Winter means something different for everyone. Some people can’t wait to get their skis out and swish down a mountain. Others look forward to snowy cities that are less drenched with tourists in colder months, while others just want to get the heck away from the cold and on the beach, stat. Check out these winter vacation ideas, for every kind of traveler.
Some people really love the winter. Ice lined trees, snowy grounds, and dangling icicles are the idea of heaven for these cold weather fiends. The biggest thing about winter, though, is the sporting brought on from snowfall. Snowshoeing, skiing, skating, sledding, and for those athletic souls, a winter wonderland is the dream vacation.
Canada provides the world’s best winter haven for travelers. Between January and February, take a trip to Ottawa to skate along the Rideau Canal, which is as big as 90 Olympic rinks! Also in February, Ottawa’s weekends include Winterlude, a celebration where you can get hot chocolates, maple taffy, and BeaverTails at vender stands and chalets. Ice sculptures abound, and you can take part in an ice carving competition, too. There’s even an event called the Ice Dragon Boat Festival, in which dragon boats compete as they skate down the canal.
Want to go overseas? You should hit up Japan. The nation is 70 percent mountain terrain with over 500 ski resorts, many of which were part of the Olympics. You can go to hot springs, popular in any winter climate, but in the Nagano Prefecture mountains you find snow monkeys hanging out there, too. They’re pretty cute, but watch out for snowballs. In the village of Shirakawago, farmhouses (“gassho zukuri”) abound as inns for visitors. It’s a magical place, and some days in January and February, the village lights up at night, making a beautiful glowing wonderland.
The Swiss Alps are notorious for their killer ski conditions. Here, you find the longest downhill ski run in Europe. Half-pipes, steep cullies, and more can be found at many of the over 200 ski destinations. Want to get off skis? Winter hiking is popular if you want to take in the natural beauty. Try your hand at nighttime tobogganing or hit up some of the snow playgrounds with the kids.
City Slickers Take Over
Most people do their city travel during the summer, but this is actually a mistake. For one, the month of August basically shuts down for much of the world, so the city you visit is actually full of tourists, instead of locals. Winter time, on the other hand, will have you fully submerged in the true nature of a city. Here are some great metropolises that are fun to visit in the winter.
Get out to London town for a true city vacation. London, while often cloudy, is not like its snow-covered neighbors on the other side of the pond. It doesn’t snow much in the land of royals, which means you may actually find it a relatively mild climate. Visit old pubs, modern art at the Tate, wander along the Thames, check out the Globe for a dose of intellect and history at the same time. The bright pastel homes of the sweet Notting Hill neighborhood will lift your winter spirits.
This side of the Atlantic hosts no prettier winter city than Boston. Full of grand, old, architecture, elegant Boston is a trip back in time. The night comes early in this city of winter, and street lamps glisten against the snow as you hop from foodie restaurants to Irish pubs. You can catch a public lecture, if that’s your fancy, at one of the many prestigious universities in the area, or you can hear the Pops belt out gorgeous carols during the holidays. Take up a trolley tour, or skate on Frog Pond, you can find all kinds of things to do, just make sure you bundle up. It’s cold!
Alas, maybe the cold weather just doesn’t suit you. Consider an excursion to Hong Kong. This tropical city rests in the South China Sea, but most of where you want to go is on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, which is separated by the Victoria Harbour. Here, you can see junk boats passing, and even take a ferry from one side to the other (although there is a metro that is popular). January and February are the best times of year to visit this busy, vertical super city, with temperatures rising to the 60s – albeit a humid 60. In February, you can celebrate the Chinese New Year. Activities around this iconic event include praying in temples for good fortune, shopping at markets where you can find all kinds of food oddities, and wandering around the red lantern-clad city at night.
Hit the Beach
For some, the snow is unbearable. The cold an assault. Winter sports are best left to Olympiads. Warm weather lovers should go to the beach. This more than likely requires some serious travel. But once you get to your destination, all you have to do is soak in that sweet, sweet sun.
The southern hemisphere is going to be your best bet for true summer. Australia’s down under, world class beaches are a long trip away, but boy are they worth it. Dine with the kangaroos under the summer sun. Bondi Beach in Sydney is one of the most famous, and for a good reason. Its proximity to the city makes it a good go-to if you’re looking for something more than just a couple hours in the sand. It’s practical. Or, you could go to the Great Barrier Reef, and find yourself a nice vacation at Lizard Island, which has only one resort (Lizard Island Resort), and though this is far superior to the crowds at Bondi, it’ll cost you. Whitehaven Beach is considered the most beautiful beach in Australia, with turquoise waters that swirl within the super fine sandy shores, silky to the touch, and won’t burn your feet. The sand’s also practically white in color, a magical effect against the gorgeous pale blue water.
Not up for a 20-hour plane ride? Hit up Rio in Brazil. Rio de Janeiro has stunning weather all year round, in fact. So, the beaches are fabulous, but so is the samba music, the food, and the high energy. In February, plan to hit up the Carnival festival. This five-day event has parades, parties, and dancing. Considered the biggest carnival in the world, you would be remiss to avoid this extravaganza. When you’ve had enough, head over the famous Copacabana beach, or the Ipanema beach (and try to get the famous song out of your head!) and soak up the rays.
What are your favorite winter get-aways? Do you have an annual trip you take each winter?