Dec 02

Winter Day Trips and Weekend Getaways in Southern California

By Deanne Hollis-DeGrandpre

Here are my top five picks to visit in the wintertime.

1. Start a family tradition: The Mission Inn’s Holiday Festival of Lights

Mission Inn | Festival of Lights | Riverside, CAEvery year The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa brings holiday spirit, magic, hope, and love to families in Southern California and around the world with the annual Festival of Lights event. With one of the largest collection of lights on the West Coast, The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa is adorned with more than three-and-a-half million brilliant lights as well as over 400 animated figures, such as angels, elves, and carolers that come alive throughout the iconic property.


Knickerbocker Mansion Country Inn in Winter

Knickerbocker Mansion Country Inn at Big Bear Lake

2. Spend the weekend in the mountains at a bed and breakfast or cabin rental

Need a long weekend to recoup? Consider booking a room at a bed and breakfast in the San Bernardino Mountains. If you prefer greater privacy, cabin rentals are available for rent as well. Imagine getting back to a simpler time…no phones, no email. Take an afternoon walk to the lake, then later have an after-dinner drink while watching your golden retriever regain his energy by a roaring fire in the floor to ceiling fireplace. Wake up to the sounds of birds in the fir trees and watch them frolic with the squirrels as you sip your coffee on the deck.  What better way  to re-energize?

(Photo Right: Knickerbocker Mansion Country Inn, Big Bear Lake, Innkeepers are Thomas and Stanley–ask about the gunshot hole in the dining room ;-).

3. Play hooky from work and take the family for a day in the snow at Running Springs’  Snow Valley

Closer for some than other area ski lifts, Snow Valley is the San Bernardino Mountains’ hidden gem. “Snow Valley takes half the time to get to than Big Bear and is less crowded,” said snowboarder  Erin Dibble of Glendale, “ And, best of all the season passes are close to half the cost.”

Snow Valley offers skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, and a designated area just for playing in the snow or sledding. The rental shop offers skiing and snowboarding equipment for rent; lessons are also available at the Snow Valley resort.

Big Bear's Moonridge Zoo in Winter

Bald Eagle at the Moonridge Zoo

4. See a national symbol, the bald eagle, in the wilds of our own back yard

Did you know that bald eagles winter in our San Bernardino Mountains? If you don’t have the money to get back to nature in the great northwest, just take a day trip to Big Bear. The eagles start arriving in the San Bernardino Mountains in early November and winter until early April.

Every year, the U.S. Forest Service organizes monthly winter eagle counts during December through March. Consider contacting them and helping with the count. It’s a great learning opportunity for children to respect nature and catch a glimpse of our national symbol.

(Photo Left: Taken at Moonridge Zoo in Big Bear Lake, CA, 2009–Call ahead for hours 909-878-4200.)

5. Partake in small-town holiday shopping fun

If you miss the feel of a small downtown main street during the holidays, the Village of Claremont is perfect to perk you up.  Wear your walking shoes, the decorated shops will be hard to ignore. Dinner at the Harvard Square Café (909-621-7763) is hard to beat, along with taking in a play at the Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theatre.

About the author

TD Hollis