Weekend Getaways in California | California Getaway Weekends

The California weekend getaway is a ritual for time-bankrupt Californians who slave away all week and have only a day or two to enjoy diversions at California beaches, mountains, wine country, casinos and hotels. If you need to get away and depart the madness of the job, you will find you are not alone on Friday afternoons on the busy California roads such as Highway 101 that travels the coast from Ventura to northern California border.


Summer is high season for weekend getaways but as the kids go back to school and calendar fades, the fall season does not have to equate with doldrums for those needing a diversion. Some will be within a few blocks of your home, but many can be just a hop-skip drive, or an easy plane flight. We've become pretty good at the two to four day getaways both in and out of California. The most fun getaways are things that just help you forget completely about work. But if you think of it, maybe the getaways help you find solutions to something that's been on your foggy mind.  So with that said, just remember you need not limit yourself to good times in the summertime.  Fall and winter offer some of the neatest outings.


Top Weekend Getaways in California:


Casinos - There's not a lot that the small destinations, events and festivals can do to compete with big time Las Vegas. So when in California, do as the Californians and go to Las Vegas for the weekend. Flying has almost become as popular as driving.  And as many locals know, winter is the best time to go because it's cooler there.


California theme parks always rank near the top as both a California weekend getaway and a kids vacation. While Disneyland did not rank among the top vacations this past Labor Day weekend (Las Vegas and San Diego won title), it still came in close. Theme parks offer a fun diversion with kids and friends, and not everyone can see them on a week day.  So when you can't you get up early on a Saturday and head over to one of the great thrill ride, fun zones to let your mind roam in escapism that's healthy and only costs $100 or so.  While locals are less inclined to book hotel rooms to theme park weekend getaways, just fly to Vancouver or airports within a flying market of Disneyland California and you'll be amazed to see where Disney spends its advertising dollars to get those destinations to fly over to Los Angeles or Orange County Airport for the weekend getaway with hotel stay.


California beach weekend getaways - There still among the favorite types of vacations and though they only last a day or two, they offer some of the best de-stressing.  The problem with beaches has only been addressed by several destinations such as San Diego, however.  People want experiences, not things, and after two days of watching the waves, looking for seashells and walking on piers, you need to come up with other activities to keep vacations there. Which proves the point that beach weekend getaways will continue to thrive as the mini-part quick fix for travelers' getaway needs.


California gardens and gardening getaways - California gardening and gardens are a hot ticket item, now that the country is focused on ecology and being green. California is a leader in the movement (Santa Barbara is where Earth Day began), and believe it or not, people are traveling distances to listen and learn about drought resistant gardens, beach and ocean tolerant gardens, and subjects to enhance their knowledge of best practices as hobbyists. There's a  renaissance of interest in places such as Cambria on the Central Coast, where the city hosts an annual event, Gathering of the Gardeners. In addition, home shows held at convention centers, flower and botanical gardens open to the public throughout the state, and Earth Day, Arbor Day and garden & farm tours, plus commercial flower farms open their doors to tourists. With the trends in travel reflected in this type of vacation, adults are gaining opportunities to learn new things while enhancing their lives for the better.


California lake vacations - Get on a boat and fish. Get in a kayak and row. Get on a houseboat and relax. Our get out by a wetlands and watch the fall migrations. Lake vacations in California in the fall mean less crowds, beautiful weather, fall colors and the calm before winter. Go!


California cave vacations are really cool. No, we're not kidding. They're REALLY cool. As a matter of knowledge, the cave tours in places such as O'Brien on Shasta Lake near Redding, offer a superb air conditioned experience when the temps outside hover around 100 degrees on a dry, hot Shasta Cascade summer day. From Redding to Sequoia's Crystal Cave, tourists on weekend getaways, travelers on vacation and locals who love their favorite haunts all can enjoy the hidden treasures, the lesser known vacation gems worthy of exploration in beguiling California. Read our California cave guide to several we've found, and loved.


California Mountain Vacations and Weekend Getaways -  Big Bear Lake is a special retreat named for the bears that once roamed the valley in a mountain resort close to L.A. Idyllwild offers a similar experience with less commercialism than Big Bear, and it shares the close proximity to Los Angeles. Both vacation resorts have been popular for filming movies. Mammoth Mountain is considered one of the favorite four seasons getaways. From the Fall Foliage tours to winter sledding and skiing, summer fishing or mountain biking, families, athletes and outdoorsmen find the charms of Mammoth irresistible. And for those who like Heavenly skiing combined with gambling, South Lake Tahoe is located on the Nevada state line next to gambling casinos in Nevada's city called Stateline.  But the grand finale to a mountain vacation must surely find you taking photos at Yosemite National Parks. This is one place Ansel Adams found much inspiration for his famous works.


California Fairs & Festivals  - People love to attend events...or be in them for that matter.  In the fall the festivals take on special meaning with wine harvests, food harvests and art and crafts fairs for the upcoming holidays and gift buying season. California features thousands of crafter fairs for weekend getaways, but probably the most popular getaways include live concerts. 


Fall Foliage - OK, this is not the foliage you peepers will see in Vermont, granted. But California's higher climes are not too shabby for some colorful leaf-turning.  Kids can collect leaves for school projects, you can take a photo safari and capture them on film, or in areas such as the Gold Country hills, they enjoy the fall colors to the backdrop of wine & art events in places such as Placer County.


California Chili Cook Offs - Nothing will put the spice back in your cooking as a chili cookoff competition. There are localized contests that you may want to enter. The big players of the International Chili Society take their chili seriously and if you want to compete, you better get practicing now.


Wine tasting - The fall harvest are offer sweeter wines... and as we learned on a recent trip to Cleveland, Ohio, there's even a very tasty ice wine that comes from their region. California, known for wine, loves weekend getaway vacationers to come see them in the fall when things slow a bit. Nevertheless, don't assume you'll have the place all to yourself. This is the time when busloads of seniors, foreign travelers and even locals all have the same idea to go wine tasting (is there ever a bad time to taste wine in California?)




One of the favorite weekend getaway rituals is Saturday or Sunday morning breakfast at an outdoor cafe. California has thousands of al fresco dining options and the breakfast meal kind of gels most situations. Whether you are with friends, lovers, kids and family or by yourself, you can sit over a cup of coffee and some scrambled eggs, plotting out your day. Don't stress out over crowds, because that can be more fun for your immersion experience. Just sit, watch and enjoy.


The perfect California weekend getaway might include a vacation in Southern California at Disneyland shown above, the getaway weekend capital. Cities such as San Diego and Santa Monica have developed a strong, loyal clientele of Orange County weekend getaway travelers who simply need a break from the ho-hum routine.  Spending just a day and night at the Southern California beaches even 10 miles from your home can be enough to refresh you and rejuvenate you for the week ahead.


Great Northern California weekend getaways include Napa and Sonoma wine country, two favorites for exploring and sampling some of California's finest cuisine to the backdrop of stunning, rolling hills drenched in the golden sun. Be warned that the weekends do tend to be fully booked at many of this destination's hotels. In fact, the locals have campaigns to get you to visit on the week day. So if you want to maximize your wine tasting, weekends are OK, but not always the top choice.  San Francisco bay area and Sacramento travelers find the wine country ideal for short weekend vacations.


One of the fastest growing places for California weekend getaway vacations is Central Coast. Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo, Solvang and Santa Barbara are favorites for the L.A., O.C., S.F. and even Bakersfield crowd who only want to spend a few hours driving to get to their weekend destination. On the Central California Coast you'll find wineries, beaches, sand dunes and Hearst Castle among the favorites. Casual, outdoor sports and fun are in store for those heading for the country along the Central Coast. Don't be surprised to find cows munching on grass in the pastures as you drive along Highway 101 in this beautiful, growing area.


 In booking a hotel room, weekends are the most popular days of the week, being reserved and filled at many resort and vacation destinations five times more often than regular week days.  The exceptions are the corporate hotels that give discounts for weekend stays. Burlingame, Irvine, Los Angeles and San Francisco all have their share of business properties that actually offer discounts on Friday and Saturday night.


We've tried various escape times to take this type of getaway vacation. Probably the best is the early Friday departure. That's the time before most are able to slip out of work or school. Saturday morning weekend getaway escapes do not provide much relief traffic wise but sometimes can be slightly better than Friday afternoon. So for Californians who have learned the routine, here are a few tips to maximize your enjoyment on the journey. While you can just begin driving and stop where you like, you might want to have a plan if you wish to stay at a California beach resort or at one of the hundreds of California beach hotels. Why? Because the weekends in the summer are often fully booked and you don't want to end up somewhere far away from your first choice if you can help it.


Don't stress out when planning the weekend getaways in California.  Allow yourself enough time to relax, read a book, see a show, or do whatever it is that helps you enjoy and treasure this experience so you can look forward to many more.  With Americans receiving less vacation time in lump sums, the weekend getaway has virtually become the primary vacation model for many working individuals.


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