The Cassara Carlsbad above The Flower Fields, LEGOLAND & SEA LIFE Aquarium

Last year at this time, The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch had to close and lock it’s entrance gate due to the pandemic. It was one of the only times in over sixty years, that the public couldn’t walk next to rows of blooming colorful Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers. This annual event lasts for only six to eight weeks, usually starting in early March through early May.

Wear a face mask

Located in North San Diego County, a region with a history of growing flowers going back to the 1940’s, stay overnight at The Cassara Carlsbad, Tapestry Collection by Hilton. Guests can purchase admission tickets to be one of the first visiting The Flower Fields to admire acres of rainbow colored ranunculus flowers in the morning or before sunset.

Situated on 12 acres above the super bloom of bright colors, The Cassara is the only hotel in Carlsbad that offers the most spectacular view of The Flower Fields from its guest rooms, grand pool area and grounds.

See the flowers, LEGOLAND and SEA LIFE Aquarium in Carlsbad

The hotel is also across the street is LEGOLAND California and SEA LIFE Aquarium. The Cassarra offers a private pedestrian entrance into the family amusement parks. Families enjoy the spacious Family Karlsbad 576 sq. ft., well designed two-room suites. There is a sitting area with couch and 42-inch TV, near a King bed with luxury linens and another 42-inch TV, armoire, and work desk area. Near the entrance is a bedroom with two twin beds and another 42-inch TV.

Suites offer a king bed and separate bedroom with twin beds

The floor to ceiling sliding glass window offers lots of natural light, views of the fields and fresh coastal air with the Pacific Ocean beyond. Guests can sit outside with their morning coffee, work on their laptop, or watch the sunset. The oversized bathroom boasts a granite vanity counter top and sink, premium bathroom amenities, hair dryer, and separate powder room with combo bath/shower.

Relax by the heated pool or fire pit areas

Amenities at the property include two resort size pools, a family splash pad, and fitness center. Paved walking pathways around the resort provide views of the city, Flower Fields and ocean.

Take an antique tractor ride

Wake up and take a tractor driven wagon ride to learn about The Flower Fields. Walk into the 1500 square foot greenhouse filled with world famous Ecke poinsettias, the sweet pea maze, Santa’s playground, an orchid greenhouse, and many themed areas, including a whimsical face mask garden.  Picnic tables are on site and parking is free.

Photo spots are private at The Flower Fields

Go to the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch for the 2021 Season: March 1 through May 9. The hours are from 9 am-6 pm daily.
Prices: $20.00 for Adults, $18.00 for Seniors 60+, $10.00 for Children ages 3 – 10,
Children ages 2 and under are Free.
Season Passes: $42.00 for Adults, $38.00 Seniors 60+,
$22.00 for Children ages 3 – 10.
Wagon Tour: $6.00 for Adults,
$3.00 for Children ages 3 – 10

All visitors must have a pre-purchased ticket available online only! No onsite tickets will be sold.

This article was featured in JustLuxe and Luxe Beat Magazine

Recharge this Spring at Terranea Resort

 

Renew and Recharge at Terranea Resort

The last time I stayed at the Southern California Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island, I heard seals barking near my room. This 102-acre outdoor destination offers guests plenty of space to relax, recharge and renew in a safe environment. The resort offers nature walks for individuals, couples and families to learn more about the history, beautiful plants and wildlife in the region. Those seeking a quick weekend getaway or an extended stay can enjoy watching whales pass by as they migrate up to Alaska, or play a round of golf, paint by the sea, kayak to see seals and dolphins, enjoy morning yoga, and evenings by a firepit at Nelson’s.

During Spring Break, Terranea is welcoming guests of all ages with the following activities:

1. NATURE WALK

Ask the reception desk for a self-guided nature walk map featuring the 18 stops along the easy to follow pathways. Learn about Catalina Island 22-miles across the sea, stop at The Spa to admire Aleppo pines and Sago palms, and stop by Nelson’s for a beverage, snack or meal.

2. KIDS CLUB FAMILY ACTIVITY BOX AND TODDLER BOX 

The Terranea Kids Club has specially curated boxes of activities designed for children age 4-12. Each kit celebrates the beauty of Terranea, including en plein air painting project, nature journal, design your own beach ball. There is also a Terranea’s Tot arts and crafts box offering a Lil’ Architects Lesson, sailboat craft, design your own Puzzle with artist markers, a sun visor sticker project, and jumbo bubble magic wand. 

3. ADULTS WILL ENJOY THE MANDALA ACTIVITY BOX OR MANDALA EASTER EGG PAINTING 

Paint from your patio or balcony a large rock or wooden Easter eggs while taking in the ocean views. There is a self-guided instruction sheet, the art of mandala meditation guide and the Terranea beauty is your inspiration to create your own unique work of art keepsake. 

Photo courtesy of Terranea

4. DINING

Fresh air, fire pits, culinary delights with craft beers and cocktails while taking in the scenic views of the Pacific are available at multiple dining venues at Terranea. Indoor and al fresco experiences are available at each restaurant. Fine dining at mar’sel is open for a coastal Easter Brunch on April 4 starting at 10am to 3 pm. A four-course menu showcases traditional Easter specialties with a twist, including lamb omelet, rack of lamb, halibut, brisket as well as vegetarian options. Pair with Champagne and accompanying fresh juices. Other dining venues: bashi, catalina kitchen and Nelson’s offer seasonal specials. 

5. LOBBY BAR & TERRACE 

The Lobby Bar & Terrace is the spot to take in a sunset and Catalina Island views. Sit cozy around one of the Lobby Terrace fire pits, and enjoy specialties including a fizzy bunny mimosa, ambrosia strawberry mint truffle, and sweets from Chef Perry’s Bake Shop.

6. SWIMMING

Swin at one of the resort’s three swimming pools, or relax on a lounge chair and take in the tranquil views. 

7. KAYAKING

Kayak in the morning with Bob or Anthony on a guide led kayak adventure to Abalone Cove. Friendly and curious seals may swim near you, and dolphins will gracefully slide by. 

Right now Terranea is offering guests an extra savings with the third night free.  Restrictions may apply. Promotional code: 3FREE. Please visit https://www.terranea.com/offers/third-night-free. For more information call (866) 261-5873.

This article is featured in Luxe Beat Magazine.

Downtown Disney District Reopens

The Downtown Disney District, including Buena Vista Street, is open with select retail and dining locations. Ongoing updates on additional restaurant and food and beverage location openings can be viewed here.

Everyone must wear a mask

To reopen, Disney has implemented new health and safety measures based on guidance from health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and appropriate government agencies.

Soon a limited-time, ticketed experience will be opening at Disney California Adventure Park, focusing on the world-class food and beverage. Also, 1,000 Cast Members are being rehired.

Right now you can enter and explore without a timed ticket.

Good signage for parking and entering Downtown Disney District

There are 6 key things to expect when visiting the Downtown Disney District:

  • Park at the Simba Lot only right now. There are cones and closures clearly defined for guests to enter the Downtown Disney District. Parking is $10 per car. There is no refund or validation.
  • Guests receive a temperature screening prior to entry and walk through a tent with two sniffing dogs with their handlers, before a bag check and walking through a metal detector.
  • Face coverings are required for guests ages 2 and older. There is a vending machine that sells masks for $2 for those without one.
Forget your mask? No worries they have a vending machine with $2 masks
  • Physical distancing measures, including physically-distanced queues and seating, and physical barriers at select locations.
Benches are marked with safe distance seating
  • Temporary operations modifications, including reduced hours at select locations and the suspension of entertainment offerings and high-touch interactive areas.
The park has hand washing stations and hand sanitizer machines

An increased focus on cleaning and sanitation, including the addition of hand-washing stations and hand sanitizers are located in key areas. The day I visited there seemed to be more Disney cast members than guests, as the district was getting ready to reopen more outdoor dining venues.

Disney “Cast Members” are keeping the parks clean

The Downtown Disney District has begun a phased reopening, including an expansion onto Disney California Adventure’s Buena Vista Street. The brand new Star Wars Trading Post was a popular store that had a line of fans to enter. The stores are allowing a certain number of people inside, and have a social distance line and umbrella to keep guests safe and comfortable.

New Star Wars store in Downtown Disney

There is no entrance fee of ticket to stroll into Disney CA Adventure along some of Los Angeles’ most popular neighborhoods. Many of designs are inspired from where a young Walt Disney lived and worked after arriving in Southern California in 1923. Find the plaque next to Walt Disney and his friend Mickey Mouse statue that states, “It was July 1923. I packed all of my worldly goods – a pair of trousers, a checkered coat, a lot of drawing materials and the last of the fairy tale reels we had made – in a kind of frayed cardboard suitcase. And with that wonderful audacity of youth, I went to Hollywood, arriving there with just $40. It was a big day the day I got on that Santa Fe California Limited. I was just free and happy!”

Walt Disney’s dream came true
  • Downtown Disney District, including Buena Vista Street, parts of Hollywood Land and Grizzly Peak are open as of February 4, 2021. Certain retail and dining locations are also reopening. View Open Dining Locations for ongoing updates.
  • Starting Friday, Feb. 5, guests can once again make a reservation at Carthay Circle Lounge – Alfresco Dining, with its seasonal menu and unique dining environment on Buena Vista Street. Also beginning Feb. 5, mobile app order offers a contactless way to order corn dogs and soft drinks at Award Wieners, or bacon cheeseburgers, chicken tenders, onion rings, waffle fries, kids’ meals, and vanilla and chocolate shakes at  Smokejumpers Grill. Guests should place their mobile order once they are already on Buena Vista Street.
The park is reopening slowly and safely

Hours: I recommend arriving early when it opens at 10 a.m., before the lunch hour. Weekdays aren’t as crowded as weekends. During the week, it closes down by 8 p.m., and on the weekend at 9 p.m. Visiting Downtown Disney District awakens your senses. Listening to Disney music plays throughout the open areas, while smelling the pleasing aromas of creative Disney snacks, and colorful and appealing window displays and beautiful floral gardens.

Disneyland is not open yet, hopefully soon

Leaving Disney’s California Adventure to walk back through Downtown Disney District back to my car, I was drawn to the entrance of Disneyland. It was sad to see the gates all closed, yet the slope below the Train Depot continues to have a floral design of Mickey Mouse, giving hope that one day soon it will reopen safely again.

Hopefully Disneyland Hotels will open in 2021

The Hotels of the Disneyland Resort, Disneyland Park and all of Disney California Adventure Park remain closed and will reopen at a later date, pending state and local government approvals. I’ve heard possibly the theme parks will partially open more areas by March, 2021.

Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort reopens

The largest Hilton in the world and Hawaii’s largest resort – Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki reopened on Dec. 15, 2020. Situated on 22 oceanfront acres of Waikiki’s widest stretch of beach, the grand reopening was a celebration. There was a Hawaiian blessing held with Hilton Hawaiian Village staff and tenants, and the first guest group to check-in received a complimentary upgrade to the Niumalu Suite in the Rainbow Tower, a gift bag and beautiful lei. Click here for current specials.

Photo Courtesy of Hilton Hawaiian Village

“We have looked forward to this day for a long time, and our team has worked tirelessly to make our reopening possible,” said Debi Bishop, managing director of the property. “Our guests and Team Members will find that we have created a resort experience that prioritizes safety while retaining the warm Aloha spirit that our islands are known for.”

Photo by Hilton Hawaiian Village

In addition to its prime location on Waikiki Beach, 5 pools, waterfalls and one of the best water slides, the world-class Mandara Spa reopened for treatments. The Waikiki Beach Activities beach concession reopened for guests to enjoy outdoor activities on the ocean or the saltwater lagoon.

Both guests and team members feel safer with the ultimate Hilton CleanStay hospitality cleaning protocols. To ensure the safety of guests and employees, Hilton CleanStay with Lysol protection delivers an industry-leading standard of cleanliness and disinfection in Hilton properties across the world.

Photo by Jill Weinlein

Hilton Hawaiian Village guests will notice the resort is cleaner and safer to stay in from check-in to check-out. Standards for Hilton CleanStay include a Hilton CleanStay Room Seal to indicate that a room has not been accessed since being thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, flexible housekeeping options, and more.

Hilton EventReady with CleanStay provides curated solutions with creative food and beverage, thoughtful technology resources, elevated standards and practices with redesigned spaces for physical distancing, and reimagined ways to meet and gather to create a safe and comfortable environment for event planners and their attendees.

Photo by Jill Weinlein

All transpacific travelers who desire to bypass Hawaii’s 14-day travel quarantine are required to participate in the Safe Travels Hawaii program by furnishing a negative COVID-19 test result from one of the state’s Trusted Testing and Travel Partners 72 hours prior to departure. Travelers must have the negative result in hand prior to going through airport security. This pre- travel test is part of a multilayered screening process that also includes the mandatory State of Hawaii Travel and Health Form, and temperature screening at all Hawaii airports upon arrival. For more information visit HawaiiCOVID19.

Holiday Bite LA Drive-Thru

I brought my teenage daughter with me last Sunday to The Bite LA: Winter Holiday. It’s a drive-thru experience around Legg Lake at the spacious Whittier Narrows Recreation Area (about 20 minutes downtown LA).
We excitedly saw holiday lights and igloos in the distance reflected in one of the lakes, while following the direction signs to play, eat and enjoy the merry decorations.

Our first stop was to check in and receive a menu of ‘Naughty, Nice and Vegan/Gluten Free Bites. Think popcorn balls, holiday cookies and chocolate and caramel dipped pretzel sticks.

With a pen in hand, we put a number next to the item we wanted to taste for a total of 8 bites per person. Since we had 3 people in out car, we selected 24 bites.

Next we stopped at an igloo to receive nylon bags filled with soft fluffy “sno-balls” with instructions to throw them at dancing snowman and penguins. Some had a really good arm, and were able to throw some back right into our open window.

Our daughter thought this was great fun! We drove over a narrow bridge to Winkle-land, a Holiday Gnome Village filled with psychedelic dancing mushrooms
This Covid-safe outdoor activity is from Meyer2Meyer Entertainment, the creators of The Bite LA: Halloween Food Crawl. They put a seasonal twist on this drive-thru experience offering  immersive Winter Holiday fun appropriate for kids and adults alike!  

Next stop to pick up complimentary stockings to fill with all the goodies. They come in glittery red, green and gold.

​The most fun is stopping at each village and picking up our goodies. One stop is Father Christmas, another a prancing reindeer, a beautiful ornament and Jack Frost. The costumes are exquisite and each character has an engaging personality.

With stockings filled with treats, we finished at a beverage stand and were handed hot cocoa and hot apple cider. Next we drove to a drive-in movie setup and parked. Looking over all our bites, we tasted a few, sipped our warm beverages and watched a 20 minute film with Santa onstage entertaining passengers sitting safely in their cars.

EVENT ADDRESS: Legg Lake, 751 Santa Anita Ave, South El Monte 91733. Tickets start at $38 per person.

Serve Sonoma Wines during the Holidays

According to Brian Casey, the Sommelier of the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, Sonoma Valley offers some of the most unique wines for guests to pair with their holiday fare and make great gifts to give to loved ones.

Casey is a magnificent storyteller and is happy to share his knowledge about his favorite winemakers and wineries. According to Casey Three Sticks Wines produces exceptional Pinot Noirs in Sonoma County. He recommends a glass of this wine to enjoy with the mushroom risotto with black garlic butter on the menu. When guests ask about wine tasting rooms, Casey recommends visiting the Three Sticks Wines tasting room located in the historic Vallejo-Casteñada Adobe in downtown Sonoma. It was once a private home and now offers beautiful indoor and outdoor tasting areas. 

Sonoma-Cutrer Les Pierres Chardonnay is a unique wine because the grapes are planted in what was once the site of a rock quarry. The soil is 50-70% rock content, which infuses this wine with a beautiful mineral essence. Casey recommends pairing a glass of this Chardonnay with the grilled salmon on the restaurant’s menu. It’s served with a white bean salad and cherry tomatoes. He also thinks this Chardonnay will be perfect with holiday turkey, yams and stuffing with sage and oregano.

Another favorite wine is from Winery Sixteen 600. Founder Phil Coturri set out to prove that organic grapes make better wines. Beyond the health and environmental benefits, organic farming allows the terroir of the vineyard to shine. Phil is one of the most prolific growers in the U.S. Since the 1970s, he has been planting almost 1000 acres of grapes in Sonoma and Napa for 35 different wineries. He selects the best rows from different vineyards to make his one-of-a-kind delicious wines. Casey said this juicy wine pairs nicely with any of the grilled meat dishes.

Casey feels lucky to work at a replica of a California Mission. The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa was built in Sonoma County in 1926. Soon it became a romantic haven for those seeking health and pleasure. Now the resort offers a world-class health spa with over 50 treatments and natural Artesian mineral water pools. 

New this year, the resort is offering a signature Sparkle Suite. Guests will enter the beautifully appointed holiday-themed Jack London Suite to find sparkling twinkling lights and glass bubbles. The 1010 sq. ft. suite offers a luxurious separate master bedroom with a cozy fireplace and a master bathroom with a double Jacuzzi tub. There is also a separate living area with a half bath and a couch that opens to a sofabed. 

Bon vivant will also receive an inspired bath amenity, and one of Sonoma’s favorite – a bottle of Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noir sparkling wine.

This Sparkle Suite special is from December 4, 2020, through Saturday, January 2, 2021.

Edward Roe the General Manager of the property said there are two outdoor pools open that are heated to 86 and 90 degrees. Around the 14 acre property they have 20 fire features for guests to sit and enjoy morning coffee outside, and dessert in the evening.

Before sundown from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., the resort invites a local winemaker to share his or her knowledge about their wines, showcasing and serving during a complimentary wine tasting hour. 

Guests who book fully refundable rates may cancel or modify their reservations without penalties on all.accor.com (provided that the exact rate policy of your original booking will apply to your revised booking).

Parts of this review were also featured in JustLuxe.

Dazzling Dodgers Holiday Festival

Celebrate the holidays at Dodger Stadium with lights, music and surprise appearances throughout the evening. Nightly the stadium is celebrating LA’s World Series winners.

Photo by Jill Weinlein

The drive-thru event runs through Christmas Eve from 5 to 10 p.m. Admission starts at $55 to $100+ per vehicle. The ticket cost is determined by the time and day of the timed ticket.

Photo by Jill Weinlein

Ticket holders can bring new or gently-used baseball of softball equipment to benefit Dodgers RBI. The Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation is also requesting pairs of new socks to give to LA Family Housing, and a new toy for RaiseAChild. Donations are optional and must be unwrapped. A Dodgers elf is near the donation bin near the entrance gates at Stadium Way Downtown Gate E.

Photo by Jill Weinlein

Dodger fans will enjoy seeing images of their favorite players, championship trophy, ring and memorabilia. There is a waving bobblehead, replica of Elton John wearing a sparkling Dodgers uniform while playing the piano, and colorful lights synchronized to holiday music.

Photo by Jill Weinlein

The speed limit is under 5 miles an hour. Try to arrive 30 minutes before your ticket time. Guests are not allowed to exit their vehicle and must wear a mask when their car windows are down. There are no public restrooms available.

Courtesy of Dodgers Holiday Festival

Bring your own picnic dinner and non alcoholic beverage, as there is no food or drinks available at this venue.

Photo by Jill Weinlein

For all event details and guidelines please visit Dodgers.com/holidayfestivalor email holidayfestival@dodgers.com.

Holiday SoCal’s WonderLAnd Drive-thru

Last night we drove to Warner Center for the preview of WonderLAnd a sparkling Cover safe drive-thru holiday experience.

Experiential Supply Co., transformed the former Westfield Promenade parking lot into a festive holiday adventure that is fun for all ages. This Covid-safe experience offers holiday music, colorful twinkling lights, sparkling snowflakes and a visit to Santa’s workshop. It opens on Nov. 30 through Dec. 23 and continues Dec. 26 through Dec. 30.

Your drive begins to the snow-capped North Pole mountains through colorful tunnels with nearly 1 million lights to WonderLAnd Village. Count how many polar bears you see while cruising to Santa’s workshop to see some of his comical elves busy wrapping holiday gifts.

There are two lanes of decorated houses in WonderLAnd Village decked out for every winter holiday and some dancing elves wave and shout holiday greetings as you drive by.

Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves will be on hand with a special present at the end to place in the back of your trunk.

Tickets are $70 per vehicle and available now for timed tickets starting at 5 p.m. Go to SoCal WonderLAnd. 6100 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills.

This review is also featured in the Beverly Press.

Holidays In Your Car in Ventura

Last Sunday, I drove through CBF Productions Holidays In Your Car at the Ventura County Fairgrounds. We lined up at sunset and waited until the the front car was allowed entrance at 5:30 p.m., then we followed behind for an immersive holiday show.

The Holiday Lights Spectacular runs from November 22 – January 2. Vehicles headlights are turned off, as couples and families drive through a sparkling mile-and-a-half display of over one million dazzling LED lights, accompanied by uplifting holiday music from radio station 96.9 tuned into each car radio.  

Along the route, cars enter into some of the Ventura Fairgrounds event buildings to see holiday-inspired holograms of Frosty and Santa, red and green laser light shows and impressive multi-colored projections casting festive images of the season.

There are two evenings where those in cars will get an extra special show. On Saturday, December 12, Holidays in Your Car is offering an outdoor live performance of The Nutcracker. This holiday classic will be performed by the Ventura County Ballet, with both world-class professional dancers and local talent.  The lead roles will be performed by Elizaveta “Leeza” Domrachev of Ballet Academy Ventura, who has danced with Russia’s prestigious Perm State Ballet, and Jack Stewart, who has danced globally with State Street Ballet.  They will be joined by a number of other professional dancers and 50 highly talented local dance students.

This is one of only a handful of outdoor Nutcrackers performed in the U.S. this year. The two performances are scheduled at 5pm and 8pm, at the Ventura County Fairgrounds. Ticket prices start at $99.00 per car.

The Santa Saves Christmas live show is on Saturday, Dec. 19. It’s produced by the creators behind Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer:  The Musical and The Price is Right Live, and is full of holiday cheer, snowy surprises and dazzling performers.  There will be two performances scheduled, one at sunset at 4:30 and the other at 7:30 pm.

For full “Holidays In Your Car” event information and to purchase tickets, please visit https://www.concertsinyourcar.com/ventura.

Covid-safe Haunt’oween LA 2020

Now at Warner Center through October 31, 2020

Experiential Supply presents Haunt’oween LA, a family-friendly drive-thru experience open nightly in Woodland Hills at The Promenade Mall parking lot.

Highlights include driving through a pumpkin tunnel of lights and a tunnel of shadows. The Jack-O-Lantern Tunnel is a 90-foot installation featuring more than 1,000 pumpkins.

Live music performing nightly.

Scenic Paths decorated to drive by and enjoy traditional Halloween decor along a mini-maze route, to see skeletons at play, giant pumpkins, headless horsemen, and numerous spider webs.

Each car receives one good size pumpkin from the “Life is Gourd” themed patch. Additional pumpkins are available for purchase.

“Door to Door” Trick or Treating – drive down two streets with live costumed actors coming out of their “homes” with enough candy for everyone.

Pricing is $70 per car, tickets on sale at the Haunt’oween website.

6100 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills 91367

Catalina Island Getaway 2020

Looking to get a little fresh air, after two weeks of being cooped up inside (due to the global pandemic and hazardous air quality from the California wildfires), we booked a cruise onboard Catalina Express’ Cat Express from San Pedro to Two Harbors at Catalina Island.

The 300 passenger double hull boat, only allows about 40% of capacity onboard, as a safety precaution due to the global pandemic. Passengers must wear a mask at all times.

It’s just a little over one hour boat ride to Catalina Island’s west end, known also as the Isthmus. The rustic town offers one hotel – the Banning House built in 1910. It was a summer house for the Banning Brothers, who owned the Santa Catalina Island before chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr., purchased the Santa Catalina Island Company and the Island from them in 1919. Guests look out to the Isthmus Harbor and Catalina Harbor from the main house, and two villas (Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz).

There is one general store that sells camping provisions, hand sanitizer, snacks, drinks and souvenirs. There are multiple camp grounds on the island, and many hikers and campers enjoy exploring the 37.2-mile Trans Catalina Trail from one site to another.

At the base of the pier is a dive shop to rent a locker for the day for under $3.50. You receive a tiny key for a tiny lock to keep your valuables safe and dry, while you swim, snorkel, hike, kayak, paddle board and enjoy the Harbor Reef and Harbor Sands Restaurant.

During the pandemic, Two Harbors has gained popularity for day-trippers and outdoor enthusiasts, because there is plenty of space for social distancing. 

Before lunch, we took a hike from the Isthmus to Catalina Island Harbor along a paved dirt path along the half-mile wide Isthmus. Along the way we stopped to take in the beautiful views of two bays.

Stories have been told about how Spanish explorers named the island, Santa Catalina Island to honor Saint Catherine. Pirates arrived on the island to store smuggled treasures in the nearby coves and fur traders used to visit and sell their products.

Working up an appetite, we took our shoes off to wiggle our toes in the sand at Harbor Sands Restaurant. Known for its coconut milk cocktail, stuffed quesadillas, salads, burgers and golden brownie dessert, visitors can sit at a beach front table or reserve a private cabana for up to $150 a day with a bucket of waters and food service, or $30 for two lounge chairs, umbrella and towels on soft imported sand.

Next we rented a double kayak and paddled in crystal clear water, near sandy beaches, caves and nearby coves, before jumping into the refreshing sea water to cool off.

Drying off, we returned the kayak, retrieved our packs from the locker, and boarded the open air Cyclone boat for a 40 minute cruise. Cruising near the coastline by Rippers Cove, Long Point, Toyon Bay, YMCA’s Camp Fox, and Willow Cove before arriving to scenic Avalon with a Mediterranean vibe.

The newest hotel in Avalon is the Bellanca Hotel, from the Eat, Drink, Sleep Hospitality Group. This renovated (former Portifino Hotel) harbor front property, features 40 rooms with brand four new spacious guestrooms.

The open-air, ocean view, rooftop deck is available to guests to relax and enjoy drinks and meal throughout the day. We purchased a half-bottle of rose’ and a charcuterie board from the onsite bar to take up to the rooftop to enjoy the sunset.

Staying in the brand new room #109, the comfortable king size mattress enhanced a good night’s sleep. The sliding door leads out to a street level patio. Stepping outside we looked to the right for a slice of the Avalon harbor view.

The extra large tiled shower has a peek-a-boo window looking into the room. Other amenities include a large flat screen television, mini refrigerator, and multiple charging outlets, however I could not find a safe to store our valuables.

Bellanca Hotel offers complimentary beach cruisers, beach towels and beach chairs for guests to use while sitting by the water or going for a swim.

The onsite restaurant – the Naughty Fox, has Executive Chef Russell Hayden preparing elevated beach favorites such as ahi poke nachos, lobster sushi roll, grilled fish tacos, and a tasty seafood cioppino with crunchy grilled bread. Food and beverage Manager Jose from Eat. Drink. Sleep, made sure every guest was taken care of and enjoyed their culinary experience. 

Right now the hotel is not offering breakfast due to COVID-19, hopefully they will later. Each employee is temperature scanned at the front of the hotel before entering to work. Masks are mandatory to wear in the lobby and while walking to your room and rooftop. It may be removed once you order and your drink and meal has arrived.

For a change of pace for the COVID weary, a boat ride to Catalina Island is a welcome change of scenery. (Next week read my review of 10 hotspots to see when renting a golf cart, riding a bicycle or walking around Avalon).

The Bellanca Hotel is located at 111 Crescent Ave, Avalon, CA 90704 | (310) 510-0555 | http://www.bellancahotel.com.

Bricktacular LEGOLAND CALIFORNIA RESORT Opens Oct. 2

Bring the family in costume, for a new Bricktacular fun with treats a LEGOLAND California in Carlsbad.

While the theme park is still awaiting approval to open, it has opened its outdoor Miniland every Friday, Saturday and Sunday during October (Oct. 2-4, 9-11, 16-18, 23-25, 30 & 31). Reservations are required with a purchased ticket for Fridays from 3 to 7 p.m., Saturday from 10am-2pm or 3pm-7pm, and Sunday on 11am-3pm.

The Park’s Miniland U.S.A  isn’t too spooky for little one’s to enjoy Halloween activities, tasty treats such as savory food options at Smoke House BBQ and NINJA Kitchen and satisfy sweet Granny’s Apple Fries.

Halloween in Miniland features character meet and greets, virtual costume contests, a Miniland scavenger hunt, LEGO building activities, and, of course, a goody bag filled with candy and a LEGO surprise!

Stroll through The Big Shop to find the latest must-have LEGO sets. 

LEGOLAND® Hotel and LEGOLAND® Castle Hotel will also join in on the Halloween fun with festive décor throughout the fall season! Guests visiting SEA LIFE® aquarium will be treated to special Halloween decorations and LEGO models that will be on display underwater in the aquarium’s tanks.

Purchase a ticket to Halloween in Miniland online for tickets starting at $12.99. Guests are required to purchase tickets online in advance to reserve access to Miniland for their desired dates and time to visit.

As guests and employees’ health and safety remain the top priority at LEGOLAND California Resort, guests will experience some differences in Miniland including reduced capacity, cashless payments, social distancing practices and enhanced cleaning regimes. Face coverings (PPE) are required for all guests three years old and up as well as for staff members. 

For more safety information, and to purchase tickets to Halloween at Miniland or SEA LIFE aquarium, visit www.legoland.com/california.

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