Grapes hang heavy from the vines on trellises scattered across 20 acres of the rolling Lincoln Hills. The fruit, tended by Wise Villa Winery's oenophiles, yield awards, including a prestigious honor from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Owner and winemaker Dr. Grover Lee draws on viticulture training while producing single-variety and blended wines or doing the crossword in the Grapes Aficionado Quarterly. Within the winery, the tasting room fills with the sound of clinking glasses as patrons sample various award winners, such as the Pinot Noir Rose. The winery also arranges frequent events, including live music on Fridays, grape-stomping parties, and reservation-only pairing dinners at its bistro.
Everything changed for Bob and Chris Quinlan when they organized a successful pub crawl for their local Rotary club in 2005. The positive reception to their event led the pair to found AppeteasersUSA in 2011, which has since expanded from its initial tour in Folsom to include outings in Northern and Southern California, Washington, and Florida. Across the country, AppeteasersUSA’s savvy guides can be found leading patrons from culinary hot spot to hot spot.
Throughout the four-hour tours, herds of at least 25 tour goers stop at restaurants and bars unique to the area—eschewing chains and large franchises—for 30-minute stints, nibbling on appetizers and noting which kitchen appliances might come to life after the restaurant closes. To wash down savory flavors, patrons can swig discounted drinks at each establishment.
What began as Mike Owen's small winemaking venture in a private basement in 1981 blossomed into a full-scale commercial operation by 2000. Under the name Crystal Basin Cellars, Mike and the team have continued to rely on the principles that helped them grow: they source all their grapes from local vineyards, and work with a team of part-time but dedicated wine enthusiasts. Their efforts have won them numerous accolades at the California State Fair, including a double-gold award for Best Syrah in 2013.
Just next door to the independent winery, unassumingly housed inside a former Chevron gas station, is Crystal Basin Bistro. Warm, earth-toned interiors surround patrons with quirky design elements such as a giant metal spoon, spatula, and whisk hung from the ceiling, and an outdoor patio lets them soak up the sun or practice bald-eagle calls. Internationally influenced shared plates such as carnitas tacos, Russian cheese bread, and Asian-style pork dumplings pair with the winery's renowned private-label and bistro wines, some with names inspired by jazz-age references in pop culture. Regularly, the bistro and winery explode with live-music events such as the summer concert series. From May to October, the lawn fills with music from local and nationally recognized acts such as Laurie Morvan, Ronnie Montrose Band Remembered, and the Styx tribute band Renegade Rocks.
A little bit of the Wild West still survives in Heartstoppers Haunted House, except that "survives" implies that its inhabitants are living. Visitors first find themselves in the heart of the Deadlands, a town once and still terrorized by the murderous gunslinger, Cyrus Lynch. His zombified victims, freed from their shallow graves, now inhabit the saloons and general stores, seeking revenge on their killer and someone who can figure out how to make the player piano play anything other than "Old Susanna."
Interlopers duck into Dr. Lash's Sideshow for relief, only to to find themselves surrounded by grotesque oddities and threatened by the mad doctor's unstable son, Billy. In their haste to leave town, the visitors stumble through the Tomb of Shadows—a dark, winding maze with a gauntlet of surprises—and into Steamghást Asylum, the abandoned rehabilitation center for the area's criminals. Overrun by insane doctors and bloodthirsty killers, the medical monstrosity of steam and electricity still reverberates with the screams of unwilling test subjects.
If you've ever tried to beat rush-hour traffic by tethering your car with helium-filled balloons, then you know that hot-air flight should be left to the professionals. The Federal Aviation Administration–certified pilots at Sky Drifters Hot Air Ballooning embark on journeys from the Sierra Nevada foothills daily, and their company has been named one of the 10Best attractions in Sacramento. Whether piloting a small group or private flight, the balloon captains show passengers a bird’s-eye view of the rolling hills, winding rivers and finely crafted comb-overs whose majesty can only be truly appreciated from above. Their aerial transports also play host to weddings in the sky and can provide a lift to those who enjoy BASE jumping from the clouds.