Win a wintercation along Oregon Coast

This winter, take advantage of one of Oregon’s best-kept secrets — winter on the Coast. This is the season that the Coast reveals some of its most beautiful treasures.

Catch sight of great gray whales on their southern migration from the Bering Sea to the warm waters of Baja. Look for spouts from 24 designated whale-watching spots staffed with volunteers during Whale Watching Week in December.

Winter is also storm-watching season — time to curl up by the fire and catch the tremendous wave show going on outside. The calm weather that follows is perfect for agate hunting and beaching combing on freshly scoured sands.

Try your handcrabbing from the dock during Dungeness season, which peaks in December, or purchase a freshly caught crustacean from a Coast fish market.

Get out on the water and explore miles of kayaking trails. Winter’s higher water levels on Coast rivers, bays and estuaries make for great wildlife- and bird-watching from the boat. And for some indoor pleasure, warm up inside with a pint of Oregon craft beer from a growing number of fine Coast breweries.

Want to win an Oregon Coast Wintercation of your own? Enter to win a trip for two on a guided whale-watching charter from Newport Tradewinds, $100 to spend at Rogue Ales and a stay at the Elizabeth Street Inn. We’re also including tickets to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, Ripley’s Believe it Or Not, Undersea Gardens and Wax Works, and a couple of bowls of clam chowder at Mo’s.

Get inspired: Read more about some of our favorite Oregon Coast Wintercations.

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Christmas markets entice visitors in Ireland

Christmas markets in Dublin and Belfast are bursting with unique gifts, festive spirit, fantastic craic, and adventure-shopping.

Fall under the spell of spicy mulled wine, the scent of gourmet food, Christmas carols and the spirit of jolly shoppers. Dublin is a magical place at Christmas.

The first city-center Christmas Market on St Stephen’s Green promises to be the jewel of Dublin’s festive calendar through Dec. 23.

More than 60 traditional wooden chalets line St Stephen’s Green Park, next to the famous Dublin shopping mecca of Grafton Street – itself a great Christmas destination – offering a unique selection of quality goods.
There’ll be everything from handcrafted gifts, spices and chutneys as well as gourmet crepes, bratwurst, chocolate fountains, Glühwein and other seasonal non-alcoholic drinks to enjoy. Entertainment from local choirs and carollers add to the festive spirit.

There‘s an amazing amount of events around Dublin too, everything from the Peter Pan panto at the Gaiety Theatre to Ireland’s largest Christmas ice rink at Christmas Wonderland to a Live Animal Crib and Carols by Candlelight at Christ Church Cathedral.

In Belfast, there’s the huge, lively Continental Market that transforms the City Hall lawns into a bustling village.
Almost 100 European traders offer something for everyone, including a wide selection of food, unique gifts, drinks and entertainment.

Everyone comes to chill out in the onsite bars serving the best local and European brews, and to sample exotic tastes like ostrich burgers and eggnog.

The Victorian-vintage St George’s Market was voted the UK’s Best Large Indoor Market 2014 by the National Association of British Market Authorities.

It runs an annual Christmas Craft Fair and opens for additional days during the Christmas period. Enjoy the experience of being at St George’s Market at Yuletide.

Rediscover the adventure of real-life market browsing.

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Universal Studios offers 20 Days of “Grinchmas”

Photo courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywod

Photo courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywod

It’s the most wonderful time of the year as Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal CityWalk deck the halls for a wintry calendar of cool holiday activities at The Entertainment Capital of L.A.

A very, merry Grinchmas returns to Universal Studios Hollywood as the theme park celebrates the Who-lidays with The Grinch, his faithful dog Max and a roster of Whos from the town of Who-ville.

“Grinchmas” runs weekends on Dec. 6-7 and 13-14, then continues daily from Dec. 19 through Jan. 3.

The Universal Plaza, an elaborate grand piazza at the heart of the theme park, will serve as the backdrop for the lighting of the towering “Grinchmas” tree – a whimsical centerpiece twisting and spiraling 60 feet above visitors and providing the ideal setting for merry holiday making memories, while The Grinch, his adorable dog Max and the WhovilleWhos entertain guests nearby with fun-filled photo opportunities.

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La Quinta Resort debuts multi-million makeover

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 It’s a new day in the desert as La Quinta Resort & Club, the first resort to debut in Palm Springs, adds another gem to its crown: a multi-million dollar milestone restoration befitting of a legendary classic.

Shouldered by the rugged Santa Rosa Mountains and a storied Hollywood past, the iconic 1926 landmark steps up with fresh, contemporary look while retaining the glamour and architectural elements that anchor what has always been an authentic experience.

Ready for its close up, the resort-wide renovation encompasses upgrades of all guest casitas, starlight villas and suites as well as a re-imagined pool experience. The ambitious project also infuses the resort’s lush 45 acres with a bevy of additional bougainvillea, roses and citrus trees. www.laquintaresort.com.

This signature Waldorf Astoria resort has long been a vortex for the sports- and culinary-minded, a haven for urbanites looking to unplug and refuge for Hollywood’s elite seeking an escape from the limelight.  One can easily decamp here to sketch out a screenplay (as Frank Capra did), drill down a handicap or rekindle a flame.

From the stately Spa at La Quinta® to five championship golf courses including PGA WEST’s® TPC Stadium Course and award-winning Morgan’s in the desert, La Quinta Resort once again sets the stage as California’s top desert retreat.

Drawing inspiration from the colorful desert environs, Los Angeles-based firm Smith & Firestone created a residential-style design featuring custom tile work and wrought iron elements, new furniture, floor coverings and two-toned blocked drapery panels.

The resort’s signature casitas, clustered around 41 showcase pools, are set in a fresh earthen palette of ivory, terracotta and chocolate offset with citrus overtones.

Stylized Palomino textured leather bed benches, crisp hued pillows and throws adorn luxurious Wingback style headboards and contemporary Victorian chairs, while upgraded lighting and blue-sky accessories enhance guest bathrooms.clip_image004

Standout elements include oversized, nail-head embellished headboards flanked by two arched mirrors reflecting the resort’s colorful tile designs.  Rich maple furnishings mirror the stunning geometric floor treatment set in beige and cocoa.

Starlight Casita patios, popular for their stunning mountain views, debut romantic new fire features as well as plush couches and tables for alfresco entertaining.

The custom-designed suites, including the coveted El Presidente with a showcase private pool and spa, share a similar design as well as new landscaping, updated patio furniture and renovated decks.

New amenities include 42- to 47-inch flat-screen high-definition televisions, mini refrigerators, Keurig® coffee makers, charging stations with dual USB ports, upgraded fireplaces and photography inspired by the storied history of the resort and its surroundings.

La Quinta Resort & Club participates in Hilton HHonors®, the only guest loyalty program that allows members to earn Points & Miles® for the same stay and redeem points for free nights with No Blackout Dates at more than 4,100 hotels worldwide.

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San Diego brews up events for Beer Week in November

Building off the success of the past five San Diego Beer Weeks, the San Diego Brewers Guild is preparing for San Diego Beer Week 2014 on Nov. 7-16.

San Diego Beer Week is a ten-day celebration inspiring people to drink local, craft beer and promoting San Diego’s thriving brewing culture with multiple events happening across the county.

San Diego is home to more than 90 breweries and has gained an international reputation for brewing award-winning beers. The city’s breweries brought home more medals at the 2010 World Beer Cup than the traditional beer countries of England, Germany, and Belgium combined and won 20 medals at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival.

With the popularity of craft beer on the rise, San Diego is poised to be the capital of craft beer tourism in the United States.

Scenes from the 2011 Beer Week

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Las Vegas gears up for Halloween

With boozy concoctions and a sinful nightlife scene for naughty nurses and devilish doctors and attractions and indulgences for loyal minions and adorable Elsas, there’s no doubt Las Vegas is one of the best places to celebrate the ominous occasion.

Attractions for Creatures Big and Small

  • The world-famous dance crew JABBAWOCKEEZ will celebrate Halloween with a special 4 p.m. matinee performance of “PRiSM” at Luxor Hotel and Casino on Friday, Oct. 31. Locals are invited to take advantage of a “Buy One, Get One Free” ticket offer. Complimentary candy will be provided to guests who arrive in costume as well as JABBAWOCKEEZ T-shirts awarded to the best costumes. And this year, Nevada Day falls on Halloween, so the kids are out of school!
  • At Shark Reef Aquarium’s Haunted Reef inside Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Halloween and Dia de los Muertos come together for a frighteningly good weekend. On Friday, Oct. 31 the Haunted Reef will host its annual community day. Kids ages 12 and under who dress up in a Halloween costume, as well as any adults who donate blood at the designated United Blood Services booth, will gain free admission to the aquarium. The weekend will continue with trick or treating, decorations and events that pay tribute to Dia de los Muertos.
  • Fright Dome at Circus Circus Las Vegas instills fear into the hearts of everyone brave enough to enter one of the nation’s top-ranked haunted attractions. This year’s theme, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, has guests screaming as they step into scenes from the iconic film to fend off attacks from the notorious Leatherface. As if it couldn’t get any more terrifying, Fright Dome double-dog dares guests to enter “Isolation,” a haunted house for those bold enough to brave the traps and crazed inhabitants alone. This is the first year guests can experience the newest roller coaster, El Loco, under the darkness of the haunted attraction. El Loco is an adrenaline-pumping adventure complete with G drops, gravity-defying turns and over-the-edge twists. Fright Dome is open 7 p.m. – midnight, through Oct. 31 on select nights.
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Tucson Tales: Historic downtown area welcomes visitors

 

Downtown Tucson

Downtown Tucson


By Chris Ledermuller, Staff Writer

The civic and commercial heart of Tucson is also its soul, with SunLink running right in the middle of the action. Tucson grew upward and outward from this compact district east of the Santa Cruz river, and it was establishing its stature as a place of consequence for a couple of centuries. Culture, commerce and conflict shaped the city, its people and its urban form.

Native American nations tamed the unforgiving desert climate and thrived on agriculture and artisanship in the pre-modern era. Tucson still has one of the largest urban Native American populations in the U.S., with the Tohono O’odham and Pascua Yaqui having deep roots in southern Arizona.

Tucson’s urbanization began in earnest before the Declaration of Independence, with the Spanish establishing a presidio in 1775. Spain, and then Mexico after its independence, influenced southern Arizona even after the Gadsden Purchase in 1853, making Arizona a U.S. territory.

The territorial period put Tucson in the path of the frontier tidal wave and its place in the myth and reality of the Old West. Tucson found its solid economic footing by the time Arizona achieved statehood a century ago, with the biggest boom yet to come in the mid-20th century with the Interstate Highway System and air conditioning creating growth previously unimaginable.

They are all visible in a downtown that’s, surprisingly, an urbanist’s dream come true. Tucson, like most Sun Belt cities, absorbed a large population of aspiring suburbanites who wanted their place in the sun. Tucson, unlike most Sun Belt cities, managed to preserve its downtown from the depredations of post-World War II life: wide roads, constant air conditioning, strip malls and chain stores.

Tucson saved many of its old buildings from being clear-cut for garages, or worse, surface parking lots. Businesses did not turn their store entrances away from the street. Also, much of urban Tucson was platted out on an orthogonal grid of long blocks and wide boulevards.

Downtown maintained its teardrop-shaped boundary and its disharmonious clash of narrow, short-block streets. These are not conducive to fast, efficient movement for motorists — but do create a safe, fun environment for pedestrians — and now, SunLink riders.

Tucson’s civic leaders and downtown business community pursued a concerted historic preservation policy, all of which bear fruit in an attractive, fun and enjoyable atmosphere for workers, visitors, shoppers and anyone in between. This is how the heart of a city should be, complete with a healthy beat.

 

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Tucson tales: SunLink ties Fourth Ave business with university

sunlink

By Chris Ledermuller, Staff Writer

Dana Marschz, Steve Coogan’s drama teacher in “Hamlet 2,” counsels one of his students by saying, “[Y]ou’re going to have a magical life. Because no matter where you go, it’s always going to be better than Tucson.”

Ouch! To add insult to injury, the 2008 comedy film that hatchets Tucson was not even filmed in the city, but in Albuquerque, N.M.

Serving as the brunt of a feature-length pop culture joke did nothing to help the reputation of Arizona’s second-largest city. The film intoned that Tucson is “where dreams go to die.”

For anyone seeking outdoors adventure, authentic history, a pedestrian- and bike-friendly urban core, adventurous food, great microbreweries, lively music, fine arts or a college town atmosphere, Tucson is a dream come true.

In the end, Tucson laughs last and laughs best. The city is a cauldron bubbling with hipness, yet has flown under the radar of the new or old media cognoscenti who can call something cool and have the street cred to make it stick. Tucson has laid the tracks — figuratively and literally — to stake its claim to greatness.

In July, Tucson joined the U.S. urban rail renaissance with the inauguration of SunLink, a modern streetcar line connecting downtown, the Fourth Avenue business district and the University of Arizona. It is barely 4 miles long, but SunLink makes up for its narrow reach by putting riders within footsteps of cultural attractions, vibrant businesses and scholarly resources.

First, it is important to distinguish a streetcar like SunLink from light rail. Casually, “streetcars” or “trolleys” and “light rail” are thought of as one and the same, but similarities end above the steel wheel.

Light rail, such as Los Angeles’ Metro Rail lines or the San Diego Trolley, typically has stations spaced about a mile apart, has higher speeds to serve longer-distance travelers and has exclusive rights of way.

Streetcars, on the other hand, are more like city buses on tracks. They travel at lower speeds, have closely spaced stops or stations, and the tracks are shared with motorists and cyclists. SunLink’s fares are $1.50 for a single ride or $4 for an unlimited-ride day pass — identical to the buses of the streetcar’s operator, SunTran.

Fares are purchased from vending machines at the stations and loaded on SunGO cards. The cards must be validated on readers aboard the streetcar and presented to roving fare inspectors as proof of payment. The SunGO cards are also valid on SunTran buses.

Streetcars serve as a movable urban amenity rather than a utilitarian mode of transportation. SunLink, like the modern streetcar systems in Portland, Ore.; Seattle; Tacoma, Wash.; and Washington, D.C.; showcase distinctive neighborhoods or business districts — and prime the pump for attracting residential, commercial and retail development.

Tucson leaders hope SunLink serves as the catalyst for more residences, businesses and shops along the route, though that would just be icing on an already rich cake. There’s plenty to see, hear, taste, touch and experience at every SunLink stop and the three destinations along the line.

 

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Savor Santa Barbara cuisines with 54 epicure.sb events

Savor Santa Barbara’s cuisine, libations and culture with epicure.sb this month.  Restaurants, tasting rooms, museums, hotels and more have come together for the month-long celebration.

This annual gastronomic event returns for its sixth year with a new theme: epic-scoop.  Visitors can now experience the bounty of Santa Barbara County as a local would, with 90 offerings including 54 events and 26 special menu’s – and all of this over 31+ days.  With so much to do, pack your bags and stay awhile with 13 epicurean inspired hotel packages.

Grab your fork and spoon, as we are giving the epic-scoop to access special offerings, exclusive prix fix menus, secret menu items & libations, specialty tastings, VIP experiences, behind-the-scene exclusives, cultural performances, and much, much more!  Below is a highlight of recent offerings, for a complete list go to epicuresb.com.

  • Isabella After Hours: Foodie Film Series (Oct. 24) – Enjoy a food-based movie on a large projector screen at Isabella Gourmet Foods, complete with homegrown movie snacks, including locally made popcorn, candies, chocolates, beverages and more.
  • Junior Chef Classes (Sunday’s in Oct.) – Hey, kids! Let Williams Sonoma at La Cumbre Plaza show how fun and easy cooking can be. Kids will learn to make delicious recipes, with plenty of tasting along the way.
  • Featured Dish & Cocktail at Four Seasons (Oct. 1-31): Experience the best of Santa Barbara cuisine at Bella Vista, featuring a special Uni appetizer with indigenous Santa Barbara ingredients.  After, head to Ty Lounge for a libation inspired by Santa Barbara’s Spanish heritage, the Peña Flamenca.
  • Savor the Sauv (Oct. 1-31) – Mention “epic-dish” at Grassini Family Vineyards for a special tasting flight of library and reserve Sauvignon Blancs along with a Meyer Lemon truffle, paying tribute to a local fruit flourishing on Santa Barbara’s hillsides.
  • Sideways 10th Anniversary Hitching Post Wine Flight (Oct. 1-31): At Hitching Post II, local favorite and featured restaurant inSideways, enjoy a flight of 3 signature Highliner Pinot Noirs that commemorate the wine in the cult film that helped put Santa Barbara County wines on the map.
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Mendocino County puts the fun in fungi this fall

As the flavors of fall arrive in Northern California’s Mendocino County so does the annual crop of coveted candy cap, chanterelle, porcini and morel mushrooms.

Straddling historic Highways 1 and 101 with nearly 2,500 sq. miles of live oak, pygmy forests and stately redwood groves, the region is a natural hotspot for some 3,000 mushroom varieties.

The annual haul is nothing short of historic, nurturing nirvana for local mycologists, chefs and fungi foragers.   Add to the mix a cache of artisanal chefs, 95+ wineries, a formidable craft beer and hard cider scene and the annual salute to Mr. Fungi sprouts into action November 7-16, 2014 www.visitmendocino.com/mushroom-wine-and-beer-festival866.466.3636.

Visitors can tap into a variety of adventures from mushroom hunts by horseback, foraging excursions, Pinot and porcini menus, educational seminars, art exhibits and the annual Skunk Train trek and cook-off deep in the depths of the Noyo River forest.  To cap the event, regional hotel properties and restaurants are offering special menus and packages throughout November.

 FUNGI FORAGING

Pack a pair of boots and a sense of adventure as mushroom foraging season hits full stride this fall.  During the festival, guests can track and taste Mr. Fungi in a variety of formats.  Top excursions include:

Ride with the Hunt – Mushroom Hunt at Richochet Ridge Ranch 

“Mushroom Hunt” horseback rides every day during the festival.  Equine, wine & hotel packages also available. Ricochet Ridge Ranch, Fort Bragg; 707.964.9669www.horse-vacation.com.

Hunt for the Wild Mushroom Mountain Bike Ride

Put the fun in “fungi” with daily bike tours through the local forests in search the magical mushroom.  All levels, rentals available.  Nov 8/9 and 15/16.  Mendo Bike Sprite, Fort Bragg; 707.962.4602;www.mendobikesprite.com.

Mushrooms at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

Join staff mycologist Mario Abreu for a series of mushroom workshops and walks at the Botanical Gardens. Daily.  Fort Bragg; 707.964.4352×16www.gardenbythesea.org.

 Pygmy Forest Ecological Staircase Hike & Educational Hunt

Daily tours from beach to bluffs traversing 100,000 years in geology on each of the five terraces.  Forage for fungi enroute.  Jug Handle State Reserve, Caspar; 707.937.5804www.jughandlecreekfarm.com/staircase-trail.

Mushroom Exploration Tours

Join local mycologist Adrienne Long for all things mushroom at the Stanford Inn before heading out to the forests and meadows for a full immersion.  Daily.  Stanford Inn, Mendocino; 707.937.5615;www.stanfordinn.com.

 

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