Southern California summer is upon us. Rather than hitting the same old beaches and barbecue pits you visit every year, why not try something different?
Season your life with surf, sun and island fun
Over the years, Catalina island has been many things to many people: hip Hollywood hangout, bootlegger hideout, baseball-training ground and even cowboy cattle country. Nowadays it's sort of a Southland version of the Caribbean — an alluring blend of outdoor adventure, seaside shopping and eating, and spring-break-style fun.
Two Harbors offers the island's best recreational beach, a palm-shaded strand where you can kayak or snorkel right offshore or simply laze on the sand. But Catalina's best kept secret is the Descanso Beach Club, where you can rent a private cabana, pamper yourself with a beside-the-sea massage or groove to the tunes of a waterfront DJ party.
Once upon a time, hiking and mountain biking — and dodging grumpy bison — were the epitome of Catalina backcountry fun. But new adrenaline activities like the Eco Zip Line, heli hiking and biking and off-road Hummer tours take island adventure to a whole new extreme. After dark, slip into an all-night bar crawl along the Avalon waterfront with stops at the Galleon, the Marlin and the Chi Chi Club.
Summer is an art form in SoCal's favorite desert city
Palm Springs is one of the state's more artful outposts — a desert oasis with a dozen different ways to paint your own vacation canvas.
Partake of the highbrow at the highly regarded Palm Springs Art Museum, where the main summer show puts the spotlight on modern art from the permanent collection, including works by Alexander Calder, Willem de Kooning and Pablo Picasso.
Or you can go lowbrow with DJ-driven pool parties that play out each summer around the turquoise ponds at the Saguaro, Ace and Riviera hotels. Take a trip back into the past at retro diners, a '60s-themed full moon party or '50s-era drive-in movies at various spots around the Coachella Valley.
Lake Arrowhead & Big Bear
Unspoiled nature less than hour away
It's hard to miss those massive mountains that rim the entire north side of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Rising more than 10,000 feet, they are protected within the confines of national forests and the brand new San Gabriel Mountains National Forest, created by President Obama in October 2014 to safeguard the range's extreme biodiversity, long history of scientific discovery and human heritage.
Visitors to the San Gabriels can crash in lakeside cabins or stay at proper hotels. There's a wide range of outdoor activities, from hiking and camping to boating, fishing and swimming in the mountains' two large water bodies — Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake.
Learn how to "mobe" and "bunny hop" at the McKenzie Water Ski School on Lake Arrowhead, which offers lessons to those who want to learn or perfect their wakeboard skills.
And no, you don't have to tone things down after dark. Both Arrowhead and Big Bear offer a good selection of rustic restaurants and bars. You can also catch a comedy show at the new Cave Club in Big Bear.