Living in Los Angeles, we have so many beautiful weekend destinations right at our fingertips. Though I could name so many more, I’ve rounded up my top four favorite weekend trips out of L.A. They are all under 3 hours away. Let me know in the comments what your favorite is or if you have any to add!
Wiley and I have been sneaking away for years to Santa Ynez Valley, in the mountains behind Santa Barbara, for wine tasting. Only 2 1/2 hours from our house in Topanga, it’s an easy drive up the coast. We usually plan our trip like this:
Leave Topanga in the morning around 7:30 and drive to Solvang and check in to the Wine Valley Inn. I am sure there are lots of other gorgeous places to stay but this is where we always like to go. They have gorgeous little cottages complete with private jacuzzis and a romantic fireplace. Afterwards, we head to Paula’s Pancake House in Solvang for Danish pancakes the side of your head and freshly squeezed orange juice – perfect fuel before a day of wine tasting.
After brekkie, we head out to Los Olivos to the R-Country Market/Deli or the Los Olivos Grocery to gather together a nice picnic of sandwiches, cheeses, olives, and lots of WATER (lol). After this stop we’re ready for the fun! We drive onto the Foxen Canyon Road for our favorite tasting stops. There are so many but we usually only manage 3 or 4 in a day. Our favorite stops are Foxen (the new and old locations as they have brilliant wine), Koehler (they have emus and friendly cats you can say hi to), and Fess Parker (beautiful property). But we always end up at Demetria for to have our picnic though – our favorite by far (don’t forget to call ahead for your reservation time though). They have a beautiful patio with live music, delicious wines, and views of their peaceful vineyard. Once you get there you won’t want to leave.
After we’ve had our fill of wine tasting, we head back into Solvang to walk around and explore (always making sure at some point on the trip to pop into Jule Haus– a cozy little year-round Christmas shop for some ornaments). For a romantic dinner we love Cold Springs Tavern. This spot is a GEM! It’s romantic, beautiful and historical having been a stagecoach stop since 1886 and a beautifully preserved restaurant/tavern since 1941. If we aren’t up for the 25 min drive there we usually head to Hitching Post (this place you can taxi/uber to so everyone can indulge on even more wine). The next morning we will usually go back to Los Olivos to explore the town and their cute shops (and pop into an in-town wine tasting spot or two) before heading home, always stopping at Cold Spring Tavern on the way for their famous weekend BBQ (complete with bikers and live music).
Having gone countless times throughout my childhood and still to this day, Avalon will always be near and dear to my heart. This beautiful, quaint beach town on Catalina Island has been a weekend getaway spot for Angelenos since the early 1900’s (it’s most famous fan being Marylin Monroe who lived there briefly when she was Norma Jean). Perfect for a romantic trip for couples or as a family, it’s a MUST if you live in Los Angeles and I’m always surprised to find more people haven’t been. To get there, book your tickets on the Catalina Express, it’s a 1½ hour boat ride that departs from San Pedro or Long Beach (make sure to get there early so you can snag one of their group tables, bring playing cards and get one of their famous Bloody Marys). Though there are tons of gorgeous hotels to stay at, we usually book a cottage via CIVR.com. We love the quaint, cozy, beach cottages and it’s easier to have a kitchen with kids. Descanso Beach is where it’s at if you want to lay on the sand and have waiters bring you salads, nachos, and pina coladas all day (me lol). It’s also a lovely beach to swim at and many a time have I floated around the cove in a floatie with my Descanso Destroyer cocktail in hand.
Our favorite casual lunch spot is for fish sandwiches and fries at Rosie’s on the Green Pier. We also love taking the kids mini-golfing (though honestly I’d have more fun if we were actually able to do it right and keep score as it turns into a bit of a shit show with the kids who keep stealing everyone’s balls). I would also recommend renting a golf cart (how almost everyone gets around on the island) and exploring the beautiful back roads that take you up into the hills for a beautiful view of the harbor (perfect for those gram-worthy shots). Kayaking around the harbor is another fun thing to do as is visiting the Botanical Gardens or taking the submarine tour. Avalon Grille is gorgeous for dinner and afterwards we always head over to El Galleon for some drinks and karaoke. Avalon is such a beautiful town, I highly recommend spending longer than a weekend because honestly once you get there you won’t want to leave but you can definitely make the most of your time if you just go for a weekend.
Laguna Beach is another town near and dear to me as we own a timeshare here and have been going for years. Like Avalon, this is another town that is fun with or without kids. It’s an artsy beach town two hours south of Los Angeles. We always stay at our timeshare spot called Laguna Surf, which can be rented by non-owners as well, but there are so many gorgeous hotels in all price ranges around. I love Laguna because we park our car when we get there and don’t use it once the whole time. Almost everything is in walking distance and if it’s not, you can hop on a trolley. During the day we are either walking around the shops in town or hanging on the beach. Our favorite lunch spots are: Taco Loco (their blackened calamari tacos are so yum), Orange Inn for bee pollen smoothies, Las Brisas (in a great spot – good for strong drinks and salads/apps), The Deck (more upscale), and The Cliff (love their food and margaritas and they have great people watching if you get the beach view seats).
For dinner we love K’ya (small tapas plates and busy atmosphere which is good for bringing the kids), Watermarc (our fav), Alessa by Pirozzi (great Italian in the center of town), Nick’s is a classic, and Okura we love for sushi.
If you go while the Sawdust Art Festival is on definitely check it out. I always end up buying something there (like my favorite coffee mug) – so many amazing little art stalls set up. Also, though I haven’t been to Pageant of the Masters, I’ve heard wonderful things. This town is perfect whether you want a romantic weekend away, a family friendly vacation, or girls’ trip.
We only went to Ojai recently for the first time but we had the most magical weekend. We stayed at the gorgeous Ojai Vista Farm, a boutique organic farm stay (and soon to be vineyard) that’s perfect for one big family but large enough for a few small families/groups of friends to share. The property is more instagrammable than you could ever imagine (I was in heaven haha), and the kids loved running wild and exploring the grounds. The luxurious California Spanish estate is private and inviting, complete with a sparkling pool and spa, fire pit, teepee, hammocks, groves to explore and a romantic outdoor dining area.
During the day, when we were swimming or exploring the property, we were in town. Libbey Park is perfect for active kids like ours who tired themselves out so much that they slept through our wine and salad lunch at the casual Libbey’s Market at Ojai Valley Inn. They also have a much nicer spot there called Olivella for a romantic, kid free environment and Jimmy’s Pub (excellent bloody marys).
Also great for lunch: The Nest, Ojai Tortilla House (best take away tacos/burritos), Ojai Harvest, Ojai Deer Lodge, Beacon Coffee, Farmer and the Cook (vegan). For dinner try Nocciola, Ojai Pizza (can be delivered to the farm), or Olivella.
I hope this post inspires you to take your own weekend getaway soon and enjoy all the beautiful little towns so close to our bustling city. I’d love to hear if you have any recommendations that aren’t on this list close to L.A.! We’re always looking for a new fun spot to explore!