Los Angeles, a bustling city known for its glamour and entertainment, offers many opportunities to escape the urban jungle for a day. From pristine beaches and serene desert landscapes to charming small towns and adventurous theme parks, some options accommodate diverse desires within a short drive from the city. Embarking on day trips from Los Angeles allows you to explore the diverse natural wonders and cultural hotspots that define Southern California.
Whether you’re looking to relax on a sandy shoreline, hike through a unique national park, or experience the thrill of world-class roller coasters, this list of the best day trips caters to all interests and desires.
These outings provide a perfect break from the city’s fast pace and allow you to discover the hidden gems surrounding Los Angeles. No matter your activity preference, a memorable day trip awaits just a few hours away from the sprawling metropolis, offering a refreshing change of scenery and unforgettable experiences.
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Best Day Trips from Los Angeles for Beach Destinations
The Southern California coastline is a haven for most picturesque beaches. Located just a short distance from Los Angeles, these beach destinations make for the perfect day or Long Beach side trip for locals and tourists alike. In this section, we’ll share some top beach destinations you should visit: Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, and Catalina Island.
Laguna Beach is in Orange County, a quintessential Southern California beach town known for its pristine sandy beaches, art galleries, and incredible views. With a relaxed atmosphere that fosters creative expression, the city has evolved into a bustling artist community.
A can’t-miss spot at Laguna Beach is its Main Beach, the perfect place to start your visit. Main Beach features a picturesque boardwalk, volleyball courts, and inviting sandy shores. For more adventurous visitors, Laguna Beach also offers excellent opportunities for scuba diving, surfing, and hiking through scenic coastal trails.
Also situated in Orange County, Newport Beach is a sophisticated coastal destination with stunning beaches, luxurious accommodations, and diverse dining options. The prime attraction of Newport Beach is its stretch of clean, sandy beaches that cater to a range of beachgoers’ preferences, from family-friendly spots to more secluded areas for relaxation.
Beyond sunbathing, Newport Beach offers abundant water activities, such as sailing and surfing. Harbor cruises are widely popular among visitors, while nature enthusiasts might prefer exploring the nearby Upper Newport Bay Nature Reserve.
A gem in the Channel Islands archipelago, Catalina Island beckons visitors with its charming town, pristine beaches, and crystal-clear waters. Just a short boat ride from Los Angeles, it’s the ideal destination for those searching for a relaxing escape from the city.
Catalina Island’s main town, Avalon, boasts an array of shops, restaurants, and historic landmarks. One can stroll along the harbor or engage in a range of activities, such as scuba diving, snorkeling, and hiking. With its unique blend of natural beauty and artificial attractions, Catalina Island offers a magnificent experience for a day trip from Los Angeles.
Wine Country Escapes
Picturesque wine regions surround Los Angeles, perfect for day trips or weekend getaways. Here are some top wine country destinations to explore: Santa Barbara, Ojai, Solvang, and Temecula.
Santa Barbara is about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles. She is ideal for a day trip to experience art galleries, cultural events, and the area’s famous vineyards and wineries. Known as the American Riviera, Santa Barbara offers visitors a blend of sea, sun, and rolling vineyard-covered hills.
While visiting Santa Barbara, take the opportunity to visit wineries and tasting rooms located throughout the city and the stunning Santa Ynez Valley. The region hosts numerous wine festivals throughout the year, allowing visitors to sample some of California’s finest wines.
Located only 80 miles from Los Angeles, Ojai is a serene escape from the city. This quaint town is positioned among a valley and boasts natural beauty and a rich history. Visitors can explore boutique shops, art galleries, and restaurants while enjoying the peaceful atmosphere.
Ojai is also known for its wineries, particularly The Ojai Vineyard. They specialize in Pinot Noir, Syrah, and white wine varietals, with more than 300 different bottles offered in their cozy tasting room. Checking out Ojai’s wine country makes for a delightful day trip, providing an intimate tasting experience in a serene setting.
Solvang, a Danish-inspired town at the core of Santa Ynez Valley, is another excellent day trip destination from Los Angeles. The charming village boasts European-style architecture, windmills, and a picturesque landscape.
While in Solvang, explore dozens of tasting rooms and wineries that feature local wine varietals. Visitors can easily spend a day wandering the town, sampling vintages from the region, and taking in Solvang’s unique cultural experience.
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Located approximately 90 miles southeast of Los Angeles, Temecula is a crucial experience for those looking for a wine-country day trip. The region has over 40 wineries, producing everything from classic reds to unique blends.
Old Town Temecula offers a range of tasting rooms and wine bars, along with boutique shops, restaurants, and places abundant in historical significance. Temecula hosts numerous wine events annually, making it an ideal destination for casual and serious wine enthusiasts.
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National Park Adventures
Joshua Tree National Park
Located just 2 hours and 30 minutes from Los Angeles, Joshua Tree National Park is ideal for day trips. This park offers a unique combination of fascinating rock formations, desert landscapes, and the iconic Joshua Trees that give it its name. Visitors can enjoy a scenic drive through the park, taking in panoramic views of valleys and mountains.
Activities at Joshua Tree National Park include guided tours at Keys Ranch, visiting Barker Dam, and watching picturesque sunsets from Keys View. The Cholla Cactus Garden offers another point of interest for nature lovers. For those seeking adventure, the park provides a wide array of options for rock climbing, mountain biking on dirt roads, and wildlife viewing.
Channel Islands National Park
Another excellent day trip from Los Angeles is the Channel Islands National Park, which comprises five unique islands providing numerous experiences. Although reaching the islands requires a boat or plane, the trip is well worth it for the pristine natural beauty and wildlife viewing opportunities.
Each island offers its own set of attractions, such as hiking trails, beaches, coves, and tide pools. The rugged, remote beauty of the California coastline can be appreciated as you explore and discover the unique flora and fauna of the islands. This national park is a lesser-known treasure for those looking to escape the city and experience the awe-inspiring natural surroundings of California.
Los Padres National Forest
For those who prefer lush forests and mountains to the arid desert landscape, Los Padres National Forest is an easily accessible destination for day trips from Los Angeles. This vast national forest provides numerous hiking trails, such as:
- San Antonio Falls – 1.3 miles roundtrip
- Sturtevant Falls – 3 miles roundtrip
- Switzer Falls – 4.3 miles roundtrip
- Trail Canyon Falls – 4.8 miles roundtrip
- Echo Mountain via Sam Merrill Trail – 5.4 miles roundtrip
From dense woodland to waterfalls and stunning vistas, Los Padres National Forest offers a range of recreational activities, including hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing. This destination is perfect for reconnecting with nature while simultaneously providing a break from the hustle and bustle of city life.
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Day Trips from Los Angeles for Mountain Getaways
A few great options within a short drive offer a range of activities and experiences when looking for mountain getaways from Los Angeles. These destinations provide a break from the hustle and bustle of city life, with a mix of relaxation and adventure in the great outdoors.
Big Bear Lake
Big Bear Lake, located in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California, is known for its skiing and snowboarding resorts during the winter season. Like Castle Rock Trail, the area offers excellent hiking and mountain biking trails. Accommodation options in Big Bear include rustic cabins, hotels, and vacation rentals. A day trip to Big Bear Lake offers a chance to enjoy a range of outdoor activities like:
- Winter sports: skiing and snowboarding
- Mountain biking and hiking
- Sightseeing and wildlife viewing
- Shopping and dining in the village
Palm Springs, located in the Coachella Valley, is famed for its mid-century modern architecture, resorts, and relaxing spa experiences. While not a traditional mountain destination, the town is surrounded by the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa mountains, providing opportunities for hiking, bouldering, and stargazing in the nearby desert. A day trip to Palm Springs offers:
- Exploration of iconic architecture
- Relaxing at world-class spas and resorts
- Outdoor adventure: hiking, bouldering, and stargazing
- Shopping and dining in downtown Palm Springs
Although known for its beautiful beaches and abundant sunshine, San Diego also offers a range of mountain-based activities nearby. On a day trip to San Diego, you can visit picturesque Balboa Park, take a quick drive up to Mount Laguna for scenic hikes, or explore the charming mountain town of Julian. Some highlights include:
- Exploring the cultural institutions and museums in Balboa Park
- Hiking and nature walks in Mount Laguna
- Visiting the historical town of Julian
- Beach activities at nearby Coronado Island
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For a genuinely unique and rejuvenating day trip from Los Angeles, consider visiting the Integratron. This one-of-a-kind structure is located in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park, just over two hours from the city. Originally built as a fusion of science, art, and spirituality by George Van Tassel in the 1950s, the Integratron now offers visitors a chance to experience its unique sound bath meditation sessions. These sound baths are designed to provide deep relaxation and rejuvenation through quartz crystal bowls, leaving you feeling refreshed and inspired.
Take a step back in time with a trip to Pioneertown near Twenty-Nine Palms and just under a three-hour drive from Los Angeles. This fascinating historical site was initially built in the 1940s as a live-in Old West motion picture set, and many films were shot here during the golden age of Western movies. Today, visitors can wander the preserved streets of Pioneertown and interact with local shopkeepers and performers, making it a perfect getaway for those looking for an absorbing activity of the American Wild West.
A lesser-known treasure just a short drive north of Los Angeles, Descanso Gardens offers a peaceful and lush escape from the bustling city. Spanning 150 acres, this botanical garden is home to an impressive collection of plants and flowers, including a stunning rose garden, a serene Japanese garden, and the Oak Woodland. Malibu Creek State Park is another outdoor attraction, offering hiking trails and opportunities to spot local wildlife.
As you explore Descanso Gardens, take advantage of the range of events and programs that frequently take place, such as garden tours, art exhibits, and musical performances. This tranquil oasis makes for an ideal day trip from Los Angeles for nature lovers and those seeking a quiet and inspiring retreat.
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Disneyland is crucial to experience a family-friendly day trip from Los Angeles. Located in Anaheim, California, this famous theme park across the globe offers a range of attractions, restaurants, and entertainment options for visitors of all ages. With popular rides like Indiana Jones Adventure and the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Disneyland is a perfect destination for kids and adults alike.
Balboa Fun Zone
Located on picturesque Balboa Island in Newport Beach, the Balboa Fun Zone is an ideal day trip for families looking for a day of seaside amusement. The area features a range of fun activities, such as Ferris wheel rides, arcade games, and street performers. Families can also explore the island’s captivating avenues, lined with unique shops and restaurants, or take a boat ride around the harbor.
Another tremendous family-friendly day trip from Los Angeles is Heisler Park in Laguna Beach. Known for its awe-inspiring ocean views and well-manicured landscape, Heisler Park provides the perfect setting for a peaceful and relaxing day outdoors. Along with the park’s captivating views, you’ll find the Sawdust Art Festival, an annual summer event showcasing local artists and artisans nearby.
Temecula Valley Museum
A day trip to the Temecula Valley Museum is necessary for families passionate about history and culture. Located in Old Town Temecula, this museum offers interactive exhibits and educational programs focusing on the region’s rich history, including its Native American roots, early Californian settlers, and dynamic festivals. Temecula is also known for its charming downtown area, which features unique shops, restaurants, and wine-tasting rooms.
What are the best day trips from Los Angeles for nature lovers?
For nature enthusiasts, the next-day trips from Los Angeles offer a great escape from the busy city and a chance to explore the beautiful outdoors:
Joshua Tree National Park: With its unique desert landscape and a range of hiking trails, this national park is crucial to experience, especially during fall through spring.
Sequoia National Park: Home to giant sequoias and diverse hiking trails, Sequoia National Park offers fantastic views and natural features.
Big Bear Lake: Just a couple of hours away from Los Angeles, this mountain lake is perfect for boating, fishing, hiking during warmer months, and skiing in the winter.
Which places abundant in historical significance can I visit on a day trip from Los Angeles?
Los Angeles is surrounded by a few exciting places abundant in historical significance that can be visited on a day trip. Some noteworthy options include:
San Juan Capistrano: Known for its historic Spanish mission and beautiful gardens, San Juan Capistrano is a great place to learn about early California history.
Pasadena: This city is famous for its Rose Parade, Rose Bowl, and architectural landmarks like the Gamble House and the California Institute of Technology.
Santa Barbara: Apart from its beautiful coastline, Santa Barbara also boasts numerous historic sites, such as the Old Mission Santa Barbara and the Presidio of Santa Barbara.
Can I take a day trip from Los Angeles using public transportation?
Yes, taking day trips from Los Angeles through public transportation is possible. While some destinations might require a combination of trains, buses, and shuttles, public transit can be a convenient and affordable way to explore the areas around Los Angeles. As an illustration:
Visiting the beach town of Santa Monica is as simple as hopping on the Metro Expo Line from downtown Los Angeles.
Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner train connects Los Angeles with coastal cities like Oceanside, Ventura, and Santa Barbara.
Metrolink’s commuter trains also serve popular destinations such as Anaheim (for Disneyland) and Pasadena.
Metro buses, Amtrak, and Metrolink trains can help you access a range of day trip destinations without needing a car.