Category Archives: Featured

California Welcomes 2018 with Major Openings and Special Milestones

California will welcome visitors with an abundance of new experiences and special events throughout 2018, with major hotel openings, new theme park attractions and milestone anniversary celebrations all on the horizon.

“California’s dream big spirit is reflected in the state’s continual growth and innovation — and 2018 will be no exception,” said Caroline Beteta, president & CEO of Visit California. “This year is the perfect time to plan an adventure in the Golden State.”

From the openings of beachfront resorts and a seaside roller coaster, to anniversaries celebrating sparkling cider, wine, baseball, art and more, the new year brings new reasons to travel to the Golden State. Read below for more details on what’s to come.

And for the most up-to-date news, plus fresh trip ideas and destination tips throughout the year, check out Visit California’s new blog, ‘California Now’ at visitcalifornia.com/now.

Major Openings

DreamWorks Theatre and Hello Kitty Debut at Universal Studios Hollywood in 2018
Universal Studios Hollywood introduces an all-new attraction in 2018, DreamWorks Theatre. The newly designed venue will play host to a variety of action-packed DreamWorks Animation themed attractions beginning with the multi-sensory adventure inspired by the global blockbuster franchise Kung Fu Panda. Hello Kitty, the beloved global pop icon created by the Japanese company Sanrio, also joins Universal Studios Hollywood in 2018.

Exciting New Adventures at SeaWorld
Slithering in just in time for summer 2018, Electric Eel, the tallest and fastest roller coaster in SeaWorld San Diego’s history, will accelerate to more than 60 mph in seconds and rocket skyward 150 feet, with an upside-down view of Mission Bay! Also new for 2018, SeaWorld will be the only place in California where guests can see a new neighborhood street party parade featuring everyone’s favorite Sesame Street friends in May and June.

First Autograph Collection Hotel Comes to Los Angeles
Debuting as the first Autograph Collection hotel in Los Angeles in January 2018, the 26-acre westdrift Manhattan Beach will offer 392 luxury guest rooms, 112 of which will feature private balconies with views of the golf course. The property includes a nine-hole executive golf course, a signature indoor/outdoor restaurant featuring a 360-degree bar, a CrossFit-inspired fitness center, and more than 35,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor meetings and event space.

Lido House Opening in Newport Beach
Just steps away from Lido Marina Village, Lido House will debut as an Autograph Collection hotel in Newport Beach in early 2018. The hotel will feature five custom three-story cottages, each designed by a local designer. The property will feature The Mayor’s Table, along with Topside, the only rooftop bar in Newport Beach. Other highlights include a saltwater pool with private cabanas, a luxury fitness center and Boost Spa.

Marriott Irvine Spectrum Debuts in Time for 2018
Opening December 2017, Marriott Irvine Spectrum will be the only full-service hotel in the Irvine Spectrum area. The property features 271 guest rooms including 50 Premier suites, a full-service restaurant, a 3,500-square-foot rooftop bar, and more than 13,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor meeting and event space. Located within walking distance of Irvine Spectrum Center, the retreat will be a sophisticated urban oasis and the new centerpiece of the Irvine skyline.

Monterey Conference Center Reopens
Monterey County will be celebrating an exciting new year with the grand reopening of the newly renovated $60 million Monterey Conference Center in January 2018. The Conference Center, located in the heart of historic downtown City of Monterey, will be a modern, LEED-certified meeting facility with more than 40,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and a capacity of 3,200 people. The facility is adjacent to the newly renovated Portola Hotel & Spa and connected to the Monterey Marriott.

Pasadena to Enhance Guest Experiences in 2018 with Multi-Million Dollar Hotel Renovations
Pasadena rings in 2018 with multi-million dollar renovations, more guest rooms, larger meeting spaces and new hotels. Among the changes in store are a $20 million renovation of guest rooms, lobby and meeting spaces at Sheraton Pasadena; a $25 million renovation of guest rooms, lobby, bar and meeting spaces at Hilton Pasadena; and a recently completed $11 million guest room beautification at Westin Pasadena; construction of a rooftop pool, meeting space, fitness center and 30 new rooms at DusitD2 Hotel Constance Pasadena; and a new 186-room upscale Hyatt Place hotel in Pasadena’s most popular retail and entertainment center, The Paseo, scheduled for completion by the end of 2018.

Rosewood Miramar Beach Montecito will Open in Summer 2018
Santa Barbara’s highly anticipated beachfront resort, Rosewood Miramar Beach Montecito, will open in summer 2018. Spread over nearly 16 acres, the resort will offer 124 guestrooms and 37 suites, many of which will be located in single-story cottages and bungalows. Amenities will include an oceanfront bar and restaurant, two swimming pools, a Sense® spa, a state-of-the-art fitness center, and one of the most beautiful and secluded beaches in Santa Barbara

Rugby World Sevens in San Francisco
In July 2018, AT&T Park will host Rugby World Sevens. More than 40 teams from six continents will descend upon San Francisco to play in the biggest rugby event to ever on U.S. soil.

Milestone Anniversaries

Cannery Row Commemorates 60 Years
In 2018, Cannery Row in Monterey will celebrate 60 years since its revitalization. Formerly a canning district, the “Sardine Capital of the World” was all-but-abandoned when the sardines disappeared. In 1958, the City of Monterey officially changed the name to “Cannery Row” in honor of John Steinbeck’s 1945 novel of the same name and the rebirth and transformation began. Today, Cannery Row welcomes approximately four million visitors each year to experience its luxurious waterfront hotels, enticing restaurants and captivating boutiques.

Historic Truckee Monument Celebrates 100 Years
Standing 22 feet tall to represent how high the snow was in 1846-1847, the iconic Donner Pioneer Monument will celebrate 100 years in 2018. This designated California Historic Landmark honors pioneer families who crossed the Sierra Nevada in search for a better life and is within walking distance of Donner Lake and the new state-of-the-art Donner State Park Museum and Visitor Center.

Martinelli & Company Celebrates 150 Years
2018 marks S. Martinelli & Company’s 150th anniversary. Founded in 1868 and still family-owned and operated, this well-known juice producer is headquartered in agricultural-rich Watsonville in Santa Cruz County. Visitors can sample Martinelli’s juices, sparkling ciders, mulling spices and limited-edition products in a family-friendly tasting room, while learning about its history. Once producing champagne cider using apples from California’s first commercial orchards, Martinelli’s shifted production once Prohibition was enacted.

City of Watsonville 150th Anniversary
The City of Watsonville is also celebrating 150 years in 2018 and will host a Birthday Celebration on March 30, 2018. Visit www.watsonville150.org for a complete list of other events throughout the year celebrating south Santa Cruz county’s rich history and cultures.

Laguna Art Museum Celebrates 100 Years
Unlike any other museum in the state, Laguna Art Museum collects only California art. The museum traces its origins to the Laguna Beach Art Association, formed in 1918 with artist Edgar Payne as president. In 1929, headed by Laguna Beach painter Anna Hills, the LBAA opened a grand, custom-built gallery which survives within the present museum building. The museum offers art education, presenting programs in music, dance, and film as well as the visual arts. To celebrate this legacy, in 2018 the museum will host a year-long series of exhibitions, special events, programs, and celebrations.

Oakland A’s Celebrate 50 Years in 2018
The Oakland Athletics will celebrate their 50th anniversary in Oakland with a season-long celebration in 2018, including appearances by A’s alumni, special promotions, events and giveaways. On April 17, 2018 – exactly 50 years after the A’s inaugural game at the Coliseum – the anniversary celebration continues with a 7:05 p.m. game against the Chicago White Sox that is free for all fans.

Temecula Valley Wine Country Celebrates 50 years
Temecula Valley Wine Country celebrates their 50th anniversary in 2018, recognizing the people, passion and perseverance that has made this Southern California destination a globally recognized and respected wine region. There will be special promotions and events all year long. Everyone is invited to come celebrate their 50th and receive a special souvenir. #cheersto50years

ABOUT VISIT CALIFORNIA:
Visit California is a nonprofit organization with a mission to develop and maintain marketing programs – in partnership with the state’s travel industry – that keep California top-of-mind as a premier travel destination. According to Visit California, spending by travelers totaled $126.3 billion in 2016 in California, generating 1.1 million jobs in the state and $10.3 billion in state and local tax revenues. For more information about Visit California and for a free California Official State Visitor’s Guide, go to http://www.visitcalifornia.com/.


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Countdown to Hollywood’s Biggest New Year’s Party

Universal Studios Hollywood rings in 2018 with Hollywood’s biggest New Year’s Eve celebration, EVE, on Sunday, December 31, 2017, with extended theme park hours to 1:00 a.m.

The New Year’s Eve event, the first ever for Universal Studios Hollywood, is included in the price of theme park admission and invites guests to spend the day and night enjoying its many popular rides and attractions with a special park-wide countdown party featuring multiple entertainment hubs with DJs and live music, starting at 9:00 p.m.

Universal Plaza, Simpsons Plaza located adjacent to “The Simpsons Ride” and an area near “Jurassic Park—The Ride” will transform into three uniquely-themed electrifying party hubs that will culminate simultaneously at midnight with a traditional New Year countdown and a spectacular fireworks display.


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Food and beverages, including specialty desserts, champagne, beer and wine, as well as 2018 memorabilia will be available for purchase.

With its festive environment, guests can toast the New Year with the spirit of the holidays already resonating throughout Universal Studios Hollywood. “Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry PotterTM” introduces “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts TM Castle.” Several times each night, guests can enjoy amazing images inspires by the Harry Potter films as they come to life in breathtaking digital light projection on the backdrop of Hogwarts castle. And with extended hours on December 31, guests can celebrate the final day of “Grinchmas™” with The Grinch, his faithful dog Max and a roster of Who-ville Whos.

More information is available at www.UniversalStudiosHollywood.com.


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Explore The Wild Side Of Winter In Monterey County

While much of the country slumbers beneath blankets of winter snow, sunny Monterey County is awake and alive with winter wildlife. Whether it’s the delicate, migratory monarchs, the gentle giants of the sea or abundant birdlife, the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau invites visitors to come and explore the incredible biodiversity of our coastal region.

WINTER MONARCH MECCA
Witness fluttering clouds of orange and black descend upon charming Pacific Grove, also known as Butterfly Town, U.S.A. California’s central coast is the only place in America where monarch butterflies migrate to in the winter. They begin arriving in October and stay through February, creating spectacular effects as they flit and float through the air and hang in clusters from eucalyptus, pine and cypress trees in Pacific Grove’s Monarch Grove Butterfly Sanctuary. Because monarch butterflies have a lifespan of less than one year, their migration remains a mystery. They arrive each year, never having been to this destination before. Visit in the early afternoon, the warmest time of day, to see these delightful creatures when they’re most active.

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Pixar Fest Opens at Disneyland Resort in April 2018

Pixar Fest, the biggest Pixar celebration ever to come to Disney Parks, brings guests together to celebrate friendship and beyond beginning April 13, 2018, at the Disneyland Resort.

During this limited time event, some of the beloved stories from Pixar Animation Studios will come to life in new ways at both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Parks, with characters and experiences from films such as Disney•Pixar’s “Toy Story,” “Monsters, Inc.,” “Finding Nemo” and “Up.” Guests will join the fun as they experience a new fireworks spectacular, the return of two favorite parades with fresh new Pixar surprises, new décor, atmosphere entertainment, creatively themed food and beverage and exclusive event merchandise.

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WinterFest At California’s Great America Opens November 24

The Bay Area’s newest and most immersive holiday tradition, WinterFest, opens at California’s Great America on Friday, November 24 and will entertain guests on select dates through December 30. During WinterFest, Great America will be magically transformed into a winter wonderland where guests can experience unique new features, as well as fan favorites such as skating in front of the iconic Carousel Columbia, admiring magnificent displays of lights and décor, viewing spectacular live holiday shows, experiencing 25 rides and attractions, seeing Santa’s workshop and Mrs. Claus’ kitchen, and enjoying scrumptious holiday fare at numerous dining locations.

This unmatched event will feature more than 7 million LED lights, creating such a vibrant experience that it will be visible from the International Space Station, more than 270 miles away. The winter scene will be dominated by one of the Bay Area’s tallest Christmas trees adorned with thousands of twinkling lights accompanied by giant toy soldiers greeting guests. The six-week WinterFest celebration will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, with daily operations December 19-23 and 26-30 from 5pm-10pm (November 26 and December 17 from 6:30pm-10:30pm)

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The Best Amusement Parks for Families in 2017

Family Vacation Critic, TripAdvisor’s family travel site, has just named the Best Amusement Parks for Families in 2017 – naming the best parks in the U.S., and sharing the year’s newest attractions and highlights for every age group.

“Amusement parks are one of the most quintessential summertime activities for families,” explains Lissa Poirot, editor-in-chief of Family Vacation Critic. “But for those traveling with family members of various ages – including kids-at-heart – finding a park that caters to thrill-seekers and the younger set isn’t always so easy. This list includes parks that successfully cater to both, and those that also have exciting new features for the 2017 season.”

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Oregon Designates Sherar’s Falls Scenic Bikeway in John Day River Territory

Oregon’s newest Scenic Bikeway traverses the strikingly scenic high desert canyon of north central Oregon, known as the River Canyon Country. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission formally approved the designation of the Sherar’s Falls Scenic Bikeway during its June 14 meeting in Salem, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) and Travel Oregon announced today.

This 33-mile loop winds along the Deschutes River en route to the Bikeway’s namesake, Sherar’s Falls, where the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs fish for salmon, as they have for thousands of years: from wooden scaffolds using traditional dipnets and setnets. Riders will follow a section of the White River and pass White River Falls State Park, one of Oregon’s secret hideaways, where a short walk leads to views of the river’s 90-foot plunge over a basalt shelf.

The small, vibrant town of Maupin, located on the banks of the Deschutes River, serves as the Bikeway’s start and finish. Maupin offers all the ideal pre- and post-ride amenities: a walkable downtown, friendly locals, restaurants, lodging and camping.

This ride is best enjoyed in spring and fall, and even on some winter days. In springtime, wildflowers dot the hillsides, including lupine’s purple sprays and arrowleaf balsamroot’s pops of yellow. Come winter, central Oregon can be a dry, temperate reprieve while the rest of the state shelters from rain and snow. Tucked in the protective rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains, the region boasts 300 days of sunshine and less than six inches of rain per year.

The Oregon Scenic Bikeway program is a superb collection of cycling routes designed to inspire people to experience Oregon’s natural beauty and cultural heritage by bicycle, bringing economic and social benefits to the communities and residents along the routes.

Local bicyclists propose new bikeways and the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission designates routes based on scenic quality, road conditions and general riding enjoyment. Only the best routes meet the selective criteria developed by the State Scenic Bikeway Committee.

Once designated, OPRD pays to install directional signs along the route. OPRD and Travel Oregon post information online at RideOregonRide.com/SherarsFalls for riders to plan their trip, including printable ride maps, elevation profiles, gps data, services and points of interest including, Travel Oregon’s Bike Friendly Businesses recognition program.

The Oregon Scenic Bikeways program is the first and only of its kind in the United States. Launched in 2005, the program is a partnership between Cycle Oregon, Travel Oregon, Oregon Department of Transportation and OPRD.


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5 Essential Tips for Memorial Day Weekend Road Warriors

Memorial Day is just around the corner, and that means the unofficial start to summer! As Americans prepare for long-weekend getaways, trips to the beach and family picnics, they’ll also be faced with what’s predicted to be one of the busiest Memorial Day Weekends on record. Relatively low gas prices means the roads will be extra crowded.

Here’s our top 5 essential tips to consider if you’re planning a Memorial Day weekend road trip…

Road Trip: The Best of California’s Highway 1

Find nearly 2,000 acres of vineyards in Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande wine regions located on the CA Highway 1 Discovery Route, along with old historic California townsites, outdoor adventure, and well, great wine! Edna and Arroyo Grande Valleys offer the perfect growing climate for delicate grapes like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – warm sunny days that turn into cool coastal nights. Weather that is also perfect for wine tasting adventures and outdoor play!

Edna Valley where cool ocean breezes and rich soil create ideal conditions for growing world-class grapes is an American Viticultural Area (AVA) located just a dozen miles from Arroyo Grande Valley in San Luis Obispo County. Surrounded by Tuscan-style countryside, guests can sample award-winning wines in more than 27 tasting rooms and attend annual wine tasting events like the Chardonnay Symposium and Harvest on the Coast.


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Take a tour of the historic Old Edna Townsite as part of the Highway 1 Discovery Route Stewardship Travel Program. Founded in the 1840s, Old Edna was once a bustling center for farming and ranching families and today is host to a wine tasting room and gourmet deli nestled within 100 year-old historic buildings. Get inspired for your visit by watching this video.

The Arroyo Grande Valley is the perfect climate to take long bike rides and enjoy wine tasting among rolling hills. Just a short distance away is the Village of Arroyo Grande full of shopping, great places to eat, and CA’s only swinging bridge.


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The Lopez Lake Recreation Area is minutes from the tasting rooms of this region and offers a watery playground with 22 miles of shoreline ideal for boating, fishing, sailing, hiking and mountain biking. This episode of On the Road with Jo highlights the region and will inspire you to visit the magnificent Arroyo Grande Valley.

Click HERE for information on all the must-see spots and must-do activities in Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande Valley and be sure to check the Arroyo Grande Valley Visitor Guide and Edna Valley Visitor Guide.


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It’s the Summer of Love – Redux! June 10 – 18 San Mateo County Fair

50 years ago, the “Summer of Love” hit the Bay Area. A half century later, San Mateo is still feeling groovy with one of the largest and most family-friendly events on the West Coast, The San Mateo County Fair (www.sanmateocountyfair.com). Over nine days of diverse entertainment, June 10 – 18, “Tradition Meets Innovation” in the uniquely California experience that matches the enthusiastic diversity of the region. Now through June 1, Pre-Sale Discounted All-Season-Passes are available online: $22 adult; $ 18 junior and senior. The purchase a season pass includes all nine days of the Fair and all concerts, exhibits and attractions.

“We were hip before there were hippies,” quipped Dana Stoehr, CEO of the San Mateo County Events Center and Fair, “Every year is the summer of love at the San Mateo County Fair and there’s something to love for everyone. Whether you’re looking for traditional food, fun and entertainment, or the hottest musical acts around, we’ve got a little something for everyone, and every generation.”

As always, the San Mateo County Fair delivers a rocking week of musical quality and diversity: War (June 10); Summer of Love – Live! (June 11); The Family Stone & the Oakland Symphony (June 12); Pink Floyd Laser Spectacular (June 13); Tower of Power (June 14 & 15); The Ohio Players (June 16); Smash Mouth (June 17); and, of course, the traditional closing-out-of-the Fair Latin Music focused Día De La Feria (June 18).

However, it’s not only celebrity musicians who will come out to shine at the San Mateo County Fair.


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“Have you ever dreamed of performing live on stage? This 2017 Fair could be your big break and a great way to get involved in your community,” notes Kaitlyn Bailey-Findley, whose efforts last year socializing the Fair led to a marked increase in attention from young fairgoers. “Join our community stage and become a local celebrity. All singers, musicians, dancers, or performing arts enthusiasts are encouraged to register online to participate. And once you’re onstage, use that hashtag to build your personal fan base: #SMCF2017.”

In addition to the previously mentioned Free Concerts, there will be plenty — traditional and innovative — about which to tweet, including but not limited to the following:

  • New this year is the Rainforest Exhibit in Sequoia Hall recreating a tropical paradise to walk through and at which to marvel. The Rainforest Adventure exhibit will feature mammals, reptiles, birds and invertebrates totaling more than 35 species including a spider monkey, sloth, binturong, forest hawk, pythons, huge tarantulas, and exotic frogs. Exhibit will also have two shows daily.
  • Returning favorites include Butterfly Adventures, where kids can feed butterflies, Captain Jack Spareribs, a fun filled pirate adventure, and of course, Dennis Forel at the Voice of the Fair.
    Fair Food – Alligator on a Stick, Fried Kool Aid, and The Healthy Food Fare – Our Healthy Food Fare initiative is back with healthy choices being provided by many Fair vendors. But don’t worry: your Fair favorites will still be available from barbeque to funnel cake.
  • Science, Technology, DIY Science Exhibits are back – Young people get hands on experience with innovative new concepts and devices such as 3-D printers. See how much fun a Do-It-Yourself environment can be for kids! In addition, livestock shows, painting, fine art, literary arts, cooking and healthy eating are just part of the fun.
  • Free Grounds Acts – Fairgoers will see traditional pony rides, costumed “Hippy and Summer of Love” characters strolling throughout the grounds, and much more. After a popular debut last year, hypnotist Kellie Karl-Hypnotist returns joined by Celebrity Chef David George Gordon, the Great American Petting Zoo and AgVenture, San Francisco street performers and The Great American Pig Race.
  • Carnival Rides including The Freak Out is Back! The Fair introduced this new carnival ride in 2014. It flies passengers 40 feet into the air. The Freak Out joins Fair favorites like the Ferris Wheel, Zillerator and roller coasters

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The San Mateo County Fair — “Where Tradition Meets Innovation” — is The Peninsula’s premier, community event for family fun and entertainment: June 10 – 18, 2017. Visit sanmateocountyfair.com often for regular updates, contest rules, schedules, promotions, and information.


On the road? Why not take us with you. Our websites are mobile-friendly! Visit our growing family of exit guides:  I-4 Exit GuideI-5 Exit GuideI-10 Exit GuideI-75 Exit Guide, and I-95 Exit Guide. Detailed exit service listings… discount lodging, camping, food, gas and more for every exit along the way!