With heaps of kid-friendly museums and cultural institutions, endless outdoor activities, oceanfront playgrounds, hiking trails for all levels, and miles of sandy beaches, Los Angeles is one of the best city breaks for families in the United States. It’s also well-located near many favored getaways such as Joshua Tree, Palm Springs, and Big Bear. Plus L.A. puts an abundance of weekend escapes—from Malibu to Ojai—a short drive away. That means you can hop in the car in La La Land and be glamping, riding horses at a dude ranch, or skiing in just a few short hours.
Here, we’re sharing 10 of the best weekend getaways for families from Los Angeles.
Family-Friendly Weekend Getaways From Los Angeles
Stunning beaches, swells, hiking trails, and proximity to Los Angeles give Malibu the edge as a top weekend escape. It’s an especially ideal locale for riding waves. Family surf lessons anyone? After a day paddling out, building sandcastles, and exploring the coastal trails that meander through Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, stop by Malibu Seafood for kid-approved fish and fries.
Where To Stay in Malibu
Endlessly chic and with a breezy, grown-up vibe, the Surfrider isn’t your typical family hotel. But its position across the street from the beach, rooms with hammocks on the terraces, and grab-and-go gear make it a great option for travelers of all ages.
2. Joshua Tree
Situated at the intersection of Colorado and Mojave Deserts, Joshua Tree National Park covers 800,000 acres of otherworldly scenery. Don’t forget a camera to document your family exploring the arid landscape that’s dotted with twisted trees, spiky cacti, and enormous boulders. Oh, it’s also one of the best stargazing destinations in the country. (Maybe it’s worth pushing back bedtime just this once?)
Where To Stay in Joshua Tree
Even moody teens won’t be able to hold back their excitement upon seeing Autoamp Joshua Tree, a family-friendly glamping resort with tricked-out Airstreams, flora walks led by a desert ecologist, and live local music.
3. Palm Springs
A dreamy oasis in the middle of the Sonoran Desert that’s just two hours from Los Angeles, Palm Springs is most closely associated with the glamorous, star-studded parties of the past and midcentury design, but this SoCal hotspot has a ton to offer families in the present—from the Palm Springs Air Museum and The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens to red jeep tours and the aerial tram through Chino Canyon.
Where To Stay in Palm Springs
Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Hotel provides a pool to cool off when the thermometer spikes and a convenient downtown location that gives families the ability to walk (or cycle on complimentary loaner bikes) to the many nearby restaurants.
What’s so nice about Ojai is that it’s just as much a place that supports relaxation as adventure. For example, you could happily spend a few days hitting all the hiking trails in Los Padres National Forest or go for a more leisurely, stroller-friendly stroll along the Ojai Valley Trail before heading into town for shopping, park hangs, and eloté fries and crispy Brussels sprouts at The Nest.
Where To Stay in Ojai
With an array of on-site activities—from crafts to horseback riding—an adults-only and kid-friendly pool, tennis courts, and a golf course, Ojai Valley Inn is hands-down one of the best family resorts in the Golden State. The only problem? You won’t want to leave.
5. Big Sur
An endlessly photogenic and outdoorsy pitstops on the scenic Pacific Coast Highway—a family-friendly road trip for when your kids don’t mind sitting in the car for more than five hours—Big Sur is blessed with some of the most dramatically beautiful scenery in the Golden State. Hiking trails wind through forests and open onto coastal cliffs with sweeping views. It’s also a great spot to go camping (or glamping, if that’s more your thing).
Where To Stay in Big Sur
If the idea of sleeping amongst towering redwoods sounds pretty awesome but pitching a tent isn’t your thing, consider Ventana Campground. The sturdy canvas accommodations are already set up and the communal bathhouse has heated floors.
It’s not every day—or really ever—that you get to transport kids to another country without leaving the state. Solvang is a fairytale village in southern California’s Santa Ynez Valley that feels like a passport-free European escape with windmills, Danish-style architecture, wineries (OK, that’s for parents), bakeries, and fun events like free summer movie nights and Julesfest in December at Solvang Park.
Where To Stay in Solvang
Alisal Ranch is a 10,500-acre all-American dude ranch meets luxury resort with tons of Western-themed activities (think: horseback riding, barnyard crafts, fishing, rodeo, egg gathering, hog washing, corral lessons, and archery), plus a pool, tennis courts, and a golf course.
7. Catalina Island
There’s an endless array of things to do with kids on Catalina Island. Thrillseekers can go ziplining and swing around on the aerial adventure course. Animal lovers will jump at the chance to climb aboard an open-air biofuel Hummer and search for American bison and see marine life on an undersea semi-sub expedition. Rather relax? Plan a chill family beach day followed by mini golf.
Where To Stay on Catalina Island
Located in the seaside town of Avalon, the recently renovated Hotel Atwater is a terrific home base for families hoping to explore Catalina Island. Since luggage service is provided to and from the ferry terminal, it’s one less thing to think about with kiddos
8. Big Bear Lake
Adventure lovers and outdoor enthusiasts flock to Big Bear Lake, a four-season resort destination with terrain parks for skiing, snowboarding, and tubing, plus hiking trails and water recreation such as sailing. Don’t miss the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain, which boasts winter-bobsled tracks and water slides in the summer.
Where To Stay in Big Bear Lake
For families who gravitate towards smaller, more boutique lodgings than giant resorts, Noble + Proper is just the ticket. The cozy cabins are perfect for families with comfy furnishings, fireplaces, and kitchenettes. Some even have bunk beds.
9. Santa Barbara
Hop aboard the Pacific Surfliner from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara and watch as your kids yell “chuga chuga chuga choo choo” for the next 2 hours and 45 minutes. Expect blue skies (with 283 days of sunshine annually, it’s a safe bet) and take advantage of the picture-perfect weather with a trip to the beach. After building sandcastles and playing volleyball, head to the Santa Barbara Zoo or the shipwreck playground at Chase Palm Park.
Where To Stay in Santa Barbara
Proof that on rare occasions kids and parents actually agree on everything. Guests of all ages love the stylish bungalows, Olympic-sized swimming pool, lush gardens, and private beach access at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara.
Say the words Legoland California to kids and they’re already sold. That’s even prior to telling them about the 60 rides—including a dragon-themed roller coaster—spaceship playground, waterpark, and aquarium. More than just amusement central and one of the best kid-friendly seaside vacations, Carlsbad has plenty to appeal to parents thanks to its golf courses, beaches, and breweries.
Where To Stay in Carlsbad
The best place to stay for fun in the sun in Carlsbad? Beach Terrace, a family-owned boutique hotel that’s steps from the waves. Besides spacious ocean-view rooms and a rooftop pool, families rave about the private beach access and thoughtful touches like sand toys for LOs.