<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Worth the Trip]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcbayarea.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com en-us Fri, 09 Oct 2015 09:06:02 -0700 Fri, 09 Oct 2015 09:06:02 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Deal: Stay in Carlsbad, Go LEGOLAND]]> Thu, 08 Oct 2015 13:25:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/LEGOLAND_California_main_entrance123.jpg

UNSUNG OCTOBER: Is the tenth month of the year, the one that's typically depicted on calendars with bats and cats and glowing pumpkins and spooky trees, really the unsung sequel to summer family vacations? Consider that a growing sector of the travel industry, from hotels to parks, is breaking out the discounts and deals and free tickets and special packages after school has been back in session for a month or so. But this isn't to preclude families from enjoying the savings; very often just an afternoon or a single night, rather than a full week, is all that is required for a satisfying getaway. Look to the Hilton Garden Inn, which is just a hop from the sand in Carlsbad Beach, and look to their Kids Free LEGO Package, which is a fall (not summer) thing that's trucking all the way through Saturday, Oct. 31.

WONDERS (BRICKS AND BEASTIES): Yep, you get to stay at the inn and rest up for a full day of LEGO-ing, a day that'll be made more energetic via the breakfast for four people that's a part of the package's amenities and add-ons. As far as the ticket end of things go? You'll nab a pair of grown-up get-in passes, and two for kid attendees, too, to both LEGOLAND and Sea Life Aquarium. Could you take in Explorer Island, Castle Hill, and admire a giant octopus and an eel, all in a day? (You could, for sure, and, nope, the last two creatures are real, not LEGO'd, and are found at the aquarium.) Details and specifics are here, but the price for the package starts at $364.

KIDS FREE OCTOBER: There's a whole cityful of free deals going down around San Diego and its wider environs throughout the month, as museums and parks and zoos, numbering in the dozens, waive admission for children. If only every major metropolis started to go with the "summer's over, let's up the savings in October" plan, because a lot of people still long to travel and have adventure but not spend a bundle after the bundle spent over the summer. And we're not saying to not get your Halloween on, either; in fact, a stroll through LEGOLAND may jump-start some fanciful costume ideas. A LEGO person, perhaps?

Photo Credit: LEGOLAND]]>
<![CDATA[Majestic Birds: Raptor Open House]]> Wed, 07 Oct 2015 22:10:18 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/OJI4042raptoropenhouse.jpg

A RARE MOMENT WITH BIG BIRDS: Watching a hummingbird or dove or quail often means that we need to be in their immediate vicinity, the better to either hear their coo or detect their tiny, tiny wings in blurry motion as they pause near a feeder. In short, closer proximity is often required with some of our smaller winged friends, if we want to admire the shape of their beak or the color of their feathers or fully enjoy the hum of their particular call. Proximity, though, isn't necessary, or even much of a consideration, when it comes to the bigger birds of the wild. You can see a hawk riding the breeze at several hundred feet away, and the same goes for raptors and owls, too. The span of their wings can induce a "whoa" from any onlooker and their powerful presence in the sky makes finding one, while out on a hike or bike ride, a special treat. But visiting the Ojai Raptor Center in Ojai, which puts humans in much closer proximity with these birds, isn't typically a possibility. The wildlife rehabilitation center keeps public entry to a minimum, the better to allow any creatures in their care the time, space, and peace to rest and recover from illness or injury. However, there are a few special days each year when, for just a few hours, avian aficionados may visit the center, to learn more about the important work that's being done to save and help California's impressively sized birds.

"THE LARGEST FLIGHT AVIARY IN CALIFORNIA"... will host its Fall Open House on Sunday, Oct. 25. Besides getting a peek around, you'll get acquainted with the center's "newest education ambassadors, including Miki the Mississippi Kite, Red the Red-Shouldered Hawk, and Drifter the Broad-Winged Hawk." Other fun 'n feathery goings-on shall take proverbial flight, from getting to see other birds in the facility (including those beasties who cannot be released) and hearing from the experts. Kid-oriented to-dos, too, are on the schedule. Cost? It's a five-dollar donation, but, here's what you get: More knowledge about the magnificent and mondo birds we so often see winging above us, out in the countryside. And more knowledge about what we non-winged creatures can do to help them when they're not well or when they need a little R&R before they head back to the wider sky.

Photo Credit: EA Rosen]]>
<![CDATA[Hello, New Year: Party at Tenaya Lodge]]> Wed, 07 Oct 2015 14:38:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/217*120/nyeballoontenaya.jpg

IT'S ONE OF THE OLDEST TROPES... involving New Year's Eve celebrations. Nope, we're not talking about the one where the party poppers won't pop or the Champagne cork won't give or how the balloons in the net above the dance floor wouldn't drop balloons. After all, those are pretty rare instances among what's typically a glittery and good party. But lots and lots of people have talked about transportation issues on the last night of the year, specifically finding a cab or bus after the big party wraps. Where this isn't an issue is the woods, specifically Yosemite, when you're staying at a resort that happens to have its own balloon-drop-y, bubbly-beveraged New Year's Eve bash. You don't need to step outside to hail a ride home, and find one, if you're lucky; you only need to pat the pockets of your jacket or frock to locate your hotel room key (well, and you need to saunter down a few hallways, from the party, to reach your room). Could this be the year that you both A) wake up on Jan. 1 to commune with nature, in a spirit-reinforcing, positive way and B) not have to find that ride home on one of the chilliest and most-people-packed nights of the year? It definitely could be, if you choose to stay at...

TENAYA LODGE AT YOSEMITE, which has posted all the Ps and Qs about its mondo year-ender of a party. Shall there be a special nod to the hotel's 25th anniversary, a silver-shimmery nod of the highest order? Oh, for sure. Will there be lovely dining? You bet; you need sustenance so you can shake it later. Shall there be magic? There shall be, in the form of the cheerful Chipper Lowell, a Comedy Magician of the Year twice over. Will there be a caboodle of performers, like Dueling Pianos and The Valley Cats, lending their voices and instrument-playing talents to the celebration, the better to get revelers out on the dance floor? It hardly would seem like a traditional NYE event without some shakin' of your stuff. Shall there be party favors, the better to toot horns at midnight? Lots of favors. And will there be balloons falling from the ceiling, and the all-important toast when the clock strikes twelve? Yes and heck yes.

STAY AND HIKE THE NEXT DAY: There's a Tenaya Lodge stay-over deal, for couples starting at $499 per pair, but you can nab a ticket to the party for a hundred and a half, if you're over at The Wawona or another nearby property. But staying the night means you get to wake up near the woods, the better to start your next 365 days in a peaceful, meditative, walk-and-think way. And that seems a tad gentler than starting the new year in a rush to find a ride at 12:15 in the morning. Don't the woods set our heads right? Especially after a night of a bit too much bubbly? Lucky for you you booked a room right down the hall. 

Photo Credit: Tenaya Lodge]]>
<![CDATA[Fragrance Fest: Breathe Deep in Healdsburg]]> Tue, 06 Oct 2015 19:20:24 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/fragrancefestrussian12345.jpg

SEEING SPRING FROM AUTUMN: There are so many must-dos and myths and fables and facts surrounding the rose, which makes sense; after all, not every flower in the garden is cited by scribes as superstarry as Shakespeare. But one of the oft-repeated pieces of advice, one that many a planter of petals always heeds, is that roses should go in the ground in the fall, if a beautiful burst come early springtime is desired. You may be busy in your own garden, with newly acquired plants, with just this hope in mind, that in March or April your current flower-less bed'll be a rainbow of sniffable color. There is a way to get inspired to keep planting and tending, if you need inspiration, and it comes in the form of the Russian Tea & Fragrance Festival at the Russian River Rose Company in Healdsburg. The smell-nice weekend is the last lively get-together on the garden-plus-perfumery's calendar, so flower fans looking for one more burst of rosiness, before the wintertime sets in, will be out in flowery force. The dates? Look to Saturday, Oct. 17 and Sunday, Oct. 18, a time of year when many people are out in nature looking up at trees, to admire changing leaves, and not down at the roses blooming closer to the earth. Consider it a way to admire a dose of springtime from the middle of the fall.

SCENT SALON DEMOS: If you want to put the full focus on your nose, and the experience of taking in and considering a fragrance, you'll get that chance, and you'll get the chance to enjoy flavorful tea just steps from all of the pretty buds still going to hue-happy town in the gardens. There shall also be tea leaf readings, in case you want to know how your own at-home garden will bloom next spring -- or perhaps other pressing life questions -- and the launch of a rose perfume. It's the launch for state's "only estate made rose perfume," which is something you would need to tell everyone who complimented your fragrance. They'd love to know, right? Bulgarian singing group Gradina will perform folk songs, and other music-moving entertainments will enhance your roses-in-fall experience. Can you truly have a trip to spring in October? You can, in Healdsburg, over the middle weekend of the month.

Photo Credit: Russian River Rose Company]]>
<![CDATA[Glen Oaks Big Sur: Redwoods, S'mores, Peace]]> Thu, 08 Oct 2015 13:26:44 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/glenoaksbigsur123.jpg

BOTH, PRETTY PLEASE: It's a common party question, when travelers and travelers-at-heart gather, and one just about everyone has an answer to: Do you prefer the ocean or the mountains? "Both" is a common answer, with a laugh, but then the question-asker prods further, saying that a choice must be made. But many a traveler, and traveler-at-heart, knows that the spirit of the mountains -- streams and huge redwoods and snug woodsy cabins -- and the spirit of the ocean -- condors and crashing surf and briny breezes -- exist in concert in Big Sur. It's one of the area's bliss-centered, view-bedecked, whale-wonderful strong points, of many, and it just goes to show that you can have your ocean and mountains on the same day, no difficult decisions necessary. Look to Glen Oaks Big Sur, the stay-over that features both a stylish built-in-1957 motel on its Highway 1-close grounds and a deeper-in clutch of cabins. And when we say "deeper-in" we mean further into the property's impressive grove of stately redwoods, the kind of old trees that seem to keep company with the sky (and, depending upon your from-the-ground perspective, also seem to whisper secrets to each other via their upper branches). To get your cabin-cute, redwood-adjacent mountain night in during your Big Sur jaunt, after a day of watching for whales and condors along the nearby cliffs, book a...

LITTLE SUR CABIN... with Glen Oaks, or one of the larger cabins that dot the spacious, path-wending grounds (Big Sur Cabin, Sycamore Cabin, Redwood Cabin). Fire pits and Adirondack chairs are at the ready outside, and there's a burbler of a stream to wander down to (and the occasional wild turkey sighting; perhaps they're bird-buddies with Big Sur's famous condors?). A s'mores kit, inside the cabin, for an additional fee, is guaranteed to make fingers stickier near the fire pit, and possibly a few strands of hair, too, depending on which way the breeze blows or how messy you are regarding marshmallow consumption. The interior touches of the snug cabins, like their mid-century motel counterparts, are modern, well-appointed, eco-conscious, and unfussy as all get-out.

POST-S'MORES DINNER: Adding to the outdoors-nice, s'mores-eating scene? The cabins are TV-free. But if you need some hubbub, saunter up the path -- the front desk'll give you a map -- to the Big Sur Roadhouse, the property's adventurous-of-plate eatery (call it Big Sur Chic, which means casual and classy and craft-beer-y). It's another element of your mountain getaway, with the ocean just over that ridge over there. So, yes, "both" is an acceptable answer when it comes to longing for both mountains and ocean over the course of one weekend. Glen Oaks has you covered on the mountain end of that delightful duo and the Pacific? Drive about five minutes and you'll see it (but wash the s'mores from your fingertips first or else you'll make your steering wheel pretty goopy).

Photo Credit: Glen Oaks Big Sur]]>
<![CDATA[Holiday Lights: Stay at California's Brightest Hotel]]> Mon, 05 Oct 2015 23:00:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/missioninnlights02939023.jpg

SEARCHING OUT YOUR STAY-OVER SPOT, if you've never visited the hotel you've booked before, can sometimes be a bit of a challenge, especially if you're driving down streets by night, looking for signs and intersections you studied on the map before hopping in the car. Did you just drive by the hotel? Was that it? Was that a bellman out front? Oh darn; you're going to have to turn around and circle back. Here's the hard-to-dispute, completely and utterly true thing about approaching the landmark Mission Inn, around the holidays, after the sun has gone down over the hills near Riverside: You. Will. Not. Miss. It. You will not miss it, no way, no how, nope. How much will you not miss it? You will not miss it times four million.

MAKE THAT FOUR MILLION LIGHTS, or just over, actually, for that's what the castle-like structure puts up, each and every year, around its vast, block-plus property. It's a tradition in the area, and, for that matter, the region and state, to visit the Mission Inn to get an eyeful of what 4,000,000-plus lights look like, all in one place (as well as all of those bows and baubles and the hotel's famous animated figures). It's a wowzer of a sight, in short, and few homes can compete, even those that venture into the million lights realm. So now that you know you'll find your way there, after dark, by car, how do you choose your date during the hotel's traditional Festival of Lights?

BE THERE... from the Friday of Thanksgiving Weekend right through into early January. If you're going to do this, and you're not an Inland Empire resident, you'll probably want to bed down among the bright lights for the night. (Nope, you can't see them from your room once the curtains are drawn.) It gets pretty bustling, what with the Victorian carolers that appear on special days throughout the Festival of Lights and the nearby ice rink and the yuletide happenings that crop up adjacent to the Mission Inn. It's one of those travel-style bucket lists things, a holiday stroll around what's thought to be the most bulb-laden landmark hotel in California. And if this particular goal is still lingering inside your bucket, and you haven't yet reached inside your bucket to draw it out, the better to actually do, this could be your year. Don't worry if you have to arrive after sundown; as mentioned, you'll find the Mission Inn, no problem. It is one of the glitteriest sights in the Golden State.

Photo Credit: Mission Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Yearlong Fete: The Wine Road Turns 40]]> Mon, 05 Oct 2015 14:00:54 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/wineroadat40.jpg

AN ANNIVERSARY WORTH TOASTING: If you've ever been tasked with organizing a major anniversary party or trip or gathering for your parents or grandparents or some good friends or a school group or class, you know that, above all, you don't break out the pencil and paper and thinking cap the week before. Nope, you're cracking open the guidebooks and roaming web sites the year before, at least, if you're pretty on top of things and want to stay on track as the happening draws near. Such is the way of things in Northern Sonoma County, along the fabled Wine Road, a region that serves as a celebratory collective of dozens of wineries. The Wine Road is toodling towards its 40th anniversary in 2016 -- that's the ruby anniversary, as we're sure you know, being up on your anniversary gemstone traditions -- and the winemakers of the area have already planned a full sip-nice slate of big-deal bashes throughout the year.

"THE ROAD TO RUBY": When nine wineries got together back in 1976 -- well, make that the people who make the wine -- they surely couldn't have seen the big growth that was ahead, nor the fact that over 200 wineries would comprise The Wine Road as of 2015. (And let us also note that a few dozen lodging and hospitality destinations are also part of the group, lending a "come and stay/play" to The Wine Road's libation-centered industry.) It's gotten huge, in short, and the elegant Ruby Affair gala, in May, will reflect the grandness of the group's goals and growth and ability to well-represent the vinos of the region. Other to-dos throughout 2016 include Magical Mystery Tours -- you'll "board a mystery bus" in Healdsburg on June 18 and head out to one of three wineries -- and special winemaker breakfasts in January, March, and November. A cool December raffle, which gathers bottles from many cellars, and more ruby-sparkly soirees are ahead. And, like a parental anniversary, or one for a school group, you don't have to wait on the planning-ahead front: You can start organizing your visit now, before 2016 actually arrives. After all, ruby anniversaries don't come along all the time, and that a few hundred destinations, and thousands of hard-working people, are behind The Wine Road's 40th, makes the whole hullabaloo that much merrier.

Photo Credit: The Wine Road]]>
<![CDATA[Dippable Delish: The Choke Coach]]> Sun, 04 Oct 2015 13:30:05 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/chokecoachcastroville.jpg

SOME DAYS OF THE YEAR... you long for a simple scoop of vanilla ice cream, the kind that can handily be found at most any sweet shop in your neighborhood. Sometimes you want the perfect burrito, the one that's lush with beans and loads of chile. And very often, in life, you require the tender succulence of a deep-fried artichoke, the kind of bite that's further enhanced by a creamy, tangy dip.

The funny thing, of course, with cravings, is that while you can't visit a field where ice cream scoops are grown, nor, sadly, a burrito tree, you can visit Castroville, which is Artichoke Central, aka Artichokelandia, aka The Heart of Hearts. And you can chow upon on deep-friend artichokes and grilled artichokes and steamed artichokes just steps from where so much of the artichoke growing action goes down, out in the vast rows upon rows of the thistle-amazing edible.

ONE FAVORITE SPOT... to do so happens just outside Pezzini Farms, a large and bustling Castroville stand where you can bag up all of the chokies you want to cook later at home, and your artichoke cupcakes for dessert, and your artichoke water, for drinking, and your artichoke plates and cups and aprons and your artichoke everything. Look just to the left of the open-front stand's entrance and you'll spy the green Choke Coach, a regional go-to that's served up thousands of chokies during its 7+ years in business. While The Choke Coach has a sizable menu, you'll want to search out the pointy leafy goodness and the several forms it arrives in, on a plate, because that's what you've come to enjoy, right?

DEEP-FRIED ARTICHOKES... with lemon-dill dipping sauce or or ranch or garlic-dijon is a popular choice, you'd probably guess, though if you like your chokie with a bit more char to it, there's a grilled choice and the classic steamed. You can also get your deep-fried beauties in a full-on wrap, if you want less of a snack and more of a lunch (it comes stuffed with other goodies, from parmesan to tomatoes to lettuce and more). And all the while you get to bask in that oh-so-Castroville air, those soft, ocean-close breezes that this magical foodstuff gobbles up while it grows. Okay, yes, science surely has more of a definitive explanation as to why artichokes grow so well in Castroville beyond the whole air-gobbling thing, and science might even figure out a way to grow burritos on trees (fingers crossed). But all we really need right now is a small paper boat brimming with deep-fried artichoke chunks and some dip nearby. You can always find the coach, by the by, at Pezzini Farms, but there's a second green truck out there around the region, visiting special events like Wings Over Watsonville and various local fairs. Oh, be still our (artichoke) heart.

Photo Credit: Alysia Gray Painter]]>
<![CDATA[Napa Valley Film Fest: 2015 Line-Up Revealed]]> Sat, 03 Oct 2015 11:05:06 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/207*120/nvff2015_12345.jpg

TASTING ROOM DEBATES: If you've ever spent any time standing next to the drink 'n discuss bar inside a winery's tasting room, you know that it's a spot where the art of gentle debate is in full flower. You and your friend may disagree on the fullness of the cabernet you're both sipping, with your friend landing on the side of "too spicy" and you landing on the side of "just right." It's par for the cork-topped course, in short, for tasting rooms to get, on occasion, lively discussion. But those lively discussions take on a different flavor come the the middle of November, at least around Napa Valley, when the back-and-forth isn't about the wines but, rather, plot lines. The centerpoint of autumn around the valley is all about the Napa Valley Film Festival, a starry affair that lasts the better part of a week and features a host of food and vino experts (who are stars in their own rights, alongside the Hollywood celebs who make the scene). The dates of the 2015 run are Wednesday, Nov. 11 through Sunday, Nov. 15, and the full line-up, which was just announced on the first day of October, is a plum one. Look for possible Oscar contenders and indie sweethearts among the...

125 FILMS... dotting the roster. "Carol" with Cate Blanchett, and directed by Todd Haynes, is on the list, as is Morgan Spurlock's short "Crafted" and Atom Egoyan's "Remember" (look for Christopher Plummer in the lead). But what will be on the big screens from Napa to Yountville and beyond is the only topic attendees will discuss during the lively week. Some 150 wineries will be represented and over two dozen chefs. More than most film festivals -- and dare we say, more than all -- NVFF gives equal love to both the proverbial popcorn bucket and to the wine glass, too. It feels right, since a meal before or after a movie is pretty traditional in most places. Complementing the food, wine, and film scene are a host of special happenings, from celebrity tributes to dance parties. This should be plenty of film-fun fodder for you and your friend to bicker about, in good humor, at the next tasting bar you visit. Not saying that you can't argue over whether the merlot is too mellow or not, but discussing, and disagreeing, about movies is a time-honored American pastime.

Photo Credit: Napa Valley Film Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Half Moon Bay's Big Pumpkins: A Glance Back]]> Fri, 02 Oct 2015 22:47:55 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/pump2014GettyImages-457165500+%281%29.jpg Competitors are readying their 2015 entries; how did the 2014 gourds look?

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Monarch Mavens: Butterfly Time Flits into PG]]> Fri, 02 Oct 2015 09:36:28 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Monarch-Butterfly1.jpg

THE START OF OCTOBER... can mean a few things, from temperatures taking a sudden dip (fingers crossed) to a few more rain showers (fingers really crossed) to holiday decorations making their way onto store shelves (that's just pretty much the way it is, nowadays). A lot of people, though, choose to use the beginning of the month to plot what they'll wear at the close of the month, when hordes of haunted happy revelers'll be out in full fearsome regalia. But you don't need to construct a monster-themed costume or be a witch this year; you only need to fashion a pair of diaphanous, flitty-pretty butterfly wings, and you'll need to do it soon. Why? October is when the monarch butterflies wing their way into Central California and the Monterey Bay area, as part of their annual migration. There are certain places they favor -- Goleta and Pismo Beach are common stops on the butterflies' travel itinerary -- and then there is Butterfly Town, USA, also known as Pacific Grove. PG is so wild over its tiny tourists that it hosts a Butterfly Parade every early October, the better to get locals in the monarch mood and, to perhaps, alert any early butterflies that the time is nigh to take to the trees for a few months.

SATURDAY, OCT. 3... is the date of the Butterfly Parade and Butterfly Bazaar, and, yes, people do dress up in their sprightliest insect get-ups. There's also a Butterfly Ball that night, too, if you feel like dancing to mark the monarchs' return. Of course, if you want to know more about this fascinating migration, the life and journey of the monarch, and more, the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History is your information HQ. There's a monarch gallery at the museum, which delves into the delightful orange-and-black-of-wing beauty, and there are tips on when and how and where to spy the superstars around PG, when their season arrives. And that season is definitely nigh: The butterflies do so love to winter near our Golden State shores. Yes, we used "winter" as a verb, like we're fancy or something, but some time spent admiring one of the fanciest of butterflies, in vast, tree-filling profusion, can make one get in touch with their loftier self.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LA Museum Season: Culture Deals Abound]]> Thu, 01 Oct 2015 23:24:13 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Urbanlightmuseumseason1.jpg

LOS ANGELES, it is safe to say, has had a rather major museum moment in recent years. That is, of course, if the concept of "a moment" could stretch out to cover an entire decade, a decade that's seen new world-class museums spring up, and other world-class museums waive their admission, and major installations like "Urban Light" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art make their way onto magazine covers and into movies. And while the city's cultural institutions keep trucking all year long, there is a special time period that revs up in the fall, the traditional time when operas and symphonies and other mind-broadening experiences open up their annual seasons. October begins LA Museum Season, and that's good news not just for locals but for travelers looking to get some stuff done in the City of Angels -- work, a wedding, a weekend away -- and see a cultural biggie or two. LA Museum Season stretches into the mid-point of November and it comes with its own appealing-to-out-of-towners deal: Stay two nights, or more, at a hotel booked through Hotels.com and score "a special voucher good for two complimentary adult admissions or gift store discounts at participating museums."

THOSE TOP-NOTCH MUSEUMS INCLUDE... the "Urban Light"-lovely Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Latin American Art, the Skirball Cultural Center, the Battleship IOWA Museum in San Pedro, and the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is also an elegant entry on the roster, a place where famous paintings like "Blue Boy" by Thomas Gainsborough can be enjoyed one minute and blue skies over The Huntington's iconic rose garden the next. As for the stay-over spots on the list? It's also lengthy, like the cultural and historic institutions on the discount list, so finding a bed-down spot near your work or wedding or the museum you want to see should be a cinch. Also a cinch? Making this all happen, between Oct. 5 and Nov. 15. It's a program overseen by the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, so, you bet, this is a big deal in a very big city. And it has had a few years to lay its come-have-fun foundations; LA Museum Season marks a half decade in 2016.

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board]]>
<![CDATA[Cypress Inn: New 'Pillow Talk' Package]]> Thu, 01 Oct 2015 15:39:08 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/225GLAMlowci.jpg

PLENTY OF PROPERTIES... love to use the word "pillow" in vacation promotions, because, of course, that's just what weary daydreamers are hoping to enjoy: A soft, fluffy pillow in a nice hotel in a pretty town somewhere outside of the city they call home. But only one hotel has true dibs, thematically, on the title "Pillow Talk" and all of the movie-sweet cuteness it implies. We do, in fact, speak of the Cypress Inn, as you very likely guessed, a 1929 Spanish charmer that's a few blocks from the soft cream-hued sand of Carmel-by-the-Sea's beach, and just a nudge off the main eatery-and-shops thoroughfare, Ocean Avenue. The co-owner of the inn -- that would be Doris Day, as you also surely know -- starred with Rock Hudson in a little film called "Pillow Talk" back in 1959, and, yes, we joke about the "little" part; just about every romantic comedy owes some of its flirty DNA to this sweet flick. So that Ms. Day's own Cypress Inn would name a new stay-over package in honor of one of her best-known works hums with quaint cute-a-tude, the kind of quaint cuteness that happens in the Cypress Inn's lobby when a pack of Pugs steps through the door. The hotel is known for being beyond dog-friendly, with little Lassies and big tail-waggers regularly staying over with their people. People who may be interested in booking the "Pillow Talk" package from... 

NOV. 1 THROUGH DEC. 30, 2015: Drawing from the adorable, and somewhat provocative (for the time) romantic themes, the package includes "deluxe lodgings, a DIY beach bonfire kit, artisan chocolates, and craft cocktail session." Oh yes, and oysters on the half shell, a half dozen, that most talked-about alleged aphrodisiac. Oysters will also set you in the mood for your six-block stroll to the beach. The kit that's part of the deal includes "two chairs, towels, mini-cooler, cheese board, and wine opener." Honest, you know you'll start sighing over how busy the holiday season has made you, running here and there. Could you and your sweetheart celebrate the season before the season really kicks in? Think how refreshed and relaxed you'll be as you approach the office parties and last-minute to-dos. As far as being inspired by "Pillow Talk" and its famous romantic vibe? Consider that Ms. Day's film posters fill the inn's bar area, so perhaps those shall be conversation-starters, in the realm of amour, for you and your getaway companion. For prices, details, and more, sashay this way, as though you were walking across a film set circa 1959.

Photo Credit: Cypress Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Searching for Ghost Towns in Death Valley]]> Sat, 03 Oct 2015 08:00:07 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/gtGettyImages-450422088.jpg

LIKE THE MOON, BUT WITH TOWNS: Death Valley National Park is often presented as a lunar landscape here on earth, and with fine reason: It kind of is. Granted, there's an atmosphere in Death Valley that doesn't require us to don giant, glass-front astronaut helmets, and the gravity in the national park is pretty much the same as the gravity on the outside of the national park (meaning no big, bouncy astronaut leaps are possible, not without a trampoline). But the valley's stark vistas and empty stretches can feel moon-like, especially by the light of the moon. That makes it a little ghostly come the autumn, when the sun starts to set at an earlier hour and the toasty air takes on a chill and the idea of being on another planet, via a national park, begins to intrigue. Furnace Creek Resort wants to help further that phantom-y feeling that fall brings to the desert, along with the reminder that Death Valley really isn't so devoid of signs of civilization, after all. Ghost towns remain, in various states of crumble and decay and photo-ready awesomeness, both around the park and near its borders, and autumn's cooler ways, and supernatural airs, make it the ideal time to go exploring. 

DAY OF THE DEAD PACKAGE: If you're trotting out to Furnace Creek over the most haunting weekend of the year -- think Oct. 30 through Nov. 2 -- you can book this stay-over special. You'll get either a cabin to retreat to or a room and a map to the ghost towns of the area (hello, Panamint City, hello Rhyolite, hello Leadfield, how're you doin', Skidoo). To keep in the Dia de los Muertos theme, a pretty tile, complete with the traditional calavas on the front, is also part of your package goodies. Think of this getaway as a quieter, more history-filled way to mark both Halloween and the Day of the Dead, without the mondo parades and costumed affairs. Finding yourself in a place that famously has a rather macabre moniker -- we're not referring to the "Valley" part of "Death Valley" -- over the most famously atmospheric of holidays, with lots of ghost towns within driving distance, has its offbeat pleasures. To wend your way back to Furnace Creek Resort, either the Inn or Ranch, for a night of rest, ups the pleasure part (just make sure you leave the ghosties behind in the towns you visit, lest your hotel room get a little crowded).

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Urban-Close: National Parks Near Cities]]> Thu, 01 Oct 2015 23:36:23 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/alcatraz23-horznpfoundation.jpg

TREES, MOUNTAINS, WOOD, CAMPFIRE: Much of the iconic imagery we see around our national parks, be that imagery on a sign or t-shirt or hotel or all of the above, has to do with the Great Outdoors. Tall 'n proud fir trees and snow-capped mountains are favorite symbols of some of the parks within the National Park Service, and we've come to associate any visit to a national park as involving a few maps, a few road snacks, a few music mixes, and several hours on the road. And while leaving our big city home and heading for the snowy peaks and thick forests that are found in many national parks is a tradition that we'll forever adhere to, finding those historic and cultural and nature-filled sites closer to home, much closer, is rather wonderful, too. It means we don't have to block out a week or even a long weekend to get the national park experience; a jaunt of under an hour, a short boat ride, or perhaps a good stroll can take use there. The National Park Foundation is eager to pair people and parks, and that can mean both championing the city-distant parks as well as those NPS sites found within honking distance of our busy urban streets. Want to find what's near the metropolis you call home? Then check out...

THE 24+ NATIONAL PARKS... near 24 U.S. Cities Guide. It's called "Urban Playgrounds" -- cute and catchy, NPF -- and it details all of those wonderful, ranger-riffic locales that don't require a day's drive from your apartment or pad. Well, some of them will, if they're not near your city, but Alcatraz, which is on the list, is in San Francisco's sphere, and the lighthouse-lovely Cabrillo National Monument sits near San Diego. True, massive ranges full of silent valleys may be a bit scarce around the humming megatowns of America, but that doesn't mean city citizens are well out of the NPS loop. There are places nearby to enjoy, if only we look. Well, look and go; the "go" part is an essential part of the be-an-explorer-of-your-area equation. Want the full guide, for freesies? Yes, we said "freesies"; the "Playground" in the guide's name has us thinking cute and catchy, too. For all of the National Park Foundation's goodness, click. They help support the National Park Service in many ways, so staying up on all things NPF is a good thing to do.

Photo Credit: National Park Foundation]]>
<![CDATA[Jumpstart October: Harvest Fest at Roaring Camp]]> Tue, 29 Sep 2015 13:58:16 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/RCR_SteamTrainRide_lr.jpg

IT CAN BE CHALLENGING... if you're a dyed-in-the-wool, wool-wearing, cider-sipping, leaf-loving October fan. Well, let's amend that, slightly: It can be challenging to be an October superfan if the calendar happens to show that it is any other month beyond the month you moon over. Co-workers cock an eyebrow when you play Halloween-themed soundtracks in June, and family members rib you over the pumpkin smoothies you blend in March. So when the autumn arrives, and, a week later, glorious October, you are beyond ready. You've got your wool scarf out, and your cinnamon-scented perfume, and your apple-spiced muffin recipe at the ready. And if a cool, crisp, nature-close harvest festival should pop up just when October begins, well, by jack o'lantern, you're going to be at it, front and center, wearing all of the orange and brown and fall-leafy hues you can wear. Roaring Camp Railroads near Santa Cruz is assisting all autumn-obsessed people on this front by hosting its two-day Harvest Festival & Steam Faire over the very first weekend of the month. There's no waiting on this one, fall fans, as the seasonal doings crank up on...

SATURDAY, OCT. 3 AND SUNDAY, OCT. 4: We've got just three words for you, plus an ampersand, and here they are: "Make & Take Scarecrows." Right? This is what you daydream about back in the sunny days of summer. There shall also be a pumpkin patch, gold panning, the making of candles -- perfect ahead of those long winter nights ahead -- and other cozy/comfy/homespun happenings that put the zest in a classic harvest fest. You can buy a ticket and hop on a steamtrain, to commune with the redwoods, as one should do whenever one has the opportunity, or you can stick close to the festival to soak in the autumnal-meets-ye-olde doings. This is more harvest-y than Halloween, do note, if you're hoping for a costume-and-candy thing, though a Halloween feel shall be in the air. But don't harvest time and Halloween make rather swell neighbors? Being all snug together and sharing the month, as they do? And shouldn't the first weekend of October always be saved for those October aficionados who can't wait another minute to get their autumn on? "Yes" and "yes" are the correct answers, in case you're wondering.

Photo Credit: Roaring Camp Railroad]]>
<![CDATA[Avocado Aficionados Go Carpinteria]]> Thu, 01 Oct 2015 23:23:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/avocado4.jpg

IF YOU WERE TO REALLY DIG DEEP... in terms of your avocado affections, and we don't just mean with a spoon, you'd know the parts of the alligator pear as well as you know your own name. We don't just mean "skin" and "creamy inside scoopable stuff" and "pit," no sirree. Rather, you'd be tossing around terms like "exocarp" and "mesocarp" and "endocarp" for what we would normally deem the outer layer, the creamy inside scoopable stuff, and an area that's a little closer to the middle. As for the pit? Well, it is a seed, though pit, as a well-loved term, seems here to stay. And we'll wager that a whole lot of attendees at the annual California Avocado Festival know the official avocado terminology. Though, on second thought, with some 100,000 people showing up at the Carpinteria-based bash over a three-day weekend, just as many people, if not more, probably also affectionately describe an avocado's bits in ways that we all understand ("yummy middle" and "bumpily shell" and so forth). However you talk about the beloved fruit, count on having a lot of it, in all of its many forms, at the mega, not-too-far-from-the-beach celebration, which will grow, like an avocado pit -- er, seed -- from Friday, Oct. 2 through Sunday, Oct. 4.

BEING A LARGE AFFAIR... means there's lots beyond the famous pear in question, from live music to guacamole-making contests to a competition to brandish the largest avocado (we'll guess it is no match, in size, for those colossal pumpkins heading for weigh-in at Half Moon Bay in October, but still, a big avocado is to be applauded). There shall be many a vendor, too, selling both the avocado in its natural, just-plucked-from-the-branch form to ice creams and dips and more. How is your favorite way to take it? In an omelet, a club sandwich, in a burrito, or all of the above? The infinitely pleasing avo really can show up inside most any dish and the dish'll be elevated, instantly. This Carp party -- there's an avocado confab in Fallbrook, too, in the springtime -- is almost three decades along, which makes it venerable on the fruit festival scene. Of course, every avocado worshiper might describe his or her love for the foodstuff as long-lasting and true-blue -- er, true-green -- too. So keep on truckin', Avofest; your longevity suits your star food well.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Frank Sinatra's Desert Home: Peek Inside]]> Mon, 05 Oct 2015 22:48:24 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/SinatraHouse02courtesyofBeauMondeVillas.jpg

THE CHAIRMAN AT HOME: Some locations are forever associated with particular singers or song styles, and to enter the building and not hear what you're expecting to hear can be rather discombobulating. Stroll into a carnival and you're likely to experience some plinky calliope. Walk into a ballpark and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" might be thrumming from the loudspeakers behind homeplate. And should you find yourself sauntering into an old-school, mid-century, red-booths-and-strong-martinis steakhouse, it will not surprise you, at all, to hear Mr. Frank Sinatra crooning on the sound system. In fact, there are few places that identify with a particular singer more, and any performer would love to earn that sort of location-based cachet, though it is hard to achieve. Still, there are places that are even more associated with the Chairman of the Board, even beyond those booth-and-steak joints where Mr. Sinatra's song reign: His own homes, for one. True, it is rather easier to enter an open-to-the-public steakhouse vs. a private home once owned by the superstar, but that will all change on Sunday, Oct. 11 when Twin Palms, Mr. Sinatra's Palm Springs estate, throws the doors wide for an afternoon of tours.

E. STEWART WILLIAMS... served as the architect on the 1947 gem -- good guess -- and the property received a Class 1 Historic Site designation in 2011. The tours, which run a few times during the day, last about 45 minutes and cost forty bucks to join. You're right -- the Modernism Week Fall Preview is going down around town that weekend, so you're liable to see tour goers rocking some vintage duds, the kind that Mr. Sinatra's guests might have, back in the day. Oh, and you do know that this is the centennial year of his birth? There are special doings throughout 2015 in honor of his legacy, including a Grammy Museum exhibit in downtown LA, but only a few fans will get to peek inside his desert getaway. Will that be you? Slide your fedora over one eye, hold your jacket over your shoulder by a finger, and snap your fingers, swing cat-style, all the way to Palm Springs.

Photo Credit: Beau Monde Villas]]>
<![CDATA[Fungi Festivity: The Mushrooms of Mendocino]]> Sun, 27 Sep 2015 11:43:08 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/edt-mushrooms.jpg

DIG INTO ANY DISH... that's full of vegetables and grains and nuts and other good things and certain flavors and textures typically stand out. Bite into a cherry tomato and feel a sense of red-toned brightness wash over your senses. Come across an almond and an earthy crunch naturally dominates whatever else is in your spoon or on your fork. And should you chew on a mushroom, you'll find yourself, or at least your mouth, automatically transported to the deepest part of a primeval forest. Few tastes are as complex, so to call a mushroom "meaty" or a mere recipe enhancer isn't giving fungus its full due. True, it does have the weight and solidness one associates with a meat-centered entree, sans the meat, but mushrooms often bear a lighter touch in the feeling-too-full department. And the variety is astonishing: In Mendocino County alone, thousands of shroom-tastic varieties spring from the ground. Make that over 3,000, to be specific, making the Mendo area one of the capitals of mushroomania. The plant-rich region likes to celebrate one of its nature-nice, forest-flavored favorites each fall, but the mushroom isn't the only thing on the menu at the Mendocino Mushroom, Wine & Beer Festival.

WINE & BEER, as the name suggests, are the beverage superstars of the week-plus celebration, which includes exhibits detailing the natural history of the mushroom, wine tastings at local vineyards, horseback rides and mushroom hunts, and, prepare your taste buds, mushroom ice cream. We can only imagine a scoop of that particular concoction might go nicely with the garlic ice cream famous in Gilroy, but if sweets aren't your scene, there are a number of mushroom-themed dinners and tastings to attend. As this is beach- and redwood-tastic Mendo, there shall be numerous ways to connect with the outdoors between your mushroomy meals, so balancing our your fungus-forward bites with trips to the beach is part of the party. And that party? It's on during the most mushroomiest time of year: Nov. 6 through 15. Are you giving the mushroom its due, for instantly summoning the forest for us, in every forkful? This is your moment to love on the cap that makes for capital cuisine.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Disneyland Announces 'Season of the Force']]> Sat, 26 Sep 2015 08:55:48 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/seasonoftheforce_disneylucasfilm.jpg

AAAAAARRRLLL: Okay, so clearly our Wookiee needs some brushing up, but we wanted to express what "Star Wars" fans must be feeling upon hearing that a new experience is headed for Disneyland Resort starting on Monday, Nov. 16. Nope, this is not the mega 14-acre themed land area, with its rides and experiences and cantina -- that's a few years away, for sure, and no amount of wishing can bring it into being ahead of that time (Yoda might be able to, being very powerful, but, you know, he's always quite busy). But The Happiest Place on Earth will be pulling a bit of the cosmos down to this planet, for a time, far ahead of the opening of the new "Star Wars" area, during its special Season of the Force.

SEASON OF THE FORCE... features a few fun new things, including a "Star Wars" Launch Bay, where guests to the theme park can "visit with favorite 'Star Wars' characters" as well as eye special exhibits and nab "peeks at the upcoming 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens.'" Something a little fresh and Force-filled will alight upon the popular Jedi Training area in Tomorrowland come December, with "new characters and a new villain from the popular Disney XD series, 'Star Wars Rebels.'" And Space Mountain will get a temporary redo, with "Star Wars" theming, so polish your Xwing for Hyperspace Mountain.

OF COURSE, Star Tours, found at the entrance to Tomorrowland, is still doing brisk business, delivering guests into the furthest stretches of the galaxy every few minutes. The ride, which features a few shiny C-3PO cameos, is a classic topper to a day spent doing some new "Star Wars"-related things around the futuristic land. But will you wear your Han Solo vest? Maybe you should: The Anaheim park is about to get galactic during Season of the Force, a pre-cursor to the brand-new land that's one day to come.

Photo Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm]]>
<![CDATA[Monterey Milestone: Happy 170th, Old Fisherman's Wharf]]> Fri, 25 Sep 2015 17:29:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/fishermanswharfanniversary19389232.jpg

WHARF WITH HISTORY: Not every urban oceanfront area sports a wharf, that water-close walkway that makes it easy for boats to deliver their payload to terra firma (or collect cargo or people or both). So the wharves of the world are true standouts, at least for the locals who work there and eat there and set sail from there and count the place as a point of pride. But there are some wharves that have become mythic, and known far beyond their home turf, even among those people who don't see the well-known wharf all that often. Monterey's Old Fisherman's Wharf is one such superstar, thanks to its layered history, its robust tourist scene, its old-school eateries, and the fog-famous aura it projects on any given morning. While you can visit the Monterey Bay-snug site for a bowl of chowder pretty much whenever, and you can take a tale-filled tour on special occasions, there's only one day when you can be at the colorful stretch of clapboard-y, neon-signed structures to honor its 170th birthday: Sunday, Oct. 4.

HAPPY 170TH, FISHERMAN'S WHARF: Businessman Thomas Larkin constructed the wharf in1845, though there had been earlier trading and commerce on that rocky shore (see the nearby Custom House, which predates the wharf by almost two decades). The Oct. 4 celebration will pay homage to the wharf's first seventeen decades, and the many restaurants that now call it home, including Old Fisherman's Grotto, Abalonetti Bar and Grill, and Liberty Fish. In fact, several of the eateries "will feature a variety of 'fish-themed' cakes for purchase," so prepare to enjoy treats that are centered around crab cakes and sardines and salmon. Many Sicilian fishermen worked the wharf decades ago, and several eats will reflect their heritage, including cannolis (which shall be sold as part of a fundraiser for the Monterey High School Boosters). Monterey's History Fest will be happening all weekend long, so you'll be able to bone up on matters beyond those of Old Fisherman's Wharf. Want to know your Cannery Row? Or your Custom House? Want to wave at an otter or head out on a cruise or simply savor the stories of our coast's early outposts and seafaring stalwarts? Make for "The Cradle of History," by vessel or vehicle, Monterey mavens.

Photo Credit: Old Fisherman's Wharf]]>
<![CDATA[Sonoma Rustic: Free Fall Farm Tour]]> Fri, 25 Sep 2015 08:12:06 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/weekendalongthefarmtrailssonoma1.jpg

AUTUMN AMBLE INTO FARMLAND: Though growers are always growing and people who tend to fruit trees and vines are always tending and those who raise pigs are always raising, pretty much throughout the calendar year, there is something about the start of fall that puts a rustic-longing thought in many city dwellers' minds. Perhaps it is the signs for the pumpkin lots that start springing up on various corners, or the brisk note to the breezes, or daydreams about holiday dishes we hope to make (and where all of those ingredients hail from). The first weekend of autumn is, in short, an ideal time to wend your way around the back roads of Sonoma County, getting to know those farms and ranches and spreads that don't always make that most famous of Sonoma libations but rather oversee the growing of gourds and the care of goats and the keeping of bees. Actually, that's not the full story; vintners, of course, are a staple in the Sonoma made-from-the-land economy, so you'll definitely see some wine-growing action, too. The free Weekend Along the Farm Trails spreads out over two days, Saturday, Sept. 26 and Sunday, Sept. 27, and spreads out over a good-sized chunk of the county. Excited by the idea of self-guiding your way around that "good-sized chunk" via helpful maps? You should be, because, in a word, there shall be...

PIGLETS TO ADMIRE: Need we type anything else? That should seal the deal of you heading out onto this educational, land-beautiful adventure, but there's more. You'll get acquainted with "Sonoma County's agricultural bounty" via stops at spots like creameries and nurseries. You'll also be able to pick your own apples and, wait for it, dig for your own potatoes. Classes, meet-and-greets with the growers, and food trucks shall abound throughout the region. As you head into the holidays, with more cooking on the horizon, figure this to be a fine way to connect with those who grow and make a caboodle of cuisine-starters, from vegetables to dairy products to dozens of items found on the fridge or pantry shelf. Plus, yes, there will be pumpkin patches, if you want to jump-start your jack o'lantern action. Again, all free, save the gas for your go and anything you purchase at food trucks and such along the field-rich, piglet-oinking way. And, as mentioned, it is free, but you'll want to register.

Photo Credit: Weekend Along the Farm Trails]]>
<![CDATA[Wacky and Local: Palm Desert Golf Cart Parade]]> Thu, 24 Sep 2015 21:30:44 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/165*120/pdgolfGardens2_2.jpg Daffy rolls are the delightful name of the game at this historic happening.

Photo Credit: Palm Desert Golf Cart Parade]]>
<![CDATA[Ice Meets Surf: Cold/Warm Fun on Coronado Island]]> Thu, 24 Sep 2015 07:42:36 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/skatingbytheseahoteldel1234567.jpg

WATER INTO ICE: If you had to take a plastic bucket down to the Pacific Ocean, say, the kind of kid-cute bucket you get at a discount store, and start filling it up with water, how many trips back up the sand would you need to make to build, then freeze, an ice rink of notable size? Call this more of a hypothetical question, or a query to debate with your pals as you pirouette together between the Hotel del Coronado and the wide, wide ocean. Nope, that's not how the annual ice rink at The Del is made -- the ol' bucket-back-and-forth-from-the-ocean might take a few weeks, or even months. But it is worth admiring two forms of H2O, side-by-side, one representing sunny 'n sandy good times and the other cooler climes. It makes for quite the visual each year when the landmark hotel of Coronado Island unveils its seasonal spin-around, and that unveiling is happening on none other than Thanksgiving Day in 2015.

YEP, THE HOLIDAYS... are already in the works for many hotels, especially those historic destinations where Christmas trees and decorations and lights go a bit, well, over the top. Hotel del Coronado just made the announcement in mid-September regarding its annual Skating by the Sea rink, and its Nov. 26 debut. There's also a "Skate & S'mores" package to ponder, a deal that includes a stay at the hotel, a skate session that's a good long hour, and s'mores by a bonfire on the nearby beach, to make you nice and toasty after all of that ice-adjacent-ness. The much-photographed ice rink isn't the only gewgaw to sparkle upon The Del's proverbial tree come November and December; a Victorian tea, a New Year's Eve gala, and the famous lobby tree are all in the just-ahead works. The only question remaining is not the one involving the plastic kid's bucket and how much ocean water would be required to make a rink; it is whether you'll need to go full winter regarding your clothing or not. You may need mittens or you may be there on an especially temperate winter's day. Do they make a swimsuit/knit cap combo? Perhaps that's the best outfit for both ice rink and beach enjoyment.

Photo Credit: Hotel del Coronado]]>
<![CDATA[Eastern Sierra Fall: A Leaf-Peeper Deal]]> Sat, 26 Sep 2015 08:56:09 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/joshwraymammothfalleasternsierra.jpg

A LONG DAY OF LEAF-PEEPING... can challenge even the most practiced of fall fans. After all, even if you've been down a particularly colorful road before, where the cottonwoods go golden and the aspen shiver and shimmer, things can look a mite different than you remember them. Perhaps you're there slightly earlier, and everything is still lime-green, or perhaps a grove that didn't get too colorful in years past is sudden aflame with fabulous hue. In short, while it is a relaxing pursuit, the enjoyment of fall foliage, it is an active one as well, requiring the autumn-loving adventurer to forever keep her eyes well-peeled. Enter the idea of bedding down there the fall colors are, instead of making your way back home after a big day wending around back roads, and you have the leaf-peeper's ideal scenario. Look, look, point, sigh, look, drive, turn around, circle back, look some more, and then turn in early near all of those aspens and oaks. Look to the resorts around Mammoth Mountain, which sit rather close to the colors of Mammoth and Bishop and June Lake. Tamarack Lodge offers a leaf-peeping stay-over package each year, for those seeking some stunning vistas but not the long trek home. And the deal is on again for fall 2015, which means you could be staying...

NEAR A POSTCARD-PRETTY ALPINE LAKE... in just a matter of days or weeks. After all, the foliage season doesn't last all that long and the Eastern Sierra area is already showing its seasonal wow, tree-style. The Tamarack Lodge Fall Colors package has a choice between a boat rental (for two hours) or a 2-for-1 bike rental deal, plus a stay, plus Continental breakfast, plus a post-dinner sweet. The food part is the fortifying bit, after all of your time roaming the hillsides for color, and the boat or bikes provide a fresh-air way for visitors to come into closer contact with mountain-crisp autumn air. Need dates, details, and how to commune with the leafy loveliness of this fabled-in-fall (and-all-year-long) region? Point your oar or handlebars in this direction, foliage mavens.

Photo Credit: Josh Wray/Visit Mammoth]]>
<![CDATA[Pinot for Puppies: Fundraiser in Solvang]]> Tue, 22 Sep 2015 17:28:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/puppinotsb1.jpg

WINE, WOOFERS, AND GOOD TIMES: Many of us like have a comfy at-home outfit we slip into when a friend is joining us for a glass of vino. We have the fuzzy slippers, and the comfy cardigan, and the special squishy spot on the sofa we like. We like our friend being close, too, and some music, and, of course, our pup at our feet, lending quiet comfort. Several of these features can be replicated in a tasting room -- maybe not the fuzzy slippers, but absolutely the friend part, and a favorite casual outfit -- and yet... dogs are typically not part of the sipping scene. Oh, at wineries, sure, you're apt to see the head winemaker's hound trotting around the place, but a tasting room brings a different vibe. That vibe'll change up, charmingly, on the evening of Saturday, Oct. 3, at a Solvang glass-nice go-to. It's the very aptly named Wandering Dog Wine Bar, and its hosting Pinot for Puppies, a fundraiser for Shadow Fund's Bright Beginnings: A Pit Bull Puppy Ambassador Program.

YES, THERE SHALL BE PUPPIES... to coo over during the afternoon affair, there shall be wine and "light apps" as well as an auction involving vintages under the Wandering Dog label. Can you leave with a canine you connect with that night? You cannot, but you can sign up to make a date to make it all official later on. Can you buy a ticket? Yes, you can, for thirty five dollars. Can you wish that more things involving wine and waggers came together out in public, and not just on your sofa at home? You can -- it is a great combo on the domestic scene, and one that delights when it pops up in a tasting room.

NEW PRIVATE LABEL PROGRAM: The urban wine bar is staying busy. Apart from its barker-themed bash, has recently introduced a private label program. Formerly the bar boasted a quartet of private label wines, but now there are 14 in all, and each is lavish with the local love, spotlighting local vineyards and winemakers and what's happening in the Santa Ynez region wine scene. Get to know the bottles and vinologists and more about the program here.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Wandering Dog Bar]]>
<![CDATA[Kicking Off: Yosemite's 125th Anniversary]]> Sun, 27 Sep 2015 10:13:14 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/yosemiterainbownpsarchive.jpg

WALK AROUND ANY MEADOW... or along any ridge or through any valley or along any creek in Yosemite National Park and point at anything that isn't a squirrel or a pinecone or a leaf and proceed to guess the age of what you're pointing at. Rocks? They're old. Lakes? Ancient. Glacier Point? Hoo boy, we hope you have a powerful adding machine on that one, because that's going to take you back a few years. Yosemite has logged some years, is what we're saying, and you could easily add a few zeroes to pretty much a whole swath of the natural wonder, in the "how old?" department, and you still may not be journeying back to the correct point of origin. So to say that Yosemite National Park is about to mark its 125th birthday can make you drop your adding machine, and drop your jaw, in comical tandem. How can that be? Your own grandparents or great-grandparents may have been born before 1890. Surely a destination absolutely oozing (in the poetical sense) timeless cliff faces has a few more decades under its beautiful belt? Well, surely, yes, it does. But Yosemite officially gained lasting protections on Oct. 1, 1890, meaning a birthday celebration is in order. That celebration is kicking off on the first day of October with a remembrance of the man who did so much for the area: John Muir.

"SPECIAL FREE PERFORMANCE": Actor Lee Stetson, known for portraying Mr. Muir, will appear in the Yosemite Theater on Oct. 1 to bring us back to the time when the Yosemite advocate created positive change for the park-to-be. Other activities will be going on, if you find yourself there, but if you feel like a peaceful party, just pay the park and its history a kind thought during your high-country hike. If you prefer a more physical way to love on Yosemite, consider arriving on Sept. 26, National Public Lands Day, when entrance will be free. The physical part? You can join the Yosemite Facelift, when loads of park lovers pitch in to do a little clean up after the busy summer season. Think of this as cleaning up before the party, rather than after, as is tradition. Your host, which would be Yosemite itself, would very much appreciate your help on the pitching-in front. Do note that the Yosemite Facelift runs for a few days, and not just Sept. 26, if you can't make that exact day.

Photo Credit: NPS]]>
<![CDATA[Pismo Fizz: BubblyFest by the Sea]]> Thu, 24 Sep 2015 07:19:27 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/bubblyfestbytheseajeremyball.jpg

IF "BY THE SEA"... is found on any location or event, count on said location or event possessing oodles of sparkly charm. Look to Carmel by-the-Sea, the cottage-iest town in the West, and Shakespeare by the Sea, a San Pedro-based presentation of the Bard's stirring words. There is also, of course, a libation-themed take on this particular titling convention, and it involves a substance as sparkling as "by the sea" itself: bubbly, as in the wee air-filled orbs that burble up in a glass of something lovely and sippable. BubblyFest by the Sea is what we're thinking of, you might have guessed, if you know the annual Pismo Beach party and all of the sparkling wine makers, and fans, who show to taste the good stuff, just steps from the surf. It's time again for the sword to be brandished -- to cut open a ceremonial bottle, of course -- and for the grand sniffing and swirling and tasting to commence. 

THURSDAY, OCT 1 THROUGH SATURDAY, OCT. 3... are the delicious dates, and the calendar is crowded with Champagne-scented stuff. You'll learn about The History of Champagne at an info-packed seminar and you'll get to know some 50 or so makers of the bright-toned beverage and you'll attend, if you choose, a Champagne cocktail party. (Aside: Is the Champagne cocktail the last unsung superstar of the sparkling wine universe? Well, perhaps not, given that more and more favorites like the French 75 keep popping up on bar menus across the land.)

A WINERY TOUR... is also part of the flute-filled festivities, too. BubblyFest by the Sea is billed as "the only dedicated Sparkling Wine Festival in the United States." That's enough to turn the heads of bubbly buffs, for sure, but that the shebang centers around Pismo Beach and the cliff-close SeaCrest Resort will turn any heads still unturned. Yep, you can go a la carte, ticket-wise, with your event choices. And, yep, we predict you'll stand above the Pacific pondering if there are more bubbles in a bottle of fine Champagne or in the surf below. Spoiler: The surf probably has more, but a bottle of delicious golden liquid has plenty.

Photo Credit: Bottle Branding]]>
<![CDATA[Anaheim Eek: Hatbox Ghost Goes Holiday]]> Wed, 30 Sep 2015 23:54:29 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/hatboxghostxmas1.jpg

LA LA LA CAN'T HEAR YOU: We'll assume, if you're a Disneyland fan, the kind of person who knows the deep trivia about the windows along Main Street and how the Monorail works, that you know all about the re-introduction of the famous Hatbox Ghost into the Haunted Mansion earlier this spring. A longtime vintage favorite, the Hatbox Ghost had vaporized -- well, like a ghost -- early on in the spooky attraction's run, but fans clamored to see it again. And see they have, in honor of the 60th anniversary of the best-known theme park on the planet. But if you haven't yet been in the Haunted Mansion, since May of 2015, you may want to "la la la" and cover your eyes right now, for we're about to talk more about this impressive spirit and his exact location. (The eye-covering should begin now, if you don't want location info.) He's located just beyond the attic of the attraction, and you're bound to hear the word "attic" mentioned quite a bit while standing in the queue these days, as people advise their friends where to watch for him. The old ghost is, in a sense, very new, which is creating a different dimension for Halloween Time at Disneyland: What will the Hatbox Ghost be wearing?  

A VERY CHEERFUL HAT... that reflects the Mansion's Christmas-sweet themes. Well, "very cheerful" might be a stretch -- it's still a top hat, as befits the Hatbox Ghost, but check out the yuletide-themed sprig on the side. Of course, this isn't the only new sight in the attraction, which revealed its annual "Nightmare Before Christmas" decorations on Friday, Sept. 11. The gingerbread house in the ballroom changes each year, going with a fresh look (and scent). As for the 2015 gingerbread wonder? Cover your eyes and "la la la" if you don't want to know, but here it is: The pastry palace is "a towering house of cards," lending "Alice in Wonderland" overtones to the Haunted Mansion. (We do love a subtle crossover so.) Ready to see the new (old) ghost in his yuletide chapeau and this year's gingerbread creation? The "Nightmare" meets Haunted Mansion holiday extravaganza stays spooky through the beginning of 2016.

Photo Credit: Disneyland]]>
<![CDATA[Yosemite Welcomes Furry New Friends]]> Sat, 19 Sep 2015 11:52:29 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/fisherkitusforestservice.jpg

WHY HELLO THERE, FISHER KITS: When one ventures into Yosemite National Park, one very often has the appropriate hiking shoes, a flashlight and trail mix, and a booklet or sheet that helps the visitor identify various trees or shrubs or peaks or animals found within the famous destination's borders. And while mule deer and black bears and the golden-mantled squirrel and spotted owls might all get a check next to their column, finding a fisher wouldn't have been on the mind of the animal spotter in Yosemite in recent times. That's all changing, as of mid-September, thanks to the re-introduction, courtesy of a team of biologists, of some fisher kits into the northern area of the national park. 

WEASEL-SWEET WONDERS: An initial glance confirms what you likely know -- these cute kits "are members of the weasel family, which includes martens, otters, and wolverines." They're also described by the park as "much larger and much rarer" than long-tailed weasels, so imagining adding that happy check to your list of animals spied in the wild. That is, if you can take a break from awww-ing, gently at a distance, from the sight of these sweet kits.

FOUR IN ALL: The quartet was given free roam "north of the Merced River" on Wednesday, Sept. 16. How they were moved there, through the efforts of the organizations like the U.S. Forest Service and Fresno Wildlife Rehabilitation Foundation, makes for more awww-ing (the kits' mothers were killed by predators). Fishers of the southern Sierra are not a robust and large-of-number grouping, and people lending a hand to help the population stay healthy is happening now. It's a reminder of the dynamic system at work in Yosemite, and the wilderness at large, when we see these successful re-introductions. Want to bone up on your Yosemite fauna knowledge? Bears get a lot of the love -- and their photos on the postcards -- but the valley-waterfall-meadow wonderland teems with species galore. Here's a start, beastie buffs.

Photo Credit: U.S. Forest Service]]>
<![CDATA[Island Cinema: Catalina Film Festival]]> Mon, 21 Sep 2015 12:06:43 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/catalinafilmfestfb.jpg

A PARTY SURROUNDED BY THE PACIFIC: Plenty of major film festivals have happenings that are unique to their history or setting. Some might do all-night bashes or ski competitions or special brunches or a 5K, outside of the usual bustling slate of Hollywood-big and indie-plucky fare. There is, however, one film festival that offers attendees the chance to join a treasure hunt, which should tip you off, immediately, as to the location. Yes, it is Catalina Island, where an early fall film festival has brought out actors and directors and writers and film fans and, indeed, the occasional treasure hunter, too. That treasure hunter might be a distributor sniffing out the next major hit upon its first-look debut or it could be the people who sign up for the actual Treasure Hunt, which is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 26. It's a fine way to see some of the island, if you pause during your fervent hunting, to look around. "Over $5,000 in prizes!" are on the docket, plus the chance to get to know other film fans like yourself. Not too many film parties happen on a fairly petite island, so once you're there, you're there to say hello to people, get involved in happenings, and enjoy one of the dozens of flicks. Flicks in 2015 include...

JIMMY COSTA'S "APPLETON"... and the WWI film "Battalion" and horror films "R U Awake?" and "Hush" and a host of documentaries and shorts and animated treats and more. There are entertainment options beyond what's up on the screens, too, which makes sense and is a tribute to organizers. After all, when people have ventured across a good amount of open ocean to be at your festival, you want them to live it up during their stay, and that includes the time when they're in the theater seat and when they're out and about during the Sept. 24 through 27 festival.

THAT OPEN OCEAN... means booking your stay and your passage across a chunk o' the Pacific is essential, as essential as lining up those passes and what you want to see. And, of course, booking your spot in the Treasure Hunt, too. Other film festivals have plenty of panache, but rarely does a fest's location so smoothly dovetail with a delightful to-do.

Photo Credit: Catalina Island Film Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Death Valley Artifact Goes on the Road (Sort of)]]> Thu, 24 Sep 2015 21:30:16 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/olddinahfurnace1.jpg

A TIMELESS PLACE ENCOUNTERS CHANGE: The word "timeless" is often trotted out to sell certain styles of clothing and fragrances and houses and anything else that the seller wants to convey as having staying power, but, really, there is no timeless like a Death Valley type of timeless. Deep within the national park, where the only sound is often just the wind and waves of sand ripple into the horizon, one truly connects with a sense of timelessness. It could be a hundred years in the past, or a thousand years in the future, and the observer still wouldn't be sure; such is the nature of the remote and stark national park. But sometimes, on occasion, something does happen at Death Valley. Oh, for sure, people are forever entering the park, even in the toastier months, to swim and ride horses and bike, but a ripple in time happened in the middle of September, and it occurred to a piece of historic machinery called "Old Dinah." Just about everyone has heard of the 20 Mule Teams that once reigned large in the region's booming borax industry, but fewer know about the steam-driven tractors that retired the teams and went to work on the borax-delivery front. Old Dinah was one such device, a "massive" machine per Furnace Creek Resort, which stands not too far from where the tractor once sat. We say "once sat" because...

OLD DINAH HAS A NEW HOME: The resort reports that "...for the first time since 1932, it is believed, Old Dinah and one of the famed 20 Mule Team wagon trains were ever-so-gently moved out of the ancient flood plain and into Zabriskie Park at Furnace Creek Resort." The resort is "closer to the iconic Borax Museum," so both the train and tractor are nearer to a spot that has a lot of pull in terms of their histories. And it is a reminder that Death Valley isn't just an amazing recreational spot, but one rife with the early story of borax mining and how that was all made possible in a very long ago day. Want to see the tractor and the museum and feel that timelessness that still reigns in one of our state's most still and silent a national parks? You can. A half day exploring the park's borax roots fills out a lot of the background of this hot and historic area.

Photo Credit: Furnace Creek Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Sea Otter Awareness Week]]> Thu, 17 Sep 2015 17:31:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/sea-otter-exhibitmba.jpg

SPYING A SEA OTTER... out in the waves beyond Monterey or near Big Sur is akin to feeling as though you've won some sort of life lottery. And you really have: Connecting with nature always goes under the "life lottery" heading. And while each outdoors lover will have a different list as to what makes their heart truly burst with happiness, pretty much everyone has a deeply soft spot for the sea otters off the coast of California. They are, after all, not found off the entire coast -- Monterey Bay Aquarium lists their general range as a "south of Half Moon Bay to south of Point Conception," which means you should be near the shore, somewhere along here, with keen eyes and a patient will, to see the back-floating, whisker-faced, abalone-craving wonders. That fairly short distance is a reminder that the planet is not flush with this species, and it was only a century ago that sea otters were in danger of total extinction. There are, however, institutions that work daily to protect the sea otter and promote its importance, and there are moments like Sea Otter Awareness Week. We're pretty sure the sea otters don't have the Sept. 20 through 26 event on their tiny calendars -- we picture the calendars inside abalone shells, of course -- but we humans can celebrate and enjoy them in a multitude of ways.

MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM... is a popular choice for a sea otter sighting, both outside the Cannery Row institution and near the front entrance (where fans start to gather for feeding time demos well ahead of the demo's appointed time). Several other Golden State spots will observe the week in different ways, from the California Academy of Sciences to the Santa Barbara Sea Center. Of course, you always plant yourself somewhere around 17 Mile Drive -- somewhere around Fan Shell Beach, perhaps -- or near Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey and keep steady watch. Along with the seals and the gulls and the cormorants, the sweet sea otter does make a cameo now and then. And yay to that -- our continued work, and moments like Sea Otter Awareness Week, keeps the furry ones' numbers on the up and up.

Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium]]>
<![CDATA[Happy 100th, Hakone Gardens]]> Thu, 17 Sep 2015 15:43:39 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/hakonecentennial.jpg

LEAF, PETAL, HISTORY, HAPPINESS: Every nature lover would stay, unequivocally and emphatically, that all of the outdoors is their "favorite," when pressed to name a favorite place. And we believe them, and believe ourselves, when we say such a thing. After all, the eco system and the bird world and the sunlight and air and water and greenery is so interwoven that to single out anything feels antithetical to the spirit of nature's eternal oneness. But, all that said, we all have our go-to destinations when we need to look upon a lovely tree, breathe a little oxygen, and reset our hearts. Perhaps it is a national park or the park down the street, or perhaps it is a formal and elegant garden with a long, local history. Look to Hakone Estate and Gardens in Saratoga. It is coming up on its first century, and a centennial gala on Sunday, Sept. 27 will celebrate both its story and those supporters who've spent many happy afternoons wandering its paths and pausing on its bridges and shaking off the minor woes of daily life for an hour or two. Hakone is, in fact, "one of the oldest Japanese estate, retreat, and gardens in the Western Hemisphere," so it has been a valued go-to spot for generations of history-minded, plant-loving, peace-seeking supporters. Many of which will be at the...

CENTENNIAL GALA: The gardens, which typically close at the end of the day, will stay open into the night, making for "a rare opportunity" to enjoy the setting by starlight. Koto music, traditional dance, sake, and more highlights attuned to the tale of the garden, and all it represents, are on the evening's roster. A ticket is two hundred dollars, and it helps out the Hakone Foundation, which "seeks to enhance the Hakone Estate" as well as "preserve its Japanese authenticity for future generations, promote a deeper understanding of Asian Cultures, and to serve as a global forum for art, music, culture, and ideas." Is the Hakone an important part of your nature-loving, culture-connected world? Show your support and enjoy the bridge-beautiful, shrub-spectacular setting by night. 

Photo Credit: Hakone Gardens]]>
<![CDATA[Lindsay Wildlife Fun: Breakfast with the Animals]]> Wed, 16 Sep 2015 21:43:58 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/lw150514_Paul-16.jpg

SINKING YOUR TEETH INTO TOAST... or eating your eggs or noshing on your yogurt while in the presence of some sort of animalia isn't unheard of. In fact, we'll go out on a very short, highly uncontroversial limb and say that if you eat breakfast, as you should, and you live with a dog or a cat or a parakeet, it is very likely that your furry or beaked pal is somewhere nearby as you slurp that bowl of cereal. Perhaps your pup enjoys a lick of the peanut butter spoon, perhaps your cat gets a few lick-ups of milk, but your beastie is with you at breakfast time. What's a little more unusual, although not totally, is savoring that first meal of the day near birds of prey. Maybe when you're camping, yes, but it is quite likely that any falcons are a fair distance away from your tent.

WHICH MAKES... the Breakfast with the Animals happening at the Lindsay Wildlife Experience all the more thrilling. It's flapping its wings on Saturday morning, Sept. 19, and there shall be breakfasting, both of the human and the falcon sort. Humans will stick to the human-type eats, and the falcons? Well, the diet of these mighty winged creatures is a bit different. Learn all about what they consume, their fascinating habits and traits, and get an eyeful of a Peregrine Falcon, who happens to be "the newest addition" of the Walnut Creek-based animal center.

IT'S A MEMBERS-ONLY DEAL... but then we expect you might already support this institution, and visit often, given that it tends to creatures big and scaly and toothy and teeny in its Rehabilitation Hospital. You might see an owl's wing get set, or the paw of a fox receive needed treatment. Over 5,500 wild animals, both those who've been hurt and those who are on their own, receive care at Lindsay Wildlife each year, making it one of the most unique and heart-warming facilities in all of the state. It's worth backing, worth visiting, and if you want to break bread, at least in spirit, with a falcon, it is worth the membership. Need info? It's here. Need to do Breakfast with the Animals, once you secure membership? It's ten bucks for an adult, less for kids.

Photo Credit: Lindsay Wildlife Experience]]>
<![CDATA[Village Vittles: Taste of Carmel]]> Sat, 26 Sep 2015 08:55:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tasteofcarmel12.jpg

OVERWHELMED ON OCEAN: If you've ever sauntered down to the beach in Carmel-by-the-Sea, chances are good that you used Ocean Avenue to do so. And you found out what every visitor finds out to the jewel box of a city: The walk to the spectacular beach is pretty memorable in itself. This isn't always the case, of course, in beach cities. You might pass a bunch of nondescript buildings, or a couple of cute cafes, as you make your way to the sand. But in Carmel, the buildings are cottages worthy of a greeting card, and the visual treats of the humanmade city can rival the famous silky pale sand. Well, okay, nothing can rival a beach, really, but Carmel's picture-worthy structures come close. And several of them go beyond being cute, too: They're restaurants, and quite well known, and picking a spot for your lunchtime panini is almost as challenging as picking out your favorite Carmel-by-the-Sea cottage. The eateries, of course, extend beyond Ocean Avenue -- Terry's Lounge at the Cypress Inn, Hog's Breath Inn, and Il Grillo all sit just a short stroll off the main thoroughfare. But how to try a whole slew of Carmel tastes in one fell and flavorful swoop? You could stay in town for a week -- what a dream -- or you could make plans to be at Taste of Carmel.

OCT. 1 THROUGH 4... are the dates for this delish doing, which serves up "a sampling of bohemian culture" that covers "both local food and wine." There are Wine Walk-by-the-Sea Passports for purchase, assuring that you'll sip a range of pinots and cabs, there are Carmel-focused food tours, there's the Monterey movie tour, there's a Winemaker's Dinner, there's a bike tour of 17 Mile Drive. It's a fine and foodly way to soak up the area's vittles and vinos over a few hours or a day or two, without fretting, as you stroll Ocean Avenue, that by picking one restaurant you're missing out on a bunch more. Well, yes, you probably are, but that's why one returns to Carmel, if one can, to try all of those sweet cottage-bound bakeries and trattorias that one missed on the last visit. Ready to find your perfect food experience over the first weekend of October in the most by-the-sea-iest spot in California? Your cottage awaits.

Photo Credit: Taste of Carmel]]>
<![CDATA[Free Park Entrance: National Public Lands Day]]> Wed, 23 Sep 2015 07:18:14 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/deathvalleynationalpublicday1.jpg

THERE ARE TRAVELERS... who've been to every state, and there are planners who've visited every state capital, and there are those quirky globetrotters who've visited every city that has over a half million people and begins with the letter "T" (just to do something a bit different on the rack-up-the-sites front). And there are those adventurers who never, ever miss a fee-free day at the national parks. This is not too difficult to achieve, if you have your calendar out early in the year, since the entrance-vamoosed days cover eight or so days, spread throughout the year. There are various observances tied to the fee-free days -- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the National Park Service's birthday, Veterans Day -- and not all of the parks even charge a get-in fee (in fact, just 127 out of 408 parks do). It is, in the end, an achievable travel goal, not that visiting every "T"-starting metropolis isn't. But if you want to do a different national park, for free, on each of those days, in a single year, here's betting that that particular dream is in reach. And you can practice, on Saturday, Sept. 26, when the next fee-free day rolls around in honor of National Public Lands Day.

NATIONAL PUBLIC LANDS DAY... "is the nation's largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands." So if you want to scooch into Yosemite National Park or the redwoods and participate in a spiffy-up program, that's a fine way to spend the last Saturday in September. Of course, if you want to picnic or hike or camp or what-have-you, and you want to skip the gate fee, well, that is a-ok, too; the fees are waived for both recreational adventurers and volunteers alike. The annual Yosemite Facelift, by the by, will coincide with the day, but you can definitely find a volunteer meet-up near you, or fairly close, at least. And a lot are happening outside the national parks, too. So, are you ready to pocket the cash you'd give the ranger at the gate? And savor the first Saturday of autumn in nature? And maybe be a part of the roll-up-the-sleeves spirit of National Public Lands Day? The time is now. And congrats, dear adventurer, if you're trying to visit a park during every fee-free day of 2015. That is a good goal and not out of reach.

Photo Credit: NPS]]>
<![CDATA[Fall Foam: North Lake Tahoe Ale Trail]]> Tue, 22 Sep 2015 17:29:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/northlaketahoealetrail12.png

AUTUMN MOUNTAIN SUNSHINE... is a completely free commodity but almost beyond value, as some of the great things in life tend to be. Finding yourself on a deck or a patio or hillside on a fine October afternoon is to find yourself, in many ways.

You slow down, and your brain's constant dialogue starts to hush, and you simply watch the fir trees or oak leaves or the glimmer of water in the distance. But getting to this point requires a bit of planning and work and, yes, gas cash, and you'll likely want to find some food and libation during the day, to enhance that autumn mountain sunshine plenitude. Find it you shall, if you're into suds and the people who make 'em, with the North Tahoe Ale Trail map in hand. The recently introduced layout has the big lake -- that would be Lake Tahoe -- and surrounding it several spots featuring the best local ale-makery that the area has to offer. Making it all a little more delightful, and easy in the sunshine-soaking-up realm, is that the map suggests where to walk or bike, if either of those things appeal to you. (As they should, to be fully frank.)

WHO MADE THE MAP? Alibi Ale Works, described as "North Tahoe's newest brewery," with its "hop-forward" choices, is front-and-center (or right-and-up, if you want to get specific), and Mellow Fellow's "remarkable selection" of brews gets the map-nice love, too. A number of eateries that do the whole several-beers-on-tap thing are on the map, too, so if hoofing it for a couple of miles for a couple of mozzarella sticks sounds good, plus an IPA, then those possibilities await as well. As far as picking a day with that perfectly mellow autumn sunshine? That can be tricky, but any regular Tahoe visitor knows that a number of those pop up on the September-to-November calendar. Of course, the Ale Trail is pretty much a year-round gift, and not just an autumn happening, so if you can weather cold weather, and maybe layer up, you can enjoy the ales right into the wintertime, too, if snowy snowshoe pursuits, in the pursuit of craft beer, is something you find relaxing.

Photo Credit: North Lake Tahoe Ale Trail]]>
<![CDATA[On Tour and Very Big: Harvest Festival]]> Mon, 14 Sep 2015 08:33:32 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/HFpainting2015.jpg

A HARVEST FESTIVAL, in many minds, is a fairly cozy small-town-y soiree. You have the baked goods table, the one that is raising money for a new flagpole, and you have the booth with the pumpkin bowling. Maybe there's a caramel apple stand, and perhaps there's a crafter or two on the grounds, selling spicy pot pourri and Christmas ornaments. Many of those same elements exist at the Harvest Festival Original Arts & Crafts Show, of course, but you'll need to multiply the amount of things you see/do/buy at your hometown craft show to reach an estimate of what this touring extravaganza holds. Dozens upon dozens of artisans journey to various destinations around the California and into Nevada, transporting shimmery jewelry and kid-cute tutus and framed nature photographs and specialty mustards and wooden gem boxes and beautiful handmade aprons. There's food to nosh on each time the fest pauses somewhere, and entertainment, too, from music and clowns and the occasional person on stilts. Call it autumn energized, and prepare to see it arrive where you live, or at least a short drive away from where you live, very soon. The Harvest Festival's multi-city, two-state tour kicks off in...

LAS VEGAS... over the second weekend in September. After that it'll visit a caboodle of California cities, from Del Mar to Pomona to Ventura to San Mateo and beyond. It has been around for 43 years, and it shows, both in the breadth of what's offered at the fest and the depth of the crafting roster. A ticket is nine bucks and it covers you for the three days that the fest is at a specific location, so if you buy for Ontario, you're good for three days at the Ontario show. So, will you shop for yourself, or will you get all of the homemade-y sweet treats that you need, to give away or to stuff stockings, during the holiday season? And will you devour any breads or cookies you purchase on the car ride home? Questions, so many questions. We're just happy another herald of fall is on the wind, and, with it, many cute and interesting items that brim with that charming small-town-esque touch. 

Photo Credit: Harvest Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Stripes Sensation: The Carlyle Inn]]> Tue, 22 Sep 2015 12:12:12 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/carlyleinn1.jpg The Beverly Hills hotel debuted a bold Art Deco look this past summer.

Photo Credit: Carlyle Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Danish Days: Solvang's History-Filled Celebration]]> Sat, 12 Sep 2015 07:06:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/solvangtenleyfohl123.jpg

DANISH DELIGHTS: You don't need a pixie cap or bonnet or full-skirted frock or a pair of hand-sewn clogs to attend what's known as "the largest Danish festival in California," but you should prepare to see many of the historic sartorial touches the party is known for. It's in Solvang every September -- the "Solvang" part of the reveal is probably no shocker -- and people both gussy up in full-on traditional dress and go casual, too. It's all good, as befits the bash, which is very come-one-come-all (so, nope, you don't need any Danish heritage in the family tree). Shall there be dancing? A lot of dancing, yes. Shall there be an Old World Marketplace? It would not be Danish Days without it (perhaps you can even pick up those longed-for clogs you've been wanting, because once you spy them on the feet of other revelers, you'll be a mite jealous). Shall there be multiple parades and a Viking encampment and chainsaw carving and a living history festival and a wine & beer garden? All of those things will be present and accounted for in the tucked-into-wine-country burg. And shall aebleskivers have their day? It wouldn't be Danish Days *or* Solvang without the most famous edible in town taking a starring role, which shall do, over two days, at a pair of aebleskiver-eating contests.

DATES & DETAILS: Send summer off, and say "velkommen" to autumn, during the Friday, Sept. 18 through Sunday, Sept. 20 party. If you can't miss something in particular -- say, the chainsaw carving, because, come on, chainsaw carving -- you'll want to read the schedule before heading for the Santa Ynez Valley, as some happenings have a particular day and time slot. If you want to focus on wine tasting, which is typically the focus of Solvang's busy weekend scene, you can just do the town's tasting rooms, and dip into a Danish Days event when you feel like it. Isn't Solvang something else? It has quite a few things going for it, from wine to windmills to its annual parties, such as Danish Days. If only it could teach a seminar, to other towns seeking to wear multiple "known for" caps, on how to do it so well. For many places are only known for one special event/feature, Solvang rocks it in a few different ways. Commendable stuff for a small village that can be strolled across, easily, over one easy afternoon.

Photo Credit: Tenley Fohl Photography]]>
<![CDATA[San Diego October: Tons of Free Kid To-Dos]]> Fri, 11 Sep 2015 11:11:45 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/lajollasandiegooct123.jpg

WHILE FALLING LEAVES... and crisp breezes and apple cider and pumpkin treats are the typical hallmarks that spring to mind when the notion of "October," and all that it stands for, pops up, many a SoCaler might land upon some different imagery. Sandy soft beaches, for one, and anemone-filled tide pools, and harbor seals, and model railroads, and vintage airplanes, and oil paintings, and surfboards, and the list is as lengthy as a gorgeous stretch of sand on Coronado Island. October, 'round about San Diego and its many vibrant communities, isn't so much about pumpkin treats and cider -- though those absolutely exist, of course -- but rather about the really free deals for kids at over a hundred places around the region. It's tradition, during the entire tenth month of the year, so waive entrance fees or discount admission prices for children at a host of hotels and attractions and museums and parks. The name? You probably know it by now, if you have tots and you've done LEGOland or Children's Pool at La Jolla or the San Diego Zoo: It's Kids Free San Diego, an all-October-long save-cash-tacular that covers so many places that not even those people intent on covering them all could cover them all.

THAT'S SUPER BIG, as we said, but once you get a look at the participant roster you'll be on-board the big train: The California Surf Museum in Oceanside is waiving the admission for a kid 12-and-under if their accompanying grown-up pays for an adult ticket of their own. Same deal, almost, at the San Diego Air & Space Museum in downtown San Diego. Same deal at the Japanese Friendship Garden, which is also in San Diego. "Same deal" are words you're apt to say a few times here, and while there's some fine print -- like how many kids getting in for free can join that paid adult -- the discount-amazingness cannot be denied. These are real money-savers for a traveling crew, should that crew want to visit some of the city's famous attractions and destinations during October. Will you be down in San Diego anyway, visiting friends or family, during the month? You gotta do at least one of these places. Have you not yet planned your vacation but now feel suddenly inspired by all of the kids-get-in-free-ness? Start here, money-pocketing fun planners.

<![CDATA[Cosmic Cocktails in the Neon Boneyard]]> Thu, 10 Sep 2015 20:31:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/neoncocktailsvegas92223.jpg

SIN CITY PAIR-UP: Las Vegas, like all iconic cities that are known the world over for a few incredibly distinct qualities and offerings, is a land of the pair-up. Oh, not just in weddings, although, rumor has it, the city has been known, on the pair-up scene, for one or two nuptials over the years. Rather, we mean how well two things go together in the land of roulette wheels and splashy stage shows. In fact, there's the first pair-up we had in mind: People waiting to enter a casino-based theater, to see a big-ticket extravaganza, have sometimes been known to put a few chips down on roulette, or play a hand or two of blackjack, before curtain time. Big breakfast buffets and Bloody Marys -- with spirits or straight tomato juice -- are another twosome often seen around town. And huge LED signs and star-level ventriloquists are a duo nearly as long-running as ventriloquist acts (and, of course, the invention of LED). Let us also add sleek, retro cocktails and neon lights to the twosome line-up. Many a Vegas reveler has enjoyed a beverage within the glow of a blinking hotel sign. Many a reveler has held up their drink to the sign, the better to see how a martini changes the sign's hues. And many a reveler will have a chance to sip and admire signs on Friday, Sept. 18 at The Neon Museum's Neon Boneyard. It's... 

COSMIC COCKTAILS... night at the sign-filled institution, and the Las Vegas Astronomical Society is joining in and hauling along a bevy of telescopes. First things first: Guests shall watch the sun set, and then, as the stars pop out, there shall be a lot of looking upward at various planets and stars. A DJ "spinning cosmic music" will be on hand, and food and drink options will be in-the-house and on-the-plates (and in-the-cups) as well. Tickets? They're seventy five bucks a person, and they help out the Neon Museum in all of its sign-saving, public program ways. Pairing up signage and sipping? It's a very Vegas tradition. If you have designs on calling upon Sin City over that weekend, a cocktail in the Neon Boneyard, with some astronomy love as the cherry on the cake, could be an offbeat to-do, and yet one with plenty of way-cool Vegas history, universe-inspired knowledge, and a flavorful bite/sip, too.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Neon Museum]]>
<![CDATA[Modernism Show & Sale: Palm Springs Opener]]> Thu, 10 Sep 2015 06:09:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/openingnightmodernismshowsale1.jpg

THAT PAINTING, THAT CHAIR: When it comes to celebrations that explore and honor and fete and love upon all things mid-century, from homes to clothing to businesses to artworks to funky couches that look like they might have been made on the moon, there shall be no outshining Palm Springs. Absolutely, yes, you're right, other places do boast a nice mid-century vibe, from neighborhoods that stayed true to a single architect's singular vision to city halls and early malls that reflect the aesthetic. But the P.S. just wins the shiny trophy on this, in all the ways, year-round, but more so during Modernism Week. The February shindig is popular, hugely so, which led to a fall preview in October, to deal with some of the overflow. (But, let's be honest; so many people who can't get enough go in both the fall and winter.) And one of the centerpieces of the autumn hooha happens to be the Modernism Show & Sale. There's no mystery as to why this is, if you're curious: Attendees who stroll through elegantly appointed homes, cool casas filled with fine furnishings, want to bring a bit of that 1960s-style style back to their own pads, wherever those pads may be. A fine starting pointing, then, is to start at the start of the Modernism Show & Sale.

FRIDAY, OCT. 9... is the date, some "40 premier national and international dealers" showing sofas and paintings and vases and everything domestic'll be in the house, and tickets are seventy five bucks a pop (and you get to return any time you like, during opening hours, of course, during the remainder of the weekend). Are educational programs, and community grants, supported by your ticket price? You betcha. Shall there be bites and sips to bite and sip while you look at the nifty things made for mid-century homes? There shall be, yes. Will you get to hang out at the equally-as-nifty Palm Springs Air Museum? That's where the Modernism Show & Sale is taking place. There is a way, then, to admire the accouterments of mid-century homes and to maybe, just possible, find something neato to buy before you leave the desert. It doesn't have to be one or the other, at the Modernism Week Fall Preview.

Photo Credit: Palm Springs Modernism Show & Sale]]>
<![CDATA[Visit the Working Farms of Ventura County]]> Wed, 09 Sep 2015 19:58:29 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/198*120/venturafarmday102912932.jpg

BEHIND-THE-SCENES TOURS: Farms operate all year long, and pretty much all day long, or just about, doing all of the 927 things that they do. But autumn is the season when many a grower opens up his or her gate to the public, for an in-depth look-around and information on how various foods are grown and seeds are planted and animals are cared for and such. Perhaps that because spring and summer can have more bustling for the farmer, and autumn gives the farm a chance to catch a breath and spend a day with those who wish to learn more. Maybe the farm tours mirror the harvest action at wineries, and all the public events happening in and among the vines of various vineyards. Whatever the case, a mellow autumn Saturday makes for a most excellent time to toodle into the country to get to know what is growing and where and how. The Third Annual Ventura County Farm Day lifts the veil -- or perhaps a sheet of burlap, if you want to go a touch more rustic -- on what happens at the spreads around the county. And several farms are involved in the big day out, about 20 properties in all. The date? The final Saturday in September, the 26th.

LIMONEIRA RANCH... is one participant, as is Ojai Olive Oil, as is Mission Produce Packing House, as is The Painted Pony Farm, as is East End Eden Farm, and more, lots more, beyond those. Choosing your interest -- tomatoes? Olive oil? Horses? -- may help you narrow down your ultimate destinations, but landing at a farm that is responsible for something you don't know much about may further broaden your horizons. The peek-arounds that'll go down on the farms are free, but if you want to hang out afterward for the barbecue hoedown at Limoneira Ranch, you'll want to buy at ticket. Bocce ball, cornhole, and, wait for it, a "kiss the farmer" photo booth await, in addition to tri-tip beef, savory sides, and "farm-to-bar" cocktails and craft brews. The tours run from 10 o'clock in the morning through mid-afternoon (read: 3 p.m.) and the BBQ action revs up after that, from 4 to 9 in the evening. Ready to learn, chow down, and swing your partner? Tie your kerchief on, don your dungarees, and boot-scoot this way.

Photo Credit: Ventura County Farm Day]]>
<![CDATA[Hauntiest Place on Earth: Disneyland Halloween Time]]> Wed, 09 Sep 2015 09:27:04 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/disneylandhalloween232.jpg The ghoulies and pumpkin treats ready for a September debut.

Photo Credit: Paul Hiffmeyer]]>
<![CDATA[Month-Long Feast: Santa Barbara's epicure.sb]]> Tue, 08 Sep 2015 21:35:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/catcorasbepicure1.jpg

ONE TASTY DAYLONG PARTY... can keep a foodie sated for some time to come, but when several savory bashes of good size arrive all in a row? Well, it must be October in Santa Barbara. That's epicure.sb time, from the first day of the month to the last, and the major food festivals line up like fancy shrimp cocktails on a seafood buffet. The California Lemon Festival in Goleta gets juicy just ahead of October, a flavorful harbinger of things to come. A beer festival, a seafood festival, and more out-sized soirees dot the epicure.sb calendar, as do a host of chef appearances, cooking demos, and wine tastings. There are also the offbeat edibles in the mix, like the...

THYME & ENERGY BOURBON & JERKY PAIRING: This unusual duo'll make a cameo at Ty Lounge during the epicure.sb run, and we'll just go out on a limb -- or a strip of jerky, perhaps -- and guess that the dried meat doesn't always get to share the spotlight with a tony spirit. Maybe a new trend is afoot? A tamale and tequila tasting downtown gives those who like their masa 'n mescal to come in one beautiful forkful, sipful flow, and a Funk Zone wine tasting pairs well with a visit to the Santa Barbara Farmers Market. Chef Cat Cora will also helm the Quickfire Cooking Challenge at the Santa Barbara Public Market on Oct. 8.

CHOOSE YOUR CHOWDOWN: Truly, even those food-obsessives who call Santa Barbara home can't make every single to-do during the multi-day run, so for those out-of-towners calling upon the American Riviera during epicure.sb, some choosing is in order. Are you into wine? The Vintners Celebration over the second weekend in October is for you. About popcorn? There's a vino pair-up with the famous movie snack. Just check the dates, since everything is not every day of the month, and land upon the most luscious of foodie happenings in Santa Barbara's most luscious of foodie months.

Photo Credit: epicure.sb]]>
<![CDATA[Dapper Day: Vintage Oomph Returns to Disneyland]]> Mon, 14 Sep 2015 08:30:50 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/dapperday15_5_dusticunningham.jpg Hats, gloves, heels: Gussy up and hang with Goofy, old-fashioned fashion fans.

Photo Credit: DapperDay.com]]>
<![CDATA[Christmas in Yosemite: Bracebridge Tickets]]> Mon, 07 Sep 2015 21:06:21 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/217*120/yosbracebridgexmas.jpg

THE AHWAHNEE DINING ROOM... boasts a supreme stateliness and sense of drama every single day of the year. You can sit within its grand space and rock-laden walls on a Tuesday morning in April, sleepily buttering toast, and you'll look as though you belong in a fairy tale or some other fanciful story. A great setting can lend much to even the most day-to-day activities -- see: buttering toast -- but when that great setting is paired with a great gathering, the fictional vibe goes through the roof. Make that the famous wood-beamed roof, or, er, ceiling rather, of The Ahwahnee Dining Room. A great gathering gets matched with that marvelous space each December, when the lauded, huzzah-happy Bracebridge Dinners return to Yosemite National Park. These are the ones you've heard about forever and ever, the meals you had to enter a lottery for, but the lottery is no more: You can purchase a ticket and/or a room package at The Ahwahnee or Yosemite Lodge at the Falls or The Wawona Hotel (yep, there's transportation to the event, since The Wawona sits a fair distance from The Ahwahnee). And those tickets and packages? They're available now, still in the heart of summer, even though the December lark is still months away. Why?

BECAUSE THE BRACEBRIDGE... is on many bucket lists. It has been a Yosemite holiday must-do since 1927, when no less than nature photographer Ansel Adams was involved (he played The Lord of Misrule). It's got a medieval theme, and a strong yuletide-y atmosphere, and the multi-course dinner is presented with more pomp and more circumstance than a half dozen pomp-and-circumstance-filled to-dos. You can eye past menus, if you're curious about how big this thing gets, meal-wise, and the photos tell the story of what you'll see and experience: A ye olde Christmas feast with characters aplenty, all in the storybook setting of The Ahwahnee Dining Room. We can't all attend a royal ball circa 1505 but saving and splurging one year on this December staple might be a mite easier than constructing a time machine. You don't need to stay at the hotels, by the by, if you want to just do the dinner; there are options, m'ladies and lords. 

Photo Credit: Bracebridge Dinners]]>
<![CDATA[All Gumby, All Weekend Long: Glendora Fest]]> Tue, 08 Sep 2015 12:15:23 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/gumbyfansniccroce.jpg

ASK ANYBODY... to name a favorite plaything or toy or game from their youth and you're bound to get a reply that runs along the lines of "...from my youth?" Implying, of course, that what we loved at age 5 we'll probably love at 55, with a few more levels of understanding thrown in, about what that plaything has meant to pop culture and other people who loved it so. And while toys run the gamut of theme and cuddliness and hardiness and repeat-play-ability, there are a few superstars of the bedroom shelf that have weathered the decades, and, yes, even a couple of different centuries, too. Just about every person regardless of when they were born knows Gumby, even from a distance, and we're not even talking about simply spying his delightful forest-green hue. His head has an iconic, geometric shape, as does his bendy body, and his companion Pokey could say exactly the same (though Pokey is more the color of a tomato or ruby, not lettuce or a lime). He's about as famous as famous gets, and the mid-century wonder is about to get famouser, if that's possible, with a 60th birthday party in Glendora over the third weekend in September.

SEPT. 18-20... are the dates for this toy to-do, a happening that includes panels, collectibles, and Gumby sightings, too. Joe Clokey -- you know his dad Art Clokey, the creator of Gumby -- will be there, hosting a "Gumby Through the Years" presentation, and a bunch of stalwarts in the field of stop-motion and animation shall be giving talks on the charming and breezy (though not easy) art form, including a senior puppet builder from Jim Henson's Creature Shop. It isn't simply about applauding an icon, but also delving deep into the format that brought Gumby to life, first as a character on "Howdy Doody" and then as a fixture on toy shelves across the world (and across the decades). If you're a Gumbyian, or you're eager to know more about the creative calling that brought he and Pokey and their nemeses and their buddies to life, bend those limbs in the direction of the festival and make for Glendora. Don't be pokey about it, either (though feel free to be Pokey, when you arrive, if you have the get-up).

Photo Credit: Gumby Fest]]>