With spring and summer on the horizon, taking a day trip from Los Angeles to one of these destinations is a fun way to vacation without going too far. There are so many must-see spots you can travel to that are just a short distance away. I’ve chosen five of my go-to destinations and highlighted my favorite restaurants, things to do, and attractions at each.
For each trip, the starting point is Downtown Los Angeles, departing at 7AM.
Ojai, Ventura County – 1 hour 40 minutes
“With nature all around you and bohemian vibes, there’s so much to do and see in this charming town.”
Start your day early by ordering a bacon and avocado breakfast taco with a matcha latte from the popular Love Social Cafe. After that, take a walk to the Ojai Certified Farmers’ Market (open on Sundays). Here you can pick fresh produce and specialty items to bring back home. Still within walking distance is downtown Ojai, where you can shop for kitschy antiques and art at the plaza. Be sure to check out Treasures of Ojai, an antique store that also carries beautiful silver and turquoise jewelry. Another store worth visiting is Trend, a consignment shop that sells clothing, accessories and decor. For a fun pit stop before lunch, head to Ojai Olive Oil (reservations required) to tour the farm or Topa Mountain Winery (reservations required) to enjoy a wine flight in nature.
For lunch, grab a bite at The Nest (the figgy piggy pizza is delicious!) before heading out again to spend the rest of the day in therapeutic nature. Matilija Canyon Ecotopia (reservations required) is a natural hot-springs where you can take a much-needed dip or take a hike up to the picturesque Meditation Mount in the valley. Be sure to head there around sunset to catch the famous Ojai golden hour “pink moment.”
End your day the Italian way by dining at Osteria Monte Grappa, a restaurant that uses local produce in their dishes and wine from the local vineyards. If you have time before leaving, grab a souvenir from Rainbow Bridge Village Marketplace!
Santa Barbara – 1 hour 40 minutes
“Not only is the drive to Santa Barbara pretty straightforward (you can take the 101 or PCH), the scenic trip up the coast is breathtaking.”
Began your day at Scarlett Begonia for breakfast, where the lemon ricotta pancakes are out of this world. Take a walk to State Street, a shopping paradise, where you can visit the Paseo Nuevo outdoor mall that has stores like Lush and Sephora. (Every weekend, they do a Makers and Wares Market where you can shop local SB artisans!) Spend the rest of your morning at Stearns Wharf. Here you can ride in the water taxi, try your hand at fishing, or just take a stroll on the beach. For lunch, The Harbor Restaurant is a must-try; they’re famous for their coastal views and seafood!
After lunch, spend your afternoon relaxing at Arroyo Burro Beach County Park or explore the abundant Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. Another spot to go to is Rattlesnake Canyon Trailhead, a picture perfect hike that follows a creek up a canyon. The views and scenery are like no other, and there are tons of waterfalls and streams to take a swim in. If you have time to make it up to the mountains, visit the historic Western saloon Cold Spring Tavern and grab a drink before dinner. Speaking of dinner, Los Agaves in downtown Santa Barbara is a must-try with their authentic gourmet Mexican dishes and drinks.
Joshua Tree, Riverside and San Bernardino – 2 hours
“Joshua Tree is one of my favorite places to visit in California. It’s a psychedelic desert oasis with magical and spiritual energy running through every corner.”
Since the day will be full of hiking and nature, it’s best to get a healthy breakfast. My go-to spot is a locals favorite, The Natural Sisters Cafe. It’s located right by the entrance to Joshua Tree. Once you’re finished, every Saturday, Joshua Tree has a Farmers’ Market downtown where you can pick up fresh fruits and organic snacks and bring them with you for a picnic lunch. You can also go vintage shopping at Ricochet Vintage Wears to search for some cool finds before your hike.
In the late morning, head to Hidden Valley Nature Trail. It’s an easily accessible one-mile hike where you can wander around the rock formations. There’s also a picnic area so you can enjoy your lunch. (It’s located on the opposite side of the trailhead with an abundance of ancient Joshua trees, boulders, and scenic spots to take photos). Next, there are a ton of areas to see as you drive along the park, but I recommend stopping at my two favorites. One is the Barker Dam Nature Trail, another short hike, with breathtaking landscapes and a body of water where you can bird watch. The other is the Cholla Cactus Garden with thousands of chollas spread across the desert floor and mountain views in the distance. Before heading out, make a stop at Skull Rock and take a picture in front of the rock. Joshua Tree looks unreal, almost like a painting, and this rock just adds to that. Before you drive back, don’t forget to try the unique curry pizza and mango ice cream from Sam’s Indian Food as I’m sure you’re starving by now!
Solvang, Santa Ynez Valley – 2 hours 10 minutes
“Who knew there was an entirely Danish town nestled within the Santa Ynez Valley? Solvang is known for its picturesque landscape and is filled with rustic buildings, windmills, and old-fashion cottages reminiscent of Denmark.”
Paula’s Pancake House is the ultimate breakfast spot. They have the best Danish pancakes and Belgian waffles in California. Next, stop by the Elverhoj Museum (only the grounds and store are open right now) to get a look into the history of Solvang and the heritage of Denmark. Don’t forget to take a walk around the village to see the iconic Little Mermaid Fountain, the wooden windmills, the replica of Copenhagen’s Round Tower, and the famous giant red clog.
As your day continues, view the historic architecture of the Old Mission Santa Ines. After that, you’ll find an antique and vintage mall called A Piece of the Past. It has over 28 different vendors selling art, clothing, and furniture. For a snack, go to Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery to get a tray of tasty butter cookies and homemade raspberry jam. You can even take a wine tour at Stagecoach Co. Vineyard (reservations needed) or grab a glass at Dana V. Wines tasting room. With so much to do in such a small city, don’t forget to try a classic Danish dinner at the Copenhagen Sausage Garden. They have items like charcuterie, a sausage sampler, or my favorite—a pretzel with cheese sauce!
Palm Springs, Riverside County – 1 hour 45 minutes
When you’re looking for a change of scenery, take a quick drive to the desert to experience what this trendy, yet relaxing place has to offer.
Start your day with a tasty Parisian brunch from L’Atelier Cafe. The crepes and quiches won’t disappoint. Once you’re there, you can take a breathtaking 10-minute tram ride through Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (advance ticket purchase required) over Chino Canyon cliffs, landing at Mt. San Jacinto State Park. Once you are at the park you can take a scenic 1.5 mile hike through the Desert View Trail, or a 0.6 mile hike through Discovery Nature Trail. For lunch, grab a soup and sandwich at the Pines Cafe up in the mountains (the tramway offers a combination ticket to eat here).
After walking, spend your afternoon thrifting at Revivals Stores for vintage finds or check out the Antique Galleries of Palm Springs, a 2-story antique outpost. If you’re looking for another way to wind down, stroll through the gorgeous Moorten Botanical Garden, a living museum of everything from cacti to crystals to ancient fossils. It’s only $5 for admission and is a tranquil oasis worth visiting with plenty of spots to take pictures! You can even buy some desert plants from their nursery to bring home. End the day with Taco Tuesday (and Thursday) at The Saguaro Hotel. The rainbow hotel is a must-see and has a ton of tasty options. I recommend the Sweet Potato Tacos and one of their specialty Tequila drinks!