Winter is here, and you are looking for a place to escape the cold weather. California offers some of the best winter getaway places in the US, where you can enjoy all four seasons.
From beaches, theme parks, ski resorts to wineries, there is something for everyone. So, instead of staring at the cold grey sky outside your house, pack up and head to one of these beautiful places in California.
Here are 15 of them that I recommend checking out this winter season!
1. Sequoia National Forest
I love nature and adventure, which is why this place topped my list of California’s best winter getaway places. It will awaken your wild side! This national forest lies one mile from Mount Whitney’s 14, 491 feet peak, where you can see the highest peaks of the lower 48 states jutting up.
Here you can enjoy hiking, camping, skiing, and many other outdoor winter activities! I also recommend checking out Crystal Cave for some unique crystal formations frozen inside ice formations or Moro Rock for a great view of this beautiful forest! There are plenty of hotels nearby if you wish to stay for a few days.
One of the best winter getaway places in California will let you enjoy all four seasons within a day. From skiing to rafting, white water kayaking to mountain biking, if you are sporty, this is the place for you! It lies just one hour away from Lake Tahoe. You can ski at Heavenly Valley Ski Resort, go whitewater rafting on the Truckee River, or take a gondola ride to see Lake Tahoe’s exceptional views.
2. Yosemite National Park
Yosemite is one of California’s best winter getaway places, especially if you are an adventure lover. This national park has some of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen! And on top of that, it’s surrounded by lakes and streams, making it perfect for fishing, swimming, kayaking, or horseback riding. I recommend checking out the Yosemite Falls (1 mile tall), El Capitan (over 3000 feet tall), or Half Dome (located on route 120). It’s pretty close to Sequoia National Forest, which makes your trip more worthwhile!
3. Lake Arrowhead, San Bernardino Mountains
One of the best winter getaway places in California for couples and families looking to stay away from the busy city life. From shopping at quaint boutiques or enjoying a nice meal, this place offers everything you need for a peaceful getaway! For adventure lovers, you can try mountain biking, skiing, and snowboarding in one day!
I also recommend checking out Lake Gregory Park and Ski Resort, an ice skating rink open throughout the year (except summer), and ZRankings Indoor Ski & Snow, where you can ski or snowboard even in the summertime! So much fun! Other activities include fishing, boating, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, etc. There are plenty of hotels and resorts in the area if you wish to book for a few days.
4. Mono Lake Scenic Area, Lee Vining
Another one of the best winter getaway places in California for couples and families. It has dramatic views, snow-covered mountains, sub-alpine forests, etc., which will let you enjoy nature at its finest! There are plenty of hotels nearby if you wish to stay for the night. One of my favorite activities is hiking to stand-alone peaks to see all three lakes below you! I would also recommend checking out Tufa towers; they are calcium carbonate formations underwater springs with striking colorful hues.
5. Napa Valley Wine Country
This place is spread over two counties; Napa and Sonoma. It’s a hub for vineyards! So if wine tasting is one of your hobbies, then this place is must visit! Especially when the sun goes down, and the sky is lit up with stars, you will feel like you’ve been transported to a different world.
You can stay in one of the many Napa Valley wine country resorts like Silverado Resort and Spa, Hyatt Vineyard Creek, The Upham Hotel, or even camp at Harbin Hot Springs. If you decide to go camping, I recommend Lake Berryessa Campground, everything from hiking trails, swimming, fishing, etc., for all ages and interests!
6. Lake Tahoe & Lake Edison
This place will let you experience all four seasons within one day! You can ski during wintertime, enjoy boating activities on Lake Taho or go hiking during springtime, go kayaking during summer and enjoy amazing views of the sunset in fall! It’s very commonplace for families to visit, mainly due to its closeness to Reno.
For the adventurous, there are plenty of ziplines, bike tracks, and hiking trails to try out.
7. Santa Cruz Boardwalk
Santa Cruz is a great family-friendly town with plenty of activities to keep everyone busy! You can go tanning at Looff’s Lite-A-Line, which is an old-fashioned carousel dating back to 1910, where rides cost 10 cents. If you like games, check out Western Bowl for your bowling needs, stroll around Pacific Avenue on a sunny day, and enjoy shopping for souvenirs!
Many hotels near The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk like Pirates Inn, Capitola By The Sea, or Hyatt Regency. You can even stay in a treehouse if that’s what you prefer! I recently read about a place called Treebones Resort that offers treehouses with all the resort’s amenities. Some of the treehouses have private hot tubs and fireplaces too! Cool huh?
8. Lassen Volcanic National Park
Another fantastic winter getaway place in California that will let you explore nature at its best! This national park contains boiling mud pots, fumaroles, steaming vents, etc. There are several hikes to try out within the park. My favorite is Devil’s Kitchen Trail, where you can see all these features up close and personal! It is recommended to visit between May and October because of the snow, but if you want to cross-country or backcountry ski, January till April would be your ideal month.
If camping isn’t for you, try staying at Lake Almanor Country Club Resort which has friendly cottages with all amenities, including a poolside bar! In addition, they have some excellent package deals available here.
9. Santa Catalina Island, Avalon
Located 30 minutes off the coast of Los Angeles is this very serene tiny island that houses many different activities to enjoy. You can go snorkeling and watch fantastic sea life, visit an old-fashioned movie theater named Avalon Theater, or even take a stroll around East Village which houses some good restaurants and boutiques! It’s also an excellent spot for scuba diving.
Many resorts nearby like Casino Point Ocean Resort & Yacht Club, Mariposa Inn, or Hotel Vista Del Mar. If you wish to camp, there are a lot of camping resorts as well, such as Pygmy Forest RV Park, Two Harbors Campground, or Descanso Beach Resort.
10. Universal Studios Hollywood
Suppose you want to have a fun day out with the family, head over to Universal Studios Hollywood, located in Los Angeles, CA! It has some of your favorite characters from books and TV shows like Doctor Suess, Shrek, Harry Potter, etc. There are also a lot of rides for kids! This place becomes popular during Halloween because there are projection mazes where you can walk through these creepy environments by yourself or check out their Haunted Houses where you can watch scary movies; it’s great fun!!!
Many hotels near Universal Orlando Resort, including Sheraton Park Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort, Travel Lodge International Drive East Near Universal Orlando, or Courtyard Orlando Convention Center. If camping is more your style, then check out Orlando West RV Resort for your accommodation needs!
Located in Anaheim, CA, is “The Happiest Place On Earth,” consisting of different themed lands such as Adventureland, Critter Country, Toon Town, and Tomorrow Land! In addition, it has attractions like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and Splash Mountain, where you can experience the wonders of nature and fantasy all at once.
There are many dining options to check out, like the Blue Bayou Restaurant, where you can listen to some live jazz music or Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island, or even try DoughBoys pizza!
There are a couple of hotels near Disneyland Resorts: The Anaheim Hotel, Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Anaheim at Disneyland Resort, and Hyatt Place-Hotel & Spa. If camping is more your style, then give Camp Landscaping a call for all your accommodation needs.
12. Muir Woods
Located in Mill Valley, California, this place is a nature lover’s paradise! The parking cost is $8, and it costs $6 to get inside the park for an adult. There are no time limits or visitor limits, so you can stay as long as you want. It has some epic redwood trees, making for a great photo op with their reflection in the pond at the very beginning of the trail.
They allow dogs, but they must be on a leash at all times, and it always helps to be courteous by picking up after them too! Hikes vary from easy walks to more strenuous hikes that can last an hour or two, depending on how fast/long you want to go.
Many hotels are nearby, such as Best Western Plus El Rancho Inn and even HI Marin Headlands Hostel. If camping is more your style, check out Point Reyes Farm Campground for all your campsite needs.
13. Bixby Bridge
Located in Bixby Canyon Bridge State Park, CA, is a bridge called Bixby Creek Bridge built in 1932 and has been declared a National Historic Landmark. This 1400-foot long suspension bridge is only used for foot traffic and makes for a great photo op once you reach the other side of the canyon! They also provide history about the park on some information boards near sure signs on your way up. There are many trails to hike around this area, so if you get tired of walking back to the car, turn around and make another trail!
Many hotels nearby like Holiday Inn Express & Suites Monterey Central Coast, Ramada Limited Monterey/Seaside, or the La Quinta Inn & Suites Monterey Peninsula. If camping is more your style, check out Point Lobos State Reserve for all your campsite needs.
14. Transamerica Pyramid
The Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco stands at 853 feet tall, and it’s one of the most eye-catching buildings in that city! It was built back in 1972 by William Pereira, who also designed LAX, John Hancock Center, and Disneyland, to name a few. If you want to go inside, there is an observation deck on the 27th floor which takes up 13 feet! This costs $13 per adult, but it costs nothing if under 14 years of age. Also, they allow dogs, but be aware that they have to stay on a leash. This building has become one of the most recognizable buildings globally, so it’s instantly Instagram-worthy!
There are plenty of hotels nearby like the Hilton San Francisco Union Square or Hotel Griffon. If camping is more your style, check out Point Reyes National Seashore for all your campsite needs.
15. Los Angeles
Los Angeles is one of the most popular cities in California, and it’s also the heart of the film industry! The Hollywood sign is located here along with many other famous people. You can check out Universal Studios, Disneyland, or go on a guided tour around Beverly Hills if that strikes your fancy! There are many things to do in LA, like checking out The Getty Center, Griffith Observatory, or even Hollywood Walk of Fame.
There are many hotels nearby like JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE or DoubleTree Suites by Hilton-Beverly Hills. If camping is more your style, check out Malibu Creek State Park for all your campsite needs.
We hope you can find something that has been on your bucket list for winter from the list of places we discussed in this article!