Sweeping ocean and verdant golf course views aren’t the only thing you can come to expect from VIEW - the gorgeously appointed restaurant at Vea Newport Beach’s floating lanai. The chef-driven menu showcases innovative California coastal cuisine with a cosmopolitan perspective, VIEW capitalizes on its locale’s “chic social sanctuary where revelry and relaxation mingle.”
Other defining characteristics include an extensive, eclectic and exemplary wine list of domestic and international varietals, unique craft cocktails (think pumpkin spice martinis), seasonal margaritas and signature starters like crispy confit chicken wings (enhanced with Marshall’s farm honey, mint and togarashi) and a delicately delish tuna crudo with summer vegetables and crispy nori.
Salads arrive as meals unto themselves - seafood aficionados will love the Dungeness crab salad while fans of kale will love the View’s version with candied pecans, Fuji apples, maple vinaigrette and feta.
Entrees range from a flavorful roast chicken on farro and enhanced citrus, sauteed kale and natural demi glaze and pan roasted halibut accompanied by curried cauliflower, carrots and pistachio to the Australian Wagyu sirloin with bone marrow butter, charred greens and truffle fries and the Klingemann Family Farm bone-in pork chop paired with polenta, mustard seeds and crispy pork rinds.
The spicy crab sushi roll is super flavorful with jalapeno yuzu, asparagus and spicy furikake while the Sunset “View” Roll improves upon the traditional California roll with fresh salmon, Hiramasa yellowtail, trout roe and green curry aioli.
Relish in all-day dining, live music and a charismatic indoor/outdoor scene where light bites are paired with tableside martinis, savor signature sushi rolls or indulge in a decadent multi-course meal ... no matter what time of day you choose to linger ... you’re all but guaranteed a meal in idyll.
VEA Newport Beach
A Marriot Resort & Spa
900 Newport Center Drive
Purposefully designed to make great wine uncomplicated
One could venture to say with Micah Sampson, what you see is pretty much what you get - passion, excitement, intelligence. But each of those things is about as complex as the best glass of wine - and as a sommelier Micah will tell you there’s so much more to wine than just fermented grape juice.
“There’s history, geology, geography, chemistry, cultural studies," says the San Juan Capistrano resident. "Books and movies have been centered on it. Wars, empires, and country lines have been fought over it.”
So how is it that one of the most uncomplicated pleasures in the world is also one of the most complex and variegated? Micah would like to help answer that question - with his own brand of varietals - Somm’s Stash.
A good sommelier is a helper, a guide to finding the best wine for your food and experience. He says "basically, my job is to drink a lot of wine and know everything about it,” which reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from an author when she realized she could major in writing - ‘it was like finding out I could major in eating chocolate.’
“It’s a bummer,” Micah laughs. “But the idea of having a wine brand run by a sommelier was to give people a chance to try and learn about varietals they may not have tried before.”
Uncomplicating the wine game has worked well for the Somm’s Stash since 2020, and unwrapping the mystery of why wine is enjoyable is a task Micah foresees sticking with for a long, long time. Probably longer than the shelf life of that Chardonnay or Petite Sirah sitting in your wine fridge right now.
The best part is, you can go about it any way you want to by booking a private tasting with Micah, and seeing what really goes into the wine you love so much. Bouquet, tannins, aroma, body, finish. Formal, informal - a guided pairing or a casual dinner party with friends where he'll chat with anyone who has questions.
In a wild turn of events, what seems so uncomplicated stems from an extremely complex background of learning and teaching: the education and wine appreciation behind the distinguished certification. Whatever your reasons for coming to the Somm’s Stash for insight, leave with a personalized understanding of the real world behind wine. After all, what you see is truly what you get - you just have to understand what’s behind that first glimpse.
Micah is happy to connect personally
His cell is (562) 241-1699 or
Full disclosure: I’m a mom of teenagers and as such, am continually on the hunt for bonding opportunities that a) don’t involve electronics and b) do entail entertainment and activities that are enjoyable for both age brackets. So I was thrilled when my suggestion of a day trip to the Desert Hills Premium Outlets was literally met with squeals of excitement from my 14-year-old daughter.
Home to the largest collection of luxury outlets in the Golden State, and just twenty minutes west of Palm Springs, the center features a list of 180 designer stores that reads like a “who’s who” of the fashion industry - including Burberry, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Jimmy Choo, Coach, Balenciaga, Alo Yoga, Polo Ralph Lauren, Prada, Saint Laurent, Versace, the only Christian Louboutin outlet in the U.S. and more. These reside alongside several of my daughter’s favorite retail staples (Forever 21, Claire’s and American Eagle Outfitters) and anchors Neiman Marcus Last Call and Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH.
The newest stores to open here in recent months include Alo Yoga (the trendy and practical activewear line that easily transitions from studio to street), Buck Mason (inspired by the laid back California ethos of easy living, quality and simplicity), IRO (a beautiful French line of ready-to-wear pieces) and just in time for winter adventures everywhere - the West Coast’s first Moose Knuckles outlet location (the Canadian luxury outerwear collection showcases warm parkas and down coats that can withstand sub-zero temperatures in style).
Surrounded by majestic mountains with temperatures hovering in the mid-70s, our mother/daughter day was defined by leisurely strolling in and out of stores, sipping Boba tea and thoroughly enjoying the picturesque outdoor shopping oasis. With savings up to 65 percent off regular retail prices, we happily crossed several names off our holiday lists. Mother/daughter bonding + retail therapy + productivity? That sounds like an equation for a fun-filled endeavor that bears repeating in the not-too-distant future.
Desert Hills Premium Outlets
48400 Seminole Drive
There are a few places on my winter vacation shortlist: San Diego for a surf and sand staycation, Big Apple for the holidays, Big Sur to see McWay Falls at its peak, and South Lake Tahoe for literally everything else. Boating, shopping, gaming, nightlife, hiking, biking. Dining out or cooking dinner with the family, staying slopeside or near the waterfront: there are endless combinations of fun to be had. Taking a break but staying close to the amenities that make you comfortable at home can be a tough lift, but on the shores of the lake waterfront homes often come with a dock for easy access to get you to whichever activity you’d like.
Split by the massive, magnificent alpine lake in the middle, both the north and south shores of Lake Tahoe are easy to navigate and offer an abundance of outdoor (and indoor) attractions and activities year round.
Our family is rather partial to the south shore - many of our best vacation memories were made here over the years. It doesn’t matter which season you visit: whether a winter wonderland or a water enthusiast’s dream during the summer. When snow caps the Sierra Nevadas, there’s snowshoeing, cross-country and downhill skiing and snowboarding, while warmer weather is perfect for hiking, biking, kayaking or simply soaking in the picturesque environs from the shoreline. Pristine waters, deep gorges, craggy mountains and tall green trees define the spectacularly scenic landscape.
A unique way to experience the lake is to embark on a family-friendly daytime scenic cruise aboard the Tahoe Queen for a tour of Emerald Bay – an absolutely must for amazing photo opportunities. Take in some of the most incredible views in the world, enjoy lunch, hot cocoa and a good dose of South Lake Tahoe history with the Captain’s live narration.
For a more comfortable, cozy and convenient option to staying in a traditional hotel room, The Tahoe Keys Resort and Lake Tahoe Reservation Bureau (www.laketahoe.com or 800.698.2463) offers an extensive selection of luxury homes, condos and rustic cabins to suit your specific needs – whether you’re a couple looking for a romantic retreat, a family with kids or a large group of friends.
For those of us who are working from the confines of our kitchen table or a cramped home office looking for a break, Tahoe Keys Resort features abundant 30+ day-extended stay properties. Perfect for a work-vacation combination trip, or a multi-generational vacation, the opportunities for excitement and relaxation are unlimited.
Traveling with our teens, we have been booking accommodation through Tahoe Keys Resort since they were littles. The process couldn’t be easier and with so many options, we’re ensured plenty of space to stretch out, everyone has their own room to retreat to, we save time and money by being able to cook our meals and dine in rather than eat out three times a day and are within minutes of area attractions, casinos and, of course, the lake. We could easily bike to the nearby beaches, hike Camp Richardson and still be a mere stone’s throw from all the action at stateline.
Unlike vacations where we schedule a series of specific activities designed to keep everyone occupied and entertained away from the hotel room, this trip was all about taking full advantage in what the condo we rented had to offer – the kids were in and out all day long, playing frisbee, tossing a ball and enjoying a “picnic” lunch on the property’s expansive lawn between bike rides to explore the environs.
Lunches and dinners were either easy outdoor affairs – steaks, burgers, hot dogs and grilled corn cooked on the barbecue or on the last evening, a multi-course meal prepared in the chef’s gourmet kitchen – and for the adults, “happy hour” on the upstairs deck was a nightly highlight sipping a glass of fine wine while watching the sun slip over the horizon – a perfect end to each fun-filled day in one of the prettiest places on the planet.
Tahoe Keys Resort features spacious condos, rustic cabins or luxury homes for short and extended stay.
A friend of mine joked with me recently that Kansas City is the loudest city in the midwest. He assured me that it was strictly due to the volume of sports fans: Royals baseball and Chiefs football, Sporting KC soccer, NASCAR at the Speedway. Someone is always cheering.
I can’t say we’re the biggest sporting family, but I’ll wager Kansas City can compete with the best when it comes to family-friendly activities during the fall. The free KC Streetcar, located within walking distance of all the major hotels downtown, gets you to Union Station’s Science City, dubbed a “play-and-learn paradise.” Also home to the Planetarium and the Extreme Screen Theater, there’s more entertainment that you might be able to squeeze into one afternoon.
Accommodations of Distinction
Kansas City is known as the Crossroads of the US, and there’s one property located at its heart that channels the unique history of the city while celebrating its contemporary culture. The award-winning 131-room Crossroads Hotel (www.crossroadshotel.com) - with its trio of bustling bars and restaurants - is where people from all over the world and around the corner come together.
Like the energy, creativity and passion of the city it calls home, this vibrant property is all about community and connection. At every turn, local artists, designers and purveyors share their talent in its public and private spaces.
Accommodations here are stylish with a Midwestern point of view - spacious and welcoming spaces characterized by hints of the structure’s historic roots (think hardwood, exposed brick, original industrial details). Encompassing two buildings originally built by Pabst Blue Ribbon and used as a bottling and distribution center, Crossroads Hotel’s design pays homage to the city’s 20th Century heritage as “The Paris of the Plains” - a reputation earned by defying Prohibition.
Lazia, the hotel's signature dinner-only establishment showcases a fresh take on nostalgic Italian cuisine. Start with the fragrant warm house-made focaccia with your choice of small bites as accompaniment. These range from a creamy whipped ricotta )enhanced with local honey and pistachio butter) and baked littleneck clams to a roasted eggplant pecorino puree or "burger's smokehouse attic aged ham."
The kids loved the from the hearth, napoletana style pizza topped with mozzarella di bufala, basil and san marzano tomato. Popular house-made pasta dishes include the cocoa cappelletti filled with roasted butternut squash with lemon brown butter, pumpkin seeds and amaretti cookie crumble. Among the main courses meant to share is the bistecca alla fiorentina - a grilled to perfection Morgan Ranch bone-in florentine steak accompanied by Tuscan fries and black garlic bone marrow butter.
Barbecue, blues, destination dining, the arts and culture are a given, but lest we forget the Kansas City's apt moniker - there are literally fountains to be found everywhere - with over 200 in the greater metro area. Some are big and boastful in their beauty, while others are more understated but equally impressive.
If you’re looking for thrills, check out the rollercoasters at Worlds of Fun and Towers of Fun - or just skip straight to the Zoo - either way, you’re guaranteed to whoop and holler with excitement all the way through your visit. Maybe KC is really the loudest city for a reason.
A few years back my teenage daughter came home from school using the phrase “beyond.” I gathered after it was expressed a few times that it meant “extra,” or “really great.” And then I felt very old. After enough time passes though, those juvenile phrases you think you’re unlikely to ever utter become part of your everyday vocabulary. I’m sure I used the phrase incorrectly more often than not, but she and I did come to an agreement that the town we vacationed in recently fit the idiom perfectly. Branson, Missouri.
Mind you, it sports attractions you might expect to see: zoo, aquarium, family fun parks. But each feature was just the slightest bit extra - 1880’s themed park, or a massive four-story upside-down house at Wonder Works which you can spend hours exploring. A Titanic museum with a real iceberg. Excellent dining, gorgeous and expansive Ozarks views, live shows, wineries, bars, buffets and distilleries. All I can say is it’s beyond worth a trip to see for yourself.
WHERE TO STAY
The Hilton Promenade in Branson Landing (hilton.com) proved to the perfect, picturesque home base for our adventure in the Ozarks - ideally situated in the city’s historic downtown district. Within easy driving distance to the theaters and attractions on the strip, the four-diamond property (and its sister hotel, the Hilton Branson Convention Center, across the street) is located right in the heart of the shopping and dining destination at the edge of Lake Taneycomo.
Our accommodation was superb - an amenity-rich king condo that provided plenty of space for our family of four to spread out. We loved having a kitchen equipped with all the necessities to enjoy a leisurely breakfast on the beautiful balcony overlooking the promenade (bonus! a birds-eye view of the spectacular fountain shows on daily display).
For fine dining, you’d be hard pressed to top Level 2 Steakhouse. Located in the Hilton Branson Convention Center, this award-winning establishment serves up delicious dishes for every palate and an extensive wine list. A meat-and-potatoes man, my husband thoroughly enjoyed his cooked-to-perfection petite filet mignon enhanced with roasted garlic chive butter paired with an iceberg wedge and a fully loaded baked potato.
Other popular entrees include the linguini and clams, pan roasted Atlantic salmon and the Show Me Wagyu Cattle Company Burger with bacon onion marmalade and sharp cheddar cheese.
WHERE TO PLAY
Presleys’ Country Jubilee
My husband, Tim, has been telling me about Branson and specifically about Presleys’ Country Jubilee (presleys.com) for years. He had seen the performance before we were married and it clearly left an impression because he insisted we see the show when we booked our trip to the Ozarks - and having returned, I have to say is a night with the Presleys’ is guaranteed to be a historically good time.
For the last 55 years, the family has been providing legendary performances as the original country music theater in Branson. First in the caves that dot the Missouri Hils, then above ground on a lonely stretch of two-lane asphalt out of town in the Ozarks. What grew up around them along Hwy. 76 decades later, no one could have foretold. And now, among the glittering mecca of country music stars still play the Presleys’. With their unique blend of downhome family atmosphere, this one-of-a-kind mix of country, gospel, bluegrass and hilarious comedy show is a smash hit, and the crowds still come by the thousands to see. The artists are a lineage all to themselves, and the dream just keeps rolling, night after night to the tune of fifteen hundred tapping feet. Underground no more, and dedicated to making memories just as special as the day they began.
It’s about 51 degrees outside here at home as I write this and I am inside, underneath a blanket, wearing a sweatshirt and leggings: reminiscing about the experience I had reaching my hand into 28-degree water, standing on the sloping deck of the historical juggernaut - RMS Titanic. Don’t get me wrong, only a handful of folks have ever visited the actual wreckage of the world’s most legendary shipwreck. But at the living history museum in Branson, you can climb the Grand Staircase and peer into the parlors, cabins, and hallways that housed its ill-fated passengers on that icy journey across the Atlantic in 1912.
Each guest entering the ship receives a boarding pass of an actual Titanic passenger or crew member, and journeys to see private artifacts on display - a collection valued at over $4.5 million. Like the award-winning audio tour on Alcatraz Island, this self-guided tour leads you to discover your fate in the Titanic Memorial Room, descending the famed and sweeping steps of the Grand Staircase, and perhaps feeling the spirit presence of your passenger or crew mate as you experience the splendor and tragedy for yourself.
Beyond the Lens/Flyride
Its curved screen reaches up into the dark above you and boasts a full range digital audio system, but leaning into the experience is the only way to enjoy the 4k laser projectors which give you an immersive image of America’s favorite landmarks at Branson’s Flyride (beyondthelens.com). More than five years in the making, and crafted and produced by the Academy Award-nominated IMAX filmmakers, the experience includes full motion seats that soar, dip, and dive. Accompanied by delicious scents, refreshing wind, misty breezes off of the giant Niagara Falls, and other amazing effects, you don’t want to miss out. If the big screen isn’t what excites you, look no further than the Beyond the Lens experience for endless Insta-worthy photo ops, escape rooms, virtual reality games, classic arcade favorites like Skeeball and even a pop-culture timeline that stretches from the 1960’s to the present.
Anthems of Rock, King’s Castle Theatre
Now that my teens have officially outgrown what we call “kid music,” my husband and I were thrilled to discover that they both have a taste for the classics: The Eagles, The Who, Queen, Elton John. So it was a particular treat to experience the high-energy Anthems of Rock at King’s Castle Theatre. A state-of-the-art sound and lighting system makes the country’s number one tribute show an iconic must-hear (and see!).
Aquarium at the Boardwalk
You tend to see a lot of aquariums when you have kiddos. Some activities tend to lose their color, but others stay fresh no matter how many times they’ve been on repeat. I think the Aquarium at the Boardwalk holds a particularly special place in my heart because of the moon jelly infinity room. There is something so incredibly otherworldly about jellyfish - and putting their amazing bioluminescent bodies on display in an endless space with changing colors that you can control? Beyond, as the kids say these days. I’d be content just hanging out in the infinity room all day watching the jellyfish swim, but don’t miss out on the coral reef, waters tunnel straight into the heart of the aquarium (and a sunken ancient city!), or mermaid palace. Hit the kelp forest for the kids, and finish your day with some hands on experience at the touch pools.
Snowflex at Wolfe Mountain
Technology continues to advance in the most fascinating ways each and every day. Most people are talking about AI right now - in certain metropolitan areas, you can get food delivered via robot. But one of the most incredible innovations in recent years are substitutions for grass and even snow. Like most other activities, Branson’s Snowflex turned the fun up to ten on this technological wonder, and created a snow park out of the high performance polymer composite. Large enough that eight tubes can run the 400-foot slope simultaneously, Snowflex was designed to give “maximum thrills to people of all ages,” and is fun for the entire family, toddler on up. All you need are closed toed shoes and casual athletic attire to enjoy this low maintenance activity. Somehow, it’s even softer than the real thing, just in case you take a tumble. No grooming required either: which begs the question, what will they think up next?
Surf City’s Newest, Elevated Dining Experience
Surf-fare isn’t necessarily a new term, but it is certainly taking on new meaning at Henry’s Coastal Cuisine. Located in the Waterfront Beach Resort, Huntington Beach’s most elegant and inspired oceanside dining experience, Henry’s takes endless waterfront views to the next level with an open-air patio, a carefully selected French and Californian wine selection and specialty craft cocktails.
Dishes showcase regional flavors from the Southern California shores with an emphasis on seasonal, local ingredients. Executive Chef Lewis Butler pairs rich French traditions with an expansive, airy venue that put a delicious spin on farm-to-table fare.
Popular starters include grilled octopus with sauteed spinach, confit Yukon potato and blistered sweet cherry tomatoes and the Nori (seaweed) infused fettuccini accompanied by summer squash and lobster dashi.
I love, love, love pan seared Diver scallops and the dish here doesn’t disappoint - super flavorful and perfectly prepared enhanced with mirin stewed shishito peppers for just a touch of kick atop a miso carrot purée and baby squash ribbons. Our family’s meat eater, my husband Tim knows his way around a good filet. He says the grilled entree here was tender and delicious, while diners at the next table raved about their roasted rack of lamb with eggplant purée and the local roasted black cod with San Marzano tomato sauce and saffron whipped potatoes (both dishes Tim and I decided were “must-try” on a future date night).
A sweet treat to share to end the evening? The blueberry croustade was a delectable dessert I haven’t seen on any menu elsewhere - made with farm fresh blueberries, almond streusel, vanilla ice cream and creme Anglaise.
Seafood is a must here, as well as an elegant weekend brunch. Wind up for the day or wind down in surf country with fresh and sophisticated culinary delights and spectacular ocean views.
21100 Pacific Coast Highway | Huntington Beach | (714) 845-8000 | WaterfrontResort.com
There’s something so satisfying about seeing an iced tray of gorgeous Eastern or Pacific oysters on the half shell appear at the table, served with fresh horseradish, mignonette, cocktail sauce and habanero-lime relish. Or the truly great Maryland Blue Crab - straight from the softshell crab capital of the world - where they are packed and flown alive and kicking direct from the Chesapeake to the restaurant several days a week.
I am the unabashed seafood aficionado in our family so I am always particularly thrilled when ocean fare is on the menu. My husband, on the other hand, is a strictly meat-and-potatoes man who will never eschew a perfectly grilled prime cut of beef.
With a lineup of exquisite seafood offerings (wild-caught and served fresh) and charcoal-grilled Harris Ranch steaks, Water Grill can’t be beat when it comes to crafting truly delectable memories. From the tall-backed leather chairs to the robust craft cocktail menu, every occasion is begging for the chance to be celebrated with such style and substance so we were confident both our culinary leanings would be handily satisfied when we made a reservation for our recent wedding anniversary.
Starting at the raw bar, dive into the aforementioned oysters or chilled shellfish like wild littleneck clams, jumbo Mexican shrimp, farmed Peruvian Bay scallops or large Channel Islands Red Sea Urchin. Can’t decide? Order an iced platter that arrives with a sampling of everything.
An all-time must-have on any self-respecting seafood connoisseur’s wish list is the California Spiny Lobster - now in season. Their counterparts from Maine are delicious, but this special crustacean boasts a sweeter flavor profile and more meat (generally around 25% more per pound). Caught off the California coast in the waters from Baja to Morro Bay, these beauties were incredibly succulent and didn’t need anything other than drawn butter to enhance the flavor.
If charcoal-grilled or oven roasted wild-caught fish is more to your liking, popular picks include the melt-in-your-mouth wild Alaskan black cod served with soba noodles or the flavorful togarashi seared local bluefin tuna.
Then for land lovers like my beau, Water Grill serves up Harris Ranch filets, prime New York Strip steak, prime split-bone “cowboy” ribeye or charcoal grilled “Mary’s” organic chicken paired with the favorite side of your choice: braised kale, Mexican street corn, grilled broccolini or seven-cheese mac & cheese.
Start with the wild Spanish octopus (charcoal grilled with fingerling potatoes) and wade through the raw bar until your tastebuds are begging for a break. Save room for their chocolate espresso ganache cake, or finish out your night with a French pressed espresso and homemade sorbet. Any are certain to be just as appealing as that first round of oysters.
3300 Bristol Street
Known as one-half of the “Twin Cities,” Minneapolis is one of the most welcoming, culturally rich places to visit as a family in the country. With growing numbers of gorgeous parks, beautiful lakes, hiking trails, bike paths and verdant green spaces, this city is also home to a vibrant arts scene (think world-class museums and progressive galleries), inspired dining, destination shopping and the “Minnesota Nicest” people.
Tour the Walker Art Center and get your fill of edgy contemporary works, or stroll through the Sculpture Garden - home to Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Bruggen’s iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry installation - and take in more than 40 different works from artists around the world. Prince fans can take a pilgrimage to Paisley Park, a half hour from city center.
Where to stay
One of the most recognized names in luxury hotel brands, Loews properties across North America operate with the philosophy that “hospitality comes from the heart.” Situated near the Mississippi River in the heart of downtown, Loews Minneapolis (LoewsHotels.com) is no exception - this chic, modern 22-story hotel features 251 elegantly appointed, newly renovated guest rooms and suites, abundant family-friendly signature services and amenities, innovative dining and a location that literally can’t be beat (Target Field is just 1,500 feet away - a quick walk to watch baseball in a gorgeous open-air stadium). This property proved to be the perfect “home base” from which to experience the city and its recreation and attractions.
Staff here has thoughtfully compiled a local line-up of family activities whether you’re looking to explore the environs or staying comfy indoors - they even offer assorted games for all ages which was particularly great from a parent perspective to keep our teens engaged and off their electronics.
My husband and I consider ourselves to be fledgling foodies so we were thrilled to sample the fare at Cosmos - New American cuisine inspired by the Pacific Regions. My Yellow Thai curry with shrimp and fragrant jasmine rice was super flavorful, while his Gerber Amish roasted half chicken was equally delicious, enhanced with lemon tyme pan jus and accompanied by mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus.
The Apothecary Bar & Lounge is a sophisticated space showcasing a restaurant of its own, 20-seat Library and chef’s table and specializes in small shareable plates, handcrafted cocktails, local microbrews and a Build Your Own Old Fashioned.
What to do
If you’re seeking a thrill, take a spin around Minnehaha Falls: summer or winter, and gape at the iced majesty even Queen Elsa would be jealous of. For our part, our teens couldn’t wait for our much-anticipated visit to the Mall of America (MallofAmerica.com). Mind you, an entire day spent in a shopping mall wasn’t my first thought when planning this weekend away, but for a truly unique, most memorable vacation - this ginormous space offers endless entertainment, dining, attraction and retail experiences.
Nickelodeon Universe is a seven-acre indoor amusement park featuring over two dozen rides with something for everyone. Purchase an unlimited ride wristband for all-day access to carousels and crazy cars for junior enthusiasts to twisting, turning rollercoasters for our thrill-seeking teens. We were already fans of the animated series so another favorite was the Avatar Airbender - where the kids rode a “wave of air” rocking back and forth to reach heights of 70 feet as air and fire forces raged around them.
The state’s largest aquarium is also housed under roof here - explore 1.3 million gallons of awesome - sharks, sea turtles, stingrays and even a 14-foot-long sawfish. For an immersive adventure - the Escape Game allows you crack codes, uncover clues, solve puzzles and complete a mission as a family.
A stunning skyline, delectable food, and more Midwest charm than you can shake a stick at round out the long list of reasons why it should be the next place on your list.
The nature of gift purchasing has changed greatly since the advent of the internet. How has Absolutely Fabulous stayed above the fray and blossomed while the rest of the gift industry flounders? “That’s easy,” responds Diane Silverstein, owner of the iconic Huntington Beach-based Absolutely Fabulous gift boutique, “quality, selection, price range, and ease of shopping.” After many visits to her “absolutely fabulous” gift and décor shop, I would have to agree. “Plus – we ship world-wide, so you can mail your stuff right from here!”
While the internet excels at making home shopping the easiest experience, when you know exactly what you’re looking for, much of holiday gift-giving starts with “who is this for, and how much do I want to spend on them?” Absolutely Fabulous makes this type of shopping easy with their “you know the personality, we know the product” approach to holiday gift-giving. “You see,” Diane explains in her charming English accent, “we spend hours and hours searching for the best new products offered in the gift industry. When our customers come in with their lists, we walk them around and point out options that our customers would never have found in an internet search.”
Diane is not kidding on that last point. The variety and uniqueness of products at Absolutely Fabulous is astounding: hand-made jewelry, Miche Bag purses (the ones where you just drop the “insides” of your purse into a new shell, rather than having to dump all of your stuff out!), $10 silk scarves, old-school shaving kits for men, a “Daddy’s Tool Bag” that includes diaper changing equipment, and instructional DVD, face mask and other funny items, rare paintings by successful artists, large crystal chandeliers, crystal perfume bottles, stuffed animal baby bottle covers, piggy banks for kids, wedding party gifts, rare Disney art and collectibles, holiday-themed decor and gifts, Christmas decorations that range from very inexpensive bottle stoppers and tree decorations to 6-foot high collectible Santa dolls. Ab Fab really does cover the gamut of gifts for anyone: “from birth to death and everything in-between is our moniker” Diane proudly states. I tend to agree.
This holiday season, find out why Absolutely Fabulous is so appropriately-named. Connect with Diane and the crew at Absolutely Fabulous located at 6026 Warner Avenuein Huntington Beach, call (714) 842-1608 or visit