When Old Man Winter makes his appearance every year, my husband and I snowbird south to Hemet, California, in the San Jacinto Valley, and The Golden Village Palms (GVP) RV park becomes our home away from home. Although there’s more than enough summer-camp-type activities to keep us totally content, this year we venture beyond this lush recreational playground and discover there’s even more that waits just beyond our RV door.
To Market to Market: Local produce and tasty pastries line up next to beaded jewellery and souvenirs. Outdoor markets are big in this region and the prices are down-right cheap! On Saturday mornings, check out the artisans and farmers who congregate in downtown Hemet, then head south-east to Winchester Flea Market where you'll find everything from flowering trees to tweeting cockatiels. If you're into driving a little further, Old Town Temecula is another shopper's paradise. All the goods at this open-air arena are certified and home grown. Savour the natural honey and yummy goat cheese. And come at lunchtime when fish tacos are served hot off the grill. They're out of this world!
For the past twenty-five years, College of the Desert (in Palm Desert) has also been a bargain-hunter's delight. With over three hundred vendors you're bound to find that one-of-a-kind treasure. And when it comes to markets, there's nothing quite like the Palm Springs Villagefest. Every Thursday night, the swanky Palm Canyon Drive transforms into a happening heyday. Bistros and boutiques partner up with artisans and entertainers. Veggies, flowers and gems unite with snacks, sweets and socializing. It's a huge crowd-pleaser!
And if you don't want to stray very far from your RV door, no worries. A farmer's market comes to GVP every Tuesday, so goodness is guaranteed for your entire stay.
Glorious Golf - There are a number of courses within a short drive of the resort and most are a third the price that we pay here in Canada. Echo Hills, a recently reconstructed nine-hole par 3 charges less than ten dollars a round. On Thursdays, Golden Era, rolls out the verdant carpet for GVP guests. Thirty dollars per couple gets you circling its regulation-length nine holes - and that's driving a cart. For an additional seven dollars each, they throw in the full meal deal! Seven Hills is another steal. In the afternoons their eighteen hole, par 72, is a measly twenty-two dollars. Comparably priced, is the championship, Hemet Golf Club. Even higher-end courses, like our favourite, Diamond Valley Golf Club, are dirt cheap! This gorgeous gem, backed by the San Jacinto peaks, sprawls over four-hundred and fifty lush Hemet Valley acres. Bunkers, dog-legs and sand traps all provide the challenge. Desert grasses, velvety greens, manicured fairways make it all worthwhile.
GVP also offers an organized golf program and by signing up, all guests get a deal on green fees and assurance of tee times.
Hiking the Hills: The San Jacinto, Santa Rosa and San Bernardino mountains picturesquely frame the flatlands of Riverside County. They spring up from arid valleys, host intriguing craggy canyons and are home to countless hiking trails. For easy saunters, close to Hemet, meander the well-marked routes that squiggle through Simpson Park, skirt the many miles that circumvent Diamond Valley Lake or head to the eight thousand acres that embrace the lovely Lake Perris. As you'll see on this website, the valley is peppered with parks where you can play and plod all day. http://sanjacintovalley.info/parks.html
There are also lots of ascending options if you want to bump it up a notch, such as the ridge routes that view Whitewater Canyon, the ladder climbs in the steep-sided Painted/Ladder Canyons or the pine-canopied trails that traverse upward from the quaint mountainside town of Idyllwild. Devil's Slide is just one of the popular pathways that'll kick your heart rate into overdrive. (snow permitting!)
Every Tuesday morning a hiking group from GVP head off in search of a trodden trail, so feel free to join in. Or if you'd rather stick close to the RV homestead, just head out the back gate. The boulder-studded hills that frame the resort's backdrop provide a half-decent workout and their summits boast a pretty panorama of the entire San Jacinto Valley.
Additional Must-Do's: For those who want some hiking without all the hoofing, hop aboard the Palm Springs aerial tram (world's largest of its kind). You'll be whisked to the 8,500 ft ridge top in just ten minutes where there's one heck of a vista and a network of heavenly trails ranging from casual rambles to challenging ascents like the 10,800 foot-high San Jacinto Peak. And before making the descent, make sure to re-fuel at either the casual Pines Café or savvy Peaks Restaurant where their delicious options are accompanied by Coachella Valley vistas.
Maybe staying grounded is more your thing. If so, Desert Adventures provides the thrill without the uphill. Take a jeep ride through narrow canyons or an echo tour into Joshua National Park. While being riveted in the present, you'll also step back to the past, when learning about the legends of the Cahuilla people who once ruled this land.
For more recent San Jacinto Valley history, there are guided tours through the Estudillo Mansion, a stately brick residence that was originally built in 1884 by the region's first postmaster, Francisco Estudillo Jr., and to discover this area's Ice Age roots, Hemet's state-of-the-art Western Science Centre houses everything from giant mammoth and mastodon models to nearly a million archaeological artifacts and paleontological specimens.
You think that's it? Not a chance! Orange Empire Railway Museum appeases the train buffs, Perris Valley Indoor Skydiving satisfies the adventuresome and Ramona Bowl lures in the theatre lovers. Christmas, spring and summer performances at this outdoor amphitheatre have been going strong since 1923.
Yes, there's something for everyone in and around the city of Hemet -but that's only if you can steal yourself away from all the fun stuff at Golden Village Palms. Pickleball, volleyball, shuffleboard and a high-tech fitness centre embrace a network of shimmering pools. Add in tribute bands, comedy nights, games, crafts and special events to the chock-a-block full calendar and what do you have? A community of happy campers. It's no surprise that GVP was ranked one of the best RV parks in 2014 by the Good Sam RV Travel Guide and Campground Directory. It's the perfect snowbird getaway. And, for us, it beats any summer camp!
Recommendation: The adjacent, Hampton Inn and Suites www.HemetSuites.HamptonInn.com offers a discounted rate to friends and family who are visiting RVers at GVP.
If you go:
What to do:
City of Hemet: http://www.cityofhemet.org/
Golf courses: http://www.golflink.com/golf-courses/city.aspx?dest=Hemet+ca
Hiking trails: http://www.everytrail.com/best/hiking-hemet-california
Things to see:
San Diego: http://www.sandiego.org/
Palm Springs: http://www.visitpalmsprings.com/
DECEMBER 2014 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE
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