Seven Absolutely Unmissable Day Trips from Surf City USA

Updated: May 13

With 10 miles of pristine golden coastline, comfortable resort-style accommodation and a downtown area that’s positively bursting with surf culture and authentic retail and dining experiences, Huntington Beach is far more than just another stop on a California road trip; it is a destination in itself.

Image credit: Nicholas Litwin


But what if you do spend your entire holiday right here in Surf City USA®? What else is there to see and do from this sun-kissed, north-westernmost corner of Orange County? As a matter of fact, plenty. Here we showcase seven good reasons to stay a little longer.


1. Disneyland, Anaheim (21miles)

Image credit: Steven Lozano


The original and still the best Disney (in our humble opinion) - and just a 20-30min drive from downtown Huntington Beach - Disneyland first opened its doors in 1955 and remains the only theme park to have been designed and built under the direct supervision of Walt Disney himself. The original site was extended to include Disney’s California Adventure Park in 2001 and, after much anticipation, Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge (pictured) opened in 2019.


The park might offer infinitely more high-octane experiences now than it did in the mid-1900's, but Disneyland is still a firm favourite with visitors of all ages and one of Southern California's must-visit attractions for families.


2. Santa Catalina, Channel Islands (31miles)

Image credit: Elias Shankaji


Situated 31 miles south-west off the coast of Huntington Beach, Catalina Island (as it is better known) is the largest of California’s Channel Islands. It is renowned for its wildlife, dive sites, striking cylindrical casino that sits alongside the quaint capital of Avalon (pictured) and, of course, the Descanso Beach Club which hosts the annual Catalina Wine Mixer – immortalised in the 2008 comedy ‘Step Brothers’ with Will Ferrell and John C Reilly.


Visitors can either catch the Catalina Flyer from Newport Beach (just 10mins south) or the Catalina Express from Long Beach (30mins north), which both take around an hour each way. Quicker crossings are available with IEX Helicopters, whose service out of Long Beach takes just 15mins each way.


3. Big Bear Mountain Resort, Big Bear Lake (100miles)

Image credit: Bear Cabins


There are just a handful of places on earth where you can surf in the ocean and ski fresh powder in the very same day, and California is one of them. A popular choice for day trippers from all over Southern California, Big Bear Mountain Resort is just a couple of hours drive from Main Street, Huntington Beach, making it the ideal place to complete the 'twofer'.


The resort itself includes two mountains (Bear Mountain and Snow Summit), providing 400 acres of terrain to explore on skis/snowboard in winter and on foot/mountain bikes when the snow thaws. The winter season typically runs November through April and full or half day (12-4pm) lift tickets can be purchased on the day.


4. The Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles (37miles)


Whether it's to catch a gig or simply check out what Rolling Stone Magazine described as one of the ten best music venues in America, a visit to the Hollywood Bowl is well worth a day trip. The summer home of the LA Philharmonic Orchestra, which nestles neatly into the Hollywood Hills, has played host to some serious music royalty down the years, including the likes of The Beatles, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.


The Bowl is just 37miles north of Huntington Beach, and whilst traffic can be somewhat unpredictable in the Greater Los Angeles area, we would expect the journey to take anything up to 1.5hrs. Once there, however, visitors of all ages will enjoy self-guided tours, the free museum and picnics with a view of that world-famous Hollywood sign.


5. Knotts Berry Farm, Buena Park (16miles)


The name is more than a clue as to the humble beginnings of this historic attraction in Buena Park, which is just 16miles (under 30mins in a car) north east of Huntington Beach. What started as a family berry farm in the 1920's, Knott's Berry Farm has become not only one of the biggest family attractions in Southern California, but one of the most visited theme parks in all of North America.


Visitors to the park can expect a unique blend of old and new. From the Calico Railroad, that's been in operation since 1952 - and is held up by ghost town bandits daily - to the thrilling Xcelerator The Ride (pictured) that was introduced in 2002 and catapults rides from 0-82mph in a grimace-inducing 2.3seconds. A day trip that promises fun for children of all ages.


6. Temecula Valley (75miles)


Whilst visitors to Surf City USA can sample boutique wines, spirits and craft beer on Visit Huntington Beach's very own Barrel Trail, they can also get out of the city and in amongst the vines in wine country. No, not the Wine Country, but Southern California's answer to it, in the wonderfully charming Temecula Valley.


Designated drivers will be happy to hear that wine tasting isn't the only good reason to drive 75 miles out to Temecula; although there are more than 40 wineries and dozens of tasting rooms for that. It also offers spectacular hot air ballooning experiences and a historic frontier-style old town, complete with antique shops and galleries, that couldn't be more different to the more youthful SoCal surf vibe in downtown Huntington Beach.


7. Legoland California, Carlsbad (60miles)

Image credit: @thetrozafamily (Instagram)


This family favourite is a straight shot south of Huntington Beach, hugging the coast all the way on the world famous Pacific Coast Highway. The journey will take around 1hr 15mins each way, taking in all of Surf City USA's neighbours to the south, including Newport, Laguna, Dana Point, San Clemente and Oceanside; making it well worth doing for the scenery alone.


The park itself is geared towards children between 2-12years and so best suited to younger families. On site, kiddo's will find the Legoland Park itself, split into several themed areas, a Lego-themed Sea Life Aquarium and a Water Park to cool off in after a day under the warm southern California sunshine. We cannot guarantee they'll be sleep on the way back to Huntington Beach, but there's a very good chance!



For more ideas of things to do in and around Surf City USA, check out Visit Huntington Beach's official site here https://www.surfcityusa.com/things-to-do/







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