Get up, get out and get gone!
Diverse getaway destinations for the recession-weary
By Sara Cardine 04/14/2011
Face it, with things the way they are now, your heart’s thinking France but your bank account’s saying Fresno. The good news is that you are lucky enough to live in a part of the country that offers the romance of the Riviera and the adventure of the Alps without the customs line, passports and fries with mayonnaise.
If you can subsidize a tank or two of gas, the state is your oyster.
Longing for the beach, but not Long Beach? Head up the 101 to Santa Barbara; it’s the perfect place to feel like you’re far away without drifting too far from the mother ship. Happily billing itself as the American Riviera, the city of Santa Barbara boasts crazy oceanfront vistas alongside rugged hillsides that are home to delicate buds in spring and ripe, luscious wine grapes in summer (santabarbaraca.gov). The city offers a bit of something for everyone; the Mission, with its breathtakingly green lawn and English-style rose garden, is perfect for mom or grandma or any history buffs on a California mission mission. The beaches are romantic but tame, and the city enjoys a thriving downtown area always foot-trafficky enough for people watchers. Not far outside the city limits, wine aficionados can swirl, sniff, sip and spit at any of a number of wineries up the coast that tend to specialize in Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah but also offer several unique blends grown in the area’s famed “microclimates” (sbcountywines.com).
Check out points north along the scenic coastline, including the Danish-themed Solvang 35 miles north and San Luis Obispo about 65 miles north of Solvang. You will pass Cachuma Lake, a sound spot for camping, fishing and pairing flannel with khakis and boots that has a nature center for younger adventurers (clnaturecenter.org).
The thought of a dry, desert heat in summer may have an especially high appeal after this wet, wet winter. So slather on the sun block and hop on the 10 East for Palm Springs. Located in the Coachella Valley and wedged snugly in the burnt sienna hug of the San Jacinto Mountains,
Palm Springs doffs its hat to a bygone era, where postwar-era celebrities played house on palm-lined streets, baked in the sun with a sweaty poolside drinks and scandalized themselves on shag carpets in front of star-filled picture windows.
But wait, there’s plenty more. Nearly all year, along Palm Canyon Drive, is the Village Fest, a bustling nighttime marketplace of restaurants, clubs and markets. Check the city’s Web site to learn more about destinations like the Palm Springs Air Museum and the Living Desert, a 1,200-acre wildlife and botanical park (ci.palm-springs.ca.us).
If you weren’t born and raised in Los Angeles County, you may have felt at one point in your life that you could really take a breather from Southern California altogether. That doesn’t mean you’re looking for a week’s stay at the family farm in Ohio or for a monastic retreat in a secluded mountain cave (necessarily). You could be just as well served by going just a few hours to LA’s complete opposite — the whole of Northern California and, most notably, the city by the Bay.
No matter who you are, San Francisco, like LA, will let you fly your freak flag with honor. In fact, it may even actually say that somewhere on the city’s Web site (sfgov.org). You could spend a lifetime walking on foot, or taking some other eco-friendly, child-friendly, otter-friendly form of transportation, never leave the city limits and still feel you haven’t missed a thing. For the best view within a 100-mile radius, go to the Legion of Honor (legionofhonor.famsf.org), the North’s answer to the Getty Museum, minus the convenient tram because to walk IS the point. When you get there, simply spin around. On a clear day, the 280-degree view gives you not only a picture of downtown but three bridges — the Bay Bridge, Golden Gate and the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge that connects the 580 to the 101.
When you get that old SoCal urge to hop in a car for the simple sake of being in one, you’re still in luck. San Francisco gets the most tourist traffic, but you could have just as much fun in the relatively nearby towns of Berkeley, San Mateo and even Oakland, which not only has a burgeoning art community, but a pretty bucolic inner-city salt and freshwater lake, Lake Merritt, which features tennis, golf, trails and a boating center (oaklandnet.com).
In any direction, a getaway destination awaits you — all you have to do is figure out exactly what you want to get away from.