A Printable, Downloadable, PDF version of this itinerary is available for purchase. Includes Places to Stay in proximity.
ITINERARY AS EXCERPTED FROM KAREN BROWN’S E-BOOK:
Recommended Itinerary Length: 5 to 6 days
Highlights: Los Angeles, Disneyland, Getty Center and Villa, Hollywood, Norton Simon Museum, Newport Beach, La Brea Tarpits, NBC, Warner Brothers and Universal Studios, San Diego, Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo, Coronado, La Jolla, Legoland, Old Town, Sea World, Wild Animal Park, Palm Springs and Lake Arrowhead
Los Angeles and San Diego are popular destinations, attracting travelers from around the world to a wealth of sightseeing treats. But in addition to visiting these justifiably famous cities, we hope to entice you to venture out into the countryside to explore lesser-known sightseeing gems: quaint Balboa Island with its handsome yachts, charming La Jolla with its idyllic beaches, picturesque Julian exuding its Gold Rush heritage, secluded Idyllwild nestled in the mountains, glamorous Palm Springs where movie stars still steal away, beautiful Arrowhead with its crystal-clear lake. Perhaps nowhere else can you discover within only a few short miles such a rich tapestry of places to visit-all so different, all so appealing. White-sand beaches, forests with towering pines, deserts rimmed with snow-peaked mountains, bountiful orchards, historical mining towns, and shimmering blue lakes all await your discovery.
Recommended Pacing: Greater Los Angeles is an enormous metropolis of cities and suburbs connected by an overwhelming maze of very busy freeways-during the commuter rush hours it can take hours to get from one side of the city to the other. Choose a hotel or motel close to the principal attraction you are visiting in Los Angeles and use it as a base for your other sightseeing. If you are just visiting Disneyland, stay in the area for two nights-the more attractions you want to include, the longer the recommended stay: if you include San Diego or La Jolla, add two nights; if you visit Palm Springs, add another and possibly include one additional night for Lake Arrowhead.
Weather Wise: The weather along the coast is warm year-round and there is very little winter rain. Julian has a more temperate climate-though sometimes in the summer it has the odd very hot day and in the winter the occasional snowfall. Palm Springs can be boiling hot, but with a dry heat, during the summer; and is ideal in the winter, with warm days and cool mountain-desert nights. Lake Arrowhead is a mountain resort with warm summer weather and snow in winter.
If you are going to be staying for an extended period of time in Los Angeles, supplement this guide with a book totally dedicated to what to see and do. There is also a wealth of free information available from the Los Angeles Visitors Bureau-213-689-8822, www.lacvb.com-they will send you a very useful packet of information. We are not going to attempt to detail all of Los Angeles’s sightseeing possibilities, but just briefly mention a few highlights.
Disney Concert Hall: Over 16 years in the making, this is a magnificent building with futuristic stainless steel curves reflecting the bright southern California sun. Designed by California architect Frank Gehry and every bit as exciting as his Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Portugal, the hall is home to the Los Angeles Philarmonic. Self-guided audio tours are available. Open daily, 135 North Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, 213-972-7211, www.musiccenter.org.
Disneyland: The wonderland created by Walt Disney needs no introduction. What child from two to ninety-two has not heard of this Magic Kingdom, home to such lovable characters as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto, and Snow White? The park is a fantasyland of fun, divided into various theme areas. You enter into Main Street, USA and from there it is on to Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, and Adventureland, each with its own rides, entertainment, and restaurants. California Adventure, Disney’s newest theme park, is located right next door to the main park. Disneyland is open every day of the year and is located at 1313 Harbor Boulevard in Anaheim. (714-781-4565, www.disney.go.com
The Farmers Market and The Grove: From its humbler beginnings as farm stands in the fields of the 1930s the Farmers Market has grown to a permanent complex of clapboard stalls linked to the adjacent shopping center, The Grove, by a double-decker trolley. The market still sells wares, fresh produce and baked goods but what attracts locals and tourists alike are the stands which offer every imaginable delicacy from gourmet Mexican and Cajun cuisine to fresh pressed peanut butter and orange juice and, of course, gourmet coffee. By contrast with the simple market The Grove is a glitsy Disney-style shopping street of various architectural styles from Las Vegas art deco to Italianate-you’ll find a great many of your favorite stores here. Located at Fairfax Avenue and W. Third Street, Los Angeles, 323-933-9211, www.farmersmarketla.com and 323-900-8080, www.thegrovela.com.
The Getty Center: Climbing aboard the electric tram that takes you up to the Getty’s mountaintop location, you soon realize that this is not your usual museum visit. Arriving at the central plaza of gleaming white travertine rock and walking up the broad staircase, you soon discover there is so much more than museum exhibits. There is the architecture to admire, exquisite gardens to stroll in, inviting tree-lined pathways to follow, places to dine, quiet corners for contemplation, reflecting pools to gaze in, and spectacular views across the city to the ocean. The exhibition galleries house collections of European paintings (Van Gogh’s Irises, Monet’s Wheatstacks, and David Hockney’s Pearblossom Hwy No 2 being amongst the more well known), drawings (Michelangelo’s The Holy Family with Infant St. John the Baptist), sculpture (lots of Greek and Roman antiquities), illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts (there’s a wonderful collection of Louis XIV furniture), photographs, and changing exhibits. Admission is free. You do not need a reservation for the museum BUT you do need a parking reservation (fee for parking). Often parking reservations have to be made several weeks in advance. There is no convenient street parking. Buses-MTA Metro bus #561 (213-626-4455, www.mta.net) and Santa Monica Big Blue Bus #14 (310-451-5444, www.bigbluebus.com)-stop at the Getty Center. Closed Mondays and holidays, the museum is open weekends 10 am to 9 pm and weekdays 10 am to 6 pm or 9 pm. (310-440-7300, www.getty.edu)
The Getty Villa is modeled after a first-century Roman country house, the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, Italy. The villa was buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79, therefore the architects based their villa, and its landscaping, on elements from other ancient Roman houses. The Getty Villa houses the J. Paul Getty Museum’s collection of approximately 44,000 Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities. Over 1,200 works are on view in 23 galleries devoted to the permanent collection, with five additional galleries for changing exhibitions. You can tour with a “wand” or sign up on arrival for guided tours of the architecture and garden, an overview tour or an in depth look into one particular piece in the collection. Located at 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu CA 90272. Access to the Getty villa is only from the northbound, right hand lane, of the Pacific Coast Highway. You need a reservation for the museum, last minute reservations are often available online. There is a fee for parking. There is no convenient street parking. Open Thursday to Monday 10 am to 5 pm. Closed Tuesdays, Wednesdays and holidays. (310-440-7300, www.getty.edu)
Huntington Library, Art Gallery, and Botanical Gar: The home and 207-acre estate of the late Henry Huntington are open to the public and should not be missed by any visitor to the Los Angeles area. Huntington’s enormous home is now a museum featuring the work of French and English 18th-century artists. What makes the museum especially attractive is that the paintings are displayed in a homelike setting surrounded by appropriately dramatic furnishings. Nearby, in another beautiful building, is the Huntington Library-a real gem containing, among other rare books, a 15th-century copy of the Gutenberg bible, Benjamin Franklin’s handwritten autobiography, and marvelous Audubon bird prints. The gardens of the estate merit a tour in themselves and include various sections such as a rose garden, a Japanese garden, a camellia garden, a cactus garden, an English garden, and a bonsai garden. Located at 1151 Oxford Road in San Marino, the estate is open Tuesday through Friday noon to 4:30 pm, and Saturday and Sunday 10:30 am to 4:30 pm. For information on special events and shows call 626-405-2100, www.huntington.org.
Hollywood Boulevard – Mann Chinese Theatre, Kodak Theatre, El Capitan Theater: There has been a renaissance of the heart of tinsel town. The glitzy new Highland and Hollywood shopping center houses the Kodak Theatre, home to the Academy Awards. You can easily recognize the spot where they unfurl the famous red carpet, threading its way through the indoor shopping mall past the pillars posting the names of Academy Award movies of the year. Tours of the sparkling theatre building itself are available, www.kodaktheatre.com. You can catch a distant glimpse of the famous Hollywood sign from the outdoor upper deck of the shopping complex. Next door visit the fantasy of Chinese pagodas and temples that comprise Mann’s Chinese Theatre. The courtyard is filled with famous cement hand- and footprints from legends such as John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe. For the price of a movie ticket (or tour) you can see the lavish interior. The Chinese Theatre may not be the best-preserved theater in Hollywood, that honor goes to the nearby Disney El Capitan Theater whose 1926 interior is now in fine fettle and comes complete with a state of the art projection and sound system, www.elcapitantickets.com. The sidewalk along Hollywood Boulevard is inlaid with stars dedicated to the celebrities (some obscure, some that are household names) who made Hollywood great. Located at the junction of Hollywood and Highland Boulevards. Discounted parking (with validation) is available beneath the Hollywood and Highland complex, enter on Orange.
Le Brea Tarpits: Learn what Los Angeles was like between 10,000 and 40,000 years ago when animals such as saber-toothed tigers and mammoths roamed the area, only to become trapped in the asphalt deposits that bubble to the surface in Hancock Park. Excavation of the pits started in 1908. Located amongst the rolling lawns each fenced excavation provides details of the prehistoric animals that were found there. Visit in summer and you can see the excavation of Pit 91 in action, watching paleontologists wrestle remains from the sticky tar. Most of the fossils are displayed in the adjacent Page Museum where you can watch recent finds being classified and examined. Of special interest is a tank that recreates how animals became stuck in the sticky La Brea asphalt, frantically trying to escape from an oily grave. Visitors can even touch a massive leg bone of an extinct giant ground sloth. 5801 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, 323-934-7243, www.tarpits.org.
NBC Television Studios: Los Angeles is the television capital of the world. To get an idea of what goes on behind the screen, visit the NBC Television Studios and take their one-hour tour that gives you a look at where the stars rehearse, how costumes are designed, how stage props are made, and what goes into the special effects. The tour also visits some of the show sets. The studios are located at 3000 West Alameda Avenue in Burbank. (818-840-3537)
The Norton Simon Museum of Art: The Norton Simon Museum of Art is without doubt one of the finest private art museums in the world, set in a beautiful Moorish-style building accented by a reflecting pool and manicured gardens. Norton Simon and his actress wife, Jennifer Jones, share their incredible collection of art including paintings by such masters as Rubens, Rembrandt, Raphael, Picasso, and Matisse. The museum, open Thursday through Sunday noon to 6 pm, is located at 411 West Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. (626-449-6840, www.nortonsimon.org)
El Pueblo de Los Angeles: With all the clamor and glamour of modern-day Los Angeles, it is easy to forget that this city was originally a pueblo founded in 1781 to grow food for the Spanish soldiers guarding this distant territory for their king. You catch a glimpse of the town’s history in El Pueblo de Los Angeles, a little bit of Mexico where Hispanic people sell colorful Mexican souvenirs and operate interesting restaurants on Oliveria Street. The 44-acre complex of old buildings (some dating back to the 1780s) has been restored and is now a state park. Be sure to visit Plaza Firehouse – the oldest firehouse in Los Angeles, the Chinese American Museum with its historic Chinese herbalist display on the ground floor and rotating art exhibits on the upper floors, and Mission Nuestra Señora Reina de Los Angeles founded in 1781. El Pueblo is located opposite Union Station (impressive art-deco building), on the Red Line Metro at 125 Paseo de la Plaza, Los Angeles. (213-628-1274, www.cityofla.org/elp)
Rodeo Drive: Rodeo drive is as much a tourist destination as it is a deluxe shopping street. It is great fun to browse the windows of Gucci, Armani, Harry Winston, Tiffany’s, Hermes and the like. At the southern end of Rodeo Drive, where it joins Wilshire Boulevard, is Via Rodeo, a curvy cobblestoned street designed to resemble an Italian via-perfect for picture-taking. Located in Beverly Hills at Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive, Red Line buses run along Wilshire.
Warner Brothers Studios: Do a little celebrity snooping on a VIP tour of the backlot sets, sound stages, crafts shops and prop warehouses of one of Hollywood’s famous movie studios. No two tours are alike-it depends on what is open and available but chances are you will get to visit the sound stage of a current Warner Brothers production and stroll down Midwest Street, made famous in the musical A Music Man, now home to the Gilmore Girls. (818-846-1403)
Universal Studios: Visiting Universal Studios, the biggest, busiest movie studio in the world, is like going to a vast amusement park and there is so much to see and do that you must spend a whole day here. Included in the admission price is a two-hour tram journey that takes you around the 420-acre lot, out of the real world and into make-believe: along the way you venture inside the Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, encounter the howling fury of King Kong, and tremble in a terrifying 8.3 earthquake. Water World, a live sea war spectacular, Back to the Future, a time-travel ride from the age of the dinosaurs to 2015, and Backdraft’s raging firestorm thrill you with their excitement, while the Animal Planet Live show and the re-creation of the zany Lucille Ball sitcoms give you the chance to laugh away all that adrenaline in your blood. New in 2002 is the Spider Man Rocks rock ‘n’ roll stunt show. The studios are just off the Hollywood Freeway at the Universal Center Drive exit. (www.universalstudios.com)
It takes only a couple of hours to whip down the freeway between Los Angeles and San Diego but, instead, follow our sightseeing suggestions and dawdle along the way to enjoy some of southern California’s coastal attractions en route.
Drive south from Los Angeles on Hwy 405, the San Diego Freeway, until you come to Hwy 73, the Corona del Mar Freeway, which branches to the south toward the coast. Take this, then in just minutes you come to Hwy 55, Newport Boulevard. Exit here and stay on the same road all the way to Newport Beach. Soon after crossing the bridge watch for the sign to your right for Newport Pier. (In case you get off track, the pier is at the foot of 20th Street.) Try to arrive mid-morning so that you can capture a glimpse of yesteryear when the Dory Fleet comes in to beach, just to the right of the pier. The Dory Fleet, made up of colorfully painted, open wooden fishing boats, has been putting out to sea for almost a hundred years. It is never certain exactly what time the fleet will come in (it depends upon the fishing conditions), but if you arrive mid-morning, the chances are you will see the fishermen preparing and selling their catch of the day from the back of their small boats. If seeing all the fresh fish puts you in the mood for lunch, walk across the street to the Oyster Bar & Grill-the food is excellent and the clam chowder truly outstanding.
From Newport Beach, continue south along the long, thin peninsula: the next community you come to is Balboa. In the center of town there is a clearly signposted public parking area next to Balboa Pier: leave your car here and explore the area. The beach is beautiful, stretching the entire length of the peninsula, all the way from the southern tip to beyond Newport Pier. Stroll along the beach and then walk across the peninsula (about a two-block span) to the Balboa Pavilion, a colorful Victorian gingerbread landmark smack in the center of the wharf. Next to the pavilion are several booths where tickets are sold for cruises into the harbor. One of the best of these excursions is on the Pavilion Queen, which makes a 45-minute loop of the bay. Buy your ticket and, if you have time to spare until the boat leaves, wander around the nostalgic, honky-tonk boardwalk with its cotton candy, Ferris wheel, saltwater taffy shops, and penny arcade. But be back in time to board your boat because the Balboa harbor cruise should not be missed. The trip is a boat fancier’s dream: over 9,000 yachts are moored in the harbor. Also of interest are the opulent homes whose lawns stretch out to the docks where their million-dollar cruisers are moored.
A block from the Balboa Pavilion is the ferry landing-you cannot miss it. After your cruise, retrieve your car and follow signs to the Balboa Ferry. You might have to wait in line a bit because the little old-fashioned ferry takes only three cars at a time. When your turn comes, it is just minutes over to Balboa Island, a delightful, very wealthy community. Park your car on the main street and poke about in the pretty shops.
From Balboa Island there is a bridge across the harbor to the mainland. Almost as soon as you cross the bridge, turn right, heading south on Hwy 1 through the ritzy community of Corona del Mar. Although there is still a quaintness to the area, exclusive boutiques, expensive art galleries, palatial homes, and trendy shops hint at the fact that this is not the sleepy little town it might appear to be.
From Corona del Mar, Hwy 1 parallels the sea, which washes up against a long stretch of beach bound by high bluffs. The area seems relatively undeveloped except for its beach parks. About 11 miles south of Corona del Mar the road passes through Laguna Beach, famous for its many art galleries, pretty boutiques, and miles of lovely sand. In summer, from mid-July through August, Laguna Beach is usually packed with tourists coming to see the Pageant of the Masters, a tableau in which town residents dress up and re-create paintings. Two dozen living paintings are staged each evening and viewed by spectators in an outdoor amphitheater.
Continue south along the Coastal Hwy. Soon after passing Dana Point, take the turnoff to the east on Hwy 5 to San Juan Capistrano. Watch for signs directing you off the freeway two blocks to Mission San Juan Capistrano. This mission, founded by Father Junipero Serra in 1776, has been carefully restored to give you a glimpse of what life was like in the early days of California. Although located in the center of town, the mission creates its own environment since it is insulated by lovely gardens and a complex of Spanish adobe buildings. Another point of special interest at San Juan Capistrano is that the swallows have chosen it as “home,” arriving every March 19th (Saint Joseph’s Day) and leaving October 23rd. Visit the mission and then retrace your route to Hwy 5 and continue south about an hour to San Diego.
The San Diego Visitors Bureau (619-232-3101) will send you a packet of valuable information for touring its many attractions. The San Diego Trolley makes it easy and fun to get around San Diego and its environs-you can actually ride from Old Town to the Mexican border. San Diego offers a wealth of attractions and amusements-the following are some of our favorites in the San Diego area. (Find out more at www.sandiego.org.)
Balboa Park: Balboa Park is without a doubt one of the highlights of downtown San Diego. Attractions within the park include the , one of the finest in the world (619-234-3153, www.sandiegozoo.org). For a good orientation of the zoo take either the 40-minute bus tour or the aerial tramway. Most of the more than 3,000 animals live within natural-style enclosures with very few cages. The Children’s Zoo is especially fun, with a nursery for newborn animals and a petting zoo. But Balboa Park offers much more than its splendid zoo. There are fascinating museums and exhibits within the 1,400-acre park: the Museum of Man, the Aerospace Museum, the San Diego Museum of Art, the Natural History Museum, the Reuben H. Fleet Space Theater and Science Center, the Hall of Champions, the Museum of Photographic Arts, and the beautiful wooden Botanical Building:. Most of the museums are housed in picturesque Spanish-style buildings. (619-239-0512, www.balboapark.org)
Coronado: While in San Diego take the bridge or the ferry over to Coronado, an island-like bulb of land tipping a thin isthmus that stretches south almost to the Mexican border. Here you find not only a long stretch of beautiful beach, but also the Del Coronado Hotel, a Victorian fantasy of gingerbread turrets and gables. The Del Coronado, locally referred to as “The Del,” is a sightseeing attraction in its own right and makes an excellent choice for a luncheon stop.
The Embarcadero: The Embarcadero is the downtown port area located along Harbor Drive. From here you can take a harbor cruise or visit one of the floating museums tied up to the quay, part of the San Diego Maritime Museum. These include the Star of India, built in 1863, a dramatic tall-masted ship that carried passengers and cargo around the world. (619-234-9153, www.sdmaritime.com)
La Jolla: Be sure to visit La Jolla, “The Jewel,” a sophisticated town just north of San Diego. Classy shops and restaurants line the streets and on a warm sunny day there is nowhere more perfect for an informal lunch and water views than George’s Ocean Terrace (858-454-4244). La Jolla is home to a branch of the University of California and within its Scripps Institution of Oceanography are an excellent aquarium and museum featuring marine life from California and Mexico. Another very interesting museum is the Museum of Contemporary Art with its spectacular ocean views, interesting exhibits, and delightful café (858-454 3541, www.mcasd.org). Just down Prospect Street from the museum visit the landmark John Cole’s Bookstore set in a historic house overlooking the ocean. However, what really makes La Jolla so special is her setting-beautiful white-sand beaches sheltered in intimate little coves. You may prefer to stay here rather than in San Diego.
Legoland: A Mecca for children between the ages of two and eight, this is the first Legoland in the United States and is modeled on the famous one in Denmark. All the attractions are built of, or themed on, the colorful Lego bricks. From fun rides to opportunities to see the production of the famous bricks and the chance to buy every available Lego product, this is a theme park that Lego enthusiasts will not want to miss. Located in Carlsbad 30 miles north of San Diego, 760-918-5346, www.legoland.com.
Mexico: Mexico lies just south of San Diego. Do not judge the whole of Mexico by its border town of Tijuana, but if you would like to have a taste of Mexico, take one of the “shopping and sightseeing” tours that leave from downtown for the short drive to the border. You can drive across the border, but the bus tour removes the hassle from the trip.
Old Town: Old Town is where San Diego originated. The area has been designated as a city park and several square blocks are accessible to pedestrians only. Make the Historical Museum your first stop and orient yourself by viewing a scale model of San Diego in its early days. Old Town is most interesting to visit as many of the buildings are open as small museums, such as the Machado-Stewart Adobe, the Old School House, and the Seeley Stables (an 1860s stage depot with a good display of horse-drawn carriages). If you are in Old Town at mealtime, you can choose from many attractive restaurants. Just southeast of the intersection of Hwys 5 and 8, parking is well signposted.
Mission San Diego de Alcala: The oldest of the chain of missions that stretches up the coast is Mission San Diego de Alcala. The mission was originally closer to San Diego but was moved to its present site (10818 San Diego Mission Road) in 1774. To reach the mission, head east on Hwy 8-it is signposted to the north of the highway beyond the intersection of Hwy 15. (619-283-7319, www.missionsandiego.com)
Seaport Village: Adjacent to the Embarcadero is Seaport Village, a very popular tourist attraction and fun for adults and children alike. Situated right on the waterfront, it has little paths that meander through this 23 acre village of shops and restaurants built in a colorful variety of styles from Early Spanish to Victorian. Street artists display their talents to laughing audiences.
Sea World: San Diego’s marine display is in Mission Bay Park. Set in a 150-acre park which includes a 1-acre children’s playland, Sea World features one of California’s famous personalities, Shamu, the performing killer whale who delights everyone with her wit and aquatic abilities. Penguin Encounter is a particularly fun exhibit where you watch comical penguins waddling about in their polar environment, while Shark Encounter presents one of the largest displays of sharks in the world and provides the terrifying thrill of being surrounded by these efficient killing machines as you walk through an acrylic tube. (800-380-3203, www.seaworld.com)
San Diego Wild Animal Park: This is a branch of the San Diego Zoo 30 miles north of the city near Escondido-truly a zoo on a grand scale. The animals roam freely in terrain designed to match their natural habitat. You feel as if you are on a safari in Africa as you watch for lions and other animals while you tour the park on the Wgasa Bush Line Monorail tour. There are also several open theaters where animal shows are presented. (619-234-6541, www.wildanimalpark.org)
Leaving San Diego, Hwy 8 takes you east and winds through shrub-filled canyons dotted with ever-expanding housing suburbs. About 30 minutes after you leave the city, watch for the sign for Hwy 79 where you turn north toward Julian. The road weaves through an Indian reservation and the scenery becomes prettier by the minute as you climb into the mountains and enter the Cuyamaca Ranch State Park. There are not many opportunities to sightsee en route, but if you want to break your journey, you can pause at the park headquarters and visit the Indian museum or the museum at the Old Stonewall Mine. Leaving the park, the road winds down into Julian.
Julian is a small town that can easily be explored in just a short time. What is especially nice is that, although it is a tourist attraction, the town is not “tacky touristy.” Rather, you get the feeling you are in the last century as you wander through the streets and stop to browse at some of the antique shops, visit the small historical museum in the old brewery, and enjoy refreshment at the soda fountain in the 1880s drug store. If you want to delve deeper into mining, just a short drive (or long walk) away on the outskirts of town is the Eagle Mine, founded by pioneers from Georgia, many of them soldiers who came here after the Civil War. Tours are taken deep into the mine and a narration gives not only the history of the mine, but the history of Julian.
If you are in Julian in the fall, you can enjoy another of Julian’s offerings-apples. Although you can sample Julian’s wonderful apples throughout the year (every restaurant has its own special apple pie on the menu), the apple becomes king during the fall harvest. Beginning in October and continuing on into November, special crafts shows and events are held in the Julian Town Hall. If you visit one of the packing plants on the edge of town you can buy not only apples, but every conceivable item that has apples as a theme.
It is only a short drive north from Julian on Hwy 79 to Santa Ysabel where you turn right at the main intersection. At this junction you see Dudley’s Bakery, a rather nondescript-looking building that houses a great bakery: loyal customers drive all the way from San Diego just to buy one of their 21 varieties of tasty bread. As you leave Santa Ysabel you come to Mission Santa Ysabel, a reconstructed mission that still serves the Indians. This is one of the less interesting missions, but you may want to see the murals painted by the local Indians.
About 7 miles after leaving the mission, Hwy 79 breaks off to the east and you continue north on Hwy 76. In five minutes you come to Lake Henshaw. Just beyond the lake turn northeast (right) on East Grade Road, which winds its way up the mountain to the Palomar Observatory. Just near the parking area is a museum where you learn about the observatory through photos and short films. It is a pleasant stroll up to the impressive white-domed observatory, which houses the Hale telescope-the largest in the United States. A flight of steps takes you to a glass-walled area where you see the giant telescope whose lens is 200 inches in diameter, 2 feet thick, and took 11 years to polish.
After viewing the observatory, loop back down the twisting road to the main highway and, when it intersects with Hwy 76, turn northwest (right), driving through hills covered with groves of avocado and orange trees. In about 12 miles you come to Pala and the Mission San Antonio de Pala:. Established in 1810, it is one of the few remaining active asistencias (missions built in outlying areas to serve the Indians). The mission is small, but the chapel is very beautiful in its rugged simplicity enhanced by thick adobe walls, rustic beamed ceiling, and Indian paintings. A bell tower stands alone to the right of the chapel, a picturesque sight. To the left are a simple museum and a souvenir shop.
From Pala it is about a ten-minute drive north on S16 to Temecula. Just before you enter town the road intersects with Hwy 79 and you head east for 18 miles to Aguanga where Hwy 371 takes you northeast for 21 miles to Hwy 74. As you head north on 74 the mountain air becomes sweeter and the scenery increasingly prettier as you enter the forest. In about 12 miles you see signs for Idyllwild to the northeast. Turn here on Hwy 243 and very soon you come to the small resort tucked into the mountains high above Palm Springs. Homely little restaurants, antique stores, and gift shops make up the town.
Leaving Idyllwild, continue north on Hwy 342 to Banning where you turn east (right) on Hwy 10. In about 12 miles you come to Hwy 111 where you turn right and follow signs to Palm Springs (about a ten-minute drive). Palm Springs was first discovered by the Indians who came to this oasis to bathe in the hot springs, which they considered to have healing qualities. The same tribe still owns much of Palm Springs and rents their valuable real estate to homeowners and commercial enterprises. The hot springs are still in use today. During the winter season the town is congested with traffic and the sidewalks are crammed with an assortment of people of every age, size, and shape dressed in colorful, sporty clothes. Palm Springs used to be deserted in summer when the days are very hot. However, more and more tourists are coming in June, July, and August, attracted by the lower hotel rates. Although the temperature in the summer months is frequently well above 110 degrees, it is a dry heat and not unbearable in the mornings and balmy evenings. In fact, due to the altitude, evenings often require a sweater. So if your visit is in summer, plan your sightseeing for early and late in the day.
In addition to the pleasures of basking in the sun or playing on one of the many golf courses in the area, Palm Springs offers a variety of sightseeing. The most impressive excursion is to take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (located just north of town off Hwy 111) from the desert floor up 2½ miles into the San Jacinto Mountains. In summer you go from sizzling heat to cool mountain forests, while in winter you go from desert to snow. The weather atop the mountain is often more than 40 degrees cooler than in Palm Springs, so remember to take the appropriate clothing. At the top are observation decks with telescopes, a restaurant, and miles of hiking trails. (888-515-TRAM, www.pstramway.com)
If you enjoy deserts, be sure not to miss the Living Desert Wildlife and Botanical Park (open only in the mornings in summer) where 6 miles of trails wind through different types of desert that are found in the United States. Tour booklets are available at the entrance to assist you along the trails, 760-346-5694, www.livingdesert.org. If you are interested in the rich and famous, join a bus tour that drives by the outside of their magnificent homes. Many movie stars have second homes in Palm Springs.
Palm Springs is a convenient place to end this itinerary because it is a quick, easy drive on the freeway back to Los Angeles. But, if time permits, squeeze in one more contrasting destination, the exclusive Alpine resort of Lake Arrowhead.
Leave Palm Springs and head north on Hwy 111 for about 10 miles to Hwy 10 and turn west for Banning. Approximately 20 miles past Banning at Redlands, exit from the freeway on Hwy 30 and drive north for a few minutes until Hwy 38 travels into the hills. As the road begins to climb up from the valley the scenery becomes prettier with every curve-the dry desert brush is gradually left behind, replaced by evergreen trees. At the town of Running Springs turn west on Hwy 18. This is called the Rim of the World Highway, a road where sweeping vistas of the valley floor can be glimpsed through the clouds. Be aware that fog often hovers around this drive and then, instead of admiring beautiful views, you creep along in thick, gray mist.
Lake Arrowhead village is a cluster of restaurants and shops along the lakefront. The lake is bordered by magnificent estates. The magnet of Lake Arrowhead is not any specific sightseeing, but rather the outdoors experience: although lakefront and beach access is restricted and private, you can take leisurely walks through the forest, picnic in secluded parks, explore the lake by paddle boats, or rent bicycles for a bit of fresh-air adventure. You can also take the hour-long ride on the steamer that circles the lake.
When it is time to complete your itinerary, retrace your path back to the valley and follow Hwy 10 back into Los Angeles. Unless you encounter unexpected traffic, the trip should take about two hours.