15 Idyllic Day Trips From Los Angeles

By Deepak Kannan on Feb 02, 2017
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Los Angeles is exciting. The star-studded city with its cinematic landscape is a dream destination for many and it rightly deserves the appreciation. While there are plenty of interesting things to do & see in Los Angeles, there is a lot of possibilities for you to get lost in the act. So what you gotta do is, you have to mix it up. Go on frequent day trips from Los Angeles to the gems which are just a short drive away. To give you the best of experience of Los Angeles and its fabulous surrounding, here is a list of 15 idyllic day trips from Los Angeles.

1. Palm Springs

Image Credits: Andrew Seles/flickr.com
What a contradiction between the name and the picture, you see! Palm Springs is a desert resort city in the Riverside county as opposed to the name. While the city might not boast of a pleasant Spring season, it is famous for its mid-century Modern architecture and the glamorous resorts that give the city its characteristic. 
Wear that cool sunglass of yours, shed some layers, apply some sunscreen, and you're good to go. Blessed with a plenty of natural hot springs, Palm Springs is a popular spot to go hiking, horseback riding, swimming, and biking
How to reach:
  • Drive on I-10 E, takes around 1 hour 40 minutes.
  • Train from L.A. Union Station till Fullerton. From Fullerton, Amtrak bus to Palm Springs. Time taken is around 3 hours 30 minutes. 

2. Big Bear Lake

Image Credits: Bryan Ungard/flickr.com
Big Bear Lake is like a chameleon that changes its setting as the season changes, while in the summer Big Bear Lake shines with its tranquil lake, at the time of the winter the place transforms itself into a ski resort destination. Go on a day trip from Los Angeles and experience the rustic Big Bear city, complete with restaurants & boutiques.
Big Bear Lake is an all year round attraction, offering the visitors with activities like kayaking, hiking, camping, and fishing during the summers & skiing and snowboarding options during the winters, making up for a good picnic spot near L.A.
How to reach:
  • Drive either via I-10 E or CA-210, takes around 1 hour 50 minutes. 
  • Train from L.A. Union Station till Metrolink Station. From there, get on a bus to Fawnskin. Hire a car from Fawnskin to Big Bear. Takes around 3 hours 40 minutes.
  • Greyhound Bus from LA to San Bernardino and San Bernardino to Sandalwood Dr. Hire a taxi from there to Big Bear. Time taken is around 3 hours 20 minutes. 

3. Laguna Beach

Image Credits: Don Graham/flickr.com
Having trouble in identifying color blue from deep blue, take a day trip to Laguna Beach. Expansive in nature with a defining azure, Laguna Beach is a seaside resort city in the Orange County graced with rolling hills on all its sides, giving fruit to a place that you will fall in love with, at your first sight. 
Picturesque in nature, Laguna Beach offers unparalleled views of scenic vistas and the mild climate of the place, makes it an ideal tourist spot. Populated with a plenty of art galleries, Laguna Beach is best visited during the summer as a dozen of art festivals is celebrated during the time. 
How to reach:
  • Drive either via I-5 S or I-405 S, from L.A. to Laguna Beach. Time taken is around 50 minutes. 
  • Get on a shuttle from L.A Airport to Laguna Beach. Takes around 55 minutes.
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4. Santa Catalina Island

Floating on top of the Gulf of Santa Catalina off the coast of California, Santa Catalina Island is for those who want to ride on a yacht like Di Caprio in the Wolf of the Wall street with all the wealth and well, babes! Go drifting from the shores and establish an everlasting bond with the bay. 
Thriving with a plenty of water sports activities, and charming streets to walk around & shop from, Santa Catalina, is one of the best day trips from Los Angeles. Head to the interiors of the island for an encounter with wild buffalos and bald eagles.
How to reach:
  • Go on a ferry from Long Beach to Santa Catalina Island. The time taken is around 1 hour.

5. Ojai

Image Credits: Chuck Abbe/flickr.com
Ojai is for those who feel bombarded with the constant image of the city and the never ending sight of the concrete jungle. Carpeted in lush green fields with the backdrop of the fruit grove rich hills, Ojai is refreshing and is a great break from the buzz of the city of Los Angeles. Soak in the beauty of the Spanish architecture in place and gaze at the soaring mountains. 
To partake in the latest fitness fad that is going on, take a visit to the farmer's market on Sundays for a hefty purchase of organic vegetables and put the energy to use by hiking along the wineries. 
How to reach:
  • Drive on US-101 N, take around 1 hour 20 minutes. 
  • Train from Los Angeles Union Station to Ventura. Get on a bus from Thompson & Figueroa to Ojai Park & Ride. The time taken is around 3 hours 20 minutes.

Check out: Places To Hike Around Los Angeles

6. Joshua Tree National Park

Ever wondered how an alien captured landscape would look like, explore the sprawling lands of the Joshua Tree National Park. Declared as a U.S. National Monument, Joshua Tree National Park is dotted with mystically ancient Joshua trees, cacti, gigantic boulders, and a rocky terrain. Some of the activities on offer at the Joshua National Park include hiking, camping, climbing, bouldering, and birding. 
The wilderness of the Joshua Tree National Park comprises of few nocturnal animals like coyotes, snakes, jackrabbits, kangaroo rats, and big horn sheep that you shouldn't be disturbing and keep an eye on!
How to reach:
  • Drive either via I-10 E or CA-60 E, time taken is around 2 hours 10 minutes.
  • Train from Los Angeles Union Station to Palm Springs. From there, hire a car to Joshua Tree. Time taken is 3 hours. 

7. Idyllwild

Image Credits: shirley binn/flickr.com
Nestled in the San Jacinto Mountains with a flurry of pine, & cedar trees adorning the terrain, Idyllwild is a small town with no noise and traffic jams. Experience a quiet time in the woods by booking in a framed cabin that will put you in touch with nature while offering you a serene experience in the midst of the wilderness.
Not known to many, Idyllwild is a hidden gem of a place near Los Angeles and comprises of plenty of hiking trails. Voted as L.A.'s best mountain getaway, Idyllwild is one of the best day trips from Los Angeles. 
How to reach:
  • Drive either via I-10 E or CA-60 E, time taken is around 1 hour 55 minutes.
  • Train from Los Angeles Union Station to Palm Springs. From there, hire a car to Idyllwild. Time taken is 3 hours 25 minutes. 
  • Ride on an Amtrak bus from Los Angeles Union Station to Fullerton and Fullerton to Cabazon. From there hire a car to Idyllwild. Time taken is around 3 hours 40 minutes.

Check out: Swimming Holes In Los Angeles to Cool You Down

8. Santa Barbara

Image Credits: Damian Gadal/flickr.com
Would you like to see the breathtaking sight of the sun kissing the bay and filling it with its crimson-orange hue? Then take a day trip from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara. Beckoning the travelers with its impeccable scenery and an enthralling shoreline, Santa Barbara is a great vacation spot for a viewing a perfect sunset
Laden with Spanish-style buildings and wine-tasting rooms, the popular tourist and resort destination of Santa Barbara offers a special something for both romantic couples and families looking for adventure. 
How to reach:
  • Drive on US-101 N, takes around 1 hour 30 minutes.
  • Direct train from Los Angeles Union Station to Santa Barbara. Time taken is around 2 hours 20 minutes. 
  • Amtrak and Greyhound buses from L.A. to Santa Barbara. It will take around 2 hours 35 minutes. 

9. Carlsbad

Carpeted in a colorful field of blooming flower bed is the opulent seaside resort city of Carlsbad. Locally referred to as 'The Village by the Sea', the beauty of the Bohemian town of Carlsbad extends to beyond beaches and flower fields in the fact that it is home to the most famous LEGOLAND. 
For a fun-filled Family adventure, drive down to Carlsbad and explore the kid's favorite LEGOLAND to its fullest while also basking in the tranquil beach setting of Carlsbad and the pretty flower field. What a colorfully perfect holiday!
How to reach:
  • Drive on I-5 S, takes about 1 hour 20 minutes.
  • Ride on a shuttle from L.A. airport to Carlsbad. Take about 1 hour 30 minutes.

Check out: The Best Beaches In Southern California

10. Santa Cruz Island

Image Credits: Craig Stanfill/flickr.com 
Resembling a miniature California, Santa Cruz Island is a blend of modernity and the best of nature. Decorated with a rich flora, fauna, and geology, Santa Cruz looks stunning with year-round springs and streams shaping up the island terrain. Stand at the edge of the bay for a refreshing cold breeze to hit you with its salty freshness.
Visit the Channel Islands National Park on the Santa Cruz Island for a wonderful experience and make sure to indulge in activities that include kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving
How to reach:
  • Get on a ferry from Ventura to Santa Cruz Island. Time taken is around 1 hour.

11. San Juan Capistrano


Image Credits: gilliangauss/flickr.com
With a striking Spanish architecture in Place, San Juan Capistrano is a quaint little town in the Orange County of California. At the epicenter of the city of San Juan Capistrano is the arguably historic Mission San Juan Capistrano in all its ruins with a piece of history and an irrevocable charm. 
Lined with plenty of historic homes, museums, and a captivating architecture, San Juan Capistrano is an offbeat destination from Los Angeles, ideal for the history buffs and the romantics. Now that is an interesting combination!
How to reach:
  • Drive on I-5 S, takes about 50 minutes.
  • Direct train from Los Angeles Union Station to San Juan Capistrano. Time taken is around 1 hour 25 minutes.

12. Temecula

Image Credits: <i'm gonna="" snap!="" flickr.com<="" div="">Nancy/flickr.com
I guess, right from the photo you would have guessed the nature of this place but there is also one more thing that makes the city of Temecula a tourist magnet. It is the vineyards that cover the landscape of Temecula and the exotic taste of the locally-made wine. If you can't make it to the big wine destinations but want to have a similar experience, then Temecula is for you.
Trace your way through the vineyards in place, taking in the seducing aroma of the grapes. While the warmth of the wine will lift your souls, the hot-air balloon ride will lift you wholly offering you an amazing view of the entire Temecula. Is there any better experience? Just fly away!
How to reach:
  • Drive via I-10 E and I-5 S, time taken is around 1 hour 20 minutes.
  • Train from L. A. Union Station station to Corona Transit Center. From there, get on a bus. The time taken is around 3 hours 20 minutes. 
  • Greyhound Bus from Los Angeles to San Bernardino and  San Bernardino to Temecula. Takes around 3 hours 30 minutes.

13. Solvang

Image Credits: Prayitno/flickr.com
Styled in Danish, Solvang is a city in the Santa Barbara County lined with wooden windmills, bakeries, and rural houses. Go on a leisurely stroll across the medieval-like streets of Solvang with your loved one by your side for an enchanting experience that will take you right into the setting of your favorite romantic movie.
The uniquely charming bakeries with a rustic finish and the breweries are a must visit in the city and if you are here during the time of Christmas then the whole place would be extra special with lights and stars offering a transcending experience. 
How to reach:
  • Drive on US-101 N, takes around 2 hours to reach Solvang. 
  • Train from Los Angeles Union Station to Santa Barbara. Amtrak Bus from Santa Barbara to Solvang. Time taken is around 4 hours. 

14. Disneyland

Ah, just reading the name brings such emotions. Recognized worldwide and liked by all, the bond that Disneyland has with Cartoon lovers is something to cherish for life and beyond! With its exciting rides and an array of things to do, Disneyland tops the list of family day trips from Los Angeles. 
Set on top of a massive land area, Disneyland is incredibly fun for kids and adults alike, taking them back to their nostalgic childhood days filled with colorful memories. Disneyland is a must visit place in Los Angeles and we highly recommend it.
How to reach:
  • Drive on I-5 S, takes around 30 minutes.

15. Malibu

Image Credits: Graham/flickr.com
Malibu is a quintessential beach city in Los Angeles with 27 miles of scenic beauty. If you are hoping to meet movie stars all through your life but hadn't then you should definitely take a trip to Malibu as it is home to a wide range of stars, given the magical beauty of the place.
Know to host a plenty of incredible festivals including the antique car show and the Malibu film festival, the ultimate beach destination of Malibu is also the surfer's paradise with its breaks. When you are visiting Malibu do bring your cameras, you are in a for a treat. 
How to reach:
  • Drive via I-10 W and CA-1 N, the time taken is around 40 minutes. 
  • Train from Metro Center to Broadway. Get on a bus from Broadway to Malibu. Takes around 1 hour 45 minutes.
Impressed by the list, go explore now!
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