Love fresh powder? Sugar-white sand beaches? Whether you’re looking to ski down the side of a mountain or surf waves in the sunshine, you’ll find it in this season’s crop of best winter travel destinations.
Oahu, Hawaii, best for: Surfing daredevils, nature, and culture hounds
If you’ve ever wanted to visit Oahu, winter is the time to do it, especially during February, which ushers in some of the biggest waves of the year. Diehards flock to the famous North Shore to catch giant swells that can reach up to 30 feet. If you prefer action of the dry variety, lounge on the shore, watch the pros, and take advantage of the amazing photo opps begging to fill your Instagram feed. Another Oahu winter must-do is a whale watching tour. February is peak time for humpback whale migration, so chances are high you’ll catch a glimpse of these majestic beasts. Other bucket list items include hiking the Diamond Head crater; visiting the world’s largest open-air shopping mall, the Ala Moana Center; and joining a helicopter tour for a bird’s-eye view of the island’s famous hot spots, including Iolani Palace, the only royal palace in America.
Paradise Island, Bahamas, best for: Families and water babies
The unveiling of the newly reimagined Coral towers at the Atlantis resort in Paradise Island, Bahamas, coupled with new next-door neighbor Marina Village, an open-air shopping and dining marketplace, are just two of the newest reasons to visit this Caribbean hot spot. The new Fish restaurant by chef-of-the-moment José Andrés at the Cove, a separate, luxurious resort-within-a-resort concept, is yet another. Don’t forget about Aquaventure, the world’s largest open-air marine habitat, the ten-plus pools, and the four miles of sugar-white sand beaches. With average winter temps between the mid-60s to high 70s, it’s the perfect place to escape the cold.
Salt Lake City, Utah, best for: Winter sports lovers
Known as “Ski City” because of its status as the gateway to “the Greatest Snow On Earth” at four of the U.S.A’s best ski resorts—Alta, Brighton, Snowbird, and Solitude—Salt Lake City welcomes winter sports lovers like no place else. In addition to incredible skiing and snowboarding trails, Utah Olympic Park offers an unforgettable winter bobsled experience that will have you feeling like an Olympian in training. Multiple resorts within minutes of each other accommodate everyone from families to couples seeking a romantic getaway, not to mention those who simply want to ski their face off. For the latter, the super flexy Ski City Super Pass is good at all four Ski City resorts, features no blackout dates, and provides deep discounts on lift tickets. Opt for the direct-to-lift Super Pass to bypass lines and earn free transportation.
Las Vegas, Nevada, best for: Foodies and night owls
With so many new hotels, restaurant, and entertainment offerings, winter is the perfect time to try your luck in Sin City. The former Monte Carlo has been made over and in its place is the freshly minted Park MGM, the newest hotel and casino to debut on the Strip. Inspired by urban parks, the hotel features a giant upside-down tree in the center of the newly redesigned lobby, spacious rooms that feel residential, and a courtyard setting surrounding two pools. The top four floors are home to the NoMad, a luxury hotel-within-a-hotel concept that has its own check-in, elevator, and amenities. Some of the best new dining bets in Las Vegas include the speakeasy-inspired Bavette’s Steakhouse & Bar inside the new Park MGM, the elegant China Tang at the MGM Grand, and Wolfgang Puck’s Spago at the Bellagio, with its picture-perfect views of the famous dancing fountains. Back at the Park MGM, the new Park Theatre debuts electrifying new shows by both Lady Gaga and Britney Spears this winter.
Iceland, best for: Extreme adventurers
Iceland in the winter is simply dreamy, with lower prices, fewer crowds, and temps that aren’t as chilly as you might think (they’re generally comparable to winter in New York City). Plus, there’s no better time than winter to view the aurora borealis, otherwise known as the Northern Lights. This spectacular light show in the sky features various hues of green sprinkled among the stars. Short winter days mean you’ll have an even greater chance of catching the magic. An increasing number of flights in and out of Reykjavík make it easier than ever to visit, but be sure to book your Northern Lights tours before booking your flights and accommodations, as many don’t operate every day of the week during winter.
Orlando, Florida, best for: Families and theme park enthusiasts
Whether you come for the ProBowl in January, the new Toy Story land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or the new Fast & Furious – Supercharged ride at Universal Studios Florida, Orlando is yet another warm-weather destination perfect for winter travel. In fact, the months of January and February are some of the best months to visit. The weather is at its best and the crowds at their thinnest. Be among the first to spend a night at two recent hotel debuts a stone’s throw from the theme parks: Universal’s Aventura hotel and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Resort Orlando. The latter is also home to a 12-acre water park that’s open all year.