15 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Los Angeles is one of the world’s most popular cities.

Home to Hollywood superstars, musicians, sporting heroes and more, a trip to Los Angeles sees you brush shoulders with the great and the good.

Lively and happening Los Angeles is the kind of city of which you never tire.

However, should you exhaust your explorations within the city limits there is great number of day trips from Los Angeles that keep the wanderlust alive.

The beaches that surround Los Angeles are second to none, make sure to put them on your bucket list.

Let’s take a look at these 15 day trips from Los Angeles.

1. Las Vegas

Las VegasSource: Nido Huebl / shutterstock
Las Vegas

Las Vegas is definitely a city of the night, however, being only a few hours away from Los Angeles means that you can explore the city during the day, and get a taste for the extravagant nightlife, before heading back from whence you came.

Las Vegas is an overwhelming city filled with casinos, live music venues, museums, galleries and more.

With some of the world’s biggest names taking up a residency in Las Vegas it is considered a ‘must-do’ to see a show.

Everyone from Celine Dion to Britney Spears have taken the stage and rocked out night after night.

In 2018 Lady Gaga will be moving in.

2. Disneyland California

Disneyland CaliforniaSource: HarshLight / Flickr
Disneyland California

Old or young there is no escaping the magic of Disney.

A day trip to California is certainly not only for the kids, with over 50 attractions to visit and enjoy Disneyland California is fun, magical and easily accessible from Los Angeles.

There are 8 different lands to explore meaning you’ll have a jam packed, fun filled day.

Disneyland California offers visitors the opportunity to meet and mingle with all of their favourite Disney characters like Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, even Woody and Buzz Lightyear from the Toy Story movies.

The Haunted Mansion is not to be missed, nor the Pirates of the Caribbean experience.

3. Universal Studios

Universal StudiosSource: Kamira / shutterstock
Universal Studios

Often considered to be the same as Disneyland California, Universal Studios is an exciting and interactive day out all of its own.

You could spend a week at Universal Studios and only scratch the surface.

A genuinely educational day, Universal Studios allows visitors to witness the behind the scenes action of all the biggest blockbuster movies.

See some of TV’s most popular film sets, including Wisteria Lane from ‘Desperate Housewives’ as well as the stunt production from the ‘Fast and Furious’ film series.

Action packed and interactive, Universal Studios is a highlight of any American adventure.

4. San Diego

San DiegoSource: Dancestrokes / shutterstock
San Diego

Lying on the Pacific coast of California San Diego was the first city in the state and is still the second largest.

As one of the top ten biggest cities in the USA San Diego is home to over 1.4 million people.

Being amongst the hustle and bustle of San Diego makes you feel alive.

With a huge number of galleries and museums to explore, in addition to the world famous San Diego Zoo a visit to the city is an opportunity to broaden your horizons and flow with the rhythm of California.

Balboa Park is the highlight of any visit to San Diego and is particularly lovely in the summer months when the flowers are all in full, colourful bloom.

5. La Jolla

La Jolla Shores, San DiegoSource: Dancestrokes / shutterstock
La Jolla Shores

La Jolla Cove lies on the rugged Pacific coast and can be reached easily from Los Angeles.

A modern and affluent seaside town, La Jolla has wonderful mansion homes to see and plenty of posh restaurants to explore.

Donned as ‘the new Beverly Hills’ a trip to La Jolla enables you to live the high-life, if only for one day.

Perhaps swing in to Torrey Pines Golf Club for a round or two or head to the waterfront and stroll through La Jolla Village browsing through the windows of the uber fashionable boutiques.

6. Santa Barbara

Santa BarbaraSource: Alexander Demyanenko / shutterstock
Santa Barbara

Should a restful and relaxing day be in order then Santa Barbara is just the place to go.

Home to the Mediterranean style Mission Santa Barbara, the beautiful Botanic Garden and the Shoreline Park, there is plenty to see and do.

Taking the day at your own pace in Santa Barbara allows you to soak up the laid back California vibes.

The Santa Ynez Mountains provide a picturesque backdrop to this already photogenic city and the elements of Spanish colonialism give the city a European feel.

If travelling to Santa Barbara with children do consider a visit to the zoo.

7. Knotts Berry Farm

Knott's Berry FarmSource: knotts.com
Knott’s Berry Farm

Exciting and exhilarating, Knotts Berry Farm is an amusement park in Buena Park, California.

Fun fact for you, totally unrelated to theme park rides, but all boysenberries in the world can be traced back to Knotts Berry Farm.

Crazy huh.

A quintessentially American day out at Knotts Berry Farm you can ride roller coasters, scoff your face with corndogs and feel the sugar rush of the candy floss.

In the Spring Knotts Berry Farm celebrates the harvest with their own Knott’s Boysenberry Festival featuring live music and family oriented shows and innovative food stalls throughout the three weeks.

8. Six Flags Magic Mountain

Six Flags Magic MountainSource: flickr
Six Flags Magic Mountain

Six Flags Magic Mountain is one of the USA’s most iconic theme parks located 35 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

Spanning a vast 242-acres there is always fun to be had at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Back in 2013 the park broke the world record for having the largest number of rollercoasters in one theme park, an impressive feat.

Offering access to the water park and their dozens of adrenaline inducing rides, a visit to Six Flags Magic Mountain is a great way to spend a day trip from Los Angeles.

9. Palm Springs

Palm Springs, CaliforniaSource: Andrew F. Kazmierski / shutterstock
Palm Springs

Set in the Sonoran Desert in the south of California state, Palm Springs is the go-to holiday destination for hundreds of thousands of Americans every year.

Cultured and clean, Palm Springs is a modern city with a modern mindset and modern architecture to match.

In the neighbouring Coachella Valley you can go horse trekking, mountain biking or even good old fashioned hiking.

The shopping district in Palm Springs is highly sought after and no doubt you will leave with something shiny and new to remind you of your day trip.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is a great addition to your day.

10. Santa Catalina Island

Santa Catalina Island, CaliforniaSource: L.A. Nature Graphics / shutterstock
Santa Catalina Island

Santa Catalina Island is something of a hidden gem.

As one of California’s channel islands Santa Catalina Island is loved for its vast array of wildlife, incredible scuba diving sites and the impressive and imposing Mt.


Descanso Beach is a beautiful place to relax and take a few hours to just reconnect with the sounds of the ocean, away from the hustle and bustle of LA. The city, or rather town, of Avalon is the art deco inspired cultural hub of Santa Catalina Island and where you’ll find casinos, museums and movie theatres galore.

11. Legoland California

Legoland CaliforniaSource: flickr
Legoland California

Another of California’s fun filled days out for all the family is Legoland.

Offering award winning waterparks and dozens of themed attractions Legoland is an exciting and interactive day out.

Whether you head to the brand new Star Wars mini-land display or head to the Legoland Water Park it’s safe to say you’ll have a truly memorable day out.

Of course, no trip to Legoland would be complete without a visit to the Legoland store, stock up before you leave to make the most of your Lego inspired day.

12. Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach, CaliforniaSource: LagunaticPhoto / shutterstock
Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach can be found in Orange County and is one of the most popular surf spots in California.

Put firmly on the map by reality TV show ‘Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County’ the city is home to crystal clear water coves, choppy surf beaches and Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.

A really artsy kind of town, Laguna Beach is relaxed and of a truly Californian state of mind.

Away from the beach during a day trip you can explore the Laguna Art Museum or find time to enjoy a show at the Laguna Playhouse.

13. Malibu

Malibu, CaliforniaSource: turtix / shutterstock

Ever had a dream about drinking Malibu in Malibu? Well, now’s your chance.

Lying just 45-minutes drive away from Los Angeles city centre Malibu is home to some of the best beaches in the United States of America.

Suitably modern and environmentally conscious Malibu City Council has banned the use of single use plastic straws and cutlery in a bid to preserve their picturesque beaches.

Take a stroll down Zuma Beach and you may just catch a glimpse of the Hollywood elite going about their daily business.

Head up to some of the inland walking trails to explore the waterfalls, vast grasslands and deep canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains.

14. Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National ParkSource: fotogestoeber / shutterstock
Joshua Tree National Park

If the city smoke is started to take its toll then surely a visit to the Joshua Tree National Park is the order of the day.

Encompassing two very distinct desert ecosystems the Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most rugged landscapes in California.

Spanning across the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert the Joshua Tree National Park is a fascinating day trip from Los Angeles for nature lovers, hikers and budding botanists.

Hike up to Keys View in order to take in the breathtaking views over Coachella Valley.

The Hidden Valley is a exciting hike if you like jumping from boulder to boulder.

15. Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake, CaliforniaSource: Alizada Studios / shutterstock
Big Bear Lake

A small city all of its own Big Bear Lake has a lot to offer.

From the Big Bear Valley Historical Museum to the Hot Shot Miniature Golf, from sun up to sun down there is something to keep the whole family entertained.

If you’ve packed your snow legs head up to the Big Bear Mountain Ski Resort and hit the slopes for the day.

Perhaps take a boat out onto the lake and enjoy the mountains vistas in the background.

The San Bernardino National Park surrounds Big Bear Lake and has a vast array of hiking trails that see you cross through the rugged mountains and into the dense forests.

15 Best Day Trips from Los Angeles:

  • Las Vegas
  • Disneyland California
  • Universal Studios
  • San Diego
  • La Jolla
  • Santa Barbara
  • Knotts Berry Farm
  • Six Flags Magic Mountain
  • Palm Springs
  • Santa Catalina Island
  • Legoland California
  • Laguna Beach
  • Malibu
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Big Bear Lake