE-FOR-THE-BOOKS TRIP... isn't just about going and seeing and doing and eating and sleeping and returning home; there is some connection to be made with a destination. And when that destination fronts several glorious miles of Pacific-pretty shoreline, the ways to connect quite often, and understandably, involve the ocean and its denizens. If the notion of "stewardship travel" appeals, and getting to know the places and people and seals and whales and lighthouses tempts you, look to the Central Coast, and Highway 1, and the Coastal Discovery & Stewardship Celebration. It's on from...

JAN. 13 THROUGH FEB. 28, 2017, and finding your activity or connection point is as easy as browsing a list of suggestions (well that's the first stop, anywho). You can snag a Cayucos Cleanup Kit and Appreciation Tote Bag, pitch in as a volunteer at the Point San Luis Lighthouse, feed some jellyfish at the Central Coast Aquarium, or listening to an information docent talk on those sandy celebrities near San Simeon, the elephant seals. Wine tastings, peeks inside historic adobes, and a free film at Hearst Castle all about the giants of the nearby waters are other choices (with many more beyond those). The discovery is rich and the chance to take on an active role, even one of stewardship, is part of the plan. 

WANT TO GET INVOLVED? Read more about this vibrant group effort, an effort that has the likes of Coastal San Luis Obispo County on board, and California State Parks, and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. How will you connect in Cambria or Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes or Estero Bluffs State Park? Start counting the amazing ways to make your vacation linger on not only in your memory (and photos) but by a difference you made while on the road.

Photo Credit: Coastal Discovery & Stewardship Celebration]]>
<![CDATA[Palm Desert Food & Wine 2017]]> Mon, 26 Dec 2016 08:16:37 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/shutterstock39892032432.jpg

EVEN THE BEST LUNCH, the one that includes your favorite sandwich fixings, and your favorite bread, and your go-to cole slaw, is probably a one-plate, one-and-done, gobble-it-up-and-go affair. Enjoying a more sumptuous feast when the sun is high in the sky is either reserved for special holidays, the kind of holidays where we dine in the middle of the day, or for cool, chef-filled, gourmet'd-out food festivals. And if you're all about the lunch, especially the longer lunch, especially a midday meal that has a few fine-dining components, turn your gaze upon the desert, Palm Desert, in fact, and one of the most sippable and suppable events on the calendar. It's...

PALM DESERT FOOD & WINE 2017, and it 7th annual outing will attract a coterie of foodly artisans who are known for making ingredients sing. Gail Simmons, a judge from Bravo's "Top Chef," is the host, and Agua Caliente Casino Resort and Spa is the place for the Marchtime meal doings. Speaking of meal, let's cut straight to the posh luncheon alluded to earlier, the James Beard Gourmet Four-Course Luncheon, the one that leads into "two days of grand tastings." Those tasting are of the liquid assortment, too, so if finding your next ultra-hopsy beer is paramount, you just might make the foamy find at this desert to-do, which is on from March 24-26. What's next? Well, landing on a ticket, yes, and deciding where to stay for your desert sojourn. And daydreaming, of course, about a quartet of swanky chef-perfected courses that will soon be enjoyed at lunchtime on a probably sure-to-be-brilliant March desert Friday.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[California Strawberry Festival Poster Contest]]> Sat, 24 Dec 2016 10:32:36 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/csfhandholdingberryview.jpg

SPRING FLING: Every month of the year seems to rock some very specific fragrances, those happy scents you associate with a particular season or moment or week. December is rich in this nose-nice department, with cinnamon and peppermint and chocolate and all sorts of straight-from-the-dessert-shelf aromas dominating kitchens and stores and potpourri baskets and such. But maybe you're a May person, when it comes to significant scents. Maybe you prefer orange blossoms and just-squeezed lemons and newly plucked mint and strawberries. There's nothing quite like the middle of May for garden goodies, with the strawberry serving as one of the superstars, scent-wise, taste-wise, and everything-wise. If this is where your head and heart are at, even in these cinnamon-peppermint days, you can happily live in Strawberryland by jumping into an annual California Strawberry Festival contest. Once again, the berry-loving bunch behind the Oxnard-based party is looking for the new...

POSTER ARTIST: Have a zingy way to represent the green-topped, seed-luscious fruit? Then put bristles to canvas and express your strawberry obsessions. Your deadline is the first of February, so you still have some time to daydream and ponder unique ways to show the famous fruit. In a shortcake, or pie, or atop a cake, or in a salad, or just on its own? So many choices. The grand prize is a sweet two grand, and photography is allowed, as well as mixed media (in fact, there are several acceptable formats, so read all). If you simply want to attend, and not create a strawberry-centered masterpiece, you can do that as well: Tickets go on sale for the May 20-21, 2017 hoopla on Feb. 14, a day that has its own red-toned scents (roses, raspberry cordial chocolates, cabernet sauvignon). Happy painting/photographing, strawberry fans, and hold tight: The marvelous days of May are on the way.

Photo Credit: California Strawberry Festival]]>