February travel doesn’t have to revolve around romance—though Valentine’s Day is the ideal excuse to whisk your beloved off on a surprise trip, or treat yourself to a solo jaunt with the money you save on chocolates and flowers. It’s also the month when Carnival celebrations take place across almost every continent, which is the perfect time to party in a new place.
Here are the 10 best places to visit in February.
1. Venice, Italy
February is great for: faded glamour, gilded masks, and the chance to channel your inner Henry James
From February 4 through 21, 2023, La Serenissima is gripped by the giddy thrill of Carnival, an especially evocative time to visit the city when its mask-making and -wearing tradition is front and center. Celebrations crest on the final weekend before Shrove Tuesday—this year, February 18 and 19—but the city parties all month long. Expect special dinners in local restaurants, and DJ-driven parties taking place with extra gusto after coronavirus restrictions clipped its wings last year.
If you’re looking for a romantic Valentine’s Day getaway, consider this, too: In winter, the glamorously decrepit palazzi and canals are more swoon-worthy than in the sultry, often smelly summer—think a scene from a classic Henry James novel through the eyes of Merchant Ivory. You’ll also likely have the chance to splosh through flooded alleyways during acqu’alta, or high water, when the lagoons surge at high tide and the city’s slow sinking becomes more evident. Hotels will provide temporary galoshes, but if you’re staying at an Airbnb or similar, bring your own boots for sure.
Where to stay: Hotel La Calcina
Book now: Hotel La Calcina
The charming, family-run La Calcina on Dorsoduro has spectacular views out over La Giudecca. Aim to sneak an aperitivo on the roof terrace, with room for only one table.
How to get to Venice
Sadly, the direct U.S. flights to Marco Polo Airport from hubs including ATL, JFK, EWR, and PHL are summer-only seasonal. The best option is to hop a bargain-priced Emirates fifth freedom flight from JFK to MXP and take either the train or a short-haul flight to VCE.
2. Cape Town, South Africa
February is great for: African art in the rightful setting
It’s the 10th anniversary this year for the Investec Cape Town Art Fair, which brings exhibitors from 20 countries to showcase work for three days from February 17 to 19. It’s a more manageable, affordable alternative to Art Basel et al. and is Africa’s largest art fair, with an emphasis on work from the continent (and lots of Italians, thanks to the fair’s owners, a Milan-based events firm).
The entire city embraces the arts at this time, with local galleries like THK and Stevenson offering late-night openings, and homegrown auctioneer Aspire hosting sales at its new Cape Town location. All that, plus the chance to check out Zeitz MOCAA, the splashy reimagining of an old grain silo here into a cutting-edge art and hospitality complex, funded by the V&A Waterfront. Its headlining show in February: When We See Us, a major retrospective on Black figuration in painting that nods to Ava DuVernay’s miniseries When They See Us.
Where to stay: Art House Collection
Book now: Art House Collection
Art collector Elana Brundyn runs the best villa and apartment-rental company in the area, Art House Collection, with an assortment of chic options around town. Try the two-bedroom Bantry Bay spot decorated with an impressive assortment of local artwork courtesy of collector Veronique Savigne.
How to get to Cape Town
Delta debuted a brand-new nonstop from ATL to CPT in December; United already had a direct from JFK and has added another route, this time from Dulles.
3. Chiang Mai, Thailand
February is great for: seeing the Rose of the North in full flower
This Thai city, known as the Rose of the North, bursts into literal bloom each February when it hosts the Flower Festival this month. It’s held in the Suan Buak Hat public garden, but every street in the old city will be covered in flowers and plants for three days—this year, February 3–5. Expect dancing, music, and a riot of color, mostly Day-Glo chrysanthemums and, of course, the city’s own damask rose, which thrives here. Don’t miss the Saturday morning parade, which is the highlight of the weekend, or the Flower Festival Queen contest, a throwback-ish contest for a local beauty to be anointed as this year’s monarch.
Chiang Mai is also great base for shopping (the handicrafts are impressive), exploring more than 300 temples, and trekking around the rugged Doi Suthep mountain nearby.
Where to stay: Aleenta Retreat Chiang Mai
Book now: Aleenta Retreat Chiang Mai
Aleenta Retreat Chiang Mai is set to debut in January, and for any wellness-seeking visitor, the 44-room retreat should be an ideal hideout, with a spa that’s rostered with in-house doctors and nurses and even a master healer.
How to get to Chiang Mai
Bizarrely, there are no direct flights to Thailand from the United States—in part a legacy of its national airline losing the right to fly here eight years ago. The canniest way to connect to Chiang Mai, then, is via Singapore Airlines and its 18-hour direct nonstop from EWR; it’s a three-hour flight from there to Chiang Mai, including on Asia’s answer to Spirit, Scoot.
4. Sydney, Australia
February is great for: worldwide WorldPride and a rainbow of acceptance
For the first time ever, WorldPride, the globe-spanning LGBT+ get-together, takes place in the Southern Hemisphere (its last edition was in Copenhagen, three years ago). Expect this pandemic-delayed party to be joy-packed as it runs from February 17 through March 5, when it climaxes with a Pride March over the historic Harbor Bridge. Sydney is renowned for its rainbow-friendly vibe—its Mardi Gras is one of the largest annual pridefests in the world—and for the duration of this celebration, two of the gayborhood’s main drags here, Crown and Riley streets, will be shuttered to traffic and transformed into a riot of stalls, cafés, and stages.
All that, plus the chance to see Australian’s highest profile homegrown gay icon, pint-sized disco queen Kylie Minogue, headline a concert as part of the celebrations on February 24. Be sure to visit Qtopia, the just-opened new museum here that charts the community’s history here and beyond.
Where to stay: Darlinghurst and Potts Point
Book now: Loft in Darlinghurst
Darlinghurst (call it Darlo) and Potts Point are both LGBT+ hubs, so consider an Airbnb in either area to be in the heart of the action.
How to get to Sydney
International connections to SYD have resumed to near prepandemic levels: Delta, United, American, and Qantas fly there from various U.S. hubs.
5. The Adirondacks, New York
February is great for: channeling your inner Anna and Elsa at a real-life Frozen palace
The year 2023 marks the 121st Saranac Lake Winter Carnival, which runs from February 3 to 13. It had inauspicious beginnings in the 19th century, cooked up as a way to encourage TB patients to get outside and enjoy the health-restoring brisk winter air; thankfully, there’s no need to prove your ailments to join in now. You just have to, well, Let It Go.
The centerpiece of the event is a Frozen-worthy structure dubbed the Ice Palace. It’s made from two-ton ice blocks cut from nearby Lake Flower each winter; the free-to-enter site is entirely designed and built by volunteers. Make sure to pick up a Winter Carnival button as a souvenir: These have become in-demand keepsakes ever since Garry Trudeau (the cartoonist behind Doonesbury who grew up in Saranac Lake) began designing them in 1981 and still does today.
Where to stay in the Adirondacks: Lake Placid Lodge
Book now: Lake Placid Lodge
Come hunker down in a cozy log cabin at the Lake Placid Lodge: Snuggle in front of the fireplace in your room (with your dog—it’s welcome) or head out to make s’mores by the firepit and meet a few fellow guests.
How to get to the Adirondacks
From outside New England, the handiest airport is Albany, which is about a 2.5-hour drive from Lake Placid and Lake George.
6. São Paulo, Brazil
February is great for: showing the Cariocas that they don’t have a lock on Carnival
Sure, we love Carnival in Rio, too, but don’t overlook the chance to experience other eye-popping, sense-overloading celebrations across Brazil. Take São Paolo, which will celebrate this year from February 16 to 22; it really only embraced this tradition with gusto 50 years ago.
It’s made up for the laggardly kickoff ever since, particularly via its Grupo Especial parade, a two-night clash between the city’s top dozen or so samba schools at the Oscar Niemeyer–designed Sambadrome. (It’s scheduled over the weekend to avoid siphoning attention from Rio’s similar event on Monday and Tuesday.) Get tickets to watch that, or simply wait for a blocos party in one of the neighborhoods, hundreds of impromptu, smaller events that are just as joyful and much easier to jump in and join. The biggest is Academicos do Baixo Augusta, but one of the best is undeniably in the Italia neighborhood of Bixiga. It started in the 1940s, long before the city as a whole embraced Carnival, and is bolstered by the presence of Vai-Vai here, one of the best Paulista samba schools.
Where to stay: Palácio Tangará
Book now: Palácio Tangará
Take a breather from partying in the city with a little R&R in an urban oasis: the Palácio Tangará, a 141-room hotel set in the 54-acre Burle Marx park, is a plush perch that feels like staying in a European palace that’s been plonked in the heart of a Latin American capital.
How to get to São Paulo
The airport here, GRU, is well-connected to the United States, with direct nonstop flights to major hubs like Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, and New York City.
7. Cabrera, Dominican Republic
February is great for: whale watching, up close, in the water
Come to the lush north coast of the DR for a distinctly different experience, one that’s far removed from the fly-and-flop resorts elsewhere. This month, it’s particularly detour-worthy because it’s when humpback whales make fleeting appearances in the waters off Samaná Peninsula as they migrate. The most in-depth way to experience the arrival of these animals is with a snorkel around Silver Bank, a marine protected area about 80 miles north of the coast; expect to see calves as well as mothers up close in the water.
Sneak into the country this month and you’ll beat the Spring Break crowds, too, but still enjoy peak weather conditions, usually hovering between the mid-70s and 80s for 24 hours a day. And don’t be embarrassed to snap a few shots on Playa Grande: The mile-long beach is a photo-shoot staple for cliff-rimmed beauty and bright blue water.
Where to stay: Amanera
Book now: Amanera
Slick and minimalist as ever, Aman’s DR spot, Amanera, is perfectly placed on a cliff top overlooking the north coast beaches—and handily right by Playa Grande, too.
How to get to Cabrera
JetBlue and United serve the NYC area with nonstop directs to POP, while American offers a short hop over from MIA.
8. Méribel, France
February is great for: marveling at the world’s most skillful piste masters
The Trois Vallées offers the world’s largest skiing areas, with almost 400 miles of trails plus the same again in off-trail adventures. Méribel is the most centrally located of all its hubs within the region. Come here for convenient skiing and snowboarding, especially if you’re a first-timer. There’s not one, but two spots dedicated to beginners—Altiport and Yeti Park, green and blue runs that are the ideal way to ease into piste-loving life.
This month, though, the real draw is the chance to see the world’s most skillful skiers compete at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships for two weeks starting on February 5. Think of it as a cross between the World Cup and the Olympics, combining the star wattage of both. The itinerant event, which dates back to the 1920s, has only taken place in France three times before; the nine events include super G, slalom, and downhill and will take place between the new L’Eclipse piste, close to Courchevel, and Méribel’s Roc de Fer.
Where to stay: Le Coucou
Book now: Le Coucou
The 55-room Le Coucou is one of the hotels run by French rag trade entrepreneur Patrick Pariente and his family, and it has the chic swishness you’d expect as a result; the views are killer from its hilltop site, and the Tata Harper–operated spa is a bougie boho bonus.
How to get to Méribel
The easiest long-haul hub to reach Méribel isn’t in France; instead, head to Geneva—there are flights on Swiss from JFK and United from IAD—and then rent a car to drive two hours over the border.
9. St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
February is great for: Mardi Gras with a Caribbean twist
Call it Mardi Croix—this Fat Tuesday–inspired parade is held here on the Saturday before that day by a local krewe, helmed by homesick Louisiana transplants who’ve imported their raucous traditions to the Caribbean. Come enjoy it starting on the North Shore and ending just past Cane Bay Beach. Arrive a little earlier in the month and you can take part in one of the four Jump Ups hosted here each year; this one takes place on February 11.
These street parties in downtown Christiansted are anchored by the appearance of the so-called Moko Jumbies, which are figures on stilts in elaborate costumes that nod to African traditions and folklore and are believed to ward off bad luck and evil spirits (the jumbies).
Where to stay: King Christian Hotel
Book now: King Christian Hotel
The waterfront King Christian Hotel in the heart of downtown Christiansted dates back to 1743, but a spiffy renovation last summer upgraded its 46 rooms as well as the pool and sundeck.
How to get to St. Croix
Fly direct from ATL and JFK on Delta, from MIA and CLT on American, or from MCO and FLL on Spirit this month.
10. Scottsdale, Arizona
February is great for: gridirons, grilling, and Good Girl Gone Bad
More than a million people flocked to Phoenix the last time the city hosted the Super Bowl, in 2015—and expect even bigger numbers this year, when the NFL’s tentpole game takes place again here, at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, on February 12. The entire week leading up to the game will see major parties and events around the area, starting with a kick-off Super Bowl Opening Night at the Footprint Center on February 6 and continuing all week.
If you can’t score a ticket to the game proper, don’t worry: In Hance Park, there will be a free outdoor experience where you can watch the game, tailgate-style, and sing along when Rihanna makes her first appearance at the half-time show, a noteworthy booking given her vocal boycott of the event in the wake of criticism of Colin Kaepernick.
Where to stay: W Scottsdale
Book now: W Scottsdale
The 14-year-old W Scottsdale just underwent a much-needed rehab, freshening its rooms and upgrading common areas. Book a new cabana on its pool deck or have supper at the new on-site Cottontail Lounge.
How to get to Scottsdale
Southwest and American both have extensive service to PHX, connecting it from such locales as Hawai‘i, Long Beach, California, and Spokane, Washington.