Face it. Your Labor Day weekend will likely require a hoodie. And maybe even a scarf.
Trade your cold weather gear for shorts and flip-flops in Carmel Valley, an under-the-radar destination where cowboy culture meets cosmopolitan cool. And where you can actually get a sunburn.
Head inland from Highway 1 to Quail Lodge, where recently renovated rooms with ranch-inspired decor boast private balconies or patios. By night, gather with other guests in the lively lobby bar. By day, tee off, play tennis, or tackle hairpin turns and log piles at the Land Rover Experience Driving School, all on the resort grounds.
From $195/night. 8205 Valley Greens Dr., Carmel (831-624-2888)
Splurge on a suite at Carmel Valley Ranch. Play takes priority here, with tree swings, basketball, bocce, beekeeping courses, and nightly s’mores topping the list of on-site activities. Don’t miss dinner at the Lodge Restaurant: Chef Tim Wood whips up irresistible dishes using ingredients grown in the property’s organic garden.
From $385/night. One Old Ranch Rd., Carmel (831-625-9500)
Hiking, biking and equestrian trails weave through 4,500 acres at Garland Ranch Regional Park, passing by wildflowers, waterfalls, tree-filled canyons and ponds. For a challenge, take the Snively’s Ridge-Sky Trail loop — after climbing nearly 2,000 feet, stellar ocean views are your reward.
Free public access. 700 West Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel Valley (831-372-3196)
Nearly 20 wine tasting rooms call Carmel Valley home, with the majority clustered in Carmel Valley Village. Spend a sun-drenched autumn afternoon sipping your way through this rustic little town, and stop by the Chesebro tasting room to sample wine and see photos and paintings by several local artists. Save some time to take in the surrounding galleries and outdoor cafes, too.
Order a post-hike pint at Baja Cantina. Outdoor seats offer Santa Lucia Mountain views, and cool auto memorabilia covers the walls inside. Live music, hearty Mexican fare and a tempting menu of margaritas draw locals and travelers alike.
7166 Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel (831-625-2252)
Celebrating a special occasion? For a first-class treat, reserve a table at Marinus at Bernardus Lodge. Chef Cal Stamenov builds the seasonal menu around locally farmed and foraged elements, and the Wine Spectator-winning bottle list includes several Bernardus Winery blends. Just down the hall, Wickets is a more casual but no less noteworthy option complete with open-air seating overlooking the lush, well-landscaped grounds.
415 W. Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel Valley (831-658-3400)