Day Trips In California: Your Guide to a Quick Escape

Here are the best day trips in California for your holiday. If you want to know where’s good to see in one day in California, then here’s everywhere you need to know.

California is full of diverse ecosystems ranging from deserts to beaches to mountaintops. If you’re looking to take in relaxing destinations, you can take a trip to small charming towns. Alternatively, large national parks will allow you to get close to varied wildlife and lush nature.

If you’re looking to recharge your batteries, California offers plenty of one-day getaways – let’s look at a few of them.

1. Day trip to Monterey and Carmel

The Monterey Peninsula is close to San Jose and offers picturesque beaches with plenty of attractions to keep you occupied for the day. You get to enjoy pristine beaches, the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, eat delicacies at both fine dining restaurants and homely places to enjoy casual eats as well.

Stroll down Cannery Row, John Steinbeck’s haunt, for a leisurely walk.

day trips california

If you like exploring on two wheels, you can rent bikes and follow the coast around the peninsula on your way to Asilomar State Beach, Pacific Grove, and the scenic 17-Mile Drive. The southside of Monterey’s Peninsula gives you the chance to explore Carmel-by-the-Sea, a small town that is known for its art galleries, romantic homes, and shopping. You can get plenty more stunning destination ideas on

2. Day trip to California Living Museum, Bakersfield

Bakersfield houses the California Living Museum (CALM) that opened to the public in 1983, even though it was founded three years ago.

The Museum interprets and displays native California plants and animals for the purpose of research, conversation, and education. More than 20,000 Kern County students get a chance to be educated here and experience indigenous flora and fauna that are native to California. Bakersfield is a great destination, whether you choose it for a day trip or as a stop on a Las Vegas to Yosemite road trip.

3. Day trip to Hollywood

Hollywood has rightfully gained a reputation for being the centre of American moviemaking. It’s been the home of many starry-eyed actors, with a few hitting global renown. It offers people lots to do as a day trip destination, starting with the famous Walk of Fame. It’s also the home to the Dolby Theatre, which is the host to the Academy Awards.

day trips california

Universal Studios Hollywood is a must-visit destination for both LA locals and tourists. It’s a working movie studio that comes with a theme park. You can experience the well-known Studio Tour to enjoy thrilling rides and see movies being made with your own eyes.

4. Day trip to Oak Glen in the San Bernardino Mountains

Oak Glen can be visited throughout the year, even though it stands out in its resplendent beauty during the fall apple harvest season from September to November. Located in the foothills of the statuesque San Bernardino Mountains, Oak Glen offers a unique apple-picking experience to visitors on a day trip.

5. Day trip to La Jolla near San Diego

La Jolla is Spanish for ‘the jewel’, and it’s an appropriate name for a beautiful cliffside town near San Diego. It offers day trip visitors great shopping, stunning views of the coast, lovely art galleries, and the best beaches in the area. The town is famous for romantic getaways, family outings, kayaking, and beaches.

It also happens to be an excellent destination for food enthusiasts, who are spoilt for choice at a few of San Diego’s top-rated restaurants. 

6. Day trip to Laguna Beach, Southern California

Laguna Beach is probably the one of Orange County’s beach towns that is the least overdeveloped. It feels a bit artsy with exceptional art galleries. It’s located halfway between LA and San Diego and is ideal for a day trip or a simple beach getaway.

Apart from lounging at the picturesque beach, you can also head out to enjoy an adventurous exploration of 20,000 acres of protected wilderness. Activities to enjoy are mountain biking, hiking, views of verdant hills, marine sanctuaries, and dramatic vistas.

7. Day trip to Lake Tahoe, Long Beach

Lake Tahoe is a great day trip for Northern Californians all around the year. It’s a clear lake in a natural bowl, surrounded by the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

day trips california

While it’s famed as a winter ski destination, it’s busier in summer as you have plenty of outdoor and indoor recreation options to beat the summer heat. You can enjoy family outings, driving tours, golfing, fishing, boating, hiking, or just relax and do nothing at all. 

8. Day trip to Palomar Observatory, near San Diego

Established in 1928, the Palomar Observatory was then the biggest astronomical observatory on earth. It’s operated by the California Institute of Technology and is a world-famous centre of astronomical research.

The observatory is the proud owner of three research telescopes: a 60-inch telescope, the 200-inch Hale Telescope, and the 48-inch Samuel Oschin Telescope. The observatory operates every clear night and is used for student training, instrument development, and scientific research. It’s a well-known tourist destination for tens of thousands of global tourists. 

9. Palm Springs, Southern California

Centrally located in the Sonoran Desert in Southern California, Palm Springs is a great California day trip destination with top-class golf courses, healing hot springs, pampering spas, and luxury hotels.

What to do in Palm Springs

Outside Palm Springs is Coachella Valley, which offers picturesque trails perfect for hiking, biking, and horseback rides. You can go to the top of San Jacinto Peak with the help of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and enjoy spectacular city views. The 1938 Palm Springs Art Museum is a great destination to learn about performing arts, natural science, and regional art. You can also visit the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens to enjoy a view of flora and fauna of the desert ecosystem.

I’ve got a great list of the best things to do in Palm Springs here, and some top tips for the almighty Coachella Festival here too.

10. Carpinteria


Carpinteria, a small and charming Californian coastal community, is located between Santa Barbara and Ventura. Known for its safe yet spectacular beaches, Carpinteria is a great day-trip destination. While in the town, you can scroll down the lovely downtown, taking in the galleries, boutiques, stately palm trees, and restaurants. Its beautiful white sand beach is a popular destination for both surfers and families.

You can also take a detour to the Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve that has excellent hiking trails that offer you picturesque views of the ocean.

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