When it comes to weekend trips around LA, chances are you’ve done the Palm Springs thing, drank a lot wine in Santa Barbara, and taken whatever you need to take to find enlightenment in Joshua Tree. But two days of peace and quiet in Idyllwild? Not so much. The tiny town in the San Jacinto Mountains (above Palm Springs) is still a bit of an unknown for most LA weekend warriors, but with prime hiking trails, Yosemite-like scenery, and a downtown that feels like a Joshua Tree in the woods, that needs to change. Don’t come to Idyllwild expecting windsock stores and keychain shops. Think community acupuncture centers, rowdy wine tasting rooms, and live music in just about every establishment that is open for business. Frankly, you’ll be hard-pressed to get to it all in one weekend. But this guide is here to help you make it happen.
There isn’t a more popular restaurant in Idyllwild than Cafe Aroma. This all-day spot has a menu for every part of the day, and you should expect the whole town trying to get in here every part of the day. That said, the best time to go is during lunch - when everyone else is hiking and you can take advantage of their nice indoor/outdoor space, listen to some live music, and become acquainted with the joy of eating a grilled panini with apple slices in the middle.
No one comes to Idyllwild for a fancy night out, but if you’re going to have one dinner outside of your questionably-decorated cabin rental, make it at Ferro. The family-run Italian restaurant has a big menu full of Italian staples, and everything is good. The charcuterie, the caesar, and the bolognese all need to hit your table, but it’s the salami and mushroom pizza that you’ll be thinking about the morning after. Also, in a town with a strong back patio game, Ferro’s is the best.
We really respect places with good name puns and good coffee. Higher Grounds has both. Smack in the center of downtown, this little coffee shop is the place to be from 7-9am, when seemingly the entire town hangs out on the porch to chat about the big news of the day (a.k.a. the weather). They have a decent pastry selection, but we recommend grabbing your coffee and heading somewhere else for breakfast.
Idyllwild revolves around hiking and that means breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The little town has tons of options, but Tommy’s needs to be your first stop. Located just a few minutes walk up from downtown, this tiny Swiss restaurant serves a fantastic breakfast with omelettes, homemade rosti (Swiss hash browns), and a great front patio where you can flaunt your dog.
Idyllwild is a town that likes to turn in early, but there is one place where things go until 2am and it’s Idyllwild Brewpub. The massive brewery is one of few options when it’s Saturday night and you can’t handle another game of Yahtzee and bad wine with your friends at the house. The place is always packed with people looking to get a little rowdy, drink house-made IPA, and dance to the live honky-tonk band in the corner.
You just hiked eight miles in the beating sun, low-key rolled your ankle, and now you need a sandwich. Idyllwild Bake Shop has our favorite lunch in town and the quiet side patio is the ideal place to unwind after a never-ending hike up the side of a mountain. All of their sandwiches come on house-made sourdough bread and you can either build your own or choose from one of their specialty sandwiches (we recommend the latter). Also, this is a bake shop, so getting a giant cookie is a requirement.
If you aren’t really in the mood to drink IPAs all night at the Brewpub, there is another option downtown: Idyll Awhile Wine Shop. The little wine bar seems pretty quiet on the outside, but don’t be fooled. It turns into a party quickly. You can order any wine you want by the glass, but you’re going to want the wine tasting flight, which gets you four very full glasses of wine for $12 total. They have live music five nights a week, and if you get hungry, their charcuterie board is big enough to feed three adults.
Weekend lines at The Town Baker can get a bit unruly, so the trick is to get there early (before 10am), and focus on the grab-and-go pastries. Their cinnamon rolls and sticky buns are massive and the ideal snack for the car ride back down the mountain to reality. If you go on a Sunday, the farmer’s market happens right next door, where you can stock up on produce for the week.