8 California Winter Vacation Ideas

California appears to be a place of perpetual summer, with year-round sunshine and opportunities for outdoor recreation. Indeed, a large portion of the state (with the exception of Southern California and the deserts) experiences winter weather, albeit milder than elsewhere in the country.

California’s climate is Mediterranean. The Sierra Nevada receives rain and snow throughout the winter in California. Southern California receives less winter precipitation. Winter precipitation is uncommon in Palm Springs and other desert regions.

Visitors can enjoy Palm Springs’ winter weather or San Diego’s and Los Angeles’ summer weather. Other famous winter destinations include Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Lakes. Winter in Northern California’s cultural hubs such as San Francisco, Napa Valley, and Mendocino County, there is enough to do.

Inspire yourself with our list of the best winter getaways in California.

1.Desert Palm

Palm Springs has always been a popular winter vacation destination. In the 1920s, elegant resorts in the middle of the Sonoran Desert began catering to Hollywood celebrities.

Palm Springs, California, is a two-hour drive from Los Angeles (about 100 miles). Sunseekers will appreciate the stunning surroundings and tranquil environment.

Palm trees sway in the wind as they face the breathtaking San Jacinto Mountains. December, January, and February are good vacation months due to their tropical skies and daytime temperatures in the mid-70s Fahrenheit. Due to the arid atmosphere, the sun shines nearly every day (the average is 350 days of sunshine).

The finest Palm Springs resorts have pools, sundecks, golf courses, tennis courts, and opulent spas. Additionally, Palm Springs features hiking, fine dining, and shopping.

Winter celebrations attract a large number of visitors. In January, a film festival including films from over 60 countries is held. The festival’s red carpet event for the Film Awards is a highlight.

In mid-February, Modernism Week takes held. Throughout the 11-day event, there are parties and live music every night.

2.Mammoth Lake

Mammoth Lakes should be on your winter vacation itinerary if you appreciate stunning mountain vistas and downhill skiing. The Mammoth Lakes region of California is a favourite off-the-beaten-path vacation.

Mammoth Lakes receives snow early due to its height. Typically, the ski season begins in late November. At its 11,000-foot summit, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area receives over 400 inches of snow each year.

With over 3,500 acres of terrain and 150 alpine ski routes, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area is one of the best ski resorts in California. The Mammoth Lakes region provides a diverse selection of lodging and eating options.

Additionally, Mammoth Lakes is well-known for its hot springs, which draw a large number of winter visitors. The Travertine Hot Springs in Bridgeport are natural geothermal ponds located on BLM land. This public hot springs facility is open to the public for free. Bishop is known for its hot springs.

On a 1,255-acre family-owned ranch in Benton, The Inn at Benton Hot Springs provides bed & breakfast accommodations with access to natural mineral water hot springs. Bungalows, cabins, and camping spaces with private hot tubs are available at the inn. A conservation easement protects the inn’s property.

3.SD

San Diego, the southernmost city in California, has year-round sunlight. Winters are pleasant, with sunny days and average highs of 66°F. The winter months are too chilly for sunbathing but ideal for beach walks.

From December through February, San Diego’s gardens are absolutely magnificent as a result of a winter rainstorm. The 1,200-acre Balboa Park is home to stunning gardens, hiking paths, and 17 museums.

San Diego de Alcalá Mission, founded in 1777, is a must-see. A lovely winter garden is located on the mission grounds.

4.Tahoe

When the snow begins to fall in November or December, Lake Tahoe becomes a winter wonderland. Lake Tahoe is surrounded by snow-capped hills, its deep blue waters glistening in the clear winter sunlight.

While the Lake Tahoe area receives significant snowfall, the climate is quite mild for an alpine location. Daily highs in December and February are in the low 40s. Each year, Lake Tahoe’s winter season provides around 300 days of sunshine.

In the winter, skiing is a popular sport in Lake Tahoe. Tahoe is home to multiple excellent ski resorts. Heavenly, Palisades Tahoe, and Northstar California are all internationally renowned ski resorts.

5.LA

Los Angeles provides travellers sunshine in the middle of winter. Autumn and winter are the wet seasons in Southern California (typical of a Mediterranean climate). It rains less frequently than it does in Northern California.

Between December and February, daily maximum temperatures range between the mid-60s and low 70s. Winter is also the wettest season, however it typically rains for just six or seven days every month.

Apart from its excellent winter climate, Los Angeles is home to a plethora of world-class cultural attractions. Along with visiting Hollywood’s famous sites, travellers may enjoy fantastic restaurants, shopping, and art museums.

Los Angeles features some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world. The beaches of Los Angeles are open all year. You may wander along the beach and eat at coastal restaurants during the winter.

Winter is an excellent time to visit the 130-acre Botanical Gardens at The Huntington (10 miles away from Los Angeles). Among the sixteen themed gardens are the Desert Garden, the Japanese Garden, and the Shakespeare Garden. Camellias bloom in January and February, while aloes bloom throughout the winter in the Desert Garden.

6.SF

If you don’t mind a little (or a lot) of rain, winter is an excellent time to visit San Francisco. This sophisticated city is home to museums, theatres, gourmet restaurants, and upscale shopping.

The winter climate in San Francisco varies from mild to rainy. The average high temperature in December and January is in the mid-50s, and each month has eight days of rain. The temperature begins to warm up in February, signalling the coming of spring (cherry blossoms).

Winter visitors to Northern California can visit the SFMOMA (Museum of Modern Art) or the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, which is famous for its magnolias and camellias. The Palace of the Legion of Honor has a permanent collection of fine artworks and temporary exhibits that overlook the Golden Gate Bridge and the harbour.

For families visiting San Francisco, the California Academy of Sciences and the Exploratorium are must-see attractions. Children like Pier 39’s Aquarium of the Bay. At the neighbouring Pier 39 docks, guests are greeted by barking sea lions.

Shopping in downtown San Francisco’s Union Square is delightful during the holidays. With a big Christmas tree and an ice skating rink, the neighbourhood is festively decked. All of the major stores and boutiques surrounding Union Square have beautifully decorated their Christmas windows. On Maiden Lane and Grant Avenue, the Christmas windows are equally magnificent.

7.Yosemite National Park

A dusting of powder snow transforms Yosemite Valley, sculpted by glaciers, into a breathtaking winter vista. Half Dome and El Capitan are two of the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s most famous rock formations.

Winter at Yosemite National Park is one of the least crowded seasons. This more tranquil season enables travellers to take in the natural splendour. In the winter, access to Yosemite may be difficult due to road closures caused by snow storms.

Glacier Point Road leads to Snow Summit. Badger Pass Ski Area, the state’s first ski resort, established in 1935 and continues to be one of the greatest in the state. Downhill, snowboarding, cross-country, snow tubing, and snowshoeing are all available at Badger Pass Ski Area.

In the winter, its spectacular snow-covered scenery and traditional Christmas decorations delight visitors. This illustrious four-star hotel is renowned for its magnificent Art & Crafts architecture, which has wood-beamed ceilings and stone fireplaces.

The gorgeous chandelier-lit dining room of the Ahwahnee Hotel transforms into a spectacular setting for the annual Bracebridge Dinner. A seven-course feast, candles, musical theatre, and traditional Christmas carols are included in this costumed Christmas pageant.

8.Napa

Relax and revitalise in Napa Valley, which is home to some of the top resorts in Northern California. This upscale neighbourhood attracts visitors from across the world and is a favourite weekend getaway destination from San Francisco.

In the winter, you may take use of excellent eating and spa facilities. Additionally, you may save money at some of Napa’s best hotels and resorts, which are notoriously pricey during the high season.

Napa Valley is home to numerous excellent restaurants. Restaurants range from the classic French to the chic and contemporary. If you can secure a reservation and are willing to spend, The French Laundry in Yountville is well worth the money.

The renowned Bouchon French Bistro and the cute Bistro Jeanty both specialise on French cuisine prepared in the traditional manner. La Toque is a Michelin-starred restaurant in Napa, whereas Brix serves farm-to-table cuisine in a casual atmosphere or on an outdoor patio (al fresco dining is possible in the winter).

The Auberge du Soleil is a spectacular 5-star resort hotel with an unique spa reserved exclusively for hotel guests. Auberge du Soleil’s Michelin-starred seasonal cuisine consistently amazes customers. The covered outside terrace of the restaurant gives excellent views of the snow-capped landscape.

With the exception of the Auberge du Soleil, the majority of Napa Valley hotel spas are open to the public. Massages, facials, and wellness treatments are available at the B Spa in the Bardessono Hotel in Yountville.

Additionally, visitors can choose from a range of day spas. Bella Capelli salon and spa in Napa offers beauty treatments and skin care. Additionally, Blue Water Day Spa in Napa offers rejuvenating spa packages, facials, and massages.

The quiet and pleasant Spa Solage is located on the grounds of Calistoga’s 4-star Solage resort. The spa offers therapeutic mud baths and geothermal mineral baths.

In the winter, the heated pools are very relaxing. Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs is a Calistoga spa that offers massages, hydrotherapy, and mud baths.

For several days in mid-January, the Napa Truffle Festival draws crowds. Excursions to truffle markets, truffle dog demonstrations, gastronomy demonstrations, and wild mushroom expeditions are all on the festival’s itinerary. Additionally, truffle-themed gourmet meals and nights are available. The Napa Truffle Festival will take place January 13-16, 2023.

Napa presents the Lighted Art Festival from mid-January to mid-March. Throughout this eight-week festival, downtown Napa’s buildings will be transformed into spectacular light shows. There are light shows and sculptures located throughout the city. This free event may be experienced simply by walking about Napa after dark.

Early February sees the Yountville International Short Film Festival, while mid-March sees the Yountville Live Music Festival, which features live music performances and gourmet culinary sampling.

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