Snowball fights, building a snowman like Frosty and whooshing down a hill on a sled are quintessential wintertime activities. But, in perpetually sunny Southern California, finding a patch of the cold, white stuff can be a hassle: bundling up and piling into the car for a two-hour drive to the mountains—not to mention grappling with tire chains halfway up the icy road. Luckily, plenty of places are bringing snow to the Orange County area for play days in December and January. So, grab your snowpants, boots and gloves and get ready for a wintry adventure just a few miles from home.

chill 1 the queen mary Best Places For Snow Play In & Around Orange County

(Credit: The Queen Mary)


CHILL At Queen Mary
The Queen Mary
1126 Queens Way
Long Beach, CA 90802
(877) 342-0738
www.queenmary.com
Dates: December 13, 2017 – January 7, 2018 (closed December 31, 2017)

Billed as the nation’s first ice adventure park, the 38,000-square-foot winter wonderland packs in plenty of activities from ice skating to zip lining, bumper boats, tricycles on an ice track and a 140-foot-long ice tubing slide. After these thrills, revel in Christmas cheer with nightly tree lightings and appearances by Santa and Mrs. Claus. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Don’t miss Sunday night fireworks over the harbor and, for adults, an ice bar where guests don parkas to sip vodka and cocktails in a setting that’s kept just above freezing. The event runs daily from 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. and costs $29.99 for adults and $19.99 for children; on the last day, prices increase for extended hours.

winter fest winter fest Best Places For Snow Play In & Around Orange County

(Credit: Winter Fest)


Winter Fest
OC Fair & Event Center
88 Fair Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(657) 333-2520
www.winterfestoc.com
Dates: December 21, 2017 – January 7, 2018

Ride down Snowflake Summit, an eight-lane, 150-foot-long ice tubing hill, glide around Southern California’s largest outdoor ice skating rink or play in snow that’s made fresh daily at Winter Fest OC. The festival also boasts a carnival, visits by Santa and his reindeer, tree lighting festivities, fireworks and falling snow, plus a new light maze and live entertainment. For little ones, there are bounce houses and a petting zoo, while teens will no doubt flock to take a selfie in “the world’s largest ornament.” Indulge in seasonal goodies like hot cocoa, craft beer, holiday-inspired cocktails, grilled foods and sweet treats. Groups may rent private cabanas, or stroll the grounds to be captivated by the holiday spirit. Admission starts at $10, with additional fees for ice skating, food, carnival games and rides.

discovery cube 1 Best Places For Snow Play In & Around Orange County

(credit: Discovery Cube)


Winter Wonderfest
Discovery Cube Orange County
2500 North Main Street
Santa Ana, CA 92705
(714) 542-2823
www.discoverycube.org
Dates: December 16-17, 2017 and December 22, 2017 – January 7, 2018 (closed Christmas Day)

Snow play is fun for all ages at Discover Cube Orange County, but there’s also an underlying lesson in physics at this children’s science museum. Hop on an inflatable inner tube to discover whether you slide faster at the beginning or end of the snowy, 75-foot ramp as mass, speed and friction converge as factors. Then, tap into your imagination to construct a snowman, snow castle or just explore the properties of this frosty fluff in the play area. Presale tickets through December 15, 2017, cost $19.95 for adults and children, including Discover Cube admission and all-day snow play.

how to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year Best Places For Snow Play In & Around Orange County

(Credit: Thinkstock)


Snow Day
Brea Dam Park
1600 North Harbor Boulevard
Fullerton, CA 92835
(714) 738-6575
www.cityoffullerton.com
Date: January 27, 2018

Feel the wind in your face as you zip down three 75-foot sled runs or have a snowball fight in the Blast Zone at the popular Snow Day in Fullerton. A special sled run is reserved for kids age 5 and under while toddlers can make snowmen in a play area just for them. After these chilly winter activities, thaw out with crafts and games. There will also be food and hot chocolate available for purchase. Pre-registration is recommended for this event, which sells out every year. For Fullerton residents, the cost is $15 for pre-registration or $18 on event day; the cost is $3 more for nonresidents.

shutterstock 562693402 Best Places For Snow Play In & Around Orange County

(credit: Alfira/shutterstock)


Snowfest
Pittsford Park
21701 Pittsford Drive
Lake Forest, CA
(949) 273-6960
www.lakeforestca.gov
Dates: January 27, 2018

Grab and sled or saucer and side down a hill of snow at Pittsford Park during one of three sessions for Snowfest. Children ages 10 and under can also frolic in the cold stuff or make snow angels to their heart’s content in a special play area, then the whole family can refuel with food and drinks available for purchase. Other games and attractions will keep kids entertained if they grow tired of the icy adventures, and visitors “from a galaxy far, far away” will make an appearance for a great photo opp. This event typically sells out and pre-registration for sledding wristbands is required at Lake Forest Recreation Center, 28000 Rancho Parkway, at a cost of $7 per sledder.

disney on ice disneyfeld entertainment Best Places For Snow Play In & Around Orange County

(Credit: Disney/Feld Entertainment)


Holidays at Disneyland Resort
1313 Disneyland Drive, Anaheim, CA 92802
(714) 781-4636
www.disneyland.com
Dates: November 10, 2017 – January 7, 2018

While sledding may not be among the winter activities at Disneyland Resort, seeing the theme parked dressed in holiday splendor is a captivating experience—complete with falling “snow” during the nightly “Believe…In Holiday Magic” fireworks show against the backdrop of Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle, decked out with glistening icicle lights and frosted turrets. Some rides at the parks are also transformed for the holidays, like It’s a Small World at Disneyland, while special entertainment can also be found including “World of Color—Season of Light,” a show that combines water, light, music and storytelling at California Adventure. One-day, one-park admission rates vary depending on the day, from $110 to $124 for ages 10 and up, and $104 to $118 for ages 3-9 during this holiday period.

knotts 1 Best Places For Snow Play In & Around Orange County

(credit: Knotts)


Knott’s Merry Farm
Knott’s Berry Farm
8039 Beach Boulevard, Buena Park, CA 90620
(714) 220-5200
www.knotts.com
Dates: November 17, 2017 – January 7, 2018

While it rarely snows in coastal Orange County, visitors to Knott’s Berry Farm can witness “snow” falling during the holiday season. Called Knott’s Merry Farm during this time, the theme park’s decorations, entertainment and food are transformed for a festive feel. Hear some Christmas tunes by the Calico Carolers, a singing quartet dressed in Victorian-era clothing, and check out the Holiday Ice Show starring Snoopy and all of his friends plus a team of talented ice skaters. And, each night, Ghost Town is filled with gently falling snow and a display of moving lights orchestrated to holiday music. Park admission starts at $49 when purchased online for a specific day.

santa ana zoo 1 Best Places For Snow Play In & Around Orange County

(credit: Santa Ana Zoo)


Winter Zoobilation
Santa Ana Zoo
1801 East Chestnut Avenue
Santa Ana, CA 92701
(714) 836-4000
www.santaanazoo.org
Dates: December 1-31, 2017

Another place to experience falling “snow” is the Santa Ana Zoo as part of the festive decor and activities for Winter Zoobilation. Friends of Santa Ana Zoo board member Rip Ribble has handcrafted and painted wooden cutouts of Santa’s Workshop, Post Office and Sweet Shop, which come together with falling snow and fairy lights to make a perfect winter wonderland setting for family photos. The carousel and train are also decked out in full holiday splendor. Even the animals get in on the seasonal fun during International Snow Day With the Critters on December 17 from noon to 3 p.m. Visitors on this day may explore stations around the zoo to learn about different parts of the world, have their “passports” stamped and see animals from various countries enjoying icy treats. Admission starts at $10 for adults and $7 for children on weekdays; prices are $2 higher on weekends.

Sharon Stello is a writer and editor based in Orange County
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