(Away from) Home for the Holidays

These four destinations provide a welcome dose of holiday cheer.

The last place most Road Warriors want to be for the holidays is on the road. Unless, that is, getting on a plane means avoiding yet another yuletide visit from Uncle Charlie, or having the chance to visit a place that you would never get to see otherwise. Here are four of our favorite get-away-from-it-all destinations guaranteed to provide a welcome dose of holiday cheer.

Destination Ho-Ho-Ho Stocking Stuffer Lump of Coal
Telluride, Colorado
What could be more festive than celebrating the holidays in this gorgeous canyon town? In addition to fabulous skiing, this rustic mountain village has tons of shops — and the occasional celebrity. Telluride abounds with holiday spirit. From December 20 through 24, Santa cruises the slopes. On Christmas Eve, you can stroll through downtown and watch hundreds of skiers descend with torches. Crowds. Even though Telluride is more of a true getaway than Vail and Aspen, Christmas is not exactly the most original time to plan a ski trip. Making reservations can be a chore.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver offers a refreshing blend of British-influenced culture and pure West Coast attitude. Plus, it is surrounded by snowcapped mountains and situated by lovely Vancouver Harbor. Board the M/V Queen of Diamonds for a Christmas cruise. You’ll enjoy a visit from Santa, caroling, a roast-beef dinner — and if your timing is right, you’ll witness the Carol Ship Parade of Lights. The weather isn’t exactly at its prime in late December. Like Seattle, its neighbor to the south, Vancouver can be rainy. And windy. And chilly.
Belize’s Cayo District
If getting together with your family feels like a visit to the zoo, why not go for the real deal — with an ecotour of Belize? Maya Mountain Lodge & Tours offers packages for both Christmas and the New Year. If just the chance to escape to a tropical paradise isn’t enough, consider this: While your friends are sitting at home watching Dick Clark, you can welcome Y2K atop a Mayan temple. Some of us need the familiar smell of pine needles and the taste of eggnog to enjoy the holidays. If that’s you, you might prefer to tour Belize in the spring.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Christmas in New Orleans blends several traditions: Santa is called Papa Noel, you’ll hear zydeco as well as traditional carols, and pecan pie is the locals’ version of figgy pudding. Two New Orleans traditions can’t be missed: Christmas Eve bonfires by the Mississippi and the Celebration in the Oaks at historic City Park, which is transformed into a winter wonderland. If you’re looking for all-out relaxation, New Orleans might not be the place for you. Christmas-tree lights aren’t the only things that get lit on Bourbon Street.