All Articles Where to travel in January

Where to travel in January

Our top spots, whether you’re escaping the cold or embracing it.

Nicholas DeRenzo
By Nicholas DeRenzoDec 11, 2023 8 minutes read
Group of friends walking through snow to the art district of Breckenridge, Colorado

Following the high highs (holidays! Family time!) and low lows (holidays! Family time!) of December, January is often be the month when we need a vacation the most. And luckily, the season provides a wide array of options: Ski towns see tons of powder but smaller crowds; the sweltering tropics and deserts finally enjoy manageably pleasant temperatures; and big cities across Europe and the U.S. often welcome steep price drops in airfare and hotel rates. And remember, if you’re looking to escape the cold back home and want to experience summer, you can always cross the Equator. Here, 10 spots we’re excited about for January.

Canmore, Alberta

For winter sports fanatics

Average temp: 26ºF high, 8ºF low

A group of skiers go down a snow covered trail in Canmore, Alberta

Think of this cool Canadian Rockies town as the Boulder to Calgary’s Denver: a gateway to outdoor adventure that has grown up in recent years thanks to an influx of microbreweries and travel-worthy restaurants. Located right on the doorstep of Banff National Park about an hour west of the Calgary airport, Canmore comes alive in the winter, when the surrounding mountains and alpine lakes attract cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and even ice climbers, who swarm to the Bow Valley to tackle frozen waterfalls. Particularly popular is the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park, which was built for the 1988 Olympics and now offers snowshoeing, fat biking, tobogganing, and winter disc golf, in addition to more than 40 miles of cross-country skiing trails—including some that are illuminated for night skiing.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, plan for a cozy dinner at Sauvage, where the tasting menu might include locally foraged spruce tips, yarrow, and tamarack and hearty Canadian proteins like bison, elk, and steelhead trout. And, oh yeah, keep your eyes peeled for the Northern Lights. For the best chances of a sighting, you’ll want to get slightly outside of town, to spots like Quarry Lake or the Three Sisters Viewpoint, where light pollution is even lower than it is in town.

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Everglades National Park, FL

For bird watchers

Average temp: 76ºF high, 57ºF low

A Roseate Spoonbill wit h its young chick at the Everglades National Park, Florida
Image: Troy Harrison/Getty Images

After hurricane season ends on November 30, South Florida eases into a period of low humidity, lovely temps, and fewer mosquitoes—making it the perfect time to explore Everglades National Park. The park’s subtropical wetlands are a wildlife lover's paradise and home to more than 360 bird species, including herons, egrets, and the bright pink roseate spoonbill, in addition to manatees, sharks, alligators and crocodiles, and, if you’re especially lucky, the highly elusive Florida panther.

To see the park at its best, you'll want to head to Flamingo, on the park's southernmost edge, about two hours southwest of Miami. It's where you'll find the recently rebuilt Guy Bradley Visitor Center in Flamingo, which had been destroyed by Hurricane Irma in 2017. It's a great place to explore displays about area wildlife, chat with rangers about nearby hiking and canoeing trails, and pick up backcountry permits. You can also sign up for a 90-minute boat tour through either Whitewater Bay or Florida Bay to explore the mangrove keys and seagrass.

Around the corner, you’ll also find the reopened Flamingo Lodge & Restaurant, the national park’s only hotel. The property closed its doors in 2005 after storm damage and now includes 24 rooms made of elevated shipping containers. (Be sure to take advantage of the on-site bike, kayak, and power-boat rentals to explore the park, sans guide.)

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For theater fans

Average temp: 48ºF high, 40ºF low

Snowing on Jubilee Gardens in London at dusk
Jubilee Gardens
Image: _ultraforma_/Getty Images

London’s weather often gets a bit unfairly maligned, but in January, highs hover near 50ºF—considerably warmer than many Northern cities in the U.S.—and post-holiday deals on flights and hotels are abundant. Sure, it rains about 12 days out of the month, but many of the city’s best experiences are indoors, and January tends to be a robust time for theater.

This month, you can catch a theatrical adaptation of the beloved Studio Ghibli animated classic My Neighbour Totoro at the Barbican Theatre; the satire Ulster American, starring Woody Harrelson and Andy Serkis, at Riverside Studios; Stranger Things: The First Shadow, a 1959-set prequel to the hit Netflix series at the Phoenix Theatre; Macbeth, starring former Doctor Who David Tennant at the Donmar Warehouse; and a West End transfer of the Broadway hit Plaza Suite, with Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica reprising their roles, at the Savoy Theatre. Best of all, even the most in-demand shows tend to have much cheaper tickets than the ones on Broadway. Like in New York, there’s a TKTS booth in Leicester Square offering deeply discounted day-of tickets, and you can also find fantastic deals on the TodayTix app.

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Scottsdale, AZ

For art enthusiasts

Average temp: 67ºF high, 36ºF low

Taliesin West, in Scottsdale, Arizona

Set within the Sonoran Desert, the stylish, active-minded town of Scottsdale cools off a bit in the winter, with January highs hovering comfortably in the upper 60s. The weather is great for hiking in the saguaro-studded landscape (the Tom’s Thumb Trail is a switchback-filled local favorite), but it’s an especially pleasant time to engage with the city’s surprising art scene. January 13 marks the start of the Celebration of Fine Art, which runs through late March and sees 100 artists create and exhibit works under giant white tents. While you’re in town, consider dropping into the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, where the temporary exhibitions include a playful immersive installation by emerging Dutch artist Roelof Knol, and Taliesin West, the UNESCO World Heritage–listed Frank Lloyd Wright house, which currently has works by Wright and Georgia O’Keeffe on display. And just across the city line in Phoenix, the Desert Botanical Garden is showcasing the paintings, drawings, and famously rotund sculptures of the Colombian artist Fernando Botero, who died in September at the age of 91.

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Kangaroo Island, Australia

For wildlife lovers

Average temp: 77ºF high, 55ºF low

Two fur seals on the beach, Kangaroo Island, South Australia
Image: Marc Dozier/Getty Images

Roughly the same size as New York’s Long Island, this spot off the coast of Adelaide is home to an outrageous assortment of fauna, including wallabies, koalas, echidnas, and of course its eponymous hopping marsupial. In fact, some even call it Australia’s Galápagos. Summer—December to February—is a particularly popular time to visit, when fur seal breeding season means you’ll often see these massive beasts battling for territory from viewing platforms like Admirals Arch in Flinders Chase National Park.

Flinders Chase was devastated by the bushfires that raged during the summer of 2019–2020 and that also destroyed the iconic Southern Ocean Lodge, which reopened in December after a roughly $35 million investment. Built on and around limestone cliffs overlooking the dramatic southern shore (the next stop if you head due south is Antarctica!), the reborn lodge features a spa with Australian-made products, a heated infinity pool, and a sprawling great room centered around a suspended fireplace. If you want to spend time on the beach, head to the island’s calmer northern shore, where you’ll find Stokes Bay, where you can explore peaceful rock pools and spot dolphins from the shore.

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For cocktail connoisseurs

Average temp: 59ºF high, 48ºF low

Aerial view of Barcelona Cathedral, at dusk, in Barcelona, Spain
Image: Pol Albarrán/Getty Images

While many celebrate the new year by trying out “dry January,” colder months can be a great time to cozy up in a cocktail lounge—and they may be emptier than usual thanks to that proliferation of temporary teetotalers. In recent years, the Catalonian capital has emerged as a mixology hotspot, boasting two of the top five entries on this year’s World’s 50 Best Bars list. Number four is Paradiso, a Gaudí-inspired bar hidden behind a refrigerator door inside a pastrami deli, where cocktails include ingredients like mushrooms, miso-infused chocolate, and Brazilian “electric flowers,” which make your mouth tingle. Topping out the list this year is Sips Barcelona, where your drink might come served under a crown of smoked-filled bubbles or in a pair of cupped metal hands, and there’s even a bar-within-a-bar called Esencia serving a drinks tasting menu. For something more classic, consider the art deco Boadas Cocktails, which was founded in 1933 by a Cuban-born barman Miguel Boadas, who cut his teeth at Havana’s iconic La Floridita bar.

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Montgomery, AL

For U.S. history buffs

Average temp: 58ºF high, 36ºF low

Exterior view of The Legacy Museum, in Montgomery, Alabama
The Legacy Museum
Image: Jacqueline Nix/Getty Images

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday with a visit to the Alabama capital, where the Nobel Peace Prize–winning activist lived, preached, and led his nonviolent revolution. Among the sites you can visit related to his life here are the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where he served as pastor from 1954 to 1960, and his adjacent residence, which was turned into the Dexter Parsonage Museum. Elsewhere, the Freedom Rides Museum occupies the city’s former bus station and tells the story of the fight for desegregation, while the Rosa Parks Library and Museum is located on the site of her infamous arrest.

Among the newer additions to the city are the sobering National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opened in 2018 and features 805 hanging steel rectangles—one for each of the counties around the United States where a lynching has been documented. To learn more context, pair the emotional memorial with a visit to the Legacy Museum, which was built near the site of one of America’s biggest slave auctions.

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Battambang, Cambodia

For major foodies

Average temp: 89ºF high, 70ºF low

Lunch at Coconut Lyly Cooking School, in Battambang, Cambodia
Coconut Lyly Cooking School
Image: AlexGalax/Tripadvisor

In fall 2023, UNESCO added 55 destinations to its Creative Cities Network, including the first in Cambodia, Battambang, which was named a city of gastronomy. If you follow UNESCO’s advice and come for an eating adventure, you’ll be sampling local specialties like krolan (sticky rice cooked in bamboo tubes), prahok (fermented fish paste), and nem (raw spiced fish wrapped in banana leaves). Learn skills from area chefs with a cooking class at restaurants and culinary schools like Nary Kitchen, Coconut LyLy Cooking School, or Smokin’ Pot, where you’ll be cooking with funky fish sauces and kampot pepper.

Beyond its delicious dishes, Battambang is known for having some of the country’s best-preserved French colonial architecture and ancient temples like Wat Ek Phnom, which dates back to the 11th century and gets a fraction of the visitors of Angkor Wat. Note, Cambodia is hot and humid year-round, so you’ll welcome the slightly cooler temperatures of January when you’re out trying street food or visiting local village markets.

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For beach bums

Average temp: 75ºF high, 58ºF low

Beach views at Jumeirah Mina a Salam, in Dubai
Jumeirah Mina a Salam
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Dubai’s scorching triple-digit temperatures cool off significantly during the winter high season, and the Persian Gulf follows suit: While it can be bathtub-warm in the summer, the water at the beach cools off to the refreshing 70s by January.

New beach resorts are popping up around the United Arab Emirates every day, but if you want to combine Arabian culture with feet-in-the-sand time, consider Jumeirah Mina A’Salam; it’s part of the waterfront 99-acre Madinat Jumeirah development, where architecture draws on the motifs of historic bazaars, forts, and fishing villages, and you can scoot around the network of canals and lagoons on stripe-topped abra boats. With iconic sister property Burj Al Arab as a backdrop, dine in style at Shimmers or Summersalt Beach Club, visit the rescued reptiles at the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project (housed at neighboring Jumeirah Al Naseem), or hit up some appropriately futuristic water sports, with water-powered hoverboards, jetpacks, and Jetovators, a.k.a. water-propelled flying bikes.

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Breckenridge, CO

For eco-conscious snow bunnies

Average temp: 31ºF high, 19ºF low

Family walking through snow on main street of Breckenridge, Colorado

The new year is a great time to hit Colorado ski towns, when the powder is reliable and the holiday crowds have waned. If you visit this month, you can also watch artists hand-carve 25-ton blocks of snow into enormous artworks as part of the International Snow Sculpture Championships.

While you’re in town, embrace Breck’s environmentally-friendly ethos: Consider going car-free with one of the many shuttles from Denver, and then use the city’s Electric Vehicle Car Share program to get around. Switch from four wheels to two heels as you check out the public art at the Riverwalk Center, which includes a massive troll by Danish artist Thomas Dambo made from recycled materials and an upcycled steel robot named “Toro” by sculptor Fred Zietz.

There are also plenty of sustainability-minded shops for winter gear and more, including Folcland, Mountain Goat Clothing Co., and Outsider. Among the cooler green lodging options in town is Gravity Haus, where rooms are stocked with eco-friendly products and the onsite restaurant, Cabin Juice, sources from small local farms in the Front Range and Western Slope.

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Nicholas DeRenzo
Nicholas DeRenzo is a freelance travel and culture writer based in Brooklyn. A graduate of NYU's Cultural Reporting and Criticism program, he worked as an editor at Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel and, most recently, as executive editor at Hemispheres, the in-flight magazine of United Airlines. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, New York, Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, Afar, BBC Travel, Wine Enthusiast, and more. Follow him on Instagram at @nderenzo to see his many, many pictures of birds.