As magical as Los Angeles is, sometimes you need a break. Whether you're visiting the city on vacation or you live there, these day trip destinations give your student group a change of pace, change of scenery, and an abundance of awesomeness.
Less than 100 miles:
Ojai (81 miles) - The beauty of Ojai draws thousands of tourists every year. Many enjoy the recreational opportunities afforded by the mountain-backed valley town including horseback riding, hiking and/or biking, and even camping in the beautiful outdoors. Ojai, however, isn't just outdoor exercise. Also known for its stunning bistros, luxurious hotels and resorts, and relaxing spas, the attractions of Ojai prefer to focus on your relaxation. If you like touring, there is a wonderful art scene in the laid back downtown area, and plenty of festivals year-round encourage out-of-towners to sample some of the best Ojai can offer.
Laguna Beach (52 miles) - You may recognize it as the setting for the MTV show by the same name but this beachfront city isn't filled with as much drama as you think. Seven miles of sugar soft sand, sea caves ready for kayaking, spectacularly blue Pacific waters, and plenty of luxurious accommodations and attractions make Laguna Beach a highly sought after vacation destination. Winter is a great time to catch some wonderful whale watching from a ferry or onshore, or hop on the free weekend trolley and take a leisurely tour of the city. The weather of Laguna Beach is practically perfect, all year long, so you don't have to worry about not getting to the beach!
Big Bear Lake (96 miles) - Less than two hours from the sweltering desert heat of Los Angeles and you find yourself swathed in the cool embrace of the San Bernardino Mountains, surrounded by snow-capped peaks and chilly lakes. Big Bear Lake, with a history steeped in Native American tradition, is a popular ski destination in Southern California. Many visitors don't know that, so close to Mexico, you can find one of the top winter destinations in the country. Get a refreshing change of atmosphere in the chilly wintry air, snowboard or ski to your heart's content, or go shopping and tour the charming village of Big Bear with its mountain-meets-modern style!
San Diego (120 miles) - You all know and adore San Diego, what with the endless summers, historic sites and the all-around amazing attractions like the San Diego Zoo. But San Diego is also an amazingly affordable vacation destination along with being incredibly close to Los Angeles. If you're staying in L.A., you might as well hitch a ride (joking, please don't hitchhike) to Sunny San Diego where the Mexican food is sublime and the touring is phenomenal. There's never a shortage of things to do here. Go down to the Embarcadero and see the massive ships docked, head over to the Coronado Resort (even if you aren't staying there) and hang out on the beach, or spend some time in the various districts like the Gaslamp District, Little Italy, La Jolla, or Mission Beach!
Solvang (141 miles) - I've mentioned Solvang before in a post about cultural neighborhoods worth visiting (see it here!) and lucky for you, it's close enough to be considered a day trip destination! Modeled after and founded by Copenhagen transplants, Solvang is exactly like visiting Denmark in the middle of SoCal. Located in the Santa Ynez Valley, Solvang is perfectly designed to resemble a Danish city right down to the windmills, statues of patron author Hans Christian Andersen, and the Dutch Tudor style buildings. There's even a replica of Copenhagen's Round Tower in the center of the city square around which you can find lovely little boutiques, wine shops, restaurants and bakeries plying Danish recipes, and more! The city is also nearby several delectable vineyards, Catholic mission churches, and museums for extra incentive to visit!
Yosemite National Park (281 miles) - Without a doubt, Yosemite is one of the best and most popular national parks this country has ever known. Sheer rock cliffs, dazzling waterfalls, alpine and sequoia forests and a cornucopia of wildlife roaming (relatively) free within the park boundaries, Yosemite is a wonderland reminiscent of the days of old. Over 3.7 million people visit Yosemite every year and it's certainly worth the drive to see the granite cliffs rising like skyscrapers into the steel-blue sky or to find yourself face to face with a moose as it drinks from the lake. Go if only to take pictures of the amazingly beautiful landscapes but don't just sit in your car; take a hike, bike, or lazy stroll through the park and see some of the most gorgeous lands in the United States.
Over 400 miles:
North Lake Tahoe (500 miles) - It may be a little far for a day trip but you can certainly make it an overnight or weekend trip from L.A.! Lake Tahoe, whether it's north or south, is absolutely fantastic in all seasons. During the summer months, you can enjoy watersports on the lake, hike among the mountains and trees, and camp outdoors in the soft warm breeze. In the winter, Tahoe becomes a fabulous ski destination with all the best in winter sports. Like something from a fairy tale, North Tahoe in the winter looks as though it was plucked from an oil painting with the shimmering golden lights of the town set on the crystal clear alpine surrounded lake. If you don't want to spend your time outdoors, there's plenty of shopping, dining, gaming, and spa activities you can enjoy. So you know, Tahoe is also a wonderful place to travel with your dog!
San Francisco (347 miles) & Sonoma/Napa (411 miles) - Double trouble, trips to San Fran and even further to Napa wine country are popular choices for adult groups. However, with student groups, we'd suggest spending most of your time in the Bay City touring the fantastic sites like Alcatraz, Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf, and others. Shorter trips out to wine country are fun - but pricey. Touring vineyards and sites like the Castello di Amorosa are phenomenal if that's your style of touring. If not, the drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco is a feat unto itself and you'll want a nice long rest in your boutique hotel by the Bay. Make this into a weekend trip or an overnight so you can spend more time touring San Fran's off the beaten path attractions and see the city like the locals!