25 Road Trips From Los Angeles for a Weekend Family Getaway
Eager to hit the road and put Los Angeles in your rearview mirror for a while? From glamping getaways to deserts to not-so-far islands, here are some fabulous destinations to remind you of one of the other major benefits of Los Angeles: it's never more than a few hours' drive to find a spot that seems as if it's a world away.
Don't forget to check out some of the coolest California vacation rentals for families, for when you get where you're going.
You can see snow in the desert! Photo courtesy Palm Springs Ariel Tramway
1. Palm Springs
When it's chilly in LA, it's perfect in Palm Springs. When it's hot in LA, there are pools in Palm Springs. Basically, Palm Springs rocks. Your kids will love the endless sun, along with the outdoor fun that's around every corner, from dates to dinos, plus hiking, riding the aerial tramway, and just hanging by the pool. It's also a great base for exploring Joshua Tree National Park.
Ojai is a quiet getaway with ample opportunities for kids to explore the great outdoors on horseback, bikes, or just on foot on a beautiful hike.
3. Santa Barbara
4. El Capitan Canyon
Want to try camping with the kids but aren't sure about giving up all amenities (like a heated swimming pool and, yes, a decent coffee maker)? The El Capitan Canyon resort just north of Santa Barbara gives you the best of camping with some welcome perks.
5. Catalina Island
Get away from it all on remote (yet close by) Catalina Island. Take the kids on a Jeep Eco-Tour to see the bison that call the island home, try out snorkeling in Two Harbors, view marine life on a glass-bottom boat or undersea sub, or play mini-golf at the center square of Avalon.
Giddyup with a horseback riding lesson at the Alisal Guest Ranch. Photo by Dana Zepeda
6. Alisal Guest Ranch, Solvang
Drive two and a half hours into the heart of wine country, and your whole family can ride horses, kayak on the lake, play tennis, or get lost in arts and crafts at Alisal Guest Ranch in Solvang. More importantly, there's no TV in the room—and your kids won't care a bit.
7. Santa Ynez
Don't believe wineries can be kid-friendly? Santa Ynez proves the contrary. Several wineries in the area allow parents to sip in bucolic splendor while kids play.
8. The Channel Islands
Go kayaking around the Channel Islands and you may see frolicking dolphins, sea lions, and even bald eagles. An hour and a half in the car, then an hour and a half in a boat, and you're there!
9. Great Wolf Lodge, Anaheim
10. Mission San Juan Capistrano
California's own little corner of 1776 history, Mission San Juan Capistrano is often called the Jewel of the Missions. It even offers an audio tour specifically for 4th graders. And of course in March, the swallows always return there.
11. Legoland California, Carlsbad
Legos and water slides? Legoland California is the best of both worlds—and it's the perfect fantasy getaway for kids. The hotels are a treat (if you want more than a day trip) but Legoland is a reasonable day trip, too.
12. Calico Ghost Town
Ghost towns can be spooky, rich with history, or a lot of fun. Calico Ghost Town is all three.
13. Huntington Beach
Don't forget that you can escape LA without going far at all. Huntington Beach is an ideal weekend escape, especially when you tie it to a hotel stay by the water.
14. Skypark at Santa's Village, Lake Arrowhead
Skypark at Santa's Village isn't just fun during the holidays; kids can climb a pint-sized rock climbing wall, hit the biking trail, or explore the ice skating rink in the winter or rollerskating rink in the spring and summer (it usually opens as a roller rink on April 1). There's a zipline, archery, and ax throwing, too. Check before visiting as hours change seasonally.
15. Anza-Borrego Desert
Anza-Borrego Desert is California's largest state park, and the fascinating desert landscape will make kids forget all about the urban jungle for a while.
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Hang out below sea level in Death Valley. Photo by Roberta Brown
16. Death Valley
Death Valley has recorded the highest temperatures in the western hemisphere, but that doesn't mean it isn't a great adventure with plenty to see, including salt flats, sand dunes, majestic mountains, and an ice cream shop.
A little red, a little white—Temecula is another kid-friendly wine region you can drive to. Tour some regional vineyards and sip away while the kids play.
18. Las Vegas
Don't think of Las Vegas as a place for family fun? You'll reconsider after visiting the Shark Reef Aquarium, Adventuredome (the largest indoor theme park in America), the Discovery Children's Museum, and more. Most attractions in Sin City are now open, with limited capacity.
19. Newport Beach and Costa Mesa
It's so close by that you may not remember that the neighboring towns of Newport Beach and Costa Mesa are chock full of family fun, including a butterfly house at the Environmental Nature Center (open for story walks and other events), tide pools, the old-fashioned Ferris wheel at the Balboa Fun Zone, and even whale watching trips.
Waterfalls, hikes, and ancient trees—Yosemite has it all! Photo by Roberta Brown
This world-famous Yosemite National Park is a few hours away but feels more remote than it is—and gives you a chance to hike to a waterfall, see 2,000-year-old trees, and be amazed by El Capitan.
22. San Diego
23. Big Bear Lake and Snow Summit
It may seem amazing to be able to get to a legit snow-covered village in less than three hours, but Big Bear is a doable drive and worth it at any time of year for the breathtaking views. When the snow melts, gorgeous hiking, boating, the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, and the Alpine Slide all await.
24. Joshua Tree
When a patch of desert is so famous it gets its own U2 album, you really have to go. Joshua Tree National Park is just about two hours from LA and offers a variety of landscapes, including plenty of those eerie-looking trees that gave the park its name.
Carmel-by-the-Sea is so relaxed, comfortable footwear is required by law (no joke). Enjoy the beach, surprisingly kid-friendly fine dining, and even family-friendly wine tasting. Just remember to leave your high heels at home.
And one bonus idea for a weekend getaway: Camping!
Never rule out a quick camping getaway—there are ample campgrounds just a short drive from downtown LA, including last-minute sites in Ventura, Santa Paula, Frazier Park, and Ojai. We even know some campgrounds that have amazing entertainment for kids on-site, like water parks, zip lines, and an observatory.