Now that gift-giving season has come and gone, it’s time to treat yourself—and what better way to lift spirits in the gloom of January than with a trip? Whether you’re a snow bunny keen to explore the Great Outdoors, or a sand fly who needs a dose of winter sun, we’ve got you covered.
This gallery was originally published in 2016. It has been updated with new picks.
San Diego, California
This January, So Cal’s surf mecca becomes an unlikely culturefest thanks to the annual event from San Diego Symphony and its new music director designate, Rafael Payare. Wunderkind composer and conductor Matthew Aucoin was tapped to curate this year’s lineup, Hearing the Future; he’s programmed an eclectic range of performances, from Payare and his wife, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, to Sheila Jordan, a ninetysomething jazz vocalist returning to perform here for the first time in almost three decades. If you’re more interested in sports than symphonies, it’s still an ideal time to visit: The Farmers Insurance Open runs from January 24–27, and is one of the highlights of the PGA calendar, taking place at the Torrey Pines Golf Course. This 36-hole public course will host the U.S. Open again in 2021, after Tiger Woods was crowned champ here in 2008. If you’re looking for a luxe new place to stay, check The Guild, a much-delayed rehab of the former Army-Navy building downtown dating back to the 1920s. The 162-room hotel is scheduled to finally open in early 2019.
The Jaipur Literature Festival—one of the largest literary festivals in the world—is a 13-year old, five-day extravaganza drawing heavy-hitting arty types to Rajasthan’s Pink City for lectures, debates, and readings. This year’s roster includes Call Me By Your Name writer André Aciman, pioneering feminist Germaine Greer, artist Marc Quinn, and Pulitzer Prize-winner Colson Whitehead. Once you’ve gorged on high culture, spend some time shopping—nearly 10 percent of the entire population here is somehow employed in the jewelry business. Jaipur-base expat Brit Victoria Dyer runs superb tours of the best stores for raw stones or finished pieces; otherwise, burrow into the Gem Palace, a Raj-era holdover that’s filled with a warren of tiny storefronts. Hide away in Samode Palace, the onetime maharaj’s mansion just outside town which has been converted into an ultra-luxe, 43-room hotel. Just don’t forget to download the charming sleeper hit, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, before you leave: The Judi Dench and Maggie Smith-starring comedy was set and filmed here, and is a love letter to the city.
Whitsunday Islands, Australia
These gorgeous islands near the southern reaches of the Great Barrier Reef are a fine base to explore coral with less congestion than can plague the northern tip near Cairns; the beaches, especially Whitehaven, are world class. Make your base at Elysian, a new boutique eco-lodge with just 20-rooms, or the Daydream Island Resort, which has its own, on-site marine biologist Johnny Gaskell. Even better, that island has its own living reef, so you can see fish, stingrays, and coral without ever leaving it, making it an easier option for those with small children. Transit to Queensland’s waters via Brisbane, which has regular service stateside and is emerging as an alternative to well-trafficked Sydney. BrisVegas (as it’s nicknamed for its brassy Aussie charm) is welcoming several chic new hotels including Ovolo The Valley and Calile, an ideal base to explore the independent boutique-crammed blocks of James Street.
Park City, Utah
Robert Redford’s three-decade-old indie filmfest Sundance is an eclectic place for star spotting, last year drawing the likes of Paul Rudd, Emmy Rossum, and Blythe Danner. The ten-day extravaganza starts January 24, 2019, and programming includes everything from a no-holds-barred doc about fallen festival darling Harvey Weinstein to Zac Efron channeling his inner serial killer as Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. The fest has made significant strides in diversity this year, upping the proportion of movies helmed by women to 40 percent and people of color to 36 percent—the latter including the feature-length directorial debut of actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, about a teenager in Malawi. Hunker down for the night at the Grand Summit Hotel, still sparkling from a recent $15m makeover, or splurge on a suite at the St. Regis Deer Valley to hobnob with the highfalutin attendees.
Turks and Caicos
It will be easier than ever to reach this cluster of Caribbean islands this winter, thanks both to a new, non-stop American Airlines flight from Chicago to the main airport on Provo and increased frequency on the route from Boston. For a quick weekend vacation, head to the Shore Club on Long Bay Beach, which has six-bedroom villas with private plunge pools and a butler on call (there are standard rooms, too, if you’re not looking to splash out). For a longer trip, consider connecting in Providenciales to a puddle jumper that will shuttle over to South Caicos—or the “Big South,” as most locals call it. This large flat island was once the hub of the salt-making industry here, but is being prepped as a new luxury tourism destination. The first resort to open is Sail Rock, on its own white sand beach. Come here and lounge in one of the private pool-equipped villas, or snorkel around the shallow, clear waters filled with enormous starfish.
We can sum up why we want to visit Puerto Rico this January in four words: Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton. He’s returning to his career-making role as the namesake Founding Father for a two-week stint on the island, largely aimed at helping boost its recovery more than a year after Hurricane Maria’s devastating landfall. (There are tickets remaining, though you’ll pay a hefty $5,000 for the privilege, most of which will go directly to help rebuild the island’s art programs.) Thankfully, many of the hotels crucial to Puerto Rico’s economy are now back in business, so you can also hop down here simply for a dose of Vitamin D—and help support PR’s rebound in the process. Try Dorado Beach, the lavish Ritz-Carlton Reserve hideout where 300,000 native plants were reintroduced to the grounds, or Condado Vanderbilt, which offers a Lin-Manuel-themed package “Join the Revolution,” combining tickets with a stay at the hotel and supper at his family’s restaurant.