From awe-inspiring seaside cliffs to beautiful natural parks, California is one of the loveliest states in the nation. Booking an easy, long weekend getaway is just the thing to take some of the stress off before the holiday season sets in. And the best news is that you don’t have to blow your entire bank account to enjoy it. Here are five affordable spots you’ll love.
Rugged coastlines. Gardens. Victorian homes. Wine. Located on the scenic Highway 1, 150 miles north of San Francisco, Mendocino is the idyllic picture of a cozy fall weekend getaway. Book the Kit’s Cabin room at the JD House and get into the fall spirit with your own wood fireplace and private balcony for only $175/night. Step out into the crisp fall air and start your day off the right (and only) way with a warm, organic and caffeinated beverage and breakfast roll from the Goodlife Cafe & Bakery. If you’re into enjoying a picnic at the beach (and who isn’t?), stop by Mendocino Market and grab some grub to go before heading out to Mendocino Headlands State Park, where parking and admissions are gloriously free. Whip out your picnic at Big River Beach (located inside the park) and enjoy the view as you reconsider fall being that second-rate season you thought it was. If you happen to be in town and also happen to like mushrooms, November 6-15 Mendocino County holds its annual Mushroom, Wine & Beer Festival. And you thought fall was the season of the pumpkin! Finish off your mini-retreat with a deliciously low-key evening at Patterson’s Pub. (Image via Citoyen Du Monde Inc)
Carmel & Monterey, CA
History meets whimsy in the neighboring cities of Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey. Carmel’s fairytale cottages set against a dramatic backdrop of tall cypresses and crashing waves will make you feel that you’ve been whisked away to somewhere over the rainbow with absolutely no pressing need to go back home. Steinbeck described Cannery Row in Monterey as “a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.” Don’t be deterred by the prestige of the Carmel Mission Ranch — the Main Barn Rooms start at $135/night. The quaint Carmel Coffee House is the perfect spot to get your day started, after which you can feel refined as you meander the many art galleries off Ocean Avenue. Grab a humble sandwich to go at the Nielsen Bros. Market, walk to the beach, dig your toes in the sand and enjoy. Maybe even pull out that book of poetry you never thought you’d get to as you listen to the waves crashing on the shore. And when you’ve had enough of that, take a nature walk in Point Lobos State Reserve, and bask in nature’s glory. Or head to see the Monarch butterflies in Monterey, which appear from October to February. Finish your day with a mouth-watering wood-fired thin crust pizza from La Bicyclette. (Image via BPPrice)
Tahoe City, CA
If fall to you means crackling leaves underfoot, the smell of pine and cedar, bonfires blazing at night and stargazing as you snuggle into your favorite fall coat and sip hot cocoa, then Tahoe is for you. Fall is an underrated season for Tahoe — winter and summer take the cake for making Tahoe a hot destination. While fall flies under the radar, it makes for a perfect, crowd-free and affordable weekend getaway. Book a stay at the family-owned Tamarack Lodge for just $92 per night for the “Poker Rooms” and $130 per night for the Studio Cabins. Get off on the right foot for all that hiking you’re going to do with some protein and a pour-over from Gear & Grind Cafe. Since you’ll be staying in North Lake Tahoe, take the Mt. Rose Hike to Tahoe Meadows and get excellent views of Slide Mountain and Mount Rose. After all that walking, stop by the Bridgetender Tavern & Grill for a burger and garlic waffle fries. For a view of fall foliage reflected on pristine water, drive South to Fallen Leaf Lake where you can rent a boat or kayak at the General Store. Cap off your awe-inspiring day with some healthy comfort food (yes, it exists!) at Spoon. (Image via Lisa Ouellette)
Big Sur, CA
Perhaps you feel that the majestic cliffs and breathtaking vistas of Big Sur are unlikely to make the cut for an affordable weekend getaway. And you would be mostly correct. But, believe it or not, there actually are some places you can stay at in Big Sur for under $200 per night. Fernwood Resort is one of them. Rooms in their “motel” start at $135 each night, or — because you probably are a nature lover and will be surrounded by beauty — you can opt for “glamping” for $120 per night. Ripplewood Resort has decent prices from $105 per night. And then, for the adventurers out there, there’s the option to stay in a “human nest” for $100 a night at the trendy-looking TreeBones Resort. Make sure to stop by Big Sur Bakery in the morning for a sweet treat (or two) and/or Sunday brunch. Point Sur Lighthouse is worth a visit (tours: $12-20), and they even host ghost tours during the month of October. If you feel more like walking among the redwoods or glimpsing a waterfall, get a day pass for $10 at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Don’t miss sitting on the terrace and enjoying lunch or dinner at Nepenthe. And for those of you who prefer the wee hours of the morning, make a reservation at Esalen Hot Springs for $30 per person between 1 – 3am. (Image via Angus Lam)
Want a wine country weekend during Harvest Season that doesn’t break the bank? Doesn’t everybody? Try venturing outside of Napa and stay in Calistoga instead. You’ll get an authentic wine country experience and you’ll be staying in a city known for its hot springs. Yes, please! Rooms at the Calistoga Inn start at $169 per night, or try Hideaway Cottages for $180. If you want the wine country, hot springs and wilderness trifecta, consider staying in a yurt inside the Bothe-Napa State Park. A small yurt fits four for $70/night, with a two-night minimum. Head over to the Calistoga Roastery for your morning cup of joe and book a treatment at Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort (starting at $40). After getting your relaxation on, continue to indulge yourself with some Southern BBQ at Buster’s Original Southern BBQ. Call ahead to book a tasting at Vincent Arroyo Winery, where you will get to tour the grounds and have all your wine-related questions answered in a friendly atmosphere (tastings are complimentary for groups under four). If a medieval castle complete with torture chamber is more your style, head over to Castello di Amorosa (admission starting at $25), where an authentic replica of a 13th-century Italian castle and winery stands. End the evening with the Godfather Pasta at Bosko’s Trattoria. All in all, it’s an offer you won’t be able to refuse. (Image via Keith Cuddeback)
Where are your favorite spots to visit in California? Share with us in the comments below!