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10 Best Day Trips Around Los Angeles

Although there is a plethora of activities, from arts, entertainment, outdoor adventures and more to do in Los Angeles, sometimes you just need a short escape. Away from the traffic and crowds, there are several fun day trips around the city that are to be had. Just a short drive from Los Angeles, here are 10 of the top locations to plan a fun weekend day trip.
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Located approximately 25 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 IEX Helicopters. When arriving in Avalon, walk through the town and grab a bite before heading down the boardwalk and making your way to Catalina Casino, which features the Avalon Theatre and the world's largest circular ballroom, filled with exquisite art deco murals. After a bit of culture, head to Descanso Canyon to enjoy the Zip Line Eco Tour, as well as the thrilling Catalina Aerial Adventure, a series of ropes courses and aerial trails featuring suspended bridges, balance beams, zip lines and more. To explore more of the island, take the Discover Two Harbors tour to the other side of the island to the newly unveiled Harbor Sands white sand beach and lounge with a cocktail in one of six palapas, all named after movies that were filmed there. Enjoy other outdoor activities such as: snorkeling, kayaking and golf at Catalina Island Golf Course and then head over to Island Spa Catalina, the island's only full-service experiential spa to relax before a wonderful meal with views of Avalon Bay at Avalon Grille.

Visit The Temecula Valley
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(credit: Pechanga Resort & Casino)

Planning a day trip from L.A. to Temecula Valley 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 visit out Pechanga Resort & Casino for a late breakfast or brunch overlooking majestic oak trees and try your luck at California's top casino. Pechanga features thousands of slot machines, 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. When you're finished, it's time for wine! Taste your way through numerous options like Monte De Oro WineryAvensole Winery before heading to the top winery restaurant in the country at Leoness Cellars. Make sure to also go horseback riding in wine country with Green Acres Ranch.

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Known as "California's Denmark," Solvang is just two hours up the coast from Los Angeles in Santa Barbara's wine country. Located in the Santa Ynez Valley, the city feels like visiting Northern Europe, without a passport. Solvang's rich heritage dates to 1911 when adventurous Danish-Americans situated their new community adjacent to historic 1804 Old Mission Santa Ines. Visit interesting museums, eat your way through authentic bakeries, shop at more than 150 unique shops, see art galleries, eat at over 35 restaurants and visit over 20 wine & beer tasting rooms. Solvang offers up more than 18 unique inns to 4-diamond hotels if you decide to stay overnight. Not-to-miss annual events include Taste of Solvang (March), Danish Days (September) and Julefest (December). 

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(credit: Ojai Valley Inn & Spa)

A 90-minute drive north from DTLA, 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 Beacon Coffee 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 (Bicycles of Ojai and The Mob Shop offer a variety of rentals by the hour or day), or tour a citrus grove and meander along Sespe Creek, where there are several swimming holes. Take a customized sightseeing adventures in open-air jeeps with Cloud Climber Jeep Tours, guided horseback rides along the Ventura River and through the forest with The Ojai Valley Trail Riding Company, or try rock climbing with Ojai Rock Climbing. After a fun-filled and adventure-packed first half of your day, find your zen at Spa Ojai located in the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, then play a round at their award-winning golf. 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.

Santa Barbara
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(credit: Gabriela Herman/Visit Santa Barbara)

Santa Barbara, also known as The American Riviera®, is a self-contained paradise surrounded by undeveloped coastline, signature red-tile roofs, white-washed buildings and lush gardens. Take the scenic route and drive up the PCH or consider taking the Pacific Surfliner train on Amtrak from Los Angeles to avoid traffic and enjoy the coastal views and get dropped off within walking distance to the beach, State Street and the Funk Zone, as well as numerous hotels and other area attractions. Stroll through the streets of downtown Santa Barbara on and off of State Street, or to Montecito's Coast Village Road and Upper Village to shop for upscale fashions, handcrafted jewelry and home décor. Sink your toes into the sand on Butterfly Beach or to the equally attractive and less crowded Miramar Beach towards the south, or popular downtown East Beach to the north. Enjoy 30 wineries and tasting rooms on the ever-expanding Urban Wine Trail in downtown Santa Barbara, or opt for a brew trek. Visit the intimate and impressive Santa Barbara Museum of ArtMOXI: The Wolf Museum of Exploration & Innovation, keep current with the latest art with the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, and catch a show or concert at the epic Santa Barbara Bowl. Make sure to capture Santa Barbara's architectural landmarks with iconic shots of Old Mission Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara County Courthouse and El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park

Palm Springs
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An easy drive from Los Angeles, Palm Springs is the ultimate vacation oasis for visitors seeking relaxation, adventure, culture and entertainment. Famed for its casual poolside lifestyle, this oasis features a wide array of accommodations, from luxurious resorts to trendy hotels and intimate boutique inns that feature amenities ranging from world-class spas, poolside dining, cool aquatic features and pet-friendly packages. Great hotels include The Parker Palm Springs, The Ace Hotel, The Hilton, The Saguaro and The Riviera Palm Springs Resort. Natural mineral springs and abundant outdoor recreation options enhance Greater Palm Springs' reputation as a mecca for health and wellness. Activities include golf and tennis, swimming, biking, equestrian sports, biking and hiking on more than 100 scenic trails. A flourishing culinary, arts and music scene invigorates the Greater Palm Springs cultural landscape. Make sure to stop by The River at Rancho Mirage, the premier shopping, dining, and entertainment destination at the corner of Highway 111 and Bob Hope Drive. During April, the Coachella Music Festival takes over the area.

Laguna Beach
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The small coastal city in Orange County is just a little over an hour drive from Santa Monica and is known for its picturesque coastline, tidepools and lush vegetation. Laguna Beach is a seven-mile stretch of sand and surf which boasts dog-friendly beaches and restaurants, hiking trails, art exhibits and a variety of breathtaking rooftop bars. Main Beach, which features tide pools and a boardwalk leading to the paths and gardens of nearby Heisler Park, is the spot of choice for sunbathing. If you'd like to be a bit more active along the beach, head to Beach Park, a popular surf spot while the waters off Crystal Cove State Park are designated as an underwater park. Walk in pedestrian-friendly downtown to find a mix of shops, galleries and restaurants and grab a scoop from Gelato Paradiso. Explore the multitude of hiking trails, the reservation only Hortense Miller Garden, or the sea lion rescue Pacific Marine Mammal Center. During the summertime, make sure to check out Pageant of the Masters and the Sawdust Art Festival. For great activities, visit our Guide To Free Things To Do In Laguna Beach For Families, as well as the Best Bars In Laguna Beach.

Big Bear
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(Credit: Mark Krapels/shutterstock)

Located 7,000 feet up in the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear invites guests to enjoy the outdoors with a range of yearly activities. For the active group, check out their hiking trails that can transform into snowshoe trails during heavier winter months, tree rope climbing or popular hipline tours. When the sun is out in the summer and spring, take a boat tour or rent a canoe or kayak or jet ski to experience the beauty of Big Bear Lake. Enjoy the laid-back atmosphere in The Village, a premiere shopping and dining, or check out Bowling Barn and the Alpine Slide. Make sure to stop by local favorite Grizzly Manor Café for their large pancakes and Murray's Saloon for karaoke night.

San Diego
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Known for its beaches and year-round warm climate, San Diego is a two-and-a-half hour drive south on I-5 from LA. Explore the immense 1,200-acre urban cultural park Balboa Park which features 17 museums, numerous galleries and performing arts venues as well as the San Diego Zoo. Other top theme parks and attractions include SeaWorld San DiegoSan Diego Zoo Safari Park, and LEGOLAND California. After a day at one of the city's numerous beautiful beaches or another outdoor adventure, make sure to go downtown and taste the areas signature Cali Baja cuisine and pair it with one of the hundreds of craft beers and wines bottled in the region. San Diego Bay, is home to 10 museum ships including the Star of India, and the USS Midway, an aircraft-carrier-turned-museum, open to the public.

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Just 10 minutes south of Santa Barbara and adjacent to the Pacific Coast Highway lies the quaint seaside town of Summerland. With 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."

Jarone Ashkenazi is a freelance writer who covers restaurants, bars, dating, relationships, sports and other lifestyle topics. View his work at, or connect with him on Twitter: @JaroneAsh.
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