Winter landscape - winter evening in the night snowy park with benches under winter snowfall. Night winter park landscape. Winter park under falling snow -winter view in vintage tones

“Home for the holidays” seemed like a good idea back in September. Back then, the leaves were turning orange and yellow, the air was crisp, and you were drinking your first pumpkin spice latte of the season. Now it’s December, the sidewalks are covered in ice, the air literally froze your eyelashes this morning, and you have already consumed your body weight in eggnog… doesn’t a vacation seem like a good idea right about now? Sure, some of the most popular winter holiday destinations might already be booked up, but there are great alternatives for individuals, couples and families willing to venture slightly off the beaten path this holiday season. Here are five of the best little-known winter getaways in the United States and beyond.

Marathon, Florida
If you can’t survive the winter without at least one beach getaway, consider a visit to Marathon, Florida. Thirteen different islands make up this city in the Florida Keys, which offers unparalleled snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing and watersports. If you love the great outdoors, pack your swimsuit and tent for a few nights of beachfront camping (and swimming with friendly nurse sharks!) at the nearby Bahia Honda State Park. Marathon is accessible via the stunning Overseas Highway; no airplane or boat trip required.

Palm Desert, California
Pack your bags, because the average daily high temperature in Palm Desert in December is seventy-one degrees! Travelers who still have some gifts on their shopping lists will love shopping along the upscale El Paseo Drive and at the famous Westfield Town Center. Families with children won’t want to miss a visit to the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, home to an extensive collection of local flora and fauna, as well as animals from international desert climates.

Vancouver, Canada
Contrary to popular belief, some parts of Canada rarely experience snow. Vancouver, the capital city of British Columbia, is one of those cities. With the Salish Sea on one side and the Coast Mountain Range on the other, when you visit Vancouver in the winter you can go skiing in the morning and walk along the beach in the afternoon. The falling Canadian dollar means that American visitors can enjoy the city’s luxury hotels, gourmet restaurants and chic boutiques for a fraction of what they would pay back home.

Mexico City, Mexico
If the seaside all-inclusive resorts are already booked up for the holidays, have no fear. Visiting Mexico City over the holiday season can be an entirely different kind of magical experience. The massive plaza in the city center– the Zocalo– comes alive with a giant skating rink, sky-scraping Christmas trees and even artificial snow machines. Families crowd the city center on Christmas Eve to view the Christmas lights and attend an evening mass; the following morning is perfect for photographing the historic center as you will discover that nearly all of the city’s eight million residents are at home with their families.

Turin, Italy
When a high-season hotel room in Paris or Rome isn’t in your holiday budget, consider a holiday in the original Italian capital. Turin has its own international airport with regular flights to European hubs and is also easily accessible by train from Milan. The city is recognized internationally for its Luci d’Artista Christmas light display, in which dozens of Italy’s most important contemporary artists have designed spectacular seasonal light displays. Turin also has high-quality Christmas markets where shoppers can snack on freshly-roasted chestnuts while browsing for handcrafted seasonal gifts and local artisan foods.

Whether you want to stay close to home or travel across the globe, there are still affordable, exciting destinations for your last-minute getaway this winter. Grab your suitcase and have a very happy holiday!

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