<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Worth the Trip]]>Copyright 2017https://www.nbcbayarea.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area https://www.nbcbayarea.comen-usFri, 17 Nov 2017 11:41:06 -0800Fri, 17 Nov 2017 11:41:06 -0800NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[La Quinta Resort & Club: Vintage Holiday Package]]> Thu, 16 Nov 2017 21:39:45 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/ChristmastimeFrontlaquinta.jpg

RUNNING THROUGH THE STREETS... of La Quinta shouting "Merry Christmas, everyone"? That's up to you, if you're feeling that jubilant. But know that if you're reenacting the iconic scene that arrives near the end of 1946's "It's a Wonderful Life," the one that shows George Bailey realizing he's got a second chance, you won't have much snow to dash through. For La Quinta, which is just a short drive from Palm Springs, is a true desert burg through and through, one that enjoys vast blue skies and perfect palms and craggy dramatic hills and the occasional bighorn sheep sighting, too, but no flakes nor drifts nor snowmen. But Frank Capra's tender and timeless film does find festive play at La Quinta Resort & Club, the 91-year-old destination that was favored by Mr. Capra as a prime writing spot. The long-story-short bit? "Wonderful"-ness pervades the resort come the yuletide season, as does a bit of a wayback feel. If both elements appeal, consider booking...

A VERY VINTAGE HOLIDAY... package, which includes luxury accommodations for a night, a holiday cocktail when you arrive, a resort-themed ornament when you depart, and breakfast each day you're there, too. You can spend your days soaking in the sunbeams by the resort's 65-foot-tall Christmas tree on the Plaza or by one of the 41 pools dotting the expansive property or, let's be honest, both. As for the price the package starts at? It's $209. As for what's in the special seasonal sip? It's called the George Bailey, after the character so tenderly played by Jimmy Stewart, and it includes Bailey's Original Irish Creme, white Crème de Cacao, allspice liqueur, and a dash of gingerbread syrup, to lend the beverage a certain Bedford Falls-esque charm.

Photo Credit: La Quinta Resort & Club]]>
<![CDATA[Relax & Glow at Glen Ivy Hot Springs]]> Thu, 16 Nov 2017 21:39:20 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Glen+Ivy+Hot+Springs+2323.jpg

FOR EVERY ARTICLE FOCUSING ON HOLIDAY FUN, there's another that details what's in some of the seasonal foods we're eating or the stresses surrounding the giving of gifts or how the go, go, go during this time period can make us want to pause, pause, pause. It can all be a bit of a push, when November arrives, and while it is a push that comes with a lot of glee, and glow, and cocktails that include gingerbread syrup and/or eggnog liqueur, finding that place to pause, pause, pause is pretty essential. Maybe it is a hammock in your own backyard, maybe it is a friend's kitchen table, or maybe you need to call upon a famous hot springs destination for a day of silent soaking, contemplating the sky, daydreaming, and chillaxing to the extreme (and, no, the making of must-do lists, in your head, while soaking, is not advised). Glen Ivy Hot Springs in Corona is one such California classic, and it has a package on through November called the...

RELAX & GLOW: And how the deal works is this: Book two treatments — think massages, facials, and such — that are over $100 each, and nab a discounted admission to the outdoor pools dotting the property, and a robe for the day, too. Your Taking the Waters admission, as part of the Relax & Glow, is $25 for weekdays and $35 on weekends, and you can linger in the H2O all day long, when you're not called to your treatment appointments. It's on through Thursday, Nov. 30, but if you can't book this particular package, take note: Many fans of the 157-year-old destination do visit for some straight-up soaking, choosing the Taking the Waters option as their sole daily pursuit. For all Glen Ivy offerings, and for ways to soak away at least bit of the stress we so predictably seem to face come the most festive run of the year, click.

Photo Credit: Glen Ivy Hot Springs]]>
<![CDATA[Mountain Twinkle: Country Christmas in Julian]]> Wed, 15 Nov 2017 22:06:41 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Holidaylightsjulian-horz.jpg

SO YOU SAY THAT YOU PLOT OUT... every minute of Thanksgiving Day and Thanksgiving Eve? From the exact second the parsnips leave the crisper to when the turkey enters the oven to when the pie gets its walnut-caramel topping? It can be a precise, minute-to-minute undertaking, the hosting of Thanksgiving, a calling that its pleasures and its obvious stresses, too. And as rewarding as it can be, and as ripe for the making of memories (and the occasional cooking story gone awry), a person often seeks a little downtime after the turkeyiest day of the year comes to a close. Whether this is binging a TV series, or finishing a novel, or taking a mountain drive to see some early Christmas lights is up to the person seeking some well-earned R&R. If a drive into the hills in search of sparkle appeals, and you'd love it to happen not on the Friday immediately following Thanksgiving but on the Saturday, giving you a day of clean-up and napping, then look no further than...

FESTIVE JULIAN, which will once again stage its nostalgic and crisp-of-air Country Christmas in Julian on Saturday, Nov. 25. The centerpiece of the happening is the tree lighting, and it is a live tree, adding a nature-awesome texture to the to-do. It's all happening at Pioneer Park beginning at 2 p.m., but you can bet the shops in town'll be feeling that festiveness, too, so make time for a swing-through. And doesn't a traditional tree lighting go better with pie? Find your apple-y slice before sauntering over to Pioneer Park. After all, if you hosted Thanksgiving, then treating yourself, pie-style, is a very proper thing to do, as is savoring an easygoing day, up, up, up in Julian, during its oh-so-pretty Christmas kick-off.

Photo Credit: Country Christmas in Julian]]>
<![CDATA[Holidays Along the Sonoma County Farm Trails]]> Wed, 15 Nov 2017 09:44:23 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Tara-Firma-Farms-new-piglets-Nov2017.jpg

A DAYTRIP FILLED WITH DELIGHT: One glance around a fully decorated home or hotel lobby or other place of business tells an interesting tale regarding where we find our seasonal inspirations. For those pretty ornaments on the tree? They're often pine cones, or tiny ceramic birds, or squirrels made of felt, or other straight-from-the-forest critters or flora. And the centerpiece on the dining room table? There are berries, and twigs, and boughs, and lots of winter flowers, too. In short? Many of our decorative inspirations at the end of the year come straight from nature, and it is with nature that we connect again when the hubbub of the holidays gets to be just a tad too much. There's a way, beyond your pine cone ornaments and berry-filled centerpieces, to find that slow-it-down connection to animals and the rhythms of nature, and it is happening around Sonoma County from Nov. 18, 2017 through New Year's Day. It's the...

HOLIDAYS ALONG THE SONOMA COUNTY FARM TRAILS, and fans of "artisanal food, wine, beer, and cider" will find good things to try along the pretty byways of the region. Shopping for "handmade and home-grown items"? That's part of the multi-week to-do, too, as well as a chance to create the gifts you want to give. You can meet farmers, and perhaps admire a sweet animal or two, and get to know what life is like raising pigs or keeping bees or growing lavender or apples or Christmas trees. The cost? You'll find plenty of free activities and stop-bys, but you'll want to RSVP to let the people along the trails know you're coming. And the nicest part? "Your attendance will directly support our community and contribute to tangible wildfire relief efforts at participating destinations. #SonomaStrong #FarmStrong," reveals the organizers behind the nature-lovely, farm-to-heart happening. 

Photo Credit: Sonoma Farm Trails]]>
<![CDATA[A Very Capitola Christmas]]> Tue, 14 Nov 2017 22:21:32 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/215*120/CapitolaSanta.jpg

LET'S BE FESTIVELY FRANK HERE: If you were to keep an eye out for Santa Claus, and you happened to be chillaxing on Capitola Main Beach, would you A) expect him to cut through the clouds above, pulled by a team of powerful reindeer? Or B) would you look for Santa to pull up by a vehicle, perhaps an old-school Woodie that's been bedecked in wreaths and holly? Or C) would you keep scanning the surf with the knowledge that Mr. Claus knows La Vida Capitola very well and would honor the town's oceanic devotions by arriving on the waves? Truly, it is a bit of a toss-up, and it is pretty easy to imagine that Jolly Old Elf flying high with Cupid and Donner or rocking a really sweet Woodie wagon. But Kris Kringle and Capitola go way back, and when the legendary merrymaker arrives a few weeks ahead of Christmas he shows up in an outrigger canoe, with a surfboard at the ready. That will all happen in 2017 on...

THE FINAL SATURDAY IN NOVEMBER, so that'll be Nov. 25. Be there for his shore-sweet, noontime arrival, and then hang out for a bit should your tots want to chat with him about gifts and wishes and cake and such. No admission necessary — it's free, hooray — and the Capitola-Soquel Chamber of Commerce is the organizer for the noon to 3 o'clock treat. And stay tuned, if you prefer your H2O to be rather frostier than the ocean, for an outdoor ice rink is headed for Capitola Village from Dec. 15 through Jan. 7, 2018. Could you surf in the morning and pirouette in the afternoon? You could, yes. It would be a day of communing with water in its various forms, which might make for some deep contemplation while you're out circling the rink or hanging ten on your best board.

Photo Credit: Capitola Village]]>
<![CDATA[Catalina Island: Throwback New Year's Eve]]> Tue, 14 Nov 2017 14:47:55 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AvapmBayDusk_Xmas.jpg

HOW DO YOU TYPICALLY DO NYE, in terms of transportation? Do you cab it to a splashy ball, the kind that a swanky hotel might stage? Do you stroll down the block to your neighbor's place and hobnob with the people on your street, vowing to get together far more often in the coming year? Or does your New Year's Eve travel typically involve sauntering between the couch and the refrigerator in order to stock up on snacks as before the big ball drops in Times Square? We all call upon various modes of transportation come the final day of the year, whether that's a taxi or a designated driver if we're imbibing or our own slippers if we're keeping it cozy at home. But hailing a boat, as in a boat that heads out beyond a harbor and onto the open ocean? It isn't a plan that appears on many holiday itineraries. But it can be on yours, if you decide this is the year when you'll greet the new dawn of a new year and a fully fresh start on...

CATALINA ISLAND: It may be about 22 miles off the mainland, but this hilly, bison-beautiful burg can feel a world away, or a time away, especially when you're standing inside the historic and grand Casino Building. The ocean-overlooking Avalon structure will once again be the scene of a live-it-up New Year's Eve party, its 45th go-around at the Casino. Upping the whole "world away, time away" vibe will be the live sounds of The Xceptional Music Company, a Champagne split for each party goer, buffet dinner and dessert, party favors and hats, and a balloon drop when 2017 exits and 2018 sambas into the room. It's black tie optional, but people do get a little fancy, as taking a boat to a New Year's Eve bash is wont to make someone feel a tad posh for the night. A ticket is $185 a person, and they're on sale now. Keep in mind that you'll need to book passage to and from the island, and finding a hotel is a wise idea, too. Where to begin, Avalon-lovin' adventurers? Here.

Photo Credit: Catalina Chamber of Commerce]]>
<![CDATA[The Holidays at Park Hyatt Aviara Resort]]> Tue, 14 Nov 2017 17:26:28 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/parkaviara102923.jpg

GINGERBREAD STUDIES: As you wade through miles of ribbons and buckets of bows in the general direction of December, chances are very good that you'll see some gingerbread houses. You might come across the basic kits on store shelves or a fully realized house at the local community center or another spot where construction of the merry abodes is a common occurrence, like at a school or church. But actually picking up a few tips on how to put together a lovely candy-lined casa of gingerbreadian proportions? That chance doesn't come around all that often, unless you're at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf Club & Spa and you happen to have the hotel's "expert pastry team" guiding you through the cheerful basics, from gumdrop placement to frosting techniques. But the Gingerbread Class offered by the Carlsbad getaway isn't the only confection on the busy December 2017 calendar. There's also a...

TEDDY BEAR TEA AT PARK LOUNGE, which includes goodies and an appearance by the Peppermint Princess, who'll surely spin a few sweet stories during the happy happening. Also sweet? Kids attending the tea are "...asked to bring a teddy bear to be donated Rady's Children Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House." And if you're calling upon the luxe destination from Dec. 20 through 24, follow the aroma of roasting chestnuts, and stop for a few. If you're visiting earlier than those dates, note that toasty cider and cocoa will be available in the lobby from Nov. 27 through Dec. 27. And those gorgeous themed trees and wreaths adding whimsy to the lobby? There are several to admire, including one based on the ocean and another on Santa's Workshop. Visitors to the hotel lobby are invited to bid on the tree of their dreams, with the knowledge that money raised will go to showing support to local military families.

DO NOTE... that you'll want to reserve ahead of time for the Gingerbread Class, and the Teddy Bear Tea, too, and keep in mind that both happen on select dates, so consider lining up your Park Hyatt Aviara sojourn with the activity closest to your holiday-loving heart.

Photo Credit: Park Hyatt Aviara Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Yosemite Ice Skating: Epic Twirls]]> Mon, 13 Nov 2017 13:46:39 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/yosemiteicerink99283283823.jpg

HOW MANY ICICLES... form around Yosemite National Park each winter, from the tiny, pinkie-length formations to the massive pointy wonders that seem to be taller than a giraffe (or at least a person)? Could you count them all, if you tried? Well, that would be a definite "no," as in nope, as in no way, but what a whimsical cold-weather pursuit that might be. Still, the beloved Sierra expanse isn't without its whimsical cold-weather pursuits, and you don't even need to cover the meadows and waterfalls and further-reaching-est corners of various valleys to complete your mission, like you would if you were counting icicles. Rather, you just need to arrive at Half Dome Village ready to twirl and/or leap and/or pirouette and/or glide atop a sheet of ice, the sort of ice that fills a festive seasonal rink. That's right, in addition to being home to approximately 572 marvels, and 983 life-transforming sights, and nine thousand transportive moments, Yosemite Valley has its own...

ICE RINK: And it is due to open again, for its wintry run, on Wednesday, Nov. 22. It'll keep weekday and weekend hours during its run, which makes sense, since Yosemite itself is timeless and calendarless and need not concern itself with days of the week, and there will be some evening skating opportunities in the chilly mix, too. The price? If you're an adult, it is ten bucks to skate and four bucks to rent skates, while children ages 12 and under may skate for $9.50 (and, yep, skate rental remains $4 a person). Impressing any nearby wonders, like Half Dome or Glacier Point with your on-the-rink skills? You know, those ol' granite features don't clap and they don't nod in approval, but then they don't need to, having been around for eons, successfully, and all that. So perform that pirouette for your pals and enjoy an icy excursion in a national park that sees its share of ice. 

Photo Credit: Yosemite]]>
<![CDATA[Sweet: San Francisco SPCA Holiday Windows]]> Sun, 12 Nov 2017 08:48:18 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sfspca8.jpeg Calling upon Union Square this season? Say hi to the adoptable dogs and cats romping in the windows in front of Macy's.

Photo Credit: SFSPCA]]>
<![CDATA[Temecula + Your BFF: Oak Mountain Dog Day]]> Sat, 11 Nov 2017 16:10:35 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/oakmountainwinery123.jpg

RUFF, ER, ROUGH DAY? Your pup knows how you feel the moment you unlock the front door. Perhaps you get in your comfies, perhaps you take a bath, but the evening is likely going to end with you, a glass of wine, and your favorite tail-wagger draped across your lap. But our hounds are also perfect companions on the non-ruff, er, non-rough days, like those days when we're out doing something delightful, that appeals to our interests and speaks to our desire for sightseeing, adventure, and fresh air. Take wine tasting, for example, and the winery visits. Not every vineyard is open to pooches, but those that are? They go the dogly distance for their four-footed guests. And if you're thinking of taking your four-footed friend out for a winery day, and you're thinking of making it a Hump Day, because, yeah, it's kind of hump, then consider trotting for...

OAK MOUNTAIN WINERY... in Temecula Valley. It's a spot known for its canine affections, so much so that pups are permitted to enter the "Main Tasting Room, outdoor Pavilion area, Cave Terrace, and throughout the Vineyard." Making your Hump Day excursion with your pal all the more memorable? Your BFF will nab a Puppy Meal when you order an entreé in the Cafe Café, each and every Wednesday (aka Wag Your Tail Wednesday). If your little one isn't up for a whole meal, though, note that there are always dog treats in the Tasting Room. A place, by the by, where bottles of wine with dog labels are ready to be purchased. And any purchase of such a bottle means that some of the proceeds will help out animal groups in the area such as Animal Town Sanctuary and Cause for Paws. Woof woof? Oh yeah, woof woof: Hump Days and Temecula adventures and dog-fun outings just took a turn for the sweeter.

Photo Credit: Oak Mountain Winery]]>
<![CDATA[Free: Old Sacramento's Theatre of Lights]]> Mon, 13 Nov 2017 15:00:18 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Theatre+of+Lights+2015123.jpg

IF YOU'VE EVER LINGERED... around K and Front Streets in Old Sacramento, and taken in the vintage buildings, the ones from a couple of centuries back, you likely said something like "if these places could talk." Or you thought it, at least, because the walls and doors and windows of the district really have seen the generations go by, not to mention plenty of famous characters from our state's early years. The tales, then, do flower around the river-close, museum-filled area, and finding them is as easy as jumping into an underground tour in the summertime or calling upon a local institution for a look at a train- or automobile- or Gold Rush-related exhibit. But right around Thanksgiving? The tale changes up for a few weeks, all to tip a hat to the coming yuletide and all of the cheer and merriment it delivers. That's when Macy's Theatre of Lights, a multi-night presentation from "...the Old Sacramento Department of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership in cooperation with Downtown Sacramento Foundation (DSF), with the City of Sacramento and Old Sacramento merchants" sweeps grandly into the neighborhood. 

IT'S FREE, and with large-scale illuminations, and complementary music and sound, it presents "A Visit from St. Nicholas," or, as many of us usually refer to it, "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." But Clement C. Moore's iconic, know-every-word treat isn't the only part of the 20-minute performance; onlookers will also "(d)iscover how early pioneers experienced the calamities — and revelry — that befell the new city in the 1850s," with the exteriors of the surroundings "light(ing) up with color." The cost to see this unusual and historical and alfresco holiday presentation? It's free, as mentioned, but that's worth mentioning twice. Night #1 in 2017 is Thanksgiving Eve, the final evening is Christmas Eve, and while it won't run every evening, Theatre of Lights will glimmer on multiple November and December nights. Check out the schedule, then go Old Sac for a very 19th-century expression of the holiday, with some contemporary techno dazzle adding a hefty amount of wow.

Photo Credit: Sacramento Historic District]]>
<![CDATA[Hearst Castle: Holiday Twilight Tour]]> Fri, 10 Nov 2017 13:26:50 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/hearst092923.jpg

DECORATING THE DEN? Or the living room or the patio or the front walkway? People understandably put a lot of care and consideration into what baubles and gewgaws and figurines and wreaths and strings of bulbs they place, and where they place them. Even a balcony that's on the more intimate side, size-wise, can challenge the creatively minded holiday fan, when it comes to including a pot of poinsettias or some tinsel strands or a bit of both. Now just imagine facing a much larger canvas, one that's as big as, oh, Hearst Castle. This is no hypothetical we're suggesting here; the San Simeon structure is grandly festooned each holiday season, and how it comes together so tremendously, with such domestic dazzle, is a wonder. Cheers to the team behind the landmark, and cheers to those holiday mavens and history buffs who make the trek up The Enchanted Hill each November and December to see what some grand spaces look like in their firs and lights. 

THE 2017 DATES... for the Holiday Twilight Tour, which will take the place of the castle's usual Evening Tour over several nights, are live, and "(r)eservations are strongly encouraged." There are two November strolls, on Nov. 24 and 25, and several from Dec. 16 through the 30th (if you surmised that the tours would take Christmas Eve and Christmas off, you'd be correct). A ticket? It's $30 for an adult, $15 for a child from ages 5 to 12, and there's a service fee, too. As for the rooms you'll peek at during this magical, once-a-year, castle-riffic splendor? "House A (Casa del-Mar), the grand social rooms of Casa Grande, the Kitchen, Theater, Neptune Pool, Roman Pool, and the gardens." Those of us without castle-large abodes still face the delightful challenges of displaying our holiday treasures just so, and the rewards of our design choices still shine as brightly as any large manse. But peeking at a place of history and sweep with its over-sized trees and massive boughs is also an interesting pursuit, one that might even inspire our own ornament-hanging, tinsel-draping choices in the years to come.

Photo Credit: Hearst Castle]]>
<![CDATA[WinterWonderGrass Festival: Tickets on Sale]]> Thu, 09 Nov 2017 13:56:30 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/WWG+Day+2_8.jpg

A GREAT OUTDOORS MUSIC FESTIVAL? You can probably name some of the elements that help to make it stand out. A primo line-up of bands and singers, an assortment of quality vendors, some good, tum-pleasing vittles, and a few summer breezes, too. But while the first few things are always essentials, those summer breezes are not. True, a solid chunk of strummable, swayable, clap-your-hands spectaculars do have a way of popping up on the calendar during the warmer months, but there are a few frosty and cool, as in cool, as in you get us, festivals out there. One of the bluegrassiest ones around breaks out the fiddles and banjos and rootsy rhythms come early April each year, and if that has you thinking of the desert festivals, and how they're quite warm, pause instead to envision a tune-laden scene in...

SQUAW VALLEY ALPINE MEADOWS... from Friday, April 6 through Sunday, April 8, 2018 for the WinterWonderGrass Music and Brew Festival. The dates tell you the snowy story, for sure: There shall be white-capped peaks in the vicinity, and bundling up for your favorite band will be a wise idea. It makes for a bracing and beautiful weekend, and if such a mountain-fab outing tempts, best consider purchasing a ticket. They just went on sale, as of Nov. 9, and the line-up of acts is as bluegrassy as it gets. The Devil Makes Three, Railroad Earth, The Infamous Stringdusters, Elephant Revival, California Honeydrops, The Steep Canyon Rangers, and The Lil Smokies and Horseshoes are on the roster of some 25 acts (there are four stages in all). Are you feeling that alpine air, some crafty suds, and some pluckable ballads in your song-lovin' soul? Put this not-summer festival on your calendar, and put those tickets for the 4th annual go-around in your back pocket, soon.

Photo Credit: WinterWonderGrass]]>
<![CDATA[Monterey Bay Aquarium: Free Admission for Veterans]]> Wed, 08 Nov 2017 21:05:01 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/CTTC100318161932214visitcaliforniahub.jpg

WHERE TO GO FIRST... when you step inside a world-class aquarium? Do you saunter over to the area with the otters, especially since otters and the institution you're in are such a widely known pairing? Do you call upon the sardines, the thousands of wee swimmers that glide in perfect formation in a perfectly serene space above your head? Or is it all about the Open Sea area, which gives visitors a glimpse at what life is like miles out into the vast water? The choices are so plentiful at Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the starting point so challenging to pick, especially if you arrive wanting to see it all. But arriving at the Cannery Row-based destination on Veterans Day Weekend? There's a special quality to the moment, for the aquarium extends a show of gratitude to those who have served with free admission over three days. Those three days in 2017 run from Friday, Nov. 10 through Sunday, Nov. 12, so plan to call upon the region if it has been too long or you don't visit the stunning aquarium nearly enough.

DISCOUNTS FOR FAMILY MEMBERS? Tickets "...can be purchased in advance at participating bases," if you're traveling with a few of your nearest and dearest. As for who may gain gratis entry over the second weekend of November? Veterans, active-duty military, reservists, and retirees are on the roster. As for what might be seen inside the sizable building, after you've said hello to the otters and sardines? Feedings (hello penguin, otters, kelp forest, and Open Sea), a Mysteries of the Deep presentation, and Project White Shark, just to name a few to-dos. Outside of the aquarium? Keep the free electric trolley in mind should you want to scoot around the always bustling section of beautiful Monterey. It's a weekend of gratitude and reflection, making the aquarium an ideal place to be. 

Photo Credit: Visit California/Hub]]>
<![CDATA[Support Napa Valley: Meritage Resort Offer]]> Sat, 11 Nov 2017 16:11:27 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/meritagenapa028939232.jpg

HELPING NAPA VALLEY... after the fires that swept through part of wine country in October 2017? There are multiple ways to send money, give support, and show that you're firmly by the region's side. But one strong stance isn't very stance-y it all, if you think of "stance" as something that's still or immobile. The word is out that Napa Valley, and the rest of the county and Sonoma County and Mendocino County, would love to see you, and if that means a weekend at a hotel, a spa swing-by, a meal at a beloved lunch spot, or another outing around the area, terrific. Do it as soon as you can, after ringing or emailing to make sure the place you'd like to call upon is ready and eager to see you (stay positive). One Napa spot that is open, welcoming visitors, and contributing the the fire relief efforts is The Meritage Resort & Spa. The property is looking lovely, with fall's mellow hues tinging the leaves and yellow mustard, a Napa icon of the cooler months, making a show. To see all of this, and to contribute to the region's recovery, book the...

SUPPORT NAPA VALLEY... offer. It's priced at $160 per night — the usual price hovers around $200 — with "10% donation of your room rate" going to the Napa Valley Community Foundation. Moreover, if you're looking to buy some excellent cabernet during this highly cabernet-esque time of year, consider stopping by the property's Trinitas Cellars, where 30% will be donated to the foundation on purchases that include three or more bottles. More information, a peek at Meritage, and that give-back Napa spirit? Follow the colorful mustard and leaves and good vibes to the page with more information.

Photo Credit: The Meritage Resort and Spa]]>
<![CDATA[Roaring Camp Railroads: Holiday Choo-Choo]]> Tue, 07 Nov 2017 22:37:42 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/roaringcamplights2938923.jpg

PENNING A MISSIVE TO SANTA CLAUS? You might want to ask after day-to-day life at the North Pole in the opening paragraph, and then proceed to share a bit about your world. Have you had any recent adventures? Performed any good deeds? Made any wonderful wishes? All worthy of inclusion. Then seal it up, and prepare to take a ride through Santa Cruz, one that involves the rails and whimsy and beachy sights. For the Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train is ready to move forward, festively, beginning the day after Thanksgiving, but the rail-based roll isn't the only merry part of the whole. There's a "...North Pole mailbox just outside of the entrance to Neptune's Kingdom by the first car of the train," so you'll definitely want to have a note to Kris Kringle to drop in the enchanted box. And as for the Neptune's Kingdom part? That reveals another chapter in the seasonal train's story. It leaves from the celebrated...

SANTA CRUZ BEACH BOARDWALK, adding further excitement to the end-of-the-year outing. Want to take a spin on the carousel? Play a game? Eat something covered in sprinkles and/or whipped cream? You're just a short saunter away from the sand-close action. You may have enjoyed your fill of toasty cider aboard the train, though surely there's room, later on, for an ice cream or a Boardwalk-y bite. Other sweet features of the train ride? Holiday caroling, live tunes, and the chance to chat up Santa Claus. There are many avenues that give a fan of the most festive of times a chance to enjoy the season, but very few of those avenues come equipped with an actual ye olde train "...adorned with thousands of colorful lights." Day #1 is Friday, Nov. 24, the final 2017 date is Christmas Eve Eve (so, yes, Dec. 23rd), but do note: The Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train only runs on select nights. Choo choo choo in the direction of a ticket now.

Photo Credit: Roaring Camp Railroad]]>
<![CDATA[Vineyards 2 Villages Wine & Food Safari Weekend]]> Tue, 07 Nov 2017 12:11:53 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/215*120/v2vevent02932.jpg

SONOMA COUNTY... is packed with pretty vineyards and wineries, and many destinations are most definitely open for business and ready to say hello to longtime fans and future fans as November 2017 gets rolling. The larger region is working to heal following the fires of October 2017, but visitors shouldn't feel the need to wait too long for a revisit or a first-time swing-by, if they know a favorite SoCo winery or hotel or attraction is open. On the contrary, numerous places have the doors fully ajar, and in certain cases, major, three-day events are ready to take place as the eleventh month revs up. One of those happenings, the 3rd Annual Vineyard 2 Villages Wine & Food Safari, will alight at over 20 Sonoma County wineries from Friday, Nov. 10 through Sunday, Nov. 12.

IT'S A FUNDRAISER... with a dual purpose this year, one that will send support, love, and help across the globe as well as next door. Organizers hope to "...fund clean water infrastructure" at 30 schools in East Africa with proceeds from the weekend, as well as donate 50% of the money raised to the Active 20-30 Club, "...which will partner with us to fund longterm disaster relief efforts for children in Sonoma County that have been most devastated by the fires." How you can participate and help? 

PURCHASE A TICKET, which runs from $20 to $75, then choose what wineries you'll stop at for a tasting during the Safari. Kobler Estate Winery in the Healdsburg area, Spann Vineyards in the Sonoma-Glen Ellen nexus, and several more celebrated grape growers are on board. There are a few additional special events, like a Winemaker Lunch on Sunday, Nov. 12 at Fritz Underground Winery, that will further bolster the final tally raised. Oh, and "100% of all ticket sales go directly to support children affected by local wildfires and water projects at schools in East Africa." Information? Your ticket? All of the wineries? How to get involved? Here.

Photo Credit: Vineyards 2 Villages]]>
<![CDATA[Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival: Registration Open]]> Sat, 11 Nov 2017 16:17:44 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/morrobaywinterbird92323.jpg

GREEN HERON, SNOWY EGRET, American Bittern, Pied-billed Griebe, American Coot, Pink-footed Shearwater might be just a few of the birds included on your seen-around-the-shore master list, the one you keep on your phone or a piece of paper in your glove box or in a very special notebook, the one where you record all of your most excellent avian adventures. Even if you've seen all of those wing-gorgeous birds, though, and plenty more beyond, you know, deep in your bird-obsessed heart, that there are so many more fly-high wonders to spot, as well as those splashers that stick close to the water and waves. Where to go to find a caboodle of birds in one spot, or at least in a general area, one that is picturesque and Pacific-adjacent and known for its birdly visitors? 

MORRO BAY... seems an obvious answer, what with its primo coastal location on the Pacific Flyway. Hundreds of species further bolster this notion, for a keen-of-eye, binocs-raised bird buff might spy a dozen or two or more around the region over a single weekend. Look to the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival, which flap-flap-flaps, then comes in for a landing, from Friday, Jan. 12 through Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. "Over 200 species are usually sighted during the Festival weekend," a statement on the web site reveals, promising a pleasurable time for those watching the sky and waves. The 2018 schedule brims with several workshops and outings, including Bird Sounds Workshop, an Owling Workshop, Birding Fiscalini Ranch, a Bay Birding Cruise, and The Basics of Bird Photography.

REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN, as of Saturday, Nov. 4, so sign up and make your Morro Bay lodging plans. It's a busy yet peaceful way to enter the new year, especially after a frenetic holiday season, and very most especially if you're a Morro maven who does dig nature observation, bracing days in the sunshine, and an elegant Egret or Plover in the distance. Details? Flap this way.

Photo Credit: Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Garden Court Hotel: Silent Night Special]]> Mon, 06 Nov 2017 16:20:08 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/garden-court-hotel-july-2012-05531.jpg

ALL-OUT HOLIDAY HUBBUB? Many people really dig it. The music, the decorations, the little squares of peanut butter fudge that are way to easy to down while standing next to the kitchen counter, the people coming to stay for a day or three or five. It can be pretty darn fun, right through to the moment when you, the host, need a moment or an hour or a night on your own. When that moment arrives, no one can predict, but you can predict your limits on cheer, hubbub, and peanut butter fudge squares better than anyone. The Garden Court Hotel wants to help give those good souls housing bunches of visiting relatives a little peace and respite via its Silent Night package. As the name suggests, this is all about those revelers who are over the general hubbub and fudge and decorations, at least over it all for a day, and who definitely need a little R&R.

THE PALO ALTO GETAWAY... has a "special family package" every weekend over the final fortnight of November and the final fortnight of December, right when our lives are at their most hubbub-y. The rate kicks off at $249 a night, and a deluxe accommodation is part of the deal. As is a 2017 glass Tiffany & Co. holiday ornament and a pumpkin pie from Palo Alto Creamery. (Eat it there or return home with it, to the delight of all.) And if you stay longer than one night? You'll start to save more, in increments of 5% off (so 5% off on night #2, 10% on night #3, up to 20% on night #5). Of course, this is the sort of package that will appeal to guests as well as plum-tired hosts, too. If you're planning on visiting a friend or family member in the area for the holidays, but prefer your own nook, your Silent Night is just ahead. Hubbub and togetherness is as sweet as pumpkin pie, but so are those hours when we regroup, nap, and find our energy for another bout of board games, carols, or fudge-based enjoyment.

Photo Credit: Garden Court Hotel]]>
<![CDATA[Cali4nia Pass Deal: Save Now on Ski Fun]]> Sun, 05 Nov 2017 14:02:57 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/CTTC140813103204_1598.jpg

A WINTRY BLUSTER... is on the way for the peaks of the Sierra Nevada as November 2017 opens, just days ahead of Mammoth Mountain's big opening on Thursday, Nov. 9. If seeing reports from the mountains of snow, snow, and more snow has you thinking about securing a way to ski or snowboard often over the 2017-2018 season, take note: There's a deal on for the Cali4nia Pass. But there's a tick-tock afoot, too, meaning the special price will soon melt away, snowflake-style, for those who hem and haw. The headline with the deal? Prices on the pass, which opens up a quartet of Golden State resorts for "unlimited skiing and riding," will go up on Tuesday, Nov. 14. That's less than two weeks away, as November heats up, so best point your pole in the direction of the...

CALI4NIA PASS... online HQ. If you do decide to purchase ahead of the 14th, you'll save two hundred dollars on a 2017-2018 pass. That price? It's $849, which covers "...over 200 days of shredding this season." If you're reaching for your calculator, to see how many regularly priced days that price would cover if you paid for each visit, one by one, here's the word: Less than seven days in all, per the pass page. Will you hit the slopes more than seven days? Is that your commitment this coming winter? A gotta-get-out-more life goal? Then hook into a pass, pronto.

THE FOUR RESORTS... covered include Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain, Bear Mountain, and Snow Summit. As for some of the perks? "No blackout dates" seems like a good first thing to mention, as well as a heap of discounts and Bring-A-Friend offers. 

Photo Credit: Visit California/Carol Highsmith]]>
<![CDATA[Grand Grape Celebration: Yosemite Wine Time]]> Sat, 04 Nov 2017 06:51:36 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Recept_Vintners_2011_090.jpg

HOPING THAT YOU MEET A WINEMAKER... from the winery you're visiting? It's a wish that many an oenophile holds as they stop by a pretty vineyard to try the newest riesling. There's no mystery behind this dream: Lovers of fine vinos would adore hearing what the wine pro has to say on a variety of topics, including their own signature libations. But those who turn grapes into liquid enchantment are typically quite busy, and finding time to really hear from them on the subject matter they know best isn't always to be. But The Great Grape Celebration at the Majestic Hotel in Yosemite National Park is very much about carving out that important time between fans and makers, and has been for nearly four decades. The multi-session happening, which gives wine and food fans a chance to select from six three- and four-day sessions happening through November and early December 2017, has a cozy spirit, one that gives winemakers a chance to meet the fans and chat about every detail of wine craftsmanship and wine enjoyment. Session one is just ahead, from...

SUNDAY, NOV. 5 THROUGH WEDNESDAY, NOV. 8, and Shauna Rosenblum of Rock Wall Wine Co. of Alameda, Alan Cannon of Rombauer Vineyards of St. Helena, Ed Kurtzman of August West in San Francisco, and Hardy Wallace of Dirty & Rowdy Family in Winery are the four guests during the first happening. Several more winemakers and experts are to come, so see if your favorite label-amazing go-to is on the list. There's a lodging package, too, should you want to soak up all of those brilliant fall oaks and gloriously crisp Sierra breezes that Yosemite Valley has a way of delivering in November. All of the things that you'll need to get started? Raise a glass.

Photo Credit: Aramark]]>
<![CDATA[The Inn Above Tide: Complimentary Coloring Book]]> Mon, 06 Nov 2017 12:46:20 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Inn-Above-Tide-1588.jpg

A SURPRISE AMENITY AT CHECK-IN? Those didn't-expect-that hotel perks can truly can vary from property to property, but count on people always feeling a little frisson of delight when a fun welcome amenity suddenly appears. A guest might find themselves holding a voucher for a courtesy bike rental, or a complimentary glass of wine, or a candy bar that's made by a well-known confectioner in the area. But one whimsical, oh-so-rare perk is making a charming entrance at a Sausalito stay-over in late 2017, and it involves an activity that is nicely suited to a relaxing hotel overnight. It's a...

COMPLIMENTARY COLORING BOOK, and people arriving at The Inn Above Tide for a peaceful sojourn will receive one upon check-in, as well as a pack of colorful pencils to fill in all of those lines. And what do the lines within the book reveal? It gets local, and meta, and quite quaint quite fast: The coloring book depicts the luxury 31-room hotel giving out the coloring books as well as Sausalito, making the amenity about as specific and memorable a souvenir as souvenirs do come. The work of five area artists may be found in the pages of the book, with Lisa Congden, Christina Song, Bethanie Murguia, Abby VanMuijen, and Lindsey McCool Loegters all contributing lovely, fill-in-able illustrations to the offbeat amenity.

UNPLUG... on your Sausalito getaway and participate in an activity that's considered by many aficionados to be as de-stressy as creative pastimes come. So color those birds, bridges, and that pretty Pacific water as you hang out in your room, in the lobby, or on your outdoor patio, near the waves, the very waves depicted in the locally themed coloring book you received at check-in.

Photo Credit: The Inn Above Tide]]>
<![CDATA[Mushroom Foraging: Hopland Adventure]]> Fri, 03 Nov 2017 10:33:18 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/mushroomsaracina1938232.jpg

HOW MUCH MUSHROOM... can be properly crammed into an average November? That is the month, after all, when California-based fungi festivities begin to heat up, or rather, cool down, if you think about all of those mushroom-hunting treks that happen in the chillsome forests of our state. The eleventh month can, in short, tantalize, tempt, and, in general, heighten our already high cravings for morels, chanterelles, and the whole lot of earthy gems that make up the mushroom family tree. There's a mondo happening spread throughout Mendocino County over much of the start of November — it's the Mendocino Mushroom, Wine, and Beer Festival, which you surely know — and the fun extends into Hopland, where Saracina Winery will once again have a...

MUSHROOM FORAGING AND GOURMET LUNCHEON... to-do on the schedule. It's all sprouting in Hopland on Saturday, Nov. 11, from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 in the afternoon, and the rundown is as follows. First up? You'll "(e)xplore the hills of Saracina Ranch with Owner John Fetzer in a hands-on class in the art of foraging for those sought-after fungi." If learning, walking, pausing, and basking in the (fingers crossed) sunshine stokes your appetite, hang tight: A four-course meal will follow at the party barn, and you can bet mushrooms are the savory stars, and you can bet Saracina vinos will be in the glasses, too. A bonus? Eric "Mushroom Man" Schramm will talk wild mushrooms, as in what you can do with them and so on and so forth and so succulent and so delicious and mmm... wild mushrooms.

TICKETS FOR THE AUTUMNAL OUTING... are $100. Keep in mind that the online registration wraps up at midnight on Nov. 8.

Photo Credit: Saracina Winery]]>
<![CDATA[Sonoma Wine Country: Holiday Open House]]> Wed, 15 Nov 2017 22:05:22 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Cranewingssonoma.jpg

AN OPEN HOUSE... is just about the most blitheful of all happenings. While other events have their ups and downs — a dinner party may produce an underwhelming roast, while a movie night may feature a yawner of a flick — open houses are just about hearty hellos, lively conversations, and the joy of not overstaying. They happen in our neighborhoods, yes, but businesses also stage open houses quite regularly, all to meet new customers and say hi to regulars. And, come the holidays, you're bound to find a quality open house scene around your favorite wine country, for vineyards are eager for visitors to stop by, try the latest merlot, and get better acquainted. As is tradition, the Heart of Sonoma Valley Winery Association will hold a Holiday Open House weekend just after Thanksgiving wraps, giving everyone a chance to get out of the kitchen, and into spectacular SoCo, on Saturday, Nov. 25 and Sunday, Nov. 26. 

PARTICIPATING WINERIES? Count up, up, up to 16, and then begin to name them all off, one by one: Valley of the Moon at Madrone Estate, Manzanita Creek Winery, and several other regional gems are on the list. Getting out and supporting the winemakers of the area following the fires of October 2017 is at the top of many an oenophile's list, and swinging by an open house or two or five, with your designated driver in tow, to buy a few bottles of something sparkly or sweet for an upcoming holiday feast, fits the "supporting" part of the equation well. Speaking of your designated driver? That ticket is ten bucks ahead of time, while a Weekend Pass is $45, per person, in advance. More information, more wineries, more Sonoma County, more come in, come in convivialness? It's all right here.

Photo Credit: Eric Luse]]>
<![CDATA[Candlelight Walk: Redwoods by Night]]> Tue, 07 Nov 2017 22:31:39 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/candlelightwalkprairiecreek.jpg

HOW DOES THE SUNSET LOOK... from the upper reaches of a redwood? Only the birds and critters know, and the redwoods, too, but just because we humans can't zoom hundreds of feet up to the very highest limb of a giant tree doesn't mean we can't connect with the beauties of twilight in the forest from our spots down on the ground. That's just what will happen at the annual Candlelight Walk at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park over the first weekend of December 2017. It's a fundraiser for Redwood Parks Conservancy, an organization that has a stirring "...mission... to foster understanding, enjoyment, and stewardship by providing support to our partner agencies — the National Park Service, California State Parks, U.S. Forest Service, and the B.L.M. at Headwaters Forest Reserve — who are entrusted with the care of northern California's public lands." To support the conservancy as they support these agencies, purchase a ticket to the...

CONTEMPLATIVE EVENING EVENT, which will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 1 and Saturday, Dec. 2. This "very popular event!" does fill up fast, and as tickets were made available on Wednesday, Nov. 1, those interested in attending should decide soon, and well before Thanksgiving, if that's how they'd like to start December. What will you find among the ferns, chirps, and breezes? Some 400 luminaries lining pretty pathways, plus a silent auction, a raffle, and a few tales told, too. Consider that the twelfth month is typically painted as the most hectic stretch on the calendar, and consider how true that portrayal can be. Choosing to greet December with a quiet stroll among the venerable, branch-beautiful denizens of the park might be the perfect way to calm the month before it even truly begins. Tickets are ten dollars each, and you can find information about Friday tickets here and Saturday tickets here.

Photo Credit: Redwood Parks Conservancy]]>
<![CDATA[Little River Inn: Mushroom Mania Deal]]> Wed, 01 Nov 2017 19:44:39 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Golden+Chanterelle+Stroganoff+-+Photo+by+Aubrie+Pick.jpg

THE START OF NOVEMBER? Many fans of pumpkin-flavored goodies and haunting costumes begin to stow the decorations and delights of earlier fall, while others start to look to Thanksgiving, and the close of the year, for direction on what to cook and where to go next. But the days following Halloween have a different sort of hold on many Californians, especially those people who dig a panache-tastic chanterelle, or marvelous morel, or a zingy truffle. Mushroom time is springing forth, like a promising cap seen pushing through the forest floor, and the primo place to be is Mendocino County. That's where the Mushroom, Wine, and Beer Festival takes place each November, and numerous restaurants, hotels, and destinations get in on the chewy, big-of-taste, perfectly sauteéd fun. The festival is ready to slice 'n dice the good stuff once again from Friday, Nov. 3 through Sunday, Nov. 12, at a host of spots, from Hopland to Fort Bragg to Little River. If you're looking to spend a day supping about, consider bedding down at the...

LITTLE RIVER INN, which is offering a Mushroom Mania rate during the festival. A Seaside Luxury Room is $279 (the savings is fifty bucks), while an Ocean View Deluxe Room is priced at $215 (you'll save $40). And find your way to an Ocean View Gas Fireplace Room for $165, and pocket the $30 savings. Asterisks? There are a few, including a two-night minimum and a Sunday-Thursday stay. Keep in mind that you won't have to go far for the Annual Mushroom and Belgian Beer Dinner, helmed by Chef Marc Dym, on Friday, Nov. 10: It's at the Little River Inn. For the full (and that's very, very full) roster of mushroom-related goings-on around the region over the week-plus celebration, cease dreaming of mushroomy stroganoffs and morel-packed omelettes for a minute and pore over the festival site.

Photo Credit: Aubrie Pick]]>
<![CDATA[#RedwoodsFriday Launches: Free Day-Use Passes]]> Sat, 04 Nov 2017 06:54:14 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/PrairieCreekRedwoodscalstateparks.jpg

THANKSGIVING HAS ITS PLENTIFUL JOY MOMENTS, from the hugs shared by family members and friends, to the traditional dishes we only eat once a year, to the chance to hang out on a weekday while devouring pie at regular intervals. One of those holiday-specific pleasures, for many people, has to do with the snugness of Thanksgiving. That snug-a-tude may be expressed by crowding around a cozy table with treasured cousins or hanging out in a packed kitchen as you catch up on what's been happening with everyone. If you love to revel in the snug aspects of Thanksgiving, but always find that you awaken the next day needing some space, quiet, and whatever the opposite of that feeling is, just gaze outside, or even head outside, for a lung-filler of a breath, and some sky, and some air. The Save the Redwoods League and California State Parks have teamed up for the third year in a row. The goal? To make the day following Thanksgiving a little easier for many Californians, thanks to a limited-time offer of...

FREE DAY-USE PASSES... specifically created for visits happening on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. The magical places the #RedwoodsFriday pass encompass? "(M)ore than 40 redwood state parks," yessiree, and if you're hoping that Big Basin or Calaveras Big Trees is on the list, your hope shall be answered in the affirmative. The pass giveaway is definitely a "first come, first served" sort of deal, do note, so hop on it ASAP if you want to commune with some of the tallest trees on earth on that particular Friday. Where better to continue the flow of gratitude inspired by the holiday then in a glorious grove of gorgeous arboreal wonder? Best get all the info, and that most excellent free pass, before they're gone, gone like the briefest breeze that flits through the canopy of tippy-upper redwood limbs.

Photo Credit: California State Parks]]>
<![CDATA[Death Valley Encampment: Travel Back with the '49ers]]> Wed, 01 Nov 2017 16:58:15 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/encampment49ers1234.jpg

TALES OF THE GOLD FIELDS? Californians know them well, whether they learned about them in school, or on a documentary series, and while driving along Highway 49. We know the names of all the major figures of that boom-big era of our state's history and we know about its glittery-gold draw, the lure that drew thousands upon thousands of hopeful souls looking to make a memorable strike. Revisiting their travels, and how some got stuck, and how some turned back, and how others plugged on to the area in and around Sacramento and Placerville is a fascinating exercise, one that is made even more interesting when costumes and tales and a stunning setting is involved. And if that stunning setting is inside...

DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK? We must be talking about the annual Death Valley '49ers Encampment, a week-long event that includes a multitude of happenings both for the '49ers and those visitors who want to dip into the historical activities for an hour or a day. The Encampment includes Historical Character Reenactments by Steven Hale, and educational talks, too, if you want to delve into how people headed for the gold fields fared along the way. But the week has other doings, like an art show, a fiddling & picking contest, gold panning, a pioneer costume contest, and more. It's all fiddling, picking, and panning around Furnace Creek from Sunday, Nov. 5 through Sunday, Nov. 12, making it one of the liveliest moments in Death Valley (true, a lively place in many beautiful ways, but a place that's generally more silent than not). 

READY TO TRAVEL BACK... to time around 1849, in a region that's not the western foothills of the Sierra? It's another slice of knowledge-filled fun for those students of the Gold Rush, but one with a definite desert vibe.

Photo Credit: a]]>
<![CDATA[Napa Valley Film Festival: Moving Forward]]> Sun, 05 Nov 2017 08:25:02 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/nvffscreenoutdoors.jpg

SO MANY WINE COUNTRY CELEBRATIONS... spring forth, like a bunch of beautiful grapes or a showy clutch of leaves on the vine, in the fall. But many area happenings were postponed or canceled, quite understandably, in October 2017, which saw a host of devastating fires throughout the region. People around Napa and Sonoma Counties, as well as points beyond, pondered if some of the larger events of later fall would continue, and, if so, if the schedule or dates would be impacted. Moreover, how those events could reach out and help those impacted by the fires was also taken into consideration.

ONE OF THE BIGGEST... of the fall festivities, the Napa Valley Film Festival, put out the word on Oct. 18 that "(o)ur festival footprint is intact" and that "(a)ll of the 120+ films and filmmaker Q+As, culinary demonstrations, wine tastings, special events will take place as planned..." during the Wednesday, Nov. 8 to Sunday, Nov. 12 gathering. So the request has gone wide and it is heartfelt: Come to the valley, arrive early if you can or stay a day or two after, revisit a favorite stay-over spot or restaurant, enjoy the movies, and support those who live around the area as they recover from the impact of the fires. The Napa Valley Film Festival, one of the starriest in the Golden State, is on, in short, and it is ready to welcome visitors.

HOW TO HELP... as you plan to attend? Buy a pass to the festival. Ten percent of all passes sold will go to the Napa Valley Community Foundation's Disaster Relief Fund (details here). Also a wonderful gesture on behalf of the festival's organizers? NVFF is "...offering 1,000 free tickets to those impacted by the fires." 

WANT TO KNOW MORE... about what's screening, where, and when? This is a fine starting place, for you'll want to line up your watching pursuits, and your eating pursuits, and your hobnobbing pursuits before going N.V. over the second weekend in November. As for the celebrities in town? Comedian Will Ferrell will be a 2017 honoree, as will director Nancy Meyers and actor Michael Shannon, just to name a few. Know your dates, times, and venues for this ever-expanding, well-attended, and well-regarded cineparty, one that is already raising money to help its neighbors, friends, and fans.

Photo Credit: NVFF]]>
<![CDATA[Harvest on the Coast: SLO Wine Time]]> Mon, 30 Oct 2017 21:36:55 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/harvest17-main-logo.jpg

THE HARVEST WINE DOWN, er, wind down, is full of time-honored rituals, stirring spoken tributes and commemorations, and many winemakers who are ready to contemplatively gaze back upon a hectic few months. How the wine down — we mean wind down, of course — unfurls, however, is very much dependent upon the winery or wine country in question. Some spots are ready for a brief and well-earned respite, while other vineyards are already pushing straight into the holiday events and ho-ho-ho-themed marketplaces. It's never a once-size-fits-all kind of thing, the end of harvest, but if you were to swing through SLO country, 'round about the start of November, you might find some revelers sipping a piquant pinot not far from the beach, all to grandly mark the closing of the 2017 harvest-time door. This isn't just a gauzy picture we're attempting to paint here; it's really going to happen, at...

HARVEST ON THE COAST: The three-day affair — it beams like sunshine from Friday, Nov. 3 through Sunday, Nov. 5 — will include Crafted on the Coast, a "collaborative winemaker dinner" on Friday, Surf's Up Sunday to round it all out (think deals and tunes at various tasting rooms of SLO Wine Country members), and the marquee event, the Grand Tasting and Wine Auction on Saturday. There shall be "artisan foods" and hard-to-find vinos and, of course, tastes you'll likely talk about, at length, with those tasting alongside you (if talking at length about a single sip of wine is your particular jam). For tickets and info on the Pismo-perfect, Avila-awesome, SLO-rockin' end to harvest, click.

Photo Credit: Harvest on the Coast]]>
<![CDATA[A Very Solvang Halloween]]> Tue, 31 Oct 2017 08:00:48 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/CTTC09111717300715-horz123.jpg

THAT SOLVANG SPARKLE, the quintessential twinkle we often associate with one of the country's most Christmas-tastic towns, takes on a more atmospheric glow around the end of October. You might even describe it as the kind of glow that emits from a jack o'lantern, the flickering of a small candle inside a gourd. That's because the Danish village pauses each year to find its Halloween spirit, and it doesn't look far. That's because the Solvang Festival Theater regularly puts on a production that summons some of the spookiness of the occasion, while outside a Street Fest welcomes revelers in costume. The 2017 production is on for Monday, Oct. 30 and Tuesday, Oct. 31 and its name? Beware...

"THE CURSE OF SKULL MOUNTAIN": Prepare to face "(t)wo terror-ific nights through abandoned gold and silvermines, a miner camp, the Old West town, and more." The production gets a bit kid-friendlier earlier on each evening, from 6 to 6:30, so keep that in mind if you have tots in tow. An adult ticket is $11, a ticket for a child ages 13 and under is $9, but do arrive with a bit of extra cash as food will be for sale at the Street Fest outside. If you do prefer Solvang's sparkle to that pumpkin-y glow, hang tight:

JULEFEST... is jingling this way, with its the popular tree lighting starting the celebrations off on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017.

Photo Credit: Visit California/Getty]]>
<![CDATA[Mendocino Magic: Festival of Lights]]> Mon, 30 Oct 2017 13:55:14 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/FOLDragon1.jpg

THE FANCIFUL FACT... of the matter is this: A lot of people are looking for some enchantment around the holidays. We don't necessarily need to board some shimmering cloud and fly off to a storybook castle, nor do we require time travel, good luck spells, or a lucky toad to befriend us (though, let's be honest, all of those things would be flat-out fabulous). What we are seeking, though, are those moments, places, and experiences that whisk us away from the day-to-day, at least for an hour or so. Twinkly light displays have a way of upping the whimsy of everyday life, thanks to their instant ability to set a meditative, be-at-peace mood. If "meditative, be-at-peach mood" also summons the ocean to your mind, and lingering at the beach, take heart: There's a place not far from the surf that's going the sparkly route over several nights throughout late November and much of December. It's the...

MENDOCINO COAST BOTANICAL GARDENS, just a couple of miles south of Fort Bragg, and it will be awesome aglow each Friday through Sunday from Nov. 24 through Dec. 17, 2017. If you know this spot you know that it is quite near the waves, giving it a coolness that not every plant-filled stretch can claim. That means fun bundle-up time as you stroll among the glittery seasonal displays set up throughout the gardens. As for what you'll see? The Succulent Garden will take on an oceanic look, the Heath and Heather collection will include a "sailing brig" of sorts, and the pathways will be lit to encourage sauntering about. A get-warm tent, hot cocoa, hot cider, and other treats away. Plan on Mendo-ing it before the holidays? You'll want a ticket to this charmer of an outdoor bon bon, so get yours right away.

Photo Credit: Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens]]>
<![CDATA[Safari West: Reopening Dates Announced]]> Sun, 29 Oct 2017 08:21:36 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/safariwestmother1.jpg

WANTING TO SUPPORT... the places we hold dear around Mendocino, Sonoma, and Napa Counties? The longing is there, as is the readiness to return as the businesses we've frequented for years begin to reopen. Now fans of hotels, wineries, and other destinations are waiting for those businesses to send out the call, the call that says visiting hours are back on following weeks of closure due to the devastating fires of October 2017. One well-loved destination that has kept its followers abreast of what's happening, almost day by day, is Safari West. The Santa Rosa animal park is known for its informative, photo-cool safari tours, its festive holiday happenings, and its special overnight tents that give people who adore giraffes, gazelles, and antelopes to the opportunity to bed down in the general vicinity of the glorious beasties that call the preserve home. It remains shuttered as October comes to a close, but the most recent posting on Facebook trumpets "We're making progress!" A couple of new opening dates have been revealed on social media, dates that reveal when fans may once again commune with the cranes, cheetahs, and all of the lovely (and safe) denizens of the park.

NOVEMBER 20... is slated as the date for the popular safari tours to return, while the Safari West Tent Camp will again welcome overnighters on March 1, 2018. "While our property is currently safe, the surrounding area is not and we have many road closures blocking our property from visitors as well as extreme air quality issues," states the most recent fire update on the Safari West web site. Have a desire to help those who help the animals, day in and day out, as you await Safari West's reopening? A pair of GoFundMe campaigns have been set up to aid those Safari West staff members who lost their homes in the fire.

Photo Credit: Safari West]]>
<![CDATA[Indio Tamale Festival: Delicious December]]> Mon, 30 Oct 2017 21:09:10 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/75287822.jpg

THERE'S A LOT OF LUSCIOUS LORE... surrounding what we eat on the first day of the new year. Every dish — scratch that, every new ingredient — carries some importance or a story, and all the tidbits we devour during the day and night on the first of January are said to have some influence on our months to come. But what about starting off a month in the same way? Shouldn't each fresh page on the calendar come with a little cuisine-based magic? And, if so, isn't December the foodie-iest, most enchanting month of all? If you're nodding your head, or patting your belly, or pondering what plateful happening this is all leading to, consider this: the Indio International Tamale Festival is the perfect and savory and perfect starter to the most suppable stretch on the calendar. True, we said "perfect" twice, but we are talking about tamales, and some of the most magnificent tamale artists around. And they'll soon gather for...

TWO DAYS OF TAMALE YUM: This means, for those who attend, a whole bunch of tamales to try, from carnitas to calabacitas to straight-up sweet corn to those tamales that go best with tart salsa or a rich mole. A carnival, a beer garden, an interactive art area, a car show on Saturday, and an area for the kids to play? All part of the joy, as are the contests, which include a Best Tamale Contest and, you got it, a Tamale-Eating Contest, as well as a Best Tamale Flavored by Tabasco Contest. Is this how your delicious December should open in 2017? And in every year to come? Be in the Coachella Valley on Saturday, Dec. 2 and Sunday, Dec. 3 for a true cornucopia of corn-based bites.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Fuzzy Wonders: Coarsegold Tarantula Festival]]> Fri, 27 Oct 2017 17:23:47 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/tarantula-portada.jpg

MORE "AWESOME" THAN "EEK": Tarantula buffs know that the large arachnids dear to their hearts can get a pretty unfortunate rap sometimes. After all, something that's quite sizable, and hair-covered, and boasting many legs, has a way of giving someone a jump, even if that many-legged beastie is just trying to scurry on his way with no drama, no confrontation, and no quibble. And while we see tarantulas on a host of decorations around the end of October — they commonly hang from various ceilings, in paper form, though finding rubber tarantulas sitting on the table holding a party's punch bowl is not uncommon — we don't spy them very much, if at all, out in nature. They're in their burrows for a good deal of time, and when they crawl on out, seeking the perfect partner, they're not eager to scrap with any people, regardless of what spider-themed films may tell us. This makes them a popular critter with many humans, humans who shall scurry for the...

COARSEGOLD TARANTULA FESTIVAL... in Gold Country. It's crawling toward the historic town on the final Saturday of October 2017 — that's Oct. 28 — and the activities are all free to join. Look for a Tarantula Poem Contest, a Hairy Leg Contest (for the people in the crowd, not the arachnids), and other pre-Halloween high jinks, from pumpkin decorating to a Best Pumpkin Dessert Contest. The 20th annual get-together is dubbed the Tarantula Awareness Festival, and learning more about this wee beings is a positive for people and the critter contingent alike. Plus? Gold Country, all year long but especially in the fall, is a delight, through and through. Need more info on this sweet and not-scary celebration? Scurry in this direction.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe Opens: Snow Hello]]> Fri, 27 Oct 2017 18:14:51 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Sunny_Spring_Chill_Credit_Mt.RoseSkiTahoe.jpg

"IT SOMETIMES SNOWS IN OCTOBER": Ask anyone from a mountain town known for its flake-fabulous scene when the first snowfall happens. More often than not, October will be cited, as in late October, as a time of year when the first drifts can make a welcome cameo. That doesn't always happen, of course, and mountain mavens are often left holding their boards as they trudge on into November, awaiting word of snow. But lovers of Lake Tahoe's ski scene, which is oh-so-big and incredibly slope-tastic, can pull out the ol' Octoberisms, for...

MT. ROSE SKI TAHOE... debuted for the 2017-2018 season on Friday, Oct. 27. Was pre-Halloween skiing on your wish list? Consider that wish granted. The base elevation is 8260' feet, after all, which pretty dang high and mighty chilly, even before the hauntingest holiday arrives (Mt. Rose is billed as Tahoe's "highest base resort," yep). The resort will also be open on Saturday, Oct. 28, too, with the Wizard Lift providing the up-the-hill action from 8 in the morning to noon. It's a "Halloween Treat Opening," for sure, but best keep an eye out for when the slopes are fully cooking, er, chilling, which will surely be soon. No future dates are listed beyond Oct. 28, but you know those are coming down the cold pike and fast. After all...

NOVEMBER IS NICE... for icy-fun outings around the ski destinations of the Sierra, even if a pop-up October ski day does make a welcome and somewhat surprising appearance, now and then.

Photo Credit: Billy Jesberg/Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe]]>
<![CDATA[Nick's Cove: Santa's Arrival + Toy Drive]]> Wed, 15 Nov 2017 10:55:26 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/santatomalesbaykelliedelario.jpg

WHAT ARE SOME OF SOUNDS... one hears around Tomales Bay? "Waves gently lapping" seems like an excellent first answer, and "oars dipping into water" absolutely fits here, too. As for the occasional chatty loon or goose or duck? Migratory birds do frequent the area, so eavesdropping upon their interesting bird-to-bird chitchat as they pass overhead is a common occurrence for Bay-side visitors. But if you're near the water's edge around the beginning of December, and you think you hear sleigh bells, or some ho-ho-ho-ery, well, your ears might be pretty darn keen. That's around the time that Santa Claus arrives at Nick's Cove Restaurant, Oyster Bar & Cottages by boat for a delightful day of revelry, gratis snapshots, complimentary confections, and more merriment. The date has been chosen for 2017, so best plan your Tomales Bay getaway for...

SUNDAY, DEC. 3: That's when Kris Kringle will arrive dockside at the charming stay-over spot. The hours are 3 to 5 p.m., and those pose-for-free snapshots in the Boat Shack will be taken by a pro, so wear your glitteriest holiday sweater. But the fun family photos aren't even the sweetest part of the day: Nick's Cove is a drop site for Toys for Tots, which will be "...collecting new, unwrapped toys for local children affected by the Northern California fires." Show with a toy on Sunday, Dec. 3 and Nick's Cove will present you a $50 gift certificate that may be used towards a cottage overnight in January (so, yes, the following month, though keep in mind it can't be combined with other offers). There are some other nice things, too, like "...a small bag of freshly made holiday treats by our pastry chef, Jenna Katsaros," making the chain of giving all the more cheerful.

SANTA IS A GENEROUS SOUL, and that the spirit of generosity will reign during the afternoon of his visit only ups the general sparkle. And while the gift certificate offer is good for Dec. 3 only, do note that the drop site at Nick's Cove will be open and accepting toys from Nov. 5 through Dec. 3, 2017. Make a point to stop by, drop off a toy or several, and send some love during the holiday season to families around the region.

Photo Credit: Kellie Delario]]>
<![CDATA[2018 Host Cities Reveal: Amgen Tour of California]]> Thu, 26 Oct 2017 12:51:18 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/amgen2016GettyImages-531764916.jpg

FIND YOUR FINISH LINE: Lots of exciting bicycle-based happenings roll around the Golden State each year, but the Amgen Tour of California, which always happens around the middle of May, creates some extra heat. Maybe it is because it attracts world-class competitors, the kind of cyclists that fans of the sport dream of seeing in person. Maybe because it is billed as "California's largest sporting event." Maybe it is those various stages and locations, the ones that pop up up and down the state, and the dedicated bike buffs who try to visit all of them, or at least more than one, during the course of the multi-day spokes showdown. It's top-notch, through and through, and you can bet that cycling aficionados are already planning which stages they'll see in person. And that planning just began in earnest on Thursday, Oct. 26, for the...

2018 HOST CITIES... have been announced. Not just the cities, though, were revealed, but the stages, too, and the dates, meaning that fans now know where they'll need to begin if they want to feel the action from the street (Long Beach on Sunday, May 13 is the Stage 1, Men's Overall Start date and Thursday, May 17 is the Stage 1, Women's Overall Start date in Elk Grove). On the map? Visits for the men to Ventura, Santa Barbara County, King City, Monterey County at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca, San Jose, Stockton, Elk Grove, Folsom, South Lake Tahoe, and Sacramento, while the women will power into South Lake Tahoe with a finish in the capital city. More info, stats on years gone by, and everything you need to know to plot your course alongside the wind-fast racers may be found at the Amgen Tour's online HQ.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bat Week: NPS Fêtes the Flying Mammals]]> Wed, 25 Oct 2017 19:26:19 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/bat-flying.jpg

DID YOU BUY YOUR BAT WEEK CUPCAKES? No? And you haven't hung the bat-themed streamers yet, the ones covered in tiny wings and caves? And you didn't send out invites, the ones to all of your bat buff buddies? No worries, for it isn't too late: Bat Week 2017 has just kicked off, or fluttered off, rather, and it will zoom, like a small winged mammal, right through to Tuesday, Oct. 31. Yes, as in Halloween, as in a day when a whole bunch of batty decorations and cute costumes are on view in numerous locations. But bats need our human attention throughout the whole year, and not just on All Hallow's Eve. After all, the...

FURRY-COOL MAMMALS... do a load of good and important stuff for this planet, true story. "Some bats eat insects that destroy crops and spread disease," states the National Park Service page devoted to bat-tastic topics, and "(s)ome bats pollinate plants, like agave." As for spreading seeds around and producing new plant life? You got it: Bats are into it. Nope, they don't wear tiny little superhero symbols on their furry chests, but they do keep on keepin' on, which is why we can...

TAKE THE PLEDGE: Stating your support for bats is a positive move, as "...they face significant conservation challenges" and plentiful bat-based hurdles. There are several sweet things a bat maven can do during Bat Week, including hosting a Bat Week Party or reaching out to local officials regarding a Bat Week proclamation. And if you want to see a bat with your own peepers? California leaf-nosed bats are known to call the Mojave Desert home, while 14 of the 23 bat species that live in the Golden State are known to hang around at Pinnacles National Park. It's all so cool, and so amazing, and so where it's at, we mean bat, rather.

Photo Credit: Ian Waldie/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dapper Day: Fashionable Fall Fun at Disneyland]]> Fri, 27 Oct 2017 17:01:02 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/PhotographyByStephenie.com-6700.jpg

THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH? To count, one by one, all of its delightful details, and swirly touches, and bright hues, and eye-catching designs, would take months, if not years, if not an entire lifetime. For Disneyland Resort, that large-of-scale, huge-of-vision destination, has spent over six storied decades reveling in the art of fantasy, of presentation, and of nostalgic delight. But many people who call upon the Anaheim landmark want to weave into all of that design, and hue-brightness, and nostalgic style, too, and they do so with their outfits, their attitude, and their sheer joie de vivre. Of course, guests are welcome to get dressy any ol' day of the year at Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure, and spying a lady rocking a crinoline and old-school frock, or a gentleman in a boater hat, is not all that unusual. But the style really sings, like a group of ghosts or a band of happy animals, when...

DAPPER DAY... rolls back around. It's a twice-a-year thing at the Orange County destination, and it also happens at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando and at Disneyland, too. The fall gathering is up on Sunday, Nov. 5 in Anaheim, though festivities and fashion moments'll run throughout the weekend, with the Dapper Day Expo, Fall Edition spreading out over a good hunk of the Disneyland Hotel on both Saturday, Nov. 4 and Sunday, Nov. 5. What are we insinuating by "good hunk"? Picture a marketplace crammed with vintage goodies of the wearble sort, and imagine it taking up some 30,000 feet. If you simply want to show to show off your awesome ensemble, whether it is from the 1940s, the '70s, or even today, you can, but note: You'll need to buy admission to enter the parks. Glam up, Disney devotees, in your hats, gloves, and pumps, and make for what's become one of the marquee vintage gatherings in all of the glammy Golden State.

Photo Credit: DapperDay.com]]>
<![CDATA[Free: Winchester Mystery House Trick-or-Treating]]> Wed, 25 Oct 2017 12:36:52 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/Winchester+Mystery+House.jpg

BACK WHEN YOU TRICK-OR-TREATED, was there that one amazing place, the house down the block that all the kids talked about? The casa with the spookiest decorations, the biggest candy bars, the most picturesque decorations, or the weirdest lighting? Calling upon it always offered a thrill, even if you didn't get to leave with your favorite lollipops or caramels.

WHAT IF... you paused to widened your notion of what a neighborhood means, to all of California, and then you tried to pinpoint what might be the coolest house to take your tots to during a trick-or-treating run? Would the Winchester Mystery House, in San Jose, be on your wish list? Be gladdened, then, and feel a little phantom-eerie, for what's deemed to be one of the most haunted houses around is opening up trick-or-treating to kids ages 12 and under for four afternoons only. Those afternoons begin on...

SATURDAY, OCT. 28... and wrap on Halloween night 2017, which is Oct. 31, a Tuesday. True, the massive abode has offered trick-or-treating in the past, but that was a bit more casual, and open to grown-ups, and held in conjunction with those visitors doing the nighttime Flashlight Tour. This brand-new trick-or-treat event is all about the young'uns, and it is free, and it is a daytime thing, happening from 2 to 6 o'clock. That's right, we said "free" before, though do not this does not, repeat, does not include admission to the Winchester Mystery House, so take note.

YOU AND YOUR KIDS... will be able to visit a trio of treat stations around Sarah Winchester's exquisite Victorian-style gardens, which shall be "festively decorated." Also? Treat bags shall be given out. Also? Wearing a costume is copacetic, as is the trick-or-treating tradition. Is the Winchester Mystery House the very neatest, most fabled house in your neighborhood, if you included all of California in your neighborhood? Yeah, it just might be, and absolutely when the days before the hauntingest occasion of the calendar arrives.

Photo Credit: Egor Shitikov]]>
<![CDATA[Free YARTS to Yosemite: Hop Aboard]]> Tue, 31 Oct 2017 21:15:45 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/yartsvalley1.jpg

IF YOU KNOW YOUR YARTS, then you know that "YARTS" stands for Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System. It's a system that whisks travelers into Yosemite Valley aboard a comfy bus, meaning a little less traffic for area roads and a little more time for visitors to look out the window and take in the trees, waterfalls, and Half Dome, too. You can hop on, too, at a number of points beyond the national park, with points of origin that include a year-round route originating in Merced and seasonal routes starting in Fresno, Mammoth Lakes, and Sonora. This all means that you don't need to be at Yosemite's edge to grab a ride from YARTS, which is pretty darn handy, indeed. But there's no need to pull up the Fare Calculator if you plan on visiting Yosemite over the second weekend of November, which is Veterans Day Weekend, which encompasses two Fee-Free Days, the last on the National Park Service 2017 schedule. 

YARTS WILL BE FREE, though you'll want to note the special schedules for Saturday, Nov. 11 and Sunday, Nov. 12 before you plan your trip. The free-weekend bus will depart from Merced, with the Merced Airport serving as the initial pick-up point, with Run 1 beginning at 6:50 in the morning. Yosemite Valley Visitor Center is the final stop, and there are just over a dozen stops along the way. Are there reservations for the free YARTS trips? There are not; it's definitely a "first-come, first-served" sort of deal. Can you grab another shuttle in the valley from the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center? You can, yes. Read all, and pore over the Veterans Day Weekend schedule, and the must-know tips from the YARTS staff, before you head for Merced. And do note: The other three routes that run seasonally — Fresno - Hwy 41, Mammoth Lakes - Hwy 120/395, and Sonora - Hwy 120 — wrapped up their 2017 runs in September, and will not be a part of the Nov. 11 and 12 schedule.

Photo Credit: YARTS/Gerald Robinson]]>
<![CDATA[Holidays in Yountville: Just Ahead]]> Wed, 15 Nov 2017 10:54:19 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/yountvillewhole_carriage.jpg

RETURNING TO NAPA VALLEY... before the year is out? Many travelers are vowing to stop by the restaurants, boutiques, wineries, and hotels they love, either over the holidays or to get some shopping done, to show support to the area and those who call it home following the fires of October 2017. One perennial happening that arrives each November wearing a whole kit of sleigh bells and holly is a multi-day event known for its carriage rides, its wine tours, and its numerous festive to-dos. It's Holidays in Yountville: The Brightest Town in Napa Valley, and it will once again shake its sleigh bells, and welcome visitors to the vivacious village, beginning on Monday, Nov. 20. Look for "thousands of twinkly lights" to stay on nightly for...

SIX WEEKS, which means you have from the Monday before Thanksgiving to New Year's Day to soak in the splendor. That splendor also includes the complimentary carriage rides around town, one of the hallmarks of a Yountville yuletide, and the gourmet food & wine tours (of course those'll be part of the celebratory calendar, given the location). Snapshots with Santa himself? Those will happen on select days throughout the run. Candy cane-sweet movies, live performances, and "The Nutcracker"? They'll all pop up, with cheer, music, and feel-good-a-tude, at the Lincoln Theater. And the other activities are as plentiful as cranberries on a string, from wreath-making workshops to a Cocktail-Making 101 Class at Domaine Chandon.

RELATIVES VISITING FOR THANKSGIVING? Or for much of December? Or all of December? Here's where you clip-clop for a full day of noshery, festive films, small-town sparkle, and those famous carriage rides. It's all in Yountville, beginning on the 20th day of November.

Photo Credit: Mars Lasar]]>
<![CDATA[Yappy Halloween at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel]]> Tue, 24 Oct 2017 12:20:25 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ritzyappy0392332.jpg

YOU'D NEVER FIB TO YOUR FIDO, never ever ever, nope, no way, no how. You'd never promise him a treat after his walk, only to fail to deliver on the chewy goodie. You'd never say that he could sleep in your lap, on the couch, and then not pat your knee as an invitation to jump up. And telling him that Halloween is actually on Oct. 26? Well, you wouldn't do that, because the two of you have an honest and straightforward understanding, a tight bond that based on trust. But you might mention to him that sometimes we humans like to start the whole Halloween merrymaking a little early, because all of the fun we want to enjoy has a way of being too much for a single day. That works, yes? So you're next step: Mention that...

THE RITZ-CARLTON, LAGUNA NIGUEL... is putting a pet-tastic twist on its Yappy Hour concept, with an evening devoted to the spooky season. It's called Yappy Halloween, and it is a kind fundraiser at heart. The evening's beneficiary? The Veterans Initiative of Canine Companions for Independence. On the roster? Well, a costume contest, of course, for those canines in attendance. The categories will include Best Individual, Best Themed Group, Best Duo, and Best in Show. It's an early starter on Thursday, Oct. 26 — 5 o'clock is when the costume contest kicks off — so have your hound in his ruffles and bowtie when the sun's still out. In fact, the whole festivity begins at 4, which is a perfect hour for a pup party, since dogs generally like to call it an early night (how wise they are).

COCKTAILS FOR THE PEOPLE... in the crowd, as well as Mutt Lynch Unleashed Chardonnay, Merlot Over and Play Dead, and Chateau d'Og Cabernet will be in the glasses. Reporter Wendy Burch of KTLA is the host, and the vittles for purchase? Barbecue. If you can't make this shebang, do note: A holiday-themed Yappy Howl-iday Celebration is ahead at the resort on Sunday, Dec. 3.

Photo Credit: The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel]]>
<![CDATA[Gorgeous Getaway: Ventana Big Sur Reopens]]> Tue, 24 Oct 2017 12:27:22 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ventanaSpaDeck.jpg The Alila Resort's extensive and elegant refresh stayed true to its rustic, ocean-view'd setting.

Photo Credit: Ventana Big Sur]]>
<![CDATA[National Parks Free Entry: Veterans Day Weekend]]> Sat, 21 Oct 2017 05:55:09 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/CTTC110513135425_12.jpg

"HONORING AMERICA'S VETERANS": When you learn that there's a free weekend ahead, admission-wise, at our national parks, and you discover the dates are Saturday, Nov. 11 and Sunday, Nov. 12, you may ponder where you can go within the National Park Service to pay tribute to those who served. The NPS can help out with that, thanks to a detailed page devoted to the "...dozens of battlefields, military parks, and historic sites that commemorate and honor the service of American veterans." A number of those locations are in California, if you plan to stay within in the state over Veterans Day 2017, so consider calling upon Cabrillo National Monument, Rosie the Riveter WWI Home Front National Historic Park, Fort Point National Historic Site, or Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial over the second weekend in November.

OTHER PARKS... that typically charge a fee at the gate, such as Yosemite National Park and Joshua Tree National Park, always have a number of happenings on their weekend schedules, including the popular ranger-led talks and walks. If finding some stillness among the trees, canyons, or paths of a favorite park feels like how you want to spend Veterans Day Weekend, take a look at all of the parks, monuments, and historic sites that are nearby (there are many). Do note that the Nov. 11 and 12 National Park Service Fee-Free Days are the final no-admission dates on the 2017 National Park Service calendar. For more information on finding a history-focused NPS site, click. And to learn more about the history of the NPS and the Vets on the River Program, start here.

Photo Credit: Visit California]]>
<![CDATA[Polar Express at Railtown 1897: Tickets on Sale]]> Wed, 25 Oct 2017 10:18:47 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/RT+Polar+Express+2+Courtesy+Daniel+Ryan.jpg

HOW LONG MIGHT IT TAKE... to drive a sleigh from Jamestown, which is plunk in the middle of beautiful Gold Country, to the North Pole, which everyone knows is in a distant and frosty land, one that's magically decorated with icicles and snow angels? That's a tricky question. It depends on how many passengers are sharing the driving with you — if you've got eight reindeer that can take the reins for awhile, or ten lords a-leapin', that helps, time-wise — and how many bathroom and snack breaks you take along the road. Of course, you can always just make a date to visit Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, where a decorated train will whisk passengers straight to that enchanted pole. (Yes, trains at the holiday "whisk" passengers away, for that's part of the magical storybook spell.) And tickets for the seasonal experience are now on sale, so book your passage if you want to toot-toot to Santa's wondrous realm beginning on...

SATURDAY, NOV. 25: The POLAR EXPRESS Train Ride will choo-choo on select dates from the Saturday after Thanksgiving through to Sunday, Dec. 17. The locomotive will be wearing its yuletide, sparkly best, and inside the cars? Prepare to sip cocoa and feast upon cookies. There are keepsake souvenir tickets, too, for those hoping to enhance the scrapbook/fridge. And do you want to snap a nifty photo in the historic Roundhouse, one of the notable sights of the park? You can, "complete with steam engine in the background," so have that camera handy. If you're wondering if the POLAR EXPRESS is also offered in Sacramento by the California State Railroad Museum & Foundation, wonder no longer: It is. But it is now sold out for 2017, making the Jamestown adventure a fun and fa, la, la-esque way to enjoy the fabled train.

Photo Credit: Daniel Ryan]]>
<![CDATA[12,000 Pounds of Pumpkins: Mission Inn October]]> Thu, 19 Oct 2017 12:50:48 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/TheMissionInnPumpkinStroll.jpg

A BULB, the kind that is round and twinkly and colorful, is a common feature come the holidays, especially when it is seen alongside many other bulbs that are also twinkly and colorful and bright. There are only a few places a person can see not just thousands of twinkly lights but millions, but a certain castle-esque hotel in Riverside is one such storied spot. It's the Mission Inn, one of California's most nook-filled, tower-dotted historic structures, and its annual Festival of Lights regularly makes national lists come Christmas, the lists that detail the most sparkly locations to get into into the seasonal spirit. But there's a season of holiday fun just ahead of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and while the bulbs don't shine and glow, there is another round sort of object that is as iconic to Halloween as a light is to the yuletide: the pumpkin. To honor this goodly gourd, and to add even further charm to the already charming and sizable structure, the Mission Inn has placed...

12,000 POUNDS OF PUMPKINS... along Duane's Walk, the pretty pathway in front of the hotel, the walkway that's nicely framed by that famous arch seen in so many postcards and photos. The pumpkins are on view through Tuesday, Oct. 31, but that isn't the only eeriely elegant happening around the hotel. There's a maple pumpkin bourbon pecan cheesecake on the menu, and, at Casey's Cupcakes, a pumpkin-y, ready-for-fall goodie is for sale. If you've posed for a photo under the Mission Inn arch at Christmas, with all of those tiny bulbs lit up, might it be time to add to your photo collection with a pumpkin picture, too? Stop by and see this seasonal sight, one that melds well with the fantasy towers and storybook touches of the historic hotel.

Photo Credit: Mission Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Callaway Winery: North Bay Fires Relief Support]]> Wed, 18 Oct 2017 19:54:51 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Vineyard.jpg

LOVE FROM WINE COUNTRY: A stop-by Callaway Vineyard & Winery on a sunny Saturday or Sunday? You might be there to hop on a tour, the kind of behind-the-scenes, info-packed walk-around that provides oodles of information about how vino journeys from vine to glass. You might have designs on stopping by the winery's pretty tasting room in order to try a pinot noir your pal has been raving about or to chat up the knowledgeable employees about what you might add to your bottle bag at check out. Or maybe you're swinging by the Temecula Valley-based estate in order to pick up a few perfect wines for the holidays or a special anniversary or birthday party. If a Temecula visit is in your plans down the road, consider making "down the road" coincide with the second half of October 2017. That's when Callaway has committed to helping out the North Bay fire relief by donating...

A DOLLAR FROM EVERY BOTTLE SOLD: Fall is such a bustling time for Golden State wineries, as oenophiles look to Thanksgiving and holiday parties, so consider a Callaway stop if you're planning to do Temecula Valley before October ends. And stay alert for other winery-based donations and fundraisers to come; they're popping up around the state, with Livermore Valley Leans In and Gallo's million-dollar donation making headlines. And, of course, calling upon the wineries and businesses of the impacted areas of Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino Counties in the weeks and months to come, once they've reopened and are again ready to welcome longtime supporters and new fans, will be a major show of support.

Photo Credit: Grapes]]>
<![CDATA[Los Olivos: Day in the Country]]> Thu, 19 Oct 2017 17:10:38 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/LosOlivosDayintheCountryParadeLizDodder_preview.jpeg

IS THERE MORE STROLLING, or more stopping, when you've reached a small and lovely village, the sort of walkable town that seems to have a plethora of restaurants, and wine shops, and stores selling all manner of home items, from garden chimes to kitchen goods? It depends if you're the sort of stroll-and-stopper who has pause in front of every door you pass by, just to see what might be on the other side. And while California has a considerable clutch of stroll-and-stoppable villages, each with their own foodie, wine-sophisticated, craft-funky vibe, a stroll-and-stop kind of traveler always wants to keep the antenna up for special events that draw on this notable ability. One such happening, at one of the most picturesque places in Santa Ynez Valley, and beyond the Santa Barbara-close wine country, too, is Day in the Country at Los Olivos. It's...

FREE TO ATTEND, though if you want to leave with some wine, or olive oil, or a colorful gewgaw for your yard, you'll want to come ready to buy. But buying is not essential, should you want to attend the Saturday, Oct. 21 happening just to soak up that distinctive Los Olivos atmosphere: Come and sightsee and enjoy. Some sweet stuff on the day-long calendar? Breakfast burritos to kick off the day at 7 a.m. at the Grange Hall, a community parade, "hundreds of local and regional crafters, artists, and food purveyors," and, you got it, a tractor show, that timeless fall staple. The hours of the festival proper? 10 to 4 in the afternoon. That Los Olivos charm? You need to go there to know it. Like every stroll-and-stoppable Golden State village, its distinctive town-dentity should be experienced, preferably with a breakfast burrito or glass of chardonnay in hand.

Photo Credit: Liz Dodder]]>