18 Amazing Weekend Trips from Los Angeles

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What’s spring (or summer) without a road trip? Less fun for everyone, so we’re all about finding some low-lift, high-reward weekend trips from Los Angeles that will satisfy your wanderlust from the desert to the sea and valley vineyard. There are newly opened hotels, beachfront cottages and classic motels that would all love to host you while showcasing the best wine tasting, food finds, mid-century architecture, family fun and even skydiving. We’ve brainstormed a special spot for everyone from status traveler to the romance lover to the spiritual seeker and avid surfer. And since Southern Cali’s summerlike temperatures extend well into October, you have some time to get a reservation and build up anticipation for your blowout road trip long into the year.

The 12 Most Romantic Hotels Near LA for the Ultimate Weekend Getaway

Best Surprise Foodie Find

1. Solvang (2 Hours From La)


Formerly known as a sleepy Danish tourist town filled with pancake houses and pastry shops (and you still shouldn’t overlook those), newer restaurants by award-winning chefs from L.A. with serious pedigrees are making this a foodie destination on your way to wine country. Peasants FEAST executive chef Michael Cherney made a splash with elevated comfort food such as fried chicken sandwiches and potato leek soup, and he recently opened an upscale deli – caviar bumps anyone? - where he also slices Jamon Iberico for caviar cones.

More L.A. transplants, chefs Stephen Fretz and Lincoln Carson, opened Coast Range and Vaquero Bar right on the main drag where you can devour Channel Islands barramundi fish and chips dunked in a local beer batter on the patio for lunch, and a few strong mezcal-tequila cocktails in the intimate bar with a record playing turn-table. Indulge in prime cuts of beef in a sexy booth at night in the main restaurant known for white and red oak wood-fired grilling technique.

Best for Skydiving

2. Lompoc


Located on Pacific Coast Highway 1, Lompoc is an unsung hero for uncrowded beaches, cycling, outdoor mural galleries, and one of the most extensively restored mission in California, at La Purisima Mission State Park, with trails for hiking and horseback riding.

But Lompoc is also a destination for doing something outside of your comfort zone, and to that end, they have made great use of all the open spaces with the rush of a skydiving adventure. Skydive Santa Barbara offers several tandem jumps for visitors from 8,000 to 18,000 feet from the FAA-approved skydiving company, and you just might be able to glimpse the vibrantly colored valley of wildflower fields on your way down. And, you gotta love a town that has a Bloom Tracker for the most up-to-date flower information. Hit up the Wine Ghetto for some great wine tastings.

Best for Intimate Wine Tasting

3. Los Olivos


This quaint town is tucked away off San Marcos Pass about 45 minutes northeast of Santa Barbara but feels like you have stepped back in time. Quaint shops and cafes line the streets along with some of the best privately owned wine tasting rooms. Check out Liquid Farm or old favorites like Dragonette, Blair Fox or Roblar (just outside of town) to name a few.

Try the pizza or pasta at Nella Kitchen & Bar, or Bar Le Cote (sister of Michelin-starred Bell’s in Los Alamos.) Here you’ll find crudo, veggie paella, olive oil cake and the peel and eat shrimp for happy hour is an exceptionally good deal for only $12.00. They also offer many local wines by the glass from the surrounding region so it’s a winetasting-win-win.

Best for Mid-century Modern Buffs

4. Palm Springs


Every year in February, mid-century modern design buffs from around the globe flock to Palm Springs to bask in the winter sun amid the San Jacinto Mountains, but more importantly, to celebrate an obsession with the mid-20th century period of architecture and design during Modernism Week. This includes an onslaught of parties, events, lectures and exclusive home tours—including Frank Sinatra’s old house designed by E. Stuart Williams—in the efforts to continue preservation and education. It’s quickly followed by Desert X, the annual exhibit of large scale installations throughout the desert. In the summer, it’s time to hit the pools and cocktail bars to cool down from the heat. Brunch on challah French toast at the Colony Club and check out the elevated comfort fare at 1501 Uptown Gastropub.

Best for a Surfing Safari

5. Oceanside


Yes, there are tons of great surfing spots all along the California coast, but Oceanside is an authentic spot (where you can take pro surfing lessons from the North County Surf Academy!). It’s also where the world’s largest surf event and music festival takes place each fall, Super Girl Surf Pro, but if you miss that, try to visit the California Surf Museum after your morning or afternoon wave session. If you are not ready for the water yet, a one-of-a-kind Skate School program pays homage to Oceanside’s beloved action-sport culture. Guests can also take part in guided lessons from Neal Mims, a lauded Olympic skateboard coach and talent behind Golden State Skateboarding, followed by a tour of local skateboard sites as well as a custom skateboard-making experience. Dine at The Plot for vegan fare or Dija Mara for Balinese-fusion.

Best for Families

6. Carlsbad

  • Distance from LA: 90 minutes
  • Why We Love It: family-focused attractions, beautiful beaches
  • Where to Stay: Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa (hot tip: they have a private entrance to the LEGOLAND California Theme Park)

With seven miles of Pacific coastline, Carlsbad is a haven for families and has something for every member and age group to explore, even teens (check out the Museum of Making Music). Start at the SEA LIFE Aquarium, or the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center, and be sure to visit the Leo Carrillo Ranch and the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch. Then, head to the LEGOLAND California Theme Park. And, after all that family fun and adventure, Mom and Dad might need to unwind. You can sip and swirl wine at Carruth Cellars tasting room, but if the family is still in tow, take them for s’mores around an open flame at nearby Campfire restaurant (with a menu by chef Eric Bost from nearby Michelin-starred Jeune et Jolie in the kitchen) while you peruse the craft cocktail menu.

Best for Chill Bike Riding

7. Los Alamos

On the rolling northern fringes of Santa Barbara wine country, the tiny town of Los Alamos has been stirring. Over the past decade, creative locals and Los Angeles expats have set up shop in this former frontier town, creating a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hotbed of innovative farm-to-table restaurants, wineries, art galleries and more. You'll want to make a reservation at Bell’s, the Michelin-starred restaurant that offers up pristine dishes made from local ingredients. Check out the flatbreads and other farm-fresh food at Full of Life Flatbread, and don’t forget to grab some baked goods for the road home from Bob’s Well Bread.

Best for Stargazers

8. New Cuyama


  • Distance from LA: 2.5 hours
  • Why We Love It: quiet desert getaway, star-gazing
  • Where to Stay: Cuyama Buckhorn

Light pollution is a real detriment to enjoying the night sky, whether it's the sweep of the Milky Way, the glow of a full moon or the recent gangbusters Perseids Meteor Shower. The Cali High Desert on State Route 166 between Santa Maria and Bakersfield is exactly the place you'd want to be to see the stars, which is why people start pulling their cars into a parking lot on the summit of Mount Pinos around 3 p.m. to get a prime viewing spot for the starry soup in the sky once night falls (bring a sweater—8,000 feet of elevation gets chilly fast at night). In daylight hours, take a tour of the Blue Sky Center, a community center that supports area creatives in a complex of super-cool canvas-and-steel huts, go for a hike in Los Padres National Forest or do a wine tasting locally.

Best for Sand Dune Climbing

9. Oxnard


Wait, you’re thinking…Oxnard? That beach in Ventura County to the north of Malibu? Yep, that’s the one. It’s got arguably better beaches (softer sand) than its glitzy neighbor, less traffic and a crazy 94 acres of that rarity on SoCal beaches: Instagram-ready, pristine sand dunes. Leave your windows open and fall asleep tickled by ocean breezes.

Best for a Pet-Friendly Getaway

10. Carpinteria


Take your dog on vacation to the cutest little seaside community, Carpinteria, and snuggle with her in a bungalow near the beach. Borrow beach cruisers, boogie boards, beach chairs and towels, and when you need a break from the sand, walk your little furry friend with you to the main drag, Linden Street, to explore shops and cafes. Do you surf or just like to watch? One of the world's best surf breaks is at nearby Rincon Beach, where the big January waves make it the spot for pros to compete in the Rincon Classic.

Best for Active Fun

11. Morro Bay


  • Distance from LA: 3.5 hours
  • Why We Love It: quiet coastal city, scenic state park
  • Where to Stay: Estero Inn, Sundown Inn

This coastal community is named for a big pile of volcanic rock, Morro Rock, that sits at the end of Morro Rock Beach. It's all about the outdoors life here—the list of activities (including golfing, kayaking, diving, hiking, biking) is dizzying, but it's also just great for a lazy lie-in after waking up in one of the waterfront suites of your hotel. Don't miss the majestic Montaña de Oro State Park, which has rugged cliffs, tucked-away sandy beaches, coastal plains, streams, canyons, and hills, with spectacular scenery produced through millions of years of volcanic activity, plate tectonics and erosion. Montaña de Oro is perfect for backpackers seeking solitude along quiet trails. Go horseback riding right on the beach. Spooner’s Cove in Montaña de Oro is a great place to take your family to look for sea glass or go sunbathing, with a seasonal stream flowing to the ocean, as well as restrooms, picnic facilities and parking. For more ideas, check out the Highway One Discovery Route website.

Best for Forest Bathers

12. Sequoia National Park


We're a big state. We've got big trees. And you need to see them, and force any small children under your care to see them as well. That’s because looking up at the giant sequoias, which tower to over a mile-and-a-half in height, is a truly magical experience. Trust us on this one: Once you make the drive up into the Sierra Nevadas and smell the fresh air, you're going to get that heart-swelling, nature-embracing feeling. Hike in to see General Sherman, one of the largest living things on earth, and then go a couple miles farther into the forest to the less-visited Muir Grove.

Best for Kayaking

13. Catalina Island


Hope on the Catalina Express shuttle craft from San Pedro or Long Beach and after an hour-long ferry ride, you're at Catalina Island, the little islet 22 miles off the coast that's equal parts pampering and rugged nature. If you are totally into the anti-civilization mindset, you can rent a kayak from Descanso Beach Ocean Sports and paddle yourself to some isolated primitive campsite for an overnight stay (there are also campsites available) to really enjoy the 88 percent of the island that's held in undeveloped glory by the Catalina Island Conservancy. (And don't worry, you can also just rent a kayak or other beach toys for an hour or so)

Best for Seaside Strolls

14. Laguna Beach


Sure, you can stroll by the beach all up and down the Cali coast but there is a special nirvana-esque beauty to the stretch along Laguna Beach. Manicured paved paths wind up and down hillocks planted with flowers, there's the occasional swimsuit beauty jogging with their happy dog, what's not to love? Order a seafood tower and an Aperol spritz to watch the sundown from the open-air restaurant The Deck, before you end the night with a nighttime walk on the beach out front. But not too late: you've got beachfront yoga the next day at 8 a.m.

Best for Bar Hopping

15. San Diego


From spotting sea lions in La Jolla to exploring Balboa Park and its museums, there is plenty to do in San Diego during the day, but make sure to keep the fun going at night. San Diego’s bar scene has really grown in recent years with the opening of a number of themed speakeasies throughout the city, including the highly acclaimed Raised by Wolves, the Chinese apothecary-themed Realm of the 52 Remedies, and many more. In the Marina District, head to Animae for some wagyu steak and elevated Filipino fare. Outdoor brunch is a big thing in San Diego thanks to great weather year-round, and you’ll find one of the best at the pink-filled Morning Glory.

The Best for New Age Types

16. Ojai


This groovy little town is like fancy lady Santa Barbara's beatnik little sister who moved away into the mountains. In fact, the Topatopa Mountains give the place one of its most magical features: a sunset that turns the very hillsides a bright pink nightly. Borrow one of the bikes at your lodging and go tooling around town, stopping at The Nest patio for a next-level lunch of Moroccan lamb meatballs with mint, yogurt, capers and golden raisins accompanied by a kale Caesar salad with cashew Parmesan and the house-made fruit soda of the day. Across the street, browse deKor eclectic home furnishings, picking up one of the shop's signature candles scented with orange blossom to remind you of the citrus groves dotting the hinterlands. And before you go for your sunset walk for the obligatory wowing snapshots, pick up a wide-brimmed straw hat at In the Field, a browse-worthy boutique with vintage and new somethings for men, women, kids and the home.

Best for a Mountain Family Getaway

17. Big Bear


All eyes on the lake, where you can fish for rainbow trout, take a waterskiing or wakeboarding lesson. You can also go horseback riding or ziplining with the kids. Stay at any number of cabins with larger size homes that will accommodate your whole girl squad or a smaller bungalow for you, your pet and your SO. And don't forget to save time for the wide range of trails, from the 0.2 mile toddler-friendly trot that starts at the village courthouse to the popular 15-mile Skyline Trail that is popular with mountain bikers. Walk around The Village, the charming downtown where most of the town’s restaurants can be found, including Big Bear Lake Brewing Co. In the winter, Bear Mountain Ski Resort is great for beginners, offering the largest learning area in Southern California.

Best for Mountain Adventures

18. Mammoth Lakes


  • Distance from LA: 5 hours
  • Why We Love It: lakes galore, miles of hiking, Southern California’s best ski resort
  • Where to Stay: Alpenhof Lodge ; Timber Ridge Condo

OK, so this one is a slightly longer drive, but Mammoth Lakes is worth it with one of the best ski resorts in California, more than a hundred lakes in the area, and an ever-growing dining scene. Go kayaking or boating on Convict Lake, hike along the miles of available trails, learn fly fishing, or hit the slopes during the winter. There are also a number of beautiful vista points that can be reached without hiking. Dine out at Vulcania, an Italian-American restaurant in the Village recently opened by Michael and Bryan Voltaggio, and check out the tipples at Shelter Distilling or Mammoth Brewing Company.

Original reporting by Dana Dickey

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Carole Dixon

Freelance PureWow Editor

Carole Dixon is an avid traveler, eater, wine drinker, spa-goer, beauty junkie, and design buff who has been contributing to PureWow since its inception 2010 from her home-base of...
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purewow author
Fiona Chandra

Freelance PureWow Editor

Fiona Chandra is a freelance food and travel writer born in Indonesia and currently based in Los Angeles. She loves to explore different food and cultures in California and...
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