While the City of Los Angeles has a ton to offer, it’s also a great jumping off point for exploring the rest of Southern California. After taking in the sights of Santa Monica and Hollywood, pack up and head out to explore other famous cities. Some of California’s most iconic cities and landmarks are just a few hours away from Los Angeles by car or train.
Overnight weekend trips from Los Angeles are like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. Travelers can opt for a completely guided tour, with hotels and food included, or rent a car and hit the open road to explore. From the deserts to the mountains, and everywhere in between, we’ve highlighted our top weekend trips from Los Angeles below.
Hoover Dam (Photo: Viator.com)
2-Day Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, and Death Valley Tour
The 2-day Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, and Death Valley Tour from Los Angeles is an ideal option for those short on time. With convenient pick up locations in Los Angeles, guests will be transported to the desert in an air-conditioned vehicle for a whirlwind tour. Stops include the Hoover Dam, Death Valley National Park, and a tour of the Las Vegas Strip. Participants will have the opportunity to tour Las Vegas’ grand hotels and an outlet mall. The tour price includes transport in a deluxe van or bus (depending on group size), a one-night hotel stay with breakfast, and an informative guide. Tours are available in many languages, by request.
Ace Hotel and Swim Club Palm Springs (Photo: Booking.com)
Overnight Trip to Palm Springs
Just two hours east of Los Angeles, Palm Springs is a popular destination for an overnight trip. This desert oasis is known for its mid-century architecture, retro hotels, and fine dining. Downtown Palm Springs’ main street is lined with shops and restaurants with sidewalk seating, ideal for sipping a drink and taking in the sights. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway will whisk you to the top of Mount San Jacinto, rising over 8,000 feet above the desert floor. Book a night at the Ace Hotel to enjoy modern rooms and their impressive outdoor pool area. On the trip home, stop by the outlet mall or Morongo Casino.
Experience Yosemite National Park on an overnight trip from Los Angeles. This tour includes roundtrip Amtrak train fare from Los Angeles to Fresno and a one-night hotel stay. After spending the night in Fresno, the small group (maximum 13 people) will be picked up for a day of exploration of Yosemite National Park. Highlights include Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan, Half Dome, and Sentinel Bridge. The driver will travel along the Merced River and point out other notable attractions, like the John Muir Campsite. The group will stop at the Yosemite Cafe for lunch, and will also have an opportunity to take a 4-mile hike.
Holiday Inn Resort the Lodge at Big Bear (Photo: Booking.com)
Overnight Trip to Big Bear
Located in the mountains just 1.5 hours northeast of Los Angeles is the tiny village of Big Bear. Drive along scenic, windy mountain roads to find yourself in this lakeside mountain village. It offers year round activities, like boating on the lake in summer and skiing at nearby resorts in the winter. Downtown Big Bear is a quaint strip of shops and restaurants, dressed to the nines in bear decor. The Holiday Inn Resort the Lodge at Big Bear is located within walking distance of Lake Boardwalk and an ideal home base for an overnight stay.
A stretch of California’s infamous coastline (Photo: Viator.com)
2-Day Los Angeles and San Francisco Private Tour
Take a private tour of the California coast, with stops in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and a few places in between. A guide offers local pick-up in Los Angeles, with quick visits at famous attractions like Hollywood and Santa Monica. Then, you’ll make your way up the coast on famous Highway 1, with stops in beautiful Santa Barbara and Monterey. Finally, arriving in San Francisco, you’ll have an opportunity to take in the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Lombard Street. The guide is a professional photographer so you can learn tips and tricks, and have excellent photos to take home. Meals and accommodations are not included in the tour cost.
Soak up the fun and sun in San Diego, which is just a quick trip south of Los Angeles via car or Amtrak. San Diego is known for its surfing spots, beautiful beaches, and Mediterranean climate. Spend a day exploring every corner of Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo, before heading to Sunset Cliffs to watch the sun set. It’s a tough choice between Little Italy or the Gaslamp Quarter for a memorable dinner. A stay at the Hotel Indigo in the Gaslamp Quarter will put you close to San Diego’s main attractions. On the drive back to LA, stop in La Jolla to visit the seals or in Encinitas to watch surfers at Swami’s Beach.
For the slightly more adventurous, California Pacific Excursion offers a somewhat independent tour of the California coast. Travelers will hop on the Amtrak in Los Angeles and enjoy the beautiful scenery along the coast, and arrive in Monterey for the night. On Day 2, a local guide will take the group through Historic Monterey, 17-Mile Drive, Cannery Row, and Pacific Grove. There’s a quick stop in Carmel by the Sea for shopping, before heading to Santa Cruz and ultimately, San Jose. Travelers should make arrangements from San Jose’s Diridon Station to their next destination. Meals and accommodations are not included in the tour cost.
When visiting Los Angeles, an overnight trip to Santa Barbara warrants a spot on the itinerary. It’s located a relatively short drive up Highway 101 and has so much to offer. Take a stroll along the pier, rent a kayak, or take a chartered sailing trip. The Funk Zone is the place to be for wine and beer tastings. The Santa Barbara Zoo and Santa Barbara Museum of Art are popular attractions as well. Location, location, location – a room at the Hotel Santa Barbara will put you right on the main strip of shops and restaurants in Santa Barbara. Before arriving back in LA, spend a few hours exploring nearby Ojai or Ventura.
One of California’s many wineries (Photo: Viator.com)
3-Day Central Coast and Wine Tour
With three days to explore, the Central Coast and Wine Tour offers ample opportunities to explore all the area has to offer. Tour attendees will board an Amtrak train at Los Angeles’ Union Station, starting the scenic journey up the coast to Paso Robles. On Day 2, there’s a small group tour of Hearst Castle’s Grand Rooms and grounds, followed by a stop in Cambria. Day 2 ends with wine tasting in Paso Robles’ wine country. Day 3 includes a leisurely morning of exploration in Paso Robles, before boarding another train heading towards Oakland. One-way train fare, two nights’ accommodation, and Hearst Castle entry fees are included.
Outdoor enthusiasts and National Park junkies should plan for an overnight trip to Joshua Tree National Park. The Park is massive and warrants a day or two of exploration. It can be enjoyed from the car and on quick hikes lined with interpretive signs. Longer hikes require proper preparation and gear, as the desert landscape can be unforgiving. Downtown Joshua Tree has a handful of cute shops and tasty restaurants to keep you sustained. It is worth a detour to nearby Pioneertown, an old Wild West movie set. For a hotel stay unlike any other, book a room at the Pioneertown Motel.
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