The ideas, people, places, and things that are making life out here better right now
Written bySunsetJanuary 4, 2011
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Photo by Thomas J. Story
1 of 32Photo by Thomas J. Story
#1-2: Wineries and tea
1 | Wineries as the ultimate playgrounds: It started with a bocce court or two (Robert Mondavi Winery) and some medieval turrets (Castello di Amorosa) in Napa Valley, but the winery-as-theme-park trend hits its stride at Sonoma County’s Francis Ford Coppola Winery (pictured), which has a pool, cabanas, two full bars, and a museum’s worth of movie memorabilia. Nab a table on the terrace for lunch and then—yes—hit the bocce court. franciscoppolawinery.com
2 | Tea hits the big time: We’re riding a tea wave here in the West: tea drinks, tea-flavored chocolates, tea soaps, all kinds of cool new artisanal teas, green teas, herbal teas, biodegradable tea containers—and that’s just in the grocery store (actual teahouses offer even more). One of our favorite sips is pu-erh, a large-leaf Chinese tea that’s aged for extra-rich, deep flavor.
Photo by Thomas J. Story
2 of 32Photo by Thomas J. Story
#3-5: Nurseries are the new bookstores
In the past, they were utilitarian outposts where you’d get your plants and go. Now, nurseries nudge you to take your coat off and stay awhile, with coffee bars, shelves of books to browse, and cafe tables amid the greenery. Latte, please!
3 | San Francisco: Grab a coffee and scone at always-ahead-of-the-trend Flora Grubb Gardens, then wander through lush plantscapes and cozy seating nooks that feel like a fabulously stylish friend’s garden. floragrubb.com
4 | Santa Cruz: Shop alongside skateboard-toting students and backyard farmers at Dig Gardens. The store has a great collection of botanical-inspired decor and local art, plus locally roasted espresso. diggardens.com
5 | Seattle Area: Molbak’s(pictured;molbaks.com) in Woodinville and Swansons(swansonsnursery.com) in Seattle have acres of greenery and airy, light-filled cafes. Check out the houseplant collection at Molbak’s—one of the best around—and Swansons’ conservatory and koi pond.
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Photo by Jeffery Cross
3 of 32Photo by Jeffery Cross
#6-13: The DIY bar cart
Gone are the days of the dusty bottle of triple sec that got used just once a year. With the onslaught of local distillers, fresh cocktail recipes, and easy-to-find bar gadgets, the newest craze is having your own bar cart at the ready. Stock it with our picks below.
6 | Giant ice cubes: The best bar invention since the blender, these melt slowly—and take longer to water down that expensive single malt. Find Tovolo trays at amazon.com
7 | Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, Denver: With rustic tobacco and smoke flavors, this one’s for the die-hard whiskey lover. Distilled daily to guarantee small-batch quality.
8 | Victoria Gin, Victoria, B.C.: Deeply complex, with flavors of rose, citrus, and juniper, it’s our favorite gin. The company’s planning to ship to the U.S.; right now find it in Canada.
9 | Pacifique Absinthe, Woodinville, WA: Made in the 150-year-old Franco-Swiss tradition, this intense yet smooth spirit isn’t for the faint of heart—but it won’t make you crazy.
10 | Germain-Robin XO Brandy, Ukiah, CA: A Western cognac that goes toe-to-toe with the French? This is it—smooth and balanced, with rich dried fruits.
11 | Roughstock Montana Whiskey, Bozeman: Using Montana wheat grown just 20 miles from the distillery, this bourbonlike spirit will appeal even to whiskey newbies.
12 | New Deal vodka, gin, and liqueurs, Portland: A one-stop shop for your bar cart, New Deal Distillery is a standout for flavor and craftsmanship among Portland’s many distilleries.
13 | American Orange Liqueur, Denver: Leopold Bros.’ version of the cocktail staple is the first by an American distillery; it should replace triple sec or Cointreau in every margarita you make.
Photo by Jeffery Cross
4 of 32Photo by Jeffery Cross
#14-16: Cocktails, beer, and dessert wine
14 | Cocktail catering: Star Bay Area bartenders are launching catering businesses that bring handcrafted cocktails right to your party. H.M.S. Cocktails (hmscocktails.com) specializes in fanciful drinks like the Chartreuse Swizzle (pictured) and Sazerac. With Rye on the Road (ryeontheroad.com), you get custom menus, vintage barware, and even workshops. Sure beats a watery G&T.
15 | Beer takes the spotlight: Beer no longer has to play second fiddle to the wine list, as restaurant menus now fizz with dozens of brews. We’re seeing this especially in Colorado, California, and the Northwest, where craft beer is king. Try the Kitchen in Boulder, the Ritual Tavern in San Diego, and Quinn’s Pub in Seattle.
16 | Dessert wine makes waves: More and more Western winemakers are tackling port-style wines—the dark, sweet, fortified stuff that is best consumed fireside. And made from a range of grapes (Zinfandel, Syrah, and the traditional Touriga Nacional and its cousins), they’re even more versatile than the Portuguese product. We (gasp) paired them with pizza. Look for Prager, Ficklin, Quady, Sonoma Valley Portworks, and PasoPort.
Photo by Andrea Gómez
5 of 32Photo by Andrea Gómez
#17-21: Urban wineries
Tasting great wines right where they’re made is a true Left Coast luxury. Now, thanks to the rise of urban wineries, your next spontaneous tasting may be even closer than you think.
17 | Bartholomew Winery: The newest of the South Seattle Artisan Wineries makes beautifully balanced Rhône and Bordeaux blends. bartholomewwinery.com
18 | Portland Wine Project: A twofer (Boedecker Cellars and Grochau Cellars together) in Portland’s Northwest industrial area. 503/224-5778.
19 | The Winery SF: The first full-fledged winery in San Francisco since the repeal of Prohibition. winery-sf.com
20 | San Antonio Winery: The pioneer, it has operated since 1917, when it served L.A.’s Italian workforce. Now it offers workshops. sanantoniowinery.com
21 | San Pasqual Winery (pictured): In a retrofitted San Diego warehouse, you can taste north-of-the-border-made Tempranillo (a Spanish grape), grown in Baja, Mexico. The wines are works in progress but fun to try. sanpasqualwinery.com
Photo by Jason Todd
6 of 32Photo by Jason Todd
22 | Farming’s next generation: Back-to-the-landers used to drop off the grid. But today’s young farmers don’t want to check out—they want to be part of a community, whether that’s selling micro greens to restaurants from a city plot or operating a CSA in the burbs. Take Ilan Salzberg (pictured), a farmer-turned-lawyer-turned-farmer who manages Ekar, a nonprofit farm in Denver that donates most of its produce to a local food pantry. His take on the growing relationship between farmers and residents: “Someone who never related to farming can show up on a bike, harvest a cucumber, and keep going.” Sounds good to us.
23 | Bold new farm schools: Law school? That’s so 1998. More students are heading to the West’s ag schools, drawn by new curriculum emphasizing organic methods, sustainability, and the business savvy they’ll need to thrive. The University of California, Davis, is creating a formal college major in sustainable agriculture, merging theory with roll-up-your-sleeves farm time. Washington State University now offers one of the country’s first majors in organic agriculture, while Cal Poly San Luis Obispo lets any undergrad, no matter what her major, minor in sustainable agriculture.
Photo by Jeffery Cross
7 of 32Photo by Jeffery Cross
#24-27: Western cheeses, bigger than ever
Our picks from the newest crop of cheesemakers.
24 | Chèvre with white pepper, Nordland, WA: A mild, buttery, romantic goat cheese with a delicacy and balance not often seen in flavored cheeses. $8/4-oz. log;mysterybayfarm.comfor stores
25 |Txiki, Marshall, CA (pictured): This rich Basque-style sheep’s-milk cheese smells like soil after a rain. The deep, earthy flavor goes on and on. $30/lb.; available summer/fall;barinagaranch.comfor stores
26 |Two-Faced Blue, Doty, WA: A smooth, pale-yellow cheese with craggy lines of blue shooting through it, this mellow beauty reminds us of Stilton. $26/lb.;willapahillscheese.com
27 |Seascape, Oakdale, CA: Both cow’s and goat’s milk go into these big wheels, creating a complex cheese with nutty sweetness and great acidity. $17/lb.;centralcoastcreamery.com
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#28: Eat salmon without the guilt
For many of us Westerners, dinner doesn’t get any better than a buttery side of rich pink salmon. Plus, it’s our heritage fish, a centuries-old food for all who have lived along the Pacific. But order it from a waiter or at a fish counter these days, and the person next to you might hiss. That’s because stocks in certain areas of the Pacific are crashing, and farm-raised salmon are tagged as polluting and disease-spreading. What’s a salmon lover to do?
At risk of getting the fish-eye ourselves, we’re here to tell you that you can eat salmon without fear of social ruin. For a start, always go with wild over farmed: All salmon fisheries off the West Coast are responsibly managed, so any salmon from these waters is sustainably caught. Wild salmon stocks from Alaska are particularly healthy and strong, and Oregon salmon from north of Cape Falcon (on the coast roughly west of Portland) are doing well too. So are salmon fished off of Washington.
Take one of these wild fish home, grill it until it’s crispy on the edges, and savor it with a good glass of Pinot—and a clear conscience. Because the West doesn’t taste any better than this.
Photo by Glenn Oakley
9 of 32Photo by Glenn Oakley
#29: The future of ranching starts here
Sustainability, land preservation, friendliness toward wolves and coyotes—these are not things you associate with a sheep ranch. But at Lava Lake Lamb, a conservation-obsessed, almost-million-acre ranch near Sun Valley, Idaho, they’re cornerstones. Even better, what’s good for the land is good for business: The free-range lambs graze on everything from sagebrush to alpine herbs, which makes them lean and flavorful. And following the notion that a happy lamb is a healthy one, the animals stay with their mothers. The brainchild of two San Franciscans with a passion for conservation, Lava Lake Lamb essentially raises animals as they were in the past. lavalakelamb.com
Photo by Jeffery Cross; food styling by Robyn Valarik
10 of 32Photo by Jeffery Cross; food styling by Robyn Valarik
#30-32: Mushroom fever
From foraging to festivals, the West can’t get enough of these earthy delights.
30 | Foraging: Hunting for mushrooms has become a passion in the West, as foragers scour damp forests, mountain peaks, and coastlines for the coveted caps. To safely join in the adventure, check out a mushroom club near you (namyco.orgfor listings). Or sign up for Healdsburg, California’s Relish Culinary Adventures(relishculinary.com), where you forage and then cook up your haul.
31 | Dinners: Menus here are the most fungi-friendly in the country. We like Poggio Trattoria($$; 415/332-7771) in Sausalito, California, which celebrates the rainy season with dishes like porcini pasta and pizza with chanterelles.
32 | Festivals: Mushroom festivals are weird and wonderful things, mostly happening in late fall and winter. Get your feet wet at California’s Mendocino County Wine & Mushroom Festival(visitmendocino.com) in November. In late January, Oregon fetes its most famous fungus with the Oregon Truffle Festival(oregontrufflefestival.com), which hosts seminars and dinners in and around Eugene.
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#33-34: Locally made gear and farmers' markets
33 | Gear that’s actually made here: Surprise! Hobie Cat’s latest kayak, the Mirage Oasis (pictured), doesn’t hail from Singapore; it’s designed and made right here, in Oceanside, California. We love the foot pedals, which free up hands for fishing and picture taking. $2,699;hobiecat.comfor stores.
34 |Farmers’ markets go viral: Imagine a Craigslist for local produce, grass-fed beef, eggs, and the like, and you’ve got the idea behind two new online marketplaces that bring backyard gardeners and grocery shoppers together. The friendly Portland Food Exchange(portlandfoodexchange.com) and Sandy’s Produce(sandysproduce.com), in northern Arizona, are still in the beta stage, but we expect to see more sites like these soon.
Photo by David Fenton
12 of 32Photo by David Fenton
#35: Game changers
Innovators from guerrilla gardeners to backyard fruit swappers are forcing creaky city code to adapt to the urban farming revolution. Take the case of San Francisco gardeners Brooke Budner and Caitlyn Galloway. Their 3/4-acre plot, Little City Gardens, was legal, but zoning prohibited them from selling a single bean sprout unless they bought a $3,000 permit. Seeing this as a bureaucratic killer for urban farms, the women challenged the rules. “We didn’t expect to get the planning department’s ear,” says Budner. But with the mayor making access to healthier food a priority, the timing was right, and the policy is expected to go before the Planning Commission shortly.
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#36-38: Bike nation
Move over, cars—we’re fast becoming the most bike-happy part of the country. Here’s just a taste of what’s going on.
37 | City planning: Believing that biking to work should be easier for locals, Tucson’s Department of Transportation is planning a network of 40 bicycle boulevards, with traffic-calming elements for safer commutes. The first, along Third Street, is already complete.
38 | Bike sharing: Home to more than 300 miles of trails, Denver launched the West’s first bike-share program (bcycle.com) last April, with 50 kiosks of cherry red bikes (pictured). They reopen March 1 for the season; Seattle hopes to follow suit in 2011.
Photo by Drew Kelly
14 of 32Photo by Drew Kelly
#39-42: Two-wheeled businesses and the latest in homesteading
Two-wheeled businesses: Imagine delicious restaurant delivery … without the restaurant. Entrepreneurs who do gourmet takeout—i.e., post a Web menu, hop on a bike, all without an actual storefront—are popping up in the West. Our hats (helmets?) are off to them.
39 | Bike Basket Pies, San Francisco (pictured): Every week, the one-woman operation delivers cupcake-size pies all over town. bikebasketpies.com
40 | SoupCycle, Portland: Sign up for a subscription and choose from three varieties—vegan, veggie, and meat—each week. soupcycle.com
41 | Small Cog Coffee, Seattle: There’s nothing better on a foggy morning than this micro roaster’s coffee—except finding a bag of it on your doorstep. smallcogcoffee.com
42 |Most worth-it homesteading trend: Rent a goat: Cheaper than a weed whacker, healthier than pesticides, and darn cute to boot, goats chomp through your invasive plants and weeds—from blackberry bushes to stinging nettle—often in a matter of hours. Rent from a farm or grazing service. Lease pairs atvegetationmanagementservices.comin Vernonia, OR, or checklivestockforlandscapes.comfor herds.
Photo by Jeffery Cross
15 of 32Photo by Jeffery Cross
#43-48: Artisanal chocolate ups its game
The number of chocolatiers in the West boggles the mind, and chocolate just keeps getting better, from fair trade, organic, and single-origin beans to bonbons emblazoned in jewel tones. Here’s a taste of the new class.
43 | Cadeaux Chocolates, Seattle: Each gemlike truffle is filled with beautifully textured ganache. The caramels are dreamy too. cadeauxchocolates.com
44 | Chocolot, Ogden, UT: The company works wonders with the cacao nib, especially in its Orange Nib Bar. sweetchocolot.com
45 | Au Coeur Des Chocolats, San Francisco: These airbrushed truffles are (almost) too pretty to eat. heartofchocolates.com
47 | Xocolatl de David, Portland (pictured): We’re obsessing over the Raleigh bars (like a gourmet Snickers). xocolatldedavid.com
48 | Seth Ellis Chocolatier, Boulder, CO: Organic, handcrafted truffles with silky smooth ganache astound; try the raspberry. sethellischocolatier.com
Photo by David Lanthan Reamer
16 of 32Photo by David Lanthan Reamer
#49: Food truck on the brink
Where but Portland, the land of 600 food carts, could you open Lardo, a temple to meaty goodness that comes with a double farm-to-table pedigree? Chefs-owners Rick Gencarelli and Adam Parziale hail from the Inn at Shelburne Farms in Vermont, a top farmstead restaurant, and now serve crisp pork belly and farm egg sandwiches out of a tiny Cape Cod cottage on wheels. The porchetta is a three-napkin affair; the fries, cooked in rendered leaf lard, are a triumph. $;lardopdx.com
Photo by William P. Wright
17 of 32Photo by William P. Wright
#50: Love your lawn
The West is the land of the backyard, of days spent grilling outside while the kids run around barefoot. That used to mean grass—tough, resilient, feels-good-between-your-toes grass—until drought concerns ushered in a wave of low-water landscapes. We’ve been a big champion of those at Sunset, but lately, we’ve been thinking there’s room for grass too. Before you yowl in protest, consider this: Your lawn doesn’t need as much water as you think it does. There are now more drought-tolerant grass mixes available. And nothing, nothing, feels the same under your feet. (When was the last time you ran barefoot over a patch of eco-conscious pebbles? Exactly.) So go ahead and love your lawn. Just choose a low-water mix, keep your irrigation uniform, and treat grass clippings as the terrific fertilizer they are, by leaving them be or collecting them for your compost pile. Because without grass, you lose a great backyard design element—the restful spaces between your plantings—and your surest bet against soil loss. Ever pull up grass and find a clump of dirt attached? That’s called erosion control, and grass is better at it than anything else, period.
Photo by Drew Kelly
18 of 32Photo by Drew Kelly
#51-53: Soft-serve grows up
First came the Western ice cream revolution—scoops in flavors as outlandish as candied bacon and wasabi. Now, soft-serve is getting in on the action. The childhood swirl makes its play for attention with artisanal toppings and new flavors.
51 | Sam’s Chowder House in Half Moon Bay, California, drowns its organic vanilla soft-serve with a shot of bitter espresso to make a very Italian affogato. samschowderhouse.com
52 | At San Francisco’s Zero Zero, you choose both base (ricotta doughnuts, say) and topping (pomegranate seeds and saffron?) for your Straus Family Creamery soft-serve (pictured). zerozerosf.com
53 | Restaurant Jane in Santa Barbara tops swirls of soft-serve with housemade toffee and caramel as well as seasonal berry sauces. 805/962-1311.
Photo by Jeffery Cross; food styling by Kevin Crafts
19 of 32Photo by Jeffery Cross; food styling by Kevin Crafts
#54-62: The jam explosion
Nothing really beats fresh fruit captured at its peak of ripeness and slathered on a piece of buttery toast. With a focus on heirloom fruits, small-batch recipes, and local, local, local (often the fruit comes from the yard out back), the jams here blow our minds. Grab a spoon.
54 | June Taylor Company, Berkeley: The grand dame of small-batch jams, Taylor seeks out heirloom and forgotten fruits. From $13;junetaylorjams.com
55 | Hurley Farms, Napa: Its Royal Blenheim apricot preserves and Sun Grand nectarine jam are sunshine on a spoon. $6.75;hurleyfarms.com
56 | Ayers Creek Farm, Gaston, OR: The Ayers Creek family crafts small-batch jams using only fresh fruit, lemon juice, and a touch of sugar. The loganberry is a must. $7; 503/985-0177.
57 | Ellelle Kitchen, Pasadena, CA: We love the fun, delicious jam combos like Backyard Grapefruit with Campari or Two Berry with Lavender. $14;ellellekitchen.com
58 | INNA, Berkeley: Pure jam perfection—the ideal spoonable texture (between runny and firm) and not too sweet. Try the Seascape strawberry jam. $12;innajam.com
59 | The Girl & The Fig, Sonoma: The to-die-for black Mission fig jam is made with fruit picked at its peak, cooked with sugar and a touch of cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg. $6.75;thegirlandthefig.com
60 | Aravaipa Farms, Aravaipa Canyon, AZ: Apricots from the owner’s own sun-drenched orchard are turned into glorious preserves, using an old French recipe. $8.50;aravaipafarms.com
61 | Forward Thinking Foods, Victoria, B.C.: Stop by Moss Street Market and pick up a jar of perky-tart berry jam; sadly, they don’t ship. From $3.41 U.S.;forwardthinkingfoods.blogspot.com
62 | Blue Chair Fruit, Oakland: Made with local organic fruit in small batches, its seasonal flavors, like Adriatic fig, are simply transcendent. $12;bluechairfruit.com
Photo by Jeffery Cross
20 of 32Photo by Jeffery Cross
#63-65: Locally sourced beauty lines
A crop of women-run, handmade skin-care lines take a good-for-you/good-for-the-planet approach to beauty, each tied to its own corner of the West.
63 | Lotus Wei: This Phoenix-based line (pictured;lotuswei.com) is the brainchild of organic alchemist Katie Hess, who infuses flower essences from local blooms for her skin tone–boosting elixirs.
64 | Gunilla Skin Alchemy: At her cult San Francisco spa, Gunilla Eisenberg blends essential oils and herbs, mostly from Northern California, for her Gunilla Skin Alchemy line (gunillaskinbutik.com).
65 | Isun Skincare: Bunnie Gulick, founder of Isun Skincare (isunskincare.com), brings a touch of the mountains to her organic line, with wild herbs foraged near her lab in Colorado’s San Juan Range. Although packaged in glass and sustainably sourced, these aren’t the hippie tonics sold on card tables at your local farmers’ market—they’re used in some of the best spas in the West.
Photo by Andrea Gómez Romero
21 of 32Photo by Andrea Gómez Romero
#66-70: Bar dining and cheesemaking
66 | Dinner at the bar: At fancy restaurants, we’re starting to think the hottest seat is at the bar—the menu is often less pricey, the wines by the glass tantalizing and unusual, and, thanks to the bartender banter (and eaves-dropping), it’s entertaining to boot. Plus, a pile of Monterey sardines or a tall craft beer just tastes better at the bar, where food tends to come out faster. Dig in at hotspots such as Redd in Napa Valley (pictured;reddnapavalley.com).
Everyone can be a cheesemaker here: The DIY food obsession has led to classes in everything from canning to kombucha fermenting (really). For our money, the biggest payoff comes from learning to make cheese—totally doable, yet utterly impressive.
67 | The Cheese School of San Francisco: Learn the ABCs of making fresh cheeses (think fromage blanc), and leave with a chèvre you’ve flavored yourself. $65;cheeseschoolsf.com
68 | Kookoolan Farms, Yamhill, OR: First, watch the brie, gouda, or cheddar demo. Then buy the supplies here to make your own. From $65;kookoolanfarms.com
69 | Old Windmill Dairy, Estancia, NM: Hands-on intros walk you through the mozzarella process. A springtime bonus: bottle-feeding the farm’s baby goats. From $38;theoldwindmilldairy.com
70 | River Valley Cheese, Fall City, WA: Tackle a different cheese every month, from blue to havarti to manchego, and age it yourself. From $125;rivervalleycheese.com
Photo by E. Spencer Toy
22 of 32Photo by E. Spencer Toy
#71: The chicken coop is the new doghouse
As the backyard chicken craze spreads like wildfire, Fidos all over the West are having to share the yard with the ladies. Henhouses run the gamut from high-design to DIY—we’ve seen clever ones crafted out of truck cabs and window frames. Check out backyardchickens.com for inspiration.
Photo by Thomas J. Story
23 of 32Photo by Thomas J. Story
#72-75: Parks and salvage
72–74 | Pop-up parks: Parklets. Ped plazas. Hell strips. Call ’em what you want—but isn’t it marvelous what pavement can become when a community pulls together? Last spring, San Francisco kicked off what’s becoming a West-wide trend when, with help from the Pavement to Parks program, a strip of sidewalk in front of the Mojo Bicycle Café was transformed into a leafy oasis on Divisadero Street. Next up? Portland, where a grassroots blog called Re-thinking the Right-of-Way aims to gussy up commercial areas such as Mississippi Avenue and Alberta Street. And our favorite in-the-works project is the Sunset Substation Park in Seattle: A pocket park with purpose, it would turn a defunct electrical station into a green space with a solar-powered canopy.
75 | Inspired salvage (pictured): Only out here would people think to make homes from abandoned cargo containers and old planes, lamps from bike chains, or planters from discarded sinks. Call it a knack for seeing the potential in something others have cast away.
Photo by Simon Perkins
24 of 32Photo by Simon Perkins
#76: Experience trumps consumption
Research shows that doing things tends to make us happier than buying things—and, let’s face it, the West is one of the best places to learn a new hobby. Lately, we’ve fallen for fly-fishing, which combines the thrill of catching fish with spending time (a lot of time) in beautiful landscapes. PRO Outfitters(prooutfitters.com), based in Helena, Montana, is one of the best guiding outfits around: Dip your toe in with a day trip ($500 for 2), or book a five-night stay at their luxe tent camp on the Blackfoot River (May–Sep; $2,780 for 2 with meals). The memories will make you a heck of a lot happier than, say, a new wing chair.
Photo by Jeffery Cross
25 of 32Photo by Jeffery Cross
#77: Olive oil, within reach
Really good extra-virgin olive oil has never been cheap (it’s called liquid gold for a reason), even when made in California. But thanks to a new way of planting trees—trained close together on trellises—great, affordable olive oil is here. We love the buttery, faintly spicy blend from California Olive Ranch. From $10 for 500 ml.; at stores andcaliforniaoliveranch.com
Photo by Thomas M. Barwick
26 of 32Photo by Thomas M. Barwick
#78-86: Oceanside oysters
An icy, briny oyster on the half-shell is one of the West’s unrivaled pleasures—especially when consumed within a literal stone’s throw of the water it grew in. And with 1,293 miles of coastline (not even counting Alaska), we have a growing number of aqua farms where you can do just that. Plus, there’s no need for fish farm guilt—oysters are terrific water filters that make our bays healthier.
So get right to the source at one of these oyster farms: Buy a few dozen sweet little Kumamotos or plump, cucumbery Pacifics, and get cracking.
Get this: Westerners are now gardening (hold the weeding, please!) for fun ... on vacation.
87 | Garden tours and classes at Napa Valley’s Bardessono are open to the public as well as to guests at the neo-schmancy hotel. By appointment; from $20;bardessono.com
88 | Dinner no longer starts with appetizers at the Herbfarm in Woodinville, Washington. It starts with working in the idyllic kitchen garden and on the farm—and ends with a well-earned nine-course meal. $1,200 for 2, including classes, meal, and lodging;herbfarm.com
89 | The third Saturday of the month, Pie Ranch welcomes volunteers to its coastal farm south of San Francisco to learn about organic growing. After a good hand-washing, all join a potluck dinner and then do-si-do at a barn dance. Dance from $7 (sliding scale);pieranch.org
Photo by Thomas J. Story
28 of 32Photo by Thomas J. Story
#90: The B&B shows its sexy side
Between the Granny-was-here decor and the chumsy breakfast, B&Bs can be hard to love. So we’ve cheered the arrival of a few that deliver the cozy, homey feel that chic boutique hotels miss, but with an updated, come-hither look. Sonoma County’s Farmhouse Inn(pictured; from $295;farmhouseinn.com) got us with its luxe new “barn rooms” fit for a king. And in the hills above California’s Anderson Valley, the century-old Toll House Inn(from $150;tollhouseinn.com) has reopened with a clean, classic update that makes us long for the country life.
Photo by Andrea Gómez Romero
29 of 32Photo by Andrea Gómez Romero
#91-94: Pull over! The new motor lodges
There’s nothing more Western than an epic road trip. One change we’re happy to see? The roadside digs have gotten an upgrade since your childhood summers in the family wagon.
91 | The Presidio Motel, Santa Barbara: Its tiny office may shout “motor court lodge,” but the loaner cruiser bikes and new glam touches (like embroidered pillows and chic wall decals) scream cool. From $179;thepresidiomotel.com
92 | Caliente Tropics Resort, Palm Springs: Elvis Presley and Nancy Sinatra used to hang at this 1964 hotel, where the original Polynesian decor has been upgraded to tiki-modern. From $105;calientetropics.com
93 | The Pearl Hotel, San Diego: The vintage motel turned boutique hotel has kept its spirit with classic cocktails and “dive-in” movies by the kidney-shaped pool. From $129;thepearlsd.com
94 | The Motor Lodge, Prescott, AZ: At the 100-year-old motel, rooms have gotten a dust-off with luxe linens and original art. Catch a ride downtown in the lodge’s flame orange 1965 pickup. From $89;themotorlodge.com
Photo by Disneyland Resort
30 of 32Photo by Disneyland Resort
#95: The case for Disneyland
We know people who don’t like Disneyland, and here are their reasons. The admission price. The lines. The fear that they will have to have their picture taken with Goofy; the belief that while Disneyland may enchant kids, it only bores adults. They are wrong.
No place takes as many pains as Disneyland to get the details right, down to its Mickey Mouse topiary. And while the park is 55 years old, it never stands still. Its theme park twin, California Adventure, has opened a hallucinogenic laser- and fire-effects show. Coming this spring is a Little Mermaid extravaganza. And the sparks keep flying from Disney’s alliance with the animation wizards at Pixar: Finding Nemo’s Nemo, Toy Story’s Buzz and Woody—all have been installed in the pantheon of Disney rides. Next year, the Pixar-inspired Cars Land opens—the Disney equivalent of a new continent.
So give in. Brave the lines. Let yourself go. Because somewhere, say on Nemo’s submarine, you’ll feel gratitude for pop culture that exalts rather than demeans. And you’ll grasp the essential Disneyland secret: All the pains the park takes are taken just for you.
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#96-99: Green hotels hit the mainstream
City hotels have been jumping on the green thing for years, but it’s bigger than that now. With eco-friendly inns popping up all over the place, this is no longer an urban thing—it’s, well, just the way it is out here.
96 | Park Hotel, South Lake Tahoe, CA: Comfy reclaimed-wood furniture and recycled Doug fir walls, covered in craft newspaper, are a warm welcome back from the slopes. From $189;968parkhotel.com
97 | The Oxford Hotel, Bend, OR: Silver tree stumps and cork floors merge rustic with cool. Explore on cruiser bikes, then snuggle under duvets made of recycled plastic. From $189;oxfordhotelbend.com
98 | Gaia Shasta, Anderson, CA: Watch swans and koi swim in the lake surrounded by leafy native plants. Inside, tubular skylights bring the sunshine in. From $89;gaiashasta.com
99 | Hotel Terra, Jackson hole, WY: A chic mountain resort (pictured) with eco tours of Grand Teton National Park, and plush organic mattresses. From $319;hotelterrajacksonhole.com
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#100: Dark skies, our last best place
We’ve all been there—camping or vacationing in the middle of nowhere, the day ends, and suddenly there’s the blackest sky imaginable above, bristling with stars. The West’s vast open spaces mean the darkest skies in the country, and the National Park Service’s Night Sky Program, in Fort Collins, Colorado, is fighting to keep them that way, partnering with towns and cities to limit light pollution that crowds out stars. It’s not a battle for aesthetics alone—studies show that darkness makes us healthier, helping our sleep patterns and boosting immunity. All the more reason to grab your tent and take in the wild night skies.