Editors' Picks: Hot Winter Vacations

Heat things up! Our staff chose 10 picturesque destinations for travelers to escape cold winter weather. Plan your next vacation to one of these hot spots.

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National Christmas Tree
National Christmas Tree

National Christmas Tree

Looking for ideas on where to travel in December? Kick off the month with a tour of the National Christmas Tree. Located on the White House’s South Lawn, a towering 40-foot evergreen spruce has been a seasonal fixture of the nation’s capital since 1923. 960 1280

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San Antonio River Walk

San Antonio River Walk

Keep the Christmas spirit going in San Antonio. Every December, more than a mile of the San Antonio River Walk comes alive with over 100 underwater lights, as well as LED rope lighting crossing from one side of the river to the other. 960 1280

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Hobbit Tour

Hobbit Tour

Hobbit fans, rejoice! With this month's release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Tolkien fans have a reason to follow the Hobbit trail to New Zealand. Besides being a great time to visit (December is the start of New Zealand’s summer season), the country has a Hobbit movie set tour on upper North Island. 960 1280

Jeff Hitchcock, flickr  

Ice Fishing, Colorado Style

Ice Fishing, Colorado Style

This December, put Colorado on your outdoors adventure map: Colorado's robust winters lure ice-fishing enthusiasts to gear up and head out for the thrill of the catch. Prime spots include Wolford Mountain Reservoir, a 1,550- acre reservoir, about 100 miles west of Denver. 960 1280

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Caribbean Cruise: Early December

Caribbean Cruise: Early December

For an impromptu December getaway, set sail for the Caribbean. The first 2 weeks of December are your best bet for bargain prices on cruises and hotels, before fares rise come Christmas and New Year’s. Combine your warm winter escape with cool events, like the Bahamas International Film Festival. 960 1280

Royal Caribbean International  

San Francisco Ballet's The Nutcracker

San Francisco Ballet's The Nutcracker

The holiday season wouldn’t be quite the same without catching a performance of The Nutcracker. We suggest heading to the City by the Bay to see the sparkling 2-act ballet performed by the San Francisco Ballet, which first introduced Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece to American audiences in 1944. 960 1280

Erik Tomasson  

Rockefeller Center Ice Skating

Rockefeller Center Ice Skating

For the quintessential NYC Christmas experience, take a whirl on the ice at Rockefeller Center. The world-famous ice-skating rink at the famed commercial complex, in the heart of Manhattan, has been a fixture of Rockefeller Center since 1936. 960 1280

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Stonehenge Winter Solstice

Stonehenge Winter Solstice

Take in the winter solstice at Stonehenge. Every year, more than 5,000 people gather at the prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, to mark the time when the sun appears at noon at its lowest altitude above the horizon. And good news in 2013: Visitors can explore a new visitor center close to the ancient site that's set to open this month. 960 1280

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Santa Claus House in North Pole

Santa Claus House in North Pole

Just where does Santa Claus live? North Pole, AK, of course. Head to this small, wintery city in the heart of Alaska to see Santa Claus House: A storefront, built in the early 1950s, it’s the spot from which the Original Letter From Santa is mailed out, proclaiming the bearer to be “on Santa’s Good List.” 960 1280

Rosie Rosenberger, flickr  

Hit the Slopes

Hit the Slopes

Hit the slopes this month at North America’s most popular ski resort. In addition to being home to more groomed terrain than any other resort in the world, Vail, CO, boasts the country’s largest ski school for all skill levels. For the more seasoned skier, head to Jackson Hole, where over 90% of the trails fall into intermediate to expert categories. 960 1280

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NOLA Christmas Bonfires

NOLA Christmas Bonfires

Add a little spice to the holiday season with a trip to The Big Easy. Come Christmas Eve, dozens of bonfires light up along the Mississippi River levee to make way for Papa Noel, as locals in bayou country call Santa. Arrive by 7 p.m. to watch the fiery feu de joie (“fires of joy”)! 960 1280

Douglas and Charlene Guilliams of Baton Rouge, LA: A Father and Daughter Photography Team  

Christmas Village in Philadelphia

Christmas Village in Philadelphia

Come December, the City of Brotherly Love transforms itself into a Christmas Village. This annual holiday market in Philadelphia’s LOVE Park features traditional German Christmas market items, displayed by more than 60 vendors in decorated booths and tents. Get your fill of holiday goodies like gingerbread cookies and mulled wine. 960 1280

Christmas Village in Philadelphia  

Chicago's Polar Adventure Days

Chicago's Polar Adventure Days

Learn dog sledding in … Chicago? Yep, for outdoor winter adventure, head to the Windy City’s Northerly Island, site of the 9th annual Polar Adventure Days. Beginning in early December, the family-friendly event includes a toddler zone with outdoor “ice fishing,” an REI winter activity station and a dog-sledding demo with huskies. 960 1280

Chicago's Polar Adventure Days  

Brooklyn Bridge in the morning snow
Brooklyn Bridge in the morning snow

Brooklyn Bridge in the morning snow

This brave jogger makes her way past the Brooklyn Bridge in the morning snow. When Jack Frost hits, plan your own jog for midday, when the sun is high up. Also, don’t forget to rehydrate; all those extra layers of clothing will make you sweat even more. 960 1280

Spencer Platt/Getty Images  

The February 2010 North American blizzard, aka Snowmaggedon, dumped 20 to 35 inches of snow across the Northeast, bringing highways to a halt. Here, one DC-area resident treks by the White House on skis. 960 1280

Yuri Gripas / Reuters'  

Two MCTS Buses Stuck on Humboldt St. Milwaukee

Two MCTS Buses Stuck on Humboldt St. Milwaukee

When there’s a severe winter storm, factor in bus delays or detours. Probably a good idea for passengers of these 2 buses stuck in the Milwaukee snow. 960 1280

Jeramey Jannene, flickr  

When all the city’s covered in snow, it’s time for a snowball fight. That’s what these guys did in Times Square for 45 minutes. 960 1280

Dan Nguyen, flickr  

Snowstorm in Rockville, Maryland in 2011

Snowstorm in Rockville, Maryland in 2011

These snow-covered trees in Rockville, MD, may look pretty. But all that snow bearing down on them can break tree limbs -- and come crashing through a house roof or window. Use an extension pole, like those used by house painters, to wipe the snow away. Just make sure no electric power lines are around. 960 1280

DeusXFlorida, flickr  

Football in front of the US Capitol

Football in front of the US Capitol

The winter flurries are the perfect excuse for a snow game: jump snow hurdles, rope tow, flag in a snow stack, and of course, a good ole game of football, like this one in front of the US Capitol in February 2010. 960 1280

Reuters  

Early snowfall in Worcester, Massachusetts

Early snowfall in Worcester, Massachusetts

Maybe not the best idea: parking your car beside a big tree before a snowstorm hits, as one driver did in Worcester, MA, in October 2011. 960 1280

Reuters  

snowstorm in Louisville, CO

snowstorm in Louisville, CO

The snow experts agree: Tap the branches of your property’s trees with a broom soon after snow falls or even as it accumulates, so you’re not left with heavy, icy tree limbs later on. That's what this woman is doing after a snowstorm in Louisville, CO. 960 1280

Reuters   

Snow storm in Boulder, CO

Snow storm in Boulder, CO

These 2 guys are looking for a place to build a snowboard ramp, after a snowstorm the previous night in Boulder, CO. If you’ve got the snowboarding itch, wear a helmet with adjustable inner pads for a custom fit. 960 1280

Reuters  

January 2012 Seattle snowstorm

January 2012 Seattle snowstorm

Who needs the Alpine slopes? This Seattle-area resident sees the heavy snowfall as an opportunity to ski cross-country from his home in Kirkland to Bellevue, WA, a 20-mile round trip. Get a non-bulky insulated pair of gloves for skiing ease. 960 1280

Reuters  

If you know a big snowstorm will hit, make sure you have enough food to sustain your family for at least 72 hours. Here, a residential-area stop sign is buried under nearly 20 feet of snow in Ontario, Canada. 960 1280

John Talbot, flickr  

Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive

Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive

A man walks between stranded cars on Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive in February 2011. If you must park or abandon your vehicle, avoid leaving it in a bus stop area or at a corner; this slows down transportation recovery efforts and may lead to your car being towed. 960 1280

Reuters   

Before sending your kids out to play in the snow, pile on the sunscreen. A sunburn in winter may sound far-fetched, but snow can reflect up to 85% of the sun’s UV rays. Here, a 4-year-old Amish boy enjoys a day off from school in St. Mary's County, MD. 960 1280

Getty  

Buried magazine stand

Buried magazine stand

Yesterday’s news: a magazine stand buried in snow. For the latest weather report, check out NOAA’s National Weather Service for state-by-state forecasts and warnings. 960 1280

David Goehring, flickr  

Joe Farhat, an employee at a produce stand in Pike Place Market

Joe Farhat, an employee at a produce stand in Pike Place Market

And when the snow hits, have fun -- like this guy in Seattle sledding down a closed snow-covered street in January 2012. 960 1280

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Blowing Rock Winterfest
Blowing Rock Winterfest

Blowing Rock Winterfest

Head to the mountains of North Carolina for the annual Blowing Rock Winterfest. This lively winterfest features a plunge into the icy waters of Lake Chetola, followed by the chance to warm up with hot chocolate and chili in downtown Blowing Rock. When: Late January 960 1280

Todd Bush Photography  

Vancouver Polar Bear Swim

Vancouver Polar Bear Swim

Run for your life! This group of New Year’s revelers rushes from the freezing waters of Vancouver’s English Bay. 2014 marks the Vancouver Polar Bear Swim’s 94th year, making it one of the largest and oldest clubs of its kind in the world. When: New Year's Day 960 1280

Reuters   

Courage Polar Bear Dip

Courage Polar Bear Dip

Courage, lads! Since its start in 1985, the annual Courage Polar Bear Dip in Oakville, Ontario, has become the largest polar bear dip for charity in Canada. Money raised supports clean water projects organized by the advocacy organization World Vision Canada. When: New Year’s Day 960 1280

Courage Polar Bear Dip  

Seattle Polar Bear Plunge

Seattle Polar Bear Plunge

They’re freezin’ for a reason. Plungers take to the waters off Seattle’s Matthews Beach for the city’s annual polar bear plunge. Now in its 12th year, the Seattle Polar Bear Plunge is one of 8 statewide plunges to benefit Special Olympics Washington. When: New Year’s Day 960 1280

mordac, flickr   

Aruba New Year's Plunge

Aruba New Year's Plunge

In search of warmer climes to take the plunge? Head to Aruba for the Caribbean island’s annual Aruba New Year's Plunge. Hundreds of people gather at MooMba Beach for the “Unox Nieuwjaarsduik” (New Year’s plunge), which takes place at noon sharp. The event is open to everyone; no charge. When: New Year’s Day 960 1280

Aruba Daily Newspaper  

Coney Island Plunge

Coney Island Plunge

Cold enough for you? These 2 brave guys take part in the annual Coney Island Plunge organized by the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, the oldest ice swimming club in the US. The yearly dip into the Atlantic begins at 1 p.m. sharp; afterward, if you’re still breathing, check out the famous Coney Island boardwalk. When: Jan. 1 960 1280

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Russian Orthodox Epiphany

Russian Orthodox Epiphany

In the name of the …wow, this water is cold! A Russian man celebrates the Russian Orthodox Epiphany with a dip in frigid waters. The age-old ritual commemorates Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, but we have a feeling the Jordan’s waters were a lot less cold. When: Mid-January 960 1280

Reuters  

Tybee Polar Plunge

Tybee Polar Plunge

Thousands of people flock to Tybee Island, near Savannah, GA, for the annual Tybee Polar Plunge plunge into the brisk waters of the Atlantic. Plungers register for a nominal fee, with proceeds going toward the historic Tybee Post Theater, built in 1930. When: New Year’s Day 960 1280

Tybee Polar Plunge   

Scotland's Loony Dook

Scotland's Loony Dook

Showing their white-and-blue Scottish pride, these 2 “loony dookers” take a dip in Scotland’s River Forth. The annual Loony Dook event in Scotland began in 1987 with a handful of participants; the event has since grown into a New Year’s rite of passage for thousands. When: New Year’s Day 960 1280

Lee Carson, flickr  

Baltimore PlungeFest

Baltimore PlungeFest

Holy moly, ma, Darth Vader’s not wearing any clothes under that cape! This wickedly cool plunger takes a dip in the Chesapeake Bay’s cold waters near Baltimore. The annual Baltimore PlungeFest kicks off in Annapolis, MD’s Sandy Point State Park, with proceeds going to Special Olympics Maryland. When: Late January 960 1280

Steve Ruark Photography  

Chicago Polar Plunge

Chicago Polar Plunge

Skip the clothes, grab a wig! Celebrate the New Year (and a good cause) with hundreds of revelers who dive into the icy waters of Chicago’s Lake Michigan in early spring. 2014 marks Chicago Polar Plunge’s 14th year, with proceeds going toward Special Olympics Chicago. When: Early March 960 1280

Grace Trivino, flickr   

Netherlands New Year's

Netherlands New Year's

Wearing colorful vestments, this man takes a dip in the waters off Scheveningen, a beachside resort town in the Netherlands. The annual event began in 1960, and attracts more than 10,000 people, who plunge into the icy North Sea on New Year’s Day. When: Jan. 1 960 1280

Reuters  

Plunge Into 2014  12 Photos