After spending a few days in California’s San Jacinto Valley, one thing that was made abundantly clear to our whole group was the presence of such a close-knit community.
Don’t be fooled by the chain stores and big-name restaurants that line Main Street. Local businesses are thriving here and it was such a treat to experience that firsthand.
First, Try the Food
While it’s great to eat at places you’re familiar with—you know what to order, you’ve already tried the food, etc.—nothing compares to a family-owned restaurant. The food just tends to be higher quality, in my opinion, because of the effort put into the business itself. It’s hard for local places to survive in a culture where everyone wants to try trendy restaurants, but the community in Hemet has banded together in support of these special places.
One such restaurant is El Patron, a Mexican cantina with a broad menu of tostadas, seafood dishes, fajitas, burritos, quesadillas and more. I ordered an enchilada and a taco and, as someone that really loves Mexican cuisine, I was impressed by the flavor. The owner, a young guy by the name of Abel, welcomed us with open arms, preparing homemade guacamole for our group to taste as well. On top of the great food, they had delicious cocktails, like the Azul Margarita that came with its own take-home shaker stamped with different drink recipes. El Patron also hosts events so travelers can sing karaoke or dance the night away to salsa or techno music.
Another great spot in Hemet for group travel meals is The Anchor. As a restaurant, a sports bar and a nightclub rolled into one, it offers something for everyone. Stop by for a fine dining experience at the nautical themed restaurant then stay for some dancing or drinks afterward. Nicole, the owner, is from Switzerland so the eclectic menu is great for those who want to try something a bit different. Think fish fillets, pineapple chicken, mashed potatoes, grilled veggies and rice pilaf. The homemade rolls are also delicious. Before or after your meal, spend some time wandering the dining room to take in the unique décor. Golden ship replicas adorn the walls, plaques feature boating or ocean-related quotes and there is a full-size underwater suit complete with a golden helmet. White tea light candles sit on miniature wooden ships and there is also a vintage cappuccino machine.
For dessert, visit La Michoacana. It has become a popular spot for locals and visitors trying to beat the desert heat, but even in winter, there is a steady stream of customers eager to try these tasty ice cream treats. Based on the owner’s family recipe, the shop features Mexican desserts created on site. From fruit and milk based popsicles to blended drinks, the options are endless—and everything is colorful and bright.
One interesting spot was the La Boutique Consignment and Bridal Museum, a vintage clothing store combined with a Victorian bridal gown museum. First, head to the back of the store and take a look at the gorgeous gowns that date back to the mid-1800s. Most are off-white but some stand out, like the bright green Civil War-era gown. Another features orange blossoms, a trend started by the Queen of England in 1845. Other items on display include shoes, veils and wedding rings from similar eras.
After you’re done at the museum, spend some time sifting through the clothes. You’re sure to find some great stuff—they had some really adorable vintage dresses!
If you travel over near Diamond Valley Lake, make sure to stop at the Western Science Center, a museum and research center that displays numerous artifacts found during the lake’s excavation in the 1990s. The center’s exhibits explore native cultures and outer space before transitioning to Ice Age fossils found during the dig. On display, see portions of both mammoth and mastodon skeletons and learn all about their differences before you watch a film that shows just what it was like in Hemet when those animals roamed the earth. Another room demonstrates how researchers excavate and process the bones, with interactive stations giving you the chance to dig for your own fossils and measure them too.
Where to Stay
While you’re in Hemet, make sure to stop by the Golden Village Palms RV Resort. You can bring your own RV or rent a cute little cottage on the property and you’ll have access to the resort’s amenities, which include multiple pools, a fitness center, shuffleboard and pickleball courts, game rooms, a library and various events.
Another option is the nearby Best Western Plus (formerly Super 8) on Florida Avenue. As it recently changed companies, it went through a major remodel and everything is fresh, clean and modern. The rooms are filled with contemporary furniture, like black raised beds and deep blue patterned carpet. The beds are huge so if you have a big group, you can potentially share—especially if you get a room with two.
With such a strong community presence, you’ll feel right at home in Hemet. I was welcomed with open arms everywhere we went and got to share unique experiences together at places that aren’t popular outside the small city. It’s definitely a fun place for a weekend getaway with friends or family, and I personally can’t wait to go back and visit with the kind people located there.