Picking a winter vacation spot usually goes a little something like: find warm climate to escape the freezing hellhole you're currently in, book, done. But that shortsightedness can wreak havoc not only on your bank account, but on your sense of adventure, too. LIVE A LITTLE. Here, some great escapes you've been overlooking.
Cape Cod may be seen as a summer destination (for good reason), but the Cape is a great getaway for wintertime. Not only will you score deals and avoid the congested shore, but you'll be able to enjoy picturesque views and plenty of activities—including hiking and museums (like the Cape Cod Museum of Art, Provincetown's art museum, or the Nantucket Whaling Museum—yes, that same one that Emily Gilmore finds so amazing in the Gilmore Girls revival…). You can go antiquing, have a brew (and take a tour) at Cape Cod Beer, and enjoy a delicious meal in downtown Chatham where a Christmas Tree is on display.
Recommended hotel: Chatham Bars Inn. Have dinner at STARS, explore the resort's 8-acre farm, and relax at the Chatham Bars Inn Spa.
The tiny European country may have a reputation as being a seaside getaway, but the mild temps (50 degrees even in the coldest months) and its proximity to the Alps make it the perfect winter destination—especially since that's when it's cheapest to go. The city features an Olympic-sized skating rink overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, an International Circus Festival (in January), and The Feast of Sainte-Dévote (January 27th), a celebration honoring the Patron Saint of the Principality. With sights like the Prince's Palace, the Monte-Carlo Casino, and the Ballet des Monte-Carlo, it's the perfect place to get away from it all.
Recommended hotel: The Hôtel Métropole Monte-Carlo. The celeb favorite features luxury packages that showcase Monaco in the wintertime, including (among others) a Grace Kelly tour, a sleigh adventure (yes, led by a pack of dogs), or a Golden Eye Experience (like James Bond—in the daytime, you'll get a private tour of the Monte-Carlo Casino, a ride in an Aston Martin to a helicopter ride, and a driving tour of the French Riviera. In the evening, you'll receive a massage, a vodka martini, and a dinner with chips for a night at the Casino).
I've mentioned how beautiful Santa Barbara is in the summertime/early fall, but it's also amazing when the temps drop. This year marks the 64th anniversary of the Annual Downtown Santa Barbara Parade on December 2, which is themed "Holiday Under the Sea" and will feature Co-Grand Marshals Cody and Caleb Walker, in commemoration of the late Paul Walker. December also features a Parade of Light and in January, the Winter Wine Classic will take place. Check out the wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley, go glamping at El Capitan Canyon, or even go surfing. Santa Barbara is perfect for it all—yes, even in the winter.
Recommended hotel: The Belmond El Encanto. The sprawling "rooms" (AKA little houses) have their own entrances and porches and fireplaces, making them your home away from home. Have breakfast in The Dining Room, or head to the myriad restaurants downtown or by the shore. The Lark is a must.
You certainly won't be alone in the wintertime in this New Mexico city, as in-the-know tourists who love to ski flock to the Cristo Mountains. Farolitos (small candles) decorate the town, and you can pop into art galleries along Canyon Road, relax at a day spa, or get a drink and din at Geronimo or The Ranch House.
Recommended hotel: Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado. The casita-style accommodations are perfect for a holiday retreat and feature indoor fireplaces where you can relax, with a fireplace butler to build the fires. (NBD.) There's even a special package that features a two-night stay (or more) with complimentary two one-day lift tickets. If you're there on December 23, Terra Restaurant & Bar will host an Ice Bear featuring a DJ and drinks, with live ice sculpting.
Forgo the crazy summer prices for a winter trip to the French Riviera's mild climate. Colorful Christmas lights abound, and markets are set up near the harbor and Old Town. There are plenty of attractions and museums to visit—you can even take a boat to Ile Ste. Marguerite, where you can visit the prison cell where The Man in the Iron Mask was held. Too grim? In February, you can scoot over to Nice, where the Nice Carnival celebration takes place.
The quaint New England town features an adorable (and totally walkable) downtown which gets gussied up for the holidays as part of the "Bristol Christmas Festival." Take a tour of the Blitheworld Mansion, which features glittering gardens transformed into a winter wonderland. Explore the Herreshoff Marine Museum and the Musée Patamécanique—a creative, museum-like experience—if you can get in.
Recommended hotel: Bristol Harbor Inn. The hotel features great rates in the wintertime, with views overlooking the Bristol Harbor and Narragansett Bay. Want something a bit more cozy? Book a room at the Bristol House Bed & Breakfast, where you can sip on Autumn Glow Punch at night and eat a delish breakfast in the a.m.
Image courtesy climate combat/flickr
In case you're just *dreaming* of a tropical escape, head to Saba. Unlike a lot of flashier/more well-known islands, this one is laid back while still featuring a ton of amenities and offerings to keep you (and whomever you're with) entertained. From villas with views to hiking original stone paths in the rainforest to the top of Mt. Scenery to diving in pristine ocean water, there's something for everyone to love.
Recommended hotel: Spy Glass Villa. The two-bedroom home features panoramic ocean scenery. Looking for something a little more hotel-like? Try Juliana's Hotel, which features a pool and restaurant on-site.