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Southwest California emerges as premier tourism destination

Less than 60 miles north of San Diego and 90 miles southeast of Los Angeles is Southwest California, the southland's best-kept secret for vacationers and business travelers alike. The region offers a perfect blend of rural charm and metropolitan excitement to tempt the young and old at heart.

Each of the three cities that make up Southwest California has its own unique appeal to visitors looking for an unforgettable getaway experience.

Hang gliding over Lake Elsinore provides a bird's eye view.

Lake Elsinore enjoys a world-class reputation for outdoor sports on the lake, in the air and on the ground. The lake, Southern California's largest natural lake, offers a variety of water sports such as boating, fishing, wake boarding, water skiing and sailing, and camping on the lake's shore. With its warm thermal winds, Lake Elsinore is the perfect site for experiencing hang gliding, skydiving and other aerial sports.

On the ground excitement comes by way of The Storm, the professional baseball affiliate of the San Diego Padres who call Lake Elsinore home. Last year Lake Elsinore celebrated the 10th anniversary of the revival of the Lake Elsinore Grand Prix, a race featured in Steve McQueen's movie "On Any Sunday" and was joined by the inaugural Air Nautique Wake Games. Other local events include the "Music With a View" summer concert series, the Hot Rod Show and the kid's Fishing Derby.

Car shows are popular events in Southwest California.

Murrieta celebrates its heritage with an annual Birthday Bash in July, a Father's Day Car Show, the Murrieta Fire Department's Deep-pit Barbeque and the Historic Downtown holiday lighting ceremony and parade.

The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, located adjacent to Murrieta, has 8,300 acres of woodland and riparian wetlands. Recreational activities include golf at the beautiful SCGA course, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking and interpretive programs.

Old-fashioned horse-drawn carriage rides take visitors through Old Town Temecula.

Temecula is an alluring "boutique destination" that offers more than 20 award-winning wineries, 24-hour hour gaming and entertainment at Pechanga Casino and Resort, several championship golf courses and a taste of the old west in its historic Old Town district. Here you can enjoy year-round entertainment featuring classic car shows, a Bluegrass Festival, Western Days, Street Painting Festival and a Farmer's Market.

Temecula hosts an annual street painting contest.

The Holiday Season sees the Old Western Town turn into a Victorian village as carolers, musicians, mimes and Santa celebrate "A Dickens of a Christmas." The Old Town Temecula Community Theater features plays and musical productions. The city proudly sponsors major annual events including the Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival, Spring and Fall Rod Runs, International Film Festival, Temecula OnStage, Arts Festival, the International Jazz Festival and Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

Wine Country

While growing at leaps and bounds due to its year-round pleasant climate, affordable housing, varied annual attractions, relaxed lifestyle and small-town allure, Temecula Valley claims home to Southern California's Wine Country, a mini-Napa-Valley-like weekday or weekend escape destination, easily accessible along a five-mile stretch of Rancho California Road.

As a weekend escape or as a recurring destination, Wine Country is a visitors' paradise to explore. One can hop on a shuttle or reserve a private limo and visit more than 20 award-winning wineries and even stay for a soothing sunset jazz concert. Many join a prestigious wine club to be a part of the "in crowd" that has learned to slow down a bit and enjoy life. Whether luxuriating over an exquisite meal, sipping a glass or two of its award-winning wines or simply relaxing at one of its calming spas after a stress-free round of golf, Temecula Valley's Wine Country is an adult playground waiting to be found.

Hot air ballooning

Hot air ballooning is one of the most fascinating and unique attractions in the Temecula Valley Wine Country. The adventure begins at sunrise while you watch the inflation and preparation of the balloon. Flights are typically 60 to 75 minutes in duration and a certified pilot acts as a tour guide, identifying points of interest and answering questions. Once back on the ground, a continental breakfast is offered, including champagne and time to reflect on the wonderful experience.

Water sports

Lake Elsinore boasts a wide variety of water sports.

Beautiful 3,300-acre Lake Elsinore beckons visitors to its shores to enjoy boating, wakeboarding, fishing, water skiing, windsurfing, sunbathing, picnicking or just playing on the beach.

Just opened!

In Lake Elsinore a 92,000-square-foot abandoned Kmart building that stood vacant for 10 years has been transformed into the Trevi Lanes Entertainment Center, which consists of three themes -- a 48-lane bowling alley; sports bar with two dance floors, a DJ and a live band; and an arcade with 200 games split between adult and children's sections. An Italian restaurant and a traditional snack counter feed guests from an appetizing menu.

Shopping

In Old Town Temecula, visitors stroll along the wooden boardwalks and shop the specialty boutiques, art galleries and over 640 antique stores. History buffs, antique collectors and window shoppers will take a step back in time wandering the streets of Old Town Temecula viewing rustic buildings and storefronts reminiscent of our historic golden west. The town was born in 1882 when the California Railroad came through the valley. For a shopping frenzy, there's Temecula's popular Promenade Mall with four major department stores and over 140 stores, eateries and 15-screen Edwards Cinema.

Lake Elsinore Outlets provides nearly 100 stores offering top brand-name merchandise at extraordinary values. The historic downtown district is a place to stroll and search for rare finds in the numerous antique shops. Lake Elsinore opened four new retail centers with over 1.3 million square feet of space in 2006 and is rehabbing many older ones.

Red Hawk Golf Course in Temecula is a golfer's paradise.

Golf

Golf, golf and more golf! The region boasts 153 holes at eight golf courses, including seven championship courses. They feature some of the best designs and most intriguing fairways and greens in Southern California.

Lake Elsinore is expected to open its new lakeside 18-hole Scottish Links golf course and clubhouse by the end of the year. Professional golf instruction and first-class practice facilities are also available throughout the region.

Southwest California Golf Courses

Bear Creek Golf Club (www.bearcreekgc.com)

The Colony Country Club (www.temelink.com/thecolony)

Cross Creek Golf Club (www.crosscreekgolfclub.com)

Redhawk Golf Club (www.redhawkgolfcourse.com)

The SCGA Golf Club (www.scgagolfcourse.com)

Temecula Creek Inn (www.temeculacreekinn.com)

Temeku Hills Golf Course & Country Club (www.temekuhills.com)

The Links at Summerly (www.linksatsummerly.com)

Parks and parkland

Lake Elsinore opened four new parks last year for a total of 121 acres.

Alberhill features three international-sized soccer fields and two high-school-sized soccer fields. Murrieta has 45 parks and 612 acres of parkland, and Temecula adds more than 49 city parks, city facilities and joint-use facilities. Among the facilities are three community centers, Temecula Valley Museum, Imagination Workshop Temecula Children's Museum, Old Town Temecula Community Theater, aquatics center, a skate park and roller hockey arena.

In December 2006, Temecula celebrated the opening of the new 44-acre Patricia H. Birdsall Sports Park.

Casinos

The excitement of Vegas, plus everything for an ultimate casino experience is right here in Southwest California. There is lots of casino action -- whether your game is slots, blackjack, poker, craps or roulette, there's something fun for everyone. From state-of-the-art poker rooms to large nonsmoking gaming floors, you'll find what you need to get the action started. Fabulous cuisine, nightly entertainment and top-name headliners round out these exciting attractions.

Accommodations

Southwest California offers modest, refined, rustic or upscale accommodation alternatives from campgrounds to quaint bed and breakfasts, luxurious winery and golf resorts, deluxe hotels and four-diamond entertainment resorts and casinos.

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