Film buffs, wine lovers and visitors with the luck of the cards all find their passions coming to life in Temecula. Festivals, blackjack tables, vineyards and the golf links connect in this hot spot that is no stranger to travelers' bucket lists.
Horseback riding and polo matches are on tap, as are tastings at wineries, games at the casino, and hot air balloon rides above it all.
The to-do list gets lengthy in Temecula. Tackle all you can, but don't feel bad if you need -- and want -- to return again and again to bite off a bit more of the possibilities.
Temecula is a sensational destination that pins down the southwest corner of the Inland Empire. It's located along Interstate 15, 85 miles south of Los Angeles and 60 miles north of San Diego. It's inland position centers it between a breezy drive to Oceanside or Dana Point for a day of beach and surf, and Mt. San Jacinto State Park with its second-highest peak in Southern California, at 10,834 feet elevation.
From San Francisco, run Interstate 5 south to I-210 to bend around the Los Angeles area to the east. If you are looking for a side stop, Pasadena will have you smelling the roses. Stop by the famous Rose Bowl or get out of the sun and heat with a visit to the Pasadena Museum of California Art.
From 210, turn south at exit 45 to take highway 57 a few miles til you exit (22) onto highway 71. That leads you to highway 91 and Corona. There, if you feel like picking around, pop into the Fender Guitar Visitor Center before you jump onto I-15 and cruise on down to your destination.
The Pechanga Resort & Casino place you in the middle of the action if cards, slots and dice are your passion and your pastime. The resort is loaded, and it might give you all you want for your getaway. And the prices are on the heftier side starting at $500 a night. Restaurants onsite boast a range of fare, including steak, sushi, Chinese and Vietnamese cuisines.
Spring Hill Suites - Temecula Valley Wine Country provides a hot buffet breakfast, a fitness center and heated outdoor pool. Get to know your fellow visitors at weekly happy hours, where the beer and wine are free of charge. All rooms are spacious suites.
Chalk up charm and Old West flavor at The Hotel Temecula, where you're greeted with a free bottle of wine for your stay. The hotel is adorned with antiques, period furniture, outdoor fire pits, and a wrap-around balcony.
If you are into Mexican flavors, then Rosa's Cantina is your budget spot. It's the place to get quick counter service and a great platter of food for the money. Warm homemade tortillas and the full menu you'd expect in a casual joint like this. Enjoy it on the patio to further season your tacos and beans with some fresh air and sunshine.
Garage Brewing is about beer, of course, and oven-fired pizzas. This is the spot for a super easy-going lunch or dinner. Tackle a flight of craft brews and a pizza made to order.
Burgers, brews and steaks get all the raves at The Gambling Cowboy. It's advised to call ahead, as this spot is popular. But show up hungry and ready to enjoy the atmosphere as much as the food. The friendly service gets high marks here, too.
Not only do wine lovers put Leoness Cellars on their must-visit list when in town, but foodies, too. Leoness offers a fantastic range of reds and whites. The general public and members-only wine tasting venues are sizable, airy and comfortable. The restaurant offers high-end dining experiences with excellent service.
Test your swing on a championship golf course. The SoCal sunshine and beauty along several area golf courses are unparalleled and more than worth your time racking up tales on the links.
Get a view of Temecula and the surrounding countryside from among the clouds on a hot air balloon rid. There are several ballooning adventure companies to choose from, all with the know-how to get you up, show you the wonders of a bird's-eye view and, maybe most importantly, get you back down again safely.
Temecula is loaded with culture and cool, but if you are looking for a step into something different, you can try your dice game at the Pechanga Resort & Casino. The resort is growing and, it seems like, there's always something happening here. Get a bite to eat and cocktail. Grab a comedy show. Or stare down a blackjack dealer for all your hand's worth. There's tons to do at Pechanga.
Stroll through Old Town Temecula and its farmers market to soak up the Old West with modern pastimes: shopping and dining. History stands tall and plain, even in the buildings that have been repurposed for contemporary uses, like the old General Merchandise store that now serves as the community center. Or the Old Temecula Jail that ... well, let's hope you don't need to experience what's behind those old bars.