Whether you can’t wait for the upcoming snow season, or you’re the first one to pack your bags and head for warmer climates, we’ve got a destination for you. Is there a more appropriate winter destination than a place that resembles the North Pole? Winter is the best time to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights dancing across the sky and Reykjavik is one of the best places to see them. For skiers, Bláfjöll resort, located just outside of the city, is popular with locals and tourists alike for its spectacular views and varied landscapes. You won’t want to miss the annual lighting of the Oslo Christmas in Ingolfstorg square, and check out the City Hall Winter Woods display. Then, visit the Christmas Village at Hafnarfjordur, a popular destination for both locals and visitors. Stick around for the New Year’s celebration and watch as the 200,000 residents of the city set off approximately 500 tons of fireworks at 5 minutes to midnight. Since most of the city’s tourism occurs during summer, going in the off-season will save you money and you’ll also avoid crowds at most sites.
New York City, New York
There’s something magical about winter in Manhattan, with its elaborate holiday window displays and the famous Christmas tree and ice skating rink in Rockefeller Center. Shopping in New York is unmatched, so you’ll have ample opportunity to check everyone off of your holiday gift list. Even the grinchiest of locals seem to cheer up this time of year. Musicians are often heard playing carols, their songs echoing throughout subway stations. The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is must-see, and so is the Empire State Building which lights up its top floors with red and green lights during the months of November and December. If ample snow is in the forecast, join the locals as they go sledding in Central Park.
Québec City, Canada
If you yearn for a European holiday but it’s just not in the budget, set your sights on Québec City. With narrow cobblestone streets in the historic district, and fairytale castle Château Frontenac overlooking the St. Lawrence River, Québec City has a classic European feel, but without the cost of an overseas flight. At the end of November, the town is transformed into an old-fashioned Christmas Village à la Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (pictured). Stroll through majestic streets brightly decorated with lights, and populated with carolers. Visit the authentic German Christmas Market, an unexpected delight in a city with a distinctly French feel. Bring the kids to Festi Lumière, an outdoor experience decorated with more than 500,000 LED lights and featuring an enchanted forest. Intrepid souls can book a stay in Hotel de Glace, a hotel built entirely out of snow and ice. It’s no wonder Both USA Today and CNN ranked Québec City one of the best winter vacation destinations.
Big Island, Hawaii
Are you ready to escape the cold? You can’t get better than the Hawaiian islands. With its warm ocean breezes and average 80-degree temperatures, the Big Island is one of the best places to defrost. You won’t want to miss Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to one of the most active volcanoes on earth, where you can learn how the islands were formed. Then, head over to Puna to take a dip in the geothermal baths, heated below the earth by the steam of active volcano Kilauea. Coffee lovers can tour the coffee plantations of Kona, and foodies will not want to miss one of the island’s famous luaus, serving local delicacies. Oh, and if you’re feeling homesick for the snow, never fear, you can always head up to the top of Mauna Kea, the 13,000-foot-tall volcano to get a dose of the cold stuff.
Auckland, New Zealand
While we in the north are dealing with snow and freezing temperatures, those in the Southern hemisphere are enjoying warmer weather. In fact, Christmas marks the beginning of the summer holiday season in New Zealand. So, pack your swimsuit and head down to Auckland to enjoy one of its picturesque beaches, then hike to one of the many waterfalls in the rainforest just minutes’ drive from the city. Before you go, head to La Cigale French-style Farmers’ Market to stock up on freshly baked pastries, bread, fruits and vegetables, and other items for a delicious picnic. Head on over to Hobbiton, the still functional movie set, a must-see destination for any Lord of the Rings fan. With blends of gorgeous scenery and the luxuries of city living, and endless activities to choose from, you’ll completely forget it’s winter back home.
I don’t know about you, but my bags are packed. Now where to first?