Where to Travel Before Winter Comes

Winter is coming. That’s not just relevant for the characters in “Game of Thrones.” After a summer spent rediscovering the great American road trip, we’re headed toward cold weather again. We’ve been keeping you up to date with openings and regulations in the Caribbean, and starting Oct. 15 visitors to Hawaii will be able to avoid a 14-day quarantine with a negative COVID-19 test and health declaration form. That will come in especially handy when the first snows fall. Meanwhile on the U.S. mainland, a lot of destinations will get a lot less pleasant to be outside in soon. These places are great to check out before winter arrives.

New York City

Sadly, it will be well into next spring before Broadway is back. But NYC is hardly “dead forever” as some have opined. Autumn in New York is so lovely there’s a jazz standard and a movie about it. Without international visitors, the businesses that depend on tourism could really use some income, and prices for accommodations are far below their typical highs. New York is still New York, and there are a million things to do. Be aware, though, that only visitors from certain states are allowed to travel to New York without a 14-day quarantine, so consult with your travel advisor — who can also set up private and behind-the-scenes touring — before planning a trip.

The Mountain West

The aspen trees are golden in Colorado and the Tetons. The Big Sky Country of Montana has a few more weeks before that sky is filled with snowflakes. The temperatures for hiking and biking are becoming much more bearable in the national parks. There’s one last chance to save the fresh air of the great outdoors before Old Man Winter creeps in and much of the wildlife goes into hibernation. Alaska’s Katmai National Park has already crowned a “Fat Bear Week” champion, so it’s only a matter of time before the Lower 48 bears start heading to their winter quarters.

New England

The fall foliage is always a sight to behold. This year there are far fewer cruise options since ships with more than 250 passengers are under a no-sail order. A car trip through the region going from one great boutique inn or wellness resort to the next is the relaxing getaway you need before settling in for a long winter. Again, be sure to plan your route with your travel advisor to ensure you’re following state-by-state travel advisories.

Lakeside

Wherever you live, you’re bound to be within a few hours of a lake. The fishing is just as tranquil and the calm of the water just as soothing as it was in summertime. Now there might even be a mist rising off the water in the mornings as the cool night air starts to warm. The leaves are changing colors and reflecting off the glassy surface of the water, making for a picture perfect scene as you kayak or paddle across, or just take the scene in from afar.

Ranches around the U.S.

We’ve always been drawn to the cowboy life. Big sky, wide open spaces, fresh air, the crackle of a campfire. You can spend all day out in nature and all night gazing up at the stars. It’s always been a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Now our lives have a different rhythm, but the desire to escape is more powerful than ever. These ranches across the U.S. provide a slice of the simple life.

Montana

Big Sky Country is teeming with mountains, rivers and all sorts of natural beauty. It’s also home to a trio of Virtuoso-preferred ranches: The Resort at Paws Up, Triple Creek Ranch and The Ranch at Rock Creek. Not only are these resorts full of activities, they can serve as your gateways to Glacier and Yellowstone national parks. Keeping your distance is no trouble with standalone homes, cottages and glamping tents with the comforts of home. Unlike frontier days, though, you’ll be able to enjoy gourmet meals with great wine pairings after a long day on the range.

Wyoming

On the edge of Grand Teton National Park, Amangani offers stunning views of the Snake River valley and spacious suites and homes to provide a base for wildlife exploration in Grand Teton and Yellowstone. On the Signature Wildlife Tour, you’ll have the chance to spot bald eagles, moose, elk and bison. Across the state, the Brush Creek Luxury Ranch Collection offers authentic experiences at what a working cattle ranch turned eco and wellness resort with ATV adventures, rock climbing and aerial adventures to go along with the award-winning spa and yoga program.

Colorado 

It’s not just a winter ski paradise. Your favorite ski resorts such as The Little Nell in Aspen and the Sebastian in Vail show off the grandeur of the Rockies in summertime, too. When they’re not blanketed in snow, the mountains make for prime hiking, with wildflowers in bloom and gorgeous changing leaves in the fall. In the western part of the state, Gateway Canyons Resort and Dunton Hot Springs have modern takes on the cowboy experience, with restored log cabins and 4-wheeler excursions going in hand in hand. Gateway Canyons is offering a fourth night free promotion for select dates, and a dip in natural hot springs at Dunton is the height of relaxation.

The Southwest

From the Lodge at Blue Sky in Park City to Amangiri on the Arizona border, Utah is an outdoor wonderland boasting five national parks and limitless adventure. The Lodge at Blue Sky features spacious suites in the main lodge, Earth suites built into a lush hillside with living grass roofs and freestanding one-bedroom Creek Houses. Amangiri’s Camp Sarika tented pavilions are the perfect combination of privacy and amenities, at just a few minutes’ trek from the main lodge. The canyon walls surrounding the resort and even reaching it to the main pool create a scene like no other. A quartet of luxury eco reserves spanning a million acres, the Ted Turner Reserves in New Mexico feature a ghost town, hot springs, roaming bison and just about every activity under the sun with a focus on sustainability. Arizona’s Miraval, Canyon Ranch, Enchantment Resort and L’Auberge de Sedona combine the great outdoors with the best in spa and wellness treatments. The cowboys of old never had it so good.

Destinations to Practice Social Distancing Outside

We’re all eager to travel somewhere besides the backyard or the basement, but people are definitely going to be very cautious even when venturing out again. Domestic travel is going to restart ahead of international travel, and at first a lot of people might stick to places they can drive to in a few hours’ time before flying, even as airlines continue their vigorous sanitization efforts. We want our travelers to be safe first and foremost, so we have some tips on how to social distance while traveling.

Wine country

California’s Napa and Sonoma valleys get the most publicity, and with good reason because there are some great wines and wonderful places to enjoy them along with some great views and meals. The Willamette Valley in Oregon and wine regions of Washington are also very nice. If the West Coast is too far afield for you, though, there are ample wineries in New York’s Finger Lakes and North Fork, throughout Virginia and five American Viticulture Areas in Pennsylvania. Wherever you live, there are wineries with vast vineyards and boutique hotels full of charm.

Alaska

With a population density of 1.2 people per square mile, our largest state is almost entirely wide open spaces. The wildlife is of a different type but plentiful enough to rival anything you’ll see on safari. Fishing lodges reachable by float plane can ensure plenty of breathing room. Alaska’s summer season ought to correspond fairly well with the relaxation of shelter at home orders. It’s yet further evidence that Seward’s Folly wasn’t such a bad deal at all.

Ranches

Living the cowboy life in Big Sky Country sounds pretty good to us right about now. There are a bevy of Virtuoso-preferred ranches out West — in Montana and other states — that have an array of personalized activities outdoors day and night, from horseback riding to stargazing. Fresh air and mountain scenery abounds. Accommodations are typically well spread out. The endless sure beat walking around your block for the 5,000th time.

National parks

The entire system was designed with returning to nature in mind. While the highest concentration of parks is in the West, there’s almost certainly a national park within a few hours of your home. There are also national trails and monuments throughout the country. Operations are modified on a park-by-park basis, so be sure to check before planning. Glamping options and National Park lodges abound, so you can be in the heart of nature.

Outdoor cities

Some might not be able to resist the lure of a new city. If that describes you, make sure to pick one with good weather and tons of outdoor activity. The Phoenix, Houston and San Diego areas have some of the largest urban parks in the U.S. Denver, Seattle, Portland and Salt Lake City have abundant outdoor opportunities and are within easy reach of nature areas. We don’t know what reopening will look like exactly, but we’ll keep dreaming with you until we make your travel dreams a reality.