and -- if one can handle it -- disconnect from digital life.
The Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort, Solvang (pictured above)Just past the curve where the 101 turns inland north of Santa Barbara, it becomes "Sideways" territory, a vast rural valley of vineyards, wineries, ranches and precious small towns. Outside Solvang (the ersatz Danish enclave where windmills outnumber billboards), the Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort, deep in the oak-studded hillsides of the Santa Ynez Valley, delivers an upscale dude ranch experience steeped in tradition.
Popular activities include horseback riding, golf, a Santa Barbara-made wine program, children's activities and guided or GPS-led bike tours in the heart of wine country. The rustic chic vibe means that kids can eat 'smores by the campfire while parents sip mixologist-made cocktails.
Located down a long driveway at the end of a wooded country road, the working cattle ranch and resort is supremely private and -- of note to media junkies -- purposely somewhat cut off from the outside world. There are no in-room TVs or phones, and limited cell phone reception (there is Wi-Fi, however). Those who've unplugged include Neil Patrick Harris and kids, as well as "How I Met Your Mother" co-star Cobie Smulders, who got married on the property. Director of sales and marketing Sherrie Fitzgerald says the ranch's draw is in holding onto tradition. "A visit here gives guests the time to disconnect (from daily stress, and) reconnect with family members," she says. It's particularly easy to channel your inner cowboy: Morning trail rides lead to an outdoor breakfast serenaded by a singing cowpoke, and there's a weekly rodeo featuring barrel racing and cattle roping.
The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho MirageIt's no secret that the Coachella Valley is hot, both literally and figuratively. The Coachella music and arts fest has made the area relevant to a new a generation, while Leonardo DiCaprio and Larry Ellison have bought in. Once-staid Palm Springs is house-party central.
Perched above the entire valley is the newly reopened Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage. A passion project if there ever was one, the hotel was closed for six years as new ownership worked out the financing for a complete redo of the hotel and grounds. The result: a 244-room resort on 12.5 acres that takes full advantage of its overlook (including an infinity pool) and the desert's cooler evenings.
There are fire pits galore (first-floor rooms have them too), cool-to-the-touch stone floors and interiors that capture the best of the desert's brilliantly etched environment.
State Fare Bar & Kitchen, the resort's signature restaurant, offers handcrafted cocktails and an ambitious farm-to-table menu (some of the produce comes from nearby Thermal) -- a departure from the usual provisions at hotels; State Fare's outdoor terrace instantly became the preferred spot for locals. The spa has its own dedicated building, and treatment rooms open to the outdoors, a rarity. Still to come: a Club Level (including multiple meal and beverage servings) and a glass-walled and glossy steakhouse called the Edge.
Terranea Resort, Rancho Palos VerdesIn its first five years, the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes has wooed and won Hollywood. Showbizzers like Mariah Carey and husband Nick Cannon, Jeff Bridges and "Dallas'â" Jesse Metcalfe have been known to hide away at the resort's villas or hang out at the ocean-facing spa pool. It's a preferred film location , too: Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann encamped for a romantic weekend away in Judd Apatow's "This Is 40," and it'll be featured in the upcoming "Entourage" pic. But in real life, the sprawling resort appeals across all quadrants.
Located on a 102-acre point that was once home to the Marineland theme park on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Terranea boasts views that take in the chalk-white cliffs of Portuguese Bend out to Catalina Island, and north to Santa Monica Bay and Malibu.
The tranquil oceanscape and fresh air are reason enough to visit, but the 582-room resort has much more to amuse, from chilling out with a pop soundtrack at the adults-only pool, where the vibe is more Vegas than L.A., to a weekend outdoor beer garden or guided nature hikes, spa treatments and golf.
Kids prefer the main pool with water slide. Pets are welcome, too. The atmosphere is breezy and casual, though one might dress appropriately for Mar'sel, the fine dining restaurant, which has earned accolades for its fresh take on California cuisine. Ingredients are sourced locally -- the olive oil purveyor is within a mile of the resort, and executive chef Bernard Ibarra keeps beehives close by in addition to an herb and vegetable garden outside the restaurant's front door.
The cream-colored exterior and red-tile roofs are Mediterranean style, and Terranea maintains the theme throughout with colorful tile pavers around the pool, wrought-iron accents and decorative, Italian-inspired fountains.
Ocean-view villas provide room to spread out, and most have secluded patios with outdoor fireplaces. Feel like moving in? It's possible to own a piece of the coveted coastline (villa pricing starts at around $1.3 million), and make the resort a go-to escape.