Last updated on May 23rd, 2023
There is no shortage of things in Southern California you can do in your spare time. Much has been already said about various gorgeous hikes, road trips, and attractions. But I don’t think it is ever enough. In this post, I would love to share a few interesting ideas for weekend getaways from Los Angeles that will ignite your wanderlust and make you wonder.
Mark and I had been living in the city of angels for about 3.5 years, drove everywhere we could, and explored as much as we were allowed. There is definitely a lot to see in the LA area.
Some of the most popular road trips from Los Angeles are trips to Palm Springs, LA to Las Vegas drive, a trip to Santa Barbara, Ojai, Ventura, and even Big Sur. I am not going to mention those places today. Instead, I’ll present a list of a bit shorter getaways from Los Angeles to help you look at this city and the surrounding area from a different angle.
Psst: Are you looking for more getaways in America? Then check some of our other posts:
- 9 Incredible Weekend Trips in Kentucky
- 6 Unique Places to Visit in the US That Will Blow Your Mind
- Weekend Getaways and Road Tripping in Vermont
- Guide to the Columbia River Gorge Road Trip
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Awesome Weekend Getaways From Los Angeles to Make You Wonder
1. Weekend Trip From LA to Oak Glen
Oak Glen definitely deserves the title of one of the most picturesque towns in Southern California. But not many visitors and even residents of Los Angeles come up to this area. Oak Glen is settled at the footprint of San Bernardino National Forest right in the Apple Valley. What it means is that this region sees cooler temperatures year-round.
So, if you feel like the crazy heat is scorching Los Angeles, come to cool down in Oak Glen. Summers here are very pleasant. Foliage season usually goes all the way into December and winter months bring enough snow to have a winter wonderland.
We’ve been here in the fall and it felt absolutely magical. In LA it was still hot but Oak Glen had a gorgeous fall season in full swing.
At some point, it felt like we were somewhere in New England and at the same time in one of the states in the South.
Things to do here: it really depends on the season when you are coming in. The area is famous for apple orchards (yes to apple pies and cider in the fall,) farms, ranches, country music, old-fashioned activities, and more. Berry picking is possible in the spring, apple, and pumpkin picking in the fall.
Oak Glen is actually a village that is five miles long but you’ll want to spend an entire day (possibly even more) enjoying the tranquility of this place. Come with children or on your own, there is something to do in Oak Glen for everyone!
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How far from LA: 80 miles 129 km. It takes only one and a half hours to get here but it really depends on where you stay in Los Angeles and traffic. May take more, may take less.
Where to stay: We personally have never been staying here overnight. But if you prefer to spend a weekend in the countryside, I recommend looking into nearby Highland Springs Ranch & Inn (a quiet lavender farm.)
There is also an RV park, camping sites, and even some accommodation through Airbnb. A trip to Oak Glen is one of those short trips from LA that lets you see enough for one long day, but if you desire to make it longer, accommodation is available as well.
2. Day Trip From Los Angeles to Lake Arrowhead
You’ve probably heard about Big Bear Lake – the largest recreation lake in Southern California. A lot of people love coming there for a weekend.
I suggest you check out Lake Arrowhead – a reservoir in San Bernardino National Forest. It reminds of Big Bear Lake but on a smaller scale. For years this area has been alluring nature lovers to its vastness. If you are visiting Los Angeles and looking to get out of the city, come to Lake Arrowhead for rest and relaxation. Peacefulness is guaranteed!
Things to do here: Lake Arrowhead provides access to countless activities such as swimming, fishing, hiking, boating, kayaking, biking, and more. The village doesn’t have any snow summit for skiing but nearby snow valley is just 20 minutes away (if you are visiting in winter.) Big Bear Lake recreation area is 45 minutes away.
You can go to Strawberry Peak – a prominent peak in the local mountains – to hike. It is a short drive from Lake Arrowhead offering excellent hiking trails and outstanding views of Los Angeles and even the Pacific Ocean (on a good day!)
Also, there is a very pretty small town Crestline with its own tiny Lake Gregory. We’ve been there too and thought it was spectacular.
How far from LA: 80 miles (129 km.) Approximately 1 hour 30 minutes from downtown LA if there is no traffic.
Check prices and availability for The Saddleback Inn on Hotels.com
3. Weekend Getaway From Los Angeles to Riverside
One of the weekend getaways from Los Angeles includes a trip to Riverside. This town is not really a noteworthy one that deserves much attention. But it is home to an incredibly magical hotel, the Mission Inn hotel, and spa, which introduces guests to history in some fancy way.
If you are looking to spend your weekend in seclusion, away from hustle and bustle, but at the same time in luxury and comfort, and don’t feel like driving all the way to Palm Springs then Riverside is the right place for you. Many publications mention this town as one of the best Southern California getaways for couples.
Once you walk through hotel grounds you’ll get an impression of being somewhere in Europe. The property reminds more of a monastery than a hotel. No wonder its name is The Mission Inn. The hotel looks especially magnificent and grand during the time of winter holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas when it’s featuring the largest holiday light collection in the U.S.
Things to do here: Regardless of whether you stay overnight or not you could visit a hotel’s museum dedicated to art and Mission Inn’s history. Pay a visit to their spa, relax in a beautiful garden, dine in an upscale restaurant, and just walk through hotel grounds.
If you feel like stretching your bones, check out the nearby Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park which has hiking trails and is another place for a weekend trip in Southern California.
How far from LA: 60 miles (96 km) away from LA.
Where to stay: In the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa. If accommodation here is a bit pricey, there are many other options in the area. Riverside is very close to LA, so you could come and visit just during the day. But staying here overnight will definitely transport you to the ancient era.
Check prices and availability for The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa on Hotels.com
4. Trip to the Salton Sea
Do you know which lake is the largest in California? Salton Sea Lake. Unfortunately, it is not a natural lake. The Salton Sea was accidentally created by engineers when they wanted to increase the flow of water into the area for farming. Later on, it was transformed into a holiday spot where wealthy people loved to vacation. But with time the lake got a series of problems and turned into a public health disaster.
No, you won’t get sick and nothing will happen to your health if you visit. Residents who live in a county suffer from lung-related illnesses because they are breathing the toxic dust coming out from the water on a regular basis. You will be totally fine if go just on an excursion.
I actually encourage you to come and see with your own eyes how once a bustling resort area looks like today. I am not saying you should be hanging out at the Salton Lake all day long. There are other cool activities to do nearby. But come to visit for an experience.
Things to do here: Park anywhere you feel like it (parking is ample) walk on what used to be called a “beach,” take some photos and see the ghost town.
Check nearby North Algodones Dunes Wilderness Area, Salvation mountain, and International Banana Museum (so many banana items in one place, unbelievable!)
For a more detailed guide on things to do in the Salton Sea, check this guide.
Once you are at the lake, you’ll be smelling something like rotten eggs. That smell is a gas – hydrogen sulfide – naturally occurring in the sea. But don’t fret, you will be totally fine.
How far from LA: 160 miles (257 km) away from Los Angeles. On a good day, it would take between 2.5-3 hours to drive here.
Where to stay: The drive is long, so you probably want to stay overnight somewhere in the area. The closest place with nice accommodation would be in nearby Palm Springs. We stayed at this cute but affordable Residence Inn. It doesn’t make much sense to sleep over anywhere near the Salton Sea. If you decide to stay overnight, the following day you can go on a trip to Joshua Tree National Park.
Check prices and availability for Residence Inn By Marriott on Hotels.com
5. One Or Two Day Trip to Lake Isabella
Are you looking for a nature trip near Los Angeles? This one to Lake Isabella is just what you need, especially if you like to camp. There are a few camping grounds which don’t see many people. But even without camping, going to Lake Isabella is a nice short trip great for couples and families.
You know about Sequoia National Park, don’t you? Before you get there, give this lake a look-see. It will surely surprise you.
Lake Isabella is one of the largest reservoirs in California and much of the wilderness surrounding it is part of Sequoia National Forest. So, besides all possible water sports and recreation activities, you have access to camping, picnicking, multiple hiking trails, and even hunting. The views are stunning and the weather is always pleasant.
We’ve been to this Lake twice and haven’t explored everything we wanted. There was just so much to do in that area!
Things to do here: Go sunbathing, swimming, fishing, canoeing, and whitewater rafting. Camp or walk near the Auxiliary Dam, Old Isabella Road, or South Fork Recreation Area. Hike and hike some more. And! Visit an old Silver City Ghost Town from the early days along with Miracle Hot Springs in Bodfish.
How far from LA: 160 miles away from the city center. It may take up to 3 hours of driving, so you probably want to stay overnight to get the best out of your trip. We did it once as a day trip when left the house at 7 am and got back around 10 in the evening. It was intense but we enjoyed it.
Where to stay: Our favorite hotel is The Kern Lodge. It has very stylish and clean rooms, comfortable beds, pool on the property, and excellent location. In our opinion, this is the best hotel when it comes to the price-quality ratio. There is also amazingly lovely B&B Kern River Inn. It wasn’t available when we were making bookings but it looked gorgeous and reviews were superb.
If you are looking for something cheaper, we recommend Lakeview Motel (this is where we stayed once and were happy with this property,) but honestly, there are plenty of other options to choose from. Take a look and decide what suits your budget and preferences better.
Check prices and availability for:
6. Weekend Trip From Los Angeles to Rancho Palos Verdes
If you are looking for a really short getaway from Los Angeles, I can highly recommend a mini road trip to Rancho Palos Verdes which reminded me so much about the Northern coast of Spain.
Not sure how many times we went there during our time in LA but it was never enough.
Palos Verdes Peninsula in the Southern part of LA is all about dramatic views, lighthouses, gorgeous chapels, and white houses with red roofs that are scattered on green hills along the coast. Once you find yourself on Palos Verdes Drive, it becomes difficult to concentrate on the road. The surrounding beauty keeps distracting more and more.
Things to do here: Before you start a scenic drive through Palos Verdes Peninsula, stop for a cup of coffee, sandwich or pastry at a super cute cafe Yellow Vase. From there go to Malaga Hills (which is less than 10 minutes walk) for a quick hike. Views you get from a hiking trail in Malaga Hills are breathtaking and there are always fewer people.
Visit Point Vicente Lighthouse, Pelican Cove Park, Wayfarers Chapel and enjoy the view from nearby Portuguese and Inspiration Points.
If you stop at Rocky Point, you can see the small beach town of Redondo Beach. If you walk a bit more down, there is a SS Dominator Shipwreck.
At the end of this scenic drive, definitely pay a visit to Korean Friendship Bell, Fermin Park, and if there is still time left, to Cabrillo Beach.
How far from LA: Depends on where the starting point is. But it should take less than one hour to get to Yellow Vase cafe from downtown LA.
Did you go on any weekend trips from Los Angeles? Maybe some destinations that are closer to the city like Solvang, Ventura, or Santa Clarita? If yes, share a few words about your experience. Would you also add any other getaways to this list?
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