[heading] by WYNNE LOVE [/heading]

Warm weather, cool breezes, and mild winters – it’s why we live here.  But that doesn’t mean some of us don’t enjoy a taste of the white stuff once in a while.  If you’re yearning for a little frolic in the snow, these destinations might just give you the fix you need.

Snowy Hikes and a Train, Just a Short Drive Away

It’s about a 2 ½-hour drive to the base of San Jacinto in Idyllwild, but you’re sure to find snow there. The park is open during the renovation of the visitor’s center, as is the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, a smooth gondola ride to the summit. Get the latest trail news at www.parks.ca.gov or on the tramway at www.pstramway.com.

You can find snow-capped peaks just an hour away if you head up to Palomar Mountain, into the hills of Julian, or up Stonewall Peak near Cuyamaca. These are all moderate hikes with a great view at the end. Check them out at www.palomarmountain.com and www.summitpost.org/stonewall-peak/151714.

Little ones might enjoy the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum’s Santa Train North Pole Limited. While there’s no snow in the forecast, the “polar express” train ride leaves from Campo and takes passengers and elf hosts on a trip to the North Pole, where Santa joins them for the return trip. Rides are scheduled for seat. Find out more at sdrm.org/npl.

Snowy Parks, Mere Minutes Away

There are plenty of closer peaks where you might find snow, like Iron Mountain, Mount Woodson, or Cowles Mountain, all close by. But locals say the best place to play in the snow is on Mount Laguna. Call the Mount Laguna Lodge at 619-473-8533 for details, and time your arrival just long enough after a good snowfall that you don’t get turned away due to icy roads. It’s the perfect place for sledding, snowball fights, and a hot chocolate in nearby Pine Valley.

Some local parks create their own modest amounts of snow. Check out LEGOLAND’s Holiday Snow Days and SeaWorld’s SnowWorld, open through December. Closest of all, your own neighborhood park may plan a snow day. The Winter Wonderland event at the Hilltop Park Recreation Center in Rancho Peñasquitos is scheduledfor Saturday, December 1, from 11 a.m – 3 p.m.