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Three New Year’s Getaways for Dumping 2016

Leave your stress on the slopes, renew at the spa, or set the year ablaze around a bonfire.


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The gondola drop at Heavenly last year.

Photo: Heavenly Mountain Resort

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A spa treatment room at Carmel Valley Ranch.

Photo: Murphy O'Brien, Courtesy of Carmel Valley Ranch

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Photo: Kirkwood Mountain Resort

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2016 has been one for the books. While you may have sent last year off with a champagne toast, this year calls for something a little more, well, cathartic. Whether you’d like to symbolically set the year aflame or literally hypnotize yourself into relief, these three weekend getaways can be your reset button (and give you plenty of reasons to count your blessings while you’re at it).

Weekend #1: Blow off steam on the slopes

If exercise is nature’s stress relief, then hitting the slopes sure looks like a cure. Head 35 miles south of Lake Tahoe to hit Kirkwood Mountain, one of the continent’s snowiest ski resorts, with the driest powder around the lake. Though their 2,300 acres of terrain favors intermediate and advanced skiers, trails run the gamut from cross-country loops to “the Wall,” a treacherous double-black-diamond run marked with a skull and crossbones. Hotel rooms around Lake Tahoe are limited, so don’t delay. You can still snag rooms at South Lake’s casino-adjacent motels, like the Blue Jay Lodge and the Alpine Inn, though your best bet might be to go in with a group on an Airbnb. 

If a Vegas-in-the-mountains-style party sounds more like it, head to the lake’s biggest New Year’s celebration at South Lake Tahoe’s Heavenly Village. There you’ll find ice sculptors, live music, LED dancers, a 16-foot snow globe, nearby casino parties, and a 9 p.m. gondola drop timed to coincide with Times Square’s countdown. Or dance your cares away at SnowGlobe, an electronic music festival featuring artists such as the Chainsmokers and Major Lazer, from December 29 to 31.  

For après-ski provisions, venture off South Lake’s main drag to Himmel Haus, a bierhaus that serves up dozens of German and Belgian brews alongside wursts and warm Bavarian pretzels with mustard fondue. Pre-ski, grab breakfast at the Red Hut Cafe, a nearly 60-year-old popular local chain. The Kingsbury Grade location, nestled in a pine-tree-ringed cabin partway up the mountain, serves up hearty portions of omelets, hash browns, and fruit-topped waffles that will aid your mission of ditching your worries on the slopes.

Weekend #2: Retreat to the spa

If shutting out the world for 48 hours is more your speed, Carmel Valley Ranch makes a pretty good buffer (500 acres of lavender fields, organic gardens, equestrian trails, a vineyard, and a golf course will do that). The ranch’s Spa Aiyana bases its treatments on four gardens on the property, so you can get your Swedish massage lavender-infused or mix some herbal aromatherapy in with your hot stone treatment. If those don’t do the trick, escalate your war on anxiety and give hypnotherapy a go. The spa’s method is designed for stress relief and sounder sleep, and it comes with self-hypnosis instructions so you can keep the wellness going into 2017. 

On New Year’s Eve, hit the buffet to load up on ocean-fresh shellfish, Japanese pumpkin risotto, and herb-crusted lamb, or opt for a slightly swankier dinner in the resort’s Valley Kitchen, where the menu options range from California caviar to stone-fired pizza. After dinner, reserve a spot in the cozy Vintner Room Lounge for a jazz concert by Natasha Agrama and a midnight champagne toast.  

Though the ranch has enough to keep you occupied for more than a weekend, you may want to venture into Carmel Valley Village to visit its low-key, under-the-radar wineries. Sample the elegant estate reds at Georis Winery and the buzzed-about pinot noirs and chardonnays at Talbott Vineyards. Wander through charming Carmel-by-the-Sea for breakfast, dropping into a cozy local eatery like Katy’s Place, whose generous portions of benedicts, blintzes, and berry-topped buttermilk pancakes are sure to cure what ails you. 

Weekend #3: Torch 2016 at a bonfire

If you’re looking to send 2016 up in flames, you could do worse than a 20-foot tall bonfire in the middle of Paso Robles’s town square. The New Year’s Eve festivities in this slow-paced (but fast-growing) wine country town feature live blues by the JC Smith Band and beer, local wine, and food trucks.  

Snag a room at the cozy boutique Hotel Cheval, just off the town square, where you can keep the blaze burning in their outdoor wood-burning fireplaces. Or relax at one of the town’s 200-plus vineyards, such as Wild Coyote, a Santa Fe–inspired bed and breakfast with Pueblo-style guest houses, vineyard views, a courtyard fireplace, and an adobe tasting room showcasing their roster of bold red wines. Several tasting rooms open their doors on New Year’s Eve, including Vina Robles Vineyards, where R&B and soul singer Michael Annotti will try to work up some good vibes for 2017. 

For dinner, head to the Hatch rotisserie, where you’ll find wood-fired entrees such as rotisserie chicken and grilled octopus, along with Southern-inspired bites like pimiento cheese with chicken fat toast. If you arrive by December 30, stop at nearby Hearst Castle for a Holiday Twilight Tour, and see the grand rooms decked out in their holiday finest.  


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