The City of Angels offers a diverse array of activities, but sometimes you just need to escape the hustle and bustle and get out of town. If you’re looking for a just-far-enough getaway but can’t dedicate a large amount of time for a trip, daycations are the way to go. They offer a great respite for taking a deep breath and exploring something new, and fortunately L.A. is surrounded by small towns, beautiful beaches and amazing landscapes for short day trips.
The destinations below are a short list of some of the top locations outside of L.A., all within a three-hour drive or ferry ride (mostly under two hours), that will allow you to explore and feel like you are an ocean away. From getting lost in the desert, to wine tasting to exploring the outdoors, you are sure to find some inspiration from the below to plan a short day trip!
1. Catalina Island
Located 26 miles off the coast of Southern California, Catalina Island is accessible by Catalina Express boats from three ports (San Pedro, Long Beach and Dana Point) and the Catalina Flyer from Newport Beach, as well as Island Express Helicopter. When arriving in Avalon, walk through the town and grab a bite before heading down the boardwalk and making your way to Catalina Casino, filled with art deco murals, the world’s largest circular ballroom and more. After a bit of culture, enjoy the Zip Line Eco Tour and Catalina Falconry, located right next to Descanso Beach Club.
In late May, two thrilling new activities will be introduced — Catalina Aerial Adventure and Descanso Drop Tower — as well as the unveiling of Harbor Sands Beach in Two Harbors. Other outdoor activities include snorkeling, kayaking and golf at Catalina Island Golf Course, the oldest operating golf course west of the Rocky Mountains. After one (or more) of the many outdoor adventures, head over to Island Spa Catalina, the island’s only full-service experiential spa, then finish your island vacation at Avalon Grille and enjoy views of Avalon Bay before catching the Express back to L.A.
For more ideas for what to do on the island be sure to check out this previous We Like L.A. guide on things to do in Catalina.
Just an hour drive from DTLA on the CA-60 East lies Riverside, the birthplace of the California citrus industry and home of the Mission Inn, the largest Mission Revival-style building in the United States. This historic luxury property offers four exquisite culinary experiences on site, a full-service spa at Kelly’s Spa – including their “A Perfect Day” package which allows guests to create their own perfect day with luxurious accommodations and credits that can be used throughout the hotel – and beautiful grounds that house many historic artifacts from the early 1900s, such as the Fliers’ Wall, along with President William Howard Taft’s custom-made chair and more.
Just a short drive from The Mission Inn, the March Field Air Museum offers engaging exhibits, thousands of artifacts and 80 historic aircrafts on display. Also worth noting is the California Citrus State Park, where guests learn the story of this industry’s role in the history and development of California.
If you’re more into the arts, head over to the Fox Performing Arts Center, which underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation, turning it into a world-class performing arts venue, or walk through downtown Riverside. Start at the Main Street pedestrian mall and walk west to the historic Riverside County Courthouse, which is a walking museum filled with statues of great leaders.
3. Palm Springs
The Greater Palm Springs Area is just a short two-hour drive from L.A., but the desert backdrop and warm weather will make you feel like you’re a world away. The ultimate desert playground, this city offers a plethora of activities including numerous golf and tennis courses, hiking trails in the Indian Canyons, the scenic Aerial Tramway and much more. If relaxing is more your beat, shop at the Desert Hills Premium Outlets, get a massage and sit by the pool at the one of the area ultra-fancy resorts like the JW Marriott Desert Springs or the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort and Spa. The Miramonte Indian Wells is another hotel that’s worth looking into, specifically their adventure packages (if you kind of want someone to set everything up for you!)
For some more ideas check out this previous We Like L.A. guide for things to do in Palm Springs.
Just 10 minutes south of Santa Barbara and approximately 30 seconds off off PCH lies the quaint seaside town of Summerland, a true Southern California hidden gem. With ample free parking throughout the entire town, guests can start their day at the pristine beach, grab a burger at Summerland Beach Café or a sandwich at Cantwell’s Market & Deli, then shop the galleries on Lillie Avenue. Head into McLeod Parrot Menagerie to hear a symphony of birds and then to The Sacred Space and be transported into another world with tropical gardens, fountains and more. While in town, visit Summerland Winery and sit back, relax, and enjoy the ocean breeze while exploring Summerland’s award-winning collections of Central Coast wines. With a tasting room outfitted with tasteful beach-inspired décor, a charming front porch, and a welcoming team of wine experts, this dog-friendly boutique winery was voted “Best Winery in Santa Barbara County.”
Those that want to make a bit more of their coastal vacation and have a little extra time on their hands should continue up the 101 along the Pacific up to Santa Barbara. Located between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the pristine Pacific Ocean, Downtown Santa Barbara is the beautiful cultural heart and soul of Santa Barbara, with its nine museums, five separate theaters, wine tasting, restaurants, shopping and more. Be sure to take a stroll down historic State Street Plaza and enjoy one of America’s most pedestrian-friendly downtowns.
A 90-minute drive north of Downtown Los Angeles, Ojai gives travelers a relaxed and quaint feel totally different from normal busy L.A. life. Drive up in the early morning and grab some breakfast at Knead Baking Company before taking a morning walk down Ojai Ave where you can find both antique and boutique shops. Explore the nearby trails of Los Padres National Forest on foot, horseback or by bike, or tour a citrus grove and meander along Sespe Creek, where there are several swimming holes. After a fun-filled morning, find your zen at Spa Ojai located in the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, then play a round at their award-winning golf course and tennis courts. Check out the resort’s Picnic & Pedal program that pairs a fleet of vintage-inspired bikes with customized baskets overflowing with treats from Libbey’s, the resort’s artisanal marketplace and café, along with picnic blankets, and set up the ultimate al fresco dining experience on the properties 220 acres or around town.
After a long day, head to Meditation Mount for incredible sunset views and end the day at one of the city’s many wine-tasting rooms, like The Ojai Vineyard or Topa Mountain Winery, or grab a bite at popular Nocciola or Farmer & the Cook.
For more ideas for what to do in the area be sure to check out the We Like L.A. guide for fun things to do in Ojai.
Planning a day trip from L.A. to Temecula provides a fun outing with tons to do. Leave early in the day on the weekends to avoid traffic and you’ll get to the city with lush, rolling green hillsides and 40 wineries in about 90 minutes flat. Before going straight for the vino, stop by Old Town Temecula and visit the Temecula Valley Museum, or check out Pechanga Resort & Casino for a late breakfast or brunch overlooking majestic oak trees and try your luck at California’s No. 1 casino, as rated by USA Today.
Pechanga features thousands of slots, table games, poker and the most modern bingo you’ve ever seen. For activities, play a round at the award-winning Journey at Pechanga Golf Course, or take a ride in a hot-air balloon with Magical Adventure Balloon Rides, or treat yourself to a relaxing massage. Now to the wine! Taste your way through numerous options like the 70-acre Wilson Creek Winery or the sprawling South Coast Winery before heading to the top winery restaurant in the country at Leoness.
7. Tejon Ranch
Tejon Ranch is the largest continuous expanse of private land in California, offering about 270,000 acres of pristine land with a wide range of activities. At 422 square miles, it’s just about as large as the City of Los Angeles. Now open to the public, they have launched the Explorer Program. Exclusive in nature, it gives members access to more than 25,000 acres on the southern portion of the ranch, which offers spectacular landscapes, breathtaking views, vibrant wildflower fields, oak-studded hillsides, steep canyons and broad valleys. Members will be able to enjoy mountain biking, hiking, picnicking, wildlife and landscape photography, bird-hunting, SUV trail driving, overnight camping, star-gazing, horseback riding and more.
8. Laguna Beach
This beautiful beach town, just a short drive south along the coast from Los Angeles, offers the perfect mini getaway from the busy city, boasting dog-friendly beaches and restaurants, hiking trails, art exhibits and a variety of breathtaking rooftop bars. Start off your daycation with a hike at Crystal Cove State Park and explore the tide pools, or head over to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center to visit rescued marine mammals. If you love to be active on your days off, take a guided kayak tour to check out hidden beaches, contoured cliffs, the crystal-clear ocean and abundant sea life.
For the art lover, head over to the Laguna Playhouse to catch a play and hop on the free Laguna Beach Trolley to travel along the coast from Laguna Beach to Dana Point. After a long day of fun-filled activities and sunshine, what better way to end your Laguna Beach day than with hand-muddled mojitos while enjoying the best view in all of OC at The Rooftop Lounge at La Casa Del Camino. This dog-friendly rooftop bar offers a young, hip and lively atmosphere with the best panoramic views of the coastline.
9. Topanga Canyon
Although located in L.A., the bohemian vibe of hippie enclave Topanga Canyon makes visitors feel like they are miles away. Perched between Malibu, Calabasas, and the West San Fernando Valley, with close proximity to the ocean and a general lack of corporate chains, Topanga’s small-town feel makes it a relaxed place where no one bats an eye at barefoot shop patrons or unique, artful intricacies hanging in front yards. Enjoy outdoor activities like Red Rock Canyon Trail and explore caves and search for fossils and arrowheads left by the Chumash Indians, or take your pup to dog-friendly Tuna Canyon park.
Check out the vintage clothing shop Hidden Treasures, making sure to check out the pirate trunk near the front door with clearance items going for just a few bucks each, or stop by nearby Boubolina for hippie dresses, Native American jewelry and lots of eclectic clothing.
Craving a bite after a long day? Check out Inn of the Seventh Ray, one of the most romantic restaurants in all of Los Angeles featuring a large terraced garden area next to a creek surrounded by tree, or try local favorite Cafe Mimosa.
For more ideas on what to do in the area be sure to check out this previous We Like L.A. guide on fun things to do in Topanga Canyon.
10. Malibu coast
This affluent beach city just up the Pacific Coast Highway in L.A. is famous for its beautiful sandy beaches and exclusive homes. Located just north of Santa Monica, Malibu is known for its splendor and its 21 miles of beautiful beaches. From nature excursions to horseback riding and surfing to going on a wine safari, there’s plenty to see and do in Malibu.
If you are a hiker, check out popular hikes like the Grotto Trail or Escondido Falls, while those seeking a different type of outdoor adventure can go horseback riding with the Malibu Riders or embark on various excursions with Malibu Coastal Adventures. The beauty of this coastal city is that you can visit different beaches — Malibu has 10 different beaches, all of which are public — and enjoy nearly perfect conditions year round. After a long day outdoors, head over to Malibu Country Mart to stop and shop, and if you are there on a Sunday, check out the Malibu Farmers Market which is held every Sunday, year-round, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visit the Adamson House, known as “the Taj Mahal of tile,” or beautiful Getty Villa before going to Malibu Family Wines for a wine safari, or for special events like their comedy or movie nights. Stop by local favorite Malibu Seafood for some of the best fish and chips in the city, or enjoy one of the more upscale dining options available, such as Nobu or Geoffrey’s.
For more ideas on what to do in the area check out this previous We Like L.A. guide on fun things to do in Malibu.