3 days in Napa Valley: Memorial Day Bottlerockin’ edition

My favorite weekend of the year to visit Napa Valley is Memorial Day.  Why you ask?  Well, it’s the annual Bottlerock music festival weekend.  Alas, this year is the first year I am not attending of the past few years, as I’ve moved away from Northern California.  That means I’ll be missing out on the Killers, Bruno Mars and tomorrow’s headliner, Muse (all of whom I’ve seen before, but still).  This is the most civilized of all the festivals, with culinary stages and wineries to boot.

While you’re enjoying the festivities, don’t forget to head out from the festival grounds and explore the valley, one of the best weekender locations in the country!

Wine or wine not?

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know before you go: Ontario (ONT)

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No, not Canada.  To continue the Coachella prep, for out of town friends joining in on the party, consider Ontario, an Inland Empire airport into which you can fly.  There’s not much there, so enjoy the animal style above instead.  The best thing about this airport is that there’s an In-n-out across the street.  Otherwise, it’s a hard sell unless you’re flying Southwest.

But remember, #1 rule on this blog: avoid LAX at all costs.  PSP is ideal, but it’s probably going to be pricey for the average general admission holder.  SNA is further and more expensive. Ontario is about a 90 minute drive from Indio, and it’s a really efficient and gets you from point A to point B.

There are two terminals, numbered 2 and 4, and a separate international arrivals area for a total of about 28 gates.  It is an international airport, with flights to Guadalajara and Taipei — but mostly it’s Southwest locoregional flights on the west coast.

Remember: ✈ = ontario, CA to ✈✈✈✈✈ = ontario, CA (you can decide which is which)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈✈✈✈ — it’s pretty small

Convenience of security lines: ✈✈✈

Dining: ✈ (there is a Coffee Bean, but you should really consider eating elsewhere before — hence the In-n-Out)

Bathrooms: ✈✈ (there could be more)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈✈  (free wifi available, not many charging areas)

Amenities: ✈ (you’re not here to shop, you’re here to get in and out)

weekender in Palm Springs (Coachella tips, y’all)

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In two weeks is a weekend that is one of my favorite of the year, first weekend of Coachella, the granddaddy of all music festivals.  Sure, Lolla is great, Governor’s Island is hip and Outside Lands is chill, but Coachella is the one they all aspire to be, for the star power and cool factor alone.  I mean, watching hundreds of musical acts in sunny California is ideal.

In my twenties, I looked forward to actually attending the festival, but now that I’m a little (read: a lot) older, I look forward to the mass exodus of festival goers from LA/OC (less traffic, reservations!).  But, I do have fond memories of attending the festival, so here are some tips to aid in your weekend of revelry.

Hopefully with no Beyonce biting…

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3 days in Napa Valley

So I have to confess something here.  I’m not much of a drinker.  I know, I know.  Is it too late now to say sorry?  Just kidding, I’m not sorry.   You’re wondering: how could a light imbiber possibly have anything to say about the most famous wine producing region in the US?

Turns out, there’s a ton of things to do here that don’t necessarily involve spirits, and don’t worry, I will feature some absolutely fantastic wineries on our journey through the beautiful Northern California countryside.  There’s just one question you have to ask yourself:

Wine or wine not?

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know before you go: Los Angeles (LAX)

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I have often called LAX the eighth portal of hell, and I mean it.  There is no worse pain than landing at LAX on a Friday afternoon/night.  Well, maybe there is if you’re Chrissy Teigen and John Legend.  Y’all need to stop what you’re doing right now and read about their 8 hour flight from LAX to LAX due to a passenger snafu last night.  I would die.

Anyway, if you’re flying into LA, hope you didn’t make any plans because you’ll be stuck for an hour before you can even reach Century or Sepulveda Blvds.  It has one of the worst traffic flow designs of any place that is allegedly supposed to serve that many people.  Like the architect deliberately thought, how can we purposely make it so there’s only one route out that bottlenecks like crazy?

Even though it one of the worse places on this planet (you think I’m exaggerating.  I am not), it’s a necessary evil that has to be dealt with because you can fly almost anywhere from there.  One of the busiest airports by volume, if you’ve flown internationally from SoCal, you’ve likely flown out of LAX.  It is the second busiest airport in the US by passenger load, and maybe for this week it is a little better than the busier ATL (at least there’s power).

There are 8 numbered terminals separate from the Tom Bradley International terminal.  1= Southwest; 2 = Delta and SkyTeam members: Aer Lingus, WestJet, Virgin, Aeromexico.  3 = Delta, Copa, Avianca, Interjet; 4 = American 5 = American, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit, Sun Country. 6 = Alaska, Virgin America, Air Canada, Mokulele, Great Lakes. 7 and 8 = United.  There are random exceptions in terms of check in counters for some of the international carriers of the codeshare alliances, but all international flights return to Tom Bradley (TBIT).

I will give it one thing though, there’s some good shopping there, particularly duty free.  And if you’re uber wealthy, there are separate luxury lounges that are not connected to the terminals where you can get checked in and taken to your plane by SUV.  There could be more restaurants, as the selection is dispersed sparingly amongst the terminals.

Remember: ✈️ = welcome to the jungle to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = i love LA (we love it)

Convenience to the city: ✈️  (theoretically it is, practically it is not; may the odds be ever in your favor if you’re flying in during peak hours, rideshares help but it takes awhile)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️  (you’re at the mercy of shuttle buses on the tarmac that wind passengers around planes from terminal to terminal)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️ ✈️ (fairly efficient for its size)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (three planes because the eateries are good, but limited in each terminal, so there’s not that many given options.  But…you should look for Ink.sack by Michael Voltaggio in TBIT, La Brea Bakery in Terminal 1, lots of Coffee Beans and Starbucks as well as local coffee shops around; Pinkberry locations, Panda Expresses, Shake Shack in terminal 3, Wolfgang Puck eateries in 6, the Habit and Wahoo’s fish tacos in 6; LA’s hipcute cafeteria Lemonade in 5, Umami Burger, 800 Degrees Pizza, SlapFish, etc)

Bathrooms: ✈️  (don’t expect them to be that clean unless you’re in a recently renovated terminal)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️  (no free wifi, which makes complete sense)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️ (every lounge ever (including a luxe Qantas), retail from bliss spa, Spanx to Burberry, Gucci, Hermes, Harley Davidson — wish there were more options per terminal, but hey real estate is a premium here.  I took one plane off because the Sanrio store closed.  Also, don’t forget to check out the spacey Theme Building on arrival, home of the former Encounters restaurant (wasn’t actually that bad food wise) but now is a viewing deck on the weekends)

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know before you go: Long Beach (LGB)

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As we start traveling for the holidays, I have to shout out to one of my home airports.  Ah Long Beach, a lovely little secret.  I like flying into this tiny regional airport.  It’s no frills, quick, easy and it makes you feel like you’re in the 60s or something because you go out directly onto the tarmac when you come and go.

LGB is a hub for JetBlue, but now Southwest even has some flights out of here. There a couple of regional Delta and American flights as well. It’s one small terminal split into North and South concourses with 11 gates for the whole airport.  JetBlue has gates 1-5. There’s not much food, but what are you doing eating at the airport? You’re likely coming from LA/OC anyway.

Overall it’s a nice airport to get from point A to point B quickly.  The fact that you can skip LAX to get to NY and Boston from this no fuss airport is awesome and worth giving up on amenities and dining.

Remember: ✈️ = so much drama in the LBC to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = sublime

Convenience to the city: ✈️ (it’s in Long Beach, off the 405, may the odds be ever in your favor)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️✈️  (I think it takes 5 minutes from one end to the other)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (not a lot of traffic = fast lines)

Dining: ✈️ (bring your own food)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️ (not that many of them)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️ (free wifi available)

Amenities: ✈️ (what are amenities?)

 

 

 

3 days in Sacramento

 

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Sacramento may seem like a random place to visit, but thanks to Greta Gerwig’s stunning (read: STUNNING) ode to cinema and her hometown, Lady Bird, California’s capital city is taking its turn to bask in its own deserved spotlight.

I think the best way to describe this city is that when you’re here, you feel like you’re in a vintage Instagram filter, a bygone era of Americana with modern splashes.  It is simply an easy place to be.  There’s that old school charm, from the architectural gems of the Fabulous Forties to the neighborhoods dotted with old neon signage (featured prominently in the movie and as you know if you’ve read this blog, are one of my favorite things) and the proximity of farms and citrus tree groves.

Beyond the capital, it is one of the top destinations for locavore cuisine, earning it the nickname of “America’s farm to fork capital.” For a city of its size, there’s every type of food you could imagine, and ingredients are so fresh due to its proximity to California’s central agriculture industry.  People forget California is one of the largest farming states in the country–next time you eat those strawberries and avocados, think of us.

Eureka, I’ve found it!

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weekend in la la land

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Growing up in Southern California, I spent some time in Los Angeles, but never actually lived there.  So, that makes me a total tourist whenever I come to town, and I love it.

It’s sun-kissed, starry-eyed and there’s literally everything you could ever want.  There’s beaches, top education, sports, movie stars, museums, shopping, innovative food and technology.  There’s perfect weather and beautiful bodies, it’s the epitome of the glamorous life.

I love LA.  (we love it).

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know before you go: Burbank

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Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR, formerly known as Bob Hope) is the small airport that also serves the greater Los Angeles area, namely more convenient for Pasadena/Glendale/Valley area.  This is the airport you want to fly into if you’re headed to LA.  I cannot stress this enough, bypass the pit of despair that is LAX (unless of course you’re international, then of course, vaya con dios).

There are two terminals, A and B.  A serves Southwest, JetBlue and American with 9 gates and B has 5 serving Alaska, Delta and United.

There’s not much to eat here, but there is Guy Fieri Burger and a Peet’s coffee, and really what more do you need in life?

Remember:  ✈️ = bob nope ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = bob dope

Convenience to city = ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (it cannot be overstated how much easier than LAX it is)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (it is very small, so it’s easy)

Convenience of security lines: ✈️✈️✈️ (small = fast)

Dining: ✈️ (Peet’s, Fresco and Guy’s burgers)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️ (clean, not that many)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wi-fi, good amount of outlets)

Amenities: ✈️ (there’s usually some art or collections displayed)

weekender in Carmel & Monterey

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Arguably some of the most beautiful spots in California, the coastal towns of Monterey and Carmel-by-the-sea near Big Sur have long been upscale havens for the jet set.  It’s definitely high end, with its ocean view cottages, European ivy wrapped cafes and the famed Pebble Beach Golf Club.  Clint Eastwood is the former mayor of Carmel for pete’s sake!  With its million dollar (baby) homes overlooking the picturesque Central Californian coast, you can see why this area is the background for many novels (notably those of native son John Steinbeck), movies and television shows, most recently Big Little Lies.

It does seem like a place to where a person with secrets would escape (just picture yourself out on a balcony, wrapped in a cashmere shawl, wind whipping through your hair, gazing wistfully over the turbulent surf–channel your inner Nicole Kidman for this).  You can see it, can’t you?

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you CAN see it (photo credit: hbo)

I made my escape there for a weekend wedding, making a mini-road trip of it, Joad family style.  It is definitely doable in a weekend, but obviously the more time, the better to experience the serenity and calm of this seaside retreat.

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