Olivia Harden

Travel Reporter at SFGATE -- based in California. Writing about social justice and mental health everywhere else. Passionate about food, exploring the world, and uplifting the voices of those who often go unheard.

Why the Alaska-Hawaiian merger is good news for Bay Area travelers

Alaska Airlines plans to purchase Hawaiian Airlines for $18 per share, totaling $1.9 billion, including $900 million worth of debt. The airlines promise their distinct branding would remain and the combination would enlarge Alaska, already the fifth-largest airline in the the country.

The acquisition had been in the works for “several months,” a spokesperson at Alaska Airlines told SFGATE. However, airline industry analysts have promoted the merger for years. A 2019 report from the analytic fir

Calif.'s high-speed rail linking LA, Vegas bucks trend, is on schedule

Some California drivers have attempted to bypass the slog by following a route supplied by Google Maps, only to end up stuck in the desert during a recent dust storm.

America’s only private rail company says there’s a better way: a bullet train connecting the two regions in just over two hours. Brightline, which has successfully brought a passenger rail line to Miami and throughout Florida, has set its eyes on Southern California.

Unlike in European and Asian countries, passenger rail in th

Google apologizes for trapping Calif. drivers in the desert

Google has apologized for sending a gaggle of Californians on a road to nowhere in the desert as they tried to make their way home from Las Vegas. The apology comes after Shelby Easler went viral on TikTok for documenting her experience after Google Maps promised her family a faster way out than Interstate 15.

“The minute we got in the car to leave from Vegas, it popped up on Google Maps as a suggested alternative route to avoid the dust storm,” Easler told SFGATE over Instagram DMs.


Disneyland offers cheap tickets to certain Californians

The one-park-per-day ticket price, exclusively for three days from Monday through Thursday, go on sale Dec. 5. The tickets are valid for use between Jan. 2, 2024, and June 2, 2024, and guests don’t need to use them on consecutive days. For parkgoers determined to do both Disneyland and California Adventure in a single day, they can upgrade their tickets to park hopper status or add on the Genie+ service that lets them cut some lines for an additional fee.

Disney categorizes “Southern California

California's coastal highway spoiled with road issues

Highway 1 is currently impacted by several single-lane roads, including in Big Sur and throughout several Bay Area counties.

State Route 1, fondly known as Pacific Coast Highway, is riddled with single-lane roads due to construction or repairs following the significant wet winter last year.

Starting from the south, Highway 1 from Limekiln State Park to Lucia in Monterey County remains closed due to rockslides, according to Caltrans. The state park also remains closed until further notice,

Google Maps misleads Californians into the desert during dust storm

When a group of Californians went to enjoy the recent Formula 1 race in Las Vegas, they weren't expecting to go off-roading on the way back.

Shelby Easler, her brother Austin and their significant others were headed back to Los Angeles on Nov. 19 when they used Google Maps. Instead of taking the Interstate 15 — the major highway connecting Southern California to Sin City — the app suggested they take an alternate route to avoid the dust storm that caused major Sunday traffic delays.

“We ironic

Hawaii officials warn against trend that’s blinding pilots

Hawaii officials are warning the public about the dangers of shining lasers in pilot's eyes, and the consequences are costly.

In a joint release, the FBI’s Honolulu Field Office, Kauai Police Department and Maui Police Department wrote that laser sightings have increased recently, with sightings on Kauai and “in and around” Kahului and Kapalua Airports on Maui.

“Pointing a laser at an aircraft is extremely dangerous and puts the lives of those on the aircraft and on the ground at risk,” FBI sp

California's newest city is endangering its oldest tree

An ancient oak tree thought to be the oldest plant in California is caught in the middle of a proposed housing development project for the newest town in the state.

Although the recently released environmental impact report for the project in Jurupa Valley outlines stipulations to protect the tree, environmentalists and researchers are concerned that the safeguards do not go far enough to preserve the rare oak.

“One would hope that there will be a more robust protection for it without being en

Bay Area county considers new resort some residents find 'cringey'

Twenty-eight miles from Napa Valley’s vineyards, locals might trade bottles of wine for margaritas as a new resort-style campground gets closer to opening in the Bay Area.

The Napa County Board of Supervisors approved exclusive access to explore building a Margaritaville with RVs and tiny cabins on Lake Berryessa. The project, named Camp Margaritaville, would cost around $95 million, according to county officials.

The Camp Margaritaville Resort would include glamping-style amenities, incl

'Tenant from hell' in LA, Oakland, finally moves out

Elizabeth Hirschhorn, who made headlines as the "tenant from hell" after refusing to pay rent at a luxury Airbnb rental in Los Angeles, has finally moved out — 570 days later, according to the Daily Mail.

The Los Angeles Police Department escorted her off the property on Nov. 3, according to the Los Angeles Times. The owner of the home where the Airbnb is located, Sascha Jovanovic, told the paper he had "such a peaceful weekend once she left."

Hirschhorn moved into Jovanovic's guesthouse in Br

'Absolutely beloved’: Calif. desert town preserves garish neon sign

In the middle of Rancho Mirage, an affluent California desert community best known as an old Hollywood retreat (Frank Sinatra lived there, as did Bing Crosby and Lucille Ball) just east of Palm Springs, is a pastel pink sign in the shape of an elephant. It wears a tiny hat while taking a bath using its trunk.

The sign captures even more attention as it gets dark. Neon blue, red and green lights up to read: “Rancho Super Car Wash.”

What could otherwise be an eyesore for a town that’s home to

California's famed 'Orphans' have survived after all

Twin sequoias, fondly known as “The Orphans,” in Calaveras Big Trees State Park were in danger after they were scorched by a prescribed burn in October 2022. Experts and nature enthusiasts worried whether they would survive.

Now, the park says that the trees are not only alive, they might not be without family for much longer.

California State Parks announced in a statement that several scientists visited The Orphans on Oct. 5 and observed that they are alive. Moreover, thousands of seedlings

Officials warn influencers from getting close to Bay Area's famed pink pond

The pink salt ponds at Alviso Marina County Park in the South Bay create a picturesque landscape. While it might look like the perfect backdrop for your Instagram reel or TikTok clip, U.S. Fish and Wildlife is asking visitors to avoid getting too close.

On Oct. 13, the agency posted on Facebook to ask visitors to take their photos of pond A12 from a distance.

“To keep you and the wildlife safe, stay on the Alviso Slough Trail to take your pictures,” the post said. “Please take pictures from th

Daughter's plea to help dad's Bay Area store goes viral on TikTok

Steve Diddams, owner of Diddams Party & Toy Store, has a track record of delighting customers of his Bay Area small business. With 34 years and three locations under his belt, he’s held his own against giant competitors like Party City and Amazon and even kept the doors open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But this October, a time of year that’s usually incredibly profitable for the store because of Halloween, had been exceptionally slow — that is, until Steve’s daughter, Marin Diddams, recorded

There's a faster way to board a plane. But airlines might never use it.

Boarding delays were exacerbated when aircraft increased in size and boarding groups became more segmented. This is partially because airlines have become stingier with their offerings. When fuel prices increased in 2008, airlines combated rising prices by charging flyers for checked baggage, discouraging passengers from checking luggage and encouraging them to bring free (smaller, lighter) carry-on bags.

“The model that I employ assumes that the time that a passenger requires to load his or he

Luxury hotel of Boomer dads' dreams opening in Calif. desert

Tommy Bahama is taking island time to the next level as it prepares to open its first-ever resort on Nov. 1. With a location in Indian Wells, the brand’s laid-back approach should fit right in to the greater Palm Springs area known for its luxury resorts, lush gardens, blossoming palm trees and stunning views of the Santa Rosa Mountains.

The Tommy Bahama Miramonte Resort & Spa underwent a $20 million renovation and will host 215 guest rooms and villa suites placed among “olive trees ... citrus

Passenger details SFO-bound flight ending in 83 charges of attempted murder

An SFO-bound flight was diverted to Portland, Oregon, on Sunday after an off-duty pilot allegedly disrupted the aircraft’s power supply, which could have crashed the flight. The man was arrested and faces 83 counts of attempted murder.

Horizon Air flight 2059 took off from Everett, Washington, just before 5:30 p.m., according to FlightAware. It landed in Portland about an hour later. An off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot was sitting in the jump seat, a third seat in the cockpit, when he “unsuccessf

Passenger details SFO-bound flight ending in 83 charges of attempted murder

An SFO-bound flight was diverted to Portland, Oregon, on Sunday after an off-duty pilot allegedly disrupted the aircraft’s power supply, which could have crashed the flight. The man was arrested and faces 83 counts of attempted murder.

Horizon Air flight 2059 took off from Everett, Washington, just before 5:30 p.m., according to FlightAware. It landed in Portland about an hour later. An off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot was sitting in the jump seat, a third seat in the cockpit, when he “unsuccessf

Half a million lights twinkle in the fields at Calif. desert festival

Tucked away from the glitz and glamour of Southern California’s big cities, Cherry Valley is a slow-moving desert town for most of the year. But this rural area, with a population of about 8,000 people, has a hidden gem tucked away in its fields.

The 123 Farm at Highland Springs Ranch & Inn spends three weeks between July and August stringing half a million lights all over the grounds to re-welcoming the public for its seasonal Lavender Nights. The events run until the end of October, spokesper

Major carrier to give 2 free drinks to frequent flyers

After making headlines for its disastrous meltdowns, Southwest Airlines is improving its rewards program for loyal customers who’ve chosen to weather the storm.

In 2021, Southwest shot to the top of WalletHub’s list of most reliable airlines. But the carrier suffered a significant operations meltdown during last year’s holiday season. At its peak, Southwest was forced to cancel over 70% of its flights. And in April of this year, a “firewall failure” caused “data connection issues” and forced a

Viral Southwest Airlines grandpa goes to flight attendant school

When 75-year-old Harvey Brown took his first ever Southwest Airlines flight on June 30, little did he know his lifelong dream of becoming a flight attendant would come true.

“Can you believe that happened?” Brown told SFGATE, of going viral on TikTok after telling flight attendants on an Austin-bound flight from Portland, Oregon, that he wanted their job.

On Oct. 1, Brown and his daughter, Audra Beaudoin, headed to the airline’s Dallas headquarters for his training wearing homemade T-shirts ad

A gorgeous Yosemite phenomenon that lasts only a few minutes a day

Some people will argue that California has some of the best sunsets in the world. But in Yosemite, gorgeous colors are spotted not only in the sky but also on the mountain peaks.

With the right atmospheric conditions and perfect timing, visitors witness one of the park’s most gorgeous moments when the hills blush. The phenomenon, which lasts only a few minutes, is called alpenglow.

“The word alpenglow is derived from the German language and dates back to the 1860s, the same era of the Yose

Calif. musician petitions TSA to close travel loophole

On Sept. 15, singer-songwriter David Ryan Harris flew on an early morning American Airlines flight from the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport to LAX with his two mixed-race children. But the family was in for a surprise when they were met at the top of the jetway by an American Airlines employee and four police officers.

“My kids are like, ‘We don’t want to fly that airline again.’ [My son] Hendrix is like, ‘Did I do something wrong?’ He feels like maybe he endangered the family,” Harris sai
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