33 Fun Weekend Getaways From San Diego, California

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Known as “America’s Finest City”, San Diego is world-renowned for its comfortable weather, laid-back beach towns, and proximity to some of the best towns and attractions great for singles or the entire family.

Whether you live in the area or are just visiting, San Diego is an excellent base for exploring more of what California has to offer. With its beautiful Pacific Coast beaches, charming neighborhoods, and vibrant arts scene, San Diego is a wonderful place to live, work, and visit. But sometimes, you might feel the urge to venture out and experience another side of the Golden State. Luckily, there are many fantastic destinations within a few hours’ drive; from quirky roadside attractions to theme parks and a luxury stay on a secluded island, the options for a weekend trip are endless.

While you can enjoy all these destinations, year-round, spring and fall are fantastic times to visit for optimal weather and colorful blooms. However, winter can offer new experiences in some Northern California destinations.

From under a 30 min drive to over 8 hours, all of these destinations will have you coming back for more. Read on to discover some of the best weekend trips from San Diego.

Lake Tahoe

Distance: 529 miles, 9 hours 14 mins

Highlights: Outdoor activities, Emerald Bay State Park

Straddling the border of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe boasts breathtaking views, world-class ski resorts, and a variety of outdoor activities. In the warmer months, hike or bike the numerous trails around this freshwater lake, go swimming, or take a scenic boat tour. 

In the winter, try your luck at one of the area’s casinos or head to the slopes for excellent skiing opportunities – Rose-Ski Tahoe is a local favorite. The scenic drive around the lake after a fresh snowfall is stunning!

San Francisco

Distance: 502 miles, 8 hours

Highlights: Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, Take a ferry to Sausalito, watch for sea lions at Pier 39 or enjoy a plethora of unique cuisines

Starting from the north, although San Francisco is a bit of a drive from the San Diego area, it’s definitely worth considering for a long weekend trip. This unique city is famous for its iconic Golden Gate Bridge, historic cable cars, and colorful Victorian houses. 

There’s no shortage of exciting neighborhoods to wander through during a weekend in San Francisco. Check out the Mission District, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Chinatown. During your time at Fisherman’s Wharf, don’t forget to try the delicious sourdough bread bowls filled with clam chowder at Boudin Bakery and enjoy the free nature center on Pier 39, giving a glimpse into the lovable seal-brities that often camp out on the pier.

Architecture lovers will enjoy Alamo Square, home to the iconic Painted Ladies. You can also spend a day at Alcatraz Island, home to a former military prison, learning about the intriguing stories of attempted escapes.

Of course, a trip to San Francisco wouldn’t be complete without a stroll through Golden Gate Park, boasting several lovely gardens, including the Japanese Tea Garden, Shakespeare Garden, and a Rose Garden. Enjoy the grounds and get great views of the towering suspension bridge along the park’s beaches.

girl in a pink jacket sitting in front of a panoramic view of mountains and green tree forest

Yosemite National Park

Distance: 400 miles, 7 hours

Highlights: Hiking, backpacking, scenic drives,

Yosemite National Park is one of California’s most iconic natural wonders in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, with towering rock formations, breathtaking waterfalls, and ancient sequoia trees. This is the perfect weekend trip from San Diego if you love to be outside. Take in the views from Glacier Point, hike to Yosemite Falls, or explore the meadows and valleys of the park on horseback.

Tunnel View is a spectacular spot for photographers, showcasing Bridalveil Falls and the granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome; it’s a fantastic sunrise spot any time of year!

Head to the Yosemite Village for outdoor dining, museums like the Yosemite Museum, with changing exhibits about the park each year, and the Ansel Adams Gallery for landscape photography.

Sequoia National Park

Distance: 323 miles, 5 hr 45 mins

Highlights: Snap a photo with General Sherman, drive through tunnel log, walk through the Giant Forest

Sequoia National Park is home to some of California’s most stunning natural wonders and is one of the best weekend trips from San Diego. Here, you’ll find the world’s largest trees, the giant sequoias, including General Sherman, the largest tree in the world. 

Explore the park’s many trails, enjoy panoramic views from Moro Rock (a granite dome), and take a scenic drive along the General’s Highway. As the only paved road running through this national park, this 45-mile path is excellent for enjoying the beauty of this area.

Don’t forget to visit the underground Crystal Cave, boasting beautiful streams and rock formations. This is the only cave open to the public out of the 240 caves in Sequoia National Park.

Mammoth Lakes

Distance: 403 Miles, 6 hours and 30 mins

Highlights: Year-round outdoor activities

Mammoth Lakes is a popular year-round destination for outdoor enthusiasts in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Enjoy hiking, mountain biking, and fishing amidst stunning alpine scenery in the warmer months. Visit Devils Postpile National Monument, a formation of basalt columns, and the incredible Rainbow Falls, towering over 100 feet. 

Head to Mammoth Mountain for skiing and snowboarding during winter, or explore the nearby cross-country ski and snowshoe trails.

San Luis Obispo

Distance: 311 miles, 5 hours 30 mins

Highlights: Go wine tasting, dine and shop in its charming downtown, or visit unique Bubblegum Alley

Though it’s about a 5-hour drive from San Diego, San Luis Obispo is worth the trip. This charming small town features a lively downtown area with unique shops, delicious restaurants, and a vibrant art scene. History buffs can visit the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, a 1700s Spanish mission and museum. 

Don’t miss the popular Farmers’ Market, featuring five blocks of barbecue, fresh produce, and fun entertainment on Higuera Street. You can also visit the nearby wineries, like Chamisal Vineyards, for a taste of California’s Central Coast and even admire a wall covered in Bubblegum.

Big Bear Lake

Distance: 145 miles, 2 hours, 50 mins

Highlights: Year-round outdoor activities

Escape the city and immerse yourself in nature with a trip to Big Bear Lake, just a few hours from San Diego. This small Southern California community is located in the San Bernardino Forest, offering a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, mountain biking, and boating. During winter, Big Bear turns into a destination ski town. Visit Big Bear Mountain Resort for skiing and snowboarding, winter hiking, sledding and snowmobiling.


Distance: 135 miles, 2 hours 15 mins

Highlights: Enjoy a concert or sports game at the Rose Bowl, explore the famous Huntington Library, Museum, and Botanical Gardens

Home to the stunning Rose Bowl Stadium and the annual Tournament of Roses Parade, Pasadena offers a blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. This city is located northeast of downtown Los Angeles and boasts shopping, dining, and Victorian and art deco architecture.

Explore the city’s many museums, including the Norton Simon Museum. Another must-visit is the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens – you could spend an entire day here with fantastic art and lush gardens.

Laguna Beach

Distance: 73 miles, 1 hour 30 mins

Highlights: Sunsets on the beach, hiking trails, Pirate Towers, local boutiques, and bistros

For a relaxed road trip, head to the beautiful coastal community of Laguna Beach in Orange County. Known for its stunning beaches, art galleries, and miles of hiking trails, this small town is perfect for a seaside stroll, sunbathing, or exploring the vibrant art scene.

Bring your swimsuit and enjoy Main Beach, featuring tide pools and a boardwalk leading to Heisler Park. For surfing, check out Aliso Beach Park. Crystal Cove State Park is another excellent option with stunning coastlines, historic beach homes, and inland chaparral canyons that can be explored on foot.

Laguna Beach is also the location of the iconic pirate tower that was once a staircase to a beachside home. You’ll find it on Victoria Beach, another fantastic beach to watch the sunset.

Napa Valley

Distance: 532 miles, 8 hours 30 mins

Highlights: Wine tasting, scenic drive through rolling hills, delicious dining

Although a bit of a trek, wine connoisseurs or those looking to indulge in some delicious food and drink and enjoy the countryside, Napa Valley is a must-visit destination in Northern California. Renowned for being a world-class wine region, you can spend the day exploring the stunning vineyards, wine tasting, and dining at exceptional restaurants like la Toque or the tasty homestyle cooking at Mustard’s Grill or Rutherford Grilll

Be sure to plan a visit to some of the many renowned wineries in the area, such as Robert MondaviBeringer, and Castello di Amorosa. The latter, located in Calistoga, is a 13th-century castle-turned-winery with tours and Italian-inspired wines.

Lake Arrowhead

Distance: 130 miles, 2 hours 30 mins

Highlights: Outdoor activities on the lake, enjoy shopping and dining, and live music during concert events

Nestled in the San Bernardino Mountains, Lake Arrowhead is an ideal destination for a peaceful weekend trip from San Diego. Enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, and boating on Lake Arrowhead, or relax with a picnic in the picturesque surroundings. Hiking trails in this area include Heart Rock and Seeley Creek Trail, featuring exciting rock formations. 

While you’re here, explore the charming Lake Arrowhead Village, featuring a variety of shops, local restaurants, and the Arrowhead Center Stage Concert Hall, where the community gathers to enjoy summer concerts and fall festivals.

Catalina Island

Distance: The ferry from Dana Point to Avalon on Catalina Island is 1 hour and 30 mins

Highlights: Delicious Seafood, outdoor beach activities, nature and wildlife

Catalina Island, near Channel Islands National Park, is an incredible weekend trip destination, just a short ferry ride from San Diego. This picturesque island offers a variety of fun activities, such as hiking, snorkeling, zip-lining, and exploring beautiful beaches. You can also tour the island’s fascinating history, wildlife, and stunning natural landscapes. 

Catalina Island is well-known for its excellent diving sites and Mt. Orizaba, the highest peak on the island, making this an excellent place for those that love the outdoors. Don’t forget to watch for bison roaming freely on the island and migrating whales breaching in the distance.


Distance: 84 miles 1 hour, 15 mins

Highlights: Rest and relaxation, visit locally owned shops and restaurants, enjoy nature

If you’re looking for a peaceful getaway in a charming mountain town, look no further than Idyllwild near Irvine, CA. This quaint village is nestled in the San Jacinto Mountains, offering a serene escape from the bustling city life surrounded by nature.

During your visit, hike to the top of San Jacinto Peak, check out the Idyllwild Nature Center, or head to the Indian Vista Scenic Overlook on the Pines Scenic Byway. Downtown Idyllwild is also great for browsing art galleries and dining in locally-owned restaurants and boutiques. It is the perfect weekend trip for anyone who loves a small-town charm vibe.


Distance: 57 miles, 1 hour 15 mins

Highlights: Tasty sweet treats and pies, enjoy the rustic small-town charm, live music and festivals

Julian is a historic gold mining town in the beautiful Cuyamaca mountains, just an hour northeast of San Diego. Known for its delicious apple pies at the Julian Pie Company, and the charming small-town vibe, Julian is the perfect place to spend a relaxing day exploring the local shops, restaurants, and beautiful countryside. 

History buffs will enjoy exploring the tunnels of a real gold mine at Eagle Mining Company. If you need a snack, stop by Julian Farm and Orchard to pick your own fresh apples or sample some tasty cider. The town is also known for its artist community and hosts a number of live events supporting the visual arts, photographers, musicians, and performers throughout the year. You can also enjoy a Dark Sky event as Julian is one of the few towns in America that can still see the Milky Way with the naked eye.

Long Beach

Distance: 113 miles, 1 hour 3 mins

Highlights: Beaches, Shopping, Museums

Long Beach is a diverse coastal city just a short drive from San Diego. With a wide range of attractions, from the Aquarium of the Pacific to the RMS Queen Mary Museum, there’s no shortage of things to do in Long Beach. 

Visit Shoreline Village for endless shopping, entertainment, and dining inspired by a Cape Cod fishing village – it’s also a great place to watch the sunset! You can also stroll along the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, or splash in the water at Junipero Cherry Beach. 

Art lovers will enjoy the Museum of Latin American Art, showcasing about 1,300 pieces and a sculpture garden. You can also check out the nearby Naples Island, known as California’s “Little Italy,” for its resemblance to Venice. Rent a kayak for the day, get lost in the canals, or book a gondola ride during your visit.

Los Angeles

Distance: 122 miles, 2 hours

Highlights: Visit movie studios, the Sunset Strip, do some high-end shopping, and enjoy beaches, museums, and theme parks

With over four million residents, LA is the second-most populous city in the country and a popular tourist destination, making this one of the best weekend getaways from San Diego. There are endless things to see and do in Los Angeles – in fact, you could probably spend more than a weekend here! 

Popular activities include visiting the iconic Hollywood Sign, strolling along the iconic Venice Beach boardwalk, and exploring the world-renowned Getty Center Museum. For sports enthusiasts, LA is home to several professional sports teams like the Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers, and Rams.

Visiting downtown Los Angeles is a must for anyone looking to experience the excitement and culture of this iconic city. You can explore famous spots like the Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Broad Museum, and the Grand Central Market in this area.

Spend a day touring the Warner Bros. Studio in Hollywood – you’ll get to see the iconic sets of Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Harry Potter, and Gilmore Girls, making this the perfect activity for those who love movies and TV shows!

Universal Studios Hollywood is another fun theme park for film buffs and thrill-seekers. This iconic theme park (built around a working film studio) offers an immersive experience, with attractions and rides based on popular movies and TV shows like Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and The Simpsons. In addition to the thrilling rides, be sure to catch one of the many shows and performances throughout the day.

Santa Monica

Distance: 134 miles, 2 hours

Highlights: Santa Monica Pier, Beaches,

Santa Monica, California, is a lovely beachfront city on the west side of Los Angeles. Santa Monica is one of the most popular destinations in Southern California, famous for its stunning beaches, colorful pier, bustling promenade, and sunny weather. 

While you’re here, strolling along the iconic Santa Monica Pier is a must-do. This historic landmark is home to an amusement park, an aquarium, and various delicious food options, along with a sign and booth marking the end of the road to iconic Route 66. After exploring the pier, spend some time on the beautiful beach or check out the nearby shops and restaurants.

Another great place in Santa Monica is the Third Street Promenade, a pedestrian-only street home to many shops, cafes, restaurants, and street performers. You can hike or bike along the scenic oceanfront path, soak up some sun on the white sandy beaches, or take in some culture at the Santa Monica Art Museum

Venice Beach

Distance: 131 miles, 2 hours 30 mins

Highlights: Go for a workout at Iconic Muscle Beach, walk the canals,

Take a two-hour drive from San Diego to experience the vibrant and eclectic Venice Beach near Los Angeles. Stroll along the iconic Venice Boardwalk, watch street performers, and explore the local shops and restaurants. 

Stroll through the Venice Canals, composed of artificial wetland canals, and enjoy the neighborhood’s lovely homes and peaceful atmosphere. Don’t forget to check out the colorful street art and the famous Venice Skate Park for some impressive skateboarding action.

Coronado island

Distance: 5 miles, 15 mins

Highlights: Restaurants, shopping, the lux Hotel del Coronado

Only a 15-minute drive or ferry ride from downtown San Diego is the lovely island/peninsula of Coronado. Known for its delightful atmosphere, large Naval base, and the soft sand of Coronado Beach, it makes the perfect weekend getaway from San Diego. Enjoy the downtown views from Bayview Park and the historic homes in downtown. Shop at the posh local boutiques and grab a bite at the trendy bistros of Orange Ave.

For a luxurious weekend, consider staying at the timeless Hotel del Coronado, whose stunning grounds have hosted movie stars and former presidents like Marilyn Monroe, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan.

Downtown San Diego

Highlights: Sports games, Museums, Naval Ships, waterfront dining, shopping, the San Diego Zoo

Known for its high-rise buildings, historic landmarks, and distinct neighborhoods, downtown San Diego is a hub of activity and culture, making this area perfect for a weekend staycation. One of the most popular attractions in downtown San Diego is the historic Gaslamp Quarter, which features an array of Victorian-era buildings, trendy bars and clubs, and a thriving nightlife scene. 

Visitors can also explore the USS Midway Museum, located on a decommissioned aircraft carrier and houses a collection of historic aircraft. From the Midway Museum, walk to Seaport Village, an adorable pedestrian-only area along the waterfront with great shops and restaurants.

While exploring downtown, enjoy Balboa Park where you can find world-class museums, historic architecture, beautiful gardens, art galleries, and the San Diego Zoo. If you love sports, head to Petco Park, for am MLB game and enjoy views of the beautiful downtown skyline from the stands.

From downtown, you are close to Coronado Island, a resort town home to beaches, surfing, and the grand Victorian Hotel del Coronado, constructed in 1888. After a stop on Coronado Island, go to Point Loma, where you can see the Cabrillo National Monument. This landmark commemorates the landing of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo at San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542.

San Diego Beach Towns

Distance: 30 mins

Highlights: Flower fields, Torrey Pines State Park,

One of the best parts of San Diego are the nearby sandy beaches! Visit La Jolla for its beautiful waterfront, upscale shopping, and vibrant dining scene. Hike through the rugged nature trails of Torrey Pines, admiring the ocean views as you go. Delightful La Jolla village is perfect for shopping and waterfront dining- watch for seals and sea lions splashing in the water below!

If you’re here in the spring, head to Carlsbad to experience the stunning flower fields filled with gorgeous ranunculus flowers. You can find these colorful fields at Carlsbad Ranch, where you can also explore an orchid greenhouse, a butterfly garden, and a tractor-wagon ride.

The charming coastal town of Encinitas is another excellent destination for a weekend trip from San Diego. This is a popular spot for surfers with beautiful beaches and big waves. Plenty of restaurants and cozy cafes offer some of the best low-key beach vibes.

Joshua Tree National Park

Distance: 148 miles, 3 hours

Highlights: Cholla Cactus Garden, Arch Rock, Heart Rock, Skull Rock, Hall of Horrors, Keys View

A haven for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers, Joshua Tree National Park is a perfect weekend destination from San Diego. Located about three hours from the city, this park is home to the famous Joshua trees, which give the park its name, and unique rock formations and stark desert landscapes. 

Visit one of the three visitor centers for park information, interactive exhibits and facilities. Spend the day hiking, rock climbing, or simply marvel at the park’s stunning landscapes. Year-round hiking trails include the 1.4-mile Arch Rock Trail, the 1.1-mile Barker Loop, or an easy sunrise hike through the Cholla Cactus Garden.

Death Valley National Park

Distance: 283 miles, 5 hours 30 mins

Highlights: The Artists Palette, Bonneville Salt Flats, Zabriskie Point, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

A visit to the hottest, driest, and lowest elevation in the US is a must-do on any travel bucket list. Death Valley National Park, straddling Nevada and California, offers an otherworldly experience with its vast sand dunes, salt flats, and colorful badlands. 

Explore the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes for a striking contrast of sand and mountains. The sand dunes in this area reach 100 feet high- perfect for sandboarding. Head to Zabriskie Point for sunrise or sunset and enjoy hiking through the badlands and Crystal Canyon.

Titus Canyon is another intriguing spot in this park-marvel at the colorful rocks, petroglyphs, rugged mountains, rare plants, and even explore a ghost town! The gravel road through the canyon is considered one of the most dangerous in the US and can take up to 3 hours, so drive safely and be prepared with a Car emergency kit.

Santa Barbara

Distance: 218 miles, 3 hours 30 mins

Highlights: Mission Santa Barbra, dining, shopping, beaches

For a picturesque coastal getaway, head to The American Riviera, better known as Santa Barbra. Set against the Santa Ynez Mountains, Santa Barbra offers numerous shopping and dining choices, with a world-class wine scene, plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities, and stunning Spanish-Revial architecture. Stroll along the beautiful beaches, kayak through the pristine waters, hike in the Santa Ynez Mountains or enjoy a sunset on the famous Stearns Wharf.

While you’re here, check out Mission Santa Barbara, founded in 1786 and known as one of the most beautiful Missions in the country. The 15-acre property is home to Franciscan friars and a museum with stunning Pacific views and beautiful gardens spanning the pristine property.

Santa Ynez Valley

Distance: 251 miles, 3 hours 30 mins

Highlights: Wine tasting, museums

Wine lovers will cherish a road trip to the Santa Ynez Valley, renowned for its wine – especially Pinot Noir. Fantastic winery options include Sunstone WineryKalyra Winery, and Brave & Maiden Estate.

Visit the Danish-style city of Solvang, nestled in southern California’s Santa Ynez Valley, and enjoy the charming European-style architecture while tasting even more local wines. 

This adorable town is also home to the Elverhøj Museum of History & Art, which explores the area’s Danish history. The Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum is another excellent option, especially if you love motorcycles!

Ojai Valley Inn

Distance: 206 miles, 3 hours 15 mins

Highlights: Best for a luxury get-a-way, Spa and Golf sessions

Consider a weekend getaway at the 5-star Ojai Valley Inn for a luxurious retreat. The resort features stunning grounds, a world-class spa, and an award-winning golf course and has been a favored getaway destination since its opening in 1923. The daily resort fee will give you access to the tennis courts, driving range, putting green, and in-room WiFi. This hacienda-style resort features many dine-in options, full-service bars, and restaurants, ensuring you won’t have to leave the property during your stay.

Enjoy views of the surrounding mountains, daily activities, wellness events, and informative classes such as Golf Fundamentals, Bluegrass Brunch, or a Tennis clinic during your stay.

Desert oasis with green palm trees in a rocky valley

Borrego Springs

Distance: 86 miles, 2 hours

Highlights: Desert Art Installations, Borrego Desert State Park, hiking, offroading, it is a Dark Sky community.

Borrego Springs is a quirky desert town just two hours away from San Diego. This area has a funky art scene – you can explore the metal sculptures portraying supersize prehistoric and imaginative monsters in Galleta Meadows.

Don’t forget to visit Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Situated in Borrego Springs, this is an ideal destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Explore the largest state park in California with its diverse desert landscape. Enjoy hiking, stargazing, and witnessing the famous springtime wildflower bloom.

Temecula Valley

Distance: 58 miles, 1 hour

Highlights: Hot air balloon ride, wine tastings, shops, and dining in downtown Temecula

Another wine region worth visiting on a road trip from San Diego is the Temecula Valley – one of California’s best-kept secrets. In addition to wine tasting, visitors can explore the historic Old Town Temecula, with its unique shops and restaurants. 

For an unforgettable experience, take a sunset hot air balloon ride to soak in the panoramic views of the wine country, vineyards, rolling hills, and nearby lakes.

Palm Springs

Distance: 129 miles, 2 hours

Highlights: Hiking, biking, art museums and galleries, hot springs, golf courses

A two-hour drive east of San Diego, Palm Springs offers a mix of relaxation and adventure. This area is best known for its golf courses, sunny weather, natural mineral hot springs, pumped into the region’s spas and resorts, along with its art culture and world-famous music festival, Coachella. Ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to the top of the San Jacinto Mountains for breathtaking views. Enjoy walking through the palm oasis and rocky canyon at Indian Canyons, and take in the city’s rich history and mid-century modern architecture downtown. 

Palm Springs is also home to numerous golf courses, art galleries, boutiques, and tasty eateries – many of these can be found along the central shopping district along Palm Canyon Drive. Enjoy incredible hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails as well.

San Jacinto Mountains

Distance: 123 miles, 2 hours 30 mins

Highlights: Hiking, nature, wildlife, historic museum

Surround yourself with the beauty of nature with a day trip to the San Jacinto Mountains. A haven for hikers and nature lovers alike, explore the abundant trails and take in the expansive vistas. The mountains also offer rock climbing, fishing, and wildlife spotting opportunities.

Mount San Jacinto State Park is one of the best places for climbing and hiking. While you can reach the top of San Jacinto via the tramway, you can also head up the mountain on foot, with several moderate hiking trails beginning in the town of San Jacinto at the Idyllwild Park Picnic area.

Other than hiking and climbing, you can also visit Estudio Mansion and Museum for a dose of local history and marvel at the Hemet Maze Stone, a mysterious petroglyph that is at least 500 years old. 

Route 66 Road Trip 

Distance: 134 to 332 miles, 2-5 hours

Highlights: Walk through the glass art at Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch, explore the secrets at Calico Ghost Town, dine on hearty cheeseburgers and malts at Peggy Sue’s Diner.

If you are up for kitschy American, ghost towns and nostalgic diner fare, a Route 66 Road Trip is what you need. Route 66 extends from Chicago through Texas and Arizona before reaching California and ending on Santa Monica Pier. The southern California section of Route 66 runs through Baker, Barstow, and Helendale with sites such as the World’s Tallest Thermometer, Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch, Calico Ghost Town, and the must see Peggy Sue’s 50s’ Diner. Extend your Route 66 road trip into Nevada and spend the weekend living it up in Sin City.

Salton Sea

Distance: 117 miles, 2 hours 30 mins

Highlights: Quirky art of Bombay Beach, Water Recreation at the State Recreation area, bird watching, camping

The Salton Sea makes for an interesting weekend trip from San Diego; known both as a ghost town and an outdoor recreation area. This landlocked lake in southern California has increased salinity from polluted runoff water over the years, making it 50% saltier than the Pacific Ocean. Despite its increasing toxicity, it is an important breeding ground for many bird species. 

Visitors can explore the Salton Sea State Recreation Area in the northeast part of the lake, which offers a range of outdoor recreational activities, such as hiking, bird watching, and fishing. Just a bit south is the seemingly deserted town of Bombay Beach, where remnants of a once-thriving resort community can be seen.

Salvation Mountain in Slab City is another intriguing attraction in the Salton Sea area. This man-made mountain is an art sculpture devoted to spreading the word of God. It took over 28 years to create and now welcomes over 2,000 visitors weekly.


With all there is to see and do from San Diego, you could spend years exploring it all. There is no wrong time to visit, so enjoy your weekend trips from San Diego and have fun exploring the best parts of sunny southern California.

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  1. Judith Connaughton says:

    Catalina Island is one of the Channel Islands. It is not in Channel Islands National Park. Thank you for covering so many great places in my home state.

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