Explore Trip Ideas

Destination Los Angeles

Los Angeles may be known for its sunshine, beaches, movie industry, and shopping, but did you know there is a world of diverse landscapes, cultural riches, and quiet beauty in just a few hours’ drive? Spend a morning in the city and escape for an afternoon into coastal environs, or head into the solitude of a forest—even sleep overnight in the cool mountain air. Check out these opportunities:

Channel Islands (Sebastien Burel)


Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park (David Denton)


Channel Islands National Park is located off the coast of Ventura, California. Come witness the isolated plant and animal life that are unique to these islands and surrounding waters. Overnight camping is by reservation only. Boat excursions are available for both day use and overnight visitors.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park (Carol Williams)

The park is located 140 miles east of Los Angeles. Explore the seemingly desolate landscape and strange, Dr. Seuss-like, trees where rare and fragile life prospers. Camping is available year round and reservations are recommended from fall until late spring.

Big Bear Discovery Center, San Bernardino National Forest 

Engage in one of the many nature programs, attend concerts, or celebrate the Harvest Moon at this discovery center. The Forest offers numerous overnight camping opportunities.

Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument & Visitor Center

Absorb the towering mountains, desert wildlife and cultural history of California.

Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, Bureau of Land Management

Investigate how fault lines shape land forms or survey some of the various species of birds known to live here.

Chilao Visitor Center, Angeles National Forest 

Listen to the call. Visit this internationally recognized bird watching site. For information on camping in the forest, click here.

Big Pines Recreation Area, Angeles National Forest

Scout out hiking, camping, and picnicking opportunities along Hwy 2.

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, National Park Service

Nestled in the mountains north and west of Los Angeles, discover the rich marine and coastal ecosystems of southern California. Group camping available year round at the Circle X Ranch.

Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail

Hike a portion of this scenic trail that traverses from Mexico to Canada. Various trail heads provide access.

Los Padres National Forest

Adventure into the mountainous land along the the California Coast's scenic Highway 1 from Ventura through Big Sur, all the way up to Monterey, with elevations from sea level to 9,000’. This is arguably one of the most spectacular drives in the world.  For more information about camping along the way, click here.You'll also find the historic Hearst Castle just north of Morro Bay.

Culture & History

California Science Center

Stimulate your senses and feed your curiosity at this hands-on museum where fun is geared for all ages.

Japanese American Museum

Visit a museum dedicated to sharing the experience of Americans of Japanese ancestry and learn their role in shaping U.S. history.

Mt. Wilson Historic Observatory and Skyline Park

Dating back to 1935, survey this working observatory that offers views into our universe.

Museum of Latin American Art

Celebrate Latin American art from both the past and works from contemporary artists.

Outdoors Santa Barbara Visitor Center - National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

Take in views of the city, harbor, mountains, and islands. Displays include the Chumash culture, Spanish explorers, missionaries, and American ranchers.

Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians

Tour the largest Fan Palm Oasis, go hiking, or learn more about this tribe at the Cultural Museum. Reservations required.

San Manuel Reservation

Join the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians at their annual fall Pow Wow.

The California Missions (various locations)

Many designated as National Historic Landmarks—are a prominent storyline in the settlement of California.

Scenic Drives

Angeles Crest Scenic Byway, Highway 2

Journey the 55-mile scenic route through the San Gabriel Mountains. There are plenty of spots to enjoy the views. In winter, play in the snow!

Arroyo Seco Historic Parkway, Route 110

Travel this historic roadway that harkens back to the earliest parkways designed in America. Arts and Crafts architecture is prominent.

Jacinto Reyes Scenic Byway, Route 33

Follow this 36 mile route that links California’s Gold Coast with the undeveloped and arid space of the Cuyama and San Joaquin valleys.

Pacific Coast Highway, Route 1

Cruise the highway that frames views of the ocean, rocky shorelines, cliffs, and historical landmarks.

Palms to Pines Scenic Byway, Route 74

Discover the wild land beauty and contrasting environment of the San Bernardino Forest along this 67 mile route.

Rim of the World Scenic Byway, Various routes

Tour the 110 mile route along the crest of the San Bernardino Mountains through a beautiful, natural environment full of panoramic views.