Unique and not-too-far winter weekend getaways await

This article was published in the Chico Enterprise-Record newspaper on Feb. 10, 2017. 

Chico >> Whoever says the words “winter” and “travel” shouldn’t go together doesn’t know what northern California has to offer for the season.

Here are a few fresh ideas beyond than the beloved but obvious — say, a night at the ice skating rink or a weekend at the ski lodge — to get you off the couch and into adventure mode. Some just require gas money, and if you’re torn over taking a vacation day or two, note that winter travel generally makes for smaller crowds and lower prices.

1. De-stress after the holidays by taking a dip at some hot springs. Maybe even treat yourself to a massage or facial while you’re at it. Bathing suits required.

Feather River Hot Springs, Twain (65 miles)

Located in — you guessed it — the Feather River Canyon, these nearby hot springs have the makings of a delightful day trip from Chico. At least two hours before arriving, call or text Rocki at 1-925-783-2913 for permission as space is limited. They are open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. While you may like to linger, note the campground and cabins on site are closed for the season.

$5 donation requested

Indian Springs, Calistoga (130 miles)

One unique thing about this resort, recently reviewed by the New York Times, is its volcanic ash mud baths.

“Spa attendants immerse you in layers of warm volcanic ash before offering you a mineral water soak, steam, and blanket-wrapped cool down. Perfect for detoxifying and relaxation,” as per the resort’s website. Intrigue, peaked.

Downside: must stay to play, with rooms from $219 per night.

Vichy Springs Resort, Ukiah (140 miles)

This 160-year-old resort has rooms and cottages available. Amenities include mineral baths, a hot soaking pool and 700 acres of private land for walking and hiking.

Day use $33, rooms from $165 per night

2. Drive through a tree. Yes, you read that right. In Mendocino County, there lies an approximately 315-foot long Redwood with an opening allowing cars to drive through, for a small fee. After that, there are plenty of other attractions nearby to fill an itinerary. Make the weekend a Redwoods rendezvous by hitting the Avenue of Giants and Trees of Mystery, featured on the public radio program This American Life.

The Chandelier Tree, Leggett (194 miles)

$5 entrance fee

3. Rent a cabin in the woods. Lake Tahoe was recently ranked fourth for winter vacations in the world, behind Costa Rica, Bora Bora and Kauai, by U.S. News and World Reports. And with Airbnb, it’s easier than ever to find a place to stay. If you really want to get cozy, or just keep it affordable, consider staying in a tiny house. During the day, take advantage of deals on the slopes like Mount Rose’s Ladies’ Day Thursdays offering $30 day passes. Find rentals in Chico at Sports LTD or Hughes Ski Hut.

Lake Tahoe (146 miles)

If Shasta is more your style, bring your skis because the resort opened in mid-December. Looking to really embrace the outdoors? Check out a teepee for rent on Airbnb. Alternatively, book a hotel roomfrom $70 a night or load up a car full of friends and rent out a custom-built log cabin, with the entire place to yourselves. The cabin listing’s maximum occupancy is 10 people, making the stay $44 per person a night. Day passes to the ski resort cost $58 for ages 13-64, $32 for ages 8-12 and 65+ and $13 for seven and under.

Mount Shasta (132 miles)

4. Go ice skating — on a lake. This would not fall under the descriptor of “unusual” in the Midwest, but here, yes. As weather conditions can change quickly, we don’t want to recommend a single lake but rather, for adventurers to check out this Facebook page, where Lake Tahoe and Truckee locals share the scoop on top skating spots. Sticking to ice that is at least four inches thick is the general rule of thumb. Beyond taking heed of signage and locals’ accounts, skaters should also take precautions of checking the ice thickness, avoiding areas with cracks or running water and bringing a buddy and basic rescue gear.

Truckee (130 miles)

5. Not a fan of flurries? Snow problem. Head to the Bay for a weekend in the city. Winter weather can provide photographers the chance to capture moody cityscape shots. On a rainy day, keep dry and explore a museum or two like the Museum of Modern Art, which reopened just this summer after expansive renovations. Adult tickets for the MoMA range from $19-$25 and children can go for free. Book online first to ensure a spot.

San Francisco (204 miles)

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