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Great Winter Escapes

For many people, the only rational response to winter is to run away. Snow birds flee frigid temps for eternal summer destinations — Hawaii, the Caribbean, South Florida. Snow bunnies seek out chilly venues like Vail or Aspen. Those are all terrific places, and here are a few more.

St. Augustine, Florida

060927_CasaMonicaF.jpgFounded in 1565, St. Augustine is the nation’s oldest city. It’s rare among tourist destinations because it actually lives up to its marketing hype. The city’s enigmatic architecture reflects its Spanish origins, but there’s more to St. Augustine than eye candy. The city’s 43 miles of beaches will please sun worshippers, and there’s plenty of fishing, diving, surfing, parasailing, golf, and tennis to keep active types happily occupied.

Weather: Expect highs in the low 70s in November, upper 60s in December, with lows in the mid-50s, and mostly sunny skies.

To Do: Classic Florida-style tourist traps are fun here, so consider taking a ghost tour through the city at night, visiting the St. Augustine Alligator Farm or the Fountain of Youth park, where you can see the actual spot where Ponce de Leon did not discover the fabled age-defying spring. Three-century old Castillo de San Marcos National Monument is a relic of pre-Revolutionary America, and the Basilica Cathedral of St. Augustine dates from 1594.

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Stay: The Casa Monica ($299 and up, double) is a fabulously ornate Moorish Revival hotel, built in 1888 and restored in 1999, and the best lodging in town.

Dine: The Columbia Restaurant, in Old City, serves great Spanish and Cuban specialties (about $25 per person for dinner) in an old-world elegant dining room complete with fountains. Try the famous “1905” salad and the Arroz con Pollo Valenciana. Gypsy Cab serves what it describes as “urban cuisine” (about $25 per person for dinner). Begin with black-bean soup and end with the Key lime pie.

Naples, Italy

060927_GrandHotelVesuvio.jpgNaples is spirited, intense, warm, rowdy, loud, and occasionally rather insane. Take a walk down Spaccanapoli, the street that runs through the heart of the city, and let your senses be bombarded by blaring horns, screeching kids, shrieking women, and everyone arguing loudly, or ardently reconciling, sometimes simultaneously.

Weather: Daytime temperatures hover in the low 60s in November and December, the mid-50s in January, and dip into the mid-40s at night. November can be rainy, but storms usually move through quickly.

To Do: Tour “Il Centro Antico,” the Old Quarter, and walk along the Via Duomo to visit the 13th-century Cathedral dedicated to San Gennaro, the city’s patron saint. Clubs and galleries open and close at dizzying speed here, ask about the latest and greatest at your hotel. Pompeii is an easy journey from Naples, as is Herculaneum, Pompeii’s better-preserved sister city.

To Stay: The classic Grande Hotel Vesuvio’s exterior is dull but the guest rooms are terrific. Get one with a view of the bay (doubles start at $218 if you book online, but rates vary widely according to dates booked). Hotel Il Convento is nicer than its vividly named next-door neighbor — the Convent of Maria Francesca with the Five Sores — might lead you to believe. It’s close to everything, offers excellent accommodations with doubles starting at $100 per night.

Dine: Grab a slice of pizza at Naples’ oldest pizzeria, L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele (Via Sersale 1; closed Sun., near the train station). Pizza and a soft drink or beer costs under $10 per person. For more formal meals, try the Caruso Roof Garden Restaurant in the Grande Hotel Vesuvio (main courses $21-$33). Begin with the fettuccine Caruso, and hope that pezzogna, a delicate white fish found only in the Bay of Naples, is also on the menu.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

060927_JacksonHoleMountainResortF.jpgNot too long ago, this was a quiet western town. Now it’s a magnet for the super rich, ski bums, celebrities, and regular folk. The vibe is casual, and the scenery stunning — Grand Teton National Park lies within the Jackson Hole mountain valley. Most come to ski, but there’s plenty of nightlife, shopping, and dining options.

Weather: Late November-April, expect snow storms interspersed with sunny days. Temperatures hover near freezing by day, dropping considerably overnight, sometimes way below zero.

To Do: There are three ski centers in town: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Grand Targhee Resort, and Snow King Resort. Rendezvous Peak, at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, has the largest vertical rise (4,139 feet). Grand Targhee is famous for its powder snow, and Snow King Resort offers the valley’s only nighttime skiing. Snowmobiling, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, dog sledding, winter wildlife safaris, and other activities are easily booked through local hotels or online before your arrival.

Stay: Alpenhof Lodge ($92-$238 double) sits 50 yards from the ski resort tram and offers comfortable rooms, excellent service, and an old-world flavor.

Dine: Snake River Grill (Main courses $20-$40) is known for fresh fish and game, and there’s good pizza and pasta for vegetarians. Mangy Moose (main courses $11-$26) is a crowded, popular place that serves buffalo meatloaf, steaks, seafood, and pasta.

Saalbach, Austria

060927_SaalbachF.jpg Saalbach is a busy summer and winter resort town 40 miles from Salzburg and 248 miles southwest of Vienna. Saalbach and neighboring town Hinterglemm are among Europe’s liveliest ski resorts, so lively you don’t even have to ski to have fun here.

Weather: Cold and sunny. Temperatures are in the low double digits (Fahrenheit) and occasionally dip into single digits from late November to late March.

To Do: There are more than 125 miles of ski trails for intermediate level skiers and a two-mile long experts-only descent. Snowmobiling, snow-shoeing, tobogganing, ice-climbing and snow-hiking are popular activities. Nightlife is lively — check out the scene at the Goasstall (The Goat House), where live and artificial goats occasionally join revelers on the dance floor as fake snow and glitter cascades from the ceiling.

Stay: Hotel Ingonda ($108-$163 per person double) is just a few minutes’ walk from the village’s ski lifts. Rooms are clean and cozy and each has a balcony. The Alpenhotel ($214-$343 double) is equally charming. Ask for a room with a private balcony.

Dine: The Hinterhagalm (top of the Turm T-bar) serves après-ski tea at 5 p.m., and in the evening offers traditional Austrian dishes ($15-20 for main courses), mostly stick-to-your-ribs pork and sausage dishes. Should you crave large slabs of red meat, Hotel Sonne serves hearty steak dinners ($15-20 for main courses).

Michelle Delio

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