On top of the fact that winter brings shorter days and gray skies, it also means we’re cooped up inside our houses way more often. Where a summer vacation might take you to the mountains, and a fall vacation to the prettiest leaves, for a winter vacation, we think two things are paramount: sunshine and the chance to stretch your legs in nature. And delicious food, of course. So whether you want to take a road trip, a train, or a flight, here are the best outdoorsy places to visit while you’re waiting for spring.
1. Maui, Hawaii: Because Hawaii has highs in the 70s even during the winter, it’s a great place to escape if you want to avoid winter weather altogether. When you’re not snorkeling or ziplining around the island, take a road trip through Haleakalā National Park and go from sea level to over 10,000 feet in just under 40 miles to see a volcanic crater, especially beautiful at sunrise. (Photo via Getty)
2. Orange Beach, Alabama: Want to avoid the crowds and still enjoy the ocean? Right next door to its sister beach town of Gulf Shores, Orange Beach is full of dining experiences and adventures, including a dolphin cruise. Average highs are in the 60s, so grab a light jacket and take a brisk walk down the nearly 30 miles of sandy beaches. (Photo via Dolphin Cruises, Inc)
3. Corpus Christi, Texas: Into bird watching? Corpus Christi is home to more than 100 different species. Go on a boat tour looking for whooping cranes, or visit one of the many birding hot spots in the area. Another place worth a visit is the South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center, where you can walk safely through a wetland and spot more than 30 species of reptiles. (Photo via VisitCorpusChristiTx.org)
4. Tucson, Arizona: You won’t get beachfronts in Tucson, but you will get a charming city surrounded by cacti. It’s not as popular as snowbird-beloved Phoenix and Scottsdale, but it does tend to be less expensive and offers plenty of outdoorsy adventures, like hiking in Saguaro National Park, where you can see thousands of saguaro cacti that are more than 100 years old. (Photo via National Park Service)
5. Beaufort, South Carolina: If you’d prefer a small-town getaway, consider Beaufort, South Carolina, just 70 miles south of Charleston. Walk the local farmers’ market, explore the town by bicycle, and eat a shrimp burger at Shrimp Shack, where Tom Hanks ate while filming Forrest Gump in town. (Photo via BeaufortSC.org)
6. Pacific Grove, California: If you love butterflies, now’s the perfect time to visit Pacific Grove. Between October and February, thousands of monarch butterflies make their home in Pacific Grove, clustering together on trees and mimicking the fall leaves. Another bonus? Daily temperatures are usually in the 60s. (Photo via City of Pacific Grove)
7. St. Augustine, Florida: Of course, Florida has to make the list, thanks to its balmy weather even in the depths of winter. For a more low-key vacation than, say, Miami, check out St. Augustine’s full moon boat tours for a stellar astronomical viewing, or a naturalist-guided eco tour to learn all about marine ecology. (Photo via VisitAugustine.com)
8. New Orleans, Louisiana: The famed Mardi Gras is the most obvious draw in the winter, but you can also take a bike tour to learn about the background of the historic city — or, take a swamp tour! The swamp is beautiful no matter the time of year, and if it’s a warm day, the alligators may be out soaking up the sun. (Photo via FlambeauxTours.com)
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