Dream Town: Pacific Palisades, California
Just a 25-minute drive west of bustling Los Angeles, the roughly 27,000 residents here carve out a more laid-back existence than one naturally associates with nearby Hollywood. "We're a close neighborhood. It feels like a small town," says resident Judy Perr. In 2005, her husband, Tim, and his business partner (also a Palisades local) formed Pali Wine Co., a vino enterprise named after the community, with varietals inspired by their surroundings.
There is no beachfront property in the Palisades—but that doesn't seem to matter to the people who live here. After all, the picturesque place is still surrounded by three state parks and miles of sandy beach. "We can see the dolphins jumping in the surf around the Tower 15 lifeguard station from the bluff," Perr says. "And by the time we drive down to the beach, they are still there. We never miss them."
Main Street: The small downtown core has cafés and restaurants, boutiques, yoga facilities, and home decor shops. Elyse Walker boutique is the purveyor of luxury brands; Kier Design shop sells nautical accents.
Restaurants: Three words: The Hungry Cat. The seasonal menu boasts some of the best oysters on the West Coast. Gladstone's peppery clam chowder served in a bread bowl is best enjoyed on the sunny patio.
Activities: Palisades Park & Recreation Center and Rustic Canyon Park are the go-to spots for family fun, with baseball diamonds and basketball courts.
Lodging: Channel Road Inn is a cozy retreat near the water.
The Neighbors: "It's pretty unique: you can live next to a big-name celebrity or a family that's been here for generations. People here are kind; everyone supports the community," says resident Stacey Rosser.
The Parks: Temescal Gateway Park has an easy hiking trail that leads to a beautiful waterfall. The Inspiration Point trail at Will Rogers State Historic Park ascends 300 feet in elevation to views out over the bay.
The Fourth of July Party: This year marked the 65th anniversary of the town's over-the-top Independence Day. Thousands of people attend the parade, grand marshaled by a celebrity guest, and the fireworks show.