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5 Family-Friendly Day Trips from Los Angeles

day trips from los angeles

Let’s face it: You’re raising a family in the LA area, and flights of fancy are no longer in the cards. Where once you threw yourself into impromptu weekend getaways wine tasting your way across the Ojai Valley, your Saturdays and Sundays are now filled with Chuck E. Cheese birthday parties and soccer practice pick-up times that thrust you right into rush hour traffic.

The thing is, you love your family and would do anything to make them happy, especially if it means walking over Legos in the middle of the night when you’re half-awake. With so much to do and such little time to get it done, you need some fast and solid options for serious fun. We know how you feel, and as such, we’ve created the following list of easy-peasy daytrips from the LA area you can enjoy between the hours of a single sunrise and sunset.

Day Trips From Los Angeles, California

1. Theme Parks

While destinations like Universal Studios and Raging Waters are too close to the legitimate LA area to be considered here, theme parks in the Orange County area are just far enough to count. Although names like Knott’s Berry Farm, Adventure City, and Great Wolf Lodge Water Park might come to mind, the apparent champion of all Los Angeles daytrip destinations is and always will be Disneyland.

Located only a short drive away in the Anaheim area, Disney is at the top of nearly every family’s list of places to spend a day. Just be sure to plan ahead, as the park has sprawled out quite a bit with the addition of its Star Wars frontier, and there’s no way to fit in every ride in a day.

2. Beaches

When you live right on the Pacific, SoCal beach trips are a natural option. Being that locations like Venice, Marina Del Rey, and the “beach town” of Santa Monica are only a stone’s throw from Hollywood, we’re sure you’ve visited them hundreds of times already. To shake things up, consider these not-too-distant strips:

  • Malibu
  • Laguna Beach
  • Newport Beach

3. Island Time

RELATED: Malibu Creek State Park is the Way to Do Outdoor Los Angeles

A couple of popular island destinations off the Southern California Coast that kids and families are sure to love. The ferry ride from the San Pedro area to Catalina Island only takes about an hour, and there’s a lot to do there, from exploring the Avalon Boardwalk to snorkeling and horseback riding.

Meanwhile, the Channel Islands can be reached by ferries leaving from both Santa Barbara and Ventura. Your options here include things like nature hikes and guided tours via kayak.

4. San Diego

Since the San Diego area is only about a two-hour drive from downtown LA, its range of attractions makes for some of the best day trips imaginable. Road Trips from Los Angeles to San Diego cover a wide range of pursuits, including trips to Coronado Island, the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, La Jolla Cove, Balboa Park… the list goes on. Whether you’re enjoying authentic Mexican tacos in the city’s old town areas, or whale watching from one of its many popular seaside haunts, your family is sure to make lasting memories.

5. Outdoor Recreation

There are quite a few state parks, national forests, and other outdoor areas not far from the Los Angeles area. You’ll find the Angeles National Forest, which has quite a few hiking trails to enjoy, just north of the Pasadena area. Drive just about two hours East, and you’ll reach Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino National Forest. In addition to more obvious options like swimming, fishing, and kayaking, the Big Bear area has attractions like a zoo, a waterpark, and a miniature golf course, just to name a few.

Best Day Trips from LA: Who Didn’t Make the Cut?

Like we said above, your days of jumping tasting rooms in wine country are numbered. As such, destinations like the Santa Ynez Valley are off the table. Give yourself a pat on the back, though: you shouldn’t drink and drive anyhow, especially with little ones to care for.

In addition to trips that revolve around forbidden pleasures, other seemingly practical options didn’t make the list simply because there’s so much to do within an hour or two’s drive from downtown Los Angeles that we were forced to be picky. For instance, while we usually wouldn’t steer you away from desert destinations like Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park, we figure you and your family will have more fun in places that don’t require so much water and sunscreen. If you’re anything as pale as comedian Jim Gaffigan and his family, you’ll thank us for this consideration.

What’s your favorite daytrip from the Los Angeles area? Help other families out on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!

READ MORE: 25 Cities, Parks, Forests & Attractions to Customize Your California Road Trip

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