Archive for the ‘California’ Category


Photo of the Day: Mammoth Lakes, CA

Mammoth Lakes is part of Yosemite National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in east-central California. Yosemite is internationally recognized for its spectacular granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, giant sequoia groves and biological diversity.

Mammoth Lakes, CA (image credit Flickr)

Mammoth Lakes, CA

Mammoth is famous for its stunning hiking trails and crystal clear lakes, excellent skiing in wintertime, and a vibrant music and arts scene year-round. Physically fit travelers will enjoy hiking Yosemite’s many trails and footpaths. Check with rangers for trail conditions; snow and hazards from falling rock close many trails in winter. No permits are required park-wide for day hikes. The valley also offers some of the most challenging and spectacular rock climbing in North America, with vertical faces more than 3,000 feet tall.

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Top 10 Haunted Hotels in the US

Halloween is approaching and spookiness is in the air, so we thought we’d bring you some of the country’s most notorious haunted hotels to consider for your next trip. Why settle for a plain old hotel stay when you could add apparitions, strange noises in the night, locking and unlocking doors, and more to the experience?

Hotel Monteleone, New Orleans - Image credit: Flickr

Hotel Monteleone, New Orleans - Image credit: Flickr

Check out these haunted spots from the Victorian seaport town of Port Townsend, WA to the land of voodoo and witchcraft itself, New Orleans, LA, and find the spot that’s right for your next journey!

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Travel + Leisure Names America’s Most Beautiful Neighborhoods

Travel + Leisure has released their list of America’s most historic, charming, and downright beautiful neighborhoods, and folks across the country are bound to have strong opinions about which towns were left off the list. I’m happy to say I’ve personally spent time in four of the ten neighborhoods selected, and the others are now on my short list. I was surprised to see parts of Baltimore, Oklahoma City and Houston on this list, and you may be surprised by some of the other selections.

Check out the article and let us know which ‘hoods you think should have made the list, and which ones you think were deservedly named “Most Beautiful.”

Photo credit: Travel + Leisure / Nik Wheeler/ Alamy

Photo credit: Travel + Leisure / Nik Wheeler/ Alamy

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I’m taking a mini road trip to Los Angeles with my younger brother next weekend. Between gas money, hotel costs and feeding ourselves, I was worried that we were going to be stuck with no money to see any of the the City of Angels’ infamous attractions. But Los Angeles is not just for the rich and the famous to enjoy. There are many incredible free activities to partake, much to my relief. Vacation saved! Here are five free top attractions that I plan to check out on my trip. What are you favorite things to do in Los Angeles for free?

The Getty Villa. Photo: brewbooks

The Getty Villa. Photo: brewbooks

1. Home of the Oscars

If you’re a movie buff (or even if you’re not), be sure to check out the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Grand Lobby and Fourth Floor Galleries. The Academy’s headquarters is located in the heart of Beverly Hills and its galleries feature impressive exhibitions that highlight the best of Hollywood’s movie magic and history. 8949 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. Tel. 310-247-3000.

2. The Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Trust is one of the largest supporters of visual arts in the world, and its two Los Angeles locations, the Getty Center Los Angeles and the Getty Villa Malibu, feature an incredible collection of European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illustrated manuscripts and photography, all housed in breathtaking indoor and outdoor settings. Although reservations aren’t needed at the Getty Center, visitors to the Getty Villa Malibu must have advance, timed tickets to gain entry, and only a limited number of tickets are offered daily. Getty Center. 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles. Getty Villa Malibu, 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades. Tel. 310-440-7300.

3. South Bay Bicycle Path

Taking a ride or stroll down the South Bay Bicycle Path is probably the best way to sample Los Angeles’ beaches. Despite its name, this 22-mile bike path is frequented by movers of all types and passes through must-see beach community highlights such as the Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach’s ever-present alternative culture and Redondo Beach’s Pier Avenue. To get the most out of your coastal stroll start at the bike path’s northernmost point, Will Rogers State Beach, where Temescal Canyon Road meets Pacific Coast Highway.,,

4. Griffith Observatory and Griffith Park

Located within Los Angeles’ famous Griffith Park, the Griffith Observatory has been a highlight of Los Angeles for nearly 75 years. After recently undergoing an extensive six-year renovation and expansion, the observatory offers visitors a state-of-the-art planetarium, presentation theatre, public telescopes and multiple indoor and outdoor exhibits. Griffith Park is packed with attractions aside from the observatory, so consider spending a day on the park’s grounds. Griffith Park. 4730 Crystal Springs Drive, Los Angeles. Tel. 323-913-4688. Griffith Observatory. 2800 East Observatory Road, Los Angeles. Tel. 213-473-0800.

5. The Grove and Farmers Market

Looking for a true L.A. shopping experience without the fuss of Rodeo Drive? Then head to The Grove and Farmers Market located in Los Angeles’ Fairfax District. This outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment complex is riddled with SoCal ambiance, which means you’ll love it whether you splurge on souvenirs or just window shop. For an “organic” experience spend your time at the historic Farmers Market, where you’ll find fresh fruits, vegetables and meats, as well as restaurants and a wide variety of clothing, gadgets and other service vendors. 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles. Tel. 323-900-8080, Farmers Market. 6333 West 3rd St. Tel. 323-933-9211,

Plan your trip to Los Angeles on TravelMuse.

Post derived from “5 Free Los Angeles Attractions” by Teresa Basich.



Kara from the Capital is our newest winner of Trip of the Week and a recipient of a Frommer’s day by day guide to Italy, which will be perfect when she starts helping her sister plan a trip to celebrate their dad’s 75th birthday.

Kara built this relaxing trip to Calistoga, Calif., on TravelMuse to take some time for herself (no kids!) and relax with her girlfriends.

trip o week getaway pic 1

Why are you taking this Trip?
I’m planning the trip as a girls’ getaway from the kids.

What are you most excited about seeing/doing?
I’m most excited about the mud baths and soaking in the swimming pool. I remember the water in the pool seemed to have more viscosity. It felt fabulous. I’m also looking forward to returning to the Greystone for dinner. My last time [there] was off the charts delicious.

Any other interesting facts/ considerations about the trip?
Hiking to the top of Mount St. Helena should be fun. I hope we have a clear day. If not, an Old Vine Zin might help; it couldn’t hurt.

Tell us about your Trips and you could be featured in Trip of the Week–win one of the new Frommer’s Day by Day Guide Books and be entered to win a FREE, luxury Trip for 2 to Waikiki!



Fourth of July really snuck up on me this year, as it seems to do every year. If you’re in the same boat as me (read: have no idea what to do for the holiday), here is a list of great events and fireworks displays going on in some major U.S. cities.

Photo: ** Maurice **

Photo: ** Maurice **

San Francisco

Fourth of July Waterfront Celebration
Head down to the touristy, but always fun, Pier 39 for a day of clam chowder in bread bowls, free live music (80s hits and soft rock), street performers and, of course, the city’s annual fireworks display. You can’t really beat watching fireworks over the San Francisco Bay.

For more information, visit

Las Vegas
For the more adult crowd, hotels and casinos galore will be featuring fireworks displays, from Caesars Palace to the Las Vegas Hilton to Mandalay Bay and many others, as you can easily imagine. Parties are also abundant and many feature celebrity hosts, DJs or performers.

For more information, visit

Los Angeles

July 4th Fireworks Spectacular
Have a star-studded Fourth of July at the Hollywood Bowl. Pack a picnic, bring a blanket and watch LA’s largest fireworks displays. Add in performances by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the U.S. Air Force Band of the Golden West, special guest Vince Gill and more, and you’ll have a rockin’ Fourth of July celebration.

For more information, visit

Beer fanatics be aware, July 2 to July 4 is the Seattle International Beer Fest! With approximately 130 different beers from 15 counties, Beer Fest is a great place to spend the earlier hours of Fourth of July. By nightfall, you’ll be warm and content watching the fireworks over Lake Union.

For more information on Lake Union’s fireworks display, visit

Head down to the Windy City’s Navy Pier to check out three simultaneous fireworks shows. In addition to downtown, the fireworks will also be visable from the north and sides of Chicago.

For more information, visit

Washington D.C.

The National Independence Day Parade

For those looking to really connect with the true meaning of Independence Day, The National Independence Day Parade is a great event to attend. The annual event takes place at 11:45 a.m. on Constitution Avenue, from 7th to 17th, and includes invited bands, fife and drum corps, floats, military and specialty units, giant balloons, equestrian, drill teams, VIP’s, national dignitaries, and celebrity participants.

For more information, visit

New York City
Macy’s Annual Fourth of July Fireworks

Head to the Hudson River for the nation’s largest fireworks display—Macy’s Annual Fourth of July Fireworks. More than 40,000 fireworks shells at a rate of 1,500 per minute will quell any pyrotechnic lover’s desire to see elaborate and beautiful explosions in the sky.

For more information, visit


Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular

The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular dates back 37 years and continues to be one of the most beloved Fourth of July celebrations in the United States. Featured guests include Toby Keith, Craig Ferguson, Keith Lockhart and more. So head down to Charles River on the 3rd and the 4th to enjoy the concerts and the amazing fireworks display.

For more information, visit



Trip of the Week: Bonding at 80mph

Congratulations,  Carrie, Montara, Calif. Our first winner of Trip of the Week and recipient of a Frommer’s day by day guide to Hawaii.

Carrie and her daughter are about to embark on a trip from Chicago to California and recently built out this fantastic Road Trip together on TravelMuse!

Trip Chicago to California

I asked Carrie a few questions about her upcoming trip:

Why are you taking this trip?

My 19-year-old daughter has been less than enthusiastic about the prospect of getting her driver’s license. This is in no small part because my car is difficult to learn on since it has a standard transmission. When my aunt decided that she wasn’t going to use her car anymore, we jumped on the opportunity to buy it. Not only does her car have an automatic transmission, but it’s only $1,000. The catch? She lives in Chicago and we are in California. With a cry of, “Road trip!” we decided to fly one way to Chicago and then see as many sights as we could, both big and small, as we drove the newly acquired car back to our home in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

What are you most excited about seeing/doing on your trip?

Although we’ll be going to some big attractions — Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons — I’m most excited about visiting the campy roadside attractions like the SPAM museum (the canned meat, not the electronic junk mail) in Austin, Minn.; the Potato Expo, Blackfoot in Idaho (motto: We give taters to Out-of-Staters); and the almost indescribable Thunder Mountain Park in Imlay, Nev. My daughter has a great sense of humor so I know that these offbeat attractions will be the foundation inside jokes and for stories that we tell and retell.

Any other interesting facts you care to share?

Normally, I’d plan a road trip that allowed for more spontaneity — stopping when we were tired and finding cheap motels along the way. But we are working with some firm deadlines. The day before we leave my daughter is taking her last final exam and has to move out of her college dorm. The day after we arrive home, my daughter is flying to Armenia where she will spend six weeks doing a summer program at an archeological dig site.  The upside about having this trip very planned is that we will be able to do things that require reservations, such as going white water rafting in the Grand Tetons and taking a Segway Tour in Chicago. The downside is that not only are we spending only one day in places that most people spend a week visiting, but we will be feeling the pressure of racing against the clock since we must make it home in time for her to make her flight the next day!

Wishing you safe and happy travels, Carrie!


Tell us about your Trips and you could be featured in Trip of the Week–win one of the new Frommer’s Day by Day Guide Books and be entered to win a FREE, luxury Trip for 2 to Waikiki!

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College Visits – Northern California

Trying to pick the right college is difficult; believe me. I was dead set on attending school in Los Angeles . . . until I visited the colleges I was interested in applying to and realized that just because a university looks good on paper doesn’t mean that it’s the right fit. When I stepped onto the UC Santa Cruz campus, I knew immediately that it was the right school for me.

Spring and summer vacations are a perfect for checking out prospective colleges for your future applicant. Whether you’re planning on a quick weekend getaway or an extended (and well-deserved) vacation, there are many ways to integrate college visits into your travel itinerary. The San Francisco Bay Area and South Bay have a multitude of phenomenal institutions to consider—from small art schools to Stanford, one of the most well known universities in the world.

San Francisco State University. Photo: Orin Zebest

San Francisco State University. Photo: Orin Zebest

Day 1: Berkeley and San Francisco
Known as a hub for liberal politics in the 60s, UC Berkeley is one of the finest public universities in the United States. Spend the day strolling down Telegraph Avenue, shopping in the local record stores and dining at Chez Panisse, the culinary icon Alice Waters’ famed restaurant. Be sure not to tire yourself out though, because afterwards you can make your way down to San Francisco, where there is a college on what feels like every street.

If you begin your college-visit trek near Golden Gate Park, you can visit the University of San Francisco (near Haight and Ashbury streets) and the University of California, San Francisco (in the inner Sunset). From there, cruise on over to the outer Sunset where you will find San Francisco State University. If you have an art student in the family, be sure to head out to Russia Hill, where you will find the San Francisco Art Institute.

Day 2: Silicon Valley
Approximately 45 minutes south of San Francisco is Palo Alto, a major focal point of the 1990s high-tech boom. It is also home to the famous Stanford University, one of the leading research and educational institutions in the world.

As you move further south, deeper into the hear of Silicon Valley, you will find Santa Clara University, California’s oldest college. SCU was founded in 1851 on the sight of one of the original 21 California missions. Next on the list, San Jose State is home to more than 30,000 undergrads and grad students. Be sure to explore the city, which is full of culture—a trip to The Tech Museum of San Jose and dinner at Original Joe’s old-time steakhouse is a perfect way to cap off a day of exhausting college visits.

Porter College at UC Santa Cruz. Photo: Peter Alfred

Porter College at UC Santa Cruz. Photo: Peter Alfred

Day 3: Santa Cruz
Unless you’re really alert after your Silicon Valley college visits, I suggest leaving Santa Cruz until day three, because it’s an approximately 45-minute drive from San Jose and lies on “the other side of the hill”—over the windy Highway 17. After the nerve-racking drive, you will be welcomed into the cozy little beach town of Santa Cruz—home to surfers, the Boardwalk, banana slugs and, of course, UC Santa Cruz. The campus is vast and hilly, so be sure to bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes.

Post adapted from “College Visit Guide: San Francisco Bay Area” by TravelMuse Editorial and College Visit Guide: California’s South Bay” by Nicole Fancher.

Plan your Northern California college visit on TravelMuse.

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With over three feet of fresh snow in Lake Tahoe this past week, it’s time to plan your skiing or snowboarding getaway for Presidents’ Day weekend, February 13 to 15! Enjoy some great conditions, mountain air, and fun with your family and friends.

We have been lucky enough to take a couple of trips this year to North Lake Tahoe, and since our daughter is 3 years old (and potty trained) she was excited to try ski school.

Alpine Meadows offers a great kids ski and snowboard program that spans ages 3 to 12 years old. We signed up for two half days of the Munchkins 3 to 4 years program starting at 9 a.m. From the minute we stepped into the indoor sign-up area, the instructors were upbeat, friendly and helpful. Given the fun environment, our daughter had no hesitation waving goodbye to mum and dad. The nursery slopes are close to the main building, so it’s easy to sneak-a-peek. After the instructors get the kids comfortable wearing their skis, they mainly focus on the “pizza” (snow plow—so you can stop) and ”french fries” (parallel) and let the kids go up and down a shallow slope on the magic carpet.

Ski School at Alpine Meadows

Ski School at Alpine Meadows.

With a happy munchkin, we enjoyed grown-up playtime and hit the front and backside of the hill. This year we joined the Alpine Members club. For a one time fee of $15 you can pre-load your ticket online for $59 (incl. holidays) versus $69/$74 (holidays) at the resort—they also offer $44 select days. This program is a great deal and, more importantly, saves time waiting in line.

For our afternoon activity we strapped a harness onto our munchkin and had fun on the larger magic carpet and on a couple of the green runs with chair lifts (Meadow and Subway). The harness worked out well, although someone enjoyed the need for speed and was reluctant to practice her “pizza” position!
Read more about tips for teaching kids to ski.

Afternoon ski fun at Alpine.  Photo: Fiona Ashley

Afternoon ski fun at Alpine Meadows.

Where to Stay?
Stanford Alpine Ski Chalet: It is reminiscent of European-style ski accommodations with 14 family rooms (queen + bunk bed) downstairs,  while upstairs you can enjoy a shared communal room with comfy sofas, a roaring fire, and a bookcase full of kids games, books and activities. A set menu ($25 per adult) is offered every night in the adjoining dining room with communal tables. The food is good, staff are friendly and it’s the perfect setting to let kids back to play after dinner, while the adults can continue chatting. The chalet runs a complimentary shuttle bus to the resort only a couple of minutes away. (Note: affiliation with Stanford University is not required).

More places to stay in Lake Tahoe .

Where to Eat?
Rosie’s is good for a hearty breakfast.
River Ranch Lodge offers great pub lunches, dinners and also has a fine dining restaurant.
Christy Hills offers a great menu if you’re looking for fine dining.
More restaurants in Lake Tahoe.

What to Do?
If skiing’s not your thing, you can also have a great time snow tubing, sledding and taking winter walks. Bring your own sled or rent one for $9 at Granlibakken resort. Tahoe City and nearby Truckee also have great local shops.

Dad and daughter sledding at Granlibakken resort. Photo: Fiona Ashley.

Dad and daughter sledding at Granlibakken resort.

Childcare Options
If you’re looking for baby sitters or childcare here are some useful sites:
Interactive Childcare
Tahoe Kids Guide

Other Ideas on Where to Plan a Ski or Snowboard Trip
Check out our ski and snowboarding articles and destinations on TravelMuse

See Fiona’s Trip:  Skiing and Sledding in Lake Tahoe.

Photos: Fiona Ashley

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Spooktacular Family-Friendly Halloween Celebrations in Southern California by Debbie K. Hardin

What’s not to like about Halloween? We get to play dress-up and we get free candy. But sometimes the holiday is just a little too scary for children. Luckily, there are plenty of family-friendly alternatives in Southern California:

  • Legoland California in Carlsbad celebrates the season every Saturday in October from 5 to 9 PM at their annual Brick-or-Treat Party. Children will find costume contests, “Howler of the Hour” scream-offs, and dance fests geared just for them. There’s also trick-or-treating along the Brick-or-Treat Trail, where kids can score candy and Lego bricksBricktreat018.jpg

Photo: Legoland’s Brick-or-Treat celebration. Photo by Sandy Huffaker.

  • On October 30 and 31, the San Diego Maritime Museum at the San Diego downtown waterfront offers spooky lantern-led tours aboard the beautiful, historic sailing ship the Star of India, during which costumed docents tell (not too scary) ghost stories. Check out the museum’s carnival on Halloween day (11 AM-4 PM), featuring costume contests for parents and kids.
  • Disneyland is always looking for an excuse to party, and Halloween is no exception. Through November 1, famous villains from Disney films spookify the park, special seasonal decorations adorn attractions, Jack Skellington (from “The Nightmare before Christmas”) hosts an electrifying fireworks display, and Main Street storefronts display hundreds of specially carved pumpkins.
  • On October 24 and 25, the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach hosts Scarium of the Aquarium, a fun and educational Halloween celebration that includes a coloring competition, crafts, and magic shows. Guests of all ages are encouraged to dress up!


Photo: Scarium of the Aquarium. Courtesy of Aquarium of the Pacific.

  • From October 23 to 25, check out Boo at the Zoo at the Santa Barbara Zoo, where children 12 years and younger can trick-or-treat, explore mazes, join in a costume parade, and listen to tales by Mother Goose herself.
  • Through October 31, Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch in West Hollywood hosts a family-friendly, old-fashioned harvest festival where children can pick out their own pumpkins, wind their way through a straw maze, and burn off some candy-fueled energy on the mighty “Jumpin’ Pumpkin.”

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