9 Places to Embrace Winter
Blinded by holiday hubbub and an unseasonably warm autumn, we nearly forgot that winter was inching ever closer. Once we realized it though, we busted out the hot cocoa and got to drafting the 9 best winter trips we could think of, from sleeping under the Arctic twilight in a private igloo, to breaking out the skates on an Olympic ice rink.
Quebec City, Canada
This stylish city has a lot to offer in terms of chic accommodation, but the castle-style Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac – right in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Old Quebec – has it all. Old World glamor comes in the form of custom crystal chandeliers, Italian blue onyx paneling, and the real showstopper: a turreted copper roof. No holiday season spent in Quebec would be complete without a trip to Le Marché de Noël Allemand – the authentic German Christmas market. Chalet-style wooden stalls hawk German fare, local produce, and regional holiday gifts, and when shopping fatigue or a food coma hits, you can pause to take in a choir performance or puppet theater show. From there, narrow cobblestone streets, blink-and-you’ll-miss-them boutiques and some of Quebec’s oldest homes make Rue du Petit-Champlain and Place-Royale the place for a romantic stroll. Guaranteed you’ll feel like you’re inside a snow globe – fresh flurries or not.
Park City, Utah
Nestled on the top of Empire Pass, overlooking greater Park City, you’ll find the mountain-meets-modern Montage Deer Valley – your home base for a Park City ski vacay. Between skiing and boarding the Wasatch Mountain range, and taking bobsled runs at Utah Olympic Park, it’s all about downtime in your enormous guestroom (average rooms ring in at 600-square-feet!). You can lounge in front of your private fireplace, rest on your plush king bed, or go for an indulgent couples massage that ends with a soak in dual, fireside copper tubs at their alpine-inspired spa. If you’re in need of gear, or have to cross some things off your holiday gift-giving list, Historic Main Street is your go-to.
Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
We’re pretty confident in saying there’s no better place to watch the Northern Lights than snuggled up in a down sleeping bag, tucked beneath the glass panes of a private igloo at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort. In arctic Finland, snow falls in early October, and by November the landscape is fully-blanketed as the country slips into polar night – a two month period when the sun no longer rises over the horizon. Any trip here would be incomplete without trying a few new winter sports; nearby you’ll find husky, reindeer, and snowmobile safaris, as well as ice-fishing, and, of course, cross-country and downhill skiing.
Prague, Czech Republic
Once you land in Prague, drop your bags at the timeless Art Deco Imperial Hotel, one of Golden City’s most prestigious and legendary addresses. Stately Art Deco-meets-Cubist interiors are complemented by modern creature comforts like flat screen TVs, walk-in rain showers and heated bathroom floors. Wander around Old Town to soak in the persisting medieval atmosphere and take photos of the Baroque churches, Gothic convents, and the main festive holiday markets which take over Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. Wind down your day at the intimate Wine O’Clock Shop where Mediterranean tapas-style dishes, like wood-smoked salmon with creme fraiche and bruschetta pomodoro, are paired with glasses of fine Italian and Czech wines.
North Conway, New Hampshire
North Conway is about as quaint and picturesque as New England villages come – just ask anyone in the state of New Hampshire. In winter, the village really comes to life as sports fanatics flood the area to take to White Mountain National Forest, Echo Lake State Park and Mount Cranmore. If hanging slope-side isn’t your style, no worries – you can just look the snow bunny part while shopping on North Conway’s boutique-dotted Main Street, paying special mind to Zeb’s General Store, with its old-fashioned candy counter and hard-to-find specialty Northeast foods. While you're in the area, stop by the circa-1874 train station to catch a scenic ride on the vintage Conway Scenic railroad (now till January 1st) for glimpses of the Moat Mountain range, Saco River and rambling farmland. When you're ready for bed but not to give up the dramatic views, bed down at the cozy White Mountain Hotel & Resort.
Lake Placid, New York
There’s something about dropping temps and the promise of a snowstorm that make us want to curl up in front of a roaring fire, right in the heart of it all (read: comfortably inside where there’s heat). And that’s where Lake Placid’s Whiteface Lodge – in the middle of 6 million acres of Adirondack Park wilderness – comes in. The all-suite property is all cast iron fireplaces, rustic decor, and spacious rooms with underfloor heating, plus (major plus) there’s a tunnel that connects the hot tub to the main lodge so you don’t even have to step foot outside! We do encourage you make the great journey outdoors at some point, though, so you can brush up on your ice skating skills at the Olympic Oval at Whiteface Mountain. Any calories you’ve burned off should quickly be replaced with a meal the View Restaurant at Mirror Lake Inn, this time of year we’re always jonesing for their apple and rutabaga bisque and pan fried pork belly with butternut squash puree.
As the “capital of Christmas,” Strasbourg is a requisite pick for any dreamy winter travel list. The town’s Christmas Market is the oldest (and one of the largest) in Europe, having opened the very first Alsatian-style Christkindelsmärik in 1570. This year, till December 24th, more than 300 stalls will be set up on in the historic city center, along the Grande-Île, accented by thousands of twinkling lights, ornamented trees, and the unmistakable sound of Christmas tunes. As the market’s 2016 guest country, Portugal will make an appearance – bringing with it local wine, charcuterie and crafts. After some seasonal shopping and sightseeing in the Petite-France neighborhood, tuck away at the Hotel Cour du Corbeau Strasbourg, a half-timbered, 16th-century inn in Old Town. The intimate hotel’s Louis XV-style furnishings and cobblestone courtyard make for the comfiest of stays.
If the Blue Lagoon has all but lost its appeal for you (it's officially gone to the tourists), sidestep the crowded geothermal pool and opt instead for a dip in the Reykjadalur Hot Springs. After a short hike into the valley, you’ll stumble upon unnaturally blue hot springs, bubbling mud pools, cascading waterfalls, and a boardwalk-flanked thermal river where swimming is encouraged. To round out your Icelandic escapade, you’ll want to catch the Northern Lights (duh). Our favorite spot is the dark and quiet coast of in Seltjarnarnes, just a 20-minute drive north west of Reykjavik. When it's time to hit the sheets, head for the design-centric 101 Hotel which displays work from some of Iceland's best artists, both established and emerging. Sleek guestrooms are done up with roomy walk-in showers, toasty underfloor heating and minimalist black and white details.
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New York City
NYC is a winter (and spring, and summer, and fall...) no-brainer. While it's admittedly super touristy, we – as locals – still suggest hitting the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. The mammoth (usually 70-100-foot) Midtown spruce presides over the Rock’s ice skating rink where general admission is always available, but holiday reservations are suggested. From there, it’s just a handful of blocks to the Bryant Park Winter Village; while you can sidestep the rink if you’ve already gotten your fill, the boutique jewelry, artisanal food, and home decor holiday shops demand some attention. Whether you intend on an NYC sleepover, or just a day-long outing, end your night at the chic, Lower East Side Bowery Hotel. The homey (also celeb-frequented) Lobby Bar and Lounge invites guests in with the promise of a blazing fire, plush velvet couches, warm lighting, and classic spirits.
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