You may be going home for the holidays. But how ’bout the new year? Jet out of town and get a head start on your 2023 resolution to “travel more.” From skiing the trademarked “Champagne powder” in a Colorado mountain town to sipping pints at festive pubs in London to watching a well-timed meteor shower in Alaska, the best New Year’s destinations of 2023 are consummate hosts for the new year. Each provides plenty of R&R so you can start 2023 off with a bang.
1. Steamboat Springs, Colorado: Champagne Powder Skiing and Hot Springs
In the northwest corner of Colorado, Steamboat Springs eschews the brand of luxury that’s synonymous with many ski resort towns. Instead, it embraces its Wild West roots and prides itself on its athletic prowess. (The area has produced more winter Olympians than any other town in North America). Steamboat’s snow, however, is quite fancy: The “Champagne Powder” has lower-than-average water content, which means it feels airy like champagne bubbles and is apropos for New Year’s Eve skiing—before you saber that actual bottle of champagne.
Steamboat also hosts an annual New Year’s Eve Snowcat & Torchlight Parade, which includes snowcats adorned with holiday lights parading down the mountain in a flying V formation flanked by ski school instructors with torch lights. Following the descent, fireworks light up the sky. After a few days on the slopes, head to Strawberry Park Hot Springs for a restorative soak in nature’s hot tub. Airbnbs are your best lodging bet, like this slopeside condo, but Steamboat Grand is close to the base of the ski area and has a couple of hot tubs.
2. Hella, Iceland: New Year’s Cheer and Colorful Northern Lights
In Iceland, Christmas is just a warm up to the holiday season. Icelanders absolutely love New Year’s Eve, and they celebrate with community bonfires and lots of fireworks, which bring light to the darkest time of year. Take part in the festive celebrations in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital city and cultural hub. Once a music venue and arts center, the Canopy by Hilton Reykjavik City Centre is now a cozy hotel. It also has an impressive vinyl collection that ranges from Icelandic pop to Motown. Guests can borrow records and portable record players for in-room listening.
Extend your Icelandic vacation by heading out of the city to the southern part of the country for a stay at Hotel Ranga, which has unobstructed dark skies perfect for watching the colorful Northern Lights. From here, access the best winter adventures in the land of fire and ice—things like snowmobiling on a glacier, fat biking on a volcano, or climbing frozen waterfalls. Read our full guide to southern Iceland here.
3. Grass Valley, California: Speakeasy Drinking and Wide Open Hiking Trails
The Holbrooke, a Gold Rush-era hotel in Northern California, recently underwent a handsome renovation. Here, you can sip whiskey in an amber-lit speakeasy that has a tunnel that once connected to historic gold mines. Grass Valley is about 60 miles northeast of Sacramento and is at the front porch of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The foothills are laced with trails that provide plenty of New Year’s Day excursion options.
If the weather cooperates, the Pioneer Trail is a 24-mile mountain biking trail that serves up a 3,400 foot elevation gain; the 4-mile Hoot Trail offshoot is full of jumps and berms. Or set out on a mostly secluded hike along the 20-mile South Yuba Trail, which has steady inclines and scenic river views. Before you hit the trails, fuel up at Tofanelli’s. The breakfast spot has 100 omelettes on its menu.
4. London, England: Champagne Bars and Christmas Markets
For those who lean all the way into the holiday season and love warm traditions this time of year, London checks all the boxes. Toast bubbly in one of the city’s champagne bars, like the St Pancras Champagne Bay by Searcys located above the tracks of the St Pancras railway station. Eat raclette and drink mulled wine at the city’s Christmas markets that run into January; they range from large productions to quaint markets in and around Trafalgar Square.
Enjoy the canopy of lights that dazzle Regent Street as you duck into quintessential British pubs for pints of beer. Strap some blades to your feet and ice skate under twinkling lights at one of the many rinks around this cheerful city. You’ve got your pick of award-winning restaurants here, too. There’s French fare at Galvin at Windows overlooking Hyde Park or modern Chinese cuisine like peking duck and caviar at the Michelin-starred Hakkasan.
Make the Mayfair Townhouse in central London your homebase. Fifteen Georgian townhomes were combined to create the stylish hotel. Rooms come with a complimentary mini bar of tipples and treats, and thoughtful extras like plush robes, heated bathroom floors, and towel racks. There’s even an Oscar Wilde book left on your nightstand during turndown service. (The Mayfair Townhouse is located on London’s Half Moon Street, which is the setting for Wilde’s famous play “The Importance of Being Earnest.”)
5. Québec, Canada: Fondue and All-Inclusive Skiing
Truly a winter wonderland, Le Massif de Charlevoix is about 1 1/2 hours from Québec City in the Charlevoix region. It’s also home to the ski area with the highest vertical drop east of the Rockies. But part of what makes skiing here so spectacular is the expansive views of the St. Lawrence River that are splayed out in front of you as you schuss down the slopes. The mountain boasts 53 trails and a noteworthy off-piste playground.
Club Med Québec (which has alpine resorts in Europe) made its Canadian debut this winter. It’s opening an all-inclusive resort with unlimited ski-in/ski-out access in the area. Stays include lift tickets and group ski or snowboarding lessons should anyone you’re traveling with need a refresher. Or, join a workshop to learn mindfulness techniques while skiing or another one focused on mastering unpredictable terrain. The resort also has three on-site restaurants where you can indulge with local fare, like fondue and maple candies, plus your après tab is covered at this all-inclusive. Splurge on a spa treatment like a Nordic facial or a shea butter deep-tissue massage.
6. Denali National Park: Meteor shower viewing and snow cavern spelunking
Here to outdo even the most spectacular fireworks show is the annual phenomenon known as the Quadrantids. It’s a brilliant shooting star display that’s best viewed from Alaska’s Denali National Park. Have your 2023 wishes lined up because during this shooting star performance of Geminidis and Quadrantids, the sky sparkles with as many as 200 meteor showers per hour. Peak showers this year run from mid-December to the first week of January. The prime viewing time is 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.
The Sheldon Chalet—so far off the grid it’s only reachable by helicopter—is an exclusive spot to watch this heavenly show thanks to the area’s thin troposphere and little to no light pollution. Beyond the stargazing, other rad winter adventures include snow cavern spelunking and gourmet glacier picnics. You can even find everything you need to build your own snow cave. Staying here, though, is the ultimate splurge, with rates starting at $47,000 per couple for three nights.
7. Denver, Colorado: A Spa Vacation Spiked with Beer
Combine your love for beer with your New Year’s wellness aspirations at The Beer Spa in Denver. When you arrive, help yourself to a brew from the beer wall in the relaxation lounge. Then, it’s go time: Retreat into a beer therapy room to soak in a warm tub that’s bubbling with hops, barley, and an antioxidant-rich herbal blend that changes each month. (It’s mistletoe in December and olive leaves in January). From the cosmetic mini bar, bring home hop-infused beard oil or an oatmeal stout body lotion.
While vacationing in this bona fide beer city, check out the breweries favored by locals. Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery, which is known for its adventurous and tasty beers made with ingredients that fall into the “who would have thought” category. Cerveceria is a Mexican-style microbrewery. Stay in the buzzy RiNo neighborhood at Catbird Hotel. It has one of the best rooftops in the city (i.e. an ideal perch for fireworks viewing). The hotel also has a gear room with bikes and boards available to borrow.
Or, book a room at The Crawford Hotel, which has rooms suspended above Union Station, Denver’s Beaux Arts train station. The hotel offers The Beer Spa package, which includes sudsy extras like in-room seasonal beers to enjoy after check-in, soaks in the nearby spa’s private beer therapy room, a ride to the spa in the hotel’s Tesla, and more.
8. San Juan, Puerto Rico: Cigars, whiskey and kayaking in the bioluminescent bays
For those who prefer sand over snow, head to Puerto Rico to ring in the New Year. The beachfront Condado Vanderbilt is steps from the Atlantic Ocean. The hotel strikes a balance of historic elegance, but with modern amenities. Pair full-flavored cigars with high-end whiskies in the on-site AVO lounge. The cigar menu has some luxury brands like Davidoff from Swiss maker Zino Davidoff and a selection of cigars from the Romeo Y Julieta Vintage series so you can indulge in a celebratory smoke.
Night owl adventurers can kayak in the bioluminescent bays that glow at night. The water is full of dinoflagellates that emit a bluish flash of light when agitated. The high concentration of these marine plankton can cast enough light to read a book. On New Year’s Day, which happens to be National Bloody Mary Day, order the hotel’s iconic veggie-loaded but still boozy Bloody Martini.
9. Edinburgh, Scotland: Let the right one in for the new year
Hogmanay is the Scottish word for the last day of the year and the New Year’s Eve celebrations that come with it. One tradition is first footing, where the first person who comes knocking at your door is a big deal. Tradition holds that the best luck comes from having a dark-haired man as a first footer. But it’s not just dark hair and a sparkling personality that matter. No, the first footer is also supposed to arrive with a coin, bread, salt, a lump of coal, and whisky, all gifts representing the good things to come.
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebration is a street party held along Princes Street leading up to Edinburgh castle with fireworks and a light display going off at midnight. The Balmoral, located at 1 Princes Street, was originally built as a railway station and the luxury hotel still has the clock tower to prove it. The hotel will be bringing in the new year with a black-tie event with champagne and a pipe band.
10. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Wave goodbye to bad luck in 2023
If you’re looking for a party to ring in the new year, Rio de Janerio hosts one of the largest in the world. As estimated two million revelers will come to Copacabana Beach for live music, DJs, fireworks, and more. At the stroke of midnight, it’s a chance for celebrants to bank some luck for the year to come. The tradition is to leap over seven waves in the waters off Copacabana, making a wish for the year to come with each jump.
As to where to base your Rio visit, why not go with a classic? Built in 1923, the Belmond Copacabana Palace is the cusp of its century mark and has been a magnet to celebrities such as Marlene Dietrich, Brigitte Bardot, and Mick Jagger. Here, you can make reservations at one of the hotel’s two Michelin-starred restaurants, Mee and Ristorante Hotel Cirpriani, or just sit down by the hotel’s pool and enjoy a signature caipirinha.
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