Most of us get a little cabin crazy at some point during our long winters. But a quick hop south can thaw you faster than a snowflake on a brandy-warmed tongue – so long as you know where to go. After years of chill-avoiding jaunts to the United States, I've found several spots well-worth peeling off your fleece for.
"Always check the weather forecast for winter visits to Austin – it does get cold occasionally," teases local blogger Lizzy Newsome (briteshiny.com), adding that seasonal temperatures up to 18 C keep the Texas capital's al fresco beer gardens busy. Her favourites? Banger's and Easy Tiger.
While boozing is a great way to meet ever-friendly Austinites, some neighbourhoods also invite extensive T-shirted wandering. South Congress is popular, but Newsome also suggests North Loop for funky vintage stores, bars and eateries.
"We're constantly in festival mode," she says, recommending the upcoming Trail of Lights (austintrailoflights.org) and Carnaval Brasileiro (sambaparty.com). "January's Restaurant Week (restaurantweekaustin.com) is my top pick – and it's not just Mexican food and barbecue!"
Or consider unfreezing your brain cells in music-loving New Orleans; diving into the galleries (and oasis-like golf courses) of Arizona's Phoenix/Scottsdale metropolis; or flicking through San Francisco's quirky bookstores – especially in the ever-balmy Mission district.
While many Canadian snowbirds swear Florida is the only place worth flocking in winter – several readers have recommended the sunshine state's quirky Key West over theme parky Orlando – I'd also suggest Miami for its raised temperatures and eclectic city action.
"Our winters won't stop you doing anything you'd do here the rest of the year," says culture blogger Jordan Melnick (beachedmiami.com). "You can jump in the ocean in December because the sun's usually going to warm you up in under a minute."
But it's not all about seaside shenanigans in South Beach.
He recommends Wynwood, a gallery district lined with graffiti murals. "If you really want to escape the tourist bubble, spend time in Little Haiti where Sweat Records, Little Haiti Cultural Center, Chef Creole and American Legion Park are all worth visiting."
Encouraging exploration, he adds that: "This is a city unlike any other in the U.S. Nowhere else has our particular mix of ethnicities, natural environments – ocean meets swamp – and cultural contradictions. If you visit Miami and it feels like anywhere else, you're doing it wrong."
Exploration is also the secret to Southern California. Multifaceted Los Angeles and small-city Santa Barbara lure many, but underrated San Diego was a revelation on my last-winter trip. Blogger Julia Wheeler (sandiegosongbird.com) offers several reasons to visit.
Palm-lined Balboa Park – with its museums, attractions and fragrant gardens – is a must-see, she says. "Also head to Point Loma for a hike around Cabrillo National Monument park, exploring the tide pools on the way. And on Saturdays, the city's sprawling Little Italy Farmer's Market is filled with delicious food and drink."
Save time for the sunny North Park neighbourhood, too. "You can tour fantastic microbreweries or enjoy craft cocktails here – try Polite Provisions – and also eat at hipster and farm-to-table restaurants," says Wheeler, recommending Jayne's Gastropub and Urban Solace.
But if all you need is spice to melt your Canadian winter blues, she has an extra hot tip: "We have the best Mexican food outside Mexico here. As well as the restaurants in Old Town, I'd recommend El Indio on India Street in Mission Hills or Ponce's on Adams Avenue in Kensington."
OUR READERS ADVICE
- I generally loathe the sunbelt cities, but will make an exception for Austin and Key West. Both are tremendous fun. In Key West, you can be at a barstool at 9 a.m. – the person next to you may be a bum or a CEO, and it’s all perfectly fine. @mrdavidwhitley
- Kaanapali-Maui works quite well for us. West Coast convenience combines with relaxed easy going “island time” – with opportunities to enjoy fine dining, snorkelling, etc. The on-beach sidewalk connects all the hotels, and in the middle is shopping, museum, dinning etc. And there’s a cheap happy hour here! @advcardio
- Maybe go to Tucson. Those neat cacti. And you can drive in the desert and stay at retro trailers in Bisbee.@reidontravel
- The “anything goes” attitude in Key West is quite something. I was also partial to the kayaking and key lime treats on my visit. @no_fixed_plans
- Biloxi, Mississippi is an underrated destination. Casinos, beaches, Southern cuisine, music, world-class golf, entertainment, etc. @golfergt
- Wailea, Maui! Beaches and sun! @aladyinlondon
- New Orleans: not as sunny as a place like Phoenix, but you’re in the Big Easy! Average temperatures are pleasant: 16-17 Celsius. And there are no crowds! @Tours_By_Locals
- Charleston, South Carolina was sunny and delicious when I went earlier this month! @kitchenettefind
- Pensacola is on my bucket list … but Los Angeles is always a sure bet. @YashYanthi
- It has to be Miami. Specifically South Beach. Preferably the Tides Hotel. @recitweets101
- Scottsdale: for the spas and tequila! @nikkibayley
- Los Angeles. Was enjoying the sun at Santa Monica beach two days ago. @theAlexPalmer
- The Florida Keys are great. Beautiful and laid-back Islamorada is awesome, plus go for a snorkel tour at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. @travel_smith
- Honolulu for its sunny weather, Fort DeRussy beach and its free Army Museum. There’s also shopping, shave ice and a super variety of food and activities like hiking Diamond Head! There’s a real tropical, urban feel here with an international flavour. @travelling_mom
- San Diego and Austin. Both cheerful, high-functioning cities with balmy weather and oodles of savoury treats – perfect for winter-ravaged Canadian zombies. @SiSiTravels
- Fort Lauderdale. Close to Miami, nice beaches, good food and I love the water taxi. Sarasota is nice on the Gulf, too – Siesta Key is a stunning beach for sunsets. @chowandchatter
- Austin. Incredible culinary scene, hip music scene (check out Stubb’s), relaxed watering holes (we love Peche) and so much more. @discoverusaCA
- We recommend getting outdoors in Scottsdale. @FourSeasonsPR
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