10 Small Towns Around LA You Should Absolutely Visit

Published on:
September 1, 2021

Southern California has long been a popular vacation destination for people across the country, even the world. The myriad of attractions and places to visit that this portion of California has to offer are varied. You don’t have to be from out of town to enjoy them. For people who live in the southern California area, there are some great small towns near Los Angeles that are definitely worth checking out.

LAKE ARROWHEAD

If you want to visit a town that offers a nice blend of tourist attractions and natural attractions, Lake Arrowhead is the town for you. Lake Arrowhead is in the San Bernardino mountains and offers attractions worth checking out at any time of year. Snow isn’t something that people often associate with southern California. Still, for those who choose this town for a winter weekend getaway, there are winter sports you can participate in. Winter sports include skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, or playing in the snow. During warmer months, there are many opportunities to go hiking, ATVing, fishing, and observing wildlife. If you like watersports, you can go water skiing, kayaking, or paddle boating. With Santa’s Village, the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, Lollipop Park, and Lake Arrowhead Family Fun Center, there are many fun things for families with children.

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO

San Juan Capistrano is a great place to visit for a quick weekend getaway if you like history or architecture. This mission is over 200 years old and features 31 historic structures. The oldest one is the Great Stone Church, which was built between 1797 and 1806. You can see two of the church’s original bells and see the bell wall, which rings daily. There are various religious and historic artifacts available for viewing, in addition to hands-on activities such as basket weaving. Be sure to check out the event calendar to plan your visit around any family-friendly festivals, concerts, and other events.

SOLVANG

For people who want the feeling of an international vacation without actually leaving the country, plan your next California weekend getaway with Solvang as your destination. This town feels like visiting Denmark thanks to its Scandinavian-style buildings, monument replicas, and sculpture replicas from Copenhagen. Visit during one of the signature events, including Solvang’s Julefest, Grape Stomp, and Danish Days for a fantastic long weekend getaway. Kids will love an opportunity to ride the trolley (a horse-drawn streetcar). If you love food and wine, there are various dining options and over 120 wineries and vineyards to check out. Download the Experience Solvang mobile app to take yourself on a tour of the town. For those who want to bring their dog along on their adventures, Solvang is a very pet-friendly destination. Solvang offers watering fountains down at a dog’s level, and a lot of shops provide dog treats, so you’ll always have some on hand to reward good behavior.

AVALON

Leaving the mountains and heading towards the coast, you can find Avalon on Santa Catalina Island. This secluded and beautiful resort community can be reached by boat or by plane. It’s a popular summertime vacation destination, so if you’re looking for a less expensive weekend getaway, consider visiting during the off-season when accommodations will be more affordable. Avalon is a great city for a weekend adventure, offering attractions for everyone! There are museums, art galleries, day spas, shopping centers, restaurants, and beaches with crystal clear water for people who want a more relaxing experience. If you find yourself craving a little more action, you can find it while snorkeling, sailing, hiking, biking, golfing, fishing, kayaking, ziplining, or observing local wildlife on tours. If you don’t feel like exploring all on your own, check out the guided sightseeing tours to find an option that works well for your weekend getaway.

JULIAN

The Gold Rush was one of the most exciting periods of California’s history. Julian is the perfect place to visit for people who want a chance to step back in time. Found in the Cuyamaca Mountains, this old gold mining town still has an old west aesthetic. You can take a goldmine tour, pan for gold, and explore mining tunnels. There are plenty of hiking trails and opportunities for fishing, horseback riding, and boating. If you love stargazing, be sure to visit during one of the Dark Sky events and check out their sky tours. Julian is also famous for its apples, which have taken the first place prize at multiple World’s Fairs and are used to make amazing ciders and pies. It’s also an excellent place for people who want to visit the mountains but hop to nearby casinos, the coast, or the Anza Borrego Desert State Park for a visit.

KERNVILLE

Julian isn’t the only gold mining place worth visiting. Kernville is another former gold mining outpost that people with a love of outdoor activities should add to their list of weekend getaway destinations. You can visit mines, camp at Frandy Park, visit a fish hatchery, or enjoy water activities. If you’re interested in ghost towns, the Silver City Ghost Town is close enough that you could hop over for a quick visit. The city has a museum where you can see a mix of Hollywood memorabilia, mining and ranching artifacts, and Native American relics. The Kern River offers rafting tours with multiple levels of difficulty. Children will need to be over age six to participate. Other water activities include kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and fishing. Aside from water sports, visitors can participate in hiking, mountain biking, and panning for gold. During the winter, it’s a great place to ski for families and beginners alike.

MORRO BAY

For a weekend getaway that offers something for just about everyone, check out Morro Bay. It’s perfect for birdwatching, given the peregrine falcons and other species of birds who make their home on Morro Rock. This 576-foot landmark is stunning and perfect for taking pictures. It’s not for climbing, though. You’ll get cited and fined if you try. Instead, opt for activities such as hiking, biking, or kayaking. Check out the tide pools at the Morro Strand State Beach to see different aquatic life, birdwatch at the Morro Bay State Park, or camp at the Montaña de Oro. There’s also the Morro Bay Skateboard Museum, Maritime Museum, and Hearst Castle to check out.

SOLANA BEACH

For a quick weekend getaway, Solana Beach, just north of San Diego, can be a great place to go. It’s a convenient getaway, easily accessed by Amtrak. The beach has multiple tide pools to explore, scenic cliffs, and playgrounds, making it an excellent location for families, couples, or individuals. There’s a great shopping district that features tons of public art, art galleries, and impressive architecture. If you like tasting, there are opportunities for both wine and olive oil tastings. If you plan a visit during May, check out when their annual Fiesta del Sol is for some extra special fun.

THREE RIVERS

If you’ve planned a long weekend getaway to the Sequoia or Kings Canyon National Parks, stop by Three Rivers on your way. Check out the Three Rivers Historical Museum, featuring a giant statue of Paul Bunyan. You could explore any of the tons of hiking trails, go river rafting, or rent a houseboat. It’s also home to the nation’s tiniest post office. Seriously, it could probably fit in your living room.

OJAI

Any Southern Californian looking for a way to relax during a weekend getaway needs to add Ojai to their list of places to go. You can get in touch with nature on a hike, indulge in a spa or health resort experience, tour a farm, visit art centers and museums, or go shopping. If you’re taking the family, check out the free concerts on Wednesday nights at Libbey Park Gazebo or visit the Casitas Water Park for some water-based fun.

Whether you’re looking for a chance to relax or an adventure, there are tons of places in southern California you can choose to visit for your next weekend getaway. Choose a beach town or a mountain resort, something with local heritage, or somewhere that reminds you of another country. There are plenty of small towns around LA that you need to check out the next time you plan a trip.