Irvine is situated in Southern California, just a short distance from the state’s most popular attractions like Disneyland and the beach. If you’re up for a short road trip, you can also visit breathtaking destinations such as Big Bear Lake and Venice Beach. As for accommodations, book a stay at an Irvine vacation rental to be close to all of the action. Here’s a quick peek at the seven best weekend getaway spots from Irvine to help you start planning.

a california beach at dawn
Source: Flickr/DenisDenis

1. Yuma, Arizona

In just a little over three hours, relax and unwind in the town of Yuma, Arizona, which was once a booming mining town. One of the largest date farms in the United States, Martha’s Gardens Medjool Date Farm is a fun afternoon tour. Walk past blooming plants in this arid environment and pick up some goodies from the gift shop before leaving. The Saihati Camel Farm is another unique place to tour. Here, your kids can even help feed camels and possibly ride on one. To experience the town’s mining history, the Castle Dome Mines Museum and Ghost Town is the place to go. The museum brought in derelict buildings from around the country to create the ghost town and provide you with an Old West feel.

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2. Bakersfield, California

Bakersfield, California, is a little less than three hours from Irvine. Check the schedule to see a show at the Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace or opt to take a tour during the day. Kids love seeing the bears at the California Area Living Museum. This small zoo is home to around 60 species of native animals. Climb onto a tractor-driven hay wagon for your tour of the Murray Family Farms. Pet all the farm animals and stop by the Red Barn to pick up some fresh produce, cheese, and baked goods to take with you.

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3. Santa Maria, California

Act like a kid again with a weekend away in Santa Maria, California, which is about a four-hour drive. On your first evening, pack the family in the car with snacks, pillows, and blankets, for an evening at the Hi-Way Drive-In Theatre. This old drive-in movie theater runs blockbuster movies that you can watch from the comfort of your own vehicle. After arriving at Boomers! Funpark, you won’t be able to get your kids to leave again. Take a turn racing on the go-karts and see who is the best at miniature golf. Don’t forget to challenge your kids on the bumper boats. There’s even a concession stand to stave off hunger.

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4. Big Bear Lake, California

Find a cabin along the lake and enjoy days on the water with a two-hour drive to Big Bear Lake, California. Rent a pontoon boat or fishing boat from Big Bear Marina for your stay and stock up on bait and snacks. The Big Bear Alpine Zoo has a constantly changing roster of residents since it specializes in rescuing and rehabilitating animals before releasing them. Kids love seeing the animals and learning more about conservation. The Big Bear Discovery Center is so much more than just a visitor’s center. See all the exhibits about the natural world and sign up for one of their frequent eco-tours to teach your kids about ecology.

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5. Venice Beach, California

Experience the unique vibe that you can only find in Venice Beach, which takes around two hours of driving to reach. The Mosaic Tile House is the one tour in town that people take over and over again. Built by local artists, this house, made up of mosaic tiles, continues to receive additions and artwork. Legends Historic Bike Tour takes you to all the hot spots and shares local history and legends. When hunger strikes, take the kids for something sweet at Schulzie’s. This local favorite serves up bread pudding with almost any topping you can dream up.

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6. San Diego, California

Go wild in San Diego, which takes less than two hours to reach. Take the kids to the San Diego Zoo, often regarded as one of the best zoos in the United States with more than 3,000 animals and its commitment to conservation. At SeaWorld San Diego, dolphins leap into the air as your children cheer in delight. You can sign up for a personal experience with these sea animals. Learn more about life at sea for naval men at the USS Midway Museum. You can board this formerly active military ship and see all the exhibits.

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7. Fresno, California

Breathe in the fresh air and spend a weekend exploring the great outdoors in Fresno. The drive time is a little under five hours, but the reward is worth it. The town provides quick access to Yosemite National Park, where your kids can join the Junior Ranger program and the family hikes among the stately and towering redwoods. Zephyr Whitewater Rafting takes small groups white water rafting through the park. With a daily giraffe feeding and touch tanks, the Fresno Chaffee Zoo is a great place to take smaller children for an afternoon. Wander around the Forestiere Underground Gardens to see the native plants and flowers.

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