New Year’s comes early at LEGOLAND

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Midnight comes early in LEGOLAND California with this festive celebration that kids can enjoy without
missing bedtime. Like the famous Times Square party, Kids’ New Year’s Eve features a countdown followed by a huge LEGO
brick dropping 22-feet into 2009 along with a dazzling fireworks
display over Miniland. The event also features a special performance by
kids’
pop-rocker Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players.
 
Roberts and his band, the Not Ready for Naptime Players, will
treat revelers to a concert, featuring songs from their latest album,
Pop Fly as well as many old favorites.

Pop Fly was listed as one of the
“Best CDs for Kids” in Entertainment Weekly’s 2008 Holiday
Gift Guide. With high-energy tunes spanning genres from rock and
roll to Afro-pop rhythms combined with hip, sophisticated lyrics,
Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players performance is fun
for children
and parents alike.

 
WHEN: December 31, 2008 from 3 to 6 p.m.

3p.m.:
Kids are invited to participate in party games and share their New Year’s resolutions on
stage in front of friends and family

4p.m. and 5p.m.: Concerts with Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime
Players

6 p.m.: Times Square style count down and “ball drop” featuring a 6-foot-tall
LEGO Brick and dazzling fireworks display and kids decked out in glow bracelets and fireworks viewing glasses


WHERE: LEGOLAND California, located in Carlsbad – 30 miles north of San Diego.

Elephant seals frolic at state reserve

Guided walks
to see the elephant seals at Ao Nuevo State Reserve began on
Dec. 15 and continue every day through March 31, 2009.  The Reserve is west of Highway
1, between the cities of Santa Cruz and
Half Moon Bay,
approximately 1 hour drive south from San Francisco.

 

Reservations are recommended for these popular guided walks. Public Seal Walks are offered daily for families, individuals, or
groups.

 

Reservations can be made through Reserve America, at 1-800-444-4445,  through April 30, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Pacific Time, weekdays and
on weekends 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.


Public Seal Walk reservations will be
accepted up to 56 days in advance, or as late as 1
day, prior to the reservation date. Public Seal Walk reservations can also
be made online at the Ao Nuevo link at
www.parks.ca.gov.

 

      The
first guided walk of every day will begin at 9 a.m. and the
last walk in mid-afternoon. These popular three-mile walks over rolling sand
dunes and sloping terrain last about two and one- half hours and are considered
moderately strenuous. Each walk will begin on time; visitors who are late will
forfeit their reservations.


Guided Walks are conducted rain or shine. Visitors should prepare for an
outdoor hiking adventure that may include high winds, heavy rains, and cold
temperatures.

Recommended clothing includes hooded rain gear, layered clothing,
and sturdy walking shoes. For safety reasons, use of umbrellas and baby
strollers are not permitted on the walks.


Food and beverages are not sold at the
Reserve, but picnic tables are available for use before or after guided walks.
It is advisable to bring bottled drinking water on the tour. Youth groups
require adult chaperones. One chaperone is required for every 10 youths 17 years
or under.

 

Disabled persons may make reservations for special Equal Access Guided
Walks. Equal Access walks are available January 3 through March 29, on weekends
only. Reservations are required. Tickets cost $7.00 per person.  Reservations may be made, by phoning
(650) 879-2033 beginning December 1, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between
1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.

 

      Ao
Nuevo State Reserve is home to a large colony of Northern Elephant Seals, and
the interpretive program has attracted increasing interest every winter for over
30 years. People who hope to see the seals during the winter breeding season are
urged to get their reservations early.

 

      The
Elephant Seal viewing area portion of the Reserve will be closed except for
official guided walks through March 31. Similar closures and guided
walk programs since 1975 have allowed a natural development of the elephant seal
herd. The mainland herd has increased during that time from only 35 males to
more than 5400 animals, including more than 1700 pups born.

 

Adult seals begin arriving on the beaches by mid-December. Bulls weighing
up to 5000 pounds engage in battles for breeding access to the females.


Pregnant
females come ashore to have pups beginning in mid-December, with births reaching
a peak by late January. Mothers nurse their pups for about a month before
weaning their pup, mating, and departing back to sea.


Birthing and mating
activity peak by mid February and by early March most adult seals have returned
to the sea. During March, hundreds of weaned pups remain behind to rest in the
dunes and learn to swim in the tide pools.

 

     
State Park volunteer naturalists from the surrounding community take an
intensive 2 1/2 months (65 hour) training course given by California State
Parks, prior to the breeding season. During the guided walks, they and Reserve
staff will lead visitors among the huge marine mammals and explain both the
story of the elephant seals and the other natural and cultural history of the
area.

 

For more information on the elephant seal, the guided walk program and
other features of the Reserve, phone the Reserve at (650) 879-2025, or (650)
879-0227 for recorded information. Visit the Reserve’s web site at www.parks.ca.gov.

 

New Year’s in San Diego

Ring in the New Year San Diego style! From grand and glamorous to
intimate and romantic, there is a New Year’s Eve event just for you in
San Diego.

Sail the night away with lavish food and
entertainment aboard a luxury yacht. Take a step back in time to old
Hollywood at the Hotel Del’s “Some Like it Hot” affair. See and be seen
at one of downtown San Diego’s hip night clubs. Tickle your toes in the
sand at a beach party on the bay complete with fireworks. Or, reserve a
special table for two at one of San Diego’s finest restaurants.

Make 2009 the best year yet by starting your year off with a trip to San Diego. The possibilities are endless.

Here are a variety of New Year’s Eve events happening around San Diego:

USS Midway
- Black tie optional soiree by Peartrees Catering aboard the USS
Midway. A portion of all proceeds will be donated to the ongoing
preservation and restoration of the USS Midway.

Beach Party 2009 – Enjoy hosted food, beverages, and dancing beach side at The Catamaran Resort, presented by Vavi Millenium Events.

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Great deals at Grand Canyon

The
majority of visitors to the Grand Canyon do so during the warm-weather months,
but a visit during the winter lull is preferable for those seeking a different
perspective.

 

“There is a small, but loyal group of visitors that
likes to visit in that period between Christmas and spring break,” said
Gordon Taylor, general manager of
Xanterra South Rim L.L.C.*, operator
of lodges, restaurants and activities in Grand Canyon National Park
. “Some of them come to photograph the Grand Canyon
as the light comes in at a lower angle while others simply prefer the slower
pace and the opportunity to stay in our lodges that are most popular in the
summer.”

 

Even
though it is in Arizona, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is located 7,000
feet above sea level, meaning snow is possible during the winter months. Most
of the time, however, it is sunny and dry with the low humidity making the
temperatures in the 30s and 40s F (-1 – 4 C) feel warmer. Hikers venturing
below the rim into the inner Canyon experience progressively warmer
temperatures as they descend in altitude.

 

In addition to hiking, winter visitors can still enjoy motorcoach
tours, the Grand Canyon Railway, walking tours of the historic Grand Canyon
Village, ranger-led walking tours and the world-famous mule rides.

 

Winter at the South Rim also means reduced rates and
packages
at selected hotels. At Maswik and Yavapai Lodges

rates are up to 38 percent lower than summer-season rates. At El Tovar, the
Romance Package includes accommodations, sparkling wine, fruit basket and
dinner for two with a bottle of Grand Canyon label wine in the El Tovar Dining
Room.

 

In addition to discounted room rates at off-rim lodges, it is
easier to find available rooms at the four properties on the rim – El
Tovar, Bright Angel, Kachina and Thunderbird Lodges – than it is during
the summer season.

 

Visitors
can book their rooms online by visiting www.grandcanyonlodges.com or by
calling toll-free 1-888-297-2757 or 1-303-297-2757 from outside the United
States. You can learn more about the park by visiting www.nps.gov/grca.

Snowflakes in San Francisco

Outdoor ice rinks and giant snowflakes in San Francisco are a sure sign that the holidays are officially underway. Market Street’s Path of Gold has morphed into a winter wonderland with new LED snowflakes lighting up the shopping district from Second to Fifth streets. 

 

The San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau holiday Web site is now live at www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com/holidays featuring some 200 holiday events, from classic to quirky, culinary to multi-cultural. 

 

Visitors may search for events by specific dates, or see what’s happening weekly. They can also see events by specific holiday event categories — performances, music, festivals, free, family, sports, museums and dance.

 

Some of the highlights include:   

 

         Shimmering Christmas trees at Union Square, the “Fifth Avenue” of the West; Fisherman’s Wharf; Ghirardelli Square; Pier 39; The Presidio, and Golden Gate Park

         Ice skating from dawn to late evening outdoors at the Embarcadero Center, Union Square, the San Francisco Zoo and indoors at Yerba Buena Gardens

         A chorus line of tap-dancing Christmas trees on stage in a special holiday edition of “Beach Blanket Babylon”

         The return of “Kung Pao Kosher Comedy” — Jewish comedy on Christmas at a Chinese restaurant — for a 16th hilarious season

         “A Christmas Carol” returns to the Geary Theater for another Dickens holiday

         The San Francisco Ballet’s “Nutcracker” at the War Memorial Opera House

          …and much more!

 

From the site, visitors can book hotel rooms, packages and attractions using the SFCVB’s online reservations offering guaranteed best hotel rates.

 

The Web site offers visitors a quick, convenient way to plan an “Only in San Francisco” holiday.

Timber Cove Inn renovated

20919-ph20.jpgTimber Cove Inn, www.timbercoveinn.com, perched on a majestic cliff along the ruggedly scenic Sonoma Coast, has just completed a $2.5 million renovation.

The lobby, bar and restaurant have been refurbished, and an outdoor patio and fire pit have been added to overlook the Pacific Ocean.

Located 14 miles north of Jenner where the Russian River meets the ocean and one hour drive west of Santa Rosa, the inn features stunning views, a massive stone fireplace, and spa tubs and fireplaces in most rooms.

 

Also new to the Inn is Chef Jon Mortimer, most recently executive chef and owner of Mortimer’s/Franco Latino, whose frequent media appearances included a recent interview and culinary demonstration on The Today Show. Before joining Timber Cove Inn, his restaurants received many national and local awards.

 

Mortimer will head the kitchen of the hotel’s restaurant, Alexander’s at Timber Cove. It features an innovative menu with sumptuous Tuscan cuisine.

 

The Fall 2008 Tasting Menu includes culinary delights along the lines of the Mushroom Cappuccino, with local wild mushrooms, truffled milk foam and fresh nutmeg, and the Hazelnut crusted pork with pinot noir reduction.

 

The hotel, which originally opened in 1963, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Most of the 50 guest rooms feature decks that offer stunning ocean views.  All have been refurbished to feature flat screen TV, robes, and new beds. 

 

Check out Timber Cove Inn’s grand opening packages at  www.timbercoverinn.com – as well as special event dinners, including wine pairings.

 

Reservations at Timber Cove Inn can be booked online at www.timbercoveinn.com or by calling Toll Free: 800-987-8319 or 707-847-3231.

 

For complete hotel descriptions, locations and reservations at Pacifica Hotels, call 800-720-0223, or visit www.pacificahotels.com.

Redondo Beach offers Seaside Ice rink

Two of the Redondo Beach’s most appealing hotels, including The Best Western Sunrise Hotel and Crowne Plaza Redondo Beach, are offering attractive rates and packages in salute of the first ever Seaside Ice outdoor ice skating rink. 

The rink will be open to the public through Jan. 11, 2009 from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m.  to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday:

 

The Best Western Sunrise Hotel Romance on Ice Package

The one-night package is priced at $179 and includes a king or double queen Marina view room and a welcome gift basket upon arrival that includes two adult Seaside Ice admission tickets, matching

mittens, scarves and stocking caps and two mugs with hot chocolate mix and marshmallows. This package is available on Friday, Saturday or Sunday night, based on space availability.

 

The Best Western Sunrise Hotel Family Fun on Ice Package

The one-night package is priced at $189 and includes one King or Double Queen traditional room and a welcome gift basket upon arrival that includes two adult and two children admission tickets to Seaside Ice, a coupon for a free in-room movie and two mugs with hot chocolate mix and marshmallows. This package is available seven days a week, based on space availability.

 

The Best Western Sunrise Hotel Military on Ice Package

This one-night package is priced at $139 and is offered to military personnel.  It includes one king or double queen traditional guest room and a welcome basket upon arrival that includes two admission tickets to Seaside Ice and two mugs with hot chocolate mix and marshmallows. If the military employee presents a toy for the Toys for Tots promotion, they will receive an additional 10% off the package. The package is available seven days a week, based on space availability.

For information and to book the foregoing Best Western Sunrise Hotel packages, call (888) 334-7384.

 

The Crowne Plaza Seaside Ice Package

The package starts at $169 per night, based on space availability and includes one night’s accommodations and two tickets to any ice skating session at the Seaside Ice Rink. For information and reservations, call 310-318-8888 or visit http://www.cpredondobeachhotel.com/specials.html.

 

Through Jan. 11, 2009, the Seaside Lagoon will be resplendent with Christmas holiday decorations and music, a calendar of special appearances, skating exhibitions, themed nights, games, pictures with Santa and a giant outdoor movie screen showing family movies and entertainment.

 

Holidays at Hearst Castle

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Visitors to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art have a rare opportunity to get a glimpse of the vast collection of art and antiquities amassed by William Randolph Hearst during the Hearst the Collector exhibition that runs through Feb. 1, 2009.  For those wanting to get an even greater appreciation of newspaper publisher, art collector and movie producer William Randolph Hearst, a visit to Hearst Castle in San Luis Obispo County is a must.

The historic estate, built by and designed by famed architect Julia Morgan, opened for public tours as part of the California State Parks system on June 2, 1958 and features 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools, and walkways.  Hearst Castle houses art treasures collected by Mr. Hearst from around the world – antique ceilings, Greek vases dating from 700 B.C., rare oriental carpets, and myriad works of European art.  Of the five tours offered at Hearst Castle, Tour #1 – The Experience Tour – provides a broad overview of the Castle and is particularly well-suited for first time visitors.  Tour highlights include the Esplanade and Gardens, Neptune Pool and Roman Pool, Casa del Sol, and Casa Grande. 

Before or after taking a tour of Hearst Castle, be sure to stop by the National Geographic Theater to view the large format movie – Hearst Castle – Building the Dream.

Special tour highlights coming up include:

        Hearst Castle for the Holidays.  Christmas was one of William Randolph Hearst’s favorite holidays.  San Simeon was an enchanting setting for entertaining on a grand scale, and invitations to Hearst Castle during the holidays were highly coveted.  During the month of December, The Assembly Room, The Refectory, and The Morning Room contain lavish decorations of hand-made garlands, brilliant red poinsettias, and two 18-foot Christmas trees fully decorated with lights and traditional ornaments. The Experience Tour during the daytime includes these rooms for viewing.  Reservations are highly recommended due to the limited availability.  The Experience Tour prices are $20 for adults and $10 for youth ages 6 through 17.

Hearst Castle is located in the hills at San Simeon in the heart of California’s Central Coast midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco (approximately 250 miles), just off scenic Highway 1.  For Hearst Castle tour reservations call (800) 444-4445 or visit www.hearstcastle.com.  To help plan a Hearst Castle getaway to San Luis Obispo County, California’s Natural Escape, call the San Luis Obispo County Visitors & Conference Bureau at (800) 634-1414 or visit www.SanLuisObispoCounty.com.

Hyatt extends Three for Free program

Travelers contemplating a getaway in the new year now have three great reasons to make it a Hyatt vacation. Hyatt Resorts today announced an extension of its popular “Three for Free” promotion at 20 Hyatt resort properties throughout the U.S., Caribbean and Mexico. The value-added promotion, originally scheduled to run until mid-December of this year, will now be available in 2009 from Jan. 1 through March 31, 2009.

 
Guests will receive three free rewards during their stay when booking the “Three for Free” package, including a free room night, complimentary room upgrade, and full breakfast for two daily. From surf lessons to horseback riding, Hyatt resorts offer a wide array of destination-themed sports and leisure activities for guests, along with culturally inspired spa treatments at award-winning Hyatt Pure spas.
 
“The Hyatt Three for Free promotion offers exceptional value at beautiful resorts at a time when travelers are looking for getaways in the new year. With fabulous facilities, great service and a wide range of locations, Hyatt resorts offer the combination of memorable experiences and value guests want and need,” said Scott Seed, director of business and leisure marketing, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts. 
 
For more information about the “Three for Free” promotion, to learn about specific resort activities, and to make a reservation, visit www.hyattthreeforfree.com or call 1-800-233-1234.

 
There are 20 Hyatt resorts in unique locations across North America ready to create a true destination experience for their guests, including the following participating properties:
  • Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa & Marina – third night free
  • Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa – third night free
  • Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa – third night free from Jan. 1 through Feb. 28; fourth night free from March 1 through March 31
  • Hyatt Regency Monterey Resort & Spa on Del Monte Golf Course - third night free
  • Hyatt Cancun Caribe – fourth night free (and 25% discount off breakfast daily)
  • Hyatt Grand Champions Resort, Villas & Spa – fourth night free
  • Hyatt Key West Resort & Spa – fourth night free from Jan. 1 through Jan. 31; fifth night free from Feb. 1 through March 31
  • Hyatt Regency Cancun – fourth night free
  • Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa – fourth night free
  • Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress – fourth night free
  • Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa – fourth night free
  • Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six Resort & Spa – fourth night free
  • Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch – fourth night free from Jan. 1 through March 21; fifth night free from March 22 through March 31
  • Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa – fourth night free
  • Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa – fourth night free
  • Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa – fifth night free
  • Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino – fifth night free
  • Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa & Casino – fifth night free from Jan. 1 through Jan. 3; fourth night free from Jan. 4 through March 31
  • Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa – sixth night free, valid for stays between Jan. 4 and April 25
  • Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort & Spa – fifth night free
A minimum length of stay is required. The Three for Free offer is subject to availability and is only available at participating Hyatt resorts on stays through March 31, 2009. A full list of terms and conditions is available at www.hyattthreeforfree.com.

OHANA Waikiki offers rooms for $139

The OHANA Waikiki Beachcomber announced today the completion of its interior remodel–including newly upgraded, upscale accommodations, lobby and port cochere – all part of its extensive $21 million renovation.  In celebration of its completed upgrades, the all-new, island contemporary hotel is offering travelers a Re-Introductory Special with room rates starting at $139, per room, per night. Also, to make exploring the beautiful island of Oahu more convenient for guests, the package offers the option to add a rental car starting at an additional $29 per day for a compact vehicle.

 

“The OHANA Waikiki Beachcomber’s impressive transformation is part of an initiative to rejuvenate and elevate the overall brand for the OHANA Hotels & Resorts collection,” said Tom Wakita, director of sales and marketing for OHANA Hotels & Resorts.  “The new, polished brand coupled with the exceptional hospitality OHANA is known for will elevate the quality of our products – ensuring that guests have the best experience possible when they stay with us.”

 

Guest rooms at the OHANA Waikiki Beachcomber feature a rejuvenated look with a contemporary design; neutral hues, sandstone accents, as well as new carpeting and hardwood furnishings. Each guest room also boasts custom-made bedding for a fully restful sleep and 32-inch flat-screen televisions.  Bathrooms are completely updated with granite countertops, wall-mounted mirrors and decorative light fixtures.  Upgrades to the hotel’s lobby and port cochere mirror this design aesthetic by offering a more spacious and comfortable entry and check-in process.

 

“The all-new OHANA Waikiki Beachcomber is an undiscovered gem in Waikiki,” said Dean Nakasone, general manager of OHANA Waikiki Beachcomber. “We invite Hawaii travelers to take advantage of the hotel’s Re-Introductory Special, which offers the perfect opportunity to experience an upscale property at an affordable price.”

 

The hotel is one of Waikiki’s best kept secrets – it is conveniently located in the center of Waikiki – just steps from the beach, directly across from Royal Hawaiian Center and Duke’s Waikiki and adjacent to the International Market Place.  The hotel is also home to Waikiki‘s only Macy’s as well as the dazzling “Magic of Polynesia” show with John Hirokawa. Additional upgrades to the hotel include a new fitness room and business center.

 

The final phase of the OHANA Waikiki Beachcomber’s renovation includes completion of its new pool in December 2008, which will provide guests with a tropical oasis to lounge and play.  Also, the hotel is excited to welcome the highly-anticipated lifestyle restaurant and bar, Jimmy Buffett’s at the Beachcomber, slated to open in February 2009.  This new 22,000 square foot dining, entertainment and retail venue will allow guests to enjoy a full menu, cocktails and lively entertainment by a variety of well-known and up-and-coming entertainers. The new Honolulu Surfing Museum and bar will serve up cool drinks while showcasing surfing collectibles and memorabilia.

 

OHANA Waikiki Beachcomber guests will also enjoy the popular Waikiki Connection amenities package, which offers a long list of complimentary services including trolley rides to Ala Moana Center and throughout Waikiki, local and long-distance phone calls to the U.S. mainland and Canada, high-speed Internet access and daily in-room coffee and tea.  In 2009, OHANA will add an additional amenity – a draw string beach bag – perfect for carting sunscreen and a towel to Waikiki Beach or for carrying shopping treasures. 

 

Rates as shown are in U.S. Dollars (USD), and are per room, per night, for single/double occupancy. Taxes not included, other restrictions may apply and are subject to availability and change.

 

For reservations or additional information on the OHANA Waikiki Beachcomber Re-Introductory Special, call your preferred travel professional or OHANA Hotels & Resorts toll-free at 1-800-462-6262 or visit www.OhanaHotels.com. E-mail reservations are also available at reservations@ohanahotels.com.