There is a great diversity of accessible weekend getaways from Los Angeles or the San Francisco Bay Area. Explore the California Coast and/or wine country and enjoy the diverse outdoor activities and sights that make the possibilities for weekend getaways virtually limitless. Palm Springs also makes for a great weekend getaway, and a trip there can easily be combined with a visit to nearby Joshua Tree.
The most famous scenic drive in all of California is the Pacific Coast Highway. This highway winds along the central California coast along steep ocean cliffs, vast sand dunes, small coves, and inland mountains as it heads from San Francisco through Santa Cruz, Carmel, Big Sur, and many other spectacular areas. Leave time in your schedule to stop at beaches, vista points, small towns, and farm stands that you will come across along the way. Highlights include the Moss Beach Distillery for its fun atmosphere, tasty food, view and food that can't be matched. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the top family tourist destinations in the country and should not be missed. Tour Hearst Castle in San Simeon and its incredibly beautiful pools and grounds.
Northern California offers many different wine regions to explore. You can pick up Highway 29 in Napa and travel through Calistoga and Yountville, a region full of artisan cheeses, hot springs, farm-fresh food, rolling hills, and famous wine country. Have a picnic lunch at one of the impressive vineyards, stroll the grounds, and (unless you're the designated driver), sample Napa Valley's finest cuvees like St. Suprey, Girgich Hills, and V. Sattui (great for picnics).
Calistoga is home to natural hot spring fed pools, local farm-to-table cuisine, a glider field, homey spas, and great shopping opportunities. Up the road, the alternative route of Silverado Trail cuts through vineyards, hills, and past a number of boutique wineries that are worth exploring. This is a good area for bike riding as well. At Rutherford Hill Road, a turn takes you to the Auberge du Soleil, a one of a kind hotel and restaurant where the deck will leave you feeling as though you have just flown above Tuscan hills. Indian summer (August to October) is a great time to visit for ideal weather and grape harvests.
To see the California of old, fly to Palm Springs and take the hour-long drive to Joshua Tree National Park. Great for on or off-road fun, this is a pristine, desolate wilderness area, and its diverse ecosystems is home to lots of unusual plant and animal life. You can enjoy oases, rock formations, wildlife, and stark desert vegetation here. Hike one of the 12 self-guided nature trails, or come and explore on your own from 9 campgrounds.
There is a 65-mile scenic drive through the center of the park along Pinto Basin through odd shaped mountains and across the vastness between the hotter Colorado Desert and the higher Mojave Desert, up into valleys of Joshua trees, with branches outstretched to heaven amongst granite walls and mammoth beige boulders.
Consider visiting February to May when wildflowers bloom and desert temperatures are lower. You can stay in nearby Twentynine Palms or enjoy some of the golf and spa locations Palm Springs is famous for on your way back home. If you have just a little time for Palm Springs, try the Aerial Tramway to the top of Mt. San Jacinto, lunch on Palm Canyon Drive at a sidewalk cafe, enjoy the shops of the Uptown District, or hike the Indian Canyons on your way back home.