friends eating street food in los angeles

Grab the gang and eat your heart out in Los Angeles. (Photo: Getty Images)

Tips + Trends

Getaway with Friends? These 7 California Hubs Make Perfect Home Bases

Whether you and your pals travel for the eats or the outdoors, or prefer the beaches or mountains, these California cities have got your crew’s itinerary covered.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Los Angeles for Foodies

L.A.’s food scene is as sprawling as the region itself. For starters, don’t miss Downtown L.A. icon Grand Central Market for slow-cooked pork carnitas, Filipino silog (rice bowls) and Salvadoran pupusas wedged between all-day breakfast spots, fresh produce and a butcher shop.

Other good bets include the San Gabriel Valley for dim sum, East L.A.’s Boyle Heights neighborhood for regional Mexican street tacos, and Venice to Silverlake for plant-based eats, like Gjelina.

San Diego for Wellness Seekers

It’s easy to connect mind, body and spirit in sunny San Diego. Sunbathe, walk, run and pedal on or along 70 miles of coastline, from Coronado Island in the south up to Oceanside in. Find a quiet moment in one of Balboa Park‘s art museums or a meditation garden in Encinitas.

Participate in outdoor, rooftop and boutique yoga classes hosted by local studios like Mission Beach Yoga, Sojourn Healing Collective and JustBriFree Yoga & Wellness. Looking for acupuncture, cupping and more? Try Four Moons Spa, Saffron & Sage and Nalu Healing Arts.

Newport Beach for Solace Seekers

friends surfing
Hit the waves in Newport Beach. (Photo: Getty Images)

Southern California’s got a laid-back reputation, though beachy heavy hitters like Venice and Huntington Beach can get hectic, especially during summer months. By comparison, Newport Beach feels somewhat tucked away.

Surf along Balboa Peninsula, watch bodyboarders at the Wedge conquer waves up to 30 feet during high season, and lounge at Crystal Cove. Or go tide pooling in neighboring Corona del Mar.

Boat rentals range from kayaks and pontoon boats to sail boats and yachts. Or board a boat for a year-round whale watching tour; see blue whales during summer and fall and gray whales during winter and spring.

Santa Barbara for Wildlife and Marine Life Enthusiasts

Whether on land or at sea, Santa Barbara teems with wild and marine life. Birding opportunities abound at parks and beaches, like Cachuma Lake Recreation Area near Los Padres National Forest — views of the Santa Ynez and San Rafael mountains included. Look skyward to spot bald eagles and red-tailed hawks, and on land spot big game like wild pigs, elk, deer and antelope.

Santa Barbara is a convenient basecamp for the rugged Channel Islands National Park. Adventurous travelers can — with the appropriate permits — hike, snorkel, fish and dive.

Paso Robles for Wine Lovers

paso robles vineyard
Explore Paso Robles wine country. (Photo: Getty Images)

With more than 250 wineries throughout its verdant hills, it would take more than a weekend to work through them all. One strategy: Visit the Tin City makers market and the mixed-use Paso Market Walk development to sample the region’s terroir in one place.

Among industrial-chic surrounds at Tin City, find fermented libations at the all-women winery, Desperada Wines, whose whimsical tasting notes describe, for example, a sauvignon blanc that goes down like “goosebumps in the rain” and a red blend reminiscent of “wrinkles in time.” Or pop by Monochrome Wines, which specializes in white wines from viognier, chardonnay, and chenin blanc varietals.

Beyond housing a wine bar and restaurant that serves local wine by the glass or bottle accompanied by cheese boards focused on California cheeses (and oysters on weekends), Paso Market Walk also hosts Mexican restaurant Finca; Mercantile by Haley & Co. for olive oil, leather aprons and other home goods; and Leo Leo Gelato for cool treats.

Palm Springs for Vintage and Design Lovers

Feeling nostalgic? Look no further than Palm Springs. Embark on a self-guided midcentury modern design and architecture tour of internationally renowned homes, estates and hotels. Browse art exhibitions ranging from 20th-century California desert landscape paintings to glass artworks by American and international artists at the Palm Springs Art Museum.

Join Palm Springs Historical Society’s Heart of the City tour, which is focused on how women in particular helped shape and influence the city’s look and feel — think lots of glass, low-slung buildings and clean lines.

Score your next find at Mojave Flea Trading Post for curated collections of vintage Moroccan rugs, ceramics, candles and perfume from local makers and creatives from across the region.

Mammoth for Year-Round Mountain Dwellers

rainbow falls
Seek out the colors of Rainbow Falls. (Photo: Getty Images)

California’s Eastern Sierras may be better associated with winter activities, yet there’s much to do in this well-forested mountain region year-round.

Chase waterfalls at Rainbow Falls or Crater Creek, or pack a picnic to enjoy after an afternoon of wildflower peeping.

From fly-fishing and lakeside strolls to stand-up paddleboarding and mountain biking, take advantage of Mammoth Lakes’ outdoor playground. Don’t forget to sign the Mammoth Lakes Promise, which acknowledges visitors’ roles as humble stewards of the area.