Good morning and happy Thanksgiving, fellow Escapists. Chances are you’ve heard of “hygge” (pronounced “hoo-gah”), a Danish word for “well-being” and “getting together” that became common knowledge in the mid-2010s.
At home, embracing hygge often involves lighting candles, wrapping up in blankets, and enjoying quiet, contented conversation with loved ones.
But what does hygge mean when you travel? For me, it means enjoying cold weather activities like ice skating and snowshoeing, then warming up with a mug of mulled wine or tea.
In this edition of Escapes, you’ll find a few ways to experience Californian hygge, a sun-filled twist on the Scandinavian concept.
Where do you feel most comfortable in the West? As usual, my inbox is open for recommendations.
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🚗 Spend a weekend in Solvang
A visit to Solvang, known as the “Danish Capital of America” is a good idea for travelers seeking a little hygge this holiday season.
Although Solvang is more than 5,000 miles from the streets of Copenhagen, connections to Denmark are deep. According to the Elverhøj Museum, an institution dedicated to preserving and presenting the city’s history and culture, three Danish immigrants founded Solvang in 1911 with the intention of creating a place for their fellow immigrants to settle.
The city’s Danish roots are strong and deep 110 years later.
Located between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, Solvang is a convenient stopover point on a coastal road trip. Those hoping to stay overnight can book a stay at the Landsby, a hygge-forward boutique hotel. In a city known for its kitschy charm, the Landsby stands out for its modern Scandinavian design – think lots of clean lines, blond woods, light knits and so on. Rooms start at $179 per night, although prices are higher during the holiday season.
For a more unconventional stay, it’s hard to beat the Hygge Tower apartment. According to the Vrbo listing, the accommodation is located in a replica of the famous Rundetårn in Copenhagen. The quirky residence, which can accommodate up to four guests, can be booked for $695 a night.
️ Immerse yourself in a cozy atmosphere at hot springs
Southern California thankfully doesn’t get as cold as Denmark, but stopping at hot springs for a day of relaxation is still a worthwhile winter activity.
Glen Ivy Hot Springs Made The LA Times’ 2021 holiday gift guide (below the list of experiences), and it’s easy to see why. Travelers to the Temescal Valley resort are in for a treat, with the chance to slather California red clay onto their skin in the resort’s spring water mud bath and soak in the sauna and steam rooms.
Those in need of some extra relaxation can book massages and facials; although Mary Forgione, the author of the Wild newsletter, writes that “the terrain alone is reason enough to go.”
A tip: bring an old swimsuit for the mud pool. The red clay can cause spots. Basic admission, including the “Club Mud” experience and access to the resort’s various pools, starts at $85 (Monday-Thurs). To make your reservation advance.
️ Practice your triple axis at Dodger Stadium
“In 2021 there will be another ice rink at Dodger Stadium,” writes LA Times sports reporter Bill Shaikin. “You don’t have to be an NHL player to skate there this time.”
In particular, the Kings played the Ducks at an ice rink installed at Dodger Stadium in 2014. Now the stadium has been transformed into a winter festival, welcoming Angelenos and visitors alike to experience a slice of holiday magic in the same spot where Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger and other players hit home runs and stole bases.
The festival includes ice skating on an outfield ice rink, the opportunity to visit Santa in the bullpen, light and music shows, and more.
Tickets start at $16 and must be bought online prior to.
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☕ Trek the ‘Hot Chocolate Trail’
A winding “hot chocolate aisle” with over 20 varieties of the much-loved winter drink? It’s an idea so hygge there must be a catch.
Well, there it is.
Unfortunately for Californians planning to stay local this season, this: lovely holiday event takes place across the US-Canadian border in Banff, a seaside town best known for its proximity to the stunningly Instagrammable waters of Lake Louise.
However, I couldn’t write a hygge edition of Escapes without mentioning the opportunity to try “Chilli Chai Hot Chocolate,” “Peppermint and Lavender Hot Chocolate,” and “Espresso Banana Hot Chocolate” all on the same day. (Below, I offer ways to explore hot chocolate drinks from the comfort of your home.)
Fully vaccinated American travelers are allowed to enter Canada. (A government official at a visitor’s port of arrival has the final say, though, so be sure to plan ahead and bring any necessary travel documents.) So if you’re planning a ski trip in Alberta this year, I recommend budgeting some extra time to walk the Hot Chocolate Trail, which runs until January 1.
If you’re stuck in December, you can recreate the experience by trying some of our hot chocolate recipes from around the world:
📰 What I’m reading
- Two young men began walking America’s three longest trails in less than a year. What could go wrong? Times staffers Faith E. Pinho and Gina Ferazzi cover their journey.
- Vincent Valencia has lived alone on top of Mammoth Mountain for much of the past 18 years. Why? He is one of the few people with the skills needed to oversee the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area gondola operation, LA Times reporter Louis Sahagún reports.
- Every winter, 100,000 tundra swans fly to Northern California. Amy Alonzo falls apart in the Reno Gazette Journal where they can be spotted.
- Many people want tattoos – a souvenir that is hard to lose – when they visit Joshua Tree National Park. Ashley Harrell reports in SFGate about the thriving tattoo business in the desert of Southern California.
- Do you dream of seeing the Northern Lights one day? Stephanie Vermillion explains where you can see them in the contiguous US at Condé Nast Traveler.
- Is Black Friday still important for travelers? Elaine Glusac reports on the deals — or lack thereof — you can expect this year in the New York Times.
📸 Photo of the week
🎸 Road song
Song: “Run Rudolph Run” by Norah Jones (I’m struggling to think of a more hygge artist.)
Favorite text: “Santa, make him hurry, tell him to take the freeway down.”
Where to listen: Any highway in LA – off to go ice skating.