Regardless of where you live in California, there is a diverse choice of amazing vacation spots just a short drive away, including perfect day trips from LA and San Francisco. You will find wine country tours, amazing beaches, city escapes, romantic coastal trips, honeymoon ideas, family trips and relaxing spa getaways. Southern California favorites include San Diego, Malibu, Palm Springs and Santa Barbara. Popular Northern California vacation spots include Carmel, Santa Rosa and Napa Valley. Photo: oscity/Fotolia
1.Romantic Weekend Getaway in San Diego
THE US GRANT in San Diego is one of the best luxury hotels in the country, featuring a multi-million dollar art collection, stunning rooftop garden, central downtown location and stylish guest accommodations.
Admire paintings, murals and sculptures by top artists in the hotel lobby on your California trip. Grand Deluxe Rooms located on the top floor of the hotel are a great choice for a romantic getaway, complete with a private whirlpool, modern design and scenic city views. The US Grant offers a diverse selection of luxury suites which offer separate sitting areas, unique art and five star service. Read more about THE US GRANT or browse top California destinations for couples: San Diego Beaches, Things to Do in Newport Beach
Photo: THE US GRANT, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Diego
2.California Trip to Del Mar - 2 hours from Los Angeles
Combine your visit to a relaxing Southern California spa with a stay at the luxury L'Auberge Del Mar. Shed a few pounds at the outdoor fitness pavilion, sip drinks by the pool, play a round of golf, and explore the hotel's scenic surroundings. When it comes to pampering, celebrities know best. Beautiful location and personalized service make L'Auberge Del Mar one of the best romantic getaways in California.
Guests can choose from a number of different massages, facials, hydrotherapy treatments and body purification programs. Once you are done relaxing, explore the charming Del Mar Village which offers a diverse selection of shops, galleries and cafes. Browse more trips from San Diego, find a quick trip from LA, browse places to visit in Southern California and trips to take in Northern California.
Photo: L'Auberge Del Mar
3.Senza Hotel in Napa - 1 hour 10 minutes from San Francisco
Check into one of the luxury suites with private patios at SENZA in Napa, California. A romantic getaway for wine and art lovers, the hotel has a luxurious spa, an outdoor pool with plush cabanas and an art collection. You will be surrounded by lush vineyard views as you relax and rejuvenate on your weekend getaway. Vineyard Suites are the most luxurious, featuring modern design, a sitting area, fireplace and an outdoor patio.
Bathrooms have deep soaking tubs where you can let the stress melt away. Get massages and other treatments in the Couple's Room at the spa, on the terrace or in the suite. Activities in the area include golf, art galleries, theater, biking, wine tours and cooking classes. Rooms start at $209 per night; suites from $296. Guests receive a complimentary breakfast, as well as an evening wine & cheese reception. Read more.
Photo: Photo Credit: Justine Di Fede
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4.Langham Huntington Hotel - 20 minutes from LA
Get away to Pasadena to get pampered at Chuan Body + Soul Spa at Langham Huntington Hotel. The newly refurbished facility incorporates Traditional Chinese Medicine in its therapies. The wellness center measures 11,000 square feet in size, featuring 13 treatment rooms, including a couple's room. There is an outdoor swimming pool with comfortable lounge chairs and umbrellas.
Choose from relaxing massages, facials, body treatments, manicures, pedicures and hair services on your spa trip. Traditional Chinese Medicine services include acupuncture, Ho Guan (cupping), moxibustion, ear seeds and other techniques. If you are looking to combine health, luxury and relaxation, this is one of the best romantic getaways in CA. Find more great getaways from Los Angeles and fun places to visit in California.
Photo: Langham Huntington Hotel
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5.W San Francisco
Contemporary-chic meets San Francisco cool in this designer boutique hotel. Located in the vibrant heart of the SoMA district, W San Francisco is a gathering place for the stylish, showcasing film screenings, fashion shows, art exhibitions, and music events against a backdrop of spectacular city skyline views. Exquisitely decorated rooms and luxury suites offer a tranquil escape from the vibrant energy of the city below, with a variety of luxurious accommodations to choose from.
Plush signature bedding, tasteful designer décor and deluxe facilities abound, while large windows embrace magnificent cityscape views. Toast the setting sun with signature cocktails in the dynamic mezzanine lounge of the Upstairs Bar and Lounge, before enjoying fresh, locally sourced cuisine accompanied by fine Napa and Soma Valley wines at the suave TRACE restaurant.
Stay fit in the exclusive FIT fitness center and revitalized in the award-winning Bliss San Francisco Spa, which boasts nine treatment rooms, three movie-while-you-manicure nail stations, a designer boutique and men and women's lounges with luxurious outdoor escapes. Rooms start at $529 per night.
Photo: W San Francisco
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6.El Dorado Hotel & Kitchen in Sonoma - 1 hour from San Francisco
A sophisticated boutique hotel in the middle of wine country, the El Dorado Hotel & Kitchen is a cozy getaway for couples who want to relax in well-appointed surroundings and enjoy the unique ambiance of historic downtown Sonoma. Each of the hotel’s 27 rooms has French doors that open onto private balconies or terraces, crisp white linens, an Illy espresso machine, and a Bluetooth audio system. Guests will enjoy signature cocktails that complement regional dishes created with locally sourced ingredients in the El Dorado Kitchen. Relaxing in the hotel’s lounge is the perfect end to a day of shopping and wine-tasting in Sonoma.
405 First Street West, Sonoma, CA, Phone: 707-996-3030
Photo: El Dorado Hotel & Kitchen
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7.Mini Vacations: Casa Del Mar - 20 minutes from Los Angeles
Casa Del Mar offers Massage Cabanas on the pool deck where spa guests can enjoy relaxing spa treatments with a view of the Pacific Ocean. The cabanas are situated on a semi-circular outdoor patio facing the ocean, giving guests complete privacy.
Spa guests can choose from Swedish, deep-tissue or sports massage treatments with rates starting at $80 for thirty minutes, $105 for an hour and $190 for two hours. Find more great getaways from San Diego.
Photo: Casa Del Mar
8.Inn at the Pier
Overlooking the magnificent Pismo Beach stretch of fine golden sand and just a short walk from the famous Pismo Beach pier and boardwalk, Inn at the Pier is an upscale, craftsman-style boutique oceanfront hotel with 104 beautifully appointed rooms and suites with private balconies, flat-screen TVs, espresso machines, mini-fridges, and luxury bath products. Most rooms have spectacular ocean views, and the one-bedroom apartments also have kitchens and living rooms. Guests enjoy the rooftop pool, The Rooftop restaurant and bar with magnificent views of the ocean and the coastline, the popular bar and restaurant Blonde, a gym, and a spacious, cozy bar and lounge.
601 Cypress Street, Pismo Beach, CA 93449, Phone: 805-295-5565
Photo: Inn at the Pier
Hotel Erwin is a small, modern hotel with a fantastic location overlooking the Venice Beach Boardwalk and offering wonderful views of the ocean. It is located just a short walk from the action on Abbot Kinney Boulevard and the Venice Canals. The rooms are colorful and bright, with private balconies that overlook the ocean or the city. Each room has a flat-screen TV and free Wi-Fi. Suites have fully equipped kitchens and living/dining space. An in-room spa is available upon request. Guests enjoy a free pass to the nearby gym, the wonderful rooftop bar High Rooftop Lounge with spectacular views and inventive cocktails, and the Barlo restaurant serving Southern California cuisine.
1697 Pacific Ave, Venice, CA 90291, Phone: 310-452-1111
Photo: Hotel Erwin
10.California Destinations: The Town of Ojai - 1 hour 25 minutes from LA
The Kuyam chamber at the Ojai Valley Inn lets you experience a treatment that combines dry and wet heat with aromatherapy. If you enjoy sauna treatments, the Signature Kuyam Treatment at Spa Ojai is definitely a must. The treatment begins with self-application of Moor mud used cleanse and exfoliate the skin. As the heat in the Kuyam chamber increases, the mud begins to try on the skin.
After several minutes of dry heat, the chamber is filled with steam infused with fresh herbs, providing inhalation therapy. A guided meditation and a walk through a shower of cool water will leave you relaxed and rejuvenated. Finally, you will be wrapped in a blanket and invited to relax in a private outdoor loggia with subdued lighting. Browse more packages, deals & ideas from Los Angeles.
Photo: Ojai Valley Inn
11.California Destinations: Santa Monica - 20 minutes from Los Angeles
This famous beach town next to Los Angeles is best known for its 3-mile Santa Monica beach which we have all come to know as the symbol of Southern California beach life. If you are looking for affordable last minute weekend trips, Santa Monica is a great choice.
In addition to sandy beaches and swaying palm trees, the town offers diverse museums, art galleries, boutiques and restaurants. This is a great place to stay if you want to explore Southern California with day trips to LA, Venice Beach and Disneyland. The town offers many hotels and inns. If you are planning a romantic getaway, surprise your partner with the unique garden bungalows at The Fairmont Miramar Hotel which overlook the ocean.
Photo: The Fairmont Miramar Hotel
12.Weekend Getaways in California: The Spa at CordeValle - 1 hour from San Francisco
The Spa at CordeValle, located at the Lodge at CordeValle in Northern California, offers a beautiful setting and a choice of European and American treatments. Guest can choose from facials, body treatments and massages.
The 5,000-square-foot wellness center features a Turkish steam room, Vichy shower, open-air treatment rooms, a swimming pool and in-spa dining. Men's and women's locker rooms have a lounge steam room, Jacuzzi and garden terrace. The resort has a 18-hole championship golf course, a winery and vineyard open for tastings to hotel guests. Luxury bungalows, villas and homes have views of the golf course and the surrounding countryside.
Photo: The Spa at CordeValle
13.The Lodge at Tiburon
The Lodge at Tiburon is located in Tiburon, a quaint artists community across the San Francisco bay. The property has relaxing outdoor features, including an outdoor heated swimming pool with hot tub and a pool deck with private cabanas. The hotel offers guests free wireless Internet access, twice daily housekeeping services, a 24-hour Concierge and a complimentary Business Center. There are 102 guest rooms. Activities in the area include sailing, ocean kayaking, hiking and biking. The hotel is surrounded by shops, art galleries and restaurants. There is ferry service to the city. Three Degrees Restaurant serves dishes made of local seasonal ingredients. Both indoor and outdoor dining are available. Read more or browse more trips from San Francisco.
If you are planning a California honeymoon, you may also like: Romantic Getaways in Southern California and Romantic Escapes in Northern California.
Photo: The Lodge at Tiburon
14.Romantic Getaways in California: Sonoma Coast Villa
Sonoma Coast Villa & Spa is small boutique hotel located just sixty minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge on Highway One, and five miles South of Bodega BaySet on sixty private acres, the property is surrounded by its own park and gardens. Relax by the outdoor pool and visit the spa for a massage, reflexology and other treatments on your weekend getaway.
There are 18 individually decorated rooms in the villa, with private patios, an indoor whirpool spa, woodburning fireplaces, and Italian slate floors. The Villa has a nine hole putting course available to all guests, and the Bodega Harbor Golf course is nearby. Visit one of the nearby wineries or take a hot air balloon ride to really get a birds' eye view of the scenery.
More vacations: Honeymoon Weekend Getaways, Best places and cities to visit in California, 21 Best Things to Do in Healdsburg
Photo: Sonoma Coast Villa
15.Wine Valley Inn in Solvang
The Santa Ynez Valley is located 125 miles north of Los Angeles. Wine Valley Inn & Cottages is situated in the charming Danish village of Solvang, near several tasting rooms, restaurants and shops. The area around Solvang is home to over 40 wineries that produce Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Rhone varietals. Guests can relax in the romantic inn garden, play golf, hike, bike, fish, visit a museum and browse local shops and galleries. There are 56 guestrooms, six individual cottages, and a grand suite.
The inn offers pet friendly accommodations. Continental breakfast buffet is served at the inn daily. For lunch and dinner, visit one of the nearby restaurants serving California wine country cuisine, as well as French, Italian and Mexican dishes. If you are planning a romantic inn getaway, ask for one of the rooms with a wood-burning fireplace and a whirlpool spa. Room rates range from $99 to $319 per night, including Continental breakfast buffet. Ask for AAA rates. Free on-site parking is available. The inn requires a two-night minimum stay on Saturday night.
More California destinations:
25 Best Weekend Getaways from Los Angeles and 45 Best Weekend Getaways from San Francisco.
Photo: Wine Valley Inn
16.Hotel Pacific in Monterey
Plan a romantic getaway to the Hotel Pacific in Monterey, located 120 miles south of San Francisco. This all-suite hotel offers Spanish Colonial-style accommodations and is a good base for exploring the nearby beaches, Central Napa wineries and hiking trails. If you want to enjoy sightseeing, visit the nearby Monterey Bay Aquarium and Fisherman's Wharf.
There are has 105 guest rooms with hardwood floors, fireplaces, separate living and dining areas, and private balconies. The Monterey Peninsula Airport is the nearest airport, six miles from downtown Monterey. Daily flights are available from San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles. Room rates start at $219 per night, depending on when you go, including continental breakfast and afternoon tea.
Photo: Hotel Pacific
17.Ledson Hotel in Sonoma
The Ledson Hotel is an intimate wine country getaway located at 480 First Street East in Sonoma, California. Guest stay in luxury guest rooms situated above a tasting room and a restaurant. The hotel six individually decorated rooms located on the upper floor of the hotel. Decor includes period furniture and modern accessories. Each room has a king sized bed, fireplace, balcony, and a two-person whirlpool tub, ideal for a romantic escape.
Three of the rooms overlook the tree-shaded city plaza, fountain and rose garden while the three rooms at the rear of the hotel overlook the backstreets of historic Sonoma. All rooms have high-speed internet access. The Harmony Tasting Room and restaurant on the ground floor features a "small plates" motif: an opportunity to sample a variety of cutting edge cuisine in a wine bar atmosphere. The wine list offers more than 30 selections with an emphasis on Sonoma County vintages.
There is a shuttle to take guests and visitors from the hotel to the Winery and also stops at other destinations throughout the valley.
The town is a 45-minute drive from San Francisco which makes it an easy weekend getaway from the city. Room rates start at $350 on weekdays. Read more about the hotel or browse more wine country escapes.
More places to stay: Wilbur Hot Springs.
Photo: Ledson Hotel
18.Romantic Getaways in California: Vintners Inn, Santa Rosa
Vintners Inn is a 44-room getaway surrounded by lush vineyards and landscaped gardens. The inn offers in-room therapeutic massages and a two-mile vineyard trail, perfect for a morning jog on your wine country vacation. John Ash & Co. restaurant features a menu of over 700 wines, local and international. The restaurant serves meals prepared with fresh, local foods and produce.
This is a four-diamond property, complete with attentive service and unique amenities such as a huge stone fireplace and an outdoor whirlpool spa. There is a two-mile path through the vineyards where you can enjoy a refreshing morning jog. Recharge and rejuvenate before heading back to work. Room rates start at $195 per night. Vintners Inn features romantic wedding venues with a choice of indoor and outdoor space.
Photo: Vintners Inn
19.Pampering and Rejuvenation in Beverly Hills
Get away to the stylish Beverly Hills for a weekend of pampering and rejuvenation at Ciel Spa, a modern luxury retreat located at SLS Beverly Hills hotel in Los Angeles. You will be able to shop at some of the most stylish shops in the world and return to the spa for a soothing massage. Facilities include a relaxation lounge, couples suite, herbal steam rooms, oversized experience showers,
and custom massage beds equipped with music therapy technology.
Inspired by the glamor of the city, the wellness center offers a menu of relaxing and rejuvenating treatments. Whether you are looking for a quick pedicure or a longer signature treatment, there is plenty to choose from. Try the "Soft like Silk" signature journey, a 2-hour treatment which begins with a Surf and Sand Body Buff followed by a Green Tea and Clay body wrap. During the Wrap enjoy a soothing scalp massage, which concludes with a 60 minute massage. Relax next to Altitude Pool, a luxurious rooftop pool with plush private cabanas and spectacular city views.
More CA destinations: 15 Best Things to Do in Anaheim, affordable romantic getaways, deals & packages, Best Time to Visit San Francisco, California & Other Travel Tips.
Photo: SLS Beverly Hills hotel
20.Weekend Getaways in California: Hotel del Coronado
At Hotel del Coronado, a popular getaway for families, teens can choose from a menu of services designed especially for them. The Lucky Chick Package is perfect for relaxation since it includes a 25-minute massage, 30-minute manicure, 45-minute pedicure and a 30-minute facial. Sporty teens should try the Pointe Break Package to soothe sore muscles. The treatment includes a 25-minute mud wrap, 10-minute scalp massage and a 15-minute neck, shoulder and arm massage. The Back from the Beach Package will give you the quick pre-dinner lift you need with its 25-minute hand and foot exfoliation followed by a 25-minute hand and foot massage. Find more family trips in California.
Find new places to go in California with kids: 50 Best Family Vacations in California and explore Best Things To Do in Long Beach.
Photo: Hotel del Coronado
21.Mountain Golf in Lake Tahoe - 3 hours 30 minutes from SF
The mountain course at the Resort at Squaw Creek offers scenic views of majestic Sierra peaks and a challenging links-style layout. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., the 18-hole championship course is located at the base of Squaw Valley, at an elevation of 6,200'. The course is par-71 and measures 6,931 yards from the gold tees. Greens fees range from $45 to $95 for resort guests; from $45 to $120 for public guests; golf lessons from $60 per hour. The greens fee includes a cart and valet parking. Walking is allowed and rentals are available. Tee-time reservations can be made in advance by calling 800-3-CREEK-3. Season runs from the end of May through October. Doubles range from $129 to $379 per night. Packages are frequently available.
More places to visit: 10 Perfect Lake Tahoe Weekend Escapes, Best Things to Do in Santa Monica, 25 Best Romantic Things to Do in Los Angeles.
Photo: Resort at Squaw Creek
22.Romantic Getaways in California: Sonoma Valley - 1 hour 10 minutes from SF
Sonoma Mission Inn in Sonoma Valley, California, is one of the few spa resorts in the United States with its own source of natural thermal mineral water. The water flows 1,100 feet beneath the Inn at temperatures around 135 degrees. Sonoma Mission Inn offers an array of relaxing spa treatments.
Guests can indulge in signature bathing rituals, massages for couples and private whirlpool & mineral baths. Find more great getaways from San Francisco. Find more fun wine country getaways.
More ideas nearby this weekend: 25 Best Weekend Getaways from Los Angeles.
Photo: Sonoma Mission Inn
23.California Destinations: Laguna Beach - 1 hour from LA
Visitors to Montage Resort benefit from the resort's oceanfront setting in Laguna Beach, California. After a complimentary 60-minute morning yoga stretch
and ocean walk, visit the resort spa and indulge in one of the ocean-inspired
therapies such as a Thalasso Bath, Marine Wrap or Algae Cellulite Massage. You will also be close to many great restaurants.
More California vacation spots, Southern California destinations: Things to Do in San Diego
Photo: Montage Resort
24.The Garland Hotel, Hollywood
Retro-chic merges with California cool to create a stylish and sophisticated boutique hotel in the heart of north Hollywood. Located just minutes from Universal Studio and the epicenter of ‘tinsel town’, this luxurious retreat is an ideal base from which to explore the city.
The hotel’s rooms and suites reflect the legacy of Hollywood through trendy retro décor, stylish living spaces and vintage furnishings. Ranging from basic rooms with modern amenities to deluxe suites featuring king-sized beds, floor-to-ceiling glass doors and private balconies with stunning views, each promises a comfortable and tranquil retreat.
A range of first-class facilities make your stay memorable – enjoy a complimentary trolley service to and from Universal Studios Hollywood and other famous attractions; relax on the vast sun deck next to the swimming pool and Jacuzzi; work out in the private fitness center and browse The Store, for locally sourced, California-inspired gifts. Enjoy freshly brewed coffee and sweet pastries for breakfast from the Courtyard Canteen, savor delicious LA-inspired cuisine on the outdoor patio of The Front Yard and sip colorful cocktails in glamorous style at the poolside bar. Rooms start at $249 per night. Read more
Photo: The Garland Hotel
50 Best California Weekend Getaways
- Romantic Weekend Getaway in San Diego, Photo: THE US GRANT, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Diego
- California Trip to Del Mar - 2 hours from Los Angeles, Photo: L'Auberge Del Mar
- Senza Hotel in Napa - 1 hour 10 minutes from San Francisco, Photo: Photo Credit: Justine Di Fede
- Langham Huntington Hotel - 20 minutes from LA, Photo: Langham Huntington Hotel
- W San Francisco, Photo: W San Francisco
- El Dorado Hotel & Kitchen in Sonoma - 1 hour from San Francisco, Photo: El Dorado Hotel & Kitchen
- Mini Vacations: Casa Del Mar - 20 minutes from Los Angeles, Photo: Casa Del Mar
- Inn at the Pier, Photo: Inn at the Pier
- Hotel Erwin, Photo: Hotel Erwin
- California Destinations: The Town of Ojai - 1 hour 25 minutes from LA, Photo: Ojai Valley Inn
- California Destinations: Santa Monica - 20 minutes from Los Angeles, Photo: The Fairmont Miramar Hotel
- Weekend Getaways in California: The Spa at CordeValle - 1 hour from San Francisco, Photo: The Spa at CordeValle
- The Lodge at Tiburon, Photo: The Lodge at Tiburon
- Romantic Getaways in California: Sonoma Coast Villa, Photo: Sonoma Coast Villa
- Wine Valley Inn in Solvang, Photo: Wine Valley Inn
- Hotel Pacific in Monterey, Photo: Hotel Pacific
- Ledson Hotel in Sonoma, Photo: Ledson Hotel
- Romantic Getaways in California: Vintners Inn, Santa Rosa, Photo: Vintners Inn
- Pampering and Rejuvenation in Beverly Hills, Photo: SLS Beverly Hills hotel
- Weekend Getaways in California: Hotel del Coronado, Photo: Hotel del Coronado
- Mountain Golf in Lake Tahoe - 3 hours 30 minutes from SF, Photo: Resort at Squaw Creek
- Romantic Getaways in California: Sonoma Valley - 1 hour 10 minutes from SF, Photo: Sonoma Mission Inn
- California Destinations: Laguna Beach - 1 hour from LA, Photo: Montage Resort
- The Garland Hotel, Hollywood, Photo: The Garland Hotel
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of oscity - Fotolia.com
More Quick Weekend Vacations in CA
Eureka played an important role in the 19th century West Coast lumber trade as one of the largest deep-water ports on the West Coast. As a result of the thriving industry, Eureka developed as an attractive Victorian city that continues to charm visitors in Old Town Eureka, with well-preserved Victorian mansions turned cafes, galleries and shops.
For more history, visit Fort Humboldt State Historic Park, the former remote military post with the attached historic logging Museum, and the Clarke Historical Museum, located in the historic Bank of Eureka. A drive through the majestic ancient trees on the Redwood Highway will leave you in awe. Visit the Sequoia Park Zoo to see the animals that live among the redwoods. Take a hike through the Headwaters Forest Reserve, the only old-growth redwood forest ecosystem left intact in the world.
It is hard to imagine that someone actually lives in Beverly Hills, except the rich and famous, of course. Just a stroll through Rodeo Drive boggles the mind, with boutiques where one needs an appointment to shop. But, it is a good place to spot celebrities, just as is Mulholland Drive, a 21 mile long road through the Santa Monica Hills where so many movie stars live behind the tall gates. To get a glimpse of their lifestyle, take a tour of the 55 room 1927 Greystone Mansion and Gardens, the home of billionaire Ned Dohne Jr.
Another luxury home turned gallery worth visiting is the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, with its world-class collection of 400 pieces of contemporary art. At the Margaret Herrick Library, you can follow the history of moving pictures through 42,000 items which include movies, scripts and photographs. A visit to Beverly Hills would not be complete without stopping by the historic Beverly Hills Hotel and its famous Polo Lounge.
Encinitas is the capital of surfing, and surfers that flock to Encinitas from all over the world give it a distinct, quirky personality. It is also a perfect place to learn to surf, and Leucadia Surf School will get you standing on the board in no time. Beautiful wide Cardiff State Beach is not only great for surfing but for swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling and kiteboarding.
Swami’s Surf Beach is the most popular among surfers, and the park on the cliffs above the beach is perfect for watching the show. On top of the cliff above the beach is Self-Realization Fellowship Hermitage & Meditation Gardens Retreat, open to visitors and curious minds as well as those interested in spending some time meditating. San Diego Botanic Garden will amaze you with the diversity of plant collections that represent different California ecosystems.
A great way to get the feel of the land in this charming beach town is to hop on the free Laguna Beach Trolley, which will take you through and around the town, making a stop at 34 different spots. See the city and its famous beaches from high ground in the Crescent Bay Point Park, located on the bluff above the city beach.
Take a swim, enjoy watersports or check out what lives in shallow waters in the tidal pools at the city’s main and largest Main Beach, or go see the way beaches looked in the past at the natural, unspoiled Crystal Cove State Park.
Take the kids to see the rescued California sea lions, Northern fur seals, Northern elephant seals and Pacific harbor seals at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. Many artists belonging to the Laguna Beach thriving art colony are showing and selling their art at the Kush Fine Art Gallery. The Laguna Art Museum focuses on displaying and preserving the art of California artists from 19th century to today. Find great things to do in Laguna Beach and dine at one of the romantic restaurants. Montage Resort is a luxury getaway with ocean views, pool, spa and palm trees.
A charming village known for its lively art scene, Carmel is located in one of the most breathtakingly beautiful corners of the world. Snuggled in the cove in Monterey Peninsula, with fine sandy beaches and endless ocean on one side and rugged rocky coast covered with lush Mediterranean greenery on the other, Monterey has always been an inspiration to artists. You can understand why when driving along the Seventeen Mile Drive along the coast, or while strolling through the narrow paths of the Point Lobos State Reserve. Visit 1770 San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission and its three museums to get a sense of the area’s history.
Check what is on at the world-known Sunset Cultural Center, a center for performing arts located in the beautiful 1926 gothic structure, or in the open scene of the Forest Theatre. Learn about the contemporary art scene in Monterey at the Westbrook Modern Art Gallery or Carl Cherry Center for the Arts. More ideas: 25 Best Romantic Getaways in Carmel, California.
The life of Santa Monica revolves around its Pier. The history of this iconic 100 year old structure is the history of this lively beach town. It is the place where both locals and tourists go to watch the sunset, try their hand in fishing, have a bite to eat or just watch the world go by. Under the Pier is one the best aquariums in the country and just next to it is buzzing Pacific Park, an amusement park with fun rides and rollercoasters the kids will love.
On both sides of the Pier is the famous three and half mile long Santa Monica Beach, with its watersports and beach sports, swimming and sea-gazing. To escape from the relentless sun, take a drive up the Santa Monica Mountains, where 20 parks offer plenty of shade and opportunity for hiking, biking and bird-watching. Stroll through Downtown Santa Monica and pedestrian Third Street Promenade to see the different side of Santa Monica. The Fairmont Miramar is a luxury hotel with a spa, pool and elegant dining.
About a mile from the coast, Costa Mesa was a small agrarian community until relatively recently. Today, it is a modern city with a thriving art scene. Just how much things have changed will be clear at the Diego Sepúlveda Adobe, one of the oldest structures in Orange County, built to host travelling herdsmen. For the full contrast, go to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, an ultramodern structure designed by the world-famous architect Cesar Pelli, the home to the Pacific Symphony, the Philharmonic Society of Orange County and the Pacific Chorale.
For a peaceful respite, visit the serene California Scenario also called Noguchi Garden, and to stretch your legs and learn about California plant communities, hike or bike through the 208 acre Fairview Park. The park is popular among locals for picnics and community events, and if you are lucky, you might come during the annual Fish Fry.
Oakland is just a bridge across the bay away from San Francisco, but worlds apart in spirit. Known for its political activism, ethnic diversity and sustainability efforts, Oakland is a fun place to visit and offers something for everyone. At Chabot Space and Science Center you can gaze at the stars or attend a course. Beautifully renovated Fox Theater will entertain you with a concert or a show and the Oakland Museum of California, with more than two million objects, will help you understand what makes California the way it is.
Kids will love the Oakland Zoo with more than 400 animals, especially free-roaming elephants, and will be thrilled to board the USS Potomac, President Roosevelt’s official presidential yacht. Art and Soul Oakland festival held every year on August 1 will help you understand the soul of Oakland as the whole town hits the streets for the music, food and drinks.
The best way of getting the feel of Denmark without actually going to Denmark is to visit Solvang, founded by a group of Danes in 1911. Stroll through the city downtown to admire typical Danish rural architecture and visit typical Danish rural Bethania Lutheran Church completed in 1928, with beautiful handmade woodwork at the altar. Kids will enjoy playing at the Hans Christian Anderson Park with its fairytale castle entrance gate.
Learn more about Solvang’s history at the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art, located in a beautiful example of Danish architecture, and visit the Wildling Art Museum to see works of local artists inspired by the love of nature. There are so many great vineyards in the surrounding Santa Ynez Valley, the best way to explore as many as possible is by taking one of the Solvang Taxi and Wine Tours. More about Solvang.
Without sandy beaches like so many other California cities, Bakersfield is an inland city that holds its own with a thriving art scene and a number of attractions for the whole family. Learn about the area’s distant past at the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History with its locally collected fossils. For more recent history, visit the Kern County Museum, which encompasses 56 historic buildings such as an original school and jail and thousands of artifacts from California history.
Kids will enjoy seeing rescued abused animals that have a second chance at the California Area Living Museum. Bring them to the Murray Family Farms where they can ride a tractor-driven hay wagon, pick fruits from the trees and play with farm animals. Check if there is a concert or some other performance at the historic Fox Theater or the much more modern Rabobank Arena, Theater & Convention Center. For a breath of fresh air, take a hike through the beautiful shady Kern River Parkway.
Irvine is a young city, planned and developed since 1960, and it already managed to become one of the most affluent cities in the country. You can see the whole city and its surroundings from the Orange County Great Park, and former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, where one of the attractions is The Great Park Balloon that can lift up to 30 people 400 feet above the ground. One of the city’s landmarks is the beautiful Irvine Barclay Theatre performing arts venue.
Strawberry Farms and Oak Creek golf clubs will thrill the golfers, and the kids will love visiting and tasting, Chocxo Bean to Bar Chocolatier chocolate factory. Let them spend some energy and engage their imagination at the interactive Pretend City Children's Museum. Boomers! Irvine is a playground for the whole family with go karts, bumper boats, laser tag, a rock climbing wall and miniature golf.
Just across the bay from San Francisco and home of the oldest campus of the University of California, Berkeley is known for its liberal views, rich cultural life and unique attractions. Stroll through the campus of the University of California and climb to the observation level of the Sather Tower to see the whole city. Check out what is happening at the innovative Berkeley Repertory Theatre and what is growing in California at the magnificent University of California Botanical Garden. Take a deep breath and enjoy the fragrance at the Berkeley Rose Garden.
Kids will have fun at the Lawrence Hall of Science with its hands-on science exhibits and the preschoolers and little ones will enjoy the toys and games at the Habitot Children's Museum. Stroll through the Berkeley Marina to see the magnificent yachts and have a bite to eat at one of the upscale restaurants. Claremont Club & Spa is a famous place to stay in the area.
Santa Ana is an inland city where past and present intersect harmoniously and art thrives. Learn about the city‘s history at the Bowers Museum located in the lovely Mission Revival-style building, or at the Heritage Museum of Orange County with several 1890s buildings such as the famous Kellogg House. Some unusual and rare animals at the Santa Ana Zoo will thrill the kids.
They will also love seeing old planes at the Lyon Air Museum and will have great fun at Discovery Cube, a ten-story solar cube with sections devoted to different sciences. Visit the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art to see what local artists are working on and treat yourself with a concert at the Pacific Symphony.
|From Los Angeles, CA To ||Driving Time|
|San Diego, CA||2 hours|
|Del Mar Village, CA||2 hours|
|Pasadena, CA||20 minutes|
|Santa Monica||20 minutes|
|Ojai, CA||1 hour 25 minutes|
|Laguna Beach||1 hour|
|San Francisco, CA To ||Driving Time|
|Lake Tahoe||3 hours 30 minutes|
|Napa||1 hour 10 minutes|
|Sonoma Valley||1 hour 10 minutes|
|San Martin, CA||1 hour 5 minutes|