5 Best Weekend Getaways from Los Angeles
Hit the highway out of Los Angeles in any direction and you’ll stumble upon somewhere worthy of stopping and staying a while. Within a few hours’ drive of the City of Angels, you can find the American version of the French Riviera, lakeside campsites in the mountains, and national parks (or party towns) in the desert. And with international travel remaining limited, California’s highways have never been so tempting. From iconic destinations like Joshua Tree to lesser-known spots in San Bernardino, here’s our pick of the best weekend getaways from Los Angeles.
Drive time from LA: 2 hours / 85 miles (137 kilometers)
Artists, hippies, and organic farmers coexist harmoniously in this real-life Shangri-la (Ojai Valley featured as the imaginary paradise on earth in the old Hollywood movie Lost Horizon). Sandwiched between mountains and coast, Ojai is barely two hours from LA yet it feels a world away. Angelenos and SoCal locals come for the day spas and organic wineries and wish they’d stayed longer for the farm-to-table dining, Spanish Revival architecture, and beatnik-cool vibes. Essential stops on your weekend itinerary: Outdoor yoga and a treatment at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, a Mexican-inspired lunch at Farmer and the Cook; and a sunset picnic on Meditation Mount with your haul from the Sunday farmers market. If you’re outdoorsy, head to Los Padres National Forest just north of town, or join a guided Ojai hiking, biking, or rock climbing experience.
Drive time from LA: 2 hours / 100 miles (161 kilometers)
A weekend on the American Riviera is always a good idea. Cue beaches, ocean views, fresh seafood, and old-world feels. But considering it’s a playground for the rich and famous, Santa Barbara is surprisingly chill, with daily life revolving around eating well, staying active, and getting out on the water. For the quintessential Santa Barbara experience, rent a bike for a ride along the coastline; go wine tasting in Santa Ynez Valley; and hit Santa Barbara Harbor or Leadbetter Beach, where you can kayak or paddleboard. Other must-sees include Old Mission Santa Barbara; the galleries, eateries, and microbreweries in Fun Zone; and—if you’re making a long weekend of it—the nearby Danish-style town of Solvang.
Drive time from LA: 2.5 hours / 110 miles (177 kilometers)
This modernism mecca in the Sonoran Desert has shrugged off its reputation as a haven for the retired, experiencing something of a resurgence in recent years—partly in thanks to the star-studded Coachella festival. Hotels featuring chic decor, destination restaurants, and pool parties helmed by international DJs are now par for the course. Even the hot springs have become go-tos for LA and SoCal locals looking to unwind after a weekend of overindulgence. Head to Palm Springs Art Museum and take a bike tour to learn more about Palm Springs’ mid-century modern architecture. To get outdoors, go hiking in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountains, and explore Indian Canyons by Jeep.
Pro tip: Make your dinner reservations in advance. We recommend Azúcar for tacos and Frida Kahlo-decor, Norma’s for brunch, and SO.PA for an alfresco dinner.
Big Bear Lake
Drive time from LA: 3 hours / 100 miles (161 kilometers)
It’s the snowbirds that typically head to this at-other-times-sleepy lakeside retreat (come winter it transforms into one of SoCal’s premier ski and snowboard resorts), which means from spring through fall you’re likely to have its campsites, hiking trails, and antique stores to yourself—relatively speaking. Pitch your tent at Serrano Campground, just steps away from both the lake and Big Bear Discovery Center where many trailheads, including the popular Cougar Crest Trail, start. Join a private hiking tour to explore less-frequented areas of the Big Bear wilderness, or get a different perspective on an off-roading and ziplining adventure. There’s also Big Bear Alpine Zoo, which rehabilitates native animals and offers visitors a chance to learn about local wildlife.
Pro tip: Don’t skip a drive along the Rim of the World Scenic Byway, which is especially spectacular in spring when Big Bear’s wildflowers are in bloom.
Drive time from LA: 3 hours / 130 miles (209 kilometers)
Symbolized by its namesake trees and boho aesthetic, Joshua Tree is one of the best desert getaways from Los Angeles. Bookend your weekend trip with sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden and sunset on Ryan Mountain's summit. Hit the Hidden Valley and Barker Dam trails for an easy introduction to Joshua Tree’s rock formations and wildlife, or for a longer hike, go east to the Lost Palms Oasis Trail. If you’ve packed your climbing shoes, head to the Real Hidden Valley, the Lost Horse Wall, or the Gunsmoke area for roped climbing, or Hall of Horrors and Indian Cove for bouldering. En route from Los Angeles, dip into Joshua Tree town to refuel at Joshua Tree Coffee Company, shop at Sun Alley, and visit only-in–Joshua Tree attractions such as the World Famous Crochet Museum and Noah Purifoy Outdoor Art Museum.
Pro tip: Plan your weekend getaway from LA close to the new moon to see Joshua Tree’s stars at their brightest.