You Can’t Contain the Fun!

seattle-blogSorry for the pun in the title, but we are really excited to announce that Spousetivities will be available at DockerCon 2016 (June 20–21) in Seattle, WA! Registration is open right now.

Here’s a bit more information about what we have planned for activities at DockerCon:

  • Morning yoga: On both Monday, June 20, and Tuesday, June 21, Docker staff member Adam will be leading a morning yoga session on the lawn at the Sheraton (the conference hotel). The cost is $10 each day, and don’t worry about bringing your own yoga mat—a yoga mat is included with your ticket! This will be a great way to keep up with your fitness goals while traveling.
  • Food, Fun, and the Zoo: On Monday, we’ve arranged a set of activities intended to be “family friendly” and suitable for people traveling with or without children. This tour will start with a set of tastings from around Seattle (chocolate, anyone?) and finish out with plenty of time at the Woodland Park Zoo. Reduced pricing for children under 12 is available.
  • Experience Seattle (Option 1): The first of the two Seattle-area tours is on Monday. Monday’s tour is a bit more geared towards adults and/or adults with older children. Stops on this tour include the Space Needle, Pike Place Market (and the original Starbucks location!), Pioneer Square, and the Kerry Park scenic overlook. Lunch is included.
  • Waterfall, Chocolate and Wine: This is a more adult-focused tour on Tuesday, June 21. Two wineries with tastings, lunch, and a visit to the Squonalmie Falls are included. Because of the wine tastings, we don’t recommend taking children on this event.
  • Seattle City and Aquarium: On Tuesday, June 21, is the second of two Seattle-area tours. This is a tour that you can do with or without kids, but is tailored a bit more for people with kids. This tour includes the Space Needle, Pioneer Square (with additional possible stops), and the aquarium. Lunch is included with your ticket, and reduced pricing for children under 12 is available.

Here’s a quick “TL;DR” on the events:

  • If you’re traveling with kids, we recommend Monday’s food/fun/zoo tour and the Seattle-area tour on Tuesday.
  • If you’d prefer a trip without as many kids or with older kids, then go for Monday’s Seattle-area tour and the wine tastings on Tuesday.

All tours will depart from the Sheraton (the conference hotel), and times are posted on the registration page in the description for each activity. (Don’t worry, we’ll remind you via e-mail. Just be sure to use a valid e-mail address when registering!)

Seating is limited on all events, so register now to save your spot. See you in Seattle!


Austin, BBQ, OpenStack, and…Spousetivities!

Another year, another OpenStack Summit, and another round of Spousetivities®! This time, the Spousetivities crew (read: me and possibly some wonderful volunteer helpers) will be joining the OpenStack community in beautiful Austin, TX, to provide activities for those traveling with Summit attendees. Registration is now open, so hop on over and sign yourself or your special someone up right away.

What’s that? You want some details on the activities before you sign up? OK, fair enough. Here’s what I’ve got planned:

  • On Monday, April 25, we’ll kick the week off with a “Welcome Scavenger Hunt.” This unique activity will give you the opportunity to get to know Austin as well as get to know some of the folks who will be hanging out with you over the course of the week. There will be fun, prizes, giveaways, and—perhaps most importantly?—food! Breakfast is included in the activity.
  • Following the Welcome Scavenger Hunt, you have the opportunity to join us for a “Taste of Austin.” This tour will allow you to sample some of the city’s best boutique eateries and food trucks.
  • On Tuesday, April 26, I’ve lined up a tour that will take you to some of the best places around Austin and the Hill Country, including a stop (with food!) at the world-famous Salt Lick. You don’t even have to wait in line at this renowned BBQ stop—that makes this tour worth it even without all the landmarks and hidden gemes.
  • If you like BBQ, then Wednesday, April 27, the “BBQ Crawl of Central Texas” is just the activity for you. We’ve packed three iconic venues in a single day, making sure you get your fill of delicious central Texas BBQ.
  • Texas plus German heritage equals Thursday, April 28’s tour of Fredericksburg. Enjoy a relaxing road trip through small towns over to Fredericksburg, where they’ll be time to explore, shop, and sightsee, plus lunch is included!
  • Friday, April 29, we’ll wrap up the week with a private boat cruise aboard the Lone Star, a luxurious double-decker paddle wheel riverboat. Lunch is, naturally, included.

The registration page has all the details, including specific times for each event throughout the week. All events, unless otherwise noted, will depart from the JW Marriott hotel, which is a short walk from the Austin Convention Center (the venue for the Summit). Please note that I have limited seats for these activities, so sign up early before the seats are all gone!

Finally, I’d like to take a moment to thank VMware NSX for sponsoring the events in Austin. Thanks to their support, the cost of these exclusive activities is often less than comparable public activities—and that doesn’t even count the extras you get with Spousetivities-prizes, private tours with local guides, and so much more!

Heard enough? Head on over to the registration page to sign up! I look forward to seeing you in Austin.


OpenStack Summit Austin

After a wonderful OpenStack Summit in Tokyo in October 2015, Spousetivities® is kicking off 2016 in Austin, Texas at the OpenStack Summit in April! If you’re attending, don’t leave that loved one behind. Bring your friend, family member, sibling, partner, spouse, or fiancé with you and let them join in some great activities in and around the Austin area. It is the best of both worlds because you get to soak up all the information coming from the conference, while spending the evenings with those close to you. This is the secret for getting your family to encourage you to attend conferences instead of grumbling about you being gone again.

Registration isn’t quite open yet, but some of the plans for the event include a scavenger hunt with prizes, a rocket bike tour, wine tour, and a trip to Fredericksburg. Of course there will be food, fun, and fantastic prizes along the way! These events are made possible thanks to the support of VMware NSX.

There will be an announcement here, on Twitter, and on Facebook when the registration goes live so check back so you can secure your activities before they sell out!


So Much “New” in this New Year!

Spousetivities has a lot of “new” in this new year! If you are reading this, you can already see the new look for the website, courtesy of my wonderful husband, Scott Lowe. You can now search the site for information about events that interest you most. More updates and improvements are being added so check back to see the latest as we continue to improve the site. I hope you enjoy the fresh, new look as much as I do!

Spousetivities is now known as Spousetivities®! So excited to announce that Spousetivities is now a registered trademark as is the phrase “spouse activities”. After 8 years, it really feels official now. Thank you to Jeremy Brown for helping with the trademark process.

Spousetivities is pleased to announce new events this year. The first of these is coming up in April. That’s right, you can join in the Spousetivities fun at OpenStack Summit in Austin, Texas. The event runs April 25 – 29th. More information about this event coming in another post. Other new events you should plan to attend include DockerCon in Seattle, and AWS re:Invent in Vegas.

Don’t worry, Spousetivities events will still be at your old favorites, too. Plans are underway for VMworld US, VMworld EMEA, and OpenStack Summit in Barcelona as well.

Be sure to watch for more information here, on Twitter, and Facebook as more information for all of these events will be flowing in soon!


Spousetivities is going to OpenStack Summit in Tokyo!

After fantastic events in San Francisco and Barcelona, Spousetivities is gearing up to head to Tokyo, Japan! That’s right, for the first time ever, Spousetivities will be offering events at OpenStack Summit. If you are attending and bringing a loved one—spouse, fiancé, sibling, partner, or family member—make sure to check out the incredible events that have been planned for those joining the conference attendees. These events have been made possible by VMware NSX.

Here is a peek at what will be offered in Tokyo:

  • Tokyo Tour and Tea Ceremony: This tour includes a visit to the Imperial Palace, lunch in Ginza (which translates to “silver-mint”), and a Japanese tea ceremony. The day also includes a visit to Asakusa Sensoji Buddhist Temple and Nakamise Shopping District. This will be a full day of adventure!
  • Tokyo Tower, Meiji Jingu, and Odaiba: This day will begin with the Meiji Jingu Shrine which rests amongst 175 tranquil acres of evergreens. The tour will also include time at Harajuku, Tokyo Tower—which boasts heights exceeding the Eiffel Tower in Paris—as well as the National Museum and Ueno Park. There will be a great lunch provided and guests will cross the Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba to see Aqua City, the Gial Skywheel, and more!
  • Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour: Guests on this tour will enjoy a trip from the city to the beautiful Mt. Fuji. Time in the visitor center will give guests some insight to this majestic wonder. Next, we ascend to the 5th Station which boasts breathtaking panoramic views. Once you have enjoyed this beauty, the tour departs for Hakone where you will enjoy a cruise on the lake and a ride on the cable car. Lunch will be served as a part of this incredible day that is sure to please.
  • Nikko Tour: As if the week hasn’t been amazing enough, this tour is heading north to the foot of Mt. Nantai. Nikko has been a center of Shinto and Buddhist mountain worship for many centuries. It is a place with the atmosphere in the Edo period. Guests will also visit the World Heritage site, Toshogu shrine, a 5 story pagoda, three monkeys, and central shrine. Next, guests will visit a Futarasan shrine and Sanbutsudo where you can see 3 large statues of Buddha–an incredible site regardless of religious preferences. Finally, there will be a drive up to Lake Chuzenji along the zig-zag highway (I-Ro-Ha Slop). Guests will enjoy breathtaking views of this area. During this great excursion, guests will enjoy a fabulous lunch.

The first 10 guests will receive a gift bag with a T-shirt, jacket, and other fun items courtesy of VMware NSX and Blue Box. What are you waiting for? Go register now so you don’t miss out on this fantastic week of events.


Let’s go to Barcelona!

After wrapping up the 8th annual Spousetivities at VMworld US in San Francisco, it is full steam ahead to VMworld EMEA 2015, once again in beautiful Barcelona, Spain! Let’s face it, leaving your partner behind while you head to another weeklong conference doesn’t gain you many points in the relationship. This year, why not bring him or her with you? He or she can check out what Spousetivities has planned for them while you are busy networking and soaking up knowledge at the conference.

Like the US event, Spousetivities will have some goodies to give away for participants. The first 25 to register will get a backpack with great gifts from our sponsors. Who are these sponsors, you ask? This year we can thank VMware NSX for their Gold Sponsorship. Spousetivities is also pleased to thank Brocade, Cisco, VMUG, The Virtualization Practice, EMC Elect, and Thinware for their support of these events.

If that isn’t enough to get you or your sweetie excited, how about one of the following tours available at 40% off the public tour pricing (again, thanks to our amazing sponsors):

  • Montserrat and Wine Country – The group will head for a visit at the impressive Monastery of Montserrat. Most visitors will have the opportunity to hear the famous Boys’ Choir perform (not guaranteed). You will also visit the “Moreneta de Montserrat”, one of the black Madonnas of Europe, and enjoy a light walk to Santa Cova, where the black Madonna is said to have originally been found and rescued. The tour will then depart Montserrat and the group will enjoy a fantastic lunch of local Catalan country cuisine in a traditional restaurant at the base of Montserrat. Lunch will be followed by a private field tour, guided visit and three-product wine and cava tasting at one of the premier, small, boutique wineries of the region.

  • Costa Brava & Medieval Girona – Guests will visit charming fishing villages, local markets, city gardens, and enjoy short walks to secluded beaches and great panoramic lookout points over this Mediterranean paradise. The Girona city tour takes you through the rich history of one of Spain’s most charming, medieval walled cities that has been very well preserved since it was founded by the Romans in the 1st century. On this journey through time, guests will also enjoy a four-course lunch, in a traditional local restaurant, that includes wine, salads, olives, grilled meats and fish dishes.
  • Wines of Catalunya – One cannot visit Spain without getting some insight into their distinctive wine making. Guests will head out for a truly unique and personalized opportunity to enjoy authentic local flavors via food and wine tasting in private, boutique cellars of the Penedès. We will have wine and food all day in a casual and relaxed pace and manner. Guests visit charming, small, boutique wineries where the local, resident wine makers host Spousetivities participants personally and exclusively. A traditional meal of Catalan fare will be served at one of the venues while you enjoy extensive and varied pours of whites, rosés and reserve reds and cavas.
  • Medieval Mountain Village & Panoramic Trails – Guests begin the day of adventure by exploring a village’s winding cobblestone streets and stone houses dating back more than 500 years. With photo opportunities galore, time will still be made for a quaint break for coffee (or tea) and a pastry before more exploring the streets of this medieval town. This is a day of great mountains, excellent views, amazing history and a superb four-course restaurant lunch in a traditional Catalan country restaurant. For those who wish, we will duck out of the village for a great light hike through wooded trails and cliff-top look outs, streams, rivers, waterfalls and spectacular views of deep river canyons and the forested valleys. Non-hikers can relax on a river-view terrace and enjoy the sun, beverages and a book until the others return.

    Don’t wait–register today!


Community Support Comes in Many Forms

I’ve talked before about how the sponsors help make Spousetivities happen by offsetting some of the expense of the events and keeping costs as low as possible. While I (and the Spousetivities participants) appreciate the Global Gold sponsors, there are a bunch of other sponsors that also make Spousetivities happen.

Being an owner of a small business in Spousetivities, I can appreciate the challenge of supporting the community but doing so in a way that is consistent with the financial health of the business. This is why I feel it’s really important to provide a “shout out” to some of the smaller companies that support Spousetivities. These may not be big names that you see and hear all over the conference, but they support Spousetivities in so many ways.

For many years, The Virtualization Practice (TVP) has supported Spousetivities. This support comes in financial contributions as well as volunteer support. Specifically, Ed Haletky’s wife, Romy, has personally gotten involved and helped in the planning of the events for the last two years. Romy graciously led a couple of the tours at the 2014 activities. Sponsors that add this sort of personal touch are valuable because they help “crank it up a notch.” If you are looking for a company to meet your business needs, TVP is worth a look. Make sure to drop an e-mail or comment thanking them for their support of community activities like Spousetivities.

Next up is another small company that you may not know. Thinware (whose product is vBackup) is another faithful startup supporting Spousetivities for several years. Thinware is another company with a personal involvement in Spousetivities—Thinware’s owner, Jeremy Brown, introduced his wife Natalee to Spousetivities several years ago. She’s been instrumental in keeping the activities running smoothly over the years. Natalee routinely helps research activities, reviews some of the gift bag items, and leads the tours when I am not available. If you have a company on a budget with backup needs, please take the time to check out vBackup by Thinware. Also, I’m sure they’d appreciate it if you could drop them a note thanking them for their faithfulness in supporting Spousetivities over the years and for being a part of the community. Right now, Thinware is also offering a discount on their solution to those who participate in or those who follow Spousetivities. Enter “Coupon Code: Spousetivities-VMworldUS2015” when you purchase any of their solutions and a 25% discount will be applied when you are invoiced. Just another way Thinware is showing its support for Spousetivities and those who support Spousetivities by participating, sponsoring, and even just spreading the word to help it grow and stay visible.

Finally, let me introduce you to a relatively new startup in the community. Ravello Systems is making a name for themselves in the industry with some very interesting technology. At the same time, they are setting the tone for what it looks like to be a part of the community, not just another company in the IT world. For the first year, Ravello has come on as a sponsor of Spousetivities and is looking forward to being welcomed into the community. Please make sure to stop by their booth in the Solutions Exchange for more information on their solutions. Shruti and the rest of the Ravello Systems team will take excellent care of you. While you are there, thank them for their support and welcome them to the community. If you aren’t going to make it to VMworld. Drop them a message or even a tweet and let them know you appreciate their community support.

Support for Spousetivities also comes from Arkin Networks, another relative newcomer to the VMware community. We appreciate their willingness to support the community by offering some cool giveaway items for Spousetivities participants.

If you haven’t had the chance to register yet, please visit the Spousetivities registration page today. Events will sell out, so don’t wait!

On behalf of Spousetivities (and all the participants): thank you to all these companies!


Salad and Wine Experience at Legendary William Hill Estate

Do you love Napa Valley? Maybe you’ve visited Napa Valley before and love the atmosphere, the climate, and all things wine (like I do!). Perhaps you’ve only dreamed of visiting Napa Valley, or maybe you’ve been before and want to go again. Wherever you are on the spectrum, this tour will be an entertaining and satisfying day in the beautiful Napa Valley, CA.

This tour, sponsored by Unitrends, will depart from Marriott Marquis on Wednesday morning at 9:00am. Our private tour bus and local guide will take us through the streets of the city and out toward Napa. Our final destination is the exclusive William Hill Estate. Like Frei Ranch, William Hill Estate is not open to the general public. The only way to tour and taste here is through an event like Spousetivities. (You should be feeling pretty special right about now!)

Upon our arrival, we will have a private tour of William Hill Estate and get some background on this legendary 200-acre property. William Hill offers three distinct tiers of wines: Napa Valley, Napa Valley Reserve, and Winery Exclusives. Spousetivities participants will have the opportunity to participate in several tastings of these elegant wines.

After our tour of the property, guests will then take part in a whole new Spousetivities experience: the art of making your very own salad dressing from fresh William Hill Estate olive oils! Guests will have a choice between chicken and seafood on top of their gourmet salads, along with their custom blend of salad dressing. Finally, guests will receive a bottle of William Hill Estate olive oil to take home.

The tour ends with plenty of time to return to the city and get ready for Wednesday night’s VMworld party.

Like most of the other Spousetivities events, this is an exclusive event that’s not available through other channels. Take a moment now to register so you don’t miss out!


San Francisco Bike Tour

Having VMworld in San Francisco every year makes my job with Spousetivities both easier and more difficult. It’s easier because I’m able to form lasting partnerships and relationships with companies in the area, which in turn enables me to offer Spousetivities participants some awesome activities. On the flip side, it’s difficult because I want to keep offering new and different activities for spouses who attend in multiple years.

This year I think I’ve found something that meets the criteria of something both “new” and “different”. On Tuesday, Spousetivities will offer a San Francisco bike tour, brought to you in part by Rackspace.

This is your chance to see the city while getting in a bit of exercise. However, don’t let the term “exercise” deter you, as this will be a fun and entertaining event. After all, you’ve probably already ridden the cable cars (or have plans to do so soon). Chances are you have been to Pier 39, and maybe you’ve even seen the city by bus. Perhaps you’ve seen parts of San Francisco on foot. This is your chance to see the sights by bicycle.

“Yikes! All those hills?” you might be thinking.

No need to fret! This tour has been specifically designed to go around most hills in the city and certainly all the big ones. You will be able to see the majestic city of San Francisco with plenty of breaks to rest your legs and grab a few great photos. The tour is offered in both an easy version and a moderate (slightly longer) tour. During both tours you will see some of the highlights that San Francisco has to offer including:

  • Golden Gate Park
  • Haight-Ashbury
  • funky street art in the Mission
  • Victorian architecture
  • and much more!

A lunch stop will not be made on the easy tour so make sure to have a good lunch before arriving at 12:30pm for this adventure on Tuesday, September 1. Remember, this tour will depart from the Marriott Marquis (look for the Spousetivities sign).

The moderate tour includes a lunch stop so bring a little cash so you can select the lunch of your choice from the food trucks of San Francisco. Some additional sights/stops on this tour vs the easy version include:

  • Castro and SoMa neighborhoods
  • a variety of other signature SF neighborhoods

So sign up for Spousetivities San Francisco bike tour and take in the beauty in a whole new way.


Exclusive Outing to EJ Gallo’s Frei Ranch

How about an upscale day in beautiful Sonoma Valley? If that resonates with you, then you are going to want to sign up now for an exclusive tour at EJ Gallo’s Frei Ranch. This is a very special event–brought to you in part by Brocade–that you won’t want to miss!

Here’s some background on the property, courtesy of EJ Gallo:

Ernest and Julio Gallo’s history with the Frei Ranch vineyard dates back to 1934, when they first purchased wine from the Walter and Louis Frei Winery. That winery was built in 1885 by Charles Dunz and purchased by Andrew Frei in 1890, later to become one of only four wineries in the Dry Creek Valley to survive Prohibition. In 1977, Ernest and Julio purchased the vineyards and winery outright from the Frei family. The Frei Ranch House was built with redwood staves from the original casks of the Frei Winery. Zinfandel vines weave through the outdoor trellis, and beautiful riddling racks form the foundation of our glass dining table.

Do I have your attention yet? Great! Let’s talk about our adventure at this amazing property. (An adventure, by the way, that is only available to Spousetivities participants!) Our day will begin with a private motor coach transporting us from Marriott Marquis to the Frei Ranch property. Along the way, our local guide, Ira, will tell us all about the famous and maybe even best kept secrets of San Francisco. On previous trips, some of the notable spots Ira has shared with Spousetivities participants include the “Mrs. Doubtfire” house, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Painted Ladies. Who knows what Ira has up his sleeve this year?

Once we arrive at Frei Ranch, we will begin our private tour and tasting. The tastings will be held at various points on this breathtaking property. The day is only beginning, though.

Next, we will visit the Gallo of Sonoma’s Barrel Cellar which actually has an Olympic-sized soccer field on its roof! Here we will indulge in the art of wine blending. In this highly interactive activity, guests will learn the techniques and artistic style of blending by creating their own bottle of wine. Each guest will leave with his or her own bottle of blended wine. It is sure to be the experience of a lifetime. But wait, there’s more…

Your Frei Ranch experience would not be complete without a fabulous luncheon. Guests will work side-by-side with local chef extraordinaire, Gia Passalacqua, to build their own wood-fired pizza in Gallo’s very own pizza oven. Lunch will include time with the chef, a hands-on pizza making experience, pasta, salad, pizza, and dessert.

At the conclusion of the luncheon, guests will be returned via private motor coach to the Marriott Marquis. This is an incredible experience that would normally have been over $300 per person! Spousetivities is able to offer this at a far lower cost, thanks to the support of great sponsors like Brocade.

If you want to secure your spot at Frei Ranch, head over to the registration page now to book your ticket!