Despite dwelling in a densely populated city, Angelenos take pride in our access to the great outdoors. And nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s never been more of a need to escape the city. Though stay at home orders for Southern California may be ongoing right now, when they lift, a respite in the nearby deserts or mountains will definitely be in order. From Western-style guest ranches to modern coastal lodges and hot springs hideaways, here are some of our favorite weekend getaways from Los Angeles.
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Santa Ynez Valley, CA
The stress of city living melts away driving down the oak tree-lined driveway at Alisal Guest Ranch (from $550 per night), where rooms are furnished with just the right amount of country Western kitsch, including wood-burning fireplaces, Pendleton blankets, and vintage cowboy paintings. The sprawling grounds are the perfect spot for socially distanced strolling, but if you’re really itching for the Old West, make sure to book a horseback ride through the iconic rolling hills of the Santa Ynez Valley. Each ride ends with a hilltop breakfast that includes the finest flapjacks west of the Mississippi. The best part is, you’re just a quick jaunt to Los Alamos, where you can pick up bottles from local winemakers like Lo-Fi and Casa Dumetz, and enjoy a meal from critically acclaimed Bell’s, wine country’s most rightfully talked about restaurant.
(Two-hour drive from L.A.)
The 25 Nina Freudenberger-designed rooms at the newly opened White Water (from $149 per night) check all the boxes for modern California style: retro fireplaces, indigo dyed pillows, pebble mosaic countertops, and mid-century style birch slatted headboards. The Ocean View King rooms even include outdoor soaking tubs made from powder coated stock tanks that look onto the California coastline. Sip a Negroni in the skylit lobby and enjoy the view of Cyprus tree-studded Moonstone Beach Drive, or take a walk down the two miles of coastal boardwalk, where you’ll find tide pools, surf breaks, and some of the most magical sunsets the PCH has to offer. After doing a morning meditation hike with Tula Yoga, hop on the house beach cruisers and enjoy a picnic of their excellent jambon beurre sandwiches and a bottle of Scar of the Sea wine. Stop by to pick up snacks at the Friday farmers market, where you can also enjoy Santa Maria-style BBQ and olallieberry pie from local-favorite Linn’s, or head up to Hearst Ranch Winery for an oceanside wine tasting at their stunning outdoor tasting room.
(Three-and-a-half-hour drive from L.A.)
New Cuyama, CA
Cuyama Buckhorn (from $209 a night), originally built as a roadside motel in 1952, has been revamped as an idyllic, down-home getaway surrounded by mountain ranges and fruit orchards. It is situated northeast of Santa Barbara and offers plenty of outdoor activities including a professional bocce ball court, pool tables, fire pits, and an outdoor pool and jacuzzi. Sitting on the Caliente Deck, guests can order the regional specialty: Santa Maria-style tri-tip sandwich smoked on red oak, while taking in the sunset over the Caliente Mountain range. Laze around the grounds, or do some birdwatching at Bitter Creek Wildlife Refuge, a roosting and foraging habitat for the endangered California Condor. If your trip lands during wildflower season, be sure to check out Carrizo Plains National Monument, where the plains are blanketed in goldfields, hillside daisies, and blue valley phacelia.
(Two-and-a-half-hour drive from L.A.)
Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico
L.A. is one of those cities where a weekend getaway can mean an international trip. Just an hour-and-a-half drive from San Diego near the port city of Ensenada lies Valle de Guadalupe, a destination that’s become wildly popular with culinary travelers hungry for a taste of Baja Med cuisine and wines to pair alongside. Stay at Encuentro, one of the region’s few boutique hotels (from $367 per night). Its 20 modern, modular cabins are decidedly minimalist, while offering unparalleled views of the stars in the night sky from each unit’s private patio. Outfitters like Club Tengo Hambre and Salt & Wind offer culinary tours of the area, including up-and-coming wineries like Las Nubes, Finca la Carodilla, and Lomita, which is home to the fantastic, female-led restaurants Tras Lomita and Lunario.
(Four-hour drive from L.A.)
Mammoth Lakes, CA
If the mountains are calling you, then perhaps it’s best to follow in the footsteps of John Muir and head up to the Sierras, which are absolutely breathtaking year-round. In the winter, Mammoth is an alpine sport paradise with plenty of backcountry to explore, and in the summer, even better for outdoors and adventure. Set on the shore of Twin Lakes and steeped in rustic charm, the historic Tamarack Lodge (from $159 per night) has cottage-like rooms with warm wood paneling and cozy, old timey touches that play on California craftsman style, and national park architecture of the 1920s.
(Five-hour drive from L.A.)
Palm Springs, CA
Palm Springs has been a historic hideaway for Angelenos since the Rat Pack days, and it’s no wonder. This colorful, boho chic desert escape offers everything you need to unwind, and in less than a two-hour journey from the city’s center. The new Les Cactus (from $286 a night) looks like the Beverly Hills Hotel went on a road trip. There’s retro desert design, including rattan furniture, hammocks, and of course, plenty of cacti. While the hotel is pet friendly, it’s an adults-only place, allowing only guests 21 and over. Use the house cruisers to ride into town to pick up eats from your Palm Springs faves (we recommend Rooster and the Pig, Mr. Lyon’s, and slightly further afield, 533 Viet Fusion), or opt to cook your own in room’s kitchenette.
(A two-hour drive from L.A.)
Big Bear, CA
Nested in the San Bernardino Mountains, Noon Lodge (from $149 a night) will give you the heavy hit of ponderosa pine-laden air that you’ve been craving. This cabin rental doesn’t come with the amenities of a hotel (no concierge or turndown service here), but what it lacks in luxe it makes up for in charm, especially in their larger loft style rooms, which have fireplaces, full kitchens, and fun, modern mountain design. While the pool is closed during the winter months, there’s cornhole, shuffleboard, bocce ball, and plenty of campfire pits to enjoy s’mores around at night. Stop by Big Bear Lake Brewing Company and pick up a growler of locally made craft beer, and Tropicali for an excellent açai blow to get the day out on the slopes started strong.
(Two-hour drive from L.A.)
Ojai is a perfect little hippie hideaway that’s no longer a secret, but is still worth visiting for its hike up to Mediation Mount, and charming pixie citrus groves. The town’s namesake luxury hotel, the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa (from $459 per night), is a sprawling Spanish revival compound dotted with towering oak trees, and the peacefully running fountains that set the tone for zen-like serenity. Opt for the Fireplace Shangri-la room, adorned with hand-painted Spanish tile, gold-auburn granite, and an oversized soaking tub. The real highlight though is the stucco fireplace with seating, a perfect spot to tuck into a book and indulge in the rejuvenating spirit of Ojai.
(One-and-a-half-hour drive from L.A.)
Joshua Tree, CA
Joshua Tree can definitely be done in a day trip, but make a night of it and glamp under the vivid night skies at Castle House Estate (from $55 per night), where you can choose from their stylish yurts, DIY camping spaces, or tiny house living in their container home, the most comfortable of the bunch, which has been featured on HGTV. The eight-acre property is a great home base to explore Joshua Tree National Park and nearby Pioneertown. Or take in a sound bath at the Integration, a cupola structure designed by a ufologist, then pick up eats from the homegrown businesses in the town of Joshua Tree itself.
(Two-hour drive from L.A.)
Desert Hot Springs, CA
Giant Jenga, cornhole, pickle ball, tennis, and fire pits are fun, sure, but did we mention that Two Bunch Palms in the Coachella Valley’s Desert Hot Springs (from $293 per night) also has private hot springs on offer? Bathe in healing mineral water, known for its therapeutic and mood-enhancing properties. It’s also low in sulfur (read: not stinky). Each private tub is surrounded by palm trees and desert landscaping, providing a real outdoor retreat. Don’t forget to reserve a fire pit at the end of the day to enjoy s’mores under the stars.
(Two-hour drive from L.A.)
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