Escape LA for a couple days
Though LA offers plenty of summertime fun in and of itself, there’s something freeing and distinctly summery about getting out of the city. The City of Angels is an enviable launch point for any number of road trip adventures, with wine tasting, desert camping, mountain lakes, and craggy coastline within a day’s drive.
A quiet haven growing in popularity, this little gem of a town is nestled into the mountains above Ventura, and is sleepy in all the best ways. Rejuvenate in whatever way strikes your fancy: visit one of the multiple meditation centers (Meditation Mount is especially beautiful), hike a few winding trails, take in the local art scene, or just relax at one of the luxurious spas.
Joshua Tree National Park
Home to its namesake Joshua Trees, the landscape in this desert national park is at once arresting and alien. Trees swirl towards the sky against deeply saturated sunsets, and the lack of city lights makes for top-notch stargazing. Between all this, imposing rock formations are begging to be climbed on (and Instagrammed).
Wine tasting in Napa is nice (who are we kidding, it’s great), but a bit closer to Los Angeles is the still (somewhat) hidden gem of Paso Robles. Miles of vineyards await you in a sun-soaked setting that’s perfect for tastings and tours. Plus, there are great craft breweries (the famous Firestone Walker, for one) for the less-vino-inclined, and hot springs at River Oaks to soak away the stress of a long day sipping some of California’s best bottles.
Now that the flower-crown-wearing crowds of Coachella have fled, head to this funky desert town to check out modernist architecture, spas galore, and a surprisingly good cuisine scene on the main drag. On the way, enjoy the windmills marking the landscape and the giant Cabazon Dinosaurs, 50-foot prehistoric roadside creatures welcoming you to the land of hot and arid.
Big Bear Lake
An obvious choice for a ski season road trip, Big Bear is an equally attractive, and less crowded, summer spot as well. Hike and bike around the pine-tree-lined lake, then get in the water for kayaking, jet skiing, sailing, and more. There’s camping available if you want to rough it, or keep it rustic but slightly less outdoorsy in a cabin rental. And the town itself has plenty of mountain charm and tasty dining and drinking options — Big Bear Lake Brewing Company is a hit for both.
Another ‘big’ road trip winner: Big Sur encompasses one of California’s most stunning highway stretches, making the somewhat longer drive totally worth it. Mudslides have closed down a large stretch of Highway 1 currently, but back roads make for similarly stunning views. Camp along the craggy coastal cliffs before hiking through the lush green mountains, or, for a unique take on “glamping,” check out Treebones Resort. Here, you can rent your own personal yurt, a large canvas-covered structure that lets you almost feel like you’re camping, but has a plush bed and Adirondack chairs on the deck from which to take in the ocean views.