With the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting most of the world and the travel industry, travel lovers need to get creative when it comes to satisfying their wanderlust! Staycations, otherwise known as an overnight trip within driving distance of your home, are now the thing to do! Road trips are an American pastime, and there are plenty of road trip and staycation options throughout California.
If you’re currently located in Los Angeles, or are planning a trip in the future, enjoy these 5 overnight trips outside of the city…
#1 La Jolla
If you don’t hit any Los Angeles traffic, the drive south to La Jolla will only take you a little over 2 hours. This beautiful seaside town is known for its dramatic coastline, luxurious hotels, posh boutiques, and the world-renowned Torrey Pines Golf Course.
La Jolla Beach is one of the nicest beaches in Southern California so it’s easy to spend all day here. For a picturesque and delicious brunch, I’d highly recommend Brockton Villa Restaurant. Their French toast and breakfast tacos are to die for, and so are the views. As far as where to stay, The Lodge at Torrey Pines is five-star luxury at its finest. With it’s wooden features and gorgeous pine trees on the property, you feel so far away from Los Angeles, or any city!
On your drive to La Jolla or on the way back home to Los Angeles, I recommend two pitstops: Carlsbad and Solana Beach. Depending on what time of year you’re visiting, the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch are incredible. This is a culmination of over 70 years of floral cultivation in North San Diego County. There are over 50 acres devoted to colorful flowers, with more than 8 million blooms during peak flowering in the spring. Nearby Solana Beach is a hidden gem with unspoiled beaches and fabulous boutique shops. I’d visit just for the shopping, and head straight to the Design District where you’ll find art galleries as well.
The quirky Danish town of Solvang is located about 2 hours north of Los Angeles. Solvang is barely two and a half square miles, however, there are dozens of charming hotels, wine tasting rooms, and shops to explore! If you’re missing Europe and cannot travel due to the pandemic, Solvang will satisfy your wanderlust for now!
For luxury accommodation in the heart of Solvang, I’d recommend staying at Mirabelle Inn. This is a charming boutique hotel with 13 newly renovated rooms set in a half-timbered building. You can easily walk to one of the many tasting rooms downtown, including my favorite: Dascomb Cellars. This family-run winery offers daily tasting in Solvang, and the staff is beyond knowledgable. Besides the wine, what really stands out at Dascomb Cellars tasting room are their cheese samples and chocolates that they pair with their port.
While fine dining in Solvang can be found at Root 246, The Willows, or S. Y. Kitchen, I would really focus on the incredible sweet treats throughout town. Paula’s Pancake House is a go-to breakfast spot in Solvang, and I would arrive early on the weekends to avoid crowds. This is an old fashioned pancake house with endless coffee refills, the best freshly squeezed orange juice, and seriously amazing pancakes and bacon. And because this is a Danish town with a bakery on almost every corner, Olsen’s Bakery is my favorite pick. Some of their best menu items include their butter cookies, Russian tea cakes, apple pie square, and danishes. Enjoy!
There’s no shortage of charming, seaside towns in California but Cambria is one of the best ones. As far as road trips, Cambria is a great midway point between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Here you can enjoy beautifully rugged beaches, delicious food, and wonderful hospitality.
Quaint bed and breakfast properties are plentiful in Cambria, and the Blue Dolphin Inn is one of the best. You can expect a blissful and luxurious retreat at the Blue Dolphin Inn, steps away from Moonstone Beach. If you want to explore more, head to the historic East Village in Cambria where you’ll discover shops, restaurants, art galleries, and wine tasting rooms; there is a wonderful small-town charm here.
A trip to Cambria isn’t complete without visiting the iconic Hearst Castle. Built in the 20th century by media tycoon William Randolph Hearst, there is so much to see at this extravagant castle. The architect drew inspiration from the best of European architecture, but there are also unique features such as a movie room, indoor Roman pool, and more. Back in the day, Hollywood stars like Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, and Greta Garbo were often guests here.
#4 Big Bear
If you’re living in Los Angeles and craving a mountain escape, take the almost 3-hour scenic drive up to Big Bear Lake. While Big Bear is a popular mountain escape in the winter for skiing and snowboarding, this is also a great place to visit in the warmer months. If you want to avoid the summer crowds, September and early October are wonderful times to visit. It can get chilly at night still, but it’s warm and sunny during the day.
The best way to enjoy Big Bear Lake in the warmer months is by renting a pontoon boat at Big Bear Marina. There are also wonderful picnic locations off North Shore Drive or Boulder Bay. If you enjoy antique shopping, you’ll find plenty of shops to keep you busy on Big Bear Boulevard. However, most people come up to Big Bear for the great outdoors, so take advantage of the various hiking trails around the mountain ranging from easy to expert.
As far as finding wonderful views without having to hike, book tickets for the Scenic Sky Chair at Big Bear Mountain Resort. You can even eat lunch at the top of the mountain here. While I do recommend booking a spacious cabin via Airbnb or VRBO, you can also find luxury accommodation at Gold Mountain Manor or Bluegreen The Club at Big Bear Village. The Pines Lakefront is also a fabulous upscale lakeside restaurant in the heart of Big Bear, serving steak, seafood, pasta, and delicious wine pairings.
In terms of a staycation, weekend getaway or road trip stop, Ventura has it all: beautiful beaches, delicious cuisines, historic sights, and a scenic marina. If you avoid Los Angeles rush hour traffic, you can get to Ventura in 90 minutes. People often pass Ventura on the way to its popular neighbor, Santa Barbara. However, Ventura is more relaxed and quaint than most coastal towns in Southern California.
As far as historic sights, there are plenty as Ventura was founded in 1866. Founded even earlier, the San Buenaventura Mission was built in 1782, and what remains today to explore is the church, gardens, and a small museum. This is just one out of 21 California missions along the coast. There are also several 19th century, Victorian-style houses that are still standing in Ventura. While most of them are private homes, the Dudley House is open to the public to visit. It was originally built as a farm house in 1892, and is now a living history museum.
There is no shortage of amazing eateries in Ventura, so I’d highly recommend a Ventura Food Tour to see and eat as much as possible! This tour is a few hours of eating your way through downtown and it’s delicious from start to finish. If you’re in the marina area, Brophy Bros serves delicious seafood in casual surroundings with marina views. Their mahi-mahi is incredible and I would also recommend ordering a cup of clam chowder with sourdough bread. But in terms of fine dining in the evening, Cafe Zack is a romantic dinner option set inside a 1930’s-style cottage.
While there aren’t any over-the-top luxurious hotels in Ventura, you’ll find plenty of reliable chain hotels here like the Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach and the Ventura Beach Marriott.