Santa Monica ~ Malibu

This oceanfront city, bounded by a 3½-mi/5½-km-long beach, feels like a weekend getaway spot even though it’s only 15 miles/24 kilometers west of downtown Los Angeles. Car-free options, including a shuttle to Los Angeles International Airport (8 miles/13 km south) make it a relaxing destination too, so you can hang out on broad beaches or the lively pier (complete with its own amusement park and rides) without having to stress about traffic or parking.