Alyssa has been writing about exciting travel topics for Trips to Discover since 2013. After living the big city life in Chicago, Washington, DC, and Atlanta, Alyssa sold the bulk of her possessions and became a digital nomad, living full-time in her camper and working from wherever she could find an outlet and an internet connection for her laptop.
Read full bio
California is an ideal place to be if you often find yourself living for the weekends. This is a massive state that’s so diverse in terms of landscapes and what you can see and do. But it’s also a great state for road trips because you can experience different sides of California in just a two- or three-day trip. Whether you’re looking for a beach, local wine, or to get off the beaten path, here are the best weekend getaways to experience in California.
Located off the shores of Los Angeles, Catalina Island is a wonderful place to get away to relax for the weekend. You can lounge in a cabana here or get active by hiking the Trans-Catalina Trail. There are also lots of fun shops to explore on Crescent Avenue, and you can find accommodations here that range from budget-friendly to high-end hotels.
Solvang is a top California town with a unique theme that’s quaint and inviting. This is a pretty and festive European-style village with windmills, local bakeries serving Danish pastries, and lots of fun shops to explore for gifts. It’s also exciting that Solvang is a premier wine destination in the Sana Ynez Valley, so there are plenty of tasting and tour options in town and at the nearby vineyards. If you stop by in October, you can even join the Solvang Stomp to stomp on grapes and enjoy food, wine, and music. Come spend the weekend here with your family or partner to transform yourselves into a whole new era and atmosphere.
There’s no bad time of year to visit Santa Barbara, a mid-sized California city with amazing weather, a busy arts and culture scene, and a laid-back vibe. This is the ultimate weekend getaway to relax and indulge in delicious food, wines, and café offerings Browse the art galleries and shops, rent a bike to explore the city streets, and head to the pier to enjoy the views. The only problem with visiting Santa Barbara for a weekend is that it’s so hard to leave and go back to your daily grind on Sunday night!
Napa Valley is always a popular spot for a weekend getaway, and its enduring charm is still as wonderful as it ever was. Come here to embrace your foodie side and check out new vineyards or old favorites that you’ve been to in the past. Napa is also a great place for biking, whether it’s on the paved paths that run through town or on the vineyard roads that have wide shoulders, rolling hills, and serene views. Don’t miss out on visiting Oxbow Public Market in town to sample various cuisines and shops, and there are some newer breweries in town that are worth visiting if you need some variety after all that wine.
If you want to get in touch with nature for your weekend getaway, plan a trip to Point Reyes National Seashore. Here you’ll find more than 1,500 species of animals and plants that call the region home and impressive views of the ocean crashing against the rocky headlands. There are elephant seals to watch, salmon spawning season with the winter rains, and about 150 miles of trails that can be used for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. For your weekend stay, you can lodge with Hostelling International, which has dorm-style accommodations and four private rooms, or camp in the backcountry.
Palm Springs is always an ideal weekend getaway if you’re looking to escape the winter cold and enjoy some fun in the sun. It gets hot and steamy here in the summer but is perfectly situated in the desert climate for winter getaways. Palm Springs is best known for its shopping and spas, but it’s also fun to check out the Living Desert Zoo, the Palm Springs Art Museum, and the Moorten Desert Botanical Garden to get to know this area a bit better.
The small town of Mendocino often steals all of the attention in this region, but Fort Bragg is definitely worth a weekend stay as you get to know the state of California a bit better. This northern California town is known for its Glass Beach, where smoothed rounds of glass wash up on shore, and its sea kayaking adventures. It’s fun to bring your bike here for the weekend and pedal around town and also stop by the famous North Coast Brewing Company. Not only does the brewery serve lots of different beers and delicious food, but it also hosts live (and sometimes free) performances on the stage in the back room.
Another great California weekend getaway if you love wine is Healdsburg. This is a wonderful small town to visit for a couple of days to enjoy the finer things in life, such as delicious food and locally produced wines. You may beat some of the crowds of other wine destinations here, see the river, and enjoy walking around the main square to stop in the tasting rooms. The wine region here is more compact and manageable than the more expansive Napa region, and it’s a great place to take a bicycle ride too.
A lesser-known California destination in northern California to check out is Arcata. This is a favorite spot among “hippie travelers” who enjoy a quieter pace of life and plenty of bike lanes to get around town. But the best thing about visiting Arcata for the weekend is its close proximity to the Redwood National and State Parks. Here you can walk among the towering, giant trees and feel so tiny among their impressive presence. The beaches nearby are very chill, and you can enjoy a peaceful hike that isn’t as crowded as many other weekend destinations in the state.
California has no shortage of beaches, but a fun and relaxed one to visit in the Central Coast area is Pismo Beach. Here you can go fishing off the pier, go for a stroll at sunset, and even head over to nearby Oceano to rent a dune buggy and drive across the amazing sand dunes.