<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Worth the Trip]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcbayarea.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.comen-usMon, 29 May 2017 12:18:34 -0700Mon, 29 May 2017 12:18:34 -0700NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Piquant in Paso: Olive Festival]]> Mon, 29 May 2017 09:12:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/56908420.jpg

THERE ARE SOME FOODSTUFFS... in this edible-lush world that aren't, on the whole, about "a little bit" in any shape or form. They can dominate any dish, when added, and they don't do that well at disappearing into the bigger, plate-filling picture. The olive, however, sits pertly at the opposite end of that scenario. It's small, we don't need to tell you, with some olives appearing to be no larger than the pit of a bigger olive. And, chopped up? The olive can vanish into a salad, and go nearly unseen, though its salty chewiness will tell the mouth (even if the eyes missed it). Which ultimately means, of course, that olivests, those people who need to have an olive (or several, many, lotsa of olives) each day, can fold these plump little orbs into practically any pasta, soup, or cold dish, all without the olive dominating or distracting. If this is you — if you're an olive adder, an olive eater, and you typically have about eight open jars going at once, in the refrigerator door — best saddle your ride and arrive in...

LOVELY PASO ROBLES... over the first Friday and Saturday of June. That's Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June 3, and while the 14th Annual Paso Robles Olive Festival will olive-up Paso's Downtown City Park on June 3, you may want to arrive a day early, on June 2, for a Social Mixer, which will include vinos from the area, and, hold onto your favorite olive jar, an olive-tasting bar, too. Mmm. At the big fest, seek out the chef-led demonstrations, the olive-themed competition, and the free olive oil ice cream. Wine, of course, will be in the bottles, glasses, hands, and eventually tummies at the park, too, which is no shocker: This is wine country, and even the olive needs to slide over and make a bit of room for its old friend, the grape. For the full schedule, and how to find the olives of your dreams, and the next olives you'll slice up for a salad, lasagna, or enchiladas? Turn your olive-loving gaze upon the Central Coast destination.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Avalon Ball 2018: Early Bird Tickets]]> Sun, 28 May 2017 07:32:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/avalonballcatalina029342903232.jpg

LET'S GET DOWN TO BRASS TACKS, and the nitty gritty, and the jelly at the center of this particular doughnut: Balls are too few in this world. Oh, maybe they're plentiful in fairy tales, and in novels, and on movie screens, but sailing to an enchanted, storied island for an evening of dancing, an evening in a beautiful building that overlooks the moonlit waves? Nope. Nuh uh. That's the stuff of happily-ever-after'd-out yarns, and not the real world. Except, and here comes the big, shiny, star-like, glittery asterisk, you're talking about Catalina Island, which is pretty darn storied, and the Casino Building, which practically owns the patent on charm, and the annual Avalon Ball, a springtime soiree that sees a caboodle of festive joy-makers dressed to the vintage nines (and tens and sixteens and beyond). It's outta-the-past party is a once-a-year thing, and it is much-loved, and... it just passed, as of this typing. But don't dab at your eyes, hankie holders, for the...

EARLY BIRD TICKETS... for the 2018 revelry are now available, further proving how sweet people are on this shindig. "The most spectacular Jazz Age ball anywhere" will return to the ballroom at the Casino Building on Saturday, May 19, 2018, which means you have loads of time to start poring over hotel rooms and dinners out and who you'll want to be your ball date. If you nab that ticket before June 30, 2017, it is $55. Nab it after? It's $70, and, yep, those are general admission prices (tickets are rather less for members of the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles, which helms the whole song-filled shebang). Did you not go this year, but vow to correct that in 2018? Best make right, and make a big night of it, next May on that most bygone of here-today beauties, Catalina Island.

Photo Credit: ADSLA]]>
<![CDATA[San Diego International Beer Fest: It's Huge]]> Mon, 29 May 2017 09:13:50 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-500405144.jpg

GLANCE AT ANY MAP... and you'll instantly see that California is not only longish, and highly ocean-fronting, but it has some notable girth. It's colossal, in short, not only in land mass but in people power, too. In fact, many of the cities that call the state home are also girthy in a gargantuan, big-of-population way. So when something trucks into view that has "California's biggest" in its handle, you know that the "biggest" in question likely has some large-a-tude to it. And if you happen to be searching out "California's biggest beer festival," you only need to glance to the south of the long 'n colossal land mass, at San Diego, which is the Junetime home to the San Diego International Beer Festival. In a state that's studded with sudsy goings-on, throughout the year but seemingly more so in summer, this Del Mar shindig is so grand it encompasses three days, from Friday, June 16 through Sunday, June 18. The "Del Mar" part of that sentence, and the dates, may reveal that is all happens on the grounds of the...

SAN DIEGO COUNTY FAIR, and "(y)our ticket to the SDIBF includes a day of fun at the San Diego County Fair." When you're not riding the Ferris wheel, or petting a pig, you can stroll the beer festival and sample libations from 200+ brewers from near, far, and just about everywhere. (Well, not everywhere everywhere, but you'll enjoy a pleasing portion of what planet-wise brewhouses are offering.) There are beer-related goods to buy, too, and games, and contests, and a full-on Beer Stage that clues you into the nuances of crafting some zingy foam. As for who's showing? Find a comfortable chair and scroll, scroll, scroll: Big Sky Brewing, Fall Brewing Company, and Odyssey Beerwerks are just three of the several many oh-my-gosh dozens. Want to find a nearby spot to bed down for the night? Catch a cab to one of these not-far-from-the-fairgrounds spots.

Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[North Lake Tahoe: Summer Kick-Off]]> Fri, 26 May 2017 21:53:40 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Lake-Tahoe-Water-Trail-by-Corey-Rich-Aurora-Photos.jpg

MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND, while not technically nor on-the-calendar-ly a part of summertime, serves as the start of the summer season in many corners of California. One of those corners happens to rock some spectacular shoreline, and an abundance of wildflowers and trees, and the bluest of agua, and it goes by a handle known to all: North Lake Tahoe. Sure, the crystalline waters are ever-present throughout the year, snow or sunshine, but when the end of May arrives, so do people wanting to play upon what's famously known as our country's second deepest lake. To discover all of your "On the Water" tips and to-dos before arriving at the alpine-amazing destination, best peruse North Lake Tahoe's helpful water-lovin' page. It's a roster that includes a number of aquatic pursuits, the kind of pursuits that visitors do love to participate in when the summer season settles in for a few months. Of course, 

KAYAKING MADE THE LOVELY LIST, and stand up paddleboarding, and watercraft rentals, and, look up, in the sky, it's parasailing. There's also information about the area marinas, and if letting someone else steer is your preference? Seek out an on-the-lake cruise (the Tahoe Gal, complete with a full galley and outdoor seating, is a common and welcome sight out on the lake). How will you interact with the water? Surely "safely" is your first answer, but then where to go from there: Dip your feet in at Kings Beach? Try your hand (and arms and legs) at some classic paddleboarding of the standing-up assortment? Or will you kick back with a brew on a look-around cruise? North Lake Tahoe has declared that it is H2O time, so find your way onto the waves. There are tempting choices, lake lovers. May you make your summer 2017 pick as smoothly as a paddle dips into the cool, wet drink.

Photo Credit: Corey Rich/Aurora Photos]]>
<![CDATA[Lotusland: The Season's First Lotus Bloom]]> Mon, 29 May 2017 09:16:23 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/215*120/lotus2017lotusland.jpg

THE FIRST FLOWER: Even if you're not a through-and-through nature watcher, and you only notice the jasmine blooms or purple jacaranda trees a week or two after they've gone into full and fabulous flower, you can grok to the notion that the first of anything is pretty darn exciting. Especially, of course, when it comes to those fore-tellers and prognosticators of the seasons, the plants and shrubs and buds of our wild and cultivated world. And a first has happened, for the 2017 season, at Ganna Walska Lotusland, a serene Santa Barbara spot that's so synonymous with a particular flower that the flower in question appears in the place's very name. We do speak of...

THE LOTUS... here, and while LotusFest!, the property's annual celebration of the water-loving specimen, happens in July, you can see lotuses begin to pop up, here and there, a number of weeks ahead of the summertime gathering. In fact, lotus lookie-loos, you'll likely see more lotus action in the weeks ahead, for the first lotus has been spied on the grounds. The poster-worthy photograph was posted on Tuesday, May 23, meaning that, into June, some solid petal action shall be seen. But if you want to wait for LotusFest! to really find your flower-based bliss, put...

SATURDAY, JULY 15... on your calendar. It's a special day at Lotusland, with vinos, tunes, bites, and more. Detail? Follow a lotus-lined pathway to all you need to know.

Photo Credit: Lotusland]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Barbara Free: I Madonnari Festival]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 22:23:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/iMadonnari_EndangeredSpeciesoftheWorld_PhotobyLuisMedina.jpg

WE SAY "STREET PAINTING"... and you say "summertime"? That was, of course, a guess on our part, but we're going to guess that guess was in the right ballpark. For the major chalk festivals of California have a knack for landing on the calendar during the nicer days, when the rains have (mostly) bid us adieu and artworks created on sidewalks may remain for a weekend (or even longer). There's Italian Street Painting Marin, on June 24 and 25, and the mega festival in Pasadena, the one that always falls over Father's Day Weekend. But Santa Barbara is up first, over Memorial Day Weekend, and its annual I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival attracts locals and visitors on holiday seeking a fabulous and free way to watch art form before their very wondering eyes. The festival, which is marking its "XXXI Anniversario" in 2017, will spread out over all three days of the weekend, giving you ample time to watch a memorable, look-down gem come together, from the very first stroke of the very first piece of chalk.

MAY 27 THROUGH 29... are the dates, the Mission Plaza is the place, and the beneficiary? Children's Creative Project, "a nonprofit arts education program of the Santa Barbara County Education Office." Prepare to eye about 150 artworks, all created by an artist, or artists, who've plunked down on the pavement. Will there be some trompe l'oeil marvels? An ode to a favorite band? A still life or two? As is tradition with the big street painting festivals of the summer season, creative works shall reign and zingy surprises shall be seen. Fingers crossed that the works can weather a few days, so those arriving in Santa Barbara near the end of the weekend can admire the final, fantastic result.

Photo Credit: Luis Medina]]>
<![CDATA[Desert Sublime: Korakia Pensione]]> Sun, 28 May 2017 07:32:05 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/korakia+pensione.palm+springs0293232.jpg

A NOT-SO-SECRET SECRET SPACE: Those who claim the desert, unlike a thickly wooded area or a foggy seashore, can hold no secrets, clearly are not acquainted with enough arid-amazing landscapes. True, when you're in the desert the vistas tend to be huge, and the flora can be on the sparser side, a scene that only makes the whole uncluttered sweep all the more spectacular. But the desert does hold a number of mysteries, if you know which corners to peek around and where, exactly, to go in search of something a bit esoteric. One of the not-so-secret secrets of the desert resorts happens to be a stay-over property that stands, with elegance and funkiness, both, just a few blocks from Palm Canyon Drive, the bustling thoroughfare at the haute heart of the Palm Springs dining scene. It's...

KORAKIA PENSIONE, a "hidden Mediterranean Oasis in the heart of Palm Springs" that remains busy throughout the calendar (and definitely during the big music and architecture festivals of winter and springtime). That said, summertime does have its specials in the desert, and the snapshot-lovely, fountain-cooling hideaway is featuring a number of enticing add-on packages in the weeks to come. Find your paramour, cuddle together, and pore over the offerings, like...

THE ROMANTIC GETAWAY, which includes strawberries and bubbly, plus a pair of 50-minute massages. Shall there also be rose petals filling your room? That's part of the amour-laden loveliness, yes. The add-on price? It's $300. Other add-ons include a Honeymoon Welcome for $79 (think Champagne and rose petals) and the Escape & Celebrate for $550 (a massage a deux, a private candlelit dinner created by Le Vallauris, and an "oversize bouquet of flowers"). Do note these are add-on treats, in addition to the fee for your room. And do note that you may feel away-away, in a secret nook of a hotel, even though you're only a few walkable blocks from the bars and shops of Palm Canyon Drive. Can the desert have secrets? Can Korakia Pensione boast a few festive add-on specials? Yes and yes, are the definitive answers.

Photo Credit: Korakia Pensione]]>
<![CDATA[Opening: Crystal Cave at Sequoia National Park]]> Mon, 29 May 2017 09:15:39 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/CrystalCaveSequoia.jpg

WHATEVER ERRAND YOU'RE RUNNING, whatever dish you're cooking, whatever dog you're brushing, whatever work presentation you're helming, there is this truth: The caves of the world carry on, eternally and mostly out of sight, in a mysterious, subterranean fashion. Many of the planet's most damp and delightful hollows can't even be reached by humans, but some can, though whether those destinations keep year-round open hours is another matter. But if caves matter to you, and all of those ancient rock formations, then you likely keep tabs on just when your favorite below-the-ground, under-a-mountain marvels re-open for another good stretch. A Golden State go-to is about to throw wide the proverbial cave doors once again, and just in time for the traditional, road-trippin', see-some-nature summer season. It's Crystal Cave, inside Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and all of its lovely stalactites and stalagmites are once again there for your admiring pleasure as of...

FRIDAY, MAY 26: The Friday ahead of Memorial Day Weekend is a prime time to connect with a national park. Do note that Crystal Cave will again bid us lookie-loos adieu in September 2017, so choose your tour — the Family Tour, the Discovery Tour, the Wild Cave Tour, as well as others — then buy your tickets and begin your below-ground exploration. You'll learn all about the "... impressive chambers, magnificent formations, rare minerals, unique animals, and a polished marble stream" as you saunter along your cave-tastic adventure. You know there are big caves in the Southwest, and, of course, the South, too, as well as points around the globe. But have you made the acquaintance of Crystal Cave yet, right here in the Golden State? It's a wonder, and one that can be, and should be, enjoyed during the warm weather months.

Photo Credit: Wuksachi Lodge]]>
<![CDATA[Bracebridge Dinner: Get Your Ticket Now]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 14:13:25 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/bracebridge-dinner-93_1000x667.jpg

CHRISTMAS CLOTHING: When you imagine the togs you don in December, you're like to A) picture some snowmen-bedecked jammies or B) visualize a bright red sweater covered in wee bells or C) think of a Santa hat, a big belt, and the full-on outfit, trimmed, of course, in faux fur. But some people, when it comes to end-of-the-year gussying-up, tend to seek out a different sartorial path, one involving Elizabethan gowns and high-of-neck ruffs and breeches and tights and shoes with mega buckles. These are the people who love to attend, or have always dreamed of attending, the long-running, oh-so-grand Bracebridge Dinner, a Yosemite National Park-based tradition that stretches back to the 1920s (when no less than Ansel Adams appeared as one of the merry-hearted players). The medieval-amazing Bracebridge affair, which takes place in the dining room at the Majestic Hotel, is no longer a single-night-only, be-lucky-in-the-lottery-drawing kind of deal. It, in fact, occurs over a...

NUMBER OF SELECT NIGHTS... each December. The first date in 2017 is on Sunday, Dec. 10, the final date of the run will happen on Friday, Dec. 22, and your reservation may be placed by ringing Yosemite Hospitality at 888-413-8869 (or you can swing by TravelYosemite.com, too). What can you expect, if you've never been? The whole evening to-do raises a glass, shouts "huzzah!," and digs into a number of swanky suppable courses over three and a half hours. Costumed characters provide the laughs and songs, and the magic of yuletidery is much in the air of the capacious, high-of-ceiling dining room. Want to trade that gingerbread man sweater for a lace ruff and breeches? This could be your year, Yosemite-loving time traveler.

Photo Credit: Golub Photography]]>
<![CDATA[SLO Soiree: Roll Out the Barrels]]> Tue, 23 May 2017 21:05:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Barrel_Pour_Courtesy_SLO+Wine+Country.jpg

THREE-DAY WINE EVENTS... are the stuff of getaway-having, raise-the-roof legend come summertime, but many of our state's biggest bashes don't wait for an actual three-dayer to come along. One of the ripest and revelry-est on the beverage-based calendar has been around for over a quarter century, plus a couple of years, and it is, quite literally, one of the toasts of the Central Coast wine calendar. It's Roll Out the Barrels, and it will once again settle nicely into a Thursday, Friday, and Saturday just a few days after summer's arrival. That means barrels shall be rolling from...

JUNE 22 THROUGH 24, and the "variety of events" on the pinot-perfect calendar are plentiful. The Thursday night soiree, Barrels in the Plaza, takes place on the grounds of Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, but the pretty and historic property isn't the only centerpiece. Prepare to saunter by "...more than 50 'tasting stops'" featuring the libations from SLO Wine Country's member wineries as well as top cuisine creators from the area. The good times continue into June 23 and 24, along with the brand-new...

4x2 PASSPORT EXPERIENCE: The "4" in that equation? That means that a passport holder may choose a quartet of wineries on June 23, and then another quartet on June 24, to try (that's the "2" in the name — 2 days). It's a separate ticket from Barrels in the Plaza, but there is an early-bird way to bundle both and save ahead of May 31. And if you're staying for two nights in a row in the area around the time of Roll Out the Barrels? Best look into this lodging promotion faster than a barrel can roll.

Photo Credit: SLO Wine Country]]>
<![CDATA[The Mountain Play's 'Beauty and the Beast']]> Tue, 23 May 2017 13:25:04 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/beautybeastmountainplay.jpg

"BEAUTY AND THE BEAST"... is an old story rife with richly drawn characters, the kind of personalities that lend fancy and panache to the castle-lush fairy tale. Of course, one of the best-known characters never speaks a line, and yet there it is, adding such depth and mystery to the yarn that it seems impossible not to mention it early on: the woods. The forest is what separates our two protagonists at first, and it is the forest that keeps Beast secluded, away from life among the townsfolk. But when one ventures out to see a "Beauty and the Beast" film or live production, venturing through copse of trees or a forested stretch isn't typically an option. You usually traverse a few streets, and buildings, to reach the show or movie. But that can all change when you hike along the trail at...

MOUNT TAMALPAIS STATE PARK... to the Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre, the longtime home of The Mountain Play. The annual warm-weather theatrical event, which presents a play over a series of select May and June afternoons, is indeed featuring Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" in 2017, with a number of dates still to come (May 28, June 4, June 11, and June 18). Tickets run from $25 to $40 for the play, which begins at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Picnics are allowed, though there shall be food for purchase, and sunscreen and hats are on the recommended list. Cushions? You can rent or buy them there. And while there is limited parking, and a shuttle, some theater goers choose to make the hike up, through the woods, to the amphitheatre. Is this option for you? To put you in a fairy tale-esque mood? Find your way through the trees, to Beast's castle, here.

Photo Credit: Mountain Play]]>
<![CDATA[37 Cloves: Gilroy Eating Contest]]> Sat, 27 May 2017 08:11:12 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/garlic+cloves.jpg

IF YOU'RE A HOT FOODS FAN, there is literally a .000001 chance that you've never been charmingly challenged, by a friend or family member, to eat a pepper or a bowl of fiery salsa or a clove of garlic while they look on in sheer wonder. It may, in fact, be your go-to signature party trick, the wowza foodie feat you pull out while standing in a pal's kitchen or sitting at the head of the table at a restaurant. But riddle yourself this: If you can indeed devour a whole clove of raw garlic without flinching, even after thoroughly chewing it and letting its garlicky fire shine through, can you chow down on two in a row? How about a half dozen? While we're at it, can you eat 37 cloves of garlic? In a minute or less?

HOO BOY: We'll just pause here, to gather our wits, and take a long sip of H2O, and say "hooooo boy" yet again. Because that is something else, 37 cloves of garlic in a minute, though competitors will attempt to reach that record at The Great Gilroy Garlic Eating Contest on Friday, July 28. No ifs, ands, or bulbs about it: This is going to be one of the most-watched showdowns of the 2017 Gilroy Garlic Festival, as those who know what they're in for attempt to break the previous record of 36 cloves consumed in under a minute. (Hats off to Patrick Bertoletti, who bested past records in East Dundee, Illinois back in 2012.)

HOW TO ENTER? You'll need to start with a video, taken of you, consuming not one, not two, but five cloves. You'll need to post it in certain spots, by June 23, 2017, and include some hashtaggery. What's the ultimate prize? The victor'll snap a pair of VIP entries to the 2018 festival, plus, of course, "ultimate bragging rights." Can we say it again? Hooooooo boy, my goodness, and do we ever need another sip of ice water, right about now.

Photo Credit: Garlic ]]>
<![CDATA[Summer Cottage: Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe]]> Mon, 22 May 2017 21:49:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/HyattLakeTahoe_Cottages.jpg

WHILE A SUMMER GETAWAY... can, and does, incorporate several different stay places, from RVs to motel rooms to a friend's couch, there's something a bit magic floating around the word "cottage." Add "lakeside" to that already enchanted label, and you have something even a bit more marvelous. And if that lake happens to be Lake Tahoe, which, let's be honest, is one of le ultimate lakes, as far as lovely lakeage goes? Then you're probably dealing with the kind of vacation found in classic childhood books, and memories, of days long drifted away. But they haven't drifted off completely: The Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe has Lakeside Cottages on its grounds, and you and the extended family (or extended cousin and/or friend group) can book one of the "multi-room lakeside residences" for your warm-weather, nap-and-read-and-swim idyll. But just because you're a bit secluded from the resort doesn't mean you're not in the summery swing, for there's the...

CAMP HYATT LAKE TAHOE... program, a craft-fun, game-jovial experience created for kids ages 5 to 12. There's a freshly unveiled summertime spa menu at Stillwater Spa & Salon, too (a Basil, Cilantro, and Avocado Treatment is one oh-so-seasonal selection). And the Pier 111 Bar and Lone Eagle Grille are but a short stroll from your Lakeside Cottage (if you and your kin want to take a break on cooking in for the night). Of course, you could just hang out at the resort's private beach, or rent a kayak at nearby Action Water Sports, before returning to the Lone Eagle Grille for some Passmore Ranch Trout or Niman Ranch All-Natural Lamb Chops. But what will pull you away from your cottage? It's an icon that's woven through our notions of what summer is, and it is available, over the summer of '17, at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe.

Photo Credit: Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe]]>
<![CDATA[Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week]]> Sun, 21 May 2017 11:18:06 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Riviera_Palm_Springs_203628_Cantala_Restaurant.jpg

WHATEVER YOU'RE UP TO IN THE DESERT, be it a morning on the golf course, a day spent splashing in a pool (or trying not to get splashed), or an afternoon on the tram, or an evening out at a concert, you're going to need to eventually find your sunny sustenance. Even if the sun has bid goodbye for the day, and all of those famous desert stars are out, you can still call the cuisine of the Greater Palm Springs area "sunny sustenance," because the warm clime, and beautiful environs, inspire many a chef to create a cuisine that's, well, upbeat in terms of flavors, presentation, and general pizzazz. There's never a heavy-handedness to P.S. fare, though, of course, many dishes can be rib-sticking and fill-the-tum traditional. Whether you go for rib-sticking or a classic salad or something with a nouveau spin, you surely like saving some cash, which is one of the themes of the annual...

GREATER PALM SPRINGS RESTAURANT WEEK: As it does each year, this deal-flush festivity will spread out over several days in early June. The 2017 dates are Friday, June 2 through Sunday, June 11 and more than 100 eateries are on board. And by "on board" we mean doing the whole lunch special (two courses or more) and dinner special (three courses or more) thing. The menus for lunch have three price points ($15, $20, and $25), while dinner'll cost somewhere along the $29, $39, $49 nexus. What places jumping into all of this delicious revelry? Cantala at Riviera Palm Springs, Schnitzelhaus Palm Desert, Mr. Lyon's Steakhouse, 533 Viet Fusion, Stuft Pizza Bar & Grill at La Quinta, and oodles of other tempting spots. As for what's doing in the desert in late spring? Oh so much, but check it out: "Mirage," the now-famous mirror house from Desert X, remains open and visitable.

Photo Credit: Cantala Restaurant]]>
<![CDATA[Monterey Baconfest: Summer Sizzle]]> Sat, 20 May 2017 07:30:26 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/bacon_Awesome.jpg

THERE WAS A MOMENT, not too far back in the past, when bacon was relegated to one time of day, and one time of day alone: morning. Sure, bacon, or perhaps more accurately pancetta, would pop up in evening pastas every now and then, and BLTs are a venerable favorite, but a dine-outer would most likely see two or three strips aside a fried egg or tower of toast. That whole pigeonholing of the savory superstar came to a slow but decisive end, what with the dawn of the internet and the rise of the true-blue bacon fandom. Suddenly strips were showing up in Bloody Marys, on t-shirts and housewares, and, yes, atop cupcakes. And much like bacon was once thought of as a morning staple, and then leapt into lunch and dinner dishes, it was also associated, way back, as a hearty foodstuff, something you might consume on a chilly morning. This no longer holds true, for it is now a year-round foodstuff, and popular in the summer, when several bacon-based revelries spring up around the state. One of the munchiest is in Monterey, as the name would suggest. It's the...

MONTEREY BACONFEST, and it will sizzle-pop on the first Saturday in summer, June 24, at the Monterey County Fair & Event Center. Bacon margaritas will likely to get much of the beverage buzz at the party (and this is yet another sign that bacon wasn't going to stick to Bloody Marys on the beverage front, though, of course, classic Bloodies'll be available, too). After all of your devouring, spend some time rocking out to the live tunes or looking around at the crafts for sale. If you're a baconist, will you finally come across a new-to-you bacon-themed or bacon-featuring dish? In these full-on days of supreme baconiana, that's becoming a challenge, but with more festivals, like Monterey Baconfest, it just might happen.

Photo Credit: Bacon]]>
<![CDATA[AvoMargFest: Morro Bay Fiesta]]> Fri, 19 May 2017 07:43:16 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/avo02823223-horz.jpg

CINCO DE MAYO... is done for another year, but the delight we found in a well-made, lightly rim-salted, incredibly lime-luscious margarita may be lingering on. Likewise, we might have found ourselves seated next to the guacamole bowl on May 5, and a basket of chips, and we may have not eaten as much of the iconic dip as we really wanted to, in order to politely save guac for the other guests. If either of these two sippable, suppable superstars are still lingering your brain space following the early-May holiday, there are actions you can take. One? Make a giant bowl of tomato-luscious, garlicky-good guacamole for yourself this weekend, with a blender margy on the side (or non-blender, if that's your pref). Two? Find another situation where margaritas and guacamole will be the stars, and find it in a town that has one of California's most scenic natural wonders: Morro Bay. It is Morro Rock we refer to here, and if you had to eat your last bowl of guacamole, and enjoy your most recent tequila drink, without having a lovely giant ancient rock to gaze upon, in a seaside town, there's a way to rectify that. You can do so at the...

AVOMARGFEST, a late-summer tradition in the charmer of a Central Coast town. As is tradition, it'll take place just after Labor Day, on Saturday, Sept. 9, a perfect time to be in that particular spot (well, Morro Bay lives in the perfect time-to-be-there zone, but September is especially warm and sweet). Might you win a year's supply of California avocados? Best daydream about that all summer long. Might you bask in some briny breezes from the nearby Pacific while chowing down? It's pretty much a conclusion of the most foregoneness. For ticket info — they're on sale now — and more guacly goodness, click click.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Phillip Nealey]]>
<![CDATA[Mono County: Photo-Perfect Spots]]> Thu, 18 May 2017 20:33:37 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/monolakesunset12345.jpg

MONO COUNTY, which grandly sits along a sizable swath of the Eastern Sierra, sports a lot of varied terrain and a veritable gamut of elevation points. Which is why, when springs rolls into view, and the area waterfalls are peaking with power, it is still good to ask someone in the know... "is this place I want to go actually open, like, today"? For snow is a real thing up around the epic peaks and canyons, as well as other weather factors, and even in the middle of springtime favorite spots can still be shuttered. Devils Postpile National Monument remains closed, as does the Tioga Pass, and Bodie State Historic Park? Those who care for the gem of a ghost town are still dealing with the aftermath of a few December earthquakes (so, yep, it is shuttered). But with Fishmas 2017 behind us, and the weather inching towards full warm-a-tude, Mono County's season for fabulous snow-free photo opportunities is nearly here. Where to go, though? The people behind Visit Mono County have ideas like, of course...

MYSTERIOUS MONO LAKE, which sports tufa that looks very snow-like, even when it is toasty outside. Silver Lake on June Lake Loop has an oh-so-Switzerland-ish backdrop of Carson Peak, while Lundy Canyon near Mono Lake is home to some winning waterfall beauty. Need more photography-based inspiration before setting out with your tripod and camera for the Eastern Sierra? This page is a solid starting point for waterfall-obsessed, lake-loving shutterbugs.

Photo Credit: Mono County]]>
<![CDATA[Cavallo Point Lodge: Summer of Love]]> Tue, 23 May 2017 07:05:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Michal_Venera_CAV.jpg

THE SUMMER OF LOVE... is a rhythm, a vibe, an outlook, and a full-on approach to art and living, but, above all, it was an actual, it-really-happened time. That time was indeed summer, in 1967, though many important events occurred before and after that amazingly short period, too. And while oodles of people embraces the rhythm and outlook that the hallowed '67 stretch symbolizes, those same people are seeking to connect with the monumental season of music, love, and change on a look-back, educational level, too. The opportunities to do so will be plentiful over the summer of 2017, the 50th anniversary of The Summer of Love, and Cavallo Point Lodge, the storied spread of vintage buildings in Sausalito, not far from the Golden Gate Bridge, wants to help guests find more stories, characters, and messages from that multi-month course-changer of a moment. The property's new...

SUMMER OF LOVE PACKAGE... includes accommodations in either a Contemporary or Historic Room, and round-trip transportation to both the Haight (where a self-guided tour, voiced by none other than Peter Coyote, will lead you by some major sites o' '67) and the de Young Museum, which is featuring an exhibit called "The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll" through Aug. 20, 2017. Also provided for your trip into the city? A picnic lunch, to keep your energy up for all of that summery soaking-in. And if you're staying on a Sunday, Cavallo Point is providing a ride to Stern Grove, the sound-sweet staple now in its 80th year. The hotel also has a playlist to download full of hits of the era, including Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, and more greats. For prices, details, asterisks, and all of the vibes you'll need to grok to before finding your path back to a summer in the past, start here, flower people and lovers of this journey of life.

Photo Credit: Michal Venera]]>
<![CDATA[Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival]]> Wed, 17 May 2017 20:42:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/MorninglaunchChipMorton.jpg

WHAT GOES UP? It's a question with many possible, completely accurate answers. A wine of glass can go up, at least several inches, if you're raising the goblet high to toast a guest of honor. A pumped fist can go up, if a concert goer is particularly feeling the rockin' vibe of the live tunes. And when a colorful envelope fills with heated air, a hot air balloon can go up, too, high above camera-wielding admirers on the ground. To find all of those rising elements in the same lovely spot, and to find a lot of history, hubbub, and flavorful vittles, too, you only need to look upon Lake Skinner Recreation Area, and the annual Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival, which will soon gain lift off, again, for its 34th annual go-around. The dates spread out over the first weekend in June — Friday, June 2 through Sunday, June 4 — and while the balloons are the impressively large, fly-fantastic centerpieces of the festivity, there are a number of goings-on. Including...

THE CONCERTS: A number of acts, from The Motels to Dramarama to Bush to The Gin Blossoms, will provide the raise-your-hands-'n-clap entertainment during the three-dayer. And over in the wine garden, vino-ists will come across 18 wineries setting out some of their greatest, most classic libations. A wine-tasting package starts at $20 — that'll nab you six tastes — but consider that there are food & wine pairing opportunities, too, if noshing alongside your chard is your preference. It's one of the biggest balloon soirees in the state, and quite the scenic, snap-a-pic party, too. Details, prices, hotels? Turn your gondola in this direction for the info-filled site.

Photo Credit: Chip Morton Photography]]>
<![CDATA[National Trails Day: Find Your Path]]> Thu, 18 May 2017 09:37:29 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/CTTC170307094236_045maxwhittaker.jpg

MAYBE YOU HAVE BIG SUMMER PLANS, or, scratch that, start over, you have amazingly gargantuan goals, the kind of goals that entail you hiking a mile in each California-based national park or calling upon every state park that's within 20 miles of the beach. We can order our nature-fun goals in almost limitless ways, creating different combinations of where and when and why we go to a place, but, very often, every wilderness plan involves a hike of some sort. And if there's a hike, quite often there's a trail, a pathway that others before you have trod (meaning future trodders will one day take it, too). Finding a beloved trail, or a few dozen, is a joy if you're a regular hiker, or even if you don't get out and commune with the trees and canyons as often as you'd like. But there's a day that reminds us of all the fantastic, wending pathways out there, and it comes when the big hiking season is truly picking up steam. It's...

NATIONAL TRAILS DAY, and it will grab its walking stick, and favorite boots, and head out on Saturday, June 3. The American Hiking Society-helmed occasion boasts a number of meet-up events, so simply try to find a group close to where you want to explore. In California? Join Big Bear's National Trails Day at Aspen Glen, Lopez Lake Trail Work Day in Arroyo Grande, or another hike-ready happening. Even if you and your hiking bud simply want to hit an oldie/goodie on your own, without making it to an event, well, that's way cool, too. Let the date, the first Saturday in June, be the inspiration you need to quickly finalize your summer hiking goals list, and then get moving. Summer's short, and very sweet, and the trail? It's long, at least, in your heart, if you connect together all the trails you've loved.

Photo Credit: Max Whittaker]]>
<![CDATA[Kinetic Grand Championship: Whimsy Machines]]> Sat, 20 May 2017 07:31:50 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/kinetic2016tinak.JPG Outlandishly imagined vehicles will roll — and float — in Humboldt County.

Photo Credit: Tina Kerrigan Photography]]>
<![CDATA[Dapper Day Fall 2017: Book Your Hotel]]> Tue, 16 May 2017 06:18:09 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/dapperdayparasolslauriescavo12345.jpg

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE... to properly clean a crinoline that's come into contact with a sprinkling of churro sugar or a Dole Whip float? How much time will you put aside to properly fold your gloves, and your stockings, and to polish the bow-topped shoes you rocked at the spring 2017 Dapper Day at Disneyland Resort? Caring for our clothing, especially vintage togs that might need a little extra TLC, does take a few extra minutes, but those are minutes that many a Dapperist will gladly put in, the better to make sure their get-up shines the next time they wear it. And as long as we're on the topic of time, and how long it takes for things to happen, consider this slice of the calendar: The spring, sartorial-sweet outing just wrapped a few weeks back, but Dapper Day Fall 2017 is on the fall horizon, meaning that you won't be stowing that parasol or boater hat for too long. In fact, the organizers of the dress-up event, which is not affiliated with the theme park, just posted.

A HOTEL SPECIAL... for the resort properties in Anaheim, Florida, and Paris. If you're doing Dapper Day at any of those spots, and you'd like to stay close to the action, the better to keep your crinoline and gloves looking perfecto, best hook into what you need to do to score a great rate soon, as "(t)hese rates will sell out as always," advises a posting on Facebook. What's the date for Disneyland Resort? Why it is Sunday, Nov. 5, and the full Disneyland Hotel expo is on Nov. 4 and 5, which is, of course, but a few days after Halloween. Do note that Dapper Day is all about skirt-swirling, suit-snazzy style, and not costuming, so you'll need to pursue your Halloween outfit and your Dapper Day ensemble concurrently but separately. How soon will autumn be here? As fast as a cold draft of air from the Haunted Mansion, trust, so best unhand your crinoline and boater and book now.

Photo Credit: Laurie Scavo]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Barbara Car-Free: All Aboard!]]> Fri, 26 May 2017 08:38:37 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/SantaBarbaratrainstation123.jpg

WHEN WE TRAVEL TO A PLACE, we're often told to keep certain things handy, from a helpful app to a trusted guidebook to the phone number of a friend of a cousin of a co-worker. We want these items at the ready, in case we need to find a restaurant or a tour or a little local friendship, so we stow them in our phone or in our bag or in our noggin. But there's something a little special to keep close, in a pocket, perhaps, should you call upon the American Riviera before the final day in 2017. It's your Amtrak train ticket, for once you arrive in Santa Barbara via the train, you'll find that a number of deals will suddenly flower up, like so much bougainvillea up a red-tiled building, out of the seeming blue. But those deals aren't from nowhere: They're a part of the Santa Barbara Car Free 2017 program called "Take the Train," which gives travelers a host of perks when they show that "I arrived by the tracks" ticket. The ticket can be...

ON PAPER, A MOBILE DEVICE, OR AN E-TICKET, and the money-savers or sweet extras? Look to several hotels, from Beach House Inn to Cheshire Cat Inn, for "special offers," or the attractions and fun-dos around town, such as whale watching with the CONDOR Express and cycling wine-oriented tours with I Bike Santa Barbara. But will you hop onto the Coast Starlight to choo-choo into the stunner of a city or the Pacific Surfliner? That all depends upon the direction you're heading in from and the train you booked. Both bear romantic names, making an ultimate destination of Santa Barbara, one of our state's best-known romantic burgs, feel right. Even righter? Saving cash while you're there on some of the area's best, get-to-know-us stuff.

Photo Credit: Santa Barbara Car-Free]]>
<![CDATA[Glacier Point Road: Now Open]]> Mon, 15 May 2017 05:56:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/gppeopleGettyImages-452872764+%281%29.jpg

HALF DOME, that hunka ginormous granite goodness dominating Yosemite Valley, which is no small feat, as several other wonders also go for the look-at-me factor, is not, shall we say... shy. It's a natural landmark that can be seen from miles and miles (and miles) away, and, as thousands of photographs can further support, people really, really like taking Half Dome's portrait. But when it comes to a certain side angle, one that starkly conveys the dome's famous "flat" front (though, you know, it isn't exactly that, at all), there is just one spot, above all others, literally, that shutterbugs like to go: Glacier Point. The high-above-the-valley vantage point gives admirers, with or without a camera in hand, a different look at the much-looked-at Half Dome, and making the trip up Glacier Point Road to snap the perfect H.D. pic is a rite of summertime for many. Emphasis there is on summer, as Glacier Point Road can get notably snowy. But the passage has been cleared, and...

GLACIER POINT ROAD IS OPEN... for another season. Take note, everyone headed up in the days and/or weeks following its May 11 debut: It's pretty wintry, still, along the route. Is it Tioga Pass snowy? Well, no, but then few things are. Still, a note on the Yosemite National Park Facebook page advises that visitors taking the now-open road up, up, up "...should be prepared for winter hiking conditions; most trails are still covered in snow." For all the trail info, and other to-knows about this popular warm-weather route, visit Yosemite's Facebook page or main online ranger station. Keep in mind that, as of opening day, services at Glacier Point "are limited."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[The Sanctuary at Soledad Goats]]> Sun, 14 May 2017 14:13:13 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sanctuaryatsoledadgoats.jpg

BABE(S) IN THE CITY: If you've called upon the northeast corner of Third & Fairfax in the City of Los Angeles, you may have had an unexpected farm-fantastic moment, if you found yourself wandering by The Sanctuary at Soledad Goats table at the Original Farmers Market. The clocktower-close booth has been a somewhat recent staple on the north side of the Third & Fairfax landmark, and while the variety of vegan treats displayed might have understandably caught your eye, you also likely took time to coo over Kaboom, a handsome goat, or Sage, an inquisitive little kid, or Edgar Allen Pig, who does love attention.

THESE THREE CUTIES, along with their people, Julian and Carol Pearce, make regular trips to the city as representatives of a Mojave-based sanctuary known for its commitment to animal care and its stance against cruelty. Of course, The Sanctuary at Soledad Goats is also well-loved for its open-door policy, welcoming anyone who wants to come say hello to the cows and horses and donkeys and goats and pups and parrots and ducks and pigs who call the place home moo home ("moo" is, of course, "sweet" in goat-speak).

VEGAN GOODIES: If the names of the humans ring a bell for you, you likely are a fan of the Pearces' vegan goodies, such as their almond praline bars, lavender bars, and peanut butter truffles. But Julian and Carol have a background in critter care, too, meaning the sanctuary they oversee is all about doting upon the furry, horn-sporting, hoof-happy residents. The duo also boast expertise in the making of goat cheese, but they've fully turned to vegan products in recent years. To check out their new cheezes — that's right, with a "z" — just eye the tempting line-up on the sanctuary's online home. 

YOU CAN HOBNOB MOST DAYS... with a few animals at the Original Farmers Market, if you've timed your swing-by just right, but to see many more beasties and the whole sanctuary itself, best plan a day trip up to Mojave, north of Lancaster. You'll need to schedule your hello in advance of arriving, but this page should help (and there are a few tips on what to wear and bring to the sanctuary, including "clothes that can get dirty!"). It's a place "Where Every Animal Has a Home," and love and attention, and if scrolling through the sweet pictures of the sanctuary's sweet-face'd denizens doesn't have you making a date to visit... Oh wait. You probably already have.

Photo Credit: The Sanctuary at Soledad Goats]]>
<![CDATA[Shark Search: New Dana Point Tour]]> Sat, 20 May 2017 07:35:22 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sharkboatdanapoint.jpg

IT'S A MEGA UNDERSTATEMENT... to say that more than a few critters call our ocean home. The big water fully teems and burbles with all kinds of life, from coral to crabs to the largest living creatures on this planet. Which means we could spend a lifetime, or several, attempting to see just a sliver of these beasties in their regular habitat. And while whale-watching outings are regular happening around the shores of Southern California, finding one that puts the focus on another mondo-of-size superstar can be a bit trickier. We speak of the shark, yes, and while there are places to see the fin-fantastic wonders, from the pettable sharks of the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach to the recently debuted Shark Frenzy ride at the Santa Monica Pier, heading out onto the oceanic vastness to see what we can see is a rarer treat. But should you sign up with the new...

SHARK SEARCH SATURDAY... adventures, with Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching, you just might get a glimpse of some gargantuan, gill-rocking shark. A number of young great whites have been seen in recent days around Long Beach, and guests aboard the OCean Adventures Catamaran may come across the famous shark as well as makos, threshers, hammerheads, and blues. You'll certainly see some beautiful sea birds, and maybe those barking cuties that hang close to the harbor (hello seals, hello sea lions). The first Shark Search? It's opened on Saturday, May 13. The price? It's $45, and the company limits the number of guests "for better viewing." Might you come across one of these epic, oh-so-prehistoric icons? It could happen: The ocean is colossal and deep with living treasure.

Photo Credit: Frank Brennan]]>
<![CDATA[Double Eagle Resort: Free Alfresco Yoga]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 11:18:05 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/doubleeaglefreeyoga.jpg

YOGA FLOWS ON MANY LEVELS, inside, outside, and a few other sides as well, but a practitioner can be counted upon to find their own beautiful interior atmosphere, and spectacular setting, regardless of where the yogi happens to physically be located. Still, though, yoga devotees do seek out novel and gorgeous settings, such as beaches, places that inspire, calm, and further fill out the interior world of the one performing the poses. If you are hoping to commune with such a natural spot, arise from your mat and gaze upon The Switzerland of California, June Lake, and the Double Eagle Resort and Spa. True, much of June Lake, and the Double Eagle, has been under a good deal of snow over the one-for-the-books winter of 2016-2017. But balmier days are ahead, at least in terms of what "balmier" is in a higher-elevation setting, and the charming property is offering an attractive perk to yoga-loving guests. It's...

OUTDOOR YOGA, and it is free if you happen to be staying in one of the Double Eagle's not-too-rustic cabins, and it will all happen in view of those aforementioned, Switzerland-like peaks. In fact, if you've been to June Lake, you may have found yourself rather smitten with Carson Peak, one of the most dramatic formations in all of the Golden State. If sitting in Easy Pose within sight of this epic wonder, all on a great summer day, appeals, ask Double Eagle about their schedule of upcoming classes once temperatures begin to toast up. Can you close your eyes, focus your mind, and almost picture yourself at Carson's tippy-top point? It's a real communing-with-nature spot, June Lake, and a free yoga session will only further enhance that vibe.

Photo Credit: Double Eagle Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Renaissance Indian Wells: Sunny Deals]]> Fri, 19 May 2017 07:44:30 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/renaissanceindianwells2017.jpg

WE DON'T KNOW HOW TO BREAK THIS TO YOU, but living full-time in a swimming pool just isn't possible, really, for anyone, unless you're a pool noodle or inflatable swan. We may wish we could remain, eternally, sitting on the steps of the shallow end, while we sip something refreshing and adjust our hat just so (so it doesn't dip into the water), but "eternally" never seems to be in the cards, when it comes to taking up residence in a pretty pool. But revisiting a cool body of blue-blue water when the weather warms up? That is, in fact, possible, and if you book a room near it, you can probably spend as much time as you like in the shallow end, beverage-sipping and hat-adjusting. And it just so happens that the desert resorts are lush with perfect poolage, and as the temperatures heat up, the money-spending in many places goes down, down, down. Making you and your reunion with the shallow end steps all the more probable. The...

RENAISSANCE INDIAN WELLS... just announced a few solid specials as we head into the middle of May and sunny (read: toasty) days. There's the Double Your Fun for an Extra $50, which gives resort guests an opportunity to book a second room for a cool fifty bucks (starting at $209 a night). The code? It's P51. A Summer Chill Package starts at $225 and includes a $50-minute spa treatment, as well as a night's stayover. And if you have tots under 12 with you, there's a Family Getaway — Kids Eat Free special afoot. Same code as earlier, P51, and the kid's menu is available at CAVA or at the pool café. Ah yes, the pool café, so close to where you'll lounge for a few hours in the shallow end. Are you feeling the wrinkly fingertips now? You'll have to leave the pool eventually, but, while you're relaxing there, you're free to pretend the shallow home is your new address.

Photo Credit: Renaissance Indian Wells]]>
<![CDATA[Queen Mary Fourth of July: Tickets on Sale]]> Thu, 11 May 2017 21:53:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/178*120/4thofJuly_QM.png

2017 MAY HAVE JUST STARTED, like, twenty minutes ago, in many a mind, but lookie here: Some major Independence Day celebrations are already beginning to crop up, or pop up, like so many pyrotechnics in the sky. Nope, the year isn't half over quite yet, but you can secure your spot at a Fourth of July party even before April bids its adieu. One of the biggest of the Southern California bashes is on the Queen Mary, and it is a night prized for its vintage charms and over-the-water fireworks show. If both of these things appeal to you, and you're eager to board the big boat for a celebratory summer night, then best know that...

TICKETS HAVE GONE ON SALE... for the All-American Fourth of July festival. For sure, "special historic tours" are part of day, if you want to peek at the famous (and maybe haunted?) boiler area of the landmark, and family to-dos, too. It isn't all about the after-sundown sky show, in short. Look also for "a patriotic theatrical movie in the Queen Mary Theatre," which is a feature that's unique to this Independence Day observance. And is there a hotel package, too, if you want to spend the night, and maybe encounter one of the ship's legendary phantoms? You bet. 

THE QUEEN MARY... recently revealed an upcoming new development that'll include shops, restaurants, and activities. It's adjacent to the ship, and will keep to a certain vintage feel the landmark is known for in its theming. Want to know more? Dip your paddle in and steer over here.

Photo Credit: Queen Mary]]>
<![CDATA[Lavender Love: The Purple Golden State]]> Thu, 18 May 2017 07:40:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/lavGettyImages-89261459.jpg

LAVENDER IN THE AIR: What are the signs, as you amble through a new neighborhood, that there's a patch of lavender nearby? Maybe it is that singular fragrance, which can only be described as "lavender-like." Maybe you spy a bee, or three, buzzing by on their way to clocking in for the day at the nearest lavender bush. Or perhaps you spy a streak of purple, through some shrubs, and you know that while there are a host of purple-pretty flowers in this world, the purple of lavender is, well, to say it again, lavender-like and incredibly singular. But you don't need to wait for a chance lavender encounter on your next visit to a never-visited-before street; California ups its lavender game each May and June, with a full-on Ojai festival indulging in all things herb-a-licious. The 2017 festival is on...

SUNDAY, JUNE 24... at Ojai's Libbey Park, and it will boast "over 100 vendors" on the grounds. And if you're just betting that loads of those vendors'll be purveying in lavender soaps and bath oils and pot pourris and wearables and beverages, you're as right as a bee buzzing in sunshine. (Which is a pretty right thing, as right things go, all told.) The only course of action, if you're in love with lavender, is to pay the fest a visit, or make a plan to make a pilgrimage to a ranch or farm that is open to lavender-obsessed lookie-loos. One such spot, not far from Chico, in Biggs, is the aptly named Lavender Ranch. Look also to Keys Creek Lavender Farm, in Valley Center, Pageo Lavender Farm, in Turlock, and Clairmont Farms in Los Olivos for more purple majesty. One note before setting off on your lav daydream? Check dates and hours for the farm you're hoping to visit.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Los Olivos Jazz and Olive Festival]]> Wed, 17 May 2017 09:56:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/jazz5909323-horz.jpg

WHERE WE SPEND THE FIRST SATURDAY... of a month rarely has any bearing on how the rest of the month will go. For sure, fabled tales exist, the ones about eating a certain food when a 30-day span begins, or singing a certain song or saying particular words, all to make sure that the month to come is as perfect and merry as can be. While we might not be into such notions, June is kind of an unusual case. It's not the first full month of summer, but summer's just ahead, so how we wade into it, and the activities we choose to pursue, do feel a bit more special. Summer days are fleeting, various poets have suggested, and locating lovely, stroll-about, sip-about, sup-about, sounds-aplenty parties when June kicks off is a sensible course of action. One of the wine-country-iest of the June to-dos, and definitely one of the most olive-awesome (it's in the name), is the Los Olivos Jazz and Olive Festival. As it has in years before, the fest finds pleasure in June's earliest days, and the 2017 celebration shall, too. It's on...

SATURDAY, JUNE 3, and 30 wineries from around the vine-y region will be out, doing the whole come-have-a-taste thing, while "30 different olive-themed dishes prepared by chefs" will give visitors some sustenance (and, of course, that quintessential olive-piquant kick). A ticket is $65, and the money raised supports "...the charitable projects supported in part by the Rotary Club." Jazzy tunes will be in the warm air, Alta Maria Vineyards, Martian Ranch, and Epiphany by Fess Parker will be among the vino purveyors, and Los Olivos itself? It's one of those picturesque towns that can be enjoyed on foot over the course of a couple of hours. Any ol' time is a pretty nice to be there, in fact, but when the olive dishes merge, and the wines, and we're jumping to make the most of June, the perfect Los Olivos timing only increases.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/David Silverman/Brendon Thorne]]>
<![CDATA[Pawmicon: Superheroic Fundraiser]]> Tue, 16 May 2017 17:27:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Pawmicon2013-CapAm.jpg

IF YOU KNOW SUPERHEROES, then you know that they're never quite on the go-it-alone path. Oh, for sure, they can stop a volcano if need be, or at least direct flowing lava to the sea, and if a skyscraper needs to be moved, before a villain snatches it, well, a superhero is who you ring up. But these characters are also vulnerable at times, and needing some TLC, and that's part of what makes them so superheroic: That getting along in the world, especially a world that has some drama to it, is a group effort. Enter the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, a place that understands the superhero's complex strong/vulnerable path. After all, the animal center regularly welcomes critters without homes, and if you adore beasties, you know that each and everyone one of those pups and cats is a superhero for weathering what they have. Thus it makes marvelous sense that, each summer, the center would pay tribute to these furry superheroes by dressing them up in capes for a special costume-cool fundraiser. It's...

PAWMICON, and, as is delightful tradition, it will take place on the Saturday before Comic-Con International which, like Pawmicon, happens in San Diego. While Pawmicon is not affiliated with Comic-Con, you can bet there are some Fido-lovin' fans who are keen to attend both, especially when there's a chance of seeing cuddly cuties in superhero costumes. People can dress up, too, at the Saturday, July 15, 2017 gathering, and if you dress your pooch up, there's a $10 entry fee (it goes to help the Helen Woodward Animal Center). A bonus: There shall be "comic-themed prizes." The place? The Hazard Center. If you're doing Comic-Con, and you're a booster of beasties, carve a little time to give some superheroic attention to our four-footed friends in need.

Photo Credit: Helen Woodward Animal Center]]>
<![CDATA[Lompoc Flower Fields: Sweet Pea Time]]> Tue, 09 May 2017 22:03:59 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Lompoc_Sweet_Peas_FlowerFields_creditExploreLompoc.com.JPG

IF YOU'RE A WILDFLOWER FAN, and you've been following the multi-month roll-out of wildflower sightings around the state, from the dry gullies of Anza-Borrego State Desert Park to the gentle hills of Carrizo Plain National Monument, you've likely heard some of the same blossom handles over and over again: California poppies, goldfields, sunflowers, lupines, and fiddlenecks. But there are other flowers in the Golden State that are of the carefully tended and cultivated variety, and they, too, our springtime superstars, from the ranunculus of The Flower Fields in Carlsbad to the many varieties springing up in fields around Lompoc. The Santa Barbara County burg's flower season revs up around April and can push into early fall, but you're sure to see some sweetness if you visit the mural-lovely town in May and June. We said "sweetness" on purpose there, for it looks as though the sweet peas, those fragrant and frilly beauties, are now breaking out, colorfully.

A PHOTO SHARED... on the Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce & Visitor's Bureau's Facebook page on May 4, 2017 reveals a field in lush bloom. Coming across a growing sweet pea, outside of a backyard pot or plot, isn't the easiest thing in the world, so spying a profusion of them is quite the treat for the sweetpea-ists of the Golden State. But other flowers are locally famous, too, around Lompoc, including marigold, larkspur, and stock. To see what's happening at the wine country-close fields, and to time your visit, best eye this helpful pdf guide to Lompoc's springtime show. 

Photo Credit: ExploreLompoc.com]]>
<![CDATA[The Flying Fish of Catalina Island]]> Tue, 16 May 2017 06:18:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/flyingfishvisitcatalina.jpg

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE... the typical movements of the fin-sporting, gill-rocking denizens of the ocean? Would you say that our fish friends swim, or float in place, or drift? Does it depend on the species in question? Are there other words to describe the ways the piscine world travels, from wriggling to shimmy? You could probably summon a dozen terms, right now, from skimming to flitting, but we'll wager that you'd never, ever say that a fish can fly. Unless, of course, you hail from Catalina Island, or spend a good amount of time at Two Harbors or Avalon or in the inland canyons (if so, lucky). For Catalina does happen to be home to the famous Flying Fish, or, rather, the famous Flying Fish hang out in the nearby waters. Let's clear up two things pronto: The Flying Fish do not have wings, but rather pectoral fins that do seem an awful lot like bird wings, at least when seen from a distance. And two? The Flying Fish does appear to "fly" over the surface of the water for several feet, though it flaps not but rather glides.

WHEN CAN ONE SEE THIS WONDER? Nighttime is the right time for Flying Fish sightings, and summertime, too, is the season for the spectacle. Everything Flying Fish tends to get to gliding after Memorial Day Weekend, while the wrap up falls just ahead of the the beginning of autumn. Visit Catalina Island has the information on boats, times, and prices, so you'll likely want to line that up before your island idyll. And you may want to consider how you describe the movements of fishies down the road. They can swim, of course, and sometimes shimmy, and if you're in the right spot on the right summer night, they can even take flight.

Photo Credit: Visit Catalina]]>
<![CDATA[LEGOLAND New: 'Force Awakens' Display]]> Mon, 15 May 2017 16:51:48 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ANewHope_MinilandKW-9.jpg

HOW'S YOUR HYPERDRIVE WORKING? If it is in tip-top shape, and you've been patching it up on the regular, then you can swiftly cross great swaths of the deepest cosmos faster than a Tauntaun can flick its tail at a bothersome snowflake (or even faster). But if your hyperdrive system has taken a few bumps lately, and it's making a curious whirrring noise, well... speeding to the other side of the galaxy may be a mite challenging. Thank goodness, then, that Carlsbad happens to be closer than the other side of the galaxy. It's right here in California, and within Carlsbad is LEGOLAND California Resort, and with the land o' LEGO bricks there happens to be a new Miniland Model Display based on "The Force Awakens." The breath-taker-awayer in this impressive addition? There are many "look at that!" elements, but the...

16-FOOT-LONG FINALIZER... has been catching many an eye since its March debut. The sizable Star Destroyer — it carried Kylo Ren, you surely recall — includes 350,000 bricks, and poring over every carefully considered detail will keep a Force fan busy for awhile. But be sure to make time to spy the half dozen "...new brick-built Miniland scenes..." from the 2015 film, as well as a host of characters (no doubt about it, BB-8 is in the house, or, er, the theme park). There are other "Star Wars"-cool sights around Miniland, as well as a host of other must-sees like San Francisco, New Orleans, New York, Southern California, and the Block of Fame. After spending some time studying the Star Destroyer, finding the next brick-mazing build is likely just a few steps away from wherever you happen to currently be.

Photo Credit: LEGOLAND]]>
<![CDATA[Paso Pinot & Paella Festival]]> Mon, 15 May 2017 05:55:40 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/219*120/paella11.jpg

NO MODERN FOODIST... feels obliged to obey all of the old rules, or even any of the strictest strictures of the past, when it comes to pairing particular flavors with the libations that will best call out the superior qualities of those flavors (and, of course, vice versa). That's why seeing someone order a deep red cab with a white fish isn't quite the shocker it used to be, for eating-out-ism has become infused with a live-and-let-live, do-as-you-will sensibility in recent years. It's a great thing, and it allows us all to walk our own culinary path while heeding our particular peculiarities. But then there are those dishes that are...

SO LUSH WITH STRONG INGREDIENTS, additions, and background players that there is no wrong foot in terms of choosing the complementary beverage, for most any beverage, save, maybe, hot cocoa, is going to cleave well to something in the meal. Paella is one such classic, and with its rice and saffron and mussels, it goes well with host of drinks. One in particular? That's pinot noir, and the duo get their own celebration each summer in Paso Robles at the...

PASO PINOT & PAELLA FESTIVAL: It's year 14 for the deeply spiced late-spring celebration, which will flow in 2017 on Sunday, June 4. Templeton Community Park is the place, and a raft of regional chefs'll be helming the rice-simmering, mussels-marvelous paella pans. As for the Paso pinots representing? Castoro Cellars, Derby Wine Estates, and Jack Creek Cellar are just three of the many. If these two p-starting perfections are your gourmet go-tos — paella and pinot — join the other perfect P, Paso Robles, at its annual pair-up party.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Capistrano Excitement: Nesting Swallows]]> Sun, 07 May 2017 21:32:38 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/missionsanjuancapistrano12345.jpg

IF YOU KNOW SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, YOU KNOW... it's gorgeous. Really gorgeous, and the perfect air and the sunlight should be bottled, and on that bottle the words "soft and breezy" should be printed. You also know that the train runs right through it, that the Los Rios Historic District is home to a bevy of structures from the 1800s, and the ZOOMARS petting zoo has some of the cutest, most-stroke-able sweeties around. What else is in your bank of Capistrano-related knowledge? You surely, 100%, and definitely know there happens to be, plunk in the middle of all the bustling action, one of the Golden State's famous missions, a treasure of an historical site, a location that is very much associated with the avian world. If you just excitedly said "swallows!" you're correct, for...

MISSION SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO... and the late-winter return of the swallows is as storied as California stories come. St. Joseph's Day, March 19, is the traditionally observed swallows-return date, and even if few swallows are seen on March 19, it is still an occasion held close to the heart of many a mission maven. And while there is a Fiesta de las Golondrinas each March in San Juan Capistrano, and a full-on Swallows' Day observation, finding swallows nowadays has been... trickier. A 90's-era restoration on the grounds of the mission meant the swallows' nesting areas were disrupted, leading to a drop in returning birds. But a host of means to invite the birds back in greater numbers, including faux nests made of plaster, have been employed in recent years. And the result?

A JOY-FILLED VIDEO, straight from the mission and posted on Wednesday, May 3, revealing an actual cliff swallows' nest nestled in a centuries-old wall. For a peek at the wee nest, which takes many mud pellets to build, and to hear more about the effort to bring the swallows back to Mission San Juan Capistrano, give a quick watch and learn more from the mission's executive director Mechelle Lawrence Adams and Megan Dukett, the education program manager.

Photo Credit: Mission San Juan Capistrano]]>
<![CDATA[Mammoth: Kids Ski Free Through Season]]> Sat, 06 May 2017 11:22:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/mammothmountainkidsskifree1.jpg

THE FIRST OF MAY... may be focused on the making of flower crowns and petal-laden baskets, but, if you're some 11,000 feet up the side of a peak, it could very well be about snow, too. Mammoth Mountain schussed into May with some serious slope action, with few springtime buds to be seen (but many poles, skis, and goggles). The first of May is also when the bustling Sierra resort kicked off a deal that's sure to catch the eye of families hoping to put one more day in on the slopes (or a few). The headline? If your tot is 12 or under, and adores spending time geared-up for a frosty outing, they can ski for free for the remainder of the Mammoth season. And that's nothing to sniff at, thanks to the fact that the Mono County destination intends to stay open through the Fourth of July. But not only do the 12-and-unders ski for free, they...

RIDE FOR FREE... through Independence Day. One thing to note? The resort "(m)ay require proof for older children," so keep that in mind before you head up Highway 395. Another unrelated notion to chew on, although it is a bit related, given that it deals with the outdoors and under-the-sun pursuits? "Fishmas" kicked off in Mono and Inyo Counties on Saturday, April 29, if you and the fam want to make it a whirlwind cast-a-line, ski-a-slope kind of weekend. For all the details on the Kids Ski Free through the rest of the season scene, and what else is happening up the big mountain, point your poles over here.

Photo Credit: Mammoth Mountain]]>
<![CDATA[May Tradition: Jumping Frog Jubilee]]> Sun, 07 May 2017 21:32:58 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/jumpingfroghistorical123.jpg

MAY IS A MERRY MONTH, many say, and many have it right, for the spirit feels lighter, the days seem brighter, and everything that can bloom seems to be blooming all at once. But the blossoming, petal-beautiful stars of May aren't the only nature-found wonders of the month. No, we're not talking about the flying fish of Catalina Island, though their season does rev up just ahead of June. Rather, we're thinking of another fairly small critter who can also seemingly take flight, though not from the ocean but, rather, solid ground. It's the famous frogs of Calaveras County we speak of, and the storied leapers will once again be reaching for the clouds, or at least crossing a good amount of distance just above the surface of the earth, at the long-running, oh-so-venerable, Mark-Twain-related...

JUMPING FROG JUBILEE: If you're thinking back to when you last read Mr. Twain's "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," well, we'll give you time to ponder, because that's a story with (hoppy) legs around the region. So much so that the decades-old Jubilee — it'll mark its centennial in 2028 — gets its own multi-day party every May. The 2017 frog-centered festivities run from May 18 through 21, and, if you time it right, you may see a small amphibian sail for over 20 feet. Does that deserve an exclamation point? Surely: Over 20 feet! But the jubilee isn't the only thing a-jumpin' in Angels Camp. The Calaveras County Fair is also happening during that same date spread, meaning you can ride a carnival ride, eat a sweet treat, and cheer on the froggies. As for the Jumping Frog Jubilee schedule? There's action every day, both fun and competitive, but the finals are on Sunday, May 21. Oh, and should you visit The Frog Spa while there? Probably, right?

Photo Credit: Jumping Frog Jubilee]]>
<![CDATA[World's Ugliest Dog: Enter Now]]> Wed, 10 May 2017 12:53:12 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/gettyuglydog74868994.jpg

EVERY PUP IS AN INDIVIDUAL, with a distinctive personality (pupsonality?), and a distinctive snout (be it flat or very long), and a tail that doesn't quite curl or curls so tightly the pooch has a charming resemblance to a lil' piglet. And this is, in large part, why we adore them so, for all of a Fido's particular attributes help fill out his character, spirit, and presence. The Ugliest Dog Contest at the Sonoma-Marin Fair celebrates the offbeat essence of those hounds who rock a truly marvelous mien, from an extra-extra long tail to a snaggle tooth or two to a set of lopsided ears. This isn't meant to mock the adorable mutties but rather to show what all lovers of Lassies and Laddies know: Every pup is a work of perfection, and an awesome snaggle tooth or weirdly curly tail only enhances that fact. And the contest, which is quite light-of-heart and benevolent, through and through, reminds potential dog adoptees everywhere to welcome all waggers, no matter how snaggly or tail-curly. The World's Ugliest Dog Contest will once again roll at the early-summer Petuluma party on...

FRIDAY, JUNE 23: The top prize is $1500, plus you'll net a shiny trophy, which, of course, you'll want to put right next to your dog's bed, so she can admire it whenever she pleases. Also? You'll be flown to the Big Apple to make a few media appearances. Also? If you choose to enter, and do so by May 15, 2017, your entry fee is nada, as in waived, as in free. But the sweetest part of the sweet celebration, surely? Meeting other pup parents on the day of and finding out the backstory of their baby. Maybe the pup was a rescue, or maybe the pup has been a loyal, loving, 15-year companion to their human. Every tail — er, tale — is touching, and each reminds us of the power of pup love, and how a snaggle tooth, or an extra-waggly walk, can easily and thoroughly win us over.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/David Paul Morris]]>
<![CDATA[Old Sacramento Chocolate Week]]> Thu, 04 May 2017 21:49:49 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sacchocweek2017.jpg

DEVOURING A SQUARE OF CHOCOLATE... is usually enough. The satisfaction, the taste, the bitterness, the sweetness, the mouth-feel, and how beautiful the candy is can all enhance the bonbon-enjoying experience. But if you're really into the cocoa-luscious flavors in all their forms, and you wouldn't mind connecting with chocolate on a different level, well, there are ways, from tastings to tours to once-a-year events. Such an event is popping up in Old Sacramento over a number of days in May, and the name reveals the nougat-centered, caramel-topped focus. It's the...

3RD ANNUAL OLD SACRAMENTO CHOCOLATE WEEK, and it returns from Monday, May 8 through Sunday, May 14 (which, yes, is Mother's Day, should you want to weave a confection-themed outing into the holiday). The historical, river-adjacent district will feature a number of goings-on at various shops, from a Chocolate Scavenger Hunt starting at the Sacramento Visitors Center to Chocolate Museum Day at the Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum.

A CHOCOLATE ARCADE NIGHT, Choc-La-Trivia, a chocolate turtle demo, Beignet Day, and a chance to pair chocolates with wine — think white chocolate Chambord mousse in a chocolate cup alongside Rodney Strong chardonnay — are also on the dessert-dotted schedule. Just go over all of the gooey goodness, before calling upon Old Sac, to make sure you time your visit to the district to the things you'd like to do. Happy chocolate-ing, devotees of tasty treats.

Photo Credit: Old Sacramento]]>
<![CDATA[Mother's Day Weekend at Super-Rosy Garden]]> Thu, 04 May 2017 10:36:50 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/healdsburgrussianriverrose12344565.jpg

WHEN YOU WERE BUT A TOT, as in, just a wee thing, as in, probably yay-high, as in, around the age of a toddler, chances are good that a family member wanted to take a few snapshots of you in the backyard, playing on the grass in the sunshine. If there were roses nearby, you likely paused to sniff one, and then, the flash went off, and your mommy had her new favorite photo for her nightstand. Even if you never posed for the classic toddler-smelling-a-rose photograph — and it is never too late to do so, if you feel you missed out — spending a glorious day outside, away from it all, in a garden that shouldn't be described as "rosy" but rather "super-rosy," likely engenders some familial connection and memory. After all, yard time and picnic time and park time are among some of our first memories, and if those memories were woven with your mom, perhaps going back to such a spot, a super-rosy spot, on her big weekend is the thing to do.

THE RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY ROSE COMPANY... will be open on both Saturday, May 13 and Sunday, May 14. Saturday is billed as "Prelude to Mother's Day" while Sunday is the "Mother's Day Open Garden." You and mom, for a $2 donation per person, will stroll among the 650 varieties of roses, stopping, surely, to enjoy each and every bloom at the lush Healdsburg destination. A complimentary self-guided tour map is part of your entry to the garden, which also has several smell-good-y things for sale, like rosewater made from the petals grown on-site. The super-rosy favorite does draw return guests on Mother's Day, and if you and your mom are looking to start up a fresh and fragrant tradition, this could be it. Follow the buds 'n blossoms to Healdsburg and more info now.

Photo Credit: Russian River Rose Company]]>
<![CDATA[Nevada City: First Friday Artwalks Open]]> Wed, 03 May 2017 21:46:27 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ncIMG_4896-horz.jpg

GALLERIES AND MUSEUMS... have a rather consistent way of staying open throughout the year, even if it is sleeting outside, or very damp, or exceedingly snowy. That's because, as a rule, galleries and museums tend to be interior experiences, in climate-controlled spaces, meaning that no calendar needs to advise the curator on when to stage what show. But an artwalk is a different sort of thing, and an evening artwalk can be even more distinct. The stroll-about-outdoors, peeking-in-shops-and-stores events often dovetail with the start of warmer days, which, 'round California, generally means April and May. That's when villages and towns across the Golden State begin to schedule their First Friday Artwalks, those come-together community to-dos that draw in visitors, too, with a mix of live music, artists out creating art before your eyes, and easy-to-purchase vittles (especially vittles that can be eaten while one is strolling/looking). And one of the state's most charming cities,

NEVADA CITY, is kicking off its 2017 First Friday Artwalk on Friday, May 5, "... a celebration of Nevada City's diverse mix of galleries, artisan boutiques, retail shops, wine tasting rooms, restaurants, as well as our wonderfully artistic and creative community." The artwalking happens around the historical downtown, a draw for visitors to the Gold Country gem, so you can take in the architecture, and local bygone stories, while you take in the tasting rooms and boutiques. Adding flavor are "live music and theatrical performances," which makes total sense, as Nevada City is home to the Nevada Theatre, "the oldest existing theatre building on the west coast." Go, soak it all in, but make sure you're there on a first Friday of the month in the next few months: The fun wraps for 2017 on Aug. 4.

Photo Credit: Erin Thiem]]>
<![CDATA[Sky Show: Death Valley After Sunset]]> Fri, 12 May 2017 11:27:29 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Racetrack-Playa-2-Dana-McMullen.jpg

THE DESERT REGION, and, in particular, Death Valley National Park, get a lot of attention from what's happening from sunrise to the moment the big ball o' fire dips behind the furthest mountain range. We describe arid areas as "sunny" and "super-duper sunny" and "so sunshiny you'd think you're standing on Mercury," the nearest planet to the sun. This is, in large part, what makes the desert the desert — beautiful, warm, often hot, golden days — but so much of the action in the area happens when the sun has ceded its stage to a host of other stars, that fabled blanket of night. Few places are starrier than Death Valley and our California deserts, thanks to their deep, low-illumination darkness, and to their wide-of-sky, vast-of-horizon feel. Okay, maybe a planetarium might sport more stars, but to see those gaseous, faraway superstars in their natural habitat, the desert truly is among the most desired locales. And coming up?

THERE ARE METEOR SHOWERS, like the famous Perseids in August, but there are sky shows ahead of that. The Eta Aquarids took place on May 6 and 7, but the Delta Aquarids are ahead with a 20-meteors-per-hour kind of extravaganza ("at its peak") in late July. And, yep, the Perseids shall grandly return on Aug. 12 and 13, 2017. Where to stay? Furnace Creek Resort is a fine in-the-national-park choice, and finding a dark-dark spot near the Inn or Ranch shouldn't be too hard (so bring your portable telescope, or simply your awe and wonder). No one's dissing the sun — it's a grand and glorious source of light, heat, and life, through and through — but loving the desert after-sunset, at its least sunshiny, is part of adoring la vida aridness, too.

Photo Credit: Dana McMullen/Furnace Creek Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Redwood Mountain Faire: Tree-Adjacent Lark]]> Tue, 02 May 2017 17:14:38 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Fairephotoredwoodmountain123.jpg

WHEN YOU WANT SUMMER TO START, and you don't quite have the patience to wait for the official solstice, you can go looking for those lively, late-into-spring affairs that encapsulate everything we seek in a classic summertime shindig. You'll likely look for a lark that is outdoors, and adjacent to some magnificent titans of nature, like the tall trees. You'll want to find a party that has music, and arts, and crafts, and a sense of local love. And speaking of local love, you'll likely long that the bash is benevolent, through and through, and gives back to area organizations, places like gardens and libraries and groups dedicated to preserving nature-beautiful enclaves. There's a weekend-long summer-starter in the Santa Cruz Mountains that possesses all of those great qualities and goals, and you don't even have to wade too deeply into June to join it. It's the...

REDWOOD MOUNTAIN FAIRE, and it's back on Saturday, June 3 and Sunday, June 4. Live music is one of the thrumming hearts of this redwood-close gathering (it isn't just a name), while "locally made food, cold beer, wine, and cider" keep people fed and unthirsty. And, of course, an assortment of crafts for sale show some of the best of what regional artisans are dreaming up and then making out of textiles, metals, paints, clay, and more. If you're wondering if this is the faire that began in the '80s, then took a break for a number of years, you're correct. And if you're wondering if it is at Roaring Camp, meaning your summer-beginning fun time will be in a cool-down, forest-fine spot, you're right again. A ticket? It's $25 per day for an adult, and parking is $5. The organizations you'll be helping out by attending? You can see the beneficiaries from 2016 right here, with the knowledge that 2017 will also support a full roster of locally directed support and sweetness.

Photo Credit: Redwood Mountain Faire]]>
<![CDATA[Pawsport Napa Valley: Fidos + Vinos]]> Sat, 13 May 2017 11:45:34 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/pawsportnapavalley.png

IF YOU'VE EVER SIPPED A PINOT GRIS... while scratching your pomeranian's tummy, you know the relaxed pleasure of enjoying a wind-down glass of wine while enjoying the companionship of your best pal. Maybe this isn't an "if you've ever" kind of moment; maybe this is a Friday night in your home. A lot of people get that, and understand that there's a lot of crossover between canine affections and devotion to good eating and good libations. A person doesn't even need to visit too many wineries before coming across a vineyard or two where a dog rules the roost (the sort of retriever or lab who genially greets guests as they're walking up to the tasting room door). The chance, then, to show your commitment to all things doggy and to spend a day out getting to know the grapes of Napa Valley and what various winemakers are up to is, perhaps, like Friday night on your couch, only with a get-outdoors twist. Add a fund-raising twist to the equation, too, for Pawsport Napa Valley will support the...

NAPA HUMANE: What's to woof about here? From Thursday, May 18 through Sunday, May 21 participating Napa wineries (and, yes, tasting rooms) will join in a passport-based happening that helps out the hounds and critters of the area. Merryvale Vineyards, Dutch Henry Winery, Clos Pegase Winery, and a number of other spots are all part of the pup party, a party that you're invited to bring your own pooch to, if you like (though if he isn't so social, that is not required). For passport prices, designated driver info, and more, wag your tail in this direction.

Photo Credit: Pawsport Napa Valley]]>
<![CDATA[Historical Fire Trucks: Ride in Sacramento]]> Mon, 01 May 2017 21:00:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sacfireengineexhibit232.jpg

GENERALLY, WITH MUSEUM EXHIBITS, there's a very wise "look, appreciate, but don't touch" policy. This straightforward request helps the items on display stay pristine, but it can sometimes be a mite frustrating if you want to interact with what you're seeing. Fans of historical fire trucks, though, will not feel that frustration on Saturday, May 6 should they call upon the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento. There happens to be an exhibit on now called "To the Rescue," and as the name suggests fire trucks are the stars. But a special party on the first Saturday in May will expand upon the noble theme of public service while giving those interested in actually riding in a decades-old fire truck that rare chance. It's a...

30-YEAR CELEBRATION... for the auto-packed institution, and on-the-ground to-dos will abound. The fire truck rides will be a big draw, and given that they're free, you'll want to arrive early. (Though do note a $5 donation is welcome.) Admission to the museum is ten bucks for grown-ups, $9 for visitors 65+, and five for kids. As for the eras of the fire trucks that'll be giving you a lift? Think 1920s through '60s. As for noshables that lend some festive feeling to the day? Well, this is a birthday party, after all, so there shall be ice cream for the low-low-low price of 30 cents. As for the "To the Rescue" exhibit? That's on through May 29, but you can take a peek from afar right here.

Photo Credit: California Automobile Museum]]>
<![CDATA[Lambert Bridge Winery: Chef's Table Series]]> Mon, 01 May 2017 11:00:42 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/LambertBridge-Placesetting-WhiteWine-Beauty-v2.jpg

IF SPECTACULAR SONOMA COUNTY... is your go-to spot for the perfect glass of vino, but you haven't yet dug deeply into the dining scene (though you vow, time and again, you will), your moment for meals made by top-notch SoCo chefs has arrived. And the place of arrival? Lambert Bridge Winery of Healdsburg. The family-owned winery, which is located on West Dry Creek Road, is open for drop-in tastings, and by-appointment look-arounds, but something extra special is happening through November 2017: A once-a-month Chef Tables Series event, which is about the wines, yes, but also locally grown vittles that are chosen at the height of their seasonal splendor. Chefs from around the area will stop by to helm the pots, plates, and plans, with Chef Mateo Granados of Healdsburg's Mateo Cucina taking over the May 19 through May 21 menu at the winery.

OTHER NOTABLE CHEFS... are on tap in the months ahead, like Chefs Casey and Patrick Van Voorhis of Healdsburg's Spoonbar in June. The June weekend will have some Italian-lovely details, while Chef Granados will bring some of the flavors of the Yucatan, his birthplace, to his creations. And overseeing the complementary wines? A Lambert Bridge wine educator will be on hand in the private wine cellar setting. More cuisine-making masters will be announced in the weeks to come, so keep an eye on the schedule for the daytime dining series, to see when the flavors you seek will be featured, or a chef from a Sonoma County restaurant you love will star. 

Photo Credit: Lambert Bridge Winery]]>
<![CDATA[California State Fair: Tickets on Sale]]> Mon, 08 May 2017 12:11:08 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/carnival2castate.jpg

WHATEVER YOU HAVE IN YOUR FRIDGE... around the beginning of May is probably not too dissimilar to what was there at the beginning of April and the beginning of March, too. Where we're going with this is easy to grok: Our at-home eating patterns tend to stay fairly consistent, at least in terms of the tried, true, and tasty staples we turn to on a daily basis. But, along about summer, when the first Ferris wheels begin to turn and the first throw-a-ring game flicks on the lights, our at-home hankerings are often ruffled by some outside, highly seasonal temptations: fair food. And one of the titans on the midway-merry, quirky-cuisine schedule just happens to be the (very) longtime state hoop-di-doo for the Golden State, none other than the world-famous California State Fair. If you're already dreaming of summer-style snacking, from corn dogs to fried candy bars, you can...

PURCHASE YOUR DISCOUNT TICKET NOW: That's right, as of this typing, deals are available for those who want to snack at the Sactown staple (and ride rides and pet goats and eye beautifully made quilts and see concerts). A single-day adult admission to the July 14-30 everything-fest is ten bucks, but, as is the way with the state fair, there are passes and promotional days to consider. As for what you'll be chowing down on? Look to some of the highlights of recent years to get your appetite stoked: Deep-fried pastrami pizza, corn on the cob wrapped in bacon, and a peanut butter and jelly cheesecake that's been deep-fried and slathered in bubble gum frosting have made colorful, take-a-photo cameos in the past. What will you have to nosh upon, and later brag about, in 2017? The foods in our pantry may stay consistent, but when the California State Fair arrives, all bets are off (or, rather, all bites are on your plate).

Photo Credit: California State Fair]]>
<![CDATA[Cool Down Up High: Tram Summer Pass]]> Sun, 30 Apr 2017 12:48:56 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/pstramway1234.jpg

STARING AT FROZEN PEAS IN THE FREEZER... can offer a momentary, much-desired chill during a toasty spate of weather, as can picturing a sprinkler on a lawn or a snowy peak in the heart of wintertime. But one of the only methods to truly taking your temp down a notch or two, and finding some fresh air in the midst of summertime's scorchiest afternoons, is to go to a spot that's quite literally above it all. No, the heights of Mount San Jacinto State Park aren't so high that they, somehow, in a strange fold of space and time escape actually being in summer; the summer season happens there, too. But it turns out that it is much more moderate, temperature-wise, and not quite as sweat-inducing, as the summer we're experiencing at elevations lower than the Palm Springs-close mountain. How to get up there, though, among the firs and trails, on a hot-hot July day? Let the...

PALM SPRINGS AERIAL TRAMWAY... whisk you from hottest summer to... cooler summer. No, there won't be snow drifts like January, but there will be a pleasant feel in the air. And your wallet, too, for the historical tram's Summer Pass makes the saving of money as fine as a lovely breeze. It's on from May 1 through Aug. 31, which just about covers some of our hottest months around Southern California, and it costs $80 for adults and seniors, and $40 for kids. What's that get you? How's this: "unlimited Tram admissions" during that window, as well as a few discounts, here and there, like at the restaurants (and, yep, you'll get 10% additional tickets, if your heat-avoiding friends who are pass-less want to join you). Best start planning your cooler getaways now, before the temps rise and you forget that you remembered to buy a Summer Pass to that up, up, up attraction, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

Photo Credit: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway]]>