The people of Quebec City are hardy and quite used to the harsh weather that is typical in the long winter months. Rather than mope and complain they tend to turn lemons into lemonade, or rather snow and ice into sculptures and other works of art. The city holds a winter carnival every year, officially known as Le Carnaval de Quebéc. Despite the brisk temperatures that are experienced at this time, this carnival is as popular among travellers as events held in the summer months. In fact it is the largest carnival of its kind in the world, with more than one million people drawn to view the ice sculptures, take part in winter sports and attend parades and masquerade balls. Bonhomme, a stylised giant snowman, is the delightful official mascot. Those looking for a unique and beautiful place to stay in the deep winter months should head a few miles to the north of the city where the Hôtel de Glace, North America’s only ice hotel, is open from January to March each year. The spectacular suites are carved out of the ice by artists and have to be seen to be believed.
Often referred to as the USA's best small hotel, this 20-suite Relais & Châteaux property - with cottages and outbuildings anchored by a 1795 New England farmhouse - sits in 300 acres of breathtaking wildflower meadows, pine forests, lakes and orchards. Its sophisticated style is the result of a long and fruitful relationship with the cream of NYC's interior-design world. In the 1990s, the original owner, Hawaiian newspaperman Thurston Twigg-Smith, commissioned designer and one-time Warhol apostle Jed Johnson to work his magic on the first 15 rooms. Cue chinoiserie toile pelmets, hand-carved ravens atop barley-twist bedposts and a trompe-l'oeil tented ceiling. Johnson's rooms are still marvellous, but when Twin Farms added another five bedrooms in 2005, plus spa treatment rooms, architect Peter Bohlin (known for his Apple stores) and interior designer Thad Hayes were called in. Their suites - such as The Aviary, with its Douglas-fir panelling, shag rug and buttoned-leather headboard, all in orange - are as luxurious as Johnson's, though less zesty. As delightful as the rooms are, the farm-raised, seasonal food (veal with butternut-squash purée in winter, grilled halibut and prawn gnocchi in summer) from chef Ted Ask and pastry honcho Christopher Wilson possibly tops it all. There's also access to deserted hiking trails, private ski slopes, fly-fishing, the Out of the Woods Spa and a 20,000-bottle wine cellar.
At the No. 2 Best Hotel in Maui, guests are greeted with panoramic views of Wailea Beach and the Pacific Ocean. Accommodations are spacious (each room measures at least 600 square feet) and include lanais, locally inspired art, deep-soaking tubs and Nespresso coffee makers. On the resort grounds, travelers will find three saltwater pools, two tennis courts and a spa, but this resort's best attribute is its kid-friendly atmosphere. One of the island's most family-friendly properties, the Four Seasons Resort Maui offers everything from a game room to a waterslide to the brand's complimentary Kids For All Seasons activities program. (Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea)