These Travel Ideas Guarantee You’ll End 2020 on a High Note

2020 is almost over. Go out with a bang.

New York still lights up for the holidays. | TRAVNIKOVSTUDIO/SHUTTERSTOCK
New York still lights up for the holidays. | TRAVNIKOVSTUDIO/SHUTTERSTOCK
Editor’s note: We know COVID-19 is impacting travel plans right now. For a little inspiration, we'll continue to share stories from our favorite places around the world. Be sure to check travel restrictions and protocols before you head out.

The best part of December 2020 will no doubt take place at 11:59pm on the 31st, when all of humanity shotguns a bottle of champagne and welcomes 2021 with something resembling hope. 

But until then, we’ve got some clutch ideas for holiday getaways so you can leave 2020 on a high note. Ski slopes are open, holiday lights are twinkling, and road trips are still up for the taking. Bust out the Gore-Tex and carpe the diem… 2020’s on its way out.

Welcome, this is a ski lodge. | Yiwenz/Shutterstock

Chill out in Vermont

For a place that’s likely covered with a thick layer of powder as you’re reading this, Vermont in the winter sure gives off a lot of cozy vibes: think glittering icicles on historic covered bridges and mom-and-pop general stores stocked with some of the best beer in America. We’re eyeballing friendly Burlington as an ideal place to visit this winter, where you can eat heartily, hit the slopes, and fall in love with Vermont. Even if you just hole up in a log cabin and smoke a ton of (legal!) weed next to a wood-burning stove, it sounds pretty magical. Just make sure you're following COVID protocol.

Or warm way up in Arizona

Arizona is straight-up gorgeous, and yet somehow manages to be overlooked among its Southwestern brethren. No more! Winter is a fantastic time to visit Arizona, whether you want to explore one of America’s most under-appreciated ski scenes outside Flagstaff or take advantage of all-season camping in its vast wildernesses, which includes the Grand Canyon and the criminally under-visited Saguaro National Park. Stop off in lively Phoenix or artsy Tucson and you might find yourself considering a move. They legalized cannabis last month... just sayin.’

Find yourself in the desert

Speaking of deserts, those expanses are looking extra appealing right now. Maybe it’s time to load up the RV and jaunt through West Texas to see the Marfa lights. Cruise Nevada to gawk at psychedelic geysers and ghost towns. See art both prehistoric and wildly hallucinogenic in New Mexico. And while California is on lockdown right now, the wide-open outdoor gallery that is the Greater Palm Springs area will still be there when it lifts—or just head to the seemingly apocalyptic lake full of stunning playground of abstract art nearby.

Get a whole national park to yourself

While some national parks close up for the winter, others are at their absolute best when the season changes. And it’s not just cold places like Mount Rainier, Bryce, and Denali, either: You’ll find crowds way, way down at Zion and Channel Islands, too. Or, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, December’s also a prime time to go chasing waterfalls… a cliche, yes, but way easier to achieve when they’re totally frozen

Leavenworth, Washington
Leavenworth, Washington is about as close as you're getting to the Alps this winter. | Photo courtesy of Icicle TV

Get holly and jolly across the US

The holidays are going to be a slog this year, even while the pandemic gives you a solid excuse not to listen to your uncle bloviate about election fraud over dinner. But there’s still cheer to be had. New York, for one, will still be as magical a place as any, with the outdoors serving as a safe and festive release for anyone bah humbugging. St. Petersburg, Florida is leaning into the North Pole-with-palm-trees vibe on its new pier and beyond, offering up multipleholidaymarkets, a boat parade, and more. Or head to the festive Bavarian mountain town of Leavenworth, Washington, or any number of small towns that go full Clark Griswold with holiday displays.

Go rocketing down a mountain

First, the bad news: You’re likely not going to be hitting Banff or the Alps this year, unless you’re a Kardashian celebrating a birthday. But the ski resorts at places like Tahoe, Colorado, California, the northeast, and other mountainous regions are up and running. Sure, the apres ski scenes will be a little different, but if your biggest problem right now is adjusting your expectations for happy hour at a ski resort, well, your 2020 is going pretty ok. The best ski getaways near New York, Boston, LA, Phoenix, Vegas, Denver, Seattle, Philly, DC, and Chicago are callling. 

Slow way down on a Georgia island

While NYC's Rockefeller Center has become a holiday symbol, the place where the actual Rockefellers spent many a winter is very likely off your radar: bite-sized Jekyll Island. Located just north of the Florida border, this Georgian barrier island is a laid-back antidote to city-induced winter doldrums. Spend your days wandering the forests and driftwood-covered beaches, or navigate the state park by bike. The island goes all in for the holidays, but honestly, if you wanted to just post pat the old Victorian Jekyll Island Club Resort and inhale a massive Low Country Boil at waterfront restaurant The Wharf, you’d still be doing things exactly right. 

Go outside and look up

Unless you’re living in Argentina or Chilewhich... maybe?—you’re unlikely to see the total eclipse of the sun. But the skies this month are filled with cosmic action. The Geminid and Ursid meteor shower will peak. Saturn and Jupiter are having close encounters. To experience them, you don’t need to head to a certified Dark Sky site (your back yard will suffice). But it wouldn’t hurt. Try Utah: There are 16 of them

Actually, maybe just stay home and pretend you’re somewhere else

OK, real talk: Many of us probably aren’t going far, if anywhere, as the pandemic continues to spike. Fill your time with a little virtual travel: Pretend you’re on a beautiful beach in the Maldives or the Greek Isles. Take a digital tour on one of Japan’s iconic bullet trains or pretend you’re in a proper Dublin pub. This downtime can be spent dreaming big… and doing your travel homework so that when the world is open again, you’re ready to trot it with renewed vigor.  

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