Southern California is full of some of the best driving roads around. Whether you enjoy a spirited run in the canyons or a comfortable drive on the freeway, there’s no shortage of fun to be had in So. Cal. for car enthusiasts.
These are some of the best destinations for quick road trips in Southern California. Schedule your travel times to avoid rush-hour traffic, and you can get to any of these places within just a few hours (depending on your starting point), making them perfect for day or weekend getaways!
Santa Barbara, California:
Yes, this is a little north, but Santa Barbara, known as the “American Riviera,” is one of the nicest beach communities in the lower part of California. Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is a wonderful route to take from Los Angeles, stretching all the way north to Oxnard where you’ll be spilled out onto surface streets. From there, the 101 freeway northbound offers a quick way to Santa Barbara while still offering views of the water for most of your time on the highway.
A few great places to spend time once you arrive are State Street for excellent shopping and restaurants, Montecito for a more intimate shopping and dining experience, and of course, any number of beaches just minutes from the highway. For a fun and relaxing spa experience, stop at Salt, where you can get a massage or just kick back in their underground Himalayan salt cave. You could also stop at a number of automotive museums in Oxnard along the way, or for a particularly scenic drive, take a detour on Route 154 to cross the Cold Spring Canyon Arch Bridge. Originally opened to traffic in 1963, this scenic bridge has won awards for engineering, design and beauty and is currently the fifth-longest span arch bridge of this "supported deck" type in the world.
Getting there in style is important. No big lumbering minivans on this trip, no! You’ll want to take you and your three closest friends in one of the hottest convertibles out there: The Ford Mustang offers impeccable styling, great versatility, and a comfortable seating arrangement with a large-enough trunk to throw all those shopping bags in.
San Diego, California:
Deep in Southern California, San Diego offers so much in terms of fun for both friends and family. Depending on where you start, the most direct route is the freeway, either the 405 or the 5. Freeway driving isn’t as much fun, but depending on the time of day it can get you to your destination pretty quick.
There’s a ton to do in San Diego but to choose a few favorites it would have to be Coronado Island just off the San Diego coast, and a perfect place for a small-town feel getaway, Sea World is a must for families with young kids or even showing those picky out-of-town guests wanting to see some of Cali’s best attractions, and then there’s always Balboa Park that’s filled with lovely museums and family oriented activates. If you’re looking for a great road for enjoyable driving, take the 78 out to the historic gold rush town of Julian and grab some pie.
Since this can be a relatively long haul unless you’re more on the south end of the state, a touring car would be a safe bet. Choosing just one is tough but you want the comfort, space, and good looks from a car that you won’t need to fill up both ways. The Mazda 3 S Grand Touring five-door would be an excellent choice especially if equipped with a six-speed manual for extra fun when the freeway suddenly clears. There’s plenty of room for passengers and your stuff and you’ve got a comfortable and quiet ride.
A bit more central to the Los Angeles area folks, Pasadena offers rich history and great activities for any day trip. There isn’t a coast route to speak of in getting to Pasadena but the freeway options aren’t too objectionable. Take the 101 to the 134 if you’re coming from the northern end of LA while the southern end has a number of freeway options including the 605.
Some must see’s in the Pasadena area are the Rose Bowl where various events are held, including a great swap meet, Down Town Pasadena with all the great shops and delicious restaurants (bring your walking shoes!), and finally there are a number of fantastic museum including the Norton Simon and the Huntington Library.
Next to Santa Barbara, this is one of the more high-end day trip destinations on this list. Driving a car that will help you blend right in with the locals is important. While the other destinations are more family and friend oriented, you’ll want to bring just one special friend or partner in crime. The Jaguar F-Type coupe
combines all those worlds of sophistication, class, and comfort. Depending on which engine variant you choose you’ll get there in no time. You may need to stop over in Beverly Hills with this one…