The Dana Resort, Mission Bay, San Diego

The Dana Hotel and Marina at Mission Bay

 Some estimate California to being the number one tourism destination in the country and records show that over 250 million tourists visit California each year.San Diego hosted at least 35 million visitors last year on its own.  Count me in as one of the 35 million as we set out to do a true staycation and visit one of the nicest resorts in San Diego.   We didn’t have to travel far as it was only about 35 miles from home.This was to be a relaxing vacation, one where we had nowhere in particular to go and nothing special to do.The idea was to just enjoy the resort, relax by the pool, fish, eat, sleep in, and maybe drink a little.

The Resort
The Dana Hotel in Mission Bay is situated around a small marina that offers its guests rentals of every type of water craft.   Also, you can set up your fishing pole anywhere along the marina or the larger part of the bay just beyond the resort.

The marina

On the Mission Bay side of the hotel there is a walkway that takes you along the water’s edge with sweeping views of the bridges, boats, inlets, and Fiesta Island.  You can sit there for hours watching the boats go by.   It is pure relaxation.

Mission Bay

I loved watching the sailboats as they made their way up wind and marveled on how this was actually accomplished.

At sunset, we threw out our line a few times and actually did catch some fish.  It was the quaint marina that was the star though, especially when the sun was setting and the now calm water lit up in a glowing orange tint.

At night it was peaceful, you could hardly hear a peep from anyone except around the two pools where music blazed from either piped in music or a live duet playing near the Firefly Restaurant and Bar.

Sitting at the Firefly patio as the fireworks go off at Sea World

The marina is still and calm at night while the tower at Sea World shines bright.

The Firefy Restaurant is situated near the pool closest to the lobby and had outdoor seating which was nice.

Sitting on the with a few of the quaint marina

Nearby we sat by the fire pits while listening to the mellow sounds coming from a female singer and a guitar player.

A live cooking demonstration was put on earlier and although I don’t like sea food, a few of our crew devoured the sample plate as if it was their last meal.  They all reported after, that the raw tuna dish  tasted awesome.

That night they had a movie playing by the pool and you could either view it in the comfort of your chair or hang out in the water.   It was a warm night and a perfect setting for kicking back while watching a movie.  The Tropical Bar was open for drinks and a sizable Jacuzzi was nearby.

Finding Dory was playing on the big screen

The Grounds
The property at the Dana is filled with palm trees and various other tropical plants. It looks like something out of Hawaii.  The rooms are nicely decorated and even the cheapest is roomy enough.   There are obviously the more expensive rooms that look directly over Mission Bay and some have sizable balconies.

This was a last minute reservation so I got what I got.  Even at that, it was near everything and had a slight view of the pool and the tropical plants.   Just a few steps and we were right at the marina.

We saw at least four weddings taking place that weekend as the hotel provides a great venue.  Set only feet from the marina, a grassy area provides a perfect place for nuptials.  There are decorated arches, beautiful plants, and white lights for the evening.  Just a short walk away, the hotel also offers meeting rooms that can be set up for any size reception.
Great venue for a wedding

Movies, Bikes, and Fireworks
On Saturday and Sunday night, Sea World provided a six minute fire work show that could be seen from various spots around the hotel.  Speaking of, we were very close to Sea World so if that is some place you would like to go, the Dana would be a perfect nearby hotel to stay.

Fireworks against the masts in the marina

However, it isn’t cheap and you have to consider resort fees and parking charges.  For what it is, I was impressed and it is worth every dime.  They do give you about $30 of food credits of which we utilized and half-off of their buffet which we also used.  If they were charging resort fees, we were going to use every penny of the free stuff!

They also gave you a voucher to use a bicycle for four hours and we utilized those too!   We went from one end of the long sidewalk/walkway to the other and enjoyed every minute.  On the other side of the marina there was a kayak shop that was giving away free hot dogs, drinks, and corn-on-the-cob, so again with the price of the hotel, we were going in for free grub!

The weather was beautiful and biking along Mission Bay was perfect and made us realize that even though we are close to home, we are still very far away.

The Dana Hotel is a great resort and worth the money you spend.  All is very relaxing there except for one thing as I will go into next.

The Pools
The Two pools at the Dana are beautiful, large, and look super clean.  The one nearest the Firefly has an infinity edge that looks out over the marina.  Tiki lamps are scattered about giving more of that Hawaiian feel, plus by both pools there is a ping pong table and bean bag toss games.

The only negative I would say about the hotel is more of a personal one. Now I know as a family resort that there will always be tots in the pool, I mean why not, kids love pools!  So why did I even think that I could have a peaceful little nap by the pool is beyond me.

First let me say that I love kids and they don’t bother me when they are noisy.  I love the innocence of the way they play and laugh.  However there was always one kid whose voice was louder than a freight train horn and he always managed to yell right when he was next to where my lounge chair was situated.  Surprisingly, I did manage to get in a few winks when ‘freight train’ was on the other side of the pool.

Then there was the actual sharing of that beautiful seemingly clean pool.  I say seemingly because of the conversation I overheard:
Young Boy: “Mom, I really have to go pee”
Mom: “Wait a second; I’ll take you to the bathroom”
Young Boy, “O.K…Oh wait, never mind.”
I swam to the other side of the pool.

The next day I did manage to get a good half an hour nap and woke up just after there was a big commotion.  Seems that there was a poo extraction in the pool, yes you read right, a poo extraction.  One of the little tykes left a big brown surprise for all of the swimmers.   Just moments before I woke up, there were people exiting the pool as if ‘Jaws’ himself was on the loose.   Harsh chemicals were administered and the pool was closed for two hours.

Note to self… next time find a hotel that has an adult only pool.

A Tranquil Place to be
Other than that, we enjoyed our stay and it was all we had hoped while achieving our goal for a relaxing weekend with nothing planned!!    Yet, we did do something…we fished, we ate great food, we biked around the bay, we watched movies by the pool, listened to live music around  a fire pit, enjoyed the views, biked, sat in Jacuzzis, saw fireworks,  swam, slept in, and napped.

There is so much more you can do in the area as far as San Diego attractions and even around the hotel there is a lot to do. However, being mellow is what we wanted and other than the mishap at the pool, tranquility is what we achieved.

I recommend the Dana regardless of what type of mood you are in and bring the pups because it is also dog friendly!

Story and Photos: Debbie Colwell


Fort Bragg

FB- Beach with Rocks

Fort Bragg: Living Life in the Slow Lane
When you hear about popular vacation destinations in California you usually hear about the well known areas such as San Diego, Catalina, Hollywood, San Francisco, and Palm Springs. You don’t usually hear the name “Fort Bragg” in a conversation of someone planning their next vacation. Yet, Northern Californians have been flocking here for years just to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Recently, more and more international travelers have been visiting this area. They are intrigued by the rocky coast and the breathtaking Redwoods that are inland.

FB- Near Glass Beach 2FB- NEar Glass Beach 4FB-Cost rocks

Mendocino Will Have to Wait
When we decided to do a Northern California staycation, we originally had our sights set on visiting Mendocino. We had seen pictures of Mendocino and the amazing coastline caught our eye. It was nothing short of spectacular from what we could tell from Google photos. So what took us 10-miles north to Fort Bragg instead? It was the hotel. After researching accommodations along the coast, we saw a perfect hotel nestled right on a cliff with a 180 degree view of the ocean, a beach nearby, and an 8-mile trail right out front. So Mendocino was set aside and Fort Bragg it was. We did wander over to Mendocino for the day but that adventure will be told in another staycation story.

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PanIQ Room

Paniq The sign
PanIQ Room

One of the members of our Staycations crew is a Groupon hunter. In her search for new things to do she saw that the Paniq Room was opening on July 27th in San Diego.

The Paniq Room is a live escape game that pits players against clues and puzzles to help them break out of a series of rooms before an hour is up. In San Diego there are three different themed rooms: a graveyard, a Voodoo shop, and the one we played which was a drug cartel room. In our case we had to get out of the room within an hour as the DEA were on their way to bust us.

The Foggy Graveyard

Paniq Graveyard Paniq Graveyard 1

One of the rooms in the VooDoo scenario

Paniq The VooDoo room
Paniq Voodoo room 2

With a big IQ in the name of PanIQ room, I assumed that your logic, puzzle solving, general observance, and math skills might be of service. So five of us that in my humble opinion are pretty smart set out to attempt the drug cartel room. We had a few Masters degrees in our bunch so I felt pretty confident of our chances.

Room One
Ready to tackle the game we were led to the first room with some basic instructions and were then handed a walkie talkie in case we needed help. As the door was slowly shutting, the facilitator’s last words were, “Find the clues to lead you to the next clue.”   Then came a small clinking sound and the door was shut. All master degrees and smarts aside, we looked like five lost and clueless children.

As we looked around the room we noticed we were in a chemical room or, in the case of our scenario, a drug making room. We desperately started looking for clues and soon found some obvious puzzles. We set out to solve the first one which ultimately was the combination to another challenge.   This is a hard story to tell because I don’t want to give anything away for those who want to try it themselves. So everything will be a little vague.

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How about a visit to Oxnard?

When I said I was going to Oxnard for the weekend, everyone went, “Oxnard”? Where is Oxnard? What is Oxnard? No one knew much about it or heard of it. So here it is, my weekend in Oxnard , Port Heuneme, and Ventura. No one heard of Port Hueneme either. Hopefully after you read this you may consider taking a weekend trip, it is worth it.

Oxnard is a coastal city in central California located approximately 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles. The population of Oxnard is 203,585 as of 2012. A nice note, Oxnard was ranked as one of the safest cities in America with violent crime rates well below the national average


From Oxnards history I got this tidbit of the naming of the city:
Oxnard’s founder, Henry T. Oxnard, intended to name the city after a Greek word for “sugar”. Finally, frustrated with trying to communicate his desires to the state bureaucrats, he gave up and named the city after his family.

Oxnard is home to the beautiful Channel Islands Harbor and where there is a harbor there will be all sorts of water activities including whale watching, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, surfing, charters, fishing, etc.

Oxnard BoatsOxnard harbor across from restuarantsOxnard harbor old boat
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Lake Tahoe

How to get there
I was approaching one of the highest sections of the road coming into Lake Tahoe and as if on cue the snow began to gently drop on my windshield.   I had traveled this route a few times before while on my way to visit my Sister who resided in South Lake Tahoe.  However, I wasn’t thrilled with my upcoming lack of visibility especially in this most intimidating part of the road.

In addition, the sun had already set and the sky was turning darker by the minute.   I am a beach girl and have seen snow fall maybe three times in my life, so I am not an experienced driver in these conditions.

Luckily my friend, who is from the Mid West, noticed my white knuckles firmly gripping the steering wheel and informed me that she had driven in snowstorms way worst than this.   I saw a pull-off just ahead and I couldn’t get out of the car fast enough!  I happily let her take over the driving duties.

The route we took was one of a few to get into Lake Tahoe and each one has its pluses and minuses. In the way we came, which was coming down from Echo Summit, it was very scenic and only had one area where you drove on what some people would call scary, because of its height.  But that part doesn’t last long, most of the time it is easy driving.

Besides this route, I have driven in two other ways through the years.   The longest approach from the southern part of the state is coming around the Truckee side.  If my memory serves me, it wasn’t one of those winding, switchback roads but rather a gradual incline until you arrive into the northern part of the lake.  In contrast, from the Reno/Nevada side, you are traversing through plenty of switch backs and ‘S’ turns.

The road to Tahoe

Regardless of which way you decide to take, all of them will amaze you with the picturesque scenery.

Sadly, it has been many years since I had been to Tahoe, so when a friend and her family were spending a week at an Incline Village cabin, I asked her to take some photos while I brushed away the cobwebs from my memory to write this story.

A big thank you to Stephanie Moore for the photos.

About the Lake
Lake Tahoe is a huge fresh water lake with a surface area of 191 square miles and at an elevation of 6,225 feet.

The lake is 2/3 in California and 1/3 in the state of Nevada and is the largest alpine lake in North America as well as one of the deepest in the United States.

So what is there to do in Tahoe?

The question should be what isn’t there to do in Tahoe?

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