All Articles Where to travel in February

Where to travel in February

From total relaxation in Todos Santos, Mexico, to twilight skiing in Northern Idaho.

Nicholas DeRenzo
By Nicholas DeRenzoDec 19, 2023 8 minutes read
Skiing at Schweitzer at twilight
Skiing at Schweitzer at twilight
Image: Courtesy of Visit Idaho

If you go by rodent-based meteorological predictions, February 2 is a make-or-break date for planning travel this month: That’s when a groundhog will let us know if it’s time to bring out the spring gear or embrace the cold for a few more weeks. Luckily, February is a great time of year for all kinds of vacations, whether you’re searching for crowd-free skiing, chasing the northern lights in one of the world’s most remote towns, or seeking the sun on a culture-packed Caribbean island. Here, 10 destinations that have us finishing out the winter on a high note.

For reggae fans

Average temp: 88ºF high, 72ºF low

Driving through Kingston, Jamaica
Driving through Kingston, Jamaica
Image: Carl Hunley Jr/Unsplash

If you love music—especially reggae—there’s no better way to celebrate this Valentine’s Day than by seeing the new biopic Bob Marley: One Love, which hits theaters on February 14. Well, there may be one better way: planning a reggae-themed pilgrimage to Jamaica.

Marley was born in the town of Nine Mile, about two hours outside of Kingston, and today, you can visit both his birthplace and the spot where he was buried. But there are also plenty of spots right in the capital where you can embrace his spirit of peace, love, and liberation. Be sure to tour the Bob Marley Museum, which occupies the 19th-century British colonial–style home he purchased in 1975; the Trench Town Culture Yard, the public housing area that’s considered the birthplace of reggae and rocksteady music; and Tuff Gong, the recording studio where Marley cut some of his most iconic albums.

Travelers say: “The tour [at the Bob Marley Museum] ends with a video that includes performances and interviews with Bob Marley, along with many important people in his life, and the whole visit takes about 90 minutes. Well worth a visit, and make sure to buy your tickets in advance, because the tours can sell out.”—@J7185BSkristend

Today, one of the best spots to take in reggae music is Kingston Dub Club, which is located up on hilly Skyline Drive with views out over the city. There’s a full bar, of course, but if you’ve already had your fill of rum and Red Stripe, the move here is to go with one of the refreshing tropical juices.

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Tampa, FL

For urban explorers

Average temp: 74ºF high, 57ºF low

King suite at The Tampa EDITION
King suite at The Tampa EDITION
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Odds are your travels may have taken you through Orlando or Miami in the past, but there are plenty of new reasons to explore underrated Tampa, which is in the midst of a major hotel boom. New openings include the glam Tampa EDITION, where the Mediterranean-tinged Lilac recently earned its first Michelin star (standouts include the Gulf red snapper for two and smoked grouper feuillantine), and the Palihouse Hyde Park Village, a boutique hotel in South Tampa’s pedestrian-friendly upscale shopping district.

Use either as a home base to explore some of the city’s must-see spots, like Armature Works, a collection of shops, bars, and restaurants housed in a converted streetcar barn along the Tampa Riverwalk. Once you’ve had your fill of snacking and browsing, rent a paddleboard or kayak on the Riverwalk to explore the Hillsborough River and hopefully spot a manatee. Plus, if you’re here in mid-February, the city also hosts the Gasparilla Music Festival, with headliners Louis the Child, Big Gigantic and Lake Street Dive.

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Churchill, Manitoba

For aurora hunters

Average temp: -4ºF high, -20ºF low

Northern Lights viewing with Frontiers North Adventures, in Churchill, Manitoba
Northern Lights viewing with Frontiers North Adventures, in Churchill, Manitoba
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Listen: We know it’s cold. Like really cold. But this remote Canadian outpost on the coast of Hudson Bay leans into the extremes in all the right ways come winter. Known as the Polar Bear Capital of the World, Churchill attracts adventurous visitors each autumn to see its enormous white-furred visitors. But if you come in February, you’ll be rewarded with crisp, pitch-black nights that are perfect for viewing the northern lights. Your chances of catching the dazzling nocturnal display are incredible, as Churchill sees an average of 300 nights of aurora activity throughout the year.

Book a multi-day winter itinerary with Frontiers North Adventures to snowshoe through boreal forests, mush a dog sled team, and tour the Itsanitaq Museum, a renowned collection of Inuit carvings and artifacts, all while keeping an eye out for the northern lights. And perhaps the most iconic Churchill experience is dinner under the aurora at Dan’s Diner, a pop-up restaurant with panoramic windows and skylights that’s reached via the Tundra Buggy, a behemoth of a vehicle with five-foot-tall tires.

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Phillip Island, Australia

For wildlife lovers

Average temp: 74ºF high, 58ºF low

Penguins on Phillip Island in Australia
Penguins on Australia's Phillip Island
Image: Vito_Elefante/Getty Images

February means summertime in Australia, but that warmer weather won’t stop you from hanging out with penguins. Located about 90 minutes from Melbourne, Phillip Island is home to the world’s largest colony of little penguins (yes, that is their official name), which stand around a foot tall. Every night at sunset, in a display lovingly called the Penguin Parade, they waddle ashore to return to their burrows, often by the thousands. Pro tip: Pay a bit extra for a spot in an underground viewing hide to see the penguins scoot by at eye level.

Travelers say: "It gets quite chilly [at the Penguin Parade] after sundown so dress for the temperature drop and wind. Remember to put your phone away after the ranger talk as the lights from your phone or cameras scare the penguins and affect feeding the chicks."—@walshwilma

Summer in these parts also means the return of roughly a million short-tailed shearwaters, a seabird that migrates more than 9,000 miles to Alaska, and lovely weather for exploring the Koala Conservation Reserve, which is criss-crossed with treetop boardwalks for next-level wildlife observation.

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Schweitzer, Idaho

For crowd-hating ski bums

Average temp: 29ºF high, 18ºF low

Skiers taking lift up at Schweitzer, Idaho
A ski lift in Schweitzer, Idaho
Image: Courtesy of Visit Idaho

Idaho’s Sun Valley rightfully enjoys a reputation as one of America’s top ski destinations—with the crowds to match. If you want unbelievable terrain without waiting in a queue at the lift, head way north into the Idaho Panhandle and its jagged Selkirk Mountains to the state’s largest ski resort, Schweitzer, which remains underrated despite its impressive 2,900 skiable acres. (While the resort has a family-friendly reputation, know that the terrain in these parts skews decidedly intermediate-to-expert.) From up here, about 11 miles north of Sandpoint, you’ll have 360-degree views out over Montana, Washington, and even across the border into Canada.

While you’re in town, stay at the 31-room Humbird, a ski-in/ski-out alpine lodge opened in early 2022 that’s named for an old lumber company and decorated with vintage photographs from the Bonner County History Museum. This February also marks the 50th Sandpoint Winter Carnival, which gives travelers and locals alike the chance to tube, twilight ski, hop on a sleigh ride, and scope out the Parade of Lights.

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Hong Kong

For festival seekers

Average temp: 66ºF high, 57ºF low

Performers in Night Parade in Hong Kong
Performers in Night Parade in Hong Kong
Image: Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images

Remember how Crazy Rich Asians got everyone excited about Singapore? We have a feeling something similar might happen this year when Prime Video releases its new Hong Kong–set series Expats, starring Nicole Kidman. Yes, it’ll be crowded, but if you want to see the city at its most festive, visit during the February festival season. Lunar New Year falls on February 10, kicking off the Year of the Dragon with a massive night parade that fills the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui with floats and live performers. The new year also brings with it an array of foods that are eaten for luck and prosperity, including whole fish, tangerines, fat choi (black moss), tang yuan (filled glutinous rice balls), and yau gok (fried dumplings). For something really special, look for nian gou, a steamed pudding of glutinous rice flour and coconut milk; during the holidays, you’ll find elevated takes on the menus at places like Ying Jee Club and T’ang Court.

And after the New Year celebrations, February 22 marks the start of the Hong Kong Arts Festival, which attracts an international lineup of opera (both Western and Chinese), symphony, ballet, jazz, and more to venues around the city.

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Washington, D.C.

For history buffs

Average temp: 47ºF high, 27ºF low

People viewing exhibit at Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture
People viewing exhibit at Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture
Image: Alan Karchmer/Courtesy of Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture

You could stay in the capital all of February and never run out of ways to celebrate Black History Month. While sites like the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial are obvious first stops, save time to head slightly off the beaten path to neighborhoods like Shaw (where the U Street corridor is known as Black Broadway) and Anacostia, home to the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site.

Even more rewarding is wandering around the city without a plan as you take in its robust roster of Black-owned bookstores like Mahogany Books (which is dedicated to books for, by, or about the people of the African diaspora) and Loyalty Bookstores (which was founded a Black, queer bookseller named Hannah Oliver Depp), cafés, boutiques, and restaurants—from classics like the 66-year-old Ben’s Chili Bowl to newer favorites like the Michelin-recommended Trinidadian spot Cane.

Travelers say: "Unless you plan to be a regular, don't mess around with the other stuff [at Ben's Chili Bowl]. GET THE HALF-SMOKE! It is what every other hot dog tries to be. Good snap to the casing, perfectly seasoned beef filling, a sturdy, steamed bun and Ben's chili and fixin's. ...We had no trouble getting a table. Parking is free in back of the restaurant."—@richardmW9638CQ

No matter your itinerary, consider a stay at Salamander Washington D.C., part of a hotel group run by BET founder Sheila C. Johnson, America’s first Black female billionaire.

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Todos Santos, Mexico

For wannabe marine biologists

Average temp: 78ºF high, 57ºF low

Couple on Catamaran with Paradero, Todos Santos, Mexico
Couple on Catamaran with Paradero, Todos Santos, Mexico
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

The first town in Baja California Sur to be named one of Mexico’s Pueblo Mágicos (a designation indicating cultural and historical interest with superb hospitality), this laid-back fishing village has been attracting creative types for decades. In 2021, it welcomed the intimate and luxurious Paradero Todos Santos resort, where guests can learn how to farm or cook, go on morning hikes or bike rides, or book a surf or yoga session. But from November to March, the best way to experience the region is on one of Paradero’s ocean safaris, which take advantage of the town’s location on the Pacific whale migration superhighway; out on the water, you might see humpback whales, gray whales, sea lions, dolphins, and manta rays. (Todos Santos Eco Adventures and Explora Baja also offer well-recommended tours.) Back in town, February means the Todos Santos Open Studio Tour, when more than 50 artists will open up their workspaces for art lovers.

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Lima, Peru

For adventurous gourmands

Average temp: 81ºF high, 68ºF low

Dinner at Maido in Lima, Peru
Dinner at Maido in Lima, Peru
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

February brings sunny weather to the Peruvian coast, making it a perfectly pleasant time to visit the capital. But the season also comes with an added bonus: Many locals take advantage of that heat by heading out of town to beach resorts, often leaving Lima a bit emptier than usual. That comes in handy when you’re trying to make reservations at some of the city’s famed fine-dining restaurants, four of which made it onto the World’s 50 Best list: Mayta (#47), where the tasting menu might include alpaca and an enormous Amazonian fish called paiche; Kjolle (#28), which is helmed by Pía Léon, who’s been named the world’s best female chef; and Maido (#6), which specializes in Nikkei cuisine, a blending of Peruvian and Japanese influences. Topping out the list is Central, where chef Virgilio Martínez divides his multi-course menu by altitude, with ingredients sourced from different ecosystems, from the depths of the Pacific Ocean to atop the Andes mountains.

When you’ve had your fill, be sure to check out some of the city’s incredible museums, like the Museo de Arte de Lima or the Museo Larco, which occupies an 18th-century viceroyal mansion.

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Palm Springs, CA

For mid-century architecture buffs

Average temp: 75ºF high, 48ºF low

Exterior view of Sunnylands Center & Gardens, in Palm Springs, California
Sunnylands Center & Gardens in Palm Springs, CA
Image: Courtesy of Sunnylands Center & Gardens

When the sweltering triple-digit heat of the Coachella Valley cools off in wintertime, visitors can leave behind the comfort of the pool deck and start exploring all this resort town has to offer—especially its impeccably preserved collection of mid-century modern architecture. You don’t even have to leave your bed to take in the sleek and futuristic style if you’re staying at places like the Parker Palm Springs, which opened in 1959 as California’s first Holiday Inn, and the Ace Hotel & Swim Club, which was converted from a 1965 Howard Johnson motor lodge.

Each February, the town’s unmatched architectural legacy is celebrated with the 11-day Modernism Week, which includes walking, biking, and double-decker bus tours, classic car and vintage trailer shows, and walk-throughs of iconic gardens and houses, such as the Annenberg Estate at Sunnylands. Visiting midweek of course gives you the best chance to beat the crowds, but the beauty of a place like Palm Springs is that you don’t even need to join an official tour to immerse yourself in architectural greatness: You’ll see modernist icons everywhere from the city hall to the city’s visitor center, which is housed in a 1960s gas station designed by Albert Frey.

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Nicholas DeRenzo
Nicholas DeRenzo is a freelance travel and culture writer based in Brooklyn. A graduate of NYU's Cultural Reporting and Criticism program, he worked as an editor at Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel and, most recently, as executive editor at Hemispheres, the in-flight magazine of United Airlines. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, New York, Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, Afar, BBC Travel, Wine Enthusiast, and more. Follow him on Instagram at @nderenzo to see his many, many pictures of birds.