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

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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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Silver Dollar City offers National Harvest and Cowboy Festival

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The adventure-loving culture of the Great American Cowboy and the best elements of the classic West flavor the fall harvest features as Silver Dollar City presents a new high-action Wild West Show, the return of a stunt-packed Western stunt show, top craftsmen from around the country and live bands, all part of the National Harvest & Cowboy Festival. 

The Ozarks’ leading fall festival famous for fine craftsmanship and fall harvest activities runs through Oct. 25 at the Branson, Missouri theme park.

The new Silver Dollar City Wild West Show captures the excitement of the legendary Wild West shows of the 1880s, presenting a trick riding troupe, a horse-riding female sharpshooter, trick roping and bullwhip artistry, comedy canines and Native American hoop dancing. 

Hosted by rodeo rider and roper A.J. Silver, named Act of the Year by the International Rodeo Association, the show features Nakotah LaRance, 6-time world champion Native American Hoop Dancer whose skills were showcased in Cirque du Soleil’s touring show “Totem.”

Western action continues with the returning Western stunt show “The Pinkerton Man,” with high-flying action and special effects, including dramatic 3-story falls, high-slide rappels, hero fights and pyrotechnic effects and explosions, with professional stunt men and women leading a cast of 14, plus live animals.

A major focus during the National Harvest Festival is craftsmanship, as the park features 125 top craftsmen from around the country, including Best of Missouri Hands juried artists and a showcase of Western artists, all joining the 100 demonstrating craftsmen of Silver Dollar City.

Featured festival crafts include weaving, jewelry making, stained glass, basket making, gourd carving, leather crafting and painting.For its 50 years of craftsmanship, Silver Dollar City was named “The Home of American Craftsmanship” by the U.S. Congress.

Guests can experience the thrills of the Old West with a ride on the park’s Western-themed world-famous wood coaster Outlaw Run, named Best New Ride of 2013 worldwide in an industry poll conducted by Amusement Today magazine, winner of the Travel Channel’s Insane Coaster Wars: World Domination in Episode 2, and recently named one of the 12 biggest game-changers in the history of theme park attractions by CNN.com.

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Hotel del Coronado offers Labor Day package in San Diego

Hotel del Coronado shines at dusk in San Diego. (Photo courtesy of Hotel del Coronado)

Hotel del Coronado shines at dusk in San Diego. (Photo courtesy of Hotel del Coronado)

For those looking to celebrate a long, Labor Day Weekend with a glimpse into classic Victorian architecture dating back to the holiday’s origin without sacrificing the modern amenities of today, Hotel del Coronado is offering two packages for some end-of-summer savings.

Del Beach & Breakfast Package

Start the day with an ocean-view breakfast, and then lounge all day on the new “Del Beach” and enjoy the warm sun and sparkling blue waves while sipping a cocktail or enjoying a beach lunch. The “Del Beach & Breakfast” package includes:

15% off overnight accommodations (two night minimum stay)

  • Daily breakfast buffet for two at Sheerwater (includes tax and gratuity)
  • One full-day rental of two luxury lounge chairs and a half-moon cabanette at Del Beach
  • Promo Code: DELBEACH1

 Del Perks Package

Get some added perks included in your room rate when you stay two nights or more! With the “Del Perks” offer, your room rate includes your:

 Daily resort charge (a $56 value based on a two-night stay)

  • Overnight self-parking (a $74 value based on a two-night stay)
  • A daily $50 resort credit (a $100 value based on a two-night stay)
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Grand Tetons: Snake River raft tour was one of trip’s highlights

By Steve Scauzillo, Staff Writer

This park has 300 historic buildings. One place that fits that category and then some is Jenny Lake and lodge. Named after the trapper Beaver Dick Leigh’s wife, Jenny, the lake, lodge and visitor center blend into the idyllic setting.

If you get there early, grab a boat ride to Hidden Falls. Or just wander the lake’s gentle shores. You might catch a family of deer grazing near the boathouse.

The raft tour of the Snake River was one of the highlights of our trip. No rapids, just smooth sailing with an expert guide who pointed out the nesting bald eagles overhead.

My wife also spotted a river beaver on the muddy bank. Tours are available for $65 for adults out of Jackson Lake Lodge. You don’t have to be fit to do this. All we did was sit and let the man with the oars steer us into hours of tranquility.

I saved the best for last: A tour of Oxbow Bend, the most photographed area in the United States. In fall, the gold and burnt orange leaves shimmer against the backdrop of Mount Moran and the whole Teton Range.

Be sure to ask for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Ranger. He adds music from Bob Dylan and The Byrds to an engrossing evening of history, politics and nature.

When you’re planning your trip to the Gran Tetons, just remember to tell your travel agent: It’s the place with the unusual name. It was named by French trappers who missed their women.

Don’t miss this place.

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