Top 8 California Weekend Destinations

For me, long summer weekends evoke memories of the lazy days of summers past. When I was a teen growing up in Southern California, we’d hang out at the beach from morning until night when the last bonfire embers dimmed and we scrambled to find a ride home. The scent of suntan lotion clinging to our skin, sand coating our toes, and promises of “see you tomorrow” floating in the cool air...Now, any summer weekend when I get the chance, I pile my kids, their friends, and our lab Lucy into the family SUV and head to Tahoe. We always have ambitious plans to pack adventure and relaxation into a weekend that magically feels like a long vacation. Summer weekends are about slowing down, making memories, and enjoying the perfect escape...To that end, I have selected eight of my favorite getaways in this glorious Golden State. These choice spots are destinations within easy reach from San Francisco or Los Angeles by car or plane.

Lake Tahoe

My home away from home with its year-round outdoor activities for adventure seekers of all ages. We enjoy hiking trails above the Lake, horseback riding in Truckee, rock climbing at Donner, or a lazy brunch at Sunnyside.  During summer, stop by downtown charming Truckee for “Truckee Thursdays” a vibrant street fair with live music, food, drinks and art. Or if you need an adventure activity for little ones and teens, head to Tahoe Treetop Adventure Parks, for a ropes course aerial challenge made of bridges and zip lines that is fun for all! (3 locations: Tahoe City, Squaw Valley, and Tahoe Vista). Reservations recommended. And, the Rodeo opens in Truckee! Check out pageants, BBQs and of course, classic rodeo events from Aug. 20-27th at McIver Arena, on Brockway. Good 'ol outdoor summer entertainment for the whole family. Call 530-559-7591 for tix info.

San Francisco

Whether it’s a hike in the Marin headlands with stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge, taking in a Giant’s game, or dropping into the 64th Annual North Beach Festival (June 16 & 17), the City by the Bay is always a fun place to play.  Every summer you can catch free concerts at Stern Grove Festival June 17-Aug. 19. Check out the newest hotel opening in the Presidio, the Lodge at the Presidio opening on June 28th. So much to see at the SFMOMA! Check out the captivating works of Belgian surrealist René Magritte on view until October 28, and, enjoy the interactive display at the end!  

Laguna Beach

Outdoors-loving vacationers will swoon at this charming seaside town. Laguna Beach is always a stand out destination whether it’s watching beach volleyball sets at Main Beach, walking along the miles of pristine coastal trails, surfing, or discovering your zen at 8 a.m. yoga at Treasure Island Park (it’s free! Just bring your yoga mat). Catch the 52nd Annual Sawdust Festival Friday, June 29  through Sunday, September 2, 2018; open 10 a.m.- 10 p.m. daily.

San Diego

With its welcoming vibe, warm weather, stretches of surfable and sun-worship-worthy beaches, a vibrant nightlife scene in the downtown Gaslamp Quarter, and pretty coastal villages to wander such as Del Mar and Coronado, San Diego is a playground with something for everyone. If you are seeking novelty, JuneShine, San Diego's first hard kombucha bar, just opened this month in North Park. JuneShine was created to "quench the thirst of the active, healthy, and adventurous spirit." Each flavor of kombucha is brewed to include probiotics, vitamins and antioxidants. Yum! Or if a glass of good ‘ol wine is more your speed, enjoy a sunset harbor cruise or, there’s always beer and a dog to savor at a Padres baseball game at PETCO park.

Palm Springs

Boasting blue skies and guaranteed warm weather, the pretty pools and tennis courts at the Jonathan Adler-designed Parker Palm Springs is a dream desert destination. Check out the Palm Springs Art Museum exhibit Journey Through The Desert – The Road Less Traveled features work by approximately 20 American photographers. Catch Palm Springs restaurant week June 1-17, or stop in for the weekly Farmer’s Market held Saturdays 8 a.m. - 12 p.m. June-Sept.

Big Sur

Enjoy the stunning 90-mile stretch of rugged coastline offering plenty of hiking trails to take in its breathtaking beauty. Start at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park where a 80-foot waterfall dropping from the cliffs to the ocean is the focal point. You can get a view of by paying $10 to park and walk under the highway on a maintained trail. Visit the Historic park and lightstation Saturdays and Wednesdays; 10:00 a.m. & 2:00 p.m. and Sundays at 10:00 a.m.  

Santa Monica

Shop, dine, or stroll along the beach to the buzzing and picturesque Pacific Park Pier. Treat your kids to the famous strawberry lemonade at Pier Burger, and then walk up the strand to treat yourself to cocktails on the terrace at Shutters on the Beach.

Escape from your cubicle and enjoy a meal at Downtown Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade with the return of everyone’s favorite Summer lunch series, Picnic on the Promenade, July through August. Ease into the weekend every Friday in July and August with classic board games, Ping-Pong tables, giant Jenga and Connect 4. A DJ will be spinning smooth grooves to help you digest the stresses of the work week or enhance the enjoyment for all of you out-of-towners. Bring your lunch or grab-and-go from one of Downtown’s celebrated eateries and soak in the sun!

Napa Valley

No matter what time of year you visit Napa Valley, there is always something for everyone’s palette and pleasure. And after a devastating fire season, the region is experiencing a rebirth it wants to share with folks who flock here for summer’s long sunshine-filled days. If downtown Napa is your destination, dine on delish Mexican food at the hip Gran Electrica for beer-battered tacos, homemade tortillas and agave spirits. It’s a local fave. Dine in one of the top attractions of Napa Valley, on a train! There are several outdoor events, festivals and concerts such as The Lincoln Theater in Yountville that offers a new Americana Series, featuring folk, bluegrass and rockabilly concerts in July, August and Sept. Or, reach for a sentimental favorite, the hot air balloon rides that give you a breathtaking view of this stunning valley. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to check out the region’s world famous wineries!