Vacation, Anyone? Guides to the Top Places on Our Travel Bucket List | Guides

Alison Rombough

Table of Contents FlyWide Open SpacesGrape EscapesColumbia River Valley, WashingtonHealdsburg, CaliforniaDriveOrange CountyPLAYEAT + DRINKSTAYValle de Guadalupe, Baja CaliforniaPalm Springs Grab your tickets, pack your bags, and let’s get out of town! After over a year of staying close to home, we’re ready for some new sights and sounds, and we […]






Grab your tickets, pack your bags, and let’s get out of town! After over a year of staying close to home, we’re ready for some new sights and sounds, and we bet you are, too. Whether you’re staying within state lines, looking to explore other parts of the country, or going international, we’ve got the details on 15 destinations to inspire your next travel plans. The only thing you have to decide: drive or fly?

Fly

Wide Open Spaces

Montana is the gateway to two national parks, with charming towns in between, and plenty of space to stretch your legs. After a year of staying close to home, look to Big Sky Country to help expand your horizons. No matter which national park is at the top of your agenda, a direct flight out of SAN through Allegiant Air and Alaska Airlines can get you close: Flying to Bozeman lands you 90 minutes out from Yellowstone National Park; flying to Kalispell is 45 minutes from Glacier National Park. (Yellowstone may be mostly in Wyoming, but it’s easier to get to from Montana.)

In Bozeman, the RSVP Hotel is a great place to settle in before venturing out. The boutique hotel offers queen and king guest rooms with a feminine touch (think pink accents, velvet furnishings, and fresh flower deliveries). The owners are sisters and the daughters of a third-generation farmer, so plan to dine on site at Farmer’s Daughters Cafe & Eatery to taste the best of Montana agriculture. Other notable stays are The Lark, which showcases works made by local artists, and the Kimpton Armory Hotel.






Montana - Lamar River

Lamar River

This 40-mile river runs entirely in Yellowstone National Park, starting in the mountains and coursing down through Lamar Valley.


This month is peak season for visiting Yellowstone. Summertime offers full access to the park’s 1,000 miles of trails, so pack your hiking boots. If you’re itching to get out on the water, look to guided kayak tours or fishing along the Gardner and Lamar rivers (be sure to snag a permit at the visitor center beforehand). To experience more of the park’s backcountry, book a llama trek. Options range from single-day to multiday excursions with a group.

Over in Kalispell, the historic Grand Hotel is located in the heart of downtown on Main Street and offers easy access to Kalispell’s surrounding restaurants, shops, and breweries. Check out The DeSoto Grill for some Montana craft beers, Hops Downtown Grill for burgers, and First Avenue Taphouse for both in a relaxed, cozy setting.

When it’s time to venture into Glacier National Park, plan to take the 50-mile scenic route on Going-to-the- Sun Road, the full length of which is open only during summer. The road extends across the whole park and blends into its surroundings, weaving through the mountains, forests, and lakes that make up its scenery. Other activities to make time for include hiking or biking the trails in the valley, river rafting, and fishing along the rivers (permits required). Regardless of your agenda once you get there, take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the park’s namesake before they’re gone.

Grape Escapes

No matter if you head north or south, stay within the state or visit our coastal neighbors, consider California the gateway to some of the best viticultural regions in the world. Sip some vino and see what else these destinations have in store.






Vacation - Tagaris

Tagaris Winery

This family-owned winery has 300 acres of vineyards and a restaurant on site


Columbia River Valley, Washington

This portion of eastern Washington state offers space from crowds and wines to expand your palate. The towns of Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland are right on the Columbia River near the Oregon border, and are home to more than 200 wineries within a 50-mile radius. Called the Tri-Cities, these communities are part of the state’s largest wine region, famous for its chardonnays, rieslings, and bold reds.

Fly to Pasco, then check in at the Lodge at Columbia Point for a relaxing room with riverfront views, then get your bearings at the Columbia Gardens Urban Wine and Artisan Village for samples from wine tasting rooms and a bite at one of the local food trucks. Some key wineries to visit are Barnard Griffin Winery, which has been here for over 40 years, Tagaris Winery and its on-site Mediterranean restaurant, and Bartholomew Winery to try lesser-known varietals like carménère.

Award-winning vintners Chateau Ste. Michelle, Hogue Cellars, and Columbia Crest are a short drive west. For good eats, check out Fiction at J. Bookwalter for lamb burgers and wagyu steak from nearby Snake River Farms, Anthony’s for seasonal seafood, and El Fat Cat Grill for the Fiji tacos (grilled chicken marinated in curry and topped with mango).

If fermentation and terroir excite you, spend an afternoon at Washington State University’s Wine Science Center for a behind-the-scenes look into the research that goes into winemaking, or opt for Water 2 Wine’s river cruise for a three-course dinner at sunset aboard a yacht. While you’re here, explore Sacajawea State Park for hiking, kayaking, and the on-site museum dedicated to the Shoshone woman who guided the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Another bonus when visiting this pocket of the Pacific Northwest: You can leave the umbrella at home. The sun shines nearly every day in this dry climate, so you won’t get any of that dreary Seattle weather.






Vacation - Bricoleur

Bricoleur Vineyards

In addition to the vineyards, Bricoleur is also home to olive groves, a honey farm, fruit orchards, and even bocce courts


Healdsburg, California

This quaint town in the heart of Sonoma County offers the perfect mix of food, drinks, and outdoorsy adventures. Healdsburg’s colorful town square hosts galleries, eateries, farmers’ markets, and over 40 tasting rooms. For the coffee obsessed, head to Black Oak Coffee Roasters for a Lover’s Lane Latte garnished with bee pollen. At newcomer Marine Layer Wines, you’ll find tasting flights of high-end pinots noirs, small-batch chardonnays, and small bites like fava bean and goat cheese crostini. Chef Dustin Valette recently converted his great-grandfather’s 1920s Snowflake Bakery into The Matheson, a trilevel gastro-hub with a restaurant, sushi kitchen, dining loft, and rooftop cocktail garden. There’s Michelin-star dining at SingleThread Farm, kid- and pet-friendly wine tasting at Bricoleur Vineyards, and estate tours of sustainable Amista Vineyards.

Ready to burn off a few calories? You can paddleboard or kayak the Russian River, hike the Fitch Mountain Fire Trails, or bike through the bucolic countryside. Guests of Hotel Healdsburg, H2hotel and Harmon Guest House can bike routes designed by famed cyclist Peter Stetina, or opt for a yellow-jersey experience with a two-night stay, craft beer, and wine tastings during a day of pedaling with the pro himself. Finally, all eyes are on Montage Healdsburg. The sprawling property has its own vineyard, 130 sleek-chic guest rooms, and dreamy glass-box views of the grapevines and mountains.

Drive






Vacation - Disney

Orange County

The Disney theme parks are calling—and rightfully so!—but there’s more to see and do in Anaheim and neighboring Santa Ana. New restaurants, shops, bars, and hotels have opened in the past year, packing the best the area has to offer all within a 15-minute drive.

PLAY

After being closed for more than a year, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park reopened in April, and as of press time California residents are welcome back at 35-percent capacity. While some attractions are temporarily paused, like the parades and character greetings, Disneyland reimagined the Snow White ride, made enhancements to The Haunted Mansion, and updated King Arthur’s Carousel. The Avengers Campus debuted at California Adventure Park in June, and Disney will be announcing its Halloween attractions this summer. One big change is that FastPasses and MaxPasses are no longer sold. In May, wait times for several rides were 15 minutes or less—half an hour for Space Mountain.

New this year: In addition to a ticket, every guest must have a “theme park reservation” for that specific day to gain entrance (both are available online). The Disneyland app is helpful for ordering food and snacks from the quick-service restaurants throughout the park ahead of time—such as the Dole Whip, churros, and drinks at the Galactic Grill. It’s also the only way to get in the queue for the Rise of the Resistance ride at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Downtown Disney recently marked its 20th anniversary, and much has changed in recent years. Feast at Black Tap Craft Burgers & Shakes, savor the ice cream flavors at Salt & Straw, shop decor at Disney Home, and pick up gear at the Star Wars Trading Post. Prepare to make dining reservations in advance, and use the Disneyland app for store waitlists.

In nearby Santa Ana, the Bowers Museum features collections and exhibits that celebrate Southern California’s diversity, including First Californians, Ancient Arts of China, Ceramics of Western Mexico, California Bounty, and Spirits and Headhunters: Art of the Pacific Islands. Two new exhibits open this summer: The Gift of Los Angeles: Memories in Watercolor by Gayle Roski from July 24 to November 14, consisting of 44 watercolors of Los Angeles; and Artistic Legacy: The Ann and Bill Cullen Collection from August 28 to December 19, showcasing 53 paintings and drawings.






Vacation - Mix Mix

Mix Mix Kitchen Bar

Mix Mix chef Ross Pangilinan has prepared multicourse gourmet meals for big events like the Emmys and the Grammys


EAT + DRINK

Food connoisseurs have come to appreciate 4th Street Market’s culinary hub of creative chefs, located in downtown Santa Ana. The past year has brought it many new places to try, including Smörburgers, The Golden Hot Fried Chicken, Burritos La= Palma, Loose Leaf Boba Co., Daily Kombucha, La Vegana Mexicana, and Tuk Tuk Thai Street Food. Hours vary, so plan your visit in the late afternoon or on the weekend when most of them are open.

Headed by award-winning chef Ross Pangilinan, Mix Mix Kitchen Bar has been turning heads ever since it opened in 2016, and it recently expanded to South Coast Plaza and the Long Beach Exchange. The most popular dishes are pork cheek adobo (a twist on his grandmother’s recipe for the classic Filipino dish), and seared albacore tostadas, which Pangilinan describes as “SoCal on a plate.”

The top spot for Cantonese cuisine in Santa Ana is Tan Cang Newport Seafood Restaurant, where you can order the usuals—shrimp fried rice, beef chow fun, whole fish with black bean sauce—but the lobster special is the standout. It’s a four-pound Maine lobster at around $24 per pound, served on a bed of noodles with garlic sauce—that’s enough to feed four people and is perfect for a celebration.

In Anaheim, another food hall, Anaheim Packing District, is inside one  of the last remaining citrus packing warehouses in Orange County. It has a variety of cuisines to choose from, such as Cajun, Indian, Southern, Syrian, Japanese, Mexican, and Thai. You’ll also find gelato, boba teas, and shaved ice. Across the street is the Make Building, which houses Unsung Brewing Company, Pali Wine Company, and Jav’s BBQ. Another dining experience that will impress your taste buds is Anaheim White House, a two-story Italian steakhouse inside a beautiful historic landmark. Try chef-owner Bruno Serato’s signature dishes, braised beef in a cabernet sauvignon reduction and steamed salmon with “white chocolate mashed potato.”






Vacation - Marriott

Parkestry at JW Marriott, Anaheim Resort


STAY

With theme parks all around, there’s no shortage of hotels in and around Anaheim. You might even already have a go-to spot picked out, but you should know there’ve been many new additions in the past year worth checking out on your next visit. The JW Marriott, Anaheim Resort is the brand’s first hotel in Orange County, at the Anaheim GardenWalk entertainment center  just a block away from Disneyland. The luxury hotel has 466 guest rooms and 19 suites, an augmented reality sculpture garden, and an outdoor swimming pool. At the resort’s rooftop bar and lounge, Parkestry, guests can order light bites and handcrafted cocktails while taking in the view.

A mile away, the upscale brand Radisson Blu opened its first California location with 326 rooms, two outdoor heated pools, three restaurants, and two bars. Of course, there can never be too many rooftop bars, so head to the 12th floor of this hotel to find another—Blu SkyBar, featuring Spanish and Southeast Asian cuisine from executive chef Edgar Beas. The brand-new, 310-room Hotel Lulu opened in May, two blocks away from Disneyland. It has a signature restaurant, a pool with “dive-in” movies, a café serving Intelligentsia Coffee, and Disneyland Insider staff on site who have expert knowledge about the park.

Other hotels to check out include the new Westin Anaheim Resort within walking distance of Disneyland and the Anaheim Convention Center, the kid-friendly Home2Suites by Hilton Anaheim Resort, and Element Anaheim Resort Convention Center.






Vacation - Sierra Vita

Sierra Vita

This 12-acre vineyard specializes in petit syrah, merlot, grenache, and malbec varietals


Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California

Baja’s wine country has a treasure trove of fine dining at every turn, in addition to its impressive wines. As the Valle reawakens, its current of creativity is as strong as ever. The new experiential concept Natal Basque feels like a hidden speakeasy in nature, offering rustic experiences like forest bathing, medicinal plant workshops, and pop-up chef dinners under the stars. At Villa Torel, chef Alfredo Villanueva commands the open-air kitchen with relaxed ease. Sip mezcal and Santo Tomás reds and nibble on local ruby tuna with rhubarb or roasted carrots in a duck demi-glace on the terrace. The openhearted spirit of Valle culture abounds at Lechuza Vineyard, where friendly dogs greet guests and owner-winemakers Adam and Kristen share their unfiltered sauvignon blanc, velvety 2016 cabernet, and refreshing estate nebbiolo.

A trip up the hill to Sierra Vita reveals epic views of the valley’s patchwork and the mountain Sierra Blanc. Equally delicious is chef Sandra Vazquez’s pozole, which harkens to her family’s Michoacán heritage and pairs nicely with the winery’s crisp chenin blanc. At Primitivo, choose your protein—duck, fish, octopus, or beef—then savor a five-course sustainable feast under the lantern-lit, 300-year old white oak. Newcomer Bruma Wine Garden nestles under the canopies, a buzzworthy spot with picnic-style panache for mushroom truffle pizza, fresh oysters, and vinos from the estate.

Time to rest: The brand-new Parra del Valle Hotel Boutique charms with spacious, architecturally impressive rooms, ambient fireplaces, shower terraria, and thoughtful textile touches. Take a dip, lounge at the pool bar, and enjoy morning cappuccinos and chilaquiles at their La Botella Bistro.






Vacation - Azure Palm Hot Springs

Azure Palm Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa Oasis


Palm Springs

Our favorite desert destination was busy while we were gone. In the sprawling valley among the towering palm trees, check out the new art, hotels, spas, and activities making the Palm Springs area that much brighter. Azure Palm Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa Oasis recently opened in Desert Hot Springs. Choose from standard rooms or suites with private soaking mineral spring tubs that overlook the Santa Rosa mountain range. Outside, keep that relaxation going with a dip in the mineral spring pool, or step inside the only Himalayan salt room in Southern California. Lie down on the salt bed at the center of the room; the walls are lined with the restorative salt, and hot water heats the room to over 100 degrees to create a sauna-like experience. Additionally, there are 30 spa treatments with packages to combine facials, massages, and other body work.

Everyone loves a comeback, and Casa Cody is no exception. The bed and breakfast was founded in the 1920s and received a full makeover under management company Casetta Group (Pearl Hotel). Electric Bowery led the design to bring the property’s adobe hacienda foundation a modern-day aesthetic. Each casita is unique, with decor that nods to its Spanish Revivalist history. Pair that with luxe amenities like  Parachute bedding, two swimming pools, and an edible garden, and consider your vacation beneath the bougainvillea booked.






Vacation - Desert X

An installation at Desert X


When you’re ready to expand your horizons past your hotel grounds, look to Palm Springs’ new Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza. The museum, which covers the history and culture of the Agua Caliente band of Cahuilla Indians, also houses a garden, a spa in honor of the tribe’s mineral hot spring (Séc-he in the Cahuilla language), and a walking trail that evokes their nearby ancestral canyon homes. 

Desert X showcases contemporary art installations throughout Palm Springs and surrounding areas. The exhibits feature work by local and international artists, and the themes rotate every season; this year the focus is on the pandemic and social justice issues. 

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