Family Fun at Disneynature’s Bears Movie

bearsmovie2014 is turning into the year for amazing family movies, and one of the best ones around is almost certainly “Bears,” the new True Life Adventure feature from Disneynature.

“Bears” showcases a year in the life of an Alaskan brown bear mother, Sky, and her two impressionable young cubs, Scout and Amber, as they emerge from winter hibernation. The world outside is exciting—but risky—as the cubs’ descent down the mountain carries with it a looming threat of avalanches. As the season changes from spring to summer, the bears must work hard to find food—ultimately feasting at a plentiful salmon run—while staying safe from rival male bears and predators, including an ever-present wolf. Narrated by John C. Reilly (whom your kids will recognize from “Wreck-It Ralph”), the movie arrives in theaters April 18 to honor Earth Day.

bear and fishWe had the honor of seeing an early screening of the movie and the film nearly took our breath away. From the jaw-dropping scenery, to the incredible and dramatic moments that the filmmakers were able to capture, we were captivated from start to finish. It is amazing to watch two fierce bears battle over turf, for example, and feel like you’re standing right next to them watching it transpire. The two first-graders we brought to the movie were equally impressed, and they giggled along with all of the bears’ playful moments. Note for kids under age 5: There’s some dramatic tension that may be frightening, but (spoiler alert!) it’s all OK in the end.

3 bears“Bears” is the fifth theatrical release for Disneynature, the first new Disney-branded film label from The Walt Disney Studios in more than 60 years. The label was launched in April 2008 to bring the world’s top nature filmmakers together to capture a variety of wildlife subjects and stories. The first four releases under the Disneynature label—“Earth,” “Oceans,” “African Cats” and “Chimpanzee”—are among the top five highest grossing feature-length nature films of all time.

If you see Bears during its opening week, Disney will make a donation to the National Park Foundation through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund to protect wildlife and wild places. To reserve tickets for a large group or class, call 1-888-DISNEY6 .

 

Million Dollar Arm

Looking for a great family movie? Coming May 16, you’re in for a real treat with “Million Dollar Arm,” the new Disney film about a sports agent who goes looking for the next big Major League Baseball star in India.

million dollar movieFrom the movie description: “In a last ditch effort to save his career as a sports agent, JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm) concocts a scheme to find baseball’s next great pitching ace.  JB travels to India to produce a reality show competition called “Million Dollar Arm.” With the help of  retired baseball scout (Alan Arkin) he discovers Dinesh (played by Madhur Mittal from “Slumdog Millionaire”) and Rinku (played by Suraj Sharma from “Life of Pi”), two 18 year old boys who have no idea about playing baseball, yet have a knack for throwing a fastball. While the Americans are definitely out of their element in India – the boys, who have never left their rural villages – are equally challenged when they come to the States to train. As the boys learn the finer points of baseball – JB, with the help of his friend Brenda (Lake Bell) – learns valuable life lessons about teamwork, commitment and what it means to be a family.”

We were invited to an early screening of this movie and loved every minute about it, especially the positive messages about hard work, goal-setting, the importance of family, and the genuine good humor throughout the movie. It also offers some fascinating glimpses of life in rural villages in India. We can’t wait for it to open in wide release so that we can take our Little League players who understand all too well how easy the major leaguers make it look…and how hard it is to learn to be a great pitcher in real life.

This is a fun sports movie that we can’t recommend highly enough. Thank you to Disney Pictures for giving us a sneak preview of the film!

Million Dollar Arm is rated PG and opens May 16.

Knott’s Berry Bloom

KBF Bloom Logo-page-001Spring has sprung at Knott’s Berry Farm, and with it comes the return of the annual Knott’s Berry Bloom celebration. Knott’s Berry Bloom – which runs from April 12 through April 27 -  features displays of beautiful spring colors, interactive family-friendly activities, expanded gourmet food and wine tasting opportunities, and more.

KBF Berry Bloom-6419New for 2014, the Ghost Town Boysenberry Festival will honor this delectable berry (our favorite!) by allowing guests to wine, dine, and buy boysenberry inspired products throughout the streets of the Old West. The founders of Knott’s Berry Farm will be honored through Walter & Cordelia Knott’s Original Roadside Boysenberry Stand, from which guests can purchase authentic boysenberry plants and preserves.

KBF Berry Bloom-5977Throughout Ghost Town, guests can watch demonstrations of canning homemade jam, blacksmithing, and cooking up homemade boysenberry glazes. On School House Road, guests can try their hand at Western-themed games with a boysenberry twist. Daily boysenberry pie-eating contests will take place in front of the Birdcage Theater. And when the sun sets on Ghost Town, the buildings and midways light up in (what else?) festive boysenberry purple hues.

KBF Berry Bloom-5645Live entertainment includes Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies (nighttime, outside Birdcage Theater), Peanuts Party in the Park (Charleston Circle), Bloomination! (nighttime, Charleston Fountain), Flower Power (Camp Snoopy Theater), and live salsa dancing in Fiesta Village. Other interactive fun includes the Easter Beagle’s Enormous Egg Hunt with prize locations for kids 3 to 11 years old, and Big Boardwalk Games (oversized shuffle board, tic-tac-toe, and bowling) near Xcelerator.

Knott’s is open extended hours from 10am to 10pm during Knott’s Berry Bloom, allowing guests extra time to take advantage of all of the limited-time offerings. To track the fun, follow the hashtag #KnottsSpring on Twitter and Instagram.

Knotts Berry Farm, 8039 Beach Boulevard, Buena Park CA 90620. (714) 220-5200

The opinions in this article are my own. I do not work for, or with, any brand mentioned in this article, nor do I have any official relationship with them.  I have a relationship with GigaSavvy, for whom I create original editorial content.

Girls’ Getaway at Terranea Spa Bungalows

Looking for a relaxing weekend with your female friends in the South Bay? Look no further than the new Spa Bungalows at Terranea. These well-appointed bungalows have every imaginable amenity and plenty of space for everyone, plus they’re just steps away from Terranea’s world-class spa (where you’ll enjoy special benefits as a bungalow guest).

bungalow view

Patio with fire pit and ocean view at a Terranea spa bungalow

We spent a recent night in a bungalow with two of our oldest and dearest friends (who had traveled from the snowy East Coast to get some much-needed sunshine) and the experience was pitch-perfect from start to finish.

Clockwise from top left: Bungalow entrance, kitchen, living room, and guest room.

Clockwise from top left: Bungalow entrance, kitchen, living room, and guest room.

The spa bungalow (we stayed in a two-bedroom configuration) was surprisingly large and roomy. There was a master bedroom with a king bed, and a large second bedroom with two full-sized beds, so we each had a bed to ourselves. Amazingly, there were three bathrooms, one for each of us (well, OK, one was technically a powder room – but still!). The kitchen was fully equipped with everything from a convection oven to a dishwasher.  We had our own washer/dryer. And best of all, there was a firepit outside on the patio, where we wound up spending all night talking and laughing.

Bathtub decorated with sand dollars and starfish

Bathtub decorated with sand dollars and starfish

Extra touches? We loved the tiny starfish and sand dollars surrounding the bathtub in the main bathroom. The living room had a cozy fireplace as well as small weights, yoga mats, and other stretching equipment. And we definitely appreciated the Terranea water bottles that we found chilling in the fridge when we arrived – the perfect end to a long hike around the Terranea grounds.

Terranea spa pool

Terranea spa pool with ocean view

But the real attraction on this visit was the spa, which is just steps away from the bungalows. As soon as you walk in, you know you’re in for something special. The spa concierge gives you a locker, robe, and sandals – and then after that there’s nothing but extreme pampering. Your spa visit includes all-day access to the steam room, dry sauna, whirlpools, indoor/outdoor relaxation lounges and fire pits, as well as the hot tub, cold soaking tub, and the beautiful (ocean view, of course) heated lap pool, with plenty of comfy seating. Best of all, you can enjoy all of Terranea’s amazing spa services at 10 percent off the regular rate as a bungalow guest.

Spa features, from top left: Lockers, a pedicure station, an ocean view exercise bike, and a cozy ocean view spa cabana

Spa features, from top left: Lockers, a pedicure station, an ocean view exercise bike, and a cozy ocean view spa cabana

Did we mention the food? As a bungalow guest, you’ll also receive free lunch and breakfast at the Spa Cafe, which features a range of smoothies, wraps, salads, and more. Of course we were feeling super-healthy so we enjoyed this cup of fruit right at the poolside:

poolside fruit

And now we’ll tempt you with a few more shots of the pool, the deck, and the incredible plants that surround the secluded spot:

terranea pool ocean view

A view looking down the length of the pool out to the ocean.

terranea lap swimming

Looking from the pool back toward the resort

terranea succulents

Some of our favorite succulent plants that grace the pool deck.

Intrigued? Check out the Terranea Spa Bungalows page to learn more about all of the perks included in a spa bungalow. For more information and reservations, please call 866.802.8000. Note: We love bringing our kids to Terranea, but the spa and the Spa Cafe are only open to guests ages 18 and older.

Terranea Resort, 100 Terranea Way, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275 www.terranea.com

Blogger disclosure: We are serving as a social media ambassador for Terranea in 2014. Terranea has offered us complimentary stays in exchange for promotion on social media outlets. All opinions expressed are our own.

Knott’s Berry Farm Season Passes

2014 is still young, and there are still plenty of days (and special celebrations) to enjoy at Knott’s Berry Farm. Why not consider buying a season pass?

season passRegular season passes include unlimited admission for 2014, exclusive ride times on select rides during the summer, discounts to Knott’s Scary Farm, discounts on select food and merchandise, and more…and the season passes start at just 6 payments of $14 each. To upgrade to a gold pass, it’s just 6 payments of $17 each, and you get all of those benefits plus unlimited visits at Knott’s Soak City OC. Upgrade to the platinum pass (6 payments of $32 each) and you get all that plus free parking AND free admission to all of the Cedar Fair Parks.

Our family loves going to Knott’s Berry Farm at just about any time of year, whether it’s in the long lazy days of summer, or during the festive nights of winter. To show how much fun we have there all year long, we’ve compiled a list of our top five family fun moments at Knott’s Berry Farm. Counting down from Number 5:

5) Eating pie. We just can’t get enough of Mrs. Knotts’ famous chicken and biscuits, but it wouldn’t be a visit to Knott’s without some of her classic boysenberry pie. In fact, we could stop right here at #5 and just head out to Knott’s for that reason alone, but there’s more…

Knott's Berry Farm's boysenberry pie

Knott’s Berry Farm’s boysenberry pie

4) Coast Rider. There are roller coasters, and there are roller coasters. We love the new Coast Rider because it gives you a real sense of place. It’s like a giant thrill ride down the California coast – an experience you won’t have anywhere else. There’s a lot of adventure packed into 2 minutes and 30 seconds, and once it’s over you’ll keep lining up for more.

Riding high above the world on the Coastrider

Riding high above the world on the Coast Rider

3) Camp Spooky. We’ve enjoyed the super-scary thrills of Knott’s Scary Farm, but we’ve had just as much fun if not more at Camp Spooky, the kid-friendly thrill zone at Knott’s during Halloween season. This year our kids loved decorating Halloween cookies, getting creeped out by real-life creepy critters, and walking through the house of mirrors in Camp Spooky at Halloween. It’s a low-scare, high-fun adventure that sets just the right tone for the younger set.

House of Mirrors at Camp Spooky during Halloween

House of Mirrors at Camp Spooky during Halloween

2) Rides at Christmas. We love going to Knott’s during the Christmas season to enjoy the decorations and all of the special holiday features. But one hidden advantage to going to Knott’s in the colder months is getting in on all of the fun water rides while the crowds are smaller. This year we all donned raincoats on one cloudy morning and we rode the Log Ride over and over and over again (when everyone else thought it was “too cold”). Who says you can’t have some good water fun in the winter?

Timber Mountain Log Ride at Christmas

Timber Mountain Log Ride at Christmas

5) Family time at Wilderness Dance Hall. After a long day of rides and fun, there’s nothing we love more than hunkering down for a tasty snack, a warm drink, or a good show at Wilderness Dance Hall. Lots of happy memories here.

wilderness dance hall

Convinced yet? Now here’s a chance to win a four-pack of season passes to Knott’s Berry Farm. All the details are here on this Knott’s Berry Farm Season Pass Contest page (must be 18 or older to win). Good luck and see you at Knott’s!

Terranea Close-Up

As soon as you arrive at Terranea Resort, you’ll have a sense of everything being on a large scale – massive ocean views, spacious rooms, towering cliffs. But some of the real beauty of Terranea is in the smallest details. Intrigued? Step through the doorway and start looking closely at Terranea, piece by piece. Here is the lower entrance to one of the Spanish-style casitas: Painted tiles line the walk ways and stair wells.

terranea doorway

Starting with the lobby and moving throughout the resort, there are countless tiles and earthy designs that evoke a Mediterranean feel:

terranea patterns

And even if it’s overcast and in the mid-60′s (that’s winter weather in Southern California) there are still plenty of flowers in bloom.

terranea winter blooms

If you’re bold enough to go down to the rocks, you’ll be able to see Terranea’s “rock stars” up close and personal. There are millions of years’ worth of history buried right there in those rocks:

terranea rocks

And if you get a chance to meet Terranea’s resident falconer, you might just meet this guy, Albert, a Eurasian eagle-owl who cruises the property. Look at the wingspan on this magnificent creature – and check out his orange eyes!

Eurasian eagle owl

If you’re headed to Terranea soon, don’t forget to have your eyes open for these details and more. Happy exploring!

Terranea Resort, 100 Terranea Way, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275. Reservations: (866) 802-8000.

Terranea Casita

Every room at Terranea is amazing, so  you really can’t go wrong. But if you want a step up from the traditional hotel room, or if you need a little more space, the well-appointed ocean front casitas at Terranea are the perfect vacation rentals for a getaway weekend or longer.

casita exterior

Looking at this architectural model of the resort, the casitas are the small red-roofed structures that flank both sides of the main resort building:

terranea model

From the architectural model of a casita below, you can see how it is comprised of three parts. If you want a one-bedroom, you rent the center portion (outlined in blue) that comes with a king-sized bed in the bedroom, plus a separate living room, kitchen, laundry nook, and dining patio. The kitchen is fully equipped with a refrigerator, four-burner stove, and convection/microwave oven.

casita model

If you need room for more friends or family, you can add on a second full bedroom and bath (outlined in yellow) with two double beds. And for a full three-bedroom casita, you can rent an additional non-connecting bedroom (outlined in pale green) with a king bed and its own bath. All three units have their own entrances and share an outdoor entrance patio furnished with chairs and a fireplace.

Inside, the casita is extremely comfortable and luxuriously appointed. You’ll find lovely tile work in the kitchen and bathrooms, marble counters in the kitchens, and attractive artwork throughout the units.

casita details

Here’s a composite view that sums up our first night in the casita as we enjoyed the sunset from the balcony of the master bedroom. With this kind of view, how can you go wrong?

casita composite

Feel like staying even longer? The casitas are also available for purchase as a vacation home with loads of special benefits for owners. Call 310-265-2888 for more information on vacation homes.

Terranea Resort, 100 Terranea Way, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275. Reservations: (866) 802-8000.

Disclosure: I am spending the year as a social media ambassador for Terranea, for which I am receiving complimentary stays. I did not receive compensation for this post.

Winter Swell 2014 Photo Contest

winter-swell-photo-contestSurf’s up! To celebrate the first winter swell of 2014, Downtown Manhattan Beach is holding a photo contest to showcase the best big wave photo.

To enter, take a winter swell photo and share it on the Downtown Manhattan Beach’s Facebook page or on Instagram with the hash tag #mbswell. To qualify, photos must be of the surf from somewhere between the El Porto jetty and the Redondo Beach break wall. Entries are open until January 29 (enter as many times as you like).

Once you enter, go to the Facebook page or to www.DowntownManhattanBeach.com to vote for your picture or any picture you like the best. The photo receiving the most votes will win a Nikau Kai prize basket with a $50 gift certificate, a Nikau Kai hat, and a Nikai Kai t-shirt.

Winners will be announced at the Downtown Manhattan Beach site on February 8 at noon. Good luck and surf safe!

New Year’s Eve in the South Bay

25Ready to usher in 2014 with a bang? There are plenty of ways to celebrate right here in the South Bay!

Shade Hotel: Shade Hotel continues its glamorous New Year’s Eve tradition with a Great Gatsby party starting at 8 pm. The $75 ticket includes hors d’oeuvres, cigars on the roofdeck, gaming chips, party favors, a Champagne toast at midnight, and more. Proceeds benefit the Steve Nash Foundation for the benefit of underserved children. For reservations, click the link or call 310-546-4995. Shade Hotel, 1221 N. Valley Drive, Manhattan Beach.

Hermosa Beach Pier: Hermosa Beach’s New Year’s Eve celebration takes place at Pier Plaza and admission is free. Entertainment includes Lou Giovannetti and His Big Band; there will 9×12-foot video screens showing ball drops at 9 p.m. and at midnight. Hermosa Beach Pier Plaza, Hermosa Beach.

Portofino Hotel and Marina: Berry Bly Productions hosts its annual New Year’s Eve Gala at the Portofino Hotel and Marina in Redondo Beach. The $45 ticket includes live entertainment from Usef, dangerhouse, Adam Nello and more; as well as feathered samba dancers and percussionists. Tickets: Click on the link or call 310-350-4927. Portofino Hotel and Marina, 260 Portofino Way, Redondo Beach.

Samba Brazilian Steakhouse: Samba invites you to a White Brazilian New Year’s Eve Party, ringing in the year of the World Cup in Brazil. Regular standing-room admission is $45; a $55 ticket gets you all-you-can-eat meat, a gourmet salad bar, and a glass of champagne. Entertainment includes authentic samba music and dancers. Dress code is all white. Call for more information: 818-566-1111. Samba Brazilian Steakhouse, 207 N. Harbor Drive, Redondo Beach.

champagne bucketTerranea: Terranea’s annual Club Countdown Celebration from 9 pm to 2 am includes live music entertainment by DJ Quasar, an open bar, and a late night buffet from 11 pm to 1 am featuring a slider station, an Italian pizza station, and a full dessert station. Tickets are $150 per person before December 26 and $195 per person thereafter. Terranea also offers a New Year’s Eve Family Celebration from 8 pm to 1 am with a plated dinner, dessert bar, and special kids’ menu. Tickets are $150 for adults, $120 for young adults (ages 11 to 20) and $60 for kids ages 5 to 10. Terranea, 100 Terranea Way, Rancho Palos Verdes.

Downtown Long Beach: Further south, Downtown Long Beach hosts a free family-friendly celebration at Rainbow Harbor from 5 pm to 10 pm with live music and a fireworks spectacular. On Pine Avenue, there is a street party at Broadway, with live entertainment on three stages and a full New Year’s Eve countdown at midnight. Tickets for the Pine Avenue party are $15 in advance and $20 at the gate. Long Beach Transit will be offering free rides from 5 pm to 2:30 am. For information, call the Downtown Long Beach Associates at 562-436-4259.

Terranea Holiday Traditions

terranea treeLooking for seasonal events in a scenic setting? Look no further than Terranea Resort, where the 5th annual Terranea Traditions celebration is now underway.

If you’re staying at the resort, there are plenty of hard-working elves who want to make your visit extra special. Throughout the month of December, you can arrange for your child to receive an “Elf Tuck-In” with a holiday treat and a special bedtime story. At the Little Elf’s Workshop, a.k.a. the Tide Pool Kids’ Club, kids can make a variety of holiday crafts including a Gingerbread Sand Castle. And daily in the lobby living room you can hear Terranea’s elves sharing holiday stories and cheer (from 5:00 to 6:00 pm).

Want to do some private, after-hours shopping? Through December 24, you can reserve a private shopping session at marea boutique and select your holiday gifts during non-business hours. (Minimum 7 shoppers required.)

Upcoming special events include Santa’s Holiday Breakfast on December 21 (seatings at 9:00, 9:30, and 10:00 a.m.) that includes a ballroom breakfast buffet and a special visit from Santa.

If you’d like someone else to do the Christmas cooking, you can order a special Christmas Meal To Go from Sea Beans, with curbside pickup times available on December 24 and 25.

Or if you’d like to enjoy a special holiday meal at Terranea, you can choose from Christmas Eve dinner at mar’sel, a Christmas Eve buffet at Catalina Kitchen from Spain and Italy, a Christmas Day Grand Ballroom buffet, a Christmas Day brunch at Catalina Kitchen, a Christmas Day beer dinner at Nelson’s with locally brewed beers, an elegant Christmas Day dinner at mar’sel served family-style, or a Christmas Day dinner at Catalina Kitchen also served family-style.

Traditions-Spa-2013-FeetDoes it all sound overwhelming? You can always relax with a special holiday treatment at the spa, such as a Holiday Bliss treatment ($295 for 90 minutes) that uses sea algae, concentrated silk, bamboo sap and plum wine to leave your skin purified, energized and delicately scented. You could also go for the Holiday Rescue Package ($250 for 120 minutes) that includes one hour of personal training or Pilates, followed by a one-hour massage.

And if you’re just looking for a fun spa treat with some friends, go for the Mint Chocolate Mistle-Toes ($80 for 60 minutes) for a pedicure that includes a butter brulee whole milk soak, followed by a hot chocolate mask and then minty shea butter. What’s more, when you finally emerge from your spa treatment, you’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful holiday decorations that light up Terranea every night this season.

Terranea Resort, 100 Terranea Way, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275. Reservations: (866) 802-8000.

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