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Winter Activities in California

California is known for fun and sun, but the Golden State shines during the winter season too with traditional outdoor winter adventures and not-so-traditional winter activities for those that prefer to wear flip flops year round. From San Diego to Tahoe, whatever your definition of a winter wonderland is, you can find it in California.


Summer Sunshine
With over 275 days of sun a year, the small southern California town of Murrieta welcomes visitors looking for “winter light.” Go for an Instagram worthy hike, take a horseback ride at Susie Q Ranch, or enjoy wine tasting in the Temecula region.

Water Ways
While many bodies of water are frozen over during winter, the coastal preserve off the shore of the 102-acre Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes beckons visitors whose idea of a winter getaway includes kayaking, paddle boarding and exploring the tidal pools. Guests who want to learn more about the environment of the area can take part in one of the resort’s ecological enrichment programs.

Sand vs. Snow
If you prefer toes in the sand to boots in the snow, head to the beach town of Dana Point where winter is a chilly 70 degrees. In addition to surfing and paddle boarding, winter is the time for whale watching. Dana Point is the Dolphin and Whale Watching Capital of the World® and the first Whale Heritage Site in the Americas. A variety of local outfitters await to get you out on the Pacific and up close with these marine animals.

Seaside Skating
Channel your inner Nathan Chen or Nancy Kerrigan as you glide across the rink at the iconic Hotel del Coronado in sunny San Diego. The juxtaposition of the ice rink against the beach and ocean can’t be beat. Best of all, proceeds from Skating by the Sea benefits Make-A-Wish.


Snowshoeing Adventure

With Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in its backyard, Visalia has the siren song of the majestic redwoods calling to winter travelers. Snowshoeing affords visitors the chance to get up close with the impressive landscape, and both parks offer complimentary, ranger led snowshoe walks.

Beyond Boundaries
For some of the best backcountry skiing in the state, strap on your skis and head to Mt. Shasta. Stay in one of the park’s off-the-grid cabins on the mountain and enjoy mellow tree skiing through old growth Shasta Fir, steep chute descents down the North side, and just about everything in between on either Red or Grey Butte. The varied terrain is forgiving enough for a novice and challenging enough for a seasoned backcountry skier.

Tubing Time
If you have kids, or just want to indulge your inner child, grab a tube and head for the hills at Leland High Sierra Snowplay in Tuolumne. With several different runs the family will be entertained for hours. Cap the day with an après tubing hot chocolate in the lodge by the cozy fire.

Desert Skiing
For a total oxymoron it’s time to ski in the desert. Take the Palm Springs Aerial Tram 8,516 feet up to Mt. San Jacinto State Park, a winter wonderland in the San Jacinto Mountains. Stop by the Winter Adventure Center to rent snowshoes or cross country skis to explore this magical winter spot and then take the tram 10 minutes back down the hill to soak up the rays poolside in Palm Springs.


All Aboard

Instead of a steam locomotive you’ll be cruising the railways on a custom-built, two-person electric railbike at Fort Bragg’s Skunk Train. Aboard the railbike you’ll be treated to the redwood forest that is normally only seen aboard the historic Skunk Train. With no need to do anything but pedal, you’re free to let your gaze wander, taking in everything from a blue heron to a playful river otter.

Field of Dreams
With mild winter nights an evening at Sensorio’s Field of Light in Paso Robles is a perfect nightcap after a day of wine tasting. Join internationally acclaimed artist Bruce Munro on a magical journey through Field of Light, a 15-acre walk through art exhibit featuring more than 58,800 stemmed spheres lit by fiber optics that morph the landscape into a kaleidoscope of colors. New this year, Light Towers pays homage to the area’s wine country with 69 towers made up of over 17,000 illuminated wine bottles. Both exhibits are powered by solar.


Big Bear Mountain Resort

Significant investments in new RFID technology will allow for seamless lift access and easy reloading of lift tickets online. New kiosks offer contactless lift ticket pick-up, and mobile food ordering will be available at select locations. A new season pass option includes unlimited winter access at Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, and Summit Bike Park access in the summer. The town’s new free trolley service will offer reliable, quick transportation to and from Snow Summit and Bear Mountain every 30 minutes.

Mammoth Mountain/June Mountain
New daily air service to Bishop (BIH) airport from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Denver on United Airlines debuts this winter, along with regional service from Advanced Air between Mammoth Lakes airport and Burbank, Hawthorne and Carlsbad. Recharge between runs at the new Coca-Cola Lounge at McCoy Station, and enjoy refreshed guest rooms at the Westin Monache. The Mammoth Lodging Collection has also expanded its luxury homes portfolio.

Palisades Tahoe
With a new name honoring the rich ski history of its mountains, Palisades Tahoe has formed a long-term partnership with the Washoe Tribe to help educate resort guests and the community about their history and culture. Tribe members host monthly Washoe Cultural Tours, have an exhibit at High Camp, and will help rename the Squaw One chairlift. This season, a new surface lift has been installed in the High Camp beginner area, and the new “Take 4” lesson package will save beginner skiers and riders $240 when they commit to four lessons.