• Kathy Condon

5 Things to See on a Trip To Idyllwild

Updated: Sep 10, 2021


Idyllwild Town Center a Shopping Paradise

For those living at sea level in the desert, this day trip is a nice reprieve from our high temperatures, which we experience each summer in Palm Springs. At 5500 ft., you can expect it to be 20 plus degrees cooler in Idyllwild, California.


There are two ways to get to this community: Highway 74 through Palm Desert and Highway 243 from Banning, California. In either case, you can expect very winding roads, so plan to take your time. The lookout about halfway up the mountain on Highway 74 provides a spectacular view of the Coachella Valley. This 75-mile drive will take about 1.5 hours, no matter which road you choose for your trip.


1. Time for a cup of coffee.


Once you are in Idyllwild, the driver will be ready to park the car and unwind a bit before exploring the town begins. Higher Grounds Coffee House, located in the town's circle, has every conceivable drink available to satisfy even the most discriminating person's tastes. You can grab a pastry and head out to the patio so you can start breathing in the fresh mountain air.


2. Explore the Gardens


As you walk under the Idyllwild Gardens sign, a wonderland opens before you. Various paths lead you to multiple kinds of plants and delightful garden art that causes you to smile and have you call your friend over to look at the artist's creativity.


When you least expect it, you turn a corner and discover a little oasis coaxing you to stop and relax on a colorful bench to take in the surroundings. Then there is a vintage trailer converted into a store containing several unusual items perfect for gifts. There is a garden-like shed filled with specialty food items in another area, many of which you probably have not encountered before on your shopping trips.


3. Time for lunch


If you like fish and chips, the Idyllwild Brew Pub on the edge of town is a great choice. It

is in the mall on Village Drive, along with the Fairway Foods Market, the area's largest

grocery store.


If you park your car in the mall area, your access to the Pub is down a stairway that brings visions of walking down one of those NYC fire escapes you see in the movies. A friendly hostess will welcome you. Tell her you want to sit at the window bar.


Once you are on your high-top stool, you will have a bird eyes view of the forest surrounding the Idyllwild area. With a glass of locally brewed IPA, beautiful scenery, and anticipating a delicious meal, I am betting you exclaim, Life is good!


4. A Little Shopping is Always in Order


I am not sure if the giant hat at the entrance or the merchandise inside makes Wooleys a must-stop on any visit to Idyllwild. Suppose you are looking for a hat, oh my, many choices, so their sign is more than appropriate.


If you decide to stay longer and didn't bring your hiking gear, you can easily supplement your wardrobe. Wooleys specializes in quality sheepskin, so you can find warm vests and jackets, which will be welcomed later in the year in colder climates or the cooler Coachella Valley winter evenings.


By the way, they are family-owned since 2001. You will also want to stop at their jewelry counter with natural stones if you dare.

El Bueno Cacao - Photo Credit Nadine Conger

5. A Chocolate Break


Once tucked away in one of the alleys lined with retail stores, El Bueno Cacao has a new home. It is in the same mall as the Idyllwild Brew Pub. The owners proudly welcome you to their new store and facility, where they make their chocolate creations in their adjacent kitchen.


Locals line up for their morning chocolate treats, some of which are paired with coffee. Then there is sipping chocolate, rivaling any you may have had in on a European trip.


More than once, I have watched first-time tasters of El Buen Cacao savoring a bite of their bar and bask in the release of flavors on their tastebuds. Just saying, you will be hooked on them. The good news is you can order more on their website once you get home.


If you haven't had a shake for a while, now is the time to break any diet. You will be glad you did for El Bueno Cacao shakes are superior to any chocolate shake I have ever tasted.


Suddenly, you look at your watch and realize it is 4:30 p.m. and time to head back to Coachella Valley. Take time to look at the meadows lined with mountain peaks before you start descending the mountain. In the distance, you will see picture-perfect ranches with white picket fences keeping horses safe while they graze in the green pastures.


Now that you have made this initial trip to Idyllwild, you know what to expect on your next visit. You know there are many galleries, unique retail stores, and restaurants waiting for you to discover them. Plus, this blog is about a summer trip. Imagine how beautiful the deciduous trees will be in the fall or covered with big fluffy flakes of snow in the wintertime.


Kathy Condon is a freelance journalist and travel writer. She is the Founder of the Palm Springs Insider Guide. Her book It Doesn't Hurt to Ask: It's All About Communication was named Best Book Finalist By USA Book News Kathy@kathycondon.net 760-902-3094 www.PalmSpringInsiderGuide.com





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