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A local’s guide for a summer to remember

With spectacular destinations so close by, it’s sometimes a wonder why we would ever leave our beautiful city

San Diego Mission Bay Resort
Image Credits Sky Falconry: Photo Courtesy of Sky Falconry, Roar & Snore: photo courtesy San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

By Deanna Murphy and Mia Park

You may be ready to break away, and we can’t blame you. We might be biased, but with spectacular destinations so close by, it’s sometimes a wonder why we would ever be in a hurry to go beyond where a car and a half-tank of gas could travel from the front door. If you need any reminder of just how lucky we San Diegans are, we’re here to help you see the forest and the trees (and wild animals and seas!) on this shining star of the 33rd parallel.

Animal Instincts

A quick drive to the country can put you front and center with spectacular birds of prey. Alpine’s Sky Falconry is among a handful of regularly operating falconry schools in the nation federally licensed to allow guests to legally fly a trained bird of prey and get a hands-on experience of free-flying the bird in its natural habitat. “We offer a variety of options for classes with different price ranges, but have found, with COVID especially, that our Private Hawk Walks and Private Raptor Experiences are very popular,” says Denise Disharoon, co-owner and master falconer. Experiences are held on Sky Falconry’s private, 40-acre ranch with stunning 360-degree views of mountains and the coast. 619.722.0092, skyfalconry.com

In Julian, California Wolf Center offers guided tours of its conservation facility, giving visitors the opportunity to see the resident wolves and learn about wolf conservation in a unique experience that’s fun for all ages. Tours are one hour and offer an unforgettable encounter with the critically endangered animals. While in town, a stop at The Eagle Mining Co. takes visitors back in time to the world of a 1870s mining operation. californiawolfcenter.org, theeaglemining.com

An African safari is an oft-named bucket list item, but the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Roar & Snore safaris make for a thrilling substitute close to home with no layovers or customs lines. Camp overnight in the center of the park amid the sights and sounds of the resident wildlife, either with the kids or take advantage of one of the dates reserved for adult campers 21 and older. Just because it’s camping doesn’t mean you have to rough it; Premium tents boast queen-sized beds and other amenities to serve as your home base for walking tours, a campfire program, meals, and special animal encounters. The lions won’t let you forget where you are, though. Legend has it that when the park first opened, the roars of the lions, which can be heard up to five miles away, temporarily caused the local cows to stop producing milk! sdzsafaripark.org/safaris

San Diego Zoo Safari Park
San Diego Zoo Safari Park

There is more than one local option for sleeping just steps away from exotic wildlife. Lions Tigers & Bears, the 93-acre animal sanctuary in Alpine, offers stays on-property at White Oak, a luxury two-bedroom home for guests 21 and up. The experience includes full access to the sanctuary throughout the stay, and premium upgrades like access to a private chef or an opportunity to feed some of the rescued big cats allow you to tailor your visit from indulgent to adventurous, all while supporting the nonprofit’s work to rescue and care for endangered and exotic animals. lionstigersandbears.org

Lions Tigers & Bears
Lions Tigers & Bears

The Life Aquatic

No San Diego staycation would be complete without a little water adventure. La Jolla’s Everyday California, which offers premium kayaking and snorkeling tours within the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve, has a special offer for those who’ve been vaccinated: free paddleboard, surfboard, and snorkel rentals Monday through Thursday, as well as 20 percent off apparel through June 14. Customers must book rentals online with promo code vaccine and show vaccine card upon arrival. For apparel purchases, shoppers can show their vaccine card in-store to redeem the offer or apply promo code VAX20 online at checkout. 858.454.6195, everydaycalifornia.com

Whether it’s a day trip, whale watching excursion, overnight stay, or a three-day Catalina getaway you seek, Halcyon Seas yacht charter company welcomes guests aboard a 70-foot, custom motor yacht. The luxury vessel boasts amenities ranging from climate control and Sonos wireless sound to on-board Wi-Fi. It’s furnished with three staterooms and a comfortable central gathering space that makes an ideal setting for an unforgettable day bay hopping or an extended, customized adventure. 619.222.0327, halcyonseas.com

Flower Power

On 12 acres directly above the seasonal Carlsbad Flower Fields, The Cassara Carlsbad presents a modern Mediterranean atmosphere that feels a world away. The resort’s Stay, Smell & Smile package, available only until May 9 (hurry!), includes overnight accommodations, two tickets to the Carlsbad Flower Fields (reservations required), complimentary parking, and free shuttle service to and from the Flower Fields. thecassaracarlsbad.com/offers

The Cassara Carlsbad

Less than a mile away, sister property the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa is an expansive dual complex with coastal breezes and ocean views. The Pedal to Petals package, also available through May 9, includes a one-hour complimentary bike rental per day. After soaking in the sun’s rays and wandering through the seasonal blooms, guests can pedal back and refuel at 7 Mile Kitchen, offering alfresco dining. sheratoncarlsbad.com

Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa
Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa

Wine for the Win

Hardly a sleepy runner-up on the California wine scene, Temecula offers a multitude of quality wines from gorgeous sunny wineries just a short drive to our north. Make it a real escape and check in to The Vine House Bed and Breakfast, ideally situated within walking distance to two wineries, Oak Mountain and Leoness. Husband and wife proprietors Lacey and Rob Britton converted their property’s barn into this eight-unit Instagram-worthy treasure last July, which features every amenity you’d expect from a luxury hotel with all the charm of a B-and-B. Explore the wineries beyond the neighboring vineyards in a decidedly unique way and book a tour with SoCal Sidecars for an open air ride in one of their two-person sidecars with a motorcycle chauffeur, or see it all from above on a sunrise 

flight from A Grape Escape hot air balloon. Before heading home, be sure to pop in to Oak Grove Culinary Creations in Old Town Temecula for a sweet treat. All of the nonprofit bakery’s proceeds benefit its culinary arts program, which employs and trains at-risk youth and special needs individuals. vinehousebedandbreakfast.com, socalsidecars.com, culinarycreationsoakgrove.org

Savor & Sip

As part of its Signature Wine Series, The Lodge at Torrey Pines hosts monthly dinners that pair a curated multi-course meal of seasonal bounty with some of California’s most notable wines. Set on the spacious terrace at A.R. Valentien, each Signature Wine Dinner welcomes a special guest from the featured winery to share insight on their winemaking process. Upcoming dinners will showcase Darioush on May 13, Chappellet Winery on June 24, and Nickel & Nickel and Far Niente on July 15. But it doesn’t end there — The Lodge at Torrey Pines has also put together a special offer for Ranch & Coast readers: Reserve and stay any two nights by June 30 and receive a $200 A.R. Valentien dining credit to be used during your stay.  The offer is limited and some blackout dates may apply. Use promo code RC2021 when booking here. lodgetorreypines.com 

In the Ranch, The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe has put together a Whiskey Tasting Guest Room Package where guests enjoy a flight of whiskey hand-selected from whiskey educator Dutch House to taste upon arrival or anytime during the stay. At The Huntsman, the resort’s whiskey bar, House has curated a collection of more than 160 whiskeys from nine countries and 15 states. He’s also known for his experimental libations, barrel-aging, and box-smoked cocktails. theinnatrsf.com 

The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe
The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe

Suite Deals

San Diego Mission Bay Resort has an array of special offers to entice locals to staycation on property. Through June 20, the Spring Forward package gives guests a $20 daily resort credit and a waived resort fee. Or, the Family Fun package, offered all year long, gives guests a $50 action sports credit for use at the onsite marina plus a s’mores kit. Also valid all year, the Stay and Play More offer incentivizes longer bookings (stay 4-6 nights, get 15 percent off; 7-13 nights, get 20 percent off, 14+ nights, get 30 percent off). missionbayresort.com/deals-offers

San Diego Mission Bay Resort
San Diego Mission Bay Resort

Downtown, Pendry San Diego’s Spa, Relax & Revive package pampers guests with one night’s accommodations, a $60 breakfast credit for in-room service or at Provisional Kitchen, Café & Mercantile, a $160 spa credit at Spa Pendry, and complimentary valet parking. pendry.com/san-diego/offers/#stay-play

Summer is “suite” in La Jolla at the iconic La Valencia Hotel. Stay three nights or more and save up to 30 percent when you book a spacious suite at the “Pink Lady.” Choose one of the hotel’s oceanview suites and enjoy more room for less in the heart of La Jolla Village. lavalencia.com

La Valencia Resort & Spa
La Valencia Resort & Spa

A few blocks away, the Grande Colonial Hotel is offering 15 percent off best available rates through the end of May. Into the summer and beyond, take advantage of savings on oceanview rooms and suites with $50 off bookings. Or, consider the Stay 3 and Save $100 package to enjoy three nights in a village view or oceanview guest room or suite in the main building, or an ocean or garden view suite in the exclusive Little Hotel by the Sea or Garden Terraces wings. thegrandecolonial.com

Grande Colonial Hotel
Grande Colonial Hotel


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