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Experience California Like a Royal

On your next trip to California, vacation like the adventurous Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would. From shopping at some of Markle’s favourite stores to dining at celebrity-favourites, and exploring the state’s outdoor gems—build your itinerary from these royal-inspired ideas. Read below for recommendations on where to dine, shop, adventure, and more like a royal in the Golden State.

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How to Adventure Like a Royal

How to Adventure Like a Royal
Experience the majesty of California’s great outdoors with one of these vacation ideas

Adventurous vacations provided the building blocks for the royal romance between Prince Harry of Wales and Meghan Markle. While he lived in England and she worked in Toronto, casual rendezvous meant trips to far-flung locations, such as a safari in Botswana and a Northern Lights getaway in Norway. Channel the couple’s love of adventure with these epic California trip ideas.

1. Whale watch in Mendocino

During a 2017 excursion in Norway, the couple spent their days whale watching. California is one of the best whale-watching destinations in the world, with opportunities to spot all types of cetaceans up and down the Pacific coast. One of the best spots to experience the majesty of these beautiful beasts is in Mendocino, three hours north of San Francisco. From November through April, the California gray whales migrate from Alaska to Mexico and can be spotted along California’s northern coast. Book a tour with Telstar Charters or All Aboard Adventures (both in Fort Bragg) to see the whales up close. The exclusive Sea Drum House at the Inn at Newport Ranch will provide peaceful privacy at the day’s end. Watch for spouts as you relax in your outdoor hot tub overlooking the ocean.

2. Play polo in Santa Barbara

The Prince of Wales knows his way around a polo field. During one of the couple’s first public outings, Markle watched her prince on horseback as he chucked the ball around. At the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club, you too can get a taste of the action. (Fun fact: Harry’s brother William, the Duke of Cambridge and second in line to the throne, played here in 2011.) The spectator season runs from May through October, while an “Intro to Polo” clinic is held on Saturday mornings year round. Tuck in for the evening at the lavish Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore Santa Barbara, or keep your vacation on an equestrian theme by renting a covered wagon at Rancho Oso Guest Ranch & Stables.

3. Stargaze in Death Valley

During a 2017 holiday to the Arctic Circle, the royal couple admired the wonder of the Northern Lights. Death Valley National Park, home to one of the darkest skies in California, is the ultimate place to stargaze in the United States. Stay at the Inn at Death Valley, a remarkable oasis in the middle of the desert, complete with golf courses and spring-fed pools. After the sun sets, head to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center to pick up a planisphere. From there, Harmony Borax Works is only a short drive away and offers an ideal vantage point for taking in the sparkling sky.

4. Glamp among the redwoods

A fabulous backdrop for any date, Autocamp in Guerneville is the sort of rugged-meets-romantic experience the royal couple seems to relish. Tucked in the redwoods-filled Russian River Valley 90 minutes north of San Francisco, Autocamp offers high-end glamping options that include Airstream model suites and airy canvas tents. Chic interiors, spa-style bathrooms, and cosy fire pits make for a luxurious retreat after a day of exploring.

5. Practice falconry in Los Angeles

The royal family has a rich history of falconry dating back to the 14th century, when King Richard II constructed the Royal Mews for the sole purpose of housing his birds of prey. Harry, not surprisingly, has gone on hunting getaways with his mates and seems to enjoy manly interactions with nature. At the luxe Terranea Resort near Los Angeles, visitors can witness the resort’s remarkable falconry program at work. Guests learn about how the birds fend off seagulls, and get to participate in a flight demonstration and meet-and-greets with the owls, hawks, and raptors (private tours are available).

6. Ski in Lake Tahoe

A high-alpine aptitude is more or less a requirement for royal entrée. In fact, Prince Harry hosted his bachelor party (aka stag do) at a Swiss chalet. Cut through some powder during a stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe in Truckee. After a day marked by ski-in, ski-out access, relax next to the fireplace at the Highlands Bar as you sip on a negroni (Markle’s cocktail of choice), or nab a reservation for the intimate chef’s table at Manzanita. Bonus points for booking an afternoon of mushing at Tahoe Dog Sled Tours—just like the couple did in Norway.

7. Ride a jeep through the San Andreas Fault

Experience the geological drama of an active earthquake fault with an off-road adventure courtesy of Desert Adventures’ Red Jeep Tours in Palm Desert. Ramp up the romance by booking the sunset tour to witness burnt orange and deep pink hues outlining the cuts and canyons. Settle in for the night in a private bungalow at the exclusive L’Horizon Resort and Spa, a favourite destination of U.S. presidents, Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, and other Hollywood golden-era royalty.

8. Go whitewater kayaking at Otter Bar Lodge

Secluded, off-the-grid, and surrounded by breathtaking wilderness, the immersive Otter Bar Lodge Kayak School in Forks of Salmon offers two things the royal couple love: an adrenaline rush and privacy. This thrilling camp in California’s northeast corner provides amenities beyond what you would expect. Throughout the weeklong adventure, you’ll be served farm-to-table meals featuring produce from the on-site garden. Opt to recover from the Salmon River paddling with a massage or a soak in the hot tub.

 

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How to Dine Like a Royal in California

How to Dine Like a Royal in California
A must-taste lineup of 20-course dinners, celebrity favourites, and secret cocktail haunts befitting a duchess

It’s a modern fairy tale: an American actress, a British prince, a blind date gone (very) well, culminating in a royal wedding that had the world buzzing. Former Suits star and California girl Meghan Markle is a self-proclaimed foodie, a fan of both healthy eating and the occasional indulgence. In honour of her royal wedding to Prince Harry, we rounded up a handful of the state’s trendiest spots and most exclusive tables into a must-taste itinerary worthy of a princess—but available to you. 

Watch chefs work their magic at The Restaurant at Meadowood

Napa Valley

The best seats at chef Christopher Kostow’s Wine Country haven don’t just have a view of the line; they’re inside the kitchen at the coveted chef’s counter, where the Michelin three-star tasting menu is upgraded to a 20-course feast that kicks off at $500. The reward for that extraordinary expenditure? A front-row seat to a kind of culinary sorcery where your dinner might include cheese candles, house-smoked eel, and a photo souvenir with Kostow himself.

Experience farm-to-table perfection with Outstanding in the Field

Multiple locations

The farm-to-table philosophy that has swept the country is often traced to Berkeley’s Chez Panisse. That movement reaches its modern apex with Outstanding in the Field’s pop-up dinner parties, outdoor extravaganzas that take place at farms and vineyards where local purveyors and chefs come together to create one-of-a-kind meals around a single large table. Locations and menus vary for each meal, from a secret sea cove in Santa Cruz to an organic date ranch in Palm Springs. It’s a royal banquet, California style (with room for all the lords, ladies, and hat-wearing cousins), and a celebration of Golden State goodness.

Mingle with celebrities at Gjelina

Venice

Jay-Z and Beyoncé are American pop-culture royalty, and when they hit town, they often dine at this low-key Venice hotspot—known for its Cal-Italian small plates, charred-edge pizzas, and A-list clientele. Dubbed the best place to spot celebrities by Bravo, Gjelina has played host to Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts, Lady Gaga, and even Meghan Markle’s future husband, Prince Harry himself. Added bonus: Gjelina is located in the heart of the Abbot Kinney shopping district—perfect for some after-brunch boutique browsing.

Try authentic fish tacos at Cala

San Francisco

Markle has proclaimed her love for fish tacos, and at Gabriella Camara’s Cala, the Baja classic gets a delicious upgrade. Here, rockfish à la talla is a whole fish, grilled to a perfect flake and served with fresh corn tortillas and a pair of sauces for your taco-assembling pleasure. Add some Dungeness crab tostadas, a mushroom quesadilla, and a couple of mezcal margaritas, and you have a modern Mexican meal totally at home in San Francisco

Indulge in afternoon tea at Hotel Bel-Air

Los Angeles

This storied enclave of lush gardens and swan ponds has hosted royalty for decades—of both the official and the Hollywood variety. Princess Grace of Monaco spent so much time at the five-star hotel that it named a suite for her, and Marilyn Monroe famously posed for her final photo shoot among the resort’s graceful grounds. For an experience worthy of both women and befitting a new member of the royal family, stop by for a British(ish) afternoon tea, when Wolfgang Puck’s resident restaurant serves an array of loose-leaf options and Champagne alongside an opulent spread of savoury nibbles, fresh-baked scones, and decadent sweets.

Snag a coveted table at The French Laundry

Yountville

Some of California’s most sought-after tables are in Thomas Keller’s Yountville dining room, where the American chef creates modern French tasting menus that start at $325 per person (wine not included). Provided you can snag one of those tables, of course. The French Laundry is fresh off a $10 million renovation that added luxury upgrades: outdoor seating for large parties (at a premium $400+ per guest), mirrored exterior walls to reflect the natural setting, and windows into the new state-of-the-art kitchen. Today, the Michelin three-star restaurant is as popular as ever, with bookings snapped up months in advance.

Sip stealthy cocktails at The Walker Inn

Los Angeles

You enter the Normandie Club hotel in L.A.’s Koreatown neighbourhood, walk to the back of the bar, and push the button next to the conveniently labeled “secret door.” A red bulb clicks on and within seconds you’re whisked inside a covert booze oasis, where denizens sip on expert drinks in the haze of dimmer switches turned almost all the way down. While royals would crave this reprieve from the crowds, you’re here for the cocktails, specifically the bar-side tasting, where six or seven courses may include eye-drop tinctures, smoking beehives, or a perfect scoop of apple ice wine ice cream.

Soak in the scenery at Post Ranch Inn

Big Sur

You won’t find TVs or alarm clocks in this serene hideaway, where rooms resemble sophisticated tree houses perched over the ocean. At Post Ranch Inn, the 39 guest suites complement the landscape, and Sierra Mar restaurant is imbued with a sense of place. From the graceful, modern architecture to the locally driven menu, to the Pacific views through soaring windows—all sea and sky and endless horizon—it features one of the best restaurant vistas in the entire state. Whether you’re enjoying a romantic sunset toast, a complimentary breakfast, or a four-course dinner, the hotel’s panorama never fails to amaze.

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Ride Like a Royal

Ride Like a Royal
Travel through California the way Meghan and Harry would on one of these luxury excursions

Millions of royal wedding watchers obsessed over Price Harry and Meghan Markle, who rode through the streets of Windsor in a horse-drawn carriage on their wedding day. But an Ascot Landau (the expected chariot of choice) is only one of the many ways in which Prince Harry and Meghan Markle get around in style. From private helicopters to luxurious yachts, this pair knows how to travel. You too can ride like a royal with these absolutely California experiences fit for a duchess and duke.

Climb into a ’copter

During his deployment to Afghanistan, Prince Harry flew Apache attack helicopters for the British Armed Forces. Today, he and Markle more often opt for more relaxing chopper rides. Book your own heli experience with the Viator VIP: Napa by Helicopter, which transports guests from San Francisco to Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail for an afternoon of tapas and wine-tasting. Itching to get in the cockpit yourself? Take the introductory lesson at Vertical CFI in nearby Hayward. During the 30-minute ride, you’ll be able to take the controls and fly (under the careful eye of the pilot, of course).

Rip through the desert

Prince Harry has his motorcycle license and has been spotted riding roadways all over the world. Get a royal thrill in Palm Springs by renting a set of wheels (or two) at Eaglerider to rip through wide desert roads. Consider a trip to the nearby Sunnylands estate, where Prince Harry’s grandma, the Queen of England herself, once enjoyed a luncheon. The chic Sparrows Lodge will provide the ideal complement to your Harley-Davidson day. Refresh in your room’s rain shower and deep horse-trough bathtub, and reserve a couple’s massage in the lodge’s outdoor gardens.

Charter a jet

Meghan and Harry’s 18-month-long romance involved heavy jetting between London and Toronto, where the California-born actress filmed the TV series Suits. But you don’t need to be in a high-profile long-distance relationship to enjoy the luxury of a private charter. The Early Air Way serves the Monterey Peninsula, whisking high-flyers to the stunning city from all over the world. Make sure you’re fresh for the golf course at Pebble Beach by ordering an in-flight massage. Or wait until you’re on solid ground to get the royal treatment at the Vista Blue Spa at Monterey Plaza, named one of the top 25 spas by Travel + Leisure.

Ride the rails

Is there anything more refined than a luxurious train excursion in a private car? Harry and Meghan have been known to book first-class tickets on the Heathrow Express, but you can have an even better view on the Starline Tours California Coast & Ride. The three-day trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco snakes along the majestic California shoreline. “Day two” even includes a look into the life of American royalty with a tour of Hearst Castle, the 163-room former home of the late media magnate William Randolph Hearst. 

Cruise around in luxury wheels

The royal family’s fleet includes a Rolls-Royce Phantom VI, Audi A8, Aston Martin DB6, and Jaguar XJ. Find your dream vacation ride at Beverly Hills Rent-a-Car. Choose among the premium exotics, luxury cars, and premium SUVs, including a Rolls-Royce Dawn, Ferrari Portofino, and more. Zoom around town, stopping for a studio tour of Sony Pictures, where a young Meghan often visited her father, a tech on the set of Married With Children. Ask for the valet at Sugarfish by Sushi Nozawa or Terroni, two of the actress’s favourite L.A. eateries.

Sail a private yacht

Make like the world’s hottest couple and take to the seas with OC Yacht Rentals. Meghan and Harry are reported to have chartered a pre-wedding yacht to sail through the Greek Isles, and you can float through your own slice of paradise, pushing out from Newport Beach in Orange County. Choose from the Villa, an intimate 10-passenger yacht, the (ahem) Royal Princess, a 150-capacity beauty, or anything in between. Sip Champagne as you sunbathe on the bow and enjoy views of the clear blue Pacific. 

Soar over vineyards

Few things say “pure romance” more than a hot-air balloon ride over rolling vineyards. Meghan has been snapped gazing at the balloons while on vacation in Cappadocia, and one of the first balloon launches occurred on the grounds of Versailles (bien sur!). Temecula Valley, just east of San Diego, is famous for its beautiful ballooning. Book an off-the-ground wine country tour (complete with tasting) through The Grape Escape, or head to the Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival, held this year on June 1–3.

No matter what sort of transport suits your fancy, these on-the-go experiences are sure to make you feel like you’re in line for the throne. Remember to practice your curtsy, pack your tiara, and get ready to travel through California with style and grace.

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Dimitar Petrovski/Offset

8 Places to Shop Like a Royal

8 Places to Shop Like a Royal
Where to get Meghan Markle’s sleek style in California, from Beverly Hills to the desert

The fashion sense of Meghan Markle has been lauded as “California cool,” with an edgy-yet-polished sophistication. No doubt, the L.A. native perfected her aura of casual chic while living in the Golden State. Whether you’re hoping for VIP treatment or simply want to visit Markle’s go-to boutiques, head for these eight shopping destinations—both specific stores and some fashion-rich districts—to cultivate a wardrobe worthy of a royal.

1. Fred Segal, West Hollywood

More than 50 years ago, tailor-turned-designer Fred Segal opened a fashion-forward, blue jeans-centric boutique in a 32 square metre space in West Hollywood. Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and the Jackson Five wore Segal’s signature denim back in the day. Even before paparazzi became an L.A. staple, Fred Segal was the place to see and be seen. Today, Segal’s flagship store on Sunset Boulevard remains a celebrity favourite and counts Markle among its fans. The 1200-square-metre space, which opened in September 2017, features the same shop-within-a-shop concept as its earlier Melrose Avenue location, and offers men’s and women’s clothing and accessories as well as home goods. (There’s also a small branch inside the international terminal at LAX.)

2. Upper Village, Montecito

The quiet coastal town of Montecito, right outside Santa Barbara, is an understated haven that counts Oprah Winfrey among its well-heeled residents. The Village attracts shoppers looking to update their wardrobes, thanks to Los Angeles fashion designer Jenni Kayne’s Montecito outpost, longtime favourite Wendy Foster, and Upstairs at Pierre Lafond. Other attractions include flower shop Hogue & Co., William Laman Furniture, Garden, and Antiques, and Tecolote Bookshop, which opened in 1925. After an afternoon of browsing, stop by Pierre LaFond Montecito Market, a popular gourmet grocer, and the adjacent Wine Bistro, owned by LaFond and the Lafond Winery & Vineyards.

3. Fashion Island, Newport Beach

For more than four decades, Orange County residents have flocked to Fashion Island, an open-air shopping and dining destination in Newport Beach. Department stores Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Neiman Marcus—which carries Markle favourite Veronica Beard—share space with more than 200 specialty stores, including Alice + Olivia, Kendra Scott, and AG. Insider tip: Personal shopping and styling services are available by request, as is the shopping center’s virtual concierge program, At Your Service. Simply text 949-734-7364 to ask a question such as "Where can I valet?" or "Where is Restoration Hardware?”

4. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills

In the late sixties, Fred Hayman and Aldo Gucci opened two of the first luxury boutiques on Rodeo Drive, kickstarting the rapid development of the world-famous three-block stretch. Van Cleef & Arpels quickly followed, as did Vidal Sassoon. Then, in 1990, Julia Roberts’ character Vivian Ward charged her way through the street’s high-end boutiques in the smash hit Pretty Woman, and a new generation of Rodeo Drive devotees was born. Today, popular destinations include Chanel, Tiffany & Co., and Yves Saint Laurent. Personal shoppers are available in-store and can help secure access to private lounges at Burberry, Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, and more.

5. St. Helena, Napa Valley

The tiny enclave of St. Helena oozes with small-town charm while boasting luxury hotels, boutique wineries, and charming independent retailers. Head to Main Street, where you’ll find breezy California clothing at Gathered St. Helena, contemporary women’s apparel at Pearl Wonderful Clothing, and shoes and handbags at Footcandy. For a taste of what life might be like at Kensington Palace, visit the prestigious Culinary Institute of America’s facility at Greystone, a 10,870-square-metre Romanesque-style stone building built in the late 19th century and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

6. El Paseo, Palm Desert

Since the 1950s, Coachella Valley residents and visitors in need of some retail therapy have converged on El Paseo Drive, which runs parallel to State Route 111 in Palm Desert and is flanked by towering palms. Today, El Paseo features 150 boutiques, restaurants, and galleries and is considered the Rodeo Drive of the desert. The Gardens on El Paseo and El Paseo Village are anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue and feature a mix of high-end occupants, such as Louis Vuitton and Tesla. Los Angeles designer Trina Turk, who owns a home in the desert, has a store on El Paseo. So do mother-daughter duo Marie and Kelly Gray, who were the creator and face of St. John, respectively, before collaborating on their line of separates, Grayse, and its three stores. On-trend indie boutique Elizabeth & Prince is filled with pieces by today’s top ready-to-wear designers and has two other locations in the desert.

7. Prospect & Girard, La Jolla

La Jolla is considered the jewel of San Diego thanks to its majestic coastline, ocean bluffs, and pristine beaches. Downtown La Jolla’s two main thoroughfares, Prospect Street and Girard Avenue, feature high-end shops such as Ralph Lauren, Ascot Shop, Kate Spade New York, and an athleisure favourite of Markle’s, Lululemon. For nearly 15 years, stylist Laura Gambucci’s eponymous boutique has offered timeless collections by top designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Karl Lagerfeld, and Pierre Balmain. Also noteworthy: Beginning in February of 2019, tired shoppers and royal-wedding enthusiasts can head to the nearby La Jolla Playhouse to watch Diana, a new musical set in 1981 that’s centered around 20-year-old Princess Diana’s life before and after her wedding to Prince Charles.

8. South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa

There are more than 250 high-fashion retailers at South Coast Plaza, the largest mall on the West Coast. Under its roof in Costa Mesa, upscale boutiques join top designers like Christian Dior, Gucci, Fendi, and Jimmy Choo (the latter of which recently re-launched a princess-perfect made-to-order Cinderella shoe). The expansive shopping center offers international traveler-friendly amenities such as foreign language assistance in more than 40 languages and a visitors-only VIP Passport for deals at more than 100 stores. Take advantage of the South Coast Plaza Concierge to help reserve tickets at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, schedule a personal wardrobe consultation, or book reservations at one of the 30-plus gourmet restaurants (we recommend the authentic Spanish dishes Vaca, led by former Top Chef runner-up Amar Santana).