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Fall-Focused Excursions in SoCal

If you’re looking forward to a fun-filled October, fall season or holiday getaway but haven't decided on a destination, you should definitely consider a trip to Buena Park, California. It’s home to five of the seven major attractions in Orange County, which is why the area has long been considered the entertainment capital of Southern California. It’s an ideal location since there are so many exciting things for everyone to do within a few miles of each other! In fact, it’s only five miles from Disneyland, 15 miles from beaches and 20 miles from downtown Los Angeles ... but perhaps a million miles from your everyday life. So that means you’ll get the best bang for your travel buck!

For example, you can dive into some outdoor thrills at 'Knott's Berry Farm' theme park featuring rides that are sure to get your heart racing!  "HangTime," set 150-feet above the boardwalk, is the first and only dive coaster in California, while the new white water attraction "Calico River Rapids" will take you into uncharted territory. However, if adrenaline isn’t your thing, Knott’s Berry Farm is bursting with other attractions and entertainment for all ages, including stage shows, interactive experiences, delicious food creations and family-friendly fun featuring Snoopy and the Peanuts Gang.

While in Buena Park, you can continue to make a splash at Orange County's largest outdoor water park, "Knott's Soak City," which boasts 23 water slides, a gigantic wave pool and cabana rentals!

And when the sun goes down, you can make "eating" an experience with interactive dinner shows like the "Pirate's Dinner Adventure" set aboard an 18th century Spanish galleon replica ... the "Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament"... or the new vaudeville variety dinner show, "Teatro Martini." For all you foodies hungry for high-quality cuisine, check out Porto's Bakery and Cafe featuring the owners' original recipes from Cuba. With its famed potato balls, pastries and more, you’ll quickly taste why this eatery has a four-and-a-half star rating on Yelp with nearly 4,000 reviews! Also be sure to check out Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner, which has been family tradition In Buena Park for more than 80 years!  One of America's most popular family restaurants, it’s been serving up Cordelia Knott's fried chicken, homemade biscuits and boysenberry pies since 1934. In fact, Buena Park is the birthplace of the boysenberry––created right there more than 60 years ago.

I also love the food and atmosphere at Rock N Brews, the brainchild of KISS front-men Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, which serves up comfort food and a side of rock 'n roll. Also popular is The Cauldron Sprits and Brews, an immersive dining experience featuring uniquely themed French-casual gastro grub with a wicked twist. This includes the “Knotty Kid” cocktail named after the adjacent amusement park, made of boysenberry cotton candy, vodka and lemon juice.

Another reason I recommend vacationing in Buena Park is because it’s an affordable SoCal destination with reasonably-priced hotels, and the city often has great promotions. In fact, this November and December, the City of Buena Park will honor the men and women of the United States Military with exclusive deals on the area's top hotels, attractions and restaurants. Perks include complimentary upgrades, free theme park admission and discounted rates on Buena Park Hotels.  Those interested can learn more at

So, in all, Buena Park is a fabulous home base for fall and holiday travel, with tons of potential for fun, food and adventures! Check out for more information and to order your free travel guide!

Also fun this fall is Oktoberfest at Big Bear Lake happening every weekend from now through November 2, where you can break out those lederhosen and dirndls and cluck the night away to the chicken dance! Of course, you can also enjoy ice-cold German beer served at eight bars, including the Craft House, which serves a variety of beers to go along with juicy bratwurst hot off the grill, homemade sauerkraut and fresh apple strudel.

At Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest, there’s continuous live entertainment on two stages––including traditional polkas and dance floor favorites performed by real German bands. Other fun activities include log sawing competitions, stein holding contests, beer pong and more. There’s also a family section full of midway carnival games, face painting, inflatable slides and multiple bounce houses. So, see for yourself why Big Bear Lake’s event is Southern California’s number-one rated Oktoberfest. Purchase tickets online at

While in Big Bear, also check out the ropes course, which takes family adventure to new heights! This two-level obstacle course for both kids and adults towers 35 feet off the ground and offers 37 different challenges. Many of its features are exposed to nothing but air. One exciting element is the sky rail zipline stretching 80 feet and extending out onto a ledge, enhancing the overall thrill. Big Bear ropes course ensures the highest standards of safety, including a full-body harness connected to a safety line that’s inserted into a continuous track system. Each participant is fully secured at all times, from start to finish. The Big Bear ropes course is open daily, all-year round, and the cost is just $12 per person. Check it out at

All of that travel will surely make you hungry, so I have some tasty finds on that front as well—a few of my favorite experiences in San Diego.

First up in “America’s Finest City” is the Bristol Hotel in downtown San Diego, just steps from the famed Gaslamp Quarter, the waterfront and some of the city’s best restaurants and attractions. Known for offering exceptional service, the hotel recently put the finishing touches on a mid-century, modern-inspired renovation reflecting the vibrant art and music scene of the 1960s. Guests can choose from a variety of room types, including three luxurious two-room suites, each themed after a landmark year in the 1960’s.

Each suite features its own record player and record collection, so music fans can enjoy their favorite tunes while traveling. The Bristol’s “Party Like it’s 1969” package is fit for a fall getaway with a nostalgic twist. It features accommodations, discounted valet parking, an in-room game of Twister and a “morning after” kit – all perfect for a little weekend R&R! 

Speaking of mornings at the Bristol, you can start your day at their beverage brewing station with tea and coffee each morning.  Located on the lobby floor, the hotel’s comfortable lobby lounge is a great spot to meet with friends for a warm beverage to begin planning the day’s activities. Dining options around the property are aplenty from alfresco eating on the sidewalks of this dynamic and cosmopolitan district, to sky high at a rooftop lounge, or in an intimate and ornately designed restaurant.  View room options online at

Also while in San Diego’s downtown Gaslamp Quarter, be sure to visit STK! Known for being “Not Your Daddy’s Steakhouse,” this restaurant offers a fun and dynamic fine dining experience. It’s an artful blend of a modern steakhouse and chic lounge into one fabulous outing focusing on the dining experience as a whole versus any singular aspect of a great night out. It’s not just STK’s food, sleek décor, in-house DJ or elevated Happy Hour offerings, it’s a combination of all these things creating their signature Vibe Dining. Popular dishes include bite-sized Lil’ BRGs made with Wagyu beef, Bigeye Tuna Tartare with soy honey emulsion, and, of course, the highest quality and cuts of steak. And, STK’s transparent and traceable beef program brings guests exceptional cuts of meat and crave-able rare dishes seldom found in restaurants. Find this and all of their locations online at

I would be remiss to not also tell you about Eddie V’s Prime Seafood––a luxury dining destination known for prime seafood and premium hand-carved steaks—which has multiple locations in San Diego, including La Jolla and the harbor adjacent to downtown.  This fine-dining restaurant serves only the freshest seafood from pristine waters around the world, plus artistically prepared seasonal items. Their steaks are hand-cut from the finest specialty-aged, center-cut beef available, ensuring peak flavor.

Its award-wining wine list is curated by its advanced sommelier, and there’s a crafted ‘Cocktails with Attitude’ menu in their “V Lounge.” Here you can sit back, relax and enjoy live Jazz, R&B and Blues musicians for an unforgettable evening. Eddie V’s can actually be found across the country and, while each location is unique in its setting, artwork and décor, they all share an unmistakable elegance. Visit for all locations, menus and live music schedules.

And finally, also in San Diego this fall—November 10th through 17th to be exact—the city will host its 16th annual San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival, which is an international showcase of the world's premier wine and spirits producers, chefs, culinary personalities and gourmet foods. It’ll feature over 200 wineries, breweries and spirit companies, and 60 of San Diego’s top fine-dining restaurants. Tickets for the fabulous Grand Tasting, and other festival events, are available online at


As the Executive Editor and Producer of “The Luxe List,” Merilee Kern, MBA is an internationally-regarded brand analyst, strategist and futurist. As prolific consumer trends, lifestyle and leisure industry voice of authority and tastemaker, Merilee keeps her finger on the pulse of the marketplace in search of new and innovative must-haves and exemplary experiences at all price points, from the affordable to the extreme. The best-of-the-best across all product, service and travel categories—as well as noteworthy marketplace change makers, movers and shakers—are spotlighted in her exclusive cross-media platform that reaches multi-millions each month through several syndication channels: print and online publications as well as broadcast TV and terrestrial radio. Connect with her at / Instagram / Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIN

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above may have been provided or arranged at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.*** Image courtesy of


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