All the Places to Play in Snow Near (and in!) LA

Thanks to all this rain we’ve been experiencing down here near the seashore, our mountains are officially snow-blanketed! And because we live in LA, you can pack snowballs with mitten-covered hands and be back in your flip-flops before bedtime. We’ve gathered up a few of the best spots to make snow angels and hit the slopes (some even right here in town!) with your snow bunnies, all within an easy drive of LA. Scroll down for our frosty favorites.

SkyPark at Santa’s Village

You don’t have to leave the country to pay a visit to the North Pole, in fact, you don’t even have to leave Southern California. Just outside of Lake Arrowhead you’ll find a winter wonderland where Santa and plenty of fun in the snow await. If your idea of a snow day is more than skiing and sledding, then this is the place to be. Besides the snow itself, your kids will be filled with winter wonder over the twinkling beauty of the village and, of course, the big man himself, Santa.

And if you need a break from stomping around in the snow, there is also ice skating, a train ride, rock climbing and plenty of yuletide-themed festivities. Day passes are $45 for adults ($39 if you pay for them online and in advance); kids 4-12 are $30 ($24 online, in advance). Kids 3 and under and adults 75 and over are free, in case you want to bring the grandparents along too.

“Cool” Tip: Plan to spend at least a couple hours here, there is that much to do! And don't forget to check out their events calendar before your arrival to catch any extra fun activities.

28950 Highway 18
Online: skyparksantasvillage.com


photo: Snow Valley Mountain Resort

Snow Valley Mountain Resort

About 30 minutes closer to LA than Big Bear, the Snow Valley Children’s Learning Center and Snow Play area gives Angelenos a chance to experience a true winter wonderland all season long. The Children’s Learning Center offers ski and snowboarding lessons to kids (ages 4–12). With small class sizes and lots of individual attention to develop skills, your kids will have a fun experience that will begin their love for all things alpine. There’s also a Snow Play area where tots can sled the day away to their heart’s content.

“Cool” Tip: Ski or ride all day for free on your birthday! Check out the Family Fun Pack bundle which covers the cost of two adults and two kids (age 7-12) for $149 (available online via advanced purchase); kids 6 and under are free with a paid adult.

35100 California 18
Running Springs
Online: snow-valley.com

photo: Shahrzad Warkentin

Kidspace Children's Museum

It’ll be snowing at Kidspace for the annual Snow Days event! Kiddos can pull out hats, gloves and scarves to play in real snow, make snow angels and snowmen, learn how snow is formed in nature, and enjoy traditional winter crafts. Truckloads of real snow will be delivered fresh and clean, so come ready to play. There are loads of winter activities for those that need to warm up fingertips and tootsies. Admission is $13, and includes most activities. Snow Days are Wed., Dec. 26-30.

“Cool” Tip: Make a whole day of it and check out the Rose Parade floats as they get their final touches Dec. 28-31 in the parking lot outside of Kidspace. Tickets are required for entry. Find more infomation here.

480 North Arroyo Blvd.
Online: kidspacemuseum.org

Mammoth Mountain

Mammoth Mountain prides itself in being an uber kiddo-friendly resort. Woolly’s Tube Park and Snow Play area is always a huge hit with young snow-seekers. Tots can enjoy six groomed tube lanes, go sledding, build snowmen, throw snowballs at specially designated targets and ride Woolly’s Tube Rotundo (merry-go-round).

If you’re in town over a weekend, be sure to check out Woolly’s Saturday Parade that features live music, dancing and face painting. If your little shredders prefer to hit the slopes for some ski and snowboard festivities, then June Mountain’s your best bet as kids 12 and under ski free all season long. For an apres-ski bite, we highly recommend Campo in The Village. Kids will dig the scrumptious Italian fare, toasty outdoor fireplace and games. Ticket’s to Woolly’s start at $34 for kids 12 and under and $39 for adults.

“Cool” Tip: Take a scenic gondola ride, where you get sweeping snow views, snow play, a visit to the Eleven53 Interpretive Center and some lunch at the top.

10001 Minaret Rd.
Mammoth Lakes
Online: mammothmountain.com

Angeles Crest Highway

If you don’t have more of an end game than “want to show my SoCal kids snow,” possibly for the first time, and don’t want to spend big bucks on lift tickets, then a drive up the Angeles Crest Highway might be perfect for you. Along highway 2, just north of La Canada, you can usually find snow in the winter. While you can find snow at many spots, (and more snow the higher into the mountains you go), if you want to program your GPS, look for Eagles Roost Picnic Site. There you’ll find parking (for $5) and potties (albeit rustic ones) and picnic tables where you can enjoy your thermos of hot chocolate.

“Cool” Tip: Check the Angeles Crest Facebook page, where people may post pictures about the snow conditions, before you go

Angeles Crest Highway (Hwy. 2)
Online: fs.usda.gov/recarea/angeles

Mountain High Resort

If you want to hit the slopes and be back by dinner then Mountain High Resort, at just an hour’s drive from LA, is the perfect spot for a quick snow day. Mountain High’s acclaimed Children’s Academy is located at the West Resort and offers ski and snowboard lessons to tots as young as 4, while even smaller tykes (ages 1–3) can get schooled with the aid of a virtual snow simulator that helps them learn to stand without falling, stop (always important) and turn. If tubing’s more your family’s thing, head to the North Resort to check out the North Pole Tubing Park featuring 10 tubing lanes, two moving carpets and custom tubes.

“Cool” Tip: Set your alarm clock to leave early and get there when the mountain or park opens so you can avoid lines with the kids and so that the snow is fresh, not icy.

24510 State Highway 2
Online: mthigh.com

photo: Winter Fest OC

Winter Fest OC

Beginning Dec. 20 through Jan. 6, SoCal's largest winter experience, Winter Fest OC, located at the Orange County Fair & Event Center, opens it's fourth year with the always exciting ice tubing down a 150 foot, eight lane slide at Snowflake Summit. Of course to get into the real snow, hit up Penny's Snow Play for the largest snow play attraction in SoCal that's been divided into two areas—one dedicated especially to toddlers. 

This year there is so much more to explore once you have had your powder and ice-skating fill. Check out SoCal Dicken's Village, an 1800s version of the holiday season with storytelling, visits with the Clauses (through Christmas Eve), pony rides and Victorian shopping. Also new is the Candy and Snowflake Wonderland (a totally Instagrammable spot), and the Festival of Lights (a 100-foot-tunnel of two million lights and animated displays) with optional trackless train ride.

"Cool" Tip: Fast Pass wristbands are available for Snowflake Summit, starting at only $10 to skip the general admission line.

88 Fair Dr.
Costa Mesa
Online: winterfestoc.com

photo: Shahrzad Warkentin

Discovery Cube

Discovery Cube hosts their Winter Wonderfest from mid Dec. through the first week of Jan. Sure, kids can learn the science behind sledding down ice ramps, weather and how snow is formed, but the real draw for the kids is sliding down a 75-foot long ramp on inner tubes, the snow play area and real snow sledding. There’s enough snow to build snow castles and snowmen and make snow angels. Oh yeah, and all that learning stuff the parents like, too. Tickets to the Cube, which includes admission to this and all their exhibits, is just $12.95 per person when you order tickets online. Kids under 3 are free.

“Cool” Tip: Plan to check out  The Science of Gingerbread exhibit that begins Nov. 23 and is filled with hands-on kitchen science experiments, kitchen tools, recipe science, Santa, decorating (and devouring) holiday cookies and even creating a cookie car to race in a Gingerbread Derby.

Discovery Cube LA
11800 Foothill Blvd.
Los Angeles
Online: discoverycube.org

SnowDrift Snow Tubing Park

As Southern California’s largest and oldest snow tubing park, SnowDrift in the San Bernardino National Forest, is the perfect place to take littles for a day of fast and furious frosty play in the fresh mountain air. Kids of all ages race down powdery slopes on snow tubes specially designed for speed and safety. There are beginning, intermediate and advanced slopes, so your babes are bound to find one where they feel comfortable. After your ride, pop over to the on-site refreshment stand which offers cocoa, hot dogs, candy, soda and other splurge-worthy delights. Entrance is $17 per person per hour, kids 36” tall or under are free.

“Cool” Tip: SnowDrift takes cash only, so come prepared! And it's open depending on the weather, so be sure to call before you go.

P.O. Box 252
Running Springs
Online: snowdrift.net

photo: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

From the desert in Palm Springs to snow in 12 minutes flat—not too shabby for a quick winter getaway. Leave the snow chains at home, load up the kiddos and hop aboard the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for a breathtaking (and rotating) ride to the snow-capped peak of Mount San Jacinto. Once you reach the top, tykes can go sledding (be sure to bring your own), have snowball fights and build snowmen. You can also rent cross-country skis and snowshoes for further explorations for the older kids.

If all that snow play works up an appetite, be sure to check out Peaks Restaurant, Pines Cafe or Lookout Lodge for some delish nibbles and a cozy cup of hot chocolate. (Psssst! Mom and dad can grab a cocktail here, too. You’re welcome.) Read more about making this trip, in our guide to taking the tram.

“Cool” Tip: Check the website before heading out, as the tram closes early on select days over the holiday for private events. And if your family is full of adventurers (with warm blood), look into the snow camping that’s available here some winters.

1 Tramway Rd.
Palm Springs
Online: pstramway.com

photo: Big Bear Snow Play

Big Bear Lake

Winter in Big Bear is pint-sized paradise in every sense of the word. Whether your tots are avid skiers, newbie snowboarders or just want to go tubing for the day, Big Bear’s got you covered. For mini shredders, Bear Mountain provides the largest beginner's and terrain-based program in SoCal, offering kiddos (ages 3–6) the ultimate opportunity to board in a fun and safe environment.

If you’re into tubing, swing by the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain and Big Bear Snow Play for hours of icy fun. Each facility offers a Magic Carpet conveyor belt ride to the top, eliminating the huffing and puffing of lugging your tube (and inevitably your kids’ tubes) up the hill. Spending the weekend in the area? Check out our guide to big family fun in Big Bear.

“Cool” Tip: Kids 4 and under ski free with an adult and everyone can ski for free on their birthday at Big Bear Mountain.

Bear Mountain
43101 Goldmine Dr.
Big Bear Lake
Online: bearmountain.com, alpineslidebigbear.com and bigbearsnowplay.com

Snow Day LA

Here’s how you can really stay right in town! This seasonal, “snow park” is just a few miles from Downtown Los Angeles. Spread across nine acres and just a snowball’s throw from Dodger’s Stadium, the first thing you’ll see when you walk up the snaking dirt road into the park is snow. Ok, this isn’t real snow falling in small swirls, it’s bubbles from small blowers perched above. There’s also not real snow on the tube hill, which is made of PowderPak.

But there is real snow in the snowball area, and at dusk, these swirls of white stuff look like the real thing, and kids will love standing in the middle of the snowfall feeling the “snowflakes” melt on their skin. And for that taste of the real, cold, wet stuff you can hit the snowball area for a good old-fashioned snowball fight. Or just to get a chance to wear your mittens in the heart of the city. Snow Day LA is open on weekends beginning Nov. 9 through December 30. Tickets start at $12.

“Cool” Tip: Snow Day LA sells out every year (the first weekend is already sold out) so if you are planning to go, get your tickets ASAP.

The Old Lodge (Montecillo De Leo Politi)
Stadium Way & Scott Ave.
Elysian Park
Online: snowlosangeles.com

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–Jennifer O’Brien, Shahrzad Warkentin & Andie Huber


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