The 10 Best Weekend Trips You Need to Take This Winter
You don't need a long vacation to get away this season.
Whether you're a snowbird escaping the cold or prefer to embrace the chill with mountain sports, planning a vacation is one of the best remedies for fighting the winter blues. Plus, with many destinations experiencing their tourism low season between December and March, a winter getaway is a lot more affordable than busier summers.
From small towns to big cities, wine country to beachfront retreats, we've rounded up some of the best getaways to experience solo or with friends and family. Read on to discover the 10 best weekend trips you need to take this winter.
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The 10 Best Winter Weekend Trips
Winter is the perfect time to visit Tucson thanks to moderate temperatures and clear skies. With little chance of rain, those dark open skies are exactly what makes Tucson one of the best destinations for stargazing. You'll likely notice stars from your hotel parking lot, but for a sure bet head to Oracle State Park, an international dark sky destination.
You can continue to enjoy the outdoors with Tucson's year-round camping options, though boutique hotels around the city, like The Tuxon Hotel, provide a nice glimpse into Southwest hospitality sprinkled with midcentury aesthetics. Keep an eye out for heated outdoor pools to enjoy cocktails under the stars.
For an immersive cultural tour, rent a bike and explore more than 100 murals throughout Tucson. You can snack along the way, with food trucks offering tacos, burgers, Thai food, and pastries. Or rent a car to day trip to Bisbee, one of the cutest small towns in the Southwest and a historic mining district. Bisbee's vibrant downtown is packed with vintage shops, indie roast coffee, and sidewalk cafes.
2. Whistler, British Columbia
In search of thrilling slopes and dreamy snowscapes? Adventure travelers and non-skiers alike will adore weekending in Whistler, British Columbia's charming village known for hosting the Winter Olympics. Yet snapping selfies in front of Whistler's Olympic Plaza is just the start of a cozy winter getaway north of the border.
For a luxury retreat this winter, escape to Fairmont Chateau Whistler, a hotel so amazing you'll never want to leave the property. Guests here enjoy mountain views, an indoor/outdoor heated pool with underwater music, and daily yoga classes. Plus, a courtesy hotel shuttle ushers guests to shopping, dining, and attractions around Whistler Village.
Visitors can keep warm on snowy days by exploring indigenous culture, local art galleries, or embarking on a craft beer tour around town. For thrill-seekers, mountain cycling, skiing, and tubing are all fun ways to take in the Olympic city's natural landscape.
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3. New Orleans, Louisiana
Thanks to its French and Spanish cultural influences, New Orleans is one of the top U.S. cities that will make you think you're in Europe, and winter is a prime time for visitors on a budget. The French Quarter is explorable on foot, with live music scattered throughout, folklore museums, and shorter lines queued up at eateries serving po' boys, jambalaya, and beignets.
After celebrating an anniversary over a New Orleans winter weekend, lifestyle writer Heather Bien says "I can confidently say there's no better time of year to visit." Winter in NOLA lacks the heat and humidity the city is otherwise famous for in prime tourism season. When visiting between December and February, travelers will find comfortable highs in the mid-60s.
It's good to note mid to late February is the annual Mardi Gras celebration, which sees hotel pricing on the rise, yet leading up to this event visitors will find some of the initial celebratory vibe without the price surge. Money.com says Mardi Gras guests can expect to spend an average of $529 per night for a 4-star hotel, yet many of these same French Quarter hotels start around $200 per night in January.
4. Bimini, Bahamas
One of the may reasons a winter trip to the Bahamas is so popular is how easy it is to get there. From Miami, it's barely an hour fight, while a high-speed passenger ferry takes two hours between Fort Lauderdale and the island of Bimini.
Once there, visitors can indulge in a luxe getaway at Resorts World Bimini, home to a casino, local eats, and stunning resort pools set alongside a sugar sand beach. Next door is the Fisherman's Village marketplace with rum bars, souvenir shops, and local tour operators and watersport vendors.
While many on Bimini simply kick back and enjoy the sunshine, other popular activities here include swimming with rays and sharks, snorkeling the reefs and shipwrecks, or taking in a local history tour. Though Bimini is located just 50 miles off the coast of Miami, the laidback island makes visitors feel a world away.
5. Las Vegas, Nevada
Sure, Vegas is the hot spot to be poolside during heat intensive summers, yet winters pose an extra affordable time to visit the city's decadent resort hotels. With lower pricing and cool temperatures, the folks at Golden Gate Hotel & Casino say, "visiting Vegas in winter is one of the most enjoyable times to take a vacation."
Those intent on enjoying a poolside cocktail can do so at Circa's Stadium Swim, home to a year-round 86-degree heated pool complex. Other awesome non-gambling activities in Vegas include taking a self-guided foodie tour, exploring cultural attractions like the new Princess Diana tribute exhibit, or trying indoor ziplining at pop culture zone Area 15.
Or turn a winter getaway into a romantic wellness retreat by visiting award-winning spas along The Strip, followed by a night of celebrity chef dining. Then head up 46 stories of the Eiffel Tower Experience to see Vegas lit up against the desert mountain landscape.
6. Cancun, Mexico
Those in search of sun and fun will want to plan a weekend getaway to Cancun. While many travelers opt for an all-inclusive beachside resort, there's so much to see and do outside your hotel's backyard. Consider instead staying at an upscale hotel close to amenities, like JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa. You'll have all the comforts of high-end accommodations with easy access to area attractions.
For families, Trip Advisor travelers consistently rank the Mayan Museum of Cancun as one of the best ways to spend the day with kids. Follow that with a visit to Zona Arqueologica El Ray, a site of Mayan Ruins, located within the hotel district.
For an easy day of family fun near Cancun hotels, visit La Isla Cancun shopping area, home to a huge Ferris wheel and interactive aquarium. If traveling with pals, you'll find energetic nightlife at fashionable steakhouse Chambao, known for its lively tableside entertainment.
7. San Diego, California
San Diego is known for its sunshine, and it also happens to be one of the most dog-friendly cities in the U.S. which is perfect when traveling with your furry friends. From off-leash parks to pet-friendly patio restaurants, winter visitors to San Diego will find an even more laidback atmosphere than it's known for during high season in the summer. That means more time and space to explore the city's natural attractions.
Local lifestyle and travel writer Katie Dillon notes tide pooling is a popular family activity during the winter months. "These low tides reveal sea creatures galore, including sea anemones, sea cucumbers, hermit crabs, octopus, sea stars, sea slugs, and more living in our tide pools," she says.
For otherwise busy attractions, winter is also an excellent time to see less crowds at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park and the museum hub of Balboa Park. In the heart of the city, Balboa Park is also a great destination for year-round sports like cycling and hiking. And, yes, three of Balboa's park areas are dog-friendly, too.
8. Fredericksburg, Texas
If your ideal winter getaway revolves around wine tours and tastings, head to Fredericksburg to sip and savor at more than 100 wineries and vineyards. Fredericksburg is not only known for being central to the Texas Wine Trail, it's also one of the most charming small towns in the U.S. for a winter getaway thanks to its historic architecture and boutique-lined streets.
This small town offers the best of Texas Hill Country with dog-friendly eateries, family attractions including a pioneer museum, and state and local parks worthy of exploring day and night. Enchanted Rock is particularly powerful during the late hours as its designated as an international dark sky park, ideal for stargazing with the family.
For outdoors enthusiasts, Fredericksburg is also ideal for scenic road cycling through wine country, while Cross Mountain Park offers casual hikes with downtown views. Either way, you'll work up an appetite for sampling the town's fusion menus featuring Southwest and German influences.
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9. Rosemary Beach, Florida
Rosemary Beach is arguably one of the 10 prettiest small towns in the U.S. and is so different than Florida's popular spring break beaches. Set along the Gulf Coast, Rosemary Beach is just 16 miles from Panama City Beach, yet the vibe in this charming village is one of quiet relaxation.
Visitors to Rosemary Beach spend their days kayaking and paddle boarding or exploring nature reserves like Eden Gardens State Park. Even a stroll through town is dreamy with cobblestone pathways, al fresco dining, and sidewalk cafes enticing people to slow down and appreciate the simple things.
While visitors won't find typical chain hotel accommodations in this little town, vacation rentals abound for travelers with families and pets, while a boutique inn offers ADA accessible accommodations along the shore.
10. A Carnival weekend cruise
Affordability is just one reason some people choose a cruise over any other vacation and a quick getaway is totally possible with Carnival Cruise Line. Staring at just $112 per person, Carnival's short cruises depart from the west and east coasts, and along the Gulf of Mexico.
Whether you're a solo cruiser or plan on sailing with friends or family, a short weekend getaway may include port visits to Mexico or the Bahamas. If the sailing includes a sea day, that's good news for food enthusiasts as travel agent resource TravelPulse.com says Carnival's brunch "remains to this day as one of the best at sea."
With entertainment on the main stage, family activities like mini-putt and ropes courses, and most dining included in the cruise fare—not to mention accommodations—a weekend cruise can be an especially cost-effective way to escape the winter blues.