Field trip this weekend: Sunset Celebration Festival

This guest post was written by Dana Smith, Berkeley mom to two grade schoolers, and head of PR for Sunset Magazine.

Main Entrance Sunset Celebration Weekend 2012Sunset Magazine

For the past five years, my family and I have spent the first weekend of June in Menlo Park at Sunset Celebration Weekend, the annual weekend-long party that Sunset magazine hosts throughout its bucolic seven-acre campus. While everyone else is drawn to the event’s celebrity chefs, home and garden seminars and wine tastings, my husband and I are there on business. As the head of PR for the magazine, I spend two full days criss-crossing the event while working with my videographer husband to produce the event’s official video. This is all while our kids–Anton (7) and Nico (11)–play, eat, explore and dance their way through Celebration Weekend with their babysitter, and any friends they’ve enlisted to join them for the fun. So, instead of hearing my favorite parts of Celebration Weekend–which usually involve sitting down for a few stolen moments with a crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc–I thought I’d ask my Nico and Anton their favorite things about Celebration Weekend:

My kids’ top 8 festival favorites

8. Rock climbing wall. One of the first things you’ll see when you enter Celebration Weekend. It’s the perfect place to start the celebration and a great place to return to throughout your visit.
7. Bubble blowing. Adjacent to the rock climbing wall, you’ll find everything you need to send giant, soapy bubbles floating amid the crowds. On a sparkling, sunny June day, there’s no better way to get that lazy summertime feeling.
6. Exploring! There is so much to explore at Celebration Weekend, and you’ll be amazed how your kids will take an interest in sophisticated topics like home design, garden tips, and camping gear. Seriously, my daughter is still talking about the plant-filled outdoor shower from last year’s “Ultimate Outdoor Living Room” and both kids will never forget climbing inside the campers set up throughout the travel exhibit.
5. Tasting! So much to taste, so little time! No matter what direction you walk, you’ll find someone offering something yummy to sample. Our favorite last year was the avocado ice cream served from an old fashioned freezer cart.
4. Paint-a-pot. Families flock to the Garden & Outdoor Living Stage for a chance to create a planter pot masterpiece. It’s one of Nico’s favorite destinations, but it can fill up, so be sure to check in early.
3. Backyard Chickens. Meet the magazine’s flock, who live in a coop at the back of the test garden.
2. Celebrity Chefs. For all the mini Food Network and Top Chef fans out there (and there are LOADS), Celebration Weekend is a mecca for everyone’s favorite TV chefs. This year’s line up is a who’s who from Top Chef, including Fabio Viviani, Susan Feniger, Ludo Lefebvre and Yigit Pura.
1. Dance party at the music stage. The perfect way to burn off some of that sugar.

Celebration Weekend 2012 gardens

Four insider tips to insure you have as much fun as your kids:

  1. Take the shuttles. This is an easy day trip from the East Bay, with drive time averaging 45-60 minutes. Parking has the potential to be a little tricky. However, Sunset runs complimentary shuttles from parking lots throughout the area. There is a direct, dedicated shuttle from the parking lot at the Facebook headquarters, or you can grab a shuttle from a variety of lots along Middlefield Rd.
  2. Don’t do it all. Even though my kids gave you their top eight things to do, I’d recommend narrowing this list down to five, so no one gets overwhelmed, overheated, overtired, or over-sugared.
  3. Make a plan. Or, don’t. You’ll find as many fun things to do just by wandering and soaking it all in as you will if you make a list and check it twice.
  4. Set a meeting place. This is a big event with lots of people, lots of space and lots to look at, so make a plan in the event you head toward the low-water garden demonstration while junior makes a bee line for the outdoor kitchen stage. The best family meeting place is the information office located in the lobby of the main building. Make that your first stop, so your kids know where they can go if you get separated and they need to find you. There’s always someone friendly in the office ready to help.

Most importantly, have fun!


Date: Saturday and Sunday, June 1
Time: 10am to 5pm
Prices: $18 General Admission, $16 Seniors (60+, no other discounts allowed)
Kids: 12 and under, free
Location: Sunset Headquarters, 80 Willow Road Menlo Park, CA 94025

[Photos provided by Dana Smith and Sunset Magazine of last years' celebration]