Now that the state’s hotels, bars, restaurants, and wineries have started to resume operations, California is asking travelers to visit with health and safety top of mind.
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In early June, hotels, vacation rentals, bars, restaurants, and wineries in California were able to begin reopening following the lifting of lockdown measures that were put in place in mid-March to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.
Soon after, Visit California, the state’s tourism marketing organization, launched a “Responsible Travel Code” initiative to remind visitors how important it is to travel responsibly during the coronavirus pandemic. The code—a sort of commitment Visit California is asking travelers to adhere to—asks that travelers do their research before traveling in the state, familiarize themselves with local regulations, and follow public health directives, including physical distancing measures. Travelers to and through California should also note that a statewide order was issued on June 18 making masks mandatory in indoor public spaces, as well as outdoors when social distancing is not possible. So, bring and wear your mask.
The reminder is particularly significant with California having reported more than 8,400 new coronavirus cases on June 30, its highest single-day total for cases during the pandemic up until that point. Those interested in traveling to and within California should check with the California Department of Public Health to see what the latest case counts are—the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises against traveling to areas where transmission levels are high.
The rise in cases prompted California Governor Gavin Newsom on July 13 to order the closure of indoor service at restaurants, wineries, and tasting rooms, and for zoos and museums to close for all California counties until the State Public Health Officer deems it safe to reopen. Counties on the monitoring list for more than three days must close other business sectors. A full county-by-county breakdown is available on the state’s COVID-19 information site.
Who can travel to California?
There are currently no restrictions on travel to California from within the United States, and all of the state’s major airports, including Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport, remain open with flights operating.
As for international visitors, per U.S. government restrictions, foreign nationals who have been in China, Iran, Europe, the United Kingdom, or Ireland in the previous 14 days will be denied entry into California.
Are California beaches and parks open?
The majority of the beaches along California’s 840 miles of coastline are open but with restrictions in place. Some, like in San Francisco, are simply asking that beachgoers follow county orders for social distancing, but others, such as those in Los Angeles County, are restricting beach access to active recreation. The California Coastal Commission maintains an updated list of which beaches are open and the regulations put in place during the COVID-19 crisis.
The California state park system consists of 280 parks, beaches, and natural, cultural, and historic sites. Of those, 16 state parks remained fully closed as of July 14. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is open, but Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park was still closed as of July 14.
As for national parks, Yosemite opened with a reservation system on June 11. Lassen Volcanic National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, and Redwood State and National Parks have reopened (though some restrictions and limitations may be in place), and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks reopened roads, trails, parking lots, and some public use areas on June 4.
Are Disneyland, Legoland, and other theme parks open?
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Disneyland and Disney California Adventure in June announced that pending government approvals from state and county officials, both parks would open their gates on July 17. That date has been pushed back, and no new date has been provided. All of the other major theme parks in California, including the Legoland California Resort, Universal Studios Hollywood, Six Flags Magic Mountain, and Knott’s Berry Farm, have not yet announced reopening dates and currently remain closed.
Napa Valley, Sonoma, Monterey, Palm Springs, and Tahoe open up to visitors—with precautions
On June 5, Napa Valley became the first region in California to announce that it was officially welcoming back travelers. Hotels, wineries, tasting rooms, and restaurants in Napa Valley were given approval to reopen to guests by the Napa County Public Health Officer. Restaurants in the popular wine region began to reopen for dining on May 20, along with retail stores. Due to recent county and state mandates, currently only outdoor dining and winetasting experiences are available.
The majority of hotels in Napa Valley are either currently open or are planning to reopen soon. They include some of our absolute favorites such as Carneros Resort & Spa, where guests get their own spacious cottage in a sprawling property surrounding by scenic vineyards; the hip Calistoga Motor Lodge & Spa in one of the region’s most charming towns; Calistoga Ranch for a truly luxurious escape; Los Alcobas, a chic adults-only retreat steps from St. Helena; and Meadowood Napa Valley, a chalet meets five-star resort nestled into a private canyon.
Many of the region’s restaurants are open as well for either delivery or takeout and/or for dining outside. A complete list of what’s open and what’s not appears on the Visit Napa Valley website. Wineries and tasting rooms are open by appointment only, so call ahead to make a reservation.
Not long after Napa Valley made its announcement, other counties soon followed suit, including Monterey where properties like the luxurious hideaway Carmel Valley Ranch and Ventana Big Sur are now welcoming back guests (Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur plans to reopen in mid-July); Palm Springs, which began reopening on June 12; and Lake Tahoe and Truckee, which are actively courting back visitors, too.
On June 19, Sonoma County opened back up to leisure travelers, with Farmhouse Inn, a relaxing oasis in the Russian River Valley now open to visitors, along with Airstream glamping paradise Autocamp (the Yosemite Autocamp outpost is open, too). Sister properties Hotel Healdsburg and h2hotel in downtown Healdsburg, and the groovy updated 1960s motor lodge the Astro in Santa Rosa are also all open. Wineries with outdoor tasting experiences are welcoming back visitors, and restaurants are open for outdoor dining and takeout service.
A little further north, Mendocino County has rolled out the welcome mat as well. Its iconic California Western Railroad’s Skunk Train is open to visitors again (with face masks required), and properties such as the Brewery Gulch Inn are taking bookings anew.
Hotels are open in L.A., San Francisco, San Diego, and Paso Robles
On May 29, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health gave hotels and vacation rentals the green light to reopen provided they implement social-distancing and public health protocols.
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Hotel Figueroa in Downtown Los Angeles remained open throughout the pandemic to accommodate essential travelers, health-care personnel, and stranded vacationers, but it is now focusing on welcoming back leisure travelers with discounted stays. The London West Hollywood is also working on bringing back guests with guest rooms that can serve as remote offices, as well as inviting those who want to stay purely for pleasure. The iconic Beverly Hills Hotel is open, as is Hotel Bel-Air. The new Hotel June on L.A.’s Westside had to push back its opening date due to coronavirus but is now welcoming guests. Located in the former Custom Hotel near Los Angeles International Airport, Hotel June was developed by the team behind Proper and has a distinctively beachy and laid-back California vibe. The sprawling Terrenea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes reopened on June 12, and its golf course, pools, restaurant (for takeaway), retail stores, and select adventure offerings are available to overnight guests, in accordance with government and heath official guidelines.
In San Francisco, the San Francisco Proper Hotel reopened as of May 8. The rooftop bar Charmaine’s is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch; the on-site restaurant Villon is currently closed. In-room dining is available from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. The fitness center remains closed and guests are asked to wear a mask in the hotel’s public areas. The vintage motel turned boutique property Phoenix Hotel is open, and on-site restaurant Chambers eat + drink is open for outdoor dining and takeout. The historic Huntington Hotel on Nob Hill is open, as is the Battery Hotel, a collection of 14 boutique suites near the waterfront.
L’Auberge Del Mar outside of San Diego reopened on May 21 with a 72-hour booking buffer between occupants. There are capacity limits in the pool and hot tub areas, and tables at the open-air restaurant will be spaced 12 to 15 feet apart. The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla is open with takeout service available at the on-site restaurant the Grill. The historic La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla is also open.
The Stables Inn in Paso Robles had planned to debut right when the coronavirus pandemic hit, but instead it opened on June 5 at 50 percent capacity. From the owners of nearby Hotel Cheval, the budget-friendly, 18-room property occupies a former roadside motel. For a Central Coast stay, the surf town chic Cambria Beach Lodge is open, serving up gorgeous ocean views.
Central Coast wineries begin reopening
In Monterey County, local tasting rooms reopened on June 12, including in Salinas Valley, Carmel Valley, and coastal Carmel and Monterey. Current guidelines only allow outdoor tasting experiences to take place.
The wineries and tasting rooms are asking that guests call ahead and make reservations, if they can, and wait to be seated when they arrive. Guests should maintain physical distancing to the maximum extent possible—“think of it as six wine bottles laid end-to-end between you and another not in your immediate group,” the Monterey County Vintners & Growers Association said in a statement about the reopening.
Masks should be worn when not tasting.
An evolving situation
Going forward, we could see some additional businesses, hotels, cities, and counties reopen, as well as some close as the coronavirus pandemic ebbs and flows. Visit California has compiled a comprehensive list of links to all of the state’s city and county travel sites, which offer travelers resources for navigating what is and isn’t open in the state.
Natalie Beauregard contributed reporting. This story was originally published on June 9, 2020, and has been updated to include current information.
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