When it comes to winter travel, there are a few reasons we’ll brave crowded airports and tiny airplane seats in the name of travel. Usually, it’s to see loved ones for the holidays, but oftentimes, an irresistible destination will also lure us out of the comfort of our homes and into the sea of holiday travelers.
This year, why settle for the ho-hum winter destinations? Skip the crowds and the monotony. Instead, consider these six unconventional winter vacations in the U.S.
Spend winter like a cowboy
Did someone say, “Yee-haw!”? Sure, anyone can learn to ride a horse in the summertime – but riding in the snow makes you a real cowboy. This winter, channel your inner cowboy by opting for a ranch getaway. If Colorado is calling your name, the winter options at C Lazy U Ranch will have you lassoing in no time. Horseback rides are offered daily, and guests can also explore the countryside with snowmobiles or by downhill tubing. Trap shooting will help you hone those cowboy skills even further.
Another option is Vista Verde Ranch, near the famous Steamboat Ski Resort. You can perfect your horsemanship through riding or clinics, or you can enjoy the sights on a horse-driven sleigh ride. Snow biking, showshoeing and skiing are also available.
Go for a golf getaway
Sure, snow sports like skiing, snowboarding and ice skating tend to take all the glory when it comes to winter sports, but you don’t have to brave the cold to get active this winter. Rather than bundling up and tackling the crowds at a slope near you, why not grab your clubs and head to a warmer locale to tee off?
The resort town of Scottsdale, Ariz. is a golf mecca – and you’ll find plenty of greens where you can play 18 holes. There are nearly 200 courses in Scottsdale, and with the sun shining an average of at least 330 days per year, you won’t have to worry about getting rained out of your tee time. Courses like Troon North, TPC Scottsdale (a PGA tour stop) and Talking Stick Golf Club are some of the city’s most noteworthy courses — with so many to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect course for you.
Another option for a golf getaway is the Southern California destination of Palm Springs, where more than 100 courses welcome visitors to enjoy warm weather on the greens all winter long. With many courses designed by the likes of Arnold Palmer, Pete Dye and Nick Faldo, you’re sure to find a challenge when you tee off in Palm Springs.
Take a detox getaway
Let’s face it: the holidays are stressful. Between visiting family, buying gifts and cooking for days on end, you probably can’t wait for the entire season to be over with – but a rejuvenating getaway can give you new reason to enjoy the season. For an unconventional winter vacation, try booking yourself a detox-themed getaway so you can truly relax.
The Ranch at Live Oak Malibu offers a fully immersive experience where you can dedicate an entire week – or longer – to gaining a new sense of wellness in a boot camp-like environment. Group hikes, fitness classes, afternoon massages and yoga practice will get you well on your way to de-stressing this winter. Organic, vegetarian meals are prepared fresh, so you can finally leave the cooking to someone else this season, and by the end of your stay, you’ll be fitter, trimmer and in a healthy state of mind. Plus, there’s even a scheduled daily nap time – and who doesn’t love naps?
Another option for a detoxing getaway is The Raj in Iowa. Here, Maharishi Ayurveda experts have developed a traditional detox program that cleanses mind, body and soul. Stays include purifying treatments, vegetarian and organic meals, yoga practice and plenty of time for meditation.
Escape at Amangiri in Utah
Want to truly spoil yourself this winter? Then treat yourself to a stay in the unspoiled Utah desert at Amangiri, a 600-acre retreat in Canyon Point. You may literally feel as if you’re disappearing into the desert, as this luxury resort specifically designed to blend into its surroundings. Even the resort’s signature pool is built into the mountain, with a natural rock feature defining its center.
This is a stay that’s all about relaxing – in style. Beyond the undisturbed views of the desert, you can reconnect with yourself through yoga and pilates classes, hiking in the nearby slot canyons, pampering massages or even meditation in the resort’s Floatation Pavilion. Private aerial flights and hot air balloon excursions over this peaceful desert can also be arranged. By night, you’ll retreat to your very own suite, outfitted in desert colors with modern-inspired architecture.
Take the plunge at Plungefest
Do you dare to take the plunge? All across the U.S., so-called “plunge” festivals dare brave souls to strip down to their bathing suits in the midst of winter and plunge into icy cold water. If this sounds like your sort of vacation, don’t miss the mother of all icy thrills: Plungefest in Chesapeake, Md.
The annual event is a winter institution in Maryland. Thousands of thrill-seekers participate in the plunge, which raises funds for Special Olympics Maryland. Raise money for a worthy cause and dunk yourself in nearly freezing water – or stay wrapped up in a cozy parka as you watch others take the plunge.
Take a winter road trip
While summer is usually the season that calls for long road trips across the country, why not venture off the beaten path this winter with a trip to see some of the season’s most impressive sights? Not only will you avoid crowded airports, but you’ll also have the chance to experience your destination at your own pace. For a beautiful winter trip, grab your snow chains and head over to Wyoming, where the Big Horn Mountains offer majestic views of the countryside.
For a warm weather road trip, head down to the Florida Keys and explore the best the coast has to offer. Or you could head to the west coast to cross a few national parks off your list. The Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and Arches National Park are just a few sights you could enjoy this winter.
(Main image: jurvetson)