Winter in California can be anything and everything you want it to be. Even though weather changes may not be as drastic as they are in other parts of the country, when the temperature dips, you may be inclined to stay indoors. But fresh air combats boredom and crankiness, and you’ll find your mood soaring higher than the temperature when you get out and start moving. We’ve got some incredible California Winter activities for families below – are you up for the challenge?
Here are some incredible California Winter activities for families in Northern California:
- Visit Año Nuevo State Park near Pescadero to see one of the world’s largest elephant seal breeding colonies. This natural preserve also protects otters, sea lions, coyotes and other animals. Be sure to bring your binoculars for some bird watching and hike out to Año Nuevo Point!
- Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve in the Santa Cruz Mountains offers 4,711 acres of majestic redwoods, expansive views, waterfalls, creeks and lush forests. Play I Spy as you and your kids seek out rough-skinned newts, Pacific giant salamanders, ferns and fiddleheads, banana slugs and all sorts of fungus.
- Out and about in the East Bay? Spend half a day exploring Redwood Regional Park or Joaquin Miller Park. Whether you choose a hidden redwood forest or a rustic woodland trail, pack a picnic and soak in the beauty around you. When you finish up, head over to the Chabot Space & Science Center to warm up and experience the galaxy through one of three of the largest telescopes on the west coast.
- Plan a day in the North Bay to explore Sausalito like you never have before. The Bay Model gives visitors a unique opportunity to learn about the geography, ecology, topography and history of the San Francisco Bay and Delta. Take a docent-led tour or explore on your own at The Marine Mammal Center to learn about marine mammals, their health and environment and how they’re rescued and rehabilitated. Maybe you’re in the mood for a family adventure through Nature Bridge? Check out their calendar for events like a family night hike and a campfire or some moon gazing. With a mission to connect children to nature, Slide Ranch offers families an opportunity to wander and explore 134 acres with farms, animals and trails – and why not have a winter-day picnic overlooking the ocean?
- For fun a little farther afield, plan a weekend in Tahoe to play in the snow. Spend the day skiing at one of dozens of Tahoe resorts or ski schools, or hit the slopes at Granlibakken, where your lift ticket includes access to the sled hill, along with saucer rental. For snow play sans skis, Adventure Mountain offers over 40 acres of machine-groomed sledding and tubing. (Check the snow report before you go to be sure conditions are sled-ready.) Wrap up your day at the Northstar Village Ice Skating Rink, where skating is free (and fire pit-adjacent!) and skate rentals are available for kids and adults.
California Winter activities for families are as fun as you can prepare them to be. California winter days can run the gamut from warm and dry to chilly, windy and wet. That’s why we’ve got some tips to make sure you’re prepared for winter outdoor recreation in any weather:
- Wear layers and pack for the weather. Choose synthetic, moisture-wicking clothes for going out hiking. Pack socks, wind and rain jackets, hats and even gloves, depending on the weather. These items can be the difference between comfort and misery for everyone! Planning the right clothing makes a difference when enjoying these California Winter activities for families.
- Bring plenty of water and snacks. Keep away from crumbly foods, instead packing snacks like trail mix, apples, carrots and nutrition bars – and maybe a treat you wouldn’t normally give your kids. Make sure to have plenty of water for everyone, even when it’s cold outside. Drinking enough water helps circulation, which, in turn, helps cold noses, toes and fingers.
- Thinking about timing. Break up activities into half-day adventures. Plan an outdoor morning activity with lunch indoors to have time to warm up and get a second wind before heading out again. Be willing to take a break and don’t push your kids too hard. No activity is worth a meltdown.
All seasons point to fun, and that means winter, too. So dress for the weather, plan your itinerary, grab your family and get ready to make memories! For more California Winter activities for families, take a look at our list of great recreations areas near the Bay Area of California.
Do you have a favorite California family winter activity we missed? We’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below or join the conversation on our Facebook page. To learn more about summer camps in the Bay Area of California for kids where we help them get outside for life through sports like biking, rock climbing, kayaking, hiking and stand up paddleboarding, click the link below.