Sometimes, just a couple of days can be enough to get that vacation vibe! If you are limited on time, consider these destinations that are within a 3-hour drive or flight from most West Coast cities.
Located in Central Oregon’s high desert, Bend is known for outdoor activities and craft beer. In the winter this means snow sports at nearby Mount Bachelor and in the summer it means hiking, rock climbing, rafting… you name it!
- Take a guided moonlight snowshoe adventure or take a dog sled dash through the Deschutes Forest.
- Follow the Bend Ale Trail to taste some of the region’s best beers and experience unique breweries.
- Learn about the wildlife and geography of the area at the High Desert Museum.
- Hike to Tumalo Falls or to one of the other beautiful falls or lakes in the area.
- Take it easy on a hot day tubing down the Deschutes River.
- Watch the experts take on the manmade waves at Bend Whitewater Park.
For a small town, Cambria and the surrounding San Luis Obispo County offers a variety of opportunities for travelers. In the summer, the laid-back California vibes at Moonstone Beach can’t be beat, but with a year-round temperate climate visitors enjoy outdoor activities every season.
- Head 15 minutes north to San Simeon to observe the elephant seals from the boardwalks. January is peak birthing and mating season, but these enormous animals haul out onto the beach all year round.
- Hike Harmony Headlands State Park, Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, or the Estero Bluffs State Park.
- Wine taste in town or head towards the Paso Robles area just 30 minutes away for more options. While red wines are what helped put this area on the map, there are plenty of whites to try too!
- Kayak along sea otters, sea birds and other wildlife in Morro Bay.
- Take a farm-based workshop such as cheese- or soap-making.
Located in the Sierra Foothills, Murphys is the heart of the local wine industry. This quaint town offers some great dining and shopping options in addition to two dozen wine tasting rooms. Further afield are a plethora of outdoor activities for all ages.
- Walk the North Grove loop trail at Calaveras Big Trees State Park, where you can be awed by the size of Giant Sequoias.
- Visit a 165-foot deep cavern or go ziplining at Moaning Caverns Adventure Park.
- Enjoy a lazy afternoon playing board games or cornhole in the ample outdoor space at Murphys Pourhouse while enjoying craft beer and mindblowingly good sandwiches.
- In the winter, enjoy skiing or snow play just an hour away in Bear Valley.
- Learn about the Gold Rush through hands-on exhibits at the Angel’s Camp Museum
Orange County, California
Get that Southern California vibe by hitting the OC for sun, sand, and surf! With average high temperatures from the mid 60s to mid 70s throughout the year, any season is a good time to visit Orange County. Of course if you want reliable weather for maximizing time on or by the water, your best bets are from May through November. Cities like Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach are known for beautiful beaches with lots of activity, but if you want a less city-based beach, spend a day at Crystal Cove State Beach, which offers tide pools, a long stretch of sand for walking, and a beachside cafe with delicious food. But, don’t limit yourself, a weekend in Orange County can include so much more than beach time!
- Try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding in Newport Harbor, or rent an electric boat if you prefer to stay dry.
- Explore tide pools at one of Laguna Beach’s many tide pooling spots: Crescent Bay Beach, Main Beach, Rockpile Beach to name a few.
- Take the 5-minute ferry ride to Balboa Island to shop at quaint, beach-inspired shops and be sure to enjoy a chocolate-covered banana at Sugar ’n Spice. On your way back, stop at the fun fair and ride the ferris wheel for nice views of the bustling harbor.
- Rent a Surrey (or ordinary bike) and ride the miles of beachfront bike paths.
- Take a sunset sail out of Dana Point.
- Go whale watching to see blue or humpback whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals.
- Observe migrating Monarch butterflies during the winter in a number of groves and gardens including Norma Gibbs Park in Huntington Beach or inland at Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park.
Victoria, British Colombia
Victoria offers a wonderful mix of city and nature worthy of a long weekend. The best time to visit the city is late spring to mid-fall, though winter offers milder temperatures and less rainfall than the rest of Canada.
- Wander the path along the harbor, admiring the historic buildings and beautiful setting. On Sundays, there is a special treat: the water taxi ballet!
- Learn about the history of the area, including the indigenous peoples’ history, language and culture at the Royal BC Museum.
- Admire wildlife such as seals, various birds, humpback whales, and maybe even orcas on a whale-watching cruise.
- Wheel around the city on a bike tour.
- Visit the historic Butchart Gardens to enjoy their seasonal displays.
- Hike in Mount Douglas Park and take in the view.
- Hit the playground at Beacon Hill park.
Zion National Park
Just a two-and-a-half hour drive from Las Vegas, Zion is one of the more accessible national parks for a weekend visit. Zion offers stunning scenery and any level of adventure you choose, from mild to extreme. Stay in Springdale, located at the park’s gate, to maximize your time.
- On your way from Vegas, take a detour to the Valley of Fire State Park. Short walks from the road reveal petroglyphs, a few arches and other rock formations, and even the park’s own version of “The Wave”.
- Hike the Watchman Trail from the visitor’s center for an amazing first glimpse up the canyon. This trail is only 3 miles round trip and can be done by ages 4 and up.
- Rent an e-bike and head up into the canyon along the scenic drive. Seeing the canyon this way offers a truly immersive experience.
- Head to the Kolob Canyon part of the park if you are looking to get off the beaten path.
- Angel’s Landing is probably the park’s most famous trail, but is not for the faint of heart. If you plan to tackle this trail after April 1, 2022, you’ll need a permit from the NPS.
- Almost as famous as Angel’s Landing is the Zion Narrows, which takes you up a river through a gorge. This is a seasonal option that also requires some degree of preparation.
- Go canyoneering with a guide who can take you through the basics of this adventure sport that involves scrambling, climbing, rappelling and more. This activity gives you a very different experience than your ordinary hiking trails.