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September/October Visitor Favorites:

  • Anderson Valley Brewing Company, Mendocino
  • Kuumbwa Jazz Center, Santa Cruz
  • The Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey
  • Ballooning, Sonoma, CA
  • Golfing, San Luis Obispo
  • July / August Favorites

  • Visitor Favorite: In Mendocino

    There's a great wine pairing for every dish, but sometimes your heart cries out for a crisp, cold bottle of beer to accompany your meal. For the Wine Country traveler, it can be hard to tear yourself away from the glorious wineries, but it's worth it for those of you visiting Mendocino, home to the Anderson Valley Brewing Company. Located in Boonville, heart of the Mendocino Wine Country, Anderson Valley Brewing boasts a brewing facility that matches the scope and charm of the region's wineries.

    Creators of the award winning Boonville Beers, Anderson Valley Brewing Company produces a wide range of brews, from Boont Amber Ale to Oatmeal Stout, Deep Enders Dark Porter, and High Rollers Wheat Beer. The beers' quirky names are typical of Boonville, a community so closely-knit that it has its own language, Boontling! These all-natural beers, made from the finest ingredients, are guaranteed to quench any thirst. For more information, check out Anderson Valley Brewing Company on the web at www.avbc.com.

    Visitor Favorite: In Monterey

    The Monterey Bay Aquarium is rightfully renowned for its extraordinary facilities that showcase the bounty and magic of the neighboring ocean. Blessed by its location adjacent to the Monterey Bay, the aquarium uses its surroundings as a sort of living exhibit; the current Beaches & Dunes exhibit, for example, takes visitors outdoors to explore the mudflats, marshes, and wave-swept shores.

    Ever-popular with children, the aquarium has much to offer to adults as well. Many of the aquarium's special exhibits have a highly sophisticated artistic sensibility; Jellies: Living Art, an award-winning 2003 exhibit, examined the formal grace of these, the most ethereal of all sea creatures, is a good example. Monterey Bay Aquarium has a wonderful website: www.mbayaq.org.

    Visitor Favorite: In San Luis Obispo

    Attention golfers! San Luis Obispo offers some of the finest golfing in California set against a backdrop of stunning ocean views, so pack your camera along with your clubs. Morro Bay, a "must-play" course for all golf aficionados, offers a Pebble Beach-like track at a fraction of the cost; unlike Pebble Beach, Morro Bay is also an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, due to the many species of birds who call the course home.

    Other magnificent courses include Cypress Ridge, named one of Golf Digest's Best Places to Play (with four and a half stars), Dairy Creek, Hunter Ranch and Avila Beach courses. Adding variety and exercise to any Wine Country vacation, these world class golf courses are within easy driving distance of some of the finest central coast wineries in San Luis Obispo Wine Country.

    Visitor Favorite: In Santa Cruz

    Most jazz-lovers have to head to the big-name venues in New York or Paris to hear the best jazz musicians, but Santa Cruz locals have only to walk a few blocks to hear world-class players in intimate settings. Santa Cruz's Kuumbwa Jazz Center, founded in 1975, has enlivened the Santa Cruz jazz scene, putting on its own concerts as well as publicizing appearances by artists at clubs and restaurants all around the Santa Cruz region. Advantageously situated between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Kuumbwa draws artists traveling between club gigs in the two cities.

    Getting a taste for the local nightlife is one of the best parts of any Wine Country vacation, and Santa Cruz's Kuumbwa Jazz Center provides big-city thrills in a small town setting. Don't miss the opportunity to catch the biggest names in jazz while soaking up Santa Cruz's amiable atmosphere. Even better, support Kuumbwa's admirable venture by becoming a member. Find concert calendars and more information about Kuumbwa Jazz Center at www.kuumbwajazz.org.

    Visitor Favorite: Sonoma, California

    What better way to experience the magnificent scenery and sweeping landscapes of Wine Country than from an enormous hot air balloon? Romantic, exotic, and exciting, ballooning is the perfect treat to complete a romantic weekend getaway in Sonoma's Wine Country. Perfectly peaceful, hot air balloons are quieter than helicopters and far more leisurely with no sensation of motion, there's nothing to distract you from the gorgeous views.

    Most ballooning companies offer trips of a few hours that end with a romantic champagne brunch at a local winery. Above the Wine Country Balloons & Tours and Up & Away Ballooning are two companies that offer balloon trips in Sonoma.

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