Located less than 100 miles southeast of Los Angeles, Temecula and Murrieta, California, are known for two things: natural beauty and vineyards. From hiking in the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve to antiquing in Old Town, the area offers numerous opportunities for weekend and day-trip visitors to unwind and explore. Sample Local Wines Temecula beckons visitors to savor local wines at more than 35 wineries. If you're a fan of cabernet sauvignon or mourvedre or are hoping to sample a varietal you haven't yet tried, Temecula is the place for you, as it's known for its diversity and central location -- a manageable drive from Los Angeles, San Diego or Palm Springs. Take a chauffeured tour to area wineries. Having a driver who doubles as a knowledgeable tour guide allows you to imbibe while someone else does the driving. Hike the Ecological Reserve You'll get more than exercise when you set out to hike through the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve in Murrieta. A small entrance fee supports the 9,000-acre reserve, which protects 49 endangered, threatened, or rare animal and plant species, as well as unique ecosystems such as the Engelmann oak woodlands. Hikers can take advantage of level and cleared pathways, which are great for either novice hikers or families with small children. There are numerous picnic and rest spots off the trails. Approximately 3 miles from the main entrance, you'll encounter the two oldest standing structures in Riverside County: the Moreno and Machado adobes. The adobes, which once served as bunkhouses for cowboys, date back to around 1846 and are shaded by a 400-year-old tree. The reserve takes on a magical quality when the flowers are in bloom. Explore Old Town Temecula Preserved to exude a "California Gold Rush" feel, Old Town Temecula offers visitors history and numerous epicurean and cultural enticements. While the offerings are varied, the area is small enough for you to park your car and explore on foot. Olive oil and wine tastings are plentiful, and restaurants -- featuring a range of culinary styles from Cuban to Mediterranean -- line the streets offering delights to satisfy cravings. If a weekend stay is in the cards, book a room at the Palomar Inn, a 10-room historical landmark built in the 1920s and located on Old Town Front Street. Once you've made overnight plans, book tickets to a show at the Old Town Temecula Community Theater. The contemporary theater has two venues for small- and large-scale productions. Before leaving town, stop and "mine" for gems in the Old Town antique shops. Race the Go-Kart Speedways When the need for speed takes over, it is time for go-karts – and Murrieta has them. You can spend the day racing the 1500-foot racing track at Mulligan Family Fun Center, or enjoy indoor pole position racing in high-performance electric go-karts at Pole Position Raceway. Go-karts for children are available, as well as two-seaters and adult single-seaters.
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