Field trip this weekend: Sunset Celebration Festival

This guest post was written by Dana Smith, Berkeley mom to a third grader and sixth grader, and head of PR for Sunset Magazine.

Main Entrance Sunset Celebration Weekend 2012Sunset Magazine

For the past six 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 checking out the 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 weaving through food trucks and travel exhibits  while working with my videographer husband to produce the event’s official video and hosting the press. This is all while our kids–Anton (8) and Nico (12)–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’ favorite things to see, do, and taste at Celebration Weekend

  1. 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.
  2. 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 2012’s “Ultimate Outdoor Living Room” exhibit and both kids will never forget climbing inside the campers set up throughout the travel exhibit.
  3. Small is Big this year. This year’s featured home and garden exhibit, the “Small Space, Big Dreams” Gardens and Sunset Tiny House finally gives small things the respect they deserve. Your kids will relate! Plus, they’ll get lost in a maze of lush gardens that lead straight to the tiniest, cutest house you ever did see. Keep an eye out for the custom-built chicken coop, where you’ll find Sunset’s resident flock.
  4. Tasting! So much to taste, so little time! No matter what direction you walk, you’ll find someone offering something yummy to sample. This year, I’ll be sure to nudge them toward the “What’s Next in Food” table to sampe chocolates, strawberries and shrub, an old-time sweet-tart fermented soft drink.
  5. 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.
  6. 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, Ryan Scott, Waylynn Lucas, and Suvir Saran.
  7. Dance party at the music stage. The perfect way to burn off some of that kettle corn.
  8. Food trucks! So many choices, so little time. We pick one savory truck and one sweet and then share (if your kids are old enough, you can divide and conquer in line). There’ll be an amazing selection of the Bay Area’s best, including Ear Good Corn, El Sur, How Ya, bean, Little Green Cyclo, Old World, Seoul on Wheels, Ultra Crepes, Gerard’s Paella, Gourmet Faire, Kettle Korner, and Sonoma Teriyaki.
  9. Tesla in the house. My kids are obsessed with these ultra-green electric cars, so they can’t wait to climb inside and get a picture behind the wheel of the candy apple-red model parked on the main lawn.

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 a few must-see things, 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 get distracted by, so make a plan just in case you head toward the Weber Grilling School while junior makes a bee line for the stiltwalkers. 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 May 31 and Sunday, June 1
Time: 10am to 5pm
Prices: $20 General Admission, $18 Seniors (60+, no other discounts allowed) — $80 VIP adult + $40 VIP child
Kids: 12 and under, free
Location: Sunset Headquarters, 80 Willow Road Menlo Park, CA 94025

[Photos provided by Dana Smith and Sunset Magazine]