December 03, 2020
As California mitigates health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, some travel restrictions may remain in certain communities. Call the local and regional tourism offices to learn more about the restrictions in your intended destination. Thank you for reading, and stay safe.
Making snow angels with the kids; sipping on hot cocoa in front of the fireplace; celebrating the holiday season with your loved ones—winter family vacations are all about fun memories. Winter is the most magical time of the year, and the Golden State transforms into an enchanting land during the cold season.
Drive for a while and you’ll arrive at the most exciting ski slopes in the state—you wouldn’t think that these snowy areas are only hours away from the sunniest places California has to offer. Between going on the best Golden State ski tours and racing your siblings on the ice rink, you’ll quickly forget that you recently came back from a fall family vacation. With grand mountain ranges serving as your backdrop, here are the best winter vacations for families to check out now.
The Best Winter Vacations For Families
Although Southern California is known for its warm weather, it's entirely possible to spend your best family snow vacation here in Idyllwild. The quiet and relaxing mountain town is abundant with hiking trails that are perfect for the whole family. Explore the 6.3-mile Suicide Rock Trail, which takes you along the San Jacinto Mountains. If your four-legged friend is also tagging along, the only dog-friendly path in Idyllwild is Devil's Slide Trail.
Craving American and Korean dishes post-workout? Head to Mile High Cafe for exceptional cuisine. Then, stroll through the town and explore the local shops to buy cute souvenirs for your relatives back home. Pay a visit to Idyllwild Nature Center, where you can learn about local nature and wildlife. When it’s time to say goodbye to the day's adventures, book a room at Creekstone Inn to experience rustic luxury with gorgeous fireplaces and whirlpool tubs.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park may have volcanically active areas, but it's also home to harmless natural wonders that offer non-stop fun for your winter vacation. Besides steaming and bubbling every now and then, the area has crystalline lakes as well as meadows covered in a thick layer of snow. Upon arrival, settle in with your family at the all-inclusive Drakesbad Guest Ranch, which is located at the southeast end of the national park.
Lassen’s largest and most popular hydrothermal area Bumpass Hell is where you’ll see all the geology in action. A gentle two-mile round-trip hike leads you to the impressive hydrothermal feature. Spend the best winter vacation with your kids here and go cross-country skiing in the southwest section of Lassen. Check out the marked trail around Manzanita Lake for more cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Warm Winter Family Vacations
If you’re dreading the snow you have to shovel from your front porch every morning, escape to Monterey and enjoy the holidays at the perfect winter beach destination. Ditch your ski jacket and check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where gorgeous galleries bring the wonders of the ocean to life. Then, pay a visit to Del Monte Beach, a local gem that’s tucked away from the main streets of the city; gather the whole family for an afternoon picnic and stroll along the boardwalk trail through the dunes for picturesque views of the waters. For scuba-diving enthusiasts, San Carlos Beach is the place to be. Rest on the grassy lawns, sandy areas, benches, or picnic tables.
Next on your warm family winter vacation itinerary is paying a visit to the historic Old Fisherman’s Wharf. Book a whale-watching tour with Princess Monterey Whale Watching and observe the adventures of the massive mammals. The wharf is also home to many restaurants that offer unique dining experiences such as Paluca Trattoria, Carousel Candies, and Cafe Fina. Relax and unwind in the evening at Spindrift Inn, a charming European-inspired hotel on the historic Cannery Row.
The closest thing to snow in Laguna Beach is the seafoam racing to your feet while you’re making the most of your warm family winter vacation. The hottest spot to check out in the coastal city is the Promenade on Forest. It’s the best place to go in December thanks to many activities that’ll get you in the holiday spirit. There’s the annual Holiday Window Decorating Contest, the Christmas Tree on the Promenade that invites you to add an ornament to the tree, and the wonderful and magical Santa Parade. Let the children write letters to Santa while you shop for souvenirs at the pedestrian plaza.
Since Laguna Beach is a quintessential winter beach destination, visiting the coastline is a must. Maintain the theme of your trip and check out Christmas Cove Beach, a dreamy place to recharge and rejuvenate. The closest resort to the beach is the world-renowned Montage Laguna Beach, nestled on a coastal bluff overlooking the Pacific. Experience fine dining with your family at Splashes Restaurant, offering seaside cuisine and palm-shaded patios.
The Best Winter Vacations With Kids
Big Bear Lake
Making a winter vacation destination list that doesn’t include a getaway to Big Bear Lake is basically committing a crime. Who wouldn’t want to experience the best part of the cold in gorgeous secluded cabins and snow-covered natural wonders? Only two hours away from Los Angeles, the all-time favorite winter travel destination is as good as it gets.
First, take your kids to Big Bear Snow Play, a recreation area where the fun never stops. Then, head over to Big Bear Mountain Resort for some SoCal alpine good times. If you’re still not convinced to vacation here, get this: You can elevate your experience (literally) and take the family on a helicopter ride with Helicopter Big Bear Tours. For a delicious all-American meal, check out the local favorite Peppercorn Grille. When it’s time to get a good night’s rest, relax and unwind at Castle Wood Cottages—it looks straight out of a fairy tale.
If you thought that the North Pole was the happiest place during the winter, Soda Springs is here to prove you wrong. The town is home to the longest-running and best ski resort in California: Soda Springs Ski Resort, where the fun never stops. With skiing, snowboarding, and snow-tubing opportunities here, it’s no wonder it’s the best family snow vacation spot. Offering wonderful activities for people of all ages, the resort lets children live out their Christmas fantasies at the Planet Kids snow playground. Tube Town has up to 10 lanes for the whole family to race each other while winter tubing.
The perfect place to stay the night is Sugar Bowl, a unique and memorable mountain getaway with slopeside accommodations. Experience what it means to dine in a winter wonderland at the hotel’s restaurant—tasty meals, fantastic service, and incredible views await you.