<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Worth the Trip]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcbayarea.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.comen-usMon, 25 Jul 2016 13:19:14 -0700Mon, 25 Jul 2016 13:19:14 -0700NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Monterey Merry: Scottish Games & Festival]]> Mon, 25 Jul 2016 13:18:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ScottishFestival12343234.jpg

KILTS TO CABERS: Summer is irrefutably on the winding-down side of things, which means that any big trips you hoped to take before the school year got going, or other fall to-dos revved up, may not actually happen with the remaining window of time (spoiler alert). But what is happening within that window is something that summons the spirit of the Scottish Highlands, complete with the tossing of cabers, and the sounding of bagpipes, and the putting of stones, and the wearing of kilts. It's The Monterey Scottish Games & Celtic Festival, which return to the Monterey County Fair & Event Center on Saturday, Aug. 6 and Sunday, Aug. 7.

THE 49TH ANNUAL MONTEREY SCOT GAMES... will include the traditional heavy athletics that are as much a part of the Highlands as wild heather, so grab a spot and admire the skills needed for caber tossing, the sheaf toss, and the hammer & stone throw. Highland dancing, which may include over "150 jumps in a song," is also on the bill, as is a multitude of piping performances (and drumming, too). A whiskey tasting seminar, the always popular sheep dog demonstrations, Celtic handmade crafts, re-enactments that reach centuries back, and more Scotland-specific doings are on the very full weekend's very full roster.

CAN YOU MAKE SCOTLAND THIS SUMMER, STILL? You can enjoy a slice of it, in Monterey, over the bonny first weekend in August.

Photo Credit: Monterey Scottish Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Catalina Express: 35th Anniversary Fun]]> Sun, 24 Jul 2016 07:35:50 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/catalinaexpress12345.jpg

THE NUMBERS ADD UP: The Catalina Express, that zippity boat service that ferries people between the mainland and Catalina Island and back again, is celebrating its big 35th anniversary in 2016, it's true. It's also true that the island that is now home to the Casino Building and Avalon and Two Harbors and all of those buffalo is a mite older than 35 (the fascinating story of the formation of the islands off California goes back millions upon millions of years, in fact). And it is also true that nearly a million people a year call upon the Catalina Express for that famous 22-mile trip across the waves. It's a big history with impressive numbers, in short, for the boat line, and big histories are often celebrated in myriad ways. The ferry company is taking two different routes to marking its special occasion, including...

A 35TH ANNIVERSARY SITE... where you can enter the daily drawing. Cookies, books, parasailing, and kayaking are all possible prizes. It's a lively way to honor 35 years, and the many passengers that call upon the Catalina Express throughout its year-round schedule. Consider all of the transportation we use, and how few of those vehicles drop off us at an island. It's a service with fun built into its character, something reflected in the company's approach to its big 35th.

UPDATE: The board-and-scratch cards, a kick-off promotion for the anniversary, gave travelers on the boats free non-alcoholic beverages and other goodies on opening day, July 15. But more days are to come for the daily drawing, so check out the site now.

Photo Credit: Catalina Express]]>
<![CDATA[Free Days: National Park Service's 100th Birthday]]> Sun, 24 Jul 2016 07:34:26 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/485215315-happy-birthday-candles-cake.jpg

A BIRTHDAY... can mean a number of nifty things, from delicious slices of cake being proffered to balloons appearing out of nowhere to the occasional surprise gift, the kind that comes with a giant bow on top. That special day can also translate into free things, as in a free short stack of pancakes or free car wash or another nice local benefit down at a treasured mom-and-pop-ery. The National Park Service is getting into that "birthdays + awesome free things" vibe, but for its own special day. And it is a very special one, indeed: The service overseeing our beloved parks, monuments, and important sites is turning 100 in 2016, something work raising a forkful of cake to, with cheer. If you want to feel that centennial magic, and have your entrance fee waived at a park that charges (not every national park does), mark...

AUG. 25 THROUGH 28, 2016... on your calendar. You can find out if your favorite waterfall-y, tree-laden, rock-pretty spot is a fee-asking spot — 127 of the 400+ NPS-overseen spots do charge a fee at the gate — and then you can go, go, go. Those four days do include a weekend, so making the most of the Saturday and Sunday might be in the cards for many. Another bonus? This is the weekend before Labor Day Weekend, and travelers will ponder a full week of road-tripping, with the initial weekend being one spent in a national park, for no admission. Nope, you don't need to get the NPS anything, but sharing your affection for the parks by taking nothing but photos, and posting such photos, if that's your jam, helps spread these wonders far and wide. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images/RooM RF, Illustration]]>
<![CDATA[Top of the Mark: Movies & Wine]]> Fri, 22 Jul 2016 19:51:28 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/intercontinental-mark-hopkins-topmovies.jpg

WHEN THE VIEW OUT THE WINDOW... can be correctly described as "cinematic," you know you're in a place that seemingly sprang straight from a screenplay. There aren't many places that could wear such a badge of movie-sweet honor, but a particular venue that sits atop the InterContinental Mark Hopkins absolutely qualifies. It's the Top of the Mark we quite obviously reference here, a longtime San Francisco favorite for both big views of iconic city landmarks and memorable cocktails. The stylish venue is adding a dollop of cinematic cream on top to its summer Tuesdays, though, by incorporating real movies into the film-fab setting. The series? It's called Summer Movie Nights, and it is happening each Tuesday night through the end of August. Arrive on the early side, from...

5:30 THROUGH 7... for a "wine or spirit tasting." Either one you select is gratis, and you might just find a new libation you particularly fancy (of course, you'll always remember that you first tried it at the Top of the Mark). The movie of the night rolls at 7 o'clock, with classics like "Mary Poppins" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on the bill. A trio of gems that are especially California-y are to come, too, with "American Graffiti" and "Some Like It Hot" on the slate (hello, Petaluma and Hotel del Coronado). True, "American Graffiti" has oodles of Northern California cred, but so does the utterly San Francisco-esque "Vertigo," which screens on Tuesday, Aug. 2. Want to find when a film you favor is playing? Watch the site or check in with the bar, a cinematic destination that's incorporating some real cinema into its summertime fun.

Photo Credit: Intercontinental Mark Hopkins]]>
<![CDATA[Dark Sky Wonder Among the Sequoias]]> Mon, 25 Jul 2016 12:11:37 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/215*120/sequoiaalison12345.jpeg

GAZE UP: If you've ever called upon a tall tree, as in one of the ginormous, touch-the-clouds specimens seen around particular parts of the Sierra Nevada, then you've likely spent a good amount of time gazing up. Perhaps you were attempting to discern the tree's tippy-top, highest-to-the-sky branch, or maybe you were making a general guess as to how long it would take to climb. It's a time-honored tradition, in short, to look up at the tops of some of the planet's sky-high-iest shrubs, but the annual Dark Sky Festival encourages participants to look even further, into the larger cosmos that are above the tops of the trees (or above from our human viewpoint, anyway). The festival is very much about astronomy, and the starry sky, and enjoying both without the lights we know and experience nightly in a city setting. Enjoying the sequoias, too, is part of the celebration, even as they stand as quiet, in-the-shadows sentinels after the sun goes down. Ready to commune with the universe, sans illumination?

AUG. 5 THROUGH 7, 2016... are your dates. The lengthy lists of happenings includes telescope viewings, an appearance by a NASA astronaut, nature walks, the constructing of model rockets, and more cosmic fun times. And it isn't all about looking up, but heading down, too, into Crystal Cave. Dark Sky Festivals are becoming a regular thing in our national parks, and beyond, as nature lovers and astronomy buffs and those who wish they could see the Milky Way in all of its near-fictional beauty gather in some of our country's most low-lit destinations. Read more, then grab your flashlight and begin plotting your happy path to the tall trees.

Photo Credit: Alison Taggart-Barone]]>
<![CDATA[Tequila & Taco Music Festival]]> Thu, 21 Jul 2016 22:15:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/teqandtacofestventurasantac.jpg

MARGARITA MARVELOUS: When one is pondering sipping something cold and lime-laden and salty-of-rim and full of sweet tequila-o-sity, one concurrently ponders what sort of snack might be enjoyed at the very same time. We don't typically reach for the ice cream container when drinking a margarita, though, and cereal isn't really at the top of the pair-up list here, as lovely as it might be. But chips and tacos? Yeah, we crave their savory, crunchy, corn-tortilla-riffic flavors, because those are the flavors that everyone knows go best with a margarita, be it on the rocks or blended. (No, seriously, this is just an "everyone knows" kind of thing.) To find both together isn't too difficult, but to find a lot of both likely means you're at a mondo festival of some sort. And if you're in downtown Ventura on Saturday, July 23 and Sunday, July 24 you shall be at such a big event, the 4th annual...

TEQUILA & TACO MUSIC FESTIVAL: Step #1 is to find your stay-over package, and Marriott Ventura Beach and The Clocktower Inn both have rooms going for revelers. As for what's happening at the fest? Samples of primo mezcal on Saturday, fancy street tacos galore (think shrimp, carne asada, calabacitas, steak, chicken, you name it), and host of bands playing live. And if you want to do it all again, you won't have to wait too long: Santa Cruz is stop #2 for the festival, over the final weekend of August. Start booking your fest-close stay-over spots now, and dreaming of the delicious, soft, foldable, full of tangy tastiness tacos you'll soon be consuming.

Photo Credit: Tequila & Taco Music Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Livermore Libations: Taste Our Terroir 2016]]> Thu, 21 Jul 2016 10:58:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tastelm903922.jpeg

CRUSH IS ON THE WIND, and all sorts of harvesty doings, too, but as it is still July wine fans cannot truly go full fall yet. But that doesn't mean there aren't wine country weekends that have a large-scale outlooks on fun events, the kind of approaches that encompass multiple wineries and loads of tasty tidbits and classes and in-depth tours, too. Look to Livermore from Thursday, July 21 through Sunday, July 24, which is presenting its multi-event Taste Our Terroir at points around the region. You could, for example, hop into an...

INFORMATIVE SEMINAR... on pairing vegetarian risotto with Big White House and John Evan Cellar wines. Or there's the "Cabernet Clones of Livermore Valley" at Nottingham Cellars, one that looks at the early vines that were first straight-from-France plants imported to the valley back in the 1800s. And digging deep into port is one of the treats of Sunday afternoon (the afternoon to-do is at Cedar Mountain Winery). Of course, if you simply want to...

NOSH AND QUAFF, that can happen, too, at the wineries participating in "The Quest for Pairing Excellence." Chef-created cuisine goes plate-to-glass with wines from Eagle Ridge Vineyard, Page Mill Winery, and Wood Family Vineyards. Need all the happenings and how to get tickets? Find your wine country weekend plans here.

Photo Credit: Taste Our Terroir]]>
<![CDATA[Yoga in the Neon Boneyard]]> Wed, 20 Jul 2016 21:53:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/neonboneyardvegas.jpg

LAS VEGAS... is a pretty far-fetched place, most (read: all) days of the year. You can take a front row seat and watch clowns do flips, or aerialists twirl, or magicians make people disappear (and reappear, fingers crossed). The food choices are as unlikely and lovely, from towering sugary creations to flaming drinks to one-of-a-kind dining events that push into the high hundreds, price-wise. But exercise, for the most part, still takes place in hotel gyms, and various hiker-nice canyons, and The Strip, too, if you awaken early enough for a not-too-crowded jog. There is a new place, filled with older gems, to get your workout on, specifically your yoga poses and stretches. It isn't a studio, or even a park, but rather the Neon Museum, which is home to some of the most iconic, bulb-laden signage to ever grace Sin City. That's right...

POP-UP HOT YOGA SESSIONS... near all of those famous hotel and restaurant artifacts is a Thing, with a capital T, over the summer of 2016, though the classes are not on daily. The final one is happening on the final day of August, if you're thinking of doing an early-Labor-Day-Weekend-y thing in Las Vegas, though there are other sessions still to come. Certified Instructor Eileen Lorraine will take beginners, intermediate practitioners, and advance enthusiasts through the moves during the one-hour class, a class that will be held "in the shaded portion of the Neon Boneyard." Ah yes, this is an early evening event, happening at 5:30 p.m., so those signs won't yet be lit. But consider how dramatic a backdrop they'll make for your downward dogs, and how all of the colors and swirls and details may inspire some new thinking paths as you pause and breathe deeply. Want to go? It's $18, and you'll want to find a date when it is happening.

Photo Credit: Neon Boneyard]]>
<![CDATA[Ventura's 'Ocean Air' County Fair]]> Fri, 22 Jul 2016 07:52:16 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/shutterstock_107289284.jpg

IF YOU'RE STANDING ON A MIDWAY... you tend to expect a few things. You'll hear some sort of calliope music, from a nearby ride, the sort of ride that spins in multiple directions while different bulbs blink in time. You'll smell some sort of caramel corn, or kettle corn, or another version of corn that was only just invented weeks before. And you may see sunshine, or clouds, or some combination, the sort of sky that is emblematic of summertime. What you likely won't feel, though, is an ocean breeze, the kind that is a bit ticklish, a bit damp, and nicely salty.

THERE IS A PROMINENT EXCEPTION, however, and it's the Ventura County Fair, a county fair that's about as close to the ocean as your average pier or stretch of sand. This placement lends the August spectacle some tang, and marine-sweet freshness, as you go about the rides and the eating of kettle corn and the visiting of animals. If a fair is your jam, and you're pretty enamored of the Pacific, then make for the Ventura County Fairgrounds from...

AUG. 3 THROUGH 14, 2016: "A Country Fair with Ocean Air" will fill out that stretch with motorsports and PRCA Rodeo and a bevy of concerts from acts like Styx, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and the great Patti LaBelle. Are there...

SPECIAL ADMISSION DAYS? You bet. Shall there be crafts and more to see? That's tradition. Will you admire a host of critters, from goats to pigs? Yes. And shall the ride scene and noshable fried treats complete the carnival tableau? Absolutely. The classics are all there, with a dollop of ocean breezery on top. How many county fairs can boast about that? (Hint: Very few, so high fives, Ventura.)

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Lindsay Wildlife Experience: Mini Mondays]]> Tue, 19 Jul 2016 17:16:28 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/150622_mhara-0008.jpg

MONDAYS... have a way of attracting our moans, and groans, and the occasional extra cup of coffee (or three). We rarely schedule anything fun, or out of the ordinary, for the morning hours of the first weekday, instead choosing to save the sparklier stuff for Saturday and Sunday. But Lindsay Wildlife Experience is changing that approach to the start of the week, with its new Mini Monday programs, an animal-sweet series built just for kids ages 2 to 5 and their parents/caregivers. It isn't every Monday, but rather...

ONE MONDAY PER MONTH, which means it takes on a doable, we-got-this dimension (and an every-Monday kind of vibe might overwhelm even the most plan-ready of people). It's a two-hour program, running from 10 o'clock to noon, and each session has a theme. The first outing on Monday July 25 is all about "storytelling fun centered on animals!," while "Dig Into Dinosaurs" rounds out the month of August on the 29th. Creepy Crawly Critters reign on Sept. 26, and on Halloween Monday? Nocturnal beasties get the spotlight. Each Mini Monday will include live animal cameos, which ups the coolness factor by a bunch.

WILL MONDAY MORNING... ever have such knowledge-nice, giggle-worthy cred again? Well, it can, if we, on occasion, schedule a pre-work breakfast or the chance to nosh on a special treat mid-morning. But meeting a bird, or furry forest dweller, is about as marvelous as happenings come, whether it is a Monday morning or any other time of the week.

Photo Credit: Margaret Hara/Lindsay Wildlife Experience]]>
<![CDATA[Lake Tahoe Dance Festival]]> Fri, 22 Jul 2016 19:51:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/5-Christin+HannabyJenSchmidt.jpg

KICKING UP ONE'S HEELS... at a high altitude is a long-standing practice, from wedding dances inside mountaintop lodges to arms-spread-wide twirls in flower-sweet meadows (don't claim you've never tried it if you've seen "The Sound of Music"). But enjoying a dance performance and enjoying a peak-laden vista or lake-lovely scene isn't usually something that can happen concurrently. Rather, we go to an enclosed venue, with rows of chairs and a stage, to see ballet, and we truck up the highway to enjoy some cooler, fir-fabulous temperatures. But the Lake Tahoe Dance Festival weaves both joys, dancing and mountains, into one celebratory three-day span each summer. That span is set for Wednesday, July 27 through Friday, July 29, and if you make for the Gatekeeper's Museum in Tahoe City, you just might feel the magic that is movement and the magic of the mountain ranges in one fantastic fell swoop. For the festival is...

"PERFORMED ON AN OUTDOOR STAGE... against a backdrop of lake and mountain views," views that will complement the pieces from "Swan Lake" and "Agathlon." There are four presentations in all, from several acclaimed dancers, and other doings will orbit the elegant dance (think a trunk show, silent auction, and artist talks). If Tahoe is your happy place, and ballet helps you to find bliss, this is a rewarding combination of the two, and one that takes art-lovely advantage of the fine late-July weather. Few twirls happen outdoors, near the mountains, but they do at the Lake Tahoe Dance Festival, a moving meeting of alpine-nice nature and stories told in motion.

Photo Credit: Jen Schmidt]]>
<![CDATA[Happy 25th, Fairfield Tomato Festival]]> Wed, 20 Jul 2016 11:11:15 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/fairfieldtomato25.jpg

HOW YOU TAKE ON A TOMATO... is really up to your own quirks and fancies, but chances are you don't mind it in a pasta sauce, or a pico de gallo, or as a topper to a classic leafy salad. Maybe, though, you are one of those tomato-ists who just like their favorite fruit neat. Nope, we're not talking sliced up on a plate, with a touch of salt or a kiss of olive oil; rather, we're talking about a tomato devoured apple-style, with the eater holding it like an orchard-plucked pomme. Many fans do like their tomatoes this way, even if the orb gets a little juicy, and a little seedy, with every bite. That's okay, if so, for the tomato is a summertime superstar, and getting a bit on your shirt, and chin, is kind of a seasonal staple (think of the watermelon, and berries, and ice cream, and the other wonderfully juicy/melty foods of summer). There's still time to enjoy it, even with fall on approach, and Fairfield will do just that at its 25th Annual Tomato Festival.

SATURDAY, AUG. 20 AND SUNDAY, AUG. 21... are the 2016 dates, and all the bright-flavored doings will take place in downtown Fairfield, along a stretch of Texas Street. For sure, there shall be good-natured showdowns, like a salsa contest, and there shall be tomato-eating competitions, too. Tomato-basil cupcakes, tomato jams, and a host of classics like fried green tomatoes will fill out the culinary end of things. If you can't quite let this perfectly August-awesome edible go yet, slip into the final third of the month by spending some time with the fruit. A fruit that covers many bases, from sweets to hamburger toppers to pastes to shakes. What can't the tomato do? Well, be unjuicy, for one (and we wouldn't want it to be that, as juiciness is just about its top quality).

Photo Credit: Fairfield Tomato Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Idyllwild Classic: Jazz in the Pines]]> Sun, 17 Jul 2016 12:21:01 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/jazzinthepines.jpg

THAT WINNING WEND: The pleasures of wending up a mountain are plentiful, especially, it seems, in the middle of August. That's when thermometers around Southern California are doing their very darndest to test the outer limits of the mercury, and the sunshine we love is so plentiful that we're seeking a little shade at the height of the day. A weekend spent in a cooler clime, a higher elevation, is clearly the ticket, and if terrific music is involved, and a great arts organization, and some history, and some top-notch performers? The wend up the mountain becomes even more winsome. Such is the case with that classic of the summer music calendar, Jazz in the Pines. Idyllwild's annual weekend-long music-tacular has been a staple of the San Jacinto community for nearly a quarter century, and that the Idyllwild Arts Foundation is behind the whole shebang just lends the loveliness more cultural cred. We said "weekend" earlier, but best make that a long weekend if you plan on attending, for the 23rd outing of Jazz in the Pines is scheduled for...

AUG. 19-21, 2016: The roster is a full one, from a Patrons Dance ("Magic in the Forest" is the theme) to sets by Los Hermanos Arango, Diane Schuur featuring Ernie Watts, and Richie Cole Alto Madness with The Jazz Project Big Band. Tickets? You'll best want to line those up, and you can go with either a single-day pass or one for both Saturday and Sunday. Enjoying smooth tunes in an alfresco, big-of-tree setting? It's not got "in the Pines" in its name for no reason. This is one of the state's most flow-filled, breeze-nice music weekends, a cool happening in August anticipated by many a jazz-loving Californian. That you get to be atop a mountain, or nearly, while appreciating the vibes only ups the general cool-a-tude of this long-running fest.

Photo Credit: Jazz in the Pines]]>
<![CDATA[Thomas the Tank Engine Visits California]]> Wed, 20 Jul 2016 21:51:56 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/3Thomas_SRR_Tracks.jpg

MEETING A FAVORITE CHARACTER... from a book or a film or a television series can often happen, if you just know where to look. If you love Snow White, you might travel to Anaheim or Florida. If you're a fan of Paul Bunyon and Babe the Blue Ox, trot for the Trees of Mystery, in the redwoods. But what to do when your go-to superstar tends to stick close to railroad tracks, on account of that superstar being a tank engine? Well, you'll need to wait for him to call on a local rail destination in your area, since he's apt to be a character on the move. "On the move" describes Thomas the Tank Engine to a T, but he does make a few stops each year, along with some of his friends, at some well-known train locales. Two California places are on his end-of-2016 schedule, with Roaring Camp Railroads in Felton up first in late July and early August, and the Orange Empire Railway in Perris in November. 

DAY OUT WITH THOMAS... is just that, a day for your kids to see the character in person and take a ride with Thomas, too. Also making the journey to Felton, and later on Perris, is Sir Topham Hatt, Controller of the Railway. You'll want to purchase your tickets well in advance, as the popular happening does draw the train buffs and Thomas mavens alike. It's been around for 21 years now, which means that some of the first riders are likely returning with their own young'uns. Train adoration can be a lifelong pursuit, and for many that adoration starts by reading a Thomas the Tank Engine book or seeing him on TV. To see him at a rail station, though? Exciting stuff, indeed.

Photo Credit: Day Out with Thomas]]>
<![CDATA[Palo Alto/Carmel: Luxe Road Trip Package]]> Tue, 19 Jul 2016 15:46:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/epiphanyhotel2121-horz.jpg

TWO HOTELS, SWANKY WHEELS: It isn't unusual, of course, for a stay-over property to offer some sort of amenity-nice package, or a few of them, the sort of plans that give a guest a few delicious add-ons during their time at the hotel. What is unusual, though, is to see a pair of hotels dovetail on the same swanky package plan, and to find a way to connect the hotel locales via a memorable mode of transport. That's what The Epiphany Hotel in Palo Alto and Carmel Valley Ranch are doing, though, and that memorable transport? It's a BMW i8 hybrid car. Call it the...

ULTIMATE ROAD TRIP PACKAGE, one that is as much about your time wending from Palo Alto to Carmel Valley as your overnight at both spots. The road trip starts at The Epiphany, with a luxury suite (complete with private patio) and a tasting menu dinner at Lure + Till, one that comes with a private chef consultation. There are other goodies, like a Palo Alto walking guide and an in-room breakfast. Then you pick up that BMW i8 hybrid and make your way for...

CARMEL VALLEY RANCH, where you'll bed down for the night in a Vineyard Oak Studio Suite and enjoy a "Dine Like a Chef" meal that'll spotlight local bounty. There are other nice to-dos, like a spa treatment and a private tour of the hotel's well-known garden (as well as its vineyard and salt house). After your stay wraps, you'll be presented with a picnic and then you're back on the road, headed to The Epiphany to drop off your wheels (or the airports in San Jose or San Francisco, if you so choose). 

IT ISN'T OFTEN... that hotel-made packages send guests out on the road, so if luxe vehicles and perk-laden stays are your fancy, ponder trying out this rare package, one involving a sweet ride, two distinct properties, and the road between them.

Photo Credit: Epiphany Hotel/Carmel Valley Ranch]]>
<![CDATA[Sonoma Valley Crush: Tickets on Sale]]> Mon, 18 Jul 2016 09:24:58 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ticketsonsalesonomavalleycrush.jpg

WORDS CARRY WEIGHT... but "harvest" carries more than most. It's a word full of potency, and sunlight, and richness, and bounty, and it stirs something deep inside our noggins, the place that longs for nature and connection. Okay, that's all serious stuff, but few times of the year are as ripe as that moment when grapes are ready on the vine and other fruits have come into their fullness. It's almost like we're seeing the seasons move when harvest arrives, and taking a day to appreciate it can simply be marked down as part of the happy human experience. A number of wine country organizations honor harvest each year with some special happenings, and The Heart of Sonoma Valley joins this tradition annually via its Sonoma Valley Crush weekend. The three-day party is spreading out smack dab in the middle of September — Sept. 16 through 18, so we weren't ribbing you on the "smack dab" part — and...

TICKETS ARE ON SALE... for the sip-and-see-things festival. There are thirteen participating wineries in all, including Loxton Cellars, St. Francis Winery & Vineyards, and Mayo Family Winery, and the to-dos run the grapely gamut from grape tastings ("fresh off the vine," natch) to crush pad tours to the sipping of fermenting wine (a memorable experience) to the tasting of several of a winery's cab/chard/pinot/beyond offerings. Your three-day pass is $35, and your designated driver's pass is ten bucks. As for entering the world of harvestdom, that mellow time of year when grapes seem to glow and leaves are starting to think about turning and you can almost see the wheel of the seasons at work? You've got to take the moment when it comes around, and it comes around 'round these parts each September.

Photo Credit: Kim Carroll/Heart of Sonoma Valley]]>
<![CDATA[Vintage Weekend at an Art Deco Gem]]> Thu, 14 Jul 2016 17:13:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/artdecofestqm9292322.jpg

GUSSY UP AND GO: Do you still get a little dressy-dressy when you're going someplace? Oh, we don't mean you do the dressy-dressy thing with your arrival point in mind. Rather, you don some pearls, or a stylish hat, or a houndstooth jacket, for the sake of the journey, in addition to the destination. Jaunting about the planet in the Golden Age of Travel was very much a fashion affair, among other things, and few vessels were as vivacious on this end of the sartorial spectrum as the Queen Mary. Glance back at photos from the '30s and you'll see stars in their elegant best, simply swanning about the decks of the grand ocean-liner. Those dressy-dressy days live on each year during the Art Deco Festival, a three-day gathering devoted to gussying up, yes, but also the splendid, unparalleled architecture and design of one of the world's great Art Deco landmarks. Slip into your velvet heels or two-toned pumps and strut for...

LONG BEACH... over the Aug. 19 to 21 weekend. A confetti horn full of to-dos is on the schedule for the celebration, from dancing to period-cool bands (hello there, Dean Mora Orchestra, and greetings, The Lindy Sisters) to tours of the nook/cranny-packed ship. There are stay-over packages on the purported-to-be-haunted Queen Mary, which should give you time for all the thorough exploring you desire. But you'll do the dressy-dressy thing before Nancy-Drew-ing for ghosts, yes? The weekend is about design, and architecture, but clothing and cultural touchstones of the time, too. Best wear your dance-ready duds, the ones that look as though they sprang from 1934, the very year the Queen Mary was constructed alongside the River Clyde in Scotland.

Photo Credit: Art Deco Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Crisp Jamboree: Gravenstein Apple Fair]]> Thu, 14 Jul 2016 07:38:37 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/gravapplefair12345679.jpg

MUCH AUTUMN-STYLE ADO... is made each year when the first sighting of a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte is made, or the first pumpkin scone down at your local bakery, or the first pumpkin leaves air freshener shows up on the shelves of your grocery store. But true fans of fall know that they don't need to wait for the traditional hallmarks of the season to get excited; they're already holding a proverbial candle for the crispest season, even through the heat of summer (it is a pumpkin-scented candle, of course). It can be hard to wait for the third week in September, and the autumn equinox, to get the party started, and even harder than that is many California cities stay a mite summery through to Halloween. But if you need your autumn ASAP, look to Sonoma County, which has one of the sweetest get-togethers on the calendar. Literally sweet, as it is...

THE GRAVENSTEIN APPLE FAIR: If you're doing a wine country visit around the middle of August — Aug. 13 and 14, to get specific — and you need a harbinger of fall, make for Ragle Ranch Park in Sebastopol. The caramel apples, ciders, and straight-up slices of locally grown fruit-yummy Gravenstein goodness are some of the stars of the party, as are wines, beer, and eats aplenty. Cost to attend? It's fifteen dollars for adults, though if you arrive by bike, it's $10. Sonoma County Farm Trails is the organization behind the homestyle event, an event that may see some August-warm temps even as the spirit of October and November reign. Can't wait for pumpkin spice latte to return? Best start seeking out the early apple festivals, the August ones, like the famous Gravenstein Apple Fair, which is marking its 43rd go-around in 2016.

Photo Credit: Gravenstein Apple Fair]]>
<![CDATA[Monterey Bay Aquarium by Night]]> Fri, 15 Jul 2016 10:00:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/evenings-by-the-bay12345.jpg

PONDERING WHAT OCEAN DENIZENS... do after the sun drops behind the horizon has long been the whimsical province of poets and animation writers and people who simply love the mysteries of the sea. We know that eels don't wear nightcaps and groupers don't require lullabies, but the notion of a vast world of moon-glinty darkness, full of waves and wonder, will never not intrigue we landlubbers. It is a fun chance, then, to be able to visit an aquarium after the time it traditionally closes, or, if you prefer, just about the hour that the eels are donning their nightcaps. Okay, that is pure fantasy, but Evenings by the Bay at Monterey Bay Aquarium is very much a reality, and one that fans welcome back each summer. Why the warm hello? Well, you get to visit the...

WORLD-FAMOUS INSTITUTION... during "extended summer hours" on Saturdays and Sundays. ("Extended summer hours"=an 8 o'clock closing time.) Live music is part of the party — the Monterey Acoustic Project visits on July 16, while Victory Lane is there on Aug. 13 — and the food is a savory centerpiece of the warm-weather run, too. Look for "cafe selections" on Sunday nights and themed eats on Saturdays, Vegetarian BBQ to Cooking with Corn, depending upon when you visit. And as for singing any lullabies to the residents, like those iconic sardines? You won't need to, but a wander by an exhibit or two, during an hour when the aquarium is typically closed, may make you feel as though you're calling upon an ocean-amazing world that's not often seen by the public. Watching the sunset, too, while standing near the Great Tide Pool, is forever a treat.

FINAL DATE... of the 2016 run? Sunday, Sept. 4.

Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium]]>
<![CDATA[Canary Hotel: Sip, Sun, Stay]]> Wed, 13 Jul 2016 06:46:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/canaryhotelrooftopsips123.jpg

A ROOFTOP, especially one that's well-appointed with comfy chairs, and a pool, and umbrellas, and a view of some pretty hills, and an alfresco fireplace, and the nightly sunset, can be more than an asset to a boutique hotel: It's a flat-out treasure. The spot makes a swell scene for small get-togethers, and morning coffee, and the occasional nuptial-ing, too. But a hotel rooftop truly begins to sing come summertime, when the weather gets mostly fine mostly all of the time and lounging high above the street with something refreshing in hand feels like a capital idea. The Canary Hotel in Santa Barbara happens to have just such a rooftop, complete with the comfy outdoor chairs and hill-pretty vista, and it has a rooftop-oriented special on for the summer of 2016, too: The Sip, Sun, and Stay package.

THE "SIP" PART, and the "sun" end of things, can both be achieved on The Canary's roof; the package includes two cocktail vouchers (the sunshine is free). As for the "stay" in the name? That's a swanky room at the hotel, the place to retreat to after you've soaked up some beams and Santa Barbara-style breezes. The package is good through Oct. 11, 2016, which is juuuust about the time when the weather flirts with growing cooler (okay, probably closer to Halloween, but October can be chameleonic along the coast). Best get your rooftop time in soon, those package-included cocktails, and your summery getaway to the American Riviera.

Photo Credit: Canary Hotel]]>
<![CDATA[Park Ranger Uniforms: A Look Back]]> Tue, 12 Jul 2016 08:14:55 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/parkrangerGettyImages-185746649.jpg

THE CENTENNIAL CELEBRATIONS... happening around our national parks over the summer of 2016 are like wildflowers springing up in a meadow (or pine cones in a fir tree, if you prefer, or new leaves on an oak). There's a lot of them, in short, and they all possess their own beauty and character, much like aforementioned pine cones and flowers and leaves. Finding your fun, though, is merely a matter of seeing what your favorite parks are up to, in terms of paying tribute to the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. One of the most sartorial of the celebrations will fall during the Founders Day gathering at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks on Thursday, Aug. 25. There are actually a few to-dos that day, but one that will pique the interest of history buffs, as well as those who've always had an affinity for a particular chapeau that's often seen in the parks. It's the... 

HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE UNIFORMS: It's difficult to think of a uniform that is more iconic than the one worn by NPS park rangers, and certainly the hat is well-known, with its classic shape and firm brim. If you've always been a fan of this slice of the parks' past, make for an open house in Three Rivers "highlighting the history of National Park Service uniforms." There's also a student contest that looks far into the future, and ponders what rangers might don in another century. Will those famous hats glow in the future? Will the hike-ready boots come with built-in hoverboard technology? It's fun to think about, as we get to know these stewards of our parks, and the sartorial dimension of their working lives, better.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Historic Auburn: A Walking Tour]]> Mon, 11 Jul 2016 10:42:45 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/auburncourthousevisitcalifornia.jpg

GOLD COUNTRY GEM: Stroll into a museum devoted to our state's history and you're bound to see some interesting artifacts that date back to 1849 (if you're thinking pans, shovels, and picks here, you'd be correct). Sometimes, though, you might spy a glint of gold in a museum's collection, the very material that all of those pans, shovels, and picks were put into service to find. Many existing bits of gold from the time, from the famous Wimmer Nugget to pieces displayed at the Wells Fargo Museum in San Francisco, have gained fame, as has the Sutter's Mill nugget that's a part of The National Museum of American History in our nation's capital. But gems of all sort still exist in Gold Country, and while they might not have the chemical properties of Au, they have connections to that era when the western slope of the Sierra changed forever. Auburn is one such gem, a compact Gold Country town that has kept its 1800s look and walk-a-bility, and a devotion to the stories from long ago.

AUBURN, of course, isn't tucked away — it is right on the 80, between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe — but learning about the miners who pitched tents along Auburn Ravine, and why it is a landmark of the Transcontinental Railroad, requires pulling off the freeway and making time for a tour. Where to meet? The Courthouse Museum, where a docent will say hello and then chat for 60 minutes or so about this historic Gold Country burg, its many buildings that stretch back a century or two, and what is next for the town, which sits along Highway 49 in addition to Interstate 80. Have you made a pit stop on Tahoe trips, and vowed to return for a deeper look? Here's where to start, history buffs.

Photo Credit: Visit California]]>
<![CDATA[National Lighthouse Day at Point Cabrillo]]> Sun, 10 Jul 2016 10:29:50 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/pointcabrillovisitcalifornia.jpg

HAPPY NATIONAL LIGHTHOUSE DAY: One imagines, if lighthouses everywhere gathered together to mark their summertime holiday, they might request a cake in the shape of themselves. For a lighthouse, that classic building that sits on a bluff, casting illumination out onto the water, seems a fine template for a delicious dessert. But would the cake be towering in stature, like a lighthouse you might see on the east coast, or a bit shorter, as many lighthouses on our end of the country tend to be? We do hope that any celebrating lighthouses wouldn't quibble about the shape of their cake, for all have done, and do, important jobs, and should be so celebrated. Aug. 7 is the annual date, and a lighthouse near you may be doing something a bit special to honor the occasion. Point Cabrillo isn't letting the holiday slip by without casting its own light on the lovely day: There's a lens tour on Saturday, Aug. 6, which will provide lighthouse lovers a rare chance to see how the oh-so-powerful lamp works inside the historic building. It's an...

"OPERATIONAL FRESNEL LENS," and one that's been "beautifully restored," too. Your ticket — it's five bucks — helps the Mendocino Coast lighthouse stay shipshape (as lighthouses are rightly famous for being, generally). There's some info to know ahead of time, such as traveling with kids, and note this: This event only happens eight times each year. To make your visit on National Lighthouse Day Eve, though, feels just a little extra special. 

Photo Credit: Visit California]]>
<![CDATA[Velvety Heavens: Lassen Dark Sky Fest]]> Sat, 09 Jul 2016 08:56:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/lassendarkskynpsphoto.jpg

GLOW STARS: When pressing those wee plastic stars onto your ceiling, the kind that let off a gentle glow when the light switch is moved to "off," do you generally go for constellation-like patterns? Or is sort of a giant starfield more your bag, at least when it comes to your bedroom ceiling? It is one of the only ways we humans get to control the stars, at least the faux stars in our immediate environment. But we do have some control when comes to our cosmic show and all of those distant heavenly bodies, at least in a different sense. We can choose how we see real stars, and where we see them, and, as importantly, under what conditions. Choose a brightly lit street and you may discern only Sirius or Vega, but venture out to a truly light-free situation, or nearly light-free, and you're bound to behold the full sweep of the Milky Way. That's one of the purposes at the heart of the Dark Sky Festivals: Give people a chance to connect with the cosmos in a truly whole and deep way, via a setting that is devoid of street lamps and other major sources of illumination. One is on the way for...

LASSEN VOLCANIC NATIONAL PARK... from Friday, Aug. 12 through Sunday, Aug. 14, and the nighttime action will be very much about peering into the universe. You'll mingle among "park rangers, astronomers, and planetary geologists" for a weekend full of science facts, stargazing wonder, and hobnobbing with those devoted to nature and knowing our sky in the way our ancestors did, long ago. There shall be astronomy to-dos aplenty, like solar scope viewing, but if you want to hang out and look up, much like you do at the stars on your bedroom ceiling, why that is 100% cool, too. As cool as the cosmos, which we earthlings should pause and enjoy now and then. A Dark Sky Festival is a primo, poetic way to do just that.

Photo Credit: NPS]]>
<![CDATA[Accordion Magic: Cotati Festival]]> Fri, 08 Jul 2016 23:22:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/theMadMaggies_image2.jpg

MAKING MUSIC TOGETHER: Summer, it might be said, ever so tritely, means many things to many people. (Okay, a lot tritely, is the case here.) But we can agree on the fact that alfresco sound-makery, the kind seen in parks and at bandstands and from the stands at county fairs, pretty much rules the stretch from June to August. For while all seasons plenty of lovely concert action, summertime takes it outdoors, to the festivals and fairs, and musicians can often be seen jamming together.

AND... one of the most famous of summertime jams, or at least heartfelt play-togethers, happens in Cotati each August, and the song revisited is always, as Led Zeppelin says, the same: It's "Lady of Spain." If you just shouted out "accordions!," because accordions always deserve a shout, and an exclamation point, too, you'd be correct: Accordionists do join a charming "Lady of Spain-a-Ring" each year, while also putting on their own shows. And those shows will wheeze and lilt, bellows-style, on...

AUG. 20 AND 21, 2016: If you're simply an aficionado of the instrument, you can still attend and enjoy the tunes. A bevy of acts, from The Mad Maggies to The Great Morgani, will play a part over the weekend. Some artists are solely about the instrument, some bands incorporate it into a larger vibe, but anyone who loves that specific accordion sound wins in the end. As single instrument parties go, this long-runner is full of quirk, talent, and so much "Lady of Spain"-o-sity.

Photo Credit: The Mad Maggies]]>
<![CDATA[A-peeling: Sacramento Banana Fest]]> Fri, 08 Jul 2016 07:38:45 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/bananasFarthers.jpg

ONE OF THESE THINGS... is not like the other, goes the charming song from "Sesame Street," and it is a concept that can be applied to numerous categories. One of the easiest, of course, is fruit, where a line-up of oranges, apples, tangerines, and bananas will elicit an immediate response from the viewer. The banana is the thing that's not like the others, thanks to its elongated shape, its sunny hue, and the fact that it comes with its own handle. It's among the quirkiest of fruits, in short, and one of the most popular, thanks to its appearance in dishes that range from breakfast-healthy (oatmeal laden with banana slices) to dessert-indulgent (Bananas Foster famously springs to mind). It can, from time to time, even cameo in savory fare, such as corn fritters. Celebrating its ultimate other-o-sity, and its effortless versatility, is the Sacramento Banana Festival. The yearly "a-peeling" get-together is back for lucky year number 7 on...

AUG. 20 AND 21, 2016: There's a chef challenged called "Smashed!" and a Banana Bread Path (mmm) and a banana pie eating contest and a bevy of smooshy, creamy treats to eat. Start with banana bread brownies, then move on to banana coconut custard, and save room for a banana 7 Up float. A banana bake-off, the making of hats inspired by the great Carmen Miranda, and more good times await at Shasta Park. But do you really carry a banana by its handle? Some people say that the part we start to peel should be "the stick" we hold while we devour a banana from the opposite end. It's forever intriguing, that ol' long fruitstuff, and worthy of its own special weekend in the capital.

Photo Credit: getty images]]>
<![CDATA[Catalina Island: Unlimited Fun Day Pass]]> Wed, 13 Jul 2016 06:49:41 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AvalonAerial_2015_2.jpg

DECIDING WHAT TO DO FIRST... on a day trip to Catalina Island can be deliciously tricky. After all, when the island is viewed from the mainland — say, from Rancho Palos Verdes, or another point near Los Angeles — it can seem, through the light fog, as though you can do it all in a day. There's a big "au contraire" there, of course, because once you step off into Avalon you're presented with numerous choices, both on the water and up in the flora- and fauna-filled hills (and, indeed, in the city of Avalon itself, which boasts restaurants, spas, and the historic Casino Building). What might be helpful, on the planning end for you and your pals, and the cash-saving end, too, is to line up an Unlimited Fun Day Pass ahead of your isle-sweet adventure. The pass, which debuted early in June, covers a caboodle of to-dos, to-dos covered by a single price: $199. Those on-the-island pursuits include...

THE FAMOUS GLASS BOTTOM BOAT, and the Undersea Expedition, and the Ocean Runner, and the Behind-the-Scenes tour of the Casino, and a Flying Fish Trip, and an Inland Expedition, and the way-up-high Zip Line Eco Tour, and more, more, more. The only challenge is to A) cram in as much good-times-ing as you can over the course of a day and B) get your party to agree on all the stuff you want to do over the course of your Catalina sojourn. You'll need to book in advance, and there are a few asterisks and things not included (some rentals and such). Will you be far too bushed after all of your adventure-having? There are hotel packages, too, to ponder (and come to a group consensus on).

Photo Credit: Santa Catalina Island Company]]>
<![CDATA[Elvis Amazing: Tribute Artists Go OC]]> Thu, 07 Jul 2016 07:19:07 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/2014ElviandElvisinaCostaMesa.jpg

"THE KING LIVES ON": Elvis Presley was not only known as a legend of the stage, and a sartorial icon, and a movie star, and a performer who changed the course of popular music. He was also an artist who frequented stages across the country, calling upon different cities to delight those fans who had only ever seen him on the big, or small, screen. In short, the titan of mid-century music-makery traveled from place to place, the better to connect with the fans and lavish his "Love Me Tender" spirit upon the world. So when one hears of a long-running Elvis Festival hitting the road, and traveling a few miles, and alighting at a new spot, one gets that such a move is all in the tradition of a concert tour, which also never stays in one place. And the Elvis Festival is doing just that for its 17th annual outing. It has taken place in Costa Mesa for many years, but, in late August 2016, it will shake its hips in...

GARDEN GROVE: A bevy of tribute artists, including festival ambassador Kirk Wall, will don the sequins and jumpsuits and hit the stage, while several audience members also go the pompadour, sunglasses route, just to be in the swing. A King of Cadillacs Car Show, a Kingly trivia contest, Elvis fan clubs, and other special to-dos, some dining themed, will fill out the daytime party, which will be held on Sunday, Aug. 28. If you're a lifelong Presley person, but you've never been to a place with a caboodle of Kings, this could be your stylish go-to. Dressing up, loving the music and memory, and hobnobbing with other buffs is all part of one of California's best-known tributes to a legend of song and screen.

Photo Credit: Elvis Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Can-Can Confab: Santa Barbara French Fest]]> Mon, 11 Jul 2016 10:20:40 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/FrenchFestival1.jpg

IF YOU "OOH LA LA"... with effervescent ease, and you break out "au revoir" instead of goodbye, and you can spread a hunk of Brie on a piece of baguette in one fluid movement, then clearly you should be spending the day in the French countryside, eating and strolling and daydreaming. If such a lovely plan is not currently in the works for you, but you still want to get your "ooh la la" on, and maybe eat something baguette-like, and perhaps even wear a beret or something that's Left Bank chic, you can sashay your way to the American Riviera over the middle weekend in July. That's when the Santa Barbara French Festival unfolds, a two-dayer of a delight that is très, très venerable (well, if you count starting the 1980s as venerable, which we so do, with respect). The sweet, coo-ready centerpiece of the grand soiree is the Sunday Poodles & Pals Parade, but you can arrive earlier in the weekend for a caboodle of to-dos, to-dos brimming with Paris-panache by way of...

OAK PARK: That's where l'action is happening, and by "l'action" we mean crepe enjoyment, wine sipping, French books for sale, artworks on display, and a travel pavilion sure to stoke those "I've got to get to the Continent" dreams. Cajun music, African drumming, a drag revue, and about 30 more performing groups will be on the stage, summoning joy, music, and the spirit of summertime. As it is summertime, perhaps a beret would be too warm a fashion choice, but a jaunty scarf tied at the neck would be right on. Ready to call upon some café close to the Seine, but via Santa Barbara? Ooh la la, your information is here.

Photo Credit: Santa Barbara French Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Happy 50th, Robert Mondavi Winery]]> Tue, 05 Jul 2016 22:10:05 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/RobertMondaviWineryFront16.jpg

A NICE GLASS OF WINE, raised in a celebratory toast, has become symbolic of many occasions, but perhaps principally an anniversary. Spying a couple across a restaurant with a wine bucket nearby, or some long-stemmed glasses, is a common sight in restaurants where anniversary-sweet dinners are a nightly occurrence. But what happens when the winery behind the bottle in the bucket reaches an important milestone, like a golden anniversary? It probably wouldn't do to have all of the winery's fans crowd around a table-for-two in romantic restaurant, but those fans could easily attend an anniversary festivity upon the winery's expansive grounds. Such will be the case on Saturday, July 16 when Robert Mondavi Winery hosts a grand 50th anniversary party, one that honors the Oakville landmark's 1966 roots and all of the fine vinos that represent the winery nowadays. The centerpiece of the gathering is a...

MULTI-TIERED WINE CAKE, one that shall include "bottles from each vintage starting in 1966." If you're over 21, you'll also receive a keepsake glass, and a trio of wine pours (all gratis). Demos and seminars built around the art of turning grapes into liquid loveliness are also on the schedule, as are vineyard buggy rides, ballet folklorico presentations, and live tunes. As for the wine-complementing edibles? Chefs shall be demo-ing and food trucks shall be on the grounds, so come ready to nosh upon ice cream, cupcakes, barbecue, and pizza. 

FREE: Oh, and as for that admission price? You read it right: It's nothing to attend, but you'll want to arrive early on to make sure you get in. And on the topic of getting in: Parking spaces are not limitless, yet another reason to rise, shine, and start your Napa Valley adventure early. It's true that many wine-nice anniversaries are celebrated at nighttime, but the Mondavi 50th is very much about a noontime start.

Photo Credit: Robert Mondavi Winery]]>
<![CDATA[Juicy Jamboree: Sacratomato Festival]]> Tue, 05 Jul 2016 08:09:49 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Centro_TomatoSalad.jpg

THE MULTI-FACETED FRUIT: Not every foodstuff can easily cameo in lots of different dishes and types of cuisine, but the tomato shines brightly in this arena. It's a fruit, and an especially juicy flavor-packed one, but unlike its sweeter fruitly siblings the tomato is more apt to end up in savory dishes, rather than desserts. Oh, that isn't to say you can't eat it straight off the vine — a cherry tomato, hot in the sunshine, is akin to candy — and it does appear in sweeter forms like jams and dressings. But it rules the culinary school in pasta sauces, and chunky pico de gallos, and even plain tomato sandwiches, the kind that have a good mayo and some salt and pepper. Because the tomato grows so darn well in the Golden State, and because it is forever a fruit that is finding fresh starring roles in traditional dishes, several chefs in Sacramento pause each July to pay dinner-delicious tribute. Yes, we speak of the lively, juice-dribbly, seed-tastic...

SACRAMENTO TOMATO WEEK, which isn't the sort of festival where tomatoes are tossed; rather, the tomatoes are tossed in salads, and spread onto toast, and diced onto a bed of ripe avocados. The dates are July 18 through 23, 2016, Midtown's Sutter District is the host, and the participating restaurants include Red Rabbit Kitchen & Bar, Biba, and INK Eats & Drinks. Special tomato-y dishes shall be featured at all of the on-board eateries, but if you need your tomato tastiness in full flower, head for the Sacramento Tomato Festival on Saturday, July 23. The making of salsa, flavorful demos, and samples are part of the high summer confab.

Photo Credit: Centro]]>
<![CDATA[Opening: The California State Fair]]> Fri, 08 Jul 2016 07:35:31 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/212*120/fairridenightwheeee.jpg

TO FLIT ABOUT... from county fair to county fair would be a nearly full-time pursuit for the Golden Stater. For our counties are numerous, and each fair has its own vibe, and the whole carnival-fun calendar starts early in the year, in February, in Riverside County. In short? You'd need to clear your schedule to truly get a feel for them all, or, if not clear your schedule, plan several road trips to know what a county has to offer via its yearly party. Then, of course, you have the state fair, a tradition that stretches back to nearly the founding year of California itself (okay, just a couple of years after, in 1852). If you're planning on doing your county's fair, or you've already enjoyed it in 2016, and you want to take in the state spectacular, too, best get your pony out and trot for Sacramento, as the midway-merry proceedings open on...

FRIDAY, JULY 8: You'll make for the Cal Expo (of course, as it is the iconic home to our state fair), and you'll jump into a colorful caboodle of to-dos, from the $2 Taste of the Fair to the Cornhole Championship to a Dwight Yoakum show to Chaka Khan in concert to the pie-eating contest to the beer and wine competitions, too. It will hardly leave you any time to get your hands all cotton-candy-y (almost mandatory at any fair) or ride the Dizzy Dragon or Gravitron. Is this the year you finally visit the state fair, in addition to all of those county parties you regularly call upon? It's as timeless as Golden State celebrations come, and as flavorful, and as musical, and as piglet-ical, and as corn dog-ical, and as Ferris wheel-ical...

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Mammoth Food & Wine Experience]]> Mon, 04 Jul 2016 21:40:40 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/mammothfoodwinegrandtasting123.jpg

PEAKS AND PLATES: Does cooler mountain air, the kind that can feel fizzy with soft sunlight on the perfect summer afternoon, truly stoke the appetite? One does feel the sense to dine a little more lavishly, and heartily, after a day spent hiking through a canyon or riding a gondola up to a pretty picnic spot. Whether or not we feel more inclined to chow down at the beach, though, or in a city, or even way up, elevation-wise, is likely up to the individual. But if you're an individual who likes to try new bites, and learn from working chefs (on both technique and trends), and generally enjoy a middle-of-July stretch that's all about sips, bites, and views, then make for the Mammoth Food & Wine Experience. The two-day party — note that it is a Friday and Saturday, not Saturday and Sunday — kicks off with...

FRIDAY NIGHT AT THE VILLAGE, on July 15. This is where you get to dig a little deep into what vineyards and vino makers around the Eastern Sierra are up to, and you get to stroll through Mammoth's charming central heart. Yep, you'll get a gratis glass to wander with, but don't dillydally now: Tickets do sell out. As for the Saturday end of things? That's the Grand Tasting, at the Edison Pavilion, which will boast a Celebrity Chef Battle, appearances by eateries like Delicious Kitchen, Whitebark, and more. It's the sixth year for the mountain-high cuisine-fun gathering, one that locks into the lovely, not-too-hot temps of the busy winter destination. Of course, Mammoth stays busy in the summer, too, with biking and hiking and golf and, yes, its flavorful July centerpiece, the Food & Wine Experience.

Photo Credit: Mammoth Food & Wine]]>
<![CDATA[Comic Canines: PAWmicon]]> Fri, 15 Jul 2016 20:21:26 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/PawmiconPrinces2s.jpg

WE MAY CAST A CURIOUS GLANCE... at people when we're out and about, wondering silently to ourselves whether they have a cape tucked under that jacket or some extrasensory goggles stowed in the pocket of their pants. For superhero lore tells us that those with the greatest powers don't always make that fact readily known (Exhibit A: Clark Kent). But we don't need to go searching too far for greatness when we gaze upon a cat or a dog. We 100% know that canines and felines possess abilities that seem almost supernatural, and we're not even talking about their knack for hearing the can opener from two rooms away. Rather, pups and kitties have enormous capacities for love and companionship, and a more tender, loyal BFF you couldn't ask for. If you'll be attending Comic-Con International, and you have a day when your own superhero, cape-laden talents aren't required, best make for the Hazard Center in Mission Valley for...

PAWMICON: Yes, this is the annual animal-sweet fundraiser from the Helen Woodward Animal Center, but do note that it is not happening at the center's Rancho Santa Fe HQ. The date is Saturday, July 23, and the time is late morning, leaving you lots of time to attend the Masquerade back in San Diego that night, and the pups? They'll be out in their "PAWSplay" best (oh yes, that's happening). It's Cosplay for a Cause, and the ten-bucks-to-enter costume contest will help the home-needing animals of the center. The center, by the by, mentions a trolley stop in Mission Valley, one that'll help con attendees join PAWmicon without driving. Need more info on that, animal-supporting superheroes? Read all, before flying for San Diego.

Photo Credit: Helen Woodward Animal Center]]>
<![CDATA[Nevada City Glamping Getaway Debuts]]> Fri, 15 Jul 2016 09:58:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/inntownbrandoneverett.jpg

HOSPITALITY TRENDS... always seem to be alighting upon the next good idea, whether it is a 4 p.m. Bloody Mary cart that's wheeled up to your hotel room (designation: a good idea) or warm chocolate chip cookies delivered to your suite at bedtime (designation: an incredibly good idea). Stylish stay-over spots place phonograph players in the lobby, while bicycles for rent and other fresh perks gives the classic away-from-overnight a special feeling. Glamping has been one of those on-the-rise hospitality trends in recent years, and it has proven its mettle, as people gravitate to tricked-out and sometimes tony tents that are already set up (and that have amenities to enhance the outdoor experience). Get ready for...

THE INN TOWN CAMPGROUND... to go one better on the glamping scene. Not only does the new Nevada City destination, which debuted on July 1, have the touchstones of relaxed glamp-a-tude, including tents with bedside tables and electricity, but it is, wait for it, in town, so campers only need to stroll a little ways to find restaurants, bars, and shops. In short, you won't need to drive out into the woods to get a taste of a pastoral getaway.

THE COMMONS, a sizable heated building at the heart of the campground, boasts a kitchen, a camp store, and a place to do your laundry, while the choices on where to bed down cover the pine-scented gamut, from places to pitch your own tent to glamp'd tents that are all set up and ready for you to plop down. RV hookups? They're there. A bathhouse with an indoor shower and flush toilets? Yep. Other gather spots, like a BBQ area? You can either find a place to hangout with other campers or stay cozy in your designated slice of campground. 

BY THE BY... if you know the town's funky Outside Inn, then you know the people who've created this bucolic bastion just a hop/skip away from Nevada City's Broad Street.

Photo Credit: Brandon Everett]]>
<![CDATA[Water Skiing to Catalina Island]]> Thu, 14 Jul 2016 17:15:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Brady-Hoggins-UpsCatalina.jpg

POINT A TO POINT B: If you want to move through space, covering distance, whether that distance is made up of a few feet or a thousand miles, there are typically an array of transportation options to consider. For example, making the journey from Northern California to Southern California, or vice versa, might entail an automobile, a bicycle, some train/bus action, or, if you had some time and wanted to commune with the coast or Central Valley, your walking shoes. But when Point A to Point B is covered by a goodly amount of ocean water, transportation choices rather narrow. You've got your classic boat, or a plane, or a helicopter, but if you're one of the intrepid competitors participating in the LA-to-Avalon Catalina Ski Race on Saturday, July 16, you've got your water skis. 

TRUE, TRUE, the distance between the mainland and Catalina Island is a pinch under 30 miles of beautiful ocean, and, true, we landlubbers often associate water ski action with lakes or coast-close settings. But the 68-year-old race takes on the open Pacific, in all its powerful glory, offering 20 classes in which to sign up. Oh yes, and one more consideration: The race is there-and-back, so the total miles covered top out at around 62 miles. It's some truly epic stuff, in the truest meaning of the word, and about as California a pursuit as surfing and downhill skiing. Want to simply watch? The place to be is near the Queen Mary, in Long Beach, very early in the morning on July 16.

Photo Credit: Catalina Ski Race/Brady Hoggins]]>
<![CDATA[Maple Goodies at Omni La Costa]]> Thu, 14 Jul 2016 07:35:55 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/MapleDonuts_3449lacosta.jpg

SUMMERTIME IS THE SEASON... for the brightest and lightest flavors, from peach to lime to lemon to a whole caboodle of berries, melons, and vegetables. You could even describe the main taste tone of the warmest part of the year as "cooling," and you wouldn't be wrong. What to do, though, when you begin to long for the luscious ingredients that tend to stand tall in cooler months, the ciders and the darker beers and the beverages and eats that speak of autumn? Well, you hold on for a few more months, and wait for your favorite dishes to roll back around, or you dip into such dishes now, where you can. The Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad is taking a bit of an autumnal path in the hottest days of July, August, and early September with a number of maple-themed bites and libations. For sure, maple is so rich and yummy it never leaves our summer menus — and definitely not the breakfast menu — but to see it in a cocktail, in summer, feels like a postcard from fall.

NOW THROUGH LABOR DAY... dig into a special pool menu that includes a Braised Chicken Sandwich (think chipotle and caramelized onion with dark maple), Tropical Fruits (complete with a "golden maple-yogurt dip"), and Maple-Cinnamon Donut Holes. If you're leaning toward the sipping end of the spectrum, the Strawberry Birch Margarita is made with amber maple syrup, while golden maple syrup gives a Double Grapefruit Greyhound some oomph. Perhaps maple isn't solely about fall and winter, taste-wise, but summery favorites, too. After all, fruit and veg frequently cameo in January; July and August can borrow some maple magic and run with it, in style.

Photo Credit: Omni La Costa Resort & Spa]]>
<![CDATA[Summer at The Inn at Furnace Creek]]> Wed, 13 Jul 2016 06:47:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/julyaugfurnacecreek12345.jpg

A NATIONAL PARK TO YOURSELF: Even if you arrive in Yellowstone National Park in the snowiest part of January, or Death Valley National Park in the heat of July, you won't ever truly have a national park all to yourself. True, traffic is sure to be lighter — often a lot lighter — than a national park during its peak season, and hotel rooms likely easier to get (if the hotel you want is open). But having a place sort of to yourself, or at least to yourself in a time when fewer people visit, does feel rather special.

THE QUIET... can feel more clear, the views can seem longer, and you can locate a hike or vista that just might be empty, or mostly so. And while the hotels inside Death Valley do not close the shutters when the three-digit temperatures rev up, The Inn at Furnace Creek does move to a "limited basis" of operation in July and August. Yes, that includes a few restricted services — the hotel's dining room keeps dinner-only hours as well as gratis coffee in the mornings — and the gift shop will take the afternoons off. This can all feel, though, a little slower in pace, delightfully so, if that's just the tonic you've been longing for in your go-go-go day-to-day world.

DO NOTE... that The Ranch at Furnace Creek, a pop down the road, also has a small store and services, so if you need to slip away for a quick shopping trip, you can, even at the height of summer. It's a time when Death Valley is slight less hub-bub-ier, and even The Inn at Furnace Creek slows it down, a bit, in deference to the toasty time of year. For some travelers, though, that's a sunny slice of unhurried bliss.

Photo Credit: Furnace Creek Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Now Open: Rush Creek Lodge]]> Tue, 12 Jul 2016 08:17:32 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/rushcreekjuneyosemite.jpg

IF YOU'RE GOING TO MAKE A SPLASH... while jumping into a mountain lake, you go big, with a "wheee" and some water droplets and a bit of a show. Likewise, if you're going to debut a new hotel in a nature-famous part of the world, one that sees a lot of summertime road-trippers, well, your splash comes by making your entrance at the very start of summer, just when the gear-up to travel is on. That's just what Rush Creek Lodge did over the first weekend of summer 2016, welcoming travelers seeking out some Sierra-style charms with a rustic, but comfortable, twist. Oh, we just gave it away, but perhaps you've heard: Rush Creek Lodge is "Yosemite's first new resort in over 25 years," making it not just a soon-to-be-staple of summer vacationing but one that welcomes visitors throughout the seasons. If you know...

EVERGREEN LODGE... then you know the people behind Rush Creek (they've operated Evergreen since 2002). They've been dedicated to overseeing a hospitality-based youth program at Evergreen, and now Rush Creek, which provides "(s)upportive employment" which "can help young people build momentum in their lives and realize their fullest potential." That give-back spirit extends to Rush Creek's dedication to the environment, a commitment that includes supporting local farms (among other notable goals). 

HISTORIC PATCH: If you're up on your Gold Rush history, you'll know that miners once called the area home. It's lush in tales of ye olde 1800s, and after — the main route to Yosemite, pre-Highway 120, ribboned through the area long ago — and all of that background further lends to the grounded-in-reality mystique of Rush Creek. There's no campfire lore, though to this fact: a pool, a dining room, and cabin-stylish rooms, suites, and hillside villas give lovers of Half Dome and explorers of Tuolumne a backstory-laden base to decamp, in comfort.

Photo Credit: Rush Creek Lodge]]>
<![CDATA[Living Desert: Feed the Giraffes]]> Mon, 11 Jul 2016 10:44:40 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/giraffelivingdesertvisitcalifornia.jpg

20 INCHES: The word "long" comes up a bunch when one is discussing giraffes, and with solid reason: Their legs are long, their necks are long, and even their ossicones — the cartilage "horns" atop their heads — can be quite impressive in length, all told. But there's another notably lengthy part of these spotted, elegant-of-stride herbivores, and it so happens to be inside their mouth. Well, for some of the time, anyway; it is the giraffe tongue of which we speak. It's about 20 inches in length, something you've surely seen if you've ever spied a giraffe trying to coax a tasty leaf off a high branch. Go ahead and use your hands to guess at 20 inches (it's impressive), and then picture yourself feeding yummy goodies to a giraffe at The Living Desert in Palm Desert. 

THERE ARE TWO GIRAFFE FEEDINGS... on the daily schedule, one at 9 a.m and one at 11 (both are scheduled to run a half hour). You'll want to have a fiver handy, as that's the additional fee to feed a giraffe, after your get-in ticket at the animal park. Summer days in the desert do traditionally start earlier, so if you're hoping to beat peak heat, get to The Living Desert in time for its 8 o'clock opening. That'll hold through September, do note. Plus an early arrival will give time to admire the local beasties while they're at their more alert and frolicsome best. Like so many of us humans, animals of the desert get a little low-key come the afternoon. Get an early move on and say hi to the geckos, and eagles, and desert tortoise, and Mexican wolf...

Photo Credit: Visit California]]>
<![CDATA[September Sup: Newport Beach Wine & Food]]> Sat, 16 Jul 2016 07:59:50 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/nbeachfoodwine16.jpg

ADVENTUROUS FOODIE-ING... is a pursuit that can be ably pursued at any point on the calendar, but it seems to cleave well with the start of autumn. That's when harvest is in full swing, and the holidays are on the horizon, with their big turkeys and succulent hams and savory sides, and other gourmet festivals are gearing for the party-filled end of the year. So how best to spend an early fall weekend, a four-dayer that flows from the end of September right into October? Getting to know gourmet grub sounds like an ideal thing to do, and doing so among other foodies, and well-known chefs, sounds like an ideal group in which to meet up with. All of that ideal stuff'll be going down in Newport Beach, which will again host the Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival at points around town. One of those points is the...

NEWPORT BEACH CIVIC CENTER, which will be the place to go for the mondo Daytime Festival on Saturday, Oct. 1 and Sunday, Oct. 2. Look for the Grand Tasting Pavilions, which "will showcase 20 different restaurants each day," and stop by the center of each for sips of over 200 wines. There are restaurant-based bashes, too, like at Nancy Silverton's Pizzeria Mozza on Friday, Sept. 30 (Chef Silverton will join). The opening night soiree of the festival, which is headed into its third year, will land at Ritz Prime Seafood. A private cooking/tasting demo with Chef Rick Bayless is part of the VIP ticket, and other chefly demos dot the schedule (so find the toque you follow or the type of cuisine you favor). 

LOOKING FOR TICKETS... to the tony, taste-laden affair? They went on sale in mid-June 2016. The start of fall, and a bevy of feastly doings led by this Newport Beach favorite, is less than a fourth of a year away.

Photo Credit: Newport Beach Food & Wine Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Vintage Train Ride: LA to Santa Barbara]]> Tue, 28 Jun 2016 06:53:08 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/vintagetrainadsla123.jpg

VIEW ANY ROMANCE FILM... that's set in the 1930s or '40s and you're bound to see two lovers reuniting, or, more excruciatingly, parting, while standing on a train platform. One of them most go — oh, the pain — and while all of the hankie-waving, and fedora-wearing, and gentle crying can move the film's viewer, that same viewer is often agog over the train in the background. Period films typically boast gorgeously appointed train cars, the kind unseen today except in the rarest instances. Such a rare instance, though, will choo-choo out of Union Station in Los Angeles — itself a treasure from the era under discussion — and head for Santa Barbara and back. What will you be riding in, if you become a member of the Art Deco Society of LA and buy a ticket for the train? Prepare yourself, fedora fans and swooners of old-school travel: It's an...

OVERLAND TRAIL CAR, one that is about as Streamline Moderne as railcars come. Think tasteful carpeting, muted textiles and tones, and the sort of light fixtures that reigned eight decades ago or so. Surely you'll have to wear your Peggy Carter-style two-piece suit, or something Clark Kent might have donned, to sit on the retro chairs. As for food and drink? You're allowed to bring your own, though wine, coffee, and a few other beverages will be for sale. The date is Saturday, Nov. 12, and while traditional fall colors don't dominate the area where the track runs, you will, fingers crossed, sense a crispness in the air. Will such crispness call to mind a train station scene from a period romance? We have to think it can only enhance the vintage day out on the rails.

MORE ART DECO DELIGHT: The train ride is open to ADSLA members, so getting a seat might be a mite tricky. Here's a delicious Deco-lovely alternative, should you miss the ride: A vintage party on the Queen Mary in Long Beach from Aug. 19 through 21. The spirit of the era, from fashion to architecture, will reign, so keep your seamed stockings and pearl-button'd gloves in tip-top shape.

Photo Credit: J. Christopher Launi]]>
<![CDATA[Danish Days: Pastries and Parades]]> Fri, 08 Jul 2016 23:21:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/arnesfamousaebleskiver.jpg

A DANISH DELIGHT: Summertime, and specifically July, can put the notion of eating contests in one's noggin. After all, hot dogs are the culinary star come Independence Day, when eaters vie for honors on Coney Island. But watermelons, and strawberries, and other warm-weather staples are also part of the eating contest scene, whether that scene is at a national festival or staged in a backyard, with a few pies (no hands allowed, of course, for that particular contest). Solvang likes to get into the grub-devouring scene, too, each year, and with no less than the town's best-known sweet: the aebleskiver. If you know this Danish delight, you know that few things on the planet are softer, or doughier, or more pliant to the teeth or touch. Eating a few, or several, over five minutes, is something that doesn't seem too daunting, and competitors will once again line up to take on the iconic dessert. The Aebleskiver Eating Contest, which is free to join, isn't the only doing at the wine country town's big late summer festival. There is plenty on the...

DANISH DAYS... calendar, such as a crafts-packed Living History Festival, a Viking Encampment, a Torchlight Parade, and a couple of Aebleskiver Breakfasts (which are separate from the eating contests). It all falls over the middle weekend in September — that's the 16th through the 18th — and it brims with culture and food, both (oh yes, and Hans Christian Anderson makes a cameo, too). So if July-style hot dog eating contests aren't quite your thing, nor is taking on a whole fruit pie, but you wouldn't mind a few aebleskivers, Solvang in September should be on your schedule. Truly, you likely won't have a dough-deep experience this year, or any other.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Ball/Arne's Famous Aebleskiver]]>
<![CDATA[Champagne Dinner at the Mission Inn]]> Wed, 06 Jul 2016 08:39:32 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/missioninnbeautysunsetbubbly.jpg

A GLASS OF SOMETHING SPARKLY: There are many picturesque spots in which to quaff a glass of Champagne. You can do so among the vines where the grapes were grown, if you make your way to France. You can do so on a boat, or with the ocean as a backdrop, perhaps with sunset thrown in for good measure. And finding a stunner of a structure, one with lofty towers and grand colonnades and castle-like touches, definitely weaves well with most bubbly-based fantasies. If your daydream has long been to quaff French bubbles in a castle, you'll come pretty darn close in Riverside on Friday, July 8. Yes, that's Riverside, as in California, and the castle we speak of is, of course, the Mission Inn. The hotel is throwing an Under the Stars Champagne Dinner, and the "under the stars" part isn't simply poetic fancy. The swanky summer truly will be served under the night sky, at the landmark's International Rotunda. And while French sips will be a star, so will dishes from...

THE MISSION INN'S FOUR RESTAURANTS: Each course, and dessert, will feature "a signature dish" created by one of the hotel's four eateries. A Champagne reception starts off the $150 evening, and a docent-led talk about the hotel's history will add further flavor to the proceedings. There are five courses in all, plus bubbly, plus hotel stories, plus the general feel of dining in a multi-room castle, only a castle built in the citrus-y heart of the Inland Empire. Call it a Gallic Golden State kind of gala, one that has all the trimmings of a party on the Continent, with the closeness, and charm, of historic Riverside. For information call the hotel at 951-784-0300.

Photo Credit: Mission Inn/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Catalina Wine Mixer: Oh Yeah, It's Back]]> Fri, 08 Jul 2016 07:37:28 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/DescansoBeachCub_Overview_Jan2015_1.jpg

THERE ARE SCENES... that you and your friends regularly act out, line for line, should somebody in your party say a particular word or reference a certain location. For many comedy fans, a mention of "Catalina Island" often brings to mind 2008's "Step Brothers," starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. You know just the pivotal scene that the island played a memorable part in: The Catalina Wine Mixer. It's a moment that's moved into movie legend for a lot of fans, who've regularly incorporated the reference in their film lingo, or even ventured to host their own Catalina Wine Mixer at home (less the helicopter, we'll assume). If your dream, though, has been to actually go to Catalina Island and enjoy an actual wine mixer named the Catalina Wine Mixer, you're in luck. The fresh flick-inspired tradition kicked off, rousingly, in 2015, and it'll be back for more music, more vino, more fancy foodstuffs, and more argyle-wearing in September of 2016. The exact dates for the brotherly love are...

FRIDAY, SEPT. 23 THROUGH SUNDAY, SEPT. 25: As with the first year, the stars of the film are not expected to show, but revelers will be much in the spirit of the comedy. The Dan Band is the headliner, an outfit you surely know from films like "The Hangover" and "Old School." It's a long weekend of supreme relaxing at the Descanso Beach Club, but if you need a little more authentic movie magic in the mix, check it out: You can book a flight on an Island Express helicopter. But how are your drumming skills? And do you know all the lyrics to "Por Ti Volare"? Best start practicing now, as you go digging for your favorite sweater vest.

Photo Credit: Descanso Beach Club]]>
<![CDATA[Laguna Beach Must: Festival of Arts]]> Thu, 07 Jul 2016 15:17:37 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/FOA_LookingAtArt_RonAzevedo.jpg

THE RITES OF SUMMER... so often revolve around A) food straight from the icebox and B) some sort of water, whether it is a lake or a stream or a sprinklerhead. But let us give love to the tradition of the grand and time-honored art festival, the kind of happening that takes place in a location esteemed for nurturing creativity of all sorts. Laguna Beach just happens to be such a destination, but it didn't come by this honor in the last year or two. Rather, it has been the home to The Pageant of the Masters for over eight decades, and the just-as-venerable Festival of Arts. That's thanks in large part to the artist enclaves that have popped up in the waves-adjacent burg over the year, as well as many locals working to create events that reflect the town's devotion to paint and clay and drama and photography. To dip into that delightfulness, and see hundreds of examples of local artworks, make for the famous...

FESTIVAL OF ARTS FINE ART SHOW: It opens for its 84th season on Tuesday, July 5, when it will host "140 of Orange County's most talented artists." Jewelry, ceramics, textiles, mixed media, and other forms of expression share the scene with watercolors and collages and paintings. It isn't all about artwork viewing, though, at the festival; wine and chocolate tastings, live jazz tuneage, classes for both adults and kids, and informative tours are also on the schedule. If Laguna Beach is on your road trip map from July 5 through the last day of August, a peek at what's on the easels, walls, and pottery wheels is a peek at what's happening now, on the art scene, and a peek long into the past. Soon this celebration will mark its centennial, a true stalwart on the Golden State arts scene. That the sand is only a few blocks away, and great restaurants, too, fills out the other traditions of summertime nicely.

Photo Credit: Ron Azevedo]]>
<![CDATA[Drakesbad: Old-Fashioned Ranch Charm]]> Thu, 07 Jul 2016 07:18:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/215*120/drakesbadlassennps.jpg

JUST ABOUT EVERY ARTICLE... detailing the pleasures of summer takes a sepia-toned nostalgic view of the past. Well, maybe not "sepia-toned" as much as "Polaroid-like," for the recent past of the '60s, '70s, and '80s is the past that many of today's adults pine for, with feeling. They recall looking for bugs into the twilight, and eating sticky ice cream treats next to a stream, and, most of all, not being so easily summoned via email or other messaging (save the timeless messaging of a parent standing on the porch and calling them inside at sundown). Where does one find such Polaroid-like larks nowadays, if we don't work to create them ourselves? Making for a vacation spot that is mostly without electricity has a way of doing the trick. There aren't many places that forgo power in their guest rooms, but Drakesbad Guest Ranch in Lassen Volcanic National Park is one. And it is open, for visitors...

THROUGH OCT. 10, 2016: "All accommodations are rustic and quaint, most without electricity," says the historic lodging, which has roots in the beginning of the last century. So how does a family fill the hours not spent with the usual at-home pastimes, several that likely involve being plugged in? Horseback riding, swimming, sing-alongs, the making of campfire s'mores, and all of this into-the-woods doings that we remember, or wish we did, reign at the national park spot. Oh yes, and then there's the fact that a leisurely drive will take you by mudpots and steam features and the other wonders of Lassen. It's almost as if you've jetted back to 1974, and you've got your knee socks on, and denim shorts, and you're planning a day exploring nature and perhaps putting on a skit after dinner. Feeling the nostalgia? It's a real thing at Drakesbad, a California classic with one hiking boot in the past.

Photo Credit: NPS]]>
<![CDATA[Salsa Fest: Oxnard's Piquant Party]]> Sat, 09 Jul 2016 08:53:30 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/212*120/salsadipgetty.jpg

HEAT IS HAPPINESS: If you're going to sit on the couch in the corner at the party, the one that is right in front of the salsa bowl, and continue to dip chip after tortilla chip, looking for that happy jalapeño jolt and cilantro spiciness, well, move over, because we're coming to join you. Hardly anyone can blame a person for wanting the salsa bowl mostly to themselves, especially if you've ever made salsa from scratch in your own kitchen, only to find that, by the completion of the recipe, you've basically already consumed half of it. There's a party for people who find happiness in habañero-based heat, and it arrives in one of the sun-intense-iest times of the year: The very end of July. The two-day festival just happens to be in a place much associated with strawberries, but come July 30 and 31, the seedy fruit will have to make way for peppers, onions, and tomatoes.

SALSA DANCING... is also a major part of the Oxnard Salsa Festival, which may be one of the few fests that holds a duo-style party celebrating both meanings of its titular word. While people shimmy on the dance floor, performing their best sways and shimmying, eaters'll be roaming the Salsa Tasting Tent, where the "region's biggest salsa bar" will be on full, tastebud-tempting display. That's five bucks, and you get a bag of Mission tortilla chips to help you expedite the salsa-enjoying process. Of course, the Plaza Park party has a lot of other doings afoot, from live tunes to vendors galore, but for those who like their salsa in both bowls, and in front of a band, well, there's plenty to fill the time. Just be ready for fiery fun, and, yes, that late July sunshine, which may be as hot as a bowl of green chile. Mmm.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Salty Snouts: Surf Dog Classes]]> Tue, 05 Jul 2016 22:11:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/2015SurfDogClassesLinzie2.jpg

A BEVY OF CANINE COURSES: Finding something instructional and life-enhancing to do with your furry BFF isn't too difficult. There are the classic training classes, the kind that help your pup know when to sit and know when to heel. There are dog-themed yoga seminars, which make sense, since every dog pretty much knows the downward dog pose like the back of their own paw. And dog dancing? It is definitely a delightful trend, one that is here to stay. But dog surfing just might be one of the more unusual pursuits to co-do alongside your barker, and finding someone to instruct you both isn't the easiest bone to wrestle from the toy box. Still, you only need look to one of the most famous surfing dog festivals in the world, the Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon, which takes place in Del Mar each September. The Boston Terriers and Bearded Collies don't simply take to the boards for the first time that day. There are...

LESSONS THROUGHOUT THE SUMMER, both of the surfing kind and those taking on stand-up paddleboarding. The GromMUTT Surf Dog Lessons begin with an on-the-land group class, and then a Fido-sweet foray into the waves with an instructor. The final class ahead of the big event is Aug. 28, and then, on Sunday, Sept. 11, the dogs'll be out, in their floaty vests, raising money for pets who need homes. The organization behind it all? The Helen Woodward Animal Center of Rancho Santa Fe. The chance to paddleboard with your ocean-loving pup? It doesn't come around all that often. This might just be the kind of bucket-list-y thing you've both been looking for, along the lines of dog yoga and dog dancing. Any recreation with your little lovey is time well spent, and spending it in service to other pooches? Yeah, that's way gnarly.

Photo Credit: Helen Woodward Animal Center]]>
<![CDATA[Pony Party at L'Auberge Del Mar]]> Tue, 05 Jul 2016 08:09:13 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/LDM_OpeningDayAfterParty_poolcloseup.jpg

HORSES, THEN HOBNOBBING: When you're a summertime tradition that's stuck around, grandly and gaily, for the better part of a century, you likely can make some recommendations in the whole "throwing a fabulous time" category. And the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club could certainly do so, having roots with both the players of Hollywood's Golden Age (Bing Crosby played a pivotal role in its beginning) and the stunner of a seaside community it has long called home. "Long called home" here translates to "since 1937," and the major part of that longevity is due to the ponies who run during July and August. But another important part of the club's success story? The festive spirit of the summer meet. Parties, fancy dress opportunities, and other happenings festoon the multi-week equestrian event, and opening day, after the races, puts the whole socializing scene into a full trot. It's the...

OPENING DAY AFTER PARTY... at L'Auberge Del Mar, a luxe hotel that's about a five-minute drive from the Thoroughbred Club. As always, it will throw an opening night bash, one that includes "jockey-themed entertainment" as well as bites straight from the posh California cuisine annals. Will you discuss the ponies you rooted for during the Friday, July 15 soiree? Or how you decided on the design of your opening-day hat? Or what you might name a competitive horse if you ever had the opportunity? (That makes for a lively after-the-track topic.) Tickets are $229 apiece, but if you can't make the posh lark, note that L'Auberge Del Mar is one of the swanky local spots to bed down for the night after a day of cheering on the mane action at one of the Golden State's most hallowed pony palaces.

Photo Credit: L'Auberge Del Mar]]>