Forget the always-75-and-sunny stereotype; it can get downright chilly in L.A. during the winter. And as temperatures in Southern California dip, Angelenos to head east to spend the cooler months basking under the desert sun. Here we round up some of the hottest inland attractions, perfect for a winter retreat from the West Coast.
The 48th state offers everything from cowboy to couture via its three main hubs: Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tucson.
Phoenix has been undergoing a growth spurt for more than a decade, adding boutiques, restaurants and hotels to its Sonoran desert cityscape. Not to miss is the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Biltmore Hotel, which boasts 39 acres of spas, golf and pools. The state capital also serves as a sports mecca. Between the Suns, Diamondbacks and Coyotes, fans can root for the home team at more than 100 games this season.
Separated from Phoenix by Camelback Mountain (a two-hour hike offers views of both cities), Scottsdale offers spas with rubs and scrubs steeped in desert traditions, from the hand-washing ritual at Joya Spa to the healing Native American smudging traditions at the Fairmont Scottsdale.
Two hours south, Tucson lets you channel your inner cowboy at the Tanque Verde — a 150-year-old dude ranch equipped for horseback rides and cattle drives — and your inner gourmand, with seasonal cooking classes from James Beard Award-winning chef Janos Wilder at the Westin La Paloma Resort.
A two-hour drive from Los Angeles, Palm Springs has flourished as a desert retreat since stars started to trickle here from Hollywood in the 1930s, building droves of midcentury modern bungalows. Today, the population swells from 43,000 to 70,000 during the winter months.
The Sydell Group, which owns the nearby Ace Hotel, converted a drab Holiday Inn into the new 249-room, three-level Saguaro Palm Springs, which offers a pair of dining attractions with menus designed by “The Next Iron Chef” winner Jose Garces.
Must-see winter events include the International Film Festival (Jan. 3 to 14) with more than of 400 screenings, and Modernism Week (Feb. 16 to 24), a 10-day dose of all things retro, including in-home tours and swanky poolside receptions.
Las Vegas has been an adult playground since the first casinos opened here in the 1930s. This winter, the city built on risk debuts a trio of safe bets.
Nobu, a restaurant famed far and wide for its upscale Japanese cuisine, this fall will debut its first hotel inside Caesars Palace. The property and restaurant will stay true to Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s signature aesthetic.
The $450 million Smith Center for the Performing Arts offers Vegas a cultural oasis with a 2,050-seat concert venue featuring acts ranging from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to full-length Broadway shows (and not those 90-minute Vegas condensed versions, either).
Fans of the outdoors will enjoy a unique view of Sin City at the just-opened River Mountains Trail, a 35-mile loop outside Las Vegas that winds past vistas of Lake Mead and the wild Mojave.
A south-of-the-border blend of the cosmopolitan and the tranquil, Oaxaca is considered by many to be Mexico’s artistic capital.
The galleries of Centro Histórico display both abstract and folk art, while Mujeres Artesanas de las Regiones de Oaxaca showcases female artisans' work — like pottery and hammocks — spread out across a dozen different rooms.
The city's restaurants blend native ingredients with international trends. Your best bet is to stroll the cobblestone streets of Alcalá, with its array of restaurants, plus street vendors serving local fare like papayas and chapulines (fried grasshoppers) seasoned with chili.
For a stay surrounded by authentic Mexican architecture, the 23-room Posada del Centro maintains a chic Colonial charm with terra-cotta walls, stone fountains and plant-filled patios.
—Jamie Wetherbe, Custom Publishing Writer