Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge

There's plenty to see and do in Los Angeles, but sometimes it's nice to get out of the city for a day. Plenty of excellent destinations are only a short drive away, including beautiful nature reserves, educational museums, and some of the best theme parks in the world. Head to Santa Barbara, Malibu, or San Diego for a day at the beach, or get some thrills at Disneyland or Knott's Berry Farm. If you're on a budget, the many parks and nature reserves in the surrounding area are great for an affordable day of family fun in the fresh air. Photo: jonbilous/Fotolia


» Big Bear Lake (2 hours)

Big Bear Lake (2 hours)


Located in the San Bernardino Mountains between Big Bear Lake and the San Bernardino National Forest, the small town of Big Bear is an excellent destination for outdoor activities all year round. The seven-mile-long Big Bear Lake is home to an abundant number of fish, and it also offers the opportunity to try paddleboarding, jet skiing, or rope climbing.

Plenty of hiking trails can be found around the town; they transform into snowshoe trails during the winter. Anyone looking for a more relaxing holiday can spend time in The Village, which is home to a number of excellent shopping and dining options. 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: glowonconcept/Fotolia

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» Anaheim (1 hour)

Anaheim (1 hour)


Anaheim is located in Orange County, and many people are drawn here because it is home to Disneyland. The iconic theme park is the heart of the city, and visitors can easily spend several days there. However, there are plenty of other things to see and do.

The historic Packing District offers two acres of parks and a farmers’ market every Sunday morning, while sports fans can catch a baseball game at Angel Stadium or a hockey game at the Honda Center. Knott's Berry Farm and Adventure City are two excellent destinations for anyone seeking a non-Disney theme park experience. 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: Anaheim

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»Hollywood (20 min)

Hollywood (20 min)


As the entertainment capital of the world, Hollywood is a must-see destination for anyone interested in celebrities and pop culture. Most popular attractions are clustered around Hollywood Boulevard, including the Walk of Fame, Madame Tussaud's wax museum, Grauman's Chinese Theater, and the Dolby Theater.

Sunset Boulevard has a vibrant nightlife scene, while Melrose Avenue draws visitors with its own nightlife and some world-class shopping. Other popular activities include touring Universal Studios, visiting the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, and attending concerts at the Hollywood Bowl. The Griffith Park Observatory offers an excellent panoramic view of the city, which is especially beautiful at night. 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: oscity/Fotolia

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» Day Trips from Los Angeles: Palm Springs (2 hours 35 min)

Day Trips from Los Angeles: Palm Springs (2 hours 35 min)


Palm Springs is the perfect destination for a sun-drenched vacation; the city boasts more than 350 days of sunshine every year. Visitors can take advantage of the excellent weather by playing a round of golf at one of the city's world-class courses, hiking the beautiful Indian Canyons, or zipping to the top of Mount San Jacinto in the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

Popular museums in the area include the Palm Springs Art Museum and the Architecture and Design Center. The city also hosts a number of events throughout the year, including Coachella, the Palm Springs International Film Festival, and Modernism Week. 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: Byron Moore/Fotolia

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» Santa Barbara (2 hours 20 min)

Santa Barbara (2 hours 20 min)


Although only two hours from L.A., Santa Barbara offers a completely different atmosphere. Known as the "Riviera of the West", Santa Barbara is home to white sandy beaches, world-class golf courses, and excellent shopping and dining options. The city is known for its beautiful architecture, but nature is easy to access by kayaking the Channel Islands or hiking in the Santa Ynez Mountains.

A number of top-rated wineries can be found only blocks from downtown, and there are even more scattered throughout the surrounding countryside. Popular family destinations include the zoological gardens, Stearns Wharf, and Shoreline Park. 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: sborisov/Fotolia

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» Day Trips from Los Angeles: Malibu (1 hour)

Day Trips from Los Angeles: Malibu (1 hour)


With more than 32 miles of waterfront along the Pacific Ocean, Malibu is perhaps the ultimate beach town. Zuma Beach and Westward Beach are two of the most popular while the Malibu Lagoon State Beach is a surfer's paradise.

The Adamson House Museum and the Getty Villa are must-sees for anyone interested in architecture, and Highlands Park offers several jogging trails as well as an excellent view of the coast. The city also hosts a number of events throughout the year, including an antique car show twice a month and the popular Malibu Film Festival in the spring. 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: belenislas/Fotolia

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»Disneyland (1 hour)

Disneyland (1 hour)



Located on a 107-acre property, Disneyland offers a huge number of rides and shows that are fun for the whole family. The resort is divided into eight themed areas arranged around a central hub, and some of the most popular rides include the Disneyland Railroad, Splash Mountain, and the Haunted Mansion.

A live action show called 'Fantasmic!' is held every evening, and there is often a fireworks show as well. The resort also offers a large variety of dining and shopping options, as well as a few hotels for guests who want to immerse themselves in the Disney experience entirely.

1313 Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, CA 92802, Phone: 714-781-4565 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: Disneyland

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» Day Trips from LA: San Diego (2 hours 30 min)

Day Trips from LA: San Diego (2 hours 30 min)


With its excellent ocean-side location and enviable weather all year round, San Diego is often called 'America's Finest City'. The city offers miles of beautiful white sandy beaches where visitors can surf, swim, or sunbathe.

Excellent shopping and dining can be found in the downtown harbor, which is also home to ten museum ships, a large collection of public art, and plenty of trails for walking and cycling. Attractions for families with children include Legoland, SeaWorld, and the San Diego Zoo, and visitors of every age will enjoy the many museums and gardens in the famous 1,200-acre Balboa Park. 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: Tomasz Zajda/Fotolia

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»Knott's Berry Farm (1 hour)

Knott's Berry Farm (1 hour)


Knott's Berry Farm started out as a humble berry stand in the 1920s, and today it is the oldest theme park in America. The park offers more than 165 rides, with options suitable for everyone from families with small children to the most seasoned thrill-seekers.

There is also a water park that visitors can access for an extra fee, a marketplace that sells a variety of souvenirs, including Knott's-branded jams and jellies, and a seasonal Halloween extravaganza held every October. Visitors can choose from a number of on-site dining options, but the most popular is Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant.

8039 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, CA 90620, Phone: 714-220-5200 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: Knott's Berry Farm

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» Legoland California Resort (2 hours)

Legoland California Resort (2 hours)


Based on the popular Lego toy brand, Legoland is an interactive theme park designed for families with children between the ages of 2 and 12. The park boasts more than 60 interactive rides and shows spread out over a number of themed areas, including the dinosaur-themed Explorer City and the medieval-themed Castle Hill.

There are also over 22,000 Lego models to be found throughout the grounds. Other attractions at the park include a Lego-themed Sea Life Aquarium, a water park with a number of water slides, and a splash park that includes a two-story water playground and an interactive pirate ship. Read more

1 Legoland Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008, Phone: 877-376-5346 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: wolcan/Fotolia

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» Griffith Observatory (25 min)

Griffith Observatory (25 min)


Located on the south-facing slope of Mount Hollywood, the Griffith Observatory offers spectacular views of downtown L.A. and the Hollywood sign. Exhibits in the observatory cover a huge range of space- and science-related topics, and monthly "Star Parties" give families the opportunity to learn about the sky from amateur astronomers.

A number of telescopes are available for guests to use in the evenings, including the large Zeiss telescope. The observatory is open every day except Monday, and admission and parking are free of charge. There is a small fee for visitors wishing to watch a show in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium.

2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90027, Phone: 213-473-0800 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/Fotolia

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» Joshua Tree National Park (2 hour 45 min)

Joshua Tree National Park (2 hour 45 min)


Joshua Tree National Park encompasses parts of the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert and is named for the unique, twisted Joshua trees found in the area. The park offers some excellent hiking trails and rock climbing routes and is also a popular destination for birdwatchers and astronomy enthusiasts because of its isolated location and dark skies.

There are nine campgrounds in the park, some of which can accommodate RVs, but visitors should be aware that most do not have water. A paved road running through the park allows visitors to access most of the major attractions by car. 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: estivillml/Fotolia

»Universal Studios Hollywood (25 min)

Universal Studios Hollywood (25 min)


Originally created to provide visitors with the opportunity to tour its movie sets, Universal Studios has grown into a huge theme park with a large number of thrill rides and live shows. Guests can still tour the working studios and one of the park's most popular attractions is a 45 to 60-minute tram ride that takes visitors to the back of the studios where movies are filmed.

Characters from some of the studio's most popular movies are constantly roaming the grounds. Next door to the studio is Universal CityWalk, where visitors can find plenty of shopping and dining venues.

100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608, website, Phone: 800-864-8377 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: Universal Studios Hollywood

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» Laguna Beach (1 hour 30 min)

Laguna Beach (1 hour 30 min)


Located in southern Orange County, Laguna Beach is renowned for its pleasant weather and the eight miles of beautiful beaches spread out within the city limits. There is some excellent surfing to be found in the area, and visitors often enjoy exploring the many coves tucked away underneath the hillsides and cliffs.

The city also has a vibrant art community, and art lovers shouldn't miss the Laguna Art Museum, the chance to catch a show at the Laguna Playhouse, or the annual Sawdust Art Festival. Other large festivals throughout the year include the Pageant of the Masters, Bluewater Music Festival, and Kelpfest. 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: Gottfried Reidler/Fotolia

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»Day Trips from Los Angeles: Ojai (1 hour 50 min)

Day Trips from Los Angeles: Ojai (1 hour 50 min)


Tucked away in the Ojai Valley, Ojai offers a unique downtown area surrounded by vineyards, hiking trails, and world-class golf courses. With plenty of highly acclaimed spas and spiritual retreats, the town is an excellent destination for anyone looking to recover from the stresses of daily life.

There are also plenty of small, locally owned shops in the city, and a farmers’ market with live music is held every Sunday morning from 9 am to 1 pm. During the week, visitors can stop by one of the many local farms to pick up some freshly grown produce or locally produced olive oil. 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: Wendy G Weatherup/Fotolia

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»The Getty (1 hour)

The Getty (1 hour)


The Getty is one of the largest arts organizations in the world, and it has two campuses in Los Angeles: the Getty Center and the Getty Villa. The Getty Center is home to a large range of European paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts that date back to before the 20th century, as well as a number of American, Asian, and European photographs.

Other highlights of the campus include the beautiful Central Garden and an outdoor sculpture garden. The Getty Villa is located on the southernmost end of the Malibu coast and boasts a large collection of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities.

1200 Getty Center Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90049, Phone: 310-440-7300 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: Paolo Gallo/Fotolia

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» Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (1 hour 50 min)

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (1 hour 50 min)


As the largest rotating aerial tram car in the world, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway offers breathtaking views of the Chino Canyon cliffs on the way to the top of Mt. San Jacinto. The Mountain Station is located at an elevation of 8,516 feet, and the journey here takes approximately ten minutes.

Amenities here include two restaurants, an observation deck, and a gift shop. Visitors with more time to spend can also take advantage of the natural history museum, the two documentary theaters, or the more than 50 miles of hiking trails accessible from the tram station.

1 Tram Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262, Phone: 888-515-8726 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: Ritu Jethani/Fotolia

»Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum (1 hour)

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum (1 hour)


The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum is the final resting place of Ronald Reagan, the 40th President. Permanent exhibits include an actual Air Force One aircraft and a full-size replica of the Oval Office, and there are also constantly changing temporary exhibits.

The museum is designed for self-guided tours, but guided tours can sometimes be arranged for groups of 25 people or more. It typically takes visitors between two-and-a-half to three hours to tour all of the exhibits. The museum is open every day of the year except for New Year´s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and free parking is available.

40 Presidential Dr., Simi Valley, CA 93065, Phone: 805-577-4066 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum

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» Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve (2 hours 15 min)

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve (2 hours 15 min)


Located on the Southern California Coast, the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve encompasses 2,000 acres of beautiful coastal wilderness. The park offers eight miles of hiking trails, a small museum in the Visitors’ Center, and the opportunity to see a wide range of plant and animal species, including the endangered Torrey Pine.

Free guided tours of the park are offered several times a day on weekends and holidays and they depart from the Visitors’ Center. The park is open 365 days a year from 7:15 am to dusk and a fee is charged for every vehicle that enters. Read more

12600 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037, Phone: 858-755-2063 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: ablokhin/Fotolia

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» Day Trips from LA: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (35 min)

Day Trips from LA: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (35 min)


The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is the largest art museum in the United States, attracting more than a million visitors every year. It is home to more than 130,000 objects that span the history of art from ancient times to the present and which encompass the entire geographic world.

These pieces are classified according to region and time period and can be found in themed exhibits throughout the museum's various buildings. The museum also offers a number of film and concert series, which sometimes have a separate admission fee. Some special exhibits have an extra charge for admission as well. Read more

5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036, Phone: 323-857-6000 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

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»Day Trip from Los Angeles with Kids: The Cabazon Dinosaurs (1 hour 35 min)

Day Trip from Los Angeles with Kids: The Cabazon Dinosaurs (1 hour 35 min)


Also known as Claude Bell's Dinosaurs, the Cabazon Dinosaurs are a collection of giant dinosaur sculptures visible from Interstate 10. Although the dinosaurs are visible from the road, visitors must pay an admission fee in order to enter the park.

The highlights of the attraction are the larger-than-life Dinny the Dinosaur, a 150-ton Brontosaurus, and the 100-ton, three-story Tyrannosaurus sculpture known as Mr. Rex. Visitors can climb inside Mr. Rex all the way to the top, and the 150-foot-long Dinny can be climbed as well. The park also features several dinosaur-themed rides aimed primarily at young children.

50770 Seminole Dr., Cabazon, CA 92230, Phone: 951-922-8700 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: Zack Frank/Fotolia

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»Fort Tejon State Historic Park (1 hour 25 min)

Fort Tejon State Historic Park (1 hour 25 min)


Located in the Grapevine Canyon, the Fort Tejon State Historic Park was originally established to protect the aboriginal people living on the Sebastian Indian Reservation. Some of the buildings from the original fort have been restored and are open to visitors, and the beautiful park grounds boast a number of 400-year-old oak trees.

There are also a number of interpretive exhibits that provide information about army life and local history. The park grounds are open daily from sunrise to sunset, and the exhibits are open from 9 am to 4 pm. Visitors will be charged a small admission fee.

4201 Fort Tejon Rd, Lebec, CA 93243, Phone: 661-248-6692 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: Fort Tejon State Historic Park

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»Angeles National Forest - San Gabriel Mountains National Monument (30 min)

Angeles National Forest - San Gabriel Mountains National Monument (30 min)

The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument encompasses almost 350,000 acres of extremely biodiverse land across both the Angeles National Forest and the San Bernardino National Forest. The monument is an excellent location for plenty of recreational activities, including hiking, horseback riding, off-road vehicle use, and hang-gliding.

Visitors can also go hunting or fishing during certain seasons if they obtain the correct permits. The educational Mount Baldy Center right next to the monument is also open to visitors and includes a 1920s schoolhouse as well as reproductions of a gold-mining camp and a Native American village.

701 N. Santa Anita Ave., Arcadia, CA 91006, Phone: 626-574-1613 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: trekandphoto/Fotolia

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»Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge (50 min)

Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge (50 min)

Located in the coastal community of Seal Beach, the Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge includes 965 acres of wildlife habitat. The refuge is located inside a Naval Weapons Station, so it is only open to the public during special events and tours.

Escorted tours of the refuge are held on the last Saturday of every month except December, and visitors are transported by shuttle bus to the refuge where they have access to an observation deck and a number of interpretive signs. Private tours for groups of 15-20 people can also sometimes be arranged if booked in advance.

800 Seal Beach Blvd, Seal Beach, CA 90740, Phone: 562-598-1024 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: jonbilous/Fotolia

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»Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve (1 hour 30 min)

Lake Mathews Estelle Mountain Reserve (1 hour 30 min)

Located the Cajalco Canyon in the foothills of the Temescal Mountains, Lake Mathews is a large man-made reservoir that provides much of the water used in the Metropolitan District of Southern California.

The lake is surrounded by roughly 4,000 acres of protected land, which is an important habitat and feeding site for a number of different bird and animal species. Recreational use of the lake has been a controversial topic over the years, and there are currently no public recreational facilities at the lake. The reservoir is fenced off and inaccessible to the general public. 25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles - Photo: Kit Leong/Fotolia

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25 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles