If you’re in LA and want to mix things up a bit, here are five great destinations you can do in a day.
1. Saunter over to Santa Barbara: This hip town has been dubbed “the American Riviera” for the entire package it offers. The weather is almost always perfect, the beaches are pristine and the wineries with their vineyards are picturesque. The ambiance is that of a small, laid-back beach community, though it’s got every amenity you’d want. In town, State Street is a great place to get started. Shop the trendy boutiques and enjoy the Spanish architecture complete with stucco walls and tile roofs over arched windows and doorways. The selection of restaurants and the local specialties served within are mouth-watering. Outside of town, the Los Padres National Forest offers hiking, wildlife and bird viewing and aromatherapy brought to you by the woods and wildflowers. Just north of Santa Barbara is the local wine country with tours and wine-tastings available year-round.
2. Catch the next ship to Catalina: The island is perfect for couples, though kids will love it too. The trip to and from the island is fun and refreshing. Once on shore, the town of Avalon is a nice starting point. It features a cobblestone street lined with cool shops and tasty places to get a snack or a delicious meal. It’s all uphill from there—literally. The island is basically the top of a mountain heaving up from the ocean floor. This offers vigorous hikes, spectacular views overlooking steep cliffs and great opportunities for the photographer or artist. The interior of Catalina Island is a wildlife preserve. It is home to numerous bird and mammal species including bald eagles, quail, squirrels, foxes and a herd of transplanted bison. A candlelit dinner back in town can be the perfect end to your day trip to Catalina.
3. Boat Big Bear Lake: Or fish, hike, bike, swim and more. When the heat and haze of LA get to be too much, getting away to Big Bear Lake is the perfect retreat. It’s less than two hours from the city but feels like it’s a world away. The recreational opportunities are just part of the allure. The area also offers cozy dining places with varied menus including many vegetarian delights, comfortable pubs, lots of shops filled with the goods of local artists and craftsmen and scenic drives that meander the mountain. At almost 7,000 ft. elevation, the weather is cooler and clearer on Big Bear Mountain than in Los Angeles. The Discovery Center on North Shore Drive is the place for maps and the $5 pass to park at area trail heads.
4. Slip away to San Diego: An early start puts you in San Diego for brunch at one of the fantastic seaside eateries. Afternoon on a stretch of sand – the area boasts 70 miles of pristine beach – will melt away the stress. Shopping in the Westfield Horton Plaza, an outdoor mall, offers 140 shops with wares of every type. Dinner, drinks or dancing in the Victorian-era Gas Lamp Quarter is an exciting way to complete the day. If time permits, Old Town, the San Diego Mission and the city’s many art galleries are sites to consider. Kids and adults will love the highly rated San Diego Zoo, LEGOLAND California or SeaWorld.
5. Occupy Oxnard: The Oxnard area boasts seven miles of pristine beach that feels very secluded compared to the beaches closer to LA. It was said to be John Wayne’s favorite beach. Away from the beach, local farms offer fresh strawberries, artichokes and other produce in season. The long growing season means something delicious is always ripening for your next salad or snack. The area is becoming known for its wineries, and free tours with tastings are available. In town, the central plaza exudes small-town charm. For dining, one of the authentic Mexican restaurants is a tasty choice.