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23 great getaways in Southern California and beyond

Photo by Chuck Place

For some of us, a getaway can mean simply checking into a comfy hotel for a few days. For others, it might mean exploring a small town, hitting an unfamiliar beach, or sipping and noshing in wine country. Some travelers won’t be satisfied unless they’ve crossed state lines. Whatever your jam, we know that time is often limited.

To inspire your next trip, we’ve compiled 23 great destinations for 2023, all of which you can reach within roughly a 6-hour drive or 3-hour flight (from L.A.), so you can spend less time getting there and more time being there.

1. Central Oregon

Koosah Falls

Photo by Helbert Ruiz/Getty Images

By Brad Wright

Why Go? Active adventures, craft beer, food scene, live music.

This pristine region on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Range lures adventurous souls like a siren song. It’s where glacier-fed wilderness meets lava-strewn plains and the high-desert plateau, so you can hike to emerald-forest waterfalls (Sahalie and Koosah Falls Loop) one day and scale craggy cliffs (Misery Ridge Trail) the next.

“Mountains, lakes, rivers, valleys, trails—we have them all,” says Deschutes Brewery owner Gary Fish, who united this region’s outdoorsy lifestyle with a craft beer revolution when he launched his first brewpub in Bend in 1988.

Bend remains the beating heart of Central Oregon’s outdoor playground. In the summer, tubers float down the Deschutes River, surfers catch waves at Bend Whitewater Park, and music fans groove to big-name acts at the recently renovated Hayden Homes Amphitheater.

But Bend’s Central Oregon neighbors are increasingly popping up on savvy travelers’ radars. New taprooms and restaurants give a modern sheen to the Western-themed artist enclave of Sisters, the gateway to the Mount Washington and Three Sisters wilderness areas.

New nonstop flights from Burbank and Palm Springs (plus flights from LAX and San Diego) connect to the hub’s airport in the fast-growing city of Redmond, near Smith Rock State Park, a rock-climbing mecca.

The SCP Redmond Hotel (rates start at $149), in a revitalized 1927 building, draws guests to its rooftop bar and Terra Kitchen, its plant-forward fine-dining restaurant. And while Bend is widely recognized as one of the most brewery-dense cities in the country, 4 of the 30 breweries on the Bend Ale Trail are in downtown Redmond—within walking distance of the SCP Redmond Hotel. So you can toast to your outdoor exploits and stroll back to your room.

You may also like: 4 perfect days in Central Oregon

2. Lake Arrowhead

Arrowhead Resort

Photo by Eric Van Eyke

By Leslie Mieko Yap

Why Go? Lakeside retreat, spa, outdoor activities.

Nestled in the San Bernardino National Forest, the AAA Four Diamond Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa (rates start at $179) is a low-key, rustic-chic retreat where guests can enjoy an elevated nature escape—and we’re not just referring to the 5,174-foot altitude.

Want to hunker down surrounded by comfort? You can spend an entire weekend without leaving this 171-room lakefront property, whose history dates to 1923. Slip into vacation mode with a spa treatment, then soak in views of the ponderosa pines from the pool or private beach.

The on-site Bin 189 Restaurant & Bar serves contemporary American cuisine in a cozy dining room decorated with tree stumps and antler chandeliers. If you decide to explore off-property, walk to Lake Arrowhead Village (shops, outlets, restaurants) and take a 1-hour narrated boat ride with Lake Arrowhead Queen Boat Tours.

Hike one of the many nearby trails, then reward yourself with a meal at Jetties Waterfront Kitchen + Drink or see what’s on tap at Lake Arrowhead Brewing Company. A short drive away is SkyPark at Santa’s Village (open year-round despite its name), where you can go zip lining, rock climbing, and mountain biking.

Santa Ynez Valley

By Meghan O’Dell

Why Go? Shopping, dining, wine country Old West vibe.

The 2004 movie Sideways put this Central California wine region on the map, and today it’s thriving, thanks to inviting small towns, great dining, and at times transcendent pinot noir and other varietals.

Base yourself at the new Inn at Zaca Creek (rates start at $364) in Buellton. You’ll enjoy the inn’s old-world ambience, lively tavern, and hilltop pool—and easy access to this trio of walkable towns, each just a 10- to 15-minute drive away.

3. Santa Ynez

Santana Ynez

Photo by Chuck Place

This tiny town delights with Old West vibe facades, hitching posts, and horseshoe-embedded crosswalks. Grab coffee and breakfast tacos at Pony Espresso and peruse the modern Western apparel at Santa Ynez General store. Be sure to take in the views at Roblar Winery.

4. Los Olivos

More than 25 tasting rooms in just 2.5 square miles make Los Olivos an oenophile’s dream. Beer lovers and foodies will also be content: The Other Room serves hard-to-find wines and local brews, while Nella Kitchen & Bar whips up inventive cocktails and delicious Cal-Italian cuisine.

5. Los Alamos

Los Alamos’ 7-block thoroughfare is studded with restaurants, tasting rooms, and shops. New retailers include Elder Flat Farm Store, featuring organic produce and cheese, and home goods purveyor Campover. Finish the day with a fireside drink at the Alamo Motel’s new Bar Alamo.

You may also like: Spend a perfect fall weekend in California’s Santa Ynez Valley

6. Murphys

Big Tree State Park

Photo by Chris Axe/Getty Images

By Jennie Nunn

Why Go? Gold rush town, cave touring, hiking, wine tasting.

Given its prime location in the Sierra foothills between Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe, Murphys should be a household name. Yet many Californians have never heard of this gold rush town (population 2,000) that’s big on history and adventure, not to mention great food and wine.

The town was founded by brothers Daniel and John Murphy, who settled in the area in 1848. Check in to the 167-year-old Murphys Historic Hotel (rates start at $100) and browse the shops, galleries, and restaurants on leafy Main Street.

Then head out to see some caves. At Mercer Caverns, you can descend 160 feet on a guided tour and, with the flip of a switch, experience the kind of darkness that prospectors endured during mining’s heyday. To explore more caves, check out California Cavern State Historic Landmark, the state’s longest cavern system.

Rest and refresh with a picnic lunch at Ironstone Vineyards before driving 12 miles to Calaveras Big Trees State Park to hike amid majestic giant sequoias.

You may also like: 5 classic California road trips

7. Paso Robles

Los Olivas

Photo courtesy Pasolivos/Chris Leschinsky

By Jim Benning

Why Go? Wine tasting, olive oil sampling, vineyard views, Sensorio.

With sprawling wineries, ambitious restaurants, and mineral hot springs, Paso Robles has long been a feast for the senses, but the feast is now more bountiful than ever. Artist Bruce Munro’s solar-powered light installation is no small factor.

On Thursday through Sunday evenings, 100,000 multihued lights illuminate rolling fields, giving strolling visitors an ethereal experience. Bruce Munro: Light at Sensorio opened in 2019, but it continues to evolve: A Light Towers exhibit was added in 2021, an on-site restaurant opened earlier this year, and more installations are planned. Buy tickets in advance; the Terrace Experience includes guaranteed seating, a drink, and elevated views—a great way to cap a day spent exploring the area.

Where to begin? For lunch, head to Calcareous Vineyard, whose hilltop perch affords sweeping views. Stop by Pasolivo’s olive groves to sample more than a dozen olive oils made on-site. If the harvest is underway (usually in early November), watch as the freshly plucked fruit is transformed into liquid gold. (Pasolivo has a storefront in downtown Paso, too.) Consider exploring the town’s many wine-tasting rooms: Herman Story Wines, for example, showcases delicious blends from this region dubbed America’s “Rhône Zone.”

For dinner, make a beeline to In Bloom, where the fresh take on California cuisine recently earned the restaurant a place in the Michelin Guide. If you’re staying in one of the new Lofts at Paso Market Walk (rates start at $229), it’s only a few paces back to your modern, comfortable suite.

8. Santa Barbara

State Street Promenade

Photo by Karna Hughes

By Jim Benning

Why Go? Shopping, dining, the beach.

Of all the SoCal streets transformed during the pandemic, perhaps none was altered as dramatically—or invitingly—as Santa Barbara’s State Street.

A 10-block stretch from Sola to Gutierrez streets in the heart of downtown has been closed to cars since 2020, and plans are underway to make the change permanent.The result? The mile-long, newly dubbed State Street Promenade feels like Santa Barbara’s answer to Barcelona’s La Rambla: a lively pedestrian thoroughfare with shops, restaurants, and outdoor dining.

Throw in a couple of nights at Drift Santa Barbara (rates start at $284), which opened on State Street in February, for a refreshing seaside escape. And for a carless getaway, take the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner to the downtown Santa Barbara station.

You may also like: Top pick-your-own farms in Southern California

9. Scottsdale, Arizona

Desert Yoga

Photo courtesy Four Seasons

By Jennie Nunn

Why Go? Sun, spa, stroll.

Sure, Scottsdale is making headlines as a top choice for bachelorette parties, but you don’t have to be getting hitched—or know someone who is—to enjoy a memorable desert getaway here. In fact, for anyone looking to check in and chill out, the Phoenix suburb’s world-class resorts, spas, and golf courses make it a supremely compelling destination.

Luxury seekers should unwind at the newly opened AAA Five Diamond Privado Villas at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess (rates start at $669), which provides chauffeur service. Those who want to commune with the Sonoran Desert should head to the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North (rates start at $750). Its spa’s Desert Bathing experience—a twist on the Japanese wellness practice of forest bathing—includes a meditative hike amid saguaro cacti.

Meanwhile, fans of mid-mod decor and moderate prices should consider the retro boutique Hotel Valley Ho (rates start at $206).

To see more of the area, check out Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home. Or take a 2-hour golf-cart tour with JoyRidesAZ; stops include the 1933 Old Adobe Mission and Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. Historic Old Town is filled with art galleries and restaurants, not to mention hitching posts that will remind you of Scottsdale’s Old West roots.

You may also like: 10 cool things to do in and around Phoenix

10. Sonoma County

Farmhouse Inn

Photo by Paul Ferradas

By Lizbeth Scordo

Why Go? Pampering, fine dining, luxury digs.

For a getaway splurge in one of California’s most fabled wine regions, settle in for a few special nights at the Farmhouse Inn (rates start at $703), helmed by a brother and sister who are fifth-generation Sonoma farmers. This intimate property in Forestville, anchored by pale yellow farmhouse-style structures, exudes a welcoming country-chic feel.

Farmhouse Spa

Photo by Tambourine

Guests can partake in the standout spa, as well as the culinary program, highlighted by the AAA Four Diamond Farmhouse Restaurant, which fuses fine dining with farm-to-table fare. A daily wine hour with a local winemaker offers a chance to taste something new.

But you’ll want to also venture off the property. The staff is happy to arrange curated experiences for guests—from tastings at some of the area’s more than 400 wineries and tasting rooms to kayaking excursions on the Russian River.

You may also like: 3 amazing days in Sonoma County

11. Coronado Island

Coronado Ferry

Photo by bennymarty -

By Brad Wright

Why Go? Beach town, bicycling, baseball, live music.

Coronado Island may not technically be an island, but with golden beaches, a chill bike path, and people grooving to live classic rock on sandy shores on a Sunday afternoon, who cares? It feels like you’ve escaped to an island. And the beauty of this paradisiacal peninsula is that you can enjoy all the charms of this laid-back beach town during the day and then take the Coronado Ferry across San Diego Bay to see a concert or a Padres game in the evening.

The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, which opened in 2021 as the summer home of the San Diego Symphony, is like a mini Hollywood Bowl, with acts ranging from jazz to rock. Baseball fans can make the short walk to Petco Park, which on Fridays offers a pregame party in Gallagher Square with a live band and drink specials starting at $5.

Act early to reserve one of the 35 rooms at the Crown City Inn & Bistro (rates start at $149), which is perfectly situated midway between the Coronado Ferry Landing and Coronado Central Beach and within walking distance of shops and restaurants. The inn even provides complimentary bicycle rentals.

Serious riders can tackle the 24-mile Bayshore Bikeway, while leisurely vacationers can simply cruise the 6-mile loop around town, stopping to soak up live music oceanside at the Hotel del Coronado’s new Beach & Taco Shack or bayside at the ferry landing’s weekend concert series. Or both. Good vibes and breezy tunes will follow you everywhere on this fantasy “island.”

You may also like: Top 10 romantic places in Southern California

12. Greater Palm Springs

By Elisabeth Abrahamson

Why Go? Art, hot springs, boutique hotels, dining scene.

Palm Springs and the towns around it draw people from the world over looking to bask in the sun, take in the mid-mod architecture, and generally play in the glorious desert. But the area is always evolving, giving visitors new spots to explore.

Case in point: the soon-to-open Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza, which tells the story of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.

Located in the heart of downtown Palm Springs, the plaza features a wellness spa, which opened in April, at the site of an ancient hot mineral spring. A hands-on, 48,000-square-foot museum and an interpretive walking trail are scheduled to open later this year.


Check in to one of the adobe-style bungalows at The Paloma Resort (rates start at $195) in Cathedral City, about 8 miles southeast of downtown Palm Springs. The new property has a lively pool scene and neon-covered walls. The on-site restaurant Sol Y Sombra serves tapas-style dishes.


Modernism Museum

Photo courtesy Tracy Turco

The new Modernism Museum in Palm Springs showcases the best of midcentury modernism. Snap a selfie in the over-the-top ’70s Mellow Yellow room or in the heart-shaped pink bathtub.


New on the desert dining scene, Porta Via in Palm Desert stands out with sustainable seafood and meat selections and plush green velvet booths. Don’t miss the ‘ahi tuna tower appetizer with fresh mango and avocado over sticky white rice.


Soak in one of 5 mineral pools at Azure Palm Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa Oasis in Desert Hot Springs. Also access gas-fired saunas, winding reflexology paths, and a yoga studio. Overnight guests can try the Himalayan salt room and the desert ice room.

You may also like: Palm Springs: cool spots to stay, eat, and shop

13. Reno, Nevada

Reno Nevada

Photo by Jeremy Fukunaga

By Melinda Fulmer

Why Go? River adventures, bike paths, arts festivals, epic climbing wall.

If you think Reno is just a mini Las Vegas, think again. Casinos, once the main attraction in the “Biggest Little City in the World,” don’t even make the cut for many visitors. These days, those in the know go for outdoor adventures and to hang in the trendy Midtown district, with its public art tours, eclectic restaurants, breweries, and festivals centered on music, film, and dance.

Summertime visitors should float down the Truckee River—part lazy river, part gentle rapids—which flows through the town. Sierra Adventures provides tubes, rafts, and kayaks, as well as transportation upriver. To explore on foot, walk the Tom Cooke Trail, an easy 3.7-mile dog-friendly loop next to the river. If you prefer 2-wheeled adventures, ride the Truckee River Bike Path, a 12-mile-long, relatively flat paved trail. (A number of local hotels loan bikes to guests.)

Be sure to stop by The Eddy, a collection of shipping containers that was transformed into a funky outdoor community space with yard games, beer on tap, and wine and cocktails. Climbers, take note: The world’s largest outdoor artificial climbing wall (according to Guinness World Records) is on the exterior of the Whitney Peak Hotel.

14. Costa Mesa

Orange County Museum of Art

Photo by Mike Kelley

By Lorna Corpus

This city’s eminently walkable Theater and Arts District was already drawing visitors from afar thanks to ambitious productions at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

But the district got a major boost last fall with the opening of the Orange County Museum of Art’s brand-new home. Designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Thom Mayne, the glittering museum showcases the work of artists with California ties and is free to the public. Reserve tickets for a show or two at the Segerstrom Center, then plan the rest of your getaway around them.

To be within strolling distance of, well, everywhere you need to be, check in to the Westin South Coast Plaza (rates start at $199). A free self-guided Costa Mesa Art Walk audio tour will lead you to 20-plus art pieces around the city, some hidden in plain sight.

When you’ve worked up an appetite, try Singapore-based Paradise Dynasty (which opened its first U.S. outpost here in 2021 and features mouthwatering Asian dumplings) or Michelin-starred Knife Pleat. Both restaurants are located in South Coast Plaza—a shopping mall so huge it’s a destination on international itineraries.

You may also like: Carless in Costa Mesa, California


By Leslie Mieko Yap

Why Go? Arts, culture, concerts, craft beer, outdoor adventure, family-friendly.

Outdoorsy Americans flocked to Colorado ski towns to play during the pandemic, but the allure of the Rockies is, of course, timeless. Choose any one of these Colorado cities for a quick summer escape or combine all 3 into a longer trip: Fly into Denver and spend a couple of nights in the Mile High City, then rent a car and head to Breckenridge. Got more time? Continue on to Vail. Each place showcases the Rockies in all their glory while rocking its own distinct personality.

15.  Denver

Red Rocks Amphitheater


The region’s arts and culture hub boasts world-class museums, including the Denver Art Museum, which has 3 new galleries opening May 14—one of them spotlighting African art. For a psychedelic good time, head to Meow Wolf Denver. The immersive art experience conceived in Santa Fe recently opened its largest (4 stories high) outpost here with more than 70 whimsical rooms, installations, and portals.

Concertgoers from around the country flock to the 9,545-seat Red Rocks Amphitheater for its unmatchable ambience and acoustics.

Beer aficionados can sample Denver’s craft beer scene at one of its 100-plus taprooms or time their visit for the Great American Beer Festival (September 21–23), one of the largest such events in the country.

16. Breckenridge

Step back in time at this former gold rush town, preserved as a National Historic District. The Blue River trickles through town, and brightly colored Victorian buildings from the 1880s and ’90s—now housing shops, restaurants, and galleries—line Main Street. Learn about Breck’s transformation from mining town to ski resort at the Welcome Center’s free museum.

Beyond that, the sky’s the limit for recreation: mountain biking, white-water rafting, fly-fishing, and hiking opportunities abound in summer. A free downtown shuttle stops at several trailheads. Families will love the free gondola from town up to Epic Discovery (open June 17 through Labor Day), an adventure park (fee required) with an alpine slide, a zip line, a coaster, and more.

17. Vail

With their Bavarian-inspired architecture, cobblestone streets, and flowing fountains, Vail’s 2 ski villages may give off Disneyland vibes, but their charm is the real deal. Start your visit at the free Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame, which covers everything from ski fashion to the 10th Mountain Division troopers of World War II.

From there, stroll the path along Gore Creek to the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, which specializes in mountain plants from around the world and is said to be North America’s highest-elevation botanical garden. Then head outside of town for some world-class hiking, mountain biking—or even llama trekking—or sign on to raft down one of the area’s coursing rivers.

18. Spokane, Washington

Spokane Gondola

Photo by Kirk Fisher/

By Leslie Mieko Yap

Why Go? Large urban park, scenic river float, botanic gardens, emerging restaurant scene.

Perhaps best known as the home of Gonzaga University, Washington’s second-largest city might surprise you with its numerous attractions, many within walking distance (or a short Uber ride) of its spiffed-up 8-square-block downtown.

Settle in at the AAA Four Diamond Historic Davenport Hotel (rates start at $174) or one of its nearby sister properties. Opened in 1914, this storied hotel has hosted luminaries from Amelia Earhart to Elvis Presley. Whether or not you stay here, sit for a bit in the ornate Spanish Renaisance-style lobby, or enjoy a craft cocktail at the Peacock Room Lounge and admire its 5,000-piece stained-glass ceiling.

From there, stroll to the city’s centerpiece: the recently renovated 100-acre Riverfront Park, site of the 1974 World’s Fair. The city preserved several fair attractions, like the gondola ride over Lower Spokane Falls and the hand-carved Looff Carrousel, and created a roller-skating “ribbon” (instead of a rink), an open-air concert venue, and kids’ play spaces. Don’t leave the park without sliding down the giant red wagon and feeding the garbage-eating goat sculpture (spoiler alert: there’s a vacuum in its belly).

Hotel guests can use the Davenport’s complimentary bikes to follow the Centennial Trail through the park to Kendall Yards, a mixed-use neighborhood with shops, restaurants, and unobscured views of the city and the Spokane River. Grab a bite to eat at The Yards Bruncheon, a popular, elevated diner helmed by James Beard Award nominee Adam Hegsted, whose menu features such items as bulgogi kalbi short ribs and braised cabbage in corned beef hash.

People's Waffle

Photo by Leslie Yap

Hotel guests can use the Davenport’s complimentary bikes to follow the Centennial Trail through the park to Kendall Yards, a mixed-use neighborhood with shops, restaurants, and unobscured views of the city and the Spokane River. Grab a bite to eat at The Yards Bruncheon, a popular, elevated diner helmed by James Beard Award nominee Adam Hegsted, whose menu features such items as bulgogi kalbi short ribs and braised cabbage in corned beef hash.

The food offerings here are wide-ranging and wow-worthy. People’s Waffle (pictured) featuring both sweet and savory waffles, is among the restaurants in town with vegetarian and gluten-free options. Try the Benny—an eggs Benedict served atop waffles made using almond milk and a special flour. On the same street, Mizuna has an extensive vegetarian menu (the Crispy Gorgonzola Polenta and Meatless Meat Loaf are popular choices) alongside its nonvegetarian options.

Zonca Blanca Ceviche Bar

Photo by Leslie Yap

For dinner, try the Baja-inspired tacos and seafood at Zona Blanca Ceviche Bar, opened by James Beard finalist Chad White (pictured), who returned to his hometown after appearing on Top Chef. White sources octopus from Spain, tuna from Hawaii, shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico, and mahi mahi from the Sea of Cortez. 

“We stay authentic, but I’m not afraid of spice and flavor,” he says. White and Hegsted are among the chefs creating a buzz around Spokane’s dining scene. Says White, “More and more chefs here are pushing the envelope.

How to fill your days? Take a guided rafting trip or scenic float with outfitter Wiley E. Waters on the Spokane River; the put-in is so close to downtown that locals like to paddle before or after work. For more contemplative time, stroll around Manito Park and its 5 distinct gardens; the Nishinomiya Tsutakawa Japanese Garden’s newly refurbished koi pond is stunning. At the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, view one of the largest collections of Plateau Indian artifacts while learning about the region’s history.

When the sun sets, don’t settle into your hotel just yet. You’ll find plenty of evening entertainment downtown. The city has a world-class symphonya performing arts center, plus a well-respected concerted venue and a comedy club. Check out the lineup at Bing Crosby Theater (upcoming acts include That Motown Band and the Spokane Jazz Orchestra), named after the city's hometown hero.

Festival Note
Spokane hosts a number of festivals year-round, but its biggest draw is the summer Spokane Hoopfest (this year June 24-25). One of the world's largest 3-on-3 outdoor basketball tournaments with more than 6,000 teams, 3,000 volunteers, and 225,000 fans filling 45 downtown blocks for 2 days.

19. Idyllwild

By Meghan O’Dell

Why Go? Hiking, cute cafés, live music.

Artists and outdoor enthusiasts have been flocking to this mountain village for decades for good reason: It’s eclectic, walkable, and welcoming. Today, people still make the trek to enjoy familiar mainstays while also discovering something new. Fuel up at Alpaca Brunch Café before hiking the 5-mile round-trip Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail, then reward yourself with a bubble waffle or Nutella crepe at the new Mamma Mia’s Crepes & Desserts.

Check out shops like Hunky Dory, a record store that invites you to listen to music on the patio, and Ephemera, a bazaar for all things vintage and pop culture.

In the evening, enjoy live music at Idyll Awhile or sip a glass of natural wine or craft beer at the new Wine Finch as you watch the sunset’s fiery reflection on Tahquitz Peak.

At Ferro, indulge in authentic Italian fare under brilliantly starry skies before hitting the hay at the newly renovated The Creekstone (rates start at $175) or in one of Hicksville Pines’ colorful A-frame cabins (rates start at $165), with themed rooms that range from Dolly Parton to Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion.

20. Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz

Photo by Lauren Devon/Getty Images

By Derrik J. Lang

Why Go? Rugged outdoors, beach culture, seaside boardwalk.

With an expanding culinary scene, quirky attractions, and ragged coast, this Northern California town charms with its mix of beachy culture, nature, and chill vibes. And you can reconnect with a vital swath of the Santa Cruz Mountains at California’s oldest state park, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, about an hour outside of town. The park has partially reopened (reservation required) after suffering a devastating wildfire in 2020.

In Santa Cruz, start by exploring Lighthouse Field State Beach and the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum inside the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse. From there, you can easily drive or bike to the city’s other beacon, the Walton Lighthouse, for a photo op. Next, hit the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the classic seaside amusement park where the 1924 Giant Dipper still thrills.

For a unique dining experience in nearby Capitola, head to Shadowbrook. At this sprawling institution that opened in 1947, you can ride a funicular from the parking lot down to the front door.

Base yourself at Chaminade Resort & Spa (rates start at $329), perched high in the Santa Cruz Mountains overlooking Monterey Bay. The recently updated resort started in 1904 as a private residence and now has a disc golf course, pickleball courts, and a splashy pool complex.

You may also like: Exploring the Channel Islands, California’s Galápagos

21. Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe shopping

Photo by Joseph Sohm

By Allison Belda

Why Go? Art, culture, history, Southwestern fare.

A haven for artists since the late 1800s, Santa Fe is now home to more than 250 art galleries—not to mention award-winning restaurants, the beloved Santa Fe Opera, and the original Meow Wolf interactive museum.

Start at Museum Hill, the site of 4 world-class museums, including the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, which recently unveiled a collection of 600 Indigenous items spanning tribes and generations. Then make your way to Canyon Road to explore its galleries and studios.

Treat yourself to a classic Southwestern meal at La Plazuela, located in the historic La Fonda Hotel. Then sip a lavender-infused cocktail at the new Bar Norte before calling it a night at The Inn and Spa at Loretto (rates start at $167).

You may also like: 10 affordable restaurants in Santa Fe, New Mexico

22. Ojai

Meditation Mount

Photo by Spiritofamerica/

By Tanvi Chheda

Why Go? Small-town pace, artsy vibe, wellness focus

Ojai feels a world apart from frenetic urban life thanks to the idyllic town’s artsy aura and embrace of all things wellness. In recent years, this diminutive town (population 7,400) has undergone a quiet renaissance, with new restaurants, shops, art galleries, and hotels cropping up.

Two beloved Ojai experiences not to miss: browsing the mostly secondhand titles at Bart’s Books, said to be the world’s largest outdoor bookstore, and capturing the sunset view of the Topatopa Mountains from Meditation Mount, a hilltop nonprofit meditation center (open by appointment).

If you’re in town on a Sunday, stop by the Ojai Certified Farmers’ Market, where you’ll brush elbows with locals while browsing not only fruits and veggies, but also hot sauces, jams and preserves, olive oils, and breads.

23. San Francisco Presidio


Photo by James Corner Field Operations

By Elisabeth Abrahamson

Why Go? Family-friendly, outdoor activities, Golden Gate Bridge photo ops

Visitors to San Francisco have stopped by the Presidio for years to stroll along the bay and take in postcard views of the Golden Gate Bridge. But thanks to recent developments at the 1,500-acre parkland—a small but critical slice of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area—there’s never been a better time to base yourself here and soak in the outdoorsy NorCal vibes.

After checking in to the 42-room Lodge at the Presidio (rates start at $350), housed in a former 1890s U.S. military building, get out and explore. It’s about a 30-minute walk to the bridge, but that’s just the start. You’ll find 24 miles of hiking trails, 25 miles of biking trails, 8 scenic overlooks, 2 museums, and abundant green space. Tunnel Tops is a new 14-acre section of parkland built over the Presidio Parkway (US 101) that has picnic areas and a nature playscape for kids.

Carless? Not a problem. Presidio Go, the area’s free public shuttle system, offers rides around the park and connects with the city’s major transit hubs.

When hunger calls, check out the new Colibrí Mexican Bistro, housed in the Presidio Officers’ Club building, for cuisine such as pan-seared duck breast served over green mole. Grab dessert at the Presidio Social Club; try the Neapolitan rum baba (sponge cake drenched in a boozy, citrusy syrup).

Beyond that, you might catch a performance at the Presidio Theatre, which reopened in late 2019 after a $44 million renovation, or explore the Walt Disney Family Museum, which is now celebrating 100 years of the life and work of its namesake animator.

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