Feel the need to get out of town but don’t have the time or money for a long vacation? Thankfully, LA has loads of quick and convenient getaway options that are all within a short driving (or in one case, sailing) distance away. From beaches to mountains, we really do have it all so get ready to plan and spend some free time exploring what our surrounding area has to offer. Or, better yet, keep it spontaneous and pick one of these options in the morning and hop in the car for a fun-filled, easy day trip from Los Angeles.

photo: Beth Shea

Take a last-minute road trip to the adorable seaside town of Carpinteria. Set up on the beach for a fun day of body boarding, sand castle making, and relaxing. Don’t forget about the Tomol Interpretive Play Area, too–the kids will be entertained for hours.

For a quick and easy daytime activity, visit LA’s secret gem Decanso Gardens with the whole family. The little ones will love frolicking among the colorful flowers, and there’s also an array of kid-centric activities offered, from storytime to an exciting ride on an enchanted train.

Explore the tide pools at Malibu Lagoon State Beach–the kiddos will love touching starfish and chasing down crabs. Don’t forget to keep your eye out for birds too, since the beach is known for its variety of feathered friends. This trip is an animal lover’s dream!

Or, how about a local spot that still feels out of the ordinary? The Venice Canals are only a few short blocks away from Muscle Beach but feel like you’ve been transported to Venetian Italy. It’s a quiet little neighborhood location with lots to see and plenty of places to explore.

photo: Andie Huber

Sail offshore and explore Santa Catalina Island for a day. Take the ferry and eat some pancakes at the Pancake Cottage before watching the kiddos paddle around the harbor. Keep your eyes open for bison, bats, snakes and other reptiles living on the island.

Why choose when you can have it all? While exploring the “Three Magical Miles” of Mulholland Highway, you can hike at the beautiful Peter Strauss Ranch, fish at Trout Dale, shop for antiques at Charme D’Antan, eat at the local spot the Old Place, and even go wine tasting, all within walking distance of one another.

photo: Solvang Visitor Center

Step into Southern California’s version of Denmark in Solvang, the dubbed “Danish capital of America.” Sample Danish treats, go for a leisurely bike ride or peruse the cute shop-lined streets. Your kids are sure to love the whimsical European feel of this little town, so don’t forget your camera for some photo ops.

If you don’t mind driving a little further, leave the congestion of the city (and smog) behind and head to Big Bear Lake and take in some nature. Be sure to visit the Moonridge Animal Park or cruise around the lake on Miss Liberty, a paddlewheel tour boat.

If you need to rejuvenate, take the family to Ojai to enjoy the artsy town as well as Lake Casitas, where you can rent a boat or go fishing. And for the kids, the lake also has a Water Adventure Park. This water park is much smaller than the water parks in LA, which makes for shorter lines and cleaner water.

Want to go camping but don’t have time to travel far? Take the fam to Malibu Creek State Park. Hiking during the day with the little ones will net you some awesome sights, including a glimpse of deer, birds, and frogs in their natural habitat.

Where does your family like to go on day trips? Let us know in the comments below!

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—Sabrina Blardone & Andie Huber

Unless noted, photos courtesy of Big Bear Lake’s Facebook

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