The history of wine in the Livermore Valley spans 250 years. Spanish missionaries planted the region's first grapes in the 18th century, and Robert Livermore sowed the first commercial vines in the mid-19th. These early efforts led to America's first international gold medal for wine at the 1889 Paris Exposition, when California grapes beat out bordeaux in the annual race to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
The guides at Livermore Valley Wine & Cycle Tours lead cyclists into this historic, scenic valley in which some 40 wineries currently reside. Rides between them follow moderate routes, letting peddlers soak in views of the canyons and ridges that rise and fall between the clustered rows of vines.
Zephyr Whitewater Expeditions has been soaking up water-dousing revelry since 1973 with an assortment of safe aquatic adventures on California’s scenic rivers. No experience is necessary for this half-day voyage, which begins at noon and typically concludes about 5:30 p.m., on the Kings River, one of the last undammed and unspoiled rivers flowing out of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. At the Zephyr base-camp meeting place, groups of water wanderers 7 years and older receive a brief prepping on the journey ahead before donning a life vest and joining a CPR-certified guide in a six- to eight-person paddle raft. River explorers then embark on a 10-mile journey full of untamed splashes and feral rubber duckies, and seasoned guides answer any questions and fish-themed riddles that come up along the way. Between each lively bit of rapids, which can vary in classification from season to season, calm stretches give rafters the opportunity to reflect on the Kings River’s tremendous beauty or newly acquired life-vest tan lines. Victorious paddlers end the day with a complimentary snack and beverage before a Zephyr shuttle returns them back to their vehicles.
The cooks at Sips Bistro and Wine Shop use locally acquired and organic ingredients where possible in their classic menu of small plates, varietals, and espresso drinks. The intimate bistro setting—rendered warm by colorful murals of pastoral settings and elegant wood wine racks—hosts guests as they try refined eats such as a chicken, brie, and caramelized onion quesadilla, or a brined and herb-crusted bone-in pork chop. During wine flights, vino sippers may choose their own drinks from a temperature-controlled wine bar or the frigid palms of a grape-eating sprite. The company also occasionally hosts events such as champagne Sundays and special tastings.
The sprawling 8-acre family-friendly amusement park dubbed Funworks initially began as a miniature-golf course, Putt-Putt Golf, before expanding to include a coin-operated-game room in 1989, which first bore the Funworks moniker. Today, its current incarnation helmed by Freddy Foreman, the facility's foreman of fun, showcases multiple family-friendly attractions at two locations. The grounds house remote-controlled racing tracks, batting cages, and an expansive mini-golf course that weaves across 54 holes. Additionally, patrons will discover other curios of entertainment such as a teddy-bear factory where children can customize stuffed animals to fulfill carpool-lane requirements.
Ramon and Debra Rios are living the dream. On their vast tract of grape-blanketed land, the wine flows like Hi-C at a rich kid's birthday party as visitors taste the Rioses' expressions of chardonnay, pinot grigio, tempranillo, petite syrah, and port. The venue also provides a space for plenty of other activities—morning yoga in the lush green vineyards, evening cigar and wine tastings, and even the occasional live-music performance.
The inspiration behind Alebrijes Mexican Bistro is the stuff of nightmares—Pedro Linares’ nightmares, to be specific. At the age of 30, the Mexican artist fell deathly ill. As he lay in bed, unconscious, he dreamt of a strange world filled with brightly colored monsters—a donkey with butterfly wings and a rooster with the head of an eagle among others—all shouting “alebrijes, alebrijes, alebrijes!” When he awoke, he wanted to show his family and friends all that he had seen, so he replicated his first alebrije from brightly painted papier-mâché. To this day, his family still crafts these strange creatures to serve as unusual home accents.
Pedro Linares' monsters inspired Alebrijes Mexican Bistro's name, as well as its decor, which showcases brightly colored paintings of his nightmarish beasts. In 2012, the bistro also won the Lodi News Reader’s Choice award for Best Mexican Restaurant, thanks to its gourmet burritos and regionally inspired dishes such as oaxaca mole, guanajuato bacon-wrapped prawns, and guacamole prepared in the style of Mexico City. The restaurant also infuses their own tequilas.