Best Winter Vacations
Some travelers are enchanted by winter's first snowfall, while others are itching to escape the season's frigid weather. To help you find the locale that best suits your winter vacation wants and needs, U.S. News compiled a list of the best winter vacations based on expert analysis and reader votes. Use these ideas to start planning your getaway, and vote for your favorite spots to help determine next year's ranking. (Note: Some of the below destinations may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Check with the CDC and the U.S. Department of State before traveling.)
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Lucerne#1 in Best Winter Vacations
Whether you want to ski or get in the holiday spirit, Lucerne, Switzerland, has you covered. The city's snow-covered streets, festive lights and multiple Christmas markets make it especially charming in winter. You can easily access a variety of ski resorts that surround the city to shred powder. Plus, there's a host of other winter activities available nearby, including sledding, snowshoeing and ice fishing. When you need to warm up, unwind at one of Lucerne's numerous spas.
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The winter months are the priciest times to visit this group of Caribbean islands, but their stellar weather (daytime temperatures hover in the 70s and 80s) makes the high rates worthwhile. Visitors can relax on the islands' world-class beaches, snorkel around breathtaking reefs and tee off at the Provo Golf Club's highly regarded links. For fewer crowds, arrive before or after the holidays.
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St. Lucia's superb winter weather (think: highs in the 80s and mostly clear skies) beckons to travelers set on escaping snow and freezing temps. Though a winter visit requires shelling out some coin for flights to the Caribbean and accommodations on the island, you'll quickly forget the steep premium after a few hours of lounging on the beautiful sands of Anse Chastanet and Reduit Beach. After a day in the sun, sip some of the island's cocoa tea (made with local cocoa, spices and milk) in lieu of your typical hot chocolate.
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In December, most of Costa Rica ushers in its dry season, leaving only pleasant 70- and 80-degree temps to accompany you during your time in Central America. The versatile weather means activities like hiking, riding horses, mountain biking and zip lining through the rainforest are all on the table. And if you visit in January, you'll find the tiny country basking in la pura vida while reveling in its two-week-long Palmares Fiestas. Whichever winter month you choose to arrive, remember to save time for lounging on some of Costa Rica's beautiful beaches.
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Although room rates are inflated from December to March (Rio's summer season), splurging on a getaway during these months comes with its perks: You'll enjoy warm weather in the 80s while lounging on the seaside city's famous sands. After a couple of days of swimming and sunbathing, trek through Tijuca National Park's nearly 8,000 acres of tropical rainforest. Additionally, you can still catch a futebol match in early December.
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Hanoi#6 in Best Winter Vacations
Vietnam's capital city offers beautiful weather come winter. Daytime temperatures comfortably rest in the 60s and 70s, and you're far less likely to encounter rain showers. You'll be able to visit popular attractions like the Temple of Literature and indulge in a steaming bowl of pho (Vietnam's most popular kind of noodle soup) for dinner. A wintertime visit also brings the opportunity to experience some of Hanoi's best events, such as the Tet Festival (which celebrates the Vietnamese Lunar New Year every January or February) and the Perfume Pagoda Festival (a Buddhist pilgrimage that takes place every February).
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Budget-conscious travelers should consider vacationing on this island off the northern coast of Venezuela. Curacao boasts white sand beaches and turquoise waters like other Caribbean islands, but accommodations cost less than what you'd pay for more popular locales. Spend your days diving to view fish and coral or hiking around Christoffelpark and its namesake mountain. You'll find numerous bars, restaurants and casinos around the island to fill your evenings with excitement.
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Seville, Spain's winters offer mild weather (daytime highs hover in the 60s, while lows rest in the 40s), affordable room rates and thinned tourist crowds, making this season a great time to sightsee. Avoiding the scorching summer temperatures means you can take your time admiring the Gothic architecture at the Catedral de Sevilla and the Real Alcázar palace. Additionally, winter is when the city hosts holiday markets (in December) and Three Kings Day festivities (on Jan. 6).
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Travelers who don't mind donning cold-weather attire to see iconic attractions like the Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps and the Colosseum should consider visiting the Eternal City during winter. Average highs in the 50s keep many of Rome's notorious summer crowds at bay, plus visitors can warm up inside one of the city's museums or with a cappuccino or a plate of fresh pasta.
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Winters here are known for being chilly (average highs hover in the 10s and 20s), but this Canadian city's charms make bundling up worthwhile. Old Québec's historical buildings are decked out in Christmas decor throughout December, making an evening stroll through the neighborhood feel magical. Plus, fun celebrations like the Carnaval de Québec and the Mois Multi art festival are on the city's events calendar every February.
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While winters in Lake Tahoe bring plenty of snow, the area's relatively mild daytime temperatures in the 40s make this picturesque lake on the California-Nevada border a superb destination for powder hounds. You'll have several ski spots to choose from, including Squaw Valley, Heavenly and Northstar California ski resorts. When you need to warm up, test Lady Luck at a local casino or cozy up by a fire at one of the area's lodges. Room rates increase during this peak tourist season, so book your accommodations well in advance.
- View 17 PhotosBelongs on List?#12 in Best Winter VacationsRead More
You may find higher accommodation prices and hordes of tourists, but winter visits to this Thai island in the Andaman Sea feature several pluses. Phuket offers outstanding weather come wintertime: You'll avoid the region's monsoon season and enjoy 80- and 90-degree beach weather. Because the threat of rain isn't an issue, you can cross outdoor sights like Big Buddha and Wat Chalong off your bucket list. Another bonus: You can get out on the water to explore by boat.
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This quaint Colorado town swells with outdoor enthusiasts in winter. Skiers and snowboarders will find plenty of powder at Breckenridge Ski Resort. For those who are not interested in hitting the slopes, Breckenridge offers opportunities to try other snowy sports like winter hiking and fat biking. Visitors seeking less active pursuits can check out Breckenridge's snow sculpture competition (held in January), go sledding at Carter Park or browse the shops on Main Street.
- View 58 PhotosBelongs on List?#14 in Best Winter VacationsRead More
December to February (Auckland, New Zealand's summer season) may be the priciest and most crowded time to visit, but the city's inviting weather offsets these drawbacks. Highs in the 60s and 70s and calm winds provide an ideal setting for adventurous pursuits like bungee jumping and skydiving. For a more leisurely vacation, sip a flat white at a cafe or stroll through Cornwall Park. No trip would be complete without going wine tasting on Waiheke Island and hiking on Rangitoto Island.
- View 20 PhotosBelongs on List?#15 in Best Winter VacationsRead More
Nestled along Colombia's Caribbean coast, Cartagena is a warm-weather retreat overflowing with historical sites. The most notable attraction here is the Walled City of Cartagena, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with colonial architecture and Caribbean Sea views. Should you crave more incredible water vistas, head to Playa Blanca or take a boat to the nearby Rosario Islands. Winter (especially around Christmas and New Year's) is a popular time to visit, so you'll want to book your flight and hotel several months in advance.
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To soak up plenty of sun this winter, vacation in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In addition to avoiding the threat of a hurricane, you'll enjoy comfortable temps in the 70s and 80s as you sunbathe on white sand beaches. Keep in mind, the islands welcome strong Christmas winds in December and January, so be sure to pack a windbreaker. Also consider accessing the islands via an eastern Caribbean cruise if you want to avoid spending a lot of money on accommodations.
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Winter sports enthusiasts flock to this Canadian locale in British Columbia to zip down the world-renowned slopes at Whistler Blackcomb. But Whistler boasts ample activities for non-skiers, too. Travelers can go bobsledding at the Whistler Sliding Centre, sign up for a snowshoe tour or simply take advantage of the top-notch après-ski scene. Regardless of when in winter visitors choose to visit, they can expect daytime temperatures to hover between the low 10s and high 30s.
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With warm temperatures, a riotous nightlife scene and plenty of chic hotels, Miami offers a bevy of entertainment options. Following a relaxing soak at the Venetian Pool or an airboat tour of Everglades National Park, head to the Wynwood Walls before savoring authentic Cuban fare at one of Little Havana's restaurants. If you have kids in tow, hit up the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science or Zoo Miami.
- View 39 PhotosBelongs on List?#19 in Best Winter VacationsRead More
Dubai's warm winters are the perfect respite from snow-prone locales. Daily highs in this United Arab Emirates city sit in the low to upper 70s, so you can spend your vacation sunbathing on Jumeirah Beach, exploring the gold and spice souks or sandboarding at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. For a taste of winter in the middle of the desert, hit the slopes at the Mall of the Emirates' massive indoor Ski Dubai complex.
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Tulum, Mexico's warm winter weather (think: highs in the 70s and 80s) is perfect for exploring the area's cenotes and lounging on its numerous beaches. You'll encounter thick tourist crowds from December through February, so for more breathing room at popular sights like Tulum's Mayan ruins, plan an early morning visit. You'll also want to book your hotel well in advance to secure the best rates.
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