23 Road Trips From Los Angeles for a Weekend Family Getaway

Who knew there was so much nature to see in the Las Vegas area? Photo courtesy of Springs Preserve
Who knew there was so much nature to see in the Las Vegas area? Photo courtesy of Springs Preserve
3/29/24 - By Li Starr

Jump in the car for road trips from Los Angeles that will take you to captivating sights and iconic landmarks, from deserts to beaches, national parks, and islands. Whether you're seeking scenic drives, outdoor escapades, or cultural explorations, exciting family road trips await. 

Head north along the Pacific Coast Highway for stunning coastal views, passing through charming beach towns like Santa Barbara and Big Sur. Journey east to explore the rugged landscapes and outdoor adventures of Joshua Tree National Park. Venture south to experience the desert beauty of Palm Springs and the unique attractions of San Diego. 

If you're looking for road trip accommodations, consider kid-friendly campgrounds near LA, stay in a bit more comfort at these glamping sites near Los Angeles, and find more local travel inspo in our Weekend Getaway Guide and Day Trips for Los Angeles Families


Best Road Trips From Los Angeles for Families

Road Trips from Los Angeles for Families: Catalina Island
Catalina will make you feel like you've traveled to the Mediterranean. Photo by Gina Ragland

1. Catalina Island 

From Los Angeles: 25-40 minutes to the ferry in Long Beach

Get away from it all on the 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.

2. Anaheim 

From Los Angeles: 30-60 minutes

It might be one of the fastest road trips on the list, but there's so much to do in Anaheim that it's an easy choice for a family weekend getaway. There's Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm, Great Wolf Lodge, and even another major league baseball team. 

3. Newport Beach & Costa Mesa 

From Los Angeles: 50 minutes

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, tide pools, the old-fashioned Ferris wheel at the Balboa Fun Zone, and whale watching trips

4. Ventura 

From Los Angeles: 1-1.5 hours

Ventura offers a variety of family-friendly activities, from exploring the Ventura Pier and Promenade to enjoying the Ventura Harbor Village. With its beautiful beaches, parks, and attractions like the Ventura Botanical Gardens and Sunburst Railbikes, there's no shortage of fun experiences for kids to enjoy in this coastal California city. 

5. Channel Islands National Park 

From Los Angeles: 1 hour, 30 minutes 

This often-overlooked national park may take some more planning than others as it requires a boat ride to the islands. Spot whales and dolphins on the boat, hike the coastal trails, and go kayaking through sea caves. 

6. Santa Barbara 

From Los Angeles: 1.5-2 hours 

There are endless things for kids to do in the gorgeous coastal Santa Barbara. The Santa Barbara Zoo is lovely. Kids will also enjoy the MOXI Museum and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Enjoy the ocean breezes while walking through the scenic city and eating delicious food.    

7. Ojai  

From Los Angeles: 1.5-2 hours

Ojai is a quiet getaway with ample opportunities for kids to explore the great outdoors on horseback, bikes, or foot. Rose Valley Falls is an easy and rewarding hike with kids in the Los Padres National Forest that leads to a beautiful waterfall. Stop in Bart's Books, the world's largest outdoor bookstore. Go during Ojai pixie season in the spring for this local delicacy. 

8. Carlsbad 

From Los Angeles: 2 hours

Any kid will beg you to take the quick road trip to Legoland. That's just one of the fun things to do in this beloved beach town. Go strawberry picking and stop and smell the Ranunculus flowers at the seasonal Carlsbad Flower Fields. 

9. Palm Springs 

From Los Angeles: 2 hours 

When it's chilly in LA, it's perfect in Palm Springs. When it's hot in LA, there are pools in Palm Springs. Palm Springs is ideal for a road trip. Kids will love the endless sun and outdoor fun around every corner, from dates to dinos, hiking, riding the aerial tramway, and hanging by the pool.  

Road Trips from Los Angeles for Families: Joshua Tree National Park 
Explore the desert at Joshua Tree. Photo by Gina Ragland 

10. Joshua Tree National Park 

From Los Angeles: 2-3 hours

There are so many kid-friendly hiking trails in Joshua Tree National Park that weave through the iconic Joshua trees, historic mills, Cholla cacti, and unique rock formations. Kids can also take part in Junior Ranger programs. 

11. Solvang 

From Los Angeles: 2 hours, 30 minutes 

Road trips to Solvang during the holiday season are delightful as the quaint and charming Danish village makes it feel like you stepped onto a Hallmark movie set. Eat aebleskivers, go to Ostrichland, let kids climb on the playground at Sunny Fields Park, and walk around to admire the windmills. 

12. San Diego 

From Los Angeles: 2-3 hours

As if the world-class San Diego Zoo wasn't enough (and it is), San Deigo has Seaworld, Balboa Park, Sesame Place, and so much more. There's Coronado and La Jolla, and so many other beautiful beaches. 

13. Lake Arrowhead & Big Bear Lake 

From Los Angeles: 2-3 hours

The unique thing about Southern California is that you can go to the snow-covered mountains and the beach on the same day. Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead are worth visiting any time of year for the breathtaking views. When the snow melts, gorgeous hiking, boating, Skypark, the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, and the Alpine Slide await. 

14. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park 

From Los Angeles: 3 hours, 30 minutes

Trek to Anza-Borrego before the weather gets too hot in the desert. Explore the wonders of the desert ecosystem with adventurous hikes, like going through a slot canyon. Kids will also love the large-scale metal sculptures that pop up in the middle of the desert. 

15. Sequoia National Park 

From Los Angeles: 3 hours, 30 minutes

California is lucky to have the most national parks out of all 50 states. Sequoia National Park is perfect for weekend road trips from Los Angeles since it's not too far of a drive. Plus, kids will be awed by the towering trees. It's also adjacent to Kings Canyon National Park, making it easy to explore two national parks in one trip. 

16. Central Coast 

From Los Angeles: 3-4 hours 

With its family-friendly beaches, such as Pismo Beach and Avila Beach, along with attractions like Morro Bay (you won't be able to miss the massive volcanic rock) and Hearst Castle, the Central Coast (or Slo Cal) offers endless opportunities for memorable adventures with kids. 

17. Death Valley National Park 

From Los Angeles: 3.5-4.5 hours

If the kids are Star Wars or Mandalorian fans, then a visit to the real-life Tatooine in Death Valley National Park is a must. Thrilling adventures await, like sand sledding at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, hiking through Golden Canyon, and discovering unique geological formations at Artist's Palette. Just be sure to visit in the winter before temperatures reach triple digits. 

Road trips for Families from Los Angeles: Discovery Children's Museum in Las Vegas
Entertain kids in Vegas at the Discovery Children's Museum. Photo by Gina Ragland

18. Las Vegas 

From Los Angeles: 4-5 hours 

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. 

19. Mammoth Lakes 

From Los Angeles: 5 hours 

Mammoth Lakes is perfect for road trips in any season. There's plenty of snow for winter sports, impressive fall foliage, and endless outdoor activities to do in the summer. Active families who love outdoor adventures will find Mammoth Lakes worth the drive. 

20. Yosemite National Park 

From Los Angeles: 5-5.5 hours 

You might need more than a weekend in Yosemite National Park, as you'll be stunned by the impressive scenery. Spend a day in Yosemite Valley seeing waterfalls and walking through meadows, hike through sequoia trees in Mariposa Grove, admire the views from Glacier Point, and explore a whole other side of the park on the very kid-friendly Soda Springs trail near Tenaya Lake. 

21. Big Sur 

From Los Angeles: 5.5-6.5 hours 

Road trips to Big Sur with kids promise breathtaking coastal vistas, exciting hiking trails like McWay Falls, and opportunities to spot wildlife such as sea otters and seals. Family-friendly activities abound, from picnicking at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park to marveling at the towering redwoods in Andrew Molera State Park, ensuring a memorable and enriching experience for all ages. 

22. San Jose 

From Los Angeles: 5.5-6 hours 

San Jose offers an array of family-friendly attractions, from the interactive exhibits at the Children's Discovery Museum to the outdoor adventures at Alum Rock Park. Kids can also explore the Tech Interactive museum or spend a day at the Happy Hollow Park & Zoo for a fun-filled outing in the heart of Silicon Valley. 

23. San Francisco 

From Los Angeles: 6-6.5 hours

In San Francisco, families can explore iconic landmarks like Golden Gate Park and the Golden Gate Bridge. Ride the famous cable cars through the city's hilly streets and take in culture at one of the many kid-friendly museums. Don't miss out on a visit to Fisherman's Wharf to admire the sea lions and ferry over to Alcatraz. Check out this three-day San Francisco itinerary when planning your road trips. 

Originally published on March 26, 2021. Additional reporting by Gina Ragland

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