It seems that Mother Nature has forgotten to turn the thermostat up for our spring temps. As most of the country basks in sunny, seasonal weather, many across the country are still using their snow shovels. So why not plan an escape to the West Coast (as some call it, “the best coast”) for a quick weekend getaway. Not a West Coaster? Check out our list of the best East Coast weekend getaways.
The West Coast of the U.S. is home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, ranging from rugged coastlines and sandy beaches to lush vineyards and refined downtown areas.
Whether you are interested in outdoor adventures, wine tastings and great restaurants, or historic attractions and spectacular ocean views, this list of weekend getaways contains ideas for every taste (and budget) in California, Oregon and Washington.
As you make your travel plans, don’t forget to use Splender and earn cash back on every purchase from booking your hotel room to scheduling tours. With vendors like Expedia (2% cash back for Splender members), Booking.com (3% cash back), Groupon (5% cash back) and FareBuzz (2% cash back), you’re sure to find the getaway that’s right for you!
If you’re leaving from Los Angeles:
Palm Springs, Calif. (285 miles round-trip)
On the desert floor of California’s Coachella Valley, once a Rat Pack oasis and Hollywood star haunt, Palm Springs has been host to some of Tinsel Town’s greatest names like Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball.
This resort town, famed for its unbeatable vintage shops and classic midcentury-modern architecture, is also pleasantly rough around the edges: rocky landscapes, cactus forests and alpine villages are all there to explore—if you can tear yourself away from that poolside chaise. In town, you’ll find stylish hotels, golf courses and hip interior design shops in the core shopping district along Palm Canyon Drive.
The areas outside Palm Springs—like legendary Joshua Tree National Park, about an hour away on Twenty-Nine Palms Highway (CA-62)—offer hiking, biking and horseback riding. After a self-guided hike on one of the nature trails, make your way to Desert Hot Springs for a massage and a soak at one of the many thermal mineral pool resorts.
Get inspired by Palm Spring’s famous vacationers like Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren and embrace ‘60s glam in these Deandra Sunglasses from Kate Spade where Splender members will receive 6% cash back. And the men can channel Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin in a pair of these timeless Ray-Ban Clubmasters from Sunglass Hut and receive 6% cash back.
Santa Barbara, Calif. (190 miles round-trip)
It’s only a 90-minute drive, but Santa Barbara feels worlds away from L.A. You can spend your time outside and even have a perfect car-free weekend if you take the train, rely on the electric shuttles or even bike everywhere. The influence of the Santa Ynez Valley vineyards is seen everywhere from great wine tasting rooms to wine country cuisine.
So, leave your stress south on the 101 once you get to town and head to the Urban Wine Trail, which is tailor-made to help you unwind. The 15 tasting rooms are all within walking distance of each other or an easy cab or pedi-cab ride away, and all for about $5-$15 for a tasting. Afterwards, consider wandering through the beautifully landscaped plazas and brick-lined sidewalks around the downtown area. There is a great selection of major retailers, local specialty shops, art galleries and major attractions like the Santa Barbara Art Museum, the historic courthouse or the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens.
Make sure to bring comfortable walking shoes, light clothing and swimwear if you plan to visit the beach. The weather in Santa Barbara is wonderful all year long and sees an average of 300+ days of sunshine every year, so don’t forget the sunscreen and a hat like this men’s Paulmann Panama Hat or this Textured Summer Straw Hat for women. (Find both of these hats at J. Crew, where members can receive 2% cash back).
Newport Beach, Calif. (88 miles round-trip)
This oceanside West Coast getaway can really feel like a vacation, especially when planning an entire weekend of relaxing near the waves. With stylish hotels, great shopping and top-notch dining, Newport Beach is a great place to hole up for a few days. It straddles two worlds: one filled with mega yachts and the ritzy Fashion Island shopping center, while the other is defined by Balboa Peninsula’s vintage charm and sailor bars. You could even plan a mini trip within your getaway by jaunting over to the other Orange Country enclaves like Laguna Beach or sailing over to Catalina Island.
After you settle into town, take a sunset gondola ride along Newport Beach’s bay and canals. It’s not quite Italy, but it is a fabulous way to see the homes and charm of the peninsula (and it’s fantastically romantic for any couples visiting). We recommend booking with the Gondola Company, as you can arrange a tour with champagne and sweet or savory treats to help tide you over until dinner. If you’re up for it the next day, Crystal Cove State Park has three areas below the bluffs with wonderful hiking trails that circle charming historic 1930s cottages.
If you plan to do some hiking or even just a lot of walking, comfortable shoes are of the utmost importance. These Oboz Bridger Low BDry Hiking Shoes from REI are waterproof and provide breathable comfort. These Oboz Luna Low Hiking Shoes for women can also be purchased at REI with 4% cash back if purchased through Splender. They’ll offer a supportive fit for maximum comfort during those long walks in town or hikes through the cliffs overlooking the stunning beaches.
If you’re leaving from San Francisco:
Big Sur, Calif. (180 miles round-trip)
Big Sur isn’t a town, it’s a region, and it’s impossible to pick only one part of it to see because it encompasses such an incredible landscape. As the Pacific Ocean stretches out in front of you, you’ll drive between the Santa Lucia Mountains with massive Redwood trees on one side and frolicking sea lions among the rocky beaches on the other.
McWay Falls is an easy stop while traveling through Big Sur on Highway 1. It’s also one of the most photographed because of the several good photo opportunities on the trail above, primarily the stunning 80-foot waterfall that empties into the ocean. And keep a close eye out for Pfeiffer Beach. The sharp turn-off is located just north of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Visitors will be greeted with one of the most unique beaches in California, in particular the colorful purple sand. If you can, stick around until sunset when the light shines through the famous rock arch, just beyond the crashing waves.
The Henry Miller Library is another fun place to visit. A library? Yes, a library – it’s not your ordinary library, but more of a bookstore and arts center. Events and outdoor concerts are the library’s biggest draws. How many times have you been to a concert with redwood trees towering over you and the Pacific Ocean mere yards away? Past performances have included Alanis Morissette, Rufus Wainwright and the Pixies.
You’ll definitely need a good camera with you so you can bring back memories of your amazing trip. With its 16.1 megapixels, the Nikon Coolpix P530 captures high-resolution images and high-definition movies. Its multiple scene modes allow you to take the most brilliant photos of day/night landscapes, the beach and even panoramas. When you buy the Nikon Coolpix P530 from BestBuy.com, you can earn 2% cash back.
Sonoma County, Calif. (90 miles round-trip)
A popular West Coast weekend getaway for San Franciscans, and even Los Angelinos, the Sonoma County area is busier than ever these days. Over the past several years, a crop of award-winning restaurants have begun popping up, further elevating Sonoma as a culinary epicenter and attracting in-the-know foodies from California and beyond.
Of course, there’s the world-class wine, too, with a total of 16 distinct areas. The county is dotted with quaint towns, each with its own unique flavor. For a getaway with a day of exploration via two wheels, we recommend the town of Healdsburg. Pick up your bikes at Wine Country Bikes (complete with bike-mounted wine bottle carriers), and saddle up for an excursion through the gorgeous countryside of Dry Creek Valley, stopping at some of Sonoma’s top wineries. Along the way, you’ll come across a circa-1880s general store with lunchtime picnic supplies, after which be sure to make a stop at the Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves. The vineyard has spectacular views and a unique tasting room inside manmade caves where barrels are stored.
Wine tasting always makes for a good time! When surrounded by delicious wine, breathtaking views, good friends and perfect weather, the last thing you want to worry about is fashion. While popping in and out of all of those wineries, it’s best to wear something low maintenance. These Tory Burch Lonnie Flat Espadrilles from shopbop are chic as well as practical. Wear them with a sundress or dress up a pair of blue jeans.
Men can wear a comfortable linen shirt like the Cubavera Tucked Long-Sleeve Linen Shirt from Macy’s to stay cool in the California sun and still look dapper. (Splender members will receive 4% cash back when ordering from both shopbop and macys.com).
Lake Tahoe, Calif. (383 miles round-trip)
Lake Tahoe has always been known for its world-class ski resorts, but in recent years, the area’s reputation as a year-round destination has skyrocketed. Hiking and biking trails abound at several state parks, as do serene beaches and mountain-side resorts.
Wind down at the High Camp Pool & Hot Tub located at the top of the 8,200-foot High Camp at the Village. The trip up on the Aerial Tram offers spectacular views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Sierra Mountains. And if you have time check out Vikingsholm, a 1929 mansion on the shore of Emerald Bay inspired by traditional Scandinavian architecture. Take a tour of the home or take a leisurely walk through the surrounding trails and take in the stunning views and wildlife.
Choose from any of the lenses in this Universal Clip On Lenses Kit for smartphones from Sears.com (with 4% cash back) to capture all the spectacular panoramic views you’ll see on your trip, and reminisce once you’re back at the office. This pack includes a portable and detachable fish eye, and macro and wide angle lenses for iPhone or Samsung smartphones.
If you’re leaving from Seattle:
Portland, Ore. (346 miles round-trip)
Portland is the ultimate enchanted forest loosely disguised as a city – an ideal destination for a West Coast weekend getaway. You don’t have to venture far from town to find yourself paddling on a secluded bay, hiking a forested trail or observing native wildlife. You can even find a few wild areas right in the city—gardens, parks, wildlife refuges and wetland preserves abound. If you don’t feel like trekking to Mount Hood, Forest Park is the place to go. With more than 5,000 acres, it’s the largest urban park in America.
Along the 70 miles of trails, and just five minutes from downtown, avid bird watchers will want to make a stop at the Audubon Society of Portland Sanctuary. The wildlife sanctuary is a showcase for native flora and fauna such as snowy owls, pelicans and falcons.
Other must-sees include Multnomah Falls, the second highest waterfall in the U.S., and the Portland Japanese Garden, one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan. Soak in the tranquility of the garden, take in the unsurpassed views of Mount Hood, and stop by the Tea House to experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
But all you nature lovers shouldn’t overlook the actual city of Portland, either. Take a stroll around the adorable Nob Hill neighborhood, and stop at Blue Star Donuts or Heart Coffee. Even though Seattle is known for its coffee, Portland is becoming one of the best coffee cities in the country. Visit Stumpton Coffee roasters, the legendary Portland coffee empire, to get that boost of energy to continue exploring downtown. There are four Stumpton cafes throughout the city, but why not check out the company headquarters where they host free public tastings each week and offer classes on how to make your very own perfect cup of joe at home.
The great outdoors is a way of life for Portlanders, so it’s easy to find great outdoor gear here, too. Since 1938, Portland-based Columbia Sportswear has been shielding adventurers from the elements. This Women’s Pardon My Trench Rain Jacket will seamlessly take you from a nature hike to the downtown coffee crawl. Similarly, this Dr. Downpour Jacket for men looks fashionable while protecting you from any unexpected surprises from the elements. (Both jackets can be purchased from Columbia Sportswear with 5% cash back through Splender.com.)
San Juan Island, Wash. (212 miles round-trip)
Take the Washington State Ferry from Anacortes, a seaplane ride from Seattle International Airport or drive your own car—there are several ways to get yourself over to San Juan Island. You won’t want to miss it.
The most exciting thing to do and see on the island is whale-watching. Migrating whales, otters and seals can be spotted just off the shores of Friday Harbor. Orcas are the most commonly sighted, but humpback and gray whales are known to pass through the area, too. While you’re in one of the best whale-watching spots in the world, don’t miss boating to Haro Strait to marvel at the beaching orcas and humpbacks frolicking with their calves. Take a tour with San Juan Safaris and listen to a naturalist speak about the mammals’ habits and listen to their calls. The best time to spot the majestic creatures is from late May through September. And while you have whales on the mind, make sure to check out the Whale Museum in town to see migration maps and cetacean skeletons.
Due to the marine climate, it is possible to feel cold on San Juan in any season, so it’s wise to bring layers. This Taisie Infinity Scarf is the perfect accessory to keep you warm while on whale-watching expeditions. (Purchase this scarf from Anthropologie and earn 4% cash back.)
Puget Sound, Wash. (198 miles round-trip)
Puget Sound sits on an inlet of the Pacific Ocean; it is a string of interconnected waterways and islands in the Salish Sea. The Sound provides instant access to the majestic side of the Pacific Northwest. Eagles and whales are frequent sights, and on clear days, views of Mount Rainer, Mount Baker and the Olympic Range add to the panoramic sweep of sea and sky. Thanks to numerous bridges, this loop-like journey from Seattle through the forest-cloaked Olympic Peninsula is as easy as it is invigorating.
The closest area to Seattle is Bainbridge Island, an affluent suburb that’s more like a wooded retreat, and is full of picturesque bays and streets lined with cafes and boutiques. Plus, it’s just an easy 35-minute ferry ride from the city.
Don’t Miss: The Bainbridge Island Museum of Art can be a welcome haven on a rainy day, plus it’s free! This contemporary art institution highlights emerging local artists and recognized masters. On a nice day you might want to take a walk down to the Eagle Harbor Waterfront Park for a pleasant hike on the trails, or bike around the harbor, beach, woods and historical sites.
If you’re interested in water activities for your weekend getaway, Bainbridge is the place for you. You’ll find many places close to the ferry pier that offer kayak, canoe and paddle board rentals.
It’s very likely you could find yourself caught in the rain, so definitely pack an umbrella. However, you can take preparedness a step further with a hooded jacket for those rainy days that often come with a lot of wind, which can destroy even the best umbrella in seconds. The Patagonia Torrentshell Jacket for men and women provides just the right amount of weather protection, comfort and style you’ll need for your trip. (Splender members can purchase both jackets from Backcountry.com and receive 8% cash back.)
Don’t spend your precious days off waiting around in airport lounges when easy day trips and overnights are just a car ride away. Whether you’re looking for adventurous things to do outside, places to relax, culinary destinations or culture, these West Coast weekend getaways are sure to satisfy your wanderlust.
So get out of town this weekend and explore your coast! And don’t forget to shop for all of your weekend essentials through Splender, where you’ll find great deals and receive cash back on every purchase. Sign up to become a Splender member today!