Livin’ the dream: Summer guide 2010

Northern Nevadans can expect a season of champagne wishes and PBR dreams.


People are sexiest during the summer. We wear fewer clothes, and we glisten with a perspiration that suggests physical activity. Some of us can’t wait to hit Northern Nevada’s bicycle trails, float down the chilly Truckee River, or soak up the sun on a mountain path.

Others are more into indoor sports: the dining, dancing and gambling for which Reno and its surrounding environs are so well-known.

The very nature of summer makes us remember those long vacations from school when our parents took us to exotic places like Six Flags and blew the travel wad all in one orgy of spending and fun. It’s those days that make us fantasize of what we’d do if we had all the money in the world or even a six-figure income. We’ve had those vacations before, when “excess” was the word of the day, and the sky was the limit. After all, who cared? Our homes were our retirement plans, and they were appreciating at 25 percent a year.

Then came the winter of our discontent when the economy froze into an icy patch on a 50 mile an hour curve.

We scaled back our lifestyles, but how do you scale back an imagination when once everything was possible? You can’t.

That’s why, for this year’s Summer Guide, the RN&R editorial staff let our imaginations go wild, but we tempered our thoughts with a bit of realism.

We call this guide, “Champagne wishes and PBR dreams.”

Naughtycal dreams

“Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya; Bermuda, Bahama, come on, pretty mama; Key Largo, Montego, baby, why don’t we go?” Oh, those Beach Boys sure know how to make the idle rich long for cool ocean breezes, hot nightclub nights and the lengthy dream into night with a cocoa butter-lubricated new lover. It doesn’t matter whether his or her name is Michelle or Michel, Adrian or Adrienne (or maybe both), you’d walk down the dazzling white sands wearing matching linen Capri pants and widely horizontally striped, European-cut T-shirts, holding identical champagne flutes in opposite hands as the trade winds waft his/her shoulder-length, sun-streaked hair. The sound of island congas from a nearby cabana competes with the roar of breakers on blinding white sands and the scent of orchids perfume the air like delicious memories of loves lost. White sails dot the blue green sea like diamonds on blue velvet. As the sun sets and sends sherbet-colored beams of light through the gathering clouds, you’d prepare for a repast of fresh-caught fish, daintily seasoned by the five-star hotel’s expert chefs, served to you by waitpeople as tanned, agreeable and seductive as your dining companion. After dinner, the two of you stroll hand in hand down the beach toward your abode, seaside fires burning, eliciting feelings of excitement and imminent passion. The white, cotton sheets are folded back crisply, not a hair or dimple on the freshly fluffed pillows, and you fall onto the bed in a forever soul-illuminating kiss. All you can see are eyes that contain the depths of the ocean.

For us, there’s the beach on the Sparks Marina.

Real American heroes

There are few financial investments as endlessly rewarding as a high-tech power suit for fighting crime. Mega-rich men like Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark have invested some of their many millions into weapons manufacturing firms that have provided them with grappling hooks, bullet-proof armor and other fancy gadgets, so they can easily enjoy defeating the world’s most dastardly villains.

As Batman and Iron Man, these so-called superheroes fight crime alongside demigods and gravity-resistant aliens. For the very, very rich, developing crimefighting gear is as easy as playing with some holograms and dictating some orders to your English-accented robot butler.

In order for poor people to enjoy the same privileged status as above-the-law superpowered heroes, they must expose themselves to deadly amounts of radiation, or radioactive arachnids, or super-soldier serums, or magical heirlooms. These techniques can be incredibly risky, possibly resulting in death, or, worse yet, physical disfigurement and psychological damage to the extent of causing irreversible villainy.

But for a measly $6, we poor folk can enjoy the Lazer Runner laser tag game at the Fun Quest Family Fun Center in the Grand Sierra Resort, 2500 E. Second St., 789-2386. You run around in color-coded body armor straight out of Tron and zap your opponents. The GSR also boasts miniature golf, bumper cars, pinball games, air hockey, arcade games, and a bowling alley. The only requirement for Lazer Runner is that you be at least 48 inches tall. Sorry, Ant-Man.


All’s fair

For 25 decades, from the 1756 First Exhibition in London to the 2008 Zaragoza Exposition in Spain, world’s fairs and expositions have attracted visitors. There’s one going on now in Shanghai. There’s another at Yeosu, Korea, in 2012 and then a 2015 expo in Milan.

If the budget doesn’t allow a trip to Shanghai, that doesn’t mean you can’t visit an expo grounds. There’s one here in Reno: Idlewild Park, site of the 1927 Transcontinental Highway Exposition. The park and the Reno arch on Lake Street are the principal remaining reminders of that five-week day in the sun for the biggest little city.

Though Reno competed for and won the highway exposition, it really couldn’t handle it. It didn’t come close to having the needed hotel rooms, for instance. But in patented Nevada fashion, expenditures to make up for the city’s flaws were kept to a minimum. The expo board and local chamber of commerce had to slap together a tent city with a thousand campsites at a cost of $35,000. By contrast, the state of California alone spent $100,000 on its exhibits, not counting the investment California businesses made in their exhibits. Indeed, California may well have spent more on the exposition than the host city did. California handed its exhibit hall over to Reno after the fair. In the nearly three generations since then, the hall has hosted thousands of events—square dancing, card tournaments, graduations, marriages, memorial services.

Today, the site of the exposition looks nothing like it did in 1927. Then it was mostly a dusty plain. Now, it’s a gorgeous tree-lined commons alongside the meandering Truckee, 49 acres filled with ponds, a rose garden, ball fields, playgrounds, rides, a swimming pool, picnic areas, and, unlike other Reno parks, the basics of a park—lots of actual grass and trees.

Online reader reviews of Idlewild include comments like these: “[S]ome of the best Sundays of my entire life were spent in this absolute wonderland for kids in Reno. I remember hating to decide on which ride to spend my last tickets … Rancho San Rafael is larger and higher class, but it doesn’t offer many of the activities available here, or the variety of different micro-climates, and excellent vantages for people-watching.” “If I were a bag lady, I’d spend my days here. A few do. But that’s Idlewild—a people’s park.”

For those who live in Sparks, there’s another remnant of the highway exposition: Deer Park, which served as a campground to handle the overflow of tourists Reno couldn’t accommodate.


Spa day

If only we could afford to be such experts on spa packages that we could tell you the best ones to visit. At this point, if you came up behind any one of us while we’re sitting at our desks and gave our shoulders a little rub, we might tip you $20. All we know is there are a lot of spa treatments out there we fantasize about trying. Like—and maybe it’s just because “wine” is in the name—the “Wine Down” at the Peppermill’s Spa Toscana, 2707 S. Virginia St., 689-7190, featuring warmed grape seed oil and an 80-minute full body massage for $160. And maybe it’s because this one has “chocolate” in the name, but the Peruvian Chocolate Fondue Wrap, $160, at Spa West, 1545 S. Virginia St., 322-7777, sounds pretty indulgent with a scrub, wrap and massage involving cocoa butter, chocolate extract, cocoa powder and French cocoa absolute. Then there’s the hot stone massage at Avani Wellness Spa, 825 Plumas St., 233-8597, which at $130 for two hours seems like a relatively good deal.

Unfortunately, not even the riding-high coffers of RN&R would pay for such a thing. But a person can dream.

On the other hand, if you have a significant other, you can use them and their hands. (Don’t forget to return the favor.) You don’t? Get one—though that could cost you more than a day at the spa. Or, for about $40, nearly any nail salon in town will give you a manicure-pedicure that will summon your inner girly girl—especially if you’re a man—and make you feel a bit pampered.

Diamond dreams

Baseball is America’s pastime, and summer just isn’t the same without it. With Reno only three hours from San Francisco, going to a Giants game isn’t entirely out of reach. With all the money in the world, it’s easy to imagine buying the Giants. After all, it’s a day trip and worth it, if not for the entertainment, then for the famous garlic fries at AT&T Park, formerly known as PacBell Stadium. The stadium is state-of-the-art and relatively new, as the lives of stadiums go.

The Giants, who play in the National League West Division, haven’t won a world championship since 1954, back when the team resided in New York. They are however, one of the oldest and most accomplished teams in the history of baseball and have had some major events since they moved to San Francisco. Barry Bonds has brought the stadium fame as his 500th, 600th, 700th and 756th home runs broke the records of Willie Mays, Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. That was a real shot in the arm for the team.

Even if you aren’t a baseball fan, the Giants ballpark provides a way to get out of the desert heat and enjoy San Francisco’s weather. Or attend a game when the Giant’s have one of their many special nights throughout the summer: firefighter appreciation night, Bastille night, Law and Disorder night and more. To book tickets, visit

A day at the park behind home plate can cost nearly $150, which does not include gas, airfare or nourishment for the day. But the Reno Aces right around the corner will only cost about $10 on a good night. Tickets range from $6 to $29, and special nights provide food and drink for under $3.

The Aces have dancers for distraction and a furry six-foot-tall mascot named Archie who is certainly not shy around fans. Not only are the Aces’ games fun, but the stadium also doesn’t have a bad seat in the house—no nosebleed section. Go to to find out all the special nights planned for this summer. Are even the Aces too rich for your blood? There are always the area’s many softball leagues.


Space camp

You know the best thing about being rich? Going places that poor people can only dream about, like fancy nightclubs, exclusive country clubs or outer space. Or, better yet, the moon. That’s right, the moon—mystic Luna, goddess of tides and bane to werewolves. For a measly $100 million, the private company Space Adventures, Ltd. supposedly will fly you to the moon and let you treat her like the $100 million hooker she is. Space Adventures, Ltd. is a Virginia-based company that contracts with the Russian Space Agency to provide the spaceships and minimal training required to be a space tourist. No one has signed up for the lunar flight yet, but Space Adventures also offers zero gravity, sub-orbital and orbital flights, and space walks. And people have taken advantage of those programs. Rich people. Very, very rich people who flew out to outer space just so they could literally look down their noses at all of us little people. For more information, visit

Reno’s hoi-polloi are better off just heading to Reno’s Fleischmann Planetarium & Science Center at the University of Nevada, Reno. Housed in a retro-futuristic 1960s building officially dubbed “the hyperbolic parabaloid,” the planetarium has a state-of-the-art digital star projector and film projector. Tickets are normally just $6 for adults and $4 for kids. In addition to the star shows, they usually show scientific films, about sea creatures and dinosaurs, though impoverished classic rockers will be happy to know that they host perennial Pink Floyd light shows. For more information, visit

Food of the gods

Maybe we’ve been reading too much Sunset magazine lately, but the thought of going out to an organic farm, touring it, then sitting down at a long table in a historic barn to be served food that was pulled from that farm’s soil just minutes before it lands on the plate leaves us salivating. Better yet, that food is prepared by a fancy schmancy chef who knows how to do things with beets and arugula that would make lesser cooks blush. We want it so bad, and we could have it—for $125. That includes a tour of Sierra Valley Farms in Beckwourth, Calif., a four-course organic and gourmet meal created by chef Mark Estee of Truckee-based Moody’s Bistro & Lounge, some beer or wine and live music. These “Dinner in the Barn” events are held throughout the summer, the first this year being June 19 and June 20 at 5 p.m. Space is limited to 60 people, and you can make reservations by calling (530) 587-8688. Find out more at

But maybe you don’t own acres and acres of veggie-producing land, and your cooking skills aren’t quite as good as Mark Estee’s. You can still enjoy an outdoor dinner with fresh, local ingredients. Swing by the Great Basin Community Food Co-op (542 1/2 Plumas St.) or any local farmers’ market (visit for a list of them), for organic food grown by local farmers. Pick out some tasty recipes, cook them up, and ask your friends to do the same. Get a couple of long folding tables and chairs, and put them outside on whatever sort of patio you may have. Throw a tablecloth over them, lay out some candles in mason jars and a couple vases of fresh cut flowers, and indulge in a farm-fresh potluck.


Ride ’em, cowgirl

The Reno Rodeo is a highlight of the summer.

It’s an action-packed event with bareback riding, steer wrestling, saddle bronc, team roping, tie-down roping, mutton bustin’, barrel racing and bull riding every night.

The Reno Rodeo, an event sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, is one of the most popular attractions during Northern Nevada’s hot summer nights.

Bull riding is one of the rodeo’s most popular feats, probably because there is no other sport in which your score is based on your ability to remain seated. Not only are the riders scored on their performance but half the score is based entirely on the animal’s efforts. It is impressive to think how an animal that weighs over a ton can have such speed and strength. They are the cornerbacks of their breed.

Buying grandstand seating at the rodeo is about $60, and as it’s usually a family affair and the rodeo isn’t just one night, the prices can overwhelm all but the most devil-may-care budgets. High rollers have boxes available providing promotional perks to local businesses for upwards of a thousand dollars. The event features Xtreme Bulls on June 17, the Reno Rodeo June 18-25 and ProRodeo on June 26. Check out to get more information.

But for us buckaroos on a budget, the Cadillac Ranch has a mechanical bull that is fun for daredevils and people-watchers alike. There’s no cover for the restaurant, and riding the bull costs less than admission to the Reno Rodeo. Call 331-2000 for food reservations if you’re interested in making your dreams of riding a powerful, untamed animal come true.

Water adventures

The Middle East has some of the world’s greatest travel destinations. Wouldn’t you love to see Petra, the Dead Sea, Oman? Or how about the Sea of Galilee? Package tours to Galilee cost from $1,200 to $3,000, never mind custom tours. Forget it, not on a reporter or line cook’s pay.

But there is an alternative: Nevada’s Sea of Galilee—Pyramid Lake, which portrayed Galilee in the 1965 movie The Greatest Story Ever Told.

“Huge tents contain the mess hall—the food is above average for film locations—wardrobe and makeup departments and theatre,” wrote Associated Press reporter Bob Thomas of the shoot at Pyramid in 1963. “The logistics of the operation are enormous. Everything has been planned, from the ancient (fiber-glassed) boats that line the shore to the piles of fish (plastic) drying on rocks.”

We sometimes take for granted the marvelous things around us. People come from all over the world to see Pyramid. Clark Gable and Herbert Hoover used to travel to the lake to fish. Many Nevadans go years without visiting Pyramid.

There are at least six Pyramid Lakes in the United States, two of them in California. But none is quite like this one. If there are those who think it cannot match the spiritual qualities of Galilee, there are certainly those who disagree. “The Paiute Indians have a name for it—Evil Land,” Thomas wrote in 1963. That was news to us, and we haven’t yet found anyone to confirm it. A more common description of its spirit came from novelist Walter Van Tilburg Clark, who believed in “the miraculous curative effect of coming to Pyramid Lake.” Mary Webb, author of a book on the Truckee River, once said of swimming in Pyramid, “The lake heals, both psychically and physically.”

There may not be anyone walking on it, but there are plenty of people drawing inspiration from it.

The green, green grass

It’s finally the weekend. After a long work week, there’s nothing better than kicking back in a hammock, enjoying an ice-cold lemonade or mimosa, and watching somebody else mow your lawn—preferably somebody young, gorgeous and muscular who might ask you to spray them down with your hose after they finish. It’s sure nice to have a big, lush, green lawn to enjoy all summer long, especially without having to do any work. If you are looking for a hot, sweaty hardbody who can pull more than weeds, there are plenty of internet sites to match your kink. In fact, if you are looking for a company that only pulls weeds, the internet is the place to go for that, too. You can find businesses that’ll pull your weeds, aerate your lawn, fertilize your lilies or flush your fish pond for any budget. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the minimum requirement: a budget.

So you’ll probably have to pull your own goddamn weeds. Yard work sucks. A lawn requires near constant attention, and who really wants to devote the time and labor? So you just let the damned thing run wild and spend the summer on the receiving end of nasty looks because your neighbors don’t like you weeding up the local property values. The grass is always greener on the other side of being poor.

The grassy, grassy greens

We poor people enjoy a day on the links as much as anybody. When we get rich, we imagine, wouldn’t it be great to have membership in one of Reno’s exclusive and world-class golf clubs? We could sit around all day— we will not deign to carry our clubs to the cart—and talk about how we earned our rights to lower tax rates, better health care and natural suntans with our humane and compassionate treatment of our part-time and—“Really, Charles, I think it’s more that they’re in a gray area of documentation than that they’re illegal”—seasonal workers. Those strategic decisions to let daddy decide our careers and spouses didn’t hurt any when it came time to doling out the trust funds, either. Sigh. But the chances of us ever discovering a rich and dying relative in time to ingratiate ourselves are about the same as us hitting the lottery or Megabucks, so we’ll carry our own clubs over at Magic Carpet Golf, where 19 holes is a mere $7.50, or to Wild Island Family Adventure or Ultimate Rush Miniature Golf. What could be finer than walking down the finest green plastic carpet of a putt-putt golf fairway in the crisp Northern Nevada summer evening with the breezes fanning over pink genies and through the tiny windmills? You and your equally poor date could easily stay under half a yard for several hours if you avoid the pizza, arcade and cocktails that a night on the greens calls for. And maybe, just maybe, a bit of exercise would do tired and wealthy old Uncle Frank some good, get him out of the house, get his heart rate up just enough, just enough …


Oh so wet. And wild.

Rivers scream summer. One luxurious way to enjoy a river is on a guided whitewater rafting trip, and in the Reno/Tahoe region there are plenty to choose from. One of the most appealing is the Tahoe Whitewater Tours. It’s just outside of Tahoe City at the bottom of Alpine Meadows Road and next to the Alpine café, where participants can revel in a home-style breakfast before the trip. Here, a group meets with guides, and Tahoe Whitewater Tours will then chauffer that group to a local white-water destination.

During higher water in the early summer, the Farad run of the Truckee River below Floriston, is exciting because it contains class III-IV rapids. This is not an adventure for the weak of heart. Although class II rapids can be kind of like the lazy river on steroids, class IIIs and IVs will give riders a few “oh god” moments, and they typically require helmets in case someone falls out of the boat and gets knocked around. But rafting is exhilarating and relatively safe.

The Tahoe City tours are especially fun because they are equipped with special self-bail boats that hold six passengers instead of the usual eight or 10 for a more private and personal run down the river. They also house top-of-the-line equipment to wear during your whitewater experience. Once on your way down the river, prepare for your guide to regale the group with the area’s natural history and all kinds of rafting know-how. During lunch, rafters are treated to a gourmet meal on the river, and believe us, you will have earned it. Trips cost $125 per person and include all of the aforementioned. The company also runs inflatable kayak tours out of Reno. To book a tour with Tahoe Whitewater Tours, call (800) 442-7238, or visit for more information.

The truth is, though, not everyone has the moolah to be master and commander of their own whitewater trip. If you are in that boat, there are definitely alternatives. It’s as easy as going down to your local Les Schwab, buying a $15 inner tube—the kind that sit inside big-rig wheels—and driving up to Mogul in a truck full of friends, no helmet necessary.

Be an iPod hero

As has been widely reported, the music industry has, in recent years, undergone a seismic shift. The old models for recording, production and distribution of music have gone the way of Fleetwood Mac. They got gross and incestuous, and then broke up, launching some horrible parodies/solo acts. Now anybody with a Mac computer can record a masterpiece album in the bedroom, post it on Myspace, go on tour, and become a minor regional star. By cutting out the industry infrastructure, the artists themselves get to keep a much larger percentage of tour profits. Sounds great, right? But who can afford a Mac? Not to mention the necessary software and the time to learn how to use it.

Some musicians might still prefer the ambience and technical know-how of a professional studio. Northern Nevada has a few, including Sierra Sonics, on the corner of Mount Rose and Plumas Streets, and StretchWire Sound, out in industrial Sparks. But to book the necessary time with a knowledgeable sound engineer, the money starts adding up quickly. If you really want it to be perfect, it always takes longer than expected. So it’s 20 years later, and Chinese Democracy sounds great, but nobody cares, and even if you’re as rich as Axl Rose, you’ve probably lost some money. (For more information, visit and

Then there’s the PBR reality: Stick to karaoke. There’s karaoke happening in Reno every night of the week nowadays. Just take a look at our nightclub grid. There’s Thursdays at Beck’s Brew House, 3611 Kings Row, 787-5050, most week nights at El Cortez, 239 W. Second St., and probably a dozen more throughout the region. Many locals swear that the Club Cal-Neva, 38 E. Second St., hosts the best karaoke, but people who like to live dangerously prefer West Second Street Bar, 118 W. Second St., 348-7976. No matter where you go to bust a capillary singing your guts out, when they boo you off the stage, you’ll be glad you didn’t spend all that money to record an album.


Two-wheeled thrills

Let your geek flag fly as you tour Reno atop a “Segway Personal Transporter” with Reno Fun Tours. For $65, a tour guide will fill in the wealthy among us on Reno’s history, architecture, restaurants and hang-outs. Who needs double-decker buses when you can ride one of these thingymabobs? Your only job is to maintain a goofy smile. The tours are about two-and-a-half hours long, and leave daily at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. They’ll take you through downtown Reno, the Rivewalk District, California Avenue and Idlewild Park. Just be sure to keep your helmet on—little kids might laugh and throw rocks at you. Find Reno Fun Tours at the Adventure Desk on the ground floor of downtown’s Silver Legacy casino. For reservations, call 223-4173.

The financially challenged among us may think we already know everything there is to know about Reno, but the Historic Reno Preservation Society will likely one-up us. They’ve been leading walking and biking tours for years. At only $10 per person, they’re worth the price of admission. Discover the imprint architect Frederic Delongchamps left on this town, hear tales of how divorce, gambling, immigrants, railroads and mining shaped downtown as you visit local landmarks, find out who built and lived in those giant mansions along the Truckee River, or simply enjoy a walk among the leafy trees and brick bungalows of the Old Southwest. Check for a full list of tours, their details and to register. Or call 747-4478.

Living la vida Tahoe

A family member with a bank account larger than any of ours was kind enough to invite an RN&R staffer on a handful of days last summer to the home they rented for a month on the shores of Lake Tahoe, just around the corner from D.L. Bliss State Park. It was a log-and-stone, cabin-type thing with fancy bathrooms, unfortunate plumbing, a mouse problem, but, most impressively, a private beach facing Lake Tahoe. For one month, the staffer swam and sunbathed, closed her eyes and pretended to be rich, if only for a few delusional hours. She also knows her hosts were renting that sizable but by no means mansion of a home for around $10,000 a month.

We, the poverty stricken of the Truckee Meadows, will haggle it out with the other poor bastards crowding the public beaches and camping sites of Tahoe. But with a little preplanning and two or three hundred bucks a night, an unspoken-for paycheck can get you into a bed and breakfast, though some require minimum stays of two or three nights. A search on can get you started, as can the website of the Lake Tahoe Bed and Breakfast Association at Before you go, do a Google Earth satellite scan on the address to see where it is in relation to the lake. Just because it’s in Lake Tahoe doesn’t mean it’s on Lake Tahoe.

Fantasies in blue

Skydiving is an exhilarating way to start off the summer. Not only is it exciting as hell, but it’s also a great conversation starter. Nothing says “I’m a badass” more than jumping out of a plane thousands of feet in the air only to freefall at 120 mph before launching a parachute that will—probably—open and allow you to cruise through the sky like a bird.

Skydiving Reno provides a safe and fun system for experienced jumpers or first timers. Skydiving tandem is the safest way to start out as a beginner because you are harnessed to a professional who has performed the same daring feat thousands of times and won’t wet his pants or forget to pull the chute after jumping out of a plane. Your mind can be free to wander, taking in the beautiful bird’s-eye view or contemplating life instead of worrying about the complexities of aerodynamics and gravity.

Once jumping, the actual freefall only lasts about a minute and 10 seconds, followed by about a nine-minute parachute ride. The dive can even be recorded to provide proof that you leapt from a plane with only a large synthetic fabric attached to your back to keep you from dying. Skydiving can cost anywhere from $100-$300. To check out prices with SkyDiving Reno call (800) 571-5867, or visit

There are, however, local alternatives for those who either have no interest in jumping from a plane or don’t have the dough for skydiving. The Grand Sierra has a thrilling ride in its front yard. “The ultimate rush” is a 180-foot-high sky coaster that tethers up to three jumpers and swings them through the air. These activities cost $25 per person and $10 for re-flights. For more information call 786-7005 or visit


What a trip

Ahh, Bordeaux, France. Right square in the middle of some of the world’s greatest wine-growing real estate in the world. The Atlantic coast is an hour to the west, and to the east is the Dordogne valley. A couple hours south is Basque country, and just beyond that is Spain—with Saint Sebastian and Bilbao near the border. But even the best deals offered by the cheapest online travel agencies have the flights alone at more than $800. What’s a poor person to do? How about a daytrip over the pass to Napa-Sonoma wine country? Depending on traffic, you can be deep into wine country in as little as three hours. That’s when expenses start to rise, but with a little forethought, a trip to wine country can be the Top Ramen of luxury daytrips. First, decide if you must stay the night in wine country, since prices drop precipitously as little as a half-hour outside the area. Maybe you have a friend who’d take the designated helm just for a trip out of town. If you must spend the night, check out the travel websites for deals. Off-peak visits also bring the prices down substantially. At the moment, Travelzoo has a Sunday through Thursday deal at a luxury hotel with amenities for $159. If you’re trying to save a buck, bring your own food! The finest cheeses and fruit make a great picnic, and the views of massive vineyards with their migrant workers and rolling hills can’t be beat, but the prices in the Saint Helena sure can.