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September 2012

Get the most out of family travel with these budget tips

Make Fairfield, California Your Next Family Travel Memory by Barbara L. Steinberg

Fairfield logoFairfield, California is the perfect family destination -- however you define your family.  Memorable and budget-friendly family travel tipsters should look to lesser-known destinations and shoulder-season travel.  It’s amazing how much time and money you can save by choosing a secondary market for lodging and activities. With a little research – the Internet is your friend – you can discover free and inexpensive adventures. And what you find will likely surprise you!

In this case, Fairfield, California! Many travelers know Fairfield as the home of the most famous jelly beans – Jelly Belly! If you haven’t visited or even if you have – JB is fun, fun, fun! Daily tours are free. And if you want to take it a step farther, look into the Jelly Belly University tours. These aren’t free, but they get you up-close and personal with Jelly Belly down on the factory floor. What many people don’t realize is that Jelly Belly is a full-blown candy factory making chocolate and fudge. You can’t buy these sweets anywhere else but the factory. Check the monthly calendars for seasonal events!

Just around the corner, the Anheuser-Busch/Budweiser factory also offers free tours. For older kids (yes, the under 21 set) it’s still interesting. They also have a Beermaster Tour (like Jelly Belly) that provides a more hands-on approach. If you want to continue the brewing theme, Fairfield’s Blue Frog Grog & Grill is a microbrew and restaurant. Yummy for adults and kids.

But Fairfield is much more than two iconic facilities. The Suisun and Green valleys – just minutes off Suisun Valley Pumpkin Farm Courtesy of SVPFInterstate 80 – are a look at rural California the way life used to be. Great farm stands, wineries, dry fruit and nut store, hidden sculpture ranch, world-class mountain biking, hiking, historic cemetery and church, farmers markets, olive oil tasting, seasonal pumpkin patches…do I have your attention? Families don’t always mean younger children. In which case, wineries have tasting rooms! Winterhawk Winery has a weekly blues and wine event (kids are welcome BTW) which is the best deal in the region -- $7 for wine tasting, wood fired pizza, and live Blues plus incredible views of the vineyards and Vaca Mountains.

Fairfield has theme park offerings for every age and every interest.  Driven Raceway, Scandia Family Fun Allan Witt Aquatic Ctr Fairfield Credit Barbara L Steinberg9Center, and the Alan Witt Aquatic Center offer seasonal and year-round thrills. There’s a really frosty spout fountain at the government building (Texas and Jefferson streets) in downtown Fairfield. Kids love to cool down here on a hot summer day – parents can jump in too! Again, it’s FREE! Just minutes away in Vallejo, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is a scream dream of speed and plunging from breathtaking heights. It’s America’s only marine life, wildlife and wild rides theme park.
Solano Land Trust, headquartered in Fairfield, offers free docent-led hikes and annual special events including a kite festival. Rush Ranch Open Space off Highway 12 is open daily for self-guided hikes along Rush Ranch Access Adventure15Suisun Marsh. Don’t miss the interpretive museum housed in the original Sear’s Kit House, antique farm equipment, blacksmith shop (check for hours) and Indian grinding stones on the property. Other lesser-known attractions include the historic Western Railway Museum and Jimmy Doolittle Air & Space Museum.

Fairfield is equidistant between Sacramento and San Francisco making it ideal for any visitor wanting to partake of the long list of activities in these two stellar destinations. It’s also in close proximity to the California Delta and Napa and Sonoma valleys.

Fairfield lodging is less expensive than Sacramento and San Francisco gateways. You’ll recognize many brand name hotels that are family friendly and provide other amenities for kids and budget options. Local and chain restaurant choices won’t strain your family’s pocketbook.

You’ll run out of time before you run out of fun and funds on your family adventure to Fairfield, California. This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg! Follow them on Facebook, too, for all the best Fairfield family fun.


Beautiful Bennett Lane Balloon

BalloonUp, Up, and Away in Napa Valley! But first, name that balloon.

You don't want to miss this incredible opportunity. Bennett Lane Winery has announced the launch of their “Name the Bennett Lane Balloon” contest, in which the winery’s fans, followers and members of the public of legal drinking age are invited to submit names for Napa Valley's first winery branded hot air balloon via social media. Winery owners Randy and Lisa Lynch will choose the winning name, which will be announced at the balloon’s official launch on Wednesday, August 15th, as well as on the winery’s website, Facebook and Twitter accounts. The person who submits the winning name will receive several fantastic rewards, including an hour-long flight for two over Napa Valley in the new balloon, a complimentary reserve wine tasting, and a sleek, fitted black jacket and hat emblazoned with the Bennett Lane Winery logo.

Contest entries for the name are submitted on the winery’s website. Participants and the public are invited to keep up with the contest by visiting the winery's Facebook fan page, and by following Bennett Lane Winery on Twitter at @BennettLane and searching for the #nametheballoon hashtag.

The contest will be closed for submissions at 5 pm on Sunday, August 12th. The winning name will be announced by special guest, baseball legend Tony La Russa, at the balloon launch on August 15th.