Whether you’re in a plane, on a boat, or out on a weeknight, we’ve got your best LOCAL picks for letting loose.
On Tuesday nights at 7:30, Pyramid Alehouse in Walnut Creek transforms into a battle of wits. An emcee acts as judge, and teammates huddle close, exchanging hurried whispers about questions ranging from world geography to pop culture to alcohol. Before time runs out, players dart to the front of the room with their guesses—then the room explodes into cheers and wails as the answers are revealed. “I knew it was Elliott Smith,” one player laments, sinking his head into his hands as a nearby team high-fives. But it’s not just a game of recall: Strategy comes into play during a final Jeopardy–esque finale. And don’t even think about touching your phone. Unless you want to be loudly labeled a cheater—a fate worse than disqualification in a game played for bragging rights—you’ll have to rely on the arcane bits of knowledge you’ve stuffed into your noggin. 1410 Locust St., Walnut Creek, (925) 946-1520, pyramidbrew.com. —Kristen Haney
Where to Take Flight
Have you wondered what it would be like to fly like a bird, catching thermals over Mount Diablo? With tips from the flight instructors at Pacific States Aviation, based at Concord’s Buchanan Field, you’ll have your pilot wings in no time. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s learn-to-fly program, Let’s Go Flying, offers students ages 16 and up an introductory flight program. After a complete walk around of the plane and a rundown on in-flight vocabulary, you’ll sit in the pilot’s seat, and take the controls to taxi, take off, and actually fly an airplane under the watchful eye of an FAA–licensed instructor. If keeping the plane level in windy conditions makes your hands shake or the thought of landing on your own gives you the jitters, an instructor is always there to take over until you’re once again ready to unleash your maverick alter-ego. 51 John Glenn Dr., Concord, (925) 685-4400, letsgoflying.com. —Nancy D. Brown
Reader fave Alma Desnuda turns up in the most surprising places. “We pride ourselves on being modern-day troubadours,” says Paul Suhr. “We might play an elementary school in the morning and a concert hall the next night. Part of our mission is to bring music to people who might not seek it out in live music venues.” One thing is for sure: The “acoustic soul” quartet is staying busy as it tours the country playing its mellow, groovy tunes. Catch Alma Desnuda (Spanish for “naked soul”) at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall on July 13 and for free in downtown Danville on July 12 at 5:30 p.m. and on August 9 at 5 p.m. 4nakedsouls.com. —Peter Crooks
Way to Score Free Museum Tickets
Kudos to the Contra Costa County Library for revolutionizing a way for its members to get free or discounted passes to NorCal museums. With the Discover & Go Network, you can print out passes at home to witness the wonders of the Exploratorium, meet Charlie Brown at the Charles M. Schulz Museum, and enjoy the local fauna at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum. Many of the libraries also offer reading lists related to each museum so you can brush up on ancient African artifacts or vintage trains before scheduling a visit. The innovation is so bold that big cities like Los Angeles are following Contra Costa’s lead. In the works: a potential collaboration with Los Angeles for discounts when you travel down south. discover.ccclib.org. —K.H.
We were like the allies landing at Normandy. “This is suicide,” muttered one of our teammates, a guy dressed head to toe in black-and-silver camouflage. My son and I were armed with loaded semiautomatics, and joined a team with about 20 others for a day of shooting. Our mission? To take a hill at American Paintball Park in Livermore. The enemy was at the top of the hill, sheltered behind walls with small openings that gave them views of our advance. The enemy unleashed hell. Hundreds of little paint balls rained in our direction. “Cover me,” Ian, my 14-year-old, yelled. I stepped out from behind our shelter, a large wooden spool, and opened fire at the defenders. My son charged. I lasted another minute before I felt a ping on my chest. Yellow paint exploded across my front. I was out. My son made it to a position 10 feet below the summit before the game was called. This 6.6–acre paintball park is a safe and friendly place to unleash your inner warrior. That’s true if you’re an eighth grade boy who’s been raised on World of Warcraft; a 49-year-old, NPR-loving novice; or an enthusiast who plays most weekends. Owner Clif Mathews has built eight fields with a variety of shelters and terrain suitable for contestants of all levels, ages 12 and up. Friends, officemates, and families come from all over the Bay Area to bond over tactics, and do their best to be the last man or woman standing. “It’s another way for friends and families to get together and have fun,” he says. 1230 Greenville Rd., Livermore, (925) 565-3118, americanpaintballpark.com. —Martha Ross
F.D.R. loved escaping to his presidential yacht, the USS Potomac, to avoid the White House cook his mother hired to ensure he ate his boiled potatoes and broccoli. It’s also where he hosted England’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Now, you can make like royalty and hop aboard F.D.R.’s yacht for a trip back in time or for your own private party. During historical cruises on the 165-foot vessel, the volunteer crew relishes pointing out the boat’s rich history, including a peaceful presidential seal, which got a more hawkish vibe during WWII. After her presidential service, the boat had many owners, including Elvis Presley. She even ran drugs along the California coast and spent some time at the bottom of the Bay, after a crack in her hull. Returned to her 1934 glory, the yacht is ideal for elegant parties and weddings: $5,000 gets you three hours on the open water for 120 guests. The calmest seas are in late August, and do heed warnings to plug your ears when the ship’s horn starts blaring. With wine available on many of the trips, don’t stand too close to the rail, skipper. 540 Water St., Oakland, (510) 627-1215, usspotomac.org. —Brandon Weight
Place to Stargaze
Science just got a lot cooler. Chabot Space & Science Center’s Future Fridays speaker series, sponsored by Alamo’s Rudney Associates, is not just for the pocket-protector crowd. The series hosts big names, such as Bill Nye the Climate Guy and Lucasfilm/Pixar’s Ben Burtt (aka the guy behind Wall-E’s emotive blips and Darth Vader’s ominous wheeze). Still, nothing is more awe inspiring than Chabot’s giant historic telescopes. Peering into one of the giant machines gives you unspoiled views of the ever-changing sky—of stars, meteors, and planets. Catch the annual Alpha Capricornids shower on August 1, with some of the brightest meteors you’ll ever see. 10000 Skyline Blvd., Oakland, (510) 336-7300, chabotspace.org. —Kristen Haney
Stop relegating all your fun to the weekend! During the week, check out these happening hot spots.
Monday: At 5 p.m., Bridges kicks off a week of all-night happy hours, with $5 Creamsicle martinis and cinnamon Manhattans, discounted glasses of wine, and bar bites for $7. 44 Church St., Danville, (925) 820-7200, bridgesdanville.com.
Tuesday: Fans of the agave plant flock to 1515 Restaurant & Lounge for its Tequila Tuesday specials, which include discounted Herradura shots and margaritas. 1515 Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 939-1515, 1515wc.com.
Wednesday: It isn’t just Masses Sports Bar & Grill’s 10 pool tables that draw a crowd. On Wednesdays, the bar brings in big-name comedians from Comedy Central, BET, and the Punchline for free stand-up. 2721 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 256-7665, masseswc.com.
Thursday: Tuck into Tap 25, a sliver of a beer bar in Livermore’s Blacksmith Square, for Thursday Dice Nights. An odd roll scores you a half-price beer from one of the 25 rotating handles at the pub. 25 S. Livermore Ave., Livermore, (925) 294-8970, taptwentyfive.com.
Friday: Rod Dibble, the man on the keys at the Alley for the last 52 years, encourages regulars and newcomers alike to grab a seat around his piano, and sing along to any of the 4,000 classic songs he knows by heart. 3325 Grand Ave., Oakland, (510) 444-8505. —Kristen Haney
More Reader Picks
Art and Wine Event: Lafayette Art, Wine & Music Festival September 15–16, Lafayette, lafayettefestival.com.
Art Gallery: Studio Seven Arts, 400 Main St., Pleasanton, (925) 846-4322, studiosevenarts.com.
Bar for a Business Drink: Bistro at the Park, 3287 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 283-3700, lafayetteparkhotel.com.
Bar for Live Music: That Bar, 148 E. Prospect Ave., Danville, (925) 743-8466, thatbardanville.com.
Bar Menu: Walnut Creek Yacht Club, 1555 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, (925) 944-3474, wcyc.net.
Bartender: Jay Crabb, Walnut Creek Yacht Club, 1555 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, (925) 944-3474, wcyc.net.
Brew Pub: Pyramid Alehouse, 901 Gilman St., Berkeley, (510) 528-9880; 1410 Locust St., Walnut Creek, (925) 946-1520, pyramidbrew.com.
Dance Troupe: Diablo Ballet, (925) 943-1775, diabloballet.org.
Dog Park: Canine Corral, Hap Magee Ranch Park, 1025 La Gonda Way, Danville, (925) 314-3400, ci.danville.ca.us.
East Bay Museum: Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St., Oakland, (510) 318-8400, museumca.org.
East Bay Winery: Wente Vineyards, 5050 Arroyo Rd., Livermore, (925) 456-2400, wentevineyards.com.
Gala: On Broadway, Diablo Regional Arts Association, Walnut Creek, (925) 295-1470, draa.org.
Indie Cinema: Vine Cinema & Alehouse, 1722 First St., Livermore, (925) 447-2545, vinecinema.com.
Local Golf Course: The Course at Wente Vineyards, 5050 Arroyo Rd., Livermore, (925) 456-2477, wentevineyards.com/golf.
Place for a Date Night: Va de Vi, 1511 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Walnut Creek, (925) 979-0100, vadevi.com.
Place to See a Play: Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Dr., Walnut Creek, (925) 295-1400, lesherartscenter.org.
Romantic Getaway: Lafayette Park Hotel, 3287 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 283-3700, lafayetteparkhotel.com.
Singles Scene: 1515 Walnut Creek, 1515 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 939-1515, 1515wc.com.
Ski Resort: Northstar California, 100 Northstar Dr., Truckee, (800) 466-6784, northstarattahoe.com.
Sports Bar: The Stadium Pub, 1420 Lincoln Ave., Walnut Creek, (925) 256-7302, thestadiumpub.com.
Wine Bar: Residual Sugar Wine Bar, 1684 Locust St., Walnut Creek, (925) 891-4465, residualsugarwine.com.