Got Presidents Day plans? 4 last-minute road trips within 4 hours of L.A.


You didn’t make plans for the long weekend. Now Presidents Day is almost here, and you’re itching to get away. It’s not too late. Why not visit one of our favorite places? From San Diego to Paso Robles, we show you the best places to stay and the best things to see when you get there. So get packing and hit the road (early to avoid traffic).

2 hours by car
2 hours, 45 minutes by train (Pacific Surfliner)


Winter is a great offseason time to take your kids on a visit to Santa Barbara. Head to the Funk Zone for good eats, and then take the little ones to the newish MOXI museum, which opened in a building whose design evokes a sandcastle. It has more than 70 interactive exhibits that engage kids and adults while teaching STEAM concepts — science, technology, engineering, arts and math. They’ll have fun running in circles to speed up a big drum powered by their heartbeats.

Read more about how we kept the kids entertained.

San Diego

A view of downtown San Diego from Coronado Island, one of the city's many neighborhoods to explore.
A view of downtown San Diego from Coronado Island, one of the city’s many neighborhoods to explore.
(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)

2½ hours by car
3 hours by train (Pacific Surfliner)

Head south, travelers. San Diego, California’s oldest city, turned 250 last year. Chances are good you’ve already been to the San Diego Zoo; the Old Globe; the big art, science and aviation museums in Balboa Park; and the USS Midway Museum. But there’s more waiting just a couple of hours down the 5 Freeway. We visited museums, campus landmarks, historic structures and more, from the burgeoning Barrio Logan to the Sunset Cliffs of Point Loma.

Check out the 16 neighborhoods we visited.



A visit to Julian in winter is a good time to appreciate the area’s peaceful rural vibe.
(Howard Lipin / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

3 hours by car

Lots of folks are familiar with the little mountain town of Julian, known for its fall leaves, apple harvest and, especially, apple pies. But what about the rest of the year? An offseason visit brings serenity and some surprises. Looking for a Tyrolean skillet breakfast? You’ll find one in an unlikely place, the Cuyamaca Lake Restaurant & Store outside of town.

Go beyond Julian’s apple pies with our itinerary.

Paso Robles

3½ hours by car
5½ to 6½ hours (Pacific Surfliner and connecting bus)


“Field of Light at Sensorio” by artist Bruce Munro has been wowing visitors since it opened in May. The 58,000 solar-powered fiber-optic flowers create a techno superbloom not to be missed. The show was supposed to close in January but was extended through June. Insider tip: The lights covering 15 rolling acres are captivating after dark, but they’re just as stunning when sunset casts shades of gold, amber and orange.

Our “Field of Light” weekend trip itinerary is here.

As my friend Takayo and I drove the 208 miles north to Paso Robles, my imagination went into overdrive in anticipation of the 58,000 fiber-optic flowers that create Bruce Munro’s “Field of Light at Sensorio.”

Nov. 7, 2019