(credit: Donna Schwartz Mills)

Los Angeles was a delightful place to be last weekend: blue skies, sun shining and a balmy 78-degrees (which is often typical for January). It was the kind of weather that draws tourists to our state every winter.

So why were an estimated 20,000 Southern California residents spending part of that gorgeous weekend inside the LA Convention Center? They were attending the 14th annual Los Angeles Times Travel Show. It seems that even folks who live in paradise need to get away once and a while, and this was a one-stop shop for finding a perfect destination for every taste and budget. Here are some highlights:

(credit: Donna Schwartz Mills)

Travel Tips, Culinary Experiences and Entertainment

Some of the world’s best-known travelers were on the show’s six stages and pavilions: including Arthur Frommer, Lisa Ling, Adam Richman and Rick Steves. You could attend presentations a wide range of topics, including how to find the best shopping in exotic locales, managing your money while you’re away (and presumably, you’d learn how to achieve both goals simultaneously), LGBT travel, and creating beautiful vacation photos.

There were cooking demonstrations, a popular show with recipes for travel themed cocktails and entertainers from around the world (Taiko drummers! Folk music! Colorfully costumed dancers!).

(credit: thebubblerollers.com)

Extreme Fun

One of the most popular attractions at the LA Times Travel Show was the Xtreme Adventure Zone, where audiences could hear popular TV hosts Don Wildmon (Travel Channel’s Off Limits) and Josh Gates (Syfy’s Destination Truth) talk about their most exciting travel experiences. Attendees could get their own taste of it on the zone’s climbing wall and an actual zipline that spanned the convention hall (courtesy of Big Bear’s Action ZipLine Tours).

Another of the show’s big hits was the big inflatable water tank in the Kids Zone, featuring a Bubble Roller: a transparent plastic bubble large enough for a human to stand in, which enabled kids and adults to “walk” on water.

(credit: Donna Schwartz Mills)

Adventures Far and Near

The fun thing about events like the Los Angeles Times Travel Show is the wide range of possibilities it presents. Even the most experienced traveler could find inspiration here: a hotel built into Turkey’s ancient cave “suites,” African safaris (several companies, including Twiga Tours, Steady Safaris, Best Safaris, Serengeti Pride Safaris, Rhino Africa) or touring the Arctic by dog-sled or in a state-of-the-art “Tundra Buggy.”

One of the most interesting vacation ideas is closer to home: Extreme Tornado Tours is a whirlwind vacation for those who cannot get enough of Discovery Channel’s Storm Chasers. The tour guides here are meteorologists who travel with guests in spacious vans and SUV’s “fully equipped with tornado-tracking technology, including satellite radar, GPS, and mobile internet.” The vans have bulletproof, Lexan sunroofs which enable passengers to look directly up, even if it’s raining down with huge hailstones.

But a vacation need not be exotic or dangerous (or extremely expensive) to give Southern Californians a much-needed break. The show included visitors bureaus from several other states, like Louisiana, Arizona and Utah — and even one from Boise, Idaho. That last one seemed like a hard-sell to big city Angelenos, but spokeswoman Linda Alexander disagreed:

“It’s a fabulous place to be. In the summertime there are 26 miles of greenbelt to walk and ride and play. There’s white water rafting within the city limits. The Boise River runs through the town and there’s a college there – Boise State University. And of course, the Broncos.”

And of course, there’s still plenty of California paradise to enjoy outside of L.A: Laguna Beach, Palm Springs, Oxnard and San Diego were all represented at the show, as well as northern destinations like Sonoma County (where it was noted that one airline offers “wine flights” that allow you to check in a case of wine for free — which is nothing to sneeze at now that airlines are charging for regular old checked-in baggage).

(credit: Donna Schwartz Mills)

And That’s Not All!

Those who wanted to do a little more research could peruse the shelves at Distant Lands. The Pasadena travel outfitters were not only selling books but a nice selection of luggage and other travel accessories.

Other vendors were there to sell travel-related items like updated travel pillows (360° support! A media pouch!), pashminas, and comfortable slip-on shoes ideal for the TSA line at the airport.

And if you were so inspired you wanted to book right away, there was a cadre of travel agents there to help you out. One-stop shop, indeed.

Donna Schwartz Mills is an adventurer who keeps it real at home, too. Her blog is SoCal Mom.