Best SoCal day trips to make up for summer

Smaller crowds, better weather in fall anyway

Beautiful Mission San Juan Capistrano — easy walk to shopping, food, movies
  • Beautiful Mission San Juan Capistrano — easy walk to shopping, food, movies

Summer 2017, did you even happen? One day the kids were out of school, the next they were back in. None of us is happy about it.

Abalone Cove — beautiful hiking trails, tide pools, two beaches

Abalone Cove — beautiful hiking trails, tide pools, two beaches

“Absolutely no Kelly family vacations happened this summer,” grumbled hubby Patrick. “I feel completely jipped.”

“Well, why didn’t you plan one?” I growled back.

We had picked the hottest day of 2017 to discuss this, and we were grouchy. We sat and silently sipped iced tea in the shade of our backyard stone pine. At length, I said, “Look, we may not have had a summer vacation, but we live in Southern California, a place tourists come from all over to see. Let’s fill our fall weekends with day-trips. The weather is cooler, the summer crowds are gone, and we can sleep in our own beds at night. We’ll finish 2017 strong.”

The next week I polled my friends — what were their favorite Southern California day-trips? Somewhere to make family memories. The answers were plentiful.

“How about a hike up Mount San Jacinto, the highest peak in SoCal,” offered Leon. “Or head to Laguna Beach, enjoy the waves, and then finish with margaritas at Las Brisas overlooking the Pacific.”

In point of fact, at 10,834 feet, San Jacinto is the second-tallest peak in SoCal, after Mt. San Gorgonio (11,503.) Still, Patrick liked the idea and before long had a description of the hike up on socalhiker.net. “It quotes John Muir,” he said. “‘The view from San Jacinto is the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth.’”

All respect to the great naturalist Muir, but the beach is more my speed. Plus, I noticed Las Brisas in Laguna Beach offers margaritas and live music Wednesday through Saturdays starting at 6:30 p.m. I probably won’t be buying the Top of the World Margarita for $60 but could swing the Casa Mesquite for $16.

Our friend Arthur was also on a hiking theme. “Devil’s Backbone Trail to the top of Mount Baldy has breathtaking views,” he said, referring to the third-tallest peak in SoCal, at 10,068 feet. It’s not great for little kids, but you can shorten the hike by riding the ski lift [$10]. Or, try Hermit Falls in Santa Anita Canyon, a short hike with some cool cliff jumping, which is neat because there are different levels to jump from. Or, Abalone Cove Shoreline Park in Palos Verdes,” he finished. “Beautiful hiking trails, tide pools, two beaches for water fun” ($12 day parking fee).

“Point Dume State Beach,” said Dominic. A quick search of the photos of this pristine coastal spot in Malibu had me popping this adventure to the top of my to-do list.

Wynola Pizza Express

4355 Highway 78, Julian

Julian Pioneer Museum

2811 Washington Street, Julian

Lake Cuyamaca

15027 Highway 79, Julian

“Julian, something for everyone,” offered MaryAnn. “I like Wynola Pizza, of course Mom’s Pie House for apple pie, the sweet church, good shopping, high tea at Julian Tea & Cottage Arts [$21.95 for an afternoon three-course tea]. Also the vineyards, and horseback riding at the Kenner Horse Ranch in Harrison Park [$50 an hour], hiking and fishing at Lake Cuyamaca, and the wonderful little Julian Pioneer Museum for history [$3 admission].”

San Juan Capistrano is also one of our favorites,” continued MaryAnn. “Near to the train, the beaches, near to Ortega Highway backcountry hiking. Beautiful Mission San Juan Capistrano [adults, $9; child, $6], easy walk to shopping, food, movies, and Zoomars Petting Zoo [adults, $10; children, $8].”

Julie suggested “four indoor places” in the Los Angeles area. “The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena [adults, $12; students with ID free], Aquarium of the Pacific [adults $29.95; kids $17.95], La Brea Tar Pits [adults $22; kids, $15], or the Getty.”

Oh, the Getty. I’ve been dreaming about returning to both the Getty Villa in Malibu and the Getty Center in West Los Angeles since visiting years ago (both free, parking is $15).

“Calico ghost town is enjoyable,” said Sue. The San Bernardino Silver Rush ghost town dates back to 1881 [$4 general admission, attractions are an additional cost].

“Can you go wrong with wine-tasting?” asked Nancy. “Of course, this would be a romantic getaway for you and Pat, leave the kids at the beach, and head to Temecula.” Hart Family Winery offers a six-wine tasting for $15.

It’s going to be a good fall.

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