Archive for the Category »California «

  Hotel of the Week: Where Rock and Roll Royalty Stay

The Sunset Marquis in Hollywood, CA has quite a storied past – It has always been the hotel for rock and roll stars, possibly by a stroke of luck: Just as the nearby Sunset Strip clubs were getting going 50 some years ago, the Sunset Marquis opened its doors.

The musicians finishing at the clubs in the wee hours liked the proximity, yet also the privacy. It is located in a cu-de-sac away from traffic, set in a lush garden.

Today it is still a hotel where the “who’s who” go to get away from groupies. Not only is it a private sanctuary, but there is one of the best recording studios in the country in the basement – According to reports this year alone, 21 of the Grammy nominated artists have recorded at the hotel’s below-house studio, NightBird.

In honor of the hotel’s 50th anniversary, the hotel got a little nip and tuck Hollywood style… and hotel management published the book, “If These Walls Could Rock.”

I had a fun visit to the place where many rock star photo shoots take place… and where rock and roll fantasies come true. Check it out:

  Music Lovers: Can’t Make the Grammys? Try the Grammy Museum and Others….

What’s your favorite song nominated in this year’s Grammy awards – winners to be announced Sunday?

Perhaps your favorites songs were those of years gone by…. well, if so feel free to wax nostalgic at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles!

Grammy Museum

Grammy Museum

The 30,000 sq ft complex is part of LA Live in downtown.



It boasts interactive and educational displays devoted to past Grammy winners, and Grammy history.

Example: “In the Studio” gives a peek into recording a sound track… with all sorts of audio visual enhancements.



And there is plenty of memorabilia for which to get excited. For more info, go here:

Other museums devoted to the seduction of song:

The Hollywood Bowl concert venue in Los Angeles has a museum – Free too. in Carlsbad, CA in Seattle, WA

and MoMA in New York has a whole section devoted to musical instruments – more than 5,000 examples.

As for the show this Sunday? Enjoy all the live performances- something you DON’T get at a museum. I’m lovin the lyrics to nominated “When I Was Your Man” and “Roar,”… hoping Bruno Mars and Katy Perry perform them.


  Travel Tip Tuesday: Don’t Be Fooled by the Travel Brochures

How many of us fantasize about visiting a destination, or booking a hotel based on the travel pamphlet or website?

Buyer beware. All of the digital tools available to even amateurs these days makes it very easy to exaggerate the positive qualities of any place or feature. Some hotels or sights don’t even resemble what the brochure is selling.

For instance, in past few months, I have experienced a few examples I’d like to share with you.

On the island of Hawaii recently, I was given brochures to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The pamphlet photos looked like this:

firework volcano


In reality, most visitors don’t see lava this active, if at all. Most of the time it is just captivating black rock. Sometimes if the lava is flowing, visitors aren’t allowed closer because of potential danger. I have heard mixed reviews that a helicopter tour allows you see too more lava, but I can’t confirm as I haven’t done it.

The point is, this is an all day trip,  a good 2.5 hour drive from resorts near Kona airport. There are fantastic hikes, and ethereal scenery to see, but if your heart is set on seeing lava, you’d better weigh if it is worth it to you to give up a day on a beautiful beach, and pay for a rental car.

Another example occurred when I went whale watching.. There are many places in the world you can watch the migration of these beautiful creatures from cold to warm waters. This form of eco-tourism can be absolutely thrilling… when you get up close to a whale.

A misleading card I received recently after a whale watching journey looked like this:


But in reality, one would be EXTREMELY lucky to see something that close up, or that bold. The boats are forbidden from getting closer than 200 yards to a whale that is seen… the whale has to come to the boat. And not every whale shows it’s tail – they each have their own style of swimming. The photos from the journey more often than not look like mine:

Whale Watching in the Marina del Rey, Ca

Whale Watching in the Marina del Rey, Ca

(Cue the music: Wa wa waaaa)  Yep – that little beige spec is a whale.

Moreover, it requires a lot of patience  to spot a whale. They come up for breath typically every five minutes, and you don’t know exactly where they are if you are even near one. Five minutes is a rather long time looking at nothing. This is good to think about when you are bringing young children.

A few ways to ferret out the truth in a misleading photo is to use trusted websites and social media:

Websites like offer true photos of various hotels taken by objective scouts for Oyster. Also is a community that offers reviews on places. Trip Advisor and Yelp also offer reviews, but you can’t always trust them to be objective. Some hotels are offering upgrades in exchange for positive reviews. Finally – Ask around to your own trusted friends on social media. Be a savvy traveler!


  Some of California’s Top Attractions Are #Free or Frightening in October!

photoGet your wild side ready- the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park  are offering kids ages 3-11 free admission for the month of October.

It’s a great time to go – weather is still oh-so-San-Diego-nice, and the crowds are oh-so-less-than-summer.

photoI was just there and visited the new attraction “Australian Outback,” where the cute koalas hang out. But be warned, the koalas sleep – a lot – but when they are awake, it is worth the wait.

photoI’ve visited a few zoos in my day, and see why San Diego is highly ranked. Lots of trees along walkways for shade, and seriously good animal sightings. By the way – parents, if you show your Triple A card, you get a discount too.

Perhaps this is brilliant counter marketing by the SD Zoo, because every other theme park in California seems to be catering to the teens and older kids with the various Halloween themed fright nights taking place. Warning – Some of these really are too spooky for younger kids.


Knott's Scary Farm from

Knott’s Scary Farm from

Knott’s Scary Farm, Buena Park – Through Nov. 2 on select nights so check ahead. New mazes have been added this year, which sound pretty creepy….

If you don’t like the thrill of a zombie lurking behind the next corner to raise your blood pressure, then during the day Knott’s offers Camp Snoopy, with trick or treating for young kids. Camp Snoopy – what could be scary with a name like that?

Disneyland Resort’s Halloween Time – Through Oct 31.

Aquarium of the Pacific’s Scarium of the Pacific, Long Beach – Oct 26-27  – Costume contests, magic shows, etc.

Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights – Through Nov. 2 on select nights. You can only imagine the terrifying special effects.

Have a frighteningly good day.


  Travel Tip Tuesday: Know Your Bridge Tolls When Traveling


The new east span of the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge is open today – after years of retrofitting and rebuilding and a $6 billion dollar price tag. The original bridge was damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta quake.

Travelers – when you drive through the Bay Area, there are about eight bridges you could potentially encounter depending on where you go. All the bridge tolls can get confusing. For example – there are different tolls for different times of day on the Bay Bridge.  And – most importantly, you need to have cash to cross the bridges, unless you pay in advance online. If you don’t have the cash, you will receive a violation notice in the mail with a $25 fee.

Here is where you can pay in advance online

To make things more confusing to visitors, the Golden Gate Bridge at the other end of San Francisco takes no cash whatsoever. It is an all electronic toll system – no stopping, no fumbling for cash, etc. If you don’t pay online before hand, you will be sent a notice with the amount you owe for the bridge crossing (based on your license plate.) Luckily, there is no additional fee on top of that.

For more info go to

Happy Travels -



  Whimsy and Wonder in the California Desert

I absolutely love receiving travel tips and feedback from you all.

My latest example is from a friend who recently visited Borrego Springs in Southern California….

I am a California girl through and through… raised here, been there done that in the Golden State. But I had never heard of this off -the-beaten-path desert town just northeast of San Diego and south of Palm Springs.

Sure, Borrego offers the typical desert activities – golf, biking, hiking…

Courtesy of Diane Salerno

But what really captivated me is Galleta Meadows – a privately owned piece of land open to the public. On this stark desert landscape are 130 exotic-looking steel sculptures by artist and welder Ricardo Breceda.


A round trip of about 20 miles around the area and you can see them all.


Many of the earlier works were inspired by the animals that lived millions of years ago in the area…


and some are just pure fantasy!

Borrego might be a fun 1-2 day stop on a road trip – you can camp or stay at a local hotel. It is surrounded by the largest state park – Anza-Borrego. If you do stay the night, look into the many public astronomy events that take place there – Borrego Springs was the first “Dark Sky Community” – being 55 miles from the super lit up coast, the dark night sky is a perfect place to star gaze.


It is so inspiring to learn about new, whimsical places….I hope you think so too.


  Hotel of the Week: A New One to Watch in 2013 That the Kids Will Love

Legoland, California

Ever travel with your family to an amusement park and just want to crash in a hotel within walking distance after a long day at the park? Well Legoland in Carlsbad California is making that easier – scheduled to open this April, is the Legoland hotel, right near the entrance of the theme park.


Legoland Hotel, Windsor UK

The hotel follows the Lego theme – with mind-blowingly colorful displays made of course of Legos, like at the Legoland Hotel in Windsor, UK above.

There are 250 themed and spirited rooms – from Pirate, to Kingdom, to Adventure. The nice thing I like about this family hotel like this is they offer rooms with a separate sleeping area for kids.

Although you will most likely be spending a lot of time at the theme park, there are heated swimming pools, and in-room Lego gifts for the kids.

There are also some unique aspects to the hotel too that kids will find entertaining:   secret whoopee cushions and tight-rope walking marching guards … quirky themed elevators, and exploding toy boxes. For example, kids can dance on up to the bedrooms in the character themed ‘disco’ elevator, complete with a mirror ball and flashing lights.

In the atrium there’s a knight’s castle, protected by a giant burping ogre, towers into the clouds. Children can play in a 32-foot high pirate shipwreck that’s bursting through the castle walls and into the river of LEGO.

The nicest thing is that you are right near the park – so if you want to spend the night the evening before your park adventure, you will also have early access to certain rides before the park officially opens.

Legoland CA Waterpark

By the way – you should know that Legoland really is a theme park for younger kids – There is a water park attached that some of the tweens might find fun, but it is very crowded in the summer, with long waits for the slides.

Go to the website to see about special package deals before the hotel opens.


  Happy Thanksgiving!

…From Rancho Mirage CA, a fantastic travel destination this time of year. There are the nearby Palm Springs or Ontario airports, and temperatures in the 80s.

Near Palm Desert, CA

Another tip: If you like to golf, many of the golf courses – semi-private and public – are open the morning of Thanksgiving day…and can be uncrowded!

If you come this time of year, ask your concierge which courses are open for play, and find out when it is the least crowded. Beautiful day… and still time to enjoy the family for  Thanksgiving.

Wishing you a day full of gratitude.


  Hotel of the Week: From Newport to Newport… A Contrast

Same name – different game.

Newport ,Rhode Island – New England charm with high class attractions – the famous mansions,  the place where JFK and Jackie Kennedy got married, blue blazers and loafers.

Newport, CA – Flash and fun… great surf… “Housewives of OC”… one time home to Dennis Rodman, to compare.

Yet,  two hotels from each Newport  that have captured my attention actually resemble the other coast more.

Pelican Hill Resort, Newport Coast, CA

I was recently at Pelican Hill in Newport Coast is grand… even to the point of being too grand for the So Cal beach town, no matter how shi-shi that town is. It is a large resort -204 guest rooms and 128 villas, replete with marble  lobbies and sprawling grounds…. It was inspired by the works of 16th century Italian architect, Andrea Palladio. The photos speak for itself.

Pelican Hill Resort

It has been named best resort in travel magazines… the outdoor dining… the golf course … and of course, the location in lovely Newport are all high points.

The Coliseum Pool

The Coliseum pool, inspired by the landmark in Rome,  is family friendly – and one of the world’s largest circular pools! 136 feet in diameter, and only 3 feet deep all the way through.

Plus – the resort has gorgeous views, tons of outdoor activities from hiking to the beach, and great dining and shopping. I would plan to spend enough time here to really relax, but also take advantage of the local area. Pelican Hill is between Newport beach and Laguna Beach about 50 miles south of Los Angeles.

Pelican Hill Catalog

The resort is  almost four years old, and the marketing is still going strong – I received a catalog in the mail almost as thick as the Restoration Hardware catalogs. Rooms start at around $600.


The Attwater, Newport Rhode Island

By comparison, The Attwater in Newport Rhode Island feels more like Newport Ca – Fresh! Playful! Youthful! Not what you would expect to find in the city with the most colonial buildings in the U.S.

The hotel was recently renovated  and the interior designer Renee Reider is on my watch list…Bravo!

The Attwater Hotel

The Attwater is a boutique hotel with just 12 rooms. And   – if you read my blogs you know this is my – there is free wireless intent in the room – as well as iPads! Pretty modern-day cool in a city seeped in history.The Attwater is offering a number of autumn specials – fall in New England is a must-see destination if you haven’t been. Rooms are reasonable – some stat at $180 a night.

Just some armchair travel to inspire you on this lovely fall Friday. Have a wonderful weekend.


  Space Shuttle Endeavour’s New Home is a Great Family Outing

Space Shuttle Endeavour’s Final Journey

Over here on the West Coast, Shuttle Endeavour’s final flight to Los Angeles is, well, almost astronomical. Everyone is excited to see it fly above on the back of a 747… and ultimately arrive at it’s new home at the California Science Center in the next couple of weeks. We So Cal residents are lucky to receive such a significant part of our country’s space program.

California Science Center

For now, the retired shuttle will be housed in a temporary location at the California Science Center: the Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion, in Exposition Park, which opens October 30, 2012. It’s permanent home at the museum is still being built.

Along with the orbiter, the pavilion will feature video experiences and significant artifacts from Endeavour’s flights. Guests will also learn about the building of the space shuttles right here in California.

Buying timed tickets is required – you can go on the ticket information page right now and reserve your date and time.

Prices are cheap – $2 for a service charge.  Admission to the permanent exhibits in the Science Center are FREE!

Families – it is a worthwhile day-long outing. Also at the Science Center right now is a special 13,000 foot exhibit displays artifacts from Cleopatra’s life, organized by the same producers who brought us the King Tut exhibit.  Really keep the Egypt theme going by then walking 20 yards to the IMAX theater, where “The Mysteries of Egypt” is playing!

TIP: If you are coming this fall, or any autumn for that matter, make sure you look at USC’s football calendar. Memorial Coliseum is right at Exposition Park, and it is crazy crowded when there is a game – not to mention parking becomes a nightmare.

Get your science on and check it out!

By the way – Social media users are encouraged to share their Endeavour sightings using the hashtags #spottheshuttle and #OV105, Endeavour’s orbiter vehicle designation.

Please share any great photos here or on my Facebook page if you take them!