San Diego is an amazing city by itself, with enough to offer that both tourists and locals can be kept busy for weeks. But even in the most amazing of places, sometimes a getaway is in order – whether you need to recharge or just explore someplace new. And luckily for San Diegans (as if we aren’t spoiled enough already), Southern California is a great big playground. Here are five of my favorite weekend getaways from San Diego – from the beach to the mountains!
One of my favorite weekend getaways is Julian. A slice of country-style heaven, the cute town is only a 1-2 hour drive into San Diego backcountry. Aside from nature and the gorgeous oaks, you’ll find hiking trails, apple-picking, an ice cream soda shoppe, pumpkin patches during harvest season, a big Christmas tree in the square in winter, and the best homemade pies in SoCal at the Julian Pie Company. The town is barely three blocks long, and features a Dutch bank franchise, Christmas market year-round, and charming, pedestrian-friendly streets beneath old iron street lanterns. It’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon, or as a homebase for fishing/boating at nearby Cuyamaca Lake.
Beach Getaway: Malibu
Malibu is famous, ritzy, and gorgeous. The best approach into this wealthy beach town is through Malibu Canyon Road, which winds you along the face of rocky cliffs and hills until the ocean pops into view. Then you descend into the multimillion-dollar neighborhood of the rich and famous…where you have a really good chance at seeing them, especially if you can afford to eat in the same restaurants they do. Otherwise, enjoy the scenic drives, the hiking trails, and the clean, bright beaches. And hey, while you’re here, explore LA too!
Road Trip: Las Vegas
Las Vegas has a magical allure that draws tourists from all over the world 365 days a year. The neon lights, extreme characters, and dazzling entertainment give this city a character all of its own. It blends international culture, cuisine, and ambience into one “small world” – with a notorious naughty, “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” secrecy. You can truly lose yourself here – and all your money if you’re not careful.
Desert Camping: Joshua Tree
About a 2-3 hours’ drive northeast from San Diego, Joshua Tree is an incredible display of nature where the Colorado and Mojave deserts collide. You’ll see characteristics of both: the strange ocotillo tree across the road from a garden of cholla cactus, or natural palm oases mingling with miles of dry landscape littered with giant boulders. The hikes and nature trails offer lots to do for adults and kids alike (scrambling over rocks is fun at any age, right?), but I’d stay away from May through September – it’s HOT. Pack a tent or just some sleeping bags and sleep out under the Milky Way.
Outdoor Adventure: Big Bear
Big Bear is perfect all year round. In the summer, there’s hiking, parasailing, jet-skiing, boating, fishing, tanning, and swimming. In the winter, there’s skiing, snowboarding, toboggan runs, sledding, and warm cozy cabins. There’s no shortage of things to do in any month, but keep in mind this is a difficult place to access in the winter, as the dizzy mountain roads leading up to it will be icy and dangerous.