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The Best Winter Weekend Getaways in California

The Best Winter Weekend Getaways in California

Whether you’re looking for epic slopes or warm places to escape the cold, California has the answer to all of your winter vacation ideas.


6 min read

November 28, 2020

When it comes to the Golden State, “winter” and “snow” don’t always come to mind. Although the state’s pristine beaches and Mediterranean climate make it the ultimate spot for summer adventures, certain areas of California transform into winter wonderlands during this time of year. Locals ditch the bathing suits and don their puffer jackets, while tourists flock to famed ski resorts to enjoy a variety of winter sports.

Thanks to the diversity of the state, there are more than enough destinations to spend the best winter weekend getaway here. Whether you’re looking for snowboarding or ice-skating spots, California has the answer to all of your winter vacation ideas

The Best Winter Vacations

Head to Mammoth Lakes and experience the snow-dusted peaks and epic slopes of the stunning mountain town.

1. Mammoth Lakes

Experience the best winter weekend getaway in Mammoth Lakes, a year-round adventureland that is straight out of a fairytale. Who wouldn’t want to get an adrenaline rush at Mammoth Mountain—the highest ski resort in the Golden State? The winter paradise has awesome ski tours that you just can’t miss. Between snowboarding, tubing, sledding, and cross-country skiing, you’re going to want to relax at a slopeside vacation rental. Austria Hof Lodging will keep you warm while you recharge. For fine alpine dining, head over to Skadi to indulge in delectable food with grand mountain views. 

2. Mount Shasta

Northern California’s fastest-growing city for vacationing is Mount Shasta. From mountaineering and ice-skating to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, there are enough recreational opportunities to make it your best winter vacation. Settle in at Mount Shasta Ranch Bed and Breakfast, where you’ll enjoy a unique atmosphere in a rustic setting. The bed and breakfast is only minutes away from the famous Mount Shasta Ski Park—425 acres of skiable terrain are at your disposal. As for food, Bistro No. 107 is your go-to all-American restaurant for gourmet burgers, paninis, salads, appetizers, and daily specials.

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The Best Winter Vacations For Couples

Take that special someone on a romantic trip to Santa Barbara. Make sure to catch the sunset from Knapp's Castle.

1. Santa Barbara

Plan a romantic winter getaway with your one and only in the coastal town of Santa Barbara. Escape the cold and unwind at this winter beach destination. There are so many romantic things to do in Santa Barbara—enjoy classical music at the historic Granada Theatre, hike to Knapp’s Castle, and soak in incredible views of the city on a helicopter ride with Paradise Retreats. Revel in delicious French cuisine at Stella Mare’s, the most romantic restaurant in the city. Stroll along the waters of Hendry’s Beach while holding hands as the golden hour sets in. When it’s time to rest, head over to Harbor House Inn for boutique accommodations with upscale amenities. As your stay comes to its end, you’ll come to realize that Santa Barbara is the ideal place for the best winter vacation for couples.

For adventurous couples, Yosemite National Park is the perfect place for a fun-filled and romantic winter vacation.

2. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park has always attracted lovebirds thanks to its magnificent mountains, beautiful valleys, and picturesque attractions. The best winter vacations for couples are spent here. As exciting as it is to visit in the summer, Yosemite National Park is best experienced during the colder months when there are fewer crowds. For winter sports, Badger Pass Ski Area is the place to go for snowboarding, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and snow tubing.

Half Dome is a must-see on your getaway; the granite crest looms over 4,737 feet above the valley floor. Wow your special someone and hike to see another classic sight in the national park: Bridalveil Falls, which flows year-round. Another striking feature here is Yosemite Falls, dropping a total of 2,425 feet from the top of the upper fall to the base of the lower fall. When the night falls, book a room at Yosemite Valley Lodge, which is in close proximity to the prominent waterfall.

The Best Places To Visit In January

Venture to the majestic town of Big Bear Lake for dreamy landscapes and plenty of winter fun.

1. Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake is the most beautiful mountain town in Southern California. The gorgeous winter travel destination is a wonderful four-season escape where you can engage in fishing, snowboarding, skiing, hiking, mountain biking, and so much more. As one of the best places to visit in January, Big Bear Lake accumulates an average annual snowfall of 67 inches. Get your daily dose of delicious breakfast at Grizzly Manor Cafe.

A must-visit here is the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain. Experience SoCal’s only authentic bobsled adventure at the local-favorite recreation area. Later, relax and unwind at your Shore Acres Lodge hideaway that’s secluded in two acres of pine-shaded lakefront property. With panoramic views of California’s mountain ranges taking your breath away, Big Bear Lake will quickly become your favorite winter vacation spot.

After a day spent on the slopes of South Lake Tahoe, settle in by the shore for golden hour.

2. South Lake Tahoe

Enjoy the great outdoors at the best winter holiday destination: the unparalleled South Lake Tahoe. Home to dozens of ski resorts, it’s the perfect place for families and couples alike to enjoy winter activities and make unforgettable memories. South Lake Tahoe is surrounded by tall mountains covered in a blanket of pristine white snow in the colder months, which is why it’s one of the best places to visit in January.

Settle in at Station House Inn and prepare for a vacation full of adventures. All the fun activities are within walking distance—the beautiful alpine lake, private beach, restaurants, shops, and ski resorts that’ll make your experience worthwhile. Spice up your lunch options and explore Empanash’s delicious menu for a satisfying meal. The cherry on top is a visit to Heavenly Ski Resort, one of the most unique snow sports destinations in the world. 

Warm Places To Visit In February

Take a ride to the top of San Jacinto Peak in the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to admire the spectacular coastal vistas.

1. Palm Springs

If your idea of the best winter destination involves escaping the cold, then Palm Springs is where you bring your winter vacation ideas to life. Since it’s a warm place to visit in February, hiking is an awesome way to explore the beauty of the resort city. There are many hiking trails for people of different levels—The Homestead, Lykken, and Bump and Grind Trails are rewarding hikes with stunning views throughout the journey. Also make sure to discover the extraordinary varieties of desert plants at the one-acre, family-owned Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium.

Palm Springs is also home to the best golf courses in California. Take a swing at Escena Golf Club and spend a tee-rrific afternoon on the lush grounds. No Palm Springs vacation is complete without paying a visit to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway; the 10-minute ride takes you to a pristine wilderness aboard the world’s largest rotating tramcar. As for the evenings, transport yourselves to the Golden Age of Hollywood and stay at The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn

2. San Diego

San Diego is the ultimate winter beach destination—with plenty of sunshine, fewer crowds, and exciting activities, what’s not to like? Before you flock to the beach, head over to the San Diego Ice Arena for an afternoon of non-stop entertainment. Whale watching is another awesome winter vacation idea that’ll make your holiday memorable. The San Diego waters are the ideal place to spot the mammals; over 20,000 gray whales migrate from Alaska to Baja California from mid-December to April. After a fun-filled day, relax at the luxurious La Valencia Hotel; the panoramic views of the Pacific coastline blow your mind. 

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