If L.A. is your departure point for a road trip, you’re in luck: there’s a bevy of marvelous destinations within just half a day’s drive ready to be explored. Savor the cool air in mountain towns or smell the salty breezes in pretty beach towns. Find excitement and a change of scenery or simply secure a place to let your hair down. Without further ado, here are the best road trips from L.A.
1. Idyllwild-Pine Cove, California
Why Go: Just two hours or so from the city, Idyllwild-Pine Cove transports you to the antithesis of city life — evergreen trees, fresh air, and plenty of space to spread out. Get a room in a rustic lodge-style hotel and spend your days on secluded hiking trails or strolling through the scenic downtown, overlooked by dramatic Tahquitz Peak.
Don’t Miss: A glass of red or white at bustling Idyll Awhile Wine Shoppe & Bistro.
2. San Diego, California
Why Go: With the same mild weather and beautiful palm-tree-dotted landscape but not near as much traffic or congestion, San Diego is a big city that feels like a series of connected small towns. In just two and a half hours, you can be sunning yourself on some of Southern California’s best beaches or chowing down on authentic tacos. Museums, marinas, and an old historic Catholic Mission are other major draws, not to mention ever-popular tourist areas like the Gaslamp Quarter and Little Italy.
Don’t Miss: The biking and walking paths lining the pretty cove beaches strung along Mission Bay.
3. Rosarito, Mexico
Why Go: This low-key Baja California beach town south of Tijuana promises breathtaking ocean views, tasty food and stiff drinks at restaurants in town, and plenty of opportunities to pick up unique souvenirs. Surfers come here in droves to take advantage of the massive waves that roll in most days from dawn to dusk. Later, as the sun sets, the party gets started at Rosarito Beach, home to boisterous bars like Papas and Beer.
Don’t Miss: The artisan shops lining Federal Highway 1, filled from floor to ceiling with souvenirs, paintings, sculptures, home goods, and more.
4. Big Bear Lake, California
Why Go: Two hours is all that stands between you and awe-inspiring lake views in this picture-perfect mountain town. Spend your days hiking up mountains slopes that allow for amazing water views, and then check out the views along the Alpine Pedal Path, a paved pedestrian and bike thoroughfare that meanders past wooded areas, marshes, and beaches. Spend your evenings soaking up the happy vibes in Big Bear’s downtown area.
Don’t Miss: The Mineshaft Coaster at Magic Mountain, whose cars are controlled by riders with a combo accelerator and brake system.
5. Morro Bay, California
Why Go: Known for its distinctive rock formation located just offshore, Morro Bay is a peaceful seaside village along California’s central coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It’s quaint, low-key vibes make it the ideal escape from crowded city centers and congested highways. No matter what they have lined up in their itineraries, road-trippers never miss the chance to walk along the shore at Morro Rock Beach, the perfect spot for a sunset photo or just a few moments of reflection.
Don’t Miss: The two adorable commercial districts on Embarcadero and Main Streets, lined with family-friendly eateries ad hangouts.
6. San Juan Capistrano, California
Why Go: Home to one of California’s 21 missions, San Juan Capistrano is a heavenly enclave catering to visitors who make the trek to see what remains of Mission San Juan Capistrano, a historic landmark founded in 1776. You don’t have to be a religious person to enjoy the mission’s stunning architecture and beautiful gardens. As you explore indoor and outdoor areas, take the time to read and consider displays that detail the often harsh reality of living in such an outpost, especially for California’s indigenous people.
Don’t Miss: The adorable commercial area along Los Rios Street, complete with a tea house and a butterfly garden.
7. Long Beach, California
Why Go: Just an hour or so from Los Angeles, this oceanfront city has a handful of famous attractions, but the Queen Mary takes top billing. Since 1967, this former ocean liner has been permanently moored in the port of Long Beach. While the vessel now functions primarily as a hotel, guests can buy tickets that allow access to the decks, restaurants, and the engine room of the ship. Various tours are offered as well, including those that detail the ship’s reputation as one of the most haunted locations in the United States. As you explore this aging beauty, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the glamorous 1930s. After nightfall, head to the upper deck to get incredible views of Long Beach’s skyline.
Don’t Miss: A scenic drive along E Ocean Boulevard, which runs alongside the city’s expansive beaches, including pup-friendly Rosie’s Dog Beach.