Wine in the Woods

Over 30 wineries are expected to take part in this year's Wine in the Woods event in Columbia. (File photo / May 15, 2008)

Whether you're a wine aficionado or someone who has always wanted to learn about the different varieties of fermented grapes, this weekend's Wine in the Woods festival in Columbia is the place to be.

Where else can you sample the products of more than 30 wineries, walk around with a nice buzz and not be arrested? No wonder it has become the most popular annual event in Howard County for the 21-and-older crowd.

Wine in the Woods is about having fun, listening to music, eating and drinking, not necessarily in that order. It also is about surviving.

My editor asked me if I would come up with 10 suggestions for making your experience a better one. Not wanting to disappoint my boss, I combined my experiences and those of a few others to help you navigate Wine in the Woods.

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Get out your ID. Here we go:

1) Make it a group affair

It doesn't really matter how many people you bring with you to Wine the Woods, but the more the merrier.

I've gone with a small group of three to four close friends, and we've had a blast. The larger groups seem to have tons of fun, too.

Nysia Wilhite, of Columbia, tweeted me: "I love Wine In the Woods. Every year my husband and I take a bigger and bigger group."

Columbia resident Cynthia Thomas said she used the festival as an opportunity to reunite with old friends.

"The joy was heightened, the laughter robust, and more pictures with memories to enjoy for a lifetime," she recalled.

2) Take a taxi

It's highly unlikely you're going to convince someone in your group to pay $20 to $25 for a designated driver ticket to stand around all day and watch you drink wine, so take a taxi or a bus to the festival if you can.

"Parking and traffic will be crazy, and it's best to enjoy the festival without worrying about driving," said Wine in the Woods veteran Kim Prium, of Columbia.

Columbia resident Ashlee Ferguson added: "It was very difficult to find parking, so I parked far away from the venue, and I remember thinking while walking to and from the venue, 'I should have caught a cab.'"

3) Leave the kids at home

For unknown reasons, Howard County Recreation and Parks does sell youth tickets (ages 3-20) to Wine in the Woods. But there is nothing at the festival that will entertain your children, except for maybe the food.

And frankly, do you really want to spend your afternoon dealing with your kids complaining of boredom? Unless you are bringing your teenage driver to ensure you have a ride home, it's best you put the $20 or $25 you would spend on a youth ticket toward a babysitter.

Pets are prohibited.

4) Prepare for the weather