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Madrid, NM: Feelin’ Groovy

madrid_java-joltWild West meets Feelin’ Groovy. That’s the vibe I got during a quick visit to Madrid, New Mexico. The main street through town (on Highway 14’s “Turquoise Trail”) is lined with funky shops selling colorful gemstones, jewelry, clothing and other handmade items.

But, it’s the people that make Madrid (pronounced MAD-rid) so colorful. Those I met were friendly, with a twinkle in their eyes that made me want to have what they were having!  I visited Madrid with two girlfriends on a snowy Saturday morning.

We only had about an hour to spend  – so we started at one end of the town, in the General Store, picked up some hand-dipped candles and greeting cards featuring the work of local artists. Next stop was Java Junction for vanilla lattes (best ever!). We went through a few more shops, each unique, most converted old homes.

We stumbled into the Crystal Dragon, which was filled with amazing handmade gemstone jewelry and artifacts, at reasonable prices. Shopkeeper & jewelry designer Geoffrey Stewart told us how Madrid came to be – as a mining town located not far from where Turquoise was first discovered in the USA (that’s how the road was nicknamed ‘Turquoise Trail.’).  I couldn’t resist taking home a couple of gemstones from this store, including a shiny opalized ammonite spiral-shaped fossil, at good prices.

Madrid diner, The Hollar, has tasty melt sandwiches, and a fire to keep warm on a cold Winter day (Photo: Lisa Osborn Traffic411)

Madrid diner, The Hollar, has tasty melt sandwiches, and a fire to keep warm on a cold Winter day (Photo: Lisa Osborn Traffic411)

Next stop: Food. My friends and I were in need of some take-out to take with us to the airport. Stewart recommended The Hollar, a funky diner located next door. Brooke, the waitress, happily took our order and – bright-eyed and bubbly – suggested that we come back in the Spring or Summer for one of the many music festivals, when the town came alive and the weather was much nicer.

There are few dozen shops and galleries, with names like Mama Lisa’s Ghost Town Kitchen & No Pity Cafe, and even a community radio station, KMRD 96.9 FM. Clusters of brightly-painted mailboxes lining the road are more hints that we were in a funky-artist town.

Located less than a one hour drive from both Santa Fe and Albuquerque, Madrid is a fun and easy side trip. And, if you are traveling between Albuquerque Airport and Santa Fe, it’s right on the way (when you take Highway 14). It’s definitely worth a visit, and maybe even an overnight stay in one of the local bed and breakfasts.

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OC Side Trip: Balboa Island

Gingerbread House sits on a private dock on Balboa Island, this Orange County jewel is decked out for the holidays (Photo Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Gingerbread House sits on a private dock on Balboa Island, this Orange County jewel is decked out for the holidays (Photo Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

If you find yourself heading to, or passing through, Orange County during your Southern California holiday travels, Consider a stop at Balboa Island.

Whether you have an hour or a day, this quaint seaside community offers comfortable weather, gorgeous views and festive decorations this time of year. This is a great pit stop if you are on a Southern California road trip and need to stretch you legs or grab a snack or bite to eat.

Rows & rows of one and two story beach houses stand shoulder-to-shoulder along narrow streets on the island, surrounded by a waterfront sidewalk along the Island’s perimeter. Park your car on any side street, and you can walk the circular path and easily return to your vehicle once you’ve had enough exercise.

Related photos & story : Balboa Island, CA USA

Along your holiday stroll, you’ll see homes and docks decorated with gingerbread men, Christmas Trees and other holiday decor.

gingerbread men, gingerbread house and a Christmas tree decorate a dock on Balboa Island, Newport Beach, CA

Waterfront homes & docks on Balboa Island in Newport Beach are decked out for the Christmas holidays (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Year round, keep an eye out for the Teddy Bear House, a home jam-packed with stuffed bears of all sizes. There’s also a tall Statue of Liberty perched on a dock, near an American Flag blowing in the breeze.  You’ll see boats and yachts of all sizes, paddle boarders and a ferry shuttling cars, cyclists and pedestrians to the carnival across the waterway on Balboa Peninsula.

Lady Liberty stands proudly on this Balboa Island private dock year-round. Just one of the sights to see as you stroll around the Island (Photo Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Lady Liberty stands proudly on this Balboa Island private dock year-round. Just one of the sights to see as you stroll around the Island (Photo Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Balboa Island gets decked out for the holidays, with Christmas wreaths and decorations lining the bridge onto the Island and its main street (Park Avenue). I love being here around the Fourth of July, too, when the red, white and blue ribbons and decorations are on display.

My dad loved being at the beach and Balboa Island was one of his favorite places.  One of the last walks we took together was on Balboa Island. He was using a walker and the smooth sidewalks and flat terrain made for an easy stroll.  Keep Balboa Island in mind if you are looking for a quick side stop on your Southern California vacation. Happy Holidays!


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Santa Barbara Festivals: Best Bets

Italian street painting festival, I Madonnari, livens up the grounds of Old MIssion Santa Barbara over Memorial Day Weekend (Photo: I Madonnari Festival)

The colorful Italian street painting festival, I Madonnari, comes to Old Mission Santa Barbara Memorial Day Weekend (Photo: I Madonnari Festival)

It’s hard to believe that summer is almost here. And, Santa Barbara knows how to Summer! The city nicknamed the “American Riviera” is home to an array of uniquely dazzling festivals, year-round.

Memorial Day weekend is considered the ‘unofficial’ start of beach season, so why not celebrate at the colorful I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival?  The grounds of Old Mission Santa Barbara shape shift into an Italian city, where street painters using chalk sketch massive images.

Asphalt is an artist's canvas at the I Madonnari street painting festival at Old Mission Santa Barbara (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Asphalt is an artist’s canvas at the I Madonnari street painting festival at Old Mission Santa Barbara (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Asphalt is their canvas as they create (or recreate) colorful works. This festival benefits the Children’s Creative Project, a non-profit which brings art into Santa Barbara area schools. Admission is free and the colorful drawings will stick around for a few days following the Memorial Day Weekend.

Colorful dancers shimmy down State Street at Santa Barbara's Summer Solstice Parade (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer)

Colorful dancers shimmy down State Street at Santa Barbara’s Summer Solstice Parade (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer)

The Summer Solstice Celebration is one of Santa Barbara’s most popular events, drawing 100,000+ visitors. Many line State Street to be dazzled by the colorful dancers, drummers and pageantry of the Solstice Parade. No commercial entries allowed, so this parade is 100% home-grown Santa Barbara. Along with the parade on Saturday (noon, June 20, 2015), there’s a three-day weekend festival in Alameda Park, featuring live bands, artisans selling clothing and crafts as well as an array of food and drinks.

Watch: Sights & Sounds of Santa Barbara’s Summer Solstice Parade 2013!

July brings the French Festival, which ties in with France’s Bastille Day, and the Greek Festival, to Oak Park. Ooh La La! Or, should I say, Opah! You will delight in the native dishes and desserts being served.  I enjoy attending summer festivals in Oak Park because they are free, not too large, and it seems like there’s a different one every weekend. You can drop in a couple of hours or spend the day indulging in traditional foods or enjoying free entertainment.

Accordian clown at Solstice Parade (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Accordian clown at Solstice Parade (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

“Old Spanish Days of Santa Barbara,” aka “Fiesta,” takes over the downtown area on August 5-9, 2015.  This granddaddy of Santa Barbara events features horses with riders in traditional Spanish attire. A rodeo and other events mark the nearly week long celebration. Click this link for details on the rodeo and other events.

“Old Spanish Days Fiesta is about the heart of Santa Barbara’s residents and their passion for life,” said Cas Stimson, president of the 2015 Fiesta. This year’s theme is “Fiesta Romantica.” The first Fiesta was held in 1924 to pay tribute to the Spanish traditions  of Santa Barbara’s founding families.

The fun doesn’t end with summer.  The California Lemon Festival comes to Goleta in September; followed by the California Avocado Festival in Carpinteria and the Santa Barbara Harbor & Seafood Festival.

Kids of all ages enjoy Santa Barbara's unique mix of local events. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Kids of all ages enjoy Santa Barbara’s unique mix of local events. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

While we’re on the topic of Santa Barbara festivals, I have to mention the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF). The main event takes place in Winter, just ahead of the Academy Awards. SBIFF has become an important stop on the road to Oscar, where nominees can schmooze with peers and try to drum up last minute Academy votes.  Building on its success, SBIFF has added a few mini-festivals called “Waves,” including a French Wave, featuring cinema of France, in July.

Click here to see a year-round list of Santa Barbara festivals and events.

Traffic411 Insider’s Tip: Highway 101 into Santa Barbara (especially northbound) is usually busy in summer, and it will be jammed over the Solstice weekend. If you’re planning to attend the Solstice parade, arrive several hours early. Or, get a room and spend the night.

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Call to Curb Distracted Driving

distracted drivers busted1Do you talk on the phone while driving? How about reading text messages? A recent AAA survey revealed 2 out of 5 drivers admitted to checking text messages while driving, in the past 30 days.

Howard Drescher was riding his motorcycle on a busy Southern California freeway when he was hit by a driver who was talking on her phone.

In an effort to help others, Drescher created the driving safety website DistractedDriversBusted.com. He challenges you to take the “Glove Box Challenge” to improve safety on the road. Click the podcast link to find out more.

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Santa Barbara’s “Wild World of Orchids”

Some of the exotic orchids on display at the  Santa Barbara International Orchid Show  might even resemble a space alien! (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Some of the exotic orchids on display at the Santa Barbara International Orchid Show might even resemble a space alien! (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Orchid enthusiasts from around the world will be in Santa Barbara this weekend for the 71st Annual Santa Barbara International Orchid Show.

“This is the biggest show in the United States,” said George Hatfield, president of this year’s show.

“This is an opportunity for the community to see orchids that they would have to travel around the world and pay thousands of dollars in airline tickets to see.”

“We have people from all continents except from Antarctica that are going to be displaying orchids.” Said Hatfield.

Many of the orchids being showcased feature details so intricate, it’s hard to believe they come from nature. They look more like precious works of art.

Hatfield explains exhibitors spend thousands of dollars on the orchids going into their displays.

Floral arrangement and photography competitions are a part of the annual Santa Barbara International Orchid Show (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Floral arrangement and photography competitions are a part of the annual Santa Barbara International Orchid Show (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

“Wild World of Orchids” is the theme of this year’s show, which also features orchid art, photography, floral arrangement and corsage competitions.

In addition to the floral displays, an entire exhibit hall is devoted to orchid sales. Many attendees take advantage of the chance to bring potted orchids and arrangements home.

 

Listen: Click to listen to my podcast with George Hatfield, president of the Santa Barbara International Orchid Show.

“60 vendors from around the world will bring a lot of exotic orchids that you don’t normally see at our local nurseries,” said Hatfield.

The International Cymbidium Conference takes place in tandem with the show, so there’s the chance to sign up for workshops and other events.

“Santa Barbara is kind of ground zero of cymbidium orchids, said Hatfield. “Cymbidiums started here in Santa Barbara and they’ve been a very big part of this show for many years.”

Exotic orchids on display at Santa Barbara International Orchid Show (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Exotic orchids will be on display this weekend at Santa Barbara International Orchid Show (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

The annual event brings in attendees by the busload to Earl Warren Showgrounds.  It’s a favorite stop for photographers, too.

“The orchid show is HUGE!” said photographer Ken Pfeiffer, who often attends to capture photos of the exotic orchids and extravagant botanical arrangements.

“It’s a visual feast of a seemingly unlimited variety of orchids from around the world. Some are exhibited individually as priceless solitary jewels, and some in massive artistic arrangements. The incredible colors and natural majesty are not to be missed!”

For the best photo-ops, Hatfield suggests arriving early, while the flowers are at their peak and the crowds are the thinnest.

The show runs from 9am-5pm Friday-Sunday (March 4-6, 2016) at Earl Warren Showgrounds. General admission is $14; seniors and students with ID are $12. Children 12 and under are free with an adult. For more information go to SBOrchidShow.com

 

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Winter Wine Classic Santa Barbara

Melinda Gandara pours a Lieff red for a group from the Coral Casino (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Melinda Gandara pours a Lieff red for a group of guests at the Winter Wine Classic (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Fine wine was flowing in Santa Barbara Saturday night at the California Wine Festival’s Fifth Annual Winter Wine Classic. Guests who gathered in the ballroom of the Fess Parker Resort were treated to tastes of reds and whites from up and down the state, as well as an array of tapas from local eateries.

Some of Santa Barbara’s best known brands were represented, including Brander, Alma Rosa, Zaca Mesa, Beckman and Melville. Several labels from the Santa Rita Hills were there, as well as some well-known Napa Valley labels, including Rombauer and Charles Krug.

An added treat was the several winemakers pouring their own wines. Sandra Newman of Cebada and Adam Henkel of Westerly Wines were there, along with Fred Brander’s son, Nick.

Lisa Osborn with Gretchen Lieff (Lieff Wines) and Melinda Gandara (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Lisa Osborn with Gretchen Lieff (Lieff Wines) and Melinda Gandara (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

My friend Gretchen Lieff was pouring her 2009 Lieff Cabernet Sauvignon from their Auberge Road Vineyard Rutherford.

“We are so excited to be part of the Winter Wine Classic and be able to help spread the growing enthusiasm and interest in California wines.” Said Lieff. “For the most part, the world of wine is a great deal of fun but it’s also a lot of hard work. It’s nice to meet the people who appreciate that effort.”

Gretchen, with her husband Robert, are growing grapes on their ranch at the San Luis Obispo/Santa Barbara border. They will release their first vintage from this vineyard next year. But, some of their grapes are already turning up in Santa Barbara wines, including vintages from Margerum and Brander.

Jenny & Leo drove up from Los Angeles to taste wines they might want to serve at their wedding (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Jenny & Leo drove up from Los Angeles to taste wines they might want to serve at their wedding (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

I also ran into an old friend, Bill Candela, who was pouring Sunstone wines, including a red that scored 90+ in Tasting Panel Magazine the Blue Review.

Blush was one of the Santa Barbara restaurants offering tapas (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Blush was one of the Santa Barbara restaurants offering tapas (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

The guests I spoke with were big fans of this event. Some were local, one foursome came from Nipomo and at least one couple came from out of state.

Tom and Diana, who used to live in Ventura County, came down from Seattle. They are big fans of the California Wine Festival, with the summer event (July 15-16, 2016 this year) being Diana’s all-time favorite.

“We get the pass for the weekend, and attend the VIP event on Thursday night,” she said. “That’s where they are pouring the (most) expensive wines and delicious foods.”

Another couple, Jenny and Leo, came up from Los Angeles, to sample wines that they might want to serve at their wedding.

Blush, I’A Fish Market & Cafe, Rodney’s Grill, Paxti’s Pizza and Georgia’s Smokehouse were among the local eateries offering small bites.

An open air photo booth made it easy for revelers to ‘strike a pose’ and take home memories from this special event.

Winter Wine Classic Santa Barbara

Photos from the California Wine Festival's Winter Wine Classic at Fess Parker Resort Santa Barbara, February 20, 2016

[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_nello.jpg]110Phogographer Ken Pfeiffer said Nello wines were one of his favorites of the evening (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_characters.jpg]20Striking a pose at the open air photo booth (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_cebada.jpg]40Winemaker Sandra Newman of Cebada Wines (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_madrone.jpg]60Pouring Madrone Wines (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_cielito.jpg]50Nosh from Cielito (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
(Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_westerly.jpg]40Winemaker Adam Henkel of Westerly Wines (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_press.jpg]60Lisa Osborn with Sue Foley and Lauren Bray of Ed Hat
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[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_lief-and-company.jpg]60Melinda Gandara, Gretchen Lieff, Lisa Osborn (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_gretchen-and-friend.jpg]70Gretchen Lieff of Lieff Wines with Kevin Speer, general manager of the Coral Casino (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_krug.jpg]40Pouring Charles Krug
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[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_son-and-friend.jpg]50Ashley with Nick Brander

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Santa Barbara Wine Industry Ages Well

Santa Barbara County adds another AVA with Los Olivos, bringing the total number of distinctive wine growing areas to six. (Photo Traffic411)

Santa Barbara County adds another AVA with Los Olivos, bringing the total number of distinctive wine growing areas to six. (Photo Traffic411)

We’re barely into 2016, and it’s already been a good year for Santa Barbara wine industry.

In January, the federal government awarded Los Olivos its own AVA (American Viticultural Area). The designation recognizes a wine-grape growing region as being distinct from surrounding areas in climate, soil and geographical features.

Tune-in to my podcast with Fred Brander of Brander Vineyards and Morgen McLaughlin of the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association

“I think each place in the Santa Ynez Valley has its own right area for different varietals,” said winemaker Fred Brander. The owner of Brander Vineyards led the decade-long effort to achieve the AVA designation for Los Olivos.

“Bordeau varieties mainly do well (in Los Olivos), certainly Sauvignon  Blanc…. the reds have been longer to perfect, namely Cabernet Sauvignon…. it’s a matter of applying some really careful viticulture.” Brander, who has a background in chemistry, was one of the first winemakers to plant grapes in the Santa Ynez Valley 40 years ago.

Fred Brander, owner of Brander Vineyards, was one of the first winemakers to plant grapes in the Santa Ynez Valley 40 years ago.

Fred Brander, owner of Brander Vineyards, was one of the first winemakers to plant grapes in the Santa Ynez Valley 40 years ago.

“When Cabernet is grown right, it can make some great wine,” added Brander. “Of course it has to be grown in Los Olivos. You can’t probably make the best Cabernet in Santa Rita.”

Brander explained the new Los Olivos AVA covers “the area between Happy Canyon and Ballard Canyon with the Santa Ynez River being the southern boundary, and for the northern boundary we picked the 1000 foot elevation.”

“It’s very exciting to have a new AVA, because it provides more clarity and more spotlight on our unique growing region,” said Morgen McLaughlin, executive director of Santa Barbara County Vintners Association. “Santa Barbara is one of the most unique growing regions in the world. Having a new AVA helps us to better tell the story.”

McLaughlin explains that Santa Barbara County is different than other California wine countries. “Most regions are more similar, in that they have one or two signature wine grape varieties. We are blessed in Santa Barbara in that we have more than 50 varieties that do so well.”

Anyone who has spent much time in Santa Barbara County has probably noticed that wines have become big business, and a tourist magnet. A new economic impact report revealed that the wine industry adds more than $1 billion annually to the Santa Barbara County economy.  McLaughlin says even she was surprised by the eye-popping number.

“The report shows that our wine and grape industry provides…. $1.7 billion annually to economic vitality to the county……  That’s not only from wine making, but it’s also from grape growing, tourism, the restaurant business, those who sell and pour Santa Barbara County wines, retailers, tour companies. There’s a lot of different small businesses that benefit from the wine industry in the county.”

“Santa Barbara remains the most exciting wine country area in all of California,” said Brander.

Los Olivos becomes the sixth AVA for Santa Barbara County, distinguishing itself from Santa Ynez Valley, Happy Canyon, Ballard Canyon, Santa Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley wine growing areas.

Interested in staying strong and healthy?  Subscribe to my new podcast Lisa.FM Thrive! on iTunes, Blubrry, Stitcher, Libsyn, or listen on Tune-In and AromaThrive.com. Thanks in advance for sharing this podcast with your friends, rating the podcast and posting reviews!

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Santa Barbara Bird Watching

Great Egrets (pictured) and Snowy Egrets are a common sight in Santa Barbara-area waterways. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer)

Great Egrets (pictured) and Snowy Egrets are a common sight in Santa Barbara-area waterways. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer)

A group of Santa Barbara bird enthusiasts had their eyes to the skies (and seas) over New Year’s weekend.  Beginning at 12:01 AM on January 2nd, they spent 24 hours tallying up the many varieties of birds spotted in the area as part of the 116th Audubon Society Santa Barbara Christmas Bird Count. In recent years, Santa Barbara has ranked high in both diversity of species as well as the total number of birds. And, numbers from this year’s CBC indicate that the “American Riviera” is still a popular stop for feathered fliers.

Final numbers will continue to be crunched for the next few weeks. But, preliminary results show counters spotted 210 different species in the Santa Barbara CBC circle, which is 15 miles in diameter, centered at the intersection of Highway 154 and Cathedral Oaks Road.

Organizers are confident this number should be enough to put Santa Barbara in second place, behind San Diego (where 220 species were counted).

“Our total of 210 will most likely go to 211, but that will not be confirmed until after this weekend,” said Rebecca Coulter, with the Santa Barbara CBC circle (there were separate counting circles in Carpinteria, Cachuma, Lompoc and other parts of the county). “Either way, that puts us in second place statewide, behind San Diego’s amazing total of 220.”

“But remember, we are counting more than species. We are counting all the individual birds observed by the counters during that 24 hour period,” added Coulter. “The big picture is that it’s a census that gives us information about relative abundance or scarcity, in addition to species diversity. And because it’s the longest running citizen science project out there, there’s a lot of data to compare it to.”

Red tailed hawks can be spotted in trees, on poles or soaring over Santa Barbara (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer)

Red tailed hawks can be spotted in trees, on poles or soaring over Santa Barbara (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer)

This year’s highlights include the Tufted Duck, returning for a third winter, on a private reservoir in north Goleta. And, a bald eagle was spotted soaring over South La Cumbre Peak. Organizers say notable misses include the Ross’s Goose, Snow Goose and Yellow-Billed Magpie.

“It should be noted that we were second in the state this year but 5th in the country. The first 3 spots were all Texas. Last year we were 2nd in the country, ahead of San Diego and behind only Mad Marsh/Matagorda Texas, which had 234 species last year to our 214 and had 239 this year,” added an EdHat reader who posted this comment on my story at the Santa Barbara community news website.

Bird Watching in Santa Barbara

It’s easy to spot a variety of different bird species while walking in Santa Barbara. Long-legged Great blue Heron and Snowy Egrets are a common sight in waterways from the Coal Oil Point Reserve next to UC Santa Barbara to Carpinteria’s Salt Marsh Reserve.  I love seeing the array of shorebird species walking on the beach. And, it’s not unusual to spot rare hawks or other raptors from hiking trails, or perched on a telephone line.

Last weekend, photographer Ken Pfeiffer and I walked from the now-defunct Ocean Meadows Golf Course in Goleta to the Coal Oil Point Reserve. Here are some of the bird species we spotted along the way.

Other good places for bird watching in Santa Barbara include the Andree Clark Bird Refuge. Click here to find more Santa Barbara birding hot spots.

Click here for a more comprehensive guide to Santa Barbara bird watching.

Check out ebird for more details on Santa Barbara’s Christmas Bird Count. And, for a guide (including photos) to some local urban birds, check out this Birds of Santa Barbara Guide for Kids and Grown Ups. 

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The Beauty of Carmel Mission

The church at Carmel Mission. Saint Junipero Serra's remains are entombed in the alter area of the church (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

The church at Carmel Mission. Saint Junipero Serra’s remains are entombed in the alter area of the church (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

I visited several missions along California’s Central Coast this year, and San Carlos de Borromeo de Carmelo Mission, better known as Carmel Mission, really stands out.

Also read: Elephant Seals give birth on San Simeon-area beaches

We visited on Christmas Day and the museums were closed. But, mass was just letting out so we had a chance to tour the church and the grounds. The church basilica is beautiful, with a large golden alter and Spanish Colonial religious paintings lining the walls. In addition, there are several shrines depicting religious figures tucked into quiet corners of the church.

Parishioners can light candles next to an alter area at the church at Carmel Mission (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Parishioners can light candles next to an alter area at the church at Carmel Mission (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Saint Junipero Serra, who led the efforts of Spanish Franciscian priests to eventually establish 21 missions in California (1769-1833), lived and died at Carmel Mission. His remains are buried in the alter of the church and there are several statues of his likeness across the courtyard and on the mission grounds.

Religious statues and relics are nestled into garden areas on the grounds of Carmel Mission (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Religious statues and relics are nestled into garden areas on the grounds of Carmel Mission (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Related: Listen to my radio story on Central Coast Native American Indians’ take on Junipero Serra sainthood

The gated mission grounds are spacious, with several garden areas featuring religious statues and monuments. Just outside the church is a cemetery with grassy graves lined in abalone shells.

There are two museums, which we didn’t get to see because they were closed for the holiday. If you are interested in California history, or religious artifacts, be sure to make time to tour Carmel Mission the next time you are in the Monterey area.

Click here for more information on Carmel Mission

Traffic411 Insiders Tip: Take a walk along Carmel beach. There is a path along the ocean offering stunning views of the rugged shoreline and the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course in the distance.

Carmel Mission

This mission, in Carmel, CA, was home base for Saint Junipero Serra during the time he and his Spanish Franciscan brothers were establishing religious outposts up and down the state. These photos were taken on Christmas Day 2015, when the church and mission grounds were decorated for the holidays (Photos: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).

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The cemetery at Carmel Mission features graves outlined with abalone shells in honor of Native American Indians who dedicated their lives to building the mission (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

The cemetery at Carmel Mission features graves outlined with abalone shells and mentions Native American Indians who spent years building the mission (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

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2015 Holiday Boat Parade Guide

The Getty Yacht docks at Burton Chace Park, giving guests a front row spot to see the Marina Del Rey Holiday Boat Parade (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

The Getty Yacht docks at Burton Chace Park, giving guests a front row spot to see the Marina Del Rey Holiday Boat Parade (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

December is barely here, yet boaters in Santa Barbara and up and down the coast are already decking their bows with colorful Christmas lights! Attending a boat parade is a fun (and often free) way to celebrate the holidays in true California style.

Santa Barbara’s Parade of Lights takes place on Sunday, December 6th at 5:30 PM. Claim your spot somewhere between the City Pier and Stearn’s Wharf to see the colorful watercraft of all sizes glide along the water. Be sure to stay til the end for the fireworks show. And, get there early and head to the City Pier (near the Maritime Museum) to see revelers playing in tons of snow and enjoying other kid-friendly activities.

Just up the coast, Morro Bay in San Luis Obispo is holding its Lighted Boat Parade on Saturday, December 5th at 6:30pm.

The Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade is on Saturday, December 12th. I’ll be your host at Burton Chace Park, offering colorful commentary at the passing boats. It’s always fun and, if there’s a lull in the parade, we’ll recruit some kids to lead us in a round of Christmas Carols.

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'Santa's Helpers' assist boat parade announcers Lisa & Mickey Lazslo with holiday carol singalongs at Burton Chace Park, Marina del Rey.

‘Santa’s Helpers’ assist boat parade announcers Lisa & Mickey Lazslo with holiday carol singalongs at Burton Chace Park, Marina del Rey.

Colorful fireworks will light up the Marina del Rey harbor at 5:55 PM, and the parade starts at 6 PM. The theme this year is “Adventures on the Sea,” and “Brady Bunch” mom, Florence Henderson, will serve as grand marshal.  You should find free parking in the L.A. County lots (Burton Chace Park is located at the end of Mindanao in Marina del Rey).

Redondo Beach and the community of Naples are also holding their parades on December 12th. Redondo Beach’s parade isn’t as elaborate as Marina del Rey’s, but it will still be plenty of fun. If you are in the South Bay, Click here to check out some of the prime viewing spots. The Naples Holiday Boat Parade in Long Beach starts at 7pm, but nearby streets close at 5pm, so plan to arrive early.

Also Read: Santa Barbara’s “Merry” Season

Dana Point‘s parade expands to two weekends this year, Fri/Sat Dec 11, 12, 18 & 19th. And, the Ventura Harbor Parade of Lights and fireworks show takes place December 18-19th. Ventura Harbor Village is ground zero for all the Santa Fun.

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The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is the grand daddy of Southern California boat parades, running for five nights, December 16-20th. Calling itself ‘the nation’s longest running lighted boat parade,’ some boaters spend $50,000 decorating their yachts and watercraft, vying for bragging rights and some wonderful prizes.  This parade has been going on for more than 100 years and the harbor is expected to be wall-to-wall boats again this year. I don’t know how the captains manage to keep from bumping into each other!

If you plan ahead, you might still be able to get a reservation at a waterside restaurant with a view. But, it can be just as much fun to watch the parade outdoors, it’s free and what a fun family Christmas activity!

Traffic411 Insider’s Tip: Dress warmly – it might feel cooler than the temperature outside sitting waterside to view the parade.

Enjoy this photo gallery of the 2013 Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade, photos by Ken Pfeiffer Photography

Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade 2013

It's a holiday tradition that I've had the honor of hosting for more than a decade, the Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade. For the first time, my co-host Mickey Czegledy and I broadcast from Fisherman's Village. Thanks to Ken Pfeiffer for sharing these beautiful photos.

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Colorful boats sparkle in the harbor next to Fisherman's Village, all decked out for the 51st Annual Holiday Boat Parade. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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(Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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Lisa Osborne & Mickey Czegledy announcing the boats in the 51st Annual Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade. This is the first year we were at Fisherman's Village. Normally we announce the parade from Burton Chace Park. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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(Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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The Killer Shrimp (restaurant) boat (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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(Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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(Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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Santa Monica Wind Jammers Yacht Club is usually a big winner at the parade. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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Our friend Donna Leeds joins me and Mickey at the VIP party at Del Rey Yacht Club. It was fun to see this year's grand marshals, L.A. Lakers president Jeannie Buss and NBA Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson.
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That's a Wrap!! Thanks for the property managers at Fisherman's Village for hosting us while we announced the Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade. (l-r Debbie Talbot with LA County Beaches & Harbors, Lisa Osborne, Mickey Czegledy, former MDR Holiday Boat Parade president Diane Barretti (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

 

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