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The Best Weekend Trips From LA to Experience the Best of Southern California

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Each Los Angeles neighborhood breathes unique culture into the city as a whole. From the laid-back, ever-sandy Hermosa Beach vibe to the hyper-local, food-focused Silver Lake life, this is a city where the views can change after just a few minutes (or hours, depending on traffic) on the 101. And yet, there is so much to see outside Los Angeles County. Of all the enviable things that come with living in LA—more space, constant sunshine, the mountains and beaches within your city limits—the endless road trip options to coveted U.S. destinations tops the list. With that in mind, here are the best weekend trips from LA:

Santa Barbara

It’ll take two hours for Angelenos to drive north to Santa Barbara—and it’s a gorgeous drive right along the Pacific Coast Highway. Santa Barbara has terrific luxury accommodations; Belmond El Encanto, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts partner, is a glamorous, seven-acre hills hideaway with suites that intermingle Spanish colonial design with the classic California craftsman. You can also opt to stay at one of the private villas or bungalows at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, another American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts partner. While in Santa Barbara, spend some time walking Stearns Wharf pier or ambling along State Street, poking in to the local shops or dropping in for a quick restorative session at Salt Cave Santa Barbara. You can also venture to the rolling hills of Santa Ynez Valley for an afternoon of wine tasting and vineyard exploration—be sure to stop at Sunstone Winery and Vineyards for the gorgeous patio and Babcock Winery for the vinyl collection in their Soulstruck Lounge. Or if history and fantastical architecture is more aligned with your travel palette, head to the Old Mission Santa Barbara. For dinner, reserve at bouchon Santa Barbara, and be sure to grab muffulettas or wood-fired pizza for lunch in the Funk Zone at Lucky Penny. The Funk Zone is where you’ll find Santa Barbara’s urban wine trail. If you don’t want to venture to the Santa Ynez Valley, spend the afternoon at Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. and Pali Wine Co. instead.


Ojai is nestled between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara—though, closer to SB—and yet it feels a world away from both cities. Ojai is unapologetically relaxed and a true free spirit on the California vacation scene. Stay at Ojai Valley Inn, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts partner, where you will be largely unable to tear yourself from their Spa Ojai. The spa treatments often utilize locally grown ingredients—as do their luxe dining venues on property. While in Ojai, spend a day hiking in Los Padres National Forest; start early to avoid crowds and tackle the 3.7-mile Hot Springs Canyon Trail loop, which brings you right to the natural Ojai hot springs. You can also enjoy the natural beauty of Ojai and Ventura on the Ojai Valley bike trail—rent bikes from The Mob Shop. Shop at the eclectic Ojai boutiques in town—from Bart’s Books, where you can shop for books out in the sunshine, to In The Field, a vintage boutique. Finally, for the artistic Ojai experience, check out Beatrice Woods Center for the Arts, known for their exceptional ceramic exhibitions, then stop in at Nocciola for dinner.

La Jolla

La Jolla is one of the true San Diego gems, home to golf courses perched along the stunning coast and an inviting seaside atmosphere. Your vacation here has to start at the Lodge at Torrey Pines, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts partner, and one of the best golf vacation spots in southern California. The five-star, five-diamond resort, in addition to offering a championship-level golf course, suites with terraces overlooking the coast, and fine dining at A.R. Valentien, has an indulgent spa with luxe treatments that use only botanical-based, eco-friendly ingredients. While visiting La Jolla, Angelenos can get some sun at La Jolla Shores Beach and hike Scripps Coastal Reserve Biodiversity Trail. After a morning of golf or spa treatments, you can also head to La Jolla Cove for some shopping followed by lunch at George’s at the Cove. For evening entertainment, visitors can reserve at Herringbone La Jolla and take in a concert at the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus.

Palm Springs

Palm Springs is a dream sequence of a city, especially for those who love pools, cocktails, and mid-century modern furniture. Post up at L'Horizon Resort and Spa, an American Fine Hotels & Resorts partner built in the 1950s, where you can stay in one of their chic deluxe bungalows. Or you can stay in Belle Epoque-style luxury at Dive Palm Springs, a property with just 11 guest rooms and suites that exude St. Tropez vibes. When you’re not lounging by the L’Horizon or Dive pools, wander the Uptown Design District for boutique shopping (your home decor vision will come to life at Christopher Kennedy) and high-end art galleries (we’re fans of Coda Gallery), have brunch at Norma’s or Workshop, or hop over to Indian Wells for a round of golf at Indian Wells Golf Resort’s 36 holes. If you’re after a desert hike, take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (the “world’s largest rotating tram car”) up Chino Canyon to hike within Mount Jacinto State Park. For dinner, you must try the exceptional upscale Vietnamese food in Palm Springs at either 533 Viet Fusion or Rooster and the Pig.

Orange County

The O.C., just an hour (or hour and a half) from Los Angeles, boasts some of the best beaches in southern California. Whether you choose to stay in Dana Point at Monarch Beach Resort, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts partner, or in Laguna Beach, you’ll be in close proximity to white-sand beaches and a vibrant waterfront scene. At Monarch Beach Resort, you’re in for a golf-and-spa getaway, with an 18-hole championship course overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the Miraval Life in Balance Spa offering daily yoga and meditation. If Laguna Beach intrigues you instead, stay at Montage Laguna Beach, a 2020 Legend Awards honoree and an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts partner, on 30 acres of beachfront property with two pool decks and three exquisite restaurants. In Dana Point, visitors will find 36 parks and 11 miles of hiking trails; start hiking within Hilltop Conservation Park or Dana Point Preserve. As for the best beach in the area, one of the most stunning (and Instagrammable) is the 1000 Steps Beach in South Laguna, though Treasure Island Beach and Crescent Bay Beach are both more accessible and may be better suited for young children. Orange County isn’t just about beaches and surf culture; Laguna Beach is also known for their art galleries. Stop in at Laguna Gallery of Contemporary Art and Kush Fine Art, and head to Newport Beach for great boutique shopping. For lunch in Newport Beach, visit Gulfstream, and back at Montage Laguna Beach, reserve dinner overlooking the ocean at The Loft.


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