Weekend getaway near Los Angeles and Santa Ana?
September 9, 2016 3:04 PM   Subscribe

I live in Los Angeles. A friend of mine will be in Santa Ana later this month for work, and we'd like to take a weekend trip together. Where can we go that's roughly a 1.5 to 2 hour max drive away from both places?

We're both in our 30s and we like art, nature/outdoors, sightseeing, food and drink, (non-chain store) shopping, having spa days, and quirky/off-the-beaten-path experiences. Where should we go and what should we do? We're both trying to be budget-conscious, so keep that in mind.

Possible contenders so far:

- Temecula. I think we'd both enjoy wine tasting, but maybe not for the whole weekend. Hot air balloon rides sound really fun, but at $150+ per person, I think that's outside of our budget.

- Catalina. I haven't been here since I was little. Is there enough to do for a whole weekend? Also, I get motion sickness easily, so I'm a little worried about the boat ride to and from.

- Laguna Beach. I haven't looked into options here much, so any recommendations you have for this area would be welcome.

- Palm Springs. We'd both love to go here, but it's a little far from LA. Convince me! Do you love Palm Springs?

Any other areas I've overlooked? Specific recommendations for things to do in the ones I have? Pitfalls to avoid? Thank you!
posted by kitty teeth to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I love Palm Springs. I like going up the aerial tramway and hiking. I enjoy sitting by a pool. There's super cool architecture.

Laguna Beach is also sweet. You can go to the beach, but there's fun to be had gallery-hopping and exploring all the shops around town.
posted by shesbookish at 3:09 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

What about Idyllwild? It's a cute artsy mountain town surrounded by tons of hiking trails, campsites (I went this past spring and stayed in a campsite that was walking distance from town, which, YES PLEASE), and fun outdoorsy stuff. It is quirky and off the beaten path to the max.

I'd also suggest Joshua Tree, but if Palm Springs is far, Joshua Tree might also be too far.
posted by Sara C. at 3:12 PM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Palm Springs is totally considered "near" LA, though it's hard to say what the weather will be like at the end of this month, given how weird it's been so far. If you were going to go that way, I'd say spend a day, either on the way there or the way back, in Corona at Glen Ivy Hot Springs. If you want a spa day, *that's* a spa day.

On my shortlist of weekend getaways I'd like to do sometime, I have Crestline/Lake Gregory. I drove through it this year on my way up to Lake Arrowhead (which is lovely but there's nothing to do there, while Crestline had a little downtown area with lots of restaurants and shops, though I only drove through so it deserves more research) and it caught my eye.

I had a business lunch in Seal Beach recently, with someone who lives part-time there and really likes it. I have a parking ticket on my desk from there, so watch the metered parking if you go.

Temecula is sort of boring unless you're packing a mighty liver and a designated driver. Julian is better - at least you can walk around from one tasting room to another in the downtown area, plus pie. I'd still only call it good for one night, two might be pushing it unless you wanted to go to the casino (in Alpine, I think).
posted by Lyn Never at 3:25 PM on September 9, 2016

Catalina has campsites if you like that.
posted by brujita at 3:28 PM on September 9, 2016

If you time the drive right you can get to Ojai (Oh-hi) in about 2 hours from Santa Ana/LA. I don't really know how it stacks up in terms of budget consciousness but by LA standards it's not totally crazy. It covers a lot of your bases, it's arty, you'll find lots of interesting local stores and food, it's in the mountains, and there are spas everywhere. It's probably not quite as quirky as Palm Springs but it's a close contest.
posted by feloniousmonk at 4:01 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I came in to suggest Temecula- between the casino and the wine tastings, you could easily do a weekend there. Plus, balloon ride is amazing!!

Avalon (Catalina) can be done completely in 2 hours (including lunch), unless you do a boat ride, fishing trip, paddle boarding, etc.

Palm Springs, I think, will give you what you're looking for. There's also pretty good outlet shopping on the way.

There's Santa Barbara, of course, and the whole central coast winery thing. It's a bit further than you stated - especially from Orange County - but it is our go-to weekend away destination. It's roughly 3 hours from Santa Ana. But there's a train!

Finally, Ventura is quite lovely and much closer. Not sure you can get a full weekend out of it though.
posted by bluejayway at 4:10 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Palm Springs is absolutely a sure bet. I also wanted to back up feloniousmonk: You might check out Ojai, though, if you want to spa it up. Great spas in Ojai, but it's pretty sleepy. There are some boutiques to shop in but it's pretty limited. I spent a weekend at a spa out there with my mom around this time of year and it was absolutely lovely. Great for catching up, relaxing, etc.
posted by pazazygeek at 4:18 PM on September 9, 2016

Perhaps take the train to Santa Barbara? It's a bit longer than you're planned travel, but you'll be riding and not driving.
posted by 26.2 at 4:23 PM on September 9, 2016

Palm Springs is fantastic for relaxing. It's kind of like Las Vegas, weather wise, but without all the schlock and sadness. You can hike Palm Canyon, go up on the tram, or take a day trip to Mojave.

(Lyn Never; Lake Gregory kind of sucks as the entire lake is literally fully enclosed by a fence and you have to pay to go in. The last two times I've been there I've seen zero people on the beach. There is less to do there than in Lake Arrowhead. I can however highly recommend Green Valley Lake closer to Running Springs, it will tick all of the boxes that you mentioned).
posted by vignettist at 5:03 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would vote no on Temecula. It's so unbelievably crowded and not terribly interesting. I go there because my family lives there, but otherwise wouldn't bother. My vote is Palm Springs. Different than LA and Orange County and not a bedroom community for either giving it it's own sense of individuality.
posted by cecic at 6:54 PM on September 9, 2016

My mom has a cabin in Idyllwild, and unless you like driving (the 2 routes there are windy and potentially challenging) and hiking (the town is about the size of a shopping mall, so the only activities in the area are definitely outdoorsy) -- just go to Palm Springs. It has all of the things you're looking for. Quirky? Add an hour or so to your drive, and go to the Salton Sea. It's the 1960s waterfront resort destination that... wasn't. Miles of streets with quaint names like Sea View and Sandpiper, with decomposing trailer homes and new modest mcMini-Mansions in the same block. Head back to Palm Springs; enjoy the mid-century architecture; have a nice meal and a spa moment. I'm not a resort person at all, and the Ace Hotel Palm Springs is the closest I'll get -- poolside service and lowbrow luxe accommodations are quite nice.

There are very few things I miss about So Cal -- the Palm Springs area is among the top three.
posted by ortoLANparty at 9:44 PM on September 9, 2016

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