Are you looking for the perfect weekend getaway in California? I’ve got you covered!
Having personally explored the Golden State on numerous occasions, I can’t wait to share with you the best weekend getaways California has to offer.
From the stunning coastal vistas of Big Sur to the majestic beauty of Yosemite National Park and the exquisite vineyards of Napa Valley, California truly has it all.
I know it can be difficult to choose between all the places to visit in California, so in this post, I share with you my personal experience and insider tips so you can plan the best California weekend trip.
California offers a diverse variety of destinations for a fun weekend getaway, ranging from the wine country to some of the country’s most beautiful national parks.
With so many amazing options to choose from, you can select from the unique weekend getaways in California that are perfect for your tastes.
This list not only offers the best getaways in California but also covers what to do when you get to your destination.
Now it’s your turn to read through this exciting list of getaways that will make your mini vacation one to remember.
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- California Weekend Getaways At-A-Glance
- Best Weekend Getaways in California
- 1. San Francisco
- 2. Big Sur
- 3. Yosemite National Park
- 4. Mammoth Lakes, one of the best getaways in California
- 5. Lake Tahoe
- 6. Napa Valley, one of the best weekend getaways in California
- 7. San Luis Obispo
- 8. Paso Robles
- 9. Solvang
- 10. Santa Monica
- 11. Santa Catalina Island
- 12. San Diego
- 13. Santa Barbara
- 14. Palm Springs
- 15. Death Valley National Park
- Map Of The Best Weekend Trips in California
- Wrap-Up: Weekend Getaways in California
- FAQs about the Best Weekend trips in California
- Where can I go for cheap weekend getaways in California?
- What are the best weekend getaways in California for families?
- Where can I go for unique weekend getaways in California?
- Where can I go for inexpensive weekend getaways in southern California?
- Where can I find the best weekend getaways in California in December?
- Where can I go for affordable romantic getaways in California?
- What are the top romantic getaways in California?
- Where can I go for a romantic weekend in California?
- Where should I go for a weekend getaway in California?
- Where should I go for a weekend getaway in Southern California?
- Where should I go for a weekend in Northern California?
- What is there to do in Southern California this weekend?
- Where can I go for a romantic weekend in Southern California?
- Where is a nice weekend getaway in California?
- What's a good weekend getaway in California?
- Can you do California in a weekend?
- What is the best time to visit California?
- How many days do you need for California?
- What is the best way to travel around California?
California Weekend Getaways At-A-Glance
Here’s a bite-sized snapshot of everything you need to know to plan your California weekend trip!
- When to Go: Summer is most popular, and most crowded. Visit during spring and fall for pleasant weather and fewer crowds!
- How to Get Around: I recommend having your own car. Use DiscoverCars to snag rental car deals.
- Top 3 Picks: 1) Big Sur for stunning coastal beauty, hiking trails, and luxurious resorts with ocean views. 2) Yosemite National Park for its majestic waterfalls, granite cliffs, and iconic sights like Half Dome. 3) Napa Valley for romantic vineyards, wine tasting, gourmet dining, and luxurious spas.
- Before You Go: Plan ahead and book your accommodation well in advance, especially during peak season.
Best Weekend Getaways in California
1. San Francisco
San Francisco is appropriately at the top of the list of California weekend getaways, as the city is the perfect destination for families and a romantic weekend.
The Northern California city is jam-packed with interesting and fun attractions ranging from the Coit Tower to Twin Peaks with its epic view of the city’s skyline.
Any trip to San Francisco should start with a stroll across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, where you can watch the fog roll into the bay while enjoying the view of the Embarcadero.
Next, head to Golden Gate Park to visit the Japanese Tea Gardens for a cup of Gen Mai Cha tea and a stop to watch the swans at Stow Lake.
San Francisco is also among the best California getaways for food lovers and gourmands.
The city is home to some of the best restaurants in the country, ranging from Michelin three-star fine dining to casual take-out dim sum from Chinese bakeries.
For seafood lovers, visit Fisherman’s Wharf, where you can eat a bowl of Cioppino with some San Francisco sourdough or buy fresh Dungeness crab right from the fisherman.
San Francisco is also one of the best destinations for mini vacations in California, where you can splurge and book a room with a view of Alcatraz and the bay.
Choose the city by the bay for your perfect getaway in California.
2. Big Sur
Big Sur will surely be the star of the show for a road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway after a stop in the seaside town of Carmel.
This stretch of the California Coast offers breathtaking views of the turbulent Pacific Ocean, crashing into the rugged rocky coves and cliffs.
Make sure to stop to check out the Bixby and the Big Creek arch span bridges, which are the most photographed in the state.
Another popular viewpoint is in the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to see McWay Cove, where a waterfall spills from the cliffs onto the sand.
While in the state park, take a hike on the Pfeiffer Falls trail for an opportunity to walk amongst the giant Coastal Redwoods.
Big Sur also is home to several retreats and resorts that specialize in rest and relaxation with a focus on immersing in nature.
There are options with jaw-dropping ocean views tucked away on the cypress-covered bluffs with onsite hot springs, or you can book a sea view room in Carmel.
You can enjoy the views along the way down Highway 1 or stay for a few days, but make sure that Big Sur is a part of your getaway in California.
🛏️ Where to stay: Affordable and highly rated – Carmel Valley Lodge (including breakfast)
🚌 Top Rated Tour: Monterey, Carmel, and 17-Mile Drive – Full Day Tour from San Francisco
3. Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is one of the nation’s greatest treasures and is beloved for its massive granite monoliths and towering waterfalls.
This massive national park covers 748,542 acres and has over 750 miles of trails to explore for nature lovers and hardcore outdoor adventure seekers.
One of the best hikes in Yosemite is up to the top of the 2425-foot-tall Yosemite Falls, which offers unique vantage points of the falls along the way.
Hikers can also opt for a strenuous but rewarding trek up to Glacier Point for views of Half Dome or a leisurely stroll to mirror lake for a picnic by the water.
Without making a special trip to Sequoia National Park, visitors can get up close to the giant Sequoia trees, which are the largest in the world.
To make a stay in the national park extra special, rent one of the cabins near Yosemite, where you can enjoy a night of counting stars from the hot tub or curl up by the fire.
Yosemite is one of the best weekend trips in California for an opportunity to connect with nature at one of the state’s top outdoor destinations.
🛏️ Where to stay: Affordable and highly rated – Cinnamon Bear Inn (including breakfast)
🚌 Top Rated Tour: Yosemite National Park and Giant Sequoias Day Trip from San Francisco
4. Mammoth Lakes, one of the best getaways in California
Mammoth is located high in the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains and offers two distinct seasons for a perfect getaway.
During the winter, Mammoth Ski Resort transitions into a winter wonderland with plenty of fresh powder for shredding the slopes. In fact, it’s one of the most beautiful mountains with snow in California.
There are even accommodations that have direct access to gondolas that will whisk skiers and snowboarders right to the top of the mountain.
When the warmer summer arrives, Mammoth becomes a paradise for hikers and mountain bikers, with 112 trails that traverse the scenic valleys and peaks.
One of the best places for relaxing in Mammoth is by one of the 100-plus lakes in the area, where you can go kayaking or go for a swim in the chilly water.
One of Mammoth Lake’s top natural attractions is Devil’s Postpile, which draws tourists to this unique basalt rock formation.
Visitors can book a room at one of the many great resorts and hotels in Mammoth or set up a tent at one of the great campgrounds for extra time in nature.
🛏️ Where to stay: Affordable and highly rated – Cinnamon Bear Inn (including breakfast)
5. Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe offers all the relaxation and fun you could want for a California mountain getaway.
For a winter getaway, Tahoe is the premier destination for skiing and snowboarding in California, with 15 ski resorts to choose from.
Skiers and snowboarders can shred their way down the mountain with views of the lake’s crystal-clear water. Lake Tahoe in winter is a must!
Although the winter is a popular time to visit Lake Tahoe, most visitors opt for a chance to enjoy some time at the beach during the warm summer months.
Lake Tahoe is also a hotbed for adventure seekers looking to hit the trails.
One of the top options for a trek is the challenging Mount Tallac Trail to the tallest peak in Lake Tahoe Basin.
For a more relaxing hike, take the Rubicon Trail, which snakes along the shore to hidden beaches and coves through D.L. Bliss State Park.
For those looking for a tranquil getaway, Lake Tahoe visitors can book a cabin in the woods for some quiet time surrounded by nature.
Lake Tahoe is also the perfect place to let your hair down with plenty of nightlife, including plenty of great craft breweries and a strip of large casinos full of fun restaurants and bars.
Lake Tahoe offers an ideal getaway for those drawn to its sun-drenched beaches and snow sports enthusiasts looking for an ultimate adrenaline rush.
🛏️ Where to stay: Affordable and highly rated – Postmarc Hotel and Spa Suites
🚌 Top Rated Tour: Lake Tahoe Small-Group Photography Scenic Half-Day Tour
6. Napa Valley, one of the best weekend getaways in California
Napa is the premier wine region in the United States and is a perfect destination for a luxury getaway with a chance to enjoy a taste of the good life.
With over 400 wineries in the valley, vine lovers have no problem finding an appointment at one of the beautiful vineyards located along the valley.
Visitors can enjoy a picnic amongst the vineyards, visit a wine cave, or taste barrel samples for a chance to experience the upcoming vintage of unique wines.
The Napa Valley is also home to incredible dining options ranging from casual roadside burger joints to opulent fine dining at a Michelin three-star restaurant.
For a special treat for gourmands, visit the Oxbow Public Market, where you will find an incredible collection of gourmet shops and boutique eateries ranging from empanada vendors to spice stores.
For those looking for a little pampering, head north up the valley to Calistoga to spoil yourself with a spa treatment and a soak in the natural hot springs.
Napa is the perfect destination for a special occasion getaway, where the valley’s beautiful accommodations and stunning wineries are sure to impress.
7. San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo is a small college town with plenty of fun activities for a special getaway.
The best way to kick off a stay in San Luis Obispo is at the Madonna Inn, where every room has its own theme.
San Luis Obispo is also home to the Edna Valley wine region, which offers a chance to book a tasting at the vineyards or at one of the downtown tasting rooms.
If you enjoy a good hike, hit the trails up to Bishop Peak for 360-degree views of the surrounding valleys and rolling hills.
Those that arrive during the week can start their weekend early by exploring the Thursday downtown farmers market, where they can taste handmade treats and shop for local ingredients.
The historic downtown also offers up a fun night out, where you will find countless great restaurants, taphouses, and bars.
For a relaxing weekend getaway, consider spending a few days in San Luis Obispo, and make sure to stop by Bubble Gum Alley to leave your mark.
8. Paso Robles
Paso Robles is an ideal California getaway for a few days of relaxing in the central California wine country.
This up-and-coming wine region is home to many boutique and large-production wineries that are garnering a lot of attention in the wine world.
The Paso Robles wine region offers a chance to experience a smaller and more charming side of wine tasting where the person pouring the wine could be the owner or winemaker.
Wine aficionados can sip some wine at one of the 16 downtown tasting rooms or make a reservation at Justin Winery for a wine-pairing lunch at their Michelin-star restaurant.
For a relaxing afternoon, go for a soak and get pampered at the River Oaks Hot Springs Spa, or make a visit to Franklin Hot Springs for a more rustic experience.
For an extra sensory experience after the sun goes down, swing by Sensorio, a 15-acre art installation made of color-shifting lights.
Paso Robles is located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, making it easy to visit from almost anywhere in the state.
A visit to Solvang will provide all the entertainment and relaxation you could desire for a romantic getaway in the wine country.
This charming small town is located in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley and offers a perfect escape from cities across Southern California.
The region is home to over 120 wineries, which were made famous for their Pinot Noir by the cult classic movie “Sideways,” and is now a hotbed for wine tasting.
Solvang’s downtown is worth the trip alone to experience the charming Danish architecture, complete with windmills that give it a fairytale-like feel.
For an easy day of relaxing in town, head out for a stroll, check out the small boutique shops, and then visit one of the Danish bakeries for a sweet treat.
For a touch of California history, stop by the Old Mission Santa Ynes to explore its beautiful gardens and church, which date back to 1804.
Solvang is a must-visit destination for anyone dreaming of a getaway that moves at your pace but still offers plenty of things to keep you entertained and having a good time.
🛏️ Where to stay: Affordable and highly rated – King Frederik Inn
🚌 Top Rated Tour: Solvang/ Santa Ynez Valley Small-Group All-Inclusive Wine Tour
10. Santa Monica
Santa Monica is the quintessential beach town destination in Southern California, offering all the fun you can handle under the sun.
Santa Monica is home to 3.5 miles of sandy beaches for a day of playing in the waves and getting a good tan. There are many fun things to do in Santa Monica!
For some nightlife, head out for the evening to explore the shops and dine at the great restaurants on the 3rd Street Promenade.
For those looking for some romance, go for a ride on the Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier and enjoy the ride with a view of the city lights.
No visit to Santa Monica is complete without a stroll along Muscle Beach to see all the street performers and bodybuilders.
For some morning exercise, ride down the shoreline on the Marvin Braude bike trail and enjoy the ocean views along the way.
Santa Monica is the best destination on this list for anyone looking to have a great time in a California beach town.
🛏️ Where to stay: Highly rated – Hilton Santa Monica
🚌 Top Rated Tour: Small Group Electric EBike bicycle Tour Santa Monica and Venice
11. Santa Catalina Island
Nothing says “California getaway,” like spending the weekend on Santa Catalina Island.
This island off the Southern California coast is the ultimate destination for spoiling yourself at a luxury resort.
Why not enjoy a spa treatment with gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean in the background?
For fun at the beach, rent a cabana at the Descanso Beach Club for a lazy day of relaxing by the water with delicious cocktails served right to your sun lounger.
For some time at sea, visitors can book a marine environmental boat tour to check out the sea life.
The Island is also a popular spot for diving, where those that brave the cold water can get up close to sea life ranging from seals to manta rays.
Santa Catalina Island is also a great destination for hikers, as Santa Catalina Island is home to 165 miles of trails.
Hikers are certain to spot plenty of bison that live on the island that was brought from the mainland for the filming of a movie.
If the idea of a perfect getaway includes getting away from it all, then Santa Catalina Island is the perfect destination.
12. San Diego
With gorgeous year-round weather and countless attractions, San Diego is an ideal destination for a California getaway.
San Diego only gets 12 inches of rain annually and has an average high temperature of just over 70° F, making this beach town a perfect year-round getaway.
For some adult fun, San Diego is known as the “craft beer capital of America” and is home to 150 local craft brewers making some of the country’s highest-rated beers.
If that’s not enough of a good time, catch a ride to the Gas Lamp District to try out the amazing restaurants and bars for a night out on the town.
For those that love animals, take advantage of the opportunity to learn about and experience the 700 species and sub-species of rescued and protected endangered animals at the San Diego Zoo.
Don’t forget that San Diego is a beach town with over 17 miles of coastline. Head up to La Jolla to spend the day at the beach, including a stop to explore the tide pools.
For some touristy fun, head down to the bayfront Embarcadero to check out the USS Midway Museum and explore the shops at Seaport Village, and don’t forget the famous Balboa Park.
A getaway to San Diego will certainly have you planning your next visit well before you even finish your trip.
13. Santa Barbara
This coastal town is one of the famous romantic getaways in Southern California for the rich and famous and is equally popular with those looking for some of the limelight.
Santa Barbara is so much more than a beach town, as it is also one of the country’s best wine regions for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Wine tasting is easy in Santa Barbara as you can visit the Santa Maria or the Santa Ynez wine-growing valleys to visit the vineyards, or you can visit one of the 20 downtown tasting rooms.
A visit to Santa Barbara would be incomplete without some time to relax at Arroyo Burro County Beach Park for fun in the sun.
To taste the city’s history, visit the Old Mission Santa Barabara, which dates back to 1786.
For outdoor enthusiasts, head up into the Santa Ynez Mountains for a day of hiking, where you can go for a dip in the Red Rock Pools at the Santa Ynez River.
Santa Barbara offers all the entertainment you could need, even if you only want a weekend getaway by the sea.
14. Palm Springs
Palm Springs was once a playground for the rich and famous and their fans, who would flock to this luxury oasis in the middle of the desert.
While the daytime high temperatures in Palm Springs can commonly climb as high as 120° F during the summer, this city in the desert offers an escape from the cold during the winter.
With temperatures in the mid-seventies, Palm Springs is the perfect destination for golf lovers.
This desert getaway has nine golf courses and over 100 more within a 30-minute short drive, including Indian Wells, a stop on the PGA professional tour.
Palm Springs is also home to the largest rotating aerial tramway in the world, which offers a 2.5-mile ride with stunning views of Chico Canyon.
When visitors arrive at the top, you can dine at one of the two restaurants offering spectacular views of the Coachella Valley.
When the weather is pleasant, Palm Springs offers several hiking options, including many trails in San Jacinto State Park.
For a fun day trip, visit a desert oasis at Palm Canyon, stand on top of the San Andreas Fault, and finish your day at Joshua Tree National Park.
If you are looking for the best winter destination in California to escape the cold, Palm Springs should be at the top of your list.
15. Death Valley National Park
Death Valley more than lives up to its name during the summer, when it is the hottest place on the planet, with a record-high temperature of 134° F.
It’s safe to say that it’s best to visit during the winter months when the weather is perfect for exploring desert landscapes.
Death Valley offers an escape from the city, where you will have no choice but to disconnect and enjoy getting away to this unique destination.
One of the highlights of a visit to Death Valley is a stop at Zabriskie Point, where you can hike into the wrinkly hills that look like they have been painted with massive brush strokes.
For an epic view of Bad Water, the lowest point in the United States, head up to Dante’s View for a hike along the ridgeline.
If you are looking for cheap weekend getaways in California, stay a few days at Homestake Dry Camp, and enjoy stargazing without any light pollution.
Death Valley is a great additional stop to warm up after a weekend of skiing in Mammoth Lakes, and there are plenty of hotels in the area for a refresh before exploring the desert.
For those that love stunning desert landscapes, do not miss out on a chance to explore Death Valley.
Map Of The Best Weekend Trips in California
This interactive map shows you the best weekend trips in California.
Wrap-Up: Weekend Getaways in California
The Golden State offers an abundance of unforgettable weekend getaways.
Whether you seek scenic coastal retreats, adventurous mountain escapes, or vibrant city experiences, this diverse state has it all!
Embrace the magic of California weekend getaways and create cherished memories that will last a lifetime. Start planning your next adventure today and let California’s beauty captivate you!
Now that you have picked out the perfect option from this list of the best weekend getaways in California, all you have to do is book your accommodations.
Pack your bags and get ready for an epic getaway in California, and while your traveling, pick out another destination from this list for your next weekend off.
FAQs about the Best Weekend trips in California
Where can I go for cheap weekend getaways in California?
Consider budget-friendly weekend getaways to places like Santa Cruz for its affordable beachside charm, Joshua Tree National Park for outdoor adventures and camping, Ojai for its quaint small-town atmosphere, or Pismo Beach for its affordable accommodations and relaxed coastal vibes.
What are the best weekend getaways in California for families?
For family-friendly weekend getaways in California, visit Disneyland, Legoland, Santa Cruz beaches, Lake Tahoe, or San Diego attractions.
Where can I go for unique weekend getaways in California?
For unique weekend getaways in California, visit Carmel-by-the-Sea, Joshua Tree, Solvang, Santa Cruz, or Mendocino.
Where can I go for inexpensive weekend getaways in southern California?
For affordable weekend getaways in Southern California, consider Oceanside, Palm Springs, Temecula, Long Beach, or San Juan Capistrano.
Where can I find the best weekend getaways in California in December?
In December, the best weekend getaways in California include Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, and Big Bear Lake.
Where can I go for affordable romantic getaways in California?
Consider Ojai, Idyllwild, or Cambria for affordable romantic getaways in California, offering charming accommodations and a peaceful ambiance.
What are the top romantic getaways in California?
Indulge in romance at California's top getaways: Napa Valley's wine country charm, Big Sur's breathtaking coastal vistas, Santa Barbara's beachside allure, Lake Tahoe's mountain-lake serenity, and Carmel-by-the-Sea's idyllic village ambiance.
Where can I go for a romantic weekend in California?
For a romantic weekend getaway in California, consider these enchanting destinations: Napa Valley's vineyards, Big Sur's coastal beauty, Santa Barbara's beachside charm, Lake Tahoe's scenic serenity, and Carmel-by-the-Sea's picturesque village.
Where should I go for a weekend getaway in California?
For an unforgettable weekend getaway in California, here are some fantastic options: Explore the stunning landscapes of Yosemite National Park, immerse yourself in the vibrant city life of San Francisco, relax on the beautiful beaches of Santa Cruz, experience the glamour of Los Angeles, or indulge in wine tasting in the charming vineyards of Sonoma County.
Where should I go for a weekend getaway in Southern California?
For a Southern California weekend getaway, visit San Diego's sunny beaches, explore LA's vibrant city, relax in Palm Springs, discover Santa Barbara's charm, or indulge in Laguna Beach's art and beach vibes.
Where should I go for a weekend in Northern California?
Head to the majestic city of San Francisco for a captivating weekend in Northern California. Explore the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, indulge in delicious cuisine at Fisherman's Wharf, and immerse yourself in the city's vibrant cultural scene.
What is there to do in Southern California this weekend?
This weekend in Southern California, soak up the sun on the beautiful beaches, visit world-class theme parks like Disneyland or Universal Studios, explore the trendy neighborhoods of Los Angeles, go hiking in the stunning national parks, or enjoy outdoor activities like surfing and kayaking.
Where can I go for a romantic weekend in Southern California?
Embark on a romantic weekend in Southern California by visiting the idyllic coastal town of Laguna Beach. Stroll hand-in-hand along the scenic beaches, indulge in gourmet dining, explore the local art galleries, and savor breathtaking sunset views. Laguna Beach offers the perfect setting for a romantic getaway filled with relaxation and romance.
Where is a nice weekend getaway in California?
Escape to the charming coastal town of Carmel-by-the-Sea for a delightful weekend getaway in California. Experience its picturesque white-sand beaches, explore the art galleries and boutique shops in the village, indulge in gourmet dining, and take scenic drives along the breathtaking coastline.
What's a good weekend getaway in California?
A fantastic weekend getaway in California is Santa Barbara. Explore its beautiful beaches, visit the historic Mission Santa Barbara, stroll along State Street for shopping and dining, and unwind in the peaceful ambiance of the city.
Can you do California in a weekend?
While it's not possible to fully explore the entirety of California in just one weekend due to its vast size and numerous attractions, you can certainly have a fulfilling and enjoyable weekend getaway in specific regions or cities within California.
What is the best time to visit California?
The best time to visit California is during spring (April to June) and fall (September to November) for pleasant weather and fewer crowds.
How many days do you need for California?
To fully experience California's diverse attractions, it is recommended to plan a trip of at least 10 days. However, the duration can vary depending on the specific regions and activities you wish to explore.
What is the best way to travel around California?
The best way to travel around California is by car for flexibility and convenience.
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