Windy city by the bay

Marina, 10 miles north of Monterey, hosts the Marina International Festival of the Winds

It's easier to touch the sky from certain places in the West. Standing atop the sand dunes in Marina, with the wind coming at you from Monterey Bay, you can't help but think that if you open your arms and flap a bit, you'll be carried to the clouds.

Marina, 10 miles north of Monterey, is in a good spot for breezes. Its daily atmospheric push-and-pull created Marina State Beach's towering white sand dunes, which hang gliders call an ideal launch spot.

"Marina is known as a windy city," agrees Don Livermore, a local middle school librarian. Six years ago, he and a few others dreamed up the Marina International Festival of the Winds to, as you might say, accentuate the place's positive.

Conceived as a science fair, the festival has grown into a citywide party with 20,000 attendees cheering all things windy ― including monster-size kites, paper airplanes, and mini hot-air balloons. Plus taiko drummers and jazz bands. And the whole thing is, like the wind, free.

Whether you hit the festival or just stroll the beach, Marina is a good place to look to the sky and let your thoughts soar. The Fifth Annual Marina International Festival of the Winds is May 8-9, 2004 in Glorya Jean Tate Park, across from Marina State Beach (off State 1 at Reservation Rd.; 831/595-7516). ― Lisa Taggart