14 Fun Outdoor Winter Activities for Kids and Adults

Winter in California can be anything you want it to be. From snow studded mountains to warm deserts. You can be outdoors 24/7/365! But even here in California is can be difficult to make the time for outdoor activities in the middle of winter. It’s hard to drag ourselves out for fresh air and exercise.  So it’s important – for our health and sanity – to find some fun excuses to get outside. There are so many benefits to doing so: being active outdoors is a good way to cut calories and lose weight, the fresh air makes us feel better, and it’s a lot more fun than watching TV or surfing the Internet all day. So we’ve tried to make it a bit easier by giving you two weeks’ worth of ideas.

Be Prepared for the Cold

If you do live in one of California’s colder climes, you need to be prepared. Don’t just head out in sneakers, jeans and a sweater under your coat. Think layers. Wear thermal leggings and several layers under your sweater. Wear a hat and gloves. If you’re not cold and uncomfortable, you’re more likely to have fun and not run back inside after 5 minutes.

14 Winter Fun Ideas… To Get You Motivated.

1. Go Camping (of course we’d say that….but with California’s year-round weather you can always find a sunny spot.) When you get there…wrap up in a blanket, sip a cup of hot cocoa and enjoy the sunshine.

2. Build a winter bonfire and make s’mores. Even if you don’t go camping….you can do this anywhere!

3. Rent some snowshoes and go snowshoeing. Check out California’s Sno-Park pages.

4. Go ice skating. Check out rinktime.com to find one close to you.

5. Take your dog for a walk. It’s one of the main benefits of having and owning a dog.

6. Go cross-country skiing.

7. Attend a dog-sled race. You don’t have to live in Alaska to see one of these – a quick Google search showed races and tours all around California.

8. Go sledding.

9. Feed the birds or go birdwatching. Make your own birdfeeders out of pine cones, peanut butter, and birdseed. California is one of the largest flyways in the country. Go to CAWatchableWildlife.org to find winter birding sites.

10. Go on a winter picnic. Take blankets, sandwiches and hot soup in a thermos.

11. Head out on a photo expedition to take pictures of the winter landscape.

12. Try a round of golf. In sunny southern California, no problem. Even in the mountains….you can golf with fluorescent balls!

13. If you live near a big city, set off on foot to explore it! You might want to check out some of the group buying daily deals sites like Groupon and LivingSocial to find new things to do in the area.

14. Have kids or dogs? Set up an obstacle course in the yard with jumps, tunnels and other challenges. They’ll love you!

Featured Region

From Oxnard in the west to Lancaster and Pomona in the east and from Frazier Park in the north to Long Beach in the south, the Los Angeles area offers such a stunning amount of activities that the question is not what to do, but where to begin. As the region where glamour was perfected and hip trends developed, the Los Angeles area dazzles. With its film stars, world-class museums, famous shopping venues, and miles of parks, recreation areas, and sunny coastal fun spots, this area is one of the planet's great vacation destinations.

The Los Angeles area enjoys plenty of sunshine throughout the year. With an average of about 35 days of rainfall per year, the coast gets slightly less rain, while the mountains get slightly more. Snowfall is extremely rare in the city basin, but the mountains typically receive snowfall every winter. California also has a weather phenomenon called "June Gloom or May Grey", which during late spring and early summer gives overcast or foggy skies in the morning at the coast, but usually lifts for sunny skies by noon.

The city of Los Angeles is the most populous city in California and the second most populous in the United States, after New York City. Los Angeles County is one of the most multicultural counties in the U.S. and the entire Los Angeles area itself is recognized and regarded as the most diverse metropolitan area in the United States. Popular urban destinations (to name a few) are: Universal Studios Hollywood, Los Angeles Zoo, Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier, Hurricane Harbor and Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita, Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Hollywood, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, and Malibu. The mother lode for people watching is Venice Beach Boardwalk. This frenetic and colorful mélange of skaters, cyclists, joggers, entertainers, and eccentrics is about as L.A. as you can get.

As for escapes from the urban sprawl, the Los Angeles area has it all. The region, occupying part of a mountain rimmed lowland fronting the Pacific Ocean has towering mountain ranges, deep valleys, forests, islands, lakes, rivers, and desert. Frasier Park is right off of Interstate 5 on the drive over the Grapevine and the small community is a beautiful stop along the Tejon Pass in the Los Padres National Forest. It’s a great place to take a quick day trip and play in the snow. The primary mountain ranges are the Santa Monica Mountains and the San Gabriel Mountains. Mt. San Antonio (aka Mt. Baldy) is the highest in the San Gabriel Mt. Range. Snowcapped Mt. Baldy is visible from much of Southern California and on a clear day much of the Greater Los Angeles area can be seen from the summit. Cross-country skiing, snow camping, hiking, downhill skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, tubing and snow play are all popular in the Angeles National Forest when it is blanketed with snow. The Angeles National Forest provides a thousand square miles of open space and spectacular scenery year-round along with the opportunity for swimming, fishing and trails for hikers, equestrians, mountain bikers and off-highway vehicles.

The western extent of the Mojave Desert begins in the Antelope Valley where the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale are located. If you are here in the spring, don’t miss out on a trip through the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve. Wildflower season is from mid-February to mid-May with eight miles of trails through the gentle rolling hills, including a paved section for wheelchair access, make the park a wonderful place to hike and explore any season.

There are nearly two dozen beaches in Los Angeles County and several recreational areas that offer outdoor recreational opportunities. Most of these beaches are suitable for swimming, surfing, fishing, and diving. Some of them offer volleyball, tidepools, seasonal whale watching, picnic tables. For some quiet time, watch the boats at Marina Del Rey or laze about in the sand at Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, or Redondo Beach.

Sail, motor boat or fly from San Pedro or Long Beach to Catalina Island, 26 miles across the sea. Relish the sight of the vivid blue waters sparkling in the harbor of Avalon; tour the streets of this lovely resort town. For an unforgettable adventure, view undersea life in a glass-bottom boat or semi-submersible submarine. Like L.A. itself, it's another world.

New Year’s Weekend is the Rose Bowl and Pasadena Tournament of Roses. There are events all weekend long. Bandfest Dec 30th & 31st will feature the prizewinning bands of the 2011 Rose Parade. The 123rd Rose Parade presented by Honda and themed Just Imagine... will take place on Monday, January 2, 2012 at 8:00 a.m. (PST) and feature spirited marching bands from throughout the nation, majestic floral floats, and high-stepping equestrian units. See the full list of events.

Featured Wildlife Viewing Area:
Hidden Valley Wildlife Area - Site # 323

Hidden Valley Wildlife Area – Site #323 is located along the Santa Ana River corridor and a major flyway for migratory birds and riparian flora and fauna. Visitor Center naturalists offer interpretive and educational programs on native uses of the plants and area.

The Habitat: 

95% riparian corridor along the Santa Ana River Watershed.

The Experience:  

Birding year -around with winter migratory birds in abundance. 8 miles of paved bicycle trails connecting the Mountains to River trail system, hikers, bird watchers, fishing. Equestrian use year round with river trails connecting from the San Bernardino Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

Wildlife & Where to Find It:

The visitor center overlooks the Santa Ana River view shed and offers hands-on experiences with live animals, snakes, reptiles. A short hike away the educational pond offers viewing of migratory bird species and aquatic life and flora and fauna. A vast network of hiking and biking trails offers visitors a chance to experience the wildlife area and view bird species along the Santa Ana River. This time of year good chances of seeing American White Pelican, Black Phoebe, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Canada Goose, Cinnamon Teal, Great Blue Heron and more.  


The visitor center has an onsite staff and is open year round all week, seasonal hours 7am - 4:30pm winter, 7am - 6pm summer. $4 per vehicle day use fee. Dirt road, Pull-through parking available. Parking proximity to viewing area approx. 200 feet.

Directions and Address:

From Riverside, CA, take 91 Freeway west, exit La Sierra Ave south, drive 5 miles to Arlington Ave, turn west, drive 1 miles to entrance Hidden Valley Wildlife Area 
11401 Arlington Ave, Riverside, CA 92505,  (951) 785-7452      

For more information visit CAWatchableWildlife.org.

Featured State Park:
Placerita Canyon Natural Area & Nature Center

Gold was discovered by James Marshall in Coloma at Sutter’s Mill, right? Wrong….the first gold was actually discovered in LA County. Placerita is the home of the famous "Oak of the Golden Dream" where gold was first discovered in California on March 9, 1842. Come see the Walker Cabin and experience early pioneer living.

This Placerita Canyon Natural Area is a unique east-west running canyon featuring cool, shaded oak woodlands, chaparral covered slopes and a seasonal stream. The natural area park is situated on the northwest side of the San Gabriel Mountains and is surrounded by the Angeles National Forest. The park offers eight different trails that network over 12 miles for park visitors. Enjoy a unique animal presentation held every Saturday at 1 PM. Bring the family and see live animals in the nature museum.

Located at 19152 Placerita Canyon Road in Newhall. Open 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Tuesday through Sunday. For more information visit Placerita Canyon.

Natures Rocks

Nature Rocks is a national program to inspire and empower families to play and explore in nature. Their mission is to make it easy for you to have fun in nature, and connect with others to do the same.

They want all families in every city in America to see for themselves how much Nature Rocks. Your kids or grandkids will be happier, healthier and smarter, and besides, it is generally free and a rockin’ way to create and share fun quality family time.

They just published their Winter Activity Guide. Download it here to begin sharing nature with your kids!

Shellfish Cioppino - San Francisco, CA

It’s Crab Season in Northern California - Check out Evanne’s trip to the seafood Capitol of California. The city by the bay is made up of several unique neighborhoods - each offering their individual takes on life, love, and great food. Click here for Evanne’s Cioppino recipe.

In this episode of the RV Cooking Show we'll talk about some of our SFO fav eateries. Watch our RV Marvels San Francisco Sampler video for a peek into some lesser known but knock your socks off things to do when visiting the area.

January Calendar of Events

Event Town Dates
Delirious Moonlight: Blues, Broadway and Beyond Grass Valley Dec 30-Jan 1
Tournament of Roses Parade Pasadena Jan 2
Monster Energy Supercross, Anaheim Anaheim Jan 7
Southern California Half Marathon 5K Irvine Jan 7
Coastal Repertory Theatre Talent Show Half Moon Bay Jan 7
Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival Morro Bay Jan 13-16
Asian American Expo Pomona Jan 14-15
Annual Winter Wineland Russian River Jan 14-15
Sacramento Motorcycle Swap Meet Sacramento Jan 15
Winter Fancy Food Show San Francisco Jan 15-17
San Diego Restaurant Week San Diego Jan 16-21
Forever Tango San Bernardino Jan 19
Mendocino Crab & Wine Days Mendocino Jan 20-30
Blythe Bluegrass Music Festival Blythe Jan 20-22
Twain Harte Annual Crab Feed Tuolumne Jan 21
Farmers Insurance Open La Jolla Jan 23-29
Gold Discovery Day Coloma Jan 26
Zinfandel Festival San Francisco Jan 26-28
International Film Festival Santa Barbara Jan 26-Feb 5
Snow Goose Festival Chico Jan 26-29
Annual Calpine Elks Crab Feed Graeagle Jan 27-28
Placerville Annual Crab Feed Placerville Jan 28
Rotary/CARE Car Show San Juan Capistrano Feb 4
AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Pebble Beach Feb 6-12
San Francisco Bay Flyway Festival Vallejo Feb 10-12
Mardi Gras Light Parade & Street Festival El Centro Feb 11
LA Chinatown Firecracker 5/10k run Los Angeles Feb 11-12
World Ag Expo Tulare Feb 14-16
Cloverdale Citrus Fair Cloverdale Feb 17-20
Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival Indio Feb 17-16
Mardi Gras in the Gaslamp Quarter San Diego Feb 21
Mariposa Art Hop Mariposa First Friday Every Month
Weaverville Art Cruise Weaverville 1st Sat. every Month

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