Nothing says weekend quite like brunch, and here in the Marina we’re famous for our waterfront buffets and flowing mimosas. In honor of this momentous (and glorious) meal, Today Marina del Rey rounded up their top picks for brunching along the coast. Click here for the full article or check it out below!

Did your favorite make the cut?

Marina love,

Valerie

Six Sweet Brunch Spots in Marina del Rey

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With spring in full swing, we officially have an excuse to heartily indulge in one of our favorite culinary past times: Brunch! In actuality, we don’t need a formal excuse to dig into plates of eggs benedict, French toast and bottomless Mimosas; we live in Marina del Rey after all. What we might need (if we brunch as often as we dream about) is a Boot Camp membership to prepare for summer…but that’s a whole different topic. Our focus today is squarely on breakfast fulfillment. So let’s take a look at six of the Marina’s most divine brunch destinations. We guarantee that at least your taste buds will be getting a killer workout.

1. Cast & Plow 
4375 Admiralty Way
The Ritz Carlton’s new Cast & Plow restaurant has a fantastic breakfast/brunch available every day of the week.
MUST TRY: Shakshouka (sunny-side up egg, tomato stew, harissa, feta and pita)
Pancakes or Waffles (with Strauss Family Creamery organic ricotta cheese and bing cherry compote).

2. Killer Café
4211 Admiralty Way
Head to the Killer Café (part of the Killer Shrimp restaurant) any day of the week to enjoy gorgeous waterfront views, a great atmosphere and their one-of-a-kind breakfast items.
MUST TRY: Killer Shrimp Benedict (Poached Eggs, Killer Shrimp and Hollandaise over English Muffins with choice of Hash Browns, Home Fries or Fruit) *Fan tip: Choose the Hash Browns.

3. Beachside Restaurant
4175 Admiralty Way
The gorgeous Beachside Restaurant at the Jamaica Bay Inn offers two brunch menus: Weekday and Weekend, but the latter’s menu is the one that goes all-out decadent.
MUST TRY: Country French Omelet (Shiitake mushroom, tomato, asparagus, fresh herbs, garlic, pesto sour cream & truffle wild arugula salad w/ shaved parmesan)
French Toast (Thick cut egg bread, vanilla cinnamon custard, vanilla maple syrup and fresh berries)

4. Café del Rey
4451 Admiralty Way
Café del Rey’s fabulous three-course prix-fixe weekend brunch is definitely an indulgence—and well worth the $38 price tag. Mimosas, Bloody Mary’s, Sparkling Wine or Sparkling Cider are all included.
MUST TRY: 1st Course: Fruit Parfait (granola, fresh fruit, berries, fage greek yogurt)
2nd Course: Egg Norwegian (house cured salmon, poached eggs, brioche, arugula salad, hollandaise) 3rd Course: Dulce De Leche Éclair (pastry cream, kiwi coulis, raspberries)

5. Café Buna
3105 Washington Blvd.
Café Buna may say they’re the “Best Kept Secret in Marina del Rey,” but the weekend crowd tells a different story. Head there any day of the week and taste what the fuss is all about.
MUST TRY: Michael’s Corn Bread French Toast and/or Neal’s Cornflakes French Toast

6. Tony P’s Dockside Grill
4445 Admiralty Way
Tony P’s never fails to serve up the goodies—and that goes double time for their brunch dishes. The menu goes on for days so prepare for some serious food decisions.
MUST TRY: House Smoked Salmon (With sunny side up eggs, caramelized onions, garlic, house smoked salmon, fresh scallions & a roasted pasilla pepper hollandaise.)
Crab Cake Benedict (An English muffin topped with crab cakes, two poached eggs and fresh hollandaise.)

Recently, our team took a little field trip to our friendly neighbor, the Ballona Wetlands.  If you’ve never visited Los Angeles or lived in the city, there is a good chance you may not have heard of this nature lover sanctuary.  It’s filled with wildlife, unique vegetation and offers a special sense of serenity, which can sometimes be lost in a bustling city.

Bright flowers peak through the wetlands

Bright flowers peak through the wetlands

The preservation of the wetlands is run by a non-profit called Friends of Ballona. Through this organization, groups can organize tours and volunteer opportunities (we shared our tour with a group of 3rd graders). You can also sign up to train as a docent and participate in monthly restoration activities.

On our visit, we were led by tour guide Patrick who explained the history of the area and how the wetlands current state came to be. Because of its location, the wetlands are an estuary and sees both freshwater and saltwater marshes. What also makes the area so popular amongst nature lovers is its attraction of birds. The wetlands are located right in the middle of the Pacific Flyway  and with 600 acres of land, it’s no surprise that the habitat has seen more than 300 species of birds and is home to such wildlife as the Great Blue Heron and Snowy Egrets. Can you spot one below?

A Great Blue Heron walks through the wetlands

Nature’s Serenity

We had a wonderful time learning about the area and the special history of the wetlands. Be sure to add it to your Marina del Rey “to-do” list!

Marina love,

Valerie

Sailing is a popular pastime here in the Marina – and rightfully so! Sailboats dot the harbor with their tall masts, clever names, and unique designs. Seasoned sailors glide through the Marina channel, while hopeful beginners learn the ropes (literally) from veteran instructors. So when travel writer, Max Hartshorne, wanted to take a sailing lesson on his recent visit, we directed him to the UCLA Marina Aquatic Center, which is known for its sailing programs.

Max shared his experience on the travel website, GoNomad.com, but you can read all about it below!

Marina love,

Valerie

Sailing in Marina del Rey on the Shimmering Bay

By Max Hartshorne

When I first saw Marina del Rey, California, all I could think of was, “I wonder exactly how many boats there are here?” That’s because when you look at the harbor of this city of about 8,000 people, all you see are the bobbing boats and masts that go on for miles. Take a ride on the bicycle path that winds its way from Admiralty and you pass row upon row, what seems like miles of boats, all docked and waiting in the shimmering water.

It’s a beautiful site if you’re a boat lover, and it makes you want to get out on the water. We got that chance today when we discovered the UCLA Marina Aquatic Center, where even paupers can afford to rent a sailboat or a kayak and get lessons on how to sail in the pristine harbor of Marina del Rey.

The Catalina 14 is a sturdy, reliable sailing vessel.

The Catalina 14 is a sturdy, reliable sailing vessel.

We met up with our teacher, Ceasar, who has mentored hundreds of UCLA students through the process of learning how to sail at the center. He’s a patient teacher who has seen it all, from a yacht t-boning a delicate 8-person skull to capsized boats on busy Saturdays in the harbor. The first thing Ceaser showed us was how to rig the 14′ foot Catalina sailboat, a simple craft with a jib and a mainsail but no other frills.

The Marina del Rey Bay is where we sailed. It is bordered by rip rocks, and the channel is marked clearly where only powerboats can go. It was a Tuesday, so there were not many other watercraft to distract us two novice sailors. Despite the calm winds, a LA Lifeguard boat was soon speeding toward a sailboat in distress with sirens wailing. Later we saw the boat being towed into shore with an apparently damaged sail and non-working outboard auxiliary motor.

At the UCLA Marina Aquatic Center, Ceasar teaches sailing at all levels.

At the UCLA Marina Aquatic Center, Ceasar teaches sailing at all levels.

Caesar patiently taught us the terminology, from the simple starboard and port, (right and left) to the more complicated aspects of who has the right of way as  you sail toward another boat (it depends on who is directly in front of the wind).  We asked him about how many of these sturdy boats have tipped over, and he said that because of the bulb at the top of the mast, they can’t “turtle” but they can and will go over on their sides, requiring standing on the centerboard and pulling on a line to right the mast.

But happily, today’s sail was in calm winds and gave us that delirious feeling that the sound of slicing through water under sail power gives.  We took turns at the tiller and watching the little green and red cords up on the sail that showed if were were angled in the right way to catch all of the breeze and keep the sails from luffing.

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The UCLA Marina Aquatic Center has sit-on-top kayaks, small sailboats and paddleboards to rent and offers lessons.


It was a great way to see this beautiful city and if you want to take a lesson, visit the UCLA website. It takes 16 hours of training over a weekend to become certified to sail without an instructor, after this you can rent a sailboat for $20 an hour.

- See more at: http://blogs.gonomad.com/readuponit/2014/03/sailing-marina-del-rey-shimmering-bay.html#sthash.lfrWLvIC.dpuf

Last week, Visit California held its annual Outlook Forum at the lovely Langham Hotel in Pasadena (read: out of office day for our team). The conference, which is focused on promoting California tourism, featured global industry experts who shared the latest marketing research, strategies and tactics in driving visitors to our great and beautiful state.

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These sorts of seminars are always beneficial for two reasons –

1)      It’s the perfect time to connect with others in the industry

2)       You do ALWAYS learn something! It can be something as simple as the newest traveler trends (note, though China is the fastest growing market for California visitors, research is showing that Brazil is hot on their heels). Or it can be little more complex such as developing your brand. Either way, the content is always strong, fresh and extremely relevant.

This year, Visit California has selected the theme #DreamBig as its slogan. And why not? After all, California is known as a land of dreamers. Musicians, artists, architects, entrepreneurs, actors, adventurers, beach lovers, and more have all flocked to the golden state for their golden dream. The Mamas and the Papas wrote a song about it. NBC had a 90s television show titled after the idea. The beloved Pretty Woman references it in the opening credits. Pop singer Katy Perry had one of her world tours named after it. I mean, even Dr. McDreamy lives here! The list goes on and on.

As I listened to the keynote, I couldn’t help but notice all the heads nodding in agreement over the idea of California dreaming. I got to thinking how many people in the room had moved to California for their own dreams or have been inspired by the aspirations of others. I think Visit CA struck gold (pun intended) when creating this marketing message. It resonates soundly with others – who doesn’t have a dream?

And, so I ask, what’s your California dream?

Marina love,

Valerie

Happy 2014! Welp, we’re three weeks into the New Year, and I’m pleased to report that I’ve already crossed one item off my “Marina-2014-bucket-list” – whale watching! Getting out on the water to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat has always been one of my favorite parts of winter, and when I learned that Marina del Rey Sportfishing offers daily excursions right out of the Marina, the decision was easy. No traffic. No travel. No brainer.

On the morning of our trip, we arrived at Dock 52 on Fiji Way at 9:30 am for our 10 am departure (Captain’s orders). While we waited in line, the day’s excitement was building with chatter and squeals of hopes of what was to come. Would we spot whales? Would we see a pod? A breach? A fluke? Would there be a variety of breeds? I mean, the previous week there had been sightings of orcas…ORCAS!!

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At 10 am sharp, the Matt Walsh boat pulled to the dock, and we all hopped aboard. The boat was equipped with restrooms, inside seating space, and even had a light food service area which dished out breakfast burritos, grilled cheese sandwiches, burgers and hosted a small array of snacks (cash only).

As our journey began, the captain steered us south of the Marina, toward the Palos Verdes peninsula with Catalina Island in clear sight. On board with us, were two naturalists from the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium who shared informational guides about whales, highlighting the types of whales we were most likely to see. These two women were so knowledgeable about marine life and gave us tips on how to spot whales, among other interesting facts.

Soon enough, we spotted a “blow,” which was immediately followed by the reveal of the backside of a grey whale (cue shrieks of excitement from the crowd). The “blow” (aka water coming up through the whale’s blowhole) turned out to be a marker for the whale’s whereabouts. We kept our eyes peeled for the “blow” as we waited patiently for our new friend to emerge from the sea. And it did! Every few minutes we were graced with its presence, even showing its fluke (or tail) three times! The fluke sighting was a first for me, and I couldn’t help but applaud every time it was shown. To see that in nature was truly breathtaking.

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Alas, the time had come to return to the Marina. We watched as our new friend slipped back into the ocean, but not before waving us good-bye with one final fluke reveal. Soon after, the boat turned around and we cruised along the coast, until docking in the Marina at 1 pm – a total three hour tour (sans Gilligan).

Once back on land, I couldn’t help but sit back and reflect on the wonder that we just witnessed. What an amazing sight to see, and it’s just one more “to do” here in the Marina. I’m thinking this might be my first of several trips aboard the Matt Walsh. Thank you Marina del Rey Sportfishing for a Sunday to remember!

Marina love,

Valerie