12 Winter Getaways in California That Don’t Involve Skiing


Swap the snow for swaying palms on Santa Catalina, an island that was popular with the Hollywood elite from the 1930s through ’50s, and is best reached by boat. Stay: If you can, plump for a room at elegant bed and breakfast Mt Ada. It’s the former getaway of chewing gum entrepreneur William Wrigley Jr. where guest perks include using a private golf cart to explore Los Angeles County’s southernmost city, Avalon. Do: Join a bison expedition tour in the Catalina outback, try your hand at falconry and get bougie with a cabana at the Descanso Beach Club.

Desert Hot Springs

Thermal waters draw devotees to this tiny city within Coachella Valley. Stay: Hidden oasis Two Bunch Palms is a total fever dream, but The Good House is nice, too. Do: Hike one of the trails around town (for a semi-challenging 3.9-mile loop, try Blind Canyon off Santa Cruz Road), visit Cabot’s Pueblo Museum, or drive over the hill to Joshua Tree with stops in Yucca Valley and Pioneertown along the way — if you can bear to leave your private soaking tub at Two Bunch.


Called the “Gateway to Yosemite,” Merced is a great base for exploring area attractions, while the Merced River Canyon is one of the most scenic drives to Yosemite — follow Merced Falls Road to Routes 132 and 120. Stay: Book the Yeti day-trip package at El Capitan Hotel, which includes a Yeti cooler and $50 credit for to-go supplies at its cafe, Native Son. The hotel is also home to the highly-rated restaurant Rainbird. Helmed by chef Quentin Garcia, it showcases the best from Central Valley farms.

Nevada City

This Gold Rush-era town in the Sierra Nevada foothills is an hour’s drive east of Sacramento. Stay: A gathering spot since 1856, the purportedly haunted National Exchange Hotel has 38 elegant rooms, a high-spirited restaurant, Lola, and historic tavern which features special events like drag queen bingo and live music. Do: Browse the shops along the Victorian-era main street and hike into California Gold Country. Deer Creek Tribute Trail is popular, but there are 14 miles of trails to explore inside the Empire Mine State Historic Park.

Because seeing Yosemite Valley dusted in snow — especially from the money shot Tunnel View overlook — is a special moment. Stay: Try Rush Creek Lodge and Spa just outside the park’s western entrance or Tenaya Lodge (book an Explorer Cabin for an alternative to the main hotel) at Fish Camp by the South Gate. Do: Stargaze or hop on a guided snowshoe hike around the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias. Another option is to rent some from the Nordic Center at Badger Pass, where National Park Service rangers lead free snowshoe walks through March.


Fact: Lots of us want to take a winter getaway. Also fact: Lots of us don’t like to ski. So where to go for some intense winter vibes without the need to hurtle down a mountain?  There are plenty of options for quaint mountain towns and alpine resorts, so below, we’ve gathered a dozen alternative destinations with outdoor activities to enjoy with friends or solo, plus a couple of 180-degree options.

Our goal here is simple:  to help you live a more adventurous,  eventful and engaging life.