Sometimes you need to get out of the city and into a completely different setting, and if you live in California, that’s a pretty easy thing to do. Just a couple hours outside of Los Angeles are quaint small towns that seem like they’re from the past, forests full of trees as far as your little eyes can see, and even a town that transports you to another country entirely (hello, Denmark, what the heck are you doing here in SoCal, hm?).

Take a break and enjoy the cool fall weather outside of the city — there’s a whole lot of small-town California out there for you to explore.

Solvang

Address: 2 hours and 33 minutes from Los Angeles via US-101 N

Why You Need To Go: Solvang is as close as you’ll get to Denmark without ever leaving Southern California. The whole place looks, well, extremely out of place in the most whimsical sort of way. It’s known for its Danish architecture, including multiple windmills and a big European clock tower. You’ll turn to whoever you’re with and be like, “We’re, like, an hour outside of Los Angeles, right?” and they’ll be like, “I...think so?”

The sights are worth the trip alone, but as you walk about the quaint little village, you’ll find a bunch of boutiques, wineries, bakeries, and museums (including a Hans Christian Andersen Motorcycle Museum, which is truly and actually a real thing). Stop by the Copenhagen Sausage Company for some brats and beers and then head on down to Clock Shop Jewelers to see way more cuckoo clocks on the walls than you’ve ever seen before in your life.

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Idyllwild

Address: 3 hours and 4 minutes from Los Angeles via I-10 E

Why You Need To Go: Nestled in the San Jacinto Mountains just above Palm Springs, Idyllwild is a little forest oasis super close to Los Angeles. There are a plethora of Airbnbs available (like this quiet forest loft, for example), and the way to go is definitely to find a cute little cabin to post up in. It’s the perfect place year-round to visit, as you can hike and explore nature in the warmer months and coop yourself up with a loved one and have some snuggles in the woods during the colder months.

There are some unique little shops to visit in town, as well — Fern Valley Emporium sells antiques and collectibles and Earth’s Elements is a holistic gift shop where you can buy crystals or, say, a singing bowl. 

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Ojai

Address: 1 hour and 51 minutes from Los Angeles via US-101 N

Why You Need To Go: Ojai is a tiny gem of a city in the Topatopa Mountains, northwest of Los Angeles. It’s filled with specialty shops, boutiques, and a magical bookshop called Bart’s Books, where they sell all sorts of genres of books and the middle of the store is a house. While there are plenty of fancy (expensive) hotels to stay in, there’s also some great Airbnb gems to be found for a lower price and just as charming of an experience — like this art studio, for example, or a whole guesthouse right in the National Forest.

You can explore nature and go on a hike at Los Padres National Forest, just to the north of Ojai, or catch some live music in a fun lodge setting at Deer Lodge.

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San Clemente

Address: 1 hour 36 minutes from Los Angeles via I-5 S

Why You Need To Go: San Clemente is about halfway in between Los Angeles and San Diego, at the very southernmost part of Orange County. It’s famous for being the setting of “The OC” as well as just being a generally lovely surfing town, complete with mountain views and gorgeous Spanish-colonial style architecture.

Shop downtown, watch the sunset on the San Clemente Pier, and stay at a charming (yet cheap) beach bungalow

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Julian

Address: 3 hours 22 minutes from Los Angeles via I-5 S

Why You Need To Go: A visit to Julian is like being transported back into the times of the California gold rush days all the way back in the 1800s — in the best possible way. This charming town is located in the Cuyamaca Mountains and is known for how good its apple pie is. Tour some goldmines during the day and hang out at Wynola Pizza And Bistro at night for some ‘za, drinks, and live music.

The town boasts some adorable bed and breakfasts and you can always find a quaint Airbnb to stay in, like this cabin, this tiny house, or this romantic retreat (that comes with a hot tub!). Either way, get ready for some old-world charm.

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Ferndale

Address: 4 hours 41 minutes from San Francisco via US-101

Why You Need To Go: Located in Humboldt County right in between the Lost Coast and the Redwoods, Ferndale is one dream of a small town, looking like a set straight out of the past with its historic Victorian homes and storefronts. This place has an overall Americana vibe, and upon arriving, you might think you time-traveled back to the 1950s.

There are plenty of old-timey stores to visit, like the Golden Gait Mercantile (a general store) and Spencer’s Ferndale Vintage (eclectic antiques). You’ll have several cottage stays to choose from, whether you’d like to stay downtown or closer to the Redwoods. 

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