Fort Bragg, officially known as the City of Fort Bragg, is a small town along the West Coast. Although the population is less than 7,000, Fort Bragg is the largest town on the beautiful Mendocino coast.
Located in Mendocino County along the Shoreline Highway, Fort Bragg is a tourist destination with many notable landmarks and fun things to do. Visitors flock to Fort Bragg for the unique Glass Beach, the world-famous “Skunk Train,” and the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.
The city was founded as a military garrison in 1857, before the Civil War. Named after army officer Braxton Bragg who served in the Mexican-American war, Fort Bragg was incorporated in 1889. While Fort Bragg is a California Historical Landmark (yes, the entire city!) because of its military past, the town has become quite the charming seaside destination.
For outdoor enthusiasts, there are endless beaches, hiking trails, water sports, and even rail biking (yes, it’s a real thing)! With access to the Pacific Ocean, the Noyo River, the redwood forests, and multiple state parks, there is no shortage of adventurous opportunities!
Fort Bragg can also be a relaxing destination with plenty of shopping, museums, dining, and sightseeing. You can do a self-guided tour of downtown’s art murals, take a pottery class, or even see a symphony in the Redwoods.
The seaside destination is also fantastic for families – there are opportunities to explore the endless shoreline, rent bikes, go whale watching, and even ride the famous Skunk Train. Want to see some of the best Fort Bragg tourist attractions? Keep on reading!
All rooms come complete with free WiFi, flat-screen cable TV, and en suite bathrooms stocked with complimentary toiletries. Some rooms even feature a balcony overlooking the ocean. At Surf and Sand Lodge, there's something for everyone to enjoy. Go for a swim in the ocean, relax on the sun terrace, or explore all that Fort Bragg has to offer. The Mendocino Skunk Train is just a 5-minute drive away, and Kelley House Museum is only 20 kilometers away.
This inn features an 18-hole miniature golf course and arcade, making it the perfect place to spend time with family and friends. The rooms are well-appointed and include all of the amenities you need for a comfortable stay, including free WiFi, cable TV, a DVD player, a work desk, a refrigerator, and ironing facilities. The en suite bathrooms are also equipped with hairdryers. The 24-hour reception desk is staffed with helpful and friendly staff members who are happy to assist you with any of your needs. The hotel also offers a hair salon, DVD rentals, free guest parking, and bicycle rentals.
Featuring an on-site restaurant, this motel is less than 5 minutes’ drive to Pudding Creek Beach. Free Wi-Fi is provided in all modern rooms, so you can stay connected during your stay. Cable TV, a seating area, and an en suite bathroom are included in all rooms, ensuring your comfort and convenience. Rooms are styled in modern décor, with light coloured linens and bright coloured accents. Guests can enjoy the onsite indoor pool at Fort Bragg Motel 6.
- Most significant landmark – Glass Beach
- Best park – Noyo Headlands Park
- Best free activity – Pudding Creek Beach
- Best activity for kids – Pudding Creek Railbikes
- Best activity for adults – Ride the Skunk Train
- Best food – Silver’s at the Wharf
- Best nightlife – Golden West Saloon
- Best all-around accommodation – Noyo Harbor Inn
Fun & Best Things to Do in Fort Bragg, California
1. Glass Beach
Address: Glass Beach Drive, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
Glass Beach is probably the most well-known attraction in Fort Bragg. Located adjacent to MacKerricher State Park, the beach is full of smooth, colorful glass mixed in with the pebbly beach. If you’re wondering how all these bright pieces of a glass ended up on the entire beach, it’s actually from the trash.
In the early 20th Century, Fort Bragg residents used the beach as an improvised dump. Everything from appliances, glass and even cars was launched over the cliff, landing on the shore below. This improvised landfill (and others like it) were called “The Dumps.”
Thankfully, this common practice ended in 1967 with the development of a residential waste facility, but the transformation process had already started. Over time, the waves broke down the waste and turned it into a shoreline of colorful glass pieces. Various groups gathered to rid the beach of any remaining trash, leaving the glass as part of the sandy beach.
Glass Beach is a perfect example of incredible beauty from an unfortunate situation. Although it’s illegal to take any glass from the beach, visitors have removed so much over the years that it has depleted much of the glass that initially made it “Glass Beach.” However, it’s still a fascinating, unique, and beautiful sight. If you want to stay at a beautiful beachfront property near Glass Beach, consider the highly-rated Beachcomber Motel.
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2. Noyo Headlands Park
Address: Fort Bragg, CA 95437
The Noyo Headlands Park is a must-visit location if you’re looking for an outdoor adventure in Fort Bragg. The park is popular with locals and tourists, with over 100 acres of land, the Fort Bragg Coastal Trail, a recreation field, and a dog park.
The popular 6-mile multi-use trail goes from the Pudding Creek Trestle to the Noyo River Bridge. This trail is handicapped accessible and is popular with bikers, hikers, strollers, rollerbladers, and runners. This paved path is often referred to as the Noyo Headlands Coastal Trail or the Fort Bragg Coastal Trail, but some call it the Ka Kahleh Trail, which means “White Water” in Pomo, a Native American language.
This trail is relatively new, as this part of the coastline was off-limits to the public for over a century. Walking on the Fort Bragg Coastal Trail, you’ll notice a collection of 18 benches that showcase the talent of local artists.
These benches can be used for a water break, birdwatching, reading, or just being one with nature. At the southern end of Noyo Headlands Park is an open field for throwing a football, kicking a soccer ball, or playing frisbee. There is also a dog park if you plan on bringing your pup on your travels to Fort Bragg.
3. Pudding Creek Beach
Address: Fort Bragg, CA 95437
Pudding Creek Beach is one of the most scenic spots in Fort Bragg and a popular place to catch the sunset. Although it’s a popular spot, it’s rarely overcrowded, and the farther north you go, the more privacy you have.
It’s easily one of the best free things to do in Fort Bragg. Located on the north side of Fort Bragg, the beach is in a deep sandy cove at Pudding Creek’s mouth. The creek sometimes flows onto the sand and, at other times, just pools up behind it.
Pudding Creek Beach is famous for its sunsets, tide pools, sand dunes, and tall rock walls. You can explore the bountiful tide pools if you go to the beach at low tide. Kids also love climbing on the beach’s large rocks. The beach is next to the Pudding Creek Trestle, an old wooden train bridge that is now a multi-use recreational trail.
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4. Pudding Creek Rail Bike Experience
Address: 100 W Laurel St, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
Riding a rail bike through the gorgeous redwoods and across Pudding Creek is a truly unique experience and should be on everyone’s Fort Bragg itinerary! The 2-person electric-assisted bike follows the railway, so it needs no steering, only pedaling. This family-friendly excursion is a one-of-a-kind experience, with the ability to watch for wildlife such as deer, river otters, and blue herons. You may even see a bear during your tour!
There’s an hour-long layover at Glen Blair Junction to relax with a picnic or explore further into the giant redwoods. After the layover, you’ll pedal back to the Fort Bragg Depot with photos of wildlife and fun memories.
If you plan this excursion with kids between 3 and 5, they must use their car seat or the provided harness. In addition, if you’re traveling with your dog, they offer dog trailers and crates so your pup can ride with you. Pudding Creek Railbikes Tour is easily one of the best activities in Fort Bragg for sightseeing, mixed with some exercise.
5. Ride the Skunk Train
Address: 100 W Laurel St, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
Don’t be alarmed by the name of this train – there are no skunks onboard! It’s called the Skunk Train because of the strong fumes that used to come from the engine in its early days. It was built in 1885 to move redwood logs to the coast, but almost 150 years later, it is moving sightseers along the same railway.
While the smell is no longer as pungent, the nickname stuck. There are three different train experiences from the Fort Bragg Depot: the Pudding Creek Express, Wolf Tree Turn, and Days of Steam. The experiences vary from 7 miles long and lasting roughly 75 minutes to 16 miles long and lasting 2 hours.
The Pudding Creek Express travels along the Pudding Creek Estuary, where you can see egrets, blue herons, and other native wildlife. The Wolf Tree Turn is a scenic journey departing Willits and traveling over the highest point of the line.
The round trip will take you over the Summit of their line (elevation 1,740 feet) and down into the Noyo River Canyon. The Days of Steam experience takes you on a restored steam engine through the redwood forest.
If you’re looking for a truly unique experience, Ride the Skunk Train! Not only will you see beautiful scenery, but you will also go back in time and experience the historic railroad.
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6. Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
Address: 18220 CA-1, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens is one of the best attractions in Fort Bragg, and you don’t need a green thumb to enjoy it! Nearly 100,000 visitors come to the garden every year to experience the beauty and nature.
Located on almost 50 acres, the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens reside between the Pacific Ocean and California’s Highway 1. The acreage includes a pine forest, wetlands, canyons, and coastal bluffs.
If you are familiar with plants, you’ll recognize the fragrant blossoms of the Rhododendron plants. These tender plants are one of the Botanical Gardens’ specialties.
As you walk the property, you’ll go through a perennial garden with flowers, bulbs, and grasses. In addition, the array of heaths and heathers is spectacular, along with the rare and endangered plants in the garden harbor.
Many birdwatchers eagerly visit the Gardens to spot one of 180 possible bird species. It’s a good idea to allow two hours to see the whole property, including 4 miles of trails. Of course, comfortable shoes and reusable water bottles are also a must. The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens requires reservations, so make sure to plan ahead!
7. Pudding Creek Trestle
Address: CA-1, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
The Pudding Creek Trestle was built as part of the Ten Mile Railroad, which transported logs from a logging area just north of town. The trestle was built to cross Pudding Creek and was used until 1949. It was then reinforced and converted into a logging bridge for trucks. Logging trucks successfully used the bridge for two decades, but the trestle was closed to traffic in the 1970s.
In 2007, it became a pedestrian walkway and is now part of the Ten Mile Beach Trail. The historic bridge is 527 feet long and 44 feet high. It is easily accessible from Glass Beach Drive and Mackerricher State Park Road on the south side, with a small parking lot.
Once you park, it’s just a short walk, and you can walk across the bridge to the beach on the other side. Kids and adults will love this bridge, not only for the historical aspect but also for the architecture. Not to mention, the views of the beach from the trestle are pretty outstanding!
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8. International Sea Glass Museum
Address: 303 N Main St Ste F, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
Fort Bragg has one of the highest concentrations of sea glass worldwide and has become a destination for both collectors and artists. Because of the sheer amount of sea glass in town, resident Captain Cass Forrington thought it would only be appropriate to open the first sea glass museum. So, that’s how the International Sea Glass Museum got started.
The museum’s extensive collection of sea glass is somewhere around 150,000 pieces. The finest pieces include handling pieces, marbles, rare stoppers, and rounds. Another favorite of sea glass collectors is terracotta, so the museum also displays quite an inventory of those pieces.
On Memorial Day weekend, there’s an annual Sea Glass Festival, which brings collectors and artists to the area seeking rare pieces. This museum is a must-do item on your Fort Bragg itinerary if visiting Glass Beach had you wanting more! Be sure to visit the art gallery and gift shop for sea glass jewelry and art, along with books, posters, and calendars.
9. MacKerricher State Park
Address: 24100 Mackerricher Park Rd, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
MacKerricher State Park, located just a few miles north of Fort Bragg, includes 9 miles of coastline and numerous coastal habitats, including a freshwater lake, coves, tide pools, dunes, beaches, and a forest. The park’s 1.3-mile nature trail around the lake is popular with equestrians, cyclists, joggers, and hikers. You can also fish from the shore of the lake or on a non-motorized boat if you have a fishing license.
Visitors to the park can watch for seals just off the coastline, but staying at least 50 yards away is a good idea, especially if there’s a seal pup. You can also go whale watching during gray whale migration season. If you don’t get to see a real whale, you can head to the visitor’s center and check out the 30-foot gray whale skeleton.
While it may not be the same experience, the skeleton is pretty awesome to see up close! If you want to watch the sunset while horseback riding on the beach, you can schedule a private ride or join a group. Or, if you are an avid birdwatcher, there are over 90 species that live near the former tidal lagoon, Lake Cleone. Book an RV or tent campsite for the whole MacKerricher State Park experience.
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10. Pomo Bluffs Park
Address: Cliff Way, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
Pomo Bluffs Park is at the intersection of Cliff Way and Ocean View Drive in Fort Bragg. The park includes 25 acres on the bluffs just above Noyo Bay, with gorgeous water views from outlook points and a paved coastal trail.
During the gray whale migration from February to April, many visitors eagerly flock to Pomo Bluffs Park for whale watching. The paved path along the bluff’s edge is perfect for hiking and biking, but there are also offshoot dirt trails if you feel more adventurous.
There is no sandy beach at the park, so another beach would be better if you’re looking to frolic in the sand. In addition, the steep cliffs make the park dangerous for young children, so be mindful of that before planning a day trip to the park.
The trails at Pomo Bluffs Park provide beautiful sea views, wildlife, headlands, and marine traffic at Noyo Harbor. The view from the outlook easily makes this park one of the top Fort Bragg attractions, but the accessibility and ease of parking are the cherries on top.
11. Downtown Fort Bragg
Address: Fort Bragg, CA 95437
While many things in Fort Bragg revolve around outdoor recreation, there is also plenty of shopping, dining, and culture-ing! Downtown Fort Bragg is the place to go for a pedestrian-friendly adventure, although street parking is available if that is more suitable for your needs. Downtown is easy to find, as Highway 1, or Shoreline Highway, turns into Main Street as it enters this part of Fort Bragg.
You’ll see the historical and antiquated storefronts with modern restaurants inside. The central part of downtown is between Pine Street and Alder Street, where bakeries, restaurants, and coffee shops collide.
You can also find local shops and boutiques among the restaurants if you’re looking for souvenirs or locally sourced products. Downtown Fort Bragg is also known for its cultural and historical museums, such as the Sea Glass Museum, Skunk Train Depot, Guest House Museum, and the Skunk Model Train Museum.
You can also catch a movie, drink a frosty pint, relax at the spa, or taste local wine while visiting downtown. So, let your outdoorsy friends enjoy all the recreational activities while you relax and enjoy what downtown Fort Bragg has to offer! For family-friendly lodging downtown with a miniature golf course, indoor arcade, and free Wifi, consider the highly-rated Emerald Dolphin Inn.
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12. Jackson Demonstration State Forest
Address: State Hwy 20, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
The state of California created demonstration forests in response to the area’s history of redwood logging. Industrial logging began in 1862 and continued until California purchased the property in 1947. The Jackson State Forest was established just two years later, in 1949.
The Jackson State Forest is the largest of ten demonstration forests in California. With almost 50,000 acres, the forest now grows more than is harvested. While the most common tree is a coastal redwood, you can also find pines, madrones, bay myrtles, Douglas fir, and hemlocks.
Visitors to the park can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, hunting, swimming, camping, and horseback riding. With almost 50 miles of walking trails, you’ll likely find the perfect one for your skill level.
The park also developed three demonstration trails with trail guides to inform users about the redwood forest’s history, ecology, and management. Not a camping lover? Head back to Fort Bragg on I-20 and get a good night’s sleep at the Holiday Inn Express. Wake up to free breakfast and then enjoy a dip in the heated indoor pool.
13. Guest House Museum
Address: 343 N Main St, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
The Guest House Museum was originally built as a private residence for the Fort Bragg Redwood Company owners. The home, built in 1892, contained almost 70,000 board feet of lumber and was constructed from the finest old-growth redwood. The house didn’t lack a single detail, with decorative moldings, stained glass windows, spindle staircase railings, and ornate woodwork.
In 1985, the building was donated to Fort Bragg with the understanding that it would be used as a local museum. A hundred and thirty years later, the Guest House Museum is now the headquarters of the Fort Bragg Historical Society.
Visitors are encouraged to view the ornate architecture and learn more about the redwood timber industry with the indoor exhibits. Since the city of Fort Bragg is a California Historic Landmark, the official marker sits in front of the museum.
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14. Noyo Harbor
Address: N. Harbor Drive, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
Noyo Harbor is near the mouth of the Noyo River, just south of Fort Bragg. Located just 130 nautical miles northwest of San Francisco, the Noyo harbor is the port for Fort Bragg.
If you visit the harbor in the afternoon, you’ll probably see fishing vessels returning with a fresh seafood haul. With the daily hauls of fish and other seafood, the port’s restaurants likely have some of the best seafood in the area, so if you’re hungry, it’s a fantastic place to quench your hunger!
If you are craving a burger or fish and chips, head to Sea Pal Cove. Not only do they have fantastic harbor views, but you may run into a sea lion or seagull who wants to be friends. For a quick lunch, stop by Dolphin Isle for a deli sandwich and a drink.
You can also grab the bait and tackle for a quick fishing trip while you’re there. If you want a more refined dining experience, head to Silver’s at the Wharf, with a full bar and a great view of Noyo Harbor. And if you’d like to be in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the harbor, consider staying at the Noyo Harbor Inn, with a restaurant and spa on site.
15. Horseback Riding
Address: 16401 South Highway One, Manchester, CA 95459
If you’ve ever thought about horseback riding on a beautiful beach or in a redwood forest, now is your chance! The scenery in Mendocino County is breathtaking on its own, but to be able to view it while on a majestic horse is just an enchanting experience.
If you choose horseback riding on the beach, your guide will take you to miles of unspoiled sand at Manchester Beach. As a day trip about one hour from Fort Bragg, this beach is full of birds, sea stacks, driftwood, and rocks.
If you choose to ride through a redwood forest, you will begin at the Ross Ranch and head down its private trails toward the woods. You’ll pass canyons, creeks, and the river as your horse guides you through the open meadows and shady forests.
You don’t have to be an expert equestrian for this experience, as the owners of Ross Ranch will give you detailed instructions on handling and riding. You’ll also get matched with an appropriate horse based on your ability. So if you’re looking for something less touristy and off the beaten path (literally and figuratively), this excursion is a must-do!
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16. Whale Watching Tour
Address: 32390 N Harbor Dr, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
One of the most fantastic experiences in Fort Bragg is going on a whale-watching adventure. The Mendocino Coast is the perfect spot to watch for California Gray Whales as they have the longest mass migration of any other marine mammal. The whales begin their journey in the frigid Bering Sea and spend summer and early fall in the Arctic.
Then, in mid-to-late fall, the whales head south for shelter and breeding. The 5,000-mile journey ends in Baja, California. After breeding is over, the whales begin their journey back home with their baby calves. The gray whales and their babies are usually spotted between February and April, a few miles off the Mendocino Coast.
It’s a fantastic experience to see a whale in person, but it is even more memorable to be in a boat and witness the gray whales and their calves as they return home. While you expect to see whales on a whale-watching trip, you can also spot sea lions, sharks, dolphins, and birds. This whale-watching tour is nothing short of amazing and is suitable for all ages. However, because of the limited timeframe for spotting whales, it’s a good idea to reserve your spot as soon as possible.
17. Mendocino Coast Model Railroad & Historical Society
Address: 100 W Laurel St, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
The Mendocino Coast Model Railroad & Historical Society is a must-see if you have a budding train conductor in the family or even a Thomas the Train fan. Whether you’re 5 or 95, this railroad museum is sure to be one of your favorite things to do in Fort Bragg.
This museum is a fun activity after a real-life train ride on the famous Skunk Train, and the close location makes it easy. You can walk around a model railroad with more than 12 miles of track, including bridges, towns, piers, trestles, and a logging camp.
This living history model showcases the redwood logging industry and the California Western Railroad in Fort Bragg. Dedicated museum members also modeled sea and land transportation between 1850 and 1940.
While the museum is educational and awe-inspiring, children won’t even realize that they’re learning about the history of the Redwood Coast or California Western Railroad. So whether you decide to ride the Skunk Train or not, this model railroad is worth a visit! Although a small warning, visiting the museum may give you the itch for a new hobby.
18. Jug Handle State Natural Reserve
Address: 15700 Hwy 1, Caspar, CA 95420
When you visit Fort Bragg, you’ve got endless options for gorgeous views of the Mendocino Coast. Jug Handle State Natural Reserve is yet another fantastic spot for spectacular ocean views, trails, peaceful forests, and camping.
But, the 2.5-mile Ecological Staircase Trail makes this park unique. The trail showcases how soils, geology, and plants change over time, with three wave-cut terraces formed by glaciers, tectonic plates, and rising seas.
The Ecological Staircase Trail is one of the few places worldwide displaying such a visible geological change. Trail markers educate visitors about the forces of nature that created the wave-cut terraces. The reserve is divided by Highway 1 and lies halfway between Mendocino and Fort Bragg.
It begins in the Jackson Demonstration State Forest and stretches to the Pacific Ocean. In addition to the Ecological Staircase, the reserve is also known for its coastal bluffs, picturesque beach, and historic bridge. If you want more than a day to explore the park, lodging and camping are available at Jug Handle Creek Farm and Nature Center.
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19. Noyo Center for Marine Science
Address: 338 N. Main Street, Fort Bragg, CA 95420
The Noyo Center for Marine Science includes three different centers: the Discovery Center, Slack Tide Cafe, and the Crow’s Nest. You don’t have to worry about which one might be appropriate for your child’s age level, as all three locations are fun for everyone!
The Discovery Center has interactive exhibits and a gift shop, but the most notable item is the largest killer whale skeleton in the world! It’s hard not to be in awe when you see how giant the skeleton is.
The Slack Tide Cafe is located in Noyo Harbor and offers coffee, food, and drinks. It’s perfect for a snack and a break before heading to the Crow’s Nest. Perched on a cliff along the Coastal Trail is the Crow’s Nest, which has a tide pool aquarium and a whale watching deck. The Crow’s Nest also supplies spotting scopes for spotting marine life.
Not only do you have the opportunity to spot gray whales, but you may also see Blue, Minke, and Humpback whales from the whale-watching deck at the Crow’s Nest! In addition, the coastal trail allows you to see California sea lions and harbor seals as they hang out on the offshore rocks. The Noyo Center for Marine Science is a must for all ages, with educational and interactive exhibits and marine life just yards away.
What are the best things to do in Fort Bragg with kids?
Fort Bragg has numerous family-friendly attractions, including Pudding Creek Beach, fishing or crabbing on the Noyo Harbor, riding the unique rail bikes, and taking the Skunk Train. Older kids may enjoy a whale watching or fishing tour or riding bikes on one of the many trails. Some kids may prefer to see the largest killer whale skeleton at the Noyo Center for Marine Science or visit the beautiful botanical gardens.
Is Fort Bragg worth visiting?
Absolutely! While the city has a long military history, Fort Bragg is now a fantastic seaside destination for all ages. Visitors will enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Pacific Ocean, Noyo River, Mendocino Bay, and the gorgeous redwood forests. You can be as adventurous as you want in Fort Bragg, so outdoor enthusiasts have plenty of opportunities for fun, while those seeking a more relaxing vacation can shop, dine, and explore.
What is Fort Bragg known for?
Most people know Fort Bragg for the popular Glass Beach, but it’s also famous for the Skunk Train and the beautiful cliffs and scenery of the Mendocino Coast. The city was originally set up as a military garrison and is now a California Historical Landmark. Want to have a drink at the oldest bar in town? Head to the Golden West Saloon, established in the late 19th Century as a saloon and hotel, among other things.
What are some things to do in Fort Bragg when it’s raining?
While Fort Bragg has an endless supply of outdoor fun, many indoor activities are just as enjoyable. Head to one of the many Fort Bragg museums, drink a pint at North Coast Brewing, catch a flick at Coast Cinemas or enjoy a glass of wine at Pacific Star Winery.
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