Finding the perfect day trips from Los Angeles is not easy. On the one hand, Los Angeles has many tourist attractions by itself. Secondly, it all depends what you like to see in a day trip. However, I do believe that my list of day trips from Los Angeles will help you experience the California lifestyle from so many different angles. From the beach to the desert and unto the mountains, come along with me as we explore the best day trips from Los Angeles.
Even though Los Angeles is such a large area to visit, there are a few special places around Los Angeles that will definitely complete your California experience. Get some comfortable walking shoes and your car and let’s enjoy my favorite day trips from Los Angeles.
1. Santa Barbara
Spanish style architecture on the streets of Santa Barbara. This is the quintessential California beach city and the best of day trips from Los Angeles
See my photos from Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is my favorite day trip from Los Angeles, period. With its beautiful beaches, amazing location nestled between mountains and the ocean, Santa Barbara is the quintessential California beach city.
My favorite way for visiting Santa Barbara is to start at the Old Santa Barbara Mission, stroll around its beautiful rose garden and then work my way slowly towards the beach.
From the Mission I stop by the Courthouse Tower, then stroll around State Street and end up at the pier area. I love Santa Barbara and it will always be the number one on my list of day trips from Los Angeles.
Read more: Best Day Trips from Santa Barbara
Local people dressed in Danish costumes dancing on the main pedestrian area in Solvang
See my photos from Solvang
Next on my day trips from Los Angeles, located just about 30 minutes North of Santa Barbara, we find the small Danish village of Solvang. With a distinct European architecture, this little place is both charming and relaxing. The drive itself, from Santa Barbara to Solvang using the mountain pass is also one of the best California drives, taking you from the ocean through the mountains to the wineries in Santa Ynez Valley.
Solvang is best enjoyed by walking on its two main streets and stopping at its beautiful souvenir shops and tasting the local food. At Solvang you can get a distinct European taste in the middle of California.
Read more: Best Things to Do in Solvang
3. Laguna Beach
Beautiful view of Crescent Bay in Laguna Beach
See my photos from Laguna Beach
Our next stop on my list of day trips from Los Angeles is South from Los Angeles. We come to the amazingly picturesque beach town of Laguna Beach. Sharing many common features with Santa Barbara, Laguna Beach has gorgeous coastline and many hidden beaches and coves.
My favorite way for visiting is to start on the Pacific Coast Highway at Inspiration Point a bit North from Laguna Beach. Then I work my way down South through Laguna Beach, stopping at many places along the way.
Cacti and blue water at Zuma Beach seen from Point Dume
See my photos from Malibu
Driving North West from Los Angeles we come to the beautiful California beach town of Malibu. Malibu should always be on any list of day trips from Los Angeles. Stretching 27 miles along a thin strip of coastline, Malibu is home to many Hollywood stars.
Featured in many movies, Malibu boasts large beaches like Zuma as well as smaller cozy beaches like El Matador and Dume Cove.
We love visiting the amazingly picturesque Adamson House and stopping by the Malibu Lagoon area to watch the many birds.
Read more: Best Places to See in Malibu
5. Santa Monica
The beautiful Santa Monica Beach seen from the pier.
See my photos from Santa Monica
Santa Monica always appears towards the top on any list of day trips from Los Angeles. It is the obvious tourist magnet for anyone visiting Los Angeles because it is so close to Los Angeles. Just a short drive East to the ocean puts you right in the world famous Santa Monica Pier and next to the beautiful Santa Monica State Beach.
Walking on the Santa Monica Pier, basking in the sun on the beach, strolling on Ocean Boulevard and of course shopping on the Third Street Promenade are the favorite tourist attractions in Santa Monica.
6. Long Beach
The Queen Mary museum docked in Long Beach
The large beach city of Long Beach is an amazing place to visit. Boasting a large commercial port, Long Beach also has a really large and beautiful beach.
With numerous attractions like the Queen Mary and the Long Beach Aquarium, along with a beautiful beach side walking and restaurant area, Long Beach is beautiful to visit.
7. Palm Springs
Driving through downtown Palm Springs
See my photos from Palm Springs
For a truly unique California experience, head East to the desert city of Palm Springs. Visiting a desert city will give you a different view of city life. Visiting Palm Springs during the winter and spring is the best way to experience this desert oasis, as the really hot summers will confine you only to the pool and air conditioned indoor spaces.
During the spring Palm Springs is one of our favorite day trips from Los Angeles. We love strolling through the center of Palm Springs and sitting at one of the many restaurants with an outdoor patio. Taking the team up to the tall San Jacinto Mountains will give you a beautiful view from the top, where you can really see the desert. My family also enjoys hiking in the nearby Indian Canyon along a palm tree lined trail.
Read more: Best Things to See in Palm Springs
8. Beverly Hills
Rodeo Drive street view
See my photos from Beverly Hills
Next stop on my list of favorite day trips from Los Angles is the home of most Hollywood stars. The independent city of Beverly Hills is surrounded by Los Angeles, so it is very easy to visit. The home to the rich and famous, Beverly Hills is worth your time to simply drive around its fancy neighborhoods, where beautiful trees hide amazing mansions and quirky architecture.
We always take our friends to enjoy a leisurely walk on the famous Rodeo Drive and peek inside the Beverly Wilshire Hotel where the movie Pretty Woman was filmed.
Pasadena, California – Couple resting on a bench surrounded by beautiful fallen leaves at Huntington Library
See my photos from Huntington Library
The upscale city of Pasadena is located just a short drive north from Los Angeles, nestled below the mountains. Home of the famous NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the annual Rose Parade, Pasadena has a lot more to offer.
We always enjoy a visit to the sprawling Huntington Library where we walk among roses beautiful gardens and admire European Art. The small but gorgeous Norton Simons museum of art is a delightful place for families.
10. Big Bear
Beautiful view of Big Bear Lake and Snow Summit and Bear Mountain winter resorts.
See my photos from Big Bear
If you have extra time in the Los Angeles area, one of the best day trips from Los Angeles is a trip to the mountains. You can enjoy the string of beautiful mountain communities that have developed along a few lakes in the San Bernardino Mountains: Gregory Lake, Arrowhead Lake and of course Big Bear Lake.
After climbing the mountains using Highway 18, stop at Lake Gregory and take a stroll on the shaded and quiet path around the lake. Then head to Arrowhead Lake and enjoy the small European looking shopping area and have lunch right by the lake. Afterwards, continue driving on the Rim of the World highway to the much larger lake and town of Big Bear. We love crossing the lake on the East side on the Stanfield Cutoff and enjoying the walk along the lake shore.
During the winter, Big Bear is home to the best Southern California ski resorts that are packed with snowboarders and skiers. In addition, Big Bear has some of the best snow play areas for small children in Southern California.
Plan Your Day Trips from Los Angeles
The most important factor when planning any day trips from Los Angeles is traffic. Being able to avoid the worst traffic (7am-10am and 4pm to 7pm) can make the difference between a beautiful day trip and a miserable one.
Secondly, knowing where to stay in Los Angeles is just as important to your enjoyment of the busy Los Angeles Area. Making sure your Los Angeles hotel will allow you to get out of the congested area easily goes a long way to your enjoyment.