Los Angeles is loved for its year-round beach weather, diverse culture, world-class food, picture-perfect palm trees, and glittery Tinseltown glamour. But even locals need to flee the smog and gridlocked traffic on occasion, and when they do, Southern California offers a wealth of appealing options.
Skip the nightmare of LAX. These prime weekend getaways from Los Angeles are all within driving distance (but far enough away to feel fully rejuvenated upon your return). Pack your bags, stock up on snacks, and pray to the traffic gods for good fortune. It’s time to escape the City of Angels.
The small town of Ojai has become something of a hipster hotspot in recent years, but celebrities and artists were onto it long before the mustachioed lovers of mason jars moved in. The creative community continues to thrive here, alongside a wellness scene perfect for spa and fitness fanatics. Try the historic Ojai Valley Inn and Spa if you’re looking for luxury and Meditation Mount if you seek spiritual awakening, and don’t miss the “Pink Moment” – the local name for Ojai’s spectacularly colourful sunsets.
Sunshine, superlative surfing, and some of California’s finest Mexican food await in San Diego. Big-name spots like SeaWorld and Legoland draw touristy types, while luxury travellers prefer the sophisticated suburb of La Jolla. A trip to Black’s Beach is essential if riding waves is your aim. Not only is it a top surfing spot in the country, it’s also one of the best in the world. For an ultra-exclusive experience, check into the sprawling Hotel del Coronado, which has hosted numerous presidents, royalty, and celebrities over the years.
Big Bear Lake
Big Bear Lake is primarily known as a winter retreat, when SoCal’s powderhounds flock to Snow Summit and Bear Mountain for skiing and snowboarding. As the weather warms up, the adventures continue. Outdoor enthusiasts indulge in hiking, fishing, swimming, biking, horseback riding, boating, ziplines and more, with occasional trips into The Village for comfort food, craft beer, and live music. For the full experience, stay in a rustic inn or a country cabin.
Catalina Island is a classic getaway for Californians. The rugged strip of land, most of which is undeveloped and protected by the Catalina Island Conservancy, is accessible by ferry from the mainland. Catalina is known for its abundant wildlife (including a herd of bison left over from filming a movie), excellent scuba diving, Descanso Beach, and the art deco Catalina Casino. The truly intrepid can trek the challenging, 37-mile Trans-Catalina Trail that traverses the entire island.
When not overrun with Coachella-goers in flower crowns, Palm Springs is a serene and stylish place to be. The desert oasis embodies an odd combination of vintage Hollywood glamour and extravagant, outlandish pool parties – a vibe that shouldn’t work, yet inexplicably does. Angelenos come to Palm Springs for both of the above, as well as luxurious spas and boutique hotels, antiquing, golf, hiking, stiff drinks, and endless hours of poolside lounging.
Joshua Tree offers a two-part escape from the urban intensity of LA. The town of Joshua Tree caters to artists, hippies, and anyone looking to unplug. Joshua Tree National Park boasts an array of outdoor activities, from camping and hiking to horseback riding and rock climbing. Stargazing is particularly popular in the park’s otherworldly desert landscape, thanks to skies that are largely free from light pollution. Taken together, Joshua Tree is a literal breath of fresh air that will leave you feeling refocused and re-energised.
The quintessential California beach town, Santa Barbara has long been a beloved destination for Angelenos seeking R&R amongst historic Spanish colonial architecture and terra-cotta paved streets. City-slickers can sample the city’s lively dining scene or shop in its pedestrian-friendly downtown. Nature lovers gravitate to the exquisite beaches and the nearby Santa Ynez Mountains. For culture hounds, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, eclectic Funk Zone, and Spanish mission are musts.
Did someone say wine country? Northern California contains the state’s most famous grape-growing regions, but Paso Robles holds its own down south. The city is known for its wineries, along with its hot springs, almond orchards, and production of olive oil. If you’re looking for something less stuffy, Paso Robles has its fair share of funky art galleries and old-school cowboy bars. For the city’s quirkiest side, summon the s’mores butler at Hotel Cheval or play super-sized beer pong with red trash cans at BarrelHouse Brewing Company.