10 Best Weekend Trips In California, USA - Updated 2024

weekend getaways from california
Meghna
Meghna 
Updated
| 5 min read

Whether you’re a native to California, or you’re a visitor, one thing is certain is that its home to some of the best weekend trips. California is famous for its dramatic landscape; not many places have clean beaches, sprawling mountain ranges and wide-open pastures right next to each other. It also has the ever so popular wine country, where days on end can be spent sampling wine from a different region. The best part of this Golden State is that all of the activities are within driving distance of each other. So, grab a bag, pack a few snacks and get on the road and check out these best weekend trips in California!

1. Santa Barbara (from USD 30.0)

Santa Barbara courthouse tower view
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Photopippo used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Santa Barbara is one of those cities that you can visit at any time of the year. It has a fully packed calendar which ensures that you can always find something to do. Santa Barbara Restaurant Week will be held from February 21st to March 6th this year, an event where over 20 restaurants offer three-course meals at a fixed, discounted price. The Santa Barbara International Orchid Show in March is considered to be one of the must-see flower shows in the world, as reported by the LA Times. The I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival held on Memorial Day weekend and is another famous event, where the pavements of Mission Plaza are decorated with crayons. Santa Barbara is a one and a half drive from Los Angeles, about 95 miles (152 kilometres).

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Small-Group 90-Minute Tour by Trolley, Santa Barbara

Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes

513 reviews

2. Napa Valley (from USD 160.0)

Vineyards in Napa Valley
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Brocken Inaglory used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Napa Valley is part of Napa County, which is around a one-and-half-hour drive from San Francisco – about 60 miles (96 kilometres). Napa Valley, in California’s wine country, has been producing wine for years on end but became particularly famous after international recognition of their Cabernet Sauvignon. It has over 400 wineries so there are plenty of brewery tours for you to spend your day in. You can also go on a hot-air balloon ride across the vineyards, or go sky diving. Golf enthusiasts can check out their world-famous Silverado Golf Resort or the Chardonnay Golf Club.

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San Francisco: Napa and Sonoma Valley Wine Tour

Duration: 8.0 hour

418 reviews

3. Big Sur (from USD 975.0)

Central Californian Coastline, Big Sur - May 2013
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Diliff used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Big Sur is one of those places where you are encouraged to either do nothing or do something. If you choose to do nothing, you can dine at any one of their restaurants, relax at the spa or just stay in at their luxury resorts. The activities that you can take part in include hiking along the mountain or coastline, or visit the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Big Sur is considered to be the best romantic getaway and one of the world’s greatest destinations. It is around 2.5 hours’ drive from San Francisco (146 miles; 235 kilometres.)

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From San Francisco: Carmel, Monterey & Big Sur Private Tour

Duration: 10.0 hour

39 reviews

4. San Francisco (from USD 63.0)

Golden Gate Bridge

It is one of the biggest cities in California and has been the setting of many television shows and movies, most popularly Full House. It is also considered to be one of the most progressive cities in the country. Fortunately, there is no shortage of things to do. Popular tourist destinations include Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39 and the Golden Gate Bridge and Park. Most of these, if not all, can be explored using the famous hop-on-hop-off tour buses. San Francisco is a 5.5 hours’ drive from Los Angeles, around 380 miles; 610 kilometres.

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San Francisco Big Bus Hop-on Hop-off Tour with Premium Option

Duration: 60 to 130 minutes

3512 reviews

California Tour Guide

Stephanie Eley

Stephanie Eley

I'm a graduate of ITMI, International Tour Management Institute and 17 years as a licensed Tour Director and Program Director. My expertise began in NYC and Washington, DC where I'm a licensed guide and has expanded to Europe, South America, Cuba and the Western / Southwestern National Parks of the US. I'd love to introduce you for a day or a week to Denver, Colorado and the 4 corners region of the US: Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona! Let's GO!! stepheley@gmail.com

Tours by Stephanie

5. Santa Cruz

Lighthouse at Santa Barbara

Santa Cruz is famous for its beaches, some of which include the Lighthouse Field State Beach, the Natural Bridges State Beach, and the Twin Lakes State Beach. It is a popular destination for those who want to do watersports, and its popularity dramatically increased after three princes from Hawaii surfed here on locally made surfboards. It is home to the highly regarded O’Neill wetsuit and the Santa Cruz surfboards. It is around 1.5-hour-drive from San Francisco (73 miles;117 kilometres).

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6. Catalina Island (from USD 31.0)

Avalon-Catalina-Island
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user [Unknown] used under CC BY-SA 2.0

This is a small island off the coast of Los Angeles whose history dates back to 7000 BC. Its watersport activities and beaches a popular destination for those who want to make a weekend getaway. In fact, it was the destination of many actors who wanted to take a quick break, due to its proximity to Hollywood. Some interesting things to try out include boating with glass-bottom boats, and the Avalon Underwater Dive Park. To get here, you can take a ferry from San Pedro, Long Beach, Newport Beach or Dana Point. The boat ride is one hour long.

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Discover Avalon: Catalina Scenic Tour

Duration: 50 minutes

198 reviews

7. Eureka (from USD 63)

The Carson Mansion is a large Victorian house located in Old Town, Eureka, California LCCN2013634803.tif cropped
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Carol M. Highsmith used under CC BY-SA 4.0

One of the few places in the country where the entire city has been registered as a historical landmark. Eureka is a seaport town that is around 4.5 hours from San Francisco (270 miles; 435 kilometres.) It’s known for its Victorian-style homes, most of which have been restored to preserve authenticity. The most famous of these homes is the Carson Mansion. Although it is not accessible to the public, it quickly became famous due to its creepy façade and has been used as the inspiration for haunted mansions in paintings, stories and theme parks. You can also drive along Redwood Highway, which is filled with giant redwood trees. There are a few attractions along the way, like the one-log house, the trees you can drive through, and Sequoia Park Garden.

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Sea Drift Inn

Wifi Available

Address: 2014 4th Street
3.08 km (2.0 mi) from Sequoia Park Zoo

Parking Room service 24-HOUR FRONT DESK Terrace Non-smoking rooms Family rooms Free parking Internet services

8. Berkeley (from USD 68.0)

Telegraph-Ave-Berkeley
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user [Unknown] used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Despite having a relatively small population, it is considered to be one of the most socially liberal cities of the country. Berkeley is most famous for being home to the oldest University of California campus. It has a beautiful campus, part of which was designed by the same architect who brought Central Park in New York to life. Its proximity to San Francisco (30 minute - 13 miles or 48 kilometres) and its features make it an ideal weekend destination. Take a stroll down Fourth Street which is filled with artisan-style shops, pop-ups and cafes. If you’re more adventurous, go hiking or biking at Tilden Park.

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UC Berkeley, Aircraft Carrier, Sausalito - 1 Day Tour

Duration: 5 to 7 hours

9. Cambria (from USD 129.0)

Hearst Castle Casa Grande September 2012 panorama 2
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user King of Hearts used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Cambria is well known for being used as the backdrop of Arachnophobia, which was released in 1990. Its most famous attraction is Hearst Castle which eventually became the inspiration for Citizen Kane. It has a whopping 165 rooms and has amenities that you could only dream of. Tours get booked quite fast so do book your tickets in advance. Moonstone Beach is another attraction, where small gems washup on to the beach providing a magical effect. Those who love the outdoors can also spend their time at Fiscalini Ranch Preserve which encloses 430 acres (174 hectares) of wide-open trails. Cambria is a four-hour drive north of Los Angeles, about 222 miles (357 kilometres).

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Hearst Castle Tour from Cambria

Duration: 5 to 6 hours

1 review

10. Solvang (from USD 85.0)

Tivoli Square Solvang
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Allie_Caulfield used under CC BY 2.0

Only two and a half hours drive from Los Angeles within Santa Barbara County (128 miles or 205 kilometres), Solvang is well known for being a small Danish Village. Visitors to this area frequently visit the Danish icons like the windmills, the Little Mermaid Fountain and Round Tower. Wine sampling is also a popular activity. Don’t forget to visit the two most famous churches here, Old Mission Santa Ines and the Bethania Lutheran. One unique event to check out is the Solvang Grape stomp which takes place in October.

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Solvang Segway Tours

Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes

3 reviews

Make the best of your weekends

Whether you’re in it for the new experience or for a break from reality, you’re sure to have your fill of fun. Let us know what you think after you try one or more of these weekend trips in California!

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Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Meghna is one of those few lucky individuals who can claim more than one country as her own. She spent her formative years in India, Singapore, and Malaysia and consequently attended a variety of...Read more

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