Winter Travel Guide 2016
There’s too much to see out there to head back to that same mountain in the Poconos or resort in Riviera Maya. This winter, before the lack of daylight starts to toy with your head, get adventurous. The world’s within closer reach than you think. To prove it, we present a handful of easy escapes to exotic destinations for the cold- and warm-blooded alike. —Scott Edwards
A picturesque night sky in wintertime Iceland.
We know what you’re thinking: Wait, Reykjavik in winter? But the winter climate’s on par with NYC, if not even a bit more temperate. And, yeah, you’re going to see the sun for a few hours at a time, but we’re not much better off here. The reason to get to Reykjavik now is because it’s the most accessible gateway to Nordic culture, which, in case you haven’t noticed, is poised to takeover. If you tend to travel for food, and who doesn’t anymore, plan your trip around the Food & Fun Festival (foodandfun.is), March 2 through March 6. In a country obsessed with sustainability, Food & Fun is virtually a national holiday. Brash chefs from the US and Europe are paired up with the city’s most progressive restaurants and challenged to craft hyperlocal, three-course menus. (Think seafood, lots of seafood.) And just when you thought you were doomed to another month of root veggies.
101 Hotel is the envy Reykjavik’s booming crop of design-driven boutique hotels, and public spaces, for that matter. Housed in the former home of the Icelandic Social Democratic Party, 101 is all sleek lines, matte and gloss contrasts, monochromatic palettes and native modernist art. But the edge fades in the right places. The oak floors are heated and every room’s got a soaking tub.
Park City, Utah
If you’re a serious skier, or even a frequent faller, Park City is too spectacular to pass up. For one, getting there is cake, which is rarely the case for mountain towns. More than 300 domestic flights arrive at Salt Lake International every day, and Park City’s only a 35-minute drive from there. Meaning your travel days aren’t total washes. And every hour here is a gift because there are 9,300 skiable acres to cover, including the country’s largest ski resort, Park City (parkcitymountain.com), which boasts an absurd 300-plus trails. Book a room at the Stein Eriksen Lodge (steinlodge.com), which sits mountainside at the Deer Valley Resort. Even more crucially than the prime location, its restaurant, Glitretind, is the critical darling of Park City. And the Forbes Five-Star spa is the only one in the state. When hurtling yourself down a mountain all day, you need indulgences at the end of it.
[divider]Hit or Miss[/divider]
If Park City sounds strangely familiar it’s because it also happens to be the backdrop for the Sundance Film Festival, for which all of Hollywood moves in for the week and dresses up like 19th century-frontiersmen. As you can imagine, the town can get a bit crowded then (this year’s edition will be held January 21 through Jan. 31), so you may be better off steering clear. Unless, of course, you’re a sucker for a celeb. (We mean that in the least offensive sense.) By all means, then, have at it.
Photo credit: Courtesy Visit Park City
When a restaurant lists an “urban forager” among its ranks, said restaurant’s commitment to local sourcing is undeniable, if not unparalleled. And when that restaurant’s housed in a überfashionable boutique hotel, well, the trip practically books itself, doesn’t it? QT Sydney (deignhotels.com/qt-sydney) is set within two of the city’s most iconic buildings. The interior is a sensory overload of original features, curated art installations, eclectic artifacts and quirky design pieces inspired by the retail and theater history of the buildings. But QT’s centerpiece is Gowings Bar & Grill. Since opening in 2012, the restaurant’s displayed a fierce loyalty to local growers and producers, which has only deepened since appointing Georgie Neal as its urban forager a few months back. The menus are overhauled monthly and now routinely feature stuff grown specifically for the restaurant, like flower-shaped Salanova lettuces and red baby cos seedlings. The brightest ingredients Sydney has to offer, and you don’t even need to leave the hotel to savor them.
Surf Bondi. One of the top-five most-famous beaches in the world also happens to be the closest one to Sydney. (It’s about five miles from the hotel.) In other words, this is a potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. A two-hour group lesson (viator.com) will run you about 60 bucks, board and bodysuit included.
Photo credit: Courtesy Design Hotels / QT Sydney
Golf-centered resorts, no matter how high-end the accommodations and how serene the setting, usually end up feeling like fraternity houses for middle-age men. Mostly because, beyond golfing, your options are limited. (Read: nonexistent.) Cartagena at Karibana (tpc.com/cartagena), a 2014 addition to the TPC circuit, is of a decidedly different breed, a better-rounded one. The course meets all the necessary criteria. It was built by Jack Nicklaus’ firm and it’s plenty picturesque. For the rest of us, there’s a beach club where you can nurse aguardiente sours under an 85-degree sun all afternoon long. If that sounds too strenuous, or monotonous, there’s a full-service spa in the works, as well as a 270-room hotel managed by Conrad, Hilton’s luxury brand. Both are expected to open in early 2017. Until then, there’s a batch of on-site rental homes available, along with a couple of neighboring hotels. We recommend the Sofitel Cartagena Santa Clara (sofitel.com/cartagena). Come here to savor the spoils of one of the rapidly dwindling off-the-grid beaches left in the world. Not to mention the ridiculously low exchange rate that goes with that.
Hike. It’s only natural to play up the inclination to do nothing at all in a place like this, but, then, you’d be bypassing the chance to see a corner of a country that not too much of the outside world’s been privy to in recent years. And it wouldn’t even require that much effort. Trails unwind from Karibana along the beach and the Guayepo River. Take your pick. You can’t go wrong. Everywhere you look, there’ll be something new and exotic.
Photo credit: Courtesy Cartagena at Karibana
The Weekend Getaway
A brief change of scenery can work wonders on a slush-logged mindset. When it comes to a weekend getaway, you want a destination that’s easy to escape to and loaded with options once you get there. DC fits that bill to a T. The drive is an uncomplicated three hours due south. Better yet, ditch the car and ride Amtrak. Either way, the city you’ll find waiting for you on the other end bears little resemblance to the one you toured during that mess of a junior high field trip. Cranes litter the skyline and inventiveness lines the sidewalks.
Make your home base The Mayflower (themayflowerhotel.com). It’s the oldest continuously-operating hotel in DC. The glamorous lobby chandeliers hark back to an era when The Mayflower was the go-to for the inaugural ball. Your quarters, however, will be decidedly more contemporary. Last spring, the hotel finished a $20 million renovation, during which every room was completely redesigned. Behind closed doors, the only signs that this is a 91-year-old hotel are the signatures of notable guests printed on the walls: Marlene Dietrich, Norman Rockwell, FDR.
Just as meaningful as the of-the-moment touches, The Mayflower is about as central as it gets in DC. A few blocks in one direction, you’re square in the middle of the National Mall. A couple in another, and you’re in Dupont Circle, which is teeming with cafés, small restaurants and bars and smart clothing shops.
On an unseasonably warm fall weeknight, the outdoor seating at every restaurant was filled, but it was overflowing at Mission (missiondupont.com), where those fortunate to have claimed seats washed down plates of chile releno and enchiladas with cans of Tecate and pitchers of sangria. Long considered a commuter campus, it’s here in Dupont Circle that DC’s new residential movement seems to be taking root. A lot of it feels vaguely familiar, being on such intimate terms with Philly and NYC, but from the Euro-style layout of the city to the pleasing lack of homogenization there’s also plenty of fresh perspective. —SE