Whether you’re planning a holiday getaway for the entire clan, looking to gift loved ones with a once-in-a-lifetime trip or itching to use up some vacation days before year’s end, there are plenty of destinations worth considering as the world cautiously opens up again. These excursions — near or far; on sand or snow — are ideally suited for experiencing with family and friends.
Deep in the mountains of the Alaska Range, nestled between glaciers and soaring peaks in Denali National Park, lies the 2,000-square-foot Sheldon Chalet. This remote escape — accessible only by helicopter — combines privacy and extreme winter action, accommodating up to 10 adventurers for a minimum of three nights. Guests can participate in glacier explorations, unique aerial tours, backcountry skiing and snowshoe treks. At an elevation of 6,000 feet, the posh ecoconscious property has no light pollution, so its nighttime skies are equally spectacular (and all the better for aurora borealis gazing). sheldonchalet.com
Home on the Range
Designed for all ages, dude ranches are about creating special memories (think: s’mores and storytelling around a roaring campfire). Unsure which one is right for you and your family? With nearly 100 locally owned members across the country, the Dude Ranchers’ Association can help you find the perfect place for a Wild West holiday — including in the Golden State. Purchased in 2018 by a partnership of local families, the charming Greenhorn Ranch in the Lost Sierra, north of Tahoe, celebrates Northern California’s great outdoors with fishing, skeet shooting, mountain biking and gold panning. Farther south, in the Santa Ynez Valley, is the Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, where the wranglers delight in guiding guests on foot and horseback through scenic canyons and valleys with abundant wildlife. With more than 10,000 acres and countless trails, adventures at Alisal can fit every skill level and interest. duderanch.org
Islands for the Ages
Nothing dazzles like the sighting of the rare blue-footed boobie while traversing the Galapagos Islands. Oakland-based tour operator International Nature & Cultural Adventures offers an eight-day cruise through the archipelago aboard the luxury yacht Integrity that takes you to iconic sites, allowing for maximum exploration time and revealing hidden islands and rare endemic wildlife. The new Exclusive Use program means your group (of four to 10) can have the whole vessel to yourselves. East-to-west and west-to-east routes depart on December 17 and December 31, respectively. integritygalapagos.com
Feeling especially thankful for that certain someone in your life? Say “I do” (or “I do, again”) during a simple yet elegant barefoot-on-the-beach wedding ceremony, then head right to the honeymoon in a blissful onsite over-water bungalow. Starting this fall, the St. Regis Bora Bora invites lovebirds to tie the knot at a French Polynesian Wedding à Deux — a micro-wedding for just the two of you, complete with a planner and photographer for the big day. The pristine turquoise waters and romantic Polynesian traditions have long attracted couples to this sultry tropical paradise. marriot.com
Shop. Drinks. Repeat.
Now that Britain is reopening to American travelers, a quick girls’ getaway to London is calling. Utterly devoid of stuffiness or pretention, the Rosewood London gives off a playful, contemporary sophistication. In addition to offering seriously delicious cocktails, the hotel’s quirky Scarfes Bar is filled with more than 1,000 antique books, amusing caricatures and, most importantly, plenty of personal space. Book your gals a relaxing massage at the hotel’s premier spa after exploring the cobbled streets of London’s famed shopping haven, Covent Garden, mere minutes away. rosewoodhotels.com
Untouched Ice Is Nice
The time has come to get out and explore Canada’s world-class glaciers and secluded ice caps. TCS World Travel has partnered with Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler to deliver the unforgettable seven-day private Winter Whistler Family Getaway. Hit the slopes at Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort or go off the grid with private outings, including adventure trekking into those glaciers and ice caps. Travel by snowmobile, snow bike or snow buggy into a vivid blue labyrinth of natural ice caves, and enjoy a gourmet lunch atop a mountain before returning to the hotel to warm up by a fire pit. tcsworldtravel.com
With a prestigious heritage dating back to 1882, Leo Trippi provides luxury ski vacations in the world’s most spectacular destinations. Expanded this season, the outfit’s Heli- Ski Safari is a serious skier’s dream — the adventure, complete with plenty of powder, encompasses Switzerland, Italy and France, with stays in iconic resorts. Accompanied by an expert guide, the 10-day itinerary puts the region’s highest mountain peaks within reach for groups of eight. leotrippi.com
If you’re into whale watching, this is the time to visit South Africa. Lekkerwater Beach Lodge, an exclusive National Selection property on the coast of De Hoop Nature Reserve, is offering savings of up to 35 percent through early January. Explore the reserve on walks to nearby tidal pools and caves, and discover more than 1,500 species of plants and flowers. You might spot southern right whales migrating from Antarctica to calve, the less common Bryde’s whales and even migrating humpbacks, right from one of the seven off-grid oceanview suites. (For those traveling with an entourage, ask about exclusive use of the lodge.) naturalselection.travel