Sure, LA weather is pretty perfect this time of year, but it doesn’t exactly scream fall with 80-degree temps and palm trees on every corner. If you’re looking to experience some bona fide sweater weather (and could use a change of scenery), here are five weekend getaways from Los Angeles that are perfect for this time of year. Read on for all the details, including the latest updates on Covid-related safety measures.
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Big Bear Lake
Drive Time: Big Bear Lake is only 90 miles from LA, but the last 31 miles of the drive are along a 2-lane, winding mountain road, which means your journey will take you about 2.5-3 hours.
Why We Love It: With Big Bear’s “Falltacular” in full swing, it’s the perfect time for families to soak in the crimson, orange and golden hued leaves which it’s famous for this time of year. Enjoy tons of exciting (and socially distanced) outdoor adventures like hiking, mountain biking, Segway tours, and even riding Snow Summit’s Scenic Sky Chair with breathtaking panoramic views of Big Bear Lake and the North Shore ridgeline. If horses are more your giddy-up, check out the Baldwin Lake Stables where you can book different types of tours around the valley’s east end. Another swell way to take in the gorgeous fall foliage is from the water. Rent a kayak, paddle board, canoe or book one of the magnificent sailing experiences led by certified captains around Big Bear’s beautiful shorelines and hidden coves.
While you’re in town, be sure to stop by the Gold Rush Mining Co. where littles can pan for gems and treasures of their very own. Or maybe you have pint-sized thrill seekers who’d jump at the chance to zip down the Alpine Slide, ride the Mineshaft Coaster or take a whirl around the track on high-speed go-karts at Big Bear Speedway.
Most of Big Bear’s restaurants are open with some offering outdoor dining options or take-out and delivery for visitors. We say take a night off from cooking and support these great local businesses which could really use the help right now.
Where to Stay: There are cabin rentals galore—most of which are taking extra safety and cleaning precautions during this time, as well as the spacing out of guests. Please doublecheck with the property before booking to ensure they have indeed reopened. The Lodge at Big Bear Lake is also open to visitors and features reasonably priced rooms and walkability to the Village.
Tips: To avoid overcrowding on hiking trails and biking trails, Big Bear asks visitors to consider an earlier start time in the day.
Big Bear visitors are also required to wear face masks in all common areas, indoor public spaces and anywhere social distancing cannot be practiced.
Big Bear Lake
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Drive Time: Approximately 40 miles past Santa Barbara, the road trip to Solvang takes around 2.5-3 hours.
Why We Love it: Known as the Danish Capital of America, Solvang oozes charm from every hygge-filled pore. From delightful windmills and to-die-for pastry shops to adorable playgrounds and the Hans Christian Andersen Museum (now open with restrictions), boredom is not an option. The whole family can pedal around on four-wheel Surrey bikes (rental places have special cleaning protocols in place) or hop aboard a horse-drawn trolley for a tour and some history of this special little town. Be sure to stop by Ostrichland USA for quality outdoor time with some feathered friends, take a peek at Hanson’s Clock Shop for cuckoo clocks galore, sample one of Solvang's famous aebelskivers (yum!), and check out the family-friendly outdoor patio at Dana V. Wines Tasting Room for a little vino – yep, we’ve got your back, parents.
Local restaurants have expanded their outdoor seating to accommodate guests and offer take-out and delivery services as well during this time.
Where: to Stay: The majority of Solvang’s hotels and inns are open to the public and have instituted strict cleaning and safety protocols, but please double check availability ahead of time. For a true Danish experience, we highly recommend checking out The Landsby. The atmosphere is beyond welcoming and the outdoor fire pits are perfectly cozy (and socially distanced) for gathering with your family on crisp fall nights. Plus, its central location makes it easy to walk to just about anywhere. The Atterdag Inn is another great option at almost half the cost of The Landsby. Though not quite as charming, it’s perfectly comfy and comes complete with a free continental breakfast at a local Danish bakery.
Several apartments and private homes are also available for rent around the surrounding Solvang area through booking sites like VRBO and Airbnb.
Tips: If your kiddos are prone to motion sickness, DO NOT take the winding San Marcos Pass shortcut (aka State Route 154), even if your GPS is advising you otherwise. You’ll thank us later.
Face coverings are required while out in public and especially anywhere indoors.
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Drive & Ferry Time: First, you’ll need to make the drive from LA to the Long Beach Downtown Landing where you’ll board a ferry to Catalina Island. Drive time usually comes in around 30 minutes and the ferry from Long Beach to Avalon takes about an hour. You may also catch the ferry from San Pedro if you prefer, but they only run a couple a day from that location. The ferry company, Catalina Express, has put robust safety and cleaning protocols in place to help its passengers stay well during their voyage.
Why We Love it: Smaller crowds, a slower pace and lower hotel rates make fall the perfect time to visit Catalina Island. For the health of its visitors, the island has also made a new KeepWell CommitmentÔ with enhanced cleaning, hygiene and safety protocols across all businesses. Lobbies and public spaces have been thoughtfully rearranged to dissuade crowding and help people social distance. If you feel like taking a dip, Catalina’s stunning ocean waters are still warm this time of year for swimming or snorkeling, and you might even spot divers on the hunt during lobster season that kicks off in October. Other kid-friendly highlights include eco tours to see the famed bison who roam the island, a zipline 500 feet above Descanso Canyon, glass-bottom boat tours that explore the marine life surrounding the island, submarine tours and a stop at the award-winning Catalina Island Miniature Golf Course for some friendly putting competition. The best part is you don’t need a car – pretty much everything is within walking distance or can be reached by taxi, trolley, golf cart or bike rental. Due to social distancing guidelines, most activities and tours require advanced reservations, so be sure to contact the business you’re using ahead of time.
Most local restaurants are now offering outdoor and beach dining or take out. Feel free to utilize their call ahead ordering when available.
Where to Stay: We’re big fans of the beachside Pavilion Hotel since it’s one of the rare places on the island where you can snag a room with two queen beds. It also has a delightful fire pit area and is conveniently located just fourteen steps from the sand.
Tip: Just beyond the famous Catalina Casino, be sure to check out one of the last private beaches in California that’s open to the public – Descanso Beach. Because it’s private, adults are legally allowed to enjoy a cocktail (or two) on the beach! Cheers!
Drive Time: Julian is located about 116 miles southeast of LA, which translates to a 2.5 hour drive with the kiddos – but that’s what the license plate game is for, right?
Why We Love it: A visit to the quaint mining town of Julian really makes it feel like autumn. Known for its apple orchards, outstanding homemade apple pies be sure to grab a slice of the incredible apple pie Julian is so well known for. Lucky for you, there are numerous bakeries and restaurants in town to choose from – although the caramel Dutch apple pie at Julian’s Pie Company is a definite fave. Sadly, the 2020 apple picking season has officially ended with crops having been picked over already, but never fear, there are plenty of other groovy things to do around town. For kiddos who love mining, stop by the Julian Mining Company for some gold panning, gem sluicing and tomahawk throwing fun. Or stop by the Oasis Camel Dairy for a private tour where your families can feed camels and mini sheep, as well as take camel rides for an additional fee. There are also plenty of gorgeous parks to lay down a picnic blanket and enjoy lunch with your brood.
Where to Stay: Founded in 1897, The Julian Gold Rush Hotel is the oldest continuously operating hotel in Southern California and makes you feel as though you’ve hopped in a time machine back to the olden days. With no TVs (gasp!), antique furniture and complimentary two-course breakfast in their outdoor courtyard, your family will feel unplugged and reconnected in no time. If you’d like something a little more to yourselves, there are many cabins and cottages for rent in the area as well.
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Drive Time: Idyllwild is 108 miles from Los Angeles with a little over 2 hours of quality car time with your precious little angels.
Why We Love it: Idyllwild is an adorably artsy town nestled in the San Jacinto Mountains. Filled with pine trees, fresh air, art galleries and stunning wildlife, there’s plenty of fun to be had. From fishing at Lake Fulmore to exploring the kid-friendly hiking trails at Mount San Jacinto State Park, Taquitz Peak and Devil’s Slide Trail, you’ll work up quite an appetite for dinner. And speaking of dinner, Idyllwild is filled with lots of lovely little restaurants that are featuring socially distanced patio seating or are offering take out. Two of our favorites are the Mile High Café and La Casita.
Where to Stay: The Quiet Creek Inn is a tranquil respite featuring quaint individual cabins that can fit the entire family. Located along the river and within walking distance to eateries and great shopping, it’s one of our favorite places to stay when visiting Idyllwild. All cabins feature fireplaces, private decks and kitchenettes. The inn has also established enhanced cleaning and safety protocols during this time to make guests feel right at home during their stay.
Tip: Idyllwild’s mayor is Golden Retriever named Max II. You read that right. Years ago, the town held a fundraiser that allowed people to run their pets as candidates for mayor. Charging $1 per vote, all proceeds went to the non-profit organization, Idyllwild Animal Rescue Friends (ARF). Max won and when he later passed away and Max II took over in his place. Max II is in town daily visiting with his constituents, but visitors can usually call and arrange a personalized meet-up if they so desire.
featured photo: Harold Litwiler via flickr