The ideal weekend trip keeps the time spent in transit moderate so you can actually enjoy the destination while still getting back to your desk by Tuesday morning. Suffice it to say, we’re excluding any trans-continental voyages, and looking more at road trips and quick plane jaunts that will get you there and back with ease.
Mix one part laid-back hippie with one part Mission-era historic, and you’ll come up with Ojai, the perfect spot for a low-key getaway or day trip. There are spas, lots of hiking trails, olive groves, and quirky shops to explore. Wildlife-lovers can also make arrangements to tour the Turtle Conservancy and meet some charming tortoises and turtles.
Travel time from L.A.: Two hours
Stay: Caravan Outpost, a fun enclave of retrofitted Airstream trailers in a tropical garden setting
Eat: Tipple & Ramble, the cutest “picnic shop” and cafe, with a patio that you will never want to leave
Big Bear Lake
Contrary to what you may have heard, Big Bear is not just for ski season. It’s a year-round destination–and there is a vocal contingent who will swear to you the summer season is actually better. Rent a pontoon boat at Big Bear Marina and float around the lake at your leisure. Hang out at your cozy cabin, go for a swim, or just enjoy some laid-back lake life.
Travel time from L.A.: Two and a half hours
Eat: Local Tropicali, a tropical-ish spot associated with pro-surfer Sanoe Lake’s lifestyle brand of the same name, might seem out of place when this town is covered in snow, but their juices, poke bowls, and island-ish breakfasts make perfect sense in the summer.
You like the proximity and vibe of Palm Springs, but you want something slightly different, and that’s maybe a little less of a scene. Palm Desert fits the bill. There are pools galore, relaxing spas, and fancy shops to browse, all in a quiet oasis setting.
Travel time from L.A.: Two and a half hours
Eat: AC3 Restaurant + Bar for casual dining by the team behind Palm Springs classics Trio and Copley’s, in a sunny, newly opened space
Central Coast Wine Country
The Central Coast offers multiple gorgeous areas for wine-based getaways, each with a different personality. Take a scroll through our extensive recent guide and you’ll find tips for exploring Santa Ynez, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, and more. If you need a break from all that sniffing and swirling, don’t forget to enjoy the natural beauty of the area, from hiking in Montana de Oro State Park to launching a kayak from Pismo Beach.
Travel time from L.A.: Two to four hours
Stay: Hotel Cheval, an Old World-styled boutique hotel with an indulgent spa, stone-walled library for drinking nightcaps by the fireplace, and just 16 guest rooms
Eat: Thomas Hill Organics in Paso Robles, a wine-focused all-day bistro that highlights locally grown, seasonal fare
Valle de Guadalupe
Not every wine country road trip requires going north. For a different approach, head down to Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe, which might be the hippest wine region in Mexico, if not the whole west coast. Mexican wine making has a long tradition, but hasn’t always been widely recognized outside the country, so the region remains a little more under-the-radar than California’s vineyards.
Travel time from L.A.: Three and a half hours by car
Stay: Rent one of the quirky modernist cabins at Rocas del Valle.
Eat: Finca Altozano, for Mexican fare by renowned chef Javier Plascencia
After all, your friends on the East Coast already think L.A. and S.F. are practically adjacent. A quick trip up to the Bay is actually totally doable on a weekend–there’s even that overnight bus, if you’re up for it–just be sure to bring a warm coat. Once you arrive, no trip to the city is complete without a visit to SFMoMA; over Memorial Day you’ll be able to catch the final days of the museum’s Designed in California exhibit, highlighting local creativity of the 1960s and ’70s.
Travel time from L.A.: Six hours by car or 70 to 90 minutes by plane
Stay: The just-remodeled Kimpton Buchanan Hotel is tucked off the beaten path on a charming block of Japantown, offering a lovely base of Bay Area operations.
Eat: Bar Crenn, the newest project by renowned chef Dominique Crenn, is the current buzz champion in a town where food buzz can be deafening–and it deserves all the hype it gets.
Mix up your typical desert weekend with a trip to Arizona. The landscape is remarkable and a day-trip out of town one afternoon to visit Saguaro National Park, offers a chance to explore some of the most stunning nature in the country. Once the heat starts to get to you, there are always pools to float in, an emerging dining scene, and lots and lots of golf.
Travel time from L.A.: Six and a half hours by car or 90 minutes by plane
Stay: The Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced Arizona Biltmore resort
Eat: Pizzeria Bianco, where classically trained pizzaiolo Chris Bianco is whipping up some of the most highly-regarded pizza anywhere (check him out now, before his planned L.A. location opens later this year, so you can say you knew him when)
Not everybody is a “wine person.” Some people are beer people, and they shouldn’t be left out. For the perfect beer-centric getaway, head to Oregon, home of many leading craft breweries, most notably Rogue Ales & Spirits. The brand, America’s only brewer-distiller-grower-cooper (yes, they even make their own barrels) has opened up a private farm where its grows ten different varieties of hops; there’s also a tasting room right on site. After your farm tour, explore Salem, where Victorian and Native American influences meet in charming Pacific Northwest style.
Travel time from L.A.: Two and a half hours by plane
Stay: Abbey Road Farm Silo Suites Bed & Breakfast, where you’ll sleep in a converted grain silo, surrounded by bucolic landscapes
Eat: For a fancy meal, make a reservation at the Joel Palmer House, where chefs honor the legacy of the man who first put Oregon-grown mushrooms and truffles on the culinary map.
Playa del Carmen
With direct flights from LAX to Cancun, the perfect beaches of the Yucatan are in pretty easy (and fairly affordable) reach. Relaxing will be the name of the game, from floating in swimming pools to laying on soft sand beaches in the shade of a thatched palapa, best enjoyed with some tequila and ceviche close at hand.
Travel time from L.A.: Four and a half hours by plane
Stay: Mahekal Beach Resort offers everything you could want from a big resort, but without the lame, bland feel of many corporate chain offerings, and offers some adults-only areas for when you don’t want rowdy kiddos around.
Eat: After a day out in the sun, go deep underground at Alux Restaurant, built into a 10,000-year-old natural cave.
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