We dug deep into all Opal destinations in Florida, Maine, and New York to build this list of top winter events and seasonal vacation ideas.
Take a Fat Bike Tour [Lake Placid, NY]
You may have noticed this peculiar bike niche gaining significant traction (pun intended) in the last few years. Fat bikes – with tires more than twice the width of normal mountain bike tires and a bigger frame – float on surfaces, like snow, where normal tires would sink. The result? Riders being able to venture out into a winter wonderland at full speed. Downtown Lake Placid–based High Peaks Cyclery offers three-hour tours for visitors looking to try this up-and-coming sport on the trails of Mt. Van Hoevenberg (which happens to be less than a mile from the store), complete with bike rental, helmet, hot cocoa, and snacks.
Where to Stay Lake Placid Lodge
Find Feathered Friends [Key West, FL]
In the cooler months, Florida is home to over 300 species of birds – some of which live in the area year-round, while some are just stopping through. Keep an eye out for the four-foot-tall great egret or the many birds of prey who winter here in Key West, like bald eagles, osprey, and red-shouldered hawks. For your best chance of catching a glimpse at any of these, birds try a private birding tour through the mangroves with Captain Victoria Impallomeni of Dancing Dolphin Spirits Charter, which can last anywhere from four to seven hours.
Stroll through Festive Flora [St. Petersburg, FL]
Until December 30, the Florida Botanical Gardens turn into a winter wonderland thanks to the annual Holiday Lights in the Garden. Located just nine miles south of Clearwater and 10 miles north of St. Pete in Pinewood Cultural Park, the 30 acres of cultivated gardens are adorned in more than one million LED lights, as well as festive holiday displays of snowmen and Santas. Local musicians dot the gardens, serenading guests as they wander the lit pathways while sipping on hot chocolate and munching on sweet snacks from local vendors.
Snowmobile to a Local Mountain Summit [Lake Luzerne, NY]
Located just five miles from Lake George, Lake Vanare Snowmobile Tours offers one-hour guided rides on the property’s own snow-crested trails and two-hour rides to the top of Prospect Mountain. Those looking for a more memorable experience should opt for the two-hour tour, which winds five miles through the forest to the 2,000-foot summit. Three overlooks along the way give sneak peeks to views of Vermont’s Green Mountains, New Hampshire’s White Mountains, and New York’s High Peaks, while the views at the top reach as far as 100 miles on a clear day.
Where to Stay The Sagamore Resort
Redefine Your Image of Florida [Delray Beach]
Running until March at The Boca Museum (eight miles south of Delray Beach in Boca Raton), Imagining Florida is a unique exhibit that serves as a major anthology of art made in and inspired by Florida and its people and places. Because all 200 artworks are borrowed from private collections across the state and nationwide, this is a rare opportunity to see the high caliber pieces before they go back to the original owners.
Send the New Year out The Naples Way [Naples, FL]
Starting at 6 p.m., Third Street South – Naples’s historic high-end shopping district – becomes ground zero for a smorgasbord of New Year’s Eve entertainment. Expect twinkle lights, tinsel, and live music on the sidewalks and champagne and buffets in the district’s various restaurants. The festivities end with snow machines pumping the street full of the fluffy white stuff before families head to the water for the fireworks display.
Where to Stay Edgewater Beach Hotel
Sip a Seasonal Brew [Sarasota, FL]
Big Top Brewing, located in Sarasota, puts out as many as 150 small-batch brews a year. In fact, every Tuesday and Friday, they release something new, and, as the temps begin to fall, the brews get heavier. Unlike most breweries, however, which turn to stouts and porters for the winter months, Big Top opts to create around the next big trend in beer: milkshake IPAs. This style uses lactose to create a fuller-bodied, creamier, dessert-like flavor that you don’t normally find with traditional hop-heavy IPAs. Come in for a Peach Milkshake or Sour Cherry Milkshake while they are still available.