Top 12 Weekend Getaways From Orange County, California

weekend getaways from orange county
| 5 min read

Situated on the Pacific Coast, Orange County is an incredibly popular vacation destination, attracting thousands of tourists from all over the world. With world-famous beach towns like Dana Point, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, and more, Orange County is truly a very tempting place to visit and live in. Whether you are interested in surfing along the waves in the best beachfront rentals or want to go on shopping spree in the hundreds of stores and malls in the area, Orange County has something for every kind of traveler. In addition, the attractions surrounding Orange County can truly make for a great road trip. So, if you are exploring things to do in or near this lovely area, read on to discover the top weekend getaways from Orange County, California.

1. Santa Monica

Santa Monica State Beach P4060277
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Alexander Migl used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Travel to the famed resort town of Santa Monica, just a 46-minute drive from downtown Orange County. It is mainly popular for two reasons—Santa Monica Beach and Pier. Prepare to experience a festive, summer-holiday feel when you decide to hit the beach. The pier is an iconic spot because of its neon-lit arch and Ferris wheel and is home to a whole array of attractions like Pacific Park and Heal the Bay Aquarium. If you’re traveling with the kids, the pier is a family-friendly destination to explore.

You can also ride a bike along the Marvin Braude Beach Trail, catch the stunning views of the ocean and mountains from Palisades Park, or tackle the workout playground for grown-ups that is Muscle Beach. The outdoors of Santa Monica is all about leisure and relaxation.

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2. Solvang

Solvang, California
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Austin102 used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Plan that trip to Solvang already and explore the Danish Capital of America. Located 163 miles (262 kilometers) from Orange County, it will be an almost 3-hour road trip, but the humble city makes it all worth it. The charming Solvang has striking Danish architecture, is home to renowned wines in central California, and boasts bakeries offering authentic Danish treats. Learn more about its local history in Old Mission Santa Inés, wander Solvang village where the different sides and cross streets, walkways, and shopping nooks are waiting to be explored.

It was established in 1911 but began to look like a Danish village during the 1940s. Today, Solvang is a town with beautiful facades, quaint shops, and a unique ambiance that draws thousands of visitors.

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3. Palm Springs

Palm Springs
Source: Photo by user Erik Cooper used under CC BY 2.0

The beautiful city of Palm Springs is popular amongst travellers all over the world and attracts many beach enthusiasts. It is about 93 miles (149 km) away from Orange County, and can be reached within one and a half hour via car. There are a ton of incredible things to do here, including driving down to its hot springs, exploring the almost infinite shopping avenues ranging from the street markets to malls, and taking a tour of its old buildings that stands out with its old-school vintage architecture. You can check out the unique and small-scale boutiques that sell handicrafts here, or head to the outskirts of the city to engage in some adventure sports, such as trekking, horse-riding or mountain biking.

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4. Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Harbor
Source: Photo by user Harold Litwiler used under CC BY-ND 2.0

Known as the American Riviera, Santa Barbara is a world-famous travel destination with a myriad of interesting activities and attractions for you to explore. You are bound to be confused by the sheer scale of tourism in this city, and the number of opportunities to explore the city. From hitting the waves with your surfboard on the beach to enjoying the amazing glittering nightlife that hits the city once night falls, you will find yourself lost in the city’s own charm. If you are a foodie, there are lots of unique and interesting restaurants to try, as well as food-related events such as wine-tasting, sip-and-paint workshops, and more. It is about 130 miles (209 km) away from Orange County, making it about 2.5 hours away.

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5. Rosarito Beach

Source: Photo by user Tony Ahumada used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Rosarito Beach is a magnificent white-sand beach with beautiful blue-green waters to dip into. This coastal city is a resort city that welcomes tourists from not just Mexico, but also the United States. If you have a USA passport, you do not need a visa to enter Rosarito Beach unless you plan to stay beyond 72 hours. This resort city is about 124 miles (200 km), away from Orange County, which makes it an easy single day trip. However, you may want to check with your car rental company on whether they allow you to drive to Rosarito Beach, as it is in another country and has some restrictions.

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6. Catalina Island

Catalina Island Beach
Source: Photo by user Michael Gray used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Situated about 41 miles (65 km) away from Orange County, the lovely island of Catalina is a magnificent place to check out if you are interested in beautiful Instagram-worthy views of the beach and the sea. From relaxing on the beach and engaging in fun-filled beach activities to enjoying freshly caught seafood while sitting in a shack beside the beach, or taking a walk along the promenade watching the sunset, there are plenty of fun things you can do here. You can even check out the awesome casinos and try your hand at a game of poker with your friends.

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7. Mammoth Lakes

Mammoth Lakes - California
Source: Photo by user Airwolfhound used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Situated in the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountain ranges in California, Mammoth Lakes is a beautiful town with picturesque lakes and waterfalls to explore. You can explore the popular Rainbow Falls here, and take pictures at the base of the waterfalls, or you can check out the huge limestone structures at the Mono Lake. In addition, there is also the famous Yosemite National Park nearby, where you can witness local wild animal species as well as beautiful natural cliffs. The basin of the Mammoth Lakes is a perfect swim spot, plus, there are lots of water sports activities you can engage in.

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8. San Diego

San Diego Skyline
Source: Photo by user a.canvas.of.light used under CC BY 2.0

At 1.5-hour drive away from Orange County is the sprawling metropolitan city of San Diego. You can get a car rental to drive to San Diego for a great weekend trip, which is more than enough time to check out the most popular attractions here. These include the San Diego beaches, the amazing shopping destinations as well as other classic urban establishments like museums, art galleries, cafes and boutique hotels. However, a must-visit location is the San Diego Zoo, that is home to a wide variety of wild and endangered animals from across the world.

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9. Joshua Tree

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Christopher Michel used under CC BY 2.0

Located very close to Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Park is a great place for any nature enthusiast or animal lover to plan weekend trips from Orange County. The national park is named such because of the unique and interesting Joshua trees. The Joshua tree is shaped in a strange way that reminds one of the way the Christian priest, Joshua, who raised his hands up to the heavens while praying. The best time to visit this lovely national park is during autumn, when all the leaves here turn a beautiful golden red colour - truly a sight to behold.

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10. Ventura

Ventura, California (3)
Source: Photo by user Ken Lund used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Originally named San Buenaventura, which translates from Spanish as ‘good fortune’, the huge and ever-growing city of Ventura is a great place to visit. Filled with friendly and hospitable locals, this city was named the 'happiest city’ in California because of its amazing facilities and great quality of life enjoyed by its residents. This is another great place where you can explore the beach life. It is situated about 110 miles (177 km) from Orange County, making it a comfortable two-hour long drive. So don’t miss out on exploring what makes this city such a happy place!

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11. Big Bear

Two Ways to Ski, Big Bear Lake, CA 8-17
Source: Photo by user Don Graham used under CC BY-SA 2.0

If you are a fan of exploring the great outdoors in America, take a two-hour long road trip from Orange County to the ever-popular Big Bear Lake. This place features a wide variety of outdoor activities that will keep you busy all weekend long, such as water skiing, hiking, mountain-climbing, as well as skiing down the Bear Mountain. You can also check out the handicrafts stores, boutiques and gift stores here to take some souvenirs back home for your loved ones.

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12. San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo County, CA (Unedited)
Source: Photo by user Blake Carroll used under CC0

San Luis Obispo, also known as SLO, is a funky and unique city to explore if you happen to be in California. This place is regarded as one of the happiest cities in the area, and is full of wonderful adventures and activities to engage in. It is slightly farther away from Orange County than other cities on this list, at about 231 miles (371 km) away. However, you can easily complete this distance in a matter of four hours, making it the perfect weekend road trip destination!

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Enjoy the best of Orange County!

From the incredible South Coast Plaza with its myriad of shopping avenues to the turquoise waters and amazing surfing opportunities at Huntington Beach, Orange County packs a punch in terms of vacation activities. Whether you are travelling as a couple, or with your family and friends, we are sure that our awesome list of the best weekend trips from Orange County will help you find the perfect combination of activities to add to your itinerary.

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Frequently asked questions about the top weekend getaways from Orange County, California

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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Being a military kid, Shamika has lived and travelled all over India, and her nomadic childhood has fueled an immense hunger and fascination for new cultures and languages (she's a polyglot!)...Read more

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