Winter is just around the corner, so it’s time to start planning your first trip of 2016. From the peaks of the Alps to the beaches of Hawaii, there’s no shortage of exciting destinations to hit in the coming months. Whether you’re looking for a warm-weather escape or the ski trip of a lifetime, you’ll find inspiration on our list of the top destinations to visit this winter. —Michael Alan Connelly
Get ready to be enchanted by this cosmopolitan Caribbean island, where you can enjoy French gastronomy, shop for goods made by Chanel and Limoges, spend your days on white-sand beaches or in tropical rainforests, and stay up late in the nightclubs of Fort-de-France. American Airlines launched a Miami–Martinique route in April 2013, but it’s now easier than ever for East Coasters to make the trip thanks to Norwegian Airlines’ just-launched service between the island and New York City (three times a week), and twice-weekly flights from Boston and Baltimore. This is the first time Martinique has been accessible from the Northeast in more than two decades, so take advantage of these new flight options before the word gets out.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Martinique Guide
Park City, Utah
The state of Utah is the #1 destination on Fodor’s Go List 2016, in no small part because of big developments in this former silver-mining town. This season marks the debut of the new Park City ski resort, a combination of the former Park City Mountain Resort with neighboring Canyons, making it the largest ski resort in the United States with 7,300 skiable acres. Part of the resort opened on November 21, but the final steps of the $50 million plan—including the Quicksilver Gondola, which connects PCMR and Canyons—will not be complete until the week of Christmas. Aside from skiing, Park City heats up every winter during the Sundance Film Festival (January 21–31, 2016) when Hollywood takes over for a week and a half. If you’re attending for the first time, be sure to read 10 Do’s and Don’ts for Your First Sundance Film Festival.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Park City Guide
Punta del Este, Uruguay
Feeling flashy this winter? Then head to this glitzy seaside escape, essentially the Hamptons of South America, where the active nightlife scene includes parties that keep going past sunrise. Clubbing aside, the beaches are the main draw for both summering families and the celebrity jet set, whether they want to swim, surf, or simply see and be seen. Punta is a popular New Year’s Eve destination, and the start of January signals the arrival of the high season here, when the beaches swell with visitors. If you prefer a quieter experience, head to Punta in March, when the weather is still warm but the crowds are thinner.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Punta del Este Guide
Miami is a year-round destination, but there’s a reason it’s so popular in winter: The weather is just about perfect every day. On top of that, there are special events and festival seemingly every weekend. Upcoming highlights include Art Deco Weekend (January 15–17, 2016); the South Beach Wine & Food Festival (February 24–28, 2016), which gets bigger and better every year; and the Ultra Music Festival (March 18–20, 2016), which draws electronic-music acts and fans from around the world. If you go, there are plenty of new hotels to stay at, and you have to check out our ten favorite buildings in the Art Deco District.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Miami Guide
San Juan, Puerto Rico
With average temperatures ranging from 72–83 degrees in winter, the capital of Puerto Rico offers a perfect escape from snow and cold—and you don’t even have to bring your passport! You may associate the city with the colonial streets of Old San Juan, but this is a major metropolis with well over a million residents. The city captivates residents and visitors alike with its vibrant lifestyle as well as its pulsing nightclubs, globe-spanning restaurants, and world-class museums. The beaches of San Juan offer waves for surfers and calm waters for families, and there are many culinary delights for food lovers to enjoy. Once you set foot in this city, you may never want to leave.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s San Juan Guide
Lake Louise Ski Resort, Banff National Park
Have you ever skied in a UNESCO World Heritage Site? That’s precisely what you can do at Lake Louise Ski Resort, located inside stunning Banff National Park. Voted Canada’s best ski resort at the 2015 World Ski Awards, this charming resort has beautiful views and one of the world’s best mountain-resort hotels, the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. None of this is new, so why go now? Earlier this year, Parks Canada approved massive (and controversial) expansion plans for the resort, which will nearly double the daily skier capacity, from 6,000 to 11,500, in coming years. All of which is to say this could be the last winter to enjoy Lake Louise in its current, pristine form.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Banff National Park Guide
With no traffic lights or crowds, this small Hawaiian island offers a blissful retreat from the modern world—but big changes are in store for Lanai. In 2012, Oracle cofounder Larry Ellison purchased a 97% stake in the island for $300 million; now, four years later, his vision for the Pineapple Island is coming to fruition. Following a multi-million dollar transformation, Four Seasons Resort Lanai will begin welcoming guests again in February, with reservations available starting March 1. (For most of 2016, the property is offering guests a free fourth night.) Meanwhile, Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele will also reopen to the public; it’s been closed since the summer to house the crew renovating the other property. If you choose to go before the resorts open, you’ll have one lodging option, Hotel Lanai, but no matter when you go you’ll feel like you essentially have the island to yourself.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Lanai Guide
Les Trois Valleés, France
If you want the best skiing in the world, look no further than Les Trois Valleés (The Three Valleys) in the French Alps. Widely considered to be one of the world’s best ski resorts (if not the best), Val Thorens is Europe’s highest resort (7,546 feet) and equally renowned for its slope and après-ski scene. If you go, you can book an all-inclusive package at the new Club Med Val Thorens Sensations, which will save you the hassle of buying lift tickets, equipment rentals, and meals separately. Elsewhere in Les Trois Valleés, you can visit upscale Courchevel, home to more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other ski resort. For something less flashy, consider Méribel, which feels tucked away in the forest and is undoubtedly one of the Alps’ most gorgeous resorts.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Lyon and the Alps Guide
If the Middle East is calling you, skip the overdevelopment of Dubai and Abu Dhabi for the comparatively understated pleasures of this unexplored country on the Arabian Peninsula. Oman is home to stunning beaches, isolated deserts, and opulent spas and hotels—what’s not to like? Because it remains under the radar, the number of tourists isn’t overwhelming here, and in winter you’ll be able to enjoy a temperate, almost Mediterranean climate, with sunny days and chilly evenings. The country's first luxury eco-resort, Alila Jabal Akhdar, opened in 2014, and both Four Seasons and Aman have plans to open there soon.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Oman Guide
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
If you want to enjoy the beauty of the national parks without the crowds, consider visiting between January and March. The otherworldly rock formations of Bryce Canyon draw more than one million visitors every year, most of whom come in droves every season except winter. However, the hoodoos—iconic red rock spires—look the most dramatic when topped by a heap of snow. Expect a chill, though the park's daytime temperature rarely drops below freezing thanks to its desert location. Winter’s crisp, dry air makes stargazing particularly vivid here, and the park offers free ranger-guided full moon snowshoe hikes and winter astronomy sessions. Unlike Utah's other national parks, Bryce Canyon receives plenty of snow, making it a popular cross-country ski area as well.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Bryce Canyon National Park Guide