<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Worth the Trip]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcbayarea.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.comen-usThu, 21 Sep 2017 08:54:49 -0700Thu, 21 Sep 2017 08:54:49 -0700NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Grown-Up Spooky Train: Sips & Spirits]]> Wed, 20 Sep 2017 22:35:17 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sacramentospookamotivetrain123.jpg

LOVING TRAINS... isn't something that ceases when you grow up and stow the beloved wooden sets and choo-choo sticker books of your youth, of course. In fact, many a train buff would accurately claim that a fascination with the rails, with historic engines and how trains played a role in history, continues to puff, like so much steam, throughout a person's life. And while a lot of rides on vintage trains are open to adults, there are a number around the fall that have a kid-cute sweetness to them, and a Halloween theme, too. But what if you're a bit of a maven of the macabre, in addition to digging trains, and you're searching for an adult-fun train event that is both spirited, as in Halloween-fun, and spirited, as in what people are sipping? You only need to gaze in the direction of the Central Pacific Freight Depot in Sacramento, where...

SIPS & SPIRITS: THE TRAIN RIDE... will toot-toot on Friday, Oct. 27. It's a single-night kind of deal, one that's a fundraiser for the California State Railroad Museum, Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, and the still-to-come California Railroad Technology Museum. The drink on board is "a blood-shot cocktail," and hard cider will be available, too, as well as small bites from Fat's Catering. There will be a mad scientist on the train, we fear telling you, and a few of the scientist's minions, so do beware. As for the trio of cars serving as the conveyance for the party? Be ready to step into the El Dorado lounge car, the Audubon dining car, "...and the French Quarter lounge car from the 1950s that served as the famed Southern Pacific Sunset Limited service." It's history, and Halloween high jinks, and some hard cider, all wrapped into one atmosphere-laden trip along the Sacramento Southern Railroad.

Photo Credit: aaf3]]>
<![CDATA[Squaw Valley: Oktoberfest Among Peaks]]> Wed, 20 Sep 2017 15:37:08 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Oktoberfest1_Matt-Palmer.jpg

SUMMONING THE STAPLES... of an Oktoberfest-style celebration? You can find the perfect holiday hallmarks at many area festivities, from the food that's served (hallo, schnitzel) to the music that's played (accordions are a commonly heard instrument, but other Munich-major melodies are also regularly played) to the style of dress (you're going to go with a dirndl, surely). But finding a peak-pretty setting, the kind of place that rocks an alpine air, isn't quite as straightforward as locating lederhosen to wear. One route taken, at least 'round Northern California, is to go Tahoe when the latter half of September arrives and the Oktoberfests begin to oompah with more regularity and fervor. And coming up, on the first Saturday of autumn, which is Saturday, Sept. 23, is the...

OKTOBERFEST... at The Village at Squaw Valley. The "...Village magically transforms into a miniature Bavaria complete with authentic German food and beer, Bavarian music and performances, and popular Oktoberfest themed games," and the backdrop to it all will be a mountain-y spread that may make you feel as though you've jetted over the water, to Germany, for a day or two. It's free to enter, but you'll want cash if you'd like a stein of the Bitburger Premium Pilsner, Benedicktener Weissbeir, or another brew, including several suds that regularly appear during Oktoberfest season. In the competitive sphere, look for a keg-rolling race, a stein-holding contest, and the brat toss, which will ask participants to toss a brat into a keg (each new round will up the challenge, so don't get too cocky just yet, if you sail through round #1). Need some peaks with your pilsner and brat-tossery? Here are the details, lederhosenians and dirndl devotees.

Photo Credit: Matt Palmer]]>
<![CDATA[Safari West: Early Halloween Celebration]]> Tue, 19 Sep 2017 17:51:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Ring-tailed-lemur-halloween-1920x768.jpg

WE PUT HEART, PASSION, SOUL, and a lot of spirit in dreaming up a Halloween costume, but back when we were kids? Hoo boy, the fervent planning of the perfect costume started somewhere around May. We'd be the world's best robot, the world's coolest dinosaur, or the most awesome combination of the two (you know you'd love to see that). With that in mind, taking some of that creative drive, and the costume commitment that kids so easily show, and then applying it our animal world, all with the hope of wearing it in an animal-sweet, preservation-important destination, seems like a pretty cool thing to do. It just so happens that...

SAFARI WEST... will be holding a Conservation Costume Contest on Saturday, Oct. 28, and attendees are invited to dress as an animal they dearly love, a beastie who could use humankind's continuing stewardship, care, and help. The "conservation-minded" event is just one of many educational and not-too-eeky to-dos on the Santa Rosa animal park's calendar on the last Saturday in October, a packed day which will also include a...

SKELETAL EXHIBIT... created by Safari West's Osteology Team. "To honor the life of animals that have passed away at our facility, our team works to preserve their skeletons for use in academic research and educational demonstration," shares a message on the site. Bones, as a theme, are seen on all sorts of products at Halloween, but this informative display helps visitors reach a deeper understanding of the processes of our natural world and our co-earthlings who occupy it. Another event on the schedule? The Trick-or-Trek Tour, which takes visitors out among the roaming residents via the Nairobi Bus.

TICKETS AND INFORMATION? Scamper this way, with all the energy of a curious lemur, and then get to devising those conservation-themed costumes. Show the world how you love our furry, feathery, paw-rocking, beak-sporting brethren, and do so with the creativity and spirit you always bring to your Halloween crafts and projects.

Photo Credit: Safari West]]>
<![CDATA[Taste of Carmel: Vivacious Village Bites]]> Tue, 19 Sep 2017 12:31:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Taste-of-Carmel-2016-021.jpg

A CLASSIC CARMEL COTTAGE? The kind that looks as though some magical illustrator plucked it straight from a storybook, then added a few more frills and details before placing it on a beach-close street? They're pretty much the visual calling cards of a visually splendid city. So much so that they're practically cute enough to eat, and if you were to bake such a storybook house into a sweet treat, your friends would shower you in praise (after, of course, digging into the house-shaped cake). But while Carmel-by-the-Sea isn't edible — don't go waving your fork near any of those picturesque walls, which are actually brick and adobe and stone — it does happen to effuse oodles of culinary prestige. How, though, to put your fork into multiple dishes, or at least put your mouth around a whole plethora of interesting bites, during one single visit? You might only ever hit two or three Carmel eateries during a single overnight or weekend. And yet, there is the tempting and tantalizing...

TASTE OF CARMEL... to consider, a full-to-brimming sweep of the peninsula burg's edible offerings. Around 30 local restaurants and food-makers will be out on Thursday, Oct. 5 from 6 to 9 p.m. (we know, the mere idea of strolling Carmel on a fall evening probably already has you sold, and to that we raise our hand in a high five). Sliders, munch-as-you-walk pies, all sorts of treats, hearty appetizers, and a host of wines (of course) are part of the night. Percy's Pies, Nothing Bundt Cakes, and The Grill on Ocean Avenue are all scheduled to be there. And know this: You'll be able to leave saying you have a bigger sense of what the village's food scene is all about. But will you leave, is the question? With all those sweet storybook structures, the buildings that look good enough to bake, bidding adieu to Carmel, and its awesome eat opportunities, is always so darned tricky. Fact.

Photo Credit: Michael Troutman/DMT Imaging]]>
<![CDATA[Salmon Spectacle: Tahoe Fall Fish Fest]]> Mon, 18 Sep 2017 23:45:32 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/KokaneeSalmon2.jpg

SPYING A SPLASH IN A CREEK OR RIVER? It definitely happens. One minute you're quietly hiking along the bank of a river and then something glints, in the water, or even breaks the surface for a moment, and you're instantly bewitched and enthralled by the pretty piscine sight. Now imagine seeing a number of fin-rocking creek swimmers, all on the move, all along the same stretch of water, all at the same time. "Migration" is the first word that likely pops to mind, and, if you recognize the ruddy-hued scales, "salmon" is the second. But where to see such a wonder, in the fall, in California, and is there a merry festivity planned, too? The answers are at Taylor Creek at Lake Tahoe, and, for sure, there shall be a celebration called the Fall Fish Fest, which reveals a lot of what you'll need to know. It is in the fall, on...

SATURDAY, OCT. 7 AND SUNDAY, OCT. 8, and fabulous fishies are the central superstars, the migrating Kokanee Salmon, to be specific. In fact, there are a lot of salmon passing through the immediate area of the festival's base, Taylor Creek Visitor Center, right around the beginning-ish to middle-ish of October, and people make a point of stopping by to witness this annual spawn show. So participating in a few educational activities at the free festival, while making time to saunter down to the creek for some close-up marveling of the annual run in action, is the smart and well-rounded thing to do. Of course, if you can't make the party, you can check out the salmon-tastic happenings around the creek on another day, as long as you observe the fairly narrow time window in which the Kokanee call upon that neck of the woods. 

Photo Credit: South Tahoe]]>
<![CDATA[Autumn Outings: Find Your Fall Adventure]]> Mon, 18 Sep 2017 11:25:07 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/CTTC141210142233_003+%281%29.jpg Fall is nigh; where will you pick out a pumpkin and sip apple cider, road trippers?

Photo Credit: Visit California/David Collier]]>
<![CDATA[Pantai Inn La Jolla: Early Fall Savings]]> Sun, 17 Sep 2017 16:19:17 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Pantai-Courtyard.jpg

SHOULDER SEASON? That's long been the nickname for those times of year that fell between especially busy travel stretches and quieter days. And of all the shoulder seasons commonly cited, fall happens to be a recurrent theme, at least in terms of not-too-bustling, deals-aplenty moments on the travel calendar. Autumn is just on the horizon, no spoiler alert needed, and a few hotels are basking in the cooler temperatures and slightly slower pace of September-into-November. But the temps aren't too cool, for this is Southern California, and you can still do a day at the beach without bundling up. Look to The Pantai Inn in La Jolla for your shoulder-season-y, sweet-deal'd needs if you're hoping for both some savings and some time spent on the sand. The hotel is but a short walk to the Pacific, so once you're parked, you only need to pack a bag and towel for your time near the surf. As for those savings? There's the...

LATE SUMMER SAVINGS... to ponder, a 25%-off deal that lasts well beyond summertime's final adieu. In fact, the final day of the promotion falls plunk in the middle of November — Nov. 16, 2017 — so read all. The biggest to-know? It's a Sunday-to-Thursday kind of deal, and it comes with a "deluxe breakfast each morning." If you didn't use any vacation days over the summer, well A) you know you probably should have, and that's said in the gentlest of fashions, and B) you still can, before the year is over, if you desire both beach time and saunter-around-La-Jolla time. Both of those options are available when staying at The Pantai Inn, so check out the details on this sweet autumn money-saver now.

Photo Credit: Pantai Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Mushroom-tacular: Mendocino Festival]]> Sat, 16 Sep 2017 16:47:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/mushroomlots1.jpg

DIGGING DEEP INTO MUSHROOM MANIA? Typically that means asking for an extra layer of mushroom toppings on your pizza or dipping your truffle-dusted potato chips in a dip that's also made of truffles. But there are a few times a year when your mushroom mania can go deeper, wider, and Mendocino-ier. The time of year we refer to happens in the fall, one of the most fungi-forward moments on the calendar, and the party, which is indeed set around Mendocino County? It's the Mendocino Mushroom, Wine, and Beer Festival. The festival is such a large and lengthy affair that it lasts for over a week, and the 2017 dates are up: Friday, Nov. 3 through Sunday, Nov. 12. And while digging deep into the soft, earthy, toothsome joys of the mushroom family is a major part of the multi-place, activity-packed bash, there are other to-dos, too, like...

CANOEING, AND HORSEBACK RIDING, and lighthouse tours, and theater, and botanical garden walks, too. But a certain cap-sporting gift of the ground is the star, and the schedule shows it, with a Mushroom Excursion Train (hi, it's the famous Skunk Train you'll be riding), and the tasting of mushroom ice cream, and the enjoying of mushroom-focused photography exhibits, and mushroom exploration tours, and a medicinal mushroom breakfast, just to name a few appetizing must-dos on the roster. So what to do before the mushroomy revelries rev up? Best load up your next pizza with 'shroom-savory flavor, as you await the start of November, and buy an extra bag of those truffle potato chips, too. For mushroom season is returning, and Mendocino County is again at the forefront of the forest-floor-y, appetite-sating festivities.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Spookamotive: Seasonal Sacramento Train]]> Fri, 15 Sep 2017 18:43:24 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/RR+Spookomotive-2016+Exterior+2+KH.jpg

A GOOD THEMED WEEKEND? It's pretty much the fanciful stuff that Halloween is made of, if you want to be perfectly honest. True, Halloween is also built upon a mound of mouthwatering candy, and ghoulishly great decorations, and eeky stories, too, but if we can dress up and join others who are dressed in a similar fashion? Well, it must be October, or at least autumn, and hooray to that. And should the chance to gussy up occurs on an atmospheric train, a locomotive that will run along a storied river for a number of miles? That ups the whole eerie enterprise, setting-wise. That's just what's set to go on, over a trio of October weekends, in Sacramento as the Spookamotive sets out from the Central Pacific Freight Depot. The whole ride is about 45 minutes, and six miles, if you prefer to measure it that way, which'll give you and your tots plenty of time to show off your costumes while admiring the outlandish looks of others riding the train. And the three themed weekends? Best...

DIG IN YOUR CLOSET, for Superheroes & Villains starts it all off on Saturday, Oct. 14 and Sunday, Oct. 15, while Pirates & Princesses follows on Oct. 21 and 22, and Witches & Wizards rounds it all out, magically, on the final weekend in October. There's a VIP option, which includes a Mad Scientist and laboratory element, and a First Class ticket, too, which comes with a Halloween cookie. The organizers of this October-ideal outing? California State Parks and the California State Railroad Museum & Foundation. Spooky train rides are a staple of the season, true, but finding them is the first essential step. And the second? Well, if costumes are allowed, and encouraged, you'll need to get super-creative. Get going on that front, and your ticket-purchasing plans, too, train-loving, Halloween-obsessed buffs.

Photo Credit: Spookamotive]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Ynez Inn: Luxe Wine Country Stay]]> Fri, 15 Sep 2017 11:38:08 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/SantaYnezInnEntry.jpg A recent refresh at the "Victorian-Inspired Hotel" makes for a gracious getaway.

Photo Credit: Santa Ynez Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Monterey Jazz Festival: Legends on Stage]]> Thu, 14 Sep 2017 17:00:15 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-533386236+%281%29.jpg

HAPPY 60TH, MONTEREY JAZZ FESTIVAL: Just about every Californian who adores the arts, or so it seems, has a "man, I wish I could have been there" moment. We pause before unleashing the word "regret," but it is a moment that can feel regretful, like we missed an ultimate concert or weekend happening that a lot of our friends or co-music mavens took part in, happily, and with stories to share. The Monterey Jazz Festival, a six-decades-along stalwart, is one of the ultimate "wish-I-could-have-been-there" spots for a number of Golden-Staters, and those people who live elsewhere, too. And that feeling, that wish, is bound to level up in 2017, given that the festival is marking its big 60th anniversary. Every year at the Monterey County Fairgrounds, come the middle of September, is a big year, but sporting a 60th anniversary tee for years to come will be quite the happy talisman for you, as you remember seeing...

HERBIE HANCOCK & CHICK COREA... together on Sunday, Sept. 17, and Mr.  Hancock on Friday, Sept. 15 (he's the 2017 MJF Jazz Legend Award Honoree). A Tribute to Sonny Rollins is slated for the evening of Saturday, Sept. 16, while Leslie Odom, Jr. of "Hamilton" on Broadway will also appear. Angélique Kidjo's Tribute to Salsa with Pedrito Martinez is yet another highlight in a weekend brimming with memorable-making events, while an appearance by John Beasley's MONK'estra, in celebration of the centennial of Thelonious Monk, is another major must-see. Tickets, information about getting there, and all of the good stuff you need to know for a weekend of legends? Begin here. And if you can only dip into the brassy, smooth, lyrical, feel-the-vibes delights for an hour or two? You can say you were there, a statement that should always be proceeded by actually being there, at a world-famous festival, really connecting with the sound.

Photo Credit: Getty Images for Keep Memory Alive]]>
<![CDATA[Guac Gathering: California Avocado Festival]]> Sun, 17 Sep 2017 16:20:36 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/avocado4.jpg

FABULOUS FRUIT TREES? They may fill your neighborhood, or dot certain streets around the local school or public garden, or they may add beauty and flavor to your own backyard. But can you identify all of the many arboreal wonders that grow so magnificently around the Golden State? It's not always a snap, especially when we can mix up our citrus trees (a delightful mix up, as any citrus is good citrus). But an avocado tree? In the annals of unmistakable sights, the branches that produce the alligator pears are pretty high up there. Once you've seen the particular long leaves, and the distinctive greenness they rock, you'll be able to spy avocado trees from several yards away. But you won't need your tree-identifying skills over the first full weekend in October, should you be in Carpinteria, just a couple of blocks from the beach, and should you be searching out some guacamole, or avocado ice cream, at...

AVOFEST, or, if you prefer, the California Avocado Festival. The luscious, eat-tacular marked three decades in 2016, making it one of the titans of the California fruit festival scene. The 2017, which will ripen from Friday, Oct. 6 through Sunday, Oct. 8, will feature a host of foodstuffs made with the green-skin'd icon, including the traditional and the offbeat (hi, dessert). An AvoEXPO Tent will look into the growing of avocados, from the history of the fruit to "lessons in avocado grafting." Arts and crafts, kid to-dos, and a host of live rockin' acts on a quartet of stages make this three-dayer one of the biggies. And the cost to walk-in? Zero dollars. You just may sharpen your avo-knowledge, and you'll definitely fill your avo-lovin' tum if you show with the dollars to try all of the avocado-themed dishes for sale. Plus, pretty Carp? It just might be one of the planet's most perfect places over the first week of October, weather-wise, sunshine-wise, avocado-devouring-opportunities-wise. It's a fact, as true as avocados have sizable, pit-tastic seeds.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Skypark at Santa's Village: Holiday Passes Now Available]]> Thu, 14 Sep 2017 16:30:31 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/skyparksanta019812321.jpg

SKYPARK AT SANTA'S VILLAGE... doesn't latch the shutters and turn off the icicle lights when Mr. Claus and his elves return to the toy-making workshop after Christmastime is over. Rather, the Lake Arrowhead-close attraction, a mid-century gem that returned in 2016 after several years off, keeps humming throughout the warmer months via a host of lively happenings. Those goings-on include concerts, summer holiday parties, roller skating nights, and outdoorsy to-dos, like cycling and taking on the rock-climbing wall. But many a Santa's Village maven keeps an eye on December, when the desire for a photo with Kris Kringle, and a little mountain-style merriment, begins to rise for a number of Southern Californians. And that rise of excitement has begun, as of early September, for...

HOLIDAY PASSES... are now available for the 2017 yuletide time. As for what you'll participate in, after you tell Santa and Mrs. Claus just what you'd like to see under the tree? There's Blitzen's Bungee, the Discovery Playscape, the Frozen Falls Climbing Tower, and a host of cute 'n cozy buildings and activities to see and join in. The park hours for the holidays? Nov. 9 through Jan. 7, 2018 is the window you'll want to watch. Enjoying a Breakfast with Santa Claus or Tea with Mrs. Claus? There are separate tickets for those jolly doings, too. There's no need to hang the mistletoe just yet, seeing as how Halloween and Thanksgiving are still ahead. But if you have designs on a Santa's Village day during the late fall or early winter, ponder driving your sleigh in the direction of the tickets page now.

Photo Credit: Skypark at Santa's Village]]>
<![CDATA[Tart Time: Lemon Festival in Goleta]]> Tue, 12 Sep 2017 21:27:16 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/lemonsgeneric_0804.jpg

THE LEMON AND THE AVOCADO? They're rarely found far from each other in the bowl on the kitchen counter or on the cutting board. The two fruits may be placed together for aesthetic reasons — that bright yellow next to the deep green does lend a bowl some cred worthy of a magazine cover — but that togetherness also exists in a host of classic dishes. Including, of course, guacamole, and while some guac artists prefer a squeeze of lime, many others swear by lemons. It makes appetizing sense that two of the most flavorful fruit festivals happen fairly close each year, both geographically and on the calendar, and that 2017 moment is just ahead. The Goleta Lemon Festival is upon Saturday, Sept. 16 and Sunday, Sept. 17, with Carpinteria's mondo avocado affair falling over the first full weekend in October.

BUT IF LEMONS ARE YOUR GAME, and you throw a slice or three in absolutely everything, head for Girsh Park in Goleta over the middle weekend of September. There's an ocean-airy fair feel to the free-to-enter two-day party, thanks to the line-up of carnival rides, activities, and on-the-stage music acts, but the rind-tastic, tart-tasting citrus is truly the celebrity of the celebration. Are you up for a pie-eating contest? Probably, right? For those rule the autumn, and you've been practicing all summer. There's no need to hang around for three weeks, between the lemon party and that Avofest, but get inspired by these two Santa Barbara-close festivities, at least as you approach your next bowl of perfect, tart, avocado-rich guacamole.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Catalina Island: Buccaneer's Weekend 2017]]> Wed, 13 Sep 2017 12:32:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/twoharborsAerial_2ccoc.jpg

TELL A FRIEND... that you're headed to Catalina Island, and your friend may instantly assume that Avalon is your destination. True, you might be flying first for the Airport in the Sky, but Avalon is the fabled isle's bigger town, the busy burg that sees a lot of the daily boat action. (And, by "busy," we mean golf carts are humming and visitors are happily strolling, which is exactly the right kind of busy.) But there is another beautiful village, of course, called Two Harbors, and, like Avalon, it also faces the mainland, though from a different, more northerly direction. Unlike Avalon, Two Harbors takes a bit more planning to reach, but reachable, it definitely is, and the whole "bit more planning" part makes it all the more enticing to its many devoted fans. And a number of those fans keep fall in mind, each year, for that's when one of the town's most swashbuckling festivities leaps into sight: It's Buccaneer's Weekend, and the pirates shall wash ashore at Two Harbors from...

OCT. 5 THROUGH 8, 2017: It's a grown-up kind of party, with live bands, nightly DJs, camping packages, and "(m)ultiple bars" filling out the scene. Is there a costume contest? Oh yes, so best keep your tunic and boots, the outfit you plan to wear on Talk Like a Pirate Day, which is Sept. 19, near your suitcase. Are there treasure hunts, too? It would hardly seem like a pirate-themed festival without searching for some sort of hidden goodies. Will you enjoy the beauty that Two Harbors brims with, whether you don a tri-cornered hat and breeches or not? You will; the name springs from the fact that, yes, there are two harbors there, or a cove and a harbor, adding to the spot's sublime picturesque nature. (Isthmus Cove and Catalina Harbor are the watery features, but you surely already knew those names, loving Two Harbors as you do.) For all of your Buccaneer's Weekend needs, best grab the nearest chandelier and swing by the information pronto, before the searching for treasure begins.

Photo Credit: Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Barbara Harbor & Seafood Festival]]> Tue, 12 Sep 2017 21:26:51 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/SantaBarbaraHarbor_FishTacos_photocredJessyLynnPerkins.jpg

TELL A FISH-FAVORING PAL... that you plan on spending a glorious day noodling down around Santa Barbara Harbor and you best prepare to answer a few questions, questions certain to be centered around a distinctive theme. Examples may include... Will you be ordering peel 'n eat shrimp? Or garlic clams? Are you going for the cioppino, or steamed mussels, or calamari pasta, or anything with lobster? It matters not that you haven't seen a menu yet, nor that you're not even quite sure where you'll eventually end up for lunch: Lovers of the picturesque, boat-filled expanse will want to know every last detail about what you hope to eat. Imagine, then, what a feasty, friend-filled, and all-out fun day it is at the Santa Barbara Seafood & Harbor Festival, a once-a-year celebration of the sustainable edibles delivered straight from the nearby Santa Barbara Channel. The 2017 party is on...

SATURDAY, OCT. 14, a primo, fall-soft day for the to-do, and foodies will be out in gotta-try-that force for an event devoted to quality seafood. Highlights include chatting with the people who fish on the channel, calling upon a host of specialty food booths (think barbecued albacore, fresh crab, fish tacos, more), and picking out sea urchin and having it "prepared on the spot" (along with lobster, if you like). You're right on the harbor, so there are those brochure-ready views to soak up, which you can do for free (for that's the price of admission). Buying bites? That'll cost, so have cash, but if you want to just enjoy the scene, simply show and pay no dough. Fire boat demos from the Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol, dockside tours of the 99-year-old Ranger as well as Blackfin (the US Coast Guard Cutter), and other all-ages happenings festoon the sunshiny 'n briny day out by the classic waterfront.

Photo Credit: JessyLynn Perkins]]>
<![CDATA[Pismo Beach Clam Festival: Bivalve Bash]]> Wed, 13 Sep 2017 12:32:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/031309-clams.jpg

AN AUTHENTIC CLAM DIG? It's a common bucket list entry for those who live in the Golden State. Along with learning to surf, and breaking into the entertainment business, and visiting every winery (or taco shop or doughnut stand), there are California-specific must-dos that continually intrigue and tempt those who call the state home. But joining a clam dig isn't always as simple as showing up at a stretch of sand with a small shovel and bucket in hand. Knowing where and when to go, and having a few tips and hints in your back pocket, are essential. And, more often than not, the "where" end of things tends to involve a storied spot on the Central Coast. It is, of course, without a doubt, or further quibble,

PISMO BEACH: And it is at Pismo Beach where the annual Clam Festival is held each fall, a tradition that unspools back over seven delicious decades. The 71st annual festival finds bivalvean bliss from Friday, Oct. 20 through Sunday, Oct. 22, and the line-up of briny events is as classic as a Pacific sunset. There's a clam dig, if that's on your bucket list, so join up if so (and consider that a clam dig is just about the only bucket list to-do that really involves a bucket). If supping upon the salty delicacies is more your style, join the clam bake, or make your way to a steamy bowl of clam chowder (yep, there's a chowder contest, as you might expect). Tunes, food trucks, face painting, and other beachy, bliss-out, no-worries, no-hurry to-dos are on the three-day roster. Ever dug for a clam? Call 2017 the year you put shovel to sand, finally.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Safari Nights: New at The Living Desert]]> Sun, 10 Sep 2017 11:50:58 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/SafariNights_LOGO_04B.jpg

SUMMERTIME AND SATURDAY NIGHTS? It's a popular pairing we've all seen thrive over the years. A special themed party might be planned for the local park, or a late-night happening at the neighborhood pool, or an outdoor concert at the beach. But those summer Saturday nights, whatever is festively filling them up, do have a way of suddenly stopping when September arrives. Perhaps one reason that they don't extend into autumn is that the weather is just a tad chillier after sundown. That, however, does not apply in the desert, where late-summer evenings remain quite warm and go-out-able. With that in mind, The Living Desert will be hosting an inaugural event, one that gives those human who love the animal park a chance to enjoy it on a September Saturday night, in the hours when the destination is typically closed. There are five Saturdays in September, do note, so if you want to experience...

SAFARI NIGHTS, all you'll need to do is plan your desert getaway and pick the evening that best suits you. Each night on the schedule shall rock a different vibe —  Tacos and Tequila night is Sept. 2, Movie Night is Sept. 9, Nocturnal Animal Night is Sept. 16, there's another Movie Night on Sept. 23, and Oktoberfest rounds it all out on Sept. 30 — but the constant factor will be critter-cool to-dos. You might join a search for scorpions, or stare up at the stars at an astronomy station, or dance to the live tunes. There shall be specialty cocktails, and food for sale, too. Summer-style Saturday nights continue, even into early fall, at the Palm Desert animal park, and joining a little post-sunset learning and celebrating is as easy as heading to the park and paying admission. And that admission? It's $12 for general, $8 for kids ages 3 to 12.

Photo Credit: The Living Desert]]>
<![CDATA[Danish Days: Solvang's History-Laden Lark]]> Mon, 11 Sep 2017 22:31:02 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/danishdayssolvangIMG_0890.jpg

DANCING IN THE STREETS: Downing several æbleskivers in one sitting? No one says you must, but if that's your particular pleasure, you should find your way to a certain windmill-whimsical, clog-tastic, pastry-rich town near Santa Barbara. It's Solvang, of course, that we speak of — the windmill reference surely gave that away — and it's a town that pauses each year to celebrate Danish Days. Perhaps "pauses" is not the right word, for there is a parade, and people swinging other people in the streets, and some hearty souls who attempt to devour as many doughy yum balls (yes, æbleskivers) as they can in one dessert-y dash. And while the strollable town has a number of other notable festivities on the annual calendar, including the popular Taste of Solvang in March and Julefest in December, it is Danish Days that features the Viking Encampment, a Beer & Wine Garden, and æbleskiver breakfasts, where you may eat as slowly as you like, savoring each confection-perfect bite. But, of course, there are the...

EATING CONTESTS... centered around the superstar sweet, if you prefer to eat your pastry in fast fashion. Everything kicks off on Friday, Sept. 15 with a free concert in Solvang Park, and the schedule remains jam-packed through Sunday afternoon. ("Jam"-packed, of course, is an æbleskiver shout-out, which you know, since jam is the traditional accompaniment to the delicious balls of goodness.) Also on the roster? An organ concert, chainsaw carving, a torchlight parade, an Old World Artisans Marketplace, an appearance by Hans Christian Andersen, courtesy of Randel McGee, and several more small-town-y, oh-so-quaint doings. Keep in mind, too, that you'll be right smack in the Santa Ynez Valley wine country in the middle of September, an ideal place to be during an ideal time, if you do like wine. Prepare to frolic, to nosh upon pastries and other authentic Danish delicacies, and to cheer on chainsaw carving, in Solvang, from Sept. 15 through 17, 2017.

Photo Credit: Solvang Danish Days]]>
<![CDATA[Rolly Crump: Disney Legend Exhibit]]> Mon, 11 Sep 2017 21:38:56 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/CrumpClock_772x406_1.jpg

DISNEYLAND PARK... didn't spring into glorious being, fully formed and ready for visitors, from thin air back in 1955. Nor has it ever stop evolving, changing, or adding new elements, attractions, and guest-delighting details. Both of those true statements — that people of great imagination built the famous theme park, and continue to shape and contribute to its charm and character — can be seen daily in Anaheim, but getting to know the work of an Imagineering icon, at length, is a rarer treat. For sure, to see a bit of Imagineer Rolly Crump's talent you can visit it's a small world, or Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room, and soak in the colorful splendor that fill both Disneyland attractions. You can even watch "Peter Pan" or "Lady and the Tramp" to see Mr. Crump's early Disney contributions, back when he was an assistant animator. But to enjoy a singular, full-scale Rolly Crump experience, you'll want to ride your favorite boat or roller coaster or perhaps your car to the...

OCEANSIDE MUSEUM OF ART, where "Rolly Crump: It's Kind of a Cute Story" is on display through Feb. 18, 2018. The "good-natured contrarian" and "visual provocateur" has been behind so much of what we today think of as Disneyland's particular brand of magic-making, and each item in the exhibit conveys Mr. Crump's fabulous, big-vision'd outlook. Paintings, designs, models, and more treasures fill up a large slice of the art institution, making it a merry day out for Disney fans, Rolly Crump admirers, and anyone who wants to see what the spark looks like, that necessary spark that happens before a major theme park attraction is built. Could you do both the Oceanside Museum of Art and Disneyland Park in a single day? It would be a busy day, no doubt, but the two locations are just over an hour apart, if there's not too much traffic. And no, a boat from it's a small world won't whisk you between the exhibit and theme park, but one can dream of traveling the 5 Freeway in this whimsical manner.

Photo Credit: Rolly Crump]]>
<![CDATA[Post Ranch Inn: Hearst Castle Package]]> Tue, 12 Sep 2017 09:18:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/postranchSierra_Mar_Kodiak-Greenwood_MG-horz.jpg

NEARLY NEIGHBORS: When describing California towns, and the distances that separate some of our favorite destinations, do you typically use the word "neighbor," even when citing two cities that aren't really in the same neck of the woods? It's a matter of perspective, when it comes to bandying about the term "neighbor," but bandy it about we shall when it comes to San Simeon and Big Sur. The two ocean-close locations aren't next door to each other, but, traditionally, both serve as popular stops for adventurers wending along Highway 1's craggiest, wowiest bits. Some of those wowiest bits are currently under construction, due to the wallop of a winter (that would be the winter of 2016-2017, which brought slides and other major road issues, including the construction of a new Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge). But a Big Sur legend, Post Ranch Inn, is connecting with a San Simeon legend, Hearst Castle, to give those guests eager to do both that chance, with a helicopter in the mix. 

TRUE, Post Ranch Inn launched a from-the-north helicopter package in the spring, with guests boarding a helicopter in Monterey. This newer southerly package, which is available through Saturday, Oct. 7, involves a tempting first to-do: Lunch and a wine tasting Sebastian's Café and General Store at Hearst Ranch Winery. A private tour of Hearst Castle follows, and following that? A ride in a Lexus Hybrid vehicle to the Hearst Castle Pergola, where a helicopter awaits. After lift-off, how long is the flight to Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur? Thirty minutes, allowing for plenty of look-around, soak-in-the-surf-below time. You'll want to book for two (or more) nights at Post Ranch Inn, and bone up on all the to-knows about the luxe, limited-time package. As for calling Hearst Castle and Post Ranch Inn neighbors? Let's say they truly are, for consider their connective qualities: Both San Simeon and Big Sur are eternally bound to the Pacific, and the soft spirit of natural beauty, which are very neighborly and nice traits for two places to share.

Photo Credit: Kodiak Greenwood/Visit California]]>
<![CDATA[Calistoga Wine Experience: Sip and Enjoy]]> Thu, 07 Sep 2017 21:16:30 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/219*120/shutterstock_32189446.jpg

WHILE TIME TRAVEL STORIES... often show characters skipping blithely about the decades, changing outfits, car types, and hairstyles as they go, oenophiles know another sort of time jump is involved when it comes to wine love. One moment it is high summer, and the grapes glistening on their various vines are doing that sun-shimmery thing, and then? It's Thanksgiving, or New Year's, and that whole ripe, mellow September-terrific harvest moment has flown by in a back-to-school, back-to-everything, life's-a-blur rush. There are easily implementable ways to seize the harvest moment before it blows through, and among those ways is attending a September Saturday sip celebration. They do crop up, charmingly, around wine country in the very late summer, and there's one just ahead that will involve 40 regional wineries and a whole snack-around line-up of "gourmet bites from local chefs." It's the...

CALISTOGA WINE EXPERIENCE, and it is entering its 2nd annual outing on Saturday, Sept. 9. The places is Pioneer Park, the time is from 2 to 6 o'clock, and vineyards hailing from the Calistoga AVA will be out, pouring, chatting, and doing that whole perfect afternoon try-a-wine thing. Live music, too, will add to the conviviality. Is this the moment you plug into the pleasures of September, at least for an hour or two, with a Calistoga overnight, because, well, Calistoga and September is a weekend-perfect pairing. Soak it in, before you wish you could time travel back, on Sept. 9.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Summer Whale Watch with Island Packers]]> Thu, 07 Sep 2017 12:54:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/whaleblue9232GettyImages-81956726.jpg

BACK-TO-POD EXCITEMENT: It feels as though there's a "back-to-school"-type joke to make about whales in September, but the fact that whales travel in pods, not schools, pretty much makes that particular quip a non-starter. Let us remain reminded, though, that spying a spout-tastic, giant-fluked traveler along the California coast just after Labor Day is a possibility, and find a ride out to do so isn't too difficult. One only need to look in the direction of Island Packers, the boats that zip out to Channel Islands National Park from Ventura on the regular. This is a company that's majorly skilled in spying far-off spouts, and in pointing out all of the other amazing denizens of the Pacific along the way (high fives, dolphins, and fist bumps, dear seals and sea lions). But if you'd like to get your dose of blue beauty, and maybe finally see a blue whale with your own peepers, and not through a screen, consider hopping on a...

SUMMER WHALE WATCH... with Island Packers. There are two more trips to go, on Sunday, Sept. 10 and Saturday, Sept. 16, and the company just shared that both trips "still have space" as of Sept. 5. Even if the whales are a mite shy, or just busy feeding/migrating/doing whale-important things, you can count on a day on the water, in the sunshine, with the bracing air (air that's even cooler once that boat is on the move). The gray whale season'll come around near the holidays, but, for now? You can get your back-to-school — er, back-to-pod — love on now, in Ventura, with Island Packers.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Whaley House: Halloween Nights 2017]]> Wed, 06 Sep 2017 21:47:25 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/whaleycourtesySanDiegodotorg.jpg

IF YOU KNOW YOUR HISTORIC HOMES, you are likely acquainted with The Whaley House Museum of San Diego's Old Town. And if you know your ghost-laden locations, those venues that are believed to be awash in supernatural activity, well, you also know the Whaley House, which is said to be one of California's most spirited structures. Both history fans and phantom buffs make for the handsome home for tours, talks, and special events. And because there's some crossover there — many a Whaley lover is both fond of the past facts and bump-in-the-night tales — you're bound to see a number of visitors expressing an interest in both areas. But the haunted side of this finished-in-1857 house truly shines, or, rather, flickers with a candlelit glow, come October, when The Whale House Museum holds a host of eerie occasions in honor of a certain October-ending holiday. And the...

HALLOWEEN 2017... events are up now, meaning you can plan your beyond-the-veil sojourn to the San Diego landmark. There's a Whaley House Ghost Hunting Tour to join on Oct. 13, 14, 20, and 21, while "The Spectre of Edgar Allen Poe" will call upon the home on Sunday, Oct. 15 for "two riveting performances." Fancy a night of silent film (of the scary sort)? Be there on Oct. 25. And a number of nighttime doings, including a late-night event on Halloween, are ahead for the final five days of the month. What's your shivery pleasure? Straight-up history, about first owner Thomas Whaley and his family, or tales of all of the many (many many) sightings that have occurred under the home's roof? Find your way into the frightful season via these Whaley House events.

Photo Credit: SanDiego.org]]>
<![CDATA[Butterfly Garden: Russian River Rose Splendor]]> Tue, 05 Sep 2017 18:06:14 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/monarch1.jpg

A SEPTEMBER GARDEN... can feel a little "in-between-y," in the sense that the fecundity and lusciousness of summer is giving way to fall's wind-down, foliage-fabulous, chillier charms. There are still shrubs to shape and bulbs, vegetables, and roses to plant and trees to tend, and those delightful denizens of the garden? They're, of course, still fluttering around, too (disproving any theories that summery butterflies and hummingbirds high-tail it out of town once the autumn equinox is in view). In fact, you can see this very vivacious sight at the Russian River Rose Company over the second weekend in September, and if you visit the Healdsburg-sweet destination to pick up gardening tips, or you visit just to get out and enjoy some sunshine, well, both plans are solid. The dates of the...

"BECKONING BUTTERFLIES, BIRDS & BEES... to the Garden" gathering are Saturday, Sept. 9 and Sunday, Sept. 10. The recommended donation? It's two bucks, and you'll learn much, including how to get all of those fluttery wonders to call upon your own pretty plot. Speaking of pretty plots, the rosy gem boasts "...a collection of 650 varieties of antique and modern roses," and the vineyards of Dry Creek Valley are nearby, adding alfresco allure. In short? It's a sublime September Saturday and/or Sunday outing, if you want to connect with nature, the sky, scent, and celebrated garden inhabitants, but know it isn't quite time for fall foliage drives just yet. Keep in mind, too, that the Russian Tea & Fragrance Festival is coming up at the garden on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, 2017, before the quieter days of wintertime in the garden arrive.

Photo Credit: Lori Palicka]]>
<![CDATA[Pumpkin Fun at The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay]]> Tue, 05 Sep 2017 09:43:26 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/PumpkinPatchSpicerchalfmoonbay.jpg

HALF MOON BAY, when fall finally arrives, can seem so thick with pumpkin promise that a potential visitor might wonder if a pathway lined with pumpkins will lead them directly into town. That isn't a thing, but finding oodles of pumpkin-based bites and drinks and specials and events around the pretty Pacific-snug burg is very much a possibility. After all, Half Moon Bay is the World Pumpkin Capital and the home to both The Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-off and the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival. Those two events are set to happen in October — Oct. 9 and Oct. 14 & 15, respectively — but a pumpkin-obsessed person can find fun happenings and edibles related to their favorite fruit before those dates. The Half Moon Bay Brewing Company is launching a pumpkin menu on Oct. 1, while The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay has a few treats in store. There's the...

ULTIMATE PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE, from the Santa Cruz Coffee Company, to try. It will be available at the resort on the first day of autumn, and it will include Verve coffee as well as "sweet pumpkin flavors from farm-fresh Half Moon Bay pumpkins" as well as milk and spices. A good-to-know asterisk? You don't need to be a guest of the resort to stop by and purchase this pumpkin-licious libation. But the pumpkin-based good times keep rollin' at The Ritz-Carlton via its Pumpkin Experience Package. An overnight stay, a Pumpkin Facial, and a pumpkin pastry when you arrive are all woven through this fall-fun getaway. Well, make that a pre-fall getaway; it's available as of Tuesday, Sept. 5. And the final day of the package? It's quite pumpkin-famous: Halloween. So book soon, gourd-lovin' travelers, before the Half Moon Bay pumpkins turn into jack o'lanterns.

Photo Credit: Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay]]>
<![CDATA[Catalina Film Festival: Cinematic Island Trip]]> Mon, 04 Sep 2017 12:11:56 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AvapmBayDusk_Xmas-horz.jpg

"HOLLYWOOD'S ISLAND": It's not too much of a stretch to say that, with time, gas money, and ample snacks, you and your film-loving pals could drive to most any film festival in North America. Sundance in Park City, Utah? That'll take you about 13 or 14 hours, thereabouts, depending on how many stops you make. Telluride? That'll run you a little longer, and if you're heading up to the Toronto Film Festival? Plan a few days for your mondo road trip. The film festival that sets up the red carpet in Avalon every autumn is much closer to Los Angeles, it's true, but road-tripping there will also involve ocean-tripping or sky-tripping. For the Catalina Film Festival happens to take place on Catalina Island, and the operative word is "island," which makes it all the more delightful as fans plan out their route by Pacific or air. "Come to Hollywood's Island!" is the clarion call of the festival, which is set to screen a line-up of stellar works from...

WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 27 THROUGH SUNDAY, OCT. 1: The festival's stylish poster was just released on Aug. 20 — the Anthony Gonzales work pays homage to Marilyn Monroe and the Avalon Theatre at the Casino Building — and more movie information will spool out in the weeks ahead of the early-fall festival. Want to keep an eye out for trailers celebrating the movies set to show at the 2017 party? Best head to youtube and bookmark the festival's page for all of your trailer-based needs. But there's no hemming nor hawing with this festival: Islands are finite, land-wise, as you might have heard, and booking your overnight stay in Avalon should be done in advance of the cinematic spectacular. So plan now, buy your snacks, tell your friends, and map out your ocean route to this charmer of a movie bash.

Photo Credit: Catalina Chamber of Commerce/Popcorn]]>
<![CDATA[Oxnard: Find Your Close-to-the-Beach Stay]]> Sun, 03 Sep 2017 09:41:53 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Aerial+Hi+Res+2.jpg

HOLDING TIGHTLY ONTO SUMMER? It's possible to make it all last, though the final days of August do seem to slide through the fingers with the ease of so many foamy ocean bubbles. One day it is springtime, and we're talking about all of the summer road trips we'd like to take, and then, we see it: Halloween candy filling the shelves at our local supermarket. But the beaches of Southern California have a pretty consistent and commendable way of sticking around throughout the calendar, whether it is summertime or not, and making your way to one is possible regardless of season. September and October, in fact, are fine months to beach it up, thanks to the continuing warm weather and the thinning of crowds (well, it is California, where places bustle all year, but, come fall, travel does wind down a touch). Embassy Suites by Hilton Mandalay Beach Resort happens to have a front row seat to some blissful beachery, and it is close to Channel Islands Harbor, too, in case you want to hop a boat out to Channel Islands National Park. There are...

"250 NEWLY RENOVATED ROOMS"... at the expansive property, a spread that includes an ample amount of ocean-front beauty (the resort sits on eight-and-a-half acres). As for the hotel's line-up of packages? There are deals designed for family trips, for getawayers looking for a long weekend, and a military family rate, too. As for finding your perfect area beach? Oxnard has a multitude, from ocean-y areas perfect for kayaking to places made for a soak-in-the-sun picnic. The summer of '17 isn't done, not at all, and balmy days will balmy-on for at least four or five more weeks, though maybe more. If you didn't get your beach time in over the last couple of months, make a night or weekend of it, at a property that's so sand-adjacent it is nearly sitting in the surf.

Photo Credit: Visit Ventura]]>
<![CDATA[Free: Banana Festival at Port of Hueneme]]> Thu, 07 Sep 2017 12:55:48 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/FamilyonBoardtheSunfish+%281%29.jpg

JUST HOW DEEP... is a traditional banana split dish? It's got to be roomy enough to hold three generous scoops of ice cream, and a mountain of whipped cream, and a load of chopped nuts, and all of the hot fudge you crave (and let's not forget the essential cherry topper). How deep is the Port of Hueneme? Suffice it to say, it is rather deeper than your typical banana split dish, seeing as how it is "... the only deep water port between LA and San Francisco." We're not sure how many banana split dishes, or, for that matter, bananas, could be stacked, end-to-end, to measure the port's impressive depth, but figuring that number out isn't at the top of many lists. What is, though? The 6th annual Port of Hueneme Banana Festival, a September-ending celebration that both highlights the potassium-rich fruit bowl favorite and the busy port's role as "...one of the country's largest banana gateways." The 2017 date is...

SATURDAY, SEPT. 30, and the free festival offers attendees a lot to peel back. Vendors will be out selling a variety of banana-sweet and non-banana bites, though you'll want to keep an eye out for the banana beignets as well as, you guessed it, banana splits. There'll be other unusual or one-of-a-kind banana dishes to try, so save room for the sweetness, even if you dig into some empanada action or barbecue for lunch. There'll be live music, and margaritas, and activities for kids, but make time to hop on a free tour of the port (they're on land and on the water). You'll learn about the capacious amount of cargo that passes through the Port of Hueneme each year, and other interesting facts. One note? Make sure you have identification if you want to take a tour. For all of the banana-good, port-fascinating details, visit the festival's main HQ.

Photo Credit: Christopher Zsarnay/Z Studios]]>
<![CDATA[Sunnylands: Tour the Rancho Mirage Gem]]> Fri, 01 Sep 2017 14:05:04 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ABT-Sunnylands_938x653_kenhayden.jpg

LATE-SUMMER HELLO: We're all a bit used to hearing about cold-climate destinations that sometimes shutter when the frost gets to be a bit too much. Maybe the roads, too, are impassable, thanks to a preponderance of flakes, and perhaps a series of giant drifts are keeping winter visitors at bay. But sometimes celebrated spaces in some of our hotter desert regions choose to slow it down on the opposite end of the calendar. That's understandable, for sure, and certainly when the temperatures push upwards in dramatic fashion. One such place that takes the summer "off," at least in terms of tours if not in other ways, is Sunnylands Center & Gardens in Rancho Mirage. The former Annenberg Estate has been open for tours for a half decade now, and people arrive in the fall, winter, and spring to see the succulent-filled gardens, the beautiful sculptures, and to enjoy the art exhibits. Good news: The re-opening date is nearly here, on...

THURSDAY, SEPT. 14, and tickets are now available for upcoming tours. Sunnylands, which also includes a gift shop and café, closed in early June to tours, but staffers have stayed busy over the summer, and photos on social media have told the tale. There's been set-up (and gallery painting) for the upcoming exhibit "Carved Narrative: Los Hermanos Chávez Morado," and care for the property's flora (and, yes, fauna, too — hello, sweet Great Horned Owl). It's nearly time for the estate's aficionados to return for tours, special movie events, and more. Find your way to one of the desert's most fabled and fabulous spreads by calling upon Sunnylands for a tour, a peek inside the center, lunch, or a garden bask in the autumn sun.

Photo Credit: Ken Hayden]]>
<![CDATA[Sonoma Valley Crush: Hello, Fall]]> Thu, 31 Aug 2017 19:25:18 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sonomacrush123kimcarroll.com+-+2016-30.jpg

HARVEST TIME, as an old concept, is braided through our ideas of autumn, of what the season means and delivers and tastes like and its very earth-based, grow-good spirit. But, of course, so many harvest-y doings begin to roll out in summertime at our favorite wineries, for waiting for the equinox would be waiting a few weeks too long. There is a way, though, to soak in some autumn-style splendor, and learning, too, before the warmest season has even officially wrapped. It's Sonoma Valley Crush, a multi-winery to-do that will cover a plethora of boutique wineries (a dozen, hooray) as well as behind-the-scenes information on how harvest time works at a winery. Morever, there's an...

"OPPORTUNITY TO GET INVOLVED..." at the "hands-on harvest experience," should you be interested, at the wine-fun gathering. You can discover how to read a Refractometer at the Heart of Sonoma Valley Association event, or, just maybe, "taste a wine while it is fermenting." This is off-stage stuff, for a vineyard, which makes Sonoma Valley Crush both a palate-pleasing occasion but one that can deepen an oenophile's general knowledge. The dates are Friday, Sept. 8 through Sunday, Sept. 10, and the...

ONE-DAY CRUSH PASS... is $35 in advance, while your designated driver is free. Doing two days? That's $50 ahead of time or $55 once you're there. Some of the wineries on board include Spann Vineyards, St. Anne's Crossing Winery, and Wellington Cellars. Call it a whole and full experience, a front-of-stage, peek-behind-the-curtains sort of outing, a memorable weekend of learning and libations. 

Photo Credit: Kim Carroll]]>
<![CDATA[Big Sur Island: A Two-Wheel'd Adventure]]> Tue, 05 Sep 2017 09:18:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Big-Sur-Adventures-bike123.jpg

THE CALL HAS BEEN CLEAR: Big Sur is not closed. True, a stormy, slide-heavy winter led to closures along Highway 1, and the removal and rebuilding of Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge, but spots like Nepenthe and Post Ranch Inn have put out the welcome sign on the shore of Big Sur Island. Of course, the beautiful spot isn't actually an island, though it has taken on a number of island-like characteristics for the bulk of 2017 (arriving by car along a sizable swath wasn't a possibility early on). While a few cars are back on the road, though not all of it — Mud Creek to Salmon Creek is closed, as is the area around the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge work site — the "island" aspect remains strong. That will change when the bridge opens down the road (later in the fall of 2017 is the current expectation), so those Big Sur buffs who want to see their favorite place in a different light are calling upon it now. And to help those who'd love to see it from the seat of a bicycle? 

HOTEL CARMEL... has a plan for that. The Carmel-by-the-Sea property has teamed up with Big Sur Adventures to give guests a chance to book a half-day or full-day electric bicycle, one that can be used to spin along the picturesque stretch south of the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge construction. There are some cars on it, thanks to Nacimento-Fergusson Road, but vehicles are not entering the area from the north or south at this time. If this tempts you, read up on the details, such as meeting your daily shuttle at Andrew Molera State Park and the trailhead at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Island conditions remain, so you'll want to get all of the details on the trail, on hiking in, on where to find your bike, and what to do before you go Big Sur. Stop one, though, is your stay in quaint Carmel-by-the-Sea, and boutique, 27-room Hotel Carmel, a charming respite after your day wheeling about Big Sur Island.

Photo Credit: Big Sur Adventures]]>
<![CDATA[Desert Doughnuts: Holiday Weekend Fun]]> Fri, 01 Sep 2017 12:06:27 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/JWMarriottDesertSprings_AerialView-horz.jpg

HOLIDAY WEEKEND GETAWAY: The first few days in September? That's right around when Labor Day Weekend typically falls, and travelers begin to consider a quick getaway, a trip that will likely involve some heat, given the time of year. There's plenty of heat in Palm Desert, no spoiler alert required, and if you make for the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa, you'll find high temps and crystalline pools, which have a way of keeping high temps tamed. But holiday weekends aren't simply about refreshing swims, and sunshine, and the whole getting-away-a-tude; fun and interesting eating is also on the dining docket. And the Palm Desert resort is going to make its holiday-style noshing pretty memorable on on Saturday, Sept. 2 (updated), when a...

40-POUND DOUGHNUT... is unveiled. It'll likely be round like the sun above the resort, and definitely not as hot, and definitely easier to eat, though you may want to save your appetite, for a Sugar High Happy Hour will follow the mega doughnut reveal, complete with a choose-your-own doughnut wall. There's also a DoNut Disturb package, starting at $219, which comes with a 10-pound doughnut (a doughnut that, wait for it, will show at your door, courtesy of the Donut Dispatcher). The fun part? This package will be available for several months to come. If the sticky, gooey pastries aren't your scene, there are a number of other goings-on around the expansive property, including Glow-in-the-Dark Mini Golf, Canvas Art Painting, and more. If you need some sunbeams, some splashing, some doughnut time, and a fast jaunt out of town over Labor Day Weekend, give the hotel a jingle, or check out the web site for more info on rates, happenings, and sunny such.

Photo Credit: Dan Ham/Doughnuts]]>
<![CDATA[Auburn Eerie: Pumpkin Nights]]> Sun, 03 Sep 2017 09:40:38 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/auburnpumpkin7.jpg Enjoy "eight immersive lands" of gourdly charm in the Gold Country town.

Photo Credit: Kollin Brinkerhoff]]>
<![CDATA[Bernese Mountain Dog Day: Half Moon Bay Sweet]]> Wed, 30 Aug 2017 13:09:38 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/bernesemountaindog12345getty.jpg

PUP PARTIES... are a common and cuddly sight nowadays, with dogs of every stripe, snout, and size showing up to strut, play, snack, meet new humans, socialize with other pooches, and soak in the sunshine and fresh air. But occasionally tail-waggin' to-dos pop up that put the focus on one segment of the Fido family tree, giving those fans of Greyhounds or Pugs or Brussels Griffons a chance to hobnob with other people who know the specific quirks and sweetnesses of the dogs in question. A fall-fun charmer is coming up, in Half Moon Bay, and it involves a hound so kissable, and colossal, that fans who gather there may spend the whole morning gushing over other attendees' sizable pups. It's the Bernese Mountain Dog we speak of, and Bernese Mountain Dog Day is returning to Farmer John's Pumpkin Farm on the very first day of October, 2017.

THE FREE EVENT... is a come-one-come-all call to Bernese buffs, who are absolutely invited to show with their four-paw'd BFFs. How many Bernese Mountain Dogs attended in 2016? Hold onto your hearts: Over 130 made the camera-ready scene. Farmer John's own Bernese Mountain Dog will be wagging her tail around the pumpkin-packed grounds (name: Clara Honey), so be sure to wave if you see the duo. And buy a pumpkin, too, if you need to start preparing for your own seasonal soirees back at home. Is there room in your backseat for both your pup and a few pumpkins? Surely, yes, even though the Bernese Mountain Dog is one of the biggest hounds around (and one of the tenderest and most prone to lap-sitting, if given the opportunity). For all of your Sunday, Oct. 1 details, and more on the 15 Annual Bernese Mountain Dog Day, wag your tail over here.

<![CDATA[Capitola Begonia Festival Ending: Bittersweet Bash]]> Thu, 31 Aug 2017 18:54:17 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/capitolabegonia212121.jpg

YOUR SUMMER ENDER? You might put off whatever final rite of summer you like, awaiting the minutes before autumn officially arrives to jump in a lake for the last time that year, or to have your final ice cream pop, or to dash through a sprinkler. But a lot of people start to wrap up their summer-style traditions when summer's commonly observed season ends, over Labor Day Weekend. And if your Labor Day Sunday tradition has long been gazing upon flower-bedecked floats in Soquel Creek, then best plan to be in Capitola for the 65th annual Capitola Begonia Festival. The long-running petal-laden lark has a note of bittersweetness in 2017: It's the final one. A message posted on the festival's web site reveals that Golden State Bulb Growers, the "...now singular source of flowers..." for the Capitola Begonia Festival, is "...retiring from the business of growing begonias." The party shall go on for this year, of course, and you can bet the community will bring a lot of heart, cheer, and imaginative float-building to send off the celebration in darling style.

SEPT. 1 THROUGH 4... are the dates, with the famous Nautical Parade happening along Soquel Creek, to the lagoon, on Sunday, Sept. 3. Other doings beyond the blithe procession festoon the long holiday weekend, like a sand sculpture contest, live concerts, a fishing derby, a screening of "Mary Poppins" at the beach, and the viewing of float construction the day before the Sunday parade. Whether you're a begonia buff or you're simply enamored of Capitola, or, we'll guess, you count yourself in both categories, make your way to the seaside burg for one last begonia-big bash. It's a summer-sender-offer for many Californians, a quaint must-do that is heading into its last and loveliest hurrah.

Photo Credit: Capitola Begonia Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Bike Big Blue: Ride Around Lake Tahoe]]> Mon, 28 Aug 2017 16:23:37 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/LakeTahoeFallFoliage34.jpg

IF YOU WERE TO STAND ON THE SHORE... of Lake Tahoe, with your feet placed together, ankle next to ankle, how much shoreline space would your feetprint fill up? Just a matter of inches, even if your feet are on the wider side. You don't need to measure the shoreline of this celebrated alpine lake, though, footprint by footprint, to take it all in; you can enjoy its full sweep from the seat of your bike, over one sweet September Sunday. Nope, you won't be measuring the lake's shoreline while you're out on your two wheels — it has over 70 miles of shoreline, by the by, if you're curious — but you will be enjoying one of the most unusual of bike rides, and one of the most picturesque. It's...

15TH ANNUAL TOUR DE TAHOE — BIKE BIG BLUE, and it pedals its way around the azure expanse of watery wonderfulness on Sunday, Sept. 10. That's right, this ride is a lake loop, rather than a Point A to Point B deal. It's Point A to Point A, or, more accurately in this case, a Parking Lot C at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe to Parking Lot C at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe deal. The ride? It's 72 miles in all, and it "...includes a challenging 800-foot climb to a rest stop overlooking Emerald Bay and a 1,000-foot climb to Spooner Junction." There are other ups and downs along the glorious way, which won't surprise you, if you've trekked around the Tahoe-close terrain before. Details? Here. 

BIKE THE WEST... is behind "America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride." If you love supporting all things spokes, and Lake Tahoe's bike byways and those who work to create a safe cycling scene around the Big Blue, consider signing up for the ride, or finding out more now.

Photo Credit: Lake Tahoe]]>
<![CDATA[Cambria Autumn: Scarecrow Festival]]> Sat, 02 Sep 2017 10:39:38 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/cambriaAmericana-WEb.jpg

SCARECROWS, as a general rule, have held a single pose for decades upon decades (or even centuries upon centuries, if you want to go back further). The crop-close figures were meant to send suspicious birdies off to another patch o' land, but, in time, scarecrows became a commonly seen domestic decoration, even in places far from fields brimming with bird-delectable vegetables. And the pose typically held by the scarecrow of yore — standing straight up, with arms partially or fully outstretched — wasn't quite as necessary when a scarecrow was enlivening a front porch or yard with autumnal cheer. This transmogrification of the scarecrow, from upright sentry to a character that participates in a host of poses and scenarios, is very much on merry display in a few California towns each fall. These are the villages that hold scarecrow-themed contests and displays, and Cambria, that ocean-close charmer, is one of the best-known of the lively lot. The 2017 dates are coming up, and they're a snap to remember: Oct. 1 through 31. That's when the...

CAMBRIA SCARECROW FESTIVAL... returns, with "hundreds of scarecrows" in tow, scarecrows that are whimsical and funny and interesting and up to all sorts of high jinks. The festival, which has almost been around for a decade (one more year to go), is free to see, as the scarecrows may be found in front of businesses and other venues throughout town. There is a ticketed kick-off party, but if you're driving into town on a road trip on any October day, you can absolutely get your scarecrow on sans any admission-fee fuss. Eager to see the creativity that goes into these quintessentially October-ish icons? Check out what artists, locals, and everyone with a fun idea have put together in years gone by. The theme you see quite often? Action of sort, rather than a standing-still scarecrow, meaning we've definitely entered a new era for the classic, field-close figure.

Photo Credit: Cambria Scarecrow Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Yosemite Ski Fun: Early Bird Pass]]> Sat, 26 Aug 2017 14:48:23 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/yosemiteC_TC_1796_20080211.jpg

EARLY BIRD SEASON PASS: Travelers may have flocked to Yosemite National Park in recent days all to look up, while wearing the appropriate solar filter glasses, in the general direction of our nearest star. A star, you may have heard, that had a "visitor" of sorts when the moon passed in front of it, at least from our terrestrial viewpoint. (No, the moon didn't actually visit the sun, though if someone would like to turn that into a kid's book, that would be mighty cute.) Fairly soon, though, Yosemite fans will be looking up to see something quite different in the destination, and something that's notably colder than the sun: snowflakes. The cold, frosty stuff does fall in the spectacular national park, which makes getting a little schussing in, and some rad boarding, a fine pursuit come the iciest stretch of the year. If you're hoping to spend some quality, wind-rushing, woohoo-ing time at Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area, take note that the Early Bird Season Pass is on sale, oh yes siree. But the sale wraps on...

FRIDAY, SEPT. 1, 2017, so you won't want to wait on those first snowflakes to fall to purchase your Early Bird Season Pass. Now check out this astounding number: You'll "(s)ave over $350" if you act like the early bird and buy your pass now at $99. Regular price? It's $461. That deserves a mitten wave, or a ski twirl, or something as celebratory, because deals don't arrive much sweeter, regardless of their category. That $99 price, by the by, is good for all age groups, except for kids age 6 or under, who can join in for free (yes, they'll need to be with a paying adult). Details? Ski this way. Looking up at Yosemite? It doesn't only happen during eclipses. Snowflakes turn our chins skyward, too, and waterfalls, and Half Dome, and El Capitan...

Photo Credit: Yosemite Hospitality]]>
<![CDATA[Sonoma Sweet: Weekend Along the Farm Trails]]> Fri, 25 Aug 2017 11:14:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Lambs-by-Samantha-Harmon+%281%29.jpg

EVERY SEASON HAS ITS EARLY HALLMARKS, and foretellings, and harbingers, but we seem to make verbal note of the coming of autumn more than any other time of year. It's just around August when people begin to talk of the change in sunlight, and the new softness found in the afternoon sunbeams, and how the very air just feels "different" (whether that's cooler or crisper is up to the air-feeler in question). And fall, when it officially arrives, does deliver a delightful line-up of outings that appeal to those who notice the changes in the air and the light, the sort of day trips that speak to our collective yearning to slow down and savor the autumnal pleasures of this over-too-soon stretch of the year. In Sonoma County, there are plenty of ways to get your autumn longings met, but one of the sweetness, and most sheep-pettable, and most honey-tryable, is the...

WEEKEND ALONG THE FARM TRAILS... event. It's scheduled for the very middle of October 2017 — that's Saturday, Oct. 14 and Sunday, Oct. 15 — and a host of activities and demonstrations will reflect the bounty of fall. There shall be pumpkin patches to explore, and honey bees to observe, and baby beasties to pet and coo over, and cows to milk, and hay rides to enjoy, and eats to sample. True, many of these things happen all year long, but there's something so nostalgic and nice about savoring them in October. A beautiful bonus? A lot of the to-dos along the trails are free of charge, though, of course, keep some cash for those that do have a fee. And, just a thought: You may want to head home with a jar of local honey, or buy lunch, on your soft-of-sunlight, sheep-wool-wonderful field trip. Need more, like an interactive map? This is where your autumn adventure begins.

Photo Credit: Samantha Harmon]]>
<![CDATA[Kids Free San Diego: October Blast]]> Thu, 24 Aug 2017 21:41:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/KidsPoolFunCourtesyHiltonSanDiegoBayfront.jpg

A SOLID DEAL... can oftentimes seem a tad short-lived, or at least like a one-and-done sort of thing. You saved cash on a cool event or attraction or hotel, but now? That particular chance at saving is over and won't ever come back around again. But there is a huge, blinking, lovely asterisk to this concern, and it involves America's Finest City, a place that embraces autumn with warm days, sweater-perfect nights, and some real discount-y pleasures when October first makes its annual debut. We speak of Kids Free San Diego, a huge-of-scale promotion that lasts for a full 12th of the calendar year. That chunk o' time falls during the tenth month, from the first day of October to the last, and families calling upon the city in order to take in the celebrated zoo or beaches or another attraction will find a plethora of real ways to shave dollars (many of 'em) off of their trip's budget. The only difficult step? The first one, as in deciding how to decide. Where will you stay? What will you see? For it seems like all of the gotta-go-theres are on the money-saving roster. 

KIDS FREE SAN DIEGO... returns on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, so the moment to round up the family members for a den meeting is basically right now, this instant, pronto. You'll want to pitch them the deals on "...more than 100 San Diego hotels, restaurants, attractions, museums, and transportation companies..." and then see what'll fit your group's particular wants in this realm. The deal at San Diego Zoo? Check it out: "Kids ages 11 and under" will be "...admitted free," and if you're wondering if this applies to San Diego Zoo Safari Park, another star in the zoo family, wonder no longer: It totally does. The Kona Kai Resort & Spa will bestow a gratis gift upon children staying at the hotel, and kids can enjoy a free meal at Vessel Restaurant (asterisk: with the purchase of a grown-up meal). And over at San Diego Sailing Tours? Your youngs'un shall take to the Pacific for free, a discount made possible when an adult reserves an admission at the regular price. Want to know more about Kids Free San Diego before the all-important family vacation meeting? Get all your info before pitching possible October dates. 

Photo Credit: Hilton San Diego Bayfront]]>
<![CDATA[Harvest Wine Celebration: Livermore Lark]]> Thu, 31 Aug 2017 15:36:15 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/harvestlivermoregrapes1.jpg

UPDATE: Due to an excessive heat warning, the 2017 event has been canceled. Tasting rooms "will remain open over Labor Day Weekend."


A PROPER SEPTEMBER HELLO: If you're an oenophile, and consider yourself to be something of a scholar when it comes to what's behind the label, and on the label, and the names on the label, and how all of that information leads to that first special tangy/dry/sparkling sip, then you know September deserves its accolades. After all, it is the month when harvest-y doings are at their most bustling at wineries around the Golden State, making the last stretch of summer, and first stretch of autumn, ripe for a wine-wonderful festivity. But how to properly hold the stem and raise the glass to the start of September? By finding a party that kicks off the ninth month in chardonnay-sweet, cabernet-cool style. Livermore Valley does just that, and has for many years, making it a Labor Day Weekend must-visit for those who love quality libations that begin on the vine. And the 36th annual...

HARVEST WINE CELEBRATION... is ready for its 2017 hello, which will take place on Sunday, Sept. 3. It's a two-day to-do, stretching into Monday, Sept. 4, though note that Saturday is not on the schedule. What is, though? A new location for the event, at Las Positas College. That's where over 40 area wineries will set up sippable shop on Sunday in the pretty space, an alfresco spot that includes "...(v)iews of vineyards and windmills." Food trucks, outdoorsy, on-the-lawn games, and live tunes shall add atmosphere and edibles to the scene. And on Monday? That's when you, your pals, and your awesome designated driver will want to head out to over 30 wineries around the valley. The participating wineries will honor your Sunday wristband in their tasting rooms, so if you found a new label you loved on Sunday be sure to pay them a visit on Monday and check out their digs. And, of course, another wine you might become starry-eyed over.

Photo Credit: Harvest Wine Weekend]]>
<![CDATA[Nevada City Film Festival: September Cinematic]]> Sun, 27 Aug 2017 15:27:45 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/NCFF2016_2nevadafilm.jpg

IN THE WORLD OF A MOVIE? Everything seemingly happens at once, or, at the very least, within a fairly tight window of time. That isn't always the case when it comes to life on this side of the silver screen, however, and it isn't always the case when it comes to a multi-day film festival. Very often the film festival is the sole happening in the area, the centerpiece of a town's week, and while that is beyond a-ok — people want to watch a lot of movies — finding stuff to do beyond the cinema can be a mite tricky. This, however, is not the case in always-interesting, march-to-its-own-beat Nevada City. The Sierra Foothills destination has an excellent movie party in the annual Nevada City Film Festival, a late-summer staple on the local cultural calendar, but several happenings are occurring at the same time as the festival, either nearby or fairly nearby. Consider that during the festival's upcoming 2017 run, which is scheduled for...

FRIDAY, SEPT. 8 THROUGH FRIDAY, SEPT. 15, the 51st Constitution Parade will march (this is the procession with the Marching Presidents), the Gold Country Duck Race will float at Duck Creek, and there's some living history, with a look-back at the Revolutionary War, in Pioneer Park, and live big band music downtown. That's in addition to the packed slate of cinematic goodies, which include "A Trip to the Moon" (yep, the early-early Georges Méliès cosmic gem) and the documentary "Bill Nye: Science Guy." The science-loving superstar will also be in town for the screening, too, oh yes he will. As for where to stay? Check it out: There's a package on with the Inn Town Campground, which gives campers a pair of festival passes, at a big savings, to the 17th annual outing of the reel deal. The package dates? Sept. 7 through 16, so call the campground and set up your cinema-loving stay.

Photo Credit: Nevada City Film Festival/Kial James]]>
<![CDATA[Tahoe Autumn Food Festival: Resort Deal]]> Wed, 23 Aug 2017 12:46:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/OneVill01.jpg

STAY CLOSE TO A CUISINE EVENT? It makes beautiful sense. You may be sipping wine, and a short stroll back to your resort room is a sensible follow-up to the activity. You may also want to arrive early at the to-do, the better to be the first to try all of the many bites and samples and flavors, and bed-down spot in the vicinity will give you that full-on, flavor-seeking advantage. And flavors flower heartily at the Lake Tahoe Autumn and Wine Food Festival, an annual late-summer lark that fills out three busy, biteful, multi-happening days. Those days in 2017 are Friday, Sept. 8 through Sunday, Sept. 10, and if you're hoping to attend, keep in mind that The Village at Northstar has an appetizing deal on for foodies seeking a stay-over spot in the festival's immediate area. Well, yes, the festival does stretch its legs a bit, with outings and hikes and such, but the Gourmet Marketplace Vendor Fair, and other gourmand-nice goings-on, happen right in the resort's neck o' the woods.

THE PACKAGE... involves 20% for those hotel guests attending the foodie festival. You'll need to stay two nights or more to secure that special, so ponder that before reserving. Also ponder this: While fall won't yet achieve its full power by that weekend, foliage-wise, spending a few days in the alpine-awesome location will give you a glorious sneak peek of the leafy loveliness to come. Could some early foliage sightings, some primo wine tastings, a hike, a vendor stroll-by, and lots of exquisite eats be the bridge to autumn you're searching for? Then stay nearby the action, at The Village at Northstar.

Photo Credit: Vance Fox Photography]]>
<![CDATA[Avila Valley Barn: Autumn Outing in SLO]]> Thu, 24 Aug 2017 21:43:33 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/avilavalleybarn1.jpg

AUTUMN-CLASSIC PURSUITS... can run the sun-dappled, cider-scented gamut, from the haunted houses of Halloween to apple-picking days to afternoons spent baking pumpkin-flavored treats to road trips that soak up that fall feeling. If a September or October road trip is your glorious, crisp-aired go-to for stirring up all the sensations of the season, and you're considering toodling along the Highway 1 Discovery Route, consider this: Avila Valley Barn, near San Luis Obispo, should absolutely be one of your pull-over stops. That is, of course, if you like...

TRACTOR RIDES, and feeding sweet farm animals (alpacas, sheep, goats, pigs, and many more), and purchasing a bag or three of produce. The corn roaster may be going — it's a seasonal thing — but finding a refreshing beverage is going to be a snap. Pumpkin patchery, also a grand 'n gourdly tradition, is part of the Avila Valley Barn fall fabric, as are hay rides. As for the picturesque setting? The store has its roots in the 1980s, 1985 to be exact, when it was a "single table and umbrella placed along Avila Beach Drive to beckon those passing by..." It grew, and it kept on beckoning passersby with its Sweet Shoppe and jams and cobblers and all of the tasty goodies we long for when summer ends. (And, let's be honest, all year long, too.)

GET YOUR APPLE CIDER ON... at a Central Coast classic, a produce-bountiful location that has oodles of nostalgia to go around (and alpaca cuteness, and plump apples, and hay rides, and more). Where to find it? Just a short drive south of sweet SLO.

Photo Credit: Avila Valley Barn]]>
<![CDATA[Mole & Mariachi Festival: Santa Cruz Celebration]]> Tue, 22 Aug 2017 12:17:56 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/septemberDSC_0519.jpg

HOW DO YOU DECIDE... what foods to top with mole, be it full of chile, or on the sweet side, or a delightful combination of the two? Well, that's a bit of a trick question, because there really is no decision where mole is concerned: It's going to easily top every edible you're hankering for, and it will instantly enhance that edible with its rich, velvety, mole-mazing flavor and texture. You could be whipping up a platter of chilaquiles, or an enchilada, or nachos, or anything that involves cheese and tortillas, and mole is going to be the surprise, and sublime, guest star of the dish. So to pause and celebrate the beautiful, rich sauce, a Mexican tradition that always betters the morning meal as well as those later-in-the-day culinary classics, is a wonderful thing, indeed. And there so happens to be a celebration in Santa Cruz each September, a fundraiser for Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park, and it is called the...

MOLE & MARIACHI FESTIVAL: Ah yes, in addition to the star sauce, gorgeous tunes and dances will serve as performance-perfect centerpieces of the day, which is the 5th annual outing of this fest. That day is Saturday, Sept. 9, the place is Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park, the nonprofit Friends of Santa Cruz State Historic Park is organizing, and you? You're there to try the nine, yes, nine (!) different mole sauces that will be a part of the good-to-the-tummy competition. You can also enjoy live tunes from Mariachi Gilroy, Mariachi Alma de Mexico, and a host of other artists (look for an appearance by mojigangas, the large puppets that love to dance). Tasting tickets are available for purchase, and the admission you'll pay to get in? Totally free.

GOOD TIP: Organizers are asking attendees to show with refillable water bottles, as the event is both solar-powered and committed to zero waste. Do you adore mariachi tunes, mole on everything, and helping a storied state park? Sept. 9 is your date, Santa Cruz is the spot, and, yes, chilaquiles always rock with an extra helping of mole. 

Photo Credit: Mole & Mariachi Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Free: Ventura Art & Street Painting Festival]]> Mon, 28 Aug 2017 15:28:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ventura1IMG_2759.jpg

YOUR SUMMER MUST-BUY ITEMS LIST? It was probably on the lengthy side. Back in May, or even June, you might have picked up some sunblock at the store, or a beach towel, or a pool inflatable, or some bubbles made for blowing, and maybe some giant hats, too. And, if you have kids around, and we're including big kids, you might have thrown a pack of sidewalk chalk into the cart, the kind of large, brightly hued chalk perfect for pool decks and concrete driveways. For the urge to fill a large canvas, even if it is underfoot, is a real one, and the warmer days of summer mean we're outside more, looking for larks and capers and fun ways to while away a balmy day. Consider, too, that many of California's major street painting festivals also cluster around the summertime, with Santa Barbara, Pasadena, and San Rafael all serving as spectacular spots where annual drawings-on-the-ground events may be found. But summer isn't over yet, and Ventura is up next, with the...

VENTURA ART & STREET PAINTING FESTIVAL... filling out the penultimate weekend of the summer of 2017. The dates are Saturday, Sept. 9 and Sunday, Sept. 10, and 40-plus artists will be out and on the pavement around Ventura Harbor Village, with various tools of the trade in hand. Expect whimsical renderings of favorite characters — Willy Wonka made a showing in a festival gone by — and scenes of nature, too. And expect to see several acclaimed artists fashioning the pictures, stroke by chalk stroke, including accolade-garnering participants like Tracy Lee Stum and Rod Tryon, of Ventura and Santa Barbara, respectively. What will the create in 2017? The sky, or rather the ground, is the limit.

TROMPE L'OEIL... is often a gasp-inducing go-to for street painting artists, and the artworks that seem to be three-dimensional consistently summon a stream of admirers. (No, you can't step into the painting, though it looks as though you could.) Admission to the festival is free, though kids can get their own chalk and sidewalk square to work with for ten bucks. FOOD Share of Ventura County and Kids Arts Inc. are the weekend's beneficiaries.

Photo Credit: Ventura Art and Street Painting Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Sausalito Art Festival: 260+ Artists]]> Mon, 21 Aug 2017 15:32:55 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/SausalitoArt_aHart_16456_0024.jpg

FINDING THAT PERFECT PAINTING... for the den? Or arriving at an art festival with the hope that surprise is in store, and that you might come across just the quirky creation you didn't know ahead of time would be there? There are many excellent ways to approach a large-of-scale, plentiful-of-artist art festival, and each has its most admirable merits. Even arriving at the scene with nothing much in mind except the enjoyment of beauty is kind of capital, too. But however you like to work your way into a happily sprawling, multi-booth'd bash, best line-up your game plan now, for one of the titans of the art festival calendar is coming up over Labor Day Weekend. That's a major hint, if you know your paintings-and-more parties, for sure. And, for sure, it is the...

SAUSALITO ART FESTIVAL... we're talking about here, a happening so venerable and esteemed that it boasts a bevy of big numbers. The number of years it can claim as of 2017? It is heading into its 65th anniversary. The number of artists expected to show? Over 260 will be there with their sculptures and textiles and photographs and paintings in tow. And how many attendees will show for the Saturday, Sept. 2 through Monday, Sept. 4 party? If you guessed "around 30,000," you're absolutely in the right neck o' the woods. Live bands are also a part of the summer-sender-offer, with Tainted Love (80s covers) and The Purple Ones (a Prince tribute act) taking the stage along with way, along with many other musicians. Brews, wines, and delicious eats, too, are folded into the festival, so count on cuisine-ing it up while you're there.

AS FOR WHERE TO GO? You know the place: the waterfront. It's a sublime Sausalito festivity, a true September starter, and even if you're not seeking a new painting for the den, or a delightful surprise, just showing to soak it all in is an ideal way into this long-running, arts-loving lark.

Photo Credit: Amy Hart]]>
<![CDATA[Monterey Tides: Mermaid Month]]> Mon, 21 Aug 2017 22:10:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Monterey+Tides_Exterior_Resort+Deck.jpg

CELEBRATING THE MAIN MERMAID IN YOUR LIFE? There are many ways to plan that particular, and particularly charming, party. You'll probably want to travel very far out on to the ocean, to begin with, and then swim deep beneath the waves, to where the mermaids congregate, and you'll want to show up with a whole host of mermaid-merry decorations (shells, seaweed, sand) and mermaid-ready tunes (whale song, the percussion of two coconuts clicking, dolphin clicks). If that all sounds a bit time-intensive, and you think you can probably make it to the edge of the ocean, well, there is still a route to honoring those mermaids among us. Monterey Tides, a Joie de Vivre hotel, will be spotlighting the superstars of the waves all September long, during...

MERMAID MONTH... at the Pacific-adjacent destination. You won't need to wriggle into your own mermaid suit to join in; rather, you'll simply need to book the package, which includes a caboodle of quintessential mermaidian goods. These important accessories include "...a mermaid hair brush, a jar of mermaid tears, the popular mermaid tail blanket, and a themed coloring book and crayons for kids." Before you've snuggled into that blanket, before you begin brushing your water-flowing locks, you'll want to sip a welcome cocktail that's also themed to the mermaid magic of the month. The rate for the Mermaid Month package? It starts at $269. While we'd never sway you from boating out onto the sea, and then venturing to the ocean floor with a mermaid mixtape and mermaid decorations and chip 'n dip in hand, flicking your tail and finding your way to Monterey Tides sounds like just the whimsical ticket, a lovely route to diving into the mysterious heart of Mermaid Month.

Photo Credit: Monterey Tides]]>
<![CDATA[Pumpkin Menu at Half Moon Bay Brewing Company]]> Sat, 19 Aug 2017 15:54:22 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/pumpkin-spice1.jpg

WHEN THE PUMPKINS ROLL INTO TOWN, right around Half Moon Bay, which happens to be the Pumpkiniest Place on Earth, seeing as it rocks the handle "World Pumpkin Capital," you can bet they'll land just about everywhere, proverbially. Absolutely, you're going to see plenty of pumpkins at the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival, which will unfurl along Main Street on Saturday, Oct. 14 and Sunday, Oct. 15. You'll spy other signs of stem-topped sweetness in the area, and stem-topped size-ability, too, when The Safeway World Championship Weigh-off gathers together some truly giganto gourds a few days ahead of the festival. And in the local eateries? It isn't all that strange to see some squash action when it comes to whats on the plates and in the glasses. Consider that Half Moon Bay Brewing Company regularly gets into the gourdly swing o' things when the first full month of autumn arrives, with an all-October-long...

PUMPKIN MENU: Not many brewhouses around the nation give way, over a number of weeks, to a seedy, pulpy, carveable fruit, but this opened-in-2000 favorite does. Prepare to dig into Chef Fred Godinez's pumpkin-tastic specialties like butternut squash soup or a Brussels sprouts salad topped with pumpkin vinaigrette during your October 2017 visit. Have a sweeter tooth? There's pumpkin ice cream. Have a foamier tooth? There is the brewery's Pumpkin Harvest Ale, a "...full-bodied Amber Ale..." that's "...made with locally grown Sugar Pie pumpkins that are roasted with a secret blend of spices added to the brew kettle, resulting in a subtle pumpkin pie spice flavor balanced by biscuity maltiness." Fall is on the wind, foamy fall adult beverages are, too, and, in a town right by the ocean, pumpkins will soon rule, both in competitions and on the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company's seasonal menu, too.

Photo Credit: Emmanuele Contini/NurPhoto via Getty Images]]>