Known for its sunny days and beautiful beaches, Southern California is the perfect place to spend your winter vacation.
You can find an array of activities and itineraries for a Southern California vacation, from star-studded adventures and theme park excursions to beachfront hotels and snowy mountain getaways. Here are a few options for your next Southern California Winter Vacation.
In Orange County, families and friends can enjoy scenic beaches with smaller crowds during winter months. Many hotels offer reduced winter rates for a coastal view compared to busy summer days. Holiday boat parades make this area iconic during this season. Here are some of the best getaways in Orange County:
Orange County is home to Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, and a variety of other family attractions. During the winter, these theme parks feature festive lights and special programs. Disneyland is by far the most sought after family vacation experience in the area.
Disneyland Resort & California Adventure
1313 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802
The Happiest Place on Earth is in full swing during the holidays. Disneyland spares no expense with lights and decorations. For a full Disney Vacation Experience, stay at one of the surrounding resort hotels. Guests can choose from the classic Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. When planning your visit, check the Disneyland website for Vacation Packages that include admission tickets, savings cards, souvenirs, and discounts on other area attractions. To round out your Disney Vacation, don’t forget to include a character dining experience. The whole family will enjoy Disney-style dining with visits from all the favorites at locations like Goofy’s Kitchen and Storyteller’s Café.
Learn about Knott’s Berry Farm and other Orange County Family Attractions.
Marriott Newport Coast Villas
23000 Newport Coast Drive, Newport Coast, 92657
The Marriott Newport Coast Villas are perched atop a bluff where a panorama of recreational possibilities stretches out before you. This Tuscan-style enclave is surrounded by the Newport coastline and overlooks the exclusive Pelican Hill Golf Course, the Pacific Ocean, and with complete with views of Catalina Island. The 70-acre hillside site features 41 buildings with two bedrooms and two bathrooms in each unit. The villa grounds feature many on-site activities plus you’re minutes away from exploring Newport Beach, Corona Del Mar and Laguna Beach.
Surf City Beach Vacations
Huntington Beach, also known as Surf City USA is one of the most visited destinations in Southern California. Vacationers can explore over two miles of city and state beaches with paved paths for walking or bike riding, volleyball courts, and bonfire pits. And most hotels offer surfboard and paddle board rentals for those who want to catch some waves, and beach cruisers for cruising in the cool ocean breeze. The Huntington Beach Pier is the perfect place for a stroll to take in the ocean air, watch the local surfers, and see views of Catalina Island. The sunsets here are definitely worth posting on Instagram. Pacific City is the newest addition to the downtown area offering up plenty of unique options for shopping and dining. Main Street and 5th & PCH also have an almost endless supply of places to visit for shopping, dining, nightlife, and entertainment. Many locations are within walking distance from the hotels.
Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa
21500 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, California 92648
The Hyatt Regency Resort is an upscale hotel with many amenities and luxurious rooms. The Pacific Waters Spa is one of the most notable in the area. There are multiple pools and semi-private hot tubs on the grounds, including the ultra-popular Slyder’s Water Playground which features three water slides. The Hyatt is pet-friendly and has five dining options including Watertable Restaurant, Pete’s Sunset Grille, and Tower 15 Pizzeria.
Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel
500 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, CA 92648
The Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel is a lifestyle boutique hotel located in Downtown Huntington Beach on 5th & PCH, just steps from all the nightlife, shopping, and dining that Main Street has to offer. Just across PCH visitors can stroll the Huntington Beach Pier and experience Surf City at its best. Guests can check out beach cruisers for an afternoon ride, enjoy fireside s’mores every evening, and soak in the coastal vibe. Shorebreak is a pet-friendly hotel.
Pasea Hotel & Spa
21080 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, CA 92648
Pasea Hotel and Spa is the newest hotel property along PCH in Huntington Beach. Opened in 2016, Pasea is located right next door to the new shopping center, Pacific City. The hotel offers luxurious accommodations including pools with ocean views, a Balinese inspired Spa, an oceanfront lawn, fire pits, and more. Guests can take in the panoramic views and coastal sunsets at the rooftop bar, Treehouse Lounge, and enjoy delicious California cuisine at Tanner’s. Pasea is a pet-friendly hotel and is within walking distance to the pier and downtown.
Waterfront Beach Resort Hilton
The Waterfront Beach Resort is a luxury hotel with new additions that guests are sure to love. The existing tower was recently remodeled, and a new tower was added to accommodate even more happy beachgoers. The Driftwood Beach Club and Huntington Pool are perfect for soaking in the California sun and the newly added waterslides are perfect for families. Guests have access to a kids club, cabana rentals, beach butler service, and the new Drift Spa. Drinks and dining are top notch here at the Boardwalk Restaurant, the Dock Bar, and the new rooftop lounge, Offshore 9 which offers panoramic ocean views, specialty cocktails, and small plates. The Waterfront Beach Resort is a pet-friendly hotel and is steps from the Surf City sand.
Other Beach Getaways
Hotel La Casa Del Camino
1289 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Hotel La Casa Del Camino is a historic Spanish-style hotel that was frequented by Hollywood stars during the Golden Age. Now featuring modern, coastal-inspired décor, the hotel offers a variety of amenities for guests and is within walking distance to the beach. Just a few blocks away, visitors can stroll through the art galleries and browse the shops or head to Heisler Park, one of the most popular destinations in Laguna Beach. A free trolley service is available so guests can explore all that Laguna Beach has to offer without ever having to search for a parking spot.
Montage Laguna Beach
30801 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
If you’re looking for a luxury beach vacation, the Montage Laguna Beach is about as close as you’re going to get. This upscale luxury resort is perched on the bluffs of Orange County overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Guests will enjoy dining at its finest at The Studio, The Loft, and The Mosaic Bar and Grille. There are two pools for splashing in the sun, a 20,000 square foot spa for the ultimate experience in relaxation, and guests at the Montage are just steps from the beautiful sandy beach. The Montage Resort is centrally located to provide easy access to the many other activities the area has to offer including hiking, art galleries and museums, top-rated golf courses, and shopping.
Los Angeles County
If your idea of a grand vacation includes exploring the big city, Los Angeles – the entertainment capital of the world – has plenty to keep you busy. The city offers luxury hotels and state-of-the-art sports and events centers plus cinematic history around every corner. Spend the day at Universal Studios enjoying the tours and rides and get up close and personal with some of your favorite characters. Then immerse yourself in magic as you explore the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
For a star-studded adventure, you can purchase tickets for one of the many bus tours that show off celebrity homes. Later, take a stroll on the Walk of Fame where you can see the stars for hundreds of celebrities from Elizabeth Taylor and Shirley Temple to Quentin Tarantino and Steven Spielberg. Also located near the Hollywood Walk of Fame is the Hollywood Museum, the Hollywood Wax Museum, El Capitan Theatre, TCL Chinese Theatre, Dolby Theatre, and the shopping center Hollywood & Highland. A few blocks away, catch a legendary Broadway production at Pantages Theatre.
Visitors to Los Angeles may also enjoy exploring L.A. Live. Anchored by the Ritz Carlton and Marriott Hotels, L.A. Live offers a variety of shopping, dining, and entertainment options and is located near the Staples Center, Microsoft Theater, and the L.A. Convention Center. When visiting L.A. Live, don’t miss the Conga Room and The Grammy Museum.
Options in L.A. are endless. For other ways to spend the day, consider reserving tickets to a live studio recording of a television show or escape the city with a visit to the Griffith Observatory and a hike near the Hollywood sign.
Where To Stay in L.A.
Courtyard by Marriott at L.A. Live
901 West Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90015
Courtyard offers modern and sophisticated accommodations in the center of the action. Located just steps from L.A. Live, guests can enjoy a multitude of entertainment options with easy access to nearby museums, concert venues, and more.
Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
7000 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Stay at this historic hotel frequented by the stars. The Roosevelt is located on Hollywood Boulevard just steps from the historic theatres and the Walk of Fame. The hotel offers luxurious rooms, exquisite dining, a game parlor with vintage bowling lanes, and a pool with a multi-million dollar David Hockney mural on the bottom.
Ritz Carlton Los Angeles
900 West Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90015
The Ritz offers the ultimate in luxury and style in the heart of L.A. Standing in the center of L.A. Live, guests have convenient access to Staples Center, nightlife, shopping, and dining. The rooftop pool offers panoramic views of the city. Don’t miss dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant WP24, cocktails in the 23rd floor lounge, and a bit of pampering at the therapeutic spa.
6250 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Vacation in style at The W Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard, located across the street from the Hollywood Pantages Theatre and just steps from Hollywood & Highland, the Walk of Fame, and the many attractions of Hollywood. The W offers guests a glamorous getaway with a rooftop pool, chic options for dining and cocktails, and the rejuvenating Bliss Spa.
San Bernardino County
San Bernardino County is home to Big Bear Lake and when the snow falls, visitors can enjoy hitting the slopes at Bear Mountain or Snow Summit. Relax in one of the resort hotels or choose from one of the many cabin rentals available. If snow is minimal, visitors can enjoy other activities like hiking, fishing, boating, or browsing the shops in the downtown area. Animal lovers may want to pay a visit to the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, and the Big Bear Discovery Center is a great place to explore all the adventurous options the area has to offer.
Find everything you need to plan your trip at Big Bear Mountain Resort, from lodging to mountain information. Bear Mountain and Snow Summit offer a variety of slopes for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels. Lift tickets are available for day and night sessions. Both locations also offer rentals and lessons. For families interested in fitting in some snow play and tubing, check out the Grizzly Ridge Tube Park.
Just a few miles before Big Bear, you can turn off to Lake Arrowhead. Slightly less popular than it’s neighbor, there are no ski resorts in Lake Arrowhead proper. But the resorts are not too far to get to. Snow Valley, Bear Mountain, Snow Summit, and Rim Nordic are the nearest destinations for skiing and snowboarding. Snow Valley is the closest, at just under 15 miles from the village.
If skiing and snowboarding isn’t essential, there are plenty of other things to enjoy in Lake Arrowhead. Go shopping in the village, play in the snow, or relax around a cozy fire and sip hot cocoa. If you want to get out and have some fun with the kids, head to SkyPark at Santa’s Village.
SkyPark is a winter-themed adventure park with rides, trails, events, and activities that are fun for the whole family. You can go ice skating, go bouldering, try out the rock climbing tower, take a ride on the electric train, and even try your hand at ax throwing. Don’t forget to stop by Santa’s workshop to meet the man himself.
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Heidi Deal is the author of the Newcomers Handbook to Living In Los Angeles & Orange County, and a children’s book author specializing in history and human rights.