Top 10 winter weekends

Relax, reconnect with family, and reward yourself with one of these classic weekend escapes, from B.C. to Arizona

1. DO SOME SOUL-SEARCHING, Sedona, AZ

Why here: Because Sedona ― with its crimson buttes, dramatic sunsets, and vortex vibe ― is the West's spiritual hub. Join New Agers in red rock country for peace and tranquility ― plus heart-pumping hikes, mountain bike rambles, and super-luxe Southwestern spa treatments at Mii Amo at Enchantment Resort (888/749-2137) that'll leave you wholly refreshed and ready for the year ahead.

Why go now: Crystalline skies and soaring red spires can boost anyone's sagging wintertime spirits. Technically, it's off-season here in Sedona ― but now's a divine time. Hotel rates drop. Hiking trails are empty. Temps are cool, but resorts' heated pools are swimmable, and the sun still shines.

Where to stay: For a most soothing Sedona experience, tuck yourself into Enchantment Resort in Boynton Canyon (from $255; 800/826-4180). To be closer to town, try Amara Resort and Spa (from $129; 800/815-6152), which is situated steps from the shops and galleries, yet an oasis on the edge of Oak Creek. - Tim Vanderpool

2. CARVE OUT QUIET TIME, South Rim Grand Canyon, AZ

Why here: Because there's nothing like standing on the edge of a snow-dusted abyss with nary another soul in sight. Sure, there are lots of canyons, but this is the Grand Canyon, that fabled mile-deep, 277-mile-long rift that lives up to its wonder-of-the-world status no matter how many times you've seen it. Peer over the rim, behold monumental buttes ― and take in the sound of utter silence.

Why go now: For starters, you'll have the canyon to yourself ― visitation plunges in the winter. At 7,000 feet, the South Rim can certainly be cool, but that's part of the allure. Colors are heightened. Fog rolls dramatically through the gorge. And the popular Rim Trail may be almost empty.

Where to stay: Revamped in 2005, El Tovar is the granddaddy of the canyon's hotels ― and sits right on the rim. Now's your chance to try to score a room with a view. From $178; 888/297-2757. Grand Canyon National Park info: www.nps.gov/grca or 928/638-7888. - Matthew Jaffe 

3. LEARN TO COOK, Yosemite National Park, CA 

Why here: Because the 27th annual Chefs' Holidays series at The Ahwahnee Hotel make Yosemite's quiet season a haven for foodies by inviting big-time toques from across the country for 2-3 days of muliple cooking demos, meet-the-chef mixers, and gala feasts. Grab a window seat by the kitchen and watch chefs like Brian Malarkey of San Diego's Searsucker work their magic; mingle with the men and women of Bravo TV's "Top Chef"; lunch in the soaring dining room; then shed the lethargic effects of so much tasting by climbing the snowpacked Yosemite Falls trail.

Why go now: Yosemite in January is as deserted as the park gets ― yet more alive than ever. Conifers droop with snow, and coyotes step out boldly. And if you wake up in the Ahwahnee at 4 a.m., the full moon might be hovering over Yosemite Falls right outside your window.

Where to stay: While the Ahwahnee hosts the Chefs' Holidays, you don't have to stay there to participate. Cooking demos are free, and you can buy a ticket to the 5-course gala dinner for $199. Chefs' Holidays sessions run midweek Jan 8-Feb 1; two-night packages start at $896; www.yosemitepark.com or 801/559-4884. - Sara Schneider

4. SPEND Q.T. WITH THE KIDS, Whistler, B.C.

Why here: Because who wants to buckle and unbuckle snowsuited tots in car seats, or carpool tweens around town, when you can all hunker down at this sprawling two-mountain resort village and walk to everything? Whistler's Tree Fort keeps kids happy, as do the beginner terrain areas. Après-ski fun? You got it: ice skating on Green Lake and swimming at Meadow Park Sports Center (try the rope swing). www.whistler.ca/meadowpark  

Why go now: Ladies, this is your season! Whistler is bringing back Roxy All Star Snow Camps where you can spend two jam-packed days on the slopes with top female coaches and your best girl friends (full weekend package for $219). But don’t feel left out, boys – Whistler Creek will be debuting a three-day Kids Adventure Camp for you, too. And with the new cap of 4 per class at the Blackcomb Snow School, everyone is guaranteed some quality one-on-one time with a seasoned expert.

Where to stay: The village is lined with condos and hotels, but our favorite is the boutique-style Summit Lodge & Spa, with in-room kitchens and a heated outdoor pool. From $192 U.S.; www.whistlerblackcomb.com or 800/766-0449. - Abigail Peterson

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