Traveling during the winter around the holidays isn’t exactly easy. Flight prices increase, every part of your life seems busier than normal, and you’re either planning on spending a lot on gifts or you just recently did exactly that. Still, sometimes you just need a break from the craziness of the holiday season, whether it’s a pre-emptive break or a post-holidays break. In that case, you’ll want to go somewhere that’s relaxing, fun, picturesque, and most importantly, not completely packed with tourists looking for the same thing. There are a few unique holiday trip ideas for when you want to get away from it all that you can choose from.
Of course, one of the most popular kinds of winter destinations is anyplace that is warm. For those of us who struggle through intensely cold weather, snowstorms, icy rain, and gray skies for a few months of the year, all anyone really wants is to escape someplace where the air feels hot. Unfortunately, these places know that, and so they increase their prices during the winter, making it more expensive and probably more crowded. There are a few warmer spots you can head to that will still be awesome, but don’t rule out the spots that don’t boast hot weather: you can still have an incredible vacation, even if you aren’t lounging on the beach.
If you’re looking for ideas, I’ve got a bunch of them below, both within the United States and beyond. Your only problem will be settling on just one!
If you’re looking for gorgeous mountains, an exciting ski lodge, and a place to take tons of Instagram photos, Keystone is it. Keystone is nestled between three different mountains and features tons of activities for those looking for adventure: skiing and snowboarding, sleigh riding, tubing, and more. There’s a charming village to wander through, a beautiful lake to ice skate on, and the Alpenglow Stube, a unique restaurant on a mountain that requires two chairlift rides to get there.
If you’re planning on traveling before Christmas, consider the Greater Williamsburg area in Virginia, where there are tons of fun old-fashioned Christmas traditions to partake in. Busch Gardens Christmas Town features one of the largest light displays in North America, and there are lots of events in towns like Yorktown, Jamestown, and Williamsburg to look into.
3The British Virgin Islands
Need to get away from cold temps? An island in the Caribbean is the way to do it, the British Virgin Islands specifically. This luxurious cluster of tiny islands features stunning beaches, total relaxation, and just so many opportunities to explore. The baths of Virgin Gorda are perfect for Instagram photos, there’s tons of sailing, you can visit all of the tiny islands, and you can snorkel, among so many other things.
A completely different kind of vacation is to Alaska, where you can get an up close and personal look at the spectacular Northern Lights. Need to Chena Hot Springs Resort to get a view of them while sitting in the hot springs. Sure, it’s cold, but Aurora Borealis is frequently spotted, and there are lots of fun snow-related activities, like dog sled rides and flights over the Arctic Circle.
If you live in the Northeast and don’t want to go far, Vermont is an excellent option. The state is full of charming small towns with cute villages, great restaurants, and some nightlife. There are several mountain ski resorts to choose from, but one of the best is Killington, which offers a lot of different trail options and beautiful views from the top, as well as a restaurant on the peak. Killington village has a lot going on with restaurants and bars, or go to neighboring Rutland for a more small-town feel.
6Big Bend National Park, Texas
Up for an adventure? Head to Big Bend National Park in Texas, which sits on the border between the U.S. and Mexico. In the winter, the climate is seasonable, there is almost no rain, and it’s much less crowded than usual. You can hike, do a scenic drive, or just explore the entire area as much as you see fit.
It’s not going to be hot in Portugal, but it will be significantly less crowded than the busier seasons, which is always nice. Porto offers tons of wine cellars for port wine and more, so much history and artwork, lots of museums, a scenic river boat ride, great restaurants, and so much interesting culture. Stay at Selina for an immersive experience.
If you really want a winter experience, you can’t go wrong with Finland. Forget how adorable it looks – there’s so much to do. Reindeer are a popular form of transportation, and you can head to a reindeer farm to feed them and hang out with them. You can also ride a husky sledge or drive snowmobiles through the forest. It’s like being in a winter wonderland snow globe.
Another winter wonderland that probably isn’t the first destination to pop into your head is Bavaria in Germany. There, a German company called Iglu-Dorf allows you to live like an Eskimo. You’ll stay in an igloo that is much cozier than it sounds with a built-in Jacuzzi and an outdoor igloo bar. Bavaria also resembles something out of a fairytale with the Neuschwanstein castle in the Alps and adorable old-school towns like Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Visiting Iceland in the winter means you’re almost guaranteed to get a great view of the Northern Lights – but make sure you can deal with a lot of darkness, as this country doesn’t get much sunlight this time of year. Still, Reykjavik is an amazing city, with picturesque shops, surprisingly delicious food, and beautiful views of the water. You can also explore all day long, seeing things like waterfalls, glaciers, volcanos, and more.
11Quebec City, Canada
If you can handle the snow, then Quebec City is an excellent destination for the wintertime. First of all, it looks like a Christmas village made specifically for a movie about the holiday. Old Quebec has cobblestone streets with delicious restaurants and lots of bars. The city has a very French feel to it, so it seems like you’re super far from the U.S. when you really aren’t, which is nice.
Sure, you could hey to a warmer part of California, like Los Angeles, but you might want to check out the spots that are great for the winter weather. Mammoth is one of them, especially for skiers or snowboarders. You can take gondola excursions, go snowtubing, or head out on a snowmobile ride, and more. There’s a lot to do and see.
13Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe is New Mexico’s capital city, and it’s super interesting to visit. The city center is filled with adobe buildings, cool shops, restaurants with delicious Southwestern food, and tons of history. Oh, and there’s also art everywhere, including the Georgia O’Keefe museum. The desert air gets cool without being overwhelming.
14Death Valley National Park, Nevada and California
In the winter months, the exciting Death Valley National Park offers great temps at 60 and 70 degrees, making it comfortable to explore. There are some truly beautiful sites if you’re willing to hike through the trip, like mountain views, salt flats, sand dunes, and badlands.
15Mohonk Mountain House
If you live in New York and want to stay close while still seeing something magical, check out Mohonk Mountain House. It’s a grand and luxurious lakeside resort with stunning views. It might be cold, but there are tons of fireplaces, there’s ice skating on a huge rink, 30 miles of trails to explore, or an award-winning spa. During the holidays, there are craft workshops, gingerbread house-making, and a Santa photo booth.
16Key West, Florida
Florida is a popular place to go in the winter, making places like Miami increase in price. But the Florida Keys, which are further south and just recovering from hurricane damage, are great for tourists. There’s lots of places to eat, gorgeous beaches and warm waters, relaxing resorts, and Instagrammable opportunities.