5 Great Holiday Activities in San Jose, CA

Ice skating downtown at Downtown Ice in San Jose, CA

Ice skating downtown at Downtown Ice in San Jose, CA. Photo by Felicia Gold

Looking for something for you and your family to do this holiday season?  San Jose has what you’re looking for.  From downtown ice skating to carriage rides to a house of mystery all decked out with the holiday spirit.  CarryOnBagsAndMore.com lists its top 5 popular, but not widely advertised attractions to do in San Jose CA with your family.

  1. Rockefeller Center can eat its heart out because we’ve got The Palms.  Hawaiian Airlines/Kristi Yamaguchi Downtown Ice, Circle of Palms, between the Fairmont Hotel and San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose.  The South Bay’s largest seasonal outdoor skating rink is now open. Open through Jan. 12. Tickets through Dec. 19: $13 children 10 and under, $15, 11 and older; Dec. 20-Jan. 5: $15, children 10 and under, $17, 11 and older; Jan. 6-12: $13, children 10 and under, $15, 11 and older. Visit http://www.sjdowntown.com/downtownice for operating hours.
  2. Christmas in the Park, at Plaza de Cesar Chavez. This holiday fantasy in downtown has come back for its 34th year.  It showcases more than 60 musical and animated exhibits, glittering lights and the 60-foot Community Giving Tree. Christmas in the Park continues through Jan. 1. Visit http://www.christmasinthepark.com for details.

    Christmas in the park

    Christmas in the Park in San Jose, CA. Photo by Felicia Gold

  3. Children’s Holiday Festival Dec 14th 11 – 4pm.  Come down to History Park for this annual event.  Take photos with Santa and ride in his trolley.  Enjoy live music, entertainment, holiday crafts for kids, and story time with the Snow Queen.  Visit http://historysanjose.org/wp/events/childrens-holiday-festival/ for directions and times.
  4. Star Wars at the Tech museum. And for my fellow Geeks out there, relive the magic of all 6 films with authentic costumes and props of Darth Vader, Yoda, R2-D2, and many more.  Engage in hands-on design labs, engineer Droids™, and manipulate robots.  Explore space travel, robotics, magnetic levitation and the Millennium Falcon™ Experience.  Now open until Sunday Feb 23, 2014.  http://www.thetech.org/plan-your-visit/special-exhibitions/STAR-WARS
  5. Winchester Mystery House Presents the Spirit of Christmas.  Featuring beautifully decorated rooms with spectacular, one-of-a-kind Celebration Trees.  Take a picture under the giant mistletoe, and the influence of Sara Winchester is not far off with 13 additional mistletoes hidden throughout the mansion for guests to find.  Walk through the gardens aglow with thousands of twinkling lights and enjoy classic carols and holiday cheer as music fills the air and lifts the spirits (pun intended). http://www.winchestermysteryhouse.com/christmas/
    Winchester Mystery House

    Photo from Wikipedia

Bonus:  Twin Lakes Church in Santa Cruz, Ca, our close cousin to the southwest, is hosting Light Has Come, a free Christmas Concert that always amazes.  Come hear beautiful Christmas music, both traditional and contemporary, featuring amazing soloists, a 60-person choir, a full orchestra, dancers and more! Experience the wonder of the season and revel in the beautiful sight of thousands of candles lighting the December night!  The show dates are Saturday December 21st through Tuesday December 24th.  See link for show times.

Don’t miss out on these opportunities.  You will create family memories that will last for many more holidays and beyond.


What do Carry on Bags Have in Common with San Diego Comic Con?

Well folks, it’s that time of year. That’s right! San Diego Comic Con. You say, “What does Comic Con have to do with carry on bags?” Well, nothing unless you count all the carry on size luggage and other weekend travel bags you may have to bring along on your trip down there.  I recommend using the old pack a smaller bag in the room you have left in your big luggage, to haul all of your treasure home.

Anyway, Comic Con does have to do with traveling to unique places, and that’s one thing, besides luggage, that we aim to cover. I am a 4 year veteran of the convention and it never ceases to deliver. We are two and a half weeks out and we’re all set with our 4 day + preview night badges, our hotel reservation at the Marriott, next door, and our plane tickets. We even plan to arrive in Southern California a few days early so we can enjoy Universal Studios and Disneyland Resort.

SD Comic Con 2012

Bay Side SD Comic Con 2012

The last few years of attending SDCC, I’ve mentally filed away several lessons learned that helped my experience be more enjoyable. I intend to share them with you today.

  • Book a hotel that is refundable, as soon as you find out the dates for the following year’s convention. This will act as your backup hotel, and tends to be located somewhat farther away from the San Diego Convention Center. Do this so that if you can’t get the hotel you really want, you at least have a hotel to fall back on. After booking a refundable backup hotel, set up a standing appointment to search the hotel booking sites for the hotel you really want. Be prepared to pay BIG, the closer you get to the convention center, but I found it to be worth it after a long day of convention activities.
  • 2 weeks before your departure, start a list of what you need to bring. Put everything on the list even down to how many pairs of underwear you plan to bring with you. Write down all your electronic gadgets and their cords, cameras, and also when to go to the bank for cash. When it comes closer to time to go, you can organize your list and even eliminate stuff you don’t need.
  • Make a schedule of the events you would like to attend and order it by priority. Sure they give you a schedule of everything, but who wants to lug all of those pages around. Last year I created an Excel spreadsheet organized by time and color coded by priority. That way I knew my “Absolutely must see” events, my “See it if Ballroom 20 or Hall H is full” events, and my “See it if I have nothing else to do at the moment” events. WARNING, DO NOT WAIT UNTIL YOU GET THERE TO MAKE THIS SCHEDULE, you will panic and make dumb mistakes, or forget it altogether.
  • Once you get to San Diego and all checked into your hotel, visit the nearby grocery store. If you get into Ballroom 20, and the panel you wish to see doesn’t start until much later, you will want snacks. The convention hall snacks are pricy and the lines tend to be longer than the time you’re given between panels. Plus, you don’t want to have to choose between going to the restroom or starving. I suggest compact snacks that don’t require refrigeration (i.e. granola bars, crackers, chips, dried fruit, nuts, candy, etc.) and water.
  • Make friends with the people around you while attending panels alone. Offer to watch their non-valuables when they have to dash off to the restroom. Then, maybe they will return the favor.
  • Get on Twitter and follow SDCC-related tweets.  People tweet about line conditions, exclusive offers on the convention floor, celebrity sightings and all things in between.  Some of the information tweeted is vital.  I particularly like following @SD_Comic_Con, @Comic_Con, @Crazy4ComicCon, #SDCC, #HallH, #Ballroom20.

These are just some tips that came to mind. There are a lot more tips at the Toucan Blog – the official Blog of SDCC and the new Under the Tents Blog, which is unofficial, but still good. With that, have a great convention and hope to see you there.

Renew Your Soul Through Scenery – Travel to Lake Almanor


Morning at Lake Almanor

This set of photos is of my time at Lake Almanor. For those who don’t know, Lake Almanor is in California about 120 miles north of Reno Nevada. It is surrounded by the Mt Lassen National Forest. My first morning there, I stepped out onto the balcony of my room, at our vacation rental, to the scene on the right.   The first thing I noticed was how quiet it was. The feeling it gave me was strange and surreal, yet calming and centering at the same time.


View of the Lake and Animal Tracks

There was a thin glaze of ice covering portions of the lake, including the large patch below my room, but this didn’t stop the ducks from their “diving for breakfast” game.  The sound of them ducking below the water could be heard clearly from my vantage point.   Looking down onto the snow-covered deck; I saw tracks from a woodland creature that had visited during the night.  I immediately grabbed my camera and my laptop case and started capturing the details of this moment.


Growing icicles

Visiting my balcony became a morning ritual of mine for the 5 days I was there.  I became fascinated by this icicle hanging down from the roof.   During the entire length of my vacation, I watched it grow and entire foot in length past my balcony to the bottom floor.  When I touched it I was surprised to find that it was not weak, but thick and strong.

It is moments like these that renew my soul.  How will you renew yours?

Airline fees are here to stay unfortunately, so CarryOnBagsAndMore.com is committed to help find creative tips for packing your carry on size luggage to avoid bag-check fees. This Reblog post is from 2009, by Genevive, but is still relevant today, specifically the increase in the number of airlines charging baggage fees and the increase in the fees themselves. One tip talks about using packing cubes to save on space in your carry on bag. I found that large-sized Ziploc bags will also do the trick and may squeeze out additional savings. Enjoy.

3-Minute Vacation

Airlines’ already suck, and now they are adding one more burden to travelers: higher fees for checked luggage. American announced last Friday that the first checked bag will cost $20, up from $15, and the second bag $30, up from $25. The fees don’t apply to members of their loyalty program gold or higher, but effect everyone else immediately. Other airlines are likely to follow.

American is the third largest carrier serving Hawaii, and most people who come on vacation check bags. Likewise, residents traveling off island laden with gifts and heavier clothing usually do, too. How can you beat the checked bag fees? In this post, I’ll update a post I wrote last year on the topic and share some of my strategies and those of other frequent fliers who travel with only carry-on luggage.

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