As we head into the last weeks of the “summer”, you may be looking for some fun ideas for day or weekend trips. Here are a few of our favorites that are a great way to enjoy our local entertainment.
Carpinteria is a charming, small California coastal community between Ventura and Santa Barbara known for its spectacular, safe beaches. The town life revolves around its lovely downtown, lined with stately palm trees, galleries, cafes, boutiques, and restaurants, which is the heart of the Carp, as the locals call their town. They go for burgers at The Spot, stroll along Linden Avenue for window-shopping, have a cup of coffee at Zookers Cafe, or try one of the local brews at Islands or Rincon Brewery. Carpinteria’s wonderful white sand beach is equally popular with families and surfers and is safe, clean, and spacious. Along the mile-long beach lies the Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve, a green area with hiking trails and scenic overlooks with views of the ocean and playful harbor seals. Carpinteria Valley Museum is a wonderful place to learn more about the area, with exhibits that range from Native American artifacts to original Victorian antiques.
One of California’s Channel Islands, southwest of Los Angeles, Santa Catalina is only 22 miles off the coast and is a curious combination of resort towns such as Avalon, the rustic charm of the old town of Two Harbors, rich wildlife and diverse wild nature at the nearby Mt. Orizaba, and endless adventures. The largest island beach, Descanso Beach, is lined with stately palm trees and colorful cabanas. The magnificent circular art deco Catalina Casino is the island’s cultural hub with a museum, a movie theater, and ballroom. Catalina attracts thrill-seekers with its Island Zip Line Eco Tour, snorkeling, diving, boating, and land and sea excursions.
Crestline is a small mountain resort town close to the major Southern California cities, perfect for an active day trip. Surrounded by the San Bernardino Mountains and on the banks of scenic Lake Gregory, Crestline is the perfect playground for visitors who want to enjoy fishing, swimming, boating, sunbathing, and fun waterslides. The whole area is crossed by hiking and biking trails snaking through the fragrant pine forests. All around Lake Gregory runs a fitness trail with high-tech exercise stations located at strategic spots. The historic Old Town area and Lake Drive are full of quaint shops, cafes, and restaurants. Horseback riders can head out to scenic Mojave River Forks Regional Park.
Los Olivos is a charming small town in the lush, scenic Santa Ynez Valley, surrounded by picturesque Santa Barbara County’s vineyards and lively horse ranches. The town is a wonderful place to visit for a day or a weekend as it is full of art, gourmet restaurants, excellent wineries and wine bars, antique shops, popular festivals, and great outdoor fun opportunities. Follow the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail to visit all the best wineries and vineyards. Stroll through the historic town center with old trees and gardens and a number of Victorian architectural treasures. Visit the 1882 Keenan/Hartley Home, Rice’s Gas Station, the Uncle Tom Davis Store and the Campbell and Fleenor homes.
Santa Barbara is a scenic and worthy vacation destination regardless of your starting point, but we’re fortunate enough to have relatively easy access (granted that the L.A. traffic gods are working in our favor).
Stearns Wharf is a go-to spot to see the Pacific, and nearby is State Street, filled with tons of shops and people-watching opportunities. And the Wharf isn’t the only place to see the water: Butterfly Beach, a relatively private spot, is situated next to the Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel and faces west for ideal sunset-watching views.
Grab lunch at La Super-Rica Taqueria—famous for being one of Julia Child’s favorite eateries. The lines tend to be on the ridiculous side, but it’s worth the wait for novelty’s sake alone.
If you’re traveling with family, spend a few hours at the Santa Barbara Zoo (reservations required). Otherwise, grab a glass of Pinot Noir at one of the many tasting rooms along the Urban Wine Trail (hours and status vary by winery); the spots are located in downtown Santa Barbara, and source grapes from local vineyards.
San Juan Capistrano
A piece of California history and a quaint old town make San Juan Capistrano an off-the-beaten-path day trip with a lot of charm and a little learning. If you take Amtrak there, the train will drop you off right where you want to be—just a couple of blocks from a good cup of coffee at Hidden House Coffee.
From there, you can tour Mission San Juan Capistrano, founded in 1776 and arguably one of the mission chain’s prettiest links. The mission used to be known as a migratory destination for swallows in February, but the famous birds have been spotty in recent years. If you have your heart set on getting up close with some animals, check out Zoomars (reservations recommended), a petting zoo for kids of all ages (read: adults love it, too). It’s a historic ranch where you can also pan for gold like the California miners did. You’re also near Los Rios Historic District, which has some historic homes and museums that are perfect for a walking tour.
When you get hungry, you have several options: Heritage Barbecue serves remarkable Texas-style smoked meats, Ramos House is a romantic spot known for great food and huge Bloody Marys on the weekends and Five Vines is a nearby wine bar with snacks and sandwiches. If you want to catch a later train, head over to Swallow’s Inn, the local dive bar, where bras hang from the ceiling and bands play late into the night. You’re still within stumbling distance of the train station.