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15 Most Popular Day Trips From Los Angeles

Looking for a mini escape from the city? Here are 15 fun day trips from Los Angeles.

As much as there is to explore in LA, sometimes it’s nice to get away from the city, the crowds, and the traffic. We’re local adventurers and all about appreciating and exploring our backyards. There are a lot of gems you can find in your city or just a short drive away. Plus, sometimes that’s just easier than driving somewhere within LA. Am I right?

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Last Updated: December 14, 2023

15 Popular Day Trips from Los Angeles

You can make any of these into weekend trips, but we also put together a list of trips that are longer drives and require at least a 2 day stay to make it worthwhile.

1. Catalina Island, California

33.3889062,-118.5950266, map

Distance: 1 hr by ferry from Long Beach (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Catalina Island Casino, Catalina Island Conservancy, Garden to Sky Trail
What to Eat: 
The Lobster Trap, Bluewater Grill, Maggie’s Blue Rose

Catalina Island is a favorite getaway for Angelenos, whether you’re looking for activities like scuba diving or snorkeling or a place to relax on the beach.

Local Tip: Did you know there are bison on the island? They also used to do free ferry rides on birthdays, but they discontinued that tradition.

catalina island californiaPin

2. Santa Cruz Island, California →

34.0181115,-120.0059172, map

Distance: 1 hr by ferry from Ventura (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Scorpion Beach, Smugglers Cove, Visitor Center
What to Eat: 
No food services on the island

The Channel Islands National Park on Santa Cruz Island is incredibly beautiful. You can stay on land and hike and camp or explore the waters on a kayak, scuba diving, or snorkeling.

Local Tip: Keep your eye out for whales on the ferry over. We spotted a couple of them!

See More: Kayaking in Channel Islands National park

Channel Islands KayakingPin

3. Palm Springs, California →

2901 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262, map

Distance: 105 mi / 1 hr 45 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, Palm Springs Art Museum, San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm
What to Eat: 
Farm, Trio, The Tropicale

Palm Springs is a popular spot, especially for those of us who live in SoCal, since it’s so close. The glamorous pools and trendy hotels give plenty of reasons to visit. There are even hot springs, golf courses, and spas!

Local Tip: When it’s hot in town, head up the Aeriel Tramway for cooler temps and great views.

See More: 15 Unforgettable Things to Do in Palm Springs

4. Ojai, California

130 W Ojai Ave, Ojai, CA 93023, map

Distance: 83 mi / 1 hr 25 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Ojai Certified Farmers’ Market, Ojai Meadows Preserve, Rose Valley Falls Trail
What to Eat: 
The Ojai Beverage, Osteria Monte Grappa, The Ranch House

Ojai is full of Spanish architecture, fruit groves, and wineries. It’s relatively close, so it makes a perfect day trip. Although, I’ll warn you it took us more than 3 hours to get out of LA traffic first.

5. Temecula, California

3rd St, Temecula, CA 92590, map

Distance: 85 mi / 1 hr 33 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Hot Air Balloon Ride, Wine Tasting, Old Town Temecula
What to Eat: 
The Goat & Vine, 1909, Avensole Winery

Wineries and hot air balloons give you beautiful options for a day trip away!

See More: Photo Guide Hot Air Ballooning in Temecula California

hot air balloon temecula. fly in a hot air balloon. hot air balloon photos. air balloon. hot air balloon balloon. hot air balloon for 2. sunrise balloons.Pin

6. Santa Barbara, California

217 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, map

Distance: 95 mi / 1 hr 30 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Shoreline Park, Old Mission Santa Barbara, Stearns Wharf
What to Eat: 
Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, Brophy Bros, Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach

Santa Barbara has a great wine scene amidst the beautiful backdrop of mountains, valleys, and beaches.

Santa Barbara Whale Watching Season + 15 Best Places to Whale Watch in the US + When to Go!Pin

7. Carlsbad, California →

400 Carlsbad Village Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008, map

Distance: 87 mi / 1 hr 30 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: BeachesFlower FieldsLEGOLAND
What to Eat: 
Blue Ocean Robata & Sushi Bar, Campfire, 264 Fresco

For family fun, you can go to LEGOLAND. There are also plenty of beaches and the Carlsbad flower fields for adult fun.

See More: Best Places to See Flower Fields in Southern California

8. Big Bear, California →

40971 North Shore Drive/Hwy 38, Fawnskin, CA 92333, map

Distance: 99 mi / 2 hrs (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Big Bear Discovery Center, Boulder Bay Park, Big Bear Alpine Zoo
What to Eat: 
Saucy Mama’s, Grizzly Manor Cafe, Tropicali

You can fish, hike, camp, or kayak in the summer and ski and snowboard in the winter. There’s plenty to discover at this beautiful lake, so it’s a place people keep coming back to. We had a short trip here working with Toyota, but we need to go back to explore more of the area.

See More: 7 Best Things to Do in Big Bear California

9. San Diego, California →

40971 North Shore Drive/Hwy 38, Fawnskin, CA 92333, map

Distance: 120 mi / 2 hrs 10 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: San Diego ZooNorth ParkBalboa Park
What to Eat: 
Carnitas Snack ShackTacos El GordoHammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream

We lived in San Diego for a year and still miss it. We especially love all the beaches and hikes to beaches. If you need ideas for your trip, here are 101 Things to Do in San Diego. Save room for all the yummy tacos because you’re so close to Mexico, and they’re better here than most places in the US.

Local Tip: If you’re on a budget, check out these free things to do in San Diego.

See More: 101 Things to Do in San Diego

10. Idyllwild, California →

54270 Pine Crest Ave, Idyllwild, CA 92549, map

Distance: 109 mi / 2 hrs 10 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness, Idyllwild Nature Center, Indian Vista Scenic Overlook
What to Eat: 
Ferro, Cafe Aroma, Idyllwild Brewpub

There are tons of hikes to explore in Idyllwild. If you’re not outdoorsy, you can enjoy the quaint downtown area. Be sure to see if they have any events going on.

See More: Glamping in an A-Framed Cabin in Idyllwild

Idyllwild (15 Popular Day Trips from Los Angeles).

11. JOshua Tree National park →

6554 Park Blvd, Joshua Tree, CA 92252, map

Distance: 127 mi / 2 hrs 20 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Arch Rock, Cholla Cactus Garden, Keys View
What to Eat: 
Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, Crossroads Cafe, The Tiny Pony

Take a scenic drive, hike, or rock climb in this beautiful park. We love visiting in the winter for the climbing.

See More: 11 Amazing Things to Do in Joshua Tree National Park CA

12. Los Olivos, California

2900 Grand Ave, Los Olivos, CA 93441, map

Distance: 130 mi / 2 hrs (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Wine Tasting, Gallery Los Olivos, Los Olivos General Store
What to Eat: 
Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe, Panino, Nella Kitchen & Bar

This historic town is tucked away in the Santa Ynez Valley. Check out the scenic views of vineyards, browse through the art scene, go antique shopping, or join in on one of their fun festivals. Also, don’t forget to check out the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail.

los olivos wineries californiaPin

13. Salvation Mountain & Salton Sea →

Beal Rd, Calipatria, CA 92233, map

Distance: 190 mi / 3 hrs (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Salvation Mountain, Salton Sea State Recreation Area, Painted Canyon Road
What to Eat: 
Buckshot Deli & Diner, Town Pump Steakhouse, Ski Inn

Leonard Knight dedicated his life to this work of art hoping to show that “God is Love”. Here’s an excerpt from a NatGeo photographer I follow who spent seven years documenting his life and work. I’m excited about his new book, Where the Heaven Flowers Grow.

I stumble when trying to find words to describe this man because I am so overwhelmed with love and admiration for what he was/is/has made. Leonard Knight, the creator of Salvation Mountain, was the greatest artist I have met in my lifetime. Leonard’s life and work drew from the deep and silent well of spirit that feels so far from many of us as we race through our lives. When Leonard took you around the mountain to share his vision (and he did personally take everyone around the place) you could drink from that well too, even if just for a few moments. His message transcended any individual religion and spoke to the larger need for a Universal Faith driven by LOVE. We need more Leonards in this world.

The Salton Sea is also nearby, 234 ft below sea level!

See More: Photo Guide to Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain (15 Popular San Diego Day Trips).

14. San Luis Obispo (SLO)

733 Higuera St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401, map

Distance: 130 mi / 2 hrs (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Mission San Luis Obispo, Bubblegum Alley, Madonna Inn
What to Eat: 
Taste, Ember, The Hatch Rotisserie & Bar

315 days of sunshine isn’t bad at all! Rent a bike, hike, surf, taste wine, or dine at the many farm-to-fork restaurants. The photo of us is from our anniversary shoot with Jeff Newsom.

san luis obispo slo california pacific coast highway Pin

15. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park →

47050 Generals Hwy, Three Rivers, CA 93271, map

Distance: 205 mi / 3 hrs 30 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: General Sherman, Moro Rock, Tunnel Log
What to Eat: 
Sierra Subs and Salads, Ol Buckaroo, Sequoia Coffee Co

Nothing gives you perspective like spending time amongst real-life giants. Take a scenic drive or hike amongst the largest trees in the world by volume.

See More: 15 Amazing Things to Do at Sequoia National Park + Kings Canyon

15 Amazing Things to Do in Sequoia National Park + Kings Canyon National Park // Local Adventurer #sequoia #findyourpark #visittheusa #usa #outdoorsusaPin

Map of Best Day Trips from Los Angeles

Best Places to Stay in Los Angeles

Planning Checklist

Which of these day trips have you done? Any others we need to add?

Esther and JacobPin

Esther + Jacob

Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.

Follow on Instagram (E + J), YouTube, TikTok, and Pinterest.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. John J.

    Just be prepared to double any of these travel times depending on the traffic.

  2. EMILY


  3. Hollie linder

    Hi Esther & Jacob !!!
    I am a landscape photographer and I have been visiting the L.A. area for 3 weeks now . I have spent ALOT of my time in Venice and little around the city . It’s overwhelming not sure on where to go or what to see. Thank you so much for the time you out in this . This is great .

    Now off for my Local Adventures.
    Hollie Linder

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