East Bay Times: May 2, 2018
In September 2015, a badger broke ground on Redding’s only luxury four-star level hotel. Clearly, the critter named “Digger” had a magic touch. The Sheraton Redding Hotel at the Sundial Bridge is already recognized by travelers as a destination resort. Opened in January as a partnership with the adjacent 300-acre Turtle Bay Exploration Park, the Sheraton is loaded with amenities that elevate the experience for travelers.
“If you’re going to do a project, do it right,” Turtle Bay CEO Mike Warren said. “We probably spent — round numbers — around $5 million extra on the hotel that Sheraton didn’t require because we wanted to do it very well.”
At the foot of the architecturally stunning Sundial Bridge (an actual working sundial) over the Sacramento River, I stayed two nights at the Sheraton and could have easily spent a week.
On day one, I met Turtle Bay’s animal ambassadors — including Timber, a beaver so eager, he came out of the water to sit on my lap. I met Digger, the celebrity badger who starred in the TV show “New Girl” (season 2 finale) and a yellow-billed magpie named Ruckus, who painted me a Warhol like picture with a brush in his beak.
In the interactive aviary, I became a human bird perch as brightly colored lorikeets fed from the nectar cups I was holding. And with every interaction, I was educated and entertained.
The Turtle Bay experience extended to the north side of the Sundial Bridge, where I strolled through the 25-acre McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. The gardens include water features and a seasonal pond brimming with Sacramento River region wildlife.
The uniqueness of the property, its riverfront beauty and the benefits of having both Turtle Bay Exploration Park and Redding Civic Auditorium (a popular music venue) next door, makes the new Sheraton feel like a resort. The restaurant elevates it to the level of heavenly.
California wine country cuisine and talented chef James Vereb make Mosaic a go-to place for visitors and locals. I tried everything from the regionally sourced salads and filet mignon to the extraordinarily flavorful wood-fired pizza. The prices were surprisingly affordable (the price-point kept moderate to attract locals) and the atmosphere inviting, with local art and mosaic tiles inspired by the tiles under the Sundial Bridge.
On day two, I ventured 17 miles north to Lake Shasta. With the lake more than 90 percent full, I boarded a boat for the Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark, an attraction that can only be reached with the company’s own boat. The lake was spectacular as we motored across to the landing site where a motor coach took us up a winding road to the mouth of the cavern. This is a must-see activity for the whole family and a two-fer, really, as one ticket gets you a boat ride and cave tour with a naturalist guide.
And while we didn’t see any bats in the cave, we saw plenty of wildlife on the lake and along the forested road. Nothing as friendly as the animals at Turtle Bay though, where you come away with a new appreciation for all of earth’s feathered and furry friends. And if you’re lucky, you might meet Sweet Pea the skunk or Cricket the Barn Owl at check-in.
Sheraton Redding Hotel at the Sundial Bridge website: http://www.sheratonredding.com.
Turtle Bay Exploration Park’s website: http://www.turtlebay.org
Redding Civic Auditorium’s website: http://www.reddingcivic.com
Lake Shasta Caverns’ website: http://lakeshastacaverns.com