Winter is a great time to get out and explore, and not just to somewhere that doesn’t have winter. Many cities are vibrant, fascinating places to visit during the Northern Winter. Also, many of them offer off-season values, giving you a chance to experience a great hotel for a fraction of the price it would cost during the summer peak.
Hotel Alyeska—Girdwood, Alaska
Although the scenery is unbeatable, Girdwood offers winter temperatures milder than much of the Lower 48 and one of the only ski resorts in the world with the mountain base virtually at sea level—negating the effects of a vacation spent at unfamiliar altitude. Girdwood, 40 miles south of Anchorage, has yet to come into its own as a large inbound ski destination, catering mostly to local Alaskans during the winter ski season. What this means is a dearth of midweek skiers and hotel guests.
Midweek rates at the Alpine-inspired, Japanese-accented Hotel Alyeska are as much as 50% lower than weekends, and the resort even throws in the lift tickets for free. Indulge in the salt water pool, hot tub, and spa, go skating on the pond, ski Mount Alyeska, or just sit in front of the fire with a hot beverage.
The Palace Hotel—San Francisco, California
Winter is hardly the favored time of year to visit the City by the Bay. Still, leisure travelers can take advantage of discounted rates on weekends at the city’s finest luxury hotels for a fraction of what they would pay during other seasons of the year.
The Palace Hotel is well over a century old and still going strong. Just off a multi-million dollar refresh, guests can relax in the glass-ceilinged indoor pool and hot tub, take a beverage and listen to a live pianist in the iconic, elegant GC Lounge. Or, explore San Francisco with minimal walking due to the hotel’s central location to Union Square, the Financial District, those famous cable cars, and other San Francisco-area visitor draws.
The Ritz-Carlton—Washington, DC
The nation’s capital is another city that empties out on winter weekends. While a certain luxury hotel occupying a government-owned building may figure prominently in the news these days, guests seeking legendary, bespoke service and classic, understated elegance can seek refuge at the Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C. in the heart of the vibrant West End. The hotel recently unveiled a refresh of public areas and guest rooms in lighter, more modern tones, while still prominently featuring the brand’s signature blue.
For the full Presidential treatment, select a room with Ritz-Carlton Club access and prepared to be wowed. On a recent visit we were offered an entire bottle of cognac to take back to our room as a nightcap, and in during breakfast when a button came off a cardigan, it was whisked away and fixed by housekeeping before we’d finished our coffee.
Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt—Austin, TX
Even in the winter, booming Austin is a hot scene, particularly for visitors, which means hotel inventory can be rather limited. However, construction of new hotel properties is flooding the market with room inventory, particularly in the upper upscale and luxury hotel spaces. The Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt, located in high-energy Rainey Street, is designed as a testament to the singer/songwriter roots of the Texas capital, and it offers fantastic indoor-outdoor spaces for when the winter weather in Central Texas takes a turn for the mild.
The pool has a sound system installed so that high-energy pop transcends to soothing strains of a Bach cello concerto after diving into the water. The nightly beer and wine happy hour also takes on a Texas twist with the addition of margaritas. Feel like sipping on a cask-aged cocktail and writing some music? There’s a writers lounge near the bar with great views of the river.
Four Seasons—Chicago, IL
Chicago is the birthplace of the skyscraper, and rooms at the Four Seasons Chicago seem to pay homage to this fact. Of the building the hotel occupies, the lowest floor for guest rooms is the 30th floor, guaranteeing each room in the property sweeping views of the city skyline and Lake Michigan.
Chicago is a great city to visit during the less-trafficked winter, as well as a good chance to enjoy lower seasonal room rates and the hotel’s oft-lauded spa services and plunge pool surrounded by Roman columns and a domed glass ceiling. Want to avoid younger children? Swim late at night—it’s over-14s only from 9 to 11 each evening. When the weather gets nippy outside, there’s plenty else to entertain within the hotel—namely a museum-worth collection of paintings, photographs, glass, porcelain and other objets d’art for admiration. travelpulse.com