winter getaway to...more winter
October 25, 2018 6:31 AM   Subscribe

What are your favorite festive, winter-y places to visit around Christmas/New Year's?

We usually go to warm places but we had a really nice visit to Copenhagen and Berlin a few years ago. The Christmas markets and Tivoli were great, and even though we visited some sights and cultural things, it felt more relaxing than our usual trips -- since the daylight hours are short, we had lots of long leisurely evenings hanging around our cozy hotel or sitting at a bar with a big fireplace or whatever.

What are some other places (cities or otherwise) that would be fun and cozy around the end of the year? Bonus points for North America because $$. I've tried NYC and it was way too crowded to be fun or cozy. We live in Chicago so we are pretty good at cold weather.
posted by goodbyewaffles to Travel & Transportation (25 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Two years ago we did Quebec / Nova Scotia / Halifax for Christmas & New Years and it was great and full of only locals in the best way.

Quebec City was quite adorable as a little snow-globey town that time of year, and the Canadians won my heart with pouring maple syrup into the snow to create little ice pops.
posted by knownassociate at 6:36 AM on October 25, 2018 [6 favorites]

The only time I, a stereotypical grumpy Jew on Christmas, did not hate Christmas, was when I was in Prague.
posted by Mizu at 6:50 AM on October 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Grand Marais, MN, in the winter time is BEAUTIFUL. There is gorgeous snow up on the Gun Flint Trail, the sun barely passes the tree tops, it is cozy, you might see moose... You can hit up Duluth for shopping if you wish, but Grand Marais itself has enough entertainment for a lowkey winter vacation.
posted by jillithd at 6:51 AM on October 25, 2018

We thought Montreal was beautiful all decked out in lights.
posted by xo at 6:53 AM on October 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

We were in Montreal around that time last year, and aside from being really damn cold (-15F for most of our trip), it was really lovely. Chicago around the same time a few years back was also quite fun.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 7:09 AM on October 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

Reykjavik is amazing for NYE. Bonus points for a relatively short flight!

Also Quebec City is a mad cozy wintry scene.
posted by functionequalsform at 7:25 AM on October 25, 2018

Best answer: I am a Christmas baby! Well, nearly. So even though I love the Yuletide etc etc, I often travel that week to celebrate my birthday. Seconding Berlin, Prague, Reykjavik...I'd add Edinburgh and Dublin, too. I just got back from Banff, and feel like that would be an ideal Christmas destination: stunning scenery and hikes during the day, and cozy hotel nights in the hot pool in the hotel. But I haven't actually been to Alberta in December, so take that one with a grain of salt.
posted by roger ackroyd at 7:36 AM on October 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Snowmobiled Yellowstone over Christmas.*
Fantastic trip, BigSky is nearby for skiing. (stayed in west Yellowstone).

*Within the park, you may only snowmobile on authorized tours.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:57 AM on October 25, 2018

I was going to recommend Reykjavik also. It is definitely $$$$, though. They have the most amazing fireworks there for New Year's Eve!
posted by number9dream at 8:16 AM on October 25, 2018

DC has a lot more going on than the National Christmas Tree. Union Station and the Botanical Gardens have train setups and other holiday decorations, and the Library of Congress does a nice do, as well. And if it's Christmas week, a service at the National Cathedral is wonderful, even if you aren't religious. Only the Christmas Eve services are crowded--the city itself is pretty empty during December.
posted by pupsocket at 8:23 AM on October 25, 2018

Another vote for Quebec City. All the coziness you need plus the European charm without having to make the long flight.

And if they have room and you're willing to pay for it, staying at the Château Frontenac would really make the trip worth it.
posted by fso at 8:48 AM on October 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Not North America (so no bonus points) but Paris is GORGEOUS that time of year. Special lights strung up all over, temporary outdoor skating rings and merry-go-rounds of all sizes. Extra dark hours to see the Eiffel Tower's sizzling light show. There are never not tourists, but there are fewer than usual. And: the world's best hot chocolate.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:29 AM on October 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Popping back in to also suggest Mohonk Mountain House, a historic resort north of NYC by about an hour and a half.

They really jazz up the old hotel up for the holidays, and have Christmas concerts and the like. The food is really good and included in the price. You can also book spa treatments and use the indoor, heated pool.

There’s also hiking/snow shoeing/cross-country and the like, also probably included in the price.

It ain’t cheap, but damn, I’ve never been so relaxed in my entire life.

(Sorry for no link, inconvient on my phone.)
posted by functionequalsform at 9:44 AM on October 25, 2018

Best answer: Moosonee and Moose Factory are beautiful in winter.

Yosemite is nearly empty and great fun to explore in the snow. Spending a night or even just a dinner in the Ahwahnee, or whatever it's called now, is high on the list of cozy winter experiences.
posted by eotvos at 9:54 AM on October 25, 2018

Oslo, Stockholm and Helsinki are obvious choices here too
posted by Middlemarch at 10:03 AM on October 25, 2018

I really enjoyed the one New Year's I spent in Vienna, though perhaps it had a slightly lower gemutlichkeit quotient than, say, Berlin would.
posted by praemunire at 10:17 AM on October 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Rural northern Vermont is really beautiful in the winter.
posted by pintapicasso at 10:34 AM on October 25, 2018

Really this is only applicable if you're willing to play by ear, but Niagara Falls can be very pretty in winter *IFF* there's been a polarvortexy cold snap for several days already. Big frozen mist everywhere, etc. Even just crossing the Rainbow Bridge when the falls are ~frozen is WOW HEY LOOKITTHAT. In this circumstance it might be worth checking whether any of the big fancier hotels on the Ontario side have good deals.

OTOH it would also be more or less normal around Christmas for it to just be rainy and grey and usual NF except the boats aren't running and the falls are turned down to their unspectacular low-flow setting (not a joke).

A lot of the other stuff in winter here will be similar to winter in Chicagoland so take this as a very weak and conditional endorsement.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 10:41 AM on October 25, 2018

DC has a lot more going on than the National Christmas Tree. Union Station and the Botanical Gardens have train setups and other holiday decorations ...

The Botanical Gardens is one of the few attractions open on Christmas Day.

The Capitol Christmas tree is much nicer than the one on the Ellipse.

The Arboretum would be nice if there's light snow.
posted by jgirl at 10:59 AM on October 25, 2018

The St Paul Winter Carnival can be fun and there are often other wintery things in the metro area. Minneapolis used to have the holidazzle parade which varied from meh to festive. Now they've moved it to one location and made it into more of a market.
posted by soelo at 1:00 PM on October 25, 2018

It's in February but the Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg is pretty great. Music (think fiddling and clogging) and outdoor activities in St. Boniface, which is a francophone neighborhood. I used to go with my family for the fiddling and jigging contest, but my school always did a field trip during the day and loved the candies made from maple syrup poured in a trough of snow.

The Hotel Fort Garry is a big railroad hotel in downtown Wpg near the Forks, where the Red and Assiniboine rivers meet, they have fancy brunch on the weekends.

It's cold, not gonna lie. When the rivers are sufficiently frozen you can skate or ski on them, the Forks has rentals I think.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 1:11 PM on October 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Santa Fe.
posted by marguerite at 2:03 PM on October 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you can swing it, Vienna has a great vibe that time of year. All the glühwein, hot chocolate, Christmas markets and Christmas trams - along with the classic coffee houses and amazing pastries make the city a magical place.
posted by theory at 6:12 PM on October 25, 2018

The Berkshires, in Western Mass.
posted by JimN2TAW at 7:50 PM on October 25, 2018

Banff is pretty nice!
posted by Calzephyr at 6:32 AM on October 26, 2018

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