10 Killer Road Trips to Take From Los Angeles

If you're looking to escape LA for the day and you're ready for some adventure, then keep reading. We've rounded up 10 of our favorite LA day trips. Plus, they're all under three hours!

October 01, 2020

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Santa Barbara


The scenery in Santa Barbara is so beautiful you may decide you never want to leave. Across from the showstopping Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel, Butterfly Beach is a great place to start out your day. After some quality beach time, you can walk across the street and enjoy a posh lunch overlooking the ocean at Bella Vista (it's currently closed for renovations but is expected to reopen in 2021). Check out the downtown area and walk down State Street for some window (or real!) shopping. Before you hop in the car to head back, order a custom box of chocolates at an adorable little candy shop: Chocolats du CaliBressan. (Just try not to eat them all before you get home.)

Big Bear Lake

DRIVING DISTANCE FROM LA: 2 hours and 45 minutes

Big Bear is a great spot to visit in warmer months, but it's also an ideal destination during the winter. (Yep, you can actually see some snow and go skiing!) Hop on the Scenic Sky Chair Lift for some breathtaking views on your way to the top of the mountain. If you're not up for skiing, you can go tubing in Tube Park. But check the website before you go; some attractions are currently closed due to COVID-19, but will re-open when possible. Before heading home to the City of Angels, treat yourself to an outdoor breakfast, lunch or dinner at the Teddy Bear Restaurant. Take-out is also available. Finish your meal — even breakfast — with a slice of delicious, homemade apple, French apple, berry or rhubarb pie.

Palm Springs

DRIVING DISTANCE FROM LA: 2 hours and 45 minutes

Channel Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack and head out to Palm Springs for the day. Stop on the way at open-air Cabazon Outlets for some discount shopping, and don't miss getting a famous date shake at Hadley's. (It sounds gross, but we promise it's so yummy!) Once you hit town, take a Celebrity Tour to see iconic old homes and learn a bit more about the city. Do some vintage shopping, then end your day with a meal at the Jonathan Adler-designed Parker Hotel. Restaurant capacity is limited due to the pandemic and advance reservations are required. Other access to the hotel is currently limited to registered hotel guests.

Catalina Island

DRIVING DISTANCE FROM LA: 45 minutes to Long Beach + 1-hour ferry ride

On a beautiful, sunny California day, hop on a ferry to Catalina Island. (Ferry seating is limited during the pandemic.) Head straight over to the Descanso Beach Club. You can reserve a private cabana or a chaise on the beach. Grab some boozy ice cream from Descanso Fresh before you tackle your juicy beach read. For lunch, enjoy fresh, sustainable seafood on the waterfront patio at the Bluewater Avalon Grill. Visit the beautiful Catalina Casino before you head home. There's no gambling here anymore, but you can see the gorgeous, round structure which was built under the direction of William Wrigley, Jr. for two million dollars back in the day.

Joshua Tree


Begin your desert adventure at Skull Rock Nature Loop, a favorite with visitors to Joshua Tree National Park. This is a 1.7-mile hike where you can see some spectacular rock formations; one has eroded "eye sockets" that make it look like a skull. Some museum and exhibit portions of the park itself are temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 crisis. Check the website for details before you go. Next, hit up Noah Purifoy's Outdoor Art Museum to see outdoor sculptures. Noah Purifoy was an African-American artist who was best known for his "assemblage sculpture," and the museum includes more than 100 pieces of his unique works. On your way back to La La Land, stop and grab a bite at Pappy & Harriet's in Pioneertown. This quirky restaurant has legendary barbecue and cheap beer.


Temecula Valley

DRIVING DISTANCE FROM LA: 2 hours and 10 minutes

You can't make it up to Napa Valley for a one-day road trip, but if you're a wine lover, you can head to the Temecula Valley. Start the day off in charming Old Town Temecula, and walk around to see some of the old buildings, antique shops and adorable cafes. From there, you can join a horse-drawn carriage tour of the local wineries. During the pandemic, private carriage rides are "cautiously re-opening," according to the website. See the website for updates on horse-drawn trolley rides, events and group rides. Stop and have a picnic along the way, and to cap off your day, take a short balloon ride above Temecula Valley before heading home.


DRIVING DISTANCE FROM LA: 2 hours and 17 minutes

On your way into the majestic town of Ojai, stop by one of our favorite stores: Summer Camp (see the website for hours, which are currently limited due to COVID-19). Face masks and social distancing are required to enter. We predict it will be hard for you to resist their adorable "Oh, hi" t-shirts. After that, pick up some award-winning olive oils (and products made with olive oil, like face creams and lip balms) at the Ojai Olive Oil Company; their farm is open daily, but check the hours. The Ojai Valley Inn has a positively dreamy spa; it's temporarily closed but you can make put your name on a waiting list and you'll be called when it reopens.



When you drive into Solvang, a small town in the Santa Ynez Mountains, you might feel like you're in Denmark. But this adorable Danish town is actually in Southern California. Embrace the Danish spin by starting your day off at the Hans Christian Andersen Museum; check before you go to see if there are any changes or restrictions due to COVID-19. The museum is just one room but includes a number of the author's works and ephemera (and you can buy any of his books). Stroll around the village to browse 150 boutique shops and see Danish icons like the Little Mermaid Fountain. Before you leave, make sure to stop at Olsen's Danish Village Bakery and stock up on some pastries to bring home. Everything there is next-level yum, but the Danish waffle and Swedish delight are two of our favorites.

Laguna Beach

DRIVING DISTANCE FROM LA: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Start your day in the coastal town of Laguna Beach with a trip to the "Top of the World" lookout point. From here, get a bird's-eye view of the town and see stunning views of Laguna Beach. Nick's Laguna Beach is the spot to stop for lunch. (Don't miss the fried deviled eggs!) Nick's gets booked up weeks in advance, and capacity is limited during the pandemic, so call ahead as soon as you can. After lunch, head over to the Mission San Juan Capistrano; see the website to confirm dates and hours of operation. If you're there the third week in October or the third week in March, you might catch a glimpse of the world-famous Cliff Swallows. In October, the swallows leave the mission and fly back to Argentina for the winter. In March, they make their grand return. Before you go back to LA, grab a cocktail (or mocktail) at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel at their 180Blu lounge. Sit on the hotel deck to watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. Services at The Ritz Carlton Laguna Resort are currently limited due to COVID-19, so visit the website before you go.

San Diego

DRIVING DISTANCE FROM LA: 2 hours and 30 minutes

The drive down to San Diego is an easy one. But if you don't feel like jumping in your car for the day, you can also hop on Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner train and relax the whole way. Schedules are temporarily reduced due to the coronavirus pandemic. Stop for an early lunch at Tacos El Gordo for a traditional Mexican feast. Their flagship location is across the border in Tijuana, so you know the tacos at this place are the real deal. Next, head over to the world-famous San Diego Zoo. The zoo is monitoring the pandemic and will post updates on closures or restrictions as necessary. If you're short on time, skip the zoo and board a boat for the San Diego Seal Tour around the whole city (as well as some time with the California sea lions who live in the area). Reservations are required and capacity is limited. On your way out of town, stop at the Baked Bear and grab a custom ice cream sandwich.

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