Part of the Travel Local, COVID getaway series- this post is meant for locals in California, more specifically SoCal, that are getting stir crazy and will travel regardless of guidance from our government. The suggestions below are to keep the spread of the virus in a place that has the resources necessary should an outbreak occur. The outdoor recommendation(s) is a place not far from the city stop. To contain the virus please fill up your gas tanks before leaving your town and bring snacks and other essentials. Outdoor recommendations are typically in areas with limited resources.
California; Los Angeles to San Diego
Known for it’s beautiful coastline, this part of the state includes multiple access points to sandy beaches. While many SoCal beaches were shut down due to COVID, they are slowly beginning to open up again, as are the cities. Both Los Angeles and San Diego have plenty to keep the residents busy. That being said, I find it funny that this post ended up being as long as it is. I highly doubt locals that have lived here for more than 20 years have had a chance to do it all. Still, I have included below a few suggestions, more likely… reminders, of things you haven’t done just yet right outside your city!
SoCal is a wonderland waiting to be explored and yet still I feel like I can’t just list the places worth seeing. To keep this post short, well… to stop myself from continuing on, I named 2 cities within a close proximity to each major city that I found would be more equipped if an outbreak were to occur. Of course my hope is that, for anyone exploring and going beyond their communities, you follow local guidelines. While failing to practice self-control, I named an additional city per region to be explored when it becomes safer to do so.
I haven’t been to CA during lockdown, but knowing how traffic is EVERY TIME I have been, I thought it would be easiest to measure distance by mileage as opposed to time. And without further ado:
City stop #1: Ventura, California
(Proximity to Los Angeles)
or San Buenaventura Good Fortune.
San Buenaventura, better known as Ventura is located 68 miles from LA via the 101 bypass. The name literally translates to Good Fortune. This town is situated between the undeveloped hills to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the West. The Ventura and Santa Clara Rivers both flow through the city at the north and south end. Topographically speaking, it doesn’t get much better. It comes to no surprise- the original Patagonia store was opened here, too. Be sure to visit this link beforehand to plan your day around the store’s events. Unless, of course, you came hungry… then you might want to stop 5 to 8 minutes prior.
Las Delicias de Abuelita is located on Main Street less than 2.5 miles (8 min drive) before Patagonia. Don’t let this website fool you- the locals swear it houses the best breakfast burrito. Most of them are referring to the omelet burrito but there are more to choose from. Or if you are looking for something a bit lighter and full of nutrients continue to the west side neighborhood. A true farm to table establishment sits only 0.2 miles (5 minute walk) from Patagonia’s door. Harvest Café is a trendy spot serving up plant-based meals or smoothies full of nutrients! Their menu is vast, so I will just link it here. I personally would opt for the latter as it’s more my style. Not to mention… Ventura is a beach town. If you made it out here with good weather, you will likely be in a bathing suit for your stay.
Ventura; authentic SoCal beach vibes
Before heading to the ocean, check out the Mission founded by orders of Friars Minor. Currently the church has limited access due to COVID and is mostly closed to the public. If you would like to attend a Sunday gathering you must pre-register online- here. You’ll find a ton of photo opportunities with spanish architecture as your backdrop in Ventura. Less than a 15 minute walk from the Mission Basilica is the Ventura pier. Ventura Promenade Beach is only half a mile away. If a river is more your style, then jump in your car and head to Foster Park for trails and river access. This park is open WEEKDAYS ONLY from 8AM to 4PM.
Another walkable part of town with beach access is Ventura Harbor. This is the jumping off point to Channel Islands National Park. The mainland office at the harbor center remains closed temporarily due to COVID but the 5 islands are still open. If you don’t have a way to reach the islands, you can stay on the mainland. There are 2 city beaches located at the harbor- Harbor Cove Beach and Surfer’s Knoll. Both beaches are dog friendly and free to the public. And when you are craving something cold and sweet, make your way to Coastal Cone in the Harbor Village. This ice cream parlor claims to have the largest flavor collection on the west coast. They boast a whopping 40+ flavors to choose from and are insta-famous for their ‘Fishzookie’ and fish cones. You can view all their flavors here.
Edit: When open, McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream is arguably the best in Ventura. Located on main street; this ice cream parlor is temporarily closed due to COVID.
Outdoors: On Route
To get a full day of adventure, with nothing left to spare, take the coastal highway route to Ventura. Leave early so you can stop at Point Mugu state park– drive 48 miles along coastal highway to reach this destination. The park includes many trails and beach access, too. Dogs are allowed in day-use areas of the park- not on backcountry trails. Currently much of the park remains closed and parking is limited. There is a $12 admission fee per vehicle- there are also hourly rates. This is a great stop to add either in the morning or on your way back. If you are skipping Ventura and only making it this far, I recommend hiking the 5 hour round-trip Boney Mountain Overlook Trail. This trail is about 9 miles in total and rewards climbers with an impressive view. Bring lots of water and snacks!
Outside of the park is another rewarding but easier hiking trail, Paradise Falls. This hike has a full display of wildflowers in spring and early summer but ALWAYS has the namesake view of a gorgeous waterfall waiting at the end. Visitors are not permitted to swim- dangers and warning signs posted all around. This hike is pet friendly and gates open around 7AM. While this Is mostly a hidden gem, locals are well aware and escape to the trails here often. Ideally, you will want to arrive early to secure a spot and hike before it is too hot. The trail itself is an easy to moderate walk and can be completed in an hour; an easy hike to add before or after your day in Ventura.
Outdoor Weekend trip(s) from LA:
Weekend backpacking/ FULL day or 2 days trek or can do it in 1; recommended to have take 2 days, camping at 2 Palm. 101 miles from LA to trailhead- starting at Piedra Blanca trailhead- take Sespe rivertrail to Sespe hotsprings- 17.1 mi hike. Willett hotsprings is another option available from the Sespe rivertrail.
The best time to hike these trails and enjoy the hotsprings is in mid to late fall. The entire Sespe Wilderness has many trails, the two mentioned have high exposure with little to no shaded cover. Trail Warnings: beware of rattlesnakes and poison oak, bring layers- specifically pants to protect legs in high grass and for SPF coverage. I also recommend bringing a 2.5L bladder of water per person, MINIMUM! Leashed dogs are permitted.
Or climb the tallest Peak nearby
Even closer to home, you have Mount San Antonio. This is the tallest mountain in the LA area; second in SoCal. It stands at 10,069 feet. You can grab a campsite at Manker, 50 miles from LA and hike from here. The campsite sits at 6,000 feet above sea level meaning your elevation gain by foot will be 4,069. Be mindful of camping procedures and leave no trace. This hike is part of the Angeles National Forest- click here for camping and hike details. The tallest peak in all of SoCal is closer to Big Bear Lake, Mount San Gorgonio peaks at 11,503 feet.
City Stop #2: Temecula, California
(Proximity to San Diego):
Temecula Valley, the Napa of SoCal, is 60 miles north of San Diego. This is a nice getaway to escape into when you really just want to leave the city and beaches at home. Here you can visit the vineyards, sip on wine, and even take a hot air balloon tour. Yes, I checked, they are still operating these hot air balloon tours in a ‘safe’ COVID way. Rates range from $120-199 per person joining a group- click here to learn more about the procedures in place and to book your spot.
After touring the wineries head into Old Town to stuff your face with deliciousness. There are tons of restaurants- ranging from Havana Kitchens to Italian Ristorante’s… the highest rated restaurant being a Hearth Kitchen with artisan pizzas. The Goat and Vine is currently serving diners on their outdoor patio and offering to go options. Their menu extends beyond pizza, to see all the options- click here. Forewarning: Do NOT click the link on an empty stomach.
Outdoors: On Route
Grab a bottle of your favorite varietal at the smaller vineyards here before heading home. And if you have time to spare you can enjoy an evening hike, grab a bite to eat and hit the trails at Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve. This reserve is on route- off interstate 15 near Escondido. This protective reserve includes hiking and biking trails with picnic areas, too. The park is open from 8AM to 7:30PM daily; visitors are required to wear face masks on trails and remain socially distanced. Click here for trail maps and a plant list.
Keep Nature Wild
Please leave the places you visit better than you found them. Pack out whatever you bring in- this includes compostable (and non- DUH!) dog waste bags. It also includes fruit/vegetable or other food scraps- if it’s not growing wildly there, it doesn’t belong; an INVASIVE SPECIES. Leaving seemingly harmless and compostable waste is SEVERELY HARMFUL TO THE ENVIRONMENT AND ECOSYSTEM. This includes bringing firewood from out of town to local campsites. Wood carries insects and disease- a rule of thumb is to buy firewood within 10 miles of where it’ll be burned. And of course- check the daily fire danger rating to prevent a wildfire, especially in SoCal.
Extra- a bucketlist event:
The Rosebowl Flea Market is still happening!! The next one is September 13th. This is a World Famous flea market where you can score some one of a kind goods!! This is located in Pasadena, 12 mi from LA and 130 mi from San Diego. Get there early as vendors are still setting up to get first pick! I cannot wait to get back to SoCal- I only learned about this flea market after my last visit.
The market opens at 7am; make sure to grab a ticket for early entry! Entry time is posted on your ticket- other times are 8 and 9. Get tickets here! There is a lot of vintage clothing and highly discounted home furnishings to be found! This has been added to my bucket list since I learned about it a year ago. For some inspiration and ideas as to what you can expect watch MaCenna’s Youtube videos below:
Alternative Getaways in SoCal
The obvious Getaway for Los Angeles locals that feels like a true vacation is Solvang. A perfect small town adventure 128 miles North. A popular choice, this town is essentially a Little Denmark. However this once off-the-beaten-path destination has in recent years been featured on reality TV and is no longer a secret.
Solvang is in the Santa Ynez Valley region, another SoCal wine region. Bring a backpack and some silicone wine ‘glasses’. After you visit the town, take an evening hike up Gaviota peak and enjoy your bottle with a view! This trail has a 2,458 foot elevation peak. Make sure to bring water and sunscreen, too.
Another city worth mentioning with history, hikes and… PIES, is Julian. This is an old mining town northeast of San Diego. Currently, most of the town is shut down- and I do NOT recommend visiting until it is safer to do so. When that time comes around, take a 3 to 4 day weekend to Julian to include a visit to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, too! The two are only a 30 minute drive from each other.