Robert Arends

Winning! Chic New Viejas Hotel Opens in East County

Viejas Casino and Resort
Viejas Casino and Resort

Viejas Casino & Resort

Yours truly was invited to the grand opening of the new Viejas Hotel, located in the rolling foothills of Alpine next door to Viejas Casino and across the street from the popular Viejas Outlets.

Their new name is Viejas Casino & Resort. Did you know: the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians becomes San Diego’s fifth tribe to open a hotel connected to its casino.

The shindig will include a ribbon cutting, traditional Kumeyaay songs and a Native American blessing, and sneak peek of “Rise,” a dramatic new Cirque-style show that premieres at the hotel this Saturday, followed by a spectacular fireworks display. I can’t wait!

What to Expect at the New Viejas Hotel

Rendering of chic new Viejas Hotel

Rendering of chic new Viejas Hotel

The sophisticatedly modern $36 million hotel is 5 stories high and features 128 rooms (including 29 suites), a pool and hot tub with cabanas (SO SoCal!), state-of-the-art fitness center, free Internet/WiFi, and an expanded all-you-can-eat buffet next door. Each room has 40″ Samsung TVs, locally made furniture and art, nightly turn down service, his and her robes (nice touch!), iPod clock radios and Gilchrist & Soames bath and body products. Some suites even include fireplaces, tubs with whirlpool jets (just say ahhh!) and wet bars (I’ll toast to that 😉 ).

Rendering of Presidential Suite at Viejas Hotel

Rendering of Presidential Suite at Viejas Hotel

A few months back I explored the model guestrooms and I’ve got to say, they’re swanky, warm and inviting, with a metropolitan touch that reminds me of chic boutique hotels in Manhattan. There’s nothing else like it in these parts!

More to do near Viejas Casino & Resort

This spring as you explore the wildflowers of East County, stop by Viejas Casino & Resort to play the slots, shop 60 name-brand outlet stores, indulge at the buffet and rest your head for a memorable overnight stay amidst the beautiful backdrop of Alpine’s rural setting.

Insider tip: While you’re there, pick up a $5 bag of fresh avocados or oranges from one of the roadside vendors!

Sage & Songbirds Festival - Butterflies

Butterfly releases at Sage & Songbirds Festival.

And planning ahead… Time your visit to also check out Alpine’s 16th Annual Sage & Songbirds Garden Tour on May 3-5, featuring a free festival at Viejas Outlets that includes a live butterfly exhibit and daily butterfly releases, plus an outdoor plant and art sale. There will also be garden tours of local bird- and butterfly-friendly home gardens and the Sky Hunters raptor rehabilitation facility, home to magnificent hawks, owls and other bird of prey. Cost for the gardens/Sky Hunters tour is $15 per person before April 1.

Candice

The Lodge at Torrey Pines – Romance and Relaxation

The Lodge at Torrey Pines

Valentine’s Day may be hours away, but February 14th shouldn’t be the only time of year you focus on romance. As a full-time working woman and graduate student to boot, I know how hard it can be to find the time to spend with that special someone. Fortunately for couples everywhere, San Diego is full of luxurious hotels perfect for a romantic weekend escape. And with majestic views, gorgeous Craftsman-style architecture and one of San Diego’s best restaurants, The Lodge at Torrey Pines is an ideal destination a blissful San Diego getaway, no holiday or special occasion required.

The Lodge at Torrey Pines

The Lodge at Torrey Pines

Pulling up to the Lodge’s grand yet secluded entrance, dark wood, glowing stained glass windows and the scent of fresh flowers greet you as you step into the lobby. As you head towards your room, the demure hallways feel cozy, despite the Lodge’s vast size.

Romantic Lodging

The Lodge At Torrey Pines Guest Room

The Palisades Suite

The Lodge offers a variety of guest room types that set the mood for romance and relaxation. On a recent weekend, my husband and I settled into a spacious Palisades Suite, complete with a fireplace at the foot of the bed and a balcony looking out onto the resort’s meticulously manicured lawn. As the sun began to set over the world-famous Torrey Pines golf course, we toasted with champagne and a plate of fresh fruit.

Lodge's Champagne and Fruit

A fruit plate from the hotel was the perfect pairing with a bottle of champagne.

Relaxing Activities

Relaxing Activities at the Lodge

There’s no shortage of ways to unwind at the Lodge.

The Lodge offers a range of pleasant pastimes if all the relaxing gets to be too much. In the library, you can settle in with one of the available books or enjoy a game of pool or darts. On the lawn, colorful croquet sets dot the thick green grass. Oh, and I’ve heard golf may be a popular activity here…but I chose to spend an afternoon at the spa. The pristine white marble of the Spa at Torrey Pines had me wallowing in the lap of luxury before my massage even began.

Fine Dining at A.R. Valentien

When it comes to a romantic dinner, few restaurants can top the Lodge’s signature restaurant, A.R. Valentien. Buttery sea scallops and a generous portion of tender New York strip steak were proof enough that Chef Jeff Jackson is one of San Diego’s best, and their friendly sommelier will help even the most novice wine drinker find the perfect pairing. While a bottle of Silver Oak may accompany a birthday or anniversary meal, it’s also nice to be able to indulge in a mini-splurge with their extensive by-the-glass selection of top-notch wines.

It’s the Little Touches at The Lodge at Torrey Pines

Lodge's Turndown Service

Chocolate and slippers greet you at bedtime.

Returning to our room, friendly touches from the turn down service made our stay feel even more special. A delicate chocolate bar emblazoned with the resort’s logo rested on our pillows, while bedside mats held cozy slippers waiting to warm our feet before bed. Combined with the beauty of the property and the exceptional food, the attentive and thoughtful service at the Lodge at Torrey Pines make it a can’t-miss hotel for relaxing and reconnecting.

View from The Lodge Torrey Pines

You can’t ask for a better view!

Robert Arends

Valentine’s Day Ideas – Fall in Love with Coronado!

Valentine's Day Idea - Romantic Stroll on Coronado
Valentine's Day Idea - Romantic Stroll on Coronado

Take a romantic sunset stroll on Coronado Beach this Valentine’s Day!

Love is in the air! An enchanting Valentine’s Day getaway where couples can find everything their hearts desire is Coronado, located a bridge away from downtown San Diego.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, take advantage of beautiful weather and island charms that are sure to sweep your sweetheart off their feet. Following are 5 Fabulous Date Ideas and mini escapes:

Taste buds rejoice…

Eno Wine Bar

Fine wines, cheeses and chocolates at Eno Wine Bar.

Raise your glass and indulge in luscious wines, gourmet cheeses and chocolates at the swanky ENO Wine Bar in the Hotel del Coronado. Afterward, sneak off to Coronado Beach for a moonlit stroll, serenaded by the gentle surf. Equally indulgent is Weincakes Bistro, an intimate new spot in the Village for decadent desserts.

Pack a Picnic…

Gazebo at Spreckels Park - Coronado

Enjoy a picnic for two at Spreckels Park.

In the heart of the island, Spreckels Park welcomes couples to picnic under swaying palm trees or under an ol’ fashioned gazebo. For a secret picnic hideaway {shhh!}, cozy Shoreline Park at First St. & I Ave. offers a magnificent backdrop on San Diego Bay.

Say I Do… Again

Renew your vows in Coronado!

Renew your vows in Coronado!

Renew your vows at the charming new Coronado Wedding Chapel by the Sea, the first-ever wedding chapel on the island! This chic Crown City jewel is located less than a block from Coronado Beach, across the street from the Hotel del Coronado. Two other amazing storybook settings: Loews Coronado Bay Resort and Coronado Island Marriott Resort on San Diego Bay.

Ahoy!

Sailing San Diego Bay

Set sail on San Diego Bay.

Hire a licensed skipper for a romantic sunset sail on San Diego Bay or the Pacific Ocean. Seaforth Boat Rentals on Glorietta Bay and Action Sports Rentals at Loews Coronado Bay Resort promise to make it memorable. Don’t forget the champagne and chocolate covered strawberries!

That’s amore…

Voga Voyage at Loews Coronado Bay Resort.

Voga Voyage at Loews Coronado Bay Resort.

The Gondola Company offers intimate one-hour cruises and a “Voga Voyage” couples massage(!) on San Diego Bay. The authentic Venetian gondolas depart from Loews Coronado’s marina; a truly magical experience that’s made for marriage proposals!

Coronado…gotta love it! 😉

> Browse more Valentine’s Day Ideas and Packages in San Diego

Brent Bernasconi

San Diego Beer Week Returns – November 2-11, 2012

Cheers during San Diego Beer Week
Cheers during San Diego Beer Week

Say Cheers to another exciting San Diego Beer Week!

San Diego Beer Week is a countywide celebration of the amazing local craft beer culture. Over the course of 10 days, SDBW offers craft beer lovers the chance to sample award winning regional beers (San Diego breweries took home 15 medals from the 2012 Great American Beer Festival!) at more than 250 different events including festivals, tap takeovers, beer brunches, brewery tours, pint nights, beer releases, cask nights, beer dinners, brewer meet and greets, education sessions and more.

You can find a full list of events at www.sdbw.org/events.

While picking an event to attend each day and/or night can be a difficult decision, here are two events you don’t want to miss:

San Diego Beer Week Brewers Guild Festival

Mayor Sanders Tapping the first keg - San Diego Beer Week Brewers Guild Festival

San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders taps the first keg during the 2011 San Diego Beer Week Brewers Guild Festival.

The Brewers Guild Festival is SDBW’s signature event and features more than 100 different beers from San Diego craft breweries, food from local brew pubs, and live music and entertainment throughout the festival. Entry into the festival includes a commemorative 4 ounce tasting glasses, ten tasting tickets and the chance to talk to the brewers as they pour you a cold one.

> Watch highlights from last years festival here

Location: Port Pavilion Pier – 1000 North Harbor Drive (map)
Date: Saturday, November 3, 2012
Time: 2:00 to 5:00 PM
Cost: $10-$45
> Find out more about the San Diego Beer Week Brewers Guild Festival

Tip: Save yourself the hassle and use an alternative mode of transportation to get to the festival. Take any of the multiple buses, Blue or Orange Trolley Lines, or Coaster that stop at the Santa Fe Depot, and it’s just a short two block walk to the pier. Find public transportation schedules at www.sdcommute.com. You can also easily take a taxi or Uber it. Remember to enjoy yourself and stay safe.

The Beer Garden at the Lodge at Torrey Pines

Beer Garden attendees talking to a brewer during San Diego Beer Week Beer Garden

Meet the Brewers during San Diego Beer Week Beer Garden at the Lodge at Torrey Pines.

To close out SDBW, The Lodge at Torrey Pines is hosting the Beer Garden, a relaxing Sunday afternoon that includes unlimited beer tastings from 20 local breweries, food pairings from 10 of San Diego’s finest chefs and a beautiful view of Torrey Pines Golf Course and the Pacific Ocean. Take advantage of one of the Signature Room ($349) or Palisade Room ($429) packages offered by the Lodge that include a one night stay and two tickets to the festival.

Location: The Lodge at Torrey Pines – 11480 North Torrey Pines Road (map)
Date: Sunday, November 11, 2012
Time: 12:00 to 3:00 PM
Cost: $75
> Find out more about the Beer Garden at the Lodge at Torrey Pines

Which San Diego Beer Week event are you most looking forward to this year?

Robert Arends

Spirited Halloween Fun in Coronado!

Kate Morgan - Hotel del Coronado

Hotel del Coronado welcomes Halloween guests!

Halloween is creeping ever closer to Coronado. Eerily warm Santa Ana winds are howling and palm trees are swaying with fronds outstretched like willowy skeletal fingers. What’s that I see out of the corner of my eye…an ethereal mist taking ghostly form! Could it be the Hotel del Coronado‘s resident ghost Kate Morgan materializing for some frightfully mischievous fun?

Hotel del Coronado’s Hallo-wine & Spirits Party

Hallo-wine & Spirits party tomorrow at The Del!

I like to think so, as I recently encountered her on an impromptu ghost hunt at the hotel. I’m certain Kate is wandering the resort grounds, waiting to make an appearance at The Del’s 3rd Annual Hallo-wine & Spirits Party this Saturday, October 27!

Starting at 7:00 PM, costumed guests can go grown-up trick or treating and partake in a variety of wine, cheese and gourmet chocolate tastings (courtesy of ENO Wine Bar). The fright fest continues until the witching hour (midnight) with devilishly delicious hors d’oeuvres and dancing to DJ-spun tunes in the Crown Room, plus a costume contest.

Don’t worry if you have a little ghost or goblin (ages 4-12) with you, the Del is throwing them a Halloween Themed Kidtopia party as well.

Date: Saturday, October 27, 2012
Cost: $100 per person (must be 21+), $50 per child for the Kidtopia Party
Website: www.hoteldel.com/holidays.aspx
Reservations: 619.522.8490

Stay at the Hotel del with a “Room with a Boo!” Package

Kate Morgan walking up the stairs of the Hotel del Coronado

The ghost of Kate Morgan haunts The Del!

Interested in staying overnight? Check out the “Room with a Boo!” package. It includes a great low rate and a copy of the book, Beautiful Stranger: The Ghost of Kate Morgan and the Hotel del Coronado.

Hotel del’s Room 3327

Kate Morgan roaming the halls of The Del.

Kate Morgan checked in but never checked out of Room 3327.

For more haunting shenanigans, head up to the third floor (if you dare!) and stroll by Kate’s former room #3327. Perhaps you’ll see her ghostly figure adorned in Victorian attire or feel her icy presence in the form of mysterious cold spots (like I did!).

Happy Halloween!

Robert Arends

Ghost Hunting in San Diego’s Coronado and Old Town!

Kate Morgan roaming the halls of The Del.
Kate Morgan Standing in front of the Hotel Del

“Ghost” of Kate Morgan at the Hotel del Coronado

“I ain’t afraid of no ghost!” No really, I’m not. I’m absolutely thrilled by the possibility of encountering a spirit from the beyond. Two places in particular that put San Diego on the map as a specter-friendly destination: the famous Hotel del Coronado and the Whaley House.

The Hotel del Coronado’s Kate Morgan

Kate Morgan roaming the halls of The Del.

Kate Morgan checked in, but never checked out of Room #3327!

The Hotel del Coronado’s grand Victorian halls and rooms are where the ghost of Kate Morgan purportedly roams, mischievously playing pranks on unsuspecting guests and staff. She checked into #3327 on the third floor…but never checked out!

I had a recent encounter with Ms. Morgan during an impromptu ghost hunt at The Del. The group I was with experienced a spine-tingling cold spot outside her room when we quietly summoned her to join us. At that moment, the word “beside” appeared on the Ghost Radar Legacy app on my iPhone. Coincidence?! I think not…

Soon after, the word “enough” appeared on my Ghost Radar and the lady standing next to me had her camera brusquely slung off her shoulder by an unseen force! It was startling, to say the least, and we quickly dispersed down to the lobby where we encountered another cold spot (Kate’s such a hanger-on! 😉 ).

Hotel del Coronado-Kate Morgan reading

Kate Morgan’s ghost “chillin’ ” in the lobby of The Del.

The Hotel del Coronado embraces and celebrates its well-known haunting each October with an annual “Hallo-wine & Spirits” party and “Room with a Boo” hotel package that includes a copy of their book, Beautiful Stranger: The Ghost of Kate Morgan and the Hotel del Coronado.

The Whaley House Family

My colleague Maren Severtsen took part in an exciting “Past & Presence” haunted tour of Old Town, including the Whaley House, the #1 haunted house in America (The Travel Channel) and one of only two official Haunted Houses designated by the U.S. Commerce Department.

> Read about Maren’s haunted tour here

Even More Haunting in San Diego

For other haunted spots, entities and everything else that “goes bump in the night” in San Diego, the San Diego Ghost & Paranormal Group and Pacific Paranormal Investigations are great local resources.

See you on the other side…Bwah, ha ha ha ha! 🙂

Sarah Weinberg

Haunted Hotel Deal for a Halloween Weekend at the Rancho Bernardo Inn

Haunted trail at the Rancho Bernardo Inn

We plan to hit the Halloween trail early this season and venture beyond our own neighborhood to experience a spooky yet family friendly getaway for locals and visitors alike. San Diego hotels are getting into the “spirit” of Halloween by offering special packages focusing on a ghoulishly good time for young children and their parents.

My kids are excited about our overnight visit to the Rancho Bernardo Inn on Halloween weekend to experience the Halloween @ the Inn Stay and Spook family package. My girlfriend did this last year with her kids and recommended the family activities including trick-or-treating, a not-so-scary haunted house, pumpkin decorating and even glow in the dark cocktails for mom and dad.

Halloween @ the Inn Activities

Kids Making a Witches Brew at the Rancho Bernardo Inn

Double, double toil and trouble

Kids will enjoy dressing up for a costume contest and being allowed to roam through the spooky carnival games at Rancho Bernardo Inn during Halloween weekend.

Haunted trail at the Rancho Bernardo Inn

Do you dare take the haunted trail

The ghostly grounds of the Rancho Bernardo Inn decorated for Halloween. The Inn’s themed family events are open to hotel guests purchasing the Stay & Spook package starting at $199 for a family of four, or locals can join in the activities scheduled Friday and Saturday from 5:00 to 8:00 PM for $17 per child (age up to 14 years old).

Kids picking pumpkins at the Rancho Bernardo Inn

Find the perfect Halloween pumpkin

Younger children will enjoy the pumpkin patch, a free “goodie pumpkin” at check-in, face painting and trick or treating.

Kids acting like flying witches at the Rancho Bernardo Inn

Fly, Fly my pretties!

With a focus on a friendly Halloween experience, and lots of treats and sweets, including s’mores, trick or treating and kid-friendly snacks like caramel apples and hot pretzels available for purchase, Halloween @ the Inn should prove to be one of the most fun Halloween parties we’ve ever attended!

Halloween @ the Inn Package Information

Rates starting from $199 per night. Additional kids $17 per night (ages 3-14). Rate valid for two adults and two kids. Some restrictions may apply. Available October 26 & 27, 2012.

> Book Your Spooktacular Halloween @ the Inn Weekend Today!

Robert Arends

Coronado: Essential Summer Guide, Part 2

Summer sun, surf and sand in Coronado! (photo credit: Brett Shoaf)

It’s almost the weekend and sun-kissed Coronado is calling! In between boogie boarding and wiggling your toes in the sand on America’s #1 Beach (thank you, Dr. Beach!) following are a few fun – and free – lesser-known “secret” sights and activities around the island to check out.

Del-ightful!…The Diminutive Del

Coronado Boathouse 1887 – The “diminutive Del”

So we all know about the famous Hotel del Coronado. But did you know that just down the block is a building referred to as the “diminutive Del:” The Coronado Boathouse 1887 restaurant on Glorietta Bay. Pretty as a postcard!

The Baby Del

The “Baby Del” (144 Isabella Ave.)

There’s also the eye-catching “Baby Del,” a beautiful private home at 144 Isabella Ave. that will be the site of the 21st Annual Coronado MainStreet Garden Party on September 8 (buy your tickets now!).

Art & Sol…

“My Bike” trekking across the San Diego-Coronado Bridge!

In Coronado’s Tidelands Park is one of the coolest public art pieces on the island, “My Bike,” which seemingly flies through the air as it catches the bay breezes, shining in the sun. Stand back a bit, though, and view it with the San Diego-Coronado Bridge in the background and you’ll notice it’s actually riding across the bridge – a really cool visual effect! Check out the video.

Afternoon Delight…

Catching some rays in Coronado Island Marriott’s double hammocks.

There’s nothing like a lazy afternoon nap after a long day of play in the sun. Just around the corner from Tidelands Park at Coronado Island Marriott Resort, head out back behind the resort’s pool to find two big double hammocks just waiting for couples to catch 40 winks. The views are spectacular…this is the life!

Have a great weekend – see you in Coronado!

Suzzanne

Enjoy Se Spa’s ’50 Shades of Summer’

Se Spa inside the Hotel Palomar San Diego

Se Spa inside the Hotel Palomar San DiegoOne of my favorite spas, the Se Spa inside the Hotel Palomar San Diego, just launched a new promotion to celebrate the summer (and the NT Times #1 bestselling book 50 Shades of Grey), with their ’50 Shades of Summer’ promotion.

The promotion includes a choice of 50-minute discounted servcies including:
* 50 minute Pedicure: $50
* 50 minute Body Treatment: $85
* 50 minute Facial: $85

After each treatment, guests will enjoy a complimentary Red Room Martini (recipe below) in the spa’s Silk Lounge. The spa’s Silk Lounge, a private relaxation lounge, offers an additional dose of ‘aaaah,’ with a courtesy Soma Shot, a delicious blend of cucumber vodka, agave nectar and blueberry pomegranate juice, along with herbal teas and healthy snacks.

Red Room Martini
1.5 oz Cucumber Vodka
1 oz Pomegranate Juice
.5 oz Lemon Juice
2 oz Soda

Robert Arends

Quick Guide to San Diego Pride!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…San Diego Pride, that is, coming up this weekend July 20-22! Pride is one of our city’s biggest summer events, especially for Hillcrest, the hip LGBT uptown neighborhood.

With SO much to see and do, I thought I’d narrow it down for our out-of-town guests with some favorite local hotspots to mix & mingle, unwind and boogie down.

Eat,

Hillcrest offers a wide range of dining options (hey, a girl’s got to eat! 😉 ), especially along University Ave. and 5th Ave. Jimmy Carter’s Mexican Cafe on 5th is THE place for great Mexican food (you’ll love the carnitas), and it’s right across the street from Inn at the Park (see DRINK below). Asian Bistro on University (right down the street from Urban Mo’s – see DRINK below) is perfect for a late-night nosh after getting your groove on (the duck soup is delish!). Café on Park is my fav for brunch where you can nurse a hangover with Captain Crunch pancakes – yum!

Drink…

Good times on tap at Urban Mo’s!

Start your Pride pub crawl at Top of the Park, the fab Friday night happy hour on the rooftop of Inn at the Park. Enjoy phenomenal views of downtown, Balboa Park and San Diego Bay while sipping cocktails and socializing. Then head to Hillcrest’s most popular “family” of bars: Urban Mo’s (the patio is jumping!), Gossip Grill (for the girls!), Baja Betty’s (ole!) and Hillcrest Brewing Co. – the FIRST gay brewery in the world! Also be sure to check out Bourbon Street, our little slice of New Orleans on Park Blvd.

& Be Merry!

Picture-perfect Hillcrest!

Kick things off on Friday at the first-ever Pride of Hillcrest Block Party with DJs, dancing, food, drink and “Hillcrest Pride Flag Viewing” Ferris wheel (!) at the intersection of Normal St. and University Ave.

San Diego Pride Parade down University Ave.

On Saturday, the colorful Pride Parade takes to the streets (University Ave. and 6th Ave.) from 11am-1pm, with Grand Marshal Sandra Bernhard and actor Alex Newell from the hit TV Show “Glee.” This year’s theme is “America’s Pride” (translation: active duty men and women in uniform!).

The Pride Festival takes place Saturday (12 noon-10pm) and Sunday (11am-8pm) at Marston Point in Balboa Park (along 6th Ave.). Music headliner is Wynter Gordon, known for her smash hit single, “Dirty Talk.” One-day ticket is $20; two-day tix are $30.

For all you grooovestars, dance the night away at spacious Rich’s nightclub (with two outdoor patios) and the chic new discothèque Eden just across the street.

Let your rainbow colors fly proudly in San Diego!