How to Escape Winter


By Jess Goulart

Photo courtesy of Kai Brinker.

It takes a certain kind of person to live in the North Pole. Crazy immediately comes to mind.

But over the last few years it feels like there’s less and less choice in the matter, as the Pole’s sub-zero temperatures, unearthly blizzards, and glacier-shaping winds travel further south. Last year’s Polar Vortex set record lows across the United States, and this year Buffalo, New York, was pummeled by eight (yikes!) feet of snow in mid-November.

If digging yourself out of your home, or just the cold in general, isn’t your cup of tea, but you can’t afford a sunny getaway, don’t despair–we’ve crafted the top 10 ways to escape winter gloom without having to leave your city.

Try a vitamin D supplement or lamp.

When our skin is exposed to the sun it produces vitamin D. In the winter months, when sunlight disappears, our bodies don’t make enough of it, which can make us feel anxious and depressed. You can take supplements, or you can try a portable vitamin D lamp like this one, made by Sperti. The lamp uses limited exposure UVB rays to elevate your vitamin D levels and costs about $425, though experts warn to use it cautiously because it can cause skin cancer.

Maximize your exposure to the sun.

If vitamin D lamps and supplements aren’t your thing, you can try to boost your sun exposure with a tracker called SunSprite. The device retails for $99 and records your sunlight intake and UV exposure, calculating how much more sunshine you need day by day. You can (of course) sync it with an app over bluetooth that lets you set goals and earn trophies. Oh, and it’s solar powered so you never have to recharge.

Go to a museum.

Photo courtesy of Arturo Donate.

Not feeling like you’re trapped because of the weather (even if you are) is important, and one of the best ways to remember there’s a great big world out there is to go marvel at some artifacts it created. A lot of museums are donation based (including The Met in NYC), so it won’t cost you anything except a dirty look from the ticket vendor.

Drink at a rooftop bar with heat lamps.

Cities are notorious for their creative use of rooftop space, and the last thing that a bar with roof access wants to do is shut it down due to inclement weather. To stay open year round they can get quite creative, using everything from heat lamps, to snuggies, to plastic igloos. The best part is most people don’t think to go to a rooftop bar during the winter–without the crowds, you might actually be able to get a drink!

Find the best hot chocolate.

No matter what city you live in, there is a chocolate connoisseur somewhere in your midst who painstakingly tested hundreds of hot chocolate recipes to find the one you won’t be able to live without. As an added bonus, chocolate is a natural aphrodisiac and sure to help lift your spirits.

Hint: it is not at Starbucks.

Buy local at a Holiday pop-up market.

Photo courtesy of John.

Sometimes nothing brightens your day like a brand new “such and such.” The Union Square Holiday Market in New York has food, hot drinks, and handmade crafts like jewelry and artwork. Most of the wares are from local vendors, so you can knock out all your gift shopping while also giving back to your community.

Embrace the gift of delivery.

If you live in a city there are a lot of really annoying everyday hurdles you have to jump (subways, for example). But fighting hordes of people to grocery shop, do your laundry, or buy booze are not among them. Companies like Postmates and Anything U Want will deliver to your doorstep–well, pretty much anything you want, and usually in under an hour.

Do a home workout program.

We get it, amping yourself up for the gym is hard enough without having to trek through snow and slush, but winter is no excuse to stop exercising. In fact, studies show that it’s even more important in the darker months because it triggers endorphins that help fight depression. We love P90X or Insanity for an intense transformation, but try to find a program that captures your interest so you’re more likely to stick with it.

Spend the day at an indoor Botanical Garden.

Photo courtesy of kenneth casper.

Take a break from the monochromatic palette of snow and ice with a day trip to an indoor botanical garden. These roofed jungles exist in nearly every major city and are climate controlled, so it won’t just look like summertime again, it will feel like it too. Bring a camera so you can take some color home with you and remind yourself the world won’t always be pale and white.

Stay social.

When all you want to do is curl up under a blanket, it’s easy to lose touch with friends, family, and the outside world in general. However, research at the Mayo Clinic suggests one of the most effective ways to fight weather induced depression, which affects one in five Americans every winter, is being around other people. Join a Meetup, grab an after-work cocktail, or host a dinner party–anything to help you stay interactive.

Pola Henderson, editor of the popular city based travel blog Jetting Around, tells BTR “coffee shops, bars, and jazz clubs help me survive Chicago winters.” Henderson also hosts #JAchat, a weekly discussion on Twitter about city travel and culture every Friday at 1pm (EST). “Lately,” she adds, “I’ve tried to make friends with winter, not escape [it].”

With this handy list, now you can do the same.