People think of Southern California as the land of eternal summer — palm trees, bikini girls, surfing bulldogs, the works.
Which is all true, but no one understands just how cruel winter can be down here. Sometimes, it’s kind of windy. Other times, the temperature plummets to a vicious fifty-five degrees, and we have to wear sleeves. Once, it even rained! But with spring now upon us, we can finally escape this frozen tundra. While you still may have to brave brisk nights, there are several amazing getaways only a short drive away.
World Class Winter Sports
While Big Bear is quite a bit closer, Mammoth is an enormous, well-maintained ski and snowboarding resort only five hours from LA.
Nine thousand feet up in the towering Eastern Sierras, Mammoth is a huge mountain, due in part to being a dormant volcano.
With dry, regular snowfall, Mammoth has powder nearly as good as Utah—when it comes in—and you can typically get on the slopes well into May, and sometimes even June.
Whether you’re wearing a Willy Standard Tee and cruising down some groomers, or dropping into an ice chute off the top, you’ll earn your fire-and-booze time back at the lodge (check out Roberto’s for margaritas). Even if you hate winter sports, you’ll love the crisp mountain air and spectacular views. Or, maybe you’ll just like how two IPA’s at 10,000 feet will make you tipsier than a college freshman.
Rock Scrambling and Relaxation
While brutally hot in the summer, the desert is full of crisp, clean air, flowers and bright blue skies in the spring. Palm Springs and Joshua Tree are right next to each other, with polar opposite experiences to offer.
Palm Springs is a short two-and-a-half hour drive from the city (provided you don’t leave during rush hour). Originally an oasis for big-time Hollywood actors in the 50’s, the little town still has the feeling of a private getaway. An ideal escape for couples and even bachelor parties, The Standard Long Sleeve Tee would serve you right with soirees around pools, excellent golfing, kitschy cocktail bars and that mid-century modern architecture museum you somehow got dragged to. Even before the summer debauchery, there’s no better place to drink too much and get sunburned in an inner tube.
Only a half hour away, Joshua Tree is a rugged, psychedelic landscape, with mountains of billion-year-old rocks perfect for bouldering.
But while it is the climbing mecca of California (apart from perhaps Camp Four in Yosemite), you don’t have to be Alex Honnold to have a good time. Pick any direction and scramble your way around ancient sandstone, hopping over short gaps like a mountain goat. But watch out—sandstone is sharp, so wear some Willy Track Pants or collect some very-impressive scars and show everyone at the office that you too like to live dangerously. You can even camp — but bring a decent sleeping bag. It actually does get cold at night.
Perfect for a couple’s weekend or a friend get-together.
Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez are Southern California’s preeminent wine countries. In springtime, you can beat the worst of the crowds and see the landscape at its best.
Santa Barbara has fully shed its reputation as a sleepy beachside college town and now offers luxury accommodation, high-end golfing and a beachfront strip that seems too clean and crisp to be real.
Go kayak or surf the bay to build up an appetite, then don The Athletic Polo and ride a bicycle built for two on your way to lobster rolls. Or — skip the bougie world and check out the eclectic “Funk Zone” neighborhood full of walkable wineries, breweries and up-and-coming grub stations. Actually, it’s probably just as bougie, but you’ll feel a lot cooler day-drinking in a reconverted warehouse with graffiti murals.
Just over the mountain is Santa Ynez Valley. Beautiful and cool in springtime with fields of green grass, not yet apocalyptically dead, Santa Ynez is the slightly more rustic curated wine experience. With endless wineries, cheaper accommodations and five strange little towns to explore (like thoroughly weird Danish town Solvang), it is the perfect spot to rent an Airbnb with your friends, hit up five wineries in a row and forget what wine even tastes like.
The kids are in school. The tourists have yet to invade from Europe and Asia. The beach is all yours—and more importantly, you can actually find parking.
With perfect 70 degree weather, go for a jog on the soft sand or throw on The Rash Guard and catch some surf.
You can even host an impromptu Spikeball tournament — just don’t forget layers or you’ll be the guy who has to pretend he’s not cold.
Toward the northwest, Malibu’s beaches are more remote and isolated with cleaner water (the current flows from north to south). With strange caves to explore, lots of surfing, eclectic little restaurants and wilder terrain, Malibu still has pockets that feel like it did fifty years ago. In the city, Santa Monica, Venice or Redondo are great for a beach-and-restaurant day. Rent a bike and cruise the path like you own the place.
San Diego: It’s hard not to have fun in San Diego… as long as you don’t bring up the Chargers (just, don’t). Try stand-up paddleboard in the morning, hit up the breweries all day, then convince your buddies to see the jets on the USS Midway museum.
The Channel Islands: The least-visited National Park in the country, these islands are a short two-hour ride from Ventura or Palos Verdes. With gray whales migrating in the channel, you will see unbelievable sea life. The islands themselves are beautiful and shockingly remote. Santa Cruz is wild, yet accessible, while Catalina has Avalon, a thoroughly odd little town where everyone rides golf carts.
Ojai: Not far from Santa Barbara, this is the last season to have fun in Ojai before the temperature spikes. With a cute town, long hikes in the rugged Chaparral mountains and excellent mountain biking, there’s a little of everything to do here.
No matter where you go, we hope you enjoy your adventure!