5 fabulous places to visit in February 2019

CNN  — 

They say February is for lovers. Perhaps they should say February is for lovers of travel, too.

Romantic destinations are often in the forefront during the month that contains Valentine’s Day. But there’s more to February than passionate holidays. There are just a few things to keep in mind before you head out.

“The key to planning a successful February vacation is research and understanding the pros and cons of traveling to the destination during this time of year,” says Jeanette Casselano, spokesperson for AAA.

Warm-weather beach towns and islands as well as ski resorts typically trend toward the expensive in February, she said. If you’re looking for a travel bargain, go to places in their off-season (for example:Chicago, Oregon, Japan or Germany).

Nonpeak travel “can result in fewer crowds at popular destinations, allowing for a more relaxed pace. Many travelers say the off-season offers more opportunities to experience a destination’s local culture,” Casselano says.

The disadvantages? “Fewer daylight hours for sightseeing (in the Northern Hemisphere), and some attractions may be unavailable or close early,” she says.

With that in mind, here are five fabulous places to visit in February, in no particular order:

1. Miami

South Beach Miami
Fall in love with Miami in 60 seconds
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While much of the continental United States shivers in February, Miami is usually a gleaming bubble of sunshine and warmth. So get ready to pay.

“Hotel pricing will be the highest of the year,” Casselano says. “The most expensive hotels will be those located on Miami Beach.” You may be able to get a better deal inland.

Along with the great weather, you’re also hitting Miami at peak time for art shows and culinary festivals.

One of the most popular festivals is SOBEWFF (that’s for South Beach Wine and Food Festival). Top chefs from around the country host everything from barbecues to vegetarian dinners. Wine fans will love this festival, and there’s a place for enthusiasts of cigars and spirits, too. It will be held February 20 to 24, 2019, in various venues.

Here’s a tiny sampling of other February events in Miami:

– Check out all things maritime at the Progressive Miami International Boat Show. Appropriately enough, you can take a water taxi to get there. It will be February 14 to 18, 2019, at the Miami Marine Stadium Park & Basin (3501 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149).

– The annual Coconut Grove Arts Festival is held every Presidents Day weekend. It’s a chance to enjoy local cuisine, fine art and live performances. It will be held February 16 to 18, 2019, along about 1 mile of Biscayne Bay’s waterfront streets.

– The Gay8 Festival will be held February 17, 2019. In its third year, it focuses on the Latino LGBTQ community. (Calle Ocho – Miami’s SW 8th Street – from 14th to 17th avenues, Miami, FL 33135; +1 305 409 9800)

February is the perfect time of year to take a stroll here. How about soak in the 1920s and ’30s vibe in the Art Deco Historic District in Miami Beach? You can arrange a formal tour or strike out on your own and see where serendipity leads you.

Another great place to visit: Little Havana. Located between downtown Miami and the airport, this neighborhood offers a deep-dive cultural immersion into Cuban food, arts and more.

2. Venice, Italy

Venice Grand Canal
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Hidden bridges. Cobblestone alleyways. Beautiful canals traversed by boat. No wonder Venice rates as one of the world’s best cities when it comes to love.

February can be a great time to take in piazzas and palaces, gawk at amazing architecture and wander through boutiques and art galleries. Granted, average highs usually only make it into the 40s F (4 to 9 C) if that, but it’s usually the city’s driest month, too.

There’s just one question to ask if you’re considering Venice in February: Do you like a good party?

If the answer is yes:

Then plan your trip for the second half of the month. In 2019, that mother of all parties, Carnival, starts on February 16 and concludes on March 5. It’s a chance to attend gala dinners and dances, behold mysterious strangers in artful masks and see colorful parades and street shows.

It will also be the more crowded part of the month, and you’ll pay accordingly.

If the answer is no:

Arrange your trip before Carnival starts. While a city as splendid as Venice is never tourist-free, this is about as good as it gets for seeing popular sights such as Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge without the maddening masses.

If it gets too cold for you outdoors, you can still enjoy indoor attractions such as Doge’s Palace. (Piazza San Marco, 1, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy; +39 041 271 5911)

Your wallet will thank you. Hotel rates can be as much as $100 to $125 cheaper toward the end of the month, Casselano says.

Need advice on a place to stay? One option is Ca’ Sagredo. This salmon-pink 14th-century palazzo is one of the grandest dames of the Grand Canal. (Campo Santa Sofia, 4198/99, 30121 Venezia VE, Italy; +39 041 241 3111)

From $812 per night
Rates provided by Booking.com

3. British Columbia

Catch a hockey game while you're in Vancouver.

Beautiful British Columbia beckons all year long, but it garners special attention in February for winter sports, especially skiing.

Two ski areas are really close to downtown Vancouver, BC’s biggest city:

– If you don’t feel like venturing too far out in the wilds, Grouse Mountain may be for you. (6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver, British Columbia, V7R 4K9, Canada; +1 604 980 9311)

– Also nearby is Cypress Mountain, where you can downhill ski, cross-country ski, go snowboarding and more. (6000 Cypress Bowl Road, West Vancouver BC; +1 604 926 5612)

If you want to go to the biggest ski resort in North America, head on up the road to Whistler-Blackcomb, where some events of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games were held. It has more than 200 trails and is known for its big snowfalls. (4545 Blackcomb Way, Whistler, BC V0N 1B4, Canada; +1 604 967 8950)

Experienced thrill-seekers may wish to try heli-skiing (yes, a helicopter flies you up and you ski down). Bella Coola Heli Sports, in the Coast Range Mountains, was named as the world’s best heli-ski operator in 2017 by the World Ski Awards. (7001 Corbould Drive, Stuie, BC V0T 1C0, Canada; +1 604-905-4994)

If you’re more of a city person, Vancouver still has plenty of urban offerings in February.

Arrange your trip toward the end of the month and you can visit the Vancouver International Wine Festival, which is February 23 through March 3 in 2019.

You can enjoy free ice skating at Robson Square in the heart of the city. If you don’t have your own skates, they will rent those to you. (800 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 3B7, Canada; +1 604 646 3554)

If you’d rather be indoors and watch other people skate, catch a Canucks pro hockey game at Rogers Arena. (800 Griffiths Way, Vancouver, BC V6B 6G1, Canada)

While things will be cool in Vancouver, you’ll typically be spared the harsh Arctic blast usually found back east in Toronto or Montreal. Vancouver’s maritime location tempers the winters, though it can often be rainy.

4. Senegal

Inside Africa How 'Endless Summer' put Senegal on the surf map A_00000927.jpg
How 'Endless Summer' put Senegal on the surf map
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Countries such as Morocco, Kenya and South Africa often get the lion’s share of attention, but relatively little Senegal is big on African culture.

No less a world traveler than the late Anthony Bourdain said “Senegal is one of the best arguments for travel I can think of.”

First things first: Where is it?

It’s in West Africa. In fact, it’s the westernmost extension of the continent. To its north lies the Sahara and to its south is the tropical, rainy part of Africa. Senegal occupies the transitional sweet spot. Its capital, Dakar, sits on the Atlantic Coast. February is usually its coolest month, and it’s still the dry season.

The can’t-miss attraction here is the Island of Gorée, which for centuries was the largest slave trading center on the African coast. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a visit here can be emotionally tough but ultimately rewarding.

But there’s more to this multicultured, mostly Muslim nation than a tragic past.

For starters, Senegal is a major destination for African music. After all, musician Youssou N’dour and the Mbalax sound hail from here. Le Viking is an Dakar institution and has live music on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Arrive early. (21, Avenue George Pompidou, Dakar; +221 772448056)

If you can’t make it to Le Viking, check out these other options from the “Parts Unknown” team.

Senegal is also rich in beaches and has a longtime surfing scene that gained fame with the 1960s cult surfing film “Endless Summer.” South from Dakar, the Petite Côte has a beach for every taste, from busy to tranquil.

Consider the village of Toubab Dialaw for its pristine sand and local arts scene.

Fans of architecture should head inland to the Great Mosque of Touba, considered by many to be one of the world’s most beautiful mosques.

You may wish to brush up on your French before you go. And tourists with any safety concerns should check the US State Department’s travel alert page and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s traveler’s health page.

5. Hainan, China

The Guanyin statue in the Buddhist Nanshan Temple was enshrined in 2005 but has already become an iconic symbol of Hainan island.

With so many wonderful places to see in China, why go to Hainan? It’s all about location in February.

This large island is the southernmost part of China – and therefore, it’s one of the warmest in winter. You may want to bring a light jacket for night just in case, but that’s about it.

Making it even better: It’s the dry season, so you’ll have plenty of good weather to enjoy the beaches. Hainan ain’t called “the Hawaii of China” for nothin’.

The long white shoreline of Sanya Bay has become a symbol of the natural beauty of the island. Hainan is brimming over with resort options these days.

Two of them are:

The Sheraton Sanya Resort, which has a private beach along Yalong Bay and five swimming pools. (Yalong Bay National Resort District, Sanya Yalong Bay 572000 China; +86 898 8855 8855)

The Ritz-Carlton Sanya is a golf resort. It has eight restaurants and bars along with a private beach. (Yalong Bay National Resort District, Sanya, Hainan, 572000 China; +86 898 8898 8888)

From $223 per night
Rates provided by Booking.com

If you enjoy lush greenery, natural settings and vigorous hiking, be sure to walk the trails of Yalong Bay Tropical Paradise Forest Park, where you may see animals from butterflies to wild pigs. (Yalongwan Road, Jiyang Qu, Sanya Shi, Hainan Sheng, China; +86 898 3823 8888)

For culture lovers (or anyone who just wants to gaze at something really impressive), the Buddhist Nanshan Temple should go to the top of the list. Its three-sided Guanyin statue is 108 meters tall (354 feet), one of the tallest in the world. The figure was raised and enshrined in 2005 and is one you’ll never forget.

This being an island, Hainan cuisine naturally focuses on seafood and is considered to be generally milder than mainland China food.

This article has been updated for 2019.