My friend once told me that for most of her time at UCLA, she gets off the plane from New Jersey, drives to Westwood, never leaves a 2-mile radius, drives back to the airport, goes back to New Jersey, repeat. This was the case for me the first half of my freshman year, and I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of other people, too. It’s easy to feel a little trapped in the Westwood bubble, but if you have access to a car, there’s so many places you can go! Here are 5 easy day trips you can make that will make you feel a little less monotonous, without breaking the bank.
1. Echo Park and Silver Lake
If you enjoy good food and window shopping, these are the places for you. There are seriously way too many good restaurants in such a small radius: you’re going to have to make a couple trips. Echo Park and Silver Lake are so-called “up-and-coming” trendy neighborhoods that have both really expensive boutiques and countless thrift stores. You can spend a whole day just shopping and seeing what you can find! There’s also insanely good views, street art, the Echo Park Lake, hiking, and more: the ideas are endless. Both of these areas of LA are only around a 30 minute drive from UCLA, and around 5 minutes from each other, so you can easily Uber there if you don’t have a car.
2. Balboa Island
This is definitely more of a journey, but it’s so worth it. Balboa Island is known for their adorable pier complete with carnival rides, chocolate-covered banana stands (Arrested Development, anyone?), and gorgeous beach. The best part about living in Los Angeles is that it’s sunny practically year-round, so you can take the trip here any time from April to November. It’s free to get in, and if you want any food or to go on any rides, it’s super cheap. Balboa Island is off the coast of Newport Beach, so you would need a car to get there, as it’s about an hour or more away depending on traffic.
3. Free Museum Days
LACMA and the LaBrea Tar Pits are free to UCLA students after 3 PM, so you can make a whole day trip by going to one in the morning, and going to the next one when it becomes free. Museums are a great way to feel like you’re somewhere a million miles or years away, without ever leaving the area. Make sure to look for deals on museums: they switch off having free days, some have free entrance/free entrance for students, and some have super fun and free College Nights complete with food and activities.
Pasadena and neighboring Altadena have some of the best hiking in the area, with endless waterfalls and mountains to explore. If you’re more the shopping type, Old Town Pasadena has a vast amount of trendy coffee shops, stores, and restaurants to explore in a super-cute vintage-y setting. If you go on Sunday, there’s even a huge farmers market! It would take about 30 or 40 minutes to get here, but once you’re here, everything is free (unless you want to do some major shopping).
5. Ventura/Ventura County
Located about an 45 minutes from UCLA, depending where you go, Ventura is located right next to the beach and is perfect for picnics, surfing, running by the beach, or anything else you set your mind to. If you go inland, Ventura County has a lot of fertile farmland: even though this doesn’t sound too exciting, it can actually be really fun. From the Strawberry Festival in May to picking your own berries at Underwood Family Farms in Somis, Ventura County is a relaxing escape from Los Angeles, if only for a day. Nearby Camarillo also has one of the closest outlet malls to UCLA, so if you need to get some shopping done and want to save some money, the Camarillo Outlets are a great place to start.
Photos by Mackie Lorkis, twentyfouratheart.com, zevyargoslovsky.com, timeout.com, and threebestbeaches.com.