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Place Oddities

Quirky North Bay adventures to satisfy your inner resident tourist



Call it "post-travel optimism": You come back from a successful trip abroad, and vow to make your everyday routine every bit as exciting as the vacation that just ended. You make a promise to yourself to explore, step out of the comfort zone, be a curious tourist in your own town—on a daily basis. And then life happens, and it's all back to normal.

Being a resident tourist doesn't mean every adventure has to be grand and magnificent. An outing could take the form of a tiny detour on the way home from work, a whimsical day trip around the corner or a photo snapped in your own neighborhood. Hidden spots and unlikely destinations are all around us, you just have to take a closer look—and do the following things as soon as possible.


Lucky Mojo is a trip in every possible way. Tucked away in a magical grove, this is a pocket of quirkiness in the middle of an otherwise sleepy town, a store filled to the brim with objects of magic, spirituality and hoodoo. The shop—packed with talismans, sexually explicit candles and potions, among other things—is transformative; you lose all sense of time and space while familiarizing yourself with the goods. The garden around Lucky Mojo, complete with a fortune teller's hut, is worth a stroll. Most important, leave with a souvenir, as tourists do. 6632 Covey Road, Forestville. 707.887.1521.


The Lonely Planet guides often send you to nondescript locations, promising mind-blowing local fare. Here's a similar scenario: Go to the busy Safeway parking lot in Mill Valley and look for Juice Girl, a tiny juice shop abundant with smiling, catalogue-worthy families. When there, request the sublime avocado square ($4.50), half an avocado sliced with surgical precision and served on a thick slab of crispy homemade bread, drizzled with garlic oil and spicy salt. Add a squirt of lemon, and California bliss is guaranteed. 45 Camino Alto Ave., Mill Valley. 415.322.6160.


Druids Hall, Olema's historic structure (built in 1885), is the stuff local tourism is made of. Hidden behind a leafy trail, its white facade and impressive architecture have otherworldly appeal, and the recent takeover and renovation by the owners of the neighboring Sir and Star restaurant only benefited the landmark. Druids Hall is now a hotel, but no need to stay there to feel special. Sneak in and pose on the terrace—that's adventurous enough. 9870 Hwy. 1, Olema. 415.663.8727.

LOCAL YOKEL  No need to leave town when the North Bay offers such an abundance of sights, flavors and experiences.
  • LOCAL YOKEL No need to leave town when the North Bay offers such an abundance of sights, flavors and experiences.


The joy of the pop-up is not limited to visits to exciting European capitals. Right here at home, Sonoma's Hand Made Events is the creation of Garrett Sathre and Nicole Benjamin-Sathre, who specialize in cool pop-up dinners in unlikely spots in cities across the country. Their San Francisco and Sonoma events sell out long in advance and include lifestyle connoisseurs dressed in all white, dinner under the stars and other gimmicks designed to make for an unforgettable evening. Tickets are still available for the next Wine Country pop-up on Saturday, June 18, and include "early location reveal." 307 Mountain Ave., Sonoma.


The best thing about traveling is often the lack of context: the building you're marveling at might be an important landmark, or a totally meaningless structure—you never know. Enjoy a similar feeling at a weird, abandoned building on Highway 116. The building, carrying signs signifying that it used to host Guayakí Yerba Mate and Kalani Organic Coffee, is now a crumbling labyrinth of sealed doors and windows, decorated brightly in chalk and paint, and projecting a somewhat creepy anarchist vibe reminiscent of Copenhagen's commune of Freetown Christiania. Is it a squat? A local Clarion Alley? One thing is certain: it's available for wild and fun photo sessions. Gravenstein Highway and Bloomfield Road, Sebastopol.


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