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Family Guide to Idyllwild with kids – Where to eat, stay & play

An artsy mountain town in Southern California, Idyllwild is one of our favorite family retreats
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Tucked away in the San Jacinto Mountains in Riverside County, CA is a quaint little town bursting with amazing restaurants, friendly people, and a delightful art culture. In the winter, Idyllwild is one of the most convenient places near Los Angeles and Orange Counties to experience snow (which is one of the main attractions for us).

Any time of year, Idyllwild is a wonderful place to escape the city, relax and enjoy the fresh mountain air.

We take a family trip to Idyllwild at least once a year. One thing we’ve discovered is that there are lots of fun things to do in Idyllwild with kids. Our kids really love it there! It is an extremely family-friendly (and budget friendly) weekend escape.

So follow me and discover some of our favorite kid-friendly activities in Idyllwild. Here are some of the reasons I think you will fall in love with Idyllwild.

5 Reasons you will fall in LOVE with Idyllwild

  1. It is a cute mountain town with fresh air that smells like Christmas all year-round (think pine trees and fireplaces)
  2. There’s a surprising number of excellent, locally-owned restaurants that have attracted many popular chefs
  3. Most of the restaurants have kid-friendly live music nightly!
  4. The town embraces a quirky, artistic culture that you see everywhere
  5. It is easy to get there (pretty simple mountain roads) and it snows occasionally in the winter

Here’s what’s in this article:

Things to do in Idyllwild with kids

Places to eat in Idyllwild with kids

Places to stay in Idyllwild with kids

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Fun things to do in Idyllwild

Town Center of Idyllwild

Shopping

Town Center Area, North Circle Drive

Most the shops in Idyllwild are located on North Circle Drive. This is the quaint town center filled with unique local shops and restaurants. We love wandering the streets and peeking into some of our favorite shops in search for fun treasures. Some of our favorites include Merkaba, Far East International and Idyllwild Gift Shop. For something truly unique, go check out the Funky Bazaar. It is filled with everything from the creepy, to the unique and vintage and the just plain weird.

Find out more on TripAdvisor

Earth n Fire Idyllwild activity with kids

Earth ‘N’ Fire

54225 N Circle Dr. Idyllwild, Ca 92549

Painting pottery is a very relaxing and fun activity to do, no matter the weather. We usually visit in winter, so we love escaping the cold air by retreating into the warm and cozy studio. The large surrounding windows allow guests to enjoy the views while bringing in tons of natural light. Everyone from grandparents to kids will enjoy this activity. In fact, painting a new piece of pottery every time we visit Idyllwild has become a tradition for our family.

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Idyllwild community playground with kids

Idyllwild Community Playground

26116-26184 Banning-Idyllwild Panoramic Hwy, Idyllwild, Ca 92549

This imaginative community-built playground, is a favorite among our kids and I am sure it will be loved by yours too. With so many exciting things to explore, like rope courses, tire swings, slides, play houses and more, it is the perfect place to burn off some energy. Located behind Strawberry Creek, the playground is beautiful, creative and really fun! It is everything you would hope for from an artsy community like Idyllwild.

Rustic Theatre

54290 N. Circle Dr. Idyllwild, Ca 92549

Built in 1952 this sweet historic theater has been bringing award-winning films to Idyllwild for almost 70 years! This single screen theater only plays one new release at time, but is what makes it quaint and charming. Inside you will find a cozy lobby and traditional movie snacks available for purchase.

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Idyllwild strawberry creek hiking

Kid-Friendly Hiking Trails

There are quite a few easy and scenic trails in Idyllwild that are great for families. For example, the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail is an easy 2.6 mile hike that enters from Fern Valley Road (just before Humber Park) and crosses streams and many different species of trees. Honestly, we don’t take our kids hiking that often (unless it is a really simple and short hike), but Idyllwild is a really nice place to hike.

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Humber Park

24559 Fern Valley Rd Idyllwild, Ca 92549

Humber Park is located in the San Bernardino National Forest and is the site of two trail heads, Devils Slide Trail and Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail. You do have to purchase a National Park Adventure pass before arriving to Humber Park. Find out more at the link below to the gov website.

Find out more info

Idyllwild restaurant live music

Restaurants with live music

If you love live music like we do, then you will love Idyllwild. Most restaurants in town offer live music nightly. Some of our favorites include, Idyology, Cafe Aroma, Gastrognome and Fratello’s Ristorante & Pizzeria. However, there are many many more amazing restaurants with live music in Idyllwild, so please head to the restaurant section of this post for details on individual venues.

Fireside Inn Idyllwild

Stay in your cabin

More than likely, you don’t live in a cabin (and if you do, I am kinda jealous). One of our favorite things about visiting Idyllwild is staying a few nights in a rustic cabin with a fireplace and all. There are lots of great affordable options that we discuss below (click HERE to jump there). Things to do as a family in your Idyllwild cabin include cozying up to a roaring fireplace, watching movies, playing board games, having a family dance party (we did that once!), and drinking affordable libations.

Kid Galahad (1962)

Quick Trivia: Did you know a movie starring Elvis was actually filmed in the small town of Idyllwild in the 1960’s!?

Jump to Cabin Rentals and Reviews below

Kid-friendly Restaurants in Idyllwild

Idyology restaurant in idyllwild

Idyology

54905 N. Circle Dr, Idyllwild, Ca 92549

Let’s just start with the décor, shall we? I mean it is glorious. It looks like a cozy Victorian saloon with waxy candles dripping and crystal chandeliers sparkling in the dime glow. There is an eccentric mix of furniture, rugs double as table cloths, a skeleton greets you at the door and sage hangs from the bar. It is just fascinating. Then there is the comfort food and specialty cocktails! During the winter be sure to stop in for some fresh mulled wine. Yes, there is live music too!! This quirky, funky and cozy spot has fast become one our favorite restaurants.

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Gastrognome restaurant idyllwild with kids

Restaurant Gastrognome

54381 Ridgeview Dr, Idyllwild, Ca 92549

Gastrognome opened in 1973 and is one of the classic Idyllwild restaurants, making it a must visit. It was our first favorite dining experience in town and a spot we never skip. With a delicious upscale menu that including dishes like Chicken Breast Cordon Blue, Grilled Filet of Beef in a red wine glaze, Pasta Primavera and Broiled Cold-Water Lobster Tail, you are guaranteed to have a great meal.

It has three dining areas all with very different vibes. The Cafe is a cozy nook just adjacent to the bar. It has an intimate atmosphere complete with a ski-resort-style fireplace in the center to the room. The Main Dining room is a grander space with high beam ceiling and archways. The expansive stone fireplace is the showcase of the room. Finally, there is The Deck and this outdoor dining space is perfect for enjoying those warm summer days and taking in majestic views of Tahquitz Peak.

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Ferro

25840 Cedar St, Idyllwild, Ca 92549

Love Italian food? Good, because I have another great restaurant for you. Owned by Chef Frank Ferro, this is Italian cuisine elevated. Not only is the food top-notch and creative, Ferro is also an entertainment venue with a kick-ass patio and stage. Don’t miss jazz nights! Oh and the pizza oven surrounded by bar seating is super cool!

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Cafe Aroma kid-friendly idyllwild restaurant

Cafe Aroma

54750 N Circle Dr, Idyllwild, Ca 92549

Another favorite! This venue is not only a restaurant, but an art gallery and social club. There is live music at night and the main dining room is teeny tiny, but that’s what makes it so cozy. The food is incredible and I always go for a pasta dish. My favorite is the Feta Fettuccini with olives and pine nuts. Coupled with a chilled glass of white wine? Heaven!! There is the gallery dining room as well, but I always request the main dining room.

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Mile High Cafe in Idyllwild

Mile High Cafe

26600 CA-243, Idyllwild, Ca 92549

I love me some Asian cuisine, so you can imagine my delight to find an Asian Fusion restaurant near our cabin. We sat near the piano, sipping on beer, slurping up Udon and nibbling on bibimbap and sushi. I asked if they had live music and I was informed that in addition to musicians scheduled to play on weekend evenings, the students from the local performing arts school often make random appearances to entertain the diners. Sounds fun, and sounds like Idyllwild!

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La Casita mexican restaurant idyllwild

La Casita

54650 N Circle Dr, Idyllwild, Ca 92549

Really good Mexican food with a view. I prefer patio seating while visiting, because the surrounding trees and fresh air somehow make the food even better. Come hungry, because the portions are large and the food is so good it’s hard to stop – even after having a few baskets of free chips and salsa!

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Idyllwild BrewPub

54423 Village Center Dr, Idyllwild, Ca 92549

This is an upscale pub and live music venue with a very cool “bigger city” vibe. The fare is anything but traditional pub grub and features unique items like Calamari Sandwiches, Pretzel B.L.T, Beef on Weck and Dirty Sticky Wings. They also offer an extensive list of home brews that are brewed using crisp Idyllwild well water, malted barley and grains from the US, England, Belgium, Germany and Canada, pure yeast and fresh hops from around the world. In addition to all that, the have various events and live performance throughout the month.

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Tommy's Kitchen restaurant in Idyllwild

Tommy’s Kitchen

54700 N Circle Dr, Idyllwild, Ca 92549

Known as the Swiss-infused American restaurant in Idyllwild, Tommy’s Kitchen is owned and operated by a husband and wife team that moved here from Zurich Switzerland. Open for breakfast and lunch, the menu offers a wide-range of European options and an amazing Sunday Brunch. The large open patio provides a beautiful outdoor space for patrons to enjoy the fresh mountain air.

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Red Kettle

54220 N Circle Dr, Idyllwild, Ca 92549

The Red Kettle is one of the oldest cafes in Idyllwild, built in 1920. It has since changed ownership many times, but the character and charm has remained. Open for breakfast and lunch, you get to enjoy delicious classics in the same building that John Wayne and Elvis Presley did while filming in Idyllwild. It is a must see and is right close to the center of town.

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fratellos italian cuisine idyllwild restaurant

Fratello’s Ristorante & Pizzeria

54295 Ridgeview Dr, Idyllwild, Ca 92549

Family-owned by four brothers, their passion for food shows in every dish. Serving up authentic and delicious Italian cuisine, you will want to savor every bite (but save room for their decadent desserts). A little piece of Italy in Idyllwild, the atmosphere is warm and inviting, great for family dining as well as romantic dates for two. Plus, like many of the restaurants in Idyllwild there is live music to enjoy as well!

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Best places to stay in Idyllwild with kids

Quiet Creek Inn Idyllwild Cabins

Quiet Creek Inn

26345 Delano Dr POB 240, Idyllwild, Ca 92549

The first place (and only place) for years that we stayed at when we visited Idyllwild for every anniversary. It was recommended by a friend and we instantly fell in love with the property and the Strawberry Creek. Every cabin comes with a fireplace and kitchenette among other amenities you would expect from an inn. Some are bigger than others. For instance, some have a separate living space from the bedroom and bath, while the others are studio style cabins. We used to rent the cabin with the hot tub on the balcony. It made for romantic evenings, especially on snowy nights. There is a two night minimum.

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Fireside Inn Idyllwild Family Cabin Rental

Fireside Inn

54540 N Circle Dr, Idyllwild, Ca 92549

We stayed here for the first time in 2010 and really enjoyed the cute lodge rooms and the proximity to the town center and the reasonable rates. They also offer off-site individual cabins, which are great if you’re visiting with a large group or family with multiple kids. The cabins are cozy, clean and fit families nicely.

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Idyllwild Inn

54300 Village Center Dr, Idyllwild, Ca 92549

At Idyllwild Inn, guests have the option of staying in one their rustic cabins, themed rooms or luxury suites. For families you will have to choose between between the luxury cabin suites, rustic cabins or new rustic cabins as the themed rooms are for adults only and sleep two. Rates vary depending on the type of accommodation.

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Creekstone Inn

54950 Pine Crest Ave, Idyllwild, Ca 92549

This is the warm and cozy, “winter cabin” feeling we have all been looking for! This classic looking mountain lodge is decorated in old world charm with a grand stone lobby fireplace and rustic woods that blend harmoniously with the crystal chandeliers, rich upholstery and elegant Victorian touches throughout the property. Plus, it is walking distance to the village, restaurants and art galleries.

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BlueBird Cottage Inn

26620 Saddle Dr, Idyllwild, Ca 92549

At the BlueBird Cottage Inn, guests can choose from cozy individual cabins or single rooms. Units range from occupancy of 2 to 8, most equipped with fireplaces and kitchens. We typically stay in the Meadowlark and BlueBird cabins. Rates are very reasonable and the location is a close drive (3 minutes) to town.

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Strawberry Creek Inn Bed & Breakfast

26370 Ca-243, Idyllwild, Ca 92549

There are several room options on the property, but the Strawberry Cottage-Flexible is really the only room that could fit a family with kids, as it has a master king bed and hidden queen-sized Murphy bed, as well as a pullout queen sofa bed. It is a bed & breakfast, so every stay includes a complimentary 2-course breakfast. The inn has relaxing outdoor spaces to enjoy, like hammocks, decks with mountain views and walks along Strawberry Creek.

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That’s a Wrap!

Idyllwild is a really cool little town with great food, relaxing times, and your kids will have a blast exploring the wilderness and listening to live music practically every night. In the winter, you might even luck out with some snow (it’s happened to us twice, and the kids were super excited). It is just what you need to recharge your batteries, and visiting Idyllwild won’t break the bank. It is a hidden gem of Southern California.

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Author

I am a busy mama with 3 delicious babies and a serious itch for travel and writing (when I am not bartending, that is)! After graduating from Cal State San Marcos with a B.A. in Communications, I decided to start a family and pursue a career in freelance writing. I created HotMamaTravel as an outlet to do what I love while sharing useful travel tips and inspiration with others. Our mission is to show parents how to master travel with kids, while keeping your Saturday-night selves. We call it "Family travel...with a twist".

22 Comments

    • It really is idyllic in Idyllwild and with the cabin, you are right. It is the best of both worlds!

  1. Dawn Sonnier Reply

    A beautiful platform about my wonderful town! The playground is awesome, glad your kids enjoyed it! We had over 500 local volunteers build it in just 5 days! It’s priceless! Maybe I’ll See you next time at the candy cupboard, it’s a small town!

    • The playground was a huge highlight for the kids! It was the nicest playground I’ve seen in a long time! Yes, the kids loved the candy shop. We may have already run into each other! Ha. We’ll be sure to say “Hi” the next time we’re in town!

  2. Pingback: Best Family Travels of 2015 |

  3. The water track is amazingly beautiful. The accommodation seems great too. Thanks for sharing your trip experience. I will definitely consider it if my kids like the place.

  4. What a lovely alternative to Palm Springs. Gorgeous looking place, and peaceful. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I had no idea ! Thanks for the thorough research, I will recommend this for families in lieu of Palm Springs.

  6. That looks awesome. I love weekend camping trips and Idyllwild looks great for the whole family!
    That food selection is surprisingly awesome. The Nome looks great but IDYology looks phenomenal! I love the interior!
    I think I will have to send my god daughters and their parents there for a fun weekend away from San Diego

    • Brenda Macias Reply

      Thanks for the recommendations! I just booked our trip for November!

  7. The Christmas period is my holiday as a teacher haha! This looks like a great place to relax though! Looks like it’s a lot of fun for the kids as well!

  8. Toby Settle Reply

    Thanks for writing about one of our favorite, and underrated Southern California destinations. Everything you mention, and more! Just to clarify, Idyllwild cannot be easily reached via the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Getting to Idyllwild from the top of the tramway requires a moderately strenuous 10.1 mile hike that should be attempted by experienced, properly prepared hikers only. Hiking across is only advised between the months of June and October.

  9. Come stay with us at New Spirit Vacation Homes we would love to accommodate your stay, we also offer packages that include reservations, tickets to events, and other things to do in the area!

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