Mexico’s a danger zone, and you’ve already been to Joshua Tree, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and the rest of the usual spring break suspects. Well, go to Vegas again! Then, embark on another adventure with your gambling winnings. Whether you have a long afternoon to spare or all the time in the world, the following jaunts will help you forget the hectic midterm haze of the past week.
Go to a beach you haven’t been to before. Some ideas: Check out Dockweiler, just west of LAX, for the only LA-area beach that permits bonfires. Or try El Matador, just north of Malibu, for a less crowded but no less scenic option. Of course, there’s always Venice Beach for its famed boardwalk and excellent people-watching, and Manhattan Beach is reliably chock-full of beach volleyball players.
Learn how to surf. Try San Clemente’s cobblestone-bottomed San Onofre beach, regarded as one of the best SoCal locales for a beginning surfer (fun fact: also a nude beach). Or check out Santa Monica, also well known for its slow-moving waves ideal for longboarding. Group lessons at Aqua Surf School in Santa Monica (http://www.acquasurfschool.com) cost $75 per person. In San Clemente, try San Clemente Surf Lessons (http://www.sanclementesurflessons.com), whose two-hour session costs $5 more than the equivalent lesson at Aqua Surf School, but also includes “stretching with yoga to increase endurance.”
Check out a museum of arts or sciences in L.A. Now is the time—from now until Apr. 30,http://www.discoverlosangeles.com/thearts/offers discounts on dozens of museums including the LACMA and the MOMA, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Aquarium of the Pacific, and more. For more offbeat, but still discounted options, check out Pasadena Playhouse (pasadenaplayhouse.org) or the Getty Villa in Malibu, which is dedicated to the arts and culture of ancient Greece and Rome.
Three or More Days
Venture northwards and visit San Francisco and Big Sur. After making the six-hour drive from Claremont to Big Sur, spend a night camping among the redwoods at Big Sur Campground & Cabins (call 831-667-2322 for reservations) or the more rustic, hike-in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (call 800-444-7275) near an 80-foot waterfall and an oceanside hiking trail. The next night, take the CA-1 a leisurely two-and-a-half hours to San Francisco, where you can keep accommodations cheap but interesting with the Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel (sfhostels.com/fishermans-wharf/).
Explore the Central Coast. With Los Angeles and San Francisco anchoring the north and south ends of California, it’s easy to forget about the no less beautiful expanse between. Go hiking in San Luis Obispo’s beautiful Reservoir Canyon and take a picnic lunch for the canyon bottom, or take the popular Bluff Trail in Montana de Oro, with some of the most scenic ocean views in the area. El Chorro Regional Park Campground is nearby in San Luis Obispo, but campgrounds abound in the Central Coast area: check outhttp://www.californiacoast-worldweb.com/WheretoStay/Campgrounds/for more options.
Go see Yosemite National Park. It’s a bit of a drive at over six hours, but the payoff in natural beauty is worth it. Spring is waterfall high season, so consider the John Muir Trail to see Nevada, Vernal, and Illouette Falls at their highest volume. While mountain biking is not allowed inside park boundaries, excellent singletrack trails with great scenery are found on the Eastern Sierra side, including Bennettville Trail and Saddlebag Lake Trail. For an alternative to camping, check out Yosemite Bug (http://www.yosemitebug.com/), a rustic resort with four-person cabins available at only $75 a night.
Speaking of natural beauty, never rule out Las Vegas. Now, this is an obvious choice for 21-and-overs, but there’s fun to be had for underclassmen, too. Vegas has some of the best rollercoasters in the world, including the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino’s spinning Insanity, see-saw-like X-Scream, and the Big Shot, all perched on top of a 1,000-foot tower. Or, stroll the Strip for endlessly fascinating—and free—people watching.
Alright, who are we kidding: you probably went to Vegas for the nightlife. In that case, do it The Hangover-style and stay at Caesar’s Palace, hit up the Bellagio, and visit the filming location for the wedding scene, The Talk of the Town strip club.