Temecula has become a popular short-break destination for its Old West Americana main street, nearly two dozen wineries, and California’s largest casino, Pechanga.
Temecula means ‘Place of the Sun’ in the language of the native Luiseño people, who were present when Fr Fermin Lasuen became the first Spanish missionary to visit in 1797. In the 1820s the area became a ranching outpost for the Mission San Luis Rey, in present-day Oceanside. Later, Temecula became a stop on the Butterfield stagecoach line (1858–61) and the California Southern railroad.
But it’s Temecula’s late-20th-century growth that’s been most astonishing, from 2700 people in 1970 – the city didn’t get its first traffic light until 1984 – to some 91,000 residents today. Between Old Town and the wineries is an off-putting, 3 mile buffer zone of suburban housing developments and shopping centers. Ignore that and you’ll do fine.
Temecula is in the southeast corner of Riverside County, near San Diego and Orange Counties. The five-block Old Town Front St, heart of Old Town Temecula, is a minute’s drive from the I-15 Freeway. From here, Rancho California Rd is the main route into wine country.