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Exploring the arts and the flavors of Redding

I couldn’t help myself. Out of sheer habit, I kept glancing in the rearview mirror—expecting to see my daughter nodding off or our son taking advantage of every second he had with his dad’s iPad. The backseat was empty, though: my parents had graciously volunteered to watch the kids while my husband, Steve, and I escaped for our second retreat to Redding.

The first trip was a family affair that was dedicated to enjoying the area’s lively outdoors scene. This year, we left the bike helmets, hiking poles and kids at home, because last time we were in the area, Redding’s arts and food scenes piqued our interest. We didn’t have the opportunity to fully explore them on our last trip—arts and food warranted their own separate, relaxing escape. 

9 a.m.: From the Hearth
We rolled into Redding on empty stomachs with our windows down. As we passed From the Hearth Bakery & Café, the smell of freshly baked bread caught the attention of our grumbling stomachs. We dug into French toast made with the bakery’s very own sourdough and a gloriously melty and drippy croque madame. We even discovered From the Hearth had its very own version of an NYC cronut: the scuffin, a muffin-scone hybrid. I’d have to create my own version back home for my two kiddos—they’d love it.

10:30 a.m.: To the other side
Fueled by food, we decided to explore the area on foot. The Sacramento River runs through the heart of town; many know it as the place to kayak or try stand-up paddleboarding. We stayed splash-free above on the iconic Sundial Bridge—a 700-foot-long working sundial designed by world-renowned Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava. I took a picture of Steve and he took a picture of me, then a friendly local noticed and offered to take a photo of us both. I thanked him after the snap and looked down at the photo on my phone—it was the first picture we had taken in a long time with just the two of us. I mentioned that to Steve, who said, “too long, as far as I’m concerned.”

We crossed the bridge back toward the Turtle Bay Exploration Park and Museum, a 300-acre museum, arboretum, botanical garden and more. 

11:15 a.m.: Loving leisure
Inside the park’s museum, we took our time reading all about the area’s Wintu Indian history and admiring the ancient Chinese art on display. There were no crowds and the exhibits were first-rate. Steve and I wandered in comfortable silence, except when one of us pointed out an interesting fact or an intriguing detail. This aimless ambling was a nice reminder of what “just the two of us” felt like. Outside, we followed a glorious maze of marble stepping stones to a fascinating water feature: Sounds of Water, an educational, ecological piece of art at the park’s McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. The entire afternoon had been an effortless affair of strolling from one showcase of art to another.

4:00 p.m.: Heart on the vine
Before dinner, we headed to Moseley Family Cellars. The cellar is family-owned, and premium grapes are imported to Redding to go from crush to bottle. We spoke with the winemaker as we tasted wines that varied in flavor from complex and earthy to buttery and smooth. He told us about the process, how the grapes are imported from Napa, and why the Moseley family chose Redding for their tasting room. “We love the people we meet along the way!” he said. 

8:30 a.m.: Rise ‘n’ shine
Since there were no kids to wake us up before the first rays of dawn, we slept in and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast to kick-off our day. Once we got moving, we headed to the North Valley Art League’s Carter House Gallery

Overlooking the Sacramento River, the gallery is home to an extraordinary collection of artwork created by local artists and artisans. Again, Steve and I found ourselves talking about color and art forms, instead of soccer schedules and grocery lists. Back home, with mom and dad responsibilities, we find it difficult to arrive on topics of conversation such as history and periods of art. It’s a funny thing how new experiences open up a new side of yourself. 

A couple of artists were volunteering in the gallery and the friendly group chatted with us about the area and what we’d done so far. One of the volunteers told us that no trip to Redding is complete without cutting into a bone-in rib eye at Jack’s Grill. “It’s an institution!” he said, so we decided to go there for dinner. 

6 p.m.: Exploring an institution
In a word, the atmosphere at Jack’s is retro—the restaurant’s been around since the 1930s. Legend has it that a previous owner took on an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude and things haven’t changed much as a result. The menu is to the point, and one bite of our filet mignon meal had us thanking that previous owner—what could possibly need improving? The night wasn’t over. 

8 p.m.: On with the show
The night belonged to the Cascade Theatre, a revered Redding landmark listed on the California Register of Historic Resources and the National Register of Historic Places. Another 1930s-era Redding landmark, the building’s Art Deco facade and recently restored interior make it a show in and of itself. The theater frequently hosts the Redding City Ballet and North State Symphony, and is also home to concerts by Grammy Award-winning artists and special events, like October's Manhattan Short Film Festival. We were lucky to catch a mind-bending Steam Punk-style circus, with amazing costumes and performers, and beautiful sets that brought the stage to life. 

If vacations could get a standing ovation, or even better an encore, this one was beyond deserving. Sometimes, you need to escape from your daily life to see what you really have, or even what you might really need. As we left the sights and flavors of this small, inviting city in our rearview mirror, Steve brought up something we had talked about earlier on the Sundial Bridge. “Remember how it had been a while since our last photo together?” he said. “Let’s promise that it won’t be a while before our next vacation.” 

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