Born from the imaginations of two brothers running a flower shop, Edible Arrangements has grown from a single neighborhood storefront in Waltham, Massachusetts, to more than 1,100 locations throughout the globe, sending clusters of fresh fruit to deserving loved ones throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Produce artisans arrange delicious bundles of candy-dipped apples, strawberries, and bananas alongside carved melon slices and morsels of orange, grape, and berry, combining the eye-catching color of a floral bouquet with every human's unconscious desire to feast on that bouquet. Guests stop in the store to enjoy fresh-fruit smoothies and salads or pick up baskets to present to sweethearts, friends, or family in person. For web-based gift giving, helpful package tracking allows customers to keep tabs on their remotely ordered bounties of seasonal citrus bouquets and cocoa-covered berries.
Earth & Vine Provisions' signature collection yokes together a dozen of the company's best-selling gourmet jams, sauces, and condiments, which are crafted from natural ingredients with an emphasis on California-grown produce and creative flavor pairings. Autumnal treats such as mandarin-pumpkin marmalade open up new possibilities for biscuits and toast, whereas tangerine-habanero mustard gives sandwiches the courage to bite back. Pineapple-sake teriyaki marinade enhances fish, steak, chicken, or pork with a complex flavor profile, and banana-rum-pineapple jam works well as an ingredient in muffins or as means for eliciting gossip from monkeys.
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.
Against a backdrop of lush trees, paintball players belly-crawl through gigantic concrete pipes, wade waist-high through wetlands, and pop off rounds from behind disabled Army jeeps. The battlegrounds are so elaborate, in fact, the Butte County sheriff's office and SWAT teams train on them, using the wooden huts as cover and the large tin barrels as the rhythm section for their reggae bands. Citizen players 10 and older, however, navigate the obstacles during fast-paced woodsball and speedball matches as referees monitor to ensure fair play. There's even a field specifically for target practice so gamers can knock the rust from their muzzles. Meanwhile, lights emblazon the speedball field during night matches of adrenaline-fueled play.
When animals are rescued from dangerous living situations or seized from the hands of smugglers, STAR Eco Station provides them with second chances at peaceful lives. But the facility doesn't just serve as a haven for more than 200 rescued animals. Perhaps just as importantly, it also educates the public as an environmental science museum. During public tours, guides lead guests through exhibits of rescued exotic animals, such as parrots, pythons, and wildcats, while explaining the habits, history, and New Year's resolutions of each creature.
The recipient of multiple awards from media and government agencies, STAR Eco Station also provides educational outreach programs to more than 40 California school districts and works in concert with conservation organizations such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Paw Project, and Heal the Bay.
The Music Store nurtures aspiring musicians with an exhaustive collection of instruments and broad teaching resources. More than 40 teachers share their skills during lessons for classical and contemporary instruments, and sheet-music-literate students can learn new songs by sight from a selection of more than 800 titles. Staff can also order any music still in print and start the musical journey with the purchase of new and used pianos and band instruments. Grownups slowly slash chords with the purchase of a new guitar, whereas child-size guitars come equipped with Pop Rocks–flavored fingerboard.