Best Places to Travel in February
Editor's Note: Those who choose to travel are strongly encouraged to check local government restrictions, rules, and safety measures related to COVID-19 and take personal comfort levels and health conditions into consideration before departure.
We're well into winter in February, and you might be thoroughly enjoying the season or anxiously awaiting spring. Perhaps you'll have some indication of future weather on Feb. 2 — Groundhog Day — if Punxsutawney Phil emerges to see his shadow, which legend says means six more weeks of winter. No shadow in sight predicts an early spring. Whichever it is you're hoping for, if you can't find it close to home, it's just a vacation away.
Related: More trip ideas
If winter sports are your goal, your wishes will be granted in Park City, Utah, where the snow is usually at its deepest and best in February. Warm weather might sound inviting in the midst of winter, and you can shake off the chill in Florida with your choice of many resort towns there. With the required COVID-related documents, visitors are welcome to Aruba and Maui's sunny shores. Moderate temperatures in Scottsdale and Fort Worth provide perfect weather for outdoor activities.
The small town atmosphere of Paducah, Kentucky would make a pleasant getaway, and its vintage architecture, natural beauty, and art might surprise first time visitors. If you're looking for a cozy place to cuddle on Valentine's Day, we suggest Newport, Rhode Island — chilly outside but warm inside by the fireplace. In February, we recognize Black History Month, celebrating the achievements and contributions of Black Americans. As the birthplace of the civil rights movement, Montgomery offers museums, memorials, and historic sites to explore.
Here are 10 of the best places to travel in February.
Related: The 50 Best Places to Travel in 2021
Park City, Utah
February in Park City is a favorite for skiers who appreciate the fresh powder and great conditions at the largest ski and snowboard resort in the country, with 7,300 acres, 341 trails, 41 lifts, and seven terrain parks. Keeping guests safe is a priority, so visitors will see a few changes this season, such as required face coverings, cashless transactions, reservations, and limitations on lift tickets. The historic town has been home to the annual Sundance Film Festival for nearly forty years, but COVID changed the tradition this year, and 70 films will be shown online from Jan. 28 — Feb. 3, in addition to satellite screenings in 25 different states. Even non-skiers visiting Park City will enjoy the year-round destination's range of places to stay, from casual to ultra-luxe. The boutique Washington School House, steps from Main Street, offers 12 luxurious guest rooms. You can ski-in/ski-out at the Grand Summit Hotel and new Lift Park City or share a luxury private residence at Apex Residences Park City. The elegant Montage Deer Valley offers a full service spa and a variety of dining options. The Lodge at Blue Sky features year-round pampering on its 3,500 acres.
Temperatures in the low 70's during the day (dropping to the mid 40's at night) make February ideal for outdoor activities in Scottsdale. Hiking trails from easy strolls to challenging climbs are great exercise, and they come with the bonus of spectacular views. The McDowell Sonoran Preserve, 35,000 acres of undeveloped land, provides accessible and dog-friendly trails. If you prefer your outdoor fun on the water, Scottsdale has plenty of that too. The Salt River and Verde River provide for canoeing, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, fishing, and more. In town, explore the city's museums and outdoor art, and spend some time in walkable Old Town. Getting to Scottsdale is easy via commercial flights into nearby Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Hop-on jet service JSX offers convenient flights from private terminals in the Los Angeles area, and Set Jet, a membership-based private charter program headquartered in Scottsdale, is another way to go. Stay at the new ADERO Scottsdale, a Dark Sky Zone resort or the lively downtown Hotel Valley Ho. Mountain Shadows Resort and JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort are also nearby, or consider a stay at the elegant Fairmont Scottsdale Princess.
Fort Worth, Texas
Fort Worth is the 12th largest U.S. city by population, and the city experienced the highest growth rate in Texas according to recent data. That's not surprising with so much to attract both residents and visitors, starting with downtown's Sundance Square, a huge shopping and entertainment district offering restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues.The city's Western heritage is on display in the Stockyards National Historic District where you can see a cattle drive, rodeo, vintage buildings, saloons, shops, and restaurants or go to the Stockyards Museum and Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. The Cowtown Coliseum hosts the weekly Stockyards Championship Rodeo, the world's only year-round rodeo. Museums in the Cultural District are conveniently set in a parklike area, with exhibits displaying antiquities and modern art. More than 100 miles of scenic trails wind along the Trinity River for walking and biking. Craft beverage producers are also making a statement in Fort Worth with the Ale Trail and Distillery Trail. For a bit of nostalgia, watch a movie at the Coyote Drive-in. Hotels are keeping up with demand, like The Sinclair and The Aloft Fort Worth downtown. The new Hotel Drover will offer 200 rustic-luxe rooms and suites when it opens this February.
Situated on the banks of the Alabama River, the state's capital of Montgomery is known as the birthplace of the civil rights movement, a fitting destination during Black History Month, particularly in light of the current social justice movement. The National Memorial for Peace & Justice and Legacy Museum tell the history of slavery and racism in America and honor the victims of lynching. The Rosa Parks Museum and the Freedom Rides Museum are among other significant sites in Montgomery's 200-year history, welcoming visitors to find hope and healing. This vibrant river town is experiencing a cultural resurgence, including a culinary scene that combines old-school and modern. What could be more old-school than ever-popular hot dogs and hamburgers — and Chris' Hot Dogs has been serving them for more than a hundred years. Common Bond Brewers serves craft beer and music in Montgomery's revitalized downtown entertainment district, and MGM Greens is redefining modern farming by growing lettuce and herbs hydroponically inside a compact shipping container to supply local restaurants. Your Montgomery itinerary might also include the Hank Williams Museum, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery Zoo, and Riverfront Park.
This small island, for many years part of the Netherlands Antilles and now an autonomous territory of the Netherlands, boasts year-round perfect weather. In February, visitors will find temperatures in the low 80's with little rainfall. Beaches range from calm sandy shores to more challenging seas and secret coves, providing variety for beachgoers. For a change of pace, visit the Bubali Bird Sanctuary to see more than 80 species of migratory birds, explore unusual rock formations, and enjoy Aruba's vibrant culture, music, and art. Hotels and all-inclusive resorts are available to suit every budget and taste, many with gambling casinos. Stay at the Ritz-Carlton, Aruba, Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino, Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, or the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino. The newly renovated all-inclusive Tamarijn Aruba offers ten dining venues, onsite bicycle trails, kayaking, sailing, and wellness features like beach yoga at sunset, water aerobics, and an oceanfront fitness center. Current COVID safety protocols require a negative test, and your travel plans should include a review of the guidelines. A partnership with JetBlue provides for a convenient at-home pre-travel test.
Small towns have special appeal this year, and this town of just 25,000 offers both quaint atmosphere and big city amenities. Just two hours from Nashville, Paducah is located at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers. Opportunities for hiking, fishing, birdwatching, and water sports are plentiful with the rivers as well as several large lakes that provide more than 3,000 miles of shoreline. Paducah has been designated a UNESCO Creative City of Crafts & Folk Art, and it's also known as Quilt City, USA for its focus on the traditional American fabric craft. The National Quilt Museum includes three galleries and a 600-piece collection as well as workshops and tours. The city's historic downtown features various examples of vintage architectural styles as well as working artists' studios, galleries, and public art. Visitors can tour the area on foot, bike, or horse-drawn carriage, and they may want to add a brewery, distillery, winery, or BBQ restaurant to their itinerary for some local flavor.
Florida's Atlantic Coast
The state of Florida is a popular winter destination, and the eastern coast of Florida offers many resort cities in addition to Miami. Beaches are a draw for visitors, but there's much more going on during the season. Jacksonville in the north boasts 22 miles of beaches, and 40 miles of Intracoastal Waterway, as well as the St. Johns River. Golfers know this area for Ponte Vedra Beach where the PGA Tour Players Championship is played annually at TPC Sawgrass, and historic St. Augustine features the World Golf Hall of Fame. Amelia Island, about 30 miles away, is home to the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island. Further south, West Palm Beach is experiencing growth in retail, food, and design, and February visitors can see it all along with the annual Palm Beach Show (Feb. 11-16) featuring jewelry, art, and antiques.The newly renovated White Elephant Hotel would be an elegant home base for exploring the town and browsing the walkable Rosemary Square neighborhood. Eau Palm Beach offers guestrooms and suites with ocean and garden views. Less than an hour south, the oceanfront Boca Raton Resort & Club features a spa, championship golf, and special zones for education and enrichment activities for students. Hotels and resorts to meet every style and taste can be found on Florida's Atlantic Coast.
Florida's Gulf Coast
The Gulf Coast of Florida is nearly twice as long as the Atlantic shore, and many resort cities and towns share the warm, calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. In the north on the panhandle, Destin is popular for fishing, and a stay at The Henderson would be a perfect introduction to the area. Panama City Beach is known for its 27 miles of white sand beaches and affordable year-round accommodations. Heading south, Tampa, home to museums, the 2021 Super Bowl, historic Ybor City, and its Riverwalk, offers a variety of hotels including the Hilton Tampa Downtown, Marriott Water Street, and Hotel Haya. St. Petersburg boasts the Salvador Dali Museum with the largest collection of the artist's work outside of Spain. Nearby in Clearwater, the Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach enjoys a prime beachfront location. Further south, Sarasota offers cultural events, art, and museums, including The Ringling Museum of Art, Circus Museum, and Ca'D'Zan, the opulent waterfront home of the Ringlings. The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota is conveniently located downtown with access to its beach club on Lido Key. Fort Myers and Sanibel are popular Gulf Coast destinations, and their beaches are known for their abundant seashells, attracting shell seekers who look for rare and beautiful specimens while they enjoy sea views and dolphin sightings.
Anytime is the right time to travel to Maui, but February is special because it's the peak time to see humpback whales in their natural environment during their annual winter migration. Watch them from land in Lahaina or along Maui's southern coast. Meet up with humpbacks on a boat tour or get up close in a kayak. Hawaii's second largest island is a favorite for many visitors, possibly because there's so much variety, from gorgeous beaches to Haleakala and the rugged Upcountry. Those who tackle a drive along the road to Hana are rewarded with views of waterfalls, rainforests, and cliffs overlooking the sea as well as an opportunity to relax at the new oceanfront Hana-Maui Resort. In the West Maui area, Kaanapali, Kapalua, and the historic town of Lahaina welcome tourists who stay at the area's many hotels and resorts, including the newly renovated Kaanapali Beach Hotel, Hyatt Regency Maui Resort, Montage Kapalua Bay, and Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. In South Maui, the driest part of the island, Wailea, Kihei, and Makena offer sunny beaches and luxurious resorts including the Andaz Maui, Grand Wailea, and Hotel Wailea. A negative COVID test is required for entry, and visitors are advised to check current guidelines when planning a Hawaii vacation. (Kauai has reinstituted the 14-day quarantine, as of this writing)
Newport, Rhode Island
Despite having to change most of our holiday celebrations in 2020, let's not forget Valentine's Day on February 14. It's the time to plan something special and intimate just for two. This favorite summer spot is cozy during the winter months, and there might even be snow underfoot as you stroll along Newport's waterfront. Blend time in the bracing winter outdoor air with indoor activities like visits to Newport's museums. At the Thames Glass Gallery & Studio, you can watch skilled glassblowers create their art or make something of your own with their help. Visit the Audrain Automobile Museum or Newport Car Museum to see their automotive works of art. Enjoy the collection at the Newport Art Museum and explore their timely special exhibition, "Digital Breath: Video and Sound Art in the Age of Global Connectivity" (running from Feb. 6 to June 6, 2021). Gurney's Newport Resort is ready for winter dining with heated outdoor igloos, and The Wayfinder Hotel's restaurant serves New England classics. Hotel Viking's Spa Fjor is open for luxe treatments and pampering. Vintage Newport mansion turned luxury boutique hotel, The Chanler at Cliff Walk is one of the most romantic hotels in the U.S., just right for a Valentine's Day getaway. Twenty uniquely designed guest rooms, cozy fireplaces, an award-winning restaurant overlooking the Atlantic, and new luxury yurts for private dining experiences are the perfect ingredients for a couples' vacation.