<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Worth the Trip]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcbayarea.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.comen-usSun, 29 May 2016 03:06:45 -0700Sun, 29 May 2016 03:06:45 -0700NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Mono County's Wildflower May]]> Fri, 27 May 2016 21:25:05 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/mono5.19.16+Mill+Canyon+Walker_Jeff+Simpson_1.jpg

FROM FEBRUARY TO JUNE: When your state's showiest time of year -- hint: the huge wildflower bloom -- kicks off within weeks of New Year's Day, it can lead one to imagine that the whole flowery shebang'll be wrapped up and thoroughly over by spring break, or perhaps April, at the latest. This isn't true, not wholly, not when the elevation changes within California run from the below-sea-level-ness of Death Valley National Park (typically one of the first places out of the annual door with the wildflowers) to the 13,000-foot peaks, and beyond, of the Sierra Nevada. For sure, the deserts do it first, on the bud-breaking front, but the mountain's petal-gorgeous showtime doesn't really rev up before May, give or take. That's happening now, around the Eastern Sierra, which is indeed vast, but Mono County Tourism has been tracking the irises and poppies and everything else via its Facebook page.

BEST GO, though, if you're gonna, as they say, because the life cycle of a wildflower, even those in crisper elevations, wait for no adventurer. But we'll assume lots of people are making for the Mammoth area over Memorial Day Weekend, what with the Mammoth Lakes Film Festival and the Ski/Bike/Golf Challenge going down (er, we mean "up"). True, Devils Postpile National Monument isn't yet open for the season -- look to the middle of June -- but fishing is, as of the last Saturday in April. There's a lot of summer-y doings afoot along Highway 395, and up into the crags and canyons and lake-y areas of the region. Including, yes, those late-blooming wildflowers, though they're only late, calendar-wise; they're right on time for where they are. It's good to know that we truly have a lengthy wildflower run that lasts, if not half a year, then a full third. Nicely done, California-based blooms, wherever you may grow.

Photo Credit: Jeff Simpson]]>
<![CDATA[Nature-Close Cool: Redwood Mountain Faire]]> Fri, 27 May 2016 11:11:30 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/redwoodmountainfaire12345678.jpg

IF A MOUNTAIN TRIP... is on your summer must-do list -- along with wearing flip-flops far more than shoes with laces, and trying the latest trendy version of sangria, and stretching out on a few grassy hillsides -- best know you don't have to put it off for too long. A fine 'n festive opportunity is just ahead, and while isn't high up in the peaks of the biggest mountains, it does take place in an easy-to-reach mountain-cool destination, one that has a whole huge group of redwoods to enjoy. (Aside: What's a grouping of redwoods called, in the tradition of animal collective names? Can we call such a group a "burl"?)

SO... where are those redwoods we reference, and when is the opportunity? It's on Saturday, June 4 and Sunday, June 5, and the occasion is the Santa Cruz-close classic Redwood Mountain Faire. We say "Santa Cruz-close" but you'll want to head for Roaring Camp, which is just a hop and/or jump from Santa Cruz. And you'll want to wear your jamboree pants, for the Redwood Mountain Faire offers two days of...

AWESOME TUNEAGE: All the bands have their own vibe -- soul, funk, roots, Americana -- but just the act of enjoying the music under the sky and adjacent to the redwoods gives it an old-timey and oh-so-sweet sepia tone. So many mountain-charming crafts -- a Bigfoot-themed table has shown in the past -- and so many nostalgic activities, from bubble blowing to the making of art, are part of the weekend. And is there beer near? There is, and wine, too (you're in the right neck of the woods). All of this, by the by, helps local non-profits. Tickets? Here. The chance to call a grouping of redwoods a burl, as in "a burl of redwoods"? That's up to you, if you feel like that word works. A burl of redwoods. Yes. 

Photo Credit: Michael Pegram/Redwood Mountain Faire]]>
<![CDATA[Memorial Day Weekend on a Famous Train]]> Thu, 26 May 2016 21:07:25 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/SierraNo3June222010.jpg

STUMPING FROM THE CABOOSE: We never may get the chance to pull into a small town and make a rousing speech from the end of a caboose, a caboose that's lined with patriotic bunting and flags, but we can spend a Memorial Day Weekend with an old-timey train participating in a host of to-dos adjacent or close to the tracks. Those tracks? Why they run through Gold Country, near Jamestown, a slice of Golden State landscape that looks very much like it has over dozens and dozens of Memorial Days. As for the place you'll head? That, too, has pastimes woven into its very name: Railtown 1897 State Historic Park.

EXCURSION RIDES: And while you probably won't get to don a top hat and clutch your lapel and say stirring words from a caboose, you can hop aboard the Sierra No. 3, one of this state's, and any state's, most fabled rides. (Yep, it was in the third installment of "Back to the Future," as well as a saddlebag full of other Western flicks.) There are a quartet of excursion trains running each day of Memorial Day Weekend 2016 -- Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, yes indeedy -- and each ride shall leave plenty of time for off-the-tracks activities. Like... 

A PHOTO EXHIBIT called "In Train View," visits to a historic caboose, chances to dig deeper on the topics of railroad signage and such, and a book signing ("Seamstress of Jamestown") are part of the rustic fun. And can you show with a picnic lunch? You may. Whether you create a patriotic picnic, complete with red, white, and blue treats, or go for something simple, prepare for a day that's rife with nostalgic pursuits.

Photo Credit: Railtown 1897 State Historic Park]]>
<![CDATA[Kinetic Quirky: Grand Showdown in Humboldt]]> Thu, 26 May 2016 12:25:04 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tinakerrigankinetic1234567.jpg

BEYOND THE BOBBLEHEAD: Many a car owner has done something a bit outlandish, design-wise, to their wheels. It might be a toy glued to the dashboard, or a funky bumper sticker, or curtain-style tassels for the windows, or seat covers in a rainbow of neon hues. But going a bit further is more to the tastes of some auto lovers, or rather leaps and bounds further. Think cars in the shape of Bigfoot's foot, or vehicles re-imagined as gigantic insects, or machines that boast whirligigs and a hundred other whimsical details. If we get into that sector of auto decor we're likely talking about kinetic sculptures, those on-the-move works of art that are famously human-powered. Oh yes, and they're able to leave the road and head into...

THE WATER... when the time comes. That time shall arrive over Memorial Day Weekend when the Kinetic Grand Championship rolls and sails around Humboldt County. While many places around the U.S. have gone kinetic, the heart of Humboldt, from Arcata to Ferndale, is the home of the famous "Triathalon of the Art World." That quirky contest will start at Arcata Plaza on May 28 and end on Main Street in Ferndale on May 30, with stops at Manila Dunes Fest, Loleta Hill, and other spots around the county. Cheering on the kinetic wonders, as well as their always intrepid crews, is a major part of the lively and creative jaunt. A jaunt that celebrates ingenuity, grit, and a general gladness, the kind of gladness one needs to drive a vehicle shaped like an over-sized gnome or flower.

Photo Credit: Tina Kerrigan]]>
<![CDATA[Mission Inn: Heroes' Welcome Package]]> Thu, 26 May 2016 21:09:01 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/missioninndomesky.jpg

HONORING THOSE WHO SERVE... can be done in many moving ways, from parades to picnics to concerts to ceremonies full of pomp. But if you're a hotel, and not a full-on town or community, how do you say "thank you" to military members and first responders? A bit of inn-spiration is in order, and the historic Mission Inn in Riverside has gone the distance for a Memorial Day Weekend special. This shouldn't surprise anyone who knows of the hotel's patriotic history, and the Commanders in Chief who have stayed there (yes, there's a President Taft chair in the lobby, and yes, the Reagans honeymooned at the castle-like property). And to honor its many fans who are active or retired military, or who serve as firefighters and police officers, the Mission Inn is taking Memorial Day -- and a day beyond -- to offer the Heroes' Welcome package. The package is on through...

TUESDAY, MAY 31, and it includes an overnight stay for two, plus a dinner for two at Bella Trattoria Italian Bistro (in the amount of $65), gratis valet parking, and a pair of treats from Casey's Cupcakes. The package price? It starts at $229 per night (just be sure to have your military ID at the ready). In addition, several Memorial Day Weekend buffets will be happening, and while they're not included in the package, feel free to make a reservation if the concept of a hotel buffet is your thing. What is a nice thing, for all businesses, is to find a way to show gratitude to heroes on Memorial Day and every day. The Mission Inn, with its presidential past, is on board.

Photo Credit: Mission Inn]]>
<![CDATA[World Ocean Day in Monterey]]> Fri, 27 May 2016 21:34:14 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/worldoceandaymba16.jpg

HIYA, OCEAN: If you adhere to the notion that everything is connected, from the smallest jacaranda bud to the highest peaks in the Sierra Nevada, then you likely greet each natural wonder you encounter not just with reverence but with a spoken hello, or wave, or shout of acclaim. Think of the redwoods coming into view after a long drive -- do you yell "hooray, redwoods"? Do you let out a sigh when a cloud of birds passes suddenly overhead on a hike? And do you give the ocean some love, or at least a loving glance, when you see it? These are all sweet gestures, but, of course and as always, there are bigger gestures to make, when and where we can. World Ocean Day reminds us of this urgent calling each year, via the information it shares about our planet's Great Water and the earthlings that call it home. If you're a "hiya, ocean" kind of person, someone who regularly ponders the larger cycle of all ecosystems (and how humans can play a helpful role in their care), make for...

MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM... on Saturday, June 4 and Sunday, June 5. "You'll learn about the treasures of the ocean, the threats it faces and what we can do to keep it healthy," says the Cannery Row aquatic institution. Actor/producer Adrian Grenier will receive the Paul Walker Ocean Leadership Award, as will ocean advocate Meg Kikkeri. Crafts, tunes, and educational doings will fill out the weekend, wall-to-wall, giving those who adore the salty and sublime part of our planet their knowledge-packed fill. Are you ready to move a bit beyond greeting the ocean upon seeing it and learning how you can lend it support and stewardship? Make for Monterey over the first weekend in June.

Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium]]>
<![CDATA[The Epiphany: New Bubble Brunch]]> Thu, 26 May 2016 13:38:18 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/epiphanybubblebrunch.jpg

THAT STROLLABLE STRETCH: While many Golden State towns may vie for the title of Most Strollable, only a few can achieve this desirable, stow-the-car crown. Well, that's not wholly the case, as several cities have worked diligently, over the last couple of decades, to create neighborhoods that are all about benches, and trees, and places devoted solely to pedestrians. Downtown Palo Alto is a prime example of a spot where those on foot have ample room to move about, and enjoy a coffee, and shop, and take in the sunshine. But what to do before you head out on a Sunday afternoon stroll, the kind of walk that has no real purpose save for pleasure? Savoring a solid, three-course brunch, complete with something sparkling in a nearby glass, is a capital way to prepare for your Palo Alto amble. And it so happens that The Epiphany, a Joie de Vivre hotel, is offering a new Bubble Brunch at its on-site restaurant Lure + Till. So what's the...

BUBBLE BRUNCH... all about? It starts with a flat fee -- $49 -- and it heads out into a lunchy land of a trio of "coursed-out" dishes (meaning you can take a bit of time with each glass of Champagne and not gobble hurriedly through your meal). That's right -- every dish is paired with a different bubbly. Examples of a the dishes (and drinks) on the three-course menu might include slow-cooked eggs with guianciale and trumpet mushrooms paired with Billecart Salmon Brut. Even the dessert course, which there is one ohhh yeah, arrives with its own festive, dessert-perfect libation. It's a swanky but relaxed way to start your day of strolling around Palo Alto. Available dates? The two brunchiest days of the week: Saturday and Sunday.

Photo Credit: The Epiphany]]>
<![CDATA[Mammoth Bike Park: 5 New Trails]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 12:21:30 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/newtrailsmammothbikepark.jpg

TURN THAT IRK INTO ACTION: Whether you're charmed, or befuddled, or slightly irked when you're told by various sources to "dust off that bike and get outdoors" come the warm weather is, well, entirely up to you. The irksome feeling may stem from the fact that no dusting off is required, when it comes to your wheels. You've actually been on them all winter, at least most days, at least when it isn't rainy, and you'd never stow your ride waaaay back in the garage in the sort of corner where it may gather dust. So let's call such notions, that bikes gather dust over the colder months, charming if inaccurate, and let's find regular riders something fresh to do, for summer, since they've been out riding, non-stop, throughout the wintertime. For new horizons, and not-seen-yet twists, and maps unknown, look to Mammoth Bike Park, which has an as-of-this-typing opening date of Friday, June 10. But even if you say you know the higher elevation trails the back of your handlebar, prepare yourself to dig deep into...

FIVE NEW TRAILS: Those soon-to-debut byways include "Midtown" -- that's "an intermediate flow trail from McCoy down to Main lodge" and "Boomerang" which is all about the downhill thrills. Some major bike happenings will land at the park over the summer, including the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships, and there's a pass for those riders who intend to take on the trails over several upcoming days. There are over "80 miles of single track" to enjoy, and some 3,500 acres, making Mammoth Bike Park one of the biggies among the peaks-and-pedals destinations (and that's across the continent). We're not going to tell you to "dust off your bike," no sirree; rather, we'll advise you to ready your rack, and your helmet, for your rides around the big mountain.

Photo Credit: Mammoth Mountain]]>
<![CDATA[Strawberry Time in Arroyo Grande]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 22:29:18 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/219*120/strawberries1.jpg

CLAMS, MONARCHS, CHICKENS: Take a peek around the Central Coast-y area that's home to Pismo Beach and Arroyo Grande and you might find evidence that certain sea denizens, and tree residents, and roamers about town kind of rule local lore. And your findings, spoiler alert, would be 100% correct. After all, clamming around Pismo Beach is a time-honored tradition, as is heading to the Monarch Butterfly Grove when a certain winged celebrity flits into town (and brings several thousand winged friends along).

AND AS FOR ARROYO GRANDE? Wild chickens are the fabulously feathered ambassadors of the charming village, though whether you'll encounter one, or a few, is up to the roosters and where they want to be on a particular day. All of these beasties -- bivalves and butterflies and birds alike -- have their fans, but so do the eats of the area. One of the juiciest receives its joyful due over the Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, and "juiciest" should be a nudge-nudge hint that you might wear something you can dribble pie upon, and not worry. The 33rd...

STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL... brings the bright, dessert-tasty doings on May 28 and 29. There's a carnival, and some various runs, and a strawberry pancake breakfast, and performances aplenty, and everything strawberry, from milkshakes to ice cream to shortcake. That picturesque Arroyo Grande is the setting is a major plus, as it is definitely the sort of town you'll want to stroll while sipping that strawberry milkshake. But will you encounter a chicken along the way? The chances are good. Best raise your cup in hello, then keep on sipping as you make your way back to one of the sweetest strawberry to-dos along this particularly clam-nice, Monarch-cool, chicken-funny stretch of California. Add strawberries to the mix and you have a quintessential slice of Golden State character.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[On the Way: California WorldFest]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 20:32:55 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/LG-Sheckter-1324.jpg

"OPEN EARS AND MINDS": What is the purpose of a gathering built along the themes of music, and art-making, and yoga, and outdoor appreciation, and a general flow of festive spirit? There is no one purpose, of course -- everyone can and should find what they need from such a weekend -- but the annual California WorldFest in Grass Valley does look to "open ears and minds" during its tune-filled, family-nice, nature-set spectacular. It's a spectacular that's been around for two decades now, but its "kick back or get amped" approach springs from a long line of bohemian-lovely, global-minded, be-yourself celebrations. You can see for yourself when the music-plus-plus-plus party returns for four days of tree-close, sun-dappled merriment, which'll happen in 2016 right plunk in the middle of the summer season.

THOSE DATES ARE... July 14 through 17, which are a bit more specific, yes, than "right plunk in the middle of the summer season" (but surely you understood we were referring to mid-July). Boz Scaggs is a headliner, and Banana Slug String Band, Mariachi Flor de Toloache, Southern California Aztec Dancers, Dead Winter Carpenters, and several other artists will raise their instruments, their arms, and the general vibrations straight from the stages. Make time for the...

GLOBAL INDIGENOUS VILLAGE, and the Global Lounge, and the spots around the Nevada County Fairgrounds that'll be devoted to delving into the songs and stories from lands on the other side of the earth (and a bit closer, too). Family music/dance workshops, over 50 of 'em, are also part of the long weekend, and shopping for goods made at points near and far is also something that's open to attendees.

BUT ARE YOU OPEN... to the opening of ears and minds? California WorldFest is dedicated to the good-of-heart, compassionate-of-outlook policy. And, of course, to several days of sweet songery, all in the pretty setting of Northern Gold Country.

Photo Credit: Alan Sheckter]]>
<![CDATA[May Mondo: A Mushroom Mardi Gras]]> Sun, 22 May 2016 08:08:07 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/edt-mushrooms.jpg

TEXTURE AND TASTE: Some edibles rock a texture, or mouth feel, if you prefer, that is so unusual, and so singular, that you don't even need to sense any flavor to know what you're eating. A walnut could absolutely qualify here, and perhaps sorbet, and a hundred other foods that arrive upon your tongue with enough physical presence that they're known for their crunch/smoothness alone. Then there are those foods that own the taste side of the equation, the chiles and chocolates and other flavor bigwigs, bigwigs that don't require mouth feel to telegraph what they are.

THE MUSHROOM... is one of those foodstuffs that rules the school on both sides of the texture/taste aisle. It is so mushroomy, when you bite down, its softness and pliability instantly give it away. And does anything in the world taste like a earthy, just-plucked cap? Nothing does. Perhaps that's one reason that the annual Mushroom Mardi Gras in Morgan Hill has been running for so long -- 37 years -- and why mushroom mavens keep returning for dishes made with the meatiest non-meat on the planet. The 2016 dates are...

MAY 28 AND 29, and the southern Santa Clara County town'll rock one of its big local products in multiple (and delicious) ways. It "can be tasted in soup, stuffed, sandwiched, deep-fried, marinated, over rice, and much more," so tell your taste buds to get excited. Other happenings, involving wine, and play area for kids, dessert vendors, and crafts are on the docket. Did you know Morgan Hill is "the Mushroom Capital of the Western United States"? Of course you did, because if you're into the whole taste/texture conversation, you know your mushroom stuff, cap to stem.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Roadshow Revival: The Hotel Package]]> Fri, 27 May 2016 14:02:01 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/219*120/Guitar-Generic.jpg

THE FIRST WEEKEND OF SUMMER... is honored in multiple ways, from an impromptu camping trip to a backyard cookout to eating ice cream for dinner (and perhaps breakfast and lunch, too). But for music fans who dig a twangful and stylish entry into the season, there is really just one way to go, at least if you're in the Ventura neck of the woods when the end of June dawns. That's the moment when Roadshow Revival vrooms into town, with all the power of some souped-up, flame-painted '62 Thunderbird. It's one of the country's most lauded American roots celebrations, and it is an annual tribute to the music and memory of Johnny Cash, too.

FOR YEARS... the revival landed around Father's Day, but the 2016 party'll happen just a few days beyond that, and for two full days, too (a fairly recent development). So are you hopping into your own hot rod and heading along the coast to see the likes of John Doe, The Paladins, Kings of the Wild Frontier, and The Vonettes? Then apply another layer of pomade, and break out your crispest denim trousers and book your...

HOTEL PACKAGE: That is, if you intend to enjoy the full weekend of to-dos, which also include several off-stage happenings as well (yep, an old-school auto show is part of the fun). The tune spectacular has a stay-over partner in the Ventura Crowne Plaza, which is offering a one-night stay -- Saturday night, natch -- and two tickets to the Roadshow Revival. Cost? It starts at $279. Want to spy some other nearby hotels? They're this way, rootsy rockers.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Mammoth Lakes Film Festival]]> Fri, 20 May 2016 21:42:09 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/popcorn292832323.jpg

MOVIES IN THE MOUNTAINS... can mean a few things, but the phrases does summon some friends gathering in a den, preferably one with a fireplace and a television, to wind down after a day on the slopes. Whether those movies are set in the mountains (as so many are), or take inspiration from true-life mountain tales, or are simply easy brain candy after a tiring day of schussing is up to the group. But mountain movies extend beyond the wintertime den, at least up in the Sierra Nevada resort known for its cold-weather ski scene. We speak of the Mammoth Lakes Film Festival, a five-day, 50-film cinegathering that happens just when the slope scene is giving way to bikes and hikes. Indeed, it all happens over Memorial Day Weekend, meaning the 2016 party is nearly here. The dates are...

MAY 25 THROUGH 29, and one of the centerpieces of the run is an '80s charmer with a sweet sci-fi bent: "Innerspace" with Martin Short, Meg Ryan, and Dennis Quaid. Mr. Joe Dante, the inspired director of the 1987 comedy, will call upon the festival for a screening and Q&A, and to accept the Sierra Spirit Award. A host of foreign films are on the slate, such as "Last Summer" from Italy and "Myrtle Beach" from Canada, and a Saturday morning presentation of indie animation should lend some zany levity to the proceedings. As for other, outside-of-the-cinema to-dos in the area? Well, there's a big one of Memorial Day Weekend, which will see open slopes up the mountain: The Ski/Bike/Golf Challenge, which involves participants engaging in all three things over the course of a day. So enjoy some movies, and some outdoors, over the cusp-iest weekend of the year 'round Mammoth. And isn't cinema, but nature, kind of cusp-y? Always on the edge of change and transformation? Deep thoughts for your drive up or down Highway 395.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[San Diego Vintage: Balboa Park Electriquettes]]> Fri, 20 May 2016 14:18:22 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/eletriquettesandiegobalboa.jpg

WONDERFUL WICKER: Watch any historic costume drama, or gaze upon real-life photos from the beginning of the last century, and you're going to see a surfeit of tulle, and lace, and gloves, and velvet. But just beyond the characters on the series, or the people strolling the boardwalk in the photographs? You'll spy wicker. So much wicker. Miles of wicker, seemingly, for the woven natural material was quite the rage for several years, back in the day. It is still much loved by many, of course, by spying quirky objects made of the stuff is a rarer treat nowadays. It's a treat, though, that visitors to Balboa Park in San Diego are now enjoying, and how.

THIS IS, of course, the very park that hosted the Panama-California Exposition just over a century ago, and its storied structures and old-fashioned vibe still fizz with an air of 1915-ness. That air fizz has grown stronger since March 2016, when the Electriquette Wicker Carts made their quaint return to the sidewalks and roll-through thoroughfares of Balboa. These are new Electriquettes, do note, as "(n)o known surviving cars are known to exist." But Shapery Enterprises head Sandor Shapery wanted to bring the vintage vehicles back to San Diego, and the place where they once rolled lo these many decades ago. With some research, photos, and a prototype, the era of the Electriquette was reborn.

YEP, THEY HAVE MOTORS, which means you'll be sitting upon a wicker bench that can move thanks to motorized power. That's probably not something the wicker chair on your patio can do -- we'll be bold and assume that -- so call it a novel experience. And call it a popular one; people who want to try out an Electriquette are advised to arrive earlier in the day to book their vehicle. Cost? Ten bucks for fifteen minutes, $15 for thirty minutes, and $25 for 60. Is there a steering handle? There is. Will you wish you were wearing spats and a monocle while operating it? Probably.

IS THERE... a more glorious spot than Balboa Park for a Sunday wicker-whimsical drive? There is not, thanks to its flowers, the nearby bird calls from San Diego Zoo, the beloved Lily Pond, the Botanical Building, and all of those Spanish Colonial Revival museums. For all your Electriquette needs, turn your wicker in the direction of San Diego's hottest -- and vintage-iest -- roll. The place to rent? Outside the Reuben H. Fleet Museum. 

Photo Credit: Electriquette Wicker Carts]]>
<![CDATA[Walnut Creek Short Film Festival]]> Thu, 19 May 2016 17:48:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/219*120/Popcorn_640.jpg

WAY BACK WHEN, well over a century ago, when cinematic wonders began to first flicker onto walls and bed sheets and the screens of vaudeville houses, storytelling was, to put it succinctly, succinct. A filmmaker set up the characters, the setting, and the plot, and zippity-phoosh, the movie was off and running and over practically before the viewer had time to eat any candy. But somewhere along the way, with the evolution of the modern cinema, and the multiplex, and the invention of television, a movie got rather longer. No longer did films play like "A Trip to the Moon" (a tidy 16 minutes). Now a story unfurled in an hour, two hours, even three. Which is a-ok, as many film fans do love a deep dive, but finding shorter, sprightlier cineworks can take a little effort. That effort will be eased, in Walnut Creek, however, from Friday, May 20 through Sunday, May 22, when the 4th Annual Walnut Creek International Short Film Festival debuts with a popcorn bucket full of tasty treats.

"OVER 15 COUNTRIES": The selections hail from around the globe, but they aren't all screened one at a time. Rather, there are a dozen blocks, running about 90 minutes each, which means you'll enter multiple worlds over the course of an hour and a half. The place? The Century 14. The gamut? Huge, from funny stuff to horror eekers. Tickets? They're twelve bucks per block, but you can get a day pass for $35. Call a few hours of lickety-split cinema a bracing tonic to the bigger blockbusters of summertime. Ready for a return to the lengths of moviedom's beginnings? Walnut Creek is your brevity-filled font of movie fun.

Photo Credit: Popcorn]]>
<![CDATA[Lompoc: Flower Fields Abloom]]> Sat, 28 May 2016 08:23:25 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/LompocFlowerFields-PinkAndPurple.jpg

WHILE MAY IS THE SWEETEST OF MONTHS, what with all the graduations and the mom-honoring brunches and the weather warming and such, it can be a bit blue-making for those Californians who dig flowers. Specifically wildflowers, we'll add, from the wee yellow buds that make a showing in Death Valley in February to the Sierra stunners that rev up around late April. When May comes, wildflower season bids adieu, and while petals are still in profusion in certain spots right into fall, that feeling of newness, and discovery, and first-bloomage, has ended for another year.

THERE IS A PLACE, however, to get your petal-y fill, and while the specimens aren't wild, they're wonderful, and ready for their photo close-ups. We speak of the Lompoc Valley, one of the flower-growing hearts of the Golden State. And not just any flowers but some of the wowsiest: sweet peas and delphinium and stock rule the school, as do larkspur and other assorted buds. Any of these showy buds add grace to a tabletop bouquet, but when seen in multiples -- as in rows and rows -- well, the cameras shall be clicking. If you've never Lompoc'd, at least where the local flower fields are concerned, best get to the Santa Barbara-close area from...

MAY TO AUGUST: That's when the flower fields truly hit their top bloom, and the timing of the Lompoc Valley Flower Festival, which arrives juuuust at the start of summer, supports this notion. To find these feasts-for-the-eyes, head west of Old Town Lompoc, and use the handy map provided. The peak is described as "late June," so if you're going at any other time, you might check in with Explore Lompoc. Even if you don't time your trip to the biggest of shows, note that the town is also known for murals and wine, which are two rather nice things to be known for, as town-famous things go.

Photo Credit: Lompoc Flower Fields]]>
<![CDATA[Tioga Time: The Sierra Route Opens]]> Sat, 21 May 2016 10:23:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tiogaroad98.jpg

BEAM ME UP, TIOGA PASS: There aren't many notable, traverse-able wormholes these days, at least beyond the ones found in "Star Trek" and other works of science fiction. But they do exist upon our planet, and even if travel from Point A to Point Somewhere Truly Faraway isn't instantaneous, it is still pretty impressive (and sometimes flat-out pretty, but more on that in a moment). Take the Tioga Road, the bit of Highway 120 that rambles through Yosemite National Park and the glorious meadows and peaks of the Sierra. It's something of a real, honest-to-goodness wormhole, at least of the terrestrial sort, but like all good science-fiction wormholes it closes now and then, just to keep the plot interesting. Okay, it closes due to snow, copious amounts of snow, snow that shuts things down around November, usually, with a springtime re-opening. It isn't an immediate re-opening -- the plows go to work on the high-elevation thoroughfare in the middle of April -- but when it does open it sure makes people happy, especially those who love to knock about the Sierra during the summer, hiking, fishing, camping. And, you got it, Tioga watchers...

WEDNESDAY, MAY 18... is the official 2016 opening of the Sierra road. That means if you're in Groveland, and you're craving a breakfast burrito at the Whoa Nellie Deli in Lee Vining, you don't have to make the four-ish to five-ish hour drive on a more northern or southern road. You'll get there in an hour (plus change), thanks to the Tioga Road welcoming all vehicles. Oh, for sure, life isn't about the rush in the Sierra, so whatever road you take, be it the Tioga or another byway, ease up and pull over for vistas. But, yeah, if a favorite hike is awaiting you on the other side of the Sierra, and a breakfast burrito, too, a seasonal and spectacular wormhole does come in mighty handy. 

NOTE: There's still trail snow off the Tioga, and colder temps do abound, and YNP recommends checking on road conditions, pre-heading out. Solid advice, so start here, with this phone number.

Photo Credit: Tioga Road]]>
<![CDATA[Chowder and Vino in Monterey]]> Sun, 22 May 2016 07:51:07 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/chardshutterstock1233445-horz.jpg

WHAT LIBATION... is loveliest with a bowl of chowder? It's kind of a trick question, as we didn't specify the type of chowder. Is it a traditional New England stew? Or more a tomato-laden Manhattan? Or is it an all-together different spin on the hearty seafood classic? Again, those are kind of trick questions, as the reality is this: Chowder itself is a bit of a libation. It's so easy to sip straight from the bowl's lip, especially once you've worked through all the bits of clam and shrimp and oyster and those soak-up-the-flavor crackers. You want to get to the broth, and you're going to tip your bowl before your mouth to do so. BUT, and that's an all-caps, slightly shouty BUT, the fact is also this: Wine remains one of chowder's BFFs, especially here in California, a place that matches up coastal chowder eating with the regional wineries that aren't too far from the shore. One of the most prominent of these pair-ups is just ahead, in Monterey, and it is called...

THE MONTEREY WINE FESTIVAL: For sure, a whole host of area vineyards will set up cork-cool shop around the historic Customs House Plaza, including Oak Ridge Winery, Martin Ray Winery, and Quady Winery. Beerhouses shall be on the grounds, too, if suds by the shore -- or near the shore -- is your jam. As for the Chowdah Celebration? That's on Saturday, June 4, the middle day of the three-day festival. And if you're more about the calamari, stick around on Sunday, June 5 when the popular appetizer is the center of the supping action. 

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[GoPro Fun at a Carlsbad Inn]]> Fri, 20 May 2016 12:21:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/hiltoncarlsbadexterior123.jpg

MAKE THAT MOVIE: Creating a watchable, share-able treat, possibly set to music, with a few bells and whistles thrown in, is something many a family ponders nowadays as they pack up the car for a weekend road trip. Photographs are nice, and text-centered observations about the trip will likely be posted in all of the usual places. But what of some stylish video? Taken in a beautiful spot? That is a key element for a number of travelers, people looking beyond the video capacity of their phones to something a bit more flash. It would be sweet to have a GoPro, if you could, to capture some vacation good-timing, but that typically isn't in the cards. Unless, of course, you book at the Hilton Garden Inn Carlsbad Beach, and you nab the new Ultimate Beach Rental Kit, which includes a GoPro Hero 4. The "beach" part of the kit's name reveals the other intriguing contents: "beach chairs, towels, an umbrella, and sunscreen," all good things to have when you make for...

CARLSBAD STATE BEACH: That's pretty dang close to the inn, and it is regularly cited as one of the loveliest sandy stretches in the area. So break out the GoPro and get to building a sand castle, or sand city, or sand universe, all with the knowledge that the footage you'll have to head home with will be snazzy, indeed. So how much is the Ultimate Beach Rental Kit to book? Sixty bucks a day. Will you post the video later for relatives and friends to enjoy? You probably will, we imagine, thanks to the nifty angles and dolly moves you'll incorporate during your time along the water. Are there other packages at the Carlsbad hotel, specifically oriented to the San Diego Zoo and LEGOLAND? There are, should you want a few more adventures after your GoPro beach day.

Photo Credit: Hilton Carlsbad Inn]]>
<![CDATA[The Olives of Los Olivos]]> Sat, 28 May 2016 08:24:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/56908420.jpg

IT'S IN THE NAME: If you're a fan of food festivals, the kind of weekend-sweet gatherings that feature local chefs and regional wineries and the stroll-about, taste-about vibe that suits a Saturday well, you probably research directions online before heading out to the car (and your adventure). And as you pass the exits, and the off-ramps, you might start to ask your companion what the town was called, the one with the fest. For the most part, the food festival and the town that's hosting it won't share a similar name, but there is a juicy, oil-yummy, pit-tastic exception: The annual Los Olivos Jazz and Olive Festival. Nope, "olivos" doesn't mean jazz, but it does summon an olive tree to mind, which is good, since olives are one of the star eats at this just-after-Memorial-Day party. And if smooth sounds and smooth-skinned fruits are two of your favorite things, then clear your calendar for Saturday, June 4 and head for...

THE SANTA YNEZ VALLEY, which is the home spread of this pocket-sized, perfectly pretty, perfectly walkable wine burg. Ah yes, wine will naturally be on the pour, with some 30 or so vineyards making a presence at the town-wide celebration. Keep the "30" in mind as you search out olive-y goodness, for chefs'll create about 30 dishes that have olives as a theme. And local sudser Figueroa Brewing Company will also be in the house (or, rather, on the quaint streets of the quaint town). There are a few succulent olive to-dos around California, but this one's about as wine-country-licious as they come. That a breezy June Saturday is involved, and live tunes, and local vino, and a town with "olive" in its very name, serves to further the fun charm of the day. What's nearby? Solvang, Buellton, Los Alamos, and, across the hills, Santa Barbara, meaning there's a whole weekend to plan, in addition to the all-important eating of olives.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Now Open: Crystal Cave]]> Wed, 18 May 2016 22:04:18 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/210*120/trailtocrystalcavenps.jpg

IF MAY WERE A CHARACTER... in a children's picture book, it might be depicted as a yawning, stretchy sleepyhead, the kind of person who dons an old-fashioned nightcap to catch a little shuteye. Why to we cast the fifth month of the calendar as such? Because so much of the world seems to awaken come May, after the thaw is thoroughly and completely through, and after the schoolbooks are stowed, and after the proverbial shutters are thrown wide on vacation exploration. Many of our natural wonders stretch and yawn come May, by the by, though, of course, they've been around all winter long.

WHO HASN'T BEEN AROUND THEM, though, is us, for a number of harder-to-reach spots take a cold-weather siesta from human visitors, including the famous Crystal Cave of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. Located in the Giant Forest, in Sequoia National Park, the stalactite-y destination is mighty loved, given that it is "the parks' only commercialized cave." That means summertime see-it spots do go, so if you want to secure a date with Crystal Cave over the summer of 2016, best get on it, as the subterranean favorite made its annual debut on...

SUNDAY, MAY 14: Ready to eye its "3 miles of passage"? Or what makes it a "complex, 'anastomotic' maze" of a cave? Here's where you start. Note that "(t)ickets are never sold at the cave," so lining your adventure up well in advance is as smart as a stalagmite is old. Once there, though, "a polished marble stream" and all sorts of ancient rock formations await your admiration, silently, eternally. We're not assuming your admiration is a given, but, please; caves are cool, through and through, and not just temperature-wise. Is this your summer to see a mid-California gem? Crystal Cave is waking up and stretching, just in time for its annual visitors, so hop to it.

Photo Credit: NPS]]>
<![CDATA[Historic Attraction: Mountain Play Opens]]> Mon, 16 May 2016 14:23:55 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/mountainplayexterior12345.jpg

ELEVATION + CELEBRATION: One of the most charming scenes in "West Side Story," the tune-bright, New York-robust musical that premiered on Broadway in 1957, is the rooftop dance scene set to the rousing "America." Songs sung above street level are par for the course for the classic -- think how fire escapes and tall buildings come into play -- but generally when "West Side Story" is enjoyed, it is enjoyed in a home den or curb-close theater, and not in some much higher place. That'll change on Sunday, May 22 when the production, which boasts a book by Arthur Laurents and music courtesy of Leonard Bernstein, debuts at the Mountain Play. Indeed, that's the long-running spring-into-summer cultural treat on...

MOUNT TAMALPAIS, the one that involves a bit of hiking and some picnicking and the enjoying of sunshine (something that musical enjoyment doesn't always grant its audience). It's the 103rd season for the Mountain Play, which carries the oh-so-accurate tagline "A Great Outdoor Theatre Adventure." Some of that adventure is reaching the venue, as the Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre is located among the trees and peaks of Mount Tamalpais State Park. There are opportunities to grab a shuttle bus to the outdoor theatre, but many patrons choose to ramble up, taking in the nature along the way (nature that will provide a fun foil to the city-set gem that is "West Side Story").

AS FOR DATES? It doesn't run every day, do note, but the Mountain Play will be live and lively on select afternoons from May 22 through June 19. Yes, we did indeed say "afternoons," so plan for a "curtain" time of 2 o'clock. Ready to visit the NYC of the 1950s, via a hike up one of Northern California's most striking geographical symbols? It's a cool contrast, metropolitan-set musical and wild-pretty location, with a century-plus history to boot. Tickets, details, and how to get there? Ramble this way, theater-obsessed hikers.

Photo Credit: Mountain Play]]>
<![CDATA[Free Concerts at North Lake Tahoe]]> Wed, 25 May 2016 08:47:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/DUSTBOWLCROWDJOY.jpg

SUMMER AT THE LAKE: The ideal June, July, or August getaway tends to change from individual to individual, but plenty of vacationers share some eternal, and eternally pleasing, goals. Finding a little fresh air is key for many of us, as is some time spent in or next to water. A few interesting and "fun" meals would also be lovely, and the time to sleep in without a care in the world (or at least the everyday cares we typically face).

AS FOR MUSIC, live and in person? We want it on our trip and, if possible, we'd like it for free. There are numerous summertime tune festivals, and weekend-long, band-packed extravaganzas, but finding a series that's all about A) solid bands and B) lake-close entertainment and C) absolutely zero admission is a bit trickier. Unless, of course, you're making for North Lake Tahoe, where Concerts at Commons Beach, "North Lake Tahoe's largest free live music event," rocks on for several get-happy weeks. It has a presence within four months, too, with a small push into early September, so whenever you're heading up to the mountains over the summer might just be the right time for a show. Shows like...

DUSTBOWL REVIVAL, a twang-tastic act that opens the 2016 series on June 19, along with Sweetwater String Band. Mumbo Gumbo, Jellybread, Midtown Social, and Joy & Madness are just a few of the other bands that will fill up the Sunday afternoons of a North Lake Tahoe summer with dance-able, chill-out-able tuneage. Picnics are a-okay, or you can buy your vittles from a food purveyor there. And where is "there," exactly? Tahoe City, natch. So plan your water-close time, your vacation-style sleeping in, and your gratis music enjoyment, up the mountains and with a dollop of summer sound-styling on the side.

Photo Credit: Dustbowl Revival]]>
<![CDATA[On Vacation: Madonna Inn Pink Chocolate]]> Sat, 21 May 2016 10:24:13 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/pinkcakemadonnainn1.jpg

A STAPLE'S SUMMER RETURN: If all the pink in the world were to suddenly disappear overnight -- if every pink bow was drained of its brightness and every pink balloon lost its pink-a-tude -- one feels comforted by the sense that pink could still be found, in profusion, at a famous roadside landmark in San Luis Obispo. We speak, quite on-the-nose-ly, of the Madonna Inn, which doesn't own the idea of pink, but might be able to make a serious claim for it, given how its famous Gold Rush Steak House is awash in full-on, over-the-top pinkness. But even pinker than the restaurant's fine dining restaurant?

THE COLORFUL CAKE: Indeed, the pastries in the hotel's Copper Cafe cake case are incredibly pink. Think specifically of the Pink Champagne Cake, a towering confection covered in swirls so eye-popping they'd give any blue ribbon-winning flower a run for its colorful money. But even pink, apparently, takes a vacation come May and June, much like the loyal vacationers heading for an overnight at the 101-close classic: The pink cake coloring is on break, through "early summer," reports the historic hotel on its official blog. But there's...

A HAPPY ENDING... in that the pink cakes shall soon return, and just in time for the height of summertime travel. "(W)e promise the pink cake shall be back!" says the Madonna Inn blog in bold (for good measure). "Our vendor is currently working diligently to source an all-natural food coloring for our famous cakes." The Apple Spice Cake, in addition to the Pink Champagne, is another rosy favorite, one that has taken on a whiter shade through summer's start. If you're headed to SLO before the pink pastries make their anticipated return, just prepare to enjoy the same flavorful sweets but without the pop of color. If you do require a pop of color post-cake, you can, of course, find it by looking in most any direction around the whimsical, decor-laden, pink-everywhere hotel.

Photo Credit: Alysia Gray Painter]]>
<![CDATA[Desert Fare: Palm Springs Restaurant Week]]> Wed, 18 May 2016 10:17:31 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/EscenaGrill_signaturechips.jpg

IN SEARCH OF SHADE: While the concept of "shade" gets a lot of play online -- who's sending it and who's receiving it -- it takes on a wholly different meaning around the desert resort cities in June. For summer's official kick-off month is a mite warm around Palm Springs and Cathedral City and Rancho Mirage, you might have heard. That's where all of those wonderful pools come into play, and the misters that line outdoor bars and fire pit areas. As for the daytime? It's all about shade, as in the kind cast by an umbrella or an oasis of palms. But if you happen to be around Palm Springs in early June, or one of the surrounding burgs, you can pair some of that delightful shade-seeking with dining deals galore. For Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week is all about showing off some of the region's most varied vittles, from diner-hearty eats to top-notch gourmand fare. Not just showing off, of course, but showing off at a discount, thanks to an array of prix fixe, multi-course menus. The 2016 dates are... 

FRIDAY, JUNE 3 THROUGH SUNDAY, JUNE 12... and "(o)ver 100 hotels, restaurants & attractions across the Greater Palm Springs area will participate." Ah yes, this isn't just an eat-out thing, but a stay awhile/play awhile thing, too. As for the restaurants on the roster? Johnny Costa's Ristorante, Arnold Palmer's Restaurant, The Nest, Wally's Desert Turtle, and several more spots are part of the June nosh-about. As for finding some sweet shade after an ultra-sunny afternoon? Yep, you can retreat indoors, or find an umbrella on a patio at select spots. As for the P.S. area hosting its annual Restaurant Week just days before the start of summer? We've said it before: It rocks. For sure, winter and spring provide a flurry of fun times around the Coachella Valley, from Modernism Week to the mondo music festivals, but summer's slow down and its shade-seeking ways are primo. Oh yes, and all of those warm-weather, summer-style deals are a sweet as a tropical drink sipped poolside, for sure.

Photo Credit: Escena Grill]]>
<![CDATA[Dippable Delish: Castroville Artichoke Fest]]> Fri, 13 May 2016 06:16:58 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/artichokes+produce+pete.jpg

DIP IT, BAKE IT, SPREAD IT: There's no denying that videos depicting puppies tumbling through flowery fields and kittens playing with tangly yarn capture our online affections. We'll hit "replay" again and again, thank you very much, and we're not even going to bother hashtagging "no regrets" when we do so. But adorable animal videos may have an unlikely challenger, one that comes straight from the thistle family and your local produce aisle: the artichoke. While just about every foodstuff that can be cooked/chopped/blended boasts oodles of video explanation, artichokes, being a tad unusual, have a way of regularly popping up on our feeds.

A PLETHORA OF RECIPES, how to get to the heart in a semi-neat fashion, and ways to douse the chokie in Parmesan are just some of the do-it-at-home videos in which artichokes currently reign. They also, of course, reign offline, and very much so in the town that's the celebrated Artichoke Capital of the World. Tuck in your oil/mayo-catching bib and prepare to make tracks for the...

CASTROVILLE ARTICHOKE FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL, which is actually happening at the capacious Monterey County Fair and Event Center. The 57th outing of the world-famous Artichoke Festival spreads out, like so many pointy green leaves, over the first weekend in June, with chef demos, artichoke field tours, and a host of ways to savor the globular green gem. It isn't all about the dippable delight, of course; a car show, art enjoyment, and live tunes are also part of the festivity. Can you never get enough of this thistle-awesome favorite? Does your videos-watched log reveal your artichoke obsession? Clearly you need to indulge in some leafy love on June 4 and 5, 2016.

<![CDATA[Carlsbad Getaway: Grown-up Play Date]]> Thu, 12 May 2016 20:35:50 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/scrabbleboard1234567.jpg

VACATION HIGH JINKS: There's no doubt about it: You can feel like you need a vacation from prepping from your vacation, especially if the hectic days leading up to your getaway are full of last-minute errands, extra work assignments, and the hundred to-dos that seem to fill up the get-out-of-town list. When you arrive at your destination, though, how is your ability to achieve maximum let-go-ness? Are you still coiled up in your busy, check-your-phone-lots patterns? Or are you acting carefree right away, and even a bit silly and/or wacky? There's a way to get to that vacay-okay feeling faster, by incorporating board games and treats and movies. And, nope, it doesn't matter if you're not exactly a kid, for board games and treats and movie enjoyment is eternal. Look to the West Inn & Suites in Carlsbad, which recently introduced the Date Your Mate package, and nope, it isn't about murmuring, candles, and fancy foods but rather...

BOARD GAME SHOWDOWNS and bubble baths and "an '80s movie throwback" and Milk Duds and the eating of popcorn (and, perhaps, the throwing of a few kernels of popcorn, too, as is the time-honored tradition between lovebirds). The rate? It kicks off from $189. Where you'll be? Just a short drive from the sand, including some prime surfing beach. Is LEGOLAND nearby, if that's your brick-beautiful pleasure? It's not far at all. Do you need a vacation from your vacation prep, and then another when you return? That's how the old joke often goes. But if you make your main vacation full of fun, that could be enough. And isn't that a goal of all getawayers?

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Happy 75th, Knott's Berry Farm Ghost Town]]> Thu, 12 May 2016 04:15:44 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/knottsghosttown75th.jpg

ORANGE COUNTY CLASSIC: If you've ever visited a ghost town, the kind of place that hummed with mining activity and pioneer settlements back in the 19th century, you likely had to take a rather lengthy, winding drive to get there, possibly over some hills and along some desert-pretty stretches. But one of the most famous ghost towns in the world sits in the heart of thrumming, bustling Buena Park, itself a part of thrumming, bustling Orange County, and while it didn't see any 19th-century mining concerns, it has provided generations of Californians, and visitors from all over, with a taste of the Old West. This version of the Old West, of course, is quite historic, and while it doesn't have roots in 1800s, it has been a Buena Park landmark since the early '40s, when Walter and Cordelia Knott looked for a way to further captivate visitors arriving for chicken dinners and berry treats. That's right: The Ghost Town at Knott's Berry Farm is turning 75 in 2016, and the coaster-laden theme park will celebrate its very first entertainment area throughout the summer.

GHOST TOWN ALIVE! will charm park goers from Friday, May 27 through Monday, Sept. 5. It's an interactive experience where "you play a role in new stories and adventures in the old west town of Calico," so get ready to do a bit of theoretical time-traveling. GhostRider, the mega wooden coaster at the park, will also be back in June after a major refurbishment. And, of course, there's the old-school, easy-breezy tradition of simply strolling the themed experience, with its yippee-ki-yay architecture, its banjo-strumming sounds, and its quaint nods to pop culture-inspired Westerniana.

HOW TO VISIT the Ghost Town? It's included with your admission to Knott's Berry Farm. But do you need to don a ten-gallon or chaps to properly pay homage? Nope, but you may wish you were rocking saddle-ready wear once you're there.

Photo Credit: Knott's Berry Farm]]>
<![CDATA[Hopland Sweet: Bees, Butterflies, and Wine]]> Wed, 11 May 2016 10:14:01 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/bGettyImages-52615565-horzap.jpg

WINERY WHIMSY: If you've ever visited a vineyard, perhaps for a tasting, you know that a winery isn't simply a winery. There are other touches and additions and features to the rambling building sitting next to all of those vines, features that often include a gift shop and/or restaurant and/or performance stage and/or art gallery and/or special events area. It isn't all that unusual, then, for a winery to announced that a fresh add-on is ahead, something that will give those who stop by to purchase a bottle, or sip the just-released merlot, something new to check out. What is a little unusual is when the new addition is mostly populated not by people but rather butterflies and bees. An expansive new garden will debut this summer at Saracina Vineyards in Hopland, and its main residents are in the name: The Bee & Butterfly Garden. There's a party to launch this lovely one-acre spread, complete with an appearance by the garden's designer, Kate Frey (the author of "The Bee Friendly Garden"). Of course, there shall be...

VINO ENJOYMENT as well, and a "casual country picnic" for the noon to 2:30 p.m. affair. The date? It's on Saturday, June 25. The bottles? John Fetzer, Saracina's owner, will be pouring Atrea Skid Rosé as well as "other warm-weather wine favorites." The to-dos, beyond supping, sipping, and the admiring of little buzzing beautiful beasties? Ms. Frey will sign her book, if you want to start your own bee-nice garden at home. Bees, after all, are a friend to nature, and lend love to fruit and the general ripeness and fecundity of a wilder space. This includes grapes, of course, making the new winery garden an ideal addition.

TRULY, it is a good time to browse a winery's gift shop or take in a concert, so those sorts of winery add-ons work. But a natural addition, now and then, to a vineyard's offerings, is as perfect as a sunflower at its peak.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Art + Heart: Paint the Parks!]]> Fri, 13 May 2016 06:17:44 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/painttheparks_wasimmuklashy.jpg

EASEL, BRUSH, CANVAS, MOUNTAIN: Many visitors to our national and state parks arrive with a way to capture all the majesty they encounter. Maybe that's a camera around their neck, or a sketchbook in their bag, or a few watercolors, and brushes, to lend a spectacular sunset or copse of trees the colorful love they deserve.

If you love to paint nature, where do your paintings go? Perhaps you give them to grateful friends, or sell them to excited fans, or keep your favorites in your home. You can, via the Paint the Parks! program, do a little something else: Sell them, yes, but with the vow to donate 10% of the sale to "non-profit Park Associations" as well as an foundations or programs that benefit protected lands. 

PLEIN AIR OR STUDIO: If the idea of packing up your gear for a day of brush strokes under the sky isn't exactly your thing, and you prefer to work from memory, or photos, in your own studio, that's a-okay, too. There are a few guidelines, like only painting "places you have actually visited," the better to recall the full-flavored experience of standing before a redwood or Half Dome or a sea cave at Channel Islands National Park. Founder Karin H. Leonard, who grew up "wandering the fields" of her grandparents' farm in Germany, shares links to artists' web sites on the Paint the Parks! homepage, as well as announcements on paintings sold. Consider this a triply nice thing to do for nature, for people, and for you. You gain the enjoyment of painting, the person who buys your piece will love it for always, and the park foundation or organization of your choice receives a portion of the sale. Ready to wield a brush and recall that amazing day you spent at Pinnacles or the Salton Sea? Get painting, then, nature friend.

Pictured: China cove at Pt. Lobos State Reserve by Karin H. Leonard 

Photo Credit: Wasim Muklashy]]>
<![CDATA[San Diego Cool: All-Star Yoga]]> Tue, 10 May 2016 03:49:09 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/215*120/soul-pose-crowd-1sd.jpg

MAJORLY MAJOR LEAGUE: Major League Baseball is pretty major on all fronts, whether we're talking about a game, a fundraiser, a special day at a stadium, or fan love. But sometimes the MLB gets even majorer, if such a thing could be possible (we know, that's not technically a word, but if ever it could apply, it applies here). Look to the All-Star Game, a centerpiece on the big MLB calendar, and definitely a draw for whatever city it lands within. That city in 2016 is San Diego, and while the hey-batter showdown'll go down at Petco Park, a bevy of complementary happenings will orbit and festoon the important game. One of those nifty events also deals with physicality, and inner reflection, and some of the qualities that baseball players call upon to play: a yoga session. Not just any yoga session, however, but All-Star Yoga, a partnership between the MLB and Soul Pose. It gets the love, as it should, and with so many people wanting to downward dog during the rare class, a rare location was in order. That location will be...

BEAUTIFUL WATERFRONT PARK: The date is Saturday, July 9, which is just a few days ahead of the 87th Annual All-Star Game (that's on Tuesday, July 12). There are two sessions to choose from -- 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. -- and participants of all skills are more than welcome. There shall be Soul Pose mats to plank upon, and the added convivialities of bubbles and body paint and tunes. Class length? One hour. Tickets? They're this way. Other happenings during the big MLB All-Star Week 'round San Diego? There's a Color Run, a FanFest, a Legends & Celebrity Softball Game, and more. Call it baseball with a dollop of extra event-flavored goodness on top, much like a hot dog rocks with some extra mustard. Feeling the MLB-a-tude? Start here, sunshine-craving, baseball-loving yogis, and sign up for the Waterfront Park party.

Photo Credit: Soul Pose]]>
<![CDATA[Luscious Stuff: California Strawberry Festival]]> Wed, 11 May 2016 10:16:06 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/csfhandholdingberryview.jpg

SAVE THE STRAWBERRIES: Anyone who has ever made anything involving fruit knows just how precious five or six really ripe, extra large strawberries can be. If you're putting together a spinach salad, maybe with some piñon nuts or blue cheese, you're going to slice up those berries as thinly as possible, to make sure they're evenly distributed. If you're blending a smoothie, same deal; you'll throw the melon and bananas into the mix, with abandon, but the strawberries are precious and must be measured out, just to make sure you have enough for breakfast tomorrow.

SO IMAGINE, if you will, attending a weekend-long spectacular where there's so much strawberry-mondo deliciousness that no measuring out or portioning or saving needs to be done. You won't need to stow the last two berries in the bin for tomorrow, for at the 33rd California Strawberry Festival, it is all strawberries all the time, from strawberry nachos to strawberry pie to strawberry crepes to fried strawberries (which sounds terrifically tangy and deeply savory all at once). You know the place where the strawberry reigns. It's...

STRAWBERRY MEADOWS, in College Park in Oxnard. The agricultural hub will again host the carnival-fun, recipe-intriguing shebang on Saturday, May 21 and Sunday, May 22. There's the "Berry Blast-off" recipe contest, which marks its 8th year in 2016, the ever-popular contests including the Tart Toss, a Pie-Eating showdown, and the Strawberry Build-Off. And as for consuming all of the green-topped, seed-mazing, bright-flavored strawberrynes you want to, without having to save a few in the produce drawer for tomorrow night's dessert? Check it out: "An estimated 1.5 million strawberries will be consumed over the weekend.." Good stuff, and even better: Many food booths are non-profits, so consider that your tasty strawberry dish, and the money you paid for it, is moving on to help someone else. Nothing, not even a strawberry, is as sweet as that.

Photo Credit: California Strawberry Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Summer Kick-off: Sacramento Music Festival]]> Mon, 16 May 2016 11:59:12 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/leerockersactownfest.jpg

A STREET OF FESTS: We sometimes encounter a lane that has nothing but clothing shops, or a cul de sac that's mostly made up of restaurants, or a thoroughfare that's comprised of small comedy venues. All cool stuff, but it makes us long for the sort of avenue where summer music festivals could set up shop, one next to the other, so that fans may partake in all of the hundreds of acts, and dozens of chef appearances, and oodles of kid to-dos, and bunches of special events that go into making a mega sound-centered spectacular. Alas, some long-view entrepreneur has not yet developed such a street, where all warm-weather fests can live side-by-side, but we can venture out and visit some of the biggies, like the famous Sacramento Music Festival.

YOU'RE CORRECT, if you just said "isn't that a four-day Memorial Day Weekend happening?" It is indeed, meaning it is on the large-ish size-ish for a festival, a total plus considering all of the good things it folds in. Prepare for a "safe, four-day, all-day party featuring LIVE music, 100 unique performances, street dancing, animated parades, instruments booming, and great food and drink in an energetic atmosphere," so, yep, it has it all going on. On the tuneful side of things? Lee Rocker of The Stray Cats'll get the crowd hopping, as will Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Pablo Cruise, Dixie Company Jazz Company, and dozens of other summer's-on-the-way acts fill out the big (big big) bill. Need to kick off the warm/whimsical season with a large-scale festival full of festive moving parts? Look to Sactown for the sound party you crave.

Photo Credit: Lee Rocker]]>
<![CDATA[Heroes Brew Craft Beer Festival]]> Fri, 13 May 2016 06:19:27 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/heropaulbarnett02.jpg

A THRILLINGLY TOLD COMIC... isn't solely about the central storyline, the one that depicts the chuckling villain and the good-hearted crusader duking it out over who'll finally rule the skyscraper-laden big city. That's full of twists, surprises, and shocks, for sure, but there are going to be some other elements to the book, some different characters and goals and settings. It's helpful to think of Comic-Con International in a similar frame. The world's best-known pop culture convention will again attract tens (and tens and tens) of thousands to San Diego for several days of blockbuster-y movie panels, surprise screenings, the beloved Masquerade, and all of those tee-selling, toy-tastic booths.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE: That's the central storyline of July 21 through 24, but, like an awesome comic, there are other happenings in the tale, happenings that are not affiliated with Comic-Con but do orbit it, around town, with elegance. One of the buzziest? It's the Heroes Brew Craft Beer Festival, which gives fans of fancy foams a chance to dress up in their shiny boots and fluttering cape and enjoy some quality IPA-imbibing time. Even better than that, which is pretty rocking?

IT'S A FUNDRAISER... for Warrior Foundation -- Freedom Station. Want to help out, dress as your favorite comic book champion, and have a social, superhero-y evening at San Diego's picturesque Waterfront Park? This is one popular Comic-Con-adjacent date, and attendees really do break out their save-the-planet, cape-cool best. Tickets, times, and info on the foundation can be found by flying gallantly in this direction.

Photo Credit: Heroes Brew Fest/Paul Barnett]]>
<![CDATA[Gold Country Cookout: Amador Four Fires]]> Thu, 05 May 2016 06:21:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/flames-amadorfourfires.jpg

ONCE SPRING... is a month or so along, or even close to halfway over, one can start to ask this specific question, at first internally, and then aloud, to all within earshot: Who is hosting the first cookout? For once the crocuses are doing their crocus-y bloom thing, and the baby birds brim with chirp, one rather expects to be invited over to someone's backyard, the better to sip something chilled and butter-hued while awaiting a plate full of saucy, hearty grub. But if your friend with the socializing-ready patio has not seen fit to throw a cookout yet, and it is already well into May, hmm... Time to go further afield. It just so happens that Amador Four Fires has your back, and your cookout-theme interests at heart, too. The wine + culinary to-do will stoke the flavor-smoky wood on...

SATURDAY, MAY 7... at the Amador County Fairgrounds in Plymouth. This is just a pinch north of Amador City, which is famously (and charmingly) California's smallest incorporated city, at least in terms of area. That right there should lend the lark in Plymouth some cozy, small-town-o-sity, so even if you only know the people you arrive with, you should sense the laid-back spirit of the affair. The "Four Fires" are representative of a quartet of regions -- Heritage California, the Iberian Peninsula, Southern France, and Italy -- and "(n)early 200 wines" will be on the pour, with plenty from the many surrounding vineyards that the region has become known for in recent years. It's the "anti-thesis of a hoity-toity event," says a rep, which is a relief, since no cookout ever should get the hoity-toity label. Cost? Eighty five dollars at the door, and your designated driver is $70. Do you know your Gold Country vinos? And eats? Is it time you brushed up, with the added benefit of finally getting that spring cookout you've craved? Oh, it's on.

Photo Credit: Amador Four Fires]]>
<![CDATA[Mountain Trio: Ski/Bike/Golf Challenge]]> Tue, 17 May 2016 15:33:05 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/225*120/skibikegolfmammothmountain.jpg

THREE ACTIVITIES, ONE DAY: If you're visiting a high-altitude location in January, chances are very good that a pair of long fiberglass gliders are attached to your feet via some sturdy boots. If you're in that same high-altitude spot in August, you've probably got a nine iron in your hand, or perhaps a pair of handlebars. So is there ever a time of year when skiing, golfing, and cycling can dovetail, magically, all in basically the same general area? You'd have to look at the cusp of the summer and winter seasons to see, but there's no need to look too far: Mammoth Mountain traditionally offers a trio of alfresco activities over Memorial Day Weekend, when there's some snow still about but short sleeves are possible. It's the Ski/Bike/Golf Challenge, and it costs ninety bucks to experience all three activities in the course of a day.

THAT'S $99 TO SCHUSS... and club-swing and maybe pop a wheelie, if you feel like you can schedule your hours accordingly, and not get too enamored with any one pursuit (meaning you stay with that one pursuit all day long, which is kind of cool, too, if you're having a ball). Your ski lift ticket is included in that price (or board ticket, if that's your preference), as is your bike park pass and a 9-hole round at Sierra Star Golf Course. Can you do it all in a single day? You can, if you rise/shine in an early manner. Can you save money by doing this? Oh yes (think 50% off). Are there other times of the year where winter and summer pastimes weave together quite as neatly? This is the prime weekend, at least 'round Mammoth. Check out the full deal and start burnishing your golf/ski/cycle skillz, pronto. Offer is good from May 27 to May 30.

Photo Credit: Mammoth Mountain]]>
<![CDATA['Top Gun' Day at Hotel del Coronado]]> Mon, 09 May 2016 03:19:05 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/229*120/topgunhoteldel.jpg

PLACES WITH PANACHE... very often become places we associate with famous films. It's hard to see the heart of Chicago without thinking of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," and a trip to Bodega Bay quite obviously summons "The Birds" to mind. As for Coronado Island? There've long been a few movies that have ruled this sandy, plane-filled, hotel-esque location. "The Wizard of Oz," for one. Nope, the Dorothy-led charmer wasn't filmed in San Diego, but "Oz" author L. Frank Baum wrote many stories while living on the isle (and designed the crown chandeliers at the Hotel del Coronado). "Some Like It Hot" is another biggie, as Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon romped at The Del in the Billy Wilder-helmed comedy. And, for sure, "Top Gun" is up there, in Coronado lore, as the 1986 action-romance employed a naval station and center, in addition to other local spots, as locations. While The Del, the 19th-century turreted wonder of Coronado, regularly acknowledges its "Oz" and "Hot" cred, it's about to give the movie love to "Top Gun," which marks its 30th anniversary in 1986. Yes, Friday, May 13 is...

"TOP GUN" DAY... at the Hotel del Coronado, which will start out early with a "Top Gun"-themed spin class (yep, the playlist'll draw straight from the "Danger Zone"-cool soundtrack). You can get a "Take My Breath Away" oxygen facial at the Spa at the Del, oh yes you can, or sip a "Top Gun"-themed cocktail out on the waves-close Sun Deck. And will the actual film screen later in the day? You betcha, so be on the hotel's famous Windsor Lawn for the 8 o'clock showing. After the film there'll be more music from the film at B&S Bar. "Feeling the need, the need for speed"(ing down to Coronado Island)? Get all the haps on the '80s-adrenaline day that's oh-so-near many of the film's locales.

Photo Credit: Top Gun/Hotel del Coronado]]>
<![CDATA[Fast Bikes: AMGEN Tour of California]]> Tue, 10 May 2016 03:43:15 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/aGettyImages-473664564.jpg

WHILE MANY CALIFORNIA CYCLISTS... are poring over maps, texting friends, and plotting summertime routes along backroads and through hidden valleys, few bike buffs are planning to cover huge swaths of the state in day-by-day stages at great speed on sections of roads closed to cars. That's where the AMGEN Tour of California comes in, each and every May, to bring some world-class, whirling pedals action to the cities, towns, and open spaces of the Golden State. If you haven't yet jetted to the continent to take in the Tour de France, or if you have and you didn't get nearly enough of the sleek 'n speedy athleticism, the AMGEN Tour of California delivers on this front, and how. "The teams chosen to participate have included Olympic medalists, Tour de France contenders and World Champions," reveals the race's online HQ, which means that if you plunk down along the route, look sharp: The participants will stream by you in seconds. And that's the adrenaline-pumping joy of it, truly. One minute you're on a quiet byway, staring at the clouds, and soon everyone lining the street is cheering madly. Ready to be one of the cheerers, and get inspired, perhaps, for your own summertime bike excursions? The 2016 dates are...

SUNDAY, MAY 15 THROUGH SUNDAY, MAY 22: The start city for the women is South Lake Tahoe on May 19 and the men will begin in San Diego on May 15. Both competitions will wend their way to the capital, so if you want to see a bit of each, make for Sacramento on the final weekend. Or find a quieter spot, an empty pass, if you want a chiller, commune-with-the-moment experience.

NOT SO QUIET, but always lively and brimming with good vibes is the Lifestyle Festival, which pops up at every finish line. And equally as thrilling, if you truly want to be in the center of the spokes-y spectacular? There are volunteer opportunities, so lend a hand if that's your jam. For all the stages, info, fest-y stuff, and towns along the 2016 tour, turn your handlebars in this direction.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Road Trip Time: Indian Wells Package]]> Sat, 14 May 2016 08:09:05 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/renaissancepoolcrindianwells.jpg

HOW YOU GET THERE: It isn't always a common practice for a hotel or resort to inquire specifically how you arrived when you first stroll in the lobby. They might ask after your journey -- "did you have a nice trip?" -- but they're going to talk about your room and the amenities and the dining before asking for you to provide the make/model of your car and license plate (or inquiring about whether you'll need a van back to the airport, if you flew in). Sometimes, though, a package is built around how you got to a place. Look to the new Road Trip offer at the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa, which just revved its engines for the summer 2016 season. It's on through Sept. 10 -- that's a week beyond Labor Day -- and some of the extras and additions are charmingly geared for the car ride home. Yep, that's...

CAR BINGO... in your goody bag, the kind that back-seaters play to wile away the miles. Did you see a sign? A cow? A Beetle? Best record it all on your card. Souvenir sunglasses, too, are a stylish road trip fixture, and all the members of your family'll receive their own pair. Shall there be postcards, too, of the resort? Oh yes, and they're oh-so-handy in letting the friends back home know that you're swimming, relaxing, and savoring those quintessential desert nights by the pool. And will "welcome nachos" be part of your greeting? You bet. Nachos, after all, practically shout "road trip!" with every gooey cheesy bite. (Well, it's more of a "crunch," technically, but you get our meaning.)

TO BOOK THE ROAD TRIP... package at the Renaissance, you'll need the code SPU (and you'll want to check out the details and so forth). There's a lot happening during the toastier months 'round the desert resorts, so check out the kid-sweet club, pools, and dining choices. Ready to pack the trunk and unfold the map? Well, even if our maps are on our phones, the spirit of map-unfolding-ness, and the adventure of the open highway, truly lives on in road-trippers across California.

Photo Credit: Indian Wells]]>
<![CDATA[Mountain Marvel: Palm Springs Tram Pass]]> Tue, 10 May 2016 19:29:40 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/pstramway1234.jpg

THAT (ALMOST) INSTANT COOLDOWN: When summer's going full throttle in the desert, and the thermometer reading is not just in three-digit territory but way up in three-digit territory, and another dip in the pool isn't doing it for you, where do you turn? Perhaps a cinema, one with a famously powerful AC unit. Perhaps a florist, to buy your sweetie some desert sunflowers (with a quick slip into the damp cooler in order to pick said sunflowers out). Or perhaps you hop on the next Palm Springs Aerial Tramway car for a ride up, up, up to Mountain Station in the San Jacinto Mountains.

THE TIPPY-TOP OF THE TRAM... sits above the 8,500-feet mark, which means that temperatures are around 30 to 40 degrees cooler than down below. That's a significant change, for sure, and while it isn't instant -- your rotating tram car takes about ten minutes to the top -- once you are at Mountain Station you'll feel the notable difference. When it is 105 below, 70 can feel so delicious among the firs. If you'll be doing some desert sojourning during the summer, and you want visit the tram more than once, consider the...

SUMMER PASS, which is now on sale for the 2016 season. It is good all the way through Aug. 31 for rides, and 10% off additional tickets, and 10% off the two eateries at Mountain Station (Peaks Restaurant and Pines Café). Are there hiking trails to explore? Over 50 miles of 'em, yes. Are there picnic tables, pretty vistas, campgrounds, and other adventuresome staples? There are. Will you feel like your vacation had plenty of desert and mountain goodness in equal parts? You can make it so, if you'll be retreating to Palm Springs, or Palm Desert, or La Quinta. Sun and pines, pools and trams, warmth and breezes: A mountain-desert getaway is the best of two distinct, and distinctly delightful, worlds.

Photo Credit: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway]]>
<![CDATA[Summer Concert Series on Catalina Island]]> Sat, 14 May 2016 08:10:37 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Santa+Catalina_Avalon_Aerial_4water.jpg

AN ISLAND, LIVE TUNES... and general balmy-weathered relaxing, all enjoyed simultaneously, seems like a combo that might hail from the "too good to be true" files. And yet such a combo is nigh, on the horizon, and in California, too. The island in question? It's Catalina, with its storied hills, beautiful buffalo, historic Casino building, and the delightful Descanso Beach Club, which really sits along the sand next to the Pacific Ocean. The live tunes in the equation? They'll be a summery centerpiece, over a series of special nights at the beach club, with Smash Mouth revving up the jam and rocking the wave-adjacent getaway on Saturday, May 28. (Indeed, that's the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, if you're pondering a three-day diversion to the famous isle.) And the general balmy-weathered relaxing bit? That comes par for the course on the golf cart-laden island, which sits about 22 miles from mainland Los Angeles. The beach club ups that feeling with cabanas, ocean-facing loungers, perfectly placed palms, and dining/drinking choices at the ready.

THE CONCERT CALENDAR... continues during the summer of '16, with Toad the Wet Sprocket & Rusted Root on July 8, Coleman Hell on Aug. 12, and The Wailers rounding out the series on Saturday, Sept. 3 (yep, Labor Day Weekend). The Santa Catalina Island Company is presenting the concerts, by the by, and, for sure, you'll need to book passage in addition to securing your show ticket ahead of time (you can also reserve a cabana, if that's your preference). So what will you like better? Seeing a favorite act, the ocean, the sand, being on an island in summer, or the whole shebang? We'll wager most people'll vote for the final pick on the list. Your sand-covered, shoes-off info is this way, buffalo buffs.

Photo Credit: Santa Catalina Island]]>
<![CDATA[LBC Folk Revival Fest Announces Bands]]> Sun, 01 May 2016 07:43:22 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/LBF2016now.jpg

THE LAST DAY OF SUMMER... possesses magical properties. It is a statement so evident that it almost need not be said, but it feels good to say it, for time goes fast and the festive nature of summertime is something to treasure, in the moment, while we can. But while that final day of sweet summer is lovely, equally as lovely is the last Saturday of summertime, the Saturday that arrives just after the middle of September. For if the last day of summer is mid-week, we may not have time to rightfully send off the season, but a weekend day? Oh yeah, there's going to be a party. And a major mid-September party 'round about Southern California is the Long Beach Folk Revival Festival, a twangy-toned, winsome-of-outlook affair that seems to take the summer/autumn transition and make music from it. The 2016 date is Saturday, Sept. 17 -- just five days ahead of fall -- and the line-up of artists was just revealed, giving fans several months to daydream about one dance-y, strum-tastic soiree. A soiree spent in the sunshine at...

RAINBOW LAGOON PARK: The White Buffalo, Chuck Ragan, Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys, Big Bad Rooster, Honey Whiskey Trio, and several other banjo-wielding, harmonica-happy outfits'll be lending some sepia-hued sounds to the festival, which lasts a full half day (that would be 11 a.m. to 11 at night). A craft bazaar, good eats, craft beers, and an activity-filled area for the young'uns are part of the community come-together day. So should bluegrass and Americana and roots be the official music genres for that time juuuust before autumn's golden glow arrives? It feels like the right sort of tune style to send the summer off with; best peruse all now and book your ticket.

Photo Credit: Long Beach Folk Festival]]>
<![CDATA[A Frightful Fall Favorite in May]]> Tue, 03 May 2016 06:21:48 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/204*120/WinchesterMysteryHouse_crWMH_1.jpg

MAY + MACABRE: A band of buddies can typically cobble together any outing on the spot, but picking a pursuit that's tied to an unusual date has its intriguing challenges. What do you do on Groundhog's Day? Watch the movie? And how do your friends mark an eclipse? By standing outside and looking up, we imagine. Friday the 13th offers the same sort of "what should we do"-y questions, as the answers aren't always clear (such as on Fourth of July or Halloween). There are the horror films to view, of course, if that's your jam. Or you can volunteer at a pet shelter, loving upon a few black cats, as well as felines of every stripe. Or you can look to the California landmark that always celebrates Friday the 13th, every time it rolls around. Yes, we speak of...

THE WINCHESTER MYSTERY HOUSE... in San Jose, which is prepping another Flashlight Tour of the Sarah Winchester's corridor-laden, doors-opening-onto-walls wonder. The flashlight nights are a staple of the fall, true, but they do pop up on the 13th day of the month, if that day happens to be a weekday starting with the letter F. The 55-minute tour takes visitors up and through the rambling manse, with a guide at the lead. You'll learn fascinating facts about Mrs. Winchester's mission, one inspired by mediums and tales of the spirit world. The nighttime stroll lends a spooky veil to the daytime tour, if you prefer your legendary landmarks to come with a few shadows and low-lit hallways. 

AUTUMN FLASHLIGHT FUN: If you can't make May 13th -- and you'll want to book that ticket ahead of time if you can -- the Flashlight Tours'll be back in the fall. And if you want to wait for the next Friday the 13th, well, you'll need to wait for January 2017, as May is the only 2016 month rocking the eeky occasion.

Photo Credit: Winchester Mystery House]]>
<![CDATA[Spring Break All Year: Omni Splash & Stay]]> Sun, 01 May 2016 07:43:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/splashomnicosta123.jpg

TO EVERYTHING, A WINDOW: We often bandy about the word "window" when we're not speaking of the glass square in the wall, the one that lets in light. We use the word in reference to time, and a set amount of time, specifically. "That window has passed" means the opportunity to seize a moment is done, or "I'll have the window for that next week" is saying "don't ask me to do anything right now." Occasions, too, have windows -- the Christmas window seems to open around October nowadays -- but there is one annual event that can occupy pretty much any window it chooses, despite having a season in its name. We speak of spring break, which typically falls around March or April, and is usually associated with students taking a vacation. But if you're not into typical things, and you still like the notion of spring break, even beyond spring, and you want to treat the family, well, your window is wide open: Omni La Costa Resort & Spa's Splash & Stay package is on through the very end of 2016.

IN THE DEAL: Your tots will get two hours per day of fun times at Kidtopia Kids Club (so if you want to check out the adult pool, that would be a solid window). A s'mores kit is also part of the package, as is a daily breakfast for the family at Bistro 65. And as for dinner? Count on a $100 resort credit to use towards meals on the property (that's a hundred bucks "per room, per night"). The Carlsbad getaway experiences several fine weather days a year, well beyond spring, so plan some afternoons at the various pools, including the one geared to grown-ups and the waterslide-bedecked Splash Landing Pool (there's also the Sandy Beach Family Pool, for smaller tots). Ready to throw your own spring break, whenever you want to open that particular window? You've got through Dec. 31, 2016 to enjoy a time of year that's far too fleeting.  

Photo Credit: Omni La Costa Resort & Spa]]>
<![CDATA[Healdsburg Hoedown: Maypole Time]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:03:29 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/215*120/maypolerussianriver1234567.jpg

BACK IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, when the end of April rolled around, you could count on a couple of things. One? There was probably some discussion of what you might do in the summer (camp, swim classes, a reading club). Two? There was talk of the last day of school, and if your class might hold some sort of party (typically involve ice cream and other frozen, summer's-coming treats). And three? There'd be a cameo by a maypole, out in the recess yard, right around May 1.

MAYPOLES... and tots learning about music, history, and culture are a longtime duo, which is pretty sweet; after all, a maypole not only has some heritage behind it but it gives kids the chance to get out in the spring sunshine and romp a bit (double bonus). But as adults, where can we get our maypole fill, if we don't have a teacher explaining maypole lore and promising us that a real maypole was on its way? There is a way, nowadays, that goes beyond the school grounds: Russian River Rose Company, in Healdsburg, erects a ribbon-pretty maypole in its flower-lush gardens each spring. The 2016 dates for skipping and weaving are...

APRIL 30 AND MAY 1: There are several sweet doings happening over the weekend, but if you want to take a crack at the maypole, be there at 10 in the morning or 2 in the afternoon. Price? It's free, though a two-buck donation is "appreciated." A Monet-esque element to the weekend-long celebration will also be afoot, so join in the painting of a group canvas. Details and such? Blooming here. Returning to the days of your youth, when getting a chance to dance around a maypole was more of a thing? It's a nice hop back to the past, both the past of our childhoods and the long ago past when maypoles reigned as a merry greeting of spring.

Photo Credit: Russian River Rose Company]]>
<![CDATA[Stunning Snapshots: Share the Experience Winners]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 23:02:15 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/joshua-tree-national-park-2-HRf.jpg

THERE ARE VACATION PHOTOS... snapped solely for social media, and photos you take to remember how to get to a remote destination, and photos that will eventually become your mom's screensaver. In short, not every picture that comes to final fruition will serve the same end purpose, which is fitting, since photography itself is as multi-layered as a strata-amazing cliff face. Snapping a photo of a sign, to remember where you parked, is different than turning your lens toward a canyon with the hopes that the result might be accepted for publication. For example, the...

SHARE THE EXPERIENCE photography competition, which just revealed the winners of its 2015 snapshot spectacular, asked "amateur photographers" to "...share their favorite views, moments, and adventures from America's national parks and public lands." That's a clear and tempting directive, and those photogs went to happy work, eventually submitting more than 15,000 photographs in all. Eleven winners have been chosen, and you can eye/admire them all at the National Park Foundation site (the NPF was a sponsor of the contest, along with ACTIVE Network and Celestron).

WHAT PARKS ARE IN THE MARVELOUS MIX? Joshua Tree, Inyo National Forest, and Death Valley are the California entries, while several more parks beyond our state borders have a powerful presence on the victory list. Each photo has its own short story of how the magic moment came about, too. Want to take a quick visual vacation? Or ponder what you might photograph if you enter the 2016 contest down the road? Inspiration, bugs, Mt. Whitney, Big Horn sheep, and nature at its breath-taking-est begins here.

Photo Credit: Koustubh Kulkarni]]>
<![CDATA[Vintage Vroom: Historic Race Cars in Fontana]]> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 16:16:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Indy2fontana123.jpg

WHILE AUTO GATHERINGS... quite often rum the gamut, in terms of the kinds of cars and trucks on display, some spectaculars take a more singular focus. Look to the Cars & Carriages exhibit in Oxnard, which gives the spotlight to French coachbuilders of the 1900s, and look to the Annual Vintage Trailer Rally, which pops up along the Central Coast with several gleaming Airstreams in tow (as well as other trailer makes). Another car happening is zooming into the area, at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, a place which should reveal the happening's theme: vintage speedsters of all sorts. The Southern California Historic Sports Car Festival is a three-day party that's all about the vehicles that laid down rubber over several decades, stretching back to the very early days of racing.

SO WHAT CARS WILL SHOW? So very many, including "(s)tock race cars, Formula and Indy cars from all eras..." There'll be a celebration of 100 Years of BMW, as well as "100 Years of Indy," so look for "Indy cars from 1921-1961 driving the oval." The racers won't all be on the move, however; you'll have a chance to look at the historic automobiles, too, when they come to a stop. A car show, car club corrals, and other areas devoted to lingering before these on-the-move artworks are part of the weekend event, and "(s)pectators are welcome in the paddock and garage area to see the cars and talk with the owners and drivers."

AS FOR THE DATES? Prepare to see track history in full bloom from Friday, April 29 through May 1.

Photo Credit: Auto Club Speedway]]>
<![CDATA[Take It Outside California!]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2016 17:45:17 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/beeflowers.jpg

BACK WHEN WE WERE KIDS... we sometimes had to be cajoled when the topic of "getting outside" came into play. It was just that our comic book was so thrilling, or the sitcom in front of us so hilarious, and we couldn't possibly spare five minutes to play tag on the lawn. (Of course, once we made our way to the lawn we majorly loved it and were slow to return inside for supper.) Nowadays, though, most people jump at the chance of spending a day under the sun, the better to enjoy leafy trees and sprouty shrubs and a touch of exercise and oodles of deep-in-the-lung breathing.

TAKE IT OUTSIDE CALIFORNIA... is encouraging all Golden Staters on just this front, and earnestly so, via a pledge. And the pledge simply says this at the top: Yes! I pledge to take it outside with my famiy and friends the first weekend in May. It's a clear reminder of all the wilderness-y beauty, park-tastic loveliness, and beach-sandy stunning-a-tude that surrounds Californians. Want to join the day, which is presented by both the California State Parks Foundation and the California Council of Land Trusts? Then take the pledge, or simply round up the fam for an outing on...

APRIL 30 AND/OR MAY 1: Take It Outside California's online HQ lists a caboodle of interesting choices going down, from a Save the Trees/Save the Bees weekend in Cambria to a Native Seed Farm jaunt in Irvine. Yoga, zumba, hiking, birding, dog walks, habitat restoration, and urban gardening are all on the roster, so, truly, picking your pleasure should be something of a cinch (or adjacent to a cinch). Ready to "Take It Outside"? Indoor pursuits can be so very compelling, but so can a fragrant spring breeze on the first day of May.

Photo Credit: Flowers]]>
<![CDATA[Napa Valley: Do It For The Love Benefit]]> Fri, 06 May 2016 10:44:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/mfrantiGettyImages-485889423.jpg

SONGS ABOUT LOVE: There are, of course, thousands of emotional ballads about love, and sweetness, and caring, but not every passionate ditty deals with the notion of romance. Oftentimes the good feeling burbling behind a hit tune stems from the concept of community, and human-to-human concern, and the respect we show our fellow travelers on this lifely journey. Concerts, then, and music festivals, are fine places to meditate upon these tender topics, which find a lot of play within the themes of the music (and the spirit of the event itself). BottleRock Napa Valley, which will again strum it up over the Friday through Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, will feature a song or two or twenty dealing with these positive vibes, vibes that will get an early start, ahead of the festival, on Thursday, May 26. That's when the Do It For The Love dinner and concert is scheduled to raise the roof, and raise some funds, at Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford. If you know...

DO IT FOR THE LOVE, you know the organization's founder, Michael Franti, and his wife, ER nurse Sara Agah Franti, wanted to create a way the help bring "people living with life-threatening illnesses, children with severe challenges, and wounded veterans to live concerts." The foundation fundraiser is set at 150 guests, so Mr. Franti's alfresco live set should engender a feeling on draw-together intimacy for all who gather. Mercedes-Benz USA is presenting the food-fabulous evening, along with Do It For the Love, so count on cocktails, small bites, wines, and luxe eats at "an array of food stations" at the hotel's Michelin-starred eatery.

PACKAGE: Will there be an on-site afterparty? Indeed, so head for the Bubble Lounge, where sparkling wines are the theme. Is there a multi-night stay-over package you can book, if a longer stay at Auberge is your jam? There is, and it is called The Mercedes-Benz Rock & Ride Weekend (there shall be cars to test out at the hotel, in addition to several other vacation-ready perks). Will it be heart-embiggening to savor the songs at BottleRock Napa Valley, later in the weekend, knowing you started out your stay with some community-style love? So heart-embiggening. If you can't attend the dinner and concert, but want to help out Do It For The Love, you so totally can.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Petal Peek: National Public Gardens Day]]> Tue, 26 Apr 2016 23:25:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/181*120/tulips.JPG

DO AN ONLINE SEARCH... for "benefits of nature" and "pluses of getting outdoors" and "how a walk can invigorate" and you're bound to experience the sense that being among flowers and trees is just about the best place to be for both body and spirit. But finding an opportunity to do so, beyond walking from the garage to the office then back again, can be slightly trickier, if we don't set our minds to the task. It's exceedingly helpful that, each spring, National Public Gardens Day goes into full bloom, reminding us that a peaceful spot, one that's carefully tended and beautifully planned, is not too far from where we are. The 2016 event opens its petals, tulip-like, on Friday, May 6, and several pathway-lined, bud-bedecked bastions of beauty will join the joyful doings of the day.

THOSE JOYFUL DOINGS... might include special talks, or kid-themed activities, or floral demonstrations, depending on where you land. The Gardens at Heather Farm, near Walnut Creek, will be part of the American Public Gardens Association event, and Quarryhill Botanical Garden in Glen Ellen, the University of California Botanical Garden in Berkeley, and Filoli Center in Woodside are joining, too. The annual to-do, which is all about "raising awareness for America's public gardens," is about the leafy, stem-stunning, big-of-branch sights within the garden and special happenings of an art-nice, craft-cute, info-laden sort. One lovely asterisk? This always falls right before Mother's Day, if you and your mom would like to get the holiday weekend going on Friday. And, truly, who wouldn't, when there is nature to enjoy? Every searchable study regarding the topic says that time spent among growing green things is time incredibly well spent.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>