Zack and I loved to take day trips when we were living in Los Angeles. Sometimes you just wanna get outta town for the day, and with a day trip there’s no need for hotels or cat sitters or taking off work. Just hop in the car and go! And you can plan them out or be spontaneous.
Fortunately there are SO many places to visit within a few hours of LA, so I decided to compile a list of quite a few that we visited.
A little disclaimer: All of these can absolutely be done in a day, but some might be more enjoyed as a weekend trip or longer depending on what you have time for!
Palos Verdes (1 hour by car)
The Palos Verdes Peninsula is a small and quiet coastal town about an hour south of Los Angeles. There’s plenty of ocean views, beaches, hiking trails, and scenic drives – basically a perfect little escape for the day. Check out my blog and youtube video for more ideas!
victoria beach (just under 1.5 hours by car)
For a truly unique experience, head to Laguna Beach and check out the Pirate Tower at Victoria Beach then spend the day relaxing at the beach.
Santa Barbara (1.5 hours by car)
We visited Santa Barbara many times, and on our last trip, just before we moved, we took the train from LA to SB. You can read about our adventure here and/or check out our short vlog on YouTube, but if you’re looking for a seaside escape – Santa Barbara is a perfect option.
Ojai (1.5 hours by car)
Take a stroll down Main Street, check out the iconic Bart’s Books (the world’s largest outdoor bookstore), grab a bite at one of the many delicious restaurants, visit a nearby olive grove, then head up to Meditation Mount for sunset.
Temecula (1.5 hours by car)
Temecula is known for its vineyards and wine tastings – which we did enjoy during our visit, but our main reason for going? A hot air balloon ride! This was a bucket list item for me, and my husband (who I should mention has a fear of heights), surprised me with this for my birthday one year. It was even better than I imagined, and Zack said it wasn’t as scary as he thought! An experience I will NEVER forget.
Channel Islands (1 hour by car + 1 hour by ferry)
The Channel Islands are a National Park right off the coast of Southern California (and the least visited National Park in the US). It’s a really unique experience, but it does require advance planning. I have a whole blog about our visit that’s worth checking out if you’re considering a trip! It’s absolutely unforgettable!
Big Bear (2 hours by car)
With tons of activities year round, Big Bear is a great place to go and enjoy the fresh mountain air. Depending on the season, there’s hiking, swimming, skiing, and more. Check out our visit here.
(Also not too far away is Lake Arrowhead, another lakeside town that’s great if you love spending time outside.)
Idyllwild (2 hours by car)
Nestled up in the San Jacinto mountains, Idyllwild is the definition of small town. You’ll find locally owned shops and restaurants, hiking, and spectacular views. It really is the perfect escape from the city.
La Jolla (2 hours by car)
There’s SO much to do in La Jolla it’s impossible to squeeze it all into one day…but that just means you’ll have to visit again! Good thing it’s only a 2 hour drive. This beach town is an absolute MUST in my opinion. Check out my travel guides (yes, plural) for La Jolla here and here. I’m sure you’ll be packing your bags in no time.
And if you do make it a longer trip – San Diego is only 20 minutes away. You could hit the San Diego Zoo, Coronado Island, and more.
Palm Springs (2 hours by car)
You could easily make a weekend visit out of Palm Springs, but if a day is all you’ve got, you can absolutely make that happen too. Hiking, cute hotels, sunshine, and more. Check out my one day guide here for how we spent our day.
Joshua Tree (2.5 hours by car)
While I would absolutely recommend staying at least a weekend here, a day trip is totally doable. The landscape is other worldly, and there’s so many hikes and trails to choose from (from easy to difficult). Check out both of my travel guides here and here for my top recommendations.
San Luis Obispo (3 hours by car)
Also known as SLO, this town reminded me of Santa Barbara with its beach town charm. Great shops and restaurants plus some fun seaside sights nearby. Read here for how we spent our day in SLO.
Sequoia National Park (3.5 hours by car)
Sequoia National Park is almost a stretch for a day trip, but if you’re up for it, it’s totally possible and worth it! Keep in mind, you won’t be able to visit the entire park, but you can definitely see some great highlights including Moro Rock, Tunnel Log, and the General Sherman Tree. Check out my one day guide here.
Death Valley (4.5 hours by car)
Similar to Sequoia National Park, Death Valley is definitely a stretch for a day trip. In fact, I’d probably recommend staying overnight if that’s an option for you, but for us at the time, it wasn’t, and I’m so happy we made it happen. Death Valley literally feels like you’re on another planet, and pictures don’t do it justice. Read about our visit here.
Below are a few seasonal day trips best visited during specific times of year to really make the most out of the experience.
Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve (just over 1 hour by car) – SPRING
This one can be hit or miss depending on the year, but seeing the poppy blooms is amazing. We visited a couple times, but our first trip was during the super bloom in 2017, and it was incredible. Check their website or Facebook page for bloom updates.
Carlsbad Flower Fields (1.5 Hours by car) – SPRING
If you need another flower fix, head to the Carlsbad Flower Fields. Once you’re done frolicking through the flowers, head to a nearby beach and have a picnic. You can check out my blog or YouTube video for more details!
Lavender Fields (1.5 hours by car) – SUMMER
A lavender festival in Southern California? Yup! Roam through lavender fields, taste all the lavender flavored foods, and more. I went twice and you can read about my experiences here and here, plus there’s a dreamy little video on my YouTube channel.
Oak Glen (1.5 hours by car) – FALL
You can definitely visit year-round, but the best time to go is in the fall for apple picking. There’s a 5 mile loop of orchards, shops, restaurants, and more. My personal favorite: Snowline Orchard. They have homemade cider donuts that are to die for, a wine tasting room, a great picnic area and more. Visiting Oak Glen was one of my favorite fall traditions. You can read about our last visit here.
It’s a pretty big list and you know what? There’s so many more that we never did, but this should be a good start if you’re living in LA and looking to escape or visiting and looking to add a little something extra to your vacation.
CHECK OUT: BEST & WORST THINGS TO DO IN LOS ANGELES