Making Santa’s “nice” list this holiday season merits a reward. And for the travelers in your life, there’s no shiny package quite like the gift of getting away — whether that’s for a quick weekend escape or a longer vacation.
Read on for destination inspiration to surprise the explorers on your holiday shopping list with the perfect getaway, no matter what their interests.
New York City for Fashionistas
For the shopaholic on your list, post-holiday sales abound at almost every big-brand department store (think Bloomingdale’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor and the like) in New York City.
In addition to mainstream shopping corridors in SoHo, along Madison Avenue and around Union Square, mix in sprees in Brooklyn boutiques in the neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Park Slope to land more unique finds.
And don’t pass up a retail whirl through Chinatown for cool tchotchkes, medicinal herbs and jade jewels. If there are fashionistas in your life, New York City is the spot to send them to indulge
Orlando for Families
Not only are there ample theme park attractions for families to enjoy in Orlando, but there’s Central Florida’s year-round balmy weather and nature parks, too, like the canoeing and kayaking paradise of Wekiwa Springs State Park.
Over at Disney Springs, there’s no admission price to catch Santa along the Christmas Tree Trail, complete with festive trees, holiday music and falling snow.
And don’t miss the best frozen holiday season fun at Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, where the annual ICE! extravaganza thrills all ages with two million pounds of carved ice that includes interactive ice sculptures and two-story icy slides you can fly down.
Downtown Orlando gets decked out for the season, too, with light displays and Santa sightings around the city’s centerpiece lake at Lake Eola Park. And this is also where you’ll find the weekly, year-round Orlando Farmers Market every Sunday, with its fine selection of crafts and produce and lively beer and wine garden.
Hawaii for Outdoorsy Types
The outdoorsy person on your holiday list will delight with a trip to Hawaii, where staggering volcanic landscapes and tropical backdrops meet the ocean and outdoor adventures abound.
Hawaii’s second largest island, Maui, which stretches around 50 miles long, offers a taste of everything you’ve come for in an easy-to-navigate package.
On the island’s west shore, Kaanapali Beach is the site of a daily cliff-diving spectacle that’s a sunset must. And along Maui’s sunny Kihei Coast, to the south, you can break out a surf board at white sand surf beaches like the pretty stretch at Kalama Beach Park, which is ideal for beginners.
Active adventurers should lace up their hiking boot to dive into the otherworldly landscapes at Haleakala National Park Maui, where you can hike the stark landscapes of a dormant volcanic crater, dip into a sub-tropical rain forest, chase waterfalls and scout for Hawaii’s state bird, the endemic Nene goose.
Up for a road trip? Ogle the exotic black sand beach at Waianapanapa, right off the 65-mile-long scenic Hana Highway within Waianapanapa State Park.
Chicago for Art Lovers
Bundle up and get set to be wowed when you plan an art-centric winter trip to the Windy City. From world-class museums like the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago to the National Museum of Mexican Art, which features one of the largest collections in the country dedicated to works by Mexican artists, the city is made for art lovers.
There are smaller galleries to explore, too, such as the Rhona Hoffman Gallery, where emerging artists get the spotlight. And see if you feel the creative vibrations at “the Vortex,” just behind the cutting-edge Mars Gallery in the West Loop, where artists have tagged an outdoor area allegedly located atop an energy vortex with spray paint and diamond dust.
Seattle for Hipsters
Cold brew fanatics, craft brew aficionados and every bespoke-cocktail-loving kid in between will find surprises in Seattle, the nation’s current hipster hotbed. The downtown waterfront neighborhood of Belltown is a good spot to mingle like a local while sipping a Prohibition-era craft cocktail at Bathtub Gin & Co., secreted away in an apartment building’s basement.
With its abundance of farmers markets, cool boutiques, indie coffee shops and microbreweries, the historic Scandinavian neighborhood of Ballard delivers big on the hipster scale, too.
Don’t miss popping into unique bars like the chandelier and velvet-curtain dominated Hazlewood and the more casual pub-style Noble Fir, known for its range of PNW craft beers and ciders.
Boston for History Lovers
There’s no need to love all things historical in order to love Boston. But if your gift recipient happens to have a penchant for Colonials, she’ll appreciate a trip to this vibrant center of American history and culture.
Boston City Walks runs two-hour guided tours along the downtown Freedom Trail to Copley Square, taking in the elegant mansions of Beacon Hill, the city’s lovely Public Garden park and Newbury Street, where the Boston Marathon finishes.
When you work up an appetite, head to one of the oldest operating restaurants in the U.S., the iconic Union Oyster House. A National Historic Landmark that’s been dishing up to diners since 1826, it’s known for New England seafood specialties such as clam and fish chowders and cold seafood platters piled with shucked oysters, cherrystone clams and shrimp.
And for a beloved Boston wintertime outing, put on the layers for alfresco ice skating at the Boston Common Frog Pond, set within the oldest public city park in the U.S.
Dallas for a Couples Escape
Sure, you could splurge on something fancy for the closet or jewelry box. But the gift of navigating a new city together produces a different spark for traveling couples. And Dallas, it turns out, does romance in spades.
Start with a Texas take on Venice during a romantic private gondola ride timed with the sunset on Mandalay Canal and Lake Carolyn, northwest of downtown. And get transported to Europe with dinner a deux in the rococo surrounds of The French Room, where the seasonal tasting menus focus on French culinary traditions and locally sourced ingredients.
During the holiday season, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden twinkles with lights as it’s transformed into a winter wonderland you can stroll through on a .75-mile-long trail.
Toronto for Urban Adventurers
With fabulous ethnic restaurants, a gorgeous lakefront setting and hipster hangouts galore, Toronto is prime for urban adventuring — with a Canadian twist, of course.
Start your explorations on the pleasantly walkable Queen Street and the Queen West neighborhood, where you can visit Cambie Design to shop for beautiful Latin American textiles, including plush wool blankets from Peru made with an alpaca wool blend. Or head to The Cure Apothecary for all-natural skincare and beauty products, including many that are made in Canada.
And east on Queen Street at Terroni, imported Italian groceries are for sale, and you can enjoy delicious thin-crust pizzas topped with treats like Italian mascarpone and house-smoked salmon.
Toronto’s historic Distillery District is another fun neighborhood to roam, with murals, galleries and a great little French restaurant called Cluny Bistro. And for a true winter urban adventure, follow the lead of the locals with a few spins around the lovely Harbourfront Centre Natrel Rink, the city’s most scenic ice skating rink, which hugs the shores of Lake Ontario.