Help Me Get Away for a Quick Winter Break
November 28, 2017 12:47 PM   Subscribe

I, like probably many others, have some PTO to burn! Where can I go for a quick three-day getaway in or near California in December? Specifics/requirements below the cut.

I've got a bunch of PTO to use, and while I'll be using some of it for visiting family and friends and doing some holiday lazing around, I've had a stressful enough year that a quick, relaxing getaway on my own sounds like a great idea. I will have a few days free from Dec. 13-19. Problem is, I have no idea where to go. My limitations are as follows:

-It should be within 4-5 hours driving distance of Los Angeles.
-I'm confident enough about driving on windy and mountainous roads, but not in the snow.
-Would prefer no plane trips, because the airfare will eat up my budget, and this is a short trip. I'd rather spend the money on getting a nicer caliber of hotel or food or whatever.
-No Vegas.
-I'd like to stay in relatively nice accommodations with amenities, but nothing super pricey (like, anything over $200/night is right out), and to be in an area with a great view and/or surrounding natural beauty.
-Someplace not full of a ton of tourists? I work in a pretty touristy area, and I'd really prefer a quieter sort of destination.

The point is to relax someplace quiet, I'm not looking to do anything super active, apart from maybe an easy hike or some wandering around. Somewhere with great stargazing would also be a plus. Specific accommodation recommendations would be especially welcome. I've never gone on a vacation completely on my own before like this, and I have no idea if I can even find a nice place to go for less than $200/night or where I should start looking, and I feel like I'm so spoiled for choice in and around California that I'm feeling some choice paralysis.

posted by yasaman to Travel & Transportation around California (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I would go to Palm Springs and rent a great Airbnb (your budget would be fine with this option). Day trips would include the botanical gardens and a drive out to Joshua Tree for some scenery and mellow hiking.
posted by quince at 12:57 PM on November 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

San Diego is pretty light on tourists in December.

If you can move your dates to be Mon-Fri instead of over a weekend, you'll be able to get nice accommodations at your price point in a lot of places because tourist travel, especially in California, is so weekend-centric.
posted by asphericalcow at 12:59 PM on November 28, 2017

How about not driving and going to Catalina instead? Lots of easy hiking, wandering and great stargazing too.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:59 PM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Joshua Tree. I'd do high desert instead of Palm Springs. Desert Hot Springs hotel has 24 hour access to spring pools for about 110 per night. Lots of interesting sights to see between the park and art installations. Book a sound bath at the integratron.

I don't know the current road conditions in Big Sur but treebones resort in that area should fit your budget - they have yurts and another great pool/hot tub overlooking the ocean scenery.
posted by decathexis at 1:14 PM on November 28, 2017

Looks like Treebones increased their prices significantly since my last stay, and the driving might be tough too. Definitely reccommend the high desert Joshua Tree area though!
posted by decathexis at 1:22 PM on November 28, 2017

I like the suggestions above, but just wanted to ask- do you live in LA? Because I think California law lets you accumulate PTO year to year, afaik, so you shouldn't have to use it all up before the end of the year. Whenever I've left a job here I've been paid out for unused vacation time, which I think works the same way as PTO.
posted by pinochiette at 1:23 PM on November 28, 2017

Quick update: I was indeed hoping to go mid-week!

And yes, I know my PTO/vacation time isn't use it or lose it, I've had it paid out in the past at this job. My boss has suggested I actually use it this year though, since we're in a bit of a lull at the office, plus I'd like to use it for once. We've had such a packed year that I hadn't even realized I hadn't used any of my days.
posted by yasaman at 1:28 PM on November 28, 2017

I love Idyllwild! You can rent a small cabin for around/under $200 a night. It is a *bit* touristy (but a lot less so than Big Bear or Arrowhead), but going mid-week should be less crowded. There's some nice hiking and unlikely to have snow that week.
posted by too bad you're not me at 1:41 PM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

You can definitely find places that fit your criteria all over Hipcamp.
posted by mykescipark at 1:44 PM on November 28, 2017

If you're okay driving another hour and a half, and you like wine, your timing is right for the Winter Wineland event in Sonoma. We did it a few years ago and had a great time. The area will be busier than normal in the winter, but it's not a real big tourist crowd. If you want solitude and stargazing do something like J-Tree, but if you want to drink wine and meet people consider the wine thing. It makes a good combination with SFO/Muir Woods/etc.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:37 PM on November 28, 2017

San Luis Obispo is nice. Wine tasting in the Edna Valley, elephant seals on the beach.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:24 PM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Dec. 13-19... Somewhere with great stargazing would also be a plus.

Keep an eye peeled for the Geminid meteor shower (last year's supermoon washed it out), at its peak 12/13-12/14. Scroll down at this link for dark-sky spots in California -- including Borrego Springs (a dedicated dark-sky community).
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:06 PM on November 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Morro Bay is nice up the coast. Lots of beach areas, motels, hotels are not too expensive. Then you can kick around the mid coast. There are wineries, here and there, Paso Robles. Carpinteria is nice, the Prufrock Inn is a nice B&B can be inexpensive in the off season, quaint always has cookies lying about.
posted by Oyéah at 10:16 PM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Here's another option: Rock Creek Lodge, up by Mammoth general area, has a winter setup where you drive to the end of the ploughed portion of the road, and they bring you into the lodge by snow mobile. It's about a mile or two, no big deal, and fun. Then, you have a little cabin buried in snow, with a nice dining room with family style meals.

Or, this is a great time of year for Death Valley.
posted by bluesky78987 at 5:56 AM on November 29, 2017

I'm going with Joshua Tree, thanks all!

Iris Gambol, I did Borrego Springs earlier this year, actually! I'd have gone again, except the lovely Borrego Valley Inn was just a little too pricey for me on my preferred December dates. In case anyone else is also looking for a staycation/vacation destination though, I will say I highly recommend Borrego Springs and the Borrego Valley Inn especially. So quiet, and just a really gorgeous little inn with two pools and a hot tub, and some gorgeous views.
posted by yasaman at 6:11 PM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

... somewhere with great stargazing would be a plus

I saw Hipcamp mentioned here earlier and thought you might be interested to know that they have a Dark Skies Camping Map which is pretty cool. (You can see a dark skies vector plotted over the U.S.)
posted by mceoin at 3:51 PM on June 22, 2018

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