Southern California Weekend Getaways

The Joshua Tree Landscape
••• Joshua Tree Landscape. Steve's Web Hosting at Flickr Under Attribution-NonCommercial License

You could find plenty to do in and around SoCal's two biggest cities. From enjoying an island getaway to spending a day with Mickey and the gang at Disneyland, your options are practically endless. Drive along the coastline to get a feel for California beaches or find yourself at one of the many eclectic and acclaimed restaurants, window shopping or wine tasting in these iconic cities during one of your weekend getaways in Southern California.

Getaways in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is known for its star-studded streets and glamor, but that's only the beginning. Enjoy a hike up the Hollywood sign or check off your Los Angeles tourist to-do list.

The center of new and trendy is in downtown LA. In fact, there's so much to see and do there that it could take you two or three weekends to get it all done. Check out all the things to do during your Downtown LA escape in this guide.

If you want to see the touristy side of Hollywood - and admit it - you want to, don't you? You can do it in a quick weekend with these tips and top spots to go.

If you're an art aficionado or a culture vulture, it's easy to overindulge in LA. Try these ideas for an art and culture-focused weekend.

If movies are your passion, where better to spend a weekend than in the city where the industry began? Plan your film lover's fun getaway with these don't miss things to do.

Beverly Hills and West Hollywood are an excellent choice if you like world class style, design and architecture. Use the getaway guide to find the best things to do.

There's more to Pasadena than the annual Rose Bowl Parade. You can also find fascinating architecture, gorgeous gardens and the most beautiful horse racing track in California.

And that's just for starters. Find the rest - and how to see it all - in the Pasadena Getaway Guide.

Catalina Island is the perfect place to recharge your stressed-out, nearly depleted personal energy. It's just 26 miles from the mainland but a world away in its ambiance. Go scuba diving, go on a hike or any of the other fun things in the Catalina Island Getaway Guide.

Los Angeles Beach Towns

Santa Monica is the perfect mix of city and beach. You can go rollerblading at the beach, check out an old-fashioned amusement park and end your day at a downtown hotspot. It's all in this quick and easy guide.

Keep going north of Santa Monica to Malibu for a quick escape. You'll find some lovely beaches to visit and a gorgeous restored Italian Villa. Check the Malibu getaway guide for a couple of hidden side trips to add a little variety to your weekend, too.

Los Angeles' South Bay beach towns are better known to residents than to out-of-towners, which is what makes them such a great place to visit. Mix in with the locals at a favorite breakfast spot, go for a walk or take a bike ride along the beach or grab a boogie board and jump in the surf - it's all in this quick little guide.

Long Beach has more than sandy shores.

It's home to the Aquarium of the Pacific and within a short drive of major theme parks. Plan your trip around these popular must-see attractions at Long Beach.

Getaway to Orange County and San Diego

It's possible to do Disneyland in a day or two - if you use this guide to planning your Disneyland getaway to help you do it.

Best known for a reality show by the same name, Laguna Beach has become a popular destination for teenagers and families alike. While there are plenty of things to do in Laguna Beach, you can head less than an hour north to the edge of Los Angeles to a popular local destination: Long Beach.

If you prefer a fancier beach where luxury shopping is just a stone's throw away, Newport Beach is calling your name. Its location puts you farther away from the sounds of the city and closer to actual beach life, one filled with an old-fashioned charm.

See if this pocket destination is right for you by learning more about what to do in Newport Beach.

Head just a little further south close to the Mexico border to the easy-going city of San Diego. Get wild at the zoo or soak up some sunshine at one of the many beaches there. 

Just a little bit north of San Diego, La Jolla is one of my favorite California coastal places. It's a good place for relaxing strolls, ocean kayaking and drinks at sunset overlooking the ocean. Plan your trip in a jiffy with this guide.

I also love Coronado - the island that isn't an island - for its small town charm and beautiful beaches. Get ready to escape there - now - by using this guide.

North of Los Angeles

If you're an Angeleno, you may already know that one of the best things about living in the city of angels how close it is to so many fun places to go. Whether you're visiting Los Angeles or looking to get away from this iconic city for a weekend, head to these places, all within about a 4 hours' drive. They are listed in order from closest to furthest away.

California's Channel Islands have some the state's most unusual geography, plants and animal life. They don't have a place to stay (except for a limited number of campsites) so you might say it isn't technically a place where you can go for a weekend. That doesn't make them any the less fascinating and they're only a boat ride away from Venture.

Ojai has a similar laid back and relaxed vibe with your choice of farm-to-table restaurants and wineries. Enjoy a flight then head to dinner or the beach for a night away from the big city. 

Unlike the rest of Southern California, the Santa Barbara coastline runs east to west. What does this mean for you? It means some of the best California weather nearly all year long. Go shopping on State Street, rent a bike to ride throughout the small Spanish-influenced city, or check one of these many other things to do for a weekend in Santa Barbara off of your list. 

Santa Ynez Valley, home to Solvang and Los Olivos, offers plenty of fun for families and couples alike. The Danish heritage of Solvang runs strong throughout the town making it a scenic getaway perfect for social media photos. While the kids are at play, parents can head to Los Olivos for dozens of tasting rooms, art galleries, and boutiques. 

Pismo Beach is one of California's most iconic beach towns, a place to get legendary clam chowder and hang out on the beach. You can also bring the beach buggies and your camper and spend the whole weekend camping out on the beach.

Paso Robles is my favorite California getaway these days. The wine country around town is exploding with exciting new places to visit, and the town is so cute you could easily wreck your day's schedule because you're having so much fun walking around in it.

Morro Bay is a fun place for a family weekend. You can walk around town, go to a nearby beach or learn how to kayak in the bay. It's also one of the most affordable places to go on the California coast. 

The tiny town of Cayucos is a little beach town you're bound to love, founded in the 1800s and keeping much of its 19th-century look.

The small town charm of Cambria, filled with boutiques and gardens is near Hearst Castle, but it has plenty to do even if you don't want to see an enormous house that some rich guy used to own. You can get your fill of beaches and bed and breakfast inns in this small town, a perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of its neighboring city. Check out theses six things to do in Cambria during your getaway. 

Hearst Castle is the former home of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst and now a state park. If you choose a couple of tours to take, it makes a nice short escape. You can plan your getaway to Hearst Castle using this guide

If you're really interested in the Hearst story and like to stay in unusual places, try the Valley of the Oaks and Hearst’s Hacienda which is between King City and the Big Sur Coast. Hearst's former ranch house and an old Catholic mission sit in a landscape little changed since Spanish colonial days.

Places to Go In the Desert, Mountains and East

Go east to the desert for your next getaway or east and then north into the mountains. You'll find the perfect retreat away from the lights and sounds of the big city.

Palm Springs is the quintessential LA area getaway. That is, in the winter when temperatures fall below the boiling point. You'll find lots of trendy places to stay while you hike in the desert, take a stroll downtown or just do visitors' favorite Palm Springs activity: nothing.

Contrary to its name, you won't feel dead but alive in Death Valley, a place to get active and enjoy the sun or dark sky. Head here in November to see Leonid meteor showers. See the other things to do on a weekend in Death Valley

Forget Yosemite. It's too far from LA and so popular that it's hard to enjoy the views because someone else is always getting in your way. Instead, head for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks,  a place that legendary Ansel Adams once said was a rival to Yosemite. You'll find far fewer people, gorgeous scenery and even a cavern to explore. You can also escape to the Sequoia High Sierra Camp, which is a high country "glamping" experience you won't want to miss.

For a path less traveled, you may want to consider Mono County. It's a little bit further from LA than the other places in this guide but well worth the trip. Visit in summer or fall and don't miss these other five great things to do in Mono County, especially if you're on a budget.