The 10 Most Beautiful Towns in California
When thinking of California, many visitors are familiar with cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. The Golden State is also home to many picturesque small towns and villages that will inspire every visitor. We’ve put together a list of some of the loveliest places to be found in California, from coastal charmers to mountain beauties.
Located on Catalina Island, which has a rich history that dates back thousands of years,Avalon will remind people of the Mediterranean with its lush vegetation, hillside homes, and beautiful, clear waters. The only incorporated city on the island, George Shatto was the first person who began developing this lovely community into a resort town. More than a million people visit Avalon each year for its outdoor activities, small shops and art galleries on palm-lined streets, delectable eateries with incredible views of the water, and much more. Featuring a temperate climate year round, it is a great place to explore any time of the year.
Carmel-by-the-Sea, also known simply as Carmel, is a European-style village on the Monterey Peninsula popular with tourists. Because of its size, it is a great area to explore by foot whether to hike down to the white, soft sandy beach or stroll along the streets to marvel at the charming architecture, boutiques, or delicious eateries. A must-visit for any Carmel guest is the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission — founded in 1771 by Father Junipero Serra — a compound comprised of a basilica church, several small museums, and beautiful grounds. Home to many creative types over the years, the village also hosts many festivals throughout the year, including the Carmel Bach Festival.
A historic railroad town in Northern California, Dunsmuir — named after Alexander Dunsmuir, a coal baron from British Columbia — is a serene mountain retreat known for its peaceful ambiance. Its location makes it a prime destination for outdoor lovers as there are so many adventures waiting to be explored from fishing to hiking to mountain climbing. For visitors who would rather take in the scenic beauty from a distance, the Downtown Historic District, with buildings dating back to the early 20th century, is a lovely place to wander and discover boutiques and tasty treats. If visiting during the summer, be sure to visit the city’s Botanical Gardens for a colorful display of flora.
A charming Victorian village nestled in between two redwood forests, visiting Ferndale is like taking a step back in time. A dairy and agriculture community, the town blossomed in the late 19th century and is as charming today as it was back then. Take a leisurely walk along Main Street, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, to absorb the beauty of the colorful Victorian buildings that now house a variety of art galleries, specialty shops, and mouthwatering eateries. For those wanting to explore nature, visit the nearby — a five-mile drive — Lost Coast, a stunning section of coastline that has been left the way nature intended, or Russ Park, a closed canopy Sitka Spruce forest that acts as a bird sanctuary.
Founded after the Civil War by those seeking fortunes, Julian is a historic mining-town nestled in the Cuyamaca Mountains among oak and pine forests in Southern California. Today, the town is known for its historic sites and apple orchards, which produce sweet varieties that are in turn created into mouthwatering pies, ciders, and other sweet delights. From specialty stores to art galleries to historical museums to outdoor adventures, it is a town with something for everyone. To learn more about the history of Julian, stop by the Julian Chamber of Commerce to pick up a History Hunt card, which will guide you to various places, including the Pioneer Cemetery and Julian Jail, where you can search for answers to questions all the while learning more about this charming town.
A California gold rush town located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains’ western foothills, Nevada City, a historical landmark, is an idyllic town brimming with charm. Proud of their history, locals have been very careful to preserve the century-old, Victorian buildings for visitors and future generations. Park the car, walk around the narrow streets to see the beautiful buildings up close and discover art, handmade jewelry, clothes, books and tantalizing cuisine. Many events take place throughout the year as well, including the Nevada City Bicycle Classic, First Friday Art Walks, and Victorian Christmas. Nevada City is also a popular destination for those seeking a base from which to explore the great outdoors.
Located 90 miles north of Los Angeles, Ojai is the perfect spot to escape the hectic city life and enjoy a relaxing retreat. Settled in the 1800s, the town features wonderful Spanish Mission Revival architecture — as seen in the Arcade Plaza, which is filled with shops, restaurants, and art — with scenic backgrounds provided by the Los Padres National Forest and Topa Topa Mountains. An artsy town, the area is brimming with galleries and other arts and culture venues, including the Ojai Valley Museum and Ojai Art Center, along with other must-visit destinations, such as Libbey Park, which hosts the famous Ojai Music Festivaleach year, and the area’s stunning vineyards.
Known as Napa Valley’s Main Street, St. Helena is a charming town surrounded by beautiful, hilly vineyards. Known as a wine lover’s paradise since the area produces numerous wines, it is also a culinary mecca, home of the Culinary Institute of America. The town features a historic, picturesque downtown with lovely architectural gems housing a variety of boutiques, galleries, and dining establishments sure to impress anyone. The terrain around St. Helena also offers a plethora of activities from hiking to biking making it an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts as well.
Solvang is a scenic Danish community found in the heart of Santa Barbara’s wine country. Located in the Santa Ynez Valley, this cultural gem, which means ‘sunny field’ in Danish, was settled in 1911 and boasts delightful architecture, including the Bethania Lutheran Church, which resembles churches found in rural Denmark, flower-lined streets, plus four windmills. Visit the Elverhøj Museum of History and Art and Hans Christian Andersen Museum for more insight on the history of this quaint village or search through the more than 150 shops for unique gifts and tasty authentic treats. Solvang is also home to several restaurants, wine tasting rooms, plus the historic Old Mission San Inés.
Another wine country gem, Sonoma is a pretty town planned around a central plaza and surrounded by rolling hills lined with vineyards — it is known as the birthplace of California’s wine industry. Home to the last Spanish mission in California, Mission San Francisco Solano, built in 1824, which is now part of the Sonoma State Historic Park, the town is another great place to discover California’s past. Other areas of interest include the aforementioned plaza, which is home to many unique shops, fine-dining establishments, casual eateries, and incredible art, and the area’s famed wineries. Either way, there is something of interest for everyone from history buffs to wine lovers.
Reprinted from an article by Marcelina Morfin in The Culture Trip.
#1 Petaluma, California
Harper’s Bazaar recently listed the top #10 most coveted places to visit this Fall in our great homeland. #1 was Petaluma featuring the 500 acre estate of McEvoy Ranch. On September 20th the Ranch will feature “Wine and Unwind” highlighting their creations of wine, olive oil and body products. Nine are actually on our continent…the 10th has great pomme frites!
Photo courtesy of McEvoy Ranch. mcevoyranch.com
#2 was Marfa, Texas!
Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love, involving concerts, sandlot baseball and other creative pursuits from September 25-29th. Where to stay? A stylish yurt on El Cosmico, an 18-acre trailer, tent and teepee campground set in the desert.
Nick Simonite. elcosmico.com
#3 Barnard, Vermont
Desiring a fall leaf experience, antiquing and hiking? Harper’s suggest cozy- ing up at the historic Twin Farms Resort with their newly debuted spa treatments.
Courtesy of Twin Farms. twinfarms.com
#4 Seattle, Washington for a Culinary Experience
With the Culinary scene exploding in Seattle…the best farm-to-table fare can be found at Melrose Market, with indie food purveyors, a restaurant, and the rustic-chic Bar Ferd’nand where the menu changes daily.
#5 Miami, Florida
Soak up the sun at the Metropolitan by Como, the newest luxury hotel.
Courtesy of Como Hotels. comohotels.com
#6 Dolores, Colorado
Courtesy of Dunton Hot Springs. duntonhotsprings.com
#7 Philadelphia, PA
Design Philadelphia for the fashion obsessed…Arts and Crafts are highlighted from over 400 designers from all fields between October 9 – 17th with events and workshops in venues across the city.
Courtesy of Philadelphia Tourism. 2014.designphiladelphia.org
#8 Nantucket, Mass
Bike rides, beach walks and a stay at the While Elephant.
Courtesy of Nantucket Island Resort. whiteelephanthotel.com
#9 Woodstock, NY
When it’s a fall spa treatment that is in order…West Village Savor Spa is just the ticket with hollistic massages.
Then there is #10…..Paris, France…
Where the newly restored Peninsula Hotel is a must stay in gay Paris!
Velaa Private Island
Located in the Maldives, this 20 acre private island in northern Noonu Atoll offers the traveler in addition to sleeping, swimming, eating and relaxing….a nine hole golf course, squash and tennis courts, a miniature submarine, a water sports center, Champagne bar and a climbing wall.
If you can possibly tear yourself away from the beach, the resort’s restaurant features chef Adeline Grattard, from famed Michelin starred L’Astrance in Paris.
Desirous of a spa treatment? Velaa’s has a Clarins branded spa to further enhance your supreme relaxation experience.
With 18 water bungalows you certainly could isolate yourself from the world for a little while and believe you had discovered paradise!
Thanks to Jackie Caradonio and the Robb Report.
Isle of Plenty
1 / 5
A typical day at a Maldivian island resort might consist of some eating, some swimming, a nap, and maybe a massage. But at Velaa Private Island (www.velaaprivateisland.com; available through Linara Travel, www.linaratravel.com), guests may find they have little time for lounging. Opened in December, the 20-acre island in the northern Noonu Atoll is home to a nine-hole golf course and a golf academy, squash and tennis courts, a miniature submarine, a Champagne bar, a water-sports center, and a climbing wall. The resort’s dining experiences adhere to the more-is-more ethos, with an overwater restaurant helmed by the French chef Adeline Grattard (of Paris’s Michelin-starred L’Astrance) and a 37-foot tower housing the Maldives’ largest wine collection. Velaa’s Clarins-branded spa and 18 overwater bungalows are equally over the top, though they remain perfectly suited to a low-key day of lounging in the Maldives.
– See more at: http://robbreport.com/slideshow/paid-issue/frontrunners-august-2014-travel/1#sthash.DpqHXwqU.dpuf
California Gold…what do you get when you combine quintessentially creative people inspired by some of the most beautiful coastal communities in the world? A network of luxurious retreats thoughtfully designed, peppered with cuisine produced by chefs imaginatively transforming nature’s local produce and succulent meats and fresh fish into innovative plates. So with all this magnificence at our fingertips….a gastronomes road trip is in order! With a variety of culinary and hotel experiences I’ve provided recommendations from Napa to Venice.
Bardessono Resort and Spa
First stop Bardessono in Yountville, awarded one of the Top 10 Hotels in the World in 2014 also has the distinction of being one of the Greenest Luxury Hotels. The resort features lush rooms, indulgent spa treatments and Lucy’s, a phenomenal restaurant serving innovative, garden inspired California cuisine. If you want to venture out, Thomas Kellar’s French Laundry in Yountville is celebrating their 20th year of fine cuisine. The restaurant serves the finest American cuisine with french influences, superbly presented. If it’s a sweet you are craving for breakfast, Bouchon Bakery makes the most scrumptious Brioche Doughnuts.
Wander down the coast to San Francisco’s Historic Presidio. A boutique hotel in Golden Gate National Park, the Inn at the Presidio is the elegantly renovated Pershing Hall. This Georgian Revival style building was the retreat for U. S. Army bachelor officers posted to the Presidio. The Inn features 22 handsomely decorated rooms and suites, nestled amongst hiking and biking trails in one of our most beautiful national parks.
Ten minutes away, in the Old Ferry Building is the Hog Island Oyster Bar for brunch or lunch. Exquisite oysters, shucked to perfection, perfect temperature, jewels of the sea! Must haves: Grilled Cowgirl Creamery Three Cheese Sandwich dunked in their freshly prepared Clam Chowder. Sheer Nirvana!
While in the city, food and fun are found in the colorful environment of The Cavalier Restaurant which opened it’s doors in 2013 by award winning restauranteur Anna Weinberg, James Nicholas and chef Jennifer Puccio. Already deemed one of Zagat’s 2013 Top 25 Restaurants The Cavalier features a terrific English Pub menu. Try the Duck Scotch Eggs.
If it’s old school San Francisco you want then the Cioppino at Tadich’s is the place to go. My favorite is the Petrale Soul but no matter what you order they’ve been preparing this cuisine since 1849. They’ve got it down and the martini’s are terrific too!
Moving down the coast to Carmel, travel up the Carmel Valley to the Bernardus Winery and Spa or nestle down at the Mission Ranch just north of downtown Carmel. No need to travel outside of either of these venues with chefs on staff known for utilizing local seasonal produce and meats the food and wine are exquisite at either venue.
Photo Courtesy of The Mission Ranch
For quintessential elegance, style and luxury the El Encanto in the Riviera section of Santa Barbara is my go to spot. Recently renovated, the resort has been returned to it’s splendor of the 1920’s. The icon was enhanced with the addition of an expansive outdoor swimming pool and beautiful boutique spa. Serene and private the views are spectacular, the food exquisite, no need to leave.
San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito is equally as private and serene with a cottage feeling reminiscent of the Ranch it used to be. Featuring the Stonehouse Restuarant the chef utilizes the regional harvest in their culinary creations. For lunch or brunch you have to go to Jeannine’s. From the Salmon Eggs Benedict to the fresh assortment of Scones for Breakfast she also features a wonderful selection of salads and sandwiches on fresh baked bread. My favorites, Chicken Pesto Sandwich and Quiche. Outdoor dining on Coast Village Road provides sun, people watching and terrific food!
Sand, sea and surf in Ventura features Beach House Tacos. Their best, the California Taco and a locally brewed Paradise Ale. Island Brewing Company.
The Channel Road Inn located in the sea side community of Santa Monica is one of the Four Sisters Inn Group. Blending modern luxuries and sophisticated services this boutique hotel has the traditional amenities and architecture of a B & B. Within bike riding distance to the beach and town, this lovely hotel is situated in the peaceful canyon between Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica.
While in Santa Monica, Pierro Selvaggio’s Valentino restaurant is a “must dine at location”. Voted one of USA Today’s Most Heavenly Restaurants we have been enjoying the welcoming ambiance and cuisine at Valentinos for over 30 years. Pierro is the consummate host and his devotion to his craft is only surpassed by the quality and delectable cuisine he serves. You will leave this restaurant thoroughly pleased with the beauty that life and food have to offer! His passion and dedication are present in every selection.
In Venice, fashionable and fantastic, Chaya Brasserie has a lovely bar and exquisite California grill cuisine and then there is always my favorite, Chinois, Wolfgang Puck’s Chinese cuisine restaurant that has been on Main street serving the best curried oysters for over 20 years. The Salmon with Black and Gold noodles can not be duplicated, I’ve tried. Some things are better left to the experts!
For terrific takeaway food, Gjelina in Venice for Brisket Banh Mi, Chick Pea Kale Stew and Lamb Sausage Pizza. Gjelina is on Abbot Kinney in Venice, chic, posh and artsy this area has gone through a resurgence and is oozing creativity. Bay Cities Deli, the best Italian deli on the West side. Located on Lincoln Blvd in Santa Monica, the best sandwiches around….our family favorite…the Godmother.
Philanthropist Madeleine Pickens’ Mustang Monument luxury eco-resort recently opened their tepees! Her 576,000 acre wild horse reserve is located in the northeastern part of Nevada near the town of Wells. Along with ten cabins, the retreat features ten hand-painted tepees outfitted with hardwood flooring, king-size beds, and adjacent baths as well as a 24 hour butler service. After a daylong ride through the mustang habitat, unwind with an in-tepee spa treatment and dinner under the stars. Who’s ready to go?
From $1,025/ night; mustangmonument.com
Photos courtesy of Architectural Digest
Somerset – Montecito
Paradise Retreats, a luxury vacation rental agency, was founded in 2006 by Theo Kracke a Business Economics graduate from UCSB. His business philosophies of integrity, innovation, and value have launched his company to the forefront of private home vacation rentals in the area of Santa Barbara, Montecito and surrounding communities. A resident of Santa Barbara since 1981, Theo began his business experience founding Techstyles, a resort apparel company. Propelling this business into the lead within a matter of years he then sold the company to explore the vacation rental demand in the Santa Barbara area. Once again he hit success. With the company’s representation of high end, beach and country home rentals the variety to choose from is limitless.
‘Paradise Retreats offers unsurpassed service to Guests and Owners of the vacation homes we represent. Our properties are beautiful and well-maintained, and have all the amenities you would expect in a luxury home. We specialize in satisfying the needs of the discriminating customer, who expects the best in service and quality. Each of our properties offers a unique and special experience.”
Here are just a few of their available properties.
Butterfly Beach – Montecito
Mesa Oceanfront – Santa Barbara
Vista Del Valle – Santa Ynez
Nestled in the spirited heart of Australia is probably one of the most luxurious camping experiences ever imagined. Longitude 131 features fifteen intimate luxury tents, elevated atop rust-red dunes which complement the rustic natural environment of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Parkand. Luxuriously providing a private place to rest, relax and refresh the sweeping canopy tents showcase King size beds enveloped in crisp, white linens guaranteeing the silent sleep of the desert. Constellations unbridled by city lights, tales and stories of local lore, gourmet cuisine, Red Ochre Spa treatments all compliment the rich dreams found only in the heart of sacred, powerful places naturally displayed by this resort.
The Dune House, situated in the middle of the campsite provides an extraordinary panorama of landscape while featuring savory sumptuous fare, an architecturally stunning bar and an impressive library, the perfect spot for lounging, relaxing and sharing stories of desert discoveries with other guests. Adjacent to the Dune House and nestled amongst the hills is the pool and terrace. An ideal oasis, inviting refreshment and immersion in the pristine surroundings.
Grgich Hills Estate is pouring some of it’s old vine zinfandel from this Calistoga vineyard tomorrow. A limited production, but unfortunately it’s only for its members. Still a beautiful picture and with the prospect of a gorgeous weekend, a trip to the wine country might be a lovely outing. While you are there The French Laundry is 20 years old this year!
It’s that time of year again. Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival, April 10 – 13. An epicurean and vintners event this four day extravaganza presented by Food & Wine, is host to Celebrity Chefs, Sommeliers and features 250 acclaimed Wineries. With tastings, cooking demonstrations and unique dining opportunities you will experience cutting edge culinary creations and wine pairings on one of the most gorgeous coastlines in California. Who could ask for more?
All pertinent information regarding cooking demonstrations, events, attending chefs and wineries are available on their website as well as lodging availability. The event is held at The Inn At Spanish Bay. http://www.pbfw.com/
Personally I would suggest staying off site. My favorite to go spot is The Mission Ranch Resort which has the intimacy of cottages nestled on 22 acres, 9 blocks south of the town of Carmel with the view of Point Lobos, the Carmel River and the Ocean. The Resort lends itself to an early morning run or walk on the beach, fabulous sunsets and peaceful accommodations. http://www.missionranchcarmel.com/
Or you could head up the Carmel valley to the Bernardus Lodge which is a luxury resort featuring fine dining and stunning landscapes. With Spa and Salon services this resort provides restoration for the body and soul as well as the Winery and excellent cuisine. If it is a particularly overcast weekend Bernardus benefits from it’s location in the sun-belt part of the valley …almost a guarantee for warmth and relaxation. www.bernarduslodge.com
Photo Courtesy of Bernardus Lodge