Whether the cold, crisp air has you yearning for the tropics or strapping on skis, we've got a trip for you. Here are 10 winter escapes, from Miami's latest hot spots to a party-on-ice in Canada. All you have to do is book a flight, pack a swimsuit (or parka), and get moving.
Salsa, sand, and sunscreen.
Paradise past the canal.
How L.A. gets back to nature.
Camellias—and culture—in bloom.
Revisiting Guatemala's colonial past.
Hitting the beach—and beyond.
Mapping out the next great neighborhood.
A log on the fire, a masterpiece on the wall.
Where après-ski means a day at the spa.
Canada's capital thumbs its nose at winter.
* Temperatures cited are average highs and lows for January.
By Paula Szuchman
Winter is high, high season here: the half-clad Europeans are back in droves and the parties up and down Ocean Drive are in full swing. Miami nights start late—dinner doesn't get going until well past nine—so leave time for a catnap before hitting the streets. Hedonism still reigns at South Beach nightspots like Nikki Beach Club (1 Ocean Dr.; 305/538-1231), an adult playground where you can bump and grind on one of four dance floors or rent a four-poster bed on the beach for the price of a bottle of booze. Restaurant and club owners are also establishing outposts in other neighborhoods; in Little Havana, a group of DJ's and musicians called the Spam Allstars packs Café Hoy Como Ayer (2212 S.W. Eighth St.; 305/541-2631) every Thursday night with their blend of traditional Cuban music, funk, and rock. Daylight hours are typically reserved for sleeping off the night before—preferably on the beach. If you've had your fill of sunshine and 72-degree water, check out the eclectic collection of furniture, art, and objets at the Wolfsonian in South Beach (1001 Washington Ave.; 305/531-1001), or try retail therapy at the just-opened Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables (358 San Lorenzo Ave.; 305/529-0200), where gardens and fountains share space with Neiman Marcus, Carolina Herrera, and Diane von Furstenberg.
Stone-crab claws and freshly shucked oysters at Casablanca Fish Market (1040 MacArthur Cswy.; 305/371-4107), on the way to South Beach.
Side Trip: Swamp Fever
Overloaded on creatures of the night?Escape to Everglades National Park (305/242-7700; www.nps.gov/ever), where, in winter, the creatures of the day—alligators, bobcats, and 300 species of birds—come out from their hiding places. (And, more important, the mosquitoes decamp.) Now in the midst of a huge environmental restoration, this 1.5 million-acre ecosystem is still the perfect spot for restful contemplation. The Flamingo Lodge & Marina on Florida Bay (239/695-3101; www.flamingolodge.com; Doubles from $95) rents houseboats, canoes, kayaks, and fishing gear.
Fort Lauderdale's airport, a 40-minute drive from South Beach, often has more cheap flights than Miami's.
WHERE TO STAY
Clinton Hotel This 88-room Art Deco throwback with a space-age lobby emerges from a $12 million face-lift this month. Doubles from $140; 825 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305/538-1471; www.clintonsouthbeach.com
Lily Guest House During breakfast in the leafy courtyard, the SoBe glitz seems oceans away. The 19 suites all have marble baths and hardwood floors. Doubles from $125; 835 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305/535-9900; www.lilyguesthouse.com
Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove All you'd expect: 115 rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows; jet lag facials; and—lest you try to lift a finger—butlers to draw your bath and help you shop. Doubles from $375; 3300 S.W. 27th Ave., Miami; 800/241-3333 or 305/644-4680; www.ritzcarlton.com
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
SushiSamba Dromo A samba sound track accompanies the colorful Japanese, Peruvian, and Brazilian seafood—and the occasional caipirinha-induced dance marathon. Dinner for two $80; 600 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; 305/673-5337
Magnum The menu at this warmly lit spot in Shorecrest—a gentrifying area north of downtown—ranges from homey fried chicken to dressy snapper in beurre blanc. Dinner for two $70; 709 N.E. 79th St., Miami; 305/757-3368
Mynt Ultralounge The buffed and beautiful line up at this former fifties cafeteria to snag a spot at the Plexiglas bar. 1921 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 786/276-6132
By Christian L. Wright
Right after Christmas, London opens up. Traffic unsnarls, the sales start at designer shops and department stores, theater tickets are available, and it might even be possible to get a table at the Ivy. Daytime temperatures hover in the mid-forties and rain is as sure as death and taxes—but the latter is true year-round, so there's little chance of disappointment. In fact, the city looks proud and stalwart under the pallid sky. Monet thought so, anyway, when he painted The Thames Below Westminster (on view at the National Gallery; 44-207/747-2885) in shades of gray. The best approach to seeing the city: Divide and conquer by objective, whether it's art (Anish Kapoor's gigantic industrial sculpture at the Tate Modern in Bankside, through April 6; 44-207/887-8008), theater (Ralph Fiennes as Carl Jung in Christopher Hampton's latest play, The Talking Cure; 44-207/452-3000), shopping (the Jimmy Choo boutique at Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge), or the next great neighborhood (see below).
Silver toast caddies, naughty 60's playing cards, and more at Alfie's Antiques Market (13-25 Church St.; 10-6 Tues.-Sat.), the new Portobello.
Hot Spot: Marylebone
Once a stodgy enclave of old ladies and badly lit ethnic restaurants smack in the middle of town, Marylebone (mar-le-bone) is changing faster than Time Out can make it to print. On Marylebone High Street, cafés, galleries, eclectic boutiques (browse the Edwardian travel galleries of Daunt Books; try Brora for Scottish cashmere), and the aptly named holistic day spa Calmia (44-207/224-3585) have the independent spirit that New York's SoHo did before chain stores moved in. The O'Conor Don (44-207/935-9311), a traditional Irish pub, is just down the way from the Providores (44-207/935-6175), a groovy restaurant and bar run by renowned tastemaker Peter Gordon, and Orrery (44-207/616-8000), Sir Terence Conran's intimate restaurant on the top floor of an old stable. Wander the lanes north of Oxford Street and stroll through Regent's Park, the oasis of green separating Marylebone from Notting and Primrose Hills.
WHERE TO STAY
The Lanesborough Now a St. Regis hotel, this Buckingham Palace neighbor is offering a $490-a-night demi-suite, including airport transfers in a Mercedes. (For more hotels, see the T+L 500.) Doubles from $600; Hyde Park Corner; 800/325-3589 or 44-207/259-5599; www.lanesborough.com
Threadneedles The stunning $30 million renovation of an old bank provides luxury and history. Below the 70 Frette-clad rooms and lively bar lies a 17th-century well. Doubles from $425; Weekend rates from $250; 5 Threadneedle St.; 44-207/657-8080; www.theetongroup.com
WHERE TO EAT
Locanda Locatelli Chef Giorgio Locatelli knows his way around a modern Italian kitchen. His newest venture is stylish and well priced. Dinner for two $95; 8 Seymour St.; 44-207/935-9088
Ottolenghi A long, narrow, multi-level gourmet haven in Notting Hill with fresh pastries and salads, served at a hip communal table in back or to go. Lunch for two $27; 63 Ledbury St.; 44-207/727-1121
Andrew Edmunds This dark, seductive spot has a dinner-party ambience and dishes such as grouse with red cabbage and bread sauce. Request an upstairs table. Dinner for two $90; 46 Lexington St.; 44-207/437-5708
By Deborah Kirk
Often written off as the odd bits of land on either side of the canal, Panama is largely overlooked by travelers, which makes this gorgeous squiggle of a country all the more appealing. There's a little of everything—jungle, mountains, beaches, and a vibrant capital—packed into a nation that could fit inside South Carolina. The weather reaches its peak in January and February; it's hot (it's always hot) but the rains have finally ended and everything is gloriously green. Most visitors begin in Panama City, watch ships transit the nearby Miraflores Locks, and then move on. Big mistake. New restaurants, bars, and galleries have reinvigorated the capital's once-neglected colonial quarter of Casco Viejo. The Amador Causeway, a narrow breakwater protecting the entrance to the canal, has become a dining destination with unbeatable views. Panama City is also a good base for exploring the rest of the country. Consider a trek into the opaque, mysterious Darién Jungle or a visit to the cooler ChiriquÍ highlands, heaven for hikers, river rafters, birders, volcanologists (you never know), and coffee connoisseurs. Alternatively, head for the low-key Caribbean archipelago of Bocas del Toro, where you can dive, snorkel, and contemplate the mystery of how Panama has stayed beneath the radar.
The San Blas Islands, home of the Cuna Indians, known for their colorful, intricately woven textiles (contact ANCON Expeditions).
Insider's Guide: Ruben Blades
The musician, actor, and political activist, who recently released his 17th album, Mundo (Sony Discos/Columbia), suggests a few adventures in his native Panama:
• "Apply for a visit to Barro Colorado Island, the nearest virgin forest to a city that I know of." (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, 011-507/212-8026; www.stri.org)
• "Go deep-sea fishing in the Pacific." (Tropic Star Lodge, 800/682-3424; www.tropicstar.com)
• "Visit the town of Natá de los Caballeros, west of Panama City, to see one of the oldest functioning Catholic churches in North America, built in 1522."
• "Board a Panama City bus and feel the exhilaration of the Indy 500, for 25 cents—excluding insurance."
• "Or try just crossing a street in Panama City—say, Via España—at noon. It's a high-speed adventure."
Continental and Copa fly direct to Panama City from Newark (five hours) and Miami (three hours); Miami also has flights on Iberia and American. For help planning a trip, call ANCON Expeditions (011-507/269-9415; www.anconexpeditions.com).
WHERE TO STAY
El Panamá A faded pastel landmark with five-star amenities, a casino, and a superb pool. It's a busy—borderline chaotic—place with authentic Panamanian flavor. Doubles from $95, including breakfast; 120 Via España, Panama City; 011-507/269-5000; www.elpanama.com
El Panamonte This 19-room country inn is perfect for exploring the Chiriquí highlands. Doubles from $59; Avda. 11 de Abril, Boquete; 011-507/720-1327; www.hotelpanamonte.com
Punta Caracol A new luxury "aqua-lodge" in Bocas del Toro consisting of five cabins built over the water. Doubles from $215; Isla Colon; 011-507/612-1088; www.puntacaracol.com
WHERE TO EAT
Limoncillo A standout in central Panama City for its attractive clientele and imaginative cuisine. Dinner for two $50; Calle 47 and cCalle Uruguay; 011-507/263-5350
Las Bóvedas This favorite in the Casco Viejo neighborhood serves fine French food under the vaults of a 300-year-old former prison. Dinner for two $60; Plaza de Francia; 011-507/228-8068
Café Barko The perfect setting for sunset cocktails and ceviche, at the very tip of the Amador Causeway, with views of the capital, the Pacific, and the canal. Dinner for two $40; Isla Flamenco; 011-507/314-0000
4 The Berkshires
By Peter Jon Lindberg
Countless music, dance, and theater festivals lure urban refugees to the rolling hills of the Berkshires during "Tanglewood season" in July and August. Yet few summer visitors realize how idyllic western Massachusetts can be on a chilly weekend in January. Berkshire County offers all the pristine, wintry beauty of neighboring Vermont, but with hardly any of the ski crowds and weekend traffic. And hotel prices drop dramatically in the off-season: rates at the Canyon Ranch spa resort, for example, are slashed by 30 percent. Despite the Vacancy signs, the Berkshires are very much open for business, and winter weekenders often have the stylish boutiques of Great Barrington or the antiques shops of Sheffield to themselves—not to mention 138,000 near-empty acres of nature preserves, many laced with cross-country and snowshoe trails. Best bet: Mount Washington State Forest (413/528-0330). The county's myriad art collections, all open year-round, provide a welcome escape from the cold. To top it off, renowned restaurants like Verdura—booked weeks ahead in summer—actually have tables available. All this and a crackling fire in your hotel-room hearth.
Hancock Shaker Village (800/817-1137), one of the nation's 19 original Shaker communities, settled in 1783 and made a museum in 1961.
Culture: Where the Art Is
Who needs Art History 101? Berkshire County's museums house enough masterpieces for a crash course (well, almost). The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown (413/458-2303) contains a remarkable collection of 19th-century French works—including 35 Renoirs—assembled by the Singer sewing machine heir and his wife.
• The 500-plus paintings, drawings, and sketches in the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge (413/298-4100) suit the Berkshires sensibility. Rockwell's early illustrations for such magazines as Boys' Life and the Saturday Evening Post are on display through March 2.
• At the other end of the spectrum is Mass MoCA (413/664-4481), a mammoth red-brick factory complex in North Adams that's now a showcase for contemporary art; currently on display are paintings, drawings, and conceptual pieces by 14 new Viennese artists.
Fly to Albany (45 minutes by car) or to Boston or New York (two to three hours).
WHERE TO STAY
Wheatleigh Dramatically redesigned in 2001, this 19-room brick palazzo combines old-world opulence (plaster busts, marble fireplaces) and latter-day amenities (Frette, Bulgari, Bose). Doubles from $425; Hawthorne Rd., Lenox; 413/637-0610; www.wheatleigh.com
Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires A grand spa retreat on 120 acres—ideal for cross-country skiing. The 100-minute Euphoria treatment is the ultimate winter remedy: a warm wrap in sage-scented towels, followed by a scalp and body massage and a dip in the hydrotub. Three-night packages from $1,462; 165 Kemble St., Lenox; 800/742-9000 OR 413/637-4100; www.canyonranch.com
Old Inn on the Green & Gedney Farm An 18th-century inn, two converted Norman-style barns, and a 1906 mansion dominate this 250-acre property in a tidy village near Great Barrington. The candlelit four-course Saturday dinners are legendary. Doubles from $175, dinner for two $124; Rte. 57, New Marlborough; 800/286-3139; www.oldinn.com
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
Verdura The Tuscan menu is highlighted by wood-fired pizzas and handmade pastas (the chef-owner also makes his own mozzarella and gelato). Dinner for two $90; 44 Railroad St., Great Barrington; 413/528-8969
Bistro Zinc The best bar in the county, and quite the scene on winter weekends. The restaurant serves simple bistro food (wood-roasted chicken, steak frites). Dinner for two $70; 56 Church St., Lenox; 413/637-8800
5 Channel Islands, California
By Bonnie Tsui
These eight rocky outcrops off the southern California coast are the Galápagos of North America: isolated, pristine, and home to some of the world's most diverse ecosystems. Winter brings migrating gray whales and clear seas perfect for diving (and gaping at) the kelp forests. Back on the surface, you can kayak through dramatic sea caves with Aquasports (800/773-2309; www.islandkayaking.com), hike, sail, and go deep-sea fishing. The five northernmost islands—San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, and Santa Barbara—make up Channel Islands National Park (805/658-5711; www.nps.gov/chis), where overnighting means pitching a tent; most visitors make day trips by ferry from Ventura or Santa Barbara. Farther south, on Santa Catalina, the cobblestoned town of Avalon will put you in a Mediterranean mood—until you tackle the craggy interior on a mountain bike (for permits, contact Catalina Island Conservancy, 310/510-2595; www.catalinaconservancy.org). The southernmost islands, San Nicolas and San Clemente, both under Navy jurisdiction, have the region's most challenging, and rewarding, dive sites.
Catching your own lobster dinner off Santa Barbara Island with Horizon Charters (858/277-7823; www.horizoncharters.com).
Island Guide: Natural Wonders
CHOICE ACTIVITY: Kayaking through sea caves
ANIMAL ATTRACTION: Endangered island fox, found nowhere else in the world
SWEET SPOT: Trail between Prisoner's Harbor and Pelican Bay
CHOICE ACTIVITY: Beachcombing the white sands and rocky coves
ANIMAL ATTRACTION: Five species of seal and sea lion
SWEET SPOT: Seal breeding grounds at Point Bennett
CHOICE ACTIVITY: Climbing 150 stairs, for views
ANIMAL ATTRACTION: Corkscrew-diving pelicans
SWEET SPOT: Arch Rock natural bridge
CHOICE ACTIVITY: Mountain biking steep ridges and challenging terrain
ANIMAL ATTRACTION: Buffalo (brought here for a 1924 film shoot)
SWEET SPOT: Two Harbors isthmus, for panoramic views
CHOICE ACTIVITY: Hiking to the camp on the south side of the island
ANIMAL ATTRACTION: Pygmy mammoth fossil (found here in 1924)
SWEET SPOT: Ancient Torrey pine forest from the Pleistocene era
CHOICE ACTIVITY: Diving the islands' warmest waters
ANIMAL ATTRACTION: Xantus's murrelet, a tiny, rare bird that nests in crevices
SWEET SPOT: Landing Cove, for spiny sea urchins and purple starfish
Boats make the 75-minute run daily to the national park from Ventura and Oxnard (805/642-1393; www.islandpackers.com) and from Santa Barbara (805/962-1127; www.truthaquatics.com). The trip to Catalina from Newport Beach (949/673-5245; www.catalinainfo.com) or Long Beach (800/481-3470; www.catalinaexpress.com) takes about an hour.
WHERE TO STAY
Snug Harbor Inn Enjoy panoramic views of Avalon Bay from any of six rooms, all with king-sized beds, Egyptian-cotton sheets, and whirlpool tubs. Doubles from $140; 108 Sumner Ave., Avalon, Santa Catalina Island; 800/601-3836; www.snugharbor-inn.com
La Mer Bed & Breakfast Five Victorian-style rooms in an 1890 house in Ventura. The hearty Bavarian breakfast will fuel you up for a day of paddling. Doubles from $95; 411 Poli St., Ventura; 805/643-3600; www.lamerbnb.com
Four Seasons Newport Beach Tool around Newport and Catalina on the hotel's mountain bikes. Doubles from $330; 690 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach; 800/332-3442 or 949/759-0808; www.fourseasons.com
WHERE TO EAT
Armstrong's Seafood An island favorite for fresh catches—from steamed lobster tails to sautéed red snapper. Dinner for two $40; 306 Crescent Ave., Avalon, Santa Catalina Island; 310/510-0113
71 Palm Chef Didier Poirier serves rich French-country cooking in a beautifully lit 1910 Craftsman cottage. Dinner for two $90; 71 N. Palm St., Ventura; 805/653-7222
By Matt Lee & Ted Lee
More than perhaps any other month, Charleston wears January with elegant composure. Besides the occasional balmy day (a sweater and scarf will do most of the time), there's a pleasant surprise—the city's sexiest flora of the year. After the New Year's revelry has quieted, camellias burst into full, floppy bloom, splashing pinks, blood reds, and porcelain whites against the evergreen backdrop of live oaks and palmettos. The camellias, an easy peep into Charleston's front yards and formal gardens (especially Washington Park, adjacent to City Hall), have no fragrance, which is where the winter-blooming daphne, tea olive, ginger lily, and breath-of-spring come in. The air in January is perfectly clear and transmissive, so the scent of woodsmoke from upriver plantations occasionally wafts into town—a reminder that this month is ideal for outdoor "pig pickings" (barbecues) and oyster roasts. On the odd chance that a puddle freezes over, content yourself by exploring the antiques joints clustered on upper King Street, the latest exhibition at the South Carolina Aquarium (843/720-1990), or the inner workings of the Nathaniel Russell House (843/724-8481), a historic museum. Without the usual spring and fall hordes, a tour through an antebellum mansion can leave you with that illicit tingle of ownership.
The Citadel's loud and proud dress parade performed every Friday at the college's gingerbread fort-like campus (www.citadel.edu).
The Dish: Finding Southern Classics
SHRIMP AND GRITS: The Hominy Grill (207 Rutledge Ave.; 843/937-0930; $33 for two) rendition of this low-country dish is pitch-perfect: smoky and slightly tangy. FRIED CHICKEN: Bertha's Kitchen (2332 Meeting Street Rd.; 843/554-6519; $12 for two) has one of the best Southern lunch plates around, mastering the crisp crust/moist flesh paradox. PULLED PORK: The smoked barbecued pork shoulder at Po Pigs' Bo-B-Q (2410 Hwy. 174, Edisto Island; 843/869-9003; $15 for two), served with your choice of four sauces (one in each Carolina style), is worth the 40-minute drive. COCONUT CREME PIE: At Jestine's Kitchen (251 Meeting St.; 843/722-7224; $8 for two), it's light and silky, with a flaky crust—the way Southerners have made it for a century.
WHERE TO STAY
Charleston Place Hotel A grand hotel with a full-service spa. Doubles from $469; 130 Market St.; 800/611-5545 or 843/722-4900; www.charlestonplacehotel.com
Andrew Pinckney Inn The terrace of this bed-and-breakfast—housed in an 18th-century stable—offers views of the Market District and the French Quarter. Doubles from $79, with breakfast; 40 Pinckney St.; 800/505-8983 or 843/937-8800; www.andrewpinckneyinn.com
Market Pavilion Hotel Charleston's newest luxury hotel, in the busy Market District, provides every amenity, including unlimited high-speed Internet access and cordless phones, so you can stay connected—even at the rooftop pool and bar. Doubles from $299; 225 E. Bay St.; 877/440-2250 or 843/723-0500; www.marketpavilion.com
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
39 Rue de Jean A Belle Époque restaurant that has emerged as the nightspot for young, well-heeled Charlestonians. The oyster platter and mussels steamed in beer are superb. Dinner for two $50; 39 John St.; 843/722-8881
Cru Café A tiny lunch and dinner spot in a Market District house by the old horse stables. Try chef John Zucker's triple-decker shrimp BLT or cornmeal-crusted grouper. Dinner for two $55; 18 Pinckney St.; 843/534-2434
Pavilion Bar On a warm January night, head to the Pavilion's roof deck for a drink and a wonderful view of the city. Market Pavilion Hotel; 225 E. Bay St.; 843/723-0500
By H. Scott Jolley
The craggy mountains of the Wasatch Range surrounding Salt Lake City hold resorts that cater to every breed of adventurer. Want undisturbed powder?The aptly named Powder Mountain (801/745-3772; www.powdermountain.com) has almost 5,500 acres of the fluffy stuff. Downhill purists can head to the 2,940-foot vertical drop at Snowbasin (888/437-5488; www.snowbasin.com). For a classic skiing experience, Alta (888/782-9258; www.alta.com) provides beautifully groomed trails with nary a brash snowboarder in sight. Daredevils will thrill to night skiing—more than 200 acres of lighted terrain—at Brighton (800/873-5512; www.brightonresort.com). With all these choices, there's plenty of room, even at the eleventh hour (just try landing a place in Aspen for a last-minute weekend). The best part of a Salt Lake sojourn, however, may be the indulgent après-ski. Forgo hot cocoa, chunky cable-knit sweaters, and a roaring fireplace for reiki rubdowns and volcanic-ash baths. The intimate year-old spa in the Grand America Hotel has shiatsu therapists and a sea-foam cocoon treatment for tight muscles. The Cliff Spa at Snowbird (800/232-9542; www.snowbird.com) has massage rooms with views of the slopes, so you can watch gliding skiers during your aromatic-oil "high-altitude" rubdown. Afterwards, pad out to the open-air heated pool, where you can soak in a bubbling tub as the snow drifts down. On second thought, bring on the cocoa.
Tavernacle (201 E. 300 South; 801/519-8900), an SLC piano bar where everybody knows your name—and the words to every song ever written.
Culture: Freeze Frame
The Sundance Film Festival (January 16-26; www.sundance.org), which started 19 years ago as a small celebration of independent movies, has morphed, Hollywood-style, into a massive 11-day orgy of films and stars (not that there's anything wrong with that). Park City, 30 miles southeast of Salt Lake, surrenders to the Tinseltown excess every January while somehow managing to stay true to its indie frontier roots. This year's festival will find upwards of 20,000 directors, actors, producers, critics, and fans trudging through the snow to see more than 120 films. Seats are always hard to come by, but the box office opens for single-ticket sales on January 7 and a few advance packages may still be available on-line.
Salt Lake City is well served by Delta, Southwest, and JetBlue.
WHERE TO STAY
Grand America Hotel The 775-room Grand America overflows with extravagant touches, such as handloomed English carpets and Murano glass chandeliers. Doubles from $225; 555 S. Main St., Salt Lake City; 800/621-4505; www.grandamerica.com
Peery Hotel Dream of the Old West in the canopy beds at this landmark 1910 Prairie-style building with 73 rooms. Doubles from $129; 110 W. Broadway, Salt Lake City; 800/331-0073; www.peeryhotel.com
Armstrong Mansion A B&B in an 1893 Victorian manse. Book the sprawling top-floor room ("February Interlude"), which has a Jacuzzi in the turret. Doubles from $99; 667 E. 100 South, Salt Lake City; 800/708-1333; www.armstrongmansion.com
WHERE TO EAT
L'Avenue Bistro Located in the upscale Sugarhouse district, L'Avenue has French imports like steak frites, moules marinière, and a hammered-zinc bar from a Paris bistro. Dinner for two $50; 1355 E. 2100 South, Salt Lake City; 801/485-4494
Third & Main Seasonal American cuisine—try the bison osso buco or the pumpkin gnocchi with brown butter and sage—on a busy downtown corner. Dinner for two $50; 280 S. Main St., Salt Lake City; 801/364-4600
Wahso Sichuan honey-lacquered salmon, Thai tom kha gai, and other Pan-Asian dishes in an antiques-filled room that harks back to 1930's Shanghai. Dinner for two $90; 577 Main St., Park City; 435/615-0300
8 Antigua, Guatemala
By Sheila Glaser
The city of Antigua is a colonialist dream. Surrounded by volcanoes, it seems airlifted from 16th-century Spain to a misty, tropical setting up above the world. No high-rises mar its skyline, no modern buildings disturb its pastel harmonies. And it has survived one of the dirtiest guerrilla wars in Latin American history seemingly without a mark. Founded in 1543 and rebuilt after several earthquakes, Antigua was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979. Many hotels are converted mansions, with rooms arranged around a central courtyard and uninterrupted views across red-tiled rooftops to the mountains beyond. Despite the prettiness, there's no Disney effect. In part, that's because the churches, such as the bright yellow La Merced, with its pilasters of curling white plaster, are still in use, and not just during the city's famed Holy Week processions. The ruins of the numerous convents—Santa Clara, Recolección—are spookily spectacular, with palms growing from former nuns' cells, bougainvillea draping across crumbled refectories, walls melting into the hillsides. You don't have to be an anthropologist to appreciate Antigua's mix of Catholic and Mayan ritual or the sartorial inventiveness of the Indians, who come into town in huipils, jeans, and cowboy hats. Mostly they sell food (spicy shrimp ceviche from painted carts; tacos from makeshift stalls), but also leather trinkets, blankets, and combs decorated with brightly painted birds. Better Guatemalan crafts can be found at the popular market in Chichicastenango, 67 miles away (get there as early as 5 a.m.). You may end up with a traditional weaving whose pattern wasn't invented last week.
Jungle-fringed Tikal, one of the largest surviving Mayan temple com-plexes. Allow at least two days. Flights leave Guatemala City at dawn.
Side Trip: Water World
Three hours from Antigua, Lake Atitlán is like a Mayan Lake Como. The crystal-gazing hippies who called it home in the 1970's are still hanging around, but the laid-back atmosphere owes more to the beauty of the volcanic landscape than to those seeking another path. Up a steep flight of steps, La Casa del Mundo (011-502/218-5352; email@example.com; doubles from $33), between Jaibalito and Santa Cruz, has rooms with views so spectacular you won't mind the psycho resident parrot.
There are nonstop flights to Guatemala City from Newark, Atlanta, Miami, Houston, Dallas, and Los Angeles, but don't overnight there: tourist buses make the 45-minute trip to Antigua every 15 minutes. Crime against tourists is rare, except in remote highland areas, on some volcano treks (always check with your hotel), and on the highways at night. Travel during the day to be safe.
WHERE TO STAY
Mesón Panza Verde Spanish colonial antiques, Guatemalan textiles, and French wrought-iron beds adorn the 12 rooms. The restaurant serves French-Mayan food. Doubles from $75, Dinner for two $40; 5 Avda. 19 S.; 011-502/832-1745; www.panzaverde.com
Posada del Ángel The lap pool, library, and seven rooms—each individually decorated, with fireplaces and Guatemalan textiles—were enough to keep Bill Clinton happy when he stayed here in 1999. Doubles from $150, including breakfast; 24A Avda. 4A S.; 800/934-0065 or 011-502/832-5303; www.posadadelangel.com
WHERE TO EAT
La Fonda de la Calle Real Tourists and Guatemalan families come here for the caldo real (chicken soup with herbs)—a meal in itself. Dinner for two $24; 5 Avda. 5 N.; 011-502/832-2696
El Asador de Don Martín Grilled steaks and typical Guatemalan dishes—duck stew with tomatoes and cilantro, tortilla soup—in an intimate, candlelit room. Dinner for two $14; 27 Avda. 4 N.; 011-502/832-1063
Frida's The Mexican dishes are authentic and spicy, and the mojitos aren't bad either. Dinner for two $20; 29 Avda. 5 N.; 011-502/832-0504
By Barbara Peck
Though it must be hard for self-deprecating Canadians to accept, their capital has acquired an undeniable sense of style, revealed in some sophisticated new restaurants and an ultrahip boutique hotel. In the historic Byward Market neighborhood, low-rise brick-and-stone buildings have been taken over by trendy shops, pubs, and cafés. Browse upscale housewares at Zone (471 Sussex Dr.; 613/562-2755) and Domus (85 Murray St.; 613/241-6410). Or check out the region's wealth of museums: The Canadian Museum of Civilization (819/776-7000), across the river in Hull, encapsulates the country's history in a stunning, undulating building; the National Gallery of Canada (613/990-1985) houses contemporary art in a soaring glass tower; and the frozen-in-time dioramas at the Canadian Museum of Nature (613/566-4729) are adorable. But the real reason to visit Ottawa now is Winterlude (January 31-February 16; www.canadascapital.gc.ca), a boisterous celebration of the season that's in its 25th year. Instead of whining about the cold, everyone laces up skates and zooms along a five-mile stretch of the Rideau Canal, stopping at the Ice Café (made of, yes, ice) for beavertails (doughnuts shaped like, yes, a beaver's tail). You can also see snow sculptures, take in outdoor jazz, or catch more ice time at a Senators hockey game. They made the playoffs last year, eh?
Wedging yourself into busy Canal Ritz (375 Queen Elizabeth Driveway; 613/238-8998) for late-night dessert, a Winterlude tradition.
Capital vs. Capital: Continental Divide
Residents' biggest worry: Canal won't be frozen for Winterlude
Drink of the moment: Hot cider
Average annual snowfall: 87 inches
Fresh face of 2003: Rock chick Avril Lavigne
Civic pride and joy: NHL's Ottawa Senators
Favorite pig by-product: Canadian bacon
Residents' biggest worry: Finding a parking spot
Drink of the moment: Martini with olives
Average annual snowfall: 17 inches
Fresh face of 2003: Junior senator Liddy Dole
Civic pride and joy: Clean, well-lighted Metro
Favorite pig by-product: Pork barrel projects
Ottawa has direct flights from numerous cities on the Eastern Seaboard. A favorable exchange rate means lots of bargains.
WHERE TO STAY
ARC the.hotel A minimalist temple on an unprepossessing downtown street. The 112 rooms are all wood and glass, sleek lines, and muted colors. The dining room has some of the city's best food. Doubles from $97; Dinner for two $55; 140 Slater St.; 800/699-2516; www.arcthehotel.com
Fairmont Château Laurier The traditionalist's choice, at the head of the canal. Doubles from $154; 1 Rideau St.; 800/441-1414 OR 613/241-1414; www.fairmont.com
WHERE TO EAT
E18hteen An airy, stylish space in the Byward Market, with stone walls, leather armchairs, a hip crowd, and an ambitious menu. Dinner for two $40; 18 York St.; 613/244-1188
Social Chef Derek Benitz uses regional ingredients to create nouveau French flavors in a sexy room with arched windows and red velvet walls. Dinner for two $50; 537 Sussex Dr.; 613/789-7355
Black Cat Café A sunny Market storefront serving eclectic dishes with Asian touches—great for lunch. Check out the TV's embedded in the bathroom floors (the guys get more channels). Lunch for two $20; 93 Murray St.; 613/241-2999
Wakefield Mill Inn The best Sunday brunch is a half-hour drive into Quebec's Gatineau Park, at this fastidiously restored 1838 stone mill by a waterfall. The menu includes rustic French-Canadian dishes—baked beans, quiche. Brunch for two $32; 60 Mill Rd., Wakefield; 888/567-1838; www.wakefieldmill.com
By Kristine Ziwica
Some tropical islands feel a bit sanitized, but Jamaica has an edge, depth, and history—and no shortage of diversions. River-rafting, an island tradition introduced by Errol Flynn, is excellent on the Martha Brae River, near Falmouth (River Raft Ltd., 876/952-0889; www.jamaicarafting.com). You can hike the tropical forests of the Blue Mountains, tour an organic coffee plantation—try the Old Tavern Coffee Estate in Newcastle (876/999-7070)—and dance to reggae hits at Port Antonio's Roof Club (11 West St.; 876/715-5281). Or sample a little of everything at Island Village in Ocho Rios (876/974-5831; www.islandjamaica.com), which has beaches, a reggae museum, and an open-air concert hall. There'll be more music at the annual Air Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival in Montego Bay (January 30-February 1; 800/568-3247); this year's headliners include Angie Stone and Lou Rawls. All that—plus sunshine, countless white-sand beaches, villages, resorts to suit every taste, and more direct flights from major U.S. cities than any other Caribbean island—makes Jamaica perfect for the winter-weary.
Jerk chicken on Boston Bay Beach, near Port Antonio, the undisputed center of the fiery national dish. Don't forget a bottle of Red Stripe.
Insider's Guide: Chris Blackwell
The founder of Island Records (he discovered Bob Marley) and creator of the hotel group Island Outpost shares his picks.
BEST BEACH "Port Maria, between Montego Bay and Port Antonio, is an unspoiled spot with fishing boats and a great little bar that serves fish and french fries."
BEST EATING "I love the street food in the Faith's Pen area between Ocho Rios and Kingston: curried goat, codfish, and ackee, or roast breadfruit."
BEST POST-BEACH ACTIVITIES "Visit Reich Falls and Dunn's River Falls. Take a sunrise hike up Blue Mountain peak, the highest on the island. Most of all, stop and meet the Jamaicans—they are the most wonderful and welcoming people."
BEST WAY TO TRAVEL "I'm a JetSki fanatic. It's a great way to explore the coast. You might even find some undiscovered beaches."
BEST-KEPT SECRET "Swimming in and out of the caves in Negril. It's not often that you can float in the sea and keep out of the sun at the same time."
Air Jamaica flies direct from 12 U.S. gateways to both Montego Bay and Kingston; American also has direct flights from New York and Miami.
WHERE TO STAY
Round Hill Now in its 50th year, this 124-room classic on a former pineapple plantation is reinventing itself as a 21st-century wellness center, with a new 10-acre oceanfront spa. Doubles from $420; Round Hill Bluff, Montego Bay; 800/972-2159 or 876/956-7050; www.roundhilljamaica.com
Rockhouse The 28 rooms at this favorite carved into the Negril caves have been redone with bright colors and Polynesian accents. Doubles from $100; West End Rd., Negril; 876/957-4373; www.rockhousehotel.com
Jake's A chic shack: 10 thatched-roof huts decked out in a riot of colors, on the island's less-traveled southern shore. Doubles from $115; Calabash Bay, Treasure Beach; 800/688-7678 or 305/531-8800; www.islandoutpost.com
WHERE TO EAT
Norma's The Julia Child of Jamaican cuisine, Norma Shirley has a new restaurant at Negril's SeaSplash resort, a sister to her Kingston outpost. Dinner for two $80; Negril: 876/957-4041 Kingston: 876/968-5488
Bloomfield Great House A restored 200-year-old coffee plantation and art gallery in the hills above Mandeville. Dine on nouveau American food with a Jamaican twist, such as escabeche with bammy (cassava-flour bread). Dinner for two $60; 8 Perth Rd., Mandeville; 876/962-7130