Whether you want to retreat into the wilderness or hop between small towns, there’s plenty that the Golden State offers you to choose from.
By Sona P.
5 min read
November 07, 2021
For a state as big and diverse as California, trying to narrow down where exactly to go on your next trip can feel like picking an item off a 1000-dish menu. Many of the state’s vacation spots like Napa, Los Angeles, and San Francisco may need a little (or a lot) of planning ahead. But what if you just want to get away for a few days? Whether you’re looking to retreat into the wilderness, stretch out on the sand for a few hours, or hop between small towns, there’s plenty that the Golden State offers you to choose from. To make your guesswork a little easier, we’ve rounded up the best mini getaways in California; bon voyage!
Last-Minute Getaways in Northern California
Looking for something new and exciting? How about taking a trip to a town that’s undergoing an energetic renaissance? And sure, Sacramento is known as the State Capital, but recently, it has become much, much more than that. Young professionals come here for the urban vibe, opening up quaint eateries, gastropubs, and trendy boutiques (which are found at almost every corner by the way). Michelin-starred chefs are making miracles with local ingredients and award-winning recipes—the city is the national leader in farm-to-fork cuisine. And besides being a foodie haven, Sacramento boasts the most idyllic evenings; perfect for strolls along elegant Victorian-era homes and nature’s bounty.
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Speaking of Victorian, this next getaway destination makes time stand still. A fairytale come-true, the Humboldt County gem of Ferndale boasts pristinely-preserved Victorian-era homes, a visual feast for both nature lovers and architecture buffs, as well as the big redwood duo—Humboldt Redwoods State Park and Redwood National and State Park. Staying here will prove one of your best staycations in California thanks to the sheer charm the day-to-day in Ferndale brings.
On peaceful foggy mornings, you can stroll their Main Street to see the town’s famed buildings. On sunny afternoons, you can peruse their impressive selection of artisan chocolatiers, galleries, and craft shops. And on holidays—which are especially magical—you can join the locals and adorn the city streets in twinkly lights or take a horse-drawn carriage ride into the sunset.
3. Big Sur
There’s no better last-minute getaway in Northern California than the incomparable Big Sur. It’s one of the world’s most unforgettable stretches of coastline, dotted with redwoods and a fog-trimmed waterfront. Big Sur is located between Carmel-by-the-Sea and Hearst Castle—amazing destinations in their own right—and draws you and many other creatives like Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac in for an unforgettable ride. The magical allure of the area is palpable in the bluffs, sky, sea, and sand. It’s, quite simply, the place to be.
Getting to Big Sur is an event all by itself. Follow along the twisting Highway 1, take advantage of all the pullovers, catch glimpses of endangered California birds, and keep an eye out for migrating whales.
Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, a steep Highway 101 hillside adorned in chaparral and eucalyptus drops to a sunny shoreline—Sausalito. Most people walk or bike over the bridge to reach this gem, sit and have coffee at a cafe on the main street Bridgeway, and gaze back across at the bay towards the sunset-soaked skyline. This, by all means, is a lovely way to spend your day. But it barely scratches the town’s surface. Sausalito is a place where art intersects with industry, a place where people make things with their hands and pour their hearts into the food they make. The ceramic pottery and tiles that local Edith Heath turned into a city staple can now be found not only in Sausalito but on the tables of two-thirds of the restaurants in the Bay Area. As far as mini-getaways go in California, this is definitely one you won’t be able to forget.
Mini Weekend Trips in Southern California
So you didn’t exactly have time to plan that European vacation, don’t worry—SoCal has the next best thing. Picture a village where the air is scented with colorful, freshly-cut flowers and straight-from-the-oven pastries; that’s Solvang. There’s also gingerbread architecture (perfect if you like to get into the holiday spirit early), twirling windmills, and smiling faces wherever you look. The latter also serve you farm-to-fork food and delights from local chocolatiers.
Founded by Danish Americans who hailed from the Midwest, Solvang—translating from Danish into ‘sunny fields’—is also known for its theater program, with thrilling performances taking place in a 700-seat outdoor theater.
6. Joshua Tree National Park
Traveler couples looking for an outdoor escape should really consider visiting Joshua Tree National Park. Its stunningly stark and bewitching beauty will put you right under its spell; you’ll really forget that the outside world even exists. Whether you’re looking for peace of mind, a strenuous adventure, a stargazing sesh, or an Old-West-inspired type of outing, Joshua Tree has countless outdoor delights to keep you occupied on your weekend getaway in California.
Searching for those famed L.A. vibes minus the traffic? Ventura is the answer to your prayers. With excellent waves, great cuisine, and access to an incredible national park, this coastal city is a triple threat—it’s also great when you don’t exactly have a fleshed-out plan for your last-minute getaway. Ventura neighbors the urban buzz of Los Angeles County, but it also marks the beginning of the Central Coast; lush farms, the sparkling wine country, and all that jazz. Its heart, however, lounges along its biggest edge, the roaring Pacific. The land of surf, sun, and sand is the weekend trip in Southern California you need to go on
8. Big Bear Lake
If you ever need a mini version of SoCal’s charm packed in one getaway; go to Big Bear Lake. Just two hours from Los Angeles, the towering San Bernardino Mountains offer a cool pine-scented escape that’s perfect for families searching for a fun weekend trip in Southern California. At an altitude of about 7,000 feet, Big Bear Lake is like a hub of alpine recreation. Ski resorts in winter, a seven-mile lake in spring, and golfing in summer, you can pretty much visit here whenever you want.
Perfect for when you just want to chill out and slow down for a few days, Ojai is considered one of the best solo getaways in California. Known as a real-life Shangri-la of sorts, Ojai is a haven for rejuvenation. This town is tucked in the valley of the Topatopa Mountains at the southern edge of the Los Padres National Forest; you’ll feel like you’ve found a gem of a refuge on your relaxing getaway in California. You can choose to stay at sprawling resorts or kick it cabin-chic style in one of the many no-frills spots offered in a town with pink sunsets.
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Sacramento, the capital of California is a great place to visit for a cheap vacation. The city has plenty of affordable hotels and restaurants, and there are also lots of things to do in the area. One of the best ways to enjoy Sacramento is by taking a walk or bike ride through the city.
- Learn to save money with food in your trip. ...
- Use affordable modes of transportation in California. ...
- Find the rigt flight in the rigth time. ...
- Save money in a long term trip in California. ...
- Save money in a short term trip in California. ...
- Plan your budget trip to California in advance.
- Best small towns in California.
- Morro Bay.
- McWay Falls near Carmel – a famous CA waterfall.
- Paso Robles.
- San Juan Capistrano.
- Gaviota State Park near Los Alamos.
High season is considered to be June and July. The cheapest month to fly to California is January.What is a short trip for pleasure? ›
excursion. noun. a short journey that you take for pleasure.What should people do on short getaway? ›
Keep it simple
- Beach break.
- Hiking in the mountains.
- City escape.
- Road trip in the countryside.
- Out of town festival.
- Shopping trip.
- Sit by the pool at a resort.
The best way of travelling has no name to it. I am talking about impromptu travel—the style of travel that is whimsical, spontaneous and crazy in every sense.What is the number 1 attraction in California? ›
1: Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is one of the top attractions in California. This gorgeous wilderness rests along the Sierra Nevada mountains. Its granite cliffs and waterfalls are the kind of beauty that only exists along America's West Coast: immense, majestic, and breathtaking.
- Chico: cheapest city to live in Northern California. ...
- Eureka, a convenient city to live for travelling. ...
- Sacramento: one of the safest places to live in California. ...
- Bakersfield, a relaxing affordable town for big cities getaway.
Best Time to Visit California for Cheap
Crowds and prices drop for a cheaper California vacation on the coast and in the mountains in the shoulder season (April – May, and mid-September – October). Along the coast, rates drop even further in the winter season from November to March.
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- Ventura. ...
- San Pedro. ...
- Eureka. ...
- Grover Beach. ...
- Long Beach. ...
- Oceanside. ...
- Imperial Beach. ...
Concord is named the “happiest” city in America, according to a study by HouseFresh. The city was also named the “smiliest” in the country. For both categories, San Francisco cracked the top 20 with a ranking of 15th. No other California city cracked the top 20 in either the “happiest” or “smiliest” categories.Where do millionaires live in California? ›
While most millionaires live in Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area houses the wealthiest communities, and Los Altos Hills is the richest city, Santa Clara is the current titleholder for the state's wealthiest county.What's the number 1 city in California? ›
- Public Speaking. ...
- Travel Blogging (or fashion, food, mommy, tech, etc.) ...
- Brand Ambassador. ...
- Teaching English Jobs. ...
- Social Media Influencer (the most fun way to get paid to travel!) ...
- Work On a Cruise Ship. ...
- Yacht / Sailboat Delivery Work. ...
- Run Your Own Travel Tours or Become a Guide.
- Check nearby airports. Destinations with multiple airports give you more airline, itinerary and price options. ...
- Book one-way. Round-trip flights aren't always the cheapest. ...
- Get on the phone. ...
- Play chicken. ...
- Take the red-eye.
Mexico. Unsurprisingly, Mexico makes the list of the cheapest places to travel in 2022. The country has long ranked as an affordable and easy-to-reach destination for many Americans; reasonably priced direct flights are abundant.How much do you need per day in California? ›
In total, expect your average California trip cost to be about $95-155 per person per day if you want to visit on a budget. While there are certainly ways that you can cut down on costs and not spend that much, this is the budget to stick to if you want to cut costs in some ways and splurge in others.Which airport is cheaper to fly into in California? ›
|Airport Ranking||Airport||Search Cheap Flights|
|First Place||Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)||Search Flights To Loas Angeles|
|Second Place||San Francisco International Airport (SFO)||Search Flights To San Francisco|
|Third Place||San Diego International Airport (SAN)||Search Flights To San Diego|
Overall, however, home-price growth in California has slowed during the second half of 2022. Current conditions suggest that this trend could continue into 2023 as well. Despite what prices do in the short term, they'll likely continue to climb over the long term.
A micro-cation is defined as a leisure trip that's less than five nights. Essentially, it's a quick getaway or a brief travel fling to make the most of your precious time off.What can I use instead of trip? ›
(Psychology) a vivid feeling of being detached from one's body, usually involving observing it and its environment from nearby. Abbreviation: OBE or OOBE Compare near-death experience.Why shorter vacations are better? ›
By taking frequent, smaller vacations, you eliminate the mourning of a long trip that often occurs and also have something to look forward to sooner rather than later. A small amount of planning and time away can reap large rewards. It's easier to disconnect on a shorter trip than on a longer one.How do you plan a weekend getaway on a budget? ›
- 1) Find an affordable place you can get to. First, look at how many miles away your destination is. ...
- 2) Find a place to stay. ...
- 3) Look for things to do in the area. ...
- 4) Plan out your departure day at least two days before. ...
- 5) ENJOY & KEEP IT DRAMA FREE!
A day trip is a visit to a tourist destination or visitor attraction from a person's home, hotel, or hostel in the morning, returning to the same lodging in the evening.What is considered a last minute trip? ›
What is considered Last minute Travel? Last minute travel can be defined as traveling within a few days of planning. Unlike trips planned in advance, last minute travel includes setting out on a tour within 14 days of booking in general.What is a singles vacation? ›
Singles vacations allow you to indulge in your perfect getaway without having to match your schedule, interests, or needs with anyone else.Is there a charming town in California? ›
La Jolla, CA
One of the most upscale yet charming villages filled with galleries, shops and cafes along the Pacific Coast is located in San Diego County.
- Alcatraz Island. 55,838. Historic Sites • Islands. ...
- Golden Gate Bridge. 49,627. Historic Sites • Points of Interest & Landmarks. ...
- San Diego Zoo. 28,742. Zoos. ...
- USS Midway Museum. 25,305. ...
- Universal Studios Hollywood. 36,934. ...
- Griffith Observatory. 20,486. ...
- The Getty Center. 14,635. ...
- La Jolla Cove. 13,645.
- Emeryville is the most dangerous city in California, with a violent crime rate of 6,284 per 100,000 residents. ...
- Due to Emeryville's small population, each citizen has about a 1 in 15 chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime. ...
- Located in Alameda County, Oakland is a major commerce hub in the East Bay Area.
Ventura in Los Angeles is an affordable California beach town to live in if you want to be somewhere with beautiful views and charming weather. Some other inexpensive coastal cities to live in California are Long Beach, San Pedro, and Eureka.What is the cheapest city to live in California 2022? ›
Sacramento. Sacramento is the cheapest large city to live in California. It's also the capital of California and one of the state's most diverse cities. It has its own funky local culture and also features easy access to popular destinations like San Francisco and Lake Tahoe.What is the best month to go to California? ›
The best time to visit California is summertime from June to August. This is the peak tourism season for the state for good reason. Every part of the state is accessible, making hikes and outdoor adventures in the northern regions possible with mild, comfortable temperatures.What part of California should I visit for the first time? ›
Where should you go when visiting California for the first time? Our advice to first time visitors to California is to start your trip in one of the big cities with major airports—San Francisco, Los Angeles, or San Diego.What is the best month in California? ›
The months of September and October are ideal to visit California as they avoid the fog and the crowds and the temperature is ideal for spending time on the beach, sight-seeing, and attending festivals. One of the many appeals of California is that it's a great destination any time of year.What is the least affordable city in California? ›
Study shows San Diego now the least affordable city for home-buying in California. San Diego bypassed Los Angeles and San Francisco based on people's income and the price of single-family homes.Is California cheap for tourists? ›
In total, expect your average California trip cost to be about $95-155 per person per day if you want to visit on a budget. While there are certainly ways that you can cut down on costs and not spend that much, this is the budget to stick to if you want to cut costs in some ways and splurge in others.What part of Cali is affordable? ›
If you're looking for a cheap place to live in California, the northern part of the state is your best bet as the cost of living in Northern California is much lower than in SoCal. And some of the cheapest places to live in California, like Eureka also offer some of the best quality of life.Is LA or SF cheaper? ›
Despite LA boasting some of the highest prices in America by way of rent and health insurance, the Bay Area still averages as 55% more expensive! Although the cost of food and transportation are similar, the housing prices are where the differences are really prevalent.
- Median household income: $44,581.
- Median home price: $610,000.
- Share of income: 87.39%
- Thailand. There's a reason why Thailand remains so popular with backpackers – it's got idyllic islands , a rich culture, beach-huts aplenty, tantalising cuisine and adventures galore , and all available at often staggeringly low prices. ...
- South Africa. ...
- Vietnam. ...
- Uruguay. ...
- Cuba. ...
- Prague, Czech Republic. ...
- Greece. ...
From his research, Clark has found that Californians are almost exclusively moving to Texas' four large metro areas — Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin.Is LA or SF dirtier? ›
L.A. was voted dirtier and more stressful than San Francisco—but that's just like your opinion, man. Hella sad. These marine layer mornings have us thinking about the Bay Area a bit recently—well, that and the fact that San Francisco stomped all over Los Angeles in the Time Out Index.Which part of Los Angeles is cheapest? ›
- North Valley.
- Northridge East.
- Park La Brea.
- Victor Heights.
- Greater Valley Glen.
Cost of Living in California vs. Texas. In Texas, you can get a lot more bang for your buck. A MyMove study evaluating the cost of living in the United States in 2022 shows that California has a cost index of 151.7, while Texas has a cost index of only 91.5.