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.


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

Benjamin Eastman

Beach Nightlife in San Diego

Club Tremors

As I’ve mentioned many times in the past, the beauty of San Diego’s nightlife scene is that there is something for everyone. Whether you’re wearing your best Sean John outfit or would rather party it up in your boardshorts and a t-shirt, San Diego has a place for you to wile the night away. Looking specifically at the more relaxed, beach nightlife of Ocean Beach, Mission Beach and Pacific Beach, there are a number of great options.

Pacific Beach

Referred to by locals as PB, Pacific Beach is known as the premier hangout region for the under 25-crowd. PB is full of bars, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, bars….did I mention bars?

Club Tremors

Club Tremors

Probably the most well-known venue in PB is the PB Bar & Grill/Club Tremors. Part bar/restaurant, part nightclub, PB Bar & Grill caters to all aspects of a great nightlife experience – food, drinks and dancing. With an incredibly active weekly lineup, you can go to PBB&G any night of the week for a good time (Monday Karaoke, Taco Tuesday, Thirsty Thursdays, etc.)


For those looking for a more upscale option in PB, head over to the Tower 23 Hotel and their JRDN restaurant/bar. Located along the PB boardwalk, JRDN has an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean with a relaxed but upbeat atmosphere.  On a warm, beautiful evening (and let’s be honest, that describes most evenings in San Diego) you’ll find locals and tourists alike lounging on JRDN’s outdoor patio enjoying the restaurant’s upbeat music, fantastic decor (think color changing wall wave-like mosaic) and amazing sunset views.

Mission Beach

More of a residential area, Mission Beach does have a few great spots for those seeking a more relaxed night of entertainment including the notable Belmont Park. The historic wooden roller coaster, easily seen from afar, is Belmont Park’s iconic centerpiece, however the fun carnival-style games and rides are really what make the night a blast (think bumper cars, rides that flip you around/upside down, mirror mazes and big pretzels). Scream your lungs out as you ride the Giant Dipper roller coaster or my personal favorites – the Octotron and Beach Blaster.

Concert at the Wavehouse

After bringing out your inner child at Belmont Park, pop on over to the Wavehouse right next door to find several flowboarding areas – including Bruticus Maximus, which produces 10-foot waves via 100,000 gallons of water being pumped into the ride per minute. Try your hand out at flowboarding or just watch some of the local pros flip, twist and amaze the audience. With an awesome music scene, firepits, hammocks, picnic tables and awesome views of the Mission Beach boardwalk and the Pacific Ocean, Wavehouse has a great casual vibe, especially enjoyable during the summer months.

Ocean Beach

Referred to by locals as OB, Ocean Beach is known for its hippy culture. OB prides itself on not taking itself too seriously and the nightlife definitely maintains a cool, relaxed state at a handful of dive bars, restaurants and hole-in-the-wall music venues.

Winston's OB

Winston's OB

Personal favorites for a night of fun dining are OB Noodle House, Bo-beau Kitchen + Bar (great french fusion cuisine), the fish tacos at South Beach (which is just steps from the beach) and the beer lover’s favorite, Pizza Port. For those craving some tunes, head over to Winston’s – a dive bar/club featuring live music, DJs or comedy just about every night of the week.


California’s Only Triple 5-Star Resort is in San Diego

San Diego’s own The Grand Del Mar has achieved a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star award, making it the first and only hotel in San Diego to ever attain Five Stars and the only property in California to earn three 2012 Five-Star awards for Lodging, Spa and Dining. The Five-Star Lodging award places the resort in the elite company of only 57 high-end hotels and resorts throughout the world to hold this designation. Additionally, The Grand Del Mar retained its AAA Five Diamond hotel rating for the third straight year, while Addison has earned the AAA Five Diamond distinction for the fourth consecutive year.

This distinction is testament to the resorts mission of providing luxury and quality to San Diego visitors. At The Grand Del Mar, visitors will enjoy the old-world charm of a Mediterranean estate with the modern luxury of an elegant resort. The resort offers stunning natural beauty set amongst the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, a championship golf course, award winning spa and irresistible dining – epitomized by Addison.

Brent Bernasconi

Exploring the Fun at Loews Coronado Resort

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Since Loews Coronado Bay Resort is giving away 20 room nights as part of their 20th anniversary, our Coronado expert Robert gave us his ideas of what he would do if he won the sweepstakes. He also had a chance to drive over the iconic Coronado Bridge to the Crown City and take a peek at some of the great activities including stand-up paddle boarding, beach and kayak tours along the Silver Strand State Beach and gondola cruises that take off from the Loews Marina.

Make sure to enter the “20 Days, Your Way” sweepstakes for a chance to win 20 room nights at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort and you too can enjoy all of these exciting and relaxing activities! Enter now…


Child’s Play: Plans for LEGOLAND Hotel Unveiled

Who's gonna clean up that mess? More than 28,000 thousand multi-colored DUPLO® bricks were poured out of a big front loader in celebration of the LEGOLAND Hotel announcement.

LEGOLAND California announced yesterday that plans for a three-story LEGOLAND Hotel are underway. Slated to open Summer 2013 on the site of the current LEGOLAND California Resort in Carlsbad, the LEGOLAND Hotel will be the first of its kind in North America.

Children invited from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Carlsbad wore pajamas to the press conference to get in the “hotel mood” and squealed with delight as the bricks came pouring down on to the bed.

Like LEGOLAND California and the SEA LIFE Carlsbad Aquarium, the hotel will be designed for families with young children and will feature rooms and suites themed after the most popular LEGOLAND areas. The 250-room LEGO-themed hotel will feature brightly colored LEGO décor, a pool, and restaurant.


Staying Green at Port of San Diego Hotels

The Port of San Diego recently launched its first ever Green Business Challenge. The program, launched through the Green Port Program, aims to increase the energy efficiency of businesses around the Bay and reduce environmental impacts. The ultimate goal of the Green Port Program is to achieve long-term environmental, societal and economic benefits through resource conservation, waste reduction and pollution prevention.

So far, nearly 60 businesses are participating including the USS Midway Museum, San Diego International Airport and General Dynamics NASSCO. Additionally, the hotels on the Port’s property are already making great strides in their efforts to reduce waste.

Highlights of their accomplishments include:

San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina
San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina: recently installed energy-efficient lighting in its front drive, lobby, pool area, guest rooms, and meeting space. In all, the project has saved the hotel 130,000 kWh per year.

Hilton San Diego Airport

Hilton San Diego Aiport:Retrofitted all exit signs to LED lights and vending misers for vending machines. Recycled paper is used for toilet paper as well as copy paper.

Hilton San Diego Bayfront

Hilton San Diego Bayfront: They recycle both commingled commodities recycling and food waste in conjunction with the City of San Diego with an overall diversion goal of 75%.

Manchester Grand Hyatt

Manchester Grand Hyatt:The Hyatt installed low flow faucets as well as utilizes solar heat for their pools and are in the process of purchasing a composting unit to compost on their property.

Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina

Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina:The hotel utilizes fuel cell energy and composts food waste on the property. Additionally, the Sheraton recently finished a lighting audit and completed a retro-commissioning of the HVAC system.

Be sure to check out the Port’s Green Business Challenge website for more information on all businesses participating.


Happy Hour + Warm Weather + Great Food= Arterra

Arterra's Outdoor Lounge

With the weather warming up, I’m always looking for a new spot to enjoy the warm breezes and authentic San Diego ambiance. I found just that when I recently visited the Arterra Restaurant, Bar and Outdoor Lounge at the Marriott Del Mar. The hotel, just a mile from the beautiful waves of Del Mar, recently unveiled a new look, taste and vibe for its restaurant.

Arterra specializes in contemporary, seasonal cuisine reflecting the best of Southern California. Its menu is varied and always created from fresh, local and organic ingredients. After a long day at the beach, we stopped in for Happy Hour. Their Happy Hour runs every day from 4:00 – 7:00 pm. The first item I tried was the Lobster Mac n’ Cheese. I have to say I consider myself to be a mac n’ cheese aficiando and this one lived up to my high expectations. From Loaded Fries to Flatbread pizzas, their happy hour menu is varied and delicious. All drinks are $6 for premium drafts, $7 glasses of wine and specialty cocktails go for $8. Their outdoor lounge has quaint seating options to enjoy the food and drinks and be happy you are in San Diego.


Get Seuss This Weekend & Celebrate World Oceans Day

Underwater reading at SEA LIFE Aquarium

San Diego is proud to join hundreds of conservation organizations and thousands of individuals from countries around the world to celebrate World Oceans Day (June 8th) and help raise awareness about the important ways we can protect our oceans.

This year, World Oceans Day is themed around the 50th anniversary of the Dr. Seuss classic, “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” and since Dr. Seuss was a local San Diegan, we’re excited to celebrate his legacy.

We’re so excited in fact, that we’re starting the party a little early with a number of fun events taking place this weekend:

Attractions and Museums

  • The San Diego Zoo will host a World Oceans Day snow sculpture building contest with polar bear “judges” and a reading of the book, with help from sea lions, on at 11 a.m. on June 5.
  • SEA LIFE Aquarium will celebrate in Seussian-style with an underwater reading of the book at 11 a.m., Seuss-themed arts & crafts, games and caricature portraits from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on June 5.

On the Water

  • Surf Diva will host a paddle out and reading of the book in the Pacific Ocean at 11:30 a.m. on June 5.
  • Hornblower Harbor Cruises will offer Seuss-themed face painting free for children aboard all six of their green-themed, narrated Harbor Cruises on beautiful San Diego Bay on June 5.
  • The Bahia Belle will provide special children’s cruises around Mission Bay with songs, games and activities from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on June 4-6.


  • Omni San Diego Hotel offers an “Oceans of Life” hotel package during June 1 – December 30.
  • The Grand Del Mar will host a World Oceans Day Coloring Contest, a reading of the book and other activities from 12 to 1:30 p.m. on June 5.

Around Town