Next up in our day trip series: Los Angeles.
The City of Angels is full of cultural and entertainment touchstones, a tourist pull for travelers the world over. But even the most vibrant city can feel dull without an easy escape — and when simply crossing town can take hours, a long road trip feels pretty daunting.
Luckily, there are plenty of chances for escape not far outside the city lights. From the quaint to the quiet, the ocean to the desert, you’ll find many worlds are just a stone’s throw away. Weekend the smart way with these 5 day trips.
1. You’re craving: Old World charm
Try: Santa Barbara
NorCal may dominate the California wine scene in the public imagination, but rolling vineyards and the finer things in life are also in LA’s backyard.
Nicknamed the Riviera of the West Coast, Santa Barbara County hosts a number of excellent wineries riffing on Old World classics. The cool coastal climate is perfect for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Further inland, you’ll find varietals like Syrah and Viognier, staples of France’s Rhone region. It’s the perfect pairing for a picnic and a stunning vista.
If Scandinavia is more your style, be sure to stop by the charming town of Solvang, a self-styled Danish village. By day, you can visit the Mermaid Fountain (a tribute to one of Denmark’s famous sons, Hans Christian Andersen), wander through shops and museums, and eat traditional Danish pastries. By night, try the tasting rooms around town. And remember to wave at the famous windmill!
2. You’re craving: Beauty, books, and botanicals
Try: The Huntington Library
If you’ve ever dreamed of patrician life in a palatial estate, perusing rare books, and strolling through lavish gardens, the Huntington Library is the perfect way to spend an afternoon.
Bibliophiles will drool over the antiquarian book collection. If you want to see some gorgeous rare books, including a Gutenberg Bible and a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio, they’re under glass and yours for the ogling in the permanent exhibitions. Art lovers will also enjoy the estate’s art collection, rotating exhibitions, and lavish decor.
Should your tastes tend more toward botany than bibliography, you’re also in for a treat. Take a stroll around the desert garden, the Japanese and Chinese gardens, the rose garden, and (naturally) the Shakespeare garden, all tended year-round and dotted with sculptures to keep things interesting.
If you don’t know where to start, let fate decide. Stop by the Orientation Gallery on your way in and try out a “quirky tour” to suit your current mood.
3. You’re craving: Old-fashioned farm living
Try: Oak Glen
Apple picking is a fall favorite on the East Coast, but here in California, the fun begins in late summer and stretches through autumn. To join the fun, wend your way to Oak Glen in the San Bernadino mountains: a town where harvest meets history. Depending on when you make your trip, you might pick your own apples on Riley’s Los Rios Rancho, pick raspberries at Snow-Line, or drink fresh cider from Law’s Apple Shed. These family farms take pride in growing heirloom varieties of apples, and some farms have been in operation for over a hundred years.
No fan of apples? No problem: Oak Glen has plenty of other adventures at hand. Meet some animals or try your hand at trout fishing. You can even see history come to life at Riley’s Colonial Farm (which also offers glamping in 18th century garb, if you’re up for a longer stay).
Summer and fall are a cornucopia in this transplanted slice of New England. Make sure to book in advance to see what’s ripe for the picking!
4. You’re craving: Smooth sailing
Try: Ventura Harbor
The California coastline is packed with beauty and adventure. To sample the full range of its offerings, try Ventura Harbor, an hour or so north of the city. Start out on the sands: from watching the sailboats to playing a game of volleyball, you can indulge in all of the beach classics. From there, you can graduate to more immersive waterfront activities by hitting the open waters. The harbor is the gateway to the beautiful Channel Islands, where you can venture out for a dive among colorful reefs and darting fish. If you’re not certified or don’t fancy wetsuits, other options for would-be seafarers include yachting and sailing lessons, humpback and blue whale watching (through September), and fishing excursions.
Or you can let the pros do the fishing for you: just swing by the Saturday Fisherman’s Market. Peruse the local catch and take something home to your own kitchen for a lingering taste of the sea.
5. You’re craving: Natural splendor
Try: Joshua Tree National Park
You won’t find geysers or moose in this national park, but what you will find is desert flora, striking landscapes, and wide open skies.
The park joins the borders of the Mojave and Colorado deserts, creating a unique topography springing with otherworldly plant life. Even the uninitiated can enjoy climbing the red boulders dotting the landscape. Birders and wildlife observers can keep an eye out for roadrunners, great horned owls, and jackrabbits. Lucky visitors may even see the handsome and elusive desert tortoise.
If you can make it past dark, you might spot one more natural wonder: the Milky Way. As part of the Night Sky Conservancy, Joshua Tree National Park is dedicated to preserving a place where city-dwellers can come to contemplate the cosmos free of urban light pollution. Besides its secluded location, the park also has the desert climate to thank for its killer views: the dry air makes for crystal-clear stargazing.
No matter which corner of the state you decide to escape to, know we’ve got you covered.
And if you missed our post yesterday, check out some recommendations for day trips around San Francisco!