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Baby it’s cold outside! Beat the winter blues with these 5 getaways

Written by Kelly Palmer on January 17, 2017

PLAYA DEL CARMEN
Playa del Carmen was once known as a simple Mexican fishing town, but over time has blossomed into a chic and cosmopolitan vacation oasis. Thanks to its natural wonders – Mayan ruins, powder white sand beaches, brilliant turquoise waters, breathtaking cenotes and an underwater world perfect for snorkeling and scuba – travelers from across the globe flock to this paradise.

Looking for a relaxing and peaceful escape? You may want to look elsewhere. In Playa your days are filled with fun and excitement at one of the many beach clubs, a day trip of adventure to an eco park like Xel Ha, or strolling through the famous shops and restaurants at Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue).

What we love about Playa del Carmen:

  • 1 hour drive from the Cancun airport makes travel easy and inexpensive
  • Tons of activities for all interests – there is always something fun to do
  • Beautiful powder white sand beaches – the #1 beach in Mexico according to U.S. News Travel

NEW ORLEANS
While it may not be the most pleasant place to visit during the hot and muggy summer months, winter temps range from the mid 60’s to low 70’s and is the perfect time of year to visit this iconic US city. Equal parts historic and F-U-N (ok, maybe there is a little more F-U-N), you can customize a New Orleans trip to fit the desires of just about anyone.

Some of our favorites, available all year long, include ghost and cemetery tours, swamp tours and the National WWII Museum. And not only because you HAVE to, but also because it’s part of that F-U-N we talked about earlier, take a stroll down Bourbon Street and through the French Quarter. If you seek an experience like no other, you must experience the world-famous Mardi Gras. While Mardi Gras is technically the last day of the Carnival season (and always falls the day before Ash Wednesday), parades and other festivities begin in early January.

What we love about New Orleans:

  • Plenty of activities center around the city’s rich history and culture
  • Spectacular dining options – and not just Cajun/Creole (although those are AMAZING)
  • Perfect temps during the winter months make experiencing this city a true pleasure

SOUTH AFRICAN SAFARI
There are many places you can go in South Africa to have a safari experience. But, our favorite region is the Limpopo Province located in the northeast corner of the country. Why is it our top pick? The large number of wildlife reserves and conservations, one-of-a-kind animal interactions and the proximity to one of the largest national parks in all of Africa, Kruger National Park, are just a few reasons.

Take for example, Jessica the Hippo, who is a wild hippopotamus that loves to play with and be fed by humans. Forget the fact that hippos are one of the most dangerous and fearsome creatures in Africa – Jessica certainly does! Did you ever think you would enjoy breakfast sitting next to a free roaming leopard? Well, that is exactly what a guided bush walk on the Kapama Reserve will get you! Get up close and personal with the big 5 – elephants, lions, leopards, buffalos and rhinoceroses. The sheer size and majestic presence of these animals are guaranteed to be a humbling, life changing experience.

What we love about a South African Safari

  • Most have a trip like this on their bucket list – certainly a life-changing experience!
  • While South Africa doesn’t experience 4 distinct seasons, January is the warmest month with temps in the mid 80’s – perfect for excursions
  • Up close and personal interactions with animals

BELIZE
If you plan to travel to Belize to sit on the beach, read a book, enjoy a beverage (or 2) and take a nap, we respectfully ask that you select a different destination. This country is a treasure trove of natural wonders that are begging to be explored! Most notable, the 185-mile Belize Barrier Reef which includes the Blue Hole, is an underwater sinkhole over 400 feet deep that is visible from space. Scuba and snorkeling should definitely be at the top of your to do list – but, wait! There’s more.

Charter a boat and enjoy some of the world’s best fly and deep sea fishing. You’ll not only have a great time at sea, a delicious meal of your own catch will be an unforgettable experience. For the history buff, impressive Mayan archeological sites can be found throughout Belize, including a series of caves known as the Mayan Underworld. The stunning rock formations that date back thousands of years, combined with the crystal-clear waters that flow through the caves allow for hiking, tubing and even ziplining as a way to take in these magnificent sites.

What we love about Belize

  • Action! Adventure! Excitement! Beauty!
  • Belize is an eco-tourist’s dream with a number of unique and unforgettable experiences
  • Communicating with locals is simple – English is the official language of Belize

SONOMA
Sonoma County is our pick for a relaxing, adult-friendly winter getaway. Unlike most of the country, northern CA winters don’t involve snowstorms and 4 layers of clothing. Instead, bring your shades and a light sweater. The days are bright and crisp while the evening is perfect to grab a delicious glass of local wine while you cozy up by the fire.

The winter months are a great time to experience the nearby redwoods and the scenic Pacific coast. For the seafood lover, this time of year is Dungeness crab season. Many flock to the Sonoma County coast to go crabbing off of the piers, take a tour on a crabbing party boat or go to one of the many crab festivals. Plus, whales are migrating during winter months, so be sure to keep an eye out along the horizon.

Maybe the very best part of winter in Sonoma county is everything you can enjoy, without the bustling crowds. Since it’s not the busiest season, some wineries offer behind-the-scenes tours. You may discover your tasting room attendant is actually the winemaker! Additionally, there are tons of festivals that take place during this time: Winter Wineland, Olive Season, Cloverdale Citrus Fair and California’s Artisan Cheese Festival.

What we love about Sonoma

  • Plenty to see and do + less crowds = happy travelers
  • The colorful rolling hills, crisp air and bright sunshine are a perfect combination for a peaceful and relaxing getaway.
  • Did we mention the abundance of amazing wine?

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