Who says Southern California doesn’t have winter?
In fact, we’ve got the best of three worlds: sunny deserts, cool seashores and plenty of snow within a two-hour drive and only if you want it. Here are some ways to celebrate the change of seasons in our neck of the woods and slightly beyond.
It’s all happening at the Zoo
It’s Jungle Bells time at the San Diego Zoo — seasonal fun that includes festive decorations, holiday treats, entertainment and animal-shaped light sculptures (https://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/; 619-231-1515). Santa will visit Dec. 14 through Dec. 25, and will bring his elves who will be bouncing off the walls during their trampoline performance. Visitors can take the “4D Polar Express Experience” and special food and drink will be served at Albert’s Restaurant.
Dec. 21, North County’s Safari Park (619-231-1515; www.sdzsafaripark.org) is hosting a pajama party with animal ambassadors, hot chocolate, cookies, making holiday gifts, rides on the Africa Tram, caroling and photos with Santa. Adults: $64.95; kids 3-11: $44.95 plus tax and parking.
It’s all downhill from here
Winter has arrived at Big Bear Lake, about a two-hour drive from North County, and even if you don’t ski, there is downhill fun at Big Bear Snow Play. Be there when the sun goes down for Glow Tubing — flying downhill in an inner tube on a well-groomed slope that has been turned into a constantly changing rainbow of colors. And it’s an easy ride back to the top on the Magic Carpet. Snow Play opens for Glow Tubing 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Saturday and holidays throughout the winter. Other activities at Big Bear Snow Play are open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Where: Three miles east of Big Bear Village at 42825 Big Bear Blvd. (909) 585-0075; www.BigBearSnowPlay.com.
As of this writing, Mammoth Mountain claims to have the most snow of any ski resort in the country — nearly 70 inches — and there’s more predicted. The lifts and lodges are open. To celebrate a new season, the resort has special deals on lift tickets and holiday discount packages at www.mammothmountain.com or call 800-MAMMOTH.
Mountains to the desert
For golfers: Play18 holes of golf and enjoy a lunch (your choice of a burger, hot dog, sandwich, or salad) for $69 until Dec. 23 at Borrego Springs Resort Golf Club & Spa, 1112 Tilting T Drive (a couple of minutes south of Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs). Book tee times as early as 14 days before. Want to stay overnight? Rates are as low as $99/night. Call (888) 826-7734 or visit www.borregospringsresort.com/
National parks for winter, too
We generally think of visiting national parks during the summer and fall, but Discoverer Blog (https://thediscoverer.com; created to “change the way we discover the world”) wants travelers to consider seeing our national treasures when they are cold, crowd-less and quiet. The blog’s list of the 10 national parks it says are best experienced in the winter includes Zion; Bryce; Glacier; Grand Teton; Denali; Mt. Rainier; Crater Lake; Rocky Mountain; Yosemite; and Yellowstone. Blogger Morgan Love reminds adventurers that winter travel requires planning, patience and flexibility, but the rewards are special. Read more at https://blog.thediscoverer.com/10-u-s-national-parks-best-experienced-in-winter/.
Border crossing made easy
Traveling south for the holidays? Taking a flight out of Tijuana can save big bucks, but the hassle of crossing the border can be a deterrent and big inconvenience. Cross Border Xpress (CBX) can make it a lot easier. CBX is an enclosed pedestrian skywalk bridge exclusively for Tijuana Airport passengers who cross the U.S./Mexico border as part of their trip. Though few people know, CBX has been operating for three years this month and it is offering a discount on tickets. Visit www.crossborderxpress.com.
E’Louise Ondash is a veteran, award-winning journalist who was an investigative reporter, feature writer and columnist for the Times Advocate and the North County Times. She has written travel features for The Coast News since 2003.