Best Day Trip - 2010
Sure, there are the more sprawling, subdivisioned parts of Temecula that look like your standard-issue Inland Empire (or OC) build-out, but the city's appeal as a pleasant place to while away a sunny Saturday stems from the gentle beauty of the valley, the town embrace of its frontier-town history, and the grape-growing potential of its soil and climate. The quaint Old Town Temecula district centers on several actual historical buildings, notably the Welty Store (dating from the 1890s) and the First National Bank of Temecula building (built in 1914, now home to the Bank Mexican restaurant). The repurposing of the Mercantile Building, in particular, is a nice touch: The humble 1890s wooden structure now serves as an entrance to the hulking Old Town Temecula Community Theater, the valley's cultural hub. And if the kiddies don't feel like playing cowboy, take 'em to play mad scientist: Pennypickle's Workshop, a.k.a. the Temecula Children's Museum, sets kids loose in the "home" of a fictional inventor with a penchant for building Rube Goldberg devices that teach about cool scientific principles and paradoxes. It's not that big, but there are enough buttons, dials and levers crammed into this space to occupy the wee ones for hours. If you're interested in more grown-up pursuits, head out east of town to Temecula's Wine Country. Rancho California road will lead you to the more than 30 wineries on some 35,000 acres of viney goodness. You can explore on your own or hook up with one of several shuttle or limo tours. But remember to just taste—you're driving home tonight, after all.