While you might think February’s the time to curl up in bed with a never-ending stream of Netflix, the shortest month of the year actually packs lots of travel opportunities for skiers, romantics and anyone looking to get a little much-needed vitamin D (not this year, seasonal affective disorder!). Behold, the five best places to travel this month, even if it means you’ll probably be flying out during a snowstorm.
1. Santa Fe, New Mexico
The small city is known as a melting pot of Native American, Spanish and Anglo cultures and for its wacky and weird — in a good way! — vibe thanks to an eclectic arts scene. But what really sets this northern New Mexico town apart is the stunning surrounding landscapes. Hike through the rock formations at Plaza Bianca, enjoy lunch at the Echo Amphitheater in Abiquiu and don’t leave without visiting Ghost Ranch, which was Georgia O’Keeffe’s summer residence and a place of inspiration for the celebrated American artist. Downtown, you can visit a great museum that highlights the life and career of O’Keeffe before taking in a meal at Cafe Pasqual’s, a cozy spot that’s become a Santa Fe staple. (If it’s busy, ask to be seated at the communal table to strike up a conversation with the locals and tourists alike that flock to this spot.) Make some time to get lost in Meow Wolf, an immersive art experience that will pretty much blow your mind—and have you walking in circles trying to explore the whole thing.
Why you should go in February: It’s ski season, which means powder on the mountain just minutes from downtown. Plus, Santa Fe’s dry, mild winter makes it the perfect place to sit outside in a hot tub as you take in the area’s incredible stargazing.
Where to stay: The Four Seasons Rancho Encantado. Just 15 minutes from town, this luxurious casita-style property — where each room is replete with Southwestern decor and a wood-burning kiva fireplace, gigantic soaking tub and private patio — feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere.
2. Uvita, Costa Rica
Costa Rica is also one of the most biologically diverse destinations in the world, where untouched beaches, exotic animals and lush jungles meet to make your trip part relaxing and part exhilarating. Can you imagine waking up to a white-faced monkey during your vacay? Yep, that’ll happen. Or spotting a sloth *attempting* to cross the road as traffic comes to a standstill? Yep, that’ll likely happen, too. In the tiny beachside village of Uvita, you can spend time at one of the area’s many natural waterfalls — which happen to double as the best waterslide ever. Sit in the water of La Catarata Uvita and ride down the 35-foot drop down the slippery rock into the water below.
Why you should go in February: February is Costa Rica’s dry season, meaning you’ll enjoy some of its best weather all year — with temps in the South Pacific ranging from the high 80s to low 90s.
Where to stay: Vista Celestial, a small boutique hotel made up of five private villas — each with its own hot tub and terrace — that are located in the jungle with views of the Pacific Ocean.
3. Monte Carlo, Monaco
The best part about Monte Carlo — and all of Monaco, really — is that the country is tiny, clocking in at just about 500 acres of coastal bliss. This means you can see a lot in a short time, like the changing of the guard at the Prince’s Palace (you should also venture inside to gawk at the 15th-century frescoes in the State Apartments), the marina and its mega yachts or the famed Place du Casino. You might recognize the latter from the James Bond movies, and it’s where you’ll find a bunch of other icons: the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo and Casino de Monte-Carlo, and some of world’s most celebrated designers, which are jam-packed into the tiny streets around the square.
Where to stay: The swanky Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo. It’s all sorts of romantic with Belle Opaque vibes — the hotel’s winter garden dome was even designed by Gustave Eiffel. You can spend a romantic day at Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo, the connected high-tech spa with impeccable suites and one of the best hydrotherapy tubs you’ll ever sit in, plus a seawater pool and advanced treatments like face-and-body cryotherapy.
4. New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans means a weekend (or week) full of eating and drinking any time of the year, but if you’ve never been for Mardi Gras, you truly haven’t seen it. The Fat Tuesday celebration is a cultural institution in NOLA, and is coinciding this year with the city’s 300th birthday celebration — so yeah, it’s bound to be a party. When you’re not throwing beads or sipping on a Voodoo Daiquiri from America’s oldest purported bar, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, you’ll want to spend the rest of your time getting immersed in the Big Easy’s incredible food scene. Whether it’s the contemporary and cool French/Caribbean fare at Compère Lapin, fine Southern dining and charm at La Petite Grocery or the iconic brunch (with balloons!) at Commander’s Palace, your tummy won’t be disappointed.
Why you should go in February: It’s a time of year when NOLA’s not oppressively hot, and there’s a lot going on, like Mardi Gras and a big birthday for The Big Easy.
Where to stay: Hotel Monteleone seems to have been around as long as the city itself. With its location in the French Quarter, you’ll be steps from the city’s most adorable and ’Gram-worthy neighborhood, and you can meet in the lobby on a nightly basis to take a spin at the Carousel Bar, where the bar looks and acts like a carousel by actually moving as you sit and enjoy your libation.
5. Harbin, Cuba
Long winters are the norm in the northern Chinese city of Harbin, where ice carving has developed into something of a sport — according to Intrepid Travel, which just launched a winter tour there, it’s said to date back to the Qing Dynasty when fishermen would pull ice from the Songhua River to carve into lanterns. Today, artists and sculptors come from all over the world to compete in the Harbin International Ice & Snow Festival, and it’s hard not to be wowed by the intricate sculptures, many of which have resembled castles, temples and famous world monuments like Rome’s Colosseum in years past.
Why you should go in February: Cheaper-than-normal airfare, low-cost luxury digs and illuminated nighttime ice sculptures — need we say more?
Where to stay: The brand-new and very elegant Sonbgei Shangri-La, a five-star hotel just a five-minute drive from the festival, with over 300 rooms at unbeatable February prices. At the hotel’s hip De Drunk’n Pig bar and pub, you’ll find lots of local beers to sample and a menu full of finger-licking-good pork dishes.