Summer To-Do: Shakespeare in the Park

A warm summer breeze, an open bottle of wine, men in tights… it’s a midsummer night’s dream, or, Shakespeare in the Park. Whether you’re a longtime fan of The Bard or have fuzzy memories of that one high school English class, get thee to this summer tradition. The tradition goes back to 1954 (well, 1599 if you want to get technical), when a few New York visionaries wanted to make Shakespeare theater as free and accessible as library books. Well, turns out people love free stuff and outdoor drinking, so the idea was a hit and has since caught on with communities all over the world. So without further ado, here’s our list of the best FREE 2019 Shakespeare in the Park festivals in the US. Pack a picnic and bring your kin.

New York, NY – The grand dame of Shakespeare in the park and the one that started it all. Since 1962, over five million people have enjoyed more than 150 free productions of Shakespeare at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. The New York Shakespeare Festival runs May through August and offers two shows: May/June catch Much Ado About Nothing staged with an incredible all black cast! and July/August is Coriolanus, a riveting political epic of democracy and demagoguery. Ah, art imitating life.

Asheville, NC – On a campy-but-lovable Olde English stage,The Montford Park Players put on North Carolina’s longest running free Shakespeare Festival. Prepare with bug spray or our new Debug clothes.

Kansas City, MO – Does it get better than sonnets and BBQ? Kansas’ City’s Heart of America Shakespeare Festival knows how to party. This season’s show is Shakespeare in Love (we’re sensing a pattern…) and you can reserve your seating online beforehand.

Boston, MA –  The 24th season of Boston’s Commonwealth Shakespeare Company goes off at the Parkman Bandstand 6 days a week. This year’s show is the little known mystical dramedy, Cymbeline, about the fates of King Cymbeline’s family. Expect mistaken identities, twists and turns, and the all-consuming quest for true love.

Louisville, KY – Coming in at the most ambitious company, The Kentucky Shakespeare Festival is putting on no less that 7 different productions. No tickets required, and dogs are welcome. All of Louisville’s a stage…

Buffalo, NY – Mark your cal for June 20th  when the 44th summer season of Shakespeare in Delaware Park kicks off. The first half of the summer will bring The Tempest and late July switches to Love’s Labour’s Lost (the story of a king and his comrades who swear off women for three years… hilarity ensues.)

Dallas, TX – Park your lawn chairs at Shakespeare Dallas’s series at Samuell Grand Park, now in its 48th season. Catch Shakespeare in Love (not technically by Shakespeare but hey, it’s on theme) and As You Like It, a classic rom com where “Love is merely a madness…”

San Francisco, CA – A little different than the traditional set-up, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival actually travels to 5 different venues throughout the Bay Area. This year they’re toting a musical version of As You Like It from June – September.

Los Angeles area, CA – From San Pedro to Hermosa Beach to Torrance to Venice (and many stops in between), Shakespeare by the Sea makes the rounds. This season catch The Comedy of Errors (two young visitors arrive in the city unaware that their long-lost twins already live there), and Henry V (Shakespeare’s most patriotic and inspiring play tells of a young King Henry V who seeks to unite his beloved England). Gird your loins and your flip flops.

Seattle, WA – In the mood for some hormone-induced teen romance? Romeo & Juliet is calling your name. Love the idea of love triangle in Elizabethan drag? Twelfth Night is for you. Get your fill as the Seattle Shakespeare Company tours the Puget Sound region all summer.

But what will you wear?! 

Great American Road Trips

 

Roadside diners, Main Streets, purple mountains majesty, local radio stations, amber waves of grain…. We love a good summer road trip. It’s the perfect mix of nostalgia and nomad, where rubber meets the road meets the boiled peanut hawker on I-40. Saddle up your trusty 4-wheeled steed (or 2-wheeled, if you’re gutsy), and hit the open road. Here are a few of our favorite Great American Road Trips:

The Ultimate New Mexico Road Trip

New Mexico, a land of desert, green chile, sand dunes, hot springs and caves doesn’t get nearly enough credit. The ‘Land of Enchantment’ is a bona fide mecca for exploration, discovery, scenic (and dull) stretches of highway, UFO’s, and endless adventure. This 7-day road trip itinerary takes you from Denver to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, a stopover in gorgeous Taos, to the natural hot springs of Jemez Valley, over to White Sands National Monument, down to otherworldly Carlsbad Caverns National Park, then back up to Santa Fe via Roswell – because what’s a trip to NM without a trip to UFO country?

17021511092_fc04fc2e7f_b
Carlsbad Caverns, NM. John Fowler.

Quintessential Colorado 

To many, Denver is the true gateway to the West. Like so many early frontiersmen, who reached the western edge of the High Plains and gazed upon the Front Range in both terror and excitement, the Mile High City (Denver) still acts as the ultimate springboard for Colorado adventure. Combine the glory of the open road with the solace of the mountains on this 7-day journey from Denver over some of the nation’s most scenic highways. Head south out of Denver to the Collegiate Peaks, through the Sawatch Range to Crested Butte, marvel at Gunnison National Park, sip wine in Grand Valley, float the Yampa River, relax in Steamboat Springs, hike Estes Park (and a drink at The Shining‘s Stanley Hotel) and watch the sunset over the Flatirons on Day 7. Are we there yet?
Black_Canyon_and_Gunnison_River
Black Canyon and Gunnison River, CO. Terry Foote.

Light Out From Seattle 

One of the best things about Seattle is how many beautiful places are within easy reach, but some of the Pacific Northwest’s most amazing areas are far enough from Seattle that they require a whole weekend (at least) to explore them. Take the North Cascades National Scenic Highway (Hwy 20) east toward Methow Valley. Take a ferry across the sound and start up the Olympic Coast for a weekend of clamming, hiking and camping on the beach if you’ve got a good sleeping bag. Sneak across the Canadian border to Squamish to hike to the top of Stawamus Chief. Fill up on oysters and embrace Washington’s surf culture (yes, they have one) in the Westport. Take a week off and connect all 4 weekend getaways into one great road trip.

olympiccoast
Shi Shi Beach on the Olympic Coast, WA. Scott Neilson.

American History in Pennsylvania

You can’t help but feel patriotic when you roll through the Keystone State. Surrounded by 6 states and with the great Appalachian Mountains running right through the middle, there’s no shortage of Americana in PA. For history buffs and lovers of all things kitsch, start in the City of Brotherly Love – birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution, and the resting place of the Liberty Bell. People-watch in Franklin Square and hit up the nation’s oldest bars for a cold one. Head out of the city on Route 30 for a scenic drive through the little farm towns that make up the fabric of the Pennsylvania Dutch countryside (“Dutch” refers to the German culture brought over by Protestant immigrants in the 17th century). Lancaster County is the seat of Amish Country and home to the Lancaster Central Market; pop in on Fridays for local shoo-fly-pie and chicken corn soup. Hop back on the 30 toward Gettysburg. Spend a few hours exploring the battlefields. Hook up with the Appalachian Trail via Caledonia State Park and spend a few nights camping on the great AT.

Lancaster_County_Amish_03Amish buggy in Lancaster County, PA.

Hidden Gems of the Midwest 

What’s a road trip without a pit stop at the “World’s Largest” roadside attraction? Luckily, the land of 1,000 lakes also seems to have a thousand pit stops. What the Midwest lacks in elevation, it more than makes up for with quirky, memorable sights and attractions. Here are 11 detours you should add to any trip through Middle America. Native American effigies, massive waterfalls, manicured gardens, the National Mustard Museum and even the American Gothic house. Smile for the camera!

Dinosaur

Not actually in the Midwest, but how about that Cabazon Dinosaur?! Say “Cheese!”

Free Summer Concerts You Can’t Miss

2015_03_nightfall-3.jpg

 
It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Summer! The weather’s getting warmer, the produce is perfect, the kids are out of school and there’s no shortage of things to do with your longer days. The sky is the limit, and even a lack of sun in the sky can’t dampen your summer spirit. On any given evening when the sun begins to set, outdoor music venues across the country host concert series featuring local and world-famous artists—for free. We’ve got a few in our hometown of Santa Barbara (jazz on Wednesdays, bluegrass on Sundays) and we’re willing to bet your town has a free summer concert series, too. So pack a picnic and head to the local park, pavilion or amphitheater for a no-cost, people-watching, frisbee-throwing, outdoor-dancing, beer-sampling good time.

And since not all free concerts are created equal, here’s a few of our favorites in some great cities across the country. Use these incredible outdoor concert series as an excuse to plan the summer road trip you’ve been daydreaming about…

Nightfall Concert Series in Chattanooga

Nightfall Concert Series, Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Nightfall Concert Series, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Nightfall Music Series

 

With nearly three decades under their belts, the organizers of Chattanooga’s free Nightfall Series know how to put together a summer concert lineup. Every Friday from May – August, head to Miller Plaza to watch a local band open for a national headliner—many of whom will play in Chattanooga for the first time in 2016. This summer’s diverse lineup runs the gamut from bluegrass to Afro-pop, and no matter who’s playing, admission is always free. In addition to the varied musical selection, come to Nightfall prepared to please your palate with grub from local food trucks and local booze vendors. The 2016 Nightfall Concert Series has a special twist, too: on the first Friday of each month, crowds will gather at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, then “Rock the Block” down to Miller Plaza—enjoying a parade of antique motorcycles, cars, and bikes, collected by local hobbyists, along the way. Get your Chattanooga choo-choo on!

Millennium Park in Chicago

Millennium Park Series, Chicago, Illinois.
Millennium Park Series, Chicago, Illinois. John Menard

 

Visit Chicago’s 24.5-acre Millennium Park today, and you’d never guess it was an industrial wasteland for nearly a century and a half. With some help from world-renowned architect Frank Gehry—whose other notable designs include the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles—the seminal park took shape in 1997, and is now home to one of the country’s best-known summer concert series. The 2016 Millennium Park Series lineup is as genre-defying as the park’s architecture, and includes free twice-weekly concerts (Mondays and Thursdays) from June through August.

City Park Jazz in Denver

City Park Jazz, Denver, Colorado.
City Park Jazz, Denver, Colorado. jess melgey

 

Whether you get there by bike (there’s a free corral), public transit, on foot, or by car, arrive early for the City Park Jazz series and enjoy some time exploring the Park before the show. There’s the Denver Zoo, or the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, which features rotating natural history exhibits, a planetarium, and a terrace featuring some of the city’s best views of the Colorado Front Range. Adventurous park visitors can rent cruiser bikes, surreys, pedal boats, and kayaks to explore the park.When the sun goes down each Sunday between June and August, head to the pavilion—rain or shine—for a diverse cultural mix of music and local cuisine.

Concerts at the Mural in Seattle

Pickwick – Hacienda Motel (Live at the Mural) from KEXP RADIO on Vimeo. During KEXP & Seattle Center’s Concerts at the Mural series at the Mural Amphitheater. Recorded 8/26/11. Video courtesy of KEXP.

The music scene that brought you Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie, and countless others brings you free concerts every Friday in August at the Seattle Center.The beautiful Mural Amphitheater was built for the 1962 World’s Fair, which also featured artwork by contemporary American painters like Georgia O’Keefe and Jackson Pollock, as well a performance by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and a concert by Ella Fitzgerald. Today, you can enjoy free Live at the Mural shows with the backdrop of that quintessential Seattle symbol, the Space Needle. In a city with a music history as rich and colorful as Seattle’s, you know the free concert scene will knock (or rock)  your socks off.

Twilight Concerts in Santa Monica

4525349989_ae79092a85_b

Few outdoor venues have the staying power of the century-old Santa Monica Pier. You know the one: located just north of Muscle Beach, the iconic pier has appeared in dozens of movies and television shows, and was once considered the best fishing spot in Santa Monica Bay. Several makeovers later, the modern-day pier is home to an amusement park, complete with a giant solar-powered ferris wheel, the original 1920s carousel, and an aquarium. This year’s Twilight Concerts lineup runs Thursdays from July through September and features a diverse lineup of bands from across the country. Tip: skip pricey parking near the pier and opt for public transit—or bike valet—instead.

Whatever free concert series you visit this summer, make sure you spend it with good company. Let us know which concerts we missed!

Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co. Featured image provided by Nightfall Music Series.

The Ultimate Staycation Guide

 

We love vacation because it’s relaxing: Drinking cocktails while watching the sunset, taking long walks, having meaningful conversations with good company, not a care in the world… Half the price and a quarter of the hassle, we’re learning to embrace the staycation. Sure it’s a little harder to get away from it all, but ignore the laundry for a few days and don’t even think about cracking open your computer before Monday morning. Swap your bike for your car or swap your sneaks for your bike. Let brunch spill into lunch, lunch spill into happy hour, happy hour into dinner with friends, and if you’ve got the energy hit the old late-night stomping grounds. Or skip the late night and get your beauty sleep. Whatever you want. It’s your staycation, so live it up.

Tips For a Great Staycation:

DSC09785

1. Take pictures of your town. Grab a camera (yes, a REAL camera) and join the tourists. If they can appreciate amazing architecture and local public art, you can too!

2. Go to the coffee shop you don’t usually frequent. It’s great people watching, and who knows, might be great coffee as well. Bring a book, do a crossword puzzle, catch up with an old friend. Just don’t check your email.

3. Bike to brunch. Mainly because you’ll need to bike home after a few Bloody Mary’s. Eat extra bacon to soak up the breakfast booze. Leave a good tip, you’re on staycation.

DSC00792

4. Head to the local botanic garden or arboretum. Pack some snacks and enjoy the garden you’ve never been to. Learn about the local flora and fauna and spend a few hours appreciating the simple things. Well, if you consider photosynthesis simple…

5. Do the local nature loop or urban hike. With all that lounging (it’s a vacation, you shouldn’t be lifting a finger), you may want to walk it off. If there isn’t a designated nature loop, find a local trail map and see which trails connect. For an urban hike, hop on google maps and plot places you want to hit up. Google will map a route for you.

6. Grab a drink at the oldest bar in town. Perhaps it’s the free shuffleboard, maybe it’s the legendary bartender, there’s a reason this place is the oldest joint in town. Pop in during your urban hike or make it the first stop of the night. Just remember to bring some quarters for the juke box.

DSC01918

7. Visit the local historical home or museum.  Even the tiniest towns seem to have a robust historical society. Seek out your historical home or local history museum and spend some time talking to the docents and exploring the rooms. It’s generally pretty cheap (or donation based) and you’ll learn some gems about the town’s past. Spoiler Alert: It’s probably wilder than you think.

8. Sample beer at the local brewery. Maybe it’s your favorite haunt, even so, get the sampler and remind yourself why you love the local brew. Try whatever is seasonal and sit at the bar so you can ask the bartender all your touristy questions.

9. Pop into a few art galleries. New York has the Met, Los Angeles has the Getty, your town’s got something to write home about. Find it. And might we suggest doing this after the aforementioned local brewery. You’ll be nice and open minded!

beersample

10. Explore the next town over. It’s amazing how far we travel for new experiences. The next great experience is likely just down the road. Pull out a map and find the next town over, about 30 miles away. Hop in the car (or take the train!) and spend an afternoon exploring. Check to see what they’re known for (Do they have a local dish you can’t miss? Do they have a free summer concert series?) and spend the day exploring. Repeat tips 1-9.

11. Treat yourself to some R&R. You saved a whole bunch on hotel and travel costs, so indulge in a  mani/pedi or a full body massage. Rejuvenation is key to a successful vacation, so don’t forsake it. You’re only cheating yourself.

12. Cap it off with a Sunday night BBQ with friends. You’ve got pictures, souvenirs and a boatload of new info about your town. Invite your friends over for a sunday night cookout and regale them with your staycation stories. No shoes required – you’re on holiday, remember?

DSC03240

ItsAlwaysHappyHour-2-790pxwide

Men’s Fletch Print Shirt & Swerve Short , Women’s Muse Dress & Canal Hat

Weekend Plan: Berry Picking

Hand_picking_blueberries

As summer days give way to autumn nights, we’re squeezing in our favorite summer activities before it’s back to work and school. Lucky for us, it’s still berry picking season for the next few months. Blueberries, blackberries, gooseberries, raspberries, huckleberries, thimbleberries… grab a bucket and fill it up with the sweet stuff. A good rule of thumb when picking wild berries is let it be if you don’t recognize the berry type. It’s not too late to plan a quick weekend getaway, so here are our favorite U-pick berry farms around the country:

Mountainview Blueberry Farm – Snohomish, WA
Mountainview lives up to its name: Nestled against a hillside in the Snohomish River Valley, on a clear day you’ll see all the way to Mt. Baker. This picturesque farm dates back to 1940 and grows 20 varietals of blueberries. Pop into the market for some killer preserves and syrups or get recipe ideas for your own sweet concoctions. Open Tuesday – Sunday, 8-5, $2/lb.

Santa Barbara Blueberries – Gaviota, CA
Located in the magnificent rolling hills of Santa Ynez Valley just 35 miles northwest of our hometown, Santa Barbara Blueberries at Restoration Oaks Ranch is just as sweet to look at. Spend a few hours gathering blueberries, raspberries, watermelon and cantaloupe, then toss them into your picnic basket and head to nearby Gaviota Sate Beach for a seaside picnic. Open Monday – Thursday, 10-3; Friday – Sunday, 10-6, prices vary.

Lakeview Orchard – Lanesborough, MA
We’re partial to spectacular views, and Lakeview Orchard does not disappoint. Overlooking Hoosac Lake, good luck focusing on berry picking when you’ve got panoramic views of the surrounding valley and Berkshire Mountains. Cherry season is over, but raspberries, red currants and blackberries are in full swing (and maybe a few apple varietals too). If you’re not a sweet tooth, their homemade pierogi, ravioli and gnocchi are the best kept secret in the area. Open Tuesday – Sunday, 9-4, prices vary.

Willow Oaks Berry Farm – Midland, VA
Blueberries, thornless blackberries and raspberries are in abundance at this postcard worthy Southern farm. Pack a lunch for the communal picnic green or stop off to get road trip snacks on your way to DC. Great for kids and dreamy for adults – just don’t forget the mosquito repellent. Open Tuesday – Saturday, 9-5; Sunday, 12-5, prices vary.

Dexter Blueberry Farm – Dexter, MI
The closest thing to picking wild berries, Dexter Blueberry Farms is not for the faint of heart. Keep your eye out for wild rabbits and turkeys while you stroll the blueberry lanes, sifting through wickets for the biggest, fattest, juiciest blueberries. An old-school cash-only enterprise, $2 will get you a bucket and all the blueberries you can harvest – just be prepared to work! Monday – Saturday, 8:30-7:30; Sunday 12-6, $2/lb.