8 winter nature escapes
Experience amazing coastline, wildlife, Aurora Borealis, Yosemite, and more
Get cozy along the Pacific
Yellow-slickered fishermen mix with just a sprinkling of iPad-toting tourists in this small riverfront town with San Francisco–steep streets. Winter is a lovely time to visit, as rain can actually be romantic when paired with thundering surf—and fresh, crisp beach walks when the storm breaks. Plus, in the off-season, you’ve got the typically packed place to yourself—particularly fine stretches of sand with towering dunes, uninterrupted ocean views, and some of the most impressive storm watching anywhere.
28 miles of sand all to yourself
Within easy reach of Portland and Seattle, Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula is arguably one of the most visited oceanfront spots in the Northwest. In the summer, that is, when elbow-to-elbow crowds jostle for a glimpse of Jake the Alligator Man, and traffic idles bumper-to-bumper on the “World’s Longest Beach” (as an iconic, if not quite accurate, sign proclaims). In the off-season, though, this windswept peninsula—from the mouth of the Columbia River to the oyster-rich Willapa Bay—is all yours. As empty and awesome as the clear, cold day in 1805 when explorer William Clark declared, “Ocian in view! O! the joy …”
Get into the wild in New Mexico
Bird-watching has its skeptics, but those skeptics probably haven’t seen a skyful of sandhill cranes angle into a pond at sundown, legs unfurled like landing gear, and hit the water as the sun drops below the Chupadera Mountains.
Welcome to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.
Catch one heck of a light show in Alaska
Tack this on to your life list: The Aurora Borealis. Think of it as the ultimate holiday lights display―a spectacle so soul stirring that people see the lights and actually start cheering.
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Explore Yosemite–without the crowds
Half Dome looks damn good in white. Stomp around the snow―and see another side of the West’s most famous national park.
More: Yosemite in Winter
Hide away in Greer, Arizona
Luxurious in a rustic-cowboy kind of way, Hidden Meadow Ranch offers a snowy serene stay in Arizona’s White Mountains. Or choose one of 9 more of our favorite romantic cottages from Colorado to Kauai.
More: Top 10 romantic cottages
Lose the crowds in Death Valley
This fabled desert park cools down in winter. Hike, explore, and experience a world unlike any other
Have Mendocino to yourself
Head to the Northern California coast for the quiet winter season, where you get spectacular coastline, redwoods, off-season discounts, and empty beaches. Just remember to bring a sweater.
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