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Best New Places in California

by Amy Finley, Cari Gray, Anthony Rotunno


Not since Alice’s Restaurant—which was the spot on Malibu Pier for 23 years, until it closed in 1995—has the oceanfront landmark been home to a restaurant as worthy as the Malibu Farm Pier Cafe. Owner Helene Henderson, a private chef–turned–food blogger–turned–restaurateur, insists she had no idea that what began as a pop-up last summer would become the next big thing. The menu features staples like Swedish pancakes (a nod to Hen­der­son’s roots), burrata salad and quinoa oatmeal, along with seasonal ingredients from local farms (in­­cluding Henderson’s own). Initially open for breakfast and lunch, the café recently added dinner. “It’s kind of like coming to your neighbor’s house,” says Henderson, whose patrons are as likely to arrive by surfboard as they are by foot. A longtime local loves that the café recalls the spirit of the town she moved to 30 years ago: “It isn’t from the outside in, but from the inside out.” At 23000 Pacific Coast Hwy., Bldg. C; 310-456-1112. —Anthony Rotunno


About 45 minutes north of Santa Barbara are Santa Ynez and Los Olivos, low-key but charming towns where the rolling countryside is dotted with horses and endless vineyards. It’s a paradise for cyclists. Come and go from Los Olivos’s Fess Parker Wine Country Inn & Spa (rooms, from $295; 2860 Grand Ave.; 800-446-2455), where at least five epic rides, including Figueroa Moun­tain Road, are within pedaling distance. (Foxen Canyon, Ballard Canyon and Happy Canyon roads are best explored on two wheels.)

To refuel, try Santa Ynez’s Brothers Restaurant at the Red Barn (3539 Sagunto St.; 805-688-4142) or its sister restaurant, Sides Hardware and Shoes (2375 Alamo Pintado Ave.; 805-688-4820), in Los Olivos. As an alter­native to the Fess Parker, rent a house from Paradise Retreats. —Cari Gray


Spinning still rules the L.A. workout scene, but there’s a buzzy new fitness player that’s captured the attention of the sweat-obsessed masses: Body By Simone, or BBS, is a Tracy Anderson–esque fitness studio run by trainer Simone De La Rue. It’s a New York City import that flew largely under the radar until the West Hollywood branch opened in April and the Angelenos started raving. The 60-minute Re-Energize Dance Cardio workout is the studio’s signature. At 8623–25 Santa Monica Blvd.


This summer in Napa Valley, Odette Estate (5998 Silverado Trail)—a new Stags Leap winery from the team behind CADE and PlumpJack—returns with its Secret Cinema drive-in-movie nights, which it pioneered last spring. Tickets include dinner and a tasting flight. A food truck will be on-site. (Gott’s Food Truck was there last season.) Meanwhile, in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley, the Farmhouse Inn (7871 River Rd.; 707-887-3300) will debut a $2 million spa. Book the Catherine’s Favorite massage (from $220).


In San Diego, the former no-man’s-land at 30th and Upas streets—between the North Park and South Park neighborhoods—is now the epicenter of the city’s culinary scene with the addition of The North Parker (3000 Upas St.; 619-955-5397), a residential building with a restaurant-packed plaza. A Michelin-starred chef is the ramen slinger at UnderBelly (3000 Upas St.). Tacos Perla (3000 Upas St., Ste. 105; 619-795-0700) serves the top adobada (marinated pork) in town. Influx (3000 Upas St., Ste. 103; 619-795-0680) is revered for its croissants, and Modern Times Beer (3000 Upas St., Ste. 102; 619-269-5222) for its stouts. Also nearby are The Smoking Goat (3408 30th St.; 619-955-5295)—one word: escargots—and Urban Solace (3823 30th St.; 619-295-6464)—one dish: chicken and dumplings. —Amy Finley


Just outside Palm Springs, The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage has come back to life—literally. Twenty-six years after first opening a hotel on a 650-foot bluff overlooking the Coachella Valley, the brand has returned to the exact building that it occupied until 2000, when the location became The Lodge at Rancho Mirage. Following a series of setbacks triggered by the economic collapse of 2008, the prop­erty had its homecoming as a Ritz-Carlton­ this spring, marking the company’s first U.S. hotel to open since 2010.     @wbbrjp

The three-story, E-shaped main building (a new state-of-the-art 15-treatment-room spa and fitness complex sits adjacent) is designed to feel indoor-outdoor. A warm lobby leads to one of two new restaurants—the State Fare Bar & Kitchen (The Edge steakhouse is slated to open this fall)—which spills onto one of three pool decks with a vast, panoramic valley view. Of the 244 rooms, 26 of 79 on the first floor have private, fire-pit-equipped patios (from $280), an ideal place to catch a sunset (or star-filled night sky), cocktail in hand. Rooms start at $230; 68900 Frank Sinatra Dr.; 760-321-8282. —A.R.

“Do not go where the path leads, travel instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

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