There is so much to do in Los Angeles that it almost seems ridiculous to leave the city during your hard-earned weekend. But no matter how much you love this fair city, sometimes it is just TOO MUCH and you have to get out of town ASAP. Luckily, there’s plenty to do in SoCal outside of Los Angeles, and the area has some perfect spots for enjoying a quick trip out of town. Here are 10 great day trips for when you need to get out of LA.
A mix of galleries, boutique businesses, a focus on environmental conservation, and beautifully cared for campgrounds make a visit to Ojai like going to an amazing summer camp. Local laws prohibit chain stores, so you’ll see plenty of mom-and-pop shops in this hippie-friendly city.
Distance from LA: 82.9 miles
9. Palm Springs
Nestled deep in the Coachella Valley, Palm Springs has a vibrant art scene and one of the highest concentrations of gay and lesbian households in the United States. Palm Springs comes to life with LGBTQ events like Dinah Shore Weekend, PS Pride, and Bear Convergence. My personal favorite event is Modernism Week — seven days dedicated to the area’s immaculately maintained modern art, furniture, and architecture.
Distance from LA: 107 miles
8. Salton Sea
One of the weirdest day trips you could ask for, seeing that visiting the Salton Sea is like visiting a beachside resort after the apocalypse. Once a popular attraction for beach going tourists, much of the area has been abandoned or left to flood and rot. Today, only a population of 300 remains. The sea, which is actually a lake in the middle of the desert, is completely polluted and reeks of dead fish. If you’re looking for inspiration for your zombie script or short-form documentary, book a trip to the Salton Sea.
Distance from LA: 152 miles
7. Joshua Tree National Park
The national park is just a little larger than the state of Rhode Island and straddles both the high Mojave and lower Colorado deserts. The park is named for its Seuss-like yucca plants that grow native to the area, as well as bare jutting rocks, perfect for rock climbing. Bird-watching, astronomy, and wildlife photography are huge draws for camping under Joshua Tree’s open skies.
Distance from LA: 128 miles
6. Big Bear Lake
If you find yourself missing the winter snow or just want to take a dip in a crisp freshwater lake, a day trip to Big Bear will do you right. There are charming and affordable cabins for rent year-round, as well as small general stores, restaurants, and taverns to support visitors. There’s skiing and snowboarding in the winter and fishing and boat rentals in the summer.
Distance from LA: 97 miles
5. La Jolla
Love the beaches but want a slower seaside pace? La Jolla is so close by, but feels like a beach vacation. Jewelry boutiques, sandy beaches, golf courses, and upscale window shopping make La Jolla an affordable indulgence. The water tends to be slightly warmer than LA beaches and there’s lovely spots for surfing and snorkeling.
Distance from LA: 112 miles
4. Desert Hot Springs
Named for its natural mineral hot springs, this small Coachella Valley city is a very affordable weekend getaway that’s absolutely perfect in the dead of winter. The “spa-tels”– mid-century hotels built around multiple pools and hot tubs outside and spa services available inside — are a delight to escape the doldrums of winter or June gloom.
Distance from LA: 109 miles
If your heart wants to travel Europe, but your wallet won’t allow it, head up to Solvang, a small city in the Santa Ynez Valley. The city was founded by Danish pioneers in 1911 and developed the city in a Danish style. There’s a replica of the Little Mermaid Copenhagen statue, a replica Rundetårn and Danish-styled businesses in half-timbered buildings. The city’s annual Danish Days celebration brings folk traditions to Solvang, but the city keeps its Danish spirit year-round. Solvang is also home to a number of wine tasting events.
Distance from LA: 128 miles
2. Los Alamos
If life in LA has got you ready to just ride off into the sunset, check out the one-horse town of Los Alamos in Santa Barbara County. The rolling hills of Santa Ynez wine country surround carefully preserved buildings of California’s wild west. Los Alamos hasn’t fallen into the trap of getting too stuffy with its history — the old buildings have their classic late 1800’s vintage looks, but they’re lively local businesses.
Distance from LA: 140 miles
1. Tijuana. Mexico
First of all, chill out: Tijuana is a big city and much of its sordid reputation isn’t deserved. If you’re dumb and go in ready for drunken trouble, you can certainly find it, but if you’re a savvy traveler ready to explore a new city, Tijuana is a treasure. If you’re up for wandering for the day on foot, just walking across the border will save you literal hours of time crossing the border on the way back. If you’re nervous about going solo, check out Turista Libre– this is a reputable company for themed day trips through Tijuana. Even if your Spanish is no bueno, nearly everyone in Tijuana speaks English. If you plan on driving in, try to cross the border in the early morning because morning in Tijuana is heartbreakingly beautiful. Be prepared to spend between one and three hours in line to cross back into the US by car. Gas up and insist that everyone go to the bathroom before you get in line.
Distance from LA: 138 miles