Budget Day Trips From Los Angeles

Los Angeles, also known as the City of Angels, is a bustling metropolis with endless entertainment options. However, sometimes it’s nice to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and explore something new.

Luckily, there are plenty of budget-friendly day trip options just a short drive away from Los Angeles. Whether you’re looking for stunning beaches, scenic hikes, or charming small towns, there’s something for everyone within a few hours’ drive of LA.

In this article, we’ll highlight some of the best budget day trips from Los Angeles that will allow you to experience all that Southern California has to offer without breaking the bank. From majestic national parks to quaint seaside villages and everything in between, these destinations are sure to satisfy your wanderlust while staying within your budget constraints.

So pack your bags and get ready for an adventure!

Key Takeaways

– There are plenty of budget-friendly day trip options near Los Angeles including Santa Barbara, San Diego, Joshua Tree National Park, Solvang, Catalina Island, Palm Springs, Malibu, Newport Beach, and Ojai.
– Each destination offers unique experiences such as Spanish colonial architecture, beautiful beaches, scenic mountain views, vineyards for wine tasting, hiking trails, and cultural attractions.
– Disneyland is a world-renowned amusement park with iconic rides, dining options, parades, and character dining with favorite Disney characters, and discounts available for Southern California residents or those with multi-day tickets.
– Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day soaking in hot springs or an adventurous day climbing rocks, there is something for all types of travelers.

Santa Barbara

Located on the central coast of California, Santa Barbara offers visitors a picturesque blend of Spanish colonial architecture, beautiful beaches, and scenic mountain views.

A day trip from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara can be both relaxing and rewarding. Take a leisurely coastal drive up Highway 101 and enjoy the stunning views of the Pacific Ocean along the way.

One of the must-visit attractions in Santa Barbara is its wineries. The city has several vineyards that offer wine tasting tours for visitors. Some popular wineries include Sanford Winery & Vineyards, Bridlewood Estate Winery, and Sunstone Vineyards & Winery.

These wineries not only provide an opportunity to taste some fantastic wines but also allow visitors to learn about the winemaking process.

Apart from wine tasting, Santa Barbara’s coastline is dotted with beautiful beaches that are perfect for a stroll or sunbathing. East Beach is one such beach known for its calm waters ideal for swimming and water sports like kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.

For those who prefer hiking over lounging on beaches, there are several trails that lead to mountaintop vistas offering breathtaking panoramic views.

With all these amazing things to do in Santa Barbara, it’s no wonder why it’s a popular day trip destination from Los Angeles. From here, you can head south towards San Diego – another southern Californian gem waiting to be explored!

San Diego

Interestingly, San Diego offers a plethora of attractions and activities for visitors seeking a diverse range of experiences. Whether you want to enjoy the sun, soak in the culture, or indulge in some delicious cuisine, San Diego has it all.

Here are some of the best things to do while on a budget in San Diego:

– Visit the Best Beaches: San Diego is known for its gorgeous beaches that offer something for everyone. From surfing at La Jolla Cove to swimming at Coronado Beach, there is no shortage of beach fun here.

– Dine at Top Restaurants: San Diego’s food scene is booming with options ranging from street tacos to fine dining restaurants. Don’t miss out on trying local favorites like fish tacos or carne asada fries.

In addition to these activities, there are many other free or low-cost things to do in San Diego including visiting Balboa Park for its museums and gardens or hiking Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. With so much to do and see, San Diego is an ideal destination for budget-conscious travelers who want a taste of California without breaking the bank.

As we leave behind the beaches and restaurants of San Diego, our next stop takes us inland towards Joshua Tree National Park where we’ll explore more affordable day trip options with stunning views and natural beauty.

Joshua Tree National Park

Nestled in the desert landscape of Southern California, Joshua Tree National Park boasts a unique blend of rugged rock formations and sparse vegetation that create an otherworldly atmosphere. It’s no surprise that this national park is a popular destination for budget day trips from Los Angeles. With over 800,000 acres of land to explore, visitors can spend the day hiking, rock climbing, or simply taking in the stunning views.

For those interested in camping at Joshua Tree National Park, there are nine campgrounds to choose from with varying levels of amenities. Keep in mind that during peak season (October through May), reservations are highly recommended as campsites fill up quickly. Additionally, it’s important to come prepared with plenty of water and warm clothing as temperatures can drop drastically at night.

In addition to its iconic rock formations and scenic vistas, Joshua Tree is also a haven for rock climbers and boulderers. The park offers over 8,000 climbing routes and countless bouldering spots for all skill levels. Some popular areas include Hidden Valley Campground and Indian Cove. For hikers, some must-see trails include Ryan Mountain Trail and Lost Horse Mine Trail. No matter how you choose to spend your time at Joshua Tree National Park, it’s sure to be an unforgettable experience.

Transitioning seamlessly into our next topic about Solvang – another budget-friendly day trip option from Los Angeles – visitors can continue their exploration of Southern California by immersing themselves in Danish culture while enjoying quaint shops and delicious pastries.


Continuing the exploration of Southern California, a visit to Solvang offers an immersion into Danish culture through quaint shops and delicious pastries. This small town is located in the Santa Ynez Valley, only two hours away from Los Angeles.

The architecture of Solvang is inspired by Denmark’s traditional half-timbered houses and windmills, making it a unique destination for those who want to experience something different.

To truly experience Solvang’s Danish culture, visitors can walk around the streets lined with bakeries and restaurants offering authentic Danish pastries such as æbleskiver (a type of pancake ball) and kringle (a flaky pastry filled with marzipan). In addition to food, visitors can also browse local shops selling traditional Scandinavian crafts like wooden clogs or handmade candles.

For those interested in wine tasting, many wineries are located nearby where visitors can sample local wines while enjoying views of the rolling hills.

In summary, Solvang offers a unique cultural experience that is only a short drive away from Los Angeles. Visitors can immerse themselves in Danish culture through its architecture, cuisine, and crafts while also indulging in wine tasting at nearby wineries.

From here, let’s move on to explore another budget-friendly day trip option from Los Angeles- Catalina Island.

Catalina Island

Located approximately 22 miles off the coast of Southern California, Catalina Island is a stunning destination that offers visitors a range of exciting activities and experiences.

The island is renowned for its crystal-clear waters, which make it an ideal spot for snorkeling adventures. Snorkeling enthusiasts can explore the diverse marine life that thrives in the island’s waters, including colorful fish, sea turtles, and even dolphins.

In addition to snorkeling, Catalina Island also boasts an exhilarating zip line tour that takes visitors on a thrilling ride high above the island’s rugged terrain. The zip line tour offers breathtaking views of the coastline and provides an adrenaline rush like no other.

Whether you are seeking adventure or simply looking to enjoy the natural beauty of this gorgeous island, there is something for everyone on Catalina Island.

Overall, Catalina Island is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the best that Southern California has to offer. With its endless opportunities for outdoor adventure and its stunning natural beauty, this island paradise is sure to leave visitors feeling rejuvenated and inspired.

Next up on our list of budget day trips from Los Angeles is Palm Springs – another iconic destination that promises plenty of excitement and fun!

Palm Springs

Moving on from the beautiful Catalina Island, another fantastic budget day trip option from Los Angeles is Palm Springs. Located about two hours away from LA, this desert oasis is known for its hot springs, golf courses, and luxurious resort lifestyle.

One of the main attractions in Palm Springs are the natural hot springs that are scattered throughout the area. Visitors can enjoy a relaxing soak in these healing waters that are believed to have therapeutic properties. The most popular hot spring in Palm Springs is at the Spa Resort Casino where visitors can indulge in spa treatments and massages before taking a dip in their mineral-rich pools.

Aside from hot springs, Palm Springs has many world-renowned golf courses that attract both amateur and professional players alike. The city’s warm climate makes it an ideal location for year-round golfing with over 100 courses available to choose from. Additionally, many of these golf courses offer affordable prices for those looking to play without breaking the bank.

Overall, Palm Springs is a great destination for those looking to escape busy city life and indulge in relaxation and luxury on a budget. Visitors can enjoy natural hot springs that provide both physical and mental rejuvenation as well as world-class golfing facilities at affordable rates. With so much to offer, it’s no wonder why Palm Springs continues to be one of California’s top vacation destinations.

As we move forward into exploring more budget-friendly day trips options around Los Angeles, we now shift our attention towards Malibu – a coastal city that provides some stunning views of California’s coastline while remaining affordable for everyone who wishes to explore it.


Malibu, known for its luxurious beachfront properties and celebrity sightings, offers more than just a glimpse into the lives of the rich and famous.

Visitors can explore the ancient world at the Getty Villa Museum, which boasts an impressive collection of Greek and Roman art and artifacts.

For those seeking outdoor adventure, Malibu Creek State Park offers hiking trails that wind through stunning canyons and lead to picturesque waterfalls.

And if relaxation is on the agenda, Malibu Lagoon State Beach provides a tranquil setting for soaking up the sun or watching local wildlife.

Visit the Getty Villa Museum

The Getty Villa Museum is an ideal destination for those interested in ancient art and architecture. Visitors can explore the scenic gardens, which are inspired by ancient Roman designs, while viewing various artifacts from Greek and Roman cultures. The museum has a vast collection of sculptures, paintings, and other objects that depict mythological scenes and figures.

One of the highlights of a visit to the Getty Villa Museum is learning about Roman architecture through its exhibition of different styles such as Doric, Ionic, Corinthian columns.

Aside from exploring ancient artifacts at the museum, visitors can also learn about mythology through various displays that showcase stories from Greek and Roman cultures. Additionally, visitors have access to guided tours that provide insights into the history behind each object on display.

The Getty Villa Museum offers an educational experience that caters to people of all ages who are curious about ancient societies.

Transitioning into our subsequent section about ‘hike the Malibu Creek State Park,’ nature enthusiasts can continue their journey by immersing themselves in Malibu’s natural beauty after exploring historical wonders at the museum.

Hike the Malibu Creek State Park

The Getty Villa Museum may have provided a glimpse into the ancient world, but if you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, Malibu Creek State Park is the perfect place to visit. Spanning over 8,000 acres and located just a short drive from Los Angeles, this park offers numerous hiking trails that showcase breathtaking views of the Santa Monica Mountains. You’ll be surrounded by lush vegetation and wildlife while exploring the park’s diverse terrain. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some of the animals that call this area home such as bobcats, mountain lions, and coyotes.

To help plan your hike at Malibu Creek State Park, here’s a table with some popular trails and their difficulty levels:

Trail Name Distance (miles) Difficulty Level
——————- —————— ——————
Crags Road Loop 6.2 Moderate
Grasslands Trail 2.5 Easy
M*A*S*H Site Trail 4 Moderate
Rock Pool Trail 1 Easy
Century Lake Trail 5 Difficult

Aside from hiking, Malibu Creek State Park also offers opportunities for wildlife watching. Keep your eyes peeled for birds such as hawks and owls soaring above or deer grazing in open fields. With its natural beauty and variety of activities available, Malibu Creek State Park is a great budget-friendly day trip option from Los Angeles.

As you finish up your hike at Malibu Creek State Park feeling refreshed and energized, consider spending some time unwinding at the nearby Malibu Lagoon State Beach – our next destination!

Relax at the Malibu Lagoon State Beach

Nestled along the Pacific Coast Highway, visitors to the Malibu Lagoon State Beach can unwind with picturesque views of the ocean and Malibu’s famous coastline.

Located at the mouth of Malibu Creek, this beach offers various relaxation options such as sunbathing, swimming, and surfing. The lagoon also provides an ideal spot for birdwatching and observing marine life.

Visitors can take a leisurely stroll along the beach or hike up to nearby trails for panoramic views of the surrounding area.

After a day of soaking up the sun and enjoying the beach activities, visitors can indulge in some local dining recommendations. Malibu has an abundance of restaurants offering freshly caught seafood, organic produce, and even vegan cuisine.

Whether it’s a relaxed outdoor café or an upscale restaurant with stunning views of the coast, there is something for everyone’s taste buds.

With satisfied stomachs and refreshed minds, visitors can continue their adventure by heading inland towards Disneyland.


Disneyland is a world-renowned amusement park that offers visitors two main attractions: the Magic Kingdom and Disney California Adventure.

The former is a classic Disney-themed park, complete with iconic characters, rides, and entertainment options.

Meanwhile, the latter features more thrilling rides and experiences for those seeking an adrenaline rush.

In both parks, visitors have the chance to meet their favorite Disney characters and immerse themselves in the magical world of Walt Disney.

Enjoy the Magic Kingdom and Disney California Adventure

Experience the wonder and excitement of two of Southern California’s most popular theme parks, Magic Kingdom and Disney California Adventure.

These two parks offer a plethora of activities for visitors to indulge in. One can explore iconic rides such as Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, or the Indiana Jones Adventure. The park also has an array of dining options that cater to different tastes and preferences. Visitors can sample Disneyland food such as churros, Dole Whip, corn dogs, or Monte Cristo sandwiches.

In addition to thrilling rides and delicious food, both Magic Kingdom and Disney California Adventure have parades that are sure to dazzle visitors. The Disneyland parades are a sight to behold with their colorful floats accompanied by lively music. The ‘Paint the Night’ parade is one of the most popular parades featuring characters from beloved Disney movies such as Toy Story, Monsters Inc., and Frozen.

Overall, visiting these two theme parks promises an unforgettable experience for all ages filled with magic and excitement that will leave visitors wanting more even after they leave the park gates behind them!

Experience the Thrills at the Rides

The rides and attractions at Magic Kingdom and Disney California Adventure are like a thrilling rollercoaster ride that will leave visitors breathless with excitement. Here are four of the top rides that you won’t want to miss:

1. Space Mountain – This indoor roller coaster takes you on a wild ride through space, complete with sharp turns, sudden drops, and special effects.

2. Radiator Springs Racers – Based on the popular Pixar movie ‘Cars,’ this ride takes you on a high-speed journey through the desert landscape of Radiator Springs.

3. Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! – Formerly known as Tower of Terror, this revamped ride features characters from the Marvel universe and includes multiple drop sequences for maximum thrills.

4. Indiana Jones Adventure – This action-packed ride takes you deep into an ancient temple filled with booby traps, snakes, and other dangers.

While ticket prices for these parks can be steep, there are often discounts available for Southern California residents or those who purchase multi-day tickets.

With so many exciting rides to choose from, it’s easy to see why Disneyland is one of the most popular theme park destinations in the world.

As you exit these exciting rides filled with adrenaline-pumping adventure, prepare to meet your favorite Disney characters in person at various locations throughout the park.

Meet Your Favorite Disney Characters

After experiencing the thrill of the rides, it’s time to meet your favorite Disney characters. Character dining is a popular activity at Disneyland where visitors can dine with their favorite character while enjoying a delicious meal.

This experience allows visitors to interact and take pictures with their favorite Disney characters in a more personal setting. It’s an opportunity for children and adults alike to feel like they are part of the magic.

Aside from character dining, there are also themed souvenirs that visitors can purchase as a reminder of their experience at Disneyland. From Mickey ears to personalized t-shirts, there’s something for everyone.

These souvenirs not only serve as mementos but also add to the overall immersive experience at Disneyland. With so much to see and do, it’s no wonder why Disneyland continues to be one of the most visited theme parks in the world.

As we move on from Disneyland, let’s explore another exciting destination just a short drive away: Newport Beach.

Newport Beach

Located in Orange County, Newport Beach is a popular coastal destination for visitors seeking sun, sand, and surf. It boasts an array of beach activities that cater to all types of travelers. From swimming and surfing to kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, Newport Beach offers plenty of opportunities to hit the waves. Additionally, visitors can explore the area’s best beaches such as Corona del Mar State Beach and Balboa Island.

Apart from its pristine beaches, Newport Beach also has a thriving food scene that caters to all palates and budgets. Whether you’re looking for casual eats or fine dining experiences, this destination has it all. Visitors can indulge in fresh seafood dishes at The Crab Cooker or head over to Lido Marina Village for trendy cafes and restaurants with waterfront views. For those looking for quick bites on-the-go, there are plenty of food trucks offering delicious fare along the coastline.

In conclusion, Newport Beach is an ideal day trip destination for those seeking adventure, good food, and stunning scenery without breaking the bank. With an abundance of beach activities and a diverse culinary scene that caters to all budgets and preferences, this coastal city is sure to impress any traveler.

Next up on our list of budget-friendly day trips from Los Angeles is Ojai – a charming town nestled in Ventura County known for its natural beauty and artistic community.


Nestled in the idyllic hills of Ventura County, Ojai is like a tranquil oasis with its stunning natural beauty and vibrant artistic community. This charming town attracts visitors for its endless outdoor recreational opportunities and unique artisanal shops. Here are three reasons why Ojai should be on your list of budget day trips from Los Angeles:

1. Hiking Trails: Ojai boasts an abundance of hiking trails that cater to all skill levels. The Pratt Trail offers a challenging ascent to stunning views of the valley, while the Shelf Road Trail is perfect for those seeking an easier hike through beautiful orange groves. For a more peaceful experience, take a stroll through Meditation Mount, where you can enjoy breathtaking panoramic views while meditating in nature.

2. Artisanal Shops: Ojai’s downtown area is filled with locally-owned artisanal shops that offer unique products made by skilled craftsmen and artists. From handmade pottery and jewelry to vintage clothing and organic skincare products, there’s something for everyone in this eclectic shopping district.

3. Vibrant Community: In addition to its natural beauty and artisanal shops, what sets Ojai apart is its vibrant artistic community. It’s easy to see why many artists have been drawn to this picturesque town over the years – from galleries showcasing local talent to live music performances at Libbey Bowl, there’s always something creative happening in Ojai.

Overall, whether you’re looking for an invigorating hike or a relaxing day browsing local art galleries and boutiques, Ojai has something for every type of traveler on a budget day trip from Los Angeles. Don’t miss out on this hidden gem!

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to drive from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara?

The travel time from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara varies based on the route taken, but typically takes around 2 hours. Scenic routes include the Pacific Coast Highway, with attractions en route such as Malibu and El Matador Beach.

Are there any hiking trails in Joshua Tree National Park suitable for beginners?

Joshua Tree National Park offers several beginner-friendly hikes, including the Barker Dam Trail and Hidden Valley Trail. These trails provide stunning views of the park’s unique rock formations and desert landscapes, making them excellent day trip ideas from Los Angeles.

Can you visit Catalina Island on a day trip or do you need to stay overnight?

Catalina Island offers both day trip and overnight options with various transportation choices including ferries, helicopters, and private boats. Visitors can explore the island’s natural beauty, indulge in water activities or enjoy a leisurely walk through the quaint town.

What are some unique shopping experiences in Solvang?

Solvang offers unique shopping experiences with a Danish flair, including bakeries and gift shops. Visitors can also indulge in wine tasting at local vineyards. The town’s picturesque charm and cultural offerings make it a must-see destination for those seeking innovative adventures.

Is it possible to visit Disneyland on a budget?

To save money at Disneyland, consider visiting during the off-season, bringing your own food and drinks, and purchasing multi-day tickets. Affordable alternatives include Knott’s Berry Farm and Universal Studios Hollywood.


The budget day trips from Los Angeles are full of excitement and adventure. Starting with Santa Barbara, the city offers a perfect blend of sun-soaked beaches, stunning architecture, and mouth-watering food.

San Diego is another destination that is worth visiting for its beautiful beaches and vibrant nightlife. Joshua Tree National Park is an ideal place to experience nature’s beauty, while Solvang takes you on a journey through Denmark’s culture.

Catalina Island is a paradise for adventure enthusiasts who love snorkeling or kayaking in crystal-clear waters. Malibu is famous for its luxurious lifestyle and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Disneyland is a magical world that transports you to fairy tale lands, while Newport Beach offers thrilling activities such as surfing or paddleboarding.

Finally, Ojai provides an escape from the hustle-bustle of city life with its serene environment and spa treatments.

In conclusion, Los Angeles has plenty of budget-friendly day trips that offer something unique for everyone. From sandy beaches to national parks and amusement parks to cultural landmarks, these destinations provide unforgettable experiences that will last a lifetime. So why not pack your bags and hit the road today!