By Jason Heidemann for the Orbitz Travel Blog
Though the weather outside may be frightful--although thus far this year that's not been the case--it's no reason to hide under the covers until March 20. Instead, dare to look the coldest season of the year right in the eye and put the win back in winter by jumping into your best Ugg boots and thermal undies and hitting the great outdoors. Here are 7 reasons to love winter.
Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival: Harbin, China
The largest ice festival in the world began in 1963 with a local following and has since grown into an annual global event and competition that kicks off every January 5 and lasts a full month with many attractions available to the public much longer (weather permitting). Alpine ski, take a wintry plunge into the Songhua River or take in festival attractions like the enormous ice sculptures on Snow Island or the nighttime illuminated Ice and Snow World. Bring a coat: The average winter temperature in Harbin is 1.8 degrees.
Polar bear spotting in Canada
Polar Bear Tours: Churchill, Canada
No one books a trip to tiny Churchill in the dead of winter for expecting raging nightlife. This Hudson Bay hamlet in the northern province of Manitoba is known as the "polar bear capital of the world" and its here that the masses flock to get up close and personal with the bear via wilderness hikes and tundra vehicles. Looking for a reason to stay up after hours in sleepy Churchill? Slap on your warmest parka and gaze upward into the starry sky; Churchill is one of the top three places on earth to see the Northern Lights.
Park City, Utah
Sundance Film Festival: Park City, Utah
Utah is as good a state as any to see stars, but in Park City the stargazing happens at eye level from January 21-31 as celebrities, deal makers and industry insiders converge upon this ebullient ski town for a ten days of independent cinema. Sundance is where indie darlings like Heathers, PI, The Blair Witch Project and Napolean Dynamite broke out and the festival has swelled into a marquee event for cinephiles and scene seekers. Even if the movies aren't your thing, the surrounding snow-capped mountains sure are gorgeous, with some of the best skiing around.
ICEHOTEL: Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
You have to love winter to enjoy a stay at ICEHOTEL, since this chic Swedish lodging crafted entirely of ice literally melts to nothing every spring and is rebuilt again from scratch the following season. The first such hotel of its kind has become somewhat of a marquee bucket list attraction thanks to its remote location more than 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle and its commitment to ephemeral, 3-D art installations in deluxe rooms. Bed frames and rooms are made entirely of ice, but the bedding will keep you plenty toasty.