Sonoma Valley, California:
One hour north of San Francisco and west across the ridgeline from Napa, this pretty valley is an oasis of wineries, olive groves, spas, country-chic hotels and toothsome restaurants. The annual Sonoma Valley Olive Festival, running through February, celebrates all things olive, with local eateries and watering holes spotlighting olive martinis, tasty tapenades and free olive-oil tastings. The smartly renovated, circa-1920s
Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa
, which sits atop its own thermal mineral spring, offers an "Olive Sonoma" special through February that includes a night in a fireplace suite or room, two martinis in the high-ceilinged, California Mission-style main lobby and a $50 spa credit. Better still is the hotel's "rejuvenation package, which includes a room, two massages and breakfast for two. A $627 value, this package is being offered from $399. Sonoma has dozens of wineries worth visiting for tours and wine tastings. Some tastings are free. One of the best options is
, set amid bucolic countryside that recalls Tuscany and known for crisp Overlook Chardonnay and unfiltered Pinot Noir Grand Detour, among others. If you're an olive oil aficionado, you can taste the good stuff, gratis, at the
, and see how extra-virgin California olive oil is made. Northern California is in its third year of drought -- bad for locals, good for visitors. Nights are clear, dry and cold; afternoons sunny, dry and warm.
|Landmark Vineyards in Sonoma Valley, California, recalls the bucolic countryside of Tuscany. The winery is known for its crisp Overlook Chardonnay and unfiltered Pinot Noir Grand Detour.
The Australian dollar, too, has plummeted, falling from 94 U.S. cents a year ago to 66 cents now, lowering prices across the board for American travelers. The great deals
will have you saying "g'day" to everyone in sight. One example: Tourism Australia is touting an eight-night, $2,550 per person package, available from Feb. 16 to March 31 -- the Aussie summer -- to gorgeous Sydney, with four nights in a Cityview Club Room at the InterContinental Hotel, airport transfers by car and breakfast, plus four more nights in a one-bedroom apartment at the 5-star Angsana Resort & Spa at the Great Barrier Reef. The price includes round-trip economy class airfare from Los Angeles to Sydney and internal Australia flights.