Thursday, November 29, 2012

Holiday hotel help in L.A.: the new Hotel Wilshire

The SoCal scenario: the holidays are here and your relatives are about to be—where to put ‘em? Just in time, the newly opened Hotel Wilshire, set in the heart of the Miracle Mile on famous Wilshire Boulevard.

This is no shady motel to stick the ‘rents in. It’s a modern boutique hotel where luxury accommodations and attentive service are blended into an eco-friendly hotel. The hotel is minutes from Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Hollywood, Century City and within easy access to exciting Los Angeles hotspots, entertainment venues, restaurants, fashion and shopping and LA's vibrant cultural scene.just minutes from The Grove.
Best of all: anewly available package gives you a 15% savings. You (and the parents) have never had it so good.

Details: The Grove Shopping Package, starting from $329.00 per night/double occupancy, includes stuff like a Beautiful Room or Suite, $100 The Grove Gift Card by American Express, Complimentary Overnight Valet Parking,Complimentary Valet Parking at The Grove,VIP bag filled with items from select The Grove retailers, Late checkout and more. The Hotel Wilshire features 74 Guestrooms and Suites, including a rooftop Penthouse Suite. For more information visit, call toll free 855-419-9777 

SoCal's Spa for everyone

Want to take off (or prevent) some of those holiday pounds? Spas have evolved to include something for everyone. The Oaks at Ojai, one of the first value-based destination spas in the country, opened 35 years ago, is truly one of the only weight loss spas in the country today. Guests lose an average of 3.5 pounds per week. While some spas claim to promote weight loss, those that offer options like all you can eat buffets and alcohol with meals kinda defeats the weight-loss purpose! 
Details: Now through December 24, 2012: HALF PRICE ROOMMATES: Bring a friend for a 3 night stay (or longer) at The Oaks and they will receive a 50% discount for sharing your room.   Rates start at $199 per person/per night and include accommodations, three flavorful, calorie conscious spa cuisine meals, choice of 15 fitness classes and evening seminars. Visit or call 800.753.OAKS (6257).

Friday, October 7, 2011

Find fall color at Lake Tahoe

My pal Pettit Gilwee writes that it’s leaf peeping season 
in California’s North Lake Tahoe – almost.
"The trails and roads in North Lake Tahoe are just
starting to show signs of autumn as the area’s aspens
transition from a sea of green to a brilliant shade of yellow."
I love this time of year in Lake Tahoe--autumn's tinges
of yellow and red create such a lovely contrast with Tahoe’s
solid wall of pines and firs.

It’s a good time to slow down. “Whether you’re out hiking or
paddling via kayak, when you see that striking contrast
in the trees, you just have to take a moment and soak
it all up,” says Executive Director Bill Hoffman of the
Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau. According
to Hoffman, the last two weeks of October and the first
two weeks of November are when the region’s trees really
start to change over.

Where to see the show? Locals recommend road cycling,
inline skating and running up Blackwood Canyon on the
West Shore, located three to four miles south of Tahoe
City. Blackwood’s paved road takes you from 6,200 feet lake
level to
Barker Pass at 7,200 feet.

Eagle Rock, a Tahoe landmark, sits just south of the
Blackwood Canyon entrance and is an easy 15-minute
hike to the top, offering panoramic views of the region.
(The California Tahoe Conservancy recently completed a
new trail to the top, which has significantly reduced
pollutants into Lake Tahoe.)

For a scenic alpine lake edged by aspen, check out
Spooner Lake nine miles south of Sand Harbor State Beach
(just outside of Incline Village). You’ll find miles of
hiking trails, as well as a good starting point for those
venturing into the backcountry for backpacking excursions.

On the Tahoe Rim Trail-- Lake Tahoe’s most popular hiking,
mountain biking and equestrian trail--you’ll wind through
more fall color. The 165-mile dirt path circles Lake Tahoe,
with eight trailheads making it easy to access. Try
jumping on the trail at Tahoe Meadows on the Mt. Rose
Summit (Highway 431), at Tahoe City off Fairway Drive
behind the town’s commercial core
and at Barker Pass up Blackwood Canyon, the paved
road is open to cars until they snow flies.

Details: In fall, look for the 2-for-1 dining deals,
with coupons in area newspapers; significant savings
on lodging; and many special events. TheVillage Center
in Incline Village is hosting Oktoberfest October 15
with German food, beer, live music by Bigg Funn and
raffle prizes. Furry friends are invited to the Dog
Days of Fall Dog Party October 15 in Incline Village.
The 7th Annual Tahoe City Harvest Festival runs through
October 22 and has a month long Scarecrows on Parade
decorating downtown Tahoe City. The Lake Tahoe
Women’s Wellness Weekend is November 12-13.

For more, head to And,
for the best bargains, check out the website’s
Cool Deals, which is updated daily and includes
savings on lodging and

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Napa Wine Country: a package deal with amour

We love deals. We love San Francisco. And we love the Wine Country. So it follows that we'd really love a new package the Hyatt Regency San Francisco just announced: “Wine Country Amour”. (It's designed to complement the Wine Country-themed exhibit displayed in the hotel’s lobby through November 18, 2011.)

And since we're talking 'amour', the package is designed for couples, with an option of combining two of the most romantic destinations in the world--SF and the Napa Valley. Here's how the Hyatt's Amour Package works.

Starting at only $259, the package includes: one night's accommodations; full American breakfast for two (room service or in Eclipse); a bottle of Flora Springs wine; turndown service (on request); and late check out to 2:00 p.m. (on request). This package is available from now through the November 18, 2011. And then, exclusively for Hyatt Regency San Francisco guests booking this package, the Napa Valley Wine Train is featuring the “Gourmet Express” dinner package, where visitors will enjoy a Wine Country journey for an added $89 per person. After about a one-hour drive north of San Francisco, Hyatt guests will arrive at the Napa Valley Wine Train station in downtown Napa. Prior to boarding, they will be able to taste two wines. Once on the train, guests will choose from a seasonal menu all of which is prepared fresh in the specially designed kitchen car. Transfers between the hotel and The Napa Valley Wine Train are also available for an additional price. Not bad.

Details: All these packages are available through December 30, 2011 (based on availability). Rates vary by dates. For more, see or call 800/ 233-1234.
For Napa Valley Wine Train special Hyatt Regency offer, please visit

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cool hiking along California's San Mateo Coast

Early last summer, I decided I'd had enough of the Central Valley's heat and needed a cool escape. So I called my pals Linda and Terry and we headed out to the coast. Pillar Point Harbor, in Half Moon Bay (Northern California), holds a lot of memories for me.

When we were little, our parents would take us kids (four or five, depending on who was away at school) down to Princeton and Pillar Point, with its protected breakwater and small fleet of tiny fishing boats. It seemed a harbor of refuge for the boats even then. As we walked atop the curving jetty, we'd watch mesmerized as
waves smashed against the structure's rocky outer edge, while keeping the waters in the harbor smooth as glass. We fished for crabs here, dropping our rented crab pots (baited with cans of dog food--eeuuwww!), and once we even snagged one big enough to keep.

In my memories, the
summer skies over the northern California coast are continually overhung with moist, chilly clouds, and a day at the beach always calls for long pants and a jacket. This day, the three of us find the same kind of weather. And boy, is it a relief. The misty harbor is my refuge from the inland's blast furnace heat. In other ways, Pillar Point has changed--now its a modern harbor, and you're discouraged from walking out on the jetty (insurance risks, probably). There's a cute, recently remodeled Pillar Point Bed and Breakfast inn here, and a swanky hotel, the Oceano Hotel and Spa with a village of shops.

The three of us head for one of Linda's fave local lunch stops in Princeton--no ocean views but killer pasta. Mezza Luna Italian Restaurant is housed in a classic old home and the food tastes like Mama Luna must have made it. Try the
Linguine della Baia ($15), linguine sauteed with mussels, clams, calamari, shrimp in a light tomato sauce.

From the harbor, you can't really see the
huge, killer waves at Maverick's, which break offshore in winter. But it's neat to know that one of the world's premier surf competitions takes place here (waves permitting). If you want some really fresh fish, call the fish phone at 650-726-8724; every morning the harbor master leaves a message describing what fish is for sale right off of the boats. Go early in Dungeness crab season, starting in November. And bring a cooler to haul your catch of the day home.

Linda, Terry, and I opt for a stroll along the Jean Lauer Trail along Pillar Point BLuff, part of the California Coastal Trail and a segment of the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST). It's an easy ramble of about a mile or so, looking down over parts of the harbor and out to sea (on clear days, it is said, you can see the Farallon Islands from here). The sky is a gunmetal gray this day, as I remember so many 'beach days' from my childhood, and the air is clean and tangy, smelling of kelp, salty mist, and memories.

Details: For lunch, try Mezza Luna Italian Restaurant, 459 Prospect Way, Princeton by the Sea, 650-728-8108. For more trail info on hiking the Jean Lauer Trail at Pillar Point Bluff, visit the outings page on POST’s website:
COPYRIGHT Lora Finnegan 2008-2009

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