Discover some cool day trips from Los Angeles and get away from the buzzing sound of a busy city. Succumb to all the sumptuous landscapes the Californian and surrounding areas have to offer and get a change of atmosphere for a day. In California, it doesn’t matter the time of year you travel, its Mediterranean climate is here to stay. From beautiful beaches to picturesque towns, exciting theme parks or interesting museums, you just need to pick your favorite destination.
Without further ado, discover these 35 incredible day trips from Los Angeles!
1. San Diego
Located south of Los Angeles, San Diego is home to Legoland and Sea World… but not only! Visit the amazing San Diego Zoo, the Balboa Natural Park or, if a sports fan, the Mission Bay. There you’ll be able to kayak, sail and paddleboard. Also, if you’re not among the faint-hearted, don’t hesitate to try a water-powered jetpack! If you need further inspiration, take a look at our list of things to do in San Diego.
By car: 1h50 – By train: 2h55 – By bus: 3h10
2. Universal Studio Hollywood
Located in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles County, Universal Studios is both a film studio and theme park. Get behind the scenes of glamourous Hollywood productions and hop on a studio tour! You could visit famous movie sets such as Pyscho, Back From The Future or War of the Worlds. There are plenty of attractions as well. Between the Simpson ride, the Walking Dead walktrough or the Transformers 3D ride… you’re sure to sleep tight by the end of the day!
By car: 19 minutes – By bus: from 41 minutes
3. Ventura Beach
Located north of Los Angeles, Ventura has been dubbed the cheaper version of Santa Barbara. That, of course, doesn’t mean it’s not as exciting! Easy-going, you can enjoy its beautiful beaches, walk on the Ventura pier and Promenade but also learn about its history! Indeed, visit the Mission San Buenaventura, one of California’s historical landmark. A vestige of the Spanish era, it’s more than 200 year-old.
By car: 1h05 – By bus: from 3h27
4. Santa Barbara
Located on California’s central coastline, Santa Barbara has everything to offer! Most famous for its gorgeous white sand beaches, it’s a tourist’s heart-stopper. Yet there are other things to do in Santa Barbara: wine tasting is, for exemple, always a favorite. Indeed, Santa Barbara is surrounded with vineyards. And don’t forget to enjoy the city’s Latin vibes by stopping by a taqueria! You can also experience its incredible nature by watching whales in the Channels or hiking the Romero Canyon Trailhead. Santa Barbara undeniably makes for an incredible day trip!
By car: 1h30 – By train: 2h10 – By bus: 2h40
Located north of Los Angeles, Solvang has been dubbed Little Denmark. Yeah, you read that right: you can enjoy Denmark’s fine culture in the middle of California! Founded by Danes in 1911, its typical North-European architecture will charm you. There, you can find everything Danish (food, artwork, music) and even a copy of the famous Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid status!
By car: 2h50 – Train and bus: 6h
How can you talk about incredible day trips to Los Angeles without mentioning Disneyland? Probably the biggest theme park in the world, it is the perfect activity for children to play with their favorite characters and enjoy exciting rides on endless attractions!
By car: 40 minutes – By bus and train: 1h12
7. San Francisco
Located north of Los Angeles, San Francisco is one of America’s most exciting cities! Full of history and culture, it’s a must-visit. From the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the chilling Alcatraz prison or the historical LGBT Castro district; you’re sure to have an amazing day in San Francisco. In the same state as Los Angeles, it sure is a change of atmosphere.
By plane: From 1h20 – By car: 6h10 – By bus: 8h10
8. Las Vegas
Located northeast of Los Angeles in Nevada, Las Vegas is the city of all vices! Known for its agitated nightlife, it is impossible to not to be entertained there! With casinos open 24/7 and incredible shows, how can you not have a good time ? You could catch one of Lady Gaga’s residency or a Cirque du Soleil show…
By plane: from 1h10 – By car: 4h – By bus: from 5h
9. McWay Falls
Located north of Los Angeles near San José, McWay Falls is a paradisiacal secret. The 24 meters waterfall empties directly into the ocean. It is mainly mudslides that caused its beautiful beach to form. Absolutely stunning, you need to hike to get access to it. Don’t worry! The day trip from Los Angeles to McWay Falls can only be worth it.
By car: 5h21
10. Knott’s Berry Farm
Located south of Los Angeles, Knott’s Berry Farm is the 10th most-visited theme park in America! It has four themed areas: the Ghost Town, Fiesta Village, Boardwalk and Camp Snoopy. With 39 attractions, it’s a perfect day-trip for children! Originally a Berry farm, it’s one of America’s finest success story. Tasty fried chicken, delicious berry pies and exciting rollercoasters: what more could you ask?
By car: 24 minutes – By train and bus: from 1h07
11. Laguna Beach
Located south of Los Angeles, Laguna Beach is an iconic tourist destination. With over 6 million people visisiting annually, the resort city sure knows how to keep you entertained! Art and music festivals, surf events, incredible nature… what is there not to love about Laguna Beach? There, the summer will be never-ending and the night is always young!
By car: 55 minutes – By bus and train: 2h25
12. Joshua Tree National Park
Located east of Los Angeles, Joshua Tree National Park could be the escape you’re looking for. It sure was for the LA Hippie Movement in the 70’s! A spectacular scenery, this park is home to two different ecosystems: the low altitude Colorado Desert and high altitude Mojaves Desert. Check out its snowflake-like Joshua trees, unique rock formations or interesting wildlife. Who knows, you could spot a majestuous golden eagle or two!
By car: 2h14 – Bus: 3h26 – Train and bus: 5h16
13. Big Bear Lake
Located in the Greater Los Angeles Area, Big Bear Lake is a must-see. If you want to spend a laid-back, chill afternoon, then it’s the place! It’s California’s largest recreational lake. There, you can fish trout and catfish, bike, or hike. It’s warm on the summer so you can sunbathe on the shore. However, don’t be fooled by its location; it can get to freezing temperature because of its high altitude, especially in winter months.
By car: 2h – By bus: 2h55
14. Yosemite National Park
Located north of Los Angeles, the Yosemite National Parkis 1,200 square miles! Known for its waterfalls, it’s also home to glaciers, deep valleys and vast wilderness. There, you can of course hike, set up a tent and camp but also simply take a stroll during a guided tour (by foot or cars).
By plane: from 1h10 – By car: 4h40 – By bus and train: from 11h.
An indispensable stop in Los Angeles! Apart from Universal Studios, there is plenty you must see. From the iconic Hollywood sign to the incredible Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk Of Fame to the great Capitol Records Building. Every pop culture lover needs to pilgrimage through Hollywood to get the full US experience.
By car: 18 minutes – By bus: 36 minutes
16. Cabazon Dinosaurs
Located east of Los Angeles, the Cabazon Dinosaurs roadside attraction makes for a great family afternoon! It’s comprised of two steel-and-concrete sculptures of a Brontosorus and Tyrannosaurus Rex. Meet Dinny the Dinosaur and Mr.Rex !
By car: 1h27
17. Warner Bros Studio
Located northwest of Los Angeles in Burbank, Warner Bros Studio will dazzle you! With or without children, you’re assured to spend an incredible time there. Indeed, thanks to guided tours, you’ll be able to get behind the scènes of one of the biggest and oldest movie studios in the whole world!
By car: 15 minutes – By metro: 1h10
Located southeast of Los Angeles, Temecula is a little gem of pure natural beauty. If a calm and cozy yet incredible day trip from Los Angeles is what you’re looking for then opt for Temecula. Surrounded by gorgeous vineyards and breathtaking fauna, you should definitely try for a hot air balloon ride! Very appreciated by locals, you’ll take in its magnificent lakes, parks and trails.
By car: 1h37 – By train and bus: 2h33
19. Catalina Island
Located south-southwest of Long Beach, Catalina Island is 35km long and 13km wide. Want to know what made Marilyn Monroe choose Catalina Island as her main residence for months in the 40’s? Well, its magnificent beauty might be the main culprit! Chill at the Beach while sipping on a cocktail or take an Eco Tour and admire the island’s ecosystem. Since the main city, Avalon, is pretty small, you can rent a golfcart to sightsee.
By boat: approx. 1h – By helicopter: approx. 15min
Located west of Los Angeles, Malibu is most known for being the residence of movie stars. And for good reason! The coastal city has beautiful beaches bordered with incredible nature and vineyards. You can thus relax at the beach as well as explore its rocky outcrops or sip on mimomas!
By car: 1h19 – By train and metro: 2h
21. Six Flags Magic Mountains
Located northwest of Los Angeles, Six Flags Magic Mountains is another of those typical American theme parks! It holds the world record for most rollercoasters, 19 in total. 17 additionnal attractions are also available for children (and big children!) to enjoy.
By car: 40 minutes – By bus: 1h05
Located southeast of Los Angeles, Ojai makes a pleasant getaway! Bordered with olive and avocado trees, it’s ideal for a nice weekend stroll. First, you could stop at the Ojai Olive Oil company and get a taste of its Mediterranean climate. You could then head to Friend’s ranch and enjoy fabulous local products. Among them: juicy oranges, fruity citruses, tasty grapefuits or most notably, Ojai’s Pixie tangerine! Also, the Ojai Valley Museum is a must. Learn about the Chumash culture and the Ranchos of California!
By car: 1h26 – Bus and train: 4h
23. Sea World
Located in San Diego, the Sea World themepark is a must for animal lovers! There is approximately 26 animal habitats 20 shows and 15 rides. You could watch killer whales in their natural habitat, dolphins being trained, sea lions, piranhas and many more! We also strongly advise you try to swim with the dolphins as it should make an unforgettable day trip from Los Angeles experience.
By car: 1h55 – By bus: 3h22
24. La Jolla
Located south of LA in San Diego, La Jolla is a magnificent beach. Its smooth waves make it ideal for a first-time surf lesson. Also, La Jolla Underwater Park is probably San Diego’s best kept secret! Indeed, you can snorkel, surf paddlebaord and even sightsee sea animals there. Among them, sea turtles (if you’re lucky) but also leopard sharks and sea lions.
By car: 1h50 – By train: 2h55 – By bus: 3h10
25. Balboa Island
Located south of Los Angeles, Balboa Island is accessible via bridge, ferry and public docks. If what you’re looking for is mainly relaxing and eating well, then Balboa Island is the right choice! There is a variety of seaside restaurants, bistros and other bakeries. Of course, seafood will be on the menu but you’ll also be able to enjoy an interesting mix of Italian, French and Mexican cuisine. Bon appetit!
By car: 1h21 – By train and bus: 2h41
26. Coronado Island
Located in downtown San Diego, Coronado Island is best known for its white sand beach. Indeed, it’s ranked among the US’s top 10 beaches! Coronado is ideal for a laid-back afternoon stroll downtow, by foot or bicycle. If you’re a dog person, you could also stumble upon the annual Surf Dog Competition and die at the cuteness of this strange contest. Now we’re talking about an incredible day trip from Los Angeles.
By car: 2h34 – By bus: 3h28
27. Long Beach
Located south of Los Angeles, Long Beach is home to many festivals, sporting events and other carnivals. Its most popular attractions are the impressive Queen Mary (which is said to be haunted so watch out !) and the Aquarium of The Pacific. The fourth most attended aquarium in the nation it displays around 11 000 sea animals. By the way, if you’re an animal lover, you could also try whale watching or dolphin watching!
By car: 26 minutes – By bus: 56 minutes
Located northeast of downtown LA, Pasadena is nothing short of amazing! Strolling down the Colorado Boulevard in the Old Town makes for an amazing day trip from Los Angeles. Indeed, it’s part of the historic and iconic Route 66 but also hosts the annual Rose Parade. Flower-covered floats, equestrian units and marching bands are showcased during this show-stopping event.
By car: 20 minutes – By bus and metro: 41 minutes
29. Hearst Castle
Located in the town of San Simeon, north of LA, Hearst Castle is a jewel of Mediterranean revival architecture. Spend an incredible day trip from Los Angeles to this sumptuous National Historic Landmark and California Historical Landmark. Indeed, built between 1919 and 1947 by Tycoon William Randolph Hearst and his architect Julia Morgan, it’s sure to take your breath away!
By car: 4h08 – By bus: 10h14 – By plane (then bus): 5h43
30. Newport Beach
Located just south of Los Angeles, Newport Beach is ideal for whale watching and dolphin watching! Indeed, Newport Beach is most known for its lavish yachts and luxury mansions as it’s one of celebs’ favorite destination. However, with its clear and fine sand and its blue lagoon water, it’s also home to beautiful fauna and flora! Don’t miss out on an incredible bonding experience with animals and head to Newport Beach.
By car: 43 minutes – By train and taxi: 1h – By bus: 3h25
Located in Mexico, Tijuana is the perfect change of atmosphere. A whole different culture awaits you there. In this modern and colourful city just south of San Diego, you’ll get the full “Mexicano” experience! Visit a local market and taste authentic Mexican food, listen to mariarchi music on the melodious Plaza Santa Cecilia and of course, don’t forget to hit the beach!
By car: 2h37 – By bus: from 3h40 – By train: 4h25
32. Legoland Resort
Located south of downtown LA in Carlsbad, Legoland is the perfect family getaway! The fourth world’s Legoland Resort, it’s based around the toybrand of the same name. Over 20 attractions and playground but also a Sea Life Aquarium and Water Park; enough to tire your children!
By car: 1h40 – Train and bus: 3h28
33. Mission San Juan Capistrano
Located North of Los Angeles in San Juan Capistrano, it is a Catholic mission. A vestige of the Spanish colonization of what used to be called Las Californias, it is packed with fascinating history! Indeed, it was founded on the “Juanenos” Native soil where not less than 4,639 people were converted between 1776 and 1847. The Mission has spanned several eras of US history which you, too, could discover during a day trip from Los Angeles there!
By car: 1h – By train: 1h15 – By night bus: 1h25
34. Santa Cruz Island
Located north of Los Angeles not too far from Ventura, Santa Cruz is the largest Californian island. Known for its amazing wildlife, it should appeal to the adventurer! Galapogos, marine iguanas, giant tortoises, flamingos… there is so much to see during this incredible day trip from Los Angeles! It goes without saying that the seafood there is excellent. You should also check out the Garrapatero Beach which is frequented by humans as well as, you guessed it, animals.
By train then ferry: 5h06 – By bus then ferry: 5h30
35. Death Valley
What better way to end this list than with Death Valley? Located northeast of Los Angeles, Death Valley is only the hottest place on Earth next to the Middle East! With scorching hot deserts to frosting peaks, everyone needs to cross it off their list. A land of the extremes, it surely should appeal to every adventurer at heart. Did you know that one of the US’s unsolved mysteries remains the moving rocks of Death Valley? Indeed, they leave a curious trail on the singing sand… because yes, Death Valley’s sand also sounds just like an organ! A must-see, discover Death Valley’s secret without further delay!
By plane: 55 minutes – By car: 5h15 – By bus: 11h
And that concludes this top. We hope you’ll enjoy your stay in Los Angeles and try as much day trips to Los Angeles as possible ;-).
Check out our guide about 99 fun things to do in Los Angeles to fill your days with many exciting activities.