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The Best Los Angeles Day Trips

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Summer is fast approaching and with the heat often comes a desire to get out of the city for the day, or at least feel like you’re out of the city. From hanging out at the beach, drinking at a breezy mountain winery, or kayaking in the Long Beach canals, Los Angeles and Southern California offer plenty of escapes all within three hours of the city center. Here’s a list of some of my favorite LA area day trips. What are some of yours?

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Pacific Coast Highway – Start with lunch at The Reel Inn in Topanga. Pro tip: Parking is free on PCH and you can park for the day. Just next door try Rosenthal for wine tasting, then take the pedestrian tunnel underneath the PCH to the beach. If the tide is low, you can stroll by all the stunning beach houses. On the way home, stop at Moonshadows for sunset cocktails.

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Matador State Beach – Even if you haven’t been to Matador State Beach, you may recognize from the classic film Planet of the Apes. With sea caves and large rocks on the beach, El Matador State Beach attracts many beach goers on hot weekend days. The views from the upper cliffs are incredible, looking down on large boulders and deep blue water filled with kelp forests. Bring a picnic!

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Pacific Palisades – One of my favorite hiking destinations in the city! Hike Temescal Canyon then follow that with brunch at the Farmers Market on Swarthmore on Sundays. On weekdays, it can feel like you have the entire canyon to yourself.

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Zuma Beach – Another beach in Malibu, but what sets Zuma Beach apart is it’s way less crowded. Known for its long, wide sands and excellent surf. It consistently ranks among the healthiest beaches for clean water conditions in Los Angeles County. After a beach day, stop by The Sunset for dinner.

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Santa Barbara – The beautiful drive up the PCH to Santa Barbara is sometimes worth it all by itself. Bring your kids to the Santa Barbara Zoo where there are over 600 animals representing more than 180 species on sixteen acres. Or leave them at home and tour the Funk Zone of Santa Barbara, an eclectic mix of artists, cafes, wineries, cabinet makers, museums, bakeries, adult services, and small shops that reflect a simpler time.

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Santa Ynez – Yes, if you haven’t already guessed, I love wine tasting. The Santa Ynez Valley offers something new and nearby if you’ve already tried all of Malibu’s wineries. I suggest the Andrew Murray Vineyards and the Hitching Post II Restaurant and Winery.

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Balboa Island – Take the Balboa Island Ferry on a scenic five minute scenic trip to this charming island in Newport Beach. You could spend all day walking around the island, taking in the gorgeous million-dollar homes, art galleries, boutiques, and more. There are several lovely restaurants on the island, but I recommend Wilma’s Patio, a perfect eatery for the whole family.

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Big Bear – Whether you’re staying just for the day or have a house for an overnight, Big Bear is a great option Winter or Summer. A longtime destination for its ski slopes, there’s also plenty to do when it dry out from lakeside hikes to vintage shopping on Pine Knot Avenue. Madlon’s is an appealing restaurant serving french cuisine in a rustic, thatched-roof cottage.

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The Getty – It’s easy to forget how close we live to The Getty, especially during rush hour traffic on the 405 when it can seem like distant and faraway destination. I’d suggest taking the long way around on the 101 to the 405, avoiding the 110, on weekends. Currently on view are Noir: The Romance of Black in 19th-Century French Drawings and Prints and Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium.

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Glen Ivy Hot Springs – Just a short jaunt from the city, Glen Ivy Hot Springs in Corona, provides spa treatments, 17 pools, healthy cuisine and activities where you can connect, escape and rejuvenate. Whether you’re taking a yoga class, lounging by the pools, or sipping a cocktail in one of their cabanas, Glen Ivy Hot Springs is a wonderful option for a Sunday trip, and less than one hour out of the city.

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Huntington GardensThis sprawling estate, featuring a library, museums, cafes, and blooming botanical gardens with plants from around the world is located in the heart of Pasadena. Typically closing at 4:30pm, get there early to fully enjoy the Japanese garden, the Chinese garden, the Rose garden, and so many others. The price may seem steep at $25, but it’s lush (and educational!) entertainment for the whole day.

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Lake Arrowhead Village  – A tad closer than Big Bear, Lake Arrowhead Village is an outdoor shopping center and events venue located in the beautiful San Bernardino mountains. Take a boat tour on the lake, shop at one of their many big brand outlets, or dine at the fun Woody’s Boathouse Restaurant.

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Long Beach Canals – Known as “The best kept secret between Los Angeles and Orange County,” Kayaks on the Water provides an awesome and affordable day trip in Long Beach. You can kayak and “park” at many different restaurants along the canals, or even picnic on one the calm beaches.

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Malibu Wine Country – Like a nearby Napa Valley, our little oasis in Malibu is home to over a dozen wineries. Take a guided wine tour or hop from wineries such as Malibu Wines and Cielo Malibu Estate Vineyard.

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Ojai – Go on a Sunday for the charming Ojai Farmers Market or venture any day for pristine hiking, art galleries, and spiritual retreats. Chain stores are prohibited in Ojai, so it’s filled with interesting mom and pop shops and restaurants.

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Pioneertown – Near Palm Springs, in the Joshua Tree Valley, Pioneertown is an amusing and hip destination. Started as motion picture film set in the 1940s, the town now is a quaint and fun spot for families and adults alike. See a free Old West shootout show on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, then follow that with the delicious “cowboy combo” at restaurant Pappy & Harriet’s. Check their calendar for musical events.

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San Pedro – Have an early brunch at the waterfront Ports O’Call restaurant, then take a free – yes, free! – boat tour in the Los Angeles Harbor.

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Solvang – The small Danish village, Solvang is a unique and delightful destination. Stop by the Elverhoj Museum for a peek inside the history of the city and follow with boutique shopping or a round of golf. Have lunch at the Belgian Cafe, an authentic, cheery, bright restaurant with a European atmosphere.

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Vasquez Rock Park – Located in the Sierra Pelona Mountains, Vasquez Rock Park is a stunning hiking spot, with prehistoric rock formations and has been the backdrop for many films and television shows.

Enjoy!


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