I have said it before, but I’ll say it again–LA is HUGE! If you are looking to visit LA, it’s best to plan some mini trips from LA so you can really maximize your time in Southern California without having to travel far.
You would be surprised at all the fun things you can find just a two-hour drive outside the city. Here is a list of some of our favorite mini trips from LA!
- Palm Springs: Palm Springs is just two hours east of LA and was once a playground for all the Hollywood stars. It still has a very “old Hollywood” vibe in the desert. Over the years, the area east of Palm Springs has grown a lot, and there are other cities close by, but we suggest staying in Palm Springs, especially if it’s your first time. If you find a place close to Palm Canyon Drive, you will be able to walk to great shops and restaurants and take in some some awesome desert mountain views.
- Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara is home to some true California history. As a whole, California is really “new,” but in Santa Barbara you can visit the Santa Barbara Mission and get a glimpse into what California was like before it was part of the United States. It’s a quaint coastal town full of boutique hotels, ocean views, and great dining. You can even get there by train–the Amtrak Surfliner! From the station in Downtown LA, it’s a little over two hours’ journey. Forget the traffic and let the train take you!
- Big Bear: Big Bear Lake is a very “un-LA” trip, but it’s a great way to get a feel for all that Southern California has to offer! Big Bear is a cute mountain village about two hours northeast of Los Angeles. If you are here in the wintertime, you might get to see some snow, but in the summer it’s a great spot for hikes or getting out on the lake. While it’s not my number-one mountain destination in California, when it comes to places within close proximity to LA, you can’t beat it. If you have more time, Mammoth Lakes is incredible, but it’s a five hour drive instead of two. So if you have limited time, it’s very doable to visit Big Bear for a night or two!
- San Diego: Like Santa Barbara, San Diego has a historic mission and beautiful coastal views, but it has a completely different vibe! San Diego is a much larger city with plenty to do. It has a great nightlife district called the Gaslamp District, plus Mission Bay (home of Sea World) and Coronado Island–all unique areas worth checking out! Plan ahead for San Diego, as it’s larger with much more to see than any of the other places on this list.
- Temecula: If you want a little “wine time” while you are in California but don’t have time to make it to Napa, Temecula might be the next best thing! One of my favorite places to stay in Temecula is the South Coast Winery. You can arrange a winery tour and go wine tasting at other vineyards, too. A great one to check out is Wilson Creek–they sometimes have live music or summer concerts! With all the rolling vineyards and hillsides, you will truly forget you are only about two hours southeast of LA.
If any or all of these mini trips from LA pique your interest, I highly suggest fitting them into your trip! While LA is great, it can be overwhelming and a bit of a concrete jungle. Taking smaller trips during your stay is a great way to get a better sense of the area as a whole!
If you have any other great mini trips from LA to share, please comment below! We would love to know about your favorite getaways!
Looking for some great day trips you can do in LA?? Check this out!