San Diego Area Day Trips


Forget about the fickle fluctuations of fuel prices. In San Diego you can live like a world traveler on the budget of a working man. Where else can you cross-country ski in the morning and enjoy a set of perfect waves at sunset?

Within a two-hour drive and half a tank of gas you can reach the pine forests of Idyllwild, Julian and Palomar Mountain for guilty pleasures such as homemade apple pie next to a Franklin stove in one of the many cafes. Adventure seekers can hike, rock climb, mountain bike or camp.

Want a romantic getaway? Why not enjoy a second honeymoon on the California Riviera at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Beach? Or leave the mainland altogether and catch a boat in Dana Point for a 1-1/2 hour voyage to Catalina Island. Myriad mini-vacations are yours for the asking.

Spring wildflowers bloom in the Anza-Borrego Desert. Photo: John Gibbins / UNION-TRIBUNE

Borrego Springs
The town of Borrego Springs has been compared to Palm Springs of yesteryear, offering golf as well as cultural and shopping possibilities with a desert backdrop. Borrego Springs is best known as the home of the Anza-Borrego State Park, the largest state park in the contiguous United States.

Catalina Island
There’s no shortage of things to do on this romantic isle — from touring the famous Catalina Casino and Ballroom to an afternoon on the links or splashing in the Pacific. It’s a great romantic getaway for just two, or a fun-filled adventure for the whole family.

Scenic pine trails and lookouts present rich opportunities for artists and photographers as well as hikers, rock climbers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. Annual musical events attract world-class entertainment and large audiences from far and wide. Idyllwild boasts an artist colony as well as one-of-a-kind eateries.

Visitors to Julian lend a hand at the annual apple harvest. Photo: Laura Embry / UNION-TRIBUNE

Although Julian is famous for its Apple Festival in October, it is a popular weekend destination for San Diegans year round. William Heise County Park offers modern camping accommodations. There are also charming bed and breakfasts and country inns. The Julian Gold Rush Hotel even has a ghost.

Lake Elsinore/Perris/Hemet

Get a natural high learning how to skydive at this world capital for aerial sports. For those who prefer to feel the ground under their feet, the Orange Empire Railway Museum has more than 200 locomotives on its 64-acre property. Nearby Diamond Valley Lake offers fishing and boating as well as an exhibit of the bones of the largest mastodon to be unearthed in the western United States.

Palm Springs
This desert oasis of the rich and famous has accommodations for all pocketbooks. Although the city is best known for its lush golf courses, those who prefer air-conditioning will find it hard to resist the boutiques and museums. Adventurers can take the aerial tram which rises 8,500 above the desert floor and explore more than 54 hiking trails.

Palomar Mountain
This tiny little village perched on the top of Palomar Mountain is known for two things: the Palomar Observatory and the 2,000-acre Palomar Mountain State Park. If you prefer creature comforts, check out the historic Bailey’s Resort.

Rich in California history, Riverside offers museums, restored buildings and city parks that transport visitors back a century ago. The city also hosts a number of celebrations each year including the Dickens Festival, the Riverside Jazz Festival and the Riverside County Date Festival.

Surfers seek the perfect wave in South Orange County. Photo: Charlie Newman / UNION-TRIBUNE

South Orange County
The “Riviera of California” is dotted by the beach towns of San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point and Laguna Beach. Each has its own romantic history as well as sandy beaches and intimate restaurants. Points of interest include the San Clemente Pier, Mission San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point Harbor and the Laguna Art Museum.

Come for the wine and stay for the hospitality at what is known as the Napa Valley of Southern California. There is even a shuttle that can whisk you away for a day of wine tasting at local vineyards. Families enjoy strolling through the antique shops and restaurants of Old Town Temecula, which was established when the Santa Fe Railway was built in 1882.


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