10 winter wonderlands to add to your travel bucket list
When was the last time you careened joyously down a sledding hill or propped your bare feet up in front of a crackling fire at a mountain lodge? Even when it's chilly outside, winter can be a season to embrace rather than escape. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, cold-region winter getaways offer many delights, from the silence of snowfall to the thrill of a luge run. When your neighbors flee to beach resorts, consider heading to one of these 10 winter wonderlands instead to celebrate the least-appreciated season.
Aspen is known for its ski mountains — including Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk, home of the X Games this year — but there are a number of additional activities here for adventure-seekers, including snowshoeing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing or riding a "fat bike" on 60 miles of trails. Looking for something a little more low key? Visit the elegant Aspen Art Museum or venture down the road to Glenwood Springs to take a tram ride and cave tour at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Relax in the Yampah Vapor Caves, wrinkle up in one of 17 pools in the Iron Mountain Hot Springs or take a dip in the world's largest mineral springs pool, boasting one million gallons of water.
There are several winter experiences to choose from in Beijing. Travel to China picks up in early February for the Chinese New Year celebration, with citywide temple fairs featuring music, theater, art, crafts, food, flower shows, dragon dances and nightly fireworks. Book before or after peak season to enjoy lower hotel and tour package prices and smaller crowds at popular sights. If you like winter sports, spend your time at any of the several ski areas close by, and be sure to pack layers — it's cold enough outside to turn the city's ponds into ice rinks.
Situated on the Vermont/New York border, Burlington allows easy access to two winter wonderlands. Sports enthusiasts can head east to popular Vermont resorts, including Stowe, Sugarbush, Smuggler's Notch, Mad River Glen and Bolton Valley. If activities like snow golf and ice carving sound more appealing to you, you won't want to miss the Stowe Winter Carnival, starting January 13. Lake Placid is also located nearby, and is a great place to visit. Check out the Olympic Museum or Mirror Lake for sledding, dogsledding, snowshoeing and skating. Wilmington's Whiteface Mountain also offers 87 trails and boasts the biggest vertical drop in the eastern states. Plan to visit during the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival from February 2 to 11 to enjoy a parade, ice palace and knee-deep snow volleyball.
The 1988 Winter Olympics ski slopes, luge and bobsled runs now offer thrills to us non-Olympians, and they're located right in Calgary at WinSport Canada Olympic Park. The Olympic Oval speed skating rink and Fish Creek Park, Canada's largest urban park, are also popular attractions here. After a visit, warm up in an indoor public park with 10,500 trees and shrubs at Devonian Gardens, or catch a Calgary Flames hockey game. For more indoor fun, you can also explore the past at Fort Calgary or visit the Canada Sports Hall of Fame. Upcoming events include the citywide Calgary Winter Festival, Block Heater Folk Music Festival and Calgary Midwinter Bluesfest, all taking place in February.
Central Copenhagen is compact and crisscrossed by light-rail trains, making it easy to get around even on the coldest days. Visit Copenhagen's countless museums, restaurants and the magical Tivoli Gardens all winter long. In February, enjoy citywide events including the Fashion Festival, Winter Jazz Festival and Copenhagen Dining Week. Gastronomic options in Copenhagen are definitely worth exploring, and range from Michelin-star restaurants — 15 to date — to a recently opened Copenhagen Street Food warehouse that features 35 food trucks and stalls serving global street food. If you have time to spare, catch a 90-minute train to the town of Odense, where you'll find a Hans Christian Andersen museum and a "winter zoo."
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Halifax gets tons of snow, and with it comes tons of winter activities. Major events blanket the winter season like a foot of fresh powder. Following the National Skating Championships in January are the Savour Food and Wine Festival and Nova Scotia Icewine Festival that both run into March. All winter long, you can choose among activities like skiing at Ski Martock, skating at the Emera Oval and sleigh rides at Hatfield Farm, or tour the seafaring town of Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It may be the German gateway to the Alps with the Oberammergau, Zugspitze and Garmisch-Partenkirchen ski areas all within a 75-minute drive, but Munich offers much more than skiing in the winter. Visitors can take a horse carriage ride through Englischer Garden, shop at the Viktualienmarkt in the city center and ice skate on the frozen canal in front of Nymphenburg Palace. Indoor indulgences include dozens of museums, Therme Erding, Europe's largest thermal bath, and Schrannenhalle, a quarter-mile-long, iron-and-glass foodie's paradise. In the evenings, attend Circus Krone, the largest circus in Europe, see a show at the Gaertnerplatz Theater, or attend the Strong Beer Festival, which starts on February 23.
Prague, Czech Republic
The " city of a hundred spires" is overrun with tourists each summer, but the crowds, prices and temperatures drop in midwinter. The sights of Prague are always striking, from the massive Prague Castle to the architecturally rich assortment of churches, towers and bridges that surround it. Take a break from high culture to try Czech dumplings and strudels, then plunge into the beer culture with a visit to the Czech Beer Museum or Beer Spa Bernard, where a one-hour beer bath comes with unlimited consumption. Prague Carnevale, starting February 10, and two major film festivals in March are some of the city's best events all year. Finally, enjoy a selection of winter sports at nearby Herlikovice ski resort.
Traverse City, Michigan
With 101 inches of annual snowfall, this Lake Michigan town gives you a world of winter choices. TimberLee Hills' 700-foot hill is a joyride for tubers located right on the edge of Traverse City, and 200 miles of snowmobile trails can be found next door at Boardman Valley Natural Area. Shanty Creek Resorts' three ski areas and 51 runs and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore's 73 miles of trails are all only a half-hour drive away. For those interested in wine, most of the nearby wine regions' 40 tasting rooms pour Rieslings and Chardonnays all winter long. A bonus for travelers visiting in February is the array of festivals celebrating wine, microbrews and music, comedy and cross-country skiing.
Winter activities in and around Switzerland's largest city include sledding on Zurich's Uetliberg mountain, skiing at Flumserberg and cross-country skiing at Amden or Lake Whalen, but it's the season's festivals here that are truly exciting. The Swiss know how to celebrate, so try to make it to one of the area's two big winter carnivals in February or March. The Winterthur Carnival, which dates back to the 15th century and draws in 50,000 visitors, concludes with the ceremonial burning of the Böögg, or snowman, a definite must-see. Also drawing thousands of spectators are Zurich's Mercedes-Benz show-jumping tournament in late January and Art on Ice, a dazzling show starring the world's top figure skaters, in early March.
If you go
Many other northern destinations worldwide also celebrate winter with abundant activities and festivals devoted to everything from art and music to cold-weather zoo creatures. At most such destinations, travel costs are lower and the crowds are thinner during the colder months of the year. So when you plan your next getaway, think about packing a few extra layers and changing your destination latitude from southern to northern for an exhilarating change of pace.
Whether you're traveling to a new city or revisiting an old favorite, discover exciting destinations across the country and the world with our winter fare specials. Ready to plan your winter adventure? Visit united.com or use the United app to book your winter wonderland trip.
Right now, around the world, brave members of America's armed forces are on duty, defending our freedom and upholding our values.
When not laser-focused on the mission at hand, they're looking forward to the day when their service to our nation is fulfilled and they can reunite with their families.
They are also imagining how they can use their hard-earned skills to build an exciting, rewarding and important career when they return home.
I want them to look no further than United Airlines.
That's why we are focused on recruiting, developing and championing veterans across our company, demonstrating to our returning women and men in uniform that United is the best possible place for them to put their training, knowledge, discipline and character to the noblest use.
They've developed their knowledge and skills in some of the worst of times. We hope they will use those skills to keep United performing at our best, all of the time.
That's why we are accelerating our efforts to onboard the best and the brightest, and substantially increasing our overall recruitment numbers each year.
We recently launched a new sponsorship program to support onboarding veterans into United and a new care package program to support deployed employees. It's one more reason why United continues to rank high - and rise higher - as a top workplace for veterans. In fact, we jumped 21 spots this year on Indeed.com's list of the top U.S workplaces for veterans. This is a testament to our increased recruiting efforts, as well as our efforts to create a culture where veterans feel valued and supported.
We use the special reach and resources of our global operations to partner with outstanding organizations. This is our way of stepping up and going the extra mile for all those who've stepped forward to answer our nation's call.
We do this year-round, and the month of November is no exception; however, it is exceptional, especially as we mark Veterans Day.
As we pay tribute to all Americans who have served in uniform and carried our flag into battle throughout our history, let's also keep our thoughts with the women and men who are serving around the world, now. They belong to a generation of post-9/11 veterans who've taken part in the longest sustained period of conflict in our history.
Never has so much been asked by so many of so few.... for so long. These heroes represent every color and creed. They are drawn from across the country and many immigrated to our shores.
They then freely choose to serve in the most distant and dangerous regions of the world, to protect democracy in its moments of maximum danger.
Wherever they serve - however they serve - whether they put on a uniform each day, or serve in ways which may never be fully known, these Americans wake up each morning willing to offer the "last full measure of devotion" on our behalf.
Every time they do so, they provide a stunning rebuke to the kinds of voices around the world who doubt freedom and democracy's ability to defend itself.
Unfortunately, we know there are those who seem to not understand – or say they do not - what it is that inspires a free people to step forward, willing to lay down their lives so that their country and fellow citizens might live.
But, we – who are both the wards and stewards of the democracy which has been preserved and handed down to us by veterans throughout our history – do understand.
We know that inciting fear and hatred of others is a source of weakness, not strength. And such divisive rhetoric can never inspire solidarity or sacrifice like love for others and love of country can.
It is this quality of devotion that we most honor in our veterans - those who have served, do serve and will serve.
On behalf of a grateful family of 96,000, thank you for your service.
Each year around Veterans Day, Indeed, one of the world's largest job search engines, rates companies based on actual employee reviews to identify which ones offer the best opportunities and benefits for current and former U.S. military members. Our dramatic improvement in the rankings this year reflects a stronger commitment than ever before to actively recruiting, developing and nurturing veteran talent.
"We've spent a lot of time over the past 12 months looking for ways to better connect with our employees who served and attract new employees from the military ranks," said Global Catering Operations and Logistics Managing Director Ryan Melby, a U.S. Army veteran and the president of our United for Veterans business resource group.
"Our group is launching a mentorship program, for instance, where we'll assign existing employee-veterans to work with new hires who come to us from the armed forces. Having a friend and an ally like that, someone who can help you translate the skills you picked up in the military to what we do as a civilian company, is invaluable. That initiative is still in its infancy, but I'm really optimistic about what it can do for United and for our veteran population here."
Impressively, we were the only one of our industry peers to move up on the list, further evidence that we're on a good track as a company.
The question of where David Ferrari was had haunted retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major Vincent Salceto for the better part of 66 years.
Rarely did a week go by that Salceto didn't think about his old friend. Often, he relived their last moments together in a recurring nightmare. In it, it's once again 1953 and Salceto and Ferrari are patrolling a valley in what is now North Korea. Suddenly, explosions shatter the silence and flares light up the night sky.
Crouching under a barrage of bullets, Salceto, the squad's leader, drags two of his men to safety, then he sees Ferrari lying face down on the ground. He runs out to help him, but he's too late. And that's when he always wakes up.
Italian Americans from opposite coasts – Salceto from Philadelphia, Ferrari from San Francisco – the two became close, almost like brothers, after being assigned to the same unit during the Korean War. When Ferrari died, it hit Salceto hard.
"After that, I never let anyone get close to me like I did with Dave," he says. "I couldn't; I didn't want to go through that again."
When the war ended, Salceto wanted to tell Ferrari's family how brave their son and brother had been in battle. Most of all, he wanted to salute his friend at his gravesite and give him a proper farewell.
For decades, though, Salceto had no luck finding his final resting place or locating any of his relatives. Then, in June of this year, he uncovered a clue that led him to the Italian Cemetary in Colma, California, where Ferrari is buried.
Within days, Salceto, who lives in Franklinville, New Jersey, was packed and sitting aboard United Flight 731 from Philadelphia to San Francisco with his wife, Amy, and daughter, Donna Decker, on his way to Colma. For such a meaningful trip, he even wore his Army dress uniform.
That's how San Francisco-based flight attendant Noreen Baldwin spotted him as he walked down the jet bridge to get on the plane.
"I saw him and said to the other crew members, 'Oh my goodness, look at this guy,'" she says. "I knew there had to be a story."
The two struck up a conversation and Salceto told Baldwin why he was traveling. She got emotional listening to him talk and made a point of fussing over him, making sure he and his family had everything they needed.
About halfway through the flight, Baldwin had an idea. She and her fellow crew members would write messages of encouragement to Salceto and invite his fellow passengers to do the same.
"We did it discreetly," says Baldwin. "I asked the customers if they saw the man in uniform, which most had, and asked them if they wanted to write a few words for him on a cocktail napkin. A lot of people did; families did it together, parents got their kids to write something. After the first few rows, I was so choked up that I could barely talk."
When Baldwin surprised Salceto with dozens of hand-written notes, he, too, was speechless. He laid the stack on his lap and read each one. At the same time, the pilots made an announcement about the veteran over the loud speaker, after which the customers on board burst into applause.
"It seems contrived, and I hate using the word organic, but that's what it was; it just happened," Baldwin says. "Mr. Salceto was so loveable and humble, and what he was doing was so incredible, it felt like the right thing to do. And you could tell he was touched."
On June 27, Salceto finally stood before Ferrari's grave and said that long-awaited goodbye. As a trumpeter played "Taps," he unpinned a medal from his jacket and laid it reverently on the headstone.
"I had gotten a Bronze Star for my actions [the night Ferrari died] with a 'V' for valor, and that was the medal I put on Dave's grave," says Salceto, pausing to fight back tears. "I thought he was more deserving of it than I was."
For the first time in years, Salceto felt at peace. His mission was accomplished.