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Not big on skiing or snowboarding? Try this fun winter activity instead

Images from Escapes Newsletter: Upper Antelope Canyon, Carpinteria State Beach, fat tire biking, and glass blowing
(Photo illustrations by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

By Rachel Schnalzer
Design and illustrations by Jade Cuevas

Good morning, fellow Escapists. No one likes feeling rushed while they’re traveling — and, yet, many of us jam-pack our itineraries in an effort to make the most of our trips. I do this frequently; just ask my partner or any of my usual travel buddies. After all, it’s hard not to be overzealous when California, the West and the world are filled with so many worthwhile, enriching places and activities to experience.

As we prepare to enter winter — for some, a sleepier travel season — I thought I’d pass along some slower-paced weekend adventures to try. You’ll learn about an art class you can take in Half Moon Bay, a chill alternative to skiing and snowboarding that’s catching on at winter resorts, an even more laidback alternative to Santa Barbara and more.

Have you traveled anywhere relaxing lately? My inbox is always open for recommendations. Send me a note anytime.

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🌟 Sip wine and make art in Half Moon Bay

Cruising Highway 1 is one of California’s most timeless adventures, with twisty rides through Big Sur and stop-offs in Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz among many travelers’ most treasured memories of the Golden State.

The allure of the storied coastal road isn’t news to anyone. That’s why when I hear about a novel way to experience the journey, I simply have to pass it along.

Meet Douglass C. Brown, owner and artist at Half Moon Bay Art Glass. Most weekends, Brown teaches glass-blowing classes to those 6 and older. It’s an activity that will encourage you to slow down and act with intention on your next drive up the Pacific.

During the class, guests have the opportunity to create glass projects they can take home as souvenirs, including mini pumpkins, sea stars, beer and wine glasses and even a jellyfish lamp.

Classes begin at $130 per project. Care to enjoy a glass of red after glass blowing? Half Moon Bay Art Glass is on the same site as La Nebbia Winery, just five minutes from the center of town.

Molten glass during a glass blowing session.
(Photo illustration by jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

❄️ Try fat-tire biking this winter

Love spending time in the snow but not big skiing or snowboarding? You might consider taking a fat-tire bike for a spin this winter.

Fat-tire biking is exactly like regular road or trail biking — just with thicker, squishier tires. These special tires allow riders to stay stable as they cruise across flat, packed snow. A word of caution: Avoid fresh powder, deep snow and steep hills, Utah’s tourism website advises.

Several mountain towns across the West offer fat-tire biking during the winter. If you’re interested in giving it a whirl, here are a few outlets to explore:

View of a young man on a winter fat-bike ride.
(Photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

🏖️ Kick back in Carpinteria

Often overlooked in favor of attractions in Santa Barbara, Carpinteria offers a mellow, breezy alternative to its northern neighbor. The city’s relaxed, beachy vibe is one of the reasons it earned a spot on Times travel writer Christopher Reynolds’ list of 18 fun fall things to do with kids.

What does an ideal day look like in Carpinteria? Here are some of Reynolds’ recommendations:

  • Grab a bite to eat at Esau’s Cafe, “which is all about breakfast, lunch and surfing.”
  • Stroll Linden Avenue’s assortment of surf shops and antiques stores.
  • Swim and sunbathe at Carpinteria City Beach, long promoted as “the world’s safest beach.”
  • Wave seekers may opt for Rincon Beach Park, one of the best surf spots in California, instead. It’s a mere three miles southeast of town.
  • Still hungry? Stop by the Spot for burgers.

One last tip: If you fall in love with the city, try snagging a campsite at Carpinteria State Beach next time. The sites go fast, but it’s one of my favorite spots to pitch a tent in California.

Two kites with long tails fly above a beach with a few trees. Mountains are in the background.
A little kite-flying on Carpenteria State Beach.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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🧙‍♂️ Middle-earth or Petaluma?

Fantasy fanatics and coastal road-trippers will likely enjoy spending a weekend at the “Hobbit Cobin” on a Petaluma farm in Sonoma County.

The hand-sculpted earthen home looks as though it were plucked straight from the Shire — with a distinctive California twist. In addition to soaking in the otherworldly vibes of the Cobin, guests are free to use the home’s wood-fired pizza oven and adobe dome sauna.

Need to reconnect with the real world for a while? The farm is just 15 minutes from downtown Petaluma.

The Hobbit Cobin can accommodate two guests and costs $140 per night. It can be booked on HipCamp.

Wiggly illustration of the "Hobbit Cobin"
(Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

📰 What I’m reading

  • Relatively few people visit California’s “mysterious” northeasternmost corner. Longtime traveler Freda Moon recently made a trip there, and explains what it’s like in SFGate.
  • Excited for ski trips this winter? This short piece by Heather Hansman in Outside Online is an ode to “goofy lift-ride singalongs” and “après conversations with strangers who become friends.”
  • Rēnata West grew up in the Māori village where New Zealand tourism began. In Afar, he explains how his family and community “have embraced tourism that both protects his people and preserves their rich culture.”
  • Christine Dell’Amore was left speechless by the Southwest’s most-photographed slot canyon. She writes about her experience in the Washington Post.
  • Heading up the Southern California coast? Amtrak is expanding its Surfliner service, Lori Weisberg reports in the San Diego Union-Tribune.
The sandstone walls of a slot canyon.
Upper Antelope Canyon, the Southwest’s most-photographed slot canyon.
(Photo and photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

📸 Photo of the week

The beach in Neskowin, Ore.
In this file photo, there’s evidence of a Cascadia earthquake’s awesome but destructive power visible at the beach in Neskowin, Ore. A “ghost forest” of Sitka spruces juts up from the beach in the tiny town. The trees were likely buried by tsunami debris 2,000 years earlier and later partially uncovered by storms in 1997.
(Associated Press)

🎸 Road song

"Amsterdam” by Wild Rivers

Favorite lyric: “Everybody said we were moving fast. Now I’m pretty over school, switching out my books for the Eurail Pass.”

Best place to listen: Union Station, waiting to board Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner train

Over a photo of the interior of a railroad station, an illustration has the word "Amsterdam."
Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, a great place to listen to “Amsterdam.”
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)


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