* Small towns across California make great vacation destinations
* From wineries to aquariums, there’s something for everyone
* Check out our top-rated hotels in the area too
The Golden State has always been a favorite vacation destination — even for those who live there. However, most people end up in one of its two largest cities — Los Angeles in the South, or San Francisco in the North. But therehas curated a list of five other must-see cities to discover in California, and fun things to do there.
A favorite among celebs like Reese Witherspoon (who owned a house there), Ojai is known for more than just its famous orange groves. Surrounded by stunning trails that you can walk or horseback ride on, get your outdoor fix out in the mountains or on one of their eighteen hole golf courses. The town itself is full of quirky art galleries and thrift shops, as well as the Ojai Vineyard Tasting Room.
Stay at the famous Ojai Valley Inn and Spa, which features four pools, four restaurants and bars and a full-service spa that offers both couples experiences or personalized treatments.
This quaint town thirty minutes from Santa Barbara was established in 1911 by a group of Danish immigrants, and still maintains much of its traditional Danish roots. Located in the Santa Ynez valley, you can feast on Danish pancakes and pastries while you’re there, or take a ride on the Solvang Trolley, a historic horse-drawn carriage.
Stay at the Alisal Resort, a working ranch that caters to both outdoorsy folks and city slickers alike. Book an excursion with one of the horses on-site, or stay in your cozy ranch cabin-inspired digs and enjoy the resort’s food and hospitality. Downtown Solvang is just a short walk away, though you’d be tempted to just stay on the property and hang out there, too.
3. Death Valley
Much more enticing than the name suggests, this national park boasts panoramic desert views, with ridges and canyons for you to wander through. While offering a huge expanse of untouched desert, the park is also surrounded by a cute village and the local landmark, Tea Kettle Junction (SPY tip: bring a camera for the unparalleled views).
Stay at the Inn at Death Valley, with mountain views, tennis courts, lush garden and on-site restaurant and bar. It’ll be home base for your days spent exploring the desert surroundings.
4. San Luis Obispo
Located at roughly the mid-point between San Francisco and Los Angeles, one highlight of this university town is its Thursday night farmer’s markets, where the main road closes down to make room for delectable food and craft stalls. If art is what you’re after, the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art and the Steynberg gallery offer an extensive collection, or take a stroll around the historical Mission grounds.
SLO is also known for its wine, and you’ll get an immersive experience at the Allegretto Vineyard Resort in nearby Paso Robles. The Mediterranean-inspired hotel features acres of vineyard views and fine dining with local, farm-to-table cuisine, and of course, fine locally-grown wines to pair with every meal.
If you managed to catch Big Little Lies, you were probably just as blown away by the beautiful town of Monterey as the gripping drama unfolding. Aside from boasting a world-class Aquarium, Monterey was the inspiration for many of Steinbeck’s greatest novels, and you get a sense of the town’s rich history while wandering through, or indulging in its famous seafood.
Stay at the Peninsula Inn, which is a quick five-minute walk to the Point Pinos Lighthouse and close to the beach. The clean and unfussy hotel also offers free breakfast and free WiFi, and is ideal for both family vacations and romantic getaways alike.
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