12 Ultimate Winter Travel Destinations for Every Kind of Adventure

Whatever your speed—from hitting the slopes to kicking back on a tropical beach—we’ve got the winter vacation for you
December 6, 2018Words by Miranda Smith

Don’t get us wrong, we love winter. Skiing, cozy cabins, hot toddies—we don’t let dropping temps put a stop to our adventures. But sometimes we need a break from all the snow and sleet. Tropical beach, anyone?

So we tapped our most well-traveled buddies—our Huckberry ambassadors, our friends and family, and of course, our employees—to round up their top winter travel picks, both near and far. Read on to either embrace the frigid temps—if that’s your thing—or trade in your mittens and gloves for swim trunks and sunglasses.
 



Escaping the cold
 

Near: Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

Photo: Miranda Smith

The Caribbean is a no-brainer in the winter, and we’ve got a special spot in our hearts for Puerto Rico. And because tourism is a key part of Puerto Rico’s long-term plan for fully recovering from Hurricane Maria in 2017, you can think of every dollar you spend on coquitos and snorkeling as, in a way, going to a good cause. Puerto Rico’s got a ton going on—and we’ve got insider recs to prove it.

In late January, the San Sebastián Street Festival in Old San Juan is four days of music and parades in the streets. But no matter when you come, you can find plenty of rum and dancing at the speakeasy-style cocktail bar and salsa club, La Factoria. Behind unmarked doors on the corner of Calle San Sebastián and Calle San Jose, you’ll find a trendy spot with checkered floors and string lights, but don’t stop there—the real party is on the other side of the curtain tucked behind the bar. It’s here (in the room where parts of the “Despacito” music video was filmed) that you’ll find live music and salsa dancing. Back to that rum we mentioned: While the official Bacardi distillery in San Juan is certainly worth a visit, Don Q is actually the preferred local liquor. Bottoms up.

Outside of San Juan, take a rainforest hike in El Yunque, go spelunking in Parques de las Cavernas del Rio Camuy, and visit Huckberry favorite Luquillo Beach. And don’t skip nearby islands Vieques and Culebra. Pro tip: renting your own sailboat is the best way to explore little-known nooks on Puerto Rico’s smaller islands (watch for dolphins swimming alongside your boat). Otherwise, you can always take a ferry to Culebra to visit Playa Flamenco or to Vieques to visit Mosquito Bay (Bio Bay), home to the highest concentration bioluminescent dinoflagellates in the world. These microorganisms give off light when agitated, resulting in a difficult-to-photograph but nevertheless unforgettable nighttime swim through glowing water.

 Far: The Galápagos

Galapagos
Photo: Hugh_s20 

For those trying to escape frigid temperatures and 4 p.m. sunsets, head to the equator. At -0.78º latitude, the Galápagos Islands offer balmy (stormless) weather and almost exactly 12 hours of sunshine every single day, all year. And while many island destinations experience downpours and tropical storms in the January and February, the lowlands of these Pacific islands receive limited rain.

The archipelago is so biodiverse that 97% of the islands have been declared a national park and are protected by the Ecuadorian government. Because of the Galápagos’ isolation, it hosts more than 50 endemic species—97% of reptiles and land mammals, 80% of birds, 30% of plants, and 20% of marine species living there don’t exist anywhere else in the world. It’s home the blue-footed booby, the largest living tortoise species  (475 pounds), and the only penguins north of the equator—that’s right, penguins. It’s this highly specialized ecosystem that caught Charles Darwin’s eye when he visited the Galápagos in 1835. He published his observations in On the Origin of the Species, forever changing our scientific understanding of life. Today you can still visit his research station on Isla Santa Cruz.

In addition to the indigenous plants and animals, 25,000 people live on the Galápagos’ four inhabited islands—Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela, and Floreana. If you choose a land-based trip, you’ll stay on one of them (pro tip: choose a hotel close to the harbor to cut down on your commute time to the other islands). Otherwise, you can book a cruise that’ll allow you to travel while you sleep. (The park limits boats to 100 passengers, so it won’t be one of those huge cruise ships.) Either way, don’t miss the beach at Tortuga Bay, the El Chato Tortoise Reserve, and the nine-mile hike around Isla Isabela’s most active volcano, the Sierra Negra.
 



Skiing

 

Near: Revelstoke in BC
 

Revelstoke
Photo: Hywel Williams for Revelstoke

Described by members of the Huckberry team as their “favorite mountain in the world,” Revelstoke Mountain Resort—or Revy—is a can’t-miss. Situated on Mount Mackenzie in British Columbia, Revelstoke has more than 3,000 skiable acres, including the longest vertical descent in North America at 5,620 feet.

To reach Revy, you’ll want to fly into Kelowna for a 2.5-hour drive or 3.5 hours from Calgary. With winter temperatures hovering just below freezing, make sure to bundle up and be careful on the icy roads—let those Canadians in 16-wheelers pass you on the highway. For the drive, you’ll be rewarded with an unspoiled mountain town. The resort was only built in 2007, so Revelstoke is still very much in transition from a sleepy railroad and logging town to a mountain that draws skiers from around the world.

But that’s not to say there’s no après culture—Craft Bierhaus has rotating craft beers on tap and some of the best mac and cheese in Canada (in our humble opinion). The Taco Club serves “Latin street food with a northern flare” and has an extensive tequila collection. For more to drink, The Village Idiot is the preferred local haunt.

In the morning, grab a cup at Stoke Roasted Coffee Co. on the way to the slopes. Revy has four chairlifts, and our favorite runs are accessible by The Stoke Chair on the south side of the mountain, which takes you up to 7,300 feet. From there, black diamond run Pitch Black will take you all the way back down to Revelation Lodge at 2,588 feet. Looking to go higher? Selkirk Tangiers has been heli-skiing around Revvy since 1978.

Far: Val d’Isère in France

Skiing in Val d'lsere
Photo: Val d’Isère

Nestled at 6,070 feet in Vanoise National Park, French ski resort Val d’Isère offers 24,710 acres of skiing, some of the best views, and the most reliable snow in Europe. When mother nature needs an assist, Le Snow Factory—Europe’s largest snowmaking facility—can fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in 30 minutes and keep Val d’Isère powdery no matter the precipitation. The 90 lifts lead to 186 miles of marked runs, including La Face de Ballevarde. The 1.9-mile black diamond is the site of the famous men’s downhill race at the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics where the first three finishers completed the run within 0.1 seconds of one another.

After you’ve had your go at Le Face (or the bunny hill—no judgement), the town of Val d’Isère combines everything you love about après culture and a European vacation in the most idyllic snowy village you could possibly imagine. With its location on the French-Italian border, it’s no big surprise that the food is good, but even with that in mind, you’ll be impressed. A bistro-style gourmet restaurant that’s earned itself two Michelin stars, L’Atelier d’Edmond serves luxurious masterpieces like catfish with homemade gnocchi in a bouillon broth. For something a little less opulent but just as mouthwatering, Le Grande Ourse is a local favorite with a long wine list and an exceedingly cozy atmosphere (it’s housed in a classic white chalet).

And don’t worry if you’ve forgotten everything you learned in your high school French class—Val d’Isère is a favorite for the British, so it’s become extremely accessible to English-speakers. Just don’t forget to say s'il vous plaît and merci.
 



Chasing the Northern Lights
 

Near: Iceland


Iceland
Photo: Alex Souza

A Huckberry favorite, Iceland lies just south of the Arctic Circle, making for short winter days, long blue hours, and plenty of night sky to spot the Northern Lights. And because of its position on the Gulf Stream, Iceland has surprisingly mild winter temperatures for its latitude, warmer than portions of the United States and definitely warmer than other prime Aurora Borealis destinations. And you can get there in under six hours from New York City, often for just a few hundred bucks. 

You’ll almost certainly fly in to Reykjavik, so be sure to hit Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur for the best hot dog in the world (Bill Clinton, Metallica, and even some of the Huckberry team have eaten there—and we even have the recipe). Then warm up at Mikeller Brewery and hoist the Huckberry collab Gose-style ale, the Blue Hour. Once it gets dark, head to the Grotto Lighthouse for the best view of the Northern Lights in Reykjavik.

While views from the lighthouse can be spectacular, you’ll want to head out of the city for the best shows—keep your eye on this map for night-to-night activity. You’ll need something to get around, so pick up a Land Rover Defender from Geysir (use “Huckberry x Geysir” for 10% off through January) and explore the island nation. We recommend Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool (the oldest heated swimming pool in Iceland), 200-foot Skógafoss Waterfall, 3,000-year-old Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, and as many of Iceland’s countless hot springs as possible. Check out our 72-hour guide for a full itinerary, but no matter your plans, be ready to drop everything to catch the elusive Aurora Borealis show when it strikes.
 

Far: Alaska

Northern Lights in Alaska
Photo: Borealis Base Camp

To get any decent Aurora Borealis show in North America, you’ve got to leave the contiguous United States—it’s time for a trip to the Last Frontier. With as many as 19 hours of darkness a day in the winter, there’s plenty of opportunity for visible Northern Lights over Alaska.

The largest and most accessible city, Anchorage is home to more than 40% of the state’s entire population. So it’s not too surprising that it’s also got the most restaurants and bars—Glacier Brewhouse will serve you up some of the best wild Alaskan seafood (Bering Sea king crab legs) and a flight of home-brewed ale to wash it down. Another can’t-miss in Anchorage: The hike to Flatthop Mountain Trail is a 3.3-mile (round trip) jaunt that offers views of the city and sometimes even views of the Northern Lights.

But you don’t travel to a state with eight national parks, 6,640 miles of coastline, and 98% of the country’s brown bear population to hang out in the city. Home to (and named after) the tallest mountain in North America, Denali National Park and Preserve is a can’t-miss. You can take a glass-topped luxury train tour through the 9492-square-mile wilderness. Or, for a true Alaskan experience, hire a bush plane for an aerial view of the landscape. Fly Denali offers a two-hour tour that includes a glacier landing on the mountain, and that’s just one of many flightseeing options over the Last Frontier. As for those grizzly bears, AK Adventures can take you to visit dozens of the 800-pound Ursa arctos in their natural habitat in Katmai National Park.

While you could see the Northern Lights at any point during your trip, your best shot is in Fairbanks, where Aurora Borealis is visible 200 days a year on average. If you stay for three nights or more, you have a 90% chance of catching at least one show. Ask your hotel for a Northern Lights wake up call—or, even better, sleep where you can see them from your bed. The Borealis Basecamp fiberglass dome’s curved 16-foot skylight will put the view from your bedroom window at home to shame.  
 



Holiday Hygge


Near: Quebec City

Quebec City Ice Hotel
Photo: Clément Belleudy

Out at our headquarters in California, we usually feel pretty lucky to have perpetually sunny weather, but we’d be lying if we said we didn’t get a little nostalgic at the idea of fresh snow and roaring fireplaces this time of year. After all, there’s no Bing Crosby song called “I’m Dreaming of a 65ºF Christmas.” While the East Coast and Midwest certainly deliver a certain amount of holiday hygge, it’s our neighbors to the north who really take “winter wonderland” to the next level. If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas—or just a night in an ice hotel—Quebec City will not disappoint.

Old Quebec is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the only fortified city in both Canada and the United States, and when the 17th-century cobblestone streets are covered in snow and lights, it feels like a scene out of a Charles Dickens novel. During December, you can visit one of the best German Christmas Market outside of Europe—bratwurst and gingerbread included—but the best winter events in Quebec are actually in February. Started 1955, the Quebec Winter Carnival features night parades, an ice castle, and even an ice canoe race over the frozen St. Lawrence River.

But even if your trip doesn’t land on a winter festival, there’ll be plenty of hygge to go around. We recommend the 492-foot-long toboggan run in the middle of the city and a stay in North America’s only ice hotel. Only open during the winter, Hotel de Glace’s 44 guestrooms are all entirely made out of ice—even the furniture (and the cocktail glasses at the bar). Stay warm at the outdoor hot tubs and sauna or head into Le Fou Bar in Old Quebec for a pint of Griffon by the old stone fireplace. And don’t forget to load up on poutine—you’ll need that extra insulation at the ice hotel.

Far: Vienna

Vienna for Christmas
Photo: Julius Silver

Vienna held its first Christmas market in 1298, so it’s no surprise that the city has gotten pretty good at holiday celebrations. And with average temperatures right around freezing in the winter, you’ll likely see snow during your trip. Even better—you’ve got Vienna’s famous cozy coffeehouses to keep you warm and well fed. Opened in 1861, Cafe Schwarzenberg is one of the oldest in Vienna and serves up excellent sachertorte. And if you’re looking for something a little stronger, you’re in luck—Vienna has a thriving craft beer scene. Head to The Brickmaker’s Bar and Kitchen for the biggest beer selection in the city. They’ve got Gold Fassl Spezial, BrauWerk, and Me & Uwe on tap (all brewed in Vienna).

As for Christmas markets, the Wiener Christkindlmarkt is the main event. Situated in front of the 19th-century town hall, it features an ice rink, a flurry of holiday lights, 150 booths of handmade gifts and belly-warming food (we’re talking roasted pine nuts and mulled wine), and the tallest Christmas tree in the city. For something a little more low-key, head to the local favorite Christmas market on Spittelberg where the narrow cobblestone streets are made even more idyllic by their relative lack of tourists. And of course, no trip to Vienna would be complete without a visit to Karlsplatz and Schönbrunn Palace, both of which have their own charming markets to explore.



Ringing in the New Year


Near: Lake Tahoe
 

Tahoe for New year's Eve
Photo: Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows

Sure, many might consider Times Square to be the ultimate American New Year’s Eve experience. But given the choice between waiting 12 hours to snag a spot that a million+ are vying for and watching fireworks burst over the mountains after a day of carving fresh lines, we’re going to pick the latter every time. And there’s no better place to shred into the new year than Lake Tahoe.

A spectacular playground for the outdoorsy any time of year, Tahoe is in its prime during the winter when more than a dozen ski resorts open up, and New Year’s Eve is a particularly special time with the numerous firework shows and the SnowGlobe Music Festival in South Lake Tahoe. The music is outdoors, but Big Gigantic beats and hot toddies will keep you warm.

If you’re not into electronic music (or even if you are), be sure to circle up to Historic Downtown Truckee. The quaint ski town has roots in 19th-century Westward Expansion and the logging and ice manufacturing industries. Today it’s got some of the best bars and restaurants surrounding Tahoe. We recommend Moody’s—a cozy bistro on the ground level of the historical Truckee Hotel that serves craft cocktails and live music. And on the way to the mountain, grab a cup of joe at Dark Horse Coffee Roasters or a hearty breakfast at Marty’s Cafe.

Continuing counterclockwise around the lake, the West Shore is home to the best skiing in Tahoe. The Huckberry team is partial to Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, which have some of most diverse terrain, plus a great après scene—warm up at the fire pit at Le Chamois after a day on the slopes. Other can’t-miss stops on the West Shore include Pete ‘n Peter’s (the best sports bar in Tahoe, pool tables and dart boards included) and Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co.

As for counting down to midnight, you can’t go wrong with any of the parties and fireworks displays all around Lake Tahoe. From Reno to Squaw to SnowGlobe, it will be a new year celebration to remember.

Far: Sydney

New Year's Eve in Sydney
Photo: Rob Chandler

Our argument for a New Year’s Eve down under is simple: Sydney is the first major city in the world to ring in the new year (perfect if you need to put 2018 behind you ASAP), and it hosts the largest fireworks display in the world (boom). And as a bonus, it’s summer in Australia, so you also get to escape the frigid Northern Hemisphere on this trip.

Because the countdown to midnight over the Sydney Harbour is so legendary, you’ll want to have a plan for viewing—and joining—the festivities. If you can swing it, Opera Australia hosts a show and offers unparalleled views of fireworks through the glass-fronted sails of the Sydney Opera House. But our recommendation is a picnic (BYOP—but no booze) at Cremorne Point where entry is free and views are only slightly more distant than hot tickets like the Opera House or Barangaroo Reserve. Another great option, if you camp (or glamp) on Cockatoo Island, you can watch the fireworks from your campsite. (That means you won’t have to spend the first hour of your new year sitting in traffic to get back to your hotel after the show.)

During the rest of your time in Sydney, visit Bondi Beach, hike from Manly to Spit Bridge, and cross climbing the 440-foot Sydney Harbour Bridge off your bucket list. And don’t leave the Land Down Under until you’ve had an Old Fashioned on tap at our favorite speakeasy, The Baxter Inn—trust us.
 



Taking Advantage of the Off-season

 

Near: Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon
Photo: Miranda Smith

In 2017, more than six million people visited the Grand Canyon. While we love that so many people are able to enjoy one of America’s most iconic national parks, we usually take to nature to escape the crowds, not join them. Fortunately, the Grand Canyon’s South Rim is open year round, and while nearly 800,000 people entered the park this past July, the throngs of tourists thin dramatically after October. Months like January and February see fewer than 300,000 visitors, making it the perfect time to embark on the bucket-list hike down to the Colorado River.

We recommend the iconic 9.5-mile Bright Angel Trail. Starting at nearly 7,000 feet above sea level, it can be cold and snowy for the first two or three miles, but if you brave past the icy beginnings with caution (and, in extreme cases, crampons), it gets warmer as you descend 4,500 feet. At the bottom of the canyon, winter temperatures range from 38ºF to 58ºF—probably preferable to the 120ºF you could experience in the summer.

Another reason to visit the Grand Canyon in the winter: Cabins and campsites must be reserved months in advance during peak season, and some accommodations even require you to enter a lottery. In the winter, you’ll still want to book ahead of time, but the competition for a great spot is much less fierce. Stay at a dormitory or private cabin at Phantom Ranch or pitch a tent at Bright Angel Campground, and enjoy your night along the Colorado River—tomorrow you’ve got 4,500 feet of ascent ahead of you.

Far: Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik
Photo: Miranda Smith

Ten years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to find Dubrovnik on a map. Then, seemingly overnight, the Croatian city showed up on every travel magazine, television show, and bucket list we follow. And we get it—one photograph of the famous medieval walls and terracotta roofs surrounded by the azure sea makes us want to book a one-way flight to the “Pearl of the Adriatic.” But with its exploding popularity, the crowds and prices have also exploded. On a busy July day, Dubrovnik can feel more like a mall on Black Friday than the idyllic and historic beach town we hoped for. It’s gotten so bad that last year, UNESCO threatened to revoke the city’s heritage site status if the city didn’t find a way to mitigate overcrowding.

But before you cross Croatia off your list, consider an off-season visit. When the cruise ships become fewer, the locals take back the city—not to mention your Airbnb will be much cheaper. Sure, the 55° temperature might put a damper on beach activities, but you’ll be able to walk the impregnable 17th-century city walls without fighting the masses. After all, the real charm of Dubrovnik is the winding medieval streets and the sweeping Adriatic views.

Unsurprisingly, the best view is the highest—overlooking the city and the sea atop Mount Srd. While most visitors take the cable car 1,190-feet above Old Town, we’ll opt for the two-mile hike every time. Back in the city, grab some rakia at Old Town’s last local stronghold—the Seaman’s Club. And if you’re still in need of a further escape, rent a kayak and paddle the half-mile to the carless Lokrum Island to visit the resident peacocks and botanical garden.

Banner Photo: Alex Souza



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