Oktoberfest: Not enough beer, but tons of fun!

I went to the Walnut Creek Oktoberfest at Civic Park a few weeks back – an event I’d recommended in a previous blog! It did not disappoint, however, I don’t think the people running the event had any idea what they were in for. They ran out of beer fairly quickly, and also didn’t have enough pretzels or funnel cake for the hungry and thirsty masses!

Overall, it was still an awesome event. There were a few people dressed up and the beer they did have was served from Brauerei Weihenstephan, which is apparently the oldest brewery in the world. They also had some local artisanal beer selections, as well as wine. The main issue (besides running out of it!) was that the drink lines were so long, that you had to wait for 20 minutes to get a stein or in this case a glass of beer and then you could only have up to two at a time.

So, even though the food and drinks were good, the crowd was large, and the Civic Park venue was much more appropriate than the old location on Locust St., there were some operational issues to work out for future events. There was a kids area, plenty of food vendors, art vendors, beer batter dipped french fries (What?!), music, and a bunch of new people to meet. I went towards the end, but the consensus seemed to be that it was a very successful event.

Oh, and did I mention it was dog-friendly? What a bonus! I would have brought Bodie if he would do well in crowds with dogs everywhere, but I didn’t want to risk it. Still, what a great event for downtown Walnut Creek that will surely be replicated in the Octobers to come and may surpass Clayton – just with more beer next time! Did you go? Let me know what you thought!

Event Round-Up: Oct. 13, 2018

It’s finally that time of year, when the summer heat melts away and the brisk Fall air rides in on the San Francisco fog. Everything turns orange with Halloween and Thanksgiving on the horizon, and schools are in full force again. There are still heaps of fun activities to do this season, and I’ve chosen a few of the best:

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East Bay Walk to End Alzheimer’s: Walnut Creek (Sat. 10/20)

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event for fundraising for the disease, and supports the care and research of it. The East Bay chapter will do their run from 8-11 a.m. next Saturday, Oct. 20th at Heather Farm’s Park. Check out their Facebook event here.

Beach Blanket Babylon: San Francisco (Sat. 10/27 and more)

If you’ve never experienced the hilarity of Beach Blanket Babylon, now is the time. Tickets are still available for the Sat. 10/27 show, and you don’t want to miss the artful, gut-busting show that pokes fun at politicians, celebrities, athletes and more. A fun family outing, especially if you have older kids.

Boo at the Zoo: Oakland (Sat. 10/27 & Sun. 10/28)

From 10 am to 3 pm on these days, bring the kiddos out for a fun pre-Halloween stroll through the Oakland Zoo! Costumes are encouraged, and the kids can trick-or-treat, ride a train, join a dance party, get their face painted, and more. Not to mention, you’re at the zoo watching the animals play! More info here.

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Warren Miller’s “Face of Winter”: Walnut Creek (Tue. 11/6)

There is truly no better way to get fired up for the skiing and snowboarding season than watching the latest Warren Miller film. It’s an annual tradition for serious snow-goers, and this year’s version is bound to be just as awesome! Check it out at The Lesher Center downtown.

Her Room/Her World: Walnut Creek (thru 12/30)

Her Room/Her World is an exhibit at the Bedford Gallery that showcases prints, video, paintings, and installations by New York artist Portia Munson, who does feminist art. The key attraction is an installation called Pink Room that specifically appeals to women and girls. Check it out!

8 best food festivals in the Bay Area this summer

Is there anything better than a social gathering for the purpose of eating or drinking? A backyard barbecue with neighbors, a wine-tasting and walking event, food truck frenzies with friends…the list goes on, but the level of awesome remains the same.

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TimeOut.com has compiled a great list of eight unique Bay Area food festivals, and if you’re someone who enjoys these outings, you must give it a read. I’ve reformatted the list below. Let me know if you end up checking out any of these local foodie fests!

1. Lamb Jam (San Francisco)

Sip and snack on delish lamb-based dishes at this epic gastronomic event and competition that brings together 16 of SF’s most talented chefs to b-a-a-a-a-a-ttle for the title of Lamb Jam San Francisco Champion.

 July 22 3–6pm at Golden Gate Club; $56–$125

2. Garlic Festival (Gilroy)

Garlic lovers from around the world flock to this small town for food, drinks, crafts, live music and cooking competitions. Be sure to try the garlic ice cream (and don’t forget to bring your toothbrush).

July 27–29 10am–7pm at Christmas Hill Park; free–$20.

3. Zucchini Festival (Hayward)

At this healthy food party, discover the versatile uses of the hearty vegetable, from cakes and cookies to snacks and main dishes. Don’t miss the massive zucchinis competing in the growing contest!

Aug 18, 19 10am–8pm at Kennedy Park; $5–$10.

4. Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival (San Francisco)

Ghirardelli pairs its world-famous cacao beans with wine, ice cream and tons of other tasty desserts at this sugary soiree. Indulge guilt-free, knowing that 100 percent of the proceeds are donated to local nonprofit Project Open Hand.

Sept 8, 9 noon–5pm at Ghirardelli Square; $26–$55.

5. Cheese Fest (San Francisco)

Cowgirl Creamery, Point Reyes Farmstead, Cypress Grove and other local makers will provide fromage nibbles at this dairy fest. Of course, cheese gets by with a little help from its friends wine and charcuterie, so expect vendors hawking those tasty delights, as well. Pop a Lactaid and get to work.

Sept 15 at Social Hall SF; $TBA.

6. Bloody Mary Festival (San Francisco)

SF’s most beloved brunch cocktail gets its own fest this season: Attendees will sample local bars’ tricked-out versions of the tomato-juice-and-vodka cocktail, then vote for the People’s Choice Award winner. Also, a panel of industry judges will pick its favorite version.

Sept 29 10:30am–6pm at SOMArts Cultural Center; $45–$55.

7. Eat Drink SF (San Francisco)

This four-day gourmet fest delights taste buds with bites from more than 30 Bay Area restaurants, plus cocktail classes, taco parties, and meet and greets with local celebrity chefs.

Aug 24 7:15–10pm; Aug 25 12:45–3:30pm, 7-:45–10:30pm; Aug 26 12:45–3:30pm at Fort Mason Center. $109–$229.

8. Eat Real Fest (Oakland)

Eat Real combines a state fair, a street-food festival, and a block party to create a celebration of good food in Oakland. Celebrate ten years of local food vendors, food entrepreneurs, artisan products, and demonstrations from the Bay Area’s top chefs and culinary experts.

Sept 14 3–10pm, Sept 15 11am–10pm, Sept 16 11am–7pm at Jack London Square; free. 

Event Round-Up: July 14

Welcome back to our Event Round-Up for the next few weeks! Events do not necessarily have to take place in Walnut Creek to qualify, though I’ll try to keep it to the nearby Bay Area cities so you don’t have to travel too far. With the exception of one must-see event tomorrow in San Francisco, these should all be fun, cheap events to do over the next month or so. Hope I found you some good, off-the-beaten-path activities!

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1. 2018 FIFA World Cup Finals – Outdoor Screening (San Francisco): Sun., July 15th @ 8 a.m.

Hosted by the SF Recreation and Park Department, there will be a free public viewing of the FIFA World Cup Final on Sunday, July 15th. It will take place in front of the Civic Center Plaza, and folks can arrive at 8 a.m., though the game will start a little bit later. You’d be surprised at how big – and how soccer-lovin’ – this crowd will be!

2. Taste of the World Market (Orinda): Thurs., July 19th @ 5 p.m.

Every Thursday from 5-9 p.m., you can get “a taste of the world” at a weekly food truck event in front of the Orinda Community Center. Each week features different trucks and entertainment. We have a lot of events like this around the Bay Area, but it’s always fun to explore one in a new town to see how it stacks up!

3. Outdoor Waterfront Flicks – Star Wars (Oakland): Thurs., July 19th @ 8 p.m.

If food trucks aren’t your deal, but you want to treat the kids to a fun-filled, outdoor movie night, look no further than Jack London Square in Oakland, where they’ll be showing Star Wars: The Last Jedi at 8 p.m. It’s completely free, and all you need is a blanket to sit on, a blanket to cuddle with, and a cup of joe to keep you warm by the water!

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4. Blues & Brews Festival (Pleasanton): Fri., July 20th – Sat., July 21st @ 6 p.m.

You will need tickets to this, but how cool is a FREE blues music and beer festival just down the highway from Walnut Creek? If you show up to Pleasant Hill Park at 6 p.m. on Fri., July 20th, you can take part in the pre-party. But the real fun begins the next day at 3 p.m., where you can wander in to catch free live music, and buy tasting tickets for the beer. More ticket info can be found here.

5. Benicia Waterfront Festival (Benicia): Sat., July 28th – Sun., July 29th @ 11 a.m.

Waterfront. Live music. Craft beer and wine. Tasty food. Unique vendors. Kids zone. Cheap tickets. What more can you ask for? Take a trek out to Benicia for this cool music festival that only costs $10 for adults ($15 for a weekend pass), and is free for kids under 12! What a great way to spend a summer weekend!

6. Berkeley Kite Festival (Berkeley): Sat., July 28th – Sun., July 29th @ 10 a.m.

Not feeling Benicia? Head on over to Berkeley for the 30th Annual Berkeley Kite Festival! It’s a free, family-friendly event for two days with competitions, kite-making, kite battles (seriously!), dining options, and more. Everyone loves watching a good kite – here, you can watch hundreds!

7. Circus Bella (San Francisco, etc.): Sun., July 29th @ 2 p.m.

Though this cool event takes place in multiple locations on each Sunday in July, I’m choosing this one specifically for our timeframe. Get on over to Hunter’s Point in San Francisco to check out this free, dazzling, 60-minute outdoor circus performance!

Make sure to let us know how these events go if you decide to visit! Looking forward to hearing the reviews!

Event Round-Up: May 19

Welcome back to the next installment of Event Round-Up! Below, you’ll find five of the best events around the Bay Area for the next few weeks. If you attend any, please let us know how they were – you may even be mentioned in a future blog!

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Bay to Breakers (May 20, 2018 – San Francisco)

Look, if you’ve still never experienced Bay to Breakers in San Francisco, you’re truly missing out on a one-of-a-kind spectacle you can’t get anywhere else in the world. Take advantage of this “race” of usually around 100,000 people dressing up in ridiculous outfits, drinking mimosas, and enjoying the sunshine in the city. It’s an early start, but you can take part in the festivities without actually registering for the race. Be there tomorrow – you won’t regret it!

Civic Park Public Art Installation (May 26, 2018 – Walnut Creek)

This will be a super cool, unique event. The Bedford Gallery and City of Walnut Creek Public Art Department have a National Endowment for the Arts grant for a public art installation in Civic Park. It brings world-famous sculptor Patrick Dougherty to town and should continue to put Walnut Creek’s art on the map. He plans to install a huge project made of woven willow saplings, and he’s calling for the public’s help volunteering to assist. The project has already begun and ends on May 26th, when there will be a free celebration in the park for your viewing pleasure!

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Mission Mural Tour (June 2, 2018 – San Francisco)

If you’ve ever wandered through The Mission District in San Francisco, you’ve probably eaten amazing Mexican food, stumbled upon a few mind-boggling murals, and then eaten even more amazing Mexican food. But it’s the middle thing we’re focusing on here, as you now have the chance to join a public, professional walking tour of the murals in The Mission. It will give you information, history and context around some of your favorite murals in The Mission. The tours are free, but the guides accept donations and tips!

First Wednesday (June 6, 2018 – Walnut Creek)

Cypress Street in downtown Walnut Creek will have a lot going for it on Wednesday, June 6th. That will be the next installation of the First Wednesday event that shuts down a whole city block and invites live music, dancing, food trucks, adult drinks, a Kids Fun Zone and games. There will also be a Chef’s Demo (in partnership with the Contra Costa Certified Farmers Market) and chances to win free prizes. You can park for free after 5 p.m. in all downtown garages that day, and the festivities last from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. I can’t recommend it highly enough – it’s always a great time!

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Haight Ashbury Street Fair (June 10, 2018 – San Francisco)

Similar to First Wednesday (only bigger, better and more famous – sorry Walnut Creek!), the Haight Ashbury Street Fair will take place a few days later in San Francisco. This fair has been around for decades and seems to get better every time I go. There is a ton of live music, the best food, drink and craft vendors around, and – as is typical with any event in San Francisco – a TON of people. As if you need an excuse to enjoy one of the city’s most famous neighborhoods on a beautiful day, go check out the Haight Ashbury Street Fair!

New City Manager & the Walnut Festival is coming!

Walnut Creek has a new City Manager as of August 7th: Dan Buckshi. I attended a welcoming reception at Lesher last week. After 15 years in San Luis Obispo County and the last five as County Administrative Officer (similar to County Manager), Dan is excited to be in Walnut Creek.

He just wrote his first City Manager’s Update, including a nugget about the Walnut Festival …

via Patch.com

If you’re new to Walnut Creek  – or haven’t been in some time like myself – I recommend going to the festival! I especially have wonderful memories with my boys and as they got into their tweens. It was a safe place to drop them off for a couple of hours, allowing them to gain some independence. You’ll be amazed by the number of people who show up to ride the rides, test out the carnival food and play games.

There is also live music and performances, and the nearby glory of Heather Farm Park in and of itself. This is truly the biggest event of the year in Walnut Creek.

Don’t forget about the nostalgic twilight parade that kicks off the event is this Saturday at 6 p.m.  It will travel along Walnut Creek’s Main Street from Mt. Diablo Boulevard to Civic Drive, ending at Civic Park.

This year’s theme, “Through The Wide Eyes of a Child,” is all about imagination and whimsically-created costumes, floats, decorated cars, motorcycles, bicycles, bands, drill teams, cheer teams
and all others who will entertain us with their talents and creativity.  They are encouraging people to join in on the theme and attend the parade in costume.

The Carnival portion of the 81st Annual Walnut Festival will take place from September 21-24 at Heather Farms.

Did you know the original festival was held in 1911 and was called The Grape Festival? For more information and a little bit of history, you can visit The Walnut Festival Association website here.

Enjoy this wonderful Walnut Creek tradition!!!

Old Borges Ranch Day this Saturday

This Saturday, you can join Walnut Creek City staff for Old Borges Ranch Day. How cool is that? There will be arts, crafts, activities, games, livestock demonstrations, ponies and fiddlers.

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Borges Ranch is the little farm nestled into the foothills of Mt. Diablo, on the southeast side of Shell Ridge. It was established in 1899 by Francisco Borges and is a living example of what an early-20th century California cattle ranch looked like.

Many of the original buildings still exist, including the Borges family home which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1981 and is part of the Mt. Diablo State Park with an on-site ranger. Sheep, goats, and other livestock roam the farm and welcome hikers who wander past during their Open Space treks.

The almost 400-acre ranch would be a great place for the family to spend a lazy Saturday, and a great learning experience for young kids. I went on a field trip with my now-21-year-old son when he was in the 4th grade; we went back there to get polliwogs, which lived in his bedroom until they turned to frogs. Then we let them go into the creek by Las Lomas – some great memories.

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Image from walnut-creek.org

The event this Saturday will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and you can park at Northgate High School and shuttle in and out. It costs just $5 per family to take part!

Don’t miss the Parkmead Garden Tour this Sunday!

My Parkmead neighborhood, in Walnut Creek, is hosting a Garden Tour this Sunday. Come by and check it out if you have a chance!

Get to know the Parkmead neighborhood and learn about the local flora and fauna that thrive in our Mediterranean climate. We have 8 gardens participating this year!

Here are the details:

  • Sun, Apr 30
  • 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
  • Maps available at 1701 Lilac Drive
    As listed above, you can pick up your Garden Tour map at 1701 Lilac Dr., anytime between 1 pm and 4 pm on Sunday, April 30th. 
We will feature a garden designed by our very own resident landscape designer, Janet Cohen and one with Admirals Choice discussing irrigation, drought resistant plants and sprinklers that can be controlled by your phone.  Plus the non-profit Sustainable Contra Costa, will have information on raising chickens at home and sustainable gardening tips. They will also have a “sheet mulching” demonstration and composting discussion! Additionally, we will be sharing some info on beekeeping at home and composting.
For more information please visit our website: http://www.parkmead.org/Home_Page.html or contact events@parkmead.org. Can’t wait to see you there!

P.S. We will also be accepting donations to finish the walking path that takes you to Parkmead Elementary School. It has many potholes and when it rains, many puddles. Thus students, dog walkers and neighbors divert them by walking into the street!

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April events to mark on your calendar!

Believe it or not, it’s already almost April! As the calendar turns from winter to spring, Diablo Magazine has provided a few awesome ideas for local events in the Bay Area next month.

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Here are four of the best ones that I’m personally interested in going to:

The Naked Magicians: April 3rd at Livermore’s Bankhead Theater

An Australian duo who put on “the world’s naughtiest magic show,” complete with illusions and comedy. Adults only!

Bay Area Craft Beer Festival: April 22nd at Martinez waterfront

More than 50 local breweries, live music and food trucks from all over the East Bay? Yes, please!

Diablo Trails Challenge: April 15th at Mt. Diablo

You can choose from a 5K, 10K, 1/2 marathon and a 50K. Partial proceeds go to Save Mount Diablo!

Monet: The Early Years: Through May 29th at Legion of Honor (San Francisco)

You can get a cool perspective on Claude Monet’s early period of work, covering his evolution to Impressionism at the SF Legion of Honor.

Leave a comment if you know any other fun things to do next month!