Provoked by Groundhog Day, an ode to winter

Whether you stay in or decide to travel, the coldest season can be the coziest season

Whenever another Groundhog Day rolls back around again, I can’t help but think about Bill Murray just as much as Punxsutawney Phil. As Murray’s character says in the ’90s classic, “This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather.” Well, this year, as Sean, Eliza, and I hunkered down in Providence, Rhode Island in below-freezing temperatures, the famous Pennsylvania groundhog saw his shadow, which means spring should soon be on the way.

I’m also left mulling over another line of Murray’s from the film, delivered in a dour state: “What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same…?” The kicker to that question in the film was that nothing Murray did could change what else happened around him, but of course, unless you’re someone who’s also waking up only to relive Groundhog Day every single day, what you do does change what else happens around you. And especially coming off of a year of traveling to many places, I’m feeling grateful right now to be in one place—though every day doesn’t have to be exactly the same.

Growing up in Michigan and marrying a New Englander, perhaps our acceptance of winter includes a lower temperature threshold than our friends and family in more temperate climates. But winter often feels like the most fun season for people to hate (looking at you Twitter: #IHateWinter, #WhyIHateWinter, #WinterIsTheWorst, etc.), so as long as your work or living arrangements don’t leave you facing genuine risks during this season, I hope you allow the chilliness to inspire you toward greater coziness. Think on it with several reasons why we love winter, for homebodies and travelers alike.

If you’re staying close to home (or, let’s be honest, at home), winter is hard to beat:

  • Winter food is just better than warm-weather food. Would you rather have gazpacho or a coconut curry regardless of the weather outside? Mac n’ cheese or crudité? Spaghetti aglio e olio or cold pasta salad? I rest my case.
  • Nesting can be pretty fun, I’ve learned, especially when you’ve been without a home for a while. I’ve enjoyed watching Marie Kondo’s Netflix show and reading the criticisms about it from the safety of my own home. Projects like tidying up are perfect for cold winter nights, especially when paired with…
  • Winter drinks are warming, delicious, and can be made at home easily. There’s nothing quite like a hot chocolate or hot toddy when it’s cold out. Local beers brewed in winter-time are often heftier and richer and, in my opinion, tastier than the summer varieties and pair perfectly with board games and good friends indoors.
  • Fireplaces seem to be everywhere. A good one can make you feel like you’ve been transported to 50 or 100 years ago, assuming there’s no iPhone glow from your fellow fireplace-gazers. When I lived in Brooklyn, a place called Zombie Hut (seriously) had a great fireplace where I took Sean on one of our earliest dates as we talked about our families and lives and sipped zombies sitting close together. Now that we’re in Providence, I can’t wait to check out Pastiche, which also has a fireplace but probably fewer tiki themed drinks? Good thing Sean already fell for me. (But the place doesn’t have to be fancy—I’m a sucker for my hometown fireplace at Panera Bread and Sean for the fireplace at his family’s local Caffe Nero.)
Celebrating winter in Grand Rapids, Michigan at Rosa Parks Circle with the much friendlier hashtag #winterinGR
Eliza’s inaugural sled ride in December 2018

If you’re venturing out of town or country, here’s why winter is your best bet for travels:

  • You’ll find fewer crowds and lower costs (unless you’re at a ski mountain). So many people only consider traveling in the summer, which means they end up competing with others who are also looking at the same dates. When we took a trip to Iceland in January 2018, not exactly a popular time to visit, our flight wasn’t full so Eliza got a seat to herself. Our accommodations there were reasonable and the whole trip was pretty cheap, which is not something often said about Iceland.
  • You’ll get a taste of how the locals live, specifically with local celebrations. Many places celebrate winter with festivals and activities, which you’d surely miss if you only travel in the summer. A few on our list (they all take place in February each year):
  • Certain cities really turn up the flair during winter with holiday lights and decorations as well as outdoor (and indoor) markets. Dublin was positively glowing when we visited this past December, full of holiday festivities and shoppers. Condé Nast Traveler lists Dublin and several other European cities that are even better in winter, and you can find a list from Travel & Leisure best U.S. cities to visit in winterl.
  • You might come back even more well rested. If you’re traveling with little ones, winter daylight mimics their schedules. When you put your kids to bed early, you don’t have to compete with a blaring sun and boisterous people taking advantage of the warmth. Either way, winter travel can be more restful than summer trips because people everywhere slow down ever so slightly in the colder months, which means you’re probably not missing out on too much by going to bed a little earlier.

I’ll be honest: I won’t complain if this year’s groundhog prediction proves true and spring makes itself known sooner rather than later. But in the meantime, let us know your wintertime favorites and we’ll do our best to stay cozy despite the temperatures outside.


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