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  • Writer's pictureKathy Condon

5 Things to See on a Trip To Idyllwild

Updated: Aug 10

Town Center Sign in Idyllwild list the retail store.
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.

Highway 74 through Palm Desert and Highway 243 from Banning, California, are two ways to get to this community. 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.

Pro Tip: Either way you go, be forewarned. The road to Idyllwild can be a bit scary, for it clings to the mountain edge in numerous places on both routes.

1. Time for a Cup of Coffee When You Arrive in Idyllwild

Once you are in Idyllwild, the driver will be ready to park the car and unwind a bit before exploring the town begins. Pure Bean Idy 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

A wonderland opens before you as you walk under the Idyllwild Gardens. 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.

Two glasses on table at Idyllwild Brewpub. One glass of water with a straw. The other filled to the brim with a dark IPA
Time for lunch at Idyllwild Brewpub and a dark IPA

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's 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.

A view of the glass case at El Bueno Cacao filled with various truffles, candy bars and other desserts.
El Bueno Cacao - Photo Credit Nadine Conger

5. A Chocolate Break at Idyllwild

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 basking 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. Many galleries, unique retail stores, and restaurants are 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 760-902-3094

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