The weather is still perfect, even if many things have changed. You’ll want to check ahead to see where beaches are open, but just about any spot along the West Coast has vistas that will take your breath away.
Although we can’t travel to Italy right now, we can go to California. With its Mediterranean climate, great wines, mountains and endless coastline, it’s basically the Italy of America.
Starting from the south and working up the coast, you first encounter the Mexican-influenced culture and laid-back California vibes of San Diego. In a matter of minutes you can go from the beach to lush gardens to desert. On the way to Los Angeles, you can head inland to the resorts of the Palm Springs area, where a dip in the pool on a hot day makes everything right. Right now you have to get takeout (or sit outdoors at select places), but you can still eat your way through L.A. with food from just about every culture on Earth.
You can also use the nation’s second largest city as a base to escape into nature with an autumn expedition through the Channel Islands with Lindblad Expeditions. Channel Islands is one of a whopping nine national parks to be explored in the Golden State. Back on the mainland, there’s a lot of territory to cover between Southern California and the Bay Area, but every inch of it is gorgeous. Hug the coast, and you get the beauty of Santa Barbara—a key stop on Backroads’ fall West Coast Beaches & California Cool itinerary—and Big Sur, where the Post Ranch Inn is ready to welcome guests. Inland, you have the majesty of Sequoia and Yosemite national parks.
Once you reach the Bay Area, you’ll find a center of tech, history and culture that give way to the wine paradise of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. For a socially distanced stay just outside San Francisco, Cavallo Point in Sausalito is right across the Golden Gate Bridge, and there’s an array of Virtuoso-preferred hotels in the heart of wine country. From there, the Pacific Coast Highway leads up to Oregon with Point Reyes National Seashore, Redwoods National Park and a relaxing stay at The Inn at Newport Ranch to guide the way.
Oregon’s tall firs and picturesque Cannon Beach make for one of the prettiest drives in the country, while the Willamette Valley wine scene, Mt. Hood and Multnomah Falls draw visitors to the Portland area. Follow the Columbia River up to Astoria, which you can do on UnCruise Adventures and American Queen Steamboat Company river cruises, and you’ll follow the path of Lewis & Clark while enjoying some of the fine craft beers the West Coast offers.
Just across the river you’ll enter Washington, where the natural paradise of the Olympic Peninsula and San Juan Islands surround Seattle, one of America’s most spectacular cities. The Emerald City boasts four Virtuoso-preferred hotels and some of the best views you’ll find anywhere. Sadly, you can’t cross over to Canada just now but there’s plenty of America to rediscover on your tour of the West Coast.
Contact Stefany at: email@example.com and or firstname.lastname@example.org to plan yours.
Would you like to be relaxing amidst the redwood forest looking at Pacific coastal views? Or enjoying a glass of wine surrounded by the rolling hills of Napa? Or feeling happy in healing hot springs water in Arizona? Or admiring the turquoise blue waters in Jamaica? If so, you will want to know of these properties!
Here I am speaking with Tara D’Agostino, owner of Wanderluxe Destinations, a boutique luxury representation company, speaking about a few of the wonderful properties she represents including Ventana Big Sur, Carmel Valley Ranch, Castle Hot Springs and Round Hill Hotel and Villas.
We’re all eager to travel somewhere besides the backyard or the basement, but people are definitely going to be very cautious even when venturing out again. Domestic travel is going to restart ahead of international travel, and at first a lot of people might stick to places they can drive to in a few hours’ time before flying, even as airlines continue their vigorous sanitization efforts. We want our travelers to be safe first and foremost, so we have some tips on how to social distance while traveling.
California’s Napa and Sonoma valleys get the most publicity, and with good reason because there are some great wines and wonderful places to enjoy them along with some great views and meals. The Willamette Valley in Oregon and wine regions of Washington are also very nice. If the West Coast is too far afield for you, though, there are ample wineries in New York’s Finger Lakes and North Fork, throughout Virginia and five American Viticulture Areas in Pennsylvania. Wherever you live, there are wineries with vast vineyards and boutique hotels full of charm.
With a population density of 1.2 people per square mile, our largest state is almost entirely wide open spaces. The wildlife is of a different type but plentiful enough to rival anything you’ll see on safari. Fishing lodges reachable by float plane can ensure plenty of breathing room. Alaska’s summer season ought to correspond fairly well with the relaxation of shelter at home orders. It’s yet further evidence that Seward’s Folly wasn’t such a bad deal at all.
Living the cowboy life in Big Sky Country sounds pretty good to us right about now. There are a bevy of Virtuoso-preferred ranches out West — in Montana and other states — that have an array of personalized activities outdoors day and night, from horseback riding to stargazing. Fresh air and mountain scenery abounds. Accommodations are typically well spread out. The endless sure beat walking around your block for the 5,000th time.
The entire system was designed with returning to nature in mind. While the highest concentration of parks is in the West, there’s almost certainly a national park within a few hours of your home. There are also national trails and monuments throughout the country. Operations are modified on a park-by-park basis, so be sure to check before planning. Glamping options and National Park lodges abound, so you can be in the heart of nature.
Some might not be able to resist the lure of a new city. If that describes you, make sure to pick one with good weather and tons of outdoor activity. The Phoenix, Houston and San Diego areas have some of the largest urban parks in the U.S. Denver, Seattle, Portland and Salt Lake City have abundant outdoor opportunities and are within easy reach of nature areas. We don’t know what reopening will look like exactly, but we’ll keep dreaming with you until we make your travel dreams a reality.
For people in Southern California to experience honest to goodness autumn and winter weather, they don’t need to go away; they simply need to go up. The mountain resort areas of Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake are just a couple hours from Los Angeles, but the atmosphere could not be more different.
You can feel it in the air, which has a genuine chill to it a mile above sea level. You can hear it in the calls of ducks and Steller jays. And you can see it everywhere, from the ubiquitous lookouts on the side of the road that give overviews of the Inland Empire, to the forested alpine lakes, to the chalet-style buildings that look like they belong in Switzerland rather than Southern California.
In all seasons, the outdoor activities are what draw visitors to towns where the elevation is higher than the population on the roadside signs welcoming you. The lakes are in the heart of the San Bernardino National Forest, and there is a plethora of hiking trails showcasing the tranquility that has made the area a favorite getaway for movie stars for decades. The natural setting also stood in for foreign locales in many movies.
Though snowfall isn’t always plentiful, Big Bear has a thriving ski scene, and snow machines fill in when natural powder falls short. Bear Mountain and Snow Summit combine to offer 400 acres of skiable terrain. In warmer times, watersports abound on the pristine lakes. Kayaking, jet skiing, and water skiing are all family favorites. The mountain terrain also makes Jeep adventures and horseback riding favorite pastimes.
Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear truly are four seasons destinations stacked on top of a place known for ever-present sunshine and warm days. Next time you’re in the L.A. area and want to experience a little quiet solitude, just head up. It’s where you go when you need a break from paradise.
Where to stay:
Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa
Under the gabled roofs of Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa, casual luxury meets breathtaking vistas. This is where the sun rises over majestic pines and sets over a sparkling lake. Where you can warm your spirit by a crackling fire or raise your heart rate zooming down the side of a mountain. Where rustic elegance and modern comfort converge to create an experience you can’t find anywhere else in Southern California.
Perhaps August in the desert might not be your cup of tea, although there are few things more refreshing than jumping into a (climate controlled) pool when the mercury hits 110 degrees. But Southern California’s Coachella Valley is only that hot in the summer. All year long, it’s an oasis, not just of green at the foot of mountains, but of arts and culture.
Palm Springs has been a haven for Hollywood stars since the ’30s, and the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, founded in 1999, comes to Indio in the spring. Outside summertime, when temperatures drop and cold weather sets in, the desert sees average highs in the 70s and 80s half the year.
In addition to being ringed by mountains with the Salton Sea to the south, the Coachella Valley is also the gateway to Joshua Tree National Park at the confluence of the Mojave and Colorado deserts. Aside from the boundless hiking opportunities, Joshua Tree is a perfect place to gaze at the night sky thanks to its elevation and dark sky conditions.
The area is dotted with canyons offering adventure to the rock climbers in the family, with The Living Desert in Palm Desert providing family fun with a zoo and botanical garden. El Paseo shopping center and the Palm Springs Art Museum are a respite when things do get too hot. With March comes the BNP Paribas Open, a pro tennis tournament in Indian Wells. Any time of year, a Jeep tour or hot air balloon ride taking in the whole valley show off the area’s stark beauty.
Arts, food and wine festivals come to the valley throughout the year, with the Desert Circuit Horse Show taking place January through March at the Polo Grounds. About the only thing missing is the carrot festival Bugs Bunny came looking for in a 1953 cartoon. No matter your interests or the time of year, the Coachella Valley remains an oasis in the desert. Even if all you want to do is jump in the pool on a hot day.
Where you should stay:
La Quinta Resort & Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
The Original Desert Hideaway, La Quinta Resort & Club—a member of Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts—has been a haven to Hollywood stars since 1926. Set on 45 acres of vibrant gardens, the resort features hacienda-style casitas, suites and villas clustered around 41 pools. Together with PGA WEST, the resort offers five unique golf courses designed by legends Nicklaus, Dye and Norman. Also available: Spa La Quinta, 23 tennis courts, seven restaurants and seasonal, live outdoor music. A multimillion-dollar restoration has furnished the resort with a modern look in line with the property’s history and serene desert surroundings.
Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa
Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa offers unrivaled hospitality in the Palm Springs area. This award-winning resort boasts 530 newly renovated guest rooms, including 26 luxury Penthouse Suites and 43 extravagant villas with the area’s only personalized butler service. It is a premier golf and tennis destination, home to two PGA championship courses and world-class tennis facilities. Agua Serena, the 30,000-square-foot spa, is annually recognized as one of the nation’s best. Other highlights include seven outdoor pools, one of which is adults-only; private, poolside cabanas; and four tantalizing dining venues.
The Ritz Carlton, Rancho Mirage
The Ritz Carlton, Rancho Mirage offers a desert-chic ambience that embraces its beautiful natural setting. You’ll especially find this in your accommodations’ décor, which reflects the desert surroundings with locally sourced stone and wood. Admire the views from your private balcony or patio. Club Level rooms offer a private, well-stocked lounge with a dedicated concierge. The Ritz Kids program keeps children and teens occupied so you can indulge in the spa’s indoor-outdoor Spirit of the Mountains renewal treatment. Close proximity to Palm Springs brings golfers within range of more than 100 fine courses.
The Pacific West national parks region includes the West Coast of the continental U.S. plus Hawaii and territories in the Pacific Ocean. The parks of the region show off the wonders of plate tectonics and house some of the oldest living organisms on Earth.
Featuring the tallest trees on Earth, this Northern California park falls under national and state jurisdiction. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and served as a shooting location for several movies, most notably serving as the forest moon of Endor in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Several options for a scenic drive take visitors through ancient forests (including iconic drive-through trees), along the coast and into flowering prairies. The wildlife ranges from banana slugs to gray whales. The star attractions are the Coast redwoods, which live on average 500-700 years, with a few known to be 2,000 years old.
Peaking at 14,410 feet above sea level in Washington, Rainier is is a land of fire and ice. Still an active volcano, it is also the most glaciated peak in the continental U.S. The park is open year-round, featuring winter sports and ranger-guided snowshoe walks, brilliant fall colors, abundant waterfalls in the spring as the snow melts and bountiful flowers and berries in summer. Humans have lived in the area of the mountain native tribes called Takhoma for at least 9,000 years, and its modern name comes from Rear Admiral Peter Rainier, a friend of British Royal Navy Captain George Vancouver, who explored extensively around the Pacific Northwest.
In nearly 1,200 square miles, Yosemite packs quite a punch. El Capitan, Half Dome, and Cathedral Peak are among the iconic rock formations, and intrepid climbers scale just about every rock they can to take in astounding views. Birdwatchers can spot more than 250 species living in or passing through the park throughout the year, with peregrine falcons and spotted owls among the most popular. Bring your star chart for some great gazing, especially during the summer, when amateur astronomers gather at Glacier Point on Saturday nights.
The violent eruption of Mt. Mazama about 7,700 years ago created what is now the deepest lake in the U.S. Crater Lake lies in the caldera of the volcano, reaching almost 2,000 feet at its deepest, with the rim of the caldera ranging between 7,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level. A cinder cone in the western part of the lake forms Wizard Island, which is accessible by boat during the summer. A legend of the Klamath people tells of a battle between the god of the below world and the god of the above world ending with the destruction of the underworld god’s home, which then filled with water.
Encompassing Kilauea and Mauna Loa, two of the five volcanoes that formed the Big Island, the park shows off many stages of the life of a volcano. Kilauea has been erupting continuously since 1983, creating new land, while Mauna Loa is the most massive volcano on Earth’s surface. Lava tubes and steam vents abound, providing homes to unique flora and fauna such as happy face spiders and ohi‘a trees. Visitors can drive the Chain of Craters road or go on foot, hiking to flowing lava and seeing the newest land on Earth form.