6 of the best things about a winter break on America’s West Coast

written by Jo Stewart November 10, 2017
Big Sur, California

Summer and California go together like beer and peanuts but there are some surprising added bonuses that come with travelling the USA’s West Coast during winter.

These sneaky benefits of visiting California during the cooler months will have you booking a ticket, pronto (as if you needed any encouragement).

1. Experiencing crowd-free Cali

Griffith Observatory at sunset

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Over tourism is a real thing. Choosing to avoid the summer crush that West Coast USA experiences each year is a wise idea for many reasons. Travelling during quieter times when fewer tourists are about means that you’ve got a better chance of visiting Alcatraz in San Francisco, getting into that cool restaurant in San Diego and a shorter line up to see that new exhibition at the Broad in LA. More space to put your towel down on one of Santa Barbara’s beaches, quieter hiking trails at Griffith Park, less traffic on Highway One, and fewer screaming kids riding the teacups at Disneyland – what’s not to like about this travelling in the off season business?

2. Saving some dough

Who doesn’t like saving money? Apart from the key holiday periods such as Christmas, you’re more likely to nab a cheap flight to the USA if you’re travelling outside of the hectic summer months. February and March are two of the best months to score rock bottom airfares to the USA (while June and July are the most expensive times to travel). And we all know what cheaper airfares mean: more money to spend on tacos, beer, donuts and – if you’re visiting LA’s hip hoods – avocado and kale hemp-milk smoothies.

3. Seeing snow (without the East Coast blizzards)

Yosemite National Park in winter

Photo by David Joyce on Unsplash

While most of the West Coast enjoys sunshine during winter, snow can be found in pockets of northern California from December to March. Unlike the East Coast, you’re unlikely to experience flight-interrupting blizzards or snowstorms that trap you in your hotel for days. Nope, none of that thank you! Instead, you’ll just get to see places like Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe and cute little towns bathed in a soft, white patchwork quilt of snowfall, just like in those cheesy Hallmark Channel movies.


4. Escaping the heatwaves

While many travellers pray to the fickle travel gods for a little sunshine, most wouldn’t put in a request for a face-melting heatwave. During the summer months, California can get extremely hot and this can make travel difficult. Minor annoyances include: sweaty pits, red faces, sleepless nights and soft serve ice creams that melt so fast they shapeshift into a puddle before you’ve even had a chance to take a lick. Travel in California during the winter though and you’ll get enough sunshine to enjoy things like hiking, camping and long walks on the beach while experiencing incredibly pleasant, mild temperatures.

5. Living it up at a free festival in San Francisco

San Francisco‘s Golden Gate Bridge

Image via Shutterstock

Although some festivals and events might be impacted by COVID-19, if you’re travelling the West Coast from December to March then your visit may just coincide with some pretty cool festivals that remain under-the-radar for overseas travellers. With a significant Chinese population and heritage, San Francisco’s Chinese New Year Parade and Festival is a huge, fun-filled community fair where lots of lion dancing, fortune telling and dumpling eating goes on. A celebration of the city’s Latin American and Caribbean roots, Carnaval San Francisco also takes place during winter, as does San Francisco’s annual Mardi Gras shenanigans, with Fat Tuesday offering a legitimate excuse to eat all the po boys, jambalaya and other Cajun staples you can get your hands on.


6. Seeing hoop dreams come true

A basketball match at Venice Beach

Photo by Matteo Paganelli on Unsplash

Baseball may dominate the summer months but the winter belongs to basketball. Whether you’re an NBA superfan or don’t know a thing about the game, nabbing tickets to see the Clippers or Lakers play at the Staples Center is a fun thing you can do while on the West Coast during winter. You might even get to see the Second Coming (aka LeBron James) play.

Ready for some California dreamin’ on a winter’s day? Check out our range of small group adventures in the USA. If USA doesn’t tick your box read about our alternative winter destinations here.

Feature image by Michael DePetris on Unsplash.

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