7 Last Minute Vacations to Escape the Cold
These last minute vacations are all about cocktails, culture, killer restaurants and SUN. The best part? No passport needed.
New Orleans, LA
You can't go wrong with a last minute vacation to NOLA. There’s always something going down in the city—and whatever it is usually happens outside, thanks to average annual low temperatures in the 60’s. The winter months welcome the legendary Mardi Gras festival and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, with music, art, and food fests; check out the official calendar here. But even a regular weekday or weekend offers plenty to do. Get the lay of the land with a Freewheelin’ Bike Tour, which passes through neighborhoods like the Faubourg Marigny, (known for its live music venues and Creole cottage architecture) and the up-and-coming Bywater, or go for a stroll along the newly-expanded, public art-lined Crescent Park, which stretches for close to 2 miles along the Mississippi River. Other must-dos: a concert at the state-of-the-art Peoples Health New Orleans Jazz Market, drinks in the back garden at Bacchanal Wine, and dinner at the recently-opened Meril, chef Emeril Lagasse’s first NOLA restaurant in 20 years.
Phoenix & Scottsdale, AZ
Though technically part of the same metropolitan area, these two cities are destinations unto themselves—and together, they make for the perfect long weekend getaway. Explore the area's creative side with visits to the Phoenix Art Museum, Musical Instrument Museum, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, or Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. For dinner, check out Barrio Queen, Blanco Tacos + Tequila, or the upscale Barrio Café Gran Reserve, where classic Mexican dishes are served with a modern. Work off the meal with a morning hike on Camelback Mountain or in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. (A hot air balloon ride is another great way to take in the desert landscapes.)
San Diego, CA
This SoCal city has long been one of the best family getaways in the US, thanks to sites like the New Children’s Museum, LEGOLAND, and the iconic San Diego Zoo, set in the 1,200-acre Balboa Park. If your brood is into US history, book a tour of the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier-turned-museum. Or go for a hike in Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, followed by a boat trip to spot gray whales (December-to-April is one of the peak migration seasons.) In the evening, we recommend a stroll around Little Italy (grab a latte or gelato at Caffe Italia), then drinks at Second Change Brewing Company or Bay City Brewing Co. (there are more than 100 craft breweries in greater San Diego county.)
Most of the buzz around this South Carolina charmer has been about its booming food scene, and with good reason—from the decadent bluegrass brunch at High Cotton and fresh seafood at Leon’s Oyster Shop to the craft ice cream (think flavors like Bangkok Peanut and Middle West Whiskey) at Jeni’s Splendid. But there’s plenty more to do in Charleston than eat: learn about the old quarter on a guided carriage ride, browse the crafts in the historic Charleston City Market, shop the indie boutiques along King Street, and snap sunset selfies on a cruise aboard the Schooner Pride. For evening drinks, you can't beat the rooftop lounge at the Vendue, a boutique hotel with a rotating on-site art gallery.
Walking through Savannah’s Historic District is like stepping into a bygone era of romantic cobblestoned streets, stately Victorian mansions and perfectly manicured gardens. The largest National Historic Landmark District in the U.S., the twenty-city-square-wide neighborhood is best explored on a custom guided tour (pick your theme from architecture and food to shopping and ghost walks). The area is also home to the Savannah College of Art and Design (its shop stocks a great mix of indie designer and artisan-made goods) and wide array of restaurants and bars (we love The Florence). If you're looking to get out of the city, take a day trip to Tybee Island, where you can go for a bike ride or kayak, indulge in fresh seafood, or just laze on the beach.
St. Augustine, FL
Set on Florida’s northeast coast, and convenient to the Jacksonville and Daytona airports, St. Augustine holds the distinction of being the oldest city in the continental U.S., founded in 1565. (That makes it 42 years older than Jamestown, for those keeping score.) You’ll find plenty of reminders of those four-plus centuries in the Historic District; must-see spots include the Castillo de San Marcos fortress, the Lightner Museum (set in a restored 1800’s hotel), the Oldest House National Historic Landmark and the Oldest Wooden School House. At the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park—located on the site first explored by Ponce de Leon in 1513—you can view archeological artifacts, enjoy 19th-century re-enactments, or just explore the grounds. St. Augustine also has more than twenty miles of powdery beaches (our favorites are the Anastasia State Park and quieter Anastasia Island.)
Long before buzzwords like “artisan” and “farm-to-table” were ubiquitous, there was “Keep Austin Weird,” a grass-roots rallying cry celebrating the Texas’ capital’s dedication to staying creative, homegrown, and independent. A lot has changed for the city in the last decade, and while it now has more big-name corporate offices, restaurants, and hotels, there’s still an undeniable indie spirit at the heart of it all. Take advantage of the temperate climate with a hike or bike ride along the 10-mile trail that circles Lady Bird Lake (accessible right from downtown). Then fuel up with a visit to the 1,000-plus food trucks that dot the city; they are often grouped into food trailer parks and peddle everything from baked goods and Korean BBQ to perfect Tex-Mex. At dusk, head to Congress Avenue Bridge to watch as hundreds of thousands of bats emerge to fly out over the city. By now, you've probably worked up an appetite. With all the killer restaurants in the city, deciding where to go for dinner isn't easy. Some of our favorites: Laundrette, Salt Traders Coastal Cooking, and Franklin BBQ. Before heading back to your hotel, check out some live music ( there are over 200 venues in town showcasing every genre out there). Legendary spots include The Continental Club, the Broken Spoke, and Austin City Limits at the Moody Theater.
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