Travel destinations an hour away from your doorstep

Southern California is truly a destination for all seasons.

Our own back yard offers a wealth of places to visit and experience. These spring months are an ideal time to see our local landscape. The rest of the country has not yet embarked on summer vacations, so San Diego County residents can enjoy our ocean, area beaches, the mountains, desert and unique towns without the crowds, lines and lack of parking spaces.

Here are some things to do within an hour or three of your doorstep:

Only an hour’s drive away is southern Riverside County’s Temecula Valley and its wealth of offerings — like the annual Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival, which runs May 30 through June 1. There are few things more dramatic than dozens of glowing balloons ascending into the nighttime sky over the Lake Skinner Recreation Area, a few miles northeast of Temecula. Ascensions also take place at dawn, when you can reserve a spot for a ride in one of the 40 or 50 balloons. Award-winning Temecula Valley wines also are showcased, as well as and food-and-wine pairings. There’ll be plenty of music, too.

And if you are driving north on Interstate 15 on a Saturday, stop in at the festive open-air market in Temecula’s Old Town. Vendors offer vine- and tree-ripened fruits and veggies, and locally grown flowers. Visit HYPERLINK “”

Wine and motorcycles? An unusual paring for sure, but you’ll find them at Temecula Valley’s Doffo Winery, built around the former site of a historic schoolhouse. Many motorcycles are situated throughout the property, and the rest of the 200 bikes are displayed in a gallery. Best to go on weekdays when crowds are few. 36083 Summitville St.; 951-676-6989.

For a complete Temecula Valley Events Calendar, visit HYPERLINK “”

It’s only a 30- to 40-minute drive south to Mission Bay’s Catamaran Hotel and Spa, where both the bay and the ocean are steps away. The hotel features spring break specials (rooms start at $169) through April 20. Prices include complimentary outdoor movies, bay cruises, arcade games, and lei-making and hula lessons for kids. Ask about the free meals for kids, too. 858-488-1081. Visit HYPERLINK “” \t “_blank”

Book a mid-week ticket to Santa Barbara on Amtrak between now and May 17 and save 30 percent. And don’t worry about being car-less when you arrive. Just a few blocks from the train station is the Funk Zone neighborhood which features 22 wine-tasting rooms (part of Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail), breweries, restaurants and shops. Visit HYPERLINK “” \t “_blank” Ramada Santa Barbara is offering discounts of 25 percent, as well as a free shuttle service from the train station. Also available: discount cards for local restaurants, the Maritime and Natural History museums, the Ty Warner Sea Center and the SB Trolley. Call 800-654-1965 and mention “Visit Santa Barbara.”

You may never have heard of Rose Story Farm in Carpinteria Valley between Ventura and Santa Barbara, but it is one of the unknown gems of the Central Coast. Tours are given twice a week on this family farm that cultivates 18,000 rose bushes of more than 120 varieties. One-hour tours begin in April and are given on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Each tour includes a picnic lunch. Visit HYPERLINK “”

Marking its 20th anniversary, cable station TCM (Turner Classic Movies) invites fans to take the “TCM Movie Locations Tour” in Los Angeles, offered by Starline Tours. The free, three-hour bus tour will run through April 14, overlapping with the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood. Ride a state-of-the-art bus with stadium-style seating, skylight windows and a 65″-inch HDTV to locations such as Echo Park (“Chinatown”); the 2nd Street Tunnel (“Blade Runner” and “The Terminator”); the Bradbury Building (“Blade Runner” and “The Artist”); and Union Station (“The Way We Were” and “Silver Streak”) and more. Tours begin at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX in Hollywood. For dates and reservations, visit HYPERLINK “”







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