Winter may be the most polarizing season. Snow? Some think it’s a plague upon roads and dry skin; others would take building a snowman over a sandcastle any day. Chilly temperatures? Clothing attitudes range from skimpy black skirts (that NYE booze blanket is pretty snug) to floor length parkas (even for those hibernating under the comforter until March rears its wet n’ wild head). Family holidays? Entire art genres have been created out of the mixed feelings those dynamics inspire. The good news is the United States is huge. There are more than enough climate zones and far-flung destinations to accommodate every Scrooge, snow bunny and family dinner flight risk. Get your blood pumping and that winter glow-up (from the sun…or sun-snow glare) at these cities around the country.
West Coast ski junkies have been hitting the Breckenridge slopes since the 60s. The elevation — Breckenridge Resort has the highest slopes in North America — and consistently below-freezing temperatures keep the snowpack ice-free for weeks. In other words: that’s hella fresh powder. If old-school ski resorts are too plebeian for your palette, stay at Gravity Haus Breck, where cosmopolitan amenities include Japanese-inspired onsen soaking tubs. Plus, grab your viking horns and holler in the first snow of the year at Ullr Fest.
Food lovers, get yourselves to Charleston for the seafood-rich cuisines that are Lowcountry and Gullah Geechee, distinctive styles of coastal Southern cooking grown out of African foodways. At Bertha’s Kitchen, spoon up traditional dishes including crab rice and okra stew, and crunch into soul rolls at Gillie’s Seafood on James Island (fried egg rolls stuffed with red rice, collard greens, pulled pork and pimento cheese). Speaking of islands, definitely make the trip to Daufuskie Island, where you can learn more about Gullah heritage and cooking with chef and sixth-generation island native Sallie Ann Robinson.
We’ve all heard one too many Jimmy Buffett songs about drinking in the Florida Keys, but the nature here is as good as the rum runners. Visit 10 native habitat spots along the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, including the Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, where you can scuba and kayak to your heart’s content. Literature lovers should make a stop at the Hemingway House and Museum (his novel, “To Have and Have Not,” is social commentary on Key West during the Great Depression). No visit is complete without sampling the region’s tart delight: Key lime pie, concocted here in the 1930s. (And sure, if you do end up feeling parched, you can slurp up a whole smattering of tropical cocktails across the island’s resorts.)
Hard not to ring in the New Year in the OG party town. EDM freaks can dance all night (and the night after that) at the Forever Midnight music festival, while more laid-back revelers can catch a big-name show at one of the many casinos. Vegas does everything electric 110%, and holiday lights are no exception: Bellagio’s Conservatory displays hundreds of thousands of lights and poinsettias, and the Las Vegas Motor Speedway hosts a ginormous holiday drive-thru light show. High-rollers should stay at The Cosmopolitan, a glitzy resort and casino that oozes futuristic movie set (right before the AI takeover). Don’t get too hungover, though. Save some energy for hiking the Calico Hills and Calico Tank trails in Red Rock Canyon, and start 2024 with some spectacular views of the Mojave Desert’s bluffs and rock formations.
arguably the best time to head to Florida, when the air is warm and the humidity is less-than-hair-frizzing. High-brow art aficionados (and itinerant people-watchers) can check out Art Basel, a surprisingly-affordable world-class art fair where you can view contemporary work from the Latin American and Caribbean diasporas — and catch sight of celebrities. If tie-dye, techno and drum circles are more your vibe, head to Art With Me, the jovial EDM festival held each year at the secluded Virginia Key Beach. Fans of classic beachside luxury should stay at the Fontainebleau, while travelers looking for tranquility amidst the South Beach chaos should cozy up at Kayak, an Art Deco bungalow that our writer described as “a unique place to exhale.” And of course, no visit to Miami is complete without eating Cuban ropa vieja and croquetas.
Let’s retire those buttoned-up Mormon stereotypes, shall we? Salt Lake City is the progressive epicenter of Utah, with vibrant neighborhoods and a blossoming music and arts scene. At the Urban Lounge, you can catch local bands and big-name indie acts almost every night of the week. During the day, feel the thigh burn after skiing all day at Alta Ski Area (no snowboarders allowed) or Park City Mountain Resort. Ravenous after the slopes? Get your fix at Crown Burgers, the pioneer of the pastrami-piled multi-meat behemoth. If you prefer your mountain encounters warm and sedentary, hop aboard the California Zephyr, Amtrak’s glass-sided cross country train, and zip (er, wind slowly) east through awe-inspiring canyons toward the Rockies.
“Happiness is calling,” is San Diego’s motto, and to us, that means two things: fish tacos and beer. Order grilled fish (Mahi Mahi) at The Taco Stand, and squashroom tacos at Lola 55. And while there’s no standard itinerary for San Diego’s 155 breweries, we recommend a starter roster that includes AleSmith, Ballast Point, Escondido Brewing Company, Kairow Brewing Company, Modern Times Beer, Viewpoint Brewing and Stone Brewing. Afterward, swing down to Mission Beach and sink your toes in the sand. Is your favorite vacation pastime loitering in fancy hotel lobbies? Take the ferry to the iconic Hotel Del Coronado, filming location of Marilyn Monroe’s quintessential “Some Like It Hot.”
Santa Fe is artsy as fuck, and has the museums and the studios to prove it. Get lost in iconic sexy abstract florals at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (plan ahead, timed tickets are required), and the art of Native Alaskan parkas at the Museum of International Folk Art. See the work of current artists along Canyon Road, home to more than 80 local galleries and designers. And whatever you do, don’t miss Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return, an interactive sci-fi art adventure where you can crawl through the refrigerator into intergalactic ecofutures. But don’t stay stuck in dimension art forever. Mild winters and high elevation make Santa Fe a great place to ski and hike, including Ski Santa Fe and Bandelier National Monument.
It’s here, in this crunchy, maple-sweet slice of a state that you can and should experience #quintessentialwinter – you know, the pre-global warming wonderland from the Bernstein Bears books you read as a kid. “The Ski Capital of the East,” Stowe has multiple options for downhill and cross-country fanatics. Stowe Mountain Resort’s views and slope diversity make it one of our favorite ski spots in the country. Snowshoe or cross-country ski out of the backdoor of the Austrian-style Trapp Family Lodge (yes, those von Trapps from “The Sound of Music”), stopping to warm up and grab hot cocoa at the Slayton Pasture Cabin. Stay down the road at the Tälta, a stylish take on mid-century mountain lodges. Sickos who enjoy ice cream in cold weather should take the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory Tour and weep for Vermonty Python at the Flavor Graveyard, where you can pay homage to pints no longer produced.