Winter in Los Angeles brings plentiful opportunities for ice skating, sipping hot chocolate, and seeing thousands of Christmas lights. But sometimes we want to feel like we’re inside a real-life winter wonderland, and luckily, we have a few places in mind that deliver the holiday excitement you’re looking for. Here, we’ve rounded up some must-see winter escapes near Los Angeles ranging from quick day trips to memorable and snowy weekend getaways.
This retro escape near Lake Arrowhead oozes seasonal nostalgia and has just the right amount of kitsch to keep things fun for the whole family. The charming Yuletide theme park is filled with festive attractions including an outdoor ice skating rink, an express train winding through alpine meadows, a sprawling forest aglow with thousands of Christmas lights, and a quaint gingerbread shop. The season is in full swing and will remain open through Jan. 7, 2024.
📍28950 California 18, Skyforest, CA
Over one million golden lights adorn this Cherry Valley farm, covering every inch of its bountiful lavender fields, towering oak trees, and century-old olive grove. You’d be forgiven for losing track of time here, not just for the mesmerizing displays, but also for the abundant holiday attractions throughout the grounds. Explore charming market shops, take a spin on the illuminated tractor wagon, get lost in the glowing holiday maze, and eat delicious seasonal food. It’s all going down now through Jan. 7, 2024.
📍10600 Highland Springs Ave, Cherry Valley, CA
This quaint city is the unofficial “Danish Capital of America,” and as such, it offers an alluring European winter escape right here in Southern California. Now’s the time to visit for Julefest, a month-long celebration where the hamlet is filled with twinkling lights, traditional ornaments, festive treats, and other holiday delights. Catch a 10-minute light and music show every hour between 5-9pm, hop on the Solvang Trolley for an entertaining Christmas light tour, or snag a spot on the coveted Candlelight tours led by costumed guides. Be sure to visit before Julefest ends on Jan. 6, 2024.
📍Various locations, Solvang, CA
4. Big Bear
Nestled in the San Bernardino Mountains and reaching peaks of up to 8,805 feet, Big Bear offers plenty of snow-filled experiences. You can do anything from bobsledding and snow tubing to hiking around Big Bear Lake in these parts. During the winter, Big Bear offers extended hours into the evening, so this is a good place to try night skiing if you’ve never done it. We also love the snow play area at Alpine Slide, which is a whole lot of fun for families.
📍Big Bear Lake, CA
This small mountain town in the San Gabriel Mountains is a popular snowy escape about 90 minutes from LA. If you’re looking to get in a good ski day near LA, consider visiting Mountain High West, one of the oldest ski resorts in the country; or Mountain High East, whose ski run Goldrush is the longest in SoCal. Many people also love sledding or playing in the snow along Highway 2 — just keep in mind that your vehicle will need a $5 National Forest Adventure Pass (purchasable from the Big Pines Adventure Station) if you’re planning to park there.
Disney fans can look forward to festive holiday lights, towering displays, cheery Christmas tunes, and fake snowfall throughout the park all winter long. We’re especially partial to Buena Vista Street in all its 20s and 30s nostalgia, where you’ll see a magnificent 50-foot Christmas tree coming to life daily at sundown; but guests will also want to experience the World Of Color light and water show at California Adventure and the fireworks show at Disneyland Park. See Christmas decorations and attractions at Disneyland through Jan. 7, 2024.
📍Disneyland, Anaheim, CA
Hikari is a Japanese word meaning “shine,” and Tanaka Farms in Irvine shines brightly every year with over a million twinkling lights throughout the grounds. Sip on hot cocoa and take a charming wagon ride to the “Land of a Thousand Lanterns,” where you can wander through the displays and pose for one-of-a-kind photo ops. Complete your visit with a trip to the Festival Grounds where you’ll be greeted by barnyard animals, snack on food from Tanaka Grill, and meet Santa. Enjoy Hikari now through Dec. 30, 2023.
📍5380 3/4 University Dr, Irvine, CA
A magical otherworldly escape is wowing crowds in Paso Robles, and it’s certainly worth the trip. This is Light at Sensorio by Bruce Munro, a captivating light art installation that recalls some of California’s iconic super blooms. The main event is Field of Light, created from an expansive glowing carpet of 100,000 solar-powered light-up spheres which gently illuminate the landscape in subtle blooms of morphing color. Although Sensorio is an ongoing attraction that will last beyond the winter, it’s worth visiting to see Munro’s newest additions to the landscape: Gone Fishing, a playful interpretation of an introspective pastime; and and Fireflies, a whimsical work made of 10,000 flickering lights. This winter they’re offering extended holiday hours and Santa visits.
📍4380 CA-46, Paso Robles, CA