By Laurie Jo Miller Farr
In dire need of a vacation? Pick from a wide variety of unbelievable landscapes and unforgettable experiences across the USA, even during the winter months. Valentine’s Day offers a great excuse for a getaway—should you need one. Naturally, outdoor sports enthusiasts have plenty of options in the wintertime. For those seeking places where sunglasses are more likely to be required than snow tires, consider these suggestions.
Fat Tuesday Fun in New Orleans, LA
Anytime is a great time for Nola-style cocktails and dining in The Big Easy, with its fusion of French, Cajun, Creole and jazz culture. Temperatures can be downright balmy around Mardi Gras Day, celebrated on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. Colorful parades with floats along St. Charles Avenue begin in January and continue daily in earnest during the two weeks prior.
Surf and Turf in Destin, FL
Snowbirds who prefer to build sandcastles in the white sand over shoveling snowdrifts in the driveway know that Florida beaches are the answer. Bring along your sandals, swimsuits, golf clubs and a hearty appetite to get the fullest measure out of a Gulf of Mexico resort such as Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, where the classic Seagar’s Steakhouse provides the turf. Sunsets are especially vivid over the water along Florida’s western coastline.
Perfect Powder in Park City, UT
When you want blue sky days and consistently good snow combined with a quick airport transfer, Park City delivers. Mother Nature’s perfect arrangement of the Great Salt Lake and Wasatch Mountain range surrounded by high desert pretty much guarantees an average of 320 powdery inches for the extra long ski season. The 19th century silver mining town is home to the Sundance Film Festival and three ski resorts within five miles of Main Street, lined with dozens of bars and restaurants. And a dip in the hot tub under the stars is de rigeur.
Whale Watching in Lahaina, HI
Carve out your own little slice of heaven for an activity-laden getaway to Ka’anapali Beach, one of the best on Maui. Lahaina, the historic former royal capital, has traditional Hawaiian luaus; surf lessons; snorkeling; tours on horseback; two championship golf courses; Haleakala Crater, the world’s largest dormant volcano; and exceptional humpback whale watching at the height of the season in mid-winter. Hugging the coastline with 600 curves and 59 bridges, Hana Highway is one of the world’s most scenic drives.
Architectural Eye Candy in Charleston, SC
One of the best things about seeing Charleston’s Historic District from a horse-drawn carriage is the unhurried pace that forces folks to slow down and take a closer, longer look at Charleston’s charm. Some of the city’s best looking garden treasures are tucked away behind pretty wrought iron gates. Don’t miss the architectural eye candy of Rainbow Row, a string of well-preserved authentic Georgian homes; the historic City Market; and the cherished 17th century antebellum plantations.
Kayak With the Kids in San Diego, CA
The locals consider temperate winter months in the 60s and 70s to be off-season, so hotel rates reflect their lowest tariffs of the year. In addition to the San Diego Zoo, Legoland, San Diego Air & Space Museum, Museum of Man, USS Midway Museum, Knotts Berry Farm, Birch Aquarium at Scripps and SeaWorld, kids love kayaking in La Jolla Cove, beside the sea lions lazing in the sun. Great weather year-round is a signature San Diego treat.
Blown Away in Seattle, WA
Ten minutes’ walk from the Seattle Great Wheel and beside the first Starbucks, Pike Market is expanding on the historic waterfront, where a vibrant apple cider and beer scene rages and extends into neighborhoods like Capital Hill. You’ll be surprised by the Pioneer Square Underground Tour and impressed by the artistic beauty at Chihuly Garden and Glass, under the Space Needle at the terminus of the 1962 World’s Fair monorail. On display, the indoor/outdoor collection of the world-acclaimed local artist Dale Chihuly, master of free blown and sculptural glass.
Mid-Century Modern in Scottsdale, AZ
The Cactus League is major league baseball, spring training style, under the warm Arizona sun where fans can get closer to their favorite players in smaller scale ballparks. In a beloved tradition since 1947, Scottsdale is home to the San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks, for a total of 15 teams training in the metro Phoenix area. Underscore the mid-century modern Americana vibes lazing poolside at the retro Downtown Scottsdale’s Hotel Valley Ho, marking its 60th anniversary with special deals; don’t miss the views from the rooftop beer garden.
Secret Season in New York City, NY
New York, New York…so nice they named it twice. Step into a winter wonderland Currier & Ives landscape in Central Park. Across the street, The Sherry-Netherland Hotel on Fifth Avenue is TripAdvisor’s No. 1 hotel in 2016. They drop their rates and call winter “the secret season” for 20 reasons. New York City insiders know it’s the best time for exploring the town without the crowds. From snagging hard-to-get Broadway show tickets to carving out your twirling space on the ice rink in Rockefeller Center, winter in The Big Apple deserves a second look.
Spectator Tennis in Palm Springs, CA
Reliably warm and sunny winter days are abundant in this beautiful desert oasis, established as the official playground of Hollywood celebrities from the 1930s through the 1960s. This winter, some of the celebrities—including Roger Federer, who has it on his schedule—are carrying tennis rackets. The BNP Paribas Open, a two-week tennis tournament in Indian Wells on March 6-19, 2017, is the largest tournament in the world after the four Grand Slams, played in the world’s second largest tennis stadium.