Easy Getaways Outside Los Angeles
Break a sweat the SoCal way with yoga in the ocean, garden strolls in the valley, and art appreciation in the desert.
Nightlife may not be poppin’ and Sunday brunch may be on hold, but there’s still plenty to do around Los Angeles. Like everything else here, it just involves getting in your car. Few regions offer such dramatic driving options for hitting up the beach, cruising through the desert, and getting above it all in the mountains. Our favorite social-distance-friendly destinations offer very Californian takes on things, whether it’s beach yoga on paddleboards, spiritually guided desert art, or sand toys you can drive down giant dunes. But before you hit the road, be sure to check the state’s COVID-19-related quarantine requirements and wildfire updates as well as as well as the Airbnb Editorial team’s New Rules of Road Tripping guide.
1 Hour Away
Ventura County has all the Southern California blockbuster components: swaying palm trees, laid-back beach vibes, and glimmering Pacific waters. The city of Ventura may not get the same fanfare as Malibu or Santa Barbara, but that’s part of its charm.
If sweeping ocean views are your thing, check out Grant Park. Perched above Ventura City Hall, it offers panoramic vistas of the city and the Pacific. On a clear day you can even see the Anacapa and Santa Cruz islands. Add a little history to the trip by stopping at the San Buenaventura Mission, one of 21 California missions along the El Camino Real.
Grab your yoga mat and get out on the water! YOGAqua classes are a socially distanced way to exercise at Harbor Cove Beach. Classes are open to all levels, even if you’ve never been on a paddleboard. Private lessons are also an option. If you’d rather enjoy the ocean at your own pace, rent a kayak from Ventura Boat Rentals.
San Gabriel Valley
The San Gabriel Valley is home to the annual Tournament of Roses Parade, but your chance to spend a day smelling the flowers doesn’t end there. The region is an underrated haven for nature lovers.
The Garden of Flowing Fragrance, Liu Fang Yuan, at the Huntington Gardens, is one of the largest classical Chinese-style gardens outside China. Stroll past the lily pond and admire the authentic architecture and rocks from Lake Tai in the Yangtze Delta. Admission is limited, so make sure to purchase tickets in advance if you want to add this attraction to your list.
Hike to the Bridge to Nowhere. This arch bridge was built in 1936, and spans the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. It’s only accessible via a 10-mile round-trip hike with 900 feet of elevation change, so it’s quite the trek, but worth it for the experience. You’ll potentially wade through ankle-to-waist-high waters, depending on the time of year and rainfall, while crossing through rivers and creeks. Pack plenty of water, your bathing suit, and a picnic lunch.
Local Hosts Also Recommend: The Huntington Japanese Garden
While at the Huntington Gardens, Airbnb Superhost Margaret Lee suggests checking out the Japanese Garden. “From the ridge, you get a panoramic view of the garden, bridge, and koi ponds in the valley,” says Lee, who hosts a guesthouse in nearby Pasadena. “It’s better than a postcard.”
2 Hours Away
This fun facsimile of a Danish village was founded in 1911 by Danish-American educators seeking a warm place to call home after living in the Midwest. The name Solvang translates to “sunny field,” and its pleasant year-round climate is ideal for harvesting grapes that produce world-class wines. This is where Angelenos go to get a taste of Europe without the high price or hassle of booking an international flight.
Admire Danish architecture and design, including traditional half-timbered buildings influenced by Danish Provincial style. See how many windmills you can spot in town, and keep an eye out for the bronze replica of Copenhagen’s “Little Mermaid” statue, the only one authorized by the heirs of the original sculptor. The landmark statue is part of Solvang’s Heritage Trail, which can easily be toured by foot.
Explore Solvang’s wine country, made famous in the Oscar-winning film Sideways, by bike. The stunning vistas and steep hills of the self-guided Sideways Movie Bike Tour set the stage for a cinematic cycling challenge for those looking to raise their heart rate. For a more chilled-out experience, Vino Vaqueros offer private 75-to-90-minute guided horseback rides and access to some of the most picturesque ranches and vineyards in the region.
Big Bear Lake
Big Bear is the ideal year-round mountain escape. During the summer, temperatures are 20 degrees cooler than the Inland valleys, offering Angelenos sweet relief from that heat. In the winter, the city transforms into a wonderland for skiing and snowboarding. In other words, this is where Los Angeles goes to experience seasons.
Boulder Bay Park frames the picturesque Big Bear Lake with distinctive boulder formations at every turn, including giant boulder islands.
If you’d prefer to sweat your way to an epic view, hit the Pineknot Trail to Grand View Point. This 6.9-mile partial loop trail has a picnic table at its base, where you can park it for a hearty snack after putting in all that work. A $5 daily Adventure Pass is required, or you can buy a yearly pass for $30.
Local Hosts Also Recommend: The Ski and Sun Challenge
Airbnb Superhost Ernest Smyth suggests living out the classic SoCal brag. “In the winter, ski at Big Bear, then drive down to the coast and go to the beach on the same day,” says the Los Angeles native. “Between Big Bear Lake and Palm Springs you can have the hottest and coldest places in California — all within 40 miles.”
3-4 Hours Away
Lots of Imperial County road trippers do it for the ’gram. Salvation Mountain, a colorful art installation and dedication of faith by the late Leonard Knight, has become a highly sought-after photo op — one of many this desert border region has to offer.
San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo, affectionately dubbed “SLO CAL” by locals, is a chilled-out college town with a plethora of outdoor activities and gorgeous beaches to choose from.
Visit the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, where the gardens are filled with cacti, succulents, roses, oaks, citrus trees, and grape arbors.
Local Hosts Also Recommend: Swinging Bridge
Airbnb Superhost Ron Freeman suggests a walk on the Swinging Bridge, a historic span suspended 40 feet above Arroyo Grande Creek, and a 14-minute drive from Avila Beach. “It sways, so when you get off it, you feel like the ground is still moving,” he says of the bridge.
Francesca Murray is a travel content creator, guidebook author and award-winning travel expert. She is a trusted voice in the travel industry, and through her online platform One Girl One World, she inspires millennials to embrace the culture, enjoy the food and engage with locals as they travel.
Julia Yellow is a Taiwanese illustrator and designer based in Los Angeles. She loves to create her illustrations with a playful, warm, and witty quality, which can be seen in major publications and special campaign events. When she’s not drawing, she hangs out with her plants and foster cats and practices longboard in the weekends.