Everyone loves Santa Barbara. Perfect weather, California coast, quaint town. But explore further. Head up the canyon 45 minutes and don't look back. Enter the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. Founded in 1923, give yourself at least two days and two nights to lap up laid-back luxury, play the premier championship 18-hole golf course that spans the original contours of the Ojai valley, and inhale the sweet lavender-infused air.
This Saturday afternoon the California Beer Festival barrels into Santa Cruz. The event will be showcasing over 60 craft brews, offering food from local eateries, and hosting four bands. What makes this particular event special is that it's the best place to sample the variety of beers brewed in Santa Cruz and the surrounding area; many of these beers are not distributed outside the area and some are only available on tap. Even a dedicated pub crawler would have little chance of sampling this many SC brews outside of the festival.
A few weeks ago, Highway 1—which, since a landslide in March, had been closed about 13 miles south of Carmel—finally reopened, allowing drivers to pass both ways, shaving off about 3 hours of a hellish detour. Which means get thee to Big Sur before the tourist hordes know the better.
Recently, I did just that. Once you get through Carmel, driving down Highway 1 is a cliffhanger. It's exhilarating, for sure—while you're marveling at the scenes of immense beauty, you're also curling your toes as if this will keep your car from careening off the cliff.
The green hills that surround Carmel Valley Road tend to attract outdoorsy types who like to follow up a long hike or round of golf with a massage, a glass of pinot noir, and a dinner that was just picked from the kitchen garden. It's an easy getaway, about a three-hour drive south of the city, and six miles past Carmel-By-The-Sea. This fall, one of the valley's longtime resorts, Carmel Valley Ranch, reopened its 500 acres after remodeling their 139 guest suites, lodge, fitness centers, and adding beekeeping, a spacious spa, herb and vegetable gardens, and a small vineyard.
Farmers markets are like fingerprints: no two are exactly alike. Some are large and filled with action; others are small and more subdued. Santa Cruz's Westside Farmers Market falls delightfully in the middle. What it lacks in size it makes up for in variety. Locals check off their grocery list at spryly named farms like Happy Boy, Twin Girls, and Dirty Girl. Fill your bag with must-have-been-picked-just-hours-ago produce. (Scoop up as many heirloom tomatoes as you can!) But it's not just the fruits and veggies: Companion Bakery offers inspired creations like lavender white-chocolate scones.
Ever since trainer Jackie Warner, the star of Bravo's Work Out, tried to entice a potential paramour with the information that her abs have never been as solid as when she was surfing, I've been meaning to brave the Bay Area's less-than-ideal ocean conditions (remember, I'm from Hawaii, so the standard is high) in the name of shredded abdominals.
With the summer fog blown off, and the fall and winter holidays looming, Half Moon Bay makes the perfect, effortless weekend getaway this time of year. Because it's a mere 30 miles away down relatively uncongested 280, you won't have to leave work early on a Friday to be in HMB by dinnertime. Make a rezzie at Pasta Moon, a warm, Tuscan-inspired eatery on Main Street where the owner circulates among the tables to make sure everyone's happy. Order the lightly battered asparagus, the pear-and-prosciutto wood-fired pizza and, for entrees, the pesto risotto with day boat scallops or the grilled Arctic char in a rosemary demi-glaze. This, my friends, is the way to end a work week.
The forecast for Saturday in Carmel is for "abundant sunshine" and highs in the 70s—a perfect September afternoon. Why make the journey? The first-ever Harvest event at Quail Lodge, a two-day celebration organized by the same team that puts on the Pebble Beach Food & Wine extravaganza each spring.
It's a bird, it's a plane...no, it's just that giant inflatable helium structure, the Eureka blimp, you've seen hovering over the Bay Area on many occasions.
And now she'll add another destination to her repertoire of areas traveled, which include San Francisco, Oakland, Monterey, Los Angeles and Wine Country. Beginning Saturday, Airship Ventures' famed Zeppelin NT will depart from Moffett Field with its final destination that hippie, seaside community, Santa Cruz.
We here at 7x7.com are becoming addicted to this summer escape idea. Last weekend I gave Santa Cruz a whorl and decided it is the perfect weekend destination right now. Just as summer begins to wind down, and your East Coast friends are talking about the Shore and Cape Cod, you can get your very own beach-fix a mere 79 miles south of SF.