Winter vacations don't always have to be synonymous with overeating and obnoxious relatives (but even if they are, you certainly deserve another trip that's all about you). Here, we've compiled our favorite picks for a cold-weather escape, whether you fancy zooming down the slopes, sipping hot toddies by the fire, or enjoying the culinary and cultural booms in places like Houston and Cape Town. Another bonus: If you travel during the first few weeks of January, you're likely to score great deals on hotels and airfare. Here's where you should go this winter.
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Why Go Now: Houston is truly a rising star in the Lone Star state. Houston's dining scene has foodies buzzing. Several restaurants have earned spots on national best-of lists, with pop-ups in unexpected places adding extra momentum. A cornucopia of hotspots have revitalized the Downtown Historic District, including the pioneering Okra Charity Saloon, a buzzing bar whose profits are donated to Houston-based organizations. The Museum District, meanwhile, spans 19 institutions (11 of which offer free daily entry) over a 1.5-mile radius, including the recently opened Asia Society Texas Center and the Houston Museum of African American Culture.
Where to Stay: Located in a 1911-era bank building, the recently renovated Hotel Icon is a swanky spot in the heart of downtown that's a quick light rail ride from the Museum District.
Plan Your Trip: Visit the Fodor's Houston Guide
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Why Go Now: Winter comes two ways in the Big Easy: mellow and manic, depending on whether you visit during Mardi Gras festivities or not. We're partial to the more mellow weeks outside of the big bash, when summer temperatures have cooled, crowds have thinned, and deals abound. But that's not to say New Orleans ever becomes quiet. Its locals are notoriously fun-loving. There's always a reason to eat, drink, and be merry, whether it's Reveillon dinners during the holidays or a just a night out on Frenchmen Street, with its superb jazz bars and restaurants. In late March, bookworms gather for the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival.
Where to Stay: Right in the heart of the French quarter, the historic Hotel Monteleone blends luxury, location, and an always-hopping party at its rotating Carousel Bar.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's New Orleans Guide
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JACKSON HOLE, WYOMING
Why Go Now: Once a well-kept secret among skiing elite, this charming town and its premier Jackson Hole Mountain Resort have become a destination for more than their coveted slopes. The town itself, Jackson, beckons with a friendly, Old West vibe (don't miss the iconic photo-op under the elk-horn arch on the square). There are classic cowboy bars and restaurants, but newcomers like The Rose and Local have brought a touch of glam to the après-ski and dining scenes. Non-skiers will find plenty of nearby options, too: Think snowshoeing in Grand Teton National Park or snowmobiling in Yellowstone. And, with 12 cities that offer nonstop flights during the winter months, it has never been easier to get here for a weekend escape.
Where to Stay: Hotel Terra is an upscale, eco-friendly oasis just steps from the slopes in Teton Village. The hotel has chic rooms, some with full kitchens, fireplaces, and balconies, along with excellent on-property dining.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Jackson Hole Guide
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