Winter Weekend Getaways

North or south, there are some fabulous destinations for winter adventures in 2018.

By Leslie A. Westbrook

Pantai Inn features Balinese décor, an onsite chef and exceptional ocean views. Many of La Jolla’s best restaurants and shops are an easy stroll away.


hat is it about turning the annual calendar that makes us want to make a fresh start? A new year brings new resolutions. For me, that includes exploring new places and revisiting old favorites. When winter doldrums threaten, a weekend jaunt, by car or train, can chase the blues away. Valentine’s Day arrives in February: Even if you don’t have a honey, treat yourself and a friend or family member to a cheerful change of scenery. 

Here are two great winter weekend getaways that won’t break the bank and promise to put a swing in your step before we spring forward.

Jazzy San Diego and La Jolla

Although just 20 minutes apart, downtown San Diego and tony La Jolla offer two completely unique yet wonderful getaways.
La Jolla
STAY: It’s hard to imagine how a lodging without a pool, spa or onsite restaurant is the No. 1 rated hotel on Trip Advisor in San Diego and La Jolla . . . unless you stay at La Jolla’s Pantai Inn. This gem of a boutique hotel earned its well-deserved five stars thanks to outstanding service and personal touches that make the traveler feel like a guest in someone’s home. Add a Balinese décor/vibe, proximity to the beach and delish breakfast prepared by an onsite chef, and you’ll see why these spacious studios, suites and cottages — many with fireplaces, patios and ocean views — along with the inn’s cozy public spaces have earned this hidden treasure its kudos. 

Pantai Inn, 858.224.7600,
DINE: Seaside La Jolla is awash with restaurants and shops, all within walking distance of the inn. Drink in the views over cocktails and sunset dinner from the rooftop at George’s Ocean Terrace and the recently opened Hawaiian fave Duke’s La Jolla (don’t miss the lilikoi poke or fish encrusted with macadamia nuts and herbs). For Italian, Catania’s appetizers —smoked duck liver mousse, arancini and crispy octopus — are off the charts. Service is divine and tasty entree portions are huge. Tiramisu? Why not! You’re on vacation.

Drive, rideshare or taxi to one of my favorite La Jolla discoveries, Galaxy Taco, for amazing Mexican fare in a vibrant, art-filled setting where wood-grilled trout and any of nine killer tacos lure. I had to drive home after lunch, but I’d bet 500 pesos the margaritas are killer, too.

All of the above have great happy hours.

George’s at the Cove, 858.454.4244,
Duke’s La Jolla, 858.454.5888,
Catania, 858.551.5105,
Galaxy Taco, 858.228.5655,
Don’t Miss: The lovely Athenaeum Music and Arts Library, with high-caliber art shows and intimate recitals in an acoustically perfect room, is a treasure. 858.454.5872,

San Diego
The smartest thing I ever did was take Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner to San Diego — and skip the 405. Thanks to Lyft and Uber it was easy, fun and inexpensive to get around without a car.
STAY: Much to my surprise and delight, I became enamored of The Westgate Hotel. I’d been here previously to hear fantastic jazz in the Plaza Room, a fancy lounge reminiscent of NYC’s Carlyle Hotel. If you like old-fashioned opulence and chandeliers, then this historic downtown high-rise is for you: quiet glamour, turndown service with chocolates and royal treatment. If, like me, you happen to love jazz, then you will definitely want to spend a weekend here. In the summer, jazz by the pool is a big hit.
The Westgate Hotel, 619.238.1818,
PLAY: I never tire of Balboa Park. Every time I visit, there are new things to discover. The terrific Modern Masters from Latin America: the Perez Simon Collection running through March 11, 2018, at the San Diego Museum of Art is just one of the many things to take in here: The park boasts 17 noteworthy museums worth exploring. I was surprised to discover the location of a former nudist colony (there’s a plaque) in this splendid, photogenic public park that hosted the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. Who knew?
DINE: Hello vegans! Gourmet plant-based food is being devoured at trendy restaurants, and Kindred (voted best vegan bar in the USA!) is no exception. You’d think you were eating fried chicken and mashed potatoes (cornmeal-crusted Gardein, parsnip potato mash) at this hip South Park joint. Carnivores and vegans alike should check out Officine Buona Forchetta in Liberty Park (the original is in South Park). Amazing veal osso bucco Milanese, salads and pizzas are to die for (there is even pizza in a jar) and very charming Italian staff.
Kindred, 619.546.9653,
Officine Buona Forchetta, 619.548.5770,

Do You Know the Way to Monterey?
Monterey is a great family getaway destination — there’s the noteworthy Monterey Bay Aquarium that amazes children as well as adults. The jellyfish exhibits are mesmerizing, the sea otter feedings delightful. While prices for T-shirts and souvenirs in the gift shops within the aquarium are exorbitant, it’s fun to stroll Cannery Row for inexpensive souvenirs, especially during off-season sales.
STAY: The Hyatt Regency Del Monte and Spa is popular for weddings and less expensive than staying on Monterey Bay. Three-story buildings have comfortable rooms with views to the golf course or Monterey Bay in the distance; some have patios with pool or garden views. TusCA Ristorante is excellent for dinner. The real draw for me is the great live jazz in the Fireplace Lounge on the weekends. This Hyatt is where the noteworthy Monterey Jazz Festival was founded, and the hotel houses many of the artists during the annual September event.
Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa on Del Monte Golf Course, 831.372.1234,
PAMPER: Skip the Marilyn Monroe Spa at the Hyatt and high-tail it over to the terrific Cinq Mondes Spa Carmel, tucked into a shopping mall just 10 minutes away. The French-run day spa offers a meditative color therapy relaxation room, private Japanese soaking tub, Turkish-style hammam, massages and facials using the organic/all natural Cinq Mondes skincare line from France. 
Cinq Mondes Spa Carmel, 831.625.4410,
PLAY: You could mosey down to twee Carmel. But better yet, hit the old-fashioned town of Pacific Grove. On your way home, stop in Salinas at the National Steinbeck Center that celebrates the noted author and screenwriter with interactive exhibits and enlightening facts. Take a pit stop for great grub at Industrial Eats in Buellton for the final part of your journey.
National Steinbeck Center, 831.796.3833, 

For more information on Monterey, visit
For more information on San Diego/La Jolla, visit

Diego Rivera’s “Portrait of María Félix (Retrato de María Félix)” (1948) is one of the many works on exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.

BLISS OUT: After jazzing it up at the Hyatt and visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium, take it easy at Cinq Mondes Spa in Carmel, where pampering options include color therapy, a Japanese soaking tub and a Turkish-style hammam.


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