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Hot and Cold

Find the right temperature for your next winter escape at one of these ten top travel destinations

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Whether the winter season has you dreaming of snorkeling off a private island or carving through knee-deep powder, the world’s your oyster of destinations. “Today, more people want experiential travel; they want to get out of their comfort zones,” says Pat Eisen of New Canaan TravelWorld. Others crave unplugged downtime in remote areas with no Wi-Fi. Whichever camp you’re in, you’ll be inspired by your neighbors’ adventures. We asked local jetsetters about their favorite spots in climates hot and cold. Their stories will bring out the wanderlust in anyone with a love of adventure.

Moscow & St. Petersburg, Russia

Russia may be notorious for its frigid winters, but its culture and people are heartwarming. For Mary Jane Bolin of New Canaan, the country is so intriguing she’s visited forty times, originally as part of an arts program for teachers and most recently as the leader of a group of eighteen, many from the First Presbyterian Church choir. The music is what initially enchanted her. “It spoke to my soul,” she says. The New Canaan group toured the new Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, ate dinner in a private Russian home, watched ballet at the newly renovated Bolshoi Theatre, heard a Tchaikovsky concert at the Moscow Conservatory and checked out diamonds inside the Kremlin. Moscow or St. Petersburg? Asking Bolin which city she prefers is like asking a mom to pick her favorite child. “I love Moscow for the vitality and big-city feeling,” she says. “St. Petersburg is very European-oriented.”

If You Go: One amazing place to stay is located outside of St. Petersburg. The Fortress BIP boutique hotel was built by the son of Catherine the Great and transformed into a luxury hotel with antiques in every room. Another beautiful, historic destination is The Hotel Astoria (thehotelastoria.com) in St. Petersburg. It has survived the Bolshevik Revolution, two world wars, Perestroika and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today it’s managed by a British hotelier.

White Mountains, New Hampshire

For Lynne and Lloyd Byrne of Darien and their four active boys, the best getaways are focused on enjoying nature and family time. Lloyd’s family has been visiting the White Mountains for nearly 100 years; in the early 1900s, they bought 120-acre Cotton Farm on Squam Lake, where On Golden Pond was filmed. About eight years ago, the main house was in disrepair when Lynne and Lloyd rescued it, turning it back into an idyllic mountain retreat. The Byrnes are passionate about hiking, hitting the trails with their boys almost every day of vacation. They have completed the entire Squam Range and they’re working on climbing all of the New Hampshire 4,000-footers (with fourteen already under their belts). It’s while hiking that Lynne, a photographer, discovered her talent for capturing moments in nature. “I’m obsessed with the details in the natural world around us; the patterns and textures that are hidden until you take a more deliberate look,” says Lynne, whose third photography show was recently held at Darien Nature Center. An outdoor family, the Byrnes also enjoy sports such as kayaking, paddle boarding, waterskiing, fishing and, in the winter, skiing. Nearby ski areas include Gunstock, Cannon Mountain and Waterville Valley.

If You Go: Consider the Squam Lake Inn (squamlakeinn.com) or The Manor on Golden Pond (manorongoldenpond.com). Elsewhere in the White Mountains, check out the family-oriented Mountain View Grand (mountainviewgrand.com), an 1865 inn focused on sustainability, or the waterfront cottages on Lake Winnipesaukee at Mill Falls (millfalls.com).

Emerald Coast, Nicaragua

“It was my husband’s fiftieth birthday and he wanted to do something off the beaten path,” says Michelle Maschoff of Darien. During their two-week adventure in the land of lakes and volcanoes, Michelle, Kurt and their son and daughter spent the first week on the Pacific coast at Rancho Santana (ranchosantana.com), a resort with villas set on a 600-acre nature preserve. Also known as the Emerald Coast, this region of Nicaragua is a hotspot for fishing, surfing and horseback riding; the Maschoffs tried all three. To take in the local culture, they spent a day in colonial Granada. However, the highlight of their adventure was the time they spent on an isolated island on the Caribbean side of Nicaragua (one plane trip and two boat rides away). “Little Corn Island was paradise,” says Michelle, who adds that the people were lovely, the sunsets phenomenal and the snorkeling world-class. It’s a spot with no TV, minimal Wi-Fi and a forty-five minute walk to town past hut-style homes. Here, “you have to realize that things don’t work all the time,” says Michelle. And that’s the beauty of it.

If You Go: “Nicaragua is really an up-and-coming destination,” says Kelly Grumbach of Quintessentially Travel in Manhattan. There are several brand-new luxury resorts in this Central American country, dubbed the next Costa Rica, including Yemaya (littlecornhotel.com), where the Maschoffs stayed on Little Corn Island. Mukul (mukulresort.com) is a boutique hotel and spa on the Emerald Coast with twelve villas and two dozen bohios, or sustainable tree houses.