Sometimes we come across a juicy morsel of Southern California culture that can't wait for a full web page. This tidbit might be a great vacation suggestion or tip, or it might be some wild and crazy event that you'll find interesting. It might give you a brainstorm for something you should include in your next Southern California vacation. So we hope you enjoy the Guru's mini blog.
Let the SoCal Guru help you sift through the many choices in Orange County beach activities. Surfing, kayaking, skin diving, deep sea fishing, whale watching. You name it and it's here!
One of the highlights for little ones visiting Disneyland is meeting some of the Disney characters from their favorite stories. Historically you'd learn of a couple of spots where they congregate at times, but it could be very much a hit-or-miss proposition.
As of March 12, 2013, the Disney princesses have been given a home at the far end of Main Street and near the castle, where the Carnation Plaza Gardens have been for many years. I'm not sure how many other characters will be available but I suspect friends of the princesses will also be hanging out.
Some folks will mourn the loss of Carnation (they are apparently considering whether to still have night-time jazz dancing) but it will be convenient to know where to go for a meet-and-greet with royalty. The princesses used to gather at the Fantasyland Theatre, which now will host a new summer show called Mickey and the Magical Map. I'm sure there are more changes in the works.
Are you are a lover of scary stuff? In particular, do you love the Halloween Haunt at Knott's Scary Farm? Well, you know that the mazes are great but very crowded, and they keep you moving to the point where you sometimes don't get to fully appreciate the creep factor.
This year Knott's Berry Farm is offering a private maze for you and five of your friends, where you'll have 15 to 20 minutes to work your way through several rooms of horror. Your group must complete some terrible task before being allowed to escape to the next room. They give you a "safe word" in case it is too much for you.
The cost is an extra $60 per group of 6, but they have really pulled out all the stops to make Trapped a killer of a maze. They still will offer 12 regular mazes as part of the price of admission, as well as four "scare zones." A scare zone is kinda like where you go at Disneyland to meet costumed characters. But this is not Princess Belle you'll be running into at one of the scare zones. We have more information on the Knott's Scary Farm Halloween Haunt at the link.
I spent some time down at Newport Beach yesterday, north of 50th Street and near the rock jetties. Crowds were smallish and I had no problem finding free parking. The temp was around 80 degrees and the water was at least 70 degrees. I could see Catalina Island off in the distance.
Although the waves weren't great for bodysurfing, it was a fabulous day to be on a Southern California beach--better than Hawaii. Why?
Well, it was a warm, sunny day but, unlike in Hawaii, you could stay out in the sun without feeling wilted after a few minutes. I love Hawaii, but the humidity and intense sun in August will have you seeking shade after just a few minutes. Some people had umbrellas, but it was way more comfortable to hang out for hours with the lower humidity and sun intensity.
Also, there were no lava rocks to worry about; you didn't cut up your feet trying to get into the water. Just beautiful sandy beaches, punctuated now and then by the rock jetties.
The water feels very refreshing at around 70 degrees on a warm summer day; honestly, it is more refreshing than in the Aloha State.
Finally, although I only caught a couple of small waves, the presence of the other islands typically flattens out swells during all but the winter months in Hawaii. I never have good success in bodysurfing in Hawaii during Spring through Fall. And, of course, I'm not going to touch the winter waves.
So there it is. If I was writing this in January, Hawaii would win hands down. But this is a terrific time to visit Southern California beaches!
The Iowa-class battleship was the king of them all in terms of firepower and fear factor, with 16-inch guns that could send shells over 25 miles. The prototype of that design is the USS Iowa itself, which is now permanently docked in Los Angeles Harbor. Although work continues on its restoration, there is a very interesting tour available to the public for about $10 to $18 per person, depending on age, etc.
A couple of hours at the USS Iowa would be a great addition to a tour of the Queen Mary in nearby Long Beach Harbor; you could easily do both of these in a day, with some time to check out the two ports.
The SoCal Guru can help you know all about Orange County beach camping. O.C. has many of the nicest Southern California beaches and some of the best beach campsites. Come take a look!
It is summertime and things are hopping at Southern California theme parks. Most of the seven major parks haveadded new attractions and/or special summer events and programs. The biggest news is the completion of major work on Disney's California Adventure, but the other parks have also been busy.
Attendance appears to be holding up well, but several are still offering discounts, often in cooperation with other businesses like fast food restaurants.
One example the potential savings is Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia. You may qualify to save $25 if you buy online three days prior to your visit (www.sixflags.com/tacobell) OR use a coupon available at Los-Angeles/Orange County area Taco Bell restaurants to save $20 if you buy on the day of your visit.
Six Flags also offers smaller, but substantial, discounts to their Hurricane Harbor water park (it does get hot up in Valencia so consider adding this to your schedule). I suggest you Google for discounts to other area parks; you might save a bunch.
The Walt Disney Company has just invested $1 billion to upgrade the Disney's California Adventure park. We think it will be a great improvement. See what you think; the SoCal Guru has details!
Let SoCal locals help you plan your best Disneyland vacation. Learn what to do and what not to do at the Disneyland Resort.
What can the locals tell you about the Universal Studios Theme Park in Hollywood? The SoCal Guru offers useful tips and guidance to ehance your visit.
Compare California vacations and Hawaii vacations based on weather, beaches and attractions: make a better choice about your vacation. The SoCal Guru will help you understand the differences!
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios rank up there with the Knott's Scary Farm Halloween Haunt. Why not visit both? The SoCal Guru has details here!
Halloween has always been a very serious time at SoCal theme parks, led by the Halloween Haunt at Knott's "Scary" Farm. In fact they opened the asylum on September 23 and have added new ways to be scared silly.
But other theme parks are not to be outdone. The runner-up in Halloween spookiness is Universal Studios Hollywood, with their Halloween Horror nights. And let's face it, Universal Studios knows how to deliver horror, terror, paranoia and other such Halloweenish emotions. So check them out as well.
Legoland has Brick or Treat, a more kid-oriented affair, as do Disneyland and SeaWorld. But the scariest "festivities" are at Knott's and Universal Studios Hollywood. They sell out on some nights, so get advance tickets now.
If you are thinking about moving to Southern California that is a big step. The SoCal Vacation Guru can put you in touch with a trustworthy Real Estate Professional.
The Southern California Melting Pot makes for wonderful vacation opportunities. The Guru will tell you about Chinatown, Little Saigon, Little Tokyo and other fascinating ethnic neighborhoods!
The U.S. Open of surfing is probably the biggest event on the surfing calendar, running a full week of men's and women's events. And it starts this coming weekend (July 31 through August7) at the Huntington Beach pier.
It's actually a major cultural event as well as the premier surfing competition; basically they set up for a 14-acre party on the sand and it spills over into the commercial district around the pier.
So if you really want to venture into the heart of the surfing world, figure out how to get to Huntington Beach next week.
If you don't want to deal with thousands of people in one place, plan to stay away from Huntington Beach between July 31 and August 7. It will be a zoo.
For those planning to attend, you might check out the O.C. Transit Authority website (http://www.octa.net/) for bus routes; consider leaving your car a couple of miles away from the pier or at a shopping mall and taking the bus.
The I-405 freeway provides an alternative to traveling up I-5 through Los Angeles and Orange Counties. However, in some areas it is about as busy a freeway as they make, with 218,000 cars per day traveling between the 101 Freeway up in Hollywood and the I-10 freeway in Santa Monica.
So guess what stretch of freeway they plan to close down for an entire weekend? This same stretch! It will be closed from around 10 pm Friday the 15th of July through 6 am on Monday the 18th.
This kind of closure, for such an extended period, is kinda unthinkable, but is necessary for CALTRANS contractors to demolish the bridge at Mulholland Drive. The anticipated chaos has been affectionately dubbed "Carmageddon."
If your vacation brings you to Los Angeles this weekend, please visit the link below to learn more about the effects of the closure on your planned activities. If you have reservations to the Getty Museum, the freeway you'd normally take will be closed. Other venues, such as the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) that lie along the alternate bypass routes, will also provide motorists with a particularly challenging trip, so take some time to figure how to get there by surface streets. In fact, travel up to Hollywood and into the San Fernando Valley from Los Angeles will be interesting as well.
If you're not going to Los Angeles this weekend, you can feel somewhat superior to the poor saps who must live with this cataclysmic event. Now, if you're coming to Orange County or San Diego, not to worry. In fact, much of Los Angeles will probably be fine, but stay away from the West Side if you can.
The San Diego Zoo should be on your short list of destinations if you're headed in that direction for your vacation. It is really a great world-class facility. And now they've added some unique entertainment in the evening--and we don't mean cleaning up after the animals.
In honor of the new Panda Trek exhibit that recently opened, they're calling it the China Celebration (BTW, they say pandas "use the bathroom" like 48 times per day). Along with some non-Chinese oldies live music, they offer quite an array of shows and demonstrations for folks of all ages. The major full-length show is called "Tales of the Mandarin Forest," but there are numerous other presentations.
Other activities include acrobatic performers, traditional dancing, martial arts demonstrations, trampoline acts and a bunch of other cool options. The Nighttime Zoo ends each evening with a grand finale from 8 to 8:30 and is now running through Labor Day.
What the Locals know, where the Locals go! Let the SoCal Guru enlighten you in the planning of your Southern California vacation travel. Local insight on beaches, attractions, etc.!
Yes, folks, freeways are a big part of life in California, and especially here in So Cal. You may be a long-time local, or a vacation visitor, but why not learn a bit of trivia about the method behind the madness of the SoCal freeways? The source of these occasional tidbits is the California Department of Transportation website, so I have reason to believe there is truth in what you're hearing from the Guru.
First, class, we're going to talk about the "Sig-Alert." It does not take long to figure out that a Sig-Alert means freeway trouble--a major traffic tie-up of some dire nature. But from whence does the name come? In fact it all started in the 1940s when the LA Police Department got in the habit of alerting a local radio reporter Loyd Sigmon of bad car wrecks on city streets.
The name Sig-Alerts came into being as Loyd's involvement continued over the years. In fact, he developed an electronic gadget that officials could use to alert the media of freeway trouble; remember this was way before cell phones, twitter, etc.
Nowadays CALTRANS uses the term for an incident that is estimated to tie up two or more lanes of a freeway for two or more hours.
I'll pass on another tidbit shortly. In the meantime, there's more about the Southern California freeways at the links shown here.
This last weekend sadly brought the loss of two famous Disneyland "cast members," Wally Boag and Betty Taylor. Wally played Pecos Bill and Betty was Slue Foot Sue in the beloved Golden Horseshoe Revue from the old days at the Magic Kingdom.
Wally came from vaudeville and created his role after being hired by Walt Disney in 1955. Betty came along a year later; each appeared in over 40,000 performances of the daily melodrama that brought hisses and cheers from millions of guests over the years.
Actor, musician and comedian Steve Martin credits Wally as being his primary mentor back when he worked at Disneyland with Boag. Wally was also heavily involved in the creation of the Enchanted Tiki Room.
The SoCal Guru lived down the street from Pecos Bill in north Orange County for some years, once having the honor of helping Wally drag his heavy suitcase of props and costumes to John Wayne Airport for his trip to London to guest star in the Muppet show.
The original Golden Horseshoe Revue ended in the 1980s, which is around when Wally and Betty retired from the Park. If you visit Disneyland over the next few weeks, keep an eye out for tributes to these old timers.
If you are looking for fine, original art look no further. Here are samples from Southern California artist Peter Mooney.
Here are videos by the SoCal Vacation Guru to help you with your Southern California vacation planning. We begin with Understanding Disneyland Resort; how to park and get inside the easy way.
Of course we'll immediately add a disclaimer:
Los Angeles is a big place and, even with thousands of famous and semi-famous folks living and working here, the odds are not really high that you'll cross paths on your vacation.
But if you want to increase your odds, you've got to spend some time where they spend time. Here are a few ideas; for fun you could spend a part of a day checking out a couple of these joints:
The SoCal Vacation Guru would like to thank these guys for making this possible. Here is more information about the SoCal Guru.
Both Jeff Foxworthy and the SoCal Vacation Guru depend on Steve Bjorkman to bring colorful life to their work.
The problem with San Diego vacations is that you could spend 3 weeks here and still be busy with new activities. The SoCal Guru has information and advice to help you plan your best trip!
How does a visit to Legoland fit into your Southern California vacation? Here are strategies to plan the best trip.
There's a lot going on in Southern California on any given day. Besides the beaches and theme parks, there are all kinds of interesting events and destinations for a variety of interests. Here are a few details on two cool opportunities.
First is the San Diego Model Railroad Museum in Balboa Park (not far from downtown and easily reached by public transit). Imagine over a half-acre of layouts, depictions of landmark depots and recreations of famous sections of track. Want to see a scale layout of the Tehachapi Pass? How about an interactive toy train gallery? If you're a train buff this might be worth part of a day in San Diego. Find more info at www.sdmodelrailroadm.com or call 619/696-0199. This museum is open on a pretty regular schedule (confirm before you go) and is celebrating its 30th year.
Not going to San Diego? How about the 26th annual Toshiba Tall Ships Festival planned for September 10-12 at Dana Point Harbor in Orange County? Check out the link below to get the schedule; you can take in the sight of a fleet of tall ships sailing into the harbor.
Spend a few bucks and you can experience a cannon battle or ride escort to one of the parades. There will be at least 6 of these majestic vessels over the 3-day event. Free parking and shuttle service will be available. This will appeal to kids from 3 to 103.
I got to thinking about the weather, as we're finally starting to see some serious summer climate here in Southern California. It's been beautiful, but very mild so far this summer. That's excellent if you are visiting theme parks; 82 degrees is better for the kids than 95 degrees. But beach trips are better when it's hot inland because the beach communities are always cooler. To get 78 degrees at Newport Beach it may be 89 degrees in Anaheim.
So this got me thinking about comparisons between the weather in Southern California and our westerly neighbor, Hawaii. I love the Aloha state, but if you've been to Hawaii in the summer months it can be very hot-- very sticky and humid. Too hot and too humid to enjoy yourself outdoors for very long. Sometimes it does not even cool down much at night. The Hawaiian sun is nice if you are right next to a pool or the ocean, but you'll begin to wilt if you're doing any walking, sightseeing or hiking in the sun.
On the other hand, a midsummer day in a Southern California beach community is heaven on earth in terms of climate. Relatively speaking, the humidity is way less, the sun angle is less intense and you could spend hours enjoying the day even if you are not in the water.
Save your Hawaii trip for winter or spring. This is the time of year to be in Southern California, no doubt about it.
There are a few hotels near Universal Studios, with many others easily reached by automobile, or by the Los Angeles MTA subway system. Here are some details.
There are several convenient Magic Mountain hotels. Should you stay near Six Flags Magic Mountain or elsewhere in Sourhern California? The Guru has some ideas for you.
Ask the SoCal Guru which hotels near Disneyland are your best bet. Should you stay within the resort or at a nearby Good Neighbor hotel?
The SoCal Vacation Guru offers the best deals on southern California hotels, and you don't pay until you stay
There are many John Wayne Airport hotels easily reached from the Airport. The SoCal Vacation Guru has the inside scoop to make it simple for you.
There are a multitude of great reasons for spending vacation time in Los Angeles--the beaches, Hollywood, theme parks, restaurants, shopping, etc. Nature hiking is usually not at the top of the list, but you'd be surprised at some of the opportunities available to serious pedestrians.
Along with the likes of Griffith Park, other destinations for hikers include the Westside Beach communities of Santa Monica, Hermosa Beach, Pacific Palasades, Malibu and Playa del Rey. With some planning you could literally spend days hiking among the Ballona Wetlands, the Santa Monica mountains, the Venice canals, Marina del Rey and a couple million Angelenos going about their daily routines.
One such intrepid soul is Jamie Stringfellow, who has a website (check the link) with additional details on her 4-day, 38-mile trek through the Los Angeles coastal areas. You can spend the day walking (concrete/asphalt) and hiking (dirt, sand) whilst eating at beachfront restaurants and sleeping in virtually any type of hotel. What a combination of nature and civilization!
Of course you can choose to do only a portion of what Stringfellow hiked, to suit your interests, schedule and physical condition.
Well folks, it's summertime and Southern California is hoppin'. Two Orange County landmarks are celebrating special birthdays this year.
Disneyland opened in July of 1955, and has been evolving and growing ever since. This year the park celebrates its 55th birthday, with a bunch of special events and shows. Of course D-land always finds an excuse to have big summertime events and shows, but it is kind of cool that it's been around for 55 years. Think of how the world has changed since popular celebrities like Ronald Reagan and Art Linkletter helped open the park in 1955.
Of course, the Orange County Fair was 65 years old when Disneyland opened its doors. Located on 150 acres adjacent to the city of Costa Mesa, the Fair is now open until August 15 and is celebrating its 120th birthday! You need to hit the link I've provided below to get the full scoop on the Fair, a tradition for many thousands of families throughout Southern California.
I will tell you that they have Weird Al Yankovic's brain at the Fair (it's OK, it's educational), along with deep fried Oreo cookies and a new music venue called The Hangar. Plan on a good chunk of a day (or a full day if you're a fair nut) at the Orange County Fairgrounds.
This headline may be a slight exaggeration, but there is no doubt that Laguna Beach becomes a true art haven in the summer months. Even if you have only a passing interest in art (whether it be fine art or crafts), consider spending a portion of a day at one or more of the four major art happenings in this beach community.
The most prestigious event is the Pageant of the Masters, an international favorite for something like 77 years now. It is an amazing presentation of famous artworks, brought to life on the stage in 3-D by real actors made up to duplicate the originals. The theme is "Eat, Drink and Be Merry." Check out www.pageanttickets.com for more information.
In addition to the Pageant of the Masters are three hugely popular festivals that target different interests and types of artistic creation. The Festival of Arts is a juried show displaying works from over 140 artists from the beach area. (foapom.com)
Another option is the Art-A-Fair, a gathering of another 120 national and international artists as well as local artists. Look up www.art-a-fair.com for information on location, times, costs, etc.
Finally is the Sawdust Festival, a slightly more casual environment of at, crafts, music, food and workshops just down the road from the other nearby festivals. (www.sawdustartfestival.org)
The city of Laguna Beach offers a great trolley service and a couple of decent pay lots. You can park and visit the festivals as well as the beach in one fulfilling afternoon and evening. There are also many galleries and shops in downtown Laguna Beach, also reached by the Trolley.
We've written elsewhere about how just before summer can be a great time to visit Southern California. The weather is usually cooler than in the heart of summer, but we are past the rainy season. A few colleges are finishing up classes, but elementary schools and high schools still have a couple more weeks before they release the hordes for summer vacation. That means the lines will be shorter--for awhile longer (and excluding the upcoming Memorial Day weekend).
Another advantage is that we're seeing a number of parks offer sweet deals on admission. Sea World, Knott's Berry Farm, Universal Studios Hollywood, Legoland and Six Flags Magic Mountain seem to be dealing to varying degrees. You might even find a better pre-season deal at Disneyland, or at least on a package that includes lodging and park admission.
Sometimes the deals relate to an annual admission for the price of a day; if you're coming from New Zealand that might not work for you. But it is still worth checking out the discounts if you can come over the next couple of weeks. Visit the websites or do a search on your favorite search engine. SoCal is ready for you.
Taking the train to SoCal can be a wonderful way to turn mundane transportation into a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Even if you fly home afterwards, spending a couple of days to see our great country from the big windows of an AMTRAK train is something not to be missed.
In an effort to make your trip even more meaningful (and to increase sales no doubt) AMTRAK has teamed up with the National Park Service and a department of Texas A & M University to bring you a downloadable travel podcast.
Specifically, if you ride the Sunset Limited route from New Orleans to Los Angeles, you can download a podcast that presents 100 three-minute audio presentations about destinations along that route. That will make the trip much more interesting and will add some variety for children.
According to the Orange County Register, the podcast includes information about Creole cultures in Louisianna, information about the oil business and other features of Texas, the influence of Mexican heritage on New Mexico and other southwestern states, interesting historical information about Arizona and California, and many other topics. The AMTRAK site will provide more specifics; if successful we'd expect this treatment of other routes in the future.