Travel

Six Gloriously Warm Ways to Escape a Sub-Zero Philly Winter

The average low temperature in Philly in January is 26 gray and miserable degrees. Solution? Follow these six strategies for being … well, almost anywhere but here.

Miami Beach | Photo: Jason Briscoe/UNSPLASH

1. Take a Direct Flight

Step on the plane at PHL. Step off in …

AUSTIN
Flight time: 3 hours, 18 minutes
Average January high temp: 62 degrees

Elevator Pitch: Hipster mecca with grown-up dining.
Stay: Check in to Lake Austin Spa Resort (they’ll even shuttle you by water taxi from the airport) and unwind with its transformative, water-based Ripple Effects wellness programming. You can float on a mat in the water while listening to a guided meditation.
Do: Stroll the grounds of Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum, the former private estate and art collection of sculptor Charles Umlauf; then have drinks and catch music at the Townsend, a dreamy bar and small performance venue. (Kathy Valentine of the Go-Go’s is a partner.)
Eat: Everything’s amazing at Clark’s Oyster Bar, particularly the super-sweet Basque cake; order avocado toast (with an egg on top) at Café No Sé; and try arguably the country’s best barbecue at Franklin Barbecue.

SCOTTSDALE
Flight time: 4 hours, 37 minutes
Average January high temp: 66 degrees

Elevator pitch: Breathtaking sunsets, delish food, and rarely a cloud in sight.
Stay: Four Seasons Troon North, with its casita-style buildings and cacti-dotted grounds, is the place to get all of the above — plus golf, a kids’ camp, a spa, and the chance to take a helicopter-and-bike tour of nearby Sedona’s wine country.
Do: Hike Pinnacle Peak. “The lush Sonoran Desert plants and rocky terrain are absolutely blissful,” says Troon North’s Jennifer Franklin.
Eat: Grab a prickly pear margarita at the resort’s Onyx Bar while watching the sunset from the outdoor terrace. Then settle in for dinner at Talavera, the resort’s signature restaurant.

MIAMI BEACH
Flight time: 2 hours, 21 minutes
Average January high temp: 74 degrees

Elevator pitch: Vibrant sunshine, vibrant art scene.
Stay: You’ll never go wrong with the Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour. But also consider the Faena Hotel Miami Beach. In the spirit of Miami’s pulsing art scene, the hotel, opened in 2015, is lined with works by Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Alberto Garutti and Juan Gatti. You can also escape to its spa, Tierra Santa Healing House.
Do: Lafayette Hill native Melissa Katz, a marketing and events exec who’s been living in Miami for two decades, recommends checking out the art at ICA and the newly renovated Bass Museum; ogle models at 2nd Street Beach; shop at Brickell City Centre, Webster and Bal Harbour Shops.
Eat: At Plant Miami, the dishes — all vegan — are veritable works of art; try the lasagna and the “cheese” plate. Then do a 180 and embrace Bourbon Steak, a rock-star-sexy spot with a signature flight of french fries and dipping sauces (instead of bread) and all organic meats.

PALM BEACH
Flight time: 2 hours, 14 minutes
Average January high temp: 75 degrees

Elevator pitch: Where God would spend the winter … if She had the bucks.
Stay: For more than a century, the Breakers has spelled luxury for Palm Beach-goers, but for those seeking an even more exclusive getaway, there’s Flagler Club, the Breakers’ boutique-hotel-within-the-hotel. After a $5 million renovation, the service-intensive club opened in 2015.
Do: Try the spa’s new Rose Quartz Massage, an 80-minute treatment given on a bed of warm alpha-quartz sand.
Eat: Reopened after a dramatic renovation last December, the resort’s iconic Seafood Bar offers the freshest catch in town (plus classic comfort food); the Aquarium Bar is perfect for lunch or cocktails.

TURKS AND CAICOS
Flight time: 3 hours, 2 minutes
Average January high temp: 80 degrees

Elevator pitch: Natural beauty, fresh seafood and balmy temps.
Stay: Turks and Caicos is #blessed with a range of ab-fab resorts, including Grace Bay Club, the Shore Club and the Palms. Amanyara, a sanctuary-like retreat that reopened post-storm in mid-December, offers the kind of indulgence you’ll spend the rest of your life picturing when you need to go to your mental happy place.
Do: Amanyara’s turtle-tagging adventure takes guests to the shallow waters of the Caicos Banks off the south coast of Middle and North Caicos, where you’ll see a ton of turtles and marine life. Under the guidance of Amanyara’s resident naturalist, you’ll learn how to catch, flipper-tag and release turtles in the wild.
Eat: Restaurants abound at each of the resorts, but don’t miss Amanyara’s casual Beach Club, with Latin American and Mediterranean food and cooking demos as well as tastings for rum and wine.

RIVIERA MAYA
Flight time: 3 hours, 26 minutes
Average January high temp: 82 degrees

Elevator pitch: Golf, cooking and romance.
Stay: The chic Banyan Tree Mayakoba is known for its Greg Norman-designed golf course and popular food, wine and golf festivals. It’s also incredibly romantic: Couples can book a breakfast or dinner aboard Ixchel, the resort’s traditional thatched-roof trajinera boat that cruises the local waterways while staffers serve you tapas.
Do: Sharpen your culinary skills at El Pueblito Cooking School. It’s an immersive culinary experience designed to introduce guests to a variety of one-day themed classes.
Eat: Check out Saffron, the signature Thai restaurant, and HAAB, an interactive sundown dining experience that takes you into the jungle.

CANCÚN
Flight time: 3 hours, 26 minutes
Average January high temp: 82 degrees

Elevator pitch: Beat Spring Break.
Stay: Forget Señor Frog’s: The lavish way to do Cancún is removed from the chaos of the hotel strip, at Nizuc. With its quiet beach and proximity to a natural reef, it’s ideal for guided water sports: paddle-boarding, yoga paddle-boarding, and snorkeling for all ages.
Do: Book the resort’s “Mexican Wine Journey,” a private session with the sommelier, who will open your eyes to the wines of the region. And ESPA, the 30,000-square-foot luxury spa, recently introduced a super-indulgent HydraFacial.
Eat: Eduardo Torres, the new chef at the resort’s signature restaurant, Ramona, turns out a delicious mix of modern Mexican fare with a French influence.

ARUBA
Flight time: 4 hours, 20 minutes
Average January high temp: 84 degrees

Elevator pitch: A near-perfect climate that works for families or singles.
Stay: The Ritz-Carlton Aruba opened in 2013 along the top of Palm Beach, far from the crowds and with easy access to kite- and wind-surfing. It’s got a phenomenal club level (with a weekend “create your own Bloody Mary” bar) and is extremely pet-friendly, says Tracy Federico of Avenue Two Travel in Villanova.
Eat: Casa Nonna, the NYC Italian restaurant, will debut its second outpost at the Ritz early this year; there’s also BLT Steak, plus Divi Bar & Lounge for the island’s best sushi.
Do: Relax at the spa; visit the island’s remote natural pool (or “conchi”) via a Jeep tour; check out the capital city of Oranjestad, with its Dutch Colonial architecture and boutique shopping. And just breathe.

GRAND CAYMAN

Flight time: 3 hours, 26 minutes
Average January high temp: 84 degrees

Elevator pitch: The perfect spot to celebrate a family milestone.
Stay: The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman offers Caribbean luxury — and in January (10th to 14th) will be hosting its 10th Annual Cayman Cookout, with celeb chefs including Anthony Bourdain, Eric Ripert and José Andrés. The resort also offers the largest luxury hotel suite configuration in the Caribbean — a nearly 20,000-square-foot penthouse with accommodations for 22 — making it the ultimate site for a family celebration.
Do: Swim with the stingrays, explore the mangroves, snorkel the reefs, visit the world’s only green sea turtle farm. There’s also a La Prairie Spa.
Eat: Blue, by Eric Ripert, is the Caribbean’s only AAA Five Diamond Restaurant.

Disney’s Magic Kingdom | Photo: Thomas Kelley/UNSPLASH

2. Do Disney Like a VIP

Mickey without the misery.

If the thought of dropping little Olivia’s Penn State tuition just to wait in endless lines of sweaty, Mickey-ear-clad humanity has kept you from making the Disney plunge, take heart: Now, the whole family really can have fun at Disney World.

CALL THE EXPERTS. Yes, you’re a grown-up with Internet access. But when it comes to Disney, there’s too much info online. Save yourself the agita and book through a travel agent. You could feasibly get the same room rates as a pro, but you won’t get the upgrades and access that an agent can score for you. Try Havertown’s 2 Dis Chicks with Ears of Experience, whose owners, Lauren Lieberman and Joanna Bistline, will take stock of your wish list and make it happen.

STAY AT THE FOUR SEASONS ORLANDO. The only five-diamond property in all of central Florida has a five-acre water park, a separate adults-only pool, a spa, an 18-hole golf course and — so clutch — a planning desk in the lobby, where a Disney cast member will happily tackle details of your theme-park visit. Another perk: You can watch Disney’s nightly can’t-miss fireworks without having to elbow your way to the best spot in the park. Just have dinner at Capa, the resort’s rooftop steakhouse restaurant, or book a park-view room and watch in your jammies.

SPLURGE ON THE PRIVATE VIP TOURS. It’s expensive — from $425 to $600 per hour — but if you team up with another family, it might hurt a little less: Your guide will have your group of up to 10 people skipping the stand-by lines and shepherded through special doors to avoid waits for treats like meet-and-greets with Anna and Elsa.

Photo: Claudia Gavin

3. Go on a Surprise Vacation

Feeling adventurous?

Even with all the advice in the world, travel planning can be a pain. Enter PA-based Pack Up + Go: Modeled on popular European “surprise travel agencies,” the company will book you a three-day destination-unknown getaway — including flights, accommodations, and recommended itineraries, all based on your interests. As your trip approaches, you’ll gradually find out more details — what to pack, what weather to expect, and where to be for your departure. The agency needs a minimum of four weeks’ notice — so fill out the online survey tonight with a special request for sunshine, and prepare to land someplace awesome come Presidents’ weekend.

Nekupe Sporting Resort and Retreat

4. Go Off the Grid

A Central American getaway.

The year-ish-old Nekupe Sporting Resort and Retreat, located on a 1,300-acre protected nature reserve in Nicaragua, is literally heaven on earth. (Nekupe means “heaven” in Chorotega, the indigenous language of a native tribe in Nicaragua.) Yes, you have to take a connection from Miami (to Managua, Nicaragua’s capital; from there, the resort will pick you up for a two-and-a-half-hour drive), but, says Meredith Broder, a South Jersey-based private luxury travel planner affiliated with Avenue Two Travel, “The rewards are definitely bestowed upon the traveler willing to brave a short connection.” In other words: Suck up the six-hour trip — it’s worth it. Situated amid a mountain landscape with views of a volcano and the jungle canopy, Nekupe is an eight-room all-inclusive property with horseback riding, biking, hiking, birdwatching, duck shooting, a ropes course, tennis, cigar and rum tastings, cooking classes and more. Rates start at $900 per night, or book the whole resort starting at $20,000 per night for up to 20 people.

5. Book a (Caribbean) Cruise

Forget shove-your-face buffets and poolside jazzercise: Craig Martin, president of Cruisin’ and Main Line Vacations in Wayne, says these cruise lines board fewer passengers, serve better meals, and avoid nickel-and-diming you by including it all.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Their newest and most luxurious ship, the Seven Seas Explorer, will sail through the Caribbean from Miami this winter. It boards 750 passengers, and all rooms are suites with balconies. (Psst: “It’s country-club casual—leave your tux and tiara at home,” says Martin.)

Silversea
Taking on fewer than 600 passengers, these smaller ships depart from Fort Lauderdale and San Juan. (Yes, this Puerto Rican airport is open; yes, you should rally behind it.) And stay tuned for Silversea’s brand-new flagship, Silver Muse, which will be sailing the Caribbean in March.

Seabourn Cruise Line
With seven- to 25-day Caribbean voyages scheduled through March, you and just 458 other passengers can experience on-board suites, wellness programming designed by Andrew Weil, and dining at the Grill, by famed French Laundry chef Thomas Keller.

Mukan Resort

6. Rethink All-Inclusive

A different kind of Mexican vacation.

“I hate the perception of the term ‘all-inclusive,'” says Meredith Broder, the Jersey-based private luxury travel planner. “It often generates preconceived ideas of mediocre buffets, cheap tequila and crowded swimming pools.” But Broder says there are exceptions, including Mukan Resort (formerly KanXuk). Opened last February, it’s about 20 miles south of Tulum, Mexico. The first eco-conscious luxury property in the Sian Ka’an nature reserve, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site (meaning: Even the U.N. recognizes it as exceptional). With views of crystal blue water and white sand, a spa, optional butler service, a cigar bar, a rooftop lounge, and the most eco-friendly energy systems, the resort offers guests a package that includes food, booze, yoga and fun. Cool fact: Mukan’s chairman and managing director, Jonathan S. Blue, is a Wharton grad.

First published as “Desperately Seeking Sun” in the January 2018 issue of Philadelphia magazine.