Take It Slow in Glen Ellen, Sonoma

Posted November 11, 2010 by Kate Hamman

Sonoma Just north of San Francisco, leave your hectic workaday pace behind as you encounter farms with grazing cattle, meadows of wildflowers, and especially rows of grapevines. This is Glen Ellen, Sonoma, where Jack London found his inspiration and agriculturists work the soil to produce top-notch wines, vegetables, and even flowers. Taste the fruits of their labor with a glass of Cabernet and a gourmet meal while you unwind and let the chaos slip away.

Glen Ellen Inn: Looking for a place to hide from the outside world? Look no further than the secret cottages of Glen Ellen Inn. With creekside views, fireplaces, Jacuzzi tubs, and a lack of in-room phones, these private, free-standing bungalows are just the place to lay low. Because of the inn's location close to downtown Glen Ellen and many of the area's vineyards, you can still get in a day of wine-tasting and shopping without having to travel too far. If you decide you never want to leave your little hideaway, the on-site Glen Ellen Inn Oyster Grill & Martini Bar brings the local scene inside with California-fusion inspired dishes paired with regional wines. Prices start at $149 for weeknights and $239 for weekends during high season.

Valley of the Moon Winery: If you want a different type of escape, take a walk in the Valley of the Moon, where the wines are heavenly. Operating since 1863, this winery is the oldest in Glen Ellen, and pairs contemporary wine making with time-honored traditions. Free tours of the expansive grounds run twice daily, taking you through historical stone buildings, ancient trees, and fertile land. Complimentary tastings are offered between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m, and you'll find classic Sonoma-style reds and whites, as well as a smooth vintage port.

Oak Hill Farm of Sonoma: Though it sells much of its bounty to local restaurateurs and markets, including San Francisco's famous Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, Oak Hill Farm welcomes visitors to eat off the fat of the land, too. With the Mayacamas Mountains as a backdrop and set among 700 acres of protected wildlands, the Red Barn Store, a 100-year-old dairy barn, sells vegetables, fruits, and herbs, as well as flowers and wreaths produced on its 45-acre organic farm. Prices reflect the quality of the produce, but it doesn't cost a thing to inhale a more agrarian-side of life.

Use our price-comparison tool to search for flights and compare prices to Oakland, San Francisco, and Sacramento, which are home to Glen Ellen’s nearest major airports.

(Photo: Oak Hill Farm of Sonoma)

Explore the Sea on a Few Clams in Monterey Bay

Posted September 13, 2010 by Kate Hamman

Monterey Bay Monterey Bay captures the essence of the sea. Here, you can get up close and personal with marine life without getting wet, dine on seafood at a wharfside restaurant, and stay at a hotel just steps from the beach. Plus, this ocean escape won't cost you a whole lot of clams.

Monterey Bay Aquarium: The "Splash Zone" exhibit features several old sea friends, such as the blackfooted penguins, cuttlefish, and seahorses. Explore the Kelp Forest, where you can walk under a kelp canopy and search for creatures or fishes living within. You'll also still get to see some of the older exhibits, which include giant octopuses, sea otters, and jellyfish. Tickets cost $29.95 per adult, and $17.95 per child.

Abalonetti Seafood Trattoria: With nearly a dozen different types of calamari dishes, Abalonetti is the place to go for squid. But, there's much more to this wharfside restaurant than just tentacles. Choose from a range of seafood dishes, or snack on items from the a la carte antipasto menu. You can also order pizza for the little ones if they don't like the looks of calamari. While you dine, you can enjoy sweeping views of the bay from the restaurant's location on Fisherman's Wharf. Dinner entrees start at $13.95.

Monterey Bay Lodge: About 150 steps from the beach in the heart of the peninsula, the Monterey Bay Lodge is ideal for a family getaway. It features 43 guestrooms, as well as two family suites that come equipped with twin bunk beds and a Nintendo 64. Relax by the heated outdoor pool while your kids frolic in the fountain. Rates are reasonable and the hotel also features several packages, including one that features a discount on two-day Aquarium passes.

To search for flights and compare prices to San Francisco, which is home to Monterey’s closest airport, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: Monterey Bay Aquarium/Randy Wilder)

Your Own Private Yellowstone

Posted March 25, 2010 by Jamie Moore

Yellowstone You could shuffle past the wonders of Yellowstone with the rest of the crowd, but then you'd end up with the same geyser story as everyone else. Instead, take a private tour, pick up an exclusive piece of "Yellowstone Collection" furniture, or get serenaded by a string quartet at sundown. You'll feel like an A-lister without spending like one.

Yellowstone Association Tours
: Thanks to Yellowstone Association naturalists, you can leave your field guide in the car. These local experts will take you and your family or friends on a private eight-hour jaunt through the park. See the geysers, mud pots, and hot springs, and find out why they do what they do. Or learn about the historic reintroduction of wolves in the park and, with any luck, see them. Daily group rates are $495 for up to five participants.

Old Hickory Furniture's Yellowstone Collection
: Go ahead and fall in love with the lamp, nightstand, mirror, or dining room chair at Yellowstone's Old Faithful Inn. Now you can take home a replica piece of this 1904 hotel and National Historic Landmark. Yellowstone gift shops have teamed up with Old Hickory Furniture Company (building pieces for the lodge since it opened) to sell a new "Yellowstone Collection" of furniture. Lamps go for $199, chairs for $475—a bargain when you consider sentimental value and the fact that the original dining room chairs are still in use today.

Lake Yellowstone Hotel & Cabins
: The apres-hiking scene at this historic lakeside hotel is something right out of The Great Gatsby. In the lobby, guests sip whites and reds as they watch the sinking sun and daydream to the sounds of a string quartet. The premium rooms restored to 1920s decor are a bit on the pricey side, but you can stay for less in the hotel's adjacent annex rooms ($145 per night) or in your own cabin ($130/night).

You can use our tool to compare airfares from multiple travel providers.

(Photo: iStockphoto/Sascha Burkard)

Fiery Midwinter Fun Inside and Out in Bend, Oregon

Posted March 16, 2010 by Jamie Moore

Bend Nestled in a mountain valley, Bend, Oregon, has wintertime fun with a fiery twist: bonfire snowshoeing. Before embarking on this hottest new snow adventure, cozy up at an eclectic inn and put some fire in your belly with a one-of-a-kind midwinter brew.

The Mill Inn
: Cozy up at The Mill Inn, a refurbished boarding house located just minutes away from downtown Bend. The 10 rooms are each decorated with unique themes guaranteed to make you feel right at home, and the complimentary breakfast will fill you up for a long day of exploring. Rooms start at $70 per night.

Deschutes Brewery
: A must-do Bend activity is sipping a one-of-a-kind Bend brew. Indulge at Deschutes Brewery where almost every beer has won an award. The seasonal Jubelale is a perfect pre-snowshoe-trek pint, warming your insides with its rich, malt flavor. Or go for something always on tap like Black Butte Porter, crafted from chocolate and crystal malts. Gluten-free brews, pale ales, organic beer, and stouts are just a few of the other on-tap choices. Feel good trying more than one—this community-minded brewery has donated millions to local causes. (Beers cost $4.75 per pint).

Wanderlust Bonfire Snowshoe Tour
: Feed your thirst for adventure and knowledge on a magical evening snowshoe trek ($75). Follow snowy, moonlit paths as an expert guide illuminates the backcountry's history, botany, geology, and wildlife. Your final destination? A roaring bonfire, tucked into a natural amphitheater. Stargaze, sip hot chocolate, indulge in delectable desserts, and swap fireside stories as you soak in the beauty of the crisp winter night. There's even a New Year's Eve trek ($85) for those wishing to celebrate with natural bells and whistles.

You can use our tool to compare airfares to Redmond, the closest major airport, from multiple travel providers.

(Photo: Jon Larson/iStockPhoto)

Hot Winter Fun for Cool Prices in Squaw Valley, California

Posted March 11, 2010 by Jamie Moore

Squaw Valley Get a natural high and soak up some California sunshine at Squaw Valley ski resort. After navigating 4,000 acres of skiable terrain, plot your way to great deals on non-skiing adventures. And don't miss uncorking boutique bottles at a hip wine bar or the Olympic Inn, which puts you in the heart of Squaw's nonstop action.

Squaw Valley
: Sure, 450 inches of annual snowfall, 300 days of sun, and breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe could make any ski resort spectacular. But forgo the slopes and you'll unearth lots of other winter fun. Take the cable car 2,000 feet up and try out your skating moves on the high-altitude rink ($29 for both). Or, zoom down the mountain on a snow-tube ($16). You can even leave the mountaintops behind and explore the resort's namesake valley on a snowshoe adventure.

Uncorked at Squaw Valley
: Sample fine wines and delectable cheese plates at Uncorked, located in the Village at Squaw Valley. This hip wine bar is the perfect place to relax after a long day on the slopes. Come learn more about winemaking and listen to live music at the weekend tastings, or simply purchase a bottle of boutique wine to take back to your room.

Olympic Village Inn
: This homey inn offers easy access to Squaw Valley's chairlifts. When the slopes close, soak off skiing aches in the five outdoor spas. In the outdoor heated pool, you can marvel at panoramic views of the valley and mountains. Or, spend a free afternoon sledding or snowshoeing with the inn's complimentary equipment.

You can use our tool to price compare airfares Reno, the closest major airport, from multiple travel providers.

(Photo: Squaw Valley USA)

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