Though for much of the world February is the cold, barren home stretch of winter, it’s also one of the cheapest times of the year to travel since everyone is still feeling the burn in their wallets left by the holiday season. Well, what are a few extra hundred bucks on the Amex if it means killer flight deals and almost no crowds? While Carnival and Mardi Gras fall in early March this year, plenty of Carribean destinations will be kicking off their celebrations early in February, giving you a perfect excuse to escape to sunshine and rum cocktails in the name of “cultural immersion.” Not into sambaing? There’s also a lantern festival in Taiwan, the Mardi Gras of Mushrooms at a truffle festival in Oregon, and plenty of snowy activities in northern destinations if you’re not fed up with the cold yet. Sound exciting? Read on for the best places to travel in February.
Winter escapes to the Caribbean are never a bad idea, especially during the first half of the year when the islands take turns hosting their unique, traditional Carnival celebrations. Aruba’s runs from the end of January to March 3 (that’s all of February, if you’re paying attention) with parades almost every weekend, colorful outfits, traditional music, and over-the-top floats. The added bonus of Carnival in Aruba is that you’ll have almost no chance of it literally raining on your parade as this desert island gets virtually no annual precipitation. And if you want to get up-close and personal with festivities, the Aruba Marriott has nightly private Carnival performances at its beachfront restaurant La Vista. Beyond the Carnival celebrations, Aruba is also one of the most badass Caribbean islands with outdoor activities ranging from desert ATVing to windsurfing.
In February, Taiwan is lit up as colorful lanterns fill neighborhoods, hillsides, and big public parks. The tradition dates back to the Qing Dynasty when remote villagers would retreat to the mountains to hide until after the winter solstice. Once it was safe to return, those left in the villages would light lanterns to alert their mountain-dwelling neighbors. Now the Lantern Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the month before the Lunar New Year when nearly every city and town has a major celebration. The festival runs from February 19 to March 3, with the biggest displays during the Taipei Lantern Festival at Taipei Expo Park and the Kaohsiung Lantern Festival held along the Love River. Plus, Taiwan is one of our favorite destinations to travel to for 2019, so there will be plenty to do besides sending fire up into the sky.
3. Los Angeles, California
Being in Los Angeles during Awards Season is a little like being in Louisville for the Kentucky Derby. Or anywhere hosting the Super Bowl. Because even if you’re not among the lucky few to have tickets to the Grammys or Oscars, the parties and events surrounding them make you forget there even were award shows. If you’re not keen on finagling your way into Oscars events, you can still do fun, Hollywood-type stuff like take a tour of the Warner Brothers Studios and see all the props and sets from movies like Crazy Rich Asians or A Star is Born. Or you can post up at spots like Chateau Marmont and the London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills — home to the biggest hotel suite in LA — and wait for A-listers to roll in.
Maybe you weren’t so big on New Year’s Eve this year and opted to stay home watching fireworks on television. No worries, the party is way better in Vietnam, where the celebration happens a whole month later, so you can give all your NYE-happy friends a healthy dose of FOMO. Tet is the Vietnamese New Year, celebrated February 4, and the week leading up to it leaves the normally chaotic streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City quiet and manageable. But once the families are done cleaning out their homes to freshen up for the new year, the country loses its collective mind — figuratively — when all-night parties and fireworks spectaculars fill everywhere from the beaches to the big cities.
5. British Columbia, Canada
While the Canadian Rockies have become the go-to spot for exchange-rate-friendly winter sports, let’s not forget that British Columbia hosted the Winter Olympics nine years ago and still has some of the best slopes in the world. And this year, rather than simply rounding up a group of friends for a Canadian ski mission, you can take the insanity of The Yacht Week to the slopes when The Ski Week hits BC from February 9 to 16 and February 23 to March 2. You’ll fly into Vancouver then pile into an RV for a big, rolling party up the powder highway (Florida people, that’s not a euphemism). Along the way, you’ll hit three of the best ski areas in the country in Revelstoke, Sun Peaks, and Silverstar, sweating out your hangover from whatever you got into the night before.
So you want an all-out February bacchanal of humid sexuality and stuff you’ll never talk about later? Trinidad’s Carnival makes Mardi Gras look like a kindergarten birthday party. Caribbean people will tell you this is the biggest and craziest Carnival in the islands, a two-day nonstop party with back-to-back, 15-mile parades full of almost-naked dancers in feathered outfits gyrating to Soca music. The entire country shuts down for the duration of the celebration, which has been compared to the revelry in Rio but smaller and safer. Though it’s not for the faint of heart or alcohol tolerance, Carnival in Trinidad is an unforgettable experience. Though you may have to pace yourself if you’d like to remember any of it.
Ignore for a minute that February is low season in this relatively peaceful African nation, and you’ll save nearly HALF on everything from hotels to tours. It’s also the best time to go and spot animals there as it’s birthing season for antelopes, zebras, wildebeest, and other safari-worthy creatures. The good news is that you’ll see loads of adorable baby animals stumbling around. The other good news is that you’ll also see lots of predators like cheetah, lions, and leopards out looking for the young, easy prey. The bad news is that you may see said adorable babies mauled by said predators, but hey, what’s going to Botswana without a little live-action Animal Planet?
The window to visit the White Continent is short, but the best month within that window is February. While the weather is never a guarantee, you’ll have the best chance of catching the odd Antarctic sunny day when the water shines an otherworldly blue, and the white snow is almost blinding. Early February brings the hatching of baby penguins, and with 20 hours of daylight, you’ll also find the greatest abundance of wildlife out and about. Later in the month, you’ll have your best chance of spotting whales, an especially magical experience if done from your balcony aboard a luxurious Antarctic cruise ship, preferably in a plush, fluffy robe.
9. Willamette Valley, Oregon
At first glance, February in the Pacific Northwest doesn’t seem all that inviting. But that’s exactly why Oregonians give themselves something to get excited about during these dreary months with the annual Oregon Truffle Festival on February 15-17.
Not merely a celebration of the culinary world’s fungal darling, this is Oregon’s premier food festival, where morning truffle hunts are followed by lunches at the Stoller Family Estate Winery by James Beard-nominated chefs. It continues with events like the Truffles and Bubbles Brunch — you can figure out what that entails — and the massive Newberg Fresh Truffle Marketplace, where you’ll sample fine Oregon wines, dine on truffle-infused bites, and even see truffle-dog demonstrations. Not into truffles? You’re not alone, but it’s still a perfect time to go wine tasting in the Willamette as the dreary weather keeps the crowds to a minimum.
No shortage of global options for northern lights viewing, but do all of them have a sauna gondola? No, no they do not. You’ll only find that at the Ylläs Ski Resort in Finnish Lapland, where the wooden tram lets you relax while you ride after a hard day of fat biking in Ylläs National Park. Though there’s never a guarantee of spotting the Aurora Borealis, you’ll still have a relaxing, romantic vacation staying at the Aurora Domes at Harriniva in clear igloos that let you catch the light show without leaving the heated comfort of your bed. Plus, since the holidays are over, you won’t catch the brunt of high-season pricing — which in Finland means everything goes from “prohibitively expensive” to just “pretty expensive.”
11. Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India
In February, this medieval trading hub in the middle of the desert hosts one of the most outlandish festivals in the world, when the Desert Jaisalmer Festival goes down from the 17th to 19th. The festival begins with a colorful horseback procession from the stately Jaisalmer Fort to the Shahid Poonam Singh Stadium. The ensuing party goes on all day, highlighted by fire dancers, gymnasts, and folk music. The weekend continues with stuff like camel polo, camel races, turban-tying contests, a Mr. Desert competition, and the world-famous mustache contest where locals compete to see who has the longest one. It all culminates on Sunday with an air show and cricket match — and a majestic sunset over the Sam sand dunes at night.
Hamilton Heads, look up. Because as of right now you can actually fly to the sunny, tropical “forgotten spot in the Caribbean” where Hamilton was born for less than top-tier seats to the show. And your trip will last longer than three hours. Where flights to St. Kitts and Nevis traditionally topped $800, this winter they’ve been at historic lows, with round trips dipping under $400 for the first time in recent memory. Once there, you’ll enjoy one of the most peaceful islands in the region, where daytime hikes up Nevis Peak give way to blissful afternoons along Nisbet Beach, one of the best crowd-free beaches in the Caribbean. Though you won’t find the place has turned itself into Hamilton Island, you can still visit the Alexander Hamilton birthplace, which disappointingly doesn’t charge $10 for admission.