By Carla Olivo, Marine Spouse

Coastal California is one of the most beautiful areas of the country. From Los Angeles to San Diego, Oceanside to San Clemente there is an abundance of things to see and do, all within a day’s drive of Camp Pendleton.

Amusement Parks

The mild Southern California weather makes day-tripping easy. One of most popular Pendleton day trips is of course Disneyland. Sixty miles to the north is Mickey’s home on the west coast. The Information, Tickets & Tours (ITT) offices at Camp Pendleton have discount tickets available.

SoCal has no shortage of amusement parks. Universal Studios Hollywood is just under two hours from Camp Pendleton. And Knott’s Berry Farm is just a few minutes further to the north. If you are looking for something super close to base, Lego Land is a mere 10 miles to the south.

The Great Outdoors

Outdoor enthusiasts will love Griffith Park and Observatory, a two-hour drive north. The 4,310-acre Griffith Park is a favorite of hikers who enjoy the stunning views of the city on trails leading up to the Griffith Observatory. There is no better view of the Hollywood sign than from the Observatory. The uphill hike can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on your pace.

For breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, make a visit to the Torrey Pines State Reserve and Beach in San Diego. A mere half hour drive from the base gates are the spectacular cliffs and panoramic views. You may be able to spot a gray whale or bottle nose dolphins in the waters during the winter months. Free guided nature walks are offered on the weekends.

Another of the many popular Pendleton day trips is the world famous San Diego Zoo which is less than an hour south of Camp Pendleton. The 100-acre Zoo is home to more than 3,500 rare and endangered animals representing more than 650 species and subspecies and a prominent botanical collection with more than 700,000 exotic plants.

For the History Buff

The Los Cerritos Ranch House in Long Beach was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1970. The structure, a Monterey Colonial adobe, was built in 1844 by merchant Jonathan Temple, a Yankee pioneer who became a Mexican citizen. It was the largest and most impressive adobe residence erected in southern California during the Mexican period. The beautiful gardens feature the majestic Moreton Bay fig trees. Free Living History Tours are offered Wednesdays to Sundays.

Located near the University of Southern California campus a short distance from downtown L.A. is the kid-friendly California Science Center. Open nearly twenty years ago, the museum’s most recent acquisition is the final ship to be built in NASA’s space shuttle program, the Endeavour. Permanent exhibit galleries include Creative World, World of Life, and the SKETCH Foundation Gallery featuring air and space exhibits.

Palm Springs

The drive to Palm Springs is just over two hours but be sure to stop at the Desert Hills Premium Outlets along the way. The luxury outlet mall is a shopper’s paradise!

The “World’s Largest Rotating Tramcar” known as the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is a two-and-a-half-mile trip up into the mountains. After a day of hiking or cross-country skiing, you can visit the restaurant a mere 8,516 feet up the mountain.

The Palm Springs Walk of Stars along Palm Canyon Drive features sidewalk tributes to Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley Temple, Frank Sinatra, and Elvis.

This list could be never ending as there is always something to see and do on the Pacific Coast. Please add your favorite day trips below! And consider helping out your fellow military families by leaving a Camp Pendleton base housing, neighborhood, REALTOR®, or moving company review on

Author: Carla Olivo, PCSgrades Strategic Communications Director, previously served as the Director of Communications for Operation Hug-A-Hero and as the Media/Community Relations Officer for the Delaware Department of Transportation. She has garnered numerous TV industry awards including the Associated Press award for Spot News Reporting, and Documentary Reporting. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, a retired USMC Lt. Colonel, their two children. You can follow her on Twitter @olivowriter.