Weekend Getaways in California: 34 Trips You Can Take

Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, California
Big Sur. Rickson Liebano/Getty Images

If you want to take a weekend trip in California, this guide includes more than three dozen places you can go for a quick getaway, from beautiful beaches and stunning forests to film locations and wine tastings.

If you're interested in finding things to do or planning a weekend getaway that might be closer to your home, you can skip on over to browse weekend getaways in Northern California or find out what the best things to do are in Southern California.

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Beverly Hills

View of palms lining the street in Beverly Hills, California
Stewart Cohen/Getty Images

Who isn't familiar with Beverly Hills after the iconic drama 90210? Popular with art lovers and shoppers, this city is for anyone looking to enjoy a day of luxury or enjoy the most elite nightlife. Roam around and check out the million-dollar mansions, top designer showrooms, or art and film museums in the area.

Beverly Hills, CA, USA
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Big Sur

Rugged coastal headlands of Big Sur California
Alan Majchrowicz / Getty Images

California's Big Sur coast is the place most people think of when they say "California coast highway," a landscape of mountains diving into the sea, with a ribbon of road clinging to the cliffs. In Big Sur, the stars are brighter, and there's plenty of undeveloped landscape and some fantastic beaches.

Big Sur is popular for romantic getaways, outdoor recreation, driving tours, and hiking. It has some extraordinary beaches, too.

Big Sur, CA, USA
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Cloud covered vineyard in Calistoga, California.
RMB Images / Photography by Robert Bowman / Getty Images

The northernmost town in Napa Valley is beautiful enough to take your breath away. Calistoga is the spa capital of Napa Valley, a charming small town with less pretense than some of its southern neighbors. You'll find some interesting things in the area besides its visitor-friendly wineries, making it an excellent place to enjoy a "wine country" scenery but with different things to do while you look at it. It's great for family outings, romantic getaways, and wine tasting.

Calistoga, CA 94515, USA
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Pacific Ocean landscape in Cambria, California
John Elk / Getty Images

Cambria is a longtime favorite of visitors to California's central coast, and with good reason. It's far enough from the ocean to be sunny even when the beach is shrouded in summer fog and a cute little downtown to stroll and browse through. The lodgings along Moonstone Beach below town represent possibly the greatest concentration of nice places to stay in the state, and the area is filled with a lot of nice bed and breakfast inns. Cambria is a good place to base a visit to Morro Bay or Hearst Castle as well.

Cambria, CA, USA
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Catalina Island

Catalina Island's famous landmark, the Casino.
Matthew Micah Wright / Getty Images

Catalina Island is only 26 miles from bustling Los Angeles but a world apart. Preserved in a conservancy, the island has only one town of any size, where residents often drive golf carts instead of automobiles. It's a place of extraordinary natural beauty and one of the best places to de-stress in the state.

Catalina is popular for romantic getaways, active weekends (especially diving), and family fun. It's a good place to get away from it all, rest and relax, or enjoy a romantic interlude.

Santa Catalina Island, California 90704, USA
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Crescent City

High angle view of trees by lake, Crescent City, California
Nick Verbelchuk / 500px / Getty Images

Crescent City is on the northern California coast, just off U.S. Highway 101 and only 20 miles from the California-Oregon state line. It's the home of a port for a commercial fishing fleet and offers a variety of things to see in do for both locals and visitors. It's famous for the nearby redwood forests and whale watching, and finding agate rocks on the beach has become a touristy thing to do as well.

Crescent City, CA, USA
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Death Valley National Park

Rocky landscape at Death Valley

TripSavvy / Amanda Capritto

In Death Valley, the earth sheds its mantle of green and gives way to fantastic geologic formations with fanciful names like Devil's Golf Course and Badwater Basin. It's the lowest (and hottest) place in the United States, yet its historic National Park lodge, the Inn at Death Valley (formerly the Furnace Creek Inn), offers pamper-me luxury and finer service than you might expect in the middle of the desert.

Death Valley is perfect for outdoor recreation and driving tours. Many visitors also enjoy the nearby ghost towns, and it's a photographers' favorite.

United States
Phone +1 760-786-3200
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Photo of ferris wheel and roller coaster at Disneyland California Adventure

 Kevin Nguyen-Tu / Flickr / CC BY ​2.0

There's enough to do at Disneyland and California Adventure to keep people busy for days, but you can have a fabulous visit in just a couple of days if you use a few of our secrets. Ride the rides, try all of the delicious foods, and create those magical memories that'll last a lifetime.

1313 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802, USA
Phone +1 714-781-4636
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Foggy Redwood Highway, route 101, Eureka, California, USA
Gu / Getty Images

Eureka is a good base location if you're interested in exploring Humboldt County and the redwood forests of Northern California. Or maybe you'd rather go looking for Bigfoot — the mythical creature has supposedly been sighted more here than in almost any part of California.

It's a great destination for hiking and outdoor recreation, or for just enjoying the beautiful Victorian architecture.

Eureka, CA, USA
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Hearst Castle

Front door of Hearst Castle

othree / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr

Built by newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, the Hearst Castle is a fascinating look into the lifestyle of one of early 20th-century America's richest men. It sits atop a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with the bigger-than-life main house surrounded by guest quarters bigger than most visitors' homes. The castle is especially fun during an evening tour (summer only) or when it's decorated for the holidays.

Hearst Castle is perfect for family outings. Architecture-lovers may be interested in its designer Julia Morgan, and history buffs may enjoy the summer night tours, which showcase the Castle as it was in Hearst's day.

Hearst Castle is within 200 miles of Bakersfield, Fresno, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose.

750 Hearst Castle Rd, San Simeon, CA 93452, USA
Phone +1 800-444-4445
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Aerial View Of Hollywood At Sunset
Markus Walber / EyeEm / Getty Images

It's been decades since Hollywood gained its reputation as the center of American filmmaking, and today's Hollywood sometimes fails to live up to visitors' ideas of it. Nevertheless, it's fun to visit for the people who enjoy more touristy attractions, such as the Walk of Fame. It's also the home of the Hollywood Bowl, the Dolby Theatre where the Academy Awards are held, and more.

Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA, USA
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Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach Arial View
Luciano Lejtman / Getty Images

Laguna Beach is perhaps Orange County's least-overdeveloped beach town and one of its prettiest. Created as an artist's getaway, Laguna Beach still feels artsy, with excellent art galleries and some fun summer arts festivals.

Head to Laguna Beach for beach play, shopping, art galleries, and festivals — its seaside location also creates the perfect mood for romance.

Laguna Beach, CA, USA
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Lake County

Shot of Clear Lake on a clear day in Lake County
Geri Lavrov / Getty Images

Lake County lies north of Napa Valley, its southernmost town just up the hill from Calistoga. It's home to the largest natural freshwater lake named Clear Lake. It's completely within California's borders and about 100 miles in circumference. It's one of California's nicest hidden gems and is a must-visit for those interested in fishing, boating, and small wineries.

Lake County, CA, USA
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Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe Sunset and Reflection, California, USA
Lingxiao Xie / Getty Images

A clear lake in a natural bowl formed by the granite mountains around it, Lake Tahoe is a favorite of Northern Californians year-round. Although it's famous for winter skiing, it's even busier in summer when there are more things to do and a perfect place to escape the summer heat.

Lake Tahoe is great for family outings, outdoor recreation, skiing, driving tours, hiking, fishing, boating, and doing nothing. If you're interested in gambling, you can stay on the Nevada side of the lake.

Lake Tahoe, United States
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Lassen National Park

Lake in Lassen National Park on a clear day

TripSavvy / Ana Alarcon

In 1915, decades before Mt. St. Helens blew its top, Mount Lassen erupted, raining volcanic ash for 200 miles. The blast created an other-worldly landscape of boiling mud pots, steaming ground, roaring fumaroles, and escaping sulfurous gasses, giving rise to place names like Bumpass Hell and Fart Gulch. Lassen National Park offers great experiences for family outings and outdoor recreation, and it has some beautiful driving tours. The thermal features draw photographers who try to capture their beauty. This lightly-visited national park deserves a lot more attention than it gets, so go now before everyone else discovers it.

California, USA
Phone +1 530-595-4480
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Long Beach

City line of Long Beach, California
DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

Often overlooked as a tourist destination, Long Beach offers a central location for exploring other parts of the Los Angeles area, close to major freeways and with some fun attractions of its own, such as a gondola ride or an art walk in the East Village Art District.

Long Beach is great for family getaways and with night owls who enjoy music and dancing. It's also one of the country's most dog-friendly cities.

Long Beach, CA, USA
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Los Angeles

Sunset traffic Modern Los Angeles Business District.

Los Angeles is the biggest and most famous city in California, and there are more than just a few things to do and see.

Lining the Santa Monica Bay north of the Los Angeles Airport, the towns of Venice Beach and Marina Del Rey offer a wide variety of things to do and a range of environments from funky Venice Beach to the high-end hotels lining the marina. These beach towns offer beach play, shopping, water sports, and amusement rides.

The three main beach towns south of LAX—Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, and Hermosa Beach provide some of the best places for a visitor to get a look at the real California beach life. You'll find places for long walks beside the ocean, volleyball games on the sand, surfers, and scenic piers where you can watch them.

If you're interested in the cultural and artistic side of L.A., you can explore more than 200 professional theaters and 300 museums, more than any other U.S. city. As long as you enjoy the arts, you'll find something in Los Angeles that fits your particular taste, whether it's cutting-edge or ultra-traditional.

It's hard to talk about Los Angeles without including movies and films. Many big films premiere in L.A., and the downtown area is full of beautiful, old movie palaces. It's the perfect destination for film buffs of all kinds, from those who enjoy classic silent films to cutting-edge indies.

Los Angeles, CA, USA
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Shoreline in Malibu, California
Geri Lavrov / Getty Images

The Malibu coast on the north edge of Los Angeles has a reputation bigger than its geographic area. If you're planning a trip to California and are looking forward to a beach day, Malibu is probably one of the first locations you'll think of, and for good reason. There are almost two dozen beaches in Malibu, and they all have their own unique characteristics. Outside of the beaches, you'll find some excellent wineries in the mountains just inland.

Malibu, CA, USA
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Mendocino Coast

Coast of Point Arena Storneta, Mendocino
Geri Lavrov / Getty Images

California's Mendocino coast boasts some of its wildest and most spectacular coastal scenery. The area seems almost littered with cute little bed and breakfast inns, and few can resist the sight of the town of Mendocino and its New England-style architecture. The forests are filled with blooming rhododendrons in spring, and the Mendocino Botanical Garden always has something in bloom. It's a good place to settle into comfortable lodgings and do nothing at all.

Mendocino, CA, USA
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Mono County

Rusted car and abandoned town in Bodie Ghost Town, Mono County
Zack Frank / 500px / Getty Images

The area east of the Sierras is little visited, but one of California's most fascinating places. Its high desert landscape features dormant volcanoes, unique rock formations, a lake so salty that little can live in it, steaming geothermal features, and some of the country's best snow skiing.

If you're looking for a location great for family outings, outdoor recreation, driving tours, hiking fishing, and photography, Mono County is the destination for you. It's also affordable, with moderate hotel prices and many free attractions.

Mono County, CA, USA
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Boats in the harbor at Monterey

 Taylor McIntyre / © TripSavvy

Of the three towns on the Monterey Peninsula (the others are Pacific Grove and Carmel), Monterey is the most traditional, staying close to its roots as a cannery town. Today, carefully tended sea creatures find a home at the Monterey Bay Aquarium (a former sardine cannery) and Fisherman's Wharf is home to more whale-watching boats than fishing trawlers, but Monterey is still a favorite place for many visitors. Maybe it's those gorgeous ocean views.

Monterey, CA, USA
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Napa Valley

Vineyard. Napa Valley. Napa County, California, USA
Danita Delimont / Getty Images

The long, narrow valley anchored by the town of Napa on the south and Calistoga on the north makes a perfect place for a weekend escape. Besides the obvious wine and food-related activities, you can have fun getting muddy during a spa day at the area's famous mud baths.

Napa Valley, CA, USA
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Newport Beach

Underneath Balboa Pier, Newport Beach, C
Chris King / Getty Images

Many Southern California residents don't even know about the charming part of Newport Beach, Balboa Peninsula, and the islands that cuddle inside the marina. This part of Orange County seems like it came from a different era and it's sure to charm you. Take a leisurely stroll on the pier, take a harbor cruise, or rent a Duffy boat.

Newport Beach, CA, USA
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Aerial View Of Pasadena Against Sky During Sunset
Thiwakorn Promprai / EyeEm / Getty Images

Perhaps best known for its annual New Year's Day parade and as the home of Cal Tech University, Pasadena carries an air of early 20th-century elegance and is home to some of the best Arts and Crafts-style architecture you'll find anywhere. Check out the many fun museums the city has to offer, like the Kidspace Children's Museum.

Pasadena is good for architecture, art, and public gardens.

Pasadena, CA, USA
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Palm Springs

USA, California, Palm Springs, woman riding bicycle on the street
Westend61 / Getty Images

In the 1950s, Palm Springs was Hollywood's playground, the site of many big-name movie stars' second homes. After a period of decline, the city is once again glamorous, with many of its "mid-century modern" (designer-speak for the 1950s) properties being restored to their former glory. Tour companies can take you to visit Indian Canyons, through the desert in a Hummer, for a drive along the San Andreas Fault, or to see the electricity-generating windmills up close.

Palm Springs is great for driving tours, shopping, casinos, golf, and simply laying around a swimming pool.

Palm Springs, CA, USA
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Pebble Beach

Tree on rock overlooking the sea at Pebble Beach
Fabiane Burja / EyeEm / Getty Images

Pebble Beach is a collection of luxury hotels and challenging golf links, strung along the legendary 17-Mile Drive south of Carmel. Its natural beauty is perfect for anyone looking to enjoy the outdoors, whether you're soaking up the sun or hitting the green of the many golf courses.

Pebble Beach is popular for golfing, outdoor recreation, excellent lodging, and dining—and its luscious scenery and top-notch restaurants make it ideal for romantic escapes.

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Pismo Beach

Coin-Operated Binocular On Pier At Sandy Beach Against Sky
Fabian Krause / EyeEm / Getty Images

Pismo Beach calls itself "classic California," and with good reason. A five-minute drive from busy Highway 101 takes you to the quintessential California beach town, with a bustling fishing pier, surfers in the water, amazing saltwater taffy, and clam chowder for sale nearby. Just around the edge of the bay, you'll find Oceano Dunes, a large sand dune park where you can play all day.

Head to Pismo Beach for family outings, outdoor recreation, driving off-road vehicles on the sand dunes, beach camping, fishing, and beach play.

Pismo Beach, CA, USA
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Russian River

Kayakers on the Russian River
Brad Wenner / Getty Images

The Russian River runs southward from northern California, turning west through Sonoma County toward the sea. The small towns on and near the Russian River are some of the cutest in this part of California—and each has a distinct personality. Swimming, kayaking, and canoeing are all welcome on the beautiful water, or if you prefer to stay on land, you can walk around the redwoods instead.

Russian River, California, USA
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San Diego

San Diego Harbor on clear day
David Toussaint / Getty Images

San Diego is California's sunniest coastal city and offers lots of water-oriented activities. It's also home to animal-based attractions and a fun theme park based on LEGO toys. San Diego's tourist scene changes slowly, but if you've never been or haven't been there in a long time, give it a try.

San Diego also boasts historic sights that include the state's first Spanish mission (1769), Old Town (and the new Gaslamp Quarter that replaced it), and a monument to the first European to explore the California coastline.

San Diego, CA, USA
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San Francisco

Historic cable car on the street in San Francisco, USA
Alexander Spatari / Getty Images

This tasty mix of tourist attractions and the real city behind the tourist facade will have you planning a return trip lickety-split.

Known for the Golden Gate Bridge, the iconic cable car, and the home of everyone's favorite family, the Tanner's (from the television show Full House), San Francisco is a diverse enough city that it has a little something for everyone.

If movies are your thing, San Francisco is an oft-repeated backdrop for films of all kinds. Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope Studios are here (in the oddly-shaped building at Kearny and Columbus), as is Lucasfilm (in the Presidio). The city is also known for its multitude of film festivals.

San Francisco, CA, USA
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Santa Cruz

Colorful buildings in Capitola village in Santa Cruz, CA
Praveen P.N / Getty Images

Santa Cruz sits at the north end of the Monterey Bay and is home to the largest surviving oceanfront amusement park in California. It's a cozy town with a lively music scene, extraordinary natural beauty, and a laid-back ambiance that makes it easy to relax. On summer weekends, Highway 17 going toward Santa Cruz is choked with cars heading for the beach, but the rest of the year, it's less crowded and more fun.

Santa Cruz is popular for family outings, outdoor recreation, surfing, boating, and shopping. In the winter, monarch butterflies congregate on the trees near Natural Bridge.

Santa Cruz, CA, USA
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Santa Monica

Cyclists at Santa Monica, California, USA
Cultura Travel/Mark Webster / Getty Images

It's technically a part of Los Angeles, but as L.A.'s most famous beach area it's worthy as a destination of its own. With a beautiful stretch of sand, a lavish oceanfront path, and a seaside amusement pier, it's easy to see why this is one of L.A.'s best attractions. If you're looking for a spot for a beach day or a place to spend all your money in shops, Santa Monica is a great choice.

Santa Monica, CA, USA
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Sequoia National Park

Pathway in the trees of Sequoia National Park
photograph by Quan Yuan / Getty Images

Sequoia National Park and adjacent Kings Canyon are a great alternative to Yosemite. It's less visited, has bigger trees (it's home to General Sherman, the largest living thing on Earth), and features a glacier-carved granite valley that's beautiful. While the two are separate national parks, admission to one gets you admission to them. both.

Sequoia National Park is perfect for family outings, outdoor recreation, driving tours, and hiking. It's also a good place to get away from it all.

California, USA
Phone +1 559-565-3341
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half dome in yosemite with foreground trees
James O'Neil / Getty Images

Yosemite is one of the country's oldest national parks and one of the most popular. Unfortunately, the park's beauty threatens to be its downfall, with the valley overcrowded in summer and the campgrounds so packed that you may feel like you're in the middle of a freeway at rush hour. Go to the valley off-season or head for locales outside the valley any time, and you'll have a lot more room.

Yosemite is iconic for its outdoor recreation, driving tours, hiking, fishing, wine, and cuisine. Off-season, it's a good place to get away from it all.

California, USA
Phone +1 209-372-0200
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Weekend Getaways in California: 34 Trips You Can Take