It’s the shortest month of the year, so don’t waste a minute of it. Plan a trip to one of these special spots!
1) Maui, Hawaii
North Pacific humpback whales are in the Hawaiian Islands this time of year to mate and calve, and the majority of them winter in Maui, the Valley Isle. Though it can be a bit rainy this time of year, it’s the perfect time to plan a bucket-list whale-watching trip. Temperatures range from high 60s to high 70s; stay in South Maui, which generally gets the least amount of rain. You’ll also want to experience an authentic luau, traditional hula, a scenic tour on the “Road to Hana,” and the Aloha State’s signature cocktail, a mai tai.
2) Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Maybe you’ve never tried snow skiing or maybe you’ve got some gear tucked away in the garage or attic. Either way, now is a good time to visit the Centennial State and shred the slopes at Steamboat Ski Resort. And don’t forget the geothermal hot spring afterwards! Not into skiing but your travel buddy is? Book a helicopter tour of the Rockies, a horse-drawn sleigh ride and dinner at the Haymaker, and a guided moonlit snowshoe tour on Mt. Werner.
3) Key West, Florida
In winter, the Sunshine State offers mild temperatures but not the sweat-soaking temps of summer. In Key West, you can shop on famous Duval Street, tour historic places like the Ernest Hemingway House, Harry S. Truman Little White House, and Key West Light, and snorkel on coral reefs. You’ll want to participate in a tradition worth experiencing at least once: the sunset celebration at fun-loving Mallory Square, the hub of social and commercial activity in Key West since the early 1820s.
4) New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is celebrating its 300th birthday in 2018 — so expect Mardi Gras to be even crazier. In addition to the parade (February 13), the tricentennial will feature a series of events. Some of New Orleans’ must-see attractions are its cemeteries (seriously) and its Garden District. The Big Easy is also known for its nightlife, and the heart and soul of the evening escapades begins in the French Quarter on Bourbon Street. But in the daytime, you’ll find a tamer experience in the Quarter — also known as Vieux Carré. Explore narrow cobblestone streets and buildings adorned by balconies with baroque ironwork and leafy courtyards, take a mule-driven carriage tour, and lovely historic buildings and museums like St. Louis Cathedral, the Cabildo, and New Orleans Jazz Museum.
5) Oceanside, California
You’ll be able to see the “Top Gun House,” a Queen Anne Victorian oceanfront cottage built by Dr. Henry Graves in 1887 and featured in the film Top Gun, when you visit this lively and charming coastal city. The 2,000-foot-long Oceanside Pier offers a large array of activities, and a 1950s-style diner, Ruby’s, located at the end. Make reservations at the Hello Betty Fish House, on Mission Ave., the perfect beachside place to sip a margarita, eat fresh fish tacos and take in the ocean views. If you’re a birdwatcher, put the Buena Vista Lagoon on your must-visit list.