<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Worth the Trip]]> Copyright 2016 http://www.nbcbayarea.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com en-us Sun, 01 May 2016 23:25:08 -0700 Sun, 01 May 2016 23:25:08 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[LBC Folk Revival Fest Announces Bands]]> Sun, 01 May 2016 07:43:22 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/LBF2016now.jpg

THE LAST DAY OF SUMMER... possesses magical properties. It is a statement so evident that it almost need not be said, but it feels good to say it, for time goes fast and the festive nature of summertime is something to treasure, in the moment, while we can. But while that final day of sweet summer is lovely, equally as lovely is the last Saturday of summertime, the Saturday that arrives just after the middle of September. For if the last day of summer is mid-week, we may not have time to rightfully send off the season, but a weekend day? Oh yeah, there's going to be a party. And a major mid-September party 'round about Southern California is the Long Beach Folk Revival Festival, a twangy-toned, winsome-of-outlook affair that seems to take the summer/autumn transition and make music from it. The 2016 date is Saturday, Sept. 17 -- just five days ahead of fall -- and the line-up of artists was just revealed, giving fans several months to daydream about one dance-y, strum-tastic soiree. A soiree spent in the sunshine at...

RAINBOW LAGOON PARK: The White Buffalo, Chuck Ragan, Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys, Big Bad Rooster, Honey Whiskey Trio, and several other banjo-wielding, harmonica-happy outfits'll be lending some sepia-hued sounds to the festival, which lasts a full half day (that would be 11 a.m. to 11 at night). A craft bazaar, good eats, craft beers, and an activity-filled area for the young'uns are part of the community come-together day. So should bluegrass and Americana and roots be the official music genres for that time juuuust before autumn's golden glow arrives? It feels like the right sort of tune style to send the summer off with; best peruse all now and book your ticket.

Photo Credit: Long Beach Folk Festival]]>
<![CDATA[A Frightful Fall Favorite in May]]> Sat, 30 Apr 2016 08:12:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/204*120/WinchesterMysteryHouse_crWMH_1.jpg

MAY + MACABRE: A band of buddies can typically cobble together any outing on the spot, but picking a pursuit that's tied to an unusual date has its intriguing challenges. What do you do on Groundhog's Day? Watch the movie? And how do your friends mark an eclipse? By standing outside and looking up, we imagine. Friday the 13th offers the same sort of "what should we do"-y questions, as the answers aren't always clear (such as on Fourth of July or Halloween). There are the horror films to view, of course, if that's your jam. Or you can volunteer at a pet shelter, loving upon a few black cats, as well as felines of every stripe. Or you can look to the California landmark that always celebrates Friday the 13th, every time it rolls around. Yes, we speak of...

THE WINCHESTER MYSTERY HOUSE... in San Jose, which is prepping another Flashlight Tour of the Sarah Winchester's corridor-laden, doors-opening-onto-walls wonder. The flashlight nights are a staple of the fall, true, but they do pop up on the 13th day of the month, if that day happens to be a weekday starting with the letter F. The 55-minute tour takes visitors up and through the rambling manse, with a guide at the lead. You'll learn fascinating facts about Mrs. Winchester's mission, one inspired by mediums and tales of the spirit world. The nighttime stroll lends a spooky veil to the daytime tour, if you prefer your legendary landmarks to come with a few shadows and low-lit hallways. 

AUTUMN FLASHLIGHT FUN: If you can't make May 13th -- and you'll want to book that ticket ahead of time if you can -- the Flashlight Tours'll be back in the fall. And if you want to wait for the next Friday the 13th, well, you'll need to wait for January 2017, as May is the only 2016 month rocking the eeky occasion.

Photo Credit: Winchester Mystery House]]>
<![CDATA[Spring Break All Year: Omni Splash & Stay]]> Sun, 01 May 2016 07:43:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/splashomnicosta123.jpg

TO EVERYTHING, A WINDOW: We often bandy about the word "window" when we're not speaking of the glass square in the wall, the one that lets in light. We use the word in reference to time, and a set amount of time, specifically. "That window has passed" means the opportunity to seize a moment is done, or "I'll have the window for that next week" is saying "don't ask me to do anything right now." Occasions, too, have windows -- the Christmas window seems to open around October nowadays -- but there is one annual event that can occupy pretty much any window it chooses, despite having a season in its name. We speak of spring break, which typically falls around March or April, and is usually associated with students taking a vacation. But if you're not into typical things, and you still like the notion of spring break, even beyond spring, and you want to treat the family, well, your window is wide open: Omni La Costa Resort & Spa's Splash & Stay package is on through the very end of 2016.

IN THE DEAL: Your tots will get two hours per day of fun times at Kidtopia Kids Club (so if you want to check out the adult pool, that would be a solid window). A s'mores kit is also part of the package, as is a daily breakfast for the family at Bistro 65. And as for dinner? Count on a $100 resort credit to use towards meals on the property (that's a hundred bucks "per room, per night"). The Carlsbad getaway experiences several fine weather days a year, well beyond spring, so plan some afternoons at the various pools, including the one geared to grown-ups and the waterslide-bedecked Splash Landing Pool (there's also the Sandy Beach Family Pool, for smaller tots). Ready to throw your own spring break, whenever you want to open that particular window? You've got through Dec. 31, 2016 to enjoy a time of year that's far too fleeting.  

Photo Credit: Omni La Costa Resort & Spa]]>
<![CDATA[Healdsburg Hoedown: Maypole Time]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:03:29 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/215*120/maypolerussianriver1234567.jpg

BACK IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, when the end of April rolled around, you could count on a couple of things. One? There was probably some discussion of what you might do in the summer (camp, swim classes, a reading club). Two? There was talk of the last day of school, and if your class might hold some sort of party (typically involve ice cream and other frozen, summer's-coming treats). And three? There'd be a cameo by a maypole, out in the recess yard, right around May 1.

MAYPOLES... and tots learning about music, history, and culture are a longtime duo, which is pretty sweet; after all, a maypole not only has some heritage behind it but it gives kids the chance to get out in the spring sunshine and romp a bit (double bonus). But as adults, where can we get our maypole fill, if we don't have a teacher explaining maypole lore and promising us that a real maypole was on its way? There is a way, nowadays, that goes beyond the school grounds: Russian River Rose Company, in Healdsburg, erects a ribbon-pretty maypole in its flower-lush gardens each spring. The 2016 dates for skipping and weaving are...

APRIL 30 AND MAY 1: There are several sweet doings happening over the weekend, but if you want to take a crack at the maypole, be there at 10 in the morning or 2 in the afternoon. Price? It's free, though a two-buck donation is "appreciated." A Monet-esque element to the weekend-long celebration will also be afoot, so join in the painting of a group canvas. Details and such? Blooming here. Returning to the days of your youth, when getting a chance to dance around a maypole was more of a thing? It's a nice hop back to the past, both the past of our childhoods and the long ago past when maypoles reigned as a merry greeting of spring.

Photo Credit: Russian River Rose Company]]>
<![CDATA[Stunning Snapshots: Share the Experience Winners]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 23:02:15 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/joshua-tree-national-park-2-HRf.jpg

THERE ARE VACATION PHOTOS... snapped solely for social media, and photos you take to remember how to get to a remote destination, and photos that will eventually become your mom's screensaver. In short, not every picture that comes to final fruition will serve the same end purpose, which is fitting, since photography itself is as multi-layered as a strata-amazing cliff face. Snapping a photo of a sign, to remember where you parked, is different than turning your lens toward a canyon with the hopes that the result might be accepted for publication. For example, the...

SHARE THE EXPERIENCE photography competition, which just revealed the winners of its 2015 snapshot spectacular, asked "amateur photographers" to "...share their favorite views, moments, and adventures from America's national parks and public lands." That's a clear and tempting directive, and those photogs went to happy work, eventually submitting more than 15,000 photographs in all. Eleven winners have been chosen, and you can eye/admire them all at the National Park Foundation site (the NPF was a sponsor of the contest, along with ACTIVE Network and Celestron).

WHAT PARKS ARE IN THE MARVELOUS MIX? Joshua Tree, Inyo National Forest, and Death Valley are the California entries, while several more parks beyond our state borders have a powerful presence on the victory list. Each photo has its own short story of how the magic moment came about, too. Want to take a quick visual vacation? Or ponder what you might photograph if you enter the 2016 contest down the road? Inspiration, bugs, Mt. Whitney, Big Horn sheep, and nature at its breath-taking-est begins here.

Photo Credit: Koustubh Kulkarni]]>
<![CDATA[Vintage Vroom: Historic Race Cars in Fontana]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 16:16:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Indy2fontana123.jpg

WHILE AUTO GATHERINGS... quite often rum the gamut, in terms of the kinds of cars and trucks on display, some spectaculars take a more singular focus. Look to the Cars & Carriages exhibit in Oxnard, which gives the spotlight to French coachbuilders of the 1900s, and look to the Annual Vintage Trailer Rally, which pops up along the Central Coast with several gleaming Airstreams in tow (as well as other trailer makes). Another car happening is zooming into the area, at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, a place which should reveal the happening's theme: vintage speedsters of all sorts. The Southern California Historic Sports Car Festival is a three-day party that's all about the vehicles that laid down rubber over several decades, stretching back to the very early days of racing.

SO WHAT CARS WILL SHOW? So very many, including "(s)tock race cars, Formula and Indy cars from all eras..." There'll be a celebration of 100 Years of BMW, as well as "100 Years of Indy," so look for "Indy cars from 1921-1961 driving the oval." The racers won't all be on the move, however; you'll have a chance to look at the historic automobiles, too, when they come to a stop. A car show, car club corrals, and other areas devoted to lingering before these on-the-move artworks are part of the weekend event, and "(s)pectators are welcome in the paddock and garage area to see the cars and talk with the owners and drivers."

AS FOR THE DATES? Prepare to see track history in full bloom from Friday, April 29 through May 1.

Photo Credit: Auto Club Speedway]]>
<![CDATA[Take It Outside California!]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2016 17:45:17 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/beeflowers.jpg

BACK WHEN WE WERE KIDS... we sometimes had to be cajoled when the topic of "getting outside" came into play. It was just that our comic book was so thrilling, or the sitcom in front of us so hilarious, and we couldn't possibly spare five minutes to play tag on the lawn. (Of course, once we made our way to the lawn we majorly loved it and were slow to return inside for supper.) Nowadays, though, most people jump at the chance of spending a day under the sun, the better to enjoy leafy trees and sprouty shrubs and a touch of exercise and oodles of deep-in-the-lung breathing.

TAKE IT OUTSIDE CALIFORNIA... is encouraging all Golden Staters on just this front, and earnestly so, via a pledge. And the pledge simply says this at the top: Yes! I pledge to take it outside with my famiy and friends the first weekend in May. It's a clear reminder of all the wilderness-y beauty, park-tastic loveliness, and beach-sandy stunning-a-tude that surrounds Californians. Want to join the day, which is presented by both the California State Parks Foundation and the California Council of Land Trusts? Then take the pledge, or simply round up the fam for an outing on...

APRIL 30 AND/OR MAY 1: Take It Outside California's online HQ lists a caboodle of interesting choices going down, from a Save the Trees/Save the Bees weekend in Cambria to a Native Seed Farm jaunt in Irvine. Yoga, zumba, hiking, birding, dog walks, habitat restoration, and urban gardening are all on the roster, so, truly, picking your pleasure should be something of a cinch (or adjacent to a cinch). Ready to "Take It Outside"? Indoor pursuits can be so very compelling, but so can a fragrant spring breeze on the first day of May.

Photo Credit: Flowers]]>
<![CDATA[Napa Valley: Do It For The Love Benefit]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 11:27:58 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/mfrantiGettyImages-485889423.jpg

SONGS ABOUT LOVE: There are, of course, thousands of emotional ballads about love, and sweetness, and caring, but not every passionate ditty deals with the notion of romance. Oftentimes the good feeling burbling behind a hit tune stems from the concept of community, and human-to-human concern, and the respect we show our fellow travelers on this lifely journey. Concerts, then, and music festivals, are fine places to meditate upon these tender topics, which find a lot of play within the themes of the music (and the spirit of the event itself). BottleRock Napa Valley, which will again strum it up over the Friday through Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, will feature a song or two or twenty dealing with these positive vibes, vibes that will get an early start, ahead of the festival, on Thursday, May 26. That's when the Do It For The Love dinner and concert is scheduled to raise the roof, and raise some funds, at Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford. If you know...

DO IT FOR THE LOVE, you know the organization's founder, Michael Franti, and his wife, ER nurse Sara Agah Franti, wanted to create a way the help bring "people living with life-threatening illnesses, children with severe challenges, and wounded veterans to live concerts." The foundation fundraiser is set at 150 guests, so Mr. Franti's alfresco live set should engender a feeling on draw-together intimacy for all who gather. Mercedes-Benz USA is presenting the food-fabulous evening, along with Do It For the Love, so count on cocktails, small bites, wines, and luxe eats at "an array of food stations" at the hotel's Michelin-starred eatery.

PACKAGE: Will there be an on-site afterparty? Indeed, so head for the Bubble Lounge, where sparkling wines are the theme. Is there a multi-night stay-over package you can book, if a longer stay at Auberge is your jam? There is, and it is called The Mercedes-Benz Rock & Ride Weekend (there shall be cars to test out at the hotel, in addition to several other vacation-ready perks). Will it be heart-embiggening to savor the songs at BottleRock Napa Valley, later in the weekend, knowing you started out your stay with some community-style love? So heart-embiggening. If you can't attend the dinner and concert, but want to help out Do It For The Love, you so totally can.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Petal Peek: National Public Gardens Day]]> Tue, 26 Apr 2016 23:25:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/181*120/tulips.JPG

DO AN ONLINE SEARCH... for "benefits of nature" and "pluses of getting outdoors" and "how a walk can invigorate" and you're bound to experience the sense that being among flowers and trees is just about the best place to be for both body and spirit. But finding an opportunity to do so, beyond walking from the garage to the office then back again, can be slightly trickier, if we don't set our minds to the task. It's exceedingly helpful that, each spring, National Public Gardens Day goes into full bloom, reminding us that a peaceful spot, one that's carefully tended and beautifully planned, is not too far from where we are. The 2016 event opens its petals, tulip-like, on Friday, May 6, and several pathway-lined, bud-bedecked bastions of beauty will join the joyful doings of the day.

THOSE JOYFUL DOINGS... might include special talks, or kid-themed activities, or floral demonstrations, depending on where you land. The Gardens at Heather Farm, near Walnut Creek, will be part of the American Public Gardens Association event, and Quarryhill Botanical Garden in Glen Ellen, the University of California Botanical Garden in Berkeley, and Filoli Center in Woodside are joining, too. The annual to-do, which is all about "raising awareness for America's public gardens," is about the leafy, stem-stunning, big-of-branch sights within the garden and special happenings of an art-nice, craft-cute, info-laden sort. One lovely asterisk? This always falls right before Mother's Day, if you and your mom would like to get the holiday weekend going on Friday. And, truly, who wouldn't, when there is nature to enjoy? Every searchable study regarding the topic says that time spent among growing green things is time incredibly well spent.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[World's Ugliest Dog Contest: Enter Now]]> Sat, 30 Apr 2016 08:10:43 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/munchkin123GettyImages-71285926.jpg

YOU WANT THEM ALL: Swearsies and truth time: We've never peeked over your shoulder as you've scrolled through pages upon pages of adoptable dogs. But we know your reaction, time and again, even without lingering nearby, and we're not even psychic. Here's how you feel: You want them all, every last pup, the one with the snaggly teeth and the one with the twisty tail and all of them, please, right now, in your arms, so you may proceed to snuggle every dog in existence.

OF COURSE, snuggling every dog on the planet isn't *too* realistic -- we know, we can't fully deal with that fact, either -- but choosing to love one or a few dogs, constantly, with great care, is a most noble calling. It's what the people do who enter the famous World's Ugliest Dog Contest, the long-running showdown at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma. Yes, we said "showdown," but it is the sweetest showdown around, for these dog-loving humans are helping to broadcast the message that all pups are beautiful, and snugglable, and worthy of our respect. Yes, we said "snugglable," and if you've ever perused the furry participants in the Junetime event, you'll agree that the word -- or, rather, the not-quite-a-word word -- more than fits. 

WANT TO ENTER? The 2016 contest is on Friday, June 24, and a host of pups and people from points all over will be there to strut across the stage and meet the fans. The entry period is open, so best read the rules, then send your info along if you want your little lovebun to play a part. Dog devotees would never change a single thing about their utterly perfect pups, from their comically cockeyed ears to their fang-filled smiles. And sharing that pride in Petaluma just might help other home-needing pooches, pooches who don't fit the traditional mold, find their forever families.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Universal Studios Hollywood: New Hotel Program]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2016 08:04:28 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/bghoteluniversal.jpg

HARRY'S IN THE HOUSE, or, rather, the theme park, and his robe-rocking, wand-wielding fans are making for Universal Studios Hollywood in happy droves. That's because The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a land brimming with enchanting shops, eats, and rides, debuted at the beginning of April 2016. And, as might be expected, wizards are broomsticking in from all manner of distant lands, which means they'll need a place to stow their Quidditch balls and Invisibility Cloaks for the night, as well as a spot with a comfy bed. In that sorcery-casting spirit, Universal Studios Hollywood has teamed up with over 20 hotels located around Los Angeles to create the Preferred Hotel program. 

AMENITIES AND EARLY HOURS: So what does it mean to be a Preferred Hotel with the theme park? You're an inn that's offering special amenities of some sort, whether it is a complimentary shuttle over to Universal Studios Hollywood or gratis parking at the hotel or something else as solid. Another big bonus? "When guests confirm their hotel package, which consists of hotel accomodations and tickets to the theme park, they will receive the added benefit of one hour early entry to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter," reveals the site. Oh yeah; there's some magic at work there, for sure.

THE HOTELS... participating in the program can be booked through a new section of the theme park's site. Peruse them all and ponder, as you go, what specific amenities you're hoping for and where exactly you'd like to be (super-close to Universal City, or somewhere further afield, perhaps on the way to the beach). The Garland, Mondrian Los Angeles, Sportsmen Lodge Hotel, and a bevy of other stay-overs are part of the Preferred Hotel slate. Best don your favorite Hogwarts uniform, summon your owl, and read all the details, fine print, and extra must-knows.

Photo Credit: The Garland]]>
<![CDATA[Spicy Springtime: Petaluma Chili Fest]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 11:31:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/216*120/chili11.jpg

SURPRISE QUIZ: Ready to answer a question of the most delicious sort? Okay, here's your quick quiz: When the weather begins to warm up, is the time right or not right for spicier eats? Answer... Well, it was a trick question, because the only correct response is to say that every time of year is the right time for spicier eats. True, downing something high on the Scoville scale on a snowy January day has a way of making you downright toasty, but peppers and summertime both boast a sunny spirit, making them feel simpatico. (Not to mention that a little sweating, around the temples, can cool you down when the mercury is rising.) The Great Petaluma Chili Cook-off, Salsa, and Beer Tasting enjoys the best of both cooler temps and summer's highs by landing on a day plunk in the middle of spring. That's Saturday, May 7, and a plethora of area chili cooks'll be wielding the ladles, the beans, and all of the excellent add-ins that make each bowl an individual, and edible, work of art. Make for...

HERZOG HALL... at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds. The afternoon-long affair costs $25 for an adult ticket, and that'll score you several tastings of both various salsas and chilis. Want to add beer tastings onto that? Your ticket comes in at $45. Sonoma Spice Queen, Brasil BBQ, and Spring Hill Ranch will be doing the stirring/spicing, while on-site brewhouses will include Petaluma Hills Brewery and Sudwerk Brewery. Call it a high-heat, hops-laden harbinger of summer eats/drinks parties still to come. And, yes, spicy foods will still be completely in style when the hot, hot, hot days of July and August arrive. But in May? Heat's not only in style; it hits the winter-into-summer spot.

Photo Credit: Chili]]>
<![CDATA[Free: Rush Ranch Open House]]> Sun, 24 Apr 2016 08:44:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/yumiwilsonrushranch.jpg

SPRINGTIME FIELD TRIP: Remember way back when, when the end of the school year, or at least the final few weeks, meant a field trip or two? The whole class piled onto a bus and rode out to a dairy farm or mill or ranch, the better to connect with history and the outdoors (as well as the many other gifts a field trip bestowed, not the least of which it felt kind of special to spend a school day having an adventure). The field trip still exists, in modern form, for both adults and kids, and its spirit will live on at Rush Ranch near Suisun City. The ranch is hosting a free family-sweet open house on Saturday, April 30 -- yep, this is not a school day but a weekend day, do note -- and several free activities will connect visitors to all sorts of wonders. You may see a bat or a bird of prey, live and in person, as well as a host of cows and sheep at the happening, which is presented by the Solano Land Trust. There shall be activities, too, of the science and learning sort. And games?

THERE WILL BE GAMES, and rides in horse-drawn wagons, and roping demonstrations, and the tossing of horseshoes, and, ohhhh yeah, wool spinning, an ancient art form that is beautiful unto itself. Vendors'll selling jewelry, crafts, and such, and some burgers and hot dogs'll be on the grill (those will be for sale, too). Will you breathe deeply, and enjoy some country-style air? You will. Will you ponder clouds and vistas and animals? If you give yourself a few minutes to relax, then definitely. Will you feel as though you revisited that ol' field trip scene, the one from thirty or forty years ago? You just might. The Rush Ranch Open House, by the by, is part of Take It Outside, California! If you know this initiative, you know it is all about getting Golden Staters under the sky and out into nature and public lands. That's certainly worth a high five, the kind of gesture you might have made when finding out your class was about to go on a neato field trip.

Photo Credit: Yumi Wilson]]>
<![CDATA[State Parks Love: Park Champions]]> Mon, 25 Apr 2016 22:29:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/baldwinparkchampions123.jpg

EARTH MONTH... has a way of tapping all of us on the shoulder in a persistent and important way. It's a reminder of many issues, and vital things at stake, and that the world beyond our front door is wild and alive, a world that benefits from our compassion and care. Earth Month coming back around is like getting an email from our planet with "urgent" in the subject line, an email we will, fingers crossed, answer promptly. So in what ways do we pitch in, help out, and love on nature during April and beyond? One route is to put on some work gloves and get busy as a volunteer at a state park, whether that's through maintaining trails or de-rubbishing beaches or a little bit of all of the above.

A FULL CALENDAR OF TO-DOS: If you can wield a shovel, or pull some weeds, or help restore a trail, or pick up trash along a beach, well, high fives all around. The fabulous news is that California State Parks Foundation boasts a bevy of pitch-in opportunities all year long via its Park Champions program. What sort of opportunities? Angel Island State Park is the scene of a beach clean-up on May 1 -- your ferry trip over is free -- while China Camp State Park will receive some TLC along the hiking and bike trails on April 30. Want to do what you can for plant and animal habitats? Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook in LA is the place to volunteer on May 1. Find your path to saying adieu and thank you to Earth Month in a big, helping, heartfelt way by perusing all the volunteer haps on the CSPF list.

Photo Credit: California State Parks Foundation]]>
<![CDATA[Cider Summit: Tasty Bevs in the Presidio]]> Fri, 22 Apr 2016 11:32:29 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/apples2.jpg

LOVELY LIBATIONS: Cider, back in the day, was something that came around each October, the better to lend oomph to donuts and cookies, as well as the occasional steamy cup of hot sippable goodness. True, hard cider has always enjoyed its devoted fandom, but it wasn't until the rise (and rise and rise) of craft beerdom that cider mania truly came to full flower. Suddenly top notes were being discussed on panels, and various apple types (Fuji, Pink Lady, Gala) were enjoy lively debate, and people got to chatting about how to best incorporate crisp berry/citrus flavor in order to complement the drink's stem-rocking star. Thus finding a cider party nowadays is a bit easier than "back in the day," especially around the Golden State, a place that has well-embraced the tart and terrific sip. If you're ready for some fall-style zing in your spring, then make for...

THE PRESIDIO... on Saturday, April 23. Cider Summit S.F. will unfurl, with flavorful tastings and flavorful info, at the Civil War Parade Ground. Whole Foods is the presenter of the artisanal gathering, and a whole spice-forward caboodle of ciderists will be at the tables, discussing the stuff they love to make. Who's on board? Look for Ace Cider Company, 2 Towns Ciderhouse, Crooked City Cider, and Horse & Plow (among the many excellent beverage experts). There will be talking, there will be sipping, there will be the pondering of mouth feel and smoothness and how apple-centered a cider should/should not be. It's fun stuff if this is your go-to tavern order, but best line up your designated driver before going Presidio. And look here, apple-loving aficionados: Another cider festival is up in Atascadero in May. Truly, it is a beloved beverage on the up-and-up, much like beautiful ruddy pommes high in an orchard tree.

Photo Credit: NBCNewYork]]>
<![CDATA[Goodland Hotel: Lobby Record Store]]> Sun, 24 Apr 2016 08:41:59 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/vnylgoodlandhotel.jpg

HOTEL LOBBY HALLMARKS: When you roll your luggage in the entrance, and look around for the concierge or front desk, what do you see in a hotel lobby? Perhaps a few couches or chairs, and a bouquet of flowers, and some tables, and the bell stand, and an area where brochures for area attractions may be easily browsed. What you don't see as much, if ever, is a record store, the kind with old-school vinyl and listening stations. That is, however, just what people arriving at The Goodland Hotel in Goleta are seeing when they take an initial spin around the inn's stylish lobby.

A BRAND-NEW RECORD STORE... called VNYL just debuted in early April 2016, and it lends the 158-room Kimpton property some visual, aural, and hipsual cachet. (True, "hipsual" isn't actual a word, but it applies to the ocean-boho building and its design-centered details.) So how does a record store in a hotel lobby work? Well, there are a couple of different routes to enjoying VNYL, once you've stowed your suitcase in your room and headed back to the lobby for a libation and a look-around. There are...

"DOZENS OF TITLES"... at the shop which "can be enjoyed during one's stay and purchased for the road." Or, of course, you can visit a listening station to find a heart-beautiful ballad or rocking anthem, maybe one that can serve as the theme to your road trip to Goleta. VNYL, by the by, is a "music discovery subscription service" based in Los Angeles. Adding to the offbeat experience? The shop'll keep a 'round-the-clock schedule, so swing by at 3 a.m. if you can't fall asleep.

OPENING PARTY: A tune-filled happening on May 19 will summon several artists for live performances as well as a "surprise guest." If you can't make the party, book the package, which kicks off at $199 and is on through the end of the year. Positive Spin nabs you a night's stay, two cocktails when you arrive, and, you betcha, whatever album catches your fancy. For more vibes, more flow, and a peek at this new way of thinking about a hotel lobby, check out the album-laden spot now.

Photo Credit: Goodland Hotel]]>
<![CDATA[Mountain Friend: John Muir's Birthday]]> Thu, 21 Apr 2016 11:26:06 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/215*120/Muir2Snow.jpg

HUMAN + NATURE: Many a city-dweller, or suburbanite, or beach lover is lucky enough to have a friend or two who reside in the mountains. "I'm going to see a pal of mine with a cabin" is an oft-heard pre-weekend rallying cry from lower-landers looking for a little crisp air and some time spent among the big trees. But while a mountain friend is one thing many people happen to have, regardless of where they live, a Mountain Friend is something a bit different, and a full-stop statement unto its own. Call it a title earned by those advocates who tirelessly work for nature, making their calling to better the present, and future, of the firs and birds and the snow-capped peaks.

JOHN MUIR, during his amazingly full lifetime, became famous for being a true Mountain Friend. His writings supporting wide-open spaces, as well as wilderness-protecting policy, live on, with boldness and beauty, more than a century after his passing. In respect and gratitude, lovers of the Sierra Nevada and all places of peak-laden loveliness pause each April 21 to honor the naturalist's birthday, perhaps via a contemplative hike or picnic near a stream. But if you're at a computer for much of the day, you can still show your appreciation for the Sierra Club founder, the ultimate Mountain Friend, by sharing some great graphics from...

THE NATIONAL PARK FOUNDATION: The official charity for the National Park Service has posted a few moving quotes alongside the snowy expanses Mr. Muir so adored, all in honor of the anniversary of his birth. There's a sentiment or two or six on the list that all lovers of nature can relate to, so whether you share, or simply make one of the graphics your new lockscreen, get ready to get inspired. And to wish you could go to the mountains, this weekend, to see a friend. Of course, even if you don't have a bud with a cabin, the mountains themselves are friendly. John Muir believed so, and his passionate and passionately practiced belief translated into nature-nice advocacy for the ages.

Photo Credit: National Park Foundation]]>
<![CDATA[Solar Field Tour at Furnace Creek Ranch]]> Thu, 21 Apr 2016 22:10:15 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/dvsolarfurnace.jpg

IT ISN'T ALL THAT OFTEN... that guests at a hotel get to peek at what goes on behind the scenes, in terms of how the property is run. Oh, a manager might let some visitors see the kitchen, or maybe a ballroom undergoing refurbishment, but as far as digging deeper in to a hotel's nuts-and-bolts-y side... Well, that just doesn't happen all that often. But it is about to, at Furnace Creek Resort in Death Valley National Park, and just in time for Earth Day, too. The planet-minded holiday lends the resort's special tour its general theme, for tour attendees will be getting an up-close look at the desert property's solar panels. As you might expect, Death Valley enjoys a notable amount of sunshine, and solar power is an important centerpiece to the stay-over destination. Ready to take a tour of the 1.2 megawatt facility, a spread that covers four acres? Then join the...

EARTH DAY CELEBRATION... at Furnace Creek. Beyond the solar panels, you'll peek at the gravity-fed water system, as well as the golf course that also doubles as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. A biodiesel demo is also in the works, if that's your jam. Sustainable eats are part of the party -- free tastes are on the schedule -- as is some live music and kidly activities. The Amargosa Conservancy, the Death Valley Chamber of Commerce, and the National Park Service are all partners in the energy-minded party. Ready to go deeper into how a resort procures some of its power? April 23 is your day, and do note this: That falls within National Park Week, which means your entry into Death Valley is free.

Photo Credit: Furnace Creek Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Kites to Breeze Near Morro Rock]]> Wed, 20 Apr 2016 12:49:21 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/kite+festival.jpg

THAT BEAUTIFUL BACKDROP: It's hard to do better, backdrop-wise, than the sky. It's blue-pink-white cloud-fluffiness has been well-painted and oft-photographed, but only the sky itself will do in some specific instances. Lining up a wedding party snapshot? A sunset makes a stunning backer. Photographing roses from below? Again, the sky will serve you well. Flying a kite? The azure-awesomeness of the bowl above us really can make the color of your twirler pop. There is an exception to this, or perhaps a complement, and it comes in the form of a very large, very ancient volcanic plug that sits along the Central Coast.

IT'S MORRO ROCK... we speak of, quite on-the-nose-ly, and it, like the sky, can make for a marvelous natural backdrop, especially where kite-flying is concerned (though wedding photos, and flowers, also pair well with it, too). And photographers, and kite aficionados, and people who simply like soaking in some Pacific-close breezery will be out in kite string-rocking force on Saturday, April 23 and Sunday, April 24 when the free...

MORRO BAY KITE FESTIVAL... darts back onto "the beach just north of Morro Rock." There are a few activities dotting both days, but the "(h)ow many kites can we get in the sky" part arrives at 11 in the morning on Saturday. Homemade kites, rib-eating, and sandcastle building are also part of the rock-adjacent merrymaking. Oh, and as for good backdrops for your kite? Morro Rock is spectacular, as is the sky, but we'll add the ocean, too, to that list. There aren't many bad photos to take with a kite, but if you get all three of those things in the background -- sky, rock, water -- then you've got yourself a stellar snap.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Sun, Tunes, Vibes: Joshua Tree Music Festival]]> Tue, 19 Apr 2016 18:46:55 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GregPetersonLuminessencePhoto.jpg

'TIS THE SOUND-FILLED SEASON... for big desert tune to-dos, from the Coachella Music and Arts Festival to Stagecoach, which brings top country acts to Indio at the very end of April (and start of May). But if you're out enjoying the arid landscape, and you adore a large-scale -- but not too large -- lark that's all about songs plus yoga plus art-making, then best stick around, or return for, the Joshua Tree Music Festival. This is the twice-a-year festival that not only is very much about good vibes, and appreciating nature, and tunes inspired by global rhythms, and downward dogs, but it also has a distinctly family-esque feel. There are several activities for the tots in attendance, from Bubbles and Wands (cool) to Face Painting (neat) to a Kids Silent Disco Dance Party (awesome). A project involving Tie Dye Tiles, and an interactive mural, are also on the family-sweet docket. As for the concert side of the...

MAY 12 THROUGH 15 FESTIVAL? Look/listen for Desert Rhythm Project, Dhara World Music, All Good Funk Alliance, Greener Grounds, 3rd Ear Experience, and several more artists and acts. Other quintessential experiences around the sun-bright spread include the Positive Vibration Station, the Yoga & Healing area, and Astronomy Theater (the better to soak up all of that velvety night sky). The easy-breezy flow is strong with this bi-yearly party, one that's summed up nicely on the Frequently Given Answers page (which in itself is emblematic of the fest, as "answers" replaces the usual "questions"). One nice note to ponder from the page? "Dancing is not required, but virtually unavoidable." That says much about the JTMF, which marks its 14th spring outing in 2016.

Photo Credit: Greg Peterson/Luminessence Photo]]>
<![CDATA[Garlic Contest: Submit Your Top Dish]]> Fri, 22 Apr 2016 12:32:02 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/Garlic_edited-1.jpg

IT'S ALWAYS A DECISION, when peeling a head of garlic, if you'll take the time to de-paper the tiniest cloves, those little slivers that come in at about a tenth of the size of the most colossal cloves in the bunch. The smallest slivers can challenge even the deftest of peel-ready fingers, especially if the paper-like skin just won't give. But here's the truth of the matter, with any garlic-obsessed cook: The whole darn head is going to get peeled, mondo cloves and mini cloves alike. Because a garlicist would never waste a shred of hot garlicky flavor, not when there's chicken or pasta or dip to be made, and be made well. For here's the truth: These dedicated peelers of picayune cloves are some of the very people who enter their best recipes in Great Garlic Cook-Off, year after year. Is that you? Do you remove the skin from all the cloves, even the wee ones, before you cook? Then you are properly and admirably obsessed with this allium icon. Best find your favorite way to use it, and send your top-notch dish into the Gilroy Garlic Festival by...

MAY 1, 2016: That's the cut-off date for recipe consideration for the July festival. The big prize, as is tradition, is as eye-opening as biting down on a freshly peeled clove: It's five grand, as in $5,000, which'll buy wheelbarrows full of garlic (or anything else you please). The 2015 top dish was Shakshuka with Deep-Fried Garlic, by Jodi Taffel of Arizona. Mmm mmm, for sure, but don't "mmm mmm" for too long, if you want to throw your hat -- er, garlic head -- into the ring; you'll want to read the rules and perhaps eye other past winners, to get a feel for what home cooks are creating with the versatile bulb nowadays. You might even ponder doing a dessert, since garlic ice cream is one of the fest's headline treats.

NEED TO KNOW... about how the stages of the Great Garlic Cook-Off roll out, selection-wise, and how many finalists will be invited to show for the showdown on Saturday, July 30? Here's all the rule-based info (we've peeled away the papery skin so you can dig right in, right away).

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Foxtrot in an Island Landmark]]> Mon, 18 Apr 2016 22:24:17 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Casino_7020catalinachamber.jpg

IT ISN'T ALL THAT UNUSUAL... to hope for a fox sighting while on the boat over to Catalina Island. After all, the Island Fox is a beloved inhabitant of the Channel Islands, and the chance to catch a momentary glimpse of these fleet-of-foot, furry-of-coat superstars doesn't come around every day. But if you're wishing for a fox sighting, and to also perform the foxtrot, all in the course of a single weekend, ah, well then: You're obviously on your way to the Avalon Ball, one of dressiest, danciest dates on the island calendar.

IF YOU KNOW... your Avalon architecture, then you'll likely know exactly where the Avalon Ball takes place: It's the Casino Building, the 1920s-era gem that sits grandly in the Pacific, or seemingly so, depending upon where you view it from (it is indeed connected to the island itself, and isn't on another smaller isle adjacent to Catalina). The ball is heading into its 14th year, which makes it rather easy to remember its 2016 date: Saturday, May 14. Hosted by the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles, the Avalon Ball is very much about looking your flapper-esque best and shimmying to big band tunes under the vintage ballroom's Tiffany chandeliers. 

RETRO-SMOOTH PERFORMER... Dean Mora will be at the mic, along with the Avalon Ball Dance Orchestra. Evening gloves, bow ties, dramatic fringe, and Brylcreemed locks are all part of the style, which is as time-machine-y as soirees come nowadays. Lending it further mystery is the fact that you're on an island that feels away from it all, especially come nighttime when the boat lights twinkle on the water of the harbor, just outside of the ballroom. Will you foxtrot during the ball? Here's hoping. Will you see a wee fox, out in the island's interior, during a hike the following day, should you choose to stay on Catalina a bit longer? Perhaps, though you'll probably spy a buffalo or three, even if the foxes are shy. It's a spectacular trip to the past, and to an island, all at once, and those two experiences typically arrive separately. Have fun in 1929, Art Deco devotees, and give our best to the foxes, and the buffalo, oh, and those Catalina-cool flying fishies...

Photo Credit: Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce]]>
<![CDATA[Quirky Cars: Nevada City Soapbox Derby]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2016 21:24:16 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ncsdoutsideinn123.jpg

JUNE JAUNT: April may bring spring showers, and various flowers, and Tax Day, and lighter evenings, but it also brings inspiration, at least in terms of us deciding to start planning our summer season getaways. Those warm-weather getaways not only involve us traveling to the spot we want to see, but also traveling while we're there. Sometimes we plan a kayak trip, or some snowboarding, or we plot a cycling course through some picturesque countryside, but however we go, we are going, going, going.

AND WHILE OUR GETAWAYS... often involve some sort of movement once we reach our chosen destination, that movement typically doesn't involve a nailed-together car that looks like a large dog. We'll just go out on a limb with that one, assumption-wise, though if your weekend getaway plans typically involve human-powered vehicles that look like large dogs, well, due respect. That said, there are a couple of weekend getaway spots that are alllll about stupendous soapbox cars, and one of the biggest dates on the California calendar is just ahead. It's on Sunday, June 5, and...

PIONEER PARK IN NEVADA CITY... is the place, of course ("of course" because Nevada City fully embraces all things quirky). The 6th Annual Nevada City Adult Soapbox Derby will once again toodle down Nimrod Street "at speeds exceeding 40 mph," with loads of hay bales separating onlookers from the lovingly made, creatively designed vehicles. Some of the vehicles are built to go fast, and some are built to be fabulous, and both types play an important role at the yearly showdown. If you want to eye these moving artworks while they're not moving, the pit area is open to the public. As for the budget capper on these cars? Teams can spend $500 bucks, and no more, though the braking budget is separate (gravity and soapbox racing go hand-in-hand, so braking is given a lot of love, natch).

THE DAY IS A TRIBUTE... to old-school, hands-on construction, with a deep streak of whimsy through the middle, making it both about engineering and art. That whimsy, of course, is not only seen in the cars ready to race but in the town at large, which busily marks the merry day with other lively events. No need to stow your bike or boat, either, while you're there; there are places around Northern Gold Country to enjoy both. But if you're in the heart of Nevada City on the first Sunday in June, the moving vehicles are all about those quaint 'n quirky soapbox cars, be they speed machines or cars built to look like large dogs.

Photo Credit: Outside Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Sailing Woofers Help Home-Needing Pets]]> Wed, 27 Apr 2016 12:43:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/couplepetdayhb1.jpg

SALTY AIR, SALTY DOGS: No pet person needs to be informed that canines are all about a warm and sunny day, the kind of day best spent catching some rays. If you've loved a dog, you likely know the experience of coaxing them off the patio, or in from the yard, or into the car after an hour at the dog park. Flatly put, they're not so keen to return to normal life. They want to stretch out on the grass for a bit longer, or the tile, soaking up the warmth. You can treat them, though, to such an sunshiny experience, one that has sunshine in its very heart. It's Pet Day on the Bay, the annual enjoy-a-boat fundraiser from the Helen Woodward Animal Center of Rancho Santa Fe. The 16th outing is on Saturday, April 30, and pups and their people are invited to book a spot on a Hornblower Pet Day cruise, all to help the many need-a-forever-home hounds cared for by the center. 

THERE ARE THREE TIMES... to choose from -- 9:30 a.m. if your pooch is a morning dog, 11:15 for the midday crowd, and 1 o'clock to round it out -- and an adult ticket is twenty four dollars. Can your pup accompany you with that ticket? Indeed; each adult ticket includes a gratis dog admission, too. Will your lil' pumpkin need to remain on her or his leash? Definitely. Can you bring a "gently used blanket or towel" for donation? That would be most appreciated. Can you gussy up your tail-wagger in a sea-sweet theme? Say a mermaid or something "Gilligan's Island"-esque? Many past participants of the event have gone the thematic dress-up route, so go for it if the notion tickles you. How often do dog costume to-dos come with a single theme? So often there's an "anything goes" feel to the festival, but you'll want to find inspiration from marine life or aquatic adventures. Reservations? You'll want to make them. Telling your pup that she can soak up all the sunshine He likes over a one-hour tour of the bay, plus all of those pleasant salty breezes? He'll be as happy as when she hears you open a new bag of treats.

Photo Credit: Hornblower]]>
<![CDATA[Vintage Flair: Dapper Day at Disneyland]]> Tue, 26 Apr 2016 12:16:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/StephenieDapperDay2014nbc.jpg

SUSPENDERS, CORSAGE, BOATER, GO: It's not a secret that a particular desert-beautiful California destination is experiencing quite the fashionable happening over the second half of April 2016. No hints required: It's the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which has become the sunshiny spot to rock your trendiest togs, whether those togs involve denim, a sundress, a bathing suit, or all of the above. But the Fashion Time Machine -- that's probably really a thing, since fashion has a remarkable way of zipping around the decades with apparent ease -- will leave the future, and the clothing of tomorrow, and head back to the past, and only days after the mondo festival in Indio wraps for another year. The time machine will land next in Anaheim, a couple of hours to the west of the desert, and the era this time around? It won't be contemporary styles, for the most part, but rather the vintage looks of yore. It's Dapper Day at the Parks, the twice-a-year strut-and-socialize gathering that takes Anaheim, and Disneyland Resort, by sartorial storm. The spring outing is just ahead, on...

SUNDAY, MAY 1, and while '50s-era looks do tend to dominate, any stylish ensemble is welcome, whether it reaches 80 years into the past or it reaches to the 1980s. Small details, interesting accessories, lively hairdos, and other touches regularly complement what attendees wear. This isn't a Disneyland-organized event -- it is private -- and admission to the park will be required. A two-day expo will take place at the Disneyland Hotel Exhibit Hall, on April 30 and May 1, and a launch party is set for Friday, April 29 at The Jazz Kitchen. Dapper Day has been around for five years now, with a 2011 start, which means that thousands of retro-dressy fans make the journey to The Happiest Place on Earth for the photo-ready gathering. Pin your corsage on your lapel, or place your boater upon your noggin, and prepare for one of the longest runways around. Dapper Day, after all, is for people to admire your vintage get-up, and for you to do the same as park goers swan past you, delightfully, while rocking their Sunday best.

Photo Credit: DapperDay.com]]>
<![CDATA[A 'Happy Birthday' Fit for Our Parks]]> Sat, 16 Apr 2016 07:46:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/nps100th1234567.jpg

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOUUUUU: If you were to warble "Happy Birthday" to someone while the two of you both happened to be inside a national park, how would go about singing it? It depends, really, if you're both on a deserted beach (you'd croon a bit loudly, we imagine, to match the crash of the waves) or inside the dining room of a venerable old lodge (you'd sing very quietly, we'd surmise, in order not to disturb the other diners' meals). But it turns out that a big ol' "Happy Birthday" sung in the esteemed direction of the National Park Service, on the occasion of its centennial, involves a bit more than modulating the volume of one's voice or the lyrics the singer chooses to emphasize. 

A CHARMING NEW VERSION... was just released by the National Park Foundation, the official charity to our park system. This isn't the traditional "Happy Birthday" you heard the last time you were in a restaurant; rather the melody is made up of various natural or park-found sounds, from a ranger's easy whistling to the toot of a train. A bee's buzz, a frog's croak, the unzipping of a tent, a whale call, and other nature-based tones and hums fill out the song's festive edges.

CENTENNIAL EVENTS... are happening throughout 2016, but let's tip our hat to National Park Week, which runs from April 16 through 24. One sweet bonus? Entry to all parks is free.

Photo Credit: National Park Foundation]]>
<![CDATA[Lucero Luscious: Olive Bloom Tour]]> Fri, 15 Apr 2016 12:22:07 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/216*120/luceroolivesfb.jpg

THE BLOOMS OF A FRUIT TREE... can be so delicate, and so pinky, or so creamy, that one almost has to pull the car over, or throw down the kickstand, in order to fully admire the fleeting sight. It doesn't last forever, of course, and those wee, soft-to-the-touch buds can be gone with a strong wind or heavy rainstorm, depending upon the tree. It's one of the season's best, and briefest, shows, but the headlines don't solely belong to cherry or orange trees, two specimens that put on an especially fragrant, fantastic show. A smaller fruit, one that doesn't often appear in the kitchen counter fruit bowl -- if ever -- also has its annual bloom, and strolling an orchard to appreciate its beauty is an April tradition, if you're up around Corning. The location should say all, which is this: It is olives we speak about, a fruit that is currently experiencing its yearly buds-up-in-the-branches show. Want to see some of that splendor before time marches on? The Lucero Olive Oil, which has a tasting room in Corning, is leading a couple of tours deep among its trees, in order for olive aficionados to better understand "the olive bloom, agricultural practices, and growing and harvesting quality olives while keeping orchards sustainable..." The two 2016 tours are on...

APRIL 16 AND 23... and tickets are twenty five bucks a pop for the first date, and $45 for April 23 (which includes a box lunch, which may be enjoyed next to the property's pond). That includes "snacks and food pairings" as well as a tasting -- it is gratis -- back at the store. Also part of the deal? A voucher, worth a fiver, to spend on one of Lucero's famous flavored oils -- mmm, lemon -- or another olive-yummy product. If you've ever toodled through Corning, up or down the 5, and detected its awesome olive-forward character, a stroll through some spring blooms, plus a tasting, could put you closer to what that's all about. And if the olive is your go-to fruit -- even if it never makes the kitchen fruit bowl -- getting some back story is essential.

Photo Credit: Lucero Olive Oil]]>
<![CDATA[Summer Suds: California Beer Festival]]> Tue, 26 Apr 2016 12:15:50 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/CaliforniaBeerFestival2010.jpg

THE VERY FIRST THING... to do, when you hear the large-scale California Beer Festival is gearing up for another summer season of visiting various Golden State towns with a whole caboodle of craft brewers in tow, is to find your stay for the night. That seems pretty straightforward, or, in lieu of finding a soft bed in the near vicinity, asking a bud to serve as a designated driver. Once those important tasks are done, you can get down to reviewing the wheres and the whos and the whats, as far as what top-notch brewhouses will be making the flavorful scene.

AS IS TRADITION, the festival will visit Marin County first in 2016, making a stop in Novato over the first weekend of June. Santa Cruz will follow, though not immediately -- Aug. 12 through 14 are the dates -- and San Dimas and Ventura are the September destinations. True, the organization behind the fest has expanded into the BBQ & Beer and Tequila & Taco realms, and those, too, have become well-known culinary gatherings. But the quartet of destinations has remained consistent for the CBF over the last several years, as have the fans in attendance, hundreds of brew buffs who line up their stays well in advance.

STAFFORD LAKE PARK... is the setting for the two-dayer in Novato, a happening which will give suds aficionados a chance to sample from the 85-plus craft brewers in attendance. There shall be food for purchase, and live tunes, and the second day -- "Sunday Funday" -- is new for the location in 2016. Just note that the beer sampling is solely a Saturday thing, though beer, along with the vittles, may be purchased on day #2. Ready to find your hotel and make your summer plans? If you can't do a brewery jaunt around California, this fest is a fine way to get acquainted with what our foam-focused masters are up to these days. Tickets, info, and more...

Photo Credit: California Beer Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Magical Mystery Tours Along the Wine Road]]> Sun, 24 Apr 2016 08:23:22 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/2010_Jordan_Vineyards_Fall_HR.jpg

FESTOONING A 40TH ANNIVERSARY... in all the ways it rightly should be festooned requires some thinking, some planning, and a few great events that make participants feel as something special is afoot. That's just what the Wine Road in Northern Sonoma County is doing throughout 2016, with a host of happenings. Many of those happenings involve the number 40 in some way, like The Art of Oak, which features 40 used barrels that have been transformed into something zingy, zazzy, and very art-lovely (transformed, of course, by 40 artists). There's also the Get in the Picture contest, which is on through the first of July. Look for selfie frames at 40 locations -- all Wine Road members -- and then snap away (and add to social media, too, for possible "prizes, tickets, and swag"). And as for the Ruby Affair Charity Auction, which will mark the big year in grand, giveback style? That's on Saturday, May 14, so find your fanciest frippery for a wine-themed night. Or just stay tuned for June 18, which is when the...

MAGICAL MYSTERY TOURS... will take to the Northern Sonoma County roads. If you sign up for the adventure, you will not, repeat not know all the places you and the luxury bus you're on are heading. You can know there shall be five wineries involved, with food and wine pairings at each, plus a goodie bag, plus "an entertaining tour captain" sweeping the whole thing along in wine-informative fashion. The cost? It's $100 a ticket, and that includes all of the to-dos just listed. One extra bonus of not knowing where you're headed, winery-wise, is you just may land at a new place, which can be a bit of a challenge for those wine country daytrippers who return, again and again, to their go-to vineyards. You can narrow it down, a bit, by deciding upon your chosen area: Dry Creek Valley, Anderson Valley, and other fertile nooks of NoSoCo are possibilities.

HOW WILL YOU... help the grape-glorious region mark its 40th? All of the various soirees are listed here.

Photo Credit: Jordon Vineyards]]>
<![CDATA[Sierra Summit: Pink Moon Party]]> Tue, 19 Apr 2016 06:52:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/pink-moon_headersierra.jpg

FULL MOONS... boast delightful names throughout the year, but one of the most floral, and liltiest, of all the monikers, has to be the one that arrives in April. That's the Pink Moon, a poetic handle that summons both music (Nick Drake's beloved "Pink Moon") and images of the flowering world below. The moon, of course, doesn't go a deep mauve come the fourth month of the year, but it does herald what's happening on our own planet, as in the arrival of the rosy-hued phlox. There are ways to mark this moon-marvelous moment -- sipping colorful tea, eating only pink foods, donning some chromatically appropriate clothing, or simply walking outside on the right night to admire it. Or, of course, you can go up a mountain, a very big mountain, in the Sierra Nevada, with the aim of joining a light-of-heart, get-closer-to-the-moon springtime soiree. Yes, we are talking about...

MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN, which has gained something of a reputation for sending its famous Panorama Gondola up, up, up to one of the Sierra's tippy-toppiest points for various evening parties. This one unfurls on Saturday, April 23 -- that's Pink Moon time, natch -- and best know it'll still be quite cold on the peak, which tops out at over 11,000 feet. And the Ezakimak Challenge's finish is part of the fun, so cheer on the competitors as you enjoy tunes spun by DJ Science, "a glow walk out at Dave's Run and Lake Basin Overlook," bites for sale, sips for sale, and stuff for the kids to take part in, too. Oh yes, and the shiny centerpiece to it all? The Pink Moonrise, as viewed from on top of the world (or at least nearly on top of California, with all due respect to the king of the hills, Mt. Whitney). It's a mountain party with a challenge-fun, moon-pretty theme, and music and eats to boot. Just don't forget your own boots, with the snow and all. The phlox may be blooming here and there, but high in the Sierra flakes are still keeping temps on the bundle-up side.

Photo Credit: Mammoth Mountain]]>
<![CDATA[Sequoia Parks Conservancy Challenge]]> Tue, 19 Apr 2016 23:04:42 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Sequoia-Park-1175929.jpg

WILDERNESS CHALLENGE: If you've been pondering membership with the Sequoia Parks Conservancy, thanks in large part to the amount of time you spend up among the big trees, this could possibly be the best moment ever to take the leap. The organization has just released its Summer Member Challenge 2016 list, a roster that covers a bevy of check-'em-off activities to engage in over the months ahead. Some involve social media -- "Share your favorite trail memory with us on Facebook" is number 19 -- while others are of a more personal, commune-with-nature nature. "Walk to Sunset Rock and watch a sunset" is a much-loved park must-do, while "(t)ake a photo with the General Sherman tree" is something just about every visitor does (whether they get alllll of the enormous specimen in the frame is another matter). Various landmarks, hikes, and programs are included on the roster, which encompasses 30 suggestions in all.

BUT HERE'S SOMETHING TO CONSIDER, if there's just no way, time- or life- or interest-wise, you can get to all 30 by Sept. 1, 2016, which is the deadline to submit your completed challenges: You don't need to do them all. There are prizes for topping out at twenty, or even ten, so you could absolutely cover that many over a long weekend (or a blissful week among the giants, if you're so lucky). There is one grand prize to claim, but ponder this: Haven't you already won if you've spent a summery afternoon at Zumwalt Meadow or Little Baldy or along Congress Trail? The answer is "heck yeah," for even one or two checked-off activities mean that you've spent some quality time in one of California's most superb stretches of tree-packed splendor. To join the conservancy, give those sequoias all the love they deserve, and jump into the 2016 challenge, turn your binocs in this direction.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Wineries Celebrate Down to Earth Month]]> Fri, 15 Apr 2016 15:19:17 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/pasodowntoearthEarthDayFoodWine.jpg

COAXING ANYONE OUTSIDE IN APRIL... is a pretty simple thing to do, what with the month's famously billowy clouds and its flowery shrubs and its soft sunshine and all of its poetic pleasures (pleasures detailed, at length, in pretty much any book with the word "odes" on the cover). Thus asking a pal to accompany you to a vineyard come the fourth month of the year seems an easy errand, as these things go, especially if a wine tasting is on the other side. Add to this, however, that April is Earth Month, and many a California winery marks the important occasion via tours, special events, and such, and you've got an outdoorsy outing that's connected to a deeper conscientiousness (read: creating vino in a sustainable, sensible way). Where to start, however, on your April-awesome, wine-themed, Earth Month path? That depends on where you are, of course, and what region of wineries you'd like to explore. And, of course, whether you want to take on "hands-on workshops, eco-tours, green-themed events, special offers, and tastings of eco-friendly wines." Places like...

ALPHA OMEGA... in St. Helena are offering visitors who "arrive in a hybrid or electric vehicle" a complimentary tasting for two (the offer is good through the end of April). A Bring Your Own Bottle day at Page Mill Winery in Livermore encourages recycling -- just make sure you clean them well, ahead of time, with these specifications -- while Napa marks Earth Day on April 23 with a food- and exhibit-packed to-do at the Oxbow Commons. There are a cornucopia of doings all month long, depending upon where you land, from Temecula to Templeton, where an Earth Day Food & Wine Festival on April 23 as Castoro Cellars will spotlight SIP sustainable libations. Eager for the full bouquet of Earth Month go-outs? The planet-minded party begins here.

Photo Credit: Earth Day Food & Wine]]>
<![CDATA[Opening: Housekeeping Camp]]> Fri, 15 Apr 2016 07:39:14 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/housekeepingcampopens2016.jpg

LOVING NATURE... means loving all of the timely, not-so-coincidental coincidences that pop up, seemingly at random. Take Yosemite National Park, a place where several Really Good Things -- capitalization required -- all dovetail right around April. There's the seasonal start of the open-air Valley Floor Tours, those informative, gaze-up-at-El-Capitan gadabouts that are full of awesome, ranger-delivered factoids about the famous park. There's National Park Week, a celebration of our nature-amazing system of parks that falls right around the middle of April (and gives every visitor free access to their favorite park for several days in a row). And as for those springtime waterfalls? They push it into high gear come April, thanks to all of that drippy/melty winter snowpack (a snowpack that's "heavy" thanks to all of those 2015-2016 mountain storms). It's the ideal time for another Yosemite favorite to say its hello, which is exactly what Housekeeping Camp shall do on Friday, April 15. As of that day the...

RUSTIC STAY-OVER... is open for the season, but to call it "rustic" doesn't tell the whole story. The middle-of-the-Valley, Merced River-close locale is described on the Yosemite online HQ as "perfect for those who love camping outdoors but without the hassle of setting up a tent." Does this mean your space is enclosed? Well, yes, the "three-sided concrete structures" are not a traditional tent, but a roof made of canvas lends the camp's sleep spots the aforementioned rustic feel. As for the closing date? That's the third day of October, with a big ol' "weather permitting" asterisk to consider. As for cost? That starts at $68 a night. Want to get an eyeful of those famous springtime gushers pouring over the sides of the valley? Best look into booking soon.

Photo Credit: Housekeeping Camp]]>
<![CDATA[Mmm: Hello, Free Cone Day]]> Mon, 11 Apr 2016 17:08:06 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/227*120/coneday.JPG

SPRINGTIME IS FULL OF FREE THINGS, from those sudden breezes that seem redolent of peach to the admiring of cherry blossoms to the enjoyment of a surprise shower, the kind that only barely gets your hair damp (but makes all of the blooming tree branches sparkle). There's another free thing on the spring calendar, but it doesn't involve something outdoors, though eating it outdoors is perfectly acceptable and even recommended. It's ice cream, we speak of, but not any ol' ice cream. Ben & Jerry's, the longtime Vermont desserterie, the famed house behind Chunky Monkey and Phish Food, has given away free cones of goodness on a particular day of the year since 1979, first in its home state and then practically everywhere else. "Everywhere else" absolutely includes California, so prepare yourself, cone-craving people of Oakland and San Jose and San Francisco and points beyond: Tuesday, April 12 is Free Cone Day.

FREE CONE DAY... does, as you might suspect, involve you enjoying a free ice cream cone, but there is the matter of joining the queue inside -- or outside -- a participating Ben & Jerry shop. The lines can be rather lengthy, but if you find yourself on the other side of the door -- on the other side of where the ice cream is, rather -- best enjoy those free spring things, like breezes and blossoms. There are no strings to this long-running deal, but if you want a second scoop, you'll need to hop back in line. As for the flavors? Cherry Garcia, Americone Dream, and all of the chocolate-y standards are ice cream case classics at the funky-flavor company. The time? Be there from noon to 8 o'clock in the evening. Will you go with your tried-and-true vanilla-focused flavor or something a tad zany? We vote the latter; after all, if you're not paying for it, why not branch out? It's just a cone, after all, hand-hold-able and gone in fifty licks or so. Dare to dream of a different dessert, no cash required.

Photo Credit: Free Cone Day]]>
<![CDATA[Shingletown Sweetness: Horsey Haps]]> Mon, 11 Apr 2016 14:59:17 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/240*120/horsesshingletown.jpg

PRETTY PRETTY PONIES: While the Wild Horse Sanctuary near Shingletown has become well-known (and well-regarded) for its efforts to "protect and preserve America's wild horses as a living national treasure...," it also serves as a spot where pony people can find, and adopt, their new best buddy. Such an occasion is coming up on Saturday, April 16, when "(a)pproximately 25 yearlings and 2 mustangs, in a rainbow of colors," become available for adoption. The sanctuary asks that potential new families for the horses meet a number of qualifications, so if you've been pondering welcoming a wild horse onto your farm or ranch, this might be where you'll meet him. For all the info on the auction, how to adopt, and such, start here.

TRAILS AHOY: Of course, there are other ways to commune with the beautiful wild horses and burros who call the 5,000-acre preserve home. The annual open house in the summertime -- the 2016 date is Aug. 20 -- gives visitors a chance to admire some wild horses, as well as enjoy live tunes, chat with an equine vet, and watch stock dog demos. You can also stop by any Wednesday or Saturday for "wild horse viewing," which gives a sense about what the sanctuary does. And the always popular Trail Rides, a spring and summer feature on the Wild Horse Sanctuary calendar, are revving up on April 23 and 24 with a wildflower-focused trot along the trails. An upcoming Work Ride, where guests will help out with range projects and such, is in May, and the classic 2- or 3-day Trail Rides dot the warm-weather roster. Ready to see some wild horses in the wide openness, and to help support the organization's vital mission? Saddle up and hoof it this way for more info.

Photo Credit: Wild Horse Sanctuary]]>
<![CDATA[Asparagus Ice Cream in Stockton]]> Mon, 11 Apr 2016 18:01:14 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/215*120/asparagusgeneric12345.jpg

THE MARCH OF THE VEGE FESTS: Springtime is definitely about those sweet, oh-so-moist breezes, and tiny pink flowers popping up on things you had no idea even produced flowers, much less tiny and pink, and all of those coo-able baby animals, too. But for Californians who are obsessed with the produce section of their grocery store, the arrival of the equinox means that all of those yummy vegetable and fruit festivals around the state are going to rev up in high 'n healthy gear. Like wine parties in the fall, and rich dessert-y doings around the holidays, the leafy icons of the farmers market hold sway come April and May. And, yes, right into July, when that delicious doyen of Golden State festivals makes its Gilroy stand (hint: It's garlic). If you're a greenist, and all about springtime suppers based around what's growing well, then you're likely more than a little enamored with asparagus. Perhaps you even chew upon the woodsier tougher ends? They can take their knocks, on the gnawability scale, but even asparagus ends, too, have their devoted fans. Whether you like the tree-like tippy tops, or the soft, dip-it-in-butter middle, the asparagus is the spotlight food each April in Stockton at the...

SAN JOAQUIN ASPARAGUS FESTIVAL: The three-day party -- the 2016 dates are April 15, 16, and 17 -- has a ride-filled, carnival-y atmosphere, but the midway's brightness only accentuates the array of asparagus-themed eats to be found around the grounds. While you may generally eat your spears speckled in almonds, or dipped in mayo, prepare for a rainbow of different, delectable choices. Asparagus ice cream? Yep, that's famously one item that's for sale, and yay to that: California's vege fests are known for serving up sweets based on the star vegetable (see: garlic ice cream in Gilroy). But there are savory spear-centered choices, too, like deep-fried asparagus, asparagus corn dogs, asparagus nachos, bacon-wrapped asparagus, and a host of burritos with some aparagus goodness hidden within. Chef demos lend more piquancy to the plate party, if you're looking to burnish those kitchen skills (or simply wile away part of an hour, happily, while munching on asparagus chili cheese fries). Are you a vege buff? Are you happy spring is here, with its veritable cornucopia of produce-themed parties around the state? Then raise your spear high and wave it, before dipping it in the sauce of your choice and munching away.

Photo Credit: Asparagus]]>
<![CDATA[Trees of Mystery: Find Your Trail]]> Sat, 23 Apr 2016 06:36:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/treesofmysteryelephanttree.jpg

WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, PAUL AND BABE: When you hear of the Trees of Mystery, the retro-sweet, history-filled, redwoods-amazing attraction of Klamath, California, you're apt to first hear tales of the gigantic figures who hold famous sway over the parking area. We speak of Paul Bunyon and his faithful sidekick Babe the Blue Ox, an over-sized duo that have served as icons of the roadside destination for decades. They're eye-catching, is why, but Paul also chats up arriving visitors, in real time, commenting on a person's hat or the current weather conditions, just so you know that the whole thing is live and not on a playback machine hidden deep in the nearby gift shop. The duo is so well-known that a host of hosts have come to pay their respects, including the beloved Huell Howser of public television and Ira Glass of "This American Life." But while it is almost impossible to not talk about Paul and Babe after a day spent at the Northern California landmark, with mention also made of the treetop-besting trams of the Skytrail, there is a quieter force to be found within: the trails. These are the tried-and-true paths of the Trees of Mystery, the routes that people have walked for well over a half century, walked in both quiet contemplation and gentle amusement. The amusement stems from some of the names given to the unusual trees, and the fact that the Elephant Tree really does seem to have an impressive, pachyderm-style trunk. It's worth remembering, as the end of the school year draws near, with all of the busy hubbub that this time brings, that there is a family-cool spot that has a peaceful heart just made for powering down (and tuning into nature). Want to find your way through these ancient trees and into a more silent space? Then pick a trail, any trail, like...

THE KINGDOM OF TREES TRAIL, "which is dedicated to the majesty of nature and the natural resiliency of the Redwood and other tree species." Lots of lore-filled specimens can be found along this path, including the multi-tree wonder known as the Cathedral Tree. Octopus-armed trees, and the Candelabra Tree, are all astounding, but even the redwoods without names are what could accurately be described as "sci-fi big." (Though this is not science fiction, of course, what you're seeing, but actual science). A bit further on is the Forest Experience Trail, with the Brotherhood Tree, and a massive tree struck by lightning in the '90s. If you're looking for "an actual hike" and not a more leisurely ramble, work the Wilderness Trail into your visit. And, of course, the Skytrail is a trail, by name, but it is not on terra firma (look up and find it). It's not hard to believe the Trees of Mystery will mark its centennial in just a decade and a half, as there's still an air of yesteryear about it, in the sweetest, slow-down-and-look-around sense. And, of course, if you really want to talk about an air of yesteryear, ponder the age of the redwoods, which have seen a summer season or two (or two thousand). Is your summer road trip just ahead? Find a quiet moment off the road, on one of the trails of the Trees of Mystery.

Photo Credit: Alysia Gray Painter]]>
<![CDATA[New Location: Sunset Celebration Weekend]]> Sat, 16 Apr 2016 07:09:40 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/wine-seminars-sunset123.jpg

A TRADITION WITH A TWIST: Sunset, the venerable and vivacious magazine that's loved upon stylish Western living for over a century, has long been known for embracing the new. That can involve a new way of displaying your favorite succulents, or a different method for grilling artichokes, or perhaps an innovative approach to campfire s'mores, the kind made with a few tony ingredients like local honey or homemade graham crackers. The next new step the publication is about to take will happen during its annual Sunset Celebration Weekend, but that step doesn't involve a futuristic-modern patio chair or gourmet kitchen layout; rather, the two-day happening will be in a new location. This is due to Sunset's semi-recent move from its longtime Menlo Park home, yes, but don't look for mid-May party to happen at its Oakland headquarters. Instead prepare to make for Sonoma, and wine country, where the magazine's second outpost is located. That's where the large test gardens are, and the creatively designed outdoor spaces that have become part of the magazine's identity. Ready to join "editors, celebrity chefs, vintners, craft beer brewers, and renowned lifestyle experts..." on May 14 and May 15? Then pack your sunhat, your walking shoes, and your sense of lifestyle-enhancing adventurism and make for...

CORNERSTONE: That's where Ludo Lefebvre, Tanya Holland, Andy Ricker, and a host of in-the-know gourmands and brewers and horticulturists will be to chat with the magazine's many fans, demo tasty/pretty techniques, and lend the inspiration that's found within Sunset's pages each month. Other highlights to be found around the cover-worthy nine-acre property include an Airstream village, the Backyard Orchard, the Flower Room, and the dream-making Outdoor Kitchen, which shall serve as the center of much of the meal-based demo-cool hubbub. Will you find fresh ways to cedar-plank-up your salmon? Or to coax your peonies to new heights? Is this the year you finally plant that tangelo tree? So much newness awaits at this century-plus publication's springtime jamboree including, for many attendees, a look at the new Sonoma wine country digs.

Photo Credit: Kimberley Navabpour]]>
<![CDATA[Giant Bike Expo: Sea Otter Classic]]> Wed, 13 Apr 2016 20:43:45 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/SOC_2015_Sea_Otter_Classic_Day_1_539.jpg

EVEN IF... your favorite two-wheeler has taken on a few webs over the wintertime, and some boxes of holiday decorations got placed in front of it, effectively hiding it for a handful of months, you know this much: Springtime changes everything. We only need glance around us, at the flowering world, and we only need explore our own awakening sensations, sensations that tell us to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. It's lucky, then, that "North America's Largest Bike Expo" is just on the horizon, further inspiring us to pull our cycle out of the corner of the garage and get pedaling. There'll be plenty of pedaling in and around Monterey from Thursday, April 14 through Sunday, April 17 when the Subaru Sea Otter Classic unfurls with a multitude of events for the tens of thousands of bike buffs who show up.

THOSE HUGE HAPPENINGS INCLUDE... the 2016 Gran Fondo, which boasts not one but two rides, a shorter (at 51 miles) wend near the coast and one that's closer to a century (hello, 92 miles) into hillsome Carmel Valley. There's also a mountain-oriented Gran Fondo that pays a visit to Ford Ord National Monument. The Sea Otter isn't solely about rides of notable distance, however; there are kid-focused fun times, with a Bike Play Zone (complete with obstacles) and a mountain bike day camp for girls ages 8 to 13. 

AND AS FOR THAT HUGE EXPO? Count 'em up: Over 400 exhibitors will spread out with all sorts of cycling goods, info, products, and such. Will this inspire you to blow the webs off your wheels? Take it for a first spring spin? Or have you been keeping to your ride schedule all winter long? Either way, the famous Sea Otter, one of the biggest of the big bike bashes, can stretch your legs (and inspiration).

Photo Credit: Alex Strickland]]>
<![CDATA[Arrive by Bark -- er, Bike -- at SB Earth Day]]> Thu, 07 Apr 2016 21:10:21 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/215*120/earthdaysbpuppy.jpg

MAKING A MEMORABLE ENTRANCE: When we ponder how best to make a splashy, noteworthy, event-specific entrance, it is wise for us to first consider the nature of the soiree. Is it the Oscars? We might want to don a shiny gown and look for the start of the red carpet. Is it a wedding and we're a wee bit late? We'll want to gussy up, then hush up as we quietly slip in the back and find our seat. Is the to-do one of the titans of Earth Day, the biggest of the biggest of the bashes when it comes to celebrating our home planet? There are a few ways to go, but one of the most enduring, and most lauded, is arriving by bicycle. Santa Barbara's roots are very much tendril'd around the April occasion, due in part to an oil spill at the close of the 1960s, which inspired many to take action on behalf of our planet and its vital interests. Thus the city has become one of the centers for honoring the day, in many ways, and its long-running festival, a two-day affair, is the center of the center. The 2016 dates are...

SATURDAY, APRIL 16 AND SUNDAY, APRIL 17, and Alameda Park will once again be the heart of the recycling, energy-saving fun times. If you arrive by bike on either day -- or on foot, or by Pogo Stick, or on a skateboard -- you can enter a contest that includes a trip aboard the Amtrak Coast Starlight alllll the way up to Portland or Seattle, and back, in no less than your own private "roomette." Are meals gratis, too, on the train? You bet. The deal with the contest, which is hosted by the Santa Barbara Car Free Project, is you'll need to arrive at the fest in a not-car, so if that is on a bike, a unicycle, or by jogging in, well, that's a-okay. Just be sure to enter while there. There are other goodies, too, to win via your non-car arrival, including Amtrak Surfliner tickets, Santa Barbara Trolley Company tour passes, or a tour of Butterfly Beach, for two, via Segways. To eye all, and plot your grand, auto-less entrance to one of the majorest of the Earth Day festivals, pop a wheelie over here. 

Photo Credit: Santa Barbara Earth Day]]>
<![CDATA[Ojai Icon: It's Pixie Month]]> Thu, 14 Apr 2016 16:19:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/pixiesmoira-tarmy-04+%282%29.jpg

STEP INTO ANY GROVE... in or around Ojai come the start of April and what you're sniffing is no April Fools' Day joke: The air is fragrant with blossoms, the kind that are symbolic, scent-wise, of the arts-and-nature enclave. Of course, other Golden State burgs can lay rightful claim to that same scent, seeing as how citrus-y spreads pop up all around California come the spring, but Ojai's singular association with the Pixie makes it a forerunner in the fragrant department. So much so that the Ventura County village pauses during the fourth month of the year to pay tribute to its tasty, sunshine-flavored, easily peelable symbol through a host of tangerine-tangy to-dos and deals. Are you proudly obsessed with tangerine juice, tangerine sweets, tangerine savory sauces, tangerine everything? And do you dig small, walkable towns with a strong gallery/winery vibe? Then you're probably already ensconced in Ojai, sipping something sweet, and enjoying all of the pleasures of a fruit-forward April celebration. Best put your citrus-peeling hands on deals like...

A PIXIE PASS, which gives the buyer a cool 20% off a pair of Ojai Music Concerts concerts when bought online with a special code. There are other happenings, like Pixie picking at Friends Ranch, a mixology demonstration (featuring Pixies, natch) at Azu, Cloud Climbers Jeep Tours that go above Ojai to admire the many groves in the area, and a Pixie Open House at Enhanced Day Spa (yep, Pixies play a part in some of the mini treatments). Cooking glasses, Pixie-perfect desserts, Pixie syrup, and Pixie mimosas -- hello there -- are also on the local-lovely menu. 

OF COURSE, you can't get far from the Pixie, regardless of the time of year, if you're calling upon Ojai. But April is the tangerine's moment on the throne, its star occasion, and lovers of the pocket-sized citrus go all out in admiring one of the Golden State's most celebrated sectional foodstuffs. Which inspires this question: Do you eat your Pixies by neat sections, juicy quarters, or mouth-messy-ing halves? (There's no wrong answer.)

Photo Credit: Moira Tarmy]]>
<![CDATA[Inflatable Adventure at Newport Dunes]]> Wed, 06 Apr 2016 21:15:31 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/newportdunessummer2016.jpg

SPRING BREAK... is flowering across much of Southern California, and as families hit the road to see the sequoias, or the beach, or an amusement park, or all of the above, conversation naturally turns to the approach of summertime. It's a matter that's frequently raised by the person having the most fun in the group, though that can be hard to quantify, of course. But when you're out living it up over the spring holidays, you pretty much want the fun to continue, or at least be within sight. Best keep your sights on this, then, enjoyers of sunshiny good times and happy high jinks: The famous Moe B. Dunes Aquatic Park will open at Newport Dunes over Memorial Day Weekend. If the word "inflatables" just popped into your noggin, well, invite it to get cozy and stay, for this is the destination with all of those large-scale bouncy-house-y type diversions, the ones that sit just a bit off-shore. It's a fresh way to approach an inflatable slide or climb, knowing that, just below and very nearby, sits a whole bunch of Pacific-style H20.

BUT THE INFLATABLES... are only part of the party at this summertime favorite. Movies-on-the-Beach are returning, too, and that same weekend, so after you play all day on the "water playground," you can wrap yourself in your favorite cozy beach blanket and catch a flick from a spot on the sand. Both the aquatic inflatable action and the beach-bound films will run throughout the summer season, from Memorial Day Weekend through to Labor Day, so do note that. And note that Moe B.'s Radiant Ride is a fresh addition for 2016, if you dig "nighttime water-oriented fun and games" (it's a Friday and Saturday night event). 

THE FOURTH OF JULY FIREWORKS... will once again be a sparkly centerpiece at the spot, and those classic pedal boats and kayaks that are seen around the water near the 100-acre resort. It's all pretty darn postcard-y, but it isn't faraway, time-wise, if you're already missing spring break (before it is even over). Details? Don your vest and paddle over here. 

Photo Credit: Newport Dunes]]>
<![CDATA[Earth Day with Your Pup (and Wine)]]> Wed, 06 Apr 2016 10:59:26 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/saracinaearthdoghike12345.jpg

CAN I GO? We live in a world where our wagger is welcome most anywhere. If we want to get a cup of coffee down the street, there's likely a little table out front, or a bench in the garden, where our Pomeranian or Pug can join us. Should we want to fly, we can, and our canine can make the journey, too. And "dog days" at several Major League Baseball stadiums are now some of the most popular events on the stadium calendar, which makes sense, given that just about everybody loves to dress their Lassie up in the team's togs. But where we don't see dogs as much are wineries, save, of course, the dogs who call the winery home already. Getting the rare chance to stroll about the grounds with our four-footed, tail-rocking bestie is the rarest of chances, then, but one that comes around each Earth Day -- or close to Earth Day -- in Hopland. That's when Saracina Vineyards welcomes guests of the human and not-human variety, all for a day of vino enjoyment, sunshine pleasures, and fresh-air fun. It's Saracina's Earth Week Dog Hike, and it romps back into the hilly-lovely spread on Saturday, April 23.

TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE... for the picnic and stroll, which will ramble around the 600-acre Saracina Ranch (though not over every acre, of course, but count on some very picturesque countryside during the four-miler). A wine country picnic lunch, complete with a wine tasting, will happen adjacent to the property's wine caves. And will there be H2O for the hounds, and tasty tidbits, too? Please; most pooch-minded people want to make sure their furry ones are feeling full, and hydrated, and happy, before they get to their own meals and needs. Orphan Dog, a regional dog rescue, is the day's beneficiary, so part of your ticket will go to helping other sweetums in need.

COST? It's thirty five dollars. Definitely get this one in advance, if you plan on heading up with your pup.

Photo Credit: Saracina]]>
<![CDATA[Nature by Night: Dark Sky Week]]> Thu, 07 Apr 2016 13:01:34 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/darkskiesGettyImages-483818682.jpg

STAR SHINE, STAR SPLENDOR: While Earth Hour typically arrives at the end of March, and close to the beginning of Daylight Saving Time, and the national park celebrations of the nighttime sky fall around the summer, there is an April span to keep on the annual calendar: International Dark Sky Week. It's on through Sunday, April 10, and it serves as a starry reminder that half of our day -- or half-ish, depending on the time of year -- is lived in a nighttime world. That world can sometimes be rather bright, which makes connecting with Venus or Jupiter or our moon or the Milky Way a bit of a challenge, or it can be spectacularly unlit, giving the viewer a full sweep of the cosmos above and all around. There are many ways for evening aficionados to mark the week, including just enjoying the after-dark sky in a reverential fashion, but one can also travel to a Dark Sky Place, as designated by the International Dark-Sky Association. There are two in California -- Borrego Springs and Death Valley National Park -- and several more throughout the Western U.S., including Natural Bridges National Monument and Chaco Culture National Historic Park. The association also offers many ways to get involved with their work, which is, at its heart, about cultivating a deep connection to our post-sunset world and all who occupy it, people and animals alike.

DARK SKY NATIONAL PARK: If you want to join a festival that gathers fans to appreciate our velvety heavens, look to some of the Golden State's national parks, which often hold stargazing weekends built around dark sky appreciation. A Dark Sky Festival in Sequoia and Kings Canyon will take place over the first weekend of August 2016 -- astronaut speakers, telescope peeks, and more are on the slate -- while the Lassen Dark Sky Festival follows in the middle of the month. Beautiful times in beautiful surroundings that make for a contemplative arena for considering the issues of our ever-receding evenings. Love low-light-a-tude and a story-filled night sky? Start here. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Light Station Volunteers: Be a 'Wickie']]> Tue, 05 Apr 2016 09:59:59 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/eastbrotherlightstation289382.jpg

LEND THE LIGHT STATION LOVE: Supporting an historic site, one that welcomes visitors via tours or overnights, can be done by booking a stay, or reserving a tour spot, and seeing some of your money go to the upkeep of the venerable property. But, on occasion, there are other ways to lend some love to a place that has many stories to tell. While not every decades-old hotel sends out the call to volunteers -- few do, actually -- there are spots that invite the hand that can wield a hammer or apply some paint or give a 19th-century building some TLC. The East Brother Light Station is one such place, and its volunteer program is so sweet, and includes such loyal participants, that those who pitch in have a name: Wickies. It's a cute nod to a lighthouse wick, although the handsome light station, which sits about ten minutes west of Richmond between San Francisco and San Pablo Bays, long ago traded in the old-school illumination for LED technology. So, how does one join the Wickies, and what do Wickies do? Well, they show up at the designated marina in Richmond on the second Saturday of the month, ready to roll up their sleeves and...

SPIFFY UP THE STATION, which involves several tasks. "Life on the Island is not simple & each task presents its own challenges," say the station's keepers. There's a to-do list, which can involve anything from landscaping and gardening to roofing to carpentry to marketing and fundraising. Do you meet other people who love lighthouses and history and helping out? You bet. Will you be able to gaze out upon the handsome pile, with its elegant, low-tone foghorn and pretty tower, and know you contributed something? Absolutely; it is easily spied from several points around San Pablo Bay, including the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. If you do stay the night there down the road, will you want to brag a bit, about how you helped mend a fence or plant some flowers? You should brag, as it might inspire others to volunteer. To get the info on joining the Wickies, on the beautiful East Brother Light Station, and where to meet for the boat (and when), point your bright light over here.

Photo Credit: East Brother Light Station]]>
<![CDATA[Chardonnay Symposium on the Central Coast]]> Mon, 04 Apr 2016 21:39:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/chardsympshutterstock.jpg

A SPRING IN YOUR SIP: Most of us are seeking to put a spring in our step, come the warmer days of May. But putting a spring in your sip is something else altogether, though the idea is clear enough. Springtime, and its soon-to-follow BFF summer, are all about lighter libations, the sorts of beverages that are best enjoyed with the temperature pushes upward and the setting is somewhere outdoors. The annual International Chardonnay Symposium in Pismo Beach and Avila Beach is timed quite well to this notion, arriving, as it does, just a couple of weeks ahead of Memorial Day Weekend. Chard fans, as a rule, are feeling rather jazzed about all of those outdoor soirees on the horizon, and the chance to taste some truly high quality labels, and meet experts on taste-worthy topic, is too delicious to pass up. If this sippable light white is your jam pretty much from May through September, best make a date to be in SLO on...

THURSDAY, MAY 12 THROUGH SATURDAY, MAY 14: "Chardonnay producers from around the world" will make for both Pismo and Avila, as well as Edna Valley, for "an in-depth exploration of the world's favorite grape and its impact on viticulture, tastemakers and the market." A sommelier challenge, involving 20 wine experts, will involve a double-blind tasting, and a day of tech discussion, followed by a barbecue, is also on the docket. Comparative tastings, an oyster-yummy gala, a discussion voted to the nooks and crannies of oak's role in fine chardonnay, and a look at various regional tastes of California dot the events calendar. As for vintners ready to show and socialize? Alpha Omega out of St. Helena, Foxen of Santa Maria Valley, and nearby Harmony Cellars are a few of the many (many x 10) wineries on board. Want to dig deeper into all the participants? You'll want to start here.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[New Learning Fun at Lindsay Wildlife]]> Mon, 04 Apr 2016 13:11:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/160325_Paul_lind.jpg

'TIS THE SEASON... to be outdoors more, thanks to warmer daytime temps and various wildflowers and those celebrated spring breezes, the kind of breezes that poets have written odes to for centuries. We're all looking for a way to connect with nature regardless of the date on the calendar, but spring break, and the coming of summertime, inspires us to make that connection a priority. The Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek can definitely help we humans on the nature-connection front, thanks in large part to its latest exhibit (and first exhibit "in more than three years"). It's called "What's Wild--What's Not," and it explores the important idea that wild animals definitely belong in the wild (no matter how much we might coo over online pictures of baby eaglets or wee foxes). There's a backyard theme to the explorations, and several parts of the display look at both pets (and how they shouldn't be out in the wild) and wildlife (and how wild animals are very cute but not meant to live in human abodes). The activities of the new exhibit, which debuts...

IN THE MIDDLE OF APRIL, will include "Petting Time" with certain beasties, a guinea pig health check-up, a wall that poses questions about what might be wild (and what isn't), and other fun, learn-ready to-dos. One part that is sure to elicit much comment from below are the clear tubes above the exhibit, tubes where little rats may run overhead. It's all nifty, mind-growing stuff, and it gives both kids and grown-ups a wider perspective on supporting and loving wildlife from a respectful distance while cuddling and caring for those animals who share our homes, beds, and, yes, sometimes our bacon and burgers, too. So, what's wild and what's not? Discover the differences, and have a great time doing so, as these pretty spring days encourage all to exist in a more alfresco, outdoor-ready mindset.

Photo Credit: Lindsay Wildlife]]>
<![CDATA[Napa Valley Arts in April: Lodging Specials]]> Sun, 03 Apr 2016 08:09:59 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/meritageartsinapril1.jpg

GOOD ART, THEN A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP: Whether viewing some particularly spectacular artworks energizes you or depletes you, in the best sense, is likely up to the individual viewer. Anecdotal evidence says that both sensations happen, in turn, over the course of a single day. You see some paintings you connect with and your mind, and heart, are suddenly filled with fabulous notions and imagery. But, an hour or two later, you almost need a nap, or rest, from all the goodness you've taken in over such a short period. Call it a paradox or just putting your all into art enjoyment, if you will, but the fact of the matter is this: You'll need a solid snooze at some point following your gallery visit or sculpture garden stroll. It's something to ponder if you're planning to call upon...

ARTS IN APRIL... in Napa Valley, that month-big, gallery-filled, winery-tastic happening that spotlights a number of regional artists and shows. Spend a full afternoon bopping around from place to place, admiring photography or pottery or paintings, and you're bound to want to take to a bed, a least for an eyes-shut hour or two. That's where the lodging specials of the valley come in, a pair of stay-the-night deals that entice art aficionados to make an overnight of it in wine country. The Meritage Resort and Spa has a package on in April called "The Art of Relaxation," one that comes, charmingly, with some art supplies for the guest (just in case the guest is inspired by all the art seen around the valley). A welcome bottle of sparkling wine, a spa credit, and other nice things await. And over at The Blackbird Inn, in downtown Napa? Stay two nights and score 15-percent off, plus a pair of passes to art-themed events. You'll want the details on both, so ring ahead, for sure. And plan for that unusual dual feeling of being both energized, and craving a lovely nap, that comes after intense art-viewing. It's one of the paradoxical pleasures of finding a painting you can't tear yourself from (feeling invigorated and then sweetly sleepy).

Photo Credit: Meritage Resort and Spa]]>
<![CDATA[John Wayne's Boat: Birthday Cruise]]> Tue, 05 Apr 2016 21:31:40 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/wildgoosesign123.jpg

MOVIE STAR YACHT: Daydreams and novels are often built around the idea of stepping onto a beautiful boat that belongs to a film star. We picture ourselves sipping wine, perhaps around sunset, as we wave at the mainland and feel more than a little bit fabulous. But outside of daydreams, and fiction, that real-life opportunity doesn't sail into view all that often. It will, however, over the second half of May 2016, when Hornblower Cruises & Events heads out from Newport Beach and onto the waves with the Wild Goose, the famous and beloved yacht of John Wayne.

THE ESTEEMED ACTOR, who passed away in 1979, spent about a decade and a half on the Goose, a three-decker that's as polished and wood-tastic as a boat buff would hope a historic vessel might be. How historic is it? Not only was it owned by the Western-headlining star, it served in World War II (much like its neighbor to the north, the Queen Mary of Long Beach) and was a sibling ship to Jacques Cousteau's Calypso. Did it host a bunch of celebrities in its heyday, from Sammy Davis, Jr. to Bob Hope? You bet. Can you go on a dining cruise, and enjoy a sunset, or some morning sunshine, much like Mr. Wayne did so often? You can, between Thursday, May 19 and Sunday, May 29. Indeed, that's the week of...

JOHN WAYNE'S BIRTHDAY, and surely those on the Goose on May 26 will offer up a toast. Adding more movie star mystique to the cruises, which are both of the sunset cocktails, dinner, and brunch varieties, will be the pass-by of the location of that was once home Mr. Wayne's Newport Beach estate. Beyond dining, and drinks, will you have time to explore the 136-foot craft, which is on the National U.S. Register of Historic Places? You will. Is Madame Tussaud's Hollywood loaning Hornblower the John Wayne wax figure for the duration of the birthday cruises? It is, so look for the figure on the boat. Will Bert Minshall, John Wayne's captain, be present during the cruises? He will be, and he'll be signing his book "On Board with Duke." Will a portion of all ticket sales go to the John Wayne Cancer Foundation? Absolutely. Tickets? Sail in this direction, Duke devotees.

Photo Credit: Hornblower Cruises & Events]]>
<![CDATA[Wave-tastic Times at San Diego's Tower23]]> Fri, 01 Apr 2016 21:04:09 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tower23sdbeach.jpg

THE FOAM IS PHONING: It matters not if you haven't squished wet sand between your toes in a year. It doesn't count if you haven't built a castle with a plastic bucket and shovel in a decade. And if you haven't gone searching for shells in forever, that's a-ok. The fact is the beach has a pull on us, regardless of how far we roam, and how long we're away from it. And no time of the year tugs on us, creating further pull, like spring break season. The nights are brighter, the ads all tout glorious getaways, and we think, as we sit at our computers, well, dang it, why can't that be me? The not-so-secret thing is, it can be, via those ocean-close inns that offer spring-break-y packages (at least they're spring-break-y in spirit, even if you don't take them the actual week when everyone's on break). Tower23 Hotel in San Diego is one such spot that enthusiastically embraces the surf-close lifestyle, as a new package reveals. It's called Ride the Wave, a three-nighter that has, as its get-soaked centerpiece, a surf lesson for two. That means you have...

A BOARD BUDDY... to laugh with later on, or high five, over your 90-minute session with a surf-knowledgeable teacher. Will you be able to take on a massive barrel after your hour and a half? Wellll, that might be a bit further down the road, but you'll have some terminology under your belt, and some skills to sharpen, and probably a few fun snapshots, too. It's $379 per night, for starters, and a fifty buck dining credit at the on-site JRDN is included (that's where you and your BFF will relive the lesson, sharpening your anecdotes and laughing over any foibles). Also? Valet parking is included, too. The offer is good through May 31, 2016, which means you can get your spring-break-ian fun in while it is actually still spring. Go ahead and keep scrolling through the pics of those at the beach, but don't get steamed or envious; just make your own date with the Pacific.

WANT A DIFFERENT TYPE OF STAY? Tower23 has a few packages afoot, so eye all.

Photo Credit: Tower23 Hotel]]>