These California Travel Encounters Will Make You Smarter

Get schooled and celebrate local traditions at the same time.

If your idea of the perfect vacation is zoning out on a beach hammock and sipping cocktails at sunset, no judgment from us. We all need to decompress and turn off once in while. But sometimes the best travel includes the opportunity to learn as well as leisure. A cornucopia of cultural, creative and epicurean delights, California has no shortage of amazing places to get your hands dirty and experience the local trades and customs that enrich our identity. Visit California recently featured a handful of unique experiences we’re absolutely considering for our next weekend getaway. These are at the top of our list:

Make Your Own Mozzarella

Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, Marin County

“As the country’s top dairy producer, California isn’t short on cows—or on resulting fresh cheeses. You can find all the necessary ingredients to make your own ricotta, mozzarella, crème fraîche, cultured butter and more at the Point Reyes’ Farmstead Cheese Company, which overlooks the beautiful Tomales Bay in Marin County. The 720-acre, family-owned farmstead is home to about 400 cows, which are milked daily. The dairy began making cheese in 2000, and a culinary and education center called The Fork launched in 2010. Public and private events include culinary classes, walking farm tours, cheese tastings, farm dinners and farm brunches.

Best time to visit: About 10 to 12 events are offered every quarter, year-round.

Don’t miss: The Friday Farm Tour Series takes place every week from May 1 to October 31 at 1:30 p.m., rain or shine ($25 per person). The family-friendly event features ice cream sandwiches, a 45-minute walking tour, selfies with livestock and cheese tasting on the patio.”

Paint a Masterpiece

Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara

“Whether you’re a natural with a paintbrush or, well, you’re not, you’re welcome to colour inside or outside the lines as part of the new Swirl N’ Savor art class offered at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, the grand-dame resort that dates back to 1927. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands, the 22-acre property makes a fabulous artist’s studio. With the help of an instructor from downtown’s The Painted Cabernet, you’re guaranteed success with a step-by-step (and sip-by-sip) plan to recreate a featured painting.

Best time to visit: Check The Painted Cabernet’s calendar for dates and times. Rates start at $65 per person for approximately 90 minutes, including a glass of wine, some cheese and charcuterie and art materials. (You don’t have to stay at the hotel, either, to take the class.)

Don’t miss: Afterward, stay for lunch or dinner at the resort’s al fresco Bella Vista; or check out its Ty Lounge, which offers Spanish tapas and high-concept cocktails, like the 8 Barrels with aged Breaker bourbon, maple syrup, lemon and nutmeg.”

Craft Your Own Surfboard

Laguna Beach House, Orange County

“It’s easy to rent a surfboard and sign up for a lesson just about anywhere along the SoCal coastline. But if you’re looking for a unique experience, consider the “Shape, Surf, and Stay” package at Laguna Beach House, just off Laguna Beach’s Main Beach. The 36-room boutique hotel, decked out with vintage surf decor and memorabilia, has teamed up with renowned local surfboard shaper Donald Brink to offer guests a chance to custom hand-craft their own boards at his Dana Point studio, a 15-minute drive away. Afterward, take your new board for a test ride with Brink, who will teach you how to catch world-class waves.

Best time to visit: This package is available year-round (advanced reservations required). Rates start at about $1,100 per night, including a one-on-one board-shaping class (standard glass job provided) and the surf lesson.

Don’t miss: The Hobie Surf Shop, right off the Pacific Coast Highway. Just down the road, in Dana Point, is where Hobie Alter first created, shaped, and sold foam surfboards.”

Discover more amazing, hands-on adventures here.