This page is part of our A to Z index of California weekend getaway destinations.
California's Mendocino coast boasts some of its wildest and most spectacular coastal scenery. The Mendocino coast seems almost littered with cute little bed and breakfast inns, and few can resist the sight of the town of Mendocino and its New England-style architecture. The forests are filled with blooming rhododendrons in spring, and the Mendocino Botanical Garden always has something in bloom.
Mendocino is Popular For: Romantic getaways and driving tours. It's also a good place to settle into comfortable lodgings and do nothing at all.
Mendocino is within 200 miles of Reno/Tahoe, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Jose
The area east of the Sierras is little visited, is one of California's most interesting places. Its high desert landscape features dormant volcanoes, unique rock formations, a lake so salty that little can live in it, steaming geothermal features and some of the country's snow skiing.
Scenic Highway 395 is Popular For: Family outings, outdoor recreation, driving tours, hiking, fishing and photography. It's also affordable, with moderate hotel prices and many free attractions.
Lee Vining is Within 200 Miles of Bakersfield, Fresno, Reno/Tahoe, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Jose. When the mountain passes close for the winter, it will take longer to get there, going through Lake Tahoe or Bakersfield.
Of the three towns on the Monterey Peninsula (the others are Pacific Grove and Carmel), Monterey is the least pretentious, staying close to its roots as factory town. Today, carefully tended sea creatures find a home at the Monterey Bay Aquarium (a former sardine cannery) and Fisherman's Wharf is home to more whale-watching boats than fishing trawlers, but Monterey is still a favorite place for many visitors. Maybe it's those gorgeous ocean views.
Monterey is Popular For: Family outings, kayaking, fishing, whale watching and scuba diving.
Monterey is within 200 miles of Bakersfield, Fresno, Reno/Tahoe, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Jose. Monterey has a commercial airport, or try San Jose (SJC).
Morro Bay lies unassumingly just off California Highway One south of Hearst Castle, most notable to passers-by for the monolithic Morro Rock in the harbor. It's a pretty place, and one of the most affordable along the California coast, with lots of interesting natural sights.
Morro Bay is Popular For: Family outings and outdoor recreation. A large colony of elephant seals takes up residence nearby in winter, a sight well worth a trip to just to see. And it's one of the most affordable spots on the California coast.
Morro Bay is within 200 miles of Bakersfield, Fresno, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco and San Jose.
Long bypassed as visitors raced north into the Napa Valley, the town of Napa has been undergoing a revival in the twenty first century, and it's becoming a more interesting place to visit every year. A weekend will give you just enough time to check out what's new.
Napa is Popular For: Wine and cuisine
Napa is within 200 miles of Fresno, Reno/Tahoe, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Jose. The nearest airports are in San Francisco or Oakland.
The long, narrow valley anchored by the town of Napa on the south and Calistoga on the north makes a great place for a weekend escape. Besides the obvious wine and food-related activities, you can have fun getting muddy (with or without the kids).
Napa Valley is Popular For: Wine and cuisine and better for families than you might expect
Napa Valley is within 200 miles of Fresno, Reno/Tahoe, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Jose. The nearest airports are in San Francisco or Oakland.
Many Southern California residents don't even know about the charming part of Newport Beach, Balboa Peninsula and the islands that cuddle inside the marina, but you do. This part of Orange County seems like it came from a different era, and it has charmed everyone I've ever taken there.
Newport Beach is Popular For: Family outings, boating, harbor tours, fishing, doing nothing
Newport Beach is within 200 miles of Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Bernardino and San Diego. Orange County Airport (SNA) is closest to Newport Beach.
Lost in what almost feels like a time warp in western Sonoma County, Occidental is one of the cutest little towns you can imagine, with just enough to do in the area to keep you entertained but not enough to wear you out. It's also close to the very unusual Osmosis Spa, which you may enjoy.
Occidental is Popular For: Romantic getaways, driving tours, doing nothing
How Far? Check the map at the beginning of this gallery to see which Occidental is within 200 miles of Fresno, Reno/Tahoe, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Jose. San Francisco is the closest airport.
Ojai (OH-hi) is situated in a small, east-west valley about 15 miles from Ventura and the Pacific coast, surrounded by citrus groves and the protective Santa Ynez Mountains. The town settles down into its valley like eggs into a bird's nest, giving credence to some people's contention that its name means "nest" in the Chumash Indian language.
Ojai is Popular For: a relaxing getaway or a romantic interlude, with just enough to do at a leisurely pace.
Ojai is within 200 miles of Bakersfield, Fresno, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Bernardino and San Diego.