When the less-daylight blues and postholiday slump threaten to start winter on a sour note, a winter vacation may be the perfect salve. Whether you are seeking out snowy-white sights, are eager to escape frigid weather, or simply wish to explore a new setting this winter, here are six treasured destinations to consider.
Palm Springs, CA
Do you need some sun this winter? The charming desert resort town of Palm Springs, California, could be your ticket out of the cold. This midcentury-modern desert paradise, a longtime favorite of Hollywood celebrities, welcomes architectural fanatics and fashion aficionados alike. Palm Springs’ hot climate and dramatic desert aesthetic are rife with spas and luxury hotels. It’s also a wonderful shopping destination thanks to antique stores, holistic medicine shops, and thriving plant nurseries.
Book local activities in advance, like the Modern Tour, where you can see the ritzy vacation homes that belonged to the likes of Elvis and Elizabeth Taylor. Then explore this town’s vibrant nightlife, which includes nightclubs and lounges with desert views. Of course, the desert nights can be cold, especially in the winter, but those venturing to town from snowy climates could easily shrug off the desert air as relatively crisp. If you’re craving outdoorsy adventures, explore the foothills of nearby Mount San Jacinto or make a short drive to Joshua Tree National Park, a quirky wilderness of unusual trees.
In the heart of the Rocky Mountains sits Durango, Colorado, a picturesque Old West town that’s certainly more laid-back and approachable than other Colorado ski resort towns like Aspen and Vail. Its 1800s Main Street architecture feels like a glimpse of the past, while ancestral sites of the Pueblo people in nearby Mesa Verde National Park have helped the park be honored as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If the thrill of skiing has motivated your winter trip, the daring Purgatory Resort offers year-round sports activities. In contrast, if you’d prefer to gaze at the mountains from the safety of a comfortable cabin, consider riding Durango’s steam-engine locomotive, the Cascade Canyon Winter Train. This unbelievable tour climbs up the San Juan Mountains, offering expansive views of forests, valleys, peaks, and the Animas River.
Santa Fe, NM
An ancient and vibrant city, Santa Fe seamlessly bridges Pueblo, Mexican, Spanish, and Old West American cultures into a melting pot of excellent cuisine and rich art. Stay cozy indoors at local attractions like the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, which hosts one of the largest collections of this esteemed artist’s work, and the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, which features ongoing work by today’s Native artists in unexpected styles. Be sure to shop for handmade crafts like turquoise jewelry, rugs, and pottery made by local artisans in the Santa Fe Marketplace.
For skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and other winter sports, head just over an hour north to the resort village of Angel Fire, where Pueblo influences and an active arts scene accentuate crisp mountain views. If you’d like to try your hand at a different kind of thrill, stop by one of the local casinos like Buffalo Thunder resort.
Those in pursuit of fine art activities need to look no further than Chicago. This world-class city is home to spectacular architecture like the Willis Tower—which broke records as the world’s tallest building when erected—and the iconic Chicago Theatre. The Field Museum features a façade as impressive as its educational and inspiring exhibits. Even nearby Soldier Field, which you can tour, is well-appointed!
Chicago also offers numerous breweries, Michelin-star restaurants, and coffee shops with outstanding views. Other must-sees include the legendary artwork inside the Art Institute of Chicago, which displays famous paintings such as Grant Wood’s American Gothic.
Pocono Mountains, PA
A favorite of many northeasterners, the Pocono Mountains region—often referred to as “the Poconos”—isn’t necessarily one destination but rather a constellation of quaint towns among forested mountains. There are countless lodges, cabins, and small hotels to visit, as well as large resorts with warm winter amenities like spas.
Enjoy hikes or snowshoeing along some of the 150 lakes and several waterfalls throughout the Pocono Mountain region, or try one of the 155-plus ski trails that range from peaceful to exhilarating. You can even go snow tubing if you prefer low-stakes winter fun for young travelers. The Poconos are a must for adventurous travelers who want to experience a variety of winter sports throughout a breathtaking mountain range.
Less than an hour from our neighbor to the north, Burlington is a small city of big opportunities. Its charming, red-bricked downtown hosts breweries and boutique shops aplenty, and the Church Street Marketplace is the perfect avenue for a winter stroll.
Learn about Burlington’s rich history of snowboarding at the Burton factory, and then take to the slopes at the nearby Bolton Valley Resort. Burlington also happens to be the home of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. Be sure to visit and relax in a warm, heated parlor and enjoy their beloved flavors.