Do you dream of snow? Four virtual travel experiences in cold weather

By Rachel Schnalzer
Designed and illustrated by Jade Cuevas

Good morning travelers and Happy Christmas Eve. I had a lot of fun putting together last week’s fully virtual edition of Escapes – and I hope you enjoyed reading it – so this week I thought I’d bring you more virtual travel adventures.

Let’s face it – as travelers to Southern California, we often get the urge to go to cool spots during the vacation. But trips to remote ski huts can quickly go from romantic to masochistic – just ask anyone who’s had to snowboard or ride mountain roads with wet gloves on during a blizzard.

Maybe you enjoy experiencing these wintry places virtually from sunny Los Angeles. These expeditions take you to four cold weather destinations, from the South Pole to southwest Indiana. You can travel by boat or reindeer sleigh. All without having to stuff a suitcase full of parkas and long underwear.

As always, let me know if you have a preferred virtual travel method or COVID safe activity and I will do my best to include it in a future issue of Escapes.

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🐧 Go for a walk in Antarctica in Shackleton’s shoes

Even the most intrepid travelers may not make it to Antarctica in their lifetime. But not for lack of desire. A quick Google search reveals that trips to the icy continent often cost $ 10,000 – or a lot more.

Enter Shackleton 100, a website created to mark the 100th birthday of Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic mission. With its interactive map, virtual adventurers can explore the continent.

The map allows you to stroll in remote areas like Shackleton’s Hut – full of rustic groceries – and Half Moon Island, home to numerous chinstrap penguins. And it doesn’t cost you a dime to get there.

Take a trip to the South Pole this week with the help of Shackleton 100. (Screengrabs by Shackleton 100; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angles Times)

🦌 Take a sleigh ride in Lapland

In this interactive video you can get an impression of what life is like in Rautas, a Swedish reindeer herding village. Viewers can use the mouse to get a 360-degree view of a reindeer farm and a quick sleigh ride through the winter forest.

If you want to delve further into the winter wonderland of northern Sweden, Lights Over Lapland offers a video tour of an ice hotel as well as the northern lights in Abisko National Park.

The video of the interactive sleigh ride is on the blue and yellow squiggle background

⛰️ See the beauty of Southeast Alaska

On this virtual tour of destinations in and around Sitka, Alaska, viewers can enjoy views from Southeast Alaska’s Harbor Mountain Trail, Sitka Sound, and other breathtaking locations.

If you fall in love with Sitka and don’t want your virtual adventure to end, continue your visit with the National Park Service’s tours of historical sites in the area.

Video of the boat trip through a lake in southeast Alaska with a rainbow background

Take a tour of Southeast Alaska and take in the icy views from the warmth of your bed.

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🎅 Earn your place on the beautiful list in Santa Claus, Ind.

I was born in Bethlehem, Penn. – also known as Christmas City. And yes, going on vacation is basically like living in a Hallmark movie. This week I wrote a story about my quest to do all I could while working from home during the pandemic.

After I’ve created my Christmas City credentials, I need to plug in another Christmas City: Santa Claus, Ind.

Santa Claus visitors can visit magical attractions like Santa’s Candy Castle – packed full of “old-fashioned and hard-to-find candy” and more than 30 varieties of cocoa. Santa’s Post Office is another must-see if you are ever in town. The Santa Claus website invites travelers to stop by during the holiday season to “get the famous Santa Claus stamp”.

Check out this virtual tour of the museum and village to get a feel for what Santa Claus has to offer.

Illustration of letters to Santa Claus, Indiana

Send yourself a virtual visit to Santa Claus, Ind.

(Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

📰 What I read

  • The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park has come under fire for hosting a lavish Thanksgiving feast for hundreds, writes Times reporter Hayley Smith.

Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite National Park

Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite National Park

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

  • Many California properties are only open to “key workers” or people who need to be quarantined – not vacationers. But many hotels and Airbnbs let travelers make their own decisions, found Times travel writer Christopher Reynolds and assistant tour guide Mary Forgione in a survey of more than 50 properties.
  • Big Basin Redwoods State Park will be given more than $ 500,000 to help its redwoods recover from last summer’s devastating wildfire, reports Faith Pinho, a Times official.
  • Many animals with emotional support soon lose their service animal designation on board aircraft. Now only dogs can qualify. “Sorry, peacocks,” says Times employee Elliott Hester.
  • Speaking of canines, your dog can make it a lot easier to find adventures during the pandemic. “When you are not supposed to leave your home, let alone travel to exotic places, dogs help bring the outside world inside,” writes Walter Nicklin in the Washington Post.
  • Isobel van Hagen reports in Atlas Obscura that there are fewer than 300 fully ordained monks in Thailand. She describes her experience as well as her desire for recognition and respect.
  • Do you ever get disappointed with bad weather or closings while on vacation? You’ll refer to Emily Pennington’s account of her trip to Glacier National Park on Outside Online. It’s a good reminder that nature is always in charge.

📸 Favorite photo

Visitors at the pier in Manhattan Beach.

With annual Christmas decorations, a sign on Manhattan Beach alerts visitors that face covering is required.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

🎸 Road Song

“It’s the fucking season” of Taylor Swift’s second quarantine record of the year is sheer vacation fear. The track tells the story of a person who travels home on vacation only to be embroiled in a nostalgic, (most likely) unhappy affair with a former flame. It’s wintry, wistful, and quite angry.

In other words, it’s a great road song to leave you this Christmas Eve in 2020. Happy Holidays, adventurers.

Aerial view of the snowy city street.  Lyrics by Taylor Swift

The Moody Holiday Anthem of the Year award goes to Taylor Swift’s “It’s the Fucking Season.” Play it to get into your feelings.

(Larry Tseng / Unsplash; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

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