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California Dreaming

A Selection of Romantic Honeymoon Destinations


California Dreaming

Alisal Lake.

© Cynthia Blair.
If you live on the West Coast, you're in luck. California boasts a glittering array of top-flight hotels where you can indulge your honeymoon dreams without reaching for a passport. And by traveling (relatively) close to home, the money you save on airfare can go toward booking a room at a place you'll remember for a lifetime. Here are some of the best:

Auberge du Soleil
Rutherford, California
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This romantic 36-room hotel, nestled in a hillside overlooking the world-famous Napa Valley, recreates the elegant traditions of the finest country inns of Europe. Fifty miles north of San Francisco, the lush Napa Valley accounts for almost 25,000 acres of wine-making country, and Auberge du Soleil is the ideal base from which to explore it.

Guests stay in beautifully decorated private maisons, each with its own fireplace, bar, and TV.

Despite its intimate size, the Auberge offers a full range of recreational activities that include tennis and swimming. There's also the opportunity to glide in a hot-air balloon, soaring above the exquisite scenery formed by the area's olive groves and vineyards. Those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground can make a day of touring one or more nearby Napa Valley wineries to sample a variety of fine vintages, then linger over a picnic lunch, and perhaps pause at one of the area's antique stores.

The Auberge du Soleil restaurant offers exquisitely prepared meals that delight diners with French-country and nouvelle-California fare. The eatery is dominated by a magnificent fireplace, and each white-clothed table bears a lovely arrangement of fresh flowers.

Alisal Guest Ranch
Solvang, California
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The Alisal is a 10,000-acre working cattle ranch that projects sophisticated western hospitality. Many guests come for the horseback riding. The stables house 80-100 horses, and rides go out twice daily. Wranglers, who serve as grooms and guides, give lessons to anyone over seven.

Rated the No. 1 resort course by California Golf magazine, Alisal's 18 holes were designed by Billy Bell. There are also 7 tennis courts. Teaching pros and golf and tennis pro shops are on-site. Vans carry guests to 100-acre man-made Alisal Lake, where power, paddle, and sail boats are available for rental. Fishermen on this private lake don't need a license to pull stocked bluegill and largemouth bass from the waters. Accommodations feature wood-burning fireplaces. To ensure peace and quiet, there are no telephones or TV sets in the rooms.

Here in the Santa Ynez Valley, 45 minutes from Santa Barbara, there are several wineries. For hotel reservations, call 805-688-6411.

La Quinta Resort & Club
La Quinta, California
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The oldest resort hotel in the Palm Springs area, La Quinta opened in 1926 and quickly became a hideaway for Hollywood stars. World-class golf and tennis facilities have been added over the years. La Quinta's golf course was the first in the Coachella Valley, and today there are three Pete Dye-designed courses at La Quinta Golf Club. The 17th hole at the Dunes Course was selected by the PGA as one of the toughest 18 in the country. The staff offers guests lessons and golf clinics in addition to organizing tournaments for them. With 30 tennis courts, players have a choice of grass, Har-Tru, and hard surfaces.

In addition to La Quinta's Olympic-size main swimming pool, there are 24 smaller pools and 35 spas spread among the 640 guest casitas. True Hollywood luxury is found inside each of the resort's 68 white-washed casitas. They are individually decorated in Spanish Colonial, Mexican Folkloric, or Art Deco furnishings.

These one- to three-bedroom suites reflect a life-style that demands the best: among the furnishings are a large-screen TV with cable, VCR and stereo equipment, a wet bar, two-line telephones, an individual carport, a wood-burning fireplace, and private gardens that profice a magnificent view of the Santa Rosa mountains. Twice-a-day maid service is standard. In the large bathroom there's an oversized bathtub and a separate shower. Eight of the guest rooms are handicapped-accessible.

Hungry for fine-tasting food? Among La Quinta's five restaurants are Montañas, which serves continental cuisine with a California accent. Items such as gourmet pizza, lobster cioppino, and spinach papardelle enliven the menu. The Adobe Grill features regional Mexican dishes. And Morgans is a 1920's-style all-American cafe complete with daily "blue plate" specials. Restaurants in both the tennis and golf clubhouses serve breakfast and lunch.

The Mexican-style Plaza, bedecked with antique street lights, graceful arches, and hand-painted tiles, features two levels of shops and restaurants and is the centerpiece of the resort. It's also a great place to stroll in the moonlight...

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