Anyone who has spent substantial time in LA has experienced its ups and downs. The plus side includes sunny weather, unbeatable shopping, celebrity sightings, and that overwhelming "LA" energy that permeates each and every neighborhood. But every now and then the negatives, like traffic, smog, and claustrophobia from being around too many people, can overshadow even the most avid LA lover.
If you need to get out of the city and hear yourself think for a bit, here are 10 nearby retreats where you can escape for a few hours or an entire weekend.
Depending on where you are in LA, it shouldn't take you more than an hour to reach this little beach town to the south. Manhattan Beach is a laidback community with chic shops, delicious restaurants, and plenty of beach activities. The town is pretty small, which means it can get crowded in the summer, especially when beach volleyball tournaments come to town. But in the offseason it's a lovely escape from the noise of big city LA.
DO: Play a game of beach volleyball and stroll on the pier. Hit up Pages Bookstore for something to read while you relax.
STAY: Shade Hotel
EAT: MB Post, Fishing with Dynamite
Rancho Palos Verdes
If you can't find parking in Manhattan Beach, keep driving south to Rancho Palos Verdes. The minute you ascend the hill on which the city is perched, you enter an entirely different world and forget the traffic-clogged chaos you left behind. Go for a hike through one of the nature preserves, hunt for the remains of a shipwreck on the beach, or just find a pool chair and lounge.
DO: Hike in Portuguese Bend Preserve or search for the Dominator shipwreck at Rocky Point. Visit the gorgeous Wayfarers Chapel and take lots of pics.
STAY: Terranea Resort
EAT: Admiral Risty, Avenue Italy
Northwest of Hollywood, find the adorable town of Ojai. Tucked away in the mountains, it's cut off from the noise and smog of LA and feels comfortably wrapped in its own little bubble. This spiritual town is dotted with New Age shops and art galleries that are ripe for a day of exploration. Go find an adventure or simply sit back and drink some California wine while gazing out over the surrounding valley views.
DO: Hit the trails for some horseback riding, or relax with a day of wine tasting.
STAY: Ojai Valley Inn & Spa
EAT: Nocciola, Ojai Tortilla House
If driving out of the city just isn't going to cut it, hop on a boat and head out to sea instead. Avalon, the biggest town on Catalina Island, is a perfect escape for a fun weekend. Explore the harbor shops and restaurants, or retreat into the hills to find the local herd of bison. You'll feel truly at peace on this isolated island, even if you're only a few hours from the city.
DO: Suit up and go scuba diving, rent a four-wheeler to explore the hills, or take a boat out and sail around the island.
STAY: The Avalon Hotel
EAT: Mt. Ada, Maggie’s Blue Rose
As you drive into Solvang, don't be alarmed - you're still in Southern California. This charming town has a distinct Danish influence, with old-world European architecture and delicious Danish bakeries. You'll want to spend the day just exploring and getting a dose of culture from across the pond. The city's rich heritage, not to mention its easy access to Santa Barbara's wine country, will have LA feeling like a distant memory in no time.
DO: You can't miss the excellent wine tasting at nearby vineyards. If you prefer to stay in town, there's plenty of shops and historic buildings to explore.
STAY: Mirabelle Inn
EAT: Paula’s Pancake House, Fitzpatrick’s Tavern
There are many enchanting gardens in the city of San Marino that’ll transport you from LA’s concrete sprawl to a natural escape, including the iconic Huntington Library and Gardens, which comes in at 130 acres and with 15,000 plant varieties, and the Chinese and Japanese Gardens. Just 10 minutes away are two free options: Arlington Garden and, right across the street, Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden. On the other side of town is the Los Angeles County Arboretum at 127-acres; check out the Meyberg Waterfall at the edge of the Meadowbrook Garden and spot the roaming wild peacocks.
DO: Unwind at Huntington Library and Gardens and explore others throughout the area.
STAY: The Langham
EAT: San Marino Cafe & Marketplace, San Marino Seafood, The Arbour
Pacific Palisades is a small city outside of Santa Monica and on the coast of lush Topanga Canyon. Partake in some idyllic spiritual meditation at the Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine, immerse yourself in the lavish architecture of Getty Villa — like its grand courtyard fountain — or hike to Paseo Miramar viewpoint for spectacular views of L.A., Santa Monica, and Malibu. All are perfect for a mental reset.
DO: Meditate, look at ancient art at Getty Villa, or hike through Topanga Canyon.
STAY: Malibu Beach Inn, Topanga Canyon Inn
EAT: Cafe Vida, Palisades Village restaurants: Quė Padre and The DrayCott
Set in the San Jacinto Mountains of Southern California, over a two-hour drive from Los Angeles, Idyllwild is an artistic mountain town perfect for a few-day retreat. Spend the day hiking and breathing in the pine-filled mountains, biking past the eclectic shops downtown, and enjoy spending a few days in a cabin. Luckily, Idyllwild is so small that you’ll be surrounded by nature no matter where you are.
DO: Hike through the mountains and parts of Pacific Crest Trail while enjoying the quiet life for a few days.
STAY: The Grand Idyllwild Lodge, Wildland Retreats, Experience Idyllwild Vacation Rental Cabins
EAT: Ferro, Idyllwild Brewpub, Alpaca Coffee and Tea, El Buen Cacao
About an hour south of LA, you’ll find some of the most beautiful beaches in Southern California in Laguna Beach. Spend the day visiting some of the most popular beaches at 1000 Steps Beach, Main Street Beach, or Treasure Island Beach, or explore the coastline and you’ll find plenty of pristine coves to check out.
DO: Explore the shore and tide pools before taking a walk downtown to enjoy a sunset happy hour. And if you have time, make sure to stop at some art galleries and shops along the way.
STAY: Inn at Laguna Beach, La Casa Del Camino
EAT: Selanne Steak Tavern, The Deck on Laguna Beach, Rooftop Lounge
Less than a two-hour drive from Los Angeles, Lake Arrowhead is a closer and less crowded weekend getaway than similar Big Bear. As a result, it’s a quiet spot to reconnect with nature and relax lakeside. During summer, get on the lake to enjoy boating, paddleboarding, kayaking, fishing, or water skiing, or come during winter to ski at the different slopes or ice skate on Ice Castle’s rink.
DO: Enjoy seasonal lake activities, hike around the lake, or rent a mountain bike to take on the trails.
STAY: Rent a cabin, Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa
EAT: Lake Arrowhead Brewing Co, Lou Eddie’s Pizza, The Lakefront Tap Room Bar and Kitchen