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Destination Fun! 3 Vacation Spots Near You (that is, when we get to travel again!)

Mar 25, 2020 11:39AM
EDITOR'S NOTE:  This article appears in our April 2020 issue which was printed before California's shelter-in-place mandate was issued. So for now, dream about these fun travel destinations while we all shelter-in-place.

Spring’s sprung, which means it’s time to avail of longer, light-filled days with a sun and fun-filled holiday. For those itching to get away without going terribly far away, we have a destination for you. Read on for our top picks of where to go, stay, and play this season.

IF YOU HAVE TWO DAYS…

NORTH LAKE TAHOE

Kiss those cold weather blues away with a visit to Lake Tahoe. Regardless if it’s your first or fiftieth time, the lake and surrounding scenery always impress. And though winter and summer beckon travelers looking to partake in season-specific activities, spring is equally enticing, thanks to fewer folks, discounted room rates, and milder temps.
The Ritz-Carlton



CHECK IN Whether the tots are in tow or you’re on a romantic getaway, The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, is a prime pick for luxury lodging. Sited mid-mountain, amongst the slopes of Northstar, this high-end-without-being-hoity-toity hotel is the stuff Tahoe dreams are made of: floor-to-ceiling windows with unobstructed views of Sierra Nevada’s pine-filled forest, in-room fireplaces, and easy access to an array of activities, plus family-friendly programs like Ritz Kids, where little ones can discover the destination via supervised, hands-on arts, crafts, and adventures.
 
On-property amenities run the gamut from fine dining (Manzanita’s lodge-inspired space with artfully crafted cuisine is a must for breakfast, lunch, or dinner to slope-side spa treatments (we recommend “Journey Through the Forest” or “Tahoe Tree of Life”), and Marshmology (complimentary s’mores featuring house-made marshmallows at the fire pit).

CHECK OUT If you manage to peel yourself away from the plush premises, then take advantage of the resort’s intermountain gondola, which transports you to the Village at Northstar for shopping, entertainment, and dining options aplenty. Speaking of the latter, you’d be remiss to miss Bourbon Pub, the village’s newest eatery from beloved Bay Area restaurateur Michael Mina. Serving elevated pub grub with a playful twist (the Double Cheeseburger with American cheese, caramelized and raw onions, and secret sauce is akin to In-N-Out but umpteen times better), alongside craft cocktails and plenty of local brews, it’s a perfect place to grab a bite noon or night.
Bourbon Pub



Just a stone’s throw away sits Truckee, which boasts a bevy of breweries, boutiques, and foodie finds. Stop by Alibi Ale Works for an experimental sour and plate of Thai chicken nachos, Bespoke for one-of-a-kind, handmade goods from independent artisans, and Riverside Studios to peruse or purchase works by five locally based artists.

The beauty of a springtime escape here is, depending on Mother Nature’s plans, you can take advantage of freshly fallen snow with a sledding, snowshoe, or downhill skiing adventure; or bask in the blue skies and blooming wildflowers by heading out on a hike (we recommend the five-mile, heavily trafficked, out-and-back Five Lakes Trail).

Did You Know?
The water in Lake Tahoe is 99.7% pure, about the same as distilled water. It’s so clear that a white dinner plate can be seen at approximately 70 feet below the surface.

IF YOU HAVE THREE DAYS…
SANTA CRUZ

Cruising into Santa Cruz, you’ll feel your worries wash away, as the town’s laid-back beach vibes take over. From catching waves and killer sunsets, to strolling the laid-back but still buzzing downtown district, or exploring the 14-plus state parks, there’s an adventure for all in this slice of California paradise.
Santa Cruz



CHECK IN The aptly named Dream Inn Santa Cruz is indeed dreamy. Between the beachfront setting (all rooms offer oceanfront views), mid-century modern decor, and thoughtful amenities, it checks all the boxes—and more. Light, bright, and oozing with comfort, the surf-inspired space is a breath of fresh ocean air. Swim in the heated pool just steps from the sand, relax in a plush, pillow-lined cabana bed (fruit-forward cocktail in hand, of course), borrow one of the complimentary bikes, or book a reservation at Jack O’Neill Restaurant for a steaming bowl of bouillabaisse or crispy calamari with a side of live music (Thursday-Saturday). 

CHECK OUT Sure, the beach is always a sure bet—and with 29 miles of scenic coastline you’re bound to find one that floats your boat—but there’s plenty more in store, too. Head into Midtown for five walkable blocks brimming with boutiques, cafés, and eateries (try Charlie Hong Kong for organic, Asian-inspired noodle and rice dishes in a funky space); or Capitola, the Pacific Coast’s oldest seaside town that’s famed for its pastel-splashed facades and breezy, Mediterranean-esque flair.
Charlie Hong Kong



Pint-sized visitors will go gaga at the beloved Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, which boasts over 40 rides and attractions, or one of myriad kid-friendly museums, including the Seymour Marine Discovery Center where visitors can touch a friendly shark and dive into a world of ocean exploration; while big kids who want to indulge in an actual pint can avail of a bevy of microbreweries, including the cool-as-they-come Humble Sea Brewery.  

Did You Know?
Santa Cruz is the birthplace of mainland surfing. Using boards fashioned from redwood planks, three Hawaiian princes showed locals how to hang ten in 1885.

IF YOU HAVE FOUR DAYS…
VANCOUVER

Is the coast calling? Or maybe the mountains? When visiting Vancouver, you can experience both. Our neighbor to the north is worth introducing yourself to. Friendly, easy on the eyes, with a spirited food scene, every time’s a good time to come to British Columbia’s largest metropolis. A direct, two-hour flight on Air Canada means you can start exploring the bustling seaport city after minimal travel time. And don’t worry about renting a car; there’s plenty to do in downtown proper, and it’s all within walking, biking, or rideshare distance.   
Vancouver



CHECK IN Go big or go home. In this case, we recommend the former, with a stay at Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. Fresh off a $75 million dollar facelift, the “Castle in the City” has been welcoming guests with its warm hospitality and opulent accommodations since 1939. Book a Fairmont Gold Room for access to elevated amenities that include private check-in and entrance to the Fairmont Gold Lounge, which boasts a breakfast of champions, afternoon scones and snacks, evening hors d’oeuvres, and late-night sweet treats.

After experiencing the top-tier afternoon tea and decadent dining options at Notch8 Restaurant + Bar and browsing the lobby’s chic shops (like Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Omega), you’ll be eager to extend your stay.
Fairmont Hotel Vancourver



CHECK OUT A long weekend means ample time to explore. Start by hopping on a mini tugboat ferry to Granville Island and follow your nose to the indoor public market that’s filled with a surplus of stalls selling everything from just-caught seafood to fresh-made baked goods, including fan favorite Lee’s Donuts (the melt-in-your-mouth, hand-cut “honey dip” is pastry perfection). 

Stanley Park is another must. In addition to the über impressive Vancouver Aquarium and nine towering totem poles, the 1,000-acre urban oasis also offers visitors scenic views of the sea, skyline, and mountains along its 13,123-step “seawall”—the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path that winds around the park’s perimeter.
Stanley Park



When hunger hits, you’re in luck: diverse dishes made with sustainable ingredients are at the forefront of almost every meal. For Japanese food, journey to Minami for their flame-seared sushi that’s eaten sans soy sauce; if you’re hankering for house-made pastas in cozy, eclectic environs, Di Beppe—”a young restaurant with an old soul”—is a prime pick (plus, it’s sited next to Gastown, Vancouver’s oldest, cobblestone street-studded neighborhood); and when the craving for modern Canadian cuisine in a convivial atmosphere comes, Nightingale is where it’s at (the buttermilk fried chicken with spiced maple syrup, sumac, and pickles is worth the trip in itself).

Did You Know?
According to the Mercer Quality of Living survey, Vancouver is the third most “livable place in the world,” along with being one of the cleanest and safest.

FOR MORE INFO ON EACH OF THESE DESTINATIONS, VISIT GOTAHOENORTH.COM, SANTACRUZ.ORG, and TOURISMVANCOUVER.COM.



BY Megan Wiskus