<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Worth the Trip]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcbayarea.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com en-us Sat, 01 Aug 2015 19:39:39 -0700 Sat, 01 Aug 2015 19:39:39 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Christmas in August: Winchester Holiday Tickets]]> Sat, 01 Aug 2015 13:47:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/winchesterchristmas192893239.jpg

WHEN AUGUST ARRIVES... things start to shift, just a bit, from summer to autumn. It happens in the way the sunlight glimmers a bit more softly in the early morning and it happens when school supplies pop up on store shelves. Candy corns and costumes will soon replace the pencils and erasers, possibly even before Labor Day Weekend arrives. Many bemoan the fact that the holidays, which now include Halloween, arrive on the early side, at least in terms of merchandise, and there is a point to that: Every season should have its chance to breathe. But there's something to be said for looking ahead to when tickets to a holiday-related event go on sale, as tickets for once-a-year happenings have a rather remarkable way of going, going, going way ahead of time, in the tickets department. And while many a Halloweenie is looking to the Winchester Mystery House for those October nighttime flashlight tours, it is worth a merry mention that the tenth month of the year isn't the landmark's only time to shine. It also throws a yuletide run of evenings, complete with Christmas trees decorated to the starry hilt and music that befits the occasion. It may not surprise you that, in August, tickets are available for the December doings, which spin into the San Jose mansion, "Nutcracker"-style, on...

FRIDAY, DEC. 11: Sarah Winchester's rambling house will open for "special holiday evening tours" as well as a look back at the storied life of the mansion's mistress. Over 100,000 twinkling lights shall be strung about, which lend quite the different mood from shadowy, spooky October. And will old-style garland gaily garland-up various spots, such as the ornate fireplaces and bannisters? Oh yes, there shall be garlands. If Halloween isn't your bag, and you're keen to see a less eerie side of what's often called one of California's most haunted abodes, make some room in the days leading up to Dec. 25 (and a few days past it, too).

BEYOND OCT. 31: If you only ever do Halloween at the Winchester Mystery House, the holiday events could offer you a different, less-gasp-y glimpse into a mansion that's often associated with October. Yes, the Winchester grandly stands, and shimmers, in December, too.

Photo Credit: Winchester Mystery House]]>
<![CDATA[Ghost Town Gathering: Friends of Bodie Day]]> Fri, 31 Jul 2015 23:42:16 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/bodiehouseagp.jpg

THE HISTORY-LOVING, SIGHT-SEEKING TRAVELER... really wants it both ways all the time. "Both ways all the time" is pretty much impossible, regardless of the situation at hand, and yet, it is true in this respect. The adventurer wants to trot into a storied town and have time alone, or mostly alone, with it. Quiet and wind and calm should rule, and the traveler can stand before the tale-packed buildings awash her in thoughts. And yet... And yet. Sigh. The traveler also wants to hear costumed actors present the characters of the wayback era, offerings that help fill out what the plaques upon the buildings and the brochures given out at the gate cannot (or at least cannot quite as colorfully). Thank our sweet boots that Bodie, "the best example of an old mining town in America," caters to both our wishes to be silent among the silent structures and, on occasion, beef up our knowledge of the famous ghost town. That beefing up will occur on Saturday, Aug. 8, which happens to be Friends of Bodie Day around the state park, a fun fundraiser that actually is both about beefing up and beef. For there's...

A BARBECUE ON... for attendees, and lots of living history presentations, too. "Period Costume Encouraged," recommends the flier, though you'll want to leave those pistol replicas at home. Bring your appetite for knowledge, for it shall be filled. How was the town settled? How many people lived there around 1870, when it was in full bloom and boom? And what made it a ghost town? All questions that are ably answered. Ponies, old-style buggies, old-style songs played live, and other era-specific accouterments will lend liveliness and meaning to the day. Non-members of the Bodie Foundation are welcome to join from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. while an evening program is open to members. Does that tempt you to join, history-loving, sight-seeking traveler? If you haven't yet? For Bodie is so rarely open to the public by night. And figure a foundation membership helps to keep a treasured place in the ideal state of "arrested decay" it gently occupies. Saddle up and clip-clop this for all the ye olde need-to-knows.

Photo Credit: Alysia Gray Painter]]>
<![CDATA[Vintage Style: Queen Mary Art Deco Fest]]> Sat, 01 Aug 2015 13:52:21 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/QueenMaryVintage.jpg

"THE THIN MAN" ERA, REVIVED: You can watch all the Myrna Loy movies you like, and Frank Capra, and Busby Berkeley, but the nut of truth here is this: You won't suddenly appear in some fabulous penthouse, while rocking a set of pin curls and satin mules, back in the New York of 1932. We're not saying to not soak in the cinematic goodness of the time -- Berkeley and Capra and Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable are to be appreciated and revisited, often -- but we are saying that if you want to be a part of that world, for a weekend, then action must be taken. And the clearest path there is the freeway to Long Beach, where the Queen Mary, itself a regal icon of the 1930s, has proudly sat since the late '60s. The ocean-liner, which is often compared, in looks, to the Titanic, but is actually a bit younger and a bit bigger than that fabled ship, is an Art Deco masterpiece. More than that, many of its curves and wood-warm inlays and long promenades remain fully intact. Thus the Art Deco Festival that saunters onto the ship each Labor Day Weekend very much fits the feel and mood of the environment. It is almost like a storied place and the spirit of an era are enjoying an assignation, at least for a few days.

THOSE DAYS... for 2015 are Sept. 4 through 7, and the dress-up doings are plentiful. For sure, architecture and design of the '20s, '30s, and 1940s take a central role, and there shall be tours and talks spotlighting both, both on the ship and beyond. A Gatsby Daze Garden Party will feature "chart toppers" of the 1920s courtesy of the Crazy Rhythm Hot Society Orchestra. A Sunday Tea Dance, a Grand Art Deco Ball, and other social confabs will give you ample opportunity to put your hair in pin curls or throw on the ol' tuxedo. As for the Friday night Deco Pajama Derby? That's become legend over the festival's 11-year run. People gussy up in shimmery '30s-style nightwear and "race" tiny horses while, we expect, being extra droll and sipping cold, cold drinks.

BOOKING A ROOM... and tickets and all that jazz? Best do that sooner than soon. The '30s were long ago, but Labor Day Weekend 2015 will be here as fast as it takes Myrna Loy to deliver a zinger in any screwball comedy of the era.

Photo Credit: Queen Mary]]>
<![CDATA['Relax & Revive' at Omni La Costa]]> Thu, 30 Jul 2015 22:25:59 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/omnipoolsummer12.jpg

IT'S A FUNNY STUDY... in opposites when one considers the many pressures we put on a getaway. We want a short vacation to send all of our workaday stress running, to make us feel calmer, to allow us to be free of our worries and woes, if only for a few days (though, ideally, for weeks to come, thanks to all of that chillaxing we did). But finding a go-to spot that will take as much planning and getting-to as a plan that's a lot less fun can often up the stress factor of the calm-seeking getaway. One solution? Pick a place nearby, one that has a package on specifically focused on unwinding, enjoying, and not doing much at all. The Omni La Costa has embraced this take-it-easy idea with its "Relax & Revive" package, a credit-cool deal that invites guests to pursue leisure around the expansive property and save money by doing so. 

THE $75 CREDIT... that comes part-and-parcel with the package can be used at the on-site spa -- all of those knots obtained while you sit inside your cubicle or on the drive home are going, going, going away -- or elsewhere around the historic hotel. Maybe for a mimosa near the pool? With a little sunblock and an overly large hat, that sounds very much like the antidote to all of the ways we work ourselves into a tizzy back home.

INCLUDED IN THE PACKAGE... is the Villa experience which includes "upgraded amenities and a personal concierge." Are you already organizing for the start of school? Even if you don't have tots returning to the classroom, does the start of August make you think that more serious, nose-to-the-grindstone times are ahead? Relaxing is not faraway. It is, in fact, in Carlsbad, which is, all told, pretty darn close. Go pool and bid commute/cubicle issues goodbye (for a night or two, anyway).

Photo Credit: Omni La Costa]]>
<![CDATA[Autumn on the Wind: Gravenstein Apple Fair]]> Thu, 30 Jul 2015 10:56:36 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/gravapple929292.jpg Enjoy cider, tunes, sweet apples, cute animals, and late-summer doings.

Photo Credit: Gravenstein Apple Fair]]>
<![CDATA[Mono County's Excited for Fall Travel]]> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 21:46:25 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/monocountysilverlakefb.jpg

AUTUMN ON THE WAY: Call it a sign of a possible El Niño, call it evidence of a quirky tree gone rogue, call it a beautiful and strange sight to see in summer, but a couple of liquidambars around Southern California are already going a bit red in the leaf department. This isn't necessarily a prediction that all trees will turn color ahead of schedule -- trees can be as individual as people in what they do -- but it is a reminder that fall isn't far-off. Look to the tourism people of Mono County and their general enthusiasm for foliage-seeking, an enthusiasm expressed via social media in July. Is July too early to start thinking about cooler temperatures and those bright gold cottonwood and aspen leaves seen around the Eastern Sierra? Probably not, since there as a surprise snowfall in the area on July 8 and 9, at the Tioga Pass. Getting autumn-excited is perfectly acceptable around the time kids start getting their school schedules and classroom assignments and fall fans start thinking that it might be nifty to see a mess of mountainside leaves in their full October glory. 

"ONLY TWO MONTHS AWAY!" The Mono County Tourism page recently trumpeted the fact that autumn aficionados can start dreaming of crisp days around June Lake or Silver Lake or Convict Lake or any of the little pockets up and around Bishop that get especially bold in the hue department come October. To help Golden Staters plan their trek into "one of America's Best Foliage Forests!" the Mono County crew has provided a link to the Fall Color Guide & Map, a pdf that also covers the trees and vistas of Inyo County. September and October annual events are included, too, so you can plan your Sierra-close jaunt to include doings like Ghosts of the Sagebrush Tour in Lee Vining and the Lone Pine Film Festival in Lone Pine. If you've had it with the heat and look forward to brisk mornings and aspens decked out in their golden coats, here's your guide, autumnists.

Photo Credit: Mono County Tourism]]>
<![CDATA[Picnicking Along the Wine Road]]> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 21:54:07 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/chickpicnic-horz1.jpg

BEYOND THE POSH DINNER: There likely isn't a wine lover around who truly believes that a chardonnay or shiraz can only be enjoyed when one is wearing a tuxedo or gown or while seated at a small table in a pricey restaurant among other glittering guests. That may have been wine's rep a half century ago, when foodie magazines were first on the rise, but those foodie magazines, and a large swath of their readers, have firmly changed their tunes. Wine is, in fact, just fine to be consumed alongside a hamburger, at the neighborhood barbecue, and sipping a pinot grigio while sitting on a picnic bench is a-ok, if that's what you'd like to do. Wineries have responded in kind to these positive changes over the last several years, which means many a tasting room is outfitted with picnic-packing possibilities. Those picnics might be purchased and later enjoyed along the winery-dotted road, and day-trippers often have the possibility of dining on a patio or loggia overlooking the on-site vineyard. Does this notion tempt? A glass of wine, at a picnic table, with a bit of pasta salad or a caprese sandwich or a mousse alongside? Then go snacking 'n sipping along the Wine Road in Sonoma County and stop at... 

DUTTON ESTATE WINERY: The Sebastopol property boasts "a rotating menu of picnic baskets, which are available for pre-order." But where to eat it? There's a garden made for meals, conversation, and general "we're-at-a-winery"-style enjoyment.

WILSON WINERY: Cured salmon with cream cheese just sounds like the perfecto accompaniment to a glass of something chilled, but there are other picnic picks to be had this Dry Creek Road staple. Does salumi with mustard savored under a live oak sound tempting? (Correct answer: yes.)

TWOMEY CELLARS: The "Chef's Boards" at this Healdsburg classic come stocked with meats, cheeses, and other tidbits that partner well with the winery's award-garnering vinos. If you know ahead of time that this is what you want for lunch, you can definitely pre-order, though there's a "first-come" option in the tasting room, too.

Happy picnicking, Sonoma-seeking adventurers.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Image Source]]>
<![CDATA[Clip-Clop Into History: Old Sac Gold Rush Days]]> Thu, 30 Jul 2015 22:26:27 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sactowngoldrushdays1.jpg

AS CLOSE AS TIME TRAVEL GETS: We're sorry to be the one to break it to you, but you'll likely never trot into some dusty, gaslamp-lit town, inside a carriage or atop a speckled pony, waving a pick or sack of gold while shouting that you've struck it rich. Now, we don't know what you do on the weekends, or your hobbies, so this could be entirely incorrect on our part, an assumption. But living like it is 1850 again, around Sacramento, complete with the clothes and the music and the general rootin' tootin' vibe, is not an experience that's open to most people, regardless of how fascinated you are by that period and regardless of how many leather chaps and scuffed-up, river-water-washed boots you own. All that said, Old Sacramento delivers some ye olde delights to Gold Rush mavens each year, over Labor Day Weekend. They can't exactly forgo electricity, nor the modern cars you'll see here and there, nor other modern amenities that have found their way, over the years, into the capital city's historic district. The charming quarter can do several things, though, to recreate the era when California boomed like a big booming thing with gold seekers aplenty. We're talking Gold Rush Days here, and the weekend-long party waves its hat and raises its pick from Friday, Sept. 4 through Monday, Sept. 7.

THAT'S FOUR DAYS... of 1800s-style high jinks, from "(e)laborate daily parades" to "engaging melodramas" to "(m)ining camp theatrics." Costumed characters will be out in force along the streets of the old city, talking about matters of the wayback day, so possibly the Pony Express and favorite panning techniques and staking claims. Homemade sarsaparilla, barbecue, and other eats that may not be 100% authentic but pay tasty tribute to the era will be for sale. And watermelon- and pie-eating contests will ensue, to round out the end of the summer season. The cost to attend? Well, it isn't a gold nugget or even a few gold flakes. It's free, free, free, as free as the breeze rippling down the nearby Sacramento River. Whether you wear a pile of petticoats or not is your choice. It's bound to be toasty over Labor Day Weekend in Sacramento, though some homemade sarsaparilla should provide a quick cooldown.

Photo Credit: Old Sacramento]]>
<![CDATA[On Sale: Sonoma Valley Crush]]> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 11:59:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sonomaheartof1.jpg

CRUSH ON THE RUSH: If you were to track the sort of words that start popping up online, and in various print publications, around the very end of July and start of August, what terms might you see peak during that period? "Pencils" and "backpacks" and "lunchboxes" most likely, and "tuition" and "university" and "dorm life," too. "Humidity" gets some play, and "El Niño," too, at least around the weather pages. As for travel sections? You're going to "autumn" and "foliage" start popping up as well as the word that very much accompanies both ideas, "crush," as in harvest and wine time and the busy doings of a vineyard come August and September. Wineries tend to be beyond bustling come the eighth and ninth months of the year, but they don't shut their doors to visitors, or not always, at least. Some vine-growers open the gates wide and even invite fans to join in the crush spirit, either by helping in the the wine-making process or at least enjoying the flavor and fun of what is essentially wine country's annual Big Time, capital B, capital T. The Heart of Sonoma Valley gets into the swing with its yearly CRUSH, which will be stomping- and sipping- and sightseeing-up the end of September throughout Northern Sonoma Valley. CRUSH doings will encompass...

THIRTEEN WINERIES: And each will bring its own special flavor and vibe to the three-day happening. Those three days are Friday, Sept. 25 through Sunday, Sept. 27, and grape sampling -- often taking place right in the vineyard -- and crush pad tours are on the to-do menu. "Guests will even taste a wine while it's fermenting!" vow organizers. You'll see "hands-on" a lot with this particular event, because the wineries aren't looking for people to simply come and try wine (though, trust, that's part of the party). Knowing how the wine gets from vine to glass is an essential part of the CRUSH experience. If you'll want to espouse more this holiday season about how the wine you're gifting was made, spend a day or two in late September learning, on the ground, in a lively and passionate way. Tickets here.

Photo Credit: Heart of Sonoma Valley]]>
<![CDATA[Kitschy Slides: Charles Phoenix's Sacramentoland]]> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 21:46:53 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/216*120/Sacramentolandcp.jpg

CAPITAL ROAD TRIP: If you ever ventured to Sacramento on a school outing or perhaps on a family road trip up on your way to Tahoe or Gold Country or points north -- or to Sacramento itself, which brims with history -- then you remember a few things. You remember going over Tower Bridge, in all of its hue-pretty yellow-o-sity, and you remember seeing the State Capitol Building, and you probably remember where you ate and what you ate, exactly, down to the texture of the French fries. What kid doesn't recall the food when the soft, hazy, happy memories of long-ago adventures hove into view? Your family might have stopped at Pancake Circus, with all of its clown decor (and, yes, pancakes) or for a Nutty Cone at Gunther's Ice Cream if it was later in the day. Or perhaps your road-trippin', food-minded brood did both within a couple of hours, the better to not miss a single iconic retro meal. Gunther's was founded in 1940, and is still in brisk business, and Pancake Circus is still there, too. So Charles Phoenix, the necktie-bright, retro-lovin' history entertainer, the man who has written about the neon look of Las Vegas and programmatic Los Angeles architecture and beyond, will swing by the Sactown to talk all things kitschy in the capital, from pancakes to sundaes to cocktails. Not just talk but show his...

FAMOUS SLIDES OF "SACRAMENTOLAND": Yes, there shall be color-bright slides depicting a bygone Sacramento, when the fins on the cars were high and so were the bouffants and pompadours. Mr. Phoenix will call upon the California Automobile Museum on Friday, Oct. 16 with his box of slides, pictures that will pay homage to Vic's Ice Cream and Fairytale Town and Gunther's and Pancake Circus and many more places (with many of them open and serving customers). Kitsch mavens will enjoy soaking in old snapshots while those who remember long ago road trips through Sacramento may pick out the diner where they drank their first milkshake on the way to that 1979 family reunion in Reno. Ready to board the time machine? Tickets are this way, Sactown supporters and mid-century mavens. And, yes, you're reading it correctly: There is an ice cream social to follow. Oh yeah.

Photo Credit: Charles Phoenix]]>
<![CDATA[Rustic Updates at Grant Grove Cabins]]> Sat, 01 Aug 2015 13:51:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/198*120/KC-Grant_Grove-Cabin_with_Bath_Exterior.jpg

THAT LATE JULY URGENCY: Summer is famed for its lazy-day-ness, for its no-rush tendencies, for afternoons spent on the lawn eating treats from the icebox. (Also, one must replace the words "refrigerator" and "freezer" with "icebox" from Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day Weekend; it's practically law.) But the last week of July takes a slight turn, goosing the lazy-day-ness into immediate action. Back-to-school advertisements start popping up as frequently as dandelions in springtime, and one is reminded that we're now on the waning side of the warm-weather-iest stretch of the year. How to savor the last few weeks of summer? The icebox treats and lawn-relaxing are essential, but a small jaunt, even an overnight or two, to a classic road trip destination is key. Our national parks around the Golden State do brimming business come July and August, but if you want to go deeper into the back country, away from some of the main hubs, consider the Grant Grove Cabins in Grant Grove Village. You're correct -- this is in King's Canyon, which means you'll have ample opportunity to commune with some of the most giganto trees on the planet. Another bonus? The sweet 'n rustic buildings, which are overseen by Delaware North, just received a makeover.

GOOD UPDATES: The refurbishment included "an array of updates and renovations" that include black iron headboards and that classic cabin-esque red-and-black plaid bedding. Rugs and lamps and rockers and other accent details are also fresh to the clutch of cabins. And while much is new, the look is not. The design team kept to the you're-in-the-woods, old-school getaway vibe of the cabins, so anything LED-y or super-shiny is not going to be part of the woodsy, under-the-sequoias scene. Summer is fleeting, but even if you can't make a booking, take heart: The Grant Grove stayovers push into early fall, when the back-to-school time that's promised in July has begun and things grow even more quiet around our national parks. Wherever you go for your final summer of '15 jaunt, if you've been longing for a road trip, tick tock; August is only days away.

Photo Credit: Grant Grove Cabins]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Barbara Tradition: Old Spanish Days]]> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 22:46:16 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/OldSpanishDaysDancers.jpg

THAT AUGUST AUGUST FESTIVITY: One can't really trot out the word "august" as in "venerable" and "long-standing" when it comes to a lot of events happening in the eighth month of the year. For August, the month, is about carefree days and frippery-filled ways, of swimming pools and bike rides and frozen treats that'll melt in under a minute. Its pleasures are passing, in short, and rarely of the stately and storied variety. After all, one can't call frozen treats "long-standing" or "venerable" as they tend to disappear in minutes. There are rather wonderful exceptions when both the term august and the month August intersect in a regal and been-around-for-decades way.

SANTA BARBARA'S OLD SPANISH DAYS... is a prime and pretty example of this, having served as a summer celebration in the American Riviera for over nine decades (rather a longer time than it takes to eat a melting ice cream cone or play in a pool). Might it be August's most august gathering? Well, we don't want to imply it isn't a little cut-loose, too. The animals and the foods and the sweet Saturday Children's Parade, which is nearly as old as Spanish Days itself (91 and 85 years respectively). So to be stately and celebratory is a feat, but the famous fiesta pulls this off quite handily, thank you very much. So trot your pony to Santa Barbara from...

AUG. 5 THROUGH 9... for a shower of events. If you want to picture all of the confetti released by a cascarone, when the egg shell is broken, that works: The shower of confetti is a fine way to picture the many to-dos colorfully dotting the schedule. A bevy of merch-bountiful mercados featuring different wares are among the visitor favorites, and the flamenco performed in the Sunken Gardens at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. A Fiesta Stock Horse Show & Rodeo, a bouquet of tours spotlighting local history, and all of the pomp you can imagine roll out over five full days. Is this the most august August happening in all of the Golden State? That might be subjective, but what's not is this fiesta's ability to meet the years, decade after decade, with a surfeit of merriness.

Photo Credit: Old Spanish Days]]>
<![CDATA[Tiki Oasis: Retro Vibes in San Diego]]> Sat, 25 Jul 2015 06:05:08 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/190*120/phenomenautstikioasis.jpg

THE RETRO NOW: To say that Southern California is still in touch with its '60s-suave, tiki bar-cool, steel guitar-lovin' past is like saying a mai tai has rum. Of course it does, and of course Los Angeles and San Diego remain nostalgia-fueled centers for all things to do with tropical drinks, colorful parasols, nifty bands with a timeless sound, and the sort of waybackery that other cities wished they possessed. Several famous tiki bars still do busy business in both cities and lounge acts with a distinctly space age look live on. You only need to venture to Tiki Oasis, the feisty four-day gathering of retro buffs and lovers of kitschy culture, to see that SoCal is a lei-laden land of all that is lovable about the big-in-the-'60s style aesthetic. The party is ready to roll in all of its cool dress, cool music, cool drinks glory over the middle weekend of August in San Diego. That's...

THURSDAY, AUG. 13 THROUGH SUNDAY, AUG. 16... and, as in years past, The Crowne Plaza Hotel will be a central hub of all the visually over-the-top, sensory-pleasing doings. Hula shows, fabulous vintage vehicle displays, and many bands are on the bill, as is an outdoor marketplace, an ideal spot to stock up on glassware for your home bar or the sort of amazing shirts that one wears when they want everyone within two blocks to see their eye-popping approach. You say you're mad for the Moog and all of the synth-y sounds it makes? There'll be an event for you. You say you want to learn how to play surf guitar -- only surf guitar from outer space? That's happening. You say you want to know more about rum, space rock, pin-up hair, the future as imagined by the past, and the place where sci-fi and spy-fi intersect? Yes to all of the above. They're happening. But you'll need to square away your rooms and such, and line up your own schedule, as this is, without argument, one of the biggest tiki-retro-space bashes around. You know those huge volcano drinks you sometimes see, with the big flame and straws for four people? This is even bigger. Think we're engaging in hyperbole? Au contraire.

Photo Credit: The Phenomenauts]]>
<![CDATA[The Sea Glass of Carpinteria]]> Fri, 24 Jul 2015 08:19:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/189*120/seaglasscarp1.jpg

HUMANKIND AND THE BIG WATER: Much has been said and written about how people interact with the ocean. We swim, we surf, we dip our toes into the foam, we paint it, we make movies about it, we build houses close to its edge, we venture onto it, and across it, by boat. But there's another meeting of humankind and the Big Water, and it is one that relies on a substance that originates on land, plus time, plus the forces of the ocean to come to its final, prized state. It is sea glass, the frost-fantastic result of shards of people-made glass meeting the sand and H20 of an ocean over years and years, sometimes decades, even. The result is the shard that was once pointy or jagged looses its rough edges and tumbles, tumbles, tumbles into a palmable, smooth-to-the-stroke "rock" of sorts. A beach-found prize like a shell, sea glass is collected and sought after, and a few places up and down the Golden State's lengthy coast pay homage to it via festivals and specialty shops. One such spot in Carpinteria, which loves upon the heavily tumbled, often colorful substance each year, and will again at the end of August 2015. The dates are Saturday, Aug. 29 and Sunday, Aug. 30, and the spot is old Austin's Hardware Store.

"SEA GLASS, MUSIC, FOOD, FUN"... are part of the party, so if you've never found others who share this particular passion, you're in luck. If, after the gathering, you're game to go out looking for a piece or two of the unusual substance for yourself, there are a number of fan sites online that direct interested parties to possible coves and sandy stretches. But one that stands tall among sea glass beaches is the one actually called Glass Beach in Mendocino County. There are some sections where you should admire the glass but not take -- make sure you know where -- but the Mendocino visitors people say taking "a few pieces" from another area is a-ok. Get up-to-speed on this smoothed-by-sand-and-time-and-water wonder, and find your ocean-close area to grow your love of one of the few holdable products created by both humans and the ocean, in concert.

Photo Credit: Carpinteria Sea Glass Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Tasty Marin-Sonoma Sojourn: The Cheese Trail]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 21:14:26 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/strauscheese1-horz.jpg

CULINARY ADVENTURE: When you point your vehicle in the direction of Tomales Bay, you understand that A) view-enjoying shall be had (and how) and B) food-savoring will be experienced and C) family stories and histories will likely come in to play, given West Marin's layered history of farms, fishing, and sustenance-makery. Doing all of this at a bay-close spread that's weathered a century and a half, quite handsomely, only ups the general vibe of "I'm on a flavorful field trip that is delivering on several positive fronts." For you've got one of California's nicest nooks of tucked-into-land ocean water, you've got the possibility of quality cheese enjoyment, and you've got Straus Home Ranch, an organic spread in Marshall, a spot right on Highway 1, on Tomales Bay, next to Cypress Grove (as if the general location pleasingness factor could not be further upped).

YOUR CHEESE TRAIL BASE: Helmed by siblings Michael, Miriam, and Vivien Straus, the farm, and what it represents, is a family birthright of sorts, or at least a rustic yet stately symbol of the bucolic pleasures of the area. The trio's mom co-founded the Marin Agricultural Land Trust and Vivien's work on the popular Cheese Trails app will be known to anyone who has ever goat-cheese'd and gouda'd their way around the county. If a field trip to nosh around a bit while staying at a ranch straight out of the 1800s -- with a few charming modcons, of course -- tempts, then make for the...

THE CHEESE TRAIL... which has, via Vivien, culinary and familial connection to the rentable ranch. You don't have to book the property for a weekend to head out onto the creamy byways of both Sonoma and Marin -- the ranch and The Cheese Trail are separate, save in spirit and family ties -- so if all you can muster is some muenster-tasting, and a few hours spent with schloss and brie, that's a-ok to do, too. You can find the open-to-the-public Cheese Trail participants here, and info on The Cheese Trail app created by Ms. Straus. As for the ranch? Pretty pictures this way. As for cheese-fragrant daydreams and vistas along the Tomales Bay? We'll accurately predict those to be inside your head and heart, but they can be, with a pinch of planning, made real.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/StockFood/Straus Home Ranch]]>
<![CDATA[Epiphany Hotel: A Fresh Twist on the Mini Bar]]> Sun, 26 Jul 2015 11:13:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/207*120/EPI_PremiumJrSuite-600x400212.jpg

THE HAPPY FLOP-DOWN: If you've ever stayed in a hotel, particular for a convention or business meeting or interview or social engagement that required your daylong attendance, you know all about the happy flop-down once you reach your room at the end of a long afternoon and evening. You're done talking, brainstorming, making chitchat; now is the time for the mini bar and now is the time to flop-down, with shoes off, to see what's on the telly (fingers crossed a movie you've only seen 19 times, and adore, is just ten minutes in). The mini bar is mentioned because it is an important component in the happy flop-down. You're likely beat, and needing a little pick-me-up, or even craving something sweet, and the idea of noshing upon it as you relax and watch a film feels right. But if you've spent the day at a conference, eating one too many boardroom pastries, you do often wish that your mini bar choices bore a healthier vibe. That's not to say that the energy-giving nuts found on some mini bars, nor the fruit bars, don't do that, but if you could pick and choose your good food choices for your hotel room, would you? You could, at The Epiphany in Palo Alto, if you sign up for the Joie de Vivre hotel's newly introduced Fresh Fridge.

THE FRESH FRIDGE... is pretty much the same as the mini bar concept, or at least it is nice food in your hotel room for you to enjoy. The modern update is that guests do the selecting, where their snacks are concerned, so everything in the Fresh Fridge is there at the room occupant's request. Choices include full biotic yogurt with blueberry crumble and goji berry and "seasonal housemade salads" with quality ingredients and add-ins like Tomatero Farm heirloom tomatoes and 9-grain tabbouleh. Look also for fresh fruit and veg straight from the Palo Alto Farmer's Market (meaning the goodies will be very much in season and highly local). You'll need to pay a flat fee to get going on this -- ninety five bucks, which is all-inclusive -- and you'll need to let The Epiphany know at least five days in advance. But if you're kicking around Palo Alto for work, and you're looking forward to your nightly happy flop-down, without the typical foods you've consumed in the past, the Fresh Fridge could be your energy-restorative answer. Whether your favorite movie will be playing on the TV, as you walk in from your last meeting, is something we'll have to put down to luck.

Photo Credit: Epiphany Hotel]]>
<![CDATA[Stargaze Amaze: Eye Planets Above Glacier Point]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 14:04:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/226*120/Header-Stargazing-Tourglacier.jpg

DARK SKY FESTIVALS... at some of California's national parks are on the horizon, and fans of enjoying nature and an evening free of electric light are turning their attentions to Lassen Volcanic National Park and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, which will host a pair of Dark Sky Festivals in August and September, respectively. But looking up into the giant twinkle-filled plane above us -- call it "velvety" if you wish or the always poetic "bowl full of stars" -- while sitting in a national park isn't something that needs to wait for a Dark Sky Festival, as lovely and important as those are. You can appreciate the low-lit, planets-aglow atmosphere of the concave above us any time, from any national park, if cloud cover is on your side. Yosemite National Park makes it a bit easier, too, to find the picture-perfect location in which to sit down and gaze up: Glacier Point. For sure, you could step out of your tent or lodge in Yosemite Valley and see plenty, or you could hop aboard a bus near Yosemite Lodge at the Falls and wend up out of the valley to one of its most photographed vantage points. Stargazing at Glacier Point doesn't happen every night, so don't go searching for the bus, but the summertime favorite happens regularly enough that you can make it happen for yourself.

BOOK AHEAD: "Advanced registration is required," so purchase your ticket -- forty one bucks, for an adult -- for the four-hour program well ahead of time. The four-hour event, which includes the ride up, down, and the time at Glacier Point, kicks off at 7 p.m., so you'll get that rich darkness one loves from the sky, when one is looking for Venus or Jupiter or the Big Dipper. Will there be "astronomy-related stories"? Oh yeah there will be, totally. Will you have a hard time not staring at Half Dome, which vies with the sky for sheer supernatural (but ultimately completely natural) beauty? That's going to be the battle within your heart: Admire the constellations or the hunk of granite out across the open air, the one that's been anchoring Yosemite Valley over millions of nights. Is honoring the night, after a busy, bustling, recreation-heavy national park day an excellent and educational wind-down? It is, but we can't promise that Half Dome and the moon and Venus seen from glorious Glacier Point will act like a warm cup of milk to your spirits. You might find your heart is even the slightest bit poundy.

Photo Credit: Yosemite National Park]]>
<![CDATA[San Jose Ren Faire Gets Spritely]]> Tue, 21 Jul 2015 14:11:49 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/renfairesj211.jpg

JOUSTS, JESTS, AND ROYALTY: The medieval world is still present in our modern world, from early cathedrals and castle sites to treasured texts ensconced in lofty museums. (Note: Treasured texts are always ensconced, never just shelved nor displayed.) But finding the medieval world as populated by human beings, with all of their ribaldry and merrymaking and talents and happy nonsense, is a more challenging pursuit. One has to locate a large 'n lively Renaissance festival to truly dig into the time, and while fests come with a hefty dose of fantasy, and contemporary interpretation, there are many true-blue doings that a faire gets correct about that long (long long) ago era. If you can't do a cathedral or castle in the coming weeks, but you can get to San Jose, you, too, can jump into the mirthful madness. Just don't trip on your hoop skirt as you take the plunge and make sure your armor is well-secured (so you don't lose a piece). San Jose is up next on the queenly, quaint, turkey leg-laden circuit, when the San Jose Renaissance Faire blithely skips, as if under a maypole, into Discovery Meadow. The dates are...

SATURDAY, AUG. 1 AND SUNDAY, AUG. 2... and, yes, that's 2015, not 1315. There shall be parades and there shall be pageants and if you're worried you won't be able to behold a joust, worry no longer. Archery, "expertly staged battles," troupes performing amusements and songs and such, and other things to watch/listen to/laugh with crowd the busy calendar. You don't need to know your Shakespeare or the themes of the day, but if you keep an ear out for quips or double entendre, you're in good stead.

ALSO IN GOOD STEAD? The many vendors on the grounds, selling every ware, from clothing to leather goods to jewelry to hats. Visitors to the faire are absolutely invited to dress the ye-olde part, but if you forget your breeches or hats, a seller may be able to outfit you, as quickly as a dragon alights upon a pointy mountain peak. (That's pretty darn quick, as any mythical creature maven can tell you.)

Photo Credit: San Jose Ren Faire]]>
<![CDATA[Elegant Sips, Elevated: Mammoth Wine Weekend]]> Mon, 20 Jul 2015 22:33:27 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/mammothwineweekend9023823.jpg

SIPS BY THE SLOPES: The time is coming, quite soon, when weekenders will don goggles and gloves and moisture-deterring pants and they'll make for places like Mammoth to enjoy heavy flakes and temperatures dipping below freezing. That day, though, is still a few months off, and merrymakers up the mountain want to soak in summertime for all of its pleasurable, chillax-focused, let's-be-outdoors-in-short-sleeves worth. The Mammoth Wine Weekend is one way to get your warm-weather enjoyment out of the higher elevation destination, and just before fall starts to whisper through the various cottonwoods and oaks and alpines of the region. It spreads out over three days near the middle of August -- that's Friday, Aug. 14 through Sunday, Aug. 16 -- and the taste-nice to-dos are as nice as the area's famous vistas.

WINE WALK... is one of the centerpieces, as it probably should be: The Village-based sip-and-stroll will see over 20 wineries serving up over twice that number in vintages. There are Winemaker Dinners and a wine-themed Campo Mammoth brunch, too, for those who like pines and pinots. Parallax Restaurant will take a "Tour of California with Mark Estee" and the Lakefront Restaurant Wine Dinner welcomes the D'Alfonso-Curran Winery. Tickets are a la carte, so you can dip into whatever you want to specifically do and then save time for...

UP THE MOUNTAIN SUMMER RECREATION: Biking and fishing and hiking are still very much on, and pursuing those alfresco fun times in August has a special sweetness. There's a light crispness to the mornings, and you know autumn is around the bend. So a glass of wine or two in the afternoon, followed by casting a line the following day, feels like a fine way to start waltzing summer on the way out.

Photo Credit: Mammoth Wine Weekend]]>
<![CDATA[Original Instruments Reign: Valley of the Moon Music Fest]]> Mon, 20 Jul 2015 12:23:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/valleyofthemoon2928923.jpg

IF TIME-TRAVELING BACK... to 1822 to hear a piece by Beethoven played on the instruments it was written for is not in the works for you this summer -- perhaps you didn't plan ahead or haven't found the crucial parts required to construct an era-hopping device -- there are ways to find that winsome experience. Finding some classical musicians familiar with the works of the great composers is key, and having them play those pieces on the fortepiano or a violin is a pleasure to behold in person. But being there in person doesn't require you making for 1822 or Salzburg or Vienna or the places and times the masters were penning the famous chamber music pieces we know today; you only need to get to Sonoma on the last weekend of July or the first weekend of August. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival, the "first US festival entirely devoted to classical and romantic music on original instruments," is in full, festive swing at the Hanna Boys Center in Sonoma.

VIVA LA DIFFERENCE: "Many people don't realize that composers such as Beethoven, Mozart, and Schubert can sound very different when played on the instruments from their own period," said the festival's co-founder Eric Zivian. "There is a warmth and depth of sound that can be truly breathtaking." Warm/deep sound is a topic beloved by music fans, who can happily parse at length the various electronic ways of experiencing a song (vinyl vs. digital being the hot topic). But rarer does the debate center around modern-made instruments and those with an actual tie to the time the piece in question was written.

SCHUBERT, MOZART, BEETHOVEN... are some of the names in the proverbial marquee lights for this new fest, and the roster of today's musicians grabbing their bows and violins is impressive. Call it a fresh and yet ye olde way to soak in the sounds of another century. And to be in Sonoma on a fine summer's day, filled with music and majesty and time-travel-y thoughts? Add that to the pure pleasure column.

Photo Credit: Valley of the Moon Music Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Early Summer Mornings Up San Jacinto]]> Sun, 19 Jul 2015 09:01:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/pstramway1234.jpg

RISE, SHINE, AND CHANGE ELEVATION: The suggestion that we "rise and shine" is often depicted by an illustration of a cheery-faced person stretching happily in bed. Perhaps their hair is a bit messy, perhaps there's a slice of toast or glass of orange juice on the nightstand, perhaps a pretty songbird is at the window. But rarely does the concept of "rise and shine" get paired with a celebrated trip up the side of a mountain in a small, window-laden, revolving car. Still, though, does this not seem like an adventure that might help the whole rising and shining thing far more than a slice of toast or glass of orange juice? An early morning ascension up the steep and dramatic side of a tall peak? Sorry, toast, orange juice, and songbird at the window -- a tram ride in the wee smalls of the A.M. might do a bit more to shake off the sleepy cobwebs. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway agrees that a fresh-part-of-the-day journey from the desert floor into the San Jacinto wilderness is a stupendous way to greet a summer Friday. So every Friday, through the Friday before Labor Day Weekend (that's Sept. 4), the famous tram'll set off up Jacinto at 8 o'clock in the morning, along about the time other people are thinking about getting a bowl of cereal and checking their email through bleary eyes.

YES, ABSOLUTELY, DEFINITELY... you should be wide awake when you drive to the base-of-the-mountain attraction, but will you get an extra jolt of adrenaline on the ride? It's hard not to, considering how many feet you rise. Valley Station, where you start, is at 2,643 feet, and Mountain Station, where you stop, is 8,516 feet. No cup of coffee, and we don't care how strong it is, will take you, at least energy-wise, up some 6,000 feet in the air. The tramway normally opens at 10 a.m., save weekends in the summer (which start earlier, too), so consider your 8 o'clock Friday morning ride a real jump on the day's summer desert heat. It's cooler up the mountain, that's for sure. And if you need another coffee or juice, you can find it when you disembark; there are snack bars on both ends of the tram's track.

Photo Credit: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway]]>
<![CDATA[Kinetic Whimsy Rules Willits]]> Sun, 26 Jul 2015 11:11:41 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Malicaywillitskinetic.jpg

KINETIC CORNER OF THE STATE: The town or county or region you grew up in was probably known for something interesting. Maybe the making of embroidered handkerchiefs or the baking of rich butterhorns or an annual storytelling festival that involved campfires and harmonicas and ghost tales. A certain stretch of pretty in Northern California, pretty close to the 101 but not strictly, has lots of good things to be known for -- redwoods being some of the biggest -- but kinetic prowess is way, way up there. Look to the annual Kinetic Grand Championships over Memorial Day Weekend each year, which sees a lot of offbeat vehicles take to the roads, and waters, around Arcata and Ferndale and bucolic points around Humboldt County. And look to gatherings like Kinetic Carnivale and Grand Ball, which traipses into Willits on Saturday, Aug. 22 and Sunday, Aug. 23, all in support of the Mendocino County Museum.

THE KINETIC CARNIVALE... absolutely involves machines and wonders of a kinetic, DIY, whimsy-weird nature. There shall be the human-powered Kinetic Handcar Races, and the Gypsy Time Travelers will arrive with Florence the Freightliner, "a fully realized land yacht" (you probably never knew you longed for a fully realized land yacht, but once you behold this sublime creation, you'll set to plotting). The troupe also will engage in "fabulous storytelling with live anvil accompaniment." Just when you've been longing for some live anvil, it comes along, much to your delight. Steampunk is truly one of the themes, or at least vivacious vibes, so plan on learning how to make steampunky sock squids and clock-face collages and goggles and such. 

A DAY ADMISSION TO THE FAIR... is ten bucks, and a ticket to the dress-up-goggles-and-all grand ball is $35. The Kinetic Handcar Races go down and up and buzz and whirr early Saturday afternoon at the Skunk Train Depot, if that's your must-catch. And while regular autos still rule the 101, and various roads through Mendocino and Humboldt Counties, we still predict a future-fantastical day when kinetic vehicles are seen on a regular basis around NorCal. The area is well on its way to that day, seeing the whimsical people-moving machine hub it has already become.

Photo Credit: Malicay and Wife/Mendocino County Museum]]>
<![CDATA[Pup-Putt: Resort Welcomes Dogs on Golf Course]]> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 14:55:49 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/doggolf9293929322.jpg

GOLDEN RETRIEVER ON THE GREEN: Golf courses, for the most part, are in nature (we say "for the most part" because we must acknowledge those glow-in-the-dark, rock 'n roll indoor mini golf courses, the ones where a lot of us first learned to play as tots). And when something is in nature, well, spoiler alert, nature very often intercedes, or at least makes a cameo.

It might be a squirrel dashing along the fairway or a gull circling the green upon which you stand or the sight of a raccoon seeing if there is anything of interest in your cart. As for dogs? Well, they count among animalia, of course, but you're more likely to see a woodland creature out on a green than your pug or mastiff. That's because the only swinging traditionally done on a course is by a club and not by a wagging tail; dogs can bark or jump on their human at an inopportune time or run off with the ball, if they're fleet of foot enough. But dog devotees know that all of these wagger-based worries are rare, and that the pleasures of having a pup at your side as you golf far outweigh any minor hiccups. The Chalet View Lodge, in fact, welcomes well-behaved Fidos (update: those well-behaved Fidos can be off-leash) on its course, which means you don't have to leave your Lassie back in your hotel room, to get lonely and bored and yowly. They can be out in the sunshine with you as you enjoy the verdant course at the Portola-close lodge.

THE NINE-HOLE COURSE... is welcoming to canines and their people if the greens aren't especially bustling and there's a lot of play-through room. Also note that the hotel sits at the edge of a vast amount of Forest Service land, 1.2 million acres, in fact, so hiking and exploring with your fluffy one is another outdoorsy choice. Pets are also welcome to join their people as they dine at the hotel's restaurant (on the terrace), and there's a hello biscuit at check-in. Fee for one to two dogs to stay? An additional twenty five bucks a night. A chance to soak up mountain-sweet summer air near Graeagle and have your Golden Retriever near, on the course, to enjoy the rays with you? It's pretty unusual, and worth jumping at, if golf and pooches are your twin passions. And seeing how much time people spend on both, they really should meet up, from time to time, in a picturesque spot.

Photo Credit: Chalet View Lodge]]>
<![CDATA[New: Wine Country Clean Air Express]]> Sun, 19 Jul 2015 09:00:38 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/cleanairlaurakath.jpg

A LUCKY REGION... is fortunate to have one city or town or valley or destination that draws weekenders, those day-trippers who want to soak in the sights and/or have a glass of wine and/or a great plate of pasta and/or some pastries and enjoy art, people-watching, architecture, and maybe some nature, too (beach, hills, vineyards qualify). But what to do when you have a stretch of the state absolutely teeming with terrific weekend-y places, the kind of villages that burst with pleasant ways to spend an afternoon? Well, you preen a little, of course, but if those villages are a bit further apart, you preen less and brainstorm on ways for visitors to enjoy several of the region's treasures without driving. The Santa Ynez Valley has been at the forefront of the whole park-your-car idea in recent years, finding ways either through specific businesses or municipalities to truck visitors around in a see-more-of-the-area way (without paying a bundle to do so). The latest entry has just arrived, in early July, and it will please people who want to do both Santa Barbara and some of the Santa Ynez -- say, Los Olivos or Buellton or Solvang -- all in a day without making the driving between the American Riviera and wine country towns on their own. Meet the Clean Air Express, a bus that's been running between particular places in the area, but never between Santa Barbara and a trio of Santa Ynez villages.

ON A SATURDAY... we should add. But that changed on Saturday, July 11 with the debut of this new line of the Clean Air Express. This route is Saturday-specific, we should note, and the motor coach ride each way is seven bucks, meaning you'll have more cash for that glass of pinot in Los Olivos or an aebleskivver in Solvang. Is there Wi-Fi on the bus? Yes, so there's no reason for you not to tell all your pals the jealousy-making things you're up to while you ride. Are there a few start and leave times? There are, including, in case you're wondering, one at Andersen's Pea Soup in Buellton. Is this the way you fill up your Saturday with two not-so-close areas of a region brimming with beautiful spots? This is a great way to do that, if you want to lessen your own driving (and pump up gazing at pretty vistas through bus windows). For more info on your motor coach Saturday get-to-know-this-area outing, beep-beep your bus in this direction.

Photo Credit: Laura Kath]]>
<![CDATA[Fall Fab: Palm Springs Modernism Bash]]> Thu, 16 Jul 2015 11:55:02 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ModernistsatSunnylands8732.jpeg

IT'S PRETTY EASY... to don flannels and knit caps around Seattle and feel as though you're part of the rainy-coffee-fir-fabulous scene, and dressing in beach wear, around Key West, can slip you right into the no-worries-no-hurry vibe (where bare feet tend to be a-ok). But there's only one true monarch among mavens of mid-century-ism these days, the must-go location where you can still play at being in 1962, complete with your Pucci-like scarves and skinny ties and bouffants and indoor-outdoor houses. It's Palm Springs, of course, which welcomes you and your mid-century daydreams throughout the year. But the retro looks go way up come the middle of February when thousands of style fans descend upon the desert resort for Modernism Week, a packed-schedule spectacular devoted to gorgeous architecture of the bygone era and all of its satellite styles (cars, trailers, sunglasses, shoes, dishware). Modernism Week is so popular and well-attended that there is a little Modernism Week, of sorts, in the fall. It's called the Modernism Week Fall Preview, and while it isn't the hefty eleven days of the February confab, it does fill out four full days in the middle of October. That's...

OCT. 9-12... to be exact, and the 2015 autumn event has some good/groovy stuff going. The "extended weekend" shall spotlight an array of the "best events from the annual February festival." Look for a Rat Pack Experience Party at the Palm Springs Art Museum, the double decker bus architectural tours, walk-arounds inside house-designing legend Albert Frey's Aluminaire House, and a Modernism Show & Sale at the Palm Springs Air Museum (about 40 dealers in all will turn up with era-awesome items). Walking tours and other gatherings of an info-sharing, social-making nature dot the roster. As for tickets? They go on sale on Aug. 1.

OF COURSE... you can play at being a member of the Rat Pack, dress-wise, any day of the year in Palm Springs, and locals and tourists alike'll go with it. But come the Modernism Week Fall Preview, and Modernism Week itself, your chance to go total mid-century in your look and with your interests blooms like a glorious cactus flower.

Photo Credit: Modernism Week]]>
<![CDATA[Wine, Jazz, Otters: Evenings by the Bay]]> Sat, 18 Jul 2015 10:10:53 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/185*120/eveningsmbabay.jpg

IT'S NOT AS IF... come the evening, when the sun dips low, that the crabs and seahorses and jellies and sharks of the Monterey Bay Aquarium put on velvet robes and fluffy slippers and turn on Netflix or the ol' hi-fi, content to wind down after a big day of impressing visitors at one of the world's most celebrated aquatic institutions. The fin-laden, claw-possessing residents of the Cannery Row landmark are pretty much doing a lot of what they usually do, no cable television or bestselling paperbacks required. But we humans change our activities and desires a bit, come the close of the day. While we might be go-go-go -- or yawny/grouchy -- in the morning, come sunset we do want to take it easy, perhaps enjoy a glass of wine, some tunes, and some quieter, more chill times. The aquarium understands how, hour by hour, our moods can shift, and Evenings by the Bay are all about responding to the take-it-easy vibe that grows from about 6 to 8 at night, especially on weekend nights, especially in the summer. If you're a grown-up, and it is a summer Saturday, 'round about 6:45 in the evening, we hope you're looking for some prime wind-down activity. The aquarium has one for you, if you're at a loss. The Evenings by the Bay run is on every Saturday and Sunday through Sept. 4, and, yep, the aquarium is keeping longer open hours (through 8 o'clock).

THE LIVE MUSIC... will be deftly delivered by different acts on Saturdays and artists who play Monterey's most famous sound fest -- that's Monterey Jazz, of course -- on the final day of the weekend. Estancia Wine will be in the house over a few of the weekends, and bites will be for sale, like posh pizzas and easy-to-nosh-then-walk eats. Because walk, you'll want to; the aquarium residents aren't yet tucked up in bed, with velvet robes and Netflix. They're still swimming and scurrying and making bubbles and getting comical -- hi, otters -- straight into the early evening. Though what they'll do into the wee small after-hours is up for debate. If you want to imagine them watching movies or texting with friends, well, okay. But life in the big tanks is pretty chill come nighttime. Save, of course, the rare but charming times when an adventurous octopus gets mighty curious and says hasta to her tank.

Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium]]>
<![CDATA[Cinematic Sips: Clips Beer & Film Tour]]> Tue, 14 Jul 2015 19:05:14 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/clipsbeersac123.jpg

IF YOU LIKE BEER AND MOVIES AND CONVERSATION... we're going to go out onto a pretty steady, sure-to-not-fall limb here and say that maybe, just once, perhaps, you went out to a film with a few pals, and then adjourned to your local tavern, over a pitcher, to break down the plot points and character development and what in tarnation the director was thinking with that dream sequence.

For brew-appreciating cineastes have long paired the two arts, that of film and that of foam, and putting them together in a social, chitchatty, let's-raise-a-toast-to-movies way is the way of countless groups of friends. In that sudsy, cinema-cool spirit, and in the spirit of summertime outdoor screenings, too, New Belgium Brewing has gone on the road, with a map of 20 different cities and taps holding up to 17 New Belgium beers. It's the 2015 Clips Beer & Film Tour, and it is making for Sacramento's Southside Park on Friday, July 24.

IT ISN'T JUST THAT FANS... of the Colorado-based brewers are behind the films being screened (and that there's a film by two Fresno locals in the line-up). That's way cool and means that viewers who set up their blankets and low chairs'll be treated to stuff they haven't seen a million times before. It's that the tour gives "100 percent of the proceeds from beer sales" to local nonprofits along the way. Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates is the 2015 nonprofit partner, so if you love biking even more than fine brew or fine films, this could be your night to lend some love to people putting sole-to-pedal on a regular and ardent basis.

GOLDEN STATE FILMMAKERS... Byron Watkins and Anthony Taylor will put in a hello, and maybe reveal some insider info about how they made their cinema treat on an iPhone. There's a definite DIY-a-tude to the works up on screen, and how summer, in general, is best approached. As for the beers on tap? Lips of Faith is promised, as well as some of the standards of the famous, Rocky Mountains-adjacent brewmakers.

Photo Credit: New Belgium Brewing ]]>
<![CDATA[Sactown Sweet: Banana Festival]]> Tue, 14 Jul 2015 12:44:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/bananasFarthers.jpg

PERFECT A-PEEL: One can try. One can make a go of it. A person can line up their arguments and their ideas and their passionate pleas. But convincing a banana buff that their favorite fruit is not the best of bowl is an exercise best left unpursued, for any points you come up with, on the side of strawberries or peaches or cherries, will be immediately countered by the lifelong bananan. Tell them that an apple is easy to transport, anywhere, and the bananan will remind you that his favorite fruit arrives in its own sturdy suitcase, an outer layer that can be stripped away with ease. Explain the bananan how a nectarine is easy to find on the fruit shelf and the bananan may claim that a number of stone fruits seem similar, in size, roundness, and color, while bananas, with their consistent curve and longness and yellow-o-sity, are the eternal standouts in the produce section. In short? Bananafans have some excellent points on their side, a side that grows stronger thanks to the many excellent desserts and breakfasts and snacks that hail from the "a-peeling" fruit. (There's another plus for the banana; its peel has engendered countless promotions with "a-peel" in the title.) The Sacramento Banana Festival understands the bananan, through and through, and shall be serving up lots of chewy, creamy dishes based on the shaped-vaguely-like-a-luggage-handle fruit. Over the weekend of...

AUG. 8 AND 9... a bevy of cooks and vendors shall gather in William Land Park in the capital city for tunes and fest-y good times and these foods: banana coconut custard, banana and sausage kebabs, banofee Pavlova, banana cake, fried plantains, caramel banana bread pudding, banana fritters, banana s'mores, skirt steak banana tacos... Well, the list is as long as the banana itself (which, really, is pretty long, as far as snack foods go). Check out all the edibles here, Lovers o' the Peel, and see if you can line up a Sactown getaway over the second weekend of August, when your favorite fruit shall reign. But it reigns over the fruit bowl each and every day, doesn't it? Handy peelable jacket and ease-of-eat-a-bility and all.

Photo Credit: getty images]]>
<![CDATA[Desert Spa Twist: La Casa del Zorro's Cool Stones]]> Fri, 24 Jul 2015 08:17:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/coolcomfortzorro.jpg

A CHILL SPIN ON A BODYWORK CLASSIC: If you asked a resort maven, the sort of traveler who has a penchant for spots with lots of sunshine and three-digit temperatures come summertime, where to best keep cool, they'd offer up some excellent answers. "The pool" would probably be the first thing they'd suggest, or "your suite for a nap" (ahhh, a fine way to meet a toasty July day) or "enjoying a cocktail with extra ice in the lobby" might be another response. But few experienced hotel guests would proffer the on-site spa's stone massage, because, well, stone massages are very not-cold, by nature. Even if you've never had one, you know the words that are used to describe the experiencing: warming, warmth, heat, melt. The smooth stones are placed along the guest's back and bingo: muscle relief. But taking a different tack when you're a resort in one of California's famous deserts is a quirky, fun, and, yes, even sensible plan, which is just what La Casa del Zorro is doing for the summer of 2015. Rather than placing stones of a caliente nature on clients, they're chilling the rocks for the Cool Comfort experience. Same idea of stones delivering some temperature-based soothing, but rather than your personal mercury heading upwards, you'll chill right out, in body (your busy mind, fingers crossed, will soon follow).

COOL COMFORT... involves a few tantalizing components. Clients receive "a customized, 50-minute facial with an aloe mask and a soothing 50-minute massage incorporating chilled natural stones." The "limited addition" to the spa's menu is priced at $185. Other warm-weather-perfect choices, from a Summer Mani/Pedi (look for a green tea soak) and a Replenish and Refresh multi-part experience, are discounted for the season. If you're doing the desert when the sun is high and the afternoons bring a few beads of sweat, gorgeous clouds, and promises of great sunsets, consider your resort cool-offs: cocktails, pools, naps, and a cooling stone massage. But will you ever head back to the city? (Probably, yes, of course, but with dreams of your next visit.)

Photo Credit: Casa del Zorro]]>
<![CDATA[On the Horizon: Sunset Savor the Central Coast]]> Tue, 21 Jul 2015 21:35:01 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/savorthecentralbrittanyapp123.jpg

REMEMBER WHEN YOU WERE A TEEN... and you had your favorite soccer star or rock band or actor or fictional character immortalized on a poster over your twin bed? Or maybe it was on the ceiling or the back of your door but, wherever the poster was thumbtacked, you had to have it nearby because you needed to see your FAVORITE PERSON/PEOPLE IN THE WORLD, all caps, every single day, exclamation points!!! That fire never really dies down in us, as adults, or fully goes away. In fact it's still a-ok to have such posters about, if you want to, but, very often, as we stack on the years, we start to long for a few new posters for our bedroom walls. Big lush photos of wineries we return to, again and again, and beloved beaches. And, for many Californians, Santa Margarita Ranch would qualify as bedroom poster material, since it is so dang picturesque and so well situated in the heart of the Central Coast and it is the central hub of one of the fall's most feastable soirees. It's Sunset Savor the Central Coast, as presented by Volvo, and the tour/talk/taste summit is soon to have its sixth outing from Thursday, Sept. 24 through Sunday, Sept. 27 at Rancho Santa Margarita and a host of ocean-close, vine-tastic destinations in the area.

THE MAIN EVENT is, well, handily enough called "The Main Event" (no forgetting that). It spreads out at the ranch on Sept. 26 and 27 and involves regional wines, meeting winemakers, a Farm to Table Stage, local brews and live tunes, and all sorts of alfresco-fun, foodie-delicious doings over a mellow early-fall day, the kind that the Central Coast seems to do really well. As for getting out/about? There are Adventure Tours that fill up -- a Clydesdale-focused jaunt to Cambria looks particularly bewitching -- and special dinners, too. Event tickets can be purchased a la carte, so if you simply want to dip into the four-dayer for an afternoon, and a single thing, that's totally jake. Truly, though: Would you have a poster of Santa Margarita Ranch in your bedroom? Like you would a favorite singer? Any Central Coast-obsessed food lover might pull out a tape measure and start measuring their wall.

Photo Credit: Brittany App]]>
<![CDATA[Wine Tasting at the Winchester Mystery House]]> Mon, 20 Jul 2015 22:34:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/217*120/winewinchester1234.jpg

LIBATIONS THAT LEVITATE: It's impossible to not summon the phrase "spirits with spirits" when one is imbibing a glass of something grown-up and bubbly/foamy/potent in a spooky spot. The catchy line has long been used by the Ghost Hunters of Urban Los Angeles, in fact, whenever they planned an event involving cocktails in a rumored-to-be-haunted place (an event currently on hiatus, as of this typing, but charming nonetheless). Finding an eerie location in which to sip and socialize around California is not difficult, though, since our state is rife with storied structures, from hotels to train stations to historic restaurants. But one of the most storied of all was once a private home, lived in by one person, and is today visited by thousands each year. You know where we're about to land with this: It's the Winchester Mystery House, in San Jose, and along with San Diego's Whaley House, it's regularly billed as rife with spirits. Those spirits, however, don't just arrive in an ethereal form; beverages of the wine and beer and liquor variety are also served on the property. 

WINE TASTINGS... can be found in "a renovated original out-building with a unique wooden floor made from repurposed wine barrels." Where's this out-building? In the pretty, strollable courtyard of the mansion, just steps away from the main house's rambling corridors and staircases leading to nowhere. It's open seasonally, so if the idea of soaking up the Victorian-flavored tales and twists of Sarah Winchester's medium-influenced home, then following up with a merlot and chardonnay, appeal, check with the attraction before planning a day of house-touring and vino-tasting.

BUT IF YOU WANT TO PEEK... at the tasting menu now, you can. There are Winchester Estate wines, made in the Santa Clara Valley, and some local beers from San Jose's own Strike Brewing Company. Is wine tasting at the Winchester Mystery House the most unusual place to pursue this oh-so-California tradition? There are some funky wineries out there, for sure, but few sit on the grounds of a haunted home, one that has windows in the floors and doors opening to brick walls. Eek.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/WinchesterMysteryHouse]]>
<![CDATA[Mozart in Mendocino]]> Fri, 10 Jul 2015 19:21:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/EricLindbergmendo.jpg

TUNES TELL A TALE: Perhaps, as a child, you attended the local symphony hall on a field trip, or with a parent, or because you were thinking of making a career in the arts. And you learned, then and there, that a song doesn't always require lyrics to tell a full and exciting story, but that violins and oboes and cymbals and the other instruments found in an orchestra can fill out the plot and characters and thrills. But where that story is told -- and heard -- sometimes offers as much atmosphere as the music itself. Take Mendocino, which is about a storybook a town as California has to offer. It's soon to be the setting for Mozart in Mendocino, a quartet of presentations featuring the works of Wolfgang Amadeus, a composer who, even now, wouldn't seem out of place strolling along a foggy bluff. Modern Mendocino and 18th-century Vienna don't look much alike, but they both share a romantic air, making Mendo the ideal setting for the two-week-long Mendocino Music Festival. Mozart in Mendocino is a part of the sound-big spectacular, which features top-notch artists taking on beloved classical pieces as well as bluegrass, folk, jazz, chamber pieces, and other audio works of a fascinating and moving nature. The fest runs from July 11 through 25 in one truly press-it-to-your-memory spot overlooking the Pacific.

TWENTY-SEVEN CONCERTS... in all fill out the 2015 run, and much fiddling and trumpeting and conducting and drumming shall happen, so locating the sounds you want to crawl inside and enjoy, for an hour or two, is an important activity. Opera, roots music, a cappella, some Joni Mitchell tribute tuneage, and more summer-meets-flights-of-audio-fancy await. But would Mozart have been at home in the seaside burg? Perhaps, if he had a place to write and daydream and stage his grand ideas. Mendocino is still an excellent place for grand-idea-staging, and it keeps an open heart each July to those musicians and singers and visionaries keeping old sounds and new flush with verve.

30 YEARS ON THE HORIZON: And one round of applause for the festival as it approaches three decades of music-makery. Founded in 1986, it's one of the West Coast's quintessential warm-weather listen-and-love confabs.

Photo Credit: Eric Lindberg]]>
<![CDATA[Tickets on Sale: Gilroy Garlic Festival]]> Wed, 15 Jul 2015 11:25:27 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/garlicicecreamfest12345.jpg

A VERY CALIENTE CONUNDRUM: The garlic-obsessed cook who finds himself making a spicy pasta or pad thai or pizza for a group of guests typically faces a conundrum of a very caliente sort about halfway into the whole dinner-making process. When the head of garlic makes its debut, from the net hanging over the sink, does the cook smash or chop a few cloves for the pan and return the remainder, or does he sneak a raw clove to enjoy while he makes the food? While some might recoil at the idea of popping an uncooked hunk of garlic in one's mouth, there are other fans out there -- garlicists, if you will -- who get the temptation. Nothing is quite as hot nor as powerful nor as, well, lasting, as a bit of raw garlic enjoyed without any other ingredients to temper its bite. But if there are guests due at the door, the cook has to decide: Will the pungent breath be worth it? If the answer is "yes" -- and the answer is typically "yes" among garlicists -- we expect that we'll see you in Gilroy over the last weekend in July, where hundreds of other gourmets who go gaga over a good clove of naked, uncooked garlic will be, living it up and feeling the burn. Tickets are now on sale for the...

THE 37TH ANNUAL GILROY GARLIC FESTIVAL... which brings the live entertainment, the vendors, the cooking demos, the wine and beer tastings, and the many, many booths of Gourmet Alley, which whip up everything from chewy-moist deep-fried garlic to cooling garlic ice cream to mussels swimming in garlicky goodness to garlic salmon. Oh! And garlic bread, of course, that carb-tastic stalwart at the soft, celebrated hub from which all other garlic-laden foods spin. The cook-off contest brings the amateur chefs, the showdown the pros, and a Sunday afternoon will see a dream wedding starring two serious garlic-lovin' lovers. The festival is called "the ultimate summer food fair" and that it all happens in the Garlic Capital of the World should lock it down for garlicists, those lovers of blisteringly hot bulbs that come sheathed in papery, easy-to-remove covering.

OH GARLIC, there's no food that's anything like you, in flavor, in fire quotient, in how you look or how you're handled. You really do deserve one of the biggest parties of the summer. We'll see you July 24 through 26.

Photo Credit: Gilroy Garlic Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Rare View: Sunrise Gondola Up Mammoth Mountain]]> Thu, 09 Jul 2015 22:40:04 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/205*120/scenicgondolaridesmammoth.jpg

SCIENCE HAS SOMETHING TO SAY, we imagine, about how sunlight hitting rocks and rivers and trees changes each day, at least a little bit. Maybe we're a little further than we were yesterday from our nearest star, or our planet has shifted on its axis in the slightest of ways. Maybe the rocks have eroded a bit over the last 24 hours, as rocks tend to do, rather predictably, or maybe the river is a little higher or lower. The short of it? You'll never see the same view twice, even if you're standing in the same place at the same time of day for years. This knowledge brings fresh appreciation of what you're seeing, of course, but sometimes even fresher appreciation presents itself, as it will on Mammoth Mountain on Saturday, July 11.

THE FAMOUS MAMMOTH GONDOLA...  "will start spinning at 5 a.m." while "taking guests up the summit (hot drink in hand) where one of the Eastern Sierra's most stunning scenes unfolds daily." Can we just pause to say "wowza" here at the prospect of standing at over 11,000 feet at sunrise? Thank you, we do believe we will say it: wowza. Savoring the sun's first hello of the day from one of the tippiest-toppiest places in the Sierra -- and, yes, in all the Western United States -- sounds like a moment to clear the mind and fill out the spirit. But it won't be all standing and staring at the horizon as the sky starts to light up. There shall be a group yoga session atop the mountain if you're inclined, or a guided nature walk, or the chance to take photos with photographer Peter Morning lending tips.

THE GUIDED WALK... heads for the Lakes Basin overlook, so prepare for that all breath-taking, experience-expanding moment we're so often told to create more of in our hectic, workaday lives. Cost to board the gondola? Fifteen bucks for adults, a little less for youth and seniors, and kids ages 10 and under can ride for free. Are you feeling the majesty? The wonder? The promise of a new day dawning? The same vistas and sights do change daily, it is true, but getting to see a beloved stretch of nature at a whole different time of day is sometimes the life-goosing we've been searching out.

Photo Credit: Mammoth Mountain]]>
<![CDATA[Moonlight, Train Tracks, Redwoods, and You]]> Thu, 09 Jul 2015 14:17:36 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/scstarlighttrain1.jpg

BEACH TO TREES, BY NIGHT: Several nighttime-in-the-forest gatherings shall be gearing up around the Golden State in the coming weeks, from campfires and night hikes to the popular Dark Sky Festivals in some of our state's national parks. But there's another way to take in the distinct outlines of trees and occasional hooting of an owl and the evening breeze and the moon above: While you're moving. Nope, you distinctly do not want to do this while you're driving -- gotta stay fully tuned in to the road ahead -- but, say, if you were on a beautiful and historic train, a locomotive that spent a couple of hours wending through the redwoods after sundown, then you could do all of the tree/moon/breeze-soaking-up that you required. Roaring Camp Railroads is running two such trains during the summer of 2015, on July 11 and Aug. 22, and rather than leaving from the sweet spot's typical HQ the train will pick passengers up at the boardwalk in Santa Cruz.

MORE MAGICAL: Which means the whole darn experience just grows in enchantment. You'll start your night by the waves, soaking in those Pacific vibes (you know the ones -- we need not explain), and then you'll board "the Pullman-like coaches and open-air excursion cars of the Santa Cruz, Big Trees and Pacific Railway." The trip is two hours and is described as "leisurely," so come prepared to do a little tree-communing, which is absolutely the thing to do after Pacific-vibe enjoyment (trees along the route include redwoods, Tan Oaks, and Madrone trees). The San Lorenzo River Gorge, by night, is part of the experience, and a state park, too. 

HENRY COWELL REDWOODS STATE PARK... so you'll get your tall, tall trees action in, and all by the beautiful beams of our lunar neighbor. It's a fresh way to enjoy a train, to do a Saturday night, and to spend a summer evening. Have you bonded with both the ocean and the redwoods over one spellbound train ride yet? It isn't just the stuff of storybooks. Here's where you start.

<![CDATA[Catalina Beach Parties: Descanso's Summer Scene]]> Wed, 08 Jul 2015 21:56:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/descansobeachcatalinachamber1234.jpg

A BEACH IS A BEACH IS A BEACH: It's true that a sandy stretch of land that fronts a large body of water could accurately be defined as "a beach," but every ocean aficionado knows that not every beach is the same, In fact, one could say that the grain-laden gamut on this topic is as wide as the Pacific. (Well, maybe not that wide, but pretty dang big.) There are pink sand beaches and rocky beaches and beaches boasting clusters of coves and those pretty shoreline areas flush with flora (or none at all). There is also the matter of the mainland beach vs. an island beach. Nope, we're not pitting them, head to head -- they're both good -- but beach buffs might categorize the emotions and experiences of each as a little different. On the mainland you're a bit more accessible, the bigger cities are nearby, and unwinding takes perhaps a moment or two longer. But on an island? You're away. Sure, you may get fine cell reception, but you ultimately can't be really reached, because you're on a small pocket of land surrounded by lots and lots water. It's a fine and rare feeling, and one that can be experienced by SoCalers without even hopping onto a plane. We speak, of course, of Catalina Island, a boat-reachable (and plane- and helicopter-reachable) place that's home to Descanso Beach Club, which truly revs up come summertime.

WHAT DOES "REVS UP" MEAN? The picturesque spot, which is in sight of the iconic Casino Building, is "one of the last private beaches in California with public access." There are cabanas and chaises to rent, Saturday and Sunday afternoon summer beach parties (complete with DJ-spinning sounds and live tunes), happy hour specials, and "alcohol-infused ice cream treats." Yep, that's a grown-up vacation you see on the horizon, no passport or plane reservations required. But what happens when you share the photos with friends later? Will they think you traveled to an island across the planet? Perhaps, but if they see the Casino in the background they'll know you went Catalina for a quick and not-too-dear weekend respite. And then they'll be rather jealous, so the only solution is to plan another boat ride together, back to Avalon, for some chillax-packed time on an island beach. 

Photo Credit: Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce]]>
<![CDATA[California WorldFest in Grass Valley]]> Wed, 08 Jul 2015 13:35:31 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/BirdsofChicagoGabrielJudetWeinshel.JPG

A BEAUTIFUL GLOBAL GATHERING... of sounds and performers and longtime mavens and brand-new fans and unusual instruments and yoga and cuisines from around the planet is not a happening that comes along every day, or even every month, even in a magical place like the Golden State. There are bellwethers and beacons of the form, though, that return each year, easily drawing thousands of tune lovers who can't make the Caribbean or Africa or Europe or the South or the Midwest or islands near/far to see some of the best artists live. So those artists journey to Grass Valley each July, where they play for about 6,000 people per day over a long and joy-rhythmic weekend. One of those beacons is the California WorldFest, a very large gathering that's readying its 19th outing from Thursday, July 16 through Sunday, July 19. And the fest's roster is long and starry and diverse and get-up-and-dance-y and discover-a-new-favorite-esque. Lucinda Williams, that delightful doyenne of all things alt-country, will sing in the nature-nice setting, as will Americana-crooning duo Birds of Chicago, legendary activist and artist Buffy Sainte-Marie, 10-year-old country phenomenon EmiSunshine,  folk legend Richard Thompson, Ukranian folk foursome DakhaBrakha, and columns of considerable talents all bringing story-packed song-styles that are hallmarks of such meaningful musical events.

OFF THE STAGE... there shall be the aforementioned international foodstuffs, stuff for the young fans to do away from watching the shows, yoga, and workshops for musicians covering vocals and instruments. Plus? This is all set among the Ponderosa pines and black oaks of the Nevada County Fairgrounds, a postcard-worthy spot to plant some good sound seeds in, year after year. If your travels have been too light lately but your heart is with the world, Grass Valley isn't all that far from your home. Find your way there, global-minded journey-makers. "Music Connects Us All," is the theme, and isn't that the truth? 

Photo Credit: Gabriel Judet Weinshel]]>
<![CDATA[Ferraris Vroom for Mountain View]]> Tue, 07 Jul 2015 21:37:34 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/ferrari_logo_generic.jpg

SPYING A BEAUTIFUL HORSE BY A LAKE... is not all the unusual. In fact, that's very often where artists place horses, as a rule: By a shimmery body of water, with trees and hills nearby, the better to lend some contrast. There are artists, though, who do not work in paint or watercolor but rather in cars. And sometimes those vehicles also arrive with a horse, a very famous pony, and everyone who sees this pony knows the car in question: a Ferrari. Several of those horse logos shall be lake-close on Sunday, July 12, fronting the Ferraris belonging to members of the Ferrari Club of the America Pacific Region. It's time for the group's annual picnic, a summertime tradition, and, nope, they don't put their sandwiches and hampers in just any car. They arrive in the dream machines, autos that are lined up both for club members to see and any vehicle-obsessed lookie-loo who happens to be out at Shoreline Lake in Mountain View. The number of cars? They'll be in "the dozens" says a representative for the pretty body of water, and photos from past years show this will be the case, car people. Like a classic concours, the vehicles are lined up, fairly snugly, to make the looking easy, but unlike many concours there shall be only one make: A certain Italian luxury vroom-mobile straight out of Maranello. 

THE MAKE SHALL STAY TRUE... but models and years shall vary, so you'll see some wayback examples of the sports car and some more recent takes on the sleek lines and elegant interiors. As for the prancing pony? Well, that will be out in full force, on the cars, as every Ferrari fan knows, and there probably won't be too many actual prancing ponies in the vicinity of Shoreline Lake. But if you finish with your admiring and you still have a few fine hours of a Sunday afternoon ahead, there are recreational pleasures around the lake, from paddleboats to sailing to other on-the-lake and near-the-lake pursuits.

Photo Credit: Ferrari]]>
<![CDATA[Oxbow Ukuleles: Napa Goes Uke-A-Palooza]]> Tue, 07 Jul 2015 14:42:34 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/oxbowukeapalooza.JPG

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF... when you picture the Oxbow Public Market? Handcrafted dips and bespoke brittles and posh pastas and bourbon-enhancing bitters come to mind, as do the many eats you can enjoy there rather than packing your buys for home. (That's one of the eternal questions one ponders while visiting the noshable Napa landmark -- does one dig in and spend one's whole food budget on a fabulous lunch or snag a few to-go items for savoring later in the week? Questions, questions...) But while the bite-oriented topics capture our imagination at the now-famous-everywhere market, there are a couple of questions we likely do not have. For example, did I remember my ukulele? What will I wear to jam out with other uke aficionados? And should I try some fresh material while performing for the diners of the Oxbow? These matters will be on the minds of anyone who plays the sweet 'n soft stringed instrument, and those who just love it, on Friday, July 31 when the food hall becomes the stage and scene for Uke-A-Palooza.

JUDD'S HILL WINERY... is the co-presenter of the "special Polynesian evening" devoted to song and sips. The Maikai Gents shall be wielding the endearing ukes on the River Deck of the market while a raffle will help out Voices, an organization that "brings together more than 40 partnering agencies to provide housing, education, employment and wellness services to transitioning youth ages 16-24." The event itself is free, and anyone who shows with their own instrument will be invited to perform. Are you ready? Been mi-mi-mi-ing and practicing your classic uke ditties? Best get started on that now.

IT'S THE FIFTH ANNUAL... Polynesian celebration at the market, and vintage wear and more shall be for sale. Ready to bring a big of the islands to the waterside near downtown Napa? The last day in July, a beautiful evening, some fine eats, and some fab tunes should be just the thing.

Photo Credit: Oxbow Market]]>
<![CDATA[Squaw Valley Cool: Art, Music & Wine Festival]]> Mon, 06 Jul 2015 21:50:32 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tahoemedia_art-wine-music-festival.jpg

THOSE WONDROUS WORDS: What are some of the terms we often use to describe strolling in the soft sunshine of a July morning at a higher elevation? We might call the air "clear" or "crisp" or "invigorating" or "cloud-drifty" or even "lemonade-like" if we're feeling especially poetic. But getting to that pretty walk, when so many workaday tasks call us, and so many emails cannot be put off (or so we say), is the task at hand. Having a goal of sorts is sometimes key, though the most practiced of outdoors-enjoyers know that no goal is required to getting out and getting some sunshine. That lemonade-like, cloud-drifty air is intense and at times intoxicating around Lake Tahoe come the first stretch of summer, before hints of autumn come a-callin'. And it makes it a grand time for an artisan-focused art-plus fair that has a focus on local beers, local tunes, local creative types, and an important cause to support: Tahoe non-profit Disabled Sports USA Far West. The fair is the Art, Wine & Music Festival at Squaw Valley, and it is ready to stretch in the lemonade sunshine, most languidly, over Saturday, July 11 and Sunday, July 12.

30 ARTISANS... will table up The Village at Squaw Valley, so come prepared to shop and browse jewelry and wearables and artworks and the other made-by-hand things that come with a lot of local Tahoe cred. There shall be live tuneage -- Calling Ophelia and Tim High will be on the stage, among other performers and bands -- and there shall be kidly creative activities (and some for the adults, too). Plus an "unlimited wine tasting" from some 20 wineries. (Get your glass for twenty five bucks when you get there).

COST? It's free. Enjoying chatting with people who made the goods spread out before you? Also free and a rarer pleasure. Savoring that high-altitude-y, alpine-sweet sunshine, the kind that only comes around in July in just a few places, Tahoe being one? So sweet. You could spend all of your non-browsing, non-beer-tasting time fully basking in its crystal-twinkly rays.

Photo Credit: Squaw Valley Art, Music & Wine Festival]]>
<![CDATA[A Fictional Favorite Visits Felton]]> Thu, 16 Jul 2015 11:56:06 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/thomas9028302912.jpg

DAY OUT WITH THOMAS: Picture yourself at age 5 (surely your memory can reach back to that time, or at least your favorite books and television shows and sneakers and cardigan and hairstyle). If your mom had told you that you were going to go somewhere, in the woods, to see your most obsessed-over character (feel free to insert H.R. Pufnstuf or Moley from "The Wind in the Willows" or Stuart Little here), would you have absolutely freaked out? Gone over the moon? Jumped up and down for ten minutes straight? Probably, unless you were a more skeptical kid, the kind of tot who needs to see the proof in the pudding. For modern kids, Thomas the Tank Engine easily fills that "most obsessed-over character" and there is a way to put fans and bright blue engine together, for fun afternoon out in the woods. The proof is very much in the pudding at Roaring Camp Railroads, in Felton. The Santa Cruz-close spot is known for its already legendary steam train runs, but once a year it puts out the proverbial welcome banner for Thomas, his storybook friends, and all of his many fans and their parents. Those summery weekends are choo-choo-ing this way, and tickets'll speed away like a determined engine who is off down the rails to help a pal in need (and, yes, Thomas is so often that helpful engine). The dates are July 24 through 26 and July 31 through Aug. 2.

SIR TOPHAM HATT, the Controller of the Railway, will also make an appearance, and Thomas shall give a 25-minute-long ride to his engine-admiring aficionados. "Storytelling, video viewing, and live music" round out the day. The Thomas tour, which visits 42 places around North America, is marking its 20th anniversary this year, which means some of the first kids to ride a real actual Thomas train are now returning with their own young Thomas-mad tots. It's all pretty sweet, especially set against the redwoods and greenery of the Felton area. Now, what will your child say when you tell her you're going to see Thomas the Tank Engine? Think back to when you were a kid and how such news, about a favorite character, would have made you feel. (Answer: Pretty darn ecstatic.)

Photo Credit: Day Out with Thomas]]>
<![CDATA[To Catalina Island, by Water Skis]]> Tue, 07 Jul 2015 14:10:23 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Brady-Hoggins-UpsCatalina.jpg

HOW MANY WAYS... are there to get to Catalina Island from mainland Southern California? "A boat" is a fine initial answer, as that's how most people do it. "A helicopter" or "a plane" are both on the list, so feel free to hit the buzzer and shout it out, because you'll get a gold star. "Swimming"? Well, yes, there are many people who've donned a bathing suit and championed the Catalina Channel, but no day-tripper to Avalon would likely go this route, as a channel swim requires a team of supporters, lots of training, and the incredibly impressive ability to plow, hand over hand, through open ocean waves. As for other ways to get to the island that's a famous 22 miles from the coast? Nope, as much as you wish for it a Catalina bison won't swim over and pick you up. Nope, there's not an under-the-Pacific Chunnel of sorts from Los Angeles to Catalina (not yet, anyway).

BUT WATER SKIS? Ah yes: You can reach Catalina Island by being pulled, at a high speed, by a speedy vessel. In fact, several bold water skiers do just this, each summer, and have for well over a half century. The annual Catalina Ski Race has been zooming for 67 years, in fact, which puts it in the "venerable" category in terms of long-running California competitions. Even if you don't feel like taking a very fast trip to Avalon, and back to Long Beach, while hanging fast to a rope and handle, you can still head out to the Queen Mary on the morning of Saturday, July 18 to cheer the hardy adventurers on who shall make the much-photographed yearly run.

MAKE THAT VERY EARLY MORNING: The legendary Long Beach ocean-liner is opening a viewing area to the starting line, and spectators can sip upon Bloody Marys and mimosas as the competitors don their helmets and sunscreen. Start time at the ship is 7 a.m., and if you're wondering how many miles total the water ski brigade'll cover, 62 is the answer. It's a rousing morning full of old-fashioned sport and derring-do, but one that is fun to watch and ponder, too. And it is quite charming how there are not that many ways to reach Avalon in our now super-accessible world, and it is charming that "water skis" is one of the principal ways come a very special summer morning. Though we still wish we could ride over, once, like some mythical character on the back of a bison, but we're pretty sure those ol' Catalina bison are doing just fine sticking to the island's hillsides far above the Pacific Ocean.

Photo Credit: Catalina Ski Race/Brady Hoggins]]>
<![CDATA[Near Ventura: Boat Ride to Cueva Valdez]]> Fri, 03 Jul 2015 07:46:08 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/cuevavaldezTimHaufGoingAshoreatCuevaValdez.jpg

RARE CHANCE: One of the rather great things about living in a get-anything-any-ol'-time society is that, well, yes, shoes and spices and particular issues of vintage comic books and your formerly lost high school yearbook and a thousand other things can be easily accessed, sometimes overnight, with a few keystrokes and a visit to the right commerce site. It's an extraordinary time, with no other time period to match, and we do battle between appreciating the ease of access and growing complacent that anything can be had and enjoyed at the snap of our fingers (and the brandishing of our credit cards). But this doesn't hold fully true. For example, there are places, here in Southern-meets-Central California, that cannot be known because someone decides, that morning, to know it. They're a little harder to reach, requiring some expertise on the part of others or your own special craft, and this all goes into making the experience more tantalizing, more slightly beyond, and not quite so simple. It's a delicious challenge, in short, but Island Packers is up for it, at least a couple of times a year when the Ventura-based boat concessionaire for the Channel Islands makes the trip to Cueva Valdez.

AND PAINTED CAVE, TOO: There some of the least called-upon areas of Channel Islands National Park, even though they're on Santa Cruz Island, which is pretty much the most popular island to see. The cove and cave are located at Santa Cruz's west end, a side that isn't seen, by boat drop-offs, nearly as much as the eastern side. The "natural and human history" of the beautiful area will be shared by an Island Packer guide and time for picnicking and exploring shall be made. Taking in the island's spectacular north shore is part of the adventure, as is the Santa Barbara Channel crossing, which may yield dolphin or whale sightings. But while the dates to do the Channel Islands are plentiful, there are just two on the calendar for Cueva Valdez and Painted Cave: Aug. 8 and Oct. 11. If you've ever wanted to experience a sea cave, you can, here near home. They're not just in movies or travel brochures from places across the globe. And that the word "unspoiled" springs to mind upon seeing the cave only adds to its allure. Perhaps it is a good thing that in our ease-of-access world, a few jaunts are a little rarer and, perhaps, more of an anticipated treat. 

TICKETS, TIMES... and Island Packers information are this way.

Photo Credit: Tim Hauf]]>
<![CDATA[On Sale: Winchester House Fall Flashlight Tours]]> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 06:41:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/204*120/WinchesterMysteryHouse_crWMH_1.jpg

DO TRY THIS AT HOME: Know where your flashlight might be? We all should, since when we really, really need it our house tends to be rather dark. Turn the torch on, then point the beam at various objects: a plant, the television, the ceiling fan. How creepy do those rather innocuous items become when they're caught in a stream of pointed light? The answer: pretty darn creepy. Now imagine yourself in a huge and rambling house, a house that's said to be haunted, an abode that is, by far, one of the most eerie locations in all of the Golden State, if not the country. It's the Winchester Mystery House, and while tours are offered throughout the year, there are only a few times on the calendar when visitor enter the house by nightfall -- meaning a flashlight will be in use, spooky-ing objects and corners right up along the way. (Ohhh, those empty corners become triply terrifying when viewed by the beam of a flashlight.) The San Jose mansion's famous Flashlight Tours only ever happen on nights that coincide with Friday the 13th -- double eek -- and during the most bewitchingest season of all, the days running up to Halloween. For while the homes in your neighborhood might dress up for the screamy night, Sarah Winchester's tale-filled casa really does bring the authentic creepy, which is no surprise: It was seance central, back in her day. And while we can't "spirit" you to that day, the late 1800s and early 20th century, we can tell you that...

TICKETS ARE THIS WAY... for some "select" 2015 October evenings. A souvenir flashlight is yours to remember your guided wanderings by, and, of course, the memory of any ghosts you might spy. Even if you don't come across anything chill-worthy, it is still mighty cool to be in a storied structure when the moon is out. But what if you can't make it on one of the October evenings when the Flashlight Tours are happening? Shriek not; the next Friday the 13th follows fast, in November, and, yep, there is a nighttime tour afoot. By the by, did you know that lady of the house Sarah Winchester was partial to the number 13? It all lends further texture to a house with more backstory than some towns. 

Photo Credit: Winchester Mystery House]]>
<![CDATA[Oxnard Heat: Salsa Festival]]> Wed, 01 Jul 2015 21:26:30 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/248*120/salsasquare12345.jpg

DELIGHTFUL AND DIFFERENT: Tell someone that you love to salsa and they may, at first, take pause, before realizing you likely mean the dance. But if you had a chip in hand, and it hovered over a bowl of pico de gallo, and you said "I love to salsa," well, you can bet that the listener would think you were referring to your love of devouring hot, dippable foodstuffs. How, though, will people who happen to be at one of Oxnard's biggest edible and social festivals differentiate exactly what they mean? For over the last weekend in July -- that's July 25 and 26 -- there shall be salsaing and there shall be salsaing at Plaza Park in downtown Oxnard. The Oxnard Salsa Festival is one of the only food-focused festivals in all the land to put equal focus on movement, and a particular dance style, so it is a standout among large-scale weekend parties. It's also a standout because many fabulous dancers show up to shake it to the live bands while, over at the food area, fabulous cooks put together tomato-onion-garlic-pepper concoctions galore. So what shall it be? Salsa or salsa? Why not both? Start with...

THE LIVE BANDS: Conjunto Oye! and Sabor De Mi Cuba and Echo Park Project and Son Mayor and Orquesta Rumbankete and Tabaco y Ron will offer the grooves and beats from the stage, while a Friday night kick-off will feature Oscar Hernandez and Alma Libre (the guest on stage with them will be Justo Almario). Some "fifty different flavors" will be there for the sampling at the Salsa Tasting Tent. Buy a five-buck admission and get ten different tastes. 

IT ALL MAKES ONE PONDER... about interesting duos, and whether Oxnard's other major foodie event on the calendar -- the California Strawberry Festival, in May -- wouldn't pair well with a salsa soiree. Aren't fruit salsas rather wonderful? And aren't berries buddy-buddy with heat, adding the sweet? That right there is another pairing that would be fun to see. For now, though, salsa and salsa --the dance and the dip -- make for a fire-filled, move-happy summer party.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Opening: Marin County Fair]]> Wed, 01 Jul 2015 13:18:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/212*120/marincountyfairnight1.jpg

THE LOVELY LONGING: We're not saying that we human beings contain some physical node or vein or freckle or toe that starts to tingle when the words "Fourth of July" and "county fair" are said together, but science may discover, one day, that this is so. For our country's birthday is filled to the brim with nostalgic touches, from the songs we sing year after year to the cold treats and sparklers and barbecues that have stuck around for decades, mostly unchanged, because we like 'em that way. Put, at the top of this list, a classic county fair, one full of lights and whirling rides and treats on sticks and pettable animals. Thank the movies or folks songs or family stories or just your own imagination, but we've wrapped up the quintessential, not-too-big(-but-just-right) county fair with Independence Day. But only a few county fairs in the Golden State actually coincide with July 4, and one opened on the first day of the month: the Marin County Fair. We call it "not too big," with lots of affection, because it lasts for five days, when some county fairs push for a month. But those five days are packed to the glittery gills with exhibits -- 12,000 of 'em, from bonsai, quilts, jams, and more -- to concerts featuring legends like Aaron Neville and Judy Collins. And, yes, yes, and yesss: Fourth of July is one of the five days, so don your patriotic hues and make for...

SAN RAFAEL: Maybe, when you're close enough, you'll spy the rides of the midway (there are 28 in all) or hear some midway-esque calliope music. You may also hear the music from the mainstage, or inventions being invented at The STEAM Carnival (where science and tech rule), or all of the beasties that make a cameo (pig races, sheep dog trials, and barnyard cuties are on the grounds). The Short Film and Video Festival and performances from The Peking Acrobats make it a very bustling, easy-to-do-lots five days. Plus? Marin County Fair is billed as "the greenest county fair on earth," which you'll see evidence of in the hundreds of panels and energy-efficient choices. To add the Fourth of July touch? Fireworks. Can you do it all in less than a week? For sure, revelers; just consider how infrequently a nostalgia-filled county fair and our nostalgic July holiday cross party-happy paths.

Photo Credit: Marin County Fair]]>
<![CDATA[San Diego Treat: Breakfast with Koalas]]> Tue, 30 Jun 2015 22:27:15 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/joey2921koalabfast.jpg

COFFEE, SUGAR, AND THE SWEETEST VIEW: To say we never break bread, or at least nibble bread, in the company of living beings who happen to not be human is entirely incorrect. Just about every person who lives with a cat or dog or hamster or parakeet can claim that a bowl of cereal has been consumed in the beastie's presence (and, yes, sometimes the beastie in question has received, by accident or on purpose, a Cheerio or two). In short, we take our morning meal with those we love most, and if we woke up alongside a Brussels Griffon or Maine Coon, chances are good that they perch upon our laps as we yawn, scroll through our emails, and reach for a muffin. But breakfasting among marsupials who live, for the most part, high up in trees? That's a rarer pleasure, and one, we'll guess, that didn't happen in too many kitchens this morning, or on any recent morning, really. It can happen, though, and will, at the San Diego Zoo, when the Balboa Park animal park again welcomes guests for Breakfast with Koalas, a before-the-zoo-officially-opens happening that rolls out, with coffee, tea, juice, and beginning-of-the-day bites, on Saturday, July 11.

TRUE, TRUE... the koalas who call the zoo home will not be at your table, though we rather like picturing them sitting dignified and polite while wielding little napkins and menus. You'll see the cuddly creatures outside The Queenslander House, in the koala yards, where they, too, will be savoring their first meal of the day alongside the human guests (a keeper will be out there on feeding duty). Inside? Look for an open buffet with the classic hot breakfast trimmings. An adult who is not a zoo member can reserve a spot for ninety three dollars, and a non-member child's admission is $83. As for the start time? Set your alarm to an animal-friendly hour: Breakfast kicks off at 8 o'clock on that Saturday morning. Yep, it is a wee bit early, but figure that many of the furry ones who call the zoo home rose with the sun. 

Photo Credit: San Diego Zoo]]>
<![CDATA[America's Birthday in The American Riviera]]> Wed, 01 Jul 2015 14:23:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AmericanFlag_Shutterstock.jpg

SMALL-TO-BIG TOWN HOLIDAY: While some of the annual holidays are known to be big travel periods -- Thanksgiving and the December observances, we are definitely thinking of you here -- other holidays are coming up on the whole "gotta get out of town" scene. Halloween used to be about sending the tots out to trick-or-treat in the immediate neighborhood while a grown-up stayed at home to supervise the giving out of miniature candy bars but now? Towns that put on big haunted houses and spooky attractions are new travel destinations. Likewise, the Fourth of July was always about your neighbor's barbecue, the one where the hamburgers run out long before the hot dogs. Like Halloween, however, some adventurers are trying out the long summer weekend in a new part of the state, one that can give some hometown holiday joys that are maybe not as plentiful in your immediate region. Julian near San Diego is mastering this, as are spots in Gold Country and Tahoe. And Santa Barbara, too, which, of course, has the word "American" in its very nickname, The American Riviera. If you're looking to combine wine tasting and gourmet eats and posh stays with some hometown-sweet Independence Day doings, then make for the Central Coast beauty for...

FIREWORKS AT THE BEACH: West Beach is the scene, or you can head out onto a catamaran called the Condor Express to watch the nighttime sky show. A free concert earlier in the evening at the courthouse's Sunken Gardens sets the musical note for the night, while old-timey fun awaits at Rancho La Patera & Stow House (think hay rides, pony rides, carnival-type games, vintage cars, and more). The popular Sunday arts-and-crafts show along Cabrillo Boulevard will hop to Saturday in honor of July 4, and an early-in-the-day pancake breakfast at the Fire District Headquarters, with firefighters, gets it all going well before noon. More merriment awaits, but you can plan your holiday weekend however. Getting a dose of hometown-style sweetness as well as the posher offerings of The American Riviera just may raise its profile in the coming years as one of the go-to Golden State spots to spend our country's birthday.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Festival del Sole: Napa Valley Summer Soiree]]> Sat, 04 Jul 2015 09:12:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/napafestsole1.jpg

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

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

Photo Credit: Festival del Sole]]>
<![CDATA[Très Drôle: Santa Barbara French Festival]]> Fri, 03 Jul 2015 07:47:31 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/189*120/poodle_large_ChristopherGardner.jpg

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

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

Photo Credit: Christopher Gardner]]>