Nothing is more timely than a getaway with your girlfriends to end the season with a celebration or to relax and get ready for the new year. It’s the ideal time to bond, raise a glass, and reminisce. While creating new memories is enough to make a trip unforgettable, finding the perfect winter destination may be your next challenge. Whether you’re looking to unwind, escape the cold, or take on some adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities, here are seven epic winter vacation ideas perfect for a getaway with you and your girlfriends.
1. For a magical winter wonderland: New Paltz, New York
A short two-hour drive from New York City will land you at the foot of the Catskills Mountains at Mohonk Mountain House. Ice skating season officially begins once snow caps the mountaintop and the lake has frozen over. That’s your signal to gather your girls for a Hudson Valley getaway.
Once you’ve settled into your digs, you can grab your ice skates for an afternoon of lessons or axel jumps (for the professional figure skaters in your crew), immediately followed by some cozy catch-up time in front of Mohonk’s 39-foot-tall stone fireplace — with a cup of hot chocolate, of course.
In addition to the traditional winter activities like cross-country skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, and snow tubing, this winter, the lakeside resort will throw various themed events like four-day music festival Jazz on the Mountain and Winter Yoga Weekend.
2. For connecting over great wine and food: Calistoga, California
Napa Valley is known for its many vineyards and Michelin-starred restaurants, making Calistoga the ideal destination for a girl’s trip focused on Cabernet, wine crawls, and fine dining. And visiting during the winter months means lower prices, more one-on-one time with local winemakers, and fewer crowds at famous geothermal hot springs and mud baths.
This winter, Calistoga is hosting its Winter in the Wineries Passport. Taking place December 7 through February 9, for just $60, you’ll gain entrance to 17 wineries. Complimentary wine tasting flights and discounts at local restaurants, spas, and boutiques are only a few of the perks. Skip the detailed planning and choose from one of the pre-defined passport itineraries like “Relax, You’re In Calistoga” or “Rustic Luxury.”
3. For a once-in-a-lifetime cultural adventure: South Africa
Unlike the Northern Hemisphere, December through February in South Africa is the equivalent of summer. That means the perfect beach weather, endless sunny days, and plenty of festivals.
If you happen to be there over New Year’s Eve, head to Johannesburg to attend Afropunk. This international music festival highlights the region’s eclectic style paired with live entertainment, world-renowned DJs, and a one-of-a-kind shopping experience at the Spinthrift Market.
Or perhaps toward the end of winter sees you and your crew craving a little sunshine and you hold off until the start of the year. If so, early February right outside of Cape Town, Up The Creek takes place on the banks of the Breede River, combining soulful rock with cocktails and inflatable pool floats. Spend a few days back in Cape Town exploring the bargain markets and centenary tributes to Nelson Mandela, then book a private, luxury food and wine tour with Explore Sideways to the rolling vineyards of the Cape Winelands.
Finally, if a safari is on the agenda, a road trip along South Africa’s scenic Garden Route will land you and your girlfriends at Gondwana Private Game Reserve, where daily game drives will kick off your day. And since over one hundred bird species migrate to South Africa during this season, it’s the best time for birding.
4. For the coolest winter festivals: Portland, Oregon
The arts and culture scene in Portland seems to come alive when the temperatures drop. Hence the many festivals scheduled during the winter months. While Portland is known for its donut shops like Blue Star Donuts, the never-ending roster of winter events make this destination a natural choice.
For brew-focused getaways, visit during December and January. Local breweries procure the best of the best in beers for the five-day Holiday Ale Festival, held December 4 to 9. Toward the end of January, the Northwest Coffee Beer Invitational will pair brewers and beverage makers to create new craft beers using locally roasted coffee.
From February 5 to 19, the Chinese New Year Celebration welcomes the Year of the Rat with lion dances, martial arts performances, and dragon processions at the Lan Su Chinese Garden. In early February, the city lights up with art installations and fire sculptures for the annual Portland Winter Light Festival. Between February 20 and March 1, Portland Jazz will host a series of jazz events supporting Black History Month.
5. For enjoying Italy without the crowds: Florence, Italy
The winter months are a great time to visit this Tuscan city. Visiting Florence during the winter season means far fewer crowds and tons of deals. If you’re planning a trip before the holidays, then head straight to Piazza Santa Croce for the Christmas market. Open November 23 through December 22, it’s the perfect time to get some last-minute Christmas shopping done.
Then stop by Gilli to sip on Italian hot chocolate — the thick, velvety, deliciously decadent “pudding” served with a spoon. And when you want to escape the chill and see priceless Renaissance art, the typically crowded Uffizi Gallery will welcome you with shorter lines and discounted prices. Other must-see stops include Aquaflor Firenze, Gucci Garden, and Bargello Museum, where crowds will be limited to your crew and a few locals instead of rubbing shoulders with thousands.
If you’re planning a trip after the holidays, planning your getaway around the Italy sale season will provide the opportunity to schedule in some retail therapy. Travel during January through early March and you’ll find many shops in Florence with sales on designer clothing, bags, accessories, and home decor.
6. For when you want to recharge and renew: Greenough, Montana
Set on 37,000 acres of Montana wilderness and 35 minutes from Missoula, The Resort at Paws Up is the ultimate adult playground. During this season, the rates are the lowest of the year, and the wildlife comes out from hiding. Accommodations include luxury homes, safari-style tents, and a private island retreat for vacations when you want space for just you and the girls.
Spend an afternoon enjoying the equestrian program where you can book arena lessons, pony rides, and a group trail ride. Enjoy a girl’s day at the secluded Morris Ranch House, go on a hot air balloon ride, or take a bike tour. For more adrenaline-pumping activities and change of pace, go skijoring, where you’re pulled by a horse while skiing.
Bring in the New Year with the resort’s New Year’s celebration and count down to 2020 with fireworks, live entertainment, and plenty of bubbly. Or, stay between January 17 and 19 for the Winter Wine Weekend with Opus One, where you’ll sample the brand’s award-winning Bordeaux-style blends.
7. For the best slumber party: Lapland, Finland
In northern Lapland, Finland, the aurora borealis shine about every other clear night between October and March. And since freezing temperatures mean limited clouds, you’ll have the greatest chance to see the northern lights during the winter months. Get comfy in a snow or glass igloo or splurge on a cabin with your crew at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Lapland and have a slumber party with the northern lights as your backdrop.
Throughout the day, enjoy the traditional winter activities like cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, and when night falls, go aurora hunting. During this nocturnal adventure, you’ll chase down the northern lights in your preferred mode of transportation — horse or reindeer sleigh, snow tank, snowmobile, and so on. You can also plan a trip to nearby Kemi for a day-long journey on an icebreaker cruise and take a dip in the icy Bay of Bothnia.