Since we live in a city where our shorts and flip flops are never more than an arms length away, the idea of snow for our perpetually tan kiddos may be as perplexing to them as figuring out how Santa fits his belly down the chimney. Take a trip outside the city to introduce your California tots to the real thing that other none SoCal kids call snow and then return home to the sunshine after those two pairs of wool socks have been soaked through. We’ve rounded up a few places where you can experience everything from man-made fun to the real deal. Now, if only you knew where you stashed those mittens and beanies…

Tips: Make sure to check weather and traffic conditions before rushing up to snow in the mountains. Bring a fully-charged cell phone and plenty of snacks for the road, just in case you’re not the only one with the grand idea. For those of you snow-bound in the city, bring a change of clothes for the kids. Finishing the day at an amusement park with the kids soaking wet and cold is challenging, to say the least.

Palomar Mountain
Home to Palomar Mountain State Park and the Palomar Observatory (where 5 California Institute of Technology’s telescopes are used for astronomical monitoring), the Palomar Mountains include peaks ranging from 3000-6000 feet above sea level. The Cleveland National Forest surrounds Palomar Mountain State park so note that if you decide to stop and play in the snow along the way or park in certain areas, you may also need to purchase an Adventure Pass.

Mount Laguna
At just over 6000 feet above sea level and 55 miles east of downtown San Diego, this is one of the most popular places to see winter snow. If you’re eager to cross-country ski, build snowmen, sled or make snow angels, make sure to take a few precautions before you speed up the mountain.

If the urge strikes to stop along the way, you must pull completely off the road, avoid private property and purchase an Adventure Pass online or at a local vendor for $5 before you go. If there is snow, chains are required and you’ll need to purchase them before your trek up the mountain. The highway patrol sets up check points, that also tend to slow traffic, and you may find yourself in hot water if they catch you without chains. The Laguna Mountain Lodge has reasonably-priced accommodations, a Visitor Center and Adventure Passes for sale.

Julian
Located at a slightly lower elevation, if there’s snow here, there’s snow elsewhere too. Julian’s popularity as a day trip and apple mecca, along with a variety of one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants to enjoy, make this one of the first places locals head to build a snowman if nature provides the opportunity. Read our tips regarding what to do in Julian with kids before you go.

San Diego Zoo
It’s no blizzard, but during the holiday celebration at the San Diego Zoo called Jungle Bells, snow flurries fall at the zoo entrance daily at 5:00pm. The Jungle Bells activities run from December 16 – January 6 and include visits with Santa, decorations and other special events.

SeaWorld San Diego
SnowWorld returns to SeaWorld’s Artic Plaza featuring 6000 square feet of fresh snow daily. Kids ages 5-12 are welcome to sled but beware—no snowball throwing allowed! Kids ages 2 and under play in the toddler area and the artic foxes will make special appearances.

LEGOLAND California
Through December 31, use real snow to build a snowman at LEGOLAND with awesome LEGO accessories for his eyes, nose and more at Holiday Snow Days. See the world’s largest LEGO Christmas tree, enjoy holiday entertainment, and take a picture in front of LEGO Santa.

Coronado
Hard to believe it snows in an area famous for beach resorts. Well, it doesn’t, but we can bring it in. Snow Mountain at the Coronado Ferry Landing will have real snow during the 38th Annual Coronado Christmas Parade and Open House on December 7 from 3:00pm-8:00pm.

Itching to check out the snow this year? Where will you be taking your family for a little wintertime fun? 

— Katie Dillon

Boy at Palomar Mountain photo credit: Flickr, Mr Phil Price
Girl in snow photo credit: Flickr, Extra Zebra
Holiday Snow Days photo courtesy of LEGOLAND