Post-holiday blues are a real thing. November and December envelop me in a whirlwind of cheery holiday parties, gift exchanges, and twinkling holiday lights. But come January, it’s like someone turned all the lights back on at a party and told everyone to go home right as it was finally getting good. Discarded Christmas trees litter the sidewalk, disgruntled shoppers flood the mall returning their gifts, and my face hurts from the cold. Cue the midwinter blues. I’ve found that the best way to overcome them is an adventure, big or small.
Keep reading for five winter vacation ideas that can give you something to be excited about, even after the holiday buzz fades away.
If you’re enchanted by French culture (who isn’t?!) but can’t afford a trip overseas, you might want to check out Quebec City. This charming Canadian city hosts a Winter Carnival every February with snow sculptures, s’mores, axe throwing, ice carving, and more! Plus, you’re basically guaranteed to see snow, which is exciting if your hometown doesn’t get much during the winter months. Quebec City itself is extremely charming and has a ton of history, dating back more than 400 years — it’s considered the birthplace of French North America.
International Dark Sky Park
As a New York native, I am always captivated by the stars whenever I travel out of the city, away from the light pollution and skyscrapers that block the night sky. I recently learned about International Dark Sky Parks (IDSPs), designated areas across the world where there is little to no artificial light pollution obstructing your view of the night sky, and now I’m dying to get to one. With their extensive list of locations both in the U.S. and worldwide, there’s one for everyone.
My closest IDSP is in Cherry Springs State Park, PA. A quick Google search tells me it’s four hours away by car, and there are a ton of cute bed and breakfasts nearby, like this family owned lodge. Just the thought of a weekend getaway under the stars is enough to lift my spirits.
As someone who’s been there during the wintry months, I can attest that visiting San Francisco around February or March allows you to escape the cold and slush and get some sun on your face without needing to break out your swimsuit. The Bay Area is multi-faceted and has activities to suit any kind of tourist — you can go for a hike at Muir Woods, enjoy wine tasting in Napa Valley, catch a baseball game at Oracle Park, or eat your way through the city with endless restaurant options. My favorite memory from my trip was visiting Alcatraz Island and going on the self-guided audio tour. Not only is the complex history worth learning about, but the island’s natural beauty is stunning.
I visit Atlanta every year because I have cousins down there, and my best friend recently moved there for grad school. Like San Francisco, ATL is a fun, hip city where the sun stays out past 5 p.m. (score!) and you can still soak up the sun without needing to pack a beach bag. It’s a great location for solo travelers, couples, or families. You can check out the Coca Cola Factory, Atlanta Aquarium (the largest in the US), Ponce City Market, and the Belt Line, or the hundreds of breweries and bars across the city.
Bonus idea: If you rent a car during your stay, you can make a three hour road trip to the nearby coastal city Savannah and visit the historic squares, homes, and churches.
You don’t even have to leave your apartment for this one if you don’t want to! Pick a weekend (or two) and vow to fill it with a really, really fun itinerary. Imagine that you’re planning a weekend for your best friend who’s visiting from out of town: What restaurants or museums would you go to? What face masks would you do, movies would you watch, and cookies would you bake? A staycation doesn’t have to be solo; invite others in on the fun. You could host friends for homemade brunch, plan a group happy hour at the bar around the corner, or drag your siblings to an exhibit you’ve been dying to check out. Before you know it, spring will be peeking its head out from the gray winter clouds.