10 Places to Go in February to Beat the Winter Blues

Go Global By Timothy Nelson January 10, 2017

February is a cold, drab time of year. Even if Groundhog Day brings good news, you’re probably still itching to head somewhere warmer or more exciting. Whether you’re looking to impress your partner with extra-special Valentine’s Day plans, cure your winter blues with a beach trip, or just get a new stamp on your passport, our list of the best places to travel in February is exactly the inspiration you need.

Island Oases

Boracay, Philippines

Boracay sail boats

Travel publications praise this tiny Filipino island for its tranquil vibe, but don’t let that fool you: Boracay packs more excitement into its 10.3 square kilometers than just about anywhere else in the world.

Perfect for: A relaxing island adventure without flocks of tourists

Average February weather: 75-84 degrees, 12 days of rainfall

What to do:

• Hit the high seas like a local on a Paraw, a double-sailed outrigger boat exclusive to this area of the Philippines
• Stroll the four kilometers of White Beach, or dip your toes into the sand at any of the other dozen beaches that make Boracay one of the most relaxing places on earth
• Take the plunge at Ariel’s Point, where cliff divers leap from platforms ranging in height from 3 to 15 meters
• Survey the beauty of Boracay from the skies by parasail
• After the sun sets, grab a drink from one of White Beach’s bars and watch fire dancers dazzle the crowds that assemble along the shoreline

Viti Levu, Fiji

Fijan beach

If you’ve ever felt that Fiji’s postcard-perfect scenery is inaccessibly expensive, visiting its main island of Viti Levu during the February offseason will prove you wrong. Some of the area’s attractions are a bit spread out, but that gives you an excuse to see as much of its natural brilliance as possible.

Perfect for: Crossing a trip to paradise off of your bucket list

Average February Weather: 73-84 degrees, 18 days of rainfall

What to do:

• Dive beneath the waves off the coast of Rakiraki, where bright coral reefs, underwater canyons, and shipwrecks await
• Cap off your beach day riding horses through the sand of Natadola at sunset
• Trek through Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park, an ecological preserve where shifting sands hide anthropological relics that date back more than 2,600 years
• Raft your way down the fast-flowing waters of the Navua River, a heart-pounding pathway through Fiji’s canyons and around its waterfalls
• Cake yourself in mud and take a warm dip at the Sabeto Valley Mud Pool and Thermal Springs in Nadi 

Destinations worth celebrating

Beijing, China

Great Wall of China winter

Even though the lunar calendar means that Chinese New Year sometimes starts in late January, you can be sure that Beijing will offer a jubilant atmosphere for the full 15 days. Smaller shops and local haunts will likely shut down, but the spontaneous celebrations you’ll come across more than make up for it.

Perfect for: Celebrating Chinese New Year like never before
Average February weather: 22-41 degrees, two days of precipitation

What to do:

• Join throngs of New Years revelers at the Ditan Park Temple Fair, a popular marketplace, performance space and shrine, or head to the Old Summer Palace for a more regal Spring Festival celebration
• Journey just 40 miles outside of Beijing to walk the fully-restored Mutianyu section of the Great Wall
• Stay out late to watch locals light up the night with spontaneous firework displays
• Unravel the mystery of the Ming Dynasty’s Forbidden City, then walk across infamous Tiananmen Square to the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong for a primer on more recent Chinese history
• See another side of Beijing at the sprawling 798 Art Zone, an abandoned factory turned exhibition space that features artwork from all over the world— including North Korea

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro

Why does Rio de Janeiro make the list? One word: Carnival. In the five days before Lent, flashy parade floats and sprightly samba dancers fill Rio’s streets with sound and color. It’s not the cheapest time to visit, but you can’t put a price on attending the world’s biggest party.

Perfect for: Dancing in the streets with thousands of new friends

Average February Weather: 74-86 degrees, 7 days of rainfall

What to do:

• Bounce around the blocos (themed neighborhood street celebrations) in Zona Sul before ending your night at an Impaneman beach party
• Grab a ticket to the big show at the Sambadrome, where rival “samba schools” perform carefully choreographed routines in front of 90,000 rowdy spectators
• Spread your arms and take a picture with Christ the Redeemer, the massive art deco monument that watches over Rio from its perch atop Corcovado
• Conquer one of the fifty beginner to expert rock climbing routes that lead up the granite faces of Sugarloaf Mountain, or ride a cable car for an easier way to enjoy the peak’s panoramic views
• Once the exuberance of Carnival fades, go on a favela tour for an up-close look at a segment of Brazilian society that’s often ignored by visitors

Exploring the Americas from Canada to Panama

Montreal, Canada

Montreal Quebec

Montreal might not be Paris, but once you’re surrounded by French speakers, fancy shops, and classical architecture, it’ll be hard to tell the difference. No matter the temperature, visiting Montreal with that special someone is sure to warm your heart.

Perfect for: An unforgettable Valentine’s Day getaway without the intercontinental inconvenience

Average February weather: 13-25 degrees, 13 days of precipitation

What to do:

• Window-shop your way down chic Rue Sherbrooke, or shelter from the cold amidst the high-end shops and below-ground passageways of Underground City
• Get cultured on a downtown museum crawl, traversing your way from the Musée d’Art Contemporain, to the Musée McCord, and finally the Musée des Beaux-Arts
• Carve your way down the 95 ski trails and 2,100 vertical feet of Mont-Tremblant, a doable day trip about 80 miles from Montreal
• Warm up with a pint at a trendy craft brewery like Dieu du Ciel, Cheval Blanc, or Benelux
• Lounge in a café, browse a bookstore, or catch some live music in Mile End, an artsy neighborhood where the air crackles with creative energy

Calgary, Canada

Downtown Calgary

Bordered by the Rockies to the west and prairie land to the east, Calgary is at the crossroads of Canada. Instead of heading straight from the airport to ski towns like Banff, stick around for a while and see what the “Stampede City” is all about.

Perfect for: Sightseeing and skiing in central Canada

Average February Weather: 12-33 degrees, 7 days of snowfall

What to do:

• Find out just how crazy Canadians are about their hockey at a Calgary Flames game
• Peruse the various exhibitions of the Glenbow Museum, covering everything from the tribal art of Canada’s First Nation peoples to modernist painting
• Spend an afternoon on the slopes of Canada Olympic Park, or head further out of town for more serious terrain at Mt. Norquay, Nakiska or Castle Mountain
• Relive the wilder days when Alberta’s largest city was little more than a frontier outpost when you visit Fort Calgary
• Make your way up to the Sky 360 restaurant and lounge inside the Calgary Tower to enjoy a lunch with a revolving view

Cancun, Mexico

Cancun underwater museum

Start with white sand beaches and perfect weather, then subtract January’s peak prices and March’s hordes of spring breakers. That’s the equation for a perfect February vacation in Cancun.

Perfect for: Relaxed fun both on the beach and beneath the waves

Average February Weather: 69-85 degrees, 6 days of rainfall

What to do:

• Relax on one of Cancun’s pristine public beaches like Playa Delfines or Playa Choc Mool
• Scuba your way through the MUSA (Underwater Museum of Art), where sea creatures comingle with an impressive display of more than 400 sunken sculptures
• Snorkel alongside the majestic whale shark, the largest species of shark on the planet
• Embark on a day trip to see the El Castillo pyramid at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, or explore nearby El Rey for a shorter excursion
• Cap off your trip with a visit to world-famous Coco Bongo Cancun, where acrobats, live bands and special effects combine for an unparalleled nightlife experience 

Panama City, Panama

Casco Viejo Panama

Just as it links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Panama City combines history and biology into one lively package. It’s year-round warm, dry weather makes February a perfect time to take it all in.

Perfect for: Seeing how Latin America’s past interacts with its present

Average February Weather: 65-94 degrees, 1 day of rainfall

What to do:

• Watch supertankers pass through the Miraflores lock of the Panama Canal, and then learn more about this feat of engineering at the Panama Interoceanic Canal Museum
• Prowl the ruins of Panama Viejo, the first Spanish settlement on the Pacific coast from 1519 until it was sacked in 1671
• Marvel at the wide variety of local flora and fauna on display at the Biomuseuo, which doubles as an exemplar of Frank Gehry’s arresting architectural style
• Amble around the historic Casco Viejo neighborhood, stopping to eat fresh-caught ceviche at the Mercado de Mariscos fish market or buy artisanal goods from one of the local galleries
• Feed the Tamarind and Capuchin monkeys that call the islands within nearby Lake Gatun home

Ski and skate your way through Europe

Chamonix, France

Chamonix Mont Blanc

Host of the first ever Winter Olympics back in 1924, snowy Chamonix remains the consummate
destination for jet-setting skiers. Whether you go to tackle some seriously challenging terrain or it’s
your first time on the bunny slope, the scenery and atmosphere of the Mont Blanc region is unbeatable.

Perfect for: Experiencing the Alps in the quintessential European ski town

Average February weather: 21-41 degrees, 12 days of precipitation

What to do:

• Bundle up and glide down the picturesque trails of the Chamonix Valley’s ten ski areas, ranging from the gentle, groomed runs of Le Brevent all the way up to the extreme, off-piste action at Vallee Blanche
• Bookend your ski day with a leisurely morning latté in one of Chamonix’s village cafés and a drink at one of the animated après ski bars along Avenue Michel Croz or Rue des Moulins
• If the weather’s not cooperating, duck into Le Musée Alpin, full of exhibits that herald the exploits of the mountaineers that put Chamonix on the map
• Walk through the glacial caverns of Grotto de Glace, complete with colorful lights and decorative ice sculptures
• “Step into the void” at the Aiguille du Midi skywalk, where an all-glass observation room is the only thing separating you from a sheer 1,035 meter drop

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Ice skating Amsterdam's canal

Winter in Europe isn’t always pleasant. But Amsterdam offers a unique way to make the most of it. If temperatures stay far enough below freezing for four straight nights, the city’s famous canals open up for ice skating. Even if the weather’s doesn’t cooperate, Amsterdam’s affordability in its offseason makes it the ideal starting point for your trip through Europe.

Perfect for: Seeing a European city that truly changes with the seasons

Average February Weather: 32-43 degrees, 10 days of precipitation

What to do:

• Glide down the canals if weather permits, or practice your speed skating skills on the 400 meters of the Jaap Eden outdoor ice rink
• Grab a cup of coffee and go for a winter promenade through Vondelpark, or enjoy the solitude of Begijnhof
• Take advantage of the smaller crowds in Amsterdam’s many museums, ranging from the comprehensive Rijksmuseum to the masterful works of Vincent Van Gogh in his eponymous museum
• Admire the opulence of Amsterdam’s Royal Palace (but be sure to check the schedule first)
• Pop into one of Amsterdam’s cozy “brown cafés” and soak up its 17th century ambience in addition to a local beer or some jenever