Get Away Without Going Far Away: 5 Close-to-Home Destinations
Even though your South African safari may have gotten postponed this year (along with every other overseas adventure), you’re in luck: Our region is full of scenic, adventure-filled locales that are waiting to be discovered. At each of the destinations below, masks are required in all indoor spaces and when you’re unable to socially distance outside. Ready to (finally!) travel? Grab your quarantine crew and check out the places below.
FIND SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE IN SLO
San Luis Obispo (SLO) is a great weekend destination from Sacramento, at around four hours away by car. Because of the variety of small towns in the area, there's something for everyone, even if you like different activities. Wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts will love kayaking through Dinosaur Caves near Shell Beach or spotting massive elephant seals in San Simeon, while wine aficionados will enjoy a gentle winery cycling tour through the Edna Valley or picnic at one of Paso Roble’s picturesque vineyards. Prefer quirky attractions? Take photos in “Bubblegum Alley” or do a self-guided drive down historic California State Route 1. Visit highway1discoveryroute.com to explore a map of the best roadside stops.
Where to stay: Book a room at Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort & Spa (sycamoresprings.com) for private hot springs tucked onto a wooded hillside, meditative gardens, and more. If you’re traveling with the kids, book the Bunk House at the newly renovated Stables Inn (stablesinnpaso.com), which sleeps six comfortably and includes access to outdoor fire pits, plus a communal table, locally roasted coffee, and Western chic décor.
Don't miss: If cycling isn't your thing, book the zipline tour with Margarita Adventures (margarita-adventures.com)—it soars over pinot noir vines and pairs well with a reserve tasting at nearby Ancient Peaks Winery (ancientpeaks.com). Be sure to make reservations for both, since capacity is limited.
Health: Visit slocal.com for info on current health, opening, and mask requirements throughout the region.
HEAD TO THE NEVADA SIDELake Tahoe is split between California and Nevada, and the Nevada side is arguably the prettier of the two. That's because much of the shore is protected land with a plethora of public beaches, parks, and hiking trails hugging the shore. For a beautiful outdoor adventure, walk or bike the new Tahoe East Shore Trail, which runs past some of the best views in Tahoe. And whether you stay on the north shore (in Incline Village) or the south shore (in Stateline), there are plenty of breweries, restaurants, and easy hiking trails to keep you busy for a long weekend.
Where to stay: Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa & Casino (hyatt.com; search "Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe") offers a private beach on the north shore, but Edgewood Tahoe Resort (edgewoodtahoe.com) is near many of the casinos and restaurants on the southern end of the lake.
Don't miss: You don't have to ski to get a bird's-eye view of Tahoe. Non-skiers can take the 2.4-mile ride up the Heavenly Mountain Gondola (skiheavenly.com/explore-the-resort/activities/epic-discovery/scenic-gondola.aspx), which operates year-round. Just remember: Wait times may be longer than normal, since gondola capacity is limited. You might also want to wander through the Tallac Historic Site (tahoeheritage.org/visit-2/tallac-historic-site), where you’ll find ruins of an early 1900s resort with outdoor signage explaining the sights.
Health: Stay updated on Lake Tahoe health and safety regulations at tahoesouth.com or gotahoenorth.com.
TRY A NEW WINE COUNTRYIf you live in the Sacramento area, you've probably been to most of the wineries in Napa Valley. So instead, head south. The Monterey County AVA has more than 200 wineries within its borders. And because there's such a wide range of terrain, you'll find a wine to suit most palates, from the whites of the Chalone AVA (perfect for people who like a high minerality to their vinos) to the full-bodied cabs and merlots grown in the southern part of Salinas Valley. You can visit the wineries in person or shorten the walk (and avoid having to designate a DD) by visiting the various tasting rooms in downtown Carmel or Monterey.
Where to stay: Carmel's family-owned Hofsas House Hotel (hofsashouse.com) is within walking distance of Carmel's best tasting rooms and boasts a boutique, Bavarian-themed charm (think Dutch doors and dry saunas) complete with complimentary morning pastries (sourced from local favorite Paris Bakery), parking, and other amenities. If you’re feeling fancy, opt for the Bernardus Lodge & Spa (bernarduslodge.com), a luxury resort that grows its own award-winning wines and features croquet, tennis, and bocce ball courts; a junior Olympic-sized pool; lush gardens, orchards, and vineyards; and a 5,200-square-foot spa.
Don't miss: Mad Dogs Carmel (maddogscarmel.com) offers e-bike rentals where you can cycle the famed 17-mile drive at your own pace. When hunger hits, avail of the region’s abundance of expanded outdoor dining experiences, including brunch at From Scratch Restaurant (fromscratchrestaurant.com) and a fondue dinner at Lugano Swiss Bistro (swissbistro.com).
Health: Check out Monterey’s current COVID-19 guidelines at seemonterey.com.
GLAMP OUTSIDE YOSEMITEBook a weekend stay at AutoCamp Yosemite (autocamp.com), a new resort 30 minutes outside Yosemite National Park's El Portal entrance. Amenities include an alpine-modern clubhouse with fire pits, an outdoor pool, and complimentary alfresco yoga. Rooms come in a few varieties: custom-built 1950s-style Airstreams, complete with a campfire, AC, and separate bedroom; safari-style glamping tents furnished with king-sized beds and lux linens and amenities; and classic cabins with a modern twist for up to five guests. A few sites are available with both trailers and tents, which are ideal for large families traveling together. And the best part? While campsites and hotels typically fill up months in advance inside the park, you can usually find rooms available at AutoCamp without too much notice.
Where to stay: The custom trailers will give you serious vintage vibes, but if you need more space, ask about an X Suite. The rentable tiny homes are all ADA accessible, making them perfect for travelers who value having a little extra space.
Don't miss: The Yosemite Valley is home to some of the park’s best hikes, including the famous Mist Trail and nearly flat Valley Floor Loop, which passes sights like El Capitan and Yosemite Falls. For easy access to and from the park, hop on the YARTS shuttle at the entrance of AutoCamp.
Health: Check out Yosemite’s COVID-19 guidelines and safety procedures at nps.gov/yose/index.htm.
>>>AutoCamp also has a property even closer to home in Guerneville. Sited in a grove of native redwoods and a stone’s throw away from some of Sonoma County’s most buzzworthy wineries, the Russian River, and downtown, the location here boasts the same luxurious Airstreams and glamping tents as their Yosemite locale, with the addition of Wi-Fi—which means you can book a midweek stay and (literally) work remotely.
ADVENTURE IN BEND
Head to Bend, Oregon, one of the most en vogue towns in the Pacific Northwest. Why is this town so beloved? Easy: It offers a great mix of outdoor adventure and an artsy-meets-hippie culture. Head out on a beginner bike ride with Cog Wild Tours (cogwild.com), which can take your group to the trailheads in a private shuttle to avoid significant uphill climbs. Not a biker? Book a hike in an underground lava tube with Wanderlust Tours (wanderlusttours.com). The company also hosts other fun-filled fall and winter expeditions, including a “Full Moon & Starlight” photography tour and “The Local Pour,” where you explore (and sample) the city’s myriad craft beverages. Speaking of booze, if you’re a beer fan, you're in luck: Bend is home to more than two dozen breweries, 15 of which are included on the town's "Ale Trail" passport program. Be sure to make time to check out the unique galleries and restaurants in the town’s highly walkable downtown area, too.
Where to stay: Book a room at Tetherow Resort (tetherow.com), which is minutes from downtown and features 50 rooms spread across 700 acres bordering the Deschutes National Forest. Also onsite? An award-winning golf course, pool, three restaurants, and a fitness facility.
Don't miss: There's excellent hiking and biking at nearby Mt. Bachelor (mtbachelor.com); hike up yourself or take the chairlift and enjoy a mellow stroll back down.
Health: Check out Bend’s mask and COVID-19 guidelines at visitbend.com.
by Suzie Dundas
Editor’s note: Please check each destination's respective website for the most up-to-date info regarding travel restrictions and health and safety protocols.
SLO photos courtesy of Visit San Luis Obispo. Lake Tahoe photos courtesy of Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority. Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort Spa & Casino photo courtesy of Hyatt Lake Tahoe Resort Spa & Casino. Lake Tahoe photos courtesy of Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority. Salinas Valley photo courtesy of seemonterey.com. Morning pastries at Hofsas House photo by Cecilia Moreno with Food Diary of a City Girl, @citygirlcece. Other photos courtesy of their respective companies or organizations. Yosemite photos by Aaron Leitz. Wanderlust Tours photo by Chaney Swiney. Mt. Bachelor, Crux, and Downtown Bend photos by Steve Heinrichs.
Close-to-Home Destinations [20 Images] Click Any Image To Expand