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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

Best Winter Vacations for Doctors

With winter on the horizon, some people start daydreaming about tropical beaches, whereas others are happy to enjoy the powdery slopes of vertiginous peaks. Whether your winter vacation fantasy leans toward hot, cold, or somewhere in between; domestic or foreign; solo or group, we've got 25 recommendations to help you make your next booking. Take a road trip through the rolling Texas Hill Country or along the iconic Big Sur coast. Revel in solitude at Utah's Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument. Wander the shores while collecting shells in Sanibel or lay back under an umbrella in Bimini. See the wonders of Croatia during the off-season. As always, be sure to check COVID-related restrictions and requirements before you go.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

Bend, Oregon

Bend, located on a river east of the Cascade Mountains and at the edge of the high desert, is a family-friendly outdoor adventure paradise. Winter temperatures in the town of 100,000 average around 50 °F, and the sun shines more in Bend than anywhere else in Oregon. Nearby, 9000-foot Mount Bachelor gets between 160 and 180 inches of snow a year, which lures skiers, snowboarders, and snow-tubers alike. Take a ranger-led snowshoe or ski tour, and then head back to town for a cold beer at one of the 24 craft breweries along the Bend Ale Trail. If snow isn't your thing, check out the Oregon Desert Trail for year-round hiking. The High Desert Museum is a must-see, with art, culture, and wildlife exhibits to explore. Whereas Portland has donuts, Bend has ocean rolls — a croissant layered with vanilla, sugar, and cardamom. Bend's small dining scene, known for its farm-to-table selections, as morphed into a foodie destination.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

Islamorada, Florida Keys

Warmth and sunshine are guaranteed on this 7-square-mile island that's a 2-hour drive from Miami. Sportfishing lovers have always flocked to Islamorada for deep water, reef, and flats-fishing opportunities. Watersports abound here: Launch a kayak or try stand-up paddleboarding, kiteboarding, or windsurfing from one of the public beaches into flat water that is close to shore. Fantastic scuba and snorkeling can be had in the marine sanctuary around Alligator Reef Lighthouse. Islamorada is an artist's haven: Its every-third-Thursday Art Walk features live music, food, and art. Fresh seafood is always on the menu — conch, lobster, snapper, grouper — and no meal is complete without a slice of Key lime pie. Swim with dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center, delve into scuba at the History of Diving Museum, or learn about local history at the Florida Keys History and Discovery Center. Key West, Marathon, and Bahia Honda State Park are easy and worthwhile day trips.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

Island of Hawaii, Hawaii

At 4000 square miles, the largest of Hawaii's verdant isles (its nickname is Big Island) fits every tropical fantasy — without the crowds. Most come here briefly to visit Mauna Loa, an active volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. There are 80 beaches — with black, green, and white sands — for you to visit. You can snorkel with sea turtles, hike through rainforests, stargaze atop 13,800-foot Mauna Kea (considered the tallest mountain on earth when its underwater expanse is included), or catch the humpback whale migration over the winter. Start every morning with a cup of coffee brewed from local Kona beans, considered among the world's best. Most visitors stay on the western, sunnier, resort-studded Kona side. That region is also steeped in history: King Kamehameha I ruled from Kailua after he united the islands (his restored residence is in town), and Captain James Cook landed here. Hilo, which is on the east side, is rainier and a good base for exploring the rainforests.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

Edisto Island, South Carolina

Framed by salt marshes, the ocean, and meandering rivers, Edisto — half of which is protected land — is quintessential Carolina low country. Its clapboard houses and old churches are shaded by Spanish moss–draped live oaks. Follow the meandering Edisto Island National Scenic Byway to Edisto Beach State Park for biking, hiking, bird-watching, kayaking, and shell- and fossil-collecting along the Atlantic. The family-friendly, 4.5-mile-long Edisto Beach lies at the southern tip of the state and has little development beyond single-family homes and low-rise condos. Anglers can find both deep and shallow waters for casting (many fishers come for the annual billfish tournament). There's a single golf course, no hotels or amusement parks, and minimal commercialization. Explore the culture of the Gullah Geechee people, the descendants of enslaved African Americans, who carry on their heritage through music, foodways, and arts throughout the Sea Islands. The Edisto Island Museum offers exhibits on area history and tours of historic Black churches, cemeteries, and freedmen's houses.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

The Texas Hill Country

With winter averages in the low 60s, the rolling hills that are west of Austin and north of San Antonio are a temperate setting for a casual road trip. While you might skip a dip in the well-celebrated, spring-fed swimming holes, they're still beautiful to visit — along with the German-inflected small towns that dot the region. Stop in Llano for a barbecue fill-up. In New Braunfels, catch live music every night at Texas' oldest dance hall — Gruene Hall — or try a two-step at Luckenbach Texas Dancehall. Fredericksburg, which is geared to host weekend getaways, features spas, fine dining, and some 15 wineries. The Hill Country is among the biggest wine growing regions in the United States. Comfort's quaint downtown and easygoing nature are big draws. The region's natural beauty shines at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Pedernales Falls State Park, Lost Maples State Natural Area, and Canyon Lake. History buffs will want to visit the LBJ Ranch, where the 36th President was born, lived, died, and is buried.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

The Catskills, New York

Just 130 miles north of Manhattan, the Catskills' heyday was from the 1920s to the 1960s, when its camps, clubs, spas, and hotels welcomed endless visitors all summer. The mainly rural and wooded mountainous region — cut through with picturesque roaring creeks — has undergone a renaissance. The Catskills now attract both outdoor enthusiasts and artisans, many of whom have opened farm-to-table gourmet eating establishments, craft breweries, distilleries, shops, and boutique hotels throughout many of the small and historic towns. Take a hike, cross-country ski, or snowshoe in the Catskills Forest Preserve, Slide Mountain Wilderness Area, Big Indian Wilderness Area, and several other nature preserves. The Catskills region also boasts three major ski areas: Belleayre Mountain, Windham Mountain, and Hunter Mountain. Catch a concert or visit the museum at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, which is the site of the original Woodstock music festival. Or take in live music or a reading in Bearsville, then Slide over to the town of Woodstock to peruse the many galleries.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

Aspen, Colorado

Aspen is associated with luxury, but the quaint valley town can accommodate the budget-minded too. The main draw in winter? Four 10,000- to 14,000-foot ski mountains, which are connected by free shuttles. Aspen promotes diversity by hosting a Gay Ski Week and Black Ski Summit each year. Many hotels and guides offer backcountry excursions for off-piste enthusiasts. Nonskiers can take in the natural beauty by snowmobile, dogsled, snow bike, or snowshoe — or from a heated outdoor pool with a cocktail in hand. Stroll the downtown streets while looking for celebrities. Shopping is also a sport — try your luck at picking up cast-off couture at local consignment shops. Practice yoga in a glass-framed studio atop Aspen Mountain. Fill up on discounted bar food at the many après-ski happy hours or book a reservation at a fine dining hot spot. For a dose of culture, head to the lattice-framed Aspen Art Museum, with free admission and well-curated exhibitions of work by contemporary artists.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

Charlottesville, Virginia

History buffs love Charlottesville, in part because it is home to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's estate, and Highland, the less impressive residence of fifth US President, James Monroe. Jefferson was also the founder of the University of Virginia; the campus' Roman classical buildings and grounds are another top attraction in this town of 47,000 that's nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains foothills. Stroll the pedestrian Downtown Mall for shopping and plenty of restaurants, stop by the 90-year-old Paramount Theater for some music or a film, or enjoy a cocktail at Miller's Downtown, a small bar with live jazz. The many wineries, cideries, and meaderies along the Governor's Cup Gold Medal Wine Trail and the Monticello Wine Trail are a testament to the area's reputation as the birthplace of American wine. Burn off the bounty by hiking in the nearby Shenandoah National Park or, if it's too cold, enjoy the views from behind the wheel along the park's Skyline Drive.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

Big Sur, California

This 90-mile stretch of craggy California coast between Carmel and Hearst Castle offers one of America's quintessential road trips. Crowds dissipate in the winter, when rain is more of a factor. The two-lane Pacific Coast Highway dramatically threads between the Santa Lucia Mountains and the ocean. There are plenty of roadside beaches, state parks, and viewpoints to catch your breath. Despite Big Sur's isolated feel, five-star dining is never far off. Camp, glamp, or splurge on one of the luxury resorts that dot the coastline. Stroll around quaint Carmel or buy a book at the Henry Miller Library. Venture to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, where seaside hikes reveal seals, sea lions, sea otters, and migrating gray whales (from December to May). Seek out the 80-foot McWay Falls, which gushes out of a cliff at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

Sanibel Island, Florida

Sanibel, the southern end of a 12-mile-long barrier island, is perfectly positioned in the Gulf of Mexico to catch seashells — at least 250 different kinds, which are all described in detail at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum. Sanibel draws in not just seashell hunters and collectors but also those who can appreciate powdery white sand beaches and calm waters that are ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. The island — originally inhabited by the Calusa people — was not accessible by car until 1963, so it's still relatively undeveloped. The 6000-acre J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a birding hot spot with 245 species flying around, but be sure to mind the gators as you hike on the trails. Sanibel is all about nature — even the three golf courses are sanctioned as wildlife habitats. Charter a boat to see dolphins and manatees or take a sunset cruise for an unparalleled view across the Gulf. Though it's laid-back and small, Sanibel's dining scene packs a punch: from classic French to Gulf-centric seafood (grouper especially), Italian, and New American.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

Sun Valley, Idaho

Built in 1936 near the former mining town of Ketchum and nestled in the Sawtooth Mountains, the famous Sun Valley Ski Resort was opened by the Union Pacific Railroad. Celebrities like Clark Gable and Ernest Hemingway helped burnish Sun Valley's image as a jet setter's destination. That reputation endures — along with an Old World feel. The two main mountains in the Sawtooth range boast 2054 skiable acres, six lodges with 13 restaurants, and a 26,000-square-foot family center for lessons and rentals. Fly-fishers can still cast during the winter. Nonskiers can go ice-skating, bowling, take a yoga class, swim in a heated pool, or spend the day at a spa. They can also take a horse-drawn sleigh ride to a restaurant in the woods or dine midway up Bald Mountain at the Roundhouse, which offers spectacular views. Hemingway fans can book a tour that highlights his legacy in the area, including a visit to his former home.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

Stowe, Vermont

Stowe has been a New England ski tradition since it first opened in the late 1930s. The resort — geared toward intermediate skiers — features a vertical drop of 2360 feet and 40 miles of trails. Cross-country skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts can tromp across miles of wooded trails, whereas those who are less inclined to ski can hitch a ride with a snowmobile tour. Off-slope, you can stroll through the quaint picture-postcard town, stop into an 1890s-era general store for a wool sweater, tour a glassblowing studio, and then warm up with a cup of local hot apple cider or quaff a pint of a local IPA. Don't forget to pick up some locally crafted chocolates for dessert, unless you're too filled up on ice cream after your tour of the original Ben & Jerry's factory. You can watch hockey teams in action at the Stowe Arena, or take in chamber music or ballet at Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center. No trip to Stowe is complete without a visit to the Trapp Family Lodge — yes, those Trapps, from The Sound of Music.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Winter in Santa Fe means you'll have the galleries, shops, and restaurants all to yourself, plus the hotels will be less pricey. Walk the streets radiating off the Santa Fe Plaza and be sure to talk with the Native American artists who sell their wares at Palace of the Governors. Fill up on a Frito pie or hearty huevos rancheros with Hatch chile. Wash it all down with a margarita; the Santa Fe Margarita Trail pass gives you entry to 40 tequila bars. There's a wide range of art: the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture; the Museum of International Folk Art; the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum; and the interactive Meow Wolf space. Visit during January's craft beer–centric WinterBrew festival or February's Santa Fe Film Festival. Ski Santa Fe's 1705-foot vertical drop may seem small, but the mountain's peak is at 12,075 feet. The Pecos National Historical Park paints a picture of the West — from pueblos, to missions, to the westernmost Civil War battle.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Mild winter temperatures — from just above freezing to the 60s — provide the perfect conditions for hiking and camping in this massive park (it's bigger than Rhode Island), where the Mojave and Colorado deserts meet. The long, dark nights and lack of light pollution create fantastic stargazing opportunities; Joshua Tree is certified as an International Dark Sky Park. It is also a bouldering and rock climbing mecca. If hiking is more your speed, you won't be bored on trails that run from easy 1-mile loops to scenic points or desert oases to multihour out-and-back hikes to mountain summits. The most dangerous hike is the half mile through the spikes of the Cholla Cactus Garden. The scenic 18-mile, 2-hour Geology Road Tour offers a seated science lesson. If you just want to see, but not stay in, nature, the northside Twentynine Palms Highway offers a route to funky hotels and quaint inns, saloons, and roadside restaurants, plus LA- and Palm Springs–inspired fine dining as well as Thai and Indian cuisine.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument, Utah

A close second to the Grand Canyon in rich geologic history, this almost-2-million-acre swath of southern Utah features expansive skies, slot canyons, petroglyphs, and ruins left by the Ancestral Puebloan and Fremont peoples, sandstone arches and cliffs, oases, natural bridges, and dramatic rock cairns. It is a good place for solitude, especially during the winter when temperatures dip below freezing at night and hit the mid-40s during the day. Deep snow can be expected above 6000 feet. It is a magical time to visit; hire a tour or hiking guide to help you unlock the area's many mysteries. Hiking options range from off-trail route finding to family-friendly, such as the 6-mile roundtrip (mostly flat) walk to the 126-foot Lower Calf Creek Falls. Many come to camp (or glamp), but hotels and services are available in Escalante, which also has a visitor center and serves as, a great base to explore the monuments, as well as nearby Bryce Canyon, Arches National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Glen Canyon, and Lake Powell — all without the crowds.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

Jensen Beach, Florida

Situated on a 37-mile aquatic preserve, Jensen Beach is family-friendly and somewhat undiscovered. The Old Florida–style downtown features low-rise shops, a cluster of artists' studios, and beachy restaurants. The region was a pineapple-growing hotspot at the turn of the 20th century and thus celebrates all things pineapple. It's now known for sea turtles: The loggerhead, leatherback, and green species lay their eggs on Sea Turtle Beach, which is on the barrier island just across a causeway. Learn more at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center, a marine nature preserve. "Surf's up" is a common call around Jensen; learn how to ride waves at an area surf school. Rent a sailboat or fish off the pier at the 63-acre Indian RiverSide Park, also home to the Children's Museum of the Treasure Coast. Sport fishers can test their mettle against blue marlin and other gamefish; nearby Stuart has been named Sailfish Capital of the World.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

Cashiers, North Carolina

Some 3400 feet up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the small town of Cashiers (population 1974) has become a vacation and second-home destination for those who are looking for the next Asheville. Stay at a historic inn or opt for a luxury resort to kick back and do nothing. Stroll the 13-acre Village Green and then go antiquing or shop for hiking boots and outerwear. Immerse yourself in nature in the Nantahala National Forest: Hike to Whitewater Falls, which plunges 411 feet down a rocky escarpment, or seek out the 2-mile loop up to 4900-foot Whiteside Mountain to catch views of South Carolina and Georgia. Spend the evening gorging on North Carolina oysters and trout, accompanied by a local craft beer. Snow enthusiasts can strap on skis or a board and hit the slopes at Scaly Mountain or Ski Sapphire Valley. Check out the local history at the Cashiers Historical Society.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

Mammoth Lakes, California

Mammoth Lakes, which is in the magnificent snow-capped Eastern Sierras, is gorgeous year-round. During the winter, skiers who are lured by the 17-foot average annual snowfall arrive in droves. The town of Mammoth Lakes is at 7880 feet; the ski area's summit — an extinct volcano — tops out at 11,053 feet. Nonskiers can ride the gondola for the breathless view at the top. The mountain has 3500 acres of skiable terrain and has a nice mix of easy to very difficult trails. There's ski-in/ski-out lodging, or book at a lakeside resort and zen out to the waterscape. Explore the area via snowmobile or snowshoe following the Mammoth Lakes Trail System. Take an après-ski dip in a natural hot spring — a byproduct of the area's volcanic underpinnings. The small town boasts at least two distilleries and two craft breweries, along with wine bars that stock California vintages.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

Boston, Massachusetts

It's cold, but you can cozy up in a Back Bay boutique hotel room with a fireplace — plus it's discounted during the winter. That fireplace will be sweet to come back to after an afternoon of ice-skating on the Boston Common or tracing the Freedom Trail. Don't forget to pick up a cup of Mexican hot chocolate on the way back to your hotel too. Head over to the new Seaport District, where you can try your hand at curling and then hit the shops. You'll never go hungry in Boston; the city's dining scene is world-class. Home to some 35 universities and colleges, there's also no shortage of lectures, performances, screenings, and art openings. Then, of course, there's the world-famous Symphony Hall, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Catch a Broadway show at the Boston Music Hall or browse the used tomes at the three-story Brattle Book Shop. On Sunday, peruse the shops and galleries in the South End — and make sure to stop by the SoWa Vintage Market.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

Sedona, Arizona

Even though it sits at 4300 feet, Sedona still is pleasant during the wintertime, with temperatures ranging from the 30s to the 60s — plus, it's the low season. Long known for attracting those who seek healing from the supposed energy vortexes among the red rock formations, it is also a destination for spa-goers, hikers, and now, wine enthusiasts; there are two dozen or so vineyards in the area. Take in the unparalleled landscape via a vortex tour, from the cliffside Chapel of the Holy Cross, or the basket of a hot air balloon — or just get out and hike. Take a meditation class or commune with the ancients at the preserved pueblo at Tuzigoot National Monument. Golf is possible year-round here. Book a stargazing tour — Sedona is an International Dark Sky Community. The shops here aren't full of just crystals and cowboy boots; you can find Native American jewelry and art, clothing made by local artisans, and home décor at the three major shopping plazas.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

Cozumel, Mexico

Cruise ships dock at this 30-mile-long island, with millions disgorging and mostly staying in the port, opposite Playa del Carmen off the Yucatán. But it's easy to get away from the tourist traps. Rent a car and explore the multitude of beaches on the quiet east coast or the Mayan ruins at San Gervasio. Snorkelers and scuba divers have been coming here for decades to explore the reefs, walls, and cave systems that are populated by massive corals, colorful fish, sharks, and eagle rays. Cozumel lies within the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, which is the second largest in the world. Many snorkelers alight from the Punta Sur Eco Beach Park, where you can also rent a kayak or relax at the tequila bar. Cozumel has its own culinary traditions; seek out restaurants offering whole fish, ceviche made with conch or octopus, or relleno negro — a slow-cooked chili pepper and turkey dish. Try xtabentún, a liqueur made from honey, anise, and rum.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

Bimini, Bahamas

Bimini — only 9 square miles total — consists of North Bimini and South Bimini islands and lies 50 miles off the Florida coast, which makes it a quick and easy tropical getaway. Adventurers come during the winter to dive with hammerhead and bull sharks or to explore the reefs and shipwrecks, much of which can be enjoyed by snorkelers, too. If you'd like to learn more about sharks, just not up close, tour the Bimini Shark Lab. Islands in the Stream, Hemingway's posthumous novel, is a love letter to the time he spent hunting big-game fish in Bimini. Bimini's small commercial heart centers around Alice Town on the North island. Rent a golf cart and explore some of the less-visited beaches on the eastern side or take a ferry over to the less-developed South island. At night, you can try your luck at roulette at Bimini's sole casino or relax at a beach shack with a Rum Runner, conch salad, and some grilled lobster.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

Anguilla

The 16 x 3–mile Caribbean island of Anguilla is getting kudos for its sustainable tourism practices. Cruise ships do not dock here and there are no casinos. The people, foodie-centric restaurants, thriving local music scene, luxury resorts, and turquoise waters are the draw. The tiny British territory requires planning to get to (unless you've got a private jet) and only has about 15,000 residents, so there's plenty of room to spread out on one of its 33 public beaches. Hop on a bike to explore the less-trafficked east side's sandy expanses. Charter a boat to skip around the outlying cays to fill your day with swimming and lounging. With seven protected marine parks, there's plenty of opportunity for diving and snorkeling. A newly redesigned PGA-level golf course is luring duffers — or opt to get your heart pumping at a cardio clinic at the Anguilla Tennis Academy.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

Almería, Spain

Founded in the 10th century, this Andalusian port on the Mediterranean has a rich history that incorporates Islamic, Christian, and Catholic influences. Visit the 10th century Alcazaba, which is the second largest Islamic fortress in Europe. Delve into the region's archeologic beginnings at the Museo de Almería, with its Neolithic, Roman, and Islamic Neolithic artifacts. Explore the network of underground bomb shelters created during the Spanish Civil War. The semi-arid region features the only desert in Europe, the Tabernas, where many Westerns have been filmed. Beat the beach crowds at the Cabo de Gata–Níjar Natural Park, a massive protected coastal area where you can hike, kayak, snorkel, or bird-watch. Small towns within the reserve offer lodging and fresh grilled seafood. Cyclists are drawn to Almería during the winter months for its mild temperatures. Almería was also named the Gastronomic Capital of Spain in 2019.

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25 Great Winter Vacations for Doctors: 2021

Alicia Ault | November 24, 2021 | Contributor Information

Croatia

The low season has its advantages: Croatia's luxury spas are less expensive and less crowded. You'll be able to walk the narrow alleys of Dubrovnik to take in the Roman ruins without being elbowed and sup like royalty on the Istrian peninsula. Zagreb, a year-round destination, has amped up its Christmas Market — a less-crowded but equally spectacular version of more-famous European markets. The Medvedgrad medieval castle has recently reopened after a renovation and the city has world-class dining. Or head off to the nearby Sljeme ski resort for a few runs, if you prefer. In the south, Split — which is normally packed in summer — has a wonderful Advent market and raucous New Year's celebration. Tour the ticketed portions of the fourth century palace built by Emperor Diocletian without waiting in line. And be sure not to miss the stunning interconnected lakes, streams, and waterfalls become a frozen wonderland at the of the World Heritage Site Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Alicia Ault is a Lutherville, Maryland–based freelance journalist whose work has appeared in publications including JAMA, Smithsonian.com, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. You can find her on Twitter @aliciaault.

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