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California’s 3 Best Summer Escapes

Stretching 840 glorious miles along the Pacific, California is a goldmine of breathtaking views and vacation hot spots. If you’ve yet to dive into the cobalt blue waters of Lake Tahoe or watch the sun set over Napa’s lush vineyards, this is the summer to do it. Allow Surf Air to take you there—and get you an amazing hotel (with an exclusive rate) upon arrival.


Here’s how to Summer with Surf Air.

Tahoe/Truckee

Pristine waters and snowy peaks define the unparalleled calm of Lake Tahoe, North America’s largest alpine lake located on the California-Nevada stateline. Welcome to High Sierra paradise. Go the family-friendly route with activities like boating, hiking, and picnics. Or, if it’s a weekend just for grown-ups, head to the Nevada side for a night of gambling and live entertainment. Here’s where to stay, eat, and play around glistening Lake Tahoe.

Stay

Originally built for the 1960 Winter Olympic delegation, the Plumpjack Squaw Valley Inn’s stylish two-story hotel has been a go-to for skiers and travelers ever since. The lodge-like atmosphere and bucolic grounds offer the perfect weekend respite. Soak up spa amenities and lush accommodations in each room. Round off a day of boating with a cocktail and appetizer at the cozy hotel bar.

Bonus: As part of the the Surf Air Hotel Collection, Members get preferred room rates. Ask your membership manager for details.

Eat

First things first. For breakfast, hit up the Fire Sign Café on Highway 89. Popular amongst locals and vacationers alike, the intimate diner will fuel you up with a scrumptious menu of homemade pastries, salmon that’s smoked on-site, and other sweet and savory breakfast options.

A look inside the Fire Sign Café

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Take in the awe-inspiring views of Lake Tahoe from the Heavenly Gondola, an eight-passenger car that will take you from the middle of town about 2 ½ miles up the mountain in just 15 minutes. The summer months are the perfect time to embark on one of three hikes around the mountain top, finish with lunch at the Tamarack Lodge.  

The Vikingsholm: Tahoe’s hidden castle

Lora Knight, the original owner of the Vikingsholm, had this precise copy of a 1,200-year-old Viking castle built out of materials native to the area. Design and history buffs will get a kick out of the 38-room estate, located on the shore of Emerald Bay Lake, complete with Scandinavian antiques and period reproductions.

Hit the lake in a motorboat and zoom over to Fannette Island where you’ll find the ruins of a stone structure known as the Tea House. Located at the 150-foot peak of the island, the Tea House was originally built in 1928 so that Lora Knight’s (of Vikingsholm fame) guests could have a place to enjoy afternoon refreshments. The island is off-limits from February through mid-June to protect nesting Canada geese. The rest of the year it’s open for day use.

Eat, Again

After a full day on or around the lake, hit the Plumpjack’s outdoor hot tubs and refresh for dinner at one of Tahoe’s many notable eateries, like the Cottonwood Restaurant & Bar. Built on the site of a 1928-era warming hut built for the local ski club, the Cottonwood features a seasonal menu designed by executive chef David Smith. Choose from dishes like the famed garlic caesar salad, the chipotle cream linguine, or the marinated Wagyu beef bavette steak with béarnaise sauce.

A meal at the Plumpjack Cafe

If you’d prefer to stay close to home (or the hotel), opt for a meal at the Plumpjack Cafe, which Fodor’s calls “the epitome of discreet chic for serious foodies.” Here, chef Jack Connell draws on the local bounty for fresh, seasonal menu items like the sour apricot braised short ribs. Pair apps and entrees with a drink from their award-winning wine list.  

Santa Barbara

With wine country in its backyard, and a smorgasbord of fine fare and fun nightlife downtown, Santa Barbara rises to the top of Surf Air’s summer destination list. Idyllic ocean views, Spanish and Mediterranean-style architecture, and nearby wine country put Santa Barbara on the map long ago. Just ask Oprah. This paradise just up the coast from Los Angeles, and a short Surf Air flight from anywhere in the state, has become known among visitors as the “American Riviera”—for good reason. Here’s how to have your best trip to Santa Barbara.

Stay

As part of the Surf Air Hotel Collection, the Bacara Resort & Spa Santa Barbara offers exclusive rates to Surf Air Members—but that’s far from the only reason to stay there. The views, the architecture, even the envy-inducing room design beckon travelers from far and wide to hole up on Bacara’s elegant grounds. Get straight to relaxing with a treatment at their 42,000-square-foot spa and wellness center, offering facials, in-room (or on-balcony) massages, and a state-of-the-art fitness center.

Spend the afternoon hours lounging by one of the several pools on-site. Tip: two are “zero-edge” saline pools with ocean views.

Eat

Of course, there’s lots more to do outside the hotel, too. Surrounded by vineyards, with twice-weekly farmers’ markets serving up some of the best produce and seafood in the world—many to local restaurants—Santa Barbara’s food and drink scene is not to be missed.

Start the day at Bree’osh in the affluent Montecito area (maybe you’ll bump into Jeff Bridges) for mouthwatering pastries and fresh breads. The buttery brioche dough makes for some of the best croissants and cinnamon rolls. Or, for a more savory craving, ask them to slice open a bun and serve it with eggs and bacon.

Fresh pastries at the Bree’osh

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Good to start with a hearty serving of bread because no day in Santa Barbara is complete without checking out some of the nearby vineyards. Alma Rosa, overseen by the master of cool-climate Pinots and Chardonnays Richard Sanford, is an ideal stop on any wine tour. In the middle of their beautifully designed tasting room you’ll find a live olive tree named, charmingly, Olivia. Local varieties like Pinot Noirs and Syrahs can be found at other spots in and around Santa Barbara, like Cottonwood Canyon, Drieberg/Star Lane and Fess Parker.

Afterwards, head back to the Funk Zone, a lively area of bars, boutique tasting rooms, cafes, restaurants, and shops downtown. Opt for one of Sherry Villanueva’s spots like The Lark, Lucky Penny, or Loquita; or keep the wine tasting going at her latest gem The Helena Bakery, whose space is shared lovingly with the Santa Barbara Wine Collective and serves up sweet confections (from Villanueva) and savory morsels (from chef Bridget Bottoms).

If you can, plan your trip around a show at the Santa Barbara Bowl—similar in vibe to the Hollywood Bowl, but more intimate—for a show under the stars. This summer’s highlights include Tears for Fears, Diana Krall, and west coast favorite Jack Johnson.

The Santa Barbara Bowl

Napa Valley

Napa continues to lure visitors with its sprawling wine country and vast landscape of food and drink choices. For Surf Air Members, it’s a summer must. We’ll drop you right at Napa County Airport, just eight miles south of downtown, and set you up at the Meritage Resort with an exclusive room rate.

Tour the best of Napa with this Surf Air-approved guide.  

Stay

Revel in acre upon acre of sun-soaked vineyards at The Meritage Resort and Spa, complete with lavish amenities, scenic vistas, and several choice restaurants. Go for a spa treatment at their underground Estate Cave. Spend an afternoon poolside at the Terrace Bar. Dine at Siena, the award-winning restaurant that masterfully blends Italian and Californian flavors. Or follow a day of wine tasting at Crush Bar, an adult arcade of pool tables, bowling lanes, and big screen TVs.  

The Meritage Resort and Spa

Eat

The next best thing to room service is to start the day at Boon Fly Cafe, a charming farmhouse-style restaurant located at the Carneros Inn. Pick up their signature Boon Fly donuts or settle in for a full-fledged brunch.

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Traversing through wine country isn’t always easy, or practical since you’ll be drinking wine all day. However, the Napa Valley Wine Train, made up of historical first-class coaches from 1915, makes the perfect alternative. The train chugs its way through the valley revealing some of the country’s best wineries from Napa to St. Helena, all while serving fine wine and food along the way.

If you’re taking a breather from vino, stop by the di Rosa located off Carneros Highway, not far from downtown. This contemporary art museum displays an impressive array of work, all from Northern California artists, from the 1960s to present day.

di Rosa Contemporary Art Museum

Nestled high on the side of Napa’s Howell Mountain, Cade Winery is both stunning and state-of-the-art (with a LEED Gold Certification to prove it). Stop in for a tasting to sip layered cabernets and sauvignon blancs overlooking dramatic hillside vistas, or take the full tour to see the remarkable space where the magic happens—a barrel-lined cave carved into the mountain itself. On your way back, swing by Joseph Phelps Winery for an exquisite Terrace Tasting to complement your sunset view.

Eat, Again

Downtown Napa, a concentrated metropolis of Michelin-starred restaurants and accessible dives, makes for a great night out. Angèle Bar, a gem at the end of Main Street, serves up classic French dishes and spectacular views of the river. It’s notably one of the best patios in town. While the dining room, set in a former 1890s ship supplier, exudes charm and romance.

If you’re looking to mix up the California cuisine, try Morimoto Napa, a tribute to Iron Chef Morimoto. The uniquely detailed design (like distorted grapevines) make way for a memorable dining experience, as does the menu. Go big with the omakase or seafood tower, or sip on sake and snack on hamachi tacos at the bar.

Dishes at Morimoto Napa

Make this summer one to remember with Surf Air.