20 Day Trips From Los Angeles

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The epicentre of iconic landmarks and vibrant entertainment that California is famous for, Los Angeles is a mega-metropolis oozing culture, sunshine and Angelinos who know how to have a great time. Less than three hours driving from the Mexican border and the deserts of California, planning an itinerary to explore in and around Los Angeles is easy as there are so many choices.

Whether driving southward to sizzling San Diego, hopping over the Mexican border to Tijuana or hitting the golden beaches of Santa Barbara, there are fantastic activities and adventures to be enjoyed in Southern California. So, here’s our list of the best day trip destinations from Los Angeles, all within a three-hour drive.

20 Day Trips From Los Angeles

Top Tours From Los Angeles

  • California Highlights Express – this popular three-day tour combines several popular day trip destinations, such as Yosemite National Park, Carmel, Pacific Coast Highway, Solvang and Santa Barbara. Book now to save your spot (24-hour cancellation for a full refund applies)
  • Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park – skip the lines and reserve your tickets for a full-day trip that the whole family will enjoy!
  • Wild West Tour – get your cowboy and cowgirl boots on and experience California’s Wild West departing from Los Angeles.

Day Trips From Los Angeles – Under 1-hour 

1- Laguna Beach

romantic day trips from los angeles Milky Way over a cliff overlooking the ocean
For a romantic day trip from Los Angeles, Laguna Beach has the goods.

Laguna Beach is a quintessential Southern Californian beachside town south of downtown Los Angeles.

A haven for surfers, nature enthusiasts and urban explorers, Laguna Beach draws thousands of visitors every year to the town’s manicured gardens, pristine beaches and art galleries.

An eclectic mix of sun, surf and culture, Laguna Beach has something for everyone to see and experience.

If you’re a fan of award-winning Californian art, do not miss the Laguna Art Museum and the JoAnne Artman Gallery.

Alternatively, if you’re more into lazing about on the beach all day, head towards downtown Laguna’s Main Beach for some sizzling summertime fun.

Laguna Beach is 55 miles (88 km) and about a 50-minute drive from downtown Los Angeles.

2- Newport Beach and Balboa Island

fun day trips from los angeles ferris wheel and toy soldier
If your visiting with kids, one of the best day trips from Los Angeles is Balboa Island in Newport Beach.

Known for its ritzy designer boutiques and large private yachts, Newport Beach is much more than the seaside town of choice for the rich and famous.

Located roughly 45 minutes from Los Angeles, Newport Beach is home to charming neighbourhoods and family-friendly attractions that won’t cost you a fortune to enjoy.

One of Newport’s best attractions is Balboa Island, a tiny speckle of land just off the Newport Beach shore.

Balboa Island is perhaps most famous for its illuminated Ferris wheel and the Balboa Pier, a fun boardwalk lined with quaint ice cream parlours and quirky shops that are perfect for strolling along during afternoons.

Newport Beach and Balboa Island are packed with eateries and fun entertainment.

Although Newport Beach is a magnet for luxury travellers, there are tons of fantastic budget-friendly options and tours for wildlife lovers, such as this popular whale-watching tour.

3- Anaheim and Disneyland

best day trips from los angeles tickets fireworks in the night sky at Disneyland
The most popular all-day trip from Los Angeles for families is to spend the entire day at Disneyland.

A vibrant and flourishing city in its own right, Anaheim, located adjacent to Los Angeles, is a destination guaranteed to entertain visitors of all ages.

Anaheim is undeniably most famous for being the home of Disneyland, and rightfully so, with the Disneyland theme parks responsible for attracting some 18 million annual visitors to this sunny city in Orange County.

Apart from Disneyland, Anaheim is also the home of Knott’s Berry Farm and Adventure City, two theme parks that are just as synonymous with So-Cal.

Anaheim is also where the MLB’s LA Angels and the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks play their home games in front of huge crowds of cheering fans.

Anaheim is a city that mesmerises visitors with fun activities and is well worth a day trip from Los Angeles.

Anaheim is 27 miles (43 km) and a 30-minute drive from Los Angeles. Save money and skip the lines by prebooking your Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park tickets here.

4- Malibu

good day trips from los angeles Malibu pier
One of the most popular day trips from Los Angeles for beachgoers is to feel the sand between your toes in Malibu.

Straddling the Pacific Ocean and backed by the Santa Monica Mountains, Malibu is a famous California town known for its 27 miles (43 km) of pristine coastline and famous residents.

Malibu’s most notable attraction is its perfect beaches which, despite being bordered by luxurious mansions, are publicly accessible from dusk to dawn.

The nearby Santa Monica Mountains treat hikers with unbeatable views of LA, Malibu and the Pacific Ocean while surrounded by lovely fauna and flora.

If this isn’t enough enticement to drive along Highway 1 from LA to Malibu, the town’s fabulous collection of restaurants and cafes are good enough reason to go.

Located only 33 miles (53 km) from downtown Los Angeles, Malibu is an accessible yet exclusive seaside getaway destination bound to delight outdoor lovers and city slickers.

5- Huntington Beach

one day trips from los angeles Huntington Pier and beach
Another short day trip from Los Angeles is to head to Huntington Beach.

Known as “Surf City USA”, Huntington Beach hit the international spotlight in the 60s when the Beach Boys sang about this popular surfing destination.

Huntington Beach has a picture-perfect 10-mile (16 km) stretch of pristine beach with fantastic dining and shopping options throughout the town. What more could you ask for?

Surfing, paddleboarding, beach volleyball, jogging, cycling and kayaking are some of the many great outdoor activities to enjoy.

Huntington Beach’s Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve offers a fantastic opportunity for avid bird-watchers to witness owls, hummingbirds, egrets, and many more of the reserve’s 200+ unique bird species.

Huntington Beach is an excellent Los Angeles day trip destination for beach-goers less than 40 miles (64 km) from downtown LA.

For more California ideas, see:

6- San Gabriel Mountains

day trips from los angeles during covid
Mount Wilson Observatory is on a 5,715-foot (1,742 m) peak in the San Gabriel Mountains, northeast of Los Angeles. The Observatory has historic telescopes dating to 1917.

The San Gabriel Mountains is a popular outdoor getaway destination for those hoping to catch a break from the city’s hustle and bustle.

A protected wilderness, Mount Baldy is a favourite summit for avid hikers to ascend during the summer and autumn months and a popular destination for mountaineers in winter when the peak is covered in snow.

Apart from hiking the daunting Mount Baldy, the San Gabriel Mountains are dotted with a range of trails that are more relaxing to hike, bike or ride horses along.

Filled with a rich diversity of fauna and flora, the scenic San Gabriel Mountains is just the spot to breathe fresh air on a day trip from Los Angeles.

San Gabriel Mountains is 50 miles (80 km) from downtown LA.

Day Trips From Los Angeles – Under 2 hours 

7- Santa Catalina Island

best day trips from los angeles trips Wooden sign board with direction on the hiking trails on the top of Santa Catalina Island mountains.
A fantastic day trip from Los Angeles will take you to the Santa Catalina Island mountains.

A popular Hollywood filming location during the early 20th century, Santa Catalina Island has been luring visitors with its stunning natural beauty and soothing ambience since.

Often regarded as one of California’s most romantic destinations, Santa Catalina Island replaces skyscrapers and highways for idyllic seaside towns and sheltered coves.

The town of Avalon has the island’s best collection of hotels, shops and restaurants. The town also has lovely views, botanical gardens and secluded beaches lined with tall palm trees.

If Avalon still seems too busy for your liking, consider hopping over to Two Harbors, where diving, hiking and cycling activities place the island’s natural beauty on full display.

Santa Catalina Island is about one hour by high-speed ferry from San Pedro, Long Beach, and Dana Point. 

8- Ojai

2 day trips from los angeles water fountain in the middle of Ojai
One of the best day trips from Los Angeles for a rural experience is to pack your bags and head to Ojai.

Rustic and down-to-earth Ojai is a breath of fresh air from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Nestled in the stunning Topatopa Mountains, Ojai is a rural village with an artsy hippy character filled with beautiful Spanish Revival-style architecture, top-notch restaurants and art galleries.

Ojai is also an excellent place to sample Californian wines, with multiple vineyards dotted throughout the Topatopa Mountains.

It’s a perfect day trip from Los Angeles for travellers seeking outdoor activities, with many hiking and biking trails available throughout the Ojai Valley and the nearby Los Padres National Forest.

You’ll find stunning vistas and rural experiences throughout the Ojai Valley.

A 90-minute drive (or take this private winery tour) from downtown LA makes it a doable day trip for active travellers.

Ojai is 80 miles (130 km) northwest of Los Angeles and takes about 1.5 hours.

9- Santa Barbara

easy day trips from los angeles Palm tree rows in Santa Barbara
One of the best city day trips from Los Angeles is to spend the day in Santa Barbara.

Known as ‘America’s Riviera’, Santa Barbara is a seaside city famed for its palm tree-clad streets, Spanish Revival architecture and a favourite destination for Hollywood celebrities and socialites.

The city has Spanish Missions, top-notch restaurants, lovely beaches and scenic hiking trails, making it easy to fall in love with.

For the best views in Santa Barbara, go to the top of the Santa Barbara courthouse, where the 360-degree views are impressive.

For fun family-friendly activities, stop by Stearns Wharf to marvel at the stunning display of boats peacefully bobbing on the Pacific Ocean just off the idyllic Santa Barbara coastline.

Santa Barbara is 95 miles (152 km) and around 1.5 hours from Los Angeles.

10- LEGOLAND California

day trips from los angeles three girls outside a blue kombi van
Looking for the best day trips from Los Angeles? Check out these 20!

One of the most colourful landmarks in Southern California, LEGOLAND California is the perfect place to let your inner child run wild.

It has uniquely themed areas built with nothing more than Lego bricks to enjoy.

Located in Carlsbad, LEGOLAND California was the first of the LEGOLAND franchises to open outside Europe in 1999.

It is an absolute must for families and has many attractions, including a child-oriented driving school, various Lego renditions of famous cities and even amusement rides.

Legoland is 90 miles (144 km) and around 1 hour and 20 minutes from Los Angeles.

11- Coronado

quick day trips from los angeles boats at sunset
There are many incredible day trips from Los Angeles, such as Coronado Island.

Coronado is a wealthy San Diego neighbourhood with one of the best beaches in California, and its distance to Los Angeles makes it a fantastic day trip from LA.

Besides Coronado’s spectacular white sandy beach, the famous red-roofed Hotel del Coronado overlooking the beach is a must-visit landmark in its own right.

Coronado is littered with great eateries and shops, and the town’s sizeable naval base treats visitors with the odd sighting of fighter jets or submarines off in the distance.

Situated just across the bay from San Diego, Coronado is the place to enjoy lovely views of the bay and San Diego’s picturesque skyline, especially at night, when the illuminated city shimmers brightly on the horizon from afar.

Coronado is 126 miles (202 km) and a two-hour drive from Los Angeles.

12- Palm Springs and Coachella

day trips from palm springs to los angeles
A fun day trip from Los Angeles will take you to Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley, pictured here with the San Jacinto mountains in the background.

Palm Springs and the adjacent town of Coachella are popular weekend getaway destinations for anyone looking to trade So-Cal’s balmy beaches for California’s interior deserts.

Palm Springs became popular because of its high-end spa resorts, shops and golf courses frequented by Hollywood stars during the 20th century, and most visitors still flock to this desert oasis for those reasons.

Home to attractions such as the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and the annual Indian Wells tennis tournament played in nearby Indian Wells, Palm Springs is jam-packed with attractions for all to enjoy.

One of the biggest drawcards to this region is the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, held in nearby Indio.

It sees over 250,000 festival-goers pass through Palm Springs on their way to North America’s largest music festival.

Palm Springs is 107 miles (172 km) and a 1.5-hour drive from Los Angeles.

13- Balboa Park

best day trips from los angeles tours
If you’re visiting with the family, spending time in Balboa Park as a day trip from Los Angeles to San Diego is fun.

San Diego’s Balboa Park is the city’s heart and home to many of San Diego’s best attractions, including San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Museum of Art and Casa de Balboa.

Situated right next to downtown San Diego and within a two-hour drive from Los Angeles, visiting Balboa Park is a fun day trip to take a break from LA.

After Balboa Park, head to downtown San Diego or Coronado to create an itinerary jam-packed with exciting activities for the entire family.

Balboa Park is 120 miles (193 km) and a two-hour drive from Los Angeles. Choose this if you’re visiting with kids.

14- Downtown San Diego

day trips from los angeles by car
Choose one of the fun day trips from Los Angeles to San Diego for a quick city break.

Planning a day trip from Los Angeles to San Diego is full of fun-filled activities.

San Diego’s downtown and Gaslamp Quarter is an atmospheric quarter packed with lively bars, restaurants and cafes.

Touring downtown San Diego in one of the city’s iconic trolleys is one of the city’s top things to do, taking visitors past many of the Gaslamp Quarter’s most notable attractions.

San Diego’s infectious energy and vibrant nightlife are worth extending your day trip well into the night.

San Diego is 120 miles (193 km) and a two-hour drive from Los Angeles. Choose this is you’re travelling solo, as a couple or with friends.

15- Big Bear Lake

great day trips from los angeles Big Bear Lake
One of the day trips from Los Angeles for nature lovers is to pay a visit to Big Bear Lake.

Big Bear Lake has excellent winter skiing and fun summer water activities.

The white-domed Big Bear Solar Observatory, perched on the lake’s northern shore, is a cool backdrop for photography.

Kayak and paddleboard rentals can be found all around the lake’s shore, and there are also plenty of hiking and mountain biking trails throughout the region.

Big Bear Lake is 97 miles (156 km) and less than two hours driving from Los Angeles.

16- Joshua Tree National Park

1 day trips from los angeles rocky landscape
Joshua Tree National Park might be a long day trip from Los Angeles but it is well worth the time for its stunning landscape.

Joshua Tree National Park is a sprawling natural oasis filled with striking rock formations, unearthly desert landscapes and bewildering fauna and flora.

It may be a slightly longer day trip from Los Angeles, but it’s perfect for rock climbers, hikers, or anyone wanting to connect with nature.

Joshua Tree National Park is very much a world away from downtown LA and has various campgrounds to stay over a night or two.

Joshua Tree National Park is 130 miles (209 km) and slightly over two hours from Los Angeles.

Day Trips From Los Angeles – Under 3 hours 

17- Tijuana

3 day road trips from los angeles tijuana arch
For a day trip from Los Angeles that crosses international borders, head to Tijuana in Mexico.

A vibrant city south of San Diego and across the Mexican border, Tijuana is a fantastic day trip from Los Angeles to a different country.

Tijuana has come a long way from the crime-stricken seedy city it once was and is today a culturally vibrant urban sprawl thanks to government investments in Tijuana’s tourism industry.

Some of Tijuana’s best attractions include the Palacio de Frontón Jai Alai, a stunning Moorish-inspired architectural marvel, and the Centro Cultural Tijuana, a cultural-rich attraction that hosts art exhibits and live performances.

Tijuana is 137 miles (221 km) and under three hours from Los Angeles.

18- Slab City and Salton Sea

dog friendly day trips from los angeles Salton Sea Landscape at Sunset.
When choosing day trips from Los Angeles, you might want to try this unusual day trip to the Salton Sea.

Slab City and the Salton Sea are near Palm Springs and is a unique, run-down former vacation destination during the 50s and 60s.

Little is left of this once booming resort town, except for a highly salted lake unable to support life and decrepit ruins of buildings left to be reclaimed by nature.

But it’s Slab City’s and the Salton Sea’s eerie character that has made it a popular tourist destination for those seeking an unconventional So-Cal experience off the beaten path.

There’s plenty to see and do on the banks of the Salton Sea and one of the area’s most famous landmarks is Salvation Mountain, a massive, brightly coloured folk art monument created by artist Leonard Knight.

While this is not a destination for everyone, those who want to discover So-Cal’s bizarre and quirky side will love taking a day trip from LA to Slab City and the Salton Sea.

Slab City is 188 miles (300 km) and over three hours driving from Los Angeles.

19- Los Alamos

Los Alamos, a rural town seemingly stuck in time situated near Santa Barbara, was once a major stagecoach stop during the Wild West days before becoming the slow-paced wine and culinary destination it is today.

Dotted with top-notch vineyards, eclectic restaurants and famous writers and artists who call this small town home, Los Alamos whisks you away to a time when California was wild and largely uninhabited.

Check out the 1880 Union, an authentic stagecoach saloon used to host events, and the Bedford Winery, which produces some of California’s best Chardonnay and Syrah wines.

Los Alamos is 140 miles (225 km) and a 2.5-hour drive from Los Angeles.

20- Solvang

day trips from los angeles street in solvang
For a unique day trip from LA, go to Solvang, which is a city in Santa Barbara County and one of the communities in the Santa Ynez Valley.

An authentic Danish-themed town is the last thing you’d expect to find in sunny California, however, in the state’s Santa Ynez Valley, that’s exactly what you’ll find.

Solvang was founded by Danish immigrants who fled the cold winters of the Midwest to settle in the Golden State, bringing their wooden windmills and charming houses along with them.

Few Danes still live in Solvang today, however, the town’s replica Copenhagen Round Tower, quaint Christmas shops, Danish bakeries and Danish cottages still exist for all to see and enjoy.

Stop at the Solvang Brewery, Paula’s Pancake House and the Elverhøj Museum to learn more about the town’s history, former residents and unique traditions and culture.

Solvang is 128 miles (205 km) and over two hours from Los Angeles.

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Christina Pfeiffer Travel Writer
Christina Pfeiffer is a writer, photographer and video blogger based in Queensland, Australia. She has lived in three continents and her career as a travel journalist has taken her to all seven continents. Since 2003, she has contributed travel stories and photographs to mainstream media in Australia and around the world such as the Sydney Morning Herald, CNN Traveller, The Australian and the South China Morning Post. She has won many travel writing awards and is a full member of the Australian Society of Travel Writers.