Two Southern California roads trips that are perfect for fall

By Rachel Schnalzer
Design and illustrations by Jade Cuevas

Good morning, fellow adventurers! I hope your autumn has been filled with restorative experiences despite the challenges of the pandemic, wildfires and poor air quality. Our travel options are limited, but I’m always surprised by the opportunities California continues to offer. If you’ve explored somewhere new recently, let me know. I love to receive travel recommendations from readers.

This week, I compiled three road-trip ideas for your next weekend escape. One will take you as far north as June Lake, at a prime time to spot fall colors. Another will take you to treasures hiding in plain sight in Los Angeles.

No matter where you go, you know the drill — bring a mask and make sure to socially distance.

🧹 Take a drive by L.A.’s “witch” houses

These Storybook-style homes “conjure up images of witches’ lairs, warlocks, hobbits and more,” Times staff writer Lisa Boone says. She reports that Friends of Residential Treasures: LA has created a self-guided tour of five “witch” houses that takes travelers from Culver City to Burbank.

On FORT:LA’s website you’ll find fun facts about each home, as well as a map and music suggestions to accompany your adventure.

To make matters spookier, the homes were chosen by Amber Benson, best known for her portrayal of Tara Maclay on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” “This trail gives you a taste of just how much magic and fantasy there is in Los Angeles,” Benson said in a statement.

Culver City's "Hobbit Houses"

The Lawrence and Martha Joseph Residence and Apartments, Historic-Cultural Monument No. 624 in Culver City, is known as the Hobbit Houses.

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

🌵 Art tour of Coachella Valley

A giant orange popsicle. Polka-dot bunny rabbits. And a towering teal dog.

These are just a few of the playful, candy-bright metal sculptures by artists Karen and Tony Barone you’ll see on a driving tour of the Coachella Valley. Visitors can use an app to navigate from Indio to Palm Springs to locate the 36 sculptures at 21 locations. The Barones say they created the experience to provide people with a way to see their art without visiting a gallery or museum during the pandemic.

Thinking about making the trip? You can access the app at

🍂 Get your autumn leaf fix in the Eastern Sierra

Up for a longer drive? You might catch the last glimpse of the Eastern Sierra’s fall color if you go soon, Times assistant travel editor Mary Forgione writes. Despite wildfire smoke in the area, Times Community News photographer Raul Roa was able to snap pictures of brilliant golden leaves around Lake Sabrina and South Lake in Bishop.

According to, it’s time to hurry to June Lake. A contributor to the site recommended that “folks should go now” to see its autumn colors.

Visitors to the South Lake area in the Inyo National Forest drive past fall foliage.

Visitors to the South Lake area in the Inyo National Forest drive past fall foliage.

(Raul Roa / Times Community News; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

🚶‍♀️ Take a walk

Looking for a free, close-by adventure this weekend?

Take a walk on Chung King Road in Chinatown to view artwork by filmmakers and video artists visible in shop windows — and be sure to bring your phone so you can listen to each video’s audio using the QR codes. Womxn in Windows will be up through Nov. 15; if you can’t make it, you can watch the films online as well.

Window with faces popping up behind window panels

Womxn in Windows is an interactive gallery along Chung King Road in Chinatown.

(Andrew Neel / Unsplash; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

📰 What I’m reading

  • COVID-19 home improvement has come to California’s most famous mansion, reports Times travel writer Christopher Reynolds. He explains how staff at Hearst Castle, now closed because of the pandemic, are working to make the destination safe for returning travelers while giving the dazzling Roman Pool and other features some much-needed TLC.
  • Death Valley may have recently experienced its first murder in modern memory, Reynolds writes. He breaks down what we know so far.
  • The pain of the flight attendant furloughs is real, writes Times contributor Elliott Hester. He explains how a colleague, now furloughed by a legacy U.S. airline, is struggling to make ends meet.
  • Did you see that viral video of the cougar following a runner in Utah? It turns out, experts say the runner was safe. Times assistant travel editor Mary Forgione offers some tips for recreating in mountain lion country.
  • Good news, budget travelers: We’re in the midst of “Secret Season,” when bargains are everywhere. Times contributor Rosemary McClure breaks down a few deals you can take advantage of.
  • Bad news, cruise fans: Expect a price jump when you book your next trip, McClure writes.
The Roman Pool at Hearst Castle

The Roman Pool at Hearst Castle features eight statues of gods, goddesses and heroes.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

💻 Can’t adventure IRL? Here’s one way to expand your horizons

Calling all Italophiles: Did your plans to visit Rome get dashed by the pandemic?

Architecture professor Andrew Kranis offers live tours of Italy’s capital city every Tuesday at 9 a.m. Pacific time. As PaperCity reports, Kranis shares his expert knowledge as he takes guests on a 50-minute Zoom tour of Rome’s neighborhoods. Upcoming tours will take you to the Testaccio covered market (which Kranis calls a “Rome foodie destination”), the Corbusian Olympic Village and more. Tickets cost $20 per person.

Andrew Kranis, pictured, along with Roman architecture.

Andrew Kranis, an architecture professor, holds virtual tours of Rome every Tuesday.

(Screengrabs from Andrew Kranis’ YouTube Channel; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times

📸 Our favorite photo

🎸 Road song

“Oh, What a World” by Kacey Musgraves has been my musical companion on too many road trips to count. Two friends and I listened to this dreamy celebration of life’s wonders on a drive down the Florida Keys’ Overseas Highway. I play it on almost every trip I take to visit my family in Idyllwild. And now, I get to share it with you.

Safe and beautiful travels this week, everyone! ✨

Multicolor sunset with lyrics "Oh what a world, and then there is you" from Kacey Musgraves' "Oh, What a World"

Kacey Musgraves’ “Oh, What a World” will help you stop and smell the roses.

(Diego PH / Unsplash; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

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