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Catalina Island
Photograph: Michael Juliano Catalina Island

The best weekend getaways from L.A.

Everyone needs an escape from the city sometimes. Hop into the car (or grab the ferry) for these gorgeous weekend getaways from Los Angeles.

By Kate Wertheimer, Michael Juliano and Time Out editors
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You don't have to get on a plane to feel like you're in another country. Southern California is dotted with gorgeous, quaint destinations perfect for a weekend getaway from L.A. These easy, affordable road trips are all within a three-hour scenic drive (or ferry ride) of the city. Once you arrive at your destination, partake in things that Californians do best: beach-lounging, wine-drinking, hiking and dining. Oh and there's some pretty good shopping and thrifting in the mix too. So if you're staying closer to home this summer, let these weekend getaways from L.A. be your roadmap to a magical world within SoCal. 

NOTE: We've indicated in the text which of our favorite restaurants, bars and museums are temporarily closed right now, but it's always best to call ahead since venues may be operating a limited capacity. 

RECOMMENDED: The best day trips from L.A. 

Best weekend getaways from L.A.

Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park
Photograph: Michael Juliano

1. Joshua Tree

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Joshua Tree should be on everyone's bucket list. Only three hours from L.A., the magical national park offers a varied landscape full of its gnarles namesake trees and giant boulders to admire as you bike, hike, or take a leisurely stroll. The stargazing is choice here—so long as there’s no full moon—and wild coyotes may even howl you to sleep if you plan an overnight camping trip. If you visit in spring, head south to Pinto Basin to see colorful wildflowers in bloom. Other notable attractions include Pappy & Harriet’s for lunch in a ghost town; the Integratron for a new-age sound bath; and the town of Joshua Tree itself, which offers unique hotels, a few tasty restaurants, some good thrifting and quirky public art. 

NOTES: July shows at Pappy & Harriet's have been canceled or postponed. Integratron will resume public sound baths on July 22; reservations are required. 

Discover the best things to do in Joshua Tree

Ojai
Ojai
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. Ojai

Things to do

The cozy, pastoral town of Ojai is a close and beautiful bet for an easy L.A. getaway. Just an hour and a half north of the city, Ojai is a unique mix of old-school hippie healers and artists along with the new-school folks that are working to make that scene hip again. Ojai’s microclimate means seemingly everything grows here, from olives and grapes to an abundance of citrus, so meals are super fresh and always reflect the season. The wine, too, is locally made and—as a bonus—brought right to you, with tasting rooms dotting the downtown strip and saving you the (sober) drive out to a vineyard. If you’re more outdoor-inclined, Ojai makes a great stop before or after a trip to Los Padres National Forest, just north of town.

Discover the best things to do in Ojai

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Santa Barbara County Courthouse
Santa Barbara County Courthouse
Photograph: Michael Juliano

3. Santa Barbara

Things to do

The wealthy resort town of Santa Barbara is almost too perfect to be true for a weekend jaunt—and boy, does it know it. You don’t come here for urban thrills, but for history, top-end eating, an old-world aesthetic and—of course—the beaches. Sheltered between towering green mountains and deep blue ocean, this has long been a desirable place, with the historic hotels to prove it. The main drag is State Street, a Spanish Colonial strip of boutiques, decent restaurants and upscale bars (the dives exist too, but are semi-hidden). Near the top of the downtown core is the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, a worthwhile display of ancient creativity and modern-day pretenders. In the other direction, State Street passes through the wine tasting rooms in the Funk Zone and ends at Pacific-side Stearns Wharf, where fishing boats unload their daily hauls.

NOTE: The museum is currently closed, as are all bars. 

Discover the best things to do in Santa Barbara 

Catalina Island
Catalina Island
Photograph: Michael Juliano

4. Catalina Island

Things to do

Santa Catalina Island is a close and beautiful bet for short trips. The little strip of land—accessable by ferries from Long Beach, San Pedro and Dana Point—has all the makings of a well-rounded vacation: Rich history, beach town relaxation and outdoorsy adventure. On one side of the island, Avalon is a walkable, something-for-everyone kind of village where people flit around town in golf carts, shop in beach boutiques and stroll along the boardwalk with ice cream. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, and a fair amount of touristy but worthwhile mainstays (a zip line, a ritzy beach club, Jeep and heli tours—you get the idea). If an outdoorsy, off-the-grid trip is more your style, there are plenty of mountains and beaches to explore while hiking or biking, and lots of wildlife to see. Eighty-eight percent of the island, including 48 miles of coastline, is protected land and there’s a good chance you’ll see bison, bald eagles, foxes, dolphins and whales here. For a less touristy destination—almost the opposite of Avalon, and great for campers and backpackers—check out Two Harbors (the ferries stop there, too). It’s a one-horse (or restaurant, or general store, or hotel) kind of town where kayaks and camping sites probably outnumber the permanent residents.

Discover the best things to do in Catalina 

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Palm Springs
Palm Springs
Photograph: Shutterstock/Andrew F. Kazmierski

5. Palm Springs

Things to do

For Angelenos, Palm Springs is a nice weekend getaway for any occasion. Planning a bachelor or bachelorette party? Palm Springs has plenty of options, particularly heavy on the pool parties. Looking for a romantic getaway with your significant other? Book a room at one of the city’s many romantic hotels. Looking for a road trip destination? Even if you’re not staying the night, you could cruise the area’s midcentury houses and desert landscape. Expect thin crowds in the summer, but temperatures that regularly climb into the triple digits—perfectly bearable if you’re taking a dip in a pool with a cocktail in hand.

NOTE: Hotel pools may be closed 

Discover the best things to do in Palm Springs 

More weekend getaway ideas

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Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Chao Yen

The best road trips from L.A.

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Of all the wonderful reasons we’re in love with L.A. and all the amazing things there are to do here, one of the best is the freedom to escape at any moment.

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