Long Weekend Getaway from San Diego: California Central Coast

Santa Barbara, California -- a top place to visit in central California from San Diego
••• Santa Barbara, California. Gary Weathers/Tetra images/Getty Images

Have a 3-day weekend coming up and want to leave San Diego and get out of town? Head to the central California coast. It’s easy to get to from San Diego and you have several choices for what to do. Here are some tips on where to go based off of your favorite San Diego activity.

If You Love Strolling Around La Jolla, You'll Love Carmel and Monterey

The toney towns of Carmel and Monterey have beaches, oceanside walks, upscale residential areas, luxury shopping and fine dining –- similar to what you’ll find in San Diego’s ritzy La Jolla neighborhood.

There’s even an aquarium just like in La Jolla: the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Bonus: You’re in close proximity to Big Sur’s 17-Mile Drive while visiting Carmel and Monterey, which gives Torrey Pines park a run for its money in terms of rugged oceanfront terrain and panoramic views of the waves.
Where to Stay: Choose one of the quaint B&Bs in Carmel like Jabberwocky B&B or an oceanfront property such as the luxurious Spindrift Inn in Monterey.  
What to Eat: The Sardine Room has delectable cuisine and several different dining rooms offering a variety of ambiance and menu items. 

If You Love Shopping and Dining in the Gaslamp Quarter, You'll Love Santa Barbara

If your idea of a fun day is shopping in the Gaslamp Quarter followed by an upscale meal, then you’ll enjoy spending the weekend in Santa Barbara. The main boulevard of downtown Santa Barbara is lined with trees, wide sidewalks, and a myriad of shops ranging from boutiques to favorites like Banana Republic.

In the evening, trade out shopping bags for a table at one of Santa Barbara’s restaurants, many of which specialize in farm to table cuisine and wines from the surrounding farms.
Where to Stay: The Hyatt has comfortable rooms, a big pool and is located right across the street from the beach. 
Where to Eat: Bouchon restaurant has a cozy, romantic atmosphere with delectable cuisine made from local ingredients and an impressive central California wine list.

If You Love the Architecture and Cuisine of Old Town, You'll Love Solvang

If you love the Mexican-themed charm and nearby Victorian Houses in Old Town San Diego, then head to another city that has the feel of another country running through it –- in this case, the town of Solvang, which has a downtown area inspired by a Danish village. Solvang is located about 45 minutes north of Santa Barbara. The buildings all have criss-crossed beam details and steeple-style roofs. You’ll also find an array of Danish pastry shops and cuisine.
Where to Stay: Hadsten House has Danish charm, updated rooms and is budget-friendly. For a luxurious stay, check out the Landsby
Where to Eat: Can't beat the gourmet cuisine of upscale Root 246, a play on route 246 that runs through town. 

If You Love Wine Tasting in San Diego, You'll Love Los Olivos

San Diego is home to a number of wineries where you can stop in for some fun wine tasting. If visiting Bernardo Winery or one of the other San Diego wineries is your idea of a fun time, head to Los Olivos, California. Located just a short distance from Solvang, Los Olivos is home to over 30 tasting rooms, all conveniently located within a couple blocks radius.
Where to Stay: Fess Parker Wine Country Inn is just a few miles away and puts you right in the middle of the surrounding wine country and also has an onsite spa.

 
Where to Eat: Head to a nearby park and enjoy a picnic lunch of sandwiches and pasta salad from the delicious meat counter at El Rancho Marketplace just south of downtown Solvang off of Route 246.

If You Love Surfing, You'll Love Avila Beach

Avila Beach is an oceanfront community that provides an ideal beach getaway for ocean enthusiasts. The San Luis Bay provides excellent wave breaks and the area south of the pier is your best bet for catching some good ones. Need help learning to surf? Check out Avila Beach Surf School.
Where to Stay: Custom House is located right by the beach and has delicious casual fare seafood. 
Where to Eat: Avila Lighthouse Suites are oceanfront and roomy, making them ideal for families. 

If You Love Uptown Fun, You'll Love San Luis Obispo

Though not technically an “uptown” San Luis Obispo has the feel of a trendy, young city neighborhood thanks to the close proximity to Cal Poly and a good mix of dive bars and high end dining.

You'll also find plenty of wine tasting room and vineyards surrounding the city. 
Where to Stay: If you're looking for a memorable weekend, it's hard to go wrong with a stay at the eclectic and funky themed room hotel, Madonna Inn. It's charmingly pink and located just outside of town. 
Where to Eat: A ti-tip sandwich from Firestone is a must. Novo Restaurant Lounge is located right by the creek running through town and provides a more upscale atmosphere. 

Which Central Coast weekend getaway from San Diego would best suit your personality?