California Dreaming...Vegas doings and overrated Elvis?...Naughty road sign...
Had a chance to check out a reception sponsored by the California tourism folks on Tuesday night over at Marben restaurant on Wellington Street. Dynamite appetizers; very inventive, and plenty of California wine.
They seem happy to be courting folks in Canada, which makes sense as they said Canadian visits to the Golden State were up 9.5 per cent last year versus 2007; with more than a million of us making the trek.
Officials cited a number of good reasons for increased Canadian tourism; it's a destination that's easy to get to, with tons of variety (mountains, oceans, redwoods, deserts, lonely places and big cities, not to mention Hollywood, cable cars, the Golden Gate Bridge and wine). Toss in the fact you can do a "power weekend" and that the loonie is way up around 94 cents against the U.S. dollar (and don't forget there's less tax in the states, so
a five or six per cent exchange difference ends up being almost equal).
They've got a few changes in store around the state, including a new Ritz-Carlton at Lake Tahoe (beautiful mountains and awesome skiing near a gorgeous alpine lake) and a Cirque du Soleil installation at the wonderful Santa Monica Pier, where I spent many a day and even night playing Frisbee or touch football when I was in university.
"It's a great alternative to British Columbia for skiing during the Olympics," one official said, and that sounds like fightin' words to the folks in Whistler!
Of course, there's always the joys of the city by the bay.
"San Francisco goes WAY beyond intriguing," said Deborah Renow of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Fall is a great time to visit northern California, as the fogs have usually left the coast and the winter rainy season doesn't (usually) start until mid-November.
The tourism folks unveiled a series of television ads. The best one features Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger telling folks to come out for a visit. At the end he smiles and says, "You'll be back."
They're launching a new campaign called California Fives where locals and visitors can go on line (www.californiafives.com) and nominate everything from their favourite taco stand to favourite movie theatre and get all sorts of tips on where to visit.
OOPS - MISSING NANAIMO VIDEO LINK
Great story in Star Travel on Thursday on Nanaimo, B.C. by Reb Stevenson. Alas, I forgot to give readers the link to her great video that goes with it. Sorry about that. But if you're checking us out online, here it is: http://bit.ly/dxvfv.
VEGAS STILL ON SALE
Earlier in the week I had a chat with Ryan Jones from the Las Vegas tourism group.
"We're focussing away from casinos and more on entertainment, shopping and restaurants," he said.
Jones said the Vegas City Centre is coming along and will be a huge complex on the south end of the strip. At $8.5 billion, it's said to be the largest privately funded development in North America, with six buildings, 6,000 hotel rooms and 2,400 residences. Yeah, they're still thinking small down in Vegas, aren't they?
They say four of the six primary components of the complex will open in December: Vdara on Dec. 1, Crystals on Dec. 3, Mandarin Oriental on Dec. 4 and ARIA Resort and Casino (owned by MGM Mirage and featuring a Cirque du Soleil show based on the life and music of Elvis Presley) on Dec. 16. Veer (the residential component) and Harmon (in the midst of a redesign) won't open until 2010.
(The Beatles show I can see, and I'm gonna get mail on this, but I never have quite got a handle on Elvis Presley.
I was born in 1956, though, and I think I missed his best years. Friends of mine
love Elvis, and the Beatles certainly worshipped him. I like Jailhouse Rock and Hound Dog quite a bit and I've heard a couple of early tunes that have lots of pep and energy; Blue Moon of Kentucky and some of the earlier stuff. But some of the major "hits" they play of his on the radio, especially things like Teddy Bear and Are You Lonesome Tonight, leave me highly underwhelmed.)
PARENTS BEWARE - NAUGHTY ROAD SIGN APPROACHING BELOW
Cleo Paskal, who writes a monthly column for us in Star Travel (check her next one on Saturday, Oct. 10 as she writes some lovely thoughts on Labrador and Newfoundland), sent along a photo where someone found the road sign pointing out the distance to Dildo, Newfoundland and put a small addition next to the 12 on the sign. The sign is supposed to suggest the town is 12 kilometres away but, well, you can see for yourself.
Pretty funny. I mean, not nice to tamper with government property.
JIM'S DEAL OF THE DAY - HAWAII GOLF
Unlimited golf on the island paradise of
FYI - A lot of high-end golfers like the Wailea complex nest door. Makena has similarly great views and a little more relaxed vibe.
UNITED PACKAGE - MORE CHOICES
As if life isn't complicated enough, it seems United Airlines is offering people a deal where you can $249 U.S. for a yearly fee that allows you and up to eight folks travelling with you on the same reservation to get up to two bags per person checked without charge, per flight, for a year.
The LA Times figured a family of four could get their money back or more by flying one or two round trips per year, depending on how many bags they check. United first-bag fees are $40 each per round trip on domestic flights, or $160 for four people. Combined fees for first and second bags are $100 per person per round trip.
Weird, but maybe it makes sense for some folks.
HOTEL SECURITY ISSUES
This is disturbing. Associated Press says the hotel industry is "reexamining its guest privacy safeguards" in light of the case where an ESPN reporter was videotaped naked in her room. The perpetrator, and that seems like the right word here, videotaped her through the peephole of her hotel room after asking - and receiving - a room next to hers at a hotel in Nashville.
I wouldn't think hotels would do that unless you were related to someone, but obviously these things don't get checked. Some hotels apparently ask the guest for consent, others clearly don't.
"This is a wakeup call for the industry," said CBS travel editor Peter Greenberg. Greenberg suggests placing a bit of duct tape over the peephole to keep anyone from somehow finding a way to look inside your room.