Because winter is the worst, unless you grab it by the frostbitten horns. Here are the best ways to enjoy (or escape) the very best of the coldest season.
Art Basel in Miami, Florida
When: December 1–4, 2016
Why it’s worth the trip: Every year, the international art community converges on one of America’s most international cities. Elevate your small-talk game by diving into the world of 20th and 21st century art from all over the world, and in nearly countless mediums—think sculpture, film, performance, installations, and more.
Junkanoo Parade in Nassau, Bahamas
When: Dec 26, 2016 to Jan 1, 2017
Why it’s worth the trip: This cultural festival may completely change your definition of ‘party’. And for good reason: Junkanoo celebrates life and freedom, and both start during the wee hours of the morning. The Caribbean’s oldest street festival has roots in West African music and dance, and its participants take it very, very seriously. They start creating mind-blowingly colorful and intricate costumes months in advance, and groups of 1000+ people often perform and march together. People of all ages are welcome to participate, and onlookers are pretty much expected to dance along. It’s worth noting that nearly every Bahamian island has its own Junkanoo, but Nassau’s is by far the biggest.
Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah
When: January 19–29, 2017
Why it’s worth the trip: Nearly 200 films are screened at this festival each year, ranging from independent films to documentaries. While you may not be able to catch a screening or premiere of one of the Hollywood films that’ll undoubtedly hit the festival, there are plenty of smaller independent films to catch. And between films, it’d be a crime if you didn’t hit the slopes.
International Snow Sculpture Championships in Breckenridge, Colorado
When: January 24–February 5, 2017
Why it’s worth the trip: This one’s divided into two weeks: Sculpting week, which obviously comes first, and viewing week. But if you think sculpting week sounds like a snooze, consider this: These spectacular ice sculptures start as 12-foot-tall blocks of ice clocking in at upwards of 20 tons, and watching them take form is sure not nothing. The Fire Arts festival also happens during sculpting week, featuring plenty of pyrotechnics, burning sculptures, and fire-based performance arts.
Whitefish Winter Carnival, Whitefish, Montana
When: February 3-5, 2017
Why it’s worth the trip: This one’s a free, family-friendly celebration of winter. Big Sky Country welcomes everyone for its cold plunge in Whitefish Lake, ski races, parade, hockey tournament, and ice sculpting. But really, everyone comes for the joring—specifically, the World Ski Joring Championships—where mules or horses pull skiers along, water-skiing style, along a snow-covered obstacle course.
Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival in Steamboat Springs, Colorado
When: February 8–12, 2017
Why it’s worth the trip: If you’ve ever been to Steamboat Springs, you probably won’t be surprised to hear this one’s all about the skiing. So come for the spectacular feats of athleticism, and stay for the hot cocoa. It’ll keep your hands warm as you watch folks compete in ski jumping, slalom, and cross-country events. You can even get in on the amateur competitions, street events—shoveling competition, anyone?—and requisite parties.
BPM Festival in Playa del Carmen, Mexico
When: January 6–15, 2017
Why it’s worth the trip: Why yes, it is 10 days long—10 whole days of electronic music in the heart of Mexico’s most fabled coastline. The 2017 lineup includes acts like Materia, Repopulate Mars, and Solomun. So grab your best macrame swimsuit and get ready to party, but only if you’re 18 or older.
Oregon Winterfest in Bend, Oregon
When: February 17–19, 2017
Why it’s worth the trip: This is, in essence, a celebration of fire and ice. Cool off with a gander at the ice sculptures. Then, warm up at the experimental fire arts exhibits, which include blacksmithing and jewelry-making workshops, as well as the fire pit competition, which features flaming sculptures. Between these two extremes, you’ll also find live music, plenty of food, an arts-and-crafts marketplace, and Motocross.
Envision Festival in Puntarenas, Costa Rica
When: February 23–26, 2017
Why it’s worth the trip: At first glance, this may look like a music festival—and true, you can catch Rising Appalachia and Opiuo here. But Envision also offers a few more travel-worthy perks. The first is a look at alternative lifestyles through a healing sanctuary and an herbal elixir bar. You can also tap into wellness and the arts through other means. Specifically, yoga classes, performance art, and educational workshops.
Carnival in the Dominican Republic
When: February 27–28, 2017
Why it’s worth the trip: Technically, Carnival lasts all of February in the Dominican Republic. But it’s on or around the 27th when the celebration, um, climaxes all over the country. The parades in La Vega and Santo Domingo are absolute showstoppers, but the entire month sees massive street parties, colorful masks, and all the dancing you can handle.
North Lake Tahoe Snowfest in Lake Tahoe, Nevada
When: March 3–12, 2017
Why it’s worth the trip: This family-friendly fest is chock-full of things to do, from a torchlight parade to laser show with fireworks. And after long nights attending ski races, concerts, bar parties, ice carving, and polar-bear swims, there are pancake breakfasts and ice-cream-eating contests to nurse you back to life. There’s also the inexplicable, which is what makes this festival so rewarding: A luau and a Mardi Gras party, just for kicks.
Frozen Dead Guy Days in Nederland, Colorado
When: March 10–12, 2017
Why it’s worth the trip: Okay this one’s a little weird, but that’s exactly what makes it worth it. A sense of humor is a must for attending this mountain town’s famous fest, thanks to events like coffin races, frozen t-shirt contests, and costumed polar swims. But don’t worry—there will also be 30 live bands and heated tents to retreat to if you’re not brave enough to jump in the water.
Honolulu Festival in…Honolulu, Hawaii, of course
When: March 10–12, 2017
Why it’s worth the trip: Honolulu Festival is a fully-fledged cultural affair. Boasting a theme of ‘Pacific Harmony’, it celebrates the cultures and harmony of the peoples of Hawaii and the Pacific Rim. Get ready to explore artworks from Japan, Australia, Tahiti, Philippines, Taiwan, Korea, and Hawaii at this totally-free festival. Also not to be missed are the Grand Parade, multiple performance stages, and the aptly named Friendship Gala.