Whether you choose a warm-weather paradise like Florida or Mexico, or a ski town that celebrates the winter like Whitefish, Montana, King Day weekend (January 13-15) is well timed for a midwinter getaway trip. Here are a few destination ideas.
San Luis Obispo, California
This largest town on the central California coast is a fine midwinter destination whether you favor seabirds or syrahs. January is prime time for admiring the hundreds of bird species that migrate on the Pacific Flyway. A favorite Flyway stopover of theirs (and birders) is the charming beach town of Morro Bay, just 13 miles west of “SLO" (as locals call it). The Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival (Jan. 12-15) hosts 130 events that turns birding into a group activity. SLO County is also home to wine regions that are rated among the best in North America, with more than 200 wineries in the county's Paso Robles and Edna Valley regions. Many keep their tasting rooms open through the winter.
Orlando's theme parks are a madhouse during the December holidays, but lines get shorter and hotel prices get lower during MLK weekend, when visiting families can squeeze in two days of fun between arrival and departure. A bonus this year is that the second annual Epcot International Festival of the Arts (Jan. 12-Feb. 19) kicks off with an array of musical, theatrical and visual arts for all ages. Disney on Broadway stars Kara Lindsay (“Newsies") and Kevin Massey (“Tarzan") will perform songs from “Newsies," “Tarzan," “Aladdin" and “Frozen" on MLK weekend.
“Discovery in Every Direction" is Kalispell's town slogan and the best direction to head in the winter is 25 minutes north to the ski town of Whitefish. The 59th Whitefish Winter Carnival (Jan. 6-Feb. 4) is underway on King weekend, featuring the King & Queen Coronation (a family-friendly event featuring the crowning of King Ullr LIX and the Queen of the Snows) and a retro disco party. Four miles up the road is Whitefish Mountain Resort, one of America's 10 largest ski areas, with 14 lifts. Snow is all but certain because the resort, near Glacier National Park, averages 300 inches per season.
The nation's capital offers milder January weather than most East Coast cities, but more importantly, its most appealing attractions are indoors anyway. Chief among those are the 13 free museums, galleries and other attractions that line the Capital Mall. Newest among these is the Smithsonian National Museum of African American Culture, barely a year old and the perfect place to visit on MLK weekend. Honoring Dr. King on MLK Day in Washington, D.C., are a parade and a Kennedy Center concert headlined by Grammy-nominated Vanessa Williams.
Maui feels like paradise anytime, but especially for visitors coming from cold-climate locales in mid-January. After arriving from the U.S. mainland in Kahului, it's only a short drive to beach hotels—taking you through sugarcane fields and alongside the typically dry leeward coastline, where you may spot whale spouts close to shore. Once checked in, you can choose languor—a poolside Mai Tai and perhaps a little snorkeling off Black Rock at Kaanapali Beach—or you can be more ambitious: drive and then hike to the 10,023-foot peak of Haleakala, negotiate the famously twisty road to Hana (600 curves, 54 bridges), or run the Maui Oceanfront Marathon, Half Marathon, 15K, 10K or 5K.