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Camp Beverly Hills – Glamping SoCal Style

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Taking it easy while roughing it

Many of my fondest childhood memories are from summer camp — minus the time a huge hairy spider jumped onto my sleeping bag. That traumatizing incident aside, I loved camping as a kid; but as I have gotten older, and dare I say more delicate, my favorite thing about camping has been coming home and taking a real shower and sleeping in the clean sheets of my own bed.

Now that I have a child of my own, I didn’t want to deprive him of the wonders of camping, but just the thought of sleeping on the ground makes my back hurt. Thankfully, I learned about the compromise of communing with nature by day but slumbering comfortably in a cozy bed at night through an experience called “glamping.”

There’s no room service, though glamping resorts are designed for those who love nature but also crave creative comforts. If five-star accommodations under the stars sounds like your sort of outdoor adventure, here are some SoCal campsites to check out.

Ventura Ranch

At the recently revamped Ventura Ranch, the camping experience includes deluxe cabins featuring indoor bathrooms, kitchens, AC and heat, and other hotel-like amenities, all surrounded by Mother Nature. Guests can rise from their comfy accommodations, walk out onto their private deck and gaze upon a sunrise over a mountain range of greenery, and perhaps be greeted by one of the many colorful peacocks that roam the property.

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KOA’s Ventura Ranch’s glamour camping is the best of both worlds for the whole family.  While parents relax at the climate-controlled cabin, the kids have plenty to do, from swimming at the site’s new huge pool; ziplining across the camp; bouncing on an enormous trampoline-like Jumping Pillow; tie-dying T-shirts, painting planter pots, launching home-made rockets or otherwise getting creative at one of the camp’s organized crafting sessions; or just running wild or hanging out on the grounds and hiking trails.

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The camp and programs were designed with families in mind, with daily opportunities for kids and parents to participate together and have fun as a family, many of which are complementary, such as BYO-blanket outdoor movie nights and a flashlight-guided Big Foot tour.

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Though you may be off the grid in spirit, KOS features Wi-Fi at most campgrounds, and even an app that lets you find a campground easily filter by amenities and location and make reservations on-the-go.

 

El Capitan Canyon

The scenic El Capitan Canyon on Santa Barbara’s coast has sunsets to relish nature abounding all around. It’s the perfect setting to rock climb, hike, swim and enjoy a multitude of outdoor adventures; but for those who want to get dirty all day but clean up and retreat into their own comfy cabin at night, El Capitan Canyon has just the accommodations, from fully furnished yurts to luxurious cabins, with all the comforts of home.

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They may be called cabins, but most folks could live in the little cedar home structures at El Capitan Canyon. There are cabins to suit ever taste with features including front porches, vaulted ceilings, master bedrooms with a vanity and separate entry, full baths, ample closet space, luxury bed linens, kitchenettes with a microwave oven, mini-fridge, wet bar sink and coffeemaker. Some cabins offer upstairs lofts accessible by a ladder – where kids love to “camp in.”  Upgraded cabins feature a skylight, dual sinks, large indoor shower and access to a unique outdoor shower.

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Catering to the glamping crowd, El Capitan offers a number of packages to suit their clientele, with amenities such as cabins with an indoor gas fireplace, a large soaking bathtub. Their packages also include items such as marinated tri-tip delivered to your cabin for a DIY fireside dinner, paired with a bottle of Santa Barbara wine along with wine glasses, a bundle of firewood and a throw blanket, for enjoying a romantic night of stargazing.

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Other options include aromatherapy or hot stone massage with essential oils blended from the Canyon Spa Garden. For the kids, there are s’mores kits, mugs of hot chocolate and throw blankets to cuddle up by the campfire telling stories.

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And don’t worry, you don’t have to pack all the cookware and supplies that can make camping a hassle. With the fireside meal package, beverages, tableware, and the grilling tools and firewood needed to cook over the fire pit. Or if you prefer you can enjoy gourmet meals prepared at the Canyon Market and Deli.

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And unlike camping experiences where a good night’s sleep is something you have to return home to get, at El Capitan Canyon quiet time is enforced as of 10 pm each evening until 9 am, so you can turn in early and sleep in if you wish. It’s just like the Ritz, though you wake each morning to the sweet sound of birds singing.

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Shopping

Man Gifts for the Guy Who Has Everything

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He won’t have to fake that he loves it, when you give him one of these manly gifts

 

When you need a gift for the guy in your life, but you just don’t know what to get your boyfriend-husband-dad-brother-uncle-nephew-best man, etc, that he can really use, look no further than this list of things that guys love and probably don’t already have.

Do Blow It

Even if your guy has a shed full of power tools, he could have more, especially if its Canless Air ($149.95).  This powerful spray-can sized blower will blast the dust or sand out of crevices where no guy wants it – his keyboard, electronics, car vents – wherever tiny bits if stuff accumulates where it shouldn’t. Unlike those old-fashioned cans of compressed air, Canless Air utilizes green technology to blow over 260 mph of natural air, safely and cost-effectively, with one unit replacing 1,000 cans of traditional canned air. Check out the video  on how it works.

That Vat

The only thing a guy likes better than a cold frothy beer is a cold frothy beer poured from his very own vat, a la a GrowlerWerks uKeg. This pressurized mini-keg keeps draft beer fresh and carbonated for two weeks or more, and it can travel from the brewery to the BBQ, campfire, duck blind, fishing boat, or wherever he wants to take it, with a tap lock to prevent leakage and a durable insulated stainless-steel construction engineered to last. The uKeg features an easy-to-use regulator cap that provides a vacuum seal with the help of a C02 cartridge, and its stylish design is attractive enough that it can be seated at the dining room table.

Kick-A Boots

You know what they say about big boots?  Big feet! But no matter what the size of your man’s hooves, he will love sliding them into Timberland boots, like the classic Waterproof Chukka Boots ($135). These rugged work boots look great against backyard grass and asphalt sidewalks, and the soft leather lining of the footbed and shaft and breathable, moisture-wicking fabric of the toe box and forefoot will keep his feet comfy and dry in all kinds of weather.

Real Wearables

Most boys hate getting clothes as presents, but as men, they live for them, because that means they don’t have to go shopping themselves, and they will really love them if they are Mountain Khakis. This Jackson-Hole-mountain-town-inspired apparel brand makes clothes that men like to wear, in styles that travel from trail to tavern, like the Men’s Camber 107 pant ($74.95), the work horse stretch canvas pants that look sharp, feel good and perform like a champ; the Ranger Chamois shirt ($74.95), the velvety brushed chamois looks sharp and feels good to touch; or the Men’s Ranch Shearling Vest ($114.95), made with the same stretchy canvas as the Camber pants but with shearling pile to fend off pre-dawn chill, as he sits watching the sunrise, yellow dog at his side, black coffee in his hand.

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Lifestyle

Cool summer stuff you will be glad you’ve got when it’s hot outside

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Essentials for fun in the sun, entertaining and vacationing all summer long

Got Game

Hitting the road with kids for a long drive to your summer vacay spot can mean hours of, “Are we there yet?” Or, with the coolest of old-school electronics, Mini Arcade Games ($19.99, Walmart), like Rampage, the kids will be toppling buildings with George, Lizzie and Ralph and dodging helicopters, all from the backseat, without you having to say, “Let’s play I spy” once. Other games include Pac-Man, Space Invades, Q*Bert, Centipede, and Frogger, with all the sounds and retro-styling you remember, just smaller.

Bunch ‘o fun

All kids love to throw water balloons, but most kids hate to fill them up and tie them, as do their parents. Bunch O Balloons solved this age-old hassle with their ingenious design that allows you to fill up 100 balloons and seal them off at once, in 60 seconds. New to the Bunch O Balloons family is the Marvel Avengers branded balloons ($9.99), featuring character symbols printed on the balloons, such as Iron Man, Captain America and the Hulk, for a water balloon battle of superhero proportions. Add some zing to the water warfare with the Bunch O Balloons slingshot (SRP $19.99) that can launch balloons over one hundred feet! Available at toy retailers nationwide.

Soft Ball-ish

The irresistible Koosh ball is back. Easy to pick up, but hard to put down, this squishy rubber-haired ball is the original fidget toy that’s almost as fun to hold as it is to throw. Toss them indoors or outdoors, use them for games, stress relief or even grip therapy. These fist-quenching balls come in an assortment of bright color combinations, including new neon and black combinations. Ages 3+ SRP $3.99 each. Available at toy retailers nationwide.

Bubble Up

Talk about a win-win situation – when your opponent scores at Bubble Pong (SRP $19.99), you get blasted with bubbles! This fun-for-all-ages game (3 and up) is played with singles or teams who bounce ping-pong balls onto an opponent’s side to score points. When the game is over, turn on bubble machine mode for a nonstop bubble party! Ages 3+.

Sipp it

There’s nothing like a refreshing bubbly, fruity drink to satisfy your thirst on a hot summer day. Sipp organic sparkling beverages, infused with culinary extracts and lightly sweetened with agave, can be enjoyed straight up or mixed in a drink to craft a natural, fresh cocktail, with fun flavors including Zesty Orange, Ginger Blossom, Mojo Berry, Lemon Flower, Ruby Rose and Summer Pear.  Available in 12oz bottles and 10.5oz cans. Sold on Amazon and select retailers.

New hair day

When school’s out for summer, keep the kids busy and keep them out of trouble, or you can do both with a little Splat. Your little juvies can look like bad-apples, but in a fun way, with this comb-in, low-mess temporary hair color, in vibrant hues like Piercing Pink, Red Pop, Bolder Blue, Vivid Velvet, Mango Mash, and Eclectic Green. It’s out in one shampoo, and your little angels are back to their old selves, just in time for grandma’s visit. Splat kits are $6.99 at Walmart or SplatHairColor.com.

Hot shot

Get the hottest blaster for backyard battles on the block, the Thermal Hunter ($29.99), featuring a heat-seeking scope that detects a heat source up to 60 feet away. When a warm-blooded target is in the cross hairs, the scope will turn red to let you know when to pull the trigger, with blasting power of up to 100 feet. The 10-count dart clip allows you to hit multiple targets without having to stop and reload. Available at Target.

Drink up

Forget those sugary sodas and serve up some naturally and deliciously sweet drinks at your summer soiree with Zevia, the top-selling sparkling beverage brand that has zero calories, no sugar, no dyes, and just the right amount of sweet. Now with a multitude of flavors and drinks in a variety of categories, from sparkling waters to mixers and energy drinks, Zevia’s clear and clean formulas are a favorite at parties for all ages. Sold at Amazon, Whole Foods and other grocers nationwide.

Scent of summer

Luxuriate in the scents of summer, with the sweet aromas of a 100-percent soy wax Jaded Candles. This line of handmade, clean, refreshing candles contain no additives, chemicals or colors and are made from pure soy. Soothing scents for the season include Island Hibiscus, Green Tea Lemongrass, and White Tea Berries Candle.  $15 to $35.

Summer cleaning

Washing the car will be a chore you won’t mind doing, armed with the Brush Hero, as showcased on Shark Tank. This handy hose adapter turns an ordinary garden hose into a powerful weapon of cleaning, using water pressure to power its turbine and bust grime from cars, motorcycles, bikes, BBQs, lawn furniture or whatever else needs cleaning.  It does the spinning and scouring while you just adjust the water flow as needed to release its scrubbing power. Available on Amazon for $34.99.

After the sunning

Enjoy spending time outdoors in the summer sun, even if you suffer from dry skin or eczema, with dermatologist-awarded Theraplex ClearLotion ($18.50), a light, fast-penetrating emollient oil spray that seals in moisture when applied to just-showered skin. The formula of a special petrolatum fraction and natural jojoba oil helps to provide added protection against moisture loss and prevent dryness without irritation and leaves skin soft and smooth. For extra moisturizing day or night, Theraplex Eczema Therapy ($18) relieves dry skin with superior soothing that lasts for hours.

Walking and talking

Even if the kids are too young for their own smartphones, they will feel like the smartest kids at the pool, theme park, campground, or wherever they are using their Cobra ACXT360 Walkie Talkie Radios ($69.99). This three-pack of simple-to-use, two-way radios has a 23-mile range and loads of handy features, including hands-free operation, automatic severe weather alerts, 22 channels, and the ability to program up 221 privacy codes. They also have a keylock, to prevent accidental button pushing, a Roger beep after you finish talking, a battery level indicator, and a backlit LCD display for low-light conditions. If recharging them using the micro USB charging isn’t handy, they can be powered by regular AA alkaline batteries.

Tapped out

Nothing is worse than warm, flat beer when you are out in the hot summer sun, fishing, camping or hanging at a backyard party with friends. Keep the brew fresh and cold with a TrailKeg growler, a vacuum-insulated pressurized container that keeps beverages cold for 24 hours and perfectly carbonated until opened. TrailKeg’s gallon stainless steel bottle ($89.99) is suitable for any beverage and is the perfect vat to cart along to your favorite locally crafted beer brewery, to fill up with cold nitro brew to keep it satisfyingly chilled and fresh when you take it home.

Take it outside

There’s a million backpacks on the market, but if you’re looking for a tough one, then the Lizardskin brand name says it all. The rugged Cache Lifestyle Backpack by Lizardskin ($109.99) is one fine bag, where urban style meets durability. The roll top opening and magnetic clip provide an adjustable storage space to protect all your necessities, and a side zip pocket gives quick access to your electronic devices. It also features webbing for carabiners, an adjustable magnetic sternum strap, and lots of pocket and pouches for organizing all the stuff you carry along on a summer adventure.

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AdventureDining in Los AngelesEat & DrinkLifestyleOutdoorsRestaurantsThe Left CoastTravel

Marina del Rey: Beach-going made nice and easy

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LA Locals and visitors adore this low-key family friendly waterfront area that offers a little bit of everything

Marina del Rey is one of the mellowest beach communities in Los Angeles. With 600 acres of protected natural wetlands on its southern border, making its landscape unique and everlasting, it is quieter and more calm than its neighbors Venice and Santa Monica. For natives and tourists who discover it, Marina Beach is a sandy gem of a waterfront destination that combines nature, watersports, and family friendly venues, making it a welcome departure from the busier adjacent beaches.

Water Play

The Marina is known as the area’s center for boating and fishing excursions, but it is also popular as one of the best places for kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding around Los Angeles. On a typical day, the sandy cove at the end of the Marina is stripped with paddle boards and kayaks lined up by the shore, coming in from outings about the marina and awaiting someone new to rent them.

Paddleboard yoga, a sport which originated in Marina del Rey, created by the founder of YOGAqua, has also taken off as a favorite Marina activity, where sessions begin with a warm-up lap around the Marina and progress to a series of stretches and poses – on anchored boards, ending with the most-experienced participants in headstands on their boards.

The big boats in the Marina and their diminutive paddling brethren exist like sharks and the feeder fish that follow around them. Though occasionally a paddler or boater will get annoyed at the other for encroaching on their territory, mostly they exist symbiotically. Paddle boards and kayaks are available for rental by the hour or day at Marina del Rey Boat Rentals, Pro SUP Shop, and the UCLA Marina Aquatic Center.

Why families love it

At the popular Marina Beach, known locally as Mother’s Beach, children can play in the confines of a roped-in shallow swimming area, or families and parties can enjoy gatherings in the covered pavilion, where community barbeques and tables are available for reservations. If you don’t feel like packing along your picnic, you can get food to go at Beach Eats, and all-summer weekly food truck event with live music on Thursdays evenings.

If you do make a day of hanging at the beach, be warned that the bathroom facilities are not posh by any standards, but they are convenient, just a brief walk from the water’s edge, and there are outdoor shower stations for a quick rinse-off.

Beach cruising

The popularity of the Marina recreation area during peak season can mean scarce parking, with only one major lot by Marina Beach that costs $12 for all-day parking. Another option is to hop on the Free Ride shuttle, which operates noon to 9 pm and offers stops all around the waterfront area. For those who want to cruise at a slower speed, bike rentals are available in Fisherman’s Village, where cyclists can ride along the beach on the Marvin Braude coastal bike trail, all the way from Will Rogers State Beach to Torrance Beach.

Water ways

The Fisherman’s Village, a New-England style promenade by the docks, offers a variety of shops and restaurants with great views of the boats.  It is also the launch pad for boating experiences, from seasonal whale watching and hard-core deep fishing tours to gondola rides and pleasure yachting. For those who want a truly high-level look at the area, Marina Del Rey Parasailing offers tours of the Venice and Santa Monica beaches, gliding under a kite from 500- to 800-feet up. Other experiences departing from the Marina, such as private yachting cruises and fishing adventures, are available from private boat owners who loan out their sea vessels, with or without captains, through Airbnb off-shoot Boatsetter.

See food

Dining experiences around the Marina range from the causal to the classy. TonyP’s Dockside Grill, overlooking the Marina, serves up consistently good seafood – including legendary fish and chips, as well as steaks, sandwiches and salads in a friendly, family restaurant atmosphere that appeals to local and tourists alike.

El Torito at Fisherman’s Village offers one of the best views of the Marina, which is why the place is packed at sundown, full of boisterous diners who come for the sundown spectacle and some of the best tequila drinks in town, like the George Clooney strawberry margarita, best enjoyed with the restaurant’s signature table-side-prepared guacamole and fresh-made chips, along with the ultimate appetizer of bacon wrapped jumbo shrimp.

For causal family dining a bit more inland, Fresh Brothers at the Waterside Marina del Rey shopping plaza offers deep-dish, skinny, thin and cauliflower crust pizza and hearty meatball and chicken-parmesan sliders, as well as big bowl salads and delicious fresh garlic bread knots.

Hot dates

Night life is hopping at many of the local bars, but for a truly local experience, grab a cord of wood and some food to grill and head for the firepits on Dockweiler State Beach, where early-birds stake out one of 40 first-come-first-serve concrete pits early in the day for a DIY bonfire parties that go until late at night.

Besides the watersports and dining, Marina del Rey has many other entertainment options and special events, such as the new ARTsea Community Festival, and outdoor free movie nights at the Burton W. Chase Park.

Stay and play

If you are visiting from out of town, there are many accommodations from a variety of price points, including the Foghorn Harbor Inn, Jamaica Bay Inn, Hilton Garden Inn Marina Del Rey, Marina del Rey Hotel, and Marina del Rey Marriott. The premier luxury property in town is the marine-themed Ritz Carlton Marina del Rey, which features the world-class Sisley Paris Spa. Even if you don’t stay overnight, its worth getting a spa treatment, which entitles patrons to use the hotel pool all day.

The low-key vibe of Marina del Rey makes it one of LA’s most endearing waterfront areas, with many activities and experiences that are unique to the Marina, due to its boating and watersports culture and the city’s quaint size, relative to the vast city surrounding it. For beachcombers looking for a seaside destination that is scenic but not a scene, Marina is a the perfect port.

 

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Lifestyle

Our delectable, Jucy RV vacation

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We camped out in our Jucy van, and that’s alright with me


Traveling from across the country to Southern California, it would have been impossible or at least vastly expensive to haul all our camping gear with us for a beach camping excursion. Jucy Trailblazer RV was the solution. This tricked-out Dodge Caravan included everything we needed, or almost – for our weekend camping adventure in Malibu.

Despite its small size, this fully equipped camper mini-van amazingly sleeps four: two inside the van, and two “upstairs” in the penthouse. The collapsible tent on top is perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of the Jucy RV. Kids love it because they get to climb a ladder to get in it. Inside it is a spacious sturdy tent, with a ceiling high enough that an average-size person, like myself at 5’5” can sit inside comfortably.

The upstairs pop-up room-with-a view features an amazingly comfortable wall-to-wall mat floor for sleeping on or hanging out, mesh flaps to cover the windows for ventilation and bug control, and canvas curtains that insulate from cold and also offer privacy and block out the sun for late sleepers. The interior also has a number of hanging wall pouches for items like flashlights, eyeglasses, cell phones, and anything else you want to keep nearby that you normally have on a bed stand.

Downstairs is where even more fun happens. The inside of the van has four seats, two upfront and two in the back, and a hidden compartment for storage that converts into a table. When it’s time to sleep, the table planks pull out to support the padded panels that become the bed. Jucy thought of a lot of details, such as window shades that affix to the glass with suction cups to block out the light.

The rear of the van opens up to a kitchenette, complete with two butane-powered stove tops, a cabinet for pots and pans, drawers for dishware and a surprisingly spacious refrigerator drawer. The top counter features a sink and food prep area with a cutting board.

The name of the game with Jucy is a turnkey camping adventure. Literally, you crank the ignition, get rolling and you’re on your way to fun. Though our camping outing was only a couple overnights, we ran into others who had been on the road with their Juicy RVs for over a month.

They were a bit more particular, since they practically lived in their van, and they noted small details that could have made their travels easier, such as dishware that compactly stacked together to save room and pans with shorter handles to save space.

While we were told there is air conditioning in the downstairs quarters, the only AC was the in-dash unit for the van, which did not blow strong unless the van was running. We were instructed that the solar panels fueled the van and that we needed to operate the vehicle at least 30 minutes a day to recharge, but we still found that the AC was not functional as we thought it would be.

Because of this we ended up opening the van windows, which did not have screens. Lucky for us in Southern California there are not that many insects, but for other camping locations, rolling down windows without screens would not be practical.

Other small touches that would improve the camper would include a hanger on the ceiling of the penthouse for a lantern.

But other than these rather nit-picking few things, we were very content with our van.  It was easy come, easy go from two sites in two days. We set up and broke down camp within 10 minutes. We were on the road before the RV park could say “late check-out fee,” and the mini-van base drove easily, like a regular car.

We did not even need to bring sleeping bags, because the RV came with optional bedding kits which included a super thick duvet comforter, blankets and two pillows, plus two bath towels. The linens were fresh, fluffy and very clean, in fact, they looked new.

Then comes the best part of all. After our adventure, we drove the van back to the leasing location, and that was that. No hanging out tents and tarps to air out, no deflating air mattresses and re-rolling sleeping bags, no trying to get cookware and gear back into storage boxes and no schlepping gear back on a plane.

It was an easy, breezy, laid-back camping trip, in our Chevy van. It made me recall a groovy Sammy Johns song from the 70s, as I imagine me and my hippy friends rocking and rolling down PCH, like easy riders, ready to park and camp whenever the moment moved us, and that’s alright with me.

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The ultimate Mother’s Day gift guide for every kind of mom

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Moms who love adventure, tech, fashion or beauty will love these awesome Mother’s Day gifts

Full Steam a-dress

Whether it’s a big day at work, date night with Dad, or off for a vacay, Mom always wants to look her dapper best. The lightweight JOY 900-Watt Supreme Steam Go Mini Steamer ($19.95 at HSN.com) makes it easy to remove wrinkles from her shirts, slacks and dresses, at home or wherever she goes. The included zippered bag is perfect for storing it in a closet, car or suitcase.

Foot forward

Start off Mom’s day with positive vibes, from head to toe, starting with her feet.  Notes To Self socks are emblazed with affirming messages like, “I am a Great Mom,” and, “I am Amazing,” and the special Mom gift set ($32.98 for 2 pairs) comes in a pink heart-shaped gift box tied with a satin ribbon.  The ankle-height athletic socks are high-quality cotton-blend with a reinforced soft cuff, breathable mesh top and extra cushioning arch support.

She’s in charge

Mom’s smartphone is her lifeline for work, coordinating kids’ activities, shopping, staying in touch on social media, and everything else she does, so help her keep it charged and ready with the MagicMount Pro Home/Office ($69.99, scosche.com). This stylish stand and wireless magnetic charger mounts at home or the office on a desk or other surface with a stickGRIP suction base and uses Qi wireless charging technology, ideal for the new iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X, so Mom never has to search for and fumble with charger cables. It also features a Optional Apple Watch® Charging Mount that works with lightning charging cable.

A bed for all seasons

Let Mom sleep in on her special day, snuggled in a luxurious Bedgear ensemble. Bedgear Performance Pillows ($99.99 – $199.99) are dreamy clouds of comfort that can be individually personalized for different sleeping positions and body types using a Pillow ID app. Close to her skin, Mom will relish the cool, silky sensation of Ver-Tex Performance Sheets (starting at $299.99), made of a hi-tech quick-dry fabric blend that regulates temperature on the sleeping surface. 

 

To complete Mom’s performance sleeping ensemble,  top it off with a Ver-Tex Medium Warmth Climacore Blanket ($299.99), a cool-to-the-touch, all-season top layer that promotes air flow and dissipates body heat, keeping mom cozy and cool all night long.

See Jane run

Mom works hard, and works out hard, so get her performance exercise apparel that can keep up with her. Endeavor Athletic’s premier women’s Run Short ($58) feature a handy pocket, four-way-stretch fabric panels, moisture wicking technology, and built-in micro-mesh briefs that eliminate the need for an under layer and allow for free movement. Whether she’s training for a quick 5k or an ultra-marathon, these women’s running shorts will help her perform her best.

Get dressed

One dress cannot be everything for everyone, or can it? In the Nuu-Muu ($78-$88), Mom will be suited up for just about anything she’s game for. This flattering and functional slip-on dress comes in an assortment of styles that fit a variety of body types, and its comfortable stretch fabric will keep Mom comfortable no matter what’s she’s doing, from shopping and lunching, to exercise or a walk on the beach. With so many patterns, Mom could have a closet full of these versatile jumpers and wear a different one every day of the month; and if the weather is too chilly for going sleeveless, she can always pull over a Nuu-Muu layering Tee ($62) for warmth that exudes coolness.

 

 

Sleeping in luxury

For the traveling mom, give her a luxury sleep experience on the road, with a Brave Era Travel Sheet. This compact and light-weight, machine-washable 100-percent mulberry silk bed liner folds as compact as an iPhone to fit into a small suitcase or even a purse. Mom can carry it along on her adventures and sleep comfortably, whether she is in a hotel room or on a cot at the airport, knowing that the layer of fabric between her and her sleeping surface is clean and fresh. Moms’ Day sale priced at $79.99.

Good hair day

When Mom hits the road, she can bring her own salon with her, with the HSI Professional Travel Styling Kit ($79.99). It includes a Glider Mini flat iron, Groover Mini curling iron, and Dryonizer Mini blowdryer and two airflow nozzles and a hairstyling clip. With all these accoutrements, mom can have straight hair during the day and fun curls that night and rock any look for her vacation photos.

 

 

Glam ma’am

One mom who has been rockin’ it for four decades as a professional model, and making it look easy, Christie Brinkley, graciously has made her own collection of cosmetics available to make women of all ages look great, without a lot of fuss. As an encore to her line of skincare products, Christie Brinkley Authentic Beauty provides high-quality yet affordable beauty basics in wearable shades that streamline every beauty routine. Perfect for Mother’s Day, the packaging is a feminine and elegant reflective rose gold that will even make mom’s vanity counter look lovely. From $14 to $49.

She wears the pants

Outdoorsy moms can ditch their fancy pants and slip on some comfortable yet rugged Mountain Khakis Teton Crest pants ($79.95). Made for a life lived untucked, these durable pants for adventurers are guaranteed to fit. With styling for fit and function, mom will be ready for whatever the great outdoors can throw at her, and she will look good doing it.

Wonder water

mom likes to stay hydrated for good health, but sometimes water can just be boring, unless she has Cirkul. This cool new concept in flavored water includes a special dispenser bottle with a lid featuring a flavor cartridge. Mom can dial up the intensity of flavor she wants, or she can drink the water straight up, to suit her taste. The cartridges come delivered each month to her doorstep through a subscription program, with a pack of new flavors each month. Because the bottle is reusable, mom can be proud to do her part to save the planet and eschewing disposable plastic bottles. $27 for 8 cartridges per month.

Accessory to style

If mom loves to decorate and surround herself with beautiful things, accessories her with fashionable and functional décor items like a Mermaid Blue Chenille Throw Blanket ($20.99) that she can cuddle up with on the couch watching her favorite show, or a Eucalyptus Leaves Cobblestone Candle ($9.99) she can light up to relax with some mood lighting and aromatherapy. Dress up her dresser with a 2-Tier Jewelry Stand ($14.99) that displays her bobbles and adds a little bling to her décor. All from Kirkland’s

Pretty in pink

She loves her hair to look fabulous, even in high humidity, and with hot-pink-packaged Color Correct Frizz Control system, Mom can smooth her locks and look lovely and smoldering all summer long. CrazySmooth Anti-Frizz Shampoo ($39.00) features a 100-percent vegan proprietary blend of exclusive oils including Camellia Oil from Japan and Abyssinian Oil from Africa, with seaweed and shea butter, to instantly smooth unruly frizz. CrazySmooth Anti-Frizz Condition ($39.00) leaves hair vibrant, glossy, and smooth-as-silk while nourishing, detangling and defending hair with color and heat protection. CrazySmooth Anti-Frizz Treatment Masque ($48.00) mends and deeply moisturizes hair with a blend including soybean lipids, seaweed and shea butter, making hair instantly looks up to 10 years younger. RadicallySmooth Anti-Frizz Serum ($28.00) instantly smoothes for long-lasting, frizz-free style with full spectrum UVA/UVB color and heat protection. Available at ColorProof.com.

Well rounded

Give Mom the tools for success, starting with her hair brush. The Ostia Collection’s Round Copper Brush ($24-28) is has a pure copper core that retains and distributes heat evenly for a smoother and healthier finish to Mom’s style. The extra-long Tourmaline bristles and boar strip work together to create the perfect tension for styling. For a static-free styling, she can spray on Ostia Collection 3-in-1 Mist ($18) that smooths and adds shine while hydrating heat-styled hair.

She brings home the bacon, and fries it up in …

The kitchen is Mom’s domain, so give her cookware worthy of her Highness, with the Swiss Diamond XD Nonstick Cookware collection, dubbed the Rolls Royce of cookware.  The XD-double-coated Swiss Diamond Fry Pan Duo ($189.95) features a 9.5-inch and 11-inch frying pans that make the perfect pair for everyday cooking, from a succulent steak to a simple cheese omelet. The extra-thick, cast aluminum body and PFOA-free XD coating, reinforced with real diamonds and a rivet-free cooking surface, offer years of trouble-free cooking, maximum protection against bacteria build up and easy clean-up. The ergonomic handles are designed to fit comfortably in Mom’s hands and are engineered to stay cool on the stovetop. Additionally, both pans are oven safe up to 500°F (260°C).

Out in style

Active Moms need performance clothes that can keep up with them. Whether she’s out shopping or relaxing round the campfire, Craghoppers has an outfit for that, like Insect Shield Luna Tights ($48), the agile travel and adventure leggings that freedom of movement, while providing UPF 50+ sun protection and InsectShield insect-repellent fabric coverage from waist to ankle; or the all-purpose classic Kiwi Long-Sleeve Shirt ($36), a easy wash-and-wear quick-dry poly-cotton shirt with UPF 40+, and NosiDefence insect bite-proof construction to keep off the skeeters and other bugs on the trail.

Wired for sound

Tech savvy audiophile moms love themselves some wireless earbuds, but tangled lines or low- or dead-batteries are a bummer.  With myCharge’s PowerGear Sound ($24.99) Mom will always be charged up and ready to listen to her favorite music or podcast for her daily workout, traveling and anytime she needs to turn on and tune out. This portable protective charging earbud case supplies up to 14x extra battery life and is compatible with Powerbeats 2, Powerbeats 3 and most other Bluetooth earbuds.

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DecorEat & DrinkFamilyLifestyleOutdoorsRestaurantsShoppingThe Eastern SeaboardTravel

Making family memories to last for generations at the Greenbrier

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A visit to the indelible resort steeped in tradition, where families come together to enjoy the grandest things in life

Our Greenbrier adventure began with a bit more excitement than our family had anticipated, when we voyaged to the world-renowned resort on a dark and blustery night.

We decided it was best to travel a day earlier than scheduled, since weather forecasters were predicting a windstorm with 50 mph gusts on the day we had planned to drive. Luckily, the Greenbrier was able to accommodate our request for a day-early arrival, so we headed out at 8:30 PM on a three-and-a-half-hour journey through the Allegheny mountains, from Northern Virginia to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

The route past my alma mater James Madison University on Interstate 81 and over the alpine thoroughfares was a bit treacherous, with the gale-force winds pushing our car out of our lane several times, but even more frightening was the caravan of 18-wheeler big rigs passing us, swerving on the verge of tipping from the gusts.

A welcoming to remember

After our harrowing drive, the small quiet town of Sulfur Springs was a welcome sight. As we pulled into the gated entrance to the Greenbrier, the magic began. It was the first day of March, but still the resort was dressed in its winter splendor.

Tree branches aligning the gardens in front of the hotel were adorned with tiny sparkling white lights, giving the hotel the appearance of an enchanted palace. As we cruised into the front roundabout, road-weary and wind-battered, we were greeted warmly by the valet, whose energy seemed unaffected by the squall and the late hour.

The check-in staff facilitated a quick registration and off we went, following the valet’s Lincoln Town Car as he led us through the village of white wooden cottages to our accommodations. Upon entering the cottage, we could not contain our oohs and ahhs. The Legacy Florida Cottage, one of the original guest villas on the perimeter of the main resort building, was a spacious and stately yet an inviting home-away-from-home.

Our intergenerational party, spanning eight decades, from two pre-teen boys to an octogenarian grandmother, all found something – in fact many somethings – of delight.

The housekeeping staff had prepared for our arrival by warming the home to a comfortable temperature and turning on lamps in every room, illuminating the charm and hominess of the residence. After the boys did a quick survey of rooms to pick their favorite — a corner king suite with wild jungle-like draperies with a matching bedspread and upholstered chairs, the adults choose their rooms.

Each of the rooms was distinct in its decor, with vibrant colors, like carpets in hues of fairway-green, velvety purple and royal red, paired with bold and bright stripped, plaid and floral bedding and lounge chairs, each with its own strong character and unique appeal.

 

Worth the drive

Even though it was approaching 1 AM by the time we settled in our cottage, the family sat down at the green-lacquered dining room table for a late-night snack of kettle corn and brownies, that my mom had brought along.

The sugar boost was a guarantee the boys would not be going to sleep anytime soon, so despite the night slipping into early morning hours, we sat and chatted at the table, reliving our treacherous trek to the hotel, relieved now that the storm was in our rearview mirror.  We sat up talking and laughing, relating stories of other memorable road trips, and marveling at our surroundings. It was the kind of stuff that family memories are made of, and the preciousness of those moments did not escape me.

The Greenbrier symbolizes this to me, and I’m sure to many. It is a place that families go to spend quality time, to bond, relax, dine out, play, and just be together, sharing and creating  memories in a beautiful and elegant-yet-approachable environment.

Everywhere around the hotel are sitting spaces that encourage gathering and socializing. These lounge spots come in every variety, from sunny alcoves with floral high-back chairs to dimly lit nooks where masculine leather club chairs surround backgammon tables and chessboards.

 

Strolling the grounds and exploring the massive corridors, elegant parlors and ubiquitous lounges and sitting areas of this old-school resort, built in 1778, one feels transported to another time and place.  Here it would not seem out of the ordinary to see a princess ambling in the garden or strolling the hallowed halls, as in fact Princess Grace of Monaco did, when she visited for an impromptu summer vacation, commemorated by a portrait of her in one of the many great rooms of the hotel.

 

The active life

While the Greenbrier is drenched in opulence, it still presents a relaxing environment for its guests, especially for families. As a place where wellness seekers once flocked to bathe in and imbibe the area’s natural mineral springs, believed to contain healing properties, the resort, while giving way to modest modernization, retains its intention to provide a setting for restoration of mind and body.

The activities around the hotel are designed to promote recreation and enjoyment, from the spa, salon and shopping plaza to the seasonal ice skating rink, bowling alley and arcade.

As an ex-pat from Los Angeles, where many ultramodern hotels are steeled in chrome and glass, exuding a hardness and coolness that pervades even the people that inhabit them, I relished the aura of the Greenbrier, where a soul can meld with its beauty and feel at ease, in laid-back luxury.

The small gymnasium overlooking the indoor swimming pool was a place I keenly felt this sense of ease. There a person could exercise and watch children play in the pool, as parents with averagely toned bodies walked comfortably in their swim suits, in a tranquil setting, without the bombardment of loud music and the intimidation of hard-bodied models parading about in bikinis; but, perhaps I am extrapolating too much from my last Palm Springs vacation.

 

Living history

As a historic landmark, there is plenty to see at the Greenbrier, from galleries of fine artwork and portraits of presidents, royalty, celebrities, sports stars and other distinguished Greenbrier guests, to salons designed by the legendary Dorothy Draper and remnants of political and social history, including a cold-war bunker, which is the subject of one of the most popular tours on the property.

On the Bunker Tour, guests can explore the once top-secret fall-out shelter under a wing of the hotel, comprised of spartan barracks and living quarters created for Congress in the 1950s, in the case of a nuclear attack on the nation’s capital.

Among the most popular activities and a Greenbrier tradition since the 1930s is afternoon tea, served daily in the grand upper lobby, where guests can enjoy a sophisticated tête-à-tête while nibbling gourmet pastries and listening to the soft strains of live classical piano music.

Other favorite experiences include rides in a horse-drawn carriage around the property, cooking, painting and knitting workshops, or, for the athletic, sporting activities at world-class facilities for golf and tennis – which have hosted sports greats such as tennis superstars Serena and Venus Williams and the late golf legend Sam Sneed, who served at the pro emeritus in his last years.

Other resort activities include adventure offerings, such as horseback riding, falconry, skeet shooting, fishing, kayaking, and paddle boarding. For those who want to try their luck at gaming, the resort hosts the world-class Casino Club, where guests are treated to a champagne toast and a choreographed waltz performance at 10 pm nightly, and guests and bust a move themselves at the 42 Below dance club.

For kids, there’s a plethora of activities, from laser tag in the Bunker space to family friendly movies in the on-property cinema. The Adventure Zone center provides a number of experiences, such as an Alpine Tower for climbing and an Aerial Adventure Course, which we braved as a family activity, tight-rope walking and crossing a series of swinging and dangling challenges 60-feet in the air, with safety harnesses, of course.

In all, there are about 55 activities at the Greenbrier, so it would be hard to find yourself doing nothing at all, unless that is what you choose, which is also a popular option at the resort.

Dining to celebrate

Of course, one of the most celebrated activities at the Greenbrier is dining. The resort features six restaurants and three seasonal restaurants and cafés and five bars and lounges, along with 24-hour room service.

Each day of our visit we enjoyed the lavish breakfast buffet, which included omelet and Belgian waffle stations and just about every breakfast entrée imaginable, from the basics of fruit and yogurt to egg casseroles, keeping trays of bacon and sausage, and a good southern standby of chipped beef gravy and biscuits.

The former Main Dining Room, for which guests must adhere to the resort’s dress code, i.e., jackets and ties for the gentlemen and cocktail attire for the ladies, is known for its exquisite service and menu.  Certainly, the five-star service and the famed Prime Filet of Beef Tenderloin should not be missed in the Main Dining Room, though several other restaurants on the property have outstanding fare.

Our party was most impressed with our delectable meal at Prime 44 West, the high-end sports restaurant and steakhouse named after the legendary West Virginian NBA player Jerry West, who wore the namesake’s number on his uniform. The atmosphere, service and our meal at 44 West was extraordinary from start to end, beginning with the Seafood Platter, progressing to the perfectly cooked Bone-in Rib-Eye and Lobster Mash Potatoes, to the big finish of the flaming Dark Cherry Flambé with Kirsh, prepared tableside.

 

The kids loved the causal Draper’s cafe, not just for the generous frozen scoops of heaven at the ice cream bar, but also because they serve the best Fried Green Tomato Sandwich and Creamy Chicken Pot Pie this side of anywhere. There’s plenty excellent offerings there for adults as well, like the signature Dorothy’s Chicken Salad and the comforting Country Shrimp and Grits. Besides the food, the atmosphere and décor is pure fun, featuring high-backed pink-and-white-striped booths, an homage to Dorothy Draper, the designer whose audacious color schemes give the resort its distinctive flair.

Service with a smile

At the restaurants and at every venue within the resort, the service was exceptional, attentive and friendly. In speaking to the staff, many voluntarily expressed their pleasure to work at the Greenbrier, where they said they were treated like family.

One of the maîtres told us she had been with the Greenbrier just three months, which made her a “embryo” compared to the staff who had been there for decades, some for generations, following in the footsteps of their parents, and their parents before them.

I told her the Greenbrier reminded me of Downton Abbey, the fictitious British castle featured in one of my favorite TV shows, in which the loyal employees-for-life were an intrinsic part of the estate. The analogy made her smile widely.  “I love that comparison,” she said. “The people who work here feel that same kind of love for the Greenbrier.”

A few days at the Greenbrier is not enough to fully explore and appreciate all that the destination called “America’s Resort” has to offer, but it was a good start.

Our last night, after a wonderful, leisurely dinner in the Main Dining Room, at nearly 10 pm, we called up the porter to help light our fireplace. It was late to start a fire, which we would have to stay awake to tend until it burned out, but we wanted to make the night last.  And so, we did.  We stayed up all night, relaxing by the hearth, retelling stories of our adventures of the past days, into the next day.

As we were checking out the next day, I picked up brochure in the lobby.  It described the Greenbrier, as “Life as few know it.” I would have to agree that the splendid experience of a Greenbrier getaway is not something that everyone can do all the time, just as we cannot, and would not want to, eat caviar every day, or it would lose its specialness; but it is an extraordinary treat. 

A visit to the Greenbrier is among those experiences that one can truly call marvelous, and one that our family will always remember, and hopefully come back to enjoy, again, and again.

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Eat & DrinkFamilyLifestyleOutdoorsShoppingTravel

Ogden’s small-town charm and big-time skiing

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The amiable Utah city that never stops making a name for itself hosts an epic spring snow sports season

There’s no equivalent to “Indian summer” for a winter that lingers into the next season, but mountain resorts in Utah would be using that phrase a lot this year. Spring skiing, usually when the snow pack melts and ski conditions are marginal, is anything but typical in 2018; in fact, it’s quite a phenom. With heaps of powdery snow amounting in several weeks to the total of what the entire winter season produced, Utah’s ski slopes are experiencing peak conditions that promise to continue through at least late spring.

In order to enjoy this wondrous windfall, ushering in a spring break of epic proportions, I headed to the slopes-less-traveled, in Ogden, the best-kept secret of Utah ski country. This tiny town 40 miles north of Salt Lake City, at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains, borders a trio of local ski areas that offer everything Park City, Deer Valley, Sundance and their other better-known neighbors do, and they do it in a charming and humble way.

How now, Pow Wow

My first stop was Powder Mountain, also known as “Pow Mow,” the apt-named high-altitude playground that owns no snowmaking machines and relies completely on nature’s precipitation. The quaint Sun Down Lodge, with only one ticket window, looks more like a family cabin on the mountainside than a lodge, and the staff there treat you like an old friend. Because Powder Mountain limits lift tickets to 1,500 per day, even on a busy day, there is never a crowd or a long wait at their nine chairlifts. And because fewer skiers and boarders means less stress on the terrain, the runs stay preserved long after a dump of snow.

Purists favor Powder Mountain for its dedication to providing a next-to-natural experience, down to its use of CAT snowmobiles to transport skiers and riders to areas of the mountain where chairlifts are inaccessible. Powder Mountain is the place that many of the locals go, because of its mom-and-pop feel, and it’s known for its family friendly atmosphere, where people are courteous to each other, especially the staff, just like a small town where everyone knows each other.

In keeping with their reputation as a family ski destination, Powder Mountain has lots of mellow runs over their approximately 8,500 acres of terrain, with 167 runs with a variety of slopes for learners and skiers and riders of all levels, with 25 percent beginner runs, 40 percent intermediate and 35 percent advanced.

Laid back luxury at Snowbasin

For those who enjoy a more extravagant ski vacation experience, the Ogden area offers Snowbasin. While some of the local mountains are distinguished as ski areas, Snowbasin is unmistakably a resort, and the difference is notable from the moment you drive up. The large luxury Earl’s Lodge resembles an alpine country club, with a flagstone exterior, giant hearths in the entryway, floral wallpaper worthy of a ballroom, and large padded leather chairs under massive chandeliers.

Like its decor, Snowbasin’s service appeals to the luxury-loving crowd, with such amenities as bins for guests to check in their belongings, versus the lockers found at most ski venues. These handy receptacles not only add an element of convenience for visitors, they keep the lounge areas uncluttered with ski jackets, boots and other accoutrement that guests tend to pile up while they are unwinding in the lodge.

Another popular amenity that speaks to Snowbasin’s service orientation is their cell phone recharging service, which allows guests to securely leave behind their smartphones to get a quick battery boost, since most guests don’t come equipped with a chargers or spare batteries. All around, the staff is eager to serve, making everything easier for guests, with full-services touches like loading guest’s’ skis for them on the gondola.

Snowbasin is also renowned for its chef-driven culinary excellence. A far cry from the standards of chili, burgers and fries of many ski lodges, the resort features a plethora of restaurant options, and each cafeteria has their own signature gourmet burger. During my visit to the Needles Lodge, 9,000 feet up at the top of the Needles Gondola, I tried the “Bum Burger,” loaded with corned beef, sauerkraut and Russian dressing. The burger was a satisfying meal by itself, but I was persuaded to also try an oversized chocolate chip cookie, made with a family recipe of the resort owners, which was well worth the calories.

All the extraordinary service aside, Snowbasin is most famous for its world-class skiing, literally, as the site of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games men’s and women’s downhill, super G and combined races. For Olympics enthusiasts, the gondolas are each named after an Olympic competitor, which can make the ride to the summit a fun game of name spotting.

While there’s plenty of Olympic-level double-black-diamond territory for the brave, for the rest of us, the 3,000 acres of terrain incorporates 106 trails with breakdown of 10% beginner and 60% intermediate runs, with the remainder of 30% designated as advanced trails, covering every level of skier and rider.

Third’s a charm

During my trip out to the Ogden area, the region’s third ski area, Nordic Valley, also known as Wolf Mountain, had called the season early, but this little recreational oasis, renowned for its quaintness and family-friendly atmosphere, along with its legendary night skiing and cross-country ski experiences, is definitely on my list to visit on my next trip to Utah ski country. It’s tiny, with approximately hundred 120 acres of terrain, with just a few chairlifts, but it’s big on heart. It’s also big on accommodating skiers at the intermediate level, with about 50% of its 22 runs designated as blue; but they have plenty of terrain for all levels, with approximately 20 percent of the mountain designed as appropriate for beginners and 20 percent for advanced skill levels.

In town

Ogden may seem like a small town, but there’s plenty of après ski options for those who like to come off the mountain and warm up with a cold beer or a cocktail. And for those who don’t hit the slopes, there’s lots of other exploits in Ogden, for those with a taste for adventure or just those with taste.

For a quick history tour combined with good food and shopping, there’s the 25th Street strip.

The architecture of this artsy area has been well preserved, giving the place the look of an old-style western film set, where one can easily imagine the town’s former gun slinging inhabitants raising a ruckus in the saloons and brothels where now stand fashionable boutiques, restaurants, galleries, bookstores and coffee shops.

Our lunch party stopped into Roosters, which we found was all that Yelpers crow about. Housed in the former Eccles Lumber Company building, this bustling brewhouse offers their own home-brewed beer and root beer and features inventive appetizers, like Beehive Cheese Curds, a variety of hearty Mexican entrees, generously portioned salads and stacked sandwiches, along with pizzas and some signature dishes, like Roosters Beer Battered Fish and Chips. In addition to the flavorsome food, the upper floor offers a great view into the windows of the historic Belle London building, now an ice cream shop, where in Ogden’s early days women of the night tossed beans onto passersby below to get their attention, and maybe their patronage.

For authentic Italian, Rovali’s Restorante Italiano on 25th Street offers homemade pastas, a vast drink selection and homemade desserts from their own bakery. They also feature live music every weekend, with local and national musicians.

Guns and cowboys

The 25th Street district is flanked by Union Station, a landmark holdover from the days when Ogden was frequented by railroad carloads of bankers from all over the US, who flocked there for the liberal lending laws, which made Ogden once notable as the city with the most millionaires per capita.

The old train depot now houses four museums, chock full of exhibits commemorating the town’s history as a hub for gun making, trains, cars and cowboys. The cavernous hall recently began hosting a winters farmer’s market with local sellers offering crafts, foodstuff, collectables and gift items amid a festive atmosphere with entertainment and art displays.

Another notable venue in town is the Eccles Conference Center, a modern and impressive complex that hosts large events, such as a jazz dinner that I attended, where I was served a fabulous steak and lobster dinner that rivaled any five-star restaurant and which was absolutely the best meal I’ve ever had at a convention hall.

Indoor adventure

Ogden’s just the right size town to get around in on foot, if the weather’s decent, or by taking a quick Lyft around to explore its sights. In a small metro area, Ogden is dense with some exciting attractions, all grouped within a radius of a few blocks. The Solomon Center in the middle of town features indoor skydiving at iFly, wave pool surfing at Flowrider, indoor rock climbing at iRock, and an arcade full of activities at Fat Cats, including bowling, billiards and miniature golf.

One local attraction that I was thrilled to discover was Social Axe Throwing, which is everything its name promises. Similar to a bowling alley, but with chain-link cages with a huge target painted on plywood at one end of each lane, this venue offers patrons the opportunity to sling sharp metal hatchets into a wall. With a short lesson in safety and technique, within minutes I was nailing it with a satisfying slice into the wood bullseye.

I was intrigued to learn that patrons are permitted to bring their own alcoholic beverages, which they can imbibe behind the saloon doors in the back of the establishment, but because the range resides within 600 feet of a Mormon temple, serving alcohol is prohibited. This got me thinking that maybe it’s just as well that booze is tightly managed when it comes to hurling razor-sharp implements across a room.

The real deal

If retail therapy is what gets your adrenaline pumping, there are some adorable independent shops along 25th Street downtown as well as the 85-store Newgate Mall and some big box stores in town. Determined to get a fitting Ogden souvenir, I scouted every outdoors clothing store in town for a flannel shirt when I stumbled upon Recreation Outlet, a mammoth discount outdoor war and gear warehouse.

Crammed with surplus goods, including a basement wall-to-wall with boxes brimming with merchandise, on the shelves, tables and floors, this clearinghouse could overwhelm even the most seasoned bargain shopper. Here I finally found a pink plaid women’s flannel shirt, along with a few things I didn’t really need, like four pairs of premium ski socks, a couple face guards, and my best bargain, pliers and a screwdriver for $0.89 apiece.

Another find for bargain hunters, particularly those renting ski equipment is the Outdoor Equipment Rental Center at Weber State University. If you can locate the unassuming shed-like building on the college’s campus, you can get great deals on ski gear packages, for as little as $25 a day, or less if you are a student. The staff is friendly and helpful, though you won’t find experienced professionals like you might get at a resort or a sporting goods rental shop; but if you know what you need, you can save some bucks.

Stay around

Where to stay in Ogden will not be a decision that takes you long to make, because options are limited, but there is some variety in the handful of inns. I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn, in the heart of downtown Ogden, directly across from the Solomon Center. The hotel has all the amenities a short-term traveler needs, and if you book early you might be lucky enough to reserve one of the seven suites with a fireplace and jacuzzi. Other options for accommodations include the only luxury property in town, the Bigelow Hotel, as well as many offerings of bed and breakfasts, vacation homes, and when in season, RV parks and campgrounds.

Ogden Culture

The town once known as a den of gunslingers and card players has evolved over the last century to its current cosmopolitan state, and as someone who had not traveled to the Salt Lake City region in a while, I was amazed to see how much the culture has transformed.

The Mormon church still has a strong influence on the area, though unlike many years ago, there are now very few restrictions on alcohol consumption. One leftover of the old days however is that on Sundays most establishments are closed. Our party was fortunate to find Sonora Grill downtown was serving dinner on a Sunday night, or else we might have gone hungry.

Besides the remnant blue laws, Ogden resembles and feels like any other small town, where the folks are friendly, and visitors are welcomed warmly. By the end of my five-day stint in the town, I knew my way around, and I walked the streets in the evening without a worry. I got on a first-name basis with some of the shopkeepers and hospitality hosts, and even some of their family members. It was no wonder to me that many of the locals told me they had never wandered far from Ogden, nor did they need to or want to.

For some the appeal of Ogden is the fresh air, the outdoors attractions, and of course the epic skiing and snowboarding. For others, it’s the close-knit community and the low-key, laid-back lifestyle.

It’s a place with a lot of history and a lot of progressive changes, yet it’s a place that very much wants to stay the same. It’s the kind of place where you can leave your front door unlocked and trust thy neighbor, and where the robberies and crimes you read about in Ogden are those in the history books.

 

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AdventureLifestyleOutdoorsShoppingWomen's Interest

Girl’s guide to glamping

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Must-have gear for women who love the outdoors but also love creature comforts

Hitting the back woods and camping out does not mean you have to completely rough it.  Whether heading for the hills for a weekender with the family or a girls getaway, take along the right gear that will make your next outdoor adventure a pleasure.

Trailing ahead

Trail blazers can hit the hills running in INOV-8 PARKCLAW 275 GTX ($150) trail running shoes, built to handle versatile terrain, from road running to trails. This durable yet comfortable footwear is engineered with a membrane that bonds directly to the shoe’s upper to create a protective casing that keeps feet dry and performs in harsh running conditions yet has the fit and feel of a regular running shoe. INOV8 features a full line of women‘s and men’s running shoes and runner apparel and accessories available at INOV-8 at www.INOV-8.com or running specialty retailers nationwide.

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Shirts and skin

Whatever the weather, the Showers Pass Bamboo Merino Henley shirt ($60-76) for women and is perfect for it.  This ultimate outdoor all-season performance shirt features down-to-earth high-tech UPF 50+ protection fabric consisting of bamboo and merino fibers woven together are designed to create a soft cool touch on one side and a warm layer on the other side. The side mesh panels of the shirt are body mapped to vent off excess heat, and the flat stitching and continuous underarm panels reduce chaffing.

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Sock it to me

Suit up head to toe for any weather and step into Showers Pass Crosspoint Waterproof Socks ($27.20-$31.20), featuring three layers, including a knit exterior that feels like a regular sock, a breathable waterproof membrane and a moisture-wicking antibacterial lining so that it feels like a sock but protects like a rain booty.

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Get lit

Brighten up a camper’s holiday with the Dark Star 1000L Flashlight ($49.99) from Bass Pro Shops. This powerful beacon will illuminate any night with four light settings – low, medium, high and strobe, and the handle features a push-pull control that can adjust the beam from a spotlight to a flood light. The aluminum housing with anodized finish protects against rough wear, with a casing so solid that it could serve to wack a bear in a pinch. Requires nine AA alkaline batteries.

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Cooking with sass

Outdoor cooks will love to stir up gourmet eats in the Bass Pro Shops’ 5-Piece Cook Set ($49). This light (42-ounce) and compact set, made of sturdy aluminum, comes with a 4.7-quart pot, a 3.2-quart pot, 1.6-quart frying pan, two lids, and a handy nylon carry bag. All the cookware features silicone-coated, folding handles and abrasion- and a stick-resistant coating for easy cleanup. When it’s time to pack up, the nesting design keeps everything compact.

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Bag it

Sleeping under the stars is a dreamy experience, if you have the right sleeping bag, like the warm and cozy Slumberjack Big Timber Pro 20 ($89.95). Built for comfort, this bag features a larger footbox than tapered bags, allowing you to sleep on your back with your feet up in a natural and comfortable position, similar to a bed like experience. Equipped with a soft flannel liner, durable canvas outer shell and robust zippers – which can be joined with a second bag for two sleepers, the Big Timber Pro comes in 20 degree, 0 degree and -20 degree ratings.

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Ground up

Whether camping out in the deep wood or the backyard, avoid the hazards and discomfort of sleeping on the ground by bunking up on a Slumberjack Tough Cot ($89.95). This highly durable cot can hold up to 350 pounds and has a no-squeak steel construction to help you get a sound sleep. It features a spacious sleep surface and sits up high to give plenty of room underneath to store gear. It sets up easily (watch this video to see how easy: https://youtu.be/kbxnvpwkd8o) and comes with a carry bag for transporting and storage.

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Outdoor gourmet

Franks and beans are easy eats when you are cooking outdoors, but for those who prefer more elaborate camp cuisine, the GCI Outdoors SLIM-FOLD Cook Station ($80) has all you need for preparing meals the way you like ‘em. The station sets up and breaks down quickly with a hassle-free one-piece design. It has an aluminum counter top, a lower rack for storage and four plastic fold-out side tables. The side tables feature beverage holders, stem glass holders and hooks that can be used as a garbage bag holder or to hang cooking utensils.

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Pump it up

Why give up a good night’s sleep just because you’re camping? With a Coleman Quickbed Plus High Airbed (Queen size $59.99) , you can have a restful night’s sleep wherever you are. The antimicrobial treated sleep surface resists odor, mold, mildew and fungus that you might encounter in a camping environment, and it comes with the convenience of an included pump, so you’ll always be ready to inflate your bed, indoors or outdoors. Once you find the desired firmness, the airbed’s air-tight closure prevents leaks, and the soft top offers cushioning for added comfort. When you’re ready to pack up, the bed fits into an included carry bag for easy storage until your next adventure.

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Give three shelter

Three can be a crowd, but not on a three-dog night when you are huddled together in the Slumberjack Nightfall 3 ($169).  This lightweight, versatile and very compact three-person tent raises the bar for mountain tents. With only three poles, it’s quick and easy to set up, and the external pitch pole architecture keeps the inner tent dry even while pitching in the rain. The near vertical side walls provide plenty of interior space, and the no-see-um mesh keeps out even the littlest gnats and skeeters, to make your camp experience pleasant and pest-free.

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Blow up your kayak

If you’ve always wanted a kayak but didn’t think you had the space to store one, Innova Kayaks has a solution that blows traditional kayaks out of the water. These inflatable kayaks are lightweight and constructed of heavy duty natural and synthetic rubber that will last for years, even decades.  They blow up in minutes with a high-capacity foot pump, and after the adventuring they fold up compactly and can be carries away in an oversized backpack and loaded into even a compact car. One-person and three-seater models available, with capacity up to 900 pounds. Available at dealers nationwide $399 to $1,299.

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Entertainment

Outdoor entertainment into autumn, LA style

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Mild temperatures keep LA outdoor nightlife lively into fall

LA outdoor nightlife

Southern Californians don’t know how lucky they are. While East coasters are storing their patio furniture for the long winter, SoCal dwellers can enjoy shirtsleeves outdoors for months to come. Even at night, when temperatures drop to their lowest, a sweater or light coat is all one needs for a comfortable evening under the stars. So rejoice Angelenos, and enjoy the bounty of alfresco activities into autumn, such as these venues and events that define LA outdoors nightlife.

I-See-a-Bowl

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in LA who would not agree that the Hollywood Bowl is the most fabulous place to experience an outdoor concert. With a full summer series that trails into early fall, the Bowl hosts international musical headliners, such as this season’s lineup of artists including Jack Johnson, Ziggy Marley, Pentatonix, Kool & the Gang and The Village People, Blondie and Garbage, movie soundtrack sing-alongs, and of course many of world-class symphonies like the Los Angeles Philharmonic and resident Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.

Over the years the 17,500-seat amphitheater has expanded to include a number of food venues inside the complex, along with 14 beautiful picnic areas so patrons can BYO-picnic, but in addition to its unique ambience, this iconic landmark continues to be most renowned among music lovers for its phenomenal acoustics, owing to the natural hillside setting in which it resides, where sometimes coyotes can be heard howling during lulls in the music. The bowl is the kind of place that makes you glad you live in LA, and it’s worth every moment of waiting to get out of the stacked parking.

 

Screen time

Well into fall weekends, Cinespia, the original and the largest outdoor movie event, hosts movie nights on the lawn at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Drawing crowds of thousands, this remains one of the coolest events in LA, with guest DJs spinning tunes and throngs spreading out across the vast grassy grounds in font of Rudolph Valentino’s mausoleum, with their low-back chairs, gourmet picnic dinners and flameless candles. Film aficionados talk along with and cheer their favorite lines from modern classics like Superbad and The Princess Bride and horror flicks that seem apropos among the headstones, like Night of the Living Dead.  Get there early to stake your space with a blanket, or pay a bit more for early access and VIP reserved seating.

Another excellent outdoor movie event is Showtime’s Eat See Hear, held at unique settings around LA, including Autry Museum in Griffith Park, La Cienega Park in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles State historic Park, Rose Bowl Stadium, ROW Downtown LA, and the Santa Monica pier. This movie event boasts the largest outdoor screen in the West has a big focus on food trucks, and the Showtime sponsorship and dog friendly nature of the events distinguish it from others around town. With the variety of venues, it feels like a different event each time you go. For a slightly increased ticket price, patrons can get “Fashionably Late” seeming in the most desirable front-and-center section.

Endless summer

While the list of outdoor evening events in LA is nearly as long as the line at Pink’s on a Saturday night, other don’t-miss venues and attractions that are open into October or later, including The Greek Theatre at Griffith Park, The John Anson Ford Theatre in the Cahuenga Pass, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which hosts Jazz at LACMA through November.

 

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