A picnic lunch surrounded by rolling hills. Bouquets of wildflowers and baby barn animals. Not a laptop or cellphone in sight.
If this imagery is soothing to you, you’re not alone. Welcome to cottagecore, a sunny corner of the internet where you can immerse yourself in an idealized, rose-tinted version of country living. Think Taylor Swift posing among the brambles in her latest album art, the Weasley family’s shabby-chic home and gnome-infested garden in the “Harry Potter” series and, of course, “Little House on the Prairie” (minus the grasshopper plague that destroys Pa’s harvest).
Despite a surface-level omission of modern technology, cottagecore has proliferated on TikTok and other online platforms — and is generating headlines. Just last week, an Agence France-Presse story posited that cottagecore is “poised to overtake hygge as the biggest lifestyle trend of the post-coronavirus era.”
It’s no surprise that outlets have been quick to point out the connection between cottagecore’s romanticized return to a simpler time and the pandemic raging across the globe. In stress-filled times, scrolling through #cottagecore on Instagram is a calming respite from reality. But in case you’re in need of a more palpable retreat, there is no shortage of leisurely drives you can take to find solace in a picnic lunch and time spent in nature.
Just remember to use the bathroom before hitting the road and, of course, bring a mask.
San Luis Obispo County
Weary of strip malls and traffic? The flaxen farmland of San Luis Obispo can be a restorative place to flee for a day. Stop for lunch at Avila Valley Barn, at 560 Avila Beach Drive, just off U.S. 101. The farm offers a sweet slice of rural life, where visitors can enjoy barbecue, roasted corn and heaps of fresh produce. It’s taken COVID safety measures, such as installing hand sanitizer stations and plexiglass barriers at the cash register. If you don’t feel comfortable stopping for a longer visit, the farm offers to-go dining as well. After lunch, stroll through Avila Valley Barn’s orchard before heading home.
Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area
If you only have an hour or two to retreat from everyday life, Los Angeles’ city parks and green spaces do the trick. Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area’s pretty brook is an ideal place to spread out a picnic blanket and relax. You’re close to civilization, so there are plenty of lunch options to choose from on your way to the park. Hilltop Coffee at 4427 W. Slauson Ave., five minutes away, has a wide selection of bowls and toasts if you’re in need of sustenance. Keep an eye out for the park’s bold geese and ducks — though farm animals are part of the cottagecore aesthetic, you won’t want one of these fellows swiping your lunch.
Julian, a small gold rush town nestled in the Cuyamaca Mountains of San Diego County, is known for its apple pie. Feeling hungry on your way into town? Stop at Wynola Flats Produce (3962 California 78) to pick up fresh fruits, vegetables, honey and other snacks. Downtown Julian can get crowded, so you may want to limit yourself to driving down its old-timey Main Street. But do think about poking your head into Julian Pie Co. (2225 Main St.) before finding an open space near town to spread a picnic blanket. You won’t be disappointed with a slice of the apple mountain berry crumb pie.
Looking for an escape closer to L.A., maybe with a hike and an ocean view? Try Tuna Canyon Park in Topanga, nestled between Pacific Coast Highway and the San Fernando Valley. Though it’s minutes from a major metropolis, Topanga’s golden hills, criss-crossed with horseback riding trails, can trick you into feeling as if you’re on some bucolic Mediterranean coastline. Consider grabbing snacks at Canyon Gourmet (120 S. Topanga Canyon Blvd.), a small specialty food store in the heart of Topanga. Its artisanal cheeses and meats make for a well-stocked picnic basket. Bonus points if you arrive a bit before sunset — you’ll be treated to ethereal golden-hour views of the Pacific as you relax and unwind.