Spring Break Out
After months of chilly weather and consecutive holidays based on feasting, the time has come for one last hedonistic hoorah before you have to get your thinking cap on and your beach body back. Luckily, Spring Break is right around the corner. Yes, that means a general abandonment of clothing and inhibitions. But Spring Break also can mean more than drinking yourself into a coma and shaming yourself by getting tagged in other people’s photos drunk out of your mind and topless (or both). If you’re looking to get a little more out of your last semester sabbatical, here are some things you can do that won’t embarrass your parents.
Escape to the Desert: Sometimes the best thing about living in Los Angeles’ urban wasteland is escaping it – into an actual wasteland. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a seemingly endless stretch of nothing that extends from the I-10 to the Mexicali border. You’ll have to brush up on your desert survival (It’s hot all day and cold all night, so bring plenty of water and blankets.), but getting this far away from the city means no traffic, no closing times and no pesky law enforcement. What it does offer is a panorama of scenery so breathtaking you’ll swear it’s photoshopped and countless opportunities to prove to your friends that you could be the next Bear Grylls: Make a fire! Eat bugs! Use conveniently dead animal carcasses for shelter! The best part? Besides what you bring with you, this life-changing experience is completely free.
Fly Like a G6: If dodging rattlesnakes and dehydration seems more like a third-world punishment than a vacation, you could still escape into the desert, but with a little more class. For those of you who prefer feeling posh to feeling parched, JetSuite offers private jet charters from Los Angeles to Vegas and back for just $999. The company’s brand spanking new four-seat Phenom 100 will have you and three friends balling out of control, whisking you to the City of Sin in BMW-designed leather seats and Bose noise-canceling headphones. Of course, you won’t get to enjoy the first-class flight for long because Vegas is, like, barely an inch away on a map, but at just $250 per person, it sure beats driving there – and includes a designated driver. —John Stapleton IV
P.S. I Love You: Desert, desert and more dessert. This time, it’s about lounging by a pool, soaking in some culture and eating your heart out in Palm Springs. While the Travelodge (palmcanyonhotel.com), with its comfy, clean rooms and gratis continental breakfast, is the place to stay to suit your wallet, you’ll want to head two blocks over to the fun and funky Ace Hotel (acehotel.com) to meet all of your entertainment needs: DJ and dance nights, film screenings, live shows, pool parties, yoga, spa treatments, bingo and so on. The King’s Highway diner offers too-good-to-eat-just-once fare (especially the pie) while the Amigo Room is where most of the action takes place. Just a wee ways away you can hike the Indian Canyons or throw caution to the wind at the 24-hour downtown Spa Resort Casino. Or, take advantage of the fact that Palm Springs has the largest concentration of mid-century modern architecture and sign up for a guided tour or narrate your own by picking up a map at the Visitor Center. And while King’s Highway is a treat, venture downtown a couple of nights to Rio Azul (rioazulpalmsprings.com) for homemade guacamole (whipped up right at your table) and other authentic mouthwatering Mexican recipes and Johnny Costa’s Ristorante (johnnycostaspalmsprings.com), where the only thing better than their authentic Italian cuisine, like Penne Vodka Pink Sauce and Mussels Marinara, are the smiles on everybody’s face in the place, wait staff and customers included. —Jessica Koslow
Soundclash with Red Bull: Red Bull Soundclash presents two unprecedented live music showcases featuring first-time ever matchups between Cee Lo Green and the Ting Tings in Las Vegas outdoors at the MGM Resorts International property on March 12 and between Snoop Dogg (and the Snoopadelics) and Ghostland Observatory at Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark on South Padre Island, Texas, on March 17.
Slide Into Spring Training: The game of baseball has always struck me as arriving just in time. When life’s burdens seem endlessly dreary, suddenly the crack of the bat signals new hope. Spring is here! It is time to dream again, to plant seeds and anticipate a bountiful tomorrow. For baseball fans around the country, spring is that special season when anything is possible, a time when delusions of grandeur are allowed, indeed encouraged. The most dejected Cubs fan or depressed Royals rooter is permitted to believe that maybe, just maybe, this is their year. Spring training is for every fan regardless of the length of their winter of discontent. Yes, Dodger fans, spring training is for you, too. Despite whatever chagrin you may carry in your hearts at the state of the franchise, there are some compelling reasons to pay attention to this year’s edition of Dodger Blue. For starters, the core of the team, which won the Western Division two out of the last three seasons, returns – this time under the leadership of Don Mattingly in his first season as manager. While some view this development with skepticism, the True-Blue fan would be well advised to check out the scene for him/herself.
Remarkably, this is very doable: One needs only a working automobile, a little spending cash and a free weekend. A mere six-hour drive on I-10 through cactus and tumbleweed-spotted desert delivers you to the baseball oasis called Camelback Ranch, where the Dodgers make their spring home. Almost every day during the month of March the Boys in Blue can be seen swinging their bats at the facilities or in neighboring ballparks scattered around the Phoenix area. In total, 15 professional teams have their spring training facilities in the region, which makes travel to different parks a relatively simple task. The Giants can be seen at Scottsdale Stadium while the Angels play home games at Tempe Diablo Stadium. The experience of watching baseball in these parks is unlike any to be had in big-league stadiums. Here, you can get up close to the action and enjoy an environment where the simple joy of playing the game is valued more than winning or losing. You can even brush up on Arizona spring training history at the Play Ball – the Cactus League Experience at the Arizona Historical Society Museum (playballexperience.com).
While each ballpark has its charms, it must be said that Camelback Ranch is something special. Dug into the earth, the ballpark appears from the outside to be smaller than the others. With beige and brown colors reflecting the surrounding desert country, it has the feel of emerging from the landscape. The city of Glendale, where Camelback Ranch is located, is itself something special. With a historic downtown boasting a 100-year history, one finds funky antique shops and boutiques and bustling restaurants and cafes. Notable among these establishments is ZiNG (zingglendale.com), a restaurant renowned in the area for its exceptional menu of gourmet renditions of comfort food classics: burgers, chili, mac ’n’cheese. Offering a warm and welcoming vibe, it is an ideal spot to round out a day at the ballpark. —Dov Rudnick
You See Santa Barbara: Like most people, I would love to go to the French Riviera. Unfortunately, like most people, budget constraints don’t really make it feasible for me to fly off to the south of France. However, there is a “Riviera” just north of us off the 101, the American Riviera, in the heart of which lies Santa Barbara.
Since Santa Barbara is a popular tourist destination, there are hotels to fit anyone’s tastes and budgets. One charming spot is the Villa Rosa Inn (villarosainnsb.com), billed as “Your private hideaway in Santa Barbara.” Its major pluses are: you can quickly find your room (This quaint inn has only 18 of them.), which ooze with a cozy, “homey”-type atmosphere, there’s a pool and spa in its courtyard and, even better, it’s only “84 steps from the beach.”
Within walking distance from the Villa Rosa is the Urban Wine Trail (urbanwinetrailsb.com) – a walking tour of 11 wineries. It’s a tour where you make your own schedule and go at your own pace. And you don’t have to be an oenophile to have fun. In fact, this casual, laid-back tour is probably better for those who don’t know the difference between Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir. Each winery is about $10 per person, but with each winery serving up to seven generous pours per place, only the biggest lushes could make it to all 11 wineries.
After an afternoon of heavy wine consumption, you will need something to absorb the alcohol. If you are in the mood for a relaxed atmosphere, then head over to Olio Pizzeria (oliopizzeria.com). It’s located behind its upscale cousin, Olio e Limone Ristorante, so make sure you go to the correct Olio. Inspired by the ubiquitous pizzerias in Italy, you can still enjoy authentic, artisanal Italian food, but in a casual dining atmosphere. If you would prefer to eat overlooking the ocean, the Endless Summer Bar Café (chuckswaterfrontgrill.com) is for you. It features vintage surfboards, surf videos and, of course, fresh seafood, all with a great view of the Riviera. And the name is no coincidence. The owners of Endless Summer (the bar café) met the filmmaker of Endless Summer (the surfing movie), Bruce Brown, who gave his blessing for the restaurant, which includes memorabilia from the film. —Frederick Mintchell
Make Believe in the Magic Kingdom: The first thing to do once at Disneyland is to hotfoot it over to Pirates of the Caribbean directly on arrival and make a reservation at the Blue Bayou in New Orleans Square. Nestled right into the ride, this Cajun-Creole Café features all the ambience of pirates – lanterns, moody music and the sloshing sounds of water. My favorite dish, the Monte Cristo (a deep-fried ham and cheese sandwich), nourishes my body and soul. I never eat it anywhere else. I also love the oft-missed Disneyland Railroad, which loops around the park. Especially great is the jag between Tomorrowland and Main Street, which features dioramas of the Grand Canyon and the Primeval World, completed in 1958 and 1966. As fascinating and nostalgic as the Natural History Museum, the older parts of Disneyland that have been mostly left alone provide a chance to travel through time.
On my most recent visit I stumbled on the revamped Golden Horseshoe Revue just in time for a show and supper. The delicious crispy chicken salad compliments the blue grass performed by Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. Opened to the public in 1955, the Golden Horseshoe Revue originally featured dance hall girls. The new act flirts with corniness by hamming up the hillbilly accoutrements of overalls and prosthetic bad teeth. Another overlooked gem, the Main Street Cinema features the movie that gave the world Mickey Mouse, Steamboat Willie. Every time I watch an early black-and-white cartoon of this most famous rodent, I marvel at the small cartoon that started an empire. A new discovery of mine, the World of Color Nighttime Water Spectacular rivals any fountain in the world for sheer majesty with a unique and awesome water display featuring over 1,000 jets, synchronized to music in an uncanny and strangely fascinating extravaganza. As a fan of the Grove’s water feature, this supersized version blew me away.
Finally, stay away from the kid-centered Fantasyland and Mickey’s Toontown until sunset. As soon as the families begin to depart for the day, the lines shrink drastically and you can get your fill of childhood favorites, like the Peter Pan’s Flight. An added incentive for Southern California residents, the park offers a 2-Day 1-Park per Day ticket through April 14 for only $99. Another special just for residents is the Annual Passport, which allows for spur-of-the-moment trips to Disneyland with the luxury of just going for the evening or the morning or even just a ride on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. —Angela Matano
Go Fishin’ – For Sharks: Also known as shore angling, this Spring Break adventure pits your machismo against millions of years of evolution as you attempt to pull the most evolved predator on Earth out of the ocean and onto the beach using only a fishing pole and the 30 pounds you gained since high school. Sure, it’s probably easier to catch a shark if you’re standing over his natural habitat in the safety of a boat, but where’s the challenge in that? Make his surf your turf as you bait a line, cast it into the ocean and fight for the top of the food chain, mano-a-pescado. Southern California has its own chapter of the United States Shore Angling Association, so find out which beaches allow shore fishing so you won’t have to call your dad and tell him you’re in jail for hooking illegally. Bonus challenge: Don’t use a pole, just tie the fishing line around your waist – screw you, evolution.
Sip to Great Shape: The Hash House Harriers is a group of individuals bent on increasing their athletic endurance and alcoholic tolerance simultaneously by running throughout the city and using bars as checkpoints. H3, as it’s commonly called, describes itself as “a drinking club with a running problem,” and is open to everyone willing to pay a couple bar tabs – a totally worthwhile investment if you think the idea of combining rapid beer consumption with cross-country marathon running sounds like a good way to get drunk in shape. Every city has their own Hash House, and each is filled with its own vernacular and traditions, but if you’ve already considered surviving the desert, battling sharks and flying to Vegas in a plane that’s the size of a pack of gum, then hashing will be a (stumbling) run in the park. Expect some hazing, but don’t feel pressure to perform: Hashing is more about having a good time than accomplishing any actual objectives – like regular drinking! Los Angeles’ H3 club meets in various locations throughout the county up to five days per week, so feel free to peruse their calendar at hash.org. —John Stapleton IV