Road Trips: Sausalito Art Festival

I have a confession. I haven’t actually done this road trip myself. But I’m planning on going, either this year or in the near future! So this blog is just letting you know about the Sausalito Art Festival.

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Here’s what you need to know: the festival brings art, music, and wine together on the Sausalito Waterfront. They have more than 250 artists from around the world, and three days of live music on two stages. The beverages come from some of the best wineries in the country.

The festival takes place starting Aug. 31 and goes through Labor Day Weekend. There are VIP options, and it is family-friendly to boot. Kids aged 12 and under can even come for free.

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The music features Blood Sweat and Tears, Blues Traveler, and ZZ Ward. You can get one-day GA tickets for about $30 online still. We’re talking about good drinks, great music, and an incredible location in beautiful Sausalito, for a totally reasonable price!

I think I might check it out! Will you? More info here.

Event Round-Up: June 15th

It’s officially summer, in case you missed that massive heat wave at the beginning of the week! Time to plan around pool parties, trips to the beach, and picnics at the park! Here are some fun, local events for the next month or so happening in the Bay Area:

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Exploratorium: Self, Made (thru Sept. 2)

A really cool-looking exhibit about self-discovery that is on display for all ages at the Exploratorium all summer. Find out what makes you, you at this interactive-heavy exhibit. Information here.

Walnut Creek: Uncorked (June 20th)

The best restaurants in Walnut Creek offer delicious food, you’ll get to sip wine and walk through downtown, and mingle with the rest of the local community at this annual event. Get tickets here!

Walnut Creek: Music and Movies at the Park (June 21st)

This summer movie and music series will start at Tice Valley Park on 6/21, showing Bumblebee and playing the Rossmorr Band. Music starts at 7 p.m., and the movie starts around 8:30 (at sundown). Bring your family! Information here.

Pleasant Hill: Summer Concerts by the Lake (June 23)

Every other Sunday in Pleasant Hill, you can enjoy free music by the lake from 6-8 pm. On this date in particular, you can take in the sounds of Midnight Flyer. For more info and a full schedule, visit:
https://www.ci.pleasant-hill.ca.us/888/Festivals-Events.

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The Mercury News

Orinda: CalShakes (July 3rd)

Can’t beat a great outdoor venue for some small-time theater. Though the run on A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be over at CalShakes, you could take up The Good Person of Szechwan or plan ahead for House of Joy or MacBeth later in the season. Get more info here.

Stern Grove: Free and fun!

If you’ve never heard of Stern Grove Festival, you should definitely check it out! It’s a free music festival in San Francisco that features some great bands. They even have kid-friendly activities, free yoga classes (BYO yoga mats), food trucks, and more!

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The best part, though, is being able to just sit out in the sunshine or not so great in fog, in a beautiful part of the city and enjoying a day off. You can bring in a picnic (with certain limitations, of course) or reserve a picnic table ahead of time.

The venue itself is really beautiful, and located at 19th and Sloat in SF. The free music starts around 2 p.m. each Sunday and the season runs from June 16th to Aug. 18th. The SF Symphony, Psychedelic Furs, and Pink Martini are the ones I am interested in, but a day in Stern Grove, no matter who is playing is always a good day. Hope to see you there!

Go check out First Wednesdays tomorrow!

Every first Wednesday of every month from May through September, Walnut Creek Downtown will be hosting Walnut Creek First Wednesdays! That means that tomorrow is the first celebration of the entire season.

Walnut Creek First Wednesdays
Credit: WalnutCreekDowntown.com

Walnut Creek First Wednesdays include live music, dancing, food trucks, wine and beer, a Kids Fun Zone, interactive games, free prizes, and a Chef’s Demo – sounds like a mini Bottlerock! To add a little bonus, parking in garages downtown after 5 p.m. on Wednesdays is free.

Tomorrow, the festivities kick off with the band Neon Velvet. You can take part from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Cypress St. Admission is free, and it’s a great way to explore our little downtown that has become so hip in recent years!

I’d highly recommend checking it out. I’ve been to events like this in the past on Cypress St., and it’s always a good time with the family or friends, especially on warm evenings. The Walnut Creek Downtown organization does a great job hosting, so check it out if you are not in the mood to cook!

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!

Best tours in San Francisco

Just because we live in the Bay Area and are “locals” of San Francisco doesn’t mean we can’t still play tourist when we hit The City! In fact, it’s one of the more fun things you can do when you cross the Bay Bridge. I love just wandering around and finding new nooks and crannies of the city I had never noticed before.

As with any major city, San Francisco has its fair share of awesome tours, and these are five I have researched that I think you should take a chance on next time you visit! From art, to history, to food, you’ll get the real, full, behind-the-scenes experience of San Francisco with any of these. If you go, let me know how it went!

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1. Precita Eyes Mural Tour

On the third Saturday of every month, founder and director or the Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center, Susan Cervantes, leads guided mural walks through the Mission. It’s $20, but it takes you through an array from over 200 alley murals in the hippest neighborhood in San Francisco. You can get more info here.

2. San Francisco Urban Hike

Now, I hate to do this, but I think you can self-lead a tour rather than spend $49 on having it guided. This “urban hike,” which has gained in popularity given San Francisco’s plethora of lush areas, is something you can certainly research and do yourself. If you’d rather go with a guide, check out this link!

3. San Francisco Love Tour

If nothing else, San Francisco is known for its role in the Summer of Love. Former hippies and music lovers should be excited to pony up $48 for this radical tour, which takes participants through iconic neighborhoods from the 60’s, and hit main attractions like Golden Gate Park. You’ll see the homes of Hendrix and Joplin, and do it all from an old-school VW van!

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4. Teas, Temples and Beatniks Tour

Okay, you can’t beat a tour that combines two of the coolest neighborhoods in a city full of cool neighborhoods: Chinatown and North Beach. You get to try local food, get your fortune read, taste the famous fortune cookies, and venture into North Beach to see the old hangouts of legends like Jack Kerouac. Check it out here.

5. City Guides

You’ve probably at least heard of this tour. City Guides is a full-blown non-profit with more than 200 volunteers leading 50 walking tours all around San Francisco. Local history buffs share their knowledge and whisk you around the beautiful city. And the best part for those who want to pinch pennies – City Guides is all donation-based, and technically admission is free!

Road Trips: BottleRock

We touched on this event in my recent music festivals blog, but I had to expand it into its own feature. Because BottleRock is constantly the best day of the festival season each Spring! This was my third year going and what I like about it the best is that for the most part, it is a laid back concert scene. People either hang out on their blankets in the back, sit it the wine lounges or jostle to get up front. Even if you are up front it is still fairly chill

This year’s lineup included Bruno Mars, The Killers, Muse, Incubus, Snoop Dogg, Halsey, Earth, Wind & Fire, Billy Idol, and dozens more. I did one day at BottleRock (Friday) and took in Incubus (the lead singer Brandon Boyd has charm and sex appeal; I couldn’t stop looking at him! Did you know Incubus means “a male demon believed to have sexual intercourse with sleeping women?” I also saw The Struts (a band I hadn’t heard of, but the singer reminded me of Freddy Mercury), FLOR (the long-haired redhead pictured below was a great new band), and The Chainsmokers. In hindsight, we maybe should not have gone with The Chainsmokers instead of headliner Muse – I didn’t realize The Chainsmokers were a DJ duo, but they rocked it and that was the one place where the people were very pushy. It was a younger crowd and lots of lights and smoke as shown above. We got a little bored with Earth Wind & Fire, but really liked the jam of Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue.

One of the best things about BottleRock is that it’s a combination of music and culinary excellence for an entire weekend. Being in Napa makes it a requirement to have awesome food and wine to go with the music (but they really do come up with an awesome music lineup every year). So in addition to seeing some great shows, we saw Shaun White, a 3-time gold medalist in snowboarding on the Culinary Stage. It was awesome – they had a winter-themed cooking show that included cotton candy made into huge snowballs and they were tossed into the audience where the promptly broke apart spreading blue cotton candy around. At the end, they were tossing Hostess snowball packages out to the audience.

Words can barely do this experience justice. Check out the art and experiences created by various vendors in the following photos. You can’t beat sitting in the grass under the sun with a glass of red, watching a famous band play live music to thousands of people. If you haven’t been yet, plan ahead for next Memorial Day weekend  – it is always Friday/Saturday/Sunday and tickets sell out quickly. So, prepare to make that short drive up to Napa to experience BottleRock!

Event Round-Up: June 16

Welcome back to the newest installment of Event Round-Up! As always, this is where we gather five of the best Bay Area events taking place over the next month or so. Let us know if you go to any of these, and if so, how you liked them!

1. Walnut Creek Uncorked (Weds., June 20)

Walnut Creek Downtown presents a brand new event, designed for the wine-lovers in our town. Tickets are $40 in advance, and get you access to wine tastings, restaurants, artisan fashion and jewelry stands, and live entertainment. You must be 21 to buy a ticket!

2. Danville Summerfest 2018 (Sat., June 23 & Sun., June 24) 

Danville has a little festival of its own that you may want to check out! Our neighbor has a cute downtown that will be filled with local music, art, and food vendors. There is a classic car show on Sunday, and the event is family and dog-friendly. Danville Summerfest will take place from 10-5 each day.

3. Alameda County Fair (Fri., June 15 – Sun., July 8)

It’s that time of year again! The Alameda County Fair at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton kicked into full gear yesterday, and will carry on through the weekend after 4th of July. If you don’t have larger travel plans, you can trek over to Pleasanton for this awesome annual event – LeeAnn Rimes, Blue Oyster Cult, and Sean Kingston are some of the many musical acts expected to perform this year.

4. 4th of July Fireworks (Weds., July 4)

I don’t have any particular event or link for you here. There are generally tons of good spots to choose from to watch East Bay fireworks on the 4th of July. Take the kiddos, your leftover BBQ, and a blanket to enjoy the show. My favorite place to catch them is up at Tahoe.

5. Walnut Creek First Wednesdays (Weds., July 11)

Another stellar outdoors event to celebrate all that Walnut Creek summers have to offer! There is free parking after 5 p.m. in many major downtown garages to help you get around. If you’ve never experienced a First Wednesdays celebration, it is chock-full of live music, food trucks, drinks, games and even a Kids Fun Zone. Check it out from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Cypress St. in downtown.

Road Trips: Summer Festivals

One of the best parts about summer in Northern California is that it’s pretty much perfect weather all the time. Even the notoriously-chilly San Francisco has a legitimate summer for a couple months at the tail-end. If you’re a fan of music like me, this is a perfect season for festival-hopping!

Last weekend, BottleRock in Napa took place and they had another fantastic lineup. I went on Friday which was a birthday gift from my friend Veronica. It is one of my favorite festivals – more to come on a future blog. Between the music itself and the amazing Napa-esque food and drink scene, you can’t go wrong at BottleRock. There are a few other great festivals in the Bay Area you should definitely check out, too. Here are 5:

Outside Lands (Aug. 10-12 in San Francisco): Another wildly popular festival that attracts top names in the music circuit to its stages in Golden Gate Park. This year, you can see Florence and the Machine, The Weeknd and Janet Jackson atop the list.

Stern Grove (June 17-Aug. 19 in San Francisco): Stern Grove is a free (!!!) annual festival that has hosted names as big as Stevie Wonder in the past. This year, two of the biggest names will be M. Ward and Ziggy Marley, also playing in Golden Gate Park.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (Oct. 5-7 in San Francisco): I’m pretty sure Hardly Strictly used to be literally strictly bluegrass. But nowadays, the free show in – you guessed it – Golden Gate Park welcomes all genres. This year’s lineup includes Brandi Carlile and The Wood Brothers!

Country Summer (June 15-17 in Santa Rosa): Let’s mix it up a bit. Florida Georgia Line, Little Big Town, Toby Keith and Maren Morris are the highlights of this country festival in Santa Rosa. I’ve never been, but if you like country, this line-up kicks it!

Berkeley World Music Festival (June 1-3 in Berkeley): We can’t have an arts/culture/music blog without including the funkiest Bay Area town around. This is going on RIGHT NOW, but it’s free and you can bring the kids to experience music from all over the world!

Road Trips: Concord Pavilion

Have some of our other “Road Trips” installments been too far away for your liking? Love music and being outdoors like me? Then this blog is for you!

Recently, I took a short trip to the Concord Pavilion – basically the mini-me of Shoreline Amphitheater – to see One Republic play a show. It was a rare warm summer night; we sat on the grass, brought in sushi and enjoyed the show. Fitz and the Tantrums were the opening act and they were also very good. It’s a really fun place to hang out with friends, grab a drink and enjoy an outside concert.

One Republic is one of my favorite bands. This is the third time I have seen them – but the Super Bowl arena in downtown San Francisco didn’t really count since it was so crowded and with limited space. The front guy Ryan Tedder is extremely multi-talented. I didn’t realize until this concert that he wrote “Rumor Has It” for Adele, plus songs for Rihanna, Ed Sheeran and many more artists.

The Pavilion is bigger than you’d expect for a venue buried in the East Bay, holding up to 12,500 guests. When I was there, it was packed but didn’t feel suffocating.

Other acts on the schedule include country stars like Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan, as well as Janet Jackson. Kings of Leon, Linkin Park, Fall Out Boy and Nicki Minaj are some of the performers who have graced the Pavilion stage in the past couple years.

To get to the Pavilion, just drive up to Kirker Pass in Concord and follow the signs. It is a fun evening the whole family can enjoy!