<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Worth the Trip]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcbayarea.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.comen-usMon, 24 Jul 2017 09:30:00 -0700Mon, 24 Jul 2017 09:30:00 -0700NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Carmel-by-the-Sea Quaint: Sandcastle Contest]]> Sun, 23 Jul 2017 10:32:17 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/SandytheSnowmanSRMB1.jpg

SUMMER'S END? We're still a ways out, gazing, as we are, from our July vantage point, but as anyone who has ever experienced the chillax-iest of seasons knows, the ending has a way of sneaking up. Soon it is the last weekend of summer, and the time for getting all of those summery staples in has suddenly sped up, like a clock with a haywire minute arm. One of the greatest of summer-style classics, the building of sandcastles, can happen at any time, but it is on the final Saturday of the warm season, which is Saturday, Sept. 16 in 2017, that sandcastle construction steps up in earnest. Well, perhaps "in earnest" sounds too serious; we're talking here about a light-hearted affair in an ocean-snug town that fully embraces an air of quaint-a-tude throughout the calendar. Making the annual...

SANDCASTLE CONTEST... at Carmel Beach in Carmel-by-the-Sea perfectly in lively, lovely line with all that the city stands for. This contest, by the by, has been around for a number of years — 2017 is the 57th contest — which makes it a true tradition in the cottage-iest burg in all the land. Will sandcastle builders opt to construct the local cottages out of the damp grains, rather than castles? It could happen, as a nod to the region's reigning architectural style. But bet you'll see a host of sweet sand sculptures at the open-to-the-public party, which happens on the beach south of 10th Avenue. It all gets going at 8 a.m. and judging happens from noon to 2 (giving builders some ample time, but with the clock tick, tick, ticking). The winner nabs the Golden Shovel, and, yes, some bribery ("non-monetary") goes down where the judges are concerned (think eats and such).

CARMEL'S QUIRKINESS... continues just weeks after the sandcastle showdown, with the famous pumpkin roll, but that's autumnal. For a last dose of summer, find your way to the town's beach and all of the castle-cool construction.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Old Grove Festival: Rare Redwoods Treat]]> Sat, 22 Jul 2017 14:35:40 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/DWC_BrokedownTruck_2014.jpg

MEMORABLE MUSIC VENUES? Our state boasts a whole colorful, picture-ready, gotta-go-again caboodle of super spots to see shows. Whether they're open-air, with mountains or the ocean in view, or inside a history-laden theater, a pretty place that enhances the act of enjoying a sonorous, lyric-filled event is something special. But while these pretty places are often much in use when it comes to touring bands, some venues are employed less often, making a live concert a rarer treat. The historic Redwood Forest Theater at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve is over 80 years old, and rightly famous, but its calendar doesn't hum with upcoming act after upcoming act. Rather, it is "occasionally used for concerts and plays," with the late-summer Old Grove Festival one of the strummable, hummable treats on the schedule. Are there redwoods all around, as the name of the 1,200-seat amphitheater suggests? There are — it is a part of Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve — making a concert at the amphitheater one of the tree-iest of terrific experiences. If you're obsessed with these giants, as well as the sounds of Americana, and bluegrass, and you'd like to lend some love to the Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, then be at the...

OLD GROVE FESTIVAL... on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. The Dead Winter Carpenters are headlining the afternoon-into-evening show, which begins at 5:30, though everything gets going at the amphitheater an hour earlier. Will there be pre-sold meals available for pick-up? You bet. How about a wine and beer bar? That, too, is on the grounds. Tickets and all the info you need to attend the Sonoma County-based concert may be found here, as well as ways to support the nature-important mission of Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods. Do you collect experiences at great California venues, inside and out? Here's your next one, in SoCo, at gorgeous Guerneville, just before the arrival of autumn.

Photo Credit: Rob Tobin]]>
<![CDATA[Alisal Guest Ranch: Sip, Saddle, Spa Package]]> Sun, 23 Jul 2017 13:25:13 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/096_alisal_may-1600x1000-30q.jpg

THERE'S SOLVANG, with its windmills and butter cookies and æbleskivers and beer gardens, of course, and you likely know it well, if you've spent any time gallivanting around The SYV (all gallivanters, by the way, call the Santa Ynez Valley "The SYV," because it sounds catchy and saves time). But just south of Solvang, or a few minutes away, is another prism in this jewel of an area, one that isn't about windmills and butter cookies but rather ponies and oak-dotted vistas and fishing and archery and all of the old-fashioned (but forever-current) pleasures of a classic dude ranch. It's The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, a sizable, find-your-space property that stretches, in terms of hospitality, back to the 1940s, though its recent history has roots in the 19th century and rancho life. You can feel that time-connectiveness, and while lazy walks help guests get a feel for the resort's layout and luxe demeanor, there are other doings to get done. There's a package that can help cover a lot of ground for the first-time guest, the...

SIP, SADDLE, SPA... package, and its name tells the tale. "Complimentary wine tastings" form the Sip end of things, as does "a bottle of Santa Barbara county wine with dinner" — you are, after all, still living The SYV life — while the Saddle comes along when you head out on a horseback ride and learn to rope (you'll also pick up important tips on horsemanship). The Spa? Count on a Trail Blazer treatment to help you wind it all right down after some scenic clip-cloppery. Other perks on the package, from a picnic lunch box to tennis court fees, help round out a very well-rounded ranch experience. Nope, there are no Solvang-style details, at least the ones we see on a lot of postcards, but this, too, is Solvang, and The SYV, in all of its home-on-the-range-y, hill-tastic, soft-blue-sky'd glory. And if you want a butter cookie on your way out? Well, the windmilliest town in all the land is just a ten-minute toodle up Alisal Road. Details, prices, and must-knows on the Sip, Saddle, Spa may be found here.

Photo Credit: a]]>
<![CDATA[Thomas the Tank: Fun in Felton]]> Fri, 21 Jul 2017 14:16:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/day_out_with_thomas-47.jpg

JOURNEY THROUGH THE SCREEN: As kids, we often think of the sweet 'n fuzzy 'n kind television characters, the ones who sing songs and do cartwheels and remind us that we're special, as our friends. But, alas: We soon find out a screen separates us, and getting together on a Saturday, for a play date, is not a possibility. But some beloved characters out there, icons that have appeared in both books and on TV, are a bit magical, and, with a little work, they're able to send the distance-keeping screen away for a day while visiting with their fans. Thomas the Tank Engine definitely is beloved, and an icon, and the railway superstar has a knack for showing up at various spots to meet those kids who understandably adore his on-the-screen, on-the-page adventures. His 2017 adventure, "Thomas the Tank Engine: The Friendship Tour 2017" is toot-toot-tootin' for Felton over the final weekend of July and first weekend in August. That means you'll want to get your Thomas-loving kin to...

ROARING CAMP RAILROADS... from July 28 through 30 or Aug. 4 through 6. There shall be to-dos themed to the Thomas & Friends adventures, as well as a chance to ride with Thomas himself. Friendship is a key component to the event, an outing that will also have snapshot opportunities, as well as passport-collecting opportunities, too. The ultimate prize at the end? A friendship bracelet to remind tots of their "Day Out with Thomas." The emphasis of the tour, which is celebrating its 22nd year, is first friendships, as well as "...the development of key friendship skills in toddlers." A sweet and important thing, indeed, to plan a family-fun day around, one that includes an on-the-screen, from-the-page friend that millions of kids adore. Tickets and further details? Chugga-chugga over here for all of your Thomas-terrific information.

Photo Credit: Day Out with Thomas]]>
<![CDATA[Back to School 1861 in Columbia]]> Thu, 20 Jul 2017 22:23:16 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ColumbiaStateHistoricPark_Pano+%281%29.jpg

GOLD RUSH COUNTRY... can yield many pleasures, from offbeat photo-taking opportunities to fine dining to natural wonders to wine tasting rooms to train rides that zip riders straight into the past. And while those low, rolling hills the run along one of the Golden State's most golden stretches are plum-full of gems, only a couple of spots can rightfully claim the coveted title Most Time Machine-Like. Columbia State Historic Park, which may be found "... in the heart of the California Mother Lode," could easily wear that sash and crown, for it summons the traditions of the mid-19th century like few places can and do. Yep, there's a stagecoach, and buildings that have that 1850-esque sepia-tone vibe, and a host of places to soak in what life was like when shiny, glittery rocks caught many an eye and fervent fancy. But it wasn't all gold, all the time back in the day, of course. Other important goals held sway, from education to industry to art, and...

COLUMBIA CELEBRATES ITS HISTORY... in myriad ways. You can peek back at the schoolroom of a way-back era at Back to School 1861, a special happening on Saturday, Sept. 16. Games, instruction, hand-cranked ice cream, and more goings-on will flourish during the free afternoon-long event. And as for fiddles and banjos? Tunes shall twang on the final day of September 2017. There are ghost tours, too, ahead, and happenings involving mysteries, so it is correct to say that Columbia has something to offer visitors on several different counts. As far as just strolling an old street, one that appears to be straight from the time of the Gold Rush, and admiring locals in period clothing? If that's all you're looking for, well, by George, you'll find it at the town-big landmark, an atmospheric destination that holds fast to the past.

Photo Credit: Visit California/Myles McGuinness]]>
<![CDATA[Bodega Seafood, Art & Wine Festival]]> Thu, 20 Jul 2017 14:03:01 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/181*120/clam+bake+final.jpg

OFF TO BODEGA IT UP: If you let your crew know that you wouldn't be around on the last Saturday or Sunday of August, because you'd be off to Bodega, you wouldn't even have to explain what you meant. Surely your pals, knowing your love of cuisine, music, artworks, and convivial social gatherings would understand that you'd be making for the Sonoma County burg to engage in an easygoing, elevate the mind/heart day of painting-pretty, clamful good times. In fact, those same Bodega-grokking friends might be so inspired by your plans on Saturday, Aug. 26 and Sunday, Aug. 27 that they up and invite themselves along, so best make sure you have room in the passenger seat (and one of your pals'll perform the designated driver duties on the way home).

THAT'S THE WEEKEND... of the annual Bodega Seafood, Art & Wine Festival, a summer's-soon-ending event that captures all the sweetest parts of the town, a foodie-fun spot that does it all well year-round but really takes the cake, or, rather, the platter of oysters, when Labor Day Weekend ventures into view. Note, though, that this is not Labor Day Weekend, but the weekend just before, meaning you don't have to change your holiday three-dayer plans to go Bodega.

WHAT'S IN STORE? Rainbow Girls, Patron Latin Rhythms, Lost Dog Found, and David Luning are some of the vibe-makers on the stage at Watts Ranch, while a host of creative people will display photos, sculptures, paintings, and more. And will you be devouring oyster po' boys, BBQ oysters, oyster cocktails, ahi poki, and, of course, you betcha, don't ever doubt it, clam chowder, while there? Here are the tempting edibles that await. You won't be right on the ocean in Bodega, of course, but a few minutes drive. It's a ranch-y, sunshiny, SoCo-splendid sort of affair, just the thing to round off the summer season before September sashays through the door. Tickets? Start here, Bodega buffs.

Photo Credit: Clams]]>
<![CDATA[Comic Con Palm Springs]]> Wed, 19 Jul 2017 21:27:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AttendeesatPSCCspiderman.jpg

SKIP THE CLOSET, and the trunk, and the storage room, and the attic. Don't even think about the drawer, and keep clear of any under-bed situation. It's your fantastic costume we're talking about here, the one that you'll be wearing at Comic-Con International, the flashy, dashing get-up you've worked on for months. We're recommending that you don't stow it in the closet, or the attic, or anywhere else, for there'll be another opportunity to rock it just weeks after the late-July, San Diego-based spectacular wraps. And this place? Well, it isn't all that far from the ocean-close burg, though you'll want to look inland, in the direction of the desert, to locate...

COMIC CON PALM SPRINGS: Oh yeah, that's coming up on the summer fun times calendar, too, and it has some mondo highlights, like an appearance by Marvel Man Stan Lee as well as the Complete Stan Lee Museum Exhibition. A concert featuring Lynda Carter is another centerpiece to the three-day to-do, which is on from Friday, Aug. 25 through Sunday, Aug. 27 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. As for the shop-a-bility outlook? Prepare to browse 450+ vendors for all of your comic book, toy, t-shirt, and poster needs (and a caboodle of other merchandise types, too). A Zombie Walk, a Zombie Maze, a flick themed to the moaning undead, and other shambling-specific happenings are on the roster as well. And a big slice of the action? Cosplay, of course, so, honest, have your awesome outfit set to go.

FOR ALL OF THE STARS... set to show at the desert delight, such as Tom Kenny (Spongebob!) and Lindsay Wagner (the Bionic Woman!), best shamble, like your favorite zombie, to the convention's informative site before August draws too near.

Photo Credit: Christopher Wayne Allwine]]>
<![CDATA[SOL-ar Eclipse Cocktail: Calistoga Sip]]> Wed, 19 Jul 2017 11:23:14 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Solage_Architecturesolar.jpg

LOOK UP, in wonder, on Monday, Aug. 21? Many people will be doing just that at points around North America, thanks to the total solar eclipse. You may have already researched the prime path of the eclipse, and where you might travel to fully soak in the moment's epic splendor, but consider a stop at Solage, A Napa Valley Resort, for a special sip tied to the skyward celebration. It's the SOL-ar Eclipse Cocktail, a $15 beverage that's been concocted just for the occasion, and its sunny hue matches the vibe of our nearest star. Adding panache? Look for gin, carrot juice, lemon juice, too, turmeric, and some simple syrup. The place to find this sunshiny libation, one that comes with late-summer zing, taste-wise? Solbar, the Michelin-rated eatery, is your spot to raise a glass to what's happening far, far above. As for where the eclipse will be at its most, well, eclipse-y? NASA, of course, has an excellent site to find just that out, so study up as you dream of your first sip of the SOL-ar Eclipse Cocktail. And if you happen to call upon the Calistoga resort earlier in the month? Consider joining the...

FULL MOON AQUA VIBRATIONS... session at Spa Solage's bathhouse. "The evening session includes gentle movements, inner and outer sound vibration, and floating meditation in the nurturing and warm geothermal pools," says the site. If you're honoring the sun's path later in August, perhaps some lunar loveliness can round out your cosmos-minded month. The date for the vibrations event? Monday, Aug. 7. It's $45 if you're a guest or member of Solage, and $75 if not (your entry comes with bathhouse privileges, though, throughout the day, and, for sure, you can hang out in the spa's relaxation areas, too).

Photo Credit: Chris Gramly]]>
<![CDATA[New: Gary Farrell Winery Tasting Salon]]> Tue, 18 Jul 2017 17:46:55 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/garyfarrellwinery123.jpg

HOW LONG... does a glass of wine last? That depends upon a number of factors, but we can often time it to what's going on around us. How long does a sudden rain shower last, or a sunset, or a heartfelt, deep-of-issue conversation, if you want to think of it in more gauzy or greeting-card-ish terms? If you don't feel like counting the experience in seconds and minutes, looking to external timing devices, the ones immediately surrounding us, can tell us how much we're savoring that sauvignon blanc, all while not wanting a particular moment to end. Time has a way of changing in a lovely tasting room at a lovely winery in a lovely setting, and the new Wine Salon at Gary Farrell Winery in the Russian River Valley is such a room. It just made its debut earlier in July of 2017, and visitors to the property can now settle into one of its sofas (made for two) to try out one of the winery's signature tasting sessions, like the Elevation Tasting, which spotlights both pinot noirs and chardonnays from the surrounding "cool-climate" region "and beyond."

IS THERE A TERRACE, should you want to do that whole soulful gazing-upon-the-hills-of-wine-country thing as you sip? There is, near the Salon's rooms, so if you desire an alfresco spot in which to quaff a rosé of pinot noir or another regional selection. A "semi-private space," The Meadow View Room, can seat eight guests, or fewer, if you and your party are looking your own space while you sip, but a number of banquettes are set up just for two. Wooden beams above, large windows, glass artworks, tapestries, and paintings up the sumptuousness of the Sonoma County winery. Need an afternoon where the clock stops its tick-tockery for a bit and you can just enjoy a vista, a friend, and a fine pinot noir? Check out the new Wine Salon at the Healdsburg home to delish pinot noirs and chards.

Photo Credit: Gary Farrell Winery]]>
<![CDATA[Summer Splashing on the South Yuba River]]> Tue, 18 Jul 2017 12:21:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/SouthYubaRiver_ErinThiem.jpg

THAT GOLD COUNTRY WATERWAY: If you've ever made your way along Highway 49, in search of charming, walk-around towns (hello, Downieville) and picturesque nature scenes, you likely encountered the Yuba River, that sparkling, wending feature that is part of the heart and soul of the area. Perhaps you stopped by the Bridgeport Covered Bridge, to snap a few pictures, or called upon Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park. Wherever you were, you definitely took in the gorgeous, calendar-worthy river with your eyes, even if you never got a chance to dip your feet below its shimmery surface. But swimming in the South Yuba River? It's a summertime sweet thing, as nostalgic as all get-out, so if you've longed to take a river dip but didn't know where to do so, this could be your refreshing destination. Gaze, then, upon...

SOUTH YUBA RIVER STATE PARK, which is a pleasant, not-too-long drive from Nevada City, and look at what the 20-mile-long canyon has to offer. If you're interested in river-swimming, look for safe and approved places to do so, like the "emerald swimming holes" where the water isn't flowing too fast. Also? It will surprise no one who is familiar with the area's 19-century past that "panning for gold" is also on the list of activities for the park, though if you're looking to stay dry, and out of the river, hiking, too, is an option. South Yuba is also home to The Independence Trail, "the first identified wheelchair-accessible wilderness trail in the country." The park is a spirit-balming spot, year-round, from fall-color time to winter's chill, but when those swimming holes open up, and the trails get busier, the South Yuba is in its perfect-place-to-be prime.

Photo Credit: Erin Thiem]]>
<![CDATA[Paella Party at Saracina Vineyards]]> Mon, 17 Jul 2017 21:07:41 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/219*120/paella11.jpg

ROSÉ AND AUGUST... may be one of the greatest of unsung duos, though plenty of people surely know how well the light-bodied, full-of-taste wine and the eighth month, known for its warmer ways, meld together. Finding the chance to enjoy both an August evening and a glass of something that's the color of a deepening sunset isn't too difficult, but mixing in A) a gorgeous winery and B) a piquant plate of paella may be a taller order. Of course, you can just buy a ticket to a gourmet get-together on the first Saturday in August, in Hopland, at...

SARACINA WINERY: This is the hilly, wanderable, snapshot-perfect spot that hosts the dog hike every Earth Day Week, if it is ringing your personal bell, and other events, too, of a more foodie sort. The Ode to Summer Paella Party falls into the foodie category, as the name suggests, but there's a musical component, too, and a dancer performance, and a chance to soak in a summer evening as it descends upon wine country. The dance is flamenco, the rosé is Atrea Skid, and Saracina Malbec and Atrea Old Soul Red Wines will be in the glasses, too. And on the plates? All of that well-seasoned, mussel-marvelous, shrimp-tasty, rice-y deep-a-tude that is the character and spirit of a fine paella.

THE COST TO ATTEND? It's $95. The date is Saturday, Aug. 5, and whether the sunset that evening will match the vino in your glass is, well, up to the sunset, and, perhaps more meaningfully, your particular outlook at that time. But with paella and wine adding to the moment, your outlook may be quite rosé-y, indeed.

Photo Credit: Getty]]>
<![CDATA[Wanderlust Squaw Valley: Yoga, Music, Peace]]> Mon, 17 Jul 2017 16:46:51 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/wanderlustfestsquawvalleyjuly12345.jpg

"FIND YOUR TRUE NORTH": That's a road many of us walk, and continue to walk, even as we keep our visions, plans, inner strengths, and outer gifts in sight. But the day-to-day has a way of, well... day-to-day-ing things, meaning we often set important callings and journeys aside while we address matters on the ground. That's not a bad thing, of course — life has a way of rolling like that — but pausing, now and then, and getting out of one's head, and even out of one's space, and making for a majestic landscape for some higher-elevation air, some stretch-nice poses, and some vibeful tunes is all about saving that ol' day-to-day for another day, all in the service of stirring deeper things. "Find your true north," in other words, is the way to go, and that happens to be one of the heartfelt calls to action from Wanderlust, the travel-on, come-together, yoga-riffic, concert-awesome experience that lands at various spots around the globe each year. If it is July, that means...

SQUAW VALLEY IS UP, and so it is, literally, and from Thursday, July 20 through Sunday, July 23. The four-day North Lake Tahoe festival will positively flower with positivity, and oodles to do, from yoga and meditation sessions (vinyasa, stand up paddleboarding, aerial yoga, and opportunities "for all levels and styles" are on the schedule) to concerts (Bibi McGill, DJ Drez, and Little Dragon are just a powerful few of the many). Shall there be outdoor adventures, hikes, and foodie happenings? Oh yes, those are woven through the magical meet-up, as are hooping, slacklining, and chances to listen to great speakers. For more on this annual alfresco event, a chance to dip back into the pool of your thoughts, strengths, and rockin' life track, look into tickets, the roster, and all of the wonderful Wanderlust musts.

Photo Credit: Wanderlust Squaw Valley]]>
<![CDATA[Redding Beer Week: Top Craft Breweries]]> Sun, 16 Jul 2017 15:27:02 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/beer-shutterstock_63549646.jpg

THE STRONG ALLURE OF LASSEN VOLCANIC... and Lava Beds National Monument and Shasta Lake and the Shasta-Trinity Forest can become even more powerful than normal when the year reaches its balmiest, get-outside-iest zenith. This is the time of longer days, warm mornings, and the opportunities to hike without snowy impediment (or sail or camp or stargaze). It's a draw that puts nature-seeking on the road and into Redding, a grand spot if you want to play at Turtle Bay Exploration Park or cycle over Sundial Bridge, a bucket-list-ian check mark on the Californian bicyclist's must-do list. And it is a time of year, this toastiest part, that just happens to be one of the sudsiest, too, around the outdoorsy oasis, thanks to the multi-of-day, multi-of-brewer, multi-of-taste..

REDDING BEER WEEK: The grand Opening Ceremony for the 9-day happening is on Friday, Aug. 18, and over 40 craft breweries are expected, with both "(s)nack stations" and "heartier pub fare" later in the event. On Saturday, Aug. 19 dog devotees'll check out Pints 4 Paws with Lagunitas, while Pints on the Patio with Fall River Brewing will also take place on the same day. A yoga session is in store on Aug. 20 — Wildcard Beer Yoga — while Coffee and Beer Night with Founders Brewing perks it up on Monday, Aug. 21. Review all of the foamy, Redding-area doings, then line up your designated driver or plan for your ride back to your stay-over spot. If you're in the area to commune with all of those trees, waterfalls and big skies around the third week in August, and you dig knowing the local (and beyond) brews, consider dipping into a to-do and getting a closer look at the sip scene.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Ojai Storytelling Festival: Thrilling Tales]]> Mon, 17 Jul 2017 15:47:26 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/OSF-Cover-2017-Hot-Air-Balloon.jpg

WHEN YOU HEARD A BOOK READ ALOUD, back when you were just a wee tot, maybe from your vantage point of the library floor (one of the very best spots for storytime) or while cuddled up with your stuffed animals, just before night-night, you likely, somewhere deep in your noggin, realized you'd live a life loving stories of all sorts. Those stories, as we grow older, can take on many fabulous and memorable forms, from movies to games, but we still connect to the experience of sitting before a right-there storyteller as they place their hands in the air, and widen their eyes, the better to convey mystical valleys or strange characters or outlandish legends or a bit of all of the above. Storytelling isn't a lost art form, and to say we enjoy it less frequently as adults isn't correct, given the surge of live storytelling events at bars and restaurants in recent years and the many public radio shows and podcasts that celebrate all sorts of story-sharing. To dig in even deeper, though, consider a visit to the...

OJAI STORYTELLING FESTIVAL, which will once again feature talented performers who are able to put together fantastical imagery and plots and character through their words and ability to connect with the audience members sitting before them. The four-day festival runs from Thursday, Sept. 7 through Sunday, Sept. 10, and a host of events, from "High Energy Tales" to "Music and Stories" are on the rundown. Most of the sessions are open to both adults and kids, though there is the adults-only "Naughty Tales Under the Stars on the Patio" on Saturday, Sept. 9. And if you're hoping to pick up pointers on your own style of storytelling, and burnish your excite-a-crowd abilities, there shall be workshops, too. Just check out the tickets, prices, times, and locations — the Ojai Art Center and the Libbey Bowl are the two main spots — and see what you're drawn to, in terms of listening and learning. If you've been yearning to get up on a stage to spin out a yarn, or try your hand at a story podcast, let this venerable festival, which is now in its 17th year, be your carry-you-higher wind. For a listing of all of the fabulous tellers, begin your journey here.

Photo Credit: Ojai Storyteling Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Thunderbird Lodge: Mimosa & Garden Tour]]> Fri, 14 Jul 2017 17:17:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/thunderbirdIMG_7992.jpg

IF "HISTORIC LAKEFRONT ESTATE"... sets your heart to throbbing, and your knees to wobbling, and your dreams to growing, you likely spend a bit of time seeking out those properties that, on occasion or more frequently, open to the public. These sometimes lavish, usually charming abodes welcome history buffs boning up on design of bygone times, local champions who want to know more about the area in which they reside, and unabashed lookie-loos who simply want to nose around a bit. And, honestly, who wouldn't? Consider Thunderbird Lodge National Historic Site, "Lake Tahoe's Castle-in-the-Sky." The dramatic, stone-beautiful cottage, which was built by San Franciscan George Whittell starting in 1936, is open for guided tours every Tuesday through Saturday in the warmer months (so, yes, starting in May and wrapping in October). But if you've longed to spend more time lookie-loo-ing around the outside of the house, there's a special walk-around made for you, though note it isn't a weekly kind of thing. It's the...

MIMOSA & GARDEN TOUR, and you can book your spot on the morning of July 22, Aug. 5, or Aug. 19. The estate's Master Gardener will be present to discuss "the native species of plants, shrubs, and trees grown on the estate," so come ready to be inspired about your own plot back home (or at least enjoy seeing a superb garden framed against a famous Tahoe landmark). Want more? You'll get a Castle tour, too, with a docent at the lead. Note this is for the 21-and-over set, and that comfortable clothes and shoes are a must, given some of the path-pretty terrain. Perhaps you'll be inspired not only about your own garden after the visit. Maybe you'll seek out more opportunities to live the lakefront life. It's something only a few do, and have done, but places like Thunderbird Lodge give visitors a chance to bask in that specific water-close, elegantly imagined domesticity for an hour or two. Note that some of the price of your ticket is a charitable contribution.

Photo Credit: Thunderbird Lodge]]>
<![CDATA[Beam Up: The Official Star Trek Convention]]> Sat, 15 Jul 2017 19:46:07 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/trek_MG_6250.jpg

YOU KNOW "STAR TREK," through and through, as well as Scotty knows a warp engine and Neelix knows a galley. You know initial air dates of stand-out episodes (or, honest, every episode ever) and you know the actors and you can name all of the ships and you're familiar with the conflicts, alliances, old hurts, recent friendships, and the other rich and layered components of the multi-decade, multi-series Trekverse. This expansive knowledge can play out in a person's life in many ways, from the enjoyment of a book, a graphic novel, a show or a movie, to participating in a convention where other fans might have similar, and similarly impressive, understandings of the world first imagined by Gene Roddenberry. What we see on screen and the page, then, is enhanced and furthered by a convention, and there's no "Star Trek" convention quite like The Official Star Trek Convention, a gathering of galactic proportions. It's ready to alight in Las Vegas over the first weekend of August 2017, and when we say "first weekend" we actually mean...

FIVE DAYS, which, okay, yes, is basically nearly a week. But a good amount of time is required for how big this thing is — it is Enterprise-big, if you want to think of it that way — and how many "Star Trek" luminaries are set to show. There are over 100 at last count, with William Shatner, George Takei, Kate Mulgrew, Sir Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Karl Urban, and dozens upon dozens of other actors signed on for the huge event. Adding to the starriness of the affair? A Costume Competition, Karaoke Nights, Quark's Bar, and happenings recalling the memory of the great Leonard Nimoy. And to round out the long weekend (cough: most of the week)? There's Garak's Tailor and Repair, to help cosplayers with those quick and needed costume fixes that inevitably happen. And best find your seat for the Sunday Star Trek Rat Pack show that'll tie together the themes behind the science fiction phenom and The Strip, melding both "Star Trek" and the convention's location.

THE ALL-IMPORTANT DATES? Land your ship in Sin City from Aug. 2 through 6, 2017.

Photo Credit: Creation Entertainment]]>
<![CDATA[Wheeee: California State Fair Opens]]> Thu, 13 Jul 2017 21:16:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sacramentoCTTC140813103204_3117.jpg

HAVING A BIG "FUN" GOAL? It's a worthy calling, no doubt. Some dedicated souls among us are plugging along in their noble attempt to visit every national park. For some people, that long-term goal involves cheering on a game at every Major League Baseball stadium, while other adventurers want to visit the capital city of every state in the nation (and, as they go, of course, every state, too). There are a lot of really solid goals out there, and while some pursuits can take a summer or two to complete, other mega, country-spanning plans might fill a happy, dream-it-do-it lifetime. And if your plan is to not only visit every state fair in the nation, but, while there, to ride the Ferris wheel, pet a pig, and devour a gooey fried treat, well, dilly-dally no longer, for the California State Fair opens in Sacramento on Friday, July 14.

THE TWO-WEEK RIDES-AND-MORE SPECTACULAR, which'll wrap on Sunday, July 30 (so, right, it's just a pinch over two weeks), will include all of the iconic fair details that state fair mavens want to see: A rollicking carnival atmosphere, rocking music, chow that's quirky and/or interesting and/or local, regional vinos, handsome horses, the judging of jams, live magic, cooking demos, cuddlesome rabbits, motocross, acrobatics, drill teams, and a host of other amazing sights and experiences. Cal Expo is the spot, of course, and of course you'll want to buy a ticket to the Toyota Concert Series if you want to jam out to artists like Ozomatli, Lita Ford, Sheila E., Sister Sledge, and Good Charlotte. For the whole line-up, for a look at what foodie events dot the fair's calendar, and for a feel of what to expect at a state fair that started just a half decade after the Gold Rush, follow the midway calliope music in this delightful direction.

Photo Credit: Visit California]]>
<![CDATA[Magnifique: Santa Barbara French Festival]]> Thu, 13 Jul 2017 13:43:56 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/WestCoastBalletCanCanStephenSherrill.jpg

CABARET, CAN-CAN, AND PIAF? Enjoying a weekend reveling in all of those classic, audience-pleasing traditions is something quite high on both the dedicated Francophile's must-do list, as well as anyone who adores the performing arts. But you don't need to find yourself Seineside, or in your favorite arrondissement, to revel in the magnifique marvels of France, though both ideas are beyond pleasing. If you do find yourself in California, and not across the Atlantic, and it is the right in the middle of July, near Bastille Day, all you need to do is drive your Citroen, or your Peugeot, or whatever conveyance you might have available, and make for the American Riviera, where the long-running and oh-so-free...

SANTA BARBARA FRENCH FESTIVAL... will be celebrating la vie de France via a number of buoyant activities. The dates are Saturday, July 15 and Sunday, July 16, the location is Oak Park, and organizers are spreading the word that the area wildfires will not impact the 2017 festival going forward. So stop by to lend some love to Santa Barbara and savor a delightful day of dance, of classic French eats (think pastries, crepes, and more), and the French Conversation Booth, if you want to hone your skills. Oh, and the cute Canine Cavalcade, which, long ago, centered on Poodle cuteness but now encompasses chiens from every corner of dogdom, will take place on both Saturday and Sunday at 6 in the evening (a cooler time for pups in costumes). And is that a gentleman wearing a Napoleon outfit carrying a French bulldog at the parade's lead? Why ouí, it is (that's Jellie Beanz in his arms, by the by, the dignified mascot of the merry affair). For a sense of the Seine-close life, be in Santa Barbara, on July 15 and 16, with crepes, can-can, and Jellie Beanz will all spread some beaucoup charme.

Photo Credit: Stephen Sherrill]]>
<![CDATA[Mt. Shasta: Short Trail Hikes]]> Wed, 12 Jul 2017 22:06:51 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/shastaCTTC110831100639_04.jpg

IF YOU'VE EVER GIVEN A PAL DIRECTIONS, you might have relied upon some attention-attracting marker or feature, the kind of "huge knobby rock" or "blue fence post with a red scarf attached" along the way that can't possibly be missed. If that's your go-to style of directions-giving, you may have longed, at some point, to reference one of the most prominent features in this state, or any other state or place, as a meet-up point for you and your friends: Mt. Shasta. It's a Cascade-colossal, sky-touching treasure that can be seen from points all around, and even if you feel like you're getting closer, closer, closer to its massive base and lower slopes, chances are you're still a good distance away. But you can still connect with this great Northern California mountain, in a summertime way, via a not-too-long hike along a nearby trail. "Not-too-long hike" is, of course, a subjective thing, and each hiker will need to decide if the trail in question, and its length, fits what they're up for on that particular date. But there are a number of trails in the mountain region, and they just happen to be open from...

JUNE TO OCTOBER: There is, you betcha, an asterisk with this — "depending on snow and weather conditions" — so check, of course, before you go. Will you see animals? Oh, hello: You could spy an eagle, a black bear, or numerous other critters who call the region home. Will you be able to find a hike that's under an hour? There are two listed under "Short Hikes" on the Visit Mt. Shasta page, including a ramble that's 20 minutes (and both are marked "Easy"). Nope, you won't be scaling Shasta during your brief hike, but you will be soaking in the volcano's eternal, quiet, ever-epic grandeur. Wait, make that a dormant volcano, of course, though we're not taking back "ever-epic" or changing it in any manner. In an age where "epic" and "awesome" frequently get trotted out for smaller events and sights, Mt. Shasta has more than earned, over the eons, both powerful descriptives. So here's to you, awesome, epic Big Mountain, and here's to you, hikers who want to get closer to its magic, be it a 20-minute easy ramble or something rather longer.

Photo Credit: Visit California]]>
<![CDATA[Vintage Flair: Queen Mary Art Deco Weekend]]> Sat, 15 Jul 2017 10:48:44 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/QMDecoDancers.jpg

SPECIALTY SHOPS... brim with beautiful, decades-old items, from beaded sateen gloves, the kind that go up to the elbows, to waistcoats embroidered with all sorts of shimmery threads. We can of course, wear all of the vintage treasures we discover whenever we please, and should, for saving the good hat, or the good gloves, or the good anything for a special day is generally not advised. (Every day is a special day, is the upbeat takeaway there.) But while many people who regularly rock the gorgeous '40s-era togs, complete with seamed stockings and perky fascinators, are a-okay with being the only gussied-up individual in the room, it is kind of a gas to mingle among other gussy-uppers also sporting some sort of bygone style. One place to do just that? On the Queen Mary, in Long Beach, during the forever-moored ship's annual...

ART DECO WEEKEND: This is the summer affair that's very much about architecture, and history, yes, but also socializing, and the sartorial pleasures, too. The 2017 festival, which is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 19 and Sunday, Aug. 20, will once include elements of both architecture (of the ship) and architecture (of clothing) in goodly proportion. A lecture spotlighting MGM costume designer Adrian is on the roster, as a look at absinthe. If you're into the styles of bathrooms from 80 or so years ago? That, too, will be discussed. A Swingin' Sunday Tea Dance, a Vintage Bazaar, and other time-travel-y, zap-to-the-past events will all roll out, too, as grandly as a carpet across a glittery ballroom. Have been aboard the time machine that is the Queen Mary? It's a slice of early-'30s-dom, with Scottish roots, ghostly tales, and grandeur to spare.

Photo Credit: Queen Mary]]>
<![CDATA[Aerial Tram Ride: Above Squaw Valley]]> Tue, 11 Jul 2017 17:15:49 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/squawalpinemedia_aerial-tram-summer_0.jpg

TWIRLING SOMEWHERE HIGH IN THE PEAKS, like Maria Von Trapp might, might not be in your immediate plans, but connecting with an alpine setting on a glorious, not-snowy day is a notion a lot of travelers can get into, whether or not they own a dirndl or know every single word to "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" or not. For enjoying the long, distance-testing vistas of other mountains, and clear, breathe-it-deep air, and not having to wear a parka to do so is summertime classic, one that typically involves a conveyance that moves people from lower elevations to somewhere over 8,000 feet. It's a tram we speak of, the windowful, move-up-the-mountain ride at Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows that's currently keeping open hours over the warmer months, all to whisk travelers in shorts and tees up to High Camp, which is found at...

8,200 FEET: That's an elevation skiers know well, but if you aren't into schussing, summertime is prime time to get to know what it feels like to be on top of the world, or at least near the top of the Sierra. There's "dining, shopping, and access to the mid-mountain hot tub" at High Camp, but you might choose simply to pose for a few above-it-all snapshots, do some contemplative journaling, get into some meditating, or simply stare into the far, far horizon while letting it all go (whatever that might be for you on that day). As for your ride up? You'll "(c)limb over 2,000 feet... with 360° views of Lake Tahoe and the High Sierra." Your ride down will afford the same, of course, except, instead of climbing, you'll descend. As for hours and rates during this not-so-snowy stretch of the year? You'll find all of your Von Trapp-ready info on the Aerial Tram page. Surely you'll sing a few bars of "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" once you reach the summit?

Photo Credit: Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadow]]>
<![CDATA[Banana Fests: Sactown and Stockton Yum]]> Tue, 11 Jul 2017 13:39:34 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/bananasFarthers.jpg

NOT EVERY FRUIT... found in the produce section gets its own special display device. After all, bowls have done the job of holding various kinds of fruits since fruits fell from trees and bowls were carved or created for kitchen use. (Gaze back at the paintings of old for further proof of the longtime fruit-bowl partnership.) But sometimes there's an edible that's so unusual, and stand-out-ish, that it travels its own path in the kitchen. Nope, it doesn't sit in the bowl or basket on the counter, surrounded by stone fruits; rather, it has a stylish hanger to rest upon, and, if the owner of the kitchen is especially wild for this fruit, maybe a peeling implement, or special plastic holder, too. It is the banana that dangles so temptingly, and in mid-air, too, from its holder, and it is the banana that may be placed in a banana-shaped plastic case, too. So surprise anyone, it shall not, that a double dose of...

BANANA FESTIVAL GOODNESS... is in the air, thanks to a pair of banana-based happenings headed for Sacramento and Stockton in August 2017. The capital city is up first, on Saturday, Aug. 12 and Sunday, Aug. 13, while Stockton'll get a three-dayer the following weekend, from Friday, Aug. 19 through Sunday, Aug. 21. Prepare to nosh upon a beautiful variety of cuisines from a number of cultures, from dishes that strictly employ the banana as a sweet to those that incorporate the fry-worthy, adaptable edible into more savory presentations. Consider that California is a place that is so fruitful that many produce aisle superstars get more than one party each year. The strawberry is celebrated in Oxnard, Garden Grove, and beyond, while the avocado gets the creamy love in both Fallbrook and Carpinteria. So for the naner, if you like to go with the banana's adorable nickname, to a doubled-up bash in two separate cities makes tummy-pleasing sense. Go forth, banana buffs, and peel back the layers on this lovely fruit, a treat that does well on both banana-ready hangers and, yes, within fruit bowls, too.

Photo Credit: getty images]]>
<![CDATA[Sierra Storytelling Festival: Trees and Tales]]> Mon, 10 Jul 2017 18:30:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/StorytellingFest2016123.jpg

SUMMER, TREES, AND STORIES... are woven together as tightly as a made-at-camp friendship bracelet. The season brings us warmth, the warmth that makes being outdoors a pleasure, while the trees are silent (but very present) companions to our alfresco activities. And if that activity is built around listening to a tale told in dramatic and thrilling fashion? You'll likely remember that moment, whether a campfire is present or not, for years to come. But finding summery yarn-spinning fun among the trees can be rather challenging, especially if we don't have a camp-out planned in the near future. And if sharing a good ol' yarn isn't our strength? Then we need to invite a pal along to our woodsy adventure, the sort of pal who can tell a thriller, a tear-jerker, or a bit of historical lore. The Sierra Storytelling Festival embraces our longing for a natural setting, a good story, and summer skies, and it does so each summer at the...

NORTH COLUMBIA SCHOOLHOUSE CULTURAL CENTER... in Nevada City. The 2017 dates are Friday, July 21 through Sunday, July 23, and a host of talented tellers of heart-gladdening tales will stand before audiences to delight and enrapture. A Story Slam, Open Tellings, and a line-up of top-notch tellers, some hailing from the Bay Area, will gather rapt audiences near during the three-dayer, and a Children's Concert is on the schedule, too. Perhaps you'll pick up some style tips on burnishing your own story-telling style, or maybe you'll simply lap up the lovely and very, very old tradition of a teller, a listener, a story, and the beautiful outdoors. If a camp-out with tales isn't in your near future, you can find your way to the trees, the sky, and fictional worlds built out of words, in Nevada City.

Photo Credit: Sierra Storytelling Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Sweet Wheezes: Cotati Accordion Festival]]> Mon, 10 Jul 2017 14:14:28 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/181*120/royaljellyjive1.jpg

IF YOU'RE DRAWN IN... by the sound of an instrument being played, before your very ears, whether it is a piano in the upstairs apartment down the street or a guitar rocking inside a club around the corner, you know the eternally seductive draw of live music. But it is rather rarer for that music to spring from a single type of instrument, at least when several instruments are all together in one spot. Usually you'll have some drums or percussion, and a guitar, and maybe some keyboards and a tambourine. Step back from that image for a moment, if you will, and picture, with your mind's ear, how "Lady of Spain" played by several accordionists might flow. Would it be a magical moment filled with bellows-based enchantment and magical wheeze? Would you ever want to return to the world where many different instruments play at a time, rather than a set of accordions of various shapes and wheeze-a-bility? Best get to Cotati in August then, and the...

COTATI ACCORDION FESTIVAL, the "multi-cultural" and "multi-generational" event that draws solo accordion artists as well as groups featuring an accordion or two. The 2017 dates are Saturday, Aug. 19 and Sunday, Aug. 20, and the schedule once again includes the famous "Lady-of-Spain-A-Ring" ("audience participation" is welcomed). Live performances by the Mad Maggies, The Great Morgani, Royal Jelly Jive, and Oddjob Ensemble are all on the full-full-full schedule, as are some oppotunities to dance to polka, Cajun, and more foot-stomping vibes. It's a stand-out sound spectacular on our state's calendar, and one that draws both players and fans alike. Love a whimsical wheeze? How about thousands of wheezes over a single weekend? Cotati is your rendezvous point, bellows buffs.

Photo Credit: Royal Jelly Jive]]>
<![CDATA[Inn Town Campground Celebrates 1st Year]]> Wed, 19 Jul 2017 12:24:34 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/outdoormovie_InnTownCampground.jpg

NEITHER EITHER/OR BUT BOTH? That can be a tad tricky to find in this world, and it matters not what the theme or topic might be. For we humans so often long for a combo experience, something that's a bit sweet and a bit salty, something that has a dash of the sun as well as moonlight. Our choice, though, typically falls in the either/or section of choice-makery, and we must make do with one side of the fuller picture we long to know. Take camping, which is often a true in-the-woods happening. Then take an in-town visit, where one that has access to restaurants, shops, and theater. The two don't usually intersect, due to the nature of how far the woods stand from our citified lives, but a new intersection began up, in the summer of 2016, in Nevada City, with the combo, you-can-have-it-both-ways name of the...

INN TOWN CAMPGROUND: The trees-y, glamp-it-up destination just marked its first anniversary, and it continues to flicker on, like a campfire might, into its second year. You can arrive with your own tent or caravan, or you can book a glamping tent, a space that's fully set up with a bed. The social aspects include cornhole, movies, a swimming pool, a camp store, and a place to do laundry (as well as a kitchen), while the quieter aspects include the chance to keep close to your tent and commune with the trees towering above you. And as for the pleasures of funky Nevada City? The eateries of Broad Street are about a five-minute drive, as is the also-funky Outside Inn, a themed-room stay-over spot helmed by the founders of the Inn Town Campground. If you want trees, stars, and some chillness, and you also want access to a bookstore, a coffeehouse, and a tavern, there are few places to find both, and in such accessible fashion, but the Inn Town Campground is your town-woods middle meeting point.

Photo Credit: Erin Thiem]]>
<![CDATA[California Wine Festival: Stately Sips]]> Thu, 13 Jul 2017 13:45:01 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/luisesparzacaliforniawinefestival.jpg

BY THE MIDDLE OF JULY, or thereabouts, a summer-loving adventurer begins to take seasonal stock. A few things are brought into consideration, such as whether the summer has yet yielded a road trip, or a chance to enjoy a weekend lunch on a patio, or an impromptu volleyball game, or the opportunity to camp beneath the Milky Way. We also ponder if we've truly been "beachside," beyond driving near the beach, and, if we haven't, how we can immediately correct that, preferably with an adult beverage nearby, if we're over 21 and that's something we like to do. There is a way to go beachside, with such a libation, at the Beachside Wine Festival, which is part of the annual California Wine Festival. The festival, which shall savor its 14th outing in 2017, cannot, try as it might, encompass the whole state, in one sweeping swath, as far as a main location goes (even though, yes, "California" is in the name). But it does alight in one of the Golden State's most golden locations, Santa Barbara, for its three-day affair, which is soon to happen on...

JULY 13, 14, AND 15: Chase Palm Park, which is really and truly very close to the Pacific Ocean, is the breezy scene for the Saturday afternoon Beachside Wine Festival, a party that'll deliver bites, sips of the winely and brewful sort, and an 18-ounce wine glass that participants are invited to take home and use forever. There are other doings, too, during the festival run, including an Old Spanish Nights Wine Tasting and a Sunset Rare & Reserve Wine Tasting, two to-dos that may just possibly introduce you to a new regional vino you haven't yet experienced (or one you love and wanted to meet again). You'll want to find your designated driver's ticket, and all the other info you need, so wend your way to the beachy-beautiful online HQ of the acclaimed fest.

Photo Credit: Luis Esparza]]>
<![CDATA[Taste of Yosemite 2018]]> Tue, 18 Jul 2017 11:50:14 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/DEstesJStewart+demo.jpg+%281%29.jpg

THE HOLIDAYS... aren't just about the foods we eat, like the cheese-filled dates and the ginger cookies and the chocolate cocktails and the posole and the 12-layer casseroles. It's about the foods we would like to eat, one day, down the road, perhaps during the next holiday season though probably far sooner. Which means that, if you're a devoted practitioner of the kitchen arts, you might just find yourself unwrapping a nifty new spatula or mixer near the end of the year. But foodie gifts, at the holidays, don't always come wrapped or topped with a traditional bow; they can also be experiences, and times of learning, and one of the loveliest, and national-park-iest, arrives just a few days into the new year. It's Taste of Yosemite, at the Majestic Hotel, and the roster is live for the 2018 sessions, which start to sizzle/sauté/bake/simmer on...

JAN. 7: That's a four-day session, with Brian Streeter of Cakebread Cellars, Ryan Scott of Ryan Scott 2 Go, and David Bazirgan of Bambara in Massachusetts leading the tantalizing and informative gourmet presentations. Other sessions will follow throughout the first month, with some running for two days, some for three or four, and the talented line-up will change with each (Duskie Estes & John Stewart of Sebastopol's Zazu, Peggy Smith & Sue Conley of Cowgirl Creamery, and several other toque-rocking stars'll appear). Want to do a Session & Lodging Package? Those are available. How about just Dinner Only? That's a possibility, too. Plan on supping in stellar fashion, picking up tips, and feeling that perfect crisp chill of a Yosemite January, every time you step outdoors for an appetite-stoking constitutional.

Photo Credit: Taste of Yosemite]]>
<![CDATA[Lake Tahoe Dance Festival: Nature + Art]]> Fri, 07 Jul 2017 14:28:12 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/laketahoedancefest17.jpg

FINDING INSPIRATION IN NATURE? Artists have done for, well, always, if the notion of "always" stretches back far enough to fully envelop this big, multi-branch'd concept. For branches, and clouds, and waves, and animals have all filled thousands of artists' imagination-based wells, and you don't have to search too far to find evidence of that. Take dance, for example, a form that delights in, and expounds upon, themes and concepts of the wilderness, of weather, of how we're transformed the moment we step outside. Connecting with a beloved natural spot while savoring a dance performance or two, then, feels as right as movement, whether that's the movement we humans make when we leap or twirl or the movement of the sun and wind. One of the nature-nicest of all of California's many arts-based summertime festival is the Lake Tahoe Dance Festival, a three-day celebration of joy, energy, and story told through physical prowess. It's leaping and twirling from...

WEDNESDAY, JULY 26 THROUGH FRIDAY, JULY 28, at two spots: The shore-close Gatekeeper's Museum and Truckee Amphitheater. On the roster? Look for the world premiere of "Mountainscape," from choreographer Constantine Baecher, a pas-de-deux "created specially for the Lake Tahoe Dance Festival." And "a work about the space and time between journeys," "Threshold" from choreographer Kristina Berger, will also lend beauty and ideas to the an idea-filled three days. Many of the works are new, or recently new, making it a treat for those who seek out what the future of dance looks like today. And if you happen to adore nature, and find its closeness essential to art? Lake Tahoe can absolutely deliver on that fabulous front, too.

Photo Credit: Lake Tahoe Dance Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Winchester Mystery House: Explore More Tour]]> Fri, 14 Jul 2017 11:23:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/FrontofHouseSunsetwinchester.jpg

IN YOUR IMAGINATIVE MIND, the Winchester Mystery House is as big as a city, even if you've been to the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, or you've seen it on a cable show, or you read about it in a book about the supernatural. For so much lore swirls around its wending hallways and doors to nowhere and the former lady of the mansion herself, Sarah Winchester, that it can be hard to fathom that it is an abode that isn't, in fact, endless. There are distinct spots where the exterior walls come to a close, or a turn, on the property, though, admittedly, the historical gem is ginormous, flat-out gargantuan, end of story. Which means this: There's probably stuff inside you haven't seen, even if you've personally been winsome over the Winchester for most of your life. Front-and-centering fans with some of those rarely seen corners of the rambling manse is what the recently started Explore More tour does, a walk-around that just happens to be the "...first all-new tour to be offered at Winchester Mystery House in more than 20 years..."

WHAT'S ON IT? Count on spying "areas of the house never-before open to the public," and count on a top-to-bottom visit, from the earthiest reaches of the mansion to the rooftops. And will there be some history woven through? You can count on it, since the Explore More tour "is presented in combination with the Mansion Tour," which delves into the life of Sarah Winchester and how all of those rooms for all of those spirits first came into being. One final question from the phantomists out there might be whether the spaces that are seen on the tour are finished or not. There are "unfinished" areas of the house to be viewed, which lends a time-folding, no-decades-have-gone-by feel to the adventure. Need even more adventure, beyond rooftops and unfinished spaces? Hold on tight: The Halloween season candlelight tours are just ahead.

Photo Credit: Winchester Mystery House]]>
<![CDATA[Liana Estates: New Outdoor Tasting Deck]]> Thu, 06 Jul 2017 13:15:16 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/lianaestatesdeck29232.jpg

WHILE AN OENOPHILE... is simultaneously taking in several different bits of information while enjoying a glass of wine, from the hue of the liquid to the chewiness or lack thereof to the opacity of the drink to the makers of the wine to the terroir, the year, and a number of other factors, one dominant consideration can reign: Where is the wine tasting going down? If it is a bar in a tasting room, the sipper will be surrounded by the lively hubbub of others also trying chards and pinot noirs. If the tasting is at home, the organizer of the tasting might be washing dishes or cuddling a pet. And if it is on the brand-new outdoor deck at a gorgeous Carneros winery, with vineyard-amazing views, shady olive trees, and peeks at San Pablo Bay? Well, the wine tasting may have met its sublime setting match. And such a sublime setting now exists, as of the start of July 2017, at...

LIANA ESTATES: It's "the modern and experience-focused winery from sisters Lisa and Ariana Peju," and the just-debuted outdoor deck not only arrives with Carneros Valley views, but a newly launched Garden Graze wine tasting experience. It's a Saturday-summery kind of thing, encapsulating "the ultimate summer lounge experience," and for a tenner you can nab a single wine pairing, with prices going up from there. As for the vinos you might try? Think Vintner's Pink, a dry Orange Muscat, or Viognier. As for the "graze" part of the equation? Barbecue-tasty small plates, with sliders and vegetable kabobs, may be some of the eats you encounter. And if relaxing on that view-big deck has you wanting to move a bit, after an hour or three, you won't need to stroll too far: The Liana Estates Bocce Garden is nearby. Or saunter into the Tasting Room, which remains as an interior complement to the new deck, if sipping fine wines inside, and not in the soft Napa Valley sunshine, is more your pleasure.

Photo Credit: Liana Estate]]>
<![CDATA[Newport Beach Wine & Food: Tickets on Sale]]> Wed, 05 Jul 2017 18:33:45 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/newportfood3043_NBWFF_D2N_1630.jpg

STROLLING INTO A NEW RESTAURANT, at least an eatery you personally haven't yet tried, can summon a fizzy feeling of discovery. For sure, many of the ingredients found within will be familiar to you, but how they're composed, and allowed to sing together, will lend a fresh element to your dine-out experience. Now multiple that single restaurant by, well, 40, at least, and you have an even fizzier sense that you're about to embark on some true culinary discovery. That's the delight that comes with a top-notch, top-toque'd gourmet gathering like the Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival. The festival, which dips a toe in both September and October in 2017 — the dates are Friday, Sept. 29 through Sunday, Oct. 1 — will feature over three dozen Orange County dining favorites, and then some. Those include Hook & Spear, Filomena's Italian Kitchen, Michael's on Naples Ristorante, and Five Crowns, among the many, meal-lovely others. Attendees at the fest will be able to try a haute host of tastes from each place, making for over 40 flavorful experiences in all. And on the beverage side of the celebration? Prepare for...

HUNDREDS OF ACCOLADED LIBATIONS, drinks that'll run the gamut from perfect wines to spirits to a line-up of craft brews. Will there be demonstrations hosted by well-known chefs? That's been a part of the festival since its beginning nearly a half decade back, so count on spying the likes of Hubert Keller, Nobu Matsuhisa, Shirley Chung, and other pros who are eager to share the finer points of fine cookery. Will other special happenings pop up during the three-day run, like a just-introduced Havana Nights party? You can count on it. But don't count on tickets staying around forever: They're on sale now but they do go as quickly as a table lined with savory, just-set-out appetizers and desserts. If the first part of your autumn could use the zing of a swanky food fest, best start here.

Photo Credit: Pencilbox Studios]]>
<![CDATA[Dance + Dine: Oxnard Salsa Festival]]> Wed, 05 Jul 2017 07:29:14 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/salsadancefood0293423-horz.jpg

A FOOD IS A FOOD IS A FOOD, it isn't often said, but while it might not be often said, it is, for the most part, 100% true. Unless, of course, on that rare occasion that the popular moniker for a major meal ingredient also serves as the name for another non-food related pastime. "Garlic" doesn't work here, sad to say, because though many of us do adore the fragrant bulb, we don't go out and "garlic" as in... play a game or mow the lawn. Same with "spinach," which is a leafy treat but not an activity (you won't find "to spinach" in the dictionary). But salsa? Ah yes, now we're talking. It's both a spicy, delectable, dip-another-chip edible and a beautiful, move-intensive style of dance. But finding the foodstuff, and the fabulous flourishes of the art form, all in the same place, can be rather challenging, as most festivals tend to highlight one or the other. One of the excellent exceptions is just ahead, at the close of July. It's the...

OXNARD SALSA FESTIVAL, a two-day fiesta at Plaza Park downtown. Live Latin jazz bands, and acts lending flavor to salsa-dancing classics, will give the get-out-and-spin part of the weekend much of its musical oomph, while a salsa-tasting tent will keep lovers of cilantro-tomato-onion combos dipping and trying, dipping and trying, again and again. Will hot sauces, a cousin to salsa but its own distinct thing, make a caliente cameo? It wouldn't seem like a salsa celebration without it. Is there a salsa recipe showdown? Oh, you bet. And is the whole thing free to check out, free in terms of admission and free in terms of parking? Both of those are yeses. The dates are Saturday, July 29 and Sunday, July 30, which, fingers crossed, will be on the warm side, to suit the salsa-riffic theme of the weekend. Is salsa dance your favorite dance? Is salsa your favorite food? Hello, Oxnard.

Photo Credit: Oxnard Salsa Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Luxe Deal: Stay on Rodeo, Swim on Sunset]]> Tue, 04 Jul 2017 09:17:45 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/luxe029032.jpg

POOL RULES: Taken a refreshing dip recently in a crystalline swimming pool? There were very likely some rules posted on a wall close to the shallow end, with helpful safety pointers on what to do and not to do. But there's an edict that is rarely posted, at least in terms of hotel pools, though everyone pretty much knows it: Only guests of the hotel may use the hotel's swimming pool. This makes sense, of course, because pool privileges are traditionally held for those people paying to stay on the property. This rule, though, can get a bit elastic from time to time with the blessings of the pool-blessed hotel. Such is the case with a pair of Luxes — Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel and Luxe Rodeo Drive Hotel — and one very pretty, cabana-lined, all-too-tempting body of water located at one of the elegant inns. The H2O can be found on Sunset, meaning that Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel guests are, of course, welcome to wade in, no quibbles or questions asked. But so are guests at the Luxe Rodeo Drive Hotel, too, in a rare twist. Check into the Beverly Hills-based, shops-close property and you'll have...

"FULL ACCESS"... to the Sunset Boulevard pool, which comes with quite the view of The Getty Center. That's not the only perk of the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel; there are inflatable pool toys to up the general air of frolic, and a billiards table and table tennis is on its way. And if you're lounging poolside on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, you can enjoy bites and beverages delivered to where you sit (and swanky bites they are — think the Luxe Organic Chopped Salad or the heartier Luxe Cheese Burger). This, then, is the answer to the age-old riddler that asks "how do you enjoy a hotel pool if your hotel has no pool?" You look, of course, into the cocoa butter-scented, pool noodle-nice partnership between Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel and Luxe Rodeo Drive Hotel.

Photo Credit: Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel]]>
<![CDATA[Fiery Fun: California Hot Sauce Expo]]> Mon, 03 Jul 2017 22:12:09 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/2016+california+Hot+Sauce+Expo+ShoshieAborn.JPG

ASK ANY PEPPER-OBSESSED PERSON... what the perfect time of year and/or the month and/or day it is to consume a potent amount of capsaicin-based deliciousness, and you can just bet they'll glance at their watch and quip "right now" (or something equally as sassy). For it matters not if there's a chill wind blowing outside, or if the mercury has pushed into the 100s, people who dig spicy eats are going to consume spicy eats. In fact, several summery classics, from picnic salsas to spicy-saucy grilled meats, shimmer with heat in the heat of the year, further proving that there is no downtime taken when you're devoted to the kickiest of cuisines. If the mere thought of this all has you reaching for your nearly empty hot sauce bottle, well, feel free to empty it, if that's your preference, for you'll soon have another place to stock up: The 3rd Annual California Hot Sauce Expo, which will bring the tongue-testing foods to City National Grove of Anaheim on Saturday, Aug. 19 and Sunday, Aug. 20.

TICKETS ARE NOW ON SALE... for the fiery festival, so secure your entry should you want to witness The Guinness Book of World Records Reaper Pepper Eating Contest or The Spicy Pizza of Doom. There's a craft cocktail showdown (yep, bet those are not, repeat, are not cool-down libations) and a burrito competition, too. As for purchasing the piquant stuff to take home? You'll be able to shop among 40-plus vendors who have all taken a creative road to their zestful condiments. If summer is absolutely your prime time for kicky, ratchet-up-the-heat eats, then be in Anaheim for some hot-sauce'd high jinks over what's traditionally one of the toastiest weekends of the SoCal summer.

Photo Credit: Shoshie Aborn]]>
<![CDATA[SLS Hotel: Summer Loves Sunshine Package]]> Mon, 03 Jul 2017 08:40:58 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/SLS+Hotel+Altitude+Pool1.jpg

SUMMER IS NOW SETTLING IN, bringing with it daydreams of refreshing beverages and lingering in a shady spot, possibly with magazines and the aforementioned beverage, and, maybe, a cool, afternoon siesta. But finding the centerpiece of that particular daydream, a swimming pool, can be rather trickier than locating a magazine or icy libation. You can ask around, among your pals, to see who might have access to a pool, preferably one with a shady area in which to properly lounge, but actually discovering such a delightful place is another matter. Such niceties often exist at some of our swankier hotels — beverages, shady spots, pools — and it so happens that SLS Hotel, in Beverly Hills, is greeting the arrival of the temperature-toasty season with a fresh package. It's called...

SUMMER LOVES SUNSHINE, and it is on through Sept. 30, 2017, meaning it'll last throughout the summer, and a pinch into fall, too (which, let's be honest, is hot 'round these parts). It includes a premium suite for the night, and a credit worth $100 at Ciel Spa. As for the shade-pool dynamic? That'll all happen at the Altitude Pool, thanks to the personal cabana that's part of the package. And to go in your cabana? A Sunshine Dreaming Tote, which includes a hat and tumbler (both have the SLS logo), Sun Bum sunscreen (it's in spray form), your own sunglasses (they're from Toms), and a Sunshine Dreaming pillow, should you doze for a few minutes in your cabana. If this sounds right up your luxe-loving alley, give SLS Hotel a call to find out further details. 

Photo Credit: SLS Hotel]]>
<![CDATA[Park Hyatt Aviara Resort: Aviara Wellness Academy]]> Sun, 02 Jul 2017 11:26:34 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/parkhyattaviaracarlsbad123.jpg

WHAT ARE YOUR GO-TO SKILLS? Like, the talents you consistently work at, year in, year out, the sort of show-off abilities you might pull out at a party or barbecue or work conference, if the conference is getting a little stale? Would you juggle? Whistle? Or do something else that might astound onlookers but, moreover, impress yourself? We all have certain areas we rock, to varying degrees, but the ability to pick up a fresh skill, or burnish a long-standing one, doesn't come along all that often, and almost never while you're on a getaway. You might be lounging in your hotel room, or alongside a pool, but you're probably not out there trying something cool that's completely new to you, or something you haven't attempted in awhile. The Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf Club & Spa wants to change that, for guests, via a host of outdoors, memory-making activities that fall under the umbrella of the...

AVIARA WELLNESS ACADEMY: No, there's no separate campus from the beautiful, 200-acre property, but there are classes of sorts, the sort of classes that take you out onto the waves and greens and tennis court. Sign up for one of the "dynamic, multi-day retreats," retreats that put the emphasis both on health and wellness as well as "...some of Southern California's most iconic experiences," and find yourself surfing with Executive Chef Pierre Albaladejo, or golfing on the course that's the home of the LPGA Kia Classic. You can join a top-notch coach on the tennis court, to improve your backhand, or find your way to VeraVia, "the resort's signature wellness facility," to jump into a guided meditation or invigorating hike. The Aviara Wellness Academy activities are add-ons for guests, so be sure to book your spot at Tennis Camp or Next Wave of Surfing with the Chef before you arrive at the Carlsbad destination. A destination, do note, that sits near the ocean, adding a bracing, briny, beautiful layer to all of that glorious get-outside-ness.

Photo Credit: Park Hyatt Aviara Resort]]>
<![CDATA[LotusFest: Ganna Walska Gloriousness]]> Sat, 01 Jul 2017 15:23:29 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/215*120/lotus2017lotusland.jpg

LATELY, WITH THESE TOASTY TEMPS, you can start to believe that the blooming run for 2017 is over, finished, and no more. That, of course, holds little water, for the Golden State is awash with fresh flowers for much of the year (true story: Some of the high slopes of the Sierra haven't even dipped a toe in wildflower season yet). One of the most mythical, and rhapsodized-over, and deeply pondered of petal-makers is the lotus, and it is a blossom that doesn't truly hit peak showiness before July, at least around Southern California. There are places to lavish love upon the soft-hued superstar, from The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens to Echo Park. Every spot lucky enough to be be-lotus'd is a good spot to be, in the early days of the seventh month, but consider heading to Santa Barbara, and the historic estate of Ganna Walska, for...

LOTUSFEST 2017: The beloved summer-quintessential gathering isn't simply about sighing over the pinky-white H2O lovers but, also, the tasting of vinos "from Santa Barbara's premier vintners," as well as fancy foams and a host of small bites, too. This makes the Santa Barbara-based to-do, which is on from 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 15, a sublime supping and quaffing event, in addition to a lotus-viewing moment, too. A ticket? It's $115, and a bit less if you're a Lotusland member. If July 15 is a busy one for you, and you can't be there, be gladdened by this tidbit: The lotuses are busy opening now, as of the final week in June, so a stop-by in the next couple of weeks should give you some prime lotus sightings, or, shall we say, sigh-tings.

Photo Credit: LotusLand]]>
<![CDATA[The London West Hollywood: New Family Program]]> Fri, 30 Jun 2017 21:30:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/familyprogram028230232.jpg

ARRIVING AT A HOTEL... can feel a little like a gift, or at least something novel and potentially nifty. But making that feeling of new adventure, and a new place, all the niftier? A present, just for being there, as a way to say "hello and welcome." A nice-to-see-you gift, proffered with your tot in mind, is part of the new London Family Program at The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills. What's the treasure hold? Paddington Bear finger puppets, keeping in theme with The London and its Brit-cool vibe. But the Family Program extends beyond the treat at check-in, for there are "kid-sized plush bathrobes" for your young'uns to use during the stay, and connecting rooms, too, complete with double beds. And on the menu? Foods like chicken tenderloins and French fries, macaroni and cheese, and chocolate sundaes with whipped cream. But after dinner, and puppet playtime, and the general hanging out/enjoying the room time, what else might engage your youngsters? Think...

LENDING LIBRARY, one that's been created in partnership with West Hollywood's renowned Book Soup. Tot-cute tomes, as well as building blocks, are available behind the front desk, so stop by and borrow a couple of kid-sweet books before the tuck-in hour arrives. And one other posh Family Program perk? Look to the Alex Roldan Spa, which is located at The London, for packages like Mommy and Me as well as Daddy and Me. Pedicures, manis, haircuts, and blow drys are all in the stylish swirl, as is the fact that "(f)amilies taking advantage of these salon offerings will also receive 20% off purchases from the salon's boutique." Traveling to The London with your beloved kin? Give them a ring and ask about Family Program details, perks, and must-knows.

Photo Credit: The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills]]>
<![CDATA[Condors Fundraiser: Special Film Nights]]> Sat, 01 Jul 2017 08:28:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/CondorObserve.jpg

ON THE MOVE: Even if you've never soared above a beach-close bluff like a condor, or alighted in a California oak or redwood like a condor might, or sat upon a egg up in a protective notch on the weathered side of a cliff, you can state, with totally accuracy, that condors are on the move. No doubt, they have their times of rest, of feeding, and of tending to their young, but they're often out looking for dinner, too, and traveling from place to place. With this in mind, it makes sense that a celebration for the condors might be on the move, too, much in the way the birds at the heart of the festivity are often on the wing. It's the Feathers in Flight fundraiser we're thinking of, a late-summer gathering held to raise money for the condor-supporting programs of the Big Sur-based Ventana Wildlife Society. If you've attended Feathers in Flight, you know it does a lot of good for the endangered birds, and you also know it is a fine chance to hobnob with other condor-loving compadres. But 2017 will bring a change, and a move (or two), with the fundraiser. It's now a...

SCREENING EVENT, with photographer Tim Huntington's new short documentary "The California Condors of Big Sur" on the screen. If you've been condor-watching around that stunning stretch of coast, you may have very well run into the friendly Mr. Huntington, who is often out with his camera. Now enjoy his film about the superstars of the sky, and "their amazing road to recovery," and help the Ventana Wildlife Society out, too. And, unlike one-day-only Feathers in Flight, the former fundraising event for the group, there will be three chances to enjoy the film and engage in condor-y conversations: July 22 in Walnut Creek, Sept. 8 at the Sunset Center in Carmel-by-the-Sea, and an October TBD date at Hearst Castle. Spoiler alert: You'll need to get to Walnut Creek, Carmel, and/or San Simeon by car, and not your ginormous wingspan. But, by going there, you'll help a wingspan'd wonder continue to thrive, via a society dedicated to helping.

Photo Credit: Ventana Wildlife Society]]>
<![CDATA[Gold Rush Days: Old Sactown's Historical Bash]]> Thu, 06 Jul 2017 14:14:23 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GoldRushDaysFireBrigade.jpg

THAT SUDDEN SHIMMER: We may never have the experience of gazing down at a metal pan brimming with river water and rocks, only to see something at the bottom suddenly shimmer, but we can experience the liveliness of the Gold Rush by venturing to Old Sacramento. The district is rife with the vintage buildings, rollicking tales, and important artifacts of the mid-1800s all year long, but, come Labor Day, the Gold Rush vibe really gets going. That's because the first Monday in September, and the weekend that precedes it, traditionally is the time for Gold Rush Days along the storied stretch of picturesque blocks, and 2017 will hold to that. The dates are...

SEPT. 1 THROUGH 4, so give a rousing "yee haw" that, with four days of fun, you'll be able to fit in all you'd like to see and participate in, if that's your bag. There are wagon rides, train rides, and river cruises to take, and Tent City to visit (yep, you'll see up-close how everyday life was lived among miners panning along the waterways of the Sierra foothills). "Old West theatrics and family-friendly melodramas" are once again on the schedule, as are live performances of yarns and ditties that'll hearken back to another century. Some of the doings during Gold Rush Days take a light-hearted approach, while other goings-on cleave to a more authentic, history-as-it-was look-back. And, indeed, it's a weekend that is open to both adults and kids (who just may be at that point in their schooling where the Gold Rush is on the lesson plan). 

IS 2017 THE YEAR... you ten-gallon up and stride into Old Sacramento, the better to dig deeper into the Gold Rush via a host of performances and re-enactments? No hat is required, but an interest in what happened nearly 17 decades ago, and how it forever altered not just our capital city and California but the world, is a great thing to pack in your suitcase.

Photo Credit: Old Sacramento]]>
<![CDATA[Happy Birthday, Lord Richard: Walnut Creek Bash]]> Thu, 29 Jun 2017 10:47:29 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/lindsaywildlifeturkeyvulture12345.jpg

BEAUTIFUL BIRD: Living in California means living among a host of dramatic and heart-thrilling sights, the sort of natural occurrences and wilderness landmarks that can instantly fill one's happy head with an understanding of the world's inherent wonder. We'll put El Capitan on this list, of course, and all of Yosemite Valley, and the redwoods, too, and the elephant seals at the Piedras Blancas Rookery, near San Simeon. But let us also add one of our big birds, the turkey vulture, for coming across a turkey vulture sitting high up on a bare branch on a chill fall morning is absolutely an astounding, can't-forget-it experience (especially if that vulture has brought several friends to hang out in the branches, too). The turkey vulture is an exquisite avian superstar, in short, and one of the premier superstars among these superstars lives in Walnut Creek, and has for a number of decades now. It is...

LORD RICHARD... we speak of, a female turkey vulture who has long called the Lindsay Wildlife Experience home. What do we mean by "long called"? She's been at the animal center, which includes a hospital for injured wildlife, since 1974, and before that she lived at the Randall Museum in the Mission District. "After being raised by people, she had imprinted and would not socialize properly with wild turkey vultures," says the center, which has carefully and considerately served as the royal bird's steward since she arrived in Walnut Creek. As for Lord Richard's role for the past several years?

EDUCATING VISITORS... about our vulture friends, what they eat, where they live, and the importance they bring to the ever-flowing cycle of nature is on Lord Richard's daily to-do list. To honor all the good Lord Richard has done, a Friday, June 30 birthday party will be thrown, complete with a special, vulture-tempting birthday cake for bird of honor and cake for Lord Richard's human fans. Turkey vulture crafts, stories, and more feathery fun'll take flight during the day, too. Are you a devoted vulturean, through and through? Don't miss paying respect to one of the Golden State's best reps for the sometimes misunderstood, forever marvelous birds, on June 30 in Walnut Creek.

Photo Credit: Lindsay Wildlife Experience]]>
<![CDATA[Marin County Fair: Fireworks and 'Funshine']]> Wed, 28 Jun 2017 18:12:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/marinfair0293223.jpg

EVEN THOUGH THE MID-POINT OF SUMMER... is still a number of weeks away, the end of June, and the Fourth of July holiday, can feel like the pinnacle of the calendar, time-wise. Maybe it was the recent summer solstice, or that June 30 is Half Year's Eve, but we can be forgiven for viewing this stretch as the halfway point of the summer season, in some respects. The good news? It's still early in summer's run, and you have oodles of time to eat ice cream (in a cone, natch, instead of a cup, because cups prevent drips, and you want a little hand-ice cream drippiness in the summer) and to ride carnival rides (the kind covered in blinking bulbs with a rocking soundtrack, of course). To address your halfway-along-the-summer-of-'17 hankerings, there is the Marin County Fair, a five-day stretch of blinky-bulb'd attractions and live concerts and other touchstones of a classic county hullabaloo. But there's an added dimension, and "dimension" is the delightfully operative word. The theme of the fair is...

LET THE FUNSHINE IN, so you can be there'll be heartfelt nods to the Summer of Love's 50th anniversary. Cheer on a tie-dye competition, or root for people competing for best macramé. There's a Psychedelic Liquid Light Show, too, to lend some awesome illuminations to the proceedings, as well as a host of crafty, vibeful doings that hearken back to the days of '67. And be on the lookout for the daily '60s-stylish fashion parade to saunter through the June 30-July 4 fair. On the concert stage? Ann Wilson, UB40, The Commodores, and The 5th Dimension are just a trio of the rock-out, feel-good acts. As for the fireworks show? It isn't just on the Fourth of July, no sirree. The sky sparkle is a nightly occurrence at the Marin County Fair, so stay through to 9:30 p.m. to behold some pyrotechnic pizzazz, pizzazz that'll cap off a day of ice cream drips and rockin' tunes and blinky rides and tie-dyed escapades.

Photo Credit: Marin County Fair]]>
<![CDATA[California Pacifica Hotels: Summer of Love Deal]]> Sat, 08 Jul 2017 13:22:32 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/pacifica6G8A9554.jpg

SUMMER OF LOVE: The 50th anniversary of that major moment in time is in full and glorious flow, and a student of history, of society, of music and of seismic changes, can journey to a host of museums, amphitheatres, and tours to find stories of 1967. If you want to go deeper into all of that 1967ness, though, doing a bit of traveling to get there is key (after all, that's one of the woven-through tenets of the Summer of Love: Meeting people, connecting with others, experiencing new things, and not being confined to any one path). How to make the journey, though? That can be done in many different ways, but saving a bit of money, in order to have a bit more dough when you're at your destination, is always a keen notion. Pacifica Hotels is embracing the whole remember-the-Summer-of-Love vibe that's flowing around the Golden State right now, and to facilitate people getting out, relaxing, seeing, and meeting others, there's savings in the air, at all 24 California properties. Think...

20% OFF, through Sept. 30, 2017, and think this special code when you book: LOVE17. You'll need to book through the web site, do note, and do note you'll have a plethora of places to choose from, from spectacular spots closer to some of the Summer of Love's biggest memory-making occurrences (think Cambria, just a pleasant toodle down from Monterey), and San Francisco, to destinations always rocking that sunny, it's-all-good vibe (hello, Santa Monica and San Diego). Where will you land for a night, a weekend, or a full week of connecting with a few waves, a few nice strangers you meet around the lobby, and the big ideas of comity, harmony, and peace that the Summer of Love sent out so strongly? You can begin to ponder that delightful question here.

Photo Credit: Pacific Hotels]]>
<![CDATA[Tioga Pass to Open: Hello, Summer]]> Wed, 28 Jun 2017 17:53:54 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/monocountytioga12345.jpg

LOOK, honestly, we're going to eventually get to the whole rhapsodizing part of the Tioga Pass, because not absolutely going full gush over the marvelous meadows and sky-reaching peaks and vistas worthy of an Ansel Adams print isn't the way things are done, no sirree. We're all first-time visitors to the Tioga Pass, in terms of awe, wonder, and delight, even if we roll along its wending way each and every summer. But before the gushery, let's chew on some dates and numbers. The big, blinking sign of a date that everyone who digs spending time in the Sierra Nevada, the Eastern Sierra, and Yosemite National Park will be talking about as June wraps? Thursday, June 29, for that's the day that, after a major snow-removal effort, the Tioga Pass will fully open, promptly at 8 a.m., meaning you can admire Mono Lake in the morning and hike the Cook's Meadow Loop in Yosemite Valley in the afternoon, no sweat (well, maybe a little, but that's good). 

AS FOR THE NUMBERS PART? You can see all of the recent opening dates for the high-elevation Highway 120 pass here, and the percentage of snowpack, so, if you think June 29 is a pretty late opening, it is, but not as late as it was in 1995, when Tioga Pass opened on June 30. The snowpack as of April 1 for 2017 stood at 177% and the 1995 percentage just eeked that number out, coming in at 178%. And check it out: The pass even opened in late April, in 1988. All very cool stuff, if you like to pore over years and snowfall amounts and opening dates. Closing dates, too: The pass has been closed, this last go-around, since Nov. 16, 2016.

THREE THINGS: The June 29 opening is a "conditions permitting" deal, so checking one more time before you head out, that morning, just to be sure everything is copacetic, is wise. Also, Yosemite National Park shared some wisdom on what hikers and campers can expect regarding conditions upon opening. Two? Gratitude to all of the people who work so hard to clear the mountain passes, for, surely and factually, they faced some epic snow scenes after the winter of 2016-2017. And three? Here comes the gushing: Meadows and waterfalls and critters and trees and rocky granite outcroppings and the sun glinting on lakes and all sorts of creeks, oh my. The Tioga Pass takes nature lovers to all of that beauty, each summer, and that is something deserving of a classic, no-holds-barred, tumble-over-ourselves gush-a-thon. Few roads deliver people to such mythical, get-happy places, anywhere.

Photo Credit: Mono County Tourism]]>
<![CDATA[Nepenthe Big Sur: Community-Sweet Pursuits]]> Wed, 05 Jul 2017 07:30:38 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/nepenthebigsurtabletennis.jpg

PRIOR TO THE WINTER STORMS... of early 2017, Nepenthe Big Sur was already a classic, community-cool hangout, a restaurant, a shop, and a destination where locals and visitors alike gathered to soak in the views, a few rays, and some conversation with a few affable strangers (and, just maybe, future friends). In short? The general, can't-be-duplicated atmosphere of the cliffside landmark has remained genuine, and genial, since 1949. And we're not tossing "landmark" around lightly there, for regulars know that Nepenthe has deep roots in a region famous for being woven through with various mythic, interpersonal root systems, the kind of authentic ties that Big Sur has long thrived upon.

THESE ROOTS, both at Nepenthe and beyond, have become stronger following the winter storms of 2017, those thrashing howlers that did some considerable damage to various parts of Highway 1. While urgent roadwork is underway, the restaurant remains an island of sorts from the mainland, but it continues to stay open, catering almost solely to locals, though also welcoming anyone outside of Big Sur who can shuttle/hike in or catch a helicopter via a package at the nearby Post Ranch Inn. As for what's going down at Nepenthe lately? The theme seems to be spirited togetherness. There are...

KNITTING GROUPS... meeting at the view-mazing eatery, while table tennis tempts those seated on the patio. A recent taco night saw a Frida Kahlo puzzle coming together at the restaurant, and flowers donated by locals brighten the tables. The effervescence Nepenthe is known for is well on display, even through these challenging days, thanks to a host of quirky pursuits and hang-out-happily happenings. Soon, in a few months, cars will be able to return, too, to the area, and the fans who've been following the table tennis tourneys and knitting meet-ups on social media can again eat at, and lend some love to, a Big Sur classic. And if you dig the funky The Phoenix Shop, the jewelry, books, and more store at Nepenthe? You can always order online while you await your return.

Photo Credit: Nepenthe Big Sur]]>
<![CDATA[Antiques Aplenty: Moss Landing Street Fair]]> Mon, 26 Jun 2017 21:21:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/212*120/antique1shutterstock.jpg

PERHAPS YOU'RE THE KIND OF PERSON... who has, in their mind, the exact armoire, or vase, or candlesticks, or bench that would go in just the right spot, the location by the window, or the coffee table, or on the porch, or next to your bed. Or maybe you're a little more loosey-goosey, come-what-may on the whole antiquing front. Perhaps you like to see what's out there, and be surprised, and be delighted, and you don't even care if you say "what the...?" a few times, because such is the nature of encountering a whole swath of amazing stuff hailing from several style-distinctive decades. The truth of it? A solid antique fair is going to run the gamut, cover the gamut, own the gamut, then decorate the gamut with some amazing odds 'n ends. Both sides of the antique-obsessed fandom should be well-covered on the last Sunday in July, when the...

ANNUAL ANTIQUE STREET FAIR... returns to Moss Landing to entice and bewitch those searching for the perfect bench or the perfect mystery object, the one that will bring some panache to the mantelpiece. The admission is five bucks, and your tots? If they're age 12 or under, they get in for free. Once you're in, you might have second or two of slight overwhelm-a-tude, as some 200 vendors'll be out purveying in all manner of domestic and otherwise treasures. Need the perfect lemonade pitcher? A kooky cookie jar? A ukulele, a chiming clock, or a vintage pair of roller skates? This mega, marvel-filled street fair could deliver on your dreams. And if not, you'll have spent July 30 strolling among ye olde wonders, which, however you approach antiquing, can make for an exceedingly pleasant pursuit.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Vista Blue Spa in Monterey: Newly Renovated]]> Mon, 26 Jun 2017 12:28:39 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/montereyspa02932.jpg

THAT SERENE SETTING: When seeking out a spa treatment, whether it is a traditional massage, a moisture-laden facial, or just about anything that makes our feet feel as though they haven't been clomping around for a zillion years straight, we look at the spa menu, yes, but there are other considerations. One major point we take in, while doing this muscle-unknotting research, is this: How serene is the hangout spot at the spa, the one with the loungers and whirlpool tubs? Will I be able to hydrate there, and close my eyes for a spell, all while soaking in the quiet-atude and/or splendor? These are good questions, because such a lounge area can truly make a great experience even more sublime. If the notion of enjoying some time on a water-close rooftop at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa appeals, then give the Vista Blue Spa a glance or three, for it has been...

NEWLY RENOVATED: This includes a refresh for "seven soothing treatment rooms" as well as the sun deck, the go-to chill-down-further destination that's home to two whirlpool tubs "perched directly above the Bay" and a small fireplace for those foggy Monterey days, too. But if sauna and steam rooms are your preference, those are part of Vista Blue Spa, so head down and heat up. But what will your treatments be? Peruse the whole, say-ahhh roster and decide, during your peninsula sojourn, if you're feeling like a Warm Stone Massage, a Bliss on the Bay body treatment, or, perhaps, a Forest Air Bathing Ritual. For more info, including stay-over rates and such at the started-in-'85 hotel, visit the Monterey Plaza Hotel site.

Photo Credit: Vista Blue Spa]]>
<![CDATA[Gilroy Garlic Festival: Gourmet Alley Peek]]> Sun, 02 Jul 2017 15:26:09 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GGF_2016_LS_Garlic_Bread_Couple.jpg

LET'S BE HONEST: You're going to have the garlic ice cream. In fact, you might have two scoops, if it is an especially warm day, the kind of day that the end of July traditionally delivers to much of the state. But the question is this: Will you go directly to the booth selling garlic ice cream the moment you stride through the gates at the festival grounds, or will you save it for dessert, in the way that ice cream is often (but not always) saved for dessert? These things do take planning, and pre-huddling with foodie friends, for you're going to have a lot of vivaciously flavored, sweet-of-sting vittles to get through at...

GOURMET ALLEY: We are, of course, talking about the Gourmet Alley at the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival, which fills out three fiery days near the very end of July (though not the end-end, for the festival cooks from Friday, July 28 through Sunday, July 30). And while the cooking demonstrations and contests may understandably draw your attention, you'll want to call upon Gourmet Alley once, twice, or thrice, just to make sure you've had a bit of every garlicky noshable you'd hope to try.

ON THE 2017 RUNDOWN? Garlic bread, natch, and zesty fried garlic calamari, stuffed mushrooms, pasta con pesto, garlic popcorn, and, fresh for the '17 scene, Gilroy garlic shrimp. If you're the sort of person who claims there can never be enough clove-y goodness in your meals, a swing-through Gourmet Alley should finally alleviate that understandable complaint. There's plenty of garlic to be had, in a variety of dishes, and whether you get to that garlic ice cream before, after, during, or throughout your festival visit is 100% up to your spicy-lovin' self.

Photo Credit: Lora Schraft/Gilroy Garlic Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Historical Adventure: Friends of Bodie Day]]> Wed, 05 Jul 2017 18:47:33 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/InyoNationalForest_BodieStateHistoricPark1.jpg

AFTER THE SNOW: You may follow a dozen favorite places in your various feeds, or a hundred, or close to a thousand, but regardless of how full your scroll-by gets, you likely remembered seeing photographs of Bodie over this last winter. That's because the beautifully preserved ghost town, which sits in a remote part (though not too remote) of Mono County, received a prodigious amount of snowfall. It was the kind of snow that sent drifts up to windows, and beyond windows, in the small 19th-century structures that have dotted the historical site since the 1870s. And you may have had a brief thought, that so much snow would never quite melt, and you'd be tromping through it during your summer visit. Take heart, dear Bodie buffs: Summer is in sunshiny swing at Bodie State Historic Park, and the special events that supporters of the landmark known and love to attend are on the fast-approaching horizon, including...

FRIENDS OF BODIE DAY: It's a celebration of this special spot, an authentic slice of California's mining past, and the Saturday, Aug. 12 to-do will include both living history presentations and tours, too. And if you're a member of Friends of Bodie? There's a cemetery tour when the sun begins to sink down, and a dinner, too. The 30th Anniversary festivity will remember the life of W.H. Bodey, so here's your chance to brush up on your knowledge of the area, widely believed to be one of the world's great ghost towns, over the course of the event. Getting the info before you make for Mono County? Turn your pony and clip-clop in this direction.

Photo Credit: Visit California/Myles McGuinness]]>
<![CDATA[Avila Beach Yoga & Art Festival]]> Fri, 23 Jun 2017 17:25:06 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/beachyoga029232.jpg

A BLISSFUL BEACH? You likely don't have to stroke your chin, and ponder too hard, to come up with one or two or seven stretches of sandy beauty that you especially adore. For it is where the land meets the water, or, if you prefer, vice versa, that many Californians journey to clear their head, to dream up their next dream, or shake off some of the woes and cares of everyday life. And while pitting one beach against another is not a pursuit a dedicated beachian would dare undertake, anyone who has admired Avila Beach has likely tucked the memory of its spectacularness into their heart (and pulled the image out, several times, to remember on challenging days). It's an ideal setting for a day that's all about contemplation, meditation, self-care, higher planes, and a peaceful and communal coming-together. Oh, yes, and some strenuous downward-dogging, too. No more hinting is needed: The Avila Beach Yoga & Art Festival is coming up, on Sunday, July 9, at the...

AVILA BEACH RESORT: "Over 35 inspired yoga courses" are on the schedule, as well as some water-based, good-for-the-body, good-for-the-mind fun (hello, stand up paddleboarding courses). Live music, and vendors to peruse, and eats for sale are also part of the day. And will this all happen just a day after the Central Coast Oyster Festival, also at Avila Beach? It will, and there's a combo ticket available if you want to enjoy both the bivalve bash and the blissful following day. Of course, Avila Beach is pretty darn perfect even if nothing is afoot, but if shucking delish oysters and perfecting your triangle pose are two of your happy places, there's a third happy place awaiting you, on the Central Coast.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>