The slow pace and small-town pleasures of Fallbrook, Calif. — best known for its avocados and festival celebrating the green fruit — can't match the glitz of, well, glitzier destinations. That lack of flash is what's most appealing about this rural outpost in north San Diego County. The ancient oaks of Live Oak Park are waiting to provide shade for a picnic, nurseries that dot the hills are filled with colorful plants to take home, and there are some bright new restaurants known only to locals. C'mon down, sit a spell.
My husband and I stayed at the Pala Mesa Resort (2001 Old Highway 395;  722-4700, http://www.palamesa.com; weekend rates start at $149-$165). This 1960s-era hotel, on 205 acres, overlooks a golf course. The lobby and restaurant are in front; rooms are at the rear of the property. Guest rooms are basic yet pleasant; some have balconies or patios with nice views. Try to get an executive king, which has more amenities and space. Bridezilla alert: The resort's lovely gardens, waterfalls and gazebos are a magnet for weddings.
Aqua Terra, overlooking the Pala Mesa Resort golf course, is a cool place for drinks and appetizers. We chose sushi and a baked avocado and topped it off with chocolate martinis. Far funkier was Oink and Moo Burgers and BBQ (121 N. Pico Ave.;  451-6005, http://www.oinkandmoo.com), which recently opened downtown. We ate on the patio, a converted garage, and made, well, pigs out of ourselves. Hand-ground burgers and pulled pork were a messy treat.
Nurseries are big here, and Myrtle Creek (2940 Reche Road;  728-5340, http://www.MyrtleCreekNursery.com) is a standout. It's on an old farm with a 19th century farmhouse, and a visit here feels like a relaxing day in the country. There are plants and trees, of course, but the most fun is wandering through the shops, which feature arts and crafts, vintage kitchen furnishings and plenty of seasonal gifts. Find No. 2: Grand Tradition Estate & Gardens (220 Grand Tradition Way;  728-6466, http://www.grandtraditiongardens.com), a popular wedding venue since 1984, opened to the public this year. You can stroll through gorgeous Mediterranean- and tropical-style gardens, then eat lunch at the newly opened Veranda (reservations are a must) at the back of the Victorian mansion overlooking a heart-shaped lake.
The lesson learned
Most of downtown Fallbrook shuts down on Sunday. Leave time on Saturday to explore the village, a throwback to a kinder, gentler era with historic buildings, shops and two art galleries.
Besides gas for the 200-mile round trip from L.A., we spent about $500, including $360 for two nights at the Pala Mesa Resort, $125 for dining out and $15 for admission to Grand Tradition Estate & Gardens.