Last year, Washington DC had one of the worst snow storms on record. The city came to a complete standstill for over four days. Those stuck inside were dreaming of beaches and sunshine. However, if I may offer a different perspective… Winter can be difficult, especially for those middle latitude locations that get cold (not freezing) and don’t really know what to do with the snow. Instead of dreaming about the islands, consider a trip to embrace the cold. Go to a place that takes Winter seriously, that embraces the snow, and knows how to make the best of it.
Alaska: I lived in Anchorage for many years. Alaskans don’t just make the best of Winter, they celebrate it! In fact they have created a unique 10 day festival every February called Fur Rendezvous (aka Fur Rondy to the locals). Fur Rondy includes a snow sculpture competition, fireworks, a winter court, an actual outdoor carnival (you haven’t lived until you have gone on a spinning ride when it is below freezing), hockey and dog sledding! Fur Rondy has a long tradition going back to 1935 when the 3 day festival dates were set to coincide with when the fur trappers came to Anchorage to sell their pelts (hence the name Fur Rendezvous).
Sundance Utah: Take a ski vacation with a twist! The Sundance Film festival is every January in Northern Utah. Here you can combine a love of film with the self-declared “best snow on earth” to go skiing in the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains. Once you have done that one last run for the day, ski straight to downtown Park City to have catch a showing, grab a great meal, go shopping or just hunt for stars. Did I mention I saw Danny Devito last year?!
Montreal. Life in Montreal definitely continues and even flourishes throughout the Winter months. A trip over Valentines weekend (Montreal is ranked in the top 5 most romantic cities) or go for the Maple Sugar or other outdoor winter festivals.
Iceland. Visit Iceland or Norway November through April to experience the Northern Lights. While there you can go dog sledding, skiing, tobogganing, or sit outside enjoying the crisp air in an outdoor hot spring.
Russia See the historic sights of the Kermlin, St. Basil’s, the Winter Palace and the Hermitage surrounded by snow and ice. Go ice skating on the Neva river. Huddle inside next to a fire with a glass of tea or vodka and a bowl of borscht. Take in a show at the Bolshoi. (Think about scenes from Anna Karenina or Doctor Zhivago)
If you want to experience a place through the eyes of a local, you need to understand its core. All of these locations are of course beautiful in the summer months (they are also overrun with tourists). But the cold, snow and ice are part of the culture and identity of these northern locations.