5 Fun Things to Do This Spring
Whether you're looking for a weekend getaway, a spring break destination, or just a reason to enjoy the warmer weather, there are plenty of great spring destinations across the country to visit. From traditional beach vacations to unique experiences in music and culture, below are five fun things to do and places to visit.
Soak up the sun in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
With 60 miles of breathtaking beaches and 14 unique coastal communities, there’s always something new and exciting to explore in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina—a popular beach trip destination. This year, several new attractions, developments, and restaurants are coming to this oceanside town. After being destroyed during Hurricane Matthew in 2016, the town of Surfside Beach is reconstructing their iconic pier, making it stronger and safer than ever before. The new pier will feature a restaurant and vendor space and is slated to reopen in spring of 2023.
Myrtle Beach will also soon be home to South Carolina's first man-made surf park, called Surfworks. The park's surfing lagoon will generate up to 1,000 waves per hour, with waves between 2-6 feet tall. The development will also include an amphitheater to accommodate up to 15,000 people, a surf school, a restaurant and a brewery. Plus, a new family entertainment complex is coming to Myrtle Beach’s Coastal Grand Mall in 2023. The 52,500-square-foot Stars and Strikes Getaway-n-Play will offer an immersive, augmented reality bowling experience, as well as an arcade, a multi-story laser tag arena, axe throwing and more.
This spring, the South Carolina beach town has a slew of newly opened restaurants to enjoy. First-time restaurant owners, Steve and Grace Harrington, moved to South Carolina looking for the best place to open their authentic Filipino restaurant, Kainan Filipino Eatery. The Conway restaurant serves up traditional Filipino breakfast items, appetizers, noodle dishes and desserts. Myrtle Beach resident Tina Littleton opened the Seawitch Cafe in October 2022 in The Market Common. The quaint cafe offers a variety of delicious breakfast staples, such as omelets, avocado toast, donuts and other pastries. With 40 years of New York-style deli experience, Don Jackson opened Don’s Deli with his son in fall of 2022. The Conway restaurant serves up New York-style sandwiches and a full line of desserts with customers raving about the deli’s delicious bites. A sister restaurant to the beloved Bubba’s Fish Shack, Bubba’s Fish Camp offers a beach-inspired menu with fried and grilled seafood along with meats smoked in-house. It’s also conveniently located right across from Broadway at the Beach. South Carolina Restaurateur of the Year in 2011 and South Carolina Chef Ambassador in 2018, Heidi Vukov, is opening a new ice cream and coffee shop this spring 2023. The shop titled,Coffee & Cream Cabana at Heidi’s Corner, will offer sixteen seasonal flavors of ice cream, homemade waffle cones, cookie ice cream sandwiches and ice cream cakes, as well as specialty coffees, light fare foods and treats.
Stop and smell the flowers in Columbus, Ohio
Take in a variety of botanical beauty throughout Columbus this spring, including along the Scioto Mile riverfront downtown, named one of the 21 Best Urban Parks and Trails for City-Dwellers by Men’s Journal and the perfect place for biking, jogging or walking. Visitors don’t have to travel to Washington, D.C. or Japan to take in cherry trees. Columbus is home to more than 5,000 of the iconic trees, with a high concentration in Franklin Park and Berliner Park. Franklin Park’s lower and upper ponds are lined with 80 cherry trees, making it a great location for a spring picnic.
See the trees during their peak bloom in early April during the 2023 Greater Columbus Cherry Blossom Festival. The second-annual event takes place April 1st-9th throughout Columbus with the final celebration happening April 8th at Franklin Park and featuring food trucks, entertainment, exhibits and cultural displays. Nearby, get up close and personal with hundreds of butterflies while also enjoying bright tropical blooms at Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens’ Blooms & Butterflies now through May 29.
Enjoy a spring getaway without breaking the bank by taking advantage of Experience Columbus packages and discounts. If visitors book a two-night stay through experiencecolumbus.com/hotels, they can choose from either two complimentary tickets to the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, two tickets to the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens or a free Lyft credit. Another way to save 20% at the city’s top attractions is by taking advantage of the Columbus Attractions Pass.
Go fishing in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina
If you want to take advantage of the warming weather, head to the North Carolina mountains for a great outdoor adventure. In the Jackson County area, tourists will also find great new dining options, hotels, and attractions. "This is an exciting year for Jackson County, NC," said Nick Breedlove, JCTDA’s Executive Director. “From the introduction of a luxurious lodging property in Sylva to a new eatery from some of our best local restaurateurs, the region is buzzing with anticipation. Now, visitors can discover our destination in a whole new light with fresh experiences that will leave a lasting impression."
Outland Great Smoky Mountains, a new luxury private retreat from Outland Hospitality Group, opened recently in Sylva. Tucked along a high mountain ridge just minutes from walkable downtown, the 22 acre property features two separate lodging options: The Chalet, a seven bedroom vacation rental ideal for families and groups, and Spa Suites, better suited for romantic retreats. Guests at either will enjoy mountainous views and access to several trails, a Clubroom with a cozy fireplace lounge, streamside relaxation room, outdoor games such as bocce and cornhole and more. See photos here.
Head to Brookings Anglers, a longstanding company in the destination providing fishing gear and expertly guided trips along the WNC Fly Fishing Trail®, in Cashiers, NC.
While the mountains are best experienced outdoors, the area also has an interesting indoor attraction. The quirky Museum of the Housecat tourist attraction just south of Sylva is anticipated to reopen this spring. Founded and owned by Harold “Catman” Sims, a retired biology professor, the museum showcases several works from fine art to multimedia productions that all display the house cat in some way, including a rare, mummified cat from ancient Egypt.
Try maple-flavored delicacies in the Adirondacks, New York
Vermont may be the largest producer of maple syrup in the nation, but New York is home to the largest resource of tapped maple trees in the country, where most of the maple syrup production takes place within the Adirondacks. Sugar maple trees are tapped from February through early April to harvest syrup, and the familiar sight of metal buckets, or “sap buckets”, can be seen in maple groves and areas across the region. As a result, there are hundreds of types of syrups, foods, beverages, candies, cocktails and experiences that showcase local Adirondacks maple. And once you are in the Adirondacks can learn all about the difference between maple sugar candy, maple sugar blocks, granulated maple sugar, maple butter and maple extract.
There are hundreds of types of syrups, foods, beverages (including maple bourbon imperial stout and maple mules), candies, cocktails and experiences that showcase local Adirondacks maple. Tour local sugarhouses, sample syrups and join tapping demonstrations during New York State’s Maple Weekends (March 18-19 and March 25-26). The Maple Wayfinder Trail from the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism in Lake Placid highlights producers around the region and where to find sugary treats. The Adirondack Harvest website lists local producers and distributors, along with maple-themed events throughout the region. Visitors can purchase locally produced maple syrup and products at roadside stands, at retail locations throughout the Adirondacks and at the production facilities themselves as many have retail shops adjacent to their collection and evaporation sites.
Big Slide Brewery’s maple bourbon imperial stout is hyper-local, aged in a barrel previously used for locally produced maple syrup. Many Adirondack-region restaurants have “maple glazed” items on the menu: salmon, pork, chicken, vegetables and more. Chef Mike Rush at Campfire Grill in Saranac Lake is renowned for obtaining kegs of maple syrup for use throughout the year. While dining out, keep an eye out for barbecue sauces, as many restaurants incorporate maple syrup into their homemade sauce.
Maple isn’t just for tasting. The Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid offers the Adirondack Maple Sugar Body Scrub, a maple-based spa treatment that exfoliates and rejuvenates the skin. Another great place to stay is High Peaks Resort, which is holding a Spring Sale including a $25 dining credit at Dancing Bears Restaurant, perfect for some maple pancakes!
Attend a music festival in Natchez, Mississippi
Natchez, Mississippi, known for its southern charm, fascinating history and significant architecture, is preparing for warmer weather, blooming flowers and an exciting lineup of spring events, including exclusive historic home tours, music festivals and more. Not only are there unforgettable events in store this spring, but Natchez also offers affordable and cozy bed and breakfast options such as Devereaux Shields House and Choctaw Hall, and a taste of real southern cuisine at local favorites including, The Castle Restaurant, The Camp and The Little Easy.
Every March, thousands gather at the Natchez Bluff to celebrate the area’s rich Native American heritage at the Natchez Powwow. The annual event includes traditional Native American dancing, singing and fun. This year's event takes place on March 25th and 26th.
Throughout of the entire month of May, the town celebrates the Festival of Music, a series of live musical performances featuring special shows from musicians spanning various genres, including blues, rock & roll, theater and much more throughout the fall and spring seasons. Also in May, the Mudbug Music Festival takes place and features incredible live music from country music superstars, fresh crawfish and a wide variety of food vendors complemented with cold beer, drinks and cocktails along the Natchez Bluff.
Few things are more relaxing than a night under the stars while camping with your favorite folks. Which states offer the best spots for a rustic retreat? To kick off the start of camping season, Lawn Love ranked 2023’s Best States for Camping in America. They compared the 50 states based on 25 metrics, such as campsite access, acreage, and trails. They also considered safety, supplies, camper satisfaction, and affordability. They then grouped those factors into five categories: Access, Quality, Supplies, Safety, and Affordability, and ranked each state accordingly. Map out your camping bucket list with the rankings below. West Coast adventures Joshua Tree - courtesy of morethanjustparks.com California hikes to first place for the second year in a row, while Washington state trails just behind at No. 2. Both states scored high in Access, Quality, and Supplies, but the Golden State gives campers the most space for a night off the beaten path. Stay safe if you camp in these two states: They lack phone coverage and have high rates of park deaths. California holds the record for the most park deaths between 2010 and 2020 at 300 — 151 more than the next state, Arizona. Always check the weather before venturing out, and bring enough water to last your journey. However, with 7.2 million first-time campers hitting the trails in 2022, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make camping reservations. It might be hard to book a site at Yosemite, but have no fear — The Golden State is full of top-tier camping destinations. From seaside escapes at Channel Islands National Park to waterfalls and redwoods at Big Basin Redwoods State Park to the sand dunes in Joshua Tree, California has a mega variety of environments to roam. Camp near meadows of wildflowers and an active stratovolcano at Mount Rainier National Park. Explore valleys, waterfalls, and more than 300 glaciers at North Cascades National Park. Another icon, Olympic National Park, offers abundant wilderness, with diverse landscapes including temperate rainforests, breathtaking coastlines, and icy mountains. Many beautiful camping opportunities exist in Oregon (No. 21). Unfortunately, the Beaver State lags behind its Pacific Coast neighbors at No. 49 in Affordability and with the third-worst average consumer rating for campgrounds. Wide-open spaces Mountains in Big Bend National Park - courtesy of nps.gov Texas (No. 3) is a big state full of diverse camping opportunities. The Lone Star State claims the second-highest number of campgrounds, campsites, and camping supply stores. There’s plenty of room to roam with a high total acreage of campgrounds (No. 4) and state and national parks (No. 6). Cowpokes and campers can sleep comfortably under starry skies, with abundant sites with access to water (No. 2) and toilet facilities (No. 4). Sleep under the stars at Big Bend National Park, which is a designated International Dark Sky Park. Camp on the beach at Padre Island National Seashore, or float around the Texas Hill Country at Guadalupe River State Park. Trailing behind Bison in the Yellowstone River, Wyoming - courtesy of nps.gov America is full of bountiful camping opportunities, with unique spots in every state. Less populated states like West Virginia (No. 41), Wyoming (No. 42), Rhode Island (No. 49), Delaware (No. 44), and South Dakota (No. 45) land at the bottom alongside North Dakota in last place. These states aren’t necessarily bad for camping. In fact, with lower populations, you might even have less competition and a better chance of scoring a peaceful campsite. Their low rankings are due to a lack of camping locations, attractions, amenities, and supplies compared with the more populated, higher-ranking states. Wyoming stands out with the third-highest total campground, state, and national park acreage. Delaware has the biggest share of highly rated campgrounds, while North Dakota boasts the best average consumer rating of campgrounds and Safety record. Elevated experiences Camping in the Adirondacks - courtesy of visitadirondacks.com Many mountainous states climb to the top, offering breathtaking views for hikers and campers alike. From the Adirondacks and Catskills in New York (No. 5) to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado (No. 6) to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee (No. 12), many supreme camping states are home to iconic hiking destinations. Additionally, nine out of the 14 states that encompass the Appalachian Trail landed in the top half of our ranking. New York, Colorado, and Tennessee provide ample campgrounds, trails, and campsite activities to keep visitors busy. The wilderness and fresh air in Upstate New York have attracted campers for ages. Roll out your sleeping bag on a mountain in the Adirondacks or Catskills. You can also rent a cabin and go kayaking on the Finger Lakes or along two of the Great Lakes, Erie and Ontario. Seaside scenery Bahia Honda State Park, Florida - courtesy of supersimplesaltylife.com Some of the best states for camping also reel in sublime opportunities for fishing. Oceanside states like Florida (No. 4) and North Carolina (No. 9) bob at the top along with Michigan (No. 7) and Minnesota (No. 10). Florida floats to No. 1 in the Supplies rank, thanks to the highest number of RV rental offers. North Carolina, Michigan, and Florida each have top camping Access overall, with The Sunshine State landing at No. 2 in that category. Minnesota is also among the most affordable states for camping and swims to No. 2 in Safety. Wake up with a fresh sea breeze when you camp at Bahia Honda State Park. Ocala is more than a destination for campers who also love horses. Canoe, bike, or hike through the stunning Ocala National Forest. — To see more details and the full rankings, visit Lawn Love.
Best Cities for St. Patrick's Day Celebrations
Believe it or not, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with parades didn’t originate in Ireland, but instead started and became popular in North American colonies centuries ago. What began as a Catholic feast day and gained more recognition with these colonial celebrations is today one of America’s biggest cultural holidays. More than 31 million people in the U.S. claim Irish ancestry—that’s more than six times the population of Ireland. As this lucky group of people expanded over the centuries, so too did American St. Paddy’s Day traditions. Chicago, for instance, gained fame for dyeing its river green, while other places are now known for their elaborate pageants, pub crawls or long processions of marching bagpipers. This year, Americans are projected to spend $6.85 billion on the holiday. But not every city that celebrates St. Patrick’s Day is worth kissing the Irish for. WalletHub compared 200 of the largest cities across 15 key metrics to find the best places to wear green and save some, too. The data set ranges from Irish pubs and restaurants per capita to the lowest price for a three-star hotel on St. Patrick’s Day to the weather forecast. #5. New York, New York St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York City - courtesy of nycstpatricksparade.org The Big Apple tied for the most Irish bars and restaurants per capita, helping it land in fifth place overall. NYC, like most of the top cities in these rankings, was where many Irish families originally immigrated to and settled; so it's no surprise that these cities are some of the best places to celebrate this holiday. Professor Joseph Valente explains more: "St. Patrick’s day is an ethnic celebration of a group, the Irish, who are likely the most numerous and influential of the nationalities to come over during the Great Industrial Immigration of 1851-1900. The Irish came to America in great waves, and they did so early enough to have imprinted their traditions on American culture. The pattern of their immigration and residency contributed as well to the popularity of their national day. The Irish settled densely in the great American metroplexes—New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston—which have historically been the hubs of American culture, the centers of media communication, and the places where popular trends are initiated and arbitrated. New York is also one of the safer places to celebrate the holiday and tied for the least DUI-related fatalities per capita; the city's access to public transportation and ride share services likely contributed to this statistic. The city's parade is held annually on March 17th at precisely 11:00 AM in honor of St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland and of the Archdiocese of New York. The parade route goes up Fifth Avenue beginning at East 44th Street and ending at East 79th Street. Approximately 150,000 people march in the parade which draws about 2 million spectators. #4. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania One of the two Pennsylvania cities in the top 5, Pittsburgh has the fourth largest Irish population by percentage. It's good scores in safety and accessibility, along with an eighth place ranking for St. Patrick's Day traditions—a metric that include number of parades, events, Irish history, and Irish bars and establishments—led it to fourth place overall. The Pittsburgh St. Patrick’s Day parade has been a staple for the city of Pittsburgh dating back to the mid-1800s. Over the years, it has evolved in scope and planning until it formed what it is today; the third largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the country. This year's parade is scheduled for March 11, 2023. #3. Chicago, Illinois Chicago dyes the river green for St. Patrick's Day - courtesy of timeout.com Chicago and nearby Illinois towns Aurora and Naperville all tied for third place in the rankings for lowest average beer price. Chi-town also has some of the most traditions and celebrations, thanks to their local culture and history and numerous Irish residents. Naperville also has the largest percentage of Irish residents and ranks No. 8 and is the most budget-friendly, thanks to great hotel prices and low travel costs, so adding this nearby town makes the Chicago area an even better pick for St. Paddy's celebrations. Be sure to check out the Chicago St. Patrick's Day parade on March 11th, and head to the Loop to see the Chicago Plumbers Union Local 130 dye the river green. The dye is vegetable-based, so the river typically reverts to its usual murky shade by the end of the weekend. The Chicago River dyeing takes place between Columbus Drive and State Street, so head to the Michigan Avenue bridge or snag a spot along the Riverwalk for the best views of the action. There's also the South Side Irish parade, Northwest Side Irish parade, an Irish film festival, and Shamrock Shuffle 8k run. #2. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania The Irish in Philadelphia first celebrated St. Patrick's Day in 1771, five years before the Declaration of Independence was signed! The first documented St. Patrick's Day Celebration Parade in Philadelphia was held in 1771, marking over 250 continuous years of celebrations. The current parade, which is hosted by the St. Patrick's Day Observance Association, was incorporated as a non-profit corporation in 1952. This year's parade will be held on March 12th. The Commemorative Parade Mass is also held the morning of the parade, in Saint Patrick’s Church at 20th and Locust Streets in Center City. This year prior to the mass, the Procession of the Grand Marshal and the Board Members will be led by the Emerald Society Pipe Band. The National Anthem of Ireland will be sung by Karen Boyce McCollum, and the National Anthem of The United States will be sung by Frank Gallagher. The city also hosts several different bar crawls, musical events and entertainment, and even a family-friendly leprechaun hunt. While fairly affordable and safe, the city also took second place in the St. Patrick's Day traditions category thanks to its many Irish residents and rich history. #1. Boston, Massachusetts Boston's St. Patrick's Day Parade - courtesy of theculturetrip.com Boston comes out on top when it comes to St. Patrick's Day celebrations. Along with the fourth highest number of Irish pubs and bars per capita, Beantown also took top place in the St. Patrick's Day traditions category due to its large number of festivities and events, Irish population, history, and culture. While there's no need to venture outside of the city for festivities, tourists can also make a stop at nearby Worcester, MA which comes in at an impressive No. 12. Worcester also ranked third for highest share of Irish population. Bostonians were the first to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in North America. On March 17, 1737, as a gesture of solidarity among the city’s new Irish immigrants, Boston’s Irish community joined together in festivities of their homeland and to honor the memory of the below Patron Saint of Ireland. Banquets and parades to celebrate the occasion became common, with Boston’s early St. Patrick’s Day Parades occurring downtown by the Ancient Order of Hibernians. In 1901, the parade moved to South Boston, a neighborhood that was not only home to a robust Irish community, but was the site of Dorchester Heights, where the evacuation of British troops from Boston on March 17, 1776 was made possible and is commemorated. Given the significance of both the St. Patrick’s Day and Evacuation Day holidays, the parade came to honor both. This year's parade in Southie will be on March 19th. In addition to the parade, Boston’s very own Celtic punk rock group, the Dropkick Murphys will be playing four shows in town the week of Saint Patrick’s Day. Three shows at MGM Music Hall March 16-18, and one show at the House of Blues on March 19. Get your tickets here.
Best Bachelor Party Destinations
We've already looked at the best cities to host an incredible bachelorette getaway, and now it's time to find which places top the list for a guys-only trip. Bachelor parties are for creating boisterous memories with the bros. Which cities are best for giving the groom-to-be an unforgettable prenuptial celebration? To find out, Lawn Love ranked 2023’s Best Bachelor Party Destinations. They compared the 200 biggest U.S. cities based on 34 key metrics, such as access to bars, party buses, strip clubs, paintball, and casinos. They also considered accommodations, safety, affordability, and transportation. Below are the best cities to plan a great bachelor party getaway. Epic escapes Baia Beach Club in Miami, Florida - courtesy of timeout.com Ranked in second place overall, Miami also took the number one spot this year for bachelorette parties. If you love the outdoors, Miami is great for fishing, snorkeling, and golfing. The city also knows how to have a wild time partying — hit up one of the best clubs or pool parties. Try some of the city’s best dishes like Cuban sandwiches in Little Havana, or reserve a coveted spot in one of Magic City’s Michelin-starred restaurants. Another energetic option is Las Vegas (No. 4), the self-proclaimed Entertainment Capital of the World. Have an indulgent bash in Sin City, with the highest number of strip clubs, casinos, and entertainment centers. You can’t party in Sin City without hitting up the casinos. Embrace your inner “Maverick,” and chase the clouds on a fighter jet at Sky Combat Ace. If you need another boost of adrenaline, schedule a racing experience at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. For evening adventures, check out OMNIA and Absinthe. New York lands at the top, offering plenty of options to plan an epic bachelor party. Is it any surprise that NYC is No. 1 for Having Fun? From cigar bars to boat charters to strip clubs to karaoke, it’s easy to party all night long in The City That Never Sleeps. New York boasts high scores in every category apart from Spending. Explore the city with a food tour or booze cruise around the harbor. Laugh the night away at the Comedy Cellar. For a classy outing, head to Mister Paradise, The 40/40 Club, or The Carnegie Club. You could even learn how to craft your own brews at a Bitter & Esters workshop. Golden State getaways Drink and game at Blipsy Bar in Los Angeles, California - courtesy of discoverlosangeles.com Three Golden State cities made their way into our top 10, thanks to abundant activities, delicious food, and stoner-friendliness. Los Angeles (No. 3) smokes the competition with the most cigar bars and racetracks (tied with Las Vegas and Joliet, Illinois). The City of Angels knows how to celebrate with numerous karaoke bars, strip clubs, and entertainment centers. More than a destination for movie lovers, LA is home to beaches, brews, and belly laughs. Take a brewery tour before catching a show at the Laugh Factory. Embrace your geeky side, and gulp down some booze while gaming at Blipsy Bar, or elevate your nightlife at fancier venues like Hyde Sunset or Poppy. Light up the night in San Francisco (No. 6), which offers the most bars, liquor stores, and nightlife options per square mile. At No. 1 in Eating and Drinking, The Golden City is great for foodies and beer lovers. It’s also the easiest city for Getting Around, ideal if you’re in a drunken or stoned stupor. If you have an active entourage, San Diego (No. 8) is a great place to hop on a bike bar, play paintball, or go indoor skydiving. Get your yacht rock playlist together — San Diego sails with the most boat charters to float your party around the Pacific. Texas toast Book a party boat on Lake Travis - courtesy of laketravis.com Plan a rowdy road trip through the Texas Triangle to carouse through all five of the Lone Star State’s largest cities. Hop on a party bus in Houston (No. 5), and visit the city’s many cigar bars, strip clubs, or other top nightlife spots. Houston also has the most paintball and laser tag venues to fill your daytime itinerary. If your party has some art lovers, check out the interactive gallery Seismique, or jam to some tunes at House of Blues. Houston has plenty of options for great eats, and you can decompress with a drink at Axelrad or Karbach Brewing Company. Keep it wet and wild in Austin (No. 14) with a party boat on Lake Travis or Lake Austin. ATX also cuts through the competition with the most axe throwing venues. While Austin might be a bit pricey, Houston, Dallas (No. 25), San Antonio (No. 28), and Fort Worth (No. 45) are affordable destinations. Be careful on those speedy highways — order a ride-share or choose a designated driver if you’ll be drinking. These cities rank among the top 20 for DUI/DWI lawyers because drunk driving is unfortunately too common in Texas. — Visit LawnLove to see the full rankings and details.
California's Best Wine Counties for 2023
California is the nation’s wine garden and wine cellar, but which counties produce the most award-winning reds and whites, host the most wine tours, and are most popular and affordable for wine connoisseurs to visit? Dr. Qun (Kristy) Sun, an assistant professor in the department of viticulture and enology at Fresno State University explains how location influences the wine produced: "The California wine region can be divided into the North Coast, Central Coast, South Coast, and Central Valley. Each region has its unique climate. For example, Napa Valley has a temperate climate with a long growing season. It has warm days to accumulate sugar, color, and aroma in grapes and the cool evening to preserve the acidity. The Central Valley is the largest wine region and produces three-quarters of the state’s grapes. It has a very different climate with hot summers and less rainfall. The vineyards are heavily dependent on irrigation techniques. " In order to find the best wine counties in California, LawnStarter pored over the data. They compared all 58 counties based on five categories broken down into 18 key metrics. See which Golden State counties earned a gold star in the rankings below. You’ll also find highlights, lowlights, and expert insights on what makes California wines stand out. An Old Favorite Bernardo Winery - courtesy of thevendry.com Step back in time at the oldest wine region in California. Fifth-ranked San Diego’s viticultural history stretches all the way back to the 1700s. A stop at Bernardo Winery, the oldest winery in the region established in 1889, is a must. For a more modern setting, check out Carruth Cellars Wine Garden, where locals can join a wine club while first-time visitors enjoy a flight of five 1-ounce pours to taste for only $20. Central Coast Stand-outs San Luis Obispo county wineries - courtesy of sonomawinegarden.com Third-ranked San Luis Obispo, the wine region colloquially known as “SLO,” is as popular for its laid-back Pacific Coast lifestyle as it is for its Rhône blends. In Paso Robles, sip on not one but two of the highest-ranking California gold medalists in 2022 — the Red Cuvee and the Majesty — both from the same producer, Silver Hawk Vineyards. There’s plenty to see and do throughout the county, but Hearst Castle is perhaps the area’s most famous landmark. A magnet for celebrities like Oprah, Jeff Bridges, and, more recently, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Santa Barbara County (No. 4) was named 2021 Wine Region of the Year by “Wine Enthusiast.” The region is also famous for its pinot noir, featured in the cult film “Sideways.” Take a “Sideways” tour of the region’s wineries highlighted in the movie, starting with Sanford and ending with Firestone. On Cloud Wine in the North Coast Sonoma Valley Trail Rides - courtesy of sonomacounty.com Napa is the Best California Wine County again this year, a foregone conclusion considering Napa Valley is the most recognized U.S. wine region both domestically and internationally. You won’t go thirsty at the home of the three-Michelin-starred The French Laundry. Napa outnumbers all other California counties in vintners, with nearly 270 more than Sonoma (No. 2) and 840 more than San Luis Obispo (No. 3). What’s more, Napa wines earned the most gold medals over the past four years, and the county’s wineries are the most reviewed (aka the most popular) by consumers. In St. Helena, enjoy a glass of Hibou Pinot Noir, the highest-scoring 2022 USA Wine Ratings gold medalist from Napa Valley. Stay at Auberge du Soleil, the ultimate wine lover’s retreat featuring vineyard vistas and a spa that treats you to a Cabernet mud body masque. When you’re not sipping on award-winning wine, cycle through the 12.5-mile Vine Trail offering scenic views of wine country. It’s hard to reference Napa without pairing it with Sonoma, the next most recognizable name in California wine and unsurprisingly our silver medalist. Previously in third place, Sonoma overtook Stanislaus County in our ranking this year, thanks to Sonoma’s unmatched access to wine, numerous awards, and the most events celebrating the county’s amore for vino. Napa might have struck gold for its pinot noir in 2022, but Sonoma County is best known for this style of red — the county is the Golden State’s largest grower of pinot noir. Reds won’t be hard to find here, but if your palate prefers white, try Rodney Strong’s Upshot White Blend. This refreshing 2022 gold medal winner features notes of white peach, apricot, and jasmine. You can check out Sonoma’s many outstanding wineries by bike, by foot, or on horseback — or even via hot-air balloon. “Dry” Counties The counties at the bottom of our ranking should come as no surprise — viticulture isn’t a big industry here. Kings County finished last overall, bested by Merced, Colusa, Modoc, and Alpine counties (in that order). Although these counties ranked poorly across all categories, there are a few bright spots in individual metrics. Modoc’s wineries, for one, earned an above-average consumer rating at No. 22. Merced offers five wine bars for casual sippers not interested in big winery tours. Meanwhile, Alpine County boasts a high number of affordable accommodations for all visitors, oenophiles or otherwise. These counties might lack their own famous wines, but close proximity to California’s top wine regions is a huge advantage. Merced, for example, lies just south of Stanislaus County (No. 6). Kings shares a border with both Central Region counties Monterey (No. 10) and Fresno (No. 30). Colusa is a short drive — or Uber ride, depending on how much you drink — to Napa, Sonoma, and Lake (No. 12). The Grape Escape Goldeneye Winery in Mendocino County - courtesy of goldeneyewinery.com One day is not enough to explore all of California’s amazing wines — let alone a single county saturated with wineries. If you can swing it, plan at least a three-day tour of clustered counties, and make sure your itinerary includes counties that balance both high-quality wine and (inebriated) visitor-friendliness. The most tour-friendly counties include some of our top five, such as Sonoma (No. 2) and San Luis Obispo (No. 3), but don’t overlook counties outside of that elite group. Riverside (No. 7), for example, ranks decently in taste and placed first in Accommodations. Mendocino (No. 8) is another excellent choice, with high marks in Access and Accolades, as well as top-15 rankings in both Entertainment and Accommodations. Placer (No. 21) is a third great option, with top-30 rankings across all categories. In Case You Also Love Queso Is there a better companion to wine than cheese? If you’re an oenophile and a turophile, Sonoma (No. 2) and Los Angeles (No. 9) counties can satisfy both cravings at once. Santa Rosa, in Sonoma County, is our No. 8 Best City for Cheese Lovers. Los Angeles ranks No. 4 while its suburbs, such as Long Beach (No. 12) and Pasadena (No. 23), aren’t far behind. Don’t go sniffing out cheese in Salinas, though. Although this city is located in Monterey County, our 10th placer and the birthplace of Monterey Jack, it offers jack to queso aficionados. Salinas came in last among the 200 biggest U.S. cities in cheese lover-friendliness. — For more details on this year's rankings of the Best California Wine Counties, head to LawnStarter.