HOLLISTER -- Set among the grandeur of the Diablo Range and nestled in the Pacheco Valley, Casa de Fruta is a place where generations of harvests have yielded bountiful fruit.
Visitors to the famous roadside fruit stop find mementos of days gone by throughout the grounds. Antique farm equipment and waterwheels tucked among the fruit trees are reminders of agriculture life.
Guests can ride the delightful miniature train that chugs creekside and visit the Casa de Sweets, which sits adjacent to the main train station, for a delicious treat of fresh baked goodies, homemade candy or a scoop of cool ice cream.
Another attraction is the Casa de Carousel. This handcrafted assortment of horses, chariots, tubs and swings was made in Italy. It is adorned and illuminated with 1,400 twinkling lights. Organ music delights riders as they enjoy the view of the orchards.
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Casa de Fruta translates to "house of fruit." Upcoming at the house are two annual events where guests can enjoy art and atmosphere in addition to the edible goodies and fun rides.
Labor Day weekend, the 14th annual Arts, Crafts & Music Festival turns the grounds into a haven for beautiful handmade crafts -- leather, glass, wood, pottery and more. The event will offer the sweet delectable intersection of art and food and will offer entertainment throughout the festival.
Visiting the grounds Sept. 6 to Oct. 12 is the Northern California Renaissance Faire, blooms with pageantry, costumes, gallantry and celebration. Jousting, stage plays, "dragons" and a renaissance marketplace transform Casa de Fruta into a village full of color and romance. (Note: There is an additional charge to visit this event; details and tickets may be found at www.norcalrenfaire.com)
Whether it's to enjoy an annual event, scoop up fresh fruit, savor a bit of wine tasting or just to rest for a minute and buy a cup of java for the ride home, travelers enjoy coming home to "the fruit house."
WHERE: 6680 Pacheco Pass Highway (Highway 152), Hollister
WHEN: Fruitstand open daily 7 a.m.-10 p.m.; train and carousel are open Monday- Friday 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturdays 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. and Sundays 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Rides operate weather permitting, so it is best to contact Casa de Fruta to check on hours of operation.
COST: Fruitstand and shops are open at no charge. A "fun pass" ($6) is good for one train ride and one carousel ride. An "All Day Play Pass" ($11) is good for unlimited train and carousel rides.
GETTING THERE: At Santa Nella, on Interstate 5 west of Los Banos, take the Highway 33 connector ("Gilroy") to Highway 152 and go west over Pacheco Pass. Casa de Fruita is located two miles before you reach the intersection of Highway 152 and Highway 156, the cutoff to Hollister.
DRIVE TIME: 1 hour, 26 minutes (Mapquest)
MORE INFO: 408-842-7282, or online at www.casadefruta.com