Staff Writer Rachael Medina
Rachael Medina is the senior content writer and operations manager for California.com. She was born and raised just outside the Mojave Desert in Southern California and moved to the redwood forests o…See full bio
As communities across the world and in California mitigate health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are shifting our content strategy and will not encourage any travel or social activities during this time. We will, however, continue to shine a light on and celebrate the many beautiful aspects of our State with the intention of being a source of inspiration and joy during this difficult period. We will also be providing tips and resources specifically related to the COVID-19 pandemic safety measures in the coming weeks. Thank you for reading, and stay safe!
Whether you’ve been daydreaming about an epic Pacific Coast Highway road trip, a weeklong escape to Carmel Valley, or a remote desert town to get away from it all, California has the cure for your wanderlust. The intricate lattices of the state’s varied landscapes culminate in one-of-a-kind destinations that can be visited any time of year. Springtime lakes become wintertime skiing destinations, cozy autumnal cabins metamorphosize into idyllic coastal vacations, and summer camping spots transform into respites from the cold.
While there are endless places to choose from, these are our favorite year-round destinations for weekend trips in California.
When it comes to weekend getaways from Los Angeles, it doesn’t get much better than Joshua Tree National Park. The park’s rugged landscape has long attracted hordes of visitors, thanks to its unique wildlife, dozens of campsites, stellar sunsets, and renowned hiking trails.
The area is a popular spring and summer vacation spot—even as the temps rise well into the 100s—but it’s the off-season when the desert truly comes alive. So, come and take advantage of the abundant rock-climbing opportunities, picture-perfect scenery, and vibrant California spirit.
Stunning beaches, incredible eateries, and a relaxed vibe make Malibu one of the most popular weekend getaways in Southern California. Though the shoreline is typically busier during the spring and summer months, the surf season in SoCal extends into autumn. Whether you’re getting ready to pack your swimsuits or hiking boots, there’s always something fun to do in Malibu.
Mendocino is the ultimate weekend getaway in Northern California. Filled with fair-trade coffee shops, lush forests, Michelin-starred eateries, and picturesque ocean views, this unparalleled seaside town leaves you wanting for nothing.
Like Joshua Tree National Park, Palm Springs makes for another classic weekend trip from Los Angeles. Plan a girls’ weekend when the temperatures begin to drop, block off your schedule to attend Modernism Week next year, and visit for a golf-filled weekend to make memories season after season.
San Francisco is known for its temperate climate, year-round fog, and plethora of iconic tourist attractions. Since the weather is fairly consistent regardless of the season, it’s a great place to visit nearly any time of year. Schedule a trip to the top art galleries, savor San Francisco’s incredible coffee, splurge on a meal at the Bay Area’s Michelin-starred restaurants, and stop by the region’s famous surfing destinations to make the most of your urban escape.
If you live in San Francisco, check out the best weekend getaways near the Bay Area for even more travel inspo.
Santa Monica is the epitome of California’s boho style. Located near the eccentric Venice Beach Boardwalk and mysterious Venice canals, Santa Monica is refreshingly easygoing. Spend a day shopping downtown, having fun in Pacific Park—Santa Monica Pier’s amusement park—or finding the town’s historical landmarks for some wholesome family fun.
The state’s national parks always make unforgettable destinations for mini vacations in California, but there’s something extra special about Yosemite National Park that beckons to us all year. From backpacking expeditions in the springtime to rock-climbing excursions in the summer (and a special trip in February to see Horsetail Fall glowing orange and red at sunset), there’s never a bad experience here.
What do you think are the best weekend getaways in California? Let us know in the comments below.