<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Worth the Trip]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcbayarea.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.comen-usThu, 23 Mar 2017 15:34:39 -0700Thu, 23 Mar 2017 15:34:39 -0700NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Los Olivos Adorable: Lucy & Lady]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 11:03:37 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/IMG_4537jwoeste.jpg

IF YOU'VE ROLLED ALONG THE ROAD... long enough, dipping into this store, or that hotel, or this other attraction, sooner or later you're going to meet not just the HIC — Human in Charge — but the AIC, too. The "A" stands for "animal," of course, and many of the Golden State's inns and bookshops have a furry mascot, a critter who is so synonymous with the spot that returning visitors must seek them out first, before any shopping or relaxing or imbibing can be done. Think of the numerous B&Bs that boast their own kitty, the kind of feline who can be found napping on the front desk, and think of Silver City Ghost Town, in Kern County, which is famous, in part, for Izzy the Ghost Town Cat, a bandanna-sporting superstar who happily pads after guests looking for phantoms. And if you've been to Los Olivos, and followed the deep-toned chimes to J. Woeste, chances are very good you were met by...

A PAIR OF BRUSSELS GRIFFONS... by the names of Lucy and Lady. Dubbed "the real ambassadors of the store" on the J. Woeste site, the wheat-hued duo easily trundle up to newcomers in search of some affection and cooing (that applies to the dogs and visitors alike). If the pups are not at the front gate, near the gargantuan chimes dangling from the old, out-front oak, you'll find them snoozing in a patch of sunlight or hanging out inside the shop. And the shop itself? Well, that's dang charming, too. It boasts everything for the garden, and home decor, too, items that are elegantly appointed and somewhat swanky but not overly serious. Jefferson Woeste is the affable owner, and after you garner his knowledgeable opinion on which way your garden should go next, and what to put in it, be sure to ask after the famous pooches, the sweet meeters and greeters of the mostly alfresco shop.

IF WE'RE SEEKING CONNECTION, and quaint-a-tude, on our travels and road trips and village walk-throughs, we're likely also seeking out those places that kindly keep a furry, four-footed employee on staff, as animals have a knack for creating instant amity between strangers in new situations. And if there's two four-footed staffers? You're in luck. But then again, if you find yourself in lovely Los Olivos, you're already in some luck. Lucy and Lady, though, can surely add to that fuzzy feeling.

Photo Credit: Alysia Gray Painter]]>
<![CDATA[Cider Summit: Bay Area Beverage Bash]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 21:36:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/apple+cider+getty.jpg

TRAVELING TASTES: As spring approaches, so do the announcements involving the many on-the-road culinary events that seem to (delightfully) crowd the calendar when the weather warms up. There are those to-dos highlighting local wines, and California beers, and one that has a bit of an autumn zing to it, if you associated apples and deep-toned brews and hard ciders with the fall. But you won't need to wait for September to try a number of sips from a host of cider-making specialists: Cider Summit SF will pull into The Presidio on April 22. That's a Saturday, so booking a nearby overnight, or finding a friend near the beautiful, Golden Gate Bridge-close expanse is a solid and safe idea (the summit also offers designated driver admissions, too). Cider lovers, take note that this is the...

ONLY GOLDEN STATE STOP... for the cider-focused festival, which will make for Portland, Seattle, and Chicago in the months following San Francisco. You can expect to see/taste "Artisanal Ciders From Around the World" at The Presidio's Civil War Parade Ground, including "over 150 ciders" from near and far across the globe. Who'll be there? Bunches of ciderists serving up brews as well as apple-y cocktails. A Fruit Cider Challenge will be afoot, too. As for the labels? You can bet Ace Cider will be in the house, and Cider Brothers, and Golden State Cider, too, as well as Tilted Shed Ciderworks and Sonoma Cider. Also, look for a limited-edition cider from Finnriver Farm & Cidery to make a cameo. Whole Foods is presented the weekend-long affair, and there shall be eats, so plan on noshing. And plan on helping a number of local organizations with part of your ticket price, including The Institute for Myeloma & Bone Cancer Research and Berkeley Humane.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[West Coast BBQ Classic: New Categories]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 12:47:12 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/BBQ.jpg

A PLATE OF BBQ, especially BBQ that boasts just the right rub or sauce, and has been cooked at the ideal length, doesn't need any fussing and/or mussing. It is, in the eyes of a 'cue-seeking buff, absolutely perfect, and can stand, in savory fashion, alone. But a BBQ festival is notably different from a plate of BBQ. It runs for several hours or days, and while a perfect plate of ribs, or brisket, can fill up a half hour nicely, there's a lot more space when it comes to a festival. The upshot? You're bound to see additions beyond that well-sauced meat, the better to fill out a lengthy, multi-hour roster. And the roster the sixth annual West Coast BBQ Festival on the Queen Mary is getting a couple of new additions in 2017, but additions that won't steal any spotlights from any spicy cuts of beef. Bacon is one addition, that true complement to traditional barbecue foodstuffs, and dessert is the other, another appetizing choice. Both categories will see pros and amateurs competing to create the most strip-sizzly, sweet-to-the-tooth concoctions. Of course...

BBQ IS STILL THE CELEBRITY... and the Saturday, May 13 Long Beach bash'll reflect that fact. "Over 50 barbeque pitmasters and amateur grillers will once again come together..." for the "classic showdown," a showdown that gives meat mavens (and dessert devotees) a chance to try out the good stuff, for two bucks a sample. The Kansas City Barbeque is on board, as in years gone by, and a number of doings throughout the day, from backyard-style games to live tunes, will make the Mother's Day Eve event extra-effervescent. So, for sure, there's a lot more to this happening than a simple plate of well-made BBQ, but that's okay: The fixings, from dessert to music to games, have a way of making all of that succulent spicy supping even tastier.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Bodega Bay: Wooden Boat Challenge]]> Tue, 21 Mar 2017 17:46:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/FishermansFestBoat.jpg

FLOAT-ABILITY REQUIRED: If you were tasked with building a hand-sized boat for the bath tub, one that would stay up, on the surface of the H20, where would you begin gathering your materials? The garage? The attic? Would you rummage around and find an old milk jug? The possibilities are plentiful for a vessel of that size. Now imagine having to build an actual-sized boat possessing float-ability, over a matter of hours, out of wood, while a number of other talented teams try to do the same thing. There's a lively intensity to the pursuit, for sure, and some hallowed tradition, too. For we're referring to the annual Wooden Boat Challenge at the Bodega Bay Fisherman's Festival, one of the spirited showdowns of the springtime weekend celebration. The 2017 competition'll happen on Saturday, April 8, and even if you have no notion of entering, you can still swing by Westside Park to admire the sweat and ingenuity that went into the impressive, made-quick creations. The building materials are "provided" for the teams, and the time limit to finish? Three hours, whoa. 

THE FESTIVAL... brims with plenty of ocean-sweet doings, from the Sunday morning Blessing of the Fleet (you can bet the vessels on the water will be gussied up for the important occasion) to live tunes, crafts for sale, and more. It's the 44th go-around for the briny bash, a party that marks the kick-off of salmon fishing season. As for the funds raised from admission fees? They go to non-profits and services around Bodega Bay. Note that the festival is on for the full weekend, April 8 and 9, but if you want to eye those wooden boats, definitely be there on day #1. Tickets? Paddle this way and cast your line.

Photo Credit: Bodega Bay Fisherman's Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Mendocino County: Inaugural 'Almost Fringe' Fest]]> Tue, 21 Mar 2017 13:10:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/fringe-slide1234567.jpg

A FRINGE FESTIVAL... feels right when the sky is brightening and the ground below is full of petal-gorgeous color and everything, from food to fun, feels slightly zingier than it did even a month ago. It's springtime when we start wishing we could be doing more things alfresco-style, from theater to parades to other events that alight well in the beautiful outdoors. Of course, fringe festivals aren't solely about under-the-sky fun; they celebrate artistic expression and theatrical innovation in their many unusual and outlandish forms, and that celebrating can definitely happen inside a room, too. In short? It's all about the spirit of fringe, something that Mendocino County has long and easily possessed. If you know the area, you know what we mean: The coastal region embraces the whimsical and creative, regardless of genre or form, meaning it is a place ripe for its own fringe-y event, in homage to the older fringe festivals in Edinburgh, Los Angeles, and other spots around the globe. So the county's first-ever...

ALMOST FRINGE FESTIVAL... is ready for take-off on the very last day of March. There'll be a few weekends in a row of interesting, visual, and bring-a-smile doings starting on Friday, March 31, from a free Anderson Valley Open Studios spectacular from April 21 through 23 to a a Goat Festival & Wildflower Show in Boonville on Saturday, April 22 and Sunday, April 23. The goats are stars of Saturday, and not Sunday, do note, and, yes, believe it, dreams come true, there is a full-on Goat Parade in the works. (You can also take a lesson in making goat cheese.) A Dystopian Prom in Mendocino on April 8 and haiku party on the last day of April in Ukiah are other highlights, though the schedule is all highlights, as you might expect from something that wears its "fringe" banner proudly. Need details? Get 'em, because this festival looks like the perfect synthesis of a creativity-embracing area and artists, entertainers, and, yes, goats who are ready to embrace the creative-fun spirit.

Photo Credit: Almost-Fringe Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Wowza: Pacific Grove's Magic Carpet]]> Mon, 20 Mar 2017 17:34:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/pacificgrovemagiccarpet1.jpg

SATURATED SIGHT: Even if you're a devout wordsmith, and someone who can pull out a whole plethora of beautiful ways to describe the most delicate of snowflakes and the most dramatic of sunsets, it can be a challenge to accurately capture, in summary, how an ocean-adjacent ice plant looks when it is in full and magnificent bloom. "Color plus more color and some other color, too" kind of captures the general sense of saturation the flowers give off, as if can after can of neon pink paint, the kind that's so bright it can be seen in the dark, has been added to the petals. But nature is behind this particular paintbrush, and it is a sight that is very much associated with Pacific Grove when the first full month of springtime starts up. And any calendar can tell you that April is nearly here, which means it'll soon be ice plant time along certain coastal spots.

PROPS FOR PURPLE, TOO: Of course, pink isn't the only startlingly drench-worthy shade that the ice plants take on; deeper purples, too, make a showing, and lighter lavenders, depending on the plant and place. And if you want to see what's been charmingly dubbed "the magic purple carpet," heading out to the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail is a truly fine idea. And, no, you don't need to be out promptly at sunrise on April 1 to see the ice plant bloom in action (no foolin'). While early April is the general start time, the eye-popping petals can keep on keepin' on right up to Memorial Day Weekend. Want to get a sense of what the scene is in Pacific Grove, if you're headed there specifically to admire ice plants? Check in with the visitors bureau for the up-to-the-day report.

Photo Credit: See Monterey]]>
<![CDATA[Morro Bay Favorite: City-Wide Yard Sale]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 13:07:18 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/219*120/shutterstock_5901136.jpg

A SLIGHT ZING... can course through one's veins upon visiting another town and finding that the town is flush with quirky, interesting thrift and vintage stores. A bigger zing arises when those stores put some of their funky items out on the curb, for better display, and possibly because they're on sale. And the zing goes through the proverbial roof when several stores, as well as homes, get in on the stuff/curb action, meaning you'll get a lot of looking in while passing through town. Such block-long or street-big yard-sale-y happenings don't occur all that often, but there are a few places around California that are so into the idea of "everyone sell whatever you like, all together, at once!" that the town puts it on the calendar. 

MORRO BAY... is one of those towns, and the Pacific-snug burg's annual City-Wide Yard Sale has become something of a legend among lookie-loos (as well as buy-y-loos, too). Locals shop at their neighbors' yards and driveways, but visitors from elsewhere swing through, too, to see what cool lampshades or mid-century end tables or fringe-laden jackets they can find and purchase. The 2017 weekend-long tradition is up soon, on Saturday, April 1 and Sunday, April 2, with a preview on Friday, March 31. Need a map to the aptly named "Treasure Hunt Weekend"? There are a couple of ways to score one, but starting here is a solid first step. Happy finding, lovers of yard sales, and happy enjoying the Central Coast, all others who've come just to soak up the social 'n sweet shop-around scene.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Now Open: Forestiere Underground Gardens]]> Sun, 19 Mar 2017 13:02:42 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/forestierestairs1.jpg

CHANCES TO GO BELOW GROUND... don't occur all that often in this world. Sure, you can enter a parking garage, or a basement, but you're likely there to A) park or pick up your vehicle, in the case of the first and B) stow an item, look for an item, play Ping-Pong, or do some laundry in the case of the second. To have a subterranean adventure, though, is quite a different thing, though such adventures usually only occur in rollicking adventure tales, the kind that take three or four books to fully come to a conclusion. However, there is a spot right here in the Golden State that is flush with back-story, and beauty, and mystery, and all of the qualities we want from a below-ground space but don't often get. It's the Forestiere Underground Gardens we quite blithely refer to here, and equally blithely we report that weekend guided tours have resumed, along with the warmer weather. 

MAKE FOR FRESNO... to spy Baldassare Forestiere's "...hand-built network of rooms," a true catacomb-like labyrinth that took the imaginative man years and years (and loads of dedication, clearly). Mr. Forestiere, who hailed from Sicily, had intended to grow citrus, but his amazing legacy turned out to be something else that sprung from the ground, and not orange trees (though those, too, figure in the wondrous, wind-your-way-through destination, as well as other fruit trees). Is it cooler down below? You bet. Are there spaces where the sun reaches in? Beautifully so. It's one of our state's most magnificent dreams made real, a fantastical project that shows what one can do if they dedicate over four decades, and a good amount of can-do and passion, to a goal. And once April arrives? The Forestiere Underground Gardens will be open Wednesday through Sunday, right through to November. Visit at the height of summer, on one of the toastiest of days, and admire how much cooler it is when you head under the earth's surface. 

Photo Credit: Forestiere Underground Gardens]]>
<![CDATA[Rare Chance: Spend the Night on the USS Iowa]]> Sat, 18 Mar 2017 10:11:13 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/DSC07244ussiowanight.jpg

FAMOUS DESTINATIONS... that offer the occasional sleepover opportunity? They definitely exist, with many aquariums and museums occasionally offering offbeat overnights, complete with educational seminars and fun dinners (and breakfasts). But finding a place of historical importance, one with stories aplenty, is rather harder to find, as is finding a place that's rarely stayed in one place for long. The USS Iowa, sometimes called "Battleship of Presidents," was on the move for much of its existence, serving in World War II in addition to the Korean War (as well as the Cold War as well). It's now at home in San Pedro, where tours and special events, such as Independence Day and Veterans Day, round out its bustling calendar. Quirky happenings also pop up, from time to time, such as when the ship's barbershop returned for a single day. Now Atlas Obscura, those urban explorers of history and meaning, is hosting an...

OVERNIGHT ON THE USS IOWA: No doubt about it: This is not an everyday occurrence, or even every week or every year. The sleepover is on Saturday, April 1, a deep-dive tour is in the works, and a "hot breakfast" is part of the $125 (plus a fee) ticket, as is dinner. Note that you won't be out on the ocean, for the USS Iowa is now permanently home in San Pedro. And note that you'll encounter "several flights of narrow, steep stairs" while visiting the battleship. There are a number of crucial must-knows, as you might imagine, so study up on everything (such as the asterisk that kids must be 16 or over and with an adult). Even if you've taken a fantastic tour of the USS Iowa, and there are many, think how sleeping on the ship might add layers to your experience of it. Reservations are definitely limited, so check it all out, and book if you're interested, now.

<![CDATA[Strawberry Fest: Sweet Cooking Showdown]]> Mon, 20 Mar 2017 11:07:17 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Strawberries3.jpg

MAYBE YOU'RE THE TYPE OF BERRY BUFF... who only ever eats a strawberry in its plainest, stand-alone-iest form. Sure, you wash it, but after that, you remove all other possible ingredients or additions from its near vicinity. That includes sugar, and cereal, and balsamic vinegar, and vanilla ice cream, and yogurt, and all of the many, many edibles that pair so very well with seed-a-licious star. Or, just perhaps, you're on the other side of the garden patch fence on this topic. Maybe you prefer your strawberries to sing inside a recipe, one that includes a complex pastry crust, or loads of spinach and other salad fixings, or even roasted poultry. If this is your strawberry story, and you have really buzzed-about berry dish that wins accolades at all of your summertime potucks and picnics, best consider entering it in the Berry Blast Off Contest, the cooking showdown at the California Strawberry Festival. While the festival itself, a longtime Oxnard tradition, is on May 20 and 21, 2017, the deadline for the Berry Blast Off is...

FRIDAY, APRIL 7: And that's at noon, do note, and not close of business. Which means you should start perfecting and/or experimenting with your tried-and-true strawberry dessert, salad, or entrée. There are more categories beyond those, even — hello jams, hello drinks — so eye all you need to know. And check out the prizes, too, which include a VIP getaway to a Welk Resort, a swanky knife set, and a single-night's stay at Courtyard by Marriott (with dinner included at Tierra Sur Restaurant at Herzog Wine Cellars). But, even before that, best peruse the winners from past years, which include strawberry-inventive spins on tiramisu, coconut cake, shrimp, and chicken wings. Totally dig that strawberry flavor in a big, multi-ingredient dish? Give your recipe a whirl at one of the state's biggest fruit-fun fests.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Laguna Niguel Mega Eggs: Spring Tradition]]> Sat, 18 Mar 2017 10:10:51 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/DSC07956.jpg

THAT COLORFUL CANVAS: There are many offbeat places to create an artwork in this world, from a sidewalk, with chalk, to a sandy bit of beachfront (both, of course, are ephemeral, and prone to disappearing in days or even hours, making the creations even more meaningful). And there is the egg, a popular canvas, especially when springtime rolls around and we begin dipping the wonderful 'n wobbly yolk-holders in various swirls of brightly hued dye. There are many ways to approach decorating an egg for Easter, including stickers and crayons, but The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel has one of the most picturesque and locally lovely egg displays around. As is tradition at the water-close resort, a few mega-sized eggs, that aren't real or edible, let us note, are painted by artists who live in the area. Those artists in 2017 include Trevor Mezak, James Galindo, Robin Hiers, and Kym de los Reyes, and your first peek at their work is coming up quickly, on...

SATURDAY, APRIL 1: That's when the whimsical over-sized eggs go on display near the resort's front entrance. Can you and the family stop for a sweet, everyone-line-up photograph in front of the beach-scene'd eggs? For sure — that is also a tradition at the hotel. These big eggs are far too large to fit in a basket, but a snapshot of you and yours standing in front of them will fit nicely in a frame one day. And another seasonal tradition at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel? A swanky Easter brunch, flush with you-pick-the-ingredient omelets and a fancy dessert spread, will happen on Sunday, April 16. But if you and your loved ones can't be at the hotel on Easter proper, but still want to admire the enormous eggs, just be sure to stop by from April 7 through April 23.

Photo Credit: The Ritz Carlton, Laguna-Niguel]]>
<![CDATA[Ojai Fresh: Pixie Month Specials]]> Sat, 18 Mar 2017 10:12:14 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/pixiesmoira-tarmy-04+%282%29.jpg

THE HUES OF A CITY: If you had to pair a certain shade of a particular color with each town and village and metropolis you adore, where would you begin? Would San Francisco summon International Orange to your mind, the very color of the Golden Gate Bridge? Or more of a soft, fog-fantastic gray? And is Santa Barbara's symbolic hue that deep maroon-red of the roof tiles seen throughout the picturesque place? It really may be an eye of the beholder, and traveler, kind of thing. But here is one of the toughest questions from this chroma-filled category: Is Ojai, in your heart, more the rosy-pink of the nightly Pink Moment or the orange-tangerine of a citrus tree in full, springtime glory? Truly, both hues are so very Ojai-esque, and we wouldn't dare ask an Ojai aficionado to make such a choice. But if Pink Moments as well as Pixies are your pleasure, then April must be your dream Ojai month. For that's...

PIXIE MONTH... around the scenic, art-lovely burg, a time when deals, specials, and other to-dos flower like so many small, fragrant buds on a tangerine tree. If the "petite, sweet, and seedless tangerine" is your ultimate fruit, eye the full list of doings. Some temptations? You can book a lodging package at The Oaks, for example, and receive a gratis Ojai Pixie Scrub. A stay at The Lavender Inn in April means your breakfast will arrive with a hint o' Pixie goodness (or even more than a hint). Azu is rocking the Pixie Drop Martini during the fruit-forward fourth month, while Suzanne's'll mix a Pixie Cosmo for those customers who crave tangerine-y tastes. There are several supping, stay-over, shopping, and sippable to-dos during Pixie Month, and a few spa happenings, too, so best study all. Don't forget to peel a Pixie from your own kitchen, though. You'll need something to munch as you go over what Ojai-centered goings-on you want to join. Surely at one of the spots on the roster you can both enjoy a Pixie-themed drink or dish while watching the evening Pink Moment? Two iconic Ojai hues, pink and tangerine-orange, together and oh-so-vibrant.

Photo Credit: Pixies]]>
<![CDATA[Creative at Heart: AGRO Art Contest]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 16:42:17 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/artichokes+produce+pete.jpg

LEAVES, HEART, ART: Not playing with one's food is generally important while sitting at the table, for multiple reasons. But the leaves of an artichoke, especially after you've munched upon them and they're now piling up on a plate nearby, are especially tempting. You can make a mini-fan, or created a tiny structure, or imagine several other ways for those oblong-amazing leaves to be re-imagined. In fact, where the leaves first sprung from, the artichoke, is a pretty spectacular edible object, too, with its iconic shape, and spiky-tipped leaves, and the thick stem at the bottom, the one that leads to the delicious, cooked-tender center of the green globe. It's a thistle with kapow, so much so it appears on illustrated posters created specifically for the kitchen and oodles of kitchenware, too, from teapots to potholders. Can the artichoke, though, transform into a quirky 'n cute figure, complete with a personality of sorts? Find out at the...

AGRO ART... competition at the 2017 Castroville Artichoke Food & Wine Festival. The delish to-do will once again take place at the Monterey County Fairgrounds & Event Center, but note that it happens on the first day of the festival, Saturday, June 3. (The full fest stretches out for two days, June 3 and 4.) "Area artists, culinary whizzes, and school teams are encouraged..." to take part, and participants should be at least 5 years old. The goal? Fashion a "sculpture" from fruit and vegetables. Artichokes are frequently involved in the final artworks, but pineapples, squash, and other yummy things from the produce aisle have been spied in years gone by. Are you an artist and artichoke aficionado? This may be your ultimate event. There are details to know, so read up before making for Monterey for this slice of late-spring, get-creative sweetness.

Photo Credit: Artichokes]]>
<![CDATA[Sweet Sonoma County Farm Weekend]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 11:04:28 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/goatsdawnh.jpg

GOATS AND LAMBS IRL: No one would ever tell you not to add another baby animal site to your feed. Because clearly all of those frolicking piglets and napping ponies and and lil' lambs speak to something in we screen-facing humans, and that something is the need to behold furry, innocent lovekins throughout our day. Call it a connection to the wider natural world, or call it sheer heart-tug-ability, but seeing sweet little whiskery mugs just makes it obvious that this world is a marvel. But have you seen a little whiskery mug lately in an outdoors, barnyard-traditional setting? If it has been too long — perhaps since a school field trip back in the day — there is a way to remedy that in Sonoma County. It's the Blossoms, Bees & Barnyard Babies weekend, and it jumps, with all the pep of a young goat leaping onto a bale of hay, into the last weekend of April 2017. So best plan on making for the farms of the Sonoma County Farm Trails on...

APRIL 29 AND 30, when all of the lambs and goats and bunnies and chicks and piglets and bees you normally see on a screen are right before your eyes, in and outside a variety of working barns. The two-day happening isn't just about baby critters (though, of course, they do have a knack for nabbing spotlights); visitors can learn about "...the origins of local food, and the amazing soils and systems that sustain the community." Tastings are part of the sunshiny scene, so prepare to mull over different honeys, cheeses, juices, and such. Food carts, country stores, and other shoppable stops will also play a role in filling out the full-as-a-picnic-hamper event.

AND BEEKEEPERS... will be about, too, to discuss the importance of those pollinating wonders on the wing. You may even spy a baby water buffalo, too — a squeal of delight seems appropriate here — and other farm-fantastic sights, the kind of sights that help visitors know lots more about the day-to-day world of working with animals and the land. "Most of the stops are FREE," says the web site, but best register for free, now. Should we also mention that "animal cuddling" is one of the joyful activities listed for the weekend? That's pretty much the utmost zenith of possible weekend to-dos, so here we shall stop, bow, and politely conclude this post.  

Photo Credit: Dawn Heumann]]>
<![CDATA[Suisun Valley: Passport Sunday]]> Wed, 15 Mar 2017 13:34:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/DSCN0677suisun1234.JPG

PROPER GREETING FOR SPRING: If you're seeking a pomp-filled way to welcome the floweriest, breeziest season of the year, you are free to raise a glass of something sparkling when spring finally and officially dawns. Of course, you'll need to roll out of bed, if that's indeed where you are, at 3:29 in the morning on March 20, 2017. Let's add that that is a Monday, so maybe rising/shining a few hours before sunrise, all to grandly open the door to springtime, isn't in the cards for you. But there are other paths to connecting with this renewal-laden time of year, and they don't happen in the middle of the night. Choose any Saturday or Sunday, make for a wine country, and cross you fingers that some sort of special happening is on, one that will give you glad-hearted glance into area vineyards. One such Sunday is happening in Suisun Valley on April 23, and there's a passport, too, meaning it'll be a real day out. It's...

PASSPORT SUNDAY, in fact, and several regional wineries and businesses are participating. Tenbrink Winery and Vineyards, Mangels Vineyards, and Galvan Family Cellars are jumping into the joy-be-had day, a day that will include musical presentations and delicious tidbits to fill out the sustenance side of things. And as for a perfect springlike day? Well, that can't yet be foretold, as of this typing, but Sundays in the second half of April have a knack for delivering the delight. So if that's the day and place you'll raise your toast to springtime, so be it. Surely the spring is an understanding season, and knows that some extra shuteye on a Monday morning in March is quite important.

Photo Credit: Suisun Valley]]>
<![CDATA[Winchester Mystery House: Share Your Story]]> Wed, 15 Mar 2017 10:42:43 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/9-12-2013-winchester-mystery-house.jpg

PLAYING CLUE... or another classic board or parlor game that's set in a giant, legendary manse requires a few things. One? You'll need to accurately read the other players' expressions, no matter how hard they attempt to keep a straight face. Two? You'll need to be patient, very patient, before you can make your final, all-important guess as to what went down with the mystery at hand. And three? You have to truly know — even memorize — all of the rooms, from the library to the kitchen to the conservatory. There is, however, a real-life place in California that boasts such interesting spaces, nooks and crannies from another day, and there's no need to break out the board and cards. You can learn them all by calling upon the...

WINCHESTER MYSTERY HOUSE... in San Jose. Built by Sarah Winchester decades upon decades ago, the Winchester famously has stairways to nowhere, doors that lead to brick walls, and, yes, so many spaces that sound straight out of a Victorian tale. And if you have a tale to tell, specifically one involving otherworldly experiences you had while visiting the enormous abode, you can gab about ghost sightings on the Winchester's web site. Specifically your ghost sighting, meaning you'll want to remember exactly where you saw the spirit. Spaces in and around the mansion include the carriage entrance, the front parlor, the belltower, the linen room, and the seance room, so if your ethereal experience happened in one of those spots, share it.

IF THOSE SOUND LIKE ROOMS... from a favorite board game, well, they do exist, in San Jose, within the regal walls of one of the best-known houses in California (and, truly, anywhere). The Winchester may choose to share your tale, in some form, so read all the fine print before hitting the "Submit" button. Have you been telling pals a wraith-based story for years? Set at the Winchester? Consider, then, telling the house itself what you saw.

Photo Credit: Geoffrey Eisler]]>
<![CDATA[Palm Springs Tram: High-Elevation Hikes]]> Sun, 19 Mar 2017 12:28:22 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/hikingbootsgeneric123.jpg

SNOW IS SWEET: No one is going to quibble with you over your affection for the cold, flaky, winter-wonderful stuff that sometimes falls at Mountain Station at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. For spying snow when you disembark from the world-famous tram is a treat. Also a treat? Enjoying the brrr-ful action while gazing upon the snow-free desert floor far, far below. Call it a charming study in contrasts, and photo-worthy, too. And call it a sight many tram visitors long to see right around January, February, and even into March. But when we nudge up against springtime, and the equinox, and all of those ocotillo and cactus flowers bursting around the Coachella Valley, we can long to make a snow-less hike in the upper reaches of Mt. San Jacinto State Park. And there are paths, and trails, and tree-lined rambles aplenty up beyond Mountain Station. How to get there? Well, buy your tram ticket and take the ride up, up, up, and then head out for some incredibly clear and crisp air, some looong views, and a day of sun, exercise, and peace.

HIKE SEASON... is almost here, and barring any more snowfall — which could definitely happen, given what we've seen over the past few months — you'll soon be able to hit those high-elevation trails in shorts and a tee. But check the weather first, as Mountain Station sits at over 8,500, and study up on the hiking trails (the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway offers up this not-to-scale map). There's a lot of wilderness up there, with over 14,000 acres to admire, and slew of summery days-to-come, the kind of days that are downright toasty in Palm Springs but mellow and temperate up Mt. San Jacinto. Tempted to know more about these great trails? Grab your walking pole and trek this way.

Photo Credit: Hiking Boots]]>
<![CDATA[Murphys Irish Day: Sierra Celebration]]> Tue, 14 Mar 2017 13:26:55 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/MurphysIrishDayJimLast-08.jpg

TRAVEL FAR, STAY CLOSE: The Golden State absolutely blooms with bashes that are tied to distant and not-so-distant lands. If you want to celebrate Danish Days, you only need make your way to Solvang over a certain weekend in September. If you want to do Mardi Gras, with vim, whimsy, and beads, Nevada City is a pretty nifty place. And as for marking that mid-March occasion, the one with the shamrocks, parades, Irish coffees, and green beer? There are so many merry doings around California, but one of the sweetest is in Murphys. The Calaveras County burg takes time each St. Patrick's Day to "honor its Celtic heritage" with a bagpipe-filled parade down Main Street. Add to that something else Murphys is known for, beverages and delicious bites, and you have a convivial party that draws fans from well beyond the Sierra foothills.

BUT TAKE NOTE: The 2017 parade is happening the day after St. Patrick's Day, on Saturday, March 18. It's all free, and the whole shindig'll run for seven hours, starting at 10 in the morning. In addition to the beautiful, always stirring bagpipes, you'll see horses on parade, and vintage autos, and more small-town groups, the kind of participants that lend a lot of local coolness to an annual event like this one. And will you make time, while in Gold Country, to head up to Volcano to see Daffodil Hill? March 17 is the opening date for the popular, buttery-bloom'd attraction. Here's the info on that, just in case you decide to make a two-dayer of your getaway. (Why not? It's spring, or nearly, so three cheers and erin go bragh.)

Photo Credit: Jim Last]]>
<![CDATA[Edible Exploration: Walnut Creek Restaurant Week]]> Mon, 13 Mar 2017 21:17:30 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/greeksalad0929832.jpg

DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME... may bring sun-soft nights and illuminated evenings, but it takes the arrival of April to truly summon the to-dos that truly make the most of the longer-of-day season. March, for the most part, is still beholden to wintertime, and winter's brisk ways, but by late April? It almost seems as though the big, eats-oriented food happenings are moving to full throttle, thanks to the milder weather. Ramble through Walnut Creek, in fact, over the final week in April and you're bound to come across a host of cafés observing Restaurant Week, that time-honored event that can alight on any part of the calendar. But if that calendar says it is April 23 through 30? You're likely to feel more like heading out for a bite at light 'n bright 7:30 p.m. (rather than staying inside, snuggled in your pajamas). If you can't quite believe that California Restaurant Month ended over a month ago — it is a January tradition — and you can't quite wait for the fully alfresco food gatherings of summer, ponder a saunter over to...

WALNUT CREEK... to find the supper-nice savings. You can nosh at "...over 30 restaurants" serving up a host of their best dishes at a deal. If you head for Massimo Ristorante for dinner, for example, you'll find a few selections on the three-course menu (Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli and Grilled Hangar Steak are two of the main course choices). Participants include Lark Creek, Opa!, Rooftop, Urban Remedy, and True Food Kitchen. Is the sunshine after 7 calling you outside? Need something to fill those evening hours while filling the tum (without spending a bundle)? Keep late April in mind, and the restaurants of Walnut Creek.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Savor Sonoma Valley: Mid-March Merriment]]> Mon, 13 Mar 2017 09:53:17 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/savorsonomamarch2017.jpg

A WINE WEEKEND... can wear many scarves and hats, depending on the region, the time of year, the vineyards involved, and what the general mood happens to be. There can be a focus on the fine arts, with exhibits serving as focal points, in addition to the sips. The weekend can be built around bites, in addition to sips, and an adventurer can spend more time nibbling than quaffing. And then, on a rare and lovely occasion, there is the barrel-specific, let's-love-upon-wine focus, which is just the tack that Savor Sonoma Valley is taking in 2017. The caboodle of wineries involved — "caboodle" equals 17, in this case — are going to be all about "...showcasing the 2016 vintage from barrels, sampling new releases..." in addition to other convivial to-dos. In short? It's very much about the barrels on Saturday, March 18 and Sunday, March 19. You're right, that is...

THE FINAL WEEKEND OF WINTER, making this merriment a particularly timely send-off to cooler shorter days. You can jump into the sip-filled send-off at a number of landmark wineries around Kenwood and Glen Ellen, including Manzanita Creek, St. Anne's Crossing Winery, and Deerfield Ranch Winery. The cost? It's $65 for a weekend pass, and your designated driver pays nothing at all, nada, zip. What you'll get, besides the pleasure of being out and about in spectacular SoCo? A peek at "...what the 2016 vintage is going to be like in the bottle!" Consider the weekend to be a little prognosticating, a bit of future-telling, with a grape-gourmand twist.

Photo Credit: Savor Sonoma Valley]]>
<![CDATA[Old Sac: New 'Gold Fever!' Tours]]> Thu, 16 Mar 2017 21:12:45 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GoldFeverDaynaWergedal.jpg

IT'S A FACT, that when you go on a trip, or a quick getaway, or even an afternoon-long outing, you're you. You still have your own particular history, and quirks, and traits, and that's how it will be whether you're at home or away on an adventure. But, sometimes, if the place and circumstances are right, and you alight in a location with a storied past, and interesting ways to connect to that past, you nab the chance to be someone else for a little while. Call it role-playing, or play-acting, or simply assuming the name and details of someone from a couple of centuries back. And call it Gold Fever!, the newest of the Old Sacramento, get-to-know-the-Gold-Rush offerings. It's a...

FRESH TOUR... for the 2017 season, which always revs up when the weather warms up. Opening date is Saturday, April 1 — no fooling — and Gold Fever! is expected to wrap up around December, with an asterisk attached (the tours will look to the seasons and weather for their cues). How Gold Fever! will work? Tour guests will "...take on the persona of a character in history — or a 'real-life rascal'..." and discover the great lengths Gold-Rushers went to to find their personal pot of wealth at the end of the proverbial rainbow.

ROLLICKING YARNS, with a dose of hard reality, are, of course, part of any Gold Rush-themed tour, and who you'll play, and what they did/achieved/plotted, will likely have been quite memorable. It's a $10-per-adult, $6-per-kid weekend to-do, with a start/end at the Sacramento Visitors Center. So, who will you be in Old Sac? You'll surely be yourself as you arrive and leave, but, for a few minutes, you'll have assumed the cloak of a long-ago local figure. 

Photo Credit: daynastudios]]>
<![CDATA[Historic Hotels: 'Spectacular Spring Savings']]> Sat, 11 Mar 2017 11:57:05 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/claremontat100.jpg

ROAD TRIP DAYDREAMS: March has many gifts to give, from some impressive breezes and showers, to college basketball showdowns, to green beer and delicious corned beef, to that traditional hit-the-road week, spring break. But even if we're a few years, or decades, out of school, and haven't truly taken a quick trip in March or April, the notion can still call to us, much in the way rooting for our favorite team, or finding some old-school corned beef on March 17, can call to us, too. The lovely thing, of course, is that some hotel groups make taking a break in the spring, even if it isn't a spring break, a bit easier, thanks to a slate of specials, deals, and discounts. Those tend to flower, like so much lilac or wisteria, around the start of March, and, before you know it, those specials will blow out on the next spring-sweet breeze. In short? Best act soon, in this season of change. 

HISTORIC HOTELS OF AMERICA... can help those getaway-based spring fancies, via its Spectacular Spring Savings Sale. Note first that you'll need to choose and book by the last day in March, though when you can stay, and travel, will vary. You'll want to move quickly for the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa and Omni San Francisco, which are offering savings for March 2017 stays. La Valencia in La Jolla is shaving off 25% for select nights through June 1, while Claremont Club & Spa, A Fairmont Hotel, is offering 20% select overnights through the end of June. The best bet? Peruse the whole list, see what the discounts are, and what nights they'll apply. If all of the elements dovetail for you, and you can follow those spring breezes and longing to take to the road to a vintage and lovely property, cheers to that.

Photo Credit: Claremont Club & Spa, A Fairmont Hotel]]>
<![CDATA[Palm Springs New: La Serena Villas]]> Fri, 10 Mar 2017 19:33:01 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/desert192812912.jpg

PALM SPRINGS, let it be known, is open all year long. There is no "closed" sign on Highway 111, as you pull of the 10 Freeway, ever, and it matters not what the calendar says. But right around the end of wintertime, and the beginning of spring, the resort city truly begins to flower, much like an ocotillo blossom or prickly pear bud. Sitting-by-the-pool season is well and truly kicking in, the big festivals, from Modernism Week in February to the music festivals of April, are drawing locals as well as visitors from afar, and the night is shaking off a bit of its lunar-like desert chill. It's the ideal time for other things to flower, too, like new stay-over properties that have longtime roots in the city. The 18 villas at 339 South Belardo Road have those roots, thanks to the fact that the property can date its start back to 1933. As with desert flowers, though, hotels can bloom anew, which is just what's happened with the recently debuted La Serena Villas.

"THE SECLUDED PRIVATE VILLAS"... were re-imagined by architect May Sung and designed by Avenue Interior Designs, and they come with a flurry of tony details, from claw-footed tubs to fire pits located on the private patios. The acre-big spread also boasts a pool, and Whispers Spa, and is a short walk down to restaurant- and shop-plentiful Palm Canyon Drive. Yes, we said "down to," indicating that La Serena Villas is located where the city starts to roll up towards the San Jacintos. That means you'll be fairly mountain-close, a great place to be, come evening, when you want to hang out on your patio and enjoy that spring-crisp twilight that the desert does so well. Prices, details, and a peek inside the sizable villas? That's all flowering, ocotillo-style, right over here.

Photo Credit: Peak Photography]]>
<![CDATA[Haute Happening: Relais & Châteaux GourmetFest]]> Fri, 10 Mar 2017 13:07:22 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/relaixgourmetfestcarmel1.jpg

18 EVENTS: When you get right down to it, a single dinner out is, well, a single dinner out. It may have a few different dishes, or a beverage or two, but that will be a stand-alone experience, however superb it may be. But when you're craving not just the traditional meal-out line-up — appetizer, entrèe, dessert — but rather a whole sup-ready swath of tastes, dishes, and chefly interpretations, finding a swanky cuisine-focused weekend is the way to go. And when it is a long weekend, encompassing four days of grab-your-fork festivities? It must be something special. The Relais & Châteaux GourmetFest qualifies under the "something special" header, as it is a super-haute "foodie extravaganza" helmed by Relais & Châteaux chefs in the hard-to-top setting of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Adding to the general air of swanky special-a-tude are the 18 events on the roster, happenings that cover everything from your classic, learn-a-lot cooking demos to specific suppers that focus on a particular foodstuff or wine. The 2017 dates are...

MARCH 16 THROUGH 19, and the appetite-stoking highlights include a Black Truffle & Black River Caviar Dinner, a Georis Winery lunch, and a Rarities of the Sea "intimate lunch" at Aubergine at L'Auberge Carmel. Attending one of the lavish gourmet gatherings is on many a foodie's bucket list, but even if you can't make it, you can pore over some of the delectable dining details on the site. The weather is warming up but things are mightly haute, and creative in the best culinary sense, in Carmel this March.

Photo Credit: Relais & Châteaux GourmetFest]]>
<![CDATA[Sandpiper Wallpaper: Monterey Sweet]]> Fri, 17 Mar 2017 10:00:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/western-sandpipers_d-medium-sd.jpg

A BEACH VISIT, depending upon the stretch of sand where you land, can have a few salty, briny, kelpy staples, from a toppling (but still charming) castle that looks to be a few days old to the prodigious amount of foam churned up as the waves reach as far up onto the shore as they possibly can. And, if you've spent enough time at the water's edge, you've likely encountered a sandpiper. Scratch that, many sandpipers, moving in seemingly magical, rush-to-the-water, now-away, now-back-again unison. But if even if you consider yourself a big birder, or a fan of all feathery things, you might have viewed our ocean-close, elegant-of-beak bud, the sandpiper, in a fresh light after viewing "Piper." That's the 2016 Pixar short that bowed before "Finding Dory" in wide theatrical release, and the same short that went on to win the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film in February 2017. It's oodly cute, a total tugger of the heart, and it surely made even the most devoted piper buff see the seaside denizens with fresh eyes. 

KEEP THAT FRESH PIPER PERSPECTIVE HANDY... as you visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium's web site. The famous aquatic institution, which has worked with Pixar on its oceanic projects, just happens to have its free monthly wallpaper up, for March, and it just happens to be a flock of pretty Western sandpipers on the serenest, most mirror-like of beaches ("mirror-like" thanks to damp sand). As with all MBA wallpapers, this is free to download. But before you do, best read up, on the main wallpaper page, all about sandpipers, from where they breed to where they head when the weather grows cooler. Still cooing over the wee animated bird in the Pixar film? Don't put an end to your piper-centered obsession just yet; get your free wallpaper and be visited by sandpipers at your office desk throughout the day.

Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium]]>
<![CDATA[Tasty Time: Calistoga Food and Wine Event]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 21:36:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Chloe-Jackman-Photography-CSFAW-2016-104-1024x681+%281%29.jpg

A DEEP, DELICIOUS DIVE: One would never want to pair the word "urgency" with "getaway," if only because the first term has an act-fast element while the second encourages us to slow down, de-stress, and de-everything. And yet what often happens, while on a getaway or a short trip or even an overnight, is a cuisine-obsessed traveler can be overtaken by the urgent feeling that wines and foodstuffs must be tried, pronto, all of them, lest they depart the town and not really grok to what the gourmand goings-on are, exactly. This is where two-day, winery-spotlight, food-yummy festivals come in so handily. Not every village or city or vineyard has 'em, but when they do, locals and visitors alike are will get a solid and thorough overview of what's happening at the location's stoves and barrels. And what's happening on Friday, April 21 and Saturday, April 22 should give anyone devoted to getting better acquainted with Calistoga's cuisine scene a vaster sense of what's afoot. It's the...

CALISTOGA FOOD AND WINE EVENT, a two-day gathering of the gourmet-iest, grape-loveliest sort. Friday is all about a Winemaker Dinner at Fairwinds Estate, while Solage, An Auberge Resort, will set the stage for a Grand Tasting on Saturday. Prepare to mingle among "the region's top chefs" as well as "award-winning wineries" while looking upon only-in-Calistoga vistas. The wines on Friday will hail from a number of regional wine-perfecting places (think Kenefick Ranch, Fairwinds Estate, and Canard Vineyard). At Solage on Saturday you'll stroll about the lawn-and-barn area while choosing among samples from over 40 local wines (oh yes, and nibbling at swanky bites, too). Tickets, as well as a Solage stayover package themed to the haute happening? You'll find all of your feast-ready info here.

Photo Credit: Chloe Jackman Photography]]>
<![CDATA[After the Storm: A Big Sur 'Fun'-raiser]]> Thu, 09 Mar 2017 22:27:58 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/BigSur2visitcaliforniamylesmcguinness.jpg

STORIES WILL BE TOLD... for years to come, about the rollicking and wild winter of 2016-2017. One of the places still very much dealing with the impact of the extreme and extremely wet weather of the past several weeks is Big Sur. People have been cut off, due to issues with Highway 1, including the closure of Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge, and a number of businesses have had to temporarily shutter. Some historical gems, like Deetjen's Big Sur Inn, are addressing some notable damage from the wintertime storms, while other venues are trying to weather this unexpected closed-off period, while also keeping tabs on how employees, local families, and neighboring businesses are doing. If you've been...

THINKING OF BIG SUR, and the spots you've frequented over the years, from Nepenthe Restaurant to Post Ranch Inn to the Henry Miller Memorial Library, and, of course, all of the great people you've met up and down the 1, there are ways to help out. The Big Sur Blog is an excellent resource, and just shared info about a delicious Big Sur Pop Over at Salumeria Luca in Carmel on March 11 and 12 (with "(s)ome of the proceeds" going to "...Big Sur, to help our tiny community through these very rough times"). There's also a GoFundMe page up for Deetjen's, where devoted fans of the woodsy, redwood-amazing destination can lend some love.

"AFTER THE STORM: A BIG SUR 'FUN'-RAISER"... is another way to support the people living along this ethereal stretch of California coast. It's a night of song and spoken word presentations, at the Cherry Center for the Arts in Carmel, on Saturday, March 25. In short? There are numerous avenues to reaching out, connecting, and helping Big Sur through this time; keep an eye on community blogs and media sites for updates, as well as the social media feeds of the restaurants, hotels, and businesses you love for opening dates, information, and what's ahead.

Photo Credit: Visit California/Myles McGuinness]]>
<![CDATA[Fresno County Blossom Trail]]> Sat, 11 Mar 2017 11:56:42 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/blossomGettyImages-113619914.jpg

THE CHERRY BLOSSOM... is a perfect, nearly fictional creation. Delicate, pink, white, soft-petal'd, stunningly stamen'd, and the most ethereal thing on the planet, or seemingly so, it is a flower that has earned its poetic cred. But there are other buds come the springtime, on other trees that bear fruit, and they, too, are quite beautiful. If you feel like writing a poem or ode when spying a springtime tree in full, fluttery flower, there is a fantastical fruit-tastic byway, in Fresno County, that will give your inner poet much to muse about. It's the Fresno County Blossom Trail, "...a colorful 62-mile loop southeast of Fresno."

THAT'S RIGHT, IT IS IMPRESSIVELY LARGE, this loop, so don't for a moment think that you'll park your car, stroll for a quarter mile, and then that will be it, as far as seeing the trees go. The blossom-y branches stretch for a notable chunk of the region, through Sanger, Reedley, and other communities that sit to the east of Highway 99. It's a big undertaking, but as far a Marchtime marvels go, of the most nature-lovely sort, the Blossom Trail is le ultimate.

STEP ONE? There's a very helpful map on the Go Fresno County page, so eye that before dipping into your blossom daydreams. Two? You'll want to know what trees are out there. Expect to see almond, plum, and apricot flowers, as well as apple and citrus petals, too (oh, and peach and nectarine). Which will be the prettiest, to your tree-loving eye? Which will smell the very, very nicest? WE KNOW. Orange blossoms. Hoo boy. There's nothing like that bewitching scent, but a day out, in Fresno County, finding fruit tree flowers, might also rank on the "nothing comparable" scale. But the clock is ticking, so wend your way to the trail before March says its final goodbye, or even sooner, if you can.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Base Camp: Desert Festival Glamping]]> Mon, 13 Mar 2017 09:42:25 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/basecampAS6A7100-copy+%282%29.jpg

MEMORABLE OVERNIGHTS: The major music and art spectaculars that flower around California in the warmer months are very much about what's on the stages, and what's in the food and drink halls, and what installations are bringing the visual wow. But attendees also take into consideration what's the optimal path away from the festival, in terms of where they get some needed shut-eye, after a day of singing along, dancing, admiring art, and basking in (a lot of) sun. Your cousin's friend's couch has sometimes been an option, and the large-scale, multi-pool resorts, too, but if glamping is more your vibe, then prepare to make camp at Base Camp. The tent and RV pop-up, located in Thermal, is just a scoot south from the Empire Polo Club ("scoot" meaning about a 10-minute drive) and starts at $59 a night. Base Camp promises the sorts of amenities you might find at a stylish hotel, such as... 

CONCIERGE SERVICE, and swimming, and cocktails for sale, and ways to get to the festivals, and those all-important charging stations. Look for "a sandy beach lagoon" and pool, if you're planning on a little chillax time away from the festivals. As for open dates? You only need check the dates for the Coachella Music and Arts Festival and Stagecoach Festival to find when the Base Camp shall make camp. Opening date is Thursday, April 13, while everything shutters on Monday, May 1. Like the festivals, though, the camp'll be in operation around the weekends, so if you're planning to stretch out your desert stay, double check your dates.

Photo Credit: Base Camp]]>
<![CDATA[North Lake Tahoe: Spring Break Snow]]> Tue, 07 Mar 2017 16:56:55 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Sunny_Spring_Chill_Credit_Mt.RoseSkiTahoe.jpg

SINCE WHEN DID SPRING BREAK... become officially and totally about the pleasures of the beach? Well, since about forever, or at least over the last several decades. Pop culture has put it out there that, if we're to truly live it up in March or early April, we'll need A) a swimsuit and B) a beach towel and C) one of those little plastic shovels that helps us construct Instagrammable sand castles. But the fact is this: Spring break can also be about snowtime fun, especially after the ultra-flakeful winter of 2016-2017. If schussing, and fire pits, and s'mores, and lifts are more your style than sand between the tootsies, you don't need to dig out a long-forgotten swimsuit. Simply grab your poles and your gloves and make for North Lake Tahoe, which has a number of cold-nosed doings afoot during the the traditional, March-into-April span of spring break. You can cheer on the pros at the...

AUDI FIS WORLD CUP... at Squaw Valley from March 9 through 12 or join the ski-major Gold Rush Festival, a "challenging Nordic" showdown, on March 18 and 19. Sunset snowshoe tours with Tahoe Adventure Company, backcountry skiing with Alpenglow Adventure Sports, and more off the slopes to-dos dot the region's calendar. And if you simply like the spring chill, but don't want to ski or strap on the snowshoes, consider jamming out at the music-packed WinterWonderGrass festival, which lands on the last two days of March and first two days of April. Soon the snow'll be gone and the bikes'll roll in on the Amgen Tour of California in May. Wait, what are we saying? Scratch that. A number of destinations near North Lake Tahoe will keep the ski action flowing right through June, if you can't get enough of the snow over your spring break. (Or, yeah, if you want to hit the beach in March, which is tradition, we get it, high fives, all good.)

Photo Credit: Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe]]>
<![CDATA[Spear Soiree: Asparagus Fest]]> Tue, 07 Mar 2017 23:06:34 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/181*120/20091225st1226stchristmas05.jpg

IF YOU ARE A BELIEVER... in the concept of the "cook's treat," then you know that taking a nibble, in the kitchen, while you wash up the bowls and dry the measuring cups, is all part of the bargain. After all, the cook has done the work for those who will soon enjoy a delicious summer, so an extra knob of cheddar, or a few croutons, are just the kind of cook's treat that the person doing the work has earned. And few foodstuffs are as high up on the cook's treat pyramid as a spear of asparagus. Consider how flavorful it is, how graspable, and how easy to eat (it can go down in just a few chomps). Few at-home chefs would dare say they never grabbed a spear before the plating a few dozen slender green asparagus for those waiting at the dinner table. Does this fact make the asparagus spear the world's most perfect cook's treat, category: vegetables? While you debate that hot topic, break out your road-trip planner, and look to Stockton, where the...

SAN JOAQUIN ASPARAGUS FESTIVAL... will sprout, over a trio of celebratory days, on April 21, 22, and 23, 2017. Will you eat deep-fried asparagus while there? It's for sale, as is asparagus ice cream and asparagus corn dogs. The idea of asparagus slaw sounds as fresh as a spring afternoon, while bacon-wrapped asparagus feels like something we might attempt to make at home. There's a whole plethora of plate-filling, spear-crunchy choices, as well as a host of family-oriented happenings. But is the perfect asparagus the one you nab from the pan on your own stove, the ultimate cook's treat? Well, try the ice cream first, and the fried spears, before deciding. We say all asparagus types should receive a lot of love, whether we devour them at a huge spring festival or standing over our stove at home.

Photo Credit: Chris Preovolos]]>
<![CDATA[Daffodil Hill: Opening Date Announced]]> Tue, 07 Mar 2017 13:38:45 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/daffodil-days1.jpg

AMADOR COUNTY AMAZING: It can be a mite hard to hold one's horses when springtime sights are on the near horizon. A person gets pretty dang eager to shake off wintertime, and soak in some rays, it's true, and finding those flowery spots that brim with sunshine hues becomes a top-of-the-list goal. But shaking off wintertime, especially in a winter that's seen a lot of snow action at higher elevations, is an easier-said-than-done proposition quite often. Still, though, even places that have seen a notable amount of flakes and raindrops over the 2016-2017 are still on schedule to do the whole flower thing in the weeks ahead. One of the best known is Daffodil Hill in Amador County, a Gold Country gem that is truly golden in color. Nope, you don't have to guess too hard about what the star blossom is at the bucolic destination, but pinning down that opening date, what with recent snowfalls in the area, is another matter. Still, though, the pretty spot recently revealed when those proverbial doors will open for the season. It's... 

FRIDAY, MARCH 17, an easy date to remember if you happen to be heading for Murphys for the mondo March 18 St. Patrick's Day parade (Murphys is not in Amador County, of course, but close enough where it could be included in a weekend-long road trip). Weekend traffic can be notable, reveals the Daffodil Hill Facebook page, so, during its spring-bloom run, think about how wonderful a Wednesday stroll might be. Admission to the vivaciously bright Volcano attraction, which is on an historical property that dates back to the late 1800s, is free.

<![CDATA[Celebrate California Wildlife in Walnut Creek]]> Mon, 06 Mar 2017 15:04:49 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/CA-tiger-salamander-lindsay.jpg

IF YOU HAD TO PICK... your most favoritest, love-cuddle-iest, furriest, majestic-of-wingspan-iest Golden State critter, well, how would you possibly choose? Would you go with the red-tailed hawk? The Western gray squirrel? The mule deer? It's difficult, right, when you deeply love a hundred different regional animals, and truly adore about a thousand more. And while there are centers around the state that give we humans a closer look, and understanding, of our wild, wing-rocking, tail-swishing neighbors, there is a day, too. That day is March 20, the day of the spring equinox, and Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel) has proposed that California Wildlife, an "annual recognition," dovetail with the equinox, each and every year. To "...show support for wildlife conservation and Senate Concurrent Resolution 23," the Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek will open on a day it normally does not — Monday — and also bid admission fees goodbye for all of March 20.

"SPECIALIZED PROGRAMS"... are on the schedule that day at the center, with a focus on "...state endangered species and those endemic to California." Crafts and games themed to Golden State beasties are part of the equinox-awesome fun, too. And will you learn a bit more about the wildlife hospital that's an important part of the Lindsay Wildlife Experience? So many injured animals have gotten a second chance due to the care they received while staying at the center. For all the details on the California Wildlife Day doings, and what the Walnut Creek destination does, trot or flap or dash or howl in this direction.

Photo Credit: Lindsay Wildlife Center]]>
<![CDATA[Flavor! Napa Valley: Springtime Sup/Sip]]> Sun, 05 Mar 2017 09:58:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/1DSC_4650flavornapa1.jpg

THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING... has a well-deserved rep has one of the most inspirational days of the year. Perhaps we're inspired to step outdoors on a more regular, evening-walk-y kind of basis, or maybe we vow, on that day, to finally dig into the back of the closet (the very back-back, not the surface part that we see). But that whole renewal thing that the start of spring does so well also folds well into a happening built around the pleasures of the vineyard and garden and kitchen. The earth is bursting around late March, and that a few major California food festivals land near the month's close isn't just coincidence. There's Palm Desert Food + Wine to the south, and in the north? One only need wend their way to wine country to find Flavor! Napa Valley, a gourmand gathering of chefs, winemakers, spirit-creating specialists, and the fans and home cooks who want to learn, savor, and celebrate that spring-y zest in the air. The 2017 dates are...

MARCH 22 THROUGH 26, and while a few things are sold out — it is a popular food festival, don't doubt it — you can still find tickets to events like Terroir to Table: The Spirited Side of Napa Valley, which includes "a short distillery tour." That's on Friday, March 24, while a Bubbles and Brunch to-do on Sunday, March 26 includes a few Domaine Chandon libations, in addition to some high-stylin' spins on classic brunchy bites. The closet clean-out, and other early-spring must-dos, surely can be postponed for a bit, while you welcome the season in glass-raised, fork-in-the-air fashion. For all the events, and where to stay, follow the trail to Napa Valley.

Photo Credit: Bob McClenahan/Flavor! Napa Valley]]>
<![CDATA[Tomatomania! Delish Tour on the Roll]]> Mon, 06 Mar 2017 15:06:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/Tomatomaniasign123.jpg

WHAT'S THE MOST SUMMER THING, like, ever? Is it running through a sprinkler while squealing with pure joy? Is it watching a pair of hummingbirds dance around a feeder full of nectar? Or is it a piece of country bread slathered in lightly salted butter and topped with a couple of generously sliced heirloom tomato slices? Okay, okay, you got us: These all exemplify the warm spirit of warm weather, as do about a thousand other classic pursuits/foods/pastimes. But surely, even if you adore 100 different summery things, you'll want to make sure you're well-tomato'd well in advance of the season even arriving.

THAT MEANS... springtime tomato plant tending, and before the tending can begin, the purchasing and learning. That's where Tomatomania! comes in, that on-the-road, all-around-California tour that puts those who love their lycopene, and juicy, multi-hued fruitstuffs, in contact with experts and a host of heirloom-handsome seedlings. If 2017 is the year you boost the tomato's presence in your own garden, or you improve upon the plants you have, best...

CHECK OUT THE SCHEDULE: There's an early-March start for the tour in Corona del Mar, and a final, near-the-end-of-April stop in Sonoma County. Between those two lovely locations? Tomatoists can talk seeds 'n more in Ojai, Culver City, and other Golden State spots. Even juicier than the juiciest heirloom picked at the height of July? Tomatomania! is free to attend. It's that time, garden people and eaters of succulent, sandwich- and salad-ready orbs of goodness: Find where the tour will land near you.

Photo Credit: Tomatomania!]]>
<![CDATA[Wildflowers + Rails: Solano County Spring]]> Fri, 03 Mar 2017 18:56:18 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Wildflowertrainfairfield12912.jpg

THE TRUTH IS... that you may not be able to pick out a sheep's sorrel blossom from a moving train, or a goldfield, or a clutch of brass buttons, but... Now hang on one second. Maybe you're all about brass buttons, and goldfields, and sheep's sorrel, and you wouldn't want anyone assuming that you don't know your regional wildflowers, through and through. To that we do doff our hat, because the pleasures of nature, while considerable throughout the calendar, are something truly special when the first full month of springtime arrives. That's April, of course, 'round these parts, a four-week stretch that sends a flurry of fans who happen to be wild about wildflowers out into the meadows and foothills of California. And while tromping about — delicately, of course, given the blossoming situation on the ground — is a lovely way to catch rays and view petals, there are, in certain situations, ways to soak in all things wildflower from the window of a historical train. Let's visit...

SOLANO COUNTY, and the Western Railway Museum, and those old-fashioned Scenic Limited trains, which will chugga-chugga-toot-toot by areas known to be visited by blossom-y plants come April. The train is running on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, from the first day of the month through to April 30, so gather your group and hatch a happy plan. The Sacramento Northern mainline'll serve as the rails, and you should be able to spy Mt. Diablo in the distance (and the picturesque Montezuma Hills, too). But will you excitedly call out "goldfield" and "brass buttons" whenever you see them from your window? It's a burbly, warm-hearted, pretty dang excitable time of year, what with shrubs and trees and the world bursting with fresh beauty. So bring your wildflower smarts, and your love of spending an hour on a train, to Solano County in April 2017.

Photo Credit: Wildflower Train]]>
<![CDATA[MOXI: Santa Barbara's Newest Museum]]> Sat, 04 Mar 2017 13:04:31 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/moxisbopen.jpg

WILING AWAY A DAY... in a city that isn't your own can involve a few different components. You'll seek out sustenance during your getaway, probably from a place you've visited before and adored or a new spot that is getting the raves. You'll want to take in some views, or nature, or fresh air, probably, and to cap it all off? You'll want a cultural, big-of-mind, big-of-heart experience, the sort of connection that can and does often happen at a museum. So many California cities have awesome repositories of knowledge and ideas, from towns with a historical center to the major metropolises and their art-cool destinations. Now a spot that is flush with fantastic attractions of the aforementioned big-of-mind, big-of-heart sorts has a new place for visitors and locals alike to learn, explore, see: It's MOXI The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation, which just made its debut at the very close of February.

WHAT IS MOXI? It's got a devotion to both "science and creativity" at its very core. The exhibits are interactive, and involve all of the awesome tenets and notions behind S.T.E.A.M. (that's science, technology, engineering, art, and math, of course). There's a Giant Guitar that invites visitors on an aural-awesome journey, and a Light Track which is all about the hues and shades that enrich our world. Where to find it? It's on State Street, close to the tracks, which means you can Amtrak it in, if that's your preference. For more on MOXI's science-focused moxie, and all of the cool kid- and adult-nifty things to do at Santa Barbara's newest learning institution, clickity click.

Photo Credit: MOXI]]>
<![CDATA[Butterfly Jungle: Opening at Safari Park]]> Thu, 02 Mar 2017 22:40:31 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Butterflyjungle2016sd.jpg

BUTTERFLY-ADJACENT BITES: If you were to try and dine like a Dalmatian, you'd probably snarfle about a dish, excitedly awaiting dinner. If you wanted to sip milk like a kitten, you'd likely go about it in a dainty, gentle-of-tongue manner. And as far as eating like a butterfly? Well, there is that whole nectar-intake thing that our winged friends do so divinely, and we people do not, or, at least, not nearly as well as the colorful insects. So just know this: Even if you choose to attend the special Butterfly Jungle Preview Dinner at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which happens a couple of days before the popular butterfly attraction actually opens, or you go with the Butterfly Jungle Breakfast, which happens about a week after the butterfly attraction opens, you will not be required to quaff nectar from a flower. You will not need to flap your wings or land upon your chair like a butterfly alights upon a stem. You should, however, arrive with your interest in the insect world and all of the varied and vivaciously patterned butterflies at Butterfly Jungle. Of course, you needn't attend either the dinner or breakfast to enjoy the nature-riffic attraction, for...

BUTTERFLY JUNGLE... has a number of colorful components. There's the iridescent-amazing bubble show on the weekends, the Instameet Photo-Walk & Challenge, a chance to spend the night at Butterfly Jungle (it's called the Roar & Snore), and, of course, plentiful opportunities to spy a plethora of pretty and fascinating fly-ers from a fairly close distance. The 2017 dates? All of the fluttering and nectar-sipping and oohing and ahhing happens at the park from Sunday, March 12 through Sunday, April 23.

Photo Credit: Ken Bohn]]>
<![CDATA[Vintage Bike Love: Eroica California]]> Thu, 02 Mar 2017 15:48:01 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/eroicacaliforniabike.jpg

A LOT OF HAY... is made over the vintage bicycle that is often found in the back of the garage, especially on televisions shows that are all about clearing out unused clutter. But here's the truth, and one that can be seen on roads around the Golden State: bicycles with history rule, and are well-loved, and are taken out daily for rides by the devoted cyclists who adore them and care for them. In short? Clutter, they are not.

THERE'S QUALITY ON DISPLAY, and cool colors and gears, and one glance reveals that these moving works of art have some amazing stories to tell. If you're all about your old-school roll, and lifting the kickstand every afternoon for another happy wend around the neighborhood, consider joining other fans of wayback bicycles as they meet up at the third annual Eroica California, a "vintage bicycling event" that finds its inspiration in the Italian L'Eroica, aka "The Heroic." Organizers are expecting around...

1,000 ATTENDEES... at the Paso Robles gathering, which'll pedal through and around town on Saturday, April 8 and Sunday, April 9. There's a festival to peruse in Paso's Downtown City Park, so if you need a part for your bike, be on the lookout (area businesses and food vendors'll be out, too, making it a sort of bikes 'n bites 'n beverages bash). A bike-themed Concours d'Elegance on April 8 is also a centerpiece to the weekend, as is the chance to eye lots of beautiful two-wheelers from the 1980s wayyyy on back (think "early 1900s"). Springtime is when California's big bicycle spectaculars kick the tires and grease the chains, and Eroica California is right up there with them. That the spotlight is on bicycles that are at least a few decades old gives it some retro cred, a few extra good vibes, and definitely crowns it as one of the most picturesque on-the-roll parties around. How long has it been since you've seen a bunch of sweet 1970s-era bikes zooming by in a blur of beauty and hue? It's a sweet sight, whether you're a cycle aficionado or a fan of historic craftsmanship or both.

Photo Credit: Eroica California]]>
<![CDATA[MarsFest: Interplanetary Desert Adventure]]> Fri, 03 Mar 2017 12:10:07 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/183*120/3235346.jpg

IF YOU WERE TO DRIVE A ROVER, as in the sort of Rover that covers many, many miles in space, how long would it take you to reach Death Valley National Park? It's a good question, starting with where your point of origin happens to be. Likewise, if you were to fly a spaceship, or a shuttle, or an old-school saucer, the kind from a vintage '50s flick, how soon before you set your ride down near Furnace Creek Resort? Again, that whole point of origin thing is kind of important. But you can leave your Rover in the garage, and your space-ready saucer, too, and simply make your way by car to Death Valley over the second weekend in March. That's when...

MARSFEST... will bloom with all of the mystery, beauty, and science that belongs to the famous Red Planet. A planet, of course, that lovers of the not-too-far-off sphere can't reach in a weekend, what with needing to be back for work on Monday and all. But Death Valley doubles nicely for an alien-awesome landscape, a landscape that will see visitors from SETI, the Jet Propulsion Labratory, the Death Valley Natural History Association, and a host of partners all play a part in the annual look-up outing, one that is all about sharing information "...about our planet and Solar System..."

THE UPCOMING MARS MISSIONS... will be a big topic, of course, as well as "...robotic and human exploration beyond Earth." Prepare to admire a Curiosity mini-rover, as well as other nifty science items at the on-site expo. There will be field trips around the national park during the March 10 to 12, 2017 run, as well as lectures and more at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. Death Valley, like Mars, is vast, though, of course, not quite as vast as our neighboring planet. Best, though, read all the details before setting off for outer space. Er, rather, we mean the desert, of course, which can look quite rocky, and Mars-like, in the right light. A true treat for those who dream of what's beyond our home turf.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Grilled Cheese Festival: Sactown Savory]]> Wed, 01 Mar 2017 10:29:53 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/grilledcheese1_722x406_2227964712.jpg

THE GOOEY-O-SITY... of a classic, diagonally sliced grilled cheese sandwich is frequently commented upon by those who write about such things (sandwiches and gooeyness). And, frankly, how melty a slice of American cheese can get is rather astounding, and noteworthy, so it makes complete sense that the gooey factor would rank high among an eater's initial observations. But, if we might, we'd like to pause here and pay homage to the feel of a quintessential grilled cheese, and not just the mouthfeel. Rather, think of how the toasted, slightly buttery bread feels to the fingertips, and how that sensation almost strictly belongs to this superstar of a sandwich. If you're a grilled-cheesy gourmand, through and through, from the way it feels to hold a sandwich to the best combos of cheese to the ideal bread, best unhand that loaf and block of cheddar and consider a trip to the Capital City over the second weekend in April. For that's when the...

SACRAMENTO GRILLED CHEESE FESTIVAL... will take place, over two gloriously gooey days. While the Saturday, April 8 event is sold out, Sunday, April 9 is wonderfully open, and all ages, too. Admission is ten bucks, there shall be live tunes, and there shall be a Kid Zone, for the younger grilled cheese fans in the crowd. And the beneficiary of the festival? The Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America. If this is your main meal, one that is memorable in multiple ways (taste, texture, and, yes, how the bread feels), consider going Sactown for the superstar sandwich.

Photo Credit: Grilled Cheese]]>
<![CDATA[New: Kite Fest at Carmel Valley Ranch]]> Wed, 01 Mar 2017 22:12:12 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/kitebutterflysky12345.jpg

LOOK UP: If you've ever called upon Carmel Valley Ranch, chances are pretty high that you raised your eyes, from time to time, to the horizon and the sky. You probably gazed upon those quintessential Carmel-pretty hills near the property, and watched a sunset or two. There are plenty of local birds in the area, too, making it a treat to see just who is flying by, and the bees? Well, the property is known for its bee-keeping and lovely lavender. But guests will be looking up for a different reason when the first day of April twirls and dips into view: kites. In fact, many kites will take to the great blue above the ranch, thanks to the hotel's...

INAUGURAL KITE FESTIVAL: It's a full day of old-fashioned, slow-it-right-down diversions, from watching kite pros from the Berkeley Kite Wranglers expertly wield their strings to constructing your own kite, and decorating it, too, at an on-site station. Once you need a break from the sky scene, there are are picnicky pleasures, like a water-balloon toss and the ol' three-legged race (the key is to discuss with your partner, in detail, how your gait will go ahead of time).

EXCELLENT EATS... with garden-esque flair and beverages will be for sale, as well as posh licks at the artisanal ice cream cart. But don't stay away from the sky ballet too long; the Berkeley Kite Wranglers will have some impressive kites in tow, including those that measure up and over 200 feet. Imagine seeing that fluttering hue with a backdrop of Carmel-style clouds and/or the soft azure so frequently seen above the region. If you can't wait to get your summer fun on, well, don't. Start on April 1, at Carmel Valley Ranch.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Desert X: Mega Art Show]]> Sat, 04 Mar 2017 13:04:09 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/desertxartshow1.JPG

WORDSMITHS AND PHILOSOPHERS... and adventurers and dreamers have long compared arid, nearly empty landscapes to blank canvases. But, of course, and this does not go without saying, so say it, we shall, there is this: An arid place isn't empty, not by a long shot, not with its scrubby shrubs and darting lizards and strangely shaped rocks and the million other items/ideas that can be found there. A desert is, in fact, an ideal canvas, though not empty, for some large-scope notions of the most creative, envelope-pushing sort. And a desert-delightful region in California, the Coachella Valley, in fact, is playing just that epic canvas through the end of April. The event? It's Desert X 2017, a widespread "curated exhibition" involving a host of artists and their drive-to-them "site-specific" artworks. Meaning that you won't get a glass of Chablis and walk around a gallery to see the show; you'll be on the road, around Palm Springs and other desert resort cities, where you'll seek out each fresh piece for a new and singular experience.

SUNDAY, APRIL 30... is the final day of the experience, which means that the installations and pieces will remain up through the big music festivals that arrive in the valley during the fourth month of the year. Many pieces are outdoors, do note, and some are inside, and the "established and emerging artists" address a host of topical issues with urgency, wisdom, and humor. The artists include Doug Aitken, Jennifer Bolande, and several innovative thinkers who are adept at translating dreams, the news, love, local issues, and more into pieces that are whimsical and thought-provoking and memorable. The desert, of course, is not a blank canvas but a very complex portrait, and Desert X is adding to the landscape's eternal story with a multi-week, big-idea'd celebration of art.

Photo Credit: Desert X 2017]]>
<![CDATA[Champagne on Main: Ventura Wine Walk]]> Fri, 10 Mar 2017 19:32:30 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/Champagne_71864724.jpg

BUBBLES 'N BREEZES: An easygoing April afternoon seems custom-built for rhetorical, no-answer-required questions, the sort of queries that are more apt to prompt laughs, or further questions, than definitive closure. So here's one, and, again, there is no answer expected: Are there more sweet breezes during a perfect April Saturday or more bubbles in a flute of sparkling wine? The semi-accurate response here, we think, is that there's a lot of both, and that's a nice thing, and it is even nicer when that flute of bubbly beverage and that breeze-nice Saturday are smooshed together in one terrific, take-it-easy to-do. Champagne on Main qualifies on both of these fronts, as A) the outdoor wine walk occurs on the second Saturday of April 2017, just a pop over from the beach and B) there is a variety of sparkling wine to try, with all of those important liquid-based bubbles in attendance. If spending Saturday, April 8 not too far from the ocean, in a charmer of a downtown, with a cup of something fizzy in your hand, sounds like springtime distilled, then best...

GET YOUR TICKET: They're on sale now, for $50 to $70, and you'll receive a wristband that will give you the chance to sample a host of sips. It's an afternoon-time festival, so sunshine should be part of the bargain (if the clouds agree), and those lovely Ventura breezes, too. The street fair, by the by, is free to attend, and there's music, too, and several goings-on of the fest-y sort. A VIP Chocolate Lounge, too, is on the schedule, if you like a few bites with your bubbles and breezes. Champagne on Main is from the California Beer Festival people, another libation staple coming up on the warm-weather calendar. As for places to stay nearby? So important, so best start here.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Death Valley Flowers: Buds Are Springing]]> Wed, 01 Mar 2017 10:10:34 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/dvgolden1GettyImages-52383459.jpg

RIGHT ABOUT THE TIME... that March arrives is when people who love to garden start to truly picture what's going to happen over the next few weeks. Those bulbs planted weeks ago may show some color, and various trees will soon begin to break into tiny buds. But if you really dig the whole spring's-nearly-here flower scene, you don't have to wait on your own yard to do its impressive thing. You only need to look to the deserts, where the first waves of wildflowers are starting to make a snapshot-worthy stand. Of course, there has been some...

TEMPERING OF EXPECTATIONS... in early 2017, because wildflower aficionados have become understandably excited about the huge amounts of rainfall seen in January and February. But rain typically has to arrive earlier than that to help a really spectacular wildflower show, so, already, at places where poppies spring up and other types of flora, rangers and volunteers are saying the 2017 season may be of the more moderate variety. Of course, that can depend, and keeping your eye on reports is the best bet as the days pass. But don't let too many days pass, for...

DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK... is already reporting back on globemallow sightings and some flower-nice action around Saratoga Springs. If you're planning a March lark in the arid-awesome landscape, with some flower-y sightseeing on the side, watch the DVNP social media feeds for up-to-the-minute, or at least up-to-the-day, reports on what's happening on the ground. (Also, if you do do a Death Valley day trip, don't forget to water your own flowers, which are well on their way.)

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Railtown 1897: April Rides Opening]]> Tue, 28 Feb 2017 23:22:37 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/RT1265Diesel.jpg

NO FOOLIN': If you have a ten-gallon hat you're rather fond of, and you're up on your Sierra stories, the kind of stories that talk of the days of the Gold Rush, and of the famous characters who settled in the rolling foothills of the big mountains, and you like a day out among the trees, well, all that can be had beginning on April 1, 2017. That's where the "no foolin'" part came in, simply because any fun happening that has a launch date on April Fools' Day is sometimes met with an air of skepticism. But the only air to be found while riding the historical rails near Jamestown is straight-up, breathe-deep fresh air. Indeed, we're about to toot-toot our way into talking about Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, which is located in the Gold Country burg of Jamestown, and which typically holds its season-opening date around the early spring. And that date will be Saturday, April 1, and Sunday, April 2, a kick-off weekend flush with fun activities, and, of course, rides on...

THE MOVIE RAILROAD: A number of films were shot in the area, with the Sierra No. 3 starring on screen (you'll be able to see the famous engine during the opening weekend). Live magic, live tunes, and diesel train rides are all on the docket, though, no, you won't need to don a ten-gallon to join in. You should, however, keep your eyes on the landscape as you ride, for April is juuuust when the gorgeous wildflowers of the region get to poppin' (it's a bit early, but you never know, with the rains and such). The ride is 45 minutes, so you'll have lots of looking-around time, or, if you prefer it in miles, it's about six, all told. Does this feel nicely springy, nicely cinematic, and a way to indulge your Sierra-sweet love in an old-fashioned way? Again, no foolin' — April 1 is the start date for rides and more at Railtown 1897.

GOOD TO NOTE: Those popular steam-powered trains'll run after opening weekend, so if your heart is set on a steamie, inquire with the park about the exact dates you can board one in 2017.

Photo Credit: Railtown 1897]]>
<![CDATA[WonderCon: OC Pop Culture-a-Rama]]> Sat, 25 Feb 2017 11:37:17 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/wonderconGettyImages-517695828.jpg

COMIC-CON INTERNATIONAL... is definitely and absolutely on the horizon, the same sort of horizon that, in a comic book or blockbuster film, might bear the vision of a shimmery spaceship or unusual alien moon. Horizons, in short, are important in the stories that fill our favorite television shows and movies and graphic novels, because, so often, the characters we love our gazing out into the distance, searching for what they'll soon face. But mavens of popular culture, and intricate storytelling, and fabulous costuming, and adventuresome cosplay only need gaze into the nearer horizon, and not quite as far as Comic-Con, to see another major happening: WonderCon, in Anaheim. Yep, this convention was formerly in San Francisco, and, indeed, it is in the Comic-Con International family. But calling it prep for the Julytime San Diego jamboree isn't nearly the whole story, given that WonderCon has long been on the colossal, cram-in-lots-of-cool-stuff side of things, as it should be, of course. It's been delivering all sorts of pop culture delights for three decades. The 2017 dates are...

MARCH 31 THROUGH APRIL 2, the list of special guests has filled out (hello to the legendary Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier), there shall be the beloved, gussy-up Masquerade, as is tradition, and oodles of vendors, too. If you need fresh comic books, new toys, new tees, new action figures, or to replace an old favorite (a book you loaned out to a pal and never got back), WonderCon has a way of having what fans are seeking. Badges are on sale, artist Michael Cho's retro-tastic t-shirt and cover art is live and the whole shebang is just a few weeks out. Have your room in Anaheim? This is, after all, right around spring break, when Disneyland Resort is humming. Best book what you have to book, then get to work on that Masquerade costume, the one you meant to start sewing in November. You have time, but go, go, go.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Wildflowers: Find Mono County Blooms]]> Tue, 28 Feb 2017 15:58:07 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/lupinemonocounty1.jpg

HOW MANY FLOWERS... do you drive by while toodling around the back byways of California? We know, there are a few different levels and asterisks to that question. Do the blossoms need to be right along the road? Or are we talking in the general vicinity of the highway? Also, should the buds be fully open to qualify, and what of those flowers that have lost most or all of their petals in the wind? We won't put anyone to this test, for no on-the-road adventurer could accurately answer such a whimsical question. But we will ask this of backroaders and off-the-beaten-pathers: If you were to drive by a field of flowers you'd never seen in a wild setting, such as an expanse of blue-purple lupine stalks, would you safely pull over, park, and bound out of your vehicle with joy, enthusiasm, and, don't forget it, your camera? It's a yes-no question, and we're betting you said "yes," without delay.

GOOD THING... such a wide variety of blossoms grow in the Golden State, and very much so in Mono County, where lupine flowers and Mojave asters and fiddlenecks and a host of plant- and shrub-based buds pop up later in the spring and early summer. This is the Eastern Sierra area, with some elevation changes, so the lower desert-y flowers will soon make their showing, while the higher slopes will hold out for summer, or close to summer's start. Mono County Tourism wants to help outdoors lovers to find these flowers, via an online BLM guide called Wildflower Hot Spots of the Eastern Sierra. There are maps, and tips on where to look and when, and once you spend a half hour perusing the info on Mazourka Canyon, and Fish Slough, and Tioga Pass, you may want to load up the trunk ASAP. But take note of your favorite flower's timing, and when your favorite area of Mono'll be putting on its annual show. Will it be the lupines this year for you, or poppies, or a new flower? Or all of the above?

Photo Credit: Mono County Tourism]]>
<![CDATA[Magic's Afoot on the Queen Mary]]> Thu, 23 Feb 2017 22:18:12 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/qmfantasea123456.jpg

IF YOU COULD DESIGN A MAGIC CLUB, the kind of ultimate place for old-fashioned abracadabra-ing, what would you put in it? We're talking design-wise, here, and not specific rooms, because of course there'd be a green room backstage, where the illusionists can hang out between performances. What materials would you use? Sumptuous woods, and gorgeous low-lighting, and some mysterious spaces? Would you put your club somewhere rife with history and fables? And would your magic club inspire patrons to get a bit dressy ahead of attending? All of those wishes correspond to an actual place that really does exist in this dimension: the Queen Mary. The Art Deco landmark is layered in interesting woodsy, metallic notes, and the inclination to gussy up, like travelers did back in the 1930s, when the ship sailed the seas, still remains. Thus we don't have to conjure this ultimate magic club out of thin air: It will exist, for a single night, on the stunner of a ship, this...

SATURDAY, APRIL 8: That's when "Fantasea: Where Magic Lives," returns to the multi-deck destination. The Magic Castle in Hollywood is part of the Long Beach-based evening, an evening that'll see a string of now-you-see-it-now-you-don't-y shows from a flight of talented prestidigitators. The afternoon-long affair, which materializes at noon and vanishes at 6 p.m., includes up-close magic, illusionists on-the-roam, and some foodly, drink-delightful treats, from a Magic Mixology Tasting to a special dinner show. Also? The ship's famous phantom-focused ghost tours weave right into the wonder of the event. And if you're on the ship the following day, check out the Abracadabra Brunch. Is the whole of the Queen Mary a kindred spirit to a classic magic club, the kind that's lined with luxe woods and beautiful drapes and whimsy and enchantment? See for yourself when illusion arrives at the iconic ocean-liner. 

Photo Credit: Queen Mary]]>
<![CDATA['Beauty & the Beast' Tea at SLS Hotel]]> Sat, 25 Feb 2017 11:37:37 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/BeautyTheSLS1.jpg

HOW DO YOU FIND BEAST'S CASTLE? Well, you'll first need to cross the Atlantic Ocean, and then make your way into the forests of France, and a trusty horse might be good, and, perhaps, a talking teapot or candelabra to give you advice, direction, and support. Oh, and you should probably have a time machine, too, in addition to your boat ticket, or whatever way you'd like to return to the splendorific age of magic and fairy tales. But if you haven't secured your Atlantic passage yet, and you don't know a talking candelabra, perhaps you only need find your way to SLS Hotel. The Beverly Hills poshery has teamed up with Walt Disney Studios and the El Capitan Theatre to offer a variety of Belle-issimo experiences for those who are looking forward to a new live-action film debuting in March. It's the much-anticipated "Disney's Beauty and the Beast," and while the feature rolls at the Hollywood-historical El Cap, in addition to other cinemas, SLS will be setting its tables for an "Enchanted Afternoon Tea" inspired by the story and film.

THE "BE OUR GUEST" TEA SERVICE... includes Mrs. Potts' Savory Snacks, Chip's Sweet Delights, a glass of Cava for the grown-ups, and a host of premium teas. The swanky spot? Tres by José Andres (Chef Andres, in fact, is curating the sip-and-be-splendid experience). As for other tale-as-old-as-time to-dos around the hotel? A "commemorative 'Beauty and the Beast' tasting menu" at The Bazaar — it includes an "Enchanted Rose" dessert — and an overnight package complete with a two-people "styling session" at Ciel Spa as well as two VIP Preferred tickets to a screening of the film at El Capitan in Hollywood will also be offered. And is there a "decadent 'Enchanted Rose' amenity"? Well, fairy tales often arrive with a sprinkling of wonder (so: yes). Magic spells do end, however, and this sparkly spell, the one cast by SLS, must eventually say "adieu," too. So contact the castle — er, we mean the hotel, rather — and book your tea, tasting menu, or overnight stay soon, and definitely before March 26, when this particular fairy tale bids farewell to the whimsical Beverly Hills hotel.

Photo Credit: SLS Hotel]]>