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Weekend Trips from Los Angeles Discovering California’s Hidden Gems

santa barbara california

Los Angeles is a bustling city full of life, diversity, and endless opportunities for exploration. But sometimes, you just need to get away from it all and recharge your batteries. Luckily, there are plenty of amazing weekend trips you can take from LA that will provide you with the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. From stunning coastal towns to breathtaking national parks, there’s something for everyone. Here are some of the best weekend trips from Los Angeles that you won’t want to miss.

1. Santa Barbara: Relaxation and Wine Tasting

If you’re looking for a weekend of relaxation and wine tasting, Santa Barbara is the perfect destination. Just a two-hour drive from Los Angeles, Santa Barbara offers stunning ocean views, charming architecture, and a laid-back atmosphere. Take a stroll down State Street, where you’ll find plenty of boutique shops, galleries, and cafes. Visit the historic Mission Santa Barbara, a beautiful example of Spanish Colonial architecture. And of course, don’t miss out on the many wineries and vineyards in the area, where you can enjoy tastings and tours.

2. Joshua Tree National Park: Desert Adventure

Joshua Tree National Park

For a weekend of adventure and natural beauty, head to Joshua Tree National Park. Located about two and a half hours east of Los Angeles, Joshua Tree is a unique desert landscape filled with bizarre rock formations, incredible hiking trails, and starry night skies. You can camp under the stars, rock climb on the massive boulders, or simply take in the stunning views from one of the many overlooks. Don’t forget to visit the Oasis Visitor Center to learn about the park’s history and wildlife.

3. Catalina Island: Island Escape

Catalina Island Island Escape

Just a short ferry ride from Los Angeles, Catalina Island is a beautiful island escape that feels worlds away from the city. With crystal-clear waters, charming small towns, and stunning views, Catalina Island is the perfect place to unwind and recharge. Take a stroll through the quaint streets of Avalon, rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard, or simply relax on the beach with a good book. And don’t forget to take a tour of the island’s famous Casino, which is actually a beautiful Art Deco ballroom and theater.

4. Palm Springs: Desert Oasis

Palm Springs: Desert Oasis

If you’re in need of some serious relaxation, Palm Springs is the perfect weekend getaway. Located just two hours east of Los Angeles, this desert oasis is famous for its hot springs, spas, and luxury resorts. Spend your days lounging by the pool, exploring the many boutiques and galleries in town, or hiking through the nearby San Jacinto Mountains. And of course, don’t forget to indulge in some of the amazing food and cocktails that Palm Springs is known for.

5. San Diego: Beaches and Brews

San Diego Beaches and Brews

For a weekend of sun, surf, and craft beer, head down to San Diego. With miles of sandy beaches, a thriving craft beer scene, and plenty of outdoor activities, San Diego is the perfect destination for a laid-back weekend getaway. Take a stroll through Balboa Park, home to many museums and gardens, or visit the famous San Diego Zoo. And of course, don’t miss out on the many breweries in the area, where you can enjoy tastings and tours.

6. Solvang: Danish Charm

Solvang Danish Charm

If you’re looking for a weekend full of charm and culture, head to Solvang. This small Danish town is located just two hours north of Los Angeles, but it feels like a world away. With its charming windmills, half-timbered buildings, and delicious Danish pastries, Solvang is the perfect place to unwind and explore. Take a stroll down Copenhagen Drive, where you’ll find plenty of boutique shops, art galleries, and Danish bakeries. Don’t forget to visit the famous Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum, which houses a collection of vintage motorcycles from around the world.

7. Mammoth Lakes: Mountain Escape

Mammoth Lakes Los Angeles

For a weekend of skiing, snowboarding, and mountain adventure, head up to Mammoth Lakes. Located about five hours north of Los Angeles, Mammoth Lakes is a beautiful mountain town surrounded by stunning natural beauty. Hit the slopes at Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort, where you’ll find over 3,500 acres of skiable terrain. Or, if you’re visiting during the summer, take a hike through the beautiful trails in the nearby Inyo National Forest.

8. Santa Catalina Island: Snorkeling and Diving

Santa Catalina Island Snorkeling and Diving

For an underwater adventure, head to Santa Catalina Island. Just a short ferry ride from Los Angeles, Catalina Island is a beautiful destination for snorkeling and diving. Explore the clear waters and colorful marine life of the island’s protected marine preserve, or take a glass-bottom boat tour to see the underwater world from above. And don’t forget to explore the island’s charming small towns and beautiful beaches.

9. Big Bear Lake: Lakeside Retreat

Big Bear Lake los angeles california

For a weekend of lakeside relaxation and outdoor adventure, head up to Big Bear Lake. Located about two hours east of Los Angeles, Big Bear Lake is a beautiful mountain town nestled in the San Bernardino National Forest. Spend your days fishing, kayaking, or paddleboarding on the lake, or explore the many hiking trails in the area. And in the winter months, hit the slopes at the nearby ski resorts for some skiing and snowboarding fun.

10. Malibu: Beach Escape

Malibu Beach California

For a classic California beach escape, head up to Malibu. Located just an hour north of Los Angeles, Malibu is a beautiful coastal town with stunning beaches and celebrity homes. Take a drive along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway, stopping at famous beaches like Zuma and Point Dume. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, try surfing or stand-up paddleboarding in the beautiful blue waters of the Pacific.


Los Angeles is an amazing city, but sometimes you just need to get away and explore the beautiful surrounding areas. From relaxing wine country escapes to outdoor mountain adventures, there’s something for everyone. So next time you’re in need of a weekend getaway, consider one of these amazing destinations just a short drive from Los Angeles.


  1. What is the best time of year to visit these weekend trip destinations? It depends on the destination. Generally, spring and fall are good times to visit for mild weather and fewer crowds, but some destinations like Joshua Tree and Mammoth Lakes are better visited in the winter months.
  2. Are these destinations family-friendly? Yes, many of these destinations are great for families with children, but it’s always a good idea to research specific activities and accommodations beforehand.
  3. What is the best way to get to these destinations from Los Angeles? Driving is usually the easiest way to get to these destinations, but there are also options like ferries and flights depending on the destination.
  4. Are there any other hidden gems near Los Angeles that are worth a visit? Yes, there are many other amazing destinations near Los Angeles, like Ojai, Santa Ynez, and Julian, just to name a few.
  5. Do I need to make reservations beforehand? It’s always a good idea to make reservations beforehand, especially for accommodations and activities, as many of these destinations can get busy during peak travel times.

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