7 Great Escapes in Spring 2021

Ready to celebrate Spring now that you are vaccinated? Here’s some of the best So Cal and Vegas escapes.

Santa Monica

1. Casa del Mar Beachside Bliss Picnic
The iconic Hotel Casa del Mar in Santa Monica and its sister property, Shutters on the Beach, are offering an oceanfront picnic experience to hotel guests. Wiggle your toes in the sand during this new culinary services. Beach setup by the picnic concierge team comes complete with a chic low table, comfy plush pillows, linens, blankets, and sun umbrellas. The delicious picnic menu includes lobster rolls; Thai lettuce wraps; and charcuterie. Just in time for Spring, the hotel is offering a new Beachside Bliss Package that includes a 2-night stay in an luxurious ocean-view room, welcome amenity, daily valet parking, and the new oceanfront picnic experience. The package starts at $875+ per night with a two-night minimum stay. Hotel guests are also able to purchase the beach picnic offering a la carte during their stay. Go to: www.hotelcasadelmar.com, 1910 Ocean Way (310)581-5533.

2. Newport Coast

The Resort at Pelican Hill – For a true Mediterranean experience, stay overnight at The Resort at Pelican Hill. Enjoy sitting outside overlooking the largest round swimming pool at the Coliseum Pool & Grill. The chefs prepare fresh, seasonal ingredients in their culinary specials and have them served in one of the most magnificent settings. Fun Fact: There are over one million glass mosaic tiles, each of them meticulously laid by hand inside the pool. The views beyond the pool is the Pelican Hill Golf Course and sparkling Pacific coast. This luxury resort offers a truly relaxing, vacation experience. Self Parking is available at the Main Estate. Coliseum Pool & Grill menus: BREAKFAST LUNCH DINNER POOL KIDS

3. Palos Verdes

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

4. Laguna

The Ranch Laguna Beach – Those looking to play golf, take beach walks, practice morning yoga, listen to live music in one of the most beautiful canyons while dining al fresco will enjoy their stay at The Ranch Laguna Beach. Take a road trip with one of the resort’s specials that include

  • $25 Chevron gift card
  • Waived resort fee
  • Farewell snack box, choice healthy or “kind of healthy” assortment
  • Laguna Beach road trip playlist

Valid for select Sunday – Thursday nights through May 27, 2021.

5. Laguna Beach

Montage Laguna Beach – When guests reserve a stay at least 21 days in advance they receive a 15% savings on the best available rate at this luxury resort on the bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Other special offers include Montage Memories with deluxe accommodations, complimentary nightly valet parking and a daily $60 breakfast credit. For those seeking to Linger Longer arrive early and stay late. It’s a special weekday stay offering the opportunity for more pool time and extra hours to enjoy breathtaking ocean views with an early check-in and late check-out, along with complimentary valet parking. Read more about The Montage Laguna Beach

6. Dana Point

Blue Lantern Inn in Dana Point offers a cozy bed and breakfast vacation, The Blue Lantern Inn is one of the best So Cal destinations. Sitting up on a bluff overlooking the Dana Point Harbor and Pacific coastline, the staff present guests with a wine, cheese, crackers and fruit picnic bag. Guest can enjoy this on their patio, balcony or Inn’s viewing terrace. Also at check-in guests are presented a menu to check off what items they desire for breakfast. The next morning a multi-course hot and cold breakfast tray arrives at your guest room door. After breakfast, take one of their cruiser bikes for a spin around Dana Point or go for a nature hike above the Inn. Read about specials here.

7. Las Vegas – See a show!

The Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino excitedly announced that on Thursday, April 22 Penn & Teller will perform a new content and magic show, plus a selection from Penn & Teller’s extensive catalog of fan favorites. “We are so excited to go back to doing what we do, where we do it, for the people we do it for,” said Penn Jillette. “Teller and I are both more than two weeks out of our second shots, and in the same bubble, so we can stand unmasked on our stage. We will give up seeing what we hope are smiling faces so our audience can stay masked and safe.” Additionally, Penn shared, “We haven’t been on stage in over a year, so we don’t know whether the audience will be coming to see us do miracles, or just to see if we remember which way to face on stage. But no matter what, we’re excited to return to our home at the Rio!” Deals are amazing at this hotel right now with suites starting at $29 on certain dates when available. Click here to read more.

Eat. Sip. Love Montage Laguna Beach

Beautiful views at the Montage Laguna Beach
Beautiful views at the Montage Laguna Beach

Strolling into the lobby of the Montage Laguna Beach, the tension melted from my body, as I stood at the balcony of the elegant lobby lounge and looked out to the resort’s mosaic tiled sunburst pool with over 500,000 colorful tiles and sparkling Pacific Ocean beyond.

Checking into room 526, on the same level as the lobby, we had marvelous views of the walkway leading down to the beach and dramatic rocky cliffs at the edge of the ocean.

Comfortable beds at the Montage Laguna Beach
Comfortable beds at the Montage Laguna Beach

The feather-top king size bed was dressed with 400-thread count bed linens. In the closet, two 100% Fila Casa Egyptian Combed Cotton bathrobes and a child-size robe await for guests, while plush white monogrammed “M” slippers rest on the floor.

In the full marble bathroom is a deep soaking tube with back loofah brush, bath salts, and soap. There is a separate large shower and Egyptian Combed Cotton towels.

Sipping Bubbly at Sunset
Sipping Bubbly at Sunset

Since, this room faces the West, it’s an ideal spot to watch the sunset in the late afternoon. We popped open the champagne before heading down to an elegant tasting dinner at the Studio restaurant on a cliff overlooking the ocean.

Studio is an elegant Craftsman-inspired restaurant reminiscent of a beach cottage you would love to own. Guests can sit below rich, dark browns and rustic wood beams at an indoor table with elegant linens, fine Raynaud china, and classic Riedel glassware. Another preferable dining option is sitting outside on the paved dining patio to hear the waves crashing over rocks creating waterfalls into sea water pools. At twilight resident bunnies nibble on the tender grass. Look up and see a multitude of stars illuminating the sky above the ocean.

Chef Craig Strong's Garden
Chef Craig Strong’s Garden

Executive Chef Craig Strong creates an elevated tasting menu with meat and a vegetarian tasting menu nightly. The menu also offers a la carte specialities. He has been creating award-winning dishes here for over 7 years. This esteemed chef was kind enough to welcome us to his restaurant as we sat below two palm trees names Desi and Lucy. We learned that growing up in San Diego, his parents had a great garden and Strong enjoyed helping their garden grow.

When he was hired to take over Studio, there wasn’t a chefs garden. The General Manager talked with Strong about gardens and within six months created a garden with beautiful raised planting beds next to the kitchen for the chef. “It’s fun to harvest flowers, herbs and vegetables,” Strong said. “The smells of the seasons provide inspiration in creating my menu.” This talented chef also has a great relationship with local organic farmers, and changes his seasonal menu often based on the artisanal products he receives.

The tasting menus can be paired with a few of the 3,000 bottles of wine featured in the custom-built wine vaults flanking the entryway. The resident sommeliers will present each selection to you, plus educate you about the soil, region and taste profiles.

What makes this dining experience so special is the staff. They gather in unison at a table with a dish in hand. On the count of three, each waiter places a dish in front of the guest at the exact same time. It is such a formal affair, one feels as if they are dining at Downton Abbey.

Start with three different breads – brioche, wheat with pepitas and sesame sourdough with three different butters – cows milk, goats milk, and Meyer’s lemon garlic butter.

Haute Garden to Table Cuisine at STUDIO.
Haute Garden to Table Cuisine at STUDIO.

My first course after a chef’s poached shrimp amuse bouche, was a vegetarian beet and goat cheese ravioli. The bright red beets were flower cut, stuffed with goat cheese that turns pink with the beet juice, and smoked almonds before being decorated with mircogreens and lovely miniature pansies.

Nina Rosas was our personal sommelier and paired the beet dish with a dry Reisling that was not too sweet. It’s one of her favorite producers in Germany. the wine is floral, with a brightness glowing from the core. We learned that GG on a Reisling means dry wine.

With my chestnut agnolotti with braised radicchio, brown butter crumble and spaghetti squash and parmesan with arrow spinach and shaved truffles, the sommelier recommended DuMol “Ryan” Russian River Valley Pinot Noir offering a deep red color with brambly huckleberry and blueberry on the nose, along with hints of black cherry and earthy spices. Sappy, juicy and sweet, with a suave grain and lovely inner-mouth perfume to the flavors of wild berries, cola spices and sexy oak. Very supple Pinot with a long, ripe, rising finish perked up by a peppery accent.

IMG_5771In the morning, make coffee or tea in your room of visit The Loft for complimentary coffee and tea at the bar counter. It’s a beautiful all-day dining restaurant on the fourth floor, offering panoramic ocean views. The Loft has a six-foot wood-burning rotisserie and an interactive cheese gallery featuring over 150 cheese selections from both regional and international cheese makers. Sit inside or outside to breathe in the fresh sea air.

Lots of sandy beach for walks and tide pools to explore.
Lots of sandy beach for walks and tide pools to explore.

Afterwards, take a walk along the garden lined pathways to the beach. Examine sea life in the tide pools, as you put your toes in the sand and dip in the refreshing Pacific Ocean. Watch the surfers skimboard along the shoreline. Lifeguards from Laguna Beach created this fun sport. They took a thin and short board to surf along the shorebreak too shallow for surfboards. It’s similar to surfing, as skimboarders perform aerial maneuvers and pull into the barrel of small waves.

Walk up the path near the palm trees named Lucy and Desi by the Studio Restaurant. These trees were featured in the 1953 movie, The Long Long Trailer with movie stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. They are a signature to the resort with a smaller tree growing nearby.

The pool is warm and inviting.
The pool is warm and inviting.

Don your bathing suit and visit the Mosaic pool. Attendants will greet you and find you a lounge chair in the sun or under an umbrella. They drape it with a plush towel cover and offer to take a drink or food order. Nearby is the hot spa offering elevated seats, so you can sit for a warm soak, and gaze out at the ocean.

You can enjoy lunch by the pool while soaking in the sun at the nearby Mosaic Bar and Grille. The restaurant offers California-inspired beach fare with choices of salads, grilled sandwiches or fresh daily seafood. They even have a spa menu offering low-calorie and healthy choices. In the summer, there is daily live entertainment and the staff offers beach food and beverage service.

The fitness and spa pool is serene and quiet.
The fitness and spa pool is serene and quiet.

Before dinner step into the spa and fitness center. The 20,000 square foot spa offers a variety of rejuvenation treatment packages. Relax in the eucalyptus steam rooms, dry redwood saunas, ocean air whirlpools, fireplace lounges, and state of the art fitness center overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Take a swim in the lap pool or curl up with a good book on a lounge chair. When you leave, go for a walk down to the beach and notice the enormous sea life mural below the spa pool area. It’s an exquisite glazed ceramic art piece by Dora De Lorios that she made in 2005 and named Life Force.

The social hub of the resort with live music and gorgeous views.
The social hub of the resort with live music and gorgeous views.

Be sure to enjoy an afternoon tea in the Lobby Lounge or cocktail before dinner. Live music is performed by two talented pianists Steve Sio and David Allen Baker. Sit back, listen to music and watch the soul of the resort come alive with guests entering and enjoying the views.

Once you feel you have had enough exercise and sun, go back to your room and repeat the above – soak in the bath, don your comfortable robes, sip some champagne and watch the sunset from your balcony.

A nice touch to offer to departing guests.
A nice touch to offer to departing guests.

When you check out to leave and the valet brings your car to the front, they offer guests complimentary bottles of water and blue Montage baseball caps as a souvenir for staying at one of the most elegant beach resorts in California. You drive away with a smile on your newly sun tanned face.

To make a room or dinner reservation, log onto: Montage Hotels – https://www.montagehotels.com

Montage Laguna Beach https://www.montagehotels.com/lagunabeach/

30801 SOUTH COAST HIGHWAY, LAGUNA BEACH, CA 92651 | 866.551.8244

Jill’s Top 10 Vacation Destinations in 2015

IMG_6753Looking back on 2015, this was a enlightening year for traveling. Since my daughter was studying in Shanghai, China we planned a two week trip to visit and travel with her to some fascinating cities in Asia. Here are 10 of my favorite vacations in 2015 that I experienced and shared with my readers in a variety of publications –

IMG_52671.Ten Sights in Shanghai, China that will WOW you – http://hubpages.com/travel/10-Sights-That-Wow-in-Shanghai-China

IMG_51372. Eating. Sleeping. Playing at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong – http://hubpages.com/travel/Hong-Kong-Mandarin-Orienta

IMG_45883. Sights to visit in Xian – http://www.intravelmag.com/intravel/interest/10-sights-to-visit-in-xi-anDSC_09174. Terranea Resort – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/exceptional-oceanview-dining-good-cause-jill-weinlein 

lovinglaguna15. Loving Laguna Beach – https://dineandtravel.me/category/beach-trip/ 


6. Elegant Hideaway in La Quinta – http://www.independenttraveler.com/trip-reviews/10-family-fun-activities-at-la-quinta-resort

1dead7c7. Eat. Drink. Play in Santa Barbara – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/santa-barbara-eat-drink-play-jill-weinlein

IMG_1244-1024x7688. Cabo San Lucas – http://luxebeatmag.com/cabo-rebuilds-luxuriously/ 

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAKmAAAAJGM3MWQ5M2UzLTdmZDItNDczZC05MWMwLTM3YmFhMjY2ZjMzOA9. 10 Reasons to Visit Costa Rica – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/10-reasons-visit-costa-rica-jill-weinlein

img_1469_210. Yoga & Surfers Dream Resort in Todos Santos http://www.justluxe.com/community/rancho-pescadero-is-a-surfers-dream-resort-in-baja-californi_a_1958638.php

Loving Laguna Beach

FullSizeRender-5Laguna Beach offers everything Hawaii does – Palm Trees, miles of beaches, great tide pools, fun restaurants, interactive family activities and hotels ranging from economical to five star resorts. If you live in California or a nearby state, you can drive and don’t have to fly to this resort town. Once you check into your hotel, you will never have to get into your car again, until your vacation is over.

One of the most Hawaiian feeling hotels is the Inn at Laguna Beach. It’s a 70-room hotel with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean for almost every room. Sitting up on the bluff, The Inn is an ideal location on the beach and within a block from the charming village.

Checking into our room 313, we noticed it was a tad dark. There are two floors above our room located in the corner of the property. However, as we opened the plantation shutters covering our sliding glass door, we noticed our private patio had a door leading out to the 86 degree salt water pool. It was an ideal location for our family with two daughters.

IMG_6689Our room also had two Queen size beds, a safe in the closet, two cotton robes, shower and tub combination and bath products by LATHER.

After a day at the beach the hotel offers a complimentary wine reception up on the outdoor rooftop. They pour glasses of Chardonnay or Pinot Noir and serve some salty bar snacks between 5 to 6 p.m. overlooking the Main Beach and Pacific Ocean. Then at 6 p.m. the kitchen brings out trays of warm oatmeal, sugar, white chocolate Macademia nut, chocolate chip and double chocolate chip cookies to the lobby, with milk jugs of chocolate and regular milk.

After these refreshments, we donned our bathing suits and swam before dinner. Since other guests were IMG_6753dressing for dinner, walking along the beach or exploring the artsy town of Laguna, we had the pool to ourselves. The temperature was perfect for a swim before sunset.

Complimentary coffee and tea service is available in the lobby starting at 7 a.m. We stopped for a cup before starting the day with a walk to Main Beach, exploring the tide pools or visiting the shops. Guests can check-out towels and beach chairs from a hotel staff member at the bottom of the hotel next to the sand.

Here are some fun summer time activities we enjoyed while staying in Laguna Beach.

1. Free Trolley Ride
During the summer there is a Free trolley service that starts at El Monte Elementary School and travels along a coastal route down to the Ritz Carlton Resort with multiple stops along the way. There is also a Downtown Canyon Route, and a short Canyon Route. A trolley picks up visitors and locals at each stop usually every twenty minutes.

2. Festival of Arts
For over 80 years, the fine art show has been in Laguna Beach during the summer with art demonstrations, art workshops, art tours, live music and special events create festival atmosphere. The Pagent of the Masters brings art to life. During the 90-minute evening show, set in an outdoor amphitheater, a professional orchastra with an original score begins, as a live narrator guides guests on the live art masterpieces with moving sets and dedicated volunteers. Imagine famous art masterpieces coming to life right in front of your eyes.

IMG_67123. Main Beach
Ideal for building sand castles, body surfing, playing volleyball and basketball or watching little ones have fun on the playground equipment. There are miles of soft sand for beachcoming and leisure walks along the shore.

4. The Marine Mammal Center
Our girls enjoy visiting the rescued and rehabilitated seals and sea lions. The center offers educational programs for kids as part of their community outreach program. They’re open to the public several hours each week. Many of these mammals wash up on shore and are often returned to the ocean after they have received food and medical attention.

5. Farmers Market
Every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon next to Laguna City Hall.

6. Sunset Stroll
Walking along the cliffs and bluff past the various parks and exploring the tide pools at sunset when the tide is low is a popular activity. It’s a great time to take photos.

7. Tide Pool Exploring
There are 6 popular tide pool viewing sights in Laguna Beach. Crescent Beach, Treasure Island Beach, Shaw’s IMG_6795Cove, Heisler Park, Victoria Beach and Bird Rock. You can reach all of these destinations by trolley. Shaw’s Cove offers tidepooling on both sides. During low tides the south side of the Heisler Park Reserve beach has a flat rocky section that is covered with sea anemones. Our girls liked poking into their center to watch them close up to protect themselves. Walking north of the stairs, we observed many urchins, striped shore crabs, hermit crabs and small fish. At Bird Rock has we saw sea hares and a sea cucumber. Bird Rock is near The Inn at Laguna Beach and is about 30 feet off Main beach. It is home to a variety of birds that include brown pelicans, sandpipers and various gulls.

8. Dining in Laguna
We enjoyed Taco Tuesday at Big Fish Tavern; Sunset Dining at The Cliff with free rides to the restaurant for guests after 5 p.m.; Modern Mexican food at Tortilla Republic and fresh juice and healthy bowls at Juice and Shakes. All are within walking distance from The Inn at Laguna Beach.

It was hard for our family to leave picturesque Laguna Beach. The weather was ideal, the activities were fulfilling and the setting was idyllic for walking, resting, swimming and sightseeing.

This review was published in Independent Traveler too!


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