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Are you looking for the best day trips from Los Angeles? Los Angeles is known for its bustling streets, lively culture, and endless entertainment options. However, having recently been in the city for a few days I found that myself and my family need a break from the city’s chaos.
Thankfully, there are many exciting destinations within a few hours’ drive of Los Angeles that offer a change of scenery and a chance to reconnect with nature.
The Best Family Day Trips From Los Angeles
If you’re anything like me, you know that there’s nothing quite like exploring a new city with your whole family. And when that city is Los Angeles, the options for adventure are endless!
From the sunny Southern California beaches and world-famous amusement parks to its vibrant neighbourhoods and cultural attractions, there’s something for everyone in the City of Angels.
But if you’re looking to venture beyond the city limits and discover the surrounding areas, you’re in for a real treat.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor or you’ve spent a lot of time in Los Angeles, these day-trip destinations are sure to capture your sense of adventure and leave you with unforgettable family memories.
Read on to find some of the best day trips from Los Angeles for families.
Check out the ultimate California Bucket List
1. Santa Monica
Located just a 30-minute drive west of Los Angeles, Santa Monica is a beachfront city known for its laid-back atmosphere, stunning ocean views, and world-famous pier.
Given its close proximity to Los Angeles and the endless things to do here, it’s no surprise that Santa Monica is a massive hit with families looking to escape LA.
One of the most popular spots in Santa Monica is the Santa Monica Pier, which offers stunning views of the ocean and the city’s skyline. The pier is home to a variety of attractions, such as an aquarium, an amusement park, and many restaurants and shops.
Santa Monica is also home to the closest National Park to Los Angeles, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
Here you’ll find miles of hiking trails and stunning views of the ocean and the city. The park is home to a variety of wildlife, such as coyotes, deer, and bobcats, as well as many plant species, including the iconic California redwoods.
Visit Santa Monica as part of A Day In LA Tours day trip if you’re only in Los Angeles for a short stay.
2. Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach is a charming coastal town located just an hour’s drive south of Los Angeles.
This beachside community is known for its beautiful white sandy beaches, tide pools, and stunning ocean views making it a great spot for families who want to escape the city’s hustle and bustle and spend a relaxing day in nature.
Laguna Beach has a lot to offer for families, especially those who love the outdoors. One of the most popular activities in Laguna Beach is exploring the many art galleries and museums.
If you happen to be visiting Laguna Beach on the first Thursday of the month, then be sure to take a leisurely stroll along the Laguna Beach Art Walk. Here you’ll find unique artwork, jewellery, and crafts.
Laguna Beach is known for its art scene, and there are many festivals and events throughout the year celebrating the arts.
Another must-visit spot in Laguna Beach is the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, where visitors can learn about marine conservation and observe seals and sea lions up close. This nonprofit organization rescues and rehabilitates marine mammals and is dedicated to educating the public about marine life and conservation.
For families who love outdoor activities, Laguna Beach offers many options, such as hiking, kayaking, and snorkelling.
The Crystal Cove State Park is a favourite among locals and tourists alike, offering miles of hiking trails, beachfront campsites, and scenic views of the ocean. The park also has a nature centre where visitors can learn about the local wildlife and ecosystems.
3. Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, known as the “American Riviera,” is a picturesque seaside town located 1 hour and 50 minutes north of Los Angeles.
With its year-round Mediterranean climate, stunning white sandy beaches, and Spanish colonial architecture, Santa Barbara is a perfect destination for families who want to experience the more laid-back California lifestyle.
One of the best attractions for families visiting Santa Barbara is the Santa Barbara Zoo which is located on 30 acres and home to more than 500 animals including; the California Condor, the Amur Leopard, and the Western Lowland Gorilla.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a unique cultural experience, then be sure to visit the Old Mission Santa Barbara, which dates back to 1786.
The mission is open daily for self-guided tours and features a museum, a garden, and a gift shop. Families can learn about the history of the mission, which was founded by the Spanish Franciscans to convert the Chumash Indians to Christianity.
For those who love outdoor activities, Santa Barbara offers many options, such as hiking, kayaking, and whale watching. Alternatively, Families can also take a leisurely bike ride along the beachfront path or explore the many parks and gardens in the city.
Coronado is a small island community that sits just across from San Diego Bay, located about 2 hours south of Los Angeles.
This charming town is known for its stunning beaches, historic landmarks, and quaint shops. Coronado offers families a range of activities to enjoy, from outdoor activities to cultural experiences and unique shopping and dining options.
One of the most popular attractions in Coronado is the iconic Hotel Del Coronado. The historic hotel dates back to 1888 and has hosted many famous guests over the years, including Marilyn Monroe and Charles Lindbergh.
Families can take a tour of the hotel and explore its many restaurants, shops, and attractions. The hotel’s beach is a popular spot for families to spend a day in the sun, swimming, surfing, and building sandcastles.
Alternatively, consider heading down to Coronado Beach. This beach is consistently ranked as one of the best beaches in the USA and is perfect for families to play and relax.
The beach has a wide range of amenities, including restrooms, showers, and picnic tables. For those who want to explore the town’s history, the Coronado Museum of History and Art offers exhibits and programs that showcase the island’s rich cultural heritage.
Families can also enjoy a leisurely stroll through the Coronado Ferry Landing, where they can shop at local boutiques and enjoy views of San Diego Bay. The Coronado Farmers Market, held every Tuesday afternoon, is a great place to buy fresh produce and local products.
Meanwhile, for those looking for outdoor activities, Coronado has many options, such as kayaking, paddle boarding, and bike rentals. Families can explore the town’s many parks and gardens, such as Spreckels Park and Coronado Butterfly Park.
Solvang is a quaint Danish-style village located about 2 hours northwest of Los Angeles by car.
The town is a unique destination that offers a range of activities for families, including visiting the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, tasting delicious pastries at a local bakery, or exploring the local wineries.
One of the highlights of Solvang is its charming architecture, which is reminiscent of a Danish village. Visitors can admire the town’s half-timbered houses, windmills, and other traditional Danish buildings.
Solvang is home to many bakeries and cafes that offer delicious pastries, cakes, and other treats. One of the most popular bakeries in Solvang is Mortensen’s Danish Bakery, which has been serving up delicious baked goods since 1950.
Families can also enjoy a traditional Danish lunch or dinner at one of the town’s many restaurants, which serve up classic dishes like smørrebrød and frikadeller.
6. Palm Springs
Nestled in the Coachella Valley Oasis, Palm Springs is a fantastic place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and experience the beauty of the desert during a Los Angeles day trip with kids.
This resort city offers a plethora of outdoor activities and unique experiences for families to enjoy including the Aerial Tramway, which takes visitors on a scenic ride up the cliffs of Chino Canyon to Mount San Jacinto State Park.
This largest rotating tramcar in the world offers stunning views of the Coachella Valley and the surrounding mountains, providing an unforgettable souvenir of your trip. Once at the top, visitors can indulge in activities like hiking, camping, and snowshoeing in the winter months.
Another must-visit spot in Palm Springs is the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, a botanical garden and zoo where you can see more than 500 animals and over 1,400 species of plants.
If you’re looking to take a piece of Palm Springs home with you then consider heading to the Uptown Design District.
Here you’ll find a wide range of boutique shops and vintage stores offering unique home decor, fashion pieces, and a great selection of California souvenirs to remember your trip by.
7. San Diego
San Diego is situated roughly 120 miles (193 km) south of Los Angeles (a 2-3 hour drive depending on traffic) and boasts stunning beaches and world-class museums, a thriving culinary scene and exciting nightlife. This is one of the most popular Los Angeles day trips for families, with so many fun things to do with kids.
One of the top attractions in San Diego is Balboa Park, a 1,200-acre urban cultural park that is home to 17 museums, various gardens, and the San Diego Zoo. Visitors can easily spend an entire day exploring the park and its many offerings.
The San Diego Zoo, in particular, is a must-visit attraction, as it is home to over 3,500 animals representing more than 650 species, making it one of the most diverse zoos in the world.
San Diego is also known for its incredible beaches, such as La Jolla Cove, Coronado Beach, and Mission Beach. Whether you’re looking to catch some waves or simply relax in the sun, San Diego’s beaches are a great place to spend a day.
Visitors can also take part in various water activities, including kayaking, paddle boarding, and surfing, and pick up some fun beach-themed souvenirs to remember their day at the shore.
Anaheim, located around 30 minutes southeast of Los Angeles is more than just the ultimate theme park day trip!
Yes, you could absolutely take a day trip to Disneyland or California Adventure Park, but that would be a huge day! Unless 1 day is all you have, you definitely want a few days to properly enjoy Disneyland Resort!
But there are plenty more fun things to do in Anaheim with kids!
Head to Anaheim Hills for a visit to Oak Canyon Nature Center for a day of outdoor fun and adventure. The nature center features several hiking trails that wind through the hills and canyons, with epic views of the surrounding landscape. Kids will love exploring the different trails and learning about the local wildlife.
Grab lunch at The Anaheim Packing District, a restored historic packing building features a variety of eateries, bars, and boutique shops. Visit the Aaheim Gardenwalk Complex for food and entertainment.
Or make the most of a fine day and head to Yorba Regional Park, one of the largest parks in Orange County. With loads of walking and biking trails, picnic areas, and a lake, it’s the perfect spot for a day outside.
Each of these family day trips from Los Angeles can easily be lengthened into a weekend getaway or form part of a Southern California road trip too! Whether you are seeking outdoor adventures or popular tourist attractions, these fun day trips have something for all ages!
More USA Travel Inspiration
If you are visiting the United States for the first time or looking to visit some new places, here are some city guides & Disney theme park tips to help get you inspired:
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