Vacations are what make work worth doing. Save up money and time off, then blow it all in one glorious holiday in a whole other part of the country, eating and drinking things you can’t get in your hometown after hiking somewhere you can’t see in your own state parks. Hopefully you’re at least kicking around the idea with some friends or family and if you are, by all means, keep refining that itinerary. If not, let us try and convince you otherwise. These are a few of our favorite places from around the country we rarely hear anyone talking about.
There are plenty of wintry activities you could get up to in the Pennsylvanian mountains if you wanted to. You could ski, snowshoe, hike, fish, or hunt, and we’re not going to stop you. But the main reason we’re recommending it as a vacation destination is for how relaxing it is. In our Pocono experience, we’ve rarely had cell service, didn’t have internet, had next to nothing to watch on TV beside the DVDs we brought with us, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way. A vacation in the Poconos has no urgency to it. You can do whatever you want at your own speed, allowing you some vital decompression.
We’re linking to the Pocono Mountains tourism page to give you some options, but really the best thing you can do is find a simple cabin or house to rent for a week or two, book it with some friends or your significant other, and go with the flow once you get there. Not prepping a full itinerary will give you the chance to explore shops, restaurants, or natural attractions you might not otherwise pay attention to. Find out if you’re the kind of person who genuinely wants to unplug or just likes talking about it. Visit
Acadia National Park
Acadia, Maine, is beautiful no matter what time of year you visit, but if you catch it on a good day in the winter, there’s nothing like it. Snow and ice cap the peaks of the islands, you can cross-country ski or snowshoe, and the evergreen sections of the forest are especially affecting if you visit in the cold. If you’re the thrill-seeking type, Acadia offers a unique challenge in its cold weather hiking. Obviously you should obey all safety requirements and take proper precautions rather than sprinting along the edges of frozen cliffs in a pair of Timberlands, because if you do the former, you’ll have one of the most rewarding winter hikes of your life, while the latter will lead to one of the more embarrassing deaths you could experience.
Bar Harbor is also right there, and it’s one of the more charming small towns in the United States. Take some time to stroll around the town and see old and new blend together in a unique way. Visit
The main attraction is here is the nearly unparalleled view of the Aurora Borealis, an event that has been on our bucket list for a long time. The Northern Lights are an amazing display and you could plan a trip solely around different ways to see them, which is an itinerary we’d ask you to send us, because that sounds like a hell of a trip. They’re also enough of an attraction that the people of Fairbanks shouldn’t feel pressured to provide other activities for tourists. Just get them out to see the lights. But they went and built a charming town anyway.
Once you’re done with the lights, if that’s even possible, you’ll find native Alaskan culture in the Museum of the North and Alaskan Native Heritage Center, hot springs, nature walks and eco tours, as well as restaurants, breweries, and distilleries you can’t find anywhere else. And possibly more than anywhere else on this list, Fairbanks offers a wide variety of accommodations. There are simple places for visitors on a budget, ridiculously pricey luxury hotels, and everything in between. But most, if not all, take advantage of the beauty of their natural surroundings. No matter where you stay, you’ll bring home great memories. Link
Colorado’s a no-brainer for skiing, so we’re making this suggestion the same way we did when we told you to try New York for a summer vacation. The most popular places are going to be easily identifiable. They’ll be the ones the Price is Right is giving away trips to and the ones that show up on the first page of the “Colorado skiing” Google page. Instead, look around a little deeper. There are a ton of options for skiing, so you’re not a slave to the big resorts, though a few of the out-of-the-way places cater to more experienced skiers.
Silverton Mountain is one such mountain. Only consider it if you’re an expert level skiier, but if you are, you’ll have a mountain almost to yourself. They offer guided, unguided, and helicopter experiences, for people who, we can’t stress this enough, really know their way around the slopes.
For less experienced skiiers or people just looking to keep it casual, try Monarch. It’s an independently owned resort that offers slopes of every difficulty, excellent classes, and have partnered with independently owned local lodgers to make sure you’re well taken care of on and off the mountain.
The Vermont Brewery Challenge
There are plenty of good reasons to visit Vermont in the winter, but a statewide brewery tour has to be the best one. Traveling from brewery to brewery sampling the wares in a state that wears snow very well is a perfect trip to us. Winter’s already a more beer friendly time, since everyone’s dialing the IPA production back and launching into stouts, scotch ales, porters, and a ton of other styles that warm you up inside.
Don’t worry about the driving either. There are vacation services set up to cart people from one brewery to another, making sure visitors have a chance to drink the area’s amazing beer without putting anyone’s life in danger. A few of them will even arrange lodging for you. All you have to do is show up, drink, and do your best to not get a hangover. Visit
Big Island, Hawaii
If you like the sun, no matter which island you go to in Hawaii, you’re going to have a good time. It just depends on what you’re going for. O’ahu, where most tourists go, is great if you’re looking to see the major population centers of the state, while each of the other islands have their own draws, be they nature walks, historical sites, or tucked away beaches. For our Hawaiian vacation, we’re pursuing a slower trip, full of hiking and relaxing on the beach. That’s why we’re recommending the Big Island.
It’s there that you’re going to have the best chance of getting Hawaii to yourself. You and whoever you go with can head down one of the island’s many trails and find a private spot to eat a meal, read a book, or just take in the sights. We’re emphasizing walking and trails because there are very few paved roads on the island. Foot power is your best bet for transportation, though sometimes, that kind of change of pace is exactly what you need on your vacation. Visit
San Antonio, Texas
Austin gets a lot of attention as a destination, but San Antonio has just as much to offer and we rarely hear anyone talking about it. It’s Texas, so it might get chilly, but it’s unlikely you’ll get New England winter weather. The San Antonio River Walk is a beautiful slice of food, music, and culture. There are museums, distilleries, wineries, breweries, theaters, theme parks, and special events year round. It has everything you could want in a winter destination, with the added benefit of giving you the leg up on your hipster friends who keep bragging about their trip to Austin.
Arches National Park
We gave you Acadia already, which is likely to give you frostbite if you’re not careful, so we figured we should give you a National Park that wouldn’t require too many extra layers. Don’t get us wrong, you’re still looking at 30 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which means you’ll need a thicker jacket, and overnight visitors should expect temperatures consistently below freezing. But these are still warmer conditions than you’d experience if you were roughing it in the Maine wilderness.
Snowfall is also less likely here, so you’re getting the same views of the titular Arches without any of the oppressive heat. In fact, that may be a better way to look at a winter visit to Arches National Park. You won’t exactly escape cold weather if you come in the winter, but if you’d gone four to six months earlier, you’d be suffering through temperatures in the high 90s to low 100s. Sometimes 110s. We’ll take a sweatshirt and a jacket over the desert heat like that. Visit
To people who might not know a lot about the place, Scottsdale, Arizona, sounds like the name of a boring desert suburb. What it actually is is a lively hub, hosting events, outdoor adventure, more than satisfactory nightlife, and the surprisingly large Museum of the West. If you’ve ever wanted to tool around in a dune buggy, have a meal overlooking the scenic desert, and get a cocktail in an award-winning and constantly changing bar, all in the same day, Scottsdale is your place. We don’t want to sound like we’re talking down to or about Scottsdale, we just thought the cultural highpoint of desert living was Phoenix (a city best summed up by King of the Hill). But apparently there’s a rewarding and energizing vacation waiting for the taking in Scottsdale. Visit