Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Take a Southern California Winery Tour
- Experience Temecula Wineries with Kids
- Visit Sugar Plum Zoo & Chocolates
- Explore Old Town
- Golf at Pechanga Resort Casino
- Play at Pennypickle’s Workshop
- Explore the Temecula Valley Museum
- Shop at a Farmers Market
- Tour The Alpaca Hacienda
- Horseback Riding at Wine Country Trails
- Relax at Margarita Community Park
- Where to Stay in Temecula
Located about 60 miles north of San Diego, Temecula Valley is a hidden gem in the Inland Empire in Riverside County. However, in recent years the historic town has gained recognition for its numerous wineries, rolling hills, hot air balloon flights and Mediterranean-style weather.
14 Fun Things to do in Temecula With (and Without) Kids
Although I lived in Los Angeles for seven years, I had never been to Temecula Valley. I don’t know why. It’s an easy day trip from San Diego and L.A. My friend, a true wine lover and the founder of Peachhead, met me there. We turned the weekend into a quick girlfriend’s getaway.
This Southern California wine region is home to about 50 diverse Temecula wineries. I appreciate a delicious wine and how it can enhance a dining experience. In Temecula, wine tasting was fun. I learned about the ingredients in the wines that I preferred, and I wasn’t shamed into liking the “best” wine. Instead, the best wine was always the one I liked best.
For SoCal residents and visitors, Temecula is the new Napa. Top things to do are wine tasting tours and hot air balloon flights. In fact, the Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country is becoming a top destination on the West Coast.
Traveling with kids? From horseback riding to museums, Temecula Valley has many family-friendly attractions too. In addition, Temecula Valley has year-round theater, public art, live music and art festivals. Here’s a list of 14 fun things to do in Temecula with (and without) kids.
Take a Southern California Winery Tour
We spent very little time in our room because we were there for the wine tours. It’s the most fun way to learn abut wine varietals. Wilson Creek Winery, Peltzer Farms and Robert Renzoni Winery are among those we sampled. Each visit was as different as the wines it offered. Most of the wineries are prepared to host large groups and weddings. And a few offer lodging and a wine club to join. But each has its own theme and beauty.
Situated on a hill overlooking the valley, Renzoni Winery and the restaurant have an elegant-casual ambiance. There’s an outdoor patio with authentic Italian pizza, gigantic sandwiches, and of course, delicious wines. In fact, I took home Big Fred’s Red, a tasty everyday table wine that beat out their more aged and expensive wines. The general manager shared his passion for wine with us and took us on a tasting tour from light to bold flavors.
Wilson Creek has a decadent patio restaurant where we sat outside contemplating the best wine to have with our fig and cheese plate and fresh garden salad. The grounds are spectacular for weddings, corporate gatherings and dates. In addition, there are tables along a babbling brook.
Here are some others to consider. Ponte Winery, South Coast Winery, Miramonte Winery and Vindemia Vineyard and Winery. Enjoy bubbly tastings at Thornton Winery, which uses the traditional Methodé Champenoise.
Experience Temecula Wineries with Kids
I think Peltzer Farms is one of the best wineries for kids. It has a petting zoo, kid’s activities, hayrides and beautiful grounds. Check ahead for family friendly activities.
The tasting room, aka the Crush House, is also a gorgeous store decorated by one of the owners. Think Cracker Barrel meets California. Tractor seats adorn an entire wall. The wines here are white and varied. Denis, one of the winery designers, changed it up a bit for us and served our wine in 2 differently shaped glasses. The glass that won out has a smaller opening at the top. It encircles your nose and mouth for a heightened sensory experience.
Visit Sugar Plum Zoo & Chocolates
Sitting atop an eight-acre hill, Sugarplum Zoo & Chocolates is a delightful attraction for families. Kids can enjoy petting animals while parents sip wine in the cafe (coming soon). The chocolate shop features truffles, fudge and chocolate bars.
Onsite animals include a tortoise, goats, sheep, alpaca and llama. Plus, families can pet and brush water buffalo and steer.
Soar on a Hot Air Balloon Flight
It’s worth getting up at the crack of dawn for a hot air balloon flight. From 1,500 feet high you’ll have amazing views of Temecula’s vineyards, citrus groves and distant mountains. After touching back down to earth, those ages 21 and older can celebrate with a sparkling-wine toast.
Family Friendly Things to do in Temecula
Explore Old Town
Downtown Temecula, aka Old Town, looks like a set of an old western except for the shops and restaurants. It’s fun to explore Old Town’s 12 blocks of antique shops, galleries, brewpubs and restaurants. Along the way you’ll see water towers, wooden sidewalks and frontier-style storefronts.
I did not expect to find an authentic Italian restaurant like Palumbo’s Ristorante in town. The pasta was fresh and served al dente and the kid’s menu included $5 options.
Temecula Olive Oil has a tasting room downtown, but I recommend you take a drive to the olive grove, about 15 minutes outside of town. The property is fantastic and their unique way of pressing the olive oil, with a machine they helped invent, is worth seeing. I took home the basil olive oil and the vanilla fig vinegar.
Golf at Pechanga Resort Casino
The 18-hole golf course at Pechanga is inviting for both adults and kids. In fact, kids as young as three can take a golf lesson at Journey at Pechanga. The junior program is especially helpful for junior golfers serious about improving their swing.
Play at Pennypickle’s Workshop
Located inside the Temecula Children’s Museum, Pennypickle’s Workshop is filled with hands-on inventions, gadgets and experiments.
It is small and sweet, with exhibits for kids and adults. I took the advice of signs encouraging us to “please touch” and climbed on the grown-up replica of a horse for photos. Kids can dress up in pioneer outfits and play in their crafts room.
Explore the Temecula Valley Museum
Located in the Sam Hicks Monument Park, Temecula Valley Museum features city artifacts & a permanent exhibit on author Erle Stanley Gardner. In addition, guided tours of Old Town depart from the museum. Tour guides share stories and events that bring Temecula’s past to life.
Shop at a Farmers Market
While in Temecula, shop local for fresh farm produce. Temecula Valley has three outdoor Farmers Markets. Each is located within three separate shopping and dining areas: Old Town Temecula, Promenade Temecula and Vail Headquarters. The farmers markets are an opportunity to shop for local farm produce, artisan goods and handcrafted items.
Tour The Alpaca Hacienda
Take a tour to learn about alpacas (they don’t have upper teeth) and llamas. Tours – about 90 minutes – begin with a fun and entertaining presentation. Afterward, you can move on to feeding and interacting with alpacas. Be sure to visit the store stocked with many products made from alpaca fleece as well as alpaca/llama-themed items.
Horseback Riding at Wine Country Trails
The 20-acre Wine Country Trails Ranch offers guided horseback rides through picturesque vineyards on rehabilitated horses. Guided tours take riders through the Maurice Car’rie vineyards.
Relax at Margarita Community Park
For some downtime, pack a picnic and head to the Eagle Soar Playground and Splash Pad. The park features a dog park, sports fields and a playground and splash pad for kids of all abilities.
Extraordinary Artisan Table for Foodies
The restaurant highlight for me was E.A.T. (Extraordinary Artisan Table) Marketplace, owned by Leah DiBernardo. Chef Leah left her Italian roots on the east coast to serve only local, sustainable foods. EAT is family friendly. The casual menu has lots of vegan and gluten free options and the company requires employees to do eight hours of community service every month at a local farm.
Take a look at EAT’s menu here to see what I mean: plant based chorizo scramble, pear toast with maple drizzle, Italian polenta grits with pecorino. Mouth watering, right? This place is a must-stop, if just for the vegan donuts and health boosting smoothies.
There’s a way to bring a taste of E.A.T. home with you – the recipe for one of its signature dishes, Pasta a La Checca.
Pasta a La Checca
- 1 lb GF pasta fresh *we like fusilli or penne pasta’s
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes (such as orange, red, and yellow teardrop varieties)
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup fresh organic basil
- 1 cup chopped up fresh mozzarella
- ½ cup pecorino romano *you can also use Parmigano- but it has less flavor, so you’ll need a bit more salt
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Bring water to a boil with a healthy pinch of salt
- While waiting on water to come to a boil- in a large bowl, chop your tomatoes and then mozzarella. Put in one bowl together.
- Dice garlic small *we love to give ours a quick fry to take the bitterness out.
- Chiffonade basil (stack, roll, slice. Stack the leaves on top of each other, gently roll them into a cigar, and then use a sharp knife to slice them into thin ribbons- that is chiffonade)
- Mix basil (reserve a pinch for garnish) and garlic in with chopped tomato and mozzarella.
- Add fresh pasta to boiling water (fresh pasta only takes 3-4 minutes) *If not fresh, complete this step first!
- Drain the pasta (reserving 1/3 cup of the water) and toss it with the tomatoes. If the pasta is still a little dry, add some of the cooking water.
- Toss together, platter then add grated pecorino romano cheese on top and more basil for garnish!
This dish is great cold – but E.A.T. suggests short pasta noodle if making a cold dish – something odd about a long noodle in a cold pasta salad like this one.
Where to Stay in Temecula
We stayed at the Embassy Suites Hotel Temecula, in a two-room suite with breakfast and evening wine and cheese included. There are other lodging options in the area but this hotel is well located and clean with spacious rooms.
Europa Village Inn has an Old World charm reflected in its tapas-sharing menu and cozy wine tasting room.
Temecula Creek Inn. A charming weekend getaway and wedding venue, the 300-acre inn features spacious suites and a 27-hole championship golf course.
Pechanga Resort Casino. Operated by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, Pechanga is the largest resort/casino on the West Coast. In addition, the four-star resort has one of the finest golf courses in California.