There’s more to Los Angeles than its sprawling freeways and red carpet photo shoots. Within a short drive from Hollywood or Downtown LA, you can find yourself surrounded by mountains, desert or breathtaking ocean shoreline. There is no lack of small adventures to be had a short drive away from Los Angeles. Here are five of our favorite small town getaways.
Sitting in the Pomona Valley, east of Los Angeles, is Claremont, with a population of approximately 35,000. Claremont is a typical California town, yet it also has gems for you to explore. Get a rare glimpse into California architecture dating from the late 19th century through the mid-20th century with a walking or self-guided tour of the village. Visit the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, an 86-acre park that is home to native California plants. At Scripps College, take a break in the Margaret Fowler Garden, with its fragrant olive and orange trees and purple wisteria. Dating back to 1937, the garden features a 1946 fresco by Mexican muralist Alfredo Ramos Martinez.
2. Hermosa Beach
It’s hard to choose a favorite South Bay beach town. Bordered by Manhattan Beach to the north and Redondo Beach to the south, Hermosa offers laid back, SoCal surfer style. Skate, bike, run or walk along the water on a path that starts south in Torrance and extends north to Santa Monica. Stroll the scenic Hermosa Beach Pier for a dazzling ocean view. Visit The Lighthouse Café, which has been offering live jazz since 1940 and helped put West Coast Jazz on the musical map. Artists like Art Pepper, Art Blakey, and Cannonball Adderley made live recordings there and it was featured in the movie LaLa Land.
3. Joshua Tree
East of Los Angeles, not far from San Bernardino and Palm Springs is Joshua Tree National Park. Stunning rock formations, open sky, and Joshua Trees, members of the Yucca family, create an arresting landscape. The park spans 790,737 acres and is larger than the US state of Rhode Island. Drive through and take in the natural beauty, hike one of the trails or try rock climbing. There are camping areas and stargazers are always welcome. For food and lodging, try nearby Twenty-Nine Palms or Pioneertown on Highway 62. Don’t miss a chance to go to beloved Pappy and Harriet’s. Originally a movie-set cantina, it is now a restaurant and renowned intimate live concert venue.
Yes, that Malibu. It may seem cliché, but this is one of the most beautiful small towns in the world. It’s a short drive up the Pacific Coast Highway to this residential enclave of 12,000. Along the way, you can see Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities at the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades. Check out the beach at Point Dume or stroll through Malibu Creek State Park. When you get hungry, pull into the Malibu Country Mart for a range of dining and shopping options. You can also try a yoga class, get pampered at a salon and maybe even do some celebrity watching.
Located in Ventura County, Ojai is a quaint town with a population of 7,500. Inland from Santa Barbara, it offers hiking, horseback riding, golf, tennis, and small-town flavor. Known for its wellness culture, there are several spas in the area to choose from. The Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts houses a permanent collection of the artist’s work and insight into her long life, as well as rotating exhibits and events. A must for every visit is a stop at Ojai Ice Cream for kids and adult kids alike. It offers homemade ice creams, homemade fudge, candies and lots of old-fashioned charm.