There’s a popular Christmas carol recorded by Andy Williams, back in 1963, called “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Now, the holiday season may have drawn to a close, but in many places (especially in the Southwest) the most wonderful time of the year is here. Temperate weather and a rather robust list of seasonal offerings make Taos, New Mexico the place to be as colder months give way to spring. In March, outdoor activities like skiing, snowshoeing or relaxing in a local hot springs continue to top the charts. But for families visiting the area, outdoor recreation is just the tip of the iceberg. Ballooning, golf, tennis - landmark sites, destination dining, shopping and art galleries - even guided tours on horseback are all accessible from Taos’ historical downtown.
Put the family up in award-winning accommodations while you explore the mystical wonders of the region’s favorite artisan escapes. Situated in the mountains of Northern New Mexico, El Monte Sagrado (ElMonteSagrado.com) offers a serene setting surrounded by waterfalls, ponds and towering cottonwood trees. The guest experience at this culturally distinctive, minority-owned local resort is chock full of the Southwest’s Native American, Mexican, Spanish and American Western cultural and historical influences. For our part, our family loved its locale - the perfectly manicured grounds and luxury accommodations made the El Monte Sagrado feel like a true mountain oasis, but walk only a few blocks from the property and you’re right in the heart of Tao’s historic plaza.
Once a Spanish fortified walled plaza and settled over 400 years ago by Spanish colonists, a stroll through the streets today reveals a popular tourist destination defined by unique boutiques, cafes and art galleries and plays host to many cultural events, farmers markets and live music. The plaza itself is hemmed in by scores of superb Spanish Colonial-style structures and Mission Revival homes harkening back to its roots in the late 18th century.
Accommodation of distinction
Any one of El Monte Sagrado’s 48 Mountain rooms, 18 Native American suites, 6 historic Casitas, or 12 Premiere suites provide seamless service and luxury appointments. From en suite hot tubs to private patios or balconies with lovely garden views, the resort serves as an unforgettable “home base” whether you are in town to explore the historic environs like our family or experience world class skiing a mere 20 miles away at Taos Ski Valley. Our Taos Mountain Room was the ideal retreat replete with thoughtful features including a cozy fireplace and large soaking tub. On-property amenities include a full-service fitness center (peloton bike, treadmills, elliptical trainers, free weights), an indoor saltwater pool and spa and The Living Spa, an eco-conscious, world class rejuvenation center showcasing a variety of signature healing treatments and massage therapy).
Dine in at De La Tierra for a delicious blend of regional and seasonal dishes created by Executive Chef Cristina Martinez (a popular starter that was distinctly different and highly recommended - the New Mexico green Chile and fresh mozzarella flatbread). In the early evening, my husband and I headed to the Anaconda Bar for a post-adventure aperitif - its libations and custom craft cocktails made a quick date night possible even with the kids in tow. Aptly named for the giant sculpture winding its way through the venue, the upscale lounge offers live entertainment, seasonal patio seating and a lovely light refreshment menu (the Green Chile Smash Burger on brioche was perfect for sharing - yes, you are sensing a theme - Green chile appears to be a uniquely New Mexico menu ingredient).
While in town for a long weekend, we also took to the road a bit - stretching all the way from Santa Fe, the “High Road to Taos” winds its way through the scenic Sangre de Cristo Mountains - with scores of interesting historic sites (think Spanish colonial towns and Pueblo Indian villages) and vistas along the way - passing through vast valleys, verdant forests and high deserts. Nestled just to the northwest of town is the otherworldly-looking Earthships - a community of 70-odd sustainable homes made entirely from recycled materials.
A particular highlight of the trip was the “pedestrian thrills” atop the steel-deck Rio Grande Gorge Bridge - an absolutely phenomenal feat of engineering with epic views of the yawning chasm and wild waters. I am terribly afraid of heights - so suffice to say it was quite outside my comfort zone to walk along the “sidewalk” designed with tourists in mind and step out onto the little “porches” that jut out over the void with only a chest-high guardrail between me and the Rio Grande 650 feet below.
Take the kids to a leisurely brunch at De La Tierra and give everyone the chance to sleep in a bit - or opt for a tasty grab + go breakfast so you can hit first chair on the mountain or embark on an early walking tour. Whatever you choose to do - listen to Andy Williams, and take advantage of the most wonderful time of the year in Taos.
Necessity is the mother of invention - or from the original Republic: “our need will be the real creator.” Plato wasn’t wrong, and in the case of Because Market Co-founders Alexi Suvacioglu and Luca Gualco, frustration may have been an even more pressing incentive. Coming from two closely-knit families that each cared for their grandparents, the journey to find the right incontinence products was a lengthy one. Thus, Because.
“Going from store to store wasn’t going to work anymore, and e-commerce didn’t offer enough customer service. It was overwhelming - there were just too many options that didn’t work.” In 2017, the frustration boiled over, and Alexi and Luca started their own company. After partnering with design and engineering experts and talking to urologists about fit and absorbency, their mission became a reality.
“We just wanted to make life easier for adults living with incontinence by providing high quality, discreet products directly to customers’ doors.” Today, Because is able to boast a leading online destination for personal care and wellness products: all tailored for older adults.
There are nearly 120 million adults in the US aged 45 or older, from California to Rhode Island and back again. Not all struggle with incontinence, but the number Because Market have helped is still staggering.
“Earning 5-star reviews along the way is a great marker of our success, sure, Alexi notes, “but it’s the 200,000 plus adults who have been able to help live vibrant, independent lives that really sends us home with a smile at the end of the day.” California to Texas to New York, all adults getting back a modicum of freedom, and being able to stay comfortable while living out their lives.
The oft-overlooked demographic has a lot of buying power still, but as they begin to ease out of the workforce and into retirement, their voice fades into the background. “We help customers find the right products and fit for their specific needs with free samples to guarantee satisfaction,” says Alexi. “And then we’ll send monthly orders so they can receive the products conveniently without ever running out.”
Adult protective wear isn’t just a large diaper, its actually underwear and absorbs more than 35% beyond the leading brands out there. “Up to 6 cups of liquid - which is 3 times more than the human bladder.” How does one ensure the fit? Buying items online can be intensely frustrating when the quality or sizing doesn’t line up with what was advertised. “We offer a quick and easy online ‘Fit Quiz’ to direct customers to the exact product they need with free samples to guarantee satisfaction. And then comes the full box commitment.
Alexi and Luca work with manufacturers minus the middleman to ensure their customers are receiving the best product possible, and one you likely won’t find in stores. Specially formulated and exclusive to Because, their offerings include wipes, skincare and CBD creams, gummies and tinctures. Don’t like what you received, or want to follow up on an order? “We encourage people to reach out to us so they can tell us first-hand about their expectations and experience with the brand, and have a litany of ways they can reach out: text, phone, email, chat, or regular mail.”
Customer service that’s always accessible, especially when served on top of a product that saves its buyers up to 25% off of retail pricing with an easy subscription plan. Receive free shipping and included monthly special offers that are discreetly packaged and delivered to your door. Why? Well, Because.
There is architecture, and then there is design. One accounts for the specifics of building - specs, features. The other drags your feelings into the picture. Any good resort combines the best of both, introducing its guests to a luxury of mind and spirit: an escape for the entire being. One of the very few hotels I’ve ever found to boast such a wedding of the two also called for the union of past and present, history and modernization.
The only Four Diamond Hotel in the Village of La Jolla, The Grande Colonial Hotel has been welcoming guests to a gorgeous coastal respite for over a century. One of San Diego’s oldest original seaside hotels, the property has been completely modernized, yet remains faithful to the timeless elegance of its storied past - the sophisticated decor infused with a classic European ambiance and aesthetic. This intimate, iconic property is ideally situated amidst the pristine beaches and regal bluffs of one of Southern California’s most picturesque coastal towns.
Choose from luxurious ocean, garden, or village view rooms, sumptuous suites, vacation rental studios and indulge in an escape to the past, with all the modern amenities you might ever need right at your fingertips. Each accommodation captures the quintessential California coastal lifestyle. Our family’s Ocean Grande Double Queen room was super spacious and defined by loads of natural light and spectacular views of the Pacific, which is literally steps away. On the weekend, it’s a short stroll from the hotel to the water’s edge and the enormous grassy area (Ellen Browning Scripps Park) adjacent to the La Jolla Cove where you can peruse the handcrafted wares (jewelry, photography, paintings, textiles and woodwork) of local artisans.
My daughter and I strolled down to the La Jolla Cove each morning to watch the sealions and their pups frolic in the waves and in the evenings, our entire family trekked on foot all through the village, window shopping the scores of art galleries and boutique shops.
The emphasis on local artisanry carries through to the casually elegant farm-to-table dining experience at The Grande Colonial’s NINE-TEN Restaurant & Bar. Award-winning Chef Jason Knibb creates a unique seasonal menu dictated by the local harvest. Our family enjoyed brunch, people watching on the sidewalk patio while noshing on fresh from the oven house-made sourdough bread slathered with salted butter. Both kids indulged in fluffy blueberry lemon buttermilk pancakes that were every bit as delicious as they sound. The cuisine was excellent, the service attentive, yet unobtrusive ... the perfect way to while away a late morning.
Stay in and relax, or take a drive through La Jolla Cove to the Shores. Whatever you do, lean into the artistry of a well-designed vacation, with gracious personalized service every step of the way.
Grande Colonial Hotel
910 Prospect Street
Diane Silverstein had never heard of the show “Absolutely Fabulous” when she named her aptly-titled gifts and décor boutique in central Huntington Beach. But the fun-loving, irreverent, blonde, champagne-promoting show does give a glimpse into what makes Absolutely Fabulous such a treasure. Absolutely Fabulous is not your run-of-the-mill, Hallmark-style gift shop; they are as fun and irreverent as the show they share a name with.
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, “dorm survival kits” for new students, wedding party gifts, rare Disney art and collectibles and decorations and decorative items for every holiday.
Connect with Diane and the crew at Absolutely Fabulous located at 6026 Warner Avenue in Huntington Beach, call (714) 842-1608 or visit www.absolutelyfabulous1.com
There aren’t many places in Southern California that remain undeveloped, pristine. Set in a lush canyon next to a flowing stream,The Ranch at Laguna Beach is one of those places. Dating back to 1871, the original 152-acre parcel and one-room shack evolved over the years to its most recent incarnation.
Retaining its original village charm is vital to the success of the secluded private luxury resort that resides there today. The Ranch at Laguna Beach is tucked into Aliso and Wood Canyons - its rustic, simple signage along Coast Highway directs visitors onto a nondescript driveway that winds its way along a quarter mile stretch from the panoramic Pacific Ocean past verdant vegetation and dramatic rock walls that climb as high as 600 feet to the oasis within.
Ranked among the top 10 California resort hotels, this AAA Four Diamond-rated property is no longer the region’s “best kept secret” - today, travelers the world over seek to get caught up in the “coastal cool” world of the Laguna local that’s off the beaten path in every sense.
Grafted into the Laguna culture and notched into the perfect convergence of land and sea, a stay at The Ranch LB is a microcosm of the best of Laguna in one organic, refined place. This laid-back luxury hotel speaks to the Laguna mindset - its staff offering an insider’s take on hidden surf spots, shops and specialty galleries. The property showcases spacious rooms and suites, beach access, a luxurious spa, state-of-the-art fitness center, outdoor saline pool and hot tub and a 9-hole golf course characterized by an ultra-private playing experience with stunning views.
Loosely scattered about the park-like grounds, within the incomparable setting of Mother Nature’s own magnum opus, the property’s spacious guest rooms and suites enjoy a “seamless dance between casual elegance and the breathtaking 360-degree vistas.” Unlike any resort in Orange County, The Ranch at Laguna Beach features 20 two-level, two-bedroom cottages. With 1,125 square feet and over 300 square feet of outdoor space, the Cottages offer a half bath downstairs with full bath upstairs, upstairs bedrooms with a king bed and queen bed, first-floor patio and upstairs balcony - a sublime space for a family weekend retreat or a multi-generational getaway.
My husband and I fancy ourselves fledging foodies and oenophiles so we were particularly excited to sample the fare at the resort’s signature restaurant Harvest. We were told to expect the menu to reflect the chefs’ “masterfully creative and intensely local” take on California comfort food designed with food-lovers in mind. The menu changes with each season, integrating fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables grown and gathered on property (more on that in a minute).
For starters, the cheese and charcuterie are worth a special mention - a rotating selection of gourmet cheese and cured meats, served with pickled vegetables, spreads and artisan breads. The Crispy Brussels Sprouts arrived with a unique presentation of toasted pecans, pears, radicchio and sweet chili.
For the main course, there are abundant options for even the most discriminating palate. My meat-and-potatoes husband enjoyed the cooked-to-perfection Double ‘R’ Ranch Filet accompanied by Boursin whipped potatoes, garlic roasted broccolini, carmelized shallots and red-wine demi-glazed. I, on the other hand, am our family’s resident seafood aficionado and a huge fan of pan roasted black cod, so I was thrilled to discover the dish on the menu. Harvest’s rendition didn’t disappoint - the melt-in-your-mouth miso-saki marinated cod was perfectly paired with a toasted sesame risotto, sunchokes, lemongrass, braised bok choy and ginger soy. For our teenage son and daughter, the Dry Aged Burger was a hit enhanced with Neuske smoked bacon, double sharp cheddar and all the fixings on toasted brioche.
For the historian and the foodie alike, there is a special treat on site. At the edge of the property, Harvest Garden is a sustainable half-acre parcel, producing the freshest flowers and produce. As an homage to the original homesteaders, its ingredients are found in the fresh-made food and drink that are a focus throughout the dining experience here. The garden is open for tours on Sunday mornings and just a hairsbreadth away from the remarkable boundlessness of Mother Nature herself.
I would be remiss in not calling out one of the highlights of our stay and a unique amenity of The Ranch - the Grill N’ Glow Firepit rental and specialty s’mores roasting kits. We whiled away a late afternoon upon arrival, savoring a quintessential California sunset and indulging in a little dessert before dinner - exactly as you are supposed to do when on vacation, according to our kids.
Bringing together the history of organic farming on the property and its modern take on delectable coastal fare coupled with luxury accommodations and amenities, you’ll long to see it kept as owner Mark Christy does: “genuinely magical and timeless” for years to come.
The Ranch at Laguna Beach
31106 S. Coast Hwy.
There’s an Emily Dickinson poem that cites a certain slant of light, which when it comes, “the Landscape listens -/ Shadows -/hold their breath.” Many say that the poem is about a certain quality of anxiety: but I can assure you that though you’ll find a certain slant of light in Santa Barbara, anxiety will be far from it. One of the most stunning and relaxing locales I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting, the seaside escape has what seems like an endless list of activities for even the most determined weekend warrior, and just as long a list for a stress-free family weekend away.
Located just an hour and a half north of Los Angeles, the city is sandwiched smack dab between the mountains and miles of sun-drenched coastline. Between a sandy day at the beach or an afternoon of local hiking, you’ll find gardens to explore, quaint shops to peruse and restaurants for every taste. Stroll the Urban Wine Trail for a sample of local and nearby vintages (the Kunin Wines Tasting was a particularly lovely stop), and cap off the weekend with a historic stroll through downtown on the Red Tile Walking Tour.
We couldn’t have picked a better “home base” than the charming La Playa Inn (laplayainn.com). Opened in mid-March 2020, this dreamy Spanish Colonial Revival-style 38-room boutique hotel is located just blocks away from the Santa Barbara waterfront. Showcasing red tile roofs, adobe walls, painted tiles set in stairways, the picturesque property is designed in modern coastal blue and sand-colored accents. Between the free private parking and being ideally situated within easy walking distance to literally everything on our family’s itinerary, there was no need to get behind the wheel again after arrival untl it was time to head home. One of our favorite perks? The La Playa Inn features a lovely courtyard with ample seating in which to enjoy its complimentary continental breakfast. We also made use of the space to break out a late afternoon board game.
One of the highlights of our trip was our family’s first time ever taking to the sky for an exhilarating parasail flight with incredible views of the scenic Santa Barbara coastline and Channel Islands. Located at the end of the historic Stearns Wharf, it’s easy to see why Santa Barbara Parasail (santabarbaraparasail.co) is the city’s #1 attraction - for our part, my husband, son and daughter were thrilled with every aspect of the thrilling tandem experience, soaring over the water tethered to a 1,000-foot line. For me, it was a growth experience ... I’m afraid of heights and I’ll admit, a somewhat irrational fear of sharks. Needless to say, I was a bit anxious, but it was all for naught. California’s top-rated parasail operator, Santa Barbara Parasail’s expert captains are all licensed by the US Coast Guard and endeavor to offer its guests the “safest” and most unforgettable experience.
We kept the ocean-faring theme going coupled with the opportunity to weave in a bit of education on a self-guided stroll through the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (sbmm.org). Discover 13,000 years of human interaction with the Santa Barbara Channel inside the doors of this hidden gem, overlooking the scenic Santa Barbara Harbor. Highlights include a handmade Chumash plank canoe, the rare Point Conception Lighthouse lens, a working periscope, interactive sport fishing and tattoo exhibits, and artifacts that tell stories of nearby shipwrecks, the growth of surfing and hardhat diving, the impact of commercial fisheries, and how a local oil spill in the 1960s helped spur the environmental movement.
There is certainly no shortage of restaurants in this picturesque seaside city - family-friendly eateries, fine dining establishments and places popular with the locals and tourists alike. This trip, we opted to experience a little of each - a bustling neighborhood cafe located at 702 Anacapa St., La Paloma (lapalomasb.com) serves oak-grilled meats, seasonal produce and Mexican/Spanish/Chumash-inspired dishes that harken back to “the old way of California cooking and hospitality.”
For starters, try the flavorful crispy brussels quick fried with syrah-porcini mushroom reduction, pomegranate and smoked cojita cheese. The Santa Maria-style Snake River Farm Wagyu Tri-Tip was delicious paired with rancho salsa, creamy horseradish and bbq pinquito beans while the Santa Barbara Mission Chicken is enhanced with lemon peel, rosemary and apple pink peppercorn sauce.
Santa Barbara’s “best scratch bakery,” Helena Avenue Bakery’s (helenaavenuebakery.com) menu is made up of rustic, organic freshly baked breads, handmade seasonal pastries made from scratch, picnic fare, gourmet sandwiches and salads. Clearly another local fave, the line was out the door ... and it was evident why when the order arrived at our outdoor patio seating. Carb lovers rejoice! The Challah French Toast was an inspired take on a traditional take on a weekend brunch staple with vanilla chai spiced custard, brown butter Fuji apples, pecans and maple syrup. The Breakfast Sandwich on brioche was a hearty dish piled high with baked farm egg, smoked cheddar, black pepper bacon and scallion butter.
At the risk of sounding as though all we did was eat our way through our Santa Barbara stay, I would be simply remiss if I didn’t mention our outstanding experience at Opal Restaurant and Bar (opalrestaurantandbar.com) at 1325 State Street. Located in the Historic Art District, Opal is the “go to” for globally influenced, eclectic California cuisine (think dishes inspired by the colorful multi-cultural heritage of America, often with an Asian flair), perfectly paired wines and creative craft cocktails - all in a comfortable ambiance with excellent, yet unbotrusive service.
My kids are huge fans of calamari - they’ve ordered it at every Italian restaurant we’ve ever visited. But Opal’s Asian Glazed Crispy Calamari was certainly something to write home about - a delicious starter paired with baby arugula and crispy asian rice noodles - so good that my daughter was tempted to order another as her entree. My husband and son’s herb grilled filet mignon was cooked to perfection and arrived with whipped truffle butter Yukon potatoes, sauteed broccoli and green beans and a port-wine marsala and wild mushroom cream sauce. I’m the seafood aficionado of the family - my lemon grass crusted fresh salmon is called out as a “local’s favorite” on the menu with good reason: this delicious dish is enhanced with a Thai curry sauce, sauteed julienne vegetables, carmelized apple and orange zest basmati rice.
With California’s signature golden light a guarantee, there’s no better time to plan your escape to Santa Barbara - “The American Riviera.”
Did you know that 15 minutes could save you 15% or more on your car insurance?
There are very few things that throw people off balance more easily than an accident. Be it at home, in the car, or on the water, an accident can ruin a day, a week, or even a year for the uninsured. For the last 85 years, your safety and that of your family has been GEICO’s ultimate priority, and for Agency Owner Jonathan Bayani and his team of licensed agents at the GEICO local office in Laguna Niguel, carrying that mission on is about much more than offering competitive rates.
Bayani and his team strive to serve South OC residents with elite and tailored customer service curated over the last twenty years in the auto and insurance industries. Customers can purchase car insurance, as well as coverage for renters, condos, RV’s, boats, and commercial vehicles. Identity protection, jewelry, and homeowners are also among the list of offerings GEICO boasts: a far cry from the original single policy auto coverage GEICO founders Leo and Lillian Goodwin offered clients in 1936 when they first opened their doors.
“As the father of three children, looking after the wellbeing of my family is top priority,’ says Bayani. “Insurance is integral to every industry and after serving the San Diego Padres and seeing how closely knit the players and their families are to their individual coverage, I wanted to bring what I learned to everyday folks in my own community.”
A bilingual team of agents, the office in Laguna Niguel will look to bring savings to each client that walks through their doors. “We have special association and alumni discounts for graduates of UCLA, SDSU, UCI, CUSF, CSULB, USC and other local schools.” Active duty military serving at Camp Pendleton may also qualify for GEICO’s military discount.
Accidents or incidents can derail even the best laid plans, but they don’t have to. GEICO has been proving that for 85 years, and Jonathan and his team are here to back you up for those to come.
27261 La Paz Road, Suite J
There are a few places in the world that I’ve truly relaxed outside my own home. Believe me, it is a very short list. But let me tell you - topping the charts is JW Marriott’s Desert Springs Resort & Spa. And coming into the absolutely blissful fall weather in California - well - you couldn’t pick a better time to load up the entire family for a quick jaunt out to Palm Desert get one last adventure in before the rush and bustle of the holidays hit.
As a mom of two, I understand how rare the feeling of relaxation really is, and (congratulate me) successfully talked my husband into booking our family a stay at the resort for a weekend respite from carpooling, afterschool activities, worrying about what to make for dinner. Just looking at images online showcasing the result of the property’s recent multi-million dollar renovation was enough for him to ask how soon we could book a weekend away and it snowballed from there.
We shared our plans with close family friends who have similarly aged children - they booked the same weekend to meet up for what turned out to be an unforgettable, all-inclusive experience - from luxury accommodations and abundant amenity to fine dining, indoor/outdoor recreation and entertainment.
The property features an enhanced arrival experience, a reimagined spa and 884 luxuriously redesigned modern guest rooms and suites. Think hardwood floors, indulgent bathrooms, workspaces with intelligently placed USB ports, and entertaining spaces with views of the pool or lake on-site make the choice between going out and staying in a real no-brainer. Both: take a dip in the outdoor pools or test out your golf swing on the links. Play a set or a full match on the tennis courts. Get pampered at the day spa, savor innovative cuisine.
Even heading out to a meal here is an adventure ... the property provides gondola rides to and from many of its restaurants via an elaborate system of Venetian-like waterways which run throughout the resort’s immaculately landscaped grounds. Dining destinations include Rockwood Grill (upscale American fare showcasing locally sourced ingredients), Mikado Japanese Steakhouse (authentic Japanese cuisine) and Blue Star Lounge (California cuisine in a lively indoor lounge or charming outdoor patio with firepits).
The icing on the cake for kids of all ages? JW Marriott’s newly unveiled Entertainment Zone Arcade (EZ) and Family Passport Program. The “EZ” is a 12,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art arcade (the largest in the state, no less) where the kids - and their parents - ran amok - challenging each other to timeless classics like PacMan, Skee Ball and Air Hockey and new favorites including high-tech simulators, motocross racing games, four lanes of duckpin bowling and more.
The JW Family Passport expands the resort’s offerings for the younger set. With an emphasis on creativity, culinary, and active lifestyle, the resort provides an innovative outlet of fun-filled adventures thoughtfully curated for families and guests of all ages. From nature walks, family yoga and educational flamingo feedings to ice cream socials, scavenger hunts, trivia nights and more. Guests have their “passport” stamped after participating in a wide array of activities and redeem prizes from the resort’s treasure chest. Bonus! Book your passport online to receive complimentary breakfast for kids under 12 during your stay.
Some getaways are for exploring the envions. Others, like our recent weekend away to the Desert Springs Resort and Spa are for taking full advantage of the recreation, dining, amenity and entertainment without ever having to leave the resort grounds.
JW Marriott Desert Springs
Resort & Spa
74-855 Country Club Drive
My husband and I like to joke that we run an after-hours speakeasy out of our home. When the kids are finally asleep for the night and the dishes are all done, we bust out the fancy cheese and crackers, open a bottle of wine, and unfurl the tin foil around a decadent bar of dark chocolate. Of course, we have to hide the evidence from prying eyes, so in the morning we don’t have to answer questions about the chocolate wrapper, wine cork, or ice cream scoop. We laughed at each other the other day while cleaning up the evidence of our adults-only snacktime when we agreed that the best gift we could give each other was a night in a hotel room, so there weren’t any dishes to do, and plenty of activities during the day to keep our ourselves - and our offspring - entertained.
San Diego’s Mission Bay happens to be the answer to our gift-giving conundrum, as well as the speakeasy solve: a close-to-home, family friendly travel destination that happens to have everything we need for a getaway after the last chaotic year and a half. Classically beautiful weather year round makes San Diego one of the country’s most desirable vacation destinations, and with its proximity to Orange County and LA, a quick drive down the coast is as easy as can be. The man-made saltwater bay was created from more than 2,000 acres of wetlands and marshes, and boasts activities ranging like theme parks like Seaworld and an old fashioned roller coaster at Belmont Park to water activities.
Mission Bay’s Catamaran Resort is perched in popular "PB" - what the locals call Pacific Beach, and with gorgeous rooms facing out to the Bay, or over the glittering Pacific, every accommodation offers a beautiful view. Over 1,000 tropical trees and plants adorn the property, making it a proper urban jungle hideaway: koi ponds included. The resort's tropical vibe artfully blends with the Aloha spirit where each of the property’s 310 luxurious suites, studios and hotel rooms feature a private balcony or patio with breathtaking views of Mission Bay, the Pacific Beach neighborhood and coastline, or the property’s lush tropical gardens.
A Polynesian-themed resort wouldn’t be complete without the aforementioned robust list of water based activities, and the Catamaran certainly comes through. If Mom or Dad are feeling the fitness center or on-site spa, options include facials and massages, marine and botanical-based products to take home and luxuriate in, or a full range of state-of-the-art exercise equipment to fuel your day. Various watersports abound on property, with the waters of the bay beckoning beyond (think boat rentals, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding and more via actionsportrentals.com/catamaran-resort-hotel-spa located right at the resort's water's edge). Prefer land activiites? One of the best ways in which to enjoy San Diego's premier land and sea resort destination? Simply basking bayside in a covered lounge.
Our family opted for a lovely, leisurely late afternoon tooling around the bay aboard a pair of funcats - chaise-lounge style electric catamaran boats, followed by an equally equisite dining experience at the resort's signature restaurant, Oceana Coastal Kitchen. There was something for every palate on the menu - abundant seafood selections for me, beef and chicken entrees for my meat-and-potatoes husband and a variety of kid-friendly faves including delicious flatbreads - the sweet fennel sausage and classic pepperoni was a big hit!
A beach concierge can set the family up with umbrellas, towels, and chairs, or simply spend the day poolside: surrounded by the resort’s towering palm trees. The best part about all of it being (of course) that you don’t have to hide the candy wrappers at the end of the night, because the whole family gets to escape at the same time.
Catamaran Resort Hotel
3999 Mission Blvd.
I was in middle school at my best friend’s house when her Dad got a call one afternoon. It was a complete stranger, albeit an incredibly friendly one, who had taken the time to sort through who my friend’s grandmother was and why she happened to be strolling up and down his street in the middle of the day. On our way over to pick her up, her Dad attempted to describe what was happening in her brain. Over dinner that night, I watched her between bites halfway expecting her to forget which utensil to use for the salad and the soup. But there, surrounded by her family at the dining table she’d eaten at a thousand times or more, she was sharp. Clear. Quick witted and lively.
Not a real specific disease, as I learned later through some of my own research, but more an umbrella covering the impairment of at least a couple of different brain functions; dementia’s group conditions affect memory loss and judgment, often the two most important pieces in the typical motions of an everyday life. Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s all snug up neatly under the umbrella, as does vascular dementia. At some point, like with my friend’s grandmother later that year, it can become necessary to offer more care than is available around the home. That’s when care in a senior living community like Serra Sol Memory Care in San Juan Capistrano becomes so vitally important.
A partnership between Protea Senior Living and Agemark Senior Living - two of the foremost names in senior residence care - Serra Sol Memory Care prides itself on offering “a truly inspired life” for its residents. As with all things, there are homes that feel like sterile hospitals and communities that feel like home. Serra Sol certainly falls in the latter category. Providing exceptional care is the tip of the iceberg at the new South Orange County location, and like most icebergs, the weight of their mission hovers below the surface, imbuing each day with meaning derived from little things that mean a lot. As the management company who will oversee all day-today operations, Agemark creates true communities that are warm and welcoming, and works diligently to give those in their care love, laughter and joy and encourages residents to live life fully - despite the challenges they face.
Renowned for turning the traditional image of an old-folks home into a passionate, engaging, mission-driven community, Agemark’s custom touches at Serra Sol include an onsite Director of Nursing, Physician oversight, assisted telemedicine appointments, balanced menus and dining services, on-site physical, occupational, and speech therapy from preferred partners, and regular communication of resident’s assessment and needs with loved ones.
An Agemark facility, in conjunction with Protea Capital Partners - two of the foremost names in senior residence care - Serra Sol Memory Care prides itself on offering “a truly inspired life” for its residents.”
My friend later shared that her grandmother’s room at the senior care residence might not have been a replica of her bedroom in the home she lived in for years, but all of the important things were there - photos, cards from the grandkids, her favorite reading chair. At Serra Sol, they understand that in addition to making sure your loved one’s health-related needs are met, equally important is the warmhearted staff who care deeply about their feelings, and the routine and familiarity of place that sparks an awareness of the positive memories they carried in with them.
As far as personalized care goes, Serra Sol has it all. In fact, through the 26 Agemark communities spanning six states, everything from the environment to the friendly faces one sees each day contribute to an elite level of service. The leadership teams are all handpicked, ensuring that each member of the staff exemplify the values they hold close: professionalism, integrity, compassion. Employees assist with daily outings and activities, customizing them to each resident’s passions and interests. From social gatherings to individual spiritual practices, crafts, baking, yoga, walking, or trips to local attractions, keeping residents motivated and excited for the day-to-day means stimulating their minds and bodies. After all, feeling engaged combats memory loss, and can even trigger new neural pathways to link old and new memory together.
Serra Sol boasts an incredibly safe and secure environment, keeping those with memory loss top of mind. By Jody Robinson Inspirational Living at Serra Sol Memory Care Now Open in San Juan Capistrano An Agemark facility, in conjunction with Protea Capital Partners - two of the foremost names in senior residence care - Serra Sol Memory Care prides itself on offering “a truly inspired life” for its residents.”
Secured entries and exits, alarm systems, and emergency call buttons complement lovely natural vegetation and water features in the residence’s secure outdoor courtyard, perfect for dining or simply enjoying an afternoon chat. Restaurant-style meals are served in a beautifully appointed dining room, and a multipurpose area serves to house crafts, cooking, games, film screenings and more. A state-of-the-art Tovertafel table features a game system providing cognitive stimulation to its players in the form of movement and interaction. Don’t miss the ice cream sundae dipping station in the dining area, where everyone can enjoy a sweet treat. Additionally, activities and outings will be in abundance, with a Life Enrichment Coach on hand to ensure residents are able to cultivate their current interests as well as try new things.
Choose one of three floorplans, and enjoy a private or companion room. All feature en suite, private bathrooms, walk-in showers with grab bars for safety, and a bench for comfort. Storage space ensures residents can bring their favorite objects from home - making each suite a welcoming, warm respite at the end of the day. My friend’s grandmother passed away a few years after she moved into the home, at a ripe old 93. I’m told she was surrounded every day by the comforts of her own memories until the end, and remained a hilarious, crisp fighter regardless of what came her way. I understand the perils that a disease like dementia can bring a bit better now that I’m older, but that only amplifies my gratitude for the safety and sense of community that the residents of Serra Sol Memory Care enjoy. Set the standard for care for your own loved ones, at Serra Sol.
SERRA SOL MEMORY CARE
31451 Avenida Los Cerritos
San Juan Capistrano