The Seven Best Winter Escapes From L.A.
Ready for a quick getaway from the City of Angels? These nearby spots have it all, from skiing to sun.
If you’re in Los Angeles and itching to escape this season’s El Niño-ridden streets, there’s hope for you yet. We’ve gathered a few of our favorite destinations for a wintertime getaway, all of which are within eight hours of the city.
Brian Head, Utah
Winter sports fanatics interested in an alternative to the usual SoCal snow suspects should head to South Utah to Brian Head Resort. Easily accessible from Cedar City airport or a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, you’ll find everything from mild to wild at this small, family-friendly ski town that’s blessed with some of the state’s most pristine snow.
There are terrain-based learning programs that’ll get kids and newbies on the mountain in no time, as well as night ski sessions for more advanced enthusiasts. What’s more is that Brian Head is a quick drive from Utah’s stunning “mighty five” national parks, including the epic spires and arches of Bryce Canyon and Zion. The white powder-dusted red canyons are a sight to behold this time of year, and even more majestic now that the holiday crowds have thinned. Pro tip: Don’t miss the Last Chair Saloon’s Saturday night BBQ made by the resort’s Kansas City owner. Paired with their house craft beer, it’s the ultimate après ski fare. And keep an eye out for their regular star viewing parties, too.
Just one and a half hour’s drive from L.A. is the quaint artists' community of Ojai, where you can unwind with wine tasting, nature hikes, gallery hopping, and guided meditation. Stay at the historic oak tree lined Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, built in 1924, which boasts beautiful Spanish architecture, as well as a world-class spa where they often offer treatments made with Ojai’s signature produce, the pixie orange.
Sample some of the region’s wines at Casa Barranca in town or, if margaritas are more your speed, sit down for a sip at Agave Maria’s for one made with the aforementioned pixies. Whatever your tastes, block out some time to head up to Meditation Mount, a sprawling spiritual center and gorgeous garden property where you can take in the views of what Ojai-ans call “The Pink Moment,” where the sky turns a dizzying array of crimson colors at sunset.
It’s hard to beat the beauty of the Sonoran desert in the wintertime, so it’s no wonder that Scottsdale has become a bit of a snowbird destination. But that’s not to say it’s sleepy. There are so many outdoor activities this time of year that it’s a veritable sandbox for adults—think mountain biking, hiking, trail riding, and more. It’s also home to incredible farmers markets at Singh Farms, and James Beard Award-nominated restaurants like Virtu and F&B. If you’re a fan of a good dive bar, consider a drink at the iconic honky tonk the Rusty Spur Saloon. As for hotels, there are plenty to choose from, but the Googie architecture and sweeping sunset views from the balconies at Hotel Valley Ho take the cake.
When the winter doldrums set in, there’s perhaps no more logical course of action than hitting the Hawaiian isles. While we have to admit that the hustle and bustle of heavily trafficked Waikiki Beach can be a bit much, there’s plenty to explore beyond the big box luxury shops. Rather, rest your head at the sleek Modern Honolulu, then head into the up-and-already there Chinatown district, Honolulu’s answer to Williamsburg, where you’ll find craft cocktail bars like Manifest and Livestock Tavern, wildly delicious modern Vietnamese fare at The Pig and The Lady, and uber-hip design shops like Owens & Co.
Be sure to check in with the neighborhood’s website to see if you happen to be in town for the First Friday festivities and Chinatown Art Walk. And for those fascinated by Japan’s Tsukiji Market, make a reservation to tour Honolulu’s own Fish Auction Tour, where you’ll discover where all the island’s delicious poke comes from.
Todos Santos, Baja California Sur
This adorable surf hideaway located about 45 minutes north of Los Cabos in the Baja Peninsula offers small town charm, with accommodations ranging from minimalist chic at Hotel Casa Tota to luxury resorts like Rancho Pescadero. Flanked on one side by the Pacific and the other by the Sea of Cortes, which Jacques Cousteau himself deemed the “world’s aquarium,” the region offers winter whale watching and world class diving, as well a serene spot to simply relax.
Stop by Baja Beans for a cup of freshly roasted third wave coffee and peruse the on-site Saturday farmers markets, then pack up a picnic for a day at Playa Las Palmas, a secluded beach sheltered by palm groves and a freshwater lagoon. Don’t forget to swing by La Bodega de Todos Santos to pick up a bottle of Baja wine before heading back to properly to unwind. Make it a point to try the local seafood at the restaurants along the way—especially the freshly caught chocolata clams.
Santa Juana, Costa Rica
The biodiversity of this Central American country draws travelers to catch a peek at toucans, sloths, and a dizzying array of frogs, snakes, and spiders. During peak season in the summer, it can feel less-than-intimate at the country’s most visited national parks, like Manuel Antonio or Arenal, and the ideal time to go is during our winter, when it’s actually the driest in Costa Rica.
To get a real taste of rural living, head out to Santa Juana and drive through palm tree plantations to a traditional Tico village, where you can peek at wildlife, hike to resplendent water falls, watch palm sugar juice being produced by ox-pulled carts, and stay amidst coffee plantations in the rainforest. Book a room at the Santa Juana Lodge, which embodies sustainable rural tourism at its best.
Palm Springs, California
Winter is peak season in the midcentury mod haven of Palm Springs. From January to April, the desert town has it’s most welcoming weather, meaning it’s the perfect time to lounge poolside at Jonathan Adler-designed the Parker Palm Springs or at the slightly more hipster haven at the Ace Hotel. The mild temps mean you can also stroll Downtown without schvitzing up a storm, perusing interior design shops like Just Fabulous, or window shopping the technicolor resort wear at Trina Turk. It also means the epic brunches at Cheeky’s can be enjoyed outdoors. Don’t forget the obligatory stop at Hedley’s for a date shake on the way home. It’s a must.
Krista Simmons is a culinary travel writer and native Angeleno; she covers the Southern California beat for Travel + Leisure. You can follow her adventures bite-by-bite on Instagram.