One of the greatest things about living in Los Angeles is that you do not need to travel far to escape the city and find yourself in a completely different landscape. With just a couple of hours driving, you can be bundled up in a snowy mountain town, secluded in an immense forest, or on an island soaking up the sun. If you are an L.A. native and only have time for a weekend escape or if you are looking to spice up your Southern California vacation, here are some of the best mini trips to take.
Day Trips Near L.A.
1. Palm Springs Day Trip
If the desert heat is more your style, you may want to venture to Palm Springs, a place better known for its relaxation than adventure. This is the place to go if you are looking to relieve some stress; unwind with a massage at the Ace Hotel’s Feel Good Spa or make it a pool day and sip a cocktail in the sun. If you have younger children that prefer constant entertainment, it may be better to leave them at home for this trip and make it a romantic weekend. Though it does cool down in the winter, Palm Springs is fun year round as long as you avoid the influx of hipsters during the Coachella music festival.
Approx. Distance from L.A. to Palm Springs: 2 hours, 115 miles
2. Big Bear Day Trip
Who says it never snows in Southern California? Only about 20 miles from Lake Arrowhead, is Big Bear, a winter escape and the perfect place to rent a cabin and cuddle up by the fire. If you are a skier or snowboarder, a quick jaunt to this mountain town can satisfy your craving for winter sports. In the summer, there are still plenty of activities for outdoorsy families like hiking and kayaking. When you head in to town to eat, do not miss the unique experience of Himalayan Restaurant, which serves the authentic cuisine of Nepal and Tibet.
Bonus Tip: If you are driving up in winter, you are probably going to need tire chains.
Approx. Distance from L.A. to Big Bear: 2.5 hours, 110 miles
3. Lake Arrowhead Day Trip
If you are looking to experience the four seasons, rather than L.A.’s chronic sunshine, you do not have to travel very far before you get to the peaceful calm of Lake Arrowhead. Lake Arrowhead Village is the town center and the best place to get any type of cuisine that you want. Be sure to try California Thai Cuisine and El Papagayos Mexican Restaurant & Cantina, or dine lakeside at Belgian Waffle Works. If you visit in the summer, you can enjoy a host of family fun like boating and hiking. If you are taking an adults-only trip, you may want to visit in early fall for some beer-drinking at the month-long Oktoberfest.
Approx. Distance from L.A. to Lake Arrowhead: 1.5-2 hours, 90 miles
4. Solvang/ Los Olivos Day Trip
A visit to Solvang will make you feel like you have somehow driven all the way to a quaint little town in Denmark, complete with half-timbered building and windmills. You can spend your day shopping at the unique boutiques in the center of town, and then stop by the Hans Christian Andersen Museum located upstairs in The Book Loft Building. This is probably a trip that you would be better served to take without the kids because one of the highlights is wine tasting in Los Olivos wine country. You can pack a picnic from the deli at New Frontiers Natural Marketplace and enjoy it with a great bottle of wine at the Firestone Winery, one of the most picturesque vineyards in the area. If you are less concerned with scenery, you can walk between tasting rooms in town without having to worry about hiring a car service or paying for an official tour.
Approx. Distance from L.A. to Solvang/ Los Olivos: 2.5 hours, 130 miles
5. Sequoia National Park Day Trip
Sequoia National Park is home to the world’s largest trees by volume, including The General Sherman Tree, which is the largest living thing on the planet. If you are a nature-lover this is the perfect weekend visit for you and your family. Other can’t-miss attractions include a tour of Crystal Cave, the view from the top of Morro Rock, and lunch at The Peaks Restaurant inside Wuksachi Lodge.
Bonus Tip: Fourth of July weekend is the park’s busiest time of year, so if you want to spend the nation’s birthday in Sequoia, make sure to book your trip well in advance.
Approx. Distance from L.A. to Sequoia National Park: 3-3.5 hours, 200 miles
6. Santa Catalina Island Day Trip
Just a 45-minute boat ride from San Pedro or Long Beach harbors, Catalina Island truly has something for every type of tourist. With arguably the best snorkeling opportunities in California and the famous glass-bottom boat tours, you will have plenty of options for viewing the island’s plethora of marine life. You can also lounge at the beach, fly across one of Southern California’s only zip lines, or go on a “Buffalo Safari” to see the peculiar herd of American Bison that live on the island.
Bonus Tip: If you plan your visit for the weekend, most hotels and rentals will require at least a two-night stay.
*Approx. Distance from L.A. to Catalina Island: 1.5-2 hours, 55 miles
*Including both driving to the ferry station and the boat ride
This article was written by Paula Ashlee Berg.
Hero Image Credit: Jake Melara