22 Last-Minute Trips to Take Between Christmas and New Year's


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friends enjoying snowball fight
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The week between Christmas and New Year's is an ideal time to steal away. As the year winds down, many businesses and schools close for the holidays, making it easier to plot an escape, and it's a time of festivals and other special events that roll out the welcome mat for visitors. Whether you're in search of sun and sand or traditional holiday-themed winter fun, keep these destinations in mind for a final getaway before 2019.
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An affordable beach paradise known for its turquoise water and unforgettable cuisine. Top attractions include XTASEA, a zip line over the Bay of Puerto Marques that reaches 75 miles an hour, and the Rollo Aquatic park, with wave pools and waterslides for kids of all ages. Just off Acapulco's coast is La Roqueta Island for snorkeling and diving.
New Hope Street, New Hope, Pennsylvania
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Bucks County, about 30 minutes from Philadelphia, gives a more traditional holiday backdrop. The New Hope & Ivyland Railroad allows passengers to relive the golden age of rail travel, and during holidays features Santa's Steam Spectacular and North Pole Express theme rides. At Peddler's Village, visitors can explore a winter wonderland that includes a whimsical gingerbread display through Jan. 5.
First Night Alexandria in Alexandria, Virginia
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Named one of "America's Top Holiday Towns" in 2016 by USA Today, Alexandria charms with its brick-lined streets and twinkling holiday lights — King Street is like a real-life Dickens village — and just minutes from Washington, D.C., by subway, Alexandria is also a foodie's heaven. If you're still there for New Year's Eve, don't miss First Night Alexandria, a festival that includes music, fireworks, and more.
Celebration in the Oaks in City Park in New Orleans
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If there's one thing New Orleans does well, it's celebrations. Holiday festivities continue after Dec. 25, including Celebration in the Oaks in City Park, which includes hundreds of thousands of colorful and illuminated outdoor displays, and the Audubon Zoo's Zoo Year's Eve, with its music, games, prizes, and daytime countdown to the new year.
Aurora Borealis over southern Iceland
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Pure magic during Christmas and New Year's. Visitors here can spend days on snowmobile tours and adventurous glacier trekking expeditions, or dash across picturesque landscapes on husky rides, says Cammie Burke, Europe expert for travel company Scott Dunn. Once the sun sets, cozy up with a bowl of lobster bisque by a hotel fire and watch the Northern Lights dance across the sky.
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Miami's December beach weather is hard to beat (hovering between the 70s and low 80s) and nonstop flights with low prices make it one of the best last-minute, end-of-year vacations. Iconic South Beach is home to some of the city's best restaurants, nightlife, and shopping. Don't miss the city's new favorite art zone, the Wynwood Walls.
Bimini, Bahamas
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Just 50 nautical miles from South Florida — a mere 25-minute plane ride or two-hour ferry from Miami — Bimini is known for stunning beaches, friendly locals, and charming resorts. Ernest Hemingway was fond of deep-sea fishing here; Martin Luther King Jr. was a regular visitor. Learn Bimini's unique story at cultural and historical sites such as Heroes Park, or take guided eco-tours through lush mangroves to observe wildlife.
Christkindlmarket Chicago
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Yes, it is cold in Chicago in late December. Ignore it to ice skate in Maggie Daley Park in the heart of downtown, eat your way through Restaurant Row on Randolph Street, and shop at Christkindlmarket. There's also has a rich art scene, with galleries and theaters offering refuge from the cold — and don't miss the iconic Buddy Guy's Legends blues club.
Pensacola, Florida
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Abundant powdery, white sand beaches, and more than 400,000 twinkling holiday lights to boot. Each year on the Friday after Thanksgiving, downtown Pensacola is illuminated as part of the First Lights Ceremony, kicking off a season of music, shopping, food, art, and nightlife under a glowing canopy illuminating historic buildings. Take in the scene along Palafox Street by foot, by horse and carriage, or on a free trolley ride. The city's Winterfest celebration extends festivities and events through New Year's.
downtown Hamilton, Ohio
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A small community along the Great Miami River oozing historical charm — most cities in the region were built in the 20th century, but Hamilton dates back to 1791. Revitalized, with its downtown transformed into a hot spot for arts, dining, and recreation, the city includes a nine-block German Village Historic District on the National Register of Historic places.
Christmas parade in downtown Beaufort, South Carolina
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Queen belle in an underrated cluster of coastal communities, and a quiet idyll for those seeking to wind down at year's end amid 18th century antebellum homes, a richly restored historic downtown district, and coastal waters and marsh for as far as you can see. Explore through temperatures in the low to mid-60s on foot, by bike, boat, or horse-drawn carriage.
Wind River Country, Wyoming
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Escape the crowds and steep price tags of Jackson, and go beyond popular tourist stops such as Yellowstone. This authentic west destination offers include fat biking, skiing, and dog sledding, as well as wildlife observation.
Squaw Valley in North Lake Tahoe, California
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Home to the continent's largest alpine lake and the nation's largest concentration of ski resorts. Take sleigh and carriage rides through the snow on Sand Harbor beach, go dog sledding at the Resort at Squaw Creek, and don't miss the Squaw Valley Aerial Tram ride, which climbs more than 2,000 feet for 360-degree views of Lake Tahoe and the High Sierra.
Abingdon Farmers Market in Abingdon, Virginia
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Downtown charms with shopping, cozy eateries, and twinkling lights. Among the Main Street highlights is Holston Mountain Artisans, showcasing traditional and contemporary crafts of the Appalachian region and one of the oldest craft cooperatives in the nation. On Saturdays the Abingdon Farmers Market sells jams, jellies, and homemade pies. And take in a show at The Barter, a historic 500-seat theater dating back to 1933.
Winterlights at Newfields on the Indianapolis Museum of Art
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One of Travel + Leisure' "America's Favorite Cities for Affordable Getaways," and host to a number of holiday events through December, among them Winterlights at Newfields on the Indianapolis Museum of Art campus, which includes 1.5 million dancing lights and s'mores, and Christmas at the Zoo, a season of extended hours for even more light displays.
Navarre Beach, Florida
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Often referred to as "Florida's Most Relaxing Place." Spend days looking for souvenir seashells on a quiet corner of white sand Gulf beach, take a short drive inland to explore sprawling Blackwater River State Forest, or stop by historic Milton, listed on the National Register of Historic places, for antiquing.
festival at night in Oaxaca City, Mexico
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Designated a World Heritage Site, Oaxaca offers a glimpse of various chapters of Mexican history — pre-Hispanic, colonial, independent, modern, and contemporary phases — in its architecture, museums, festivals, and colorful crafts, as well as its pre-Columbian ruins.
Bixby Creek Bridge in Monterey, California
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A quintessential beach California town with some of the state's most iconic locations, including Bixby Creek Bridge, come winter Monterey hosts Ice Skating by the Bay but is also a place to witness migrating Monarch butterflies.
Ogden, Utah
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Just 35 minutes from Salt Lake International Airport and home to three ski resorts: Snowbasin Resort, Power Mountain, and Nordic Valley. Non-skiers can visit the dark skies of wild and rustic North Fork Park (though getting around there is also by cross country ski and snowshoes, available for rent).
Chiang Mai, Thailand
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A top budget-friendly winter destination choice of Travelzoo's Gabe Saglie. Visitors flock to beautiful beaches and enjoy diverse food offerings. Flowers bloom throughout through February, particularly in northern Thailand. The mountain and hill region of Khun Chang Khien, Doi Inthanon, and Doi Angkhang in Chiang Mai come alive with the vibrant pink of Wild Himalayan cherry blossoms.

trees and castle ruins covered by frost in Ireland
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Keep Ireland in mind for a December escape, Saglie says. Prices tumble throughout Europe in November and flights from the U.S. to Ireland continue to increase, which helps keep prices down. Ireland offers a range of accommodation options, from luxe five-star castles to more than 1,000 bed and breakfasts, many well under $100 or even $80 per night.
El San Juan Hotel, Isla Verde Beach, Puerto Rico
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Nearly every day there's an announcement about hotels reopening since hurricane Maria, including the legendary Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, and the iconic El San Juan Hotel on Isla Verde Beach. JetBlue has also resumed pre-hurricane levels of service, making it an ideal time to show your support for this Caribbean U.S. territory.

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