Last month, I spent several days in the San Jacinto Valley, and I wrote about some of it here. Today I’m going to share a little more of my trip. Who knew there was so much history so close to my home? Thanks to this press trip, which provided me a complimentary four-day stay to experience it all, I now know what I missed!
First, I want to thank all of the wonderful businesses and people that contributed to our four days in the San Jacinto Valley. Everyone was so giving, so authentic and interested in what we had to say. We felt immediately welcomed and appreciated, and with a group this large, I’m sure it was a challenge to plan and pull off, but they did, and perfectly so. Such an enjoyable visit and I feel very fortunate to have been able to participate in this first blogger’s outreach trip.
I wrote about my first day here, and the remaining days were full of events — museums, entertainment, wine and food. We started with the Ramona Bowl, an amphitheater created to house the show, Ramona, which opened in the early 1920s and became the longest-running show in the United States. Written by Helen Hunt Jackson, the story highlights the struggle of the Native Americans trying to retain their land, a slightly embellished version to appeal to the masses in order to draw attention to the plight that no one was interested in otherwise.
The bowl is nestled into a natural valley in the hills of Hemet in the San Jacinto Valley. Managed by Laurie van Arsdale, the prior mayor of Hemet, the bowl hosts additional events, such as Boo at the Zoo and numerous concerts. It also houses a museum of play props and history, including the first editions of the book, Ramona. (We were each given a copy to read and I’m enjoying mine! I haven’t sat down in a long time to read a paperback book and I’m so glad to be ‘old-school’ reading such a good book. Thank you again, Laurie!) I plan on going back in April, when the Ramona show starts next, to see the play with my daughters.
The bowl is surrounded by natural flora and fauna, and we took a few minutes to hike around the hills. The colors and shapes of the cactus were so unique, I had to snap a few shots.
When you go to the Ramona Bowl, be sure to look for the fresco in the museum. Painted and created by Milford Zornes, it’s a one of a kind work of art that will awe you, largely in part due to its immense size but also due to its attention to detail and unique art form.
Something you don’t see every day is a bridal museum. Owned and operated by Eve Faulkner, it began as a small collection of Victoria wedding attire housed in their Victoria home in Upland, where they hosted weddings; when it continued to grow and amass more beautiful gowns, they moved to Hemet where they were able to display all the items properly in an open area. You can read more about it at their website. The wedding gowns have stories to tell, and Eve gave us the details on many of them, such as why there was a black gown (it belonged to a bride-to-be’s mom who was widowed recently before the wedding), why the waists were so tiny (corsets were big) and the various styles throughout the years. One really interesting thing was how much the royal family influenced gowns throughout history, and how untraditional the queen was when she got married and changed things up, being a trendsetter even as a young woman.
They are located on Harvard Ave. in downtown Hemet, easily accessible amongst boutiques and restaurants, making it easy to park in one location and wander downtown to shop, eat and check out the local vibes. We ate at an outside table at the Downtown Deli & Coffee Company, within sight of the bridal museum. The food was excellent and easily explained the lines that never stopped, but we all noticed how everyone interacted, how there was a hometown feel and how people seemed genuinely interested in each other and community overall.
We also spent an hour or so at the Estudillo Mansion, built in 1884 by Francisco Estudillo, Jr. It had a twin built by his brother near Soboba Hot Springs but that mansion fell into disrepair and no longer exists. We were unable to take photos inside the mansion, but the website contains photos of the inner rooms, decked out with furniture, place settings and personal belongings fitting to its heyday. It is available for tours, and its grounds alone are worth roaming. It has been home to weddings and other festivities throughout the years, and it’s easy to stand on the wraparound balcony and picture what it was like when the family still was in residence. I pictured the family around the fireplace, fire blazing on a cold valley evening, looking at the old-time “viewmaster,” how they viewed photos at the time, with another child playing the piano.
There is a museum on the grounds, displaying archaeological finds, antiques and even a video and miniature replica of the Russian plane that made headlines by going further than anyone else had before. The docents were available to answer questions and give us a brief tour, and I realized even further how many big things had occurred in this area of California that were not in my school history books. The homeschooler in me wished I’d brought my kids down there many years before.
Ice cream. I love it, but milk isn’t my friend, so give me a milk-free, fruit-based ice cream shop and I am SO in. La Michoacana is Heaven on earth for a sweet treats lover. With over 100 flavors, all unique and guaranteed to surprise you, I had a hard time choosing what I wanted to try. I settled on a mangonada, a mango concoction with chamoy sauce, a tamarind straw and just enough of a chili kick to offset the natural sweetness of the mango. All of the fruits and ingredients are locally-sourced and/or organic, and when locally-sourced isn’t available due to seasonal restrictions, they find a way to ship them in; mangos come from as far as Brazil sometimes! 100% natural and so creative, luckily they have two shops here in California (Hemet and Beaumont) with the hopes of many more in addition to the Mexico locations. The owner is a true success story with a passion for what he does; his smile and sparkling eyes as he told us about his inspiration and how he built the business was so obvious, I am rooting for him. Visit their Facebook page for more information. They aren’t far from the 15 south freeway, just like Golden Village Palms RV Resort (where we stayed) and everything else we visited during our stay.
One night, we were even honored with an introduction at a community meeting at the old theater downtown. Everyone was coming together to welcome the health options available with the new partnership/plans created to help make doctors and emergency care more accessible to everyone in the San Jacinto Valley. We weren’t quite ready to go stand up on stage, but everyone was so welcoming and kind, it became easy. There we are, above, with Michael from Golden Village Palms RV Resort, Laurie van Arsdale, and the current Hemet Mayor, Linda Krupa. Such a sweet bunch of people, they drew us in and when we left dinner on Friday night, we exchanged hugs and promises to return again.
No visit to any California city is complete with trying a good Mexican restaurant. Abel, owner of El Patron, showed us quite the evening with good, authentic Mexican food, table-side guacamole and Cadillac margaritas as big as my head. We left full a couple of hours later…and that margarita! Everyone sitting at a long table made for another fun evening, and it’s clear the restaurant is a big hit, with a steady stream of customers the whole time we were there.
Then there were the wineries. Temecula is home to 40+ wineries, and now craft beer places are appearing. We visited two wineries, Bel Vino and Monte de Oro, tasting a flight from each winery and having the opportunity to tour the wine cave at Monte de Oro, sampling a good Pinot straight from the barrel. What a treat! Bel Vino has the more informal vibe while Monte de Oro the more majestic vibe, so be sure to hit up both and get the full perspective on wineries in the Temecula area. (And downtown Temecula offers even more options.)
In Temecula, land of rolling hills, green vines and tall trees blowing in the breeze, you can’t go far without running into another winery. There are tours available, hosted by car services, bus companies and other groups so you can imbibe all you want without having to worry about driving. Many of the wineries have broad schedules for tasting and some require you to make an appointment, and most have a store so you can purchase wine-related gifts; some offer tours and some have restaurants and/or cafes. Check ahead when you map out your visits.
Have you ever heard of the Western Science Center? I hadn’t! <The homeschooler in me hangs head in shame> We used to spend so much time studying archaeology and dinosaurs, and this museum would have been the perfect place to learn more about California dinosaurs. Max the Mastodon is the mascot, complete with his very own Twitter account! Full of bones, skeletons and even an ultrasound of a dinosaur jaw, it’s an entertaining and educational place to spend the afternoon. Located in a very big building next to the acclaimed charter school, it’s easy to find and even offers some interactive movies in a surround-sound/view theater. When the mastodon moves, you feel it, and then you can go see his jaw in the next room over. Max will win you over!
Another place I’d never heard of before was Diamond Lake. We own an RV and have camped all over the country, yet Diamond Lake has escaped our exploration. We don’t have a boat, and Diamond Lake is popular with boaters. It’s currently very low, due to the drought, but it didn’t detract from its beauty as the sun was starting to set. Read more about it at their website, including the current boat restrictions. (Hopefully, the upcoming scary El Nino will reverse the water level damage.)
On our last night, we ate at the Maze Stone at the Country Club at Soboba Springs. What a history the Soboba Indians have, and you can read more about it here. It was too dark to explore the country club very much, but what we did see was rustic yet beautiful, influenced by its location and creators, and rich with a cozy, comfortable air. The food was fantastic, the service impeccable and the staff as polite and attentive as you could want. We finished our meal with a bread pudding that was one of the best I’ve ever had, and we really enjoyed our time chatting with everyone and getting to know one another more before we parted ways the next day.
My stay in the San Jacinto Valley was full of charm, education and fun. Where else do you see this as you’re driving down the road to go wine tasting? (Thank you, Michael, for being so accommodating, going in a big circle and pulling over so we could catch the photo of this horse that we could swear turned and smiled at us.)
I loved my “tiny house” cottage at Golden Village, including the sunsets through the palm trees every night. The resort is so expansive, it takes a few tours to see it all, but I think I achieved it.
We were allowed to peek inside the new models being built, the eco-friendly model and all the amenities available to guests, including the pickle ball courts, shuffleboard area (built to Olympics specs) and the gym.
No matter what you’re looking for in an RV resort, Golden Village Palms offers it, ensuring your comfort and enjoyment, all within a short drive of all the places I’ve mentioned. Food, entertainment, outdoor activities, museums, shopping and more, the San Jacinto Valley has it all.