A key destination in Southern California's wine country, the Temecula Valley is full of picturesque vineyards producing some of the world's tastiest wines. The valley's linchpin town of Temecula has a preserved historic downtown that pays homage to the California Gold Rush. Both the town and entire valley provide fun activities for travelers of all ages, not just those old enough to imbibe.
For a taste of the Gold Rush era, Old Town Temecula has stretches of meticulously preserved buildings from the 1800s. Meander along wooden boardwalks and walk by saloons and hotels that feel as if they could still be frequented by grizzled prospectors and frontier explorers. The town also has an abundance of antique shops, restaurants, and artisanal food stores aimed at visitors looking to immerse themselves in the region's rustic culture.
Hot air ballooning is a hot pastime in wine country, and the Temecula Valley is especially lovely when viewed from the air. Respected providers with experienced pilots are not difficult to find in Temecula town. Consider sunset or sunrise options, or rides with a champagne brunch for an extra special atmosphere and added value.
What's not to love about 9000 acres of rolling countryside preserved for all to enjoy? The Santa Rosa Ecological Reserve encompasses miles of walking and hiking trails, equestrian facilities, and bike routes. The area also features historical museums like the Alamos Schoolhouse, a typical one-room facility from the early 20th century, and various interpretive, nature, and visitor centers.
Known for the Arabian horses bred on the property since the 1950s, Green Acres is a one-stop-shop for horse fanatics and anyone interested in experiencing the energy of a working ranch. Lessons are available, as well as tours of the horse and cow barns. Green Acres also hosts regular show jumping, Western, and dressage competition events.
One great way to assess the depth of Temecula Valley's gourmet foodie culture is by heading to the farmer's market, held each Saturday just inside the entrance to Old Town Temecula. Each weekend, 70 to 80 local producers of organic vegetables, olive oil, and artisanal cheeses display their wares. Look out for specialty items such as Acapico's handcrafted chips, guacamole, and award-winning salsa.
Community spirit in the valley finds expression at the Old Town Temecula Community Theater, a local institution for more than 15 years. With 2 state-of-the-art performance spaces housed in a rustic timber building that evokes the Gold Rush era, the theater is home to Temecula's resident community drama and dance companies, hosts touring musicals and concerts, and serves as a hub for the region's very own acclaimed Temecula Valley Symphony.
The largest nightlife temple to country and western music in Southern California, the Temecula Stampede, is a bar and saloon that attracts fans from all over with their lively entertainment line-up. If you love line dancing, hurting music, or just riding a mechanical bull for laughs, this is definitely your kind of spot.
Consider a carriage ride for a romantic and "slow travel" approach to exploring the Temecula Valley. The Temecula Carriage Company, based just outside of town, provides picnic hampers with their horse-drawn carriages, along with parasols for the sun and blankets if it's chilly. Stop at a number of wineries along the way for tastings or a meal, and never worry about choosing a designated driver.
This iconic Southern California trail stretches for 14 miles into the 18,000-acre Agua Tibia Wilderness. Not for beginners, Dripping Springs is beloved for the diversity of its terrain, which encompasses dramatic canyons, sage scrub and chaparral landscapes, and old growth pine forests. There's a campground at the trailhead for resting up under a big sky full of stars.
After a long day of sampling wine and exploring the region's natural glories, what could be more relaxing than a pampering massage or mud bath? The Temecula Valley has more than its fair share of spas for health and well being, but the most notable is probably Spa Pechanga. Part of a vast resort and casino complex, the spa's most popular treatments include frosted flutes of iced grape champagne.