The Westin LAX Festive Sleigh Ride

Tis the season to be jolly and not have to worry about parking at one of the busiest airports this time of the year. The Westin Los Angeles Airport has launched a festive shuttle throughout the month of December to spread a little cheer to passengers leaving and arriving to LAX.

Guests parking or staying The Westin near the airport, will enjoy the exclusive opportunity to ride in a festively wrapped shuttle that is decked out with thousands of lights. The shuttle will have a Christmas wreath and the drivers will be wearing Santa hats. Passengers are greeted with candy canes, and can sit back and listen to holiday music before arriving at their airport terminal or the hotel.

This special shuttle will run at random in rotation with the hotel’s regular complimentary shuttle service which runs every 20 minutes 24/7.


Right now through December 25, The Westin at LAX is offering a “That’s a Wrap!” package. Guests staying at the hotel will receive festive wrapping paper, bows and anything else one needs to wrap holiday gifts with ease — including a complimentary cocktail! To book, visit www.marriott.com/laxwi and use promo code HO9.

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.

California Vacation Dreams Come True in 2021

Polling conducted by Michelle Gielan, founder of the Institute for Applied Positive Research and an expert in the science of happiness, found 97% of Americans say having a trip on the calendar makes them happier. Three-fourths said planning a trip would make them feel more in control amid so much uncertainty.

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I think we all can agree, the pandemic has taken a toll on covid-weary #stayathome traveler’s mental health. It has also taken a significant hit on the economy too. Americans left a third of all their earned vacation days on the table in 2020, according to research from the U.S. Travel Association. More than half say they looking to visit bucket list destinations in 2021 when the time is right. Californians now say they expect to take 39% more time off in 2021, according to research by SMARInsights. This pent-up demand for travel will be key for California’s recovery.

Rosewood Miramar Beach, Montecito

Visit California is offering a National Plan For Vacation Day (Jan. 26), to give travelers hope to dream now and travel later.  ‘California Dream Dial’ is a free, limited-time hotline to help callers brighten their outlook by planning a future road trip in the Golden State. Connect with California travel experts to find special deals.

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“It’s never too early to start planning, and we can all use something on the calendar to look forward to,” said Visit California President and CEO Caroline Beteta. “California Dream Dial is a service for visitors to begin mapping out travel plans for their dream vacation. And when it’s safe to travel again, these trips will do double duty as they work to jump-start California’s economic recovery.”

Avalon, Catalina Island

To use the California Dream Dial as a resource for trip planning, travelers are invited to complete a short questionnaire starting today to make a 20-minute appointment for Tuesday, Jan. 26. If unable to make an appointment, call the hotline directly at 1-833-PLAN-PTO from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. PST on Jan. 26.

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“Booking a trip – even just getting it on the calendar – might be the very thing we need to restore our emotional immune system after months of mounting uncertainty and stress,” Gielan said.

Pacific Beach – San Diego

With road trip expertise from California travel experts, California Dream Dial provides the perfect planning tool with tips on everything from California’s hidden gems and National Park hacks to culture- and culinary-filled getaways. The hotline experts will explore each traveler’s specific interests and offer curated guidance for future road trips once the pandemic has subsided and it is safe to explore the Golden State again.

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Travel is a powerful component of California’s economy that accounted for $145 billion in spending in California in 2019, supported 1.2 million jobs and generated $12.2 billion in state and local taxes. The pandemic halved those numbers in 2020, but planning a trip will provide a direct boost to businesses and jobs across California to jump-start recovery.

Quail Lodge & Golf Club – Carmel Valley

To make an appointment for California Dream Dial, go to  visitcalifornia.com/plan2021. If unable to secure an appointment, call the hotline directly at 1-833-PLAN-PTO from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. PST on Tuesday, Jan. 26. Future visitors can share their 2021 travel plans online using #PlanForVacation and #VisitCalifornia.

5 Northern California travel specials in 2021

For those ready to receive their vaccination and travel in 2021, here are 5 Golden State staycations in Northern CA, offering perks and special deals for weekday and weekend getaways, as well as future staycation plans.

Property: Harbor Court Hotel in San Francisco, CA
  1. Harbor Court Hotel is a four star boutique hotel located within steps of the Ferry Building. FUN FACT: The waterfront hotel was built in 1926 as an Army-Navy residence. The eight-story architectural brick gem proudly served soldiers returning from war. DEAL: Reserve for stays March 1 – June 1, 2021 and receive a $25 gas card, road maps and a CA trip guide offering directions to wineries, scenic routes and fun spots to explore the best of the Golden Coast. Room prices on Jan. 4, 2021 started at $159 a night. Booking Link: here.
Marin Suites Hotel

2. Marin Suites Hotel in Marin is offering an Essential Workers Special Rate for government, law enforcement, first responder, healthcare, or other essential workers. Not only will you receive a special discount off their best available rate, but also a continental breakfast and complimentary newspaper. Employee ID required upon check-in. FUN FACT: Located in Corte Madera, this area once was famous for producing redwood tree lumber which was used in the constructing the city of San Francisco 12 miles away. DEAL: Room rate on Jan.4, 2021 started at $122 a night .Booking Link: here

The Getaway

3. The Getaway in Carmel is just steps from the white sands of Carmel Beach. FUN FACT: There are no addresses, parking meters or street lights in Carmel. Instead many of the cottages have legendary names such as “Hansel” or “Sea Urchin.” It’s also bad luck to change the name on a Carmel cottage. DEAL: a pet friendly boutique hotel offering 10% off it’s Best Flexible Rates plus receive a bottle of local wine and chocolates upon arrival. Book now and stay by January 31, 2021. Blackouts may apply. Pet Fee: Guest will be asked to adhere to The Getaway’s dog policies upon arrival. All dogs are welcome for a one-time, non-refundable cleaning fee of $83.25 (tax included) for 1 dog and $99.90 (tax included) for 2 dogs, charged upon check-in.  Booking Link: here.

Complimentary bicycles at The Hideaway

4. The Hideaway also in Carmel is a sister property of The Getaway. It is also a pet-friendly property and offers complimentary bicycles for guests to explore the best rated trails in Carmel By The Sea. The front desk provides helmets, lock, and city map. FUN FACT: Carmel-by-the-Sea’s is a charming European Village looking one-square mile village where Clint Eastwood was once mayor. DEAL: Book now and stay by January 31, 2021 to receive 10% off Best Flexible Rates plus receive a bottle of local wine and chocolates upon arrival. Blackouts may apply. Booking Link: here 

Hotel Winters

Property: Hotel Winters is a four-star boutique hotel in Winters, CA offering a Peace of Mind Promise on Covid safety protocols and procedures. The area offers numerous wine tasting spots. FUN FACT: Winters is a small city in rural Yolo County, and the western Sacramento Valley. It has a population a little over 6,500 residents. DEAL: Save Now, Travel Later. Travelers will receive an exclusive $189 rate for any date now through the end of March 2021, plus a daily $25 F&B credit, a bottle of wine upon arrival, and late check-out by 2 p.m. There are no blackout dates. The hotel is also offering an exclusive government, first responders and healthcare rate. Booking Link: here

Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort Reopens

One of California’s premiere luxury ranch retreat The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort reopens.

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Tucked along the rolling hills of Santa Ynez Valley, offering 10,500 acres of wide-open spaces, families and friends can create their own private ranch vacation with two new packages.

Alisal Awaits is a new package designed to guests back to the great outdoors, offering activities that include horseback riding, fishing and lake activities, wine tasting, and golf.

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Stay in a cozy Alisal cottage, breakfast, dinner and all beverages, and go on a group trail ride through the hills. Guests who select this package will receive a nighty $50 ranch credit,  and have the opportunity to play golf at the two on-property champion courses with a golf cart. This package is $650 per night with a two-night minimum. It’s valid for stays through March 2021.

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The Private Ranch Retreat is for families and friends seeking the utmost precautions surrounding their health and safety. Guests can reserve a block of 10-20 rooms adjacent to one another. The package includes private dining for breakfast and dinner, as well as all beverages, a special BBQ, and a signature breakfast trail ride.

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Outdoor activities include fly fishing, archery, mountain biking, and kids’ activities, arts and crafts and lawn games that the group can enjoy privately without other guests at the resort. The Rate is $750 per night per room based on double occupancy. It’s available Sunday through Thursday, with a two-night minimum. It’s valid for stays through March 2021.

Celebrate The Year of the Rat at Universal Studios

The “Year of the Rat” celebration is now at Universal Studios Hollywood through February 9, 2020. Guests with birthday years that correspond with the “Year of the Rat” are said to be intelligent, witty and charming. Festive red banners list the years of each Chinese zodiac animal, as the theme park celebrates with this annual Lunar New Year event.

A Mandarin-speaking MEGATRON from “Transformers: The Ride-3D” greets guests under the Happy Lunar New Year arch before entering Po’s Village in Universal Plaza.

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At no additional cost, guests can learn some Kung Fu Panda moves from Po, take an art class at Feng The Palace Artist Stand to learn how to draw Po, the Dragon Warrior with an artist from the fabled Jade Palace.

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Make a wish and attach it on one of the blossoming pink wishing trees. Pose with Tigress for photos in front of a Chinese background.

Only for this special celebration, meet Po’s adoptive father, Mr. Ping and have a chat before enjoying some of his delicious noodles and other food options from his nearby Noodle Shop.

Be sure to see the immersive “Kung Fu Panda Adventure” Attraction across the way.

Hello Kitty and Illumination’s Entertainment Minions are all adorned in custom-designed Lunar New Year Attire. The Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride will add to the festivities, entertaining guests in their brightly colored traditional Lunar New Year attire.

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The world-famous Studio Tour is available in Mandarin at select times throughout the day. Featuring expertly-trained Mandarin-speaking tour guides, the experience provides insight into the world of movie-making magic as guests enjoy behind-the-scenes access to one of the largest production studios in the world. In-language park maps are also available for guests.

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Guests can continue their Lunar New Year celebration at Universal CityWalk’s Dongpo Kitchen restaurant which features upscale and modern Sichuan cuisine. Inspired by China’s premier restaurant Meizhou Dongpo, Dongpo Kitchen offers the comforts of a casual dining environment with both indoor and al fresco seating and caters to an eclectic palate with a variety of signature dishes.

Lunar New Year is included in the Price of Admission to Universal Studios Hollywood from Thursday, January 23 through Sunday, February 9. More information is available at www.UniversalStudiosHollywood.com. Mandarin-speaking guests can learn more about the Lunar New Year event at www.ush.cn.  Information is also available on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTubeand Weibo @好莱坞环球影城.

Winter Fun in Yosemite Mariposa County

About a 4.5 hour drive from the greater Los Angeles area is Yosemite Mariposa County. During the winter months, the traffic is light, there may be snow on the trees in the Sierra National Forest near Yosemite Valley.

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Even though the resort is not in Yosemite Valley, it’s about a 45 minute drive to the majestic Half Dome tunnel view spot and worthy of a day trip. At approximately 4,000 feet elevation, it does snow, however it seldom stays for very long. Check snow reports and road conditions at the National Park Service. During the winter there aren’t the crowds and traffic as there are during May through Labor Day weekend. Winter and Spring are the optimal times to visit.

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Tenaya Lodge offers valet service and plenty of self parking. There are eight Tesla Superchager stations and “classic” charging stations, for guests to recharge their Tesla or other electric vehicle.

Accommodations range from deluxe rooms and suites in the main lodge, to cabins and the newer Explorer Cabins.

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Comfortable studio-style suites in the lodge offer a King-size bed and a sitting area with a privacy fireplace wall. Other amenities include a wet bar and a private balcony or patio. The bathroom offers a large vanity with an over-sized soaking tub and a separate rain shower. Forest theme design and color hues, as well as artwork offer ambiance in the rooms and common areas.

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During the winter, guests will notice snowshoes hanging on a post near the resort’s lobby. Tenaya guides lead groups on a 1.5-mile round-trip snowshoe hike through the beautiful snowy forest. Other winter activities include an on-site ice skating rink. The sparkle light ice rink is open for day and evening skating sessions. Guests can skate a few laps around the rink, and then relax by a nearby blazing fire pit. There are many fire pits around the resort where many guests warm up, sip a hot toddy and roast S’mores.

In the evening there are two dining options overseen by certified Executive Chef Frederick Clabaugh. Enjoy a romantic fireside dinner at Embers or Sierra-style pub cuisine at Jackalope’s Bar & Grill. The menus include hearty grilled meat and seafood dishes, specialty salads, soups, burgers and heart-healthy, gluten-free and vegan options.

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Mountain inspired drinks and cocktails are available at both restaurants, including the Tenaya Red IPA, a craft beer brewed exclusively for the resort by nearby South Gate Brewing Company.

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Guests can warm up at Ascent Spa just below the lodge’s lobby.  This 20,000 sq. ft. space offers 12 heated treatment rooms, separate men and women’s relaxation lounge, steam and sauna rooms, and a communal fitness room. On Friday and Saturday mornings, guests can participate in a 60 minute yoga class in an intimate room inside the spa.

The property offers two swimming pools and hot whirlpools. One is inside the lodge near the game room and arcade, while the other is outside near the entrance.

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A Yosemite tradition since 1935, the Badger Pass Ski & Snowboard area is before the entrance of Yosemite National Park.  Winter recreation is offered for all skill levels with lift tickets, downhill and snow boarding lessons, and cross country skiing. There are five lifts, and 85% of the terrain for beginner or intermediate skiers. The Nordic Center rents all types of cross country skis and snowshoes to explore 25 miles of machine-groomed trails. Badger Pass Ski Area is open mid-December through mid-March, conditions permitting.

While most visitors come during the summer months, winter and spring is a special time of year in Yosemite Mariposa County.

 

Ohau’s Gunstock Ranch Ecotourism Experience

According to the United Nations aviation division, carbon emissions from air travel are on track to triple by 2050 if no action is taken. Travelers are becoming more aware of this and are seeking experiences to be good citizens of the world.

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Hilton Hotels in Hawaii offer a list of ecotourism activities to help guests give back to the islands. Many are located at farms and ranches located about one hour from Waikiki Beach.

Charley’s Taxi Charter drives guests through the center of the third largest Hawaiian Island, to to see a more exotic and natural environment to the Hawaiian Legacy Forest at Gunstock Ranch.

Visitors have the opportunity to walk the footsteps of Hawaiian royalty and support the island’s conservation efforts. This 600 acres working cattle ranch is located at the base of the majestic Ko’olau Mountains. This is birds sing, the wind whispers, and the earth thrives.

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When the owners purchased this land years ago, they discovered only four native plants on the property. To help support their efforts to reforest their land with native plants, the ranch offers family-friendly opportunities including horseback rides, off-road experiences, walking and hiking tours to some of the most spectacular ocean views on the windward side of O‘ahu. Gunstock Ranch guests can be a part of Hawai‘i’s history by planting a Legacy Tree in O‘ahu’s first Hawaiian Legacy Forest. The Milo tree was a favorite to the great warrior, diplomat and leader King Kamehameha. It’s dense wood was used for bowls and carving a canoe. Not only do these trees grow tall fast, but they produce a heart shaped leaf.

Along the drive are signs with corporate sponsors including All Nippon Airways (ANA). According to Ty, one of the ranch handlers, ANA has donated one million dollars to plant Milo trees. “They are committed to reduce global warming and build a sustainable society. In return they earn carbon credits from the Hawaiian government.”

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I learned ANA planted 520 legacy trees in Kahuku to represent the number of seats on board a plane that flies to Oahu. For almost two years, Gunstock Ranch has planted a 3,000 saplings to offset the carbon of a family of four, and is filling the earth with light and warmth.

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Personally planting a milo tree is a special ceremony. Not only do guests get a choice of small saplings, but also the location of where to have their tree grow. Ranch handlers provide nutritious potting soil and water for the tree dedication. The tree is uniquely paired to each person through GPS technology, allowing visitors to monitor it’s growth on a return visit.

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Next time you visit Oahu, visit Gunstock Ranch and learn how this cattle ranch is providing an important way to improve the health of Oahu and, on a small scale, the health of the whole planet, with the King’s tree offsetting carbon pollution throughout its life. 

This review is featured in Luxe Beat Magazine 

Girlfriend’s Weekend at Pechanga Resort

Meeting friends for a Girl’s Weekend Reunion at Pechanga Resort nestled in Temecula Valley, this destination that offers a multitude of activities that appeals to everyone.

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Besides the 20,000 square foot gaming casino, there is an event theatre showcasing sell-out concerts. This Las Vegas style resort has a water oasis featuring four-acres of pools, waterslides, a swim up bar, restaurants and spacious cabanas. Next door is a world-class spa facility, and fitness center.

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Recently, Pechanga recently completed a $300 million expansion, nearly doubling its guest-rooms. The new luxury Pechanga’s Tower offers spacious Junior Suites. The bedroom offers a king or two queen beds, and a separate sofa bed in the living area. The quartz countertop bathroom has a large rain dome shower and in-shower bench, with an array of luxury bath products.

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The tastefully decorated rooms feature indigenous and locally created artwork among floor to ceiling windows looking out to the verdant Journey at Pechanga golf course or Temecula valley and hills.

During the day, there are three swimming pools, including a zero-edge main pool with a swim-up bar. The family pool has two waterslides and a splash pad. Throughout the 4.5 acres there are five whirlpool spas.

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There are plenty of lounge chairs and cabanas for friends to catch up while enjoying the topical oasis called The Cove. Day Beds accommodate four friends, while pool cabanas seat up to six people. The Cove also offers seating in the Premium Cabanas for up to 8 guests. All day beds and cabanas include sun care amenity, bottled water, and cabana services.

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Golf course architects, Arthur Hills and Steve Forrest, created a par-72, links-style Journey at Pechanga golf course (The course will be closed for overseeding beginning September 23, 2019 until October 14, 2019).  After a round of golf with girlfriends, the acclaimed Journey’s End restaurant offers a healthy lunch and dinner menu inside the modern club house and outdoors with firepit and golf course views.

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Relaxation time at Spa Pechanga is inside a 25,000-square foot sanctuary designed for year-round rejuvenation of the mind, body and spirit. Amenities include a warm indoor whirlpool and another whirlpool spa outdoors with a flowing waterfall. Inside are steam rooms, saunas, and relaxation areas for napping. Upstairs, the luxurious treatment rooms offer tranquil hillside views.

Inside the hotel there area a variety of international dining venues including The Great Oak Steakhouse, Umi Sushi & Oyster Bar, Paisano’s, Bamboo, and Blazing Noodles. There are also a handful of casual options, bars and lounges.

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In the evening Pechanga Resort and Casino has the largest casino floor with over 4,500 slot machines, 154 table games, a non-smoking poker room with 38 tables, and an ultra-modern, 700-seat bingo.

Pechanga is a winning destination for all to enjoy fun, sun, and relaxation.

 

 

 

 

20th Anniversary for The Lobster in Santa Monica

The Lobster, at the entrance of the historic Santa Monica sign, is a popular fine-dining seafood restaurant. Recognized as a one of the most picturesque sunset dining destinations in Southern California,  in 1923 this building was a final stop of Route 66 in the west. It’s as much a part of Santa Monica’s history as the historic Santa Monica pier below.

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Lobster cake by Sweet Lady Jane Bakery

In the 1950s one of the dishwashers Mateo Castillo took over the iconic restaurant and turned it into a beloved “seafood shack” that residents and tourists frequented in the 1950s through 1980s.

The Lobster shut its doors for several years and reopened in 1999, after a family of investors refreshed and expanded the original structure and added a new entrance. They enhanced the space into a more modern, two-story cantilevered building with glass walls. The dining room now can seat more than one hundred guests.

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On July 22, 2019 the owners and Executive Chef Govind Armstrong hosted a special VIP friends and family 20th Anniversary Party.

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Celebrity Chef Govind Armstrong, Mayor Gleam Davis and others.

Celebrity chef Govind came out of the kitchen for a toast and ceremonial cutting of the Sweet Lady Jane Bakery life size lobster cake. Mayor Gleam Davis did the honors, as Santa Monica dignitaries and locals cheered her on.

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There was an elevated seafood bar featuring shrimp Kusshi oysters, crab legs and claws on ice. Servers passed trays filled with crab cakes, large shrimp, vegan hearts of palm cakes, lobster and fried clam rolls.

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The “Rockette” made with Roku Gin,

Specialty Cocktails for the 20th Anniversary celebration included a “1909 Old Fashioned” made with Markers Mark Bourbon; “Sunset & Ocean” made with Gray Goose Vodka, “You, Me & Tequila” made with El Reposado Tequila, and the “Rockette” made with Roku Gin, lime and wild arugula. The craft cocktails dazzled with micro flowers.

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Chef Govind was born in Inglewood, CA and raised in Costa Rica, before coming back to Los Angeles to work under culinary legends that include Wolfgang Puck, Mark Peel and Susan Feniger. He became a master of California Cuisine opening his own restaurants Table 8,  Willie Jane and Executive Chef at Post and Beam. This busy chef also has multiple 8 oz. Burger Bar locations, and has been a guest judge on the Bravo series Top Chef, as well as the Food Network series Iron Chef America.

His artfully composed seafood dishes, California Spiny Lobster and Maine Lobster are crafted with only the freshest, locally sourced, and responsibly farmed ingredients.

Here’s to another 20 years of success! Click here to look at The Lobster menu . 

Hours: Sunday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Happy Hour Monday through Friday is 3 to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday The Lobster stays open until 11 p.m.

The Lobster is located at 1602 Ocean Drive, Santa Monica (310)458-9294.

Hollywood History in La Jolla

Only two hours from Los Angeles, the lovely coastal town of La Jolla has a bit of Hollywood lore. While visiting friends living in San Diego, we stayed overnight at the newly refreshed Grande Colonial in the center of La Jolla Village. It’s an ideal location to walk along the scenic walkways to view the seal lions, shop in the charming boutiques, explore caves, and dine while overlooking the Pacific Ocean at sunset.

Grand Colonial HotelChecking into the Grande Colonial we learned some fascinating history about La Jolla’s oldest original hotel. Built in 1913 as apartments by master architect Richard Requa, also the designer of the California Exposition in Balboa Park, the owner of the property George Bane wanted to build a hotel to “rival anything in the west” next to the apartments. It was made of concrete and completed in 1928 becoming the first fireproof hotel west of the Mississippi. When it first opened, The Grande Colonial charged guests $1 per night.

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The La Jolla Drugstore later moved inside the Colonial’s main building, and the pharmacist was the father of actor Gregory Peck. Growing up in La Jolla, Peck helped his father out until he left for Hollywood to become a major movie star. In the 1940s to the 1960s Peck earned multiple Academy Award nominations and an Academy Award for his role of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. When an ice cream parlor was added, the drugstore became a community gathering spot for locals and townspeople.

La Jolla CoveAfter the war in 1947, Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer founded the La Jolla Playhouse as a summer stock retreat for Hollywood luminaries including Vivian Vance, Groucho Marx, Eve Arden, Charlton Heston, Jane Wyatt, Pat O’Brien and David Niven. During this time many of them stayed at the Grande Colonial.

Recently the San Francisco-based architectural and interior design firm Warren Sheets Design, Inc., recaptured the hotel’s classic European ambiance in the main lobby, as well as the onsite Nine-Ten Restaurant and 97 guest rooms and suites.

Ocean-view rooms and suites offer large windows to allow natural light, ocean breezes and views the Pacific Ocean. For guests staying one week or longer, The Grande Colonial hotel offers residential-style, extended stay studios and multiple bedroom suites.The amenities are similar to that of a private residence.

Staying in a standard room on the ground level, we noticed two queen sized Serta iComfort Eurotop mattresses covered with goose down comforters. We appreciated the extra large bathroom with Gilchrist & Soames bath and body products. The bath and shower combination had decorative block glass to allow more light into the bathroom. Inside the closet there was a safe and two plush robes.

Other amenities include free high-speed Internet access; a HD TV; Keurig coffee maker; complimentary in-room bottled water; and twice daily housekeeping including evening turn-down service. Our room had a sliding glass door leading out to a community patio with two chairs and a table. It was an ideal spot for coffee in the morning.

pool sideThe hotel’s round heated swimming pool offers poolside towel and water service. The staff are happy to lend guests beach gear including chairs and umbrellas.

Taking a walk around the village, we discovered The Cave Store near the famous La Jolla Caves. Kayakers can enter seven different ocean-carved caves, one is located inside the Cave Store. It’s the only cave accessible by land along the coastline.

Paying an entrance fee we learned the cave was named “Sunny Jim” by Frank Baum who wrote ‘The Wizard Oz,’ because the opening resembled the 1920s mascot and cartoon character “Sunny Jim” featured on Force Toasted Wheat Flake Cereal. Entrance to this cave began in 1902 and 1903 when Chinese laborers were hired to use picks and shovels to create a tunnel and 145 steps down to the water level. The area is lit, yet can be wet towards the bottom, so solid shoes are advisable. At the bottom deck the ocean views are beautiful. Visitors might see barking sea lions, birds and kayakers.

Nearby is a Historical Coast Walk Trail that meanders along a rocky cliff to a white bridge above the La Jolla Underwater Park. It’s a 0.4 point to point walk to the State Marine Conservation. Along the way there are a variety of flowers on the trail and pelicans flying overhead.

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Another spot to visit is Seal Rock, home to hundreds of seals, and nearby the seawall at Children’s Pool cove. Built in 1932, the seawall was constructed to protect the shore from oncoming waves for children and families to swim and play without danger. Today the area has become an idyllic spot for bathing, sunning and swimming seals and sea lions. Recently it’s also become the birthing spot for seal pups. Walking out on the seawall, visitors can view the pups and their moms, as well as have a 360-degree view of La Jolla, the Pacific Ocean and sunsets. This area is just a two block walk from Grande Colonial. To make a reservation go to https://thegrandecolonial.com or call (888) 828-5498.

This article is also featured in the July issue of Not Born Yesterday.

Washington D.C. new InterContinental at The Wharf

Usually, when I visit Washington D.C., I stay in the political epicenter just steps away from The White House, The National Mall and National Monuments.

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On my last visit, I decided to explore the Southwest D.C. area and stayed one night at the new InterContinental Washington D.C. Located in the newly repurposed The Wharf area, the neighborhood’s developer Hoffman-Madison Waterfront built a new lifestyle complex offering three hotels, dining, residential and entertainment venues along the Potomac River.

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The InterContinental at The Wharf is a 12-story waterfront hotel offering 278 guest rooms with 33 suites. One suite is a two-story Presidential penthouse, just below the rooftop bar and sparkling pool with views of the riverfront, Jefferson Memorial and beyond.

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The exterior has a distinctive red brick with metal accents and glass, while the interior design is modern featuring a color palette of beige and nautical blue with contemporary maritime and industrial decor and elegantly furnished rooms.

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Checking into room 907, we appreciated the two queen beds with high-quality cotton linens and two different pillow types – down and non-allergenic foam pillows. In the closet were two plush bathrobes and complimentary slippers. The luxurious bathroom features a large walk-in glass enclosed rain shower and handheld shower-head system.

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The Wharf offers a plethora of dining options, yet we chose the ground floor restaurant Kith/Kin. It’s Top Chef Season 13 alum Kwame Onwuachi’s restaurant celebrating the flavors of Nigeria and Jamaica with New York inspiration. Chef Kwame named his restaurant after the old Latin term for friends and family, paying homage to his family members who guided him to become a chef. His grandmother’s goat shoulder roti recipe is one of the many pleasing innovative dishes. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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Even though we were one mile from the center of Washington D.C., there is a free Southwest Neighborhood shuttle bus that takes hotel guests to the Smithsonian and National Mall every 15 minutes. From there, everything is close by taking the metro, renting a bike, electric scooter or walking.

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The Wharf is a new daytime and evening destination offering waterfront entertainment, bars, restaurants and a long wooden pier with large swings for visitors to rest their weary feet after a day exploring our Nation Capital.

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This review was a Travel Feature in – JustLuxe