Despite the sugar highs and romantic dinners for two of Valentine’s Day, February can be the hardest of winter months. The excitement of the first winter snow has long faded, but there’s still a month to go before spring begins. This month marks the home stretch — that last slog through snow-filled sidewalks and windchill that make us want to hide under the covers.
Related: Here Are 365 Beaches — One for Every Day in 2018
Take a page out of our book, and spice things up with a trip to balmy Key West — where it’s the dry season — or to North Carolina to go kayaking next to wild horses.
Here are 15 invigorating itineraries that promise to take the drear out of winter.
Courtesy of Hotel Saranac
Saranac Lake, New York
Hotel Saranac opened in 1927 and for decades was the go-to upstate stomping grounds for wealthy Manhattan skiers. This month, the landmark property reopens after a four-year $30-million renovation that pays homage to the hotel’s “Great Gatsby” roots, with retro travel posters and a grand lobby with its original chandeliers. When you’re not skiing at Whiteface Mountain, head to Saranac Lake Winter Carnival (February 2–11), a 10-day event complete with parades, fireworks, and a life-size ice palace.
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It’s the most exciting month of the year for art lovers in Seattle. Each February, Museum Month means half-price admission to Seattle’s top museums (simply request your complimentary museum pass from your hotel concierge). With 40 cultural institutions around the city participating, it allows visitors to easily tap into some of the fantastic exhibits at MoPop, Seattle Aquarium, Seattle Art Museum, and the Museum of Flight, to name a few.
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Damage from Hurricane Irma hasn’t tarnished Naples’ reputation as the “paradise coast” of Florida. This month, the city officially reopens for tourism, including the grand reopening of Naples Grande Beach Resort. It took nearly four months for the 200-acre property (which sits on its own nature preserve) to get up and running again, but incoming guests will enjoy completely refurbished rooms and restaurants, and new landscaping with replanted trees and exotic flowers — all in time for the Naples National Art Festival (Feb 24–25), a lively outdoor weekend with artists spanning 18 different categories.
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Manhattan Beach, California
It’s not hard looking for reasons to plan an escape to the west coast this time of year. In Manhattan Beach, Westdrift, a brand new luxury hotel opening this month. The property is designed to resemble elegant beach bungalows, with handsome hardwood floors and crisp modern furnishings. Not that you’ll need much time in your room — the entire resort spans 26 acres, including a nine-hole golf course, so most of your time can be spent soaking up sorely needed rays.
There’s nothing like a tropical beach in the middle of the Pacific to really put distance between you and winter. Specifically, we’re talking Maui: In February, United (which boasts the most flights between the Hawaiian islands and the mainland than any other carrier) is set to increase service between Colorado and Hawaii. There’s never been a better time to find an affordable flight to the Aloha State.
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Paradise Valley, Arizona
Mountain Shadows, an upscale resort tucked under russet-hued Camelback Mountain (20 minutes from Phoenix), made waves when it opened in 2017, but this month the mid-century chic resort adds 42 new luxury condominiums and suites. Designed to allow travelers a greater sense of freedom, the stunning units still offer a range of hotel services like home meal delivery, housekeeping, plus access to Arizona’s only 18-hole, par-3 golf course.
Who said beaches are the only reason to travel in February? In Cincinnati, the buzz this month is all about Tokyo Kitty, a new karaoke bar inspired by the movie Lost In Translation. Set in a Tokyo airport-inspired space, the bar will employ a team of robots to serve drinks — but if you’re just interested in belting out Mariah Carey hits from the ’90s without the eyes of strangers on you, worry not. The venue will feature seven private rentable rooms, with space for you and up to 20 friends.
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Fort Myers, Florida
It’s peak birdwatching season in south Florida, and the sightings are best along a secluded coastline near Fort Myers. Known for its relaxed way of life, Sanibel — sixty percent of which is protected for wildlife — offers a wealth of stunning natural scenery (not to mention pristine turquoise beaches). Birdwatchers should head to J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge to spot rare Purple Gallinules or Roseate Spoonbills. Up for more wildlife? February is also the peak time for seeing manatees, hundreds of whom show up to enjoy the Gulf’s warm waters.
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San Francisco, California
This month, show up hungry to Mersea, a brand new restaurant opening on San Francisco’s Treasure Island. The 8,000 square feet space — whose name is an old English word meaning ‘island oasis’ —is made entirely out of shipping containers, and boasts sweeping views of the Bay from every seat. But it’s not just about the visuals here: the menu delivers classic comfort foods with a twist, so think pork roll and egg sandwiches with kimchi, togarashi-spiced kettle corn, and a double-stacked Wagyu cheeseburger.
Cashiers, North Carolina
Few east coasters would think to head inland to the Blue Ridge Mountains for winter, but with 1,600-foot ski and snowboarding runs at the adventure-filled Sapphire Valley Resort, the remote forested peaks of North Carolina promise a delightfully rugged mid-February escape. When you’re not snow tubing, the Great Outhouse Races (February 17) is an unmissable annual tradition: during the event, outlandishly decorated outhouses are released down the mountain while a crowd of spectators cheers on their favorite free-flying toilet.
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February is a great time to enjoy Texas when it’s not overwhelmingly hot. If you’re heading to Dallas this month, be sure to check out the newly unveiled Hotel Crescent Court, whose exquisite French Renaissance facade inspired a multi-million dollar redesign of all the rooms and suites. The swanky spa hotel sits in the middle of Uptown, a neighborhood known for its neoclassical architecture, upscale shopping, and Dallas Arts District — with minimal tourist traffic, it’s a fantastic time to wander around one of the city’s most culturally rich neighborhoods.
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Key West, Florida
Key West, one of the most coveted warm-weather destinations in the U.S., is ripe for travel this month. United is set to launch daily service from Chicago (as opposed to just flying on Saturdays, as it did last year). February is smack in the middle of dry season, so expect calm waters and balmy temps. At Oceans Edge Resort, the only hotel in Key West with private marina access, guests can book customized kayaking, sailing and SUP tours with the hotel’s on-site Aquatics Director.
Beaufort, North Carolina
For couples seeking an intimate getaway this month, there’s plenty to discover in the coastal town of Beaufort, North Carolina. Despite brisk weather, February means reduced rates at places like The Inn on Turner, a family-run bed and breakfast celebrated for gourmet daily breakfasts and nightly wine hours (in the summer, these take place in lush gardens adjoining the house). Wild horses are the main attraction here, and the shiny-maned beauts can be spotted up-close during a kayaking expedition with Beaufort Paddle.
New Orleans, Louisiana
This year, Mardi Gras falls the day before Valentine’s Day, and what better place to let out your wild side than the Big Easy? The city, which celebrates its 300th anniversary in 2018, is certainly in a festive mood, and there’s even a new hotel to add to the list. Located close to the French Quarter and Garden District, NOPSI Hotel offers a stunning rooftop pool with sweeping views, but our favorite part might be the bright, sanctuary-esque suites.
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Salt Lake City, Utah
This month, the Winter Olympics will take place thousands of miles across the Pacific in South Korea, but that isn’t stopping Salt Lake City (which has its own unique history with the games) from getting in on the action. At Utah Olympic Park, visitors can take an actual bobsled ride down an official Olympics course, try their hand at ice skating, or even sign up for curling lessons. The activities, of course, are all BYOM — bring your own medal.