For greater convenience without losing adventure, more travelers are hitting the road and traveling locally. Thankfully, you don't have to go too far from L.A. to experience an incredible family or friends getaway. Here are five amazing short road trips that showcase some of the best scenery and wide-open spaces that California has to offer.
Driving distance: 1 h 48 min
This destination is an oasis in the middle of the Mojave Desert, where the architecture of the 50s and the artistic scene attracts large amount of visitors per year. It’s marked by a strong cultural scene, good cuisine, several shops and, of course, its beautiful parks. At Monte San Jacinto State Park, you will have a bird’s eye view of the city at an elevation of over 3,000 meters. The botanical garden is home to approximately 1,400 species of plants while the Indian Canyons offers an excellent array of hiking options such as trails over desert hillsides or along the cool, palm-lined gorges.
Don’t miss the several museums for every taste with themes ranging from old-fashioned to modern. For example, Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center is the perfect stop for those interested in art and history and want to add mid-century vibes to their visit. Lastly, you can feel the thrill of being aboard a warbird as part of the large amount of older models of period-specific aircrafts featured at the Palm Springs Air Museum.
Driving distance: 2-3 hours
Arid low desert and vegetated high desert meet within Joshua Tree National Park, making this national park a common destination for photography enthusiasts, hikers and climbers. The spiky Joshua Tree Forest is the foreground to a wonderland of gigantic granite boulders and rock outcrops.
Within the rocky landscapes of Joshua Tree National Park, you'll find a variety of great hiking trails, such as Hidden Valley, Cap Rock, Barker Dam, leading to magnificent views of the Coachella Valley, the Salton Sea and the San Andreas Fault. These popular destinations include Skull Rock and Keys View, the highest viewpoint in the park.
Driving distance: 2 hr 26 min
Solvang is a Danish getaway without no passport needed. With approximately 5,000 habitants, this small town is a slice of Denmark in the middle of the Santa Ynez Valley filled Danish-style homes, windmills, restaurants, bakeries and cute boutiques.
For fun, you can visit the Slovang Festival Theater, a 700-seat outdoor amphitheater for theatrical productions and concerts or the Elverhoj Museum - built on a farm - where you can learn the storied history and culture of this town and its danished settlers. Take pictures in its famous mills and spend day relaxing and intaking the wonderful views at Hans Christian Andersen. Honorable mention - taste a large selection of exquisite wines and delicate cheeses in the Rideau Vineyard, located in a huge house surrounded by the most breathtaking gardens.
Driving distance: 1 h 50 min
With a markedly colonial architecture, Santa Barbara is a city that reminds of its rich history under Spanish command several centuries ago. Enjoy this wonderful city at your own pace (we prefer slow) and be surrounded by beautiful beaches where you can catch the sunset.
Mission Santa Barbara and the County Courthouse are must-sees for its remarkable architectural structures alone. The Santa Barbara Museum of Art has a varied collection of photography and contemporary art exhibits including Asian art and works by artists such as Matisse and Rivera. Spend a day at the beach and walk down State Street, the heartbeat of the city and one-mile stretch of road with a dynamic nightlife and endless restaurants to shop. There is something for everyone at Santa Barbara.
Driving distance: 42 min
When you want to escape the city for some chill surf vibes then head out to Malibu. Your biggest problem here will just be deciding which of Malibu’s top beaches to go to first, as its 20 plus beaches each offer a different experience.
In addition to swimming on the beaches, walking in the residential area and visiting parks you can visit places for everyone's enjoyment such as the Getty Villa, a free admission museum where you can enjoy ancient and Roman Greek art. You can also visit the Surf Museum where you can see more than 30 surfboards dating from 1910. Don’t leave Malibu without going to Malibu Pier, a perfect place to sit and enjoy a sunset or stroll through the Malibu-branded gift shops that include items of clothing, fishing, household items and more.