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Kristin Luna

Sweeten Up Your Weekend at the Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival

As a bonafide chocolate connoisseur (hey, I'm only female), it's no surprise that the first event that gets jotted down--in pen--in my planner each new calendar year is the annual Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival.

In its 14th year, this smorgasbord for the tastebuds kicks off Saturday afternoon with chef demonstrations, chocolate and wine pairings, and, most importantly, tastings galore. The magnum opus of the event, however, is the Ice Cream Sundae Eating Contest at 2pm both days: with earthquakes (adults) up on Saturday, and children allowed both days.

Last-Minute Labor Day Schemes

Forget to make Labor Day weekend plans? Here are some surefire, spur-of-the-moment ideas:

Sip vino in Sonoma. Celebrate the upcoming grape harvest by attending the epicurean weekend packed full of winemakers' dinners and tastings galore. Sonoma Wine Country Weekend runs from noon on Friday through 6 p.m. Sunday.

Artists Strut Their Stuff in Sausalito This Weekend

For 57 years now, the coming of Labor Day weekend has been cause for Sausalito residents to celebrate: It marks the beginning of the Sausalito Art Festival. With the San Francisco skyline glittering in the distance, what better background for artists to showcase their collections than on the shimmering Sausalito waterfront?

"Dog Days of Summer" Invades the Westin St. Francis

Those passing through Union Square on their walks home from work last night may have been a bit perplexed--and simultaneously, delighted--to see more than 100 canines donning their Sunday best and prancing down a red carpet that led into the Westin St. Francis' Grand Ballroom.

Local Artists Showcase Work at Tedda's Boutique

If you haven't paid a visit to Tedda Hughes' eponymous shop on Polk Street, you're missing out. The boutique, gallery and artist space is truly one-of-a-kind.

With avant-garde and designer clothing filling the racks, original local artists' work donning the walls, seamstresses helming the sewing machines in the front of the store, and occasionally buskers like firespinners performing out front, this whimsical shop of curiosities is never devoid of creativity.

Soar Over Santa Cruz this Weekend

It's a bird, it's a plane...no, it's just that giant inflatable helium structure, the Eureka blimp, you've seen hovering over the Bay Area on many occasions.

And now she'll add another destination to her repertoire of areas traveled, which include San Francisco, Oakland, Monterey, Los Angeles and Wine Country. Beginning Saturday, Airship Ventures' famed Zeppelin NT will depart from Moffett Field with its final destination that hippie, seaside community, Santa Cruz.

It Can Be Done! Affordable Summer Lodging in Yosemite

Usually from the months of June through September, if you're heading to Yosemite and on a budget, camping is the only option. Simply put, park lodging is not cheap.

However, beginning Aug. 23 and running through Sept. 30, the rustic and charming Evergreen Lodge is now offering 25 percent off its cabins on weeknights.

Getaway: Explore Charming Nevada City This Weekend

Jaded San Franciscans will turn their noses up at the mere mention of Gold Country and sneer, "why would we want to go there?" However, if you give the rustic and under-the-radar Nevada City--the region's epicenter--the chance, you'll find it offers much-needed R&R with an authentic Western backdrop.

X-Ray Friendly Bag: A Jetsetter Must-Have

If, like me, you spend more time in airports than you do in your own house, your laptop has no doubt fallen prey to your jetsetting ways. With today's inane over-the-top security measures--I can take a sharpened pencil on my flight but not dulled tweezers or plastic knitting needles?--where you're required to practically remove everything but your intimates, it's no wonder I've gone through three MacBooks in two years.

But no more.

Pooch-Friendly Partying at the Westin

If you're tired of hitting the town sans pooch, here's your chance to paint the town red with Fido in tow. At the Westin St. Francis' "Dogs Days of Summer" on Aug. 26, canines and their owners will be treated like VIPS (Very Important Pets and Persons) in an event benefitting the San Francisco SPCA.

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