Summer has already started and it is that time of the year to get some much needed break and relaxation.  However, not everybody can afford to miss a day’s work or to spend money on a vacation.  So here are seven destinations within Southern California which are close enough to drive to for a day trip or an overnight stay.  The good news is visiting these spots will definitely not break your savings account.  This travel bucket list will definitely help you plan a weekend or day trip this summer!

1.  Solvang

If you’ve always wanted to go to Denmark but don’t have the money or time in your hands, then Solvang is the perfect destination for you.  This beautiful city, which means sunny field in Danish, is situated in Santa Ynez Valley.  Aside from walking or biking around and admiring the unique scenery, there are so many things to do here in Solvang.

For art and culture, there are several museums to check out in Solvang like the Elverhoj Museum of History & Art, Hans Christian Andersen Museum, Old Mission Santa Ines, Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum and The Wildling Art Museum to name a few.  For wine and beer enthusiasts, there’s the Blackjack Ranch Vineyards & Winery, Cali Love Wine, Olive House, Randy’s Tap Room and Tocatta Tasting Room among so many others.  Wine and charcuterie are a must try at Succulent Swine Bar.  Solvang also has live theaters which showcase live shows until September 7, 2014.

2.  La Jolla

If you are a foodie who likes to dine with a view of the ocean or an outdoor adventurer, then La Jolla is the perfect place for you.  La Jolla, which means the jewel in Spanish, is a sea-side town that is 20 minutes north of downtown San Diego and prides itself with the best beaches, good rated restaurants, walking tours and water sports like surfing, kayaking and scuba diving.  For those travelling with kids, the Birch Aquarium is a good place to visit because both kids and adult can get close to the animals to enjoy the experience.  The La Jolla Playhouse Theater located at the UC San Diego campus boasts of award winning productions and is a place to check out if you are into plays and musical shows.

3.  San Luis Obispo

Oprah, in 2011, called SLO as the “happiest city in America.”  This charming city is the geographic heart of California, being situated between Los Angeles and San Francisco.  It offers travelers a breath of fresh air while wandering around town, basking in its culture, food and tranquility.  For day trips, you might want to plan your itinerary as there are so many attractions that are worth your time.  The Hearst Castle gives you an inside look of its acres of garden, a Roman ancient temple and pool.  The Bishop Peak is a rigorous hike that would reward you with the most amazing view.  The Sunset Drive-In Theater provides an old school movie experience for both the young and the young at heart.  The Mission Plaza is where most events are taking place and is complemented by retail shops, restaurants and bars.  And for something unique, visit the Bubble Gum Alley, a local tourist landmark known for its walls of used bubble gum.

4.  Ventura

If you want a laid back, stress-free place to visit, then Ventura is the place for you.  Ventura is located between the Los Padres National Forest and the Pacific Ocean, not to mention California’s longest flowing open rivers.  It is an ideal place to sit back and relax while whale watching, fishing or bird watching.  For a day trip with the family, it is fun to visit the Ventura Harbor where everyone can enjoy a spin at the carousel or rent kayaks or paddle boats to enjoy the waters.  To relieve stress, you can try any one of Ventura’s day spas which offers massages, aromatherapy and “chocolate fondue” for your tired body and to enjoy a good game of golf, you can visit one of Ventura’s various golf courses.  This charismatic and lovely place is rich with history and art that it is very hard not to find an art gallery, a museum, theater or historic site close by.

5.  Catalina Island

An island just 22 miles south to south west of Los Angeles, Catalina is the best place to go for a romantic weekend.  You can stay at a romantic hotel, cozy bed and breakfast, cute cottages or the country inn.  Couples can enjoy exploring the island while riding a bicycle designed for two or indulge themselves and bond together while enjoying a couples massage at one of Catalina’s main town, Avalon’s day spas.  For hikers and backpackers, the Catalina Backcountry offers guided day hike options.  For adventurers, then the Catalina Adventure Tour is something you shouldn’t miss while on the island.  This tour allows you to see underwater sights and life through their Catalina Submarine, “The Nautilus” or their Glass Bottom Boat, “Sea View.”

6.  Palm Springs

Although, it is extraordinarily hot in Palm Springs during the summer, this is the place to go if you want to stay in the resort pool all day or work on your tan.  If you like desert, golf, pools or the 50s, then Palm Springs is the place for you.  Palm Springs is the center for mid-century modern architecture and decor and is a good place to shop for furniture.  Downtown Palm Springs has several art galleries, clubs that feature live music, museums and specialty stores among many others.  If you like to explore nature but not do so well under the sun, then Palm Springs offer Eco Tours in air conditioned comfort.  They say a trip to Palm Springs is never complete without a ride in their aerial tram.  The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is the World’s Largest Rotating Tramcar that brings you up to 8,516 ft. at the end of the breath taking journey to Mountain Station.

7.  Water Parks

What is summer without a trip at the water park.  Have fun with some water play on a very hot summer day!  There are several places to choose from.  Buccaneer Cove Castlepark in Riverside is a smaller, cost-efficient, family friendly park in the heart of greater Los Angeles.  It is a five-level structure with several interactive water elements like water slides, spray cannons, fountains and a huge splash bucket.  Lego Land Water Park in Carlsbad features areas for the smaller kids age 1-3 and for bigger kids and adults, several larger tube and open slides.

However, you need a Lego Land admission in order to buy a ticket in this water park.  Raging Waters in San Dimas has rides and slides, waves, rivers and pools for kids, adults and for the not so faint-hearted.  It also has kiddie attractions for both small and big children.  Aquatica in San Diego is Sea World’s newest attraction.  Formerly called Soak City San Diego, this water park became park of SeaWorld last year.  There are six slides and pools with a minimum height requirement, a wave pool, lazy pool, toddler and water play structure.  Another water park to check out is Knott’s Berry Soak City in Buena Park.  For the thrill seekers, this water park features several extreme water slides and attractions like Old Man Falls and Pacific Spin.

 

Featured photo credit: Ming-yen Hsu via flickr.com

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