The 6 Best California Winter Getaways

  • 01 of 08

    6 Great Places to Go in California in Winter

    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 travel-worthy seasonal events or are good places to catch a meteor shower. 

    You can get more details about other seasons in these guides to the 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

    Continue to 2 of 8 below.
  • 02 of 08

    Death Valley for Winter Warmth

    Road going to Death Valley from the west
    Betsy Malloy Photography

    Death Valley is hotter than the proverbial firecracker in summer, making it a place most people 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.

    Continue to 3 of 8 below.
  • 03 of 08

    Disneyland Without the Crowds

    Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland
    Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. ©Betsy Malloy Photography

    You'll have to wait until the holidays are over to enjoy Disneyland without the crowds, but January and February are two of the best months to go for short lines. If you can time your trip to avoid rainy days, you'll also enjoy the sunny California weather that Goldilocks might describe as "Not too hot, not too cloudy, but just right." 

    Get all the ins and outs of visiting Disneyland in winter and then for general trip planning, ​use the Disneyland weekend getaway guide.

    Continue to 4 of 8 below.
  • 04 of 08

    Orange County for Christmas Festivities

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

    It may be hard to believe this if you hadn't experienced it yourself, but Newport Beach 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 are best 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.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Pacific Grove Has Butterflies

    Monarch Butterflies in Pacific Grove
    logjayge/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

    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 sunset at Lover's Point.

    Pacific Grove is beautiful 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 or find all the other places to see monarch butterflies in California.

    Continue to 6 of 8 below.
  • 06 of 08

    Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena

    Watching the Rose Parade
    Adapted from Prayitno/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    The Pasadena Rose Parade is one of the most spectacular parades in the country, held annually on New Year's day (except when that day is a Sunday when it moves to January 2).

    Every float is covered entirely in natural materials, and the 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.

    Continue to 7 of 8 below.
  • 07 of 08

    Yosemite in Winter

    Yosemite in Winter
    Betsy Malloy Photography

    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 the season 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.

    Continue to 8 of 8 below.
  • 08 of 08

    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, and California has some great dark sky destinations for watching them.

    In December, the Geminid meteor shower happens mid-month creating 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.