By Angela Caraway-Carlton
Daydreaming about being swept away? You’re far from alone: whether you’re craving a change of scenery within driving distance, longing for a cross-country trip awash in wine and free of crowds, or pining after an under-the-radar tropical retreat, here are five escapes that will meet your winter wanderlust needs.
A Quick Drive…Palm Beach
It’s no wonder the jet-set crowd flocks to the posh island of Palm Beach every winter: between its balmy beach days, luxe shopping excursions spent winding through Worth Avenue and al fresco dinners at beloved spots like Café Boulud, there’s a whole lot to love.
“The Island,” as it’s called by locals, is famous for its historic hotels that have been dazzling vacationers for decades. But for something fresh and modern, consider retreating to the White Elephant Palm Beach. Formerly a storied 1920s hotel, the space has been transformed into a sister property of the iconic White Elephant Nantucket, and it’s as grandiose as its name suggests. Checking in feels akin to arriving at a private mansion, and while the building is boutique in size, guests are treated to spacious rooms and suites featuring separate living rooms tailored with custom furniture and dreamy beds covered in fine Italian linens and fluffy pillows. It’s easy to fall into an indulgent routine of sleeping in, firing up the in-room Nespresso for strong coffee and enjoying room service on your patio. Be sure to wander the hotel and gawk at its expansive museum-worthy art collection. If your stay falls on a Saturday, you can even join a guided tour to learn more about the displayed works.
The hotel’s social scene revolves around its LoLa 41 restaurant, another Nantucket transplant. Dig into menu standouts like the LoLa burger with foie gras sauce, sweet scallops fresh off the boat from Nantucket, poke nachos, lobster fried rice, or crispy Peking duck for two. Linger at the bar after dinner for a cocktail (try the Smokeshow) and people watching.
The valet staff shuttles guests to the nearby beach, where umbrellas and chairs are set up for comfortable lounging in the sand. Alternatively, vacationers can grab the keys to a fleet of BMW 7 and zip around the island for up to four hours. Notable nearby activities include spending an afternoon at the Norton Museum of Art to peep its new exhibition devoted to Mexican modernism (think Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera); keeping your credit cards close to hand at The Royal Poinciana Plaza, a high-end shopping center with highly curated brands including Hermès and LoveShackFancy; and catching a show The Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, which welcomes back the Palm Beach Symphony this winter. whiteelephantpalmbeach.com
A Quick Drive…Delray Beach
While often upstaged by other South Florida destinations, casual and cool Delray Beach is bursting at the seams with sophisticated new offerings such as the downtown area’s first luxury hotel, The Ray. Nestled in the Pineapple Grove Arts District, the hotel is dressed in tropical modern touches that mirror its artsy surroundings with large-scale artwork and edgy sculptures worthy of an Instagram snap. Because the boutique hotel is situated in a mostly residential area, guests can relish a quiet, scenic break from the rest of the world without sacrificing access to any one of the nearby hubs of fun and local life.
The Ray is hyper-focused on providing unique, localized experiences. Staycationers can jump-start their mornings with a heart-pounding class led by PurLife Fitness Center on the hotel’s plaza before basking in the sun on the lush rooftop pool deck. The staff is on hand to whisk guests over to the beach, and the hotel has also partnered with Nomad Surf Shop to offer private surf lessons (yes, there are surfable waves during winter) or leisurely stand-up paddleboard tours. If you prefer to take solo adventures, set off on foot or by bike to explore the neighborhood’s galleries and independent boutiques. Delicious bites can be found at the Delray Beach Market, a new food hall touting an array food vendors.
You can’t go wrong planning the day around happy hour at Rosewater Rooftop, which has already become a coveted meeting spot for locals. From there, move downstairs to Ember Grill, where chefs expertly play with fire for dishes like the flaming cognac crab dip and a strawberry Baked Alaska that’s torched at the table. Looking ahead to the hotel’s upcoming attractions, the Michelin-starred concept Akira Back is arriving this winter and expected to be a game-changer for the area’s culinary scene. Once you’re finished barhopping down Atlantic Avenue, you can return back to your room to slip into a plush Frette robe and get cozy with The Ray’s signature beds fitted with eucalyptus linens. therayhotel.com
Further Away…Greenough, Montana
With its wide-open spaces, rugged mountains, boundless blue skies and intoxicating fresh air, Montana is currently having a moment with anyone who’s been cooped up for a little too long. For a secluded yet luxurious getaway in a landscape that feels ripped straight from a fairytale, The Green O in western Montana is more than worth the cross-country trek.
This refuge is hidden away among a thick canopy of pines on the 37,000-acre grounds of The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough, an uber-luxe resort and ranch that coined “glamping.” Sweetening the deal, The Green O is an adults-only sanctuary offering 12 architecturally rich ‘hauses’ in four distinct styles that converge to form a circle on the intimate property. Don’t be surprised if you visit and have a hard time choosing between a picturesque tree haus floating in the clouds or a green haus with a rooftop deck. Whichever you choose, you’ll inevitably find yourself connecting with nature: the glass walls and cushy outdoor spaces are ideal for spying on wildlife and stargazing. If you’re someone who craves their creature comforts, the bubbling hot tubs and fireplaces — both indoor and outdoor — should do quite nicely.
With a maximum guest capacity of 24 people, couples can be as private or as sociable as they desire. Must-try experiences include hiding out in your haus for a couples’ massage, bathing in the forest, and sipping wine by the fireplace as the snow falls. Make sure to strap on provided snowshoes and take off from your backdoor area to explore nearby trails—the area transforms into a blissful wonderland of snow-flocked trees in the wintertime. You can also choose from a variety of wilderness adventures offered at neighboring Paws Up. Dog sledding and snowmobiling are on the itinerary, as is and skijoring, where a horse pulls skiers through the snow.
Visitors should come prepared to feast: the creative executive chef at the open-kitchen restaurant and lounge Social Haus churns out a new tasting menu seven nights a week and makes time to sprinkle in surprises like cooking wagyu over hot rocks at the table or presenting a cold dish on fresh fallen snow. thegreeno.com
Napa Valley, California
Winter and wine—is there a more pleasant pairing? While many favor Napa Valley for the excitement that fall harvest brings, folks who are in the know vacation there in the winter months to take advantage of the smaller crowds and lower rates at high-end hotels.
Although the grapevines are dormant, the fields are awash in brilliant yellow mustard flowers that usually bloom in late January. Winter is also when the region’s cabernets are released, offering a first sip of the bold reds that Napa is famous for. And since this is the off-season, winemakers have time for intimate chats and behind-the-scenes tours, making this time of year the perfect opportunity to throw on a cozy sweater and toss back vino around the firepits. Wine tastings can quickly add up, so snag a $60 “Winter in the Wineries Passport” for gratis tasting flights at 14 wineries in neighboring Calistoga. Outside of swirling and sipping, take to the skies in a hot-air balloon with Napa Valley Aloft or plan your trip around the Napa Lighted Art Festival. The latter takes place on Jan. 8-16 and sees artists brighten the starry nights with light sculptures, video art and 3D video mapping projections.
There’s no shortage of new, upscale accommodations to rest your head at. Contenders include the Four Seasons Resort & Residences—which has an on-site vineyard and tasting room—and the Stanly Ranch, an Auberge Collection Resort that boasts open-air cottages on the historic Stanly Ranch Winery estate.
Foodies will find a wealth of spoils as well. Swing by the area’s unofficial culinary capital of Yountville for a meal at The French Laundry and don’t overlook North Block, a newcomer restaurant that’s quickly made a name for itself with its wood-fired sourdough pizzas and dishes injected with raw and smoky elements—there’s a good reason it was added to the 2021 Michelin Guide. visitnapavalley.com
Out of the Country…Bonaire, Southern Caribbean
Where is Bonaire? It’s a common question about this under-the-radar gem located in the southern Caribbean. As part of the ABC islands along with Aruba and Curaçao, Bonaire is just a three-hour flight away from Miami. Visitors will feel welcomed immediately when they come face to face with the Dutch island’s pristine waters and eye-catching wild flamingos. Bonaire has strict Covid-19 protocols in place, but any hassle will quickly be forgotten about upon being immersed in its sublime tropical tableau.
While small in size, the unspoiled island is mighty in thrilling outdoor and underwater adventures. Divers are addicted to Bonaire’s plentiful dive sites, particularly its shore diving; you can simply pull the car over and snorkel or dive from the beach to search for squads of squid and ambling turtles. Many of Bonaire’s activities are fueled by the wind, and adrenaline junkies should book a session at Bonaire Landsailing Adventures to whip around a track on a “Blokart,” a motorless cart that’s powered solely by the natural element. (Warning: you may become airborne for a hot second.) Spend a day at breathtaking Lac Bay, a sheltered, shallow oasis where conditions are prime for learning how to windsurf. If you decide it’s not for you and opt to pass on a lesson, you can still watch the windsurfers catch some air from the laidback beach bar at Jibe City.
Epic Tours Bonaire will help you enjoy the island’s aquatic pastimes and awe-inspiring sunsets to the fullest; plan on sailing off on a catamaran for a day of snorkeling before imbibing and indulging in a four-course dinner as the sun slips into the horizon. When it comes to where to stay, choose a luxury resort. Contenders include Harbour Village Beach Club, a boutique property on an isolated beach, and Divi Flamingo Resort, where you can comfortably explore a reef from its shores. tourismbonaire.com