It’s that time of year again: the winter chill is rolling through your hometown. You want to book a vacation, but you’re facing a fork in the road so divergent even Robert Frost himself might be given pause. You can either turn in your thermals for a sweat-wicking tank top and fun in the sun, or double down on the cold and snow suit up. The good news is winter vacation ideas are not in short supply. The even better news is that we’re here to narrow the field. Whether you want to reintroduce your skin to vitamin D or hit the slopes, here are some of the best places to travel in January.
Shetland Island, Scotland
When the end of the Yule (Christmas) season rolls around, the Scots of Shetland Island celebrate the only way they know how: with a lively celebration culminating in the burning of a galley boat. This annual tradition, called Up Helly Aa, has been around since the 1800s. When you grab a flight to Shetland Islands mid-January, you’ll arrive just in time to witness this fiery festival. It takes place on the last Tuesday of the month in the town of Lerwick, where the average temperature in January is just under 40 degrees F. Bundle up!
Baja California, Mexico
Viewfinder Tip: For prime whale spotting in Baja California, head to San Ignacio Lagoon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you want to dethaw in January, consider a journey to the western peninsula of Mexico. With temps typically falling in the low 70s F, you can definitely ditch your parka in Baja California. One of the best activities this time of year is whale watching. On the west coast of Baja, you can spot gray whales making their migration through the Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile, the east coast of the peninsula gives way to the Sea of Cortez, where you’re likely to spot everything from blue whales to humpbacks.
Park City, Utah
Even with temperatures in the mid-30s F, Park City is abuzz with a fire of excitement in the dead of January. On top of stellar slopes and a charming historic district, the community welcomes the Sundance Film Festival each year. Be among the first to see spirited independent films, grab a good meal, and attend insightful workshops. If you snag a Park City vacation package, your flight and hotel won’t eat up your budget for lift tickets.
Key West, Florida
Want to get sun drenched? Spend some time with your heels planted firmly on the beaches of Floridian islands this winter, then refuel at the Key West Food and Wine Festival. While you’re in The Keys, grab your sea legs and take advantage of kayak tours, charter boat excursions, and other water adventures. Temperatures are in the mid-70s F in January—not bad, huh? Go ahead, dedicate a day to snorkeling the clear waters just off the coast of Dry Tortugas National Park… just don’t forget the sunscreen. Hotels in Key West book up fast, so shop for accommodations ASAP.
The Motor City may not have temperatures that inspire sun worship in January, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from delving into everything Motown during the winter. Detroit plays host to the North American International Auto Show at the start of the year, where gears and innovation meet artistry, as hundreds of new cars are unveiled. While you’re in the city, check out other year-round favorites, such as Fox Theatre and the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Temperatures in Ho Chi Minh City are in the high 80s F in January, so you can leave your jacket in the hotel as you explore the Cu Chi Tunnels or Ho Chi Minh Square. Don’t miss your chance to sample authentic Vietnamese coffee during your visit. The coffee culture dominates daily life here, so it won’t be hard to come by a cup of perfectly roasted beans, and the indulgence is well worth it.
Where do you want to escape to this January?