San Antonio, TX: New Braunfels
Where to eat/drink: Alpine Haus, Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar, Faust Hotel and Brewing Co., Pour Haus
Most San Antonio residents (and Austin residents, for that matter) are quite familiar with New Braunfels as a go-to launch point for some sweet tubing on the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers, and as the hometown of six-time MLB all-star Lance Berkman. But beyond that, there's some serious history here -- the German (how'd you guess?!) settlement ranked among Texas' biggest in the 1850s, and that legacy lives on in its annual autumn Wurstfest, as well as German restaurants like Alpine Haus, where you can get your schnitzel on year-round. Or, should your tastes lie more Southern comfort than German, there's Gristmill River in historic Gruene (which lies within the city limits and also boasts a much-beloved music hall). If tubing in naturally occurring rivers isn't enough for you, there are always the water slides at massive water park Schlitterbahn, and if that doesn't get your heart racing, two words: SNAKE FARM! -- ML
San Bernardino/Riverside, CA: Chino Hills
Where to eat/drink: Mes Amis, Oke Poke, Oh Queso
Just to be clear: this is not Ryan Atwood's Chino. But if you're going to be spending your time in San Bernardino County you could do much worse than Chino Hills, which was basically all rolling hills and meadows and horses and bootleggers and people Ryan Atwood unintentionally hurt emotionally until, like, 1989. On top of driving by the home of Vine sensation Cameron Dallas, Chino Hills gives you options. You might be working in San Bernardino now, but maybe you get transferred to Anaheim, or LA, or, ugh, Apple Valley. If it's any of them aside from Apple Valley, you can stay put, as you're relatively equidistant. Unfortunately, as with much of this area, there is a high concentration of chains amongst the fancy ranch-esque-sounding neighborhoods, but there are also a few gems, including Mes Amis, which offers up quality Lebanese food. Oh, and belly dancing. -- KA
San Diego, CA: Solana Beach
Where to eat/drink: Pizza Port. All the time.
San Diego is another strange place where the county sucks up almost all of the surrounding suburbs pretty far north. Basically until you get to North County and go through Del Mar to get to Solana Beach. But SB is an easy choice here anyway. Not quite as obnoxious and filled with horses as Rancho Santa Fe, or as obnoxious and filled with dudes in cherry-red M3s as Del Mar, or as damn far up north as Encinitas, Solana Beach is the more subtly cool North County town, with a fantastic beachfront, a subtle arts community, the OG Pizza Port (aka the grandest place to drink amazing beer, eat solid pizza, and play video games), and handsome people with toned calves walking around everywhere. And before you're like, "But Kevin! Del Mar has so many more restaurant options!" Well, look, you're right next door, so you can go eat and drink at them, too. -- KA
San Francisco/Oakland, CA: Larkspur
Where to eat/drink: Picco, Farmshop, Silver Peso, Perry's
Larkspur is one of those Northern California towns that seems made up, with that grand old-timey Downtown with a vintage theater, redwoods everywhere, and dads wearing straight-brimmed hats carrying longboards. But it is a real place, friends. And it truly is grand. Trying to get into SF for work? How about you commute via the Larkspur ferry, which takes you right to Downtown in 25 minutes. Or maybe you're trying to go to Oakland? The Richmond Bridge connects almost directly from Larkspur too. Food you crave? Picco is one of the great Northern California restaurants anywhere, and has a next-level casual pizzeria next door, Farmshop has fantastic cocktails and pizzas, Donut Alley has the best old-fashioned donuts in the country, and food trucks from SF and Marin come to Marin Country Mart on Sundays. Bars? The Silver Peso is a dive bar institution, and legendary SF bar/restaurant Perry's opened a satellite location this year, so you can get beers and watch games on a 60in TV hidden in a damn mirror.
There are great spots all around the Bay Area, but none combine location (for both cities), unique historic aesthetics, and their own great food/drink scene like Larkspur. Game over. -- KA