If you live in a part of the country where winter weather is in full effect, we can commiserate. If you’re not hitting the slopes, you may be feeling the itch to escape.

We know the perfect place: Southern California. This domestic retreat is a welcome respite from the chillier areas of the country. Below, we’ve rounded up some quintessentially SoCal activities to shake you out of those winter blues.

Soak up the sun in Santa Monica


One of the simplest ways to shed the dread of winter and enjoy a California vacation is to get some good old-fashioned Vitamin D—and Santa Monica, just 15 miles south of Los Angeles, has plenty. The city’s beach is split in two by its iconic pier, where you’ll find its photo-famous Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, shopping, restaurants, and more. To either side lie North Beach and South Beach, two equally pleasant stretches to stroll, soak up the sun, or swim. Stay at Oceana, a chic hotel just steps from the water.

Whale watch on the Newport Coast


Winter is an ideal time to see migrating whales—December through April is actually the peak time to see gray whales heading down the coast to the warm waters of Mexico to breed. These humongous creatures are often curious about boats, and you can see them close up for yourself with a Newport Landing whales tour off the Newport Coast, a prime stop along the whales’ journey. Stay at Pelican Crest within the upscale Pelican Hill resort community, just a half-hour’s drive from Newport Landing.

Surf in San Diego


San Diego is often considered the birthplace of mainland American surfing. (Hawaii takes full credit for the sport’s creation). And there are so many places to try it, whether it’s your first time or your 50th. Three of the most popular are Mission Beach, Black’s Beach, and La Jolla Shores—Mission Beach has plenty of room for everyone, Black’s Beach offers consistent rollers, and La Jolla is mostly protected by a cove, meaning you won’t get spooked by a monster wave.  Stay at Arches, a stunning, modern home that’s perched cliffside overlooking La Jolla.

Play outside in Rancho Palos Verdes


Just 20 miles south from L.A. lies Rancho Palos Verdes, a laid-back slice of paradise that’s perfect for getting away from urban sprawl. And at Terranea Resort, an expansive, 102-acre retreat tucked along the cliffs above the Pacific, outdoor activities abound. Try your hand at fishing from a kayak, plein-air painting on the coast, adventuring on horseback, showing tidepools to the kids, and so much more. Stay at Avalon, a two-bedroom residence within the resort with a beautiful second-story balcony and outdoor fireplace for cozy nights.

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