Managing 27 grocery stores and more than 2,500 employees is a stressful task. Nob Hill Foods owner Michael Bonfante learned that the best way for him to manage that stress was to retreat to a shady, secluded spot surrounded by majestic trees. These occasional escapes into nature inspired Bonfante to found a park dedicated to teaching visitors of all ages—but especially children—how to appreciate horticulture, wildlife, and trees in particular. Along with his wife, Claudia, Bonfante eventually sold his grocery stores and committed all of his efforts to educating the public and spreading his love for nature.
Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park receives virtually all of the Bonfantes' attention now, and it attracts visitors with combination of educational exhibits, carnival games, and amusement-park rides. The map features more than 40 possible destinations where guests can learn something new about local horticulture, enjoy an adrenaline-pumping joy ride, or simply enjoy the scenery. With family-friendly attractions available for all ages, the park includes everything from carousels to paddleboats to a mine-cart roller coaster that takes passengers through a thrilling series of dips and speedy turns. An interactive water attraction called Water Oasis and the Octonauts live show were just added to the roster in 2014.
Even while visitors are standing in line or buckled into a ride, they are still surrounded by nature at Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park. Five waterfalls—representing the five major styles of waterfalls that occur in nature—gush with torrents of water. The grounds also feature 19 of Axel Erlandson's famous Circus Trees, which he created by grafting saplings so that they grew to form shapes such as hearts, lightning bolts, and basket weaves. In addition to touting the importance of animals such as monarch butterflies and honeybees, the park features six distinctive gardens brimming with informative displays and everything from conifers to tropical and subtropical flowers.
Johnny 6 offers full-service training for aspiring equestrians, its barn stocked to the rafters with expert instructors. Your horseback riding experience will include closely guided instruction and four 30-minute private, one-on-one lessons with a trained horse. Learn the ropes of horseback riding as you gallop on your way to becoming sensei of the saddle. All riders should wear long pants and closed-toe shoes during their lessons—for safety and so they don’t embarrass the horse's oddly specific fashion sense. Whether you're an advanced rider looking to get back on your high horse or a total neophyte who believes horses are no more real than Sasquatch or Richard Nixon, Johnny 6 will help you reach your quest for horse-riding success. Once the riding lesson is complete, your experience may include (if eligible) grooming, tacking, and putting the horse away in the stable. Classes are offered throughout the day, from the morning to the early evening, seven days a week.
Bought by brothers Alex and Charlie Larson after an award-winning stint in the restaurant business, Rapazzini Winery tickles tongues with an eclectic collection of wines drawn from California's vineyards. After bottling, most Rapazzini wines rest for an additional one to two years, mellowing tannins, developing fruity bouquets, and finishing majors in art history. Unique wines include the almond champagne, created by Alex Larson using his training at the California Culinary Institute, and the Arpibella, blending sweet wine, apricots, and peach into a delectable aperitif or dessert wine. Guests to the winery can taste 21 of the 22 available wines, guided through the selection by resident grape expert Adam and his airedale, Butters. Behind the beaten copper bar, Adam and the brother Larson can also whip up wine-based cocktails, amusing mouths with more complex flavors.The two-story, open-beamed tasting room lulls guests into placid relaxation while sipping on palate-pleasing pours, whereas a stained-glass window depicting the winery's whimsical mascot reassures eyes that the sun has not been devoured by a dragon-shaped cloud.
Nestled in the scenic Hecker Pass region of the Santa Clara Valley, the family-owned winery focuses on crafting exemplary grape concoctions unlike anything inside a juice box or peanut butter sandwich. Solis has produced dozens of award-winning wines, baiting a 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition gold medal for its 2008 Muscat Canelli, 2009 Fiano Estate, and 35,000 B.C. Chateau de Cro-Magnon. Grab a pal and perambulate the charming winery premises while sampling a variety of palate-stimulating wines during your tasting for two ($5 value per person). Five wines are included in the tasting. Additionally, budding winecionados will be able to take home a bottle ($12 to $30), such as the red 2006 Seducente ($20) or white 2007 Chardonnay ($24).
Nestled in among redwood trees at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Fernwood Cellars prides itself on its high-quality processes, using only grapes grown on-site and only premium oak barrels for aging. Veteran vintner Matt Oetinger oversees the winemaking process from grapes to bottle, looking after each batch of fermented nectar like a proud parent at a children’s roller-derby bout. Great for a spending a romantic afternoon with a wine-loving date or boldly confronting a grape phobia before it ruins another trip to the supermarket, a visit to the estate allows sippers to get a taste of potable delight before toting home a chosen bottle. Today’s Groupon can be redeemed for a bottle of chardonnay, zinfandel, syrah, or il cane.