12 Winter Vacation Ideas That Should Be on Your Radar

12 winter vacation Ideas that should be on your radar
Few things are more enjoyable than a winter getaway. And after the year that has been, we all know that we deserve a great one. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of winter vacation ideas for every kind of couple – whether you prefer long slow walks through Christmas markets or a more adventurous hike across an active volcano. We have a few U.S. destinations on our list, such as New York, Maryland, and Washington DC, and other options, such as Vienna, Nagano in Japan, and the Finnish Laplands. If your significant other prefers sun to snow during the winter, then Maui and Mauritius offer some of the best beach escapes both inside and outside, respectively, of the continental United States. Wherever you decide to go, remember that the world is your oyster (Maryland, number 5 on this list, happens to have some of the best oysters state-side). Dress appropriately for the weather at your destination, wear a mask, and get ready to create holiday memories that you will never forget.

1. New York City, NY, USA

View of Central Park in New York City during winter
New York remains one of the most iconic places to visit during winter. Each year, the city that never sleeps turns into a winter wonderland as soon as Thanksgiving turns a corner. Make Rockefeller Center your first stop, and stand underneath the famous Christmas Tree that has been featured in movies like The Godfather and Rocky III. Channel John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale and ice skate at The Rink at the Rockefeller Center (Pro Tip: book your tickets in advance). Walk down Fifth Avenue to catch some of the best window displays in the city; Bergdorf Goodman and Saks are easy favorites. Central Park is beautiful after a night of snow and a great cheap winter date idea. Build a snowman, take turns sledding on Pilgrim Hill, or people watch from the magnificent Bethesda Terrace Arcade. For a little reprieve from the weather, duck into the Met, Guggenheim, or Museum of the City of New York, which always have new exhibitions on rotation. We guarantee that the city has enough activities that you won’t even be thinking about the cold.

2. Washington, D.C., USA

United States Capitol and Capitol Hill at night during Christmas
The capital of the United States makes for a pretty picture year-round, but it is even more exceptional in the winter. Welcome the season with the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, and catch the First Family light a 40-foot live Colorado blue spruce on the White House Ellipse. Christmas lights also go on at the National Zoo, and there might be nothing more romantic than strolling through the lion, tiger, and panda enclosures all decked out in lights. Several ice rinks, like the ones in Georgetown and the National Gallery of Art, also open during the holidays and make for great romantic winter date ideas. Don’t forget to drop by Union Market, which is the culinary epicenter of Washington DC. We highly recommend the steak at St. Anselm Brooklyn for date night.

3. Mauritius

Aerial view of blue waters surrounding Mauritius island

Mauritius may be best-known for its underwater waterfall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but this geographic marvel is just the tip of the island. Make your holiday the trip to remember by taking photos in front of the Terres de 7 Couleurs, Tamarind Falls, and Grand Baie. Adventurous couples can kitesurf over turquoise lagoons, which comprise 75% of the island, or surf the Indian Ocean, which throws higher waves during winter. Try Mauritian street food like dholl puri and roti in Port Louis, Mauritius’ capital city. Catch a show at the Citadelle, an old British fortress built on a hill overlooking the harbor. Bet on horses at Champ de Mars, the oldest racecourse in the southern hemisphere. Hike your way up to the monument of Marie Reine de la Paix, an open-air church that offers the best views of the city. Maybe even pop the question when you reach the top.

4. Maui, HI, USA

Magical beach in Maui, Hawaii
It’s no surprise that Maui, Hawaii always makes it to the list of the best winter vacation ideas because the island has great balmy weather and perfect blue skies year-round. While there is a little more rainfall during the winter months, the many things you can do here make it an excellent winter vacation destination (and a welcome break from snow). Whale watching kicks into high gear exactly during the Christmas holidays. Most tour boats come equipped with hydrophones, so you can actually hear the whales singing to each other as they swim. Thrill-seeking couples can hike Haleakala, a dormant volcano, or ride a helicopter over it. Watch a traditional luau. Catch some shade under a 150-year old Banyan tree, which overlooks Lahaina Harbor. Maui has over 120 miles of coastline, where you can surf, swim, and tan to your heart’s content.

5. Baltimore, MD, USA

Baltimore skyline at night
Spend a day in Baltimore and you’ll realize why it’s called Charm City. Start your winter vacation with a trip to the heart of downtown; Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is home to some of the most interesting museums in the city, such as the National Aquarium, American Visionary Arts Museum, and Maryland Science Center, as well as some of the best food. The Rusty Scupper in the Inner Harbor is famous for its crab cakes, but Maryland has an entire Crab & Oyster Trail for couples who are ready to commit to an afternoon of freshly shucked oysters. Guinness and Flying Dog Brewery both have breweries in the city that are open to tours. Prefer being closer to nature? Hike, snowshoe, or go cross-country skiing on Maryland’s Second-to-None trail. Drive from one end of the city to another to explore all of Maryland’s beautiful and historic byways. And maybe the best winter date idea? Watch wild ponies run along the cold surf in Assateague Island.

6. Vienna, Austria

North side of the Upper Belvedere Palace covered in snow
The Austrian capital is famous for having some of the best Christmas markets in all of Europe. One of the most famous markets takes place on the steps of the Belvedere Palace, but similar beautiful markets also run all through the season in front of Schönbrunn Palace, the City Hall, and on Maria Theresien Square. The Vienna Philharmonic Ball offers a glimpse of how debutantes were presented to society as far back as 1924. Skate in a 6,000-square meter ice rink set up by the Viennese Ice Skating Association. Warm up with a cup of coffee and a slice of the famous sachertorte at Café Sacher. The dark chocolate cake has a surprising apricot jam center, and its recipe has been a closely guarded secret for over 5 decades. The line outside Café Sacher may snake around the corner no matter what time you go, but we agree that it’s definitely worth the wait.

7. Nagano, Japan

Snow on the hills of Nagano, Japan

Japan might still be closed to tourists because of the pandemic, but there’s no harm in wishing it’ll open in time for winter, right? Hakuba, which is situated in Japan’s northern alps, is arguably the best all-around ski destination in the country. The town hosted the Winter Olympics in 1998, and several of the facilities, like the Ski Jumping Stadium and Olympic Village, remain accessible and in use. Watch expert climbers scale frozen waterfalls that rise over 100-meters. Jigokudani Yaen-Koen is the only place in the world where snow monkeys, particularly Japanese macaques, bathe in thermal springs. Attend an ice sculpture festival outside Matsumoto Castle, which also happens to be the oldest surviving castle tower in Japan. Visit Togakushi Shrine in the snow. Swim in an onsen. The choices for winter date ideas in Nagano are limitless.

8. Deer Valley, UT, USA

Panoramic view of Deer Valley in the winter
Every year for the past three decades, Conde Nast has been asking its readers to vote for their favorite ski resorts in the world. This year, Deer Valley in Utah took the number 1 spot, and it’s clear to see why. Fly in through Salt Lake City International Airport, which is right next to Woodward Park City, Deer Valley’s premier ski resort. Ski, sled, and go tubing across at least 103 trails. The Alf Engen Ski Museum is located at the site of the Utah Winter Olympic Games and features bits and pieces of important ski history. Unwind along Historic Main Street which looks gorgeous covered under snow. The Electric Light Parade, which runs on the first Saturday of December, is an excellent throwback to the parades you used to watch as kids in Disney. The Snow Globe Stroll, which features nine life-sized snow globes with Park City winter themes, is also a great and cheap winter date idea.

9. Lapland, Finland

House of Santa Claus in Lapland, Finland
Lean all the way into winter and consider flying to the birthplace of Santa. At the height of the winter season, ice hotels start springing up all across Lapland. Each ice hotel is painstakingly built by hand and comes equipped with saunas, steaming cups of hot berry juice, and reindeer fur blankets for your comfort. Alternatively, you can choose to stay in a glass igloo, where you can catch the northern lights from the comfort of your own bed. Dog sled or snowmobile into the wilderness. The Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi feels like Christmas every single day of the year. Cross the arctic circle, which marks the southernmost latitude where the sun can stay continuously above or below the horizon for over 24 hours. Have a glass of mulled cider. Pet a reindeer. Meet Santa Claus himself and wish for a lifetime of happiness.

10. Mendocino, CA, USA

Mendocino beach in winter season
California’s wine country might be famous for Napa Valley, but Anderson Valley in Mendocino is quickly making a name for itself with its impressive roster of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. The Winter White Wine Festival at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds puts the region’s famed Alsace-style varietals front and center. Grand Tasting and Open House events run through all weekends of winter. If your significant other is a foodie, the region also holds a 10-day fungi festival, where you can try over 3,000 varieties of black trumpets, porcinis, hedgehogs, and chanterelles. Mendocino is also home to the Dungeness crab, which is known for its distinctly sweet and slightly nutty flavor. The Mendocino Crab, Beer, and Wine Festival offers all-you-can-eat crab feeds, winemaker’s dinners, crab cruises, and cooking classes. Bundle up and take a bottle out to Glass Beach, one of the few remaining sea glass deposits in the United States. See who can find the most heart-shaped sea glass pieces while you’re there.

11. Los Cabos, Mexico

Rock formation on the beach of Cabo San Lucas in Los Cabos

Christmas in Cabo is celebrated at a cool 60–85 F. The Feast Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe falls on December 12 and is one of the most important religious holidays in Mexico. Each year, countless parishes all across the country throw festivals and parades in honor of Our Lady. Prefer a little more sun? You can also choose to surf the Pacific, which offers better wave conditions during the winter season. Beginner-friendly classes are offered through the season at Los Cerritos, whereas the more expert surfers can head to San Pedrito at Pescadero or La Pastora, which is just north of Todos Santos. Go scuba diving in the Sea of Cortez, which is nicknamed the Aquarium of the World. Ride camels on the Cabo camel safari, a unique Cabo San Lucas activity, and must-do winter vacation activity.

12. Bethlehem, PA, USA

Historical hotel in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

True to its name, Bethlehem is the Christmas City of the USA and a beautiful spot in Pennsylvania. Stay in Historic Hotel Bethlehem, which puts on a Christmas display with over 35,000 Christmas lights every year. Drop by the Moravian Book Shop, the oldest bookstore in the world, which also offers some of the best souvenirs in Bethlehem. Ride a horse-drawn carriage through the Pocono Mountains, which are dotted with over 150 lakes and quaint, historic towns. Stay in one of the dozens of charming (and sometimes adult only) bed and breakfasts that call Pocono home.

They say that the best way to get to know someone is to go on a vacation with them. Whether you’ve been together a decade or a few months, this season is the perfect time to just pack your bags and go. At the very least, you’ll have some of the best winter vacation photos at your next brunch get-together. At the very best, this winter might be the first in a slew of memories that will last a lifetime.

Patricia Ann Lee

Patricia Ann Lee

Patricia Lee is a writer from the Philippines, who appreciates a well-made laminated pastry. While she holds a day job as a physician, writing has always been her first love. She thinks of dating as a great exercise in communication.

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