With the busy schedules and considerable credit card balances of the holiday season behind us, now is the perfect time to plan a winter getaway. Couple perfect powder with locally sourced après-ski fare in Colorado, catch some rays in culinary all-star Tobago, or splurge on a week of Pacific seafood and pisco sours in Ecuador. Here are 10 places for hungry travelers to escape to this winter.
Why: Just 90 miles west of Denver, Breckenridge has the stellar slopes of nearby Aspen or Vail, but none of the attitude.
What to do: Hit Peak 6 (above), the new run that debuted on Christmas Day, 2013. It adds more than 540 acres of winter wonderland to Breck’s existing 187 trails and 3,000-acre terrain. (For those with their calculator app out, that’s more than 20 percent increase in skiable acreage.) Perfect for intermediate skiers and experts, Peak 6 has both high-alpine terrain and two high bowls. Take the edge off of your last run with a cocktail made from a top-shelf Colorado distiller, or one of 30 local craft beers on tap at Après Handcrafted Libations, Breckenridge’s newest bar. And don’t forget to pick up a box of the newly launched Pursuit Chocolate at Ridge Street Wine, and bring a taste of Breck’s sweet life home with you.
Where to stay: Feeling friendly? The Bivouac opened in December 2013 and provides hostel-style digs at a fraction of the cost of traditional Breckenridge hotels, which average a $250 nightly rate. The “Bivvie,” as it is affectionately called, has six private bedrooms with their own balconies and baths, and four open “dorm” spaces where guests can rent a bed in a shared room. Prices start at just $45 per person a night.
Downtown Los Angeles
Why: Ignored for decades, LA’s downtown district - now dubbed DTLA - is finally coming into its own.
What to do: Contemplate Julian Schnabel and George Segal at the sleek, neighborhood-making Museum of Contemporary Art. Then, peruse Californian purveyors G&B Coffee and Belcampo Meat Co. in 1917-era Grand Central Market, currently in the midst of a major restoration from barren retail wasteland to epicenter of culinary cool. Call in advance to nab one of the 39 seats at Alma restaurant, Ari Taymor’s award-winning ode to seasonal modernism, which opened a few blocks down Broadway last year. Or dance the night away at Honeycut, a 3,000-sq.-ft. basement cocktail den and disco, where the drinks were developed by Death & Co.’s David Kaplan.
Where to stay: Last month, a new Ace Hotel opened in the 12-story, 1927 United Artists Theater building on S. Broadway. The hotel has 182 guestrooms and a 1,600-seat concert hall, a restaurant called LA Chapter (run by the team from Brooklyn's Five Leaves) plus a vaguely Moroccan-styled rooftop bar (above) - known simply as the “Upstairs Bar" - which has knockout views of the city skyline.
Why: The best mountain sports destination on the East Coast has Vermont’s highest peak in the 4,395-ft. Mount Mansfield, plus a passionately local food scene.
What to do: Test your skills on Mansfield’s double-black diamond “Front Four” trails, or glide along over Stowe’s 483 skiable acres, including 100 miles of groomed cross-country terrain. After your run, toast New England ingenuity at Stowe Cider, a production facility and tasting room that opened two miles north of Stowe Village last August. The signature brew, an unfiltered dry cider with an impressive 6.5% ABV, is made with apples from the nearby Champlain Orchards. In downtown Stowe, choose from 24 beers on tap at the copper-topped bar at Vermont Ale House, a popular pub that opened in a 19th-century building on Mountain Road last year.
Where to stay: Stoweflake recently refreshed its guestrooms and added Ayurverdic treatments and wellness retreats to its spa. But the area’s biggest lodging development is Topnotch Resort & Spa, which dropped $15 million on 68 redesigned guestrooms, a 35,000-sq.-ft. spa and two new restaurants last summer. Vermont is the word at Topnotch’s appropriately named Flannel bistro, which celebrates all things Green Mountain State in dishes like Misty Knoll chicken, an all-state cheese board and an elevated take on pork and beans, made with meltingly tender belly and baked Vermont cranberry beans.
Why: It's festival season in New Orleans: Mardi Gras starts on March 5, the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival kicks off March 19, the French Quarter Festival opens April 10, and then Jazz Fest launches on April 25.
What to do: Eat. Drink. Be merry. The city continues to be a great food lover's destination, with culinary icons like Commander’s Palace and plenty of exciting newcomers. A few recent favorites: Mopho, a Southeast-Asia-on-the-Bayou joint helmed by former August chef Michael Gulotta, opened last month, and is already a bona fide hit for inventive plates like Louisiana blue crab braised in fermented black-bean sauce. Cocktail den Treo will launch a menu of small plates by St. Lawrence chef James Cullen later this month. And chef Phillip Lopez’ hotly anticipated Square Root is set to open in the Lower Garden District any minute now. It will have a 3,000-bottle wine cellar and a 16-seat chef’s counter, plus an upstairs dining room dishing out small plates and housemade charcuterie. And keep your eyes out for Milkfish, the brick-and-mortar offshoot of Chef Cristina Quackenbush’s popular Filipino pop-up, scheduled to debut in Mid-City by April.
Where to stay: The W New Orleans – French Quarter unveiled a massive renovation in 2012, including redesigned guestrooms and a swank restaurant and cocktail bar, Sobou. The French Quarter’s historic Ambassador Hotel recently announced plans to renovate as well, under the stylish supervision of Provenance Hotels and GB Lodging, who developed New York’s NoMad Hotel and the Ace Palm Springs.
Jackson Hole, WY
Why: Direct seasonal flights from 12 cities nationwide make this once-remote mountain town an awesomely appealing, open secret.
What to do: Besides the incredible skiing and snowboarding opportunities, you can easily access Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Park, both less than 60 miles from downtown Jackson. In town, bypass the tourists posing beneath Jackson’s elk-horn arch, and sip the sort of cocktails deserving of the term mixology at The Rose, a speakeasy-style bar on the second story of the recently reopened Pink Garter Theater. For more substantial sustenance, head to Snake River Grill, where Jeff Drew serves haute Western fare like dry-aged buffalo steak with polenta fries, and a venison-studded Korean hot pot. End your meal with an Eskimo bar, the Grill’s sinfully addictive, hand-dipped chocolate and caramel ice cream treat.
Where to stay: Downtown Jackson’s Snow King Hotel (above) just wrapped a $17 million renovation to its 200 rooms, spa and exterior – think floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Snow King Mountain and the Bridger-Teton National Forest, and an upgraded outdoor pool area with a hot tub and fire pit.
St. Petersburg, FL
Why: This once-sleepy Florida town is flush with creative energy, thanks to the 2011 debut of the Dali Museum, and a booming craft beer scene.
What to do: Elude the senior set and head to Central Avenue, where a cluster of craft brewers have set up. Cycle Brewing, which opened its doors last spring, features an open-air taproom with a chalkboard listing its $5 pours and a casual crowd. In late September, Green Bench Brewing (above) debuted a 12-tap bar and 6,000-sq.-ft. outdoor beer garden. One month later, Three Daughters Brewing opened an 18,000-sq.-ft. beer behemoth, which now includes a 30-barrel brewhouse, 18-hole putt-putt course and cheerful bar with 14 beers on tap, seven of which are Three Daughters’ own.
Where to stay: Keep things sudsy at the hip Hollander Hotel, an independent boutique property that opened in a refurbished, 1933-era building in November 2012. At the on-site Tap Room, local twentysomethings, beer geeks and sunkissed weekenders gather for satisfying pub grub – try the fried grouper sandwich – plus live music and an array of local craft beers plus imports like California’s Green Flash IPA.
Why: Adventurous norteamericanos have been paddling around the Galapagos for decades, but the mainland is now also within reach: in November 2013, Ecuadorian airline TAME launched direct, daily flights from New York’s JFK to Guayaquil Airport.
What to do: After landing in Guayaquil, hop on board the newly refurbished Tren Crucero. This luxury vintage train traverses the Pacific to the Andes in style, exploring Cotopaxi National Park and 280 miles of active volcanoes. From the elegant dining car you can sip pisco sours, juice a naranjilla and nosh local tapas while taking in the dramatic geography of one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. When you disembark in Riobamba, pull up a chair at Hacienda Abraspungo’s chic restaurant, where the menu spans Ecuadorian fare like locro de papas and ceviche, plus pasta studded with Pacific seafood and a killer citrus mousse made with local lemons.
Where to stay: International brands have started setting up shop in Ecuador’s major cities, as evidenced by the 179-room Wyndham that opened in Guayaquil last July. And stay tuned: Wyndham, InterContinental and Sheraton collectively have 10 hotels scheduled to debut across the country over the next two years.
Why go: The city is undergoing a serious culinary renaissance, with big-city talent and homegrown heroes from Chestnut Hill to South Street cooking.
What to do: Pack your walking shoes, and get ready to tour some of the hottest restaurants on the East Coast. Start in South Philly at Serpico, the industrial-chic Stephen Starr production helmed by Peter Serpico, a James Beard Award-winning chef formerly of Momofuku Ko in New York. Next, stop in local-boy-makes-good Ben Puchowitz’ new CHeU Noodle Bar, a sceney Center City spot known for Asian fusion fare and Top Ramen-based wall art. Continue your creative streak at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts on S. Broad, where Iron Chef Jose Garces’ will open fine-dining showpiece Volver by April. Then, cab it over to new Northern Liberties cocktail bar Emmanuelle, which serves potent house creations in a somewhat goth, Tim-Burton-meets-Jacques-Garcia space.
Where to stay: Rittenhouse Square’s Radisson Blu is one of the first U.S. outposts of the upscale European brand, having debuted a massive, $20 million conversion from old-school Radisson mode last November. The hotel’s steakhouse is filled with navy-suited ladies and gentlemen who lunch, or you can caffeinate around the corner at Philadelphia’s first Joe, an offshoot of Manhattan’s cult coffee shop that opened on the north side of the square last summer.
Trinidad & Tobago
Why: These lesser-known gems of the Lower Antilles are increasingly accessible, thanks to new direct flights from JetBlue. Fly to sunny skies from JFK on February 24, and from Fort Lauderdale by May.
What to do: Eat your heart out at The Strip, a nightlife hub and restaurant row rocking Tobago since last June. Get your linen suit pressed before hitting fine-dining spot Watermill, where the specialties of the house are live music and straight-from-the-sea lobster. Or, pull up a barstool and snack on jerk wings and peppery geera pork at gastropub Bar Hop-In. Need a little alone time? Get your Robinson Crusoe on at Tobago’s remote northeastern cove Pirate’s Bay – the actual site of filming for the 1954 adventure flick.
Where to stay: The islands are in the midst of a hotel boom, with a $112 million development project bringing two new hotels to Tobago by 2015. The most recent opening is last summer’s Regent Star, which has 158 rooms and suites, three restaurants and a spa. For a swankier sleep on the other island, check into the 20-key Bacolet Beach Club, a clubby spot opened by former Givenchy model Gloria Jones-Knapp.
Why: The French-Canadian city heats up in the winter. Hot on the heels of last month’s electronica fete Igloofest, the city unveils Montreal en Lumiere, an arts festival attended by 900,000 musicians, dancers, theatrical troupes and fans from February 20 through March 2.
What to do: Get your culture fix at Centre PHI, a multimedia gallery and event space on a cobblestoned corner of Old Montreal. Afterwards, grab a coffee and epically rich brownie at Olive + Gourmando, a popular cafe down the road, or hoof it over to nearby Place Royale’s newly opened, très French bakery Maison Christian Faure for mind-blowing tartes and brioche sandwiches. You’ll work it off when you hop on one of the city’s ready-to-rent Bixi bicycles and head over to Mont Royal, home to the city’s most exciting new restaurant. Foodlab is located on the top floor of a digital arts museum, where co-chefs Michelle Marek and Seth Gabrielese keep Montrealers on their toes by changing the menu and overall concept of the restaurant every two weeks. Reservations are essential, so call early.
Where to stay: One of the most impressive hotels in the city is at the historic Ritz-Carlton Montreal, built in 1912 on a tony stretch of Golden Square Mile. In 2012, the hotel underwent a $150 million makeover, and welcomed star chef's Daniel Boulud’s Maison Boulud restaurant. Request an outdoor table: in the winter, the restaurant transforms its garden terrace into a 46-seat, enclosed glass greenhouse.