The Best Road Trips to Take with Kids This Winter

best road trips during winter break from LA Visit Santa Barbara

Whether you need a day trip or have more time to spare, these road trips are perhaps more fun in the winter for SoCal residents

Winter in California is unlike any state as you can find both snowy mountains and sunny beaches just a short(ish) drive away. From the rocky coast of Mendocino, to the sunny beaches of Santa Barbara., here are our favorite California winter break road trip ideas with the added of bonus of where to stay while you’re there.

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The Best Day Trips to Take in Southern California in the Winter

Big Bear & Snow Summit

While we have a whole article dedicated to where to find snow near LA, worthwhile mentions include Big Bear Mountain and Snow Valley below. Both are chock full of winter activities and sports for the whole family. Stay for the day or easily spend a few days learning new skills. Beginner shredders can take snowboard lessons (from age four years old and up) and avid skiers and snowboarders can take a half or full-day lessons at either Bear Mountain or Snow Summit. 


Snow Valley Mountain Resort

This smaller mountain is great for snow angels just beginning their snow-journey. It’s also less crowded than big brother mountain (Big Bear). For the little ones, head to the Children’s Learning Center where snow bunnies can learn to ski or snowboard. Moreover, there’s a snow play area where you can enjoy Southern California’s only chairlift-serviced sledding area. After the scenic chairlift ride, you get to whiz down the longest downhill sled ride in the region.


Mt. Baldy

Mt. Baldy is the closest mountain resort in Southern California—yet often overlooked. Located just 20 miles outside of LA, it’s the perfect way to work in some snow play without much road time. The mountain features four chair lifts that provide access to skiing and snowboarding on a wide variety of terrain. There is also a tubing park at the top of the Sugar Pine Chairlift where families can purchase tickets for 90-minute tubing sessions. 


The Best Coastal Road Trips to Take in Southern California

Santa Barbara

If you’d rather skip the snow and freezing temps for some beachfront fun this winter, look no further than Santa Barbara for a relaxing family getaway. We recommend staying at Hotel Santa Barbara or The Wayfarer, or if you swing full-on luxury, stay at Four Seasons The Biltmore Santa Barbara.



If you’re looking for a serene getaway that’s off the beaten path and immersed in nature, Ojai is the destination for you. Located about an hour and a half from Los Angeles, this charming town has a super chill vibe. Go hiking, biking, or horseback riding, and bask in the warm winter weather while soaking up all the outdoor recreation Ojai has to offer. 



Looking for a small beach town vibe? About an hour north of Los Angeles, you’ll find Oxnard’s Hollywood Beach with its sprawling sandy shores and laidback, locals-only feel. Daily highs during the winter months hover around the mid-60s, which may be a bit too cold for swimming, but it’s perfect for flying kites, splashing in the waves, and building castles in the sand. 



Nicknamed the “Crown City,” Coronado earns its regal title due to its majestic beaches (complete with golden, glittering sand) and grand resorts. Located just ten minutes from downtown San Diego, this amazing destination is reachable via a short ferry ride or drive over the Coronado Bridge—but you’ll definitely feel like you’ve gone on a relaxing vacation a world away.


Joshua Tree

Check a visit to the stunning Joshua Tree National Park off your bucket list this season. Winter is a great time to hike this desert terrain featuring towering boulders, and picturesque cacti and trees. For a hike, the one-mile loop trail through Hidden Valley is a good introduction for little ones. Start your adventure at the West entrance, then work your way along the road, exiting the park at the South. If you want to spend a few nights, see why our editor’s recommend staying at AutoCamp Joshua Tree—the closest overnight spot to the Western entrance, this glamping spot is complete with modern Airstream trailers, fire pits, and a marketplace full of yummy treats and food.


The Best Central California Road Trips to Take from Los Angeles


Solvang, aka the “Danish Capital of America,” has a lot more going for it than a photo-worthy windmill. While the town still has plenty of kitschy charm worth checking out (and the pastries!), there’s also a nearby miniature horse farm, an ostrich farm, and a Viking-inspired playground, all worth the visit. See where our editor’s love to stay, eat and drink in Solvang—all with kids in tow.


The Best Road Trips to Take in Northern California from Los Angeles

Lake Tahoe

Tahoe is the ultimate winter vacation destination as there are loads of skiing options, snowy sledding hills, and cozy hot tubs to relax in after the day’s activities. Thinking about hitting up Northstar? It boasts a ton of comfy lodging options for you and the fam and most rooms come with a mini kitchen so you can cook up your own hot cocoa. Looking for more of a luxury experience, check into the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe mid-mountain at Northstar. Expect five-star Ritz-Carlton service, with ski-in-ski-out convenience, plus a spa worth bribing your significant other to take the kids for a couple of hours. No matter where you stay, Northstar is a great mountain for skiing and snowboarding—from beginners to shredders. 



The winter is a great time of year to head to Yosemite as the crowds have gone and the area is blanketed with snow (if you are lucky). Read our A-to-Z guide for visiting Yosemite, including our favorite places to stay and eat. 


Siskiyou County

Head north past Redding (but not without making a stop at the Redding Garden of Lights detailed below) to the tranquil county of Siskiyou that extends to the California-Oregon border. Here you’ll find gorgeous hikes like the Hedge Creek Falls Trail in Dunsmuir and the McCloud Falls Trail. Spend some time fishing for trout and exploring all of the outdoor adventures that the area has to offer. When you want to stay the night, we love the vintage cabooses turned into sleeping compartments at Railroad Park in Dunsmuir. 

Good to Know: From now until Jan. 8, 2023, plan to stop at the Redding Garden of Lights festival at Turtle Bay McConnell Botanical Gardens that features over one million twinkling lights, a Magical Mosaic area designed for children to explore and a radiant meteor lights showering the area. PS: If you want to spend the night, The Sheraton Redding at Sundial Bridge is offering a special overnight package surrounding this immersive holiday experience.



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