Mention Temecula, and the first thing that comes to mind is wine. It’s true that wine put this amazing Southern California region on the map. However, Temecula’s history, picturesque landscapes with verdant rolling hills dotted with vineyards and magnificent views, exquisite cuisine, and friendly people are all a part of making this region so beloved. Yes, most people think of wine tasting, but there are so many other fun things to do in Temecula for every taste and budget.
Now one of the West Coast’s premier wine regions only an hour away from San Diego, Temecula means “where the sun breaks through the mist.” Indeed, it’s the combination of that warm sun and misty breezes blowing in from the Pacific that creates ideal weather conditions for growing grapes.
Every visit here is a unique experience. And I say every visit because there’s just so much to see and explore, that one getaway is never enough.
If you haven’t been to Temecula in a while, you’ll be surprised at how much the area has grown. Additional vineyards are popping up everywhere, current wineries are expanding, and new eateries are wowing diners with their amazing offerings. However, Temecula still manages to maintain a small-town charm. It’s definitely a place to put on your day trips’ list (or ideally, a longer stay).
Best Things to Do in Temecula
Please keep in mind that due to current health restrictions, winery hours may change and there might be additional modifications. Please check websites for updated information. And even if you can’t visit right now, the good news is that wines can be ordered and either shipped or picked up curbside. Or you can join the California Wine Club, a fun way to broaden your tastebuds and experience new wines every month. Click here for details>>
Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy Temecula.
Wine Tasting in Temecula
I have to start with the wine as Temecula’s 40-plus vineyards from boutique to full-service and rustic to chic, are producing amazing award-winners. Wine is certainly a personal preference, and thankfully, vintners here are bottling a host of sparkling, white, and red varietals. That being said, check out my favorite Temecula wines here.
Hart Family Winery is one of Temecula Valley’s oldest sitting 1,500-feet above sea level. Wiens Family Cellars is renowned for their “Big Reds,” Vitagliano Winery for its stunning picturesque grounds, and BOTTAIA for creative wine experiences inspired by Northern Italy’s luxury and refinement. But don’t stop there, as each winery has its own unique standouts of wine tastings. And many feature live music on their picturesque patios. Read our recommendations on our favorite Temecula Wineries here.
For those who don’t want to imbibe and drive, a host of group and private tours are available through Temecula local wine guides. Here are some great Temecula Winery Tours:
- Temecula’s BEST RATED Wine Tasting Tour
- Temecula Wine Country Tour from San Diego
- Private SUV Wine Tour of Temecula Valley
- Sunrise Temecula Balloon Flight
- Private Sidecar Winery Tour through Temecula
Stay at a Vineyard
The best way to immerse yourself into a total wine country experience is to stay at one of the local winery properties. Several options are available, and honestly, these places are absolutely beautiful, warm, welcoming and relaxing.
Personally, we’ve stayed at Carter Estate Resort & Spa, Ponte Vineyard Inn, South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, and Wilson Creek Manor. All were exceptional, each with their own unique character. We’re always excited about our next stay and the new experiences it will bring. Read our recommendations on the best Temecula Winery Hotels here.
Dine in Temecula Wine Country
On our last Temecula visit, we discovered the latest dining arrival to the vineyards. Bolero Restaurante at Europa Village is a Spanish-themed tapas restaurant with spectacular views and food to die for. Request an outdoor patio table for a magnificent ambiance. Charcuterie platters are popular, and chef-inspired small plates are guaranteed to please the palate. Not sure about the wine? Ask. Sommeliers here are experts at food and wine pairings.
Panoramic views from Falkner Winery’s Pinnacle Restaurant are simply stunning. Indoor and outdoor seating along with their Mediterranean-inspired cuisine make for a magnificent dining experience. Crispy Brussels Sprouts are a crowd favorite here, prepared with sliced almonds, goat cheese crumbles, dried cranberries, and finished with a fried egg and hibiscus drizzle. I’ve always avoided the “egg” concept of topping an entree, but this dish won me over.
Café Champagne is one of our favorite Temecula winery restaurants. Located at Thornton Winery, the French country-inspired eatery is renowned for its tantalizing dishes. Add in the amazing vineyard and courtyard views and you have an unforgettable dining experience. No one comes to the Café without ordering the Signature Brie en Croute topped with warm honey and walnuts. It’s been on the menu forever because loyal patrons like us absolutely love it.
Horseback Riding Through the Vineyards
Clippity-clopping our way through the vineyards is one of the most fun activities we’ve done in Temecula Wine Country, Wine Country Trails by Horseback offers 90-minute guided tours throughout the day including the sunset.
Local owner and operator, Diane Lefort’s passion for horses led her to rescue and rehabilitate more than 50 horses, many now taking guests through the vineyards. It’s an amazing, relaxing experience as the horses are gentle and friendly, and we love supporting this worthy cause. Of note, the minimum age for riders is 7.
Hot Air Ballooning Over the Vineyards
If you’ve never done it, you have to. Hot air ballooning is a spectacular, awe-inspiring, and breathtaking way to admire the Temecula Valley with its miles of lush vineyards from a birds-eye view.
Singer-songwriter Cat Stevens’ song Morning Has Broken couldn’t have been more apropos as we greeted the sunrise in the basket of our hot air balloon with champagne and a light breakfast. It’s a memorable experience you’ll long remember. Bring layered clothing, hat, and gloves for depending on the weather, early morning temperatures can be a bit chilly. Check out these great deals>>
Discovering Old Town Temecula
Marked by a collection of historic buildings and wooden boardwalks dating back from the late 1800s, Old Town Temecula is a pedestrian-friendly 12-block neighborhood that’s lively, festive, and filled with remnants of its storied past. It’s an absolute delight, and something you don’t expect to find in modern Southern California.
We discovered antique museums around every corner, many located in throwback Western-era buildings. Temecula-made artisan craft shops, charming boutiques, and unique mercantiles easily lure passers-by to their welcoming doorsteps. There are also plenty of restaurants, coffee shops, and breweries located all throughout town.
And speaking of shopping, Temecula has grown to a full-blown community that offers everything a suburbanite or visitor would need. Though I’m not a fan of mall shopping, the Temecula Promenade features 150 shops including department stores, specialty venues, and restaurants.
Temecula Valley Museum
Exhibits at this small but impressive museum represent life in the Temecula Valley. Displays highlight the varied cultures that influenced the development of the area throughout its history. Artifacts and photographs share its Indian heritage, missions, ranchos, cowboy life, stagecoaches, and railroads. The museum also highlights cultural and historical events and seasonal displays.
Temecula Farmer’s Market
There are farmer’s markets, and then there’s Temecula. This is one of the most impressive we’ve visited in Southern California. First of all, the market held each Saturday is situated in the picturesque square with its beautiful city hall on the hill as a backdrop.
Secondly, the market vendors are local farmers that grow their own fruits and vegetable and artisans who create their own products. The quality of the produce and handcrafted wares are amazingly impressive. Not only are vendors friendly, engaging, and helpful, their prices are surprisingly reasonable.
Temecula Breweries and Their Amazing Brews
Not to be outdone by the fruit of the vine, it should come as no surprise that the brew industry is likewise kickin’ it up in Temecula. At last count, 13 breweries dot the Temecula map, and those we’ve visited have been impressive.
You’ll find them in historic Old Town, industrial parks, and even ranches outside the main downtown area. With so many incredible choices like Belgian ales and orange Wits, it’s not hard to find something creative to fall in love with. Even for someone who’s not a beer aficionado, I found some brews simply delectable. Some of our favorite breweries include Garage Brewing Company, Refuge Brewery, and Relentless Brewing Company. Don’t you love the creative names?
Wine and beer aren’t the only libation shows in town. Speakeasies are making a huge comeback. Temecula’s Thompson and Twain Prospecting Company, located in rustic Old Town is like taking a trip back in time.
This “secret” hideaway is accessed through a hidden door at the back of Crush & Brew Restaurant. The bar specializes in craft cocktails with throwback names like Deadringer and Longrider. Entertaining bartenders are more than happy to make any special-order cocktail. Don’t forget to make Reservations at this fascinating venue.
Apparition Room, another Old Town speakeasy, can be discovered via an ingeniously disguised passage to a hideaway serving innovative spirits and libations. The bar is furnished with Prohibition-era décor, bartenders dress in period attire, and the atmosphere is lively and fun. Apparition Room creations put a modern twist on classic vintage cocktails like the Manhattan and Old Fashioned. Reservations are required.
Olive Oil Tasting
Any visit to Temecula should include an olive oil tasting at Temecula Olive Oil Company. Guests can book a 90-minute guided tour at the olive oil ranch held on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. The tour also includes tastings of current harvest fresh-squeezed extra virgin olive oils and small-batch balsamico vinegar.
Another great option is that if you’re already in Old Town, you can pop into their lovely tasting room and shop on Front Street. There’s no charge for the extensive guided tasting but guaranteed you won’t leave empty handed. Between the olive oils, vinegars, herbs and spices, artisan spreads, olive oil soaps, lotions and candles, there are too many amazing products to resist.
Dine in Old Town Temecula
The foodie scene in Temecula Old Town has exploded. You’ll find everything here from cowboy bars to eclectic new-age eateries.
The Goat and Vine is wildly popular for their fascinatingly inventive pizzas. Who can resist choices like Jalapeño Lime Carnitas or Steak Gorgonzola? Every pizza we’ve had here has been fantastic.
Small Barn is one of the newest to pop up on the restaurant radar screen and it’s very highly rated. This modern bistro in a historic transformed building showcases local products with creative twists. We especially love their Roasted Beet Salad.
For great food, creative cocktails, including a smoky Old-Fashioned made tableside and the best people watching, 1909 Temecula is the place to be. Occupying the cavernous Machado building, a rustic warehouse constructed in 1909 that was once a trading post, livery, auto shop, and church, it’s always packed, and for good reason.
Visit the Alpaca Hacienda
Yes, Temecula has alpacas…and llamas too. And the place to see and spend time with these gentle creatures from the high Andean Plateau and mountains of South America is at the Alpaca Hacienda.
This magnificent hilltop farm offers private ‘Family and Friends Tours’ allowing guests to walk the grounds, feed the alpacas and attend an educational seminar providing a host of interesting facts and quirky tips about these mountain animals. Part of the tour includes visiting the Alpaca Shoppe that offers items made from luxurious alpaca fleece.
Play at Pennypickle’s Workshop
Welcome to the magical world of Professor Phineas T. Pennypickle! We happened upon this totally fascinating place at the Temecula Children’s Museum in Old Town on a walk-by My goodness, is it an amazing place for young and old alike. It’s an ideal way to discover science through fun play.
Entering the museum is like being transported to a whole new dimension, where history, science, music and art all merge delightfully in a fantastical way. The museum represents Professor Pennypickle’s home and laboratory. It’s an interactive world filled with gadgets, gizmos, and fascinating whimsical inventions that even includes time travel.
It’s an absolute must when visiting Temecula.
Pechanga Resort Casino
Those into gambling will love Pechanga Resort Casino. Even if you’re not, Pechanga has a lot to offer. Recently undergoing a $300 million expansion, the resort sports comfortable luxury accommodations, a splashy 4.5-acre pool complex, family lagoon, and spa in addition to a massive gambling hall.
Golfers love its award-winning links with spectacular mountain views. Spa Pechanga, a 25,000-square-foot luxurious sanctuary offers a myriad of amenities like steam rooms, saunas, and whirlpools in addition to its spa rituals and relaxing body treatments.
Twenty restaurants and bars located throughout the property range from casual pool snack shacks to fine dining and everything in between. Book your stay at Pechanga Casino here>>
Staycations and weekend getaways aside, Temecula can be a vacation destination within its own right. Let us know your favorites when you visit this stunning Southern California wine country gem.
Of note: Common to the travel industry, the destination hosted some of the activities mentioned in this post. However, this does not influence my overall review.
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Last Updated on May 13, 2021 by Maria Haase