Take the gambling and big-name entertainment of Las Vegas, combine it with spa amenities found in Sedona, throw in Italian-inspired food and architecture, and top it off with wine tours reminiscent of Napa Valley in its early days. Temecula offers all of this, plus golf and hot air balloon rides, without a long drive. Exchange hours on the freeway for leisurely time relaxing at a swim-up bar or sipping wine in a vineyard.
Desert Oasis, No Drive
One year after a $285 million resort expansion, Pechanga Resort & Casino is a haven you won’t recognize. Of course, there’s the large casino, but even if your interests don’t include gambling, you’ll delight in getting lost in an oversize corner suite ($269 and up) with a mountain view to rest up for fun-filled days. The Cove pool complex is 4.5 acres containing cabanas, daybeds, a swim-up bar in the adults-only pool, plus a family area that includes two multistory slides and a splash pad for the littlest guests. Be sure to get tickets for a show as the headliners this month include Gladys Knight, Il Divo, and Earth, Wind & Fire.
Feast on a gourmet, slow-food breakfast from an award-winning chef as part of your stay at The Inn at Europa Village ($210 and up). Its 10 rooms are named for wine varieties and many come with private balconies or fireplaces ideal for romance. An early morning walk leads to Grape Escape Balloon Adventures for a sunrise hot air balloon ride with a company that’s been operating nearly 30 years (starting at $139 per person).
Spa Delights For All
Rejuvenate your spirit and your skin with nature-inspired experiences at Spa Pechanga such as the healing honey massage ($190 weekdays) or the nearly two-hour Great Oak purification body treatment ($260 weekdays). The spa offers fitness classes as well, including yoga for all levels, which are open to the public ($15 drop-in or complimentary for resort guests and those with spa treatments). The instructors exude positivity and provide the perfect setting, whether it’s your first time practicing yoga or you’ve mastered crane pose.
With award-winning wines to taste, spa experiences, and culinary delights, South Coast Winery is a one-stop option for wonderful encounters. It has been named California State Winery of the Year four times; learn why at the tasting room, open daily from
10 a.m. to 6 p.m., or on the twice-daily vineyard tour. The Vineyard Rose Restaurant features ingredients from the winery-owned garden. Try the seared day boat scallops with marinated fennel salad ($39) or the braised short rib with tomato compote ($38).
For a full wine-tasting adventure, head to the De Portola Wine Trail. Nine family-owned wineries line the road in the heart of Temecula Valley. From Italian specialties to Spanish influences, there’s something here for every wine lover. The Danza del Sol Winery even encourages guests to bring their pets to its picnic grounds. Cheers!
Hot Springs Health
On the way to Temecula, stop at Glen Ivy Hot Springs for a few hours of restoration and well-being. Glen Ivy has added health workshops, such as cooking classes, and new body treatments. Try the quartz massage ($135 for 50 minutes, $215 for 80 minutes) to relive your best beach day as a child as you burrow into the warm sand, which is under the sheet. The special table gently tilts to decompress your spine during the massage while the sand keeps you feeling hugged in place. Also visit the newly refurbished Grotto, which reopens this month.
Get swept up in the flavors of Italy while you indulge in the warm atmosphere at Il Tramonto Ristorante. Try the family recipe for Cioppino alla Franco, which combines the fish of the day with mussels, clams, shrimp, and calamari ($28). Save room for the chef’s specialty, bread pudding.
Tip From a Local
“Head east up Rancho California Road for spectacular views of Temecula Valley, then try the cashew-crusted salmon salad for lunch on the terrace at Carol’s at Baily Vineyard & Winery.”
—Elsa Metzger, Temecula resident
Mark Your Calendar
March 1 and 2: The Pechanga Chocolate Decadence and Wine Festival offers wine, sweets, food samples, and live music and benefits a good cause—Habitat for Humanity. Tickets start at $60 ($35 for designated drivers). pechanga.com