After a long year, the holidays bring us a chance to unwind and spend time with family and loved ones. We acknowledge what we are grateful for, while creating new memories to last a lifetime. In sunny SoCal, winter holidays are not always wintry, but that’s no reason not to create a cozy holiday season for your family. To get you into the mood, we’ve rounded up some family-friendly getaways, restaurants, cafes and interior decorating ideas to help you put the autumn in your fall.
Drive up to San Luis Obispo for a real autumn
If you are looking for a quick getaway just before the winter season, San Luis Obispo (SLO) offers the perfect opportunity to enjoy the fall season, complete with trees draped in those coveted fall-colored leaves. With majestic hiking trails, special fall celebrations across the city and wineries, you can create a bevy of fond autumn memories in SLO.
The Avila Family Barn is a local favorite that provides a family-friendly experience. Try tractor-drawn hayrides, friendly farm animals, homemade jams, baked goods and a pumpkin patch for the ultimate autumn experience. To glimpse stunning fall foliage and breathtaking views on the central coast, SLO also offers numerous hiking trails ranging in complexity. On Thursday evenings, bring the family to the Downtown SLO Farmer’s Market.
Cozy up your home
Decorating your home for the holidays is a great way to bring the family together to create a festive mood. Sharing stories and honoring the memories and traditions of loved ones while decorating celebrates the holiday spirit. Renowned interior designer Jonathan Rachman provides some innovative, fresh tips on how to spruce up your home to create sophisticated yet festive looks for the holidays. The best part is that the little ones can help, too!
- Decorate for fall before winter. For the autumn season, Rachman suggests shopping for pumpkins with the family and painting them to kick off the holidays. “You can grab pumpkins of different colors and paint them festive colors like white, green, silver and gold,” he says. “They can be used as transition decorations and be recycled throughout the rest of the holidays.”
- Make it a family affair. Rachman suggests fun ways to get the family involved in decorating the house. “My husband is from Iowa, and I’m from Indonesia, so for the holidays I look for decorations and activities that highlight the diversity in our household,” he says. Rachman and his children like to decorate by displaying classic holiday books such as “A Christmas Carol.” If you have any holiday books, Rachman suggests scattering them around the home and adding LED lights around them to give a holiday feel. To make it interactive, encourage your children to pick out a book after dinner, cozy up with the family and read together.
- Create foliage mixtures. “Mixing together different types of leaves and branches is a great addition for the home,” Rachman says. “Using fresh, natural plants makes your home smell great, and it’s also a more sustainable option than plastic.” Some of his favorites include aspen leaves, magnolia leaves and branches, olive branches and rosemary. If you have a fireplace, Rachman recommends lighting candles around the fireplace and scattering various leaves and branches around the candles. He also likes to incorporate fresh flowers and bulbs in the household. For the holiday season, purchase hyacinth, amaryllis and (his favorite) narcissus (also known as paper white) bulbs, a type of daffodil. If you like to garden or plant, you can let them naturally grow and have them ready in time for the holiday season. Otherwise, you can purchase them in bulk from your local flower shop.
- Play with patterns, textiles and colors. “One of the easiest ways to spruce up your home: decorative pillows,” Rachman says. “Having seasonal throw pillows really makes your living space stand out.” He suggests looking for throw pillows with deep colors such as rich emeralds, blues, burgundies, as well as silver and gold. For patterned designs, choose everything from snowflakes to aspen trees. “Aspen wood trunks are beautiful and indicate the winter season without being too obvious,” he says. For textures, he recommends using velvet and cashmere blankets and throws. “If you can afford it, splurge on a good cashmere family blanket, and it will last for a long time.”
Head to Snow Valley for a winter adventure
Located in the San Bernardino Mountains, Snow Valley Mountain Resort offers a winter adventure close to home. Rated as Southern California’s No. 1 beginner-friendly resort (and No. 5 regionally) by Liftopia’s Best in Snow Awards, Snow Valley offers a variety of activities for people of all ages and experience.
If you have always wanted to learn how to ski or snowboard, Snow Valley provides lessons for children and adults. For families who wish to opt for sledding or play, the snow play area is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sleds are always included with Snow Valley’s lift tickets. Snow Valley offers night skiing on Fridays and Saturdays, and during peak holiday periods for those with more experience.
For information on pricing and events, visit the resort’s website or call 909-867-2751.
Indulge in warm, wintry treats
While you’re out shopping, don’t forget to support our local businesses and let them help you bring some sweet holiday cheer to your home.
One of my favorite seasonal treats is hot chocolate bombs. These decadent treats have not only taken over social media, they are a fun and easy way to get a delicious cup of hot chocolate without the mess and hassle. Place the chocolate bomb in a mug, pour hot water or milk over it and watch it melt to reveal hot cocoa mix and marshmallows. You can find them in your local grocery store or online. For handcrafted hot cocoa bombs, check out Half Baked Co. in Burbank. Vegan options are also offered. Orders require a 48-hour notice.
Located on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, Café Demitasse is a fun, specialty coffee shop with creative and innovative drinks. Their most famous drink is the lavender hot chocolate. Owner and founder Bobby Roshan best describes the lavender hot chocolate as a thick sipping chocolate with a subtle hint of lavender. Cherry on top: It’s served with a toasted jumbo marshmallow.
If the mere mention of lavender hot chocolate leaves a frown on your child’s face, Café Demitasse also offers a hot chocolate that contains more milk (and no lavender) to appeal to a child’s palate. And there’s no need to fret: This classic version is also served with a jumbo toasted marshmallow. For the sophisticated littles, ask for what the owner calls a “babycino,” a steamed milk and cinnamon drink that aims to resemble a cappuccino but without the caffeine.
Also located on the promenade is Café Demitasse’s new sister café, Kindred Spirit, which opened this year. Kindred Spirit serves unique mocktails that both children and adults can enjoy. Order the kid-friendly Cloud Nine, a mocktail with edible glitter and topped with handspun cotton candy and sprinkles.
By the time you make your rounds crafting up cozy vibes for your family, everyone will be bubbly with holiday cheer.
Simone Quary is an L.A. Parent editorial intern. An L.A. native, she is a senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Communicative Sciences and Disorders at Hampton University.