<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Worth the Trip]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcbayarea.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com en-us Tue, 30 Jun 2015 01:40:08 -0700 Tue, 30 Jun 2015 01:40:08 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Festival del Sole: Napa Valley Summer Soiree]]> Mon, 29 Jun 2015 21:32:09 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/napafestsole1.jpg

MULTI-DAY FESTIVAL, MULTI-HAPPENINGS: The beauty of an art-focused, music-tastic gathering that is spread out over nearly a third of a month is this: It doesn't have to be about one or two things. Of course, the focus will never stray far from the intent of the happening, but given a little breadth and various venues and some whimsical vision, a multi-day party can obtain a lively lift-off of sorts. Look to Festival del Sole, the July soiree that alights in Napa Valley for several days and nights, bringing with it exquisite eats and special orchestra appearances and special thespian appearances and jazz greats and young performers and exercise. That last addition may seem a bit incongruous at first glance, but the 5K and 10K that's folded into the fun just proves that there's room for a lot, from many different corners, at Festival del Sole. But after a full decade of concerts and solo shows and wine spotlights and such, the arts-plus party has a pretty good handle on how seemingly disparate events complement each other nicely. And "nicely," and equally as nice variations on the compliment, may be said a few times this summer when the festival spreads out from Friday, July 17 through Sunday, July 26.

TASTE OF NAPA... is a savory centerpiece of the week, and it gets things revved pretty quickly on the second night (that's July 18). Over "70 wineries, restaurants, and food artisans" will serve up bites with local bite and libations with a deep N.V. backstory. More goodness is to come: Herb Alpert and Lani Hall are on the joyful jazz brigade, a live script-reading with a "celebrity cast" will bring classic film goodness to life, and accoladed violinest Midori plays out the final night. Plus? Actor Kevin Spacey makes a gala appearance, the free Community Concert presents "Angel Heart," and several principal dancers from top ballet troupes will tie on the toe shoes and astound. And, yes, that aforementioned 5K and 10K will lend the love to arts programs in Napa Valley. Also: The Russian National Orchestra shall bring Beethoven, and his "Symphony No. 9," to moving, thunderous, feel-it-in-your-solar-plexus life. Yep, a multi-day, multi-discipline happening in an already arts friendly spot like Napa Valley insures you'll get a bit listy with the many lovely to-dos, and it is hard to stop the hand-flailing and excitement. So trot this way and see all that this European-style, swanky-cool party has to offer. The bag is deep and the gems inside are plentiful.

Photo Credit: Festival del Sole]]>
<![CDATA[Très Drôle: Santa Barbara French Festival]]> Mon, 29 Jun 2015 15:14:45 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/189*120/poodle_large_ChristopherGardner.jpg

EVERY DOG HAS ITS DAY: Seems like it was just a few years back when dog happenings were fewer and none gave the spotlight to any one breed in particular. Oh, we're not talking about Westminster or any of the larger dog shows that hand out accolades and trophies; we speak of the more homegrown, public-serving gatherings that are basically big parties with a canine element. But dog bashes have gotten bigger and more plentiful over the last couple of decades, that's for darn tootin'. The internet may be partially responsible -- it is so easy to connect with fellow fur-lovin' dog people -- and just the fact that how we spoil our Fidos has changed, and blossomed, over time (they're a billion-dollar industry, and growing). So that we now have to-dos with a focus on a single breed shouldn't surprise, and that California has so many is not much of a shocker, either. Greyhounds gather in Solvang each winter, hundreds of corgis just took over a Southern California beach in the spring of '15, and Bastille Week in Santa Barbara means one thing: poodles and lots of 'em. They show up with the très charming Poodle Parade, the popular closer to the city's long-running French Festival. But poodles are pretty polite, as everyone knows, and thus it makes sense that other breeds are now invited to join the fluffy symbols of French Fido-dom on a fancy-fur strut at Santa Barbara's Oak Park. Yes, some dogs are in berets, and some wear can-can girl dresses, but all are cute as the dickens.

FRENCH FEST, FROMAGE TO FANTASY: Of course, the French Festival, which got its Santa Barbara start back in the late 1980s, is more than a sweet gaggle of poodles and their pup pals. Dancing, eating, wines of all sorts, a fantasy glen full of fairies, a Moulin Rouge stage, and other pleasures best defined as Central-Coast-meets-18th-arrondissement shall prevail at the weekend-long soiree. And those dates? Just a pinch after Bastille Day, so that's a snap to remember: Saturday, July 18 and Sunday, July 19 is the weekend you'll want your beret-rocking poodle to be washed and ready to roll for Santa Barbara. Don't forget your stripey shirt.

Photo Credit: Christopher Gardner]]>
<![CDATA[Go Soon: Mariposa Grove Closing for Restoration]]> Sun, 28 Jun 2015 09:49:23 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/mariposagrove293920930.jpg

BEAUTIFUL BEHEMOTHS: Few people are cavalier about the forests and canyons and rivers of California -- we all try to stay aware about the issues that impact our home planet and our rather glorious Golden State surroundings -- but we can grow a little complacent about being able to access our neighboring natural wonders. Surely Pinnacles National Park and Mount Shasta and the redwoods up around Klamath are just there, always open, any time we need to have some communing with nature, right? Well, yes, mostly, but, on occasion, a well-known nature spot shutters for various important reasons.

Mariposa Grove of Yosemite National Park will do just that, tentatively around July 6, when a 24-month restoration project begins. If you're recalling that recent changes have already arrived at the grove of giant sequoias that sits within the national park's boundaries, your memory is solid: The Big Tree Tram Tour ceased operation, forever, in autumn of 2014. Sequoia super-fans -- and surely that's all of us, right? -- weren't out of luck as far as making for Mariposa Grove, however; the area was set to stay open for some time following the tour's closure, as plans were made for its back-to-nature restoration.

THAT RESTORATION... is now upon us, as of early July, so visitors have late into June, and the Fourth of July weekend, to eye the grouping, which "contains about 500 mature giant sequoias." If the restoration proceeds as planned, you can visit again starting in a couple of years, but with an updated landscape to enjoy. Or, if you prefer to think of it in a different light, a "backdated" landscape, since the restoration seeks to return the grove to more of its natural, untouched state by stripping away some of the humanmade creations (hence the ending of the tram tour). It's a trend in many a natural area, and one that promises a positive impact on the natural processes of the plants and animals that call a much-visited wonder home. For more on the Mariposa Grove restoration, and to find your big-tree experience, venture this way, explorers.

photo: Yosemite National Park

Photo Credit: Yosemite National Park]]>
<![CDATA[D23 Expo: Advance Ticket Sale Ending]]> Sun, 28 Jun 2015 09:50:49 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/rapunzeld23.jpg

AS BIG AS SLEEPING BEAUTY'S CASTLE: While there are numerous small 'n sweet things to be found at Disneyland -- the pennies at the bottom of the wishing well in Snow White's Grotto, the cards delivered by the fortune telling machine at the Penny Arcade, the jewels inside Pirates of the Caribbean, the stars twinkling inside Space Mountain -- it is a destination that famously thinks big. Sleeping Beauty's Castle is stare-up-in-wonder big, as is the Matterhorn. And that final drop at Splash Mountain? Imagineers were not thinking small when they designed that one. And keeping with the go-bigger tradition is D23 Expo, the every-two-years Disney fan convention that will again alight, just a short walk from the world's most famous theme park, at the Anaheim Convention Center in August.

WHAT'S HAPPENING: This is the three-day weekend when movie stars of upcoming properties make cameos -- Johnny Depp has, in the past, and just about every other recent movie headliner -- and reveals and/or peeks are made at projects in the works. The "Silly Symphonies" will get a special concert, complete with live orchestra, if you want to take an animated trip back to the '30s. Pixar aficionados are out in force, and "Star Wars" mavens, too, and those who dig the history of Walt Disney's dream visit the archive exhibit, which shall include "(m)ore than 300 classic and contemporary objects celebrating the 60th anniversary of Walt's first theme park." Ah yes, it is also the 60th anniversary of Disneyland, so prepare for much merch and lots of love given to that.

ADVANCE TICKETS... at a discounted price have been available, but not for much longer. That all wraps on June 30, so if you want to score your adult one-day general admission for sixty seven dollars, rather than seventy four dollars, best do that before July kicks in. After all, if you've been sewing your Rapunzel costume or Captain Jack Sparrow outfit for the last few weeks, you want to make sure you have your ticket firmly in hand (and put the extra few bucks you've saved towards something needed for your look -- more hair flowers or beads, perhaps). Need ticket info for the Aug. 14-16 expo, Mouseketeers? The parade is this way.

Photo Credit: D23 EXPO]]>
<![CDATA[PAWmicon: Find a Superhero BFF in San Diego]]> Fri, 26 Jun 2015 08:49:13 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Pawmicon2012HWACdogPawmiconPrincess.jpg

PERFECT SUPERHERO PET: If you woke up tomorrow and found out that a meteorite had passed over your house or a radioactive flea had bit you or your home was located on a mine filled with magical glow stones, would your first thought be A) I wonder what cool powers I'll get or B) I wonder what my awesome canine or feline super-companion will be.

BECAUSE... while transforming into a cape-rocking, mask-mysterious, bold-'n-brave superhero is frankly fantabulous, finding out you have a Fido who can fly or talk or go completely invisible is even better. We're not sure what amazing attributes the woofers and meowers who'll be up for adoption at PAWmicon will bring, but we can bet that some of their superpowers including napping and purring and rolling over and licking your face and loving everybody ever.

AS SUPERPOWERS GO, those are pretty terrific, so plan on alighting at the Stone Company Store in San Diego on Wednesday, July 8 to have a look at the cuties who need a home. The date, you'll notice, happens to be the day before Comic-Con International -- Comic-Con Eve, if you will -- so plenty of superheroes will already be in town but not yet too busy with convention-y doings. This means you have plenty of time to go cuddle, and potentially spark with, a sweetie at PAWmicon.

OR SHOW WITH YOUR OWN... superhero pet. There is a "comic-themed photo booth" and a costume contest (your pup could win a prize she'll like) and Doggy Beer Bones. Also good to know? The Rancho Santa Fe-based Helen Woodward Animal Center'll net ten percent of the bar's take, so you'll sip knowing future orphaned animals will get the TLC they need from the always busy animal safehouse. That's pretty dang heroic, helping out lovable buddies in need. Now, need an idea for how to cosplay with your canine? Look to the many famous superhero beasties populating the comics shelf, from Ace the Bat Hound to Rex the Wonder Dog. So sweet, so brave, so colorful, so able to dash after dastardly robots and dinosaurs and outer space visitors. Yep, it is certainly time we all pay superhero dogs -- both on the page and on our lap -- their due.

Photo Credit: Helen Woodward Animal Center]]>
<![CDATA[Silent DJ Parties Rev Up Hyatt Palm Springs]]> Thu, 25 Jun 2015 16:56:04 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/HyattPalmSpringsP061Pool1DJ.jpg

CLASSIC POOL PARTY, LOW VOLUME: Never let it be said that social scenes are static entities with structures that remain stagnant and unchanging and resistant to change. Case in point: The silent DJ party. Just when you -- and everyone else who keeps a tab on trends -- might have thought that a DJ-led music bash was full of thump and volume an ever-so-cool, hotel-cool happening, one that the Palm Springs Hyatt is adopting over several summer Sundays, the first hotel in the region to do so. So what's a silent DJ party? It's where guests gather in an area -- the pool is a pretty chic choice -- over an evening -- Saturday is also chic, as days of the week go -- and don, in unison, wireless headsets.

THOSE HEADSETS... will be tuned into what the resident DJ is spinning live, just across the pool from you, but rather than sending those big, booming vibes into the nearby hotel rooms, they'll stay tucked within your ears, for you, and your fellow attendees, to enjoy. If you need a brief rest from what's happening at the turntables, you can switch over to another channel which includes "a different playlist available for party-goers." Dressing for a fabulous pool party in your warm-weather maxi-dress-board-shorts best? That won't change, even though the party's gone quieter; the feel is still kind of a fashion-fun, DJ-centered scene. Cocktails, misters, and cool towels are the scene-ready accouterments.

SATURDAY, JUNE 20...  was the first silent DJ of the season at the desert resort-based Hyatt, but there are a few more to come, on July 4, Aug. 8, and Sept. 5. The times? Be at the pool from 8 to 11 o'clock. The people-watching? Pretty great, especially if you slip your headset off and watching revelers dancing to the music they're hearing but you, for the moment, are not. The benefit for hotel guests not attending the get-together? Way more quiet than if a few big speakers lined the outdoor area. The benefit for party people? The chance to bond, via headset and a new, unusual experience, with other people digging the tunes and different scenario. If you've been to a booming pool bash, call the Palm Springs Hyatt's take a through-the-looking-glass version. 

Photo Credit: Palm Springs Hyatt/Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Oils, Jams, Tapenades: The Olives of Paso Robles]]> Sat, 27 Jun 2015 10:28:17 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/olives-xx.gif

WHAT IS THE FLAVOR OF AN OLIVE? Call the small fruit one of the chameleons of the food world, an edible that comes bearing a flavor that can flow into a sweet drink -- think a blood orange olive oil shake -- or fill out a spicy, piquant tapenade with full-bodied presence. Not every foodstuff can pull this off, save perhaps several members of the nut family, and a few spices that can got dessert or appetizer, but the olive makes it look pretty easy. So that it gets a couple of California bashes thrown in its honor each year, much like the strawberry and avocado do, makes total sense: Olives and the things Golden Staters like to eat fold together as easily as a soft slice of pizza loaded with kalamata goodness. Wine countries are fine areas to find the olive in all of its plentiful forms -- because olives and wine made a dazzling duo -- and Paso Robles is at the lead, each August, with a daylong olive-themed shindig in its Downtown Park. The 2015 date is Saturday, Aug. 15, and there shall be many a purveyor purveying olive-y goodness. That olive-y goodness includes olive oil tastings, olive tastings, recipes being demo'd by chefs, and, you betcha, beer and wine tastings, too (which are not strictly olive-related, but, please, this is Paso, where the excellent adult beverages made in the area always make a cameo at big celebrations). Details on the whole oily yummy shebang? They're here.

AS FAR AS PAIRING YOUR TRIP... with some winery runs, that can be done. There's no mondo winery happening that's on that same August weekend, so you'll need to sit down and make your own itinerary. Hard stuff, given the dozens and dozens (and dozens) of vineyards available to visit, from Bon Niche Cellars to Law Estate Wines. Or hope on a tour and let someone local and in-the-know choose your stops. Knowing you have olives and wine ahead, on your summer schedule, is sure to make July extra juicy. And don't we ask for that from our summer? A dry or unflavorful warm-weather stretch is no fun, but one filled with food parties and winery visits is sublime.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Laguna Beach's Festival of the Arts]]> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 21:00:59 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/festivaloftheartslb65.jpg The beach town brims with creative bounty and to-dos, starting soon.

Photo Credit: Festival of the Arts]]>
<![CDATA[Free Summer Tradition: Military Days at the Tram]]> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 13:24:37 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/pstramway1345.jpg

THAT 40-DEGREE DIFFERENCE: How, come the height of summertime, do you immediately cool down? More specifically where can find a 40-degree drop in temperature in an under an hour without A) walking into an overly air-conditioned house or B) a meat locker? Could you, in short, start in nature and stay in nature and see the mercury zoom downwards, all in other 60 minutes? Enough with the questions, because you know exactly what the answer is: Yes, you can, if you happen to be in Palm Springs, and you happen to be in the desert in July, and you happen to have a ticket to ride up to Mountain Station on the Aerial Tramway. When it is 109 on the floor of the valley it can be in the 60s up in the San Jacinto wilderness, a sweat-reducing temptation many a resident and tourist cannot resist. It's a fun fact that makes summer a busy season aboard "The World's Largest Rotating Tramcars," and the warm-to-cooler-weather trip bustles even further come July: That's when Military Days arrive, a stretch of time long-observed by the famous conveyance. What are Military Days? That's the time when military personnel receive a free tram trip, with military I.D., and their friends and family -- up to six people in all -- get 25% off their rides. That's good discounting right there, and it takes place over...

ALL OF JULY: When the thermometer is deep into triple-digit territory, you can be up in the Mount San Jacinto wilderness, hiking or picnicking or just trying to spot your house or hotel from the deck outside the Peaks restaurant. It's the way for the tramway to thank those who serve and provide a little respite from the intense sun below (well, the sun stays intense up the mountain, of course, but without the higher level of heat). The offer is good from July 1 through 31.

KEEP IN MIND... if you're going to get your warmer weather ride, tram fans near and far, that the attraction closes for a couple of weeks in September for yearly maintenance. But once it reopens plan on crisper autumn breezes at higher elevations, always a treat after toasty times in the desert below.

Photo Credit: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway]]>
<![CDATA[Hiking Into the Night Near Walnut Creek]]> Tue, 23 Jun 2015 22:14:32 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/216*120/mountdiablotwilight202932.jpg

A BREAK BEFORE YOUR WEEKEND: The old saying "I need a vacation from my vacation" is a quirky one, but just about everyone who has ever taken a week away gets the meaning. You need time to unwind from a long drive home or plane ride, and to do your laundry, and to respond to email, and to visit the grocery store. The less well-known saying in this vein is "I need a Friday after my Friday," which, again, anyone who has ever experienced an especially hectic work week understands. It would be so helpful to have an extra day, or extra few hours, between the close of your final workday of the week and the official beginning of the weekend. You could do errands, make some calls, but, more than anything, you could properly relax before heading into the traditionally langorous two-day stretch. The solution, of course, is to turn up the instant relaxation late Friday afternoon, without dallying or waiting to start the whole chillaxing thing later in the night or on Saturday. A walk in nature is the happy solution. For sure, dinner or drinks with friends is a fine Friday night wind-down tradition, but to immediately unplug from your week you'll want to be under the big sky, at sunset, among trees, letting your work week stresses float into the air like so many balloons. The Mount Diablo Interpretative Association will lead a trio of Friday evening hikes at White Canyon at twilight, allowing people with a bit of office fatigue to take a few lung-filling breaths.

JUNE 26, JULY 3, AND JULY 31... are the hike dates, and the hour you'll set out is at 7 o'clock. You can probably make it to the Walnut Creek-close park by then, without even having to ask the boss if you can leave a bit early. You'll tromp for about four miles over two hours, so, yeah, sunset and all of its soft pleasures and glorious pinks and reds and yellows are all yours to enjoy. That also means you should pack a flashlight, plus water, of course, and binoculars, if you want to peer at any night critters in a closer fashion. One night critter you'll be on the listen for? The Common Poorwill, as well as owls. Your car'll cost six bucks to park but that's it on the paying front. On the full moon front? Stay tuned: July 31 will deliver on the lovely lunar end of things.

RESERVATIONS... are a must. Start here.

Photo Credit: Mount Diablo Interpretative Association]]>
<![CDATA[California Wine Festival: Santa Barbara Edition]]> Tue, 23 Jun 2015 14:20:56 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/calwinefestsb123.jpg

A TOUR YOU CAN TASTE: The only kind of tours that were regularly on the road, at least for many years, were the kind that spotlighted a play or band or book or musical or album. In short? You were in the entertainment business if you were traveling from city-to-city, doing your thing. But that paradigm is changing, and incorporating more things the public craves beyond a fabulous story or song. Food tours are hotter these days, and we're not just talking about cooks who've authored cookbooks showing up in a town. Tomatomania! puts all things tangy and tomatolicious on the road starting in early spring, for one. And look to the two large beverage tours of the California summer, multi-place happenings that focus on two things pretty intensely: beer and wine. There's the California Beer Festival, which stars in Marin County in June and then makes its way south, finally landing in Ventura in September. And there's the not-related California Wine Festival, a lavish 'n lively 'n label-riffic bash that shows up in Orange County in the springtime and Santa Barbara in the summer (there's an on-the-ocean cruise to boot). Are you ready to add a few more regional wineries to your home shelf? Trying them on some pretty grounds near the Pacific with wine reps close at hand, to answer questions, is a way for oenophiles to up their education. And that education is happening on...

JULY 16, 17, 18... in Santa Barbara. The big Beachside Wine Festival on the afternoon of Saturday, July 18 is the marquee event of the weekend, but there are some run-up-to-the-fest festivities you may want to check out (including a Sunset Reserve & Rare Wine Tasting). If you're just doing the Beachside, it is sixty nine bucks, plus a few additional bucks, but you can lock into the other vino-nice gatherings on an a la carte basis. And while you sip that chardonnay from Santa Ynez, the one you've been wanting to try, you can ponder what other great things might go on tour in California, beyond singers, authors, tomatoes, craft beers, and wines. A berry tour? A bread tour? Let the good stuff go to more good places more often, we say. And if there's a "concert" t-shirt involved, listing cities and dates, so much the better.

Photo Credit: California Wine Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Live Orchestra: "Silly Symphony" Celebration]]> Mon, 22 Jun 2015 21:22:18 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/d23audience9298232.jpg

BIG-SCREEN SHORTS: To say that modern audiences don't have solid experience with enjoying animated shorts in a theatrical setting just isn't true. Look to Pixar and Disney and the fabulous and funny short films that precede their full-length features (the doggy-themed flick "Feast," which trotted out ahead of "Big Hero 6," wags to mind). That said, we still enjoy the majority of cartoons of a short nature on our small screens.

BUT THERE WAS A DAY, decades ago, when the big screen was the only place to enjoy peppy little pieces of three to four to seven minutes in length. That means that audiences of the 1920s and '30s saw a lot of animated short films, dozens of them if they attended the movies regularly, an experience that is quite different from ours. And the famous "Silly Symphonies" were at the top of that happy heap. These Disney gems were at the forefront of the animated short revolution, but they're rarely played nowadays on screens wider than our televisions. If you've longed to see some of the classics -- think "Three Little Pigs" and "The Old Mill" -- as they were once watched, you'll get your chance in Anaheim, over the middle weekend of August. D23 Expo will screen several of the early Disney shorts, big, with, wait for it, a 32-piece orchestra playing live. Yep, just like an orchestra played for the shorts, back in the day when the Disney Studio was on Hyperion Avenue in Silver Lake.

SUCH INTEREST... is expected for this event that the mega Disney fan convention is scheduling two times: 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on the convention's final day, Sunday, Aug. 16. Will you dress like a bandleader, a la Mickey Mouse in the famous "Silly Symphony"? Or maybe Horace Horsecollar, the congenial horse from the "Symphony" era? Charming choices await. So does an introduction from critic Leonard Maltin, who shall be hosting the 70-minute screenings. The happening is in celebration of the release of "The Silly Symphony Collection," which can be pre-ordered there. If you do order the collection, or you already own the cartoons, won't it be kind of amazing that you finally saw the films as people did eighty years ago? Just remember to remove your boater hat, '20s lovers.

Photo Credit: D23 EXPO]]>
<![CDATA[June Gloom Package: Quail Lodge Midweek Fun]]> Mon, 22 Jun 2015 11:17:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/junegloomquail1.jpg

PULL THE OTHER ONE: Summer may be here, officially and on the books and in all the calendar-approved ways, but many coastal areas of California are still under the veil of the annual observance of June Gloom. Go into the meteorological reasons as to why this happens -- clouds gathering over the ocean this time of year, marine layers, wind conditions -- and you'll have a rapt audience, if your audience happens to dig strange weather patterns. And to many people who don't call the Golden State home, it is an odd weather phenomenon, so odd they may prod you to "pull the other leg," believing you to be joshing. June is typically denoted by beach balls and suntan lotion and swimming pools and heat in most places, so the disbelief of outsiders is understandable, of course. And, of course, the heat will come, eventually (August, we see you on the horizon) but you can still steal away, into late June, if you have a midweek night free, and you can use the cover of June Gloom to do so. The Quail Lodge & Golf Club has a June Gloom package still on for midweek guests, people looking to, fingers crossed, catch a few warming rays, rays that often fall at the lodge's more-inland location. But how to make the most of your escape-the-gloom deal? 

GOLF, DRIVING, SUNNING, REPEAT: The property has a "newly refined" 18-hole golf course, links designed by golf architect icon Robert Muir Graves. There's also an off-road driving experience with a Land Rover you can sign up for, or a bocce court, or the Mallard Lake deck (where cocktails and such may be enjoyed). The June Gloom rate starts at $225 a night, some stuff to do around the resort is additional, but hanging out lakeside and soaking up some Vitamin D is free as can be, once you've covered your room. We can't promise that June Gloom will be gone when you return home, wherever home might be, from your Carmel-by-the-Sea idyll. But appreciating California's unique weather patterns -- and taking a few days away from the fog, too -- is a rather grand way to start the summer. And, while we're at it, doesn't summer in California start on the Fourth of July, pretty much? And run through Halloween? Another offbeat anomaly in a pretty offbeat place.

Photo Credit: Quail Lodge & Golf Club]]>
<![CDATA[New England in Hopland: Saracina Lobster Lunch]]> Sun, 21 Jun 2015 16:18:54 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Lobster+722.jpg

TRIVIA TIME: Just about every fan of "Murder She Wrote" knows that the superstar sleuth heading the show -- Ms. Jessica Fletcher, of course -- resides in Cabot Cove, the quintessential clapboard-and-picket-fence-y Maine coastal town. And just about every fan of the long-running TV series knows the beloved gumshoe's quaint house by sight, all gables and old-fashioned windows. But do those fans know that the house was not in Maine but Mendocino? As in the photo-charming, fog-snug California town? Of course those fans absolutely know; never go up against a "Murder" maven on the factoid front. It's a funny bit of trivia that still draws viewers to the Northern California coast, to see the streets that made up the fictional Cabot Cove. So to put a New England-style lobster feast in Mendocino County, the kind you'd find on a craggy Maine bluff, doesn't seem all that unlikely, given the county's Maine-related cred. And Saracina Vineyards in Hopland does just that each and every summer at its annual Lobster Lunch. It's happening on the first official Saturday of summer -- that's Saturday, June 27 -- and, yes, there shall be crustacean action of the butteriest sort, as one would expect from a Maine-esque meal.

AND WINE: Of course, this being a winery. Altrea Skid Rosé and Saracina Chardonnay are two of the libations on the daytime party's menu, and a Malbec, too. Plus shrimp and other picnicky goodies to round out the alfresco setting. Oh yes, like a true New England lobster chowdown, this one is outside, with all the prettiness of wine country. (Don't be jealous, Maine coast, you're pretty, too.) And while Hopland is inland, about an hour and a half from Mendocino proper, you could do the full New England experience over the weekend, if you planned it right. Lobster lunch inland, a toodle over to Mendocino, and a look at the town that still has that Cabot Cove air. Yep, we're across the country from New England but sometimes, in spirit, and melted butter, and famous TV shows, we can summon its mojo, at least a little bit.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Big Sur Condors: A Majestic Fundraiser]]> Mon, 29 Jun 2015 21:33:02 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/CondorObserve.jpg

MEETING OF THE MINDS: Sometimes, even if we consider ourselves ardent aficionados of the natural world, we can compartmentalize plants and animals, in our minds, a bit too much, forgetting that there is a flow afoot and seemingly unlikely unions can occur. Delicate rhododendrons can spring up near towering redwoods and cooling streams can trickle through the warmest of landscapes and different majestic birds can call upon each other to say hello. That last occurrence was seen on the Condor Cam in April, when a bald eagle was spied visiting a Big Sur neighbor, the condor. It's a rather stunning photo, and a reminder of the lush and powerful wildlife that call the California coast home.

WILDLIFE, of course, that needs our human courtesies and protections and attentions, especially since our condor population dwindled to alarming numbers just a few decades ago. Things are on the up-and-up where the condors are concerned, but, of course, "the up-and-up" sometimes doesn't move quite fast enough and/or needs our assistance. Feathers in Flight, the annual fundraising event for the California condor, is one way to goose the up-and-up. The event raises money that bolsters condor-focused programs, but it also helps spread and grow condor love (youths under 17 are admitted free to the fundraiser, so think about bringing the kids, who one day may fight for the condors and other endangered species).

RANCHO GRANDE is the spot, the date is Saturday, Sept. 12, it is an afternoon affair, and the cost is ninety dollars per person. Some big birds will make cameos at the Big Sur soiree, including a golden eagle, and some falcons and hawks, too. Gorgeous stuff, but the birdly doings don't stop here: Condor-themed gifts will be sold. Ocean views, local beer, sweet bites, and more await. And if you need more condor love right now, check out video of a baby and doting mother who has taken up residence inside a redwood tree. Mom's name? Redwood Queen.

Photo Credit: Ventana Wildlife Society]]>
<![CDATA[Suds and Superheroes: Brew Bash in San Diego]]> Fri, 19 Jun 2015 22:17:17 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/heroesbrewfest1827191.jpg

HONEST TALK: Comic-Con International is not about reality, it's true. Fantasy looms large and wondrous in all that the galaxy's most famous pop culture convention does, and that includes covering bunches of movies and TV shows and comic books and everything fictional and genre-riffic. Still, we have to get a little real for a moment, just a bit, and engage in some honest dialogue. Here it goes: If you wear a costume to the San Diego summertime spectacular, chances are you've worked on that costume for a bit, preparing it for your big convention trip, and the disappointment of only wearing it to the convention for a day or two can be a little high. Which is why you must -- must -- find other spots to wear it to, around the town, during the convention, when you're apt to see Harley Quinn or The Hulk blocks or even miles away from the San Diego Convention Center. Thank goodness there are a number of events happening that, while they aren't affiliated with Comic-Con directly, still have plenty of genre de vivre (which is almost like joie de vivre, but with a costume-y vibe). The annual Heroes Brew Fest is one such hopsy happening, and it has good at its heart: Raising funds for the Warrior Foundation -- Freedom Station, which is dedicated to "serving military heroes in transition."

SATURDAY, JULY 11... is the date, and the location is the vista-pretty Loma Club. The "Brew Fest" part of the name informs you that this will be about mucho craft beer, which San Diego knows something (aka a whole bunch) about, and the "Heroes" part recommends you arrive in full regalia as your favorite protector of Gotham or Metropolis or whatever city your go-to gal or guy keeps an eye on. There are several costume contests going on during the festival, including group costumes and best super villain, so you don't need to think too traditionally (although it is kind of a gas to show up and see a dozen other people in your same duds). And lest you're worried you'll miss the Saturday night Masquerade back at Comic-Con, fear not, fearless leader: This is an afternoon soiree. That's super, for sure. Just make sure you don't get a sunburn lines if you're wearing an identity-hiding mask and that you can sip one of the 80 beers available through it, without dripping too much.

Photo Credit: Al Fernandez]]>
<![CDATA[New: Yountville Tasting Room Passport]]> Fri, 19 Jun 2015 17:16:22 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/193*120/yountvillepassport292.jpg

ONE PRICE, A HALF DOZEN TASTES: The start of summer -- the official start, around the solstice, when the feeling that you have to seize the moment and enjoy the longer, languid days really starts to kick in -- can set people's minds to travel and adventure. Passports frequently pay a big part in those daydreams, but they're not always the kind of passports you have stamped at airports and points of entries. Very often a wine country town will create its own booklet of sorts, one that records all of the wineries a person has been to and when and maybe even what was tried (of course, the oenophile would absolutely want to take notes on favorites and kinda-likes). Some passports do come back around in the wintertime, like Calistoga's popular Winter in the Wineries program, but some are right for summertime sippage. That's Yountville's approach, for the restaurant-laden burg has just announced the Taste Life Here Tasting Passport. The new passport program nets a wine-loving adventurer the nice chance to get familiar with "six top wineries for one low price," all around the Yountville area.

THAT PRICE... is fifty nine dollars. And the wineries? Hestan Vineyards, Hope & Grace, Priest Ranch, Jessup Cellars, Cornerstone Cellars, and Hill Family Estate. This enables people to save some significant money on the tasting room fee , and to be entered in a "chance to win a two-night stay at Yountville's Napa Valley Lodge or Napa Hilton Garden Inn," once all six winery visits are complete. Plus? A passport has a way of compelling a person out of around-the-house complacency, which everyone can weather, even the most weekend-loving adventurers among us. The Yountville passport program runs for a year, starting on July 1, so passportees will have real reason to pop by Napa Valley, the better to complete that half-dozen winery circuit. 

A BONUS: You'll save ten bucks on the price if you purchase before Aug. 1. Cheers and happy wine-education-fun-times, Yountville explorers.

Photo Credit: Yountville]]>
<![CDATA[Mission Inn's History Under the Stars]]> Thu, 18 Jun 2015 22:55:09 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/missioninnhistory1234.jpg

FAIRY TALE PLACE: It isn't difficult to conjure a few fantastical yarns about Riverside's Mission Inn Hotel & Spa. The venerable landmark is, without quibble, one of the state's most storybook buildings, and its large, block-filling footprint, and many turrets and towers and nooks, only enhance the idea that some outlandish and possibly magical doings have happened within its well-appointed hallways. And one can't argue with that notion; with the many weddings and family celebrations and holiday dinners that have occurred at the hotel over the years, there has absolutely been some magical feeling afoot. But finding out how the castle-like inn came to be, some 112 years ago, and the role that modern, preservation-minded champions have played in saving it and preserving it, is part of the real fairy tale that weaves into the Mission Inn's factual story. And you don't have to sit in its interior patio, or along one of its balconies, and play a guessing game as to who those people or what those stories are; the hotel's Experience History Under the Stars Package will reveal all, or at least much, about the famous building's architecture and dramatic twists and turns.

DINNER, THEN A DOCENT-LED TOUR: Parties of two shall start the evening with a little supping at The Mission Inn Restaurant -- delicious foodstuffs and fortifying one's self is always a good plan when there is learning to be done -- and then there shall be the learning about the landmark. Guests will join a docent for a stroll around the hotel, a walk which includes a stop at the picturesque chapel and at points around the lobby (look for a certain president's much-photographed chair near the front doors). Oftentimes, if time and chance permits, a tour guide will give an extra peek into a rarely used room or passage, but wherever you wander, count on knowing much about the storied structure in which you stand. Cupcakes from Casey's and stay-the-night accommodations round out the fact-filled, character-packed adventure. And, yes, it is pretty storybook how the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa has weathered the years, and time's changing tides, to become the swanky spot it is today. You don't even need dragons or princesses to fill out all the fanciful details, which are pretty darn plentiful, and enchanted, sans embellishment.

Photo Credit: Mission Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Monterey Wave Tunnel: Summer Cooldown]]> Sat, 20 Jun 2015 09:15:21 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/206*120/wave-crashstephaniesicore.jpg

THE POWER OF SUGGESTION: People tiring of the toastier ways, and days, of July and August turn to the power of suggestion on a fairly frequent basis, maybe more than any other time of the year. Those who are so over steering wheels that are hot to the touch and sticky clothing and sunburned shoulders begin to think "I can out-think this," especially when normal warm weather becomes an actual heat wave. On go the cheery Christmas carols, especially the ones involving snowmen, and on play the movies that take place in Antarctica and fictional frosty places. If the tired-of-the-heat person chooses to place a bowl of ice on his or her lap, well, that's just taking the power of suggestion a little further -- an ice cube in the mouth typically has some sway over one's thoughts. But August avoiders looking for an actual sight and place that'll lower the inner mercury right down only need to keep the Monterey Bay Aquarium in sight. Yes, for sure, it is already a cool place, both in spirit and temperature, given that it is home to so many sea beasties, creatures that rather like their environments kept on the chillier side. For additional temperature-deflating, though, there is the Wave Crash Tunnel, which the fish-filled institution calls "the most popular family photo spot at the Aquarium!" A quick look-around on the web backs this up; people just love the tunnel snapshots, because there's so much foam and action. (Foam and action rule.)

FROSTY FACTS: While you won't get wet in the tunnel -- not unless your kid brother or aunt accidentally spills their bottle of water on you -- you will watch as the "Wave Crash gallery pumps about 600 gallons of water and "crashes" every 30 seconds." It's very much like being in the tides of the Pacific, but you stay dry, and you don't get too much kelp or sand in your hair (or any, really). Call it science at work, and a neato visual display, but call it a place where the power of suggestion can really work, especially on a summer day where the temps outside have only gone up. Standing under a crashing wave, again and again, could have the ability to tell your eyes to tell your brain to tell your heart that it is a-ok to chill it down and stay thoroughly chillaxed. You can find this popular tunnel in the Monterey Bay Aquarium Rocky Shores exhibit.

Photo Credit: Stephanie Sicore]]>
<![CDATA[World's Ugliest Dog: Time to Vote]]> Fri, 19 Jun 2015 16:49:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sonomaugliestdog-171080038.jpg

LET'S TALK REALITY: If you were tasked with choosing the World's Ugliest Dog, the victor of the annual headline-garnering competition at the Sonoma Marin Fair, could you do it? Or would you put a big, bold check-mark next to every pup's name, proclaiming each one a winner? Yeah, we all kind of feel that way. Each canine contestant entered in the contest is so endearing, and so unique -- a famously overused word, except in this instance -- that audience members feel the urge to gather them all up, close, and shower each last Lassie and Fido with a shower of congratulatory kisses. And they do deserve hearty congratulations, each one of those personality-showy, on-the-stage tail-waggers. After all, their fame and renown helps other funkier hounds find homes and forever love, thanks in part to the message inherent in the contest: A dog's heart is true, even though their three front teeth point in opposite directions and their fur grows in odd little sprouts. Everyone can see the affection between the pups and their humans, and those moving photos shall go out around the world following the Friday, June 26 competition in Petaluma. There was a time for people to enter their own pooches, but the voting time is nigh: Will you go with Icky, Zoomer, Josie, Rue, or the caboodle of other smoochable superstars who dot the 2015 roster, a parade of beautiful bowwows if there ever was one?

OKAY, WE'RE GETTING A BIT POETIC... because they're all way, way cute. Do some look as though they deserve a starring role as a goblin the next film from the Jim Henson Company? Perhaps. Do some seem as though they might have arrived straight from Hogwarts, bearing magic and goodwill? Absolutely. Do you want to vote for every single one? Yes, as we mentioned before, you do. Take time to read each dog's story on the voting page, and prepare to be moved: Many an owner rescued a pup who didn't seem to have a hope. If this oh-so-popular Petaluma happening shows us anything, it is that countless canines are waiting for a chance to love some lifelong humans, people who won't mind a bit if the pup's tail is a bit too curly or their pointy ears flop backwards. Vive la différence is the marvelous message of this long-running competition, a sweet showdown that's been around Petaluma for over a half century.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[A New Look for the Disneyland Main Street Windows]]> Wed, 17 Jun 2015 14:14:33 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/DLMSwindow2.jpg

CUTENESS THROUGHOUT THE CALENDAR: While the swanky stores along Fifth Avenue in New York City are known for staging the splashiest of Christmas window displays each December, there are many shops that honor the glitter-filled holiday tradition. It's old-fashioned and nostalgic, through and through, which are pluses, of course; after all, you can see a spinning Christmas tree year after year, through a large sheet of plate glass, or an oversized snow globe, or a fireplace scene, and it always feels as warm and as nice as freshly baked bread. But while the holiday tradition lives on in many shopping districts, there is one place where people can count on seeing highly whimsical window displays throughout the year, the kind of displays rife with story and color and detail and cute touches. And if you long for that window-whimsical cuteness throughout the calendar year, you know where you can find it: Disneyland's Main Street. The large windows of The Emporium have long held small figures and tableaux representing some of the best-known movies and characters, and people lingering outside the windows while lifting up smaller tots so they can enjoy. Those windows recently got a refresh, in honor of the theme park's 60th anniversary, with six new windows in all.

TWO HAVE MADE THEIR DEBUT... and they're full of don't-wanna-grow-up-ness and midnight-clocks-striking: "Peter Pan" and "Cinderella" are the first pair of Emporium windows to be unveiled. Look for animated figures -- there are the Darling kids from "Peter Pan" practicing their flying -- and several other elements from the fairy tale. A quartet of windows are still to come in the coming months, including "The Princess and the Frog," "Aladdin," "Toy Story," and "Frozen," so best prepare to carve out a few extra minutes to linger and look on Main Street. For while the fireworks and big roller coaster dips and splashy parade can, and should, get much of our attention, the quieter ongoing Disneyland displays are as much a part of the heart of the park as anything. And that the park's whimsical windows are open all year long is a treat for those who do treasure a mighty magical holiday-themed shop window, an annual sight that does come and go far too fast.

Photo Credit: Disneyland]]>
<![CDATA[Amazing Abodes: Carmel-by-the-Sea House Tour]]> Tue, 16 Jun 2015 20:34:36 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/carmelfranklloydwright.jpg

TAKING A CLOSER PEEK: Sometimes, depending on your neighborhood or city or suburb or hometown, you have to dig just a bit to get a visitor to pay a compliment. You might inquire if the newcomer likes the style of the homes, or the shade trees common to the boulevards, or the unusual design of the library or town hall, but you're going for reassuring pay dirt: You want to hear all about your town's pluses. We've all been there, rooting about and hinting for kind words, and it matters not where our first or last or forever address happens to be; we possess local pride. But the residents of Carmel-by-the-Sea don't have to drop any hints in the "do you like our houses?" department, as in ever. Why? Because people strolling down the street or sitting at restaurants or just pulling into the charmed city for the first time are positively rhapsodic over the place. They're enchanted by the cottages, the storybook chimneys, the glorious, ocean-facing windows, the way the buildings of the pocket-pretty destination knit together so seamlessly, like a picture. Visitors dream of living in a little witch's house not far from Carmel's white sand one day -- as well as a few locals who'd love to try a new casa out -- but even if such a thing isn't possible, visiting some famous homes can be, if you buy a ticket to the annual Carmel Heritage Society House and Garden Tour.

SATURDAY, JUNE 20... is this year's date, and, once again, that exquisite 1948 stone-bedecked Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece is on the roster. Styles will vary greatly, though, as one would hope in this stylish spot, and the iconic Carmel cottage will have its day in the sun. Look for sweet Belle's Cottage to make a cameo, as well as Stonehaven, which puts forward a very fairy tale-like face. The stony stalwart called The Ship is a must-visit of the day, and the oh-so-historic Golf House. Tickets for the afternoon-long look-around are thirty dollars for non-members ahead of time, and thirty five dollars there. Will you depart Carmel-by-the-Sea feeling as though you got to live there, at least in spirit and daydreams, for a few hours? Perhaps. But the real benefit is getting to get an up-close peek at the famous casas people coo over, from the street, each and every day in one of California's most coo-worthy, abode-adorable towns.

Photo Credit: Carmel-by-the-Sea]]>
<![CDATA[Lupine Loveliness: It's On, Mono County]]> Thu, 18 Jun 2015 14:32:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/lupinemonocounty1.jpg

PETALS + PLACE: While loads of different flowers can pop up in loads of different places, we know that especially spectacular seasonal showings that are particularly glorious tend to be location-specific. This means that we keep an eye out for poppies in the Antelope Valley come late April and lavender going all purple in Ojai in June and the sunflowers of Yolo County just before summer and that amazing lupine that makes a late spring showing in Mono County. A real flower follower could build a year-long schedule -- or at least a spring-and-summer-long schedule -- just around tracking where the next magnificent spray of color will pop up, if the rain and wind have been kind. And while summer is just days away, and many buds are back to bed for another year, the Eastern Sierra is still having, quite literally, something of a field day in the floral department. Word has arrived that a number of places around Mono County are looking fairly petal-riffic, with the most poetically named flowers making a strong showing: paintbrush, milk vetches, hawksbeard, and mule ear are now dotting the landscape. And, of course, a prominent flower that's much associated with Mono County, with all of its deep bluish purple tones and easy-to-spot, above-the-grass-top ways: the lupine.

FIND YOUR LUPINE: Word has it that McGee Creek is going to town in the lupine department now, and while you can head up to the area to see it, you can go one better and get in the saddle. The McGee Creek Pack Station trots out on numerous clip-clops into the wilderness area, which equals a whole lot of mountain vista enjoyment and possible lupine finding for you (and, of course, you get to bond with your pony and enjoy a real pack station-style ride). Want to hoof it as summer sings into view? Here's where you start, pony people. Want to track the lupine bloom or find another field of flowers? Mono County Tourism keeps an eye on the wildflower reports -- they'll keep you knee-deep in lupine loveliness, while the moment lasts.

Photo Credit: Mono County Tourism]]>
<![CDATA[Italian Street Painting Marin]]> Mon, 15 Jun 2015 19:27:27 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/gwtw029232.jpg

MASKS, MERRY DAYS, MADONNARI: The heart of Carnevale in Venice is art, and all of art's attending qualities: mystery, beauty, history, joy, mirth, depth. Revelers don colorful, ribbon-bedecked masks as part of the highly visual scene, and feasts for the eyes reign. It can be difficult to summon the spirit of the canal-beautiful town to one's own town, outside of, perhaps, preparing an authentic Venetian dish or singing the traditional songs of the gondoliers. But hosting a Carnevale based around street painting, with many Madonnari in attendance, can capture much of the joie de vivre the city is famous for. San Rafael shall do just that over the final weekend in June during Italian Street Painting Marin's Carnevale di Venezia, a two-day pavement-aswirl happening set to take place in the downtown area of the city.

100+ ARTISTS: "Artwork from over 100 street painters and dozens of mask-makers" shall be displayed, and the Venetian Carnevale theme will incorporate many of the touchstones and sights of the annual celebration across the globe. And while many California-based artists will be sitting upon the sidewalks, a rainbow'd row of chalk at the ready, "(a)pproximately 24 internationally recognized master Madonnari from Italy, Mexico, and the U.S. will be centerstage creating large Carnevale-themed images on the streets in front of historic Mission San Rafael Arcangel," reveal organizers.

JUNE 27 AND 28: A ticket is five dollars on Saturday and ten dollars on Sunday while kids 12 and under are admitted free. While the creations on the ground are the stars of the weekend, there shall be other diversions, including an area for children to create their own street paintings, live tunes, and a parade of costumes (look for the Venetian-ethereal masks). "The tastes and sips of Italy" shall round out the travel-to-Italy vibe of the art-rich, whimsy-nice weekend. 

Photo Credit: Italian Street Painting Marin/Cuong Nguyen]]>
<![CDATA[Tour de Manure: See the Sierra Valley]]> Mon, 15 Jun 2015 13:27:39 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tourdemanure1.jpg

GRAVITATIONAL PULL: It wouldn't be quite right, factually, to compare places on this planet to actual planets, in terms of the gravitational pull or the draw those places exert. The moon, for instance, has some serious connection to the tides, and saying our own personal gravitational pull to a favorite getaway destination is similar only really works poetically. But say it we do, because it is true: If you truly love a location, it can tug on you with near-gravity, like the moon or Saturn or Neptune, and you've got to return, again and again. Many people feel that planetary pull when Lake Tahoe is the place in question, no doubt about it. This is lovely, of course, because feeling the pull of a pretty place is a pleasure of being a traveler. But a place's strong pull can also make it tricky to see what sits just beyond its orbit. Take Sierra Valley, a beautiful region about two hours north of the lake, in Sierra and Plumas Counties. Rich with meadows and ranchlands and views and nature, the valley is a gem and worth exploring. Yes, that means adding another day to your Tahoe or Reno itinerary, or simply turning north from the I-80 instead of south. You could also get to know it in one glorious swath, which the Tour de Manure bicycle ride makes rather an easy and fun task. Yes, we did say...

TOUR DE MANURE: There are three loops, ranging from 30 miles to 62 miles, that take bicyclists through "the ranchlands, meadows, and historic communities of the Sierra Valley," so, for sure, you're going to get a pretty primer on what the not-far-from-Nevada region is all about, in terms of land layout, flora, and vistas. The ride benefits the Sierraville Fire and Rescue Department, nice, and you may see lots of local critters, from sandhill cranes to deer, as your wheels spin. Even if you can't make the ride, which rolls on Saturday, June 20, you can plan a toodle through the area most any time, though fall is rather glorious. And do you feel the pull? Like Lake Tahoe, Sierra Valley has a lake-y story, too; it is believed to be "an ancient lake bed," which is clear from some of its sweeping views. Want ideas for upping your Sierra Valley knowledge beyond the wonderfully named Tour de Manure? This is a fine place to begin.

Photo Credit: Tour de Manure]]>
<![CDATA[Pleistocene Cred: Sand City]]> Thu, 25 Jun 2015 16:53:40 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/216*120/capri-cankle.jpg

DID MAMMOTHS WEAR WATERWINGS? The thick of summer cinema blockbuster season has a way of unleashing a cadre of prehistoric predators upon excited audiences, but Californians hungry for more ancient history can find it at several spots around the state. True, true, our natural history museums more than deliver, but we're talking outdoor locations. Dinosaurs and long-ago mammals spent rather a lot of time under the sky and sun, not under a roof (spoiler alert?), and if you want to feel closer to that era, you might keep your ancient era-seeking more al fresco. Look to the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles for serious fossil action or look to Sand City in Monterey County. Granted, there are not bones or pits nowadays on this very pretty stretch of shoreline, but there are "spectacular dunes (that) formed during the Pleistocene era at the tail end of the last ice age somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000 to 15,000 years ago." The Pleistocene was all about the big and powerful mammals, so mammoths and mastodons and wolves ruled the proverbial school. And while they're not at Sand City nowadays -- thank goodness, because we're fairly sure a mastodon's umbrella would cast a substantial amount of shade -- you can tell your prehistory-obsessed youngsters this cool little factoid as you chillax upon "the highest (dunes) found on California's Central Coast."

ASIDE FROM ITS PLEISTOCENE BEGINNINGS... Sand City is both gorgeous and a draw for those who love beauty and making art. The West End Celebration lands along the streets of Sand City from Aug. 21 through 23, and visitors can expect tunes, a street festival, the chance to peek around artists' studios, and lots of grub and beverages. The Friday night music bash is ticketed by doing the whole street fair scene on Saturday and Sunday is free, free, free. As free as squishing some of that old, old, old sand down at the beach between your tootsies and wondering if beasties of the wayback had once trod about the very place in which you're standing. Ancient creatures + art + the ocean=Sand City 4evr.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/PhotoAlto]]>
<![CDATA[Miramonte Resort: Summer "Stay Free" Deal]]> Sat, 13 Jun 2015 12:02:54 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/MiramonteResortSpaOverall.jpg

WORTHY OF AN ODE: Nature is an endless source of wonder and amazement and inspiration and mind-widening experiences, but simply praising all of nature, as a whole, is sometimes not enough. We want specific moments and places to be enraptured by: The shore at sunrise, the mountains in autumn, the desert on a summer night. Summer evenings in an arid place, though, are quite unsung, compared to the other riches of the wilder planet, if only because we know the days are quite hot. But after sundown? The temp is ideal, the stars are looking spiffy, and one can linger outdoors, no wrap required. Lingering by a pool is the way to go, and saving a few -- or many -- bucks to do so is a total gas. Which is why all desert-night-loving SoCalers should look inland, to resortland, where interesting discounts have a way of flowering come the warmer days of June, July, and August. Miramonte Resort & Spa is one such getaway where this is now happening, for the summer of 2015, and the deal-saving, and the desert-night-good-time-having, is looking prime: The new Stay Free package "awards a complimentary third night and a $25 spa credit to guests booking a two-night stay" through Sept. 30, 2015.

SIGNATURE POOL UPDATES: The San Jacinto Mountains, which form the vista for the resort, aren't too new -- of course -- but fresh pool furniture and a "new state of the art sound system" are recent additions. There are cabanas, too, and a full menu, but if chillaxing and communing with the desert night is your bag, the Piedmont pool is described as the quieter choice (and it is for the grown-ups only). As for the spa credit? There are just-introduced treatments for summer, including an emollient Quench Massage. "Quench" anything sounds great in a drier climate. As for just soaking up the night? That can be done anywhere on the property, but preferably from a reclining position on a pool lounger. Summer, after all, isn't all about lots of heat in the desert; a full half of the day, when the sun bids goodbye, makes for ideal temps, ideal stargazing, ideal letting-the-city-go-ing.

Photo Credit: Miramonte Resort & Spa]]>
<![CDATA[Ciders and Brews, Santa Rosa to Healdsburg]]> Fri, 26 Jun 2015 08:46:48 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sonomacider1221.jpg

SUMMER SIP COOLDOWN: A curious thing often happens when you have a sizable group of close friends, the kind of pals who'll speak frankly about each other's strengths and not-strengths. Everyone gets labeled as being a master at something, or having a special talent. Perhaps you have one friend who is the cook, one who gardens well, one who can tell a killer knock knock joke. This is a little limiting of course -- the teller of knock knock jokes also might be quite handy in the kitchen -- but it is our human way of ordering and compartmentalizing things. Same goes for places, too. If we think of a town that does right by wine, like Healdsburg, we might forever leave it strictly to that category, never considering that it has a beer and cider scene that is on the up and up (and up). But there's room for wine and beer and cider and anything else in the beverage realm that takes hold around Healdsburg, because the Sonoma County town has displayed a knack for knowing what gastronomic-minded visitors -- and locals -- are looking for, as have other towns around the region (hello Windsor, hello Santa Rosa, hello Guerneville). Ready to familiarize yourself with the foams being produced around the wine country town? Which, one day, could also be called a "beer country town," too, if breweries continue to ascend? Then make for...

SONOMA CIDER: We're already in an autumnal state of mind, but hard cider is downright refreshing come the hottest days of summer, too. The ingredients are gluten-free and the ciders run the gamut from apple to... bourbon. Oh yeah. The St. Florian's Brewery Tap Station sits south of Healdsburg, in Windsor, so stop in and try the Brown Ale or Flashover IPA. Russian River Brewing of Santa Rosa boasts a brew pub with a large assortment of beers on tap (Pliny the Elder and Perdition are two of the memorable names) as does Bear Republic in downtown Healdsburg (specialties include Transatlantic Overdrive and Hop Shovel). And if you're ever near Stumpton Brewery of Guerneville, you may want to sip a Rat Bastard Pale Ale, because that is a handle that can't be passed up. So will this slice of wine country also be called beer country or cider country one day? With craft breweries on the rise, brew buffs best stay tuned.

Photo Credit: Sonoma Cider]]>
<![CDATA[Pampered Pets: Tenaya Lodge Package]]> Wed, 17 Jun 2015 14:13:45 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tenayapeta23456.jpg

CANINES AND CREEKS: Though dogs are famous for possessing a rambling, exploring spirit, they don't keep maps up on the wall near their bed, in the way we map-loving humans often do. Maybe this is because pups innately have a good sense of place, distance, and direction -- every Disney adventure film has told us this -- or that they trust their people to take them to the coolest places. But if a dog did own a map, we can only imagine that the Sierra Nevada, and specifically the area around Yosemite National Park, would be circled in red marker. Creeks and waterfalls and big trees and big vistas equal pure romp time for an outdoorsy pooch, and the region that Tenaya Lodge calls home has a whole lot of that natural wonder, and then some. It makes sense that the Fish Camp hotel would be dog friendly, then, and it is worthy of a tail wag that the hotel would go a step further and offer a pet-specific deal. And so they do: The Deluxe Pampered Pet Package. 

THE PACKAGE INCLUDES... a treat baked by none other than the executive chef at the Yosemite-close hotel, plus a dog toy, a water bowl and plush bed (both on loan for your stay), two hours of pet-sitting, in case the humans want to gussy up and go to dinner, and some other charming additions (like the recipe for the chef-baked bone). Oh, yes, and overnight accommodations, too. Is your plan to creek-it-up all day, with your four-footed companion, or wend among the rocks and trees, or just find a granite hump of some sort -- the Sierra are famous for 'em -- from where you can enjoy the sunset with your shaggy BFF? However you design your stay away from Tenaya Lodge, count on your canine having some wild, tree-filled, nature-awesome dreams while staying in his pet bed. Rates? They depend on the season -- find them here. Awards? The Sunset Travel Awards just named the lodge Best Resort for Pets. Photos of your hound snoozing in some Sierra meadow? Save a space on your wall, because those'll be pretty frame-worthy.

Photo Credit: Tenaya Lodge]]>
<![CDATA[Lavender Time: You Pick It at Cache Creek]]> Thu, 11 Jun 2015 20:43:18 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/181*120/lavender012.jpg

HAPPY HUE: There many different objects that could be accurately described as sky blue: the sky, for one, or certain flowers, like the hyacinth, and even particular ice creams, like raspberry. (Question: Why is raspberry ice cream sometimes blue, people who know the logic behind ice cream?) Then there is sunny yellow, which pairs well with, spoiler alert, the sun, as well as lemons and daffodils and egg yolks. And nothing but nothing in this verdant, color-rich world is more lavender than lavender itself. And to spy a lot of lavender in one place, swaying in a breeze, plants that can be plucked and taken home, is one of the principal outdoor pleasures of June. June is, in fact, not only Lavender Month in various places, including the town of Ojai, but Cache Creek Lavender Farm, which sits northwest of Sacramento, throws a weekend-long party for the aromatic, arid-tastic herb.

OF COURSE, you don't have to arrive with the goal of picking your own, though you absolutely can. Wine tasting with Capay Valley Vineyards is part of the Saturday, June 13 and Sunday, June 14 happenings, and the enjoying of lavender products, like lavender lemonade and lavender ice cream. Another question: With the recent fancy lemonade renaissance of the last decade or so, does your heart sink a little when your glass of sunshine lacks the herby addition? Which leads to the bigger question: Have we all become a little in love with lavender? The answer to query #2 is for sure, and that is a rather wonderful thing.

LAVENDER SUGAR: You can also purchase your own bit of purple goodness -- we mean, lavender goodness, of course -- to take home and grow in your own garden. The bees adore it, the other bloomers in the bed are complemented by the contrasting colors (lavender at top, gray-green at the stem), and you'll have something to pluck when a potpourri or soap enhancement is required. Celtic- and folk- and jazz-tinged live tunes'll be the lovely music you'll pick your lavender by, or select your lavender plants, to during the weekend. The Cache Creek site suggests things to make with your floral find, including lavender sugar, which sounds like an amazing thing to eat at the height of lavender season, in the middle of June. For more on picking your own, during the festival or another time, call upon Cache Creek here.

Photo Credit: Lavender]]>
<![CDATA[Wine Time: Russian River Valley Passport]]> Thu, 11 Jun 2015 11:52:17 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/241*120/russianriver292890213.jpg

DAD'S DAY (AFTER DAD'S DAY): Suggesting that a long-standing holiday tradition, like breakfast at a favorite diner or a golf game or a trip to a vintage movie house, be upended, is something no one would ever do. (Well, no one who wants to be nice, at least.) Our parental holidays are steeped in nostalgia and must-dos, after all, from the time we're kids. But when we grow up, and we want to hang with our parents, and celebrate them for them, other ideas can take root. For example, did your pops introduce you to the pleasures of excellent pinot noirs when you hit the right age to enjoy such things? Has he always been a bit of a collector, or, if not a collector, an enjoyer of vintages, the kind of person who follows what a particular vintner is up to, year after year? Then you, dear adult child of a wine-loving parent, are more than free to expand Father's Day into the following weekend, the last weekend in June, when the Russian River Valley Passport Weekend lands, with lavish attention, at "over 30 acclaimed Russian River wineries" over two days: Saturday, June 27 and Sunday, June 28.

EVERY WINERY, SOMETHING DIFFERENT: One of the best parts about a passport weekend is finding something new at someplace new. Yes, you may buy the same label's wares, over and over, because you know it'll be a hit as a host gift or sipping wine around your own house, but stretching your legs, and your palate, is the order of the day during a passport weekend. Davis Family Vineyards'll do some pinot noir-style barrel tasting and VML Winery will have some live music. Tastings and food samples will be available at several of the winehouses, and, indeed, pinot noir shall dominate (though trust, other wines are on the pour). And Dutton-Goldfield is observing National Sunglasses Day on June 27, which means you could score some vino if you wear yours, snap a photo, and win. Would Dad be down with all of this? How is his pinot stock looking? And if he knows this is his Father's Day gift, and it is all happening the weekend after the holiday, will he spend all of June 21 anticipating the weekend to come? So many questions, but a few simple answers, such as this: A weekend in the Russian River Valley schooling yourself on wine, alongside a beloved parent, is about as nice as the start of summer gets.

Photo Credit: Russian River Valley Passport]]>
<![CDATA[National Park Road Trips: Your Handy Maps]]> Fri, 12 Jun 2015 18:13:54 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/4UltimateNationalParkRoadTrip2.jpg

THE SCIENCE OF SUMMER RECREATION: When researcher Randy Olson devised "the optimal road trip" route for taking in some of the coolest stuff around the United States, his findings pretty much blew the proverbial top off of summertime vacation planning. That it arrived in springtime, just when people were starting to put their minds to thinking about warm-weather getaways, was also a stroke of happy fortune. And it served as a reminder to all of us to think bigger when we think about a potential road trip. For sure, we could drive a few hours and visit a quirky attraction, and then drive home, or we could plot our own course that would encompass many major sights. The National Park Foundation has always taken that bigger spirit to heart, which is no surprise. After all, they keep a keen eye on some of the biggest, grandest, tallest, and waterfalliest wonders in all the land. Now the organization, which "enriches America's national parks and programs through private support, safeguarding our heritage, and inspiring generations of national park enthusiasts" (all "in partnership with the National Park Service," by the by), wants to make sure you're well-mapped for the summer. Well-mapped four times over, in fact. A recently released set of charming infographics, showing you how to take in a fell swoop of national park-style goodness, is your guide.

FOUR MAPS... and routes involving a bevy of gems. There's The Iconic Pacific Coast Highway map, which includes both Olympic National Park and Pinnacles National Park, and the See How the West Was Preserved map, which roams from Lassen Volcanic National Park allll the way up into Wyoming (holler, Yellowstone). And for adventurers heading to the East Coast and the South, there are invigorating, historic, picture-perfect routes at the ready, too. Truly, this is a prime time for both map-making enthusiasts and people who want to maximize their vacation windows, however large those windows might be. Showing a fun way to wend among our parks is a fine way for the National Park Foundation to get those aforementioned enthusiasts in the gates and among the trees/geysers/sands/pinnacles. Keep on be-mapping us, national park people; it's just the get-going-already inspiration we need.

Photo Credit: National Park Foundation]]>
<![CDATA[LA Pride: 500k People Join the Party]]> Wed, 10 Jun 2015 12:57:26 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/219*120/gay+pride+use.jpg

LOS ANGELES LOVE: Planning out all the to-dos you want to tackle during a mondo, famous, everyone'll-be-there pride weekend is a merry mixture of absolutely making a note of the singers and guests and sights you want to see and winging it, a little, to go where the wonderful winds might take you. You don't want to realize later that you missed Kesha if Kesha is a your must-see chanteuse, but you don't want to be so tightly locked into your itinerary that the smaller happenings escape your notice. And if you're making for West Hollywood from Friday, June 12 through Sunday, June 14, you know that you'll be joining over a half million other revelers looking to honor community, diversity, family-awesomeness, friendships, and LGBT issues through knowledge, togetherness, and all-out good times. But don't let the idea of wading into a happy sea of 500,000 partiers daunt your roll; you can start with booking your last-minute stay, if you haven't lined up a room at a local friend's place. Visit West Hollywood is an excellent beginning point, with links to The London West Hollywood, Andaz West Hollywood, Mondrian, and Ramada Plaza West Hollywood, which is just steps from the Sunday, June 14 parade route. Restaurants and bars in the area are also covered on the comprehensive site.

PRIDE TIMES: As for the at-the-fest, gotta-do-this stuff? Yep, Kesha was mentioned, and she shall be there. Look also for Wilson Phillips, Wrabel, Ty Herndon, and Fifth Harmony. There's the Friday night Lavender Menace, "a celebration of women," and the return of the popular roller boogie rink, where people bring their '70s-style disco moves and outfits. And, yep, the ebullient parade down Santa Monica Boulevard is lively, full of cameos and celebrities and costumes and sheer spectacularness. Is this your year to attend both West Hollywood and San Francisco? Or did you already start in Long Beach with plans to visit San Diego Pride in July? Best plan your pride road trips to wherever the joy is happening, up and down the coast.

Photo Credit: Pride]]>
<![CDATA[Napa Valley History Tours]]> Tue, 09 Jun 2015 21:00:17 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ehlersestate29232.jpg

VINE-DEEP AND DELECTABLE: If a place isn't simply a place but a reflection of the true-life tales and rollicking myths and larger-than-life characters in its past, then Napa Valley is a real humdinger. The legendary grape-growing region boasts long-ago yarns that run deep, deep as old vine roots in yielding ground. But anyone driving by the wineries and hotels and foodie landmarks dotting the verdant stretch can tell that; the buildings weren't built yesterday or even in the last decade, or few decades, for the most part. There are castles and shadowy wine caves and trees so gnarly and grand you can almost hear the laughter of 19th-century picnickers when you stand nearby. Knowing the history of Napa Valley, then, and not just its labels or best Cabernets or most interesting modern-day vintners, is part of the fuller story of one heck of a full place. The Napa Valley History Tour is spending four June days delving into some of the aforementioned characters and beginnings at a number of vineyards and winehouses, as well as Downtown Napa, too. Are you ready to have some of the corners of your memory filled in, the better to regale your wine-loving companions with on your next road trip into winetastingland? Then Napa-out from...

JUNE 10 THROUGH 13: Not only will artisan chefs be on hand, cooking and crafting and creating delectable bites (touring is an activity in need of fortifying substances after all), the locations you'll go, or locations within those locations, will be new to you, most likely. "You will have the chance to visit places not usually open to the public while being hosted by some of the valley's most knowledgeable tour guides," says the HQ. So where will you roam, with your proverbial magnifying glass out and learning cap on? Beyond Downtown Napa, the four-day history-tacular will head to the Hess Collection, the Ehlers Estate, Missouri Hopper Vineyard, Nichelini Winery, Schramsberg Winery, Trinchero Napa Valley, and Yount Mill Road.

Photo Credit: Ehlers Estate]]>
<![CDATA[Fourth of July Flavorful: World's Largest Salmon BBQ]]> Thu, 25 Jun 2015 05:12:56 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/2012SalmonBBQ2032.jpg

FLAVOR IS THE FIREWORK: Marking our country's holiday can be as public or as personal as a reveler wishes. While many merrymakers go the nighttime let's-watch-fireworks route, others are looking for a more low-key way to pass the daytime hours of Fourth of July. Of course, you can be low-key in the afternoon and revved-up for a pyrotechnics show later in the evening; no one would say this is not a rather wonderful, jam-packed way to play during the holiday. But if you're finding fireworksy-type events to be plentiful, and sunshiny barbecues a little sparse, you can tip the balance towards the earlier part of the day with a trip to Fort Bragg. If you're a fish fan, and you know the Mendocino County town, and you're knowledgeable about what goes down come the early part of July 'round the town, then you know the word we're about to type next: salmon. Lots of salmon, in fact. Oodles of salmon? Yes. For on the first Saturday in July, Fort Bragg throws what's billed as The World's Largest Salmon BBQ. In fact, it's not only billed that, it is called that, too. A lot of salmon is grilled to smoky perfection over that fabled Saturday, all in the pretty setting of Noyo Harbor. And, yes, the first Saturday of 2015 is...

INDEPENDENCE DAY: So this could very well be your Fourth of July daytime outing, with some prime edibles involved. The cost to eat is thirty bucks (though admission is free) and there's music and some convivial hanging out in the ocean-close setting, too. And nicest of all, beyond coming together for a picnic-type dealie on the picnickiest day of the year? Your money will help out the Salmon Restoration Association, which along with the Skunk Train is aiming to "help to restore salmon on streams that flow into the Noyo River." A gourmet-yum happening and a giveback atmosphere, all on the Fourth of July? There's a lot of win in the water here. And if you want to do a Skunk Train trip while you're in the area, you're in luck: The rails are running over the holiday weekend.

Photo Credit: World's Largest Salmon BBQ]]>
<![CDATA[Sactown Chillax: The Citizen Layover]]> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 21:00:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/207*120/citizenhotelsactown.jpg

FANCYING UP THE FIRST NIGHT: No one but no one will claim there isn't a giant, where's-my-swimsuit, where's-the-sunscreen, where-are-we-going-again? push come the day before a major road trip. You've been daydreaming and planning and anticipating for months. Then, come the night before the morning you leave, you're up to your ears in mismatched socks and phone messages from the cat sitter and the 190 different things that must be done. This could be why, in large part, the first night out on the road is sometimes the most forgotten. You want to get to your destination, and where you bed down for the initial push is one of the final thoughts you think, prior to pulling out the suitcase. In a wise and summer-smart move, The Citizen Hotel in Sacramento has stepped forward to be a part of a road tripper's adventure, but on that fabled first night, when the travelers heading in from the Bay Area or the southern part of the state into Tahoe or Redding or Shasta need a great bed. A new package called The Citizen Layover caters to just this on-the-road adventurer on that very first night -- or, yes, the last night, too, before you return home.

THE CITIZEN LAYOVER: If you're desiring a little grown-up R&R once you leave the highway on that first day, you'll find it via two Relax Cocktails delivered to your room (think germain-robin brandy, cocoa, cream, saffron, and that ultimate agent of nighttime sipping, chamomile). Dinner for two at The Grange Restaurant & Bar means you don't have to go searching for your supper after several hours of asphalt under your wheels, and a basket of car snacks for the next day will include eats from local Sactown artisans. And will there be maps for walking or running the Capitol-close area and nearby river? There shall be, yes (every road tripper knows that physical movement on a car-bound trip is key). The rates for The Citizen Layover begin at $209 at the Joie de Vivre hotel (up to a 30% savings, yep). But will you pine for your basket of local goodies and Relax Cocktails once you're back on the road to wherever your ultimate end point might be? It is a rare thing when the trip's first night starts to rival the time when the vacation hits its stride.

Photo Credit: The Citizen Hotel]]>
<![CDATA[Lights Off, Stars On: Summer Dark Sky Fests]]> Mon, 22 Jun 2015 21:23:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/lassennpsdarksky1.jpg

COSMIC ILLUMINATION: We might reside under the brightest of night skies. Our block might be flooded with streetlight action and lots of lit-up windows come sundown, as well as the constant streaming headlights from passing cars. Our own apartment or home may often have several lamps on at once when evening arrives. And yet... an old longing inside us, very old, compels us to step into the yard, now and then, or out to the curb, to see if we can spy the evening's first star or Venus or any of the constellations. We know they may be faint, if detectable at all, but we still yearn and we still try, even in our overly illuminated modern world. But there are places that are dark in an ancient way, or nearly, remote corners where nature and mountains and trees and a general lack of humanmade wattage prevail. Those are the deep-in-the-wild destinations that lovers of the dark sky are drawn to, each year, during the Dark Sky Festivals that have begun popping up with regularity around the world. These are the gatherings that ask us to celebrate one of the planet's greatest gifts: the universe, in all of its twinkly, body-beautiful glory, sans the streetlights and headlights. On board, night maven? There are two after-hours happenings ahead.

LASSEN VOLCANIC NATIONAL PARK: A three-day look-up party is on the schedule over the first weekend in August at this northeastern spread of bubbling mud pots and fumaroles and hot springs. The national park just marked an important centennial, the observance of the peak eruption of 1915, and the stargazing gathering from Aug. 7 to 9 will be another feather in its summer cap. Hiking, talks, and lots of gazing up with both astronomers and planetary geologists is on the dark sky dance card.

SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK: The nighttime revelries among the big trees happen about a month after that, from Sept. 11 through 13, and the dark sky docket brims with late-into-the-evening activities: telescope viewings, constellation tours, talks on the robotic Mars missions, the building of model rockets, and more, including a subterranean visit to Crystal Cave, will delight dark-sky-ists.

Photo Credit: NPS]]>
<![CDATA[Death Valley Summer: Hot Days and Hot Happenings]]> Fri, 19 Jun 2015 22:16:44 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/193*120/FCRanchEntryArchDawn.jpg

THERE ARE NO GIANT FRONT DOORS... on the highways leading into Death Valley, nor heavy iron gates on the roads that wend into the national park from various points. You don't have to ring a doorbell, nor leave a note in the mailbox, because the massive and mysterious and moon-like stretch of arid land is simply always there and always open. This may surprise a handful of people, who picture the park basically shuttering come summertime, but Death Valley doesn't lock any giant front door for the season, nor does it hang out the "come back in fall" sign. Instead, it welcomes visitors straight into triple-digits-temp time, June, July, and August, that lovely, seemingly languid stretch of year. But the desert isn't so very languid, even in the heat; on the contrary, Death Valley still brims with pleasures, from swimming at The Ranch at Furnace Creek to enjoying The Inn at Furnace Creek during its summer open time (the posh hotel reopens after its May closure for a short run, with limited services, in July and into August). But two of the summertime biggies in the vast valley couldn't be more different from each other, nor more interesting in scope and atmosphere. They both fascinate, in their distinct ways, with one involving the extreme outdoors and the other the cool, music-filled indoors of a famed historic home. We speak of the Badwater 135 race and the organ concert at Scotty's Castle, two hot-weather happenings that have become staples of the park's warmest period.

BADWATER 135: Where will you be at the end of July 2015? If you've entered "the world's toughest foot race," you'll be hoofing it from Furnace Creek to Mt. Whitney Portal, a climb of several thousand feet over three hard-running, long-running days. Even if you're not up for this particularly legendary push, you can bid the runners luck as they set off from Death Valley on July 28.

SCOTTY'S CASTLE ORGAN CONCERT: It's a striking piece in a striking landmark in a remote corner of the national park. We speak of the Welte-Mignon Organ inside Scotty's Castle, an instrument that is "played by human hands only once a year." The weekend falls in July, the 17th and 18th, to be exact, so if you'd like to hear a marvelous organ in the middle of a lonesome desert -- such atmospheric stuff -- get your tickets.

Photo Credit: Scott Temme/The Ranch at Furnace Creek]]>
<![CDATA[Dad's Day on the Napa Valley Wine Train]]> Fri, 05 Jun 2015 22:00:54 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/NapaValleyWineTrainFathersDayBeerGlass.jpg

THE TWAIN SHALL MEET: There's been an undercurrent, amongst the sort of jokesters who like to pit two great tastes against each other -- caramel vs. chocolate, croissants vs. danishes -- that wine and beer should have some sort of rivalry. After all, you're apt to see the presence of both in a large happy hour crowd, with a few people going chardonnay and some people going IPA. But the dramatic rivalry between the grape sip and the foam sip has never produced much heat: A lot of imbibers occasionally go for either or. So it turns out this is not a "never the twain shall meet" instance; the twain does meet, and shall, on a train, on Father's Day in Napa Valley.

WELCOME BEER: The whole twain/train meet-up can be seen on the Napa Valley Wine Train's special Father's Day Train, where the welcome beverage could be, in a twist, either wine or beer (regular guests know that wine is the typical libation at this point in the journey). Moreover, dads will leave the ride with a commemorative pint glass, an item not typically associated with an attraction with "wine" in its very name. And while the assortment of local labels that is always served on the train will be available, as usual, a beer might be rather refreshing for your holiday lunch, since choices on the menu include...

GRILLED BABY BACK RIBS: Of course, there are other selections, too, like almond-encrusted salmon piccata and mustard-rubbed pork tenderloin, but the offerings of the day are promised to include some BBQ stylings. Actually all of the menu, pretty much, would go well with suds or something sparkling, so that may be the hardest decision of your day. Your dad's hardest decision will be whether to display that pint glass upon returning home or actually use it. As for spending his holiday on a train full of antique charm via the Pullman Heavyweight cars? Well, that's pretty dang exciting right there, for most train buffs, for sure. If he's a fan of foam and the rails, you're in luck. Kids are welcome for the ride, too, but if you're a 21-and-over-er, and have been looking for a great bar to toast dad in, this one passes, dramatically, some of the best known vineyards and views anywhere.

FATHER'S DAY... is Sunday, June 21.

Photo Credit: Napa Valley Wine Train]]>
<![CDATA[Road to Bodie: A Smoother Ghost Town Entry]]> Tue, 09 Jun 2015 14:35:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/bodiehouseagp.jpg

THE WILDER ROUTES: To say that every experience involving nature or a remote location has been overly documented and managed and gussied-up and wrapped in protective coating is not correct in the least. True, you'll find a back-up of traffic when heading into some parks and natural places, and a few bathrooms and food places, and you'll understand, quite clearly, that you aren't the first person to set foot along the particular path you're on. But California still has many locales where winding trails rule and the way in for automobiles is not a paved asphalt experience but rather, for lack of a better way to term it, a dirt road. That dirt road may be a rut road, from time to time, depending on rain, or a rock road, depending on what winter's unpredictable forces have left behind, but it is still how you're going to get to the super-cool, totally excellent thing you want to see. The Trona Pinnacles in the Death Valley-close desert qualify here -- you'll be driving on dirt to get to this outer space place -- and so does Bodie State Historic Park, the Mono County burg that's considered to be "the best example of an old west mining town in America!" There are three miles of "unsurfaced road" just before you reach the town, road that's well-kept but still subject to the weather and wind. But here's news for summer road-trippers, straight from the Bodie Foundation: The road in is "currently in BUFF condition!"

REV YOUR ENGINES, HISTORY SEEKERS: "Mono County and State Parks have been working together adding road base and fresh compacted dirt," continues the Facebook post. "All the rocks are removed and it is nearly a freeway. At least for a little while." A smiley face punctuates the post. So what are you waiting for, fun fans of phantoms and history-loving smarties who have to soak up a little more about how this town, which now exists in a state of arrested decay, grew big, very big, in the 1800s? Summer days are prime time for Bodie, and, of course, the trio of summer nights during which the town stays open to visitors. The road in may be "nearly a freeway" now, but every adventurer knows that not all roads leading to wonders come in standard asphalt.

Photo Credit: Alysia Gray Painter]]>
<![CDATA[Las Vegas Ocean: Bellagio Sea Garden]]> Tue, 09 Jun 2015 14:35:25 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/bellagiounderthesea1234567.jpg

SIN CITY SEA: While Las Vegas is, without quibble, one of the planet's best-known desert cities, one could connect it to the concept of the ocean without pulling a mussel -- er, make that muscle, rather. There are, after all, some of the most blue chip seafood restaurants to be found anywhere in the resorts along The Strip, with lobster dishes and crab ragouts that are so over-the-top and tasty you can't imagine you're really so very far from the shoreline. And, yes, famous Red Rock Canyon, which can be admired from many a hotel window, once played host to a sea, long, long, long ago. No fishies are to be found there these days, but fossils found within rocks 'round Sin City spill a story of a damp region formerly gurgling with water. So while The Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens going with a sea theme for the summer of '15 is quite whimsical, it isn't so out of place in that big ol' mostly dry desert, which does possess a few ocean connections. Of course, the restaurant seafood is real, and the sea fossils are ancient, but the giant jellies and sea turtles currently "swimming" inside The Bellagio are pure floral magic.

1,500 FRESH-CUT FLOWERS: That's the number of bursting buds to be found in the on-site mermaid's tail, but, as always with this showstopping Strip landmark, there are more tales of the flowery sort to tell. The sea turtle is composed of yellow Fuji mums and red carnations, and buds abound in other by-the-beach scenes. Speaking of which, there's "an aged fisherman's wharf" in the display, and a sandcastle nearby that happens to be a replica of the real-life hotel in which it stands. Jellyfishes, a clam with a pearl inside (watch for the clam to open its mouth every seven minutes, giving lookie-loos a peek at the pearl), a waterfall, seahorses, and other aquatic icons round out the summer scene. It's on through Sept. 12, so if you need an "I'm on The Strip and hot" cool-down moment, the free garden might provide. That it has an ocean theme may drop visitors' temperatures another notch or two -- maybe in spirit, at least. And just think: You can tell people back home, after your trip is done, that you visited an ocean, complete with clams and seahorses, in Las Vegas. 

Photo Credit: Bellagio ]]>
<![CDATA[Corn Dog Alert: California State Fair on Approach]]> Tue, 09 Jun 2015 14:35:06 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/calstatefairjuly15.jpg

CAN YOU HEAR THE CALLIOPE? One of the most charming trends in publishing over the last decade has involved those wisecracking adventurers who take on a mega and oh-so-quirky project over a single year. Try every kind of candy, visit every state, that sort of dealie. But who here has gone to every county fair in California over a single calendar year? While making every county fair in the nation might be a task too grand for any one mere mortal, taking on each midway-bedecked party in the Golden State could happen, starting south, in the winter, with Riverside County and working your way north. Of course, you could begin the book you're writing with the biggie, the bruin-est, the captain of this sweet-and-treat-laden ship: The California State Fair.

A PRESENCE IN THREE CENTURIES: It has been around since the 1800s, but not just the tail end: The Sacramento animals + fruits + quilts + attractions megamondohappening revved up just a few years after the Gold Rush, meaning its very early pleasures may have well been paid for in some of the initial revenue from the first gold-seekers. It has grown -- its big home, Cal Expo, is a testament to its titan-like status in a state brimming with big fairs -- and it has more delights beyond the traditional. The 17-day fair covers the quintessential staples of a summer fest, it is true, but also offers things like a Whiskey Festival, a Best of California Brewfest, olive oil and cheese showdowns, sports, shows, and all sorts of pettable, lookable, sippable wonders.

2015 DATES: Opening date is Friday, July 10 and Sunday, July 26 is the final adieu. There's a pre-sale for tickets going on, as of this typing, if pre-sale-ing is your thing, or you could just make for Sactown on a whim with the goal of seeing the best examples of canned apple sauce, the cutest of goats, the light-bulb-blinkiest of midway games. So who's up for visiting every California county fair, with a start in Sacramento? There're a lot of Cal-charming old-timey fairs to jump into, for sure.

Photo Credit: California State Fair]]>
<![CDATA[Summer of Cats: The Lindsay Wildlife Experience Meows]]> Thu, 04 Jun 2015 09:12:36 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sweetkittyshutterstock1.jpg

BY A WHISKER: Truly, there's no prodding or coaxing required when it comes to getting people to think about and love upon cats. If you're into the soft-paw'd, whisker-face wonders, and have one or two at home, their well-being and care is always at the forefront of your feline-focused mind. But reminding meow mavens about a few important matters is always a fine idea, and making it a good time for kids is pretty sweet. The Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek will do just that this summer, during its Summer of Cats -- Felines: Fierce & Friendly! This is the animal care center that tends to the health needs of owls and foxes and a host of critters found in the Great Outdoors, but the staff is also concerned for our domestic animals. Which is why "young visitors" to the museum will be asked to "take the 'Keep My Cat Inside' pledge, reinforcing their message to keep domestic cats inside to prevent injuries, disease and short life span." How is this pledge made? Kids can either color a picture of a kitty, which is provided by the museum, or show up with a snapshot of their own at-home pet. These drawings and photos will all be displayed in the exhibit hall, a cute but urgent reminder that those near and dear to us need us to make a few extra efforts on their behalf.

FELINE FINE: ART OF CATS II: In addition to the colorful contributions of visitors, the museum will also host a display of "50 new paintings and sculptures by leading artists who specialize in the subject of cats." Both domestic animals and wilder beasties will get the artistic affection. And if you want to join a full-on Family Cat Night, you can, on Friday, June 26. Your baby stays home, true, but you'll get to attend some meet 'n greets with Lindsay Wildlife Experience animals, do some stargazing, and nosh upon food truck goodies. You can, of course, brag it up about your furry one, to everyone you meet there, because you can count on everyone present being very, very enamored with a certain four-footed, felinesque way of life.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Sunset Magazine's New Digs: Jack London Square]]> Wed, 03 Jun 2015 20:57:48 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Sunset_JackLondonSquareMove.jpg

MAGAZINE ON THE MOVE: There are many natural phenomena we earth residents can pretty much count on, but one of the biggest, and least debatable, is where the sun sets. It's the west, no "spoiler alert" required, and as long as this ol' planet stays on its axis, and our nearest star keeps doing its whole bright thing, we're good in that department. But while a sunset won't ever notably move, say, to the north, Sunset will, and shall, very soon. What has been a hot topic -- perhaps not as hot as the sun, but still plenty speculated about -- has now come to its reveal, at last: Sunset magazine, the venerable publication that has famously made a home in Menlo Park for decades, has a new address in Jack London Square in Oakland, with additional interests, like a garden and test kitchen, at Cornerstone in Sonoma.

CELEBRATION WEEKEND BUZZ: This pack-up-and-head-for-Oakland push follows the sale of the publication's much-photographed and iconic property, a spread that will see the annual, thousands-go Celebration Weekend festival over the first weekend in June. The last Menlo Park party still afoot, with demos and plants and Western living ideas ready to flourish, but we can only imagine the buzz won't just be emanating from any bees in the impressive Sunset gardens. Attendees will surely be discussing this big announcement and the move to come, and how future Celebration Weekends will unfurl.

55 HARRISON STREET... is the new HQ for Sunset, which is indeed in the same building as the Water Street Market, the artisan food go-to in the square. As for its Cornerstone presence, in Sonoma? The test kitchen and outdoor garden will flower there, as well as "on-site programming." The official move comes at the end of the year, so, yes, fans can say, in this instance, that sometimes a Sunset can happen in multiple spots, physics and rules notwithstanding. The magazine was in Menlo Park for 64 years; will it see the same amount of time, plus, in Jack London Square? We're raising an organic Clementine mimosa made with California sparkling wine, the kind of sip found within Sunset's pages, to its continued longevity.

Photo Credit: Sunset Magazine]]>
<![CDATA[On a Roll: Nevada City Adult Soapbox Derby]]> Thu, 04 Jun 2015 10:50:43 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ncsdoutsideinn123.jpg

JUST A FACT: There are true 'n real can't-dispute-'em facts in this ol' world, like trees can be tall, the ocean can be deep, and if a grown-up strolls by a soapbox racer parked on the side of the street, the lookie-loo will long to get inside and see how the darn thing rolls. But then a lot of inventive grown-ups get to discover that delightful mystery in Nevada City each summer. The Gold Country burg, known for its Mardi Gras gathering and Halloween-fall-color ways, also has a hankering for one of the old-fashioned pleasures of summer, the soapbox derby. But in Nevada City, the racing is for the adults, come June. Crowds turn out to celebrate the dreamers who've put quite a bit of time, love, head-scratching, re-fixing, some painting, and lots of can-do into their lil' cars all in the name of the Nevada City Adult Soapbox Derby. This year's date is Saturday, June 13, and the scene of the gravity-take-the-wheel race? Nimrod Street.

HILLS RULE: As you can guess by its gold-related, Old West, Sierra-foothilly location, Nevada City is rather blessed in the incline/decline department, and Nimrod Street is just the spot to make the soapboxers go, go, go. Speeds can zoom past 40 mph -- wheee, indeed -- and onlookers cheers the creative cars on. And we do mean creative: The derby participants don't just set off to win on the speed front, but maybe the art front, instead. Speed and Art in fact make up the two categories. Hundreds of straw bales separate the racers from the onlookers, and the whole shebang is centered around Pioneer Park, where there's also a "pit area" where the public is welcome. "Further up the hill, food and beverage vendors, live music, and free swimming for the kids" lend the hometown-y high jinks more of a summer's-on-the-way whimsy. And even though you'll be cheering on the soapboxes as they speed on by, make time to see the creations when they're at a standstill, too. The hours upon hours of work deserve a little peering-up-close love.

Photo Credit: Outside Inn]]>
<![CDATA[BottleRock Napa Valley: 2016 Pre-Sale on Now]]> Tue, 02 Jun 2015 13:21:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/bottlerock2015onsale.jpg

RARE THING: The routine is almost always the same when one returns from a multi-day music festival. The suitcase sits semi-unpacked -- okay, mostly unpacked -- through the following weekend (admit it). Your various wristbands and tickets and fliers and memorabilia go into the drawer or jar or on the fridge or in a memory box (but never straight into the trash). And you think to yourself that while you'd definitely do the fest again, next year, you probably don't need to stress over any on-sales for the time being, since those generally launch a few months ahead of the happening. Wellll... That depends on the festival. True, there are many large-scale sound spectaculars that wait for the six-month mark, or even four-month mark, to put the tickets out. But then there are also events like BottleRock Napa Valley, a Memorial Day Weekend gathering that has been growing x 10 on the whole into-summer mondo music scene, thanks to its hot and everything-for-every-listener line-ups and the food/wine element that its location naturally brings. BottleRock Napa Valley wants to start the anticipation building way ahead of time, as in a year minus a week. So, yes, while BottleRock Napa Valley 2015 just wrapped, there is a pre-sale on for...

BOTTLEROCK NAPA VALLEY 2016: What will you be up to in 51 weeks? Might as well check this one off, if you like lively line-ups (No Doubt, Snoop Dogg, Gipsy Kings, Robert Plant, and Imagine Dragons were all on the 2015 stages) and good eats (Redd, La Toque, and Goose & Gander served posh vittles at the recently ended affair). So while you may not yet have your Fourth of July plans lined up, or your Labor Day 2015 doings, you can spread the word that your May 27-29, 2016 is fully booked. Want to get a taste of what just went down, whether you're reminiscing still or bummed you missed out? Reminisce/live vicariously here.

Photo Credit: BottleRock Napa Valley]]>
<![CDATA[Carmel Refresh: Terry's at Cypress Inn]]> Mon, 01 Jun 2015 18:49:53 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/oystersterryscypress.jpg

WHERE IS OLD HOLLYWOOD? It's a question that might inspire some lively back-and-forths over a friendly dinner at a nice restaurant. Does it still exist in Tinseltown itself, or within flickering black-and-white films, or in the fashions of vintage-loving designers, or somewhere up the coast, around Carmel? The answer is yes to all four questions, but finding it outside of '40s films, or an old-world Hollywood restaurant like Musso & Frank, can be trickier. Unless, of course, you have the Cypress Inn of Carmel-by-the-Sea in your retro, gray-metal Rolodex, and you know that a certain eatery off the lobby pays homage to the movie industry of yore through a host of classy cocktails. We speak of Terry's Restaurant & Lounge, the longtime tony eatery housed just off the lobby of Doris Day's 1929 Mediterranean fantasy of an inn. While the hotel has kept its soft lines and hacienda-style approach, Terry's recently underwent a renovation, lending the property's "signature restaurant" a gussying-up in the interior design department.

AND THE SPRING MENU DEPARTMENT, TOO: Look for local starters like grilled artichokes with Dungeness crab timbale and Monterey Bay calamari, as well as curry lamb meatballs and ahi tuna poke. Monterey sand dabs are on the Mediterranean flair menu, and braised short ribs as well. As for the Hollywood touches? Look among the cocktails for sips like a Stinger, made in tribute to movie legend Cary Grant and the 1957 flick "Kiss Them for Me." Pisco Punch and other potent libations from decades back fill out the beverage side of things at Terry's, which also serves an Old-Fashioned as an ode to James Cagney.

AS FOR THE GUSSY-UP? Look for a "silver-leaf paper treatment on the barrel ceiling, which lights up to create a jewel box effect" in the room. Ah, Tinseltowny doings at work. "(O)yster and alabaster" hues lend creamy touches to the black, white, and beige tones.

AS FOR THE PUPS? They are still more than welcome to stay at the inn itself, which is, of course, one of the best-known bring-your-pooch hotels in California, if not the planet. Animal-championing hotelier Doris Day would not have it any other way.

Photo Credit: Cypress Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Monterey Meals: Cooking for Solutions]]> Mon, 01 Jun 2015 13:06:36 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/199*120/montereysustainable2222.jpg

WAVE-TO-TABLE: The bywords and terms of sustainable and future-forward cookery are no longer the sort of ideas any foodie needs to get up-to-speed on; everyone realizes that choosing to be an aware eater, and a conscientious consumer of comestibles, is where it is at and where it shall continue to go. But while there are many retreats covering farm-to-table and positive practices involving where our meats and cheeses and dairy and everything on the menu hails from, gatherings that focus on the ocean, in addition to the land, are coming up as well. And one of the biggest, for nearly coming up on a decade and a half next year, is the Cooking for Solutions weekend at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The two-day gourmet-and-more gathering, which comes ashore at the Cannery Row institution on Saturday, June 6 and Sunday, June 7, is devoted to finding "delicious ways to live an ocean-friendly lifestyle" Adding to the everything-ocean-edible weekend is the fact that the whole celebration will also, for the first happening-simultaneous time, honor World Oceans Day Weekend.

FOOD, WINE, IDEAS, COMMUNITY: Unlike many a straight-up supping event, Cooking for Solutions is both about tasty tidbits and shared knowledge on a global, going-to-the-next-stage front. There shall be info on the "land-sea connection" at Sustainable Foods Celebration on June 6, and "how Earth-friendly agriculture can make a difference not just for the soil, but for ocean wildlife." And, yes, there shall be many celebrated chefs making cooking-themed cameos over the weekend, from The Flavors of Spain with Chad Minton and Alvaro Dalmau to Hawaiian Highlands Barbecue with Sam Choy. So, yes, for sure, on-the-land flavors and ingredients will be a big part of the weekend, in addition to any crustaceans or fishes seen on various spreads. And a Saturday night party with Carla Hall is the yummy centerpiece to the weekend (prepare for tuna tacos, swanky s'mores, and such). Want to hit one thing or a few things? Those tickets are a la carte. Want to dream about dining on a host of sensible, sustainable eats next to the ocean? No more dreaming required: Start here.

Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium]]>
<![CDATA[Sweeties of Sonoma Marin: Ugliest Dog Contest]]> Sat, 30 May 2015 16:13:55 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/uglydogsonoma81650478.jpg

CANINE COOS: The start of summer in Sonoma County can mean a lot of things. Longer afternoons and lengthier evenings, which help alfresco foodies enjoy later meals outdoors. Nice weather is afoot, so the wearing of sundresses and shorts and seersucker and cooler clothes is the thing. And over in Petaluma, some of the best-known, most beloved barkers to be found anywhere take the stage, garnering acclaim, affections, and new Facebook friends along the way. We speak of the World's Ugliest Dog Contest, a competition that has made the Sonoma-Marin Fair known not just within the region but around the globe. That's because dogs from places quite far from Petaluma -- and closer by, too -- have traveled to the start-of-summer fair, with their owners, to see if they've been chosen as, yes, the World's Ugliest Dog.

FACEBOOK FIDOS: It isn't, nor has it ever been, a point-and-pity affair; just about everyone who sees every pup vows they want to take each one of 'em home. And past participants like Quasi Modo have an impressive amount of online human friends, those fans who have to know more about the sweet furry faces seen in Petaluma. And seen on the news, too, of course; the World's Ugliest Dog is an event that's regularly reported on in several countries and across the United States.

COULD YOUR CUTIE... compete? Is there something unique and individual about his fuzzy hair, his snaggly teeth, his whole beautiful presence? The entry form is up now on the Sonoma-Marin Fair site. Personality and audience interaction are considered by judges, so if you have a ham on your hands, she could take first place. And consider that your canine would likely inspire humans to adopt and love animals that have their own offbeat thing going on. All dogs are kissable, regardless if they've got some funny patches of hair on their cheek or strange spots; this long-running fair is about elevating the unusual and celebrating each and every dog's fabulous distinctiveness.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Healdsburg Happy: Dance Romp in the Roses]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 12:38:14 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/mikalakennanrose.jpg

PIROUETTES AND PETALS: If you've ever had to urge to leap about while standing on a pretty stretch of grass, or twirl before a bed of begonias, you, dear friend, are in very good company. Many garden strollers feel that swell of springtime freshness, of clear air and lemon sunlight, and the ultimate desire to not simply stroll but gambol, click their heels, or cartwheel. This is understandable: Beautiful sights can give anyone sudden energy and oomph, and finding where to put that energy and oomph isn't always an easy errand. Sniff the flowers harder? Fan your face more with your handfan? The choices are limited. It is so nice, though, that some in the flower community recognize, and embrace, the eternal connection between a gorgeous garden and the desire to leap, twirl, and dance, when one is happily overcome. The Russian River Rose Company of Healdsburg will celebrate the nature-energy connection with a weekend of in-the-garden performances by UPside Dance Company, a NorCal troupe that stages a host of innovative and lively performances and classes. That's right: You'll get to stand among roses -- many, many exquisite roses at the end-of-May height of beauty -- and watch some sublime artists pirouette and raise their arms and raise the general vibration. The cost to watch?

IT'S FREE... though dancer donations will be accepted (and, yes, "appreciated"). It's a performance debut and the title is apt: "Everything is Rosey." And the keyword truly is "romp," which is so very refreshing, as romps are few these days and oh-so-suitable to the alfresco setting. It's the "summer send-off" for the rose company, and there shall be specials on pretty buds and other on-site accouterments. Will you buy a few plants, take them home, put them outside your kitchen window, and then stage your own dance-sweet romp? Well, why not? No one ever said performances need a traditional stage. If you want in on some of this ye olde springtime merriment, make for the rose-a-riffic spot on Saturday, May 30 or Sunday, May 31.

Photo Credit: Mikala Kennan]]>