California Winter Getaways

  • 01 of 07

    6 Great Places to Go in California in Winter

    Winter in Yosemite National Park
    ••• Winter in Yosemite National Park. Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

    Some places in California are great anytime, but these are especially nice to visit during winter, whether you want to enjoy some snow or get away from the cold.

    In California, winter means the months of December, January, and February. 

    Some of these places are warm when you're feeling cold - and too hot to visit in summer. Others put on some great seasonal events or are good places to catch a meteor shower. 

    You can get more details about other seasons in these guides to Best California Places in the SpringCalifornia Summer Getaways, and Places to Go in California in the Fall.

    Get month by month details in the guides to California in DecemberCalifornia in January, and California in February

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  • 02 of 07

    Death Valley for Winter Warmth

    Road going to Death Valley from the west
    ••• This is One Way to Get to Death Valley. ©2011 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    Death Valley is hotter than the proverbial firecracker in summer, making it a place to avoid. It finally cools off in the winter - but it stays warm enough to make it a great place to go if you're feeling a little too cold.

    Winter is also the busiest time in Death Valley, and you may need to reserve a hotel room two to three months ahead of time to avoid coming up empty handed. You'll find everything you need to know about planning a Death Valley trip in this guide.

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  • 03 of 07

    Orange County for Christmas Festivities

    Newport Beach Harbor Boat Parade
    ••• Newport Beach Harbor Boat Parade. fortherock/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

    I wouldn't have guessed this if I hadn't experienced it myself. To my surprise, Newport and neighboring Orange County towns put on some of the best Christmas festivities in Southern California.

    They include a Christmas parade made solely of lit-up yachts and lighted homes that can best be seen from the tranquil waterways that run behind them. 

    Newport Beach is the perfect place to stay while you're enjoying the holiday fun. Use this guide to plan your Newport Beach getaway.

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  • 04 of 07

    Pacific Grove Has Butterflies

    ••• Monarch Butterflies in Pacific Grove. logjayge at Flickr Under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License

    Pacific Grove is just next to Monterey, on the quieter side of the peninsula. You can take a beautiful drive along the coastline and admire the charming, nineteenth-century cottages in town - or watch the sun set at Lover's Point.

    Pacific Grove is nice anytime, but in the winter when the Monarch butterflies are here, it earns its title as Butterfly Town. The sight of them taking off in the morning is one of those bucket-list-worthy things to do.

    Get started planning a trip to Pacific Grove.

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  • 05 of 07

    Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena

    Watching the Rose Parade in Pasadena
    ••• Watching the Rose Parade. Adapted from Prayitno/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    It's one of the most spectacular parades in the country, the Rose Parade held annually on New Year's day (except when that day is a Sunday when it happens on January 2). Every float is covered entirely in natural materials, and float builders use up so many blossoms that it can create a temporary floral shortage.

    It's a classic that's well worth planning a trip around. There's a lot more to do than just watch the parade itself, enough to keep you busy for several days. You can find out about of it in the Rose Parade Guide.

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  • 06 of 07

    Yosemite in Winter

    Yosemite in Winter
    ••• Yosemite in Winter. ©2006 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    You may worry that there will be too much snow in Yosemite in the winter, but the Yosemite Valley is at an elevation where it seldom snows too much, and when it does, the snow doesn't stick around for long.

    It's also time for Yosemite's Vintners Holidays, Chef's Holidays and California's best Christmas celebration, the Bracebridge Dinners.

    Also in winter, you may be lucky enough to catch a snowfall in Yosemite Valley - or see Yosemite Falls frozen solid. This guide will help you plan a trip to Yosemite - any time of year.

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  • 07 of 07

    Shooting Stars in the Winter

    Meteor Over Mt. Whitney
    ••• Meteor Over Mt. Whitney. Tony Rowell/Getty Images

    Meteor showers are a spectacle that should also be on your bucket list. In December, the Geminid meteor shower mid-month with a multi-colored display of white, yellow, and even blue, red and green streaks through the sky. Check the exact dates for this year.

    Some of the best dark skies spots to watch the showers in California include Death ValleyBig SurMendocino and locations along Scenic Highway 395 in Eastern California.