February may be the shortest month of the year, but it’s anything but short on excitement. From Carnival to the Lunar New Year to Valentine’s Day and beyond, February is chock-full of festivities. It’s also one of the best months of the year to travel, whether you’re looking to experience some of the world’s greatest celebrations, make the most of the weather, or take advantage of off-peak prices and smaller crowds. These eight destinations simply can’t be missed this February.
New Orleans, Louisiana: Go Mad for Mardi Gras
New Orleans’ attractions are unforgettable year-round, but if there’s one time to visit the Big Easy, it’s in the midst of Mardi Gras. While there are plenty of cities that go all out for Carnival, nobody does it quite like New Orleans, who has been celebrating the holiday for over three hundred years with its unique blend of French, Spanish, and African influences. With about 1.4 million attendees each year, this festival offers something for everyone. 2018’s Mardi Gras or “Fat Tuesday” falls on the 13th of February, but head to New Orleans even earlier to catch some of the city’s magnificent parades and parties.
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica: Warm Weather and Laid-Back Vibes
To warm your bones in winter, you really can’t go wrong with a Costa Rica vacation, and if there’s one town to check out, it’s Puerto Viejo. Located on the Caribbean coast near the Panamanian border, this idyllic hippie town offers laid-back vibes and beautiful beaches. February is one of the driest months of the year there, and, while the region can get a little too warm at times, you’ll experience the mildest temperatures this month. Wondering what to do in Puerto Viejo? The main mode of transportation for locals and tourists is bicycles, so rent one and ride along the coastline, stopping to relax for seaside refreshments as you go. Don’t miss the Jaguar Rescue Center, where you can get up close and personal with sloths, monkeys, an anteater, and other local wildlife.
Venice, Italy: A Magnificent Masquerade
There is no shortage of spectacular places to visit in Venice no matter which month you visit, but this Italian city truly comes alive for Carnevale. Venice has celebrated the Catholic tradition since the 12th or 13th century, and today it is known around the world for its decadent costumes and decorations. Central to Venice’s take on Carnival is the elaborate, hand-painted masks worn or crafted by revelers. These can be made of glass, leather, or porcelain, adorned with feathers, jewels, or glitter. Join the festivities and admire the glitz and glamour of it all.
Mammoth, California: Ski in John Muir’s Paradise
When most people think of California, their minds immediately jump to images of warm beaches and palm trees swaying in a sunset breeze, but this West Coast state is also home to some of the world’s most spectacular deserts, valleys, and mountains. There are plenty of things to do in Mammoth, but, if you’re an avid skier or snowboarder, February’s accumulated snowfall makes this the perfect spot to hit the slopes. Situated in the stunning Sierra Nevada mountains, you’ll be rewarded with unbelievable views as you soak up this winter wonderland. And if the cold’s getting you down? No worries: warm California sunshine is just a few hours away.
Cádiz, Spain: Carnival, Fiesta Style
Looking for an understated yet equally festive take on Carnival? Spain’s southern city of Cádiz is the perfect place to visit this February. Coastal views, Roman ruins, and historical landmarks make Cádiz sightseeing a delight any time of the year, but Carnival here is one event you don’t want to miss. Merrymakers don silly, irreverent, and satirical costumes and take to the streets for an all-out fiesta that lasts well past the break of dawn. What really makes this celebration unique, however, is Cádiz’s chirigotas. Wander around town catching performances by these witty musical groups that competing to produce and perform the year’s best composition.
Queenstown, New Zealand: Summer Adventures for All
February is smack dab in the middle of Southern Hemisphere’s summer, making it the perfect time to explore New Zealand. Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s most picturesque towns, with summer temperatures ranging from about 20 to 30 degrees Celsius. Stroll through town and enjoy its shops, restaurants, and bars, or hike or take a cable-car up the mountain for unbelievable views of the shimmering blue lake. Queenstown attractions are aplenty, but many flock there for the wide selection of adrenaline activities ranging from skydiving to bungee jumping to jet boating. Southern summer doesn’t get much better than Queenstown.
Seattle, Washington: A Little Something for Everyone
Seattle does its own take on Mardi Gras with festivals and parties around the city, and you’ll also find plenty of spots to celebrate the Lunar New Year, Valentine’s Day, and Black History Month. Culinary connoisseurs will delight in the annual Seattle Wine and Food Experience, featuring a three day extravaganza highlighting the best of Washington state’s food, wine, and brews. Seattle’s Paramount Theater is also hosting the renowned musical Hamilton through mid-March, so if you missed your chance to see it on Broadway, you can witness it for yourself here. Film fanatic? The Noir City festival showcases the best of classic noir films this month. No matter what you’re into, you’ll find it in Seattle in February.
Chaing Mai, Thailand: Marvelous Weather in a Marvelous City
If winter chill has got you down, Southeast Asia is certain to cheer you right up. Chiang Mai, Thailand is one of the region’s most fascinating destinations, and February also happens to be its sunniest time of year. Spend your days checking out some of the top things to do in Chiang Mai: the city is home to over 300 temples, with more than thirty in the historical center alone. The Night Bazaar is the perfect place to shop for souvenirs or sample local treats. Head outside the city to embark on adventure activities like ziplining, kayaking, or rock climbing. And if you’re lucky enough to spend several weeks in Thailand, there are tons of other amazing cities and islands with which you’ll fall madly in love.
February may seem like a quiet month, sandwiched between the excitement of the holiday season and busy spring and summer, but there’s tons to be discovered around the world. Whether you’re experiencing Carnival, hitting the slopes, sunbathing on a sunny beach, or taking in some culture, February has plenty to offer. Enjoy!