The end of the year always serves as a wonderful time to visit with loved ones in a calming environment to look around, take stock, and cherish the experiences from the past year while setting your sights on the new dawn right around the corner. So when it comes to the ideal Christmas vacation setting, who says you have to open gifts at home? Thanks to this article from Travel + Leisure that suggests the fifteen most cheerful destinations to spend Christmas this year, it’s never been more tempting to spend the happiest time of year in these winter destinations.
As always, recent COVID-19 surges may have caused new government restrictions, rules, and safety measures to have been set. Because of this, it’s always suggested that those who wish to travel check local guidelines, consult CDC recommendations, and take personal health conditions into account before traveling. This way you’re more prepared to enjoy your trip while remaining as safe and responsible as possible in these unprecedented times.
Highlands, North Carolina
Consider spending your Christmas morning in Appalachian amazement in the charming town of Highlands, North Carolina. This idyllic winter destination, modern-day setting is so humble and quaint that residents and visitors alike compare its environment to a Nancy Meyers film or Lifetime Christmas special. For over a century, Highlands has been suggested to visitors as being the perfect setting for a “break from it all,” as it’s colloquially known as a mountain respite. Located in one of the few temperate rain forests of North America, the mountain resort town is located only ten miles from Cashiers, North Carolina, and is surrounded by the main attraction that is Nantahala National Forest. Spend your Christmas in a mountain cabin on the outskirts of this forest or nestled deep within, either way you’re sure to enjoy your time spent among nature.
Inside the town proper, you’ll find many shops, experiences, and community-laden amenities to keep you entertained in between the holiday’s festivities. Downtown Highlands is often called a “postcard” for just how perfectly situated and pictured its various buildings and features are laid out, such as the historic building that houses a full European-style spa. Other spots nearby that are worth a dedicated visit are the Bridal Veil Falls, located on the Waterfall Byway, the historic High Hampton Resort, and the unforgettable American Museum of Cut and Engraved Glass. No matter where you go in this comfortably charming little hamlet, you’re sure to be delighted by it’s size and attention to detail this holiday season.
For those who were raised on Christmas movies and other similar media, it’s hard to make it through the holiday season with an abundant absence of snow in the background. So, if you’re looking to celebrate a snowy white Christmas, then look no further than the East Coast ski paradise of Stowe, Vermont for your winter destination. Located at the foot of Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield, Stowe is quite literally a winter wonderland that is known not only for its world-renowned trails and ski slopes, but it’s also famous for its accompanying town as well. Once you make your way to Stowe, it’s hard to believe that you’re not literally stepping foot into a snowglobe, as the buildings, trees, and grounds are often blanketed with thick layers of smooth snowfall.
Be sure to spend Christmas in the style of a storybook by reserving a horse-drawn carriage ride for you and your loved ones to see the sprinkled pine trees. Alternatively, take a trip down Main Street for nightly winter activities that are sure to make ever-lasting memories. If you’re in the mood for adventure, you can host your holiday celebrations and then cap it off by planning an unforgettable day on the slopes, or you can simply spend the time quietly around the fire of the Stowe Mountain Ski Resort. No matter the reason, there’s no question that Winter is the perfect season to see all of the wonders that Stowe, Virginia has to offer.
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Wintertime is often viewed as the least appealing season to go out and take on new adventures, but realistically that’s not true at all! Often, our favorite summer hotspots are transformed into white wonderlands, bringing a whole new perspective and round of fun activities to participate in. So grab your jackets and check out which cities you should check out this winter, told by Travel and Leisure!
Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, this city is filled with adventures. Head to the ski slopes for your winter sport or you can hit the hiking trails that are open year-round. You can learn all about Asheville on the downtown Asheville Urban Trail or explore the Biltmore Estate, which was George Vanderbilt’s 250-room chateau. If you’d prefer inside activities to escape the harsh winter winds, wintertime is the perfect time to explore the crowd-less galleries and museums downtown.
The best thing about New York City in the winter? No crowds! You can easily peruse museums, comedy clubs, popular restaurants, and even a few Broadway shows without navigating through boatloads of people. Or rent some skates and try your hand at ice skating!
Make sure to pack your swimsuit because Honolulu is the perfectwinter escape for those who prefer warm weather and plenty of sunshine. Try snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, surfing the waves, or even just relaxing on the beach. If you’re looking for a few things to fill up your itinerary, head to the Polynesian Cultural Center, the Bishop Museum, or Iolani Palace to learn about the island culture
Just a few miles north from Los Angeles International Airport, Venice is a popular California city for its street vendors, canals, and infamous Muscle Beach. You can also dine in one of their excellent restaurants, food trucks, or cafes and then head out on a shopping trip in one of their upscale stores or downplay it in a mom and pop souvenir shop.
Burlington, Vermont’s largest city, is placed on the shore of Lake Champlain in northwestern Vermont, just a few miles from Burlington International Airport. Stowe, Smuggler’s Notch, and Bolton Valley are just a few ski resorts that reside in this city, with slopes designed for beginners and experts. You can rent a room at one of their cozy Bed and Breakfasts and then head downtown to explore their shops, restaurants, live music, and their Church Street Marketplace.
Founded as a fur trading post in 1811, this city is right where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. Only two hours from Portland and three hours from Seattle, the 4.1-mile-long Astoria-Megler Bridge connects Astoria to Washington. Visit downtown to visit their small-town features, like the restored 1925 Liberty Theater or the Flavel House.
The ultimate winter sports lover’s dream, Jackson Hole is filled to the brim with winter activities for its visitors. You can hit the slopes or go ice skating, snowmobiling, back country skiing, and even horse-drawn sleigh rides. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of opportunities to visit Yellowstone National Park in a snowcoach, with access to Old Faithful, bubbling mudpots, and wildlife. Jackson Hole truly is a winter travel spot that should be on everyone’s must do list.
Florida’s southernmost point, the drive to Key West takes newcomers across 42 bridges. With winter temps in the 70s, a booming nightlife, plenty of history and culture to explore, and an ample amount of water sports, this city attracts visitors worldwide. During the day, go snorkeling or diving in the coral reefs and then dry off and head to one of Duval Street’s restaurants for a fresh seafood dinner. Even though its not your typical winter travel spot, consider Key West for a great getaway with a little warmth when you need it most.
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Looking for a way to warm up your winter wonderland? Lots of people choose to forgo icicles and flurries and opt instead for a warm, bikini-clad holiday. If this is you, you’ve found the Holy Grail of travel blogs although this one has some great suggestions as well. Leave the parka at home and get your AC ready! Read on for the best tropical winter escapes and remind Santa to bring his shades when dropping your gifts this year.
Kampot, Cambodia The provincial town of Kampot in southern Cambodia doesn’t look like much at first sight because it is small and sleepy with unpaved streets and run down buildings, but Kampot’s sleepiness is part of its charm. Traffic is light and it’s easy to get around on foot, bicycle or motorbike. Life is slow and unrushed, with hot afternoons meant for lounging in hammocks or swimming. The riverside location is at the foot of the Elephant Mountains and is a huge part of Kampot’s attraction. The river attracts everyone (both tourists and locals) at sunset for strolls. Just outside town you can swim and kayak from one of the riverside guest houses. Known throughout Cambodia as the coveted weekend getaway destination, Kampot is a much needed reprieve from the chaos of Phnom Penh. Try out one of the eco resorts like Ganesha and Eden Eco Village that line the river while secret lakes and waterfalls abound for early morning canoeing and swimming. Rent a moto and take a drive up the winding roads of Bokor Mountain or over to La Plantation’s organic pepper farm and sample some of the world’s best.
Do you like waterfalls, scuba diving, mountains and untouched rainforests? Who doesn’t? This second largest central American country is for you. It has colonial villages (Gracias, Comayagua), ancient Maya ruins (Copan), natural parks (Moskitia), a Pacific and Caribbean coastline, and the Bay Islands. These all offer great beaches and coral reefs where snorkelling and diving are exceptional by any standard. The country is bordered by Guatemala to the northwest, El Salvador to the south and Nicaragua to the southeast. The Lodge at Pico Bonito lies in the middle of the gorgeous Pico Bonito National Park, putting some of the world’s most dazzling natural environments at your doorstep.
Mexico City is, and has always been, the center of Mexico in terms of population, events, politics and fun. Though it has a riddled past, these days the city is cleaning up its act. Revamped public spaces are springing back to life, the culinary scene is exploding and a cultural renaissance is flourishing. On top of all that, by somehow managing to distance itself from the drug war, the nation’s capital remains a safe haven of sorts. In the past few years, the ancient city has enjoyed a vibrant resurgence thanks to a close knit artist community and a world class food scene. Stay at the Four Seasons in the center of the city, enjoy the rooftop pool and the open courtyard, and save time in your trip to float the Xochimilco Gardens in the colorful trajineras.
Explore the ancient Mayan Ruins, an award winning historical site where you can get guided tours and learn more about Belizean history. After that, swim through translucent seas and be treated to a kaleidoscope of coral, fish, whale sharks and turtles, while divers go deeper, investigating underwater caves and walls and the world-renowned Blue Hole. With one foot in the Central American jungles and the other in the Caribbean Sea, pint-sized Belize is packed with islands, adventure and culture. Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest in the world, after Australia’s, and with more than 100 types of coral and some 500 species of tropical fish, it’s pure paradise for scuba divers and snorkelers. Add to this island life on the sandy cays, where you can spend your days kayaking, windsurfing, stand-up paddleboarding, swimming, fishing or lazing in a hammock, and you’ve got a perfect tropical vacation.
These picturesque deserts are like nothing you’ve ever seen before this holiday season. Explore the great canyon of the Al Hajar Mountains and rip through the dunes of the Wahiba Sands. Head into Muscat to see the traditional architecture of the Royal Opera House Muscat and Grand Mosque, and be sure to take home some of the city’s famous fragrances. Oman’s capital is very family friendly, with malls having dedicated fun zones and parks with play areas. It is, however, the beach that draws most tourists, whether it is for a picnic, to swim, a game of beach football, or just to stroll and enjoy the sunset. Water sports activities such jet skiing or banana boat rides are available at Qurum Beach and most beachfront resorts. The afternoon can be spent watching dolphins frolic in the sea, followed by a beautiful sunset Dhow cruise starting from Marina Bandar Al Rowdah or Al Mouj Muscat.
For some of us, the quickest way to cure the winter blues is to go where both the palm trees and the stars are. Los Angeles has something for everyone, with 75 miles of sunny coastline, a flourishing Downtown, lifestyle playgrounds for the rich and famous, acclaimed restaurants, trend-setting art and fashion scenes, and internationally flavored neighborhoods. One of the most popular ways to experience L.A. is by enjoying free activities, such as a scenic drive or visiting top cultural attractions. Los Angeles has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to green travel, from public transit to eco-friendly hotels. L.A. Tourism celebrates the city’s incredible diversity with its LGBT and ethnic guides. And you can bring your canine companion to L.A.’s dog-friendly parks, hotels, restaurants and attractions. Whether it’s luxury or budget, family friendly or singles, L.A. Tourism has the best itineraries and guides to explore this amazing city! To relight your inner fire, jump between tanning at Venice Beach and taking in LA’s burgeoning art scene.
December ushers in the dry season, so you can enjoy the warm weather without getting caught in a torrential downpour. There’s also a number of local festivals from January through March, perfect for experiencing the culture. Costa Rica’s beaches offer the perfect escape from noisy cities. Whether you’re travelling with friends, family, or that special someone, you’re sure to find the perfect place to stay. From big hotels with comfortable facilities to ultra-posh boutique hotels, there’s something for everyone. Besides great accommodations, Costa Rica is increasingly renowned for its widely varied and delicious foods distinct to each region. One thing they all share in common is their excellent taste. Costa Rica’s beaches are surrounded by forests, and have great natural diversity. Many contain beautiful coral reefs, perfect for diving and exploring. Depending on the beach, complementary activities may include hikes to mangroves, diving, surfing, sport fishing, hiking on trails or horseback rides. With easy access to many beaches, you can make the most out of both coasts. Most have warm water throughout the year, so they can be enjoyed year round. If it’s variety you’re interested in, each coast offers different shades and textures of sand. White, yellow, gray and black beaches are the result of the constant crashing of varied seashells on coral reefs.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
December marks the off-season on Italy’s South Eastern coast. Though you won’t see temperatures as high as in June or July, you can expect days as warm as 55 degrees Fahrenheit and won’t have to deal with quite as many tourists. Magically suspended between the blue sky and the iridescent colored sea, the Amalfi coast seems to be born from the palette of a painter. It is the land where the sweet scent of lemon blossoms mixes with lush Mediterranean vegetation and the salty sea air; where the brilliant colors of bougainvillea and carnations stand out among whitewashed houses, clinging to the last offshoots of the Lattari Mounts that plunge dramatically into the sea. A vertical landscape houses a picture perfect labyrinth of stairways and alleys. The shift from the sea to mountain is seamless: the mountain sides were terraced over the centuries, shaped by human labor to create flaps of arable land and already compared, during the Renaissance period, to the legendary Hesperides by the Italian writer and naturalist Giambattista Della Porta.
Get ready for sun-filled days and temperatures on the mid-70s. Miami hosts several winter events to make sure to keep the city alive during its off season. The largest holiday theme park in the world, Santa’s Enchanted Forest is back for another season at Tropical Park. Enjoy carnival rides, shows, games, a 92-foot tall Christmas tree and more than three million Christmas lights. Ride the ferris wheel, race speedy cars, or risk it all on the “Mega Drop.” The park is open until the beginning of January. Check out the Deering Holiday Wonderland located at the elegant and historic Deering Estate located on the edge of Biscayne Bay when it’s festively decorated for the holidays and decked out in beautiful Christmas lights. Highlights include story time and photos with Santa Claus and a Festival of Trees evening stroll. Lounge on idyllic beaches, take advantage of the city’s numerous water sports and explore the famous and colorful Art Deco District.
When considering a vacation to Hawaii for the month of December, choosing when to go greatly impacts both costs and crowds. The first few weeks are very quiet and relatively inexpensive, while the last week — including Christmas and New Year’s Eve holidays — is a popular and expensive time. Hawaii’s weather is almost always wonderfully warm. Daytime temperatures typically reach the low 80s while evening temperatures dip in the middle to upper 60s. Even in December, tropical flowers continue to flourish as usual. You may also see poinsettia plants and shrubs growing and blooming outdoors. With the exception of Hawaii’s Big Island, December is the wettest month for Hawaii. That doesn’t mean that you’ll likely encounter rain all the time. From our experience, we’ve enjoyed some wonderfully sunny days in Hawaii in December. We do recommend that you bring a breathable, rain-proof jacket and/or an umbrella so that a passing shower typically won’t interfere with your plans for very long. Even though this time of year is one of Kauai’s busiest, but with sunny days in the high 70s, it’s worth pricier hotel rates. Don’t worry about dealing with pesky crowds: The rural island only has two highways and visitors are encouraged to travel on foot through the gorgeous, rural terrain.