The first trip of the year sets the tone for your exploration during the next 12 months, at least that’s what we hear. So make sure you choose your first adventure of 2017 wisely. Jam pack your trip with lots of good food, an adrenaline rush or two, and some local culture. It’s not too late to book a new year trip, and we’ve assembled a list of the best places to travel in January—and, of course, what to do when you get there.
Take a hike in Joshua Tree National Park
You’ve heard that Palm Springs is hot, hot, hot, and maybe you’ve put off a trip to this inland location for fear of sweating through your travel attire. In January, however, you’ll find the California desert offers relief from the heat and is a pleasant place to escape the snow. One of the best activities for January adventures in Palm Springs is a trip to nearby Joshua Tree National Park. Go on a guided small-group tour or hike the trails on your own schedule, investigating desert plants and enjoying panoramic views of the Coachella Valley. Back in Palm Springs, head out excursions like a trip up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway or a trek through the Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium.
Behold Amsterdam’s Light Festival
Feel like a last-minute jaunt across the pond? No need to pack your wooden clogs on the way to the Netherlands; there will be plenty to choose from when you arrive. Wear them to a canal-front dinner, or as you spend the evening enjoying the Amsterdam Light Festival, which takes place until January 22. Watch more than 30 artworks become illuminated along the boat route and the Illuminade walking route. Wake up the next day and go on a countryside tour with cheese tasting, or spend your time at the Van Gogh Museum and historical sites like the Anne Frank House.
Hit the off-season in Charleston
Unexpected January getaways are our favorite, and they’re probably yours, too. If it’s Southern charm, good food, and a seaside getaway you see, Charleston will be right up your alley. The temperature reaches high-50s most days this time of year, so you can still enjoy a brisk walk along the coast if not a dip in the water. The crowds are smaller and the hotels are cheaper during January in Charleston, which as it happens has been named one of the most romantic cities in the country. Take a tour of the Battery, a scenic stretch of coast where stunning mansions dot the landscape and the gentle water of the Charleston Harbor makes for great photo ops. Then get your grub on at quintessential eateries like Bowens Island Restaurant for oysters or The Glass Onion for gumbo.
Viewfinder Tip: Make sure you try the neeps and tatties in Scotland, a traditional Burns Night favorite.
Partake in an age-old celebration in Scotland
If your passport is up to date and you have a soft spot for all things literary, one of the best things to do in January is visit Scotland on January 25. It’s on this day that the annual Burns Night takes place, celebrating famed poet Robert Burns. After someone reads his poem “Ode to the Haggis,” you’ll dine on the namesake dish and drink plenty of scotch in his honor. While you’re in Scotland, seek out the Loch Ness monster or go on a haunted tour of Edinburgh.
Explore a winter wonderland in Cheyenne
Just an hour and a half from Denver by car, Cheyenne, WY makes for an awesome winter vacation. There will be no crowded ski slopes on this vacation, friend. No waiting in line behind a crabby kid to get on the lift. When you’re wondering where to travel in January and tourist season is a factor, Cheyenne is a great option. Land at the Denver airport and go for a wine tasting tour, then wake up the next day ready to tackle the vast expanse of stunning Wyoming terrain. Go cross-country skiing on one of the many walking trails turned ski paths, or venture out onto a patch of frozen water with a local to partake in ice fishing. Spend time between the trees atop unfettered snow cover in Curt Gowdy State Park, then return to the city to shop for a new pair of cowboy boots and dive into the pioneer spirit at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum.
Where will you spend your first vacation of the year?