Ah, winter. That time of year when your toque collection grows, you’re grateful if the day’s forecast stays above ‑10°C, and you’ll order ten double-doubles a day just to stay warm. Yes, Canadian winters are cold—we don’t have to tell you that. And while you’re no snowbird, no one will blame you for wanting to warm up when the mercury drops. Here’s our list of the 10 best places to escape the cold this winter, whether you want to stay local or fly like an eagle to southern locales.
1. Nakusp, BC
Take a trip to hot springs heaven
When it comes to winter vacations that don’t require you to leave the country, Nakusp is top of the list. The Nakusp area has hot springs galore—and what better way to escape the cold than a soak in the mineral waters of the “Finest Hot Springs in BC”? The hot pool at Nakusp Hot Springs is kept at a steamy 41°C in the winter. Nearby Halcyon Hot Springs has two springs, a mineral swimming pool, and a cold plunge pool. There’s no need to pick just one option when you’re in hot springs heaven.
Eat like a local: Three Lions Pub and Chumley’s Restaurant is a pub and restaurant in one. Grab a pint and classic pub grub like fish and chips—how convenient!
Hit the beach
While you’re hiding under the blankets and trying to find that “just above freezing” setting on the thermostat, the residents of Newport Beach, California, are having fun in the sun. This town is the epitome of a winter getaway: Check out the marina views from the Ferris wheel at Balboa Fun Zone, then rent a beach cruiser and pedal down to watch the surfers and bodyboarders at The Wedge. These are crashing, 10-metre waves, so newbies should stick to spectating.
Eat like a local: With its waterfront locale, family-style seating, and plates piled high with crab, prawns, and scallops, The Crab Cooker is everything you could want from a classic seafood joint.
Be a jungle explorer
When it’s 20 below and you’re dreaming of sunshine and margaritas, nowhere captures the imagination quite like Mexico. But everyone’s heard of Cancún and Cabo—you need something new, and the latest hot spot is Tulum. Have your camera ready: The turquoise waters and bright white sands framed by the town’s ancient cliff-top ruins are unlike anything you’ve seen before. And the adventure is just starting. Climb the area’s highest pyramid, Nohoch Mul, at Cobá Archeological Zone, and explore the lesser-known Muyil ruins, whose seclusion only adds to the magic.
Eat like a local: Arca Restaurant brings together local Mexican ingredients with international influences to make memorable dishes like grilled lobster tail with chipotle butter.
Explore a desert oasis
The prairies of Saskatchewan are sort of like the desert, right? Wrong—mostly because the prairies are totally frozen right now. But Lake Havasu City, Arizona, is far from frozen. In fact, it’s an outdoor wonderland this time of year. Explore Lake Havasu State Park by boat, making sure to sail under the London Bridge, which was actually transported from London in 1967. Back on land, go on an ATV adventure with Sandbar Powersports, where the ride can get as wild as you want.
Eat like a local: The chimichanga is Arizona’s unofficial state food, and you’ll find the best of the best at local favourite Sonora Tacos Y Mariscos.
Chill out in Canada’s warmest place!
It’s not quite Arizona, but as far as Canadian cities go, Chilliwack is downright balmy. It has the highest year-round average temp according to Macleans, at 10.5°C, and you’ll find lots of locals out and about during winter. Take a fishing adventure on the Fraser River or shop the boutiques along Wellington Avenue and Mill Street. At The Book Man, Nietzsche is ready to greet you—don’t worry, it’s just the bookstore’s resident cat. By night, HUB International Theatre will be bustling, with comedy, theatre, and more on this year’s schedule.
Drink like a local: The local brews at Chaos & Solace Craft Brewing Co. have a decidedly summery feel to them—order up a Kolsch or Grapefruit Radler and you can practically feel the sun.
Indulge your eccentric side
The eccentric charm of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, is undeniable. It’s not just the quirky name, although that certainly adds to the fun. Make a loop around Main Avenue and Broadway, and you’ll find colourful buildings housing thrift shops, gem stores, and art galleries. There’s even a vintage movie theatre (the El Cortez Theater) that runs just one film at a time. Be sure to visit Spaceport America, the first commercial space launch pad. On the drive back into town, stop off in the ghost town of Engle—if you dare.
Eat like a local: You’re in green chile country, so act like it. Make a stop at Casa Taco in nearby Elephant Butte for a verde chile burrito and an ice-cold Coke.
Relax in a tropical paradise
Replace snowfall with swaying palm trees in Nassau, where the weather is tropical and the coconut-shaped beverages are plentiful. The capital of the Bahamas was spared from the recent storms in the area, and its sun loungers are ready to welcome visitors. Cabbage Beach is filled with them, and you might notice something else: as soon as you sprawl out, rum-filled drinks just seem to appear out of nowhere. That’s the magic of the Bahamas! No tropical trip would be complete without some incredible snorkelling, though, right? The Lost Blue Hole is the “holy” grail of Nassau water adventures, so don’t miss it.
Eat like a local: The Bahamas may be resort-central, but you can still find deliciously authentic cuisine like Bahamian grouper and conch chowder at Montagu Gardens.
Escape to wine country
Fact: Canada is the world’s largest ice wine producer—those long winters aren’t all bad! Also a fact: If you actually want to drink your wine outside this time of year, you need to head to Santa Maria, California. Foxen Vineyard is known for its Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah, not to mention its super-charming ambiance. Start off at “The Shack,” Foxen’s 1860s-era blacksmith shop turned tasting room. Then head next door to the brand-new, solar-powered, state-of-the-art version. Oh, and don’t forget to say “hi” to the cows!
Eat like a local: Still in search of the perfect pairing? Catch a Winemaker Dinner at Ca’ Del Grevino Cafe & Tasting Room in Orcutt—the next one is November 18!
9. Montreal, QC
Stay warm underground
If Montreal isn’t on your bucket list of things to do in winter, you’ve clearly never heard of the Underground City. You could spend a whole holiday here, and in fact, we recommend you do! You can hit the museums (Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal and Musée Grévin are our favourites) and even head up to the Au Sommet observatory for incredible city views with your dinner, all without going outside. For retail therapy, Eaton Centre is your spot. It’s got lockers for rent and cell phone charging stations, so you can shop ‘til you drop—literally.
Eat like a local: French chef Christian Faure is a Montreal legend, and once you bite into luscious éclairs at Café Grévin, you’ll see why.
10. Dallas, TX
Experience southern hospitality
If you’ve ever stepped outside for a minute only to have your eyelashes freeze shut, rest assured: That will never happen to you in Dallas, Texas. There’s a lot more to love about “D-Town,” especially in the Deep Ellum district, which perfectly blends classic southern hospitality with trendy nightlife. Join the locals at Adair’s Saloon, where they’ve been line dancing since 1963. Then catch the latest up-and-coming act at The Prophet Bar, so you’ll be able to say, “I saw them before they were cool.”
Eat like a local: As you might expect, Deep Ellum is all about the late-night eats. Armoury D.E. serves up hearty sandwiches ‘til 2am to soak up all that booze. Try the one dipped in funnel cake batter and fried. You’ll thank us.
It’s time to get into a summer state of mind—at least temporarily. Get out from under that sun lamp and start shopping for a new bathing suit and flip-flops. You’re about to soak up some natural UV rays in these stunning destinations.