Magazine article Sunset

Top 10 Winter Weekends

Magazine article Sunset

Top 10 Winter Weekends

Article excerpt

Relax, reconnect with family, reward yourself: 10 classic escapes to kick off the new year

1 DO SOME SOUL-SEARCHING SEDONA, AZ

Why here: Because Sedona-with its crimson buttes, dramatic sunsets, and vortex vibe-is the West's spiritual hub. Join New Agers in red rock country for peace and tranquility-plus heart-pumping hikes, mountain bike rambles, and super-luxe Southwestern spa treatments at Mii Amo at Enchantment Resort (www.miiamo.com or 888/749-2137] that'll leave you wholly refreshed and ready for the year ahead.

Why go now: Crystalline skies and soaring red spires can boost anyone's sagging wintertime spirits. Technically, it's off-season here in Sedona-but now's a divine time. Hotel rates drop. Hiking trails are empty. Temps are cool, but resorts' heated pools are swimmable, and the sun still shines.

Where to stay: For a most soothing Sedona experience, tuck yourself into Enchantment Resort in Boynton Canyon (from $395; www.enchantmentresort.com or 800/826-4180). To be closer to town, try Amara Resort and Spa (from $128; www. amararesort.com or 866/455-6610), which is situated steps from the shops and galleries, yet an oasis on the edge of Oak Creek. -TIM VANDERPOOL

2 CARVE OUT QUIET TIME SOUTH RIM GRAND CANYON, AZ

Why here: Because there's nothing like standing on the edge of a snow-dusted abyss with nary another soul in sight. Sure, there are lots of canyons, but this is the Grand Canyon, that fabled mile-deep, 277-mile-long rift that lives up to its wonder-of-the-world status no matter how many times you've seen it. Peer over the rim, behold monumental buttes-and take in the sound of utter silence.

Why go now: For starters, you'll have the canyon to yourself-visitation plunges in the winter. At 7,000 feet, the South Rim can certainly be cool, but that's part of the allure. Colors are heightened. Fog rolls dramatically through the gorge. And the popular Rim Trail may be totally empty.

Where to stay: The recently restored El Tovar is the granddaddy of the canyon's hotels-and sits right on the rim. Now's your chance to try to score a room with a view, from $154; wwwgrandcanyonlodges.com or 888/297-2757. wivw.nps.gov/grca or 928/638-7888. -MATTHEW JAFFE

3 LEARN TO COOK YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CA

Why here: Because the Chefs' Holidays at the Ahwahnee hotel make Yosemite's quiet season a haven for foodies by inviting big-time toques from across the country for four days of cooking demos, meet-the-chef mixers, and gala feasts. Watch chefs like Charles Phan of San Francisco's Slanted Door assemble Vietnamese spring rolls; lunch in the soaring dining room; then shed the lethargic effects of so much tasting by climbing the snowpacked Yosemite Falls trail.

Why go now: Yosemite in January is as deserted as the park gets-yet more alive than ever. Conifers droop with snow, and coyotes step out boldly. And if you wake up in the Ahwahnee at 4 a.m., the full moon might be hovering over Yosemite Falls right outside your window.

Where to stay: While the Ahwahnee hosts the Chefs' Holidays, you don't have to stay there to participate. Cooking demos are free, and you can buy a ticket to the gala dinner for $149. Chefs' Holidays sessions run midweek Jan 7-feb 1; two-night packages start at $713; www.yosemitepark.com or 553/253-5676. -SARA SCHNEIDER

4 SPEND QT WITH THE KIDS WHISTLER, B.C.

Why here: Because who wants to buckle and unbuckle snowsuited tots in car seats, or carpool tweens around town, when you can all hunker down at this sprawling two-mountain resort village and walk to everything? Whistler's Tree Fort keeps kids happy, as do the beginner terrain areas. Après-ski fun? You got it: ice skating on Green Lake and swimming at Meadow Park Sports Center (try the rope swing).

Why go now: There's already excitement in the cool mountain air, as Whistler gears up to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. Your little champions can pose for photos on a replica medal platform-then bomb down Blackcomb's new tubing park. …

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