Colby Melvin's guide to the best California road trips from Los Angeles
Oct. 03 2016
by Joshua Pramis

Colby Melvin's guide to the best California road trips from Los Angeles

Whether Los Angeles is your home base, or you’re just visiting California, there's plenty of places in The Golden State you can get to in just a few hours. Colby Melvin breaks it down for us.


1. San Diego

Colby Melvin roadtrips

Distance: 120 miles/3:00

What to Do: It’s not a trip to San Diego without a stop at Balboa Park, a 1,200-acre park that’s home to the famed San Diego Zoo, where you can spot around 4,000 animals of all shapes and sizes. If you want a bustling boardwalk to accompany your beach time, head to Mission Beach; but if a quieter beach experience is more your speed, try Coronado Beach.

Hungry?: For food, shops, and art galleries, stroll the 16 blocks that make up the Gaslamp Quarter, dotted with Victorian-style buildings.

Need to know: For drinks and dancing—and maybe a show—stop by Rich’s, the largest gay club in the city.

Where to Stay: Stay with gay-friendly locals near San Diego; browse San Diego listings on misterbandb.com.


2. Las Vegas

Colby Melvin roadtrips

Distance: 270 miles/4:00

What to Do: There’s the obvious: gamble the day and night away in any of the seemingly endless casinos.

Hungry?: Vegas is also a mecca for foodies. Feast on steak at Daniel Boulud’s db Brasserie (Venetian) or just enjoy the hotspot’s $1 happy hour oysters; get ritzy with lasagna at Portofino (Mirage) that comes topped with gold leaf; or venture off the strip to dig into fried pig’s ears at Chada Thai & Wine.

Need to know: If you need to beat Sin City’s heat, cool off in one of the many resort pools. Most of them are open to non-guests—for a modest fee. There’s Mandalay Bay with its faux beach and lazy river; Monte Carlo and its wave pool; or the pool at the Luxor, at the base of the towering pyramid-shaped hotel, among many others.

Where to Stay: Stay with gay-friendly locals near Las Vegas; browse Las Vegas listings on misterbandb.com.


3. Palm Springs

Colby Melvin roadtrips

Distance: 114 miles/3:50

What to Do: It’s not a getaway to Palm Springs if you aren’t spending a significant amount of time relaxing poolside. But let’s be honest: you can do that just about anywhere. So don’t miss out on the other area activities.

Need to know: Visit the El Paseo Shopping District, a wide collection of shops in Coachella Valley. Or, if you’re looking to save a few dollars, try the sprawling Desert Hills outlet mall, where you’ll find deep discounts on brands like Alexander McQueen, Cole Haan, and Rag & Bone. At night, take in a show at McCallum Theater, which showcases a mix of dance, musicals, and band performances.

Where to Stay: Stay with gay-friendly locals near Palm Springs; browse Palm Springs listings on misterbandb.com.


4. Laguna Beach

Colby Melvin roadtrips

Distance: 53 miles/2:45

What to Do: You’ll be hard-pressed to pull yourself away from the stunning Laguna Beach—we can’t blame you—but if you can, there’s plenty to keep you busy.

Need to know: You can tour the area and while getting a workout with Laguna Beach Electric Bike Rentals. Get your culture on at Kush Fine Art, home to a collection of works from Vladimir Kush.

Local tip:  Spot whales and dolphins on a boat ride with Captain Dave’s Dolphin & Whale Safari. And dance the night away at Main Street Bar & Cabaret.

Where to Stay: Stay with gay-friendly locals near Laguna Beach; browse Laguna Beach listings on misterbandb.com.


5. Big Sur

Colby Melvin roadtrips

Distance: 298 miles/5:30

What to Do: Start your day off getting lost in the wilderness of Limekiln State Park; its series of trails are easy enough to follow you can do them all, no problem.

Need to know: Browse the book selection at Henry Miller Memorial Library; part bookstore, part cultural center, the spot—named after the author who once lived in Big Sur—also regularly hosts live musical performances.

Hungry?: satisfy your sweet tooth at Big Sur Bakery; housed in a cabin that dates back to 1937, you’d be remiss not to treat yourself to a blackberry shortcake, the most popular item served.

Local tip: The Falls Trail, which leads to a 100-foot waterfall is the perfect photo op.

Where to Stay: Stay with gay-friendly locals near Big Sur; browse Big Sur listings on misterbandb.com.


6. Big Bear Lake

Colby Melvin roadtrips

Distance: 103 miles/2:05

What to Do: As you might imagine, nature is the name of the game here, and outdoor enthusiasts will never be at a loss for things to do. The sprawling lake, surrounded by lush, wooded peaks, is home to myriad water sports: There’s kayaking, parasailing, jet skiing, paddleboarding, and wakeboarding.

Need to know: In the cooler months, you can don a pair of snowshoes for a hike, and skiers can take advantage of any of the 26 lifts and 435 skiable acres. With all that activity, you may need some pampering.

Local tip: If you’ve booked yourself an overnight rental, you don’t have to go far for some relief; both Longevity Massage & Bodywork and Mountain Mobile Massage & Spa bring the treatments to you, wherever you may be staying.

Where to Stay: Stay with gay-friendly locals near Big Bear Lake; browse Big Bear Lake listings on misterbandb.com.


7. Mammoth Lakes

Colby Melvin roadtrips

Distance: 310 miles/4:50

What to Do: Another for outdoor enthusiasts, Mammoth Lakes is all about the year-round outdoors activities. Cyclists can rejoice in having an entire park dedicated to biking; Mammoth Mountain Bike Park is home to more than 80 miles of trails.

Need to know: Hikers should head to Mammoth Rock Trail, 2.5 miles of trail that offer aerial views of the town of Mammoth Lakes; River Trail in Reds Meadow isn’t difficult, but it does span 15 miles, a particularly good trail to hike in the fall, when leaves explode into vibrant shades of reds, oranges, and yellows.

Local tip: For a taste of history, head to the Mammoth Consolidated Mine. Preserved in a state of “arrested decay,” you’ll see abandoned log cabins and old, rusty mining equipment.

What to Do: Stay with gay-friendly locals near Mammoth Lakes; browse Mammoth Lakes listings on misterbandb.com.


8. Santa Catalina Island

Colby Melvin roadtrips

Distance: 24 miles/:50 to Long Beach, then a 1-hour ferry

What to Do: Where to start? The Inn on Mount Ada, a sprawling 1921 Georgian Colonial mansion, is a good start. Overlooking all of Avalon, make reservations for lunch and you’ll enjoy amazing views while dining.

Need to know: The Catalina Casino—there’s no actual gambling here—is home to the Catalina Theater. Take a tour of the historic theater to learn about its history, visit the green and dressing rooms, and stroll around backstage.

Local tip: Adventure-seekers should take advantage of getting a bird’s-eye view of the island from 500 feet in the air with Catalina Zip Line Tours, a series of five zip lines that spans three quarters of a mile.

Where to Stay: Stay with gay-friendly locals near Santa Catalina Island; browse Santa Catalina Island listings on misterbandb.com.


9. Santa Barbara

Colby Melvin roadtrips

Distance: 109 miles/2:30

What to Do: Start off with a leisurely stroll through Santa Barbara Botanic Garden; the 5 miles of trails are perfect for wildlife-spotting. Don’t miss ShinKanAn, an authentic Japanese teahouse in the park.

Hungry?:  Head to Relais de Paris for a taste of the City of Light. Modeled after a 19th-century French Brasserie, the restaurant is best known for its steak frites, so be sure to include a side with your order.

Need to know: When you’re ready to get your dance on later that night, head to Tonic Nightclub, where DJs spin house music into the wee hours.

Local tip: Visit Channel Island Outfitters for a 3-hour kayaking adventure exploring the myriad sea caves that dot the coast.

Where to Stay: Stay with gay-friendly locals near Santa Barbara; browse Santa Barbara listings on misterbandb.com.


10. San Francisco

Colby Melvin roadtrips

Distance: 383 miles/6:35

What to Do: The Castro District is San Francisco’s official “gayborhood,” with the heart of it being at the corner of 18th and Castro streets. For a nightcap, swing by Blackbird, a rustic bar adorned with hanging Edison bulbs and salvaged wood.

Need to know:  From here, you’ll find the most lively scene in the city. Stop for a burger at Harvey’s, named after the famed civil rights leader.

Local tip: A leisurely stroll through Golden Gate Park is lovely, but for views of the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll want to head just north to Presidio of San Francisco; this sprawling park offers great views of the iconic bridge.

Where to Stay: Stay with gay-friendly locals near San Francisco; browse San Francisco listings on misterbandb.com.


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