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25 Holiday Getaway Ideas for Every Climate

Our favorite travel destinations for escaping the cold—or embracing it


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Faena Hotel, Miami

Bikinis or parkas? Ski goggles or sunglasses? Whether you welcome chilly temps or would rather worship the sun, we’ve rounded up 25 trips for every travel persuasion, from tropical vacations and sunny cities to skiing the slopes and ice-skating by skyscrapers. Either way, the forecast is calling for major fun this winter.

 

Escape the Cold

Moana Surfrider, Oahu

Oahu

It’s a special year to visit the Hawaiian island. December marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and tributes abound, including a December 5 screening of From Here to Eternity on Waikiki Beach and a Remembrance Day Commemoration on December 7. Elsewhere on the island, retail and dining complex International Market Place recently debuted a makeover that includes Hawaii’s first Saks Fifth Avenue and new eateries, like StripSteak, from Michelin-starred chef Michael Mina. One of the most iconic places to rest your head is the Moana Surfrider, which celebrates its 115th anniversary this year. Their new keiki (children’s) tea party doles out sandwiches, pizza, candy, and more to enjoy with tea and an ocean view. Fancy something more aquatic? Watch the pros hang ten during the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, which runs through December 20 on the North Shore.

Miami

The flight may be cross-country, but it’s worth it for Miami’s clear waters, cool hotels, and thriving art scene. Set in the historic Saxony building, the year-old Faena Hotel Miami Beach has been decked out by Moulin Rouge! director Baz Luhrmann and costume designer Catherine Martin. The visuals are lush art deco, with velvet, blue tiles, and grand everything. Perks include personalized butlers, a beach club on 100,000 square feet of white sand, and a cabaret-style theater. In Miami proper, head to Wynwood Walls, a set of outdoor graffiti murals that have helped revitalize Miami’s warehouse district. For dinner, the Miami outpost of award-winning Uruguay restaurant Quinto La Huella focuses on grilled meats.

Oaxaca

Thanks to the year-old Cross Border Xpress—a series of escalators and walkways that feeds travelers from the U.S. border directly into the Tijuana airport for $16—it’s never been easier to fly within Mexico. From TJ, fly nonstop to the southern city of Oaxaca, famous for colonial charm, friendly locals, and vital contributions to Mexican cuisine, like mole and mezcal. There are also outstanding museums, the ancient ruins of Monte Albán, and plenty of cooking classes. Local boutique owner Elexia de la Parra of Casa Artelexia often hosts tours through the region.

Andaz Scottsdale

Scottsdale

The new 23-acre Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa offers views of Camelback Mountain, mid-century-inspired furnishings, and classes taught by local artisans in photography, painting, and pottery. You can book spa treatments in outdoor rooms, and when you need to rev it up again, grab a glass of their nitro coffee on tap. You may need it for some of Scottsdale’s outdoor pursuits. Get the full scope of the city’s sherbet skies and sun-buttered landscapes with an off-roading adventure. Pink Adventure Tours traverses rocky terrain, while Green Zebra Adventures lets you do the driving yourself. If you like your excursions less adrenaline-pumping, visit the new OdySea Aquarium, which promises 300 different species of aquatic life, floor-to-ceiling windows, and underwater tunnels.

Napa Valley

Notoriously pricey and crowded in peak season, Napa in the winter means a more low-key sip. Temps fluctuate between the 50s and 70s, making it an ideal climate—and prime weather for cabernet. New pours include Sinegal Estate Winery in Saint Helena and Liana Estates in Carneros. In January, Napa hosts the sixth annual Truffle Festival, where you can learn about and feast on the decadent treat. New on the hotel scene is Las Alcobas, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Napa Valley, a luxury resort whose flagship launched in Mexico City and includes touches like market bags crafted in Mexico.

Big Island

The lava-rock-strewn Big Island is big on adventure. In the Kailua-Kona area, Holualoa Inn has joined forces with the island’s top outdoor activity specialists for itineraries that range from swimming with manta rays to zip-lining above rain forests. North in Waimea, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is an embarrassment of Hawaiian riches that includes turquoise waters, tropical birds, and snorkeling off the sand. The hotel also just reintroduced their children’s program, in which kids can hunt for shells, hike ancient trails, and visit lava tubes.

Orange County

The new Paséa Hotel promises a cool, contemporary experience, embracing the city’s surf spirit with an ocean view in nearly every room, a Bali-inspired spa, and a lobby art installation made of flip-flops. The surf vibe is equally strong at Laguna Beach House, a 36-room property that posts daily surf conditions and is walkable to Heisler Park and the Laguna Art Museum.

Las Vegas

Just when you thought it wasn’t possible, Vegas gets even more extravagant. Juggernaut culinary festival Ultimo returns to The Venetian December 9–11, with three days of curated experiences, including cuisine from big-name chefs like Thomas Keller, as well as a Rolls-Royce driving experience, Dom Pérignon picnic, hot air balloon ride over Red Rock Canyon, and a Louis Vuitton fashion show. If you want to take it down a few decibels, choose from 40 draft beers at Pub 365, which also serves modern bar fare, like poutine and a brisket rubbed with Stumptown Coffee.

San Francisco

Museum lovers will go gaga for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which reopened this spring after a three-year renovation. Beyond exhibits, the impressive exterior is a masterpiece in itself, like a giant glacier. Just across the street, the Samovar Tea Lounge holds intricate tea services from around the world, with a second-story patio view of Yerba Buena Gardens and the skyline beyond. For holiday shopping, head to Fillmore Street, where well-known brands like Aesop mingle alongside local favorites like the old-school Browser Books. With easy access to public transportation, the centrally located Hotel Vitale, just across from more shopping in the Ferry Building, will make it easy to jet around town.

Esperanza Resort, Cabo San Lucas

Los Cabos

Esperanza is known for luxury, and now the resort has introduced a personal poolside margarita butler, who can customize cocktails with six marg flavors and three salt garnishes. And that’s on top of an award-winning spa, highly ranked golf courses, and secluded beaches. Or drive an hour north to the laid-back town of Todos Santos, where the upscale yet still relatively affordable Rancho Pescadero resort inhabits a two-mile stretch of beach. Activities and amenities are hydro-centric, from surf classes and surfboard rentals to beach bags and sarongs to borrow.

Palm Springs

The quiet, luxury B&B Willows Inn, which counts Albert Einstein and Marion Davies among its former guests, serves three-course breakfasts. Stay in the Davies suite and you’ll be treated to a fireplace and charming, extra-large bathroom. For a dose of new, check into Arrive, a 32-room boutique hotel with touches like Linus bicycles and Apple TV. The pool area includes a bocce court, fire pits, and parties that are more refined than ra-ra-rowdy. The nearby La Quinta Resort & Club will be transformed into It’s a Wonderful Life’s Bedford Falls this month, a nod to the film’s screenwriter Frank Capra, who was a frequent guest. Other festive touches include holiday stocking delivery on Christmas.

 

Unique Getaways

Scott Dunn Private Journeys, Himalayas

Around the World

High-end travel agency Scott Dunn opened its first U.S. office in Solana Beach this year and curates trips through destinations as far-flung as India, Patagonia, and Iceland, where you can spy the Northern Lights.

Africa

Beyond adventures on other continents, San Diego-based dive school Ocean Enterprises leads photo safaris through Kenya and Tanzania to see wildebeest migrations, Rwanda where the gorillas roam, and more. Summer months promise ideal weather, but the off-peak (albeit hot) winter months mean fewer crowds.

Antarctica

Mountain Travel Sobek organizes 11-day excursions through the southern polar circle in December, February, and March that includes views of ice formations, pristine wilderness, and educational lectures about the frozen landscape.

Eagle Point, Utah

You can rent an entire ski resort here (price tag: $10,000, or $500 each for 20 people), just under eight hours away by car. Through Eagle Point Resort’s As You Wish program (held Tuesdays through Thursdays), get access to a full day of skiing and riding (lift tickets, rentals, and staff for up to 200 included) for your own party in the Tushar Mountains. No lift lines!

 

Embrace the Cold

Ski Santa Fe

Santa Fe

Calling all mini skiers! The top-ranked resort Ski Santa Fe has a special Chipmunk Corner program that includes a lesson, rentals, lunch, and a kids-only slope with a lift, as well as “Snow Play,” an intro to the sport that involves games in the snow and a movie. You can also venture by sled through Hyde Memorial State Park or use your own two feet on a snowshoeing trek through the Santa Fe forests. A trip here can be as much cultural as sporty, with 14 museums, including the Museum of International Folk Art and 250 art galleries downtown.

Steamboat Springs

New semiweekly Alaska Airlines flights from San Diego to the northwest Colorado town launch December 17, meaning quicker access to their famous “Champagne powder snow.” The region offers some of the best tree skiing in the country, especially the Shadows and Closets runs. The sport gets a different spin in January when the annual Cowboy Downhill event, which pays homage to the city’s ranching roots, features professional rodeo champions skiing and racing. And no trip to the area is complete without a visit to the namesake springs. Just outside Steamboat is Strawberry Park Hot Springs, where you can soothe your tired ski legs in 104-degree mineral water and book massages, too.

The Peninsula Chicago

Chicago

Don’t let its Windy City nickname dissuade you. Chicago is magical during the winter—just remember to wear plenty of layers. You can ice-skate at Millennium Park, shop through the German-inspired open-air Christkindlmarket, brunch at the charming, chandelier-strewn 3 Arts Club, and hop on carnival rides at Navy Pier’s Winter WonderFest. For an opulent experience, check into the newly renovated Peninsula Chicago, with tablet-controlled technology in each room and a Sky Rink open through March 5, where you can attempt your best axel with skyscrapers in the background. The six rooms at Longman & Eagle—which houses a tavern on its lower level—make for a more low-key, hipster-cool experience.

Sedona

The earthy Arizona locale may conjure images of toasty desert landscapes, but it turns chilly (and even gets some snowfall) in the winter. Make your headquarters the ritzy, log-cabin-style L’Auberge de Sedona, set on the banks of Oak Creek, with views of the iconic red rock mountains. There you can make your own body scrubs at the spa and dine at their excellent on-site restaurant, Cress, which offers an indulgent six-course tasting menu. Around town, Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village is the perfect place to pick up handmade gifts and stop for a coffee. The Hike House is ground zero for all the information and guided treks you’ll need, and make sure to end your trip with one of Sedona’s famed prickly pear margaritas.

Seattle

Pioneer Square has been revitalized in the past few years, with a stable of fine restaurants and bars including the intimate, aptly named Damn the Weather, where menu staples include crispy chicken skins and cider. From there, make your way to the Seattle Art Museum and Seattle Aquarium, where you can meet and take your photo with “Diving Santa.” Then it’s just a hop and skip to Pike Place Market. Yes, it’s touristy, but it also has discreet options, like the elegant Pink Door. And this year marks the 20th anniversary of Fairmont Olympic Hotel’s Teddy Bear Suite, open through December 26. All donations from visiting the bear-y cute room benefit Seattle Children’s Hospital.

St. Regis Aspen Resort

Aspen

The St. Regis Aspen Resort is full-on holiday fun, from snowman-making kits to a gingerbread house turndown amenity on December 24. You can also om in the snow during mountaintop yoga. Held at 11,212 feet on the sundeck of Aspen Snowmass restaurant, the class is geared toward skiers and snowboarders. New this year are full moon dinners (December 14, January 12, February 11, and March 12) at Cliffhouse restaurant—but you’ll have to work for your meal. Diners hike or use special equipment to ski up the moonlit mountain, sip on hot chocolate and choose from the à la carte menu, then ski or hike back down.

Providence

The Rhode Island capital just an hour from Boston is an unassuming culinary hot spot. Topping the list is Oberlin restaurant, a seafood-focused wine bar dubbed one of Bon Appetit ’s best new restaurants this year. Make sure to also try The Dorrance, which boasts a pro cocktail list. You can walk off the calories at the RISD Museum, affiliated with the city’s world-class design school. New this month is the Intermission exhibit, with European paintings from the 12th to 19th centuries. A few blocks from RISD is The Dean Hotel, a 52-room property with a beer garden and karaoke lounge, a cozy place to belt out holiday tunes.

New York City

In a city so famous for its holiday happenings, we suggest keeping home base away from the Midtown crowds. Try the Ludlow Hotel, a boutique property in the Lower East Side neighborhood. Explore the Whitney Museum, which moved from Madison Avenue to the Meatpacking District last year. From there, grab lunch (and a taste of home) at nearby food emporium Chelsea Market, where a San Diego native has opened the Baja-style taco shop Los Mariscos. Then make sure to hit the holiday hot spots, including the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, the holiday spectacular at Radio City Music Hall, and the holiday-themed window displays at Bergdorf Goodman.

Denver

The Mile High City has more than 4,000 acres of parks and parkways, and wintertime means cross-country skiing, sledding, and snowshoeing, much of it framed by a Rocky Mountain backdrop. The Denver Botanic Gardens should also top your list, particularly for the twinkly Blossoms of Light display this month and the orchid show in January. The recently opened Halcyon hotel has plenty of chic perks, like Vespas to rent, local coffee, beer, and snacks, and a location near some of the city’s best shopping, like Hazel & Dewey for stylish kitchenware and The Wizard’s Chest toy store.

Heavenly Resort, Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

Heavenly Mountain Resort offers 4,800 acres of slopes, and this year the resort will be reimagined as a winter wonderland with lights, carolers, and more. For a foodie getaway, Northstar California Resort has a mountaintop culinary series, where guests are chauffeured via gondola midway up the mountain, then transported by a sleigh (with blankets in tow) up nearly 8,000 feet for a menu of California-sourced ingredients with proceeds benefiting the nonprofit Tahoe Food Hub. Look for the dinners on January 13, February 24, and March 17.

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