Day Trip to Idyllwild, California

An artsy community-minded village in the San Jacinto Mountains

This unincorporated town in the San Jacinto Mountains sits at an elevation of more than 5,400 feet, providing a stark contrast to the desert terrain below. The community-minded village with an independent spirit—and a dog as its symbolic mayor—has an outsized arts scene given its population (about 4,000), thanks in part to the internationally renowned Idyllwild Arts. The conservatory of arts education draws students from all over the globe and offers a continual roster of performances and programming open to the public. Other art offerings include chain saw artist David Roy’s hulking tree trunk sculpture, Harmony, which has stood as the town monument since 2010. Some visit to tap into their creativity, while others come to enjoy the scenery, shops, and restaurants that make Idyllwild a reliable getaway during warm summers or snowy winters.  


5 Things Found Around Town

1. Hikers and other outdoor explorers can visit the Idyllwild Nature Center for orientation and insight into the area’s history and habitat. The nearby hiking trails range from an easy half-mile loop to a challenging ascent along Summit Trail. (The Pacific Crest Trail also passes through the San Jacinto Mountains, starting at State Route 74.) 25225 State Route 243. 1-951-659-3850;

2. Don’t miss an opportunity to see a performance at Idyllwild Arts’ recently completed William M. Lowman Concert Hall, a stunning example of contemporary and eco-friendly design, for which L.A.–based Sander Architects took cues from the surrounding landscape and the cedarwood buildings on the campus. 52500 Temecula Road. 1-951-659-2171;

3. For a hands-on artistic experience, sign up for a workshop at Mountain Pottery and peruse the shelves to pick up handmade clay goods. 54716 N. Circle Drive. 1-707-241-5397;

4. Shop for vinyl records, phonographs, and other vintage treasures at Fern Valley Emporium. 54965 Pine Crest Avenue. 1-951-659-1926;

5. Owners Chris and Melody Johnston merge wine and fine art in their hybrid tasting room and gallery at Middle Ridge Winery. Sample Temecula-produced vintages and catch live music on weekends. 54301 N. Circle Drive. 1-951-659-9000;


3 Places to Dine

Ferro: Owners Frank and Lori Ferro bring Italian authenticity to Idyllwild with their Neapolitan-style pizzas and house-made pastas in an elegant-yet-casual setting that evokes a bit of the Old World. 25840 Cedar Street. 1-951-659-0700;

Idyllwild Brewpub: Pair the chicken wings slathered in a dirty-sticky sauce (a mixture of soy, barbecue, and stout) with a house-brewed IPA or Belgian-style saison. This eco-friendly restaurant—crafted by local artisans and designers—serves good American grub such as a classic cheeseburger, a chili dog, and a grilled cheese stuffed with an over-easy egg. 54423 Village Center Drive. 1-951-659-0163;

Idyology: A picturesque location on Strawberry Creek, a crowd of friendly people, just the right amount of decorative animal horns, and comfort food including succulent fried chicken and a serious burger give this restaurant everything you’d ever want and more in a mountain town lodge. 54905 N. Circle Drive. 1-951-659-5962.