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5 Best California Destinations to Visit in the Winter

5 Best California Destinations to Visit in the Winter

If you're looking for winter vacation destinations that offer an escape from the cold and ordinary, the Golden State makes the ideal destination. From sunny beaches to serene nature reserves to vivid cityscapes, there's something for every kind of traveler. Ahead, the top five California spots to make the most of winter.

San Diego

Thanks to the mild winters in California’s southernmost city, its beautiful boardwalks and tranquil sandy beaches can be enjoyed year-round. Whether you take in the coastal scenery by foot, bike, or kayak, explore the city’s unique neighborhoods to get a true feel of its distinct culture, or spend a whole day at Balboa Park visiting museums and attractions, winter in San Diego doesn’t disappoint.
A photo of the shore in San Diego overlooking the city skyline.

 

Lake Tahoe

Home to some of North America’s largest ski resorts, this mountain town delivers on picturesque views and outdoor adventures alike. Take advantage of the more laid-back, slower pace of North Lake Tahoe by hitting the slopes or taking a scenic hike or head to the south shore for a bustling atmosphere made up of casinos, nightlife, and entertainment.

 

Monterey County

Boasting panoramic views of Big Sur, the charming village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, and the rich agricultural town of Salinas Valley, Monterey County offers everything from breathtaking hikes, world-class golf, unparalleled animal and wildlife viewing, wine tasting, local boutiques and art galleries, and diverse local fare. As quaint as it is serene, Monterey County is a winter retreat in more ways than one.

A view of a mountainside by the beach with a bridge.

 

Mendocino

100 miles north of San Francisco, this Northern California cliffside city is best summed up with vivid sunsets, clear, sunny days, and green foliage in the winter. Board the Skunk Train for a ride through untapped lush landscape, leisurely hike through winding paths of redwood forests, or sip your way through Anderson Valley Wine Region.

 

Palm Springs

With Palm Springs’ legendary, palm tree-lined streets and desert climate, you can expect an idyllic California setting enhanced by 70-degree weather December through February. A trip to this oasis wouldn’t be complete without getting swept up on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway—the world’s largest rotating tram car— to take in pristine views of Mt. San Jacinto State Park’s wilderness, immersing yourself in the open air markets and art scene, and getting lost in the city's mid-century modern architecture.