Lifestyle

Convalesce Like a Mid-Century Movie Star at This Historic SoCal Hot Springs Resort

Stumble into wellness at this newly renovated Murrieta resort with special sleep rooms, a stunning fitness program, and 50 pools of geothermal hot springs.

Photo courtesy of Murrieta Hot Springs Resort
Photo courtesy of Murrieta Hot Springs Resort
Photo courtesy of Murrieta Hot Springs Resort

We love to ascribe mythical properties to water, from spiteful ocean gods to the silly commercial branding of bottled water and “sea cures” for “hysteria.” But there’s a reason for that-water is pretty important, from the environment to hydration to the soothing effects of a good hot soak. For further research on the last of these, look to the newly renovated Murrieta Hot Springs Resort, a historic wellness -focused hidden gem outside LA that reopens to the public on February 1.

The natural hot springs that bubble up from deep under the Temecula Valley have been a popular feature for hundreds of years; the sulfurous water seeps up through the ground at a temperature that can reach 130 degrees, forming scalding pools and streams that locals have enjoyed in a variety of different ways. Native People gathered at the springs, ranchers let their sheep drink the water and miners used it for laundry, and in the mid-20th century it became a go-to spot for movie stars like Marilyn Monroe and Jack Benny to escape the pressures and prying eyes of Hollywood.

Commercial use of the springs began in 1902, when Fritz Guenther bought a slice of local land to develop into a resort; Guenther’s Murrieta Hot Springs stayed in the family for some 70 years, and buildings were added over time. Around 1918 they built the Monterrey Lodge, and then in the 1920s they added the Spanish Revival-style Stone Lodge. The nearby bath house has pools of several different sizes and temperatures, a giant sauna, a mud room, locker rooms, and more, and it dates back to the ‚Äė30s with ornate figureheads framing the entranceway.

The then-owners of the resort continued to expand into the 1970s, with some retro California cabin-style buildings across the large man-made lagoon that separates the property from its neighbors, before the resort entered a period of funky transition in the second half of the 20th century. It became an uncertified health clinic and a new age commune, and then in the 1990s Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa took over and turned it into a bible college and event center, refurbishing and repurposing the resort spaces into dorm rooms and lecture halls.

Walking the grounds today you can sense traces of each phase of the resort’s existence; there is the quiet serenity of a remote ranch in the hills, 100-year-old buildings still in use, a glimmer of mid century glamor, an earnest enthusiasm for vaguely woo-woo wellness that is almost palpable, and scattered bits of tile haphazardly embellished with ecstatic messages of Christian praise and references to bible passages.

The resort is truly beautiful, a hidden gem in an often overlooked part of Southern California-you would never know that you can get here from LA in about as long as it takes to commute from North Hollywood to the westside. Even on a hardhat tour in the early days, while large pieces of the resort remain under construction and the palm trees are sporting aggressive new haircuts, it is a peaceful place. The babble of water features-not just the springs themselves but also fountains, pools, and channels-is a soothing soundtrack.

A Modern Perspective on Wellness

The new ownership company is Olympus Real Estate Group, which also owns The Springs Resort in Colorado. They poured in some $50 million over the last several years redeveloping, updating, and modernizing the place. Many of the bible college’s dorm rooms were merged together in pairs to create single rooms, even if it cut the occupancy of some buildings in half. And they’re also modernizing their approach to wellness.

The resort has an official medical director, Naturopathic Doctor Marcus Coplin, who is also the Director of Hydrothermal Medicine for the Balneology Association of North America. He will describe the spring water’s unusual alkalinity, list the minerals within-sulfate, potassium, boron, calcium, and all your 10th grade chem favorites-and expound on the unique ratios of such, which give the springs its healing properties, the boosts to circulation, to alacrity, to overall wellbeing.

It can be a lot, especially if you start from a position of skepticism. It’s hard to dissociate the idea of healing egg-scented mineral water from old-timey quackery, snake oil, and big promises; ‚Äėtaking the water’ is the supposed cure for constipation and black bile in Tom McCarthy’s C, for gout in Northanger Abbey, for any number of ailments. But it’s a fun exercise in its own right to let go of your cynical side, to imagine yourself the hero of a turn of the century bildungsroman. Isn’t slipping the shackles of sarcasm a part of wellness too? And it becomes a lot easier when you focus on one simple fact: soaking in hot water feels great.

The design of the newly renovated resort makes experiencing the water for yourself extremely easy-there are some 50 pools dotted all over the property, along walkways and in big communal beach areas, in bath houses and on private patios connected to the more luxurious suites. The water is naturally cooled to various temperatures in different pools, from 107 degrees in some to as low as the mid-50s in others for a contrast plunge. Guests have access to the pools from the moment they arrive until 6 pm on the day of checkout, and what’s more, there are pools open 24 hours a day. If you’re the type to wake up and wander or toss and turn in the middle of the night, you can do all of that in the springs.

That convenience and accessibility ties in to their overall philosophy, a sort of easygoing vision for water-based healing in which you hardly notice you’ve stumbled into wellness. In Olympus’ ideal world, you simply find yourself feeling better without really trying.

The Full Spectrum of Fitness Programs

The understated approach extends to the other arms of wellness at Murrieta Hot Springs. Perhaps most appealing is their commitment to quality sleep, a rare precious commodity for some. Each room comes with a purpose-built sleep tray, a collection of items and concepts designed to make sure you sleep as well as you possibly can. There are ear plugs, a sack to put away your cell phone, little snacks designed to level out your blood sugar, aromatherapy sachets, and a pamphlet of suggestions of ways to improve your sleep habits and routine.

They also have a special set of rooms dedicated to sleep improvement. These rooms have more precise temperature and light controls, sound machines, and special pillows, but the pi√®ce de r√©sistance is the bed itself. They have high-tech Bryte Balance smart beds, with fully customizable firmness and a feedback system designed to offer you insights into how you’re sleeping, why, and what to do to improve your rest.

Their gym program is similarly specific, with a balance of HIIT and strength-focused classes available all the time. The program is headed by trainer, author, and podcaster Brad Davidson, whose specialties cut across the fitness spectrum, including a big emphasis on metabolism and diet. The gym itself is big and gorgeous, with lots of room to work out and plenty of brand new machinery to do it, not to mention a set of spring-filled tubs that are soon to be installed right outside, so you can go straight from class to a soak.

These classes aren’t limited to guests, either. Day passes and memberships are available for the public to use the facilities, the baths, pools, and mud rooms. The resort is designed to be a boon for the local community too.

An Emphasis on Local Impact

Murrieta locals will be able to regularly use the pools for the first time since the bible college took over the springs in the 1990s, and the focus on the greater Temecula Valley area extends to the resort’s food and beverage program too.

Murrieta Hot Springs Resort has brought on Chef Matt Steffen as their executive chef, and he’s developing the menus for several restaurants on campus. The casual Cafe Azuli and the lounge-style Guenther’s will both open at the same time as the resort itself, and in April he’ll debut the resort’s signature restaurant, Talia Kitchen. Steffen is a longtime Temecula Valley chef, with experience at some of the best restaurants in the area, including Temecula Creek Inn. Over the years he’s developed deep ties to local farms, and so his cooking at Murrieta Hot Springs will be fully farm-to-table focused. There will be ingredients from local producers like Temecula Olive Oil Company, and Steffen will even have his own garden-in fact, he says, that was one of his stipulations for joining the resort team in the first place.

Wines will come almost entirely from local Temecula Valley wineries, and cocktails will feature garden-fresh ingredients. Of course it wouldn’t be a wellness-focused destination without a robust non-alcholic drink program, though, and Murrieta Hot Springs has a great one. There are a series of tonics and shrubs infused with purported wellness boosters like apple cider vinegar, chaga mushroom powder, and shrubs made with things like carrot and turmeric or blueberry and lemon. In keeping with their overall philosophy, these will be available throughout the property, so you can casually sip on a bright, high-toned tonic whenever you want, without thinking too much about whether you’re making an intentionally healthy choice, or an intentionally tasty one.

As you sit in a pool of hot, sulfurous water, working through a turmeric tonic after a group strength class and looking ahead to your programmable bed, it’s impossible to avoid a thought for the history of this site, and the legacy of ranchers and movie stars, new age hippies and religious scholars. It’s not exactly the way they would have experienced it, but now a new generation of modern wellness and luxury travelers will get to soak in the same waters.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on¬†Instagram,¬†TikTok,¬†Twitter,¬†Facebook,¬†Pinterest, and¬†YouTube.

Ben Mesirow¬†is Thrillist’s LA Staff Writer, and an Echo Park native who writes TV, fiction, food, and sports. At one time or another, his writing has appeared in The LA Times, Litro, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Los Angeles Magazine, and scratched into dozens of desks at Walter Reed Middle School.

Lifestyle

The Best New Bookstores in LA are Curated, Specific, and Personal

Discover a new favorite book, join a book club, and maybe even do some karaoke at the new wave of LA bookshops.

Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

A couple of years ago, the legendary Powell’s Books in Portland released a perfume designed to evoke the smell of a bookstore. The scent has notes of wood, violet, and the lovely and unusually precise word biblichor, the particular aroma of old books. The reality of the scent is what it is-mostly sweet and floral-but more important is the imagery it conjures. The best bookstores are both cozy and mysterious, familiar and surprising, with endless potential for discovery.

Los Angeles has a wealth of independent book sellers, including beloved legacy shops like The Last Bookstore, The Iliad, and Chevalier’s. But a new wave of bookstores has been growing over the last few years, shops that eschew the traditional one-of-everything mindset to focus on specificity, curation, and point of view. There are bookstores with themes, bookstores that double as event spaces, bookstores that reflect their neighbourhoods, bookstores that take inspiration from a specific person-whether that’s the shop owner, a historical figure, or a little bit of both-and so many more.

Like the niche-ification of the internet and the culture at large, these new and new-ish bookstores provide a space to discover books, ideas, and perspectives led by an expert, the kind of things that you may never have found on your own. They can also be a safe harbour for pure nerdiness, a place to dive deep into your favourite category or cause. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a list of some of the best new bookstores in LA, with a focus on curated shops with their own specific perspectives.

Photo courtesy of Octavia's Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf

Octavia’s Bookshelf

Pasadena
Pasadena is a famously book-friendly city, with bookstore royalty in the form of legendary Vroman’s and its own literary alliance. Now it has one of the most exciting new bookstores too. Octavia’s Bookshelf is owner Nikki High’s tribute to the science fiction master Octavia E. Butler, who was a Pasadena native herself. The name of the shop provides a clue into High’s inspiration, titles she imagines Butler would have had on her shelves, with a focus on BIPOC authors. The storefront is small, but the collection is impeccably curated and the space is cozy and welcoming for readers of all backgrounds.

Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop

North Figueroa Bookshop

Highland Park
Vertical integration can be a beautiful thing, especially when it allows independent creators more control over their products. The new North Figueroa Bookshop is a shining example of the concept, a storefront built on a collaboration between two publishers, Rare Bird and Unnamed Press. North Fig features titles from those presses, of course, including lots of striking literary fiction and memoir, but it also features a curated collection of other books. They’ve made it a point of emphasis to serve the needs of the local Highland Park, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, and Eagle Rock community-there’s lots of fiction from fellow independent publishers, other general interest titles with a focus on California history and literature, and plenty of Spanish-language books.

Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

Zibby’s Bookshop

Santa Monica
Speaking of vertical integration, there’s another new combined publisher and bookstore on the other side of town. Zibby’s Bookshop is the brainchild of Zibby Owens, Sherri Puzey, and Diana Tramontano, and it’s the physical home of Zibby Books, a literary press that releases one featured book a month. That system is designed so that each book gets the full attention and resources of the press. Owens is an author, podcaster, and book-fluencer, and she has become something of a lit-world mogul with a magazine, podcast network, event business, and an education platform too. The shop has a unique sorting system, built around a feeling for each book-in store many of the shelves are labelled by interest or personality type, like “For the foodie,” or “For the pop culture lover.” On their webshop, you can browse for books that make you cry, escape, laugh, lust, or tremble. There are recommendations from Owens and the staff, sections for local authors, family dramas, and books that have just been optioned. If this all seems a little overwhelming, you should probably avoid the section dedicated to books that make you anxious.

The Salt Eaters Bookshop

Inglewood
Inglewood native Asha Grant opened The Salt Eaters Bookshop in 2021 with a mission in mind-to centre stories with protagonists who are Black girls, women, femme, and/or gender-nonconforming people. Over the last year and change that it’s been open, it has also become a community hub, a place for Inglewood locals and people from across town to drop in, to see what’s new and to discover incredible works in the Black feminist tradition. They also host regular events like readings, discussions, and parties.

Lost Books

Montrose
Thankfully, legendary downtown bookshop The Last Bookstore’s name is hyperbole, and owners Josh and Jenna Spencer have even gone so far as to open a second shop, Lost Books in Montrose. Instead of the technicolour whimsy of the book tunnel at The Last Bookstore, Lost Books has a tunnel of plants that welcomes you into the shop, which opened in the summer of 2021. They sell those plants in addition to books, and coffee and vinyl too, which makes Lost Books a lovely destination and a fun little surprise in the quaint foothill town just off the 2 freeway.

Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe

Stories Books & Cafe

Echo Park
Ok, this one is fudging the criteria a little-Stories has been open for almost 15 years. But over those years the shop has become a pillar of Echo Park community life, hosting readings, discussions, and events, and their cafe tables function as a de facto office for about half of the neighbourhood on any given afternoon. After the tragic recent passing of co-owner and Echo Park fixture Alex Maslansky it seemed like the shop’s future was in doubt, but thankfully after a brief hiatus co-owner and co-founder Claudia Colodro and the staff were able to band together to reopen and keep the beloved cafe and bookstore going strong.

Page Against the Machine

Long Beach
The name alone makes it clear what you’re getting at Page Against the Machine-revolutionary progressive books, with a collection centred on activist literature, socially conscious writing, and a whole lot of political history. The shop itself is small but the ideas are grand, with fiction by writers like Richard Wright, Colson Whitehead, and Albert Camus next to zines about gentrification and compendia of mushroom varieties. They also host regular readings and discussions.

Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte

Re/Arte Centro Literario

Boyle Heights
Boyle Heights has its own small but mighty combined bookstore, art gallery, gathering space, and small press in Viva Padilla’s Re/Arte. Padilla is a poet, translator, editor, and curator, and as a South Central LA native and the child of Mexican immigrants, she’s focused on Chicanx and Latinx art, literature, and social criticism. Re/Arte’s collection has a wide range of books, from classic Latin American literature to modern essays and everything in between. Re/Arte is also now the headquarters for sin cesar, a literary journal that publishes poetry, fiction, and essays from Black and Brown writers. There are always community-focused events happening too, from regular open mics and zine workshops to film screenings and more.

The Book Jewel

Westchester
Most bookshops host events, but few host them with the regularity of The Book Jewel, the two- year-old independent bookstore in Westchester. Their calendar is so full with readings, several different book clubs, signings, and meet and greets that there are sometimes multiple events on the same day. The shop also hosts a ton of family-focused readings, with regular storytime on Sunday mornings often followed by a talk with the author. It’s a great fit for the relatively low-key (but not exactly quiet) suburban neighbourhood, and it’s no coincidence that storytime lines up with the Westchester Farmers Market, which takes place right out front.

Reparations Club

West Adams
Most bookstores lean into coziness, aiming to be a hideaway for some quiet contemplation or maybe a quick sotto voce chat-not so at Reparations Club, the exuberant and stylish concept bookshop and art space on Jefferson. Owner and founder Jazzi McGilbert and her staff have built a beautiful and vibrant shop full of art from Black artists, including books but also records, candles, incense, clothing, and all sorts of fun things to discover. There’s a perfect seating area to sit and hang out for a while, and they host a range of wild and fun events from readings to happy hours, panel discussions to karaoke nights and more.

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

Ben Mesirow is a Staff Writer at Thrillist.

Related

Our Best Stories, Delivered Daily
The best decision you'll make all day.