Top Ten Ways to Survive Winter's Last Blast
|Sedona, Arizona's red-rock backdrop gives off a warm glow year-round (Willard Clay/Photographer's Choice/Getty)|
Here, our survival tips and perfect trips for riding out the remaining winter season in style.
10. Hit the Hot Springs
Hot springs have long been touted as healing places: a warm soak helps relax muscles, ease tension, and sooth skin. Thousands of hot springs dot the western United States, but dozens of accessible sites await back east, including the naturally carbonated waters of Saratoga Springs, New York, and an aptly named national park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. While Yellowstone's estimated 10,000 thermal features are among the country's most famous (though most are for viewing only, the Boiling River near the park's north entrance is a superb exception), spa towns like Calistoga, California, and Thermopolis (Greek for "Hot City"), Wyoming, rank as some of the most enjoyable. The latter is home to what's reputed to be the world's largest mineral hot springs, with more than 8,000 gallons flowing forth every 24 hours at a constant 135 degrees. Two separate bathhousesone free to use, the other featuring water slides and Swedish massageare maintained at an average of 104 degrees.
9. Take a Cold-Water Dip
Most polar bear plunges (annual dips into icy-cold waters, usually for charity) occur around the New Year, but the entire winter is really open season for swimming in frosty seas. For anyone with a healthy heart and good general fitness, occasional cold-water dips can boost the immune system, spark mental awareness, and kick seasonal blues out with the tide. The oldest winter bathing association in the United States, Coney Island's Polar Bear Club hosts weekly swims in the Atlantic each Sunday, November through April, and walk-ups are welcome. Just bring an extra pair of shoes to protect your feet and a change of clothes for hitting up Brooklyn's museums afterward. On the Left Coast, San Francisco's stalwart Dolphin Club allows public use (every other day, Tuesday through Saturday) of its facilities including showers and lockersideal for storage while taking laps in the 55-degree waters of neighboring Aquatic Park.
8. Head for the Red
The red-rock formations, burnt-orange canyons, and fiery sunsets of the U.S. Southwest can reverse the dreary effects of any seasonal color wheel. While temperatures still tumble in places like Sedona, Arizona, and Red Rock Canyon, Nevadaespecially at nightthe region's modest elevations are typically much milder in winter than the rest of the country, and opportunities for camping, hiking, and birding exist year-round. Clear skies allow for some of the country's best stargazing in solitary spots like national parks Joshua Tree and Death Valley, which also hosts ranger-led walks to in-park locales such as Scotty's Depression-era castle and the Golden Canyon badlands. With a low point of 3,666 feet, Utah's Zion National Park not only enjoys moderate winter temps through its western portion, but its narrow canyons and sandstone cliffs are incredible for exploring and provide great photo ops. If sunsets are your thing, make your way to White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, where miles of gypsum sand dunes offer a superb setting for the evening's transitory sky.
7. Get Festive
Celebrations don't end with the December holidays. Suppress the urge to hibernate and hit up a festival instead. The bright colors, elaborate floats, and all-out revelry of New Orleans's Mardi Gras party provide a surefire solution to winter doldrums. For a more PG version, try the festivities in Mobile, Alabamathe country's oldest Fat Tuesday traditioninstead. Each February, San Francisco honors Chinese New Year (2010 is the Year of the Tiger) with three weeks of events and activities that culminate in an illuminated night parade featuring acrobats, lion dancers, and a 250-foot-long paper and silk dragon twisting and turning through downtown streets. Elsewhere, film and brew festslike Tempe's Great Arizona Beer Festivalare some of winter's big draws, but for the ultimate gathering make a trip to Austin, Texas, where the annual South by Southwest Festival transforms an already cool town into a smorgasbord of musical and intellectual creativity each March.
6. Engage in a Little Light Therapy
Seasonal changes can wreak havoc on even the heartiest attitudes. Need a solution? The bright lights of Las Vegas should do the trick. There's no better place to squelch winter woes then the neon strip, and with the recent addition of CityCentera multi-million dollar "city within the city" complete with shops, slots, spa services, restaurants backed by Wolfgang Puck and Eva Longoria (right?), and an astounding collection of 20th- and 21st-century artwork to rival museumsSin City has upped the ante. The East Coast offers a little light therapy of its own: Though Atlantic City's famed Boardwalk is chillin' for the winter season, across town the bayside Borgata is shining. Snag a room at the casino's Water Club boutique hotel, snack on white-bread sandwiches at Bread + Butter, and catch a live show at the intimate Music Box theatre. It's that easy.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication