Best day trips from Los Angeles

20 Best Day Trips From Los Angeles in 2024

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Looking for a perfect day trip from Los Angeles? You are the in the right place.

LA is the second-largest city in the United States where you can spend days and weeks exploring beaches, museums, and famous landmarks.

While you are not likely to get bored, make sure not to miss out on some of the best day trips from Los Angeles that offer a different side of Southern California.

From the lush vineyards of Temecula to the sun-drenched beaches of Orange County and the mysterious coves of Santa Catalina Island, there are many cool day trips from Los Angeles where you can enjoy some of the best activities in the region and take a break from the big city.

In this article, I’m going to take a look at some of the best getaways from Los Angeles where you can enjoy the best activities in this region. 

Best day trips from Los Angeles

Malibu is one of the best day trips from Los Angeles that boasts some of the best beaches in Southern California.
Photo courtesy

1. Malibu  

Distance from Los Angeles: 30 miles 

Where to stayMalibu Beach Inn

Malibu is one of the best day trips from Los Angeles if you don’t want to drive for too long. Malibu’s dramatic coastline stretches for 21 miles along the famed Pacific Coast Highway where you’ll find gorgeous beaches for just about any water activity. 

If you’re looking to rent equipment, Zuma Beach, Malibu’s longest, has trucks for kayak, surfboard, and paddleboard rentals. If you prefer a walk on the beach, there’s a paved path to soak up the sun. Dolphins and seals are often spotted in this area, so bring your binoculars.

Nature-lovers should make a stop at the Malibu Lagoon State Beach near the Malibu Pier. All kinds of shore birds like herons, egrets, and pelicans are common sights. While there, visit the Adamson House, a California Historical Landmark. 

Best tours of Malibu

Malibu’s pier is home to several restaurants: Malibu Farm Restaurant and Malibu Farm Cafe. You’ll find more restaurants and shops at the Malibu Country Mart less than a mile away. You may even see a celebrity or two strolling through or grabbing a bite.

On PCH’s north side, the Santa Monica Mountains stand tall and offer many hiking trails, vineyards, and stunning scenery.

Those interested in tasting Malibu wines can wind their way through the canyon of Kanan Dume and head to Cornell Winery and Tasting Room on Mulholland Highway. Most of the Malibu wineries don’t have tasting rooms, but you can enjoy local wines by booking a guided tour of Malibu vineyards.

Contributed by Denise from

Santa Catalina Island is one of the best day trips from Los Angeles that can be reached via a quick boat ride from Long Beach.
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2. Santa Catalina Island

Where to stay: Catalina Canyon Inn

With its tree-lined walkways along the waterfront and homes that climb the steep hills surrounding the town, Santa Catalina Island – or Catalina – is reminiscent of a Mediterranean village. 

Located just 26 miles off the coast of Southern California, Catalina Island is a quick and easy getaway. Travel time to Avalon, the island’s only city, can be done in as little as 15 minutes by air, or one hour by boat from Long Beach or Newport Beach.

Avalon is the heart of Catalina Island. It is where you’ll find the majority of restaurants, hotels, beaches, and activities, including the famous Casino Building and botanical gardens. Other popular activities in Avalon include ocean kayaking, boat tours, snorkeling, biking, shopping, or just enjoying the beach.

This Avalon tour is perfect if you are visiting Santa Catalina Island for the first time!

Best tours of Santa Catalina Island

But Avalon is only a small part of Catalina Island. If you want to experience the “wild” side of the island, a journey into the island’s vast interior is a must.

Catalina Island’s interior is owned and managed by the Santa Catalina Island Conservancy. The interior is covered with broad valleys, isolated coves, pristine beaches, two thousand-foot peaks, and near-vertical shoreline palisades and is home to thousands of species of unique native plants and animals.

Book this tour to enjoy the backcountry of the Santa Catalina Island

Go camping, hiking, or mountain biking in the island’s protected wilderness. Or, explore the island’s interior on a Jeep Eco-tour or sightseeing tour. You can even go zip lining!

Contributed by Gwen from California Family Travel 

Oxnard is a small town in Central California that makes for a perfect weekend getaway from Los Angeles.
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3. Oxnard

Distance from Los Angeles: 60 miles

Where to stay: Residence Inn

Oxnard is a classic Southern California getaway if you want to enjoy a beach day.

While Oxnard is technically in Central California, it looks more like a typical Southern California beach town with a waterfront dotted with parked boats, great surfing beaches, and year-round outdoor opportunities like hiking, cycling, and kayaking.

Mandalay State Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Oxnard because of its rugged feel and natural beauty thanks to dunes, flora, and fauna

Oxnard State and Beach Park is a popular spot for beach goers and Silver Strand Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Oxnard for surfers that sits between the Channel Islands Harbor and Port Hueneme.

And, if you want to learn some local history, head over to The Oxnard Historic Farm Park which is home to the two oldest buildings in the county and a museum that showcases the history of the area.

When you come to Oxnard, don’t forget to stay until the sunset to catch the incredible view of the Pacific Ocean in the soft glow.

Orange County is one of the most popular places to visit near Los Angeles that's home to nearly 30 miles of stunning beaches and some of the best surfing in Southern California

4. Orange County 

Distance from Los Angeles: 34 miles

Where to stay: Pacific Edge Laguna Beach

Orange County is one of the most popular day trips from Los Angeles. Home to coastal towns San Clemente, Dana Point, and Laguna Beach, Orange County has some of the best beaches in California.

It is also home to Huntington Beach, the city nicknamed “Surf City USA” where you can learn the popular sport and get to know the SoCal’s surfing culture in places like the International Surfing Museum and the Surfing Walk of Fame.

Orange County has plenty of art and history. Costa Mesa is the art capital of Orange County where you can visit many museums and galleries and Mission San Juan Capistrano is one of the main historic landmarks that deserves a spot on your Orange County itinerary. 

Best guided tours of Orange County

Although this is a densely populated part of the state, you can still find plenty of cool things to do in nature when you visit Orange County.

Crystal Cove State Park is a real jewel of Orange County where you can spot tons of marine wildlife and explore hiking trails and camping spots for the ultimate getaway. This is just one of many state parks in Orange County that you should explore if you like a good adventure. 

And since you need more than a day to enjoy everything that Orange County has to offer, I recommend spending a night here.

Crescent Bay Inn is one of the best places to stay in Orange County right near the beach!

Located across the bridge from downtown San Diego, Coronado Island is a perfect Southern California weekend getaway.
Photo courtesy

5. Coronado Island 

Where to stay: Hotel Del Coronado

Los Angeles may offer visitors plenty of fun beaches to explore just outside the city – but Coronado Island’s stunning beaches rival all of them in beauty! 

Coronado Island is located a short ten-minute drive from Downtown San Diego across the Coronado Bridge. It’s only a 126-mile drive from Los Angeles via the Interstate-5, so it will take just over two hours to arrive at Coronado Island, depending on traffic. 

Coronado Island is known for its beautiful beaches, like Coronado Beach, but relaxing on the beach is only one of the many best things to do on Coronado Island.

This island is also home to a historic beachfront hotel, Hotel del Coronado. You can’t miss the chance to walk around the lobby and beautiful courtyard of this grand hotel during your day trip. 

Best guided tours of Coronado Island

After spending the morning at the beach, take a stroll down Orange Street—the only major street on Coronado Island—to explore the island’s local shops, restaurants, and boutiques.

You can enjoy a meal or cocktail at The Henry and then head to Nado Gelato Café to enjoy a refreshing homemade gelato or sorbet for dessert. Before the day ends, rent a beach cruiser and ride along Ocean Boulevard to enjoy the gorgeous sunset views. 

Where to stay on Coronado Island?

If you want to extend your stay on Coronado Island, book a room at the Hotel del Coronado, or if you’re looking for a more cost-effective option, El Cordova Hotel has charming architecture and an on-site restaurant.

Contributed by Brittany from Travel by Brit

Best things to do in Death Valley are hiking, camping and admiring the otherworldly landscapes.

6. Death Valley National Park

Distance from Los Angeles: 255 miles

Where to stay: The Inn at Death Valley

Death Valley of one of the most beautiful national parks in California located in the Mojave Desert. This is the largest national park in the lower 48 states, with clear dark skies that you will not find in many other parts of Southern California.

Although Death Valley is not one of the best winter day trips from Los Angeles thanks to its desert climate and mild temps that stay in the mid-60’s and low 70’s during winter months.

Death Valley is a perfect place to get away from the busy Los Angeles for a day and spend a day hiking and camping in the desert.

The best time to visit Death Valley National Park is from mid-fall through spring. But if you are visiting in summer, check my guide on how to survive Death Valley!

Best guided tours of Death Valley National Park

Winter is the ideal time for spending time outside, as summers in Death Valley often see triple-digit temperatures. Spend a couple of days in Death Valley to see the most famous places like Zabriskie Point, Badwater Basin, and Dante’s Point from where you can enjoy the incredible panorama of the park.

Combine a visit to Death Valley with a stop in Las Vegas

A visit to Death Valley is often combined with a stop in Las Vegas because this national park is located close to the Nevada state line. If you are visiting Sin City for a couple of days, taking a day trip to Death Valley is one of the best things to do in Las Vegas besides gambling

Lake Arrowhead is one of the best day trips from Los Angeles if you want to spend time in the nature and enjoy activities on the lake like boating, kayaking and paddle boarding.

7. Lake Arrowhead 

Distance from Los Angeles: 80 miles

Where to stay: Arrowhead Tree Top Lodge

Lake Arrowhead is one of the best day trips from Los Angeles by car. Located in the San Bernardino Mountains, it’s a perfect place to enjoy some fresh air and stunning scenery.

There are so many fun things to do in Lake Arrowhead. Start your day with a cruise on the Lake Arrowhead Queen. If you want to hop in the water, head over to McKenzie Water Ski School. From beginners to advanced, you can ski or wakeboard around the sparkling blue lake.

Mountain bike aficionados love visiting SkyPark at Santa’s Village thanks to a range of activities from rock climbing, to zipline, skating, and archery. The biggest attraction is the mountain bike trails that accommodate all ages and ability levels.

Outdoor lovers will have fun exploring amazing hiking trails in the area. The 2-mile Heart Rock hike is an easy trail through the forest to a heart-shaped rock, with a waterfall during part of the year. The Pinnacles Trail is a 4.6-mile hike with sweeping views of the mountains.

Where to stay in Lake Arrowhead?

With so much to do, you’ll want to spend more than just a day at Lake Arrowhead!

Stay overnight at the Lake Arrowhead Resort, or one of the campgrounds. You’ll also be able to enjoy the summer concerts that take place every weekend. 

Contributed by Melissa from Navigation Junkie

Big Bear Lake is one of the most popular weekend trips from Los Angeles that boasts some of the best skiing in Southern California.
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8. Big Bear Lake

Distance from Los Angeles: 97 miles

Where to stay: Hillcrest Lodge

Big Bear Lake is one of the best short trips from Los Angeles that beats other places on the list because it has four seasons which you won’t find in other parts of Southern California.

Big Bear Lake is one of the best mountain towns in California in the San Bernardino Mountains along the south shore of Big Bear Lake and receives over 60 inches of snowfall per year and offers some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the region at Bear Mountain and Snow Summit Ski Resorts.

Best tours of Big Bear Lake

In summer, Big Bear Lake is a popular destination to escape the heat of Southern California thanks to its higher elevation. Many travelers come here to enjoy kayaking, paddle boarding, hiking, and camping.

Best hikes in Big Bear Lake

Some of the best hikes in Big Bear Lake are the Castle Rock Trail which provides one of the best views of the lake; Pine Knot Trail and Cougar Crest Trail.

Cougar Crest Trail is a moderately challenging 2.4-mile (5.2 miles out and back) hiking or mountain-biking trail which leads up to the junction of the popular Pacific Crest Trail; and Cougar Crest Trail is a challenging 5.2 miles out-and-back trail that is popular for hiking and mountain biking.

Where to stay in Big Bear Lake

The Big Bear Lake Village is home to many stores and restaurants as well as a couple of breweries. It’s a perfect place to get some food after a day of enjoying the outdoors.

One of the best things to do in Big Bear Lake is to stay in a cozy cabin. Angel Bear Cabin is one of the most popular stays in Big Bear Lake with central location, friendly hosts and superb amenities.

Santa Barbara County Courthouse is one of the most popular landmarks in downtown Santa Barbara.

9. Santa Barbara 

Distance from Los Angeles: 95 miles

Where to stay: Hotel Californian

Santa Barbara is one of the best Central California Cities if you want to enjoy a combination of culture and outdoors. Santa Barbara is home to many landmarks like Mission Santa Barbara and El Presidio, an open-air museum where you can learn the history of the region.

The best way to explore Santa Barbara is by walking around down. This is a pedestrian-friendly city, and you can check out some major landmarks and also make your way to Stearns Wharf and several Santa Barbara beaches without renting a car. 

Best tours of Santa Barbara

Planning a Santa Barbara getaway? Check my complete guide on best things to do in Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara is also home to one of the most famous wine regions in California, so if you are a wine lover, taking a day trip to Santa Barbara vineyards is a must during your stay in Santa Barbara.

Book this small group tour of the best Santa Barbara wineries!

The surrounding beaches are also not to be missed. Santa Barbara offers some of the best surfing conditions in California with calm point breaks which are perfect for newbie surfers. 

Channel Islands National Park is one of the least visited California National Parks that's perfect for camping, wildlife watching and hiking.

10. Channel Islands National Park 

Where to stay: Amanzi Hotel

One of the best day trips from Los Angeles for outdoors junkies is Channel Islands National Park.

Located off the coast of Ventura, this group of islands is famous for its incredible biodiversity. To get to the Channel Islands, drive from Los Angeles to the Ventura/Channel Islands Marina and take the Island Packers ferry over to Santa Cruz island – the most popular island in this national park.

There are many activities that you can enjoy at the Channel Islands including hiking, overnight camping, snorkeling, whale watching, and sea cave kayaking.

If you want to spend more than one day in the Channel Islands, book an overnight camping spot.

What to know before visiting Channel Islands National Park

There are NO food or drinks available for purchase on the island so you will have to bring everything you want to eat and drink with you. The ferry has room for camping gear and coolers, so it is easy to bring everything that you need for your trip.

What makes the Channel Islands National Park so special is that multiple currents intersect in the area which brings a large amount of biodiversity to the area.

If you are more adventurous, book a sea cave kayaking excursion that will allow you to explore sea caves around these islands. It can be a bit dangerous as the waves come crashing into the caves, that’s why you you should always go with a guided tour.

Contributed by Shannon of Adventuring With Shannon

Ojai is a hidden gem of Central California that makes for a perfect weekend trip from Los Angeles if you want to enjoy the unspoiled views of the mountain, visit local farms and try organic food.
Photo courtesy

11. Ojai

Distance from Los Angeles: 83 miles

Where to stay: Ojai Valley Inn

Ojai is one of the best day trips from Los Angeles by car if you’re looking for a relaxing escape from the city’s and a slower pace of life. The quickest way to get to Ojai is via the US-101 N, and the drive should take just over an hour and a half if there’s no traffic.

When you arrive, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Ojai. The town is known for its tasting rooms (both wine and olive oil), relaxing spas, and an array of outdoor activities, including hiking and hot springs. Whether you’re an outdoorsy traveler, slow-paced traveler, or a foodie, you will love this place!

Start your day with a self-guided tour of Ojai Olive Oil—a family-owned farm producing tasty olive products for decades. Don’t miss out on the complimentary olive oil tasting! Drive into the Downtown Ojai, where you can check out local boutiques and shops, including Bart’s Books—the world’s largest outdoor bookstore.

Best tours of Ojai California

If you’re ready to wind down, head to one of Ojai’s esteemed spas, like Spa Ojai, for a hydrating facial or relaxing massage. End your day with a glass of wine from Topa Mountain Winery or the Majestic Oak Vineyards and Wine Tasting. Go hiking in the Ojai Meadows Preserve to catch the “Pink Moment”—the nickname for Ojai’s famous sunsets. 

If you want to extend your day trip into a weekend trip, book a room at Ojai Valley Inn, the most popular hotel in Ojai. This place has full-service spa, world-class golf course, and beautiful scenery. 

PRO TIP: Many businesses in Ojai are closed early in the week, so plan your visit toward the end of the week or during the weekend to make the most of your getaway. 

Contributed by Brittany from Travel By Brit

San Luis Obispo is one of the most beautiful in Central California that boasts superb hiking, surfing and year-round sunshine.

12. San Luis Obispo

Distance from Los Angeles: 160 miles

Where to stay: Hotel San Luis Obispo

Nicknamed “Happy City,” San Luis Obispo is one of the less popular day trips from Los Angeles since it’s located further away than other destinations on the list.

But the long drive is worth it!

San Luis Obispo is a true paradise for outdoorsy travelers thanks to the many recreational opportunities in the area. Home to the seven dormant volcanoes aka “the Seven Sisters,” San Luis Obispo has many hikes with spectacular overlooks of the Central California Coast.

It’s also home to historic downtown with the Mission San Luis Obispo, funky Bubblegum Alley, and many cute local boutiques and restaurants where you can grab a bite.

 San Luis Obispo boasts some of the best surfing beaches in Central California including Pismo Beach and Avila Beach.

Check my complete guide to the best things to do in San Luis Obispo.

San Luis Obispo is within a quick drive from some of the best beaches in California like Avila Beach and Pismo Beach where you can surf, have a picnic and explore nearby dunes.

And don’t forget to take a drive to Paso Robles, one of the best under-radar wine regions of California where you can sample wine and enjoy the countryside with green rolling hills dotted with vineyards.

Book a fun tour of Paso Robles vineyards with picnic here.

Best tours of Paso Robles

There are many hotels where you can spend the night before heading back to Los Angeles. One of the most popular hotels in San Luis Obispo is Madonna Inn, a historic hotel with whimsical pink decors that also has an on-site restaurant where you can try their signature cakes.

Read my complete guide to the best hotels in San Luis Obispo to plan your stay.

Hearst Castle is one of the most popular landmarks in Central California located near the entrance to Big Sur.

13. Hearst Castle 

Distance from Los Angeles: 230 miles

Where to stay: The Morgan Hotel

Located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Hearst Castle overlooks a stunning slice of the Californian coast, the bay of San Simeon. Once a grand home to William Randolf Hearst, today Hearst Castle welcomes hundreds of thousands of tourists.

The history of Hearst Castle

Built to resemble an Italian village, construction started in 1919 and designed by California’s first female architect, Julia Morgan, the project started as a modest home for Hearst and his family.

As the build continued, inspired by his early tours of Europe as a child, Hearst’s plans became more grand, resulting in Hearst Castle becoming a showcase of Hearst’s wealth, as well as a home for the media baron’s stunning art collection. 

After his death, the Hearst family turned it over to the State of California which now operates the site as Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument.

A day trip from Los Angeles to Hearst Castle is also one of the best California road trips, as it offers a look into the difference between Southern and Central California.

Private tours of Hearst Castle

There are over 10 tours to choose from including, the Grand Rooms, Cottages and Kitchen, Hearst and Hollywood, a showcase about Julia Morgan, and many more. To get a good sample of what Hearst Castle has to offer you will need at least one full day and booking your tours ahead will be essential.

Some tours operate hourly, but more popular tours can run as frequently as every 10 minutes over the busy season. They average around $30-$35 and the Hearst Castle website can help you to plan out your day. 

How to get to Hearst Castle:

While it is possible to get to Hearst Castle via public transport from Los Angeles, that will entail multiple connections. The best way to access Hearst Castle is to drive. At 230 miles from Los Angeles and 240 miles from San Francisco, it is easily accessible from either city. 

Hearst Castle is a perfect stop on your way to Big Sur, one of the most popular destinations in Central California.

Contributed by Jenny from Charge The Globe

Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most popular places to visit in Southern California where you can enjoy camping, rock climbing and hiking.

14. Joshua Tree National Park

Distance from Los Angeles: 120 mile

Where to stay: Oasis Inn and Suites

A day trip to Joshua Tree National Park is one full of nature and outdoor adventure, making it a perfect weekend trip from Los Angeles!

Joshua Tree National Park is located in Southern California, 127 miles outside of Los Angeles or about a 2-hour drive.

The park is set at a crossroads between the Mojave and Colorado Deserts. The Mojave Desert is marked by giant boulders and Joshua Trees, while the Colorado Desert features cholla cactus, ocotillo, and grasslands.

Best things to do in Joshua Tree National Park

If you are looking for a fun adventure, you can try rock climbing or camp within the park. As you walk through the area, you will spot many rock climbers around.

Hiking is one of the best things to do in Joshua Tree National Park.

You will find plenty of mild hikes and more strenuous hikes for the experienced hiker. Some of the best hikes in the park are the 1.8-mile Arch Rock Trail, the 1-mile Hidden Valley Trail, and one of the most strenuous hikes, the 5.5-mile Warren Peak hike. 

If you aren’t up for a hike, you can find many viewpoints and pull-outs along Park Boulevard where you will have easy access to stunning views including the Keys View overlook and Skull Rock.

Best guided tours of Joshua Tree National Park

For those looking to learn more about the history and terrain of the park, a guided tour is a great option. Joshua Tree Excursions offers 4-hour guided shuttle bus tours that hit the highlights of the park, as well as private hiking tours and rock-climbing tours.

Is it OK to touch a Joshua Tree?

While touching Joshua Trees is perfectly legal, it’s best to avoid direct contact with them. Touching or leaning against Joshua trees can damage them, so it’s best to admire them from the distance.

Joshua Tree is one of the most popular places to visit near Los Angeles that boasts many easy hiking trails perfect for beginners.

Where to stay in Joshua Tree?

The best place to stay when visiting Joshua Tree National Park is right in the park!

There are about 500 camping sites in the park and reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance. A big advantage of staying in the park is easy access to the park’s highlights at all times of day, including sunrise viewing and stargazing.

When visiting Joshua Tree National Park, remember that it is a desert and can get very hot! Bring plenty of water and some snacks. Make sure to enter with a full tank of gas as there are no gas stations in the park.

Can you do Joshua Tree in a day from LA?

If you want to visit Joshua Tree in a day from LA, start your day trip early, so you can beat the traffic and arrive before the park gets busy. It takes an average of 2,5-3 hours to get from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree depending on traffic.

San Diego is one of the best places along your West Coast Road Trip itinerary that has plenty of culture and outdoor opportunities.

15. San Diego 

Distance from Los Angeles: 120 miles

Where to stay: Paradise Point

San Diego is one of the most popular weekend getaways from Los Angeles.

Summer is by far the peak season to go to San Diego, however this comes with larger crowds and higher travel rates if you do decide to stay overnight. If you want to avoid the crowds but still have great weather, March through May and September through November are great times to visit.

San Diego is known for its beautiful beaches and great weather.

There are about 70 miles of beaches in the San Diego area, including the famous Coronado beach. The beaches in the northern part of San Diego are better than the beaches towards the Mexican border.

Most popular San Diego tours

There are lots of great historical sites you can visit like the USS Midway Museum, Old Town San Diego, Point Loma, and Cabrillo National Monument. Point Loma and Cabrillo National Monument is a great place to explore the beautiful coast, tide pools, and historical sites.

Balboa Park is another really fun area to explore. There are lots of great trails and gardens to explore. The trails are a common place for walking, running, and biking. In the park, there are also lots of fun tourist attractions like museums, theaters, and concert halls. This is one of the largest tourist attractions in California.

Contributed by Candice from CS Ginger

Temecula is one of the best places to visit near Los Angeles known for its wineries and relaxed lifestyle.
Photo courtesy

16. Temecula

Distance from Los Angeles: 85 miles

Where to stay: Carter Estate Winery and Resort

Temecula, California, is one of the best short trips from Los Angeles located 85 miles away.

The fastest way to get to Temecula is to take the I-10 E and I-15 S – the drive should take just under an hour and a half if you don’t run into any traffic. 

When you arrive in Temecula, you’ll find no shortage of fun activities. The most popular thing to do in Temecula is to go on a wine tasting tour of the best wineries in Temecula, such as Wilson Creek Winery and Leoness Cellars.

Although you can go on a self-guided tour of Temecula’s wineries, many travelers join a tour, like this All-Inclusive Wine Tasting Tour with Lunch, which includes transportation and tastings at four local wineries. 

Best tours of Temecula vineyards

When you’re done with your wine tastings, head into Old Town Temecula to see all the city offers.

You can make reservations to dine at some of the best restaurants in Temecula, like The Goat & Vine and 1909 Temecula. If you’re visiting on a Saturday, go shopping at the Old Town Temecula Farmer’s Market. If you’re visiting Temecula in the summer, go blueberry picking at the Temecula Berry Co. 

To enjoy some unique nightlife in Old Town Temecula, head to Temecula Stampede, the West Coast’s largest country-western venue, where you can learn two-stepping and line dances. 

If you’re planning to extend your day trip in Temecula, stay at the Carter Estate Winery and Resort so that you can wake up with beautiful views of the vineyard and quick access to the winery each day! 

Contributed by Brittany from Travel by Brit

Balboa Island is one of the best day trips from Los Angeles where you can enjoy some of the best things to do in Southern California.

17. Balboa Island

Where to stay: Newport Beach Hotel

Located one hour south of Los Angeles is the tiny hamlet of Balboa Island. Although it is part of Newport Beach, Balboa Island feels worlds apart. Getting here requires a car since public transportation in the area is limited. 

Surrounding the island are large, luxury homes, many with private beaches and docks. But on the interior are small streets lined with classic beach cottages, many decorated in nautical themes.

The focal point for all activity on the island is its main street, Marine Avenue. Here you can find specialty boutiques and dining at family-owned establishments like Sugar N’ Spice or Dad’s Donuts and Balboa Bar, where you can grab some delicious sweet treats.

Best things to do on Balboa Island

While strolling Marine Avenue, pop into the Balboa Island Museum and head to Voyagers Rentals to rent a Duffy Electric Boat, perfect for exploring the harbor. If you’d prefer other types of boats, ride the ferry across the harbor to Balboa Fun Zone where you’ll find kayaks, paddleboards, and more. 

The island gets quite busy on weekends and parking can be challenging. If you can, visit on a weekday, when there’s less traffic.

While there are no hotels on the island, the lovely Balboa Inn is across the harbor, and is a perfect place to spend the night.

Contributed by Wendy from Empty Nesters Hit The Road

Long Beach is one of the best cities in Southern California that is only 25 miles away from Los Angeles.

18. Long Beach 

Distance from Los Angeles: 25 miles

Where to stay: Hotel Maya

Long Beach is one of the best short trips from Los Angeles that requires minimal driving.

The waterfront’s colorful Shoreline Village is the center of action, with a variety of casual to fine dining restaurants and plenty of shopping options. Or stroll along the city’s boardwalk to enjoy its brisk sea air and picturesque view of boats bobbing in the harbor.

Long Beach is famous for being home to the Queen Mary, the luxury ocean liner built in 1936. She’s considered to be the most haunted ship in the world! You can get up close to this legendary ship at the cruise port, or just enjoy her vintage vibes from across the water. After sunset, you can easily see the ship’s festive lights from the waterfront.

If you love being active outdoors, Long Beach is your place!

Check out El Dorado Park and Nature Center, with almost one hundred acres of activities. They feature walking and bike trails as well as a golf course in a gorgeous green space on the San Gabriel River. It’s also an ideal space to enjoy a leisurely picnic lunch.

Best tours from Long Beach

Favorite Long Beach tours include harbor cruises to see the area’s abundant marine life (you could see gray, fin, and humpback whales, dolphins, and sea lions).

Want to turn your day trip to Long Beach into an overnight visit?

The Hyatt Regency Long Beach is an excellent place to stay, and just a quick walk from all the action. Another top-notch hotel is Renaissance Long Beach. It’s a bit farther from the waterfront, but closer to more restaurants, bars, and shopping.

Contributed by Carrie Ann from Should Be Cruising

19. The Huntington Gardens and Library 

Where to stay: Hotel Indigo

The Huntington Gardens and Library, located in San Marino, a few miles from downtown LA, makes for one of the best trips from Los Angeles.

The gardens are extensive and there is a lot to do, so you can spend a couple of hours here.

The complex consists not only of several gardens but also a library and an art collection, with several famous paintings and sculptures. Make sure to stop at the Desert Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Chinese Garden, and the Rose Garden.

There is always something in bloom, so no matter which season you choose to visit, you can enjoy colorful blossoms, from camellias in winter to wisteria in spring and roses from spring to fall.

There is also a California garden if you want to discover plants that are local to the Golden State. You can also see plant conservation efforts in progress: the garden has many rare and endangered species.

You can take the metro or the bus, or Uber, or drive to the gardens from downtown LA. If you plan to overnight, the Langham Huntington in Pasadena is a great choice.

The complex has cafes and restaurants, but you can also bring your picnic and enjoy it in the designated areas.

The first Thursday of every month is a free day at the Huntington Gardens, so if you can plan your visit accordingly, you can avoid the somewhat pricey admission!

Contributed by Dhara from Roadtripping California

Located in the Coachella Valley, Palm Springs is one of the best places to visit in Southern California.

20. Palm Springs 

Distance from Los Angeles: 107 miles

Where to stay: Margaritaville Resort

Palm Springs has a quirky vibe, mixing the retro glamor of the Rat Pack days with the boho-free-spiritedness of the Coachella valley. If you want to extend your day trip, stay at The Marley Hotel which is perfect example of the kitschy charm of Palm Springs. 

While the city is mostly known for relaxing getaways by the pool, there’s plenty to keep you busy here. Take a mid-century modern architecture tour, where you can see the spectacular house where Elvis had his honeymoon or where Frank Sinatra had a good time.

After your tour, visit the eclectic antique stores and art galleries in downtown Palm Springs, which offer a mix of vintage furniture, offbeat knick-knacks, and modern art. 

Consider taking a tour of the city’s windmills outside of Palm Springs to learn about wind energy in the Coachella valley. The best time to visit Palm Springs is between March and April or October when the weather is warm enough to jump in the pool but cool enough to enjoy outdoor activities.

The city gets surprisingly cool in the winter months and scorchingly hot in the summer months.

Coachella, a popular music festival, is held in April of each year, so whether that sounds up your alley, plan around the festival’s dates. Whether you’re looking for some pool time or perhaps to relive charming days when Marilyn Monroe and Cary Grant hung out in its hallowed taverns, Palm Springs is one of the most unique getaways from Los Angeles.

Contributed by Jessica Schmit from Uprooted Traveler

Renting a car in Los Angeles

If you are visiting Los Angeles from out of town, you will need a car to get around. While Southern California has some public transportation options, car rental is the fastest and easiest way to get around. I recommend renting your car with DiscoverCars, one of my favorite car rentals companies that offers great inventory and flexible rates on many vehicles.

Tips on taking day trips from Los Angeles 

  • Plan your trip for a weekend – Southern California is home to millions of people. While many of the best day trips from Los Angeles are worth your time, they can also be extremely busy on weekends, so if possible, plan your getaway for a weekday.
  • Arrive early – Parking can be tight in places like Long Beach or San Diego, so if you are taking a day trip to one of the cities mentioned in this article, arrive early to get a parking spot.
  • Book your hotels ahead of time – If you can, book your hotels ahead of time on platforms like or to avoid overpaying on the spot. 
  • Make a reservation – Some popular destinations in Southern California require reservations. For example, some campgrounds in Death Valley and around San Diego require reservations.
  • You don’t have to pick the season – With exception of Death Valley and maybe Joshua Tree which can get hot in summer, most day trips from Los Angeles can be done year-round thanks to mild coastal California climate. This is good news is you are visiting California from another state and want to enjoy everything that it has to offer.

Best day trips from Los Angeles: FAQ

What cities are 2 hours away from Los Angeles?

If you are looking for short trips from Los Angeles, you can visit one of the cities within 2 hours from Los Angeles that include Santa Barbara, Oxnard and Long Beach.

What is the closest island to Los Angeles?

Santa Catalina is the closest island to Los Angeles located about 22 miles away that can be reached by a quick boat ride from Long Beach or Newport Beach.

Is Catalina Island worth a day trip?

Catalina Island is one of the most popular short trips from Los Angeles that boasts a Mediterranean-like downtown and fun activities like hiking, boating and zip-lining.

Day trips from Los Angeles: final word

Los Angeles is a busy city that can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming. To explore more of Southern California, take one of the day trips from Los Angeles to enjoy spectacular scenery, discover the culture of the region and explore the outdoor opportunities.