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20 Winter Breaks for a Bargain


For a taste of the Old West, ditch the car, don the spurs, and giddy up in Bandera, Texas (45 miles from San Antonio). At the Flying L Dude Ranch you'll wake up with the birds, then venture out for a two-hour trail ride. As your horse trots through the mesquite-covered Texas hill country, look for white-tailed deer, antelope, and armadillos. Spend midday soothing your backside in the heated swimming pool, playing on the 18-hole golf course, or antiquing in town. Take an afternoon ride through Hill Country State Park, then head back to the ranch in time for a barbecue and an evening of cowboy poetry recitals and hayrides.
Flying L Dude Ranch, 800/444-3833 or 830/460-3001, fax 830/796-8455; www.flyingl.com; doubles from $80 a night per person, including breakfast, dinner, and one ride. High 64 degrees; low 42.


Long the best-kept secret of the time-pressed slope addict, Winter Park has some of the finest runs in the Rockies. With 134 trails and 22 lifts, the resort offers both well-groomed trails for those who like it mellow, and a lion's share of extreme slopes for the daredevil skier. The Gasthaus Eichler, an Alpine-style chalet in the center of town, is a five-minute drive from the lifts. If the personalized service and warm feather beds don't rejuvenate you après-ski, the hearty German meals certainly will. Gasthaus Eichler, 78786 U.S. Hwy. 40; 800/729-5813 or 970/726-5133, fax 970/726-5175; www.winterparkresort.com; three-night package for two $360, including breakfast and dinner. High 35 degrees; low 9.


In the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, New Mexico's capital is home to a patchwork of cultures—Native American, Hispanic, artists'-colony, and New Age—all woven together into a unique vibe. The 120-room, pueblo-style Hotel Santa Fe is in the historic Guadalupe District. It's a short walk from there to the Plaza, where you can buy Native American art and handcrafted jewelry; the galleries on Canyon Road; and a wealth of museums. For a taste of living history, venture to one of the nearby pueblos, or Indian villages. The Hotel Santa Fe, which is owned by Native Americans, organizes guided tours of Picuris, Taos, Santa Clara, and San Juan.
Hotel Santa Fe, 1501 Paseo de Peralta; 800/825-9876 or 505/982-1200, fax 505/983-0785; www.hotelsantafe.com; doubles from $549, including flowers, breakfast in bed, and massages. High 48 degrees; low 24.


Down on the Baja Peninsula, some 250 miles south of Los Angeles, San Felipe is where the desert meets the sea. Despite a recent surge in popularity, the traditional feel and lazy atmosphere of this sleepy fishing village haven't been erased. Set yourself up at the San Felipe Marina Resort, right on the beaches of the Sea of Cortés. Take a nap, grab a beer, munch on a fish taco, and watch how fast time passes when you're doing nothing. Should you become bored, there's plenty to divert you: a set of tennis, a shopping spree for crafts and ceramics in town, or an off-road drive through Baja's stunning desertscapes. San Felipe Marina Resort, Km 4.5, Carretera San Felipe; 800/291-5397 or 52-6/577-1455, fax 52-6/577-1566; www.sanfelipe.com.mx/sfemarina; suites from $110. High 72 degrees; low 65.


Even the name of this eco-friendly resort, Si Como No—in English, "Sure, why not?"—suggests its laid-back ambience. Eat breakfast on the balcony of your room high above the Pacific, then lounge at the jungle-terraced pool, swim in the calm ocean, or raft down the rapids of the Savegre River. Wildlife enthusiasts can take a hike through the canopied rain forest of Manuel Antonio National Park, just two miles away.
Si Como No, 011-506/777-0777, fax 011-506/777-1093; www.sicomono.com; doubles from $160, including breakfast. High 87 degrees; low 76.


Two Bunch Palms, a secluded mineral hot springs resort in the Mojave Desert, is officially a spa, but the water-immersed massages and clay and mud baths almost seem like an afterthought. It's the solitude of the tree-lined grounds, the individual mineral pools, and the miles of hiking trails that draw guests back, many of them looking to escape the crowds of L.A. It's easy to linger a few days here, never leaving the grounds. You certainly won't need to go far for food: the diverse California cuisine (from salads to seared ahi to rack of lamb) in the Casino dining room should keep you happily sated.
Two Bunch Palms, 67-425 Two Bunch Palms Trail; 800/472-4334 or 760/329-8791, fax 760/329-1317; www.twobunchpalms.com; doubles from $175. High 70 degrees; low 42.


East of the Cascade Mountains, Washington's soggy skies turn blue and shine on some of the best wineries on the West Coast. Within the Walla Walla, Tri Cities, and Yakima regions, you'll find hundreds of vineyards—try a robust Cabernet at L'Ecole No. 41 in Lowden, or sip a vintage Sangiovese at Tefft Cellars in Outlook. Then spend the night at the 11-room Birchfield Manor Country Inn, a 1910 brick mansion renowned for its regional cooking—and its wine cellar.
Birchfield Manor Country Inn, 2018 Birchfield Rd.; 800/375-3420 or 509/452-1960, fax 509/452-2334; www.birchfieldmanor.com; doubles from $99, including breakfast. For winery information, log on to www.winepressnw.com. High 42 degrees; low 31.


Flung out to sea, far from the snowbirds and South Beach partyers, you'll find Sanibel Island. Its quiet beaches, miles of bike paths and boatable waterways, and extensive wildlife (more than half the island is a sanctuary) make this barrier island a great escape. For a rustic weekend, book a bungalow at the secluded, retro-hip Beachview Cottages. Swim or hunt for shells on the beach, play tennis or golf nearby, or join up with the cottage regulars at the Tiki Hut sunset parties. Spend your evenings browsing through the galleries on Periwinkle Way and feasting on fresh fish.
Beachview Cottages, 3325 W. Gulf Dr.; 800/860-0532 or 941/472-1202, fax 941/472-4720; www.beachviewcottages.com; cottages from $149. High 72 degrees; low 52.*


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