California is a land of calming waves, serene lakes, and prehistoric sequoias, and each diverse attraction remains within easy access to the next. Whether it’s enjoying yoga classes and candlelit dinners in Ventura County, taking in the timeless style of the Central Coast, or skiing and sledding amid the snow-capped groves of Sequoia National Forest, this trip through the Golden State is a recipe for certain tranquility.
Of course, with our weeklong itinerary, there’s plenty to stimulate wellness for body and mind as well, with no lack of lively cultural curiosities and fresh, innovative cuisine. Moreover, with opportunities at every turn to hike, surf, and swim, this part of California will keep you feeling fit without sacrificing all the crucial little comforts to make you feel right at home.
Though the Central Coast should be every bit as sunny and mild as you imagine it to be, by winter the Sierra Nevada mountains also transform into a snowy wonderland. Visiting in the shoulder months of fall and spring, though, allows for the perfect compromise. Flying into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) offers the most flexibility, but for domestic flights, the Bob Hope (Hollywood Burbank) Airport is another easy option located just over an hour’s drive to Malibu.
ItineraryPLAN YOUR TRIP
Day 1Dining and Diving with the Stars
Once your shopping bag is full, grab some fried clams and seared tuna to go at Malibu Seafood, Malibu’s classic destination for fresh-caught fish, then skip across Pacific Coast Highway for sunbathing on the beach.
After returning to the hotel for a bit more relaxation poolside, head to Topanga Canyon’s renowned Inn of the Seventh Ray for farmer-fresh organic cuisine served in an impossibly romantic creek-side setting.
Day 2Embracing a New Age
Bid farewell to Malibu and head inland to the Topatopa Mountains, where the charming village of Ojai awaits. Slow down with a visit to Meditation Mount to take classes in sound meditation, or do some yoga in Light + Space’s 1,500-square-foot desert garden. From there, take a stroll through town to stock up on spiritual implements, or browse the impressive outdoor collection of over 130,000 new and used books at Bart’s.
As the sun sets on Ojai, grab a seat for a delicious dinner at bustling Rory’s Place for hyperlocal California cuisine, from their Santa Barbara sea urchin to their hand-cut tagliatelle with chanterelle mushrooms and crisped sage. If you decide to make a night of it, book an Airstream at Caravan Outpost just down the street to fully immerse yourself in the wild spirit that makes Ojai so special. Or continue on a bit further up the coast to check into Montecito’s five-star hotel and spa, Rosewood Miramar Beach.
Day 3 Tracing California’s Roots
After exploring the Mission’s rose garden and having properly brushed up on the region’s history, head downtown for made-to-order tortillas and juicy lomito suizo at the perennially popular La Super-Rica Taqueria, long held in high esteem by culinary legends such as Julia Child. Follow that up with more window shopping and people-watching on the car-free State Street Promenade, the de facto center of the city.
By night, dip into a juicy cut of filet mignon on the veranda at Louie’s, then close things out with a concert at the historic Lobero Theater, which has been entertaining Californians since 1873.
Day 4Wine and Windmills in the Santa Ynez Valley
Once you’ve checked into the Landsby in Solvang’s center, taste the strudel and aebleskivers (Danish pancake balls) from its famous bakeries, then browse the porcelain and lace in the neighboring shops. The Santa Ynez Valley is also known for its many world-class wineries, thanks in part to the 2004 film Sideways.
Seven distinct American Viticultural Areas are represented in the region, and Los Olivos makes for a particularly rewarding wine-tasting experience or Vino Vaqueros offers guests the exceptional opportunity to explore the rolling hills on horseback. After sharpening your palate against local varietals, tuck in for a bottle of house-made Pinot Noir and Santa Maria-style, red oak–fired BBQ at the Hitching Post 2, a veritable institution among locals and tourists.
Day 5Decadence in the Central Coast
Before night falls, check into San Luis Creek Lodge in downtown San Luis Obispo, then head to the quaint coastal village of Cambria for oysters Rockefeller, clams casino, and an unbeatable sunsets at Sea Chest. If you prefer to stay in San Luis Obispo, go all-in with a juicy, generous portion of surf and turf, followed by a colossal famously fluffy slice of pink champagne cake at the notoriously frilly Madonna Inn, arguably the most campy and colorful hotel in the state.
Day 6Fresno County
After exploring the gardens, dig into a special lunch at The Vineyard, a farm-to-table restaurant that showcases the best of the Central Valley’s local produce. From there, it’s time to explore the Madera Wine Trail to taste award-winning vintages at family-owned wineries set against stunning views of the Sierra Nevada range.
End the day at The Darling, a charming Art Deco hotel in nearby Visalia, where you can recharge before one last day of recreation.
Day 7Saying Goodbye from the Sierra Nevadas
Whatever you do, be sure to carve out a few hours for a hike through the groves of Sequoia National Park, which include General Sherman, the largest tree on earth, among many other natural marvels. End the day on a high note with beers and pupusas at the Three Rivers Brewing Co., followed by a stay in a riverside suite at the eco-friendly Buckeye Tree Lodge, which offers stargazing, massages, and yoga classes to help ease your transition back to normal life.