Eight cool winter getaways
When winter winds start blowing in, most residents of cold climes start thinking of warm-weather vacations. But some people take another tack. They deliberately head for places one might not normally think of going to in wintertime. Places with attractions that can only be seen at that time of year, places with special appeal despite the climate, places perhaps even colder than home, but not necessarily so. Here are eight winter destinations you might not have thought of before. --Jay Clarke, Special to Newsday
Bison run near the entrance to Yellowstone National Park in Gardiner, Mont. Yellowstone in winter is a wonderland: Steaming creeks curling through a snow-white landscape, frozen waterfalls, spouting geysers and bubbling mud pots ringed by ice, bison grazing through geyser-melted snow around Old Faithful.
Children walk past a snow statue of Disney characters at the 60th Sapporo Snow Festival in 2009 at the Odori park in central Sapporo. Dates for the 2012 fete are Feb. 6 to 12.
The January morning sun washes the contours of Zabrikie Point at Death Valley National Park, with the Funeral Mountains in the distance. Tourists and photographers arrive before dawn on a daily basis to take in the show.
Guests enjoying a warm bath from the Rock Lake at the Chena Hot Springs Resort in Alaska. The resort, 60 miles north of Fairbanks, offers a viewing site where guests can enjoy spectacular view of the aurora borealis; within the resort, the Aurora Ice Museum offers an array of ice sculptures illuminated by colorful lights.
Aurora borealis over Chena Hot Springs Resort in Alaska. The resort, 60 miles north of Fairbanks, offers viewing site and outdoor hot springs rock lake where guests can immerse in the healing mineral water of the lake. Within the resort, the Aurora Ice Museum offers an array of ice sculptures illuminated by colorful lights. (Jan. 17, 2007)
The Mesquite Flat Dunes near Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley National Park in January are one place visitors don't need to be concerned about leaving tracks. Winter in the mountains and high desert of the American West can be bone-chilling. But winter is actually the best time to visit California’s Death Valley, the lowest place in the Northern Hemisphere, at 282 feet below sea level.
The Inn at Furnace Creek is in Death Valley National Park, California, at 214 feet below sea level. In winter the average daily reading at Furnace Creek is a pleasant 67 degrees. The Inn was constructed in the 1920s yet has 21st century luxuries. Views extend over the Panamint Range.
A group of thrill-seekers slides down the snowy hills in a previous Quebec's winter festival. The Annual Quebec Winter Carnival includes sleigh and dogsled rides, dance party, snow bath, Ice Palace and an ice sculpture show.
Iceland is a place of stark beauty and surprising warmth — both of its people and the fact that winter is not as cold as you might expect. Families skate across a frozen pond in front of Reykjavik City Hall in Reykjavik, Iceland. Just outside Rekjavik in Grindavik, Blue Lagoon offers tourists a time to relax and enjoy bathing in a 99-degree geothermal waters amids the snowy landscape.
Guests relax in this man-made geothermal pool at the Blue Lagoon spa in Grindavik, just south of Reykjavik in Iceland, an unexpected winter getaway. The lagoon is a very popular tourists' spot where one can relax and enjoy the lagoon's warm water amidst iceland's cold winter season.
Oceanwide Expeditions offers tours to Antarctica, with small boat excursions aboard Zodiac boats to see icebergs and wildlife up close such as this one nearing a sculpted iceberg.
A Canadian winter can be severe, but in the depth of that season, this lovely walled city stages a wonderful event, the biggest winter carnival in the world. In 2012, Carnaval de Quebec starts Jan. 27 and runs through Feb. 12. Guests here gather around the central fireplace at Hotel de Glace in Quebec, Canada, one of the attractions.
.Quebec’s famed Hôtel de Glace is a destination itself, constructed completely from ice and snow. Visitors can tour myriad buildings ($13.50-$17.50 admission), have a drink (served in an ice glass) at the bar and take a spin on a huge slide carved from ice. The adventurous can spring for an overnight stay in a private igloolike room with a giant ice-block bed.