Stay “Local” and Check Out Three SoCal Regional Getaways

Healthy Living Spring 2022
(Jo Ann Snover/Jo Ann Snover -

As we all ease back into travel, it’s okay to start small and local, staying nearby and dipping a toe in leaving town - especially with gas prices reaching new peaks. Here are four Southern California weekend (or extended weekend) getaways that are all short on drive time, but long on fun.

Ventura and Santa Barbara
Sea, city and sipping is the triple-attraction of a long weekend cruising Highway 101 along the Pacific Coast of “northern” SoCal.

Start with a scenic cruise or guided kayak paddle in Channel Islands National Park on Island Packers boats that depart each morning from Ventura Harbor. From gray whales and humpbacks to hundreds of dolphins in a “super pod,” there’s always plenty of marine life to spy while asea.

A bit further up the coast in gorgeous Santa Barbara, you can rent bikes for a ride along the waterfront, visit the historic mission, or browse the latest special exhibition at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art before dinner in one of the gourmet eateries along State Street. On the last day, head over the hill into the Santa Ynez Valley and sip your way across the Santa Barbara wine country, landing at charming Danish village Solvang for a pastry treat before heading home.

North Coast San Diego
A short drive down the 5, coastal Carlsbad, Encinitas, Solana Beach and Del Mar offer some of San Diego County’s best sleeps, eats, shopping and sand. From surfside camping at South Carlsbad State Beach to posh digs like Aviara and the Grand Del Mar that rank among the nation’s top 25 hotels, there are plenty of overnight options. After dark, head for Coast Highway 101 in downtown Encinitas, one of San Diego’s hippest noshing and nightlife spots.

Take your pooch for a stroll along Dog Beach, find something special for the home at the trendy Cedros Design District or catch classic musical acts at the legendary Belly Up in Solana Beach. Have a picnic on the grassy bluffs or ride the waves at the foot of 15th Street in Del Mar. Meet up with the family at Legoland California and the unique Museum of Making Music, and then snap selfies with the spring blooms at the famous Flower Fields in Carlsbad.

Palm Springs and Joshua Tree
Even if you don’t golf or play tennis, the Palm Springs desert region is magical. And it’s not just those mild, sunny, blue-sky days.

A throwback to the era when classic celebs and entertainers held court, Palm Springs is as hip as ever thanks to events like the Coachella and Stagecoach music fests in April, International Short Film Festival (ShortFest) in June, and fall festivals that feature food trucks, craft beer, and hot-air balloons. Every Thursday night throughout the year, the Palm Springs Village Fest along Palm Canyon Drive offers food, drink, arts, crafts, live entertainment and free entrance to the Palm Springs Art Museum.

On either side of summer, the Palm Springs area offers awesome hiking through its desert oasis canyons and the old-growth forest around Mt. San Jacinto at the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Joshua Tree National Park is just up the road, a pristine desert landscape renowned for its giant redrock boulders, cactus gardens, remote trails, and desert campgrounds beneath a billion stars.

Mountain Highs
It may not be the Rockies or Sierra, but Southern California has some pretty amazing mountains. Consider the fact that Mt. San Gorgonio - the region’s highest peak - is nearly twice as tall as any mountain east of the Mississippi. Sure, the towering range provides that most iconic of all Southland photo ops: palm trees set against a backdrop of snowy peaks. But it’s also the perfect weekend escape. Come spring, the mountain villages of Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear attract a steady stream of boaters, hikers, and bikers, as well as those who just want to chill on a waterfront deck.

Mountain visitors can also dive into science at heavenly observatories at the crest of Mt. Palomar and Mt. Wilson, learn about the colorful gold rush history in Julian, or get up close and personal with animals at the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, the California Wolf Center or artsy Idyllwild village, where the duly elected mayor and town greeter is Max II (a golden retriever).

-Joe Yogerst