Even though the City of Angels doesn’t have proper snow days like folks who live in colder climes encounter, sometimes a day to remember is called for in the winter months. Think about taking some time off to enjoy at least one of the bevy of opportunities that Southern California has to offer this month or next, despite the great weather we enjoy in our neck of the woods all year around. That done, with an entire, self-appointed day off at your disposal during the winter months, choose not only to visit the snow but also some other nifty getaway spots all within around two hours of Los Angeles. Consider the following five options.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
15500 San Pasqual Valley Road
Escondido, CA 92027
Hanging out with gorillas, orangutans, bonobos and elephants in their own habitat for the day is worth the drive south to Northern San Diego County. But San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido takes this concept one step further by actually allowing you to mingle with these great animals and many others up close and personal. Depending on which safari you select, the animals on view vary, but for the ultimate in soaring like an eagle, choose the Flightline Safari. This zippy experience takes you as high as 160 feet above the plains to spot deer and rhinos for a bird’s eye view. For bragging rights to this ultimate park adventure, be sure to add a helmet cam to your package so you’ll have all you’ve seen recorded for posterity and then some.
Big Bear Mountain
880 Summit Blvd.
Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
Don’t worry about the need to schedule a winter trip to coincide with the next big snowfall. Angelenos will be able to ski or board their way down Big Bear’s portion of the San Bernardino Mountains in any weather thanks to arguably the best snow-making machines in the business. Not only is this snow made quickly and as needed at both Snow Summit and Bear Mountain, but it is also considered quality powder, both ripe conditions for even the most picky athlete. And outer clothing is often optional when you show up at a Big Bear resort because the air is typically quite mild.
Santa Barbara Zoo
500 Niños Drive
Santa Barbara, CA 93103
Hankering to feed a giraffe or two? Head for the Santa Barbara Zoo for the privilege of sticking your neck out to hand over some grub to these lanky beasts while at the same time getting the chance to see and learn about some 500 animals on 30 acres of prime real estate just a couple of hours north of Los Angeles. That said, if barnyard buddies are more your style, head to the special area where sheep are sheltered and where you’re encouraged to hand out pellets that have been specially formulated for these wooly beasts. While on the premises, consider the concept of riding the San Barbara Zoo train that takes on the parameter of this lively spot in which lions and tigers and bears call home.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
1 Tram Way
Palm Springs, CA 92262
Palm Springs seems a strange spot to choose if you’re looking for the white stuff. Still, do head to this literal hot spot for the chance to ride through all terrains on what is billed as the world’s largest rotating tramcar. It’s this mode of transportation that will take you up, up and away some 8,500 feet from the desert floor to the snowy wonderland known as Mt. San Jacinto State Park. Once there, take your pick from cross country skiing to plodding along in snow shoes to grabbing a cocktail at The Lookout Lounge where a stiff drink will get you even higher than you already are. You can buy you tickets online to save the hassle of doing so when you get to Palm Springs, giving you more time during your day off to really enjoy the elements at the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.
Lake Arrowhead Chamber of Commerce
28200 Highway 189 R-215
Lake Arrowhead, CA 92352
Lake Arrowhead immediately puts you in the holiday spirit during winter time with its thriving ski areas and its fun-filled alpine zoo. The latter, formally called Big Bear Alpine Zoo at Moonridge, is a must for animal lovers who care about rehabilitation efforts and local creatures who roam this part of Southern California. As for snowy activities, head for Rim Nordic Ski Area where a groomed trail system caters to all athletic levels of the skiing kind. Lake Arrowhead is the only cross country ski area in Southern California.
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