There is a certain amount of romance that comes with the idea of Los Angeles. In fact, the City of Angels could be no more different than its East Coast counterpart. New York is built in the northeast part of the United States, while Los Angeles is built on the southwest coast. While those living in the Big Apple are subject to all four seasons, modern bards have immortalized the movie capital of the world as the home of the endless summer.
Every year, millions of travelers descend on Southern California with dreams filling their heads. Some envision meeting their favorite movie stars while strolling the Walk of Fame, taking the perfect shopping trip on Rodeo Boulevard, or splashing the day away at the Santa Monica Pier. However, what many people do not realize is that California is much bigger than Los Angeles alone. Outside of the bright lights and sleepless nights lies adventures among vineyards, mountain retreats, and gourmet cuisine straight from farm to table.
When it’s time to escape the big city, how can one truly connect with Southern California? Here are five destinations you need to consider the next time your travels go west.
Perhaps one of California’s hidden gems, Santa Barbara offers a safe haven to the stars who want to get away from Hollywood for a weekend. Sitting at the south end of the Central Coast, the American Riviera offers all of the luxuries of a major city, but in a quieter setting.
Those looking for haute couture without the pretension of Beverly Hills can take a long walk down State Street in Downtown Santa Barbara, leading to the historic Old Mission Santa Barbara. Constructed in 1786, the mission offers one of the most pristine examples of historic California architecture. From there, hungry visitors can enjoy the catch of the day fresh from the Pacific Ocean at Stearns Wharf.
Big Bear Lake
Those who think it never rains (or snows) in California may be disappointed in their visit to Big Bear Lake, a natural resort nestled among the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Inhabited by natives and tourists alike for over 2,000 years, Big Bear offers visitors a fun experience in all four seasons. Skiiers and snowboarders learning this winter craft can hone their skills at Snow Summit, while Bear Mountain offers a challenge for even the most experienced skier.
It’s not just the snow and winter sports that bring people to this mountain retreat. Summertime offers travelers the opportunity to reconnect with nature’s splendor with hiking, horseback riding, and boating upon the lake. Those looking for the perfect blend of romance and adventure may want to consider a sunset helicopter tour of the island in the sky.
Although I have a special love of San Diego, my coastal getaways often end up just north of the city in the sleepy beach community of La Jolla. Colloquially known as the Jewel by the Sea, La Jolla is where those seeking the best in culture come to get away from it all.
Every year, Torrey Pines in La Jolla plays host to the Farmers Insurance Open, a premier stop on the PGA Tour. In addition to some of the world’s greatest athletes, the event hosts some of the best local and regional bands after the last scorecard has been turned in. However, La Jolla isn’t just about sports and nature. Art lovers flock to La Jolla for the numerous galleries and showings that come through every year. The centerpiece of this local art community can be found at the La Jolla Playhouse, where new works of performing arts are presented and honed every year.
San Luis Obispo
Those who have never been to coastal California may dismiss San Luis Obispo as yet another sleepy mission town between Los Angeles and San Francisco. However, those who take an Amtrak train along the Pacific coastline are never disappointed by one of the friendliest communities in the country.
San Luis Obispo could be considered the crossroads of cultures among California’s diverse offerings, and there is no better time to take it in than at Thursday Night Farmers’ Market. The famous open-air market closes down five blocks of downtown’s main street once a week for farmers of the south and vintners of the north to come together and offer their wares.
A short jaunt inland from Los Angeles, the Temecula Valley is one of the last bastions of western tradition. A walk down Main Street in Old Town Temecula brings visions of swinging saloon doors and cowboys talking about their cattle run. No trip to the old town is complete without a stop at The Bank Mexican Restaurant and Bar, one of the few places where you can have a meal in an old safe.
Due even further east are miles upon miles of vineyards, producing some of the best wine California has to offer. The Temecula Valley is home to over 30 wineries, each offering a different perspective on the art of winemaking. Those looking for a special stop should look no further than Wilson Creek Winery and Vineyard for a taste of their almond sparkling wine.
While there’s nothing wrong with Los Angeles, there’s so much more to California than the media capital of the world. With a little imagination and determination, travelers of all types can escape the city and truly connect with the hidden side of California.