Road Trip: Three Day-Trips Outside of Disneyland

While on vacation it can be good to take a break from the chaotic glee of the parks and venture out into the real world. On the Disneyland Edition of the Dis Unplugged, Mary Jo gives us a few ideas of things you can do within the Los Angeles area on Day 6. So, where can you go if you prefer to mosey further out into the surrounding countryside? Here are three day-trip destinations, within 2 hours of the Anaheim area, to experience distinctly different aspects of Southern California.

Day Trip One: Palm Springs

At just a little over an hour and a half east of Anaheim, take your family to enjoy the beauty of the desert. Palm Springs is a stunning destination with more to do than you can manage in one day. Be warned; you will be left with plenty of reasons to return and stay for a few days.

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Start by visiting the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which travels more than two miles into the picturesque mountains of Mt. San Jacinto State Park. During the ten-minute journey to Mountain Station, the rotating tramway offers unparalleled views up to 8,516 feet. Prepare your family for cooler temperatures at the top of the mountain by taking additional coats or jackets. Take your time and explore the different hiking trails and restaurants, or enjoy some time in the snow in colder months.


Once you come back down the mountain, take a walk down Palm Canyon Drive. A perfect spot for lunch, coffee or just a spot of people watching, Palm Canyon Drive is home to eclectic stores, live music and the Palm Springs Walk Of Stars. Experience the playground of Old Hollywood heavyweights like the Rat Pack, Bob Hope and Elvis Presley with an abundance of adventure, culture, and entertainment.


Finish up your day-trip at the Palm Springs Living Desert Zoo & Gardens. Not your average zoo, The Living Desert Zoo & Garden brings you inside the heart of the desert teaching you about the local plant life, animals and climate. The Zoo is also a place where you can have one-of-a-kind experiences that you will never forget. Hand feed giraffes, ride a camel, enjoy seasonal pop-up attractions, walk through stunning gardens and talk with knowledgeable volunteers about the animals and their environments.


Day Trip Two: Big Bear Lake

Big Bear is one of those places where all the elements of nature follow the seasons seamlessly throughout the year. Winter, spring, summer or fall, there is no wrong time to head up and see this hidden treasure that is full of old-world charm. If you are traveling in winter, check weather and road advice before leaving. You will want to make sure that your vehicle won’t be required to have chains on the tires in the event of snow.

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The ambiance of Big Bear is best enjoyed by simply exploring. Take a drive or a walk and soak up the sights and smells of nature. In the warmer months, try hiking, bike riding or water sports on Big Bear Lake. Enjoy a mile-long jaunt through Big Bear Valley on the Scenic Sky Chair which takes you through the San Bernardino National Forest before reaching the mountaintop (elev. 8,200 feet).


Visiting in winter? You are in for a treat. While temperatures down in Anaheim might still be a balmy 70 degrees, the snow-capped mountains could already have the season in full swing. Take some time out to ski, snowboard, snowshoe, or walk through your winter wonderland. If you want to add a bit of fun for younger kids, head to one of the snow play areas for inner tube sliding. For older ones, consider a zip line tour. These are now available year round, even in the snow!


Day Trip Three: San Diego

San Diego is a fabulous way to spend a day, a week or even a month. Alive with amazing culture, great food, and an exciting atmosphere, this city should be on everyone’s bucket list. Get an early start to the day and stop by La Jolla for an oceanside breakfast and roam around to stretch your legs. From there, head down into the heart of the city or continue over the bridge to the impressive Coronado Island. Order a margarita at the Hotel Del Coronado beachfront Sun Deck Bar & Grill and just take a breath.

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Enjoy one of the most incredible zoo experiences at the San Diego Zoo or San Diego Zoo Safari Park — now featuring a Walkabout Australia attraction that will give your family a little taste of the Australian outback. Both of these destinations require a lot of walking, with some hills and steeper terrain, so make sure you have a stroller for little ones and be mindful of more senior members of your family.


Looking for a change of theme park scenery? Satisfy brick lovers of all ages and pay a visit to Legoland California. You can spend hours at the original Legoland theme park or the more recent additions, Legoland Water Park and SeaLife Aquarium. If you are returning to Legoland, don’t miss the new attraction Lego City Deep Sea Adventure. This new addition to Legoland California opened in early summer of 2018, allowing guests to board their own submarine and get up close & personal with sea creatures under the water.


Before heading home, visit Seaport Village where you can find 45 unique shops, 17 dining options, family attractions and seasonal events. It would be easy to spend half a day in this one location so if you prefer to skip the theme park life altogether for a day, leave a few hours free for this village. Make sure you have some cash on you for the Historic Carousel that can be found on site. This beautiful piece of history was hand-carved in 1895 and features 54 animals and two horse-drawn chariots.


Once you have enjoyed a day-trip, you can return to your Disney vacation with a fresh perspective and appreciation for the fast-paced fun of the parks.

Southern California has so much to offer, be sure to make time for a day-trip, or two, every time you visit Disneyland. Natural beauty can be found in every direction and might pave the way to inspire your next adventure. Next time we will check out three-day trips you can make from the Aulani Resort in Hawaii and explore the island of Oahu.