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This post is sponsored by Marriott but all opinions expressed within are my own.

It’s not that Los Angeles doesn’t have a lot to lure visitors. But when you’re visiting Southern California, it’s tempting to want to squeeze in as much as possible. Fortunately, there are lots of easy weekend getaways from Los Angeles that are diverse, easy to get to and thoroughly enjoyable in completely unique ways. Here are some to consider:

Santa Barbara

About a two-hour drive from Los Angeles, Santa Barbara feels like a world away. With its distinctive Spanish charm seen in the white stucco buildings and terra cotta tile roofs and its coastal location with the Santa Ynez Mountains looming in the distance, Santa Barbara is an easy weekend getaway from Los Angeles that really feels like a getaway. There are lots of things to do in Santa Barbara, especially if you love to connect with nature.

From the beaches to visiting underground salt caves, there’s so much natural landscape to enjoy for free. The Santa Barbara Botanical Garden is another must for nature-lovers. Showcasing beautiful plants and flowers that are native to California, these gardens offer a peaceful retreat along a walkway that’s about a mile long. Santa Barbara also has a thriving food and wine scene so be sure to check out the local restaurants. To extend your foodie experience, check out a cooking class or book a food or wine tour. You won’t be disappointed!

Where to stay

Imagine a peaceful retreat nestled among 78 acres of gorgeous natural beauty overlooking the Pacific Ocean. That’s what you’ll find at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara. Between the natural beaches and the three infinity edge pools, you’ll have plenty of options for rest and relaxation. And if that’s not enough, check yourself into the spa. The sprawling 42,000-square-foot spa space is a tranquil and holistic escape where you can enjoy a range of both traditional and alternative treatments.

There are six great restaurants on property but with panoramic views of the Pacific from the outdoor patio, the modern steakhouse Angel Oak is the star! The Ritz-Carlton Bacara also runs a Jean-Michel Cousteau ‘Ambassadors of the Environment’ program, which invites guests to learn more about the natural environment surrounding the hotel. My family and I did an eco-hike while we visited and learned so much about the local plants and wildlife, as well as the conservation efforts that are in place.

Newport Beach

Less than 50 miles from Los Angeles, Newport Beach is an easy getaway and once you’ve been, you’re certain to want to return. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a mix of both tourist and local experiences. Want to live like a local? Check out the region’s farmers markets (Newport Beach Farmer’s Market, Corona del Mar Market and Lido Marina Village Market) for locally grown fruits and veggies, prepared foods and baked goodies. Shopping in Newport Beach includes everything from luxury boutiques to bargain hunting. And the beaches can’t be beat!

If you’re looking for tourist attractions to check out, there’s no shortage. From family fun at Balboa Fun Zone (the kids will love the Ferris wheel and arcade games) to the Balboa and Newport Piers, Newport Beach offers tons of ways to enjoy a weekend getaway from Los Angeles.

Where to stay

East Coast meets West Coast at Newport Beach’s Lido House, Autograph Collection. Combining Cape Cod style with a distinctive California coastal vibe, Lido House offers guests a luxurious beach house experience in an ideal location near Newport Beach’s white sand beaches, the Lido Marina Village and Balboa Peninsula.

Everywhere you look is eye candy for the design lover. The guest rooms are beautiful and tranquil with modern design and amenities. But the villas are next level luxury. Each one is exquisitely designed. We had the good fortune of staying in the Collins Cottage, which was so gorgeous, we never wanted to leave. From the gourmet kitchen and third floor patio to the rooftop gazebo and elevator to make getting up and down super easy, this villa is perfect for family vacations or extended stays.

San Diego

It’s a picturesque drive from LA to San Diego and will only take you a couple of hours. But if you really want the best views, consider hopping aboard the Pacific Surfliner train. This route hugs the stunning California coastline for most of the journey, so you can sit back and relax and instead of worrying about the traffic, you can just watch the ocean zipping by. A weekend in San Diego isn’t enough time to fit in everything this great city has to offer but it’s enough to give you a taste!

San Diego is home to the San Diego Zoo and Petco Park, perfect outings for the family. And the city is well-situated for day trips to Legoland, Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm. But beyond fun for the kids, San Diego also has lots to offer for everyone. The Old Town district is a favorite with locals and tourists alike and has 32 restaurants, 100 boutique shops and 36 museums and historic sites to explore. The Gaslamp Quarter is another popular destination in downtown San Diego. The city’s history and modern life collide here. The Victorian architecture harkens back to an era long gone but the restaurants and vibrant night life all celebrate contemporary life.

Where to stay

The US Grant, a Luxury Collection Hotel in San Diego is a historic, five-star property that originally opened in 1910. It was built by Ulysses S. Grant’s son and has an impressive guest list including Albert Einstein and many US Presidents. The hotel is in the Gaslamp Quarter so it’s perfectly situated to explore downtown San Diego by foot.

Enjoy the hotel’s spa and fitness centre as well as the Grant Grill, serving up AAA/CAA Four Diamond cuisine. Some of the grand details you’ll find inside the hotel whisper of the hotel’s history but otherwise, expect modern amenities, contemporary art and state-of-the-art technology. Overall, the hotel has an understated elegance and is the perfect home base for your weekend getaway from Los Angeles in San Diego.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas might be a state away from Los Angeles but it’s only about a five-hour drive. Of course, it’s a quick one-hour flight but either way, Vegas definitely makes the list of easy weekend getaways from Los Angeles. Whether you’re planning a girls’ or guys’ trip or a romantic escape, there really is something for everyone. That’s even true for families with young children! On a recent family trip to Las Vegas to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday, we traveled with two kids under the age of five (our son and my wife’s niece) so we weren’t hitting up the casinos or night clubs. But we got to discover a different side of Vegas. While a lot of Vegas’ big shows aren’t appropriate for children, some are. We did some research and decided on Mystere by Cirque du Soleil, which is for children of all ages. Both of the kids loved it!

The next day, we checked out the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay (it cost about $60 million and opened in June 2000), which thrilled the kids to no end. And there are many more family-friendly Las Vegas activities. You can take a gondola ride in the Venetian or take in the fountain show at the Bellagio. You could also take a ride on the High Roller, the highest observation wheel in the world.

Where to stay

Las Vegas definitely has a certain style but if you’re looking for something a little more unexpected on your weekend getaway from Los Angeles, check into the JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Spa. The resort feels more Mediterranean, making guests feel like they’re a world away from the bright lights and buzz of the Las Vegas Strip, even though it’s just minutes away (and there’s a complimentary shuttle to get you there).

With luxury rooms, a spa, salon, poll and fitness center, the JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Spa is the perfect escape. Golf, anyone? You’re in luck! You can tee off on the championship golf course. When it’s time to dine, you’ll have options on property, from Japanese and Italian to American and international cuisines, too.

Johnny Jet

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