The beginning of the semester signals the start of a torrent of academic commitments, late nights and other stressors. To satisfy the inevitable need for a mental break, these four obscure getaways are perfect, affordable weekend escapes.
HICKSVILLE TRAILER PALACE
At an undisclosed location deep in Joshua Tree National Park, a two-hour drive from L.A., lies the Hicksville Trailer Palace, an eclectic trailer park retreat and oasis for artists to collaborate and create. Buried in the Mojave Desert, the trailer park’s location is kept a secret until the day before guests’ arrivals; even GPS locators are prohibited. Once past the security gate and down a dirt road, the desolate desert gives way to a well-kempt sanctuary for provincial living: a semicircular display of eight vintage trailers collected and designed by writer and director Morgan Higby Night. Each trailer is personalized and
embodies a different theme, from the “The Sideshow,” a crimson carnival caboose; to “The Pioneer,” appearing straight out of the Wild West; to “The Fifi,” a whimsically lit Gypsy hideout. Despite their uniqueness, the trailers form a community replete with a pool, rooftop hot tub, fire pits, communal teepee tent, BB gun and archery range, and a full music-recording and film-editing studio.
Nestled in the heart of Wine Country, Solvang is an Old World gem immortalized in the Santa Ynez Valley, two and a half hours north of L.A. The little village appears to be frozen in a perpetual Christmastime rapture and state of quaint solitude with its Danish-style architecture, historic windmill and horse-drawn carriage rides. Branching off from the town’s cobblestone main street is a labyrinth of small avenues, walkways, nooks and crannies where visitors can find artisan treasures like wooden clogs, cuckoo clocks and authentic Danish confectionaries. The many mom-and-pop restaurants and local cafes serve homemade treats and superlative wines. Every September, the village also celebrates Danish culture with a parade of costumes, Viking reenactments and Hans Christian Anderson-esque storytelling. A weekend in Solvang is the perfect refuge from the modern world and an opportunity to sample a fairy tale come to life.
SANTA CATALINA ISLAND
With a rich history, beach-town vibe and hallmarks of paradise, Santa Catalina Island is a beautiful bet for a well-rounded weekend getaway. Once home to the native Gabrielino people of Southern California for thousands of years, the small, rocky island was popularized by Hollywood luminaries eager for escape and today exudes a relaxing touristy culture. The island is accessible by ferry or helicopter from four ports, the closest of which is Long Beach, a mere half-hour drive from L.A. A short, 22-mile ride from the mainland will bring you to the village-like neighborhoods of Catalina where there are beaches, boardwalks, boutiques, fine dining and a historic art deco casino that hosts special events and doubles as a movie theatre. The remaining 88 percent of the island is made up of protected land, mountains and coastline populated by bald eagles, buffalo, foxes, dolphins and whales with opportunities for nearly every outdoorsy adventure imaginable. Ultimately, the blissful isolation of Santa Catalina Island allows you to leave your worries an ocean away and immerse yourself in a uniquely preserved, small-town pace of life.
LOS PADRES NATIONAL FOREST & OJAI
Just two hours north of L.A., Los Padres National Forest is home to more than 1,200 miles of maintained hiking trails and 875,000 acres of federally protected wilderness. The park is rife with a wide array of flora and fauna — with desert, redwoods and more than 400 species of wildlife — the land is a nirvana of biodiversity. In addition to such essentials as camping, backpacking, hiking, biking and fishing, the National Forest offers the Sespe Creek Trail, connecting two hot springs to the cozy, pastoral town of Ojai. The rustic destination is blessed with a micro-climate reminiscent of the Mediterranean where everything grows in bounty and local cuisine is always seasonally fresh. Since the 1920s, Ojai has served as a hub for old-school rural living, highly popular among solace seekers. Today, Ojai is similarly a nouveau hippie destination that boasts outdoor recreation, rich vineyards and small businesses run by chefs, artists and healers.