Getaways help beat winter blues


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Now that it's officially winter, it's time to turn your attention to how to beat the slushy blahs. With that in mind, here are vacation ideas for how to beat those blues.

1. The first name in family fun across the globe is Disney ... well, technically the last name, but you get the idea. Since Walt Disney opened his original park, Disneyland, in Anaheim, Calif., in 1955, kids of all ages have come to associate his company's parks with fun. With locations on both coasts (as well as ones just outside Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai for the more adventurous) people have flocked to Disneyland and Disney World, in Orlando, Fla., for decades. And there may be no better time to go than the winter when both parks are still warm, but crowd levels are dramatically lower than in the summer months.

2. Another pair of typical summertime destinations that are equally as good in the winter months are Washington, D.C., and New York City. Both our nation's capital and its premier city have year-round activities to keep visitors entertained. Although most people think of the tourist season for both as being the summer months, the list of museums, historic attractions and icons of American life stay open year-round and are often free or open for a small donation. Add to that the ice rink in Rockefeller Center in New York or the decrease in crowds at the Smithsonian Museums in Washington, and you have an ideal time to go.

3. Ask most Americans what places come to mind when you mention U.S. beaches, and they will undoubtedly name spots in Florida or California. A little further off the radar, but no less American, are a couple of often-overlooked Caribbean spots.

Puerto Rico sits perfectly in the tropics, offering a Spanish colonial heritage of movie-quality forts and settlements, a mix of cuisines and cultures, and mile after mile of pillowy beaches. No passport, English spoken and U.S. dollars used

The U.S. Virgin Islands, not far off Puerto Rico's eastern shores, are another passport-free Caribbean destination. The U.S. Virgin Islands belonged to Denmark until the U.S. acquired them in 1916, giving travelers a slightly different feel than they can find elsewhere in the Caribbean.

4. If skiing is your thing, a pair of resorts in each half of the country should fit the bill nicely.

Snowshoe, W.Va., is within a day's drive of most of the eastern United States and features 60 trails serviced by 14 lifts. Although the town of Snowshoe has less than 200 residents, the resort itself sees close to a half-million visitors each season.

Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico is a familiar option for people in the western part of the nation. Although designed with an eye on the more experienced skier (more than half of its terrain is considered expert), the sheer size of the resort area means ample opportunities for less-advanced skiers. Another advantage of the resort area is its proximity to the town of Taos, with its restaurants, galleries and nightlife.

5. For those looking for some pampering, a visit to a spa resort can be just the thing.

The Grove Park Inn, in Asheville, N.C., will celebrate a century of pampering guests in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in 2013. In fact, it has been rated as a top-15 spa destination in worldwide surveys.

The Travaasa Spa in Austin, Texas, bills itself as an "experiential" resort. In addition to the traditional spa services, it also offers mechanical bull riding, harmonica lessons, cooking classes and ropes courses.

6. Try a singles destination. Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Mexico, have long been destinations for singles looking to let their hair down and take a walk on the wild side, but now the resort area just to the south is starting to open up and offer new experiences. The Xel-Ha park in the area offers the unique experience of floating on an inner tube through a cenote, or cave, while the beaches in the area are far less crowded, and far less couples or family visited, making the setting right for singles.

7. Gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. From Jan. 17-20, Las Vegas will once again play host to the Sin City Shootout, billed as the largest LGBT sporting event in the world. What started out as a softball tournament in Los Angeles has grown now to where over 6,000 athletes are expected to attend and compete in 12 events, including softball, dodge ball, hockey and weightlifting. In addition to the sporting competitions, there are official parties, a host hotel and the variety of offerings that only Las Vegas can bring.

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