California’s reputation as a land of innovation extends far beyond Silicon Valley, with boundary-pushing art and architecture to be found in the lowlands of the Mexican frontier all the way to the foothills of Angeles National Forest. Our four-day itinerary will help you find inspiration throughout the best of Southern California’s lesser-known lands.Fueled by a hearty helping of the state’s notoriously delectable cuisine, you’ll range from the timeless architecture of breezy Old Town Pasadena to the radical art installations left under the desert sun on the shores of the Salton Sea, with plenty of time to stargaze and unwind left in between.
Though Pasadena is pleasant throughout the year, temperatures in the desert can fluctuate considerably depending on the season, making it best to visit between October and April. While it might be easiest to fly into Ontario International Airport, several other options are within reasonable distance, including LAX and San Diego International.
ItineraryPLAN YOUR TRIP
Day 1Experience the Glamor of Old Town Pasadena
Devote most of the day exploring the art at Norton Simon Museum—one of the largest private collections on earth, with more than 12,000 pieces spanning upwards of 2,000 years. Or split your time by including a visit to the Armory Center for the Arts as well. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, don your more formal duds for high tea or a romantic dinner at Madeleine Garden, located in an Italianate building with a long, fascinating history.
Day 2Going Back in Time
After your walking tour is complete, be sure to visit The Raymond, the only remainder of Pasadena’s regal, 300-room hotel which once played host to Hollywood’s biggest stars. Savor the beef cheeks braised with mole and a bottle of Napa Cabernet in the garden of this 19th-century craftsman cottage. Then end the evening with a bit of champagne at The Tap Room, the Langham’s cozy, Prohibition-style piano bar.
Day 3The Color of the Desert
Then explore Ricardo Braceda’s feral Sky Art sculptures at Galleta Meadows Estate, spread over more than 1,500 acres of undeveloped property belonging to the late Dennis Avery. What’s more, the Estate’s Under the Sun Foundation also hosts the Candlewood Arts Festival every March, celebrating the art and artists of the desert. Once you’ve had your fill of the art of the desert, enjoy a nighttime soak beneath the stars in the hot tubs at the adults-only oasis of Borrego Valley Inn, whose hacienda-style courtyard affords you the ability to admire the majesty of the desert without taking off your slippers.
Day 4Plunging to New Depths
From there, cruise over to the ruins of the North Shore Beach and Yacht Club, where the rich and famous would moor their luxury vessels until the early 1980s. And, you won’t want to miss Salvation Mountain, a sacral mound hand-built from vibrantly painted adobe. Cool down with a beer and a burger at the offbeat dive, Ski Inn, and if you decide to stay the night, rest your weary head at Ray and Carol’s Motel.