Wednesday, December 3, 2014

12 ways winter in Southern California is the best

We might not have the traditional winter landscape depicted on holiday cards, but here in the land of Hollywood, we can fake it with the best of them. Add our fab climate and our unique cultural blend and you’ve got 12 reasons why Southern California is the real winter wonderland:

1 Ice skate under the summerlike sunshine: Baby, it’s warm outside. That’s perfect ice skating weather at SoCal’s seasonal outdoor skating rinks. Ice skate amid high-rises in Pershing Square in Downtown Los Angeles. $9 through Jan. 19. Also downtown is L.A. Kings Holiday Ice at L.A. Live, where you can have visions of Rockefeller Center as you skate under the glow of a giant Christmas tree and flashing LED screens. $8-$15 through Dec. 31. In Long Beach, the Queen Mary has Chill, an attraction complete with ice skating and tubing, through Jan. 11. $29.99-$39.99. And there’s plenty of other rinks in surrounding areas as well.

We might not have the traditional winter landscape depicted on holiday cards, but here in the land of Hollywood, we can fake it with the best of them.

2 Awards season: In Hollywood, winter is synonymous with “Awards Season.” Celebrate it by getting a close-up look at what the stars wore onscreen when FIDM Museum & Galleries at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising presents the 23rd annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design Exhibition, Feb. 10 through April 25. On display will be wardrobe from Academy Award-nominated films in addition to pieces worn in “The Great Gatsby,” designed by Catherine Martin, the previous year’s costume design winner. Admission is free. Things will really crank up after Oscar nominations are announced in the wee hours of Jan. 15, culminating with the official end of Awards Season — the Oscars broadcast, with host Neil Patrick Harris, on Feb. 22.

We might not have the traditional winter landscape depicted on holiday cards, but here in the land of Hollywood, we can fake it with the best of them. 2

3 Whale watching: In winter, the California coastline turns into a freeway for about 22,000 gray whales migrating south to Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Most travel within about a couple miles of the shore, making them fairly easy to spot from land, but whale watching tours are the best way to get an up close look. Several tour companies leave daily from Long Beach and the South Bay. Try Harbor Breeze, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium or Spirit Cruises.

4 Up close with Rose floats: Watching Rose Parade floats on TV is for Midwesterners. Southern Californians can get up close to the amazing floral engineering masterpieces. It takes hundreds of volunteers to build those beauties the week before the parade. Volunteer at or through the Tournament of Roses website. Or, spend a couple of hours viewing the floats after the parade when they are parked along Sierra Madre and Washington boulevards in Pasadena. Hours are from 1 to 5 p.m. Jan. 1; and from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Jan. 2-3 for seniors and disabled visitors, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for general admission. Tickets are $10. Children 5 and under are free. For more information, call 626-795-4171.

We might not have the traditional winter landscape depicted on holiday cards, but here in the land of Hollywood, we can fake it with the best of them. 3

5 ‘Deck the hulls’: Holiday lights sail by, literally, at the region’s many boat parades at harbors up and down the coast. The first launches in Dana Point at 6 p.m. Dec. 5-6 and Dec. 12-13, then it’s on to L.A. Harbor, 6 p.m. Dec. 6; Long Beach, 5:30 p.m. Dec. 13; Naples, 6 p.m. Dec. 13; Marina del Rey, 6 p.m. Dec. 13; Redondo Beach, 5:30 p.m. Dec. 13; and Newport Beach, 6:30 p.m. Dec. 17-21.

6 Ski and surf in the same day: It really is possible to ski and surf in the same day if you’re willing to invest in a little drive time. In fact, it’s possible to see the beach from the slopes. The closest resort, Wrightwood’s Mountain High, is about a two-hour drive from Los Angeles. Catalina, a quarter-mile run that’s off the beaten path at the top of the East Resort, is one of the most scenic runs in Southern California, according to resort spokesman John McColly. “You can see the Pacific Ocean and Catalina to the west, the backside of Mount Baldy and Mount Baden-Powell to the north and south, and the Mojave Desert stretching out to the east.” If you start early, you’ll have time for a late lunch before paddling out from one of the South Bay beaches that also offer a view of Catalina Island, 22 miles across the sea.

We might not have the traditional winter landscape depicted on holiday cards, but here in the land of Hollywood, we can fake it with the best of them. 4

7 Tamales: The best corn husk-wrapped present of masa can be found at two major Southern California festivals this season. The seventh annual Oxnard Tamale Festival in downtown Oxnard’s Plaza Park is set for 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Dec. 6, while farther east one of the largest celebrations of the Christmastime food will take place in the Coachella Valley with the Indio International Tamale Festival. The festival, which started in 1992, will showcase dozens of varieties of tamales 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in Old Town Indio between Highway 111 and Indio Boulevard. The desert tamale fest has earned two Guinness World Record titles: The World’s Largest Tamale in 1999 for a tamale more than 40 feet long and more than 1 foot in diameter, and The World’s Largest Tamale Festival with 120,000 people in attendance in 2000, according to festival officials.

8 Cheeseburger week: If there is a Southern California cuisine, it’s probably the cheeseburger — the perfect menu item for our laid-back culture. Pasadena claims a burger flipper in its city was the first to slap a piece of cheese on a patty in 1924. In honor of Lionel Sternberger’s innovation, the city will hold its annual Cheeseburger Week from Jan. 11 to 16. Burger joints across the city will offer special creations and deals throughout the week.

9 See’s Candies: Holidays in Southern California bring ubiquitous black-and-white boxes of See’s Candies. The company was founded in Los Angeles in 1921 in a shop on Western Avenue designed to look like the home kitchen of Mary See, the little old lady on the box top. Since then, the headquarters moved to San Francisco and Warren Buffett bought the company, but there are still more than 50 stores in the greater L.A. area offering free samples and nostalgia.

10 Christmas trees amid the palms: Swaying palm trees and majestic Joshua Trees dot the Southern California landscape, but so do live Christmas trees if you know where to look.

There’s something nostalgic about walking into a grove of trees, smelling the richness of Monterey pines and picking one you know has California roots, literally. There are several locations to choose from:

• Chamberlain Choose and Cut Trees, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 3 to 5 p.m. Monday and Friday through Dec. 24. Free to visit. 3436 Padua Ave., Claremont, 909-626-0243,

• Nancy’s Ranch, 10 a.m. to dusk weekdays, 9 a.m. to dusk weekends through Christmas Eve. Free to visit. 25039 W. Magic Mountain Parkway, Santa Clarita. 661-255-6943,

• Christmas Conifers, 10 a.m. to dark Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to dark Saturday and Sunday. Free to visit. 11445 Locust Ave., Bloomington, 909-877-6294,

• Christmas Conifers II, 9 a.m. to dark Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to dark Monday through Friday, extended hours beginning Dec. 5. Free to visit. Intersection of Reche Canyon and Westwood roads, Colton, 909-824-6489,

• Greenspot Farms, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekends. Free to visit. 10133 Ward Way, Mentone. 909-794-7653,

• Frosty’s Forest, noon to 9 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekends. 25235 Orchard Village Road, Valencia. 661-259-6450,

• The Wickered Farm, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Dec. 24. Free to visit. 26852 Scott Road, Menifee, 951-672-3020,

11 Stargazing in the desert: Winter nights are longer and the sky is less hazy, which makes winter the perfect time for geeking out with a telescope. To get away from city lights, head out to the desert. Many local astronomy groups organize desert stargazing parties, or plan your own trip to Mojave National Preserve or Joshua Tree National Park.

12 Flakes at the theme parks: No snow? No problem. Local theme parks re-create the magical effect of lightly falling snow every night for the next several weeks. At Disneyland, a holiday lights and special effects show at Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle ends in fireworks and falling snow nightly through Jan. 6. Legoland offers Holiday Snow Days with snow tubing and play and ice skating through Jan. 4. Knott’s Berry Farm has holiday music and falling snow on Ghost Town’s Main Street and Snoopy’s Merriest Tree Lighting on the Calico Stage daily through Jan. 4. No snow at Universal Studios, but you can interact with the Whos down in Who-ville who like Christmas a lot, as well as the Grinch, who does not, on weekends Dec. 6-14, then daily Dec. 30-Jan. 3.