Here is a list of Los Angeles Day Trips that can be reached in three hours or less from anywhere in LA. Travel time will depend on traffic conditions so it’s best to get an early start, especially on weekends.
Beautiful running streams and chaparral-covered hillsides are all within an hour’s drive of downtown Los Angeles. The park’s rugged terrain was once used by filmmakers to create spectacular backdrops for films. One of the most popular trails in the park is the M*A*S*H site. Most of the trails are well marked and graded for easy hiking. However, for those that seek a more challenging experience, there are plenty of single-track trails.
Catalina is one of the most popular Los Angeles day trips on this list. Getting to Catalina Island requires a trip on the Catalina Express Shuttle. Ships depart from several ports including Long Beach, San Pedro, and Dana Point. Activities on the Island are nearly endless. If this is your first trip we suggest you take the Avalon scenic tour.
Point Dume Nature Reserve is situated on an undeveloped section of land along the Malibu Coast. The headlands offer an amazing view of Santa Monica Bay. On a clear day, both the Santa Monica Mountains and Catalina Island can be seen. A stairway on the bluff-top allows access to a secluded beach.
Griffith Observatory is perched on Mt. Hollywood in the hills above Los Angeles. The grounds surrounding the observatory have many points of interest including an Egyptian sundial and a memorial to James Dean. On a clear day, you will be treated to a spectacular view of Hollywood and the Los Angeles basin.
The original Los Angeles Farmers Market is located on the corner of Third and Fairfax and is a fascinating place to spend the day. The farmers market has more than 100 shops and restaurants to explore. There are so many different places to eat with so many choices for food chances are you will stop at least a couple of the eateries.
Even if you don’t end up in line behind Johnny Depp inside Starbucks, or Angelina Jolie in the drive-through of McDonald’s, Hollywood is still a great place to visit with some spots you don’t want to miss. For those who want a more behind the scenes look into the opulent lifestyles behind the gates of the mansions of Hollywood’s elite, there are always popular Hollywood movie star homes tours.
Universal Studios is part movie studio, part theme park. One day is not enough time to enjoy all this Los Angeles attraction has to offer. If you are determined to see everything in one day, check out our guide to getting the most out of your visit. Also, have a look at exclusive ticket deals.
Third Street Promenade is an upscale collection of restaurants and shops located in downtown Santa Monica. It draws tourists and locals alike, offering something for everyone. All along Third Street, artists, performers, and entertainers who are regulars on any given Saturday line the street and do what they do best. It’s entertainment at its best.
Parks Explore Nature
Descanso makes a delightful day trip perfect for all ages. 150 acres of beautiful gardens, woodlands, and chaparral. The rose garden covers five acres and features more than 3,000 roses. There is also a Full Moon Tea House with Shinto bridge and a Japanese farmhouse. For kids, the Enchanted Railroad comes with a 1/8th replica of a diesel train that travels around a section of the gardens.
Vasquez Rocks offers a far-out adventure not too far from the city. The Vasquez Rocks area is a popular backdrop for Hollywood studios. Just a few of the movies and shows filmed here include all Star Trek, Bonanza, Power Rangers, Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Planet of the Apes, and the Flintstones Movie.
Will Rogers did it all. He was a movie star, columnist, philosopher, humorist, radio personality, avid rider and roper. He also had a beautiful spread of 186 acres in the Santa Monica Mountains overlooking the ocean in Pacific Palisades. His family gifted the home and land to California in 1944. The state established a historic park that is open to visitors.
Paramount Ranch is located in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. At one time, the property was used as a movie ranch by Paramount Studios. Hundreds of films were shot on the property. Most of them were westerns. Today all that remains of the movie Ranch is a western town that resembles a ghost town.
Often referred to as California’s Galapagos, the northernmost islands of Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara are teaming with more than 2,000 terrestrial plants and animals, 145 of which can be found nowhere else on earth.
Griffith Park is located in the historic Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. The Park is the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains. Spanning over 4,000 acres, Griffith Park is one of the largest urban parks in the United States. The park is often called the “Central Park” of California, it offers a much more natural and outdoor feeling.
Get your hiking boots and come and explore the over 1,600 acres of open space on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Ten of the area’s largest preserves consisting of rolling hills, steep canyons, and rocky outcrops with natural habitat and views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Catalina Island, occupies part of the peninsula that is owned by the city of Rancho Palos Verdes.
If you’re visiting for a day or if you are a guest, several trails offer spectacular views of the shoreline scenery with sea caves and rocky beaches. You might even spot a whale or pod of dolphins from the trail. Terranea is located approximately 30 miles south-west of downtown Los Angeles.
Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve is open year-round but is most visited during the poppy season. April and May are usually the best viewing months depending on how much rain the fields get. While you are out visiting you might also see some of the native wildlife: hawks, meadowlarks, lizards and snakes all seem to enjoy the sea of color as much as the human visitors do.
With year-round access and the Pacific Ocean as its backdrop, the Santa Monica Mountains is a unique region populated with several wineries. Most are small, however, a few that are commercial enterprises. Best known wineries are Malibu Family Wines and Rosenthal Malibu Estate.
Los Angeles Museums
The Villa, which was constructed to resemble a villa in Pompeii that was destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, is also home to tons of family-friendly programs to help immerse visitors big and small in this slice of history. Surrounding the Villa are acres of avant-garde landscaping with cool ocean breezes that cascade off the sandy beaches just yards away.
One of the most popular Los Angeles day trips on our list. An automated cable-pulled tram that will take you on a scenic ride to the hilltop campus. From there you can explore numerous buildings brimming with artworks from around the world. The grounds of the Getty Center offer visitors an amazing view of the Los Angeles skyline. Admission to the Getty Center is free.
The library was built entirely with private donations, and costs of construction are estimated at $60 million. Each year, over 300,000 visitors come to view the archives, and ranks consistently as one of the most visited libraries. Visitors will start their tour with an exhibit that begins with Reagan’s childhood in Dixon, Illinois
Plane enthusiasts looking for a great exhibition with a growing inventory of aircraft will want to take a day trip to the Museum of Flying Santa Monica. Originally opened in 1979, as the Douglas Museum and Library, the museum’s collection consisted primarily of pieces belonging to Donald Wills Douglas
It doesn’t make a difference if you know anything about how engines work, or if you can tell the difference between a carburetor or a crankshaft, or a piston from a spark plug — the Automobile Driving Museum has something for all car lovers, even if they are not mechanically inclined.
If you’re a car buff, you’ll think you died and went to heaven. With three full floors and over 300,000 square feet of exhibit space, the Peterson houses one of the most extensive galleries of cars and motorcycles, intended to show not only the beauty of cars but to educate its visitors.
Heritage Square Museum is located alongside the concrete banks of the Los Angeles River in downtown LA. The museum houses a collection of structures from the late 1800s that were saved from demolition and moved to Heritage Square.
Los Angeles Beach Destinations
Because of its south-facing shoreline, Zuma, as it’s called by the locals, attracts a host of beachcombers year-round, especially during the summer weekends, but it is relatively quiet during the week for those looking for a serene setting to unwind.
Paradise Cove has been the location for numerous movies and commercials including Lethal Weapon 4, Charlie’s Angels, The Rockford Files, and several Gidget movies shot in the late ’50s early 60s. Paradise Beach Cafe has indoor and outdoor seating. Specializing in seafood the Cafe the most popular dishes are the hot combo platter and iced seafood samplers.
Manhattan Beach not only offers a vibrant beach scene, but also a charming downtown shopping and dining district, filled with boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants. While some of the town’s swankier restaurants and clubs may require you to get dressed up, the accepted dress code you’ll find in here is board shorts and flip-flops.
From the moment you arrive, you’ll be immersed in the theme that can only be the spectacle of Venice. The best way to experience the waterfront scene is via a three-quarter-mile boardwalk. As you shuffle down the tourist-laden trail, you’ll pass an array of off-the-wall shops, tacky souvenir stores, tattoo and piercing parlors, flea markets and vendors selling all kinds of items.
Situated between Venice Beach to the north and south to Playa del Rey near the mouth of the Ballona Creek, Marina del Rey is an outdoor hub of activity surrounded by high-rise condos, hotels, apartments, shops, and restaurants. Marina del Rey is sitting at the center of the 22-mile South Bay Coastal Bicycle Trail which stretches from Malibu to Torrance Beach.
Redondo Beach Pier was originally built to facilitate timber delivery from ships to trains in 1889, the Redondo Beach Pier has undergone six transformations, surviving a series of storms, fires and demolitions throughout the 20th century on the way to its current design — a large horseshoe shape structure that has been given the name – the “endless” pier.
During one of its many warm sunny days, locals and tourists can be found playing volleyball on the beach, or jogging, cycling and rollerblading along a smoothed-paved path known as The Strand, which runs along Hermosa’s wide sandy shorelines, connecting it with the neighboring beach towns.
Los Angeles Historic Landmarks
Queen Mary is located across the bay from The Pike at Rainbow Harbor home to Aquarium of the Pacific Long Beach. The Queen was moored in Long Beach 1967 and opened as a tourist attraction in 1971. Guided and self-guided tours along with seasonal events and activities.
Perched 5,700 feet on the Mount Wilson summit among the San Gabriel Mountains near Pasadena, northeast of Los Angeles, is the Mount Wilson Observatory. Home to two historically important telescopes, which have played an important role in modern astronomy, the observatory was founded in the early 1900s by George Ellery Hale.
Hollyhock House was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built on Olive Hill overlooking the city of Los Angeles in 1919. In 1927, Aline Barnsdall gave Hollyhock House and eleven surrounding acres to the City of Los Angeles for use as a public art park in memory of her father.
Fort Tejon offers the history lover a real experience as visitors can talk with soldiers, visit the blacksmith at his forge, the carpenter in his shop, or the soldiers in the barracks. Servants, cooks, officers, and laborers are eager to share their stories with you. Reenactments are a popular theme at the fort and living history demonstrations take place on the first Sunday of each month year-round.
USS Iowa is a floating battleship museum berthed at the entrance to the Los Angeles Harbor. A self-guided tour takes visitors around many parts of the ship. Highlights include the ship’s huge 16-inch deck guns and the crew’s quarters. San Pedro offers visitors several other attractions including its historic waterfront district, S.S. Lane Victory, and the Los Angeles Maritime Museum.
If you happen to be familiar with the Anaheim Packing House in Orange County then you know what to expect at Grand Central Market, however, GCM was the original model. Grand Central Market is a large, beautifully restored warehouse and home to a whopping 36 vendors including Japanese, Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Italian, and American cuisine among others.
Los Angeles Area City Guides
Downtown Los Angeles aka DTLA is chock full of fun interesting things to do and see. You can easily spend several days exploring everything that DTLA has to offer. Our guide covers a full-day of the best things to do and see while visiting DTLA.
Although most Beverly Hills visitors cannot afford many of the items that sparkle from the windows of the posh stores that line Rodeo Drive, a day trip to Beverly Hills will give you a chance to experience how the other half lives. You may want to leave that credit card at home, as many leave spending big bucks for the sheer experience of shopping on Rodeo Drive.
The entire city is a patchwork of modern and old, as American Arts and Crafts style architecture is blended with contemporary commercial facades, making it an architecture lover’s delight.
Seal Beach is a seaside town south of Long Beach. The main attraction here is the wide sandy beach, with the second-longest wooden pier in the United States. Seal Beach’s main street is a throwback to a classic Southern California surf town. During the day, you can find free parking, grab an ice cream, or browse one of the many unique boutique stores
San Pedro offers an experience like no other. It’s a fantastic seaside destination, with many of the attractions offering family-friendly prices. There are more than enough things to do in San Pedro to fill an entire day. To start your tour of San Pedro, head to the historic waterfront district. Here you will find several popular San Pedro attractions.
Contrary to popular belief, some of the best things in life are free — like feeling the sun on your face, the sand between your toes and the water over your feet. And it’s those things and more that await visitors in the City of Ventura.
Nestled together in a 36 square mile ecological tapestry know as much as for being the strawberry and lima bean capital of California, as it the gateway to the Channel Islands that are located just 11 miles from its sandy shoreline. Although Oxnard retains the charm of a small rural town, the city has plenty of activities for visitors.
Located in the northern part of Los Angeles County, the Santa Clarita Valley is home Six Flags Magic Mountain and the epicenter of Hollywood’s film production. With plenty to see and do for both residents and visitors, Santa Clarita is a popular place to spend a day.
If you are looking to spend a day soaking up the essence of California, then it’s time for a Malibu beach day trip. The 21-mile strip of oceanfront properties is an affluent beachfront city in western Los Angeles County that offers some of the world’s most spectacular beaches and views.
Get a close up look at a real operating film studio. Warner Brothers, Universal Studios, and Paramount Pictures all offer guided studio tours. You don’t have to be a tourist to enjoy this fun activity. You might even meet a celebrity or two on this day trip.
More Los Angeles Day Trips