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Budget Travel | Where to Celebrate Mardi Gras 2024

Budget Travel | Where to Celebrate Mardi Gras 2024

Some destinations truly shine during the winter months, yet at the same time, tourism can slow down in a post-holiday, pre-Spring break lull during the months of January, February, and March. Catch perfect weather and great deals with a trip to the locations below.
Wine and dine in the Santa Ynez Valley, California
Relax in Santa Ynez Valley this winter – courtesy of Visit Santa Cruz County and William James
Barely two hours from Los Angeles and a scenic four-hour drive from San Francisco, the Santa Ynez Valley is home to six distinct towns each with its own culture, vibe, and menu of experiences. Blanketed with fruitful farms and vineyards, the California Central Coast wine region’s temperate weather allows for year-round activities of all sorts, spread throughout the historical communities of Ballard, Buellton, Los Alamos, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, and Solvang. Destination dining and world-class wines await, accompanied by lodging at every level, all painted into atmospheric backdrops that colorfully mesh Old World and Old West. Visit more than 100 wineries, feast on chef-driven cuisine, and enjoy festive events and design details from Victorian-era to mid-century to modern Danish.
“One of this region’s great secrets is that the winter months are a prime time for a visit to the Santa Ynez Valley. And it’s not just the mild, sunny weather that makes a winter visit so attractive,” says Shelby Sim, President and CEO of Visit the Santa Ynez Valley. “The return of the Midweek Membership Club and Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Weeks offer two once-a-year opportunities to come and savor the best restaurants and lodging that we have to offer at a price that fits most budgets.”
Midweek is the new weekend, and no destination is more appealing for a midweek trip this winter and early spring than the Santa Ynez Valley thanks to the Midweek Membership Club. Anyone who books an eligible consecutive two-night, Sunday-Thursday Midweek Membership Club stay at a qualifying lodging property — from Jan. 7 through April 4 — receives a $100 prepaid gift card upon check-in. That gift card can then be used for wine tastings, dining, shopping, activities, and other experiences during their time in the valley. With only 100 Midweek Membership Club packages available, the popular late winter and early spring promotion is expected to sell out quickly. Here’s how the Midweek Membership Club works:
Through April 4, or until all 100 Midweek Membership Club packages are sold, visitors must book at least one two-night consecutive stay, Sunday through Thursday between Jan. 7 and April 4. The stay must be booked directly with one of the Santa Ynez Valley’s qualified lodging properties. Any booking made before the promotion start date will not qualify.Once booked, forward the original confirmation email to info@visitsyv.com at least 48 hours before the check-in date. Late entries will not be accepted.Receive your $100 gift card at check-in at your qualified hotel, and use your gift card like cash to pay for wine tastings, meals, shopping, activities, and more throughout the valley.One $100 gift card may be redeemed per reservation.For more information, complete rules and regulations, and a complete list of qualified lodging properties, or to plan and book your Midweek Membership Club visit to the Santa Ynez Valley, visit visitsyv.com/midweek/.
Now in its 14th year, Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Weeks has long added a particularly tasty reason to experience the region’s creative culinary culture. Santa Ynez Valley’s annual festival of flavor will be no exception this year. From Jan. 21-Feb. 3, 2024, Restaurant Weeks will showcase the region’s culinary bounty — and being that this is the Santa Ynez Valley, the perfect wine pairings — with a variety of special three-course prix fixe price menus.
More than two dozen restaurants will participate this year, each offering curated, chef-driven, three-course menus at prices of $30, $40, or $50, plus tax and gratuity. More than two dozen of the region’s wineries and tasting rooms will also participate at various levels, offering two-for-one tastings, special tasting flights, and discounts on bottle purchases. Those who partake in Restaurant Weeks will get a taste of why the Santa Ynez Valley’s reputation as a culinary-driven destination continues to grow. Its imaginative chefs, deep agricultural roots, collaborative culinary culture, and cuisine that ranges from contemporary, innovative farm-to-table fare to traditional Scandinavian feasts, will be on full display.
MICHELIN-rated gems such as Bar Le Côte in Los Olivos, Bell’s Los Alamos, Coast Range, and peasants FEAST in Solvang will be on this year’s Restaurant Weeks menu. But with long-standing wine country favorites such as Hitching Post 2 in Buellton, Pico in Los Alamos, Los Olivos Wine Merchant Café, splashed with newer experiences like Vega Vineyard & Farm and Whiskey ‘N Rye, there is so much more to explore. For the latest updates on Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Weeks, including menus and participating restaurants, wineries, and tasting rooms, visit www.DineSYV.com or follow Visit the Santa Ynez Valley on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Take in the sunshine in Daytona Beach, Florida
A turtle on Daytona Beach, Florida by Taylor Henley – Unsplash
While it’s cold elsewhere in the country, the Daytona Beach area enjoys mild temperatures during the winter months making it an attractive destination to visit. Winter can be a wonderful time to plan a vacation to Daytona Beach. Weather in Daytona Beach, while excellent throughout the year, can be superb in the winter. The bright blue skies and sunshine are ideal for getting outdoors and exploring everything that the destination has to offer. Daytime temperatures are mild, with an average high of 73 degrees Fahrenheit in December, 68 in January and 73 in February. Evenings can get cool enough for a sweater or even a jacket, but still comfortable.
Winter is also a great time to find special deals on accommodations in the Daytona Beach area. With everything from hotel rooms to oceanfront cottages and resorts, and from bed & breakfasts to condo hotels to campgrounds and RV parks — there’s a place to stay for every visitor’s taste and budget.
Daytona Beach is full of outdoor adventures to explore. From the 23 miles of pristine, iconic white sand beaches to 70 miles of hiking and biking trails, and for the adventure-seeking visitors, there’s plenty of fun on the water with fishing, boating, paddle boarding and kayaking. In addition, hit the links with nearly 20 golf courses to choose from including the 36-hole LPGA International or try a new sport such as pickleball at Pictona at Holly Hill, one of the top pickleball facilities in the United States with 49 courts.
Additionally, the area is a rich tapestry of arts, culture and heritage. At the Smithsonian-affiliated Museum of Arts and Sciences (MOAS), view the special exhibit World War II: Stories from the American Experience, which runs through Jan. 21, 2024 or enjoy the other galleries that feature art to industry to prehistory. The Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art, also on the MOAS campus, is home to the largest collection of Florida-based art in the world. Other great museums and galleries to visit include the Ormond Memorial Art Museum & Gardens and Halifax Historical Museum. Check out the Daytona Beach Area Arts Mapfor details and directions and the Daytona Beach Mural Trail for the public artwork offerings.
Outdoor dining is a great option throughout the winter in Daytona Beach. The destination is home to an abundance of waterfront restaurants that serve up fresh seafood and picturesque views. Great dining options abound for every type of taste bud. The Daytona Beach Ale Trail highlights local craft beers and artisan spirits in a diverse string of establishments owned and operated by people who are passionate about their brews.
Enjoy incredible seafood in Mendocino County, California
A fishing boat off Mendocino, California by Carlos Wolters – Unsplash
With 90 miles of prime Pacific turf and a crackin’ crab season around the corner, Mendocino County is the stop for enthusiasts who enjoy delving into the delicacies of the sea. This January 26 through February 4, 2024 the annual Seafood & Sips Mendocino offers an inside look at the region’s ocean bounty with a local slant. Belly up for a round-up of epicurean adventures from family-style cioppino feeds to the signature Crab Cake Cook-Off paired with a cache of wines from Mendocino County’s top 12 AVAs. Back by popular demand, Hopland’s Sparking Wine & Oyster Celebration will pop all the corks as will a bevy of regional hotel properties offering package deals to round out a winter visit. The season never tasted so good! Signature events include:
Sparkling Wine & Oyster Celebration – The classic pairing of oysters and champagne is as old as Aphrodite but today’s enthusiasts (and scientists) are citing new reasons why the two pair so well: the punch of umami, which can be found in both. This dynamic duo will be front and center at the second annual Mendocino Sparkling Wine & Oyster Celebration tucked deep inside the caves of Saracina Vineyards. As one of the nation’s key sparkling wines destinations with 25+ producers, Mendocino’s top-flight bubbles will be on tap all day, every way paired with live entertainment and freshly-shucked oysters from Hog Island Oyster Company. Saturday, January 27, 2024; 1:00 p.m., to 4:00 p.m.; Hopland, Calif., www.destinationhopland.com.Crab Cake Cook-Off & Wine Tasting Competition – Who knew Mr. Dungeness could debut in so many formats as regional chefs craft their version of the best crab cake to grace a plate! The annual crustacean competition is set in downtown Fort Bragg in the big tent where the afternoon kicks off with a local wine competition followed by a mix of regional chefs vying for the top toque. Guests can dive into a variety of inspired cakes and seafood delicacies in addition to a live and silent auction culminating in a final judging by a triad of media. The event benefits Mendocino Coast Clinics. Saturday, February 3, 2024; 11:00 a.m., to 3:00 p.m.; Fort Bragg, Calif., www.crabwinefestival.org.Cioppino Dinner – Who doesn’t love bibs … or giant pots brimming with fragrant seafood, local Dungeness crab and a variety of shellfish in a piquant tomato base? Pull up a chair for the annual family-style Cioppino Dinner set at a new location at Little River Inn. Wines, microbrews, crackers and crab enthusiasts unite in this true celebration of the season benefiting MendoParks. Score a spring hotel escape package or juice for the wine cellar at the live auction or belly up for a repeat performance, paired with a stash of crusty, fragrant warm bread and dessert. Friday, February 2, 2024; 5:00 p.m., and 7:30 p.m.; Little River, Calif., www.littleriverinn.com/events.County Wide Seafood Feasts – During the festival, chefs from Ukiah to Elk will roll out an enticing line-up of chowders, savory seafood soups, sushi, uni and oysters served every which way. From traditional fish stew at the new Good Bones Kitchen to a seafood tower for two at Left Coast Seafood Restaurant, the options for savoring the region’s stars of the sea are endless. Vue Kitchen in Gualala is another top option offering a sinful pasta pescatore with clams, tiger prawns and seasonal seafood simmered in a spicy vodka marinara sauce. A great way to savor the flavors right off the boat is a stroll through Fort Bragg’s Noyo Harbor where Princess Seafood, Noyo Fish Company and Sea Pal Cove feature sustainably wild-caught finds in a true working harbor setting. Wrap the day with a traditional crabbing cruise, harbor boat tour or visit to the nearby International Sea Glass Museum.
From at 25 percent discount at the ocean-front Heritage House Resort & Spa to the new Crabbing Adventure Package at Little River Inn, complete with a charter boat and haul-in experience, the options for lodging deals abound. Some top finds include Mendocino village’s new Nicholson House, a sleek nine-guestroom state-of-the-art hideaway (15 percent off), the Inn at Schoolhouse Creek (20 percent off) and Elk Cove Inn & Spa ($100 food and beverage credit). Step things up a notch at the vintage-style stay at Andiron Seaside Inn and Cabins, arrival includes a complimentary cannabis cocktail in the alfresco redwood bar. Restrictions and black out periods apply.
Relax at a new resort on the Gulf Coast of Florida
The new Sunseeker Resort on the Gulf Coast of Florida – Sunseeker Resort Charlotte Harbor
The highly anticipated Sunseeker Resort Charlotte Harbor is now open as they welcomed their first guests on December 15, 2023. The independently flagged property features 785 well-appointed guest rooms including 189 top-tier luxury Sunsuites™ and is the first completely new-build resort with more than 750 rooms to open in Southwest Florida in over thirteen years.
The resort features 60,000 square feet of meeting and conference space, 20 dining options and bars, two expansive pools, and retail outlets situated along a scenic harborside promenade. A state-of-the-art fitness center and spa are located on the third floor of the resort’s main tower. In addition to its prime waterfront location, Sunseeker Resort Charlotte Harbor features a world class 18-hole golf course, Aileron Golf Club, exclusive to members and hotel guests.
Guests staying at Sunseeker Resort Charlotte Harbor are able to pick from a signature list of guestrooms and suites. The resort’s accommodations range from coastal-inspired premium rooms to the luxurious Sunsuites™, which include lavish one-to-three bedroom layouts ranging from 875 to 1,700 square feet. Each includes a chef-level kitchen with Sub-Zero/Wolf stainless steel appliances, an entertaining area and private spacious outdoor balcony. Guests also have access to special services including a separate check-in experience and private lounge access that offers amenities such as complimentary non-alcoholic beverages, small bites throughout the day and a pre-arrival concierge.
The new resort is now an activity center in Charlotte Harbor, offering visitors a portal to some of the finest amenities on the Gulf Coast. These include: A state-of-the-art 7,100-square-foot fitness center and a full-service spa and salon as well as two pools including a 21,000-square-foot adults-only rooftop retreat and 117,000-square-foot ground-level experience (the largest pool in Southwest Florida).The convention area also includes innovative technology and features two waterfront ballrooms fully equipped with best-in-class A/V systems. Accompanying the two clear-span ballrooms are two executive boardrooms, 12 meeting rooms, and an ideation suite with three separate breakout rooms.
Guests also have access to an exclusive (and resort guest only) 18-hole golf experience, Aileron. The golf course is home to high-end practice facilities with Totracer Range technology and additional culinary offerings. The course was recently rated highly by the FSGA (course 74.1 | slope 134) which competes with some of the best courses in the state. In addition to event spaces, fitness areas and lifestyle offerings, Sunseeker Resort Charlotte Harbor introduces an unforgettable dining collection and innovative beverage program to Southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast. Guests are able to experience a first-of-its-kind lineup of seven stand-alone restaurants, eleven bars and lounges, two poolside offerings and a 25,000-square-foot food hall experience. The eleven bar and lounge areas on the property feature a robust wine program with a selection of internationally acclaimed fine wines, modern cocktails, local beer and tropical libations.
The resort is located just ten minutes from Punta Gorda Airport (PGD), where guests can enjoy convenient access to and from their flights.


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