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If you are looking for a warm winter getaway look no further. This post on the best places to visit in California in December includes a great variety of interesting spots where to enjoy the warm weather and escape the winter blues.
While California is without a doubt an all-year-round destination to visit, for all types of travelers, winters are especially pleasurable if you are chasing the warm sun when elsewhere is freezing.
There is a lot to love about California, a cultural melting pot, and incredible geographical diversity.
The golden state has so much to offer, from wine regions like the Napa Valley to vibrant towns such as Carmel By the Sea, multicultural cities, historic landmarks, spectacular beaches, breathtaking coastal views, mountains, deserts, lakes, and more…
In this post-travel writers and explorers got together to share their favorite places to visit in California in December.
I recommend you grab a coffee, sit back and enjoy the read!
Best places to visit in California in December
1. Carmel By the Sea
Located on the south coast of the Monterey Peninsula, in North California, Carmel by the sea is one of the most unique towns in California, and probably in the US, to visit.
There are many reasons why this pretty little town become so famous, but it’s mainly due to its unique architecture of the cute cottages surrounded by flowery gardens, the artists’ community, and the overall atmosphere that indeed makes you feel in a fairy tale.
Stroll down Ocean Avenue and explore the cobblestone narrow streets, check out some art galleries (there are more than 100), and the pretty local shops, walk down to the Carmel beach to watch the surfers enjoying the waves, and admire the sunset.
There are so many things to do in Carmel that you may want to spend an entire week and explore its surroundings as well.
Drive along the 17-mile drive, take up some cooking classes, go for a hike, learn about the interesting history of the town and eat in some of the world-class restaurants in town. You can also visit the nearby Monterey and Pacific Grove historical centers.
There are many cute Airbnb in Carmel by the sea, charming cottages, and historical homes where to stay and live like a local.
2. Orange County
Located in Southern California, right between Los Angeles and San Diego, Orange County is most of the time an underrated place to visit in the US as a vacation destination.
However, it is the sixth most populous county in the entire United States and one of the most eclectic and interesting areas to visit.
In fact, Orange County encompasses everything people think about California. Dramatic coastlines dotted with luxurious mansions, palm-tree-lined streets, sprawling mountains, perfectly manicured gardens, and vibrant city centers.
Filled with natural wonders but also with many cities such as Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach, and Costa Mesa, among the most famous, Orange County boasts a diverse variety of places to visit and you will never run out of things to do.
From Disneyland to picturesque beaches, long ocean promenades, glittering viewpoints, foodie-approved restaurants, beautiful local art, trendy marketplaces, and contrasting neighborhoods, Orange County is filled with both diverse culture and nature.
Thanks to Orange County’s prime Southern California location, you can count on great weather year-round but the mild weather makes it the perfect place to visit in California in December for solo female travelers, couples, and family alike, especially for those who don’t like the hot summer sun and bigger crowds.
Orange County is in fact one of the best warm destinations to visit in December too, for the Christmas vibes.
3. San Diego
If you’re looking for a sunny destination to visit in December then San Diego is perfect.
With temperatures around 67 ºF and often sunny days, this is a good time of year to stroll along some of San Diego’s beautiful beaches, enjoy a hike, a day at Balboa Park, or do some sightseeing in the Gaslamp Quarter and Old Town.
There are so many things to do in San Diego. If you love long walks along the beach, go to the Mission Bay Boardwalk. If you prefer a hike to see some of San Diego’s more rugged coastline, go to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.
To learn about San Diego’s history, and for some of the best Mexican food, spend an afternoon in Old Town.
For nightlife and good dining options go to the Gaslamp Quarter. And stop for a coffee or a good glass of wine in Little Italy which, in December, is also nicely decorated and will surely get you into the Christmas spirit.
And if you want to fit in some winter fun while in San Diego, there is an ice rink at Hotel Del Coronado.
Even if you don’t like ice skating it’s a unique thing to see: an ice rink surrounded by palm trees with a sunny sky and the beach in the background.
Contributed by Sanne from Spend Life Traveling
3. Lake Tahoe
Located on the border of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is huge at 1,644 feet deep at its deepest point and spans over 72 square miles!
The lake itself is beautiful because it’s surrounded by mountains that are covered in snow year-round.
That makes for some amazing views as you spend time at this lake. Lake Tahoe is a great place for solo female travelers because it has lots of attractions that are geared towards women.
If you’re looking for relaxing activities, you can find yoga classes and spa treatments at local resorts. If you’re looking for adrenaline-pumping activities, try skiing or snowboarding.
December is a great time to visit if you want to enjoy outdoor snow activities like skiing or snowboarding.
Plus, the weather is warmer than other ski destinations in winter, so snow sports aren’t limited by cold temperatures as much as they might be in other places.
If you love hiking, then Lake Tahoe will be right up your alley!
There are several trails that lead around the perimeter of this lake and beyond that offer breathtaking views of the lake and mountains.
These trails are perfect for solo travelers looking for something adventurous while visiting Lake Tahoe!
Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places in California, and it has a unique charm that makes people feel welcome.
If you’re looking for a relaxing getaway filled with activities, hiking trails, and beautiful views then Lake Tahoe might just be your dream destination!
Contributed by Rasika from Bae Area and Beyond
For some of the best views of the city of San Francisco, you must visit the small and charming town of Sausalito.
The quaint town is known for its stunning views of the bay and San Francisco skyline and its eccentric houseboat community.
Sausalito is the perfect destination for a female solo traveler. It’s easy to get to from the city, it is safe, and offers plenty of things to do and see. Located across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, you can get to Sausalito by ferry or car.
Or, if you are feeling adventurous, you can rent bicycles and bike across the bridge.
In December, Sausalito will be a little chilly, with an average high temperature of 59 degrees Fahrenheit. However, Sausalito is typically warmer than San Francisco.
Also in December, there will be fewer crowds, which will allow you to enjoy your time and experience in the coastal city.
Once you arrive in Sausalito, head downtown for some exploring. The streets of downtown have numerous boutique shops, art galleries, artisan-crafted jewelry, homemade chocolates, and other unique finds.
Relax and enjoy the view from one of the many waterfront restaurants, such as Barrel House Tavern. A popular restaurant for California fare that showcases sweeping views of the bay from its elevated deck.
A visit to Sausalito is not complete, without a stop at Lappert’s Ice Cream.
The best way to devour your delicious ice cream is by taking it for a walk on the Bridgeway Promenade, a 0.3-mile path that runs along the water.
The Promenade offers gorgeous views of the bay and the rolling hills of colorful and vibrant seaside houses.
Contributed by Alisha Mansfield Travel Today Work Tomorrow
5. Napa Valley
Napa Valley needs no introduction, everyone has heard of it and the “wine country” that makes this particular valley in California famous.
The temperate weather year-round creates an environment that is perfect for visiting any time of year, but especially in December and the winter months.
Because of the mountains and the proximity to the Pacific Ocean, Napa Valley has a dry Mediterranean climate.
During the winter you’ll find clear sunny days, with highs in the upper 50s. Considered to be the off-season in Napa, in December there are fewer crowds, hotel prices drop, and there are plenty of holiday festivals to attend!
Napa Valley is only 30 miles long and 5 miles across at its widest point, but it is home to over 400 wineries.
Although you can come to Napa Valley and not try the wine, why would you? From sparkling wines to oaky chardonnays and deep red old-vine zinfandels, you will be sure to find a glass (or two!) that you love.
Just don’t get carried away, two to three wine tastings in a day are plenty!
Napa is known for producing some of the best wines in the world, but the valley is also covered in delectable Michelin-star restaurants, locally made farm-to-table eateries, and rooftop dining experiences.
Grab a glass of wine, find a gorgeous terrace overlooking a vineyard, and enjoy a few peaceful moments during your travels!
Contributed by Erin from Super Simple Salty Life
6. Sonoma Coast
Driving down the Sonoma Coast is an iconic thing to do when visiting California. This stunning coastline stretches 17 miles along the Pacific Ocean and contains several beaches, jagged rock bluffs, and dramatic headlands.
Full of unique places to visit and explore, the Sonoma Coast is the perfect place to visit in December due to fewer crowds and a slower pace.
The weather is mild and stays in the high 50s in the winter months.
Goat Rock Beach is on the northern end of the Sonoma Coast right off of Highway 1, where the Russian River spills into the Pacific Ocean.
This spot has driftwood sculptures that provide some shade on the beach, gigantic boulders jutting out of the huge crashing waves of the Pacific, and tide pools all along the shoreline.
Perhaps the most entertaining feature of this area is the multitudes of barking harbor seals sunning themselves on the exposed rocks, having a great time bobbing in and out of the cold water!
While you drive down the coastline, look for fresh oyster bars and coastal wineries to pop in, grab some refreshments, and bring along a beach picnic.
Find a spot to sit on one of the beaches, watch the seals play, and have a great day on the Sonoma Coast!
Contributed by Erin from Super Simple Salty Life
7. Temecula, California
If you’re looking for a warm, sunny destination to visit this December, look no further than Temecula, California—Southern California’s Wine Country!
Temecula is a great place to visit at all times of the year, but the fun festivals and events in December make this month an ideal time to visit.
You can attend ice skating, holiday concerts, and festivals, like Temecula Icefest and Holiday Taste of Old Town.
Of course, you can’t visit Temecula, California, without paying a visit to one of the local wineries. Temecula has nearly 50 vineyards, wineries, and tasting rooms—and this number continues to grow yearly!
When you’re in town, you can also try some of the best restaurants in Old Town Temecula, like The Goat & Vine and 1909 Temecula.
Since many tourists visit Temecula in the summer or fall, when the wine is grown and harvested, you’ll enjoy cheaper fares and hotel rates during this time of year.
If you’d like to stay in Old Town Temecula, consider staying at the SpringHill Suites by Marriott in the heart of the city.
Or, if you’d like to stay at a winery, consider the Carter Estate Winery and Resort.
Contributed by Brittany from Travel by Brit
8. Big Sur
One of the best places to visit in California in December is Big Sur. The weather is nice this time of year and it is a great time to avoid the crowds and get a good deal on lodging which can be very expensive during the summer months.
You can also expect to find dramatic waves along the Big Sur coastline.
Towards the northern end of Big Sur, be sure to stop at the Bixby Creek Bridge. It is one of the most popular photo ops in Big Sur.
There are parking areas on both the east and west sides of the road where you can park your car.
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is another fun stop in Big Sur. It is home to a beautiful waterfall that empties into the Pacific Ocean.
McWay Falls is another one of the iconic stops along Highway 1 in this area. There is an overlook where you can see the waterfall on the side of the highway or you can go into Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and walk out to the overlook.
Another fun stop in Big Sur is Point Lobos State Reserve. It is a great place to go hiking, spend time at the beach, and see wildlife. You can also venture north to the charming town of Carmel-by-the-Sea.
One of the best places to stay in Big Sur is the Big Sur Lodge. It has a great central location which will help cut back on driving time.
It has lots of great amenities like a swimming pool, restaurant, and a la carte breakfast.
Contributed by Candice, CS Ginger
9. Mammoth Lakes
Mammoth Lakes, nestled in the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains, turns into a winter wonderland, come winter, and is an excellent place for an outdoorsy solo female traveler.
Mammoth Lakes is renowned for its world-class ski resorts, like Mammoth Mountain, where novices to experts alike can shred well over one hundred ski runs, all with the picturesque background of some of the United States’ tallest mountains.
If you’re looking to meet people while you’re traveling, the skier community tends to be very social here- for example, hit Distant Brewing, a microbrewery with lots of nods to skiing throughout its space, after you hit the slopes for some drinks and to meet plenty of other ski bums.
If you’re not a skier or snowboarder, there are still lots of outdoor adventures to get up to, like exploring the stunning Inyo National Forest on snowshoes or cross-country skis.
After all that physical activity, one of Mammoth Lakes’ best features is its incredible natural hot springs, like the Rock Hot Tub or Wild Willy’s Hot Spring.
Here, you can relax, soak your aching muscles (for free!), and soak in the epic views of the snow-capped Sierras.
Beyond its outdoor landscape, the town of Mammoth Lakes itself is quite charming, with stores tucked in A-frame cabins and an eclectic mix of artisanal distilleries, coffee shops, and outdoor gear outfitters.
Whether you’re looking for a cozy getaway in a mountain town or a more action-packed adventure, Mammoth Lakes is an excellent choice for a solo female traveler in December.
Contributed by Jessica from Uprooted Traveler
10. Redwoods State and National Parks
If you’re looking to experience one of the most awe-inspiring landscapes all to yourself, visiting the Redwoods in December should be on your bucket list.
Along the northern California coastline, there are several parks, like Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, that are home to 95% of the world’s remaining population of redwoods, the tallest living creature on the planet.
Here, you can get lost in the fairytale forests, explore tiny mountainside towns, and admire some of the most dramatic parts of the California coast.
While you’re here, you’d be remiss not to explore any of the incredible hikes in the redwoods. For example, try the Karl Knapp Trail through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, where you’ll hike under enormous primeval ferns and trees towering 300 feet overhead- and through two tree tunnels carved into fallen redwoods.
Another awesome trail in Prairie Creek is the Fern Canyon Loop, where you’ll hike past two vertical walls dripping with lush ferns- it looks so prehistoric that it’s been used as the shooting location for Jurassic Park: A Lost World!
If you’re not feeling up for hiking or the gloomy December weather is acting up, try driving south along the Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
Here, you’ll wind along 31 miles of the historic Route 101, which snakes past the largest remaining groves of old-growth redwoods on the planet.
This is also an excellent time to stop at kitschy roadside attractions, like the Drive-Thru Tree, which is, well, a tree you can drive straight through!
Visiting the redwoods in December is perfect – because of its location along the coastline, the temperatures remain pretty moderate throughout the year, but the crowds of the summer and fall have abated.
With nothing around but these beautiful ancient giants, it’s an excellent getaway for someone looking to reset and recharge for the coming new year.
Contributed by Jessica Schmit of Uprooted Traveler
Sacramento is one of the best places in California you can visit in December. The state’s capital is not only known for its many historic sights, but it is also a place to enjoy fabulous farm-to-fork cuisine.
Sacramento sees pleasant weather in December, with daytime highs in the mid-50s. All you need is a light jacket as you explore outdoors during the day.
The temperature does dip into the high 30s at night though, so bring layers if you plan to be out early or late.
Visiting Sacramento Old Town State Historic Park is one of the best things to do in Sacramento. Here you will find many old historic buildings from the Gold Rush era, as well as the California State Railroad Museum and other museums.
Visit the capitol museum to see beautiful murals, and stroll the grounds, which include a beautiful rose garden.
In Midtown Sacramento, enjoy the many murals, walk the tree-lined streets to browse the boutiques and galleries, and visit Sutter’s Fort, the first non-native settlement in California’s Central Valley.
Here’s where you will find many of Sacramento’s top eateries, and the farmers’ market is a must-visit.
In December, you’ll find many holiday-themed activities in and around Sacramento: check out the Christmas Gallery at the Museum of Wonder and Delight, or the winter wonderland at Fairytale Town.
Contributed by Dhara of Roadtripping California
12. Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is one of the best places to go in California for solo female travelers. You can easily take a day trip to Joshua Tree or can make it into a long weekend trip.
Depending on what type of solo traveler you are, you’ll find something to meet your needs and feel safe in the area.
December is one of the best times to visit Joshua Tree National Park since the weather is cooler even during the middle of the day.
However, make sure to bring layers as it gets quite cold overnight in December.
Make sure to hike to Arch Rock and spend sunrise or sunset in the Cholla Cactus Garden. Drive along Queen Valley Road if you don’t mind a little dirt road driving or along Park Boulevard if you prefer a paved road to see lots of Joshua Trees.
Joshua Tree is a popular park, but for good reason. It’s easy to see it in a day or to stretch your trip for a more relaxing California weekend getaway.
Contributed by Christine, Live Love Run Travel
13. Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is a great destination for solo female travelers at any time of the year. But December in Yosemite has a special appeal!
While you won’t get to see its iconic flowing waterfalls, a limited-time winter wonderland opens in Yosemite every year, starting in December.
Did you know that you can ice skate on the floor of Yosemite Valley as Half Dome looms above you? The Curry Village Ice Skating Rink has been a tradition running from December through February since 1928.
Ice skating beneath Yosemite’s giant granite cliffs has been one of my favorite travel experiences of all time. It’s also a pleasant place to warm up with s’mores, hot cocoa, and fire pits available.
After you are done ice skating, you can still get the classic Yosemite Valley experience, even in December.
These iconic Yosemite photo spots are accessible in most weather conditions.
The other world that opens up in December is found above Yosemite Valley at the Badger Pass Ski Area. That’s right.
You can ski in Yosemite National Park. You can ski, snowshoe (super fun and easy), cross-country ski, or snow tube.
I am still a novice cross-country skier, but the guided cross-country ski trip to Glacier Point is high on my bucket list!
Contributed by Cassie Yoshikawa of Cassie’s Compass
14. Palm Springs
One of the best December getaways on the West Coast is to the colorful Palm Springs area, a roughly two-and-a-half-hour drive from Los Angeles.
Solo females will have fun exploring this perfect mix of rugged nature and retro downtown, full of interesting artwork and trendy eateries.
When you want to feel alone, you can retreat into nature. And when you want to be part of the crows, you can head downtown.
The Hollywood elite began visiting Palm Springs in the 1920s and 30s, quickly making it one of the most popular getaways for those living in Southern California.
Whether you have a full week or just one day to visit Palm Springs, the quaint neighborhoods will transport you far from the L.A. traffic and crowds.
Winter is the best time to visit this area for several reasons. One, the triple-digit temperatures finally calm down and the still-sunny days are more bearable.
Activities like biking, hiking, and walking in the downtown area are much more enjoyable!
If you are looking for that Christmas feeling, Palm Spring hosts the Festival of Lights every year.
The 1.25-mile march showcases cars, a marching band, and giant floats covered in sparkling Christmas lights.
The star of the show is Santa Claus himself, of course, pulled along on a giant sleigh of reindeer.
If you don’t celebrate Christmas, you will certainly enjoy the swimming pools and hot tubs that every hotel offers.
Winter is the perfect time to enjoy a night in the Jacuzzi under the stars, solo.
Contributed by Monica from This Rare Earth
15. Death Valley
Death Valley National Park is vast. Endless, even. If there was ever a place to go for solitude, Death Valley is it.
As the largest national park in the contiguous United States, there is a lot to see here. The park sits roughly 215 miles, or 3.5 hours, outside of Los Angeles, CA, along the Eastern border with Nevada.
Solo travelers will have over 5,000 square miles to cover by car and foot, through rugged mountains, orange sand dunes, colorful canyons, and salt flats.
Even during the busy season, it is not difficult to find quiet spots for solitude.
December is an ideal time to visit Death Valley National Park. As the driest of all national parks – not to mention, one of the hottest locations in the entire world – the summer months can feel miserable.
In the winter months, the weather is much more agreeable. A December visit allows for hiking and sightseeing in comfort.
Some of the top sights to see are the famous Badwater Basin, which is the lowest point in all of North America, and the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes which transport you to the Middle East on the tall sand dunes. And, Zabriskie Point is mesmerizing, the most perfect spot to spend a sunset
It’s hard to believe that all of these very different natural formations are inside of one park! Death Valley truly is a must-see.
Contributed by Monica from This Rare Earth
16. Los Angeles
December in Los Angeles might be the middle of winter but it certainly won’t feel like it. This is the perfect time of year to visit the city for solo female travelers who want a beachy warm holiday without battling crowds.
While the preparations for Christmas and holiday events bring an exciting atmosphere to the city, outside of peak season, solo travelers will find it very easy to get tickets, tables, and deals on accommodation that can offset the otherwise high costs of traveling solo.
While it might seem strange to head to the beach in December, one of the best things to do in LA explores the seaside suburbs like Santa Monica and Venice Beach.
You can do this on foot or hire a bike or scooter from one of the app-based services that are prolific in LA.
The cooler time of year is so great for attempting one of LA’s hikes, the most popular options are the walk up to the Hollywood sign and the Runyon Canyon hike (good for celebrity-spotting!).
Finally, when in LA, don’t miss a trip to Disneyland, the Christmas parade and decorations in December are epic and you can actually save money and avoid queues by going to Disneyland on your own.
► You can also check out – A day trip to Santa Barbara
Contributed by Kate from Kate Abroad
17. Monterey County
Visiting Monterey is fantastic in December, normally a shoulder season here in Central Monterey County so everything is slow, easy, and also more accessible around the county.
Monterey itself has mild and pleasant winters being on the water and in somewhat protected areas from extreme weather.
There are many popular places to hang out and visit in the city and even do a lot of outdoor pursuits including hiking, biking, running, or even being in the water kayaking, boating, or doing some popular whale watching which is typical for this time of the year with migrant seals coming down to Mexico from Alaska.
Popular things to do here in Monterey include visiting Fisherman’s Wharf, the Monterey Aquarium, Cannery Row, and the historic Old town of Monterey.
You can do so many wonderful coastal walks from all around the city to the outskirts where it connects to the 17-mile drive area of Monterey.
Popular places to also visit close by include the 17-mile drive, Carmel and Mission Carmel, the wineries at Carmel Valley, and a spectacular road trip through Monterey all the way down the coastline to Big Sur.
You’ll enjoy this winter getaway without all the crowds and have a more pleasant and comfortable stay and visit here in Monterey during December.
Contributed by Noel Morata from The Mature Traveler