Some winter vacations are for carving ski turns, others for building castles in the sand: which of these 10 coastal communities will be your winter vacation destination this year?
1 of 10Barrett & MacKay/Getty
If your ideal winter beach town includes, well, winter, head north to Camden, where the 20 ski trails and the historic Jack Williams Toboggan Chute at the Camden Ski Bowl come with an ocean view. The ski area helps keep the shops of Camden’s downtown lively even in midwinter, and foodies may just want to stick around for the start of the spring thaw: Maine Restaurant Week and Maine Maple Sunday both come to Camden in March.
2 of 10Andria Patino/Getty
Cape May, New Jersey
Warm up some winter romance by checking into one of Cape May’s historic B&Bs, a number of which take part in the town’s annual Dickens Christmas festival and feast. Winter carriage rides and candlelight house tours are both great ways to appreciate the town’s collection of fine Victorian homes. You can pick up local wine from vineyards located within a 10-minute drive of town, and when you’re ready to brave the chill Cape May has miles of deserted beaches to walk. Keep a sharp eye for migratory seabirds: this is one of the top winter birding destinations on the East Coast.
3 of 10Ben Birchall - PA Images/Getty
Newport, Rhode Island
Shedding its summer yacht-club buzz, Newport in winter returns to being a sleepy New England seaport that just happens to have some of the most lavish “cottages” ever built. Newport’s Gilded Age mansions blaze with light and holiday cheer every winter, seeming to ward off the chill with their sheer magistériel presence. Hands are cupped around mugs of hot chocolate at the waterfront Newport Skating Center, and February’s Newport Winter Festival includes a week of live music, a chili cook-off, seal-watch cruises, and a rousing “chukka” of polo on Easton’s Beach.
This Central Coast town is close to Hearst Castle and the San Luis Obispo wine country, but what sets Cambria apart as a winter destination is its month-long Christmas Market. The night market, modeled after those found in Europe, is an open-air winter wonderland of holiday lights, local artisans and food vendors, live music, and spirit-lifting Gluhwein, a warm mulled wine from Germany. The mile-long boardwalk on nearby Moonstone Beach is a pleasant perch for whale-watching.
5 of 10Josh Brasted/Getty
New Orleans, Louisiana
NOLA residents seek air-conditioned shelter during the sweltering summer months, so winters in the Crescent City are embraced with a particular post-hibernation passion as temperatures dip pleasantly into the 50s and 60s. Spicy crawfish boils and jambalaya will warm you from the inside for a night visit to the Celebration in the Oaks, where you can take a two-mile train ride through a lavish holiday light display in City Park. And remember, Mardi Gras isn’t just a one-day event in New Orleans: the parade and festival season kicks off during the first week of January.
6 of 10Joe Raedle/Getty
Miami’s vibrant culture is on display in the nightclubs of South Beach, the hot new restaurants on Brickell Avenue, and in the city’s ever-expanding arts scene. The eye-catching Perez Arts Museum has indoor and outdoor modern art exhibits on the shore of Biscayne Bay, Art Basel gathers exhibitions from more than 250 galleries around the world in South Beach in December, and the graffiti-inspired art of Wynwood Walls splashes color all over one of Miami’s coolest neighborhoods. Animal-shaped light displays at Zoo Miami and Santa’s Enchanted Forest—a holiday-themed amusement park—provide the Christmas cheer.
7 of 10Piriya Wongkongkathep/Getty
The Fur Rendezvous Winter Festival—known locally as Fur Rhondy—has been warming the streets of Anchorage every February since 1935 with a what’s-what of Alaskan culture from the traditional (a Native Alaskan blanket toss, sled dog races, outdoor hockey) to the bizarre (snowshoe softball and outhouse races). Just outside of town you’ll find the glacier of Prince William Sound, alpine and nordic skiing, snowmobiling trails, and plenty of dark places to bask in the glow of the Northern Lights.
Winter storm watching on the beaches of nearby Olympic National Park are a wild aside to a stay in Port Townsend, a Puget Sound shipping hub on the northeastern tip of the rugged Olympic Peninsula. The town’s well-preserved Victorian seaport is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is full of B&Bs and seafood restaurants. Whale-watching and the San Juan Islands are just a short boat ride away.
9 of 10Rick Friedman/Getty
Savannah loses its hefty high-season hotel prices but little of its lowcountry charm in the winter, the ideal time to explore the city’s culinary hotspots (the Savannah Food and Wine Festival is held in November), speakeasies, nightclubs, and historic squares and antebellum streets. The city’s liberal “open carry” laws make Savannah a great place to ring in the New Year at a street party, too.
10 of 10Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty
The Apostle Islands are spectacularly wild and scenic year-round, but especially so when Lake Superior freezes over, giving visitors the unique opportunity to do a lighthouse tour via snowmobile or cheer on the huskies as teams compete in the annual Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race. Both Bayfield and nearby Madeline Island are thriving arts communities, and the town’s Hometown Holiday season kicks off with a tree lighting the day after Thanksgiving.