15 Most Popular Day Trips From Los Angeles

15 Most Popular 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 we’re all about appreciating and exploring our own backyards. There are a lot of gems you can find in your own city or just short drive away.

15 Most Popular Day Trips from Los Angeles.

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Last Updated: May 12, 2020

1. CATALINA ISLAND

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: 
Bluewater Grill, The Lobster Trap, Maggie’s Blue Rose

Catalina Island is a favorite getaway for Angelenos. Whether you’re looking for activities, like scuba diving or snorkeling, or just a place to relax on the beach, there is plenty to do on the island. Don’t forget if it’s your birthday, the ferry ride is free!

Catalina Island (15 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles)
Photo: Ravi Komatireddy / creative commons

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.

Santa Cruz Island (15 Most Popular Day Trips From Los Angeles).

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:
Chef Tanya’s Kitchen, Del Rey, Lappert’s Premium Gourmet Ice Cream

Lots of people visit Palm Springs every year. It’s especially a popular spot 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!

Most Colorful Hotel - The Saguaro Hotel Palm Springs CA USA.

4. Ojai

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 Company, Nocciola, The Ranch House

Ojai is full of Spanish architecture, fruit groves, and wineries. It’s relatively close so it makes a perfect day trip, though I must mention it took us more like 3 hours to get out of LA traffic.

Ojai (15 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles).
Ojai (15 Most Popular Los Angeles Day Trips).

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:
Bottaia Winery, The Restaurant at Ponte, E.A.T Marketplace

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

Temecula (15 Popular Day Trips from Los Angeles).

6. Santa Barbara

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:
Yoichi’s, Brophy Bros, Caruso’s

Santa Barbara has a great wine scene. Now set that wine to the beautiful backdrop of mountains, valleys, and beaches and you have the perfect getaway.

Santa Barbara (15 Most Popular Day Trips from LA).
Photo: Michael Theis / creative commons

Carlsbad, CA, map

Distance: 87 mi / 1 hr 30 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Beaches, Flower FieldsLEGOLAND
What to Eat: 
Blue Ocean Robata & Sushi Bar, Jeune et Jolie, Cafe Elysa

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

Carlsbad Flower Fields (Beautiful Flower Fields You Must See in Southern California) // localadventurer.com

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:
Teddy Bear Restaurant, 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.

Best Things to Do in Big Bear 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 Zoo, North Park, Balboa Park
What to Eat:
Carnitas Snack Shack, Tacos El Gordo, Hammond’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 some ideas for your trip, here are 101 Things to Do in San Diego. Be sure to save room for all the yummy tacos at Tacos el Gordo.

San Diego (15 Best Road Trips from Los Angeles).

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:
Red Kettle, Ferro, The Town Baker

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.

Idyllwild (15 Popular Day Trips from Los Angeles).

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:
Pie for the People!, Crossroads Cafe, Joshua Tree Coffee Company

Take a scenic drive, hike, or go bouldering in this beautiful park.

Joshua Tree National Park (15 Most Popular Los Angeles Day Trips).

12. Los Olivos

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, BBQ in the Stix

This historic town is tucked away in the Santa Ynez Valley. Check out the amazing 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 (15 Most Popular Los Angeles Day Trips).
Photo: Anita Ritenour / creative commons

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, Virginia’s Casita

Leonard Knight dedicated his life to this work of art in hopes to show that “God is Love”. Here’s an excerpt from a NatGeo photographer I follow who spent 7 years documenting his life and work. I’m really 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. LeonardKnight, 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, which lies 234 ft below sea level!
Salvation Mountain (15 Popular San Diego Day Trips).

14. SLO or San Luis Obispo

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, Old San Luis BBQ, Goshi Japanese Restaurant

315 days of sunshine isn’t bad at all! Rent a bike, hike, surf, go wine tasting, or dine at the many farm-to-fork restaurants.

San Luis Obispo / SLO (15 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles).
Photo of us taken by Jeff Newsom

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, Still Life Cafe

Nothing gives you perspective like spending time amongst real life giants. Take a scenic drive or hike amongst some of the largest trees in the world. Can you see a tiny Jacob in the photo? #tinypeopleinbigplaces

Sequoia National Park (15 Best Road 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 (posting soon!). If you’re looking for some great hikes in the LA area, check out this book that we used to use when lived there! It doesn’t have a pretty cover, but we found a lot of great hikes through it.

Map of Best Day Trips from Los Angeles

Have you been to LA before? Are there any popular day trips I’m missing?

See More Ideas for Los Angeles

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“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust

Esther + Jacob

Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, which is one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found both 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.

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