When most people think of weekend getaways in Southern California, big cities like Los Angeles and San Diego tend to be the first places to come to mind. From the desert to the mountains, there is much more to see and do, whether you’re planning a solo trip, a weekend or romance or a fun vacation for the entire family.

  1. Idyllwild, a Gorgeous Mountain City

    Located about two hours southeast of Los Angeles, Idyllwild is a small, peaceful mountain town where you can truly spend a weekend away from the hustle and bustle of life. It sits in the heart of the beautiful San Jacinto Mountains, offers up fresh air and little traffic and the town itself is packed with charm and adventure.

    Laurens Hoddenbagh/Shutterstock

    Things to Do in Idyllwild

    Outdoor adventures are plentiful, including mountain biking, rock climbing and hikes for all ability and interest levels. Enjoy a meal at a quaint cafe, or check out the eclectic mix of shops and boutiques.


  2. Santa Barbara, a Cool Coastal Town

    Known as the “American Riviera,” Santa Barbara is about two hours northwest of Los Angeles, right along the Pacific Ocean. Whether you’re the laid-back surfer type, you love to shop until you drop, your ideal weekend getaway is all about Wine Country, or you’re a foodie at heart, you’ll find it all here in this beautiful city where Old World California architecture meets the blue waters of the sea.

    Yasko Creative/Shutterstock

    Things to Do in Santa Barbara

    In Santa Barbara, you’ll find plenty of fine dining along with vineyards and wineries for tastings. Surf, swim or sunbathe at the beach, spend a day at the spa, or take a boat out for whale watching.

    Kristin Baalman/Shutterstock

  3. Ojai, a Peaceful and Pastoral Place

    Ojai, which has been called a “nouveau hippie utopia,” sits between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, just south of the Los Padres National Forest. Here you’ll find everything from farmland and ranches to art galleries and yoga studios, but you can always count on a peaceful way of life and plenty of friendly locals to welcome you into town.


    Things to Do in Ojai

    There’s always an event to attend, like the Ojai Valley Lavender Festival or Art in the Park, as well as shops, farm-to-table restaurants and local art to peruse. For the adventurer, try hiking or horseback riding across the most scenic places in Ojai, or go fishing or kayaking at Lake Casitas.

    L.A. Nature Graphics/Shutterstock

  4. Santa Catalina Island, a Unique Gem in the Ocean

    Santa Catalina should be on everyone’s bucket list of things to do in Southern California. Located about 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles, you can get there by taking a ferry from Long Beach. Once you arrive, you’ll find a blend of beautiful scenery and towns that feel more like cities on the French Riviera than the California coast.


    Things to Do in Santa Catalina Island

    Choose from dozens of land and boat tours. Shop the boutiques, play golf, go camping and explore Santa Catalina on your own.

    Inga Locmele/Shutterstock

  5. Palm Springs, an Old-School Desert City

    Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or a family vacation, you’ll find it in the luxurious desert town of Palm Springs. About an hour and 45 minutes west of Los Angeles, warm weather throughout the year, a touch of old Hollywood and adventure await.


    Things to Do in Palm Springs

    Play a round of golf or tennis, visit an art gallery, or visit one of the world’s top spas. Soak up the culture, history and scenery with trips to places like The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, the Palm Springs Air Museum or Tahquitz Canyon.