<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Worth the Trip]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcbayarea.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.comen-usMon, 26 Sep 2016 00:07:20 -0700Mon, 26 Sep 2016 00:07:20 -0700NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Big Corn Horse Maze: Just Ahead]]> Sun, 25 Sep 2016 10:37:27 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/corn-maze-2015123.jpg

THE CORN IS HIGH, or nearly, and the time to get a little lost, all in the name of adventure, is nearly here at one of California's best-known maze-and-more destinations. It's the Big Horse Corn Maze, a staple of the Temecula Valley autumn, and it will expand, with so many twists, and turns, and dead ends, every weekend from Oct. 1 through 30, 2016. But it isn't just about maze-ing around at the Temecula Parkway attraction. You'll want to take note of the...

THEME WEEKENDS, like the rock-and-roll-y weekend that kicks it all off (complete with a car show). There's also a costume contest a pinch before Halloween, for the young-uns and pets, too, and a chance to participate in some old-timey pursuits on Saturday, Oct. 22 and Sunday, Oct. 23. Ever tried a potato sack race? Or bobbing for apples? Or putting your pie-loving skills to the test via a full-on pie-eating contest? There shall be all of that, lovers of autumn-style to-dos of yore.

THE MAZE... is nine bucks to enter, plus a few bucks more if you want to jump into any of the on-site activities. Parking is five dollars, and if you want to go pumpkin shopping while you're there, post-maze, the better to find your ideal Halloween jack o'lantern, carve some time to browse the gourd-filled patch. (Yes, we said "carve" there.)

ALMOST TIME: Can autumn already be here? Well, not quite, but when the corn is growing, the time for maze merriment is definitely on its way.

Photo Credit: Big Horse Corn Maze]]>
<![CDATA[Blue Lantern Getaway: Suite Bliss Package]]> Sat, 24 Sep 2016 06:44:58 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/BLI_lg_48dp.jpg

ROOMS INSIDE AN INN... are very often lavish, and the details and touches instantly inspire conversation among those checking in. You and your perfect co-traveler will likely discuss the local magazines, and the flowers, and the soaps, and the interesting throw pillows, and the view. But rarely are you given the opportunity to say the words "wow, a telescope!" upon entering hotel room. (The reason for this is pretty straightforward: Telescopes almost never appear in hotel rooms.) That will change should you book the recently introduced Suite Bliss package at the Blue Lantern Inn in Dana Point.

SPOILER ALERT: There is a telescope in your Tower Suite, which is handy, because the window looks out onto the Pacific Ocean, though "gazes" might be more romantic and apt (if a window could gaze). And chances are you'll want to train the lens on the waves, the better to keep watch for blowholes (of the whale and dolphin assortment) as well as any other birds or mammals that happen to roam into view (and, of course, the occasional boat). But an in-room telescope isn't the only sweet part of the Suite Bliss deal. There are...

ROYAL TREATMENT MASSAGES FOR TWO, a quartet of Le Belge chocolate truffles when you arrive (to go with your gratis sparkling vino), more vino and small bites in the afternoon, and breakfast for two. Good stuff, especially as those massages are out-sized at 80 minutes, but there's one more nifty quirk to consider: The robe you fall in love with, and vow to never take off, after you lounge about in front of your in-room gas fireplace? You can keep it. The two-night package starts at $1,075, and there are other treats, such as cookies and parking, to ponder as you plot your telescope-cool, ocean-adjacent, robe-keeping getaway. Follow the light of the Blue Lantern and daydream about Dana Point days now.

Photo Credit: Blue Lantern]]>
<![CDATA[Festival of Lights: Early Bird Package]]> Fri, 23 Sep 2016 09:17:36 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/missioninnspecial2015.jpg

THE FA, LA, LAS... aren't yet filling the air — we're still waiting on spooky spine-tingling sound effects — and the tinsel isn't shining from the store aisles (that's reserved for plastic pumpkins and bats, at the moment). But many a holiday-loving vacationer is turning at least partial attention to the close of the year, when the biggest spectacles and extravaganzas unfurl at some of California's best-known spots. One is that castle-stout structure, the one standing tall in the middle of Riverside, The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, a place that has a lot of pomp throughout the year but really does it up, pomp-wise, when the Friday after Thanksgiving arrives. That's when the...

FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS... opens, and if you're trying to remember if that's where like a zillion lights cover a single hotel, well, you're almost entirely correct. True, it isn't a "zillion" but the number of bulbs twinkling around The Mission Inn is impressively massive: "over 4 million dazzling holiday lights" is the count given by the historic destination. This means a lot of people want to see them, and a lot of people want to stay over, the better to enjoy the illumination later in the evening. If this is just your plan, best ponder booking soon, for the Festival of Lights...

EARLY BIRD PACKAGE... is now available. You'll need to plan your visit on a Sunday through Thursday during the lights run, which lasts from Nov. 27, 2016 through Jan. 7, 2017, and you'll need to reserve by Sept. 30. It all starts at $278 for your deluxe room and breakfast for two. Eager to see if you can count every bulb, up to 4,000,000? Best get early-birding now, yuletiders.

Photo Credit: Mission Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Carpinteria Luscious: Avocado Festival]]> Thu, 22 Sep 2016 20:42:17 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tlmd_avocado_and_lemon_mask_111612_ew_380.jpg

IF THAT SMOOTHIE YOU'RE SIPPING... or that zucchini bread you're munching or that banana chocolate cookie you're enjoying feels a little more lush and flavor-deep, it could very well have an interesting ingredient of the green 'n creamy sort: avocado. We live in inventive times, and certainly on the culinary front, and guacamole's star fruit is no longer relegated to just a handful of delicious dishes. There was a day when avo-goodness was only seen in slices topping a sandwich, or as the heart of one of the world's superstar dips. Now? It can show up everywhere, from pastas to desserts, lending depth and a fullness that the dish didn't quite have pre-avocado. It's a pretty big deal, that oblong, bumpily-of-skin produce aisle favorite, and it has a few yearly parties on the calendar 'round the Golden State. One of the most mondo? It's the California Avocado Festival, and it will once again bring the chunky-creamy dream scene to pretty Carpinteria over a pretty fall weekend. That weekend in 2016 is...

FRIDAY, OCT. 7 THROUGH SUNDAY, OCT. 9, and, as you can correctly imagine, all sorts of avocado-based bites'll be out in full, try-'em-all force. This includes a bouquet of guacs, in all styles, yes, but also avocado dressings, avocado breads, and, yes, avocado ice cream, always a talked-about treat at the fest. There are a few contests, like World's Largest Avocado, and some guacamole-y action, but look for a couple of new competitions, including one that involves holding a big bag of avos for an extended period of time. Oh yeah, and avocado juggling, too. Can you do that? Or can you simply stroll around and snack upon all the guac you can take? Because most avocado aficionados, let's be frank, count guacamole as a daily, must-have foodstuff. And for fine reason: It's probably like the planet's best chip-dipper, and if that isn't in the official fact books it probably will be one day. Carp's your destination, avos are the reason, good-timing-having is the rule of the weekend.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Oktoberfest at Anheuser-Busch]]> Thu, 22 Sep 2016 08:04:15 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/anheuserbuschoktoberfest123.jpg

ROLL OUT THE BARRELS: We revisit, with fondness, the lyrics of classic songs, again and again, but we should often pause to ask ourselves how often we've truly participated in some of the activities mentioned in these famous ditties. For example, "roll out the barrels" is a line most people can sing in tune, but have you ever put your hands to a barrel and set it spinning? It may not be on your bucket list, but perhaps it should be added if you pay a visit to the grand-style Oktoberfest happening now through Saturday, Oct. 15 at Anheuser-Busch in Fairfield.

THE MONTH-LONG FESTIVAL... is very much about the libations and sustenance — more on that in a moment — but the weekends will include a host of other traditional to-dos, such as, you guessed it, barrel rolling and the always laugh-summoning, splash-making stein relays. Light-hearted competition is at the heart of many Oktoberfest celebrations, but so is dance-ready music from bands who know how to raise the oompah, so come with your to-the-knee Bavarian socks on and cut the proverbial rug. As for the...

BREW AND BITES? Spaten Oktoberfest, the "world's first Oktoberfest beer," will in the steins, along with other suds like Spaten Optimator and Spaten Lager (one's a roasty malt bev, the other satisfying, straight-forward lager). Best find your Fairfield stay and your designated driver, the better to enjoy the day, and best find the Bavarian-style socks and lederhosen, if you're going to go all-out. It's a big Oktoberfest in a big state, and one of the few happening at a large maker of foamy libations. For all of your falltime fest details, roll your barrel this way.

Photo Credit: Anheuser-Busch]]>
<![CDATA[Morro Bay Majesty: The San Salvador]]> Wed, 21 Sep 2016 20:01:09 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sansalvadorjerrysoto.jpg

TALL SHIPS... and the California coast are a stunning duo seemingly sprung from photography-based daydreams. It almost doesn't matter where a large-of-mast vessel is viewed — in a harbor, by a bluff, drawing alongside one of the Channel Islands — for it to shimmer with marine-magnificent majesty. (Big words, but just try not to break 'em out when you're hashtagging your snapshots, later on, on social media. The urge is there.) But the time of tall ships can be fairly fleeting around the Golden State's shores, and if you don't know quite where to look for them, they can sail on by. A number of famous sail-spectacular boats recently called upon San Diego, and then, a week later, Dana Point Harbor, a moment that brought out fans aplenty for tours, talks, and more. Did you get enough of these on-the-waves wonders? No? Then look to...

MORRO BAY, which will get a visit from the beautiful Cabrillo's San Salvador at the close of September. The twelve-day sojourn of the historic replica begins on Thursday, Sept. 29, with a number of "public tours and special events" to follow through Sunday, Oct. 9. This, by the by, is the San Salvador's "inaugural tour of California," one that's co-hosted by the city with the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Oh, and that's right: The Morro Bay Harbor Festival is on Saturday, Oct. 1, meaning the galleon's Morro Bay getaway will coincide with the water-close party. But returning to photogs and the pursuit of capturing the tall ships on film: Will you snap the perfect photo of the San Salvador with Morro Rock in the frame? That surely would be a frame-ready picture, one that captures the drama of both historical sailing and natural, dramatic beauty. 

Photo Credit: Jerry Soto]]>
<![CDATA[Kids Free San Diego: Deal-Filled October]]> Wed, 21 Sep 2016 04:38:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GalapagosTortoisecourtesySanDiegoZooGlobal.jpg

GATHER THE FAMILY... in the den, or the kitchen, or on the patio, or wherever it is that you hold your official household meetings, and put this question to everyone present: "If we were to go to San Diego in October, what would you like to see?" After the question is asked, best grab your nearest piece of paper, or recorder, because the suggestions will start to fly. After all, America's Finest City has a world-famous zoo, and world-famous beaches, and oodles of other pretty places known around the planet, and alighting on just one or two must-dos can be as challenging as gathering the whole brood in one spot for a quick meeting. But alight you should, if you're a fan of A) neato stuff to do and B) neato stuff to do where the discounts are plentiful. For October is Kids Free San Diego, a month-long deal-filled festivity where attractions, restaurants, hotels, and more either greatly reduce a child's admission or meal or stay or...

WAIVE THE FEE ALTOGETHER: For example? If you swing by the San Diego Natural History Museum, your child (age 12 and under) is admitted for free (and that goes for two kids per paid adult). A number of institutions have similar offers afoot, while several hotel restaurants have "eat free" deals for the tots (again, there are some asterisks, so brush up before booking). As for the perennial kids favorite, LEGOLAND California? You got it: It's on the list, offering "(o)ne complimentary Child Ticket with each Adult Ticket." There's some studying up to do, and perhaps some mapping, too, before you call the family to the patio to discuss and weigh in on what would be the coolest to-dos to pursue. The big picture, though? This long-running large-scale program, which encompasses well over a hundred spots around San Diego and its environs, is a solid way to get a few family days in while saving money.

Photo Credit: San Diego Zoo Global/Ken Bohn]]>
<![CDATA[Scenic Bash: Catalina Film Festival]]> Sat, 24 Sep 2016 06:47:31 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/PurpleHarborSunrisecatalina2983282432-horz.jpg

OCEAN + MOTION PICTURES: No one needs to be told that filmmakers are rather fond of the great bodies of water, specifically oceans, specifically the sorts of oceans that make for amazing opening and/or closing shots (the kind of shots where the audience feels as though they're zooming just over the waves, like a gull might). But actually viewing a film on an island is something that happens far less than seeing an island or the ocean on screen, and getting to do so at a starry and celebrated film festival is even rarer. That all changes every autumn, however, when actors and directors and fans hop a boat or copter and make for Avalon, the hub of the annual Catalina Film Festival. Running for five film-lush days, from Sept. 29 through Oct. 2, the festival will hail bright lights, dig into documentaries, throw a few parties, host a few talks, and enjoy a bouquet of features. Some of those features will unspool in one of the Golden State's grandest cinemas, the Art-Deco'd delight that is the...

AVALON THEATRE: "Beneficiary" will have its world premiere there, while other spots around Avalon, from Metropole Hall to Lancer Auditorium, will also host cineawesome doings. Eye all the 2016 picks, from shorts to animation, and plan your movie-watching, ocean-viewing getaway accordingly. And since you can't quite decide one afternoon to drive over to the local theater to join the festival fun, you'll need to plan in advance, especially if you want to bed down in an Avalon inn. For all the films, including "Sheep and Wolves" and "Desert," click. As always, the Catalina Film Institute will pay tribute to the memory of a longtime festival friend Wes Craven through a series of scary flicks.

Photo Credit: Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce/Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Hollywood Dine Around: Tasty Tinseltown Package]]> Tue, 20 Sep 2016 06:59:53 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0797_Cleo_GroupUnderStairs.jpg

TINSELTOWN, it might be accurately and obviously stated, can prove a mite overwhelming, especially when it comes to the highly effervescent nightlife scene. A friend recommends one tony tavern, while another friend loves this other eatery, the one with the queue out front, that one café popping up in friends' photos over and over again. How, though, to take in a swath of the scene over the course of a single evening, the better to soak up some of the glitter and goings-on while getting a sense of what's au courant? Look to the Hollywood Dine Around, a September-long package that is built around an evening of trying out a few top-tier destinations, much like a progressive dinner, with, wait for it, both the gratuity and tax included (a rare thing, for sure). It's the...

HOLLYWOOD DINE AROUND, and it includes pop-bys at Katsuya Hollywood, Cleo, and possibly The Library (the very spots you're seeing in your friends' photos, perhaps). The night starts at Katsuya Hollywood, for appetizers, then makes its way over to Cleo for a lovely supper and a sweet to follow. There shall be a libation at The Library, the better to conclude the night, a night that should fall on a Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday (all grand evenings to spend in Hollywood, which can definitely bustle hard come the weekend). Cost? It's $79 dollars. And as for the "Cleo, and possibly The Library" bit mentioned before? Your final visit of the night, for your cocktail, will be at one or the other, adding some scintillating suspense to the posh proceedings. It's a not-too-pricey way to brush up on Hollywood's evening-fun spots, and the deal is on through the close of September 2016. Details? Over here, Tinsel-on-the-towners.

Photo Credit: Hollywood Dine Around]]>
<![CDATA[Big Bear Bevs: Fall Village Wine Walk]]> Fri, 23 Sep 2016 09:02:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/winetasting7.jpg

THE SOUNDS OF AUTUMN... are fairly memorable, especially near the beginning of the season when our ears are on the lookout, or rather hearout, for signs of fall. The biggest, perhaps, is the rustling of leaves, either up in a cottonwood or aspen tree (two of the "clickiest" of specimens, sound-wise) followed by tiny candy bars plunking into the bottom of a plastic pumpkin (and, truly, that only happens on one particular night of the fall). Let us add, though, to the aural autumn pleasures the particular pop of a cork and the clink-clink of glasses raised in celebration. The enjoyment of wine isn't solely an autumnal pursuit, but vinos can backseat it to brews and tropical cocktails during the summer. Winter has its toddies, but the chill of autumn's air means cabernets, merlots, and, yes, chardonnays, too. Enjoy those, plus the first Saturday of the season, at one of the most convivial to-dos on the Big Bear Lake calendar. It's... 

THE VILLAGE FALL WINE WALK, and it will spread out, in relaxed fashion, from the mid-afternoon to early evening on Saturday, Sept. 24. Be up the mountain, then, from 3:30 to 7 p.m., to savor "fine wines from around the world." You'll visit different business for your beverages, all the while raising funds for local education and regional community to-dos. Your ticket is $35 through Sept. 12, and then $45. Should you find a place to stay up the big hill? Definitely. Think how crisp those mountain mornings are in late September, when the merest rustle of a few aspen leaves can set you in a seasonally sweet state of mind.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Apple Days: Julian's Juiciest Jamboree]]> Sat, 17 Sep 2016 06:51:02 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/applepie93828121.jpg

COUNTING ON THE THINGS WE LOVE... in life is of great comfort, no matter what time of year it happens to be. If you dig sourdough, you're going to find a great loaf at a San Francisco bakery (and it doesn't even have to be National Bread Day). If you like fish tacos, make for a stand near the sand in Encinitas or Huntington Beach or Ventura. And if apple pie rings your particular bell, you know that a slow drive up, up, up to Julian is going to be your crust-flaky, cinnamon-scented reward, even at the height of summer (or winter or spring). Of course, autumn and apple pies are woven together like two tightly braided things, and the town takes note of that each September with a weekend-long lark devoted to its famous fruit. And whether you like that fruit cider-ized, or on a stick, or folded into a oven-browned layer of pastry, you'll want to be at Menghini Winery in the Cuyamaca Mountains-based burg over the last weekend in September. That's...

SATURDAY, SEPT. 24 AND SUNDAY, SEPT. 25... in 2016, better known as Julian Apple Days Festival. So many fest-y things'll be afoot, from dancing to music to a beer garden to wine sipping, but you may want to head for the apple pie first. (Truly, Julian is one of the only places where pie as a starter is completely acceptable and expected.) A ticket is five bucks for adults, and kids ages 12 and under enter for free. Will you be one of the first 100 people there, in your quest for early-autumn pie-flavored joy? You'll be awarded a gratis pie server, an implement that's welcome in every dessert-loving kitchen. Fall and one of its best-loved, most-obsessed treats is nearly here, so get excited.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bright Bites: Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival]]> Sat, 24 Sep 2016 06:46:22 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/3043_NBWFF_D1A_2187crpencilboxphotodotcom.jpg

THE OL' TROPE... involving "two kinds of people in this world" will never in any shape, form, or flavor apply to the world of foodiedom, for those who approach artwork edibles do so in countless individual ways. There's the person who has to research the menu online before visiting a new restaurant, while another adventurer might choose to wing it upon arrival (or always pick the first dish on the list, just to stay consistent). And while some food lovers vow to visit eateries touted in top publications over time, others like to complete their cuisine-based education in one fell, weekend-long swoop. Such a swoop is headed for Newport Beach over the close of September and beginning of October, when the chef-packed, bites-packed, demo-packed Wine and Food Festival returns to offer tantalizing tastes to snack-arounders who are ready to get down to the business of eating very well. The 2016 dates are just ahead, so make for the breezy ocean-adjacent burg from...

THURSDAY, SEPT. 29-SUNDAY, OCT. 2: Prepare for several gourmet grand happenings, days full of "living cooking demonstrations with celebrity chefs, book signings, master sommelier panels..." and a host of other built-around-the-plate (-and-glass) goings-on. Rick Bayless, Nancy Silverton, Rick Moonen, and a caboodle of toque-wearing artists'll be chatting up fans, talking trends, making meals, and doing all the things foodies travel to festivals to see. For while we can visit an eatery wherever we live on any day of the week, having the spotlight cast upon top cuisine over several days in several ways is a rarer thing, but an occasion that does pop up, poshly, now and then. Newport Beach is next up, and cuisinaires'll be there to enjoy, and we don't even need to trot out the stale "two kinds of people" chestnut. Food fans like seeing chefs in person and eating beautifully made bites, and there's no further trite categorizing that needs to be done.

Photo Credit: Pencil Box Photo]]>
<![CDATA[Ocean-Close Yoga at Terranea Resort]]> Fri, 23 Sep 2016 09:05:01 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/TerraneaResortSeasideYogaGathering.jpg

NATIONAL YOGA MONTH... has a number of different levels and prisms to it, much like the practice itself. A longtime devotee may vow to perfect a new pose, or at least give it another go, while someone who is new to downward dog may be inclined to try it out for the very first time, thanks to specials popping up at various studios come September. But the month isn't simply about one's own relationship with yoga (though of course that's central). It's about connecting with others who love it, in places that can inspire and bring quiet, reflective repose. Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes is such a place, with its expansive ocean views, and it pauses each year to host a yoga event that attracts around 300 practitioners, people looking for some satisfying stretches, some perfect Pacific breezes, and a way to bid the bustling world adieu for a few hours. It's...

THE SEASIDE YOGA GATHERING, and it takes place upon the 16,000-foot Palos Verdes Meadow (so everyone has a bit of elbow room). There's a Wellness Fair ahead of the Sunday, Oct. 2 to-do, and a chance to savor some "light bites and refreshments." Then at 4:30 p.m., just as the sun starts to say its farewells and deliver that ocean-y afternoon glow, the complimentary class will take its first pose. Ah yes, the class is gratis, so let that wash over you like a straight-off-the-waves breeze. 

TERRANEA RESORT... also has a different Sunday-focused happening afoot, one that expands beyond the first Sunday in October. It's Sunday Funday, and it includes "(f)ood and beverage vouchers to redeem throughout the resort's participating restaurants." (Think a "sunset cocktail" and "poolside snack" and such.) This summery offering is going well beyond the summer season, and heading straight past the middle of December. Details? Get your Sunday Funday information here, end-of-the-weekend-loving revelers.

Photo Credit: Terranea Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Howl-O-Ween at Great Wolf Lodge]]> Thu, 22 Sep 2016 20:43:51 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/howloween-greatwolf.jpg

WHILE HOTELS STAY OPEN... on Halloween, it isn't too likely you'll find much evidence of the haunted holiday within their walls. You mind find a candy bucket sitting on the front desk, or a pumpkin near the elevators, but, overall, the inn isn't going to go all out on the bats-and-cats decorating front. But, of course, Great Wolf Lodge doesn't offer up the standard hotel experience. The family-oriented, Wisconsin-started stay-over spots are all about out-sized child-fun experiences, from the huge waterparks that are synonymous with the company to the around-the-hotel activities catering to the kids on the property. This celebratory spirit naturally extends to the spookiest stretch of the year, and California's only Great Wolf Lodge, in Orange County, will go all out on the frightfully delightful front. "Go all out" means that Halloween is actually and technically known as...

HOWL-O-WEEN... 'round Great Wolf Lodge, and unlike the holiday itself, which is restricted to Oct. 31, Howl-O-Ween will last throughout the month. That means if you're at the Garden Grove hotel from Oct. 1 through 31, 2016, you may see a costume parade in the Grand Lobby (happening each and every night during October) or hear a Spooktacular tale during the evening Story Time event. A Trick-or-Treat Trail is also part of the proceedings, as are the Monster Bash Dance Parties, a weekend feature of the festivities. Nothing is too ghoulish or intense, meaning that if you have lil' Halloween buffs, this'll be more in line with what they love about the holiday. To make sure you land at the lodge during the events you and your family have an eye on, visit the main Howl-O-Ween page or call the Great Wolf Lodge in Garden Grove for all the details.

Photo Credit: Great Wolf Lodge]]>
<![CDATA[History on Parade: Los Alamos Old Days]]> Wed, 21 Sep 2016 20:02:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/2015LosAlamosOldDaysParadePrancingHorses.jpg

A TOWN WITH TALES: California is rather on the large side (perhaps you've heard) and it is rather on the long side (just glance at any map) and it happens to have a city or two or five that's mighty major and mighty impressive. But here's the truly impressive thing about the 31st state: It has a wealth of interesting towns, from wee Amador City in Gold Country (the state's smallest incorporated city) to Solvang (the "Danish capital of America") to Zzyzx in San Bernardino County (which just might be the most z-iest spot on any regional map). Los Alamos, which isn't too far from Solvang, definitely gets a blue ribbon in the "interesting village" category, for it is a place where California's past remains vibrant and alive. Stroll past many of the buildings in the Santa Ynez Valley destination, including the 1880 Union Hotel, and you could feel as though you've slipped through a portal in the space-time continuum.

AND FEW TIMES OF YEAR... are as in touch with the town's bygone spirit as Los Alamos Valley Old Days, which will trot again for its 70th annual hoedown from Friday, Sept. 23 through Sunday, Sept. 25. Los Alamos spotlights its "authentic Western heritage" during the long weekend via the "Greatest Little Small Town Parade" on Sept. 25 as well as a host of other happenings during the festivities, including a Tri-Tip Beef Sandwich BBQ, a Peddlers Market, and an Artisan Faire. Beautiful ponies, retro automobiles, chili dinners, and more small-town-y merriment enhance the venerable Old West meet-up. California has many cities, as mentioned, but there are only a handful that still have that 1800s-style yeehaw-o-sity and ten-gallon charm. It's Los Alamos, one of the coolest vintage towns of the Golden State (or any other state).

Photo Credit: Los Alamos Old Days]]>
<![CDATA[Top Bay Area Pizzas]]> Wed, 14 Sep 2016 08:27:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/pizzaslices93892.jpg

SUPERSTAR SLICES: The fact is that foodies like to read about what other foodies are up to, especially those experience-seeking adventurers who travel to another city solely to try a famous dish or two. Finding some of that foodie fun-timing nearer to home is possible, though, with the picks just released by The Daily Meal. The "All Things Food & Drink" site just named its "101 Best Pizzas in America for 2016," and you don't even have to jet to the east coast, or Chicagoland, to get a crack at all of the crust-based goodness making the sought-after slots. Several Bay Area pie shops have been tapped as top picks on the exclusive list, so your "jet off for a meal" dreams can come true via a day of pizzeria-hopping around the region. 

LUCKY SEVEN: A septet of sauce-ladling favorites are on the roster, including Berkeley's venerable dairy delight The Cheese Board at #78 (the "thin, sourdough crust" is highlighted) and Pizzialo of Oakland, The Cheese Board's list neighbor at #77 (some of the shop's unusual toppings, like wild nettles, caught The Daily Meal's eye). And next door to Pizzialo, at least on the rundown? Capo's of San Francisco at #76, and its vodka-creamy Dillinger pie. There are other local go-tos, from Tony's Pizza Napoletana to Flour + Water to Una Pizza Napoletana to Pizzeria Delfina, so eye the whole mozzarella-melted shebang and plot your day out pinballing about the area's lauded pizza palaces.

HOME-CLOSE CRAVINGS: The whole jetting-off foodie thing isn't just about pricey specialties, and it isn't just about the jet. You can take in a host of hot, pepperoni-spicy spots in just the Bay Area, and have The Daily Meal list to use as your bragging back-up.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[The Yosemite Facelift: Pitch In]]> Mon, 19 Sep 2016 08:19:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/halfdome178312472.jpg

SPRING CLEANING, that roll-up-the-sleeves, dig-down-into-the-drawers event, doesn't have an exact autumn equivalent. For sure, we'll stock up on pencils and backpacks around fall, or rather a few weeks before fall's official kick-off, but as far as organizing the cupboards goes, or washing all of the rugs, well, that just isn't something that's widely done come September. But one place that might benefit from a spiffy-up come the early autumn is a national park. After all, our most beloved wild spaces are visited again and again (and again) but multitudes of enthusiastic visitors, with the warmer peak months seeing plenty of people calling upon the places depicted in postcards and calendars. That's where the Yosemite Facelift, which is organized by The Yosemite Climbing Association, comes in. The September to-do, which is all about pitching in and collecting some of the leftover detritus of the busy summertime, lasts for six days, with a pair of check-in stations at Yosemite Valley and at the Tuolumne Store. The 13th annual...

"VOLUNTEER PARK-WIDE CLEANUP"... is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 20 through Sunday, Sept. 25, and "trash bags, litter sticks, and safety vests" are provided. You'll need to register, and look over the roster, and do keep in mind there are evening programs at the Auditorium (if that rings your personal bell). Think of it as giving this waterfall-lovely, granite-gorgeous treasure some love before the leaves begin to go golden and the first snowflakes fall. It's a way to do a bit of spring cleaning, post-summer, right when a national park has seen some of its bustle-iest stretches. Can't join the Yosemite Facelift in 2016? There are other programs at Yosemite and all our national parks during the year that spotlight volunteer efforts, with some clean-up involved. Call it a thoughtful way to give back, get some sunshine, and meet people who adore these epic locations, too.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bagpipes in the Air: Seaside Highland Games]]> Thu, 22 Sep 2016 08:02:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/LAScotPipeBand.jpg

MOST OF THE TIME, as a rule, we encounter tall poles made of solid wood as we're driving down a road. They whoosh by, or rather we whoosh by them, and we ponder how much a telephone pole might weigh, or how tall it is, or what impressive efforts are required in its installation. What we're not pondering, on the whole, is the notion of picking them up and throwing them, end-over-end, down a field. True, the caber toss, an ancient part of the heavy athletics portion of a Highlands Game, doesn't require its participants to throw telephone poles, but massive pieces of wood of great height and weight are employed. (Great height=19 feet and 6 inches, and the weight is traditionally around 175 pounds.) Have you ever seen a person lift such a thing and, well, toss it? Prepare for a spectacle of serious athleticism, as well as more wonders and charms, at one of California's biggest Scottish gatherings. It's...

THE SEASIDE GAMES, a vivacious Ventura happening billed as "the Premier Scottish Festival on the West Coast." In addition to the tossing of the caber, there shall be sheaf tossing, putting the stone, and other feats of strength and skill. Dancing is also a part of the weekend-long ceilidh, and fiddling showdowns, and a fashion show, and sheepdogs showing off their herding abilities, and a children's glen. Seaside Park is the location for the Oct. 7 through 9 festival, which means you'll enjoy some soft ocean breezes while you jubilantly jig (if jigging is your passion). Those breezes might transport you to the Scottish highlands, in spirit, though Ventura is more about sandy beaches rather than heather-dotted hillsides. Find your tartan and clear the second weekend in October for cabers, songs, dogs, and more.

Photo Credit: Seaside Highland Games]]>
<![CDATA[September Soiree: Temecula Valley Crush]]> Mon, 12 Sep 2016 21:29:39 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/TemeculaValleyCreditLeighCastelliPhotography.jpg

HELLO SEPTEMBER, that most harvest-happy of month. Hello again, late summer, and the beginning of fall, and all of the leafy, grape-nice, picnicky pleasures you bring. And hello to you, dear wine countries of California, places that are encountering one of the busiest, and most celebrated, periods of the vino-making year. It's a time that can't pass without a party or two, and once again Temecula Valley will do it up with a host of local vineyards in tow. The name of the celebration is one known to any oenophile who follows the almost-fall doings of grape-growing regions — it's called CRUSH — and it is scheduled for the final Saturday of summer, during that lovely meld-into-autumn time that suits wine country so very well. That's... 

SATURDAY, SEPT. 17... and Wiens Family Cellars is the place to be. The Temecula Valley Winegrowers is the outfit behind the extravaganza, one that fully spotlights over 30 members of the organization (Falkner Winery, Callaway Winery, and many more are on the convivial list). CRUSH is also about the cuisine, too, and a host of gourmands'll be at the party's HQ, doing up the cheese-yummy, oil-lush, fruits-and-veges snackables that only ever enhance a wine's inner character. Should you be at least 21? You should be, yes, to get your CRUSH on. Will you get to chat up a few of the people who make the eats and libations? They'll be there, so arrive with any queries you have (such as how a grape's juiciness or skin-thickness adds to the general flavor, or when they know that a grape is ready to be picked, or how vines weather the winter). September is here, lovers of beauteous beverages, and Temecula Valley's wineries are putting out the welcome sign, for wines and lovers of wines alike.

Photo Credit: Leigh Castelli Photography]]>
<![CDATA[Carmel-by-the-Sea Charm: Pumpkin Roll]]> Wed, 21 Sep 2016 04:38:51 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/pumpkinrollgetty1038i2-horz.jpg

GOURDS ON THE GO: If you've ever strolled up or down Ocean Avenue, the main shop- and eatery-lined thoroughfare of Carmel-by-the-Sea, you know it has a distinct to-the-ocean slope. Call the slope upward, or downward, depending on which way you're walking, but call it noticeable: Your calves will feel it after a few blocks. But what beautiful blocks, the kind of blocks the cottage-filled burg is known for, with wee houses and tile-topped buildings filling one's view. And if one happens to be strolling Ocean Avenue on the first day of October in 2016, another view might dominate: pumpkins. Let us add, quite quickly, that these won't be stationary pumpkins, the kind you might find sitting around a patch. No sirree, these gourds'll be on the move, rolling along with the assistance of a bevy of cheerful competitors, between Santa Rita and Junipero Streets along Ocean. In other words, the pumpkins in competition won't be headed alllll the way down to the surf, but rather will go for glory over a few blocks. 

THIS CHARMER OF AN EVENT... is heading into its second annual outing, and is now "an official event of Carmel-by-the-Sea's month-long birthday party..." which runs for all of October. The city, in fact, is enjoying its centennial, so ponder visiting multiple to-dos, like the yearly film festival or the celebration parade on Saturday, Oct. 29. But if you want to eye the pumpkins tumbling down Ocean Avenue on a fine fall Saturday, best be there on Oct. 1 in the early afternoon. Like the city itself, the Pumpkin Rolling Contest is a tad quirky, highly visual, and adorable as all get-out. Cheer on the orange-y symbols of autumn in one of California's most autumn-esque towns.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Carmel-by-the-Sea]]>
<![CDATA['Car Trek' Lands in Sacramento]]> Sun, 11 Sep 2016 12:39:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AutoCarTrek.jpg

THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY CONVENTION... may have wrapped in costume-cool style, and the various tributes clustering around early September might be ending, too. But you can still get your "Star Trek"-themed fun in, even if you partied in Las Vegas in August along with thousands of other fans (and even if you spent Sept. 8, the show's actual 50th anniversary, revisiting favorite episodes from the original series). We may never be able to return to that magical late-summer night in 1966, and the moment when TV audiences first experienced Gene Roddenberry's galactically gargantuan phenomenon, but we can gather nowadays with people who adore "Star Trek" in settings that capture a bit of its flavor. 

BEAM OVER... to the California Automobile Museum on Saturday, Sept. 17, for instance, and you'll find yourself at "Car Trek," the institution's vehicle-cool tribute to the 50th anniversary. If you recall some of the cars seen or referenced in "Star Trek," you'll want to swing by the Sacramento-based museum for a day of Trek-tastic to-dos with a vroom-vroom theme. Or join the...

GREAT TRIBBLE HUNT, or view airings of the '70s animated series, or participate in "Star Trek Jeopardy," or take a look at The Star Streak, a "special space vehicle." Can you arrive in costume? Don your best Klingon style, or a Bajoran get-up, or fanciest Vulcan cloak, and see a dollar shaved off your entry to the party. A party which will include a Borg station, and other touches inspired by the beloved series. Still celebrating the big 50th? Are you an auto enthusiast? Consider this Sactown gathering to be the perfect melding of the two, the rare chance to jump into a "Star Trek" scene with a car-cosmic flavor. 

Photo Credit: California Automobile Museum]]>
<![CDATA[Queen Mary's Haunted Encounters]]> Sun, 18 Sep 2016 13:44:34 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/hauntedencountersqm12345.jpg

ASK A HALLOWEEN BUFF... how he is feeling just after Labor Day Weekend and you may be on the receiving end of a plaintive sigh. On the one hand all of the spooky stuff is juuuust about to rev up, from theme park mazes to neighborhood haunted houses to costume parties. And yet? Everything is still a week or more away, with October really jumpstarting the startle-based bashes. There's a way, though, in LA to find your gentle frights, or at least your ghosty go-outs at any time of the year, regardless of whether candy corn and plastic pumpkin buckets are lining the store shelves or not. It's at...

THE QUEEN MARY, one of California's phantomiest destinations, a place way, way up on oodles of "said to be haunted" lists. This translates into tours, both of the daytime assortment and the wraith-seeking after-sundown strolls. History of the labyrinth-like ship is discussed, and possible sightings, too, and choosing which to go with all depends upon how you like to take your goosebump-inducing ghost tours.

THE DAYTIME OFFERING, Haunted Encounters, is an atmospheric, eerie-but-not-too place to start. It happens four times each day, with the last tour starting at 6:30 p.m. (one of the prettiest times on the stack-topped landmark, what with twilight settling in and all). Will you discuss the rumored portal to another dimension near the First Class Swimming Pool? The spirit said to frequent the boiler area? The guests who never left their wood-lined sumptuous suites? The Queen Mary, with its 1001 Atlantic crossings and its role in World War II, has more than a few stories to tell. There are different ways to connect with the ship in this capacity, however, including nighttime treats like the Paranormal Spirit Walk and other spine-chilling happenings.

TO GET A JUMP... on the spookiest season, or to simply call upon the ship's eternal occupants at any time of the year, board the famous ocean-liner's Haunted Encounters experience, if you dare. (We're assuming you do.) (A wise choice, if ghost walks and famous destinations are two of your favorite things.) (No more parentheticals: Buy your passage here.)

Photo Credit: Queen Mary]]>
<![CDATA[Harold & Maude Day at Western Railway Museum]]> Mon, 12 Sep 2016 21:30:37 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/212*120/haroldandmaude2.jpg

BAY AREA BELOVED: Ask any fan of "Harold and Maude" to talk about the 1971 game-changer of a film, and they'll cite the star turns by Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon, the evocative Cat Stevens soundtrack, and the memorable locations and homes. A slew of San Francisco-close communities cameo in the gray-sky'd, fog-laden lark, a comedic piece that's awash in pathos, grim grins, and moving moments aplenty. One of the best-known spots in the cinematic treat? Maude's funkily attired rail car, of course. It's where Harold finally eschews some of his theatrics and begins to get down to his real feelings, and sharing them with another human being in an authentic, heart-deep way. Good news: Maude's vintage-amazing Pullman railway car still exists, and while it is no longer outfitted in her scarves, paintings, and lamps, fans can still call upon it for a photo op or two. The rail car is the center of the movie-loving action, in fact, on Saturday, Sept. 17 at the Western Railway Museum. It's Harold & Maude Day, and there are a few sing-out surprises in store.

OH, WE CAN'T WAIT: If you don't like a spoiler, then look away, but the day's delights include an appearance by author James Davidson, who shall be signing his book "Hal Ashby and the Making of Harold and Maude." As for that Jaguar hearse out front? That of course was Harold's sleek and spooky ride in the film. To see the famous vehicle, famous rail car, and maybe flaunt your Harold-esque, wide-of-tie style, make for the museum from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Mr. Davidson is signing books from 11:30 to 1 o'clock). Whether you're able to make it or not, best always take what Maude recommended to Harold upon his declaration of love for her to heart: "Go and love some more." Wise words, for sure, dear Maude.

Photo Credit: "Harold and Maude"]]>
<![CDATA[Mushroom Foraging at Saracina Vineyards]]> Tue, 13 Sep 2016 22:42:23 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/mushroomsaracina1938232.jpg

SUPPER'S SUBTLE STARS: Even if a sliced or baked or sauteed mushroom isn't the purported centerpiece of a dish, and even if it gets like fourth or fifth billing on the menu, you can count on it playing a lot of roles in the meal. A mushroom will add some subtlety to a kicky sauce, and some chewiness to complement a dish's sharper or softer edges. Its earthy flavor can stand alone, but it shines when it is enhancing garlic or Hollandaise or lemon or the stronger cheeses. The upshot? If ever a knobby, luscious, deep-toned edible deserves a special day, it's our friend the fungi. And fungi's special days typically arrive in the fall and winter, when foraging expeditions start to pop up, both among experienced mycologists and those first-timers joining in to learn the old art form. Eager to do just that, and to have some excellent Mendocino County wine, too? Then join John Fetzer of...

SARACINA VINEYARDS... for a nice hill-rambly November day in search of mushroom goodness. Eric Schramm the "Mushroom Man" will join, making it a day of edibles and education (you'll leave knowing plenty about foraging, for sure). A quartet of courses await the foragers at the end of the forage-fun trail, and, you got it, mushrooms will assume the savory spotlight. Call them subtle, or chewy, or mellow, or earthy, but whatever you do, keep on enjoying one of the most distinctively delicous things on this planet (or any other). That this is going down, literally, into the ground, on Saturday, Nov. 12 in Hopland, ups the general fall cred. Tickets? No need to dig; they're right here.

Photo Credit: Saracina Vineyards]]>
<![CDATA[Kokanee Salmon Festival at South Lake Tahoe]]> Mon, 19 Sep 2016 08:20:37 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/KokaneeSalmon2.jpg

THE SYMBOLS OF AUTUMN... are as plentiful as leaves on an oak tree. You have your pumpkins, and their carved-cool cousins, the jack o'lanterns, and you have a variety of bats and cats and spiders, too. You have the candy corn, and a golden leaf, and pencils, which remind us that school has just begun. And, right around Lake Tahoe, specifically at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center, you have the Kokanee salmon. The silvery red fish is a local sight come early October, and it shows up in great profusion as the finned wonders make their annual run. "Great profusion" are truly the keywords here, for Taylor Creek is wall-to-wall, or rather bank-to-bank, with salmon, a sight that's solely tied to autumn, and specifically October. You can try and time your visit to when the salmon'll be at their spawn-centered busiest — a call to the center might give you some general dates, though early October is a fine bet — or you can simply put the Fall Fish Fest on your annual calendar. The 2016 festival is timed to the salmon run, as is tradition, and the upcoming dates are...

SATURDAY, OCT. 1 AND SUNDAY, OCT. 2: Beyond the show seen in the lake-connecting creek, get ready for a caboodle of nature-sweet happening at the festival, from kidly activities (including the walk-through inflatable fish) to tacos and ice cream. There are some pretty trail runs happening, too, if participating in an invigorating trot is one of your must-dos near the big lake. Above all, admiring this yearly migration is what it is all about, and learning how the Kokanee first arrived at Lake Tahoe, and all of the to-knows about this beautiful aquatic lake dweller. Ready to see a sight not many people experience? It's bucket-list-y, for sure. Watch the mondo fish run, and enjoy a weekend-long salmon-tacular, just a pop north of South Lake Tahoe.

Photo Credit: South Tahoe]]>
<![CDATA[A Nice Julian Stay (and Apple Pie, Too)]]> Wed, 07 Sep 2016 21:12:44 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/juliangoldrushhotel2938232.jpg

THE START OF SEPTEMBER... has a way of encouraging some very calendar-specific cravings. We begin to long for warmer dishes, and maybe the occasional stew or casserole, the kind of heartier fare that reigns in our kitchens in the fall and winter. We turn our minds to pumpkin spice, in all of its modern forms, from muffins to cupcakes to the ever-popular lattes. And we think about apples, and specifically apple pies, and where we might indulge in this pastry-perfect staple of the windowsill (and, yes, the bakery shelf, too). Apple-y places abound around our country, and California definitely has a few fruit-famous destinations to crow about, including Julian. The Gold Rush town has become so associated with apples that any road trip up into the hills without procuring a piece of pie seems like a wasted day (and there are a number of places to find it, too). Julian is so pie-centered, in fact, that the Julian Gold Rush Hotel, which is located in the heart of town, has a special involving a voucher that'll nab you some local pie goodness. It's called the...

"APPLE PIE," which is a very easy name to remember, and if you book it you'll receive "a voucher for fresh-made apple pie or two slices of pie a la mode at one of our local pie shops," advises the hotel's online HQ. And while historic inns like this one do offer cookies or other treats to guests, a way to enjoy apple pie is a rarer thing. There are other lovely perks to the special, including afternoon tea, so read all and see if that suits your potential Julian stay. A stay which will, of course, involve the consuming of cinnamon-y apples encased in a flaky crust, so the question is this: Would you like to have a voucher for that treat from the hotel where you're staying? Fall is on the horizon and pondering road-tripping to Julian, and how apple pie may best be procured, involves some deep and thorough decision-making.

THE RATE... opens at $150, and there are some asterisks to become appie'd about. Or, rather, we mean apprised.

Photo Credit: Julian Gold Rush Hotel]]>
<![CDATA[Grape Stomp Time at Grgich Hills]]> Fri, 16 Sep 2016 10:29:23 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/Couple_2grgich.jpg

TELL PEOPLE... you stomped grapes at a famous winery — or, more accurately, brag to your friends about your adventure — and the reaction just might be "pictures or it didn't happen." Grape-stomping, the kind that happens in a fruit-filled barrel, is an ancient pursuit that isn't found at every winery, and definitely not during every month on the calendar. It tends to pop up around harvest, and on special days, too, which means that any stomper's friends who good-naturedly demand photos are simply trying to vicariously enjoy what might be deemed a truly rare experience. It is an experience that's on now, each day, through Monday, Oct. 31, at Grgich Hills Estate. Rather than a single-day soiree of grape-stompery, the winery is welcoming guests each day from 10 a.m. to 4 o'clock who A) don't mind de-shoe-ing and stepping into a grape-packed barrel and B) purchase a $30 ticket (or, if you're with a larger group, $35). That ticket includes a...

GLASS OF ESTATE WINE... "in a monogrammed GoVino glass that you can take home as a souvenir," says the Rutherford destination (that's open to 21-and-over stompers, of course). You'll also place your feet, post-barrel, against a white tee, the better to leave your purply footprints, true and charming proof that you juiced grapes via the power of your legs. That t-shirt is also a souvenir of your day at the Napa Valley winery, so when your pals say "pictures or it didn't happen" when you mention your grape-stomping, you also have a cool tee to show them, too. It's a historic tradition, an activity that has strong ties to cultures around the world and modern winemaking's shared and storied past. And Mike Grgich, the winery's beloved owner, stomped grapes as a kid, making it a lovely place to try your own hand, or feet, rather, at it.

Photo Credit: Grgich Hills Estate]]>
<![CDATA[Celebrated Song Returns to Mission Inn]]> Fri, 09 Sep 2016 06:25:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/missioninnhistory1234.jpg

GRAND OLD HOTELS... have long been the source of creative inspiration. Some writers and musicians made permanent homes on the upper floors of their favorite inns, the better to experience the excitement of a building where the neighbors change each day. Some visionaries and artists have called upon a delightful destination for a week or more, the better to de-cobweb the ol' noggin and invite a few fresh ideas inside. And some people who wouldn't count themselves as creative types have found the bustle and beauty of a well-appointed building to be invigorating, and so photos are snapped of the lobby and a poem or two is jotted down on the hotel stationery.

CARRIE JACOBS-BOND, singer and penner of tenderly tempo'd songs, famously found much in this artistic realm at The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, Riverside's castle-iest structure (and, let's be honest, one of the castle-liest structures in California and the entire country). She came up with the lyrics to "A Perfect Day" during a 1909 stay at the hotel, and if you remember the sweet song, you may recall it from 1940's "Remember the Night" (none other than Barbara Stanwyck plays it on the piano). Or perhaps you remember The Mission Inn's bell-sweet carillon playing it for many years, an ode to a song born within the hotel's walls long ago.

THE SONG IS BACK AT THE HOTEL, twice nightly, if you want to experience this heart-sweet Mission Inn tradition. Keep an ear out for it at 8 p.m. in the Presidential Lounge and an hour later at Duane's (at 54 Degrees). Will you have just experienced your own perfect day at your getaway? Hum along then and ponder how this vintage tune was written in the very place you're staying. Artistic inspiration and hotels, a truly timeless pairing.

Photo Credit: Mission Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Lake Tahoe Tasty: Food & Wine Fest]]> Thu, 08 Sep 2016 08:37:38 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Lake+TahoeAutumnFoodandWine_GourmetMarketplaceVendorFair_creditNorthstarCalifornia.jpg

SAY "LAKE HOUSE"... and images of outdoor grilling, complete with various rubs and sauces and meats and vegetables, springs to the forefront of one's appetite-focused thoughts. Say "Lake Tahoe" and the mind turns to many meals had around the alpine wonder's shores, from campfire s'mores to high-end steaks. And say "Lake Tahoe in September" and the foodie rhapsody is bound to include one of the region's best known cuisine happenings, a 31-year-old celebration that is called the area's "most prestigious food, wine, spirit, and brew festival." Since all of the big lake's bite-filled burgs have a lot to offer in this edible-nice arena, the Lake Tahoe Autumn Food & Wine Festival lasts for three days, and they're some of the mellowest and most memorable days on the calendar. Yep, we're talking about September here and specifically...

SEPT. 9 THROUGH 11: As with past Autumn Food & Wine Festivals, you can select the dinner or cookout or demo that suits your fancy, and simply ticket-up for that single to-do. Northstar is the center of the gourmet goings-on, both the mountain and the village, though a few other spots will cameo during the cuisine-yum doings. Highlights include a Saturday Village Wine and Brew Walk, the Gourmet Marketplace Vendor Fair (the popular stroll/snack scene lands on both Saturday and Sunday), a Wine'd Down Movie Night, and the Grand Tasting & Culinary Competition on Sunday, Sept. 11. Some events are gratis, some are ticketed, but all bustle with foodie fans who love their lake-adjacent eats, especially in mellow September, when some of the higher elevation trees are starting to go gold.

Photo Credit: Northstar California]]>
<![CDATA[Autumn Tradition: Ojai Studio Artists Tour]]> Wed, 07 Sep 2016 10:45:33 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Richardamendojaitour.jpg

PAINTERS' PADS (AND MORE): So many burgs up and down the coast, and inland, too, can be called "art towns" that choosing some of California's most prominent is a difficult task (though a fun one). One town sure to make a lot of lists is the place that has a painterly moment famously built into the end of every day. It's Ojai, and that painterly moment, of course, is the Pink Moment, that instant around sundown when the mountains, and very air, seem to assume a rosy cloak. There's art in the town's very surroundings, its hills and environs, and there's absolutely a lot of art-making in the studios and homes of Ojai. That can be seen, in fabulous fullness, each autumn, when dozens of artists welcome visitors seeking to have a more personal encounter with how the creative community works, expresses its ideas, lives, and plays. It's the Ojai Studio Artsts Tour, and it will again take place over the second weekend of October. In 2016 that's...

FRIDAY, OCT. 8 THROUGH MONDAY, OCT. 10, and, yes, this is the first year that the long-running event has lasted for three days (it's the 33rd annual, in case you were trying to add up the times you've been). Some 50 artist studios will be on the map, and a dessert reception on Saturday is also included with your ticket. It won't be lookie-loo-ing, however, as demonstrations (think pot throwing, weaving, and such) will also pop up around town. As for the separately ticketed Saturday evening reception? No surprise about the name: It's The Pink Moment Gala, and there shall be prizes, and nibbles, and such. If you just want to stick to the tour, a ticket is thirty bucks in advance, and indeed covers all three days. You might just get to every studio you want to see in this, one of the Golden's States most art-forward, art-happy, and Pink-Moment-iest places.

Photo Credit: Ojai Studio Artists Tour]]>
<![CDATA[Autumn + Autos: Mono County Fall Drives]]> Mon, 05 Sep 2016 21:32:41 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/lakemarymammothaliciavennos.jpg

AUTUMN ADD-IT-UP: Particular numbers begin to pop up 'round the time that fall arrives on the scene. You might start pondering how many guests you'll have for your Halloween party, or how many relatives' houses you should drop in at Thanksgiving, or how many days it might be to Christmas Day (it is always a lot sooner than you think). But there is one number that is spoken by many an autumn aficionado, especially if they call California home: 395. That doesn't signify a length of time but a highway, rather, and one that's quite beloved. It's the ribbon of mountain-lined asphalt that wends along the Eastern Sierra, and while its treasures are spectacular throughout the year (Ancient Bristlecone Pines, Mono Lake) Highway 395 can also deliver when fall makes its annual entrance. Where will you toodle to see some primo aspen action or a few oaks putting on their yearly gold-to-brown-to-ground show? Take a tip from the folks at Mono County Tourism and head out for these...

FALL COLOR DRIVES: There are drives that will provide more hue-pop earlier in the season (hello, Rock Creek Canyon) and those that'll deliver some classic photo goodness (we're looking at you, Conway Summit and Virginia Lakes). The area is lush with lovely places to end up, both for admiring and for the shutterbug set. But as with all autumn-based opportunities, the leaf-pretty scene is a fleeting one, so plan your late-September-into-October-y adventures at once. Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the holidays are near, which means that fall foliage pleasures are even nearer.

Photo Credit: Alicia Vennos]]>
<![CDATA[Haunted Mansion 2016 Gingerbread House]]> Sat, 10 Sep 2016 11:23:42 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/DLHMgingerbread123.jpg

WHILE HALLOWEEN TIME... at Disneyland Resort offers as many different sights and surprises as a plastic pumpkin holds pieces of candy, there's one particular thing that many visitors look forward to every year: the gingerbread house at the center of the Haunted Mansion. Indeed, the eerie New Orleans Square attraction, which turned 47 in August, takes on a full-scale re-theming built around "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas" every September, and the theme lasts into the early part of the new year. And it is just this theme that inspires the towering treat found atop the big table in the Haunted Mansion's ballroom scene.

"NIGHTMARE" NEW: For while you can find your favorite touches year after year in the same places — Zero the dog floating down a long hallway is one charming example — the gingerbread house in the ballroom goes through a transformation. So what did the Imagineers dream up for the 2016 go-around? There's still time to look away, to hum "What's This?" or another favorite "Nightmare" ditty, or to walk from the room before the theme is revealed. If you can't wait to see it in person, then read on below.

THE 2016 GINGERBREAD HOUSE... is themed to Sally, the kind-of-heart, brave-of-disposition heroine of the tale. Stitches, which are a Sally staple, and the hues of her dress figure prominently in the seen-from-above sweet, an edible wonder that includes 200 pounds of gingerbread, four gallons of egg whites, and more ingredients than you can probably pack into a Doom Buggy. If you long to see an illustration, you can click here, or you can make for the Anaheim theme park now. Halloween Time is on at Disneyland through Oct. 31, though Haunted Mansion Holiday will fa, la, la into the beginning of 2017, complete with its Sally-inspired gingerbread house.

Photo Credit: Paul Hiffmeyer]]>
<![CDATA[Hearst Castle: Tours Resume]]> Sat, 03 Sep 2016 07:40:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/hearstcastlesunset1.jpg

WILLIAM RANDOLPH HEARST'S ESTATE... may sit high above San Simeon, with views that are so sweeping the home could practically trademark the word "sweeping," but it is not so remote as we sometimes think it to be. The recent Chimney Fire grew quite close to the landmark, prompting staff to cancel tours and shutter the popular destination over a number of days. But as of Aug. 30 evacuation orders in nearby communities began to lift and the majority of the fire reached containment, thanks to the supreme efforts of the responders battling the blazes. And for the first time in a number of days, Hearst Castle opened, again, welcoming late-summer visitors ahead of the busy Labor Day Weekend. Yes, as of...

MONDAY, AUG. 29... "The Enchanted Hill" is again welcoming people eager to eye the publishing magnate's tapestries, statues, and paintings, as well as those two amazing pools (big props to the nearly supernaturally beautiful Neptune and Roman Pools). Of course, the estate's long Hollywood history also comes into play during the tours, and guests often inquire as to whether the likes of Charlie Chaplin or Gary Cooper came to call (the answer is yes). Architect Julia Morgan was the visionary behind the grand, ocean-viewing, everywhere-viewing spot, a place that will soon celebrate its first 100 years. Many fans, those devoted people who enjoy returning again and again, are ready to say hello to Hearst Castle, especially following along on social media as the National Historic Landmark (and California Historic Landmark) shuttered for an "unprecedented" nine days in the face of the sizable wildfire. Want to find your next tour? Your San Simeon idyll awaits.

Photo Credit: Hearst Castle]]>
<![CDATA[Hollywood Roosevelt: Movie-Cool Cocktails]]> Mon, 12 Sep 2016 13:46:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/publicrooseveltoldhollywoodcocktail.jpg

LIBATIONS AND LORE: While there may or may not be a portal to the Hollywood of the 1940s somewhere near the Hollywood Sign, and you may or may not need to locate it on a moonlit night, you can always make contact with the Tinseltown of the past at a certain inn located at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard. It's an auspicious and notable address, in a town that does love its luck — see the "7" — and it's where the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel stands, and has stood, for nearly a century. This was the first home of the Academy Awards, and so many stars from the movie industry's Golden Age called it home, sometimes for months on end, that their names could nearly fill a sidewalk full of stars. In short? This is the portal to pure Hollywoodism, in style, cachet, and the occasional sip. Look to Public Kitchen & Bar, one of the property's on-site restaurants, and look to the recently debuted cocktail menu, which includes some drinks that pay homage to the twinkly titans of yore. Like...

THE LUMIÈRE, which recalls the visionary duo who coaxed the art of film into being at its very dawn. That sip includes Plymouth gin, green Chartreuse, Carpano Antica, and a dash of Regan's Bitters. If you know your comedy you know everything Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz have made, and you likely know that they once called the Hollywood Roosevelt their address for a bit. The Desi is a minty cocktail that boasts Cazadores Reposado, Crème de Cassis, cucumbers, lime, and simply syrup. As for the Pearamount Pictures? You got it, a pear liqueur is at its fruit-forward heart, along with Grey Goose La Poire and other tasty ingredients. For the full menu roster, get your most fabulous, Hollywood-esque togs on and make for the bar off Hollywood Boulevard. (And, truly, you can take a rest on looking for that time travel portal near the Hollywood Sign, for the hotel at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard is as portal-y as places come.)

Photo Credit: Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel]]>
<![CDATA[Hakone Gardens: The Centennial Gala]]> Fri, 02 Sep 2016 09:04:54 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/hakoneeve_hakonefoundation.jpg

A FULL MOON... is always a magical occurrence, and it matters not the vantage point from which we gaze up to enjoy it. We might be sitting in traffic, or walking through a parking lot, and the light from above still finds a way to cast a spell. Now imagine experiencing this once-a-month moment from a place that suits the spell being cast and the general enchantment surrounding our lunar satellite. And to go a bit further, imagine that this place is not open in the evenings, so a chance to stand inside of it, during a full moon, is doubly special. No more imagining needed: It's the Hakone Estate & Gardens we're building up to here, and it is heading for a grand party that will take place, at night, under the moon's gentle illumination. That celebration? Why, it's the historic spread's...

CENTENNIAL GALA: Surely you know that the Saratoga nature-nice landmark is "one of the oldest Japanese estate, retreat, and gardens in the Western Hemisphere." It debuted a century ago, and the current stewards are taking a three-year window to spotlight its auspicious anniversary. The Sunday, Sept. 18 gala is one of those centerpiece celebrations, one that will include speakers, a taiko demonstration, and a silent auction. There shall be cuisine, and sake to sip, too, and strolling the lush, bamboo-beautiful grounds as the sun goes down will likely be on many a reveler's evening schedule. 

THE SITE... is part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, thanks in large part to the efforts of Major Charles Lee Tilden, a former owner of the property, and James Sasaki, a masterful gardener who lovingly tended the sizable expanse for nearly 30 years. The Centennial Gala will honor both legacies, as well as the bright future of the gardens and estate. Call that future moon-bright, if you like, in honor of the party's magical source of light.

Photo Credit: Hakone Foundation]]>
<![CDATA[Bigfoot Days in Willow Creek]]> Thu, 01 Sep 2016 18:05:58 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/bigfoot1.jpg

STOP AT A ROAD-CLOSE SHOP... during a redwoods-pretty getaway and you're bound to find a host of products bearing one famous visage and one famous visage alone: Bigfoot. Bigfoot tees and Bigfoot magnets and Bigfoot mugs are staples of many Northern California towns, and with fine (and furry reason): The legendary forest dweller is regionally famous and beloved by many. So beloved that the devotion goes beyond Bigfoot-laden products, and even the carved statues found here and there, and straight to a summery celebration in Bigfoot's honor.

AND WHILE MANY SIGHTINGS... have been reported from Plumas County up into Oregon and Washington, it is Willow Creek that is one of the important centers for many a follower and fan (perhaps you've spied the towering Bigfoot statue in social media photos, the one everyone passing through has to take a snap with). To honor its not-oft-seen but still-a-superstar denizen, the town hosts a party at the end of each summer, one called...

BIGFOOT DAYS: For sure you will have some sightings at the Saturday, Sept. 3 parade, though we suspect they may be Bigfoot devotees dressed up in amazing Bigfoot-like suits (we can't be sure, but we're happy to see them riding/walking in the parade). A Bigfoot Calling Contest is also part of the merriment, and live tunes, and a watermelon eating contest, and ice cream, and all of the sweet details you'd want from a town-big bash. But will the legend of the hour make an appearance? There are surely still tales to tell, and Willow Creek is the whimsical, woodsy, and wonderful place to tell them.

Photo Credit: Bigfoot]]>
<![CDATA[Pop-Up Traveller Bar at Loews Hollywood]]> Tue, 06 Sep 2016 14:13:02 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/travelerbarsm.jpg

WHILE BAR THEMES... can run the gamut, and new cocktails make cameos, and fresh looks are incorporated into a space, and specials rotate through the menu, this much is true: A bar has a way of staying put. Visit any hotel with a bar one year, and you can pretty much expect to find the bar in the same spot, just off the lobby, even if a few of the martinis has changed. But every so often something rather whimsical weaves through a hotel company, and The Traveller Bar at various Loews properties is just that out-of-the-ordinary occurrence. The destination's name isn't about catering to traveling guests, though of course it does that. Rather, this is a bar that travels — italics quite necessary — and it is currently passing through Southern California. After a sojourn at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel it is making for the Loews Hollywood Hotel from Sept. 7 through Oct. 4, 2016. So, how can a bar, a substantial walk-in space, go places? It's...

A VINTAGE ELEVATOR CAR, one that can be moved (with, of course, considerable effort). The stylish space offers a quartet of old-school stools, a zinc-topped bar, and a register from way back, the kind with the push-down buttons and window-encased numbers. There are eight drinks to choose from, and they spring, with some modern inspiration, from books that go way, wayyy back. Libations include a Gin Fix, a Daiquiri, a Revolving Door, and a few other fancy-pants sips from a century ago, give or take. Where will it go next? The Traveller Bar has a date at Loews properties in San Francisco and San Diego, followed by a stay in the Southwest. 

Photo Credit: Loews]]>
<![CDATA[Magical Mojave: A Full Moon Tour]]> Sat, 03 Sep 2016 07:40:49 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/CadizDunesWildernessArea.jpg

THE DESERT, is might be accurately stated, is lush with pure mystery and magic. One minute we're rambling along a clutch of creosote bushes, lost in reverie, when a darting catches our eye (a small bird, perhaps, or a lizard). Its wonders are plentiful and surprising, but we mostly experience them by the light of our planet's nearest star. To see someplace epic, like the Cadiz Dunes Wilderness Area, by the light of our lunar satellite is something pretty darn special, and if it is a full moon? Well, right there you have a walk to remember, even if you don't spy any lizards or birds along the way. A trio of magnificent Mojave Desert spots were named national monuments in the early part of 2016, including Mojave Trails, the home to the Cadiz Dunes Wilderness Area. Like all national monuments the Mojave Trails, and Cadiz Dunes, will host fascinating, fun, and fact-filled public events, and the very first one is up on Saturday, Sept. 17. It's a...

DUNE DISCOVERY TOUR, and it will take place under a full moon, but the sun'll play a part, too. Everything starts up at 4 in the afternoon, with a wrap time of 11 o'clock, with the Mojave Desert Land Trust on-hand to oversee the event. Participants are invited to show with picnics and snacks, the better to keep fortified for all the adventures and learning ahead. Prepare to get some background on "nighttime creatures and plants of the dunes ecosystem," meaning you may leave fully brushed up on your kit fox and bats-based info. There are a few things to know, such as the fact that this is a "remote location requiring 4WD high clearance" (there are opportunities for a ride in from the Mojave Desert Land Trust's Joshua Tree headquarters, so ask questions when you RSVP). Also? This is the land of "soft sand," with terrain that might prove challenging, so ponder this before RSVPing. Whether or not you can make this full moon gathering, stay excited that the Desert Monuments have a host of happenings ahead, all to honor their official protected designations. To keep up on the Cadiz Dunes, start here, or for all things Sand to Snow, Mojave Trails, and Castle Mountains, bone up here.

Photo Credit: Monica Mahoney]]>
<![CDATA[Buzz Buzz: Carmel Valley Ranch Holiday Weekend]]> Thu, 01 Sep 2016 14:44:51 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/cvr20140601_bees.jpg

YOU CAN TURN THE CALENDAR UPSIDE DOWN... or inside out or flip through the pages a few more times (assuming this is the paper calendar on your fridge and not the calendar on your phone) but the simple fact of it is this: Summer is nearly done. Oh, it doesn't officially bid its goodbye before Sept. 22, when autumn makes its annual hello-and-how-do-you-do. But the warmest and easiest of seasons is at its final square, a moment traditionally punctuated by Labor Day Weekend. How does one capitalize upon the three-day-iest occasion of the the late summer, beyond firing up the grill and/or heading for one last trip to the park? You could go all-out, on the summer-camp-y front, and book a Labor Day getaway to a place that is both a luxe-nice hotel and a place to learn nifty things about life and nature and bees (so many bees). It's Carmel Valley Ranch we quite obviously refer to here, and the rustic-swanky spot is going all out on the good-times having over Labor Day Weekend 2016. If you know this soft-of-hill, 500-acre-big, pretty-of-sky spot, you know that...

BEEKEEPING AND LAVENDER... kind of rule the school. So prepare for some deep learning about bees (there are over 60,000 Italian honeybees making residence at the resort's apiary), and the tasting of honey, and the touring of gardens (you'll see loads of lovely lavender), and swing by the property's cluckful Hen House for some "chicken cuddles." It's a couple-y weekend, or a family-sweet weekend, or a you-and-a-friend weekend, with activities that'll suit big and small guests alike. For example? Horseback rides for the young'uns (and anyone) are on the schedule, as are wine-tasting opportunities for the 21-and-overs. This is your chance to get some more summer in, at full, fabulous blast, with moments of communing with nature and the people you arrived with (as well as bee/flora/wine experts, too, of course). Eager for the whole rundown? Buzz buzz for the Carmel-close hotel's online HQ.

Photo Credit: Carmel Valley Ranch]]>
<![CDATA[Livermore Labor Day: Harvest Wine Celebration]]> Tue, 30 Aug 2016 20:37:01 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/livermorelaborday2938232.jpg

SAUNTER INTO A WINERY... on most days of the year and you're bound to see knowledgeable staffers wielding bottles and chatting up oenophiles while other visitors browse the gift shop for logo-rocking glasses and elegant wine stoppers. Saunter into a Livermore-close winery during the Harvest Wine Celebration and you're bound to see all of those things, plus lots more. The "lots more" might include a reserve tasting, or a tour, or some live music, or some food pairings, or all of the above. It's one of the oldest of the Livermore libation parties, and the two-dayer is ready to roll for another Labor Day Weekend. But note that the festivity, which is organized by the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association, does not take place on that traditional day of prime wine-tasting, Saturday, but rather on the Sunday and Monday of the holiday weekend. In 2016 that's...

SEPT. 4 AND 5... and there's a $45 pre-sale afoot (just secure your ticket ahead of noon on Saturday, Sept. 3 to score that deal). Cuda Ridge Wines, Las Positas Vineyards, Concannon Vineyard, Longevity Wines, and a few dozen other regional winemakers are on the sizable roster, one that probably couldn't be completed over a two-day span (perhaps if you just popped your head in the door at each to say hello). This means you'll want to confer with your fellow celebration goers as to what places you'd like to try, and map out your day, or days, from there. Are there discounts, too, if you want to leave with that cab you mooned over? Yes. Is there a commemorative glass, too, to remind you of the 35th annual Harvest Wine Celebration? That, dear Livermore lovers, is absolutely a part of your ticket. Find out more now.

Photo Credit: Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Cruz Sweet: Gourmet Grazing on the Green]]> Tue, 30 Aug 2016 12:43:07 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/grazingonthegreen123.jpg

SUPPER IN SANTA CRUZ: Visiting a place, and becoming enamored with an eatery or two, is a practice well-known to anyone who has ever taken a repeat road trip to a favorite destination. You try a new café, you nosh on an empanada, and bingo: You're revisiting the spot, and the supper, from now on, period. But branching out in a town you regularly call upon, food-wise, is also a good idea, especially if you want to acquaint yourself with what chefs and brewers and winemakers are up to in the area (beyond your beloved café). How to do that? Find an annual to-do, one that invites several local food honchos down, and beverage artists, and snack around. Before long you may have four or five new favorite spots to visit when you're next at the destination. For example, 

GOURMET GRAZING ON THE GREEN... is coming up in Santa Cruz, and even better than becoming acquainted with a variety of local bites (and the people who make them) is this: "Santa Cruz's premier wine and food festival" is a a fundraiser for the "Santa Cruz County Cancer Support Services." Your $65 ticket to the Saturday, Sept. 24 gathering goes help out a number of area organizations who are "dedicated to improving the quality of life for people living with cancer" in the Santa Cruz region, a very worthy and heartfelt cause, indeed.

CAN YOU JOIN IN? It's in the daytime, noon to 4 o'clock, so you can still be home by dinner (or at your Santa Cruz friend's place, if you decide to make a weekend of it). As for restaurants and participants ready to show/cook/pour, look for Niman Ranch, Sid's Smokehouse, Surf City Sandwiches, Loma Prieta Winery, Seabright Brewery, and oodles more. Learn more about the Aptos Village Park to-do now.

Photo Credit: Grazing on the Green]]>
<![CDATA[Omni La Costa: Stay Like a President]]> Tue, 30 Aug 2016 20:24:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/PresidentialSuiteBedroomomni.jpg

PRESIDENTIAL GETAWAY: It will come as little surprise to anyone that we're currently in the middle of a major election year, and there are still big moments to come on the path to the White House. For example? There are a trio of Presidential Debates still ahead, and one Vice-Presidential Debate, too, and, indeed, Tuesday, Nov. 8 is the day voters go to the polls. To mark these momentous historic happenings, a California hotel with a long history (and a number of luminaries who've been guests along the way) is offering a stayover deal, one that's built around the year we're in: 2016.

THAT'S RIGHT, if you book one of the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa's suites on Sept. 26, Oct. 4, Oct. 9, Oct. 19, or Nov. 8, you'll be treated to 20.16% off your room. These'll be for "select luxury suites" at the founded-in-1965 property, so just be sure the room you have your heart set upon is part of the plan (and, yes, the Presidential Suite is one of the choices, as are the Family Suites and Plaza Suites).

WILL YOU TUNE IN TO THE DEBATES... from your suite, to watch the podium-based political-themed showdowns? That's a possibility, if you want to stay current with where the candidates stand. Will you settle into your comfy suite bed, and read a hefty political biography, the one you've been meaning to dig into for a couple of years? That's also an admirable, knowledge-nice way to approach a presidential election season. For all the available rooms, and more details on the "Stay Like a President" package, contact the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa.

Photo Credit: Darren Edwards]]>
<![CDATA[Sequoia Fundraiser: Food Truck Festival]]> Mon, 29 Aug 2016 13:45:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/220*120/fishtcos111.jpg

SUPPORTING OUR WILD SPACES... can happen in myriad ways, from volunteer efforts (clean-up days, tree-planting efforts, path/facility fixes) to events that encompass concerts or plays or festivals. But add some food trucks to the fundraising mojo, and schedule it for the last Saturday of summer, and you have a way to lend some love to a beautiful place all while getting your lunch in on a (fingers crossed) fine weekend afternoon. The Sequoia Parks Conservancy is doing just that, on Saturday, Sept. 17, when the organization's Find Adventure Food Truck Fest spreads out and gets grilling/baking/chilling, all to "benefit programs and projects in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks." But you won't need to drive up to the General Sherman or General Grant trees to be a part of the good-of-heart party; you only need to make for...

VISALIA, which is the center of the benefit-nice action. A quintet of live music performances, a bevy of food trucks, a beer garden from the Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Company, and a booth from the National Park Service will be on the snack-and-raise-funds scene. You will be at a park — Mooney Grove Park, in Visalia — and not at a national park. But if you want to call upon some of the world's largest living organisms, too, during your Visalia visit, the General Sherman is just over 90 minutes up, up, up the mountain. You might let this giant of a tree, and all of its many famous tower-tall neighbors, know that you just called upon a food truck fest meant to help out the sequoias in various ways (we're not sure the colossal wonders speak our language, but surely telling them might be a polite thing to do). Perhaps you'll need to explain what a "food truck fest" is to the trees, first, before explaining all of the sequoia-sweet programs and projects it supports.

Photo Credit: SauceSupreme/Flickr Creative Commons 2.0]]>
<![CDATA[Folklore Fun: Paul Bunyan Days]]> Sun, 28 Aug 2016 12:22:44 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/paulbunyandays123.jpg

TAKE ONE OF THOSE EPIC ROAD TRIPS... that travel sites are forever extolling on social media, the kind that cover 17 states over three or four weeks, and chances are pretty solid that you'll toodly by some truly quirky roadside arcana and artwork. One road-close staple that's seen throughout the nation, or many pockets of our country, at least, are over-sized, can't-miss-'em statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. For while the lore-famous lumberjack has ties to Maine, and the Midwest, Paul and Babe are well-known figures beyond their folkloric stomping grounds. Perhaps, though, there are few places to rival Northern California for Bunyan buffs, thanks to the colossal talking figures outside Trees of Mystery in Klamath. Featured on "This American Life," and oodles of adventure shows, the giant icons are but one of NorCal's entries in the impressive annals of devoted Bunyandom. Drive a bit south, to Fort Bragg, at the close of summer, and you're bound to come across...

PAUL BUNYAN DAYS: The long-running logging-and-lots-more party dates back to 1939, and has become such a biggin' that it fills out four days (major for any festival of any sort). Those days fall over Labor Day Weekend, Sept. 2 through 5 in 2016, so clip-clop to the ocean-close town for a caboodle of Paul-and-Babe-style celebrating. There's the famous logging show (it's a Sunday staple), and the pie sale, and a bird walk, and a craft fair, and a hot dog-eating contest, and a horseshoe-throwing showdown, and old-fashioned dress-ups, and several more rootin', tootin' happenings that have that straight-from-a-storybook, old-timey spirit. You might even see Paul himself out and about, so keep a look-out. True, American folklore boasts roots in all places where stories are shared, but this particular slice of California carries a true-blue twinkle for Paul Bunyan and a certain blue-hued bovine of notable loyalty and bravery.

Photo Credit: Paul Bunyan Days]]>
<![CDATA[Awwws Aplenty: Sea Otter Awareness Week]]> Wed, 07 Sep 2016 21:13:41 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/seaGettyImages-85081001+%281%29.jpg

SEA OTTERS, those whiskery, mollusk-craving, thick-of-fur, ocean-floating superstars, aren't terribly difficult to locate, if you have a general sense about where to look. True, many an otter might be seen at an aquarium, but finding one chilling just yards from the shore is not too difficult if you're somewhere along the Central Coast (they do adore calling upon the Great Tide Pool at the Monterey Bay Aquarium). Honoring these magnificent animals, and caring for their future, is an important mission for anyone who cares for the health of the Big Water and all of its denizens. There are numerous organizations that raise money for otter-specific causes, and there is the annual Sea Otter Awareness Week, which seeks to help land-lubbers understand the flipper-rocking mammal beyond its pop culture role in our hearts, storybooks, movies, and toy boxes (sea otter stuffed animals seem to be a staple of every ocean-close gift shop). Get better acquainted with...

FRIENDS OF THE SEA OTTER, one of the backers of Sea Otter Awareness Week, along with the Sea Otter Foundation & Trust, the Minnesota Zoo, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the Morro Bay National Estuary Program. You can visit the program's Nature Center from Sept. 18 through 24, 2016 — the official dates of the event — to read informational displays (plus there are "coloring activities," too). Even if you can't make it out to the Pacific's edge during the week, or to aquarium or zoo habitat where you can wave at an otter up-close, you can get up to speed on "the various conservation issues facing" this beloved critter. How can you help our sea otters? The furry 411 begins here.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[The Return of Madonna Inn Pink Chocolate]]> Tue, 30 Aug 2016 09:06:45 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/MadonnaInnPinkChampagneCake.jpg

A DESSERT OF DISTINCTION: We wouldn't really be going out on any limbs here if we were to say that when one orders a treat called the Pink Champagne Cake, well, one anticipates that the dessert will be pink, at least in part. And that's the way it has been at the Madonna Inn for decades, the San Luis Obispo hotel famous for its themed rooms, its over-the-top restaurant decor, and its Pink Champagne Cake. The themed rooms are still quirky favorites, and the Gold Rush Steak House continues to shimmer with gold and red details, but the pink in the Pink Champagne Cake took some time off in the spring of 2016.

THIS WAS NO SMALL MATTER, as fans headed to social media to ask the 101-close stay-over what in the world might be up, and when to expect the return of the distinctive dessert. While fabled confectionary Guittard, the longtime maker of the Madonna Inn's signature pink chocolate worked on "an all-natural food coloring," the property's restaurants continued to serve the gateau in question, but without its rosy hue. Which leads us breathlessly, in our sweet-flavored saga, to the close of August 2016, and...

THE RETURN OF THE PINK CHAMPAGNE CAKE: Yes, the whimsical landmark sent out the good word that that most Madonna-Inn-y of colorful cakes is back after "a long summer vacation." Those becurled flakes of Guittard-created pink chocolate goodness, the pleasing row of pink cakes in the case, the pink of dessert that matches the pink decor found throughout the hotel... all have returned. Want to celebrate with a towering slice? Find the treat at the Copper Cafe or the Gold Rush Steak House, the two eateries inside the historic Madonna Inn.

Photo Credit: Madonna Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Lompoc Lark: Mural in a Weekend]]> Wed, 31 Aug 2016 12:11:54 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/FeedingTime_MuralArtAlley_JasonReynolds.jpg

ANY TOWN WITH A MURAL... should be rightly chuffed, for having a large-scale piece of outdoor art, art that very often reflects the town's history, nature, or locals, is a nice thing, indeed. But there are a few special places around California where multiple murals dot the downtown area, lending flavor and back story in a different way (different as compared to how other places tell visitors the tale of the town). Lompoc, that flowery, not-too-far-from-the-ocean city in Santa Barbara County, is one of the Golden State's best-known mural-laden burgs, so much so that people regularly make it a point to tour the murals when visiting the area's famous flower fields.

TO SEE A HUGE ARTWORK... go up along a building wall is a treat that doesn't come around every day, as murals, by their nature, are rather limited in their canvas choices. But the public will see just that over the second weekend in October when Master Artist Art Mortimer puts brushes to bricks and creates a "Mural in a Weekend" at 100 So. H Street. That a whole mural'll come together in two days is thrilling, but the arty excitement doesn't end there. 

THE PUBLIC CAN JOIN IN, helping Mr. Mortimer "paint for an hour, a few hours, all day, or both days!" Those days are Saturday, Oct. 8 and Sunday, Oct. 9, and you'll want to pre-register, so the organizers know the sort of supplies needed. A few things to note? This'll be a big celebration for Lompoc, with a mural tour, a fall art show, history-themed open houses, and more happening concurrently to the mural going up. Also? This is Lompoc's first mural to "wrap around the corner of a building," so that's pretty nifty. If you're a mural maven, this could be the quirky getaway you've longed for, and a chance to contribute to something you can revisit, in Lompoc, for years to come, with pride. Details, registering, and such? Make for the Mural in a Weekend HQ.

Photo Credit: Jason Reynolds]]>
<![CDATA[Big Bear Autumn: Flashlight Safaris]]> Wed, 14 Sep 2016 19:40:54 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/generic+flashlight+generic+shutterstock_12868789.jpg

STEP OUTSIDE... your Big Bear cabin on an October evening and you might experience a few things from the get-go. You'll likely detect a certain crispness in the air, and whether that inspires you to pull your scarf closer or not depends on just how cool it feels. You'll likely see some amazing stars, the kind that can't be detected in the brighter cities down the mountain. And you may, in the distance, beyond those Ponderosa pines over there, hear a critter or two scurrying off. The San Bernardino Mountains are home to a host of fascinating beasties, from black bears to grey foxes to hedgehogs and owls. Many of these furry, hooting, big-of-beak, rustling-among-the-leaves mountain residents also call the Big Bear Alpine Zoo home. And while the higher elevation animal park, which puts a focus on regional beasties, is open throughout the year, something rather special happens during the first full month of fall: nighttime tours. They're called...

FLASHLIGHT SAFARIS... and they happen each Friday and Saturday evening throughout October. Arrive with your light in tow and prepare to see the nocturnal doings of several of the zoo's animals as you get to know "the more active side of our animals during twilight and dusk." True, some zoos do host after-sundown events, but those can include bands or a dinner. The Flashlight Safaris are very much built around the nocturnal doings of the local critters. They're popular — the safaris and the critters alike — so consider choosing your date ahead of time. And ponder how the next time you step outside at night, in the mountains, and hear a hoot-hoot, you'll possess a deeper understanding of how mountain beasties comport themselves by the glow of the moon. 

Photo Credit: Murat Baysan, Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Yosemite Skiing: Season Pass Deal]]> Mon, 29 Aug 2016 21:47:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/yosemiteskideal232323232.jpg

THE END OF AUGUST... is very much about pencil cases and backpacks and new apps and shorts and tank tops on the weekends, because it is still August and notably warm in many spots throughout California. What people aren't thinking about, on the whole, is skiing, as the last of the summer vacations roll out (and the school year revs into gear). But if you're a fan of a winter's afternoon spend schussing in a sublime Sierra spot, and you're eagerly anticipating chillier days spent on various slopes, and you're pretty darn chuffed about the National Park Service's 100th birthday, spend your late August securing your season pass to ski inside Yosemite National Park. There's a deal afoot right now, through the first day of September 2016, and it means you may have to momentarily stow your thoughts of summer and turn them to poles and skis and gloves instead. For the Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area season pass is available for a cool one hundred bucks, a price that is indeed in honor of...

THE NPS CENTENNIAL: It's easy to remember — 100 years, $100 bucks for the pass — but don't go too far down the path of reverie here. The offer is only on through the end of August, and Sept. 1, too. You can look forward to "unlimited skiing" and Bring-A-Friend lift tickets (that are indeed sold at a discount, depending on a few asterisks). Other perks await, too, like 10% off your bites and beverages, the kind of sustenance that keeps you going for another run. Can you envision your winter playtime now, even as summer is still in the house? Best try, as the usual pass is $179, to this $100 score is worth nabbing when the weather's still toasty.

Photo Credit: Aramark/Trey Clark]]>
<![CDATA[Suisun Valley Harvest Celebration]]> Wed, 24 Aug 2016 20:38:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/winetasting7.jpg

WHEN YOU GET EXCITED... for a certain time of year to come along, others around you might be inclined to advise you, ever so politely, to "cool your jets" (or some version of that old chestnut). The part of the year you love will get here soon enough, friends advise, so just "hold your horses" (another longtime chestnut). But practically no one would ever say that about the period that encompasses all things harvest. After a spell of heat, a person can start to vigorously anticipate autumn and its many pleasures: wine-making, wine tours, the tasting of wines, and all other activities that are vino-related. If you look in the right direction, though, you don't need to wait for deep fall to have your harvest-y fun. Glance in the direction of Suisun Valley, for example, on Sunday, Aug. 28, and you'll see that the harvest-type party is already beginning, even ahead of September. It's the...

SUISUN VALLEY HARVEST CELEBRATION, and it happens, festively and foodily, around the wineries of the valley loop (yes, "foodily," a word that belongs to harvest time, for sure). There shall be music, and the stomping of grapes, and picnicking opportunities, and more. "(W)ineries and growers are set to showcase their locally produced wines and produce," and edible-creating artisans will be out, too (so prepare for jams, olive oils, and other tasty tidbits). It's the full array of gourmet-type eating and sipping on nice display, so even if vino isn't your vibe you can likely find some goodie that floats your particular boat. Galvan Cellars, Mangels Vineyards, Cal-Yee Farms, and several other area stalwarts will play a part in the celebratory day. Can you smell the jams and oils from here? Point your nose, taste buds, and sense of direction this-a-way.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>