Category: Vacations

Car-sharing rental service opens an LAX pickup-dropoff spot

Posted on November, 12 2014
 Car sharing rental service opens an LAX pickup dropoff spot

Your idle car + LAX = making money? That’s the newest equation in the Southland from RelayRides, which is introducing a service that puts your car to work for you while you’re gone.

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Category: Vacations

Warning on returning from Ebola-affected countries

Posted on November, 10 2014
 Warning on returning from Ebola affected countries

In an Oct. 24 travel warning, the U.S. State Department explains that the Department of Homeland Security will now require travelers coming from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea will need to fly through New York’s Kennedy; Newark, N.J.; Washington Dulles; Chicago O’Hare or Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airports and undergo screening for Ebola.

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Category: Vacations

Western Sierra road trips are best bet for fall colors this weekend

Posted on November, 08 2014

The best road trips to see fall color in California this weekend are in the Western Sierra, where the leaves are turning at low elevations around 3,500 feet, according to leaf-spotters at California Fall Color.

Colors at high elevations in the Eastern Sierra that were must-sees in October are now done for the season.

Road trip 1: El Dorado County. Drive on Newton Road from Placerville to Pleasant Valley and north to Sly Park Recreation Area, stopping at Jenkinson Lake.

The lake is a good place to get out of the car and hike around to see the oranges and reds of black oaks, big-leaf maples, cottonwood, dogwood and willows.

The loop around the lake covers about eight miles, but you can sample part of it if you don’t want to go the entire distance. “Fall color should remain at peak through the coming week, weather permitting,” the California Fall Color report says of the area.

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Category: Vacations

Attractions for your holiday bucket list

Posted on November, 05 2014
 Attractions for your holiday bucket list

We like TravelChannel.com’s list of top holiday attractions for its blend of activities near and far. Our fave (of course), Dublin’s “12 Pubs of Christmas.”

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Category: Vacations

Web Buzz: A soundtrack to your city

Posted on November, 03 2014

Grab your headphones and take a walk to hear the sounds of the city or countryside.

Name: soundcityproject.com

What it does: Brings scenes to life by adding a soundtrack to vibrant black-and-white panoramic photographs. Available for seven destinations, including New York; San Francisco; Bergen, Norway; Oslo; and Stockholm.

What’s hot: Within each destination are individual travel vignettes to discover. Go through each one by name or use the map on the left sidebar to visit them as if you were treasure-hunting. Some of my favorite scenes are the Flam Railway and Flamselvi in Norway and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. The experience is infinitely richer when you use headphones instead of your computer’s normal audio source. I found my senses heightened; each time I listened to a scene, I would hear details I hadn’t caught on a previous hearing. Grab a pair and let the eavesdropping begin.

What’s not: I found myself wanting to see some of the photographs in color, not just in black and white.


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Category: Vacations

Do you know the way to San Jose’s Santana Row?

Posted on November, 01 2014

Once upon a time, the best reason to stop in San Jose was to visit the Winchester Mystery House (525 S. Winchester Blvd.; [408] 247-2101, winchestermysteryhouse.com). Although that’s still a good excuse to get off Interstate 880, San Jose is no longer a one-trick pony for tourists. Silicon Valley and the tech industry have transformed the city into something more than just an inexpensive place to stay on the way to San Francisco. Nothing exemplifies the new San Jose better than Santana Row, a 647,000-square-foot mixed-use development with about 70 retail shops, 20 restaurants, a movie theater, a hotel and, perhaps most important, free parking. The tab: One night at Hotel Valencia is $ 199 to $ 700; dinner for two can be found for $ 40 to $ 300.

The bed

Hotel Valencia (355 Santana Row; [408] 551-0010, www.hotelvalencia-santanarow.com) is the only hotel on Santana Row, but you wouldn’t want to stay anywhere else even if there were options. The 215-room hostelry includes hand-painted murals of a flamenco dancer on each floor that welcome guests to their abodes. Cielo, a seventh-floor seasonal bar and terrace, provides gorgeous views of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Because business is a major attraction in San Jose, Hotel Valencia offers about 4,000 square feet of meeting space. When guests aren’t talking shop, they can relax on 300-thread-count Egyptian linens, enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast at the on-site Citrus Restaurant or have a drink at Vbar.

The meal

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Category: Vacations

Carowinds’ Fury 325 joins an elite club of world’s tallest coasters

Posted on October, 29 2014
 Carowinds Fury 325 joins an elite club of worlds tallest coasters

The $ 30-million Fury 325 coming to Carowinds in 2015 will be among the fastest, tallest and longest roller coasters in the world.

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Category: Vacations

Web Buzz: MiFlight app helps air travelers gauge security line waits

Posted on October, 27 2014

Name: MiFlight

Everyone hates standing in the dreaded airport security line, but what if you knew your wait time wouldn’t be as long as you had thought?

Available: iOS

Cost: Free

What it does: Travelers contribute their security-line wait times to the MiFlight app so the next flier can have a better experience. It includes information for 54 airports at the most-traveled hubs around the world.

What’s hot: The app is beautiful and easy to use. Input your airport, terminal and gate to get your estimated wait time in the security line. You can quickly share your info using Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, email, text or Instagram. Ready to help other travelers? Just click on the timer, input your minutes and share with the app. The app lets you know when the wait time was last updated by date and time.

What’s not: After you type in your airport the next step is to pick your terminal. That was easy, but I kept getting stuck on the next step — choosing my gate area. You’ll want to have your gate info handy to use the app. My upcoming flight information, which was mailed to me by a travel agent, didn’t have my gate details nor did my Tripit (basic version), but when I checked in with my WorldMate travel itinerary app it did. Note: The airport maps are fairly standard, but the developer will release significant location-sensitive improvements in the near future.

Worth it: Yes, I’m keeping my eye on this one. It had been a few days since someone submitted a wait time for some airports and terminals, but with a critical mass contributing to it I think this app could be helpful.

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Category: Vacations

California: Plumas County claims fall color crown this weekend

Posted on October, 25 2014

If you haven’t explored California’s Shasta Cascade region, this is a great time to go. Fall colors are reported to be at peak or approaching peak in Plumas, Lassen and Siskiyou counties, areas in the northern part of the state rich in national forests and parklands.

The color show is in full force in places south of Susanville, says the Awesome Autumn report run by Plumas County’s tourism council.

One recommended route starts in the town of Quincy where an English maple whose “orangeish/pinkish leaves were at peak” this week, the report says.

The drive continues along winding back roads to La Porte (population 26) to see the yellow glow of big-leaf maples and the red tones of dogwood along the way. 

The Plumas County Fall Color Tour Map is handy for planning a road trip and identifying leaves and trees. In this area, willows and black cottonwoods also bring out the gold; Indian rhubarb and mountain dogwood add reddish-orange tinges.

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Category: Vacations

California: Century-old castle in Pacifica opens for public tours

Posted on October, 22 2014

For more than a century, a castle designed as a refuge from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake has stood in Pacifica, Calif. The fortress-like building with views of the ocean has turrets, towers and 24 renovated rooms that now are open once a month for tours.

Known informally as Sam’s Castle, it was built by San Francisco attorney Henry Harrison McCloskey (grandfather of former California Rep. Pete McCloskey) who wanted a place that wouldn’t tumble in a quake. The family moved in in 1908.

The castle off Highway 1 changed hands several times before Sam Mazza spotted it in 1959 and bought it for $ 29,000, according to a timeline on the castle’s website. Mazza, who painted and restored San Francisco theaters and other buildings, kept it for 43 years and filled it with kitschy furnishings.

“Sam Mazza’s passion for collecting led him to acquire antique furniture, a jade and black lacquer screen once owned by William Holden, stained glass windows, Tiffany lamps, delicate china and even swords,” Bridget Oates writes in the book “Sam’s Castle.” And yes, there’s a knight of armor too.

Mazza never lived there but he did entertain at the castle. He died in 2002, and the Sam Mazza Foundation took over and keeps the castle as its headquarters. Over the years, it had been many things — a speakeasy called Chateau Lafayette during Prohibition, a U.S. Coast Guard barracks, an artist’s studio — and even claims to have a few ghosts.

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Category: Vacations
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