I spent over a month in California last year, rekindling my love affair with the Golden State, which has been ongoing since my first visit in 2010. 840 mi (1,350 km) of coastline are certainly a big draw of the state, but I also love the many wine regions (there’s more than just Napa!), the mountains, National Parks, small towns such as Santa Barbara and big cities like L.A. or San Francisco. California will be a regular stop in the future, and this year, I’d love to make a girls getaway happen – I’ve already started looking into California vacation rentals and found some stunning villas that are perfect for a girls’ getaway. The toughest thing will be deciding where to go… a luxury retreat in Orange County? A glamping weekend in Big Sur? Touring the wineries of Northern California? All I know is that I’ll be doing it in style.If you are thinking about a girls’ getaway to California, here are five destination for an epic weekend getaway:
1 A Spa Weekend in Palm Springs
What’s better than some desert sun to recharge your batteries? When it comes to wellness and pampering yourself, Palm Springs is a solid choice. Almost all of the desert resorts have a day spa, so book yourselves some relaxing massages, ayurvedic treatments, mud baths and yoga sessions. Some of the best spas in town include the Spa at Desert Springs which offers a plethora of saunas, steam rooms and pools, and an outdoor saltwater pool; the hacienda-inspired Spa La Quinta at the La Quinta Resort & Club, and a short drive from Palm Springs: Two Bunch Palms Resort and Spa in the town of Desert Hot Springs, which is famous for its natural hot- and cold-water aquifers that run underneath the city surface and thus make it a spa lover’s dream. Moon Travel Guides has a full list of the very best spas in Palm Springs.
Spend the rest of your weekend exploring the desert-scape: head up into the mountains on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, go for a hike in the Jacinto Mountains or in the Indian Canyons, go for a drive in the stunningly beautiful Joshua National Park (about an hour east of Palm Springs). Of course there’s also plenty of shopping in Palm Springs – I recommend the Desert Hills Premium Outlets.
2 Wine tasting in Sonoma County
I love Sonoma County – the small towns, the Redwoods, the 425 wineries. I’ve found the scenery to be just as picturesque as Sonoma Wine Country’s more famous neighbor, Napa Valley, but less pretentious. A weekend filled with wine tastings in different wineries is the perfect getaway for wine loving girls like me. If you base yourself in Santa Rosa, don’t miss Paradise Ridge Winery (right on the outskirts of town) with its beautiful sculpture garden (Marijke’s Grove) and sweeping views over the valley. Head over to Guerneville and spend some time in the Russian River – Johnson’s Beach is perfect for canoeing, kayaking, and other water sports. Take a break from wine tasting and go for a hike in the Armstrong Redwoods. If you base yourself in Healdsburg, you’re in for a treat: not only does the charming small town sit on the juncture of three prime wine growing regions — the Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Alexander Valley wine appellations, but it also known for its excellent dining options and fabulous art galleries.
3 A ski weekend in Lake Tahoe
For ladies who love snow and skiing, there’s no better place for a girls getaway than Lake Tahoe. California’s #1 ski region, and largest Alpine Lake in all of North America, has much more to offer than winter sports in the Olympic Valley – if you’re looking for an active getaway, Lake Tahoe is a great destination at any time of year. The stunningly beautiful lake itself is great for swimming, kayaking, fishing, sailing, or simply resting on its shore, and no matter what side of the lake you’re on: there are hiking and mountain biking trails, state parks, national forests, and protected tracts of wilderness – perfect for an action-packed weekend!
4 Art & Shopping in Venice Beach
If you are looking for a weekend of shopping and art, I suggest basing yourselves in Venice Beach. Abbot Kinney Boulevard is just a few blocks down from the beach and filled with boutiques and independent stores, coffee shops and eateries. The boulevard has been named ‘America’s coolest block’ for a reason – it’s a place where you go to see and be seen. Don’t miss rag & bone, milkmade, Alternative Apparel and Guild (clothes), Intelligentsia (coffee), Heist for accessories, The Tasting Kitchen for cocktails. This guide has some more ideas where to shop on Abbot Kinney Boulevard. Treat yourself to a new haircut at Holly Jones Hair Design and pamper yourself at Caudalie. If you happen to be here on the first weekend of the month, head down to Abbot Kinney Boulevard for First Fridays, when art galleries and shops open late. There are food trucks, there’s live music – come hungry and bring your credit card. Altered Space has paintings, sculptures, jewelry and furniture made by local artists, and Kana Manglapus Projects is a gallery that is a must for art aficionados. After a long day of shopping, head back to your Venice Beach villa in time for sunset drinks by the pool.
5 A Beach Getaway in Orange County
In need of a beach getaway? Then head down to Orange County! Newport Beach, Laguna Beach and Corona Del Mar have gorgeous villas for rent, complete with beach views and dreamy swimming pools. You don’t even have to fly into LAX anymore – John Wayne Airport is located just outside Newport Beach and served by American Airlines, Alaska, Delta, Southwest, Frontier, United and WestJet – talk about convenient! If you want to see more of the region, hop into a convertible and drive down the Pacific Coast Highway all the way to San Diego, or north to Long Beach (don’t go any further if you don’t want to be stuck in the notorious LA traffic) or simply relax by the pool and catch up with your girlfriends. For some shopping, I recommend South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa Shop for luxury shopping, the Outlets at Orange to hunt down some bargains, Fashion Island in Anaheim for some serious retail therapy. For the best food in the O.C., check out this list of the top 25 restaurants in Orange County.
Photo credit: Lake Tahoe image by Daniel Hoherd used via Flickr’s Creative Commons License.