OCEAN-CLOSE BEAUTY: Sometimes we worry that California towns that happen to be close to the ocean can find themselves a bit pigeonholed in popular culture. (Or, given that they're ocean-close, perhaps "gull-holed" is more fitting.) Our seaside burgs are often painted in movies as places where footwear is optional, even in most restaurants, and a salty-haired surfy outlook is the norm. The weather is usually toasty, too, and everyone has a tan pretty much all year long. But north of Southern California, those things just don't hold, or at least most of them. The ocean-close towns of the Central Coast and NorCal have a different vibe. Yep, they do have their surfers and their hot summer days and their salty air, but wintertime is more about bundling up and enjoying water views through a picture window. We love these towns, too, and Cambria is certainly a quintessential one, with a heavy dose of easy-going artiness thrown into the mix.
ART ON DISPLAY: The Hearst Castle-close town has many an art-nice offering -- and the famous art-quirky house Nitt-Witt Ridge, of course -- but a lot of people will be swinging through for the Art & Wine Festival from Jan. 25-27. If you're looking to chill it out and not do anything but relax for a few days, Pelican Inn & Suites just underwent a mondo renovation. It's across a road from the Pacific, too, meaning you can throw a coat over your pjs in the morning and do that whole strolling-reflectively-along-the-sand-in-wintertime thing. That, too, should be as popular in pop culture as our surf scene. Check out the Pelican for current specials, like the stay-3-or-more-nights-and-save deal.