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 Orange County Great Park PicmonkeyOrange County Great Park by night.

The Orange County Great Park (OCGP) in Irvine is becoming a popular year-round destination for enjoying free entertainment, sports, recreation, arts and culture.

Visitors can get a birds' eye view of Orange County aboard the iconic Great Park Balloon as it rises 400 feet above ground; take a ride on the hand-painted Carousel, play on Kids Rock, and stroll a Walkable Timeline that highlights 31 of the most significant events of the 1940s. In addition, the Palm Court Arts Complex features an art gallery and artists' studios.

The Flights & Sounds Summer Festival (August-September) offers world beat dance parties on Fridays and Saturdays feature main stage concert performances.

Additional events at the Park include Sundays Farmers Market; the Farm + Food Lab, a hands-on gardening experience; Movies on the Lawn; a Pumpkin Harvest; the annual "Growing the Park" anniversary celebration; a Family New Year's Eve Party, and numerous recreational and sports programs. Soccer fields will be added later this year.

The OCGP is a park for people of every generation, culture and interest. Nearly a million people have visited the Great Park and that number is growing daily.

The park is open seven days a week. All activities are free, with some requiring a parking fee.

About the Great ParkThe Orange County Great Park, with its more than 1,300-acre master plan, is the focal point of the redevelopment of the publicly-owned portion of the 4,700-acre former Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro. The Great Park features an iconic tethered helium balloon that rises 400 feet in the air, providing an aerial view of Park development. Other features include the Carousel, Farm + Food Lab, Kids Rock Playground, Walkable Timeline, Palm Court Arts Complex, North Lawn recreation area and historic Hangar 244. The South Lawn lighted soccer fields and Community Garden will be added in 2012. For more information go to www.ocgp.org

 

Sources at TravMedia.com contributed to this article.

 

Planning a visit to Orange County? Taste California Travel's Resource Directory has links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to the many craft beer pubs in the area.

 

While there are always celebrities and stars visiting Santa Rosa and Sonoma Wine Country, the next 30 days are a great time to meet them up close and personal. Who knows, you maybe even be able to ask them a question or get a personal picture with some of the stars.

If you consider yourself a foodie or just love watching The Food Network, you will have a chance not only to meet Mario Batali but also Santa Rosa's own Guy Fieri. On Friday, September 14th Guy and Mario will be hosting Chef's Tables in the Vineyard. The event is in conjunction with 16th Annual Kendall-Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival and benefits the Cooking with Kids Foundation. A limited number of extra special VIP tickets are available with assigned seating at the head table, hosted by Guy Fieri and Mario Batali. If you prefer to dine with other Celebrity Chefs, also sponsoring tables are John Ash, Douglas Keane, Top Chef Season 6 contestant Eli Kirshtein and Top Chef Season 3 contestant Casey Thompson, just to name a few. While the Tomato Festival tickets are sold out, you can still dine with celebrity chefs. Tickets are available at www.kj.com/chef-tables-in-the-vineyard.

Basketball fans will want to know that Phil Jackson and Chris Mullin will be speaking on September 16th. Jackson is widely considered one of the greatest coaches in the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA). As head coach of the Chicago Bulls and the LGuy Fieri PicmonkeyFormer Santa Rosan Guy Fieri.os Angeles Lakers, he won a total 11 NBA titles as a coach, the most ever. Mullin is an NBA Hall of Famer and Bay Area and New York City basketball legend; he is recognized as one of the best shooters of all time. Winner of the 1985 John Wooden Award, 2 Gold medals and was a member of the "Dream Team.", as a professional Mullin was named to the All Star Team 5 times. Phil and Chris will be discussing the spiritual nature of sports, overcoming challenges, and the essence of teamwork. Following their presentations Phil and Chris will answer questions about their philosophy and experiences. Tickets are available at www.innergame.us.

If cycling, the Amgen Tour of California and the Tour de France are more your style then you can come ride with Levi Leipheimer's Gran Fondo on September 29th. Levi was the overall winner of the Amgen Tour of California in 2007, 2008 and 2009. He also has four top ten finishes in the Tour de France along with third overall in 2007 and a bronze medal from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Cyclists have a chance not only to ride with Levi on the 29th, they also have a chance to purchase VIP tickets for an up close and personal chance to share dinner with Levi at the Fiesta del Fondo on the 27th. Tickets are available for the Fiesta and the Piccolo Fondo at www.levisgranfondo.com.

If politics is your specialty, on October 15th you can hear Washington D.C.'s "odd couple," Mary Matalin—staunch Republican and Bush advisor—and James "The Ragin' Cajun" Carville—steadfast Democrat and Clinton campaign strategist. The couple will give audiences an enlightening and entertaining look at today's most important political issues, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at politics inside Washington and how today's headlines are playing out around the country. Matalin and Carville are key players on the national political stage—they each have over 30 years of experience in politics and have individually worked for Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. VIP tickets include a meet and greet reception before the performance with both James Carville and Mary Matalin. Patrons will have the opportunity for autographs and pictures. Tickets are available from www.wellsfargocenterarts.org.

Of course if you do not want to meet your celebrities at dinner or one on one, you can still visit Santa Rosa and enjoy shows from such performers as Lang Lang (September 29), Alison Krauss (September 30) and Bill Maher (October 20) at the Green Music Center www.gmc.sonoma.edu or Trombone Shorty (September 19), Anjelah Johnson (October 19) and Loretta Lynn (October 22) at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts.

 

TravMedia sources contributed to this article.

 

Editor's note: Thinking of visiting the Santa Rosa area? You'll find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options in the area, as well as links to area wineries and beer-centric pubs and restaurants, in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

 

La Jolla beach scene PicmonkeyShoreside at La Jolla.

There are many treasures of this Mediterranean-style village that make La Jolla one of the most sought-after vacation destinations in Southern California: luxurious and historic hotels and resorts; fine dining with breathtaking ocean views; retail shopping that rivals northern neighbors Rodeo Drive and South Coast Plaza; sophisticated, world-class arts and culture, and a strikingly beautiful setting complemented by endless outdoor recreational activities. Add to this extraordinary mix a rich history with numerous famous residents, from Gregory Peck to Ted Giesel (aka Dr. Seuss), and some of the nation's leading scientific research centers, including the internationally renowned Salk Institute and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and visitors can experience an unparalleled leisure holiday. The following are just some of the diverse offerings of La Jolla (pronounced "La Hoya"; translated from Spanish as "the jewel") that guests can experience throughout the year.

 

Beaches and Water ActivitiesLa Jolla's beaches and coastline are considered to be some of the most beautiful settings in the world; its aqua waters provide endless options for fun and relaxation.

Lifeguards watch over families splashing in the rocky shallows off La Jolla Cove, a small patch of sand tucked between weather-sculpted sandstone cliffs. This area's breathtaking views are a favorite subject of photographers and painters from around the world.

The Children's Pool, a small picturesque beach with a panoramic view that is partially protected by a large seawall, is just south of La Jolla Cove. The Pool's original intent was to be a protected swimming area for children, but sand has filled in much of the area inside the wall. Today, the beach is a popular home for hundreds of seals, and Seal Rock, a reserve for these marine mammals, is located just offshore.

South of La Jolla Village, Windansea Beach is best known for its beautiful scenery and hard-breaking surf due to huge underwater reefs. Sunbathing is popular here, as large sandstone rocks create a secluded setting. Windansea is also home to a legendary Polynesian-style surf hut, built in 1947 by pioneer Windansea surfers and registered as a San Diego Historic Site. Today, the hut provides an excellent vantage point for watching the surfers and sunbathers below.

North of La Jolla Village, La Jolla Shores was once recognized by the Travel Channel as one of the most family-friendly beaches in San Diego County. A wide boardwalk, which separates the beach from a large grassy park ideal for picnicking and volleyball games, parallels its mile-long sandy shore.

Kayaking is popular along La Jolla Shores, as guests can paddle during low tide to La Jolla Caves to the south and Scripps Pier to the north. Rentals are available and daily guided tours are provided by a number of companies including Hike Bike Kayak Inc and OEX Dive and Kayak. www.hikebikekayak.com, www.oeexpress.com

The world's first all women's surf school, Surf Diva promotes, teaches and supports surfing for women (and men) of all ages with surf camps and private and coed lessons. www.surfdiva.com

La Jolla Underwater Park and Ecological Preserve is a popular recreational area for scuba divers and snorkelers who can encounter the protected marine life in some of California's clearest coastal waters with visibility often exceeding 30 feet.

Blacks Beach, a two-mile long, sandy strip situated at the base of majestic cliffs, is north of La Jolla Shores and part of Torrey Pines State Beach. Because the cliffs tower up to 300 feet high, access to the beach is limited and difficult. The beauty and privacy of Blacks Beach have made it popular for nude sunbathing, a practice that is not officially sanctioned but prevalent.

For more information on La Jolla's beaches, visit: www.lajollabythesea.com/beaches.

 

Recreational ActivitiesTorrey Pines 2011 Farmers Ins Open PicmonkeyAt Torrey Pines 2011 Farmers Ins Open

Recreational enthusiasts can enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities in La Jolla, from paragliding above the blue Pacific to golf on an internationally recognized golf course.

Twelve championship tennis courts are available to visitors at The La Jolla Tennis Club, nestled in the village of La Jolla and host to tournament play since 1917. Also, the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club resort offers championship tennis courts available to guests and members. www.ljbtc.com

Set above Blacks Beach to the north of the Village, the Torrey Pines Gliderport has been the learning place for aviation greats including the Lindberghs, Boyles and many more. The Gliderport was first established as a soaring site in 1928 and has defined the history of motorless flight. Today, the Gliderport offers hang gliding, paragliding, scale models and sailplane flight. www.flytorrey.com

At Torrey Pines Golf Course, home of the 2008 U.S. Open, golfers marvel at the views of the coastline atop cliffs towering above the Pacific Ocean just north of La Jolla. Long recognized as one of the nation's foremost municipal golf facilities, it is truly a golfer's paradise. Torrey Pines hosts the annual Famers Insurance Open every January. www.torreypinesgolfcourse.com

Torrey Pines State Reserve is a 2,000-acre reserve dedicated to preserving its namesake, the Torrey Pine tree, and other indigenous wildlife in its native environment. Visitors hike the 8 miles of trails encountering native chaparral plants, wildflowers, birds, reptiles and butterflies. The reserve includes a visitor center and is host to guided nature walks on weekends and holidays to a vista point overlooking Peñasquitos Lagoon and the ocean. www.torreypines.org

Visitors and locals alike enjoy a walk through the Village of La Jolla any time of day. A car is not required to experience different aspects of this enchanting coastal community. Shopping, galleries, dining, museums, hotels, beach activities and breathtaking natural beauty can all be found within the five-mile radius of the Village proper. Guided, historic tours and hikes are available from local companies.

 

Resorts and Hotels

La Jolla is home to world-class resorts, luxurious boutique properties and historic hotels and inns.

Set on six-and-a-half acres in La Jolla overlooking the Pacific Ocean and adjacent to the 18th green of the world-renowned Torrey Pines Golf Course, the Lodge at Torrey Pines is a AAA Five Diamond luxury resort that combines the elegance of Craftsman-style design with exceptional amenities, such as guaranteed tee times for guests, which are almost impossible to secure otherwise. The resort features 175 luxury guestrooms, a full service spa, the acclaimed A.R. Valentien restaurant and an outdoor swimming pool with trellised cabanas. www.lodgetorreypines.com

Nestled on the coastal cliffs of La Jolla, Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa boasts 210 luxuriously appointed rooms tucked away on a secluded estate. The spa's lush features include a sanctuary garden of eucalyptus, lavender and citrus trees, which create a peaceful environment to stimulate the senses, as well as an outdoor fireplace, salt-water Jacuzzi and moisturizing eucalyptus steam room. Three ranch-inspired restaurant and lounge options offer farm-fresh menus, hand-crafted cocktails and an extensive wine library of California wines. www.estancialajolla.com

Often called "The Jewel of La Jolla," the historic La Valencia Hotel overlooks La Jolla Cove and the Pacific Ocean. Designed with European flair, the hotel's 113 rooms and ocean villas are richly appointed and provide spectacular ocean views. La Valencia is a member of Preferred Hotels Worldwide and features an outdoor heated pool, fitness center and three popular restaurants, including the award-winning Sky Room, La Valencia's intimate fine dining restaurant. www.lavalencia.com

The Grande Colonial, a 2011 AAA Four Diamond winner, is an elegant European-style boutique hotel with 93 rooms and suites located one block from the ocean on renowned Prospect Street. Amenities include an outdoor, ocean-view swimming pool surrounded by gardens and terraces, a rooftop deck with a library and board-room and the award-winning Nine-Ten Restaurant. www.thegrandecolonial.com

The 29-suite boutique Hotel Parisi in the heart of La Jolla is a health-conscious getaway with Feng Shui design, Zen décor and Pacific Ocean views. Guests can also enjoy a diverse spa menu, featuring 40 holistic treatments performed in the privacy of each guest's room. www.thegrandecolonial.com

The La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club is an oceanfront resort located on La Jolla Shores that combines the charm of Old World Mexico with modern day luxuries. The property offers a private beach, championship tennis courts, par three golf course, massage services and world-class dining at its seaside Marine Room restaurant. www.ljbtc.com

The 108-room Hotel La Jolla features contemporary design with state-of-the-art amenities, a fitness center, in-room spa services, pool area and pet-friendly accommodations. On the hotel's 11th floor, guests can dine at Clay's La Jolla where Chef Clay Bordan serves upscale Continental and New American cuisine. www.hotellajolla.com

 

Shopping

La Jolla is one of San Diego's most desirable shopping districts known for sophisticated, designer apparel boutiques; original jewelry shops featuring exquisite gems, and galleries offering luxury rugs and artwork from around the world.

Sometimes called the "Rodeo Drive" of San Diego, La Jolla's Prospect Street overlooks the Pacific Ocean and is lined with small specialty shops, boutiques, antique emporiums and art galleries. In addition to offering elegant, designer fashions in sophisticated apparel shops, La Jolla is also known for its exquisite and original fine jewelry of magnificent and brilliant gems.

Girard Avenue, intersecting with Prospect Street, features everything from Armani to Meanley & Son Hardware. Stores like MOS (My Own Space) feature ultra-modern original furniture and funky, affordable accessories, while mainstays like Warwicks Stationers offer the finest in pens, stationary and literature, since 1896. Hipster clothing boutiques like Let's Go make Girard Avenue appealing to every shopper's tastes and interests.

Along Girard Avenue, the Upper Girard Design District offers numerous home furnishing boutiques ideal for shoppers seeking unique luxury home décor items.

Bird Rock, located at the south end of La Jolla along La Jolla Blvd., offers an upscale, eco-friendly environment for posh shopping. The recently revitalized merchant district boasts everything from an organic coffee shop and green nail salon, to designer boutiques adorned with fashionable shoes, bags and bikinis, and upscale children's clothing boutiques. www.birdrock.org

 

DiningCombining spectacular ocean views with award-winning menus that focus on farm-fresh organic ingredients, La Jolla's chefs offer some of San Diego's most exciting and unique fine dining experiences.

The award-winning A.R. Valentien, located in the Lodge at Torrey Pines, serves a menu of seasonal provisions from local farmers' markets, small growers, ranchers and fishermen. Chef Jeff Jackson emphasizes basic ingredients, minimal handling and simple flavors. www.arvalentien.com

Set in the heart of La Jolla, Whisknladle takes a back-to-the future approach to food, making most items from scratch. Executive chef/partner Ryan Johnston's philosophy is reflected in a diverse menu of upscale comfort foods on plates made to share. Everything is baked, churned, smoked, aged, cured and pickled in-house; Johnston also purchases ingredients from local growers such as Chino Farms. www.whisknladle.com

The award-winning Nine-Ten restaurant, located in the historic Grande Colonial hotel, is one of the neighborhood's hottest bistros. Chef Jason Knibb, a 2010 Rising Star Chef winner, presents market fresh, evolving California cuisine in a casually elegant atmosphere. www.nine-ten.com

Overlooking scenic La Jolla Cove, George's at the Cove features executive chef Trey Foshee's creative regional cuisine in an atmosphere of modern elegance. Foshee's cutting edge and ever-changing menu can be enjoyed in three of the restaurant's settings: the first-story California Modern featuring an elegant dining room, the bistro-styled George's Bar and the rooftop Ocean Terrace, spanning spectacular ocean views. www.georgesathecove.com

A local landmark since 1941, The Marine Room is nestled along the sand of La Jolla Shores. The changing tides and dramatic waves crashing against the restaurant's windows provide the perfect backdrop for executive chef Bernard Guillas' sophisticated dishes like maple smoked bison carpaccio, thyme-rubbed free range veal tenderloin and lemon verbena lobster tail. Chef Guillas was recently inducted into the Maîtres Cuisiniers de France, becoming the first chef in San Diego to join the ranks of the 204 Master Chefs from around the world.  www.marineroom.com

At Roppongi Restaurant and Sushi Bar on Prospect Street, chef Stephen Window fuses East and West in dramatic and creative ways, including seasonal specialties and Asian-fusion tapas. Roppongi's multiple dining areas include a sushi bar and covered patio with fire pit. www.roppongiusa.com

Tapenade Restaurant on Fay Avenue features award-winning chef Jean-Michele Diot's distinct southern French cuisine. As one of the finest French restaurants in San Diego, Diot's style of French Provencal gastronomy fused with American cuisine creates one-of-a-kind, quality dishes. www.tapenade.com

Overlooking La Jolla Cove, Brockton Villa has been serving award-winning breakfast, lunch and seasonal dinner for 20 years. Using local ingredients and seafood, the menu includes fresh takes on classic American cuisine. Not to be missed is Brockton Villa's world-famous Coast Toast French toast, served throughout the day. www.brocktonvilla.com

 

Arts, Culrure and Science

From theater bound for Broadway to cutting edge contemporary art and scientific innovations that help change the world, La Jolla entertains and inspires visitors in unexpected ways.

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego on Prospect Street features contemporary paintings, sculptures, photography, drawings and graphic art created since 1945. The permanent collection is displayed concurrently with temporary exhibitions, and the lush garden paths and landscaping at the oceanfront facility provide space for outdoor sculpture and installations. www.mcasd.org

The Tony Award-winning La Jolla Playhouse is one of the most respected and prestigious theaters in the nation. Theater-goers can enjoy innovative productions May through October at the Mandell Weiss Center for the Performing Arts and the state-of-the-art Joan and Irwin Jacobs Center on the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) campus. La Jolla Playhouse productions that have moved to Broadway include the Tony Award-winning musicals Memphis and Jersey Boys, as well as The Who's Tommy, Cry-Baby, Thoroughly Modern Millie and the Pulitzer Prize winner I Am My own Wife. www.lajollaplayhouse.com

Also located on the UCSD campus, the Stuart Collection offers 16 site-specific works by leading artists of our time, including John Baldessari, Jenny Holzer, Robert Irwin, Bruce Nauman, Nikki de Saint Phalle, Alexis Smith and William Wegman. Self-guided walking tour maps are available. www.stuartcollection.ucsd.edu

The La Jolla Music Society presents classical music throughout the year. The Celebrity Series features a dazzling array of the world's most distinguished musicians and orchestras; music concerts are presented during the Revelle Series, featuring performances at the Sherwood Auditorium in the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. The nationally recognized, annual SummerFest program features an array of free enrichment events in addition to a variety of world-class concerts at locations throughout La Jolla. www.lajollamusicsociety.com

The Birch Aquarium at Scripps is situated on a spectacular site overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The aquarium presents undersea creatures in realistic habitats and allows visitors to experience the frontiers of marine science through interactive museum exhibits and participation in exciting educational activities. The aquarium reflects the work of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, world-renowned for its oceanographic research and instruction. www.sio.ucsd.edu

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, adjacent to UCSD, is also world-renowned for its medical research. Public tours, which focus on the institute's unique architecture by Louis I. Kahn, are available. www.salk.edu

 

Annual Events and Festivals

Throughout the year, La Jolla hosts a number of San Diego's most exciting annual events and festivals.

An internationally recognized golf tournament, the Farmers Insurance Open is played every January on the spectacular Torrey Pines Golf Course. www.buickinvitational.com

The La Jolla Motorcar Classic occurs every spring and lets guests admire timeless autos along the coast. http://lajollamotorcarclassic.com

The La Jolla Half Marathon takes place every April. www.lajollahalfmarathon.com

The Secret Garden Tour in May, sponsored by the La Jolla Historical Society, allows guests to tour some of La Jolla's most beautiful residential gardens. www.ljhs.org

The Annual La Jolla Festival of Arts and Food Fair takes place every June on the UCSD campus with award-winning artists, gourmet cuisine, contemporary music and entertainment. www.lajollaartfestival.org

In August, La Jolla locales provide spectacular settings for the annual SummerFest, a renowned chamber music festival. www.ljms.org

The La Jolla Rough Water Swim, the largest such swimming competition in the nation, takes place at La Jolla Cove every September. www.ljrws.com

In early December, guests get into the holiday spirit during the annual La Jolla Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival. www.ljparade.com

For more information visit the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau's website at www.sandiego.org

 

TravMedia sources contributed to this article.

 

Editor's note: Links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as those of many craft beer purveyor are availble at the Resource Directory of Taste California Travel.

 

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