Bargains
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Bargains

Lots of special deals if you know when to go

By CARY ORDWAY

While Christmas week is always busy at the best resorts and lodgings throughout California, many people are not aware that it's possible to get bargain rates right up until Christmas and immediately after New Year's. A little pre-planning can save you hundreds of dollars and still give you a winter holiday just when you're needing a break from Christmas shopping and all the frazzled nerves that sometimes just go with the season.

A number of lodgings currently have limited offers that range from you-gotta-act-now-or-you-lose-it deals to specials that run for the next few months. If you've been thinking about getting away - or maybe investing a little of that Christmas shopping money in a truly special getaway - here is a list of some of the better offerings:

One example is the current special offered by Hyatt Regency Orange County that puts you quite close to Disneyland at discount rates. In fact, the hotel's current offer of a 20 percent discount applies for travel from now right through Christmas. The discount comes off the - best available rate - meaning it's better than a straight 20 percent off rack rate. The catch is you have to book before Dec. 21 and complete your travel by Dec. 26. The hotel is a mile from Disneyland, but still in the heart of the action which includes shopping, lots of restaurants and plenty of entertainment. Phone 714-750-1234 or click on the reservation page URL at californiaweekend.com/valuepackages.php

San Diego is a great place to be any time of year, but especially in winter when the weather is mild and almost always sunny. One of our favorite resorts in the area is the Hilton San Diego Resort, which is situated all by itself on a stretch of beach along Mission Bay. It's a fully contained resort, but close to famous San Diego attractions such as SeaWorld, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and La Jolla. The current special at the Hilton San Diego is to stay with the resort three nights and get the fourth night free and is available by calling 1-800-HILTONS or by visiting sandiegohilton.com. Arrival must by on Thursday, Friday or Saturday.

The same four-nights-for-three offer is available at the Best Western Inn by the Sea in downtown La Jolla. With this comfortable ideally located property, you park your car and walk wherever you want to go the rest of the weekend. All of the La Jolla shops, restaurants and many of the beaches are within easy walking distance. Phone 800-462-9732 or visit their reservation page at californiaweekend.com/packages.

Also in San Diego is the Paradise Point Resort and Spa, another resort set apart from the rest and located on a 44-acre island, including about a mile of beach to walk right out your door. If you love being out on the water, check out the resort's "Play at the Bay" package that includes accommodations in a luxury bungalow, rental of a jet ski, speed boat, kayak or sail boat, and breakfast each day starting at $335. Phone 800-344-3626 or visit www.paradisepoint.com.

Another great beach spot that doesn't get all the publicity that San Diego does is Ventura, a charming beach-side city that has a great beachwalk and plenty of stores and restaurants in a downtown that's easy to get out and visit on foot. The Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach, which is right on the beach, offers incredible views of the ocean, the Channel Islands and verdant hillsides and is offering midweek accommodations for $99 a night.. The hotel is situated so that every room above the second floor offers guests spectacular coastal views. For more information, phone 800-980-6429 or visit www.cpventura.com. Special rate not available for Friday or Saturday night stays.

It's hard to beat the Santa Barbara area for a getaway that combines charm, great shopping and, of course, a magnificent beach. The Cabrillo Inn at the Beach is located on the best beach in town and is known for offering some of the best ocean-view rates on the coast. If you go midweek, you can get an oceanview room for $139, which includes a $40 credit at one of several local restaurants. Go on a weekend, and the package costs $50 more. This is good through March 31, 2008 and weekends may require a two-night stay. The special rate does not include an occupancy tax. For more information, phone 800-648-6708 or visit www.cabrilloinn.com. There are other rates on the site as low as $79.

Also in Santa Barbara, the Hotel Mar Monte is offering a "Date Night, Dinner and a Movie" romantic getaway package for $179. The package includes deluxe accommodations with a view of the Pacific Ocean, dinner at Bistro Eleven or in-room plus a complimentary in-room movie. Phone 800-643-1994 or visit www.hotelmarmonte.com

A little further up the coast in Pismo Beach, the Cliffs Resort is giving people 50 and older a break with its Nifty Fifty package. It includes an ocean view room for 50 percent off, starting at just $129 or upgrade to a suite for $199. Guests will also receive 50 percent off of one entree with one at full price at our restaurant, Marisol, and 50 percent off of featured Gift Shop items. Rates are available Sunday through Thursday; $40 extra on weekends. Phone 800-826-7827 or visit www.cliffsresort.com

A little further north as Highway 101 turns inland, you enter the Wine Country of Paso Robles and a new upscale hotel called the La Bellasera Hotel and Suites. Located in a gorgeous land of rolling hills, oak trees and grape vines, the hotel is offering a Central Coast Getaway Special of $229 per room per night, which is 30 percent off the regular rate. Phone 805-238-2834 or visit www.labellasera.com.

Up at Lake Tahoe, Forest Suites Resort is rewarding winter visitors with discounts that escalate the longer you plan on staying. If you stay two nights, you get 15 percent off. If you stay three nights, you get 20 percent off, and stay four or more nights and you will receive 25 percent off the entire stay. The two-night special is available Sunday through Thursday. For more information, phone 800-822-5950 or visit www.forestsuites.com. This offer starts on January 1, 2008.

Also in Lake Tahoe, the Tahoe Lakeshore Lodge and Spa enjoys a premium lakefront location and is known as one of the better bargains on the lake any time of year. But it gets even better in December - including through the Christmas week - with rates up to 20 percent off until December 31, 2007. Phone 800-448-4577 or visit www.tahoelakeshorelodge.com.

A fun, forested place to visit in Southern California during winter is the Kern River Valley area where the Whispering Pines Lodge is not your typical bed and breakfast. It's the perfect winter hideaway in the foothills above Bakersfield and offers spacious rooms along with the best country breakfast we've encountered anywhere in California. For people who stay away from bed and breakfasts because they don't likes staying in someone's house, this B and B is really more like a country inn with lodging located in several separate attractive buildings. To lure visitors up to visit this winter, the Whispering Pines is offering $65 off per night through April 15, 2008, excluding February 15-17. Phone 877-241-4100 or visit www.kernvalley.com/whisperingpines

If a winter visit to Yosemite National Park is in your future, consider a stay in Groveland at the charming Hotel Charlotte. A historic hotel that has been completely renovated, the hotel is on the road to Yosemite, about a half-hour from the park. Until March 31, 2008, the hotel is offering a free dinner (up to $50) for guests who stay four nights. Phone 209-962-6455 or visit www.hotelcharlotte.com

Photos, from top: Hilton San Diego Resort; Whispering Pines Lodge.

OTHER DESTINATIONS: For moreCalifornia vacation ideas, also check out our articles on a Central Coast romantic getaway, Dana Point and Napa Valley


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