There’s a lot to love about a New England winter, from the magical quiet of a snowy night to carving fresh powder on the ski slopes. But sometimes, you really just need to soak in some warmth to fight the icy temperatures. Here are a few nearby warm winter destinations where you can feel the heat, even in the coldest season.
Visit the Tropics
If you can’t actually take a vacation to the tropics, at least you can visit them for a few hours. Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, R.I., has two ways to experience tropical vibes, year-round. The Botanical Center at Roger Williams Park is New England’s largest indoor garden. It’s always warm inside the two enormous greenhouses, the Conservatory and the Mediterranean Room, which are filled with plants from around the world. At Roger Williams Park Zoo, the Faces of the Rainforest exhibit is home to giant river otters – the only ones in New England – and nearly 150 other species of tropical plants and animals.
The Tropical Rainforest at Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo has gorillas, pygmy hippos, a boa constrictor and an anaconda, among many other animals you won’t see naturally in New England, like ring-tailed lemurs and ocelots.
The New England Aquarium in Boston has six Amazon exhibits, including an Amazon rainforest with electric eels and poison dart frogs. And while you can walk through the Museum of Science’s Butterfly Garden, where hundreds of winged beauties fly freely around you, you can also observe life in warmer climates at a screening of The Congo 4-D: Life in the Rainforest, a 3-D movie with special effects in the museum’s theater.
Immerse Yourself in Warmth
When you can’t take the cold anymore, it’s time for drastic measures. As in 150-degree drastic. Raffa Yoga in Cranston, R.I., has a calming warm winter destinations called Urban Sweat, a series of saunas and steam rooms designed to boost your health. There’s a black charcoal sauna that absorbs the body’s impurities, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory yellow turmeric room, and several others that are very hot and extremely restorative when you’re feeling chilled to your bones. In Newport, R.I., The Bodhi Spa offers a Water Journey, a circuit of six mineral-rich salt pools and saunas that stimulate and purify your system.
If you truly want to show winter who’s boss, choose a spa with a year-round outdoor hot tub. Mirbeau Inn and Spa in Plymouth, Mass., has one on its aqua terrace, as well as an indoor heated foot soak that’s modeled after Plymouth Rock. Mountain View Grand Hotel in Whitefield, N.H., has spa rooms in the highest point in the hotel with 360-degree views of the Presidential Range.
Request a Table by the Fire
There’s no faster way to shake off a chill than eating comfort food by a roaring fireplace. The Common Man in Lincoln, N.H., has an enormous hearth in its lounge, big enough that several couches and overstuffed chairs fit in front of it. Sharpe Hill Vineyard Fireside Tavern in Pomfret, Conn., specializes in wood-hearth cooking, and has a double-sided fireplace with enough heat to warm the entire space – the perfect warm winter destination! Trattoria Delia in Burlington, Vt., defines cozy Italian dining with its roaring fireplace surrounded with candles and twinkling lights. Ebenezer’s Tavern at The Publick House in Sturbridge, Mass., is a circa-1791 inn with a 6-foot-wide fireplace that harkens back to the time when a roaring fire was the only source of heat for the room. And it’s in the name of the Tipsy Toboggan Fireside Pub, a winter-themed gastropub in Fall River, Mass., so that’s basically a legally binding contract to keep you warm.
Drink All the Hot Chocolate
It’s a scientifically proven fact* that hot chocolate fights the winter blues – and since that’s one of our biggest exports in New England, we’ve devised a lot of inventive ways to enjoy a warm, chocolatey mug of comfort. The Gelato Fiasco in Portland, Maine, makes its drinking chocolate with chocolate gelato. Vicuña Chocolate Factory in Peterborough, N.H., has a cafe on premises that serves European drinking chocolate and mocha lattes made with its own chocolate. Dancing Lion Chocolate in Manchester, N.H., offers up spicy Mayan hot chocolate.
In Boston, Gâté Comme des Filles in the Bow Market food hall serves hot Valrhona chocolate with flavored whipped creams and added flavors like lavender. Kakawa Chocolate House, in Salem, Mass., doesn’t serve hot chocolate: It serves “elixirs” based on drinking chocolate recipes dating as far back as the 1600s, and from everywhere from South America to Europe, drawing inspiration from Marie Antoinette and Thomas Jefferson’s hot chocolate preferences.
*obviously that is not real science, but shouldn’t it be?
Where do you go to stay warm on the coldest days? Tell us in the comments.