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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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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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La Purisima Mission

Take a self-guided tour at La Purisima Mission State Park in Lompoc. You can also explore miles of hiking trails at this historic spot on California's Central Coast (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).

Take a self-guided tour at La Purisima Mission State Park in Lompoc. You can also explore miles of hiking trails at this historic spot on California’s Central Coast (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).

One of several confession boxes at La Purisima Mission (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

One of several confession boxes at La Purisima Mission (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

If the recent Canonization of Father Junipero Serra has piqued your interest in California history, you might want to visit some of the Golden State’s historic missions. Several of these religious outposts are located along the Central Coast.

Old Mission Santa Barbara is known as “Queen of the Missions” – perhaps rightly so because of its graceful beauty as well as being located in the rustic Mission Canyon area of Santa Barbara. Some lesser-known missions are also worth a visit, including La Purisima Mission State Park in Lompoc.

An intricate shrine inside the chapel of of La Purisima Mission in Lompoc (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).

An intricate shrine inside the chapel of of La Purisima Mission in Lompoc (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).

La Purisima Mission is reportedly the most extensively renovated California Mission. The self-guided tour of the spacious grounds makes for a very relaxing visit.

You can stroll through the arches next to the mission bells to the old burial ground. Then, take the dirt pathway along the length of the single-story adobe structure, peeking inside rooms from the church to the weaver’s quarters, soldiers room and kitchens.

Also Read/Listen: Central Coast Tribal Members Discuss Their Views on St. Serra (my KCBX Radio story)

The rooms have been remarkably renovated and include details such as kitchen tables set for a meal, and a card game in progress (love the vintage playing cards!).

There's a card game in progress (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

There’s a card game in progress (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

La Purisima Mission is on State Park grounds, offering many miles of hiking trails along grounds with lots of old oak trees. The summer day I was there seemed much cooler than Santa Barbara temperatures, which have been hotter than average this year.

Admission to La Purisima Mission is free. Parking is $5. You can see the mission in anywhere from one hour – to an entire half of day, longer if you want to explore the hiking trails.

La Purisima Mission State Park

If the recent Canonization of Father Junipero Serra has piqued your interest in California history, you might want to visit some of the Golden State's historic missions. Here are some beautiful shots of La Purisima Mission State Park in Lompoc, CA.

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Traffic411 Insiders Tip: Wine lovers might want to hop over to “The Wine Ghetto,” Lompoc’s growing wine district offers an array of tasting rooms. Non-drinkers might enjoy the Surf-Lompoc Amtrak Station, located along a pristine stretch of Surf Beach (although the beach is closed parts of the year when Snowy Plover are nesting).

Distance from LAX: 150 miles (Distance from Old Mission Santa Barbara: 54 miles)

You can also explore these Central Coast Missions:

Mission San Buenaventura (Ventura)

Old Mission Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara)

Old Mission Santa Ines (Solvang)

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa (San Luis Obispo)

Mission San Miguel (San Luis Obispo County)

Mission San Antonio de Padua (Jolon, Monterey County)

San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission (Carmel, Monterey County).
Carmel Mission was the first headquarters of the California Mission System and is the final resting place for Father J. Serra

Old Mission San Juan Bautista (San Juan Bautista, near Salinas)

 

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Gaviota Side Trip: Nojoqui Falls Park

The Farm-Stead is a fun side trip off Highway 101 between Santa Barbara & Solvang (photo Traffic411)

The Farm-Stead is a fun side trip off Highway 101 between Santa Barbara & Solvang (photo Traffic411)

Here’s a fun little side trip the next time you drive Highway 101 in Santa Barbara County between the Gaviota Coast and Solvang:  Nojoqui Falls Park & The Farm-Stead.

The Farm-Stead is a cute little store that sells fresh organic produce, and offers the opportunity to pick your own.

Families were gathering raspberries and strawberries in their roadside garden during my recent Sunday visit. I bought some heirloom cantaloupes which were sweet and delicious!  There are goats, mules and pigs in a pen out back, with a bucket of veggies that customers can feed the animals. The Farm-Stead is located along Old Coast Highway Road in Gaviota, although the ocean is nowhere in sight.

The Farm-Stead has goats and pigs out back (photo Traffic411)

The Farm-Stead has goats and pigs out back (photo Traffic411)

Nojoqui Falls Park (pronounced no-HO-wee) is just up the road from The Farm-Stead. Shaded by rustic oaks dripping with moss. There are picnic tables for day visits, so pack a lunch or pick up fresh snacks at The Farm-Stead. It’s typically an easy hike to Nojoqui Falls (although chances are you won’t see much water because of the drought), but the trail was closed on the day I visited (July 2016) because of a mudslide.

The trail to Nojoqui Falls is closed because of a mudslide (photo Traffic411)

The trail to Nojoqui Falls is closed because of a mudslide (photo Traffic411)

These spots are located above the Gaviota tunnel off Highway 101, heading north you’ll make a right just off the highway. You’ll come to the Farm-Stead first, and then make a left on Alisol (easy signage) to get to Nojoqui Park.  This route is also a scenic short cut into Solvang.

Nojoqui Falls sign & street sign Old Coast Highway & Alisal (Photo Traffic411)

Nojoqui Falls sign & street sign Old Coast Highway & Alisal (Photo Traffic411)

Traffic411 Insider Tip: There’s a free electric vehicle (EV) charging station outside the Farm-Stead. Pick some berries while you’re charging your EV battery!

Distance from LAX: 139 miles

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So Cal Boat Parade of Lights

HP5A4347It’s a California holiday tradition. Rain or shine, colorful boat parades will be lighting up harbors up and down the coast almost until Santa comes down the chimney.

Most of the parades take place this weekend. So, bundle up and watch twinkling lights glowing off the water, as festively decorated boats and yachts decked out with Christmas trees, candy canes and even a Singing Santa or two make our coastline extra merry.

Parades in Dana Point and Ventura Harbor run tonight and tomorrow night ( Fri-Sat Dec. 12-13 2014). Marina del Rey and Redondo Beach host their parades Saturday night (Dec. 13). I am your friendly announcer in Burton Chace Park, in Marina del Rey (to get there, take Mindanao until it ends in the Marina).  Parking is free in the County lots, so plan to arrive early to get a spot (well before 5pm). Fireworks kick off the Marina del Rey Christmas Boat Parade at 5:55pm.

'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.

Sunday in Santa Barbara, it’s an all afternoon affair – Santa’s Village on Stearns Wharf will keep kids of all ages busy until colorful vessels parade along the breakwater.

Starting on Tuesday, December 17th, head to Orange County for the granddaddy of Southern California boat parades. Hundreds of boats and yachts are expected to participate in the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, which runs for five nights. This parade has been going on for more than 100 years. See Newport Harbor packed with watercraft, from kayaking Santa to dancing elves. Boat owners go all out for this parade, it’s not uncommon to see $70,000 worth of decorations lighting up each boat!

Saturday, December 21st, is the Naples Holiday Boat Parade in Long Beach. The parade starts at 6pm, but nearby streets close at 5pm, so plan to arrive early.

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!

Click here for details on the Christmas Boat Parades across the Southland.

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

 

 

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L.A.’s Spiritual Oasis

The Self Realization Fellowship in Pacific Palisades is a relaxing place to visit, walk, or sit in quiet meditation. (Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)

The Self Realization Fellowship in Pacific Palisades is a relaxing place to visit, walk, or sit in quiet meditation. (Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)

A short walk from the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean, you’ll find the peaceful grounds of the Self Realization Fellowship in Pacific Palisades.

An oasis in the city, this is a beautiful place to come to relax and unwind. Take a leisurely walk around the lake, or sit quietly on one of the many stone benches nestled next to foliage and fountains.

The Self Realization Fellowship is a non-profit spiritual organization  founded in 1920 by Paramahansa Yogananda. It offers meditation classes, retreats and worship services.  People of all faiths are welcome to visit the grounds. Admission is free, donations are appreciated.

The first time you visit, you might be surprised to see this beautiful, peaceful oasis so close to busy Pacific Coast Highway.  The grounds are not visible from Sunset Boulevard, so you could drive right by without knowing it’s here.  Once you find it, you might want to visit regularly to relax and recharge.

Traffic411 Insider’s Tip: Park on Palisades Drive, and walk to the beach (near Gladstone’s Malibu) before or after you visit. There are also good restaurants in the shopping center on Palisades Drive.

Distance from LAX: 16 miles


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Seal Cub Viewing

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Harbor seals lounge on a beach in Carpinteria. The seals migrate to the beach every year to give birth to their cubs (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Whale watching is a popular activity this time of year, but you never know if or when you’ll spot the migrating animals along the California coast.  If you want a sure bet for viewing sea mammals, there are beaches along the Central California coast where seals migrate each year to give birth to their cubs.

The Harbor Seal Preserve in Carpinteria (near Santa Barbara) is one such spot. The beach is closed to humans during birthing season, December – May, however there’s a viewing spot on a cliff above the beach. Spectators can watch about 100 harbor seals waiting to give birth. As the season progresses, you’ll see cubs resting near their moms.  The Carpinteria city website calls this one of the city’s best kept secrets!

California Seal Preserves

See mother seals give birth to their young along California's central coast, in Carpinteria (near Santa Barbara) and San Simeon (near Cambria, Hearst Castle, Big Sur). Photos by KenPfeiffer/Traffic411

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This beach in Carpinteria, CA is off limits to humans from December-May. Harbor seals migrate here to give birth to their cubs (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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A mother and baby elephant seal on a beach in San Simeon, CA. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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There were several mama seals with their babies on an Elephant Seal preserve beach in San Simeon, CA. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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A herd of elephant seals rest on the beach near the Piedras Blancas point near Cambria CA. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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A mother and baby elephant seal on a beach in San Simeon, CA. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

About three hours up the coast (on Highway 1) from Santa Barbara, near Hearst Castle in San Simeon, is a seal preserve on steroids!  Giant elephant seals, preparing to give birth,  gather along beaches near the Piedras Blancas point in San Simeon.

On a New Year’s visit to Cambria, I saw hundreds of elephant seals, and many babies, lounging up and down the coast. There is a large viewing area at this preserve (12 miles north of Cambria), and you can get within 20 feet of the creatures. Some seals were quite active in the late afternoon, slinking to the water for a swim, some males sparring, or letting out a noisy scream, perhaps a cheer welcoming in the New Year!

It’s amazing to see, nature at its finest and, perhaps best of all, it’s free!

Note:  Click here for turn-by-turn directions to the Carpinteria seal rookery.

Traffic411 Insider’s Tip: Visit in the late afternoon, when seals may be more active.

Distance from LAX: 86 miles to Carpinteria


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Mission Inn Riverside: Land of 4 Million Lights

The annual "Festival of Lights" at the historic Mission Inn in Riverside is a holiday tradition for many people. The inn is decked with more than 4 million colorful lights!

The annual “Festival of Lights” at the Mission Inn in Riverside is a holiday tradition. The historic inn is decked with more than 4 million colorful lights!

Looking for a fun & festive place to bring the family over the holidays? Visit the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in downtown Riverside. This time of year the historic inn, which resembles a Medieval castle, is decked out with an array of holiday displays illuminated with more than four million colorful lights!

The annual Festival of Lights is a holiday tradition for many families, who come from all across Southern California to ooh-and-ah at all of the colorful lights and beautiful decorations. A tall Christmas tree lights up the wood-paneled lobby not far from wall portraits of several US presidents, all visitors to the historic Mission Inn over the years.

Outside, the gardens at this national historic landmark feature an array of holiday displays, showing elves at work, or children from around the world celebrating the holidays. Santa Claus is on site, happily taking toy orders for kids of all ages.

Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn Riverside

The annual Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn in Riverside is a holiday tradition. The historic inn is decked with more than 4 million colorful lights! (Photos Traffic411)

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The Christmas tree at the Mission Inn is so giant - it wouldn't fit in a single photo! (Photo Traffic411)
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Festive bears welcome visitors to the historic Mission Inn in Riverside during the 21st Annual Festival of Lights. (Photo Traffic411)
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Portraits of several US presidents who have visited the Mission Inn adorn the wood paneled walls in the lobby. (Photo Traffic411)
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This elf gets ready to shoot a cannonball at visitors in the garden of the Mission Inn in Riverside. There is something magical about these little dolls, they seem almost real! (Photo Traffic411)
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(Photo Traffic411)
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The historic Mission Inn in Riverside's Festival of Lights is a holiday tradition for many families. (Photo Traffic411)
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View of the courtyard at the historic Mission Inn in Riverside, which opened in 1876 as a two story adobe guest house. (Photo Traffic411)

The colorful lights are most spectacular at night, but there is a lot to see in the daytime. I visited for their decadently delicious (and apparently famous) Sunday champagne brunch, and the inn was crowded with lookie-loos, but not nearly as crowded as it is at night. The 21st Annual Festival of Lights continues through January 5, 2014.

Traffic411 Insider’s Tip:  Take Amtrak or Metrolink to the Riverside-Downtown station. The Mission Inn is about a half mile (15 minute walk) away. Or, valet parking is available at the Inn, starting at $10.

Distance from LAX: 69 miles


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Spontaneous L.A: Hollywood Bowl

You don't need to have the best seat in the house to enjoy an evening at the Hollywood Bowl. For under $40 a friend and I enjoyed an L.A. Phil concert, which was being filmed for television.

There’s still time this summer to enjoy a concert under the stars at The Hollywood Bowl, and experiencing the beauty of this iconic venue doesn’t have to require a lot of planning  or burst your budget. A friend and I recently enjoyed a spontaneous evening at the Hollywood Bowl for under $20 each.

On a whim, my friend Judy called  in the late afternoon saying she’d read good reviews in the L.A. Times about Verdi’s Requiem with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and it’s new music director. She called the Bowl and there were plenty of tickets still available, starting at $16.50.  She picked me up and we headed to the Bowl intending to buy the least expensive seats.  Despite being rush hour, getting there was a breeze. We enjoyed the evening of music under the stars for about the same price as popcorn & a movie.

You should try this, too. Regardless of what you see, it will be a memorable experience. And, with just a little more planning, pack a picnic meal (bringin in food, drinks and even bottles of wine are often allowed, check ahead of time), or purchase gourmet snacks and beverages on-site. Arrive early, so you can get a spot on a comfy bench with small table top to enjoy your nosh.

Traffic411 Tip:  Save time and money on parking (Hollywood Bowl lots have stacked parking, you can’t leave early) Take the Bowl Parking Shuttle, or public transit.

Distance from LAX: 25 miles


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