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15 Towns Around Los Angeles You Should Visit

Los Angeles is a wonderful place, but everyone has days when the traffic is way too much and all the sprawl starts to feel oppressive. When that generally happens, we highly recommend packing up the car, or even hopping on a train, and heading to visit some of the small towns within just a few hours of the city.

From quaint beachside communities all the way to artist retreats, Southern California is a gift that keeps on giving. It’s loaded with all kinds of towns to explore on a long weekend or even a “strategically planned sick day.” I mean, why not? We should strive to enjoy life as much as we can. Here are all the options you should have on your bucket list:

Photo by Geartooth Productions from Shutterstock


With an interesting combination of quality wine, a specific type of architecture that resembles the mission style, and a legion of spas and health resorts, Ojai has a bit of everything one could ever wish for in a small town retreat from city life. That’s why we recommend you take a hike, read a book, or even meditate there. It’s amazing. Ojai has probably been, for a long time now, a great place in Southern California for relaxation.


An entire town is dedicated to the Danish heritage of its founders. What’s better than that? When you reach this destination, it might seem like visiting another country, or maybe even Disneyland. The streets are beautifully lined up with colorful Scandinavian-style buildings and replicas of some of the most notable monuments and sculptures found in Copenhagen.

There’s also a ton of Danish food to be found here, including the aebleskiver that made the town so famous. If you’re wondering what’s the deal with this dish, it’s made of a pancake-like puff pastry smothered in jam and powdered sugar. Yum!


Perched all the way up in the San Gabriel Mountains, Wrightwood is the type of town that looks as if it belongs in a snow globe. Less than 90 minutes from Los Angeles (if the weather allows for it), it’s also one of the closest towns where Angelenos could go to play in the powder.


With a population of over 100,000, plenty of people wouldn’t go so far as to consider Orange a small town in the most conventional sense. However, it definitely has that small-town feel. Also known as one of the most popular places in OC for both dining and antiquing, it’s also the home of over half of all the houses designed by the one and only midcentury master Joseph Eichler.

Los Olivos

This town, located northwest of Santa Barbara, has quite an impressive number of restaurants and art galleries. However, probably the main attraction is their wine. Los Olivos has dozens of wineries and tasting rooms, so it’s really no wonder the town’s website declares that “every weekend is a wine-fest.”


The wonderful resort community of Avalon, located on the one and only Catalina Island, can only be accessed by airplane or boat (you go on a free ferry ride on your birthday, which is amazing). Once you get there, you can jump from shop to shop, snorkel, or simply sit back and enjoy the sea breeze and all the things life has to offer.

Morro Bay

There’s so much to do in this pretty seaside town located north of San Luis Obispo, such as kayaking, biking, and even eating fish and chips, if that’s your thing. You can take a stroll through the kitschy shops and grab some saltwater taffy and a postcard.

Naturally, the number one attraction is the striking, and extremely photogenic, 576-foot rock that rises like a statue from the bay. Whatever you do, just don’t try to climb it without a proper permit. It won’t go too well.


This seaside destination manages to effectively combine breathtaking beaches with an unpretentious small-town vibe that’s quite hard to find at times, especially in Southern California. A wonderful place to hang out and watch the waves, the town is also the home of the all-too-popular Island Brewery Company and “the host” of the annual avocado festival in October. While you’re there, you might as well stop on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner route, so you can leave the car behind if you want to.

Photo by Bob Reynolds from Shutterstock

Slab City

Let’s be honest about something: quiet beach communities are one thing, but if you’re truly looking to get lost, Slab City is the ideal place for you. This is the site of a former Marine Corps base, and it’s now occupied by a wonderful and colorful cast of squatters and nomads.

There’s really not much in terms of services, but over the course of a couple of years, a library and a makeshift performance space popped up. If you ask anyone about Slab City, they will tell you that the community is well-known for its amazing works focused on outsider art, including the striking acrylic paint monument known as Salvation Mountain.


Formerly known as a gold mining outpost, Kernville is now probably one of the finest spots in California for biking, hiking, rafting, and camping aficionados. The town itself is worth the effort, especially thanks to its rustic charm and stunning natural surroundings.

Solana Beach

Unfortunately, Fiesta del Sol, Solana Beach’s famous annual music and arts festival, ended. Nevertheless, we would argue that there’s still plenty to see there. In fact, we’d start by saying that Solana Beach is a great place to relax.

What, is relaxing suddenly out of style? I don’t think so. The town has plenty of shops and restaurants, along with live music performances. However, the real attraction is the beach, surrounded by tide pools and overlooked by impressive bluffs. Just like Carpinteria, the town is quite accessible by Amtrak.


Nestled somewhere in the San Jacinto Mountains, right above the desert communities of Riverside County, Idyllwild is well-known for both its natural beauty and thriving artistic community. There’s an unincorporated community with miles of hiking trails and rocks that are very popular among climbers. Moreover, there’s an annual film festival in the winter and a popular jazz festival.

Joshua Tree

Probably the number one attraction of this desert town is the park with the same name. However, downtown Joshua Tree has plenty of art galleries, restaurants, and vintage motels. Moreover, you will find many roadside oddities along the way.

Lake Arrowhead

Another fascinating mountain town, Lake Arrowhead, is all about those touristy things that you want to try. There’s a small community there in the San Bernardino Mountains with plenty of skiing opportunities during the winter months, lakeside recreation in the summertime, and an endless list of festivals and events throughout the year.

San Juan Capistrano

The well-known San Juan Capistrano, with its wildly romantic setting used in Zorro stories, is definitely a must-see for all the history buffs and architecture lovers out there. It has one of the oldest structures in America, the Great Stone Church, built somewhere between 1797 and 1806 and partially destroyed by the 1812 earthquake.

Also, there are 31 historic structures in the Los Rios District, along with Michael Grave’s postmodern library building.

And when you decide to visit any of these locations, make sure you take photographs! For that, you might need a Fujifilm Instax Mini 11!

If you found this article insightful, then you’ll probably enjoy reading it too: The 8 Most Spectacular Christmas Towns in the US

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