Solar Living Center 13771 S. Hwy. 101, (707) 472-2450. M-Sat 10-5, Sun 11-4. $3/car. Self-guided tour: daily 10-6; free. Guided tour: F-Sun at 11, Apr-Oct; by donation, $5/family. Carousel: daily 12-4, on the hr.
Pick up a self-guided tour brochure at the entrance to this surprising, impressive 12½-acre complex, or time your visit for a guided tour. An especially refreshing stop on a hot day--it can soar to 110 degrees around here in summer, and the town claims 300 days of sunshine every year--this small oasis has an Agave Cooling Tower that dispenses a refreshing mist. For kids, a play area with an optional pipe-tunnel entrance, a sandbox, and a water pump is on hand along with a seasonal solar-powered carousel designed by Bill Dentzel (a descendant of the famous carousel maker) that features salmon, skunk, and mountain lion mounts. The Central Oasis is a sort of a mini-Yellowstone fountain of dancing geysers, and the Solar Calendar is a sort of mini-Stonehenge designed to connect visitors to the changing seasons.
Once inside the cool Real Goods Store--double-entendre intended--you can browse the useful merchandise and check out a wall cutaway revealing the building’s unusual straw-bale construction. On the way out, a sign urges, “Turn inspiration into action.” Frey Vineyards operates a free tasting bar in the back. Their wines are organic and biodynamic.
And if you like, you can book in for the night in the site’s Tumbleweed Tiny House, a compact two-story building on wheels. Campsites are available April through October.
More things to do along Highway 101.
More ideas for exploring Northern California.
images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers