Storm Watching on the Oregon Coast

photo by Justin Larson

Ask most Portlanders when the best time to go to the Oregon coast is and they will almost always say something like “February”. You will be confused and stare at them blankly until they explain that it’s too crowded in the Summer, there are great deals to be had in the year’s shortest (and often dreariest) month and there’s storm watching. Storms are something most people do not look forward to in Winter, but in Oregon sitting around in a beach house or hotel room with a view of the oncoming gale while sipping on some hot tea or wine and playing cards is a highly anticipated activity. While there’s often rain in the cities of Oregon, it’s not usually very dramatic. It gets wet and that’s about it. So to see water-churning, rain-spitting and windy stuff you have to go to the coast. Plus, the best beach-combing happens after storms, especially if you really like kelp. Here’s some great places to stay while watching the action, although I should mention that it’s best to stay indoors. Those waves are fun to watch but they don’t care that you’re on vacation and will suck you out into the ocean anyway.

The Ocean Lodge, Cannon Beach


Heceta Head Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast, Yachats

Salishan Spa and Golf Resort, Lincoln City

Gearhart Ocean Inn, Gearhart

Vacation Home Rental, Seaside

Coast Cabins, Manzanita

Cannery Pier Hotel, Astoria


Scotland in Winter

I took a trip to Scotland almost two years ago and can’t wait to go back. We visited during the Summer and were very lucky with warm and sunny weather the whole time, but something tells me that to truly experience Scotland one needs to see it in Winter in what I can only assume is its more natural state, meteorologically speaking. If I were to go now, I’d retreat to one of these locations with a deck of cards and some local whisky.

Galbegno Castle, Fettercairn

A  six bedroom self-catering lodge located 45 minutes south of Aberdeen.

photos courtesy of Balbegno Castle

The Torridon, Highlands

A 19 bedroom luxury hotel located on 58 acres next to a loch. Not only do they offer guided Winter hikes into the nearby hills (and list a flask as part of your required equipment), but they have a Whisky bar offering tastings and over 350 whiskies to choose from. They run an inn close by if you’re looking for slightly more modest accommodations.

photos courtesy of the Torridon

Cameron House, Loch Lomond

The perfect family getaway. Not only are there amazing views, multiple restaurants, stylish bars, a spa and pools but three different “clubs” for kids divided by ages. Your littles ones can also go on guided hikes and bird watching excursions with their own Countryside Ranger. Oh, and there’s bunk beds in the family rooms. Everyone is now happy.

Dalhousie Castle, Near Edinburgh

This is the place to go if you have an interest in falconry and/or medieval fortresses, which this castle once was. You can take short falconry classes or sign up for the 5 day intensive course and there’s even classes for kids with owls. Of course there’s a spa, but there’s also a restaurant in the former dungeons.

photos courtesy of Dalhousie Castle

Beach Bay Cottage, Isle of Lewis

A romantic and private self-catering cottage in the outer Hebrides that was inspired by traditional black houses of the islands. While secluded enough for a cozy getaway, it’s also only 3 miles from the village and a few hundred yards from a restaurant.

photos courtesy of Beach Bay Cottage

The Saguaro

While it’s been a relatively moderate Winter so far, that doesn’t mean that most people aren’t craving a little bit of warm sunshine about right now. Unless you’ve been planning a mid-Winter vacation for awhile, a trip to Hawaii or a Caribbean island is probably not in order. But maybe a trip to Scottsdale? Not usually on my top ten list but the newly opened Saguaro hotel may just change my mind. Inspired by the Sonoran desert and contemporary Mexican architecture, it’s like a splash of cold water in the face of all of us living under the gray skies of Winter. There is also a full service spa, two pools complete with cabanas, The Old Town Whiskey Bar, and the hotel’s signature restaurant Distrito.

Santa’s Igloo Village: Hotel Kakslauttanen

Whether you believe in Santa or are just planning a vacation with someone who does, this is the place you need to go. I can think of no other resort that can lay claim so realistically to being Santa’s true home than the Winter Wonderland that exists at this spot in Lapland. This part of Finland, above the Artic Circle is home to the indigenous Sami people who have herded reindeer for centuries, and whose native dress could inspire the fashion of many an elf in Santa’s service. They have recently opened glass igloos in addition to the snow igloos and log cabins that have been available at Santa’s resort.  These are open from December through April and offer an unparalleled view of the Northern Lights. Activities include an elf-guided tour of Santa’s home, reindeer herd and gold creek where his Gold Elves pan for gold, which explains the mystery of Santa’s income. There are more traditional Winter activities like sleigh rides, snowshoeing, skiing, ice fishing, snowboarding and dog sledding. For the brave souls there’s also ice swimming which, yes, means swimming under the ice. In a regular swimsuit. Thankfully, there are traditional smoke saunas, restaurants and lots of blankets too. Hard to think of a more appropriate Christmas vacation.

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