Thinking about a weekend getaway in Southern California? You’ve got lots of options in this area, from beautiful beaches to soaring mountains and lakes, offering a combination of stunning scenery and exciting family-friendly attractions. This list of fun escapes is sure to inspire you to get packing.
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Joshua Tree National Park (Hotel Prices & Photos)
If you want to experience a world that’s about as opposite of L.A. as it gets, head to Joshua Tree National Park. This gorgeous park is dotted with bizarrely-shaped trees and unique plants indigenous to the region, like its namesake Joshua tree, as well as ginormous boulders that rise hundreds of feet into the sky. The landscape truly looks as it’s the setting for a scene from a sci-fi flick. It’s a hotspot for hiking and climbing, as well as being a photographer’s dream. hiker’s, and a climber’s dream.
Santa Catalina Island (Nearby Hotels)
One of the Channel Islands southwest of Los Angeles, Santa Catalina Island makes for a great weekend trip that offers a bit of everything, including the chance to enjoy snorkeling among a wealth of marine life. Other water activities include water activities jet skiing, paddle boarding, parasailing and fishing. There are also zip lining, helicopter and Jeep tours available along with an abundance of opportunities for shopping, dining and relaxing with spa treatment.
San Diego (Prices & Photos)
San Diego offers visitors plenty of things to do as well as sunny skies and idyllic temperatures for enjoying its many outdoor activities and attractions. It offers the ideal weekend getaway for all sorts of visitors, from beach lovers to craft beer enthusiasts. Enjoy hiking the cliffs at Torrey Pines State Reserve, stroll the sands of Coronado Beach and visiting renowned places like the San Diego Zoo. Balboa Park offers a spectacular setting that includes many museums, theaters and gardens.
Death Valley National Park (Nearby Hotels)
If you’re looking for a getaway in springtime, in particular, Death Valley National Park offers a whole lot more than one might think. This is when you get admire an incredible display of colorful wildflowers. During a very good year, the desert will be filled with a sea of gold, purple, white or pink flowers. There are lots of opportunities for hikes and scenic drives, like the 18-mile drive south from Furnace Creek to Badwater. It features highlights lots of spectacular views and impressive salt formations. Artist’s Drive leads to the colorful rock formation called Artist’s Palette, a landscape naturally painted with pastel hues. You can also explore the mystery of the “sailing stones,” – 700-pound stones that move across the sandy surface of the playa on their own, sometimes as far as 650 feet or even more.
Disneyland (Nearby Hotels)
Disneyland is the quintessential SoCal getaway where Disney movies and characters come to life. It’s a fun place of kids and adults with two separate theme parks, Disneyland and California Adventure which has a great shopping and entertainment district. Both offer and a wide range of rides and shows, while the little ones can meet some of their favorite characters in person, from Mickey and Minnie to Cinderella and Ariel.
Big Bear Lake (Nearby Hotels)
Big Bear Lake offers the quintessential lake vacation in Southern California. In addition to vivid blue waters and surrounding green pines, visitors can take part in practically an endless array of activities. Along with the usual water sports like boating, fishing, kayaking, canoeing and jet-skiing, mountain biking is available at Snow Summit, as well as zip-line rides, horseback riding, hiking, an alpine water slide, scenic helicopter tours, off-roading, parasailing and more. If you just want to relax, enjoy the fresh mountain air and scenic wonders while sipping a cold brew or some fine wine, there are plenty of options for that too.
Santa Monica (Nearby Hotels)
Santa Monica is not only a quintessential Southern California beach town mentioned or seen in countless songs and films but it offers plenty of things to do. Enjoy the Santa Monica Pier and its famous Ferris wheel, riding the roller coaster and more, playing arcade games and indulging in chocolate-dipped frozen bananas. When you want to get active, walk, cycle or skate the Santa Monica bike path to the mile-long Venice Boardwalk where you’ll find all sorts of interesting people watching and performers like mimes and contortionists, break dancers, and a guy who walks on broken glass.
Malibu (Prices & Photos)
This famous beach town is not only home to more than a few celebrities but it also offers gorgeous beaches, great hiking opportunities, outstanding eateries and plenty of shopping venues. If you’d like to catch a glimpse of a Hollywood star pretending they don’t want to be seen, head to Malibu Country Mart and enjoy browsing. Malibu Lagoon State Beach, formerly known as Surfrider Beach, is a good place to go for a swim in the summer and enjoy some great people watching. By renting a kayak at Malibu Surf Shack, you can take in the view from the water while watching for dolphins
Hollywood (Hotel Prices & Photos)
This L.A. suburb has long been associated with the film and television industry, celebrities as well as plenty of glitz and glamour. Stroll the Hollywood Walk of Fame where you’ll find some 2,400 figures from throughout the entertainment world immortalized here, and try to put your own hands into the famous handprints at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. It’s also a popular locale for big movie premieres. During major Hollywood screenings, the public is free to stand outside the theatre along the red carpet and watch the arrival of the stars. Most of the celebrities will stop and say a few words to the crowd before going in to see the film. You’ll find lots of luxurious places to stay in West Hollywood, along with a number of more budget-friendly properties.
Palm Springs (Prices & Photos)
This desert resort town is famous for its 350 days of sunshine every year, as well as its many golf courses, resorts and hotels that feature enticing pools for lounging around, although you’ll find lots of activity options as well. Check out the Living Desert, a 1,200-acre wildlife and botanical park, or take the aerial tramway which whisks visitors up to the 8,515-foot summit of Mount San Jacinto. At the top, you’ll have access to over 50 miles of hiking trails, as well as the chance to dine at the Peaks Restaurant while taking in awe-inspiring, panoramic views.