11 Best Weekend Trips From Los Angeles

San Diego's beaches, Santa Barbara's wineries, and Palm Springs' relaxing resorts are all just a drive away.

Best weekend trips from Los Angeles
Photo: Getty Images

Los Angelenos like to point out how easy it is to get out of the city and into a totally different environment. “You can be on the beach in the morning and skiing in the mountains that afternoon,” or something similar is often heard. And it’s true. Freeways, trains, planes, and even helicopters can transport you miles away — and then back to the city by Monday morning for the perfect weekend getaway from L.A. Just a few hours north or south, wine regions offer tastings, tours, and vineyard views. You can leave the mainland for an island escape and hike up grassy hills to see a herd of bison, or bask in the desert sun during the day and party on the Las Vegas Strip at night. Beaches, rocky shores, hiking trails, spas, and entertainment are all there for those looking for a rejuvenating getaway. Here's a look at 11 of our favorite weekend trips from Los Angeles.

01 of 11

San Diego

San Diego, Best Weekend Trips from Los Angeles

Danita Delimont / Getty Images

Just two hours south of Los Angeles and a few miles north of Mexico, San Diego’s warm, sunny weather makes it the perfect destination for sun worshipers craving a lazy beach day or an afternoon on the water surfing, swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking, or fishing. For a little culture, spend a full day (and then some) at the 1,200-acre Balboa Park — home to the San Diego Zoo and several museums, gardens, restaurants, and theaters. The WorldBeat Cultural Center offers classes and live music that promotes, preserves, and showcases Indigenous cultures of the world, while the Comic-Con Museum entertains with exhibits celebrating comic book heroes, arcade games and a special Hall of Fame honoring characters like PacMan, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man.

After a day of exploring, head to Little Italy or the Gaslamp Quarter for dinner — at Taka, for instance, you’ll find fresh fish and a classic sushi menu. End the night under the stars at a rooftop bar or catch a baseball game at Petco Park, then settle in at one of the city’s top hotels. The InterContinental San Diego is located right on the waterfront, the Gaslamp Quarter’s Pendry San Diego will put you in the middle of all the action, and the pet-friendly Hotel del Coronado on Coronado Island is hard to beat.

02 of 11


Winery in Temecula, Best Weekend Trips from Los Angeles

Ron and Patty Thomas / Getty Images

Wine lovers — or those looking for a wine-fueled weekend trip from Los Angeles — will find the 90-minute drive southeast to Temecula Valley well worth it. The area boasts nearly 50 wineries and visitors have several ways to tour and taste, from private guides to limos and buses. The highly-rated Callaway Vineyard & Winery, Europa Village, and Thornton Winery are all near each other, making a walking wine tour possible as well.

If wine isn’t your thing, the area’s miles of trails and bike lanes don’t disappoint and shoppers will find antique shops and boutiques set in Old Town Temecula’s Western-style buildings.

After a day exploring Temecula, settle in at Carter Estate Winery and Resort, where more wine awaits. A bottle from the property’s winery is included as part of your stay when you book directly through the website, as are private patios, soothing deep soaking tubs, and complimentary continental breakfast. Golfers can enjoy a weekend at Temecula Creek Inn and a round of championship golf within its charming surroundings.

03 of 11

Palm Springs

Hiking path near Palm Springs

Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure

For those looking for dry desert heat, it’s hard to beat Palm Springs for a weekend trip from Los Angeles. The city has almost guaranteed sunny weather year-round and is an easy, one-hour flight or a two-hour drive by car — just make sure you avoid the commuter hours.

Booking a hotel with a swimming pool — we recommend The Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Hotel’s rooftop pool or the cliff-top pools of The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage — is key, since you’ll be craving a refreshing dip after spending a few hours in the sun. If you can’t stand the heat, hop on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which takes riders to the top of Mount San Jacinto for hiking and dining in temperatures that can be 40 degrees cooler than the valley below.

Back in Palm Springs, head to the Tac/Quila patio for a modern Mexican menu that’s heavy on innovative margaritas, creative tacos, and live music most nights — the perfect end to a sun-soaked day. For a sexy, adults-only meal, Del Rey at Villa Royale delivers with shareable plates and a clever cocktail menu.

04 of 11

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara, Best Weekend Trips from Los Angeles

Trace Rouda / Getty Images

Santa Barbara, often referred to as “The American Riviera” for its similarities to the French Riviera or Côte d’Azur in southeast France, makes an easy, popular weekend trip from Los Angeles. You can enjoy a leisurely two-hour drive or hop on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner for a worry-free, two-and-a-half-hour trip by train.

Travelers to Santa Barbara will be greeted by a stunning shoreline, plenty of restaurants, and a distinct culture and history. The city’s sandy beaches invite sunbathing, and for those looking for more active pursuits, there’s plenty of surfing, kayaking, windsurfing, and stand-up paddle boarding to be found. To get another perspective of the shore, hop on a boat tour or cruise departing the harbor or rent a bike from Wheel Fun Rentals and cycle along the waterfront on the Cabrillo Boulevard Bike Path.

For a nature-heavy day trip, consider a visit to the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, located off Santa Barbara’s coast. Here, you can explore sea grottos and see seals, California sea lions, pelicans, dolphins, whales, and peregrine falcons, and learn more about how scientists are working to protect species close to extinction and save sensitive habitats within Channel Islands National Park. You can also go kayaking, fishing, and diving — the remains of more than 150 historic shipwrecks can still be found on the ocean floor.

The downtown Funk Zone district is where you’ll find some of the city’s best restaurants, tasting rooms, art galleries, entertainment, and eclectic shops. The Urban Wine Trail — set in two downtown neighborhoods — provides an enjoyable and convenient way to taste the area’s outstanding wines. When hunger strikes, stop by The Lark Santa Barbara for a meal featuring central California coast bounty, or head to the harbor for a seafood dinner at Brophy’s Bros.

Lodging ranges from luxurious resorts such as the Kimpton Canary Santa Barbara and El Encanto, A Belmond Hotel to canyon campgrounds — with plenty of boutique inns, hotels, and motels in between.

05 of 11

Catalina Island

Catalina Island boats, Best Weekend Trips from Los Angeles
Getty Images

When Los Angeles traffic gets you down, opt for a car-free weekend on Catalina Island. Hop on the passenger ferry from San Pedro, Long Beach, Newport Beach, or Dana Point — or, for next-level ease, a helicopter will get you there in a breezy 15-minutes.

While today, Catalina Island is known for being a resort destination, before that, it was home to Indigenous American people, Spanish explorers, smugglers, pirates, hunters, missionaries, and even the Union Army during the Civil War. The island’s rich history lives on at the Catalina Island Museum and the historic Catalina Casino, where visitors can tour the Art Deco masterpiece. Adventure seekers will find their match on the zip line ecotour, while nature lovers can conquer part of the Trans Catalina Trail or visit the Catalina Island Conservancy to see bison and bald eagles. Glass-bottom boat tours, golf, fishing, and diving excursions round out the island’s rich offerings.

If you find yourself in the lively town of Avalon, swing by Bluewater Avalon for a waterfront meal of freshly caught seafood. If your taste leans more toward traditional American fare, the waterfront Avalon Grille doesn’t disappoint — neither does it’s outdoor, bayside seating.

If you want to stay in the center of the action, book a stay at the Pavillion Hotel or Hotel Metropole in Avalon. The rustic, bed-and-breakfast style Banning House Lodge, located in the Two Harbors area on the other side of the island, will ensure you pass a quiet weekend, away from the hustle and bustle.

06 of 11

Las Vegas

Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas, Best Weekend Trips from Los Angeles

Toms Auzins / Getty Images

The four-hour drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas is a bit more of a commitment, but with nonstop flights for under $100 that take just over an hour, there’s really no excuse not to visit. Plus, a weekend in Las Vegas, one of the best trips you can take from Los Angeles, is pure fun. You can take in a show, go gambling, and lounge poolside in a cabana — all in one day.

Dining in Vegas is a total experience. For a real treat, stop by Michael Mina and Ayesha Curry’s International Smoke at the MGM Grand. For a different view on Las Vegas dining, book a table at Más Por Favor Taqueria y Tequila in Chinatown — a secret taqueria and tequila bar. Then there’s the classic Vegas buffet — don’t miss a visit to The Wynn, Bellagio, and Caesars Palace for their takes on this Vegas favorite.

When it comes to lodging, hotels are anxious to entertain, titillate, and take guests to faraway places — at least in their imagination. ARIA Resort & Casino boasts luxurious views and suites with an on-site casino, while the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas is a non-gaming property located adjacent to the iconic Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino.

07 of 11

Rancho Palos Verdes

Rancho Palos Verdes, Best Weekend Trips from Los Angeles

Derek Jing / EyeEm / Getty Images

A trip to Rancho Palos Verdes, set on a peninsula in the South Bay area, makes a relaxing weekend trip from Los Angeles that’s almost like an L.A. staycation. Less than two hours from downtown L.A. even with traffic, the ocean breeze and rocky cliff views are instant stress reducers.

The Point Vicente Interpretive Center, with its lighthouse overlooking the sea, makes a good place to start. Stroll along the nearby trails, watch the sunset, or visit the whaling museum to learn about the peninsula’s history. While you’re there, you may spot a pod of dolphins — from December to May, Pacific gray whales pass by during their annual migration.

The Wayfarers Chapel, or “Glass Church,” just up the road was designed by Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright. Surrounded by redwoods and high above the ocean, it’s a popular wedding venue and definitely worth a visit.

In Rancho Palos Verdes, the ideal weekend retreat may be Terranea Resort, which offers everything you could possibly need for a relaxing escape. The property sports luxury bungalows, secluded villas, and a spa with its own pool, restaurant, fitness center, boutique, and salon — all overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

08 of 11

Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake, Best Weekend Trips from Los Angeles
Getty Images

In just under two-hours, you can escape the traffic and buzz of Los Angeles and find yourself in the fresh mountain air of Big Bear Lake. Here, the pace of life is slow and nature abounds.

In the summer, travelers can swim, jet ski, or kayak on the lake’s sparkling waters, or explore the surrounding pine forests on foot. Baldwin Lake Stables offers daily rides through Big Bear Valley's peaceful countryside. In the winter, the area transforms into a ski destination, with Big Bear Mountain Resort boasting two ski areas — Snow Summit and Bear Mountain. With one lift ticket, you can experience both resorts, while Snow Summit's Night Sessions extend the ski day with night skiing under the stars.

After a day in the mountains, you’ll want to indulge in a hearty plate of pasta or a perfectly cooked filet mignon at the The Pines Lakefront — which has the best views in town. The centrally located Teddy Bear Restaurant is a laid-back option that specializes in homemade chicken-pot pies with flaky crust and big chunks of chicken.

The lodging options in Big Bear are cozy and rustic, with many offering lakefront views and on-lake activities. Marina Riviera is one such property — with its own swimming pool and private beachfront, you can start a game of pick-up volleyball or relax on the outdoor terrace and enjoy the view. The four-star Bluegreen The Club at Big Bear Village has spacious 2, 3 or 4-bedroom suites that come with fully stocked and artfully designed kitchens, oversized tubs, fireplaces, and balconies.

09 of 11

Ojai Valley

Ojai Valley Museum, Best Weekend Trips from Los Angeles.

Getty Images / Lonely Planet Images

Less than a hundred miles north and about fifteen miles inland among rolling hills, farms, orchards, and olive trees, Ojai is a peaceful escape from LA’s traffic and crowds. Surrounded by the Topatopa Mountains, the small city and its surrounding areas are a literal breath of fresh air just a short drive from Los Angeles. A stroll through its downtown reveals pleasant streets lined with art galleries, book stores, boutiques, restaurants, and cafes.

The Chumash Indigenous people who lived in the valley long ago believed in its mystical powers, and many people today still claim that Ojai is a “vortex,” or, a concentrated energy source. Others point out the “Pink Moment,” when sunset paints the sky in brilliant rosy shades.

The scenic nine-mile Ojai Valley Trail offers a paved side for bicyclists, joggers, and walkers, with a dirt bridle path for horseback riding running alongside it. More than just beautiful scenery, the olive trees of the Ojai Olive Oil Company provide rich oils and other products, available for tasting and purchase.

Stay at the five-star Ojai Valley Inn and relax with a luxe spa treatment, play a round of golf or tennis, experience beekeeping, birdwatching, or horseback riding, or just relax and enjoy the view from your balcony. The Farmhouse, the Inn’s on-site culinary event venue, offers cooking and baking classes, tastings, demonstrations, and events led by renowned chefs.

10 of 11

Newport Beach

Newport Beach, California

Adrian Rudd/Travel + Leisure

For beach time, shopping, fun, and luxury less than 50 miles south, Newport Beach is one of the best weekend trips from Los Angeles. Visit the Balboa Fun Zone for old-fashioned summer activities like arcade games or a ride on the Ferris wheel. Balboa Island Park is just a ferry ride away or 10-minute walk from the beach, where you can satisfy the urge to get your toes in the sand or dive into refreshing waves.

A favorite way of exploring beautiful Newport Harbor is aboard a Duffy Boat, also known as an “electric golf cart on water.” Gather some friends and refreshments and glide along for views of the spectacular homes and sparkling water of Newport. On land, another popular pastime is shopping at the area’s boutiques and malls.

From plush hotels to oceanfront cottages, you’ll find a range of accommodations in Newport Beach. Stay at the Crystal Cove Beach Cottages, vintage homes set on the sand just steps from the shore. Nearby, Lido House, part of Marriott's Autograph Collection, offers guest rooms and five individually-designed cottages as well as a spa, pool, restaurant, and Topside, Newport Beach’s only rooftop bar. Balboa Bay Resort, with balconies overlooking the sea, is another great option. The Resort at Pelican Hill offers an ocean view golf course, a spectacular pool, spa, and a variety of guest rooms, bungalows, and villas.

11 of 11

West Hollywood

Flying over Hollywood California at sunrise, Best Weekend Trips from Los Angeles
Getty Images

For a weekend “trip” that’s practically a staycation, Angelenos can head to West Hollywood (WeHo) for a change of scenery, shopping, nightlife, restaurants, and walkable neighborhoods. LGBTQ+ residents and visitors can enjoy an especially inclusive corner of the city and a range of hotels, clubs, and entertainment venues.

The Design District, anchored by the Pacific Design Center, features stores selling home furnishings, accessories, fashion, and art as well as a number of cafes and restaurants. The Sunset Strip’s live music and entertainment venues are legendary, with classic spots like The Viper Room and The Roxy Theatre. Santa Monica Boulevard, the heart of the area's LGBTQ+ community, is home to the annual Pride Festival and Halloween Carnaval. For great food, cocktails, and a rooftop lounge, don’t miss E.P. & L.P., and check out the Aussie-inspired all-day indoor/outdoor Strings of Life Cafe.

Stay at the stylish Kimpton La Peer Hotel and enjoy its warm hospitality and sleek decor. The rooftop pool at The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills boasts spectacular city views. Among the newest additions to the WeHo hotel scene is the luxurious Pendry West Hollywood, with stylish guest rooms, suites, and residences.

Updated by
Evie Carrick
Evie Carrick

Evie Carrick is a writer and editor who’s lived in five countries and visited well over 50. She now splits her time between Colorado and Paris, ensuring she doesn't have to live without skiing or L'As du Fallafel.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles