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Best Places to Visit for a Winter Getaway in California

Best Places to Visit for a Winter Getaway in California

Need inspo to pinpoint a locale? These are the best places to visit in winter in California


6 min read

December 23, 2021

Contrary to popular belief, California does have real winters. But unlike most places, you can enjoy winter any way you like over here. Depending on where you choose to go, your California winters can entail multiple feet of snow and freezing cold temperatures or slightly chillier climates and a cool night’s breeze. Pristine winter beaches, sprawling deserts, iconic ski resorts, and more exciting destinations can be your winter getaway. Need inspo to pinpoint a locale? These are the best places to visit in winter in the Golden State.

Winter Vacation Ideas in California

There's one thing that adrenaline junkies and snow bunnies can agree on; Lake Tahoe is the place to be in the winter.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is popular for being one of the best winter vacation spots to venture out to after snowfall. Home to dozens of ski resorts, awesome winter hikes, panoramic views, and winter activities aplenty, this scenic destination is the perfect place for families and couples alike to make new memories on a winter vacation. 

If you choose to stay on the north side of the lake, you’ll enjoy a quieter and more laid-back retreat, surrounded by unadulterated wilderness and some of the best ski resorts in California. But if you prefer your winter getaways more lively, the south side of the lake is your cup of tea. Here, you’ll find awesome nightlife, late-night food joints, and boisterous vacationing. You’ll spend your mornings exploring the snow-capped terrains and enjoy your evenings at gourmet restaurants and busy nightclubs. Alternatively, travel between them and enjoy the best of both worlds!

Mammoth Lakes

At 7,800 feet above sea level, Mammoth Lakes is yet another dream winter getaway destination. Best known for being a popular skiing and snowboarding destination, this mountain town tucked on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada is a great place to unwind and rejuvenate.

The drive up to this California winter vacation spot is breathtaking, but the real adventure starts once you arrive. Hike throughout Devil’s Postpile National Monument to witness otherworldly natural wonders, bike on the Mammoth Rock Trail for a heart-racing adventure, and, of course, ski down the powdered slopes. For apres-ski fun, you’ll be spoiled for choice with restaurants, cafes, and more fun spots.

Winter brings cooler, more manageable temperatures to Death Valley, and even some clouds!

Death Valley

Wintertime is, hands down, the best time to plan an adventure out to the majestic Death Valley. We’ll let you in on a little secret—the period right after Thanksgiving and before Christmas is the perfect time to explore this desert park because the temperatures are ideal and the crowds are virtually nonexistent; talk about a December delight. Avoid the California snowstorms at all costs and spend winter in Death Valley going off-roading, hiking, stargazing, and exploring around the nearby towns. We can’t think of a more unique winter getaway adventure than this!

Warm Places to Visit in Winter in California

One of the best reasons to book a Palm Springs winter vacation is the weather you can expect while visiting this beautiful desert city.

Palm Springs

The dry resort town of Palm Springs is a popular winter getaway spot in California for folks who don’t necessarily like to feel the cold. Besides amazing shopping spots and mid-century modern architecture, most people visit this warm place in winter for the cascading waterfalls, mineral pools, and awesome spa resorts. If you’d like your winter vacation to entail more outdoorsy activities, you’d be glad to know that hiking, fishing, and horseback riding are common pastimes in Palm Springs as well.

Don’t miss the migration of the 20,000 gray whales moving from Alaska to the warm waters of Baja in Mexico when visiting San Diego in the winter.

San Diego

San Diego is blessed with perfect weather that works just about any time of the year. La Jolla, Coronado, Carlsbad, Solana Beach—America’s Finest City is a treasure trove of one beautiful seaside escape after the other. With perfectly temperate weather, plenty of outdoor activities, and some of the nation’s most beautiful coastlines, this SoCal slice of paradise is a dreamy spot for a winter getaway under the sun. 

Splash around, go on scenic drives, eat fresh seafood, and enjoy the lively downtown. If you’re headed to San Diego on a winter vacation for the first time, you’re in for a treat of a weekend.

Along with the great weather, surfers would be wise to visit Santa Barbara in the winter for the bigger, better waves.

Santa Barbara

California’s warm places to visit in winter are fairly limited to its southern end. Thankfully, despite being close in proximity, each city offers its own unique personality, atmosphere, and set of super fun activities. So, when visiting a city for the first time, you won’t ever feel like you’re experiencing something you’ve experienced somewhere else before. 

Book a getaway to Santa Barbara and you’ll see a prime example of this. Absolutely unique in its own way, this destination to spend winter in California reels you in with its gorgeous red-tile roofs, incredible downtown, amazing coast side resorts, and effortlessly luxurious vibe.

Where to Rent a Cabin for Winter in California

Slow down and enjoy the peace and tranquility of one of Mount Shasta’s best seasons.

Mount Shasta

Now, if you really want to feel the essence of winter in California, you should camp out in a winter cabin in the wilderness. How many places can you think of with beauty that can rival that of the mysterious Mount Shasta? Book a beautiful Airbnb in the mountains, enjoy winter hiking adventures, and see the often overlooked rugged and mountainous side of California. You’ll enjoy waking up to the crisp morning air, the smell of fresh pine trees, and unbeatable views of the snow-covered mountains and forests from every window. Mount Shasta is the embodiment of the wild winter wonderland you’ve been daydreaming about.

Wintertime is considered peak season in Big Bear Lake so be prepared for all the fun winter activities.

Big Bear Lake

If you’re not really into the idea of completely cutting the world off as you escape to a cabin in the winter in California, head out to somewhere more popular like Big Bear Lake. This gorgeous destination completely transforms in the winter and hosts ski enthusiasts, Christmas fanatics, and families out to enjoy traditional wintertime activities. Whether you’re embarking on a winter road trip with your family or planning a romantic getaway, Big Bear Lake could be the best winter vacation you’ve ever had.

Big Sur is a bucket list destination for anyone who loves the outdoors, and winter is the perfect time to plan a trip.

Big Sur

Do you enjoy the cold but hate snow? Drive to the beautiful Big Sur for the best chilly winter getaway by the coast. Wake up in your gorgeous cabin as you listen to the sounds of the crashing waves, cozy up by the fireplace, and spend a weekend of tranquility and beauty by the Central Coast.

Even if you’re not planning on it, try to venture out from your cabin when you can. You'll be treated to panoramic vistas at the end of beautiful hiking trails, glistening waterfalls in famous state parks, spectacular sunsets at the edges of the water, and more natural attractions that will simply blow your mind. Big Sur is a winter vacation idea you can’t go wrong with.

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