Like I mentioned in my first post of this series, in September of this year I visited all eight of California’s rural regions. I was surprised in the best ways by how much I enjoyed each place for its own merits. In Visiting Inland Empire, I was thrilled to be able to ride in a hot air balloon again. But I was most surprised to learn how much I can enjoy Vegan food!
I am so excited to be promoting California’s 8 rural regions for VisitCalifornia‘s #CaliforniaWild campaign with my fellow bloggers Ottsworld, Stuffed Suitcase and Border Free Travels. The ATTA is coordinating this effort and has given me freedom in how I share my experiences with you so that even though this is a paid project, I can assure you all opinions and words are my own.
Visiting Inland Empire for Adventure
Riding in a Hot Air Balloon is one of my favorite things to do! In the Inland Empire you can ride in a hot air balloon over vineyards growing grapes for more than 50 different varietals of wine; from Cabernet Sauvignon to Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot to Mourvedre, Viognier to Chardonnay. Wine is another one of my favorite things. The chance to combine these two was uber fun for me! I didn’t ever want the experience to end! We went up with A Grape Escape.
Going ziplining isn’t something I am able to do but the rest of our group went out with Ziplines at Pacific Crest and they said it was AMAZING. I personally loved getting to know the staff and owner Adam. They were fabulous co-hosts for me as I did a Facebook LIVE that day. I was able to go out on the course for part of the experience to take some photos. The rest of the time, I explored the town of Wrightwood. I found the cutest guest cottages right in the center of town, tucked into a spot under soaring evergreen trees. I also learned that this is one of the best places in California to base yourself for enjoying winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding.
Visiting Inland Empire for amazing culinary experiences
EAT Marketplace in Temecula is run by Chef Chef Leah di Bernardi. She teaches, she mentors, she helps, she changes how people think of food and she cooks real food that’s REALLY good for you but also tastes GREAT. She’s my new hero. While visiting with her, we tried her Vegan donuts and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I had no idea Vegan food could taste as good as what she makes.
I also enjoyed visiting Finca Céleste farm. Owned by Frenchman Laurent Triqueneaux, who is originally from Normandy, he came to California 25 years ago. We met him in town and he invited us up the hill to his farm where we were able try all kinds of fruit fresh from the trees. His wife also made the best chocolate tart I’ve ever had. If you see him in town at the market, make sure you stop to buy something!!
And…. while the group was zip-lining in the town of Wrightwood, I checked out the craft beer scene in town. I was blown away!! It would be so nice if I could find these at my local store in NYC. But that’s the best part about traveling, finding things you can’t just get at home!
Visiting Inland Empire for the diversity of the landscapes
While we were in the hot air balloon, we saw low, rolling hills and acre upon acre of vineyards. During our ziplining experience, we were in the evergreen forests of the San Gabriel Mountains. Later when we drove to our next destination, the Inland Empire looked almost like the Deserts region with arid hills and undulating rock formations.
Where to Stay when Visiting Inland Empire
The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside, is one of my favorite places to stay in all of California. Danté once took me there as a surprise and I was so thrilled when we were able to stop there on this trip as well. So much more than just a hotel, the Mission Inn is a piece of living history containing artifacts and mementos from centuries of history tied to the land that is now known as California and the USA. Some of the artifacts pre-date our country, such as the believed-to-be oldest church bell in Christendom. It’s a National Historic Landmark and a state of California Historic Landmark but also a AAA Four Diamond property.
My next post in this series will cover the last of California’s eight rural regions referenced in the map below: the Central Valley. Please let me know in the comments what you enjoyed most about the Inland Empire or what you’re most looking forward to learning next!
So far I’ve published guides to:
The High Sierra region aka lots of Mountains
California’s North Coast Home of the Redwoods
Shasta Cascade where you’ll find a place called Bumpass Hell!
Rushing to Gold Country
The Desert Might Surprise You
Not the North but the Central Coast of California