Five Unforgettable Destinations for Winter Holidays

From world-class ski slopes to cozy cabins and festive music festivals, these five destinations offer a unique winter escape. So bundle up and get ready to explore a magical destination that will warm your heart well after the snow melts.

Salzburg, Austria

1. Iceland

Although Iceland is a year-round destination, it’s even more magical during the winter. You can take a scenic helicopter tour to enjoy a bird’s-eye view of rushing rivers, dazzling ice fields and jagged mountain peaks. Or you can head to FlyOver Iceland in Reykjavik for a multi-sensory experience that takes you on an immersive flight ride over the island’s natural wonders.

Other highlights of a trip to Iceland in the winter include visiting the Blue Lagoon with fewer tourists, walking out to the abandoned DC plane on Solheimasandur beach (also known as Diamond Beach) and taking in the views at the Jökulsarlón glacier lagoon, which includes icebergs floating in crystal blue water and black sand beaches with “diamond” chunks of ice.

You can also explore quaint villages and the vast wilderness of the south coast, where you’ll have more opportunities to see the Northern Lights.

2. Kauai

Visiting Hawaii during the holidays gives travelers a unique opportunity to experience local traditions and holiday festivities with a distinctly island twist. From jovial hula dancers and festive ukulele performances to quaint Kauai Festival of Lights and ballet Hawaii’s Nutcracker, visitors discover the island spirit during this festive season.

Known as the “Garden Island,” Kauai offers an unforgettable sensory mix with pristine nature and breathtaking scenic attractions, including the majestic Waimea Canyon and awe-inspiring Napali Coast. When winter arrives, visitors can enjoy the ambiance of the island with palm-draped twinkling lights, small-town Christmas parades, and shave ice treats.

Visitors can also take part in annual cultural events like Chinese New Year and Honolulu City Lights, as well as attend sporting events like Sony Open in Hawaii and Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.

3. Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is the perfect winter getaway for those who love to ski, snowboard, and enjoy the snowy scenery. The cerulean lake surrounded by snowcapped mountain peaks is a sight to see that will leave you feeling inspired, energized and refreshed.

When visiting the area during the winter, be sure to avoid the big name resorts like Heavenly Valley, Squaw Valley, and Northstar-at-Tahoe and try a local favorite like Mt. Rose or Alpine Meadows. These smaller, more intimate ski resorts tend to be less crowded and have lower lift ticket prices.

Another fun activity to do is soak in one of the many hot springs around the area. Growing up in Wisconsin, this is always my favorite thing to do during the winter and is an especially fun option at night when you can catch a beautiful view of the stars.

4. New York City

There are few cities as magical at Christmas time as New York City. From the iconic Rockefeller Center tree lighting to holiday shopping on Fifth Avenue, NYC is every kid’s dream and every proposer’s idyllic get-down-on-one-knee scenario.

There’s plenty to do in the city that never sleeps, from ice skating at the famous Bryant Park Holiday Market to visiting all of the dazzling Saks Fifth Avenue holiday windows. During Hanukkah, the world’s largest menorah lights up at both Manhattan’s Grand Plaza and Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza.

You’ll find plenty of charming AF winter villages and markets that are filled with local products, delicious food, and decadent beverages to stock up on gifts. And, if you’re not feeling like being outdoors, just head inside to one of the many museums or soak in a revitalizing winter hot spa.

5. Antarctica

Antarctica is the trip of a lifetime for most travelers. This icy wilderness feels almost unreal, and its history of daring explorations shed light on the incredible tenacity of the human spirit.

Amid this awe-inspiring setting, the potential for National Geographic-worthy shots of Adelie penguin chicks and spouting humpbacks draws amateur and professional shutterbugs alike. Visiting a research station like McMurdo, Vernadsky or Port Lockroy offers an insider’s look at how scientists brave the cold to investigate everything from polar-desert microbes and prehistoric climates to volcanoes and ice-sheet movement.

On expedition cruises, you’ll spend every day zipping in Zodiac boats among beautifully sculpted icebergs and exploring infrequently visited areas that make you feel incredibly small in this cathedral of pristine nature. You can also spend time on shore, walking among penguins and seals or exploring historic huts of famous explorers.

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