Los Angeles can be described as many things, from unique to beautiful, to diverse, and of course glamorous. But one thing is certain, no matter what words you would use to describe it, most people can agree that hectic is very appropriate. Like all major cities, L.A has a permanent rush to it, and the infamous traffic can quickly become overwhelming. However, for all the positives you can find in L.A sometimes you do just need to escape the noise. Therefore, we have put together a guide of some of the best day trips from Los Angeles, to help you do just that.
Check Out Some of These Popular Day Trips from Los Angeles
1. Catalina Island
Catalina Island has you feeling like you have just arrived at the French Riviera; with the crystal blue waters, endless boats resting in the water, and the elegant houses sitting on the hillside. The tranquility and beauty of this place are unmistakable, and it is easy to see why it is so popular. As well as the pleasing visual aspects, there is also a ton of things to do while you are there. It’s great news if you love water activities like snorkeling, kayaking, and sailing are all at your disposal. You can also explore the island on foot through the hiking trails, hidden roads, and views from the hills. Oh, you might also run into the native wild buffalo, too!
The main town on the island is called Avalon, this stretches across the shoreline to create Avalon Bay, and heads inland where you can find an abundance of shops, restaurants, bars, and hotels.
From L.A to Catalina Island it is around two hours in total. You will need to drive for an hour to one of the four ferry ports – San Pedro, Newport Beach, Long Beach, or Dana Point, and take the one hour boat ride from here.
2. Santa Barbara
This coastal city takes your breath away from the moment you arrive, you see, it isn’t just another city next to a beach. There is so much more to it than that. The architecture of the area is Spanish-style, and as you sit with a drink in your hand surrounded by the palm trees and the sounds of the waves, you could easily convince yourself you were in a Spanish town. The majority of things to do in Santa Barbara are all fairly close to each other, so the city is relatively easy to explore.
Your first stop should be the most iconic site – Mission Santa Barbra; a church of untold beauty, where you can also explore the museum and the historic gardens. Stearns Warf offers an excellent viewpoint, the zoo is great especially if you have kids, and the whale watching tour is something you will never forget. You can reach Santa Barbra in just under two hours from L.A.
3. Malibu and its Beaches
Another great day trip from Los Angeles is the beaches of Malibu. There is a reason why so many celebrities move to Malibu; here you get twenty-seven miles of stunning coastline, endless amounts of rugged mountains and cliffs, some of the best views in the world, and you are only thirty miles from Los Angeles. Malibu is close enough to the city to make it convenient enough if you can only do a day trip, but it is far enough away that you can truly relax and disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the city. Driving between these two places will take around forty to fifty minutes.
Did you know you can take a Vintage VW Bus on a wine tour in Malibu?
4. Big Bear Lake
Big Bear Lake is an adventurer’s paradise with this alpine retreat offering a host of activities all year round. Set in the San Bernardino Mountains, you can get some genuine mountain fresh air that invigorates you with every breath.
During the summer months, you can use the lake for swimming, jet skiing, kayaking, and canoeing, it is a lovely way to spend the day unwinding with your friends, and family with a picnic. There is also the option to play golf, go horseback riding, or bike through the mountain paths. During the winter months, this place turns into a ski resort with two of the highest-rated ski areas in California being at Big Bear. If you need a break from the activities head to Murray’s Saloon, where you can join in the karaoke and grab a drink.
Big Bear Lake is a little under one hundred miles from L.A and should take around two hours to drive, making it great for day trips from Los Angeles.
Another option for visiting Big Bear Lake is to go camping there. You can bring your own camping gear or rent it, or you can do like we did and camp in our RV! If you don’t have an RV then no worries, you can actually rent an RV for an awesome experience up at Big Bear Lake!
5. San Diego
I’m sure when someone says San Diego, you immediately think ‘zoo’. That is because the San Diego Zoo is the most popular zoo in the whole country, with more than three million visitors a year. Its popularity is due to its huge range of wild and exotic animals, allowing you to be closer than ever before to some of the world’s most precious and fascinating species.
As well as the zoo, San Diego is also home to Sea World, the historic park of Old Town San Diego, and the lively Victorian area of Gaslamp Quarter. And when you have exhausted yourself from all the sights, you can crash out on one of the stunning beaches, and watch the boats sail by as you relax. The drive from Los Angeles will set you back around two hours, but you get to see a lot of beautiful views the whole way.
Get your Go San Diego Card
6. Balboa Island & Newport Beach
Balboa Island is a small man-made island within Newport famous for its ferris wheel, boardwalk, and the fun zone which is a charming amusement park where the whole family can have fun. On the island, you will also find some classic seaside treats such as donuts, ice cream, and the Bluth family’s famous frozen bananas. You can access the island via a bridge, or take the five-minute-long car ferry.
Newport Beach is also worth a visit, where you can go year-round whale watching. Also, check out the beautiful shoreline, do some shopping, and indulge in some of the more fancy restaurants and bars in the area. Newport Beach is only forty miles from Los Angeles and will take around an hour to drive, giving you the perfect place to leave the city behind for the day.
7. Ojai & the Ojai Valley
Ojai offers you the chance to get back to nature and spend some time away from the city noise. Located in the Topatopa Mountains, it is full of wildlife, flora, and miles of meandering trails. There are also shops and restaurants in the town, tours of the olive and citrus farms, and Los Padres National Forest is just to the north. You can spend hours and hours exploring every beautiful corner, and when the sun starts to set, head up to Meditation Mount for a breathtaking sunset. It takes around an hour and twenty minutes to reach Ojai from L.A and is worth every second.
Venture Beyond Los Angeles on Your Trip
Los Angeles is a tourist mecca. With so many things to see and do, it’s easy to get caught up and not leave the city. However, many people don’t realize that just outside the city there are some pretty amazing places to visit and fun things to do. So when you are planning your trip and building your southern California itinerary, be sure to include some of these great day trip ideas from Los Angeles!