When you live in Los Angeles there’s plenty of fun things to do, either if it is grabbing a delicious lunch, getting a coffee at a cute spot, go vintage shopping or even running on a stunning hike. However, if you call L.A. your city of residence, sometimes you might need to get away for a bit and relax, and there’s actually plenty of delightful nearby destinations that offer a perfect weekend getaway within just a few hours of Los Angeles. It’ll feel like an amazing staycation, guaranteeing the feeling of being on a faraway land without actually having to drive more than the daily 4 hours usually spent stuck in traffic.
1. Santa Barbara
If you’re seeking that “Carmel-by-the-sea” feeling but don’t feel like driving too much, Santa Barbara is the place for you! Just one hour and a half away from L.A., this picturesque town is known for its Spanish colonial heritage, exclusive boutiques, distinguished restaurants that offer locally grown food and wine and a relaxing and refreshing state of mind. Besides disconnecting from responsibilities, here you can visit the Mission Santa Barbara, a 18th century catholic church, walk around Stearns Wharf, a historic pier with dining and shopping, explore the Santa Barbara Zoo, or shop along State Street.
You don’t have to drive too far from L.A. in order to see the green countryside, because Temecula is just 80 miles southbound and it offers the prettiest meadows and most relaxing bending roads. Considered a wine destination, Temecula is spotted with vineyards, golf courses, and beautiful golfing resorts. The city’s Old Town features a spectacular charm for a quick visit, but you can also relax, dine and play some golf by the amazing Temecula Creek Inn. It’s a town made to wind down.
3. Palm Springs
Yes, Palm Springs is a classic. No, it’s not overrated. It’s in fact totally worth it, and a quick and easy weekend getaway for all Angelinos. Palmtrees, golf, brunch, pools and plenty of Arnold Palmer’s ensured. Palm Springs is great because it offers many hotels that have a wide range of prices and quality, leaving the level of luxury up to you. However, no matter where you stay, make sure you bring breezy clothes, a good book, sunscreen and a desire to relax. If you’d like go on a shopping spree, make sure to stop by The Gardens at El Paseo. If you’d like a more adventurous day you have plenty of options outdoors such as visiting the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, doing a day hike at the Cactus to Clouds Trail or taking a trip on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.
4. Joshua Tree National Park
Beautiful Joshua Tree is one of those few national parks that are somewhat easily accesible and not extremely faraway, especially if you’re coming from Los Angeles. This astounding and moonlike looking park is actually just 2 hours away, but deep into the vastness of the Colorado Desert and the Mojave. There is minimum cell reception but plenty of things to do: hiking, climbing, camping, birdwatching, stargazing, and driving. Yes, driving. You can easily drive through unpaved roads through almost the entirety of the park, with amazing views that will leave you in awe from the comfort of your car. Unlike various national parks, Joshua Tree is friendly to all levels of hiking experience offering multiple hikes that vary in difficulty. Make sure you don’t miss the Contact Mine Trail, an eroded old road that leads to an abandoned Gold Rush mine, but keep in mind this trail is for advanced hikers. Also, don’t leave without visiting the Joshua Tree Acres, otherwise known as an oasis in the desert and an expanding community of Airstreams that you can rent out for a day or more as a unique way of experiencing the natural wonders of Joshua Tree.
5. Santa Catalina Island
The fact that the only way in and out of Santa Catalina Island is via ferry or helicopter, makes it feel like an actual secluded vacation. Long and forgotten will the highways and honking be. Known for its tranquility, diving and island vibes, Santa Catalina makes for a perfect nearby weekend getaway. You can go for the day or you can stay overnight at either of the most famous hotels: the Pavilion Hotel, Mt. Ada and the Hotel Atwater. Meant to relax and disconnect from city life, there’s plenty of outdoor actives such as zip lining, taking a Jeep tour, eating at Luau Harry’s, mini golf, flying fish tour, helicopter trips, kayaking and paddle boarding or just simply relaxing at the Descanso Beach Club. Oh, don’t forget to rent out a cute golf cart to not only have some freedom around the island, but also pretend you’re on a tropical vacation in Hawaii.
6. Manhattan Beach
If hearing the sound of crashing waves, smelling the salty air and having everything within walking distance is your wish but you cannot commit to a long road trip, you better hurry up and drive down to Manhattan Beach. Mainly for locals who love surfing and privacy but still go to work in the city, this getaway promises no crowded beaches, no angsty tourists and no tacky shops. Just sand, waves, local restaurants and small beach town vibes. Although it’s a bit unbelievable, this piece of heaven on earth is just 30 minutes away from downtown L.A. There’s not much to do, other than relax and tan faraway from the busy streets of city life. Although you can probably find a small hotel nearby, the idea is to experience the local life and see the beautiful architecture by renting an Airbnb. Make sure you stop by the pier, grab an açaí bowl at Sunlife Organics and have dinner somewhere along Manhattan Beach Blvd. You’ll feel straight out of a Nichola’s Sparks movie.
7. Disneyland, Anaheim
If you’re not feeling like getting too far away from home, but still want the vacation feeling, it’s time to brave the crowds at the happiest place on earth. Disneyland is one of the most popular weekend getaways among Los Angeles residents. Being so close, yet so far, it gives you the best of both worlds: staying the night at the Disney hotels to get immersive Mickey Mouse experience, or heading back home to your own bed after a fun but exhausting day. Disneyland offers two parks and endless fun, but if there’s more than two days on the itinerary there’s other things to do in Anaheim. For instance, you can visit The Angel Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Angels and fourth oldest in Major League Baseball, go to foodie heaven a.k.a. Anaheim Packing House, an architectural food hall full of local eateries, go back to the Middle Ages at Medieval Times, and finish the night with a local brew at the Anaheim Brewery.
8. Vazquez Rocks
Indiana Jones meets Mars at this wonder of nature just an hour away from Los Angeles. You may know Vazquez Rocks from it being featured in multiple movies, music videos and TV shows. But if you don’t, it’s time to head out there and experience this place’s magic. Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park is located in the Sierra Pelona Mountains and its free to the public, which makes it even more appealing. Here it’s all about enjoying nature, as that is all there is. Hiking, sitting by the rocks, taking some pictures, and maybe doing a quick picnic. There’s a main office with amazingly clean bathrooms and snacks. But besides the rocks and a bit of exploring the surrounding neighborhood, that’s all there is. That’s way this is truly the easiest weekend trip.
9. Newcomb’s Ranch
Winding roads, massive trees, pine tree scent and very fresh mountain air lead to the Newcomb’s Ranch, a simple but famous old-school roadhouse loved amongst motorcycle riders and car enthusiasts all around California. Located deep inside the mountains of La Cañada Flintridge, this is simply a place to retreat and enjoy the silence and power of nature, that is, when the hundreds of weekender motorcycles are not roaring upwards to the ranch. Newcomb’s Ranch is perfect for the road and car lover, but also for nature and fresh air enthusiasts. Once you get to the restaurant itself, you can catch a burger with fries and keep on going up the mountain through the beautiful Angeles Crest Highway, a high scenic road that offers beautiful views and remote locations, but that becomes very rugged terrain the higher and farther you go. If you’re lucky you might catch some snowflakes and local skiers who brave one of the tiniest and oldest ski centers in the Los Angeles area known as Mount Waterman. Once you’re done taking in the power of the mountains and the high terrain, it’ll only take you around 50 minutes to head back to the busy life of the city.
Last but not least, Malibu has to be a must on the weekend getaway list. Although it’s a more common destination than the others, most Angelinos consider Malibu one of the best, most relaxing and easiest weekend getaways there are. Malibu is nestled at the bottom of the Santa Monica Mountains, and is welcomed by the roaring yet peaceful waves of the pacific. A tiny town, there’s only so much to do here, but that’s the key: simplicity and relaxation. Although there are cute boutique hotels like The Surfrider Malibu, the best option is to choose an Airbnb by the water, and fall asleep to the sound of the ocean. You can do breakfast at Malibu Farm Café inside the Malibu Pier, lunch at the classic Paradise Cove Beach Café and end the day with gorgeous sunset views at Nobu Malibu. Replace the dry and dusty hikes of the valley by humid and breezy walks on the beach, your feet will thank you on Monday morning.