The Sky is the Limit with Blue Sky Events

Robin Endicott and Mitch wedding Regan Beach and EdgewoodLake Tahoe is a perfect destination to celebrate “I do” amongst your family, friends and loved ones.  Celebrating 250+ days of bright blue skies, picturesque snow-capped mountain backdrops, lakeside beach ceremony stages and cool, crisp evenings it makes for the BEST destination wedding location.  So I do have to preface  that I am a bit biased since Lake Tahoe also happens to be the location where I chose to marry four years ago along the shores of Edgewood Tahoe Golf Resort.  But planning a destination wedding isn’t easy and I couldn’t have done it without the professional planning and expertise of Kerry Hawk and her team at Blue Sky Events.

wedding robin mitch 061409When I became engaged I was living in Maui, Hawaii but my husband and I decided to plan a destination wedding celebration in Lake Tahoe since it is a special place to us.  Attempting to plan from afar and not familiar with the wedding players in Lake Tahoe, I knew immediately I would need assistance.  I also knew that being someone who had worked in the luxury hospitality market for years prior, I wasn’t going to be the easiest of customers.  I knew what I wanted, was overly detailed by nature and that nearly anything was possible.  Enters Kerry Hawk and team to save the day!

Over the next 6 months+ Kerry and I arranged conference calls where we began creating my perfect day 2,500 miles apart.  I had hired Blue Sky Events to assist with pre-event planning as well as on-site coordination on our wedding day. Kerry was readily able to answer all my wedding planning questions and provide perfect local solutions for all of my needs.   She knew the region like the back of her hand and had key partnerships with reliable local vendors whom I ultimately choose my stylist, florist and cake designer from her sacred “list”.  Beyond the usual responsibilities and tasks expected from a wedding coordination team, Kerry personally went above and beyond the call of duty which I want to share with you here.

wedding robin mitch 061409First, since my husband and I had met and were currently living in Maui yet hosting our ceremony on the ‘mainland’ we wanted to incorporate a traditional island ritual into our special day.  Specifically, we wanted to include a Hawaiian lei ritual into our ceremony.  After calling dozens of florists, I learned that they really didn’t have access to the tropical flowers needed to make authentic leis.  I found a company in Maui that would FedEx real Hawaiian leis for our ceremony but there was one big glitch.  They wouldn’t ship them to a hotel (which is where we would be staying) yet only to a home residence since upon delivery they had to immediately be refrigerated and stored.  After searching for a solution Kerry immediately stepped in and offered to have them delivered to her personal residence!  To say the least, the leis were delivered, stored and transported by Kerry successfully and were an integral part of our ceremony.  These special leis are wedding robin mitch 061409dried and still hang in my house today!

The big day arrived.  And of course… there is always at least one thing (if your lucky!) that goes not as planned.  For us it was our DJs who were NOT one of the recommended vendors on Kerry’s list – lesson learned!  In short, they were terrible – late, without our extensive list of preselected wedding songs and totally clueless.  At one point in the night they were actually sitting at the bar!  The great news ….is that I barely noticed thanks to Kerry Hawk.  I will never forget walking into our reception as Kerry calmly walked alongside me reassuring me not to worry but purposefully asked what our signature first dance song selections were because the DJ didn’t have them!  Later, I learned that Kerry had downloaded the songs to her iPod and had them playing on queue so that no one besides us ever knew what had happened.  This woman could simply do it all!

Photo from Blue SkyI had the privilege of recently reconnecting with Kerry to ask her about what projects she and Blue Sky Events were currently working on and where she sees the future of her company headed.  I learned that Blue Sky Events has expanded immensely into the incentive and corporate event planning realm in addition to their full-time wedding coordination business.  Jason Hawk, Kerry’s husband, has also joined the company and is now co-owner greatly contributing to the expansion of their business into corporate and resort event management.  As part of their event management portfolio they have added a roster of events including the annual Tahoe Snowcial, Discount Tires annual incentive trip with over 500 attendees and are the preferred event planning team for on and off snow events for Heavenly Mountain Resort just to name a few.  Blue Sky Events also plans the Tahoe South Heavenly Holidays for a two week run of events in the Heavenly Village, that culminates on New Years Eve with an event bringing in thousands of attendees loaded with entertainment and the worlds only Gondola Ball Drop and Fireworks!  Quite the Lake Tahoe local superstar planners.

Tahoe Snowcial - MC Hammer

Screen Shot 2013-05-28 at 2.05.50 PMWhen asked what contributes to her success, Kerry emphasized the ability to pull from so many resources within the area thanks to the well-established relationships they have created – a key success factor when operating in a small region like ours.  Kerry sees the future of their company continuing to “give amazing service to all people visiting the Lake Tahoe region to ensure that their time is well spent while here” and hopes to create a unique, annual festival all of their own!  Can’t wait to see what Kerry, Jason and Blue Sky Events have in the making!

Do you have a wedding, special event or corporate conference that you need assistance with planning?  Do as I did to ensure a flawless experience by consulting with Kerry and Jason Hawk at Blue Sky Events.  You will never look back.

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

Photo credits:  Kerry Hawk & Robin Penning

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My Favorite – The Five Lakes Hike

Hiking in Lake Tahoe is one of the top attractions visitors and locals enjoy throughout the basin.  There are hundreds of miles of trails to choose from and explore, but year after year my favorite hike to enjoy each summer is the Five Lakes Hike on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe.

The Five Lakes Trail is located in the Granite Chief Wilderness in between Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley ski resorts and is easily accessible at the intersection of Alpine Meadows and Deer Park roads.  The 5-mile moderate trail ascends approximately 900-1000 ft. along granite canyons and pine forests to a high-altitude meadow that creates a bowl of five lakes in between the rugged mountain peaks towering from above including a peak of Squaw Valley ski resort.  As you ascend the trail, you will enjoy view of the Alpine Meadows ski resort from a distance, traverse under an abandon ski resort chair lift (said to be created to link the two ski resorts at one time) and climb along the rocky, granite cliff until you pass a waterfall and reach the high-altitude meadow.  The hike takes only about one-hour to reach the meadow and lakes but I recommend spending at least a 1/2-day on the trail in order to fully explore and enjoy the lakes above.  Since it is such a popular hike, the trail can become crowded, especially on weekends, but not to worry as there are plenty of nooks and coves to relax, picnic, swim and even fish in the lakes.

Check out a video of my recent trips along the Five Lakes Hike in Lake Tahoe and learn tips and see pictures of this gorgeous trail!

A few local tips on the Five Lakes Hike:  

  • Be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen!  This hike is primarily exposed and can be very hot during the midday until you reach the shady meadows above
  • Pack lots of water and snacks.  As you quickly ascend the trail it is roughly a 2.5-mile straight climb until you reach the top.  The added elevation factor in the mountains can surprise out-of-town visitor
  • Sometimes finding all 5 lakes can be tricky but take your time enjoying and exploring the high elevation meadows and trails connecting the lakes throughout.
  • Worth the wait!  Due to its high elevation, I recommend enjoying this hike later in the summer season as high-altitude snow is likely to remain throughout spring.  One year over 4th of July friends and I did this hike and there was still snow covering the trail and the lakes were frozen over!

To learn more about this popular trail visit this online trail guide that including stage by stage directions as well as this complete review in SFGate.com.  Have you ever hiked Five Lakes?  If so do you have any tips to share on how to find all five lakes? Please share them in the comments below.

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

Truckee Thursday Time!

Truckee Thursday ReturnsThis past Thursday evening Truckee-Tahoe locals from all around gathered to welcome back a favorite summer event, Truckee Thursday!  Every Thursday evening from 5-9pm this summer until August 29th locals will gather to eat, drink, shop and reunite on the city blocks of downtown historic Truckee, CA  for this weekly celebration.  Hosted by the Truckee Downtown Merchants Association, Truckee Thursdays are a fantastic way for visitors,  locals and businesses to reunite and celebrate their local community.

Truckee Thursday ReturnsSo what exactly is Truckee Thursdays?   Picture farmer’s market meets street party in the mountains.  The downtown blocks of historic Truckee are closed to vehicle traffic for the evening and in its place local merchants including farmers, artisans, crafters and restaurants and invited to secure booths to feature their products, services and culinary arts.  It is great event celebrated by guests of all ages from newborns to seniors and even dogs are welcome!

Truckee Thursday Returns
Allow me to take you on a quick tour of my usual visit to Truckee Thursday to give you a better picture.  I usually carpool with friends and park in either the lot on East River Street (if it isn’t full already) or along the street.  First stop, I like perusing the local vendor booths set up in the street selling fruits and vegetables along with crafts such as candles, jewelry and home furnishings – perfect for gifts!  These vendors often leave on the early side so it is good to go there first.  Then after a bit of shopping, I head to the beer garden to grab a draft, meet up with friends and listen to the guest band performance.  By now I have worked up an appetite and head to the food trucks and stations to see what looks good for the evening.  My two favorites… anything from Red Truck or the famed Tri-Trip sandwich from Full Belli Deli (both pictured below).  End your evening with one of the many sweet treats available including crepes, chocolate covered frozen bananas on a stick or ice cream that you can find throughout.  As the sun sets, temperatures drop and the Truckee Thursday celebration winds down, if you aren’t quite ready to go home I recommend continuing the party at the historic Bar of America in the hub of downtown Truckee.

Truckee Thursday ReturnsTruckee Thursday ReturnsEach week at Truckee Thursday presents a local merchant sponsor along with a non-profit partner band showcasing the main stage in the beer gardens.  Check their website for the schedule of events of sponsors including Burger Me!, Northstar California and California 89 to see what lies ahead this summer at Truckee Thursday.

This season, Truckee Thursday also announced a few new additions to their line-up!  New is a second ‘corner stage’ on the corner of Bridge Street and Donner Pass Road and enjoy Bike Valet hosted by the Truckee Thursday ReturnsTruckee Donner Historical Society so you can ride your bikes and avoid the parking jam.  New lifestyle and apparel store, California 89, will also be featuring movies for downtown visitors seeking a break from the busy street action.  I also heard rumor that for those residents living in Tahoe Donner, a new shuttle route has been added to transport residents after Truckee Thursday events.  Can anyone confirm if this is true?!

 A few local tips to enjoy the BEST evening at Truckee Thursday.  Be sure to arrive earlier in order to find parking as it fills up fast!  Bring cash as that is all most vendors accept.  Another good reason to come early is that the best food will sell-out fast and you won’t want to miss it!  Carpooling helps with parking AND be sure to have a safe and sober driver with you if you plan on drinking.

If you frequent Truckee Thursday, what do you most look forward to buying, eating, sipping while you are there? Share your comments below.  I hope to see you next Thursday!

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

Truckin’ the Truckee River

images2With summer in full swing in Lake Tahoe I was thrilled to hear last night that one of my FAVORITE summer activities had reopened for the summer, and early this season too!  I am so excited – I had to share information with you about my previous experiences here!  Whether you are traveling by a large commercial blue raft, personal inner tube or maneuvering on a kayak, “floating” the Truckee River is a quintessential summer activity to enjoy with family, friends or your significant other.   It’s also an annual tradition in Lake Tahoe that locals and visitors have been enjoying for decades.

The Truckee River is the only outlet of Lake Tahoe, the second largest Alpine Lake in North America, which begins at the fork in Tahoe City at Fanny Bridge.  Start your day by heading to Tahoe City where the East  and North Shores of Lake Tahoe meet.  Be sure to grab supplies along the way including drinks, picnic lunch, sunscreen, coolers, floating devices (if you aren’t interested in renting) and maybe even some super soakers if you are planning to make some new friends along the float.  There are two most popular methods of floating – personal oversized inner tubes which can be purchased for about $25 at various convenience and grocery stores or you can rent large, commerical rafts from the Truckee River Raft Company right at the start of the River in Tahoe City.

Truckee River Raft Company is the original and most popular rafting supplier in the area whose individual and group tours provide options for any and all interested floaters.  Rentals include free parking, shuttle bus, paddles, and life jackets for rafters 2 years and older. They also have the best equipment with all rafts being large, sturdy, commercial white water grade and comfortable to fit 2-20 people.  I definitely recommend them for families, large groups and first-time floaters!

Along the 5-mile, 2-3 hr float you will be entertained with many sights, thanks to both the scenic beauty surrounding you as well as the diversity of fellow floaters alongside you.  The river weaves through tall pine trees, varies between shallow sandy portions and deep, rocky emerald waters, tall grasses, ducks under wooden bridges, introduces sandy beaches great for picnic lunches and glides along the bike path as well as Highway 89 to your right.  During a day on the river you are likely to meet visitors and locals of all ages and purpose.  You will meet multi-generational families on family summer vacations, romantic couples and rowdy entourages setting up “party” camp along beaches and shallow portions of the river.  I have seen it all… from floating small Weber BBQs to queen-size bed air mattresses as floating devices, you will be sure to be entertained by the sites around you.

images3Celebrate the end of your journey, dry-off and reward yourself with food and drinks at River Ranch Lodge and Restaurant at the entrance to Alpine Meadows, where floaters must stop their journey along this section of the Truckee River.  Enjoy your return to dry ground and watch the other adventurers rush down the last and largest section of rapids into the large pool of emerald waters in front of the restaurant’s large viewing and sunning deck (shown to the right).  Then, when you are ready, pile your equipment and damp belongings into busses provided by Truckee River Raft Company to shuttle you back to your vehicle at the beginning of the river.

Have you floated the Truckee River before or plan to do so this summer?  Share your experiences and preferred flotation vessel to use along your journey in the comments below.  Look forward to seeing you on the river this summer!

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

Photo 1, Photo 2

Take me out to the …. Reno Aces Ballpark!

One of my absolute favorite things to do in the summertime in the Reno-Tahoe region is visit the Aces Ballpark and watch an Aces games with my friends.  The Reno Aces are a Triple-A Minor League team in the Pacific Coast league.  Not only are they a great team, but also they have the most amazing stadium right in downtown Reno – the Aces Ballpark.  Rumor has it that other Triple-A teams love to play the Aces just so they can make the trip to Reno since our ballpark is so much better than the rest.

Just last week, my colleagues and friends visited the park to catch a Monday night game and had a blast!  We sat in spectacular Bugsy’s Sports Bar and Grill patio section overlooking third base.  Not only were the views great, but we also enjoyed full service for food and beverage which you can’t pass up.  Its especially perfect for group events and large parties to enjoy.  My favorite – the pretzel bites, yum!

The Aces Ballpark has a number of great features in the park located in downtown Reno adjacent to the Truckee River.  Some of the highlights include the Circus Circus Kids Zone, Baseball Mountain, the Bugsy’s Sports Bar and Grill as I mentioned above and of course the lively Freight House District where you can catch live concerts, DJs, play a game of corn hole and celebrate after-the-game drinks.  Besides all of the special events and concerts hosted at the  popular Freight House District, the ballpark also hosts a packed schedule of featured events including:  St. Mary’s Firework Fridays, Small Business Nights, Girls Night Out, the Dog Days of Summer where two guests and their dog enjoy tickets for only $25 and many more!

The Reno Aces schedule last through September with weekly games and ticket prices ranging from as low as $7 for standing sections to $34 for prime seats behind home plate.  With these prices, this is a family, friend, work outing that you can’t miss.  Visit the Ace’s website at www.renoaces.com to learn more about the game and event schedules as well as purchase your tickets!

Check out a video of our recent trip to the Aces Ballpark!

Have you ever been to a Reno Aces game?  If so, share your favorite part about visiting the stadium in the comments below!

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

Paradise Found in Reno

imagesLast weekend my girlfriends and I decided to treat ourselves to a “girls” day in celebration and reward for a very busy and productive year.  Usually our gatherings include trips to the library, study sessions and coffee shops as we tackled graduate school classes together but this time the reason was much better – a spa day in Reno.  Our destination would be poolside, consisting of rejuvenating spa treatments, celebratory beverages and of course, great company and laughs.  Based on one friend’s previous experiences, we chose Spa Toscana at the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino on South Virginia Street.  We cleared our schedules, made a few calls to confirm appointments and packed our bags for an indulgent day in Reno.

Every spa day should be this effortless.  When the day of our appointments arrived, I pulled into the conveniently located self-parking and reunited with my friends about an hour before our 11 am massage appointments.  First stop, a visit to the Passport Reward’s member card registration desk where within minutes I was registered by the helpful concierge with my “local’s” passport reward’s card extending 20% discounts on all room, food, beverage, retail and spa purchases beginning immediately.  So convenient and immediate, I loved it!  Plus, it remedied any guilt I was feeling about the $$$ I was about to spend.

My friends and I found our way towards the resort pool and nearby Spa Toscana where we checked in for our appointments.  The first thing I noticed was that the spa was bustling with visitors.  It was a Sunday, but in early June, and I was surprised to see it this busy.  Nevertheless, our service was extremely courteous, not rushed and on-time.  After being graciously toured the spa lounge amenities, locker facilities and relaxation areas, we changed into our robes and were escorted to the upstairs private relaxation lounge where we awaited our spa therapists, sipping on flavored waters and teas.

Within minutes I was greeted by Tamara and whisked away to a treatment room for a 50-minute deep tissue massage. Tamara was delightful, intentional and very knowledgeable.  After reviewing with her areas of focus and attention, she made me feel at home allowing me the ability to customize the treatment room with TV video choice, select an iPod music spa-toscana-at-peppermillstation and even the temperature of the massage table.  I was already in heaven.  My massage was exquisite.  Tamara applied a perfect combination of deep tissue pressure techniques with smooth, longer relaxing motions that both healed and relaxed.  My only disappointment was that I hadn’t booked a longer treatment!  After my massage, I returned to the relaxation area where I met my girlfriends and headed to the salon for mini-pedicures and conversation. A quick pedicure later (just what I wanted), we were ready for an afternoon at the spa pool area.

Having worked up an appetite and thirst from our morning of pampering, we made our way to the nation’s only indoor/outdoor Caldarium spa area that features an indoor heated pool, cold plunge pool and heated whirlpool with outdoor patio seating and views of the resorts main pool down below. Here we happily camp for the afternoon on lounge chairs under umbrellas and began ordering lunch items, mimosas and margaritas from resort staff.  One immediately feels as though they are lounging poolside in Las Vegas, a sign that my staycation in Reno was working as a getaway retreat.  As temperatures heated up above and beyond the 80’s we spent our afternoon alternating between the indoor pool amenities and sun deck patio further enjoying the best of both worlds.

Spa 1Without realizing it, we saved the best for last – the Ladies Ritual room. The perfect ending to our relaxing day at Spa Toscana was a visit to the Ladies’ Ritual room were we began our spa ritual journey through the eucalyptus steam room, cold plunge pool, cedar wood sauna, hot whirlpool and cascading deluge showers.  While relaxing (and laughing) in the steam room amongst thick clouds of steamy mist, a friend announced “I think this is my new favorite place in Reno”, we all immediately laughed, signifying without words how we all unanimously agreed.  Spa Toscana truly is our new favorite place in Reno.

I hope this blog post helped you learn a bit more about Spa Toscana and gave you ideas about where to host your next girls day in the Reno-Tahoe region or spend a birthday or couples celebration.  If you have visited the Spa Toscana at the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino in Reno what treatments do you recommend?  What other spa locations in the region do you enjoy?  Please share your feedback in the comments below.

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

Photo Credit 1, Photo Credit 2, Photo Credit 3

The Best Bites in Lake Tahoe

IMG_4004 This weekend I enjoyed one of my favorite restaurants in Lake Tahoe, Bite American Tapas located in Incline Village on the North Shore.  When my husband and I moved to Lake Tahoe from Maui we were at first a bit underwhelmed by the culinary options in our quaint neighborhood until we discovered Bite.  When stepping into Bite one feels relieved to be met by its modern decor, an escape from the mountain decor often found in local restaurants.  I love their large bar and lounge area where I almost always sit even though they do have a separate dining area. Bite’s concept features creative share plates, perfect for a social gatherings, and their menu features high-quality, seasonal products and hard-crafted mixology creations from scratch.  Menu items are priced to try and share multiple dishes which makes the dining experience more fun and different every time you visit.  Another favorite thing about Bite is their daily happy hour food and drink specials from 5-6pm perfect for after work as well as their special late-night menu offered in the off-season.

IMG_4016So after my husband and I jumped in the car, took a short drive to Bite, walked in and pulled up to cozy bar seats we started ordering a few of our favorite items I will share with you here.  First stop, their seasonal cocktail menu which they had just recently updated for the summer season.  However, I had to stick with my favorite, the lemon ginger zinger shown below.  It is a fresh mixture of vodka, fresh mint, ginger, lemon and soda offering a refreshing citrus blend.  No exaggeration, this is my favorite cocktail on the planet.

While the entire menu is designed for sharing, a few of my favorite appetizer menu items include the Crispy Risotto Balls with Marinated Mozzarella and Tomato Sauce and the Green Eggs-n-Ham Deviled Eggs with Wasabi Tobiko & Prosciutto.  They also have a great selection of delicious soups and salads including the Chopped Chinese Chicken Salad which is our favorite.  We chose to start our meal by enjoying the Green Eggs-n-Ham Deviled Eggs featured below.

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Ah the slider menu!  Always my favorite part of the meal is picking which pair of savory sliders we will enjoy since they are all delicious and uniquely creative.  With ahi sliders, beef short rib sliders, duck confit sliders, BLT (L is for lobster!!), crispy goat cheese and of course traditional American cheeseburger sliders to choose from, you can’t go wrong.  If I had to, I would say the ahi sliders are my favorite for their unique balance of flavors and my second favorite the BLT sliders pictured below.

The Best Bites in Lake Tahoe

Finally, the main small plates… our favorite dish we always order is the Grilled Filet Mignon Bites with roasted red onions, shiitake mushrooms, blue cheese and a red wine demi glaze for only $18.  The sliced presentation makes sharing easy and the decadent red wine glaze paired with mushrooms and blue cheese makes your mouth water!
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IMG_4050Make sure you save one last bite! Because their desserts are also served in bite-sized portions perfect for sharing (or not sharing!). Ranging from decadent chocolate cake bites, key lime pies bites, crème brule bites to bread pudding bites the hardest choice by far is sticking to just one.  I recommend they create a sampler platter of bites!  My husband picked the bread pudding bites with vanilla ice cream and it was the perfect ending to our recent visit to Bite.

Hopefully by now I have convinced you that Bite in Incline Village is worth a visit and to learn more view their complete menu.  For a list of the most popular dining options on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe be sure to visit this great restaurant list of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association.

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.