Weekend escapes: Quick getaways close to Southern California

Golfing and biking highlight a shoulder-season weekend escape to Whistler, Canada

“Do I pack golf shoes or snow gear?” my wife, Terri, asked. “Yes,” I replied. We have a thing for shoulder-season travel, so last year we headed to Whistler, Canada, in early October. It is the Pacific Northwest after all, and the weather could do most anything.

It's more than just child's play on a weekend escape to Legoland in Carlsbad

At Carlsbad's Legoland, a plethora of plastic bricks, stimulating interactive exhibits, interesting food choices and the recently opened Castle Hotel are more than enough to hold the attention of two young boys — and their grandparents.

Discover a spectacular slice of California on a weekend escape to Alpine County

The little-populated, rugged county between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite is a delight, with interesting pioneer history, good fishing spots, rugged hiking and brilliant fall color

Explore Ventura's beaches, shops and family-friendly restaurants on a weekend escape

A last-minute summer getaway ticks all the boxes for an active family. Just make sure you leave enough time to try surfing.

Check out Fleet Week on a weekend escape to San Pedro

There are activities aplenty: You can tour a Navy warship, search for whales and dolphins off the coast and get a look at mega-ships bound for destinations around the globe.

If you like ancient trees, fish and barbecue, you'll love tiny Big Pine, Calif.

He likes to fish and she likes trees. They compromised over tangy barbecue as they sat at a roadside picnic table in full view of U.S. 395. He would get a new back country creek said to be full of trout and I would get a new, all-day hike.

Surrender to the laid-back rhythms of Cayucos on a weekend escape to the Central Coast

The unfussy little beach community offers plenty of opportunities for stress relief: window shopping on Ocean Avenue, strolling on the pier, exploring the tide pools and hiking along the bluffs as the sun sets.

As Las Vegas sizzles, head for a weekend escape to nearby (and cooler) Mt. Charleston

Cool mountain air, bristlecone pines and towering limestone cliffs will greet visitors to this getaway about half an hour northwest of Sin City.

What to do in Laguna Beach when the weather doesn't go your way

If the weather isn't cooperating in the famed Orange County coastal town — too cloudy, too cool — you can turn to other delights, including a rehab center for marine mammals.

Take me out to a Quakes game on a weekend escape to Rancho Cucamonga

Just $30 gets you two front-row seats over the Quakes dugout and an interaction with the team mascot, After Shock. You would pay $1,100 for the same view in Los Angeles. And at this Inland Empire venue, there's not a bad seat in the house.

On a weekend escape to Pacific Beach, you can party on the boardwalk and chill on the bay

San Diego’s Pacific Beach has a split personality. On the ocean side, the energy is as pumped up as the surf during a southwest swell. But cross Mission Boulevard, the town’s main drag, to Mission Bay, and it’s a different story. Crowds are sparse, and the mood is as calm as the water.

Often overlooked, the wine-country getaway town of Livermore, Calif., has concerts and fine dining at hand

The small Bay Area town offers enticing attractions with a theater festival (Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” through July 15; “The Winter’s Tale” July 12-29) as well as concerts (Steve Martin and Martin Short Aug. 23) under the stars.

Military history, scenic state parks and tasty shellfish make for a rich weekend escape on Whidbey Island, Wash.

Just 30 miles from Seattle, you can sleep in the officer's quarters at a historic fort, slurp Penn Cove mussels or catch the views from 200 feet up a tree.

Bounce in a dune buggy on a sandy weekend escape to Pismo Beach

With the grandkids in tow, a trip to Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Preserve proves, in places, roller-coaster scary but oh, so fun. At the end of the 90-minute ride, the prevailing sentiment was "More, please."

Nevada's Great Basin National Park unfurls rugged vistas in the daytime, expansive sky at night

Only about 90,000 visitors come to this park each year. That means unspoiled campgrounds and quiet alpine trails devoid of the crowds you might find elsewhere.

Mammoth too crowded in summer and winter? Escape in the spring or fall, a.k.a. the 'slow season'

Summer or winter always seemed like the right time to be in this Sierra favorite. But by going at a different time, you may just find the peaceful retreat you need.

A weekend escape to Windsor — no, not that Windsor

Never heard of Windsor? The charming town, between Healdsburg and Santa Rosa, has cute shops, excellent restaurants and a lovely town green. Better yet, it's evolving as the microbrew capital of Sonoma County.

Escape to Creston, cowboy country on California's Central Coast

Wineries and Wild West charm are the big draws in this little-known cowboy town. Need to get some shut eye? Head to the Carlton Hotel in Atascadero.

Hiking and history are on display on a weekend escape to Prescott, Ariz.

It seemed like a tall order: A four-day window filled with history, hiking, good eats, an interesting hotel and pleasant weather. And it had to be somewhere neither of us had visited. Prescott, Arizona, fulfilled our wishes

Experience a weekend escape at a campsite in the sky in Sequoia National Forest

Want an unusual camping experience? Consider the Oak Flat fire lookout tower, which is for rent. The upside? An incredible view of the Kern River Valley. The downside? You must bring your own food, water and gear.

A weekend escape to Sonora, Calif., where the charm of the Old West remains

The small city in the foothills of Tuolumne County was incorporated in 1851, making it one of the oldest in California. Its historic buildings now house art galleries and antique stores, a taproom and a tea lounge.

A klutz's guide to a weekend at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon

A twisted ankle meant rewriting the script for a getaway that had included hiking. No problem, thanks to the national park shuttle-bus system. There's history to learn, ever-changing vistas and even good shopping.

There's more to Carpinteria than choppy surf and blowing sand on a spring weekend escape

A classic beach burger at the Spot, cupcakes galore at Crushcakes and, for those with green thumbs, two nurseries that make the drive to Carpinteria worthwhile.

It's all about the cool water on a warm-weather escape to Arizona's Rim Country

Clear mountain lakes, pine forests, wild elk and afternoon monsoons. Your first guess wouldn't be Arizona, would it? Amazingly, it should be. A rolling green-foliage-and-red-earth swath midway between high-plateau Flagstaff and hot-desert Phoenix is an oasis.

Expedition cruise to Baja, Mexico, is a game changer, if a little pricey

Weekends are precious — hey, there are usually only 52 a year. If you want to optimize one, try getting far, far away from it all on a mini-cruise in the Gulf of California, a wild, pristine body of water off eastern Baja.

Check out movie history on a weekend escape to Kanab, Utah, a.k.a. Little Hollywood

It’s a spunky little town with a lot going on: a walk of fame honoring the 90 or so movies and TV shows filmed in the area, a retro-cool motel and lots of restaurants to choose from.

Discover dry Owens Lake on a weekend escape to Lone Pine

For our family, Lone Pine was the road-trip stop with the fast-food-adjacent park. Later, it was where we got sweet treats at the Frosty Chalet. But recently, I’d heard about restoration efforts and public access at dry Owens Lake I wanted to explore.