The Vibe is Alive in Balboa Park | San Diego, California


Local San Diego resident Shannon Hogan Cohen has shared the news about a wonderful event happening in Balboa Park throughout the summer. As the nation’s largest urban cultural park, Balboa Park is home to 15 art, photography, and history museums as well as a unique array of lush gardens. But this summer, the local buzz is all about Food Truck Friday. From 4:30-8:30 pm every Friday through Labor Day, you can sample gastronomic choices from a caravan of food trucks in the Plaza de Panama. Locals and tourists alike will enjoy this lively event.


If you’re visiting from out of town and want to be close to the park, stay at the Kimpton Hotel Palomar. It’s located just minutes away from Balboa Park in the exciting Gaslamp Quarter, where you’ll find the city’s best restaurants, entertainment, and nightlife. Sip cocktails and take in the cityscape at the hotel’s rooftop pool and lounge, and relax after a day of sightseeing at their evening wine hour. No visit to San Diego is complete without a trip to the beach. The Everyday California package gives you the chance to get out on the water with a 90-minute guided kayak tour for two at La Jolla Shores.

This week’s guest blog comes from Shannon Hogan Cohen. She recently visited Balboa Park’s Food Truck Friday event with her two sons. Here, she talks about their experience at the event.

get_balboaAll ages were having fun at Food Truck Friday, a program put on by the Balboa Park Conservancy in partnership with the City of San Diego Park and Recreation. The variety of food trucks is aimed to please and tease, offering an assortment of sweet and savory snacks. The event has live entertainment and fun activities including Fringe Festival performers, the Fern Street Circus, a vintage photo booth trailer, stilt walkers, juggling, dance lessons, and even beanbag chairs and a giant chess set. Balboa Park Conservancy’s director of marketing Sue Varga and her team orchestrated this concept to promote the Park after Dark. As part of the event, ten museums extend their hours until 8pm.

When my boys were young, we visited Balboa Park together. I thought inviting my teenagers, now ages 16 and 17, to join me at Food Truck Friday would be a good way to spend time together and reminisce.

As we made our way toward the crowded scene, we noted the enthusiasm in the air. Lively music floated through the park. People indulged in their food finds as they strolled in and out of gardens and museums in the glow of a beautiful summer evening.


The boys and I treated the art and food around us as serious subjects. We enjoyed a sense of togetherness as we debated which museums to visit and which food trucks to try. A few of our family favorites were the signature bento box with a well-seasoned meatball from YoYo Bento and the BBQ brisket wedge fries from Super Q. These were devoured before I had a chance to sample them. We also loved the milk mustache cupcake, a moist milk-chocolate cake filled with Oreo frosting and topped off with a chocolate stache from Lil’ Miss Short Cakes. Other featured food trucks were Two for the Road, Currywurst Frankfurt, That’s What Cheese Said, Caribbean Escape, Caliano by Spinelli, American Flavors, Haad Sai Thai, Pomrosso Truck, and Beachin’ Boba. These food trucks carve out a niche with their unique, hybrid cuisines. Each is brightly decorated with graphics that mimic personal stories and culinary options.


As the sun set, we sat on the grass and admired the California Tower atop the Museum of Man and watched the crowd in this prominent San Diego cultural hub. Balboa Park’s Food Truck Friday delivers family fun and a new way to learn, laugh, and eat together. Sue and her team knew what they were doing when they decided to integrate a culinary experience with the arts. The evening was a nourishment of mind, body, and soul. Food and art – what a brilliant way to celebrate diversity and create a bond across generational gaps.

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Find Romance and Relaxation in Calistoga | Calistoga, California


It’s easy to get caught up in the stresses of everyday life. When life starts to get you down, it’s time to consider a relaxing getaway. What better place to get away from it all than Calistoga, California?

Located in Napa Valley, Calistoga offers visitors a quiet, relaxing environment perfect for a romantic getaway. Sandwiched between Lake Berryessa and Bodega Bay in the heart of wine country, Calistoga offers sweeping views and a tranquil atmosphere you won’t find anywhere else.


Solage Calistoga
With a handful of great hotels to choose from in Calistoga, it’s easy to find the perfect one for your getaway. Solage Calistoga tops the list of premier luxury resorts in the area. Everything about this Calistoga resort creates the peaceful environment you crave after a long week in the office.


Solage Calistoga’s rooms are decorated in a modern style with tasteful reminders that you are surrounded by wine country. Choose between a studio or suite, both of which offer large, private indoor spaces that give you ample room to spread out and feel right at home. Studio rooms feature a semi-private outdoor patio, while suites include a private patio and hot tub for two.


In addition to beautiful living spaces, the Solage Calistoga has the amenities you have come to expect from only the finest luxury resort in Calistoga. There is a state-of-the-art fitness center, two regulation size bocce ball courts, a pristine resort-style pool, and a spa offering a serene setting for the ultimate experience in relaxation. The resort offers guests two complimentary bikes per room for an easy, environmentally friendly way to get around.

If this sounds like the getaway for you, take advantage of Solage Calistoga’s Summer at Solage special. This package includes a resort credit, breakfast, beers and snacks served poolside during the day, and s’mores delivered to your room in the evening.


Wine Tasting at Sterling Vineyards
Voted the 2016 winner of the Best Napa Valley Experience in the Napa Valley Life Reader’s Poll, Sterling Vineyards is just outside of Calistoga. Visitors can take a gondola ride to the winery, which has panoramic views of Mount Saint Helena and the entire Napa Valley. Once you arrive at the top, enjoy a glass of wine while you admire the scenery. You’ll also be able to visit art galleries and see how Sterling makes their wine.


Calistoga Farmer’s Market
The Calistoga Farmer’s Market is the place to be on a Saturday morning. With delicious breakfasts, beautiful flowers, and a sampling of the finest local fruits and vegetables, the Calistoga Farmer’s Market has something for everybody. This quaint market is open Saturday mornings year-round and is a definite must-see.


Oat Hill Mine Trail
When you feel the need for adventure, explore the Oat Hill Mine Trail. This trail is easy to access and offers amazing views. The eight-mile route was established in the late 1800s as a stage coach road. Hikers and bikers can enjoy the gorgeous vegetation and volcanic formations nearby.


The Finest Cuisine
Calistoga offers many one-of-a-kind restaurants for visitors to enjoy, but none compare in taste or presentation to Solbar. This sophisticated restaurant offers an amazing wine list and delicious food made with seasonal ingredients from local farms. The menu offers light and healthy options as well as more hearty meals. We like the lemon-steamed Alaskan halibut, served with spring onion minestrone, fava beans, stinging nettle pesto, baby leeks, and piquillo pepper. Solbar also makes delicious craft cocktails – try the “Smoke on the Water,” made with Espolon Reposado tequila, lime, agave, smoked paprika, and sage.


Summer Fun | Seattle, Washington


In a city as vibrant as Seattle, something exciting is always happening. Visit the Emerald City during the Bite of Seattle food festival and taste your way through the city’s best cuisine. For a peaceful day trip, take a ferry to one of Seattle’s neighboring islands. Then return to the stunning Hotel 1000 for rest and relaxation in the heart of downtown Seattle.

seattle_2Hotel 1000

Downtown Seattle’s Hotel 1000 is sleekly designed in rich jewel tones with spacious rooms overlooking the Elliot Bay. The Spaahh offers relaxing treatments, and on-site restaurant BOKA serves up contemporary West Coast cuisine. Hotel 1000 offers their guests convenience and the latest technology. Car service is free within two miles of the hotel, all day long. They even have a virtual Golf Club, where you can play more than 50 famous courses from all over the world without leaving the hotel.

Enjoy a romantic culinary getaway with the Eat, Stay, Love package. You’ll receive upgraded luxury accommodations, a bottle of local red wine, 30% off a couple’s massage, and a personalized chocolate tasting at Intrigue Chocolate. Taste 5 chocolates with beverage pairings, and receive a collection to take home with you.


Bite of Seattle

Check out Bite of Seattle while you’re in town! From July 15-17, 2016, the Seattle Center will host over 60 restaurants and vendors, food trucks, a wine bar, craft beer and cider tasting, beer gardens, five entertainment stages, and more. Admission is free, food items are all $10 or under, and restaurants will be offering “Just A Bite” tastes for $3.75 or under. It’s an affordable way to sample the best food in Seattle. Try a Swedish shrimp sandwich on potato baguette from Tumble Swede Scandinavian, or beef dumplings from Dumpling Tzar. There will be chef demonstrations throughout the weekend and a free movie night under the stars on Friday, July 15th. 


Museum of Flight

The Museum of Flight is the biggest independent, non-profit museum of its kind in the world. It has more than 175 aircraft and spacecraft, as well as countless artifacts and pictures. Permanent exhibitions provide the history of both aviation and space exploration, so visitors can learn about everything from the fighter planes of World War I and II to the launch of Sputnik. Walk through seven galleries of aircraft and spacecraft. Our favorite is the Aviation Pavilion, a 3-acre outdoor area with 19 commercial and military airplanes from the 1930s to the present. Don’t miss Above and Beyond, a special exhibition running through September 10th. It explores the history and future of flight and features interactive simulations where visitors can fly jets and drones.


Terra Plata

Literally meaning “earth to plate,” Terra Plata creates seasonal dishes with ingredients from local, sustainable growers. Enjoy a sunny weekend brunch out on their rooftop patio. The brunch menu includes mouth-watering items like bread pudding French toast made with cherries, tarragon, citrus crème fraiche, and mint. Choose a drink from their extensive list of wines, craft cocktails, and local beer, cider, and spirits. We like the Seattle Raindrop, a refreshing mixture of vodka, ginger, grapefruit, cardamom, and cava.


Vashon Island Day Trip

Vashon Island, called the “Heart of the Sound,” is known for its friendly people and slower pace. Hop on a ferry and spend the day exploring the Island. The ferry ride lasts about 20 minutes, giving you a chance to take in the gorgeous scenery of Puget Sound. Once you’re there, stroll through art galleries and have lunch at Café Luna, a popular local café. Vashon is home to many independent wineries, distilleries, and breweries. Be sure to stop by Dragon’s Head Cider, where you can taste five ciders and bring home a souvenir glass for only $5. You can also check out the 107th Vashon Island Strawberry Festival, happening July 15-17, 2016. The event will feature parades, live music, local art, and of course strawberries.

Find Adventure in Seattle | Seattle, Washington


With a lively city center surrounded by breathtaking Pacific Northwest scenery, Seattle is the ideal place to enjoy an urban vacation and spend some time outdoors in nature. Stay at a historic and stylish hotel in downtown Seattle, take a few hikes through Green Lake Park and an ancient coal mining district, and experience the best coffee, spirits, and dining that the city has to offer.


Hotel Sorrento

The Italian-inspired Hotel Sorrento was built in the early 1900s. The first guests were prospectors and entrepreneurs, when Seattle was still a small city. Now, Hotel Sorrento blends its history with modern style to give guests the perfect Pacific Northwest experience. The hotel has been a gathering place for writers, dancers, singers, and musicians, and hosts lectures and performances by the city’s most talented artists. No two rooms are alike. Each one features vintage furniture, unique artwork, and retro-modern design. Best of all, Hotel Sorrento is only a few steps away from museums, boutiques, cafes, and nightclubs in downtown Seattle.

Experience the local sights and tastes with the Urban Distillery Tour package. You’ll be chauffeured in a Mercedes-Benz on a 2.5 hour tour of Seattle’s distilleries, with stops for vodka, gin, and whiskey tastings. Back at the hotel, you’ll enjoy a welcome amenity, deluxe accommodations, and breakfast for two in one of the Hotel Sorrento’s historic on-site restaurants.


Cafe Allegro

Though Starbucks may be Seattle’s most famous coffee shop, you can find a more authentic experience at Cafe Allegro. First opened in 1975, Cafe Allegro is Seattle’s oldest Espresso bar. Brick and dark wood give the cafe a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere, and their roastery is located right upstairs. Café Allegro imports quality coffee from family farms all over the world. Start your day off with a cup of the best Seattle-style coffee.


REI Seattle Flagship Store

The REI Seattle Flagship Store is a must-see for outdoor enthusiasts. Browse clothing and gear for virtually any outdoor activity. Visitors can rent equipment, a perfect option for adventurers who want to camp, backpack, or ski while they’re in town. Be sure to take advantage of their free classes, including Pacific Northwest Camping Basics, Bike Maintenance Basics, and Kayaking Basics. Check their calendar to see what you can catch while you’re in town. Rock climbers can take on the 65-foot Pinnacle. It’s a Seattle landmark that offers views of the city’s skyline and surrounding mountains at the top.


Spend Some Time Outdoors

Seattle has a number of excellent hikes with beautiful Pacific Northwest scenery. Get some exercise while seeing the city at Green Lake Park. It’s a 2.8 mile path around Green Lake in one of Seattle’s most popular neighborhoods. Locals and newcomers alike enjoy the native plants, trees, and birds around the lake. Green Lake Park offers two paths – a paved path for bikers and a crushed granite trail for runners and walkers. For something more outside the city, try the Coal Creek Trail in neighboring Bellevue. It’s a round-trip hike of 5.6 miles that will take you through a historic coal mining area. You’ll be able to see coal mine shafts and occasionally catch the scent of coal and cinders.


The Pink Door

End your day with a delicious Italian meal at The Pink Door, located right next to the famous Pike Place Market. Aptly named for the pink entrance that identifies it, The Pink Door manages to be both quaint and elegant. Indoors, they have entertainment that includes cabaret, trapeze artists, burlesque, music, and even tarot card readings. Outdoors, you’ll find a picturesque patio perfect for relaxing with a glass of wine. The menu is full of simple Italian classics and fresh fish. We recommend the spaghetti – theirs is enhanced with fresh artichokes, garlic, bread crumbs, and olive oil.