Whether it means hitting the slopes or riding the waves, a winter vacation is a perfect time to recharge and begin the New Year on a positive note. It's also a great way to spend quality time with family and loved ones, without the distractions from the daily grind. While most winter travelers have a few favorite destinations to cure the winter blues, some places consistently appear at the top of their lists. The following are five of the best winter getaways in the U.S.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Located near the east slope of the spectacular Teton Mountain Range, Jackson Hole Mountain ski resort is arguably the best in the country. Ski Magazine listed this resort near Teton Village as the Best Overall Resort in North America for 2014 and Forbes has ranked it at the top the past three years. At 4,139 feet from the top of the slope, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort boasts the longest and steepest vertical slope in the country, but it's safe enough to offer ski lessons for children as young as six months old at the Kids Ranch. In addition to winter sports, Jackson Hole offers a variety of services and attractions for all ages, including cultural museums, world-class lodging and spa facilities, excellent choices for dining and plenty of retail shops to explore.
Los Angeles, California
The familiar saying "it never rains in Southern California" isn't exactly true, but with temperatures averaging in the high 60s, Los Angeles and its surrounding area can be a perfect winter getaway. It's not unusual to see droves of people basking in the December sun at Venice Beach or a similarly sized crowd enjoying outdoor attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood. Because Los Angeles is considered the entertainment capital of the world, there is an endless list of high-profile events, nightclubs and attractions to visit, such as seeing the Lakers, Clippers or the Kings at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall or top-ranked college football games at the Rose Bowl. Other popular attractions in Los Angeles include a visit to the fabulous Getty Center, Grauman's Chinese Theater and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Griffith Observatory and a trip to Disneyland, "the Happiest Place on Earth," just 30 miles away.
Related: Top Natural Wonders In The USA
For many travelers, the Aloha State ranks at the top for that perfect winter getaway. Just recently, Maui was named "Best Island in the World" by Condé Nast for the 20th consecutive year. Although airfare to Oahu is more affordable, Maui has its fair share of fabulous hotels, dining and entertainment. The winter months are the high season with temperatures averaging in the high 70s, so relaxing on the peaceful beaches of Kapalua or Kaanapali Beach is something most everyone should do at least once in a lifetime. Among Maui's best attractions are a traditional Hawaii luau in Lahaina, a road trip to Hana amid tropical forests and cascading waterfalls, watching the sunrise at Mt. Haleakala and a wide variety of outdoor activities, including surfing, snorkeling and parasailing.
With the hurricane season ending in late November, the winter months are one of the best times of the year to visit Florida beaches. In Miami, the average temperature is in the mid-70s and amazingly, the water temperature is nearly identical, averaging 73 degrees in December. The white sandy beaches in Miami are the top draw for visitors, but there are plenty of other popular activities to enjoy, such as world class nightclubs and fine dining, a tour of the Everglades or Little Havana, a cruise of Biscayne Bay and a day trip to Key West, at the southernmost point of the continental U.S. Sports fans also have plenty of outstanding entertainment options, including watching the defending two-time NBA champions Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena or college football, most notably the Orange Bowl, on New Year's Day at Sun Life Stadium.
With more than 20 outstanding ski resorts scattered across the mighty Rocky Mountains, Colorado is a veritable winter wonderland. While any ski destination in the Centennial State is worthwhile, Vail stands out for featuring the largest single-mountain resort in the country. Located less than 100 miles west of Denver, the town of Vail is also home to the Colorado Ski Museum-Ski Hall of Fame, the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and the Vail Film Festival. During the winter months, the Vail Mountain Ski Resort offers complimentary ski/snowboard tours for guests at the intermediate level or higher, in addition to ski tours for guests 50 years or older. Ski Magazine ranks Vail third among the nation's best ski resorts for 2014.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com
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