Things to Do in Temecula: Craft Breweries, Hot Air Balloon Rides & More

Temecula may be known as Southern California’s wine country, but vino isn’t the only reason to visit. In addition to nearly 50 wineries, Temecula also has a number of craft breweries, making it easy to put together a self-guided winery or brewery crawl (or both!), plus several distilleries and plenty of dining options, from casual eateries to white tablecloth fine dining. Any time of year is great for a visit, though it’s particularly picturesque in the fall, when vineyards are decked out in autumn colors and you can see beautiful panoramic views of golden leaves hanging on the vines. Ideally situated less than an hour from San Diego and about two hours from Los Angeles, Temecula has become one of Southern California’s favorite getaways, easily doable as a day trip, an overnight adventure, or a long weekend getaway. Whenever you decide to drop by, check out our favorite places and experiences in Temecula:

For the easiest, most chill tour ever, hop aboard an authentic, fully-restored 1914 San Francisco cable car and enjoy gorgeous, open-air views of wine country without the hassle of driving. Temecula Cable Car Wine Tours offers a five-hour adventure to three premium wineries that includes lunch. Prefer beer to wine? Try the Brews and Boos Haunted Brewery Tour, starting at Black Market Brewing for a kickoff beer, then visit two more breweries while your guide entertains you with spooky tales of the raucous, rowdy, and perhaps haunted history of the valley.
How to book: Reserve your tour online.

Located inside Devilicious Eatery in Old Town Temecula, Apparition Room is a particularly well-hidden speakeasy—you might walk by the unassuming entry a couple of times before you figure it out. Once inside, you’ll be transported back in time to a chic, quirky hideaway with a polished wooden bar and tufted banquette lounge seating. The bartenders craft perfect boozy libations or mocktails with a deft hand, and for something really special, check out the liquor cabinet affectionately known as Narnia for rare and expensive bottles. Nibbles include cheese or charcuterie platters and Taco Tuesday specials, or just step outside to Devilicious Eatery for shareable apps, stacked sandwiches, and burgers, and a trio of mac and cheese options. Apparition Room is open Tuesday-Sunday at 5 pm.
How to book: Text 951-514-6332 to book a reservation.

Doffo Winery

Named Temecula’s Winery of the Year in 2018, family-owned Doffo Winery is a go-to for lovers of Malbec and small-batch red wines. Founder Marcelo Doffo’s passion for vintage motorcycles is proudly displayed with the MotoDoffo Vintage Motorcycle Collection, which features over 200 restored motorcycles and scooters from around the world, including Ducati, Moto Guzzi, Gilera, Honda, CZ, Vespa, and others, making for a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. MotoDoffo has since expanded into an apparel line and its own wine collection, with three MotoDoffo red blends released annually. The winery also offers wine club members guest homes available for rent on the property, so you can wake up to the sun rising over the vineyard and your tastings are just a few convenient steps away.
How to book: Doffo has multiple outdoor seating areas, and reservations aren’t required for tastings, but are highly recommended, especially on weekends. Make yours via Tock.

Carter Estate Winery and Resort

We can’t call it champagne, but the sparkling wines at Carter Estate Winery (from Temecula winemaking pioneer Jim Carter, who also owns neighboring South Coast Winery), are produced with strict adherence to méthode champenoise. Grab a table on their patio and get a tasting flight of the different sparkling wines they produce, which are perfect for Temecula’s warm days. You can also get a tasting of the olive oils produced using the olive trees on property.
How to book: Tastings are on a first-come basis. Groups of 10+ should call 866-994-6379 for reservations.

So-Cal Sidecars

With so much to explore, it can be difficult to plan your itinerary. Sometimes it’s best to book a tour and enjoy the ride. Take a ride through the vines with So-Cal Sidecars, where your private chauffeur will pilot you around on a motorcycle kitted out with a two-seater sidecar. They also do brewery, food, specialty cocktail tours, and more, or you can add a thrilling, low altitude plane ride over Temecula Valley to your wine tasting adventure.
How to book:

Find descriptions of the various tours and make reservations online.

Wine Country Trails By Horseback

Saddle Up Wine Tours is an all-volunteer, non-profit ranch that uses its funds to rescue abandoned, neglected, or abused horses. Their wine tasting tours range from one to three hours, stopping at up to three wineries; Leoness Cellars, Somerset Winery and Robert Renzoni Vineyards. You can also ditch wine tasting altogether for trail tours, sunset and bonfire tours, riding lessons, and goat yoga.
How to book: Make reservations at their website.

Refuge Brewery

If you prefer hops to grapes, you’ll find quite a few brewery options in the industrial complexes north of Old Town, including Refuge Brewery. Specializing in Belgian-style ales, Refuge is perhaps best known for their award-winning Blood Orange Wit beer. The taproom offers 20 beers on tap, though, including prototypes of upcoming releases and barrel-aged brews.
How to book: Seating is on a first-come basis.

Relentless Brewing

Sour lovers know to head to Relentless Brewing, thanks to at least half a dozen sour beers on tap, including barrel-aged sours. If you’re not a sour fan, be at ease with the fact that there are a handful of stout and IPA options on the menu, plus rotating beer slushies.
How to book: Seating is on a first-come basis.

Batch Mead

Beer isn’t the only thing brewing in Temecula. The family-owned Batch Mead brews meads and hard ciders using mostly local ingredients—the lychee mead is made using fresh Hawaiian lychees and macadamia nut blossom honey. The tasting room is only open from 3-8 pm Thursday-Saturday and 12-5 pm Sunday, and is 21+.
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made online. Dogs are welcome, but please note it when you reserve your spot.

Small Barn Old Town

Old Town Temecula naturally has the most dining options in town, but one not to miss is Small Barn. Standouts on the Cal-fresh menu include a refreshing Chilled Watermelon and Heirloom Tomato Soup garnished with cucumber, micro basil, olive oil and serrano chili; organic Japanese Eggplant flourished with coconut milk broth, broccolini, pea tendrils, and spicy peanuts; and an Herb-Roasted Petaluma Chicken enriched with a pistachio basil pesto. Bonus: they have some of the best cocktails in town.
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made via OpenTable. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Cork Fire Kitchen

If lively Old Town isn’t what you had in mind for dinner, then head to Cork | Fire Kitchen. Temecula Creek Inn’s on-site restaurant offers a relaxed fine dining experience that uses herbs and greens grown in the chef’s own garden to showcase responsibly-sourced seafoods and meats. The 1855 Angus Beef Filet Mignon is the power plate on the menu, but Chef Matthew Steffen’s take on Crispy Skin Mallard Duck, which features beet roast, confit and grilled leeks, toasted pistachio polenta and caramelized fennel pesto is a must-try for our fast-approaching cozy season.
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made via OpenTable. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Vail Headquarters

Historic Old Town Temecula gives that vintage cowboy feel with buildings dating back to 1862, most of which have been given new life as restaurants and shops. Vail Headquarters is a good example of this; the former cattle ranch dates back to 1867 but has been restored to house all your hipster dreams from the cozy Daisy bar to a small-batch apothecary, a pottery studio, and plenty of dining options. Fuel up for the day with an iced coconut cream coffee from The Press Espresso.
How to book: Hours of operation vary.

California Dreamin' Balloon Adventures

A hot air balloon ride that highlights Temecula’s sloping valleys and lush vineyards complete with a sunrise backdrop is worth setting an early alarm clock. The flight takes 60-75 minutes and you’ll celebrate with a glass of champagne in the air or upon landing.
How to book: Make reservations online.

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Fiona Chandra is an Indonesian-born freelance food and travel writer but she now calls Los Angeles home. When not eating and traveling, she’s probably watching crime shows.

Mary Beth Abate is a San Diego-based freelance writer by way of Chicago and Los Angeles. Her hobbies include yoga, pickling and fermenting stuff, reading cookbooks and drinking fabulous gin. Keep up with her experiments @MaryBeth_Abate.

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