For many, Los Angeles is a dream destination in and of itself. And it’s not hard to understand why. From the beautiful beaches to the vibrant night life, from the world class restaurants and shopping to the lure of celebrity sightings … there’s a lot going on in LA and there are plenty of reasons to put this destination high on your to-visit list. But if you’ve got lots of time in the City of Angels or if you’re a local looking for a weekend escape, here are five getaways to consider. Just jump in the car and go!
San Diego is a two-hour drive from Los Angeles and before I visited, I just knew I’d love it. It’s a scenic drive from LA to San Diego, but for the best views, take the train. The train route hugs the coastline for much of the ride, making this a pretty and peaceful way to travel. More information here.
Do: Catch a ballgame at Petco Park. You can buy same-day tickets right outside the stadium gates. If it’s hot, bring a hat, sunscreen and lots of water. Depending on where you’re sitting, you may not find a lot of shade.
Eat: Try dinner at Nobu San Diego. The restaurant was opened in November 2007 by Chef Nobu Matsuhisa and it’s still a hotspot in the city. Try the Rock Shrimp Tempura.
Stay: The US Grant San Diego is a five-star luxury property that won’t disappoint. The historic hotel, which opened in 1910 (and was built by Ulysses S. Grant’s son), is a landmark that has welcomed guests like Albert Einstein, Charles Lindbergh and many US Presidents.
Without LA’s epic traffic, the drive to Ojai is just an hour and a half. So it doesn’t take long to leave the bright lights of the city behind and retreat to the tranquility of the Ojai Valley. There’s a focus on health and well-being in this part of California (not surprisingly) and there are lots of great hiking trails and spiritual retreats. With a strong focus on ‘local’, visitors can expect to see lots of organic, locally produced foods as well as local art and design in the city’s small town centre. In fact, chain stores are actually prohibited by Ojai City Law, to help promote small businesses and preserve the uniqueness of the town.
Do: According to their website, the Ojai Certified Farmers’ Market operates rain or shine, every Sunday from 9am to 1pm. You’ll definitely want to stop by and indulge in some of the region’s freshest and tastiest produce. If they’re in season, try the Ojai pixie tangerines that are native to the region. They’re like candy!
Eat: Suzanne’s Cuisine is the place to eat in Ojai. It’s small and intimate and everyone raves about the food and the atmosphere. It’s not hard to see why. Suzanne’s Cuisine is run by a mother-daughter duo and the menu reflects their shared love of Provencal and Italian cuisine, sometimes with an unexpected dash of Mexican and Indian flavours thrown in – just to keep things interesting. And tasty.
Stay: If you’re looking for the ultimate restful retreat, look no further than the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. Spa, tennis, golf? This peaceful getaway offers it all. Read more about the resort here.
Recently named one of America’s happiest seaside towns by Coastal Living Magazine, Laguna beach is a one-hour drive from Los Angeles. Not just a beautiful beach community made popular by the MTV television show, Laguna Beach is also an artist’s colony. The spectacular ocean views drew painters, photographers, filmmakers and writers over the decades and now, Laguna Beach is well known for its art festivals.
Do: Make sure to make time for some shopping in Laguna’s pedestrian-friendly village, where you’ll find unique boutiques, coffee shops, art galleries and restaurants.
Eat: Studio at the Montage Laguna Beach is a Craftsman-style restaurant and is one of the best restaurants I’ve ever dined at. Book a table looking out at the Pacific and enjoy every delicious bite. The restaurant dishes up modern French cuisine, influenced by local ingredients and flavours.
Stay: The Montage Laguna Beach is just as luxurious as I’d heard. The guestrooms feature turn-of-the-century decor and a muted colour palette that’s pretty and peaceful. Favourite feature: French doors out to a balcony that overlooks the Pacific. Read more about the hotel here.
Sausalito is the farthest of these weekend escapes but it’s just a six-hour drive along one of the prettiest routes in all of America. A San Francisco Bay Area city in Marin County, Sausalito is just across from the Golden Gate Bridge and is a charming bayside city.
Do: The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most beautiful bridges in the world and it’s most spectacular (in my opinion!) when viewed at sunrise. It’s worth getting up early and heading to the Marin Headlands to witness the changing colours of the morning sky.
Eat: Barrel House is one of the newest restaurants in historic downtown Sausalito. Located in a landmark historic building, The Barrel House offers diners sweeping views of the San Francisco skyline and the Bay Bridge. Open for lunch and dinner, this casual restaurant dishes up contemporary twists on rustic comfort food.
Stay: Cavallo Point is a historic property situated at Fort Baker, a former US Army post. Used as an army base since 1866, Fort Baker officially became a park in 2002 and in 2008, the hotel opened. Cavallo Point is comprised of a collection of historic rooms and contemporary rooms. Read more about the hotel here.
If a six-hour drive is more than you’d anticipated for your weekend getaway, how about a 40-minute drive from downtown Los Angeles, or a 15-minute drive from LAX? Manhattan Beach is one of California’s most beautiful beach communities and home to Hollywood stars and professional athletes alike. Called the ‘coolest beach town in California’ by Conde Nast Traveler, this lesser-known community should definitely be on your radar.
Do: This one’s easy: Hit the beach! Whether you like to swim, surf, play beach volleyball or just relax with your toes in the sand, this is the beach to do it on.
Eat: For such a small place, there are tons of food options. According to GQ, Manhattan Beach is one of America’s best beach towns for food. There are lots of restaurants to choose from, old standbys and new kids on the block like The Rockefeller. It’s not on the water but the truffle parmesan fries are the kind you’ll dream about long after you’ve licked the final grain of salt from your fingers.
Stay: Just three blocks from the beach, Shade Hotel is where you’ll want to stay for contemporary accommodations in the heart of Manhattan Beach. The boutique property, with rooms designed by celebrity decorator Christopher Lowell, caters to style savvy travelers and offers up luxury amenities, a small dipping pool and spa.