While we may be deep in the pandemic with days blurring together, we have ample time to reflect, read, spend time in nature and be thankful to be alive. Most of us are craving to be on the “move,” so why not start daydreaming about a future getaway? Below are some jaunts to help inspire your wanderlust and aid in your future memorable adventure, if only in your mind for now.
Greater Palm Springs
Just a 2-hour drive from Los Angeles feels worlds away in this desert paradise where Angelenos have come to escape since the Frank Sinatra days. While Greater Palm Springs has a much quieter feel currently, its eight distinct cities (Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Desert Hot Springs, Indio and Coachella) still offer a diverse exciting experience.
While the area is a mecca for golf and tennis, hiking in the desert terrain is an otherworldly option you won’t want to miss. Start with the 1.7-mile Tahquitz Canyon loop trail on the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation in Palm Springs. Scramble around smooth boulders, ancient irrigation systems and native plants while towering rock faces hug the trail and the valley floor sprawls in the distance. Come at the right time of year and find yourself staring at a surreal 60-foot waterfall.
Indian Canyons, another nature preserve, offers numerous trails for hiking and horseback riding with a $9 fee to enter this sacred land. Start with the more aggressive 3-mile Victor Trail that scales up and around varying terrain, such as the impressive grove of stately skirted palms, red barrel cacti and over 150 species of plants. An easier 1-mile loop on a flat trail at Andreas Canyon follows a stream by groves of California fan palms and feels more “jungle” than desert. A small waterfall toward the end of the loop is a welcome cool-off respite during warmer months.
While Greater Palm Springs is filled with grand resorts, there are countless boutique hotels providing enchanting desert ambiance. Built in 1947, Villa Royale’s 30-room hideaway screams retro modern cool the moment you arrive. Spot a vintage car parked outside, admire Spanish-style fountains in courtyards with bold murals and relax by one of the three intimate pools.
Sexy romantic little Korakia Pensione is another hotel charmer that feels Old World Moroccan. Some of the Mediterranean-style bungalows come with retro kitchenettes, walk-out patios, artist studio lofts and in-room record players, while fire pits and outdoor movie nights are just some of the perks at this hotel dubbed one of the sexiest hotels in America.
While we also love the Parker Palm Springs, Sparrow’s Lodge and the Del Marcos Hotel, check out the new Margaritaville Resort, Le Cactus, The Marley or Dive Palm Springs, a tiny resort inspired by the French Riviera of the 1960s. Miramonte Indian Wells Resort & Spa opens under new ownership this summer while Two Bunch Palms in Desert Hot Springs offers 50+ spacious acres for social distancing. Casa Cody is set to welcome guests as well as Azure Palm Hot Springs Resort and Day Spa with 22 spa suites complete with soaking tubs.
When you tire of lazing around a dreamy pool, hop on a bike to explore one of the many quiet neighborhoods offering midcentury modern architecture in balance with the desert landscape. Download the app PS Mod, offering guided tours of over 80 midcentury landmarks by area or architect. Don’t miss driving by the outlandish colorful large-scale “Robolights” filled with sculptures at a home near the Frank Sinatra Twin Palms Estate. Also, the Palm Springs Art Museum opens soon with an updated look and new exhibitions.
A diverse food scene continues to blossom in the desert with a variety of take-out options. Sometimes a tasty discovery can make your whole day. Order savory chicken crepes almost like sandwiches from Gabino’s Creperie that come with zesty seasoning on the outside of the crepes. La Bonita’s delights with authentic Mexican fare and new dishes like carne asada tacos with cheese fried on the outside of the shell and a California burrito loaded with carne asada, beans and fries. Polish off an evening with a s’more-coated burnt waffle cone with homemade ice cream from Kreem. For lobster tacos (and a lengthy list of street and gourmet tacos), a ceviche trio and beer tempura avocado bites, order from Tac/Quila. Also, don’t miss The Real Italian Deli’s meatball subs served on homemade bread.
Be on the lookout for brand new Bar Cecil (paying homage to Renaissance man Cecil Beaton) offering seasonal bistro fare and newcomer Tailor Shop helmed by Chef Engin Onural.
Santa Barbara County
For nearly a century Santa Barbara has been called “The American Riviera.” Nestled between the mountains and the Pacific Ocean, this self-contained paradise is an easy escape for world-class wineries and outdoor dining, which is expected to resume this spring.
From L.A., hit the open road by making a pitstop for lunch at Lucky’s in the coastal Mediterranean-like town of Montecito or an oceanfront drink at the luxe grand Rosewood Miramar Hotel, an estate-style property with a beach bar steps from the sand.
Once in Santa Barbara, spend time in the hip Funk Zone, a walkable area with numerous places to dine and sip wine and beer outside from boutique tasting rooms. Peruse art pieces and graffiti murals on converted warehouses as you meander the area. Consider dinner at The Lark, Spanish tapas and craft cocktails at Loquita, or wood-fired pizza at Lucky Penny. Walk the Urban Wine Trail for some vino stops at Santa Barbara County’s finest, like J Wilkes, Carr Winery, Riverbench, Jaffurs Wine Cellars, Potek Winery or Municipal Winemakers.
If craft beer is your thing, options abound. Sample suds from Figueroa Mountain Brewing, Draughtsmen Aleworks, Rincon Brewery or Topa Topa and Lama Dog Tap Room, both at the Waterline in the Funk Zone. Sweeten up your experience with a craft chocolate tasting at Twenty-Four Blackbirds Chocolates in their new outdoor seating area.
The new 1-mile long State Street Pedestrian Promenade has been revitalized to create a festive European atmosphere with outdoor restaurants and bars expanding into streets, sidewalks and curbsides. A new fleet of electric bikes can be found downtown where visitors can unlock from an app on their phone and return to dock locations across the city. PeopleforBikes, an independent advocacy organization, recently ranked Santa Barbara as the fourth best bicycling city in the U.S.
For those looking for adventures, try a sailing excursion, horseback riding with Santa Barbara Beach Horseback Rides and Circle Bar B Stables, kayaking or SUP (rentals or tours) with Paddle Sports Center and Santa Barbara Adventure Co. Nature lovers will want to reserve a tour at Lotusland on a 37-acre Montecito estate. This horticultural nirvana is the result of 43 years of care from opera singer and socialite Ganna Walska, who transformed her property into 25 distinct gardens. Home to over 3,000 plants, Lotusland is named one of the 10 best gardens in the world.
This spring Santa Barbara welcomes Palihouse, a 24-room hideaway with a vintage prepster vibe tucked into the heart of the historic downtown Presidio Neighborhood. Complimentary Linus bicycles, a pool with cabanas, Peloton bikes and a Pawlisociety pet program are among some of its amenities. And steps from the waterfront find Mason Beach Inn, a chic boutique property owned by Andrew Firestone, newly renovated with 45 guest rooms. Mar Monte Hotel, part of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, reimagined 200 guest rooms inspired by the 1930s Vista Mar Monte once in its place. New guest programming ranges from silent disco yoga to an in-house smoothie and juice bar. In the northeast corner of the County and above Ojai, the new roadside motel Cuyama Buckhorn sits in the high desert for those who want to stay in a quieter place under the stars.
Until June 2021 save money by staying longer with Santa Barbara’s Third Night Free hotel promo deals at https://SantaBarbaraCA.com/Savvy with over two dozen hotels offering a third night free for every two nights booked.
Central California Coast
Get reacquainted with California’s grandeur by leaving the big city for California’s Central Coast.
The relaxed town of Buellton deserves your time. At Ostrich Land, be wowed by hundreds of proud ostriches and emus at a sprawling wildlife refuge where you can feed the flightless birds. Nearby, spend an afternoon at Industrial Eats sipping wine from one of the many outdoor tasting rooms while sampling wood-fired pizzas and quality sandwiches outdoors at this old repurposed hip warehouse.
Stay in a vintage Airstream or wine cottage at Flying Flags RV Resort after dining at popular Hitching Post II where the film “Sideways” was born. A wine tasting flight will complement any of their oakwood-fired steaks. For foodies, don’t miss newcomer Tavern at Zaca Creek, also in Buellton, serving up a fun menu built around 100% American wagyu cattle raised in Santa Ynez with their own butcher shop onsite. Besides an extraordinary wine selection, expect Mezcal flights, caviar and vodka pairings, and thoughtfully concocted cocktails all served on a covered patio.
For an educational experience, stop in Nipomo at the free Luffa Farm greenhouse to learn how luffas grow on the vine and pick up a soft luffa souvenir to use on your face or your car. No trip up the coast is complete without driving through Montaña de Oro State Park. Stretch your legs by taking the 3.4-mile out and back Bluff Trail, a dramatic rugged ocean cliff walk that also takes you down to Corallina Cove Beach teeming with tidepool creatures. Take your time and spend a night nearby on a farm in Los Osos Valley. The Bees Knees Fruit Farm offers a 5-acre country house where guests can make dinner off the land.
Just up the road in San Simeon across from Hearst Castle, the Hearst Ranch Winery offers safe wine tasting at outdoor tables near the ocean. Spend a leisurely afternoon savoring ocean views with your vino paired with an exquisite charcuterie board.
For those yearning for something new, learn about seaweed foraging by booking a tour in advance with Marley Family Seaweed Foraging, voted as a top 10 foraging experience in the U.S. by Lonely Planet. Meet seaweed expert Spencer Marley at a Cayucos beach to harvest this wild superfood and prepare it with ramen oceanside.
For more tips along this 100-mile stretch, check out www.Highway1DiscoveryRoute.com
Revitalize your spirit in California’s spiritual vortex, Ojai, set in the valley of the Topa Topa Mountains where the village-like center is dotted with art galleries and New Age shops. Spin through orchards, like Ojai’s Olive Oil Ranch including various stops at overlooked locales with Cloud Jumpers Jeep Tour. A beekeeping and honey tasting experience gets you up close with these pollinators at Ojai Valley Inn while the hipster rustic Ojai Rancho Inn motel is a fun more affordable option to stay next door. Mission Revival style Su Nido Inn and the new updated midcentury-modern Capri Hotel with quirky rooms are both walking distance to town.
To easily get into nature from town, park on Signal Street and take the Shelf Road Hike, an enjoyable trek a few minutes from downtown. The trail overflows with fragrant orange blossoms and engorged citrus trees like the “Pixie” tangerine and provides magnificent views of the valley and mountains. Just know that you have to walk the 45 minutes back to your car or down through the town to start where you began. Replenish your body with Mexican- and Spanish-influenced dishes from AZU and ask about their special Pixie beer. Find another exciting takeout menu at The Nest dishing up Poke Bowls, Bao Buns, Fish Tacos and Crispy Brussels.