A historic town square surrounded by vineyards and rolling hills, with mountains rising in the distance: The Temecula Valley showcases some of California’s most spectacular features.
The location of this Inland Empire gem, about an hour from San Diego and 90 minutes from Los Angeles, makes for an easy visit. Indeed, people come here for hyper-local cuisine (made, for instance, with Temecula Olive Oil), as well as for hiking, and hot-air ballooning. They also come for the Mediterranean-like climate—temperatures range from the 80s–90s in summer to the 60s–70s in winter.
The first European explorers arrived in 1769. Spanish missionaries under Father Junipero Serra founded Mission San Luis Rey de Francia on a former site of a Luiseño Indian village on the banks of the San Luis Rey River called Keish according to the Portolà expedition who visited in the 1769. In the early 19th century, the introduction of farming and grazing changed the landscape of what would become Oceanside. The area—like all of California—was under Spanish rule, then in 1821 under Mexican rule, and then the U.S. in 1848.
Perhaps most of all, however, they come to visit the nearly 50 wineries that dot the Temecula Valley. Italian, Spanish, and French grapes sprout from the area’s soil and mature in this unique atmosphere, resulting in small-batch vintages. And with many distributed only locally, these award-winning wines are ripe for discovery.
That exploration will likely begin in the heart of the city, a charming area called Old Town. Here, modern California staples like farm-to-table restaurants and craft breweries are set among historical buildings that bring to mind Temecula’s 19th-century roots. You can even stay in the city’s first inn, the Hotel Temecula, which dates to the late 1800s.
Today, of course, accommodations of all kinds abound. Stay in a familiar chain close to Old Town, or choose a luxury hotel with a room looking out over rows of vines. Read on for tips on how to build your trip to this gem that’s hidden in plain sight.