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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

It’s not too soon to plan your winter escape. Here are 5 enticing destinations

By Sharyn Jackson </p><p>and Joy Summers Minneapolis Star Tribune

With chilly temps and snow coming soon, your time outdoors may soon be limited. But these warm-weather destinations will help thoughts of snow melt away.

Beaufort, South Carolina

Why: This small southern town in the heart of South Carolina’s lowcountry is set in scenery so breathtaking that movies, including “Forrest Gump” and “The Big Chill,” have been filmed here. Its downtown main street is dotted with art galleries, shops and restaurants just feet from the shoreline, and shushing sweetgrass graces the area with an alluring aroma. History buffs will appreciate the stately, and possibly haunted, antebellum mansions and rich Gullah culture.

Situated between Charleston and Savannah, visitors fly into either city – it’s an easy drive to a place where time moves slower.

Food scene: Dining in Beaufort means barbecue, fresh seafood and comforting lowcountry fare that originated here. Start the day at Lowcountry Produce market and cafe, where brunch is served every day. The menu offers everything from fresh doughnuts to a fried chicken sandwich with blue cheese and peach chutney. Don’t forget to order a stack of pickled green tomatoes and pimento cheese for the table. If you prefer lighter morning fare, head to Herban Market & Cafe. Grab a seat on the sheltered patio and peruse the specials for bites like a smoky beet Reuben or bagel sandwich with veggie sausage. If a taste of real Carolina barbecue is on your bucket list, stop by the new location of Island Bistro & Bar. The melt-in-your-mouth ribs are unlike any other, and the banana pudding is heaven on a spoon. Cap off your trip by booking an intimate dining experience at Blacksheep. Opened during the pandemic, this build-your-own-menu is intentionally small and reservations go quickly. It’s a restaurant manifestation of a dream.

Tidbits: The pace of life is intentionally slow, so don’t expect to get anywhere or do anything quickly. Amble along or take a horse-drawn tour to soak it all in.

Lisbon, Portugal

Why: Anyone thinking the Atlantic coast is only good for summer breezes can think again. Portugal’s capital enjoys the sunny, mild winters the Mediterranean region is known for, and while a February trip might not be beach-friendly, it’ll be warmer than Minnesota. Europe’s westernmost capital has a long and rich history, incredible vistas, a sophisticated food and wine scene, and a penchant for hard-partying nightlife.

Food scene: Your first order of business is tasting a fresh, warm pastel de nata. A flaky tart filled with egg custard and sprinkled lightly with cinnamon or powdered sugar, it’s a creamy, comforting national treasure. Castro is one jewel box of a bakery where you can easily knock back two pastries with a glass of port or ginjinha (cherry liqueur), then take a six-pack to go. For a grand overview of Portuguese food, and the Lisbon restaurant scene in particular, try Time Out Market Lisboa, an enormous food hall with 26 food stands and eight bars (plus a dozen shops) that represent what’s current in local cuisine. Chefs from some of the city’s hottest restaurants have a presence here, so sample and decide where to go the next night for dinner. One such chef, Susana Felicidade, has a restaurant at the Museum of Pharmacy. At Pharmacia Felicidade, Arroz de Lingueirão, razor clam rice, is a must-have. Its AstroTurf lawn, with a stunning view over the Tagus River, is the place to be seen as the sun goes down. For a fancier night out, try Plano, with its two tasting menus of five or nine courses. Inspired by chef Vítor Adão’s northern Portugal upbringing, delicate ingredients are handled with care, and wine is paired with precision. Speaking of wine, get a primer at the Wines of Portugal Tasting Room, located on Praça do Comércio, one of Lisbon’s most famous squares.

Tidbits: Lisbon is compact and walkable – if you don’t mind a steep climb. The tricky hills rival San Francisco’s, and even when two places look close together on a map, there might be a surprise flight of stairs in between. When you don’t feel like a workout – or are wearing shoes that make a stroll outright dangerous – ride shares are incredibly fast and inexpensive. (Traditional trolleys, more cute than they are practical, are another option.)

Tel Aviv, Israel

Why: Loud and charming, beautiful and pulsing, Tel Aviv lies about as far across the Mediterranean as one can get from Lisbon, yet shares its sea-breezy vitality. Late winter/early spring is the best time to visit, when Tel Aviv’s wet season has ended and the city is in full bloom. That’s when you’ll want to embark on an epic walk, the best way to take in the city’s vast juxtapositions. Stroll along the surfer-friendly beach and its strip of hotels, from the newly developed port area in the south to ancient Jaffa in the north. Or inward to the city center, past Hollywood glamour architecture, into mazelike markets in the shadows of modern skyscrapers.

Food scene: One word: breakfast. The Middle East as a whole treats the first meal of the day with reverence, and Tel Aviv is no exception – especially at the hotels. There are no sad waffle-makers, rather abundant buffets where fresh vegetables take center stage, juices are pressed to order, and you can sample smoked salmon seven different ways. Tel Aviv is also known for its markets, and Shuk HaCarmel might be its most famous. Elbow your way in and gather a feast of fresh berries, a hunk of nutty halvah (sesame candy), and a platter of fish and chips. Or snack on the shredded phyllo pastry knafeh, stock up on Samaritan tahini, and throw all caution to the wind with a tray of tacos. At night, the district is quieter, and one butcher shop becomes a restaurant. At M25, select your cut from the counter and have chefs cook it for you, or order off a compact meat-centric menu. The traditional Palestinian dish arais, a pita stuffed with ground lamb and griddled, is a revelation. For an entirely different market experience, Sarona Market is an enclosed food hall with 60 stands and shops that feature the best of Israeli food and centralizes some of Tel Aviv’s most famous restaurateurs. Chef Eyal Shani’s Miznon has an outpost here (get the eggplant sandwich); so do falafel favorites HaKosem. Later, tucked into an alleyway between two buildings in the ancient port of Jaffa, taste your way through Israel’s wines at the ultra-atmospheric Hagafen Wine Courtyard. Tel Aviv is also a cocktail city, home to elegant lounges where mixology gets interesting. Bellboy, hidden in a boutique hotel, plays with speakeasy vibes and unusual ingredients, like blue cheese cognac, celery whipped cream and pistachio butter.

Tidbits: Tel Aviv is on the religiously liberal end of the spectrum, but many establishments still observe Shabbat, the sabbath. From Friday sundown to Saturday sundown, you might run into closures, so be sure to check schedules, or find plenty of options for weekend shopping and dining at non-kosher restaurants.

Palm Springs, California

Why: Flights to Palm Springs have never been more affordable and this outdoor living town is filled with midcentury architecture, golden era Hollywood glamour and leisure living. The city has been getting younger, but visiting still feels like trying on retirement just for fun. If you harbor a love for Frank Sinatra, Liberace and the Golden Girls, there is plenty to love in this desert oasis.

Food scene: Start the day in the garden at Farm for a leisurely al fresco breakfast. Order the buttery croissant with over easy eggs served with a bright and crispy salad before wandering through nearby shops. Another option: Wilma & Frieda’s has a modern diner brunch. No trip to Palm Springs is complete without a date shake, and the Ace Hotel’s comes with proximity to their espresso bar. A shot added to a shake makes for a delicious day brightener. For dinner, join the lines at Rooster and the Pig. Tucked into the side of a strip mall, the inside feels like an intimate, rustic cabin, while the menu is an exercise in vibrancy with fresh herbs and bright and spicy sauces, courtesy of a modern Vietnamese menu. It’s best to go with friends who like to share and order as much as possible. Start with the zippy calamari. You could stay all day at the Rowan hotel, sampling cocktails (great nonalcoholic options, too) by the rooftop pool. Its 4 Saints restaurant sports not only an impressive modern steakhouse menu, but also some of the most attentive service in town. For late-night drinks, tuck into the Spanish Colonial setting of Del Rey for tapas and a pitcher of sangria. Or head over to the Jonathan Adler-designed Parker Palm Springs (note the “Shining”-style entry carpet) and check out the cardinal red back bar for exceptional wine flights.

Tidbits: Palm Springs’ first heyday came when it was a playground for old Hollywood stars like Lucy and Desi Arnaz and Bob Hope. The incredible midcentury architecture and kitsch lingers, but it’s undergone a renaissance. Block out a day to meander main street with its galleries and antique shops. You might find a pop-art portrait of Bea Arthur or a sequin-festooned caftan.

Phoenix, Arizona

Why: Greater Phoenix has long been a lure for snowbirds, and many a Midwesterner has an in-law in this sprawling city in the Sonoran Desert – which means a winter jaunt is likely. Nonstop sunshine and loads of recreation await visitors to an urbane center where resorts are plentiful, the hiking is exceptional, and the food is as diverse as the many communities that call this valley home.

Food scene: It’s always patio season in the desert (even at its hottest, water misters make outdoor dining more comfortable). Take your pick of twinkle-lit courtyards under shady trees, and canal-side decks lined with cactuses and do what patios do best: brunch. Early mornings are a glorious time to visit the Desert Botanical Gardens, and its in-house restaurant Gertrude’s is a great for bread pudding French toast and Hatch chile tostadas. Taking you from morning to night is Sip Coffee & Beer Garage, a stylish neighborhood cafe in a former oil change station with great coffee, cocktails and veg-packed sandwiches – and an underground speakeasy-style bar called 36 Below. A stop at Barrio Café is off the beaten tourist path, and a meal there feels like home. The 20-year-old Mexican restaurant is renowned for its cochinita pibil, melt-in-your-mouth pork that cooks 12 hours in achiote and sour orange. A charming gourmet grocery, pizzeria, bakery and wine shop, La Grande Orange satisfies pretty much every gastronomical need. Do not leave without one of the housemade English muffins. If you tuned in to “Chef’s Table: Pizza” on Netflix to watch the Twin Cities’ own pizza star Ann Kim, you may have also caught the episode on James Beard winner Chris Bianco. His Pizzeria Bianco is widely considered to be Phoenix’s (and the country’s) best wood-fired pizzeria. No matter which location you visit, order the Rosa pizza, which pairs sharp Parmigiano-Reggiano with translucently thin red onion, chopped Arizona pistachios and rosemary. For a fun dessert, luxuriate in the kitschy-cool midcentury modern aesthetic at the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, where its restaurant Zuzu does a monthly “Show Stopper” shake overflowing with sprinkles, cake crumbles and other treats.

Tidbits: This is date palm territory; the sticky-sweet fruits so ubiquitous you’ll find them scattered on front lawns, the sidewalk and the playground. Rather than forage, head to Palm Pantry, the Scottsdale-based gift shop from Sphinx Date Ranch. While browsing gift tins and other Arizona-made food and drink, order an ice-cold shake blended with their Medjool dates.