2017-03-17 / Columns

Time to plan a rockin’ road trip

Flying Squirrel
Thor Challgren


SIGNATURE SOUND—Michael McDonald is popular in the regional music scene. He’ll play at the Chumash Casino in April. 
ACORN FILE PHOTO SIGNATURE SOUND—Michael McDonald is popular in the regional music scene. He’ll play at the Chumash Casino in April. ACORN FILE PHOTO If you’re a fan of live music, you’re probably used to seeing shows at local venues like the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza or The Canyon club in Agoura Hills, or maybe even the Microsoft Theater or Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.

If you catch a concert or a show in one of those settings, most likely you’ll drive home at the end of the evening and go to sleep in your own bed.

But there are a lot of options for Southern California music fans to see a new or favorite musical performer and turn the experience into a longer getaway.

From a nearby Indian-owned casino in Santa Barbara County to the mecca of gaming and glitz in Las Vegas, music fans have a number of road-trip destinations to wrap around their concertgoing experience.

Probably closest to Ventura County is the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez, about 80 miles north.

In the casino’s Samala showroom, you’ll find concerts in April from performers including Michael McDonald and America. Their concerts (April 7 and 21, respectively) are on a Friday night, so you could drive up that afternoon, see the show, then spend Saturday in the Santa Ynez area, perhaps at a winery or two, or just sitting by the pool.

Concert tickets at the Chumash venue start at $35 per person. The hotel has 320 rooms and 55 suites starting at $255 a night and features a fifth-floor pool with lounge chairs, cabanas, dining and excellent views of the Santa Ynez Valley.

Heading a bit farther away, south toward Temecula, you’ll find another concert venue in an Indian gaming resort, the Pechanga Resort and Casino.

Michael McDonald and America are also performing there (April 9 and July 16), with ticket prices starting at $55. Additionally, comedian Kevin James will be there April 23, and Broadway star Idina Menzel (“Wicked,” “Frozen”) is booked for Sept. 1.

Rooms at Pechanga start at $ 229. The Temecula area also offers wine- tasting opportunities.

And if you’re looking for a truly unique activity for your concert weekend, the Temecula Valley is famed for its hot-air-ballooning experiences.

Another Indian-gaming resort that features a music venue is the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, with April appearances by Kenny Loggins (April 7) and Creedence Clearwater Revival (April 8).

If you’re willing to drive farther (or even fly), you’ll have a much wider selection of artists and dates in one of the entertainment capitals of the world, Las Vegas.

Of course, there are production shows at many of the hotels—acts such as Blue Man Group, Cirque Du Soleil, David Copperfield and Legends in Concert.

But you also have many performers who now do shows in residence in Las Vegas.

The concept of the Las Vegas residence isn’t new. Performers going to back to the ’60s and ’70s, legends like Elvis, Sammy Davis Jr. and Wayne Newton, helped establish Vegas’ star on the world entertainment map.

Then in 2003, Celine Dion took the concept to a whole new level, signing on for more than 200 shows a year in a Caesar’s Palace theater built just for her show.

Now you’ll find resident performers like Elton John, Britney Spears, Maria Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, Bruno Mar s and more in Las Vegas.

Dates for performances can be found at www.vegas.com. Ticket prices range from about $100 (Elton John) to $124 (Britney Spears).

One big advantage to catching a show or two in Las Vegas is the number of hotel rooms—almost 150,000—so it’s easy to find an option to suit every budget and taste. In fact, with a little sleuthing you can even find outstanding deals ($129/night) at higher-end properties like Caesars Palace, the musical home to Elton and Celine.

So if you’re a music fan and you’d like to build a getaway road trip around a concert performance, consider pointing your car toward a nearby resort venue, or fill up the tank and head out to the desert for a longer concert road trip.

Thor Challgren is a travel consultant. Email questions to thor@theacorn.com.

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