Highlights from BottleRock Napa Valley Festival 2017

Napa’s biggest music, food, and wine/brew festival came to a close Sunday night after 3 jam packed days of massive headliners, celebrity chefs, and a plethora of activity-filled sponsor booths. For a festival only in its fifth year, the organizers of BottleRock really know how to pull off a crowd-pleasing event (for over 120,000 festival goers). Last year was my inaugural BottleRock experience, and I was so fortunate to be granted a 3-day VIP pass this time around after winning a photo contest from BottleRock on Instagram last year.


If you are considering going to BottleRock next year, here is information that may be helpful. This is my favorite festival so I can’t say enough positive things about it.


Highlights of BottleRock 2017

  • Favorite performances: Foo Fighters, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, and the Naked & Famous.
  • Favorite meal: Paella from Gerard’s Paella.
  • Favorite interactive sponsor booths: Alaska Airlines (cool photo booth and free Moscow Mule making kit), Columbus Craft Meats (free salami), and Jim Beam (free fan that turns on when plugged into your phone!).
  • Coors Light Sports Bar: we loved this place not only as a momentary escape from the heat, but because they printed out free Instagram photos whenever you used the hashtags #BottleRock and #HopValley together! There was no limit on the photos you could print.

Why I love BottleRock 

  • It’s not just a music festival. It also celebrates two defining characteristics of Napa (and two of my loves): food and drinks. And the breadth of variety they offer is wonderful! They have sushi, pizza, burgers, falafel, cupcakes, Indian, dim sum, vegan, and so much more. Where else can you get discounted noted Napa restaurant food from the likes of Mustard’s and Morimoto?!
  • The design details. BottleRock is so well thought out that I’d love to see an ultra-high-speed video of the organizers putting it together. There is something photo-worthy in every direction – from colorful lanterns, beautifully placed lights, large art displays, to live mural paintings.
  • Its demographic is more mature than most music festivals. This means no teenagers running around wasted and puking their lunches out behind a tree or on a perfectly good patch of grass. For the most part, BottleRock festival goers are fun but appear to know their limits.

Accommodation & Transportation for BottleRock 

  • Accommodation in Napa is not cheap so my group of 5 opted for an Airbnb in Suisun City, which is 25 minutes east of the festival. It was just $435 for 2 nights ($217 per night) in an entire home to ourselves and I thought the location was great.
  • Last year my group stayed in a secluded Airbnb in Sonoma for a much higher price. This is also a good option, but the festival traffic from Sonoma to Napa is worse.
  • I recommend booking your accommodations as far in advance as possible, as Napa is a popular destination in general.
  • We drove everyday, but the festival does offer free shuttles to and from San Francisco, Sacramento, Oakland, San Jose, Fairfield, Sonoma, Mill Valley, Palo Alto and Santa Rosa.

Is VIP worth it? 

  • What comes with a VIP wristband: separate access to food, drinks, sponsors, and viewing areas (some sections are raised for better viewing). The best perk of VIP was the VIP-only acoustic stage, which featured many bands and artists in an intimate environment. We were a little choked when The Naked & Famous didn’t end up playing during their slot though.
  • Personally, my current financial state would not allow me to purchase a $709 festival pass regularly. However, I think it’s worthwhile – especially for the intimate shows – if you have the extra money to spend. Maybe someday…

Price comparison:

  • General Admission: $139 (1 day) and $349 (3 day)
  • VIP:  $275 (1 day) and $709 (3 day)

BottleRock 2017 in Photos:

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Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on the main stage

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The highly photographed LOVE structure at BottleRock

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One of the many colorful lantern displays at BottleRock

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At the BottleRock VIP entrance!

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Finding your friends at BottleRock can be difficult so we always agreed to meet under the lanterns

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Floral photo-op at BottleRock

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Exploring the BottleRock VIP area

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Got Sailor Moon buns at the Paul Mitchell tent in the VIP section

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My favorite dish the festival: Gerard’s paella

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Hand rolls from Morimoto ($10 each)

 

 

 

 

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The intimate VIP stage

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The tent where the VIP stage is

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One of my favorite bands, The Naked & Famous, performing

Let me know if you have any questions about BottleRock or if you have anything to share about your BottleRock experience!

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Where to Grab a Drink in Berkeley, California

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Albany Taproom’s $12 Flight

It’s been just over two years since I made the move from Vancouver, British Columbia to the just as culturally diverse Bay Area town of Berkeley, California. The college town, which is just a 20 minute train ride from San Francisco, has no shortage of restaurants, book stores, and places to stroll and get your cardio on (e.g. the Berkeley Marina or Berkeley Hills). However, in the couple years I have resided here, one thing has puzzled me: the shortage of bars in Berkeley. Most mid-large sized cities offer at least one lively block of bars and go-to weekend places, but Berkeley is oddly not one of them. I live downtown and I can count the area’s decent bars on both my hands. I must mention that there is Telegraph Ave., which is home to a couple bars geared toward college students. If that’s you then Pappy’s and Kip’s are where you’ll probably be on a Friday night.

If you have encountered the same conundrum I first faced in Berkeley, fret not, as I have done the work for you and sussed out the most worthwhile drinking experiences in the city.

My Top 2 Places to Grab a Drink in Berkeley

Note that these are beer places, as I am a beer lover (if not already obvious from my profile photo). Refer down the list for wine and cocktail recommendations.

1. Sierra Nevada Torpedo Room (West Berkeley)

  • Stellar customer service! Our bartender shared a plethora of information on each beer and the brewery
  • Well-designed, modern atmosphere
  • Great selection of beers
  • Easy to find parking
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Flight at Sierra Nevada Torpedo Room

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Our Flight with Dojo Dogs from the Food Truck Outside

2. Fieldwork Brewing Co. (West Berkeley)

  • A great space to drink at with a friend or a big group (they have really picturesque outdoor seating)
  • A constantly changing selection of in-house brews
  • Offer tasty empanadas if you’re hungry
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Me and a Flight from Fieldwork Brewing Co.

If you’re looking for lively atmosphere: Jupiter has a great outdoor area and live music on some nights (Downtown Berkeley). Offers beer, wine, and food.

If you’re looking for a dance floor: Missouri Lounge (West Berkeley). Offers beer, cocktails, and hot dogs.

If you’re looking for creative and interesting cocktails: Tupper & Reed (Downtown Berkeley). Offers beer and scorpion bowls too.

If you’re looking for a high class experience: Revival (Downtown Berkeley) or FIVE (Downtown Berkeley). Offers beer, wine, cocktails, and food.

If you’re looking for a good Happy Hour: Beta Lounge has Happy Hour 4-9pm (Downtown Berkeley). Offers beer, wine, cocktails, and bar bites.

Honorable Mention:

  • Albatross Pub (West Berkeley) offers beer, darts, and a multitude of board games.
  • Albany Taproom (technically in Albany, which is just north of West Berkeley) offers beer and food.
  • Comal (Downtown Berkeley) offers beer, cocktails, and upscale Mexican food.
  • Starry Plough (South Berkeley) offers beer and bar food.

Am I missing anything? If you can think of other great places to grab a drink in Berkeley, let me know in in the comments below!

3 Days at BottleRock 2016

Stevie Wonder, Florence + the Machine, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. It’s no wonder the festival sold out for the first time in four years.

Napa provided the perfect backdrop for a music, wine, and food festival. Who knew you could see top musicians and top chefs (Gordon Ramsay and Iron Chef Morimoto were there) at one event? I loved that the fairgrounds weren’t too expansive so you never had to walk too far to get to your next destination. Perhaps even more of a plus was the lack of young hooligans. The festival’s audience skewed a bit more mature than most festivals, which equaled less unnecessary yelling, pushing, and puking.

4 tips for attending BottleRock:

  • If you’re going for the whole weekend and don’t live close by, I suggest booking an Airbnb way ahead of time. We stayed in a beautiful Airbnb in Sonoma, which was a 45 minute drive from the festival.
  • If you’re driving, LEAVE EARLY. My friends and I drove from San Francisco, and traffic moved at snail’s pace.
  • Skip the zoo of a parking lot that the festival offers passes for and just park in the surrounding residential areas. We found spots everyday that were no more than a 20 minutes walk from the grounds.
  • Bring lots of cash for the FOOD and DRINKS. Food ranges from $8-18 and drinks range from $8-12.

The festival in pictures…

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First show we managed to catch on Friday evening: Grouplove

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The weather was spectacular all weekend

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Day 2, waiting for Florence

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Sam Harris from X Ambassadors

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Day 3, waiting hours in advance for Red Hot Chili Peppers

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Red Hot Chili Peppers: Probably the most anticipated show of the weekend

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And the weekend comes to an end

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Snippet of our Airbnb in Sonoma

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Can’t believe we woke up to this every morning

Did you attend BottleRock? Did you want to? Share your thoughts below 🙂

Our Crazy Cotopaxi Questival Experience

Screen Shot 2015-12-24 at 11.00.04 PMTeaching a first aid skill for a Cotopaxi Questival challenge

Firstly – yes this is being published 4 months post-Questival, but better late than never right? This ridiculous scavenger hunt definitely deserves full documentation and I encourage anyone who is thinking about taking on Questival to take the plunge and DO IT. We were one of 218 teams who competed in the 2015 San Francisco Questival and I cannot wait to try my hand at it again.

I was asked numerous times what the Cotopaxi Questival is so I think it’s fair that I sum it up in my own words: it is a 24hr team scavenger hunt consisting of ~300 challenges each worth varying points, which must be submitted in picture or video form via the Questival app. It is completely up to you which challenges you wish to undertake. Other teams vote on your submissions, in which cheating submissions can be flagged. The winning teams from across the country get to compete in a phenomenal championship across Central America.

Examples of challenges:

  • Cross the border into Canada
  • Cross the border into Mexico
  • Eat a whole can of cat food
  • Find snow and ski/snowboard on it
  • Share food with a stranger

It was fascinating to see how each team strategized and approached the list of challenges. The tricky thing is that there are 4 checkpoints throughout the race, which are optional but worth hefty points. My team, the Bullfighters of the Order of the Maple Leaf, opted to undertake the high point challenge of driving down to Santa Cruz and swimming in the Garden of Eden. We embarked on our journey down to Santa Cruz at 11pm after completing numerous challenges throughout San Francisco. Our plan went awry when we saw that the campground we planned to stay at was fully booked and that the “less than 1000 population town” we planned to hit up was more of a cult village than a town. We eventually found a small town called Davenport to complete the small town challenge with and ended up sleeping for half an hour in a Safeway parking lot before waking up at the break of dawn to hike to the Garden of Eden.

A lot took place on that sleepless night in Santa Cruz. It’s like Barney Stinson says in How I Met Your Mother, “nothing good happens after 2am.” Let’s just say we were frightened for our lives when a hooded teen almost jumped us in front of a Denny’s at 3am.

I could write a short novel about our entire 24hr race, but will opt to illustrate our journey in picture form below.

UPDATE: Cotopaxi created webpages for each team with photos and videos from every single challenge we completed, but since checking in June, 2017 they no longer exist unfortunately.

Some of my favorite pics from our Cotopaxi Questival:

(Video pics are just stills; You can view the full vids using the link above)

12065584_10153641732809819_4744945629710284406_nAt an abandoned mine in Berkeley

be3dogvnfmp8lkzukqg5Taking a dip in the Garden of Eden at 6am

do77bterbjkxgkw4zl0lDoing yoga at Lands End in San Francisco

fngtivi3tma493fnsfh7Casually posing with a llama at the kick off event!

kmolwuradbfuyztuydzrThe challenge  was to find someone wearing “yoga pants, sunglasses, and walking a dog”

njl5xncosjjqfuk2zmojThe ruins at Lands End

Screen Shot 2015-12-24 at 10.56.08 PMReenacting the spaghetti scene from Lady and the Tramp

Screen Shot 2015-12-24 at 10.56.47 PMA still from our video where we had to reenact a scene from our favorite musical

zlj2bo1zpbpvwjemncumHitting up a local beach

afrqlmthdnsizzw7izi7Posing with our less than 1000 population town at 3am

waqg0pqzjed2qjh8emhpUs fitting 3 people into a sleeping bag

12431576_10206844446162410_1582225709_nAt the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park

12434145_10206844448562470_810057180_nEating food made by a campfire

12435804_10206844446282413_1165952544_nHugging a huge redwood tree in Golden Gate Park

12435888_10206844433522094_239206331_nAt the Sutro Baths in San Francisco

Questions or thoughts on Cotopaxi Questival? Let me know in the comments below!

New Experience: Outside Lands 2015

It was 3 days of magical music, delicious eats, and all walks of life.

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Music: Elton John. ELTON JOHN. He is the main reason why I had to go – “Tiny Dancer” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” were pivotal songs in my adolescence. He absolutely surpassed my expectations; what a spectacular voice and performer. Other faves: G-Eazy, Mumford and Sons, the Black Keys, Sam Smith, DJ Mustard, Porter Robinson, ODESZA.

Food: So disappointed with my inaugural ramenburger. I want to say it was due to an under-trained staff and I will try again at the restaurant in SF. I had such high hopes. My faves: oddly enough – the tots. The tots were unreal. I also loved the burritos and Vietnamese iced coffee.

Comedy: Still a little in disbelief that I actually got to see one of the most legendary comedy troupes (in my opinion), the Upright Citizens Brigade. UCB may be most popular as the troupe co-founded by Amy Poehler. Despite having to stand way in the back, this was certainly one of the finest comedic shows I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending.

DAY 1

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Broods

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Ron Swanson Sighting

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The Claawww

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Lands End Stage

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Porter Robinson

DAY 2

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The Craziness at Sutro Stage

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Lego Head Sighting

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At G-Eazy

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Some of the Cool Art at Outside Lands

DAY 3

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Nate Ruess

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At ODESZA

Till next year!

Short Hair Don’t Care

In less than an hour, over 1ft of hair was gone. The last time I had my hair cut was November 2013 (when I had my ombre done). I’ve been wanting to get my hair chopped for a few months, but kept putting it off because of how much the color cost me at that last appointment. I finally took the plunge and it feels FANTASTIC. Wash and dry is super quick and my natural waves don’t actually bother me with this length.

Thank you to Lisa Pomo for the cut. You can find her at Pitch Salon in San Francisco at: (415) 664-4800

Before (taken 2 weeks prior):

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After:

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More pics:

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You could make a wig out of this:

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After a wash: (no curler or straightener)

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