When does summer officially begin? In some cities there's a simple answer, but here in Los Angeles, with our endless cavalcade of sunny days, the start of summer is a bit hazy. Our perpetually beautiful weather decouples our sense of seasons, since we have a nearly perpetual forecast: sunshine all the time. So does summer start when the June gloom melts from the sky, or when the jacaranda trees shower us in purple rain? When school's out and graduation caps fly into the air? When Coachella beckons the man-buns of the world to unite?
No one knows.
Instead, summer in Southern California is a philosophy; that conscious decision to fling off the mantle of school stress or work woes and rustle up some buds, your love or your young spuds for some much-needed R&R. Summer is a state of mind, and for many it begins with an idea: Let's hit the road.
For this year's Road Trips issue, we've charted a course across the Southern California region, taking Angelenos in adventures everywhere the Santa Ana winds blow.
You could head up to the Central Coast, where the secluded cove of Jalama Beach offers oceanside camping, stellar surfing and a burger that itself is worth the journey. Continue your California Dream by cruisin' up the coast and plunking down a tent on the beaches of San Simeon, just a windy bus ride away from that outsized temple of opulence, Hearst Castle.
Then head to the West — the Old West, that is. Venture to the Morongo Basin, where the movie set–turned–real village of Pioneertown houses one of Southern California's best music venues: Pappy & Harriet's. Just a few minutes from the psychedelic expanses of Joshua Tree, the rowdy saloon provides a hearty helping of A-list musical acts alongside a gargantuan plate of mesquite-smoked ribs.
If Vegas beckons from the northeast, make sure to follow our guide to the quirky towns and pit stops along the way, ranging from the ruins of Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa to A-bomb test sites just outside of Sin City. Or head southeast to the mountain retreat of Idyllwild, the low-key town nestled among the pines, where hiking trails and cabins make a pleasant scene for a sighting of the region's most laid-back forest monster, the Idyll-Beast.
For throwback fun just a short drive from our city, take a trip back in time to the drive-in movie theaters speckling Southern California, or journey to the Mission Inn, the century-old Riverside hotel, which was a favorite getaway for Hollywood stars and even a handful of presidents.
Whether you head to the mountains, the coast, the desert, there's an adventure that awaits you.
Pack your bags and let's go:
Discover the Secret Surf Spot That’s a Coastal Camping Dream Come True
Here's Your Summer Guide to SoCal's Drive-In Movie Theaters
How Pappy & Harriet's Went From Dive Bar to a Music Destination
From Calico to Zzyzx, These Vegas Side Trips Hit the Jackpot