4 easy must-do weekend trips from San Diego
Heading to the San Diego area for a vacation can be a great way to make memories. You and your family can have the time of your life in this part of California. San Diego offers a little bit of everything, and you can head to the beach, enjoy sunny shopping days at outdoor malls, or visit museums and cultural sites.
While you are in the San Diego area, you might want to head outside the city for a weekend getaway to check out the surrounding areas near San Diego. While the city of San Diego is huge and offers a lot to do, there are many amazing small communities and activities to see near San Diego if you are brave enough to venture outside the city. For San Diego residents, it can be a lot of fun to take just a short drive to see new places and experience new things that you don’t have access to in the city itself.
When you are planning one of the various weekend trips away from San Diego, you will want to make sure that your bags are safe and secure. We can take care of your things by placing them in secure storage so that you don’t have to worry while you are traveling. Keeping your bags in secure storage can make all the difference in your travel experience for so many reasons.
Big Bear Lake
Big Bear Lake Distance From San Diego
This charming little city is two hours and thirty-seven minutes from San Diego by car. This is one of the closest weekend getaways from San Diego that you can enjoy from this area.
Our Activity Recommendations:
This is a community known for its shopping, its ski slopes, and the incredible fishing in Big Bear Lake itself. Head here for a weekend getaway if you love mountain biking and hiking or if you want to make the most of the contrast between the warmth of San Diego and the cold mountain powder under your snowboard. Stay in town at Black Forest Lodge, which is charmingly Bavarian-themed. If you want to be steps away from the slopes, you will need to get a room or even a cabin at the Big Bear Mountain Resort.
This charming town boasts a population of around 5,000, which means that everyone knows everyone else. This makes each experience here homey and comfortable. Enjoy shopping through cute boutiques on Big Bear Boulevard, or have a delicious meal at the historic Captain’s Anchorage Restaurant and Bar. For fine dining, you need to head to The Pines Lakefront, which is beautiful during every season. Having a view of the water makes this restaurant special, but the wine list and the creative menus are just as impressive as the lake.
Locals love heading here just as much as tourists because of the wide array of fun things to do here. No matter if you are looking for fine dining and craft beers, or you are excited about adventuring on the mountain slopes, you can find make memories in Big Bear Lake with ease.
Best Season to Visit Big Bear Lake
This is the most popular winter destination for San Diego residents eager for some cold weather and some fun on the ski slopes. If you are feeling really adventurous, head away from the warmth of San Diego to take part in the historic Polar Plunge ritual in Big Bear Lake during March of every year.
Channel Islands National Park
Channel Islands Park Distance From San Diego
Most people are familiar with Sequoia National Park, but it is quite a long drive away from San Diego’s city center. If you have seen the San Diego Zoo, and you want to enjoy some time in the real outdoors, you need to hop in the car to go to Channel Islands National Park. This location is maintained by the National Park Service, and it is three hours from San Diego’s downtown area by car. There are few places in California that are this memorable, and you will adore this destination if you love the great outdoors.
Plus, this is one of the best weekend getaways from San Diego that will offer you some of the same beauty as Joshua Tree National Park or Sequoia National Park.
Our Activity Recommendations
This is an ideal place for camping, hiking, and learning all about the wildlife and natural habitats that are being preserved by the Forest Service here. Camping is actually offered on all five of the islands here in the park, but during certain parts of the year, you might not be able to access all of the campsites due to weather. Campers are ferried to the park of their choice by Forest Service boats, and you will only have to pay $15 a night to stay in some of the most beautiful parts of the state.
If you instead want to check out the park without camping, there are lovely hotels that are nearby, like the Hampton Inn Channel Islands Harbor. Most of the hotel offerings are in Oxnard, which is about 30 minutes away from the national park by car. Oxnard is beautiful in its own right, and you can enjoy access to all kinds of museums like the Carnegie Art Museum. You might also want to check out the older section of the city, which features beautiful turn-of-the-century homes and quaint shopping locations.
Dining in Oxnard is varied, and you can find everything from delicious American dining at the charming Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar to fine dining at Larsen’s Grill. Shopping here in Oxnard is a snap as well, and there are three large malls that you can enjoy, as well as boutique shopping along Los Altos Street.
There is so much to love about the Channel Islands National Park experience, and you will not regret heading out for a weekend getaway here to learn about the environment, see some incredible sights, and enjoy shopping and dining.
Best Season to Visit Channel Islands National Park
Head here when the weather is warm so that you will not be chilly while you are camping. This area can actually get cool at night despite being so close to San Diego.
Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica Pier Distance From San Diego
Santa Monica Pier is just a short drive (two hours by car) from San Diego’s downtown area, or you can enjoy a scenic train ride on the Pacific Surfliner to get to this famous pier. The train will take about four hours to take you to the Santa Monica area, but if you have never headed out on the train to a getaway, this might be well worth the experience for you.
Our Activity Recommendations
The Santa Monica Pier has been around since the early 1900s, and there is a conglomeration of boutique shopping, delicious dining, wine tasting, and adventures that you can have along this historic waterfront. This is the home of the original Muscle Beach, and people still lift weights and delight crowds here in the sun. There are various historical walking tours that will teach you all about the area as you enjoy the sights and the sounds, or you can even connect with a local fishing tour guide and fish right off the pier.
Perhaps best of all, the Santa Monica Pier is an amusement park location. You will be able to ride a Ferris Wheel with a view of the ocean, or you might want to check out the West Coaster, which is a roller coaster that looms 55 feet over the ocean! The historic carousel is another fun thing to see here on the pier and many people stop by just to take pictures of this lovely attraction.
When you are done with your day of fun in the sun, you can head to La Merigot Santa Monica for a good night’s sleep. If you love seafood, you will need to reserve a table at The Albright, a well-known pier restaurant with amazing views. You can also wander along the pier eating snacks from food carts and watching the stars come out over the ocean.
Best Season to Visit Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica Pier doesn't really have a bad season. Head here for weekend getaways during any season and enjoy excellent weather and a fun time. This is one of the best romantic weekend getaway locations you can choose to visit if you are picking out a trip for that someone special.
Santa Barbara Distance From San Diego
Perhaps one of the best-known beach locations in California besides San Diego itself is Santa Barbara. This beautiful city is just three hours by car from San Diego, and you can head here to see historical sites, enjoy even warmer weather than what is on offer in San Diego, and make the most of incredible shopping.
Our Activity Recommendations
The Old Mission in Santa Barbara has been around since 1786, and you will love the tour here that explains the Spanish history of this settlement. You can also opt to head over to Stearns Wharf and make the most of some of the boutique shopping and the water views. Enjoy a filling meal at Longboard’s Grill at Stearns Wharf when you get hungry. You can also choose to sit down and enjoy casual family dining at Moby Dick Restaurant.
For a day of peace with a view, head to Shoreline Park. There is also a lovely zoo here in Santa Barbara, which can be ideal if you are traveling with kids. If you love history, you will need to take the time to run over to the State Street Underpass, which was rebuilt with Spanish architecture after the 1925 earthquake which destroyed this part of town.
When you are ready to call it a night, you will want to wander over to Cabrillo Inn at the Beach, which is one of the most beautiful hotels in the area. For a boutique hotel experience with incredible views and the softest beds around, you should pick The Drift Hotel for your stay.
Santa Barbara itself is one of the most popular San Diego weekend getaways because you can also enjoy wine tasting nearby. There are lots of Southern California wineries, and you can try the best of what they have to offer when you choose this part of the state for your great weekend trip. Weekend trips with wine tasting included are always very popular, and you will see why when you head here.
Santa Barbara is popular with both locals and those who are new to town because of the beauty of its Spanish architecture, its cozy and narrow streets, and the many historical and interesting things that you can do here. You can easily fill up an entire weekend with fun things to do when you head to Santa Barbara, and there are few places in California as pretty as this charming and quaint town.
Best Season to Visit Santa Barbara
The best time of year for weekend getaways in Santa Barbara is outside of the hot months in the summer. It can be quite toasty here during the peak of summer, and you will miss out on the things that are within walking distance from your hotel due to the heat. If you don't mind being a little toasty, the summer can be a good time to go wine tasting in this area.
If you don’t have time to enjoy an entire weekend in the area around San Diego, you need to look at our guide to the best day trips from San Diego. After your weekend adventure, you might have some time left in the San Diego area itself, in which case this guide will help you to spend 3 days in San Diego that you will never forget.
California is an incredible place to have a vacation, and you can make the most of your time in San Diego by seeing more of the rest of this part of the state. It can be tempting to stay in the San Diego area for the entire duration of your great weekend trip, but you would be missing out on so much of what Southern California has to offer you. There are so many incredible weekend getaways near San Diego that are perfect for making memories while you are in Southern California. This guide will help you to find the perfect Southern California adventure with ease.
California is a state that offers you access to all kinds of terrains, all kinds of adventures, and all kinds of chances to make memories. Make sure that you don’t miss out on a moment of what this beautiful state and the San Diego area have to offer. If you are going to be in the San Diego area for a vacation, you absolutely have to take at least one day to head outside the city to see what Southern California is all about!