Travel
3 min

Great destinations for women this winter

From fun in the sun to wintry slopes

Dry Tortugas, off the coast of Key West. Credit: Aefa Mulholland

Which sort of winter vacation do you want? A romantic wintry escape, filled with cold-weather wonders like snowshoeing through a frozen forest, ice skating hand in hand, making snow angels on fresh snow, warming up with a hot chocolate with the added bonus of Baileys, and finishing off the day hot tubbing as the snow falls? Or are your winter plans to ignore the chilly weather entirely and focus on the flurry of festivities that brighten the darker months, from film festivals to comedy capers to citywide celebrations? Or how about heading south to melt off the northern winter with a blast of welcome heat?

Winter wonderlands

Whistler is an enticing escape any time of year, but add several metres of freshly fallen powder and the annual WinterPride ski week celebrations and this alpine town, two hours north of Vancouver, is tough to beat. Highlights of the week, running Jan 26 through Feb 2, 2014, include women’s dance parties, mingling events and a slew of active antics.

If you’re further east, the only thing that can equal the fabulous skiing and boarding at Mont Tremblant is the array of amazing spas ready to take care of all your après-ski needs — or even your instead-of-ski needs. Add in dogsledding, snow tubing, snowshoeing and sleigh rides and you might not leave Tremblant until the snow melts.

For those closer to Windsor, Michigan’s annual LGBT Comedy Fest is the way to warm up in Dearborn. Previous events have featured such funny women as Bridget McManus, Gloria Bigelow and Jackie Monahan. This winter’s event is on March 8, 2014. Check the website nearer the time for details of the lineup.

Down south

Meanwhile, there are plenty of corners of this continent where you can bake in the sun while everyone else shivers back home.

New Orleans is a warm and welcoming place any time of year, but when Mardi Gras rolls around each February, the Crescent City practically boils over with excitement. As well as all the mainstream events, New Orleans also boasts annual Gay Mardi Gras celebrations, held Feb 27 through March 4, 2014.

Key West, the laid-back, southernmost point in the continental US, is a balmy winter destination. Splash in the warm waters of the Florida Keys, take a seaplane or boat trip out to abandoned Fort Jefferson on the remote Dry Tortugas islands, snorkel or schedule your visit to coincide with New Year’s and the kitschy annual conch-shell drop. Women-owned Pearl’s is a mixed, all-welcoming property with a lovely pool, poolside bar and a preponderance of female guests.

Another toasty spot to take refuge from the freeze is Palm Springs, an oasis in the Coachella Valley, 170 kilometres east of Los Angeles. In January, temperatures hover around 23 degrees celsius, turning up to the mid-30s by the time the legendary Dinah Shore and Club Skirts parties come to town, April 2 through 6, 2014. Book well ahead at one of the two excellent women-only inns, the romantic Casitas Laquita and the popular Queen of Hearts Resort.

Austin is hot and happening year-round, but winter sees Texas temperatures drop down to a more manageable mean from summer highs that can cook the hardiest of visitors. Check out bands in the Red River or Sixth Street music districts, taste Texas and the world on South First Street or from the hatches of the hundreds of food trucks that circle the city, then cool off with a dip in nearby Lake Travis.

You can’t beat Hawaii when it comes to getting away from it all. Thaw out on Oahu’s plethora of perfect beaches, from Honolulu’s Waikiki to surf spots along the north shore and the empty strands of the east coast. The Hawaiian capital is the main town on the 80-by-110-kilometre island. All those outdoor bars — and their delicious rum-based cocktails — are perfect for cooling off in the Pacific breezes. Try Rum Fire in the Sheraton Kauai Resort; the bar offers hundreds of different rums and 180-degree Waikiki Beach views.

If you want to get far, far away from freezing temperatures, hop on board a long-haul flight to coincide with Australia’s hottest annual events, Melbourne’s LGBT Midsumma and Sydney’s gargantuan Lesbian and Gay Mardi Gras.

Sydney’s celebrations are spread over a month, from Feb 7 through March 2, 2014, and include a mindboggling calendar of dance parties, pool parties, street parties and art shows, plus the Queer Screen LGBT film festival. It’s the most exuberant event on the planet, regardless of hemisphere.

Melbourne’s equivalent runs Jan 12 through Feb 2, 2014, allowing those who still have some energy left to go directly from Melbourne’s mayhem to Sydney’s shenanigans. This year’s festival packs Australia’s second city’s social slots with events such as a Golden Girls tribute played out entirely by puppets, a carnival in Alexandra Gardens and a huge arts show at the Gasworks.