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La Jolla beach scene PicmonkeyShoreside at La Jolla.

There are many treasures of this Mediterranean-style village that make La Jolla one of the most sought-after vacation destinations in Southern California: luxurious and historic hotels and resorts; fine dining with breathtaking ocean views; retail shopping that rivals northern neighbors Rodeo Drive and South Coast Plaza; sophisticated, world-class arts and culture, and a strikingly beautiful setting complemented by endless outdoor recreational activities. Add to this extraordinary mix a rich history with numerous famous residents, from Gregory Peck to Ted Giesel (aka Dr. Seuss), and some of the nation's leading scientific research centers, including the internationally renowned Salk Institute and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and visitors can experience an unparalleled leisure holiday. The following are just some of the diverse offerings of La Jolla (pronounced "La Hoya"; translated from Spanish as "the jewel") that guests can experience throughout the year.

 

Beaches and Water ActivitiesLa Jolla's beaches and coastline are considered to be some of the most beautiful settings in the world; its aqua waters provide endless options for fun and relaxation.

Lifeguards watch over families splashing in the rocky shallows off La Jolla Cove, a small patch of sand tucked between weather-sculpted sandstone cliffs. This area's breathtaking views are a favorite subject of photographers and painters from around the world.

The Children's Pool, a small picturesque beach with a panoramic view that is partially protected by a large seawall, is just south of La Jolla Cove. The Pool's original intent was to be a protected swimming area for children, but sand has filled in much of the area inside the wall. Today, the beach is a popular home for hundreds of seals, and Seal Rock, a reserve for these marine mammals, is located just offshore.

South of La Jolla Village, Windansea Beach is best known for its beautiful scenery and hard-breaking surf due to huge underwater reefs. Sunbathing is popular here, as large sandstone rocks create a secluded setting. Windansea is also home to a legendary Polynesian-style surf hut, built in 1947 by pioneer Windansea surfers and registered as a San Diego Historic Site. Today, the hut provides an excellent vantage point for watching the surfers and sunbathers below.

North of La Jolla Village, La Jolla Shores was once recognized by the Travel Channel as one of the most family-friendly beaches in San Diego County. A wide boardwalk, which separates the beach from a large grassy park ideal for picnicking and volleyball games, parallels its mile-long sandy shore.

Kayaking is popular along La Jolla Shores, as guests can paddle during low tide to La Jolla Caves to the south and Scripps Pier to the north. Rentals are available and daily guided tours are provided by a number of companies including Hike Bike Kayak Inc and OEX Dive and Kayak. www.hikebikekayak.com, www.oeexpress.com

The world's first all women's surf school, Surf Diva promotes, teaches and supports surfing for women (and men) of all ages with surf camps and private and coed lessons. www.surfdiva.com

La Jolla Underwater Park and Ecological Preserve is a popular recreational area for scuba divers and snorkelers who can encounter the protected marine life in some of California's clearest coastal waters with visibility often exceeding 30 feet.

Blacks Beach, a two-mile long, sandy strip situated at the base of majestic cliffs, is north of La Jolla Shores and part of Torrey Pines State Beach. Because the cliffs tower up to 300 feet high, access to the beach is limited and difficult. The beauty and privacy of Blacks Beach have made it popular for nude sunbathing, a practice that is not officially sanctioned but prevalent.

For more information on La Jolla's beaches, visit: www.lajollabythesea.com/beaches.

 

Recreational ActivitiesTorrey Pines 2011 Farmers Ins Open PicmonkeyAt Torrey Pines 2011 Farmers Ins Open

Recreational enthusiasts can enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities in La Jolla, from paragliding above the blue Pacific to golf on an internationally recognized golf course.

Twelve championship tennis courts are available to visitors at The La Jolla Tennis Club, nestled in the village of La Jolla and host to tournament play since 1917. Also, the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club resort offers championship tennis courts available to guests and members. www.ljbtc.com

Set above Blacks Beach to the north of the Village, the Torrey Pines Gliderport has been the learning place for aviation greats including the Lindberghs, Boyles and many more. The Gliderport was first established as a soaring site in 1928 and has defined the history of motorless flight. Today, the Gliderport offers hang gliding, paragliding, scale models and sailplane flight. www.flytorrey.com

At Torrey Pines Golf Course, home of the 2008 U.S. Open, golfers marvel at the views of the coastline atop cliffs towering above the Pacific Ocean just north of La Jolla. Long recognized as one of the nation's foremost municipal golf facilities, it is truly a golfer's paradise. Torrey Pines hosts the annual Famers Insurance Open every January. www.torreypinesgolfcourse.com

Torrey Pines State Reserve is a 2,000-acre reserve dedicated to preserving its namesake, the Torrey Pine tree, and other indigenous wildlife in its native environment. Visitors hike the 8 miles of trails encountering native chaparral plants, wildflowers, birds, reptiles and butterflies. The reserve includes a visitor center and is host to guided nature walks on weekends and holidays to a vista point overlooking Peñasquitos Lagoon and the ocean. www.torreypines.org

Visitors and locals alike enjoy a walk through the Village of La Jolla any time of day. A car is not required to experience different aspects of this enchanting coastal community. Shopping, galleries, dining, museums, hotels, beach activities and breathtaking natural beauty can all be found within the five-mile radius of the Village proper. Guided, historic tours and hikes are available from local companies.

 

Resorts and Hotels

La Jolla is home to world-class resorts, luxurious boutique properties and historic hotels and inns.

Set on six-and-a-half acres in La Jolla overlooking the Pacific Ocean and adjacent to the 18th green of the world-renowned Torrey Pines Golf Course, the Lodge at Torrey Pines is a AAA Five Diamond luxury resort that combines the elegance of Craftsman-style design with exceptional amenities, such as guaranteed tee times for guests, which are almost impossible to secure otherwise. The resort features 175 luxury guestrooms, a full service spa, the acclaimed A.R. Valentien restaurant and an outdoor swimming pool with trellised cabanas. www.lodgetorreypines.com

Nestled on the coastal cliffs of La Jolla, Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa boasts 210 luxuriously appointed rooms tucked away on a secluded estate. The spa's lush features include a sanctuary garden of eucalyptus, lavender and citrus trees, which create a peaceful environment to stimulate the senses, as well as an outdoor fireplace, salt-water Jacuzzi and moisturizing eucalyptus steam room. Three ranch-inspired restaurant and lounge options offer farm-fresh menus, hand-crafted cocktails and an extensive wine library of California wines. www.estancialajolla.com

Often called "The Jewel of La Jolla," the historic La Valencia Hotel overlooks La Jolla Cove and the Pacific Ocean. Designed with European flair, the hotel's 113 rooms and ocean villas are richly appointed and provide spectacular ocean views. La Valencia is a member of Preferred Hotels Worldwide and features an outdoor heated pool, fitness center and three popular restaurants, including the award-winning Sky Room, La Valencia's intimate fine dining restaurant. www.lavalencia.com

The Grande Colonial, a 2011 AAA Four Diamond winner, is an elegant European-style boutique hotel with 93 rooms and suites located one block from the ocean on renowned Prospect Street. Amenities include an outdoor, ocean-view swimming pool surrounded by gardens and terraces, a rooftop deck with a library and board-room and the award-winning Nine-Ten Restaurant. www.thegrandecolonial.com

The 29-suite boutique Hotel Parisi in the heart of La Jolla is a health-conscious getaway with Feng Shui design, Zen décor and Pacific Ocean views. Guests can also enjoy a diverse spa menu, featuring 40 holistic treatments performed in the privacy of each guest's room. www.thegrandecolonial.com

The La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club is an oceanfront resort located on La Jolla Shores that combines the charm of Old World Mexico with modern day luxuries. The property offers a private beach, championship tennis courts, par three golf course, massage services and world-class dining at its seaside Marine Room restaurant. www.ljbtc.com

The 108-room Hotel La Jolla features contemporary design with state-of-the-art amenities, a fitness center, in-room spa services, pool area and pet-friendly accommodations. On the hotel's 11th floor, guests can dine at Clay's La Jolla where Chef Clay Bordan serves upscale Continental and New American cuisine. www.hotellajolla.com

 

Shopping

La Jolla is one of San Diego's most desirable shopping districts known for sophisticated, designer apparel boutiques; original jewelry shops featuring exquisite gems, and galleries offering luxury rugs and artwork from around the world.

Sometimes called the "Rodeo Drive" of San Diego, La Jolla's Prospect Street overlooks the Pacific Ocean and is lined with small specialty shops, boutiques, antique emporiums and art galleries. In addition to offering elegant, designer fashions in sophisticated apparel shops, La Jolla is also known for its exquisite and original fine jewelry of magnificent and brilliant gems.

Girard Avenue, intersecting with Prospect Street, features everything from Armani to Meanley & Son Hardware. Stores like MOS (My Own Space) feature ultra-modern original furniture and funky, affordable accessories, while mainstays like Warwicks Stationers offer the finest in pens, stationary and literature, since 1896. Hipster clothing boutiques like Let's Go make Girard Avenue appealing to every shopper's tastes and interests.

Along Girard Avenue, the Upper Girard Design District offers numerous home furnishing boutiques ideal for shoppers seeking unique luxury home décor items.

Bird Rock, located at the south end of La Jolla along La Jolla Blvd., offers an upscale, eco-friendly environment for posh shopping. The recently revitalized merchant district boasts everything from an organic coffee shop and green nail salon, to designer boutiques adorned with fashionable shoes, bags and bikinis, and upscale children's clothing boutiques. www.birdrock.org

 

DiningCombining spectacular ocean views with award-winning menus that focus on farm-fresh organic ingredients, La Jolla's chefs offer some of San Diego's most exciting and unique fine dining experiences.

The award-winning A.R. Valentien, located in the Lodge at Torrey Pines, serves a menu of seasonal provisions from local farmers' markets, small growers, ranchers and fishermen. Chef Jeff Jackson emphasizes basic ingredients, minimal handling and simple flavors. www.arvalentien.com

Set in the heart of La Jolla, Whisknladle takes a back-to-the future approach to food, making most items from scratch. Executive chef/partner Ryan Johnston's philosophy is reflected in a diverse menu of upscale comfort foods on plates made to share. Everything is baked, churned, smoked, aged, cured and pickled in-house; Johnston also purchases ingredients from local growers such as Chino Farms. www.whisknladle.com

The award-winning Nine-Ten restaurant, located in the historic Grande Colonial hotel, is one of the neighborhood's hottest bistros. Chef Jason Knibb, a 2010 Rising Star Chef winner, presents market fresh, evolving California cuisine in a casually elegant atmosphere. www.nine-ten.com

Overlooking scenic La Jolla Cove, George's at the Cove features executive chef Trey Foshee's creative regional cuisine in an atmosphere of modern elegance. Foshee's cutting edge and ever-changing menu can be enjoyed in three of the restaurant's settings: the first-story California Modern featuring an elegant dining room, the bistro-styled George's Bar and the rooftop Ocean Terrace, spanning spectacular ocean views. www.georgesathecove.com

A local landmark since 1941, The Marine Room is nestled along the sand of La Jolla Shores. The changing tides and dramatic waves crashing against the restaurant's windows provide the perfect backdrop for executive chef Bernard Guillas' sophisticated dishes like maple smoked bison carpaccio, thyme-rubbed free range veal tenderloin and lemon verbena lobster tail. Chef Guillas was recently inducted into the Maîtres Cuisiniers de France, becoming the first chef in San Diego to join the ranks of the 204 Master Chefs from around the world.  www.marineroom.com

At Roppongi Restaurant and Sushi Bar on Prospect Street, chef Stephen Window fuses East and West in dramatic and creative ways, including seasonal specialties and Asian-fusion tapas. Roppongi's multiple dining areas include a sushi bar and covered patio with fire pit. www.roppongiusa.com

Tapenade Restaurant on Fay Avenue features award-winning chef Jean-Michele Diot's distinct southern French cuisine. As one of the finest French restaurants in San Diego, Diot's style of French Provencal gastronomy fused with American cuisine creates one-of-a-kind, quality dishes. www.tapenade.com

Overlooking La Jolla Cove, Brockton Villa has been serving award-winning breakfast, lunch and seasonal dinner for 20 years. Using local ingredients and seafood, the menu includes fresh takes on classic American cuisine. Not to be missed is Brockton Villa's world-famous Coast Toast French toast, served throughout the day. www.brocktonvilla.com

 

Arts, Culrure and Science

From theater bound for Broadway to cutting edge contemporary art and scientific innovations that help change the world, La Jolla entertains and inspires visitors in unexpected ways.

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego on Prospect Street features contemporary paintings, sculptures, photography, drawings and graphic art created since 1945. The permanent collection is displayed concurrently with temporary exhibitions, and the lush garden paths and landscaping at the oceanfront facility provide space for outdoor sculpture and installations. www.mcasd.org

The Tony Award-winning La Jolla Playhouse is one of the most respected and prestigious theaters in the nation. Theater-goers can enjoy innovative productions May through October at the Mandell Weiss Center for the Performing Arts and the state-of-the-art Joan and Irwin Jacobs Center on the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) campus. La Jolla Playhouse productions that have moved to Broadway include the Tony Award-winning musicals Memphis and Jersey Boys, as well as The Who's Tommy, Cry-Baby, Thoroughly Modern Millie and the Pulitzer Prize winner I Am My own Wife. www.lajollaplayhouse.com

Also located on the UCSD campus, the Stuart Collection offers 16 site-specific works by leading artists of our time, including John Baldessari, Jenny Holzer, Robert Irwin, Bruce Nauman, Nikki de Saint Phalle, Alexis Smith and William Wegman. Self-guided walking tour maps are available. www.stuartcollection.ucsd.edu

The La Jolla Music Society presents classical music throughout the year. The Celebrity Series features a dazzling array of the world's most distinguished musicians and orchestras; music concerts are presented during the Revelle Series, featuring performances at the Sherwood Auditorium in the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. The nationally recognized, annual SummerFest program features an array of free enrichment events in addition to a variety of world-class concerts at locations throughout La Jolla. www.lajollamusicsociety.com

The Birch Aquarium at Scripps is situated on a spectacular site overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The aquarium presents undersea creatures in realistic habitats and allows visitors to experience the frontiers of marine science through interactive museum exhibits and participation in exciting educational activities. The aquarium reflects the work of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, world-renowned for its oceanographic research and instruction. www.sio.ucsd.edu

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, adjacent to UCSD, is also world-renowned for its medical research. Public tours, which focus on the institute's unique architecture by Louis I. Kahn, are available. www.salk.edu

 

Annual Events and Festivals

Throughout the year, La Jolla hosts a number of San Diego's most exciting annual events and festivals.

An internationally recognized golf tournament, the Farmers Insurance Open is played every January on the spectacular Torrey Pines Golf Course. www.buickinvitational.com

The La Jolla Motorcar Classic occurs every spring and lets guests admire timeless autos along the coast. http://lajollamotorcarclassic.com

The La Jolla Half Marathon takes place every April. www.lajollahalfmarathon.com

The Secret Garden Tour in May, sponsored by the La Jolla Historical Society, allows guests to tour some of La Jolla's most beautiful residential gardens. www.ljhs.org

The Annual La Jolla Festival of Arts and Food Fair takes place every June on the UCSD campus with award-winning artists, gourmet cuisine, contemporary music and entertainment. www.lajollaartfestival.org

In August, La Jolla locales provide spectacular settings for the annual SummerFest, a renowned chamber music festival. www.ljms.org

The La Jolla Rough Water Swim, the largest such swimming competition in the nation, takes place at La Jolla Cove every September. www.ljrws.com

In early December, guests get into the holiday spirit during the annual La Jolla Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival. www.ljparade.com

For more information visit the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau's website at www.sandiego.org

 

TravMedia sources contributed to this article.

 

Editor's note: Links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as those of many craft beer purveyor are availble at the Resource Directory of Taste California Travel.

 

Land ho, Matey. After a rigorous journey on the waters of San Francisco Bay, America's Cup competitors and fans are invited to America's premier wine, spa, and coastal destination for a little R&R - Sonoma County style.Bodega Bay boats PicmonkeyCommercial fishing boats at Bodega Bay.

Known for its more than 350 wineries, miles of gorgeous Pacific Ocean coastline, and some of the most fertile earth in California, Sonoma County has been welcoming sailors and landlubbers alike since, well, since Sir Francis Drake landed in Northern California in 1579, beginning a long, rich maritime history.

Bunk down for the night

Reach back into history and experience a military-style R&R at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, in Sonoma Valley. The resort's rich wellness history stretches back hundreds of years, when Native Americans discovered the natural underground hot mineral waters. Developed as a resort in the late 1800s, the property underwent many ups and downs.

During World War II the hotel fell under the control of the Navy. It became an R&R site for sailors and marines until 1945. Various incarnations followed, including the use of the Inn by famous sports teams as a training headquarters.

Why should sailors and sailing fans choose Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn today? Simple - the Inn is the only full-service resort offering Michelin-star dining, an award-winning spa, and championship golf amenities to visitors with discerning tastes.

Details: Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, 100 Boyes Blvd., Sonoma, CA 95476, 707-938-9000, 866-540-4499, www.fairmont.com/sonoma

If you aren't quite ready to leave the sea behind, visit Sonoma County's western border - more than 55 miles of dramatic coastline. Bodega Bay Escapes vacation home rentals offer ocean-front homes.

These homes have some of the best views in the Bodega Bay area, and the proximity to the beach is second to none. Get a front-row seat to the Northern California coast in a cozy beach cottage. Each of the privately owned homes is uniquely appointed and equipped for comfort and leisure. Many homes have private outdoor hot tubs and free wireless internet service. All homes are furnished with full kitchens, linens, and no added cleaning fees. Choose from casual beach cottages along the Sonoma Coast, or distinctive golf course homes at The Links at Bodega Harbour.

Details: Bodega Bay Escapes, 707-875-2600, 877-809-7819, www.bodegabayescapes.com

Yo ho ho and a bottle of . . . red

Dry Creek Vinyd Fume label PicmonkeyVisiting famed wineries in Sonoma County doesn't mean you have to give up nautical ties. Dry Creek Vineyard patriarch, Dave Stare, combines his two passions: winemaking and sailing. Started in 1972, the winery was the first to plant Sauvignon Blanc in the Dry Creek Valley wine region and is renown for its efforts with that grape, bottled in the Fumé Blanc style, as well as when labeled Sauvignon Blanc.

Dry Creek Vineyard also offers a proprietary red blend appropriately named, The Mariner. The 2008 vintage was just released and has garnered numerous awards.

Stare's passion for sailing includes sharing it with others. In fact, Sonoma State University has a sailing team that was founded by Stare.

Details: Dry Creek Vineyard, 3770 Lambert Bridge Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448, 707-433-1000, www.drycreekvineyard.com

Sailors and winemakers share a strong sense of passion to take care of the environment. Helping the ocean, as well as the land, is Iron Horse Vineyards, which runs its Healthy Ocean Project with leading ocean conservation groups.

The winery produces its vintage Blanc de Blancs Ocean Reserve, created in partnership with National Geographic to help save the ocean. Iron Horse contributes $4 from each bottle sold to National Geographic's Ocean Initiative - establishing marine protected areas and reducing overfishing around the world. For more information, visit ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/i-am-the-ocean-wine.

Details: Iron Horse Vineyards, 9786 Ross Station Road, Sebastopol, CA 95472, 707-887-1507, www.ironhorsevineyards.com

While in Sonoma County, visit the home of America's favorite Chardonnay. Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates has been anchored in Sonoma County for nearly 30 years with the understanding that the cold Pacific Ocean allows the winemaking team to make superior quality wines.

Much like sailors on the sea, Kendall-Jackson's staff treasures what the ocean provides. That means the cool, maritime breezes and coastal fog that protect the grapes and coax the most intense and complex varietal flavors. Stop by Kendall-Jackson during your shore leave and experience a unique wine and food pairing adventure that will thrill even the most able-bodied sailor.

Details: Kendall-Jackson Wine Center, 5007 Fulton Road, Fulton, CA 95439, 707-571-8100, 866-287-9818, www.kj.com

Become a landlubber for the day: All aboard the Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley. One of the Bay Area's favorite modes of transportation now roams the quaint streets and vineyards of gorgeous Sonoma Valley, offering open-air views that allow guests to experience wine country like they never have before. Built from historic blueprints, the Sonoma Wine Trolley is a motorized replica of a late 1890s San Francisco cable car, the type that still runs on San Francisco's California Street cable car line.

Visitors can now choose from two routes. The new route begins at the historic Sonoma Plaza, meanders into Glen Ellen and Kenwood area, including stops at Benziger Family Winery, Imagery Winery, Paradise Ridge in Kenwood, and Deerfield Ranch Winery. The Trolley's original route includes stops at four boutique wineries located in and around the town of Sonoma. Both tours include a gourmet lunch catered by the acclaimed the girl & the fig restaurant.

The Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley experience begins with a daily passenger pickup at 10:30 a.m. from Sonoma Plaza. Arrangements for pickup at several Sonoma hotel locations can be made prior to 10:30 a.m.

Details: Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley, 707-938-2600, www.sonomavalleywinetrolley.com

Ports of Call

Sonoma County's southern border is San Pablo Bay, which leads into the San Francisco Bay. The influence on the region from the bays, rivers, and oceans can't be overstated, whether it was the possible landing of Sir Francis Drake in Bodega Bay in 1579, the arrival of the Russians from Alaska to establish Fort Ross in 1812, or the rechristening of the Petaluma Slough to the Petaluma River in 1959, making it eligible for federal dredging, and larger ship traffic.

Here are some spots to sail to, or in, Sonoma County:Spud Point Crab Co PicmonikeyThey also make the best clam chowder.

On the Pacific Coast, Spud Point Marina, in Bodega Bay, is located on the scenic Sonoma County coast less than 50 nautical miles from the center span of the Golden Gate Bridge. The quaint town is a perfect home base for sampling all that Sonoma County has to offer, from the rugged coastline to the inland vineyards. Local fishing fleets head out for Dungeness crab and salmon, and fishing boats and pleasure boats use the protected bay as a base for exploring the waters off the Sonoma coast. Insider tip - Spud Point Crab Company, located across the street and run by a long-time fishing famiy, has some of the best chowder in Sonoma County.

Details: Spud Point Marina, 1818 Westshore Road, Bodega Bay, CA 94923, 707-875-3535, www.spudpointmarina.org

Hey, why should the ocean get all the glory? Lake Sonoma, in northern Sonoma County, is a great spot for a sail, or a leisurely day spent exploring. Nestled in the beautiful coastal foothills, Lake Sonoma is surrounded by world-famous vineyards and land that is rich in history. Created by the construction of Warm Springs Dam in 1983, the lake provides for flood control, irrigation, and recreation. When full, the lake has a surface area of more than 2,700 acres and 50 miles of shoreline, forming the perfect setting for a wealth of recreational activities. Visit to hike, swim, ride, boat, camp, fish, or hunt at this beautiful lake.

Details: Lake Sonoma Visitors Center & Fish Hatchery, 3333 Skaggs Springs Road, Geyserville, CA 95441, 707-431-4533, www.spn.usace.army.mil/lake_sonoma/index.html

The waters of the Petaluma Marina are part of the Petaluma River, a channel that runs 14 miles from the north end of Petaluma into San Pablo Bay. With 167 slips, the Petaluma Marina offers many facilities and services to boaters and kayakers on the river including private restrooms and showers, full utilities, security gates, and kayak storage. The river is enjoyed for its excellent boating, fishing, and water skiing.

Details: Harbormaster Office, 781 Baywood Dr., Petaluma, CA 94954, 707-778-4489, cityofpetaluma.net/parksnrec/marina.html.

So, how about it, Sailor, ready to give Sonoma County a try? Located 10 leagues (30 miles for landlubbers) north of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, Sonoma County is America's premier wine, spa and coastal destination, featuring more than 350 wineries, 100-plus organic farms, and 55-plus miles of stunning Pacific coast.

For a free visitors guide or information on hotels, wineries, events, spas, attractions, and dining in Sonoma County, visit www.sonomacounty.com or call 800-576-6662 (+001-707-522-5800 for those across the seas...)

Editor's note: If you're planning a trip to the San Francisco Bay Area to attend the America's Cup in 2013 or coming at any other time, you can find a lot of good information at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. In it you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as to the wineries in Sonoma and other nearby wine regions and to craft beer purveyors.

 

As visitors arrive in the quaint coastal Central California enclave of Carmel-by- the-Sea, a collective sigh of relief is carried on the cool ocean air. Park the car. You won’t need it for the next 72 hours. Welcome to the insiders guide to Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA. 

Day 1: Pop the cork and celebrate with a refreshing glass of sparkling wine at Caraccioli Cellars, just the way to ease into your stay. Before checking in to one of the 45+ inns or hotels,  check out the shopping – day 1 begins.

Stop in at the Carmel Plaza and welcome our newest neighbor Kate Spade to the village. A shot of color adds a bright cheery feel to the already flower lined promenade. Across the way visitors will find Blue Lemon, where jewelry-making classes can be scheduled and taken or hand crafted designs can be purchased. If visitors are lucky Pamplemousse on Ocean Avenue may be hosting one of their prominent trunk shows, displaying their eclectic wares. For the eco-conscious, Eco-Carmel on San Carlos between 7th Carmel Beach PickmonkeyCarmel Bay through the Cypress trees.& 8th offers unique, earth friendly products. With many more options lining the streets of Carmel-by-the-Sea, it may be time to stop in for lunch and a quick nip to settle into “vacation mode.”After working up an appetite from shopping, experience the latest expansion of David Fink’s empire, 400°’s Gourmet Burgers & Fries. Burgers, fries, hot dogs, and shakes as well as kids meals are all on the menu. For a more refined lunch, try any of the Firok Shield’s family restaurants (he has three in Carmel), or Portabella on Ocean, located within a quaint Comstock cottage, or Patisserie Boissiere.

Time to walk off lunch and prepare for the remaining hours ahead. Make your next stop the Carmel Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center on San Carlos between 5th & 6th. Here you can pick up the Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea wine tasting passport, which is good all weekend long and can be used at your leisure. Be sure to stop in at the newest tasting room, Manzoni Cellars.

Upon arrival at the hotel, you'll be welcomed by one of the friendly innkeepers in our city. One of the many unique aspects of the square mile of the Carmel-by-Sea is that the innkeepers staff a 24 hour reservation line. If visitors call and there is the proverbial “no room at the inn,” then they will continue down the list of properties until they find a property with a room available. It's not a matter of competition among inns, just a desire to please the guest on the end of the line.

As the evening ensues, be sure to check the schedule for one of the upcoming events in Carmel-by-the-Sea. The Sunset Center (www.sunsetcenter.org) is spectacular and worthy of top national performances with an amazing cast of performers scheduled including Kenny Loggins, Bob Newhart, A Rock Tribute to Led Zeppelin, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Ira Glass and many more. Though you won’t need your electric car for another 48 hours, there are four stations available at the Sunset Center offering free service if you would like to charge it.

And the sun sets on day 1.

Day 2: A morning stroll along Ocean Avenue leads to one of the most pristine beaches in America. If a four-legged friend is your travel companion, this beach is leash-free for dogs. If you would rather not get sand between your toes, turn left on Scenic Avenue for a gentle walk along a guided path. With Point Lobos to the South and Pebble Beach to the north, a more stunning landscape and stretch of coastline would be hard to find.

Stop off for breakfast or coffee at a local eatery. You won’t find any chain restaurants or fast food in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Em Lee’s has been open since 1955, so they have lots of practice serving up a fine breakfast. If coffee and a pastry is more your style, on Ocean Avenue you will find Carmel Bakery, Carmel Valley Roasting Company and Carmel Coffee House. And just off the beaten path, you will find Pastries & Petals.Carmel Courtyard PicmonkeyPath to courtyard has old world feel.

Before you get back to your inn, be sure to check out a few of the more than 40+ courtyards that grace the village. The newest mayor of Carmel, Jason Burnett, has been seen favoring El Paseo Courtyard, where visitors will see a sculpture done by Jo Mora in 1927, who also did the sarcophagus of Father Junipero Serra at the Carmel Mission. Visitors and locals are often surprised by the public displays of art that are found in side courtyards as a little delight for taking a “road less traveled.” As a side note, it has been over 20 years since “Dirty Harry” was mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, but visitors continue to ask, “Is Clint Eastwood still the mayor?” We are not sure which courtyard is Clint’s favorite, but highly recommend are the Court of the Fountains, Piccadilly Courtyard and Cinderella Lane.

The community has been renowned as a mecca for artists, writers and musicians since the turn of the last century. American Style named Carmel one of its “Top 25 Art Destinations in the U.S.” in 2012. The remarkable artist enclave tucked between Big Sur and Pebble Beach has Bohemian roots reaching back over a hundred years. It has been a retreat for the likes of Salvador Dali and Ansel Adams and some of the over 100+ art galleries in Carmel-by-the-Sea still display their work. The Carmel Art Association (www.carmelart.org), established in 1927, is celebrating an 85 year history. With 200 active members made up of local artists, the association also has the unique distinction of being the oldest gallery in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Perhaps you'll be in town on one of the many days when an event is hosted. The fall lineups at the historic Golden Bough Playhouse, the intimate Circle theaters, and famous outdoor Forest Theater include Beauty & the Beast, Julius Ceasar, and Much Ado About Nothing. (www.pacrep.org). Carmel Authors & Ideas Festival arrives in town September 28-30, (www.carmelauthors.com/festival). The Carmel Chamber of Commerce hosts their 24th Annual Taste of Carmel Masquerade Ball Thursday, October 4th, 6pm-9pm(no mask necessary). (www.carmelcalifornia.org). The Carmel Art & Film Festival, October 10-14, (www.carmelartandfilm.com) was founded in 2008 by fine artist Tom Burns and Erin Clark. The festival gives artists a platform and voice to pursue their creative visions and share them with the world.

Carmel Cheese Shop PicmonkeyChoose cheese for your picnic.Ready to begin Happy Hour? By all means, go where the locals go: Terry’s Lounge (inside the famous Doris Day’s Cypress Inn) offers Yappy Hour and live music for you and well-leashed guests. Il Fornaio has the best deal in town with a $5 menu including select food, wine and cocktails, plus $3 beers. Or, if visitors like an atmosphere of see-and-be-seen, then Vesuvio is open, with expanded Starlight 65 lounge rooftop deck with a great happy hour. It serves an “Adult Happy Meal”—complete with gourmet cheese burger, fries and your choice of a Rum & Coke or Whiskey & Coke. If pubs and cheers for beers is more up your alley, than Brophy’s Tavern is the place for Monday Night Football, and Jack London’s has regular live music and sports TVs. A.W. Shucks on Ocean Avenue remains a locals and visitors favorite oyster bar and grill respite.

After a busy day, grab a picnic basket and a bottle of wine with delectables from Salumeria Luca, The Cheese Shop, Bruno’s Market, or Nielson Brothers Market and walk down to the beach. Watch the sun as it sinks into the Pacific, than cozy up and gaze at the stars while you enjoy your wine, listening to the sound of the surf on the sand.

If you still need something to nosh on after star gazing, Mundaka serves dinner until 11 with house music and old movies shot onto the wall; at Gabe Georis’ restaurant you now are able to get a mixed drink since they acquired the new liquor license. As you belly up to the bar, take note of the reclaimed wood from Big Sur. Demetra Café and the newly expanded Constance lounge are also a fantastic option, with spontaneous singing, and cork popping.When you are at Demetra, you’re part of the family, opa!

Day 3: Greet the morning with a soothing yoga class on the beach offered by Lululemon (www.lululemon.com/carmel). Or if the sirens of the water call your name, then learn to surf with Noah Greenberg of Carmel Surf Lessons (www.carmelsurflessons.com)/ He's been teaching surfing since 1986. Noah provides all the equipment and offers groups or private session. Work out the muscles and stop in at one of Carmel's day spas to primp and pamper yourself before you get on your way. Signature Day Spa (www.signature dayspa.com) is a full service salon ready to work out the kinks.

You’ve worked up an appetite now, and rest assured it can be assuaged with Carmel Food Tours. This newest tour in town offers tastings of foods and wines that help visitors become acquainted with the unique history and culture of Carmel-by-the-Sea. The food tour takes visitors through passageways and alleys before arrival at each culinary destination. A favorite stop among guests is La Bicyclette Restaurant. Walter Georis is best known for his famous Casanova Restaurant, but La Bicyclette is another of his success stories. All of the tour restaurants, tasting rooms and shops are pleased to spend time with the tourists and can explain in detail what they will be tasting.

Since you have enjoyed your stay and now are an insider, you shouldn't go without knowing some quirky laws to share with your friends when you get back home. By now you’ve become aware that there are no addresses on businesses or cottages. Carmel’s founding fathers rejected the practice of house-to-house mail delivery in favor of a central post office to encourage neighborly visits in town. Visitors will not find parking meters, streetlights, or sidewalks outside of Carmel’s downtown commercial area and permits are required for high heels. No hot dog stands are allowed and you can thank Former Mayor Clint Eastwood for repealing the law originally on the books for no ice cream eating permitted on city streets.

Carmel-by- the-Sea lives up to its reputation as one of America's top travel destinations with a host of exciting fall events during the best weather of the season.

Carmel-by-the-Sea's official travel website is www.carmelcalifornia.com.

TravMedia sources contributed to this article.

Editor's Note: If you are thinking about a visit to the Central Coast, visit the Resource Directory of Taste California Travel. There you will find links to the websites of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to nearby wineries and beer-centric establishments.