<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Worth the Trip]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcbayarea.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.comen-usTue, 25 Oct 2016 09:22:16 -0700Tue, 25 Oct 2016 09:22:16 -0700NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Downtown Napa: Haunted High Jinks]]> Mon, 24 Oct 2016 19:00:26 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-5612846171.jpg

HARVEST TIME... around a famous wine country is a busy one, not only because of all of that important work that needs to be done (getting grapes off of vines, then the crush, then the tanks, and so on) but because so many visitors plan a fall getaway, the better to enjoy the fine weather and pretty vineyard leaves. But other regular visitors to wine country aren't there simply for the autumnal sip scene, but rather because October's end takes on an eerie and atmospheric guise. Look to Napa, which will offer a haunted host of happenings on the final Saturday of the month, which just happens to be Halloween Eve Eve (one can never have enough "eve"-ing when it comes to the spookiest of occasions, for all of those extra eves add a pinch of poetry). What's the wicked (but sweet) schedule for the town on Saturday, Oct. 29? Well, there's the...

ZOMBIE RUN, which is hosted by the Napa Police Association. It has the early-ish start time of 8 a.m. on Oct. 29, so if you're the kind of undead runner who won't take a jog before noon, ponder setting a couple of alarms, just to make the groan-y, picture-worthy scene. The first-ever OxBoo Festival follows, at 9 a.m., with '80s tunes and seasonal activities giving the daytime gathering some ghoulish flair. And as for those famous Napa Valley Coffin Races? Oh, they're on all right, you better believe it. It's a fright-fun fundraiser for the Napa City Firefighters Association, and you can cheer on, donate, or do a bit of both. Who knew that a town right in the heart of so much wine goodness puts on a coffin race, a zombie run, and a family festival, all over the same day? Well, people in Napa know. And know this: Harvest is a bustling time around the region, but there's only one day a year when both the undead, and their caskets, are on the merry, slightly macabre move.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/EyeEm]]>
<![CDATA[Gingerbread Joy at Resort at Squaw Creek]]> Mon, 24 Oct 2016 14:38:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/squawcreek_gingerbread_christmas.small.jpg

TRY TO DESCRIBE THE OUTDOOR AIR... at a mountain resort in the winter, and you may reach for words like "fireplace" and "pine" and "snow" and "a sort of general crispness" (okay, that's five words, but accurately assessing the particular snap found in higher elevation air is a task that has bested the best of wordsmiths in the past). But another scent arrives at some peak-pretty destinations 'round about Thanksgiving, and it is a bit spicy, and a bit cake-like, and it has "bread" in the name, though the sweet scent is more dessert-ish than the word "bread" might imply. It's gingerbread, yes, and if you arrive at the right spot at the right time, you're apt to find a festive gingerbread house, or, in the case of The Resort at Squaw Creek, A Destination Hotel, a number of festive gingerbread houses of notable size. They're all a part of...

MAGICAL MEMORIES 2016, a seasonal run of packages and events popping up around the Olympic Valley property, popping like so many delightful Christmas crackers. The gingerbread village will be grandly revealed, alongside a traditional tree lighting, on Friday, Nov. 25 (you got it, the day after Thanksgiving). In addition to these yuletide-y, snap-the-family-photo sights, look also for a bevy of happenings dotting the Nov. 24 through Jan. 3 schedule, from Breakfast with Santa to snowshoe tours (scheduled at the atmospheric hour of sunset) to movie nights for families to distinct New Year's Eve parties created just for kids and teenage guests (both get their own balloon drops, oh yeah, the most essential part of any great NYE celebration). To make sure you and your kin alight at Olympic Valley at the right moment, for the seasonal stuff you want to do, study all, as diligently as Santa studies his good/naughty list, at the Magical Memories HQ.

Photo Credit: Resort at Squaw Creek]]>
<![CDATA[Little River Inn: Mushroom Mania Package]]> Mon, 24 Oct 2016 22:02:58 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/littleriverinnmushroom.jpg

MAYBE YOUR CHEFLY FRIEND... just invited you over for a heaping, steamy, oh-so-creamy pot of stroganoff, the kind made not with beef but with chanterelles. Or perhaps your mom suggested you both go out for a vegan burrito, the kind that's lush with lovely vegetables, and slivers of tofu, and the all-important portabello chunks. But maybe in both cases you suggested another outing or pursuit, apologizing as you did so, because you're saving up all of your mushroom-based desires for one of the most "cap"-tivating food festivals on the California calendar. (We won't even explain that "cap" joke, and we won't feel embarrassed over it, either.) It's the...

MENDOCINO COUNTY... Mushroom, Wine and Beer Festival, a eat-and-stroll-and-socialize affair that's so large it takes up just about a third of November. (And that makes total sense, as mushrooms should take up at least a third of any dish, from burritos to stroganoff, being the savory stars they are.) Are you holding off on your mushroom-y favorites, all in anticipation of going hog — er, mushroom — wild in Gualala and Fort Bragg and points along the coast? Then consider staying for more than a night during the Nov. 4 through 13, 2016 shebang.

LITTLE RIVER INN... is one of the stay-over destinations with a special rate on during the fest, and its name? Why Mushroom Mania, of course. Rates start at $165 for an Ocean View Fireplace Room, and go from there, and in the restaurant? You'll discover dishes that make the fungi of the moment the major star. That $165 rate, by the by, is a $30 savings, so hop to it, or discover all of the lodging specials that are springing up, like so many porcini, around the county during the early November festivities. And, really, if you want a mushroom pasta before making for Mendo, have it. You don't need to stave off the deliciousness, all for anticipation's sake. But start anticipating, because the food, and the art, and the libations, and the foraging treks are all as major as a stroganoff boasting an extra heaping helping of mushroom goodness.

Photo Credit: Little River Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Opening: Monarch Butterfly Grove]]> Sat, 22 Oct 2016 12:11:15 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/monarch1.jpg

SET IN STONE: There are moments on the calendar one simply does not quibble with, no sirree. Mother's Day always arrives in May, St. Patrick's Day is juuust about in the middle of March, and the season for Monarch butterflies 'round the Golden State runs from November to February. Finito, right? There's little more to discuss: That's the prime span to admire the winged visitors if you're in Pismo Beach or Pacific Grove or Goleta or one of the other not-too-far-from-the-ocean spots they favor. But there is some wiggle room, when it comes to these fluttery favorites, in terms of times and dates. Nope, they don't all fly in promptly at midnight on Nov. 1, and some do hang around after the February goodbye. Which all leads to this, lovers of beautiful flower-adjacent insects: The Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove is opening in October, ahead of the months we typically associate with the colorful critters. Opening day is...

SATURDAY, OCT. 22, so wing your way to the stately eucalyptus trees located a pinch away from Pismo State Beach. That's where thousands upon thousands (upon thousands and so forth) of Monarchs do their famous clustering thing over the winter months, and that's where their human fans arrive bearing camera or simply awe-filled gazes. "Our colony is one of the largest in the nation," reveals the grove's web site, "hosting an average of 25,000 butterflies over the last five years." While one should always try to avoid using superlatives and hyperbole when it comes to nature, which is all supremely spectacular, beholding so many hue-amazing butterflies among the branches of a eucalpytus is way up there on the bucket-list-y roster.

THE MIGRATING MONARCHS... haven't emailed their individual itineraries ahead, so knowing when they'll gather in robust cluster form isn't a sure thing. But a Pismo Beach sojourn, with "be stunned by butterfly coolness" on the list, is always a solid idea.

Photo Credit: Lori Palicka]]>
<![CDATA[Opening Soon: Holidays at Disneyland Resort]]> Fri, 21 Oct 2016 21:58:08 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Cars-Land-Holiday-0029301.jpg

TWINKLY PLACE UPS THE TWINKLE: Saunter into Disneyland on a May morning and you're going to come across a notable amount of glitter, and sparkle, and shiny details, and an eye-pleasing assortment of spectacles. That's the way the world's best-known theme park likes it, and that's the way it appears to visitors on any day of the calendar. But along about early November, that overall twinkle gets upped, and if you can't imagine such a thing could be possible, well, consider that we're talking about a place with its own wishing well (in other words, true magic is afoot). Wreaths, and bows, and ornaments, and thousands of lights dot the already picturesque buildings and lampposts, lending The Happiest Place on Earth some seasonal sugar (and how). It isn't long between the close of Halloween at the resort, though, before the wreaths and lights are on full display: Holidays at the Disneyland Resort debuts less than two weeks after Oct. 31, on Thursday, Nov. 10.

THE 2016 EVENTS... have been released, and, as is tradition, the "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas" Skellington-esque decorations around the Haunted Mansion will serve as a blithe-laden bridge between the spooky season and the yuletide. "World of Color — Season of Light" is the awesome aquatic show over at Disney California Adventure (yep, it is opening just in time for the holidays), while Festival of Holidays, also at Disney California Adventure, will include 14 themed festival marketplaces and a host of musical performances that pay tribute to traditions near and far. Will Sleeping Beauty's Castle appear in its ice-lovely Winter Castle garb? You can count on it. Will it's a small world seemingly shimmer with all of the tiny bulbs to be found in Orange County? That's the impressive effect. And shall the Jingle Cruise return? It sure will. For more peeks into the Nov. 10, 2016-Jan. 8, 2017 Disneyland doings, don your mouse ears and make your merry way here.

Photo Credit: Paul Hiffmeyer]]>
<![CDATA[Historic Haunted Express: Gold Country Fun]]> Fri, 21 Oct 2016 22:00:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/october_2012_098haunted.jpg

SAUNTER BY ANY BOOKSTORE... in Gold Country and there, beyond the tomes detailing the history of Sutter's Mill and how the shiny stuff transformed a region in mere months, you'll see them: the ghost stories. Not just stories, mind you, but hefty pamphlets and missives devoted to the mysterious side of the Sierra foothills. Think sightings of hotel guests who never checked out, and lonesome spirits who drift along the riverbanks by night, and the phantom hooves, heard in the distance, that never arrive. It is an area dipped in atmosphere, like an old-timey candle was fully dipped, then covered, in wax. To spend a few pre-Halloween hours there, really anywhere, is a treat, and to do so on a rail line that's rife with history is a treat times two. We do speak of that gem of Jamestown, Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, which has a few "scary" trains ahead of Oct. 31 ("scary" is in quotes, of course, because they're more merry than macabre). Want to climb aboard? Best get there on...

OCT 22, 23, 29, or 30... for a toodle on a themed train ride into the wilds of Gold Country. Some seasonal details are in store, plus? The autumnal feeling in the air, the kind of it's-getting-crisper vibe, cannot be overstated. If you do love the wildflower trains of spring, and the special summertime rides, but haven't tried a fall outing, one that has a hint of Halloween to it, best saddle up your phantom horse, or ghostly carriage, and clip-clop for one of the state's stateliest trains. A train that just might whisk you away to the 1800s, at least if your imagination plays along (which it always should, just as a positive-approach-to-life rule).

Photo Credit: Railtown 1897 State Historic Park]]>
<![CDATA[Cinema Splashy: Napa Valley Film Festival]]> Mon, 24 Oct 2016 12:53:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/winegettyistockphoto-horz.jpg

THERE IS A DEFINITE HUM... in the air around April and May, and it repeats the word "blockbuster, blockbuster, blockbuster" over and over. That's because springtime is prime time for the big movie releases to roll out, something that used to happen after Memorial Day (but now begins closer to spring break). But there's another hum in the air come fall, and it is also related to the silver screen, but this hum isn't about mondo effects and mondo action and mondo everything: Awards season is the name of the game. Well, one of the names, anyway. Think of autumn as a time for some top-notch drama, the subtle comedic affairs, the kind of quirky works that wait for the temperature to cool down before they heat up and steal our collective hearts. The hum in the air also says it is film festival time, with tony happenings like Toronto getting the fall revved up. Taking it to another level, and adding an entire layer of local cuisine-a-tude, is the Napa Valley Film Festival, which is heading into its 6th annual outing from...

NOV. 9-13, 2016: The numbers tell the brimful tale of this five-day affair: Some 120 films will show, with 150 wineries making glass-filled cameos and 50 top toques creating scrumptious bites and bigger dishes. On the screen? "20th Century Women," "Lion," and "Captain Fantastic" are just three of the many majors set to have their time in the sun (or, yes, a low-lit theater). Shorts, documentaries, and other watchable fare add to the big grid while dinners, a pool party, a Movie Mogul Dinner, and more mingle-able gatherings await. It's just about one of the foodie-st of fun times on the larger film festival schedule, which makes sense, as the Napa Valley Film Festival does have "Napa Valley" in its name. Do you hear the cinematic hum, drawing you into awards season? Follow it to its source.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto]]>
<![CDATA[San Diego Sparkle: The Del's Holiday Doings]]> Thu, 20 Oct 2016 22:24:24 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/215*120/skatebythesea9282932.jpg

WINTER WHIMSY: While plenty of people have tied on a pair of blade-laden skates and zoomed down a frozen river, and plenty of revelers have taken a hard-surfaced lake in order to perform a few twirls and leaps, no one has ice-skated across an entire ocean (that is, outside of a sci-fi story, perhaps). That's because the ocean, for the most part, stays pretty darn flow-tastic, and its northerly ice floes don't arrive with a rink-ready set-up.

STILL, one could don their ice skates and try a few axels next to an ocean, if they know where to look and when. And if such an ice-skating Pacific lover is looking in the direction of the Hotel del Coronado right around the holidays, they're going to find an expanse of cold, ready-to-skate-upon water just steps from the sand and waves. That's because the historic hotel, which has its way-back roots in the San Diego of the 1800s, likes the nostalgic charms, and ice skating definitely qualifies on that front. Which means that each yuletide season The Del erects a...

ICE RINK... between the turreted structure and the vast water it has sat next to for well over a century. You can come take a twirl from Nov. 24, 2016 through Jan. 2, 2017, or you can go even deeper into the delight by booking a Skating by the Sea package, which includes one night in a Hotel del Coronado room, a quartet of passes to the rink, and fifty bucks towards eats and drinks (hot cocoa, perhaps, if you want to stay in the spirit of the season). You may not be able to skate across the ocean, but you skate upon ice right next to it, which is also swell, and even a touch sci-fi.

Photo Credit: Hotel del Coronado]]>
<![CDATA[Fall in Fallbrook: Scarecrow Days]]> Wed, 19 Oct 2016 21:36:13 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/fallbrookscarecrowdays15.jpg

NOT EVERY TOWN... is fortunate enough to have an actual, honest-to-calendar season in its name. There's Springerville in Arizona, and Summerville, South Carolina, and Florida's own Winter Park. California, of course, is home to Fallbrook, a place that's famous for the many flavorful things it brings to the plate (including, of course, the avocado). But the 15 Freeway-close burg also pays picturesque tribute to the season that starts its moniker via a festival and the camera-ready Scarecrow Days.

SCARECROW DAYS... run throughout the month of October, and if you swing by the Chamber of Commerce during your day out in Fallbrook you can pick-up a scarecrow-ready ballot. Should you find a figure that especially charms you, or tickles you, or makes you snap more than a photo or two, then consider casting your vote for that scarecrow. Look for the autumnal icons to dot businesses along Main Avenue and Mission Road and a number of other local thoroughfares (there's a helpful pdf to direct you to where they are). And should you be in town on...

SUNDAY, OCT. 16... look for the Fall Harvest Faire to further enhance the air of autumn-o-sity. There are a few California villages doing it up scarecrow-wise these days, from Cambria to Big Bear to the Santa Ynez Valley to Fallbrook, which has been setting up the hay-filled cuties for a half decade. Doing a day trip before the close of the month? You can see them, and you can vote, and you can soak up the season that's in the town's very name.

Photo Credit: Fallbrook Scarecrow Days]]>
<![CDATA[Spooky-Sweet Haps at Safari West]]> Thu, 20 Oct 2016 15:17:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/pumpkinsafariwestcute23456.jpg

CONSERVATION COSTUME CONTEST: There isn't a Halloween fan on the planet who needs to be convinced that donning an outfit that comes with a swishy tail isn't the way to go. Dress up as a dog and you might choose a curly-style puggy tail, while a cat get-up will include a lengthy tail, the kind your own kitten likes to use to express emotion (and cats do employ their tails quite well on the whole "read my mood" front). So to be called to think of a costume that might include a tail for a special first-ever costume contest, at one of the best-known animal parks in California, is a special assignment, one that will take a little brainstorming, a little sketching, and a bit of research into conservation causes. For the upcoming Safari West contest is focused on people dressing as those critters who need some extra TLC and protective attention. The prize? A gift certificate to return for a tour, so that's nifty. Also nifty, though, is the fact that you don't need to dress up, tail or not, if you want to check out the...

BOOS, BONES, AND WALKING WITH THE DEAD... events, all scheduled at the Santa Rose destination for Saturday, Oct. 29. Beyond the conservation costume contest best look for the Trick-or-Treat Trail, the Safari West Conservation Pumpkin Patch, and "the standing skeletons rebuilt by our dedicated Osteology Team." A Junior Keepers' Mad Science Lab will also be open, and there's a post-dinner talk on the bats of Sonoma County (should you sign up for dinner). A lot is afoot around the expansive grounds, including tours, on Oct. 29, so decide how you want to meld your pre-Halloween Saturday with learning, animal sweetness, and adventure. Oh yes, that is, of course, after you decide if you're rocking a costume with a tail or not. Gussying up as an animal, come Halloween, is a time-honored tradition, but to do so near where many animals live? It's meta, perhaps, and pretty on theme, too.

Photo Credit: Safari West]]>
<![CDATA[Mammoth Opening: $50 Lift Ticket]]> Fri, 21 Oct 2016 21:58:42 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/2015-11-05_MammothsOpen_611.jpg

STORMS IN THE SIERRA... in October aren't the beautiful, piney-of-scent rains of mid-summer. Autumn-style blow-throughs can be hard, and dramatic, and they can show with a plus-one that hasn't been seen in several months: snow. That's been the case around Mammoth Mountain, which began to flirt with frosty ground-cover weeks in advance of the resort's scheduled November opening. But all of this early snowfall simply means that Thursday, Nov. 10 is going to be a big one on the big mountain, with fans getting stoked as they watch as pre-opening flakes create some good base action. Does all of this October snow make you want to be there from the get-go? Then getting going on this: Opening day lift tickets are...

FIFTY BUCKS: That's a solid deal, but also solid is the general festive atmosphere that opening day at major ski resort like Mammoth naturally exudes. That doesn't come with a price tag, so be up there early to be in the swing. Also free? The cocoa and coffee at Broadway Express on the morning of opening day, starting at 7 a.m. (people will already be there, for sure, count on it). And watching the annual banner breakthrough, which is scheduled for 8:30, is pretty darn stirring, if skiing is a major part of your cold-weather life. Stow some cash for the sip specials later in the day at Tusks Bar, and join in the beer toast at 11 a.m. on the sundeck at the Main Lodge. Are you ready for opening day? Clearly the clouds are, as they've already been bestowing the slopes with fall flakes. What will winter bring? More of the same, and lots of it, fingers, poles, and skis crossed.

Photo Credit: Mammoth Mountain]]>
<![CDATA[Sutter's Fort by Candlelight]]> Wed, 19 Oct 2016 12:42:07 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sutterCandlelighttour+%281%29.jpg

THE WEEKEND BEFORE THANKSGIVING... is definitely deserving of something a bit special, something that's a little out of the ordinary, and a happening that might just foretell of the magic of the holidays (a feeling that's still to come at that point). After all, many people spend that weekend packing, or traveling, or awaiting on a rescheduled flight, or organizing a road trip, or buying the needed foodstuffs for a house full of guests. And yet? There are fascinating to-dos afoot, the kind of stuff that's not strictly seasonal, in the fa, la, la sense, but still rather sparkly. Truly sparkly, in the case of the annual Candlelight Tours at Sutter's Fort State Historic Park. Indeed, the...

SATURDAY, NOV. 19... glow-filled gathering is just a few days ahead of Thanksgiving, meaning that any out-of-towners you might be hosting will enjoy seeing a slice of ye olde Sacramento at the ye olde landmark. "All modern lights" will be given the goodbye for the night, and small flames shall be the only source of illumination. A wander-through, led by a guide, shall give visitors a glimpse back into the settlers who first made their home in the area, and how life was circa 1846. To round it all off? A warm beverage, to keep the cockles toasty, and a piece of pie, two tasty things that foretell that the holidays are soon to arrive.

IT'S A NIGHT OF HISTORY... just before all of the hectic holiday doings, and it's a night that is transportive, time travel-wise, if returning to the mid-19th century is of interest of you. If you have a student in the house studying California's past, or you have relatives in for turkey and stuffing, a night visit to Sutter's Fort is just the way to slow down what is too often an exceedingly frenetic weekend. The candlelight part of the equation only furthers that feeling.

Photo Credit: Sutter's Fort]]>
<![CDATA[The 'Friendly Ghost' of the National Hotel]]> Sat, 22 Oct 2016 11:26:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ghostgetty2928323.jpg

VISIT ANY HISTORIC SITE... along Highway 49, or points near the famous Gold Country thoroughfare, and you'll immediately become familiar with the gentle creak of a built-long-ago plank sidewalk, or a mysterious breeze making a lace curtain move, or the flicker of a flame in a handblown oil lamp. There are many experiences that tickle the senses in a region that still has oodles of 1800s-ness to it, and while most experiences can be traced to an origin — the door was left open, creating the curtain-blowing breeze — a few moments do tend to astound visitors. That is, if you're visiting a location that not only boasts its own ghost, but a spirit that is described as "friendly" (a lovely thing for any entity to be, be they a phantom or of this human plane).

THE NATIONAL HOTEL & RESTAURANT... in Jamestown is home to one such storied resident, who even has a friendly, easy-to-remember handle: Flo. Whether Flo will make her presence known to a guest during their overnight at the 1859 inn is a big question mark, but visitors have shared tales of slamming doors and "clothing being dumped from suitcases onto the floor..." Fascinating stuff, and perhaps especially in October, when wraith-whimsical matters are on many a mind. And while a number of stay-over spots around the Golden State are rumored to have a spectral presence, Flo rightly has her very own page on the National's official site. 

EAGER TO SEE... if she'll pay you a visit? There are nine guest rooms in the antique-filled building, and a buffet breakfast is a part of your stay. A bonus? You're right on Main Street, which is highly walkable, so you and your BFF can take an after-dinner stroll and discuss what you might do, in the night, should you see the light in your private bath flicker on and/or off. Another bonus? Jamestown is but a 15-minute drive from Columbia State Historic Park, which is a vintage slice of ye olde California, through and through, if you want to up the historical end of your getaway (in addition to the potentially ghosty end). Ready to see if the phantom Flo crosses your Jamestown path? Your journey starts here, and that's in October or any time of the year, as ghosts, like people, don't always stick to the calendar.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hops Hullabaloo: San Diego Beer Week]]> Sun, 16 Oct 2016 09:18:38 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sdbeerweekfbglasses.jpg

THE FOAMS OF AMERICA'S FINEST CITY: Let your eyes roam over any tony beer menu, in nearly any city around California, and a certain city will be spied, again and again, under multiple brewers. That city, of course, is San Diego, a place that's created the right conditions for the strong growth of a stellar craft beer scene. The conditions didn't take yeast or hops or any of the ingredients that might go into a lively ale, but they have found fertile ground in the community of brewers based in and around San Diego, a tightly knit group that continues to promote the local culture as a vibrant whole. And few parties are as vibrant as the one that arrives in November each year: San Diego Beer Week. The mega multi-day, multi-taste, multi-everything foam-stravaganza rises to the top of the glass from...

NOV. 4 THROUGH 13, 2016: And that multi-everything aspect draws a lot of fans, as in 20,000 fans, so booking your nearby stay is typically must-do #1. Must-do #2? Poring over the schedule and deciding all of the outings you want to drop into, from the Venissimo Cheese Pairing happening at Thorn Street Brewery to the San Diego Guild Brewers Festival to the Beer Train Trolley Tour to the Beer Garden at The Lodge at Torrey Pines to wrap the whole sudsy shebang up in a stylish, ocean-delightful way (the waves are just a short stroll from the hotel-close lawn where the party'll unfurl). Will you seem some of your favorites from the region, like Modern Times and Karl Strauss? So many headlining hopsy handles spring from the San Diego area nowadays that it really is a who's who deal during Beer Week. Find the biggies, discover fresh finds, and get to know what's happening in the vats and taps of one of our country's most robust beer-making centers.

Photo Credit: San Diego Beer Week]]>
<![CDATA[Pinnacles National Park: Centennial Day of Service]]> Tue, 18 Oct 2016 13:43:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Pinnaclesseemontereydotcom.jpg

WHILE WE THINK OF SUMMERTIME... as that time of year when collective relaxation truly begins, there are physical places that grow more bustling, and even hectic, when June arrives: the national parks. Our magnificent stretches of wild beauty experience higher traffic when the weather warms up, but the season that follows traditionally dons a more relaxed and tranquil mantle. Autumn, then, is a most excellent time to call upon our parks, but there's an added dimension that's full of heart, too, where a fall visit is concerned. A number of parks host various clean-up days in September and October — The Yosemite Facelift is a famous September spiffy-up — and volunteers arrive to enjoy both the crisper temperatures and to lend a hand in helping the park repair a few things needing some attention following the high season. Pinnacles National Park, which received its monument designation in 1908 and its park status just a few years ago, in 2013, is hosting such a help-out day on Saturday, Oct. 22. It's the...

CENTENNIAL DAY OF SERVICE... at the middle-ish-of-California park, and a "variety of service projects" will take place. So make for the destination, a remote expanse known for its striking, rock-beautiful scenery, and pitch in on "litter abatement, non-native plant control, seed collection, and trail work." (Note that there are some asks in terms of what sort of clothes to wear, and what to bring, so read all.)

THE "MAKE A DIFFERENCE DAY"... will truly inspire positive and noticeable changes around the park, changes that will be enjoyed by future visitors looking for a nature-authentic experience. Consider that a late-October visit to Pinnacles may be further enhanced by a bat sighting, as "14 of California's 24 bat species make their home at Pinnacles National Park." For the beautiful bats, for the people who love the place, and for the place itself, roll up those sleeves and make a difference over the course of a day, all while getting out and getting acquainted with one of the state's most serene and spectacular stretches.

Photo Credit: © Tom O'Neal/SeeMonterey.com]]>
<![CDATA[Mission Inn's Fall-Sweet Pumpkin Stroll]]> Wed, 19 Oct 2016 12:40:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/TheMissionInnPumpkinStroll.jpg

WHEN WE PICTURE PLACES... in our mind's eye, we tend to associate a distinctive sensation with the location. Perhaps it is the feeling of sand beneath our tootsies at the beach, or the crunch-crunch of leaves when we ponder the Sierra in October. And when our musings turn to The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, the castle-like landmark in Riverside? Well, an eye-pleasing twinkle is apt to make our thoughts go sparkly. That's because the hotel hangs lots of lights — literally millions of them, as in four or so million — each holiday season, creating a full-scale glow show, something that's seen, via TV and magazines, far beyond its Inland Empire location. But mavens of The Mission Inn know that its arches and towers and courtyards are ready-made for other seasonal celebrations, too, including the one that arrives just ahead of the Festival of Lights: fall, and all of its pumpkin-y pleasures.

OH, DID WE SAY "PUMPKIN-Y"? Why yes, we most certainly did. That's because the structure, which has its early roots in the 1800s, has collected nearly 700 examples of autumn's star gourd and lined walkways around the historic hotel, all to enhance that quintessential fall feeling. If spying so many noble squashes on The Mission Inn grounds only furthers your fall feelings, look into the seasonal sips at the hotel's Presidential Lounge. And might there be a stay-over package that's tied to the crisp feel on the breeze? There is: It's called Fall at The Mission Inn and there's a luxe overnight room, $25 towards eating/sipping around the property, two cupcakes, and, wait for it fall people, a pair of hot apple ciders, the most autumnal libation on the planet (fact). To spy a storied structure with the icons of fall dotting its charming paths, make for Riverside while autumn hangs ever so happily in the air.

Photo Credit: The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa]]>
<![CDATA[Los Olivos: Flavorful Fall Festivity]]> Fri, 14 Oct 2016 11:00:58 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/SantaYnezValleyVineyardRoad-creditSYVVA-KirkIrwin.jpg

THE IDEA OF "BRIGADOON"... is sometimes trotted out in reference to a place of mystique, the kind of beautiful village that only appears through the mists of time if you happen to be standing in the right spot on the right day. But California has a whole brigade of Brigadoon-esque burgs, and we don't need to wait for the magical mists to clear to visit them: They're always right there, at the end of this road or along this other lane, and sometimes they even host special events that further enhance what makes them special. Look to Los Olivos, in the Santa Ynez Valley, a jewel box of a wine country town that features fine food and wine tasting opportunities throughout the calendar. But sometimes, now and then, the place that has olives in its very name (a nice hint to the town's cuisine-loving nature) goes the extra mile on the make-merry front: It throws a party. That party might have to do with its flavorful namesake or it might capture the spirit of fall's fruits and fun, as the...

LOS OLIVOS DAY IN THE COUNTRY... does each year. The town-wide celebration covers a lot of fronts, from a pancake breakfast to a vintage tractor display to a parade to a bevy of arts & crafts booths, but what it does, most of all, is pay homage to a cool wine country community and all that it offers. That does for sure mean a host of sip-spotlighted opportunities, but it isn't all about the wine, as craft brews, too, are a big deal in the region (so look for a beer garden). It's a bustling, lots-to-do time to call upon the walkable town, so if you want to be there when it is in its full fall fizzy glory, with plenty of doings going on, then Saturday, Oct. 15 is your day. But if you don't make the festival on the 15th, worry not; the mists will not envelop lovely Los Olivos, meaning your next chance to visit it is pretty much whenever you choose.

Photo Credit: Kirk Irwin]]>
<![CDATA[Hotel Valencia: Stay & Scare Package]]> Thu, 13 Oct 2016 13:28:06 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/santanarow23822321.jpg

BOOK A NIGHT AT A HOTEL... and you're bound to ask a few questions ahead of time, like the hours at the bar, and if the bathroom has a hair dryer, and whether the room has its own while-you're-there waffle-weave bathrobe, the one you want to wear for the entire duration of your stay. You might also think about asking if one of the world's most famous said-to-be haunted houses is a neighbor to the inn, which might be an odd question, but not if you're booking at the Hotel Valencia. As it turns out, the swanky Santana Row stay-over spot does happen to have a neighbor that's considered to be one of the best-known spooky spots on the planet, a destination that truly bustles come the autumn. It's the Winchester Mystery House, the Victorian abode with all of those winding staircases and doors opening to brick walls and the occasional window in the floor, and it is a short stroll down the road from the Hotel Valencia. So it makes sense that the San Jose hotel would offer a...

STAY & SCARE PACKAGE... that's designed for guests hoping to spend a haunting evening at Sarah Winchester's fabled abode and find a nice room for the night. The package is good on Friday evenings in October, or Halloween, and it includes two tickets to the Winchester's Candlelight Tour as well as a "(g)ift at check-in from the Winchester Mystery House." Ohhh, intriguing. Other perks, like a continental breakfast for two people and an autumnal libation (think cider or such) shall keep those in search of spirits sated. Starting price, sans tax? It's $334. Being able to stroll back to your hotel room post-Winchester, the better to tuck up for the night and dream of all of those twisty corridors? That's pretty nifty. And is there really a waffle-weave bathrobe in your room, just made for lounging as you ponder your adventures at the Winchester Mystery House? There is, you betcha. Nothing eerie about that, just comfy-cozy room time, the best kind of time after visiting one of the world's most celebrated spooky attractions.

Photo Credit: Santana Row]]>
<![CDATA[The Haunted Caves of Eberle Winery]]> Tue, 18 Oct 2016 21:11:07 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/eberlewinerypaso.jpg

A BEAUTIFUL WINE CAVE... can claim multiple purposes, from serving as the all-important place where the barrels full of the good stuff stay for a prolonged, wine-enhancing period, to a low-lit spot that's ideal for an intimate dinner or celebration. What interior spaces that sit adjacent to a vineyard or winery aren't typically known for is, well, spirits, as in ghosts, as in visitors from the beyond. Once every so often, though, a pretty California wine-making destination will peek inside its cave and find not just barrels or dinner tables but something rather spooky. That's what's happening at...

EBERLE WINERY... of Paso Robles in 2016. One day you're just making excellent wines, as you have been doing since the 1970s, and the next... your caves seems a bit spooky and strange. The lovely part of this not-too-terrifying tale, however, is that Eberle family is opening up its atmospheric cavas for two nights of Halloween-style hanging out, and just a few days of the holiday itself (meaning you can pay the Paso-close place a visit and still make it back to your town in time for Oct. 31 trick-or-treating). The Haunted Caves at Eberle Winery will lend an eeriely delightful, or delightfully eerie, if you prefer, flavor to Friday, Oct. 28 and Saturday, Oct. 29. "Decorated and lit by professionals, our 16,000 sq. feet of underground caves turn into one of the spookiest tickets in town." The "whole family" is welcome, and the $5 donation per person will support the Kinship Center, "helping kids heal and thrive." And, you bet, the tasting room will be open both evenings, so see if a sip of Full Boar Red or a rich-toned vintage port doesn't give your autumn night just a hint of haunted flavor. 

IT'S A SWEET WAY... to help out a local agency and to create a community all-ages to-do in a place that's typically reserved for wine-keeping and occasion-celebrating. Not every winery honors Halloween, so finding one that does can lend a ghouly-fun zip to the season, one that's typically about harvest activities, and not a playfully haunted cave.

Photo Credit: Eberle Winery]]>
<![CDATA[Point Sur Lighthouse Ghost Tour]]> Sun, 16 Oct 2016 20:50:38 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ghostshutterstock399242.jpg

IF YOU WERE TOYING WITH A NOVEL, as in writing down a few ideas you've had zinging around your noggin for a decade or two, how would you go about picking the setting? Well, that would depend on a few things, of course, like the tone and direction of your book, but if you wanted to do something a bit... spirited, with perhaps a phantom as the protagonist, would you pick somewhere ather remote for the location? Would it be a dramatic-of-appearance building, the kind of structure you don't see every day? And might your building have an important and lengthy past, the kind of history that's woven through many lives, including many lives spent at sea? Then you, dear writer, would be choosing a lighthouse as your tome's top location, and understandably so, for few places are as tale-filled and, on an October night, delightfully eerie. Prepare to experience both in late October, as Big Sur's Point Sur Lightstation welcomes visitors for a Halloween Tour.

OCT. 22 AND 29 ARE THE DATES — yep, both are Saturdays — and the "evening of ghostly fun" will kick off with a walking tour timed to the sun dipping into the Pacific. A "light buffet" in the barn follows, and then tales of Pt. Sur's wraith-centered stories from "Pt. Sur's professional actor/story-teller, Kevin Hanstick," will set the goosebumpily mood. Warm beverages will also be served, and more yarns revolving around ghost hunting. The donation? It's $85, which helps the care and keep of this historic gem. A gem which, just maybe, and possibly perhaps, boasts a few longtime denizens who've made a forever home within its walls and grounds. Intrigued? Love a touch of macabre with your ocean-famous landmarks? Then you, dear writer, are either penning the next great ghost novel or you're going on a tour in Big Sur. (Perhaps, fingers crossed, both.)

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Mendo Mushrooms: Join a Foraging Trek]]> Thu, 20 Oct 2016 15:17:40 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/beer-wine-mushroom-train-26+%281%29.jpg

A STROLL IN THE FOREST... is always a multi-part gift, from the peaceful visuals of fluttering leaves to the earthy scents that greet the nose to the quiet unplug-a-tude found within. But there is another gift that woods can yield, if you know where to look (down) and who to look with (an expert mycologist). The "down" part was likely a giveaway, as this treat does spring from the forest floor (or, rather, beneath it), and that mycology is the study of mushrooms tells the rest of the story. We speak of the mushroom, a cap-wearing gem that can fill the most humble of dishes with a little straight-from-nature panache.

MENDOCINO COUNTY... knows this fungi-fabulous panache well, as mushrooms grow well in its moist-of-ground environs (the picturesque are "is home to over 3,000 types of mushrooms," in fact). And November happens to be a prime time for mushroom mania around the county, a fact that inspired the Mushroom, Wine, and Beer Festival, an eat-drink-walk-talk to-do that takes up a goodly chunk of the eleventh month on the calendar. That "goodly chunk" in 2016'll last from...

NOV. 4 THROUGH 13, and deciding what exactly you want to participate in — eating, eating and sipping, sipping and foraging — will dictate how you plan your coast-close getaway. A mushroom forage at Frey Winery (yep, there's a vino tasting, too), an Afternoon Tea at Glendeven Inn (the sandwiches are lush with mushroomry), and mushroom-themed art happenings are among the many highlights. Surely you cook with plenty of portobellos and oysters and cremini; but have you ever gone to the verdant, thick-of-pine-needles, below-the-trees source alongside a mushroom-knowledgeable pro? Here's your moment, mushroom mavens, to get the 411 on your produce drawer staple.

Photo Credit: Mushroom, Wine, and Beer Fest]]>
<![CDATA[Ojai Fall Getaways: Packages + Perks]]> Fri, 14 Oct 2016 10:20:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/emeraldojai29823232.jpg

THE PINK MOMENT GOES PUMPKIN: One might be forgiven for immediately sensing a whiff of springtime whenever Ojai pops into mind. After all, it is the place where the famous nightly "Pink Moment," that soft hue that seems to capture both hills and sky as the sun says its farewell for the day, holds colorful court. Look also to the local orchards and groves and fields, the verdant spreads that hold copious amounts of lavender and tangerines when the weather warms up, as well as all manner of growable goodies. This all does bring the springtime to mind, both the notion of "pink" and the taste of citrus, but Ojai has a secret: It rocks the whole autumn season exceedingly well, from its mellow afternoons to those crisp post-sundown breezes to the nearby pumpkin patches, like the one at Boccali Ranch. If pumpkin and pink are just about your favorite colors, and you adore Ojai-o-sity any time of the year, look to the artist enclave for fall packages and extras at the local inns. 

THE EMERALD IGUANA INN... and The Blue Iguana Inn both have a Fall Into Autumn Gift Basket & Package available (a "seasonal gift basket" that includes local wine is just one goodie) while The Oaks at Ojai is offering a Bring a Friend Discount over the first two thirds of November. The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa is doing it up with a midweek package through Nov. 26, 2016 (a $50 nightly resort credit is on the roster) while the Lavender Inn has a Foodie Package offering flavor to "select Sundays" through Dec. 16 (taking part in a cooking class will nab you $15 off a Sunday stay). Perhaps your favorite hotel in the area has something afoot (so best call and check). Ready to celebrate The Pink Moment at a time of year when pumpkin-y orange rules? Start here and plan your before-the-holidays sojourn to the captivating, pink-of-sky town now.

Photo Credit: Emerald Iguana]]>
<![CDATA[Tour a Fabled Olive House]]> Mon, 10 Oct 2016 09:54:15 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/14492508_10154558932958166_1507166938845292777_graber.jpg

THE CONCEPT OF GRADING... is on a lot of minds when the fall arrives, for that's the time when schools are fully back in session and quizzes, tests, and exams are making their way onto students' desks. But grading is something that's done beyond the classroom, too, for a variety of reasons. Look to Graber Olive House, the historic Ontario fruit-filled facility that has a flavorful goal in mind: "grading, curing, and canning" tasty, pit-tastic gems grown in droves in groves located in the San Joaquin Valley. As any olive aficionado knows, you can't A) simply pick an olive off a tree and expect it to taste like the olives you had in that tapenade last night (there are more steps to take) and B) it is nearly impossible to only eat one olive in one go. Thus making for a place that boasts oodles of plump and shiny olives is one way to sate both the appetite and your curiosity about the canning process. It's a process that Graber Olives has been deeply involved with in three centuries, since its late-1800s start. And...

THE GRADING PERIOD... is underway, should you want to swing by and have a look-see for yourself. Tours are part of life at the tree-pretty Ontario spread, a location that feels as though it hasn't changed much, in spirit or appearance, since its founding several decades back. Call the company and sign up for a walk-around, and prepare to learn a lot, whether the canning/grading is in full swing or not. A bonus? The sweet shop on the property, the one with all sorts of olives for sale, as well as kitchen implements and doodads and a host of snackable gourmet foodstuffs. 

Photo Credit: Graber Olives]]>
<![CDATA[Walnut Creek New: Porcupine 'Ambassador']]> Sun, 09 Oct 2016 09:26:44 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/DSC_2676lwe.jpg

WHILE CATS DO RULE... the internet — there's no disputing something so factual about the catual contingent, so we shan't even try — there is another animal on the rise in people's hearts, thanks to several viral videos. It isn't an critter we'd necessarily think of as a pet, though some animal lovers do live happily with these cuties, and it isn't a beastie that's been described as particularly cuddly in the past, thanks to all of those impressive quills. Well, we just went and tipped our hand there, with that "quills" reveal: It's the porcupine we speak of, a mammal with a famous defense system (which we all knew about) and some of the most chattery vocal squeals ever (which many of us did not know about, prior to seeing videos depicting especially talkative 'pines). Many a human has fallen for the spiny sweeties in recent years, thanks to its on-the-rise internet cachet, but haven't yet seen a porcupine in person. That'll change for visitors to the Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek, an animal-devoted center which just revealed that a six-month-old North American Porcupine is its...

NEWEST ANIMAL AMBASSADOR: "This is the first porcupine at Lindsay in decades and we are the only animal facility in the Bay Area to have a porcupine on exhibit, full-time!" says a center representative. If you want to make a porcupine-like squeal here, please do, and then mark Saturday, Oct. 22 on your calendar. The center, which provides medical services to injured wildlife as well as nature-focused educational programs aplenty, will throw the adorable ambassador a welcome party. You'll get an up-close look, and, just maybe, the chance to pet a porcupine at the "Quill-abration" (awww). The message that the Lindsay Wildlife Experience hopes to spread? That "this amazing creature needs protection." Help support this important cause and get to know one of the internet's biggest, heart-tuggiest, quill-cutest stars.

Photo Credit: Lindsay Wildlife Experience]]>
<![CDATA[Half Dome Photo Contest]]> Mon, 10 Oct 2016 09:54:40 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/HalfDome_664100%282%29.jpg

THE GREAT GRANITE: For something that has sat silently for eons, Half Dome inspires a lot of talk. And a lot of that talk goes into photo-centric conversations a Yosemite National Park visitor engages in, conversations that involve capturing the great granite symbol from the best angle and at the optimal time of day. Many snapshots of the in-the-distance dome are snapped at Tunnel View, and with excellent reason: That's where a lot of people first enter the valley. Some prefer to head up to Glacier Point, where a more "from the side" view of Half Dome provides some variety (and the sun's early morning glow, on the eastern side of the natural wonder, may be more easily viewed). There are choices, in short, as to where a dome-admiring devotee wielding a camera should go, and when they should go there, to find Half Dome at its most beautiful and ethereal. Of course, the secret is this: It's always beautiful and ethereal, a fact that's currently being celebrated in a new photo contest from Travel Yosemite. It's the...

HALF DOME PHOTO CONTEST, and the entry period is now open (and on through Oct. 24, 2016). There's a voting period after the contest closes, through Nov. 7, and some stunners are already up and live. The prize? It's nifty, especially if you love some funky glassware: a pair of North Drinkware glasses. Yep, these are the made-in-Oregon glasses that have famous mountains at the bottom, actually formed from the glass itself, which means you'll get a conversation piece, and a vessel to hold a beverage, all in one. Ready to show off your Half Dome obsession and reveal your most spirit-emboldening, Yosemite-yes-ing photograph? Start here, shutterbugs.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Barbara Wine Country: Celebration of Harvest]]> Fri, 07 Oct 2016 17:31:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/022-IMG_7845_Tenley+Fohl+Photography_Celebration+of+Harvest_Santa+Barbara+County+Wine_TFP..jpg

TIME IS VALUABLE, we're often told, though few times of year feel as fabulous, and special, as a perfect autumn weekend. That is, of course, subjective, and there are those people who dig a Tuesday in March, or all of June, for a variety of solid reasons. But a weekend in October, when the weather is fine and the air has that fall-like zing and there is road-tripping to do, is the kind of moment magazines often put on their covers, and with excellent reason: It's all pretty primo. Making it more primo is something delicious to eat when you've put the top down and pulled into your destination, and the annual Celebration of Harvest happening in and around Santa Barbara makes that supping part a snap. The Santa Barbara Vintners to-do is large-of-scale and area, with a Grand Tasting at Old Mission Santa Ines in Solvang serving as the central point to the four-day party. It's a weekend-long lark that extends into Monday, if adding a Monday to a quick Santa Barbara jaunt appeals. Ready to capture that autumnal weekend feeling while poking around the Santa Ynez Valley in an unhurried, gotta-taste-that fashion? Then...

PORE OVER THE EXTENSIVE SCHEDULE, which includes an open house at Timbre Winery in Santa Maria, an "Educational Vineyard Hike" at Stolpman Vineyards in Ballard Canyon, and a pop-up in Lompoc focused on Babcock Winery. For sure, the vinos'll be some of the sparkling stars of the weekend, and bite-ables of all kinds, and the chance to get to know some of the luminaries who rule the school (or kitchen or grapes) in one of California's most robust food and libation landscapes (and a gorgeous landscape it is). Are you doing a trip to savor October while it is here? Consider turning the car for Solvang, and Lompoc, and other points nearby for one of the biggest gourmet, enjoy-an-autumn-day to-dos on the regional calendar. It's on through Monday, Oct. 10, 2016.

Photo Credit: Tenley Fohl]]>
<![CDATA[Nevada City: Where October Vacations]]> Sat, 15 Oct 2016 06:37:25 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/IMG_6393etoutsideinn.jpg

REAL-LIFE CANDY CORN GLOBE: Snow globes are understandably popular when the end-of-the-year holidays draw near. After all, they're just so darn cute, and they come in all sizes, and some are definitely affordable, and gift-givers find them to be seasonally appropriate gifts for a number of giftees. But the thing about snow globes is they tend to be focused on, well, snow, and the scenes presented under the domed glass often feature Santa and gingerbread houses and candy canes. Where, though, are the candy corn globes, the small, round giftables that rain orange-hued candy instead of faux snow on tiny spooky houses? Well, they do exist (though probably not with real falling candy corn per se, which can get goopy in water). And such environments exist in reality, too, if you know where to look. For example, if you turn your autumn-loving gaze upon Nevada City, in the northern part of Gold Country, you'll find a charming town that looks as though it sprung fully formed from a snow globe (or, rather, candy corn globe). And come October, its charms are enhanced by Halloween decor, trick-or-treating, and other not-too-terrifying to-dos that lend one of our state's most foliage-rich destinations a ton of quirky, camera-ready cred. So are you ready to October-it-up, or Halloween-it-up, or both, in dear...

NEVADA CITY? Best peruse everything on the October list, from trick-or-treating on picturesque (and 1800s-esque) Broad Street to a Fright Night party on Saturday, Oct. 29 at the historic Miners Foundry (soul music, dancing, and convivial details await). There are ghost tours, too, to ponder, which make spectral sense, as Nevada City's past is full and rumored to be phantom-y. And as for the fall color? It's definitely revving up, so find your booklet of Nevada City trees and get strolling. We're not saying that by visiting Nevada City you'll be stepping into a human-sized candy corn globe, but we are saying you might feel that way. It's a tad magical, is the thing, and that quality should never be in short supply during the autumntime of the year.

Photo Credit: Erin Thiem]]>
<![CDATA[Halloween Weekend in Spooky Solvang]]> Wed, 12 Oct 2016 13:11:27 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/pumpkinjackgetty123-horz.jpg

TRUE STORY: "Sleepy Hollow" was not set in Solvang, though its storybook appearance might cause a fan of Ichabod Crane to understandably think otherwise, given that many iterations of the Washington Irving tale feature a distinctive windmill in the distance. But Solvang does embrace the time of year most associated with "Sleepy Hollow," a little stretch known as late October, and more specifically Halloween. And while the town hosts a party that isn't Ichabod-themed, but rather takes on the general Halloween spirit, you might just feel that you've stepped a buckle-topped shoe into some sort of fairy tale if you visit the Santa Ynez Valley destination in the days before the holiday, or on the holiday itself. Why? Because the cozy, easy-to-walk burg does it up each year with a costume-cute Street Fair. That's scheduled in 2016 for...

SUNDAY, OCT. 30, so be there on All Hallow's Eve Eve when "food trucks, kid games, live entertainment," and more merrily macabre sights arrive in the Golden State's windmilliest location. And the pretty stem atop this pretty pumpkin? The Solvang Festival Theater will be staging "Fractured Fairy Tales" on the two nights surrounding the Street Fair (so Oct. 29 and 31). Enter "a dark forest" which will come alive with vignettes from "Goldilocks," "Hansel and Gretel," and more. It's the kind of walk-around, be-a-scared(-but-not-too-scared) small-town-y sweetness that we can grow nostalgic for come the holidays. You won't see Ichabod out in the neighboring vineyards, or his nemesis the Headless Horseman, but you will spy several delights of the hoots-and-howls holiday.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Solvang]]>
<![CDATA[Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tours]]> Thu, 13 Oct 2016 16:15:30 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/jtGettyImages-51556352-horz.jpg

A NUMBER OF CALIFORNIA HIGHWAYS... have distinctive reputations, beyond the fact that they help drivers toodle from Point A to Point B. Mention the 101, for example, and a salty ocean breeze fills the mind, and visions of waves and gulls and rolling hills. Say "Highway 395" to a devotee of the Eastern Sierra and natural wonders like Devils Postpile and Mono Lake soon capture the fancy. And as for Highway 62, which skirts Joshua Tree National Park? It's an oasis of the arts, with a number of creative spaces and art studios filling out its arid and awesome edges. Coming across a chance to peek inside those studios and meet the artists who find inspiration in the glorious desert-amazing surroundings is a treat, for sure, and it comes back around each year in October (which is, of course, one of the most gorgeous, cool-of-evening times in the Morongo Basin). It's the Hwy 62 Open Studios Art Tour, and it grandly spreads out, like the prickly arms of the local cholla cactus, over two weekends. Be there on...

OCT. 15 AND 16... or Oct. 22 and 23 and pop by some 90 studios and spots on the self-guided ramble-about. Prepare to admire metal work, jewelry, woodwork, sculpture, painting, photography, and a host of other pieces fashioned from all sorts of materials. Prepare, too, to meet artists along the way (and if you have your heart set on meeting a person you admire, make sure that their studio is open the weekend you attend). And prepare to soak in those mega vistas, the kind of stretched-out views of land and sky that provide instant inspiration to the many makers who call the Morongo Basin home. The desert, after all, gives and gives, and inspiration, and magic, can strike at any time. To see this at work, call upon the Hwy 62 Open Studios Art Tour for a spirit-emboldening experience.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Langham Huntington's Teddy Bear Tea: Reserve Now]]> Mon, 10 Oct 2016 10:20:48 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/langhamimagine1234367.jpg

VELVET OUTFIT TIME: The chance to don something made of velvet or another not-often-worn fabric is a special opportunity, and one that seems to come around more often during the holidays. That's when we pose for photographs, and part our hair a bit more carefully, and shine the buckles on our shoes, and ponder nice, memory-making events, the kind that are anticipated for several weeks. That might be a trip to see "The Nutcracker" or a visit to an ice rink or it could be a family-cute tea at an historic hotel. Not every older inn offers the cute-as-a-bow-tie teddy bear-themed tea, but one of Southern California's grand destinations is all about teddy bears and pastries and snapshot-ready settings when winter draws near. We speak, of course, of the annual Teddy Bear Tea at...

THE LANGHAM HUNTINGTON, PASADENA, a gussy-up, kids + grown-ups good time that features "enchanting holiday decorations, a puppet show, storytelling by one of Santa's helpers, and pictures with Santa!" It's heartwarming stuff, and tasty, too, with sandwiches perfect for younger guests on the plates, as well as cookies and cocoa and milk. The first date for 2016 is...

THE SATURDAY FOLLOWING THANKSGIVING, so Nov. 26, while a few select dates follow, with the final Teddy Bear Tea happening on the morning of Christmas Eve. The price? It's $52, and $42 for guests under the age of 12 (you'll also want to keep in mind you'll need to cover gratuity and tax as well once you're there). One additional tinsel-and-holly happening at the hotel this year? A Holiday Kick-Off Reception on the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 27. You don't need to wear your velvet, or a plaid bow or belt, or even reindeer antlers, but arriving in a cloud of yuletide cheer is, of course, recommended. It's gratis, and you'll need to RSVP (oh yes, and there's a gingerbread house dimension to the doings, a staple of many historic hotels come November and December).

Photo Credit: The Langham Huntington, Pasadena]]>
<![CDATA[Half Moon Wow: Gourds of Gargantuan-o-sity]]> Fri, 07 Oct 2016 11:24:01 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/halfmoonGettyImages-457167502+%281%29.jpg

IF A PUMPKIN PIE... is in your fall baking plans, or perhaps some pumpkin spice cookies, you know that it takes rather more effort than simply waving a spatula, magic wand-style, over a cookie sheet or pan. You need to visit your pantry, see what you need to buy, then call upon the market, then line up the ingredients, and... you get the point. Same goes for growing some of the world's most colossal vine-born specimens, the kind of globular fruits that seem straight out of a fairy tale. You simply cannot wave a shovel or a rake over your pumpkin patch, magic wand-style, and produce a behemoth that crosses the 2,000-pound mark. You need to tend to it, over time, with water and care and sunlight and all that a pumpkin craves. To salute this sort of tenacity, and to eye some truly "that can't be real (but is)" pumpkinry, turn your gaze to Half Moon Bay, where The Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off will take to the scales on...

MONDAY, OCT. 10: And they say nothing whimsical or outstanding happens on the first day of the week. This always-on-a-Monday showdown happens a few days ahead of the town's huge Pumpkin Festival, and the big machinery is out, the better to forklift the competing stem-topped contestants. Will any of the super squashes best the set-in-Europe-in-2014 world record of 2,323, courtesy of pumpkin-growing pro Beni Meier of Switzerland? West Coast growers'll be out with their best picks of 2016, the kind of pumpkins that need to arrive in Half Moon Bay in the bed of a pick-up. You can eye the astounding numbers from 2015, including the chart-topping 1,969-pound "vanilla-colored whopper that clobbered the formidable field of gourd growing greats..." Truly, this is not an easy feat, neither the vine-tending, making-it-thrive part, nor the part where the grower gets it to Half Moon Bay in one smooth-of-skin, no-seedy-stringy-guts piece. To be astounded, charmed, and feel all that fall sparkle, be at the weigh-off or peek at the action here.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Halloween 2016 in Death Valley]]> Tue, 11 Oct 2016 12:09:05 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-450422088+%281%29-horz.jpg

YOU DON'T NEED TO VISIT... a town named after one of Santa's reindeer or a type of holiday cookie to have an excellent Christmas, and landing in Lovetropolis, USA on February 14 isn't necessarily going to send your Valentine's Day into the couple-cute stratosphere. The truth of it: Alighting in a place that happens to have a name that happens to in some way correspond with the date or occasion isn't a guarantee that all the good things of a holiday will be in the bag. But what if that place not only had the interesting, relates-to-the-holiday name and offered up oodles of atmosphere that only enhanced your experience of the holiday? Look to the edge of California, the one near Nevada, and...

DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, a massive expanse which may have the most interesting (and most macabre) name of any park or monument. It seems a natural place to gravitate to come Halloween and Day of the Dead, save for the fact that it is fairly empty, without rows and rows of neighborhood streets offering trick-or-treat opportunities. But what Death Valley does have is its sublime lunar beauty, and lots of it, and the long shadows of late October only add a spooky ripple to the spirit of the season. A spirit that will be observed at...

FURNACE CREEK RANCH... from Friday, Oct. 28 through Sunday, Oct. 30. There shall be the carving of pumpkins, there shall be a costume to-do for the grown-ups, and trick-or-treating? Well, hold onto your costume hat: The traditional event will take place in Death Valley (at the ranch, which will put a different spin on the door-to-door pursuit of treats). And as things wrap the day before Halloween, you can still get back home in time for the big night. If you meet up with neighbors on the street, will you brag to them how you spent the weekend before Halloween soaking in the phantom-y fabulousness of Death Valley National Park? The name absolutely evokes the holiday, but so does its beautiful emptiness, its fascinating, mysterious rocks and dry lake beds, and its otherworldly vistas.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/KBSB]]>
<![CDATA[Yippee Ki Yay: Western Movie Festival]]> Tue, 04 Oct 2016 21:15:34 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/219*120/ticket1.jpg

TO DESCRIBE THE ALABAMA HILLS... to a friend who has never visited the Eastern Sierra destination is to reach for words like "knobby" and "unearthly" and "sci-fi" and "dreamlike." In a state lush with spectacular, in-the-wild wonders, the Sierra-close expanse of rock formations stands out like, well, a particularly photo-ready rock formation ("a sore thumb" seems pretty small compared to a colossal group of stones, hence that choice). But we've all likely seen the Alabama Hills at one time or another, if we've watched a vintage Western flick or a more contemporary film (think the beloved B-movie-esque "Tremors," for one). For the area around Lone Pine, from the Alabama Hills up into the low mountains, has long been a primo place for Hollywood filmmakers to set up their cameras and booms. This fact is celebrated each fall in lovely Lone Pine as Western movie mavens, and aficionados of all things film, gather for a few days of screenings, drive-abouts, and general fall-like enjoyment just off the amazing attraction-lined Highway 395.

OCT. 7 THROUGH 9, 2016... are the dates, and if you saddle up and clip-clop for the area you can join a talk on how pulp novels became silver-screen stories, or watch a rodeo, or hop on a bus and take part in a tribute to cowboy stuntmen. Karaoke, breakfasts, and other get-to-know-other-fans to-dos festoon the line-up like so many rock formations lining a high desert road (yes, that was totally an Alabama Hills reference). Love Westerns, and gorgeous natural sights, but can't make the festival? The Movie Road — that's its memorable moniker — through the Alabama Hills is open all year long for lookie-loo-ing, weather permitting.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Whaley House: San Diego's Spooky Gem]]> Mon, 03 Oct 2016 21:29:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/whaleycourtesySanDiegodotorg.jpg

PICK ANY DAY OF THE YEAR... to visit the Whaley House in Old Town San Diego and you'll find an abode laden with tales from not just the last century, but the one before that. From Thomas and Anna Whaley, the first occupants of the home, to various children who made a life there, to its days as a granary, to its days as a school, to its empty days, when no voices rang through the halls, the Whaley has weathered the decades, with recent years finding it to be one of the city's best-known attractions. This is definitely due to its history, and its proximity to the strollable Old Town, but that the Whaley House is a frequently seen sight on a host of cable shows covering the supernatural also draws the guests in on a regular, phantom-seeking basis.

"MOST HAUNTED": It's regularly called "one of California's most haunted places" (and sometimes "the most" haunted, if you want to try to quantify the ethereal), which all leads to this: October stays busy at the handsome house, with a host of Halloween's-drawing-near must-dos that welcome both locals and out-of-town visitors alike. Those events include...

PAST & PRESENCE GHOST TOURS, and classic fright film screenings, to after-sundown tours, to a full slate of atmospheric happenings on Oct. 31. The Past & Presence Ghost Tours and Ghost Hunting Tours are scheduled for multiple dates, but if you want to see 1960's "13 Ghosts" you'll need to be there on Wednesday, Oct. 12. What will you see? Will you spy a character from the home's infamous past, or perhaps one of the students who attended school there back in the day? What of the lady of the house, or another spectral sighting that is harder to define (but definitely felt, according to the goosebumps on your arms)? If you've never been, October is a perfect, and bustling, time to call upon the Whaley. If you have been you know that its echoes and shadows lend credence to its reputation as one of the most haunted destinations to be found.

Photo Credit: SanDiego.org]]>
<![CDATA[Archives Crawl: A Trip to California's Past]]> Tue, 04 Oct 2016 08:00:29 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/DeltaQueen_TowerBridge_circa1936_CSH+%281%29.jpg

JUST ABOUT EVERY FRIEND EVER... has pulled out a family scrapbook or personal photo album at some point during a visit while asking you if you'd like to take a peek. The peek, of course, will be lengthy — poring over story-laden snapshots takes time — and the only answer you may give is a hearty "yes," which you would anyway, as you're a polite pal. But soon you're engrossed, and you're not only enjoying the photos but the ticket stubs, and theatre programs, and the other effluvia of daily life found within the album's pages. If you're the kind of person who could spend an hour or two with a box of old documents, pieces of paper that document a variety of long-ago events and topics, there's a day made for you, and it doesn't cost a lick of money: It's the annual Archives Crawl, and it includes interesting items from two dozen locations around Sacramento. This means you'll be steeped in California's bygone times, and if there's a period of history you especially take a shine to, you might focus on that rather than spending...

SATURDAY, OCT. 8... learning lots about the past. Of course, that has its pleasures, too, and you might find new treasures to soak in from the Folsom Historical Society or the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery or the California State Railroad Museum Library or one of the other info-packed, oh-so-fascinating spots on the roster. You're correct, October does happen to be National Archives Month, and the theme of the 2016 happening is "A Thirst for History." Look for "numerous special artifacts" on display during the day at a quartet of host locations: You'll find those at Sacramento Public Library, the Center for Sacramento History, the California State Library, and the California State Archives. (Update and important to note: Just these four locations are open for the crawl, though 25 different places and historical societies will be represented.)

IF INFO IS YOUR JAM, and you'll read every number and word on an old concert ticket, or school playbill, or whatever straight-from-the-past piece of paper that happens to land in front of you, a full-on Archives Crawl sounds as though it was created to sate your curiosity (or perhaps stoke it further). Think of it as a giant album, not belonging to a friend, but the state where you live, with all sorts of stubs and programs and photos covering a vast wealth of history. Soak it up, wander down fact-filled byways, and depart knowing more about the topics you favor (or having a fresh passion or two to later pursue).

Photo Credit: CSH]]>
<![CDATA['90s-Era #FlashbackFridays: Kimpton Cool]]> Sun, 02 Oct 2016 09:54:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/kimptonflashbackfridays123.jpg

#FLASHBACKFRIDAY... and social media do that whole pea-in-a-pod thing each and every week, but let's get to the heart of it: Some of us live in a constant state of Flashback Friday-ing, from what's on our playlists (and even how we play them, thanks to the cassette players and hi-fis we love) to how we dress (hello, babydoll frocks and zipper-bottomed jeans). Call it a state of mind, or an approach to living, or some zazzy combo of the two, but know this: #Flashback Friday revelers don't wait for a single day of the week to show their times-gone-by devotions. And if the decade just before this century was your particular jam, and you have a sweet spot for the '90s, and you've been looking for an overnight in San Diego or Santa Barbara, find your favorite wine-hued lipstick or denim vest: The 1990s are back, courtesy of a new package at Kimpton Hotels.

YOU'LL NEED TO STAY ON A FRIDAY, or at least make a Friday part of your visit, when you book at Hotel Solamar, Hotel Palomar San Diego, or The Goodland in Santa Barbara. What's the savings part of the deal? You'll snag 15% "off the best rate." Where do the '90s waltz into the proceedings? Courtesy of the classic candy you'll be handed at check-in, sweets and treats that may take you back to a time when you snacked before watching your favorite family-funny sitcom or riding your bike. An "exclusive, specially curated" Spotify playlist filled with favorites of the day will send you into a '90s-flavored daydream, while guests at The Goodland will be able to watch a '90s-iconic flick on Fridays (yep, "Clueless" is one of the picks). Do you still have your chunky platforms, your velvet choker, your Empire-waist sundress? Don 'em and book a stay now, which kicks off at $259. Will your #FlashbackFriday game be upped post-check-out? There's always room to retro one's retro-lovin' life even further, especially when a great decade is the reason.

Photo Credit: Kimpton Hotels]]>
<![CDATA[Dreams of Snow: Tram Contest Ahead]]> Sat, 01 Oct 2016 09:27:58 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/snowguesstrammtsj.jpg

SEPTEMBER AROUND SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA... has as many pretty prisms as a gem. The morning light is growing softer, pumpkin patches are springing up hither and yon, and caramel-apple treats are making their first stands at the local bakeries. And yet? The temperature can still put on its most August-y outfit, right when we were reaching for another apple muffin. That's been the case at the end of September 2016, a week that saw triple-digit temperatures throughout the region. It's almost toasty enough to make one forget we really are in caramel-pumpkin-apple time, and that snowflakes have a way of following (and falling, depending upon where you live). Blizzards aren't in the forecast for the big cities of California, but, as is tradition, the Mt. San Jacinto wilderness near Palm Springs will receive snow, and sooner than we realize. Which means this: The yearly Snow Guessing Contest at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway will open again, as it traditionally does, on Oct. 1.

DO YOU HAVE A SENSE FOR SNOW? Then predict, as best you can, when an inch'll accumulate at Mountain Station, which is the tram's tippy-top, up-the-mountain destination. ("Tippy top" here means 8,516 feet). If you are among the "first ten entries received with the correct date of snowfall" you'll pocket four Tram admissions, as well as "a special Tram gift memento." Get the info on where to submit, and perhaps study up on the history of the historic tram, which marked its first half century in 2013. When will those flakes hit? Before Halloween? Near Thanksgiving? Lick the tip of your finger, turn it to the wind, and do your best snow-based guesstimating now. It's a sure way to weather September 2016's summer-like blast for a few more days, knowing cooler temps are on the horizon (and, possibly, some winning Tram admissions, too, for you).

Photo Credit: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway]]>
<![CDATA[CAKE Expo: Del Mar Delights]]> Fri, 30 Sep 2016 22:07:37 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/215*120/birthday+cake.png

TRANSPORTING TREATS... is something that must be done on occasion. That is, of course, if we want to enjoy those bakery-made cronuts in our own home, or if we want to arrive at the picnic with a passel of cream-filled croissants. Getting a box of goodies from Point A to Point B is, in short, a must-do of modern life, but few transportable goodies are fussed over like a cake. For while we might stick a bag of cookies in our backpack for a train ride, or throw some bear claws in a box in the backseat, we often enlist a friend to help us carry a cake (and if that cake is a wedding cake, then a whole caboodle of companions will be tasked to participate). Why is this so? Is it because a cake is a larger dessert, and one that is more intricately frosted? Is it because a cake takes a little more effort, on the whole? Or is it because, simply put, cake dominates the dessert category? It shall definitely dominate Del Mar over the weekend ahead of Halloween, when the CAKE Expo spreads on the icing for two days of demos, tastings, and more.

OCT. 29 AND 30, 2016... are the cake-forward dates, which is ideal, since Mondo Baking Season (tm) officially kicks off on the day after Halloween. Look for several shopping opportunities (think decorating tools, pans, and such) and look for before-your-eyes instruction on all of the piping and spreading techniques. Will there be "hands-on work stations," where you may give your skills a go? There will be. If you're the kind of friend who gathers friends to help you pick up a bakery cake, then ponder spending a few hours with that most precious of sweets, in all of its you-can-make-it forms. Who knows if you'll leave with a superstar spatula you found or a dozen new skills? Cake is magical, as everyone who has ever wielded a fork near recently frosted layer knows.

Photo Credit: Birthday Cake]]>
<![CDATA[Re-Opening: Living Desert Hiking Trails]]> Sat, 01 Oct 2016 09:43:39 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/hikingtrailslivingdesert.jpg

A FALL OPENING: Modern conveniences like air-conditioning and heating units are often cited in the ability of attractions to keep a year-round schedule, but there are still places where the seasons, and their particular qualities, dominate. Think of hard-to-get-to mountain destinations, the kind of locations that receive several feet of snow before Thanksgiving, and think of arid expanses, where truly hot days are the norm for much of the summer. Desert-based spots sometimes observe an autumn-to-spring schedule, especially if such a schedule would make the visit an easier one for visitors. Look to the beautiful...

LIVING DESERT... of Palm Desert, which is both an animal park and a 1,200-acre spread that's full of hiking trails made for exploring (in fact, the bulk of The Living Desert is "undisturbed Sonoran Desert). Those trails are closed in the late spring, and they remain shuttered throughout the toasty summer days. But come the fall, when temperatures around the desert resort are beginning to dip, The Living Desert re-opens the rambling, vista-lush walkways to people who've paid entry. That opening date for 2016 is...

SATURDAY, OCT. 1: You'll want to read up on what to carry — water, yes, for sure — and what "loop" may suit you. The Inner Loop is the shorter one, at 15 minutes, but you can find longer outings in the Middle Loop and Wilderness Loop. Will you walk by an especially fragrant creosote bush? Will you spy a lizard or five? The desert flowers with delights, and autumn only enhances our peaceful, not-too-roasty experience there. Read all before setting out at The Living Desert, and make pre-hiking time to say hello to the the tortoises, and giraffes, and other inhabitants of the beloved park.

Photo Credit: The Living Desert]]>
<![CDATA[Condors Fundraiser: Big Sur Bash]]> Tue, 04 Oct 2016 13:27:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/CondorObserve.jpg

BIG SUR... offers so many pleasures that are simultaneously ethereal and earthly it is hard to know where to begin making a list. There are those bluffs and cliffs, the ones made of terra firma, the ones that also look as though they sprung from some sort of fantasy novel. It has redwoods, trees that stand before you, and yet their skyward reach seems impossible. And the California condor, a common but uncommonly beautiful sight, is a known Big Sur resident. This bird, too, is of our planet, but condors, with their size, their soaring abilities, and how they've come back from dwindling numbers, also could be both of this plane and of some mythological land, too. Of course, just because condors now number well into the 400s doesn't give any supporter a sigh of relief (there were but 22 in the mid-'80s). There is still work to do on the preservation front, and via programs that help the condors thrive in the wild. That's where...

FEATHERS IN FLIGHT... comes in, the annual Ventana Wildlife Society condor fundraiser. It alights on the nearest branch — or, rather, at Rancho Grande in Big Sur — on Saturday, Oct. 8, with a live auction, tunes played there, and views that could easily earn the handle "sweeping." The afternoon event also features "(u)nique condor-themed gifts," so if you're a maven of these mega vultures, you'll find a few items you may want to purchase. Tickets are $90 and the auction goodies are plentiful, including an overnight at Post Ranch Inn (that includes breakfast at Sierra Mar, a spot with huge windows and frequent condor sightings). Can't make the feathery fundraiser? Ventana Wildlife Society regularly leads tours to spots where these noble beasties congregate. Or, rather, spots where they might be observed, from a respectful distance. Your tour ticket, too, helps the arc of the condors' shared story, one that is still being told by those who work on their behalf, the birds' many fans, and, of course, the condors themselves.

Photo Credit: Ventana Wildlife Society]]>
<![CDATA[Craft Celebration at The Lodge at Torrey Pines]]> Fri, 30 Sep 2016 22:08:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/torreycraft19382932.jpg

WHILE THE HOLIDAYS... tend to have definite dates, from Thanksgiving landing upon the fourth Thursday in November to the mid-February showing of Valentine's Day, the start of the holidays are a little looser, in general. Easter festivities might kick off around the time the first flower buds pop up, while the end-of-the-year observances have a way of entering just as Halloween ends. But there's a way, just ahead of the holiday kick-off, to enjoy an array of elegant edibles that aren't about the traditional recipes of the close of the year, but rather local and sustainable foodstuffs. It's...

CELEBRATE THE CRAFT, and it happens mere hours before the final two months of the year move to high gear, a time when every food event seemingly has a connection to the season at hand. But the La Jolla event, which is at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, spotlights excellent local chefs, thoughtful preparation, and the mission of the Slow Food Movement, a movement all food mavens might keep in mind during the hectic holidays to come.

SUNDAY, OCT. 30... is the 14th outing for this culinary adventure, and, once again, the pretty, ocean-close Arroyo Terrace of the historic hotel will set the scene. Slow Food Urban San Diego is the beneficiary (a portion of the proceeds will go to the group) and attendees are the sated winners of the day, thanks to the plentiful "food tastings, wine, craft beer, and complimentary valet parking." A ticket to the daytime to-do? It's $135, and tax and tip are included. If you want to stay over at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, there's a package kicking off at $449. The holidays, and all of those over-the-top eating opportunities, are just ahead, so ponder pausing for a moment for a Slow Food moment, one that spotlights not the bigness of eating but rather the curated localness of the pursuit. 

Photo Credit: The Lodge at Torrey Pines]]>
<![CDATA[Central Coast Suds: SLO Beer Week]]> Fri, 30 Sep 2016 11:23:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/CraftBeerMcCurtain.jpg

PITTING CITIES... is not something we polite Californians like to engage in, as a general rule. We acknowledge that some towns have superb skiing (as opposed to desert burgs, which do not) and we know that the more arid and desolate destinations offer up incredible stargazing. Everywhere has a little something to offer, but then there are places like San Luis Obispo, which skips the "little something" and heads straight for "a whole bunch." The Central Coast city is regularly ranked on happy and laid-back charts, and its very nickname captures a feeling that bustling, traffic-filled metropolises would love to aspire to, in spirit. And another merit badge on SLO's lapel? It does beer really right, and makes mighty excellent eats that go well with beer. Maybe it is the SLO down feel that a harried person would like to experience for an evening while experience a nice IPA, or maybe it is that tangy, not-too-far-from-the-Pacific air. Whatever the case, know that...

SLO BEER WEEK... is on the October horizon, and with it? A number of foam-up, sit-back-y, SLO it right on down to-dos. Look for "a blowout party" to start the Oct. 16-22, 2016 run, a bash that focuses on "brewer collaborations." A documentary all about Golden State suds'll unspool at The Fremont on Monday, Oct. 17, while a Spiegelau Beer Glass Class & Tasting digs down into some of beer's hueful, mouthfeel qualities (color, aroma, body, and such). And is autumn the perfect moment in a perfectly autumnal town like San Luis Obispo? Well, we wouldn't dare go pitting seasons against each other, as each has their offerings. But an October evening in SLO, with something hopsy in hand, with a hearty meal at the ready, just about encompasses both fall's natural funkiness with the city's inimitable easy approach to life.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto]]>
<![CDATA[Pumpkin Cute: Bernese Mountain Dog Day]]> Wed, 28 Sep 2016 20:53:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/bernesemountaindog12345getty.jpg

FIDO MEET-UP: Not only does California boast hundreds of dog-related events, from adoption fairs to nighttime fundraisers to leash-up-your-Lassie 5Ks, but breed-specific soirees abound. There are the Corgi meet-ups in Southern California, the ones that happen on the beach, and Greyhounds gather each year in Solvang (along with their people). As for Bernese Mountain Dogs, those Alps-tastic, darling-of-demeanor, huge-of-paw sweethearts known for their intelligent eyes and let-me-on-your-lap ways? They also get their yearly party, and it comes with a bonus: pumpkins. If your own pumpkin likes to romp among the stem-topped gourds of fall, make for the pumpkin-iest place around a couple of weeks ahead of its planet-famous Pumpkin Festival. Yes, we're quite obviously referring to...

HALF MOON BAY, which is the home of Farmer John's Pumpkin Patch. Each year the patch hosts dozens of Berners and their humans for a day of hay-riding goodness and pumpkin-close snapshot opportunities. In 2015 "over 140 Bernese guests" attended the coo-able day out, and all Berner ages are welcome. It's a tradition, given that this is the 14th annual Berner bash, and it is all built on the love of dogs (and, of course, an affinity for being outside on a glorious autumn Sunday). Will you find the perfect pumpkin and purchase it at the Sunday, Oct. 2 to-do? Will you attempt to carve your Berner's visage into the jack o'lantern for prominent display on your porch? They're seriously cute pooches, and that goes for the Berners that grow to great heights, as they often do. They'll still be lovable lap sitters forever, and that's a fact. Best connect with others who share your outlook on this exceedingly charming hound.

<![CDATA[History 'N Halloween: The Haunted Fort]]> Tue, 04 Oct 2016 09:34:02 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/SFHauntedFort201412345.jpg

OUR GHOSTS, at least around Halloween time, don't often appear in jeans or sandals or scrunchies or the accouterments of modern, or semi-recent, life. We like our wraiths to show up sporting top hats and hoop skirts and breeches and boots with buckles. And when those wraiths cameo at a very historic spot, rather than a contemporary location that's been transformed into something that has an older appearance, well... bring on the shivers. One of California's best-known historic destinations is a state park, one with ties to both our capital city's story and the story of the Gold Rush. It's Sutter's Fort State Historic Park, and a stroll around the walled landmark on the sunniest summer day can leave a person heady with history and maybe, just perhaps, the sense that its former residents never quite said their farewells. It's in this spirit — wink — that the historic gem stages its annual fall treat each year, a two-nighter called The Haunted Fort.

IT'S POPULAR, a "crowd-favorite" per the park, and that it is only scheduled for Friday, Oct. 28 and Saturday, Oct. 29 means that you and your history-loving, haunty-happy pals best get on your road-tripping plans. You may (will) encounter "weary pioneers" and "restless spirits" on the 1800s-esque spread, as well as a crackling campfire and campfire-creepy tales. "Based in fact — but with a decidedly creepy twist," The Haunted Fort is appropriate for the big-of-britches and older young'uns alike (just make sure they're at least age 8). But will you hear the sound of a wagon and horses in the distance, even beyond the actors and campfire and other Halloween-y touches? The park is full of the past, and even a pre-Halloween treat can't fully cloak its highly atmospheric character.

Photo Credit: Sutter's Fort State Historic Park]]>
<![CDATA[Mondo Celtic Gathering in Grass Valley]]> Thu, 29 Sep 2016 12:42:39 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/KVMRCelticFestJamSession1.jpg

FAIRY GARDENS... have become a delightful feature in many backyards over the last decade or so, as more outdoor companies offer wee ceramic houses and bright stones alongside the expected plants and flowers. They aren't just for the young fairy fans, of course; creating worlds inspired by the tales of olde is a passion for many a lifelong lover of woodland-based wonder. But there's a real-life, fuller scale element to woodland-based wonder, and it alights in Grass Valley each autumn. It's the KVMR Celtic Festival, a three-day celebration that focuses on the sweet and timeless tunes of days long past.

AND TODAY, of course, for the playing of Celtic tunes isn't just about summoning the sounds from bygone eras. It's a vibrant calling, and lovely, and practitioners of the form, from The Elders to The Angry Brians to Ha'Penny Bridge will take to the stage to send fiddleful delight out to the attendees. Those attendees will also be visiting different areas of the gathering when not listening to music, from the Marketplace (where vendors purveying in flutes and hair ornaments and pottery and kilts may be found) to the Living History area (look for athletics, juggling, royal performers, and more). The emphasis of the area is more on this human plane, and not on the land o' the fairies, but the aforementioned woodland-based wonder will be on display, thanks to the tall-of-tree setting.

WILL YOU... find something for your own historic garden at home? Or simply delight in some dance-ready tunes that sound as though they were first played in a Dublin pub? It's a long-running, large-scale California Celtic celebration, and you don't even need to wave a wand to get there: Just make your way to Grass Valley from Sept. 30 through Oct. 2 (and read up on tickets, stay overs, and such before you go). It's the 20th anniversary, you should know, and "music and magic" are at the festivity's crown-topped heart.

Photo Credit: KVMR Celtic Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Oktoberfest at Camp Richardson]]> Mon, 26 Sep 2016 17:22:33 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/CampRichardsonOktoberfestcrowd.jpg

SETTING MAY NOT BE EVERYTHING... in a celebration, for the food and the drinks and the themes and the people (most importantly, natch) do their part to lend texture to a party. But where a festivity takes place, its location and surroundings, can do much to up the general atmosphere of an affair. Think of a Halloween buff turning an apartment into a castle for the night, or how a backyard might become Santa's workshop, at least for an hour or two.

CAMP RICHARDSON... Historic Resort and Marina doesn't need to do much in the decorating department, however, when it comes to its yearly Oktoberfest whoop-di-doo. It already has all of those tall trees, and alpine-y breezes, and lake-close buildings to give its falltime festivity a true feeling of the season. The aforementioned lake is, of course, Lake Tahoe, which lends each time of year some oomph, including, and perhaps especially, the early autumn. Thank the famous Kokanee salmon run for that, and thank the visitors turning out in lederhosen to participate in stein-holding competitions, which will again happen over the first weekend in October. That's...

SATURDAY, OCT. 1 AND SUNDAY, OCT 2, and the 22nd annual Oktoberfest will include a host of classic must-dos, from polka dancing to bratwurst eating to craft booths to the all-important showdown that finds dogs and their peoples gussying up in photo-ready costumes. Soon the snow shall be a-whirlin' in the peaks near the lake, and ski togs'll be seen on many flake fans. But for now, when autumn is at its mellow zenith, best find a stein to hold, and a pumpkin to buy, and a song to swing to, at one of the most Oktoberfest-y settings around.

Photo Credit: Camp Richardson Oktoberfest]]>
<![CDATA[Rock On: Morro Bay Harbor Festival]]> Mon, 26 Sep 2016 23:26:51 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/19710_morro-bay-rock-sunsetdiscovermorrobay.jpg

FICTIONAL PLACES... fill our books and movies, and yet there is a real-world spot, in California, which could easily be folded into a list of not-of-this-earth destinations. It's Morro Bay, which already has its pretty Central-Coast-ness going for it, but then... there's the Big Rock, the volcanic plug that sits steps from the shore, and has done so for eons (it isn't often one gets to truck out the word "eons" while on a weekend getaway, but Morro Bay visitors absolutely should, as it applies). The not-fictional, totally factual thing about Morro Rock is it is spectacular, and that it grandly serves as the backdrop to the annual Morro Bay Harbor Festival only ups its general photo-worthy cred. It's a cred that the rock doesn't have to prove or defend to anyone, seeing as it has been around for something like 22 million years. But the festival doesn't last quite that long, though it is marking its 35th anniversary in 2016, an impressive chunk of time among we humans. The party happens on...

SATURDAY, OCT. 1... from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and the ocean-y pursuits are plentiful. Chow down on BBQ albacore and chowder and oysters, listen to music, and cheer on on-the-water races. October is the start of National Seafood Month, too, and while festivals featuring salty savories will pop up along the coast, the Morro Bay bash is your first chance to dig into your below-the-waves favorites. And the galleon-grand replica the San Salvador is still in town, too, lending more regal backdrop-a-tude to the proceedings (as a cool complement to Morro Rock). Attending the festival? It's free. Soaking up the nearly fictional beauty of an ancient volcanic plug and a tall ship and all of the everyday quirk that Morro Bay does so very well? You could be around for 22 million years and never get enough of this Central Coast charmer. And that's not fiction — that's fact.

Photo Credit: Discover Morro Bay]]>
<![CDATA[Big Corn Horse Maze: Just Ahead]]> Sun, 25 Sep 2016 10:37:27 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/corn-maze-2015123.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Mission Inn]]>