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.

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.

Rediscovering Big Bear

Even though Big Bear is known for it’s four seasons, summer is one of the best times to drive up to the alpine mountain town. Instead of staying at a hotel, we discovered the WorldMark Resort two blocks from Big Bear Lake. You don’t have to be a timeshare member to reserve a unit. It’s an ideal Covid-cation for couples or families, as each unit has a full kitchen, laundry, outdoor patio or balcony. Some units have forest views with a peek of the lake.

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Despite potential quarantines and visitor restrictions, the WorldMark Resort has prepared for local “staycation” getaways since May 26, 2020. They have a cleaning and sanitizing protocol developed by ECOLAB, a global leader in water, hygiene and infection prevention.

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Last month we packed the car and drove less than two hours from Los Angeles up 7,000 feet above sea level, to escape the heat and breathe clear mountain air. At WorldMark Big Bear, they offer spacious one and two bedroom units that comfortably sleep four to six guests. We received a second floor spacious two bedroom unit. There are no elevators at this resort , so we accessed our unit by a walking up the 13-step staircase.

Each one has a private bedroom with one king bed and ensuite bathroom. Two bedroom units have a queen or two twin beds in the second bedroom and a queen Murphy bed to pull down in the living area.

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Traveling with our two daughters, we all appreciated the privacy of separate bedrooms. Since we brought our own food and beverages, we found the fully equipped kitchen convenient for meals. Once we noticed a barbecue grill on the private balcony, we made one trip to the grocery store two blocks away to purchase salmon and corn on the cob to grill in the evening while watching the sun set.

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This resort does not have air conditioning, however the family room and bedrooms to have overhead fans. At sunset we opened the windows to allow the cool mountain air inside to sleep comfortably. Daily housekeeping is not included and may be added for an additional fee.

Centered around the sparkling waters of Big Bear Lake, there are plenty of fresh air activities among blue skies, sunshine and crisp mountain air. Some of the on-site activities at the resort are open such as the large outdoor swimming pool, however others are closed due to CDC requirements. The play areas for children, ping-pong and arcade areas are closed. Outdoor covered hot tubs, horseshoe pit and tennis and basketball courts are also closed due to CDC requirements.

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Within walking distance from the WorldMark is Big Bear Lake, shopping and the 1.6 mile Stanfield Marsh nature trail. It’s an easy walk along a wooden boardwalk. Some areas are above the water to look down and see an array of wildlife and birds. We discovered other fun outdoor activities during our two-night stay.

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Across the street is the beginning of the 5.4 Alpine Pedal Path along the north shore. The paved path begins across the street from Stanfield Cutoff near the lake towards the Big Bear Solar Observatory. It is easily accessible for walkers, skaters, joggers, strollers and wheelchairs.

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We cooled off on the lake at Captain Johns Marina in Fawn Harbor for an hour of kayaking and paddle boarding. John the owner, is a great guy and will get you all set up for a fun day on the lake. He also has canoes and boats to rent. He also has a food stand that opens for lunch, and offers live music on the weekends. There is plenty of parking, a hammock, boat dock and boat launch ramp, plus lots of areas next to the water’s edge to set up your chairs and overlook the lake. Due to Covid-19 mandated restrictions his Big Bear Tarzan Boat waterpark is closed. Hours are weekdays 8a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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We also took a SkyLine View lift ride to the top of Snow Summit to enjoy lunch at the top of the hill. There is a grill at the bottom of the hill with plenty of seats to eat and watch the mountain bikers blaze down the trails, however the lifts are open for an forest top ride to a grill at the top. When you get off the lift, the staff are cooking up burgers, sausages and vegan options served with Cole slaw or potato salad. Beverages include soda, seltzers, ciders and beer.

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We saw a lot of mountain bikers pedaling over the 60 miles of cross-country trails through the San Bernardino National Forest at Snow Summit. They loaded their bikes on the lift and rode up to the top to take one of the six trails down. Trails are for riders of all ages and ability levels. The longest trail is named Going Green and is 2.5 miles long. Terrain: 50% Beginner, 10% Intermediate, 38% Advanced, 2% Pro.

Since we didn’t have bikes, after lunch we hiked along trails and terrain to the bottom base.  For non hikers, you can take the lift back down to enjoy the same exquisite forest and lake views. Other activities at Snow Summit include a 30-foot climbing wall, zip line, Euro Bungee trampoline, and tube slide.

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Early the next morning we drove less than two miles from our condo to race laps in Formula 1 SODI RT8 karts at the Big Bear Speedway. Drivers first watch a safety video, complete a waiver form, receive a protective head sock and helmet, before getting into a mini race car to drive the course. The cars go up to 30 miles an hour around hairpin turns while other cars try to pass you along the way. It’s great fun for all ages. When the race is over, drivers gather around the winner result display board to see who is the winner.

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Afterwards kart racing, we tried our skills on the challenging Big Bear Ropes Course at Big Bear Speedway. It’s a new attraction that towers 35 feet above the ground and stretches over 6,400 square feet. This aerial adventure features 42 obstacles with suspension bridges, open gaps, cables to scramble across, and more. It also includes a Sky Rail Zipline to go airborne. Each participant is fully secured in a five-point, full-body harness that connects to a safety line. There is a slider puck inserted and taken out of the track by a certified operator at the entrance and exit of the ropes course. Each participant is fully secured at all times.

Getting hungry we drove to The Village to explore the open stores and restaurants offering an outdoor patio. It was a little too crowded for our comfort and North Pole Sweets & Treats had a line going down the sidewalk, so we got an ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s and drove back to our condo. The Village has free parking in multiple city lots and in front of shops on Village Dr. and Pine Knot Ave. Be sure to wear a mask.

Another fun spot that was a little too busy for our comfort level during the pandemic is the The Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain. It offers multiple family activities including a slide course, water park, new zip line ride and soon to open the Soaring Eagle coaster. Go early in the morning before it gets too crowded. The park has implemented new cleaning and disinfecting procedures and encourages guests to wear face coverings, maintain 6 feet distance, wash hands frequently, however many of the children weren’t following these guidelines.

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The quickest and easiest way to plan your Big Bear vacation is to go online at WorldMark Wyndham Vacation Clubs for non-timeshare guests to rent a mountain getaway.

 

Deals in National Parks this Summer

In this quarantine world, so many people are eager to get in their car and go somewhere for a change of scenery.  The Xanterra Travel Collection, an award-winning globally diversified travel company is offering a Week of Wanderlust Sale from July 3-9, 2020.  This year’s sale has a a variety of properties with plenty of open space. Each special is offering a generous cancellation policy, so travelers can book now with confidence and travel when they’re ready.

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The Oasis at Death Valley (National Park) is offering 30% off hotel stays at the beautifully renovated historic AAA Four-Diamond Inn at Death Valley and newly revitalized, family-friendly Ranch at Death Valley. This special is valid for select overnight stays between Oct.1, 2020 and Jan. 15, 2021 for the Inn at Death Valley and July 10, 2020 and Jan. 15, 2021 for the Ranch at Death Valley.

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Grand Canyon South Rim – 30% off in-park lodging at Maswik Lodge North, Thunderbird Lodge, Kachina Lodge, Bright Angel Lodge, and 20% off the crown jewel, El Tovar during select dates July 10, 2020 to Aug. 31, 2021 and Oct. 15 to March 1, 2021. The lodges are either in or within walking distance to the Historic District and rim of the Grand Canyon that includes Lookout Studio and Hopi House.

Zion National Park – 30% off overnight stays inside the park at Zion National Park Lodge on select dates between Nov. 2, 2020 and March 5, 2021.

Cedar Creek Lodge, the gateway to Glacier National Park – 30% off room rates on select dates from Aug. 16, 2020 and March 31, 2021.

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The Grand Canyon  Railway & Hotel (Williams, AZ) – 30% off train tickets on one of America’s great train rides within steps of the Grand Canyon’s fabled South Rim. Up to 30% off on overnight stays at The Grand Canyon Railway Hotel in Williams, AZ where the trains begins for select dates between July 10, 2020 to March 1, 2021.

The Grand Hotel (just outside of Grand Canyon National Park) – 30% off daily rates at the only AAA Three-Diamond hotel near the Grand Canyon in Tusayan (just one mile from the South Rim entrance) on select dates between July 10, 2020 and March 1, 2021.

Travel to the Grand Canyon this Summer

“The Train,” is departing again from Williams, AZ to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park starting on June 15, 2020. Since it leaves at 9:30 a.m. and returns back to Williams at 5:45 p.m., stay overnight at Grand Canyon Hotel before or after your Grand Canyon Railway journey.

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The 298-room Grand Canyon Hotel is within walking distance to the train depot and offers renovated guest rooms, an indoor pool and hot tub, two dining options and complimentary wi-fi.

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The hotel management and staff are have enforced and will follow the appropriate sanitizing measures prescribed by the CDC, local authorities, County Health Departments and the National Park Service. They continually monitor the situation to keep the staff and guests healthy.

All employees are required to wear washable face coverings while working, and while on the property in communal areas. N95 masks/particulate respirators are available for employees with high-risk responsibilities. Guests are encouraged to wear face coverings while in interior public spaces.

Register shields have been installed in point-of-sale areas and no-touch solutions have been arranged for guest transactions including the front desk, gift shop, and restaurants.

Hand sanitizer stations have been placed at the lobby, gift shop, hotel, restaurant entrances, and point-of-sale areas. Limited guest capacity usage will be encouraged for the elevator and staff will be encouraged to use stairwells when applicable.

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Once you arrive by train to the South Rim, visitors will have 2.5 hours to explore areas that steeped with American heritage and Western legacy. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared the Grand Canyon a National Park.

Encompassing 277 miles of the Colorado River, the South Rim offers a paved walking path among Ponderosa Pine trees and Utah Juniper. Wildlife scattering or flying around include squirrels, mule deer hawks, California condors, ravens and eagles.

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Near the train depot in El Tovar Hotel. It was considered the most elegant hotel west of the Mississippi River, and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987. The guest list includes Theodore Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, Western author Zane Grey, President Bill Clinton, Sir Paul McCartney, and Oprah Winfrey.

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Next to El Tovar is the historic village and Hopihouse. Built in 1905, as a typical adobe pueblo that Hopi Indians of Old Oraibi lived in. The multi-story building offers museum-quality Native American arts and crafts and souvenir items to purchase before boarding the train back to Williams, AZ.

Guests can choose from two special deals this summer. Arizona residents can save 30 percent on all train fares when they enter ‘Arizona’ in the booking code field of the train ticket or hotel only reservation form.

The Summer Getaway Package offers one to three-night deals that include accommodations at Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel in Williams, dinner, breakfast, a Wild West Show, and roundtrip on the train to South Rim, Grand Canyon.

All guests staying between June 15 and September 30, 2020 can reap the rewards of a long weekend stay at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. For a one-night stay, guests will receive 10 percent off the rack rate with promo code STAY1. A two-night stay equals a 20 percent savings with promo code STAY2 and three or more nights will result in a 30 percent discount with code STAY3. All rates are per room for one or two people and you must input the promo code when making your reservation.

Spring Break LEGOLAND Challenge

As families search for fun, educational activities for their kids to do during their Spring Break, while #SaferatHome during the pandemic, LEGOLAND® California Resort has created an online site that is filled with instructional videos and activities that promote learning, creating and play. Kids and families can access the new fun-filled site called “LEGOLAND Building Challenge”: https://www.legoland.com/llcbuildingchallenge/.

Every Wednesday, the Park will announce a new theme and release a new instructional “how to build” video hosted by a Master Model Builder. On Fridays, LEGOLAND will highlight builds posted by followers on the Resort’s social media sites.

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Photo taken March 2019 for LEGOLAND’S 20th Birthday

The first instructional video on the site featured Master Model Builder PJ Catalano building a birthday cupcake in honor of the Park’s 21st birthday. “So many children are missing out on birthday parties and celebrating their birthday at the Park, so we thought a birthday theme seemed fitting as our inaugural build,” said LEGOLAND California Resort’s General Manager Kurt Stocks. In addition to the builds, the site will feature other activities including coloring pages, trivia, word games and more.

All activities on the LEGOLAND Building Challenge site are free and available for everyone to enjoy. Need some LEGO® to build new creations? Families looking for new LEGO® sets for their kids to build during this time can go online and purchase sets that aren’t usually for sale in the Park’s Big Shop, plus receive free shipping! For more information: https://www.LEGOLAND.com/LEGOretail/.

LEGOLAND Celebrates 20 Years in California

Checking into the festive lobby at the LEGOLAND Hotel in Carlsbad, California, I noticed a some of the hotel rooms had a “Happy Birthday” banner displayed on the door. LEGOLAND is celebrating it’s 20th year with banners, balloons, entertainment and special events throughout 2019.

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Birthday guests can purchase a “Celebrate your birthday package” that includes your choice of themed room or suite, and special gifts for the birthday guest of honor. Upon check in, those celebrating receive a LEGO birthday button, LEGO birthday card, LEGO themed birthday cake, a LEGO gift and a special birthday dinner at Bricks Buffet Restaurant. The cost for this package is $150.
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Opening my Adventure theme room, I enjoyed the colorfully decorated theme suite. Near the door is a kid’s sleeping area with bunk beds with a pull out trundle bed. There is an entertainment unit with a high-definition panel TV. On a shelf is a LEGO container filled with LEGO bricks for kids to build and create while in the room.
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The comfortable King size bed has extra soft sheets and a high-definition flat panel TV. This Junior suite sleeps up to 5 guests comfortably. Near the mini-fridge and coffee maker are complimentary refreshments that include bottled water, juice, coffee and hot cocoa.
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There is an in-room safe and more than ten LEGO decor and model creations that included a monkey, scorpion, and a parrot wearing an Adventure hat. This one-of-a-kind theme room offers guests a fully immersive experience.
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After a great night’s sleep, we enjoyed a complimentary breakfast buffet before entering LEGOLAND earlier than non-hotel guests. At the entrance is a seven-foot tall LEGO cake constructed out of more than 51,000 LEGO bricks, showcasing all of the attractions that have been added to the park over the years.
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What started with 12 rides and Miniland U.S.A., has grown to over 60 rides, the SEA LIFE aquarium and LEGOLAND Water Park. The most festive ride celebrating the park’s birthday is the Coast Cruise. Throughout the guided boat ride guests view Miniland USA on narrative water tour of the park to see the Taj Mahal, Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Mt. Rushmore and a lakeside musical band decorated for the birthday celebration.
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From May 20 through September 1 there is daily birthday themed entertainment, culinary specials and children under 12 receive free admission on their birthday. The offer is valid for admission from January 1 – December 31, 2019.

To make a hotel reservation or purchase tickets, go to LEGOLAND

This review was featured in Where and What in the World.

Desert Luxury at the Ritz Carlton Rancho Mirage

The Ritz Carlton resort in Rancho Mirage offers an array of amenities and services for guests all year round. During the summer when the heat rises to 100 degrees, the elegant room rates drop. As the sun sets and the temperatures cools, guests gather at both swimming pools and on the recreational lawn. Activities include swinging a golf club at the putting green, aim and throw at ladder ball and building Jenga towers. A staff member leads a Serenity under the Stars yoga class on the Vista lawn, while another staff member takes guests on a sunset hike for spectacular views. Mountain bikes and hiking maps are also availale. On Friday and Saturday evenings the staff hold an informative stargazing astronomy experience.

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Walking into the lobby of this desert oasis near Palm Spring, the concierge desk offers an array of complimentary candy for guests to enjoy during check in and throughout the day from noon to 5 p.m.

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Entering room number 1334, I slid open the sliding glass door and stepped onto the balcony with two chairs and a table. Looking out, I appreciated the palm trees, desert, majestic mountain and the main pool views. The spacious room features a king size bed with Frette luxury bed linens, 55-inch LCD flat-panel HD television, mini refrigerator and small sitting area. In the closet there is a safe, two plush white hooded bathrobes and slippers.

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Inside the oversized bathroom is a custom designed 19-inch HD television with a remote control on the bathroom vanity. One can watch their favorite television show while taking a warm soaking bubble bath using luxurious Asprey bath amenities. There is also a marble tiled shower.

Dining at State Fare Bar & Kitchen for dinner, the menu by Chef Bruno Lopez is an ode to California-sourced food and wine. The upscale dining venue overlooks the Coachella valley, and offers an exhibition kitchen. There are tables outside for al fresco dining.

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On Wednesday through Sunday, The Edge Steakhouse is open in the evenings for dinner serving premium dry-aged prime steak and fresh seafood paired with wines from all over the world. The glass window cliff side setting offers spectacular sunset and twinkle light views.

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Walking back to my room, the Reflection Fountain had three large blue orb balls that changed shades as they floated on top of the water.

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The next morning I went down to the reception area for complimentary morning coffee and tea before joining others for a staff member guided morning hike. There are more than 20 miles of mountain and hiking trails originating right from the hotel. For guests who prefer to hike on their own, the concierge desk has towels, bottled water, apples and a hiking map to guide guests on three different trails from the resort. The Jack Rabbit is a moderate 0.9 trail, the Roadrunner/Bighorn overlook trail is a 1.5 moderate hike and the Chuckwalla Trail is 1.6 miles with steep drop-offs.

Ready for a swim in the main pool, guest already rented many of the cabanas. They are available for the day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The cabana package includes a dedicated cabana attendant, seasonal fruit bowl, bottled water, sunscreen, two personal lounge chairs, flat screen television, resort WIFI, refrigerator, personal safe, ceiling fan, misters and electrical outlet.

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Other resort activities during the day include a visit to the famous Jose Eber Salon, an indoor spa treatment, and workout in the fitness center. Nearby desert activities and sightseeing include air conditioned Modern architectural tours of Palm Springs, and taking the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to soar up to a cooler 8,500 feet mountain to dine, hike and explore under towering pine trees.

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The Ritz Carlton, Rancho Mirage is conveniently located to the Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) and 60 minutes from Ontario International Airport (ONT). It’s two hours from the Los Angeles (LAX), Orange County (SNA) and San Diego (SAN) International Airports.

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Stay here during Greater Palm Springs dineGPS Restaurant Week.

For reservations go to http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/california/rancho-mirage or call (760) 321-8282.

This review was published in JustLuxe on June 1, 2019.

LEGOLAND California Celebrate 20 years

Today, May 20th LEGOLAND turns 20! Kicking off a year full of celebration, LEGOLAND is festively decorated with colorful balloons, streamers and decorations throughout the park. Everyone knows that birthdays are one of the best times of the year.

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Checking into the LEGOLAND Hotel and walking to my Adventure theme room number 3010, I noticed six different room doors displaying Happy Birthday banners. These guests purchased a “Celebrate your birthday package” that includes your choice of themed room or suite, and special gifts for the birthday guest of honor. Upon check in, those celebrating receive a LEGO birthday button, LEGO birthday card, LEGO themed birthday cake, a LEGO gift and a special birthday dinner at Bricks Buffet Restaurant. The cost for this package is $150.

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Opening my Adventure room on the third floor, I enjoyed the colorfully decorated theme suite. Near the door is a kid’s sleeping area with bunk beds with a pull out trundle bed. There is an entertainment unit with a high-definition panel TV. On a shelf is a LEGO container filled with LEGO bricks for kids to build and create while in the room. 

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The comfortable King size bed has extra soft sheets and a high-definition flat panel TV. This Junior suite sleeps up to 5 guests comfortably. Near the mini-fridge and coffee maker are complimentary refreshments that include bottled water, juice, coffee and hot cocoa. 

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There is an in-room safe and more than ten LEGO decor and model creations that included a monkey, scorpion, and a parrot wearing an Adventure hat. This one-of-a-kind theme room offers guests a fully immersive experience. 

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Other themes rooms include Kingdom, LEGO NINJAGO and LEGO Friends on the first floor, and Pirate on the second floor. Be sure to take the elevator up to each floor. Not only will you smile once the doors close, but you may sing and dance too.

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The next morning we enjoyed a complimentary breakfast buffet before entering LEGOLAND earlier than non-hotel guests. At the entrance is a seven-foot tall LEGO cake constructed out of more than 51,000 LEGO bricks, showcasing all of the attractions that have been added to the park over the years. 

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What started with 12 rides and Miniland U.S.A., has grown to over 60 rides, the SEA LIFE aquarium and LEGOLAND Water Park.

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The popular DUPLO Playtown is now relocated to The Ridge, of of the most scenic areas of the Park. Kids slide, hide, and ride throughout the interactive play area and board a mini-locomotive for a fun-filled ride. 

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Another new area at LEGOLAND is the LEGO City Deep Sea Adventure. Guests climb into a submarine with touchscreens near a porthole that passengers can push when they see hidden treasure, LEGO model creations and over 2000 different types of sea creatures, including rays and sharks.

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From May 20 through September 1 there is daily birthday themed entertainment, culinary specials and children under 12 receive free admission on their birthday. The offer is valid for admission from January 1 – December 31, 2019.

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Click here to make a hotel reservation and purchase tickets to LEGOLAND California

 

Long Live Queen Kapiolani Hotel

In the late 1800s, Hawaiians developed a fondness and admiration for their Queen Kapiolani. They appreciated her deep commitment to health, education, and well-being for the Hawaiian people. Her motto “Strive for the Highest” helped establish the Kapiolani Home for Girls and the Kapiolani Maternity Home, with her lasting legacy The Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children.

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In the 1960s one of the first modernistic 19 story hotels was built across from the Kapiolani Park in Waikiki. It was named in honor of the Queen and soon became a favorite for visitors due to its location near Waikiki Beach, the Honolulu Zoo and Diamond Head. Then the luster of the Queen started to fade.

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Meeting Joy Shinobu Tomita, the Director of Sales and Marketing at Knot’s Coffee & Bar in the lobby, I learned Prospect Hill Group and Hawaii hotel executive Patrick Fitzgerald recently acquired the property and invested $35 million dollars to make improvements and renovate the rooms. “The hotel is not the most luxury hotel in Waikiki, instead its engaging, authentic and unique,” said Joy. “We are bringing back the Golden Age with a modern twist.”

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With the help of Hawaiian designer Mary Philpotts of Philpotts Interiors, the hotel is now filled with Hawaiian colors, local art, comfortable furniture and engaging public spaces.

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Touring the hotel with Joy, I admired the large open-air lobby that fronts Kapiolani Park. In the reception and corridors, Waikiki’s vintage artwork is hung with classic posters from “the Good Old Days of Waikiki.” Each floor is decorated in artwork of a different travel theme that includes airlines and cruise ships.

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As Queen Kapiolani helped the people of Oahu, the newly refurbished hotel is helping young Hawaiians by contributing to the KoKua Hawai’i Foundation. This community non-profit established by Jack & Kim Johnson, provides educational experiences to Hawaii’s youth to better understand the sustainability and how to be good stewards of the land. Guests can contribute $1 per day of their stay to support the environmental education programs in the local schools and communities.

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Another way the hotel is helping local artists is by commissioning their wall-sized pieces and displaying them for guests to admire and appreciate. Upstairs on the second floor Royal Art Gallery, the hotel features portraits of Queen Kapi’olani, King Kalakaua and other Hawaiian ali’i and dignitaries. 

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To help maintain guests health, the Queen Kapiolani offer a new fitness center and Hans Hedemann Surf School and shop. On the third floor is an expansive 8,000-square-foot lanai offering a sparkling pool, lounge area and al fresco DECK restaurant perched above Kapiolani Park. This area offers one of Waikiki’s best views of Diamond Head. At sunset and early evening some of best musicians in the Hawaiian music scene perform as guests sip Mai Tai’s on tap and enjoy a variety of Modern American dishes with a Hawaiian flair.

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Entering room #1816, I admired how light and bright this one bedroom with a kitchenette, large outdoor lanai, and two bathroom suite was overlooking Waikiki Beach to Diamond Head. Below is the Honolulu Zoo with a bird’s eye view of the flamingo pond, elephant habitat and beautiful Hawaiian flowering trees.

The hotel offers guest experiences throughout the week with Hawaiian Coffee tastings at the lobby Knot’s Coffee Bar, visits to the nearby Farmers Market, surf lessons and art experiences. There is an Aloha Whip Confectionery and retail shops offering fun Hawaiian lifestyle art and gifts.

Waikiki’s Queen Kapiolani regains its luster offering beauty, health, wellness and an educational Hawaiian experience to all visiting Oahu. Renovations are scheduled to be completed by September 2018. For reservations – https://www.queenkapiolani.com.

This review was also featured in JustLuxe.

5 Ways to Cool Down at LEGOLAND

Summer temperatures are rising, yet LEGOLAND offers multiple venues to keep your family happy and cool. Here are 5 solutions to beat the heat:

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Photo by LEGOLAND

  1. LEGO® City: Deep Sea Adventure submarine ride at LEGOLAND® California Resort. The interactive ride features more than 2,000 sea animals including several five species of sharks, several species of rays including a southern stingray with a five-foot wing span. Tropical fish swim amid new LEGO® models around a ship’s sunken treasure. For the first time in the United States, LEGOLAND California Resort brings guests onboard 22,000 pound submarines where guests discover a truly amazing world filled with real sea animals.  Through the use of interactive touchscreens at each porthole inside the sub, guests can help the LEGO® minifigure dive team identify LEGO® gems, pearls, and gold coins throughout the more than four minute journey. Guests can reach one of three levels during each ride: Junior, Senior and Master Explorer. The submarine ride will be included in the price of admission this summer at LEGOLAND California Resort.  For more information and to sign up for insider updates, visit LEGOLAND.com/deepsea2018.

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    Photo of writer at the entrance of LEGOLAND
  2. SEA LIFE® aquarium helps families learn about the life of the sea, by combining active hands-on learning with close encounters with sharks, octopi and rays. The new exhibit – Sea at Night inspires visitors to stroll in a gentle surf under a starry sky – during the day Walk, jump and “splash” in a simulated bioluminescent tide. Any LEGOLAND ticket can be upgraded to include SEA LIFE Aquarium admission for $22.

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    Photo by LEGOLAND
  3. LEGO CHIMA Water Park climb aboard a shipwrecked pirate vessel and stand beneath a 38-foot-tall mast. Looming overhead is over 300 gallons of water that is ready to come pouring down at any moment to drench you in the hot sun. Zip along a curving blue slide and then “splash out” into a pool of water at the end. Gather four riders and board a giant orange raft to slide and spin while rushing past the Water Park Tower on a giant orange half pipe. Build cities, dams and bridges out of DUPLO bricks and test them against the flow of water.
  4. Ride the Pirate Shores Water rides to fire water cannons across the ships’ bows to get others wet and race down a flume between battling ships to cool off.
  5. Stay in one of the two LEGOLAND Resort Hotels – LEGOLAND Hotel or the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel. Both are located at the entrance of LEGOLAND California. Both offer registered guests a free breakfast buffet. Both hotels have guest rooms with a separate kid’s area with LEGO building tables and a scavenger hunt in every room. LEGOLAND Hotel offers interactive LEGO features throughout and a choice of LEGO themed rooms – Pirate, Kingdom, Adventure, LEGO NINJAGO or LEGO Friends. The 250 LEGOLAND Castle offers three different themed rooms with your choice of Knights & Dragons, Royal Princess or Magic Wizard. There is an Enhanced Pool Area featuring a zero entry pool featuring interactive water play features and whirlpool spa. Nearby is the Entertainment Courtyard Play zones for kids of all ages including a DUPLO tot spot, slides, an outdoor stage and cinema with seating for early evening movie nights.
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