North of San Diego County lies the grape-rich region of Temecula, a fertile valley boasting 40-plus vineyards, dozens of tasting rooms, and an easy-living vibe. Plan to stay for at least a weekend—you’ll want to take your time and fully experience wine-tasting, golfing, balloon rides, and more.
Visit Old Town
Start by exploring Old Town Temecula’s 12 blocks of antique shops, galleries, brewpubs, and restaurants. Water towers, wooden sidewalks, and frontier-style storefronts create a charming 1860s Western façade—an homage to the town’s cattle ranching and railroading past. Learn about Temecula’s history at the two-story Temecula Valley Museum. Head over to Temecula Olive Oil Company to taste artisan olive oils in bold flavor profiles like roasted garlic or citrusy blood orange, and shop for lavender lotions and bath soaps at Temecula Lavender Company.
Check out who’s playing at the Temecula Stampede, the West Coast’s largest country and western music venue, offering free dance lessons on weekends.
Enjoy E.A.T Marketplace
Lunch on farm-fresh sandwiches and homemade coconut milk at E.A.T Marketplace (EAT stands for “Extraordinary Artisan Table”), and be sure to save room for turtle cheesecake. Chef Leah Delyte makes inventive dishes with grass-fed beef and local Temecula edibles, plus plenty of gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, and paleo choices.
Stay at Temecula Creek Inn
Spend the night at the Temecula Creek Inn, where you’ll sleep soundly on a plush bed overlooking the Santa Ana Mountains and Temecula Creek’s 27-hole championship course. Plan to tackle those greens tomorrow, but for tonight, enjoy a glass of wine by the outdoor fire pits and farm-fresh flavors at Cork Fire Kitchen.
Explore in a Hot Air Balloon
At dawn, head out for a fabulous airborne escapade as you join the party of hot-air balloons rising 1,500 feet above Temecula’s vineyards. Book a spot with California Dreamin’ Balloon Adventures, Magical Adventure Balloon Rides, or A Grape Escape, then go up, up, and away. Your balloon is propelled by blasts of hot air and the whim of the wind (and your experienced pilot’s skill). Enjoy amazing views of citrus groves, vineyards, and the distant mountains. After touching back down to earth, celebrate with a sparkling-wine toast.
Taste at Wilson Creek Winery
Spend your weekend’s second day wine-tasting. The Temecula Valley was once known for Chardonnay grapes, but today’s winemakers have branched out into Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and dessert wines. (Check out the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association website for tasting coupons and discounts.) For a fun-loving tasting experience, head straight to Wilson Creek Winery. Even if your palate leans toward Cabernet, expand your horizons with a sip of Wilson Creek’s signature almond sparkling wine. Live bands play on the lawn most summer weekends, and an outdoor bar serves wine slushies—a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.