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snow
Photograph: Michael Juliano

9 things to do outdoors this winter in L.A.

No snow? No problem. We have plenty of things to do outdoors this winter in Los Angeles to keep you busy.

By Time Out contributors and Michael Juliano
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While the rest of the country starts to lament the post-Christmas freeze, we Angelenos have plenty to look forward to in the winter. A lot of that comes down to our relationship with snow: We have the luxury of seeing it on distant mountaintops—drought years aside—while still savoring warm and sunny weather closer to home. Sure, we have our hardships: It’s cold at night in our barely insulated apartments and the occasional rain shower disrupts traffic and dominates the news. But that’s nothing a warm bowl of ramen or a hot cup of coffee can’t fix. On the whole, there are plenty of terrific things to do in the winter in Los Angeles—especially during this outdoor-driven time in L.A.’s history.

9 things to do outdoors in the winter in L.A.

1. Relax on the beach

Things to do

It might defy East Coast common sense, but winter is the perfect time to go to the beach. Sure, the water temperature is hypothermia-inducing, but it always is, and let’s be honest: You had no plans to get wet anyway. Beach city air temperatures typically flirt with 70 degrees during the winter, which is cold enough to keep tourists away but warm enough to relax with a comfy sweatshirt—that counts as winter wear, right?

Hollywood Bowl overlook
Photograph: Michael Juliano

2. Enjoy the clearest L.A. days on a hike

Things to do

Climb up into the hills before those sweaty summertime days—and crowds—return. And did we mention the views? The best part of the rainy season (other than, you know, not being on fire) has to be the clear skies that showers leave behind. Just make sure to keep in mind the cooler temperatures and fleeting daylight before you set out on your trek.

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Angeles National Forest snow
Photograph: Michael Juliano

3. Play in the snow

Travel

One of the greatest things about winters in Los Angeles? Never scraping ice off of your windshield or slipping on an icy sidewalk. But if you’re pining for snow, leave the comfortable 70s in the L.A. Basin behind and head into the mountains. You don’t need to drive up to Mammoth Mountain and the Sierras to go skiing; both Mountain High and the slopes around Big Bear are within two hours of L.A. Ride the ski lift at Mt. Baldy for a snowy escape within an hour of the city. Or, if you simply want to roll up a few snow balls, follow the Angeles Crest Highway for about 45 minutes—just past Newcombs Ranch—and you’ll typically find plenty of turnouts brushing up against snowy hills.

Mammoth Mountain
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Robson Hatsukami Morgan

4. Go skiing

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If you do want to take a bit of a drive, you’ll find just under a dozen major ski resorts within a day’s drive of L.A. In particular, Snow Valley, Mountain High and the twin slopes of Bear Mountain and Snow Summit are all within a three-hour drive from most parts of L.A.

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terranea, terranea resort, palos verdes
Photograph: Courtesy Terranea Resort

5. Take a staycation

Things to do

It’s easy to take L.A.’s brutally pleasant winters for granted, but let’s look at things from an outsider’s perspective: This would be the perfect vacation spot if you didn’t already live in Los Angeles. So why not take advantage of the city’s assets and check into a scenic hotel for the weekend? Plus, you won’t have to waste wintertime’s dearth of federal holidays on traveling—traffic on the 405 permitting.

Huntington Library
Photograph: Michael Juliano

6. Stop and smell the flowers

Things to do

Pause for a moment and give thanks that our winter colors are a vibrant, grassy green and a range of floral pastels—not brown and white. Los Angeles is a pretty amazing place; stick practically any plant in the ground and it’ll grow almost any time of year. Even though some of us can reach out our windows and pluck an avocado from a tree, a trip to one of L.A.’s many manicured gardens reveals vegetation that simply can’t be found on our city streets.

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Eaton Canyon Falls
Photograph: Victor Leung

7. Hike up to a waterfall

Things to do

Even on the coolest days, you hit up a hiking trail and reach the summit only to find you’re a sweaty mess with the return hike still to go. Well, these hikes have a natural cooldown built in. Just make sure to monitor the weather; waterfall hikes tend to be too dangerous right after it rains, so you’ll want to give it at least a day before attempting to tackle the trail.

And one additional note: Due to their popularity, some waterfall hikes may have their access temporarily limited or closed.

Mission Tiki Drive-In Theatre
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

8. Go to the drive-in

Movies

Alright, this might stretch the definition of the word “outside,” but we’ll allow it right now: The half-dozen or so drive-ins left in L.A. are the perfect way to see a movie that’s someplace other than your own couch. Make sure to look out for pop-up drive-in screenings around the city, too.

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Joshua Tree National Park
Photograph: Michael Juliano

9. Take a day trip

Things to do

Sometimes you just need to escape for a few hours, and luckily we happen to be surrounded by spectacular landscapes and beautiful beaches that are perfect for a quiet afternoon. What better time than the winter; crowds are light and, depending on your destination, you’ll probably spot some snow-capped mountains. Just make sure to bundle up if you’re headed into the desert—the average high temperature in Joshua Tree barely breaks 60.

Looking to get away during the winter?

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Chao Yen

The best road trips from L.A.

Travel

It may seem paradoxical, but of all the wonderful reasons we’re in love with L.A. and all the amazing things there are to do here, one of the best is the freedom to escape at any moment. To hop in the car, crank up some road trip songs and hit the pavement for somewhere new. Whether you’re itching for a spontaneous weekend getaway or have months to plan an extended vacation, we’ve compiled the best road trips for all kinds of adventuring.

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