We’ve all been there: the Christmas and New Year holidays are over and you crave a winter escape to break up the monotony of the following months. If you live somewhere in the US with a cold climate, you might dream of going somewhere warm. Or maybe you want to hit the ski slopes while you can. Perhaps you even want to plan a trip around a specific event. There are several vacation options to be had, and here we give some ideas for where to go, both in the United States and around the world.
Winter Escape Destinations in the US
1. Florida Keys
While much of the country is in the grip of winter weather, the Keys normally see temperatures in the 70s. That means you can get some winter sun while going somewhere that is perhaps less jammed with tourists than other places in Florida. It is easy to rent a car in Miami and drive for two hours on the stunning highway over the sea that leads you to Key West. Basically, you can come here to relax and get rid of your pale winter skin.
2. Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota
The cold weather doesn’t stop the hardy Midwestern residents of the Twin Cities from enjoying the great outdoors. Skiing, curling, ice skating, and other outdoor winter activities are popular and might make you feel like you are in a Scandinavian country. There’s even a festival at the end of January and beginning of February dedicated to celebrating all that winter has to offer, the Great Northern Festival, that includes a sledding park, snow sculptures, fireworks, and outdoor concerts.
3. Park City, Utah
This famous winter sports haven is just east of Salt Lake City in the Wasatch Range. This is where parts of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics took place in 2002, and as you would imagine, has some world-class skiing, snowboarding and winter sports opportunities. Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort are some popular options for some snow sports. But if you aren’t into skiing you can also check out the Olympic Park and enjoy the quaint downtown of Park City.
4. New Orleans, Louisiana
Avoid the sweltering heat of New Orleans by visiting in the winter months. You get the bonus of the weather being more tolerable and the tourist areas and popular restaurants being less jammed with people. And if you time your visit right, you can take part in the famous Mardi Gras celebration that kicks off after the Epiphany and ends on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. If you plan to go, be sure to book everything far in advance. And don’t forget to pack shoes comfortable enough to spectate the parades and other festivities!
5. Death Valley National Park
As you might notice by the name, the weather in this park in California and Nevada is not exactly pleasant for much of the year. In fact, it’s the hottest, driest, and lowest national park in the US, wither summer temperatures regularly going well over 100 degrees. However, in winter the temperatures are in the 60s and 70s and you can go hiking here comfortably and enjoy the beauty the park has to offer. Amidst the desert landscape is Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America. Visit the sand dunes at Mesquite Flats and feel like you’re in the Middle East.
Winter Escape’s Elsewhere in the World
It might seem counter-intuitive to go to Iceland in the winter, but there are a couple of reasons you should make the trip. The Northern Lights can only be seen in the winter and this Scandinavian island country is a popular destination to see them. You will have to travel north from Reykjavik for the best viewing opportunities, and the lights are only visible if the conditions are right, but there are other things to do in Iceland. The outdoor natural thermal baths like the Blue Lagoon are also a draw, especially in the winter.
7. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The flight is long, but worth it for some winter sun and the once-in-a-lifetime experience of going to Brazilian Carnival in Rio, the largest one in the world. The celebration lasts for the week leading up to Ash Wednesday and involves parades with elaborate costumes and music. Different celebrations take place throughout Brazil, so if you don’t want to deal with the crowds in Rio you can still catch a glimpse of the festivities. Winter in the US is summer in Brazil, so be prepared for some hot weather. Luckily, you can take to the beach like the locals do to cool down.
8. Vancouver, Canada
Head north to Vancouver to take in all that the diverse coastal city has to offer. Not only is it on the water, but the city is surrounded by mountains, making it ideal for winter sports. You can drive north of the city to Whistler where the snow sports portion of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics took place. There is, of course, great skiing and snowboarding to be found here and you can also take in the scenery on the drive. Vancouver has the largest Asian population in Canada, and thus, you will be able to find Chinese New Year celebrations here in late January or February.
No matter where you go in Vietnam in the winter, it’s likely to be warmer than where you live in the US. However, the northern part including cities like Hanoi and Hoi An will require a warm waterproof jacket. A reason to come here in the cooler months is both to avoid the stifling heat in the southern cities like Ho Chi Minh city, but also for the Tết celebration. This is the most important holiday of the year in Vietnam and you will find parades, special food, and other events. If you have the time, it’s also worth taking a short flight from Ho Chi Minh City to the island of Phu Quoc for some winter sun on the beach.
10. Tulum, Mexico
People come here in the winter for some sun and to embrace the eco-focused culture. As Tulum is on the coast of the Caribbean Sea, yes there are beaches nearby, but you can also see the ruins of an ancient Mayan port city. If you go a bit down the coast, you can visit a protected jungle reserve where there are boat tours and you can go on a hike along the pathways. The pace is slower here than in nearby beach locales like Cancun and Playa del Carmen. If you are looking for some relative peace and quiet while relaxing on the beach, Tulum is a nice winter destination.