Everybody needs to get unplugged and spend more family time outdoors this season because it’s good for the body, mind and soul — especially after we’ve all been cooped up for a year. Traveling with the whole family doesn’t have to be difficult or unsafe if you keep it simple with a plan to make an easy escape from Los Angeles.
Read along for our suggestions on four quick getaway spots that are safe, versatile and fun for all ages.
Mammoth Lakes is a stunning alpine community that delivers a cornucopia of activities that will keep the whole family active and entertained. The laid-back mountain vibe you’ll find in the heart of the Eastern Sierras is a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city, despite only being a five- to six-hour drive from L.A.
I highly recommend staying at the charming Snowcreek Resort. Not only does its gorgeous condominiums overlook the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountain range, but all accommodations come with all of the comforts of home. Our spacious condo had a washer and dryer, which changed my travel philosophy for life because it made everything so convenient. And all of the condos are just minutes away from Mammoth Mountain.
To make the most out of your nature escape here, soak in some glorious California sunshine and take the kids biking or walking on the paved, stroller-accessible Town Loop for some picturesque views of Mammoth Rock, the Sherwin Lakes and Mammoth Mountain. Footloose and Wave Rave both have a wonderful selection of electric bike rentals. More outdoorsy boating and hiking fun abound in the Mammoth Lakes Basin. The hike to Emerald Lake is a short option for younger kids. Older children will enjoy the wide range of activities offered at Mammoth Adventure Center. And for casual dining options, head to Giovanni’s Pizza for a mammoth-size pizza and The Yodler Restaurant to share a giant pretzel.
Santa Barbara is an easily manageable vacation destination for the whole family. Learning and nature experiences reign supreme in this coastal gem. Additionally, it’s less than a two-hour drive from L.A.
For your lodging needs, look no further than the West Beach Inn, tucked away just steps from the beach in the heart of Santa Barbara. Your family will love its outdoor pool and newly renovated suites that include kitchenettes and balconies overlooking the nearby harbor. Get your seafood fix and enjoy some outdoor family dining at the Santa Barbara Fish House. And for a more upscale adult dining experience, head over to Opal Restaurant, where more sophisticated palates will be rewarded with epic culinary masterpieces.
You’ll want to spend some time in the great outdoors with the little ones, and Santa Barbara Adventure Company’s seaside bike tour is a great way to see the lay of the land. Another spectacular way to relax and enjoy the coastal scenery is by embarking on a memorable horseback ride in the beach with Los Padres Outfitters. The kids will feel safe because the horses seem to instinctively know how to take care of you and where to go. For an educational activity disguised as fun, try a sailing lesson with the Santa Barbara Sailing Center.
South Lake Tahoe
At around a seven-hour drive from L.A., South Lake Tahoe is totally worth the trip for the bounty of family-friendly outdoor activities it provides. This adventure playground is not only an easy escape for Angelenos with kids, but also delivers more variety than other lake towns in this region. It’s lake living at its best.
The centrally located Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel has free breakfast and a serene outdoor deck where you can unwind with the family. At nine stories, it’s the largest hotel South Lake Tahoe has to offer. For a casual dining option, check out Lake Tahoe Aleworx and then satisfy your sweet tooth at Camp Richardson’s old-fashioned ice cream parlor.
Make the most of your outdoor time and head straight to the lake by taking an Action Watersport of Tahoe boat cruise from Camp Richardson’s marina. Then you and the kids can enjoy some swimming at Emerald Bay’s idyllic little cove. For hiking opportunities, Van Sickle Bi-State Park is conveniently located right behind Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel and offers some easy trails that are ideal for hiking with little ones. Epic Discovery at Heavenly Mountain Resort is also not to be missed if you want activities such as ropes courses and zip lines.
One of the massive benefits of traveling from L.A. to Laguna Beach is that you can just park your car in Laguna and never need it again. And I would highly recommend staying at the Pacific Edge Hotel because a hotel with super easy beach access will do wonders for your spirits.
There will be smiles for miles for families walking just steps from the hotel’s pool to the beach and back again. Just being able to get out of the hotel with the stroller and walk somewhere like the playground at Main Beach Park and have activity and life surrounding you is an escape in and of itself.
If you want to expand your beach horizons and explore Laguna’s cultural scene, head to the Laguna Art Museum. For a fun educational activity, book a tour at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center or explore the multitude of tide pools.
With caution top of mind, many of us aren’t traveling far this summer, but we’re determined to get away. With a little planning, our quick escapes can easily feel like we’re on the other side of the world.
Margot Black is an L.A.-based traveler, wife and mom.