Summer Vacation By Car: San Diego

San Diego is that part of Southern California you think of when thinking about that quintessential beach summer day. Even Los Angeles and Orange County natives will find themselves heading south past Camp Pendleton on the 5 freeway for a weekend getaway to the beaches in San Diego and surrounding areas. We have gathered a list of our favorite hotels down south!


At Cal-a-Vie, you could mistakenly believe you were somewhere in the bucolic French countryside. Suites are simple and rustic and feature washed-out wooden floors, fresh flowers, and comfy, bounce-worthy beds. This is a place that offers much to do—you can wake to a sunrise hike and follow it up with any combination of spinning, or water volleyball. After a day out, head over for a massage at their world-class spa. Pair these deliciously pampering treatments with an on-site nutritionist, and you’ll leave feeling like a million bucks.

Fairmont Grand Del Mar

Fairmont Grand Del Mar is grand, indeed; the majestic 400-acre property, operated by the team behind The Plaza in New York City, and The Savoy, has a luxurious Mediterranean vibe thanks to a rose-colored facade, intricate ironwork, roof tiles, copper accents, and towering cypress and palm trees. The property feels a little like a palace in Spain or France —with California burritos and great surf just a few miles away.

Omni La Costa Resort & Spa

What used to be a celebrity retreat in the ‘60s has morphed into an expansive Mission-style resort spread out across 400 hilly acres in Carlsbad, an upscale coastal city with a surfer vibe 30 miles north of the airport. This place is all about the activities, and you can go as sweaty or as serene as you choose. The landscaping is immaculate, with palm trees, bougainvillea, and fountains. With 17 clay and hard tennis courts, a championship golf course, restaurants, and its own shopping complex, Omni La Costa feels more like a little city than a resort.

Hotel Del Coronado

The beachfront Victorian-style hotel is grand, a San Diego icon featured in the Marilyn Monroe flick Some Like It Hot. It feels less like a traditional resort and more like a retail complex open to the public, with shops, restaurants, walking paths, and an ice skating rink during the holidays (in addition to its guest rooms). The hotel offers old-school vibes with new-school luxury—and dogs are welcome, too.


When Montage decided to open a line of trendy, design-centric hotels geared toward the millennial traveler, the company looked to San Diego for its inaugural outpost. This bright, 12-story hotel opened in early 2017 and brought some much-needed modernity to the Gaslamp Quarter, a downtown neighborhood that veers on the kitschy, touristy side. The lobby is spacious and sophisticated with hip twists, like staffers in plaid outfits—a nod to the hotel brand’s signature print.

Out and About: Santa Ynez Valley Wine Trip

With your vacation plans on hold perhaps you’re up for a day trip!  Many Santa Ynez Valley wineries are open and waiting to host you. It’s been a tough, lonely time in the wine country.
On May 29 they were permitted to reopen! Many wineries are open. Traditional tastings are not permitted. What is permitted is even better. Wineries must serve food, so relax and enjoy it! Rather than traditional tastings, there is wine by the bottle or glass. Some wineries have wine flights. The County of Santa Barbara helped wineries that have not traditionally served food to get rushed permits. If you have been to the Santa Barbara wine country, we are sure you’re ready for a trip back!  If not your in for a treat. The food and wine are great, but the real treat is the beauty of the area and the short drive! Hotels are open as well.

Below is a list of some of the wineries that are currently open. Most are only open Friday to Sunday. To maintain proper social distancing they are limiting the number of guests, so check their websites and make an appointment!

Alma Rosa Winery
Babcock Winery & Vineyards
Brick Barn Wine Estate
Casa Dumetz Wines
Dierberg & Star Lane
Epiphany Wine Co.
Hitching Post Wines
Laetitia Vineyards and Winery
Jamie Slone Wines
Lafond Winery & Vineyards
Margerum Wine Company
Melville Winery
Pence Vineyards & Winery
Presqu’ile Winery
SAMsARA Wine Co.
Santa Barbara Winery
Stolpman Vineyards
Photo by George Rose/Getty Images
Sunstone Winery 
The Vincent Family Estate Vineyards & Winery

Virtually Out and About: L.A. Museums

Think of it as a virtual staycation. While museums like the Louvre and the Guggenheim welcome interactive, international visitors with tours of their exhibitions, self-isolating Angelinos have plenty of culture, history and science to explore right here – from behind the safety of their screen, of course. Take these five local institutions, for example. They may be shuttered, but thanks to online archives, activities and resources, they’re hardly off-limits to the public.

The Getty

If you were thinking of dropping by the Getty Center or Getty Villa before the lockdown, good news: some of its most popular exhibitions are open to virtual visitors. That includes Michelangelo: Mind of the Master, which examines rare drawings by the artist, ranging from sketches to detailed figure studies. Listen along to a free audio tour as you browse his work. For something fun, in addition to the online archive of art, videos and books, you can download a free coloring book filled with some of the museum’s most iconic artwork.

The Grammy Museum

The doors are closed, but the music plays on. On their website, you can enjoy archived performances by artists ranging from Common to the late Kenny Rogers. Join their album club, which is sort of an interactive book club for music fans, and follow along as founding executive director Bob Santelli discusses such classic albums as Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A.


Natural History Museum

For families wanting to hit pause on streaming movies and TV, the Natural History Museum offers the chance to link up with scientists and other students for virtual adventures and crowd-sourced science. It also boasts an impressive video selection. For example, after learning about the animals and plants we share Los Angeles with, you can watch a clip chronicling how scientists uncovered the skull of the prehistoric world’s smallest dinosaur preserved in amber.

California Science Center

For burgeoning young scientists, the California Science Center live streams “Stuck at Home Science” every weekday at 10 a.m. Considering topics include “gross science,” it’s fair to say the goal is to keep children engaged and interested as they learn. Don’t worry about having to leave the house for materials, either. All the projects use common household items.

Museum of Contemporary Art

MOCA offers an entire schedule of interactive activities throughout the week, designed to help the community stay connected. Available on the website as well as across MOCA’s social media channels, these include workshops, classroom curriculum discussions, an Instagram takeover series with a new artist every week, a book club and “Feel Good Friday,” which focuses on meditation and other exercises to relax the mind and reduce stress.

Virtually Out and About: From Mars to the Great Wall

Just because you’re self-isolating doesn’t mean you can’t leave home. With the travel industry grinding to a once-unthinkable halt, virtual tourism is booming as an alternative, promising to transport travelers around the globe from the safety of their sofas. Aside from the many museums and art galleries online, for those seeking mystery or adventure with their interactive exploration – or simply some spectacular outdoor views – here are a few virtual tours to consider.

Winchester Mystery House

Built in 1884 in San Jose, this Victorian mansion was owned by Sarah Winchester, the widow of firearm tycoon William Wirt Winchester. Having long inspired ghost stories (Harry Houdini himself is said to have believed something was wrong about the place), the house features such spine-tingling oddities as a staircase that leads nowhere. Not surprisingly, the mansion has been a fixture in popular culture for years, including the 2018 horror film, Winchester, and the 100th episode of American Horror Story. Currently closed to the public due to COVID-19, you can still creep around its strange corridors, thanks to this virtual tour and guide.


If you want to practice social distancing, how about a trip to Mars? Google and NASA have teamed up to create a 3D tour of the surface of the red planet, using footage shot by the Curiosity rover, which landed there in 2012 and continues to operate to this day – almost 2,800 days later. You can start exploring the Martian scenery here. It won’t take you nearly that long.


Few landmarks have inspired as much mystery as this ancient stone monument in Wiltshire, England. Dating back to 3000 BC, the origins of the stones remain a subject of speculation. Are they supernatural? Or the remnants of an ancient alien close encounter? (Disappointingly, the area was most likely a simple burial ground.) But now you can have a look and judge for yourself, magnifying the giant relics while also learning about them via educational videos.

The Great Wall of China

Visible from space, this 2,000-year-old structure spans more than 3,000 miles across multiple provinces in northern China, making it a must-see whenever you visit the Middle Kingdom. However, since that’s impossible these days, you might want to try embarking on a virtual tour from your living room or bed. You’ll be awed no matter how small your screen is.

Yosemite National Park

It doesn’t compare to hiking the trails and paths found in the L.A. area, but if you’re languishing indoors, why not at least explore Yosemite National Park online? For one thing, you can wander around such breathtaking sights as the Half Dome. And for another, you can get lost without worrying about whether you’re going to run out of sunscreen or water.

Out & About: Staying Safe Outdoors

Isolating yourself indoors has its limits. So while everything from non-essential businesses to children’s playgrounds to state campgrounds have been closed throughout Southern California as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, some things you simply need to venture outside to do. Here are some ways to stay safe outside your own four walls. 


With online grocers overwhelmed by demand, it’s likely at some point you will need to restock food and supplies yourself. If possible, try to avoid peak hours and maintain the recommended distance of six feet between you and others. While in the store, touch as little as you need to and when you get it home, sanitize what you have purchased. Produce, which on average is handled by at least 10 people before it reaches you, should be sprayed with either a bleach solution (a teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water), a disinfectant wipe or soap and water. Packaged items should also probably be wiped down. And don’t forget to wash your hands with soap and water. If you want to be extra-careful, wash your clothes and have a shower.


Farmer’s Markets, considered essential services, remain open, albeit with new rules. These include ensuring there are more hand-washing stations, more space between stands and in general, more distance between people. Not surprisingly, the sampling of unpackaged food is not permitted. Otherwise, you should treat the market the same as anywhere else: don’t touch your face, be wary of surfaces and once you get home, wash everything with soap and water.


If possible, postpone routine procedures and regularly-scheduled appointments. (Many clinics are already cutting back nonessential services.) If you suspect you have coronavirus – either because you have symptoms like a fever and dry cough or you’ve been in contact with someone confirmed to be infected – you should first call your doctor or make a virtual appointment. If it becomes necessary for you to go into the office, it’s likely the clinic has adapted to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): providing soap and hand sanitizer, placing chairs apart and using barriers when possible, as well as removing any communal items (such as toys or magazines) and posting COVID-19-related signage.


Obviously, when your dog has to go out, so do you. Keep a radius of at least six feet around you and your four-legged friend. If a street or path seems too crowded, find another way. If you can, avoid peak times. Along with bringing your own water and supplies, remember to wash your hands after touching any handrails or door handles. As for your dog, he or she is perfectly fine. There is no evidence to suggest dogs can either transmit coronavirus or contract the illness.

Out and About: Virtual Tourism

There’s never been a better time to explore the world. From the Louvre to the Smithsonian to the Guggenheim, the largest museums around the globe are now as close as your screen, thanks to the arrival of virtual tours designed to carry you through their corridors and exhibits. For a population increasingly isolated as current events unfold, this online arena offers a welcome reprieve from confinement and the chance to glimpse cultures, civilizations and works of art that might have otherwise gone ignored. From Manhattan and Paris to London and Sao Paulo, here are 10 museums to seek out – without ever having to step foot in an airport. 

British Museum: London

And now for something truly epic, this legendary museum’s interactive virtual tour of the world’s history spans roughly two million years. Along the way, you can explore the religions, conflicts, and triumphs of a multitude of civilizations that have dotted our planet through the ages. Additionally, the museum, which is closed due to the pandemic, allows virtual tourists to wander its halls and discover artifacts including the Rosetta Stone. If that still leaves you unsatisfied, supplement the virtual tours by listening to A History of the World in 100 Objects, a podcast narrated by the museum’s director Neil MacGregor.

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History: Washington, D.C.

Especially for kids, you can’t go wrong with dinosaurs, fossils and mysterious creatures from the depths. So take them along for this virtual tour and embrace the adventure.

The Louvre

The world’s largest art museum, this Paris landmark, located on the Right Bank of the Seine, measures more than 782,000 square feet and displays more than 38,000 artifacts and works from prehistory to the present – all of which can be appreciated from your home now.

African American History and Culture: Washington, D.C.

This museum and its 35,000 artifacts set out to do nothing less than telling the story of America. Although the virtual tour offers only a glimpse of all that the museum has to provide visitors, it’s impressive nonetheless.

Russia’s State Hermitage Museum: St. Petersburg, Russia

This stunning video – remarkably filmed in 4K in one continuous take on an iPhone 11 Pro – spans more than five hours as it carries you through this museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. All told, the tour covers 45 galleries and 588 artistic masterpieces.

Uffizi Gallery, Florence 

One of the most prestigious art museums in Italy and the world, the Uffizi Gallery sits adjacent to the Piazza Della Signoria in the Historic Centre of Florence in Tuscany, Italy. Built-in 1560, its treasures include works from the Italian Renaissance, all of which can be explored here.  

MASP, Sao Paulo 

Considered Brazil’s first modern museum, the Museu de Arte de São Paulo is a non-profit boasting a collection of more than 8,000 works, including sculptures, paintings, and photographs from across continents. 

Guggenheim Museum, New York 

As renowned for the skylight and spiral staircase at its center as its vast collection of art, now you can explore both, thanks to Google’s Street View feature. 

Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Located on the left bank of the Seine, this museum is housed in a former railway station and features mostly French works dating from 1848 to 1914. Take their virtual tour and browse masterpieces from the likes of Monet, Renoir, Seurat and Van Gogh.

National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City

Focused on Mexico’s pre-Hispanic civilizations and culture, this museum features more than 20 exhibit rooms, complete with Mayan artifacts. 


Out & About: Carpinteria

When a town calls itself the “home of the world’s safest beach,” you expect it to be laidback. And yes, Carpinteria – even the name soothes – offers no shortage of calm waters and peaceful strides along sandy shores. But the town, roughly 12 miles southeast of Santa Barbara, is also home to much more – from the Santa Barbara Polo Club to the seals and sea lions found nearby Carpinteria Bluffs. And if you have always wanted to know what the world’s largest vat of guacamole looks like, the California Avocado Festival happens every October. If waiting until autumn for guacamole isn’t for you, here are some other suggestions for how to spend a day or weekend exploring the sights and surf of Carpinteria. Safety is almost certainly guaranteed.


Carpinteria State Beach

Although an ideal spot for camping and swimming, the real draw of this mile-long state beach is the seafaring animals who call it home. In addition to the sea lions and seals – and possibly a passing whale – there are tidepools filled with starfish, crabs, snails, octopi and sea urchins, among others. One note if you’re thinking about tagging along with a four-legged friend: dogs are not allowed on the beach, but they are permitted in the picnic area.

Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve and Carpinteria Seal Sanctuary

While spotting birds and other wildlife, follow the hiking trails to the open park space with its stunning views north to the Santa Ynez Mountains and south to the Channel Islands. From here, you can look down on the Carpinteria Seal Sanctuary, the habitat for almost 100 adult seals who birth their pups on the shoreline. The sanctuary is a protected space and off-limits to people. But from above, you can quietly observe. Remember to bring binoculars.

Tar Pits Beach

Less than a mile from the seal sanctuary, you can find this aptly-named slice of shoreline. Once mined for the asphalt that drains out from a natural lake, this area of Carpinteria State Beach has been transformed into a destination for both hikers and surfers.


Shop in downtown Carpinteria 

After a morning wandering through nature, why not spend time exploring Linden Avenue, the shopping hub of downtown Carpinteria? Only a few blocks from the state beach, it’s lined with century-old palm trees and vintage shops. One tourist stop is Robitaille’s Candies, famed for its Presidential Mints (because they have been favorites of past American presidents). It also offers the opportunity to watch the candy makers at work thanks to a glassed-in kitchen.


Stop for a Bite

If you feel like having lunch after a morning spent hiking and shopping, Linden Avenue has plenty of options, including this 50-year-old hamburger stand. The Spot does serve a range of menu options – from a shrimp burrito to clam chowder – but really, it’s about the classic, no-frills burger, as simple as beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and Thousand Island dressing.

Carpinteria Valley Museum of History

For those interested in more than what Carpinteria looks like now, this historical museum offers a detailed gaze into its past. Exhibits deal the three significant cultures that have called the area home over the centuries: the Chumash Indians, the Mexican and Spanish settlers, and the immigrant and American pioneers. Exhibits are open every afternoon Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club

Located on Foothill Road in Carpinteria, the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club has been described as the town’s best-kept secret. Starting in April and running through December, the public is invited to attend the polo game that happens every Sunday afternoon. You don’t have to be a club member. On Fridays, spectators can partake in Happy Hour in the grandstands.

Whale Watching

Nearly 30 different species of whales and dolphins travel through the Santa Barbara Channel every year, meaning there is never a bad time to go spotting one of these gentle marine giants. Long-running area tour companies include The Condor Express which carries as many as 120 passengers on its catamaran, and Sunset Kidd, which takes visitors sailing on a 41-foot yacht.

Summerland Winery

It wouldn’t be a California sojourn without wine tasting. And Carpinteria and the surrounding area do not disappoint. Located in the seaside town that bears its name, Summerland Winery provides a tasting room where you can sample its Central Coast collection. For dog lovers, the winery encourages you to bring your furry companion along to join the pack.


Little Dom’s Seafood

Carpinteria isn’t as far from Los Feliz as you might think. Warner Ebbink and chef Brandon Boudet, who own and run Little Dom’s in Los Angeles, opened Little Dom’s Seafood in Carpinteria earlier this year. As you’d expect, the menu offers Italian seafood along with the coastal culinary vibe that comes with being this close to the Pacific.

The Alcazar Theatre

While it maintains its movie house façade, the Alcazar Theatre, which opened in 1928, has emerged as much more than a venue for films (although there are those – from current releases to such Hollywood classics as Singing in the Rain). A center of performing arts for Carpinteria, also stages concerts, live comedy, and live theatre, depending on the day or evening.

Out and About: Catalina Island

Escaping Los Angeles for a weekend or day trip is simple. Doing so without driving? Not so much. Which may make Catalina Island, located “26 miles across the sea,” the ideal getaway for the asphalt-fatigued. About an hour by ferry from Long Beach, San Pedro or Newport Beach, Catalina Island is nestled among California’s Channel Islands. For more than a century, this idyllic destination has been renowned among Angelinos for its wildlife, pristine beaches and isolated coves. What do the towns of Avalon, located to the south with its coastal cabanas, and Two Harbors, on the north end of the island, have in common? They’re both surrounded by rapturous ocean – without a freeway, traffic jam or flashing road construction placard in sight.


Catalina Island Conservancy

One of the oldest private land trusts in Southern California, the Catalina Island Conservancy offers more than 60 miles of unspoiled wilderness to explore – whether you’re on a hike or taking one of the conservancy’s eco-tours through lush, protected territory. Once you decide to relax to soak in the magnificent views, stop by the 37-acre hillside Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden (named for the chewing-gum tycoon who snapped up most of Catalina in 1919).

Catalina Island Museum

If you want to explore the history of Catalina Island and not only its natural beauty, this museum offers a window to its storied past. Current exhibitions include Esther Williams: The Swimming Queen of the Silver Screen, underscoring the island’s connection to Hollywood’s golden age. The museum’s permanent collection showcases artifacts, including Catalina pottery dating back to the 1920s, as well as photography detailing local life from the 1880s to the present.

Ride the waves or shore

Throttle up, either on earth or water. If you want to leave the land altogether, head out for open ocean riding off Catalina Island’s spectacular shorelines. You might even encounter one of the area’s dolphins. If you’re feeling like keeping the ground beneath your feet (or wheels, anyway), you can jump on an electric bike and go exploring on a two-hour, 10-mile tour, sans bottlenoses.

Descanso Beach Club

As Descanso Beach Club is pleased to point out, here you can actually imbibe with your feet in the sand without breaking the law. Descanso is also a restaurant and bar, so settle back in your cabana or at your ocean-side table with a margarita or a cobb salad while enjoying what is one of the last remaining private beaches in the state that is also open to the public.



Take a zip around

If all this sea-side serenity is proving a bit dull, get your pulse pounding by zip-lining above it all. The Catalina Zip Line Eco Tour promises to propel you as high as 300 feet over the canyon floor on a zipline that can run more than 1,000 feet. As the guides ensure you remain safe for your high-speed adventure, they will also regale you with tales of island history.

Go spotting the sea life

While there’s an abundance of wildlife on the shore, including bison, why stop there? This tour promises to carry you out into open waters where you’ll have the chance to spot dolphins, seals, sea lions and bald eagles. During the migration season, the tour also cruises local spots known for playing host to whales as the gentle giants make their journey through the area waters.

Fly above it all

If you would rather stay above it all, why not by helicopter? Boasting heart-stopping views, helicopter tours are available to send you soaring above Catalina’s highest peak, Mount Orizaba. This type of transportation may also suit you if you want to skip going out by ferry altogether. Private tours to the island depart from Los Angeles, Burbank, and Long Beach.

Get a taste around town

Hungry for a chance to explore local culture while sampling all that Avalon’s cuisine has to offer? This three-hour tasting tour should hit the spot. The food tour, we should note, is an all-ages affair. If you are over the age of 21, however, feel free to sign up for the Catalina Happy Hour Tour, which will allow you to take a sip of Avalon’s best bars.

Catalina Casino

Catalina Casino opened in 1929, a decade after William Wrigley Jr. purchased the bulk of Catalina Island. The Art Deco landmark now features walking tours of such areas as the theater, which was created for non-silent “talkies.” The ballroom, which has been completely restored to its former glory, continues to host events, including New Year’s Eve festivities, as well as private affairs, such as corporate retreats and weddings.



Bluewater Grill

Located in the historic terminal building, this restaurant offers prime waterfront vistas and, appropriately for the occasion, sustainable seafood – from steamed mussels to pappardelle with shrimp and scallops. If you’re interested in more than just a quick bite, however, Bluewater also hosts such culinary activities as oyster tastings.

Tour the Stars

After a day exploring the sea and land of Catalina Island, turn your attention to the stars above. “The Astronomy Experience” is an educational excursion in which participants can make the most of the pristine night sky. The tour starts at dusk and carries on to Buena Vista Point, near Wrigley mansion, where you’ll be offered insight into the heavens, complete with telescope.

Out & About: Paso Robles Edition

There’s more to Paso Robles than what you can bottle. Yes, the Central California Coast, immortalized by the movie Sideways, will probably always be associated with adventures and misadventures in wine-tasting. And indeed, Paso Robles, located about 170 miles north of Los Angeles, boasts more than 300 wineries, so it’s not like the grapes are going anywhere. But from boutique shopping to olive oil tasting tours to ziplining over vineyards, there is so much more to do there than simply sample Pinot (but never, as Paul Giamatti insisted, Merlot). Here’s a taste.


Olive Oil Tasting

There’s more to sample in Paso Robles than red or white. Thanks to the climate and fertile soil, the olive oil produced here is, quite correctly, called “liquid gold.” Along with more than a taste, you can also go sight-seeing through one of the abundant orchards and discover more about the process called “farm-to-press olive oil.” One such ranch is Pasolivo, which has been welcoming guests to their orchards and olive oil tasting room for more than a decade. All this, and you don’t even have to wait for a socially acceptable hour of the day to start.


Once you’re done with the olive oil tasting tours, head downtown to bask in the temperate Central California climate and browse around what has become one of the hippest places to shop in San Luis Obispo County. In addition to artisan shops, upscale clothing boutiques, gourmet food and wine markets, you’ll find ample free parking, restrooms, a park to relax in and other new amenities that make Paso Robles such an attractive destination.

Estrella Warbirds Museum

Olive oil tasting rooms and boutique shops may not conjure images of military aircraft, but Paso Robles is also home to the Estrella Warbirds Museum, founded more than 25 years ago and now one of the fastest-growing non-profit museums on the west coast. Situated on more than 13 acres of land on the Paso Robles Municipal Airport grounds, the museum is dedicated to the preservation of military aircraft, vehicles and other memorabilia. In addition to offering group tours, the museum also gives visitors the chance to hop in a flight simulator (all day Fridays and Saturdays and by appointment on Thursdays and Sundays).

Hearst Castle

Roughly an hour’s drive from Paso Robles, Hearst Castle is one of Central California’s most iconic destinations. Located near San Simeon, at the northern end of San Luis Obispo County, the landmark was built between 1919 and 1947 by tycoon William Randolph Hearst and his architect Julia Morgan. Resting five miles inland atop Santa Lucia Range and boasting uninterrupted views of the Pacific Ocean, the historical site offers an extensive tour to visitors. For a longer stay, including wine tasting and lunch in the seaside village of Cambria, check out the Original Hearst Castle & Paso Robles Wine Country Tour from San Luis Obispo.



Less than an hour’s drive from Hearst Castle and located at the highest point in Paso Robles, Hunter Ranch Golf Course offers breathtaking views of some of San Luis Obispo County’s finest vineyards and wooded hills. Rated four and a half stars out of five by Golf Digest, the course features a restaurant with indoor and al fresco dining that overlooks the course. But if you want to try your swing somewhere else, Paso Robles is home to another 10 courses within a 30-minute drive, including the Paso Robles Golf Club.

Wine tour on horseback

If you’re looking to explore the rolling countrysides of Central California, what better way to do it than on horseback? Central Coast Trail rides offer such recreational activities as driving on a stagecoach to riding the trail to cattle drives. Or you can simply ride through the Paso Robles hills on a wine tasting sojourn. In fact, whether you want to tour a winery or distillery, or get there on horseback or on a bicycle, there’s a tour company and guide in Paso Robles for you.

Hike, zip, kayak or fly

If touring on horseback sounds tame, how about from a zipline? Hailed as a Sunset Travel Award finalist and a five-star-rated experience by TripAdvisor, Margarita Adventures offers the chance to take flight over Santa Margarita. For something decidedly less pulse-pounding, you can enjoy some quiet back-to-nature time on a kayak on Santa Margarita Lake. Or if you’d rather stay on land, there are trails for everyone from the novice to hard-core hiker to appreciate. Lastly, and if you can afford it, consider a tour of the area in a helicopter with Paso Air Tours.

Go for a dip in natural hot springs

It’s hard to believe there was a time before wine, but for centuries, Paso Robles attracted travelers, not for what grew on the vine, but what bubbled beneath the surface. As far back as 1795, Paso Robles has been written about as “California’s oldest watering place”— the place to go for mud baths. In 1864, the first El Paso de Robles Hotel featured a hot mineral springs bathhouse. These days if you want to go for a soak, there is the River Oaks Hot Springs, where you relax in an outdoor tub overlooking a vineyard while sipping on some sparkling wine.

Wine tasting

While wine-tasting might not be the only reason to travel to Paso Robles, it’s undoubtedly one of them. And with hundreds of wineries in the area – from Bordeaux to boutique – there should be no way for you to leave without finding the varietal for you.

Tin City

Far removed from the historic estates and storied vineyards you might imagine when picturing Paso Robles is this hub of “garagiste” winemakers. Located in an industrial park along the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, Tin City leaves up to its corrugated name.


Les Petites Canailles

A recent and much-buzzed-about addition to the downtown scene, this French farm-to-table bistro hails from chef Julien Asseo and specializes in local ingredients. Think modern but casual with dishes including Beef Cheek Bourguignon, Wild Black Cod and Dayboat Scallops.

Field of Light

This is the perfect place to take a relaxing evening walk after a day of wine tasting while enjoying the outdoors and scenic views under the evening sky. Last fall, the artist Bruce Munro created “Field of Light,” a spectacle of 60,000 illuminated glass orbs spanning more than 15 acres. Luckily for you, the art show was recently extended until June 30.

Out and About: Ojai Edition

In California, zen is pronounced “oh-hi.” Located in the Ventura Valley, this town of roughly 7,500 people has long been a destination for burned-out Angelinos seeking renewal. Casual travelers and day-trippers need not be discouraged by Ojai’s reputation as a mystical hotspot. Even if you’re not in the mood for something as ambitious as enlightenment at a retreat, there is an abundance of pleasures to seek out – from fresh produce to glorious hikes to close encounters with nature. As for the origins of the town’s name, “Ojai” means “nest” in the Chumash language. In other words, once you’re here, you may never want to leave.


Ojai Certified Farmers Market

There is no better place to begin exploring Ojai than this favorite hub of visitors and locals alike. An outdoor event that takes place Sundays year-round, the Farmer’s Market is located behind the Arcade in downtown. You may come for the organic food – and you will find everything from jams to beeswax to fresh seafood – but you’ll likely be just as delighted by the atmosphere and all-around vibe. Vendors include such local mainstays as Ojai Olive Oil. The prime location also makes it simple enough to move on from the market to the rest of the town.

Boutique shopping

Without a box store or franchise chain in sight, Ojai’s downtown instead spotlights fine art, clothing, hand-crafted jewelry, and home furnishings in more than 50 specialty shops and galleries. Browse the shelves of Bart’s Books, the largest independent outdoor bookstore in the country, or drop by Primavera Gallery to peruse its collections of fine artwork.

Ojai Valley Museum of History and Art

Looking to explore not merely Ojai’s shopping and markets, but its unique past? For that, head to this former Catholic church, which houses historical artifacts, photographs, exhibits as well as local contemporary art. The former St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, which was included on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995, became the museum’s home in 1996.

Azu Restaurant & Bar

Ojai grows a lot more than just olives and lemons. One example? The Ojai Valley Brewery uses local ingredients like sage and pear to produce its lineup of beers. At Azu Restaurant & Bar, the brewery has a taproom where you can sample what’s on draft. Moreover, some of their ales and lagers are now bottled, meaning you can take a taste of Ojai back with you.


Ojai Meadows Preserve

In addition to sheer beauty, this protected meadows and wetlands area boasts plenty of hiking and a plant nursery. The land protection non-profit Ojai Valley Land Conservancy manages close to 2,300 acres. Of this, 2,000 acres are free for the public to enjoy.

Beekeeping at the Ojai Valley Inn

Get some face time without being stung. This 90-minute beekeeping tour at Ojai Valley Inn lets you don a protective suit, including the requisite hat, face screen, and gloves, before showing you the ins and outs of honey production. If that wasn’t appealing enough, the tour naturally includes a tasting of jars of honey from around the county.

Ojai Bike Trail

One side of the nine-mile Ojai Valley Trail is paved for joggers, bicyclists, and dog walkers. On the other side of a fence is a dirt path used for horseback riding. Meanwhile, the Ojai-Ventura Bike Path traverses 15 miles and is ideal for casual walkers, runners and mountain bikers.

Gray Whale Watching

If you’re up for an excursion off the land, a 30-minute drive from Ojai will take you to Ventura Harbour, where Island Packers Gray Whale Watching departs from. The three-hour-plus cruise promises to bring you up close to various marine mammals – not only whales but other species such as dolphins – in the Santa Barbara Channel.


Casa Barranca Tasting Room

Located in downtown Ojai, Casa Barranca prides itself on having been the first certified organic winery in the Santa Barbara region. Now almost two decades later, it produces more than 5,000 cases of wines, from reds to whites to roses, all from organic grapes.

Dining at the Vine

After a day (or a few days) exploring all that Ojai has to enjoy, settle in for dinner at The Vine, which features live music six nights a week. The exception is Thursdays, which instead offers music as well as a spoken word performance. The dinner menu includes tapas, salads, tortillas, and quesadillas. For a late-night treat, try the bacon-wrapped dates or baked brie.