Whether you call it seasonal affective disorder or simply the winter blues, the best way to treat that much maligned post-holiday slump is to avoid it altogether—by planning a trip that offers a change of scenery no matter your vacation preferences. If the cold is your nemesis, escape the deep freeze in a warm, tropical location that trades snow for sun or sand, like New Orleans or Hawaii; if your spirit animal is more like a snow dog, try an alpine getaway in Austria or Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where the quintessential cold-weather hijinks banish any memory of brumal depression. Who cares that it’s the high season practically everywhere?
Here are eight places to get your heart racing again this winter.
The Winter Lover: Austria
For a vacation that feels as though you’ve landed in the center of a perfectly rendered snow globe, book a stay in the alpine village of Hallstätt, set on a pristine lake about an hour east of Salzburg by car. The town’s colorful chalet-style architecture, Main Square Christmas markets, and 18th-century churches come to life when dusted with fresh powder, but there’s more to it than mere sights on offer. Skiing, skating, snowshoeing, and more make this the ultimate winter wonderland. While you’re out there, you may as well circle around to Vienna, about a three-and-a-half-hour drive away, to take advantage of ball season (when locals waltz their way to holiday bliss) and the warmth of the city’s famous coffee houses.
The Romantic: New Orleans
The madness of Mardi Gras can be enough to deter even the most seasoned revelers, but the Big Easy becomes surprisingly level headed—and feels like the backdrop for your own personal date night—in January and March, when hurricane season is all but a distant memory. Bonus: With temperatures hovering near the mid-60s and 70s, there’s no trace of the oppressive heat and humidity that dogs the summer months, making it perfect for beignet-scented bike rides through the Garden District, afternoon tipples on Jackson Square, and jazzy nights in the French Quarter. And be sure to catch the Rembrandt and Rubens on loan from institutions like the National Gallery of London at the New Orleans Museum of Art’s exhibition celebrating the city’s tricentennial before it ends on January 27th.
The Serious Skier: Jackson Hole
If the flash of Sundance in Park City, Utah, feels like too much, this is your place. The snowpack reaches its, ahem, peak in January and February, making it an ideal time to schuss down the mountains in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The only downside: You’ll need to brace yourself for both the cold and lack of beginner trails. But the quintessential winter sports town has more than enough to lure adventure seekers and luxury lovers alike, from snowmobiling tours through Yellowstone National Park to a lively après ski scene. Just be willing to splurge on five-star slope-side lodgings like Four Seasons Resort and Residences for the full experience.
The Snowbird: Puerto Rico
For a place that tends to be on the more convenient and affordable end on the travel spectrum—it’s more inspired than Florida but less than three hours from the East Coast and also welcomes your dollars as a US territory—Puerto Rico offers a surplus of riches. If it’s culture you seek, there are the cobblestone streets and 16th-century pastel facades of Old San Juan; adventure seekers need only look to the crystal waterfalls and verdant trails of the El Yunque rainforest for a memorable adrenaline rush. It also helps that days almost always register near 80 degrees (or higher) and winter is the dry season.
The Nature Lover: Hawaii
With its dazzling beaches, lush forests, and tropical flora, it’s hard to imagine a bad time to visit Hawaii. In fact, even the rainy season has its perks: February is the height of the area’s annual whale migration, when humpback whales return to the waters off the Big Island, Maui, and Kauai to mate and calve and nurse their young. You’ll want to stick to the south and west of each island to avoid some of the wetness, but temperatures tend to stay in the mid-70s, so you don’t have to worry about leaving your bathing suit at home. Do, however, venture north if you want to see larger than usual waves—and the surfers crazy enough to catch them.
The Design Enthusiast: Palm Springs
Every winter, Palm Springs becomes a desert oasis for interiors aesthetes and architecture geeks thanks to Modernism Week, an 11-day festival (this year’s celebrations will be held from February 13-23) devoted to the town’s cult of midcentury chic. From neighborhood tours of homes owned by the likes of Frank Sinatra and designed by midcentury icons including Richard Neutra, John Lautner, and more to lectures, parties, and talks, the city promises more than 350 events to let you relive the swinging ‘60s in style—plus all the vintage shopping to help you bring the look home with you.
The Solo Traveler: Vietnam
March seems to be the sweet spot on the Vietnamese travel calendar, whether you’re looking to explore the terraced rice fields that dot the mountainous northern region of Sapa, hit the beaches in central Da Nang and Hoi An, island hop in southern Phu Quoc and Con Dao, or shop till you drop in Ho Chi Minh City. One reason? Summers tend to be hot and humid with frequent downpours, and winters can be as cold as those in New York or Philadelphia, at least in the north. The country is also relatively safe and affordable, the locals are friendly, and the government has pledged more than $1 billion in upgrades to tourism infrastructure over the last few years, making it a perfect choice for solo globetrotters.
The Family Planner: South Africa
It’s certainly going to cost you, but the benefits of expanding your kids’ horizons will greatly outweigh the price tag. Winter is actually summer in South Africa, which means you can take advantage of everything the season has to offer, from hiking Table Mountain and strolling the revived V&A waterfront in Cape Town to going on safari to catch the Big Five in action at the luxury game reserves in and around Kruger National Park. And if your kids are full-grown, make a pit stop between the two in the Cape Winelands, where you can taste your way through the region’s under-the-radar shiraz and pinotage vineyards.