Winter Guide to Idyllwild 1

Crisp air, towering pines, and a Golden Retriever for a mayor. Eclectic Idyllwild set deep in the San Jacinto Mountains, is a dream come true for a city dweller wanting to get away from it all. Small-town charm, a thriving arts scene, and ample hiking trails that boast breathtaking mountain views make Idyllwild a perfect place for a peaceful winter getaway. Here are a few of our recommendations for a weekend escape. 

 

STAY:

The Mystery Lodge

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Idyllwild’s A-frame cabins are charming, but for a unique lodging experience you won’t soon forget, immerse yourself in history and culture at The Mystery Lodge. The former summer home to the author behind the Perry Mason detective series, Erle Stanley Gardner, this rustic retreat is respite for those seeking comfort and relaxation plus peace and quiet. Sip your morning coffee on the wraparound deck with views of snowcapped Tahquitz Peak or grab an aged scotch from the full wet bar—hey, you’re on vacation! Cozy up by the wood-burning fireplace in the knotty pine living room or warm up with a glass of bubbly in the jacuzzi. Pro tip: Turn out all of the house and jacuzzi lights and let the starry sky cast its otherworldly glow into the piney forest that surrounds you. Get back to nature on The Mystery Lodge’s outdoor four poster bed or recharge with a Perry Mason novel in the master suite—you might just be inspired to create your own masterpiece. Though the lodge is a vacation in itself, there’s lots more to explore—numerous galleries, restaurants, wineries, and more are within walking distance. Here are some of our favorites:

San Diego Magazine readers get $50 off reservation. Call or email and mention code SDMAG. 

 

EAT AND DRINK:

Café Aroma

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This cozy bistro is known for more than its Italian fusion cuisine; it’s been regularly hosting live music, art shows, and poetry readings for years. Start with their signature French onion soup, then follow with their fall off the bone Osso Bucco. Finish off your meal with their namesake Café Aroma, made with coffee, Irish cream, and Kahlua. If weather permits, grab a seat on the patio and groove to the acoustic tunes. 

Gastrognome

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Since 1973, this landmark restaurant in the heart of downtown Idyllwild has welcomed residents and visitors alike with its elegant, yet cozy atmosphere. Adorned with intricate, decades-old paintings, gnome figurines, and a crackling fireplace, the cabin-like setting lends itself well for a hearty meal and a glass of wine. Seasoned chef Edmund Yang has curated an extensive, delicious menu. Start off with the jumbo lump crab cakes topped with roasted pepper aioli, followed by the roast chicken with lemon, garlic, and rosemary jus lie, or the tender filet topped with roasted mushroom caps and a red wine glaze. 

Idyllwild Brewpub

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Overlooking Strawberry Creek sits Idyllwild’s only craft brewery. Longtime local restaurateur Frank Ferro has created a diverse pub-style food menu and an ambience reflective of Idyllwild’s rustic surroundings. The brewpub also leaves one of the smallest ecological footprints of any of its kind by using their own well water, treating it onsite, and using it to irrigate the landscaping. On your visit, try a spread of appetizers like the buffalo wings or brisket nachos, and finish with the flaky, crispy fish and chips with house made tartar sauce. You can’t visit a brewpub without trying their beer, and the Idyllwild IPA is a can’t-miss. If beer’s not your thing, they also have a full bar where they make a divine Old Fashioned.

DO:

For the Adventurous Type

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With endless acres of mountains to explore, those seeking adventure have no shortage of hiking, backpacking, cycling, and rock-climbing options. For a beginner-level scenic hike, head high up in the hills to fishers’ favorite Lake Fulmor. The flat, paved mile-long loop, full of stunning views and cute critters like ground squirrels and tree frogs, is a picnicker’s paradise.

Pro Tip: Buy an Adventure Pass in Idyllwild for parking and day use. 

Relax and Recharge 

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If rejuvenation is your goal, start your weekend at Om Sweet Aum Yoga. Led by Jennifer McEwen, who has been teaching yoga in Idyllwild for nearly 30 years, this studio offers all levels of practice, from yoga basics to vinyasa, restorative, Pilates, and even bootcamp. If your muscles need a little reset afterward, head to Jennifer’s massage studio, Body Sattva—her Mudra Massage’s hefty dose of deep relaxation is meant to be an antidote to the high-speed, information-dense hustle of our daily lives.

Pro Tip: Guests at The Mystery Lodge can book Jennifer’s yoga or massage services onsite as part of a customized package.

For the Art and Wine Aficionados

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Middle Ridge Winery and Art Gallery is a beautifully designed 4,000-square foot boutique winery and tasting room. Inspired by the friendliness of the small town, owner and winemaker Chris Johnston crafted a space where locals and visitors could come together to share a story and a glass of his award-winning wines. Middle Ridge also houses a gallery filled with works from the Art Alliance of Idyllwild, which rotates roughly every three months and visitors can enjoy live music on Fridays and Saturdays. 

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