Weekend Trips from Los Angeles

Los Angeles Weekend Trips Guide

With world-famous beaches, exclusive shopping, theme parks and seemingly endless sunshine, it is hard to imagine why you would want to leave L.A. However there is much more to discover in California, and a lot of destinations are within hours of the city. Whether you want to relax on the beach or getaway to a desert oasis, California has something for you.

Santa Barbara

At the base of the Santa Ynez Mountains, this seaside town is reminiscent of Spanish colonial architecture. Weather in Santa Barbara is perfect for anyone looking for a beach holiday. The Mediterranean-like climate and Pacific Ocean vistas make for an unforgettable vacation. There are also a number of noteworthy restaurants in Santa Barbara and elegant beachfront hotels. The region has an interesting maritime history, and is home to many fine examples of Spanish architecture, which were rebuilt after an earthquake in 1925.

Santa Barbara

Travel Time: 2hrs

Directions: To reach Santa Barbara, travel north on US-101 for 95 miles.

Highlights: 

  • Mission Santa Barbara: Originally built in 1820, the church is a testament to California's history. You'll be able to see other historic sites surrounding the church. 
  • Santa Barbara Zoo: If you're traveling with children, take them for a day out to the Santa Barbara Zoo. The zoo is located in a prime position, with fantastic views over the ocean. 
  • Santa Barbara Courthouse: The courthouse is a great example of the historic architecture in Santa Barbara, with the building having a distinct Spanish flavor. 

Palm Springs

This desert oasis has been luring in visitors for a long time. With more than 350 days of sunshine, chances are you will be in for nice weather. Ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to admire the view from Mount San Jacinto, or embark on one of the great hiking trails.

Road to Palm Springs

Travel Time: 2hr 30min

Directions: The journey to Palm Springs will take you two hours east of Los Angeles along the I-10. You'll find the town in the Colorado Desert.

Highlights: 

  • Palm Springs Aerial Tramway: See the fantastic views from Mount Jacinto. There are a number of observation decks at the top of the mountain once you've completed the journey on the tramway. 
  • Golfing: Any fans of golf should head to Palm Springs for the weekend to enjoy a round on one of the many scenic courses. 
  • Indian Canyons: To enjoy a few scenic hiking trails, head to this local favorite. Make sure you stop by Palm Canyon to enjoy some particularly impressive views. 

Newport Beach

Newport Beach boasts a number of different neighborhoods, each with something unique to offer. Corona Del Mar offers brilliant ocean views, where as Balboa Village is a great place too take the kids. A rental car is the perfect way to travel around Newport Beach and make sure you do not miss out on anything.

Travel Time: 1hr 20mins

Directions: Just 40 minutes south of the city, Newport Beach is a fantastic, easily-accessible destination. The 605-S and the 405-S will take you to the center of town. 

Highlights:
  • Segway Tour: Take a segway tour of Newport beach, traveling alongside the ocean.
  • Balboa Fun Zone: People of all ages will enjoy the Balboa Fun Zone. With fast food, theme park rides and a Ferris Wheel, you'll find plenty to keep you busy.
  • Fashion Island: If you're a fan of shopping, Newport Beach is the perfect destination. Visit Fashion Island, which features some of the top brand names and a number of great restaurants. 

Joshua Tree National Park

Not far outside of Palm Springs, you will come across the vast Joshua Tree National Park. The park is home to a lot of unique wildlife and plants, including of course the Joshua Tree. You can explore the park via the many walking trails. The Ryan Mountain hike is particularly popular, but it will take you awhile to complete. From Keys View, visitors will also have great views of the San Andreas Fault.

Travel Time: 3hr 30mins 

Directions: The journey will take you more than 128 miles from central Los Angeles. Take the I-10E from central Los Angeles. 

Highlights:

  • Keys View: Want to get a great view of the park?  Take the drive up to Key's View for a panoramic look at Joshua Tree National Park, and even catch the view of the San Andreas Fault in the distance. 
  • Barker Dam: This is an easily-accessible, short trail offering some great views. 
  • Skull Rock: It is definitely one of the more unusual views in the park, but well-worth visiting. The unique rock formation is located just to the side of the road. 

Big Bear

For a weekend of hiking and water sports, there is no better destination than Big Bear, located in the San Bernardino Mountains. Spend the day on Bear Lake, where you can rent plenty of watersports equipment. Spend some time kayaking, or enjoy relaxing in a boat. In winter, take to the slopes of Bear Mountain and test your skills. Anybody who is after an adrenaline-fuelled adventure will not be short of things to do. From zip-lining to jeep tours, you will find something to keep you occupied.

Travel Time: 2hr 30mins

Directions: To reach Big Bear, head east through Pasadena on CA-210 for two hours.

Highlights:

  • Big Bear Lake: Enjoy water sports, or just relaxing on the waterfront. Big Bear Lake is a popular destination for Los Angeles locals.
  • Big Bear Historical Museum: This is a great place to visit for an orientation to the area. Explore some of the old wooden cabins and learn more about the history of the area.
  • Bear Mountain: For anyone planning on a ski trip, Bear Mountain is the place to go. Beginners can also take advantage of the ski lessons offered at the resort. 

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