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Best Winter Road Trip Destinations Near Orange County

Balboa Park header
(credit: Balboa Park)

Winter offers great opportunities for families to spend quality time together. With the holidays taking pressure off of work and a year's worth of accrued vacation hours, winter might be the perfect time to organize that road trip you've been yearning to take. Orange County makes the perfect launching point for an endless variety of adventures. Whether your final destination is atop a double black diamond ski run or soaking in a desert hot spring, a memorable family getaway is just a few hours away.

Big Bear Mountain Resorts
880 Summit Blvd.
Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
(909) 866-5841
Price: $59 adult/$25 children for day pass to ski lifts

This popular southern California getaway offers two winter resorts in one location. Snow Summit and Bear Mountain are just two miles apart and can be accessed using an inter-resort express shuttle. A single lift ticket will give you entry to both. The ski slopes here don't have to rely on a big winter storm to supply fresh snow. The Big Bear Mountain Resorts use world-class snowmaking systems that can convert up to 6,000 gallons of water a minute into powdery, man-made snow. The resorts are located in the Big Bear Lake area of the San Bernardino Mountains just two hours northeast of Orange County. Families can lodge at a local cabin or hotel and spend the week on a playground of ski and snowboarding runs.

Related: Getaway Guide: One-Tank Trip To Big Bear Lake

lake arrowhead resort and spa
(credit: Lake Arrowhead Resort And Spa)

Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa
27984 Highway 189
Lake Arrowhead, CA 92352
(909) 336-1511
Price: from $209 a night

Enjoy the scenic drive through the San Bernardino National Forest and coast the shoreline of beautiful Lake Arrowhead before arriving at the top of the world. Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa offers first-class accommodations and fine-dining experiences. The resort also provides private access to the lake and is conveniently located near Lake Arrowhead's quaint shopping district. If too much snow keeps you indoors, enjoy live music entertainment over dinner or decompress in the resort's state-of-the-art fitness studio.

idyllwild inn
(credit: Idyllwild Inn)

Idyllwild Inn
54300 Village Center Road
Idyllwild, CA 92549
(888) 659-2552
Price: from $106 a night

A two-hour road trip east to this winter wonderland will place you at the doorstep of the infamous Tahquitz Rock. Stare in awe at this imposing formation that attracts rock climbers from all over the Southland. If you'd prefer to keep both feet planted on the ground, the San Jacinto Wilderness offers a playground for snowshoeing, sledding or making snow angels. Thaw out with a mug of hot chocolate from downtown Idyllwild while perusing art galleries featuring the works of local artists. Wrap up each day at the historic Idyllwild Inn, where rustic cabins come equipped with fireplaces and large decks beneath the pines and oaks.

palm springs tourism
(credit: Downtown Palm Springs)

Downtown Palm Springs
3200 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way
Palm Springs, CA 92262
(760) 323-8299
Price: free

Snowbirds often find their wings in Palm Springs. For those travelers looking for warmer winter activities, Palm Springs promises paradise year round. Situated two hours east of Orange County, this desert community is known for its world-class golf courses, upscale resorts and natural hot springs. Venture into downtown Palm Springs and you'll find a bustling nightlife with bars, restaurants and boutiques. Take a short drive and purchase a breathtaking ride aboard the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which will take you and your family from the desert floor to the top of Mount San Jacinto.

Balboa Park
(credit: Balboa Park)

Balboa Park
1549 El Prado
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 239-0512
Price: free admission to park/admission to museums and attractions vary by institution

If your dream winter getaway calls for museums, gardens, and cultural stimulation, head south down the California coastline to San Diego's Balboa Park. Park attractions include the San Diego Zoo, award-winning Old Globe Theater, lush botanical gardens and 15 major museums. If you're overwhelmed by the number of things to do, stop by the Balboa Park Visitors Center for advice, brochures and maps to better plan your trip.

Related: Road Trip Rules: Prep For A Safe And Fun Road Trip

Truc Dever is a freelance writer covering all things Orange County. Her work can be found on

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