If you haven’t escaped to the Central Coast lately, now is the perfect time. Recently refurbished resorts, unexpected adventures and new restaurants are calling your name.
Golden beaches with East Coast-like sand dunes and the cheery Channel Islands Harbor offer casual relaxation 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Revel in oceanfront views at the recently renovated Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Resort, where every room is a two-room suite. Enjoy “experiential” fare made from scratch at the new Waterside Restaurant and Wine Bar in the harbor. The Waterside Burger, freshly ground rib-eye with caramelized red wine onions and red dragon cheese on a house-made brioche, is a favorite. Try FootGolf — kicking a soccer ball across the new 18-hole golf-like course — at the River Ridge Golf Club. www.visitoxnard.com
Savor the Mediterranean mentality of this seaside city, two hours north of L.A., in a variety of new ways. Relax at the historic El Encanto Resort by Orient-Express, reborn last March following a seven-year remodel. Sip free wine while watching artisans cast bronze sculptures at the Santa Barbara Art Foundry. Enjoy imaginative cuisine that celebrates Santa Barbara County’s wineries, farms and oceans at the Lark. Experience world-class wine and food at Les Marchands Wine Bar and Merchant, created by the two sommelier stars of the movie “Somm.” www.santabarbaraca.com
Paso Robles Wine Region
Drink in the ambience of the picturesque vineyards, four hours north of L.A., in one of the Paso Robles Inn’s newly remodeled winery-themed rooms — free wine-tasting included. Pair wine with a bocce ball tournament on the new Bocce Wine Tour (for groups of 10 to 20) from Grapeline Wine Tours. Enjoy expanded fine dining at Artisan’s new downtown location featuring wines on tap, a new full bar including spirits-tasting, and added cheese and charcuterie goodies. Get cozy amid the grapes and majestic oaks on Veris Cellars’ new Picnic Hideaway in the Vines, featuring eight romantic settings. www.travelpaso.com
Luxuriate in Morocco-meets-the-beach style at the newly refurbished Cypress Inn, which overlooks the sea from the heart of this tree-shaded hamlet, five hours from L.A. Check out the new upgrades at the Carmel Garden Inn: free Wi-Fi, newly landscaped gardens, homemade breakfast goodies and afternoon wine, cheese and homemade cookie receptions. Explore two new tasting rooms on the nine-tasting-room self-guided Carmel Wine Walk: Silvestri Vineyards and Dawn’s Dream Winery. Make a date for the new GourmetFest 2014, March 27 through 30, at Sunset Center. It’ll include international chefs, French viticulture experts, rare-wine tastings and a mushroom hunt. www.carmelcalifornia.com
—Barbara Beckley, Brand Publishing Writer