- St. Helena: In the heart of the Napa Valley, St. Helena is known for its Main Street. In a horse and buggy, Robert Louis Stevenson and his bride once made their way down this thoroughfare lined with Victorian homes. The Victorians remain, but now they're stores for designer clothing, hardware, bath products, you name it. Come for the old-time, tranquil mood and the food.
- Healdsburg: An exceptional destination within the vast wine country region of Sonoma, this charming town is centered on its historic square, which maintains old-fashioned charm despite being home to world-class hotels, restaurants, and shopping. And did we mention that it's a 5-minute drive to some of the state's best wineries?
- Mendocino: An artists' colony with a New England flavor, Mendocino has doubled as Cabot Cove, Maine, as the backdrop for Murder, She Wrote. On the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean, it has small art galleries, general stores, weathered wooden homes, and organic restaurants.
- Arcata: If you're losing faith in America, restore it by spending a few days in this Northern California coastal town. Arcata has it all: its own redwood forest and bird marsh, a charming town square, great family-owned restaurants, and even its own minor-league baseball team, which draws the entire town together on many an afternoon.
- Nevada City: The entire town is a national historic landmark and the best place to understand Gold Rush fever. Settled in 1849, it offers fine dining and shopping and a stock of the multigabled Victorian frame houses of the Old West. Relics of the Donner Party are on display at the 1861 Firehouse No. 1.
- Pacific Grove: Escape beach crowds just 2 miles west of Monterey, in Pacific Grove, known for its tranquil waterfront and clean air. It draws thousands of monarch butterflies between October and March.
- Ojai: When filmmakers needed a Shangri-La for the movie Lost Horizon, they drove to Ojai Valley, with its unspoiled eucalyptus groves and small ranches in soft, green hills. Ojai is the amiable village at the valley's heart -- a mecca for artists, free spirits, and city folk in need of a restful weekend in the country.
- Santa Catalina Island: A day trip to the small town of Catalina makes for a most indulgent day: Take a scenic boat ride, shop, snorkel and dive, golf, hike, lick ice cream, get a sunburn, and barhop sans fear of a DUI. Tip: The helicopter taxi is cheaper than you'd expect.
- Julian: This old mining town in the Cuyamaca Mountains near San Diego is now known for a different kind of mother lode: apples (and the ensuing apple pies). The pioneer legacy here includes a local-history museum, an Old West cemetery, and some of the town's original gold mines.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.