article

12.20.11

Last-Minute Winter Escapes: Vieques, Scottsdale, Reykjavik, and More

There’s no need for a joyless January. From food festivals in Colorado and the Caribbean, to whale-watching in California, to spa serenity in Scottsdale, there are plenty of trips you can still book to make the next month memorable.

Vieques

If you’re craving a tropical spot to relax and escape the cold, we recommend a visit to the island of Vieques, located a quick, puddle-jumper plane ride off the coast of Puerto Rico (part of the U.S., so no passport required). Check in to The W Retreat & Spa, a five-minute shuttle ride from its complimentary airport lounge. Two private beaches, a spa, snorkeling, tennis, and daily yoga lessons provide plenty to keep guests entertained (or if the most energy you’d like to expend is raising a hand to signal for another tropical drink by the pool, that’s fine too). One activity definitely worth getting motivated for: a nighttime kayak ride with Abe’s Tours through the bioluminescent bay, one of the world’s brightest. End your day back at the W with dinner at Alain Ducasse’s MiX on the Beach (be sure to try the macaroni ham and cheese) followed by a glass of vintage rum around the cozy, outdoor fire pit.

Scottsdale

For a wellness-focused getaway, it’s hard to beat this Arizona town in winter, when temperatures are cool enough to spend extended time outdoors (but warm enough where pool time can still be had). At the Four Seasons, your daytime itinerary might include hiking nearby Pinnacle Peak followed by a Sedona earthy clay body mask, or attending a yoga class specifically created for golfers before teeing off at Troon North Golf Club. At Sanctuary on Camelback, guests can opt for a spa casita suite with an outdoor soaking tub, and the resort’s fitness classes include sunrise yoga and hiking and biking through Echo Canyon. True spa fans should spring for a day at the Golden Door Spa at The Boulders, a 33,000-square foot facility that includes a meditation labyrinth inspired by Hopi medicine wheels and a tea room overlooking the desert, and signature treatments you’ll only find in the Southwest, like their “Turquoise Clay Wrap,” which includes a rain-stick ritual to help harmonize the spirit.

Grand Cayman

Food fans on the hunt for warm weather and fantastic fare should plan a trip to this Caribbean island in January to coincide with Cayman Culinary Month. The Cayman Cookout at Camana Bay takes place on Saturday the 14th, beginning at 6 p.m. with cocktails, nibbles, and a book-signing by the Travel Channel’s Anthony Bourdain, James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz, and master sommelier Andrea Robinson. Dine at one of Camana Bay’s restaurants, like Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink with guest chef April Bloomfield (The Spotted Pig, The Breslin) or Ortanique where Top Chef alums Cindy Hutson and Richard Blais will be teaming up, then end the night with dessert from pastry chef François Payard, and dancing under the stars. The Taste of Cayman event is just two weeks later on the 28th, with 30-plus food booths doling out Caribbean fare and tropical drinks, with the party and live music running until midnight.

San Diego

This California city is a perfect choice for families looking to get away to warmer weather, thanks to a long list of kid-friendly attractions like Sea World, Lego Land, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Check into the Hotel del Coronado, a National Historic Landmark property right on the beach, which offers a variety of family-focused activities like roasting s’mores on the beach, bike riding, and surf lessons. January and February are also prime months for spotting California gray whales off the coast as they migrate towards Baja. Next Level Sailing and the Maritime Museum of San Diego offer a daily, four-hour whale-watching excursion aboard a sailing yacht with a “no seasickness guarantee” (they’ll provide a $40 restaurant gift certificate if you do lose your lunch) and includes admission to the museum. And, if you’re in town from Jan. 15-20, take advantage of San Diego’s Restaurant Week, when many of the city’s top eateries offer two-course lunches from $10 and three-course dinners from $20.

Reykjavik

Experiencing the gorgeous natural phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis should be on every traveler’s bucket list, and there’s rarely a better time or place to spot it than Iceland during the winter months. There are all manner of tour options based in the capital city of Reykjavik, from jeep excursions to sailing trips. For a full day, investigate the Icelandair Group’s Northern Lights and Solheimajokull glacier hike (they’ll provide crampons for ice walking). For a less active day, arrange a visit to the Blue Lagoon in nearby Grindavik, a geothermal spa where we’d spring for an in-water massage.

Quebec City

Warm it isn’t, but this Canadian city’s renowned Winter Carnival from Jan. 27 to Feb. 12 offers plenty of reasons to love the cold. Grab your friends and “snow raft” down a hill, go for a sleigh or dogsled ride, hit the skating rink, or take a turn down the ice slide. Keep yourself warm at night swaying to live music at concerts on Fridays and Saturdays, or at the dance parties at the ice palace outside Place Loto-Québec. For full access to all the attractions, book the Winter Carnival package at the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in the heart of Vieux-Québec, the oldest and extremely charming part of the city. Be sure to save an afternoon for browsing the city’s many shops and hopping bistro to bistro for French fare.

Beaver Creek, Colo.

Already home to a host of excellent restaurants, this Colorado ski resort ups its culinary game with the Food & Wine weekend Jan. 26-28. A host of different dining activities are available: on Friday the 27th, you can take a guided snowshoe tour around McCoy Park Nordic then dine on a lunch with wine pairings prepared by James Beard Award-winning chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson. Hit the slopes early for a breakfast by Richard Sandoval, or head to a cooking demo with Tim Love. The weekend concludes with a tasting of food prepared by all the event’s guest chefs from 7-10 p.m. A complete schedule, individual event tickets, and lodging packages (which must be booked by Jan. 15) are available here.