10 Weekend Getaways From Los Angeles

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Montage Laguna Beach

Sunny Los Angeles will always be an ideal vacation spot for its year-round beach weather, palm-fringed boulevards, inventive restaurants and cultural offerings like the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which debuted at the $54 million, Renzo Piano–designed Resnick Pavilion last fall.

Sunny Los Angeles will always be an ideal vacation spot for its year-round beach weather, palm-fringed boulevards, inventive restaurants and cultural offerings like the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which debuted at the $54 million, Renzo Piano–designed Resnick Pavilion last fall.

But sometimes even locals need to get away for a weekend escape, which is easy when you have California as your backyard and everything from a laid-back beach getaway to a food-and-wine weekend to a rugged clifftop retreat is all within driving distance of the city.

Head three or four hours north to Paso Robles for wine, cheese and olive oil tastings, and farther up the coast, Big Sur's exquisite Post Ranch Inn offers dramatic ocean vistas.

Just 80 miles north of L.A. is Ojai, a sleepy artists' colony that's the perfect place to swing a nine-iron or while away the afternoon poolside.

Closer to the city, Pasadena's Huntington Botanical Gardens features more than 14,000 plant varieties, along with an afternoon tea service in the rose garden.

And to the south, in Laguna Beach, spend the weekend exploring hidden coves or gallery hopping.

Our friends at Departures Magazine put together a list of their favorite easy getaways from Los Angeles; have a favorite place not on this list? As always, leave it in comments.


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Why: This quaint rural town on California’s Central Coast has a burgeoning food and wine scene that’s only a four-hour drive northwest of L.A.
Stay: Check into the four-year-old Hotel Cheval (rooms, from $265; 1021 Pine St.), a quiet 16-room property with an intimate courtyard where fireplaces blaze. An equestrian motif can be seen throughout, from the horseshoe-shaped bar to the horse-drawn carriage to the resident Belgian draft horse, Chester. The well-situated boutique inn is just a few blocks from downtown wine-tasting rooms such as Clayhouse (849 13th St.) and Pianetta (29 13th St.) and seriously refined restaurants like Il Cortile (dinner, $65; 608 12th St.), where chef Santos McDonal has been serving contemporary old-world Italian dishes like zucchini blossoms and black truffle risotto since opening, in late 2009. For American fare, there’s four-year-old Artisan (dinner, $50; 1401 Park St.), where the menu includes Alaskan halibut with artichoke and green garlic.


Do: Tour the olive groves at Pasolivo (8530 Vineyard Dr.), a local olive oil company whose citrine-hued olio nuovo is used by L.A. restaurants like Mario Batali’s Osteria Mozza. Drive past knobby oaks and rolling hills to reach the seven-year-old Epoch Estate Wines (5414 Vineyard Dr.). Owned by Bill and Liz Armstrong, it’s known for its complex Syrahs and Mourvèdres.


Back in town, choose from more than 150 varieties of cheeses, including Central Coast Goat Gouda and the popular coffee-bean-and-lavender-rubbed Barely Buzzed, at Vivant Fine Cheese, right next door to Hotel Cheval (840 11th St.).

Why: Hugged by the Santa Lucia Mountains, with dramatically rocky slopes and stunning coastal vistas, this rustic community five and half hours from L.A. is a nature lover’s paradise.
Stay: Post Ranch Inn’s (rooms, from $595; 47900 Hwy. 1) 39 rooms and two private houses feature furniture made from reclaimed wood (for example, redwood that comes from wine casks), woodburning fireplaces and luxurious bed linens made with organic cotton. For some extra drama, book the curved Cliff House, which has a deck that hangs over a rugged cliff, giving the impression of being suspended in air high above the water—the glass-walled master bedroom has breathtaking panoramic ocean views.


Do: Fuel up on nine-grain pancakes cooked in a cast-iron skillet or the signature breakfast pizza at Big Sur Bakery and Restaurant (breakfast, from $60; 47540 Hwy. 1) before hitting the area’s trails and parks. Spread across 456 acres with a 750-acre underwater ecological reserve, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve (Rte. 1) has 14 hiking trails, with both fabulous ocean vistas (ideal for spotting sea lions) and an abundance of wildflowers—double poppies, blue blossoms, white globe lilies—in bloom. The Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park features towering redwoods, a chaparral ecosystem and an 80-foot waterfall. For a more cultural pursuit, drop by the Henry Miller Memorial Library, founded 30 years ago as a memorial to the infamous novelist and painter who penned Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn and spent 18 years of his life in Big Sur.

Why: A six-hour drive from L.A., the seaside village of Carmel has lured creative types for decades, thanks to its beguiling combination of pristine beaches and rugged crags. Just next door is family-friendly Monterrey, and the area is also home to the world-famous Pebble Beach golf course, located north of downtown Carmel.


Stay: Cute and quaint inns abound here, and chief among them is the 20-room, six-year-old L’Auberge Carmel (rooms, from $320; Monte Verde at 7th Ave.), which is walking distance from downtown galleries and boutiques. The hotel’s highlight is the 12-table California cuisine restaurant Aubergine, which features a 4,500-bottle wine cellar and serves dishes like foie gras with huckleberry and halibut with mustard greens. Quainter still is the romantic, 1935-built Lamp Lighter Inn (rooms, from $255; corner of Ocean Ave. and Camino Real), which has 11 cottages with fireplaces and marble bathrooms, tucked into groves of cypress and oak trees steps from Carmel beach.


Do: Golf the famously manicured course at Pebble Beach (greens fees, from $495). Designed by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant, it hugs the rugged coastline, providing panoramic views, cliffside fairways and sloping greens.


Or saunter around the city’s downtown, with art galleries like Balyon (Dolores St. between Ocean and 7th aves.), and charming shops like Trouvé Home (1 San Carlos and 6th Ave., which carries French antiques and Italian linens. For dinner, there’s the rustic French eatery La Bicyclette (dinner, $30; Dolores St. at 7th Ave.), where the chalkboard menu displays daily dishes such as lamb with caramelized Asian pear or pappardelle with asparagus and black trumpet mushrooms.

Why: This coastal enclave has miles of beaches, hidden coves and canyons, plus posh shops and art galleries, all only an hour outside L.A.


Stay: Since opening in 2003, the 250-room Montage Laguna Beach (rooms, from $695; 30801 South Coast Hwy.) has been the definitive place to stay, with a mosaic-tiled pool and a 20,000-square-foot spa where the 21 treatment rooms come with glistening ocean views. At the hotel’s French restaurant, Studio, chef Craig Strong creates dishes using ingredients like Fuji apples, fingerling potatoes and oranges from the resort’s new 1,000-square-foot garden. Choose from dishes such as duck breast with basil-fingerling potato purée and Bing cherries as well as calamari with Parmesan and garlic aioli.


Do: Originally begun as an artists’ enclave, this now-upscale beach town still retains some of its roots. Browse stunning canvases and works at 30-year-old Sandstone Gallery (384-A North Coast Hwy.) along historic Gallery Row, or pop by newcomer Sue Greenwood Fine Art (330 North Coast Hwy.), which opened in 2005 and focuses on contemporary realism. Stroll the shops along Forest Avenue, from fine linens and Vietri dishware at home furnishings store Colony Company (384 Forest Ave., Ste. 2) to saltwater taffy and licorice at the Candy Baron (231 Forest Ave.). Nature lovers can head to Crystal Cove State Park (Pacific Coast Hwy. between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach), which offers three miles of beach and 2,400 acres of oak and sycamore-tree woodlands, perfect for hiking or horseback riding.

Montage Laguna Beach

Why: Just 83 miles north of L.A., this low-key artists’ enclave is an ideal spot to hit the links, lounge poolside or enjoy the famed Pink Moment sunset, named for the rosy glow it casts on the surrounding Topa Topa Mountains.


Stay: The 81-year-old Spanish Colonial Ojai Valley Inn & Spa (rooms, from $300; 905 Country Club Rd.) has 308 rooms ranging from spacious to sprawling, with most offering canopy beds, fireplaces and private balconies overlooking the resort’s stunning grounds (there’s a three-acre herb garden and George C. Thomas Jr.–designed golf course). The spa’s signature Kuyam treatment combines a desert clay mud mask with a dry-heat chamber.


Do: Grab apricot scones from the charming Knead Bakery (469 East Ojai Ave.) along Ojai Avenue, the town’s main drag, before hiking along the 1.8-mile Shelf Road Trail; buy Ojai’s signature Pixie tangerines, honey and other local fruit at the 75-acre Friend’s Ranch (15150 Maricopa Hwy.); or stroll the Mission Revival arcade, lined with pottery studios like Firehouse Pottery (109 S. Montgomery St.). For dinner, dine on the wisteria-fringed porch at Suzanne’s Cuisine (dinner, $45; 502 W. Ojai Ave.), a farm-to-table restaurant opened by local Suzanne Roll and her daughter, Sandra, in 1992. Seasonal dishes include salmon with a roasted mango sauce and grilled mahi mahi with chipotle beurre blanc.

Ojai Valley Inn & Spa

Why: Just outside L.A. city limits, this buttoned-up town boasts historic architecture and a bustling downtown filled with cobble-stoned alleyways and tearooms.


Stay: Set on 23 acres, the Langham Huntington (rooms, from $230; 1401 South Oak Knoll Ave.) is a landmark hotel originally built in 1907, and the 380 elegant rooms evoke a bygone era. Formerly a Ritz-Carlton, the property was bought in 2007 and underwent a major renovation that added an 11,000-square-foot spa—treatments include the Chuan Balancing massage, which uses Chinese medicine to restore physical and spiritual balance—as well as The Tap Room, the hotel’s inviting, library-like bar.


Do: Railroad magnate Henry Huntington founded the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens (1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino) in 1919. From the rose garden to the Japanese pavilion, there are 14,000 varieties of plants—lotus, bluebells, oleanders—within the 120-acre grounds. Afterward, linger over cucumber-mint sandwiches and chocolate mousse at the Rose Garden Tea Room. Another local gem, the Norton Simon Museum (411 W. Colorado Blvd.), opened in 1975, houses everything from European paintings to contemporary sculptures but is particularly known for its South and Southeast Asian collections. Interior galleries underwent renovation in the late ’90s by noted architect Frank Gehry. In Pasadena’s downtown, drop by skincare shop Lather (17 E. Colorado Blvd.; lather.com) for yuzu bergamot-scented goodies, or sample white and green teas at Bird Pick Tea & Herb (10 South De Lacey).

Why: This rural town on California’s Central Coast has a burgeoning food and wine scene that’s only a four-hour drive northwest of L.A.


Stay: Check into the four-year-old Hotel Cheval (rooms, from $265; 1021 Pine St.), a quiet 16-room property with an intimate courtyard where fireplaces blaze. An equestrian motif can be seen throughout, from the horseshoe-shaped bar to the horse-drawn carriage to the resident Belgian draft horse, Chester. The well-situated boutique inn is just a few blocks from downtown wine-tasting rooms such as Clayhouse (849 13th St.) and Pianetta (29 13th St.) and seriously refined restaurants like Il Cortile (dinner, $65; 608 12th St.), where chef Santos McDonal has been serving contemporary old-world Italian dishes like zucchini blossoms and black truffle risotto since opening, in late 2009. For American fare, there’s four-year-old Artisan (dinner, $50; 1401 Park St.), where the menu includes Alaskan halibut with artichoke and green garlic.


Do: Tour the olive groves at Pasolivo (8530 Vineyard Dr.), a local olive oil company whose citrine-hued olio nuovo is used by L.A. restaurants like Mario Batali’s Osteria Mozza. Drive past knobby oaks and rolling hills to reach the seven-year-old Epoch Estate Wines (5414 Vineyard Dr.). Owned by Bill and Liz Armstrong, it’s known for its complex Syrahs and Mourvèdres.

Back in town, choose from more than 150 varieties of cheeses, including Central Coast Goat Gouda and the popular coffee-bean-and-lavender-rubbed Barely Buzzed, at Vivant Fine Cheese, right next door to Hotel Cheval (840 11th St.).

Chis Leschinsky

Why: Only two hours south of L.A., there’s surf, sand and sun coupled with a friendly, small-town feel.


Stay: There isn’t much reason to leave the four-year-old Grand Del Mar (rooms, from $365; 5300 Grand Del Mar Ct.), with its four swimming pools, two outdoor tennis courts, a 21,000-square-foot Renaissance-inspired spa swathed in Carrera marble and glass tiles, and an 18-hole Tom Fazio–designed golf course—as well as 249 rooms with rich brocade upholstery, dark wood furnishings and plenty of gilded accents.


Do: A stunning backdrop to the Grand Del Mar, the 4,100-acre Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve (Black Mountain Rd. on Canyonside Park Driveway) is a birdlover’s paradise, with snowy egrets, mallard ducks, red-tailed hawks and starlings; it also boasts 37 miles of biking, hiking and horseback riding trails. For dinner in Del Mar, five-month-old Asian restaurant Market (dinner, $55; 3702 Via de la Valle) is already a favorite, with chef Carl Schroeder’s inventive dishes like red snapper-and-sesame prawn tempura and almond-crusted sand bass. In La Jolla, the Brockton Villa (dinner, $35; 1235 Coast Blvd.), a charming 19th-century beach cottage that was converted into a restaurant in the early 1990s, overlooks the water and serves crab cakes, citrus-crusted scallops and fish tacos.

Why: Tucked between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Lucia Mountains, this sleepy town, three and a half hours from L.A., is an ideal base camp for wine tasting and exploring the Central Coast.


Stay: From Cayucos to Cambria, this area of the Central Coast is B&B territory. In San Luis Obispo’s downtown is the white clapboard Sanitarium Spa (rooms, from $190; 1716 Osos St.), where the seven rooms feature Moroccan soaking tubs, balconies and plenty of art. In nearby Cayucos, there’s Cass House (rooms, from $165; 222 N. Ocean Ave.), a five-room Victorian inn with plush beds, many of them with ocean views—the 1897 property was meticulously restored in 2007.


Do: Soak up San Luis Obispo’s historic downtown, including the 18th-century mission, a simple parish church noted for its lush gardens and stone fountain. Pop into Hands Gallery (777 Higuera St.), a pocket-sized space that has been showcasing artwork, sculpture and jewelry by local artists for more than 20 years. Next, head to Brazilian-inspired Novo for brunch ($40; 726 Higuera St.), with dishes like piquillo chile and cheese empanada with pomegranate-apple chutney. In the afternoon, head to the nearby wineries in Edna Valley, like Kynsi (2212 Corbett Canyon Rd.), known for its Syrahs and Pinot Noirs.

Why: With its relaxed, easy, breezy vibe, it’s no wonder that this beach town 95 miles north of L.A. is known as the American Riviera.


Stay: Even after 84 years, the Four Seasons Resort Biltmore (rooms, from $395; 1260 Channel Dr.) retains its reputation as Santa Barbara’s grande dame. Located on 20 acres of manicured tropical gardens, the stately, 207-room property has red-tile roofs and ivory adobe archways galore. A recent $300 million renovation added a 10,000-square-foot spa with locally inspired treatments, like a lavender cornmeal scrub and an avocado oil body wrap. For something a little cozier, there’s the 97-room Canary Hotel (rooms, from $275; 31 W. Carrillo), which opened downtown in 2008 and has won many admirers for its vibrant, Moroccan-inspired rooms filled with colorful ikat textiles and four-poster beds. On weekends, the hotel’s intimate restaurant, Coast, serves a delicious brunch with classics such as lemon ricotta pancakes and eggs Benedict.


Do: For a dose of culture, there’s gallery hopping along East Anapamu Street, just off downtown’s main drag—be sure to check out Telios Design House (131 E. Anapamu St.; 805-966-4005), which exhibits everything from Impressionist-like landscapes to documentary photography. Or take advantage of the surrounding wine country with visits to Kunin Wines (28 Anacapa St.), where Rhône-style bottles are the highlight, and Municipal Winemakers (28 Anacapa St.), owned by Dave Potter, who sources grapes from half a dozen Santa Barbara County vineyards to make his Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Syrah and sparkling Shiraz. For dinner, visit the classic, decade-old Bouchon (dinner, $58; 9 W. Victoria St.) for French fare such as maple-glazed duck breast with port-thyme demiglace, or the newly opened Arch Rock Fish (dinner, $40; 608 Anacapa St.) for grilled swordfish with red quinoa and mustard vinaigrette.

Municipal Winemakers

Why: Because with a slew of hotel news, restaurant openings and cultural happenings, you won’t tire of exploring the sprawling and sunny city.


Stay: In Santa Monica, there’s no place better than Shutters on the Beach (rooms, from $495; 1 Pico Blvd.), opened in 1993 and styled like a rambling Cape Cod inn with slate-gray shingled siding, flower-covered trellises, cabana-striped awnings and an art collection with works by artists like David Hockney and Roy Lichtenstein. The 198 rooms have walnut writing desks, four-poster beds and custom-made white linens. There are also two restaurants and a spa with six treatment rooms that recall the romantic yachting culture of the 1930s. Across town in Hollywood, the infamous 1920s Chateau Marmont (rooms, from $415; 8221 Sunset Blvd.; 323-656-1010) perched above Sunset Strip, retains its glamorous mystique. Evoking a Loire Valley castle, the 63 cottages and bungalows, some poolside, are antique-filled and extremely private; no wonder this castle on a hill has been the favorite of Hollywood’s glitterati from Marlon Brando to Sofia Coppola. Even chef Carolynn Spence comes with an impressive pedigree—she formerly ran the kitchen at The Spotted Pig in New York. And in Beverly Hills, the legendary Hotel Bel-Air (701 Stone Canyon Rd.) will reopen in October. Currently undergoing a two-year renovation by Alexandra Champalimaud, it will have 103 redone guestrooms and suites, 12 of which were built into the hillside to offer sweeping canyon views.

Shutters on the Beach

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