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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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AAA Holiday Travel Headache Hotspots

INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, in collaboration with the American Automobile Association (AAA), reports that based on historical and recent travel trends, they expect drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion before the holiday week – on Wednesday, December 20 and Thursday, December 21 – in the late afternoon as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. For example, drivers in New York City could see travel times peak at three times a normal trip between 3:30 and 5:30pm.

“With record-level travelers hitting the road this holiday, drivers must be prepared for delays in major metros,” says Dr. Graham Cookson, chief economist & head of research at INRIX. “Our advice to drivers is to avoid peak times altogether or consider alternative routes.”

Here are the worst days and times to travel…


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On The Road for Christmas? Here Where to Eat Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2017

Not all of us will be home for Christmas, or comfortably seated with friends and family for a Christmas feast… some of us will be on the road.

Travelers looking for a holiday meal can find it quite difficult. You’re tired and hungry so you jump of an exit only to find that every restaurant is closed.

An increasing number of chain restaurants are choosing to remain open during the holidays, or at least opening for limited hours to meet customer demand.

Here’s out list of chain restaurants open for business on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2017.

read more…


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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.


Book Now! Find Your Perfect Room Near Universal Studios!


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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Nearly 51 Million Americans Traveling This Thanksgiving, Highest in a Dozen Years

AAA projects 50.9 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving, a 3.3 percent increase over last year. The 2017 holiday weekend will see the highest Thanksgiving travel volume since 2005 with 1.6 million more people taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways compared with last year. AAA and INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, predict travel times in the most congested cities in the U.S. during the holiday week could be as much as three times longer than the optimal trip.

“Thanksgiving kicks off the start of a busy holiday season, and more thankful Americans will travel to spend time with friends and family this year,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president, Travel and Publishing. “A strong economy and labor market are generating rising incomes and higher consumer confidence, fueling a strong year for the travel industry, which will continue into the holiday season.”

read more…


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Best, Worst Times to Travel This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and this year traffic may prove to be a record breaker.

Traveling I-5 can be a real pain with heavy traffic and plenty of short tempers. Here are a few tips to help make your Thanksgiving holiday voyage less stressful:

Getting There:

  • The absolute worst time to get on the road is the day before Thanksgiving (Wednesday, November 22) and if you leave in mid-afternoon (3:00 p.m.) you definitely won’t be a happy camper once you get there.
  • If you have no choice but to leave on Wednesday, make it as early as possible. Start you trip no later than 6:00 a.m. to avoid traffic delays.
  • The Sunday before Thanksgiving (November 19) is the best day to leave for your Thanksgiving road trip, the earlier, the better.
  • Thanksgiving morning is also a good time to leave, the earlier , the better.

Returning Home:

  • The day after Thanksgiving (Friday, November 24) before 6:00 a.m. is the best day and time to return from your Thanksgiving trip.
  • Saturday and Sunday (November 25 and 26) late afternoon are the worst days and times to return from your Thanksgiving road trip. Avoid being on the road between 11:00 a.m and 6:00 p.m. Traffic will be heavy during those times.
  • If you have no choice but to leave on Saturday, try leaving as early as possible (before 6 a.m.) to avoid traffic delays.

Depending on where you’re heading, and how long the trip will be, you might be able to schedule the time when you are on the road to at avoid the worst of it.

Adjust your schedule or route and consider these options:

  • Take a bypass route around large cities
  • Tune to a radio station and monitor the traffic reports
  • If you have mobile access, Use live-traffic-reports.com to monitor traffic
  • Stop at a rest area if headed into heavy traffic and wait until the worst of it has subsided
  • Avoid shopping districts (Black Friday is usually gridlocked around major shopping areas)

Drive responsibly and have a safe trip!


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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)

read more…


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California’s Great America To Host Fireworks July 1-4

California’s Great America will celebrate the July 4th holiday weekend with fireworks set to patriotic music each night from July 1-4. Additionally, current and past military men and women will be honored with free park admission (with valid ID) July 1-4 and can bring up to 6 guests for just $22.99 each.

“Great America is historically one of the Bay Area’s best locations for July 4th fireworks, and we’re excited to deliver them each night for the extended weekend,” said California’s Great America Vice President and General Manager Raul Rehnborg. “We’re proud to again provide free admission for all U.S. military members who have served our county and hope they can enjoy a visit to the park during the July 4th weekend.”


Book Now! Find Your Perfect Room Near Great America!


On July 4th, Coca-Cola will create an in-park destination near Food Festival with tasting samples of Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and Coke Zero, a giant interactive inflatable, a photo booth and a prize wheel.

Great America’s summer season is underway with 10am-10pm operating hours, the new Patriot coaster experience, and family rides, Boomerang Bay water park and an exciting show lineup, including Vertical Impact, a high-flying acrobatics stunt show.


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AAA: This Independence Day will be Historic, More Americans to Travel than Ever Before

This Independence Day, a record-breaking 44.2 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home, taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways to honor the red, white and blue. With 1.25 million more travelers than last year, 2017 will be marked as the most traveled Independence Day holiday weekend ever.

“Combined, strong employment, rising incomes and higher consumer confidence bode well for the travel industry, in particular this Independence Day weekend,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president, Travel and Publishing. “A historic 44.2 million Americans will travel to celebrate our nation’s freedom this year, adding to an already bustling summer travel season.”

read more…


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