Maybe you've already read my post on weekend trips from LA, but you don't have the time or money for a weekend trip. That's understandable, as weekend trips can sometimes be quite expensive, especially in California! Fortunately, a day trip is a quick, easy way to get your travel fix in and not have to pay for a hotel. There are tons of awesome day trips from LA that I highly, highly recommend, but these are just 5 of my favorites! I've done all of these multiple times, and they're all great.
For reference, I lived in Orange County, not LA. LA would be a day trip for me, but for the sake of this post and making things easier for everyone, these are all day trips from LA.
Disclaimer: All photos are super, super old.
1. Angeles National Forest & Mount Baldy. While a trip to Big Bear will definitely give you your mountain fix, the Angeles National Forest will give you a taste of nature and the mountains without having to drive more than 2 hours. It feels a world away from LA, and it's a great place to go for some cooler weather, and even some snow in the winter. There are plenty of great hikes and ski resorts in the forest, but my favorite is Mt. Baldy. This really cool mountain has a beautiful drive up and some great hikes. You can also snowboard or ski here in the winter!
2. Laguna Beach. This artsy beach town is one of my favorites, and it has a very different feel from the city while still being close to LA. Laguna feels like more of a small, rural beach town, with much more chill and laid-back vibes (take a shot every time I say the word 'vibe'). Come here for a more relaxed, less crowded beach day, and to explore the cute little town with many art galleries and unique shops. Make sure to stop by Urth Caffe for brunch.
3. Oceanside. Halfway between OC/LA and San Diego, the quiet, beachy town of Oceanside is a great retreat, especially if you live in OC or the more southern areas of LA. More laid-back and less pretentious than Laguna, this sleepy beach town is great for a relaxing beach day with some good local shopping. Walk along the pier and visit some of the town's cool coffee shops and restaurants. This is also easily accessible on the Metrolink, which drops you off in downtown Oceanside.
4. Malibu. This one is probably my favorite, and for good reason. Malibu really does feel so far removed from the city, it's rural, artsy vibe make it the perfect place for an awesome day trip with breathtaking scenery. You can only access Malibu via the PCH or a pass through the mountains, which gives it a much more remote feeling. This town is perfect for beach days, shopping and art galleries, much like Laguna. It's also just so stunningly beautiful to drive through! Lots of celebrities live here, so be on the lookout for familiar faces. There's plenty of upscale dining here if that's your thing, but I recommend visiting the Malibu Farm, which is located on the pier. They have tons of awesome locally grown options, and the food is so genuinely good. You can also sign up for a Malibu Wine Safari!
5. Ventura. If you're looking for Oceanside's equivalent further north, Ventura's the right place. A less pretentious and more chilled beach city, Ventura is a bit of a bigger city and therefore has more to offer. They've got a great boardwalk and an actual downtown, and it's a good spot to spend the day surfing or sunbathing. The pier is pretty lively, and there's a decent nightlife scene in the town as well.
Despite being so close to LA, each of these towns have a very distinct, specific vibe that makes them feel a world away from the city. Even among the beach towns, they all have a very unique feel to them that differentiates them from the others. These are all pretty iconic towns, and I'd recommend visiting them all if you have the time. If not, my advice would be to visit Mt. Baldy for hiking, the outdoors and snow, Laguna and Malibu for wine and art galleries, and Oceanside and Ventura for a more chilled, surfer vibe. These are all pretty social-distancing friendly, so hopefully this can come in handy when you're bored one weekend and tired from going to the same park every Saturday!