California is know as being a crowded place, and that is certainly the case in many areas.
But it’s a big state and there are plenty of spots where you can be alone, or practically alone. As Americans starts to eye traveling again, PubClub.com presents this series of scenic and fun places to go where you don’t have to worry about social distancing because there’s so few tourists.
There is also a great variety of landscapes in California so there’s things to do from the beaches to the deserts to the mountains. And a lot of wineries, too.
With that in mind, PubClub presents the 10 best social distancing travel destinations in California.
This is one of my favorite places in all of California. I fell in love with it on my first visit because it is so beautiful and peaceful. The only time when it’s tough to social distance is during the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am celebrity/PGA golf tournament in February and the Concours d’Elegance in August. And the occasional bachlorette party in the Carmel wine tasting rooms. At other times, you can visit some 20 wine tasting rooms practically by yourself (I prefer these to driving to the wineries), take scenic drives to Big Sur or ride a bike along the coast and eat in fantastic restaurants.
2.) Temecula Valley
Speaking of wineries, there’s a lot of them here in this Southern California destination inland between LA and San Diego. And once you get to the town of Temecula you can get to them in some pretty creative ways: in a helicopter, a converted VW bus, and even aboard a motorcycle sidecar. If you opt for the latter – or even if you don’t – go to Doffo Winery. Not only are the wines excellent but the owners are motorcycle fanatics. Temecula Valley also has balloon rides – talk about a great social distancing activity – as well as craft breweries and distilleries. Pechanga Hotel & Casino also provide social-distancing gambling.
Link: Visit Temecula Valley
3.) San Diego North County Beaches
The jewels of coastal San Diego extend beyond La Jolla with the North County beach cities that include Cardiff-By-The-Sea, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Leucadia and Solana. Each has its own personalty and driving along the coast you will not be wanting for places to eat and drink. Collectively, these small towns make for a less-traveled place with a series of beaches, running and bike trails and family-run bars and restaurants between two major airports, San Diego and the John Wayne in Orange County.
4.) Death Valley
Okay, you want to really socially distance from people? This is a place to do it. Death Valley is an extreme landscape that exceeds 100 degrees in the summer and is freezing in the winter. It’s actually below sea level and with Mt. Whitney on the other side of Highway 14, you have the highest peak and lowest spot in America. The area is where a lot of the Hollywood Westerns were filmed but surprisingly for a place this remote, there’s some breweries and former Las Vegas chefs seemingly hiding out here. At night, the stars really come out for spectacular viewing.
5.) Mendocino County
If you’re itching for some spectacular California scenery but don’t want to deal with traffic then head here north of San Francisco and beyond Napa and Sonoma. I drove all around Mendocino County in late spring during a visit and hardly saw another vehicle for days. There’s a lighthouse on a cliff where I was the only visitor, great coastal views and drives through the countryside.. When one of the few towns is named Boonsville, you know you’re in a remote area. Along the routes are wineries and stop for some tasty craft beer and frisbee golf at Anderson Valley Brewing Company. Life doesn’t move very quickly here.
Want to hang out at the beach without crowds? This area on California’s central coast is ideal for you. Cayucos is a small no-stoplight town with a few fun characters and a great B&B (Inn On the Beach). Up the coast the cute town of Cambria has lots of good restaurants and there’s even a pair of wineries. There is one place that attracts a lot of tourists: Hearst Castle. But it’s easy to stand six feet away from others on tours.
When you turn off Highway 101 north of Santa Barbara at the Solvang exit and arrive in this tiny town, you may be tempted to check your GPS to see if you somehow wound up in Holland. There are windmills and buildings that look as if they belong across the pond. It’s actually a Danish town and with themed shops and restaurants, as well as a lot of wine tasting rooms and craft breweries. And if this is too busy for you, across the 101 is Buellton which is famous for the split pea soup at Anderson’s restaurant (or the dozens of signs advertising the split pea soup for miles along the 101) but also has distilleries making spirits. The movie Sideways was filmed here and it can never get too crowded because the closest major airport is three hours away in Los Angeles.
Link: Solvang Tourism
8.) Big Bear Mountain/Lake Arrowhead
Just a couple of hours from the concete jungle of Los Angeles are a pair of mountain towns, which some refer to as the “Alps” of Southern California. And it sure feels like you’re a long way from L.A.
Big Bear is a popular local ski area but at other times of the year you can escape by biking along a 22-mile lakefront path, renting a jet ski or boat, go zip lining, go on a Jeep tour, even play golf. At night, there’s some pretty cool locals bars (see link below), some with live music. And plenty of social distancing spcace.
And if you really want some privacy, go to Lake Arrowhead, which is just before you get to Big Bear. It has a small village with a wine tasting room, a few of restaurants with views of the lake – I recommend Papagayos Mexican Cantina if for nothing else its margaritas – and a dive bar. You’ll only be around a hand full of locals and weekender locals, those who have cabins and go up from all parts of Southern California.
This town between Half Moon Bay and San Francisco is too small to have many visitors but it does has several scenic areas to walk and hike: Rockaway Beach, Devils Slide Trail (stunning views of the Pacific Ocean), Mori Point where you feel like you’re on top of the world, Milgra Ridge with its coastal bluffs and Sweeney Ridge for seasoned hikers. In December and January, the gray whales are swimming south from Alaska and they are so close you can see them from the shore. From June through August it can be foggy a lot of the time. Pacificia is a very safe destination, too; it’s crime rate is lower than approximately 78% of California cities.
Link: Visit Pacifica
One of California’ best-kept secrets – although the small tourism board is trying to not to make it that way – is this small town less than two hours north of Los Angeles in what is known as the High Desert. Rich in aviation history because of Edwards Air Force base, it has a singing road (drive over it to hear for yourself!), an ostrich farm, one of the best steaks I’ve ever had at the Broken Bit Steakhouse, a really cool wine bar along a stretch of restaurants and bars called The Blvd., (be sure and go to Don Sal Cocina Cantina for its spectacular champagne brunch buffet) and a craft brewery once frequented by “the Gunny” of History Channel “Mail Call” fame. Hurrah! One of the things it does not have is a lot of tourists.