75 reasons to love the West
The canyon without the cars. A redesign has shifted traffic away from Mather Point, one of the canyon’s most popular viewpoints, so you can take in the vista in true peace and quiet.
Bikers, rejoice. The Tusayan Greenway brings the park’s bike-path total to 18 miles, meaning you can pedal to the canyon’s edge from the gateway town of Tusayan. Bright Angel Bicycles and Café, the South Rim’s first rental outfit, leads family-friendly tours. bikegrandcanyon.com
Epic trails, little luxuries. The South Kaibab and Bright Angel trails will always be thigh-burners, but the views make them worth every ache and pain. Now the South Kaibab has undergone the park’s biggest trail overhaul since the 1960s. And the Bright Angel trailhead has shaded seating—just what you’ll need after trekking to the rim.
Really, truly a must-see. Pooh-pooh the idea of a visitor center film all you want, but you’d be a sucker to skip Grand Canyon: A Journey of Wonder, chock-full of award-winning cinematography.
- Pot holders (top). A small army of Bay Area crafters—designer, crocheter, hand dyer—creates these homespun holders. From $38 each; fibershed.bigcartel.com
- Pottery (center left). The warm matte finish on this tea set from Berkeley makes your daily cup feel both elegant and homey. Teapot $150, cup and plate $25 each; jeredspottery.com
- Spoon and jam spreaders (center). L.A. woodworkers craft these out of walnut and cherry. From $60 each; knotworkla.tumblr.com
- Garden tools (bottom left). Forged by Bozeman, MT, blacksmith Tuli Fisher, these tools have serious heft in the garden. $52 each; fisherblacksmithing.com
- Cutting board (bottom center). Unfinished edges give this S.F.-made board rustic appeal. $160; shop-generalstore.com
- Kitchen broom (right). In Grant’s Pass, OR, second-generation broom maker Warren Olney bases sweepers on 1810 designs. $40; broomshop.com
Pacific sea salt. Hatch chiles. Honey. In the local ingredient–obsessed West, is there anything we won’t try to capture and cork? Some of our favorites:
- Freddy Guys Hazelnut Oil. Willamette Valley, OR, nuts freshly roasted then pressed. $16; freddyguys.com
- WholeVine Riesling Grapeseed Oil. Extracted from Riesling grapes grown on California’s coast. $25; wholevine.com
- Séka Hills Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. From Arbequina olives grown in California’s Capay Valley. $10; sekahills.com
- Maui Preserved Sweet & Spicy Pineapple. Jarred in local cane sugar syrup, with Hawaiian chiles for a bit of heat. $10; mauipreserved.com
- El Pinto Green Chile Sauce. A recipe passed down for generations, made with chiles from New Mexico. $5; elpinto.com
- Bee Local Honey (pictured). Harvested from hives in Portland’s Alberta neighborhood. From $15; beelocal.com
- Slide Ridge Vinegar. Fermented with Utah wildflower honey, then aged into a sweet vinegar. $20; slideridgehoney.com
- Jacobsen Salt Co. Pure Flake Sea Salt. Hand-harvested off the Oregon coast. $45; jacobsensalt.com
More: Insider guide to Denver
Listen to a master. From intricate picking and strumming to flat-out rocking, Hawaii’s Jake Shimabukuro is the ukulele master of our day. His latest album, Grand Ukulele, includes tracks with a 29-piece orchestra accompaniment. jakeshimabukuro.com
Get a uke. Good news: At $60 for a starter model, a uke is affordable for just about anyone. And music stores around the West are stocking them like crazy—from Pacific Winds in Eugene, Oregon, where you can choose from 78, to Ukulele Source, a uke-only mom-and-pop shop in San Jose’s Japantown (where we found the handcrafted Kamaka pictured here). pacificwindsmusic.com; ukulelesource.com
Learn to play. The uke is a cinch to learn. “Besides the kazoo, nothing is faster,” says Heidi Swedberg, a former Seinfeld actress who teaches at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica. Many of her students can play a dozen songs after just one lesson. On Ukulele Underground, Kauai instructor Aldrine Guerrero is your free online tutor. Swedberg: $60/hour; sukeyjumpmusic.com. Guerrero: ukuleleunderground.com.
Go to a festival. From Hayward, California, and Reno, to this year’s inaugural fest in Port Townsend, Washington, the West loves to throw uke parties. To take it to the source, though, hop a plane to the Annual Ukulele Festival near Oahu’s Waikiki Beach, with big-name masters and an orchestra of 700-plus eager uke students. Free; ukulelefestivalhawaii.org
More: Insider guide to Hawaii
The number of chocolatiers in the West boggles the mind, and chocolate just keeps getting better, from fair trade, organic, and single-origin beans to bonbons emblazoned in jewel tones. Here’s a taste of the new class:
- Madre Chocolate, Honolulu. Meet the perfect chocolate. The Triple Cacao Bar extracts every possible flavor and texture from a cocoa bean: the fruity pulp, crunchy nibs, and satiny chocolate. madrechocolate.com
- Cadeaux Chocolates, Seattle. Each gemlike truffle is filled with beautifully textured ganache. The caramels are dreamy too. cadeauxchocolates.com
- Chocolot, Ogden, UT. The company works wonders with the cacao nib, especially in its Orange Nib Bar. sweetchocolot.com
- Au Coeur Des Chocolats, San Francisco. These airbrushed truffles are (almost) too pretty to eat. heartofchocolates.com
- Michael Mischer, Oakland. We love his single-origin bars studded with toffee and salt. michaelmischerchocolates.com
- Xocolatl de David, Portland (pictured). We’re obsessing over the Raleigh bars (like a gourmet Snickers). xocolatldedavid.com
- Seth Ellis Chocolatier, Boulder, CO. Organic, handcrafted truffles with silky smooth ganache astound; try the raspberry. sethellischocolatier.com
Forests. Archangel Ancient Tree Archive harvested shoots from 2,000-year-old coast redwoods and has planted the clones in Oregon. The goal: to re-create not just any redwood forest but one with sturdy bloodlines. Meanwhile, near Yellowstone, TreeFight’s volunteers tack pheromone pouches onto whitebark pines to ward off devastating pine beetles. As TreeFight likes to say, “Fight now, hug later.” ancienttreearchive.org; treefight.org
Rivers. Thanks to dam removals, the Olympic Peninsula’s Elwha River is running free for the first time in more than a century, and the salmon are coming back strong. nps.gov/olym
Like pizza before them, bagels of the West have been promoted from punchline to something worth seeking out:
- Spielman Coffee Roasters & Bagels, Portland. Crackly crusted sourdough bagels sweetened with a little honey. The Seedy (pictured) lives up to its name. (503) 467-0600.
- Beauty’s Bagel Shop, Oakland. Small, dense, Montreal-style bagels with a great chew; boiled first, then baked in a wood-fired oven. beautysbagelshop.com
- Bagels on Broadway, Missoula, MT. Moist, tender, and definitely unorthodox: the cake lover’s bagel. bagelsonbroadway.com
- Solly’s Bagelry, Vancouver, B.C. Knobbly and rustic with dense yet creamy crumbs. Don’t miss the Mishmash, with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and sweet onion shreds. sollysbagelry.com
- Moe’s Broadway Bagel, Boulder, CO. Golden, springy beauties, packed with seasonings on both sides. moesbagel.com
A crop of handmade products and beauty lines take a good-for-you/good-for-the-planet approach to beauty, each tied to its own corner of the West:
- Captain Blankenship Rusalka Bath Salts (pictured). Made in S.F. from Pacific sea salt. $20; captainblankenship.com
- Earth Tu Face Face Wash. With California and Oregon organic jojoba, olive oil, and lavender. $48; earthtuface.com
- Juniper Ridge Trail Crew Soap. Fragrances extracted from wild botanicals, using presses and stills in Oakland. $35; juniperridge.com
- Osmia Organics Facial Serum. Made in Carbondale, CO, with chamomile oil from the Northwest. $50; osmiaorganics.com
- House of Matriarch Blackbird Perfume. From aromatics like Northwest conifers and Puget Sound seaweed. $120; matriarch.biz
- Molly Mutt Dog Shampoo. Made in California from local rosemary oil and Idaho peppermint oil. $15; mollymutt.com
- Lotus Wei. This Phoenix-based line is the brainchild of organic alchemist Katie Hess, who infuses flower essences from local blooms for her skin tone–boosting elixirs. lotuswei.com
- Gunilla Skin Alchemy. At her cult San Francisco spa, Gunilla Eisenberg blends essential oils and herbs, mostly from Northern California, for her Gunilla Skin Alchemy line. gunillaskinbutik.com
- Isun Skincare. Bunnie Gulick, founder of Isun Skincare, brings a touch of the mountains to her organic line, with wild herbs foraged near her lab in Colorado’s San Juan Range. Although packaged in glass and sustainably sourced, these aren’t the hippie tonics sold on card tables at your local farmers’ market—they’re used in some of the best spas in the West. isunskincare.com
The 600 physics and optics and biology and you-name-it exhibits spin, spark, buzz, baffle, and delight. And that’s all before you get a load of the city and bay views from its piertop perch on the Embarcadero. Plus there’s the civilized Seaglass Restaurant, with a comet-inspired bar and tasty, local, sustainable food, like marinated sardines with avocado—yum.
3 big-wow moments:
Step onto artist Fujiko Nakaya’s Fog Bridge, a sculptural span that disappears into ethereal manmade mists.
Listen to the mashup of music and science at the Aeolian Harp, where bay breezes metamorphose into song.
Marvel at a projected sun’s sped-up daytime arc over San Francisco in the Sky Theater. $25, $19/ages 6–17; exploratorium.edu
- Fremont Mischief John Jacob Whiskey (pictured). Distilled in Seattle with rye grown in Washington and Oregon. $33; fremontmischief.com
- Hangar 1 Mandarin Blossom Vodka. Infused with mandarin blossoms plucked in Exeter, CA. $25; hangarone.com
- High West Whiskey Rendezvous Rye. Blended at Utah’s first (legal, ahem) distillery to open since 1870. $50; highwest.com
- Re:Find Vodka. Distilled from grapes grown in Paso Robles, CA, instead of the traditional potatoes or grain. $35; refinddistillery.com
- Leopold Bros. Rocky Mountain Liqueur. Four-plus pounds of Denver blackberries in each bottle. $37; leopoldbros.com
- Sergeant Classick Gold Rum. Made from Hawaiian molasses, distilled in Mountain View, CA. $30; sgtclassick.com
- Pok Pok Som Drinking Vinegar. Crafted from Northwest raspberries and great splashed into drinks or over ice cream. $15; pokpoksom.com
- ’Tude Juice Pinky’tude Apple Juice. Made with not-too-sweet Cripps Pinks from Yakima Valley, WA. From $3; tudejuice.com
More: How to grow greens
More: Insider guide to Seattle
More: 5 game-changing flowers
Master the noodle. The ramen workshop at The Pantry in Seattle (pictured) does a deep dive into the Japanese soup, from cutting noodles by hand to boiling pig trotters for an unctuous tonkotsu broth. $70; pantryatdelancey.com
Sell your jam. And not just jam. In Oakland, Food Craft Institute’s 12-week class covers sauces and condiments too. There’s plenty of hands-on kitchen time plus a lesson on funding with crowdsourcing. $2,750; foodcraftinstitute.org
Butcher a pig. Wielding a knife and a saw, you’ll break down a pig into loins, ham roasts, and stew meat in Portland Meat Collective’s basic butchery class. $265; pdxmeat.com
Perfect the coffee pour-over. L.A.’s Institute of Domestic Technology is home ec on steroids. Two coffee classes walk students through roasting beans, proper brewing, and how to ace an iced coffee. $190; instituteofdomestictechnology.com
More: 6 DIY gourmet foods
The works. The Bay Area’s Good Eggs lets you pick and choose from lots of local foods, like House Kombucha (center), Capay Valley Farm Shop’s peas (center left) and blueberries (center left), Bloomfield Farms chard (bottom left), and Happy Hens eggs (center). goodeggs.com
Beans and grains. Get monthly batches of grains (bottom right) and rare dried beans (center right) from Lonesome Whistle Farm, near Eugene, Oregon. lonesomewhistlefarm.com
Pot treats. Yes, this is out there: The Green Cross brings prescription cannabis to San Franciscans in the form of desserts like caramels or blueberry lemon drop cookies (top right). thegreencross.org
How they do it:
- Fish are raised in pens of glacier-fed, fast-moving ocean water, which cuts pollutants and keeps them swimming and healthy, as in the wild.
- Harvested fish are dipped in brine as a natural preservative for the journey.
- Trucks roll within 24 hours from when the fish were pulled from the water, and no one so much as peeks at the salmon until they’re in the chef’s hands.
More: Top 45 hikes in the West
What’s your home routine? We make a point of cooking at least four or five nights a week. It’s often something simple we can pull together in 40 minutes or so—roast vegetables, pasta, a piece of fish on the grill. Then there are the meals that roll over one to the other—the roast chicken that becomes chicken tacos, then soup.
What’s your advice for people who rarely cook? Try to make something you usually buy processed—a pizza, say, or a stir-fry. I think you’ll be surprised how satisfying it is to make it yourself, how much better it tastes, and that it really doesn’t take much longer.
More: 10 ways to eat healthier
Have a crisp, pale, dry-finishing Pils on the patio at Prost brewery, getting buzz for its refreshing throwbacks to traditional German styles. prostbrewing.com
Aficionados swoon over the tart, winelike Belgians at up-and-coming brewery Crooked Stave, helmed by local beer guru Chad Yakobson. Best news yet? The Crooked Stave has a taproom in The Source, an urban culinary collective in a massive brick warehouse. crookedstave.com; facebook.com/thesourcedenver
Try Great Divide’s big beers at its brewery taproom. Yeti is a stout aged with cocoa nibs and oak. If the rarely seen Peach Grand Cru is offered, order it immediately. greatdivide.com
Classic beer bar Falling Rock Tap House’s 80 taps make it a top spot for finding rarities from locals like Odell, New Belgium, Dry Dock, Elevation, Left Hand, and Funkwerks. frth.com
Hit the hopping Lower Downtown district for The Kitchen Denver, a sunny, sleek American bistro with a deep beer list. thekitchencommunity.com
And Euclid Hall is a required stop for innovative brews and bites, like hops-infused pickles. euclidhall.com
More: Insider guide to Denver
- Firestone Walker’s Pivo Pils. A German-style pilsner made in the wine country of Paso Robles, California. Clean, crisp, and refreshing, it’s the best American-made Pilsner this summer. firestonebeer.com
- Hopworks Urban Brewery’s Organic I.P.A. Juicy and floral. And now this Portland fave comes in cans. Yes, cans. Hey—they’re easier to chill and fit nicely in coozies for car camping. hopworksbeer.com
- Anchorage Brewing Co.’s The Tide and Its Takers. Hazy gold, fruity, and aromatic. This small-batch Belgian-style tripel, aged in Chardonnay barrels, is a masterpiece accented with lemongrass-y hops. anchoragebrewingcompany.com
3 pubs doing it right
- The Linkery, San Diego. The Friendship Brew from local Green Flash is extraordinary and pairs well with the restaurant’s farm-to-table eats. thelinkery.com
- Apex, Portland. A go-to for rare beers served with care. On a hot day, a Stiegl Radler—grapefruit soda mixed with Austrian lager—is pure refreshment. From there, the list gets infinitely more complex. apexbar.com
- The Trappist, Oakland. Here, beer is treated with the respect once reserved for wine. Sit on the back patio and sip your way through the deep Belgian and American list. thetrappist.com
Recipe: Sesame Seaweed Salad
More: 10 ways to cook wtih tea
Car-free festivals. Cyclists have taken over San Francisco streets on designated Sundays (sundaystreetssf.com). Portland (portlandsundayparkways.org), Oakland (oaklavia.org), Boulder (bouldergreenstreets.org), and even L.A. (ciclavia.org) have also joined in.
City planning. Believing that biking to work should be easier for locals, Tucson’s Department of Transportation is planning a network of 40 bicycle boulevards, with traffic-calming elements for safer commutes.
Bike sharing. Home to more than 300 miles of trails, Denver launched the West’s first bike-share program (bcycle.com), with 50 kiosks of cherry red bikes (pictured). Seattle, Portland, and Boulder have followed suit, and San Diego, San Francisco, and L.A. are getting in on the action.
San Francisco. Grab a coffee and scone at always-ahead-of-the-trend Flora Grubb Gardens, then wander through lush plantscapes and cozy seating nooks that feel like a fabulously stylish friend’s garden. floragrubb.com
Santa Cruz. Shop alongside skateboard-toting students and backyard farmers at Dig Gardens. The store has a great collection of botanical-inspired decor and local art, plus locally roasted espresso. diggardens.com
Seattle Area. Molbak’s (pictured; molbaks.com) in Woodinville and Swansons (swansonsnursery.com) in Seattle have acres of greenery and airy, light-filled cafes. Check out the houseplant collection at Molbak’s—one of the best around—and Swansons’ conservatory and koi pond.
June Taylor Company, Berkeley. The grand dame of small-batch jams, Taylor seeks out heirloom and forgotten fruits. From $13; junetaylorjams.com
Hurley Farms, Napa. Its Royal Blenheim apricot preserves and Sun Grand nectarine jam are sunshine on a spoon. $6.75; hurleyfarms.com
Ayers Creek Farm, Gaston, OR. The Ayers Creek family crafts small-batch jams using only fresh fruit, lemon juice, and a touch of sugar. The loganberry is a must. $7; 503/985-0177.
Ellelle Kitchen, Pasadena, CA. We love the fun, delicious jam combos like Backyard Grapefruit with Campari or Two Berry with Lavender. $14; ellellekitchen.com
INNA, Berkeley. Pure jam perfection—the ideal spoonable texture (between runny and firm) and not too sweet. Try the Seascape strawberry jam. $12; innajam.com
The Girl & The Fig, Sonoma. The to-die-for black Mission fig jam is made with fruit picked at its peak, cooked with sugar and a touch of cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg. $6.75; thegirlandthefig.com
Aravaipa Farms, Aravaipa Canyon, AZ. Apricots from the owner’s own sun-drenched orchard are turned into glorious preserves, using an old French recipe. $8.50; aravaipafarms.com
Blue Chair Fruit, Oakland. Made with local organic fruit in small batches, its seasonal flavors, like Adriatic fig, are simply transcendent. $12; bluechairfruit.com
Big Spoon Jam, Seattle. Small batches of blackberries and honey from the Northwest. $15; bigspoonjam.com
Bartholomew Winery. The newest of the South Seattle Artisan Wineries makes beautifully balanced Rhône and Bordeaux blends. bartholomewwinery.com
Portland Wine Project. A twofer (Boedecker Cellars and Grochau Cellars together) in Portland’s Northwest industrial area. 503/224-5778.
The Winery SF. The first full-fledged winery in San Francisco since the repeal of Prohibition. winery-sf.com
San Antonio Winery. The pioneer, it has operated since 1917, when it served L.A.’s Italian workforce. Now it offers workshops. sanantoniowinery.com
San Pasqual Winery (pictured). In a retrofitted San Diego warehouse, you can taste north-of-the-border-made Tempranillo (a Spanish grape), grown in Baja, Mexico. The wines are works in progress but fun to try. sanpasqualwinery.com
Bold new farm schools. Law school? That’s so 1998. More students are heading to the West’s ag schools, drawn by new curriculum emphasizing organic methods, sustainability, and the business savvy they’ll need to thrive. The University of California, Davis, is creating a formal college major in sustainable agriculture, merging theory with roll-up-your-sleeves farm time. Washington State University now offers one of the country’s first majors in organic agriculture, while Cal Poly San Luis Obispo lets any undergrad, no matter what her major, minor in sustainable agriculture.
Chèvre with white pepper, Nordland, WA. A mild, buttery, romantic goat cheese with a delicacy and balance not often seen in flavored cheeses. $8/4-oz. log; mysterybayfarm.com for stores
Txiki, Marshall, CA (pictured). This rich Basque-style sheep’s-milk cheese smells like soil after a rain. The deep, earthy flavor goes on and on. $30/lb.; available summer/fall; barinagaranch.com for stores
Two-Faced Blue, Doty, WA. A smooth, pale-yellow cheese with craggy lines of blue shooting through it, this mellow beauty reminds us of Stilton. $26/lb.; willapahillscheese.com
Seascape, Oakdale, CA. Both cow’s and goat’s milk go into these big wheels, creating a complex cheese with nutty sweetness and great acidity. $17/lb.; centralcoastcreamery.com
Foraging. Hunting for mushrooms has become a passion in the West, as foragers scour damp forests, mountain peaks, and coastlines for the coveted caps. To safely join in the adventure, check out a mushroom club near you (namyco.org for listings). Or sign up for Healdsburg, California’s Relish Culinary Adventures (relishculinary.com), where you forage and then cook up your haul.
Dinners. Menus here are the most fungi-friendly in the country. We like Poggio Trattoria ($$; 415/332-7771) in Sausalito, California, which celebrates the rainy season with dishes like porcini pasta and pizza with chanterelles.
Festivals: Mushroom festivals are weird and wonderful things, mostly happening in late fall and winter. Get your feet wet at California’s Mendocino County Wine & Mushroom Festival (visitmendocino.com) in November. In late January, Oregon fetes its most famous fungus with the Oregon Truffle Festival (oregontrufflefestival.com), which hosts seminars and dinners in and around Eugene.
More: Top 10 B&Bs in the West
More: 28 DIY salvage makeovers
The Cheese School of San Francisco. Learn the ABCs of making fresh cheeses (think fromage blanc), and leave with a chèvre you’ve flavored yourself. $65; cheeseschoolsf.com
Kookoolan Farms, Yamhill, OR. First, watch the brie, gouda, or cheddar demo. Then buy the supplies here to make your own. From $65; kookoolanfarms.com
Old Windmill Dairy, Estancia, NM. Hands-on intros walk you through the mozzarella process. A springtime bonus: bottle-feeding the farm’s baby goats. From $38; theoldwindmilldairy.com
River Valley Cheese, Fall City, WA. Tackle a different cheese every month, from blue to havarti to manchego, and age it yourself. From $125; rivervalleycheese.com
Garden tours and classes at Napa Valley’s Bardessono are open to the public as well as to guests at the neo-schmancy hotel. By appointment; from $20; bardessono.com
Dinner no longer starts with appetizers at the Herbfarm in Woodinville, Washington. It starts with working in the idyllic kitchen garden and on the farm—and ends with a well-earned nine-course meal. $1,200 for 2, including classes, meal, and lodging; herbfarm.com
The third Saturday of the month, Pie Ranch welcomes volunteers to its coastal farm south of San Francisco to learn about organic growing. After a good hand-washing, all join a potluck dinner and then do-si-do at a barn dance. Dance from $7 (sliding scale); pieranch.org
Sam’s Chowder House in Half Moon Bay, California, drowns its organic vanilla soft-serve with a shot of bitter espresso to make a very Italian affogato. samschowderhouse.com
At San Francisco’s Zero Zero, you choose both base (ricotta doughnuts, say) and topping (pomegranate seeds and saffron?) for your Straus Family Creamery soft-serve (pictured). zerozerosf.com
Restaurant Jane in Santa Barbara tops swirls of soft-serve with housemade toffee and caramel as well as seasonal berry sauces. 805/962-1311.
An icy, briny oyster on the half-shell is one of the West’s unrivaled pleasures—especially when consumed within a literal stone’s throw of the water it grew in. And with 1,293 miles of coastline (not even counting Alaska), we have a growing number of aqua farms where you can do just that. Plus, there’s no need for fish farm guilt—oysters are terrific water filters that make our bays healthier.
So get right to the source at one of these oyster farms: Buy a few dozen sweet little Kumamotos or plump, cucumbery Pacifics, and get cracking.
- Taylor Shellfish Farms, WA (pictured). taylorshellfishfarms.com
- Brady’s Oysters, WA. bradysoysters.com
- Hama Hama Seafood Store, WA. hamahamaoysters.com
- Oysterville Sea Farms, WA. willabay.com
- Oregon Oyster Farms, OR. oregonoyster.com
- Hog Island Oyster Farm, CA. hogislandoysters.com
- Tomales Bay Oyster Co., CA. tomalesbayoyster.com
- Drakes Bay Oyster Co., CA. drakesbayoyster.com
- Morro Bay Oyster Co., CA. morrobayoysters.com
SoupCycle, Portland. Sign up for a subscription and choose from three varieties—vegan, veggie, and meat—each week. soupcycle.com
Small Cog Coffee, Seattle. There’s nothing better on a foggy morning than this micro roaster’s coffee—except finding a bag of it on your doorstep. smallcogcoffee.com
Park Hotel, South Lake Tahoe, CA. Comfy reclaimed-wood furniture and recycled Doug fir walls, covered in craft newspaper, are a warm welcome back from the slopes. From $189; 968parkhotel.com
The Oxford Hotel, Bend, OR. Silver tree stumps and cork floors merge rustic with cool. Explore on cruiser bikes, then snuggle under duvets made of recycled plastic. From $189; oxfordhotelbend.com
Gaia Shasta, Anderson, CA. Watch swans and koi swim in the lake surrounded by leafy native plants. Inside, tubular skylights bring the sunshine in. From $89; gaiashasta.com
Hotel Terra, Jackson hole, WY. A chic mountain resort (pictured) with eco tours of Grand Teton National Park, and plush organic mattresses. From $319; hotelterrajacksonhole.com
The Presidio Motel, Santa Barbara. Its tiny office may shout “motor court lodge,” but the loaner cruiser bikes and new glam touches (like embroidered pillows and chic wall decals) scream cool. From $179; thepresidiomotel.com
Caliente Tropics Resort, Palm Springs. Elvis Presley and Nancy Sinatra used to hang at this 1964 hotel, where the original Polynesian decor has been upgraded to tiki-modern. From $105; calientetropics.com
The Pearl Hotel, San Diego. The vintage motel turned boutique hotel has kept its spirit with classic cocktails and “dive-in” movies by the kidney-shaped pool. From $129; thepearlsd.com
The Motor Lodge, Prescott, AZ. At the 100-year-old motel, rooms have gotten a dust-off with luxe linens and original art. Catch a ride downtown in the lodge’s flame orange 1965 pickup. From $89; themotorlodge.com
No place takes as many pains as Disneyland to get the details right, down to its Mickey Mouse topiary. And while the park is 55 years old, it never stands still. Its theme park twin, California Adventure, has opened a hallucinogenic laser- and fire-effects show. Coming this spring is a Little Mermaid extravaganza. And the sparks keep flying from Disney’s alliance with the animation wizards at Pixar: Finding Nemo’s Nemo, Toy Story’s Buzz and Woody—all have been installed in the pantheon of Disney rides. In 2012, the Pixar-inspired Cars Land opened—the Disney equivalent of a new continent.
So give in. Brave the lines. Let yourself go. Because somewhere, say on Nemo’s submarine, you’ll feel gratitude for pop culture that exalts rather than demeans. And you’ll grasp the essential Disneyland secret: All the pains the park takes are taken just for you.