This article describes exciting weekend getaways from Los Angeles! Enjoy!
After having resided in Los Angeles for more than 15 years, I can say I know the city and its surroundings pretty well.
Plus, my love for travel, discovery, and adventure has taken me outside the city many times. I am on the road at least once a month.
However, since I have a full-time job, most of my outings take place during the weekends. Because of that, I feel like I can elaborate on how to have an awesome weekend getaway from Los Angeles.
Here is the list of the places I visit over and over again.
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Table of Contents
Get ready for a day of sightseeing by bringing the right gear. Here is a list of the items I pack to explore cities and towns in California.
- Walking Shoes – Comfortable walking shoes are a must. I recommend investing in a good pair. My go-to brands are Clarks, Tevas, and Sketchers.
- Anti-Theft Bag – Keep your belongings safe by keeping them in an anti-theft bag. The ones manufactured by Travelon have a 5-points security system including an RFID blocking pocket. >>Check out their crossbody bag here If you prefer a backpack, this one is a good option
- Sweatshirt – A sweatshirt is a must to keep me warm during chilly mornings and nights. >Click to see this California appropriate option here
- Sun Block – Do not leave the house (or the car) without applying sunblock. I repeat, always wear sunblock when outdoors. >Buy sunblock here
- Lip Balm with Sunscreen – Protect your lips by applying a balm with sunscreen. >Get one of the best lip balms here
- Wide Brim Hat – A wide brim hat is a great way to protect your scalp, face, and neck. The ones manufactured by FURTALK come with an anti-UV function. >Buy this amazing hat here
- Hand Sanitizer – Do not forget to pack hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes.
- Sunglasses – These are another must when it comes to protecting from the sun. A polarized, sporty pair works better outdoors. >Take a look at this wonderful pair
- Water Bottle – Do not forget to bring water! Keep yours cold by taking a beautiful Hydro Flask water bottle. >Check out the insane options here
- THERMOS Tumblers – I have been a fan of the THERMOS brand since I received a tumbler as a gift. The tumblers keep drinks hot for hours. >>Buy THERMOS insulated tumblers here
- Camera – I have never gotten used to taking pictures exclusively with my phone. I prefer to use the Sony Alpha a6000. It is compact and takes gorgeous pictures. >Buy Sony Camera here
- Tripod – A compact tripod to take your photos and videos to a different level. >>Check out this popular option here
- Portable Power Bank – It is a pain to keep phones charged on trips (more if you are taking pictures, posting on social media, and navigating). Having a power bank is a lifesaver. The Anker portable charger can charge a phone 5 times. >Buy this incredible power bank here
The Ideal Weekend Getaways from Los Angeles
Before going into details, let me explain what is my idea of the perfect weekend getaway from Los Angeles.
Assuming we are counting with only two days, I tend to select places that are between 30 to 100 miles from my house. In other words, I only want to drive an hour or two.
While it is technically possible to fit a 200 or 250 miles trip into a weekend, the idea is to spend the most time on location.
I recommend leaving Los Angeles early Saturday. If you have the budget to pay for an additional hotel night, it would be nice to depart Friday evening.
And, since we are talking about hotels, it is a good idea to have reservations. I have left the house without plans. This approach has failed several times. On some occasions, it has been stressful to find a place to stay. Other times, the prices have been out of control. For maximum enjoyment (and savings), do not procrastinate. Book that hotel before leaving the house (two weeks before the trip works better).
Best Weekend Getaways from Los Angeles
Enough talking! Let’s start going through the places you can visit from Los Angeles during the weekend.
Ideal for: Couples looking for a romantic getaway, families with kids, beach lovers
Driving Time: 1:30 – 2:00 hours (95 miles)
What to see and do – Day 1 – Start by filling your belly with a good breakfast. I recommend Jennine’s or Andersen’s (for Danish goodies).
After that, proceed to walk around Downtown to spot structures built with Spanish, Spanish Revival, and Moorish influences. Download a copy of the Red Tile Walking Tour and let it be your guide. You can also ask for a copy at the Visitors Center (1 Garden Street).
The tour will take you to places such as The Presidio, the Casa de la Guerra, and the famous Courthouse. Then, it is time to walk along State Street, the major artery of the city.
Make some time to visit the Santa Barbara Mission (The Queen of Missions) and the rose garden located in front of it.
End your day around the Stearns Wharf. You can visit a museum, walk (or bike) along the beach or dine on fresh seafood.
What to see and do – Day 2 – On your second day, I recommend spending some time at the beach. As mentioned, there are beaches on both sides of the Wharf. Leadbetter Beach is a good option too. While there, you can walk to Shoreline Park to see great views of Santa Barbara.
People with dogs should head to Arroyo Burro Beach. Dogs can run without a leash there.
In the afternoon, head to the Funk Zone, an area full of wine tasting rooms, distilleries, breweries, restaurants, and murals (street art).
The Santa Ynez Valley
Ideal for: Individuals looking for a slower life pace, wine lovers
Driving Time: 2:00 – 2:30 hours (140 miles)
What to see and do – Day 1 – In theory, you can combine Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley in a one-weekend getaway. But, why rush things? Each area has its own charms.
Start your weekend by heading to Solvang, the Danish capital of the United States. You got to have breakfast in one of the Danish bakeries or pancake houses. Then, it is time to walk along Copenhagen Drive and Alisal Road to see the quaint buildings and windmills.
This is wine country. Therefore, the weekend can be spent from wine tasting room to wine tasting room (if that is your thing). Los Olivos is the town with the most tasting rooms in the area. You can walk around without problems. Solvang has a good selection of wine tasting rooms too.
If you are visiting with kids, you can visit one of the Solvang museums, an ostrich farm, a miniature horse ranch and the two missions on the Valley.
What to see and do – Day 2 – Wine aficionados can fill the day with more wine tasting. If you have explored the Los Olivos and Solvang scene, head to Buellton or the Wine Ghetto in Lompoc.
As an alternative, you can drive or bike the rural roads, spend the day at Jalama Beach or fish in Lake Cachuma.
Read More: Things to Do in Solvang
Solvang Bakeries and Sweet Treats
Ideal for: Small town aficionados, beach lovers, nature lovers
Driving Time: 1 hour (70 miles)
What to see and do – Day 1 – Set base at Downtown and explore historical buildings such as the City Hall, Mission, A.J. Comstock Museum and Ortega Adobe.
Shoppers can take their pick at thrift/consignment stores or establishments selling surfing gear. The original Patagonia (outdoor brand) store is located in town.
After walking around town, it is time to go down to the pier. The area offers opportunities to do all sorts of watersports (surfing, paddleboarding, etc.). You can rent bikes and pedal to the harbor (another area that can be checked out).
For beaches, you can stay close to Downtown or go to Emma Woods State Beach or McGrath State Beach. Bivalve lovers should not miss The Jolly Oyster.
What to see and do – Day 2 – Plan an excursion to the Channel Islands National Park. Access is through boats with a company called Island Packers. It is recommended to book and get familiarized with what you have to take for the trip and how to keep the park pristine.
This National Park does not get a lot of publicity but it is astonishingly beautiful and a world apart from the pace in the mainland.
Ideal for: Architecture, desert views, pool, and old-school establishments fans
Driving Time: 1:40 – 2:00 hours (110 miles)
What to see and do – Day 1 – In all honesty, Palm Springs is the place many choose to lounge by the hotel pool and get some spa treatments. In some way, the scene is a bit like Vegas (a tamer version). So, this is the place for those who are searching for relaxation.
If you need to be moving around (like me), the day can easily be filled. Start the day with breakfast at Cheeky’s (they have bacon flights, for real!), Elmer’s, or Broken Yolk Cafe.
Then, walk along Palm Canyon Drive to take a look at the stores, restaurant,s cafes, and galleries. If you see signs pointing you to date shakes, try one. This is the best thing you can have while in the area.
In the afternoon, head to the Aerial Tramway and get to the top of Mount San Jacinto. Up there, you will have awesome views of the Coachella Valley. Walk, hike, and watch the sunset from different viewpoints.
What to see and do – Day 2 – If you enjoy the outdoors, you can do a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park, or spend some time at the Indian Canyons, the Coachella Valley Preserve, or the Whitewater Preserve. If you do not want to drive far, you can take a guided walk of Tahquitz Canyon (directly behind Palm Canyon Drive).
If you are into fashion, check out Palm Dessert’s El Paseo.
Ideal for: Surfers, beach, nature, and relaxed vibe lovers
Driving Time: 40 minutes – 1 hour (40 miles)
What to see and do – Day 1 – In my opinion, Huntington Beach (Surf City USA) does not get the attention it deserves. Ok, I know it is known for its surfing legends and competitions but the city offers much more.
I would start the day by absorbing as much of the beach scene as possible. To do that, I would walk around the pier or bike the beach trail. During the weekends, there are markets, live music, and shows around the pier plaza.
Then, I would walk go to the center of town, and stuff myself with tacos, poke, and Acai bowls. You can stop by places like North Shore Poke Company, Pete’s Mexican Food, and 25 Degrees.
I also like Pacific City, a shopping and dining complex in front of the beach and within walking distance of the pier. They have cool stores and a food hall with establishments serving coffee, ice cream, beer, and Aussie pies.
What to see and do – Day 2 – Huntington Beach is a city with many neighborhoods. You can use this day to explore one. For example, you can visit Sunset Beach (across the Harbor), Bolsa Chica (with its beach and ecological reserve), and the Goldenwest and Southeast (Huntington State Beach) areas.
Keep in mind you can bike the entire length of Huntington Beach and connect to Newport Beach. On the harbor, you can rent kayaks, paddleboards, and Duffy electric boats.
Ideal for: Couples looking for a romantic getaway, sailing/yachting fans, beach lovers, people who want to fine dine
Driving Time: 1 hour (45 miles)
What to see and do – Day 1 – Newport Beach is another place full of attractions and sights.
Let’s start by mentioning that Newport has some of the most luxurious hotels in this part of the coast. If you are up for the experience, check out The Resort at Pelican Hill, The Lido House, and the Balboa Bay Resort.
There is a lot to do and see at the Balboa Peninsula. The area counts with two piers, a fun zone, beaches, walking trails or paths, and views of different man-made islands. From the Balboa Pavillion, you can take a short cruise to see the area’s mansions from the water or a whale watching excursion (in season).
Or, you can take a short ferry to charming Balboa Island. If you make it there, make sure you try a Balboa Bar.
For dinner, try a waterfront restaurant along the peninsula or the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH).
What to see and do – Day 2 – On this day there are many options. You can walk or practice watersports on Newport’s Upper Bay.
You can also explore the Corona del Mar neighborhood. This part of town has gardens, parks, the Corona del Mar State Beach, and the Little Corona del Mar Cove (one of my favorite places).
If you are into hiking, you should visit Crystal Cove State Park. This place is a gem. You can walk 3 miles along the coastline and many more miles along El Moro Canyon. The coastline trails are flat and easy. Get prepared for the views since they are mind-blowing! There are places to eat inside the park.
Newport is a shopping paradise too. Head to Fashion Island or nearby South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.
Ideal for: Families with kids, people into amusement parks
Driving Time: 1 hour (30 miles)
What to see and do – Day 1 – I do not even have to mention what to do in Anaheim. Most people visiting the city head to the Disney parks.
A lot of my friends stay at the Great Wolf Lodge when visiting Anaheim. In that way, they can use the indoor water park facilities.
What to see and do – Day 2 – A lot of people do Disneyland one day and Disney California Adventure Park the other day.
You can also visit Knott’s Berry Farm (the prices are way better) or Soak City USA in nearby Buena Park.
Ideal for: Hikers, skiers (during winter), outdoor activities lovers
Driving Time: 2:00 – 2:30 hours (120 miles)
What to see and do – Day 1 – We have mountain escapes close to Los Angeles too! Proof of this is Big Bear, a city located in the San Bernardino mountains and known for its lake (a man-made reservoir).
This is a four seasons resort. During winter, skiing, snow tubing, and sledding are popular things to do. Many people rent a cabin and enjoy that rare thing called snow.
During the summer, there are several beaches around the lake. You can rent jet skis or take a narrated cruise to places of interest.
Hiking is popular too during the warm season. There are trails that take visitors to spots from where you can admire views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
Big Bear has a charming village full of restaurants, cafes, shops, and even a movie theater. It is difficult to get bored here.
What to see and do – Day 2 – You can continue enjoying the lake features or visit another lake. I love Lake Arrowhead since the buildings surrounding this private lake were built to resemble an Alpine village.
You can also visit Lake Gregory, a place that resembles more a water park in the middle of the mountains.
Read More: What to Do in Big Bear
Ideal for: Fans of Old Towns, wine lovers
Driving Time: 1:30 hours (85 miles)
What to see and do – Day 1 – Temecula is a place to brunch at leisure and drink wine. Add to that a couple of hours inside a spa or lounging next to a pool. I guess you get the idea. This is another place to relax.
There is a big farmers market every Saturday morning in Old Town. I will start my day by stopping there to eat and buy fruit, sweets, and jam.
Then, it is time to head to the wineries. A lot of people head to places such as Wilson Creek, South Coast Winery, Ponte, and Mount Palomar. Since these places are very popular, expect big crowds and high prices.
You can opt to visit the smaller wineries. Just make sure you make a reservation when needed (many of the smaller places operate like this).
What to see and do – Day 2 – You can continue wine tasting on this day.
Or, you can head to Lake Hemet, Vail Lake, or the Santa Rosa Plateau. In addition, you can spend some time with alpacas or visit the Pechanga Casino & Resort.
Coastal Northern San Diego County
Ideal for: Surfers, beach and nature lovers
Driving Time: 1:30 hours (95 miles)
What to see and do – Day 1 – This is yet another area that is completely understated. I adore coming here.
To start, I recommend getting out of the freeway once you hit Oceanside and moving from town to town using Highway 101. In that way, you will be able to get a better feeling of the different towns.
In Oceanside, visit the pier, the excellent surf museums, and the harbor. You can have breakfast at the Beach Break Cafe (try the coffee cake) and deviate a bit from the coast to visit the San Luis Rey Mission.
You can camp at Guajome Regional Park or at San Onofre (Orange County).
Then, it is time to visit Carlsbad, a place known for its village, beaches, lagoons, premium outlets, flower fields (in season), and Museum Making Music. It is also home to LEGOLAND California Resort.
People are rave about a restaurant called Campfire (everything is cooked on an open flame).
What to see and do – Day 2 – Head to Encinitas, one of the most famous surf towns in California. In there, hit the beaches, the shops along PCH, and the San Diego Botanic Garden.
Make sure not to miss Solana Beach. Some people may not know about this place but believe me when I say that you should visit the Cedros Design District. This place is full of shops, galleries, art centers, wine tasting rooms, a brewery, and restaurants. This is a great place to chill after a day at the beach.
Read More: Things to Do in Solana Beach
Julian and Inland San Diego County
Ideal for: Those with a sweet tooth, hikers, those who want to leave the big city behind
What to see and do – Day 1 – I am going to try to convince you to visit Julian in the following way: if you like apple pie, go. If you do not like apple pie, go. To be honest, it doesn’t matter. Julian will make you love apple pie. The bad thing is that you will not see apple pie the same ever again.
Julian, once a mining town, is all about apples. Think along the lines of pie, crumble, turnovers, donuts, and cider. It is delicious and I recommend eating as much as possible. In town, you can visit the mine, wine taste, or have a meal at an old-fashioned soda fountain.
In addition, you can pick apples (in season), walk around the Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve or Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, and camp at William Hesse County Park.
What to see and do – Day 2 – Instead of heading back some using Road 78, take Road 79 and connect to Road 76. Have pie once again at Santa Ysabel and head to Lake Henshaw.
Or, head to Palomar Mountain State Park. The Palomar Observatory is a super cool sight.
Read More: Julian Dressed in Red, White and Blue
Ideal for: Pretty much everybody. San Diego has a lot to offer and it is one of the best cities in California (and the entire United States).
Driving Time: 2 hours (120 miles)
What to see and do – Day 1 – It is impossible to see San Diego on a weekend. This is a place that can be broken into a dozen weekend getaways from Los Angeles.
But, assuming we have two days to see it, I will head to Little Italy’s Mercato Saturday morning. This is one of the best weekend markets in Southern California. There are a lot of delicious things to eat and the entire place feels like a carnival.
Then, it is time to head to Cabrillo National Monument to see great views of the San Diego Bay. In addition, this place is ideal for learning the role San Diego placed during the Spanish Conquest. Do not forget to visit the tidepools area before leaving.
On your drive back, stop by the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery and by the Sunset Cliffs. Spend the late afternoon, in Ocean Beach. Stroll the pier, eat one of Hodad’s burgers or hang out at Pizza Port.
What to see and do – Day 2 – It is hard to choose what to do on Day 2 but I would choose to visit La Jolla since it is one of the most beautiful places in San Diego. Walk along Coast Boulevard and kayak around the caves in the area (there are tons of seas lions in the water).
If you want to explore beyond the coast, head to Balboa Park. Here you can visit the World Famous San Diego Zoo, museums, gardens, and cultural venues.
After exploring the park, you can stop by Gaslamp Quarter or North Park.
Read More: La Jolla in Photos
As previously mentioned, try to leave Los Angeles early Saturday morning to make the most out of your trip.
Do not sub estimate the time it is going to take you to get back home. I have noticed it takes longer to get back home during warm months. Keep checking road conditions on Sunday evening so you depart towards Los Angeles at a reasonable time.
If possible, extend your trip an extra day. I love how quiet are certain places during the week.
Keep your getaway affordable by planning ahead of time. In that way, you can save some money.
If you are into saving, be creative with where you spend the night. You can camp or glamp.
Keep a small cooler with drinks and snacks on your trunk.
Make sure your car has enough gas, the tire pressure is right and you are traveling a slightly as possible.
All of the places I have mentioned have free or low-cost attractions. Concentrate on those if you are on a budget.
If you are time-crunched, put your getaway in the calendar and make it a reality.
Remember you do not have to travel far or spend a lot of money to have a great adventure!
Find out how to do an LA to San Diego Drive on a weekend. My full guide shows you how to do it.
If you have more time, check out my Pacific Coast Highway 5-Day Itinerary.
More of Southern California
Find out how to spend one fun-filled day in Los Angeles
Get inspiration by reading my Los Angeles Ultimate Bucket List
What is your favorite weekend getaway from Los Angeles?
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