If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles for the weekend, look beyond the crowded beach cities to the charming small towns of Southern California. While there are countless attractions and activities nearby numerous vacation rentals in Los Angeles, venture out to the surrounding area for more low-key points of interest. From quiet seaside communities to secluded mountain towns, these seven nearby destinations are perfect for a relaxing weekend getaway.

1. Paso Robles

vineyard fields
Source: Flickr/a200/a77Wells

If a few relaxing days of wine-tasting is what you need, travel off the beaten path to this hidden gem in California wine country. Paso Robles lies just over three hours from downtown LA, inviting visitors with its Latin and Mediterranean-themed eateries such as the upscale La Cosecha Bar and Restaurant. During your weekend, be sure to stop by Sculpterra Winery to sip on fine wine while meandering through the sculpture garden. Other favorites include classy Tobin James Cellars and sprawling Halter Ranch Vineyard. You can also cool down at Ravine Waterpark before ending the afternoon at Studios on the Park, a gallery showcasing local artists.

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2. Solvang

village windmill
Source: Flickr/Damian Gadal

Situated just short of three hours from Los Angeles by car, Solvang is a small Danish-heritage town with a unique Scandinavian feel and a few attractions you can visit over a single weekend. A little piece of Copenhagen in Southern California, this getaway is the perfect place to hunker down in a cozy vacation home and feast on sweet aebleskiver from Solvang Restaurant and other Danish cafes. Stop by a few of the local vineyards and wineries, and remember to check out the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum before gazing at the historic architecture of Old Mission Santa Ines. You can also catch a performance at Solvang Festival Theater for some evening fun. Want to enjoy the local scenery? Take a hike to see the cascades at Nojoqui Falls Park.

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3. Joshua Tree

joshua tree cactusLos Angeles folks looking to escape to the desert wilderness for a few days can’t go wrong with this see-in-one-go town set against Joshua Tree National Park, which rests a little over two hours from LA by car. The national park features a boulder-strewn landscape dotted with enchanting Joshua trees, offering endless opportunities for hiking or mountain biking right outside your Joshua Tree vacation rental. For a little more adventure, add some rock-climbing with Nomad Adventures to your weekend plans. The town of Joshua Tree itself is small and quirky with a handful of eclectic diners and low-key bars. Be sure to stop by Pie for the People! and Joshua Tree Saloon for laid-back eats. Before heading back to the city, check out Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Desert Art Museum featuring upcycled sculptures across 10 rolling acres.

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4. Lake Arrowhead

lake marina boats
Source: Flickr/Jessica Rossi

Big Bear may get all the attention, but this mountain town in the San Bernardino Mountains is the perfect spot for a weekend escape at just an hour and a half from Los Angeles by car. While the town is small, you can easily fill a few days with water sports, hiking or skiing. You might even catch the Blue Jay Jazz Festival when traveling in the summer or a jolly Oktoberfest in the fall. After some outdoor fun, choose from upscale bistros such as Woody’s Boat House Restaurant and laid-back sports grills such as Lakefront Tap Room Bar and Kitchen for dinner.

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5. Morro Bay

surfing ocean beachBest known for the 576-foot Morro Rock looming above the bay, this destination awaits at just under four hours from Los Angeles by car. You can easily see the small seaside community and top attractions over the weekend. When you’re not surfing or relaxing on the beach, step into the Morro Bay Skateboard Museum to see old boards and memorabilia, or stroll through the Fiona Bleu Gallery. Remember to stop by the Shell Shop for some ocean-sourced souvenirs. At the end of the day, enjoy a plate of fish and chips at Dutchman’s Seafood House or another waterfront grill.

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6. Wrightwood

train tracks woods
Source: Flickr/TurkZilla

At just an hour and 20 minutes driving time from LA, the quick access to this town in the San Gabriel Mountains makes it the ideal getaway for a tight-scheduled weekend trip. For a winter trip to Wrightwood, enjoy a day of skiing at Mountain High Resort. For a summer getaway, get your adrenaline fix at Big Pines Zipline Tours, or hike the Devil’s Backbone trail with scenic slopes on either side. At the end of the day, indulge in fine dining at the Blue Ridge Inn, or grab some beer and burgers at Grizzly Cafe before heading back to your rental for some stargazing.

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7. Carpinteria

ocean sunset
Source: Flickr/Ron Kroetz

If you’re just looking for a quiet place to beat the crowds on the beach this weekend, Carpinteria is your go-to destination, located just two hours from Los Angeles. The town is a stop on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner, so you can escape to oceanfront vacation rentals in Carpinteria without even starting up your car. When you’re not sunbathing, see the seabirds and marine mammals at the Carpinteria Harbor Seal Preserve and Rookery, or take a relaxing ride along the Rincon Bike Trail. The town also hosts an arts scene that you can check out at Palm Loft Gallery. Be sure to grab a swig of beer at Island Brewing Company or Rincon Brewery. To enjoy a Pacific sunset, you can’t go wrong with Padaro Beach Grill.

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