San Diego or Las Vegas to Anaheim?

stacyjoy75

Earning My Ears
Joined
Apr 23, 2014
Hello!

We are planning a trip to California 12/31-1/6. Most of those days will be spent at Disneyland, but were looking for some other things to do in the area. One possibility is flying into San Diego and exploring some beaches and possibly the zoo then on to Anaheim and flying back from LAX. Another option is flying into Las Vegas and visiting Death Valley and other things along the way. We are looking for something away from the crowds - hoping for something in nature - kayaking? hiking? snow tubing? mountains? I love the beach as well! My kids have never visited a beach aside from Galveston- murky water and tons of seaweed. My daughter looked at some pics of the Socal beaches and said it looked pretty but there were too many people. It is so strange to me that you can go from sunny San Diego beaches to snowy mountains in less than a couple of hours. I cannot wrap my head around that! My kids are 12 and 14. Also, we have a really nice zoo in Fort Worth so I don't know that the SD Zoo would be worth our time. I am sure it is nice, but there are so many other things to do. Any thoughts would be appreciated!
 

DLgal

DIS Veteran
Joined
Feb 12, 2013
That time of year isn't really conducive to water sports or the beach. I mean, you can certainly visit the beach, but it will be cold. It might be rainy (last December it rained for 3 weeks straight). There may be snow in the mountains, there may not be. It's highly variable. There are less sunny beach days in December/January than cloudy, gloomy ones.

Hiking is always an option, and there are plenty of hiking opportunities right in Orange County. Most are quite easy and very scenic. You can easily get to them from the Anaheim area. I live just south of Disneyland and am not into hiking, but have several friends who go on hikes every weekend and they are always somewhere different. Many of the hikers are through foothills and have amazing ocean views from the top.

Big Bear is also an option. You can go snow tubing, skiing, or snowboarding there and its only about 90 minutes from Anaheim. As long as there isn't an active storm, you can easily drive up in a regular car. Mountain High is another local ski resort, albeit smaller than Big Bear.

I wouldn't recommend Las Vegas/Death Valley with kids those ages. It is just a barren wasteland, really. It's not very interesting visually. A lot of people like Joshua Tree national park, but you pretty much have to camp out there. Desert landscapes are not my thing, so I don't understand the appeal, but if it's something that appeals to you, I think it is a better option than Death Valley. It's about 2 hours from Anaheim.

Another thing you may be interested is whale watching. December through April is peak whale watching season for grey whales. You will see a ton of them if you take a whale watching cruise. There are numerous companies offering them in Orange County. The ones in Newport Beach and Dana Point are especially popular.
 

stacyjoy75

Earning My Ears
Joined
Apr 23, 2014
That time of year isn't really conducive to water sports or the beach. I mean, you can certainly visit the beach, but it will be cold. It might be rainy (last December it rained for 3 weeks straight). There may be snow in the mountains, there may not be. It's highly variable. There are less sunny beach days in December/January than cloudy, gloomy ones.

Hiking is always an option, and there are plenty of hiking opportunities right in Orange County. Most are quite easy and very scenic. You can easily get to them from the Anaheim area. I live just south of Disneyland and am not into hiking, but have several friends who go on hikes every weekend and they are always somewhere different. Many of the hikers are through foothills and have amazing ocean views from the top.

Big Bear is also an option. You can go snow tubing, skiing, or snowboarding there and its only about 90 minutes from Anaheim. As long as there isn't an active storm, you can easily drive up in a regular car. Mountain High is another local ski resort, albeit smaller than Big Bear.

I wouldn't recommend Las Vegas/Death Valley with kids those ages. It is just a barren wasteland, really. It's not very interesting visually. A lot of people like Joshua Tree national park, but you pretty much have to camp out there. Desert landscapes are not my thing, so I don't understand the appeal, but if it's something that appeals to you, I think it is a better option than Death Valley. It's about 2 hours from Anaheim.

Another thing you may be interested is whale watching. December through April is peak whale watching season for grey whales. You will see a ton of them if you take a whale watching cruise. There are numerous companies offering them in Orange County. The ones in Newport Beach and Dana Point are especially popular.
That is great info! Thank you! I love your description of Death Valley, lol. That is what I thought when I first looked at it, but seems to be enjoyed by many so I thought maybe it's something you just have to see in person. Another reason for my interest in Death Valley would be to see the stars at night - if it's not cloudy. I don't think my kids have ever seen the Milky Way. I will look into Mountain High and Big Bear, and the whale watching. Maybe we can find another place to stargaze.
 
  • StageTek

    It's kind of fun to do the impossible.
    Joined
    Apr 20, 2007
    Flying into LV on the 31st is crazy. NYE there is the opposite of low crowds. Getting a car might be quite difficult. But if you can get one and “get-out-of-Dodge” NYE in the dessert will be beautiful. Where are you thinking of staying on the 31st? There are some great places to stay close to Death Valley but they may be booked for NYE already.

    I think this would be a great option IF you can book a room and rent a car.

    If the SD zoo isn't a priority I suggest skipping SD. There are some great beaches in the LA area. Fly into LAX and spend the 1st heading down the coast. It will be less crowded that day than later on - locals are staying at home and most visitors are there for the Rose Parade and the big game.
     

    stacyjoy75

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Apr 23, 2014
    Flying into LV on the 31st is crazy. NYE there is the opposite of low crowds. Getting a car might be quite difficult. But if you can get one and “get-out-of-Dodge” NYE in the dessert will be beautiful. Where are you thinking of staying on the 31st? There are some great places to stay close to Death Valley but they may be booked for NYE already.

    I think this would be a great option IF you can book a room and rent a car.

    If the SD zoo isn't a priority I suggest skipping SD. There are some great beaches in the LA area. Fly into LAX and spend the 1st heading down the coast. It will be less crowded that day than later on - locals are staying at home and most visitors are there for the Rose Parade and the big game.
    Yes, if we flew into Las Vegas, we would get out of there as soon as possible. There are still flights left and it looks like there is some availability around Furnace Creek - but not a lot, so I would need to decide quickly. I will have to see about car availability. Thank you for the info!
     

    Lumpy1106

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jul 2, 2010
    I hate Vegas - don't do it! Especially not anytime near NYE. It's a 4 hour drive to So Cal from there and the scenery is uninspiring to say the least.
    How about Palm Springs? It's a 2-hour drive from So Cal and absolutely gorgeous in the winter. Joshua Tree is 25 miles from there. You might even see snow if you head up the Aerial Tramway. Be forewarned; I and my family have had altitude sickness symptoms every time we have gone up there. Symptoms go away as soon as you come back down though.
     

    Purrkins

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 16, 2012
    I hate Vegas and live in San Diego but actually you might be interested in Red Rocks in Las Vegas. Red Rock Resort is off the Strip and a lovely spa/hotel/casino and it is also near some wonderful hiking at Red Rock Canyon. It's truly a magical place and never crowded. When my friends drag me to Vegas I make them agree to a day hiking there. Then I usually just read by the pool, eat a fancy meal, and see a show before I get out of there. San Diego might be cold and rainy. It might be beautiful. But the water will be COLD.
     
  • cruisehopeful

    Wishing I was taking a nap on a ship.
    Joined
    Oct 25, 2015
    Since schools are out at that time, everything will be very busy. We have millions of people living in southern California and we'll have lots more coming to visit at that time.

    I recommend doing as much as you can close to Anaheim such as local beaches (the water will be too cold to go in the water). Crystal Cove State Park is a nice beach and has tide pools.

    You can drive a couple hours to Big Bear, but there's no guarantee that there will be snow that time of year.

    I like the suggestion of going to Palm Springs and taking the aerial tramway up. You may have snow up there. It's a drastic contrast to the desert area. There are lots of nice places to go for a hike near there. Joshua Tree National Park is nice as well as Coachella Valley Preserve (1000 palms) https://coachellavalleypreserve.org/

    The San Diego Zoo is amazing, but it is very busy and crowded. It may have extended night hours during that time. Normally it closes as soon as the sun goes down.

    That's something else to keep in mind - daylight hours will be very short at that time. If you spend a lot of time driving somewhere, you might not be able to see it if you get there after 5pm. We've made that mistake many times.
     

    oakleycat

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 19, 2017
    I agree with staying away from Las Vegas around NYE as it's absolutely packed and miserable, and the car rental and flight prices are probably inflated. The Palm Springs suggestion is a good one. It's beautiful out there in the winter and you could get in your desert stargazing and hiking. I would also pick Joshua Tree over Death Valley. For the beach, visit one while you're in Anaheim as it will be very cold and you probably won't want to stay long. Corona del Mar is beautiful and has interesting tide pools which will give you more to do without getting in the water, or got to Newport or Huntington if you want the big beach experience with lots of shops and restaurants. For the mountains, I'm not a big fan of the ski resorts in December as we don't usually have real snow yet and the man-made gets really icy, especially at Mountain High. But it all depends on the weather and hopefully this will be a good snow season! Snow Summit in Big Bear is my favorite when we take our boys (10 & 13) and we like staying a night or two in Big Bear Village. There are some cute cabin resorts up there and some good restaurants.
     


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