Day Trippin’ – When You Just Want to Get Away from LA

Seven Magic Mountains

Los Angeles isn’t just an urban wonderland, it’s a wonderland with proximity to easy day trip escapes. It’s a cliche that you can be skiing in the mountains in the morning and surfing on the beach in the afternoon – and yet, it’s a cliche that’s actually true, too.

Here are a few ideas for fast getaways  – and some of the activities that make those getaways fantastic fun. 


Big Bear Lake

Kitschy carved wooden bears? Check. Terrific mountain views? Check. A beautiful big lake for boating? Check again. And of course, when those mountain views are snowy, there’s skiing too – just a little over two hours from DTLA. Castle Rock Trail offers beautiful views and some unique rock formations. Check out the charming Big Bear Alpine Zoo, a rehabilitation facility offering injured, orphaned and imprinted wild animals a safe haven; 90% of all the animals are successfully released back into their native environment. Browse the eclectic shops in the heart of Big Bear Village, taste Nepalese cuisine at the Himalayan Restaurant, or join the nightly karaoke fun at Murray’s Saloon and Eatery. Want to stay overnight? There are plenty of cozy cabins, sleek condos, and even seven public campgrounds. 

c 2090 Renee Silverman Temecula August 2009


Mountains not your thing? Try the rolling wine country of the Temecula Valley about a two hours southeast of LA. Lush vineyards and equally lush bed and breakfasts abound; tasting tours, weekend concerts, and beautiful spots to picnic are all a part of the winery scene here. Callaway, one of the largest, offers splendid views of a rolling terroir. Experience the wow of a hot hair balloon ride or visit the new gastropub in Old Town Temecula, Crush & Brew – just like it’s name suggests, there’s both local wines and local craft beer on tap.

National Forest Joshua Tree Joshua Tree Rocks Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Climb giant boulders, experience the otherworldly landscape, walk the gentle path through the fuzzy Cholla Cactus garden, or enjoy the stunning outsider art at the Noah Purifoy Foundation outdoor museum near by. In the spring, the desert blooms with wildflowers; and any time of year, you’ll thrill to the vast vista from Key’s Point. You’ll want to find the somewhat elusive trail to Samuelson’s Rocks, where an eccentric miner and farmer carved Biblical and political sayings before this land was parkland; or take a guided rock climbing course and learn to belay with the best. Of course there are more than several other amazing things to see and do, from the meditative Integraton Sound Bath to the terrific music scene at Pappy & Harriet’s just down the road in Pioneer Town.


Las Vegas

After the solitude of Joshua Tree, perhaps you’re looking for something with a little more action? Las Vegas is a longer trek, but the under-five-hour drive has grown a little more interesting these days with some outsider art stops along the way, including Ugo Rondinone’s vibrantly colored installation, Seven Magic Mountains.

Seven Magic Mountains

The bright colors of the rock sculpture sponsored by the Nevada Museum of Art and New York’s Art Production Fund, the installation makes the perfect vivid intro to the neon brightness of Vegas itself. An online reference for all things betting and gaming states that brick-and-mortar casinos ruled the world of gambling for centuries, but have since ceded to online gaming options. But the eye-popping fun of splashy theatrical acts, high end restaurants, luxury spas, and luxury shops – as well as themed “world travel” experiences such as Italy at The Venetian casino and hotel or Times Square in the heart of the New York New York casino and hotel – not to mention, Paris, Monte Carlo, and fine art and stunning gardens at the Bellagio – are a huge draw. Don’t want to get behind the wheel after a night of high rolling? There is always a deal to be had on an overnight stay or a weekend fling in Las Vegas.


San Diego

Two and a half hours from downtown Los Angeles, another wonderful SoCal city awaits. San Diego is a sprawling and bright mix of great beaches, charming history, and world-class museums. Find seaside amusement park fun at Pacific Beach; flower gardens in Carlsbad, sea caves and pine-studded trails in La Jolla, which is also home to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Don’t forget Legoland, Sea World, and the San Diego Zoo, either. Enjoy superb Italian cuisine in Little Italy; exciting nightlife in the Gaslamp District; beautiful bay views, and the white sand beaches and classic Hotel Coronado on Coronado Island.

So if you’re ready to get away from LA for the day – there are plenty of reasons to go.

  • Guest Post with Genie Davis


Paradise in San Diego


People always talk about vacationing in paradise. Hawaii, Bali, the Bahamas…but paradise can be as close to LA as San Diego – and it is.



Paradise Point Resort is an absolutely perfect spot to unwind. The 44-acre private island on Mission Bay is a world apart, even though it’s less than seven miles from the heart of San Diego.

It’s easy to find your bungalow, unpack the car, and then never leave the island – except to kayak around it. 
Let’s start with the rooms. The cheerful, modern decor includes flat-screen TVs, luxury bedding, and patios. Some patios face the lush lagoons or offer bay views. We stayed in a Bungalow lodge right on the beach. The resort’s mile of white sand is a semi-circle dotted with fire pits.
Our sleek suite featured a separate sitting room, dining table, and wet bar.  The rooms are described as “Balinese-influenced,” and they have an unobtrusive tropical feeling, enhanced by plenty of white, gold, turquoise, wooden shutters, teak furnishings. 

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The property itself offers even more paradise than the rooms.

With five pools, including a vast main pool, a calm adults-only pool, and small blissfully heated bodies of water throughout the property plus hot tubs, there’s plenty of places to splash besides the bay.
There’s also a beautifully maintained, charming putting green, bicycles to rent, tennis courts, and a luxurious fitness center.  There’s croquet and sand volleyball, too, plus a calm, lovely spa that offers massages and other treatments in an airy pavilion.

It’s fun just to stroll the grounds, looking at the bay, the  hibiscus and birds of paradise, the lagoons with their small wooden bridges. In the center of the property, near the main pool, a tower rises to the sky, offering great views of the island and property.



The island resort was once known as Vacation Village, an island setting created by movie producer Jack Skirball, architect Eldridge Spencer, and builder Bob Golden in the 1960s. The Hollywood connection resulted in some attractive artifacts on the property including the central fountain with its porpoise design, and the mission bells throughout the island. While the South Seas ambiance has been stylishly updated, the tropical, fecund feeling has continued to thrive. There’s a small waterfall near the marina, and an enclosed water space where a variety of fish slip through shallow water, a flotilla of ducks on the lagoons, and a large copper fireplace in the lobby.


The resort is family friendly, but it’s also romantic, and there’s plenty of room for kids to play and enjoy the property’s amenities without conflicting with adult relaxation. Families will also enjoy the proximity to Sea World, just a five minute drive away, and the San Diego Zoo, a fifteen minute drive. The resort’s Barefoot Grill offers an enjoyable kid’s menu with plenty of choices and libations for adults.


After strolling the property, indulging in poolside relaxation, and watching boats sailing along the bay, it was time for dinner.


We had an amazing meal at resort’s elegant signature restaurant, Tidal. This restaurant is a destination even for those not staying on the island, a dining experience with an emphasis on seafood and Mediterranean style created by Chef Amy DiBiase. It is a culinary delight.


Inside, the dining room is spacious, with stunning light fixtures, and plenty of glass. The optimal romantic setting is on the outdoor patio, where San Diego lights glitter across the bay.  Wherever you sit, the view is lovely; and whatever you eat will probably be exceptional.

DiBiase is classically trained. “French, Italian, some Spanish, those are my influences,” she says. “We use ingredients that are as fresh and organic as possible, and we stay as seasonal as possible, too, and focus on developing the flavor of every dish. When preparing fish, the result should hit all your different senses, in one bite, spicy, cool, crunchy.”


We began with an incredible cheese board, beautifully curated. I’m a fan of cheese boards, and order them when I can, and this was truly one of the best and most generous boards I’ve tasted. Humbolt Fog goat cheese, smoked berry crostini, smoked tomato jam, cave-aged Mellage Carr Valley cheese – all superlative. The sheep, goat, and cow milk cheese selections change daily.


A grapefruit and avocado salad, perfectly dressed, made a refreshing second course.


Fish, which also changes based on available fresh offerings, is lovingly and inventively prepared. We had divers scallops and prawns. The scallops rested on a bed of pureed fava beans, plus baby squash, blistered tomato, wilted spinach, and a truffle beurre blanc.


Equally succulent were the prawns, which were richly prepared with rosemary-polenta and smoked chili aioli.


For dessert: chocolate banana tart, which was both intense yet light.


Beverage selections were equally delightful: lemongrass tea, Red Rocket ale, and Hess Grapefruit IPA made for perfect company with our main dishes and dessert. Before the meal, we enjoyed two beautifully nuanced craft cocktails: Thee Barnacle uses milagro tequila as a base, and features fresh pressed grapefruit and lemon, agave nectar, and a zingy cayene infusion. The Double Down featured rye whiskey, pecan nutmeg infusion, and chocolate bitters. This was a darker drink, made for sipping.


We took another stroll around the island, enjoying the evening quiet, the sounds of crickets and lapping water before our final treat of the evening: the hotel’s s’mores package.


Firewood, matches, skewers, marshmallows and chocolate, all in one package, are left in guests’ rooms upon request. We had to stroll on a few steps to a fire pit, set up our logs, relax in Adirondack chairs, and have a final desert. Stars above, sand between our toes, and charred marshmallows – what could be better?


In the morning, we rented kayaks from the hotel’s marina, and took a wonderful, gentle circle of the island. We saw jelly fish, rays, and slithery silver fish beneath our oars, on a beautiful, sun-filled morning.  Yes, paradise – and we didn’t need a passport or a long plane ride to get there.


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Paradise Point is located at 1404 Vacation Rd, San Diego, CA 92109

For more information visit