It’s time to plan your winter vacation, so where should you travel in February? Do you want to escape the cold? The Caribbean is heating up, with full-blown Carnival celebrations happening on several islands. Maybe you want to embrace the snow. If so, head to where snow sculptures rival Michelangelo. Or ring in Chinese New Year at one of the world’s largest extravaganzas. Wherever you decide to go for your winter vacation, here are our suggestions for the best places to travel in February.
For the Caribbean’s biggest Carnival, head to Trinidad just before Ash Wednesday for two days of in-the-streets debauchery fueled by steel-pan music. It’s the island’s dry season, so there’s no threat to body paint. But be forewarned: between hotels, flights and costumes, it takes six months to plan.
Not everyone feels the need to escape winter. The Sapporo Snow Festival turns the city into a winter wonderland, with extraordinary snow and ice sculptures. These aren’t your everyday snowpeople — they build full-size temples from the white stuff here — but you can add your own mitten-made creation to the Snowman Labyrinth. Trust us: The football-field-long snow-tubing runs and ice slides are definitely more fun than the sledding hill back home. Hot chocolate, anyone?
Just north of celeb hangout Sandy Lane Beach, small Holetown turns into boomtown during the Holetown Festival, celebrating the island’s settlement in 1625. Sure, there’s local food (like Bajan fish cakes and macaroni pie), crafts, and music. But most popular is the Police Tattoo. Not what you’re thinking: This tattoo is a tightly choreographed show by the Royal Barbados Police Force — featuring the police band, mounted police, and even the canine unit.
Get the feel of summer in the south of France sans crowds and jetlag: fine French cooking, first-class croissants, and a joie de vivre fed by perfect weather, glorious white-sand beaches, and local rhums. New nonstop flights via Norwegian Air Shuttle from New York, Boston, and Washington make it easier to get here than in seasons past. And Carnival — celebrated with French Creole flair — is a reason to book tout de suite.
The Chinese New Year celebrations here qualify as one of the world’s biggest holiday extravaganzas, right up there with Carnival in Rio. Expect a dazzling parade with eye-popping costumes, and outrageous fireworks over Hong Kong harbor. Be prepared, however, if you’re offered a lucky New Year’s food: One of the most auspicious is pig’s foot braised with black moss.
Monumental stone heads and summer weather aren’t the only draw. Tapati Rapa Nui is a pull-out-all-the-stops celebration of Polynesian pride, with feasts and dances. But it’s no tourist luau. Islanders compete in traditional activities such as spear fishing, body decorating, and tobogganing down the slope of an extinct volcano. On a two-man banana-tree trunk. Wearing nothing but a traditional loincloth. Spills can be, uh, painful.
The Maricao Coffee Festival, when locals celebrate the end of the coffee harvest, flies well under the tourist radar. Getting there is half the fun: Breathtaking (literally) views and sheer drop-offs mark the three-hour drive from San Juan to tiny nestled-between-the-mountains Maricao, but live salsa and excellent café (free samples available from each grower/roaster) make for a quick recovery. The traditional Puerto Rican sweets, such as banana brittle, are also a don’t-miss.
Parades swarm the streets of Oranjestad, Aruba’s capital, the day before Ash Wednesday: In fact, Carnival events bring together most of the island’s residents in the four weeks leading up to Carnival, with the Lighting Parade, Children’s Parades and the Pajama Party. The island also burns an effigy of King Momo at midnight to mark the end of Carnival season.
Grenada’s small sister island to the north dishes up Carnival with a literary twist: Shakespeare Mas. Pairs of costumed Kayaks (as natives of Carriacou are called) recite sections of Julius Caesar to each other from memory – and when one of them flubs his (or her) lines, the other one strikes him with a stick. (The costumes are padded.) Even school kids pair off for this fascinating ritual — which you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
A rodeo in Hawaii? See the paniolo (cowboy) traditions in action — bronco roping, bull riding and barrel racing — at the Waimea Roundup Rodeo. It's part of the Waimea Town Celebration, the island's oldest and largest annual festival. The cultural event also includes a film festival, a long distance canoe race, hula celebrations and more.