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Six Day Trips from Los Angeles
by Olivia Neri

Los Angeles Freeway

Downtown Los Angeles, where the day trips begin!

1 of 6

Photo by Olivia Neri


Los Angeles is a car-culture society, but driving in and around the city can take some patience. It has 12-lane freeways, notorious traffic and carpool lanes. But its scenic drives make it all worthwhile. Here are six day trips that give you reason to take your car out of the garage.


Santa Barbara
Travel time: 1 hour

Santa Barbara is nicknamed "The American Riviera," not only for its inviting location, famous beaches and fabulous weather, but also for its surroundings, which include wineries and Los Padres National Forest. Although its population is now approaching 100,000, it retains an atmosphere of a small beach community. Located just north of Los Angeles, it is home to many celebrities, so be on the lookout!

To enjoy the city at its best, take a walk down State Street. Enjoy a meal in one of the many restaurants, or stroll through the many beachside boutiques. The red roof tiles, arched windows and white stucco walls of the Spanish architecture give the city its unique style. Be sure to visit the Santa Barbara Mission to learn about Santa Barbara's rich history and its Spanish heritage. The view alone is worth the trip.

Santa Barbara's wine country ranges about 35 minutes northeast of the city. Go on one of the many wine-tasting tours and you'll see why the region is gaining the attention of wine lovers. Fans of the movie "Sideways" will want to take the self-guided tour inspired by the 2004 Oscar-winning movie.


View Santa Barbara to San Diego, California in a larger map


San Diego
Travel time: 2 hours

Don't let the freeway traffic deter you from visiting San Diego, about 120 miles south of Los Angeles; it is worth the drive. San Diego County, which borders Mexico, offers 70 miles of beaches plus plenty of shopping and dining options.

Shoppers should make time to visit the Westfield Horton Plaza, an outdoor shopping mall that boasts 140 shops. Another area definitely worth exploring is the Victorian-era Gas Lamp Quarter, which offers pubs, shops and dining, along with art galleries, offices and theaters. Allow enough time to visit Old Town and the San Diego Mission.

There are plenty of activities to keep children interested and occupied, starting with the world-famous giant pandas at the San Diego Zoo. It's easy to spend a day at Legoland California, which has more than 50 rides, shows and attractions, including the new Land of Adventure area. SeaWorld, a premier marine park northwest of the city, offers many chances for up-close interactions with animals on its 200-acre preserve.

Can't decide what to see and do first? You don't have to. You can just hop into your vehicle and follow San Diego's 59-mile scenic drive. Visitors can easily navigate through the city's top sites just by following the blue-and-yellow signposts.


Santa Monica
Travel time: 30 minutes

Santa Monica's world-famous beach has been immortalized on TV's "Baywatch" and in countless films, but the city is more than bikinis, beach volleyball and tanned bodies. In fact it is a glamorous city that attracts plenty of tourists and is home to many stars. You can enjoy Santa Monica's famous sites from the seat of a car or by foot on the city's pedestrian-friendly streets.

Stroll down the Third Street Promenade - no vehicles allowed - and enjoy people-watching or street performers; on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, there's a farmer's market. Or head for Main Street, where you'll find cafes, shops, bars and restaurants. It is a lot less crowded than Third Street Promenade and offers a different atmosphere. Third Street is almost overrun with tourists, while more locals head to Main Street. All in all, Santa Monica offers hundreds of retail shops and more than 400 dining options.

After a walk on the beach, visit Pacific Park, an admission-free amusement park located on the Santa Monica pier. It is a nice way to enjoy the beach without getting wet!


Disneyland, Anaheim
Travel time: 1 hour

Whether you are traveling with children or are just a child at heart, Disneyland Park is a must-see attraction. Known as "The Happiest Place on Earth," it is the home of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse and many other famous childhood characters. Rides like Pirates of the Caribbean, The Jungle Cruise, The Haunted House, and The Teacups will have you reliving your childhood days. Disney's California Adventure Park, another amusement park, is situated directly across from Disneyland. The newest addition to the Disneyland family, the park offers rides and attractions with a California theme. A "Park Hopper" ticket will get you admittance to both parks.

Not enough time to spend a day at an amusement park? The Downtown Disney District gives you a chance to enjoy the cheerful Disneyland atmosphere without paying an entrance fee. Here you can watch a movie at the AMC Movie Theatre, visit ESPN Zone Sports Arena, or stop by the House of Blues Stage and spend as little or as much time as you choose. Of course there are shops where you can buy your favorite Disney products.

Although the price of admission might seem high (single-day theme park tickets start at $56, Park Hopper tickets at $84), the experience is worth it!


Travel time: 30 minutes

Hollywood has experienced a renovation during the past five years that has taken it back to its glamorous first days as "Tinsel Town." It's a glitzy town filled with self-promoting, young, good-looking people with one goal: to become famous.

Walk down the Hollywood Walk of Fame to take a picture with your favorite "star" -- perhaps even with the celebrity himself. More than 2,000 stars are on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and each month one or two more stars are added. If you see a crowd forming, get your camera ready - maybe some new star is about to be immortalized. Tinkerbell will get her star sometime next year, along with Hugh Jackman, Robert Downey Jr., Shakira, Leslie Caron, Cameron Diaz, Kyra Sedgwick, The Village People and a bunch of others.

You'll find the footprints and handprints of Hollywood's greatest legends in front of the TCL (formerly Grauman's) Chinese Theatre. The theater is the site of many swanky movie premiers, and the public can still see a movie here. Get information on tours of Hollywood in front of the theater. Choose the classic "Movie Stars' Homes" tour and you'll see where some of the biggest names in the business live. Beware of huge gates and shrubs that can obstruct your view!

The Hollywood & Highland mall and the Dolby (formerly Kodak) Theatre are at the center of the new Hollywood. The outdoor mall includes retail shops, restaurants and the permanent home of the Academy Awards, where Hollywood's elite gathers each year in hopes of winning a coveted Oscar. The $94 million live-entertainment theater, which opened in November 2001, boasts 3,350 seats.


Travel time: 1 hour

The first inhabitants of Malibu were Chumash Indians; today it is home to some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry.

Getting to this coastal community is one of the best parts of the day trip. Heading north from Los Angeles, Pacific Coast Highway winds above the ocean, giving drivers and passengers good views of the ocean and the multimillion-dollar homes of the rich and famous. Sometimes you'll come across a surfer by the side of the road, changing into dry clothes after a day of surfing.

Malibu Canyon is another great drive; it takes you toward LA's San Fernando Valley. The windy drive can be packed during rush hour, but there are opportunities to escape from the traffic and to enjoy the views.

The Getty Villa Museum Malibu is a premier museum dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome and Etruria. The museum is open Thursday through Monday, and although admission is free, reservations are mandatory.

Enjoy lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch at Duke's Malibu. Named after Duke Kahanamoku (the "Father of International Surfing"), this oceanfront restaurant offers a menu of fresh fish, along with its original Hula Pie dessert. The Barefoot Bar offers a bar menu and outdoor seating. Keep your eyes open and you might see your favorite TV or movie star enjoying the Malibu sun.

Southern California has a lot to offer visitors. There is plenty of sun for everyone to enjoy, and many opportunities to hop in your car and to explore. These six trips are just the beginning!

Olivia Neri
(Updated 2/11/2023, RTA)


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