Weekend Trips and Getaways From Los Angeles

Palm Springs is a relaxing desert retreat with a mid-century vibe
Palm Springs is a relaxing desert retreat with a mid-century vibe | © Robin Smith / Getty Images
Molly Codyre

Los Angeles has its fair share of nature, but sometimes a hike up Runyon Canyon isn’t enough of an escape. Luckily, the city is surrounded by California’s show-stopping landscapes and soothing small towns. Head out towards palm-dotted desert, craggy coastline and life-affirming mountains – all of which can be found within driving distance of the City of Angels.

Palm Springs

This desert playground has so much more to offer beyond being the home of Coachella. When the festival stages are packed away and the worldwide revelers have headed home, the city is a peaceful destination. New restaurants seemingly pop up every week, and its palm-lined avenues are full of glamorous hotels and mid-century homes that wouldn’t be out of place in a Slim Aarons photograph. Long a favorite with LA dwellers looking for an escape, this is one place where your best bet is to follow the crowd.

Twisted palm tree. Palm Canyon. Indian Canyons. Palm Springs, California

1. Palm Springs Indian Canyons Bike and Hike

Tours, Activities

Explore the Indian Canyons that surround Palm Springs on this guided half-day tour. You’ll cover the 17km loop on bike and foot, on a route that takes you through dramatic desert scapes and lush oases. Along the way, you’ll be provided with extensive information about the region’s history, including an insight into the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, whose ancestral home is in the region. The terrain can be challenging in parts, but you’ll be rewarded at the end with an ice cream stop at a boutique creamery.

San Luis Obispo

Life in this inland town runs at a sleepy pace, with a dash of liveliness thanks to the students of the CalPoly University. Its proximity to popular spots such as Pismo Beach make it the perfect base for those wanting to explore the coast without dealing with the heaving coastal towns. With an abundance of Spanish-Colonial architecture and a lively food scene to boot, it’s easy to see why this town makes an attractive weekend getaway.

View of the Pismo Beach pier into the Pacific Ocean along the Central Coast of California

2. Taste of SLO – Uptown Mojo Walking Food Tour

Tours, Activities

Experience the upbeat and intriguing uptown Mojo area of San Luis Obispo by tasting your way through five unique restaurants. You’ll get to feast on home-made lasagna, local fish tacos, mimosas, Mexican elote off the cob, local beer, chocolate shakes and cocktails – to name just a few. The tour includes the costs of all food and alcoholic drinks, so you won’t be hit with any surprise expenses and can instead focus on enjoying this incredible culinary adventure. Wear comfortable shoes (and roomy clothes).

La Jolla

Spanish settlers named this town “the jewel” when they arrived in the 1700s. Now, with its much-loved surf breaks and collection of incredible restaurants, it continues to live up to the moniker. While this is an affluent town – the mansion-dotted cliff sides should give that away – there is still a laid-back beachside vibe.

Beach in La Jolla, California, USA

3. La Jolla Sea Caves Kayak Tour

Tours, Activities

Enjoy the sublime coastal scenery and spot abundant marine life during this kayaking trip in La Jolla’s sea caves and ecological reserve. Paddle along with your expert guide and observe the numerous species of birds, dolphins, sea lions and even orcas that inhabit the area. You’ll be able to drift among the reserve’s sprawling kelp forests and, if conditions permit, venture inside the sea caves that dot the rocky coastline. Perfect for both experienced kayakers and beginners, this is a delightful few hours on the ocean.

Yosemite National Park

A Unesco World Heritage site, Yosemite is a jaw-dropping and otherworldly place that must be seen in person. Towering sequoias, shimmering lakes and world-famous hiking trails are all overlooked by neck-craning mountains – standing among it all, the magnitude of Mother Nature feels overwhelming.

Yosemite National Park, California, USA

4. Ansel Adams’ Legacy Photography Class

Class, Activities

Inspired by the work of Ansel Adams, this small-group tour takes you on a photography trip through Yosemite. Your guide – a professional photographer at Yosemite National Park’s The Ansel Adams Gallery – will lead a hands-on workshop that helps participants to improve their skills with digital cameras. You’ll also learn about the life and work of Ansel Adams, who is celebrated for his magnificent black-and-white photographs, many of which were captured in Yosemite. Your guide will also help you get to grips with setting ISO, aperture and shutter speed levels while taking you to a number of famous sites within the park, where you can put what you’ve learned into practice.

Monterey Bay

You may recognize Monterey Bay as the setting of Big Little Lies, where the sweeping cliffs and white-sand beaches were the backdrop to small town murder and intrigue. The reality of Monterey Bay is much less noir, drawing you in with its incredible coastline, down-to-earth vibe and storybook forests.

Central Coast, Big Sur near Monterey, California

5. Electric Bike Tour and Drive, Monterey Bay Coastal Recrail

Tours, Activities

This electric bike tour allows you to cover more ground than on a pushbike, taking you along the scenic 17-Mile Drive that runs through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove. Taking it slow so that riders can get used to the bikes, there will be plenty of educational stops and photo opportunities, including at Lovers Point Park, The Kissing Rock and the John Denver Memorial. Your guide will fill you in on the history of both the area and the notable points that you stop at, as well as talk you through the topography of the area and any wildlife you encounter along the way.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.?>

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

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