Palm Springs (285 miles round-trip from Los Angeles)
A nouveau–Rat Pack oasis on the desert floor of California’s Coachella Valley, Palm Springs draws both the country-club set and the design-obsessed. But this resort town famed for its superlative vintage shops and classic architecture is also pleasantly rough around the edges: rocky landscapes, cactus forests, and alpine villages are all there to explore—if you can tear yourself away from that poolside chaise.
Lay of the Land
It’s a straight shot east on I-10 from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, past numbingly identical suburban shopping centers—but for a much richer experience, stop at the spots that most visitors whiz past. In Pomona, a half-hour outside L.A., a quick drive south off the Garey Avenue exit leads to the world-class American Museum of Ceramic Art and the pedestrian-only Antique Row on nearby Second Street.
Want to see pines as well as palms? Detour north from I-10 onto the panoramic Rim of the World Scenic Byway, which snakes up into the San Bernardino National Forest. In under an hour, you’ll arrive at the upscale mountain hamlet of Lake Arrowhead, where you can have lunch overlooking the water.
If your idea of shopping is bagging designer goods for less, then Cabazon, just off I-10, is sheer heaven. The highway-hugging Desert Hills Premium Outlets features 130 stores—from the usual mass-market brands to exclusive labels like Gucci, Etro, Prada, and Tod’s.
Farther ahead, giant silver energy-generating windmills appear on the horizon. To reach Palm Springs, follow U.S. 111, which morphs from a windy strip in the sand into tree-lined Palm Canyon Drive, where much of the best shopping is located. Put the top down and cruise a city rich in Midcentury Modern sights.
The areas outside Palm Springs—like legendary Joshua Tree National Park, about an hour away on rugged Twenty-Nine Palms Highway (CA-62)—are known for almost-lunar expanses. After a self-guided hike on one of the nature trails, end in Desert Hot Springs for a massage and a soak at one of the many thermal mineral-pool resorts. —David A. Keeps
Palm Springs Insider’s Guide
Where to Stay
The New Kid
Great Value The hippest hoteliers in Seattle have turned a once-basic motor lodge into the Ace Hotel & Swim Club (701 E. Palm Canyon Dr.; 877/223-5050 or 760/325-9900; acehotel.com; doubles from $99). The compound includes outdoor fireplaces, poolside yurts, and the darkly atmospheric Amigo Room, where the tables are covered in Mexican pesos.
Great Value A 1930’s Spanish colonial spread built by an alleged mobster, the Colony Palms Hotel (572 N. Indian Canyon Dr.; 800/557-2187 or 760/969-1800; colonypalmshotel.com; doubles from $189) has an exceptional restaurant and a mansion-size pool.
Great Value Desert Modernist William Cody designed the low-slung 1952 Horizon Hotel (1050 E. Palm Canyon Dr.; 800/377-7855 or 760/323-1858; thehorizonhotel.com; doubles from $149) with glass walls to maximize the impressive mountain views.
Great Value After a $70 million renovation, the Riviera Resort & Spa (1600 N. Indian Canyon Dr.; 866/588-8311 or 760/327-8311; psriviera.com; doubles from $169) reopened with eye-popping Hollywood Regency-on-helium décor, including a bedazzled billiard table in the lobby. For quieter accommodations, book in Buildings 4 or 5.
Where to Eat & Drink
The rustic-chic Bin189 (27984 Hwy. 189, Lake Arrowhead; 909/336-1551; lunch for two $40) has a hunting-lodge ambience and hearty dishes like Hungarian goulash and meat loaf.
The menu changes weekly at Cheeky’s (622 N. Palm Canyon Dr.; 760/327-7595; brunch for two $35), a mostly organic spot with vegetarian-friendly yam or persimmon sandwiches, five varieties of bacon, and killer blood-orange mimosas.
This downtown lunch counter ain’t fancy, but it is authentic. At the Cowboy Way BBQ (317 N. Indian Canyon Dr.; 760/322-0265; lunch for two $25), rancher turned restaurateur Daniel Placencia dishes up tri-tip, brisket, pulled pork, and chicken with crunchy Kansas City coleslaw.
Drinking alfresco will have you seeing stars in the cabanas at Dink’s Restaurant & Ultra Lounge (2080 N. Palm Canyon Dr.; 760/327-7676; drinks for two $24). The ambitious cocktail menu includes nine fruit-infused mojitos and a martini with muddled jalapeños (ouch!).
Comfort food with a Continental touch (like filet-mignon chili and Florentine stuffed chicken) packs ’em in at Jake’s Ready to Eat (664 N. Palm Canyon Dr.; 760/327-4400; dinner for two $60).
What to See & Do
Bring a jacket—even in summer—to ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (1 Tramway Rd.; 760/325-1391; pstramway.com) aboard the world’s largest rotating gondolas. The 2 1/2-mile, 10-minute trip up the sheer cliffs of Chino Canyon affords views of the Coachella Valley and the briny desert lake known as the Salton Sea.
Pick up free maps or a $5 guide to Midcentury buildings (by Albert Frey, Richard Neutra, and other masters) at the Palm Springs Historical Society (221 S. Palm Canyon Dr.; 760/323-8297; pshistoricalsociety.org).
Behind the Parker Palm Springs hotel’s decorative façade, the Palm Springs Yacht Club (4200 E. Palm Canyon Dr.; 760/770-5000; theparkerpalmsprings.com) offers full-on pampering. Arrive early to savor designer Jonathan Adler’s naughty nautical twist on Hollywood style.
Spotlight: Palm Springs Shopping
A mix of 20th-century galleries, consignment outlets, and eclectic boutiques makes this town a magnet for design fans. Here are eight stores not to miss.
1. House 849 Hide-covered ottomans, religious and Asian sculpture, even framed insect art: it’s a destination for designers of every stripe—particularly zebra stripe. 849 N. Palm Canyon Dr.; 760/325-7854; house849.com.
3. Studio 111 Palm Springs Twentieth-century furniture alongside vintage tiles by famed sculptor Stan Bitters and contemporary pots by Josh Herman. 2675 N. Palm Canyon Dr.; 760/323-5104; studio111palmsprings.com.
4. Palm Canyon Galleria Arcade with 10 furniture and decorative-arts galleries, including Bon Vivant, a good place to score collectible Blenko glass and Raymor pottery. 457 N. Palm Canyon Dr.; 760/323-4576; palmspringsgalleria.com.
7. Stewart Galleries Antiques and oddities—seashell-encrusted coquillage next to People’s Republic of China figurines—plus 20th-century paintings, from plein-air landscapes to Cubist canvases. 191 S. Indian Canyon Dr.; 760/325-0878; stewartgalleries.com.
Los Angeles to Pomona: 29 miles
Pomona to Cabazon: 76 miles
Cabazon to Palm Springs: 22 miles
Wine Country (259 miles round-trip from San Francisco)
Farm stands and family-run tasting rooms instead of faux châteaux: the word on Northern California’s Anderson Valley is that it’s what Napa used to be 30 years ago. The nearby town of Healdsburg acts as a sophisticated jumping-off point for this rural paradise, whose remote location and sleepy vibe are tempered by the buzz surrounding its wines. This is a destination tailor-made for the golden days of Indian summer.
Lay of the Land
Just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, the Amalfi-like town of Sausalito harbors a worthy shopping stop—the Heath Ceramics Factory Store, known for iconic tableware that’s a favorite with modern-design fans and magazine prop stylists.
Heading north on Highway 101, the usual shopping strips alternate with stretches of bucolic farmland, dotted with ramshackle barns and black-and-white dairy cows. An hour north of Sausalito, Healdsburg has definitely been discovered—numerous restaurants, tasting rooms, and boutiques cluster around the historic plaza, where the Hotel Healdsburg holds court. Yet despite the recently acquired gloss, this remains a small town at heart. The restored Raven Theater presents everything from gospel concerts to the annual Mr. Healdsburg pageant, and the Saturday farmers’ market is one of the social highlights of the week.
Two-lane Highway 128, the main access to the Anderson Valley, twists and turns up a notorious set of steeply graded switchbacks, through rocky ridges and moss-covered oaks. Twenty or so miles later, you’ll emerge onto the valley floor in Boonville, the region’s largest town (all seven blocks of it). Snatches of Boontling, a dialect developed in the 1800’s, still persist—a reminder of the area’s quirky, somewhat insular nature.
The even smaller hamlet of Philo consists of a beloved Mexican restaurant, a tasting room for limited-edition Pinots, and Lemons’ Market, where Tom Lemons sells his own line-caught salmon.
At the valley’s northernmost edge, tiny Navarro feels like something out of a fairy tale: a village deep in the red-woods, with a river that runs to the sea. —Irene Edwards
Wine Country Insider’s Guide
Where to Stay
Awash in sage and earth tones, Hotel Healdsburg (25 Matheson St., Healdsburg; 800/889-7188 or 707/431-2800; hotelhealdsburg.com; doubles from $380) has a lobby surrounded by a constant stream of activity, like jazz dinners and wine tastings. The spa treatments (especially the wine-and-organic-honey wrap) are sublime; the restaurant, Dry Creek Kitchen, is run by acclaimed chef Charlie Palmer, a hotel co-owner.
A streamlined, vaguely Scandinavian aesthetic (Icelandic sheepskin rugs; polished concrete floors) rules in the six light-filled freestanding bungalows at the Duchamp Hotel (421 Foss St., Healdsburg; 800/431-9341 or 707/431-1300; duchamphotel.com; doubles from $350).
Great Value With just four cottages on 550 acres, it’s easy to find solitude at the Other Place (Boonville; 707/895-3979; sheepdung.com; cottages from $140), hidden more than a mile down an unpaved road. The décor is deliberately simple, all the better to let the scenery be the star.
Great Value Everything seems art-directed at the four-room Apple Farm (18501 Greenwood Rd., Philo; 707/895-2333; philoapplefarm.com; doubles from $175)—from the honor-system harvest stand to the arbor-shaded table for alfresco dinners. A homey breakfast of toast and the farm’s own addictive jam awaits each morning in the kitchen, the setting for weekend cooking classes ($625 per person).
Where to Eat & Drink
Pig is something of an obsession at Bovolo Restaurant (106 Matheson St., Healdsburg; 707/431-2962; lunch for two $30), a petite café at the back of Copperfield’s Books. You can get the house-made bacon on a salad, in a sandwich, on pizza, or on pasta. Or throw dietary caution to the winds and dive into the pork-cheek sandwich.
A special-occasion meal in Sonoma County doesn’t get much more lavish than one at Cyrus (29 North St., Healdsburg; 707/433-3311; dinner for two $260), where chef Douglas Keane’s eight-course dinners are an unabashed love letter to foie gras, pork belly, and lobster.
There might only be two entrées and a handful of starters on the menu at the Boonville Hotel (14050 Hwy. 128, Boonville; 707/895-2210; doubles from $125; dinner for two $72), but each dish captures the essence of the season. The duck comes from Sonoma and the fruit from the Apple Farm, and the greens are harvested in the garden. The 10 rooms are cheerful and unpretentious.
As in a small-town version of Cheers, you’ll see the same faces reading the paper or tucking into a bowl of homemade granola at the friendly Mosswood Market & Café (1411 Hwy. 128, Boonville; 707/895-3635; breakfast for two $10).
Fresh ingredients and a surprisingly good wine list set Libby’s (8651 Hwy. 128, Philo; 707/895-2646; dinner for two $28) apart from your average Mexican restaurant. The carnitas are excellent, but so is the Caesar salad: lightly dressed and sprinkled with crunchy tortilla strips.
Where to Shop
The most fashion-forward boutique in town, Arboretum (332 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg; 707/433-7033; arboretumapparel.com) specializes in stylish, sustainable attire for men and women—from organic cotton T-shirts by Turk + Taylor to an Edun dress in sapphire silk.
Vintage furnishings with an industrial-meets-schoolhouse bent (drafting tables, Thonet chairs) are arranged into photo-ready vignettes at 14feet (325 Center St., Healdsburg; 707/433-3391; 14feet.net).
A well-curated general store, Bates & Mailliard Farmhouse Mercantile (14111 Hwy. 128, Boonville; 707/895-3996) turns everyday items like Mason jars and balls of twine into exquisite collectibles.
San Francisco to Healdsburg: 70 miles
Healdsburg to Boonville: 45 miles
Boonville to Philo: 6 miles
Spotlight: Anderson Valley Wine Tour
Don’t let the aw-shucks, mom-and-pop atmosphere of these tasting rooms fool you—this region is a must for oenophiles in the know.
1. Standish Wine Co. The most photogenic tasting room in the valley, in a 19th-century wooden building once used for drying apples. 5101 Hwy. 128, Philo; 707/895-9213.
4. Toulouse Vineyards Founded by retired fire captain Vern Boltz, this small, deceptively humble operation produces much-lauded wines and exceptional grapes. 8001 Hwy. 128, Philo; 707/895-2828.
8. Esterlina Vineyards & Winery Located in the hills, with panoramic views. Tastings are accompanied by bowls of Goldfish and Cheetos—a savory (if irreverent) touch. 1200 Holmes Ranch Rd., Philo; 707/895-2920; esterlinavineyards.com; by appointment only.
Bonus: Beer Stop
Puget Sound (198 miles round-trip from Seattle)
A string of interconnected waterways and islands, Washington’s Puget Sound provides instant access to the majestic side of the Pacific Northwest. Eagles and whales are frequent sights; on clear days, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, and the Olympic Range add to the panoramic sweep of sea and sky. Thanks to numerous ferries and bridges, this looplike journey from Seattle through the forest-cloaked Olympic Peninsula is as easy as it is invigorating.
Lay of the Land
An affluent suburb that’s more like a wooded retreat, Bainbridge Island is a 35-minute ferry ride from Seattle. Country lanes dead-end at picturesque bays, and the streets near the ferry terminal are lined with cafés and boutiques.
Just north, on the Kitsap Peninsula, fluttering Norwegian flags trumpet Poulsbo’s Scandinavian roots. Tiny, landmarked Port Gamble is a pretty cluster of clapboard houses curled around the mouth of Gamble Bay.
Crossing over to the Olympic Peninsula, the road climbs through thick stands of western red cedar before descending into the valley hamlet of Sequim, which a quirk of geography has graced with a microclimate that’s sunnier than the often-rainy Pacific Northwest. The area is flush with lavender fields that may put you in mind of Provence. Three miles north, in the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, one of the world’s longest sandspits extends into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. A walking path wends along a beach strewn with tree-size driftwood to the still-functioning 1857 lighthouse.
To the west, Port Angeles, once the hub of a booming lumber industry, has a laid-back, no-nonsense vibe. It’s the primary gateway to Olympic National Park—which, at 922,000 acres, is bigger than Rhode Island. The park’s diversity is staggering: moss-draped rain forests, jagged cliffs, and glacier-capped peaks.
On the coast’s northeast tip, Port Townsend was a washed-up Victorian burg until an influx of artists kick-started its revival in the 1960’s. Now it’s a bed-and-breakfast mecca.
A ferry across Admiralty Inlet goes to Whidbey Island, home to the Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve (with its bird-filled lagoons) and the town of Langley, with its cosmopolitan restaurants and galleries. —Meeghan Truelove
Puget Sound Insider’s Guide
Where to Stay
Great Value A short walk from the Bainbridge Island ferry, the Eagle Harbor Inn (291 Madison Ave. S.; 206/842-1446; theeagleharborinn.com; doubles from $149) surrounds a small garden, with cozy interiors that feature overstuffed armchairs and Oriental rugs.
Back To Nature
Great Value There are no TV’s or phones to distract from the idyllic views at the Lake Crescent Lodge (416 Lake Crescent Rd., Olympic National Park; 360/928-3211; lakecrescentlodge.com; doubles from $105). Rooms in the converted 1916 tavern and Roosevelt cottages feel the most authentic, thanks to rustic birch furniture and pine-lined walls.
Great Value Decked out in cabbage-rose–patterned wallpaper and wicker chairs, the seven preppy-chic bungalows at Chevy Chase Beach Cabins (3710 S. Discovery Rd., Port Townsend; 360/385-1270; chevychasebeachcabins.com; doubles from $110) conjure a posh, grown-up summer camp—complete with croquet courts and horseshoe pit.
Where to Eat & Drink
The mouthwatering signature sandwich at the Port Angeles CrabHouse (221 N. Lincoln, Port Angeles; 360/457-0424; lunch for two $35) combines Dungeness and Pacific meat on toasted sourdough. Bonus: an unironically retro interior with wraparound vistas of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The perfect antidote to that Pacific Northwest drizzle: a just-pulled Borgia (a mocha laced with orange zest) with your morning eggs at Sweet Laurette’s Café & Bistro (1029 Lawrence St., Port Townsend; 360/385-4886; breakfast for two $30).
Chef Matt Costello of the Inn at Langley (400 First St., Langley, Whidbey Island; 360/221-3033; dinner for two $170) scours nearby farmers’ markets for his six-course prix fixe menus (Whidbey Island lamb loin; citrus-cured wild salmon), served Friday to Sunday. With only one seating a night, the meal can seem like a festive dinner party.
Everyone from tattooed bikers to blue-haired old ladies slurps down the steamed Penn Cove mussels at funky Toby’s Tavern (8 N.W. Front St., Coupeville, Whidbey Island; 360/678-4222; lunch for two $25), which overlooks the waters where the famed bivalves are harvested.
What to See & Do
Lose yourself among the cultivated woodlands and manicured landscapes at the Bloedel Reserve (7571 N.E. Dolphin Dr., Bainbridge Island; 206/842-7631; reservations required), the sprawling former estate of a lumber baron turned passionate horticulturist.
Wild at Heart
Designated by Congress in 1938, mammoth and mountainous Olympic National Park (Visitors’ center at 3002 Mount Angeles Rd., Port Angeles; 360/565-3130; nps.gov) stretches across rugged Pacific coast and lush interior old-growth forests. Daylong explorations are surprisingly simple: in less than an hour, you can drive from Port Angeles to the Hurricane Hill Trail, a 3.2-mile ramble through subalpine meadows and groves, with heart-stopping views of peaks and nearby Vancouver Island.
Three retired army bases are now popular state parks. Kayak through coves at Fort Worden (Port Townsend; 360/344-4400; rentals from $20 per hour), dig for littleneck clams along the shore at Fort Flagler (Marrowstone Island; 360/385-1259), or fly kites on the parade field at Fort Casey (Whidbey Island; 360/678-4519).
In downtown Port Townsend, whimsical Summer House Design (930 Water St., Port Townsend; 360/344-4192) stocks pétanque sets and handblown sake glasses. Artisans on Taylor (236 Taylor St., Port Townsend; 360/379-1029) has lathe-turned madrone-wood bowls. At the Wandering Wardrobe (936 Washington St., Port Townsend; 360/379-4691), score vintage handbags and Jackie O.–style suits.
Seattle to Bainbridge Island: 12 miles
Bainbridge Island to Sequim: 55 miles
Sequim to Port Angeles: 19 miles