By Mary Forgione, Los Angeles Times Daily Deal and Travel Blogger
Weekdays and winter are an ideal match for low rates at lodgings inside Zion and Sequoia & Kings Canyon national parks. Fewer visitors and snow are bonuses for those ready to bundle up to explore the off-season side of these parklands in Utah and California.
Deal 1:Zion National Park was created in 1919 and was the first national park in Utah. Zion Lodge offers a package that comes with breakfast for two and costs $139 a night for a room, $149 for a cabin and $179 for a suite. (Prices exclude tax.) Use the code "WNTR" when making a reservation.
When: The offer is good Sundays-Thursdays from now through March 20, based on availability. Weekends cost $15 more a night.
Tested: I found availability for $139 rooms on Jan. 12-14. Rates usually run $185 a night for rooms, $192 for cabins and $226 for suites. Note the package isn't available around Christmastime or New Year's Eve.
By Catharine M. Hamm, Los Angeles Times Travel editor
If you’re strictly a domestic traveler and want to speed through airport security, the Transportation Security Administration on Wednesday will begin offering you a chance to join its PreCheck program.
A center that will administer the TSA program is to open in Los Angeles by the end of the year, although it is not yet known where that will be.
Previously, PreCheck was available to elite frequent fliers by invitation of the airline with which they had elite status or through Global Entry, a government program that allows expedited entry back into the country as well as faster airport screening.
Global Entry, administered by Customs and Border Protection, costs $100 (nonrefundable even if you’re denied access to the program) and is good for five years. The TSA’s PreCheck program piggybacked onto Global Entry program.
But beginning Wednesday, travelers who don’t want or need that reentry perk can apply to TSA for the chance to go through security without removing...
By Mary Forgione, Los Angeles Times Daily Deal and Travel Blogger
In December, Southern California public gardens aren't so much about what's growing as what's glowing. Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont, the Living Desert in Palm Desert and the San Diego Botanic Garden open for nighttime lights or luminaria displays. And Scrooge drops in for weekends at Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge. Here's a list of holiday happenings at these gardens:
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont: Follow the more than 1,000 candle-lighted luminarias along a loop trail in the garden at night on weekends leading up to Christmas. Listen to live performances -- Native American flute music, folk music, Appalachian fiddle and more -- while munching on cookies and sipping hot cider. Events run 6-9 p.m. on Saturday, plus Dec. 13 and 14, 20 and 21 and cost $5 per person; children younger than 3 are admitted free. Buy Luminaria Nights tickets online or at the garden. Info: 1500 N. College Ave., Claremont; (909) 625-8767
Seeing Santa at the mall is so passé. In Las Vegas, he can be found this month floating in a giant fish tank, month riding a train, and running through the streets -- by the thousands.
St. Nick will swim with the fishes -- 4,000 of them -- at the Silverton Casino Hotel, where he will don lead boots for his dives in the resort’s 117,000-gallon aquarium. Santa and his elves will be submerged from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. starting this Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 22. Modern technology will allow the jolly old man to chat with kids outside the tank.
Elsewhere in Las Vegas, Santa and Mrs. Claus will greet youngsters aboard the Santa Train operated by the Nevada State Railroad Museum, about a half-hour east of the Strip in Boulder City. The full-size train will operate Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 22. Trips depart on the hour from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tickets are $5 per person. Info: (702) 486-5933.
A sea of Santas can be seen dashing through downtown Las Vegas on Saturday. The Opportunity...
Just in time for prime shopping season, San Diego's longtime police station has been reborn as an upscall mall known as the Headquarters at Seaport District. It opened Nov. 18 near the downtown waterfront.
The complex, a mix of Spanish and Mission Revival styles, was built in 1939 with a jail, five courtrooms, an indoor shooting range, a law library and a big garage. The police moved out in the late 1980s, and the site stood idle for years while the tourists flocked to the tourist-friendly Seaport Village shopping area next door.
Nowadays it’s Seaport Village that seems less compelling while the Headquartersstands tall, freshly groomed and eager to please. Its restaurants include a Pizzeria Mozza, Eddie V’s (steak and seafood); Puesto (Mexican street food); and Bruxie, a sandwich spot that uses Belgian waffles instead of bread. Shops include a fancy cheese place (Venissimo Cheese), a fancy toy place (Geppetto’s) and Kitson, the upscale retailer that made its name...
Everyone loves my big yellow motorcycle with a sidecar, the one I’m using in an attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Kids love it. Adults love it. Cambodian monkeys also love it. But there is one place where the love falls short.
Since I left Los Angeles on Aug. 10, I have relied on the kindness of others for food, shelter and gasoline and have been fortunate to attract the best kind of attention. But for some reason border guards do not love my bike, which I called Kindness One, and they apparently do not like me either.
As I tried to enter Vietnam from Cambodia, things were not looking good. I had encountered border troubles before. The Thai border guards didn’t seem to know what to make of me and my bright yellow motorcycle. I spent six hours at the border trying to persuade them I wasn’t a vintage motorcycle smuggler. (This is a 1978 Chang Jiang motorcycle, outfitted with a BMW engine.)
I managed to talk my way around this when I learned that the head of the...
A wedding ceremony for less than $100? A beautiful setting -- Hawaii -- and some bargain prices may mean big business in the Aloha State, where same-sex marriages begin Monday.
“We anticipate a huge increase in spending in the state of Hawaii from the LGBT market,” Neal Miller of Atlanta’s Neal Miller Travel Co. told Travel Weekly. “We expect larger celebrations, larger groups of folks coming to Hawaii with couples choosing to bring their families along with them.”
Citing a paper from the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization released in July, U.S. News on NBC News reported that same-sex marriage could add nearly $70 million a year to Hawaii's economy. Tourism is the No. 2 industry in the state and suffered reverses in the 2008 economic downturn.
Kevin Rebello, an owner of Gay Hawaii Wedding, said his company had arranged five same-sex weddings for Monday.
“We are swamped," he said. "We’re up to about 30 bookings since the bill...
The annual snow-sports expo known as Ski Dazzle, opening Thursday, marks its 50th year with free lift tickets, hundreds of info booths and a thrill ride down a Sochi downhill course.
Expo attendees this year can step onto an Olympic team training machine that creates a detailed virtual Sochi race course. The SkyTech Sport machine is not just a video game, organizers say, but rather a high-tech training tool used by amateur and professional athletes.
The $20 expo admission also includes ski lessons on a 60-foot ramp; a new snowboard learning center for children 2 to 8 and a 50-foot-long ice rink.
In addition, the Bear Mountain vert ramp returns to the show, featuring world-class skaters and BMX riders. Twelve-year-old sensation Tom Schaar will be among them.
And maybe best of all, six resorts are offering a free lift ticket with the purchase of an admission ticket to the expo. Participating resorts include: Bear Mountain, Mt. Baldy, Mountain High, Snow Summit, Snow Valley and Brianhead....
Sometimes, words aren’t enough to describe the emotions the seize you. That’s what happened to me in Cambodia.
I left Los Angeles on Aug. 10 in an attempt to circumnavigate the globe on my trusty yellow motorcycle with the help of generous people who are housing me, feeding me and giving me money for gasoline for the bike, which I call Kindness One.
After visiting the enchanting temples at Angkor Wat, I arrived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, energized by that visit. Although I certainly knew about Cambodia’s tragic past, I was unprepared for coming face to face with it.
Cambodia's infamous killing fields are exactly that: open spaces where the murderous Khmer Rouge took innocent people to be slaughtered. The Geneocide Studies Program at Yale Universityestimates there are more than 300 such mass gravesites in Cambodia. As I got closer to this place of death, my heart started racing. When I arrived I encountered a pagoda filled with human skulls, countless...
A U.S. State Department travel warning on Venezuela, issued Nov. 22, says "violent crime in Venezuela is pervasive, both in the capital, Caracas, and in the interior." In a country of about 28.5 million, 21,629 people were slain, one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Kidnappings, the State Department notes, "are also a serious concern…. In 2013, 583 kidnappings were reported," adding that 80% of kidnappings aren't reported. The department warning adds that "all U.S. direct-hire personnel and their family members who are assigned to U.S. Embassy Caracas are required to take an armored vehicle when traveling to/from Maiquetía Airport."
Cyprus remains divided after talks last week failed to resolve issues that block the reunification of the ethnically divided country. Cyprus was split into an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece.
I thoroughly enjoyed the piece on Union Station ["A Set for Past and Future," by Christopher Reynolds, Nov. 24] and wonderful pics by Mark Boster. It brought back long-ago memories of when my family came to California by train in 1965.
My dad was offered a management position in his company if he moved from Chicago to L.A. He loaded up his three sons and one daughter, and for three days and two chilly nights we rode toward the West.
We finally landed in downtown Los Angeles at beautiful Union Station. Stepping outside for the first time I still remember the fragrance of orange blossoms and the tall, swaying palm trees with a backdrop of a sunny blue sky. Wow, California.
John R. Owens
Desert Hot Springs
Another PreCheck snarl
Regarding "TSA's Holiday 'Gift' May Be Security Jams," by Catharine Hamm, Nov. 24]: We flew to Philadelphia from LAX last week on Virgin America, whose gates are in Terminal 3. As a result of the recent tragedy in that terminal, we were informed that PreCheck...
Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger Mary Forgione likes to hit the dirt when she's on vacation. An avid hiker and runner, Mary likes speed-touring cities on foot and sightseeing by running marathons.