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Northern California in July. (Tips & Trips).

* NOVATO Get thee to a fair Once upon a time there was a little Renaissance fair in a small grove of oak and bay trees near China Camp State Park. The fair proved so popular that it moved to grander groves in Blackpoint before being displaced by a housing development. But fear not, gentle reader: the Heart of the Forest Renaissance Faire is back at Novato's Stafford Lake Regional Park, where you can laugh at Punch & Judy, try your hand at crossbows, or enjoy a pint of stout. Weekends Jul 12-Aug 10; $6-$20. www.forestfaire.com or (415) 897-4555. * MENDOCINO Groove by the sea Most days, the sound of the ocean crashing upon the rocky shore dominates the Mendocino Headlands. But for the past 17 summers, the sounds of violins, woodwinds, and guitars have also wafted over the bluffs, thanks to performers at the Mendocino Music Festival. This year the rural festival opens with an evening of urban compositions by the likes of George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein. Jul 15-26; $15-$45. www. mendocinomusic.com or (707) 937-4041.

* SAN JOSE, MOUNTAIN VIEW

Get hapi More than 700 bon odori dancers dressed in kimonos and hapi coats make their way through San Jose's Japantown during the annual SanJose Buddhist Church Betsuin's Obon Festival, July 12--13. Traditionally, the Obon honors the passing of loved ones, but it's far from a solemn occasion. Browse Japantown's unique shops, buy freshly cut flowers, and revel in the sounds of the drums of SanJose Taiko. Pick up a chicken teriyaki bento box early, and save room for the popular imagawayaki--a pancakelike sandwich filled with sweet bean paste. The following weekend (July 19-20), visit the Mountain View Buddhist Temple, which hosts similar festivities and includes spectacular suiseki (natural rock art) and ikebana displays. San Jose Obon Festival: free; N. Fifth St. between Jackson and Taylor Streets; (408) 293-9292. Mountain View festival: free; 575 N. Shoreline Blvd.; (650) 964-9426. U NEAR SANTA CRUZ Bike a little Wilder It's always been known for its ocean vistas and hiking, but Wilder Ranch State Park also o ffers great mountain biking. Follow the Old Cove Landing trail for an easy scenic ride along the bluffs (4 miles one way to its end). Or head inland to Wilder Ridge Loop or Long Meadow trail, with enough steep grades and rugged terrain to thrill even the most die-hard rider. Pack a picnic for the beach. $5 parking fee. 2 miles north of Santa Cruz on State 1; (831) 423-9703.
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Author:Carber, Kristine M.; Lau, Michelle; Marks, Ben
Publication:Sunset
Date:Jul 1, 2003
Words:417
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