San Diego

The sunny city that I cant quite compare to anywhere else – San Diego really does have it all from sports and shopping to surfing and sensational dining. On my recent trip with family, I made a point of hitting up a few new spots that have been on the ‘must do’ list for a while.

The nightlife hotspot – King and Queens Cantina
If you are looking for a dinner spot with friends or family that packs a punch in music, vibe and cuisine – look no further. King and Queen Cantina brings a Latin flavor to San Diego’s Little Italy with colorful skull décor and a Dia de Los Muertos theme all year long. Seat yourselves at the downstairs bar or follow mood lighting upstairs outdoor bar where you can take to the San Diego skyline as you sip hand-crafted cocktails at this modern Mexican cantina. Creative owner and founder Jorge Cueva brings the ‘Mexican Cantine’ style and hisipanic popular menu from Orange County’s hotspot Tempo Urban Kitchen to create an eclectic menu from sushi to tacos as well as popular Latin dishes combined with inspiration from around the world. My choices include the sHISHITO PEPPERS (Soy glazed, malted salt, lime crema) the NO TORTILLA TACOS (Stuffed tempura jalapeno, spicy tuna, cheese, spicy aioli, pear and cucumber slaw, radish, cilantro, wrapped in jicama tortilla) and the DIABLO ROLL (Avocado, cucumber, crab meat, and shrimp tempura, wrapped in seaweed and rice, topped with spicy tuna and crispy onions.) Pair these with their famous Margarita Flight or a couple Modelas – and your set for a unforgettable night.

The ambient spot – Havana 1920
Havana 1920 brings Hemingway’s Cuba to life with authentic Cuban dishes, drinks and entertainment. Located just south of Market Street in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, you will find an atmospheric hideaway and hotspot serving up a most entertaining evening. Start your night with an aged rum, overlooking the street scenery from the upstairs balcony – and dig into their CEVICHE TROPICAL (shrimp, grilled pineapple, jalapeño, cucumber, tomato, onion, and cilantro.) For mains dig into the classic SANDWICH CUBANO (Cuban Sandwich Slices of slow roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on Cuban Bread) or a BISTEC HAVANA 24 (Angus skirt steak topped with our own chimichurri served with grilled Cuban bread, plantains and a side Caribbean avocado salad.) Once your done, head downstairs for a nightcap and soak up the buzzing scenery.

The brunch spot – The Mission
The Mission is a casual, local eatery with a brunch choice for everyone. Their concept specializes in simple, healthy, tasty food with a whimsical edge and a focus on artful presentation at an affordable price. By focusing on the use of simple and fresh ingredients, this vibrant urban bistro promotes living in an increasingly health-conscious world – which includes everything from classic pancakes and sandwiches to modern Chino-Latino cuisine! A few of my favorites include the SOY CHORIZO BURRITO (Black beans, crispy rosemary potatoes, scrambled eggs, jack cheese, cilantro, scallions, tomatoes and chipotle crema in a large whole wheat tortilla) and the ZEN BREAKFAST (Scrambled egg whites, braised tofu, brown rice, grilled zucchini & squash with tomato & onion garnish) but if you want to indulge there are every kind of pancake imaginable from blueberry to banana. This concept in healthy dining, combined with pleasant surroundings, is The Mission’s specialty and has made The Mission a huge favorite among local San Diegans and travelers from around the world.

The happening hotel – The Kimpton Solamar
This hotel boasts both a great location and great presentation- explore, indulge and recharge right in the center of the Gas Lamp District. This Kimpton offers an all-inclusive vibe with rich décor. Our regal-meets-vibrant, urban refuge provides modern comfort, a rooftop pool oasis, dazzling dining destinations, genuinely engaged service, plus a central location ideal for exploring some of the city’s latest dining trends and sizzling nightlife options. Of course, being a Kimpton, expect all the generous quirks – like happy of complimentary wine for guests at night, cold brew at 6am in the lobby and dog cookies for traveling fidos. By far, one of my favorite spots to stay in SD.

The activity- The San Diego Zoo
This is a great activity for all ages, aside of beaching it and shopping. Set in Balboa Park, The San Diego Zoo houses was a pioneer in the concept of open-air, cageless exhibits that re-create natural animal habitats. Walk around the park, jump on the Skyfari aerial tram or hop on a guided bus tour of the entire zoo – and experience live talks, feedings, and demonstrations. Meet over 4,000 rare and endangered animals, and over 650 unique species from all over the world in this 100-acre site.. You’ll get up close to koalas as well as gorillas, elephants, crocodiles and more in exhibits from the African Rocks to the Australian Outback!

Valentines Day Deals

Valentines Day is around the corner, and travel might be the best way to bring you and your loved one closer. So what travel ideals and deals are there out there we should book now?

The Outdoor Experience – The temperatures might be low, but all the more reason to find a reason to snuggle up with that special someone. Consider booking an affordable but cozy airbnb cabin in the woods where you can get back to nature, or make the most of the snow with a romantic ski trip. Places like Taos, New Mexico or Nevada are more under the radar and thus more affordable this time of year…. from the east or west coasts, flights can be found under $300 round-trip over coming weeks, and while hotels and condos are a little pricier at the ski resorts, there are plenty of options to find a rate that will fit in your budget.

The City Break –  Yes, you can book a flight to Paris or Rome, but for those who only have a few days to play with, consider US cities like Asheville, NC. With budget airlines expanding to the city, Asheville saw a 40 percent drop in airfares according to CheapOair. Enjoy the Blue Ridge Mountains for great value into the early winter months of 2019. Walk around the Art Deco downtown area, take a rooftop bar tour with amazing views, drink up at some of the city’s 33 breweries in the South Slop District, or even take a romantic winter hike.

The Culinary Experience – Why not make food, or wine, the language of love. Sonoma County and San Francisco are affordable and accessible this time of year, offering top tier food and wine tasting experiences. Most of Sonoma’s vineyards have been upgraded since the 2017 wildfire disaster, and are worth the brief 50 mile drive outside SF to visit….or stay within the city center and make the most of the many new urban wineries and restaurants.

The Tropical Destination – It’s low season right now for many tropical destinations like the Bahamas, which makes it a perfect time to go and get some sun. You won’t have to pay as much as you would during peak season, so if you’re looking for a deal, it’s still warm, the ocean is perfectly turquoise and you can enjoy the white sand beaches. If you are looking for a ‘hands off’ option, plenty of all-inclusive resorts can be found as low as $200 per night (including food, drinks and activities) so you can kick back for a few days and focus on each-other. =


Best deals of the (winter) travel ‘down season’

Winter tends to be shoulder season for a lot of places, which is when a destination isn’t at its most popular but you can get a much better deal especially after the holidays than you’d be able to get in the summer. Additionally, the off-season means cheaper deals on flights and more hotel availability. Hotels are a little more willing to budge on price and offer you a deal you might not be able to get otherwise.The trick to planning a winter trip on a budget is to watch for flight deals by using apps like Hopper or Skyscanner. If you’re looking to take a budget trip usually your biggest expenditure is going to be a flight so if you can save there you’re going to save everywhere!

Some destinations to keep in mind:

Ashville, NC

With budget airlines expanding to the city, Asheville saw a 40 percent drop in airfares according to CheapOair. Enjoy the Blue Ridge Mountains for great value into the early winter months of 2019. Walk around the Art Deco downtown area, take a rooftop bar tour with amazing views, drink up at some of the city’s 33 breweries in the South Slop District, or even take a winter hike (here are five to choose from.)

The Bahamas

It’s low season right now for the Bahamas, which makes it a perfect time to go and get some sun.You won’t have to pay as much as you would during peak season, so if you’re looking for a deal, it’s still warm, the ocean is perfectly turquoise and you can enjoy the white sand beaches. From the east coast, flights start at $250 round-trip, and hotels and all-inclusive resorts could be as little as $100-$200 per night. All-inclusive resorts also offer food, drinks and activities, making it a perfect option for budget-savvy travelers.

Taos, New Mexico

For skiers and winter enthusiasts, Taos is a little bit under the radar and it’s not quite as popular as Aspen or Vail. It’s a lot more affordable if you’re looking for a ski vacation and there are also day spas and art museums and all kinds of cultural activities. From the east or west coasts, flights are around $225 round-trip, and while hotels and condos are a little pricier at the ski resorts, there are plenty of options to find a rate that will fit in your budget.

Austria

With roundtrip flights from Boston, Chicago, and Baltimore to Vienna at near-historic lows—like $500 low, as found on Airfarewatchdog—this popular skiing country in Europe makes for a great affordable winter vacation this year. Hit the slopes in the Austrian Alps with tour operator Contiki on the Austria Ski package, a weeklong ski trip starting at $685 (including accommodations, day trips, and most meals). Based in Hopfgarten, it’s the perfect base to explore the SkiWelt, Austria’s interconnected ski slope network. The country embraces cold weather with famous Christmas Markets, ice skating rinks, roasted chestnut and potato wedge stalls, mulled wine, and the best opera season.

Warsaw, Poland

According to CheapOair, Poland and its capital Warsaw are cheapest to travel to in the winter, with early 2019 prices about $580 roundtrip. Whether you’re looking to celebrate the holidays in Europe or experience a world-class European city on the cheap, Warsaw should be on the top of your list. Classic wintertime activities include ice skating in Old Town Square, strolling through the outdoor illumination exhibit, visiting The Royal Garden of Light, and soaking in the outdoor heated pools at Wodny Park.

Nevada

According to KAYAK and CheapAir.com, Las Vegas is one of the cheapest places to fly this winter, with a median airfare of about $200 roundtrip; or head to Reno-Tahoe for about $300 roundtrip from most major U.S. cities. Nevada is an affordable winter vacation spot that sees mild weather and offers a variety of activities, from casino-going to outdoor activities like hiking and skiing. Peppermill Resort offers prices as low as $80 per night in the winter, and has geothermally heated outdoor pools that are open year-round. The Peppermill and other resorts in the area also offer ski packages to North Lake Tahoe’s world-class ski mountains like Mt. Rose and Diamond Peak, including accommodations, shuttle service, ski rentals, and lift tickets all for prices about $280.