Idyllwild Delights: Lodging - Restaurants - Information
Idyllwild is a unique little village located more than a mile high and filled with large oaks, tall pines and sweet smelling cedar trees. It's one of the top 100 art towns in the US. It has about a dozen exceptional restaurants and eateries, that are each amazing in their own right. It's set apart from any other place you've probably ever visited and has been voted second as the best small resort towns to visit. I believe Telluride is listed as number one.
Idyllwild is a small town hidden away in Southern California’s San Jacinto Mountains. For those unfamiliar, the San Jacinto Mountains are located in Riverside County about 90 minutes east of Orange County. Unlike other Southern California mountain towns such as Big Bear that are geared towards the sporty types, Idyllwild indulges the art lovers and foodies. All the shops and restaurants are locally owned, which adds to the uniqueness of every shop and restaurant. For a town with a population under 4,000, it is quite amazing the number of fantastic restaurants and artists that are in this small area. Seriously, you would think you were in a much bigger city with the number of galleries and quality of dishes being served up in Idyllwild.
You have many options to choose from and I'm listing some of my favorites. The lodging below are all within a two minute drive to Amore Retreat. I've experienced them firsthand and know their innkeepers, so I am able to recommend them with confidence. When you make your reservation, please mention Dr. M.P. Wylie recommended them.
Creekstone Inn: creekstoneinn.com 951-659-3342 - Enjoy the rustic luxury of the Creekstone Inn and Laurie's friendly greeting. Out of the nine well decorated theme rooms, my favorite is "Fall." Yet you can't go wrong with any of them. The inn doesn't serve meals, but opens the kitchen to their guests and is within easy walking distance to a few Idyllwild's finest restaurants.
The Fireside Inn: www.thefiresideinn.com 951-659-2966 - Be warmly greeted by the owner Pam, and feel like you just arrived at a family member's rustic guest cabin. Small kitchens are provided and, best of all, the third night is free. You can bring along Fido, as this is one of the few Idyllwild lodgings welcoming pets. If you're into shopping, receive a 10% discount at Wooley's, an upscale gift shop with reasonable prices.
Grand Idyllwild Lodge B&B: grandidyllwildlodge.com 951-659-2383 - Grand luxury at a mountain boutique lodge. Breakfast, spa services, fitness room, sauna, unique suites - new one of a kind first class in Idyllwild. Brad and Jacki the innkeepers are foodies so they won't disappoint you in restaurant suggestions.
New Spirit Vacation Homes: newspiritvacationhomes.com 951-659-3100 - Experience some of the finest homes and cabins in Idyllwild. Let Monica know your needs and she'll be happy to match you with the right home for your stay in one of our quiet woodsy neighborhoods.
The Rainbow Inn B&B: rainbow-inn.com 951-659-0111 - Your stay at the Rainbow Inn includes a healthy and delicious full breakfast in their beautiful guest dining room or on their magnificent deck. Enjoy peace and quiet and Strawberry Creek in their backyard. It's easily accessible to the village and restaurants. John the innkeeper knows good hiking trails and where to go to get great photos.
Silver Pines Lodge, Village & Homes: silverpineslodge.com 951-659-4335 - Has numerous lodging options and it's worth exploring their website to see the amazing variety.
Strawberry Creek Inn B&B: strawberrycreekinn.com 951-659-3202 - Under new ownership, management and being updated, revitalized and refreshed while retaining it's charm and personal character. Even though the B&B is located on the 243 Hwy, you never know it once you check in. You're only steps from Strawberry Creek and walking paths to the village. You'll find hammocks and patio settings under the well-shaded pine and cedar trees.
Quiet Creek Inn quietcreekinn.com 951-468-4208 - Sits on seven beautiful quiet acres, along Strawberry Creek, with walking trails. Each little cabin is a suite, with very small kitchenettes and a short drive to town. You won't be disappointed.
Vacation Rentals by Owner vrbo.com - Check out the many beautiful private homes and cabins in the area. Often less if you rent by the week.
Idyllwild is one of the few destinations to travel to where the meal budget may be the biggest part. In Idyllwild, eating is recreation! I’m not sure what drives so many great chiefs here, but it sure makes for the yummiest of small towns you'll ever visit. The hardest part about visiting Idyllwild is making enough time and room in your gut to dine at them all. Listed are some of my favorites.
Café Aroma is a long time favorite on the Hill. Even with the recent remodel to provide more covered outdoor seating it provides a cozy living room vibe, comforting Italian cuisine and live music. It has a very small main dining room, so reservations are necessary on busy nights. The crave-worthy dish, to some, is the Feta Fettuccine Verde. The combination of feta cheese, tomatoes, onions, kalamata olives, spinach and pine nuts is simply heavenly! It’s all about the pine nuts!!! Plus, if you're a garlic lover, this is the place for you, along with their home baked breads and daily specials. Open for breakfast Saturday and Sunday's, lunch and dinner everyday of the week except Tuesdays. (L&D) 951-659-5212 cafearoma.org
Ferro's is one of the most recent additions to Idyllwild’s culinary culture and is a modern Italian style restaurant. And was rated one of the Top 100 Diner's Choice Awards by Open Table in 2016 and 2017. Ferro's restaurant has an amazing outdoor patio with a huge wood burning pizza oven, surrounding bar and outdoor concert area. If you visit, the star of the show is of course the brick oven pizzas. My favorite is the Formaggio Di Capra with Goat cheese, leeks, scallions, garlic confit and Neuske’s bacon, and it's fantastic. I've heard others also rave about their Lasagne made with wild bore and beef. Full bar, often live music under the pines and awesome entrees. Closed Wednesdays. (D) 951-659-0700 ferrorestaurant.com
Fratello’s Ristorante & Pizzeria is another new Italian restaurant in town and also has a wood burning pizza oven.The atmosphere is warm, inviting and very romantic. Every dish is authentic and delicious! My favorite is the Butternut Squash Raviolis. And you wouldn't believe the length of the dessert menu, so save room to explore your many options. Closed Mondays. (L&D) 951-659-3900 fratellosidyllwild.com
Gastronome is a classic and one of the first restaurants to open in Idyllwild and still keeps their generous menu to delight your palate. The traditional dinner house style menu serves up succulent filet mignon, decadent rack of lamb, and buttery lobster. Plus, many choices from salads to sandwiches and endless entrees. Nature art and big stone fireplace complete the cozy cabin vibe and an outdoor patio. Full bar and usually a very quiet restaurant with no music. Open seven days a week lunch and dinner. (L&D) 951-659-5055 gastrognome.com
Idyology is really funky, but at the same time bizarrely elegant. The eclectic décor of steer horns, crystals, candles, carpets, and Victorian furniture complement the fun flair on country favorites. Their buffalo burgers are awesome along with their onion rings and BBQ sauce. Serving organic, fresh food with a unique hillbilly mountain loving twist. Consider the outdoor patio over-looking Strawberry Creek. Full cocktail bar and a pool table off the dining room. Closed Monday and Tuesdays. (D) 951-659-5962 idyology.org
Mile High Café is an Asian fusion restaurant with cuisine much more exciting than the name suggests. Sizzling rice soup, Yaki Sopa, Udon Soup, and Bibimbap are just some to name a few. If you've never had a Monte Cristo sandwich, this is the place to go for lunch. It's an unexpected surprise to find in the mountains! (B&L) 951-659-2008 milehighcafe.net
Additional Eateries, Wine Bar and Brew Pub
Idyllwild Bake & Brew: New in town, yet if you want a grilled sandwich this is the place to go. They'll also whip up a picnic basket for you, with sandwiches, chips and fresh baked cookies. (B&L) 951-659-4145
Idyllwild Brew Pub is new in Idyllwild and is awesome - possibly one of the best brew pubs in America. They also offer wine, a full bar and select dishes. Open 5pm weekdays and 2pm weekends, closed Tuesdays.951-659-0163 idyllwildbrewpub.com
Idyllwild Ice Cream and Jerky you name it they've got it.
Higher Grounds: With this coffee house you won't miss Starbucks not being on the Hill. If you want to grab a quick cup of coffee and a muffin, this is the place to go. I've heard their "Cozy Cabin Latte" is yummy. 951-659-1379
Idyllwild Pizza Company: Order in or take back to your cabin for one of the grandest gourmet pizzas. If you can't decide which one, I recommend trying the Tahquitz pizza. This is also a sports bar, so don't expect it to be quiet. (L&D) 951-659-5900 www.IdyllwildPizza.com
Idyll-Awhile Wine Bar: Wine and beer tasting and one of the best selections in town. Neighborhood hot spot, plus a tourist favorite and often live music. No one under 21 permitted. I also love their hot artichoke dip and skillet s'mores. Opens at Noon, seven days a week.
Middle Ridge Winery Tasting Gallery where wine, art and friends meet.
Mountain Center Cafe: Very well know to the locals and a short five minute drive to Mountain Center. Basically, good home cooking. (B&L)
La Casita: This is the real deal when it comes to Mexican food. Don't miss Monday and Thursday $1 Taco Night and enjoying the deck. Nothing fancy about this location and it's been around for a long time and super busy at times, but you can order in and take out. (B,L&D) 951-659-6038 idyllwildlacasita.com
Lumber Mill Bar & Grill: I get the message that several restaurants' claim to fame is their hamburger, yet this one certainly has variety, including buffalo burgers. I love their sliders and fish tacos. Opens at 11am, seven days a week. (L&D) 951-659-0315 idymill.com
The Red Kettle: Is a busy place in town for breakfast and justifiably so. Opens 7am-2pm, seven days a week. (B,L)
The Town Baker: Know to many of the locals, but off the beaten path for coffee, breakfast and lunch. Huge cinnamon rolls to die for. Opens 6:30am-4pm and closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. (B&L)
Tommy's Kitchen: Salad bar, plus other goodies like tuna salad and homemade waffle fries. Opens 8am-2pm and closed Mondays and Tuesdays. (B,L)
My Eating Out Favorites:
Most of the restaurants in town are either breakfast & lunch, or lunch & dinner; and a few dinner restaurants are closed on either Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays, so consider this when making dinner plans. Here are some of my favorites:
Breakfast: The Red Kettle and Mountain High Cafe serves home style food with BIG portions. The Town Bakery and Idyllwild Bake & Brew are excellent and Tommy’s Kitchen won't disappoint.
Lunch: La Casita for Mexican food. Cafe Aroma, Gastronome, Fratella's, Mile High Cafe, Idyllwild Pizza Company and Lumber Mill all offer a relaxing lunch and all serve salads, sandwiches and entrees.
Dinner: My favorite is the new Ferro's Italian Restaurant (on Cedar St), reservations highly recommended and closed on Wednesdays. Gastronome has the most beautiful ambiance by far, and great Cream Brule. They are open 7 days a week and take reservations for lunch and dinner. Cafe Aroma is very intimate and trendy and you can often hear live music, reservations recommended, and they are closed on Tuesdays. Idyology is very fun. The food is great, and they stay open later than most places and closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Fratella's also scores high in my book and closed on Mondays.
Idyllwild was named one of the 100 Best Art Towns in America and that’s an amazing feat considering its size. The appreciation of art is prevalent as soon as you reach town with the presence of the Idyllwild Art Academy and their Summer Program. The academy is a residential high school that gives young artists pre-professional training and college preparatory classes. The summer program provides workshops for all ages in various forms of visual arts as well as performing arts. Both the academy and summer program draw thousands of students. That’s a lot of artists in one little town!
The juxtaposition of a small town, but big art community is exemplified in the art of film. Idyllwild has only one Movie Theater that’s only big enough to show one movie at a time and often new features changing weekly, and Idyllwild is also home to the annual Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema.
Then there is the Idyllwild Art Alliance, a non-profit organization with the goal of enhancing Idyllwild national art reputation. They offer support for local artists by helping them find opportunities to display their art and holding numerous events throughout the year.
There are over eight official galleries in Idyllwild. If you love art, it is a bit overwhelming the variety of mediums displayed all over town. There are mineral galleries, fine art galleries and more. However, there is one gallery that happens to be the favorite of many, the beauty of Idyllwild natural landscape no doubt inspires many of the artists in town.
The support of this art community is extensive in Idyllwild. Local artists’ work is not only proudly displayed in art galleries, but in various businesses throughout the town. For instance, at most of the restaurants in town the two worlds, art and food, come together. On the wall of many restaurants, and definitely the ones I listed above, have displayed art from local artists. In fact, Café Aroma is not only a restaurant, but an art gallery. One of the dining rooms is even called “the gallery.” A good dish is art in itself, but imagine dining while surrounded by visual art.
Idyllwild folks love music and almost everywhere you go in town has a live music performance for all palates. Fratello’s has live music on their patio, Jo’Ann’s has the beer garden rocking every weekend to outdoor BBQ and classic rock favorites, Café Aroma has live music in their main dining room or outside deck, often with an intimate and folksy vibe, and Idyology has live music in the bar and outdoor patio. Ferro's is not only a great place to hang out with locals at the pizza bar, but it also aims to be a reputable music venue in the area. Both Idyll-Awhile Wine Bar and the new Idyllwild Brew Pub also offers music. The hills are alive with the sound of music in Idyllwild, for music lovers.
Needless to say, Idyllwild is a full sensory experience. Taste great food. See the beauty of nature and art. Hear the rhythms of great music any time of day. Idyllwild may be small, but it sure has a lot going on. I love letting people who have never heard of Idyllwild about their amazing food and beautiful surroundings. The feeling I receive from my beloved mountain town can best be described as pure satisfaction, peace and relaxation. Come see for yourself. I know you’ll love it, too!
Almost every gift store in Idyllwild is open from 10 am until 5 pm. A few of my favorites are Wooley’s, Idyllwild Gift Shop, Candy Cupboard, and Idyllwild Ice Cream, all a few doors down from the theater. Prairie Dove has fashionable women’s clothing and Everett’s Minerals has beautiful jewelry and Mountain Paws is a pet boutique, all a few doors up from the theater. Across from the theater are Middle Ridge Winery and Idyll-Awhile Wine Bar. In The Fort provides many little shops worth exploring: The Spruce Moose is a fun shop of woodland gifts, Coyote Red's Country Gourmet is packed with goodies, especially an amazing choice of Jerky. The Toy Shop if you have little ones at home and Earth & Fire - paint ceramics and bring along your own bottle of wine to enjoy. Up at the top of North Circle you’ll find Fern Valley Emporium which is full of antiques and collectibles.
There are hundreds of official hiking trails both in the State wilderness and the Federal wilderness. The only difference is that in state wilderness, you cannot take dogs. All official wilderness hiking trails require that you sign in at the Ranger Station in town, mainly as a precaution so if you turn up missing, they know where to start looking for you. The only trail that you don’t need a hiking permit for is the Ernie Maxwell “Scenic Trail” - this easy, scenic, 2.6 mile (one-way) hike begins at 6400 feet and crosses seasonal streams along the way. It descends 700 feet from Humber Park. It is a good walk for beginning botanists and many different species of trees can be found along the way. There are also good views of Suicide and Lily Rock. Don’t underestimate the Mountain; many have done so and been hurt. Dress appropriately, stay on marked trails, take plenty of water, and if you can’t see the trail due to snow, turn back.
There are many trails where mountain bikes are allowed, unfortunately they are difficult to find without a local who knows them. The ranger station has a map of fire roads that you can ride on, but if you want to find a good single track, talk to the folks at The Hub Cyclery. They will point you in a direction appropriate for your skill level. You can also RENT Mountain bikes at The Hub Cyclery, 951-659-4070 hubcyclery.com
Strawberry Creek is occasionally stocked in the spring. Lake Hemet is approximate 15 minutes away in Garner Valley. Rental boats are available, as well as fishing supplies, and licenses. Lake Fulmore is approximate 20 minutes away on Hwy. 243 toward Banning. Fishing is done from the shore, and a pleasant walking trail around the lake with picnic benches and bathrooms; also no supplies are available at the lake itself. Licenses are available at Village Hardware in the center of town. Children under 16 do not need a fishing license.
Located 1/2 mile north of Idyllwild off Hwy. 243. The Nature Center is open from 9 – 4:30 Tuesday – Sunday. A slide show of Idyllwild’s history and many displays on the logging industry, ancient Cahuilla Indians, and local wildlife are in the center. A self-guided 1/2 mile nature hike with ancient Indian bedrock mortars is very interesting, and guided nature walks are held Saturday & Sunday. There are several other trails out of the Nature Center from easy to moderate difficulty and up to 5 miles in length. Entrance is $2 for adults, $1 for children and $1 for Dogs.
Idyllwild Visitor's Guide and Map: These are excellent for exploring additional restaurants, lodging, shopping, and art galleries. Provides information on recreational activities such as hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, and fishing. Lists Idyllwild Arts' free plays and concerts and local movie theater showings. Includes information on upcoming events and a local map will be provided in your "welcoming gift bag" upon arrival.
Weather and Road Conditions: A good idea to check before you hit the road.