If you live in the Coachella Valley you’re surely used to others’ shock, awe, and amazement when they learn you brave the scorching summers here and live to tell. For those of us who stick it out — dependent on patio misters, fabulously frigid air conditioning, and plenty of evening cocktails — the reward is a quieter community where we can stroll into our favorite restaurant without a reservation (if they haven’t closed for the summer), breeze through a line-free round of grocery shopping, and park wherever we want. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need a getaway (or two) when the temps start inching past 115. These 11 quick-trip ideas within a few hours’ drive can be mixed and matched all summer long. From wine-tasting trips to restaurant and theater weekends to river-rafting adventures, you’re sure to find something that will inspire you to hit the road.
PHOTO COURTESY OF LANGHAM HUNTINGTON PASADENA
PHOTO COURTESY OF LA VILLA DEL VALLE
PHOTO COURTESY OF DESCANO GARDENS
PHOTO BY RYAN MILLER, COURTESY OF THE BROAD
Simply finding your way to Catalina can turn into a trip highlight if you arrive in a movie scene–worthy seaplane that lands on the water. Charter one from Long Beach or San Pedro via Seaplanes of Los Angeles, which can also arrange to have kayaks and a secluded beach picnic waiting for you upon arrival. Alternatively, it doesn’t get more convenient than Island Express Helicopters, which offers charters from every major SoCal airport, including Palm Springs (a little over an hour ride to Catalina). The number of activities available on the 75-square-mile island is downright dizzying. Start with a hike around the lovely town of Avalon with its streets of tiny cottages or get ambitious and strike out on the road that leads out of the village and into the interior of the island. The newly launched Twilight at the Casino Tour lets visitors tour the 1929 art deco landmark after dark and amps up the glam factor with ballroom dancing and big band music.
WHERE TO STAY: The six-room Cape Cod–style Snug Harbor Inn provides a slew of nice touches like a wine and hors d’oeuvres hour, breakfast brought to your room, and complimentary beach chairs and mats.
PHOTO COURTESY OF CATALINA ISLAND COMPANY
Those who recall the downtown L.A. of decades ago may still find it mind-blowing that the urban neighborhood has also become the city’s coolest (one, mind you, that didn’t even have a full-service grocery store as of 10 years ago, let alone renowned culinary and art scenes). For a shot of culture, head for The Broad, which, since opening in 2015, has become a sort of museum trifecta thanks to its impressive collection of contemporary art, innovative design, and free admission. You can still catch the trippy Infinity Mirrored Room (which requires a timed same-day reservation that you can make when you arrive at the museum) until October and, if you have time to squeeze in some theater, there’s lots of buzz around the Tony Award–winning whodunit The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which kicks off a monthlong run at the Ahmanson on Aug. 2. Of course, prepare for lots of eating. Chef Josef Centro’s lauded new veggie-centric P.Y.T. will give you new respect for everything from romanesco to ruby red grapefruits, and on weekends you can gorge yourself on Peruvian tacos, vegan doughnuts, and pork-belly musubi at the Brooklyn-imported outdoor food-porn-fest Smorgasburg.
WHERE TO STAY: Go high at The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles, where rooms start on the 22nd floor and city views surround you, or put on your hipster hat at Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles, with groovy rooms housed in an ornate 1927 Gothic Revival building.
Sure there’s the Pacific Ocean across the street, but you can easily spend all day (and night, for that matter) strolling the stylish new dual-level shopping and dining destination Pacific City. Fun restaurants abound here, but the hottest seat (and there are only 28 of them) is at LSXO, a sexy speakeasy-style Vietnamese eatery from the team behind L.A.’s Little Sister. It’s tucked behind an unmarked door within the larger restaurant Bluegold. The nearby Ways & Means Oyster House has a solid raw bar, or you can peruse the artisanal Lot 579 food hall where vendors dole out specialty stuff like Technicolor popsicles and handheld pies. The place is also dotted with a couple dozen shops — including cool custom-tee store Tankfarm & Co. and board maker Surfing Supply — and it hosts outdoor summer movie nights and live musicians weekly.
WHERE TO STAY: The brand-new Paséa Hotel & Spa blends a laid-back luxe feel with beach vibes. Floors are named for various shades of blue, and you’ll quickly notice the outlines of waves in everything from the carets to the wall art (check out the piece hanging in the lobby made entirely of flip-flops). Rooms are done up in natural woods and neutrals and are equipped with loungey furniture, balconies, and LED TVs. Don’t miss drinks around the fire pit at Treehouse, perched on a roof deck overlooking that ocean you (almost) forgot about.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF PASÉA HOTEL & SPA
Those who love Ojai, looooove Ojai. Maybe it’s the hovering Topatopa Mountains, which famously turn a vibrant shade of pink at sunset, or the tranquil downtown village, dotted with art galleries, independent boutiques, and wine tasting rooms, or the historic Spanish Colonial Revival–style architecture like the landmark bell tower that tolls on the hour. Of course, they’ll also point to the little town’s vibrant Sunday farmers’ market overflowing with colorful locally grown produce and a summer calendar full of outdoor festivals, including the impressive classical music–focused Ojai Music Festival (June 8–11), which this year is being directed by Grammy-nominated composer-pianist Vijay Iyer. Still, many of Ojai’s biggest fans also insist it’s simply got one of the best spas in the country at Spa Ojai.
WHERE TO STAY: The iconic Ojai Valley Inn & Spa boasts the 31,000-square-foot Spa Ojai, a comfortable and serene facility that swears you’ll walk out feeling renewed and reinvigorated. Indulge in a 100-minute Himalayan salt stone massage (you get to keep the stones) or a service that highlights local ingredients like the orange blossom and honey body wrap or the lavender sugar full-body exfoliation. The spa also offers a top-notch roster of mind and body classes, ranging from chakra meditation and stretching at sunset to calorie-burning boot camp and TRX classes; there’s also a lovely café touting vibrant juices, grain bowls, and seasonally inspired salads.
PHOTO COURTESY OF OJAI VALLEY INN & SPA
Hit up a trio of beach towns in one weekend, starting with the most southern of the three, retro Redondo Beach. Some of its kitsch may be giving way to shiny new development (with more on the way), but much of Redondo still feels like that beach town you loved as a kid. A walk from King Harbor to the pier will wind you past shell-necklace shops, glass-bottom boats, fishermen camped out in folding chairs, and the terrifically tacky Fun Factory arcade (slated to shutter in 2019 to make way for a new project) complete with Skee Ball and a Tilt-A-Whirl.
It’s hard not to get out on the water here, as businesses touting stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, and fishing boat excursions are around every turn. At sunset, you’ll want to get a maraschino-garnished mai tai in a take-home glass at the gloriously trapped-in-time Tony’s on the Pier, but for dinner head inland a few blocks for standout homemade pastas at the modern Bettolino Kitchen, tucked in a strip mall.The most fun way to get to northern neighbors Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach is to rent a ride and pedal up on the South Bay Bicycle Trail. Hermosa is home to about as vibrant a beach scene as you’ll find anywhere, and much of it revolves around volleyball, with dozens of nets anchored in the sand year-round. Pickup games, local leagues, and lessons take place daily, and from July 21 to 23 the Open draws top players from around the world. Plenty of restaurants, bars, and more bars dot the happening Hermosa Pier, but none as pretty as Palmilla Cocina y Tequila, known for upscale Mexican fare and craft cocktails. And a South Bay trip is never complete without a visit to Manhattan Beach, the tony town that’s home to some of L.A.
County’s priciest real estate. Take a shopping stroll through the streets lined with the likes of Trina Turk, Splendid, Margaret O’Leary, and oodles of independent and locally owned boutiques that stock everything from $300 bikinis to Australian-imported beach towels. But the buzziest bit of Manhattan Beach revolves around its dining scene with standouts like David LaFevre’s MB Post, where locals share plates of farm-to-table fare such as blistered green beans with Thai basil and crostini of beef tartare.
WHERE TO STAY: You can’t get any closer to the sea (or its resident seals) than at the seriously oceanfront Portofino Hotel and Marina, a New England-meets-contemporary-SoCal property complete with a formal lobby living room with a massive stone fireplace. For a taste of the new and hip, try boutique hotel Shade Manhattan Beach or its brand-new sister property Shade Redondo Beach, with a rooftop pool and rooms equipped with adjustable colored mood lighting and soaking tubs on the balconies.
You’ve got your pick of gorgeous gardens nearby, but the best known is probably the 120-acre botanical gardens at Huntington Library, which is also home to a historical library and art collection along with its famous Rose Garden tea room. Descanso Gardens, meanwhile, boasts a tranquil Japanese garden, full of flowering cherry trees and Japanese maples and its oft-photographed red bridge that crosses a stream. Weekend visitors to Descanso have to deal with more crowds, but get to take part in free guided morning walks and indulge in an upscale comfort food brunch at the new Maple (fried chicken and beignets, anyone?). Next up, hit Colorado Boulevard to browse titles at Vroman’s, the region’s oldest indie bookstore, and sample perfectly Parisian macarons at the tiny Euro Pane Bakery. Wind down in Old Pasadena with craft cocktails and small plates at the dark-wooded and dapper White Horse Lounge.
WHERE TO STAY: The historic Langham Huntington hotel, originally built more than 100 years ago as a winter resort for the well-heeled, still feels like a grand getaway spot with high tea service, manicured gardens, lawn croquet, and a picture bridge overlooking the Hollywood-esque pool. Rooms all have large windows (often with views of the San Gabriel Mountains) and Italian marble baths.
PHOTO BY MATT ARMENDARIZ, COURTESY OF LANGHAM HUNTINGTON
South Orange County
Art lovers luck out in Laguna Beach, as the busy beach town that’s already home to more than 100 art galleries and nearly as many public art installations also hosts multiple outdoor art festivals within a mile of one another every single summer. The original Festival of Arts is one of the nation’s oldest juried fine arts shows, featuring works by O.C.–based artists along with weekly concerts, art talks, and jazz-and-wine nights. The Laguna Art-A-Fair is the only one of the three to feature artists from around the world. And the quirkier Sawdust Art & Craft Festival (which began as a sort of splinter show to the stuffier Festival of Arts in the ’60s) takes place in a rustic village-like setting where Laguna artists hawk everything from surf art to upcycled birdhouses. Hitting all three is a no-brainer, as an unlimited passport to the trio costs only $24. After you’ve gotten your fill of art, cross over into the glitzy coastal community of Newport Beach, the perfect summer venue to combine beach days, upscale shopping, fine dining, and plenty of outdoor activities (surfing, kayaking, kite-flying, and, well, you get the idea…) as well as lounge in luxury at a lavish resort overlooking the pristine Crystal Cove State Park, a 3.5-mile oceanfront nature preserve, the perfect backdrop for a round of golf or a morning cardio class.
WHERE TO STAY: Laguna’s historic La Casa del Camino has a Mission feel with beamed ceilings, arched windows, and ornate chandeliers in the lobby. Upstairs, The Rooftop lounge pairs cocktails with panoramic ocean views. Fresh off a $1.5 million renovation, the Laguna Beach House lives up to its name with a laid-back beach cottage vibe, while the grander cliff-perched Montage features Craftsman-style architecture and a 20,000-square-foot spa. At the 504-acre Italian Renaissance–style The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach, bungalow rooms and suites are dotted along scenic, landscaped pathways and appointed with limestone fireplaces, marble baths, and soaring wood-beam ceilings. Tuscan restaurant Andrea boasts a 1,200-bottle Italian wine collection and a temperature-controlled pasta room where chefs make the spaghetti and gnocchi by hand.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE RESORT AT PELICAN HILL
Yes, it’s best known for prolific autumn apple picking, but there’s more to this historic Gold Rush town than fruit. Besides its art galleries, wineries, antique shops, and impressive pioneer museum, Julian also makes a handy home base for outdoor activities at the nearby Lake Cuyamaca and Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. Rent a kayak for a couple of hours or tackle the 8-mile Oakzanita Peak Trail, which gains 1,300 feet in elevation and rewards hikers with killer coastline views. For dinner, the bistro-style Jeremy’s on the Hill, 3 miles west of downtown, serves classic dishes like chicken cordon bleu and pork schnitzel along with a California-focused wine list. Find dessert at your pick of multiple pie shops, including Mom’s Pie House, which offers nearly two dozen dreamy varieties, from apple-boysenberry to peach crumb, along with baking classes.
WHERE TO STAY: The Julian Gold Rush Hotel in the center of town dates back to 1897 and has 16 antique-appointed rooms, while Orchard Hill Country Inn offers lodge-style rooms in addition to a dozen cottages with private porches and gas fireplaces. Both include house-made breakfasts and an afternoon tea or wine hour.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF JULIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, VISIT JULIAN
Valle de Guadalupe, Baja
When it comes to libations, Mexico may be better known for its margaritas than its malbecs, but these days, Baja’s burgeoning wine scene is worth the time for the trip. About a two-hour drive from the border, Valle de Guadalupe is now home to more than 100 wineries that vary from decades-old family-run operations pouring wines in back barns to newly built architectural gems set up as tasting rooms. Your itinerary will depend on how long you have, how much tasting you’re up for, and if you want to trade paved roads for the region’s many dirt ones. The patio at Sol y Barro, a rustic cob-constructed boutique winery owned by a Swiss designer, is a solid spot for sipping. For a totally different atmosphere, step inside the glass-and-steel structure at Viña de Frannes, a striking contrast to the surrounding vineyards. And the not-to-miss meal that the food world is talking about is chef Diego Hernandez’s ever-changing five-course tasting menu at Corazón de Tierra, showcasing stunning ingredients from the property’s garden and local purveyors for a very reasonable $75 per person.
WHERE TO STAY: The hilltop six-room La Villa Del Valle (which shares a property with Corazón de Tierra) feels like an intimate Mediterranean inn. Casa Ocho at Bruma is a bed-and-breakfast drenched in natural elements of wood, stone, and boulders anchored by an infinity pool, with plans to add a new restaurant this summer.
Sure, you’ve probably made the windy trek up the Palms to Pines Highway to Idyllwild for a day trip before, but it’s well worth making it an overnight visit next time, especially in the dead of summer when the mountain town is a delightful 20-plus degrees cooler than its valley counterpart. Plan your visit around one of Idyllwild’s summer festivals, none as renowned as Jazz in the Pines (Aug. 11–13), when more than two dozen jazz, blues, and R&B artists perform on multiple stages over the weekend on the grounds of the Idyllwild Arts Foundation, located in the San Jacinto Mountains. You can also peruse offerings like jewelry and crafts by local artists along with festival merch at the on-site marketplace. For something quirkier, check out the annual Lemon Lily Festival (June 24–25), an event filled with guided hikes, kids’ events, lectures, and live music, all focused on celebrating and restoring the native lemon lily wildflower.
WHERE TO STAY: The Grand Idyllwild Lodge blends a boutique feel with a craftsman-style lodge, providing lovely common spaces like an expansive wraparound outdoor deck shaded by towering pines, a leather furniture–filled living room with fireplace, and floor-to-ceiling windows revealing dramatic views of the mountains. The nine rooms and suites come equipped with hardwood floors and a mix of décor ranging from mosaic tiles to floating furniture to vintage fixtures.
All that winter rain we received hasn’t just been good for drought relief and wildflower blooms. It has also amped up the rapids for whitewater rafting. Thanks to a heftier-than-normal snowpack on Mount Whitney, the melt will be flowing down to the Kern River all summer long, equating to what the pros are calling the most epic conditions in decades. Kern River Tours offers a menu of trips that range in both length and heart-pounding factor. Get a good overview with the outfit’s Sampler Run that starts with a 3-mile ride on a calmer stretch of river, then moves to two more intermediate runs, totaling about 10 miles and three-plus hours on the water. And if you want to throw in some sleeping under the stars, consider an overnight excursion, where you’ll raft 9 miles to a campsite complete with horseshoes, cliff jumping, and a staff to cook your meals (you simply bring a sleeping bag and, hopefully, a toothbrush), before rafting another 13 miles back the next day.
WHERE TO STAY: If camping isn’t your thing, drive to the nearby town of Kernville where you can rent a riverfront cabin, with some of the more upscale options offering gourmet kitchens and outdoor showers.
PHOTO COURTESY OF BLACK OWL KERN TOURS
THE GREAT ESCAPES (RESOURCES)
Sea Planes of Los Angeles
1140 Wall St., Ste. 125, La Jolla. 808-732-7526;
Island Express Helicopters
1175 Queens Highway, Long Beach. 800-228-2566; islandexpress.com
Twilight at the Casino Tour
1 Casino Way, Avalon. 800-626-1496;
Snug Harbor Inn
108 Sumner Ave., Avalon. 310-510-8400;
221 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. 213-232-6200; thebroad.org
135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. 213-628-2772; centertheatregroup.org/visit/ahmanson-theatre
400 S. Main St., Los Angeles. 213-687-7015; pytlosangeles.com
785 Bay St., Los Angeles. la.smorgasburg.com
The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles
900 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. 213-743-8800; ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/california/los-angeles
Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles
929 South Broadway, Los Angeles. 213-623-3233; acehotel.com/losangeles
21010 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach. 714-960-3647; gopacificcity.com
1016 Pacific Coast Highway, Ste. D200, Huntington Beach. 714-374-0038; dinebluegold.com/lsxo
Ways & Means Oyster House
21022 Pacific Coast Highway, B140, Huntington Beach.714-960-4300; wmoysters.com
Tankfarm & Co.
1034 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach. 714-374-0055; tankfarmco.com
21010 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach. gopacificcity.com/surfing-supply
Paséa Hotel & Spa
21080 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach. 866-478-9702; paseahotel.com
Tony’s on the Pier
210 Fisherman’s Wharf, Redondo Beach. 310-374-1442; oldtonys.com
211 Palos Verdes Blvd., Redondo Beach. 310-375-0500; bettolinokitchen.com
Marina Bike Rentals
505 N. Harbor Drive, Redondo Beach, 310-318-2453; marinabikerentals.com
Hermosa Beach Open
Hermosa Beach Pier, Hermosa Beach. avp.com/event/avp-hermosa-beach-open
Palmilla Cocina y Tequila
39 Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach. 310-374-4440; palmillarestaurant.com
333 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Manhattan Beach. 310-303-3153; trinaturk.com
329 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Manhattan Beach. 310-546-6081; splendid.com
1012 ½ Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach. 310-363-8830; margaretoleary.com
1142 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach. 310-545-5405; eatmbpost.com
Portofino Hotel and Marina
260 Portofino Way, Redondo Beach. 310-379-8481; hotelportofino.com
1221 N. Valley Drive, Manhattan Beach. 310-546-4995; mb.shadehotel.com
655 N. Harbor Drive, Redondo Beach. 310-921-8940; rb.shadehotel.com
1151 Oxford Road, San Marino. 626-405-2100; huntington.org
1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge. 818-952-4390; descansogardens.org
695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. 626-449-5320; vromansbookstore.com
Euro Pane Bakery
950 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. 626-577-1828
White Horse Lounge
41 S. De Lacey Ave., Pasadena. 626-583-9013; whitehorsepasadena.com
The Langham Huntington
1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave., Pasadena. 626-568-3900; langhamhotels.com/en/the-langham/pasadena
SOUTH ORANGE COUNTY
Festival of Arts
650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. 949-497-6582; foapom.com
777 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. 949-494-4514; art-a-fair.com
Sawdust Art & Craft Festival
935 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. 949-494-3030; sawdustartfestival.org
La Casa del Camino
1289 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach. 855-634-5736; lacasadelcamino.com
30801 Coast Highway, Laguna Beach. 866-271-6953; montagehotels.com
Laguna Beach House
475 N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach. 800-297-0007; thelagunabeachhouse.com
The Resort at Pelican Hill
22701 S. Pelican Hill Road, Newport Coast. 855-315-8214; pelicanhill.com
15027 Highway 79, Julian. 760-765-0515; lakecuyamaca.org
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
13652 Highway 79, Julian. 760-765-3020; stateparks.com/cuyamaca.html
Jeremy’s on the Hill
4354 Highway 78, Julian. 760-765-1587; jeremysonthehill.com
2119 Main St., Julian. 760-765-2472; momspiesjulian.com
Julian Gold Rush Hotel
2032 Main St., Julian. 760-765-0201; julianhotel.com
Orchard Hill Country Inn
2502 Washington St., Julian. 760-765-1700; orchardhill.com
Sol y Barro
Carretera El Sauzal de Rodríguez Tecate KM87, Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico. +52 -646-155-3254
Viña de Frannes
Camino Vecinal al rancho Cañada del trigo s/n Valle de Guadalupe C.P. 22750 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico. +52-646-155-2433; viñadefrannes.com
Corazón de Tierra
Rancho San Marcos S/N, El Porvenir, 22750 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico. +52 646 156 8030; corazondetierra.com
La Villa Del Valle
Rancho San Marcos Toros Pintos S/N Km 88 +300, Francisco Zarco, 22750 Ensenada, BC, Mexico. +52-646-156-8007; lavilladelvalle.com/lavilla
Casa Ocho at Bruma
Carretera Tecate-Ensenada km 74, Valle de Guadalupe, Ensenada, B.C., Mexico. +52 646-116-8031; bruma.mx
Jazz in the Pines
Idyllwild Arts Foundation, 52500 Temecula Road, Idyllwild. 951-468-7210; jazzinthepines.com
Lemon Lily Festival
Idyllwild Nature Center, 25225 Highway 243, Idyllwild. 951-659-3850; lemonlilyfestival.com
The Grand Idyllwild Lodge
54820 Pinecrest Road, Idyllwild. 951-659-2383; grandidyllwildlodge.com
Kern River Tours
2712 Mayfair Road, Lake Isabella. 800-573-7238; kernrivertours.com