Langham Huntington named best hotel in Los Angeles


Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz
Eight-year-olds William Yudis of Maui, and Jackson Herren of Pasadena, whose family was on a staycation, play in The Langham Huntington, Pasadena pool. The hotel was named the number one hotel in Los Angeles by U.S. News & World Report.

By Kevin Smith, Staff Writer

Like a stately castle, the Langham Huntington, Pasadena rises skyward.
Surrounded by immaculately groomed lawns and with a view of the San Gabriel Mountains, the hotel beckons visitors to come inside and experience a stay none will soon forget.
That’s the kind of experience the Langham hopes to create. The strategy must be working because it recently topped U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best hotels in Los Angeles.
“It’s very exciting,” said Rebecca Huetter, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing. “We are constantly striving for perfection, and sometimes it takes feedback like this to let us know we’re on the right path.”
The Langham was ranked No.1 among 58 Los Angeles-area luxury hotels, edging out such icons as the Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows (second place) and Hotel Bel-Air (sixth place).
“There are three main things we look at,” said Miriam Weiner, U.S. News & World Report’s online travel editor. “We narrowed it down to four- and five-star hotels and we also looked at what travel experts are saying across the board — like Cond Nast, and AAA.”
The ratings also factored in guest reviews from such online sources as as
“We wanted to see what guests are saying and how they have been scoring the hotels,” Weiner said. “We feel the user experience is really important.”
With 380 elegant guest rooms, suites and cottages, the Langham wears its style well. Visitors are treated to rooms with ornate drapes, flat-screen TVs, Italian marble bathrooms and Chuan Spa bath amenities.
The hotel’s 11,000-square-foot Huntington Spa features a fitness center and 13 treatment rooms, including a couple’s room. Guests can also treat themselves to a massage, facial, body treatment, manicure, pedicure or haircut.
With more than 50,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space for meetings and events, the Langham also boasts The Royce, which is considered one of the best restaurants in the Los Angeles area.
It’s here that Chef David Fau builds a variety of dishes that are described as “New American Cuisine.”
Fau visits the local farmers markets several times a week, buying the fresh produce and ingredients he uses to build his culinary creations.
“I love showcasing the beauty and complex flavors of local produce and pure ingredients, and invite guests to experience the gastronomic wonders of true cooking,” Fau says.
Dishes include such offerings as Foi Grass Huckleberry, Chanterelle Amaebi and Morel Guinea Egg.
“David Feau is probably one of the most talented chefs out there,” Weiner said.
Weiner said the hotel’s strongest suit is its staff.
“We couldn’t do it without them,” she said. “Everyone is so committed to this hotel. It’s really like a family here and many people have worked here a long time — some more than 20 years.”
To top the magazine’s list, a hotel must offer guests something special, according to Weiner.
“They have to offer something unique, that really stands out,” she said. “It’s a place where preferred customers feel like they have a home away from home.”

Seafair offers summer events in Seattle

For more than 60 years, Seattle’s Seafair
has celebrated summer with community events, parades, Miss Seafair, amateur athletics, a Navy airshow
and unlimited hydroplane races.

The two-month long summer festival celebrates
traditions, ethnic culture and diverse neighborhoods that make Seattle so unique.
Renowned comedian, actor, producer and minority owner of Seattle Sounders FC,
Drew Carey has been named Grand Marshal of the 2011 Alaska Airlines Seafair Torchlight

Drawing more than 300,000 on-site spectators, this is the largest parade
in the Northwest. The parade is scheduled for Saturday, July 30 from Seattle Center
via 4th Avenue to Westlake Center in downtown Seattle. Most Seafair
events are free and offer something for all ages.

For more information, visit

Celebrate the Fourth of July in Monterey Bay

Celebrate Independence Day with a vacation to Monterey. Open its windows to the spectacular Monterey Bay and the fresh ocean breeze. Drift off
to sleep as you listen to the soft rolling surf on McAbee Beach right below your room.

Reserve its ‘Red, White and Blue’ special at Monterey’s oceanfront
Spindrift Inn by June 26. Stay in a Cannery Row
view room for $149 per night or $249 per night for an ocean view.
As always, we’ll include a continental breakfast delivered to
your room and an afternoon wine and cheese reception along with
many other amenities. This special offer is available
from July 4-7; 10-11; and 17-18, 2011.

Availability is limited and restrictions apply.

Book now

or call 800-841-1879.

TripAdvisor has once again named us to the #1 spot
on its 2011 Travelers’ Choice Awards as ‘Best for Romance in the U.S.’
The Spindrift Inn is a member of the Inns of Monterey, the
official hotels of the 2011 Monterey Jazz Festival.

New zipline tour opening in Wrightwood

NAVITAT Canopy Adventures opens July 1, bringing a canopy zip line tour to the mountains of Southern California. NAVITAT
will showcase the rugged beauty of the San Gabriel Mountains, just 75 miles
northeast of Los Angeles near the popular Mountain High winter resort.

The canopy tour course is entirely tree-based and features 10 zip lines
ranging from 200 to 1,500 feet in length — including one that sends
guests soaring 300 feet above the canyon floor.

“We are an
authentic, high-adventure canopy tour with a heavy emphasis on educating
our guests about our natural environment,” said Ken Stamps, CEO and
Managing Partner of NAVITAT, which also operates a
tour in the mountains of western North Carolina.

Guests begin their
NAVITAT experience at a welcome center in Wrightwood, where
they meet their guides, go through a 20-minute orientation session and
gear up. Then, they ride in an all-terrain vehicle to the start of the
custom-designed course, learning along the way about the natural and
cultural history of the area.

In ground school, guests are trained in
proper zip line techniques before starting the course.
Two skilled guides lead each group of eight guests through a series
of zip lines, sky bridges and stairs, trails,
rappels and platforms high in the treetops.

Guests are gradually
introduced to zipping, beginning first with shorter zip lines closer to
the ground before moving onto higher, longer zip lines and sky bridges.
Guides handle all equipment, and guests are attached to a redundant
safety system at all times while off the ground.

“Safety is our
top priority at NAVITAT,” said Wrightwood Site Manager and Partner Evan
Krogh. “Our guides are trained by industry-certified professionals, and
they are required to continually train while they are working here.”

is a member of the Association for Challenge Course Technology,
which is accredited by the American National Standards Institute. The
company exceeds all standards for construction,
operations and training.

Bonsai Design Inc., the leading canopy
tour installer in the country, designed the NAVITAT course. The design
is entirely tree-based and uses no poles or other structures to support
the platforms and course features.

“We’ve taken great care in
creating this course,” said John Walker, NAVITAT partner and president
of Bonsai Design Inc. “We’ve used innovative design and installation
methods to build a course that fits into this amazing landscape,
disturbing it as little as possible.”

The course is located on a
portion of the Wrightwood Guest Ranch property, a 300-acre retreat
located between the San Gabriel Mountains and Angeles National Forest.
The site is home to massive conifer trees, abundant wildlife and
long-range views of the Mojave Desert, the Sierras, and the San
Bernardino Range, including San Gorgonio, Southern California’s highest

“This is a special and spectacular place and we’ve designed
a tour to match it,” said Stamps. “Guests
can expect beautiful views, big zip lines and big-time fun.”

tours begin July 1 and run daily, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., through Nov.
30. Reservations are required. Regular tour price is $109 per adult,
and $99 per youth. Weight restrictions apply. Tours last approximately 3
to 4 hours. Visit to book your tour and
learn more.

Disneyland offers Soundsational summer


Disney’s new Soundsational Parade on Main Street at Disneyland.
Staff photo by Watchara Phomicinda

By Catherine Gaugh
Staff Writer

The sounds of music — and I mean sounds with an “s” — can unlock a flood of memories. Disneyland Resort proved it in the for-media debut last week of two new rides and an enthusiastic, riveting parade that had the curbside audience dancing in the street.
Collectively, the Disney 2011 summer experience is called “Soundsational Summer”, with an emphasis placed largely on music from the studio’s successful animated films. Just try to spend a day in either of the parks without hearing several songs. It won’t happen, and your day will be better for it.

Ariel’s Underwater Adventure
An opening ceremony for Ariel’s Underwater Adventure in California Adventure Park began with a flood of songs from “The Little Mermaid” film released 21 years ago. When Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel in the animated feature, came on stage to sing “Part of That World”, the little girls in the audience first squealed with excitement, then sighed with happiness.
They weren’t the only ones riding an emotional wave. A group of young Disney singers who started the show had the adults, even those with silver hair, bouncing and singing along to “Kiss the Girl” and “Under the Sea.” How did we forget what great music the movie had?
The sounds continued inside the ride. We climbed into an open clam shell that glides into a large round room. We weren’t underwater, but the soft blue lighting made it seem so. Here we were serenaded by Ariel, Sebastian (the crab) and Ursula (the octo-villainess.)
There are nearly 130 assorted characters from the film participating in “Under the Sea”, including, appropriately, blowfish on trombones. The sounds truely surrounded us; the music seemed to emanate from every wall.
The ride makes heavy use of audio-animatronics technology: Ariel seems to swim, with her red hair waving above her head. A pack of starfish spin around. It’s enchanting.
This 5-minute child-friendly ride can transport even the most weary and cynical among us to a lighter, happier mood. I mean, really, there’s a crab that sings about life underwater. What is not to like?

Mickey’s Soundsational Parade
This daily procession of dancers, singers and floats down Main Street pays a colorful, sparkling homage to the most recent memorable Disney films. The music is loud and full of joy. Mickey Mouse and Goofy are reinvented as rock star drummers. And they’re good.
And there’s the music, from “The Little Mermaid,” “Alladin,” “The Jungle Book,” “Princess and the Frog,” “Mary Poppins” and even “Peter Pan.” During a debut performance last week, members of the crowd danced on the sidewalks and in the street.

Star Tours
Of the lush symphonic musical score John Williams composed for the “Star Wars” movies, the most familiar refrain is the powerful, trumpeting “Jedi Theme,” and it can be heard inside a revamped Star Tours ride in Tomorrowland.
Hearing the music transformened nonchalant media types into junior high kids; these grownups hopped with excitement as they waited in line inside the skyport, watched the mini-movie at the entrance to the spaceship, and recalled how they felt when they first saw Darth Vader appear on the screen with his deep rumbling voice and evil intentions.
Inside the ride, with our 3D glasses on, we saw the warrior himself: Darth Vader appeared on screen, barking orders at us to land and give up one of our passengers (a spy!). The hapless and accidental pilot, C-3PO, and trusty companion R2-D2, managed to blast away, evading the Imperial forces. We cheered!
After a dizzying, Mr. Toad’s type wild ride through the Kashyyk Jungle, Princess Leia materialized, urging us to alter our course and aid the Rebellion. That took us straight to the Death Star spaceship. The grownup children laughed, clapped and shouted out at each turn.
There is more vibration and movement than the previous version, and the 3D effects make for even a bumpier ride. Disney park people told us that there are 50 random story combinations, so that fans can get a different experience each time.

Ticket prices
The thought of going to Disneyland could make anyone quiver in terror at the expense. Last we looked, a one-day park hopper ticket was $101 for you and $91 for each of your children.
But there is a bit of good news for those who plan to go this summer, anyway.
SoCal residents can buy a three-day ticket, good for three separate visits to one park per day, for $139. A $15 per ticket upgrade is available to make it a 3-day park hopper ticket, so you can visit both parks on each of three different days. It’s good until Sept. 5, but there are some black-out dates, including the Independence Day weekend. Check for tickets online at

Highway 1 officially reopens for summer travel

Highway 1 has been officially reopened, announced Caltrans officials
today.  The winter slide, 7.5 miles north of the San Luis Obispo /
Monterey County line and 40 miles south of Big Sur at Alder Creek, is
now unobstructed to two-lane traffic, 24 hours per day.   The
devastating slide had completely closed the roadway to the public in
both directions, including motorized vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians
since April 13, 2011.


travelers seeking to visit the bucolic coastal communities of Cayucos,
Cambria, San Simeon–home to Hearst Castle– and Ragged Point are no
longer troubled with road closures at the gateway to Big Sur via Hwy 1
north.  Travelers from Northern California once again have access to the
coastal communities of San Luis Obispo County via the treasured
historic highway.


renowned for sea glass and its dog friendly beaches, is also home to
hiking, parasailing and surfing, among many other activities.  Outdoor
adventurists will also enjoy tide pools with abundant sea life, hiking
on bluffs overlooking the ocean and more. Antique-seekers will keep busy
in the many shops, and foodies will find sumptuous eateries.  Ample
vacation rentals, hotels and B&Bs dot this coastal community.


is a quaint artisan village with no shortage of activities for the
inquisitive traveler,  including world renowned art galleries,
antiquing, quaint B&Bs, cafs and gourmet restaurants, horseback
riding, bike rentals, and whale-watching from the enticing two-mile
Moonstone Beach boardwalk. 


Simeon, famed as the home of Hearst Castle, boasts miles of rugged
coastal land with beautiful day hikes, kite surfing, kayaking, an
elephant seal rookery, and more.  This tranquil oceanfront community is
rich with beachfront and inland accommodations.  Hearst Castle stands
over San Simeon in majestic splendor, while further north, travelers can
tour the Piedras Blancas lighthouse or enjoy the vistas at Ragged


midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo’s coastal
communities are home to quaint small towns, abundant scenic beauty,
unspoiled beaches, historic and cultural attractions, and undiscovered
treasures.  We invite you to visit for additional information.

Californians taking to the rails

California motorists left the
highways in record numbers over the year to ride two of California’s
highly successful intercity passenger rail corridors, Caltrans announced today.


Led by the
San Joaquin corridor, which serves the Central Valley, linking Los Angeles and
Bakersfield with Sacramento and the Bay Area, California’s state supported
intercity passenger rail corridors had banner years.  Compared to May
2010, ridership on the San Joaquin, the nation’s fifth busiest rail corridor,
shot up over 12 percent with a 19 percent increase in revenue.

 The Pacific
Surfliner, the second most popular rail corridor in the nation, links San Luis
Obispo with San Diego via Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. It experienced a 4
percent climb in ridership and a 9 percent hike in revenue.

incredible ridership and revenue numbers show that by providing reliable, high
quality service, Californians will leave their cars to ride trains,” said
Acting Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. 

 With five
million annual passengers, California has more than 20 percent of all Amtrak
riders. Since 1990, Caltrans has invested more than $1.3 billion in
infrastructure and equipment for intercity passenger rail and about $1 billion
in operating support. 

Disneyland kicks off summer season

Soundsational Summer kicked off June 2 and 3, at the
Disneyland Resort.

The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
premiered on June 2, in a ceremony highlighted by the
appearance of Jodi Benson, the original voice of Ariel from the hit
Disney animated film, “The Little Mermaid,” singing a contemporary
version of the award-winning song “Part of Your World.” The
new Little Mermaid attraction takes guests into the world of Ariel and
the cast of characters from the classic tale, immersing guests in the
story and songs of the motion picture with a combination of Audio-Animatronics technology, special effects and Disney magic.

On June 3, new interplanetary journeys made their debuts at Disneyland park with the premiere of Star Tours – The Adventures Continue.
Dark denizens of the “Star Wars” universe, including Darth Vader
himself, blocked the entrance of the attraction early Friday until they
were expelled by a group of Jedi Masters.  

     Guests will never know where the Force might take them as they embark on the thrilling new journeys of Star Tours – The Adventures Continue.
Eager travelers board fully re-imagined Starspeeders for interstellar
treks to Coruscant, Hoth, Naboo and other destinations in the “Star
Wars” galaxy, encountering characters from the Star Wars
movies, many of them making their first appearances in the attraction.
Now in eye-popping Dolby 3-D, the new Star Tours journeys feature
more than 50 different story combinations, bridging that “long time ago” between the two “Star Wars” trilogies.

Great hotel deals in San Jose

If you’re looking to avoid the crowds and
hassles at the usual summer destinations, San Jose is offering great
deals that give you access to the best of the city as well as Monterey
and Bay area attractions for less money.

“San Jose is a best
kept secret, and worth a look this summer if you’re tired of the usual
places and crowds,” said Bill Sherry, CEO of Team San Jose, which runs
the San Jose Convention & Visitors Bureau. “As the 10th largest city
in the U.S., we offer the sophisticated hotels, attractions and
amenities you would expect from a big city, but with the charm of a
smaller town. As the Capital of Silicon Valley, we’re a major meetings
destination, so on weekends, leisure travelers get lower hotel rates
than higher traffic destinations nearby. We’ve got top-notch family and
cultural attractions, wineries, shopping and so much more right here,
but you can also use as a jumping point to Monterey and San Francisco
day trips.”

From discount and free events, to hotel offers, wine
and dinning events and shopping destinations, San Jose’s got a lot of
fun to offer this summer without damaging your wallet.

Hotel Deals
Suites Airport is offering special discounts for San Jose’s leading
festivals this summer, including 15 percent of already low rates, plus
free buffet breakfast, free airport transfers and free indoor parking.
Call 408-392-9009 and use the following booking codes to get the
discounts for: Japantown Obon Festival, July 9-10, 2011 (Booking code
LJTCA); 22nd Annual AT&T San Jose Jazz Festival , August 12-14, 2011
(Booking code LSJSU); and San Jose Gay Pride Festival 2011, August
20-21, 2011 (Booking code LSJSU).

Plaza is offering several packages: “Tech Museum Package” includes
breakfast for two and two tickets to the Tech Museum for only $20 above
regular daily rate; “Park, Stay and Go Package” includes up to 7 nights
complimentary parking for only $35 above regular daily rate; “Romantic
Escape Package,” valid Fridays and Saturdays includes a bottle of wine,
bouquet of flowers and a box of gourmet chocolates for only $20 above
regular daily rate; and “Winchester Mystery House Package” which
includes breakfast for two and two tickets to the world-famous haunted
Winchester Mystery House for only $60 above the regular daily rate.
Mention package name when booking at

by Hilton San Jose is offering a “Winchester House Package” starting at
only $129 per night. Package includes a one night stay in a deluxe
guest room with two tickets to the world-famous Winchester Mystery
House, former home to rifle heiress Sarah Winchester. Frequently
featured on television, this mansion includes many architectural
oddities that many believe Sarah built to confuse the spirits of rifle
victims that were haunting her. Available all summer, but subject to
availability and restrictions. Use booking code L-WIN.

Points by Sheraton Downtown, a hip boutique hotel, is offering
fantastic weekend rates as part of the “California Starpicks Promotion,”
now through July 13 at just $85 per night. Arrival days are
Thursday-Saturday and stat days are Thursday through Sunday. Black out
date: May 27-28.

Hilton San
Jose is participating in DineDowntown restaurant promotion, so foodies
can enjoy a gourmet $30 prix fixe meal at Affinity Restaurant featuring
entree Crepes from June 22nd to July 3rd. Enjoy fun drink and dinner
specials all summer every day at Happy Hour (5-7 pm) and on Jazz Night
every second and fifth Wednesday.

Hotel de Anza
is offering special hotel rates this summer – starting at $195 – in
association with their Steak & Chop Dinner promotion. Enjoy a
three-course dinner in La Pastaia paired with specially selected wines
from their cellar for just $95 for two ($160 value). Afterward, slip
into the romantic Hedley Club Lounge for an after dinner drink and live

Hotel Valencia on fabulous Santana
Row is offering several great packages this summer: “Stay 2 Nights,
Receive 3rd FREE” starts at $189 per room, is good July 1-4 and Sept.
2-5 and includes: Stylish accommodations for two; Deluxe buffet
breakfast at CITRUS; Cocktails for two at the ultra-hip Vbar; Offer is
also available during Labor Day, September 2 – September 5. Based on
double occupancy, exclusive of tax and subject to availability.
Complimentary night can be applied to current stay or used for a future
reservation (gift certificate to be provided by hotel at check-out). For
reservations, visit or call toll free
866.842.0100 and mention the Stay 2 Nights, Get 3rd Free promotion.
Other promotions include the “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” package,
starting at $239 per night, is available Fridays and Saturdays only and
includes: Stylish accommodations for two, cocktails for two at Vbar, two
Valencia tote bags filled with goodies to make the slumber party
complete and deluxe buffet breakfast for two at CITRUS (Use Promo ID
“PKGGG” and mention the package name). The “Shop, Stay and Be Pampered”
package starts at $335 per night and includes: stylish accommodations
for two, $100 gift certificate to Burke Williams Day Spa, cheese tray
and bottle of Santana Row Wine (Use promo”PKGGG” and mention the package

Staybridge Suites San Jose is offering a discounted
summer rate of $119 for a one-bedroom suite and $149 for a two-bedroom
suite now through July 31, 2011. Hot Buffet breakfast is included.
Mention Team San Jose Convention when booking.

Surf’s up at Billabong Surf Camp in Pismo Beach

If you’ve always wanted to try your luck at catching waves, Pismo Lighthouse Suites has got you covered this summer.


It has partnered with the SandBar Surf Company in Pismo Beach to offer an all-inclusive “Midweek Billabong Surf Camp Package” The four-night package includes a three-day Billabong Surf Camp for two and a two-room suite. 


Billabong Surf Camp package is a wonderful way to introduce new and
beginning surfers of all ages to the sport of surfing,” says Erik Mund,
General Manager of Pismo Lighthouse Suites. 

package is available through Aug. 28. It starts with
a relaxed Sunday check-in. 
Choose from either an Oceanfront Suite which features a spacious
bedroom, with either a King bed or two Queen beds, living room with a
Queen size sofa sleeper, and 2 full bathrooms. Alternatively, the
two-room Family Suite offers the convenience of two separate sleeping
rooms with private bathrooms.

morning, enjoyc Pismo Lighthouse
Suites’ expanded continental breakfast overlooking the Pacific.  Then hit the beach at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. or 4 p.m., for a
two-hour Billabong surf lesson with an experienced surf instructor in a
small group setting. 

Surfboards, wetsuits and rash guards are
provided.  The camp also provides two stainless steel water bottles and
sunscreen for you to keep, and a souvenir T-shirt from the Billabong
Surf Camp.