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8 Great Winter Wonderland Retreats
If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, desperate for some winter sun or just in dire need of a break from everyday life, this is the time to start thinking about your options because winter is coming. There are so many great choices for a winter retreat, from traditional to undiscovered, just waiting to catch your eye.
Niagara Falls (USA/Canada)
Niagara Falls is pretty impressive all year-round, but during the winter, it transforms. The falls look incredible in mid-winter, and there’s a good chance you’ll be able to make snowmen in front of the spectacular view. There are two special winter attractions that you won’t see at any other time of year, too. There are winter fireworks and, on the Canadian side of the falls, the Winter Festival of Lights, an installation of 3 million lights that runs right up to the falls themselves.
If you want a fairytale winter holiday, Europe is the place to go. Austria is pure perfection, considering everything you do in Salzburg happens against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. Salzburg is justly famous as the setting for The Sound of Music, so you can scamper through the city reenacting your favorite scenes, but you can also enjoy Christmas markets and, for a slightly darker celebration, show up on December 6 to meet holiday monster Krampus.
Québec City (Canada)
Québec City gets over 150 inches of snow each year, or about half an inch every single day. It’s a winter wonderland for several months of the year, and it looks just like the set of a classic holiday movie. The Winter Carnival transforms the city into a fantastical destination with snow sculptures, ice canoe racing, and more. Québec City is also home to the only ice hotel in all of North America.
This UNESCO heritage site looks like a greeting card come to life. Blanketed in snow and with its traditional 1800s-era gassho-style houses glowing with warm lights, it just might be the coziest village in the world. It’s one of the snowiest places in Japan, and the observatory at Shiroyama Keep is one of the best spots in town to take in the picture-perfect view.
Harbin is just amazing. During the winter, the whole city transforms itself for the Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. This is not just a local event; artists come from all over the world to create masterpieces of snow and ice. The city also has no fewer than four icy theme parks, combining fantastic ice sculptures with brightly colored lights for a magical experience.
North Pole (USA)
We're not talking about the actual North Pole, which is inaccessible and lacking in holiday necessities like spas and restaurants, but the town of North Pole in Alaska. The town was once called Davis, but in 1953, it decided to go all-in on the winter holiday theme. Its biggest attraction is Santa Claus’ House, and you can also get your picture taken on appropriately named streets like Snowman Lane. Did we mention that there’s a group of domesticated reindeer outside Santa’s house?
Don’t forget to post your Christmas cards while you’re up here; there’s nothing like your family and friends getting a cute card from “the” North Pole.
This has to be the ultimate winter destination. It looks like it’s straight out of a storybook, with the Northern Lights lighting up the sky and the chance to wake up in a glass igloo surrounded by pristine snow. If sleeping under the Northern Lights isn’t enough, you can go cross-country skiing, don snow shoes, or climb into a dogsled to go into the wilderness and get a better view. With over a meter of snow on Lapland’s ski slopes during the winter season, there’s always something exciting to do.
Winter holidays don’t have to mean snow. Maybe you get enough of the white stuff where you live, or perhaps you’re just not a fan of wearing all your clothes at once. If so, think about taking your winter break somewhere sun-drenched and relaxed. Soak in nature in the Everglades, holiday on the beach or the amazing clubs of Miami, or indulge yourself with fake snow at a theme park winter extravaganza. The middle of winter is really the best time to head to Florida: humidity is low, there are fewer biting insects than usual and it’s an excellent time for wildlife.