Temecula is Southern California’s premier wine country, meaning its major appeal to visitors is in wonderful wine-tasting opportunities and gorgeous vineyard scenery. Located just 60 minutes from San Diego and 90 minutes from Los Angeles, Temecula is often featured on Southern California road-trip itineraries. It’s also a great destination in its own right, with many things to do in addition to wine tasting.
Temecula is great for a family vacation with plenty of outdoor action. It’s equally suited to a weekend trip with friends focused on relaxation with top-notch foods and drinks. It’s especially ideal for romantic getaways for two. Whatever your Temecula trip looks like, here are eight of the top things to do there.
Go Wine Tasting in Temecula
Temecula is, at its heart, a wine-country destination, with its scenery and tourism scene dominated by the Temecula Valley AVA’s 40-plus top-notch wineries. With its sun-drenched climate, low rainfall, and morning mists, Mediterranean varietals thrive in the Temecula Valley along with all of California’s most iconic grapes. However, some 50-plus varietals are produced there, so there will surely be a delicious wine to suit all preferences.
Many visitors come to Temecula specifically for wine tasting, which might mean a casual day trip or two to a favorite winery, a longer self-guided wine tour (with a designated driver), or a guided group tour through a local tour provider. Tasting experiences vary, so do a little research before heading out. It’s always a good idea to make reservations and ask about pet and child policies if necessary.
Some tours, for example, the Sweet Oaks private wine tastings and tours, include extras like a guided tour of the winery and charcuterie pairings with every sample. Others offer tastings only, and most will waive tasting fees if you purchase a bottle or two.
Book a Hot Air Ballooning Adventure
Hot-air ballooning adventures are available year-round in Temecula through several companies, all offering take-off times at sunrise. This is an unforgettable experience to share with loved ones and an unrivaled way to experience the valley’s stunning scenery. Slowly fly over and admire neat rows of vineyards, citrus groves, posh estates, and distant mountains. Some hot air ballooning tours also include breakfast and mimosas.
Visit in early June, and you might catch the annual Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival. It’s a fabulous three-day event featuring balloon rides, a photogenic sunset balloon display and plenty of opportunities for wine and craft beer tastings.
Hike at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve
Visitors to Temecula who enjoy hiking and spending time in nature should head out to the nearby Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve. The protected landscape spans 7,500 acres of serene oak woodland, native grass, and chaparral habitats, along with seasonal creeks, at the southern end of the Santa Ana Mountains.
Bring some binoculars, and you might spot some of the 200 species of native birds that live at the reserve, along with rare species such as mule deer, bobcats, and badgers. Remember the Southern California climate is hot and dry year-round, so pack sunscreen, hats and plenty of water before heading outdoors.
Learn Local History at the Temecula Valley Museum
Temecula is known today for its winemaking, but it has a long and rich history before the area began planting grapes. Temecula is one of Southern California’s most historic communities, founded in 1859 and inhabited by Native peoples from around 900 A.D. At the Temecula Valley Museum in Old Town, you can learn all about the local history from the valley’s earliest inhabitants through the mission, rancho, stagecoach, and railroad eras.
There are also galleries of local art and a permanent exhibit dedicated to Erle Stanley Gardner, author of the “Perry Mason” mysteries and long-time resident of a rancho in Temecula.
Stroll, Shop, and Dine in Old Town Temecula
Old Town Temecula evokes the mid-to-late-1800s, when the city was founded, with its old western storefronts and wood-plank sidewalks. It’s the most walkable part of Temecula, ideal for strolling around, popping into antique stores and artisan boutiques, and stopping into gastropubs for refreshments.
The dining scene in Old Town is diverse, with farm-to-table cuisine and casual comfort food readily available. Weekend visitors should head to Old Town for the farmers’ market and live musical performers. There are several fantastic craft breweries in Old Town — a great way to tempt the beer lover in your life to come to wine country!
Have a Honky-Tonk Night Out
An unexpected attraction in Temecula is the Temecula Stampede, the West Coast’s largest country, and western venue. Fans of country music and anyone who enjoys dancing and drinking until late in the night should check out the stampede. It offers a 4,000-square-foot dance floor for line dancing, a buckin’ bronco, and a full bar.
Gaming, Golf, and Entertainment at Pechanga
The enormous Pechanga Resort and Casino complex is just outside Temecula, which boasts the west coast’s largest casino floor, five entertainment venues, and various shopping and dining venues. Check the schedule and you might be able to catch a show by a big-name performer while you’re in Temecula. The resort also hosts Journey at Pechanga, an 18-hole championship golf course with views over Temecula Valley.
Visit Sugarplum Zoo and Chocolates
Love animals? Love chocolate? Then don’t miss the chance to visit Temecula’s Sugarplum Zoo and Chocolates. This unusual destination combines a small zoo for rescued and rehomed animals along with an artisan chocolatier. Residents include exotic animals such as a dromedary camel, exotic birds, a zonkey (the offspring of a zebra and donkey), and farm animals, including micro-mini horses, rabbits, and chickens. There’s also a small farm store onsite offering honey, hand-made soaps, and more.
Ready for a Taste of Temecula?
If you’re ready to book a trip to Temecula, be sure to include time in your schedule to experience some of these great things to do. Also, remember to visit Sweet Oaks for a tasting.