Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Los Angeles: Stay through the weekend – quick getaways from the city

Los Angeles in a good light

The Los Angeles metropolitan area is so huge and interesting that you’d never run out of things to do nearby, but it can also be nice to combine your city trip with a totally different flavor in the same area. Fortunately, there are many great choices that are all within a 2-hour drive (traffic permitting) of the city centre.

Here are five excellent choices that could even be done as a day trip in a time crunch, but probably best suited to a relaxing weekend stay if possible.

Santa Barbara

Swan, Santa Barbara

About two hours northwest of Los Angeles you’ll find an idyllic beach community that most locals rarely visit. The sunny and mild climate is usually even better than that of Los Angeles itself, and you’ve got the added bonus of a calm sense of luxury that won’t be found elsewhere. If you are in the market for a multi-million dollar mansion this is also a great place to look, especially in the Tony Montecito neighbourhood next door.

Things to do

You’ve got miles of excellent beaches, including some surfing opportunities, plus the old-school city pier sitting just at the end of State Street, which is the extremely pleasant main shopping and dining artery that runs through town. If relaxing isn’t enough for you there are over a dozen excellent golf courses nearby as well as tours of top-notch wineries (the Oscar-winning film Sideways was set and filmed in this area, not in Napa Valley).

Where to stay

If money is no object then the Four Seasons Biltmore just south of the city center is the place to stay for that five-star treatment. For a more unique local experience you can choose Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort Santa Barbara, which sits along the beach even closer to the center of town. Another great option is the Hotel Santa Barbara, which is a bit more affordable while being located in the heart of the dining and shopping action on State Street.

Palm Springs

Palm Springs

Long known as a spring getaway to the rich and famous, Palm Springs continues to be known for its world-class golf resorts and spas, but it also has become a trendy getaway for the younger set. Around 90 minutes by car from much of Los Angeles, this desert city can be counted on for warm and dry sunshine during its peak season from February through May, though it’s quite nice all year round, and smaller off-season crowds do make up for a lot.

Things to do

Palm Springs is a classic leisure destination, mostly known for posh resorts, luxurious spas, and many of the world’s top-rated golf courses. But lately there’s great nightlife and amazing dining options as well. Hiking is also extremely popular, as the dry weather and desert landscape make for an unforgettable outing. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway has been taking visitors to the top of the close-by mountain since 1963, and is the city’s most famous single attraction.

Where to stay

The Le Parker Meridien Palm Springs resort is one of the city’s finest 5-star hotels, but there are great options in more modest budgets as well. The
Riviera Resort & Spa is a fine choice that is near the center of the excellent shopping and dining district.

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach

Depending on Los Angeles’s notoriously difficult traffic, you could get from Downtown to Laguna Beach in about an hour, though 90 minutes is still usually making good time. This artist village in south Orange County feels a world apart from the craziness to the north, so much so that it’s a popular weekend getaway even for those who live only a short drive away.

Things to do

The main stretch of beach facing the heart of the town is always filled with sun worshipers and volleyball players, and a leisurely stroll along the coast is an absolute must. Laguna Beach is also famous for its dozens of quality art galleries, which help make the gorgeous town center even more gorgeous. There’s even a huge assortment of trendy and interesting restaurants within walking distance of one another, so it’s a foodie’s delight!

Where to stay

For the well-heeled it would be impossible to do better than the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, which is about 5 miles south along the beach, but consistently rated as one of America’s finest resort hotels. The Surf & Sand Hotel also sits on the beach, and its central location makes it extremely popular among those who want to enjoy a town stroll before or after dinner.

Malibu

malibu beach

While Los Angeles is famous for having over a hundred miles of uninterrupted sprawl, Malibu is a rare beach community that’s only 30 minutes away from Santa Monica, yet it feels almost completely isolated from the rest of the area. You may know the name as the home address of scores of the richest and most famous Hollywood stars, so this is perhaps the best celebrity-spotting getaway in the world.

Things to do

While there are a few local public beaches, including at least one notorious surfing spot, Malibu is better known for its secluded beaches that happen to be the backyards of the rich and famous. Several of the better hotels also have their own beach areas, and there are plenty of golf courses and spas nearby as well.

Where to stay

All the best hotels are along the coast a bit east of the city center, including the Carbon Beach Club at Malibu Beach Inn and the Casa Malibu Inn On the Beach.

Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake, WV

Anyone looking for a full-fledged mountain getaway near Los Angeles should definitely consider the Big Bear Lake area, which is almost as popular for its summer recreation as it is for its many ski resorts. About two hours away from Downtown by car, this is a place to enjoy the crisp fresh air in a completely different setting.

Things to do

Set well up in the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear is by far the closest ski area to the city so most residents first think of it as a snowboarding, skiing, or winter party destination. But the huge lake itself is also very popular for water skiing, fishing, and many other summer activities, so there’s no bad time to visit the area.

Where to stay

The Bear Creek Resort is one of the finest hotels in the area, and it benefits from a great location in the center of everything. The Robinhood Inn also has a great location as well as a more modest price and a more rustic look.

Photo Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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