Ready to plot your winter escape? To avoid crowds and inflated prices, we recommend the period between high and low seasons when the weather is fine, places are still open and happy to welcome travelers, and you can explore a destination at your own pace. The experts at ShermansTravel.com have paired five great-value winter destinations with five incredible deals. For more travel deals, sign up for ShermansTravelís free Top 25 newsletter.
1. Costa Rica
The value of visiting this popular ecotourism destination during December and January is the weather: Skies are clear, temperatures linger in the 80s, and fresh from the rainy season, everything is lush and green. For more hotel availability and less congestion on jungle trails, skip the period between Christmas and New Year's when families on winter break flood in.
Winter 2012/2013 Events: Puntarenas Carnival (Puntarenas; Feb. 2013, dates TBD); DÌa de los Boyeros (Oxcart Driversí Day) (San Antonio of Escaz˙; Mar. 10)
Although long influenced by both Sweden and Russia, Finland maintains a distinct culture, language, and mindset. In late winter, before spring springs, the days get longer, temperatures get warmer, and the collective Finnish spirit lifts. Hotels are mostly cheaper than in summer (except in skiing areas, as this is peak ski season for tourists and locals alike).
Winter 2012/2013 Events: Season of Light (Helsinki; January); Kokkola Winter Accordian Festival (Kokkola; Feb. 17-24)
3. Los Angeles
Spotty rains, temperatures in the mid-60s, and that trademark West Coast sunshine clear Los Angeles of its usual smog halo during the winter months, making for picturesque cityscapes, room discounts, and comfortable celebrity-spotting from Beverly Hills to Hollywood. Don't miss the Rose Parade in January, and starch that bowtie for the all-important Academy Awards come late February.
Winter 2012/2013 Events: LA Art Show (Jan. 23-27); Chinese New Year / Golden Dragon Parade (Feb. 16); Vintage Fashion Expo (Santa Monica; Feb. 2-3)
4. New Orleans
Daytime temperatures in the mid-60s and fewer crowds make winter a comfortable time of year to visit New Orleans. Winter is also quiet and less crowded, though Mardi Gras festivities bring the highest rates of the year and New Yearís Eve draws crowds who come for the fireworks and the fleur-de-lis drop (celebrated in the same vein as the Times Square ball drop).
Winter 2012/2013 Events: Celebration in the Oaks (through Jan. 1); Crescent City Countdown (Dec. 31-Jan. 1); Mardi Gras (Feb. 12)
5. Park City
ResortQuest by Wyndham Vacation Rentals
This chic resort town invites outdoorsy types to go skiing, sleigh riding, snowshoeing, ice skating, hot air ballooning, or even bobsledding down the same track used in the Olympics. An early ski season in a place with near-perfect snow conditions is a bargain hunter's dream come true. Three easily accessible premier ski resorts offer bargains to jump-start the season, and the town is dripping with alpine holiday spirit.
Winter 2012/2013 Events: Sundance Film Festival (Jan. 17-27); FIS Freestyle World Championships (Deer Valley Resort; Jan. 30-Feb. 2); The Canyons Spring Gr¸v (Mar. 22-31)
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