<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Worth the Trip]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcbayarea.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.comen-usWed, 24 Aug 2016 03:46:27 -0700Wed, 24 Aug 2016 03:46:27 -0700NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Oktoberfest at the Madonna Inn]]> Tue, 23 Aug 2016 20:47:01 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/mioktoberfest1.jpg

WHILE A NUMBER OF PLACES... can hang bunting and flowers and posters that summon the spirit of Oktoberfest, only a few spots in California can claim an Oktoberfest-y feel all year long. Lake Arrowhead has such a vibe, and several spots in Lake Tahoe, and Old World in Huntington Beach keeps the oompah spirit regardless of the season. And while the Madonna Inn doesn't boast a strictly Bavarian design theme, it does possess carved wooden details and outlandishly festooned public spaces. In short? The San Luis Obispo hotel always feels as though singing might start up, or dancing, or the sipping of celebratory beverages, at any moment. With all of this in mind, it might not surprise any mavens of the Madonna Inn that the 101-close landmark pauses each autumn to raise a stein in the direction of Oktoberfest, and it does so with the help of a regional brew. That would be...

FIRESTONE WALKER BREWING COMPANY: The Paso Robles-headquartered brew house powerhouse will serve as the suds of the season-festive soiree, a soiree that will take place in the Madonna Inn Expo Center on Saturday, Oct. 1. Best be 21 or over if you wish to attend, and purchase a ticket sooner than later, if you wish (as this tends to get mighty sold-out as the day draws near). Awaiting you is "a unique German-style meal," "a commemorative Oktoberfest stein," two Firestone brews, music, and more. And, of course, all of those themed hotel rooms are right there, so best consider bedding down for the night after an evening spent rocking the lederhosen (you'll need to book your room separately). Will you choose to eat breakfast at the darling Copper Café the following morning? The restaurant's woodsy nooks and quaint crannies feel Oktoberfestian all year long, so ponder some eggs Benedict before bidding SLO auf wiedersehen.

Photo Credit: Madonna Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Bernardus Lodge: 14 New Villas & Suites]]> Tue, 23 Aug 2016 16:34:18 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/bernardusRoom65.jpg

SOMETHING SPECIAL: Treating your nearest/dearest to a surprise weekend away for an anniversary or birthday or a just-because-ery takes some crafty planning, the ability to not spill the beans at inopportune moments, and a sparkly sense of the splurge. If you're going to do it up, you want to do it up on the fancy side, but if your flavor of fancy is more about a rustic setting, rather than city lights, look to a batch of new villas and suites in Carmel Valley.

THE 14 FRESH ADDITIONS... to Bernardus Lodge & Spa were unofficially unveiled in the early part of August 2016, following a renovation of the hotel's rooms and public spaces in 2015. This is property that rambles over 28 acres, acres that encompass wine-nice vines, fragrant lavender, and the sort tawny, hill-rolling loveliness the region is famous for. So to walk your sweetheart up to a "ranch-chic" suite in this singular setting could be accurately considered highly birthday-worthy.

THE OUT-IN-THE-CALIFORNIA-COUNTRY FEEL... of the roomy spaces include "alfresco fire pits" and "master baths featuring hammered copper free-standing soaking tubs" and heated floors, as well as views of the Santa Lucia Mountains (mountains that are often lit by the quintessential golden light that seems to belong solely to this particular valley). And while those design and detail touches qualify in anyone's book as tony, there are some truly tony touches on top of the room's stylish appointments. Those extra-mile details include...

BUTLER SERVICES... during your villa or suite stay, as well as use of a Mercedes Benz convertible (that's gratis, with no fee on top). Is there a private rain shower outside, the better to soak up some of that soft Carmel-y sunshine while you bath? There shall be. If you need anything for your room, or suggestions on sightseeing, or a dinner reservation, will that be difficult to obtain? The staff-to-guest ratio is an impressive 3-to-1. To get started on your sweetheart's surprise weekend, and to snag a peek at these pretty new spots dotting the property, begin here, luxe-minded road-trippers.

Photo Credit: Bernardus Lodge]]>
<![CDATA[Rush Creek New: Wine Tasting Tour]]> Mon, 22 Aug 2016 17:35:54 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/RushCreekHillsideVillaDeckkimcarroll.jpg

BIG AND LITTLE THINGS: Yosemite Valley, it might be said with the utmost confidence, is full of Very Big Things, the sorts of sights and wonders that can't quite be described by a person throwing down a lot of baroque adjectives while describing what they've seen. There's Yosemite Falls, which is one of the planet's (and possibly the solar system's) most epic waterfalls in size, and there's Half Dome, a granite hunk so humongous that even words like "humongous" can't accurately convey its colossal-ness.

BUT AREAS NEAR YOSEMITE... are devoted to the cultivation of smaller things, much smaller things, in fact, the kind of good things that spring from vines. Indeed, we speak of grapes, and the vineyards that dot the low Sierra foothills near the beloved national park. Getting acquainted with the Very Big Things, like Half Dome, is important during a Yosemite-close getaway, but so is knowing small things like grapes, and the local vineyards, if that's your jam. Rush Creek Lodge, which made its debut earlier in 2016, wants to pair up wine lovers with wine knowledge of the region, and it is doing so via its new...

VINO TOURS: It's the Yosemite Cellars Vineyard Tour & Wine Tasting, and it is a fresh addition to the lodge's recreational offerings (fresh as of autumn 2016). Guides who know the area well will talk about the distinctive vinos that do best in and around Groveland, where Rush Creek Lodge is located. If taking in some mellow fall foliage goldenness while sipping a cab appeals, hang tight: The tour is on the way. But there are other experiences to choose from with the lodge as a springboard, including Guided Sequoia Hikes, Snowshoe Adventures, and a host of naturalist-led hikes to various destinations. Give the lodge a call for details.

Photo Credit: Kim Carroll Photography]]>
<![CDATA[Ojai Illumination: A Tree-tastic Artwork]]> Mon, 22 Aug 2016 14:18:44 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/IllumeByPaulFerrante2.jpg

THAT ARBOREAL GLOW: Trees and lights have been a beautiful twosome since the dawn of electricity, and, of course, long before electric bulbs were invented (hello, candles). But finding pretty, light-up-the-night branches that go beyond the traditional glow of small string-based bulbs can be a little trickier. You may come across the occasional larger lantern gracing a tree in a yard, or, if you're at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa during the fall of 2016, you'll see a number of art-lovely light fixtures complementing the property's best-known oak tree. Those lanterns are the creations of artist Paul Ferrante, and the title of the work holds the mystery and allure of the piece itself: "Illume."

AUG. 26, 2016... is the launch date for the lantern-bedecked tree, and while no firm end date is currently on the hotel's schedule, count on the mood-enhancing lights to remain up "through the holidays." They'll be on each night, if you're curious, but Fridays will be something a bit special in the area of the 200-year-old oak: a pop-up lounge, complete with gratis glasses Veuve Clicquot. What will you chat about as you sip? The individual details on each of the 28 lanterns dotting the tree's lengthy branches? How some are hexagons and some are globes and all reflect the Spanish Revival feel of Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, which will celebrate its centennial in just a few years? Or perhaps the enchantment of the moment will call for silent reverie and peaceful enjoyment of the incandescent scene.

MAKING A DATE... with the Ojai Valley landmark? Start here, and decide if a Friday night, or any night, is going to be part of your lantern-communing getaway.

Photo Credit: Paul Ferrante]]>
<![CDATA[Julefest Wine Walk: Tickets on Sale]]> Tue, 23 Aug 2016 14:21:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/SolvangHolidayWineAbout.jpg

DECEMBER DOINGS: While we're not quite ready to see the end-of-the-year holidays hit the store shelves or airwaves, we also realize, even near the last days of summer, that booking our spots at popular seasonal soirees is something that should be planned well in advance. And it is just about August, and September, when many December doings begin to sound the call that tickets are available. Julefest, Solvang's annual multi-day feast- and shop- and dance- and eat-a-ganza, spreads out grandly over the beginning and middle of the final month of the year (spreads out like jam on a pastry, if you prefer to picture the dates in Solvangian terms). There's a lot to alight upon, party-wise, but if you're over 21, and you're a maven of the Santa Ynez Valley's plentiful wines and brews, then booking your spot at the Julefest Holiday Wine and Beer Walk seems like the right course of vacation-planning action, even if it is still summer. The 2016 taste-around-town is on...

SATURDAY, DEC. 10 AND SUNDAY, DEC. 11: You'll pocket a passport, a passport that'll lead you to 13 Solvang tasting rooms. For sure, you'll get a souvenir wine glass, and, you got it, the passport covers both days. The price? It's $45. The local knowledge gained? You'll talk tannins and microclimates with a host of staffers who have the 411 on the area's viticulture. Best decide on your hotel, though, as soon as you book your ticket, as Julefest keeps the region humming (humming with carols, yes, and with bustle-y busyness, too). It's true, the holidays are trotting down the highway, in this direction, at a clip, and while we don't need to hang the Christmas lights just yet, we can begin to decide what getaway-flavored delights our December will hold.

Photo Credit: Julefest]]>
<![CDATA[Ready for Foliage: California Fall Color Blog]]> Tue, 23 Aug 2016 12:24:32 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/LundyFallAlicia+Vennos_Mono+County+Tourism.jpg

THE LIQUIDAMBAR... in your backyard may still be a bright green, and your oaks and maples look as though it could be the middle of June, appearance-wise. But the third week of August has a way of changing up some of the trees of the Golden State, at least in the subtlest of fashions and at the highest of elevations. And while the autumn equinox may officially be a month away, the go-to foliage-watching blog of our state, California Fall Color, is up and posting for 2016.

TRUE, there isn't much to report in the eighth month of the year, but the first few posts are showing a few small shifts, with the high elevations of the Eastern Sierra telegraphing that cooler nights are impacting deciduous trees up along the slopes and canyons. This doesn't mean that the whole leaf-peeping scene is ready for launch — that happens in late September and much of October around the lower parts of the Eastern Sierra and up into the Lake County and Plumas County regions — but it does say that those wishing for a weekend of road-tripping to see some picture-ready golds and reds should start to block off a few weekend dates.

GO NOW! That's the urgent call that the California Fall Color blog typically sounds, and it means that leaf-peeping in a particular region is at its 75-100% peak. That can be hard to predict, but if you keep an eye on the helpful foliage map, and what fans of the blog are submitting, photo-wise, you might be able to get a solid idea as to when your favorite spot will stage its annual autumn show. A show that isn't too far in the future, as of August, so keep an eye on the blog and keep your road-trip snacks and suitcase handy.

Photo Credit: Alicia Vennos]]>
<![CDATA[Monarch Beach Resort: End-of-Summer Fun]]> Tue, 23 Aug 2016 20:41:13 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Green-Little-Mermaid-at-Beach-Medium-Web.jpg

SUMMER'S FINAL HURRAH: Bidding summer an exceedingly fond farewell doesn't actually have to happen before the autumnal equinox in the third week of September. But many people choose to do so over Labor Day Weekend, for summer's final three-day event is all about longing for one more dip in the pool and one more easy-breezy road trip. Finding such a spot isn't too hard around California, but a property that's brimming with special holiday weekend to-dos, the kind of to-dos that are summery through and through, is another matter. One getaway, in Dana Point, not only is on the other side of a renovation (one that just wrapped not too long ago), but it happens to be flush with fun family good-timing come the final three-dayer of summer. It's Monarch Beach Resort, and its roster of Labor Day Weekend happenings is as colorful as the swish of a mermaid's tail.

MERMAIDS IN THE HOUSE: You can see such tails at the resort, thanks to the Monarch Mermaid Spectacular, one of the special events over the holiday weekend. There's a mermaid Q&A, too, and mermaid photos, and a chance to take to the water with the mystic visitors, too. Other summer staples include a Kids Night Out pajama party, Family Cardio Drumming, a jazzy brunch on at AVEO Table + Bar, games on the Pacific Lawn, a movie at the Main Pool, and plenty more. You'll want to make sure your must-do events are happening on the days you're there — the jazz brunch is on Sunday, for example — so check in with the hotel on the full schedule. And plan on bidding goodbye to summer in splashy, cinematic, game-fun fashion, especially if you and your kin haven't had a chance to truly enjoy the season yet. There's still time, and Labor Day Weekend is still very much a part of the summery scene, least 'round Monarch Beach Resort.

Photo Credit: Sheroes Entertainment]]>
<![CDATA[2016 Sunset Idea House Opens]]> Mon, 22 Aug 2016 09:52:54 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sunsetexteriorrender.jpg Eye "a celebration of local design" over six style-filled weekends.

Photo Credit: Sunset]]>
<![CDATA[NPS Centennial: Yosemite Celebrates]]> Mon, 22 Aug 2016 20:19:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/yosemitenpsdamonjoycefalls.jpg

IF YOU RECEIVE AN INVITATION... to an anniversary party, the address is usually printed somewhere on an envelope or the web site. But what should a ready-to-celebrate partier do when the anniversary in question encompasses thousands upon thousands of square miles in several places around the nation? Perhaps the best answer is to find the nearest national park and swing by during the National Park Service Birthday Weekend. Oh, by golly, we went and said what we were merely hinting at a few sentences earlier. It is the National Park Service that is having a big anniversary — a centennial, in fact — meaning there is no one address on the invitation to attend. But many parks and locations are doing it up from Thursday, Aug. 25 through Sunday, Aug. 28, including Yosemite National Park. How will the place known for waterfalls, Tuolumne Meadow, and Half Dome (among about a billion other wonders) "do it up" in honor of the 100th anniversary of the NPS? Let's start with the...

FREE DAYS... from Aug. 25 through 28. Granted, those are system-wide, but if you want to call upon Yosemite National Park over the final weekend of August 2016, you won't pay at the gate to do so. A caboodle of ranger walks and talks, all centered around the centennial in some fashion, fill the Thursday, Aug. 25 calendar, but look Aug. 23 through 27 for other special happenings (science, architecture, and more will all take on a birthday-ish bent for the run of Centennial Week). You probably certainly can't visit every park during the long weekend celebration, but you can say hello to those parks near you or the park you love the best. Happy 100th, NPS, and yay Yosemite, for "doing it up" in grand anniversary style.

Photo Credit: NPS/Damon Joyce]]>
<![CDATA[Labor Day Splash at The Beverly Hilton]]> Fri, 19 Aug 2016 08:52:55 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/CurvesectionofbhPool.jpg

WHILE LABOR DAY WEEKEND... signals the end of the traditional summer season (even if that end officially arrives with the autumn equinox), it is also a beginning, of sorts, for the cinema-making industry. The big film festivals begin to rev up around the summer-into-fall stretch, from Telluride to Toronto, and studios and indie filmmakers alike begin to cast an eye on the coming awards season. One of the biggest of the industry accolades is, of course, the Golden Globe, and there's only one place that pops into mind when the Golden Globes are mentioned: The Beverly Hilton, the ceremony's longtime home. Thus it isn't too much of a screenplay-worthy stretch to say that Labor Day Weekend and the Sunday in January when the statuettes are handed out are connected in spirit, at least in local lore. If you've always wanted to stay at the lore-laden landmark, and haven't found a room come awards season, there's a deal available to HHonors guests over the final three-day holiday weekend of the summer.

20% OFF... your accommodations for the night is the specifics of the deal, meaning a room will start at $231 for the evening (there are bigger savings through the HHonors program's Big World Sale, if that appeals and you'd like to sign up). The dates that are part of the special? Friday, Sept. 2 through Monday, Sept. 5, and, for sure, you can take a dip in the Aqua Star Pool (the shimmery centerpiece of many a Golden Globes after-party). It's still warm and the first full month of winter is a ways off, but the season of awards-based hopefulness starts in early September. Toast it with a Trader Vic's mai tai, or a martini from CIRCA 55, and save some cash on your room, too, at one of the starriest of swanky SoCal stays.

Photo Credit: The Beverly Hilton]]>
<![CDATA[Mole & Mariachi Fest: A Park-Nice Fundraiser]]> Wed, 17 Aug 2016 19:00:42 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/Molemariachisept16.jpg

LENDING SOME LOVE... to a state park can be done in myriad magical ways. You can show up for a day of volunteering, should the destination need some TLC and general spiffying up. You can donate online, or become part of an organization that helps provide stewardship to the historic and/or natural expanse. And sometimes, if the day and place are right, you can show up at the park and partake in the enjoyment of mole, and dance, and music, and art-filled festivities. We did tip our hand a bit there, with the "mole" part, because there is a state park that's become rather well-known for it over the last few years: Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park. Indeed, the "home to the oldest building in Santa Cruz County" plays host each and every September to the Mole & Mariachi Festival. The 4th annual outing is dancing just around the corner, on Saturday, Sept. 10, and while the celebration is free to join, you'll want to show with ten dollars for your...

MOLE TASTING KIT: Oh yes, you'll likely long to try the spicy and cocoa-luscious creations of local chefs, an event that has a cooking competition to it. When you're not enjoying the piquant foodstuffs you'll want to check out the sounds of Mariachi Alma de Mexico as well as a number of other stirring-of-song groups. Dance companies like Senderos will visit the park's grounds, and piñatas will be part of the party, too. 

AND IF YOU DON'T GET ENOUGH MOLE? That can happen, especially if you're a mole maven, so take heart that a number of food vendors will be nearby selling everything from mole-topped tacos to mole-yummy tamales. The day helps raise funds for the friends of the park, those devoted people who care for its future, past, and all the fun times it hosts nowadays. Including a mole-scented fiesta in September, one that's become beloved in its time for its vibrant, canciones-lovely spirit.

Photo Credit: Mole & Mariachi Festival]]>
<![CDATA[CANFEST: World's Largest Can Beer Festival]]> Fri, 19 Aug 2016 11:19:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/canfestreno1938232.jpg

COLD, CRAFTY FLAVOR: It may be said, with utter confidence, that the west is home to some memorable beer bashes nowadays. There are the traveling festivals that celebrate beers from a single region or state, the parties that put the emphasis on IPAs or lagers, and the shebangs that spotlight offbeat brews, those flavored with avocado or grapefruit or some unlikely but lovely combination of ingredients. One of the most notable of modern foam festivals, however, happens in Reno in the late summer, and it is very much around how the beer arrives. Or, rather, in what sort of vessel the beer arrives in: It's CANFEST we speak of, and the all-caps to-do takes the boldness beyond its name and into the dozen of primo suds it serves up, suds that hail from points all over. How far-and-wide is CANFEST's reach? It's billed as "the world's largest canned beer festival."

RENO, NEVADA... is the spot, a place known for some epic pub crawls, and Saturday, Aug. 27 is the date. That gives you time to line up your sleep spot, and your ticket, too, should you want to sample "more than 100 international beers." Many of them hail from Northern Nevada "exclusively for the event," so be sure to seek those out if that's your pleasure. The Peppermint Resort Hotel is the place, The Reno Bike Project will receive part of the proceeds, and artists, a silent disco, and more convivial doings will round out the evening happening. Do you take your brew in a can over a bottle or draft? This could be your scene to get to know what's out there, what's coming up, and what you like best. 

Photo Credit: CANFEST]]>
<![CDATA[A Spirited Eve at Hotel del Coronado]]> Tue, 16 Aug 2016 20:50:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/hallowinedel1093221.jpg

"DID YOU SEE THAT?" There are some questions that are more common in certain places. For example, you'd never ask someone to help you build a sand castle in the snow, and you probably wouldn't ask if it's raining on a cloudless 100-degree day. But you would ask those things at the beach and in a storm, respectively, like you might ask your friend if they spied something spooky while standing inside a haunted hotel. California is home to quite a few phantom-y spots, and way, way up there is the Hotel del Coronado, the San Diego treasure that has deep roots in not the last century but the one before. So a "did you see that?" or a "did you hear that" when sensing a possible sighting is well within the realm of conversation at the Del. And such questions will be welcome at the turret-topped inn's annual Halloween bash, a grown-up affair that happens a couple of days ahead of the spookiest occasion on the calendar. In 2016 that date is...

SATURDAY, OCT. 29, and fabulously attired paranormal buffs'll be out in merry force at the Hallo-wine & Spirits Party. Costumes are indeed the way to go, with "Vixens & Villains" serving as the theme. There are two locations within the hotel catering to revelers, with the historic Crown Room rounding it out for the night with dancing, dessert, and applause for the best costume. Will Kate Morgan, the Victorian-era spirit said to live at the Hotel del Coronado, put in an appearance? She might; many a book and TV show has focused on Ms. Morgan and the modern-day guests who've said they've spied her. "Did you see that?" is truly one of those quintessential Del queries, a question asked all year long and definitely at the Hallo-wine & Spirits Party. Tickets? Float this-a-way.

Photo Credit: Hotel del Coronado]]>
<![CDATA[The Party at Monterey Bay Aquarium]]> Wed, 17 Aug 2016 22:24:24 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/the-partymba16.jpg

AFTER-HOURS AQUARIUM: A sunny spate of kid books was released back in the 1960s and '70s, books detailing specifically how it might be to spend the night alone in a museum or library or other hallowed institution. Clearly adventures would be had, and memories made, and perhaps a friend or two would result along the way (if some other kids happened to have the same idea as the protagonist).

AS ADULTS... living in a non-fiction world, however, we don't enjoy nearly enough opportunities to live out the tales we loved as tots, especially those involving a night inside a hallowed institution. But we can still find ways to connect with that fun, as a grown-up, if we know where to look. And if you glance at the calendar for the Monterey Bay Aquarium and you see an event called The Party on Saturday, Oct. 1, well, you're definitely looking in the right direction for adventuresome eating and socializing. Nope, you won't be spending the night, like those fictional stories of old, but you will be dining, sipping beverages, and calling upon the fishies after sundown. 

THE ANNUAL TO-DO... will be all about "ocean-friendly foods" ("Cooking for Solutions" being a major theme at the aquatic institution) from several different eateries. Winemakers and brewhouses'll also be in the capacious, historic, and otter-cute building, a building that party attendees are invited to explore as they quaff their cabernets and ponder sardines, seals, and sharks. And will "an underwater nightclub" round out the evening in the Marine Mammal Gallery? You bet. A ticket is $125 for non-members, and you'll want to keep some cash handy for the bar at the later-in-the-evening nightclub scene. Best polish up your bragging voice, too, as you tell all of your pals, the same ones that liked those "stay the night at an aquarium" stories way back when, that you danced in the famous Cannery Row landmark after the sun said its goodbyes for the night. It's a rare chance to enjoy Monterey Bay Aquarium by evening, and to get some grooves in near the gill-rocking residents, too.

Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium]]>
<![CDATA[Weekend Along the Farm Trails 2016]]> Wed, 17 Aug 2016 11:22:09 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/bee-rescue.jpg

BEHIND THE BARN DOOR: If you've ever driven by a farm and pondered all of the good things happening there, from the growing of berries to the tending of chickens to the keeping of bees, you may have briefly longed for a moment where you could go beyond the fence and find out just what a day is like on the property. But, alas, we're so busy streaming by in our automobiles, and people on a farm are incredibly engaged in myriad ways, that such an in-depth connection rarely forms. It shall, however, over the final weekend in September when Weekend Along the Farm Trails returns to Sonoma County with an informative array of happenings, experiences, tastes, and to-dos. If you're wondering from the outset, though, if there will be sheep and goats and other critters to coo over, wonder no longer, for...

"ANIMAL CUDDLING"... is one of the delightful events on the lengthy list of offerings. That might be all you need to know, for the prospect of befriending a furry sweetheart is tempting unto itself, but there shall be several other focuses, from bees to juicing to U-Pick to artisan cheeses to plants to trees. Might you run into a farmer, or artisan food maker, or creator of wine, and might you find out more about what they do? You definitely might. Can you picnic, or nosh at a food cart, or snack upon a baked good? Opportunities will abound on Saturday, Sept. 24 and Sunday, Sept. 25, so yep. Can you hop onto a tour, or visit a country store, or inquire about the raising of chickens, or look into the gathering of wool, lavender, and/or honey? Yes and yes and yes and yes.

FREE FUN: "Most of the stops are FREE," advises the Farm Trails' online HQ, but you'll want to arrive ready to purchase a yummy-looking loaf of bread or lavender sachet, if something catches your eye. And the next time a farm in the distance catches your fancy, and you wish you knew more about what went on behind the barn door, you'll be able to think back to your weekend toodling around Sonoma County getting better acquainted with farmers and vintners and bakers and bee keepers. So best let your farm-based curiosities come to full flower over the final weekend in September. And pet a goat or two along the way, too (bonus).

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[CowParade Goes SLO]]> Mon, 15 Aug 2016 09:46:59 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Denvercowparadeslo.jpg

DRIVE AROUND CALIFORNIA... and you're bound to, at some point in your journey, see a beastie of the most bovine sort standing not too far from the road. Perhaps he is grazing, or sunning, or having a bit of water, but whatever he is up to, you can be contented to know that you've just had the cowiest of encounters. A little less likely, though? Spying a cow that is stationary, and in a city, and covered with splashes of paint and whimsical polka dots or bold stripes. Should you see a bovine like this, you can be pretty assured of one thing: You're looking at a piece from CowParade, "The World's Largest Public Art Event."

THE LARGE-SCALE EXHIBITION, which has visited nearly 80 cities since making its bovine-beautiful bow in Chicago in 1999, places to-scale cow sculptures around a town or city, along streets, in plazas, and such. People visit, take pictures, and bid on the animal artworks, all to raise funds for a host of charities. It's a special thing to spy the cows, since they're not everywhere all the time, and have made several excursions overseas. But the Golden State, which is home to many a real cow, is in luck, for next up on the CowParade schedule is...

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY: The fiberglass, fantastical cows'll soon be on view in the Central Coast region, and hopping onto the trail of where exactly you can see what cow is as easy as visiting the CowParade SLO's online HQ. But first you'll need the dates, and they're impressively expansive: The cows'll keep close to California for over a half year, from Sept. 27, 2016 through the end of April 2017. After that, a charity auction will send the sweet and sizable pieces off to their new homes. Ready to get your moo on in Paso Robles, the 5 Cities, and SLO itself? Swish your tail this way.

Photo Credit: CowParade]]>
<![CDATA[Apple Days Are Ahead, Autumnists]]> Fri, 19 Aug 2016 11:04:15 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/appletreegetty123456789.jpg

WHEN IT IS HOT OUT, as in don't touch anything that's metal hot, as in find the nearest ice tray and hug it hot, as in "the thermometer says what?!" hot, a person may be forgiven for doing a bit of daydreaming. Maybe they're picturing a glacier, or a polar bear, or a walk-in refrigerator, or some combination of all three. But daydreaming about devouring a steaming apple pie, or warm-to-the-touch cider doughnuts, probably does not score high on the warm-weather fantasy scale. Unless, of course, you are an autumn person, through and through, and the heat wave you're weathering happens in August, just about the time you can aaaaalmost spy fall on the horizon. You want to be wearing a cardigan and chowing down on some sort of apple-packed turnover and thinking about fall foliage and wreaths. If this is what you ponder during a heat wave — sorry glaciers and walk-in refrigerators — then get excited, for Oak Glen's Apple Season is on juicy, tangy approach.

SEPTEMBER-NOVEMBER... are the traditional months for the Yucaipa-close burg's autumn-tinged to-do, a to-do that is all about pies, and craft booths, and U-Pick Apples, and U-Press Apples, and the sipping of cider, and aforementioned doughnuts (find 'em at Snow-Line Orchard). You can get the full rundown on local eateries and what they serve here, and decide if you want to make your day trip about apple butter, or apple baked goods, or apple art, or all of the above. Do keep an eye on the main Oak Glen site for U-Pick info, as you'll want to arrive at a prime time for visiting the orchards. Can you make it through this heat, autumnists? Hang tight — your pie-perfect, cardigan-rocking days are just ahead.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Creativity + Nature: hitRECord + NPS]]> Mon, 22 Aug 2016 09:48:53 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/hitRECordpostcardsnps.jpg

CREATIVE JOLT: While we often turn to our national parks to find peace, and some introspection, and a path out of the day-to-day hubbub we all deal with, it isn't all that unusual for something else to work its way in, something exciting: a creative jolt. One minute you're hiking along, letting your mind be still, and suddenly you come upon a valley, one that absolutely needs to be photographed. Discovering peace, and making pieces of art, aren't mutually exclusive when one visits a natural setting, and balancing the two adds verve to any adventure. The National Park Service and National Park Foundation recently called upon that art-nature connection as a vibrant way to celebrate the upcoming centennial of the service. Joseph Gordon-Levitt's hitRECord, a "collaborative production company" that is behind live events, concerts, film projects, and more, partnered with both the NPS and NPF to mark the centennial of the service via an array of art-cool goodies. Yep, the...

COLORING BOOK... gained noticed when it was first introduced early in the project, but there are other items, too, from a "Find Your Park" hat to a "Find Your Park" tote (each well-designed, with the bag boasting an illustration inspired by wood-etchings) to a postcard book filled with mixed media images, pictures all inspired by our national parks. There are 15 cards in all, depicting the Grand Canyon National Park, the Statue of Liberty, and more NPS classics in hue-saturated, offbeat-fun form. If you, too, find the creative jolt in nature, and you want to support the NPS centennial in a tote-rocking, postcard-sending way, stop by the National Park Foundation store to check out hitRECord's effervescent interpretations on what the NPS, and its 100th birthday, means to all of us.

Photo Credit: NPS/NPF/hitRECord]]>
<![CDATA[Harvest Fest Goes on the Road]]> Wed, 17 Aug 2016 11:21:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/harvfest2016.jpg

TRYING TO GET YOUR FALL ON... can be a mite challenging when the hot weather refuses to budge. That's the case for a lot of California in September, a month which doesn't bring as many fall leaves as it delivers toasty days and afternoons that are more about iced tea than hot cider. There are ways, though, to tap into the spirit of the cool-off season, and it doesn't involve finding a large oscillating fan to stand near. The 44th season of the Harvest Festival Original Art & Craft Show is about to open, and there's a good chance that the famous on-the-road maker show will alight in a city that's not all that far from you. There are, in fact...

NINE CITIES... on the 2016 roster, with Las Vegas the first out of the gate over the second weekend in September, with Pleasanton and Ventura also landing in the ninth month. Following in October, November, and early December? Look for dates in Ontario, Del Mar, San Mateo, Sacramento, San Jose, and Pomona. Hundreds of artisans appear at each, presenting an array of handmade goods from wood-inlay bottle stops to carefully tooled leather bags to wooden toys to felted wool scarves. Food's a centerpiece, too, and a lot of it comes with a fall-y feel, from the jars of pumpkin jam to breads laden with nuts, seeds, and other tasties.

CAN YOU FIND HOLIDAY GIFTS... at the Harvest Festival? Indeed, and you can tell your giftee how you personally met the artist. Can you simply go to get into the craft-fairian spirit, the one that revs up in the autumn? It definitely has that, too, in an out-sized fashion. Plan to spend a few hours looking, chatting, snacking, and reveling in a leafier, wreathier, more cinnamon-sweet time of year.

Photo Credit: Harvest Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Cambria Scarecrow Festival]]> Sun, 14 Aug 2016 07:51:55 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/cambriadragonscarecrow.jpg

THERE ARE SOME CREATIVE EXPRESSIONS... that are solely tied to a single season, or nearly. The colorful, grassy-bright baskets of Easter and springtime come to mind, as do the paper snowflakes crafted when wintry days grow cold. Summer has its plentiful art projects — melon carving, anyone? — and autumn's crafts are plentiful, from the cornucopias of Thanksgiving to jack o'lantern faces. But scarecrows are way up there, too, on the autumn-beautiful chart. True, they can be seen all year long, out in corn-growing fields, serving as persuasive billboards to any approaching birds, suggesting that the visitors kindly move along. But lots of people get into the scarecrow-making act when the autumn equinox arrives, and the fall figures become something else: seasonal artworks. Those artworks are displayed by homes, and businesses, and sometimes whole towns. One of those towns happens to be coast-close, and charming as all get-out: It's Cambria, a place so associated with autumn charms that it served as the setting for no less than "Arachnophobia." But scarecrows, not multi-leg critters, dominate come October, when the...

CAMBRIA SCARECROW FESTIVAL... comes to town. "Hundreds" of the hay-happy figures will fill the small burg, and they won't just be standing in the standard scarecrow position. You might find them "bowling, bathing, painting, pedaling, fishing, and flying..." says the event's online HQ, and several are sure to be photo-worthy, should your social media need scarecrowing (it's always a plus). There's a kick-off weekend for the 8th annual festival starting on Sept. 29, with a bus tour, a wine/beer/foodie party, and more happening in a short spate of days. Is the scarecrow your favorite expression of fall? Does a quirky-sweet down like Cambria make you swoon? It's a creative combo that cannot be topped. Make your October date with one of California's happiest Halloween locales.

Photo Credit: Cambria Scarecrow Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Borrego Days: A Desert Festival]]> Fri, 12 Aug 2016 21:45:25 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/212*120/gallettaborrego123.jpg

OCTOBER'S ETHEREAL PLACE: The first full month of fall has gained a rep for boasting some mysterious qualities, thanks in large part to A) the days growing shorter and B) a certain spooky holiday on the final day of the month. But not every place immediately takes on a more mysterious mantle when October kicks in; in fact, plenty of cities and towns keep to business as usual, without any added ethereal-o-sity. But the desert always delivers on this front come the tenth month of the year. Those earlier nights, and longer shadows, and cooler afternoons are downright delicious, and it feels like the arid areas are reaching some sort of zenith for the year.

IT'S AN IDEAL TIME... to throw a party in the desert, and one of the California desert's most ideal spots is the one that's home to a spray of gorgeous ocotillos, and the noble big horn sheep, and the quirky legend of Peg Leg Smith, and a host of local artists and creators. It's Borrego Springs we not-so-slyly reference, of course, and its annual Borrego Days Desert Festival will bloom as pretty as an ocotillo blossom from...

OCT. 21 THROUGH 23: Oh yeah, it'll be a mite cooler for the Christmas Circle-based bash around that time, which is nice. Also nice? The parade, music, a flyover, beautiful horses, and more (think artist displays, wines to sip, and a car show). The 2016 theme is "Resort to Nature," which the area definitely does throughout the year, so hooray that.

READY FOR A... waterfall-seeking hike? An exploration of the famous Galleta Meadows sculptures? A visit to the nearby badlands? Listening for the howls of the local coyotes come sunrise? Or just soaking in a cool desert art fest, with parade, during its 51st annual outing? October in the desert is full of ethereal, adventurous charms.

Photo Credit: Alysia Gray Painter]]>
<![CDATA[Stroll/Sip/Snack: Nevada City Uncorked]]> Mon, 15 Aug 2016 16:31:43 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/nevadacityuncorkedethiem.jpg

A SWEET LATE-SUMMER SOIREE: While Nevada City famously rocks a number of quirky or semi-outlandish events on its annual calendar, from its exuberant Mardi Gras to the fast-moving Soapbox Derby, it is, at its heart, a pretty dang mellow place. Thank its small-town ways, and how easy it is to get around, and its commitment to being a close-knit community that adores nature, and its general healthy approach to life. With that in mind, it is good to pause now and then and find Nevada City's easier-breezier to-dos, the kind of events that are all about relaxed strolling around the historic downtown area. Nevada City Uncorked is one such primo event, and while there are no costumes, nor thrilling races to cheer on, there are loads of Sierra sips to try, and three hours to try them over. You'll enjoy "the Bounty of the Northern Sierra Foothills," which includes edibles as well as drinkables, and you'll enjoy it all on...

SATURDAY, AUG. 27: It's an afternoon affair, and somewhat alfresco, save the time spent stopping inside various eateries, B&Bs, tasting rooms, taverns, and shops. Some "20 locations" around Broad Street and its environs will participate, and if you take a shine to any of the cabs or chards, you can slip into the Uncorked Wine Store, which wil have them for sale. There's also a vacation rental raffle, if that rings your bell. If you're looking for a no worry/no hurry goodbye to summer, finding yourself in the pretty hill-close town on the final Saturday of August, with a wine glass in hand, feels like an especially pleasurable choice. We'd never want Nevada City to not have its quirk, but a wine walk-around, just ahead of fall, is another lovely facet to a lovely, multi-prism town.

TICKETS? They're $45 day-of, but less in advance. 

Photo Credit: Erin Thiem]]>
<![CDATA[Summer in the Desert: Miramonte Deal]]> Mon, 15 Aug 2016 09:29:51 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/miramontemtssunset.jpg

AUGUST CAN BE HARD TO PIN DOWN, in the most delightful of ways. There are some hotter afternoons, for sure, but then the evenings do arrive earlier, and we savor the occasional breeze that says a different time of year is not only on its way, but its train is pulling into the station very soon. We're not revving up for summer sunny good times but beginning to bid them farewell, not with a bittersweet note but by doing those things that signify the warmest time of year. Swimming, or sitting under an umbrella near a pool, or taking a hike after sunrise are as June-July-August-ian as all get-out, but, come the final month of that stretch, the desire to pursue such relax-a-fiers intensifies a bit. Is your summer ever so slightly slipping away?

MIRAMONTE RESORT & SPA... has a solution for that, and a money-saving one, too. The Destination Hotel, which is based in Indian Wells, is offering a Labor Day Getaway deal through Labor Day. That's Monday, Sept. 5, so you have time to put in for a day or two, time you well know you'll spend wading in the shallow end of one of the resorts...

THREE POOLS: There's also the on-site spa and its bevy of chill-down treatments, a number of evening's-coming fire pits, borrowable resort bikes, wellness classes, and a bocce ball court. As for that deal price? Rates start at under a hundred bucks. Ninety seven dollars, to be precise, which is 25% off the standard Miramonte rate, and your package includes a $25 spa credit and twenty five dollars to use on dining (one-time uses, do note). Do you feel that fall-like breeze in the air, the one telling you that summer is about to pack its bags? Don't let the season leave before resort-ing it up, poolside, via a dive-in deal in the desert.

Photo Credit: Miramonte Resort]]>
<![CDATA[Sausalito Art Fest: Labor Day Weekend Tradition]]> Thu, 11 Aug 2016 21:46:01 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Sausalito_aHart_223+hi+res.jpg

SUMMER, DON'T GO: To say there is a hint of bittersweet longing in the air around Labor Day Weekend is to indulge in some understatement. While many people are eager to jump into autumn, and crisper days, and the coming holidays, still others are looking to soak up the last of summer's golden, go-slower ways. There are countless ways to do that, from finding a swimming hole, to eating ice cream while sprawled on a lawn, to watching the stars from atop a sleeping bag. Of course, one of the largest Labor Day Weekend happenings is also one of the places to find summer's joie de vivre in happy excess, and that it has been sending the season off for well over six decades is a feather in its stylish cap. It's the Sausalito Art Festival, which is savoring its 64th annual go-around from Saturday, Sept. 3 through Monday, Sept. 5 in its namesake city. Yes, you're right, that likely means it'll be...

NEAR THE WATER, which is one of the festival's many breezy charms. On land another of its many attributes shines through, in the 260+ artists who are filling the festival grounds with everything make-able under the soft Sausalito sun. Paintings? Yep. Photographs? Double yep. Jewelry, sculpture, woodwork, textiles? All the yeps. It's a bevy of beautiful pieces to admire, and, more than that, to discuss with the person who created them (that person is often nearby). Ask your favorite artists about accolades — many have earned awards at top shows — and inspirations, which is always a fine topic to delve into, at length.

AS FOR OTHER DELIGHTFUL DOINGS? Look for live music (Squirrel Nut Zippers and Monophonics are just two of the bands), a Magic Circus Family Show, places to find a zesty glass of vino, fancy noshables, and places to soak up the breezes off the water. Summer won't last forever, but it is found in colorful concentration in Sausalito every Labor Day Weekend. Jump into the fest if you just haven't yet summered-up enough.

Photo Credit: A. Hart]]>
<![CDATA[Butterflies Hover Near Healdsburg]]> Tue, 16 Aug 2016 13:55:40 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/17456613.jpg

IT'S TOTALLY UNDERSTANDABLE... that a butterfly-obsessed Golden Stater might get "November to February" stuck in their head, like the lyrics to a much-loved song. After all, that's the general window for migrating Monarch butterflies to call upon their beloved eucalyptuses, cypresses, and pines, just some of the trees that make for some prime California-based clustering spots (and, of course, Monarchs possess a knack for clustering incredibly well). But while we may have the ol' "November to February" lyric on loop in our butterfly-filled brains, we also know that Monarchs and other wing-rocking critters do have a way of showing up at other times of the year.

STROLL BY... a set of colorful blooms in the middle of August, the kind that practically have a blinking neon sign on each petal that spells out "welcome butterflies" over and over, and you're going to see something flit by eventually. Finding such blooms, though, can be another matter, but look to Healdsburg, and the Russian River Rose Company, where a Butterfly Garden serves a flutter spot for all manner of beautiful wind-riders in August.

"MONARCHS, PIPEVINE & TIGER SWALLOWTAILS"... are some of the butterflies calling upon the destination's Butterfly Garden, a pretty plot that is in bloom. True, the Russian River Rose Company's big springtime to-dos happen, well, in the spring, but a number of day-out doings pop up come August and the fall. Dig irises, perennials, the rose water produced by the company, and spying a Monarch or five in the Butterfly Garden? It's happening near Healdsburg as summer begins its mellow farewell. Best make sure the garden is open before taking to the road.

Photo Credit: Lori Roberts]]>
<![CDATA[Lighthouse Adventure: Full Moon Tours]]> Wed, 10 Aug 2016 13:50:53 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/palfullmoontb.jpg

FULL MOONS... are about to get a lot of play in pop culture, what with autumn just ahead, and Halloween, and all of the werewolf-y, night-atmospheric films on the haunted horizon. But here's a widely known spoiler alert: Full moons don't wait for fall to work their luna-lovely charms. You can plan an evening picnic, or telescope party, or woodsy walk once a lunar cycle if the full moon is a major part of your life, or even find something just a tad more unusual and even memorable. Look to Point Arena Lighthouse, a gem of a structure that not only offers daytime walk-arounds but the occasional by-moonlight event, too. Since a lighthouse is all about lending illumination where it is needed, it feels right, and even poetic, to visit one of the Golden State's best-known examples when the light in the sky above is at its very brightest. If you've done some of California's lighthouses, but never after the sun has bid its ray-bright farewell for the day, call a Full Moon Tour at Point Arena Lighthouse a fresh and sometimes foggy dimension on a road-tripper classic.

THE MENDOCINO COUNTY LANDMARK... traces its history back to 1870, so count on learning some of the facts and tales behind its multi-century run, a run that's led many a ship safely to shore. True, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake sent the lighthouse tumbling, but it was rebuilt, and today it beams brightly with its prism-tastic 1st Order Fresnel Lens. Spying the smokestackian tower by moonlight and hearing how it weathered the ages, with some starting over in the process, is a rare treat, but there are other treats to enjoy, from Champagne to juice and snacks. It's "the tallest lighthouse on the West Coast," and the chance to "climb the Tower at night," like lightkeepers have long done, is not to be missed. Nor is the chance to see your $30 ticket go to the upkeep and care of this important slice of coastal history.

WHEN TO GO? Look to the moon's calendar to find your date. A Full Sturgeon Moon Tour is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 18, while the Harvest Moon, and its tour, shines upon Point Arena on Friday, Sept. 16. Need more dates for your adventure? Follow the moon's beams and the light of the Fresnel lens...

Photo Credit: Tom Birdsell]]>
<![CDATA[Laguna Lovely: Recycled Fashion Show]]> Mon, 08 Aug 2016 21:06:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/08_13_FashionShow_01.jpg

DRESSING A BIT DASHINGLY... to attend the Pageant of the Masters or stroll through the Festival of Arts is a sartorial summertime thing. After all, a guest wants to rise to the creative occasion with their own look, and a fluttery hemmed dress or colorful pair of trousers can help the attendee complement the art (and vice versa). But the long-running Laguna Beach festival really revs into cool clothing gear come the middle of August, when one of the most offbeat events on the Festival of Arts calendar arrives. It's the Festival Runway Fashion event, a daytime fashion show that's full of fun and memorable togs. But those outfits worn by the models aren't simply off-the-rack creations, ones you can find in stores. They're made from...

"RECLAIMED, REUSED, AND RECYCLED MATERIALS": You just might see a shirt comprised of old CDs, or a top made from dry-cleaning bags, or wire hangers, or another object you'd never imagine seeing as part of an ensemble clothing piece. The fashion show, while fun, is also a potent visual reminder about not immediately chucking the stuff in our life, but perhaps finding a fresh role for it. And it is a tribute to the inventive designers who take part each year. The date for 2016? It's Saturday, Aug. 13, in the afternoon, with actor Joely Fisher hosting and model Kim Alexis serving as a celebrity judge. As for catching the Festival Art Show, or Pageant of the Masters, while calling upon the lovely beach-close burg? Both warm-weather classics wrap up on the final day in August.

Photo Credit: Festival of Art]]>
<![CDATA[Historic Honor for Mission Inn]]> Wed, 10 Aug 2016 11:15:23 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/183*120/missioninn.jpg

FINDING STORIES... at a spot you're staying for the night can sometimes be a tad frustrating. You'd love to hear about some of the luminaries who've called upon the hotel over the decades, and maybe a tale or two of how the building came into being. But not every hotel has such history, and even if a place has some deeper background, it doesn't always put it out into the public sphere in a robust way. Then there's the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, which has so many notable nooks and crannies that figuring out where to start is really the hard part. A new designation from USA Today's 10Best.com, though, should help history buffs get jazzed for taking on the Riverside landmark's many facets in one fell, info-laden swoop. The honor? The Mission Inn was just recognized as the country's Best Historic Hotel by 10Best.com readers. There are numerous reasons behind the property's top-of-the-list status, including all of the...

PRESIDENTS WHO'VE STAYED... at the castle-like inn. Ronald and Nancy Reagan honeymooned at the Mission Inn, and President Taft's chair is the most famous piece of furniture in the large-of-scale structure. It isn't the only vintage piece of note in the hotel; the Rayas Altar hails from the mid-1700s, and its 18-karat gold leaf still shines brightly in the modern age. Tiffany windows can also be spied at the Mission Inn, as well as as paintings, statues, and artworks from another age. The best way to see why the Mission Inn was named a 10Best.com Historic Hotel is to hop on a tour led by a docent. They're free, they happen every day, and go behind the nooks and crannies of one of California's, and the country's, nooksiest and crannyiest properties. Sometimes literally behind, too; expect to see fresh areas of the hotel you haven't peeked at before, even if you've overnighted there on multiple occasions.

Photo Credit: Mission Inn Hotel and Spa]]>
<![CDATA[New Belgium's Clips Beer & Film Fest]]> Wed, 10 Aug 2016 21:23:49 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/clipsbrewnewbel12345.jpg

REVVING UP THE NOSTALGIA... for 1991 isn't a task that's too trying for a lot of people. We were rocking the flannel back then, and baby doll dresses, and watching "Twin Peaks" and "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" and "Designing Women" and enjoying a host of pop culture treats that went onto become classics. We also, if we were over 21 and into trying new brews, were giving New Belgium Brewing a first look. That was the year the Fort Collins brewhouse got started, and it has become a crafty force in foam-makery over the last quarter century. Indeed, 2016 is a big anniversary for the company, and its yearly summertime on-the-road event, the Clips Beer & Film Tour, will pay homage to 1991 via a series of cinematic shorts. The company called upon the 2016 filmmakers to incorporate the year of New Belgium's beginning into their films in some way, so expect to revel long-ago fashion choices, awesome music of the era, and other touchstones of the early '90s. Tempted by all of this turn-it-up '90s-tude, plus the notion of sipping some prime small-batch suds? Then look to...

SACRAMENTO AND OAKLAND, the two California cities the tour is calling upon in August 2016. Sacramento is up first, on Friday, Aug. 12, while Oakland's party happens a week later, on Friday, Aug. 19. As is tradition, the film 'n foam celebration is free to join, and it will also raise funds for local nonprofits. If you do want to try a few fresh brews, nearly 20'll be on tap, and the sizes for tasting run the gamut from 3-ouncers to cans (with 12-ounce pours in the mix, too). Noshables will also be for sale, if you need energy to bask in all of the 1991-influenced goodness you're witnessing on the screen.The Clips Beer & Film Tour is one of the cinema-iest beer fundraisers on the summer calendar, an event that's become synonymous with the Colorado brewer. Join in if film and tasting new brews is your jam, and you like helping local orgs out, too.  

Photo Credit: a]]>
<![CDATA[Creative Autumn: Santa Ynez Valley Scarecrows]]> Sat, 13 Aug 2016 07:50:05 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tenleyfohlscarecrowsyv12345.jpg

SPYING A SINGLE SCARECROW... keeping watch over a field is something of a fall-sweet treat, the kind of sight that evokes cooler days and cider-scented beverages and October-y daydreams. Seeing 200 scarecrows dotting a pretty region, though, is a different story, and one that the Santa Ynez Valley tells each year come the autumn. In fact, the wine country's annual Scarecrow Fest is now such a thing around the valley that a host of businesses and groups and individuals participate in the month-long happening. That month in 2016 kicks off on Oct. 7, and wraps on Nov. 7, so you'll have a good amount of time to stroll around Buellton, and Solvang, and Los Olivos, and Ballard, and Los Alamos, and Santa Ynez to decide for yourself which figure is the most fall-like, the most fabulous, the most creative or witty. Procure a ballot, pick your favorite, and then go in search of a local glass of wine while feeling chuffed that you weighed in on a local fall tradition. Maybe the business you vote for will nab the 2016 Harvest Cup: Best in the Valley for their impressive scarecrow-building skills.

AND THOSE SCARECROWS... do run the gamut, design-wise. Some pay homage to the area's vineyard-related pursuits, some are Danish (hello, Solvang), some are pretty Halloween-oriented, and some are just as whimsical as all get-out. They add a colorful complement to the many doings of the season, including the Santa Barbara Vintners' Celebration of Wine Weekend and the Halloween street fairs and haunted houses that have become beloved go-tos for local ghost fans. Hundreds of scarecrows up the autumn-o-sity, in short, and we daytrippers to the area are invited to give our two cents on what makes a marvelous hay-filled, hat-wearing icon of fall.

Photo Credit: Tenley Fohl Photography]]>
<![CDATA[The National Heirloom Exposition]]> Fri, 12 Aug 2016 11:26:24 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ExpoSquashTowerDisplay.jpg

PUMPKIN PATCH WISHES: Perhaps you're calling upon your yard more and more as summer wanes, the better to coax your pumpkins and squashes to greater and greater sizes. Or perhaps you simply like attending fairs where gargantuan gourds are the feature, the better to admire, and even go a bit ga-ga over, some of the biggest edibles to spring from a vine. Whatever your approach to pumpkinry, you don't need to wait for the mondo pumpkin festivals of October to start your squash-based squealing: The 6th annual National Heirloom Exposition at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa can get that going for you over the first week in September 2016.

SEPT. 6 THROUGH 8, in fact, which are weekdays, so plan now, work-wise, about making for Santa Rosa to commune with all of the fresh and whole tasties that are in the spotlight of this annual gathering. True, a giant squash tower made headlines last year, and pumpkin competitions do attract fans (as well as other foodly contests). But you'll want to make time to snack upon samples, chat with farmers about a host of fascinating vege-luscious topics, find out about seeds, poultry, and livestock from experts, and enjoy what's billed as "the world's largest annual heritage food event."

VENDORS... won't just be purveying in eatable yumness but also garden tools, gadgets, and the stuff that makes living the heirloom life at home a bit easier. Over 350 vendors are expected, so expect to find a new tomato you have to grow, or a cuke you've wanted to nosh upon, or something you didn't even know would be your next favorite garden staple. Tickets are available at the gate. And as for showing up with a big pumpkin for competition? Not necessary, but count on seeing some sublime squashery, the kind of globes that get the fall going in proper style.

Photo Credit: National Heirloom Exposition]]>
<![CDATA[Swanky Scene: Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance]]> Fri, 12 Aug 2016 08:13:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/kimbelpebbleconcours23.jpg

FABULOUS YOU: There are some spectacular stretches of road that make you feel fully fabulous while you sit behind the steering wheel. You may only be in a tee and jeans, but toodle down 17 Mile Drive on a perfectly sunny Sunday afternoon and suddenly you're Cary Grant or Grace Kelly in "To Catch a Thief," at least in your own mind (it's a free fantasy, and a nice one, too). That cinematic spirit of sheer coolness paired with beautiful autos paired with an extraordinary location comes to life in Pebble Beach each August, when the Pebble Beach Tour d'Elegance visits the surf-close stretch. Bevies of rare autos'll make the coastal drive on Thursday, Aug. 18, lending an even more movie-esque quality to the famously picturesque area. But the cars won't bid their goodbyes after their 17 Mile Drive idyll. It's a week of vivacious vehicledom in Pebble Beach and beyond, and the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance is the swanky capper to it all. Make for The Lodge at Pebble Beach on...

SUNDAY, AUG. 21... for the showiest show of automobile fanciness. "The Concours is not a contest of speed, but elegance," says the event's HQ, and you you'll see that elegance aflow in categories covering Delahaye, Two-Man Indianapolis Race Cars 1930-1937, the BMW Centennial, and more. You got it, auto buffs: Best expect to see "200 of the most prized collector cars in the world" near the 18th hole at the Pebble Beach Golf Links. If soaking that all up, from the woodsy dashes to the silver-shiny hubcaps, isn't enough, there's plenty more to do in Pebble Beach and beyond over the third week of August. Eye hard-to-find collectibles at RetroAuto, jump into an auction, or find your car-fun go-out in Carmel or Monterey. Where's that engine of helpful information revving? Right over here, so vroom vroom.

Photo Credit: Kimball Studios]]>
<![CDATA[Disneyland Diamond Celebration Wrapping Up]]> Tue, 16 Aug 2016 12:11:14 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/PTNP379581diamondcelebration.jpg

ANNIVERSARY FAREWELL: A commonly voiced notion around one's birthday is how it is rather nice to see the whole celebratory shebang last beyond a single day. Perhaps your birthday festivities stretch out into a week, with a few lunches in the mix, and maybe you even go for a full month, if your friends are intent on keeping the cake-y goings-on alive. But what to do when you're a famous theme park — the world's most famous theme park, and the happiest place on earth, to boot — and you're marking your big 60th anniversary? That occasion isn't just a day, or a week, or a month, or even a year, no sirree. In fact, the Disneyland Diamond Celebration revved up at the end of May 2015, with an end date of early September 2016. That time is on the near horizon, which means that a few of the features and events that became hallmarks of the Diamond Celebration will soon wave their goodbyes and bid park goers farewell. That includes the diamond-cute decorations seen around the park, yes, and the special character clothing, and it also means...

PAINT THE NIGHT... will take its final brightly lit turn through Disneyland on Monday, Sept. 5 (yep, that's Labor Day). The popular procession, with its oodles of glowing bulbs and "When Can We Do This Again"-y soundtrack (a catchy ditty, indeed), is ending with the 60th anniversary observance, as is the special fireworks show. And over at Disney California Adventure? The World of Color Celebrate extravaganza will also say its early-September goodbyes (Fantasy in the Sky and the classic World of Color show "will return this fall," says the resort). And keep an eye on this: It was announced in July 2016 that the park's famous trains will again run on the Disneyland Railroad, and the boats on the Rivers of America, starting in the summer of 2017.

Photo Credit: Paul hiffmeyer]]>
<![CDATA[Zin-tastic Gathering in Geyserville]]> Thu, 04 Aug 2016 11:09:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/trentadue05zin.jpg

EARLY AUGUST... is prime barbecue time, without question. True, there are no traditional "outdoor grilling" holidays happening at the start of August, but we can see a seasonal change on the horizon, with school beginning and temperatures soon to drop. So we fire up the coals in earnest, and make potato salad and cole slaw, and finally break out that bottle of zinfandel we've been holding onto for a special summery occasion. There are a few wines that complement alfresco dining like a zesty, spicy, but not-too-heavy zin, and it matters not if that dining is a white-linen'd affair or burgers and slaw. To go deeper into this bewitching wine, and to try the wares of numerous winehouses, all in one spot, look to the Simply Summer Celebration at Trentadue Winery on Sunday, Aug. 14. That's in lovely...

GEYSERVILLE, and a whole slew of grape-smart vinomakers'll be out on the grounds, including Madrona Vineyards, Chacewater Winery, Starry Night Winery, and Three Wine Company. The party's host? Zinfandel Advocates & Producers, or ZAP, if you prefer, so be sure to bring all of your zin-centered asks to the early afternoon affair (what makes zin uniquely Californian, how much zinfandel is grown in the Golden State, is zin always on the dry side, and such). Tickets begin at $35, and some 60 or so wineries'll be on deck, proffering a bottle when you stroll by with your ZAP-logo'd glass in hand. Summer's not done, and nor is our time eating on the patio. If sodas aren't your thing, and suds aren't either, but you love a richer non-wintry wine, dig deeper into the zin universe, starting in Geyserville in the middle of August.

Photo Credit: Trentadue Winery]]>
<![CDATA[The Lovely Lemons of Goleta]]> Wed, 03 Aug 2016 20:45:58 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/lemonGettyImages-482997161.jpg

THE NUMBER OF EDIBLES... that easily alight in both the savory and sweet categories is pretty limited. Cocoa, a dessert-ready favorite, can show up in mole sauces, and nuts have a way of brightening both cakes and cheesy dips. As for goodies that grow on trees? They show a bit more spunk on the "savory and sweets" front, guesting in casseroles and cookies alike. Look to the lemon, which brightens both guacamoles and fish as well as a host of candies and pies. But the tart nature of the brightly hued citrus is pretty difficult to duplicate, and while other fruits can sometimes stand in for the lemon, your ultimate dish probably won't be described as "lemony" (an ultimate compliment, if it is one of your go-to fruits). And paying homage to this singular foodstuff each year is what many fans seek to do, and they seek out Goleta in September as a place to do it. That's where the annual Lemon Festival goes down, and the 2016 tart-major to-do is set for...

SEPT. 24 AND 25: It's the 25th annual California Lemon Festival, and while a pie eating contest and Lemon Run are part of the party, there are several carnival-sweet happenings as well. There shall be vendors, and crafts to peruse, and a car show, and just the sorts of small-town-y sights that help bridge the summer-to-fall road. This will be on the first weekend of fall, in fact, a time of year that signifies a host of eat-centered soirees around the Santa Barbara area. Ready to rev that up while savoring your favorite citrus? Start here.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Merry Jest: NorCal Renaissance Faire]]> Thu, 04 Aug 2016 21:04:32 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/NorCalRenFaire.jpg

HONORARY FALL: It is easy to embrace the mindset that September=autumn. Look at any calendar's September page, or magazine rack during the month, and you're bound to spy images depicting colorful foliage and cable knit sweaters and horns of plenty. The fact of the matter, however, is the equinox doesn't arrive before the second half of the month, and calling Sept. 17 "fall," try as we might, isn't 100% truthful. It is, however, truthful to say that mid-September boasts plenty of autumnal spirit for those people who like the sorts of celebrations associated with the mellowest and possibly merriest of seasons. Thus to call the Northern California Renaissance Faire a fall delight is true, while taking into account that its opening weekend lands upon the final weekend of summer. That's a-ok, for if you want to wear leaves in your hair, and a velvet queenly frock, you can do so with autumnal aplomb at Casa de Fruta, the longtime home of the song-filled, eats-yummy, frolicsome festivity. It's on every weekend from...

SEPT. 17 THROUGH OCT. 16... at the Hollister-close destination, and a variety of theme weekends lend the lark much of its loveliness. A Royal Masquerade is set for the opening weekend of October, while mythical creatures rule the final weekend of the affair. There are more to peruse, so peruse away, while also dreaming of the pageants, comedic shows, courtly processions, and all of those vendors purveying in all of your flowery crown, leather satchel needs. A maypole carousel, Stonehenge heraldry, a petting farm, face painting, and a host of other charming diversions await at the annual faire. That it is always a grand hello to autumn is one of its nicest bits, but there are several nice qualities in its quiver. Will the autumn equinox serve as some sort of time portal back, then, to the age of jousts and jests and traveling troupes? Fall does have a way of summoning magic each and every year, and, for many revelers, definitely here.

Photo Credit: Northern California Renaissance Faire]]>
<![CDATA[New: Winchester Mystery House by Candlelight]]> Fri, 05 Aug 2016 08:07:06 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Candlelight-focus.jpg

CANDLELIGHT IS CENTRAL... to many celebrations, but Halloween has a lock on the illumination. Look to the jack o'lanterns that sit on our front porches, the ones lit from within by small flames. And look to our party tables, the ones full of freaky finger foods, and how we often make a candelabra the dramatic centerpiece. Candles, as a rule, though, aren't a part of haunted tours, tours that either rely on the lamps and sources of light within the structure or, more spine-tinglingly, flashlights. The Winchester Mystery House has gone the flashlight tour route for a number of years, and the after-dark delight has become a go-to for many a ghoul-loving guest. Those tours are returning, as they do each autumn and every Friday the 13th (regardless of season), but there's a fresh twist at the 132-year-old San Jose landmark: Halloween Candlelight Tours. It's a form of illumination that's much associated with...

THE LATE 19TH CENTURY, just before the widespread usage of electric lights. Thus it fits the rambling, 160-room manse, a home that's often said to be as ghostly as ghostly abodes come (thanks to the stories of Sarah Winchester and her medium-guided construction, construction undertaken to appease possibly restless souls). Rooms "frozen in a state of arrested decay" will be visited during the candlelight tour, a "touches of festive Halloween abound." But fear not if you already have fearsome plans for Halloween night: The tours by candlelight are scheduled for a number of October eves. True, the Winchester Mystery House is kitted-out for electricity, and was long ago, but figure how a wee flame, and its flicker, can change up how you view stairways to nowhere and doors that open to brick walls. Chilling stuff, just as long as that flame doesn't... go... out.

Photo Credit: Candlelight]]>
<![CDATA[El Capitan Canyon Winter Sale]]> Tue, 02 Aug 2016 20:40:14 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/corralcabinelcapitan.jpg

IF YOU WERE FOLLOWING... El Capitan Canyon's social media in the early summer of 2016, you likely were keeping tabs on how it was weathering the nearby Sherpa Fire. The rustic retreat became a "staging area to support the fire crews" in June, and all the property's structures remained untouched after the fire was finally contained. It was an emotional moment for the clutch of cabins and luxe tents and yurts, and longtime guests also kept the area animals in mind (El Capitan is known as a sweet spot for roaming sheep and goats). The resident beasties were whisked away by volunteers to the Earl Warren Showgrounds, but they are back, along with two new lambs named Sparky and Cinder. Reconnecting with guests, and people who've never stayed at the Santa Barbara-close getaway, is part of the property's late-summer plan, a plan that includes a "Cool Summer Savings for Winter" deal.

THE DEAL... must be booked by the end of August 2016, do note, and do note the $179-per-night-per-cabin special applies to any night of the week. There are a few asterisks, such as the cabin you book and the holiday blockout dates, but the general run of the deal is from the beginning of December 2016 through the end of February 2017. El Capitan State Beach puts on its winter silence during that period, or at least its winter slow-down-ness, and visiting with the area animals gives the getaway an even cuter quality. As for those big trees? Oaks and sycamores dominate, making the beach-adjacent stay pretty darn woodsy, too. If this is a favorite vacation spot, ponder visiting in the coming winter, and lending a local mainstay some love (while you lend the new lambs, and other critters, some coos and affection, too). 

Photo Credit: El Capitan Canyon]]>
<![CDATA[Gold Rush Days]]> Mon, 08 Aug 2016 12:10:13 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GoldRushDaysFireBrigade.jpg

CALIFORNIANS, it may be said with sunny confidence, can stow a lot of spectacular and unusual must-dos in their bucket lists, all must-dos that can be found within the Golden State. And if you look to the "gold" part of that moniker, then you know that many a bucket list brims with Gold Country sightseeing. A history buff may dream of toodling down Highway 49, with stops in some of the towns that boomed in the middle of the 19th century, or visiting a museum that tells the tale of how the discovery at Sutter's Mill quickly changed history. But finding characters from the Gold Rush, and the portraits of the era embued with life, or at least the spirit of a modern retelling, is a bit harder to locate. The time of picks and pans and shiny bits of glittery river-found rock come to life, however, each September, in one of the places most associated with the days of the '49ers. It's...

OLD SACRAMENTO... we speak of, and each Labor Day Weekend the whole district puts on its rootin, tootin'-est garb for four days of Gold Rush-style celebrating. Is there a Tent City, which delves into "daily life during the Gold Rush"? It's one of the staples of the holiday weekend event, so you can count on it. Will there be old-timey dramatics, the kind that might have been staged by a traveling troupe in a mining camp? That's a whole thing, for sure. And will the Gold Rush Fire Brigade be out in bells-a-ringin' force? It's part of the plan. Eats, dancing, stories, costumes, cannon firings, wagon rides, and a bunch of other from-way-back-when haps fill out the multi-block area, one that still carries its postcard-worthy architectural cred (the buildings recall the time when the area served as a terminus of the Pony Express). Need dates for all of your Gold Rush-themed festivities? This sepia-toned slice of Sactown is doing it up from Friday, Sept. 2 through Monday, Sept. 5, 2016.

Photo Credit: Gold Rush Days]]>
<![CDATA[Hotel Perk: Pajama Delivery]]> Sat, 06 Aug 2016 10:24:43 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/bedheadinroomorlando.jpg

THE PACKING PROCESS... is an individual one, through and through. Not everyone folds things in a particular order — and besides that, not everyone folds things (there's a large contingent of travelers who swear by rolling, not folding, when it comes to filling a suitcase). And whether your toothbrush goes in first, or last, or at all, is another matter. For some it is the most important item of the trip, while others vow to pick a fresh one up at an area store. It's all part of going somewhere, the packing for an overnight or two, but one part that is sometimes skipped over, especially when departing in a rush, is the...

PAJAMAS... portion of the packing. Perhaps you wore your only clean pair the night before your trip, perhaps you clean forgot to dig them out of the drawer. The Orlando Hotel on West Third Street in Los Angeles can help, along with its neighbor BedHead Pajamas. If you're a guest at the hotel, which is located near LA's bustling, shop-y, eatery-y Mid-City West area (and close to Beverly Hills), you can simply browse through an available BedHead catalog, pick the cute pair you like, order and pay and bingo: The PJs'll be delivered to your room. "In-room pajama deliveries" isn't a perk that's often seen on hotel rosters, but The Orlando and BedHead go one better: If you want to see the togs in person, you can ring for a selection to be delivered to your hotel room, the better to check out sizes and designs (which the LA company is known for).

NO NEED TO SWEAT... the packing before a trip, not when the chance to have prospective pajamas whisked to your room awaits. Just remember that toothbrush, and toothpaste, even if you forgo the PJs in the luggage. Squeaky chompers are essential, even if you wait to buy your pajamas when you get to your hotel.

Photo Credit: Bedhead Pajamas]]>
<![CDATA[Capitola Begonia Festival]]> Mon, 08 Aug 2016 21:06:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/capitolabegonia212121.jpg

"WHEN I'M 64": The Beatles had a catchy and heart-sweet message in one of their most beloved love songs, but the message behind the ditty could also apply to festivals that reach their 64th annual outing. It's a fabulous milestone, in short, and it reveals that yearly party has gathered enough fans, and traditions, and general community love, to keep on keepin' on whatever it is doing. And if you look to Capitola over Labor Day Weekend, that keepin' on is all about a particular flower, one that's seen on everything from hats to floats to art: the begonia. You got it, the Capitola Begonia Festival is heading into its 64th annual celebration in 2016, and the tried-and-true must-dos remain, the ones that draw the fans, and participants, to the banks of Soquel Creek. Why yes, we are referencing the...

NAUTICAL PARADE, which is one of the state's best-known blossom processions. Unlike the Rose Parade in Pasadena on New Year's Day, however, this one is A) on Labor Day Sunday and B) on the water. Small floats (though some are of notable size) are decked out in delightful rows and bursts of begonia beauty, while those steering the ship are wearing togs to suit the festive occasion. Cheering on the 64th annual Nautical Parade isn't the only lively, farewell-to-summer happening on the schedule, however. Look for...

A SAND SCULPTURE CONTEST, the making of a "wall of flowers" (begonias are very much involved, yes), a fishing derby, concerts in the park, rowboat races, and horseshoe throwing out on the sand. You don't need to arrive with a begonia pinned to your lapel, but chances are you'll come across a few (or a few hundred). As flower festivals go, well, California has some biggies. At a sweet 64, Capitola's confab keeps on blooming in a most spectacular, and sea-worthy, fashion.

Photo Credit: Capitola Begonia Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Tickets on Sale: Sonoma Holiday Open House]]> Sun, 31 Jul 2016 09:28:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/savorkimcarrolldotcom.jpg

ON THANKSGIVING, for the most part, there's a general agreement on what should happen. A gathered family will agree that there should be a meal of some sort, and probably a potato dish, and definitely a gravy boat, and pie is a must. There might be napping, while others conclude that watching a game on television, or heading to the yard to horse around, is also a fine idea. But there really isn't a consensus on what happens after the gravy boat has been washed and the pie pans cleaned and stowed. The relatives are probably still in town for a few more days, so should the family stick around the house? Catch a film? Take several post-Thanksgiving walks around the neighborhood? Finding an after-Thanksgiving outing is always a challenge. But the Heart of Sonoma Valley Association makes it easier for the oenophiles in the general region, those people who'd love something convivial to do, with the relatives, while jump-starting the whole Christmas-y season. It's Holiday Open House, and it spreads out across the wine-tastic region on Saturday, Nov. 25 and Sunday, Nov. 26.

TICKETS ARE NOW ON SALE... for the annual event, and "access to all participating wineries event tastings and activities" is included. Seventeen spots'll be setting out the tasty bites, and offering solid discounts, and lining up the wine tastings, and offering other convivial to-dos. Look for Chateau St. Jean Winery, Spann Vineyards, and several more area favorites to be on the map. Ready to send out the call to your out-of-state relatives and let them know what the grown-ups will all be doing after Thanksgiving wraps up? Best link them now and start discussing holiday plans (as the holidays, of course, arrive before we know it).

Photo Credit: Kim Carroll]]>
<![CDATA[Bay Area Bliss: Cheese Parties]]> Sat, 30 Jul 2016 11:45:30 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/cheesebayareaaug123.jpg

REACHING THE RIND... after devouring a hunk of delicious cheese can be more than a mite disappointing. Maybe you have a few crackers left, or a sip of wine, but without several more slices of manchego, or gouda, or brie, well... You kind of feel as though the cheese party is over. A person can get that feeling in the springtime, after the famous, and famously large, California Artisan Cheese Festival in Petaluma wraps up. You want more, more creaminess, more drizzled honey and Marcona almonds, and you want it while the weather is still perfectly picnicky. Two more chances are ahead, and in the Bay Area, too, and while they're not quite as out-sized as the three-day festival, they come with their own cracker-ready, honey-drizzly, wine-ideal charms. Look to...

THE SUMMER PICNIC PARTY... from the Marin French Cheese Company on Sunday, Aug. 21. The afternoon soiree will focus on "plenty of local cheeses," as well as "interactive cheesemaking and beekeeping demos." It's all happening on the pretty property that's home to the company, so count on it being as wonderfully cheesy as events come. There's also the...

SF CHEESE FEST... to anticipate, on Saturday, Sept. 17. It's an evening happening at Social Hall SF, and "24 Guild member cheese companies will sample dozens of California's finest cheeses alongside local makers of cured meats, pickles, jams, sauces, craft beer, and wine." There's a theme, too — "Preservation: Salt, Sugar, Culture and Tradition" — and a true insidery feel to the making and sharing of bespoke-style cheesery. 

NEED MORE? Don't forget about the beloved Sonoma Cheese Trail, just a short pop north of the city. Good and fancy cheese snackery awaits you, and you don't even need to wait for the Petaluma party in the spring. (But, yep, that's coming back around, too, so keep the enthusiasm high.)

Photo Credit: SF Cheese Fest]]>
<![CDATA[Mt. Diablo Tarantula Hike]]> Tue, 02 Aug 2016 16:22:12 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/MountDiabloTarantula2.jpg

WHILE MANY SIGNS OF AUTUMN... are as garish and as bright as the giant orange jack o'lantern that takes up residence in front of the local grocery store, some are far more subtle, and fascinating, and natural, and tied to the rhythms of the season. For sure, changing foliage could apply here, as that's natural and seasonal, but we speak of a certain famous arachnid's late-summer search for a mate. It's the tarantula, one of the many well-known residents of Mount Diablo State Park. Tarantulas and the Walnut Creek-close area have a long history, in fact; a science expedition back in the 1800s reported on the furry scurriers, saying they grow to "the size of a half-grown mouse" and come complete with "fangs the size of a rattlesnake's." Eek?

WANT TO HEAD OUT... and take a contemplative and adventure-fun August evening hike, one that's built around spying any male tarantulas as they go a-courtin' (as they do in late summer), then clear Saturday, Aug. 27 on your special tarantula-specific calendar. (We'll just assume you have one.)

IT'S A THREE-MILER... that'll last a pinch under three hours, and a pair of knowledgable guides from the Mount Diablo Interpretative Association will lead the way and provide on-the-go info. Should you layer-up, bring water, bring granola bars or what have you, and stow a flashlight in your bag? All that. You should also be a grown-up, as this is an adults-only thing. There's a Twilight Hike in the area, by the by, on Aug. 13, if you want to focus on a wider range of critters, from bats to owls.

BUT TARANTULAS, those handsome harbingers of fall, get all the love, as they look for love, on the final Saturday in August. That surely will beat, date-wise, the giant pumpkin appearing at your local grocery store's parking lot, as far as fall foretellings go. We think? Regardless, signs of autumn don't come more arachnid-awesome, nor furry, nor fabulous. 

WANT TO RESERVE YOUR SPOT? Email ken_lavin@hotmail.com or sweettrails00@gmail.com. The cost is six bucks for your vehicle.

Photo Credit: Mike Woodring]]>
<![CDATA[Squaw Creek: Buy Now, Save Later]]> Fri, 29 Jul 2016 16:20:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/svski12345678.jpg

THE HEIGHT OF SUMMER, which can allude to the exact middle of the season, or to its hottest portion, or to its most humid bit, or all of the above, can spur a person to do many things. One? Stick their sock-toasty feet in the nearest body of cool water. Two? Eat everything out of the freezer, whether it is fruity and on-a-stick or not. And three? Get to dreaming of snow, glorious, flake-tastic drifts, the kind of stuff that makes for primo schussing come the height of winter. (A time of year that comes with its own rituals, too, of course.) And while snow cannot be summoned in August, at least in this part of this hemisphere, the notion of snow may be merrily flirted with, at length. How? High altitude resorts are already planning cold season events, and room specials, and ski-style happenings, and savings may be had if you know where to look. One direction to glance in is at...

THE RESORT AT SQUAW CREEK, which has a Book Now, Stay Later package on (or, if you prefer, a Buy Early, Ski Later deal). What's the info? It's a year-round thing, first of all, but second of all, it does apply to one of Squaw Creek's most bustling periods, the ski-iest time on the calendar. That means if you want to shore up some lodging dates in December or January, asap-like, doing so in August is probably good thinking, savings-wise. You could save up to 20% with this deal, which means more money for hot toddies or cute ski togs. There are "405 luxuriously rooms and suites" on the pretty mountain property, and perusing them will only stoke those summertime-based, wintertime-wonderful daydreams. You can't send the hottest summer days running just yet, but you can start your ski-ready itinerary now. If you don mittens to dig into the freezer for treats on sticks, well, that's up to you, totally.

Photo Credit: Squaw Valley]]>
<![CDATA[Burbank Getaway: Studio-Close Safari Inn]]> Thu, 28 Jul 2016 22:04:50 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/safariinnburbank1.jpg

SUMMER VACATIONS... come in many flavors, but a studio tour is a classic must-do for fans of classic television shows and films. Tours are available all year long at places like Warner Bros. Studios and Universal Studios Hollywood, which offers its famous backlot drive-around, but you're more likely to see families making the trip to Burbank and Universal City during the school break (not to mention those people who equate summertime with the ideal moment for a vacation).

IF DIGGING DEEP... into Tinseltown's working side is part of your getaway itinerary, and you're seeking a spot to stay that's A) close to both Universal and Warner Bros. and B) a television and movie star in its own right, look to the neon glow found just off Olive Avenue in the Media Capital of the World. It's that retro-nifty, pool-tastic local landmark, the Safari Inn, we speak of, and if you're thinking you've seen it before, you have, in shows like "Six Feet Under" and "The Partridge Family" and feature films like "Apollo 13." And to make it all a little simpler for the star-loving traveler, the motel has a partnership with Starline Tours, as well.

WHERE TO START? Your Warner Bros. tour is best booked in advance, but the Universal Studios Hollywood backlot tour is part of your ticket to the theme park (a park that's now home to the immensely popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter). The Safari Inn is a few minutes drive from both, and at the end of your touring days? You have that motel-perfect pool, some mountains in the distance, and the knowledge that you're staying in at a famous location setting, one that'll likely be used in many more productions to come.

Photo Credit: Safari Inn]]>
<![CDATA[Ohh, Ahh: Perseid Showers on Approach]]> Mon, 01 Aug 2016 20:40:39 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/perseidGettyImages-483818682+%281%29.jpg

STARRY ANNUAL EVENTS, even those that come back around on a predictable and even somewhat punctual basis, can sometimes catch us by surprise. We know that the Harvest Moon is due, or that Venus will be especially bright, or there's a partial eclipse we should really step outside to admire. And yet we didn't plan that jaunt to a more remote location, the kind without street lamps or too much illumination (the better to see what's going on above our heads). So here's a reminder that summer is about to deliver one of its most cosmic delights, the Perseid Meteor Shower, which has a wonderful way of showing up again just before the middle of August. Thank the...

COMET SWIFT-TUTTLE, and its notable tail, for giving us this show each summer when our planet passes on through. We're making that pass-through again, but if you're looking for peak Perseids action, look to Aug. 13, which falls on a Saturday in 2016. Could you do a jaunt to Big Bear, or Lassen Volcanic National Park, or Borrego Springs, which is an official International Dark Sky Community, to admire the once-a-year spectacle? Some do catch some of the awesomeness from some of the brightest spots in California, but turn to Death Valley, or Pinnacles National Park, or another low-lit destination for a (fingers crossed) wowzier show. For more info on the Borrego Springs dark sky efforts, start on the Borrego Dark Sky Coalition page. Wherever you happen to be, though, over the second weekend of August, look up, after dark, and see if you don't see a shooting star, or several dozen, courtesy of one of the calendar's most cosmic displays.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Barbara Tradition: Old Spanish Days]]> Wed, 03 Aug 2016 20:44:44 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/oldspanishdays90th.jpg

SANTA BARBARA... is truly a city of celebrating, from its weekend-long Earth Day Festival to its colorful, costume-filled Summer Solstice Parade. But one of its most venerable and esteemed multi-day doings is very much about the start of August, a time of year when the parades and mercados and dance presentations flower like so many many roses outside Mission Santa Barbara. It's Old Spanish Days, and it is heading into its 92nd annual outing on Wednesday, Aug. 3. Old Spanish Days is indeed a...

FIVE-DAY FIESTA, one that boasts a brimful list of must-sees and will-enjoys each day. La Fiesta Pequeña is the opening night welcome at mission, one that includes "traditional songs and dance from Californios, Flamenco, Spanish classical, and Mexican folklorico" (Santa Barbara will also stop by the proceedings, too). The Nights of Gaiety, or Las Noches de Ronda, is a free dance-and-more favorite at the courthouse's Sunken Gardens, while the merry mercados dot nearby locations. There's rodeo, a stock horse show, and the Children's Parade, and Casa Cantina, a go-to for beverages and eats. Docent tours of both the mission and the courthouse lend further historical dimension to one of the Golden State's most past-present parties.

WANT TO ATTEND... a fiesta so fabled and long-running it will soon mark its 100th before we know it? The schedule really is as pretty and full as a mission garden in bloom, so plan before catching your train to Santa Barbara.

Photo Credit: Old Spanish Days]]>
<![CDATA[Morro Bay Bash: Avocado & Margarita Fest]]> Thu, 28 Jul 2016 15:04:24 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/avogregorschuster-horz.jpg

IF YOU KNOW YOUR HASS AVOCADOS, you know that some of the tastiest get their start at Morro Creek Ranch. Some 27,000 trees grow the beautiful green fruit, a staple of the area since 1978. It seems, then, like Morro Bay should have some sort of celebration honoring the alligator pear, given its primo local cred, and perhaps some sort of adult beverage should be served, too, to further complement all of the avocado-ness. And so it does: The Avocado Margarita Street Festival, or the AvoMargFest, if you want to be zippier about it, has long been a staple of the ocean-close town, one that leads summer right into fall.

THE 2016 PARTY... is on Saturday, Sept. 10, and California avocados are the star (whether eaten neat, or in a guac, or sliced atop a savory chicken dish, or you name it). Other bites, from shrimp cocktails to just-off-the-grill sausages to nachos to street corn, lend all of the avocado-o-sity further flavor. And as for the margaritas? Blended bliss is there to be enjoyed by the over 21-ers, though other libations are available for those who choose to forgo the tequila-famous drink.

WILL THIS ALL BE IN THE SHADOW... of glorious Morro Rock? Well, not literally, but you may admire it from the festival, or pretty much any other point around town. What else is coming up in the quintessentially Central Coast-y burg? A surfboard art festival, a harbor party, and more salt-air, sunset-sweet doings.

Photo Credit: Gregor Schuster/clipart.com]]>
<![CDATA[Raise a Glass: California Wine Month]]> Sat, 30 Jul 2016 11:43:31 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/winetasting7.jpg

HARVEST IN WINE COUNTRY... isn't actually over in the blink of an eye, or a tick-tock of the clock, or whatever your preferred "time is fleeting" saying happens to be. The summer-into-fall period can last a good long while, as thousands upon thousands of grapes are plucked and destemmed and the whole crushing process kicks in, juicily. Vineyards, beyond staying busy, with a roster of must-dos to get done, often like to host visitors during this time. Those visitors include casual, wine-loving lookie-loos, as well as burgeoning oenophiles who want to eye wine-makery up close, and even, just maybe, fingers crossed, have a few tastes after all the learning is done. This all makes September a prime wine time around the Golden State, for sure. It is so prime, in fact, that the ninth month on the calendar has been designated "California Wine Month," which means that numerous winehouses will be staging special events, some educational, some solely sippable, during the upcoming 2016 harvest.

BE READY TO EXPLORE... "nearly 100 great wine events" around the state, from festivals to tastings. Deaver Vineyards has a special Labor Day happening, while the Calistoga Wine Experience takes place on Saturday, Sept. 10 at Pioneer Park. Lodi is on the cab-tastic action with its mid-month Grape Festival, while a Galante Library Wine Tasting features "a special selection" and backgrounds on what you're sipping. More events (and more and more) will pop up as September draws closer, so start dreaming about how you'll spend the busiest, bustliest, and bubbliest time of year around California's many wine countries.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>