Take it all in. Not something you get to do at Disneyland during the summer. The view is usually blocked by the cranky, sunburned visitors from far beyond the county borders. But once the kids are back in school and the crispness of fall descends, it’s a lot easier to remember what you liked about this iconic American amusement park in the first place. Of course, now it’s really a resort with multiple parks and multiple hotels. A little bit of planning can help you find a discounted deal to spend a day or two at the “Happiest Place on Earth.” Then when you’re done, head to the Grand Californian for a massage at the Mandara Spa and some haute cuisine and a fine wine at Napa Rose. If you prefer to keep it light, the Storyteller’s Café serves up wood-fired pizzas and sandwiches. Afterward, head to the Hearthstone Lounge for a nightcap. Enjoy a whole weekend without leaving the park. Packages including two-night stays and three-day Park Hopper passes begin at $1,507.
Though many of the newer resort areas have moved farther and farther away from the city’s center, Palm Springs still holds at least one charmer downtown: The Viceroy. This retro luxury hotel dates back to the 1930s and still manages to retain the same vibe it had when Hollywood stars made Palm Springs their playground. At the same time, fully modern amenities keep you very much in the 21st century. If you venture out for shopping amid the desert scenery during the day, return for the Spanish-style Viceroy’s private rooms and villas that look and feel much like a small village capped in their red-tile roofs. You find both family-friendly and adult-friendly pool areas with cabanas for shade and comfort, two Jacuzzis, citrus trees and well-manicured gardens, and the Estrella Spa that offers a full range of services in quiet indoor-outdoor settings. In the evening, dinner and drinks at the Citron restaurant help you ease into the evening in style. Studios are $340 per night, suites are $470 per night and villas start at $655 per night. All rooms are pet-friendly.
The idea of peace and quiet are paramount at El Encanto hotel, even if it overlooks a busy tourist town like Santa Barbara. Meticulously restored and reopened earlier this year, the El Encanto is a longtime local icon of luxurious retreat. Its 92 pet-friendly bungalows sit among secluded gardens, and many feature ocean views. Yet the hotel is close to the Santa Barbara Mission, the botanical gardens and Natural History Museum. California cuisine with Asian touches can be had at the hotel’s restaurant and a full list of services are available at the spa. Rooms begin at $350 per night. The Ocean to Vineyard package featuring the wine country by bike tour is $506 per night.