5 great winter getaways 2019

The official start of winter is upon the northern hemisphere, and the frigophobics are busy planning their beach vacations where they can escape the cold. 

But winter creates fabulous travel opportunities of its own, with picturesque villages dressed up with snow like gingerbread houses covered in globs of icing. Downhill slopes beckon with fluffy powder for snowboards and skis. So put on a cozy sweater and enjoy the season.

Here are 5 great travel ideas for fun winter destinations in 2019.

Quebec City

Put on a warm coat and head north to Quebec City, which is often referred to as the "most European city in North America." The historic city center flaunts gorgeous architecture and quaint cobblestone streets, which look lovely when coated in thick fluffy snow. At the beginning of February, Quebec City's winter carnival begins:  Carnaval includes parades, contests (ax throwing, anyone?) and an absolutely fabulous drag party, Bal Des Glaces

Between all the events, stop by the Toboggan for a 40 mph slide down the hill behind the historic Chateau Frontenac, and then enjoy a delicious hot chocolate at the cafe. Yum.

Stockholm

Northern Europe experienced a boom in tourism in the past few years, with visitors clogging the cities and straining city resources. Amsterdam alone had almost 20 million visitors in 2018, which has become unmanageable; the government is now restricting tourist visas and cracking down on the tourism industry. What is a Nordic fun-seeker to do? Head just a bit north to Sweden's capitol, Stockholm, which has all the culture and Gothic charm but without the crowds.

In Stockholm, visitors can wander through the medieval streets of Gamla Stan, the historic city center, as they soak in the beauty of one of Europe's most beautifully preserved cities. Winter days get dark early, but the weather is relatively mild, thanks to the warm currents of The Atlantic Ocean, and it is certainly warm enough to spend the day shopping for the fashion and home decor that made Scandinavian design famous. If it gets particularly chilly, spend the day at The ABBA Museum, then go back to your room at Grand Hôtel, where Britney Spears stayed when she performed in the city. 

Whistler

There is skiing, and then there is Whistler. The gays know this little Canadian resort town as the host of Whistler Pride and Ski Festival, which takes over the town each January with parties, shows, and a down-the-slopes Pride parade. (Click for more gay ski week festivals)

But even when the lifts and lodges aren't overrun by the gays, it is still an extraordinary place to visit in the winter. Whistler is famous for its world-class snowboarding and skiing, and it is made even better thanks to the town's luxurious spas and various options for relaxing inside with a warm beverage. After fun in the snow, head back to Vancouver, which is less than 2 hours away driving. 

Tbilisi

Looking for a little geopolitical adventure in your winter holiday? Reserve a ski vacation in Georgia (...the country in western Asia, not the U.S. state), then go spend some time getting fat from the wine and cheese in Tbilisi, the capital. Georgia is engulfed by the Caucasus Mountains, and thanks to all those rocky slopes the country has some mighty fine skiing. At Bakurani, a resort area favored among Georgian locals, the cost of a 3 day ski pass: approximately $20 USD. Total, not per day.

There are hotels at any of the ski slopes, but Tbilisi is just a couple hours away, and staying in the city allows access to all of the excellent museums, and of course, there are the nightclubs: locals compare the Tbilisi nightlife scene as "the next Berlin," which is lofty praise indeed. Bassani, a nightclub housed in a former Soviet underground swimming pool, hosts LGBTQ nights, but you have to know someone who can help you register in advance to get a ticket. Security is tight at Bassiani, to keep out troublemaking religious zealots from the Georgian Orthodox Church. For a less intense experience, try the gay bar Success, or Cafe Gallery, a lounge with a mixed crowd of artsy types hanging out.

Tbilisi

3 Places

Palm Springs

Yes, Palm Springs is a desert oasis, and the traditional winter months often have high temps in the 80's--perfect for spending the day by the pool. However, there is another world above Palm Springs, where temperatures dip down cold enough to let snow collect on the beautiful pine trees. Take the Palm Springs Aerial Tram up the 2 1/2 mile track to Mt. San Jacinto State Park, and spend the day hiking in the brisk air and, if you time it right, frolicking in the snow.

Trails range from very easy and pleasant strolls through the trees, to long overnight camping excursions, so choose wisely. The park's visitors center has spots to eat and drink, or take the exciting ride down the tram and you're back in Palm Springs, ready for a fabulous dinner

By Daniel Renzi